Sunshine Day

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Amelia and I had a rare Saturday to ourselves. I honestly can't even remember the last time Andy worked on Saturday, but it will be a regular thing now, as his schedule is slightly rearranged. I was worried we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves — a Saturday! precious Saturday! — but we managed quite nicely and actually had one of the nicest days I've had in a long time. I made Irish soda bread from our local bakery's cookbook, and an Earl Grey latte (half water, half milk, a teaspoon of sugar, the contents of two tea bags, heated in the beloved Capresso then strained — yum. Isn't there a name for this thing? I can't remember it). My dear friend Sarah had given me some Kerrygold butter. What a lovely, grown-up breakfast for Mama! Amelia wasn't impressed with any of it (except the raisins!) but I was in a state of bliss, reading a book with my breakfast on a beautiful, sunny, late-winter morning. Sweet Saturday. Later we went to the big park, then took a long walk from that park up to get frozen yogurt, then walked around some more in the stroller, talking about birds and flowers and ducks at the duck creek. Came home in the late afternoon and she took a nap while I looked at quilts on Pinterest. Quiet, wonderful, gentle, sweet little day. We missed Andy but we made the most of it, I think. Saturdays just feel different from every other day.

My mixer's lowest speed is way too high. I need to take that somewhere and have it adjusted. Flour was everywhere, even with the towel.

I finished pillow #2 (that's it, on the sofa) and it was fun. The quilt-as-you-go technique is a lot of work. I think the pillows came out cute, but I want to wash them so that they pucker up and actually look quilted; as they are the quilting isn't showing yet, so it seems a bit unnecessary. Thank you for the advice about that — I think I'll wash them without worry. I still have the third pillow to make. I got distracted, though. I suddenly found myself randomly sewing strips together, inspired by this amazing quilt. Then I remembered that I had oh, half an entire Irish Chain quilt started . . . somewhere. I found it (miracle) and hung up my completed sewn-together blocks on the window. This was all from several years ago. As I looked at it I was kind of astounded by the memory of that time, a time when I'd had time to do anything like this. But everything that I'd used then was there, in the basket, including a bunch of blocks that hadn't been pressed, and lots of strips, and more fabric, etc. So, I'm going to try to finish it. It feels like it came from another life. It feels weird to work on it, in a way. I got emotional the first day I worked on it. I felt like I was literally reconnecting with the person I was back then. I thought of myself then, sewing all of those tiny squares, pressing those seams so carefully, hope in every patch. I'm not sure why I put it away — I just don't remember. My throat is tight while I write this. I'm not sure I can find the words to say any more except thank you, thank you, God. For getting her here. For getting me here.

So now I've got Irish Chain to finish. And Pibbow 3. And the new quilt I started made out of strips (strings? what's this lingo? I know nothing). The new strippy quilt fabric is coming out of the same log-cabin strip basket that I used for Amelia's log cabin and the first two pillows, and I'm also cutting up the scraps in my big scrap basket, little by little. This is a little-by-little quilt. Whenever I have a couple of minutes, I go back and do something — press and cut some scraps, sew some strips together, press some seams. All random. I decided that this would be a family quilt, for the big king-size bed, and that the scraps from all the things I've made over the past few years are going to go into it. Violet used to sleep in this scrap basket, and now Bridget does (unless she can find a little sunspot). All of this makes me so happy and content.

The (First) Pibbow

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Have you ever done the quilt-as-you-go technique? I never had. I got this book the other day and decided to try it. I think it came out pretty cute. I used the 2" strips I had left over from Amelia's log cabin quilt. I have a whole basket of them. You can get a feeling for the whole technique from that first picture — you stitch the hearth directly to the batting, then add your first strip (log) to one side. Press that open, and then quilt it (I just stitched parallel to the seam, down the length of the strip a couple of times). Quilt (verb) after every added strip. Didn't think too much about the finished size, so there is one extra strip on two sides of the pillow (because I needed it to fit the pillow form). Mimi loves pillows, just like I do. We talk about pillows a lot, either for ourselves or for the dog or for the dolls. I think we talk about pillows every day. But she calls them "pibbows." Which works. We need some pibbows very badly in our living room. I'm going to make a few. I bought three new pillow forms. I like the bamboo forms. I like flat, hard pillows. I hate super-soft pillows. I HATE down pillows or any kind of pillow with feathers. They give me pillow rage. If I wanted to be jabbed in the face with a thousand little pins while also being smothered, then I would get a down pillow. But I don't.

By the way: The gingham chair (Ikea) is cute but lightweight. When she was smaller, Amelia liked to get up on that chair and essentially hurl herself against the back of it while peeking over the top at whoever was in the dining room. To stabilize it, we put a webbing strap with one of those tightener things around both of the front legs, and put several barbells — hand weights, I guess — on top of the strap. So if she pushed against the back, the weights counterbalanced and held the front of the chair on the floor. They also stay pretty neatly under the chair itself (and the slipcover). Anyway, I just thought I'd mention it in case you have a baby that does the same thing. Most chairs like this one are against walls, I would think, so it's probably not super common to have one like ours, in the middle of the room. But I just saw a little boy tip a dining room chair over backwards at the zoo cafe the other day, so I'm guessing it's pretty common with those kinds of chairs.

Drawing on a domino with a golf pencil (after silently, stealthily stealing my knitting-notions bag, and I'm not even sure why there was a domino in my bag). Wearing a doll stocking on her hand while holding an umbrella. I can't make this stuff up. I love this kid so much. I love her.

I want to make three or four more pillows. I'm not sure what kind I will make. Can you wash the quilt-as-you-go pillow cover if the batting isn't actually backed with fabric? I didn't really think about that. I kind of did, but then I just kept going, because I don't have any time. There's a back to the pillow cover, but not to the quilting part, do you know what I mean? I wonder what will happen when I wash it. We'll find out!

Her dresses: 2nd Birthday Dress (shown here, details in here), Lichen Woods (the Lichen Woods sweater, already way too small!), Lemon Layer Cake. Her sweater: My Cricket. I love this sweater. It fits perfectly and is such a pretty pattern. I love it. Her sleeves are rolled up in the children's museum pictures, but when they're down they are really cute. I must say that I originally got the NatureSpun sport only for my animal kits, but I have used it several times for Mimi-sweaters, and though I was worried that it would be a bit scratchy, it has turned out to be one of my very favorite yarns for her clothes, too. It gets soft and drape-y, it doesn't pill that much, it holds its shape really well, and it's got a really nice sort of rustic quality to it. I don't know. For a long time I was just so into alpaca. Alpaca is soft and smooshy and feels like a dream when you're knitting with it. In practical use, it's not my favorite. "Practical use" is not always my priority, mind you. My own knitting comfort is often the priority, quite frankly, and soft, delicious yarns like alpacas can sooth the knitters soul and the baby's skin. But it tends to pill like hell, and get really distorted with wear. I don't really care about those things that much, until the buttonholes stop working, or whatever. But I'm starting to appreciate the plain, straightforward, hardworking wools I used to pass up.

***Details on my workroom? All here!

The Usual

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Sunny, quiet days. Playing, working, cooking, watching the man fix the house, which is apparently falling apart all around us. Ugh. Stucco repairs, rotted sills. Blossoms abounding. Sunlight through soap-sketched windows. Sleeping puppers. French braids. Playing the drums on my back with her fingers. "Drumsticks." She points to the neighbor's flowers and says, "Daffodils!" How in the world does she know those are daffodils? She knows everything. We marvel. Oh wondrous, glorious child of spring! I scoop her up like a cradled baby and smother her cheeks with kisses. "No, Mommy!!!" New boxwood shrubs, finally. Piles of crumbled stucco in my flower beds. Dust on my hellebores. Cluttered studio. I can hear the man pounding on the house as I write. Love and squalor. The usual.

The Only Snow

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The only snow we see here is in books and the little snow-capped mountain of whipped cream on the berry-biscuit sundae I got at Salt and Straw yesterday. Poor Meemers slept through it, even though it was her idea to go. I did everything I could to wake her up but alas, I just had to buy a pint of Woodblock Chocolate to take home. For her. :)

We went for a walk to look for signs of spring, and no, we didn't have to look very far at all. It's here, apparently, as unnerving as that feels to me. My car thermometer read 65 degrees on Tuesday. Without exaggeration, we needed sunscreen at the park Tuesday afternoon. And it was one of those low-angled, sort of glaring white winter suns, without benefit of leafy trees, puffy clouds, or sunglasses. Yesterday, though, was all gray, and dark. Through the mucky brown leaves of winter, daffodils and crocuses stretch and yawn. Trees froth forth with petal and little leaf. We had our yard cleaned up by a lawn service this week. I just knew we weren't going to have time or energy to do it ourselves, and I get so bummed out when the spring clean up is late, and we miss the show. So, we're ready for the show (yard-wise, if not psychologically), and the show is here.

That said, if you're lucky enough to be covered in snow like my bestie, Martha, who lives outside of Boston, Mass., and sends me pictures of mountains of snow in driveways, front yards, backyards, on top of garbage cans, and generally everywhere on everything, and who tolerates me saying things like, "Awesome! Oh man! I'm so jealous!!! Wah!!! Poor me!!!" like, a lot, when actually her arms are about to fall off from shoveling, you might like this spaghetti casserole. It's another one from my childhood winters — funny how having a child makes you want to cook her food from your own childhood. What's up with that? Mom knew what kids liked. This one is pure convenience, and comes out hot and bubbly with little effort. Basically, you boil up 1 pound of spaghetti, and please under-cook it a bit, so it's quite al dente, or I'll have to throw up. (I hate overcooked pasta.) Beat 2 eggs and add them to 1 cup of milk. After draining the spaghetti, put it back in the pan and add the milk/eggs and 4 to 8 oz. of plain cream cheese. Stir everything together until the cream cheese melts. Dump it into a 9"x13" pan and top with your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce (I only use about 1/3 jar) and Mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until cheese melts and everything looks browned and delicious.

My new year's resolution was "Try not to be such a jerk about the hot weather in the summer." Technically, it's still winter, so . . . agh. That's a technicality. I only said "summer" because it never occurred to me I'd be complaining about it in winter! This one's gonna be hard to keep. Actually, obviously, in spirit, I've already failed. And it's only February.

***The umbrella is probably fifteen years old, originally purchased at the incomparable but now-so-sadly defunct Daisy Kingdom. Miss you, DK.

Pretty in Pink

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We went for a Valentine's walk on Saturday. Sixty-something degrees and sunny. Apparently we've skipped winter entirely and moved straight to spring. Our walk was just a tiny portion of one we'd taken several years ago (Walk 6, Portland Heights to Council Crest Loop), from the book Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster. I cannot possibly say enough about this book, I love it so much. Walking tours and history and a wonderful, friendly, thorough, savvy writing style. I love this little essay about walking (on Laura's web site). Now that we have a junior walker, our family walks have a whole new pace and style. The picture just after the one of her boots? That's Mimi doing "sassy walk." I think she does it when she's really happy. Swinging her elbows and shaking her hips, tromp tromp tromp. Like she owns the place. Oh how I love it when she does sassy walk. This neighborhood is way up in the west hills, across the city from where we live. Some of the houses are worth millions; just blocks away, some of the houses are in various states of dishevelment. I think we were walking on SW Hawthorne Terrace, SW Davenport, SW Elizabeth Street. And Robin's Crest Drive: my favorite part of our walk, a little fairyland at the end of that dead-end street. Around there, charming, once-fancy little houses in need of paint and new roofs, forgotten winter-crusted gardens brimming with Kenilworth ivy and hyacinths, ancient Mercedes parked in the driveway. Wild birds everywhere. Mossy steps and cracked sidewalks. Pine-scented breezes and impossibly lovely camellias. My favorite season now approaches, ever so strangely early. Pink fairy magic.

***Mimi's pink dress is from JujuBunnyShop (but over a year ago), her tutu is from H&M (but over a year ago), and our lasagna recipe is here!

XOX

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Oh me oh my thank you for all of the suggestions — cookie, portrait, and otherwise. I am literally still reading them all. Awesome. Cookie experimentation to come! I will post dispatches from the trenches!!! Here, today, our tulips are starting to unearth themselves. Before Valentine's Day? This doesn't seem right. And our plum tree, blooming now? This doesn't seem right. Too soon. I came in this morning to find Andy going through a bag of stuff that got taken off of the refrigerator in 2010, and among the stuff a picture of the two of us from around 1992, twenty-three years ago, when we first started dating. We look like BABIES. Jeesh. And yes, he's holding a piece of potato sausage over a plate of Swedish meatballs, and yes, I think this is actually the first picture we have of ourselves together during the five years we were dating before we got married (we hardly have any, maybe ten, and we even knew each other for several years before we were dating, and don't have any from then, either). And yes, it cracks me up every single time I see it. Pah! And then there's Amelia, already grown so, so big, who wanted to squeeze into her baby basket this morning, and then she asked for her quilt (which you can also see here), and then she put herself and Baby Bunny in every possible position in the basket (I literally have forty pictures of that, so adorable). And her joy reminded me of this picture of myself, just a bit older than she is here. Time flies. I want to fill it with love. Happy Valentine's Day, dear friends. I wish you love. Xoxoxoxoxoxox.

Color Kittens

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Oh, Mommy is tired. I've yawned about fifty times today. Once I start I can't seem to stop. Andy and Amelia are sitting on his skateboard and riding around the dining room. The house is covered in toys and books and blankets (so that makes it a bit difficult). The rain whips and the wind is whistling outside — last night, lightning and thunder! I missed them, because I was sleeping at 9:15 p.m. But still: stormy few days here, lots of inside stuff, very small house. The weather finally turned, and we have rain and rumpus.

I made a little painting on Sunday morning. Later we all went to the art supply store to get more paints and stickers and stuff. When I was finished with the little painting (which includes stickers:) I was excited because I thought it reminded me a lot of The Color Kittens, which we read almost every night. It's funny how these little books and their characters become such a part of your life. Our days and nights have a lot of books in them. They don't get photographed that much but they should, because I so don't want to forget them in the context of our sticker-covered, draw-on-your-face, pink-painted, Golden Book–filled days. I just don't ever have a camera when we're snuggled. "'Oh Angelina,'" I read, with great mama-drama, "'your dancing is nothing but a — '" "Nuisance!" yells delighted Amelia, not really able to pronounce the word, and not really knowing what it means, but maybe she does. Same with "arabesque." I'm amazed at the words it appears she understands. There are others. I need to think of them. I need to write this stuff down, and take some pictures of our little books. They're so good. I love these days.

I make the WORST chocolate chip cookies. Recipe straight off the bag, and they suck in a different way every single time, time after time, year after year. I make pretty decent broccoli and bow ties. But who can't do that. That's all Ina. Maybe I should see if she has a chocolate-chip cookie recipe. I can't imagine she does not.

Suddenly obsessed with making a toy boat we can actually float on the casting pond this summer, and having a portrait painted of Amelia (any recommendations, let me know?). Isn't it weird how you just get these ideas all of a sudden and then they're all you can think of, when you're daydreaming? When you have time to think of these things? I feel like I have a different idea about something or other every week.

Her squishy-yummy pink cardigan is here. :)

Winterbrights

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It's the winter that feels like spring. Without flowers. I see daffodils and irises and other little spring bulb-type things popping up through the mud, though. The rest of the country is covered in blizzard after blizzard and foot after foot of snow. ALAS, poor us, we have nothing but sunshine and 60-degree weather. Sigh. I am possibly the only person in the Pacific Northwest who's bummed out about that.

The days at home have been lazy and lovely, nevertheless. I made this chicken tartiflette (channeling après-ski fantasies) with the new mandoline I got for Christmas, and it was very, very good. We've been playing and reading and sleeping and stitching. I've been working on version 2.0 of the sampler and I really love this. The new sampler kits should be available in about eight or nine weeks. The fabric is on order, and we're still calculating amounts and colors of floss. This thing has forty-seven colors in it. I'll print the chart very large for you to try to compensate for the small size of the stitches. Also, yes, we're in the process of ordering more materials to make more Maggie, Juniper, and Basil kits. Those are a few months out, too.

Does anyone out there from River Forest or Oak Park or Forest Park remember the smiley-face cookies with the chocolate eyes from Kay's Bakery? Man, those things were the best. And the chocolate bismarks from the bakery next to River Forest Market on Lake Street. Is the market even still there? I loved that place. Thinking about it, and home, lately. I wonder why. I think it's the snow. I remember standing in front of the bakery eating a bismark, waiting for the bus in the freezing cold. Chocolate and pastry cream. The smell of exhaust on the icy morning air. Rush hour. I miss that.

Amelia carries her dolly around, cuddling her and kissing her on the forehead. I say, "Mimi, you're such a good mommy to your baby." She, impatiently: "Oh, I know, I know.

***The book she is looking at is A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books. One of our favorites.

Pinky Paint

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Our pink painting, January 27, 2015. :)

Winter Clean Up

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Grocery-store tulips and hot tea. The chores were piling up. We tried to clean up a little bit, but I still feel daunted. I think it's more perceived chaos than real. But I do have a punch list, and I need to get on it. I get frustrated when I let things go that you can't really get away with letting go, for very long. Wah. This happens to me every January. I want to rest, but the girls need their 1099s, or whatever they're called, so I have to do The Books (which I really don't do all year, in spite of the many, many times I have sworn that next year I will do The Books all year, every month, every day) and The Forms and The Files. And, you just have to do it. I get no better at it, nor more inspired, as the years pass.

The sky today is pale, pale gray. Andy bought tiny light-bulbs for my grandma's two pink glass antique lamps, so they are glowing. I had an idea about making a painting for the mantel, so I bought a cheap canvas from the craft store. I fussed a bit with the mantel — all the foliage on there is dried or fake, sort of a late-winter/early-spring bunch of bits, and (it being fake) I can just look at it and be happy and not have to do any work about it — and then I hung the blank canvas where it will ultimately go. I was very pleased, in fact, with the blank white. It felt like the only white space in the room. An open door into possibility. As they say. What will it be? I thought the three of us could paint on it and see. Maybe this afternoon. A family painting.

My dear Amy and I went to Kachka for dinner the other night. I had the best time. Cute place. Great company. She and I can talk about cross stitch for half an hour and get so excited we are essentially shouting. It was loud in there, especially with what sounded like Russian Tom Waits booming, but still. Dear Amy. xo

Mimi's crocheted dress is my Mina. I need to make more of these, or of knitted or crocheted dresses in general. They are perfect for winter days, and keep her core warm. Crochet. Andy's crocheting starfish because the dog ate two of our real ones. That's a sentence I wouldn't have thought I'd ever write, for some reason.

embroidered A

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.