Thank you very much for all of the comments on my last post, and for the music recommendations! I haven't had time to check them out but I plan to — thank you. Thank you also to those of you who suggested here (and emailed — my inbox is a disaster, so I can't often get back to everyone, I'm so sorry) portrait artists several months ago. I wound up having Amelia's portrait painted by Olga of Olinka Fine Art on Etsy, who I found myself while browsing Etsy for portrait artists. She did an absolutely incredible job, and was a total joy to work with. The picture I gave her (from this post) was taken a little over a year ago, but even when I took it it just looked like a painting to me, and I always meant to have it painted. I really don't know how she could have interpreted it more beautifully; I think it perfectly captures Amelia at that time and with that expression, a face I've seen a million times, tired at the end of the day, her serious, slightly melodramatic look (which I think it sort of amuses her to give), hanging out in her high chair, with the late afternoon light coming down from the west-facing windows. I love it.
We had a busy weekend, and I have more pictures, but little time! The pool is open. I find it hard to leave.
Do you like frozen custard? Try this. Crazy rich. You hardly need to eat any to be quite delighted, seriously. And I think I'm going to change that recipe so that you heat the half-and-half and the cream at the same time. Why would I have you temper the eggs with half-and-half and then add that back to the (cold) heavy cream separately? Couldn't the creams both be heated, added to eggs, then put back in the pan to heat a bit further? Trying to think of the best way not to scramble the eggs. . . . I'm no expert; please advise!
Summer has come kerplunking in this week — today it's supposed to be 80-something degrees, and, suddenly, it's here. Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, grass is growing, sidewalks are being chalked, iced lattes are being ordered. It's still light out toward 9:00 p.m. The grill has been lit, the plants need water, the plums are already starting to fall on my sidewalk. Last weekend the weather was chilly and overcast. Suddenly, now, it's summer.
I have absolutely no plan for the summer. Nothing. There's nothing in place. Not that there ever is. But we really have no plan. I'm not great at volleying at the net. I feel that I should come up with something, even if it's just some general organizing idea? I don't know. Watering the yard with a toddler can take all afternoon, for instance, so I suppose there's really not that much need for a plan. . . .
Thank you to everyone who commented about my library post. Your comments were very poignant — so many people have memories of libraries, and so many libraries seemed to have changed. That was so surprising to me. I don't know why. I thought libraries were so immutable! Why would I think that? Newspapers have changed, and I used to think the same of them. Thank you to those of you with information about or offers to take pictures of the River Forest Public Library! I really enjoyed hearing news about it, thank you. I think this summer maybe Amelia and I will do a library tour, and go check out a bunch of the Portland branches and see what they have for us. She's even sort of letting me read my own book everyone once in a while which feels fantastic. Right now I still have Sometimes a Great Notion, Brideshead Revisited, and Canada by Richard Ford in my backpack. Those all seem too hard, don't they? I don't know what I want. But I think it should be lighter than these. There's a reason they call 'em "beach reads," right? (Not these, I mean — the other ones I don't actually have. . . .) Because it's hot in the summer and you need something light. I think I want something funny. . . .
Playing with Phyllis Mouse and a Calico Critters' cottage. Phyllis is wearing Juniper's boots. Amelia is exactly two and a half. I don't want to forget what this time is like. How she can take Phyllis out of her high chair and put her back in twenty times, and I'm fascinated. How she's starting to talk in pretend voices, especially the floaty, high, very sweet voice, with a lisp (that's not pretend), doing dialogue for her animals and objects, sometimes so softly I can't hear what she's saying. How she can keep herself occupied now for long stretches with the smallest of things, without needing anyone else's attention. How she loves her routines, and talks about the things she regularly does when she's not doing them (for instance, talking at length about going to the museum when she's taking a bath). How amazing her memory is, and her eye; encountering any new thing that reminds her of something she already knows makes her exclaim it with delight. How sweet she is, putting her animals to bed under pieces of Kleenex, with blocks for pillows, kissing their noses and saying, "Good night, I love you, sweet dreams." Oh, oh. I love you, girl. I love you so much.
I just finished a hilarious book: Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe. My gosh. I laughed out loud while reading the dialogue so many times I lost track. So deadpan. No plot. Lots of swearing (be warned!). Totally prosaic details of everyday life. I loved it. Now reading The Swan Thieves, which my mom gave me for my birthday. I didn't read any of the reviews or blurbs or even the back cover (sometimes I just like to read from cover to cover without knowing even one word of the summary, so I have no expectations), so I can't really tell you about it yet, but I'm 165 pages in. It's a little dark, and a little slow, but I'm sticking with it. Have you read it? I do love nanny novels. I've read several: The Country Life (super weird, I loved it), The Diary of an American Au Pair (terrible title — apparently the original title was Do Try to Speak as We Do, which I think is waaaaay, better, personally; however, I loved this book and have read it several times), The Nanny Diaries (not so much, kind of depressing). Wait, what other nanny novels are there? I feel like I've read others I just can't remember. I love the genre.
Dearest Ginny and Grace are having a stitch-along for My Sweetiepie sampler! Please join them if you want to stitch along and post progress photos on Flickr and Instagram. I actually got a little teary-eyed last night when I read Ginny's post and the sweet comments, and then read some sweet emails I received after people started getting their kits in the mail. I can't even really explain why, just so many things. I always feel like crying after I put something new out there and someone says something nice about it. Thank you, ladies. You made my day, truly. Xoxo
Don't you just love this picture of Joni Mitchell at her house in Laurel Canyon (1970)?
"At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds. It had a smell of eucalyptus, and in the spring, which was the rainy season then, a lot of wildflowers would spring up."
Photo (by Henry Diltz) from an article in last month's Vanity Fair, the only magazine I seem to read every month, my grocery-store guilty pleasure, along with Harry's chocolate pudding and already-cut-up cantaloupe. I've been dabbing the house with eucalyptus oil every other day now and listening to Blue.
Afternoon at the river, which we had (gloriously) all to ourselves, until Amelia said, "Home!" and put on her own shoes and started walking by herself across the sand back toward the car :: Dark storms and ruby-glowing dogwood trees :: Andy-made chocolate chip cookies from this recipe, and they were indeed very good (Denise's suggestion — thank you, Denise!) :: A rhubarb pie from this recipe, which is delicious (if you like goo, which I do) :: A spinach souffle from this recipe which I thought was just . . . meh (needs more spinach, less egg, in my opinion) :: A chocolate cake from this recipe (which has replaced Hershey's Deep Dark for me — this one is better, and you can let the kiddos lick the spatula because, no eggs [irony]!) and our favorite frosting :: Cake baked by me and decorated by Meems (which made Andy laugh his head off when he got home and saw it) :: An attempt to take a photo of the vest, of which I am already knitting another, as this thing is just what I've been wanting :: Going out to get a columbine plant, a dozen more eggs to bring to the Easter egg hunt tomorrow, and Thai food for lunch with my dearest, darling, sweetest, most wonderfully wonderful girl.
Wishing you all a truly joyful weekend filled with love and springtime things! Xoxoxoxo
Last week, those trees in the photo above were covered in blossoms. Only last week. Already, now, they are spattered in spring green, and growing leaves by the day. Spring is both fast and slow. In Oregon, sometimes spring lasts well into June. That's the perfect spring, as far as I'm concerned, one that hits with a bang in February but lasts until June. Yes, please!
I've had a stressful week, filled with lots of little and large stresses and struggles, mostly in my own mind and of my own making. Ahhhh, modern life, you challenge me. Some days, especially the lovely rainy ones, I'd like to lay on the sofa and watch Outlander all day (though, wow, it's so intense, isn't it? I think it is). I feel quite certain I could do that, maybe alternating with episodes of Kipper the dog, all day. There's no such chance, but I bet you I could. I'd knit, like, 50,000 yards of worsted weight into tiny toddler vests for my boo and feel quite satisfied in every way.
The majority of my creative energy has been put into knitting versions of this pattern until I get the one I like. I made longer shoulders, knit the wrapped stitches (after all the short rows) on the wrong side so that I could get two mirror-image halves, joined them in the back before picking up the rest of the stitches to go up the back, then cast off the neck edge and made little back shoulder straps. None of which is yet pictured here, but I'm just saying. I'll show you when I get a picture of it. It worked. I've been wanting something like this for Meems for spring. Now if I can just get her to wear it. She calls all of her sweaters and knitwear her "fuzzies." Sweet love!
The slide picture (note pine cone being hurled) and the Mt. Hood picture (taken from work — he sends me these almost every morning) are all by Andy and his iPhone. He is amazing with that thing, seriously. He is amazing, period.
***She put almost every single thing that was on the stove and on the shelves into the oven or down the sink hole.
***The teddy is mine, from when I was her age. :)
Oh, apple trees! My favorite of the flowering trees. So humble and sweet and pretty. And their scent. My gosh, I love them.
I made a pillow and a pizza and more dresses. Thank you so much for all of the zipper advice! I tried what sounded like the easiest thing, and sewed straight down both sides from top to bottom (instead of going down one size, across the bottom, pivoting and coming up the other side) and it worked perfectly! Yippee. That was nice! Thanks! From left to right I used Simplicity 6713, c. 1966, and added a few inches to the length (fabric from JoAnn's); McCall's 8152, c. 1965 (fabric is Liberty Tana Lawn Mae [D]); and McCall's 9525, c. 1968, and added 12" to width of the front skirt, and 6" to each of the back panels, as well (fabric is from Mill End Store). These are rainy-day dresses, things you would wear at Bloomsbury while pressing flowers gathered in the bluebell woods. I soooooo enjoy sewing for my boo. I can't stop.
It's been raining here a bit, and I have been happy. The gardens are just exploding. Everything is fresh and fragrant and frothing with green. Our walks are filled with rainbursts and wild rambles, just to stay outside for longer. The sky the other night was so dramatic, with layers of cloud and light and dark. When I look out the windows in the early evenings, everything glows with bloom and late light.
Slowly but surely, My Sweetiepie ABCs sampler kits are coming together. The materials are finally starting to come in (it takes forever for this stuff to come in). The fabric has arrived in Wisconsin and is being folded. The embroidery floss is on its way, and then will get pulled (all 79 strands per kit, egads). I'm just finishing up the pattern, then that will go to the printer. More on all of this in a couple of weeks, when we're closer to being finished and ready to put them in the shop. I'm ridiculously excited. Oh I love seeing a plan come together. It's kind of thrilling, honestly.
***Oooops, forgot to link to the pizza — it's here, and I added some fresh mozzarella this time, too. Got a bit soppy, but if you let it stand for a few minutes, it's still very delicious.
Although the temperature has been getting into the seventies regularly, you can tell it's still late wintertime in the woods. There's a silver haze on the green. It feels quiet, and a little empty, and a little chilly in the shade. Everything is delicate and spare. She prances and chirps. She lies down and looks around. Thursday afternoon, March 5: We have nowhere to be, nowhere else to go but all the way around the evergreen loop. Few people are here now, this early in the season, but this is Hoyt Arboretum, in the heart of the city, and it's a popular place. Sometimes I long for a little piece of land of our own, away from the sounds of traffic and other people, where we could spread a blanket, build a fort, make fairy houses, read in a patch of sunlight, make a fire when it gets cold. But there's something so precious about this preserve, and so sweet about its convenience, just across town. Birds are so easy to hear right now — no leaves on the trees to muffle their excited trill — and so are other things. What's that noise? She halts and gasps and asks dramatically, several times a day. What's that noise? An airplane, a bird, a tiny stream gurgling through a culvert. A far-off truck, a motorcycle, a leaf blower doing its work in the neighborhood just around the bend. There are so many things to hear in the urban woods. What a beautiful city we live in! What a beautiful state. Yesterday I drove home from the children's museum while she slept, tired from her play. Weaving for a couple of miles through these same woods, past the garden, past the playground, past the flowering trees and the view of the city below, I couldn't drive slowly enough, listening to her breathe softly behind me in the back seat, paint on her face, roses in her cheeks. Down the hill, through downtown, over the bridge, back to the house. What a commute. Let it be long, and slow. My favorite season has arrived.
She doesn't walk through the woods as much as careen. Chattering and singing, running, spinning, flinging rocks into the water. She lies down in the middle of the trail. A woman walks by and says, "She's grounding! I get it." Within seconds, she's up and running around the bend, or headed across a bridge, or doing an arabesque. The morning is so beautiful it takes my breath away. White sunlight through delicate trees. Soft carpet of faded duff. A chilly, mellow gurgle from the creek. The ravine is only barely awake, a sleepy, pale-green tangle, every slender branch just beginning to fuzz and froth. Listen, baby: Do you hear the birds? "Ooooooh, yes," she says, squatting to hear them better. "Tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet."
Portland Audubon Society; Sunday morning, March 1, 2015.
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!
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
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.