Posts filed in: Baking and Cooking

Middle of June

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The apples on our Cox's Orange Pippin apple tree are already turning red. I'm not sure if that's normal, for mid-June, but it seems early. The weather this week has been blissfully cloudy, cool, rainy, and it even hailed yesterday, but the weekend should heat up in time for swimming lessons to start next week. Amelia is excited, and practices "swimming" circles around the living room, showing me how she will blow bubbles and paddle and put her face into the water like a big girl when she gets there. This age, oh man. It is just awesome. It is busy. It is mercurial. But it is fantastic. There's just so much going on for her right now as she gains independence and confidence and grows in physical and emotional ways. When she's angry, she stomps her foot as if trying to freeze the entire kingdom (thanks, Elsa) and her fury truly blazes, hot and sure. When's she's cuddly she'll wrap every long limb around me and tuck her face deep into my neck, or put her hands on my cheeks and look into my eyes. When she's sweet, she tilts her head to the side and talks to her stuffed animals in the sweetest little mommy voice, explaining things patiently and patting heads and tummies with reassurance. When she's silly she squeals and launches herself in wild arcs around the king-size bed, flopping and jumping and bucking and kicking, trying to reach the mobile with her feet. She's very tall for her age, I think, taller than the other kids who were exactly her size when they all started playschool together last fall. Every week we measure her against the yard stick at the library, and she's grown four inches since her third birthday, eight months ago. My sunflower, stretching and swinging and singing for the sun, sweet and big and brave and true.

I made honey/garlic/butter/coconut milk shrimp for dinner, and it was delicious. I made a couple of pairs of baby-doll pajamas (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5562, c. 1982) and a couple of shirts (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5757, c. 1964) and a couple of skirts (from vintage McCall's pattern #7882, c. 1982). I made plans for a birthday dress (vintage McCall's #2661, c. 1970) and ordered some beautiful Tana Lawn (Michelle, in Blue) for it. I finally started knitting a present for a friend (more about that later). I think I may have resolved to give away almost my entire yarn stash. I feel like it's just holding me back somehow, and I can't really explain that, because it's not that big, and I did feel like I was making a good-sized dent in it this past year. But there's just something about it that isn't helping me anymore. Maybe it can help someone else. I feel like my palette and my fiber preferences have changed, and my stash is reflecting a me that was, and not the me that is. I don't even want to have a stash at all, in fact.

Weekend Ways

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Thank you ever so much for all of the kind comments about 'Night, Neighborhood and for all of the orders for the kit and pattern. Thank you, thank you. I am so thrilled that people are excited about this and can't wait to see how everyone gets on with this one. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and I think you will. I have some things to tell you about cross stitch in general and I'm going to work on a post about that soon, one that answers some questions that non-cross-stitchers might have about getting started, and some general information about stitch counts, fabrics, flosses, etc. For now, I believe all of the orders that came in last week have shipped, and we will ship everything that came in between Friday and today on Wednesday. A huge thank-you also to my intrepid assistant, Stacey. She single-handedly pulled all the floss for this kit, and packaged it, and assembled every kit itself, and processed and shipped every single order. I don't have that much time to work these days, so I concentrate solely on design and stitching and pattern writing and printing, and she does all of the hands-on work of managing our floss inventory, pulling all of the floss, all of the assembly of all of the kits, and then all the processing and shipping of orders every day. It's a pretty good system we have going, and I'm so grateful for her careful, diligent, tireless help. She'll be working on the grape harvest at the end of this summer and I won't have her help for about four months during harvest season this year (August through November), but we're hoping to get a Christmas kit happening here soon, hopefully ready by September.

I sewed a bit for Amelia yesterday, a couple of pairs of babydoll pajamas and two little swingy skirts. I will take photos and give details when I can find them all (flung, right now, all over the house). I had wanted to make her a dress for the Midsummer Festival at Oaks Park this year but I found the golden stripey one at the Hanna Andersson outlet for 40% off and it just seemed perfect. We had a nice day there, although it was a bit chilly! I'm not complaining, but it was chilly. So many hard things going on in the world; our hearts are breaking for the city of Orlando, and the LGBT community, and all people who love freedom and pursue the right to gather — and dance — in public everywhere. Have courage, have courage, spread love. My heart feels weary today. I sew and think and pray.

Sweet treats: my homemade vanilla ice cream, and a peach cobbler. I doubled the biscuity topping (for some reason, I had a box of Bisquik and I thought I'd try to use it up), which I don't necessarily recommend. It's also quite clear I have absolutely no idea how to slice fresh peaches — well, get the peach part off the pit, specifically? I truly mangled these babies, and that just wasn't pleasant. I looked at some directions on the internet that said cut it in half and twist one half off of the pit, but there was absolutely no way mine was going to come off the pit. . . . Oh well, it was still pretty delicious! Tonight we will have our new standby — the chili-lime chicken tacos with the Mexican street corn salad (links in this post). This is just too good, and it goes on the table about once a week, now.

Andy's home, and he's planning some fun activities with Meems for the day. It's cold and raining again, and I'm going to enjoy that — ride my bike out to get some lunch, read my new library book (Us by David Nichols) by myself, make some tea and sew. I don't get a lot of days like this, so I am a little excited. I try to soak it all up, and wait for my loves to get home.

Summer Starting

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Andy had a birthday over the holiday weekend and it was one of the nicest ever, I think. We went up to Multnomah Falls for lunch, which has become sort of a birthday tradition in our family. It was crawling with people (on a Saturday, in May — of course) but it's still a beautiful place and a nice lunch. Andy and our brother-in-law went to see a band on Saturday night, then Michael spent the night. I made homemade dirty-chai cinnamon rolls with this recipe for the rolls and using this filling and glaze and, oh my. Ridiculously decadent and the perfect treat for a birthday morning. We had lunch at Por Que No and then I baked a cake in the afternoon. Amelia and her friends had an almost-sleepover down the block on Sunday night while all of us parents barbecued in the backyard. We were all home by 9:00 p.m. and sleeping within the hour! Har! But happy birthday, my love. Forty-five looks very good on you, dear papa bear!

This week we're putting the finishing touches on the 'Night, Neighborhood kit, and I am thrilled about this. The floss is almost all pulled and the fabric is here. The patterns arrive tomorrow, and I am nervous; I used a new printer this time, and I'm hoping everything looks good. If it does, we'll put kits on sale next week. It's a weird time of year to launch a new product, but it just worked out this way, and this one has such a summery feel I actually think it'll be perfect. If you are looking for a good project this summer, stay tuned. I will talk a lot about this one next week. I'm so happy with how it all turned out.

Today, oh glory be, it's rainy and cool. Birds are singing, Mimi's about to take a bath, and then we'll go to the grocery store and make some kind of pasta tonight (I'm thinking bacon, chicken, and mushrooms, since it feels like fall). I have a stack of library books it would be lovely to crack. Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Ikea, playing house in the fake kitchens and living rooms for hours (I was the baby and she was the mommy), finishing the day with a fruit bowl, chocolate cake, and a cup of coffee for mum in the cafe. Highly recommend.

***Sorry I forgot the links to the cinnamon roll recipes — all fixed now. And for those who asked, those are just rock pies in the tins above. :)

Buds and Birds

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Grandma Paulson was visiting all last week, and Mimi had an absolutely wonderful time playing with her grandma pretty much non-stop. She also had her last day of her lovely, wonderful playschool, wrapping up two years of this perfect experience that fills me with emotion. She has grown and changed and thrived there in every way. For an only child (in our family at least; thankfully she has three birthsiblings that she knows and loves and sees often, but obviously they don't live with her), having friends to play with, talk to, learn with, walk with, fight with, make up with, laugh with, and share her days among is invaluable. I'm so grateful for our time there. I'm excited for next year (she's going to a pre-school in the neighborhood, and her friends, only one of which is a close neighbor, are going elsewhere), but I will miss these sweet days. (I will also miss the free eight hours a week they afforded me when I don't have them this summer, but that's another story.)

The weather has alternated cold and rainy with only mildly cold and rainy. I haven't spent too much time reading in my Adirondack chairs, but when I have been out there I've been nothing short of enchanted by all the little birds that are coming to our new bird feeder — a suet feeder that keeps squirrels and bigger birds out. Black-oil sunflower seed got spilled on the porch recently and not cleaned up; the squirrels went absolutely mental after they ate it all, and attacked the plastic milk jug we've used for years to fill the feeders, and destroyed the cap to the jug, and threw the jug across the yard and down the stairs to the sidewalk, and then threw the two empty feeders off of the trees, and completely destroyed the squirrel-proof one (I have two seed feeders — one is squirrel-proof, and one is just for the squirrels) by shredding the plastic tube inside and losing half of the parts. ANNOYING. Anyway, when I went to the store to get a new squirrel-proof seed feeder, I also got the new squirrel-proof suet feeder for the smaller birds. And now we have the sweetest little bushtits and chickadees. We've always had a lot of very friendly hummingbirds. Andy told me my red feeder (not squirrel-proof) was down on the sidewalk again this morning. Hrmmmm. Obnoxious. One squirrel sits on the fence and stares at me and thwacks his tail with fury the whole time I'm out there reading. He's quite annoyed that I'm in his yard, apparently.

My roses, good lord. Too bad I can't remember what they're called. I have two different bushes and they have been nothing short of fairy-tale quality this year, I do say.

I made a barbecue-chicken chopped salad like California Pizza Kitchen's from this recipe, but I used this chili-lime chicken that I've been making about once a week since I discovered the recipe. The salad tasted EXACTLY like CPK's. Exactly. It was awesome. Andy ate it (standing, still in scrubs, watching ESPN) when he came home from work.

Him, shouting from kitchen: "This is good!"
Me, shouting from living room: "I know, it's the jicama."
Him, mouth full: "The WHAT?!?!?"

Pfffft. I used the chicken on another night to make chicken tacos with this Mexican street corn salad, a vaguely unappetizing picture of which is up there, but I assure you, oh man, it was crazy good. So, chili-lime chicken, soft tortillas, corn salad, Spanish rice (from a box, I think it was Zatarain's). Boom.

Up there as well, Molly's Granola #5, the only one I'll eat anymore, originally gifted to me by the lovely Andrea for Christmas and which I've made several times since. I use cashews, sometimes almonds, and sweetened coconut. Very, very excellent granola. Simple and plain and toasty.

And then, magic custard cake. When I made this last summer, it occurred to me that it is exactly what I always want a clafoutis to be, but never is. So yesterday morning I pitted a bunch of cherries and added them to the bottom of the pan before I poured the batter in. It worked perfectly, though next time I would use more cherries, and actually more sugar. The cherries were seriously tart, and the cake just needs to be sweeter. Maybe a pinch of salt, too. This cake is really cool. It's a little bit of work, with beating the egg whites and all, but I've never seen anything like this before, and it is really delicate and delicious.

This week, ah . . . this week. I have a whole day — today — to myself. I'm sending the 'Night, Neighborhood cross stitch pattern off to the printer. Stacey's going to start pulling the floss tomorrow. The fabric should be arriving any day. This one has taken a while because I just have so many things going on at home right now. It's almost done, we just have to get it together around here. Things are a little rough around the edges. I could use a whole day to start smoothing them out. I'll be back soon.

***It's shaving-cream paint, to play with in the bath tub :).

***The upholstered dollhouse furniture was a long-ago sweet gift from Leigh. Thank you for that, Leigh. Meems set up this Calico Critter phalanx herself. Xox

Glorious Greening

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Oh, busy bees! Parties and family and friends and here, there, everywhere. We had such a nice Birthmother's Day party at our house on Saturday, went to my sister's for a nephew birthday/Mother's Day party on Sunday, and then out to my other sister's (glorious) place on the creek on Monday. I have so much to say but no time, it seems, to say it right now. I'm playing Twister, my hands and feet pointing in every possible direction as I contort and balance. I'll leave you with a delicious coconut cream pie recipe (and the cake is my old Cloudburst standby here, though I use this recipe for my chocolate cake now; make two of them for a double layer). Late spring. My goodness. Time whirls around me. Blur and wonder.

Sugar Pie

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I've been sort of a slug lately. Sitting a lot, weaving a lot, reading a lot. Subtext there is, of course, that every other moment, indeed almost every single waking moment, is spent toddler wrangling. Motherhood is so physical. I really underestimated that. The moment she is occupied elsewhere or sleeping, I go careening across the house and onto my sofa and start gulping big, deep breaths of air. Eventually, trance-like, I start to weave until I'm less windblown and catatonic. Honestly, I feel like around 4:00 p.m. there should be people standing on the sidelines with Gatorade, offering to empty water bottles over my head as I keep picking up my feet and putting 'em back down until bedtime. The minute I get to sit, I sink. Only my hands have energy. Occasionally I read books, usually while eating. I take Amelia to the library just about once a week. We get as many as I can carry in my basket to the car; we usually park quite a ways away and linger on the way there. I have truly loved the freedom of reading library books again, not just for Mimi but for me. My choices are seriously random: whatever's facing out; whatever doesn't seem like it will be too sad, or too hard, or too serious. I loved Oh! You Pretty Things (which reminded me, in a weird way, of If You Follow Me, which I also loved). Currently reading Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse. I honestly hadn't been to the library in years, mostly because I am such a slow reader, and I couldn't get my books back on time, and I always wound up paying for them anyway, and it just wasn't convenient, somehow. But with a little kid it's totally different, of course, and although I do have to pick out my books very, very quickly, I am enjoying the complete freedom of choosing books by their covers, without reviews, and without the risk of spending money on something I won't want anyway.

Weaving #2: The one with the pink tassels. Inspired by Marianne Moodie, Erin Barrett, Rachel Denbow. I'm just making stuff up as I go along. Talk about noncommittal — you just add things on the fly and if you don't like them, you take them out, no prob. Teaching myself to do some shapes, some beads, a little bit of bling (gold embroidery floss). I have all of this yarn in my stash, so many small skeins, none of it really enough to actually knit anything besides something striped, and then, you know, gauge, care (washable? non-washable?), fiber content, etc. Weaving does not make me think about these things.

Weaving #3: Sheep in the Fields. I just had an idea and I wanted to see if it would work, and it did (meaning, it came out pretty much just like I was hoping). You build up curves by doing short rows (knitters know the term). I like this one.

Weaving #4, on the loom: Tiny Houses. I was so inspired by the pictorial weavings of Kayo here. I mean, look at this one! Isn't that smashing? Apparently, you draw on the warp to get your shapes. I didn't do that — I just started weaving with no plan, and I put some houses in, then I put some path in, then some background. I have no idea if that's how you're supposed to do it. But it's working for me, post-toddler-catatonia. Excited to finish this one. It has taking the longest of the three because it's all done with the needle, and not with the shed or shuttle. See how I threw a weaving word in there. Don't ask me to define, I'll get them wrong. But I know 'em when I sees 'em.

I actually wanted to do a little village in cross stitch. Maybe I still will. That would require some attention to detail that I will have to unwillingly muster, and is unlikely to happen in the near future, though I'm nothing if not craft-capricious, so you never know.

Oh jeez. I forgot to tell you about the pie. Rhubarb custard pie. If you like eggs and sugar and rhubarb, I highly recommend. Meems added "candles" (dried spaghetti) because apparently it was Weaving's birthday (he's four, like Ceiling). Also, sauce: Meat Sauce from Apples for Jam, one of my favorite cookbooks. Do not add the 3 cups of water to this sauce. I've made it that way before and you basically water down a perfectly delicious sauce for absolutely no reason. I added 8 oz. of sliced and sauteed mushrooms to this. You must add salt and pepper while cooking, to taste. Eat over spaghetti with a big blob of ricotta. Amelia asked for more. Thumbs up.

***Teepee poles are just replacement tent poles that Andy put together. I can't remember what we used to use, but probably bamboo stakes? Fabric held on with binder clips. :)

Season Change

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Saturday morning. Cuddles. Chat. It's still dark. We listen to the birds outside. The crow says caw. Caaaaaaw, caaaaaaaw. Amelia tells me that today is Ceiling's birthday. (Ceiling as in "the ceiling.") This is convenient, as we happen to be having a party tonight. I'm planning my dad's chili, potato-leek soup, and a chocolate cake. Our friends bring chips, salads, beer. Amelia decorates the cake (I use my cheater frosting — 2 cups of heavy cream, whipped, with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a box of vanilla instant pudding mixed in; claggy but yummy) with sprinkles, pink hearts, and gold stars. She asks for candles. I forget that it's Ceiling's birthday until she asks for the candles. "How old is Ceiling?" I say. "Four." Ah. But oh, how I love three. Flowers, rain-showers, wet grass. Sunshine. Squabbles. Passion. Planting and playing. She hits her friend square in the forehead with a toy teacup and her friend pulls her hair. Kisses and tears and not sharing and then sharing. Windows open. Trees blooming. Freedom and fresh air. No more high chair, no more baby gates, no more crib. "I'm so proud of you, honey." "I'm so proud of you, Mom." Holding hands while we walk all the way to the grocery store. I pick her a bouquet of grape hyacinths and pansies and she arranges them herself in a tiny vase for her new nightstand. I turn on the fake fireplace in her little room. We can hear the raindrops hitting the window as we read, propped up with pillows in the new bed. There are soft new white sheets, a new quilt, and the softest, squishiest little eiderdown I ever did see. I feather a small, warm nest for my little bird. At the party, everyone sings "Happy Birthday" to Ceiling while Amelia points up, then blows out the candles. I pray for peace in this world.

Rainflowers

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I just finished the quilt! I'm really happy! It's in the wash right now. I can't wait to see it after it's been washed and dried. I backed it with pale mauve-pink double gauze, soft as a cloud. I used cotton-wool-blend batting (I think it was Hobbs). I used a cream-colored fabric with tiny turquoise dots for the binding. I did the binding completely by machine: I used 2 1/4" cross-grain strips, folded in half lengthwise and applied to the front of the quilt sandwich with a 1/4" seam. I wrapped it around to the back and made sure it just covered the seam on from the back, and pinned it perfectly in the ditch, just catching the back edge. I pinned a lot. Then I stitched in the ditch all the way around, catching the back edge, and it worked perfectly. You have to go slowly, and you have to pin a lot, and you have to remember to look at the front edge of your presser foot as you stitch in the ditch — don't watch the needle, watch the groove in the front of the presser foot and make sure it's centered perfectly over the ditch. My stitches were almost imperceptible. The back edge was just barely caught and looked great. I always do my binding by hand on the back, but honestly, this looked so good and saved soooooo much time, and so many hand stitches, I don't know that I'll ever do it by hand again! Well, maybe I will, but not in the near future. This looked really nice. The trick is the pinning exactly in the ditch. If you've pinned in the ditch, and you've caught the back edge, you will catch it when you stitch. Just take your time.

To quilt it, I decided I really wanted it to be as soft and light as possible. I was thinking of tying the whole thing, but again I just didn't want to take the time, as the big-girl bed has been purchased and just needs to be put together. Tying this would've taken too long and I'm just getting more picky about what I want to put my hands through these days — tying is pretty hard on your fingers. So, proud of my ditch-stitching on the binding (and yeah, I bound the edges first; the double-gauze felt a little shreddy and I thought it would be best to get the edges completely enclosed before I started handling it too much), I decided to quilt it by machine-stitching in the ditch around every patch. I just started on one edge and tried to follow it as far as I could. This required pushing a whole bunch of the quilt under the arm several times, so I don't know how this would work on a regular machine on anything bigger than a throw (this quilt measures 55" x 57", and yes, this was a fairly random measurement on my part; I basically just wanted something that would work right now on that little bed, and I didn't want it to be too big that she couldn't curl up under it easily on the sofa after it's too small for the bed; conveniently this just fit on a packaged throw-size batting [60" x 60"], but that was sheer luck, because naturally I don't think about any of these rational things beforehand, good grief) but it worked out just fine on my machine. Anyway, I just kept  stitching seams, backstitching a bit when I would hit a dead end, and then starting over. The batting package said I had to stitch it at most 4" apart, which is pretty tight. On the bigger patches I added a few ties.

I daresay I've never enjoyed making anything more! A lady at Fabric Depot once said to me that the best quilts are fast, fun, and finished, and this one certainly was that. I'll be hard-pressed to ever do a quilt another way, honestly!

I'll take more close-up pictures once we get the bed set up. That's going to require the whole room being rearranged so it may not be until next week.

***Oh, oh — and for those who have asked, some details about my crocheted blanket (also for Meems's new bed) are here (and I think that stitch is called the harlequin stitch, maybe?), and the bloomers pattern I used was Style pattern #3206 from 1980.

Rainbow Bright

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I've been busy with some fabric and some bloomers and some dresses. Now at least Amelia has something to wear. I definitely don't. I should probably make something for myself one of these days. Instead I made honey-mustard chicken and rosemary potatoes, which was very good. Loving that whole put-the-skillet-in-the-oven thing. Finally I'm getting to the chicken!

After I sewed several things, there literally was no more room in the scrap basket. The scrap basket is enormous. It's about two feet tall and two feet in diameter, I think. I've had it in my office for . . . sixteen years now. Both Bridget and Violet used to sleep in the scrap basket when it wasn't overflowing. Once I started pulling scraps out of it I swear it was like one of those vacuum-packed storage bags, and it basically expanded to about twice its volume once the pressure was lifted. Slightly appalling. I threw half of it on the floor and started pulling out only the scraps I wanted for a new quilt (which I didn't plan to make until one second before — yet another SQMI [Spontaneous Quilt-Making Incident] — I can't count how many I've had now — I'm just wild like that I guess). I stood at the (newly lifted with bed risers) cutting table and ironing board and pressed and rotary-cut a big pile of scraps into rectangles. I had no specific sizes — I just cut everything into the biggest rectangle that I could get out of the crazy-cut scrap. When I had a big pile, I started sewing pieces together a lot like you do with log cabin blocks — I'd stitch one piece to another, then trim the longer one right at the sewing machine with a pair of scissors. When I had a few pieces put together, I'd press it and then trim it into another rectangle with the rotary cutter. It was amazing how out-of-square the "block" would get after a few seams. But I'd just keep squaring it a bit. Eventually, I had four or five big patched rectangles and then I stitched those together to make a long strip. I did all of this in an afternoon while my sister was standing in the studio talking with me. I was barely paying attention to what I was doing, and there's a lesson for me. I like this as much as any quilt I've ever made (so far). Not sure if it will be smallish, for Amelia's pending big-girl bed or really enormous, for our king-size bed. The last time I made one for that bed was four years ago (named, I was delighted and surprised to see — I didn't remember this! — the Spring Rain quilt). That was epic. It's a pretty cool feeling to make a quilt out of only scraps. Our foremothers would be laughing at that statement, I know.

Rings of Spring

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* * *  T H A N K   Y O U,   E V E R Y B O D Y ! ! ! * * *

Thank you, thank you for all of your orders and kind words about the new spring things.
I am so so so happy that you are excited about these. They have been a lot of fun for me to design!
If you ordered Spring Rings before last Friday, your packages are in the mail.
We are still waiting for yarn to arrive to ship yarn packs, but it should be here any day.
Thank you again for your support. It is humbling to watch orders come in, and I feel so incredibly blessed every single time.
Thank you! XOXO

Ah, and spring has indeed sprung 'round these parts. I need to look back to see what day our pink plum tree normally blooms, but I think it's a bit early this year. This is the week that it looks nice. The rest of the year I wish it were (almost) any other kind of tree. We have been ridiculously runny-nosed and coughing like one of those old-fashioned car horns that go "Ah-HOOG-a! Ah-HOOOOOG-a!" Just gross. Thank God Stacey's here to do all the work for me. It goes: Amelia gets sick, I get sick, Amelia gets well almost immediately, I stay sick, I take bagfuls of remedies, I wash my hands approximately seventy-five times a day, I continue to be sick, I insist I'm not still sick and am feeling better, I feel worse, Amelia gets sick again, Amelia wipes her runny nose on my face, I feel even worse, Amelia gets better, I shiver on the sofa drinking peppermint tea and beg to be allowed to go to bed at 7:45 p.m., I finally feel better (after a month). Amelia goes, "I'm coughing, just like Mommy." Ah, well. February. Today is the first day in a long time that I have felt really good, and it is thrilling, absolutely thrilling.

I have not had a chance to make ANY of the chicken recipes you provided, though I did make chicken stock from the Silver Palate Cookbook, one of the first cookbooks I ever owned and still love. I also realized that Amelia has almost no clothes that will fit her this spring and summer, and set about pinning a jillion things onto my Pinterest board, and sifting through my patterns, and thinking about color palates (rose-gold, salmon pink, gray sky, minty green, plum blossoms, milky whites, rainy blues), and shapes (peasant, peasant, and more variations on the peasant).

Do you recognize Amelia's navy gingham dress? I cry just now, re-reading that post. It's from almost exactly six years ago. 2010. I had so much time. Actually, I can't even talk about myself as I was then, laid bare, quivering with hope and dreams, sewing for survival (as I had sewn several times before. So I recognized it). I'm moved by what I wrote back then, and I remember it like it was yesterday, remember every dress I made, every fabric I washed, every little piece of rick-rack or eyelet I chose, every pocket I trimmed, every pattern I cut out. Every one of those things kept me believing, even when I wasn't sure (and trust me, I wasn't sure a lot). Occasionally someone would (gently, always gently) criticize a choice I'd made — those buttons up the back look like they'll be uncomfortable when she's strapped into a car seat; that wool's gonna be hell to wash when it's thrown up on — and instead of being hurt I'd be amazed and think, "She [dear commenter!] actually thinks a real kid is going to wear this! She really believes it's going to happen!" And the specifics of the advice only barely registered with me. I would happily wash wool by hand every day, if only a kid would come and barf on it, if only the dream would come true.

Waiting to be chosen to be someone's mother (or father) is a state of being I still don't really have words to describe. Maybe you know it; maybe you can't even imagine. I think all of us adoptive parents probably carry around this same inability to describe the experience. And I would bet that most of us, in the end, wouldn't trade it for the world.

(That's just a guess. It's certainly true for me, though living it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.)

Of course, once it happens — and, oh my, it happens — (and I do pray that it happens for you, I truly, truly do) — the fact that anything just gets washed, somehow, some way, let alone washed by hand (hahahahah!), is the new dream. Those carefully pressed French seams and hand-stitched three-inch hems wind up in the laundry basket along with the milk-covered onesies and the Velcro-closured (gah!!!) sleepsacks and the Old Navy leggings. That you are able to say, while laughing, "Oh, poo! There's barf on the smocking!" and blithely toss a Bishop dress into the washing machine is just one of the great benefits of being a parent who had to cry a few tears into your needlework to get here. I have such tenderness in my heart for all the little dresses now. Watching Amelia wear and then outgrow them fills me with nothing but astonishment, and gratefulness, and pure joy.

That said, sewing for me now is different. I'm still dreamy. I still love it beyond reason. I still love the planning, and the picking, and the thinking, and the sketching. I love going to the fabric store with my girl, and pushing her through the aisles of fabrics, and watching her touch them (and grab them, and pull them off the shelf, etc.). But the sewing itself has to happen like lightning. And although I am a romantic, the actual sewing itself is just all business-practical now. Because they grow out of it all so fast. And, I'm sorry to say this, but the details don't really matter in practice. You gotta do what you like, and skip what you don't like to do. Stuff like buttons? No. I just don't want to do buttons. I don't want to do buttonholes and I don't want to sew on individual buttons. Set-in sleeves. NO. Just, no. I can count the number of gathered, set-in sleeves, in thirty years of sewing, that I have gotten in correctly on the first try on one hand. Zippers? Maybe, but not really. She gets her hair stuck in them anyway. Elastic casings? Meh. Too much work, as well. Snaps? YES. Continuous placket back opening? YES. Ties? Yeah, okay. Self-lined patch pockets? Yep. Raglan sleeves. YES. Elastic stretched and sewn directly above a sleeve hem, and not threaded through a casing? EVERY TIME. Simple, unfitted shapes that let her run and move? Obvs. Saving my energy for those few designs that really make me work for them? Mmmmm, okay. Yeah. Yes. I can do that. Stay tuned. I'm sewing for Meems again.

About Alicia Paulson

About

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

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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.