Stormy Soup

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Sparkle and blur, everything rushing by. The days spin past me and I only slow to cook or knit, and, even then, I knit like the wind, finishing entire sweaters that I haven't stopped long enough to put on Ravelry; I can't now remember what the patterns were called or what yarn I used or which needles, though they were finished just weeks, days, minutes ago. Should knitting be done so quickly? On Tuesday, Stacey kindly, kindly helped me reorganize my baking and dry-goods cabinet, emptying mason jars that had been filled with expired flours and grains; hand-washing everything in scalding, soapy water; wiping down shelves and lining up jars (again) like good little soldiers, waiting for me to cook. It worked: I was inspired. It was nice to move the enormous cast-iron Dutch oven three feet higher on the shelves so that I didn't feel like I was breaking my back every time I wanted to make soup but first needed to collect that monstrous beast from (practically) off the floor. Things like this — such practical, obvious things on their surfaces — don't get done because in reality they require not just moving that one pot but actually, like, emptying and reorganizing and entire standing wardrobe of fifty pots, pans, and jars first. Many things like this have fallen to the way, way, wayside over the past four years. That's been okay for a while, but it's time to improve. Slowly I'm reclaiming the domestic territories from their chaotic, swirling depths. Shelf by shelf. Cabinet by cabinet. I impose order in the smallest of ways, facing out labels and sweeping every grain of rice off the floor. I have missed doing these things. Every little stitch, every re-stacked pile of cake pans, every leaking, flour-covered bag of flour emptied into a jar of flour helps restore order to this little corner, when so much in the outside world feels whipped up and wild and wearying. I never seem to have time to do the things that make things feel better.

Cold-weather cooking is preferred over summertime stuff, at least. Fresh tomatoes, heads of lettuce, and mountains of glistening berries delight almost everyone but usually make me feel overwhelmed and vaguely anxious. Give me gigantic pots of things that bubble and thicken. Let me chop piles of onions and carrots and and sweet potatoes, roots that have been waiting, buried in deep, dark soils, to be sweated and roasted and caramelized. Let me preheat ovens and strain gravies and grate Gruyere. Last weekend here was soooo stormy that we scrapped all plans for leaving the house. Amelia wanted macaroni and cheese for her birthday dinner. It didn't even occur to me to make it from a box. Cheeses bubbled and breadcrumbs crisped in their cast-iron skillet under the broiler. Alas, she hated it, and I didn't love it either (er, I made us both some Kraft spirals the next day), but it was great to make. (Luckily, Andy loved it.) On Sunday afternoon, inspired (as with so much) by Amy of Second and Edgemont, I roasted a chicken (using this recipe). It sat on a little bed of potatoes and carrots, and I made a baked rice dish with mushrooms and shallots from The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet in my little casserole pot. The whole meal pleased me so much and filled me with such a strange sense of satisfaction that I went to bed thinking about it all, and woke up thinking about it, too. I'm just realizing now that that might have been because we made stock overnight in the crock pot and the house, all night long, was filled with the scent of simmering bones and broth and bay leaves. I don't know. It all just felt good and made me happy. My people were fed. The kitchen was clean. The chicken was easy. Its deliciousness far exceeded my expectations and far outweighed the effort involved, and something about all of those things just felt like such a relief, like an actual, existential relief.

Like . . . yeah.

It's been a long time since cooking has made me happy. 

Yesterday, Mimi and I stayed home almost all day. We lit every little lamp we could find. Our grocery-shopping trip was poorly timed, and we managed to venture out during the only fifteen minutes that rain was coming down in sheets. Back at home, she wound three skeins of yarn around every knob, drawer handle, chair leg, and table, making an living-and-dining-room-sized spiderweb of wool. I went into the kitchen and sliced up an entire kielbasa sausage — my first ever, how weird is that? For some reason I've just never had it before — and browned it in the (aforementioned) Dutch oven. I fished the (delicious!) kielbasa out to wait on a plate and threw in handful after handful of leeks, carrots, onions, and sweet potato cubes and let it all cook down until the house smelled like bliss. Lentils, tomatoes, Sunday's chicken stock, and a couple more hours of simmering turned into — I can still hardly even believe it — one of the best soups I've ever had. I can't even believe I just sort of made it up myself (after reading a few recipes and taking parts and pieces out of each of them) because I never cook without following a recipe quite literally. When Andy got home last night I was stepping on his heels like a corgi, so excited was I for him to try it. Still in scrubs, he ate two bowls. I went up to bed with a large smile on my face. He texted me: "It's so good!!!!! Sweet, smoky, even a touch tart." I wrote back immediately: "YES MY KITCHEN GAME IS STRONG LATELY!!!" I'm not sure I've thought, let alone said, much less written, anything even close to that in the last four years. Should you need to feel clever and capable one of these rainy evenings, try it.

October Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 lb. kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/8" rounds
4 large carrots, cut lengthwise and sliced
3 large leeks (white parts only), cut lengthwise and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 t. Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato or yam, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 c. red lentils
1 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes
6 c. chicken stock

In large Dutch oven, brown sausage in olive oil over medium heat until edges are crispy. Remove from pot and set aside, leaving drippings in pot. Add carrots, leeks, and onion and salt and sautee over medium heat for quite a while — 20 minutes or so — until all vegetables are golden and getting caramelized. Add garlic and sweet potato and cook another few minutes. Add lentils, tomatoes, and chicken stock and bring to a decent simmer. Cook for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender. Return kielbasa to the soup and heat through. Add more stock if soup gets too thick for you, but I like it thick. You could definitely add kale to this — I had a bunch and forgot to put it in!

Serve with garlic bread.

Also: Thank you ever so much for all of your very kind comments on Mimi's party and birthday. She had such a great birthday week and so did we. Thank you for being so sweet — I really appreciate it. You are just so kind. XOXO. And for those who have asked, her invitations were from Minted and a lot of her party supplies were from Sweet Lulu.

Fabulous Four

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Oh. My. Goodness. What a weekend it was. Amelia's fourth birthday party was a blast! I always love her birthday parties so much. We spent Friday getting ready, and I really love those party preparations. Saturday afternoon, when the doorbell started to ring, she got shy, but quickly rallied. She was serious about her cake and her presents. I literally could not get her to stop stabbing her cake with appetizer skewers and eating frosting off of them. (I had the food catered by Artemis Foods, and a better decision I doubt I have ever made, but I did make the cake myself.) She wanted a piece of that cake so bad. Once the cake was eaten she opened her presents (such lovely, lovely presents) and honestly, I have never seen her so focused. She's never really been particularly into stuff in general, so I'm guessing this age is when the fascination with specific toys really starts. It was pretty cute and quite fascinating to watch. Certain things she tossed over her shoulder before quickly moving on to the next present; certain things she was so captivated by that the world stopped, as far as she was concerned, and she sat off to the side and started playing while the party went on around her. (Musical birthday cards were, quite possibly, the sleeper hit of the day.) Grandma and Pops Paulson (Andy's parents) are in town from Chicago and their presence here, especially after getting to spend so much time together in Chicago and Wisconsin this summer, has always made Amelia's party weekend extra special. This time there are six whole days between her party and her actual birthday so it's gonna be one looooong celebration. I almost planned a friend birthday party in addition to her usual family party but it just didn't come together. With Halloween so close, and a neighborhood party scheduled, and a school thing, and a pumpkin-patch plan, and another pumpkin-patch plan, I think the partying will continue through the month, so it's cool with her.

Her birthday. Her birth day. I remember the evening she was born like it was yesterday. I remember the days in the hospital afterward, when it was just Amelia's birthparents and Amelia and Andy and me. Those were some of the most intense and incredible days of all of our lives, I expect. There were tears and laughter and courage and strength and honesty and beauty and intensity and just . . . total love. It was like we five were on our own mysterious, unnameable planet together, and it brings tears to my eyes to remember those days even now. How blessed we were to have them! How blessed we are, all of us, in all of this! I love the family that our open adoption has created. When everyone — birthparents, grandparents, birthgrandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings — is together, it is the best day of the year. And every year gets better and better. I find it almost impossible to talk about because I just cannot find the words to explain. Amelia is loved so thoroughly and by so many. She's only just beginning to understand exactly what that means. But when we are all together, the house is filled with joy and rings with laughter, and that she absolutely understands.


After everyone left, and I was so tired that I laid down on the living room floor. She came over and we made a picnic with the Buckley deer family and some party napkins. Clover trip-trapped over to see what we were doing and Andy (superstar) worked on the kitchen. We talked in quiet voices for ourselves and for the deer. We talked about the picnic, the party, the cake, and the people, and all the very sweet things we love.

Dappled Apple

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Apple picking with Mimi, just the two of us, yesterday. The apples were high in the trees, and small. I love apple trees. The air was cool and dry, the noonday sun dusky and golden. After about an hour she said, "Mom, let's go home," and I had been thinking the exact same thing. The drive through the country was long and sweet. We talked and sang. We're almost never, ever home by 2:00 p.m., but yesterday we were. I peeled and chopped apples while she stirred in the sink and filled it with apple peels and mountains of dish-soap bubbles (a cheap thrill I encourage). Applesauce simmered on the stove. The house smelled like cinnamon. Today I bought an autumn door wreath, little fake red apples on dried grapevine. I knew she'd like it, and she does. It will remind me of yesterday. Xoxoxoxo.

Thaaaaaaaank you for all of your great comments on my last post. Because of them I decided to chill psychologically the way I was already, in spite of myself or my to-dos, chilling physically. It's taking longer than I thought it would to find my motivation to do my chores, or much of anything else, but I'm down with it. I am knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting! I can't believe how much I am knitting. Last weekend we went to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival with Amelia's birthgrandfather and -grandmother, who is a spinner and knitter. She made me the most gorgeous shawl for Mother's Day, using fiber from last year's festival that she spun and knit in lovely, natural shades. I need to take a photo of it, and luckily it's finally getting chilly enough that I'll be able to wear it soon. We've all gone to the festival together for the last three years, and though I don't often find yarn for myself there (there is more fleece than yarn available to buy, I think) I do come away so inspired. Sometimes I think I just want to do nothing but knit. I've been knitting so much I haven't even taken the time to photograph the things I have knit. This gorgeous, russety weather won't last, so there will be time (though perhaps no gorgeous, russety light).

Amazed and Confused

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We have this saying in our house. You use it when you have just done something that you "obviously" shouldn't have done, or failed to do something that you "obviously" should have done, etc. To use it, just say, when confronted, "But no one told me." Jam the dishes all together and face them away from the sprayer in the dishwasher so nothing gets clean? "But no one told me." Go inside and lock the door, leaving the dog alone in the unfenced front yard? "But no one told me." See how it works?

I'm shocked, actually shocked, at how much trouble I've had concentrating this week, Amelia's first "full" week of preschool. (She goes three mornings a week, four hours per day.) I truly, honestly, actually thought that the minute I got home after dropping her off I would hit the ground running, attacking my to-do list with fervor and efficiency, since so much that is on it are things that I have been wanting to, needing to, wishing I could do for months. And, to be perfectly clear, these are not optional things, or things that should wait any longer, or things that I can just continue to blow off without consequence. I can't even bear to go into details, because honestly I still haven't even made the list of what things these not-optional things all are, and that — to be meta about it — is exactly the problem. I know there are things on my list but I don't know exactly what they are. Instead of trying to determine, I've just sort of been . . . wandering around . . . feeding myself . . . reading Vanity Fair while feeding myself again . . . putting five-pound bags of bread flour into any available space instead of cleaning the cluttered cabinet . . . stuffing new fall clothes into drawers that haven't been emptied of bathing suits and tank tops . . . starting to knit new sweaters before weaving in the ends of the previous sweaters . . . watching made-for-TV movies about Wills and Kate . . . making a puppet theater. Normally I do do all of those (random and generally inconsequential) things but also get, if I do say so myself, a whole shiteload more stuff that actually has to be done, done, too. Lately — nothing. Pretty much nothing at all. Before I know it, it's 12:48 p.m., and time to go pick up Meems, and I am amazed — like, bug-eyed, hands-on-cheeks, cartoon-character amazed. Four hours goes fast. The first day of school it went so slow! But now it's over before I can even believe it. And apparently everyone knows all about this finally-have-some-time-to-do-something-and-now-I'm-doing-nothing inertia. It's a thing.

But no one told me!


In the true spirit of the way we use the phrase here at home, of course it's not at all true that no one told me. To really use it correctly, the thing that no one supposedly ever told you has to be a thing that someone has, you know, all but made a full-time job out of repeatedly telling you. Ah, it's a mysterious phenomenon, this particular brand of "forgetting." I've experienced this exact Mysterious Phenomenon before, and have even told myself about it. Nevertheless, I'm caught off-guard once again, flatfooted and bewildered, my mouth full of bread-machine bread and jam, my thoughts centered on what George and Charlotte's nursery looks like at Bucklebury, my hands filled with tangled yarn or covered in papier mache instead of busy at my computer, working on my new pattern that I'm supposed to have done for you to make in time for your own Christmas. My bank account is bone dry. My social life is destitute. But still I sit around ironing wrinkles (not very well) out of puppet curtains and pinning more cake recipes to my birthday-cakes Pinterest board (how many does one woman need?).


I did cook something. That is my mom's sauce, with short ribs, sausage, and meatballs, and her lasagna. No meal on earth tastes more like my childhood autumns and winters than this one. And seriously, if you want a totally authentic Italian "gravy" that simmers for hours and makes you cry, this is it.

I did finish knitting something. It is the Eithne sweater, and I started it at the river and finished it last night. (And then, as mentioned, cast on something else before I wove in the ends or put the buttons on this.)

I did finish my puppet, Miss Margot Maude Peaseblossom, and she made me very happy.

And don't tell Meems about the doorway puppet theater (I didn't have a pattern for that, I just kind of measured the door, and winged it, but I know there are tutorials for these on-line). It's part of her birthday present (along with the oh-so-practical hat/scarf/mittens ensembles I've been knitting to go with each of her coats [rain/fancy/duffel] which are almost all done). I decided to make her her own papier mache puppet for her birthday, too, since, you know, Margot Maude and her hair, etc. . . .

One More

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One more weekend away, squeezing the last golden drops out of summer at our favorite place on the river. It felt slow but it went fast. Crickets sang, ducks floated by. The beds were cozy and the coffee was hot. The mornings were dark and freezing, the afternoons bright and blustery and filled with falling leaves and spinning maple seeds. The river was low. The bees were plentiful. We laid on the quilt and looked up at the sky and listened to the wind in the trees and the birds calling to each other. I didn't get a picture of the bright green bullfrog that sunned himself on a rock right next to me yesterday morning. We both sat watching the river roll by. And what a lovely time it was!

School Days

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Well, well. School has started and it has been wonderful. School days! All two of them so far! :) First day: All the parents and kids wait in the foyer for the classroom door to open. There is one moment . . . one quiet, worried moment . . . taking her boots off, hanging up her coat. I bend down close. I can see everything move across her face. Curiosity and courage win out. Twenty minutes later, when the door opens, she gives us our kisses and hugs, turns to wave, and walks right in, wide-eyed with delight. Reportedly, she was the first one out on the dance floor. At school they dance, play, sing songs, garden, bake bread, cook soup, go outside, make music, rest, eat lunch. Her teachers texted mid-morning to say she was doing great! I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath. After school, at pick-ups, she shrieks with glee and runs down the hall toward me, carrying Foxie and swinging her lunch basket. I scoop her up — she's so big — and hold her close, her weight heavy and limp with relief and fatigue. She presses her cheek so hard against mine and says, "Mommy . . . Mommy. . . ." I hold her for as long as I possibly can. Oh, my overflowing, fast-beating heart! School is intense! Even for us parents! I can only imagine what it's like for the children. So many new spaces, new places to put your things, a routine you've never had, new kids, new parents. My big, brave, beautiful girl. She inspires me every single moment. I love her so and am so thrilled for her.

After drop-off the first day, Andy and I, shaky with nervous energy, stopped for breakfast. Sitting next to each other, ordering the exact same thing, giddy with freedom (though we can't stop talking about Amelia), we linger for the first time in years. At home, with newfound empty hours and a huge list of chores I've been desperately needing to do, I do nothing, circling the rooms in a daze and working on my hand puppet. Andy gets a long-overdue haircut. The hours go perfectly slowly. Three mornings, twelve hours a week. It feels  monumental. I actually sit at my desk and space out. I can't remember the last time it's happened. After school yesterday we walked through the neighborhood to mail her birthday-party invitations and her six chain letters. The sun was shining, the air was cool, the leaves were red. She cried — bawled — when we passed her old friend's house and her friend's car wasn't there, and we didn't stop by. Maybe tomorrow, I said. Lillian might be at school, too. A different school. The bitter-sweetness of it all moved me. And her.

Another neighbor was cleaning out some old spaces and brought over a puppet she made years ago. That's hers, with the yellow hair. Amelia took down the tension-rod curtains in my office and brought them out to the back yard, and Andy set them up on some chairs. I listened to the two of them do a show (which lasted about four minutes) and it made me want to make a puppet. I got a dowel and some Model Magic and sculpted a head, then covered it with papier-mache (I just used newsprint and flour-and-water paste). She's my first puppet. I can't believe I've never made a puppet before, ever, even as a child (that I remember, anyway). I started off saying I was making this one for Amelia but now I don't really want to give it to her because it took me about three hours to put her yarn-hair on and I know Amelia will quickly peel it off, even if she says she won't. I told her I'd give it to her when she's fifteen. Guffaw. I'm probably serious, though. Usually I'm not like that — I gave her all of the stuffed animals I made (and who even knows where they or their clothes are now), I really don't care that much about my furniture or walls (though they haven't suffered too much, I don't think), and I certainly don't care how she destroys her clothes when she's playing — but I'm pretty sure I should keep this puppet out of reach. Better make another, less-precious one.

Actually, she's sitting in my office right now, holding the puppet (that I accidentally left on my table) and touching her hair very gently and then giving me a tiny little wave when she sees me watching her. Maybe there's hope. . . . Maybe I'll give it to her when she's fourteen. . . .

Squid Fail

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It's no exaggeration to say I was in crisis the entire time I was making Jamie Oliver's Sticky Squid Balls from his show Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, which was on for about five seconds back in the fall of 2012. I liked that show, even though it had a really frantic pace, which is generally not how I like my cooking shows. I had seen part of the squid-ball episode and had recorded it for the other dish that was made in the second half of it, sausage–red pepper fusilli; I made the fusilli recently and thought it was delicious. When I made the fusilli, I'd watched the episode again and remembered the squid balls, and thought I'd try to make them. I have been eating squid since I was a baby (reportedly; my Italian grandma used to cook it in a tomato sauce, and serve it with spaghetti) and I love it, though I have never cooked it myself. I hadn't recorded the first seven minutes of the episode, though, and I had a lot of trouble following the recipe I eventually found on-line (it's not on his own web site), and I way over-salted the squid goo. And it all fell apart in the pan. And it was generally disgusting, and had a horrible taste I did not like (though Andy ate it). Oh no, I feel like I can still taste it right now, remembering. It reminds me of the Miso Incident of 2014 (bad). It could be argued that anyone who chooses to make something called "sticky squid balls" in the first place should be rigorously interrogated before they leave for the grocery store. It also took me not fifteen minutes but an hour and fifteen minutes. Anyway, I destroyed the kitchen (above) in the process, and later said to Andy, "Sorry I made such a disgusting dinner and reeked up the house." He said, "I thought it was good and I think it smells good."

And that's how you know you married the right person.

Either way, just . . . don't make Sticky Squid Balls.

Blueberry cream-cheese hand pies went much better, especially with Amelia's help. (She also likes to "stir" while I "cook" [note sarcastic use of the word "cook"; see above] — "stirring" is mixing all of the cast-off ingredients from whatever I am making, including spices and peelings, in water in a big bowl with various utensils in the sink, and this keeps her happy and busy for almost the entire time I am cooking next to her.) Shrimp salad (to which I add shell pasta) always makes me happy. Also, I am loving my bread machine, and for those who have asked I got this one. So far I have just used the basic white bread recipe in the book that comes with the bread machine, but I plan on branching out when I get a minute. It will be nice to wake up to fresh bread for sandwiches.

Amelia's two new preschool teachers came over yesterday for a little visit. I would say, between Clover Meadow Paulson and Amelia Paulson generally losing their minds with nervous excitement and me having no control over either one of them, it was complete pandemonium. I'm not even really sure exactly what happened but it was total chaos. Good thing the teachers work exclusively with toddlers and also have a puppy and were super cool about all of it, but I think I was mildly traumatized and am still recovering.

So, yes, it's been a bit chaotic, now that I think about it. Luckily it's also been raining or I fear I might've started shooting out sparks from my ears. Stacey, my intrepid assistant, is now  gone working on the grape harvest until November, so I've been trying to do her job, which used to be my job but hasn't been my job in so long that I've forgotten both how to do it and to do it, so it's taking me a few days longer than usual to ship stuff out of here. This will change next week, when I have a little more time.

Gosh, my girl is growing up. I love her so much. I'm so proud of her. I'm so excited for her. So many changes. One foot in front of the other. Slow and steady. We'll get there. I keep saying.

Proper Schoolgirl

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Andy had the whole weekend off and we had nothing to do (this almost never happens). I had a pile of fabric and patterns and needed some alone time (I almost never get this). Into the sewing room I tear, and the scissors start flying. My girl is growing, growing, and has no clothes. I make a lot of her clothes. I made a lot of her clothes before she was even born (as you might know :). I made them up until size 3T, figuring she might not want to wear the clothes a made after that. DARLING GIRL, she still does, but has none that will fit her this fall, when she turns four. Oh, how my heart sings at the circumstance! Here comes a plaid jumper for the first day of preschool (McCall's pattern #7590, from 1981); a dusty pink dress that was made from a nightgown pattern (McCall's #3381, c. 1972); a blue plaid smock with the prettiest embroidered daisy ribbon (McCall's 3237, c. 1972); and a sundress for the back-to-school picnic (Simplicity #8712, from 1978). I have a lot of ideas for things in my head, but not much time to sew. When I do get the time, the things pour from my hands. It's a start. Amelia will go to preschool three mornings a week this fall. We are all very excited about it!

Next week is the last week of summer. The yard is parched and pale yellow, already covered in spiderwebs and dusty things. The spent hydrangea blooms turn russet, the grass dies. I half-heartedly water stuff, not sure if it's already too late. I can't remember the last time it's rained. Summer, you do challenge me. Day after day of 97-degree temperatures and I can't see anything but waves of heat in the air. We routinely get in the car and the thermometer there says its 109, 110, 111. . . . I'm cooked. I bought a bread machine for sandwiches. The loaf was so adorably runty, all bulbous on one side. I couldn't help but love it. It tasted just fine to me, and I made a ham sandwich with a ton of lettuce and avocado for dinner. Our apple tree has loads of apples, many with holes, some half-eaten by something before they're even picked. They're good though. If it ever gets below 90, I'll make a pie. I really cannot wait for that day.

Andy, Amelia, and Clover Meadow spent one (actually cool-ish) night in the tent in the backyard for the first time. I slept in the house, listening on the monitor. She woke up around1:15 a.m., and they (we) were up for an hour. She insisted on staying out (though Clover came back in), fell back asleep, and slept until dawn. Dawn's coming so much later these days. I don't mind that, either. Today is the last day of swimming lessons. Simon, the teacher, comes and tells us yesterday, "Tomorrow, we get to turn on the fountains! Tomorrow we get to do whatever we want!" "Oh, she'll be good at that!" I say, winking. I'll miss swimming lessons, sitting on the chaise lounges in the shade with the other lesson parents, listening to the kids sing "I Had a Little Fishy," watching them chase rings and lay on their backs and blow bubbles and put their faces in the water. I'll miss holding up the towel for her to run, shivering, into my arms when she's done, cuddling her on my lap while we watch the lifeguards put the lane lines away and crank up the beach umbrellas for open swim. We took six weeks of daily swimming lessons this summer. I will miss all these pool days, and some of the summer things. But I'm ready to go outside again, and not feel like I have to be covered in water to do it. . . .

Clackamas County Fair 2016

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Oh, it's the county fair! I'm so glad we went on Tuesday instead of tomorrow, like we almost planned to, because they say it's going to be 102 today and tomorrow. I'm so beyond over the hot weather I could literally scream. We have spent a lot of very, very hot days in the blazing sun this summer, including in Wisconsin, where naturally they were having a "very unusual" heatwave that (naturally) began the minute I arrived in the state. . . . Anyway, Tuesday — even though it wasn't technically scorching, it was hot, and I will confess that I am a little bit weary of wandering around in the sun. Understatement.

Amelia is at the age (almost four) where she doesn't want to ride in the stroller anymore (and can get herself out of it) but can't really be successfully . . . managed . . . when running free in places where there are, oh, gigantic animals, a thousand pairs of sunglasses to take off their tables, hippie jewelry within arms' reach, tractors, industrial-size fans, nipping goats, melted candle wax, etc., etc., etc., etc. I love watching all of the little dancers on the talent stage. Amelia jumps down and starts to swing. She rides the same pony (Champion) she rode last year and I race around the ring with the same-as-last-year's tears in my eyes (I don't know why, it really chokes me up to see her riding) trying to get pictures. Afterward, she climbed up onto a saddle cinched to a barrel and started "roping" the fake steer like some sort of baby pro cowgirl. The natural way she was handling the rope freaked me out. How in the world did she know to do this? Andy and I stared at each other in amazement. It was a cool moment. Candy-covered pretzels, kettle corn, huckleberry lemonade, ice cream. We are the family with iron stomachs, apparently, if the last three weeks are any indication. . . .

I love the fair, and the kids at the fair. I love the silly juggler with terrible jokes and the slightly grouchy moccasin-making man and the blacksmiths in smock-tops in the pioneer village, and the tiny dancers with their fancy costumes and their fearlessness. I love the patient animals, and the 'tweens in silver-trimmed jeans and braces sitting in camp chairs, flirting and playing cards. I love the fair moms and their 4-H broods, the grizzly old farmers standing by big metal fences, the serious farm kids grimly tugging on cows' halters as they drag their long-suffering, cud-chewing, flies-in-their-eys cattle to the show ring. I love the old barns and the light coming through the cracks in the boards, illuminating the dust in the air like a shower of stars. I love remembering my own city childhood dreaminess, how I knew things like how much land one needed in order to keep a horse at grass, that you should always pet a horse's face as if you were stroking a small bird, that you should pull his mane and never cut it. I love remembering how one or the other of my parents drove forty-five minutes each way every weekend so that I could go horseback-riding every single Sunday for five straight years. I hope that Amelia will have the chance to experience country life more often than just her yearly trip to the fair. I think she's almost old enough to do something that will help foster a love and respect for rural heritage, but I'm not sure what, or how.

Three more weeks of summer. Homestretch. I can do this!

And here are our other trips to the fair:

Vacation, Part 3: And Back Again

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The trip back home is always a little different than the trip out. Tired, bored, ready for familiar food, ready for familiar scenery, and very ready for familiar beds (and showers), I try not to wish for the train to go faster, because once we are home, vacation is officially over. But it was a great trip, and an awesome adventure, and I'm so glad we got to go. Thank you so much for following along! I hope you might be inspired to ride the rails and see this magnificent country of ours for yourself.

Vacation3Union Station, Chicago, Illinois

Vacation4Our sleeping car attendant, Stephanie, bringing Amelia a present. (She was our attendant on the way out, and she was amazing.)

Vacation5Northern Wisconsin




Vacation9North Dakota





Vacation15Kitty cat








VAcation23Two Medicine River just outside Glacier National Park, Montana


VAcation25Glacier National Park










Vacation35Eastern Washington

Vacation36Columbia River Gorge (almost home)

About Alicia Paulson


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




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.