Posts filed in: Life

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.


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.

Party Girl

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Her third birthday party, filled with all of her beautiful people — birthparents,  grandparents, birthgrandparents, aunties, uncle, birthsiblings, cousins — all of us here together, all family now. In my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined how it could be, and yet it's better than anything I might've hoped for. Anything. It amazes and humbles me daily, and yet on this day every year (though this year her party was not on her actual birth day), when we are all together again, all joined in so much love for our sweet girl, being part of an open-adoptive family overwhelms me with gratitude, amazement, and pure joy. How blessed we all are that she is here! How blessed we are that we are family because of and for her! How blessed we are to have each other, every one! I would not have it any other way.

She said goodbye to her guests outside in the afternoon rain, careening up and down the driveway with the giant umbrella, then zoomed back into the house to race around a bit more. Clover Meadow, who had been on her best behavior all day, went zooming back and forth between the living room and dining room about eight times, doing laps as fast as she could. Small ones were still zooming for quite a while; the rest of us collapsed in various heaps.

Parties are so crazy — there is so much going on and they go so fast and there are so many people and it's so loud and raucous and fun. I don't take many pictures during them, though I always intend to. There was a lot more to the weekend  (I do have more pictures of that; we just got back from dropping Andy's parents off at the airport, in fact). I ran into some of my neighbors at the grocery store last week. We were all waiting in line and we started talking about our earliest childhood memories, which for everyone there started at age three. I hope hers start a few days before, and that she will remember what a magical time this weekend was. I know I'll never forget it. My sweet love. Your party was so, so nice.


Pre-Party Prettying

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

Wuthering Heights

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When the rain came, we were at the top of the butte, sitting in the burnt grass. The purple clouds had stacked up and marched across the sky. I'd talked her out of wearing two tutus at the same time and jabbing at things with the enormous umbrella. At the top of the hill, there I feel free. I would rather be on top of the hill than almost anywhere, everywhere. At home, down the hill, our houses pile up on each other, with fences and hedges and trees and houses and wires and houses and trees so close they block half the sky. On the hill, she runs, stretching her legs, twirling her skirts, chasing seed angels. He blows them out of their pods for her, and I wonder what flowers will bloom next year from this moment. My heart swells with joy. It's good to sit down and rest. I look out over the brown flowers, the dry ponds. The meadow is lovely in its withering. The sky is hyperactive, changing by the minute, the clouds moving so fast I hardly dare look away lest I miss something. They're different, too, in every direction: This way, they're lighted cotton balls; that way, they're whooshes; over there, it's a solid curtain of gray. Far off to the west the sage-blue hills are covered in ever-more-opaque veils of gray; you can see that it's already raining there, and raining farther back, as well. I've forgotten this color scheme: violet/lighter violet/more violet. I turn my face to the sky in gratitude and relief. This saturated air is pure nutrition. When the drops finally start falling, my skin absorbs each one in an instant. I hardly feel them at all I'm so deficient. Rain. Real rain. There's a sudden scramble involving crying, shoulder sitting, a too-big umbrella someone insists on holding, and then more rain, so it's into the stroller, legs tucked up under the hood, more crying, some juice, then quiet. Quiet. Walking. The umbrella, closed, hangs from the push-bar. There is just rain and wind and the lovely crunch of wet gravel. I imagine what the rain sounds like from inside the hooded stroller, her rolling personal tent. Andy and I have stupid-big grins. We push and walk, getting soaked, in perfect happiness. Home, and dumplings for dinner. There are some days you wish would last forever. Powell Butte, Saturday, September 5, 2015. That was one.

All of It

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People, Mama went DOWN. Like a felled redwood. I hit the forest floor. Then curled up like a roly-poly bug and moaned. Everything was going well until Saturday night. I thought I was feeling pretty good! We had a great day on Thursday, a wonderful Mother's Day party here with Amelia's birthfamily on Friday, and then Andy worked on Saturday, and Mimi and I had the best time going out to lunch and then shopping for a birthday present for her cousin. We got home around three. Amelia had just fallen asleep on the sofa-bed and I went out on the back porch to read — first quiet moment in days. I was so happy. But no sooner did I get four or five pages in (I'm actually trying to read this, which may have been partially to blame? Not exactly easy reading, what am I thinking) than my ear seemed to spawn an enormous puffball mushroom on the inside. I shook my head like a dog. I stuck my finger in my ear. I tipped my head upside down. I shook my head harder. What in the hell??? I Googled "my ear just filled up like a water balloon and it's gonna blow!" I had no idea what was happening. The next morning, I was at Zoom Care the minute they opened. "Ah yes, you have a little ear infection brewing." My first ever. All my life I've heard people talk about ear infections but I never really knew what they meant.

Sad face! :(((( If you don't know, try to keep it that way, seriously.

Ah, well. No brunch, no rose garden, no new dresses. Instead it was just lots of snuggle time on the sofa yesterday with my sweetest boos, Charlie and Lola episodes on repeat, Andy-made stuffed shells for dinner (my favorite food), sunshine and sitting around in the back yard when we got bored, me endlessly describing my symptoms in great detail. It was actually pretty wonderful, aside from the fact that I couldn't hear anything anyone was saying, and felt like my ear was going to burst, Mt. St. Helens–style, right off the side of my head. I kept looking at my ear in the mirror like, really? But it looks so normal! I just couldn't believe it was skin-colored (and not chartreuse) and regular sized (not gargantuan, like an elephant ear). I thought maybe I was hallucinating the fact that it appeared normal.

In spite of it all, my God, I must be the happiest, luckiest, most-blessed mama on the face of this earth. I kissed my girl a thousand times yesterday, and said my prayers, and I say them for you, too. I wish for all of it, every bit of it, for you. Not the ear infection part. Just everything else. Xo

Thank You

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Whew! Hello!

How are you?

It's a cold, rainy morning, so dark in the house I need all my little lamps on to see. Andy has the day off and is at the park with Clover Meadow and Miss Amelia. I'm sitting in the studio, eating breakfast and drinking orange juice. The rain is plinking on the skylights. I feel, I am quite sure, quite, quite ready for spring. It seems far off today!

Thank you again for your Miss Maggie orders! It always emotional for me to go through all of the orders and see everyone's names and addresses, and read all of the sweet notes people leave, and think about where all of these kits that we've worked on for months and which have become part of all of our lives here are going. Around the world. It's amazing to me. It brings me so much happiness. More than I probably remember to say. Thank you for that, and for being here all of these years, through many things. Today is actually the fifteenth anniversary of my accident. Posie was just my dream then. I had a lot of dreams then. I cried because I didn't think many of them would come true. Andy always believed that they would. He sees where I am trying to go before I ever do, and is already helping me get there before I even know I'm standing. He's pulled me to my feet more times that I can possibly count, and probably many more times than I've even realized. And then I go forward.

A most amazing man. My love. Greatest partner in life, and the greatest father. Most beautiful, fun, creative, kind, generous person I've ever known. Andy.

Then, Amelia.

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My heart is so full it's hard to speak. We have adopted a baby girl. We were honored and privileged to be asked by her luminous birthmother and her gentle birthfather to attend her birth. That moment, and the four days we spent in a hospital room with them and their family and friends were the most incredible, and humbling, of my entire life. This baby was born into the most beautiful circle of people I can possibly imagine, and both Andy and I are in continuous awe of their tremendous strength, courage, and incredible love. Our gratitude is boundless. Her birthgrandfather took this picture of Mt. Hood at sunrise on the morning of her birth. It made me cry when I saw it on his camera, and it makes me cry now to look at it again. It is a symbol of an auspicious beginning.


Amelia Jolene Beatrix Paulson
October 14, 2012, at 5:42 p.m.
8 pounds, 3 ounces; 20 inches


Welcome, welcome, welcome dear, sweet, precious, exquisite, wonderful, wonder-full Amelia. I love you more than I can say.

About Alicia Paulson


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




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.