Posts filed in: Baking and Cooking

Still Summer

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Wah! Here, there, and everywhere. Often in the kitchen. I'm surprised, with all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning, and the broken dishwasher, there's been time to go anywhere, seriously. And yet, I have a moment every single day where I ask myself, "Can what I'm about to do wait until fall?" And if the answer is yes (and it's almost always yes, though I'm so anxious for it), we go back outside. These days. There is so much to do. Andy's two-week vacation starts today, and we are staying home this time. Already, most of the days are accounted for. I picture myself running around a track, knock-kneed, arms flailing wildly; I cross the finish line, and fall dramatically to the ground then do a really fast volleyball roll where I land flat-out on my back, and then someone pours an entire bottle of water directly onto my face — and that's September. I bought Amelia her new yellow raincoat and she put it right on. It's very wishful thinking but we girls can dream. We had one lovely, rainy moment that we watched from the kitchen door and I tell you, no two-hundred-and-fifty raindrops and ten whole minutes were more appreciated in the history of the world.

THANK YOU thank you for all of the party hat kit (and pattern) orders. Thank you!!! Things started slowly but have been rollicking along, and I truly thank you. It's a weird time of year to be launching a new kit, but I have so many plans and projects coming up. I'm sort of just whacking at things and hitting them back over the net. But I'm so excited that these hat kits are out there, and I hope you like making them. I'm already working on stuff for Amelia's birthday in October (that embroidery project above, which will be a quilt, bumped the log cabin out of the queue, and that's now planned for Christmas). I absolutely love where her birthday falls in the year. I think it would be my favorite day of the year anyway, but this is the first special occasion we've ever had that falls in October, and wow, what a treat.

Is this not an insane amount of cooking above? Agreed. And much of it repeated recipes, which I'm finding is, as you mentioned, the way to go. I'm ridiculously happy with how this is all going. Above please find blueberry custard pie (without the streusel this time and just a sprinkle of demerara sugar; much improved, in my opinion), chicken with peanut sauce and ginger rice (and steamed broccoli; and I have made a LOT of peanut sauces, and this one is my favorite by far), Sarah's quinoa salad with tequila shrimp added, my dad's Chili Lobo, and another round of blackened fish tacos (which I now make regularly, baking the tilapia in parchment paper at 400 degrees F for twenty minutes, and serve with my dad's coleslaw, avocado, and mango). Amelia and we are in negotiations for a big-girl chair, so she can sit at the table and not be in the high chair. I have mixed feelings about this, as it will change dinnertime from what is now a pretty relaxing scene (because she is fully restrained in her high chair, and seems rather content to be once she is actually in it) to one where she constantly wants to leave the table (cue ensuing negotiations, etc.). She may be ready but I'm not sure I am. Especially with all this 4:00 p.m. cooking, I really can't even express how much I love collapsing into my chair for dinner knowing that she's happily strapped in, unable to destroy anything else. We successfully negotiated the stop-throwing-your-dishes thing (which was a big problem here); I used my Parental Reverse Psychology on her (yay!) and bought a bunch of Very Fancy china salad plates and bowls at Goodwill ($1 a piece, cheaper than plastic, quite frankly), explaining that she now had her own set of Very Fancy Dishes and needed to take care of them, and could not throw them, drop them, fling them, or otherwise. Weirdly, this totally worked. She carries them in to me after dinner as if walking a petri dish across a crowded lab — very, very carefully (she assures me). I make a big deal over this, and she is proud. And I am so proud of her. Any advice for the chair?

Also, yes, I should advise you that I intend to fully embrace the whole toddler bento phenomenon when she starts playschool two mornings (including lunch) a week next month. Whaaaaaa? What is happening here?!?! How have I never heard of such a thing? It's too adorable. I'll now be spending approximately all of my free time in the kitchen cutting stars out of cantaloupe and piercing hotdog bites with dry spaghetti. I can't wait.

***Garter scarf to go with new toddler raincoat. Not at all impressed with my edges or weaving in of ends. May rethink concept, or actually Google proper way of doing this. Go through back loop on first stitch? You can't slip it, when changing colors? . . .

***Her coat is from here.

Sun Shines

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We've had a week of perfect weather. It's incredible, just incredible, how much easier, happier, and sweeter it makes everything. Today it's perfectly sunny, with a slight breeze blowing. Birds are singing. The sprinkler's waving. I feel as if I can think. The other day Andy and Amelia were out and I was sitting in the yard with the sprinkler going. It was spraying just inches from where I sat reading, in the middle of the day, which I usually never let it (or myself, for that matter) do. Within ten minutes, I had four hummingbirds playing in the sprinkler, just feet away from me. I could actually hear their wings buzzing. It was amazing. And then, all of a sudden there were about a dozen little chickadees or finches (I don't even know) playing in the magnolia tree (just a few feet away in the other direction) that was getting wet from the sprinkler. The little birds were all taking showers in the wet leaves, and just singing and singing. It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me. I felt like Snow White. It only lasted about fifteen minutes but I had the biggest smile on my face the whole time. I dared not move a muscle. It was just so wonderful.

Have you heard of Magic Custard Cake? This thing is really quite amazing! It's kind of like a giant Dutch baby pancake. Or what I always wish clafoutis was but it never is. Try it. I thought it was absolutely perfect. I really like this kind of plain, custardy-type stuff so much. Plus, it's magic (you'll see!), so that's cool.

Party hat kits won't be ready this week. Wah. My fault. I need to reprint one of the pages of the pattern and will send that back to the printer tomorrow. But that's the only thing that's holding us up, so I'm thinking we can put the kits on sale next week, and I will let you know the details on Monday. So sorry about that. I have lots of things to tell you about shop-wise, so I will put together my thoughts about all that very soon! It's been hard to think but, as mentioned, it seems to be getting easier.

Munch, munch. Try this banana bread from Nigella, too. I have it in her How to Be a Domestic Goddess cookbook, but I can only find this one in metric online. You'll have to translate it. It's incredibly moist. I made two loaves and shared one at a play date and we're still eating the other one, two days later, and it's just as good as it was the same morning I baked it. Andy made this chicken tikka masala for us and it is one of my favorite dinners (and again, you have to change the salt amount recommended if you make this recipe — it's insane; we use 1 teaspoon wherever they call for FOUR).

Meems and I are going to have a lazy day today. Thrifting, grocery store, picnic in the yard, maybe another mango milkshake for dessert. This weather. What a blessing. I wish you a truly wonderful weekend! xoxo

***No, that's neither my nor Andy's tattoo; it's my mom's. 'Cause she's cool like that.


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August. Dry and irritated and fragile with longing. I was in the back yard this morning, shuffling like a shaggy bear through dead leaves, pawing my way through gossamer cobwebs connecting every object in a fine lace of shimmering silk threads. Everything is so, so dry. Everything is in the wrong place; the chairs are all at odd angles, the table tilted and shoved. There are overturned pots on the patio, toys filled with dust and dirt, broken saucers, sizzled stalks, lanky flowers. Two dirty washcloths left outside for weeks. Cups crusty with the remains of juice. Crushed sidewalk chalk, colorless leaves, apples fallen with wormholes the size of pennies. The hydrangeas, of which there are many and of which half are so parched they are dying, are dramatic in their need for attention, and still they suffer from my neglect. Some of them have some kind of bug that wraps itself in a little white pod, and slowly sucks. Some, the ones that climb the walls, are covered from head to toe in the sepia-brown remains of their once-white flowers, a wall of sepia-brown. Things have been let go. Once they start to go, my instinct is to flee. If only some water would fall from the actual sky! To the river we go.

Amelia has begun a new phase; I hold my breath while thinking this. It seems that she can now play by herself for long stretches, her own imagination occupying her for hours, in fact, especially at the rivers. Who knew this would happen? Everybody? Not me. She's still pretty much playing parallel to other children that are around, but she likes to be near them, easily sharing her toys and easily asking to use others', interested in what the bigger kids are doing, very concerned if any of the littles cry. But these stretches of play are suddenly so much longer, so much more interesting to her, so much more involved. I watch in fascinated admiration, listening to her made-up voices and made-up conversations between rocks and cups, sticks and sand. She squats and stirs and talks and trills. I sit half-deep in the cold river and try to breathe as deeply as I can. It's been years since I was able to sit for a long stretch, and it turns out you don't forget how. My whole body sinks with relief, warming a thin layer of water around me. I don't move at all, just let the green water run slowly past me, downstream, away from the sun. The most beautiful day in the world, right here.

There have been clouds. Some. I sang a rain song and she asked to put on her rainbow coat. There was no rain. But there could have been. I felt it. Sweet promise. These pictures are mostly from the front yard, which has benefitted from the sprinkler and some of my capricious attention. Andy's taking Amelia to the museum and making dinner (Indian) tonight. Today I'm staying home. I just want to be here, clipping hydrangeas and dragging the hose from place to place. I think it will be really nice when they get back.

For your dinner, might I recommend a fish sammie, or some yum woon sen?

Down Home

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So, naturally, all we ever do is eat now, with occasional trips to some kind of water and some kind of summer reading. NOT BAD.

It's very good.

There has been: Homemade pizza dough and sauce from one of my all-time-favorite cookbooks, The River Cottage Family Cookbook; another very excellent pasta dish with prosciutto and peas from Barilla; possibly the best pork carnitas tacos I have ever had, let alone made — done in the SLOW COOKER, to boot! My history with the slow cooker basically sucks (you might remember the Alicia-slow-cooker-disasters of a few years ago), but I'm not kidding — this stuff was beyond good. I did everything exactly how that recipe said, and served the tacos with really good thick, home-style tortillas (can't remember the brand, but I think they're new, they have cursive writing on the package), minced red onion, diced avocado, diced mango, and a few blobs of sour cream (go for Wallaby, if you can find it, oh my). Squeeze of fresh lime over all. My gosh. Reason alone not to take the slow cooker to Goodwill.

I've been so lucky with my recipes lately. I also made this blueberry custard pie. It was delicious, though a bit heavy on the streusel topping for my taste. Next time I make it I might even leave that off; it looked so gorgeous when I took it out of the oven to put the streusel on (you bake it for twenty minutes before to put the streusel on) I almost didn't add it. It kind of overpowered the more delicate custard and blueberry flavors, for me. But still, seriously not complaining, it was very good. And some of those blueberries came from our little bush.

I got a huge stack of young-adult library books for myself from our downtown library the other day. They have a ton of vintage books in the children's department. I actually had, like, a bit of an emotional moment back there. It's just trippy to see these actual copies of books I read as a kid in the 70s and 80s. They have tons of them! I've never thought too much about time travel before, but I think I just did it. . . .

I have so many library books checked out right now it's just silly. Meems and I have gone to a different branch every other week or so this summer. We've hit Belmont, Hollywood, Woodstock, NW 23rd, North Portland, and Central (downtown). Central is my favorite so far. Mimi's still a little too young — she prefers playing with the toys there, or pulling all of those plastic alphabet separator things off of the shelves, or just pulling books off the shelves and throwing them on the floor in general. Or pulling the special library tape off of the special library-book dust jackets. I've had to ask a couple of librarians to give her a little speech about not damaging the books and she takes that very seriously. When she forgets and starts to pull the tape off a cover at home I say, "Remember what The Lady said about not pulling off the covers of the library books?" And she gets this wide-eyed "oh yeah!" sort of look on her face, and stops, remembering what The Lady said. But she's also at the great age where we can now pretty much read any book and she will sit still and listen, and help finish sentences. (Isn't it incredible, what they remember?) We read five or six and sometimes up to nine or ten books a night. For a long time she would reject half of any new ones I introduced, preferring to read the same ones over and over. But now, at almost three, she's down with all of it, and my heart trills with joy. I could read all night.

Speaking of books, try Hemp Masters: Ancient Hippie Secrets for Knotting Hip Hemp Jewelry (I say this with a straight face) if you want to make a micro-macrame necklace like mine. I got it a few years ago and made myself a necklace then (here's a picture, no pattern). I wore it so much it broke (they eventually break). I've wanted another one ever since but just never around to it, even though I still had all of the hemp and beads and stuff. I used 42 feet of 10lb hemp cord (like this) and some small wooden and stone beads for one necklace. I pretty much looked at the book to learn how to do the knots but I couldn't seem to follow the patterns. So I just started going, figuring that when I got down to about 8.5" I would place my center bead, and then mirror what I had done (square knots, switch knots, pretzel knots, half knot sinnets — these are all in the book). I've done most of it at night while watching my favorite show, Ice Lake Rebels. I'm almost finished (probably tonight) and I'll add the lobster clasp (bites nails — a little nervous about finishing it off properly, stay tuned).

And, yeah, I'm also making a plastic needlepoint canvas log cabin for my daughter's third birthday. Because I cannot help myself.

Little Kitchen

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Well, I persist. I cleaned out the kitchen cabinet and added forty recipes to my Paprika app and I've been shopping and cooking almost every day. Since my original freak out, we've only eaten out once as a family (when Andy's work picnic got rained out on Saturday and moved to the brewpub) and I had lunch by myself out yesterday. All of this still feels very, very good and is making me happy. It was truly shocking how much money was being spent on eating out or ordering in. I still am astonished at how much groceries cost (like, 'cause then you have to cook them, etc.). It will be interesting to really run the numbers at the end of this month and see how much was spent on groceries and how much on eating out.

At night I'm going back through my whole entire blog and adding all of my recipes — well, my recipes and things I've linked to that I've liked — to my Paprika app. My sister told me about this thing over a year ago but I never really got into it before. It's basically like a recipe box for your online recipes. You add recipes and photos to the box from anywhere on the internet: There is a list of compatible foodie web sites where you can download (from inside the Paprika app) any recipe very easily; if you're on another web site, and the recipe's format is not easily readable by the app (like the recipes in my blog aren't), then it's pretty easy to use the cut/paste function and get it formatted properly and into the recipe box. What's also cool is the scaling function (you can cut the recipe down to a sixth, or multiply it several times over) and the grocery-shopping function (you tap the recipe and it adds the ingredients to the shopping list for you). Oh, and the meal planner calendar. And the app syncs with my iPad and my iPhone as well as Andy's phone (though you have to buy the apps all separately, I think?), so we don't have to tell each other what to get, etc. I'll just say, "Can you pick up the stuff for fish tacos?" And he just goes into his app (synced with mine) and it's all right there, shopping cart full.

I'm sure everyone knows all of this already and is using all manner of apps like this. I have no affiliation with Paprika, I just think it's very cool; if you know about stuff like this and know of something better, please let me know, though I might be already too-invested in this one — it does take some time to get all of your recipes in there, one by one, and I've spent a few hours on it now. I wasn't using any recipe software at all, so I'm thoroughly goggle-eyed excited by this. My Paprika recipe box doesn't contain anything that I haven't actually made yet. My plan is to get all of my tried-and-true things in there first (and honestly, there are more than I thought, which is good). I've only gotten through about two years of my blog posts that contain recipes (forty) so far, so I have a ways to go. But I feel happy and inspired, and I'm pretty energized. It's a start. When I'm done I'll probably go through my cookbooks to see if any of those recipes that I like are online already. And then, if I'm not totally fried, I'll look at my actual handwritten recipe cards and see if it's worth at least putting a reference to each recipe (and a photo) into Paprika so that I can find add them to the meal planner calendar and find them in my own kitchen, etc. This all brings me no end of satisfaction. I have honestly been trying to get myself organized like this for years, probably for as long as I've been cooking.

Last week I made roasted tequila-lime shrimp and put the shrimp in this excellent quinoa salad by one of my dearest friends Sarah Kline, who is an incredible cook and an inspiration to me in every way. The whole thing was awesome. Then I made more of the blackened fish tacos again but this time I baked the fish in the oven in parchment-paper pouches and I MUCH preferred that, even to grilling. I also added my dad's coleslaw (which is very sweet, and which I really love with spicy stuff) and an easy sauce with a bit of sour cream, a bit of mayo, and some chipotle sauce. Then one morning I woke up and just wanted waffles. This required going out to the garage and finding the waffle maker, which had fallen off of its shelf (we keep some of our extra kitchen appliances in the garage because our kitchen is so small) and I had to haul it up by its tail and thread it back through a giant baker's rack, with the garage door falling on me, etc., etc., to get it out. Got it out and had to clean it within an inch of its life because it hadn't been used in I don't even know how long. Cleaned it (got tennis elbow here), made the waffle batter, then destroyed the first batch of waffles (which required cleaning the waffle maker again, swearing, foot stomping, general despair) as well as the second batch of waffles (which got scorched when, while banging the waffle maker over the sink to "clean" it, I accidentally turned up the darkness setting to Burnt). Luckily I had made so much batter (I'd doubled it, because I intended to be very clever and freeze some of them) that I had enough for one more batch, which came out very nice (though floppy) indeed. And lastly (you're bored now), I made spaghetti and sausage with peas (I added the peas) from the Barilla web site, which I think is very good in general and I have gotten a lot of nice recipes from there over the years. 

DAMN. It was a good week. But I am rusty nails. Out of practice. And kinda tired. That was a lot of cooking. And a LOT of cleaning. But I am determined to improve. Thank you to everyone who left helpful comments about the whole cooking thing on my first post about this a few weeks ago. I do plan to go through those suggestions to see if I find other things that are going to help with this, because it seems that I am not the only one who finds it all very challenging.

I remember a long time ago my favorite teacher (the elegant and inimitable Mr. Don Rehkopf from Oak Park-River Forest High School) told us that he'd had terrible, illegible handwriting as a student. But one day he had a teacher who had beautiful handwriting, and he was so inspired he decided to change his own. And so he diligently adopted a whole new model for his handwriting, and, as a result he had the most unique and gorgeous handwriting I'd ever seen, before or since. I've never forgotten the story, and I can picture his lovely handwriting as I write this. A metaphor. I always think of that lovely, kind gentleman when I'm trying to do something new.

In other unrelated food news, our pretty apples are doing amazingly well! I counted them this morning. There are twenty on our tree, and they are just starting to turn the most gorgeous shade of blush red. How do we know when to pick them? Will they fall off or something when they're ready? I can't believe how happy this tree makes me.

Also, IT RAINED. POURED. Oh my stars it was the best fifteen minutes in the world.

I'm making myself a new macrame necklace. The one in the picture is too short (ran out of cord) so I had to start over. Details to come.

And how do you like my pretty party hats?


For your party-planning pleasure! We're making kits (and a pattern)! They should be done by maybe next week? Stay tuned! I will discuss!

The Plan

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Hot days, hot nights. It looks like we've been home a lot but really we've been outside, in or around water, almost daily. At home, the garden is quickly sizzling, turning from the bright greens of early summer to the pale, wispy, washed-out parchment-colors of late summer, though it's only mid. I pick the blueberries from our one little front-yard bush in the morning. Amelia comes out and takes the basket and says, "'Bye, Mummy. I going on holiday." She watches British cartoons. She eats all the blueberries before they can make it into the house.

In the kitchen, I have a new plan to start cooking things. It's called the Cooking Things plan. Yeah. It means you have to buy actual groceries and cook them instead of ordering things from Delivered Dish and/or eating out in general (getting extra salad rolls at lunchtime to bring home for dinner) or making smoothies. Yes, kitchen. You and I are going to get reacquainted. You, grocery store. I'm coming to you. And you, meal plan, YOU AND I ARE GOING TO FALL IN LOVE WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT. I will make myself love you, M.P. There is no doubt you won't even like me. At all. I've lost count of how many times I have written about this. A hundred million. I should have just copied and pasted an old post here. But this time, seriously. I'm a mother now. Mothers should be able to plan a meal more than forty-five seconds before dinnertime and do more than cut up fruit.

In no particular order, things that have to happen here include: All cabinets (not to mention all drawers and closets, but that's for another rant) need to be cleaned out and reorganized. The fridge and freezer are both in decent shape but could probably stand a swift weeding out of expired condiments and a really good scrub. My spice cabinet is completely insane, with bottles toppling and things literally stacked on top of each other, falling into pots on the stove-top (when we actually have pots on the stove-top). My pantry, my beautiful new pantry, is totally underutilized, currently holding party plates and toddler art supplies. And my recipes that I've printed out from the internet are currently in a giant ruffled (waterlogged, spattered) disorganized pile on top of the microwave and need to be curated and filed. My beautiful recipe box that I worked so hard on a few years ago actually makes me laugh-cry. I see it in the cabinet when I go to feed the dog (I do feed the dog) and it looks so long-suffering and forlorn. My cookbooks, or lord. So many cookbooks. Too many cookbooks. Get ready you, too, cookbooks. You're going to be taking a trip to Powell's very soon.

So, look above: I have tried to cook some things. I made corn salad (fresh corn kernels, a little olive oil, a diced jalapeno pepper, a handful of sliced cherry tomatoes, a quarter of a diced red onion, fresh lime juice, salt and pepper). I made blackened fish tacos (a little too blackened, dang). I made some more chocolate ice cream. I made cantaloupe agua fresca. I’m starting small. I have the Paprika app on my iPad. I have a cute shopping basket. My apron is in the laundry right now. I’m going to find a new binder. I can do this. People do this! I can do this.

Summer Circles

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Big full moon :: Pinky-pie skies :: Finished Ramona cardigan (needs blocking and buttons) and immediately started another :: Hot hot hot and yet, knitting :: Apples on my tree, and I am so charmed :: Pool day, fountain day, pool day, fountain day (with Sarah & Charlotte) :: Warm, big, beautiful, round, scrumptious golden peach of a girl I can't stop kissing :: Trying to recreate the quiche from Maurice and failing :: Chocolate frozen custard :: Andy-made ribs and Susie-made dessert :: Party-hat pattern-writing :: Streaming Wimbledon on the computer in my studio :: Listening to this thoroughly delightful podcast from my dear and beautiful friend Rebekka :: Ready for some cloudy skies and cooler temperatures :: It's possible that last picture is in my top-ten favorites of anything I have ever taken. I'm not even sure exactly why.

Sweet Days

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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!

Quiet Days

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Well, the doctor says the ear infection is much improved, but my ear is still clogged-feeling and I can barely hear out of it. It's not painful anymore but it is very annoying. It's a middle-ear, Eustachian tube thing, on the inside of my eardrum. They have me on a nasal spray to see if it will help clear it. Blah. I feel like I'm in a bubble. Fingers crossed that it improves. And thank you very much for your kind words!

Around the house, things are quiet, too. I've been trying to take it easy, which is really nice (and feels so strange!). The weather's been cloudy and flat and I do like it that way, especially in the spring, when everything is so green. Today it's cool and dim, and there's not a hint of a breeze — it's as still and quiet as I've ever seen it. Meems goes to playschool two mornings a week, and she's there now. Our routine is usually pick up with the stroller and take the long way through the neighborhood over to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner, talking to cats, bugs, and flowers on the way. On Wednesday I made Indian butter shrimp and that was totally delicious. Definitely special-occasion-type stuff — very rich, perfectly spicy. I love Indian food. I'm not sure what we will make tonight? Maybe Thai salad rolls with tofu? I have fresh basil, too.

So, I finished The Swan Thieves a week or so ago. (SPOILER ALERT!!!) I kept reading it all the way to the end but I must admit that I was completely befuddled by why Robert Oliver was obsessed with Beatrice? Yesterday Amelia and I went to the mall to get some new summer clothes and shoes and I came home with this (which I got to sit and read for an hour while sitting in an armchair high above the ice-skating rink at the mall while she slept in her stroller. I've never done that before but that was pretty nice). I think I might have heard an interview with one of the authors on NPR not too long ago? I'm already on page 74 which is kind of crazy for me, because I am usually a pretty slow reader!

I'm also starting to knit this sweater. Isn't that a pretty pattern?

April Flowers

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Oh my goodness, thank you for the sampler orders. Thank you VERY much!!! I am so happy. I truly appreciate your orders and all of your sweet words. I'm really excited about this project and this kit and I really can't wait until they start arriving in mailboxes and you get stitching. Stacy is packing and shipping like a rock star. I'm very proud of this one and I truly hope you'll be pleased! Thank you so much for your interest and your enthusiasm and your support. It means the world to me.

Answers to questions, mostly about what was represented by certain letters: Yes, J is for Jam (or Jelly, or Jar); V is for Violet (after my sweet Violet girl); P is for PIE (blueberry, in this case). AND yes, there is a PDF pattern available if you have floss and fabric of your own — it is available for immediate download here.

As far as making the design in a fabric of a different count (i.e.: one with fewer stitches per inch, presumably), yes, you can do that. Please read through my tutorial which includes a discussion of stitch count (and how it's related to the "thread count" of your fabric). Theoretically, you can work a counted cross stitch pattern on any thread count evenweave fabric you prefer, though it's important to have an understanding of how changing the thread count will change the look and the overall size of your motifs and your entire design. Most cross stitch patterns will give you the dimensions in stitches, as well as inches (or centimeters) on whatever count fabric has been used for this sample. In this case, the finished size of the design area (that's from stitch to stitch, not including any margins) on My Sweetiepie is 13.1" x 10.3" (33cm x 26cm); that's 210 stitches wide x 165 high on 32-count fabric. If you are using a different thread-count fabric, it's important that you recalculate the dimensions in inches or centimeters so you know how much fabric you will need (plus framing and handling margins). For instance, if you are using 28-thread-count fabric, that's 14 stitches per inch; divide 210 stitches by 14 to get the width of the design area in inches, and divide 165 stitches by 14 to get the height (of the design area) in inches. It works out to be 15" x almost 12". So you'll just want to make sure you understand that before you use a fabric with a different thread count.

Ahhh, the days have been busy! Four days, no naps. You know what I mean. Funny things being said. Yesterday, after dinner, I'm in kitchen loading dishwasher, Mimi's in high chair in dining room, starting to wimper.

Me: "Meemers, are you sad?"
Amelia: "Yes."
Me: "Why, honey?"
Amelia: "Because I want to go to sleep in my little crib!"

Later, we're both lying in the big bed and she's pretty much completely asleep. She suddenly pops straight up and says, loudly, as if startled, "I love APPLES?!?!?!"

I whisper, "Yes, you do." She lays back down and goes to sleep.

Easter was lovely. On Saturday there was a neighborhood Easter-egg hunt, which was very sweet. We had brunch with my family on Sunday and then spent the rest of the day gardening and going to the park. She got a watering can from the Easter bunny and watered in all the new plants. Remember my wildflower garden from the seed packs in the parkway beds last year? Well, tons of those flowers were perennials, and they're coming back. I threw a whole bunch more seeds in, too. I thought they were incredibly pretty, though the beds got pretty scrappy as the really hot weather moved in. But, what didn't. I get pretty scrappy when the really hot weather moves in. 

Today, though, it's wonderfully cold. Birds are singing. Flowers are blooming. Leaves are busting, so juicy looking you want to munch a mouthful like a little bunny. Favorite spring dinners? Any suggestions? I need cooking inspiration, yet again. Last night I made my shrimp bowls. Thinking about doing that again, with quinoa and chicken. What are you making? What's good?

***Her sweater details are here, and her dress and pinafore here. :)

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.