Posts filed in: Life

Already: Five

comments: 65

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Glory be, what a party! Parties, plural. Amelia is a partier. The girl's got game. And stamina! Party stamina. It was a blast. A friend-party and then, this past weekend, a family party. Andy's parents flew in from Chicago last Thursday. It's so special to have them here with us, and then to have everyone — Andy's parents, Amelia's birthparents and siblings and grandparents, and my family, including a surprise visit home from our niece Arden (now away at college!) — here together in one place is just magical. I really have no words to describe it. I just love this group so much, and feel so lucky and so incredibly blessed to be part of this family. Amelia is like the sun. She talks into a megaphone: "ATTENTION, EVERYONE. I JUST GOT. ANOTHER CARD. IT'S GOT A DOG IN A CAR ON IT. " Her brother: "It's a bus." Amelia: "IT'S GOT A DOG IN A . . . TRICKY BUS." Oh, my dear, sweet love. "ATTENTION, EVERYONE! SIERRA CAN'T FIND HER BALLOON!!!" Everyone: What color is it? Where did you last have it? I'll help you look for it! There is so much laughter, and so much loving. There were so many pictures I didn't get to take, and so many moments I want to remember.

Because just like that, she is five.

Andy's mom and dad ("Grandma and Pops") leave tomorrow. I'll be sad to have the celebration close. Amelia's at school this morning, for a little bit of normalcy in an unusual week. We got a huge box of apples from a neighbor-boy of ours who was selling them for Boy Scouts. I have subscribed to the New York Times cooking app in hopes of kick-starting my flagging cooking mojo. I spent the morning looking at apple recipes and hope to try out at least a few with the thirty apples now sitting in the kitchen. Autumn is here in earnest. Flowers in the garden bleach out from the sun then sog under the weight of sudden, gumball-sized hail, then sun again, and then a huge rainbow goes right through the tree across the street. Clouds whirl, lightning flares, and then sun again through flashing trees. Cold nights, the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Pumpkins on the porch, and Halloween ahead. I'm making a cat costume next. Our girl is five and she picks these things for herself now. I couldn't be more proud of her. I love her and all of it so much.

Tilt-a-Whirl

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Whirlwind days, going every which way, and a long weekend filled with friends and family, and a birthday for my love. Andy Paulson turned forty-six and had a very sweet birthday. I went old-school with the cake I made for him, and returned to my old classic, chocolate cake with butter-roux frosting. This time I made the cake in three 8"-round pans, and baked them for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. I doubled the frosting and piled it on. Highly recommend.

A Variation on Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa (I actually use Cacao Barry, which my sister turned me on to)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup steaming hot (brewed) coffee*

*Original recipe calls for boiling water but coffee brings out the chocolate flavor a bit without actually making it taste like coffee. I usually reheat whatever was leftover in coffee pot that morning.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (using cocoa powder so it disappears) two 9" round cake pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes. Carefully stir in boiling water and coffee (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans (see above).

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes (see above) or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

As I've posted before, the frosting for this cake is my mom's old recipe for something we in our family called "the milk and flour frosting." (I later learned this is called a "butter-roux" frosting.) When I first put it on the blog several years ago, I renamed it more romantically and called it Cloudburst Frosting because it is really light, fluffy, and not-too-sweet . This frosting also had a long history in our house of being very temperamental but it is totally worth it. We think we have it down now, but you have to do it exactly this way. You just do. Don't ask me why. We really do not know.

Cloudburst Frosting

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup WHOLE (it has to be whole) milk or half-and-half
1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

In a small pan, gradually add the milk to the flour, whisking them together into a totally smooth mixture — you don't want any lumps here. Simmer (barely) until thick over low/medium heat, whisking constantly so you don't get any lumps. (Do not walk away from the stove for even a minute — trust me. If you do get lumps, just push it all through a sieve.) You want it to be the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and let it cool completely but NOT in the refrigerator (Mom says if you put it in the fridge it won't work). Let it cool for a few minutes, and then push a piece of plastic wrap down on the surface of the mixture (so a skin doesn't form) and let it sit on the counter for an hour or two or three until it's completely cool. (Update: My sister says it's totally fine to put this in the refrigerator, so . . . ) Cream together the butter and almond; add the confectioner's sugar and beat on high for several minutes until it is very fluffy. Add the milk/flour mixture and beat until it is super fluffy. The frosting will sometimes appear to separate when you add the milk/flour mixture, but just keep beating it on high until it whips up into smooth, fluffy clouds.

            After frosting the cake, chill before serving for maximum deliciousness. I like this cake very cold.

 

The news of the world and of our city in particular has been so troubling and heartbreaking it has brought me to tears several times this past week. Today Amelia and I went past the memorial at the transit center where two brave men lost their lives. It is absolutely covered in flowers and chalk-drawn messages of love. I send my prayers out to all of the fallen warriors and their families who have given everything to protect us. I truly appreciated all of your comments on my last post. I long for advice about how to live in these troubled times.

We planted our little vegetable garden in the parkway raised beds this past weekend. We don't really have enough in it yet, I don't think. The weather is all over the place — some days in the upper 90s and some days, like yesterday, absolutely freezing cold and raining. We planted the back-porch planters with veggies and herbs, too — tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, corn, basil, lemon verbena. These I'm hoping Amelia will take care of, as it will be easy for her to water them out there. She spends a lot of time on the back porch, so I think it will be fun. I had absolutely no plan with regard to anything that I bought — I just grabbed a bunch of veggie starts randomly and we put them all over the place, in front and back. This is not how I usually do things but hey, stuff's in the ground, at least. I feel like maybe some of it is not supposed to be together, but I've never really understood what that means or why certain veggies aren't supposed to be planted near one another. . . . Feel free to enlighten me, honestly. Is it like a nutrient thing or a pest thing or . . . ? I could Google this, I know.

I'm working on a Birkin sweater, a pattern for which you can only find in the second issue of  Laine magazine. This will be a size XL sweater knit in fingering-weight yarn, with lots of complicated colorwork (three colors per row in lots of cases) so it should keep me out of trouble for a good loooooooong while is what I'm thinking. . . .

My girl dances and twirls, spinning from one thing to the next, riding bigger little-kid amusement-park rides by herself for the first time, pulling all of her bravery from somewhere deep inside her, waiting in line and getting on the rides by herself, waving to us from the tiny plane, the tiny car, the tiny speedboat, us standing on the sidelines filled with so much hope and joy and admiration. She inspires me beyond words in these moments. I can see all of her fear and all of her fearlessness in her face, can see her weighing the risk of participation with the anticipation of just how exciting it will be when that thing goes up in the air, or bounces around the track, or bangs up and down on its metal octopus arm, and she wants to go. She is serious and deliberate and even nervous, but she always moves forward, standing in line on her own, asking the other kids around her if someone will ride with her, racing to the purple car, changing her mind and going for another one, losing nerve a little bit and starting to cry when it all gets too bumpy, then pulling herself back together and smiling hugely on the final round. When she got off the speedboat (the scariest one) she raced into my arms and collapsed, all tension in every muscle gone and making this loud noise that seemed to come from her soul, like an enormously relieved sigh but one that wasn't only relieved but also amused at herself and proud of herself and also just purely delighted at the world. It is hard to describe the noise but Andy and I both knew exactly what it was (we talked about it as soon as she went to bed and we both thought it meant the exact same things). She made the noise for a long time and I held her in my arms for all of that time and could not see through my own quiet, proud, and, yeah, relieved tears. This child, this braveheart. On my shoulder, limp and heavy and soft. Big and small. These moments sneak up on me so. I never knew about them before motherhood. I can't imagine what they are called. What are these called? There have been a few of them now and they are the most moving, poignant experiences of parenthood, for me. I can't even really describe, and I don't think I'll ever forget, but I just wanted to write this so that I could remember it again right now.

Slowly but Surely

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I've been moving slowly lately, sort of mildly melancholy, even before the news of the terrorist attack in Manchester last night, which is just shattering my heart every time I think of it. A lot of people I know have been cleaning lately — straightening and organizing and dusting and fussing with the little things, and I have been the same, apparently trying to bring order to a world that feels so disordered and disorienting. I dusted off all of my earrings and twenty-year-old perfume bottles, got new low-light houseplants and some new pots, a little chair, moved the pictures. Moved them again. Sat in the chair and did nothing but sit for a minute. I'm trying to make a safe spot. I hold my daughter close under the galloping blades of the big ceiling fan — it was 90 degrees yesterday at bedtime, and we laid on top of the clean white sheets in the dim room, shades pulled against the evening sun and the world outside, talking about baby chicks and rising moons and silly songs and swimming lessons. It was almost too much to bear, her restless feet and her soft arms and her butterfly kisses and my weary heart, all jumbled and wilted from the heat and the news, and my throat felt so raw and sad I could not speak, so whispered. My heart and thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families and the first-responders of Manchester.

I wish you all peace. I wish you everything peaceful and soft today. XO, a

Peek-A-Boo

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Oh, de-dear, dear, dear, as we say here. My little head is busy with little things. Thank you for all of the waffle recommendations! The sour-cream waffles we made twice last week were delicious, if not exactly crispy. I think I'll make one of your recipes for breakfast tomorrow. Today is filled with errands and chores. It's raining, windy, and cold. This comes as a slight relief after the 80-degree temps and relentless sunshine we had this past week. A little of each feels nice. Mimi says she doesn't want to go anywhere today. I think she would be happy staying in and watching Bookaboo in her underwear while cutting pieces of paper into confetti with embroidery scissors, which is what she's been doing for the past hour, but alas, errands call. Blah.

I've been doing such weird things. I'm not even sure what. I wrote to somewhere (can't remember who you ask for this) to request a copy of the original Social Security application that was filled out by my great-grandmother in 1951, when she was 61 years old. It has her parents' full names on it, names no one in my family or extended family has ever known. Turns out I'm at least partly Polish on my mom's side, if the name Gorzinski is any indication. This was really exciting, somehow. I have one of those mysterious family histories on both sides. My father was adopted and knew nothing of his birthparents. My maternal grandmother's father died when she was little, and she never spoke of it, or him. She had a French last name, so we've always assumed she was partly French, or French Canadian, but we know nothing beyond that. Her mother remarried (or, as it turns out, married — she wasn't married to my grandmother's father) and essentially abandoned my grandmother, and all we ever knew was her (my grandmother's mother's) married name, not her maiden name. There's not much information, even on Ancestry.com, but I have literally spent hours and hours looking and have found some stuff. I don't know why I'm looking. I guess I'm one of those people who wants to know these things, but I think I'm actually motivated by my own love of researching mysteries as much as some kind of personal neeeeeeed. I think. I'm not sure. Maybe I need to know more than I think I do. There's just enough information to sort of piece something together, but who knows? Who knows what the real story is when everyone who knew the real story is gone? I'm still waiting for my DNA test to come back. Well. Amelia's maternal birthgrandma and -grandpa have done a ton of genealogical research, and passed all of that on to her on her first birthday, the most beautiful present, I thought. I'm so happy that she will have things like this in her life. Recently I traced (well, others had traced, but I just discovered the tracings) her birthfather's maternal grandfather's family all the way back to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1620. It was such a cool moment. Jamestown! Virginia! Her birthfamily is all coming for Birthmother's Day on Saturday (did you know Birthmother's Day is Saturday?) and I can't wait to talk about this stuff. Obviously, now I want to write a young-adult novel about Jamestown, Virginia.

 

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.

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.

School Days

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Well, well. School has started and it has been wonderful. School days! All two of them so far! :) First day: All the parents and kids wait in the foyer for the classroom door to open. There is one moment . . . one quiet, worried moment . . . taking her boots off, hanging up her coat. I bend down close. I can see everything move across her face. Curiosity and courage win out. Twenty minutes later, when the door opens, she gives us our kisses and hugs, turns to wave, and walks right in, wide-eyed with delight. Reportedly, she was the first one out on the dance floor. At school they dance, play, sing songs, garden, bake bread, cook soup, go outside, make music, rest, eat lunch. Her teachers texted mid-morning to say she was doing great! I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath. After school, at pick-ups, she shrieks with glee and runs down the hall toward me, carrying Foxie and swinging her lunch basket. I scoop her up — she's so big — and hold her close, her weight heavy and limp with relief and fatigue. She presses her cheek so hard against mine and says, "Mommy . . . Mommy. . . ." I hold her for as long as I possibly can. Oh, my overflowing, fast-beating heart! School is intense! Even for us parents! I can only imagine what it's like for the children. So many new spaces, new places to put your things, a routine you've never had, new kids, new parents. My big, brave, beautiful girl. She inspires me every single moment. I love her so and am so thrilled for her.

After drop-off the first day, Andy and I, shaky with nervous energy, stopped for breakfast. Sitting next to each other, ordering the exact same thing, giddy with freedom (though we can't stop talking about Amelia), we linger for the first time in years. At home, with newfound empty hours and a huge list of chores I've been desperately needing to do, I do nothing, circling the rooms in a daze and working on my hand puppet. Andy gets a long-overdue haircut. The hours go perfectly slowly. Three mornings, twelve hours a week. It feels  monumental. I actually sit at my desk and space out. I can't remember the last time it's happened. After school yesterday we walked through the neighborhood to mail her birthday-party invitations and her six chain letters. The sun was shining, the air was cool, the leaves were red. She cried — bawled — when we passed her old friend's house and her friend's car wasn't there, and we didn't stop by. Maybe tomorrow, I said. Lillian might be at school, too. A different school. The bitter-sweetness of it all moved me. And her.

Another neighbor was cleaning out some old spaces and brought over a puppet she made years ago. That's hers, with the yellow hair. Amelia took down the tension-rod curtains in my office and brought them out to the back yard, and Andy set them up on some chairs. I listened to the two of them do a show (which lasted about four minutes) and it made me want to make a puppet. I got a dowel and some Model Magic and sculpted a head, then covered it with papier-mache (I just used newsprint and flour-and-water paste). She's my first puppet. I can't believe I've never made a puppet before, ever, even as a child (that I remember, anyway). I started off saying I was making this one for Amelia but now I don't really want to give it to her because it took me about three hours to put her yarn-hair on and I know Amelia will quickly peel it off, even if she says she won't. I told her I'd give it to her when she's fifteen. Guffaw. I'm probably serious, though. Usually I'm not like that — I gave her all of the stuffed animals I made (and who even knows where they or their clothes are now), I really don't care that much about my furniture or walls (though they haven't suffered too much, I don't think), and I certainly don't care how she destroys her clothes when she's playing — but I'm pretty sure I should keep this puppet out of reach. Better make another, less-precious one.

Actually, she's sitting in my office right now, holding the puppet (that I accidentally left on my table) and touching her hair very gently and then giving me a tiny little wave when she sees me watching her. Maybe there's hope. . . . Maybe I'll give it to her when she's fourteen. . . .

Weekend Ways

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Thank you ever so much for all of the kind comments about 'Night, Neighborhood and for all of the orders for the kit and pattern. Thank you, thank you. I am so thrilled that people are excited about this and can't wait to see how everyone gets on with this one. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and I think you will. I have some things to tell you about cross stitch in general and I'm going to work on a post about that soon, one that answers some questions that non-cross-stitchers might have about getting started, and some general information about stitch counts, fabrics, flosses, etc. For now, I believe all of the orders that came in last week have shipped, and we will ship everything that came in between Friday and today on Wednesday. A huge thank-you also to my intrepid assistant, Stacey. She single-handedly pulled all the floss for this kit, and packaged it, and assembled every kit itself, and processed and shipped every single order. I don't have that much time to work these days, so I concentrate solely on design and stitching and pattern writing and printing, and she does all of the hands-on work of managing our floss inventory, pulling all of the floss, all of the assembly of all of the kits, and then all the processing and shipping of orders every day. It's a pretty good system we have going, and I'm so grateful for her careful, diligent, tireless help. She'll be working on the grape harvest at the end of this summer and I won't have her help for about four months during harvest season this year (August through November), but we're hoping to get a Christmas kit happening here soon, hopefully ready by September.

I sewed a bit for Amelia yesterday, a couple of pairs of babydoll pajamas and two little swingy skirts. I will take photos and give details when I can find them all (flung, right now, all over the house). I had wanted to make her a dress for the Midsummer Festival at Oaks Park this year but I found the golden stripey one at the Hanna Andersson outlet for 40% off and it just seemed perfect. We had a nice day there, although it was a bit chilly! I'm not complaining, but it was chilly. So many hard things going on in the world; our hearts are breaking for the city of Orlando, and the LGBT community, and all people who love freedom and pursue the right to gather — and dance — in public everywhere. Have courage, have courage, spread love. My heart feels weary today. I sew and think and pray.

Sweet treats: my homemade vanilla ice cream, and a peach cobbler. I doubled the biscuity topping (for some reason, I had a box of Bisquik and I thought I'd try to use it up), which I don't necessarily recommend. It's also quite clear I have absolutely no idea how to slice fresh peaches — well, get the peach part off the pit, specifically? I truly mangled these babies, and that just wasn't pleasant. I looked at some directions on the internet that said cut it in half and twist one half off of the pit, but there was absolutely no way mine was going to come off the pit. . . . Oh well, it was still pretty delicious! Tonight we will have our new standby — the chili-lime chicken tacos with the Mexican street corn salad (links in this post). This is just too good, and it goes on the table about once a week, now.

Andy's home, and he's planning some fun activities with Meems for the day. It's cold and raining again, and I'm going to enjoy that — ride my bike out to get some lunch, read my new library book (Us by David Nichols) by myself, make some tea and sew. I don't get a lot of days like this, so I am a little excited. I try to soak it all up, and wait for my loves to get home.

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.