Posts filed in: Books

Lovely, dark and deep.

comments: 271

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Last month, when we went to the art museum to see the photography exhibit about the Columbia Gorge, I bought a book in the gift shop called Portland Hill Walks: Twenty Explorations in Parks and Neighborhoods by Laura O. Foster. I started to read it that night, and immediately began conspiring with myself to take Walk #1, Willamette Heights to Balch Creek Canyon Loop.

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I got pretty emotional when I was reading the book. I knew that something was changing for me because of it. Before my accident, I had been a walker. Walking defined so much about me. I can't explain to you how much I loved it. I tried one time to explain, but I don't know that I really got it right. In the years since 1998, walking has had to be replaced by other things that don't cause so much pain, or, worse, risk the fragile tissue we've worked so hard to regrow, but the urge to do it never goes away. Lately I have been desperate to get back to the woods, a place I grew up in; I didn't even really know how much I was feeling it until I was in bed one night a few weeks ago, reading the book by the glow of my tiny nightlight, and I started to cry.

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That was sort of a clue.

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But I think they were really tears of relief, in a way: The book had arrived.

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It's a book of walks, joyfully (you can tell) taken, carefully detailed, lovingly described by Ms. Foster. She has a writer's sensibility, and writes like a dream, but she is also herself an editor, and editors have that uncanny ability to focus intensely on the small stuff — there are excellent maps, precise mileage counts and elevations, and very well indicated directions — while never losing sight of the big stuff: Historical information, fascinating anecdotes, and geological descriptions place you squarely in the context of the physical place you're walking through.

But what was different about it for me, as I looked at the maps and calculated the elevations and imagined the terrain based on her descriptions, was that I felt as if I were walking it as I was reading it, or at least I felt confident that I would responsibly know what I was in for if I walked it — if I went off-trail like this — in a way that maybe only the compromised can really appreciate. "Know" in a way that inspires confidence, and makes you think you can just begin. A small, private victory that may be different from most, or not something anyone else can imagine, or, at least, seems like less than they'd expect from you. But you know. You know you've scored the chance to change. And it feels like grace, something suddenly bestowed.

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On Saturday, we went. Through neighborhoods we never knew existed (though that's not saying much, since we tend to circle the well-worn paths around our own quite happily, being both homebodies and creatures of habit) and on wooded paths we couldn't have imagined, Andy and Clover and I spent this misty, late-winter afternoon lost in slow steps and shared wonder. We felt very far from home, though, amazingly, we could look down and see the brew pub where we had dinner last week, the gleaming port, the river we cross every day, just below. What smells, of wood and water and hidden things, were these? What light, through this odd, fir-treed filter? Where were we, here on the green-fringed edge of the eleven-mile-long Leif Erickson trail, built in 1915 and planned as a conduit between several yet-unbuilt subdivisions named, optimistically, Maybrook, Ridgewood, Regents Heights? They would be abandoned and later forfeited to the city, since the dramatic, ravine-crossing road was doomed to repeated washout.

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Whose house is this, huddled into the hillside?

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To what secret place does this mossy-soft stairway lead?

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Why has it taken me so long to get here, or is this, in fact, just the right time?

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In and out of woods and neighborhoods we wove, shocked to find that the line between the two was blurred and indistinct (and, frequently and unfortunately, covered in invasive ivy). From the stately, enormous old homes and hushed, sleepy streets of Willamette Heights, we made our way down to the Wildwood Trail and into Forest Park, past the site of the old dairy, past mushrooms as big as dinner plates, and further into Balch Creek Canyon, which, according to the book, was named after Danford Balch. He had once owned the surrounding property and was hanged in 1859 for shooting the man who had married his fifteen-year-old daughter, while she (and five hundred other) Portlanders watched. As it turned from afternoon to late afternoon, we wound our way down to the creek.

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Around the bend, a witch's house.

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At the bottom of the canyon, toward the end of the loop, it was busier, more developed (a bright, new fence lined the path), and colder, and my lens started to fog up, which has never happened before.

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Or else, the place is really enchanted.

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Makes you wonder.

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It is for me, anyway. It was almost 4.5 miles in all, and I made it the entire way.

A is for Another

comments: 180

EmbroideryBook3 As I've hinted, behind the colds, curries, and coconut custards, I am working on another book! This one is a collection of thirty embroidery projects that incorporate cross-stitch, crewel, and regular floss embroidery. It will be published, again by Potter Craft, in the spring or summer of 2010.

I have never worked as happily on anything as I am on this book. Everything — manuscript,illustrations, charts, and photos — is due on my editor's desk on April 15th. I started developing the projects earlier this fall, and every day of creating them has been so satisfying and enjoyable. I honestly think I will be sad to be finished with this one, which (for lots of reasons) I couldn't have said about Stitched in Time. For one thing, I have had a lot more time to work on this new book (as of yet untitled), compared with the wild-eyed and desperate dash-to-the-finish-line that was Stitched in Time, and that has made so much difference.

Last spring, soon after Stitched in Time was totally out of my hands and off to the printer, I started thinking about what I wanted to work on next. An article I'd written for Hallmark magazine had come out just a couple of months before; in it I told the story of my accident and talked about how important embroidery was to my recovery during that bewildering, terrible time. I hadn't really thought about embroidery, let alone done any really big embroidery projects, in a long time, but writing about it reminded me of how intensely connected I feel to this amazing medium. After the article came out, I received so many letters and emails from people who told me of their equally therapuetic experiences doing embroidery, and other kinds of detail-oriented, contemplative handwork. The letters really moved me. When my editor called and asked me what I was thinking about, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

This book is a collection of my dream projects, really. I've interpreted so many of the things I love here — intricate cross-stitch motifs, vintage monograms, tolework borders, folky hearts and flowers, naturalistic botanicals, delicate alphabets. Some of the designs are old, treated in new ways. Some of the designs are new, incorporating traditional techniques and stitches. All of them, first and foremost,are things I just love. I'm so grateful to be able to contribute something to this medium that has given me so much.

I can't wait for you to see it!!! Now it's taking too long! :-)

Busy Season

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Good morning, dears. It's silver outside, early morning. I love the way the Christmas lights look in the early morning. I'll take more photos once the sun really comes up. For now, all is calm and quiet.

I was totally cracking up at the comments yesterday on the plaid parade. Andy P. really does rock the PWS (Plaid Western Shirt). Major babe. I found out yesterday that he is getting all week off next week — a real winter break! — so I am thrilled about that. We head to Seattle this weekend for Urban Craft Uprising, so if you are in town, don't miss it!

Urban Craft Uprising
Saturday and Sunday, December 6-7, 2008
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Seattle Center Exhibition Hall
Seattle, Washington

Please note that I'll be there officially only from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, signing books at the UCU booth, so please come see me! I'm very excited to go to Seattle again. We're only staying the one night this time, but still — I am excited to go to a big city decorated for Christmas.

I'm late in telling you about some of the really generous publicity I've been so lucky to receive for the book! I finally got it all organized and scanned for the press page at AliciaPaulson.com. I'm so grateful to Hallmark magazine, Romantic Homes, BUST, the Grand Rapids Press, Living Crafts magazine, and Sew Hip! for their gracious reviews and excerpts — please check them out!

I have created a Flickr group for anything you make from the book, so please head over there with your photos — I can't wait to see what you make!

I am sooooo sad to tell you that some errata has come in for the book, too. I knew it was probably inevitable that there would be, but oh darn it!!! My sincere apologies for this. I will be keeping an updated list on the book page at AliciaPaulson.com, and I'll post it to the Flickr group too. If you are working on a project and you have any questions about either the dimensions, or directions, or you just don't understand something, please post your question at the Flickr group so everyone can benefit, and I promise I will help out as quickly as I possibly can. Thank you!

Now, tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. EST (6 a.m. PST!) I will be doing an interview on Martha Stewart Sirius Radio. I don't actually get Sirius radio, so I can't tell you about it or how to get to it, but if you have it you presumably know how it works. The show is called Morning Living. I've never done a live radio interview before so I am excited about that. Must. Have. Coffee. Before. Speaking. At. 6 A.M.! Hopefully actual English will come out of my mouth.

Signed, and Sealed with a Kiss

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Thank you to everyone who came out to Powell's last night for my book signing! It was really, really fun. I get so very nervous about things like that because my friends and family can tell you what a total utter wally I am when I have to stand up and talk in front of people. Quel nightmare. It's like, remember that Jodie Foster movie Nell? That's me. They pull me out of my happy place/(living room)/[the backwoods] and I creep out, wringing my hands and speaking my own private gobbledygook language that only my dogs and cats understand. Well, the cats don't really understand. The dog understands, and she had to stay home.

Anyway, though I worry so much about speaking in public, every time I do do it, it naturally turns out to be just fine, if not a total blast, and I had a great time seeing old friends and meeting so many new ones. It was really so special to me to see you all. Thank you ever so much for coming out to celebrate with us. I was so honored to be there, at that awesome store, where I've spent so many happy hours. It was all just so nice.

If you couldn't make it out, Powell's has lots of signed copies available! I'll be doing a couple more events in the Northwest, and I'll keep updating the sidebar with that information, too.

Today I am in serious need of a catch-up! What an exciting week. The house is trashed. I was going to replace the buttons on my sweater at the last minute last night, so I dumped an entire one-gallon pickle jar of buttons onto my already-covered-with other-stuff work table, looking for three 1" matching reds before I decided I was crazy and only had seven minutes before I needed to leave the house, so I took off, and those buttons are still all over the place, including the floor. There are newspapers, dead leaves, junk mail, and dog hairs upon every surface. We have nothing to eat, and mountains of laundry. But it's a beautiful sunny day, and I think I'm going to leave it all and go outside and play. I hope you have a great day, too. xo

Free Pattern, and a Giveaway!

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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First, I made Ina's Apple Cake Tatin:

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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?

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.