Love and Joy Come to You

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Oh, my, the sun is shining brightly through all the windows here today. The light is so beautiful. It makes the high-ceilinged stairwell glow. I've finished wrapping, shipping, and delivering all the presents — except for my poor sister-in-law's, whose gift is lost in the mail to me somewhere. I hope it turns up. We have the same birthday in a couple of weeks so it might have to be a birthday present. Amelia has the biggest pile of presents I've ever seen. (I saw a funny meme this morning: Kid: "Mom, I know it's not Santa who gets all of our presents, wraps them, and puts them under the tree on Christmas . . . it's Dad!" Mom: "I can, with 100% certainty, tell you that you are wrong.") I bought her a new American Girl doll and Andy got her a checkerboard that she's been asking for and another Lego set. Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have given her the rest of the moon, and I think she is going to be thrilled when she sees what's under the tree. I know that Christmas is about more than the presents, but this is the first year Amelia has actually asked for anything (thanks to hours of TV watching, probably) and I think we are all happy to make those sweet, simple wishes come true for our girl right now.

The weeks have gone by in a bit of a blur. I knew Christmas would come quickly without all of the usual events. I haven't really tried to make up for that. It's been nice. We've baked stuff and learned about Christmas carols and played with the kitters and watched movies. There will be Zoom calls with families tomorrow, and present-opening for us, and Andy and I are going to make Swedish meatballs from scratch, with rice pudding and buttered noodles. My friend Amy gave me a caramel-apple crisp that she got from her realtor but couldn't eat because of allergies, so we will bake that up for our dessert. Andy works on Christmas Day, and I'm planning to watch The Sound of Music that afternoon with Amelia. I'm not sure she'll make it through the whole thing, but I will. I often watch Heidi or maybe an old version of A Christmas Carol on Christmas night. My dad loved that movie. For a few years when I was a kid I sang in the children's chorus of Oak Park's Village Players in their yearly production of Ebenezer (a musical version of A Christmas Carol). That always feels like "my" story, and I still love it.

Mostly I sit around knitting my Porty Cardigan and it has been a great project for these months. I have made many mistakes on it but none of them were deal-breaking, so I just keep going. I finished the first sleeve (see my Instagram for how I felt about it) and I'm starting on the second sleeve. This is a fingering-weight sweater in size XL so it feels like there are millions of stitches in it and it is literally taking forever. BUT I absolutely love the weight of this sweater — so much better for my climate and lifestyle than a worsted-weight sweater. So, I am already planning my next fingering-weight sweater, and I will probably use the Jamieson & Smith 2-ply yarn I bought for this one and didn't wind up using. First I have to finish this one, though, I know. I will try to make a video when I cut the steek because you know everyone likes that drama.

Andy and I are hopeful that he will be getting the vaccine sometime this or next week, maybe even on Christmas. What a great present! He said he saw a few of his colleagues posting pictures of themselves getting vaccinated on Instagram, and this morning the hospital sent a questionnaire in preparation for its employees' vaccinations. It can't come soon enough. I can't thank the people who worked on this enough. I still just feel like I am in a daze about it all.

I wish you all the happiest of holidays and I have the highest of hopes for the new year. Please take care of yourselves and your families, and enjoy the small joys of this season. Thank you for being here with me this year — I'm so grateful for your friendship toward me and my family, and I send you our warmest wishes for these sacred days.

Love always,

Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and Agatha Pirlipat Paulson
XOX

Into the Woods

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Helloooooooo out there! Hiiii. How are you?

I'm sitting on my bed. Amelia is crying because she just fell down five stairs while wearing her new slippers and carrying a gigantic toy piano (everyone's fine — that was scary). Andy is handling the general chaos today: Children crashing. Dogs repeatedly going upstairs even though they can't come down (anxiety). Cats jumping on wide, high, plant-holding windowsills and knocking plants to the ground in a crash of ceramics and soil (four times now). Dog and cat standing six inches away from me no matter what I'm doing when they're not doing those things. Child recovering quickly and now playing "Good Morning Dear Earth" on the same piano. Husband is absolute saint and most skillful manager of creatures big and small, encouraging me to stay out of it all today and let him know if he can do anything elllllllllse for me. Too good to me, that guy!!!

December 3rd, then, and these pictures are several weeks old. The leaves are gone from the trees, and on Tuesday the wind whipped the around the house so hard the windows rattled. Not a fan of wind. I grit my teeth through it. Winter in Portland includes white skies, cold rains, and lots of wind, generally speaking. We've been out to the woods a bit and there was some complaining about being cold. I like the cold (though I do find myself dreaming of the river house frequently [which I believe survived the fires this fall, fingers crossed]. I picture myself sitting in the middle of the river reading my book in the sunshine.) We haven't decorated for Christmas yet, though that's on the schedule for today. Maybe driving out to the country to get our Christmas tree tomorrow? Will Agatha Kitten destroy the tree? Seems likely. She does not hesitate to wreak kitten-havoc wherever she can. She sits on the mantel, steals and hides stuffed animals and balls of yarn, and tries to run out the door every chance she gets. Soaking wet, she cares not when she gets sprayed with the water bottle for climbing and hanging on the screens. Oh, but I love her so! I love that little hellion!!!

THANK YOU so very much for every single order you placed here over the last few weeks! I'm so, so grateful for that. Ivy assembled everything and I shipped everything and somehow, in three days, I got all of the orders out before Thanksgiving. Now I'm just back to shipping a couple of times a week. I hope you all enjoy making these things. It warms my heart more than I can say to imagine you stitching in your homes across the country and in Europe. I love it, and thank you again for supporting my work all of these years. I recognize so many names every time I do the shipping and . . . it's just so nice. Thank you. XO

We've decided to take December off of Oak Meadow and study Christmas carols and The Nutcracker. I bought the curricula online but they're not super comprehensive and I don't know that I recommend them yet. Yesterday Amelia and I finished painting our cardboard Christmas village that we made out of box sides. I really have had the urge to bake lately. We made yeasted doughnuts and they did taste exactly like my grandma's; she used to make doughnuts (but she didn't call them doughnuts, she called the "pizzared" or something [Italian] like that?) once a year, some time in the winter. It would be a special treat. Our whole family would go to her house in the morning and eat them as she fried them. She cut the dough into strips with a pizza cutter, and then into rectangles. She stretched a hole in the middle of the piece and friend it in her cast-iron frying pan. When the doughnuts came out we sprinkled them with plain white sugar or honey from the honey-bear bottle. They were so delicious. I haven't had one in forty years. But the ones I made the other day were perfect and tasted almost exactly like my grandma's. I used this recipe. I highly recommend it. I have pictures of the doughnuts on my Instagram if you want to see them.

(Mentioning my grandma sort of makes me want to talk about DNA testing and my experience with it and my [many, intense] feelings about it, but I will save that conversation for another day, because I think it will be hard for me to write.)

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It was strange not being with family for Thanksgiving and I know Christmas will be strange too (and Andy is working Christmas Day, as well). My heart breaks for people who have lost a loved one to the virus. I just can't even get my mind around it and am still just in a state of bewilderment and sorrow, to be honest. I wish you all peace as we move into the holiday season. Peace and joy in the little things be with you, friends. And thank you for being here with me. XO

Catching Up and New Designs

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Thank you so much for all of your kind words to me on my last post. I really appreciate the encouragement. Man oh man. I am feeling pretty good this week. I have been working a lot and things are coming together that way, which makes me happy. I like to be busy and really dug-in on my projects, and I think that's been part of the problem — it's just so hard to get into flow now, you know?

Time is kind of all broken up in a different way now, and there is very little quiet time. BUT Amelia is doing really well and continuing to thrive in lock-down. She never complains. Well, there was one time that she completely fell apart. She was at a Zoom birthday party for her friend Lillian who moved away last year. Lillian lives in Detroit now, so the party started late for them in Michigan but before school was finished for us, with the time-zone change, so by the time Amelia got off her school call she was ten minutes late to the party. Lil's mom had sent a little envelope of treats and a packaged cookie and a party horn and a party hat for all the girls to wear. Mimi was really into it. I went upstairs to sit down but just a few minutes later I suddenly heard howling. She came running upstairs with her tiny party hat on crooked and her party horn in her hand, crying, "Mama! Mama! The call cut off!" She collapsed on the bed and she was sobbing so hard I thought my heart was going to shatter. Lillian's mom texted and said they had restarted the call for a few minutes so everyone could say goodbye but Amelia was having none of it. I just held her while she cried and I tried not to cry myself. She just cried and cried. She said, "I just want to go back to school!" And man, that was a hard moment. "I know, baby. I know." That is the one and only time I've ever seen her completely lose her shit during all of this. Most of the time she carries on with a smile and a sparkle and really good attitude. I don't think I've ever seen her cry that hard about anything else, ever. I write this because I don't want to forget that she felt this.

Most mornings I sit at my desk with Amelia on her school meetings at the computer behind me and I can hear her teacher and her classmates on Zoom. Every day I give thanks for her teacher and her friends. They make me laugh every single day. Teacher: "Maybe someone in your house can help you with this later today." Seven-year-old: "Maybe. But when my dad gets home from work he usually puts on a tank top and plays video games for a while." Ha! Tank top. I don't know how the teacher doesn't dissolve in peels of laughter every single day but she keeps it cool. I miss the kids and my time reading with them in their classroom every week. They are just all so cute and so sweet to each other and so willing and so adorable. I miss them and I miss Amelia being with them. But I am grateful that she gets to connect with her people on screen, at the very least. Kiddos are resilient but it doesn't mean that things don't still hurt, and thank goodness for the consistency and familiarity of screen-school.

I have DECIDED to make myself a sweater. Out of fingering-weight yarn. Tiny stuff. It's a sweet sweater, called Porty Cardigan. There's a knit-along happening for it on Instagram, I think. I'm going to join in as soon as my yarn gets here. I'm not much of a joiner and I've never done a knit-along but I am excited. This is a steeked cardigan. I had started another steeked cardigan for Amelia last week but I'm frogging it. I just didn't like my color choices (I was using all stash yarn). I ordered all new yarn for my Porty. I bought Jamieson & Smith 2-ply like the pattern calls for. I don't like shopping for yarn that I don't know well online. It's so hard to know what the colors will really be like! I looked at several different web sites and they all had slightly different colors for the same yarn. So who knows. I wonder if I can get the tracking number and stalk it every step of the way until it gets here. Hopefully I'll like what I get but if not, WHO CARES. Alicia, you just need to dig in and FINISH SOMETHINGGGGGG. Finish it. Stopping starting things and then putting them down.

I have a new assistant. She is delightful. Her name is Ivy. She is taking alllllll of the kit supplies home and stuffing all of my kits at her house now. This is amazing. This is life-changing for me because it has been a while since I've had an assistant, and I've NEVER had one that worked from home. It is excellent, though I do really miss getting to work with her here in the office the way I used to do with all my previous assistants, especially Greta and Stacey. I love working with those girls. But someday. Ivy goes to a local college here and is taking a year off. Not only is she willing to model things for me she is also gorgeous, which is just so convenient. I mean:

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Like, ADORABLE. It was literally pouring rain not two minutes before we took this picture yesterday on my front stairs. She's modeling the cowl I designed last month. It's called the Drip Glaze Cowl because it reminds me of the Zoom pottery class that Andy and I took a few weeks ago and the many nights we have enjoyed watching The Great Pottery Throw-Down (love it). The cowl is done in fingering- or sport-weight yarn and I recommend having one of those be hand-dyed and speckled, because it looks cool that way. I used 100% cashmere for the neck ribbing. I love cowls and I love this one and I hope you do, too. To purchase the downloadable PDF pattern on my web site click here. To purchase it on Ravelry, click here. Thank you, Ivy, for all of your help.

I also have an embroidery kit for you. It is quick to do and to hoop-frame; I finished it in a single day. I think it would make a lovely gift. I'm selfish and am keeping mine for myself. I forgot to list the ribbon on the list of things included in the kit, but you get that included (and the Hardwicke Manor hoop, too).

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This is done on plain muslin with two plies of DMC embroidery floss, and that's all included, too, of course. To purchase the Winter Wreath kit, click here. For the PDF pattern only, click here.

And, last but not least, I have the last installment of this year's seasonal series, Things of Winter:

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I have really enjoyed doing this series, and I loved stitching this one in particular. Thank you to every single one of you who has stitched the designs for every season this year. I really like doing seasonal stuff and I have no idea what I will do next year. Throw some ideas at me and I'll see what I can come up with. To purchase Things of Winter kit, click here. For the PDF pattern only, click here. Since last spring, all of my PDF patterns include both color chart and black-and-white charts. Kits only include printed color charts. But if you buy the kit and you want the black-and-white PDF, just email me and I'll send it to you.

I'm going to be doing all of the shipping of these kits myself, and I'm hoping to get every single thing out by Thanksgiving. That's my goal. I wish you all a peace-filled week and I thank you again for every kindness you show you here. It helped me a lot, and I am thankful for you. XO

Not Doing Much

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Mostly, I study the map of my side of the city and try to find flat places to go in the woods, thinking there will be solace there. The weather this fall has been so beautiful. Despite these pictures, we haven't gotten out of the house as much as I would like. City living in a little house so close to its neighbors, where you can't see the sunrise or sunset: The days sort of slip away. When Andy is home I get my work done (I have a Things of Winter kit and a new hand-embroidery [not cross stitch] kit called Winter Ring coming out this month) and then go upstairs and sit on the bed with Agatha Kitten and knit and watch whatever I want. I'd give anything to just go out to lunch and read my book. Sometimes I'll order Thai food on GrubHub and just sit in bed and eat it. Amelia does her regular school on the computer in my office and it's always so messy. I also can't really work in there because I make a lot of noise and am distracting to her. My happy place here in the house is not mine anymore. Sometimes after school is done for the day we go up to the woods all together, and those afternoons are the best. But generally, good lord, I am so tired at the end of the day. I miss everyone and everything about my old life. I try not to think about it anymore. It's all just too surreal. I pray for those who have lost so much more.

I've lost my voice a bit. Thank you for sticking with me. I just don't seem to be able to talk.

I've started to design a cowl pattern to use up a lot of my leftover (well, let's be honest, a lot of it isn't even leftover — it's just never even been used) fingering-weight hand-dyed yarn. I really like cowls (though I think this is technically more of a dickey) and I've ordered some fancy cashmere yarn to make the turtleneck part. It's still not here yet but I'm really looking forward to knitting with cashmere! I'll take a picture as soon as I'm done. These are going to be my Christmas presents this year.

Eight is Great

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We went walking at the Sandy River Delta last weekend and it was so perfect and flat and gorgeous and quiet and beautiful that when I came off Thousand Acres Road and turned into the meadow I just broke down and started to weep. I couldn't take it. Andy stood there with me while I cried. It was so perfect and the world is so hard and I never wanted to leave. I hope to soon be back.

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Our glorious daughter turned eight years old yesterday. The three of us went up to the woods at the end of our street and sat on the hill and ate Burgerville burgers and fries (her choice). She called chickadees with her bird stuffed animal (that sings; it's from Audubon) and they actually answered (it was amazing). She played for over an hour among the fallen logs and lichen patches with her many new LOL dolls, quietly talking in all of the voices of all of her dolls. She had Zoom calls with her family and opened all of her sweet presents and had chicken paprika (also her choice) for dinner. Last night before she went up to bed she said it was the best birthday ever. I'm so proud of my girl and I just love her so so so very much.

P.S. Thank you for every single Things of Autumn kit orders! They are now sold out, but we are planning to make 100 each of many of my older kits, including this one, over the next several months so stay tuned if you are interested. XO

Things of Autumn Cross-Stitch Kits and PDF Pattern Now Available!

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They're ready! Stuffed and ready to go!

Typing this with one hand while holding a kitten.

For the Things of Autumn Cross-Stitch KIT, please click HERE.

For the Things of Autumn Cross-Stitch instantly downloadable PDF, which includes both a color chart with symbols and a black-and-white chart with symbols, please click HERE.

Thank you very, very much! XOXOXOXXO, a

At the Table

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Oh, man. What a week. It's been challenging, guys. Thank you to everyone who wrote in and asked how we were doing. I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get back here and update you. School is taking a lot of time and I haven't quite figured out how to balance all the things I have to do now.

For almost two weeks, really up until last night when we had a thunderstorm and a bit of rain, we've been dealing with the effects — emotional and physical — of the Oregon wildfires, specifically the Riverside fire, burning just southeast of Portland. That particular fire started on September 8 and now encompasses over 137,000 acres. There are several other very deadly fires burning in Oregon, and as I'm sure you know they have incinerated entire towns. Gone. These fires are unusual because they are burning in places west of the Cascade Mountains that are usually wet. No longer. Forests are going up like tinder, and even the southern Portland suburbs were a Level 1 evacuation zone (we are couple of miles from the southern edge of the city, and yeah, we got our papers together in case we had to evacuate). The heartbreak of the local news cannot be underestimated. The smoke that has clogged our lungs and the skies of our state is awful. Truly awful. (Imagine being afraid to open your front door; indeed, we barely have opened it in over a week.) But the human losses of the fires have broken our hearts every day. I pray for rain, more rain than today's brief storm, as much as it was appreciated.

This poignant essay pretty much utterly sums it up for me.

Meanwhile, the house here revolves around our darling daughter's days. And I mean, literally revolves around. Her schedule is dizzying. She goes to the morning meeting with her class from 9:00-9:30, then we do Oak Meadow from 9:30 until 11;30. Then we have lunch and play with the kitten. Then she reads out loud to her grandmother every day on FaceTime. Then she goes to Zoom math class at 1:00 until 1:30. On Wednesday she goes to P.E. at 1:15 and on Thursday she goes to music (but I'm going to have her drop both of those; she does Zoom ballet through her ballet school for two hours a week, and we're learning to play recorder through our Oak Meadow curriculum.) In the afternoons we usually do art at the table or play games. Then she's free, and I clean everything up and go make dinner. I'm exhausted. Very happy with it all, but I won't lie, I am tired, and, just, TGIF. I'm ready for the weekend!!! We've been at the table a lot and I'm ready to go outside.

Things of Autumn kits (and PDF) are coming soon. I have all of the materials to assemble kits in hand and we've literally just been waiting for the smoke to clear (because it was in the house for a week — really awful feeling, let me tell you). But now that it's raining I think we can open the boxes. So I will be back with an update on this soon!

Good recipes for you: Really fudgy and delicious brownies; the best orange chicken I've ever had, let alone made, I must say; curried shepherd's pie from The New York Times; and Jamie Oliver's chicken tikka masala. All very, very good!

School Is Cool!

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We made it! We made it through the first week of school, and it was seriously awesome. I could not be happier, and Amelia is over the moon. She's asking to do school on Saturday and Sunday. How sweet is that. It's so much better than I expected. I haven't felt this much peace in ages. Our teacher came over on Wednesday. I could've sat and talked to her for hours. She's just so cool. Amelia can definitely stay enrolled in her school and participate in the school's distance learning, and this was such a huge relief to me. I didn't even know how big of a relief it would be until the moment of confirmation, and then I literally felt a weight lift. Her teacher said that they would have a Zoom meeting every morning and then have both computer assignments and assignments that she could do in an actual notebook. Group cheer! Let me just say, and those of you who have computer experience and small children right now know, it is trippy to watch them navigate the mouse and, like, place and resize objects (like stars and hearts) on their selfies, and write with pen tools, and just do stuff like that. I mean — does that not totally blow your mind? I definitely didn't teach her to do that. I think it's wonderful. Watching her morning meetings, seeing all the little kids on the screen wiggling, falling off their chairs, looking so much older, with their sweet little bedheads and their kittens and their bowls of breakfast cereal, my heart overflows with love for all of them, and I realize that I have missed seeing them all so much. I used read with many of them as a volunteer in the classroom every week. Since Mimi is in a 1st/2nd grade split class, half of the kids are the same from last year and I know them. The other half are new first graders, and we know some of them, too. They're all just so sweet and cute and wonderful. The teacher asks them to un-mute themselves, one by one, and tell everyone their favorite color. The second kid to go says "turquoise" and then at least half of the class follows by also saying turquoise. :) I text Andy as I'm watching, See, this is why they need this. They need each other, even if it's only on-screen right now. This is real, these windows of life, too. They are in this together.

After her class meets at 8:30 every morning, we then go into the dining room and do circle time, and then we start Queen Anne's Lace Homeschool. We've been drawing, printing, doing cursive, playing the recorder, painting, reading, and learning to crochet. Today Andy did social studies and science with her. Math starts next week. Also French (were using Muzzy BBC).  We worked on crochet for the first time yesterday. It's part of the Oak Meadow curriculum. It was your basic disaster. She got super angry when she couldn't make a foundation chain. I watched her hands and thought, "Hmmm, yeah, this is too hard. Her left hand is not coordinated enough to hold the chains and the working yarn, and she can't make her right hand manipulate the hook at the same time. It's okay. We'll try again another time, maybe in a few months." She was so mad she threw the hook across the room and then sobbed. I was cool — it's okay, honey, it's hard, it takes a lot of practice — and we put it away and went on with the day. And then last night after I got back downstairs after putting her to bed I found on the sofa her yarn and hook and a foundation chain of about seventy-five chains that she had done quietly while I was making dinner. She didn't even say anything. I couldn't believe it! And that moment was a gift that I'll never forget, and I think it will be a good metaphor for this year. Note to self: Don't underestimate this kiddo. She will surprise you!

Took the kitten to the vet today. The way they do it is that you come to the office, call when you get to the parking lot, they come out and get your animal and take it in, and then the doctor calls you after the exam. The doctor was adorable. I don't remember his name but I've never met him. He was gushing about Agatha: "Oh my gosh, she is adorable! She's just so cute, she has such a cute face, I mean it's like round, but fluffy, and it's just so cute! Everyone was freaking out she was so sweet. She let me do my whole exam without any problem. She's adorable!" I was laughing. He gave me the report (she's healthy, but has a slight heart murmur). At the end he goes, "Okay, they'll bring her out soon. The girls are taking selfies with her right now." Ha!

Such a proud mama of all my little girls!

* Meet Agatha *

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We got a new kitten. Her name is Agatha. Isn't she adorable?????

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We love her so much! She is so utterly adorable and sweet! I've never had a kitten like this. You can turn her over onto her back and she'll just lay in your arms and let you rub her tummy. You can pet her anywhere on her body and she loves it. You can pick up each of her paws and play with her little pads with your fingers and she doesn't even flinch. She is so totally relaxed. She wants to sit on one of us all the time and her purring is intense. She is so cute and sweet and adorable and loving, and the most chilled out cat I have ever seen and I can't believe she's ours!

Roll on By

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Just two days. Two days that felt like two years and also two minutes. River time is fairy time. You don't know what hour or even what day it is, unless you can tell time by the sun. And who really cares what time it is. There's nowhere to go, nothing else to do. The sun and the stones and the water are everything. They're all there is, all you need. Three nights and two days. If only we were there for longer! I honestly did not want to come home! I wanted to stay in the sun with the stones and the minnows and the water-skippers, with the eagles and the sparrows and the ducks, with the wind and the water and the people floating by with their radios and their super-loud conversations and their silly, cartoony tubes. I wanted to stay right there, with my book and my basket and my baby catching crayfish, and my husband skipping rocks, and my legs plunged into the cold, clear water, and then go up to the house for tacos for dinner and s'mores at the firepit and Taylor Swift on repeat and checkers before bed and baths together in the giant tub. I wanted to stay on the porch with my loves, drinking coffee by dawn-light, listening to owls hoot in the gloaming, looking for deer and rabbits in the grass, and watching the water roll and roll and roll on by. Time, mystical time, cutting me open then healing me fine. Oh, no, no, I did not want to come home. . . .

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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Photography

Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.