Posts filed in: Books

Free Pattern, and a Giveaway!

comments: 36

Craftpod88 Would you like to enter a contest? OF COURSE YOU WOULD!

Hurry over to Craftzine (before noon PST tomorrow) and tell Jenny why you need to be chosen to win one of four copies of Stitched in Time, courtesy of the lovely people at Potter Craft!

And while you're there, you can download the pattern to make my Monogrammed Stockings. Just remember that I took this photo when it was about 95 degrees outside.

Isn't it cool to have the insider 411?

And you thought I wasn't even gonna show up today, didn'tcha. See that?

Thank You!

comments: 58

Apron1

Thank you ever so much for all of your kind words and all of the emails about the book! Jeesh, I am overwhelmed, and truly appreciate every single sweet message that has come my way the past couple of days — you guys really know how to make someone's day. It's been a really fun time, and I am crazy busy! Today I have got to get to the grocery store and do some chores around here. If you're in town, please try to stop by my first book signing this weekend:

Sunday, November 16, 2008
7:30 p.m.
Powell's Books
1005 W. Burnside
Portland, Oregon

Ooo yipes, and I have to finish the skirt I'll be wearing! Keep forgetting about that.

Please come! If you can't, don't worry — I just saw that you can actually order a signed copy from Powell's. And I have signed bookplates for anyone who wants one (or as many as you'd like). Just send me a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and I'll sign some bookplates and send them back to you. If you're overseas, just send me a self-addressed envelope and I'll put some U.S. postage on it for you. Let me know how many bookplates you need, and if they should be written out for any special people, and I'll get them out pronto. My snail-mail address is here:-)

Thank you for making me feel so special this week. It's really, really nice. Thank you! Back soon. . . .

Stitched in Time: Memory Keeping Projects to Sew and Share

comments: 252

Book2

Yay, it's finally here! The book has officially happened! Thank you so, so, so, so much to everyone who has helped, been excited for, listened to, and shown patience with me and The Book this past year and a half. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

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I truly hope that you will like the book, and be inspired to make things for yourself and the people special to you. At the end of the day, my dream for anyone is to find joy and peace in making things by hand.

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Out of all of the things I did to make the book, out of all the frantic afternoons sewing alone in the studio, the slogs through the mall buying clothes for the models, the time the puppers pulled the unfinished strip of bias tape attached to the placemat and toppled the full cup of coffee onto the placemat thus ruining the placemat just a millisecond (thankfully) after the photo was taken (and this was the third version of the placemat, the first two having been screwed up by me), the times I thought I couldn't do it, the photo shoots with Andy where he held mobiles on the end of a jerry-rigged fishing pole and moved entire bookcases out of the way to put up Christmas decorations for stocking photos in August, the long days when Audrey was sick in her little bed under my prop table, when I worked side by side with my sweet niece coloring cupcakes and mugging for the camera ("Can you hold the doll up just a little bit, sweetie?" — she'd hoist it high above her head, grinning — "Okay, down a little bit?" — she'd drop it to the floor — "Um, okay up a little bit . . . [please please please please]"), the things I didn't know and learned too late, the quiet winter afternoons with red pens and sticky notes and the Chicago Manual of Style, out of all of those things what I will remember most is sitting at the dining-room table writing the small essays that introduce the sections, and the sidebars.

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They came at the very end of working on the project, when the crafts were finished, the photos taken, the patterns explained. They were both the easiest and the hardest parts of the whole thing. The writing came out as if a faucet had been turned on, literally. I cried about each one. Then I sent them all in anyway. It became something different, then.

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Writing a book makes you feel vulnerable in about a million different ways! Will people like it? Will they hate it? Will I make mistakes? Will I wish I could've done something different? You wonder why you couldn't have just been one of those people who was content to read. In the end, you can, of course, only do your very best, and then close your eyes and cross your fingers in the sincere hope that you've contributed something to the remarkable community you love. And not made an ass of yourself. Because you wish for that, too.

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In the end, late at night when you can't sleep and you're thinking about it all, you think: Oh, yes — it was a privilege. To have had the opportunity, to have said it how you felt it, to have done it and finished it, to have worked with great people, to hold that real printed book in your hands. It is a privilege to have shared it with, and to have been encouraged by, all of you.

Thank you so much for that. I really mean it. Thank you.

The Last of the Summer Reading Booklist

comments: 36

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I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get around to talking about the rest of my books on the booklist. If you've been hanging around here for a while, you might remember that this list came together in a few stages from your recommendations. I talked about my choices here and here and then here. And now it's five months later. Egads.

So, I want to mention the rest of the books on the list that I haven't written about yet, because I at least dipped into all of them, and some of them I loved. Some of them I just couldn't get into. Some of them I'll keep and read again. Without further ado:

Thrumpton Hall: A Memoir of Life in My Father's House by Miranda Seymour. Title-craving George FitzRoy Seymour only ever had one true love: an anachronistic house he begged to inherit from a childless aunt and uncle. Passionate about the property since boyhood, Seymour's single-minded determination to put Thrumpton Hall before all else is written about by his daughter with honesty, insightful research, and not a little pain. This book, while not the happiest read in the world, was strangely difficult to put down, but then strangely exhausting and a bit depressing. It depends what you're in the mood for. If nothing else, it is a compelling portrait of an old house against the backdrop of modern England, as well as a daughter's search for explanations.

Step Ball Change and Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. I put these two together because they have a lot of similarities in my mind, and I loved them both equally. The narrator in each is a sassy, hilarious, thoughtful wife and mother; each story opens on a day where several big things happen at once: her husband loses his job just as her father falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his wrists and has to move in (and her divorced mother already lives there, too); her sister discovers a cheating husband the day her daughter gets engaged to the richest guy in town. There's lots going on, lots of opportunity for humor and tension, and lots of great writing here. I think Jeanne Ray is Ann Patchett's mom, so the good writing gene must run in the family. I'll definitely read her other books. They were just exactly what I was looking for this summer.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley." Rebecca needs no introduction from me, I'm sure. This classic mystery/romance, first published in 1938, is one that I read back in high school, at the urging of my Auntie Georgianne, who said it was her favorite book, and I loved it then. My aunt sadly passed away this summer, and I pulled out the same copy of Rebecca that I'd kept all these years, and spent several quiet days on the porch re-reading it this summer. If you like big English houses (I see a pattern here), mysterious first wives, mousy young brides married to bossy older men, and mean servents, then you'll probably really love this book, too.

Not a Happy Camper: A Memoir by Mindy Schneider. This memoir of several summers at Jewish sleepaway summer camp started out strong and funny, but quickly devolved into labored descriptions of teenage flirtations, and I got bored. The dialogue just didn't ring true for me, and I didn't finish it, though some parts were quite funny.

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. Kate Klein is a young mother living in an upscale Connecticut suburb where everything about her is at odds with everything about it. When she stumbles upon the murder of picture-perfect Kitty Cavanaugh, and is shocked to discover she may have a very personal connection to it, she embarks on her own investigation. I loved this. I like all of her feisty, edgy characters and consistently solid writing. I've read several of ther other books and I keep them when finished. I also think the movie version of In Her Shoes is brilliant. One of my favorites.

World of Pies by Karen Stolz. I was trying to remember something about this book, and then I realized that I never read it. Ooops. I forgot about this one.

That was easy.

I should space out and then play dumb more often.

Anybody Out There? by Marion Keyes. I like Marion Keyes's books a lot. I've read several of them. This one was a page-turner — I literally couldn't put it down — until the big twist in the middle, which horrified me to such an extent I literally dropped the book in shock and never picked it up again. And I probably won't. Not a happy book. (Though everyone is saying to keep going with it.)

Od Magic by Patricia McKillip and The Penderwick Chronicles: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. People love both of these books, and I don't know what my problem is but I couldn't get into them. Yet. I don't know if I just read too late at night or what, because although it seemed like I should love them both, I could not keep the characters straight in my mind, especially the four sisters. I'll surely try these again sometime.

Wow, I think that's it. I have new ones I'll add now, thank goodness! Thanks again for the recommendations — it was a great summer of reading. Yesterday I picked up Heidi and this old one, Black Flower by Jane Abbott, from 1929. I have absolutely no idea what it's about. I'll let you know. Hopefully before April.

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"So they made fudge"

Golden Age

comments: 62

Pudding1

I finally took the time to putter in the kitchen a couple of afternoons ago. The lovely Mrs. Brocket had sent me her new book back in July, and though I'd read it cover to cover almost immediately, I hadn't made time to cook from it. But Wednesday's clear, crisp, cold afternoon required me to pull out my lovely rippled pudding pot and get busy.

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I know Jane would probably approve that the mauve-y luster of  my pot matches the delightful cover of her book, Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer: A Golden Treasury of Classic Treats. Cherry Cake is a collection of recipes for the old-fashioned treats featured in classic favorites from the golden age of British children's literature. It's the coolest book, and it is just so totally Jane.

As you probably know, Jane is a voracious reader and a champion baker (among her other many talents). I can totally picture her and daughter Phoebe (whose request to actually bake the macaroons she'd only read about in Enid Blyton inspired Jane to reserach and write this book) with a wooden spoon in one hand, and The Ragamuffin Mystery in the other, busy about the Cook's Special Sugar Biscuits. Organized in sections like "Off to a Good Start" (breakfasts before adventures), "Proper Elevenses" (for that little mid-morning sit-down), "School Food" (illicit supplements to dining-hall fare), and "Kind and Thoughtful Treats" (simple gestures for genuine and caring occasions), each recipe is introduced brilliantly, so that you not only understand its context within the book it comes from, but you now want to go to the library and get every single one of the children's books she references. (Which you can do, because Jane gives a comprehensive bibliography at the end of the book.) I love it.

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I'd made some rice pudding for Jane in celebration of her first book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity (the U.S. edition of which is now available), so naturally I had to try her version of this Edwardian supper-staple, Creamy Rice Pud. I fudged my way through the conversions from grams to ounces because my computer was rebooting itself for the fourteenth time and I couldn't get to a conversion chart (but here's one if you need it, and if you're in the U.S. you will, since the book is a British edition, but that's what makes it fun). I grated some nutmeg and added a pile of cinnamon in one spot (as usual — that cinnamon always comes out in a pile). The pudding cooks for three hours, and during that time it will fill your house with the most mellow, golden, comforting smell in the world.

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I ate mine for dinner in the glow of my little lamp (since by the time the pud' came out of the ove' it was way dark outside), and couldn't help but feel that, with ever so much wrong with the world, my little corner of it was, if only at that moment, quite all right.

Now to the library for The Railway Children and Heidi, which I've never read. And I promise I will redo my booklist next!

What I Did with the Eggs

comments: 50

First, I made Ina's Apple Cake Tatin:

Tatin2

I'd made it once before, and I know I liked it then, but I didn't like it this time. I don't know why, I just didn't like it. I'm fickle like that. I even put whipped cream on it but I still didn't like it. Oh well. What's next.

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Hard-boiled eggs. Thank you for all of the eggy suggestions the other day! There were so many delicious-sounding suggestions, but Lauren's, for pan-seared deviled eggs, was so intriguing I had to try it. I love deviled eggs. If deviled eggs are at the party, there will be trouble, as I will stand next to the hors d'oeuvre table and sneak deviled eggs until they're gone. And then I'll go home. This will happen with crab cakes, too. Those mini-crab cakes they sometimes serve at weddings. I will risk embarrassing myself for crab cakes, no problem. I don't care. Let me at 'em. Apparently, there are some people who do not like deviled eggs, but I think that's one of those crazy stories people tell you just to make you think the world is falling apart because it cannot be true.

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These are Pan-Crisped Deviled Eggs on French Lettuces (or just "some kind of greens," in our case) from Lynn Rossetto Kasper's (of NPR's The Splendid Table) book How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show. The recipe can be found in the right-hand column of this article about the book. I must tell you that they were amazing. After filling the little devils, you fry them up in a bit of olive oil (extra light for me — and if you use a non-stick pan, you can go with just one tablespoon of it, instead of the two to three she calls for, I would say). You mix the remaining filling with a little more mustard, oil, and vinegar, and toss that dressing with the greens. We had some French bread that I decided not to toast and just to butter. And all of this for Saturday lunch was really delicious. I might warn you against sampling any of the deviled eggs before they have been pan seared — a few of these really seemed to go a long way, taste-wise. So this was the first time in my life I 1) sat down while eating deviled eggs and 2) left the remaining ones for someone else. Who hadn't eaten four of them while preparing the lunch.

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What can I say. They were halved, you know?

Family Supper

comments: 32

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On Monday night, as, for some reason, Andy and I were standing out in front of our house beginning to realize out loud that it was well past 8 p.m. and we hadn't eaten dinner, our neighbor Katie said, "Oh, why don't you have the rest of ours!" Lazy pigs that we are we said, "Perfect!" So Katie packed up a tote bag with five little containers of taco stuff and handed me a bunch of tortillas and Andy and I went home and ate their family's dinner. Weird. But it was great, because I really was not in the mood to do battle with the kitchen on Monday, and Katie had just cleaned and reorganized her fridge, and was not keen on leftovers clogging it up.

So yesterday, I thought that when I returned her little containers I would also bring a dish of shells. I had been thumbing through Apples for Jam again, and the Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni sounded good. I had fresh basil, and fresh spinach. I thought I'd use store-bought large shell noodles instead of the homemade crepes Tessa Kiros used, because in 90-degree weather, yes I am crazy, but not that crazy.

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These are the shells before they were baked, with a little basil for color in the photo (but don't bake it with that on there; put it on once the shells come out of the oven). If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know how much I love Tessa Kiros's books. Every time I open them I feel better about everything. I was thinking about it, and about why they feel so special, and I decided it was because they really feel so completely specific to her, gloriously specific to her — written to share with an audience, yes, but so personal, so unique, and so specific a reflection of her own family's life that I realized that this is just what I want in my books, lately.

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And that reminded me of Amanda's book, which has been percolating in my mind for a while, and which I realized while I was cooking last night that I love for all the same reasons. I know that Amanda is a fan of Tessa Kiros's books, too (well, who's not, I know), but these ladies really remind me of each other: There is such an inherent sense of curiosity, generosity, and . . . gentleness . . . in both of their approaches to the world. Amanda's book, The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, is lovely because it naturally just feels so much like her blog and like her — truly encouraging, so respectful of the journey, always reminding me to slow down and notice the details. Amanda has patience. She makes me revisit the processes I take for granted, somehow — I was so surprised to learn in the book that she never considered herself a creative person until she had kids. I love how the book is specific to the Soules and their little house in Maine, but still wide and generous in its suggestions and scope. And even though Amanda's voice leads you through it all, I always have the sense that she is a true listener. I have this sense also because I've talked her ear off in several phone conversations over the years that we've been friends through the blogs, but when I was finally able to sit down and really delve into the book, I noticed it again: Amanda, by example, including the example she sets in the book, makes me want to be a better listener. Good listeners make good teachers, and I have learned a lot from Lady Soule.

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I made a little dish of shells for myself, too. This is the cook's treat — one broken noodle, a tiny fresh basil leaf, a blob of bechamel, and a few spots of tomato sauce. I almost like the uncooked version better. It reminds me of the little cook's treats I used to put together when I was a kid and my mom was making shells, and I couldn't wait for them to come out of the oven. She'd give me all the broken ones to mess with, and those raw ones still seem to taste exactly like home. Funny how that works.

Wild Strawberries

comments: 63

Vacherin

This beautiful photo is from the June 1995 issue of Martha Stewart Living. I was thumbing through my back issues the other night and my breath caught when I saw this. So simple, so beautiful. They call this a vacherin — two discs of meringue layered with whipped cream and an assortment of tiny berries. They used red currants, red and golden raspberries, and fraises des bois, or wild strawberries. I have no idea what the difference is between a pavlova and a vacherin; amazingly, thirteen years on, they still have the recipe for this here. If my birthday were in June you can believe that I'd be asking for this, maybe with just one of those really tall, skinny candles to make a wish on. . . .

There is something so lovely about tiny strawberries with their stems still attached. At the farmer's market I bought some yesterday, intending to make this today. I spread them out on a paper towel and put them in the fridge, but when I checked on them this morning I saw that they were already ruined, blotchy and runny. Should've just eaten them out of hand yesterday, when they were delicious and perfect. Sigh. Live and learn.

I have been obsessed with watching Jamie Oliver's newest television show, Jamie at Home. It's frowsy, earnest Jamie, planting peas, picking onions (the one where he was crying while cutting the onions just cracked me up), cooking outside on his awesome wood-fired oven, puttering about in his cool little Anthropologie-looking kitchen. I wish I could show you how cool the production on this show is if you can't watch it yourself. The titles all look like a hand-drawn, taped-together scrapbook. I keep rewinding it (TiVo) just to get a closer look at the details. On his rustic estate he seems really happy, as if he has finally settled into his best cooking self, the emphasis (as always) on both quality and simplicity, where the food is as close as possible to its source, and then prepared with sincerity and passion. It's hard not to feel inspired watching Jamie. I think he is an amazing person. It's kind of incredible how many things he's done already, and only 33. It might be easier in the U.K., but in the U.S. it's a bit hard to keep track of him; over the years, I've always tried to watch his shows whenever I can find them on cable here in the states, but he seems to come and go, showing up on different channels or out of the blue. I found the shows about Fifteen and his Italy trip (which I just stumbled upon one day) pretty poignant, actually. I only have two of his cookbooks (the companion cookbook for Jamie at Home comes out in the U.S. in September; it's already out in the U.K). So though, through the years, I have always really rooted for him, I must say that this new show has utterly won me over. The beauty of it, along with his energy and enthusiasm, is really inspiring me this summer. I hope he does an episode on berries.

This weekend has been wonderful. On Thursday I took the day off. But I did not answer emails, I did not sit in the yard, I did not make iced tea; I sewed. I had the urge. For seven hours. I got a pattern, shopped for fabric, pinned, cut, ironed, and then stitched an entire dress in one fell swoop. Of course, the result was the ugliest dress in the whole wide world, but still. It was all fun until I tried it on (it had a circular yoke which you attach at the very end, so there was no trying-on until it was finished, at which point I screamed at the top of my lungs and stomped outside, and gave my Adirondack chair, in which I was supposed to be sitting and sunning and drinking iced tea, a very dirty look). On Friday I made a cotton lining for my straw bag (that went fine), sewed two wrap skirts (that went fine), and bought some new clogs (fine), and all of it made up for the dress disaster (I'll try and take a picture of it tomorrow because you will laugh, and I'll show you my wrap skirts, too). We made it out to Blue Lake at the end of the day where Andy fell asleep on the grass and I finished Nine Coaches Waiting, which was good (though I can't for the life of me figure out why it is called Nine Coaches Waiting or what that means?). Yesterday we had a really fun traveling potluck with two groups of neighbors (I had the entree, and made Tyler's chicken enchiladas again = good party food). And today is more organizing of cabinets (not fun, but so nice when finished) and kickball league later this afternoon. Good, relaxing (four-day) weekend. Just what I needed. Hope yours is going great!

Cherry Clafoutis

comments: 60

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Chelan cherries from the farmer's market yesterday. Not the best, says the cherry man, 'cause we're not quite there yet, but a good early cherry. I was feeling French-ish, so I thought I'd make a cherry clafoutis for Aimee and Pat, who were coming for dinner.

EatdrinkliveI used Fran Warde's recipe for plum calfoutis from one of my very favorite cookbooks, Eat Drink Live: 150 Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night. This book, along with my other favorite of hers (also photographed by my photography idol Debi Treloar) Food for Friends: Simply Delicious Menus for Easy Entertaining, gets pulled out frequently when peeps are coming 'round for dinner. I paw through them just for inspiration. I really can't recommend them highly enough. I'm pretty sure I've talked about them before. If you are feeling dreamy about your weekends, or want to make a plan to get them going, these books are so lovely and encouraging.

Foodforfriends My thing this summer, though, is to sort of do the same thing over and over again, no matter who's coming. Well, maybe with a little variation, usually in the dessert. And that variation can be dictated by whatever it is I find at the farmer's market on Saturday morning. My basic menu is: garlic ciabatta bread (from the farmer's market), mushroom sauce (I make this on Friday afternoon), cheese ravioli (from Pastaworks), simple salad (with greens from the farmer's market), and make-ahead dessert (with fruit from the farmer's market). That's it. Nothing that has to be prepared at the last minute except for the ravioli. I have yet to encounter anyone who doesn't love ravioli. For many years, my defining characteristic in my family was that I was "the one who loves ravioli." (And "the one who said 'Ow!' when hit with a marshmallow that her sister threw at her," but whatever! I don't remember the event, but the story has been told about me so many times now that it is accepted as fact, so . . . fiiiiiiine. That's fine. Now you know.)

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A clafoutis is like an eggy, custardy, pancake-y batter, poured over some fruit and baked into a moist layer. I like all things eggy, custardy, and pancake-y, and I love cherries, though you can do this with plums or blueberries or even strawberries, or probably any berry or stone fruit, I would think? It looks cool with cherries. Apparently there's some controversy about whether the cherries should be pitted, but I would absolutely pit mine. Especially if you have use of your neighbor's (on the other side, this time — how lucky am I that I have such epicurean neighbors, I know) cherry pitter. This thing is pretty cool. You can see the cherry at the top of the spout? You put it there, and then push down on this little plunger that pushes the pit out and into the bucket below. As the plunger comes back up, it lifts the cherry and then tosses it down the chute and into the waiting casserole dish. Dear Santa, I've been a very good girl this year and I would like my very own cherry pitter. Thank you, much love always, Alicia P.

Cherries7 There's not much to the batter — a half cup of flour, a half cup of sugar, four eggs, and two cups of milk. All whisked together and poured over the cherries. I might add a little salt to this next time, and maybe a dash of vanilla. It's a bland pud, but I like that sort of thing. Pop it in the oven for forty minutes at 375 degrees F. Don't accidentally turn the oven up to 475 and then go sit on the front porch and have a beer, only to come careening into the house when you smell roasting pancake and yank it all out. Why do I do things like this. I don't know. It was saved, but honestly. 475? Girl. Put down the beer and read the directions.

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After it cools, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top. I bought a can of powdered sugar with a sprinkle-top from the Dutch import store, and it is the best, because you don't have to mess with the sugar bag, which is impossible to open without making a mess, or find the tiny strainer which you can never find because its jammed in the back of the utensil drawer, or try to sprinkle the sugar off of a spoon, so it always falls off in big clumps and looks stupid. The can is awesome. Oh, and the clafoutis was good, too!

* * * THANK YOU * * *

comments: 104

Peony1

Thank you so much for all the book love. That was so, so, SO nice to come home to. Thank you!

My peony bloomed yesterday, and I bought myself a cupcake. I sat and thought about the whole last year, and all the things that happened in it. I missed Audrey so much that I had to go find Clover Meadow, and haul her onto my lap (not easy anymore), and whisper all those things I had to say to Auds into the soft Clover-lamb's ear, and hope that Clover would pass on my messages, in her own sweet and secret doggie way. How I wish you were here, Audrey. For the good parts, like yesterday.

But. To all of you. Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement, and excitement, and orders, and enthusiasm, and for just generally being so dang nice to me all the time. Seriously.

GROUP HUG!!!!!

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

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.