Posts filed in: Portland and Oregon

Summertime Starts!

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It's Andy Paulson's birthday today! Unfortunately he has to work! We went to Oaks Park on Saturday instead and had such a nice time. The weather was absolutely perfect — I think every other memory I have of Oaks Park is scorching hot, so this was so nice. It's an old-fashioned amusement park and it is a lot of fun, especially with little kids. It's one of Andy's favorite places. I love it, too. Happy birthday, my dearest love. I hope this year is filled with so much joy.

We've been busy doing I don't even know what, just cruising into the end of the year and doing all of the end-of-the-year things, carnivals and dance performances and final swimming lessons, etc. Andy and I were trying to make our favorite honey-chipotle chicken tacos in the slow cooker; it had been plugged in for about an hour when we realized it wasn't getting hot at all. It was a very old slow cooker and we didn't even try to diagnose it. Those things make me nervous to begin with. So on the way to pick up Meems from school we stopped at Target intending to get a new slow cooker. We came home with an Instant Pot instead. I honestly hadn't even considered getting one, but we saw that it had a slow cooker setting in addition to the pressure cooker feature and so we grabbed it. Late to the trend, as usual, but we're making up for it with a) a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm and b) five Instant Pot meals in about six days. We made the tacos, as well as this jambalaya, Indian butter shrimp, coconut curry chicken, and the lemon–poppy seed breakfast cake (which I turned into Andy's birthday cake) from this book. I was not a big fan of the cake as a birthday cake. It was kind of like a steamed bun. It would have been great for breakfast! Ha. It sure was cute when it came out though.

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We ate it just the same and had such a wonderful birthday weekend! XOXOXO

The Work of Spring

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My baby girl is growing up. She frequently would like me to make her a cup of chamomile tea. She sets her little table with a tablecloth and the good china and wants to sit there by herself for dinner. She climbs trees higher than I feel comfortable with, and I try to remind her of the rules (you don't climb higher than you can get down from by yourself) without my voice going up in pitch just that very little bit that says I'm nervous. She tells me she's careful. She wants jeggings but she doesn't like how they have pockets in the back instead of the front. She brings me countless dandelion bouquets, and it is very hard for her to have the self-control needed to let all the tulips and daffodils now blooming in the yard stay in the ground, uncut. She is reading the very early reading books (but tells us she "already knows how to read"). Her baby teeth are falling out right and left. She's pounding nails and digging holes and knows all the words to songs I've never even heard. She is so thoughtful, so joyful, so quick to assist, so eager to play. She can take your toes off if you're not careful, dragging her footstool over as fast as she can to help you at the counter, to climb up to get a glass, to reach the water. She's busy. She's very, very busy, always drawing, always stapling, always cutting stuff up, always gluing, always arranging her nightstand or making a book. Today is the first day back to school after spring break, and it's my first time having a couple of hours all to myself in well over a week. It's been a whirlwind, and we didn't even really do much, or go much of anywhere. But it was so nice. The weather was gorgeous, the garden is starting to bloom, and we spent a lot of time cleaning up our spaces and uncovering the flourishing new growth of spring.

I spent some time at a bread-baking class with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in the Columbia Gorge. I drove out to the convent one morning by myself on the recently opened historic highway and wasn't prepared for the devastation. It is still very, very raw in our beloved gorge after the Eagle Creek forest fire, started by one teenager with illegal fireworks, burned 50,000 acres back in the fall of 2017. The fire, miles wide, went right across the historic highway. Everywhere the trees are still bare, brown, broken, the cliffsides denuded of green, now nothing but brown dirt and crumbling rock. Occasionally, you'll drive through a few dozen yards of road that the fire missed, and you'll see exactly what is missing: the green is gone, the layers and layers of moss, tiny filaments of green branches creating a haze overhead and through the woods, all the gauzy layers of greens, creating a complex web of new growth, small growth, old growth, so much green, depths of green, like green tulle tumbling upon itself in frothy layers of lichen and lace. It's all gone now. The spring sun blazes down there now. The slanted March light is harsh and unfiltered, and everything is brown. It's mostly just rock, and the blackened backsides of tree stumps, and the violent jumble of rock and log that comes right to the edge of the road, and starts up again right on the other side. It feels, as you're driving, that there should be many more guardrails; without the comfort and cushion of trees and leaves, the road feels like a hair's width, clinging to the side of the cliff without a spotter. It was startling. I wished I had not been there by myself. I was late, and the going was slow, winding and winding, rocks on the road, everything feeling like a landslide about to happen. I was disturbed, thought about calling Sister Rose and sending my regrets, and turning around. But there was nowhere to pull over, so I kept going. I couldn't not think about our many drives through the years, drives through what was once a cathedral of green, Wilco playing on the car stereo, sunlight dappling through the leaves, the air cool and clean, Amelia in her car seat on the way to her birthday lunch, or Andy's birthday lunch, at Multnomah Falls. It's different now. I wasn't prepared. It made my heart ache. Next time, whenever that is, we will go together, and I hope that spring and summer and time will start to have worked their magic once again on that aching and injured place.

Sister Rose taught us to make a lovely, homey white loaf, and that weekend I taught Amelia how to make cinnamon rolls. They were delicious. We used this recipe (and cut it in half). I don't like brown sugar so I did all cinnamon sugar. They took hours to make, which felt perfect for that rainy Saturday morning, and we at them for brunch. It felt good to knead the dough, and I had to knead it, because the Kitchen Aid is broken. The big screw that holds the mixer up came out somehow, and the whole thing is listing into the bowl. I need to take it to a repair place. Is there even such a thing?

Slowly but surely, all of our Secret Garden projects are coming together. We have candles to pour and wax sachets to make, and fifty more skeins of yarn to dye, and then just a whole lot of assembling and packaging. The soap is cured and wrapped, the patterns are printed and waiting, the floss is pulled, the duplicate stitch yarn is dyed. The lotion bars are half done. The bath salts need to be made. The labels are in my hands and the jars are on their way. The hoops — I almost forgot about the hoops. The hoops arrived from Denmark (after the embroidery kit patterns were printed) and they are a bit smaller than the hoop I used in the photo. There was some confusion about measurements, as I measured 6" from the inside of the hoop, and the manufacturer was measuring from the outside. Nevertheless, everyone here agreed that the smaller hoops actually look even better than the sample I'd photographed, so we are using them (and attaching a note about this to the kit). Things like this seem to happen. It's kind of the risk of taking pre-orders. I'm making peace with that. Very luckily, I really think this is actually a better option and one I would've chosen for it myself if I'd known. So hopefully that will be okay.

Our neighbors cut down a small birch tree on their property this morning. I asked them if I could have several of the limbs to use to make some edging for our raised beds, which we've cleaned up but haven't planted yet. So I have a pile of branches in the driveway and now need to teach myself how to make a simple woven border. I have an idea but I have no idea if it will work. I'll keep you posted.

Right now I'm listening to the purring of three baby squirrels that have taken up residence in a duct pipe above the exhaust fan in the crawl space about my studio. They are bustling around in there quite a bit today. We suspected they were there because I've been hearing something for a while, and Andy sent his phone (taped to a stick and recording video) up into the duct to see what was going on. Yup, three of them, all balled up together in a nest of fluff. Dang. They're so cute now but they can't stay there forever. I've been assured they can't fall through the exhaust fan into the studio, but I'm not sure I believe it. They literally sound like they're right there. Right above the fan duct. Time to make some calls.

***Amelia's new sweater is the Summer Rain Cardigan. I used leftover Purl Soho Cashmere Merino Bloom, which is baby soft, because I really wanted to make sure she would wear it. And she really does. It came out just how I wanted. For her new slippers I used this pattern and leftoever Lang Yarns Merino+ Superwash. Trying to hit that stash yarn hard these days. It feels good.

Early, Early Spring

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I absolutely love this time of year. I was thinking today as I passed a winter garden that had been cleaned up and was starting to sprout daffodils and tulip spears how much I love this time of year — the time before things begin. The time when it's still winter but spring is ready and waiting. The time when things are just swelling slightly, just barely beginning to break the surface. Our plum tree has only a handful of blossoms on it, and that's a couple of weeks late, for it. It usually blooms closer to the beginning of March. It had a severe chopping this past summer; the tree trimmer probably took 1/3 of it (which was dead) away. Still, he said the whole thing was only 40% dead and it needs to be 60% dead for the city to allow you to take it out. It looks absolutely horrible now. Huge limbs needed to be removed so it is now very obviously patchy and uneven and wrecked. Poor thing. It's also leaning at about a 30-degree angle. It's ancient, covered in big knobs and warts. It is a great, hideous, gnarly beast. I both love and hate it.

I looked on Instagram this morning at dolly quilts, intending to make one or two for my darling little boo, who loves to sweetly tuck things in and put them to bed. I haven't sewn in ages, and I miss it. There are a couple of reasons for it, I think. One is that it hurts my back. The way I sit at my sewing machine really kills my back. This has been happening for about ten years, actually. A couple of years ago I had an ergonomic specialist come out and look at my work spaces, and watch me sewing, and check out my chairs and my work table, etc. She essentially said I was sitting up too straight at my machine (irony). She wanted me to slump a bit more, but that's really impossible when you're sewing. You know. I just couldn't see unless I was right on top of the stuff, but somehow that seeing is also hurting my back when I sew at length. And that's the way I tend to do it — massive blitz, and get it all done at once. I power sew. I don't go in there and stitch a few seams, or press a few pockets. No. I BLAST through it. That's what I have time for. Blasting. It is not relaxing, but it is satisfying. Nevertheless, it's not great for my back, and if my foot is painful, I'd rather put it up and knit (or crochet). So that's what I have been doing lately.

The other reason I haven't been sewing is that I think I, and probably every other serious Portland-area sewer, have been in a strange mourning phase over the loss of Fabric Depot here in town. Fabric Depot was one of our two (the other being Mill End Store, which is still open) old-school, full-service, enormous independent fabric stores here in the Portland area (and serving all of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington in general — I don't really even have a clue from how far people came to go to Fabric Depot, but occasionally you would see actual tour buses in the parking lot). It carried, in addition to hundreds of quilting fabrics from every different fabric line and manufacturer, all sewing notions, supplies like scissors and rotary cutters and boards, all kinds of batting, wedding fabrics, gobs of trims and ribbons and buttons, lots of upholstery stuff, various apparel fabrics, embroidery supplies, and I don't even know what else. Serious stuff. Whatever you needed. It wasn't half-filled with crap for your house or seasonal decor or stuff with inspirational words on it or scrapbooking stuff. It was a fabric store that was truly for sewers, and it was old, and it had janky cash registers and they still hand-wrote all of the cutting-counter tickets, and it had a big area with all of the pattern books, and you still needed to write your pattern number down on a little piece of paper and find someone behind the counter to get your pattern for you. It was where you would wander and wander and wander, up and down aisle after aisle after aisle, pushing your cart with your kid in it but more often not with your kid in it, just looking and looking and looking for something that was perfect, something that you needed, something that would work. I can't count how many hours of my adult life I spent doing that. I can't count how many yards of fabric I bought or how many thousands of dollars I spent there or how many things I made from the stuff I bought there. I don't know how many tears I quietly circumvented there, as it was my happy place, the place I went when things were bad, when everything felt horrible, wrong, shaky, sad, or hopeless. It always worked for me, and it always had. All my life I've wandered fabric stores, plotting and dreaming and choosing and hoping. Fabric Depot was my place. I almost always went alone. I almost always had as much time as I wanted. (I wouldn't go unless I did.) I almost always went with a plan, and I almost always came out better for it all. It had what I needed. Almost every single time.

It closed, quite suddenly, last October. I didn't go to the big close-out sales they had before the last day. In the weeks and months before, it had been slowly emptying out, and I think we knew. I didn't want to see it picked over and desolate, could not, somehow, participate in the collective grief that was sure to be inside. That might sound dramatic. I guess it does. But its closing seems somehow to signal larger truths about the state of retail, or the state of the world, that I can't even get my mind around. It felt, and still feels, just painfully localized. Our store. I don't think any of us think there will be another place like that in Portland again. It was too big, and it held too much, so much random, obsolete-seeming stuff that you didn't know you wanted (grommet setters, lacy lingerie elastic, a covered belt kit) until suddenly, one day, you wanted it. But because of that it also felt unsinkable. The ladies there (in their twill pinnies, with scissors in their pockets) had been there forever. They were not arch. They were stable and reliable. Experienced in fabric and life. They knew answers to your questions. They asked you what you were making, and always listened to you ramble on about it. There was always music, there was always a sale, and there were always other people like you, hanging around, laughing with each other, talking about sewing, doing the same thing you were, making things with joy, and sewing away every sorrow. I miss you, friend.

Weekend Away

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Aw, helloooooooo out there. I feel like it's been so, so long since I've had time to be here. The holidays are so busy. New Year's always stresses me out. It was my birthday a couple of days ago. My brother-in-law's is today. My mom's is tomorrow. My sister-in-law's is the same day as mine. My other sister-in-law's is in a few days. It just goes onnnnnnnnnnnnnnn and on! Andy, Amelia, and I went to Skamania Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge for the weekend. It was really, really nice. It's about an hour east of Portland. We got there on Saturday afternoon and left Tuesday morning. It's a nice place. We splurged on a fancy suite with a fireplace. There isn't a whole lot to do there at this time of year — we took a hike on Sunday and it poured cold rain the entire time. But it was nice. We spent hours and hours in the pool and hot tubs both Sunday and Monday. I think my favorite time was floating around in the outdoor hot tub on Sunday when it was cloudy and rainy and foggy and freezing. It felt like we were in some medieval hot spring. We had it all to ourselves on Monday, literally. We were the only people in the pool all day. It was so weird to just have so much time to do nothing. I clutched a big rubber ball and just floated around aimlessly. Paddled here and there. I thought about my life and the new year and the new decade for me, thought about all the things I am happy about and all of the things I want to change about myself, all the things that worry me, all the things I want to accomplish this year. I never think this way at length but I was thinking this way in the pool. I was making lists in my head. I have so many ideas and things I want to do.

At night, we always turned in early. Andy was fighting a cold. We watched Nickelodeon shows that we never watch and it was a blast. All these kid sit-coms. I laughed out loud at every single one. Mimi stayed up late. We snuggled in the bed. The wind howled outside. It's very windy there and the wind whistled in the fireplace and against the windows. On Tuesday morning, the morning we were to leave, it was basically starting to rain ice and I couldn't see across the river we were in such a cloud . I flipped out and hustled everyone into the car because the weather report seemed to indicate things might get worse. I really did not want to get stuck out there. And honestly, I was ready to get back to regular life. Turns out that right where we were at the lodge was the worst — the road was fine. But I was still ready to go home. We drove back through the gorge through the rain and the pines, listening to Woody Guthrie singing about the Columbia River. Amelia had learned the song at school and we sing it around the house often now. When I asked her if the river was what she expected, she said no: She said she thought it would be "rolling," and made big circles with her hand. It was so adorable. Roll on, Columbia, roll on. When we got home, we found this gorgeous cake that my sister, who had been house- and pet-sitting for us, made for me. I squawked with delight. What a treat. Andy and Mimi went to the grocery store and bought stuff to make individual lasagnas and they spent the afternoon making them. We had such a nice dinner, and such a nice weekend. I feel just beyond blessed in so many ways. Andy and Amelia are literally two of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met in my life. I love them so much.

Today it's been back to school and work for all of us. When I got home after drop-off, I realized I hadn't been alone in the house for weeks. It was quiet and clean. Luckily I had done a lot of cleaning before I left, and we'd put all our Christmas decorations away. Everything was nice. The studio and office are not nice because we're in the process of reorganizing them. But everything else was nice. I felt my shoulders dropping. I photographed all of the advent calendar treats I just haven't had time to show you yet. It felt good to get a little bit caught up. I made some things I want to put in my web shop next week. I watered my plants. I drank a cup of tea. I ordered a 2019 calendar. Then it was time to go back to school for pick-up, and then ballet, etc. But honestly, I'm so happy to be back in the routine. Hello, January. Here I am.

P.S.: I have done a lot of knitting that I need to photograph and get on Ravelry. But I did finish a little hat for Mimi and it is the Faded Splendor Tam. It actually matches her plaid coat perfectly, but she didn't bring that one on the weekend. All of the yarns I used were various fingering yarns that I dyed myself. This hat is supposed to look like a beret (we were trying to make a hat that looked like the one Annabelle wears in Mary Poppins Returns [which we've seen three times now, and it is awesome] but I think I need to block it on a plate to give it that beret shape. Alas, it's cold here and Amelia doesn't really want to take it off! I'm so pleased by that I can't bear to swipe it from her for the time it would take to block and dry it right now. But I really want to see if it can be a beret! :)

At Year's End

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Oh, the days, the lovely days! One after another, filled with light and love. I'm already missing it all, this holiday season that has been so simple and sweet and soft. I'd been meaning to get back here to update my blog last week, last sometime . . . the days rolled out and on, a blur of lights and cookies and carols and crows against the blue morning sky and I never could slow the roll long enough to take stock. Andy's sweet grandfather passed away just before Christmas. He would've been ninety-five in February. He always sang "Happy Birthday" to us, to all of his children and grandchildren and many great-grandchildren on our birthdays. I picture him with his date book and phone book, marking time and leaving these sweet singing voicemails throughout the year, year after year. Andy flew home to Chicago to be with his family in the early morning hours of December 26th, and Mimi and I spent the rest of the week curled together like fluffy kittens, snuggling under blankets watching movies, going out to the wintergreen woods for walks, trotting about downtown to see the lights and the people, going out to fancy lunches and ordering whatever we wanted, messing up every single corner of the house with our gifts and toys and treats. Bubble baths and storybooks, Christmas cookies and new nightgowns. This unexpected week where it was just us girls is one I will never, never forget. Andy got home yesterday evening and we all had a sleepy, sweet reunion. Our dear little Christmas tree is drooping and tired. The floors need sweeping, the beds need straightening, the big house and the dollhouse are basically trashed. But we have had love and joy in abundance and I am so grateful for it all.

Merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, my dear friends! Thank you for all of the generosity, kindness, support, and great friendship you have shown us this year and all these many years. I hope your holiday season has been filled with light, and I wish you much love and peace and comfort and joy in these last days of the year as 2018 trails off and we collect ourselves to begin again. Thank you all for everything you give here, and for all of your indulgence in and encouragement of me. You brighten and enrich my life more than you could possibly ever know. Thank you!

Love,
Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and, last but not least, our nineteen-year-old little Bee

Halloweentime

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Ahhhh, tomorrow is Halloween. It's never been my favorite holiday. I'm really not sure why. This year we put some orange lights on our fence and some fake cobweb stuff and now I like it a bit better. The yard looks cute and delightfully seasonal, I must say. My garden is one of those that is filled with grasses and meadow-type plants, and they look beautiful now. I love the season, I've just never been that into Halloween, even as a kid. The only costume I can really remember wearing is a giant footie sleeper — I was a "baby." I wore my hair in two high ponytails and carried a stuffed animal and sucked my thumb. In, like, fifth grade. Uninspired. I remember that I just wanted to be warm and comfortable and I didn't want to wear my coat. It was always such a bummer when it was cold or raining on Halloween and you had to wear a coat over your costume. I also remember one time, also when I was a kid, that I wanted to have a Halloween party in our basement because a character in a book I was reading had a Halloween party in her basement. Our basement wasn't finished. It was like a cellar. I colored about twenty pumpkins with colored pencils on notebook paper and cut them out and hung them around the basement. It looked pathetic. I don't know why I wanted to do this — it was not a good basement for a party. I think I stuck a notebook-paper pumpkin on the washing machine. It was there for the next twenty years. The party was a total bust. It kinda makes me sad for little me. I couldn't wait for it to be over. Amelia is obsessed with candy, so she can't wait for tomorrow. She never gets that much but even ten pieces of candy to her is like winning the lottery. She's really in it entirely for the candy. She went to a party this past weekend at a school friend's house and took her owl mask (she's an "owl princess," by the way) and wings off within five minutes of getting there. I asked her if she wanted more elastic for her upper arm, or another solution to those wings (not sure what it would be, but I could come up with something, I bet) and she said no, thank you, byyyyyyyyyyye. So we'll see. There's something to be said for the costume that's as wearable as possible. I'm not sure this is it. . . . But it sure was fun to make. (I used this pattern for the mask and this tutorial for the wings).

We went to the pumpkin patch with our dear friends the Montgomerys, with whom we've gone to the pumpkin patch every year since our kids were babies. I love these kiddos together so much, romping and falling and running and riding. Pure joy. They're getting big now. The weather this fall has been unbelievably gorgeous, mostly dry and crisp and golden. The rains came in suddenly on Saturday afternoon; Amelia and I were out in the country then, and we got dumped on. On Sunday afternoon, thunder rumbled across the sky from one edge to the other. Andy laid on the sidewalk and listened to it. The sky on the west side was steel gray; to the east, the bright-white sun was poking through holes in the clouds. Thunder . . . thunder . . . and swishing of yellow leaves on the trees. Soon, everything will have fallen, and it will just be cold rain. I'll like that, too, as I do, but I can see why people feel anxious about November. It's very gray and very dark. I honestly don't know how Portlanders who don't knit or crochet make it through the winter!!!

Here, we are allllllmost done with the yarn advent calendar. Now that Halloween is almost here, I feel like I can move forward with this. I know I haven't said that much about it, at least not in proportion to how thoroughly it has taken over this house and my life. All our lives, here. I'm going to put together a post about it and let you know the sale date and times (I think I'll offer it in two batches that day, at two different time — there are only fifty calendars available) early next week. I don't know how much to say about it, because I really, truly want it to be a surprise. That's been so much of the fun of it. I'll dish on the yarn details, but not the other stuff, I don't think. I'm doing so many things for it that I've never done before, and I have honestly loved every minute of getting all of it ready. That said, I'm also ready to be done with it, and send it all off into the world. It's almost time. We have thirty more skeins of yarn to wind and fifty more _______s to make and a whooooole lot of wrapping and tagging and assembling and boxing to do, and then we're done. . . . Yay!

Wind in the Willows

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Ohhhh, I want to go back. Three days at the river. It was short but felt long, in some ways. You follow the sun, there, moving chairs and blankets to stay in shade or face the river, from morning until dinnertime. The day passes in quiet arc of meals and trips down to the river and trips back up the hill to get out of wet, sandy swimwear and rinse off the sunscreen. Bald eagles circle lazily above. Ducks splash and dive and surface. It's absolutely incredible to be in a place where there are no roads, no cars, no other people. Where there is complete freedom to do whatever you want, for as long as you want, for Amelia to just wander around and find things to do, or not do. For me to be able to hear her wherever she was, even when she was out of my sight, building fairy houses or stacking dominoes or taking a bath. At dusk, the crickets come out and their chirping is the loudest sound around. Each night, after Amelia went to bed, Andy and I sat around eating bowls of cherry ice cream and watching a Christmas movie on Amazon. I don't know why we watched that but it just felt like a vacation thing, and required nothing from us in any way. I read (I did not finish my book, nowhere near) and knit (I ran out of yarn) and none of it bothered me one bit. I spent countless hours just watching the river roll by, and watching the light change, and watching the birds. The air smelled like mud and green things. Amelia saw a snake in the brush — twice — and screamed the house down. Andy pulled her up and down and across the river in her raft, going ashore often to explore, looking for the beaver carcass they found last year, finding a beaver den, finding crayfish claws, gloopy seaweed, snail shells soft as fingernails. Families of ducks flew up and down the river roadway from morning until night, landing with a collective sploosh. We rolled around on quilts on the grass and took long showers. We all slept so late that we missed the mist rising off the river in the mornings. We cooked and ate and let the house get so messy you would've thought ten people were living there instead of just us, just us three. It was just wonderful.

On the way home, we stopped off at Amelia's new school for her first meeting with her new teacher. As the teacher led her around her beautiful new classroom, and introduced her to the class bird, and showed her cursive letters and told her she was going to learn how to write them this year, Andy and I sat off to the side and whispered quietly to each other, talking about the room and the teacher and Amelia and everything, and feeling so full of hope and nervousness and pride and a thousand other emotions I don't know how to name.

A Happy Birthday

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The  most marvelous Andy Paulson had a birthday this week and we celebrated in style, picnicking at the creek and playing in the woods. A crow flew off with Amelia's entire sandwich — an untouched 6" turkey sub — right off the picnic table while we were down at the water's edge. It was actually kind of amazing to watch. He stalked it, then he took it. I was amazed that he was able to carry it. Amelia and I baked Andy a cake and decorated it when we got home. She picked everything, the colors and style and the decorations, and I just helped. We used my go-to birthday cake recipe (it's the best chocolate cake in the world, I think, if you need one) with plain buttercream frosting. Andy laid on the chaise lounge out back and read his book while we shouted hints out the back door toward him about what we were doing. "Oh, this looks good!" "Yeah! And we hope you like things that are green!" "We hope you like things that are pink!" "We hope you like things that are LURID!" He said he did, on all counts, so we carried out our plan fearlessly. Neon frosting, geranium flowers, rose petals, giant sprinkles, traffic-cone-orange powdered food coloring, and lots of blobs. I think it's one of our best ever, myself, and it was by far the most fun. Happy birthday to you, my darling, darling husband. I love you beyond words and am so thankful every day that you were born.

Thank you so much for all of your gentle and generous and thoughtful comments on my last post. I've been thinking about it all a lot and just kind of . . . absorbing, I guess. I was particularly touched by the people who said something like "well, of course you want to know these things — that's what we, as people, do." In reading those comments it struck me how, even in writing what I had written and sort of saying "oh, well, I'm not sure why this matters" in it, I was still on some level denying myself permission to be doing it. The looking. Or rather, I was trying to keep myself from feeling the need I felt to know, as if I wasn't really allowed to have feelings about it. But I think  I am. And I think that's something unexpected that I've gained from this experience: I'm just letting myself go there, and feel whatever it is I'm going to feel, or not feel, about it all. I'm encouraging myself just to be . . . human. Knowing names and dates and places doesn't necessarily answer the important questions. But maybe it is a start. It may also be the only part of the story I ever find. I don't know. I don't know yet.

Coincidentally, I started reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (which just won a Pulitzer for biography) several weeks ago and was struck by this:

Discovering how Charles Ingalls and his family came to find themselves a few miles from the shores of Lake Pepin, just a few years after Pepin County was first marked on a map, is a detective story tracking generations into the past. Pieces of the family portrait survive, but the whole remains elusive, obscured under the soot of time. It may never be complete.

That is always a problem, in writing about poor people. The powerful, the rich and influential, tend to have a healthy sense of their self-importance. They keep things: letters, portraits, and key documents. . . . 

But the Ingallses were not people of power or wealth. Generation after generation, they traveled light, leaving things behind. Looking for their ancestry is like looking through a glass darkly, images flickering in obscurity. As far as we can tell, from the moment they arrived on this continent they were poor, restless, struggling, constantly moving from one place to another in an attempt to find greater security from hunger and want. And as they moved, the traces of their existence were scattered and lost. Sometime their lives vanish from view, as if in a puff of smoke.

So as we look back across the ages, trying to find what made Laura's parents who they were, imagine that we're on a prairie in a storm. The wind is whipping past and everything is obscured. But there are the occasional bright, blinding moments that illuminate a face here and there. Sometimes we hear a voice, a song snatched out of the air.

That said, this book is so depressing, I must confess. A lot of it is about Rose, of whom I knew nothing, and now I sort of wish I knew less. (I haven't even read all of the Little House books themselves, but Mimi is super into the junior versions of them right now, so there has been a lot of prairie talk around here lately.) I'm on page 347 of 515 of Fires and although I don't like it very much I can't seem to actually stop reading it. But when I do finish it I plan to read something utterly trite, so please feel free to recommend all manner of beach-reads because I'm all over it.

Andy made bangers and mash with brats for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, and Mimi and I finally did wind up making the rhubarb pie. If I could pick my wedding dress over again I'm pretty sure I'd pick this one:

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Princess Caroline's in 1978 (I think). From the pictures it almost looks like it has a gathered — like, elastic! — waist. I would totally do my hair like that, too.

Some of my new labels for stitch markers, lotion bars, and yarn should be starting to be delivered this week. I'm ridiculously excited to see them, and to launch these new things I've been working on for what feels like forever now. Andy and I drove out to pick up my very first wholesale order of bare yarn a few weeks ago, and I've been dyeing it little by little when I have time. I will tell you more about it as soon as I get myself organized enough. I went to a really fascinating lecture the other night about the state of the wool industry and our place in it given by Clara Parkes. I learned so much and I have so many more questions. There is so much more I want to know. I feel like I'm at the very beginning of a whole new phase of my creative life, and it is quite thrilling. And a bit overwhelming, honestly.

I also have finished stitching my next cross-stitch design, the third in my little series of seasonal pieces this year. This one is called "Summer Storm" (at least, that's what I'm calling it so far) and if I can collect myself enough to take some pretty pictures of it in the next week or so, we'll open pre-orders sometime in June. If you're not finished with Time of Flowers, don't worry — it will be several weeks before the fabric arrives and we have time to pull floss, etc. But still, I want to mention it because yes, there are two more in this seasonal series, this summer one and then one I'll do for the fall. And because the Time of Flowers fabric has been discontinued, we will probably do around five hundred of these next two and then call it good, and I don't want you to miss out.

I'm almost done with my Flax Light sweater I'm making for Mimi, and I've started a knitted dress for her that kind of looks like Selekjolen by Hoppestrikk. I wasn't able to find the pattern for it, and then when I did find it it was in Danish. I bought it, hoping to figure it out, but instead I just kind of started winging it. When I tried it on Mimi she told me she liked it while at the same time ripping it off her body as if it was on fire so, might not be worth starting over. . . . This is how kid-knitting is lately. I knew this day would come.

Spring Snow

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Ohhhhhh, it was wonderful. It's always like a dream. Just when I thought our chances for snow were gone for the season, we had a few of the most beautiful days I've ever seen. The first day, it had been lightly snowing without sticking most of the day. Around dinnertime, though, I looked out the back door and saw flakes as big as feathers. I've never seen such big snowflakes. They fell and fell, into twilight and through the night. It piled up. Sunrise was every shade of pink and white. I stood in the front yard in my nightgown taking photos at dawn. The day was like a dream. And then it all melted in a rush. By the following day, everything was gone. Spring snow. It was perfect and unexpected and even better for that.

Thank you soooooo much for all of the Time of Flowers kit pre-orders (and other orders)! I'm so happy with the response and thank you very sincerely for all of your orders. Right now we have 63 Time of Flowers kits left for pre-order. Andy cut fabric this weekend and we could even have another sixty extra, based on how much fabric we received, but I want to wait to make sure before I add them to inventory. I'm so glad that all of the numbers worked out okay. I always make my best guess on this stuff and this worked out just fine, which is such a relief. I get very stressed.

So, things are on track, fabric is getting cut, floss is on its way, the pattern just needs a final proofing and then it is off to the printer, and everything's well in hand. I even designed the next kit, for summer, last week and I'm hoping to start stitching it later next month. Yesterday, though, I was back to working on my new dolls and all of their MANY new outfits. I am hoping to have all of those launched for the fall, FYI to those who have wondered. This is going to be kind of a massive project for me, which will include reissuing a lot of the older clothes patterns separately from the animal patterns, either bundled or completely a la carte so that you can get lots of new clothes patterns for your doll when the dolls are launched. Today I'm trying to finish the ballet wrap sweater, now that Amelia is back in school (they had no school for conferences week last week), and will try to source some angora yarn for my shop. I'm going to start carrying a whole new line of yarns (still sport-weight wool, but in a really pretty color palette) for all of the new knitting patterns, too. Anyway, rambling again, but I have a ton of things on my mind, I'm sorry.

Anyway, I'm chipping away at everything, including the cross stitch tutorial I promised (the fabric for my samples for that post is on its way, too). Thank you again for all of your sweetness and and kindness and enthusiasm. I honestly can't express how much it means to me. I hope you know. It means so much. Thank you.

***I wish I could remember where I got the cookie cutter, but I can't! I searched my Etsy purchases and it doesn't look like it's in there. I got it online somewhere but I'm not sure where. I'm sorry. :(

Not Much

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Doing not much. Knitting and knitting and knitting. I have so many chores I should be getting to but . . . it's January. I just want to knit. So I am. And trying not to feel guilty about that. I'll catch up (won't I?) in February. . . .

Cinnamon rolls from Scandikitchen Fika and Hygge cookbook :: Sweet little baby Mimi :: Shawl is My Shetland Adventure pattern in Sunday Knits Angelic fingering in aqua :: Breakfast with my loves at our favorite, Besaw's :: Illustrations from My First Little House Books (which I like as much if not more than the original novels) Going West and Sugar Snow :: Andy and Mimi at the store right now getting ingredients for chicken soup tonight, as we all try to stay healthy :: Ranunculus sweater yoke in Arranmore Fine in progress :: Watched all of the first season of Victoria. Wow. So good!

Anyone watching or listening to good knitting podcasts? I am familiar with Woolful, The Gentle Knitter, and Kammebornia. Are there any others I should check out?

About Alicia Paulson

About

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

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Photography

Photography

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