Posts filed in: Baking and Cooking

Tiny Lights

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Christmas things, loving things, soups and breads and friends and parties, lights and candles to fill the December days. This morning it is raining as hard as I've ever seen it, and it's as dark as late afternoon. We have a busy week ahead (who doesn't), and I'm resisting the urge to climb back into bed and pull up the quilts and knit and knit and knit; but no, that won't happen. Instead I light candles and say a prayer for the world, the news of which I can't lately seem to absorb with anything but melancholy, though I strive for hope. In the mornings, we snuggle for hours (one of the benefits of getting up hours before light sneaks up on the windows). Andy and Clover sleep. Under the covers, I pull my daughter's warm body into mine. She holds my big hand on her small belly. She eats a banana (two bananas) and I drink very hot, very strong coffee by the light of the string of paper stars we got a few months ago. I've put them on a dimmer, and thus can turn them down to the barest, dimmest, almost-golden glow. We're under softest flannel sheets and wool blankets and wool-filled quilts, with a dozen pillows at our backs. Foxy, Pengy, Snowy Bear, Bruno, and Big Bunny — all here, too. Quietly, quietly she sings back to me the lullaby I sing to her each night. It's a tune I made up, with the words from a book. Her sweet voice, her lisp. Her whisper-singing: on key. Her warm, bare legs sliding along mine. She fits so perfectly against my shoulder, under my arm. I ask her if she can hear the rain and she nods (mouth now full). It drums, relentless, against the old windows just inches behind us. I hold her close and kiss her head, and press my cheek to her hair. Stay like this. Just here. We'll let it all swirl and rumble outside. I'll hold you tight. I'll hold you tight.

T-Day and Tree Day

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My sister was hosting Thanksgiving, but her whole family came down with the flu last week (ugh, poor dears) so we had a little dinner at our place. Amelia dragged her chair around the table so she wound up sitting next to each of her guests at some point throughout the afternoon. I love her. The weather has been so perfect — very clear, and just cold enough to feel like winter. I love the weekend after Thanksgiving. We always go and get our tree right away. I do so like to get things going early so I can relax and go do fun stuff. Tree is up, house is more-or-less decorated, stockings are hung. Parties need to be scheduled, but shopping is done. Wrapping and shipping is not. Cards need to be ordered. Amelia keeps saying, "Mom, is it Christmastime yet? Mom, is this Christmastime?" Oh, December! With a three-year-old, things are magical (and vaguely bonkers), already. I love this season and all it brings. So many gifts. So many beautiful, sparkling little things.

Last year at the tree farm, and the year before.

THANK YOU!!!

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* * *  T  H  A  N  K      Y  O  U      Y  O  U      G  U  Y  S !!!!!  * * *

I am gob smacked. Thank you for your orders and all of your kind words. You guys are seriously awesome. And I am truly grateful. Super-stellar awesome-assistant Stacey has shipped almost everything, with the rest going out on Monday. Then there will be more five thousand Maggie and her animal cousins' kits all over the world at this point, and I'm so proud of them. Thank you ever, ever so much for buying and making my patterns and kits. I love designing and producing them more than I can say, and am very grateful for your enthusiasm and support. Thank you so much.

So, it's deep fall, isn't it. October was really busy. Halloween came and went (in a torrential downpour). The Red Riding Hood cape (McCall's M4567) was a total fail. It was so crazy big and so heavy (I even shortened the thing by about a foot or more!) it wouldn't stay on her shoulders at all, and I couldn't blame her for not wanting to wear it even once! I tried a few solutions, including buttons at her shoulders (her hair wound around them horribly) and tying it on like a backpack under the arms but nothing really felt functional. Halloween morning I made a run to JoAnn's for yarn and a giant hook and wound up speed-crocheting a new hood in a few hours. The pattern was also sort of nuts and no one was more amazed than I when, lo and behold, a hood came off my hook, and the child donned it willingly. Until it started raining cats and dogs and every one of us and our friends were in a ton of rain gear, slogging through the drowning neighborhood in a downpour to get about twelve pieces of sopping candy. Man, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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It's a gorgeous, gorgeous morning here today. Andy and Amelia are headed out together for the day and I'm sitting in my newly reorganized office trying to collect myself. My office is so clean and tidy and . . . where am I, seriously. It hasn't been like this in years. This morning I made a giant list of all of the things I want to make this fall. Bathrobe (she wants a bathrobe, which cracks me up) for Meems. Nightgown (she wants nightgowns) for Meems. Thanksgiving dress and pinafore for Meems. Thanksgiving skirt (gathered, with pockets — I've made two already and love them — will tell you how I did it as soon as I get my act together) for me. Friendship quilt with Martha like this gorgeous one by Lucy. This sweater for Amelia. An advent calendar. A crocheted blanket I am halfway done with but I don't think I've shown you yet. A kooky flowered skirt for Amelia. Christmas dress for Amelia.

Seriously??? It does seem like a lot. I think it will be okay. The quilt's obviously a long-term project. And a lot of the other stuff can be done on the sofa while watching Christmas movies, so what could be better?

I've also been cooking a lot. I made Ann's No-Knead Bread. I made Thai curry lentil and sweet potato soup. That was excellent. I made Tessa Kiros's meat sauce from Apples for Jam, which is one of my favorite cookbooks (though the font they used for the recipes is seriously unreadable). I made dirty chai (that's chai with espresso, FYI) cinnamon rolls using the one-hour dough from this recipe and the filling and frosting from this recipe. OH MY STARS WHAT AN AWESOME PAN OF CINNAMON ROLLS THOSE WERE. I made butternut squash and spinach lasagna. That, too, was very good.

I guess I made a runner for my dining room table, too. Apparently Andy had the whole week off and I got a little excited.

It's October

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Oh, autumn, everywhere, and yet, it's still consistently above 80 degrees here. But the sun is low and lovely in the morning. Amelia and I play in the front yard. She collects leaves, crow feathers, splinters of chalk, seed pods and puts them in a candle holder that looks like a bird cage. I sit on the top stair and watch the world go by — dog walkers, cars and bikes, baby strollers, squirrels. Up and down the stairs she goes, leaning against me as she passes, pausing to give me a hug or sit on my lap, hair blowing against my face, sturdy little body pushing into mine. I lift her shirt and kiss her soft belly. So much sweet softness in such a hard, sad world sometimes. My heart is heavy for the people of Roseburg, Oregon. I send a prayer into the sky, up toward the morning moon. Peace be with you, friends. Please, peace.

Inside, the light is changing. I've forgotten how pretty my pipsqueak of a kitchen is in the afternoon. It has a big door-window facing south, and the light turns rose-gold around three or so. Rice pudding must be the ultimate comfort food, and Andy's grandma's is my favorite — it's more like a cooked custard with rice in it. This is her recipe, written in her words:

Helen's Rice Pudding

Wash 1 c. rice (not Minute Rice) in ice cold water. Put in double boiler and add 2 c. hot water. Steam rice until dry. (*Note: I just cook it like normal; I actually always use a rice cooker. You just want cooked rice here. :) Put in large baking bowl. Add 2 more cups of milk and 1 can [sweetened] condensed milk, 3/4 c. sugar, and 4 beaten eggs. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and put pieces of butter. Bake in medium oven — 375 degrees about 1 hour, until pudding is firm.

I've made a lot of homemade Swedish meatballs. I've never liked any of them. Or at least, I felt they were rarely worth the work they took to make (I don't like making meatballs). Martha and I were on the phone discussing something else entirely when suddenly we were talking about Swedish meatballs, and she told me that her brother made the meatballs from the Ikea cookbook (or something like that? This recipe is the same as the one she gave me that her brother had written out) and they were awesome. I then immediately made them and they were AWESOME (though still a lot of work. But awesome, so it was okay). In Andy's family, they serve Helen's rice pudding with Swedish meatballs and this is, indeed, just the best, heaviest, but most comforting plate of food in the world, should you be in need. Highly recommend.

Peanut-butter chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, with raisins added. Not bad.

For the past six months or maybe a year or so I've been more-or-less consciously really trying to bust my stash, both yarn and fabric. Now that Amelia's birthday quilt is finished (it's finished! Photos to come!) I am in the mood for something easy easy easy. I'm thinking a blanket like this: single-colored solid granny squares (that tutorial makes a very nice "square" square, in my opinion), in a checkerboard pattern but with this sort of pale salmon pink I happen to have about six big skeins of (why?) instead of the cream. I saw the blanket in that pin and went really crazy for it and I think it will be a very nice project to work on a square at a time, with no fuss. Just a bag of skeins of worsted-weight yarn, and an ever-growing pile of squares. People don't like the joining part, I guess, but I always kind of do.

We're about to get ready for a birthday party around here. I can't wait!

***The painting is "Spring Lambs" by Bonnie Fisher.

Soup and Sew

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Well, thank you. Thank you, thank you. What an incomparably lovely experience it was to read your kind comments (for Andy, too; I don't know if you know he reads every post, and every comment as well). Thank you so much! I took the quilt top and the batting and backing (yep, I embroidered a tag, as well; I'll show you that sometime, probably when I'm completely done with it all) over to Modern Domestic for the afternoon that same day last week and used their tables to lay it all out and pin the quilt sandwich together. That place is pretty rad; you can pay to use their space and equipment to get stuff like this done, and I'll never do it at home again. The tables were nice and tall and I spent hours pinning and my back did not hurt at all (mine at home is way too short — I absolutely need risers — all my stuff is too short for me, actually, including the kitchen counters). Anyway, I got it all pinned together, and got the front part of the binding sewn on, and now I'm hand quilting a few squares and stitching down a bit of binding every night. I have two more weeks. I'll definitely finish. I'm really happy.

Answers to some questions that came up:

Yes, I changed the October patch significantly. I kept the same girl, because I really did not want to lose any of the continuity of this amazing design, but added a simple birthday cake from another book by the same designer and some bunting.

As far as getting the book that these patterns are in, it is (sadly) out of print. I found mine easily on Etsy, but I'm guessing there aren't too many of them out there, I'm sorry. I don't really have any good advice about how to get your hands on a copy other than Googling the title or ISBN (in the previous post), or trawling eBay, Etsy, or other Japanese craft book sellers.

The top was pieced with strips of the salmon/silver background fabric. I think I did all the blocks going down with short strips between (to make three columns) and then added four long vertical strips to finish. For the back I used this 100% cotton gingham in gray. The salmon/silver background calico came from JoAnn's. As far as the rest of the fabrics used to make the calico frames, er. . . . I'm not great at keeping track of that kind of info. All of it was already cut into strips by me at some point, and kept in my big 2" strip scrap basket. I buy almost all of my fabric locally, at JoAnn's, Fabric Depot, and Mill End Store, and also at Knittn' Kitten. Some of my fabrics are Liberty of London Tana Lawn cottons, which I've been collecting for probably twenty years. I have never been good at keeping track of the names and designers of fabric, and I really am going to try to be better about that. But my stash has been accumulated over such a long period of time and from so many places that it just overwhelms me to try to keep it straight. (And also, for the people who have asked where I find most of the vintage patterns I use for Mimi's dresses, I just get them on Etsy or eBay, or at Goodwill or Knittn' Kitten when I see something I like. Eventually I'm sure I will sell my collection of vintage patterns but I don't really have time to do it right now. I like vintage patterns because they have already been cut out [most of the time] and you don't have to fight with multiple sizes and giant pieces of tissue paper, or printing and cutting and taping, etc. And of course I just like the styles better, too.)

Anyway, I was mostly just kidding about not letting Mimi use the quilt. She'll absolutely use it, but I will try to keep it nice. I will absolutely try to keep Clover and Bridget off of it (they are going to be bewildered, seriously — I've never tried to keep them off of anything in their lives). I'm definitely going to wash it cold with some of those color-catcher things. I've never been worried about dye in embroidery floss running before, and of course I did absolutely nothing to mitigate the possibility, but in that June block especially, oh shasta. That one's gonna be tough to imagine not running, honestly. . . . That umbrella is so solidly packed with red thread (against a white ground). Ugh. Oh well. That's life.

Anyway, once again. You guys. Thank you. Your enthusiasm made my day just so big and fun and bright. I truly appreciate your kindness and, just, I don't know how to explain it anymore, but all the thoughtfulness that goes into what you say. All of the things you said, the stories you offered, the kindness you shared, all of it has also gone into that quilt now. And I don't know, that makes me cry, too. It's just cool. Thank you.

So, there's a lot of soup up there. There's chicken with wild rice. There's black bean. There's Andy's chicken soup (we were sick). There's a loaf of bread, as well, but it was a just a loaf of frozen white from the grocery store, which, though it only weighed about an ounce (seriously, I actually laughed out loud when I picked it up) after it was baked, made kind of a nice turkey sandwich, I have to say. Also, there's a Halloween costume. It's Little Red Riding Hood's dress from Simplicity #2571. I know. I . . . yes, I already made part of a Halloween costume. I have no explanation.

***Her poncho; her dress; her sweater.

Hello there!

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Hello there! How are you? We're settling into fall here. It's come on with speed and determination. At 6 a.m. this morning, Amelia and I laid in bed in the dark bedroom, listening to the rain outside. She noticed it. It sounded beautiful. It's so dark in the morning now. We snuggle until the quilt and the wool blanket, both kitters and puppers in the bed, too. After a long summer of tremendous heat, everyone's suddenly cold, and grateful for that. The transition to new season and new routines has been unexpectedly hard for me these past few weeks, though. I feel like I'm scrambling to find traction somehow. I think I'm getting it, but I've been a bit all over the place. I was so anxious for it that I immediately started panicking and flailing about once it happened. Typical.

We went to the river for the last time this summer. It was so shallow it was hard to believe. A flock of geese sat on the sandbar all afternoon. The leaves, tinged yellow, fell into the water. I really loved all the days we spent there this summer. I know Andy and Amelia did, too. Our intrepid explorer has grown so much these past few months. What a blessing, to have these nearby places to be free together. Home by dinner, bath, and then early to bed, clean and tired.

Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comments lately, and for all of the glorious-sounding apple recipes, and for the big-girl-chair advice. I made my sour cream apple pie and this thing just never, ever disappoints. Highly recommend. Double the topping if your pie plate is big and wide. (Put tinfoil under your pan if you think that stuff might bubble over and drip off, though; you don't want that spilling in your oven.) Next I'm going to go through the recipes you suggested and find some more that sound good (they all sound good!). I'm getting back into the whole cooking routine I was so excited about a couple of months ago. SOUP is going to make life just ever so much easier. It tastes just as good the next day. I made kale and potato soup with corn and chorizo and it was fantastic. I had it again the next day and it was absolutely just as good. Tonight I'm making the chicken with wild rice soup I made last year, because I know that was really good. Should walk up to the store and get some sweet potato to make biscuits to go with. And boom, that's tomorrow, then, too.

The big-girl chair is a work in progress. We got a Keekaroo — I happened to spot one at the kids' resale shop that cost the exact amount of the credit I had. I like it (though, as everyone says, we've tripped over it literally every single day since it's been here) but the seatbelt has got to be replaced — she is totally able to take it off herself, thus completely defeating the purpose. Dinnertime now is a constant negotiation where I try to get her to stay in her seat. Last night I said, "Well, I just started eating, and if you can't stay in your seat for a little while I might have to go get your old high chair and bring it back, if it's really hard to stop getting down." I thought that warning might work, since just last week the idea of sitting in the high chair was so distasteful it caused all sorts of pandemonium . But she just got these big, bright eyes and said, "Oh! Can I have my high chair?" Pfffft! LOL. But the big-girl chair'll be good with a toddler-proof seatbelt. The clip is just too easy to snap open. She's not quite ready to be free yet, and, quite frankly, neither am I. Getting there, though. She and I eat dinner alone three nights a week when Andy is at work, and our days start around 5:00 a.m. By 5:00 p.m., I just need to sit for a little while.

Do you like the poncho? I think I like it — well, I love the pattern, I just don't know if I like my colors that much. Does it look like I went to Michael's and got one of those little strips of acrylic paint pots (the "country" colors), and then matched them? Maybe that works, I don't know. This has yet to be blocked. I was going to wait for a warm day and block it outside on the outside table so it will dry faster. The details are on my Ravelry page. Her groovy dress is from a vintage nightgown pattern (Simplicity 4719) that I shortened. I like peasant dresses that gather onto a bias strip, and have a continuous placket and a snap in back. I added pockets to this one but I matched them to the fabric so they almost don't show. It's the softest baby wale corduroy, from Fabric Depot, a few years ago now, I think.

Some very cool vintage postage stamps to use on Amelia's birthday invitations. And paper party hats I can't stop making: I used some of the floral designs in this most awesome book, printed them onto lightweight cardstock on my ink-jet printer, then traced my party hat pattern, glued them together at the seam, added some cotton rick-rack, and made a yarn pom for each. These are for everyone besides the birthday girl (who will get a felt one, of course). I absolutely love party preparations. Love them.

Honeycrisp

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Autumn weather is taking her time, coming in in spurts, though the apples are already mostly picked, with brown spots and worms in the ones that are left. We found a few small beauties, sweet and crisp and filled with summer, still. This is the time of year when I feel the most longing. I can't seem to get traction. September sparks emotions that are russet-colored, and crackling, and capricious. I feel one way and then another. The grass is colorless, defeated. The skies routinely cover-over in a merciful low, gray haze. Right now I'm looking out at my backyard and it's as still and clear gray and matte-flat as I've ever seen it. There is no breeze, but it is cool. I hear squirrels and birds and, a-ways off, cars. No one's mowing a lawn, no one's cutting down a tree, no one's nailing shingles to a roof. There are no flashing highlights, no glints, no searing-white light-spots. It's very quiet. And I feel relieved, for a moment. I wish it would stay.

I want to stand in the kitchen and peel fall things, apples and squashes and onions, and I want to saute mushrooms, and roast garlic heads, and make oatmeal for my boo. I made Eve's Pudding (it was okay, not life-changing) and have plans for my pie, and a cobbler, and a crisp. I love apples. I crocheted a toddler poncho and have embroidered ten out of twelve panels (still need to take their pictures for you) on my girl's birthday quilt, all of this at night, on the sofa, watching Ice Lake Rebels and a movie my friend Martha recommended, The Grand Seduction. At night, the breeze blows through the windows at my back. It gets dark before Andy gets home from work. I'm still in my summer nightgowns. I'm trying not to rush so much. It's so hard to break the habit with some things.

***Any apple recipe recommendations?

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.

August

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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?

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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Photography

Photography

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.