Posts filed in: House and Garden

Birthday Dream

comments: 93

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Boy did I ever have a great birthday. The self-timer picture above, with the camera on the tripod, was taken just an instant before Andy blew out all of my birthday candles. We were going to do it altogether but I don't know what happened. We tried again with just three candles, one for each of us, and that time Amelia blew all of those out one note before the song was over. There was a three-fold stunned pause followed immediately by the most sheepish little "Sorry, Mom" you've ever heard in your life, and then Andy and I, on exactly the same beat, burst into huge peals of laughter. It was the funniest, sweetest, dearest thing, and I'll never forget it. I love these two so much. When it started snowing around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night, I thought I might explode with pure joy. It took Andy two and a half hours to get home on the streetcar and bus; he was giddy with delight though frozen solid when he finally walked through the door, neither of us realizing that it was even supposed to snow that day. Indeed, getting more than eight inches of snow here overnight pretty much threw the whole city into a complete state of wonder and disarray (and a few other things, I'm sure). Snow absolutely paralyzes Portland, Oregon, and this much snow hasn't fallen in this short amount of time in almost forty years. It was just extraordinary. It's still on the ground, and will be for several more days. Snow day after snow day after snow day. They hardly plow anything here, and they almost never salt. It all shuts down, and they tell you to stay home (though medical personnel never can, so Andy always has to go in, but he has had the past several days off). It's glorious. Everything's canceled, everything's quiet. The light in the house is so clear and bright I can hardly believe it's the same house. I put on the Yaktrax (bless those things — I've had them for about five years now and they have been life-changing) and we walked and walked. It's a bit colder now, and a little icy, but for the first three days it was just perfect snow — cold but not too cold, no wind, perfectly white. I mean, it was just . . . totally . . . excellent. We had lunch and hot cocoa at the bakery, went sledding at the park, hung out with all the neighbors, made waffles, ate dinner by candlelight (and thank you for all of the birthday wishes and birthday-dinner ideas; I wound up taking Nickie's suggestions of chicken à la king over rice and it was great snow-day food — thank you, Nickie!), played with the dollhouse (I'll tell you more about that later), took baths. Made miniature baskets. Hung out with neighborhood friends. Read books. Watched movies. Watched birds. Saw the full moon rise last night, and cut out old fabrics for a new quilt. I don't know. It was the best. It was just the total best. Xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo.

Happy New Year!

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Oh, the messy, bright blur and wonder of all of these days! For goodness sake. Where does the time go? I would've written sooner but I was too busy making a dollhouse floor out of Popsicle sticks and looking at every miniatures web site ever constructed for the perfect diminutive wallpaper. I certainly am enjoying Amelia's Christmas present! And everything else about the holidays. It's been a glorious few weeks. Christmas with a four-year-old is the absolute best.

Today the winter sun is shining ever so brightly, and it's so windy that my office is flashing with light. It's freezing cold. It's Amelia's first day back at preschool in three weeks. Ahem. Mummy is a bit  e x h a u s t e d. The holidays, no matter how "simple" you try to make them, wind up being crazy busy. At least for us. Yesterday I got to spend the day by myself, and that was the first day that I haven't spent pretty much all day (and night — she keeps waking up) with Amelia in the past weeks. I went out to lunch at the brewpub all by myself, and they gave me such an awesome table, right in front of the roaring fire. I ate fish tacos and read my book and texted my friends. Then I went to the bookstore for a few hours and then I went to JoAnn Fabrics. At JoAnn's, which was pretty much empty, I wandered aimlessly and thought about things like should I buy these seven little silver cones (apparently jewelry-making findings) for $3.49 or should I use an old toothpaste cap for a tiny pendant-light-fixture (made out of a drawer pull) escutcheon??? I think about things like this now, when I have time to think of things. It was quite wonderful to wander aimlessly. I even looked at a magazine. Yes. It was a really nice way to finish the "vacation."

I wish you all a very happy new year and hope that you had a wonderful holiday season! It's my birthday in a few days and I want to make something good for dinner but I don't know what. Any ideas?

***The raspberry thumbprint recipe can be found here; the dress pattern I made for Amelia is Simplicity #9297 from 1979, and the fabric is from the wonderful Pioneer Quilts; the dollhouse I got used on Craigslist (but the same one is here) and I was totally inspired to get it because of Artemis's darling version — seriously, is that not the cutest ever; and I made Meyer lemon pudding with some gorgeous lemons my dear friend Sarah gave me for Christmas the recipe is here. I honestly don't think you need to add the butter, and a little zest could easily replace half the lemon juice.

Moon on Their Wings

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It's Sunday night, the fourth Sunday of Advent. I'm watching The Sound of Music on network TV. The colors and the clothes, if not certain details of the interiors (Maria's room: my dream) and, of course, the songs and scenery trigger some deep holiday memory within me that I can't even identify. They play "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi" on the children's Pandora station we listen to in the car, and, even though she's never seen the movie and has no context for the songs, Amelia always listens intently to them. They hold up. Julie Andrews's voice is comforting and confident. Would that we all had such an enchanting, capable governess in a dangerous world.

Typepad has a new function where you can upload a whole bunch of images into a blog post all at once. I flung every picture in this post at the screen in one fell swoop; they uploaded successfully, but were placed in some random order only Typepad knows. Usually I string my photos together more-or-less chronologically from top to bottom; here they lay (more or less) where they landed, and I am too tired to reorder. Happy accident! Their (dis)order seems better reflective of our life this week than any chronology I could've mustered. Wild snow-blur — more snow, more ice, lovely sunshine, long walks, lunatic child, freezing pipes, sleds and snowpants, kindest neighbors, cold hands, cold swings, tomato soup, starry nights. These days of December. Impulsively and though she has never expressed interest in such a thing I buy a used dollhouse one night on Craigslist, and first thing the next morning Andy and I, giddy with excitement (and haste over the forecasted snow), drive out to pick it up while Amelia is at school. We hide it in the basement. Coincidentally, as if channeling my suddenly appearing and rapidly filling Pinterest board of tiny teapots and miniature fireplaces, Amelia starts pointing to every dollhouse in every catalog and every picture book she sees, saying, "I want that for Christmas." I literally gawk at her. So much for the big surprise! Your wish is my command. This morning she said, "I want a wind-up cow that runs around the house. "

A wind-up . . . huh.

Me: "You're eating a lot today. Are you having a growth spurt?" Her: "No, I'm not. I'll have one when I go upstairs."

Kids and cookies and carols and Christmastime. Age four is truly magical. It's all just starting to sink in, and I marvel each time, at each holiday or event, at both their sense of wonder and their nonchalance. She liked the M&Ms I got her at intermission as much as she liked The Nutcracker; I, however, was trying not to cry as the curtain went up. The beauty! The orchestra! The snowflakes? My lord. I had forgotten. She sat on my lap in the dim theater and swayed, pivoting occasionally to throw her arms around my neck and lay her head on my chest, yawning dramatically. My heart, my heart. At bedtime, by the glow of the twinkle lights, she asked me again about the Mouse King, and, after much questioning, was vaguely relieved to find out that he only pretend-died, a fact I hadn't even thought to make clear from the start. Dearest, sweetest, darlingest girl. I try to get her to make ornaments for everyone and it is almost impossible. I taste-test hot-chocolate mixes and buy fabric for her pinafore. Andy makes Swedish meatballs and we eat by candlelight. The snow we've had this past week is my Christmas gift; I want for nothing. I wish you hours of love and joy as we glide into this last week before Christmas. Slow and steady. I can see my breath in the cold air. I lift a prayer into the dark for the homeless, and the hurting. Peace be with you. Peace, if only peace, on this earth.

Snow Day

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Oh, snow. I wait, I wait. When it comes, I'm beside myself, even though, almost every time, snow in Portland quickly turns to ice. I can't get off my own front porch. The enormous orthopedic shoe I wear on my left foot has as much traction as a salad plate, and is almost as big. Nevermind; the winds were too strong to brave going out, anyway. The branches on the black trees whipped and whistled. The air was ice cold. I pushed open the back door against the wind and scooped cup after cup full of snow; she ate it with an espresso spoon. We sat in the upstairs windows and watched the slice of neighborhood we are granted to observe. No one came, no one went. The mail lady came and quickly went. Inside, Amelia nibbled on raspberries and watched Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I drank hot chocolate and took a bath and read Farmer Boy. By dinnertime it was raining ice. I flung salt toward the front path from the front porch. Not even from the porch — from the door. Ice covered everything. On the way home, around 9:00 p.m., Andy's bus broke a tire chain on the bridge. Everyone but Andy got off the bus and onto some other bus. He sat and chatted with the bus driver, who was from Cleveland. Eventually, someone came with new chains. He made it home and I relaxed. This morning, ice still covers everything but it's raining hard. We're having a party tonight.

Above: the ornaments I made for Amelia's little tree and our mantel. I loved making every single one of them. The gnome and mushroom and raccoon and owl are from Little Dear (Aimee Ray); the running bunny and animal portraits are from Bumpkin Hill; the angel is from I. Manufatti; and the winter girl is from Mimi Kirchner. I bought a bunch of these patterns last year and just never got around to making them. I made almost all of them over Thanksgiving weekend, and stitched the year on the back of each (unless I forgot, which I did sometimes). I got the stockings from Etsy, too; just search for "vintage quilt stocking." There are tons of them.

Every night, for weeks now, I have been knitting Amelia this sweater. It's bottom up, and I'm not even to the sleeve join. I've never knit anything so slow in my life. I love it but . . . ugh. Every. Single. Night. That lace pattern just doesn't grow. I've looked at a few versions of it on Ravelry and I like the look of the lace unblocked and sort of squished down, so, there ya go — even slower, then. Hopefully I'll finish it while it's still cold out. Last night while I was putting her to bed, we were lying in the dark and she said, "Mom? I want you to knit me a [insert me bolting upright here] sweater . . . with buttons on it, in the front." Me [feigning nonchalance]: "Oh, a cardigan? Sure, baby. I'd love to. What color?" Her: "Pink . . . no, rainbow!" It took every ounce of strength I had not to jump out of bed and run downstairs and start surfing Ravelry for patterns. Fifteen hours later and I've got pattern picked and yarn on order. . . . Hurry up, Faunajakke lace!!! I've got an order for a sweater from my kid.

Another conversation: "Meems, don't you think it would be nicer to keep your room cleaner and not have so much stuff on everything and falling off of everything all the time?" Her: "No." Me: "But don't you think that when it's too cluttered and there's too much stuff on your nightstand you can't see what you have to play with because there's too much stuff everywhere?" Her: "No."  Me [flailing]: "Oh. But if there's too much stuff in your way it's kind of overwhelming and you can't, like, play with it . . . very well . . . because it's falling . . . everywhere?" Her: "No." Me [twitching]: "Um. . . ."

Santa Lucia nightgown at the ready. Milk-white flannel. Tiny lace trim and a silk ribbon. Simplicity 3586. We do agree about this.

December

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Cold toes :: A jingle of bells :: Amelia singing :: Ballet in the dining room :: A drive in the country :: A tree farm :: Woodsmoke and hot cider :: She learns to love hot chocolate ::  Making tea every night :: Nightgowns and nightgown plans :: Amelia destroying one advent calendar, and eating chocolate from the other at 5:00 a.m. :: Impatience :: Winter mornings :: Lone birds :: Sore throat :: Early hours in bed with coffee and Christmas music :: Amelia setting up all sorts of little scenes with little stuff :: My insane cat who tries to attack me while I knit and then gets her claw caught in my sock and freaks out (as do I) :: Hot milk with turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, and honey :: Andy "playing" with Amelia by accidentally knocking her down then wiping out and practically falling on top of her while my friend and I sit with our hands over our eyes, trying not to laugh :: Winter faire :: Wreaths and lights :: Ballet talk :: Brew pub lunches :: Gnomes and toadstools :: Battery candles :: Christmas movies and Christmas cards :: Roast chickens and mushrooms :: Silver sun :: Winter moon. I love December.

***Answers to some questions in comments: Cinnamon buns by Pillsbury (get Grands, unroll, re-roll, etc.); A's crown here; felt pastries were a gift, but I think I remember they were from Etsy.

Long Weekend

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I organize all of my blog photos in folders by year, and then by month, and then by day. In looking through November's this morning, I don't think there is any other month that starts as much in one season and ends as much in another. I love winter. I feel like I come alive, somehow. Winter, winter: Bare branches. Pink skies. Muddy streets. Evergreen scents. Misty rain. Cold mornings. Smoke from neighborhood chimneys. Kitchen afternoons. Fogged up windowpanes. Mimi takes a bunch of miniature fake pine trees and and sets them up in her room next to her mushroom nightlight. She fluffs up her bed, all flannel sheets and gingham comforter and quilt after quilt, and climbs in. "Mom, look at me." I open the back door in the darkness of early morning and sniff the chilly air. Delicious shiver. Hot coffee. Winter. I am a daughter of the North Wind.

I hope you are well. Thanksgiving was lovely. The whole past weekend was so wonderfully long. I kept getting my days messed up, forgetting where we were in the long stretch. We made the house a bit Christmassy on Saturday and Sunday and then I spent as much time as I could hand-stitching a whole bunch of felt ornaments for Amelia's little tree that we usually put upstairs in the big bedroom. I used so many different patterns (all other peoples' patterns) and they all came out so cute and I had so much fun doing it it was ridiculous. I will take pictures of them and show you next time. We haven't gotten our trees yet.

Fabric for the rest of the kits is supposedly on the UPS truck right now, coming to our house by the end of the day. Stacey just left after having pulled all of the floss. I'll pick up the patterns on my way to get Mimi at school. We are sure we can get everything out by the end of the week, so thank you again for all of those (new) orders. Love and Joy is sold out, and we won't be doing more. We've held out fifteen kits, as we always do, for emergencies and lost packages and all that sort of thing and once we have confirmed that everyone who ordered has received their kit we will trickle them back out onto the web site but for all intents and purposes, the kits are all sold and I thank you so much for that. Thank you.

Do you remember the Alice dress? That was 2010. I know. Dear me. All of it. This girl. And that lovely creature peeking out from behind her mother's elbow up there is my beautiful niece, who just turned eighteen. whole. years. old. this month. I recently found that painting (it started here, went wrong here, recovered here, and ended up here) I did of her in 2009 and gave it to her just this weekend for her birthday. Oh, time.

Autumn Feel

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Few words, lots of feels. I stood on the other side of the one-way-glass window and watched her dance and was filled with so much joy for her obvious joy I couldn't speak, embarrassed by my tears in front of the other moms. She tried to curtsy, crossing her feet and falling over sideways, smiling. It's so beautiful sometimes I am overcome. How incredible to have a piece of one-way glass behind which to stand, and watch, and not be observed, and, so, not distract. She waved right at me and someone said, "But how can she see you?" I said I had no idea, and instinctively almost ducked. Later she told me she could see the shadow of my glasses, and I had told her I'd be standing right there. The music was poignant. The afternoon outside glowed. The little girls were birds in their nests, birds flying, and butterflies. In the hallway, the older dancers gossiped loudly and were shushed. The paint in the clothes-changing room was such an incredible barely pink shade of pink I touched the wall. Sometimes I have these moments in parenthood where I just can't believe I am finally a mother, and the air changes color. This week it was frequently pure gold. If you're still waiting, don't give up.

 

Stormy Soup

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Sparkle and blur, everything rushing by. The days spin past me and I only slow to cook or knit, and, even then, I knit like the wind, finishing entire sweaters that I haven't stopped long enough to put on Ravelry; I can't now remember what the patterns were called or what yarn I used or which needles, though they were finished just weeks, days, minutes ago. Should knitting be done so quickly? On Tuesday, Stacey kindly, kindly helped me reorganize my baking and dry-goods cabinet, emptying mason jars that had been filled with expired flours and grains; hand-washing everything in scalding, soapy water; wiping down shelves and lining up jars (again) like good little soldiers, waiting for me to cook. It worked: I was inspired. It was nice to move the enormous cast-iron Dutch oven three feet higher on the shelves so that I didn't feel like I was breaking my back every time I wanted to make soup but first needed to collect that monstrous beast from (practically) off the floor. Things like this — such practical, obvious things on their surfaces — don't get done because in reality they require not just moving that one pot but actually, like, emptying and reorganizing and entire standing wardrobe of fifty pots, pans, and jars first. Many things like this have fallen to the way, way, wayside over the past four years. That's been okay for a while, but it's time to improve. Slowly I'm reclaiming the domestic territories from their chaotic, swirling depths. Shelf by shelf. Cabinet by cabinet. I impose order in the smallest of ways, facing out labels and sweeping every grain of rice off the floor. I have missed doing these things. Every little stitch, every re-stacked pile of cake pans, every leaking, flour-covered bag of flour emptied into a jar of flour helps restore order to this little corner, when so much in the outside world feels whipped up and wild and wearying. I never seem to have time to do the things that make things feel better.

Cold-weather cooking is preferred over summertime stuff, at least. Fresh tomatoes, heads of lettuce, and mountains of glistening berries delight almost everyone but usually make me feel overwhelmed and vaguely anxious. Give me gigantic pots of things that bubble and thicken. Let me chop piles of onions and carrots and and sweet potatoes, roots that have been waiting, buried in deep, dark soils, to be sweated and roasted and caramelized. Let me preheat ovens and strain gravies and grate Gruyere. Last weekend here was soooo stormy that we scrapped all plans for leaving the house. Amelia wanted macaroni and cheese for her birthday dinner. It didn't even occur to me to make it from a box. Cheeses bubbled and breadcrumbs crisped in their cast-iron skillet under the broiler. Alas, she hated it, and I didn't love it either (er, I made us both some Kraft spirals the next day), but it was great to make. (Luckily, Andy loved it.) On Sunday afternoon, inspired (as with so much) by Amy of Second and Edgemont, I roasted a chicken (using this recipe). It sat on a little bed of potatoes and carrots, and I made a baked rice dish with mushrooms and shallots from The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet in my little casserole pot. The whole meal pleased me so much and filled me with such a strange sense of satisfaction that I went to bed thinking about it all, and woke up thinking about it, too. I'm just realizing now that that might have been because we made stock overnight in the crock pot and the house, all night long, was filled with the scent of simmering bones and broth and bay leaves. I don't know. It all just felt good and made me happy. My people were fed. The kitchen was clean. The chicken was easy. Its deliciousness far exceeded my expectations and far outweighed the effort involved, and something about all of those things just felt like such a relief, like an actual, existential relief.

Like . . . yeah.

It's been a long time since cooking has made me happy. 

Yesterday, Mimi and I stayed home almost all day. We lit every little lamp we could find. Our grocery-shopping trip was poorly timed, and we managed to venture out during the only fifteen minutes that rain was coming down in sheets. Back at home, she wound three skeins of yarn around every knob, drawer handle, chair leg, and table, making an living-and-dining-room-sized spiderweb of wool. I went into the kitchen and sliced up an entire kielbasa sausage — my first ever, how weird is that? For some reason I've just never had it before — and browned it in the (aforementioned) Dutch oven. I fished the (delicious!) kielbasa out to wait on a plate and threw in handful after handful of leeks, carrots, onions, and sweet potato cubes and let it all cook down until the house smelled like bliss. Lentils, tomatoes, Sunday's chicken stock, and a couple more hours of simmering turned into — I can still hardly even believe it — one of the best soups I've ever had. I can't even believe I just sort of made it up myself (after reading a few recipes and taking parts and pieces out of each of them) because I never cook without following a recipe quite literally. When Andy got home last night I was stepping on his heels like a corgi, so excited was I for him to try it. Still in scrubs, he ate two bowls. I went up to bed with a large smile on my face. He texted me: "It's so good!!!!! Sweet, smoky, even a touch tart." I wrote back immediately: "YES MY KITCHEN GAME IS STRONG LATELY!!!" I'm not sure I've thought, let alone said, much less written, anything even close to that in the last four years. Should you need to feel clever and capable one of these rainy evenings, try it.

October Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 lb. kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/8" rounds
4 large carrots, cut lengthwise and sliced
3 large leeks (white parts only), cut lengthwise and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 t. Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato or yam, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 c. red lentils
1 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes
6 c. chicken stock

In large Dutch oven, brown sausage in olive oil over medium heat until edges are crispy. Remove from pot and set aside, leaving drippings in pot. Add carrots, leeks, and onion and salt and sautee over medium heat for quite a while — 20 minutes or so — until all vegetables are golden and getting caramelized. Add garlic and sweet potato and cook another few minutes. Add lentils, tomatoes, and chicken stock and bring to a decent simmer. Cook for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender. Return kielbasa to the soup and heat through. Add more stock if soup gets too thick for you, but I like it thick. You could definitely add kale to this — I had a bunch and forgot to put it in!

Serve with garlic bread.

Also: Thank you ever so much for all of your very kind comments on Mimi's party and birthday. She had such a great birthday week and so did we. Thank you for being so sweet — I really appreciate it. You are just so kind. XOXO. And for those who have asked, her invitations were from Minted and a lot of her party supplies were from Sweet Lulu.

Fabulous Four

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Oh. My. Goodness. What a weekend it was. Amelia's fourth birthday party was a blast! I always love her birthday parties so much. We spent Friday getting ready, and I really love those party preparations. Saturday afternoon, when the doorbell started to ring, she got shy, but quickly rallied. She was serious about her cake and her presents. I literally could not get her to stop stabbing her cake with appetizer skewers and eating frosting off of them. (I had the food catered by Artemis Foods, and a better decision I doubt I have ever made, but I did make the cake myself.) She wanted a piece of that cake so bad. Once the cake was eaten she opened her presents (such lovely, lovely presents) and honestly, I have never seen her so focused. She's never really been particularly into stuff in general, so I'm guessing this age is when the fascination with specific toys really starts. It was pretty cute and quite fascinating to watch. Certain things she tossed over her shoulder before quickly moving on to the next present; certain things she was so captivated by that the world stopped, as far as she was concerned, and she sat off to the side and started playing while the party went on around her. (Musical birthday cards were, quite possibly, the sleeper hit of the day.) Grandma and Pops Paulson (Andy's parents) are in town from Chicago and their presence here, especially after getting to spend so much time together in Chicago and Wisconsin this summer, has always made Amelia's party weekend extra special. This time there are six whole days between her party and her actual birthday so it's gonna be one looooong celebration. I almost planned a friend birthday party in addition to her usual family party but it just didn't come together. With Halloween so close, and a neighborhood party scheduled, and a school thing, and a pumpkin-patch plan, and another pumpkin-patch plan, I think the partying will continue through the month, so it's cool with her.

Her birthday. Her birth day. I remember the evening she was born like it was yesterday. I remember the days in the hospital afterward, when it was just Amelia's birthparents and Amelia and Andy and me. Those were some of the most intense and incredible days of all of our lives, I expect. There were tears and laughter and courage and strength and honesty and beauty and intensity and just . . . total love. It was like we five were on our own mysterious, unnameable planet together, and it brings tears to my eyes to remember those days even now. How blessed we were to have them! How blessed we are, all of us, in all of this! I love the family that our open adoption has created. When everyone — birthparents, grandparents, birthgrandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings — is together, it is the best day of the year. And every year gets better and better. I find it almost impossible to talk about because I just cannot find the words to explain. Amelia is loved so thoroughly and by so many. She's only just beginning to understand exactly what that means. But when we are all together, the house is filled with joy and rings with laughter, and that she absolutely understands.

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After everyone left, and I was so tired that I laid down on the living room floor. She came over and we made a picnic with the Buckley deer family and some party napkins. Clover trip-trapped over to see what we were doing and Andy (superstar) worked on the kitchen. We talked in quiet voices for ourselves and for the deer. We talked about the picnic, the party, the cake, and the people, and all the very sweet things we love.

Amazed and Confused

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We have this saying in our house. You use it when you have just done something that you "obviously" shouldn't have done, or failed to do something that you "obviously" should have done, etc. To use it, just say, when confronted, "But no one told me." Jam the dishes all together and face them away from the sprayer in the dishwasher so nothing gets clean? "But no one told me." Go inside and lock the door, leaving the dog alone in the unfenced front yard? "But no one told me." See how it works?

I'm shocked, actually shocked, at how much trouble I've had concentrating this week, Amelia's first "full" week of preschool. (She goes three mornings a week, four hours per day.) I truly, honestly, actually thought that the minute I got home after dropping her off I would hit the ground running, attacking my to-do list with fervor and efficiency, since so much that is on it are things that I have been wanting to, needing to, wishing I could do for months. And, to be perfectly clear, these are not optional things, or things that should wait any longer, or things that I can just continue to blow off without consequence. I can't even bear to go into details, because honestly I still haven't even made the list of what things these not-optional things all are, and that — to be meta about it — is exactly the problem. I know there are things on my list but I don't know exactly what they are. Instead of trying to determine, I've just sort of been . . . wandering around . . . feeding myself . . . reading Vanity Fair while feeding myself again . . . putting five-pound bags of bread flour into any available space instead of cleaning the cluttered cabinet . . . stuffing new fall clothes into drawers that haven't been emptied of bathing suits and tank tops . . . starting to knit new sweaters before weaving in the ends of the previous sweaters . . . watching made-for-TV movies about Wills and Kate . . . making a puppet theater. Normally I do do all of those (random and generally inconsequential) things but also get, if I do say so myself, a whole shiteload more stuff that actually has to be done, done, too. Lately — nothing. Pretty much nothing at all. Before I know it, it's 12:48 p.m., and time to go pick up Meems, and I am amazed — like, bug-eyed, hands-on-cheeks, cartoon-character amazed. Four hours goes fast. The first day of school it went so slow! But now it's over before I can even believe it. And apparently everyone knows all about this finally-have-some-time-to-do-something-and-now-I'm-doing-nothing inertia. It's a thing.

But no one told me!

Sigh.

In the true spirit of the way we use the phrase here at home, of course it's not at all true that no one told me. To really use it correctly, the thing that no one supposedly ever told you has to be a thing that someone has, you know, all but made a full-time job out of repeatedly telling you. Ah, it's a mysterious phenomenon, this particular brand of "forgetting." I've experienced this exact Mysterious Phenomenon before, and have even told myself about it. Nevertheless, I'm caught off-guard once again, flatfooted and bewildered, my mouth full of bread-machine bread and jam, my thoughts centered on what George and Charlotte's nursery looks like at Bucklebury, my hands filled with tangled yarn or covered in papier mache instead of busy at my computer, working on my new pattern that I'm supposed to have done for you to make in time for your own Christmas. My bank account is bone dry. My social life is destitute. But still I sit around ironing wrinkles (not very well) out of puppet curtains and pinning more cake recipes to my birthday-cakes Pinterest board (how many does one woman need?).

Ugh.

I did cook something. That is my mom's sauce, with short ribs, sausage, and meatballs, and her lasagna. No meal on earth tastes more like my childhood autumns and winters than this one. And seriously, if you want a totally authentic Italian "gravy" that simmers for hours and makes you cry, this is it.

I did finish knitting something. It is the Eithne sweater, and I started it at the river and finished it last night. (And then, as mentioned, cast on something else before I wove in the ends or put the buttons on this.)

I did finish my puppet, Miss Margot Maude Peaseblossom, and she made me very happy.

And don't tell Meems about the doorway puppet theater (I didn't have a pattern for that, I just kind of measured the door, and winged it, but I know there are tutorials for these on-line). It's part of her birthday present (along with the oh-so-practical hat/scarf/mittens ensembles I've been knitting to go with each of her coats [rain/fancy/duffel] which are almost all done). I decided to make her her own papier mache puppet for her birthday, too, since, you know, Margot Maude and her hair, etc. . . .

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.