Posts filed in: Portland and Oregon

Make It More Mellow

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Gosh, the light has been so harsh lately. Every time we go out it feels like blazing sun in a cloudless sky, or in a sky where the clouds are of zero consequence, and it's harsh. It hurts my eyes. Last weekend it was, like, 86 degrees or something and I am so over it. I'm ready for things to be a bit more mellow. We are staying home today, and I am glad. In fact, right now I'm up in bed in my nightgown with a second cup of coffee, laptop on top of the comforter, light just starting to come through the windows. I'd like to stay here all day and knit, and drink hot things, and watch TV, and do no chores. Amelia's birthday is coming up in a few days and it will be a busy week, so I'd best recharge. I don't feel ready.

Thank you SO much for all of the orders last week and beyond. I am eternally grateful for every single one of you. Orders come in a bit differently than they used to — the trajectory of orders is lower but longer. We get fewer orders than we used to but there are still over two hundred. I try to ship as fast as I possibly can while sharing the office with Amelia. I make so much noise in there that I have to do it when she's not in school. The office is getting heavily used! Haha.  Actually, every single part is in heavy rotation. We're definitely getting our mortgage-payment's-worth out of this little house lately.

Many trips to the post office later, I have cleaned up the offices and have designed the last (winter) design in 2021's cross-stitch series. Do you want to see the digital? I never know if people want to see that before the finished, stitched photo. And sometimes I think, in my spare time I should be one of those designers that launches PDF patterns based on digital pattern covers; there's a way to export cross-stitch patterns so that they look like they are made of "virtual" stitches. It's not as fun or as pretty but I would have more designs that way. I have more ideas than I have time to stitch. I don't know. Just a thought. I still need to work on my wholesale pattern efforts, which was my New Year's resolution in January of 2020. That got stalled out because of pandemic, but it's still on the list.

Andy's been home on vacation for the past week, mostly to have oral surgery last Tuesday. We spent most of the day on Thursday at the vet with Clover Meadow, who is now fourteen and is probably battling some dental issues herself. Our vet's office says they have lost six or seven of their vets over the past year. I don't know if you've experienced this where you live but it is practically impossible to get a vet appointment that isn't four-to-five weeks out. We had to go way out to the suburbs and wait in the parking lot of a different walk-in emergency vet for two hours to get seen on Thursday. Clover still isn't exactly right and probably needs to have general anesthesia for some dental investigation. It's really hard with dogs this old. Aging has been pretty hard on her. It's tough. I can't seem to talk about it! Urgh. Hurts my heart.

Now, can you believe this, but I'm done with almost all of my Christmas shopping. I was getting up at 3 and 4 a.m. recently and decided to do something productive with my time instead of surfing Pinterest in the dark. So I just did it. I did it all. On my iPad. That's a first. My friend had texted just the night before that she was done herself and I was inspired. I also bought myself five new books to read in the hot tub. I can't remember what all of them are. Mysteries. I also bought Amelia what I thought was a pretty cute birthday present — I got her a new apron, new cookie cutters, fluorescent food coloring, her own icing tips, and a few new bottles of fancy sprinkles. Do you remember when Sears used to have a WishBook catalog that came out every fall? Oh gosh how I loved that thing! I would spend hours as a kid just paging through it and marking things I wanted. I really wish they still had something like that. They have an American Girl doll catalog, and Amelia does love those. But there's just something about the WishBook. Like, I think it must have had every single toy in it. And do any of you Chicagoans remember Service Merchandise? Oh I loved that place! I used to go there with my dad. Wasn't there a conveyor belt or something? I don't even remember how it worked! I just remember that I adored it. I remember one time my parents left us at home with a babysitter and went shopping together and brought home a White Stag sweater dress for me, with a zipper neck. It wasn't from Service Merchandise but I swear I think it was from Madigan's (that was another old Chicago department store that I used to love). Ahhh, sigh. I was just telling Andy yesterday that I really miss going to Amling's for Halloween, too. Does Amling's still have a carnival and caramel apples and pumpkins in the parking lot and stuff like that? Aww, I'm getting so old and nostalgic. When I look at the pictures above, I think, These will be Amelia's memories of getting pumpkins for Halloween in childhood at Dolan Creek Farm. . . . Nicest people ever, and every single member of their family came and found us on the property yesterday and said hello to us, remembering us from last spring when we stayed the weekend there for Andy's birthday.

I bought a cute cereal bowl with a flower design on the rim on eBay the other day, and when it gets here I'm going to make soup and take a picture of it in that bowl. OH! And I found the old poetry books I was talking about in my last post and I will show you those, too. They are so cool. I meant to do that. I'd best press "publish" on this now, though, and get on with the day. Of relative leisure. I hope you are all well and wish you a peaceful weekend. Xox.

(Riverside pictures above from Milwaukie riverfront, not Dolan Creek Farm.)

Edited to add: More from the western suburbs of Chicagoland memory tour: Kiddieland! Come Back Inn! Russell's BBQ! (And obviously Marshall Field's and Weiboldt's.)

August Days

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I’m doing this post from my iPad. This is a first so I wonder if these photos will format correctly (ed: they did not, but I fixed them on computer :((( ). Forgive, it seemed better than nothing. These were all on my iPad from the past few weeks. This was August. I’ve had a keen, poignant sense this month of wanting to not “waste” a moment on Amelia's behalf. I try to get us out all day, every single day. I’ve never really done that before, except by accident. This week it’s been morning tennis lessons at the park. The tennis courts are way off in the corner of the park, overlooking the dry hill and the railroad tracks down below. Beyond the tracks is the multi-use path and then the Willamette River that cuts our city in two, east side and west side. We are decidedly east-side people this summer, sticking close to home and, in fact, going to Sellwood, a neighborhood a few miles south. Suddenly everything we do is in Sellwood: Sellwood Park and Sellwood pool and Sellwood tennis lessons, and the rhododendron garden near Sellwood, and my fish-burrito place and Reed College canyon, and my mom’s house and then, I don’t know, back to Sellwood for something again. Too bad we don’t just live in Sellwood. But we've been outside all month nevertheless.

My god, the tennis lessons are terrible. Twenty-five little kids, two teenagers literally on their phones. The “teachers” are sitting on the ground looking at their phones. The kids throw balls across the court for a half an hour. That’s the activity. Just throw balls across the court while the teachers take a break at 10:30 in the morning. Then at 11:00 they do their main activity. That’s stand in line, wait your turn, then go to one side of the court and "serve" a ball over the net. They can barely hit a ball. Amelia throws it up fifteen feet in the air and backwards over her head. If they whiff it, and most of them do, too bad, that’s their turn. Then they go to the other side of the net and “receive” (mostly nothing). Then they go back and wait in line again. They do this for another hour (the teenager, lobbing balls dolefully toward them, gives them no instruction, no advice) and then the lesson is over. There’s only one other mom who stays for the lesson, as I do, knitting at the picnic table up the hill. She, chasing a toddler, is apoplectic (love!), has already emailed and called the director with complaints, and we’ve both spoken to the teenagers — alas, this is all on plan. After the lesson, we compose: Amelia is thrilled, pink-cheeked and delighted that she hit two over the net. She’s with her bright-pink backpack and her racket and her pink water bottle, in shorts, knee socks, and a button-down Peter Pan–collared blouse over a long-sleeved striped t-shirt with her hair in two long, tangled braids, smiling and telling me that tennis is her new hobby, that she’s going to be in the Olympics when she’s a teenager, she will be, in the Olympics, but for gymnastics. All of this breaks my heart in a hundred thousand different ways. I feel pieces of it exploding weakly up into the parched, ancient pine trees above. The air is cool and scented with pine and chlorine. It’s the end of summer and I ache with love and sorrow daily, in every moment. I love her so much and want every good and golden thing for her, every day. She screamed at the park yesterday when the ice-cream man came and she got her Powerpuff Girl ice-cream bar, literally screamed like she'd been bitten; I froze with alarm and turned to look at her but she was just that happy, and we all, even the kids, bubbled with laughter.

I won't tell you about the hellscape of the hospital or what it's like right now, the things that Andy tells me and how tired he is, how hard it is day after day, the beds in the hallways and the skeleton crew, and I burn with a helpless and bewildered fury that it has come to this. Every day, tears in my eyes, trying, trying. We've been instead focused on organizing some of the house a little bit, and had a big shelving unit delivered yesterday to replace Andy's desk, which has become a catch-all for his stuff in general. It's basically become a shelf that really sucks as a shelf. The only time he actually sits at the desk is the day, maybe twice a year, that he cleans off the desk, and that only lasts minutes, at the most. Seems dysfunctional to have a desk that only gets used for fifteen minutes a year. So, once again with the giant wall of cube holes, and storage cubes, and putting things away, and fixing the smallest spaces in a futile effort to assuage the greater chaos and terror of the world at large and all that we cannot control in it.

The weather, hallelujah, I have zero complaints about, and today it will be 75 degrees, max. This makes doing outside things (oh you pretty things!) so doable and delightful, and today, after tennis, we'll go (again and again) to the park.

I have two new fall designs, the next in my seasonal series, coming out soon. I’m still stitching them — well no, I’m still stitching ONE of them. I haven’t even started the hoop-design stitching because the cross stitch is taking forever! It has large areas of solid color. This series has been kind of a departure for me but I have really grown to love it (though I might be the only one — it has not been a bestseller) But did you see the digital on Instagram??? It's adorable. I’m hoping they’ll both be out by early October, at the rate I’m going. I’ll also be reissuing Things of Autumn from last year, as well as The Leaves by Hundreds Came, from 2019, and Andy still has to pull floss for all four of these designs and you can see why things take us a while. . . . But we will get there.

Amelia will stay home this fall and will be enrolled full-time in our school district’s online-learning option. I reorganized her half of the office we share, and got an IKEA pegboard for various supplies and headphones, a computer-monitor riser to raise up the computer (which she doesn't actually use but I use for all my order shipping) and give her room to put her school-issued Chromebook beneath it, and a new filing cabinet for her folders and papers. I spent a few hours over the weekend sharpening every single colored pencil that would fit in the desktop carousel I bought for pens and pencils. I wish that I had done all of this for her last year. I don’t know why I couldn’t figure out that I needed to do this, and I think the disorganization of that desk space — it was all sort of an afterthought, and never didn’t feel like an afterthought, even eighteen months in — did not contribute to her success in any way, though, I mean, she generally succeeded in spite of my failures. I also think that the way we did it (working with her in the mornings on Oak Meadow [the Waldorfy curriculum that we purchased separately] and then having her go to virtual morning meetings with her class and then back to virtual math with them in the afternoon) was actually just hectic and confusing and divided her attention and ours in stressful and unproductive ways. Andy had much more fun with it (and she with him) than I did. But I’m always trying to do my own work in the margins, and that’s hard. Posie is a business and has always needed to be a business, not just a hobby; we rely on the money I make, and not working much these past few years has been really stressful financially, on top of it. We calculate each risk, and make decisions, and worry whether they are “right,” and try to get it all done the very best we can. Like everyone. But wow.

Shows I am OBSESSED with: Clarkson’s Farm and the fourth season of This Farming Life. Oh my gosh I love both of these so much. I love them and every single person in them. I guess I’ve secretly always wanted to live on a small British sheep farm. I didn’t know how much. I love Gardener’s World, too, of course, and there are a gajillion seasons of that, as well as Escape to the Country. But these farming shows. Aghhhh, they really have my heart.

To end, I made the sweet romper (out of luscious Woolfolk Far) for darling Emily’s new baby. And I cross stitched this adorable design by Samantha Purdy for my little sister’s birthday. I can also heartily recommend two Instant Pot recipes that I’ve made that are just awesome. Salsa verde chicken (I might’ve mentioned this one before, but I make it every single week now) and this chicken teriyaki, which Amelia inhaled (no surprise, it’s smothered in honey; you could probably reduce that easily). Also this sumac chicken was great. I like chicken and rice. One good thing about pandemic life is grocery delivery, which has been absolutely wonderful for me and I’m very, very grateful that it exists.

Thank you for the comments on my previous few posts. Your words mean a lot to me and I’m very grateful for your presence here, and for your orders and interest in my designs, at all times. Thank you.

Vacation

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After dinner, we’d watch Season 3 of The Great British Baking Show. Outside, dusk would be falling and the eagles would start their nightly patrol of the river. The house faces east, so mornings are bright and glittering; at night, the sunset leaves the front row of burned-out trees in shadow and turns the ones behind them rose-gold. When we’d first arrived in late afternoon, we gasped to see the damage the wildfire (specifically, here, the 2020 Dowty Road fire, an offshoot of the Riverside Fire) had done. From the house I had vertigo looking at the wall of dead, twisted sticks. I could not stop imagining what it was like when it had been roaring with flame. I texted a few of my friends in distress. They answered, distressed: It'll grow back.~~~~ After a few days we got used to the burned, blackened branches, the charcoal-black tree trunks. But sometimes when I was sitting in the river looking down at my book, I would look up, expecting to see the lush, luminous waves of green I had known, and instead I'd see the black sticks, and it was shocking every time. The grass in the yard was bone dry, the weird, tangled brush that surrounds the property already bleached and brittle. We were melancholy, especially Andy and me, especially me. Amelia seemed, as with all else these past two years, to take it in stride. Each night we'd talk about the things we'd bake when we got home: pavlova, jelly roll, a Religieuse Ancienne. Spanische Windtorte! Yes. Anything we wanted. The darkness fell and it was nicer, though we were attuned then, as ever, to the potential scent of wood-smoke in the air, coming from any direction on the night wind. We never smelled any smoke. But I never stopped worrying that I would. I tracked the sky multiple times a day for smoke plumes or, at the least, that particular orange haze that haunts us now in the summertime west, but the air was clear, the sky was big and blue or just filled with regular clouds. Amelia slept in a different bed every night, the best one by far the upstairs double that overlooked the river, high-up in the green trees on our side.

During the days there was a heatwave and the temperatures were regularly in the high-90s or 100s. This part of the Clackamas River is quite lazy and shallow; Andy is easily able to walk across it. The water is crystal clear unless you walk through and disturb the rocks and sediment. Even then, it settles almost immediately, and you can see that the river bottom is covered with big, round stones, thousands and thousands of them, sliding over each other and slippery with rusty-brown river glaze. On the hottest days, dozens of people (we're only forty-five minutes from our house in Portland here; it's close) floated by in rafts, inner tubes, and boats, from morning until dinnertime. It's so quiet out there except for the sound of rapids downstream about a hundred yards — you can hear them but you can't see them yet, and floaters always lift their heads at that point, becoming interested, securing the cooler and radio a little better, not knowing exactly what’s ahead. But generally they slide past our house in a bright, languid, lazy way, music loud and laughter easy. Their conversations are weirdly amplified; I don't know why. I could, as if they were standing next to me, hear everything — or nothing, maybe depending on the direction of the wind. I started writing down anything I could hear as they passed.

Guy [incredulous]: "There's a Robin Hood festival?!?"
Girl: "Yes!"

"People are leaving the state."

Older lady: "Where are we? [Looks around.] Okay, we've got at least two hours to get sober."

Girl: "I haven't had a period in like seven years."
Other Girl: "And you're having your period NOW?"

"You cannot watch that show. But if you're hammered or if you get high . . . it's so funny." [Ed: I think they were talking about South Park.]

"He's the oldest worker I've ever gotten along with."

Guy: "Cool, we're going on Thursday night."
Other guy: "I'll be there. I can leave the state now. I don't even have to ask permission."

"There was, like, orcas and they were, like, playing with beluga whales. They have this video of, like, a whale coming up and kissing some guy on the boat."

And many more that I heard before I thought to start writing them down, including a lot of stuff about child-custody issues.

I was in the river every day, sitting under my new umbrella from morning until about four p.m., reading. I brought multiple metal chairs out there and had one for myself, one for my basket (with books, phone, water, glasses, etc.), and one for my feet. Andy and Amelia went on several "adventures" down- and upriver, walking into the woods and out of sight, to the pond south of the house, Amelia reporting to me on her walkie-talkie: “Mama, there is a giant salmon here being eaten by crawfish, over!” I rotated my chair throughout the day so I was never actually in the sun (not sure how I made it through any length of time down there in the past without this umbrella). I was reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Searcher by Tana French. Station Eleven is a dsytopian, post-apocalyptic novel. It’s truly haunting in its prescience, a post-pandemic story written in 2014 that nevertheless made me cry when I read one of the pages out loud to Andy, so true to 2020-21 did it ring. (Last summer, just a month before the fires, I read Year of Wonders, which is about a 17th-century village that quarantined itself during the plague, while sitting in this exact same spot. Usually I pick lighter fare, go figure.) Eventually The Searcher, which is equally dark in many ways but takes place in the winter-bare hills of the Irish countryside (I really love that she focuses so much on atmosphere and place), started to win out for my attention and I didn't put it down; I've got about forty pages left now. I've read several Tana French novels now. I've read The Witch Elm, The Trespasser, The Secret Place, Broken Harbor, and Faithful Place. I just think the way she paces these books is pure genius; anyway, they sure take me right along.

Us at the river house in 2020. In 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013. (N.B.: The original house burned down [not from a wildfire] in the winter of 2015 and was replaced with the current one, so that's why we didn't go in 2015 and also why the house is different in the early years.) This place is in my soul and I love it and I pray for it.

A Weekend at the Farm

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Hello! How are you?

Summer is here and I am thrilled. Amelia has three more days of school and then we are FREE. I've never been so happy about the end of the year before in my life!

Andy Paulson turned FIFTY a week or so ago! I spent the week before his birthday making a secret video (which turned out to be over 38 minutes long). I texted all of our friends and family and asked them to make a quick video of themselves saying "happy birthday" to him. Like, everybody. Literally every single person did it. It was epic. Some people were so creative they made entire little movies and wrote original songs! And so many people dropped in little comments in their videos about something very specific to themselves and Andy together. That was so moving to me (let's just say that when I showed Andy the video on his birthday morning I literally wept, sobbing, through the entire thing, ha!). But some people remembered stuff from college, from Missoula, from childhood, just all sorts of inside–Andy Paulson jokes that kept adding up into something just . . . I don't know, but it was pretty spectacular. I am a genius for thinking of this and feel free to steal the idea because it was epic!

The day before his birthday we went for a two-night stay at Dolan Creek Farm. What an enchanted place. From the minute we got there it was so pretty, the weather was so nice, the birds were so vocal, the sunset was so rosy, the breezes so cool. I mean, it was literally magical. The pictures above of Mt. Hood in the distance? Those are taken from the porch of the studio. Just, right from the porch. Where you sit and drink your coffee. And cows come up to the fence to say hello. And swifts swoop across the fields. And bullfrogs call across the pond. Agh. Andy kept saying, "It's just so big! There's so much space here! I'm never in this much space!" Amelia was beside herself with delight, getting to help gather eggs, bring the chickens in, and feed the horse her dinner. On the full day that we were there, I carried a quilt and my little chair to a big tree down by the pond and finished my book (All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews). Birds and bullfrogs kept me company. Andy and Amelia explored the farm and found another hidden pond. They played cards and ran through the fields. At night we barbecued and the owners, Kirk and Chris, started a campfire for us and showed us around the barns and talked to us about the history of the farm and the pumpkin patch they have in the fall and what it was like for their kids to grow up here. (Several nights later, Amelia stayed up way too late listening to music on her iPod and when I came upstairs she said, "Mama, I just listened to a song that reminded me of the farm ["Thank God I'm a Country Boy," which she and Andy had been playing all weekend] and I'm so sad! I want to go back to the farm! I want to go to the farm! Why can't we go for my birthday! [We can, but we can't stay overnight, because they don't let you stay overnight in October because pumpkin patch, etc.]" Anyway, she just utterly melted down, went downstairs to get a drink, came back up with her dad and did the whole thing again, crying true tears. I turned into broken pieces of hay. My god, my darling girl, I would give you a life on a farm if I could. It was my dream when I was a little girl, too, though I've never really mentioned it. Farm Fever is real. I was a bit older than she is but I used to cry myself to sleep I wanted a horse so bad. My parents' garage fell down in a snowstorm when I was ten and they rebuilt a new garage and painted it barn red with white trim and I thought I'd die of longing. No horse in there, just bikes and floaties and tools. Evermore.)

Anyway, it was the first time that we had been off the property at home in almost a year, and my god, it doesn't take much for us Paulsons. Two nights and a day at a farm forty-five minutes away on the backroads and we are REBORN. Ready to tackle these last few weeks of school, make some plans for the summer that involve rivers and trees, text friends to invite them along, hope for our own invitations, etc. Let it be, let it be! Vaccines!!!!!

My electric bicycle has arrived, and though I need to make some modifications to one petal so that I can fit my wonko orthopedic shoe on it safely AND figure out how to lift it into the back of the car (it's so heavy! it's so heavy!), I am further on the road to freedom and reinvention and I need it. Yesterday I saw a video on Instagram of a bunch of people dancing and singing to a band on the road by the reservoir in Mt. Tabor and I've never vicariously related to anything more. If only I had my pedal and could join them! I will get there. I'm meeting a bike guy on Thursday after I visit my friend in her rose garden and . . . just . . . life on earth. It can be so hard and so beautiful.

Much of the soap that Andy and I made six weeks ago and beyond six weeks is now cured, and wrapped, and ready to go! I think I'll have a launch. I've got two new patterns/kits, one a hoopdy and one a cross-stitch that will be ready within days of June 16, which is when all printed patterns get here. We'll have some reissued older kits, too (and just, for the record, this is literally the only time ever that we are reissuing kits — it is happening, and has already happened for some), and we'll have seven kinds of soap, and lotion bars. No, guys, I don't know how I do it either! I'm thinking Monday, June 21, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. PDT. Here's a cool chart that tells you when that is for you!

So, I'm making fish balls for dinner tonight, and this is one of those recipes where you can make almost all of it in the morning and then fry it up at dinner time. And I need more recipes like this, because I am good at things in the morning and I am bad at things in the evening, especially at dinnertime. I recently had my knives sharpened by a mail-in service called Knife Flight and I cannot recommend doing this enough. It is unbelievably great to have nice sharp knives — today I sliced green onions into transparent wafers (not like I have awesome knife skills, but that's how much having a sharp knife will do for you) and chopped up a pound of cod, and it was pure pleasure. I've also cut myself five times just by waving the knife around carelessly and touching it where it used to be dull (the bottom corner edge, hello; the tip, ow). Anyway, it was really perfect timing because I'm trying to cook a lot more. Here is my cake I made over the weekend and other stuff on Instagram, too.

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I mean, just look at this. I can't wait to go back either, Amelia. It was just so, so nice.

Waking Woods

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Headed toward home plate on a year of this. It's hard to remember how we did things. Did Amelia actually go to school with a roomful of other kids? Did I sit side-by-side with the moms on the playground and talk about genealogy and Shopify and in-laws? Did we eat at restaurants every other day? Did I take her to Ikea every other week to play on all the furniture? Did she touch everything in every room of the children's museum, where there isn't a single window and it smells like dirty diapers and microwaved food and lifesaving espresso? Did I sit in the front room of the ballet school, talking to sweetest Teacher Michelle and knitting as the high-school girls filed in and the little ones held hands and fell into each other's arms on the old couch? Was there ever a time when it wasn't just Amelia and me somewhere in the woods, building fairy houses, searching for tiny mushrooms, listening for woodpeckers, and hoping no one else shows up? I have a terrible time wearing a mask. My glasses just fog up no matter what I do and I can't stand it. My asshole eye doctor won't release my prescription to me so I can get new glasses because it's over four years old. Glimpsing another person coming from far down the trail fills me with adrenaline. God, I just hate the feeling. Hello, person fifty yards away! I'm terrified of you!

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The woods receive us nonetheless. Everything is still very chilly and very sleepy. There's usually at least one bird singing. The sound of traffic far off. The smell of red cedar. I watch the time because we have to get back so Amelia can go to math class online at 1:00. We drive-thru McDonald's for frozen lemonades and Happy Meals and eat them in the car, blasting Lizzo on the way home.

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Last week a nutria swam out of the beaver lodge and sat in front of a log in the water, staring at us. I had to rub my eyes because I couldn't believe it. Later he came up out of the pond right near where we were sitting and started snuffling around just yards away. It was adorable (however, invasive)! We sent a video to Andy. He's been at work a lot lately. I think we're both very tired (and our brand new hot tub is BROKEN). When he gets home there's a short, happy reunion and then I race to my room and shut the door and turn on the TV, knit something, call my friend, make some jewelry, surf Instagram, eat Chipotle carnitas burrito bowls delivered to the front porch by a rotating cast of GrubHubbers. I'm embarrassed by what my neighbors must think about how much I order GrubHub. I try to work. I've got spring stuff coming. My hand-dyed floss order got lost for a while at Weeks Dye Works so we're a bit behind, but it's here now and I'm hoping we'll launch stuff next week. Andy pulls the floss. It's kind of complicated. The cat has to be locked up the entire time. He's going to make more lotion bars soon. (The kid works hard. He does anything he can to help me every single day.) My new assistant Ivy is just a dream. And I still have my goal of reformatting my cross-stitch patterns for wholesale. I was supposed to do that in 2020. I still want to make it happen. Right now I desperately need to pull my stuff together to send to the accountant to do our taxes. Ugh. Whatevs. Send food and nap dresses.

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I started making resin jewelry. I enjoy this very much. I'm totally new at it. I learned a lot from my first batch: Let the resin sit for about fifteen minutes to get rid of some bubbles. Don't pour it in, just dab it with the popsicle stick. Don't ever put open bezels on whatever kind of packing tape I have (it sucked). Don't take the sticky residue off with a scratchy cotton ball (not sure how it can be scratchy, but it was?). I mean, in a lot of ways I did a mostly good job on my first batch. (I had watched a lot of tutorials about how to do it before I tried.) But I need more practice. I need to pop every single bubble. I bought a new full-face respirator and signed up for a beginner's metalsmithing-at-home class at Portland Community College that concentrates on all cold connections (no soldering). I want to make my own bezels. Right now I'm using the batch of them I bought online. I think my technique needs to get better before I use really nice bezels. All of the botanical material I used was from our yard or our walks in the woods. Tiny ferns, little Robert geraniums, plum blossoms, a few vinca and veronica from the parkway. All these sweet little baby greens keeping me from despair.

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I hope you are all well and finding vaccine appointments if you are eligible and finding ways to stay occupied until you are if you're not. I hope if you have little kids you are not fried. My friend told me yesterday that a local newspaper said that Oregon was going to have enough vaccine for all adults by the end of April. I want to believe that. Thank you for the emails and comments about the playlist. I'm so glad you like it! If you've made one, leave a link in the comments? Thank youuuuu. I'm grateful.

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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

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

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!

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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