Posts filed in: House and Garden

February Flowers

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Hello dears. The wind whips around the house today. Out every window is flashing daylight and blowing branches. Something on top of the roof of the studio clanks and clanks. It's some sort of metal flap. Over and over again it's slapping against the roof. The power went out once this morning and then came right back on. Every few minutes comes a raging, howling gust. I'd better write this quick, before all electricity leaves, as it seems it surely could.

I've been tucked into the studio, spending most of my free time with floral fabrics. This is good medicine. Why should it soothe? I don't know. Thank you for your kind words and enthusiasm about the new quilt and the pending quilt-top kits! I couldn't be more thrilled, and am trying to collect so many fabrics that I want for these. They're more rare than I thought. I can't believe how beautifully they all work together, though. In the back of my mind I'm constantly thinking about how to offer these kits. The amounts of each fabric that I'm able to get are so varied. I'm not sure exactly how to display what you'll be getting, as there will be too many different arrangements to photograph each individually. Maybe I'll have to describe them in general terms and let you trust my design sense. I'm not sure yet. I'm pretty much finished with the pattern, which offers a toddler size, throw size, twin size, full/queen size, and a king size. It's been kind of fun working on all of the layout diagrams for each size. It's not all there yet but it's getting there.

February. I don't feel quite ready for it. I think we'll make Valentines today. Spread a little love around.

Rest and Recharge

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I made a quilt-comforter. I patched the top and pieced the back, and for batting used an inexpensive polyester comforter from Ikea. All of the fabrics I used for the top are old calicoes, mostly from the '80s, I think. I did not bind it, but layered and turned it: comforter on bottom, backing right-side-up on top of that, then quilt top face down on top of that. I stitched around the entire outside edge with a 1/4" seam, leaving an 8" gap, then turned it right-side-out and stitched up the opening. Then I tied the whole thing, through all layers, with black embroidery floss. The finished patches are 4" squares, set on point; I cut all of the squares on the edges of the quilt in half along the bias (effectively turning them into triangles along all of the edges) once the whole top was sewn together. I have wanted to make a quilt set on-point like that forever. I really, really love it. It's about 76 inches square, a "throw" for me to sit on the couch with. Our couch is freezing when it's cold because it's right in front of so many windows. When I was done tying it, at about 10 p.m., Andy ran it downstairs and threw it in the washing machine for me. He dried it the next morning and it was a fluffy, poufy cloud of 1980s-calico bliss when it came out of the dryer. I was so happy. I am so in love with pretty much every single one of those fabrics, which cause such a nostalgia-fit in my heart. My best friend, Martha, sent me a whole bunch of them several months ago, and I also search them out at Goodwill and online and I just can't get enough of them. I love the Peter Pan and vintage Joan Kessler ones, especially. I loved the exact same ones when I was a little girl and a teenager, so some things never change.

Oh ho, that snow. Full snow-loving disclosure: By the time it left I felt weary and limp as a colorless dishrag, ready to be flung toward the hamper and retired. "I need a hot shower and some alone time," said Mommy, the introvert, who scores nineteen out of twenty on the introvert portion of the Meyers-Briggs test. Nineteen is a lot. I surprised even myself the first time I took it. I've taken the test for twenty years now and it's always the same. It means: Shhhhhhh. Let me sit in this quiet corner and recovvvvvvver. Parents never do get to do much of that, and the past month and a half has been extra-challenging. The ice and snow stayed for eight days. We were in the house alllllllllllll the time. There was no driving, and, once things started to melt and then refreeze overnight, the walking, even with the Yaktrax, was pure treachery. By the time the ice finally melted, Amelia had only been in preschool for sixteen hours in thirty-six days, including holiday break (I counted), and I only left the house only three times (I counted) during the entire week of snow. The only people any of us saw during snow week were our neighbors, and, well, mercifully, we are a tight, loving crew. Our kids romped and rampaged, and we adults sat around all of our tables, in turn, over chili and beer and tea and tangerines and talked, and talked. Yesterday I swept piles, actual piles, of dirt and dog hair and dust and mini-legos and ponytail holders and half-Cheerios and pine needles from the floors. I sweep all the time but we've lived hard in this house lately and, Tomten-like, I dream of flowers, again. I loved that snowstorm, but I do love flowers, too.

I have plans to make a toddler-bed quilt-comforter, like an eiderdown (but without the down), for Amelia that fits the top of the bed and does not need to be tucked in anywhere. Her bed is IMPOSSIBLE to make. She has one of those extendable toddler beds from Ikea, extended right now to the middle length. The bed is perfect for her but every single time I go to make it I 1) stub my toe on that middle bed leg, 2) break my back because the bed is so damn low to the ground, and 3) curse the inventor of duvets and duvet covers, which I unapologetically loathe no matter what their size because they always look like such a sloppy mess with the cover sliding around over the duvet and the corners of the duvet never staying in the corners of the cover and the whole thing weird and bulbous and I could go on and on. I get duvet-cover rage over those things. I prefer to buy good old-fashioned comforters but they are hard to find. At least ones that I like. So, I'm going to make her one that's similar to mine, and I might even make a pattern and a limited-edition kit for the just the top (toddler-eiderdown sized), with all vintage calicoes for it. Would anyone be interested in a kit for that? I would take pre-orders so that we wouldn't run out or make too many. I'm kind of excited about this idea. There is still winter left to get cozy for.

I ordered three different rolls of wallpaper today so I can (or someone can) wallpaper a wall in the dining room (the one with the big window), a wall in the living room (the one with the mantel), and a wall in the kitchen (the one with the back door). Should be here in a week or so. Our house has been in need of a bit of sprucing up. I folded up our red gingham curtains and got gray gingham curtains (from Country Curtains, but they don't seem to have them anymore), and got a new braided rug for the dining room (ours had been dog-puked on just one too many times). Feels good. January changes. I trimmed six inches off of Amelia's hair right after I took that picture of how long it was. I think it immediately aged her approximately eight months. Approximately.

Thank you ever so much for the sweetest birthday wishes! You are so kind. Thank you!

I haven't forgotten to show you the dollhouse but I'm still waiting for a couple of things that I ordered for it to get here before I take pictures.

***Paintings and illustrations, from top to bottom: Illustration from The Story of the Snow Children; bunnies can be found here; Little Miss Fairfield (1850) by William Matthew Prior; amazing watercolor of Mimi riding a rabbit, which was a gift for her from the dearest Emily Martin; illustration of the tomten from The Tomten, my absolute favorite winter picture book ever. I just love this book and we read it almost every night. Doesn't Clover kind of remind you of the tomten?

Birthday Dream

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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.

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.