Posts filed in: Portland and Oregon

New Year's Eve

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A Christmas wish came true when we got snow last week in the days after Christmas. It was just the perfect snow: big, fat flakes that swirled and stuck, no wind at all, temps not even that cold. We walked all over the neighborhood and then down to the bakery. It reminded me of the hundreds of times I walked there with Amelia in her stroller, warm under her Sunshine Day and in her little knitted boots. The sun came out and make everything sparkle. It was a wonderful present.

I know it's been a hard year for everyone, and it has been harder for me than I can even say. I pray that you have found blessings in the challenges and I pray that I can focus on the blessings, and appreciate them and cherish them, and even grow stronger from the challenges. I'm so grateful for every one of you who has been here this past year (and before that) with your kind words and your generous advice and your stories and your orders and your recipes and your pictures of crafts that you've made. Every single one of the ways you've shared support with me has been important to me, and I sincerely thank you for being here with me when so often I feel that I've lost myself, sifting through the days, looking for things to help and hold on to. I'm going to try to be here more on a regular basis to help me remember and honor the little things. I have every hope for a brighter year and I wish each of you good health and every happiness in 2022. Love always, Alicia, and Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and Agatha Raisin Paulson

We and the Trees

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Ugh, this last one would've made such a cute Christmas card! Alas, in an uncharacteristic burst of organization and wherewithal, I've already had mine printed. But they're not as "Amelia" as this photo. This photo is just so her.

T H A N K   Y O U   G U YSSSS! Thank you so much for the orders. XOXOXO I appreciate them so much. Every order that came in before 10 a.m. yesterday morning has now been shipped. Because of all of the reissues we worked on this year we still have tons of stuff in the shop for Christmas and for the new year, and that makes me so happy. Usually we end the year with absolutely nothing. I have a few new design ideas brewing, including that nursery-rhyme design (that I did a few years ago and never stitched — or rather, I tried to stitch it but I was making so many major mistakes I literally gave up) that I want to get into a shape to release. Not sure if it will be a kit or just a pattern. I also want to do some hand-embroidery patterns for you to frame in little grapevine wreaths (we'll probably make a kit for it that doesn't include the wreaths, but you can get those easily at any craft store these days — it's really hard to get large quantities of stuff like this in a timely way these days, and it would probably go sideways if I tried). I'm also going to think about whether we want to start packaging our soap in little boxes so that they can be shipped in eco-envelopes instead of boxes. That was the trickiest thing about selling soap and embroidery kits together and gave me complete fits when shipping: Soap wants to go in a box so that it doesn't get smashed, kits obviously can be shipped for much less cost in envelopes. If we boxed the soap itself, we could put it in envelopes with the kits. I don't know. Still thinking about whether we even want to make soap to sell. Andy wants to! 

Anyway! Here we are with a lot of trees. We went to the Christmas-tree farm and to the woods. We've had some really nice weather, actually, and it makes hiking really nice. That said, I won't lie, I'm getting sick of going to the woods. Amelia gets her second vaccine tomorrow and then I think life will open up for us a bit more. Planning Christmas stuff outside is a little tricky. There are some things to do outside that we do like to do every year, including seeing the lights at The Grotto and going to Zoo Lights at the zoo, but now you have to have reservations and buy your tickets ahead of time — and what if it's pouring? Or freezing? Or like, no one (probably me) feels like going that night? Agh. I'm really not good at planning stuff in advance, I have to admit. As soon as I have something on the books I feel anxious, especially if I've spent money on it. Maybe this is an introvert thing! Anyway, I find it hard to commit to outdoor stuff at night in the middle of winter. What can I say.

Clover Meadow had two teeth pulled on Tuesday without incident and Agatha Kitters was spayed the Tuesday before that. She gets her silly cone off TOMORROW (she won't believe how happy she'll be) and we all rejoice that our pets are alive and well and good lord, December is an expensive month. . . . Agatha's personality seems to have completely changed, and she has become either freezing or incredibly sweet, as all she wants to do now is snuggle with someone. I was just upstairs brushing my hair and she was meowing and meowing at me and I swear she was telling me to get back into bed. She likes to be completely under my legs under all of the covers and blankets. She would stay there all day. I would, too, if only. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Amelia has made me her Christmas list and it is filled with such sweet, homely things I had to swallow hard when I saw it. A new sweatshirt. A velvet jacket (red or blue or pink or cyan). "Carmal" candy. Oh how I love her! Next week is the last week of school before break and I am ready for it. School's going really well but it's a lot, and I . . . just want to bake cookies and make ornaments and watch movies and reflect and recharge and quit the hustle of trying to keep her on task a lot of the time. Online school has been an awesome experience so far, for the most part. It’s actually kind of a combination Zoom-with-the-teacher-and-classmates and then independently doing computer modules, which, surprisingly, Amelia loves — but I mean, our lives at home pretty much revolve entirely around school. Within the first few days of school this year she made it clear she intended to navigate it all all by herself, for better or worse, and Andy and I actually have very little to do with teaching the actual content of her assignments other than making sure she is staying on track with the work every day. That she wanted to do everything herself really surprised us — this was not at all how things were last year — but we have totally supported it, and her independence and self-direction has been an unexpected and delightful consequence. And she needed that! We had definitely gotten into a pattern of Andy and I providing any and all direction and that never was what I wanted for her. The teacher is awesome. The new curriculum is pretty challenging. She gets a bit tangled up in language arts for sure but it’s seriously beyond. At our conference, the teacher told us that he and the other third-grade teacher think the language-arts curriculum is at more of a sixth-grade level, and I believe that — they're already trying to write opinion essays with a hook, a controlling idea, three paragraphs for supporting details, and a conclusion, and it's like, whoa, I swear she was literally just learning to read, let alone write! I think it's a bit too much. My neighbor, who is an elementary school librarian, told me at the beginning of the year that in first and second grade they “learn to read.” And in third they “read to learn.” That was really helpful to me, just to understand, yes, there’s a leap in third. It’s still been a big leap but she is so far very game, so we obviously protect that. Anyway, school things sort of fell apart for us last year at this time, so I am watchful. But I mean, wow, so far, so very good, and I am just so proud of my girl.

I have literally no idea what to cook anymore. No idea. I'm so over it. I make chicken verde in the Instant Pot every week, and I've developed an addiction to this not-diet-friendly but delicious version of bang-bang shrimp, and I guess I regularly make my childhood favorite, "pizza spaghetti": Cook a pound of spaghetti, mix it with 2 cups of milk and 4 eggs, dump it in a 9"x13" baking dish, top with Ragu spaghetti sauce (my mother only ever used Ragu in this and that’s what I use, too, or it doesn’t taste like childhood) and shredded Mozzarella and bake at 350F until custard is formed and top is golden and bubbling; I think it's probably 30 minutes.  But otherwise, I got nuthin. Please advise.

*** I hated Madam and didn’t finish it and do not recommend. I tried to watch Only Foals and Horses on either BritBox or Acorn but it was too intense so I went back to Gardener’s World and Escape to the Country. I want to plant all wildflowers in my raised beds this year and once again will try to keep them alive. Dang, that location is rough. I watched The Biggest Little Farm. I am knitting the Sirius sweater in Nature Spun sport and the color scheme I’m copying is way out of my usual wardrobe palette and didn’t really come out how I wanted, but hopefully I will like it.

***Darling nine-year-old Hannah suggested adding something for Hanukkah to Winter Rabbit so I made this Hunukkiah that you can substitute for the Christmas tree on the hill, or add elsewhere. Thank you, Hannah!!!

Hunukkiah

Natural Beauty

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I mean, what can I say. Mother Nature speaks for herself here, much more eloquently in a single arc of wild rosehips than I could ever hope to. I wish you could smell the forest, and hear the birdsong, hear the soft gurgle of the streamlets as they meander through the tangle of trees. Oh, soft days. Soft light. A line of black geese across the white sky. Amelia can't stop talking, bouncing ahead of me down the trail, carrying the trail map, looking for a spot to stop and have her snacks she packed. She's just so happy in the woods. After the arboretum (first set of photos; second set is from Mt. Talbert) we stopped at "elephant park" (it's near the zoo, and has a now-broken elephant statue in the sandpit) and then to Elephant's Deli and had lunch on the patio under the heaters, just us girls. It was just the absolute perfect day. After a summer of near-constant outdoor activity, it's rare that we have such perfect weather on the weekends, when she has no school. Wondrous nature and walks with my family, my healing salve, my joy. These days sustain me through the dark and the rain.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and then the Christmas season will be upon us. I had lunch with my darling friend Beth Twist last week. We sat outside in our coats and scarves on the heated patio of the California Pizza Kitchen and ate and talked for four hours. We were the only people out there, ha! :) I had such a great time talking shop. My new design is coming, I swear — we just need to pull floss for it, but the fabric and the patterns are here, so I'll release everything early next week and we'll ship at lightning-speed. I never did show you the digital for it so now I guess I'll keep you in suspense for the real thing. It's my favorite yet in the series. Once we release this guy and the reissued winter kits next week we will be completely done with the reissues and this 2021 seasonal series. For once, the end of my work for the series is coinciding with the end of the calendar year. Aside from the wholesale-pattern-project I keep yammering on about, I have no idea what I am going to design for 2022! I really don't know! I have a lot of vague ideas but I haven't really dialed in a concept. Should I keep doing 8"x10" seasonal cross-stitch designs? Should I do some small little designs? Unique framing options (little grapevine wreaths as frames, for instance)? "Regular" embroidery (not cross stitch)? What should I do for 2022???

At night, I've been doing a lot of knitting. I just knit another sweater. I'll finish the last sleeve and then take a picture of it. I used bulky yarn that was in my stash. Bulky knitting on size US10 needles is not my favorite, but boy is it fast. I really like the CQ sweater and might knit that. I've been keeping my house pretty cold so I can wear all my knitted stuff. I've also really wanted to make a Gamaldags in this color combo for years. I need a hat. I never seem to have a hat for when it's really cold. Maybe this one. I love this sweater in this color. I bought myself two early Christmas/birthday presents and got this paint-by-number kit and this one. Are those not just so utterly adorable and weird??? I've been really indulging in the "selfish" crafting lately. You gotta kinda take what thrills you can get. I am reading this pretty spooky book called Madam that I saw on Melissa's Instagram. I'm about halfway through and I can't put it down. It's so creepy! I started reading it before Halloween but I am a slow reader. Fast knitter, slow reader! Update: I read the next thirty pages and then started skimming through to end and did not finish because it got seriously insane and disturbing. Do not recommend. Blech.

I wish you all a peaceful and abundant Thanksgiving weekend. I am so grateful for your friendship and presence here in my life! Thank you! XOXOXO P.S.: Amelia was horrified that the girls on the trail ahead of us pulled up the mushroom in the photo above and "left it alone there to die." I think they must have done it accidentally because I heard them talking but didn't know what they were talking about until we got to where they had been and saw the mushroom right there. Amelia wanted to replant it. Andy and I had recently watched this movie on Netflix so I didn't think it would work. It wouldn't have worked, would it have? Anyone know what kind of mushroom it is?

Autumn Skies

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The weather has certainly changed and fall is here here here. The yellows are vibrant, the skies are gray. Amelia and I found a glorious patch of cosmos flowers near the muddy soccer fields near Reed College. Purple and pink, glowing in the rain. She doesn't have any Zoom meetings on Wednesdays and I just love that. The wet woods receive us, their slippery, leaf-covered paths slick with shining maple leaves as big as your head. We stop and get chai and hot cocoa on the way, and Amelia desperately wants to carry her cup into the canyon. She has visions. I try to accommodate if they don't mean that you fall down a flight of stairs (there's a flight of stairs) into the pond. The days while the leaves will still be hanging on the trees are drawing to a close. Soon the black branches will be bare, and it will rain more, and it will be colder, and wetter, and harder. Goodbye, social life! It was nice knowing you!

At home, I work while she's in school. This week I've been making a database of all of the brick-and-mortar cross-stitch stores around the United States. It's taking me a long time, but I like this type of torpid busywork. When I get tired of that I go back to reformatting my patterns for eventual wholesaling. By "reformatting" I mean a couple of things. They need some text changes and omissions; my patterns tend to be pretty beginner-friendly, and people who shop at cross-stitch stores generally don't need instructions about how to, say, press their fabric, or use a cross-stitch chart, or frame their work, etc. I also made an executive decision, based on some discussions we had here around this issue, to only offer wholesale printed patterns with black-and-white, not color, charts. Black-and-white charts are also (from the anecdotal evidence I've found and the pros I've asked) the industry standard. For almost two years, since we had those chart-y conversations, I've offered black-and-white charts in my PDF patterns, but I still print only color for my kits (and I will continue to do that). But printed patterns for shops will only be available in black-and-white. And before I get them all printed, I have to do a lot of reformatting of my files — re-exporting new charts and redoing the color-chip lists. I had my graphic designer, Greta, make new product line sheets and an order form and stationery for me, and it's all so pretty (she always gets where I'm trying to go, even better than I do).

I'm stitching on my winter design and am almost done. Next year I've decided not to do as many seasonal designs, mostly because they really lock you in to the calendar! And I need more freedom right now. I have some other design ideas. It probably won't work but we'll see. I really want to be a part of the cross-stitch community but I don't think I'll ever have a floss-tube (i.e.: a YouTube channel where you talk about cross stitch). I just don't have time to watch it and I definitely don't have time to do videos. But I think it's great that they have such a vibrant community when so much of blogging has fallen away (personally heartbreaking to me, but hopefully it will come back — if you have a blog, please comment here so I can check it out!).

I've been trying to buy some new lamps for our home. Almost all of our lamps are the same ones — simple stick lamps from Ikea, over ten years old by now. We have at least ten of them that I can count offhand. The problem with these (I'm sure I've mentioned this, I am obsessed with it) is that they use chandelier bulbs and you can only use Ikea shades with them. (You can't use clip-ons because, chandelier bulbs.) Well, Ikea makes only one shade for these lamps right now and they are dark gray. So, blah. I would cover the shades I have but they are all made out of basket-woven wicker. :| Except for the kitchen ones, which are black, and with a bunch of pleated fabric on them they would be completely opaque. So I've been surfing Wayfair (I need matched pairs and have joy for retiring) for hours, looking for new lamps. I've been doing this for like a year. I can't seem to commit! Ah, silly obsessions. Thank goodness for them!

Chit-chatting about the little things here. Tell me yours.

I'm kind of taking the rest of the day off. Andy is home to run homework this afternoon and I've ordered some lunch (banh mi sandwiches and Vietnamese coffees, my weaknesses) and I'm about to start the colorwork on my Soorik tunic. (I still need to make an entry for that, sorry.) Amelia is going to be a "vampire queen" (her idea) for Halloween (I did not make this costume, I just bought it online) and she and Andy will carve pumpkins tonight. It's supposed to be sunny on Sunday which is really wonderful. Halloween on a sunny Sunday, wow!

***Her sweater is here. It still fits, yay.

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

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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