Posts filed in: Events and Holidays

Starlight, Starbright

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Sweet days, and a rush, and and now, hopefully, a hush to the finish. Christmas was so nice. A bit of a whirlwind, really. I must admit that as it speeds up I just try to hang on for the ride. I'm better at downtime. I'm good at January and February. I feel accomplished if I manage one thing a day, then.

With my smidge of remaining energy, I had a cleaning fit on Sunday and donated our extra blankets, coats, and toys to make room for some of the new ones. (Amelia's amazing dolly was made by Hillary. Isn't she so big and cool? Thank you, dear friend! I need to get a picture of the crocheted giraffe [Raffy] that Andy made, too. She is awesome.) On the way home from the shelter, it snowed. I was possibly in the least romantic of places when it started — driving on Halsey and NE 122nd (not particularly picturesque) with a sleeping toddler in the car who missed the whole thing. By the time we reached the house (I'd planned to hustle us inside and start heating up hot chocolate as fast as I could) it was over. Just big, fat, cold drops of rain. That's okay. In December I did nothing but drink Burgerville chocolate-peppermint milkshakes and make appetizers for everyone I've ever met and clean the house fifty thousand times. In January I plan to devote myself unflaggingly to breaking in my new flannel sheets, reading actual books, and wishing for snow. I think that's plenty.

So, house and brain are disheveled and fluffy, which feels kind of nice. We have no plans for New Year's Eve, thank goodness. Andy works both Eve and Day, and Amelia and I will probably make shrimp cocktail and I'll see if I can get her to watch Snow Buddies (which has actual dogs and not cartoon dogs) and we'll be in bed with the new flannel sheets by 7:00 p.m. Should you lead a more exciting life have need for some party food, I can highly recommend everything that I made from your appetizer suggestions a few weeks ago:

Smoked salmon dip
Onion and bacon marmalade (spread onto goat-cheese smeared crostini)
Snowman cheese ball!
Shrimp with cocktail sauce
Badenjan dip
Olive cheese spread on English muffins
Jezebel sauce over cream cheese
Taco dip
Bar nuts
Spinach dip

Forgive me for not also mentioning each commenter who made these suggestions! Many of them were repeated so I took that as hearty endorsement and I will say that all of the food got eaten — the olive cheese spread most of all! I thought the homemade shrimp cocktail was amazing, myself. And, to note, I was looking for mostly cold appetizers to serve; the list above was a nice mix of mostly cold with just a few things that needed to be heated up. It seemed like the perfect amount for about twenty-five to thirty people (who were all going on to eat other courses elsewhere). It was a really fun night. My favorite part was when Amelia shouted, "C'mon, everybody! Let's go to the next house!" (and then, naturally, walked to the McNeil's front door and opened it herself and tried to leave). The girl loves a party.

That said, now that I've paid my Appetizer Dues, I'm seriously rethinking this cooking-for-parties thing. I love having parties but it is such a ton of work to make all of that food. I've had four in the past three months, including Amelia's big birthday party (also lots of appetizers), and you know what? I'm having at least that party catered next year. I swear it costs practically as much to buy the groceries, and then you still have to, you know, make everything yourself. With a toddler running (and climbing) around and a galley kitchen, it's just too much. And I don't have the storage space to do anything ahead of time. I'll make one special thing myself, the birthday cake, or maybe crab cakes for a holiday party, but otherwise I'm going to start saving up a little Catering Fund so that I don't wind up sprawled in a chair, hoping someone will bring me something to drink and hoping someone else will keep my kid from touching every single thing on the table. (As if that were even possible. That's not possible. But that's why I have to save my strength.)

The day after Christmas we went outside. I felt like I hadn't been outside in weeks. It was cold and clear, and that's unusual lately. I could've walked all day. Resolution for 2016: Find a flat, wide trail in the woods along which it is possible to push the stroller for the walk back. Like a logging road, but flat. I only need it to be about a half a mile. Anybody know of one like that? You'd think this would be easy, but it's very hilly around here. Wide and flat is pretty rare. Meems is great on the way in, not so great on the way out. The woods were so green, like a fairy tale. They got me thinking about gardening again, in a dreamy kind of way.

Two seed catalogs have arrived in the mail. Wintertime is for dreaming. I think I might make a list of things I want to do in the new year. I've never actually done that before. I wonder why I haven't. I'm in the mood for it now. It might be nice to write some things down.

Happy, happy almost–New Year to you! I hope your days this week are slow, and sweet, and filled with light and quiet and peace as we roll into 2016.
Xoxo, a

***Lots of questions in the comments I'll try to answer here: The snowflake mobile is many years old, from Pottery Barn Kids. All the knitting on the table is detailed on my Ravelry page here. The little deer was at my sister's house and I'll have to ask her where it's from, I don't know. I got the Territorial Seeds catalog (local) and one other one from Iowa I can't remember, and can't seem to find now. All of my electric (well, battery) candles I've bought locally at American at Heart in Sellwood, and I know they don't ship, so I'm sorry I don't have a source for out-of-towners. They're wonderful; I'm sure you can find something similar on-line. And my Swedish pancake recipe is here:

Swedish Pancakes

4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 c. milk
a little bloop of vegetable oil

Whisk eggs, flour, sugar, and salt together into a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in milk until just combined, then add a bit of oil (just to keep them from sticking) and stir again. Ladle or pour the batter onto the griddle over medium heat, and tip pan to swirl batter into a thin circle. Flip when edges look dry.

 

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.

Cold and Clear

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So cold these past few days, and the air tinged with blue, or silver, or some color I can't quite capture. Frost color. A ballerina's skirt color, frozen drops balanced in the air as evening descends. So begins my longing for snow. Maybe this year. Maybe this year. . . .

Inside, outside, inside, outside. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we go over the river to be with family. I've been thinking so much about forests and trees and little houses and fields. I was telling Andrea about my junior-high American history teacher who didn't use the hideous overhead lighting in the room (oh, it was wonderful, wonderful, and I still remember him for it) and gave us a new hand-drawn, hand-labeled map of somewhere in New England almost every day. The maps were absolutely exquisite, the names magical. Plymouth, Concord, Dover, Wethersfield, Salisbury. Every year at this time I think of them, and would give anything to find that binder full of those lovely maps. How do we ever know what will stay with us, and why? Will Amelia remember the tune of the lullaby I sing every night as we snuggle and read under the quilts in the big bed? By the light of our tiny lamp, with the winds blowing outside, overwhelmed with gratitude I wrap around her, and quietly sing of small things.

I wish you much peace and comfort and love this holiday weekend, and throughout the season. Thank you for your generous, peaceful, and kind presence here. May your days be merry and bright, and filled with love.

Love always,
A+A+A+C+B. Xoxo

***The book pictured is The Big Book of Slumber, and it is one of our very favorites.

 

Pre-Party Prettying

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Someone's about to have a little shindig this weekend!

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year, dear friends! I hope all is well with you, and that you had a wonderful bunch of holidays. Ours were truly wonderful. It's been so nice to just chill out and I really have. I got sick over new year's and spent a few days on the couch. For the past several afternoons even my little darling has slept next to me under her quilts while I've watched movies and drunk tea and knit and knit and knit. Favorite new movie: Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. I loved it. Light and frothy and funny (the scene where she "confronts" what's-his-face in the restaurant? I coughed so hard! That was hysterical!) and still moving (I love the amusement park scene, so sweet). Also watched About a Boy which is one of my faves. Going through a later–Hugh Grant thing. Watched the beginning of Mickey Blue Eyes, where Jeanne Triplehorn and Hugh Grant are running through the streets of New York, trying to make their dinner reservation. He is a few yards ahead of her and she is laughing and laughing and you don't really know why she's laughing but you assume she's just having fun, and she finally stops and doubles over and says something like, "Stop! No more, seriously! Just run normal!" And he looks all faux-wounded and Hugh Grant–ish and he's like, "Run normal? This is my normal run." And she goes, "Oh! I'm sorry! I've never seen you run and I thought you were doing a funny run!"

:))))) Ha!

Someone was very excited about her new play kitchen! Oh yes, I was, and I even let Amelia play with it because I am just cool like that, people!!!

The other night I was lying next to Amelia before putting her to bed and I thought of about ten resolutions I wanted to make for 2015. Even as I was thinking of them I was trying to think of ways not to forget what they were, because it was dark in the room and I didn't have paper or pencil or phone or anything to write them down. And sure enough, the only two I can remember now (besides the private ones) are "Try not to be such a jerk about the hot weather in the summer" and "Try not to be such a jerk in general." I wish I could remember the others because I think there were some good ones in there but I guess these are a good place to start.

Love and Joy

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I do like how, after all that bustle and speed, the end of the year sort of rolls into the station slowly, somehow. The day after tomorrow is Christmas, and I'm already anticipating the quiet hush that will follow, when the streets are empty, and there's not much to expect from anything or anyone. Ooooh, sweet joy of nothing to do. The days are short but feel so long and languid. I'm so ambivilent about solstice: the return of the light . . . but already? I'm not ready. Maybe it's a Pacific Northwestern thing. Look how green our winterwoods glow! Stay longer, dusky days. Bring me quilts and pillows and pets and picture books. The sky is dark, dull, lavender with rain. Inside, our candles light our mornings, noons, and nights and the time — this lovely, luminous December-time — has been filled with the magic of our tiny girl, learning how to say Christmas tree. Snowflake. My lights. My Christmas tree. Hi, Christmas tree! Waving. On Sunday night as she was bouncing around the place well past bedtime I said to her, "Are you excited?" And she said, "YES."

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all peace, and good health, and much happiness, and send lots of love from us here. Thank you for the gift of your encouragement, reassurances, and kindnesses, the thousands of kindnesses you show here all the year, every year. My cup overflows. May love and joy come to you, and your every wish come true. I wish you peace, from all of us.

With love always,
Alicia, Andy, Mimi, Clover Meadow, and The Bee

Good Cheer

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This season, it goes too fast. I want to draw out every day and wrap these moments around me like a spiral of sparkling lights. Christmas in Dairyville, walks to our neighborhood bakery, and having latkes with our neighbor, Amelia's official bubbe. I want to stay and chat but I need to rush off to a toddler holiday pageant. Have a wonderful weekend, be well, and enjoy all of it. Every little thing. Xoxo

***A few answers to recent questions: Our star lights in the window in the previous post are from Ikea; the chocolate-ginger-molasses cookie recipe I used is here (I thought they needed more sugar); the sugar cookie recipe is here (it's a great recipe); I got all of the sprinkles from Whole Foods. Mimi's nightgown pattern is vintage, McCall's 3798 from 1973. My dishes are all various patterns of Denby; the cups and saucers in the previous post are the Sherwood pattern. The snowflake mobile is many years old, from Pottery Barn Kids. Yes, Mimi's sweater is the recently completed Bloomsbury Kids. And no, she's not getting that pony for Christmas :( [cue crying from Mommy — wah!].

Winter Lights

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I just love December. It's really nice.

Sweet Autumn

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Oh, we're in the thick of it, and it delights me: Cold clear days, cold gray days, mucky-bright leaf-slicks, neighborhood tromps, drooping gardens, hikes on the butte, boots and sweaters, roasted things, flushed cheeks, woodsmoke, white moons in the early evening sky. Halloween was just utterly adorable — Amelia had a fantastic time going door to door with her friends (that's the neighborhood crew, above, and my friend Gillian in her totally rad Mary Poppins costume — isn't that just brilliant? She looked so awesome). There are a LOT of stairs in our neighborhood. We made it to about fifteen houses, and once the Tootsie Pop showed up she was so focused on the lolli it became hard to walk up and down them and hold/eat the lolli at the same time. Man, it was cute. First-ever lollipop. I had to sneak it away when she was distracted. We didn't trick-or-treat last year because she had just learned to walk, so this year was basically her first Halloween. I had her wear the costume I made last year. It's so adorable watching her trying to figure out what in the world is going on. Every time someone opened their door she'd push past them and walk right into the house. Hilarious. Sweetly, she would also take the candy out of her basket and put it into the other kids'. Definitely my favorite Halloween ever.

When we weren't out walking — that was Powell Butte, on Saturday — I was cooking. Yes, me! I made this black bean soup (which we both thought was totally delicious). And then on Sunday we did our traditional First Fall Feast, though we did it a little differently, and just made several really savory side dishes: Ina's spinach gratin, and Brussels sprouts lardons, and caramelized root vegetables. Everything worked really well together and I was very happy! I also made a salad with mushrooms, shaved Gruyere, candied walnuts, pear slices, and my favorite salad dressing, Stacy and Elizabeth's "What Vinegar?" Salad Dressing. I swear I've written this down on the blog but I can't find it (all I can find is a picture of the recipe card, but I'll keep looking, or I'll rewrite it when I get a sec). THANK YOU thank you thank you for all of the soup suggestions. I'm in the process of pinning them all to my board and I am so incredibly inspired. Thank you so much. I even ordered some new soup bowls. I actually feel quite thrilled to cook now — thank you! Now I just have to figure out which one to start with! I think I should experiment with some breads, too. Okay. I can do this.

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.