Autumnglow

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At around four o'clock on several afternoons this week I've gone racing home from wherever I am to grab my camera and then careen back out to the east side of Mt. Tabor to try to catch the alpenglow on Mt. Hood. It's short-lived but so worth the race (I only have a 50% success rate in catching it so far). I've already got the sled, the toddler snowpants, the toddler snow mittens, the toddler snowcoat, all ready for when we actually go up there. Up there, to where the snow lives.

This week has been cold and blustery, nevertheless. To warm up, I made chicken curry and these things we always made when I was a kid, from one of my mom's Pillsbury cookbooks — we called them apple babies:

Apple Babies

Take a can of refrigerated crescent-roll dough and cut the triangles lengthwise so you have sixteen long, skinny triangles. Peel and core two apples and cut them into eight slices each. Starting at the fat end of the triangle, wrap each apple slice in dough. Put them in an 8" x 8" baking pan. Drizzle about 1/4 cup melted butter all over the tops of the babies. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (don't skimp). Add about 1/4 cup apple cider or orange juice or whatever you have to the pan, pouring it around but not on the apples. Bake in a 350-degree (F) oven until nicely browned. Serve plain or with a bit of cream. Try not to inhale all sixteen before other residents get home.

My curry was based on this recipe, though I used the shredded meat from a roasted chicken (I've been roasting or buying one every week, then making stock), didn't add the tomatoes or tomato paste (I'm not super keen on tomatoes), and did add a diced sweet potato, a diced Yukon gold potato, a bag of peas, and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Oh, and I used Dean & Deluca yellow curry powder (my favorite). If left to my own devices, I would probably eat some form of chicken and rice every single day. I should have a board for that. I'm still working my way through your suggestions for soups. There are so many amazing-looking ones; the comments on that post are like their own cookbook, I'm so excited. I made this potato-leek soup (photo above) and it was delicious (thank you, commenter Amelia!). You can't imagine how much this inspiration is helping me get back into the kitchen! Thank you all!

Today it's errands and a few chores, and haircuts, and getting a new binder, and getting some magnets, and taking the hose inside for the winter. Yesterday I bought candles and fake autumn flowers for the table (toddler-proof). I got placemats (toddler-proof), and made an appointment to have the windows measured for wooden blinds. A little bit of everything, and not too much at all, just the way I like these days. Slow and cold outside, warm and wooly in.

Have a good weekend, dear friends!

***Yep, that's the water room in the toddler area at (and the view from) our science museum, OMSI; Mimi's crocheted dress pattern is here; and she's showing you her thrifted prairie-girl dress, which I absolutely love and wish I had a pattern for (it's clearly homemade).

Baby Warm

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As the leaves turn and drop, and the winds blow and blow, and the rain falls, and the clouds cover, and the frost comes, and the heat turns on, and the fake fireplace glows, and the apple cake bakes, and the chicken with wild rice soup simmers, and the mountain gets whiter, and the nights get longer, and the golden mornings become more and more rare, I try to keep my baby warm. Sweet baby girl. All warm. Sweet and soft and warm. Dear girl.

Warm Little Things

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I had my handwriting analyzed when I was twenty-four. One of the (many) things it told me was that I was not spontaneous. This is true. I'm plodding. My one spontaneous act seems to be to start making a quilt at the exact time that I have lots of other things going on. It's really weird. It must be some sort of reflex. It's like just all of a sudden if I have all of five minutes to myself I walk, zombielike, to the rotary cutter and start slicing away at stacks of fabric. Before I know it, I have a basketful. In this case, I cut 2"-wide strips of dozens — I don't know how many — tons — way more than I needed — of the cutest, sweetest fabrics in my stash, to make a little quilt for my cutest-sweetest. Creams, pinks, blues, flowers, bunnies, dots. Tiny rosebuds and little elephants. Hedgehogs and purple cherries. Polka-dots (which she calls "bubbles") and baby cats (which she calls "ah-ahs").

Do you know how to make a log cabin quilt? It's a wonderful thing. My friend Susan taught me how to do it. It's so easy. I don't do it exactly clockwise. I just do it randomly. It might be clockwise, but it might not be. I just go. When the blocks are done, you add the blue strips, horizontally between blocks and then a long strip of vertical "logs" with 2" squares at each intersection. I used wool batting, and then a grayish polka-dot flannel for the back. Cream-colored cotton with little lavender dots for the binding (which is done by machine and by hand). This one I'm going to tie (which is how I did this one and this one [and this is just plain funny]). I don't always tie them; sometimes I have them professionally finished. But I want to tie this one. I like how soft and floppy they are when you tie them.

We also made cinnamon baked doughnuts. They were delish. Ish. Maybe too much vanilla? Is that possible? Two teaspoons of vanilla is a lot. I think next time I'll leave out the vanilla and leave out the cinnamon in the batter. (I always leave out the nutmeg, in everything but bechamel. I don't like it in anything else.) The doughnuts were a little too . . . something. I can't put my finger on it. Almost perfect, though. The concept, in general, worked very nicely!

Been making soups, too. Will tell you about that, too. Thank you again for the inspiration! Still getting everything pinned!

***If you eat as many Mandarin oranges as we do you can simmer the peels with a few cloves and cardamom pods (and some cinnamon sticks, whatever you like) in a bit of water on a back burner throughout the day (don't forget about it; add more water as needed). It makes the house smell really wonderful.

Natural Environment

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My dear Meems in her lopapeysa. Special guest appearance by the incomparable Mt. Hood.

I forgot to say thank you most sincerely to all of our veterans and military servicepeople and your families for your tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our cherished freedoms. Your efforts and trials do not go unnoticed. We are so grateful for you. Thank you.

Sweet Autumn

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Oh, we're in the thick of it, and it delights me: Cold clear days, cold gray days, mucky-bright leaf-slicks, neighborhood tromps, drooping gardens, hikes on the butte, boots and sweaters, roasted things, flushed cheeks, woodsmoke, white moons in the early evening sky. Halloween was just utterly adorable — Amelia had a fantastic time going door to door with her friends (that's the neighborhood crew, above, and my friend Gillian in her totally rad Mary Poppins costume — isn't that just brilliant? She looked so awesome). There are a LOT of stairs in our neighborhood. We made it to about fifteen houses, and once the Tootsie Pop showed up she was so focused on the lolli it became hard to walk up and down them and hold/eat the lolli at the same time. Man, it was cute. First-ever lollipop. I had to sneak it away when she was distracted. We didn't trick-or-treat last year because she had just learned to walk, so this year was basically her first Halloween. I had her wear the costume I made last year. It's so adorable watching her trying to figure out what in the world is going on. Every time someone opened their door she'd push past them and walk right into the house. Hilarious. Sweetly, she would also take the candy out of her basket and put it into the other kids'. Definitely my favorite Halloween ever.

When we weren't out walking — that was Powell Butte, on Saturday — I was cooking. Yes, me! I made this black bean soup (which we both thought was totally delicious). And then on Sunday we did our traditional First Fall Feast, though we did it a little differently, and just made several really savory side dishes: Ina's spinach gratin, and Brussels sprouts lardons, and caramelized root vegetables. Everything worked really well together and I was very happy! I also made a salad with mushrooms, shaved Gruyere, candied walnuts, pear slices, and my favorite salad dressing, Stacy and Elizabeth's "What Vinegar?" Salad Dressing. I swear I've written this down on the blog but I can't find it (all I can find is a picture of the recipe card, but I'll keep looking, or I'll rewrite it when I get a sec). THANK YOU thank you thank you for all of the soup suggestions. I'm in the process of pinning them all to my board and I am so incredibly inspired. Thank you so much. I even ordered some new soup bowls. I actually feel quite thrilled to cook now — thank you! Now I just have to figure out which one to start with! I think I should experiment with some breads, too. Okay. I can do this.

Same Old, Same Old

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I'm still trying to cook. Remember when I used to cook? Oh, those were the days, those were the days!!! My fragile mojo for cooking has left me again. This is getting to be a thing. My people need to eat. I think I feed them pretty well, but I'm not inspired. I don't seem to care so much about what I eat. I slurp the dregs from Amelia's discarded mango-peach pouches, eat the second half of a toddler-handled banana that I catch in midair as she hurls it toward the table, and lick raisins off my hand — that's breakfast. Lunch — I don't even understand what people eat for lunch besides pad Thai. Dinner: Okay. I like dinner. I search the archives of my mind, remembering that I used to cook dinner, and if not cooked then surely I assembled it, at least. Roasted chicken from New Seasons, shredded and turned into tacos with avocado and black beans. Swedish pancakes for Sunday breakfast, with most of the pancakes saved to make spinach crepes for dinner. Vegetarian mushroom sauce? I can do it. Serve over pasta with a small mountain of ricotta cheese.

Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey

In a large pan, melt butter and saute onions until soft. Add mushrooms, garlic, and spices. Cook until mushrooms are soft but still have a bit of bite to them. Add tomato paste, tamari or soy sauce, and honey. Simmer ten minutes. Add pepper (and salt, if needed) to taste.

This was my friend Ann's recipe, and I've had it for over twenty years. Very simple, very tasty, not very tomato-y, just how I like it. I'm quite sure it probably came from a cookbook but I don't know which one. If you recognize it, please let me know.

Rainy days, rainy days. Rain in the forecast as far out as I can see. It's soup-making weather if ever there was, and now I'm on a mission to pull together a freezer-full of it. "Don't touch Daddy's phone, Amelia; it's very, very important to him and he loves it more than anything," I say as she reaches for it sitting on the landing railing, about to throw it down the stairs. "That's because I don't have an iPad," says he, wryly, scooping the phone out of her reach as I (in the dark, in my nightgown) surf Pinterest on my iPad like a hungry bat, looking for good soup recipes. Ha! Well played, sir! It's 6:00 a.m., a rainy, still-dark morning, and I'm seeking inspiration in pictures of steaming soup bowls and crusty bread. My new plan is to plan better. I'm actually going to plan dinner before dinnertime. No, really, people actually do this! It's like a real thing that people do! Today I'm going to make black bean soup. I've decided that, and it's only 10:30 in the morning. Winning.

What's your favorite soup? Would you link me to an actual recipe so I can put it on my soup board?

I'm setting the TiVo to start recording a season pass of Barefoot Contessa. I used to watch this all the time but not for cooking inspiration, necessarily. It was more of just a general stress reliever. Cooking shows in general, but especially Ina's and Nigella's. Ubiquitous but so appealing to me. They are the right pace for me. Their voices and methods sooth. Even the way Nigella massacres things with that mezzaluna (the woman will not cut even the simplest things with a knife, I swear) I now find charming and encouraging. I have so many of their cookbooks. Perhaps I should start reading them instead of Anderson Cooper's memoir, which is (I'm only halfway through) unbelievably depressing (though, don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of AC).

Knitting: Knit knit knit. For that, I'm onto this garter sideways sweater (that photo is the sleeve — see where you fold it down?) which I should get cracking on as Amelia could be wearing it right now (though I can't resist buying her Zara coats — ack). I plan to line it with some Liberty, or something lightweight and flowery. The sweater-coat I made her last year turned out to be an awesome thing, and it's too small now (sniffle). Also, very pilled. (Alpaca.) That's okay. Clothes too small? Music to my ears! I'll make more!

Also: The sweetest bunny mittens, made for Meems by my dear friend Gillian. Amelia would not take these off this morning, though it made it hard to pick up every leaf and stick on her walk as she likes to do. No matter, such cuteness is worth the extra effort. She was delighted. Man, I love age two.

And: Wee Chickadee. My first Ysolda pattern. Inspired by kimlynn's version. I love the single color against the blue. I'm using a very, very pale pink (though it probably just reads as a rosy white against this blue). Fingering-weight yarn, am I nuts? Once I finish the yoke, though, it's just gobs of stockinette, so I think it'll be fine. I always think that. Until, of course, I get to the sleeves. By the way THANK YOU for all of the bind-off suggestions. After reading through them, I think on my next ribbed bind-off I'll try a tubular. I'll let you know how that goes. I did wind up finishing the second sleeve of the Bloomsbury, so thank you so much for the inspiration to get that done. I needed it.

That Second Sleeve

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Is there a stretchy cast-off that doesn't flare? Lately I have been making stuff that doesn't fit over anyone's head. Paranoid, I'm now stretchy-casting-on and -casting-off, though I find the look of it quite inelegant. Am I right in thinking the wrong side of a Jeny's stretchy cast-on looks better than the "right" side, or did I not turn it properly? And I don't like how the cuff is flaring (on my Bloomsbury Kids sweater, the terra cotta one above, which was inspired by this pin). That's too big, and I went down a needle size, too. If I weren't so lazy I'd start the second sleeve and get it over with. This sweater's construction is pretty rad. There's a lace panel down the center of the back, too. I think everyone says, this but I am so in love with Quince and Co.'s Lark yarn. I used it for the Dogwood Lottie (the pale pink sweater, also above) and it's just so squishy and soft and yummy and bouncy and makes you feel like you could knit all day (and night?). Until you get to the second sleeve, which not only is the second sleeve but also has a lace panel. . . . Bah. I watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix (yippee!) and knit as if in a trance. The lace isn't hard but it's still . . . lace. How awesome is it that a new season of Railroad Alaska starts on Saturday? I'm tempted to re-watch the entire season of Ice Lake Rebels. Now if I could only stay awake past 9:00 p.m., just think how much more knitting and TV-watching I could get in. Alas, now that the cold, dark, rainy nights are here there's so little incentive to stay downstairs and not crawl into my wonderful, lovely bed to wait for Andy to get home from work. At least I've limited myself to one mini-Snickers per night. That's one of the only things I like about Halloween. Mini candy.

Garter stitch is more my night-time speed, and night-knitting is all I have these days. Garter stitch also just . . . what's not to love. Knit knit knit. Then knit knit knit. Then knit knit knit. Etc. That's what I can handle. We've talked about this. When will I learn this? Apparently never. I finished the pom-pom flaps hat (which was inspired by this pin) by actually making and attaching the pom-pom. A couple of people asked me about the pattern that I used, which is in French. I used Danielle's translation, and I'm sorry I didn't put that on my Ravelry page initially. I'm not very good at adding notes to that thing. The hat was knit with Rebecca's gorgeous, gorgeous acacia-dyed alpaca-merino-silk yarn from Camellia Fiber Co. You've gotta be fast to get this stuff before it sells out. Her yarn is such a delectable treat. I spoil myself.

Clover Meadow had a very hard day yesterday. Thunder, pouring rain, and then later, once she had finally settled down, fireworks. The trifecta of canine misery.

Do you like caramelized butternut squash?

I'm on an organizing tear. So far I've gone through all my clothes, all of Amelia's clothes, all of the books in the master bedroom, the living room toys, and I'm about to hit the hats, gloves, and scarves next. I donated a lot of clothes and books. Now I have nothing to wear. I'd like several of these dresses and tunics, particularly this one and this one and this one. But they're too expensive. I went to the fabric store and bought some similar patterns and fabrics. I also got an idea for a gathered calico skirt. Now, I actually have to make the effort to sew. And start the second sleeve. But there's time. There's time now. I'm glad it's October. I feel much more like myself than I ever do in July.

Pumpkin Morning

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At the pumpkin patch with the Montgomeries. Dearest friends on a misty morning. Watching the kiddos navigate a field of pumpkins. I could stay forever, listening to them talk pumpkin to each other and seeing them slog through the mud without reserve. Everything smells like it's been stomped and then rained on. I love it out in the country in the morning. It's hard to get out there in the very early morning if you don't already live there, but it's the feeling I long for — languorous autumn morning, stubbled fields stretching out and away, no sound but birds coming and going, the rain heavy in the air but it's not raining. The gray mist washes out so much color, rendering everything tentative and faint, and I like that. I like being cold and snuggling my nose into the crook of a toddler neck to warm up. I like eating bratwursts and caramel apples with our friends and their babies. I like the mud and the smell of mud. I love the bath at the end of the day. Mimi comes in with me at the end, crying a little as she draws.  Scribbles on the tub with the soap crayons. Warm water pouring back and forth between little cups. No hair washing, and quiet conversation. Candles in the late afternoon. Soup for Sunday dinner, and I'm done working for a while. It's the season of resting for me, and I am relieved. Everything slows, and feels heavy and warm. I needed this.

Green Gold

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A walk in the woods. Just a little one, just off the beaten trail. She's an adventurer. A most gorgeous afternoon: cool, crisp, crunchy — the way it almost never, ever is. October, living up to my wildest expectations. This is my new favorite month. Very good.

***Thank you ever so much for all of the sweet wishes for Mimi's birthday. You are all just so incredibly kind. Thank you. Xo

You Are 2

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Oh, what a weekend it was. Amelia's little party was truly wonderful. She had such an awesome time, and so did we. Yesterday was her actual birthday, and the three of us drove out along the old highway to Multnomah Falls for lunch, then came home and made lasagna and had cupcakes for dinner. She insisted on wearing her party hat at all times. It was a perfect day (except for the couple of times she snapped the elastic from the hat against her cheek and started bawling). She went to bed an hour or so past her bedtime, and had no nap all day. She is a partier!!!

So many toys, so many beautiful presents from everyone. Andy and I worked on ours for most of the summer — that's turning into such a sweet tradition for us. Andy's mermaid (from this pattern) — it was an epic experience. He worked on it every lunch hour for two months, and pretty much every waking free hour he was home. I tried to help him with a little bit of it and the hook was so small and the yarn so shreddy I seriously thought I was going to scream every time I picked it up. I truly don't know how he did it. He also made her a crocheted Clover doll. He is incredible. The mermaid's name is Ethel Shirley. She'll get her hat and her life-ring for Christmas. :) The doll I got for her was one I'd been coveting for years (from Happy to See You) — major splurge, couldn't resist. I made the beddy-bye-basket from this pattern (more or less, I had to add a lot more rounds because my yarn was thinner), her dress from this pattern, her nightgown from this pattern, and her sweater from here. I made the pillows and mattress and little quilt for the basket just out of some little pieces of fabric and trim that I had. Naturally, she is vaguely indifferent to both of our dolls. Naturally, Andy and I both prop each of our dolls up in front of her several thousand times a day. "I think she likes mine better." "No, she likes mine better." "No, mine." Etc. Her birthday dress and pinafore I made from a 1972 Simplicity pattern, #5277. I used a brown vintage calico I had, and some Liberty Betsy Ann in gray for the pinafore. I have to take pictures of the totally rad play food my sister Susie made for Amelia. It's incredible, and I will find out where she got the patterns, too. She also received some other really excellent presents I will photograph, too.

I had the best time over the past few weeks gathering ideas for her party. The balloon/lantern collection is ubiquitous, but oh boy did it please a two-year-old who went out for a walk with her grandma and came home to find it suddenly and magically floating above the dining-room table on Friday afternoon. That was cool. Andy and I made it together, and it was so much fun to do. Once it was up we decided it needed something distinctly "2"ish. He cut the number out of a thick piece of styrofoam, and then I covered the edges with fabric tape and the front and back with glued-on fabric (I just traced the styrofoam number and cut out the fabric — super easy). Her cake I copied from this adorable cake that I just couldn't get out of my mind (I think I pinned it ages ago). I used this cake recipe and my mom's frosting recipe (I call it Cloudburst Frosting). One of the best parts of the day was the rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" sung by all of us just before she blew out her candles — it really sounded like a chorus to me; it was truly awesome — and she looked around in complete wonder and delight at this big, bustling, beautiful family, fabulously doubled in size with her amazing birthfamily. All love. We are all just so blessed in this. I also loved watching her feed her little deer some coffee out of a wee teacup after the party as we sat quietly together and played and talked. Oh, how I love it all. I absolutely love it. Two. The best two years ever. Darling, wonderful, greatest girl. I love you so.

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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

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.