Posts filed in: Life

Beautiful Blur

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A swirling, whirling, freezing, twirling, wonderful, beautiful blur indeed! Forgive me for being away from here for so long! The days have just disappeared in a whoosh of wind and wonder that has turned into, yeah, an ice storm. The photo above is the current state of my mudroom roof, which is pretty scary. I know much of the country is experiencing wild weather right now. I'm on Day 8 of literally not leaving my house, even to go on the (icy) porch. It started with snow and really heavy wind last weekend, and has turned into inches and inches of ice, all over town. School has been closed for over a week, along with canceled ballet lessons and rescheduled doctors' appointments and store shelves absolutely empty of fresh produce. Andy had to work on Tuesday and was able to make it in to work (he takes the bus, which is generally one of the only ways to get around town during a "weather event" like this, as Portland doesn't plow side streets or salt roads) but planned to sleep over at the hospital that night, which he did (that's him, in the hospital gym-turned-employee-hostel). He started his shift the next morning at 2:30 a.m. and was able to make it home the following night, during another lull in the freeze. Conditions are far worse now, so I'm relieved and grateful that he's home (at least until Sunday, when he'll have to go back).

I hope you are all home and warm and safe! My two local friend-group chats have been on overdrive for the past week, as we all navigate lockdown/power outages/nearby fallen trees (Portland has literally lost hundreds of trees this week, and the beautiful picnic shelter where I had Amelia's birthday party a few years ago has been destroyed) and really, really bored children. I've been keeping myself very, very busy preparing some new things for a Valentine's Day launch, coming soon! I've been making soap, earrings, quilt hoops, painted candles, and hand-dyed embroidery floss and having a fantastic time letting myself explore and indulge in some new mediums. I cannot wait to show you. It's been a bit challenging to take photos in literally near-dark conditions, but thank goodness we have had our power on all week, which is much, much more than many of my friends and neighbors can say. So, I'm going to go now and keep working while my electricity continues to stay on, and I bid you all a very happy new year, and hope you are staying cozy and content, and I send you all every wish for wonderful 2024!

(And thank you SO, so much for all of your calendar orders last month — I can't even tell you how stunned and grateful I am for how the calendars were received. They are sold out now but I will definitely bring them back for 2025. Really, truly — thank you so much. XO)

Just How

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Oh, such a birthday girl. My darlingest darling turned eleven a few weeks ago. I just . . . how. How. I've been very emotional about it, enhanced by the most heartbreaking and just . . . crushing, crushing . . . state of the world and the Middle East, as I know every one of us are. Last night I cried on the bed while Amelia ate a bowl of cherry tomatoes. It only lasted a few minutes, and in truth she's almost never seen me cry (I usually keep my cries pretty private) but, suddenly, as I sat down and bent over to take my shoes off on my nice warm bed in my nice warm room, with my warm, sturdy child eating tomatoes next to me, I just couldn't keep the tears in. I know I was crying for a lot of things, and then they all turned into just me missing my mother-in-law at that moment, in these post-birthday days, and thinking of all of our past family parties, and how much my mother-in-law loved celebrating Amelia's birthday, and loved celebrating Amelia herself, and how much I miss those old days, those parties, our people, my plans and the things I did. Amelia asked me what the weirdest noise I could make was, so we tried making weird noises that made us laugh, and we skipped reading to just snuggle on the bed while she worked on her cross stitch (she's doing Pink Bird) with my arm around her, and we just laid there and hung out talking for much longer than usual. My darling baby. I am feeling tender and grateful and too soft to get through all there is to process some days. I pray for every mother and their children tonight. The hurting world.

Last weekend we went to the pumpkin patch she first went to with her preschool class to get some pumpkins and also stopped at Edgefield so that I could take a photo of Amelia and Andy holding the finished quilt that he made for Amelia from all of the quilt squares that you all sent and let me tell you, the quilt is absolutely fantastic. I will write another post with a photo of the whole thing in all its lovely glory, but you can see a few sneak peeks of it in the photos above. It is a truly beautiful quilt, and so special, and I thank you all so much for making it with them. All of your notes and your sweet stationery and your decorated envelopes and the fabrics you chose and the stories behind them, and . . . guys. Thank you. I'm moved to tears again. I'll save the tears and more words about this for the quilt post (coming next).

On her birthday, Amelia very impulsively decided she wanted to get her ears pierced, so that was kind of the special event of the day. That morning, while I was brushing her hair to get it up into its bun (which I am still terrible at doing but getting better at) I just casually said, "Hey, when are you going to get your ears pierced?" which made her cry suddenly, and she said, "I'm not going to I don't know I want to go do it todayyyyyyy [crying]." And yes, suddenly it was a plan, though a fearful one. She was really scared. Me [on way to ballet]: "You don't have to get your ears pierced today, or any day. Take the morning to think about it. Think about it at ballet." Her: "No, I want to! I'm going to! I do want to!" And that was that. She wanted to go to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch, then to the candy store at the mall, and then we stopped at a mall kiosk for the piercing, and she did it, still crying, all by herself because Andy and I had to stand on the other side of the counter from where she was. I was really proud of her because she was quite scared. And I think she was very proud of herself.  And now she has tiny little cubic zirconia studs that she must spray with an antiseptic spray morning and night, and she must not touch her ears. That part is a bit tricky but so far they look absolutely perfect and it's been almost two weeks, so just over four to go. Proud of her. Eleven.

Amelia had a really fun birthday party the day after her actual birthday where she and her friends made cute crafts at a crafting place and laughed and played and ate cupcakes together, and sometimes I wish I could work with kids like teachers do and get to be around them when they're all together all day. I actually just like being kind of a fly on the wall and observing them, and listening to all of the crazy things they say, and laughing at the ridiculous things they think are funny, and marveling at their creativity and kindness to each other. It turned out to be a very excellent birthday weekend after all.

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Happy birthday, my sweetest girl. I love you beyond every star.

Settling In

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We are officially finishing up the third week of school today. It's so hard to believe! I laugh. Time whooshes by and I volley at the net, trying to whack at the ball as it comes toward me, not fleet of foot nor good at pivoting quickly. Ballet started this week, and it will be a different experience for everyone at our school this year, as the school has moved (closer to our house, which is nice) and is now is a newly remodeled building. There is more space but it doesn't feel like there is more space, as now there are twice as many classes going at once, and that means twice as many kids (and bookbags, and outfits, and SHOES on the floor, all over every hallway and every studio and the lounge) and twice as many parents. I'm still figuring it out. Parking is tricky enough that I don't want to leave, and lose my great parking spot (we get there early) but also I don't want to stay, because it's pretty crowded and makes me feel claustrophobic. Well, I need to come up with a plan. I will, eventually. We're there three times a week now, so . . . we'll see how things develop.

School-related after-school activities start next week, and I think Amelia is getting in the swing of things. In addition to being on the "safety-patrol" (i.e.: crossing guards), she is also doing the lunch choir twice a week, chess club, electronic music club, and yoga. She absolutely loves her teacher and has made some new friends (mostly all boys) and is just so easygoing and cheerful and sturdy and game that it is, as always, so inspiring to me. She will be eleven next month and I am still trying to process that.

This will be her first birthday without her beloved Grandma Paulson and that is going to be hard for all of us. Andy's mom's 78th birthday would've been yesterday, and her loss has been felt here every single day since she passed away. Andy and I wanted to do something special yesterday so he and I dropped Amelia off at school and went up the the Portland Japanese Garden, where I took these pictures, and it is just the most beautiful, peaceful, sacred space you can imagine. It was a place that we'd gone with Sue (and our niece Brooke) in July of 2019, during one of her last visits to Portland. It was a gorgeous day yesterday, and we wandered and sat and thought and remembered her, and just missed her so much. I miss her smile and her laugh and her sweet texts and just, so many things. I miss you so much, Sue.

I've been staying very busy because I have new things going on, none of which I have really shown to anyone because I have been trying to get everything ready so that I can show you what I've been doing. But then I get super overwhelmed by how to show anyone what I've been doing. Mostly because it presumes that anyone cares what I've been doing! Though I still insist on believing someone does. But regardless — I mean, I am doing my thing, but I seem to be toiling in obsurity, which is weird for a blabbermouth like me. I will have the last installment (autumn!) of my seasonal cross-stitch series available next week (still need to photograph it). I've got sample watercolor calendars at the printer's right now and am waiting for them to come back. I've got lots of kids' and beginners' cross stitch kits and patterns to launch. And I've been busy designing lots of super fun needleworkers' swag. What I have NOT been doing is working on my cookbook (sob), which is about half done but which I have hardly worked on all summer. One, because, to be perfectly honest, I really struggle with summer and I find it to be the most difficult season to cook in. Fresh vegetables and fruits (alas, I mean seriously) are not exactly the cornerstones of my cooking repertoire [cringe]. I'm more of a fall/winter cook. But, even so, I was originally going to try to have my cookbook finished by Christmas and then at some point this summer I realized that that was just an unrealistic schedule and that I should really be shooting for next Christmas (of 2024). So, that took some pressure off and I am feeling good about it. But I am looking forward to getting back to that. I just need more hours in the day, as they say.

Thank you to all of you who have sent quilt squares to us!!! We have a huge stack of envelopes we need to open this weekend! Andy was in Chicago with family last week and Amelia did not want to open anything without him, so we've been waiting for a quiet moment. Andy has started working on the quilt and it is just so cool. Thank you all. (Please check the last five or six posts on my Instagram if you don't know what I'm talking about.) You couldn't possibly know what great timing it is or how much your generosity and kindness means to us right now. Thank you so much! He's hoping for a Mimi-birthday quilt. :) And thank you also for all of the TV suggestions — oh how I love TV suggestions! We decided to watch all of the High School Musicals as a family and Andy and I are currently working our way through Death in Paradise (very mellow and watchable). When I'm on my own at night while Andy is at work, I am watching Covert Affairs, which is super fun and I love Piper Perabo. It sort of reminds me of Alias lite. Anyway, thank you all for all of your suggestions and now I feel like I can really dig into stitching at night with so many options on my watchlist, which thrills me!

I'll be back soon to show you all my new designs! Love to you all, and I hope you are all having a lovely start to fall!

As we get into the swing of school and as the weather cools down and as I get more caught up, I promise I will be blogging more. 

Fastest Summer Ever

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Hello, dear friends! I'm so sorry I've been absent here for so long! Summer has been so wonderfully busy and full of joy. We have been doing lots of things and also lots of nothing, and it has been just perfect. Pool days, fair days, lazy days, work days. Many afternoons at our favorite Thai restaurants playing Uno and eating pad Thai. Many afternoons riding bikes up the road and getting hotdogs, playing videos games, going to movies, getting boba tea. Days at the pool, nights jumping on our neighbor's trampoline. Campouts with air mattresses on the living room floor, playing video games, having Zoom chats with Uncle Mike, watching more movies. I have been working a lot in my office, developing a new collection of cross-stitch kits for beginners and children along with a few other things. I have not been cooking or working on my cookbook, at all, but I am truly hoping to get back to it as soon as the weather cools down and school starts (it's just too hot to cook like I was, and I've been spending all my time on these new kits and patterns). We haven't been doing anything particularly special, but somehow it's all felt special. I can't believe school starts in a week. For the first time ever, I am not ready for it. None of us seem to be. Summer rules. This summer, the summer of perfect weather here, although my heart is absolutely breaking for Maui, and Yellowknife (I am a big fan of the show Ice Lake Rebels), and other places in Oregon and Washington that are suffering with wildfires. The sky is smoky here today for the first time all summer, and we have a fluorescent red sun setting in a hazy sky. Many of you are looking or have looked at that same kind of sun this summer, I know.

What have you all been up to? Andy is making a quilt for Amelia (after he finishes the one he is making for himself, which will probably be next week when his batting gets here — the man made an entire quilt top in about three days!). I started a new knitting project for Amelia because I found out that our ballet school, which is moving this fall to a new building, will now (hopefully, if the rumor proves true) allow us into the building to wait for our kids, and I will need something to keep my hands busy while waiting again. It has been years since I've been able to wait and watch while she dances, and I am thrilled (especially since she'll now be dancing three days a week, wow). I making her a Novice Sweater by PetiteKnit in Feeling Good yarn in Mineral Pink. I'm doing a women's XS because we are there now. We are there. Has anyone been knitting anything new? Do you have any good TV to recommend? I've watched everything, literally everything that has seemed even remotely appealing to me and I have nothing left to watch, so please send your favorites. Nights are darker earlier. Fall is suddenly approaching. Amelia's needs new clothes and she got bangs cut yesterday at the salon. She starts fifth grade on August 29. Dearest darlingest girl.

I hope everyone is well! I have so many new projects to show you and plans to tell you about. Once school starts I will have my regular working time back and I will show you everything I have been doing. I made about a dozen digital quilt blocks (this one is a Missouri Star block) in InDesign yesterday and I absolutely love making these blocks. This is the only kind of "quilting" I have done, myself! It's rather satisfying, I must say!

Snowwww no!

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Oh HELLO! Hello, hello! It's March 1, oh my. March 2023. March 2023!

Gosh. I need to let that sink in for some reason.

All of you, first of all, we truly thank you for every one of your kind and gentle comments on the loss of Andy's beautiful mom. I always think of each of them as a small prayer, and each one bring us comfort, and makes us feel less alone in our sadness. Thank you so much. It has been almost a month now, and there are so many moments in the day where I just want to tell her something, or send her something, or send her a picture of Amelia, or tell her something funny that she said or did. All the little things. She delighted in every one of those things, I think. Pops (Andy's dad) got the surprise birthday gift of a new kitten from our nephew, Max, a veterinary student, and I believe he picks her up sometime this week, and we'll find out what he is naming her (he's keeping that secret for now!). There are not many days in life that are better than that first day with a new pet, and I am excited for both him and Miss Kitters, and I know they will bring joy to each other.

We got a very unexpected snowstorm here exactly a week ago, and it was absolutely bonkers for a while. I picked up Amelia an hour early that Wednesday because the forecast suddenly got very real (and my reconstructed foot does not do well on snow or ice). At 3:00 p.m. it started snowing . . . and snowing, and snowing, and snowing. By nightfall, roads were at an icy standstill; it took my friend's boyfriend almost six hours just to get across town. Andy decided to stay overnight at the hospital because the busses had stopped running up the hill. I was home frantically packing boxes for the Nashville Needlework Market, starting to wonder if everything was going to get there in time. We had a small window of about one week in which to get our stuff shipped there; nothing could arrive before February 24. I shipped the box with my stitched models on the 21st. The snow had started flying on the 22nd. By the 23rd the post offices were actually closed (along with almost everything else). By Friday we were able to get our car out and get down to our local P.O., which was mercifully open. And by this morning, March 1, sixteen of my twenty boxes have been delivered, and I am just anxiously tracking the last four, and hoping they get there by Friday, when the show starts. . . .

Normally you know I would be so into a freak snowstorm! But not when I have to ship twenty boxes to arrive somewhere across the country within a small window of time! Golly day!

Andy made it home late Thursday morning. The weather was still really gnarly — very cold and windy, and quite icy. He took Amelia sledding on Friday and then Amelia and Iris sledding on Saturday (we had no school Thursday and Friday), and then we went roller skating with our other friends Stefan and Mia on Sunday. There was a LOT of falling down, a few tears, a corn dog, some Slurpees, lots of fun. Some aches and pains on Monday!

I'm here in a quiet house today. I'm trying to plan for summer, as many summer camps' sign-ups start today. It's basically impossible for me to plan things for summer. I have no idea what's going on or what we will be doing, and I'm terrible at committing. Which, as any parent knows right now, that just won't do, because things fill up fast, and there isn't that much availability to start with, so . . . I need to pull it together. I literally look at the calendar and just blank out, and start sweating.

I have three new designs that will debut at Nashville this weekend. I will show them to you next week! I posted them on Instagram but I need to resize the photos for the blog. I will do that. Literally as soon as I got home from the post office, I started designing two new things, as well. It's funny how that happens. It's like the creative part is literally bottled until the non-creative parts are absolutely done (I had to finish the tax stuff for the accountant this week, too) and then it just comes bursting out. I designed two things in about four days. I've been stitching on the nursery rhymes design I made a few years ago (not sure if you remember that, or when I ever posted it, or I would link to the digital). I watched all of the series called Slow Horses with Gary Oldman and I thought that was really good. I tried to watch The Recruit on Netflix and it just got too ridiculous, so I stopped watching it. Andy is still watching Indian Matchmaking with me and it's the best. I love that show.

I recommend, as always, this spicy chicken and sweet potato soup, which we now make about once a week. And this winter squash and wild mushroom curry was awesome. I've also been watching Indian Food Made Easy (it's a BBC show but I watch it on FreeVee) and it has some great ideas. I haven't made any of the recipes yet but I am going to.

I hope you are all well! What has everyone been doing? What is giving you joy these days?

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My beautiful mother-in-law, Suzan, passed away unexpectedly last weekend. We're heartbroken and I hardly know what to say. She and Andy's dad were just here a few months ago for Amelia's birthday, and I'm so grateful for that. It was their first visit since Covid started and it was a wonderful visit. So many things remind me of her. So many toys and clothes and books and stuffed animals and dollies and cute, purple, soft, darling little sparkly things that she gave Amelia. She was a generous and doting grandmother, endlessly patient, endlessly loving, always up for a party, truly tireless when it came to everything and anything Amelia wanted, needed, or even mentioned. They FaceTimed every single weekday during the time that Amelia was doing school at home (Sue was a retired longtime special-education teacher), reading chapter books together, Charlotte's Web and Beezus and Ramona and Little House in the Big Woods, and I never stopped marveling at her incredible patience, how she would delight in just watching Amelia play Minecraft, or play with her stuff, or just barrel around the house. She was a true ray of sunshine, with a beautiful smile, and she loved her music, her books, her crochet, and especially her family. I remember when we went to Door County on the train to celebrate Andy's parents' 50th anniversary. There was one day we were there that I had wanted us all to take the ferry to Washington Island, where I had, coincidentally, vacationed for many years as a kid. The day was so hot. It was so hot. There was a lot of walking. The island was bigger and . . . emptier, and less interesting (and fun) . . . than I remembered, and as it had been my idea to go, I was especially anxious. It was a long day, with long, hot ferry rides, a lot of walking in the sun, and a squirelly four-year-old. :) And my parents-in-law were so cheerful, so game, so willing, so tireless although they were tired, never once complaining (unlike me), always in a good mood, doing every single thing it took and more to make sure that everyone was having a good time and enjoying themselves and the world. I mean, I have thought of that day, that blue, blue water, that big white boat, that sunshine and those pine trees, their happiness, so many times over the years. It was such a total example of their good nature, their cheer, and their enthusiasm in spite of any challenges, big or small. I see so much of this in Andy. So much of this. I love and will miss you, Sue. I will miss your enthusiasm and support for every random new thing I tried, and how you always thought I was so good at all of those things. I will miss your hugs and the smell of your perfume. I will miss getting texts with different ideas of things you wanted to buy for Mimi. I will miss how you loved us, and especially how you loved your Mouse. Rest in peace, dear one. Rest.

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New Designs Now Available!

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Evening Skate Blog

Update regarding Typepad problems: Apparently the problems at Typepad have been solved and the blog should be working these photos should look normal now — I truly apologize for the frustration, and thank you all for the orders! Back tomorrow with a normal blog post, fingers crossed everything works!!! Agh!

BUT: Hello! Do you like WINTER? Oh boy I do. I have three new designs for winter and Christmas for you! The first is EVENING SKATE, above!

This design was inspired by its frame. Weird, I know. But one morning I was browsing eBay for vintage frames, as I do, and I found four of these matching frames available for a pretty decent price, so I bought them. They're nice and generously sized — the frame opening is about 9.5" x 12.5" — and the frame itself was thin, the way I like. The wood color and finish just reminded me of some of my mom's embroideries from the '80s. And it got me thinking about what I wanted to design for this.  Since I had four of them I knew I would do a seasonal series for winter, spring, summer, and fall. And I've been wanting to do something kind of Grandma Moses–inspired for a while. So I had the idea of the ice-skating rink I used to go to in my old neighborhood, when I was a child. It was an outdoor rink at Keystone Park in River Forest (Illinois), a few blocks from the house where I grew up. Every year they would flood the park and make an ice-skating rink for the neighborhood. On winter weekends when we were growing up, my friend Monica Sloger and I would meet up at the end of my street and walk with our pom-pom-decorated skates hung over our shoulders to Keystone Park to skate. It would be so cold, so we'd have double-socks on, and hats and mittens and scarves. Sometimes we'd bring thermoses of hot chocolate to drink in the warming house there. Oh, we used to skate for hours and hours. They would shovel snow off of the rink and pile it up around the sides. Sometimes the big boys would play hockey on one side of the rink so you'd have to watch out. Neither Monica nor I had ever taken any lessons or anything like that, so we weren't very good. But we'd hold hands and try to help each other skate backwards, occasionally do a wobbling spin. When it got dark, we'd head home, walking under the train tracks and near the woods. Funny how I was never afraid then. If it was Sunday, I knew my mom would be making dinner, maybe spaghetti sauce (just "sauce," if you're Italian — we are [though apparently not by DNA, I've come to find out — story for another day]) or chicken and dumplings or beef Stroganoff. Something rich and warm. And my fingers and toes would be just bone cold, and I'd run them under warm water, trying to resist turning it up as hot as I could. Gosh, I just loved ice skating. I remember when I first moved to Portland twenty-five years ago I was stunned to find out it doesn't really snow here. I'd had no idea! I'd never lived anywhere that it didn't snow, and Portland seemed pretty far north to me? But no. Skating happens indoors here (and I have a reconstructed foot, so it doesn't happen for me now at all). But those starry, sparkling-cold nights walking home from Keystone Park still live in my dreams as one of the best parts of childhood, and one of the things that I look back on with longing.

So Evening Skate is my tribute to that place and that time. I have three more designs for spring, summer, and fall planned, and spring and summer are already designed. All four designs are similar in that they share the same alphabet and general design elements, though the details are different. Spring is has a group of people planting a garden, summer has them swimming in a pond, and fall will have them picking pumpkins in a pumpkin patch.

It is stitched on 32-count Belfast linen in Mystic Gray. The design area is 8.63"w x by 10.5"h (22cm x27) on 32-count, and 138 stitches wide x 168 stitches high. The work is done with DMC six-strand cotton floss. Almost all of the design is done with 2 plies of floss over 2 threads EXCEPT for the doggie, which is done 1 over 1. It's not as hard as you'd think, so please don't be intimidated by that. (I just needed that dog to be a dog, and I couldn't do it 2 over 2.) Kits include a printed full-color pattern with a four-page chart, the fabric, and all the floss you need. The frame is not included in the kit. :) The kit is available here. The PDF pattern-only is available here with both full-color and black-and-white four-page charts. This is a big pattern. I recommend printing patterns at 100% (no scaling) at high quality for best results.

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Next up is CHRISTMAS IS COMING! This is a cross-stitch ornament kit that includes everything you need to make the four ornaments here. The finished size of them is about 3" x 3" (and the stitching area is about 2" square). The pattern with the kit includes full-color charts as well as a photo-illustrated tutorial on how to mount the stitching to make the ornaments. The kit includes the cross stitch fabric (32-count Belfast linen in Stone Gray), the cardstock on which you will mount the stitching, the vintage calico fabric, quilt batting to make the stitching a bit puffed up, the ribbons, and four of these cute little "2022" charms with 8mm jump rings to attach to the back (or front, if you like):

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Cute! We have Andy Paulson to thank for these! (And I still have many extra charms on-hand, so if you are buying the PDF pattern for this but you need some charms, please email me and I’ll send you some!)

Anyway, these little ornaments were designed kind of on a whim – I don’t know but I have just been feeling so nostalgic lately, and yearning for things that remind me of home (as in, childhood home). I was remembering this time when I was around Amelia’s age, probably a few years older, and I was in a play called Ebenezer. It was a version of A Christmas Carol that was put on every year by the Village Players in Oak Park (Illinois) and I was a member of the children’s cast for several years (any suburban Chicagoans out there remember the Village Players?). We kids had a pretty small roll (it was a mostly adult community theater company) so the group of eight or nine of us kids spent a LOT of time just hanging out in a room backstage, waiting to go on. It was such a fun time. The production was Victorian and we had to have our own costumes. One year (this was sometime in the early 1980s) I saw the cutest outfit probably at Marshall Field’s or Weiboldt’s (those were two of our department stores in Oak Park) and it was a long skirt and a vest made out of dark green velveteen trimmed with cream-colored rosebud calico, worn with a high-collared, full-sleeved kind of prairie blouse with a little self-tie at the neck made out of the same calico as the trim. Oh, I wanted it so bad! But it was expensive and my mom said it was too expensive. At the time, Weiboldt’s still had a fabric department upstairs. And I remember we went up there and looked through the pattern books and found a pattern (seriously, it was probably this one, or something very similar to this) and found green velveteen fabric and cream rosebud calico and she literally made me practically the exact same one that I wanted but even better. It was perfect. I loved that outfit so much. I felt so excited to wear it every night of that play. My mom could and would sew me anything I ever wanted, even in college, and it was all beautiful.

Well, these little calicos are vintage ‘80s and remind me exactly of that outfit, and the cream rosebud one might have even been the exact fabric that my mom used for my outfit. It looked exactly like that. I wanted to design something that was very simple with very few colors that would be really good for beginners, or if you just wanted to whip something up for a friend or co-worker in one evening. And if you want to make all four for your own tree I think that would be wonderful. And I hope they spark a happy memory of days gone by for you, too. The Christmas is Coming! kit is available here. And the PDF pattern is available here. :)

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Now on to what I think/hope might be a memory for Amelia. This past summer, the ballet school she’s been going to since she was three closed down permanently. Amelia is a casual dancer – I mean, I don’t think she’s serious enough about it (or anything yet) to really pursue it to any great extent. But she enjoys it well enough and I want her to do some kind of after-school sport (I have a lot of thoughts about this that I find myself needing to express to someone, anyone, somewhere, but I will spare you here and save that for a post for another day), so we decided to keep doing ballet but at a different ballet school (further away, more expensive, but we’ve decided to give it this year to see if it’s still something she wants to continue to do. This school is lovely (from what I can tell; parents aren’t let in the buildings anymore, unfortunately) and they do quite a production of The Nutcracker every year.

When Covid hit, Amelia was in first grade and she was a couple of months away from being in her first ballet recital, which was scheduled to be held in the big theater at a nearby community college. That got canceled and never was rescheduled. Then they had a very small in-person performance for just parents this past summer, but it was basically in their regular classroom and not particularly fancy. So this year, she will be in her new school’s production of The Nutcracker and it feels like kind of a big deal! She is a “party girl” from the “rich family” (which of course she is thrilled by, ha!). This is in the party scene at the beginning. She is wearing a fancy white dress (and apparently her sash is purple, though I didn’t know about the purple sash when I designed this, or I might have made it purple instead of blue; though I guess blue feels more traditional) and also a “wiglet” (I wish I had a video of the first time I showed her the wiglet – her face was hilarious – she just stared at it like she was trying to figure out what it was and then she finally understood it and burst out laughing – it’s basically a cluster of ringlet curls that they wear over their buns).

Anyway! I personally love The Nutcracker and I designed this for Amelia because I think, even if she doesn’t decide to continue to dance, this will be a memorable experience for her, just like my childhood theater stuff was for me. Aside from singing one song onstage with her first-grade class at parents’ night a few years ago, she’s never been onstage before. I just wanted to make something to celebrate this ballet that is beloved to so many people during the Christmas season. In my design, NUTCRACKER SWEET, Clara wakes from her snowy, sweet dream under the giant tree. . . .

Nutcracker Sweet Blog

I had more fun stitching this than I have had in a long time! It is done on 32-count Belfast linen in Blush with DMC threads. You could easily change Clara’s skin tone and hair coloring to reflect your own dancer’s with a little bit of extra floss that you might have, or if you need some let me know what kinds of colors you need and I’ll be happy to send along. My favorite parts of this design are the owl clock and the mouse crown (which Amelia herself suggested). I will say that it has been really difficult to get this Belfast Blush here – I’ve been waiting for it for way over a month, and they were only able to send me seven yards. (“Supply chain issues” are real, and really frustrating.) So we have a total of only EIGHTY kits in stock right now – if you want this one, don’t wait. We will make more when more fabric comes in, but I’m having a very hard time pinning my distributor down on when exactly that will be. So I honestly feel incredibly grateful that they were able to send me seven yards, and I’ve been waiting to launch these here until I had it in my hot little hands (because mama has been burned before, people). Anyway, we have eighty kits in stock right now and will be shipping all orders next week. The Nutcracker Sweet kit is available here. And the PDF pattern (with both color and black-and-white charts) is available here.

And to go with this, my gosh this is a lengthy post, but we also have a new lotion bar, called SUGARPLUM lotion bar:

Sugarplum Blog

Yes. I could not resist. This would make such a sweet little stocking stuffer. It is a bit more petite than our other lotion bars. It is made with beeswax from the local bees of Mickleberry Gardens (and their beeswax is absolutely the best, and I have tried a few); coconut oil; shea butter; lanolin; and a natural fragrance oil from my favorite trusted source for apothecary supplies, Brambleberry (you can read about the difference between essential oils and their natural fragrance oils here). It has a sweet, fruity scent that is a mix of grapefruit, raspberry, melon, sweet pea, rose, and coconut. It is perhaps a less sophisticated scent than our other lotion bars made with essential oils. But it is just delightful and I’m so happy to add it to our collection for the holiday season. We have just restocked ALL of our lotion bars after being sold out for a while (they go quick) – but Andy made a ton of these for me last week while he was home on vacation, thank you babe! So they are ready for you and make great little teacher gifts, stocking stuffers, or hostess presents. As always, they come in a reusable tin, ready for gifting.

Sugarplum Blog 2

Okay guys, I have rambled on for a long time here. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to post this but as I said, I needed to have that pink fabric in hand before I said a word about any of these, and on top of that, Typepad does not seem to be working properly, either (I can see that these photos are cut off on the side, but I think it's on their end, so will try to investigate). I also think I will trot out my backlist winter designs (I forgot to do it for fall) again here soon because I do like to do that on the blog to see all the seasonal stuff together, but that will wait until next week. I’m so excited to have these new things out here, and I truly wish you many happy hours of stitching these designs in the coming colder days. Much love to you all, and thank you for being here. Xo, a

Also: I'm just so curious: What are your memories like this, that you find yourself returning to? Specifically, I mean? Do you have a certain winter memory that just makes you smile, or cry, or . . . something in between? If you have time please share them here with me, especially the little details. I'm feeling so strangely full of longing these days (maybe this happens when your baby turns 10? I don't know) and I really want to hear if anyone else can relate.

Big Birthday Girl

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My baby is ten years old. I know. I can't, either. I just cannot believe it. My big, beautiful girl is ten. She had such an amazing birthday weekend. Andy's parents flew in from Chicago for the first time in three years. It was pure joy having them here after so long. One of Andy's family's traditions is to wake-up the birthday child (or adult!) in the early, early morning with a rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" and a plateful of lit candles for them to blow out, so we always do that here. It's super sweet. By some awesome stroke of luck, Amelia didn't have school on her birthday, and her grandparents had arrived the day before, so she got to spend the whole day with them and my mom, who we met at the food carts for lunch. The weather was bright and sunny all weekend and we had so much fun hanging out. Amelia decorated her own cake on Friday afternoon and I made chicken paprika and dumplings for her for dinner. (I make it in the Instant Pot so I need to rewrite that recipe.) On Saturday we all sat around and played with the things she had gotten for her birthday, and then on Sunday afternoon she had her friend-party at the roller-skating rink. That was absolutely wonderful. Her friends all came and skated for an hour or so and then they were all able to have pizza, juice, soda, cotton candy, and cupcakes (!!! I know!) in the cafe. They all did so well on skates I couldn't believe it. I mean, don't get me wrong, there was a whole lot of wiping out and a few tears, but overall they were all smiles and I think everyone (Andy and another dad skated with them, but most of the kids did pretty well on their own) had a blast. It was just a great day, and a great weekend. We dropped Andy's parents off at the airport yesterday morning and they made it home safe and sound. We all slept well last night. I am so proud of Amelia. It was a long, busy, wonderful weekend, and we will still be trying to hook up with more family and birthfamily in the coming days, but this girl is a partier!

Did you see the crocheted bonsai tree that Andy made for Amelia? Amazing. He's been working on it for weeks. (Here is the pattern he used.) He has crocheted something for her for her birthday every year since she's been born. I made her a bowl in my ceramics class. She's so cute opening her presents. I always forget this, especially on Christmas, but Amelia is a very slow present opener. She does not tear through her gifts to get onto the next one. She is very slow and deliberate about them, and generally looks carefully at everything. It's very, very sweet.

I just can't believe she's ten years old. I'm overwhelmed with love and so grateful for the miracle of her life. I'm just so, so grateful to be her mama. My sweet, amazing, darling girl. You have been pure joy since the moment you entered the world. I love you so.

We Can Do It

comments: 17

1stDay

School has started! Child is excited! There have been many emotions!

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The first two weeks are under our belts and overall things seem to be going well, though I won't lie — it's been intense! Amelia is excited, her teacher is lovely, the kids are wonderful. It's great to be back, and we are figuring it out. The first week she was "revving high," as we say here. Lots of zooming around the school yard, lots of hooting noises, lots of chasing people trying to give them things, or pick them up or carry them around, or — I honestly don't even know what all was happening. Andy took the first week of school off and he and I would be there waiting together under the tree when the last bell rang, and she would be as energized at 3 p.m. as she was at 8:30 a.m. At home, also lots of energy, lots of talking in a very intense new, big-girl sort of voice (you know it if you've heard it — I can't explain), lots of excitement, a tiebreaker-in-the-fifth-set sort of ever-present anticipation, knees bouncing, racquet up: Ready to serve! Ready to receive! Then, on the third or so day after Andy went back to work, sudden tears. Clinging. Hugging on the blacktop. She didn't want me to leave. The bell rang and she bravely carried forth. I shed a tear of my own on the way home. Oh, my heart. The teacher sweetly emailed me later in the morning with the subject line "weepy drop-off." She let me know that she had given Meems some extra TLC when they had gotten up to the classroom and all was well. (I so appreciated the email! During the school day! Wow!)

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The days rolled by. We started getting used to the new routine. New bedtime-time, new breakfast-eating time, new leaving-the-house time. At school, several reported wipe-outs and trips to the nurse's office — a scraped elbow, a second scraped elbow (on the same day), and then yesterday a completely scraped NOSE. And lip. When pressed: "I was carrying Caitlin piggyback and I fell into the grass with my face." Telling me for the fourteenth time that she is "strong enough to carry a fifth grader." Me: "That's wonderful, but unless you are carrying someone out of a burning building, I want everyone's feet on the ground." Gah. Yesterday, after the nose-scraping wipe-out, her first after-school class at new ballet school across town (our [mellow] old nearby one has permanently closed): It did not go well. Parking/drop-off was chaos. The class was also very crowded (not great), and after it she came flying out the door, red-faced and streaming tears, throwing herself into my arms and saying that her shoes were too small, and she had a giant hole in her tights, and she "didn't know anything." Me: "Oh sweetheart! It's okay! What did the teacher say?" Her, wailing: "I have no idea!!! I didn't understand anything!" Ooof.

MtHood

So yeah. She left school halfway through first grade. And now she's going back as a fourth grader. She was a little kid, and now she's a big kid. As capable as she is, and as positive as she is, it's been a leap, across a very real gap, and not without a few tears and a few tumbles. But I am just so, so proud of her. I'm constantly in awe of her bravery. My big, beautiful girl. Today after school she wants to go to the dance store to get new ballet slippers to be ready for ballet class tomorrow. She said, "Everyone who saw my nose was like, 'Oh my gosh, what happened to your nose? Are you okay? Does that hurt?' but I just said, "Nope! Ha ha!'" Me: [insert quizzical emoji face] "Mmmkay!" She's figuring things out. Andy and I are figuring things out.  And just trying to take it one day at a time. It really has been kind of a manic two weeks, comparatively. I keep remembering to be gentle with her, and be gentle with everyone, and with . . . everything, everywhere. And to give it the time to let it all settle, as it feels a bit like a prescribed dust-storm right now. But it's starting to settle. I think it's starting to settle.

GabrielPArk

I've been home designing cross stitch patterns. I have five new designs for you. Literally five. In like . . . two weeks of work? Apparently I had a few ideas I'd been waiting to explore. Fingers flying. I will be back with at least one to launch right away. It's for Halloween. My first-ever Halloween design. I'm not really into Halloween. But I don't think anyone considers you a legit cross stitch designer until you have designed something for Halloween so you know I did. I want to proof the pattern one more time and then I'll have it here for you ASAP.

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 These are heady, exciting, mildly nutso days! My girl is growing and learning and changing and trying. And so am I.

Parks and Playdates

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Oh my, the busy days! A lot of these photos were on my phone. We've been busy around town and busy at home. Amelia went to a week of pottery camp and is doing tennis camp this week. In between there have been lots of visits to parks with friends and having friends over and swimming with friends and just generally having a lot of fun. It's wonderful. I try to take these big vertical photos to show you the big trees at our playgrounds. At least the playgrounds that this mama prefers! (Some playgrounds literally have no trees and no shade, and I honestly cannot handle those.) It's hot today — 97 degrees forecasted — but really, until today, the weather has been absolutely perfect this summer. Eighty degrees and sunny, sometimes cloudy (yay!). Once it stopped raining, the sun came out (mostly) and the local gardens absolutely exploded with joy. We needed that rain so, so much. A few months of spring rain has made summer living just blissful. Absolutely blissful. I'd forgotten that the grass could be green, the plants could survive, the trees could look quenched in July. Well, I am loving it.

Next week is Andy's and my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Egads!!! That means we've been together for thirty years now. Silver anniversary. Instead of getting a silver present, we bought three little gardens to plant in our raised beds. We got one August Afternoons and two Summer Dreams pre-planned gardens, all from High Country Gardens. They shipped to us back in May and we planted them then. The plants were very small and a few did not make it. But all of the rain we had this spring — oh man. What a lucky, lucky break for us and these little gardens. Everything got watered in so well and now it is just lush and growing beautifully. The above picture is from the day last week when Andy planted a few of the replacement plants I bought at Portland Nursery and Amelia was helping him dig and tidy. We weeded everything, trimmed the vinca and clover, and fixed the willow fences, and everything is looking so pretty now. (In the picture there are a lot of oak leaves on the ground, and I'm now remembering that in the days before it was really windy one night and a ton of leaves blew down from the neighbor's trees — that was weird, because they usually don't do that.) But anyway, that area looks better in real life now than it does in that picture and I will take another one to show you how nice. I think I really recommend these gardens. We have replanted that areas so many times. Over the past twenty years it has been a rose garden, many failed vegetable gardens, a random wildflower garden, a random flower seed garden, and kind of a messy dahlia garden. BUT NOW it is going to be an August Afternoons and Summer Dreams garden and I am absolutely determined to take care of it and not replant this area again.

The tree to the left of Amelia in the picture is a gnarly old plum tree that dies more every year. I'm fairly certain it's almost a hundred years old and it has had so many large limbs that have died and then been trimmed that it just looks horrendous. It also drops cherry-sized plums all over the sidewalk which explode upon landing and make such a mess that people actually cross the street rather than walk past our house (like right now — they're falling now). We are going to apply for a permit to have it removed and replace it with an Eddie's White Wonder dogwood I think it is. Or a Venus dogwood or a Starlight — any opinions on these? (There's a list of approved parkway trees under power lines that we have to choose from.) I hope our permit gets approved. You can't really see the tree in this picture but it has a large, low-hanging limb that hangs over the driveway into our neighbor's parkway and it is dead now. There are sooooo many of these plum trees around Portland and they all look to be really ancient and just totally gnarly. The plums are sour as anything (and are super tiny to boot) and the trees just get so covered in lichen and suckers and, I don't know. They're pretty gross. I wonder if they were all planted at the time these neighborhoods were built in the 1920s. I have no idea how much it is going to cost to remove the tree, or plant a new one. I'm scared. I hope it's not a huge amount of money. We've been putting this off for a while. We were told the last time we got the tree trimmed (maybe four years ago) that it needed to be 50% dead to be removed, and ours was only 40% dead. Pah!

Anyway, mid-July. I'm taking a pottery class at the community college down the road. I went to my first class on Friday, having completely missed the actual first class the week before because I read the date wrong. I literally almost cried. I was just sitting around doing nothing, anxiously awaiting the start of my pottery class!!! Hello! I threw two pots in the class. Well, in open studios, too. The class is from about 9:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and then open studios (where you get to just practice on your own) is from 1:30 until 4:30. My second pot took me two hours, I do know that. The clay (B mix?) was so, I don't know, sturdy? I couldn't get the pot "open." I didn't want to mess it up! Which was just silly. But I mean . . . let me just say . . . how unbelievably awesome it is to just sit there for two hours and throw one pot. I didn't even care. The music was on, the other students were so sweet and friendly, the teachers were just great. And I just sat and centered the clay and then opened the clay and then pulled up the sides. For two hours. One pot. Me to teacher, at 3:30: "Paul, I want to throw another pot but we only have an hour!" Paul, drily: "I could throw an entire dinner set in an hour." Hah! Paul. Gahhhh, it was so amazing. I was there from 9:30 until 4:30, all by myself! I don't know the actual last time I spent seven entire hours away from either Andy or Amelia. It's been years, guys. Y e a r s. It felt like the most ridiculous luxury. Throwing pots! Listening to non-Minecraft music! Not rushing because no one needed me to do something other than what I was doing, and nothing had to be cooked or cleaned there, and no one was crying about anything, or needed to be driven somewhere! Oh have mercy it was an exquisite indulgence, and to think I missed the first class!!!!!!!!!

Thank you SO MUCH for all of the orders these past few weeks, as well. I am so grateful for your orders and your interest and enthusiasm — thank you so much! The Stitcher's RSVP kit is almost sold out and I haven't decided if we will re-issue it. I have some extra evenweave fabric from kits over the years that I am going to try to use up before buying more. The minimum amounts I need to order from the distributor have increased (for certain fabrics) and I just don't have the numbers that I used to to make doing large quantities of kits an absolute no-brainer like it used to be. 2022 was the year I was supposed to be getting my patterns ready for wholesale (along with, you know, 2021, and 2020, blurgh) and I am going to focus on that when Amelia goes back to school in the fall. I swear I am going to! That said, I have lots of new ideas, so I will have lots of new patterns — they just might not all make it into kit form. We'll see. It's been a long few years and I've been doing my best not to just get . . . lost in space. Like everyone else, I'm sure. One foot in front of the other. That said, A Tender Year: July hasn't even been designed yet. It'll all get done eventually, I hope. Maybe just not during this actual tender year. But when I have more help from Portland Public Schools.

Some good shows: The Great Pottery Throwdown (obbbbbviously). We've watched it two or three times now (and the most recent season is so great). We really liked Signora Volpe (kind of a cross between Miss Marple and Under the Tuscan Sun). I just finished bingeing all of the seasons of Line of Duty on the recommendation of a friend and that was intense! If you have a child, we all really liked Just Add Magic. I also really liked Redemption, though Andy didn't see it. I love television.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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