Posts filed in: Baking and Cooking

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.

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. . . .

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. . . .

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.

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.