Posts filed in: Books

The Sweet

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Oh, the luminous, exquisite loveliness of early March. I tried to capture the riotous beauty of our plum tree day by day as she blossomed, her lacy boughs like garlands against the storm-dark skies. Amelia walks around the house in pink ballet slippers (which I've decided must be the best baby shoes ever, as they're the only thing she's never taken, or wanted taken, off her feet). She carries a model horse in each hand. Back and forth, around the table, to the toys, to the door, to the sofa, to the chair, back and forth. It was the sixteenth anniversary of my accident last week, a day which can alternately feel like it was a thousand years ago and then, occasionally, and only for a few seconds, like it was just yesterday. I remember looking up at the sky out the back windows of the ambulance. I remember the trees as we went up the hill. Amelia stops and kisses the little black horse squarely on its baby-mouth-sized nose and makes her humming-kissing noise, holding it out toward me. I try not to explode with secret joy, a charging froth of pink plum petals shooting straight out of my heart. God, how lucky I am. Thank you, thank you. Thank you, God.

Spring does seem to have truly arrived this week. I spent yesterday morning looking at photos of the gardens of Piet Oudolf and dreaming of new borders for our front yard, inspired by his enchanting meadows. It's time to clean up. Our yard is a swampy disaster. I do rush to the clean up because so much is blooming — it's just buried under piles of dead leaves. My 'Minnow' daffodils and my pink woodland violets. My one little hellebore and a carpet of blue vinca. We walk through the neighborhood and look at everyone's parkways. Things are a mess all over, really, though every once in a while we'll come across someone who has already laid a new carpet of compost and mulch, and I love that earthy, strangely medicinal smell. This is my favorite season, this long, chilly, wistful, anxious, shyly budding month of awakening and hope. At night we keep the bedroom window open and can hear train whistles calling off in the distance, and birds waking and singing at the same time as Amelia. In the big bed she stands and pulls on the shade, falling over and pointing, "Buuurdy?" Eyes bright, inquiring. "Tweet, tweet," I say, pushing her hair out of her face. "He's singing to you."

My to-do list is a million miles long. All I really want to do is build block towers, watch movies, sew hexagons together, and plan perennial borders and future rail vacations to Glacier National Park. But: taxes, patterns, logos, floss winding, bill paying, paperwork, blah. I've really been procrastinating lately. Spring forward. I gotta do that!!!

Wild and Wooly

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To the north, the sky was pewter gray, that deep, thick color that means snow somewhere. Instead, we had wind and we had rain. All last night the wind wouldn't stop; it whipped the trees high above the house, and rain peppered the windows unevenly. Restless sounds. This morning the wind settled and the sky cleared for a bit and Amelia and I ventured out into the green and the wet. There were branches and debris everywhere, ancient, craggy limbs and sticks littering the road and the sidewalks. Spring signs pushed forth everywhere we looked. Spring in Oregon is blustery, wild, and wooly. It's slow to start and long to linger.

Thank you for your feedback on The Goldfinch! I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to give their opinions (especially ones that were different than mine)! That book was a major reading adventure, seriously. It was good to debrief — I needed it!!! It was so much fun to read a book that a lot of other people are reading at the same time, too. Thank you also for the book recommendations. We went to Powell's on Saturday. It was my intention to take my phone, pull up the blog comments, and look through the suggestions and leisurely browse for some of the titles you suggested. Nothing could've been further from what actually happened. It was sooooo crowded (doi — Saturday) and the store is being remodeled (doi — forgot); huge chunks of it are off-limits and the books have been moved to other sections of the store. Things are really tight now. The temporary shelves were great but the aisles were skinny. Andy was across the store and I had Amelia in the umbrella stroller dropping shoes, bottle, and barrette every few yards. We'd already had lunch and been lamp shopping and gone to Anthropology so the window of opportunity was closing, and I was on the run. Turns out, this may be a great way for me to pick out books! I pulled an Amelia, speed-reading my way through the flaps and blurbs, hurling used paperbacks under the stroller, and picking up tossed baby accessories as fast as I could. I got four books and I can't even remember what they all are (but I know one, the one I'm now reading, is The Little Stranger). There must have been thirty or forty people in line by the time we got to the checkout and I'll tell you what, they were doing an Amelia themselves, because we went through that line so fast it was actually funny. We were out before the nipper got cranky and even had time to go get a hot cocoa across the street on the way back to the car. Boom, done, and done [brushes off hands]!

But I am going to spend time looking through the suggestions and making a list for next time I get to go to the store. Thank you again!

Slowly but surely working on my crochet and embroidery at night while watching the Olympics. Very excited to be done with the lampshade and see how it looks. The pattern doesn't tell you which Minut lamp to get from Ikea, and there are two sizes with the same name. I got the smaller one and it seems to be fitting okay. We'll see.

Valentine lasagnas! And just look at how utterly scrumptious that adorable, wonderful, loveable, squeezeable, precious pudge of a baby girl was at this time last year:

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Oh my stars. Time flies. What an amazing year.

Snow Dream

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Though a massive winter storm is pounding the South and Northeast as I write, the snow that enchanted me here in town last week is completely gone. All gone. As if it were a dream. The temperature was so warm today it felt like spring. Everything's muddy, and green, and gray, and wet, and squelching again. I'm wishing good luck, safe days, and patience to everyone out east; the videos of the storm that I've seen on the news today are really astonishing. I hope you can stay inside and stay warm and safe.

I spent pretty much every free moment I had this past week finishing The Goldfinch and

 

! ! ! S P O I L E R    A L E R T ! ! !

Don't read below this if you haven't read The Goldfinch and plan to!!!

 

oh man, I was soooo disappointed in the ending. I almost screamed. I was putting up with my own confusion once Horst, and Sascha, and Ulrika, and Gyuri, and Martin, and Viktor/Cherry showed up in the story, and going along with things, more or less trusting that the end would be worthy of this huge, looooooong story. But his inability to write the four letters in the hotel room was just a complete cop-out. That, to me, was the worst moment. He writes two of them and then pretty much says, "Aw dang, these aren't as good as I wanted them to be — forget it." I went from being in almost total sympathy with him, through everything, to feeling so irritated and disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to get himself together — or actually, it felt to me that the author wasn't going to be able to pull the character together, because I really think it is actually inconsistent with his character that he blows it there. For him not to be able to be honest at the apex of his crisis, when there was nothing left to lose — I actually almost put the book down. That was such a disappointing moment, for me. Then, at the absolute height of the tension, to instead just have Boris show up and say, "Oh hey, here's your passport, don't worry, it's all good, the painting's safe now, oh and actually here's a bunch of money, OH and you're a hero!!!" WHAT?!? Seriously? It was such an "and then I woke up" ending. No, it was an "and then I woke up AND found out I'd won the lottery overnight!!!" ending. MAD!!!

And to still be engaged to Kitsey, a year later? No way. :(

Maybe I'm wrong that these things are inconsistent with his character. And maybe the story is, at the end, about someone who, I hate to say this, utterly fails. Because I thought it was a fail.

Did anyone else think that?

I write of my disappointment because I truly LOVED reading this book. I have read few books in my life so fast or so furiously. I talked about it to almost everyone I saw (and hardly any of who were actually reading the book). There was so much about it that I loved and admired. But the ending left me quite cold. . . . I felt like the book deserved better, somehow.

Now to find another book. . . . Hrmmmmm.

Little Loves of Winter

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22GrandmaMosesBook2"Hoosick Falls, N.Y., in Winter." 1944. By Grandma Moses.

Sunday morning waffles :: Blooming bulbs and my ever-blooming lovely girl :: Long walks :: Gray skies and branches (oh how I love them) :: Can you spot the squirrel? :: I stitch and stitch and draw and knit, and fell asleep with knitting needles in my hands :: Early nights, early mornings :: She's on the move, and I can only get an unblurry photo when she's sleeping/strapped in somewhere :: I've lost my cooking mojo completely :( :: Reading Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things: 2,317 Ways to Save Money and Time (a birthday gift from my sissy; I've been wanting a book like this forever!) :: Dreaming of springtime meadows, and spring in general, and a wildflower garden in the raised beds instead of vegetables this year :: I started crocheting a lampshade :: Oh, most darling dearest sleepy duo :: My Grandma Moses book came and I am seriously in love love love love. I want to read everything about her now. I can't stop looking at the paintings.

Morning, Afternoon, Night

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At some point I do just sort of give up on snow.  The "fine, be that way" moment. The FBTW moment happened sometime yesterday afternoon. On our walk to the bakery, there were bulbs already pushing up through the soil outside. I brought home yellow daffodils from the market. The pale sun filtered through the dirt-spattered windows. I tossed the rest of the stray Christmas decorations (mostly those related to snowflakes) in a box. And I could see spring, which in our yard really does start to happen in February, just beyond the blurry margins of dead leaves, winter mud, and the brown and sort of weird, soupy green that the days have been, here in Oregon, in the winter. In seventeen years here, it's been the driest, sunniest winter I can remember. And, I will admit, I have found things to love about that. Because at least there are Alaska shows. I loved Esther's comment: "I think I can explain the Alaska obsession. You have Starved-for-Snow-itis. It's kind of like cabin fever, only in reverse." Oh yes, yes. Cabin fever in reverse! HA!

So, we have a Roomba. I asked for it for my birthday. I guess I'm old now. It's pretty awesome. It's like a reverse-shedding pet that doesn't really respond when you cheer it on. "Come on, Roomba! You can do it!" as it tries dumbly to find its way out from under the small side table. He whirrs and spins back and forth, banging into stuff around the room. He sends up a little victory song when he finds his way back to his dock, and so do we: "Good boy, Roomba!" Clapping. When emptied, he is filled, and I mean FILLED, with dirt (dog hair). And he has been filled pretty much every single subsequent time he's finished a room. And our carpets and floors are regularly vacuumed with the big vacuum. And dry-mopped with the pants of a toddler. The first time he was emptied I was astonished and horrified. Now he runs, almost all the time, around the house all day. He's very loud. He doesn't do stairs. No one is afraid of him anymore (both puppers and the nipper cried the first time he was let loose). His industrious motor is white noise in the background of our day.

I wish I had counted how many clementines were eaten here this winter. I save the peels and run them through the garbage disposal, which I read helps keep it clean. I think the clementine season is almost over. Amelia, if she knew that, would be very sad. I've never seen anyone eat tiny oranges so quickly. I cut them into small pieces and she literally picks them up as fast as I can cut them. I've eaten my share, as well. Have we gone through five or six crates, just the two of us? No scurvy here. That's nice. She's showing me, above, how she puts food "in her mouth" instead of throwing it on the floor, for the dog. Ahem.

Winter Olympics coming. Excited. I have my project picked out this time — the crewel embroidery that always reminds me of the view from Crown Point that I got several years ago that I've not started. I got something new for over the myrtlewood. It's a Grandma Moses reproduction (obviously) of a painting called "A Beautiful World." The quality isn't that great, because it's enlarged so much, I assume, but from afar I like it. I started getting into these primitive landscapes last year. I have another one over my dresser by Edward Hicks called "David Leedom Farm." I think I might get a book about them. I've always loved those aerial view landscapes of villages and farms and little buildings and bridges and rivers and trees. 

Go Polina Edmunds!!! I watched her at Nationals on TV last weekend and she was just completely enchanting.

My word. The sun is shining again. This is very confusing. !!!

Are you reading The Goldfinch? I can't put it down. Don't tell me what happens. I have an idea but I don't even want to talk about it.

Out and About, and In

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A sweet day downtown :: Shopping and noshing :: An a capella concert with Aunt Susie :: Brunch with dear friends :: Wrapping presents and writing cards :: More Swedish meatballs :: Foggy morning on Mt. Tabor :: Knitting tiny sweaters :: She ate half a dill pickle :: A night walk in the neighborhood :: Tea and Judge Judy :: Late afternoon naps :: Christmas movies at night :: Runny noses :: Very gray days, with all the lights on :: Reading Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford and laughing out loud (several times, but the scene where Paul rides the horse was hysterical [and the one where he complains about the kids]) :: Cards from old friends making me miss them :: The Psych musical soundtrack on repeat :: Candlelit baths and cookie plans. I need to make some, stat!

Snow Day

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Snow! And ice! And freezing temperatures! Everywhere! Do you have them too? I've been quite elated (except for that part where the weather cancelled our plans to go out of town of a day or two — wah) by the cold and am enjoying every minute of it. I love it. We've only really had one day of snow and many days of cold, but they say there might be more snow on the way today.

What do you think of my hawk picture??? Weirdest thing: Meems and I were setting out for a long walk on Sunday afternoon. About a block away from the house I saw the light shining through those seed pod things and wanted to take a picture of them. I debated going back for my camera; I almost didn't. We went back, got it, took a snap of the pods, and we continued on our way. It was strangely quiet. Amelia was asleep in the stroller. It was sunny and very cold, and for some reason (I guess no one wanted to go out in it) I could hardly hear any traffic (usually it's quite loud) and we hadn't seen a single car. I thought about what our neighborhood was like when it was just woods. I used to think this about my neighborhood at home, too; when you look at those giant oak trees, you feel like you can see settlers. The sun shone low in the sky behind bare branches. We walked another few blocks when suddenly there was the most awful and startling noise: bird violence, and in the air. I'd never heard the sound before, but I knew what it was somehow. I thought I'd seen a swoop and a flash some ways up the road but I couldn't be sure. We turned the corner and there, in the middle of the street — a Cooper's hawk, straddling a bluejay, the pair of them all giant wings and eyes. I stopped in my tracks, and an oncoming car rolled quietly toward us all, and stopped a few feet from the birds. We were all frozen, when suddenly the jay sprang back to life and made a break for it. He darted, low and sharp, toward the houses, stunned to be flying. The hawk casually hopped into a tree and looked around: Oh well. He cleaned something off his chest. I dove for my camera, tucked into that (maddening) net basket under the stroller and started snapping pictures as fast as I could. He was about twenty or thirty feet from me, not more. I snapped and snapped, amazed that he sat. Snap snap snap. I could see a very bundled couple walking their dog coming toward me. Snapsnapsnap. I tried to wave them off, knowing they would flush him, but they didn't understand my waves and points. He sat in the tree until they got right up to it, oblivious to him, and then he flapped off. They noticed the camera and said something polite like, "Oh, how nice, a crow" and I was apoplectic with frustration, excitement, and delight, sputtering, "It was a HAWK!!!" Oh! I showed them the photos on my camera's little LCD screen. Wow! Cool! We each told our only hawk stories from the neighborhood — it's so rare to see one! They watched one divebombing at the park a few years ago; I saw one other in our front yard tree one afternoon, and thought I was hallucinating. It made my day.

City peeps. We need to get out more, don't we!!! :)

*The dancing photos are from ScanFair, and yes, I'm still fiddling with CHAI. I can't stop.
**Her peasant dress and blouse are from Alice à Paris, and her booties are from Misha and Puff.

The Crock Pot is Hot

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It's been nice and cold and dark and a little rainy and a little windy and just . . . Novembery. Mama is tiiiiiiiired. What is with the time change, seriously. Why does one little hour of difference make such a difference? Baby Mimi wakes at 3:00 a.m. Or 4:00 a.m. Or, blissfully, 5:00 a.m. (which is the old 6:00 a.m.). Ugh. It's too early even for birds. There's nothing up besides us at 4:00 a.m. She's the most chipper (and adorable, it must be said) person I've ever seen in my life at 4:00 a.m., I will give her that!

Thank you for the crock pot — slow cooker — suggestions! Very cool! We made Jennifer's Split Pea Soup that day and it was amazing. It actually needed longer than I had given it, so we saved it for the next day and made some Dutch oven bread and yeah, that was a seriously good dinner for a cold November night. Thank you, Jennifer! I printed out a bunch of other recipes that you suggested and will work my way through them. I also noticed that several people recommended America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution, so I got that. A lot of people seem to like this book, and most of the criticisms I read — you need to do a lot of prep before putting stuff in the cooker, the meals cook in four to six hours, which isn't long enough if you are at work all day — aren't problems for me at all. I have much, much more time and energy in the morning to shop for and prepare stuff. I actually really like cooking at that time of day, and since I'm home all day I can time it so that it's ready at dinnertime. We eat by five and are thick into the baby-bedtime routine by six. And honestly, at around four I just want to know what's for dinner, not be trying to make it. I don't always feel like this, but in the fall I definitely do.

So yesterday we thumbed through the new book and decided to try the Swedish meatballs. True to America's Test Kitchen style, the book is super informative and they give you lots of explanations for why a recipe asks you to do this or that. (I've watched the show for years and gotten the magazines, and I love this approach, though sometimes the dishes that I have made from them don't actually wind up being my favorites.) I think these came out really well, though I would not add the sour cream in the last step — the result was a sauce that seemed too heavy and almost cloying and too-sweet; but I should've known that was going to happen, because I don't really like the taste of sour cream in most sauces. I think I would stick with heavy cream thinned with broth or water to finish it off. That's just me. Served over buttered noodles with a green salad topped with roasted roots, yum. Good. Two dinners in a row!Next I'm going to try some chicken.

Thank you for your sweet words about the new animals! I'm really excited about them and have a lot of new ideas. Unfortunately no, neither patterns nor kits for anything new will be available before Christmas. But they will be available eventually. We are making some pretty awesome changes to our production process around here. I met with a business consultant a few weeks ago and it has been kind of life-changing for me. One result of that meeting is that I will be outsourcing all of the fabric cutting for future kits to a local sewing production factory called Spooltown. I've needed this for a while, and I am so excited about it I can't even tell you. This place is so cool, and I am thrilled that we have an amazing local resource like this. I was so excited at my first meeting with them that I couldn't stop talking. Their sewing and production space is gorgeous; I will take some pictures of it when we start the cutting for the new stuff (which won't be for a while, though). Anyway, I have lots of new ideas in the works, and now there will be more time for me to design. I will fill you in as things progress!

Wild and Wooly

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Hello, dear friends. How are you? It's a lovely fall morning here in Portland, Oregon. I'm drinking an apple cider. We've already been up to the store for more flour and more sugar, more apples, and some teensy little pumpkins. The packages for the day have already been picked up. My trusty helper girls are taking a very well-deserved day away from here. And Mimi and I are going to go to the party store later to pick out some balloons. It's a good October Tuesday.

* T H A N K   Y O U * to everyone who purchased an ornament kit, or supplies, or a pattern, or anything at all from us over the last week and weekend. I am truly astonished, and my heart's in my throat with gratitude at the response. Thank you. Almost every single one of order is already out the door (except for a few that had size #12 needles or fabric markers in them; we are waiting for another shipment of those that was supposed to be here yesterday, but it apparently got mistakenly sent to San Francisco instead — go figure — so it's on its way back [it originated in Portland, by the way]). But we expect that everything will be on its way out of here tomorrow or Thursday, depending on when that package arrives. It's been seriously intense here! In addition to Greta, I had Shila and Lauren (and of course Andy, and my mom) helping out, and if we could've bottled the energy flying around this place it would've probably blown the lid off the bottle. Lots of people, lots of work, lots of stress, lots of laughs, lots of everything. I love these girls. They are so special to me, and I could not do any of this without them. I owe every single person who helped me this week an enormous thank you. Being a working mama is no joke, man. Neither is being a working papa. I am exhausted! Thank goodness for take-out dinner, helpers, grandmas, mechanics who drop your car off at your house after they fix it (that was awesome), neighbors who have cans of tomatoes when you need them, groceries within walking distance, and playgrounds around the corner. Yeah!

I'm so sorry that not everyone who wanted a kit got one. That is the worst part for me, and I truly apologize that there is only so many that we can make. More of the new kits sold out in one day this year than we sold during the entire season last year, so it's just so hard to know how it will go. The PDF patterns for each ornament collection are available for immediate download if you missed out on the kits. And all of the older kits are all still available. If we wind up with any Night Before Christmas kits left over after everything has shipped I will definitely let you know.

The weather here has been classic fall, with probably one of the most beautiful weekends this past weekend that I have ever seen. It was sunny and crunchy and cool. At the end of each day, we took long walks up to get coffee, or go to the park, or get burritos, or spaghetti. I got to read some of my new Kinfolk cookbook, which came in the mail and is so, so, so pretty and makes me want to get my pantry in order (I haven't had time yet — bah!). Amelia wore a lot of things made out of yarn, I noticed. It's kind of awesome that she is now fitting into a lot of things I made so long ago, like her Springtime in Hollis sweater (which I honestly think is pretty much the perfect pattern) and her blue Mina dress (I didn't get a good picture of the skirt, but I was pretty psyched because that thing fit perfectly). Her adorable scarf and boots (not that I can keep ANYTHING on her feet, seriously) I got on sale last winter from Misha * Puff. Her Sunshine Day blanket is everpresent in our stroller three-quarters of the year. I finished that border on the Latte Baby Coat and one sleeve. My hands hurt so bad after I finished the border. I love the way it looks but agh, that was tricky to pull off for me. I used size 11 needles, too. But it is super cute and I am anxious to finish the other sleeve over the next few nights and get it lined with flannel. I've never lined a knitted thing before, I don't think. Any advice?

Yesterday afternoon I got to take the most delicious nap with Amelia on the sofa bed in the living room after we got home from the park. The window was open to the cool air and the sunlight was golden. The girls were working in the back of the house and Andy was out, so it was just us two, snuggled under the quilt together, Clover at our feet. It had been several days since we'd gotten to do that and oh, oh. Pure bliss for me. Pure bliss. When she wakes and her hair is all crazy and she is still warm and shy and sleepy and confused and [I'm right here, baby] buries her face in my neck, oh. Girl. Thank you.

This and That

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Thank you so much for all of your kind words about the new ornament collection. Thank you, thank you! I'm very excited that you like them. I will put them on sale tomorrow morning, Thursday, October 3. Just come here to the blog and I'll have all of the photos and links and information right here.

I've been tucked in the office for the past few days, really digging into this project that, up until now, Greta has spearheaded. It feels really good to be back in the office with the girls (we have backup this week, too!), listening to Pandora, soaking up the occasional sunshine coming in through the skylights, getting soaked by the almost-constant rain when we take the recycling out, getting frequent visits from Amelia as her dad or her grandma bring her in to say hello, eating breakfast at my desk, singing every word to "Wagon Wheel," Andy pulling late nights listening to old Willie Nelson concerts assembling Ice Skating Afternoon kits and texting me (upstairs in bed knitting) frequently about how much fun he was having (not kidding — hilarious), and also texting me a long list of ways we could improve the ergonomic correctness and general efficiency of our system. Ha! Kinda reminded me of the old days, when he and I did everything ourselves. I don't think things have changed that much, really. We just do different things now, and we have Amelia here, who makes everything wonderful. I had to re-photograph all of the kit photos for each collection yesterday, and spent a little bit of time with each ornament, remembering how each of them came about over the years. I really love them. They have been a pretty big part of our lives these past six years, actually.

Over the weekend, it seriously poured. Wind, rain, wind, rain. We had a great, sopping-wet time despite it at the flock and fiber festival with Amelia's birthgrandparents. Ten minutes after we got back home the power went out because of the storm, and was out most of Saturday afternoon, until early evening. It was kind of nice not to be able to work, especially because Andy was home, too. I took a long candlelit bath, and Meems came in with me at the end. The girl loves water and I love playing in the water with her. I got to sit on the sofa-bed and read Vanity Fair (the magazine, not the book) while she napped beside me. When the power came back on on Sunday, Andy went to work and Amelia and I cooked. Butternut squash macaroni and cheese (I kinda made it up), black bean soup, no-knead bread. Our friend Sarah came for lunch on Monday. I bought a reproduction of a painting by Edward Hicks called David Leedom Farm, 1849. I love it. It's over my dresser. At night I've been working on the little sweater coat I've started for Amelia. I'm planning to line it with flannel. The pantry is installed and finished and I literally haven't had any time to stock it. Big preparations are underway for Amelia's birthday party. I really just can't believe it's been a year. Sweetest love, a whole year.

***To those that have asked about the book with the lamby pattern, it is I Love Patchwork by Rashida Coleman-Hale. I'll tell you more about my lamb after I give it to Miss Mimilove.

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.