Snow Dream

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Though a massive winter storm is pounding the South and Northeast as I write, the snow that enchanted me here in town last week is completely gone. All gone. As if it were a dream. The temperature was so warm today it felt like spring. Everything's muddy, and green, and gray, and wet, and squelching again. I'm wishing good luck, safe days, and patience to everyone out east; the videos of the storm that I've seen on the news today are really astonishing. I hope you can stay inside and stay warm and safe.

I spent pretty much every free moment I had this past week finishing The Goldfinch and

 

! ! ! S P O I L E R    A L E R T ! ! !

Don't read below this if you haven't read The Goldfinch and plan to!!!

 

oh man, I was soooo disappointed in the ending. I almost screamed. I was putting up with my own confusion once Horst, and Sascha, and Ulrika, and Gyuri, and Martin, and Viktor/Cherry showed up in the story, and going along with things, more or less trusting that the end would be worthy of this huge, looooooong story. But his inability to write the four letters in the hotel room was just a complete cop-out. That, to me, was the worst moment. He writes two of them and then pretty much says, "Aw dang, these aren't as good as I wanted them to be — forget it." I went from being in almost total sympathy with him, through everything, to feeling so irritated and disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to get himself together — or actually, it felt to me that the author wasn't going to be able to pull the character together, because I really think it is actually inconsistent with his character that he blows it there. For him not to be able to be honest at the apex of his crisis, when there was nothing left to lose — I actually almost put the book down. That was such a disappointing moment, for me. Then, at the absolute height of the tension, to instead just have Boris show up and say, "Oh hey, here's your passport, don't worry, it's all good, the painting's safe now, oh and actually here's a bunch of money, OH and you're a hero!!!" WHAT?!? Seriously? It was such an "and then I woke up" ending. No, it was an "and then I woke up AND found out I'd won the lottery overnight!!!" ending. MAD!!!

And to still be engaged to Kitsey, a year later? No way. :(

Maybe I'm wrong that these things are inconsistent with his character. And maybe the story is, at the end, about someone who, I hate to say this, utterly fails. Because I thought it was a fail.

Did anyone else think that?

I write of my disappointment because I truly LOVED reading this book. I have read few books in my life so fast or so furiously. I talked about it to almost everyone I saw (and hardly any of who were actually reading the book). There was so much about it that I loved and admired. But the ending left me quite cold. . . . I felt like the book deserved better, somehow.

Now to find another book. . . . Hrmmmmm.

Snow Birds

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Super duper completely wonderful. Two whole days of snowing, snowing, snowing, and possibly more on the way. Apparently snow is like a cat: Threaten it with your complete disinterest and the next thing you know it's all over you. Oh joy, joy. I love it so!!! All delight. Before it started, we were already back from the grocery store, making blueberry muffins and planning pork chops, creamed spinach, sweet potatoes, and, for lunch, my childhood snow-day favorite, Lipton chicken-noodle soup, the kind in the little package with the dessicated pieces of chicken and powdered broth. Add more noodles and a pat of butter and it's right there: the blizzard of '79.

All afternoon on the first day Mimi and I watched it blow in. Light at first, the snow fell harder and faster through the afternoon, blowing sideways for hours, whipping pots off the front porch and filling the sky. The birds crowded our feeder, and in the house we could hear them singing with nervous excitement. We snuggled under quilts and watched the local news, its reporters stationed at all of the highest points in the metro area, on the worst roads, at the scene of cars rolling into ditches and people "WALKING in FOREST PARK!!!" as one reporter incredulously exclaimed. I giggled with envy — those luckies! When I opened the back door to let the puppers out (worried, worried — what was this??? — she tried to dive back into the kitchen) I could feel that cold, clean, icy air, unlike any other air, and took a deep breath. Yes, that's it.

Yesterday the wind had stopped but the snow remained. It could not have been more beautiful, and didn't even feel that cold. Andy was at work, up on the hill, texting us bird's-eye photos of the city. People cross-country skied past the window, right down the middle of our street. Neighbors came out and started shoveling (most, including us, with garden shovels, hilariously — that's what we have here). Cabin-fevered, Amelia and I bundled and braved the blanketed streets (Yaktrax, you are the best!). It was glorious. Pristine and white. Quiet as I've ever heard it (almost everyone in the city who was able to [not nurses, alas] stayed home from work and school, and there was no one on the road). It was like walking in the forest, but with houses. Everyone in the neighborhood was gathered at the park, pulling little kids in sleds, throwing balls for bounding dogs, skiing across the baseball field. We clustered at the little sledding hill and watched for a while, then came home for lunch, cold and flushed. That afternoon it snowed again, as much as on the first day. I held my breath — keep going!

This morning — oh my stars, it snows again. Andy is home. I'm still in my nightgown. Amelia is playing with her yellow boots on the floor, wearing them on her hands. Snow fills the air, so white I almost can't see them: Andy in an Irish sweater, shoveling the neighbor's stairs; Clover's fur dusted so white she disappears. Here's another neighbor, come to help. And another. Bright hats against the white. The sound of metal scraping the sidewalk, laughter. It's falling faster than they can shovel. So beautiful. I'm going up to get dressed.

Some Weeks

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Aw, it was one of those weeks. The kind where five out of seven days of it we were fighting with the furnace, trying to make it work. The repair dude was here at least five times. A different repair dude is coming this morning, after the first one basically shrugged. And this is the third time this winter the thing has gone on the fritz. Boo hiss. It's supposed to be cold this weekend. Yippee! And Yikes! I prefer my freezing cold tempered by lots of heat coming through the registers, so, er, we'll see. This is what I get for doing my Snow Dance all over the house. Winter Olympics start Thursday, so that may be a multi-sensory experience. Cold-o-vision. Some weeks are like this, nothing but phone calls to repair dudes talking about combustion and nozzles, and waiting, in layers of wool. It has seemed to take up every minute.

Nevertheless, signs of spring continue to tempt me into confusion. I ordered a raincoat and yellow boots for Amelia. After five hours yesterday, the repair dude left, and we sprung out the front door and pranced down the street, eager for fresh air. We walked and walked and walked. Went to the coffee shop and read for a bit. She sat on my lap and watched everyone and everything. She talks constantly now, in Amelia-language, chirps and squeals and mumbles and shrieks with the occasional cheer: "Dad-DEE! Dad-DEE! Dad-DEE!" Like he's trying to win a pie-eating contest. Her first "sentence": "Hi Daddy!!!!!" said so brightly, and in a voice so loud and clear Andy and I both almost fell off the bed laughing with pure wonder and delight. Joyful mornings all together, rolling around in the warm piles of pillows and blankets and flocks of stuffed animals, every one named, every one kissed good morning. "Hi!!!"

I've been working a lot, and it's slow going. I'm learning to do it that way, but it's not my natural way. My natural way is, apparently, to careen toward the finish line like a tölting Icelandic horse (here's your visual). Right? Lordy. At night, I decided that in order to retain my slender grasp, I would only do personal projects. So I've been embroidering the village and farm piece. It's from the early '60s, I think. It's not particularly relaxing, actually. You have to page through at least four different double-sided pages to try to figure out which colors and what stitches for which part. It's do-able, obviously, but the degree of difficulty is a little higher than I should probably have chosen. My tolerance is low. Like, garter-stitch-scarf low. That would be like a 2 on the scale. Paper-piecing hexagons would be, like, a 5. This crewelwork is probably a 8. Knitting lace would of course, for me, be a 10. Even smocking would be about a 7. A 1 would be sitting unmoving with any kind of needle in your hand while watching The Hills. It's like a pain scale of evening crafting after days (that start at 5 a.m.) with a one-year-old. You probably have one. (The scale I mean; possibly, the toddler, too, or did once, so you know.)

Anyway, every night I try to do one little part of the whole scene. I can't deny that it's quite thrilling to watch each little color make it come to life. What is it about little scenes that charm so much? I read to Amelia every day, and some of the books are just amazing in the depth of their illustrations. Brambly Hedge. Tasha T. Jan Brett is like that. Mimi's sort of a speed-reader at this point — her goal is to turn the pages of the board book as quickly as possible. I read out loud like an auctioneer: Here's a little baby onetwothree standsinhiscribwhatdoesheseeee? Quick, before she turns the page. If there's a character that she normally waves to or kisses as she goes through, she does it double-time, until she gets to the end — boom, done, next!!! I stare at the pages after she's done, trying to see every little thing. I love this book. Like looking into a rhyming sugar egg.

I wish I could point you to a pattern for Amelia's sweater but it's an old Bernat (6043-87), out of print. I think I found it on eBay or somewhere like that. You could try. I will say that that yarn (Fresco) is delicious. I think, out of all the things I've made for her, this is the softest and prettiest thing. Wool/alpaca/angora, with a delicate halo. Highly recommended.

Those pink flowers? On a tree. Anyone know? Viburnum! Bodnantense 'Dawn'. Thank you, Jennifer (and everyone!)

***Yes, the crewelwork is a kit available here; sold out, but it looks like they have more coming.

Winter View

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Oh, this sun. This view. The golden light that hovers low and sharp. The layers of blue that dissolve beyond the valley into dark mist. The scrabble of brown grasses and dried out flowers and broken brush. The paths that roll up and down and away. A hawk floating silently high above, circling and slow. The dark, inky green that the trees become from up here. Small curls of smoke rising from small houses in the valley. I picture wildflowers and tall grasses in spring, how the ancient orchard will begin to froth with the first frosty green. Soon, but not now. Now it is just a wicked tangle of blackish sticks, brittle in the sunlight. It's the layers of subtle color that I love, winter layers, dull and smoky. Caramel, evergreen, peach, midnight, olive, mustard, dove. Even in the warm sunlight there's a haze of gray. She picks up handfuls of small stones and wobbles, staggering too quickly down the path. There are so many things to pick up, mind racing faster than filly legs. Her hands are filled and she squats again, deciding what to trade for what. This rock for that rock. This rock for that. Wobble wobble. I want to walk forever, to get to every hill and dale, and look back, and over there, and that way. Turn in a circle: The mountain. The valley. That mountain. The city. The sun gets lower. Sinking behind the trees. I love it there, and rarely see it anymore — first winter I can remember in seventeen years where I've seen winter sunsets. A lady marches past us and looks vaguely behind her, in the direction I'm looking, and says, "What are you looking at?" I say, "The sun," and she says, "Oh, I thought I was missing something," and marches on. He throws me a smile and I giggle back. We're going down, down, in the shade of the side of the hill now. Amelia is quiet and sleepy, soft and round and warm. I blow on her nose to warm it. She reviews all the parts of my face: Nose. Mouth. Eye. Eye. Teeth. Forehead. Hair. Ear. Earring. Other earring. First earring. Nose. Her tiny, warm fingertip on my nose. Eskimo kiss in the cold. I want to build us a little camp, a lean-to made of gray wood with a cot and a nest of comforters, build a campfire to toast a little hot dog, and marshmallows to melt into hot chocolate. We'd watch the sun go all the way down, and see the moon come up over the trees. There would be stars then, frozen and twinkling in the winter-black sky. You'd see them through the cloud of your warm breath lit by firelight, fogging the darkness.

Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens from Powell Butte, 1/25/14.

Little Loves of Winter

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22GrandmaMosesBook2"Hoosick Falls, N.Y., in Winter." 1944. By Grandma Moses.

Sunday morning waffles :: Blooming bulbs and my ever-blooming lovely girl :: Long walks :: Gray skies and branches (oh how I love them) :: Can you spot the squirrel? :: I stitch and stitch and draw and knit, and fell asleep with knitting needles in my hands :: Early nights, early mornings :: She's on the move, and I can only get an unblurry photo when she's sleeping/strapped in somewhere :: I've lost my cooking mojo completely :( :: Reading Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things: 2,317 Ways to Save Money and Time (a birthday gift from my sissy; I've been wanting a book like this forever!) :: Dreaming of springtime meadows, and spring in general, and a wildflower garden in the raised beds instead of vegetables this year :: I started crocheting a lampshade :: Oh, most darling dearest sleepy duo :: My Grandma Moses book came and I am seriously in love love love love. I want to read everything about her now. I can't stop looking at the paintings.

Morning, Afternoon, Night

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At some point I do just sort of give up on snow.  The "fine, be that way" moment. The FBTW moment happened sometime yesterday afternoon. On our walk to the bakery, there were bulbs already pushing up through the soil outside. I brought home yellow daffodils from the market. The pale sun filtered through the dirt-spattered windows. I tossed the rest of the stray Christmas decorations (mostly those related to snowflakes) in a box. And I could see spring, which in our yard really does start to happen in February, just beyond the blurry margins of dead leaves, winter mud, and the brown and sort of weird, soupy green that the days have been, here in Oregon, in the winter. In seventeen years here, it's been the driest, sunniest winter I can remember. And, I will admit, I have found things to love about that. Because at least there are Alaska shows. I loved Esther's comment: "I think I can explain the Alaska obsession. You have Starved-for-Snow-itis. It's kind of like cabin fever, only in reverse." Oh yes, yes. Cabin fever in reverse! HA!

So, we have a Roomba. I asked for it for my birthday. I guess I'm old now. It's pretty awesome. It's like a reverse-shedding pet that doesn't really respond when you cheer it on. "Come on, Roomba! You can do it!" as it tries dumbly to find its way out from under the small side table. He whirrs and spins back and forth, banging into stuff around the room. He sends up a little victory song when he finds his way back to his dock, and so do we: "Good boy, Roomba!" Clapping. When emptied, he is filled, and I mean FILLED, with dirt (dog hair). And he has been filled pretty much every single subsequent time he's finished a room. And our carpets and floors are regularly vacuumed with the big vacuum. And dry-mopped with the pants of a toddler. The first time he was emptied I was astonished and horrified. Now he runs, almost all the time, around the house all day. He's very loud. He doesn't do stairs. No one is afraid of him anymore (both puppers and the nipper cried the first time he was let loose). His industrious motor is white noise in the background of our day.

I wish I had counted how many clementines were eaten here this winter. I save the peels and run them through the garbage disposal, which I read helps keep it clean. I think the clementine season is almost over. Amelia, if she knew that, would be very sad. I've never seen anyone eat tiny oranges so quickly. I cut them into small pieces and she literally picks them up as fast as I can cut them. I've eaten my share, as well. Have we gone through five or six crates, just the two of us? No scurvy here. That's nice. She's showing me, above, how she puts food "in her mouth" instead of throwing it on the floor, for the dog. Ahem.

Winter Olympics coming. Excited. I have my project picked out this time — the crewel embroidery that always reminds me of the view from Crown Point that I got several years ago that I've not started. I got something new for over the myrtlewood. It's a Grandma Moses reproduction (obviously) of a painting called "A Beautiful World." The quality isn't that great, because it's enlarged so much, I assume, but from afar I like it. I started getting into these primitive landscapes last year. I have another one over my dresser by Edward Hicks called "David Leedom Farm." I think I might get a book about them. I've always loved those aerial view landscapes of villages and farms and little buildings and bridges and rivers and trees. 

Go Polina Edmunds!!! I watched her at Nationals on TV last weekend and she was just completely enchanting.

My word. The sun is shining again. This is very confusing. !!!

Are you reading The Goldfinch? I can't put it down. Don't tell me what happens. I have an idea but I don't even want to talk about it.

A Busy Week

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Oh, busy days! Andy has had four days in a row off so I've been flailing around in the studio trying to get my new animals and their stuff pulled together. Many, many, many, oh most pictures I've taken this week have looked thrillingly like this:

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And this:

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Oh, and this:

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And far too few have looked adorably like this:

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MWAH. MWAH. MWAH. Eskimo kiss.

Well, it's one of those weeks. Time to make the doughnuts. I get up and showered as early as possible. I'm combed and coffeed by 7:00 a.m. most days. It's still dark outside then, but each time I look up from the work the sky is glowing a lighter shade of ultraviolet. There are four new animal kits (and patterns) in the works: Juniper Kitty, Dandelion Doe, Phyllis Mouse, and Basil Fox. The girls each have new dresses in two new Liberty fabrics, new boots, and new knitwear (cowl, kerchief, and legwarmers). The boy has a gingham shirt (in four color options), jeans, boots, and a scarf. There's also a separate kit/pattern for a hooded duffle coat, jeans, striped sweater, and a different scarf. And a pattern for the minty bed, and a kit/pattern for a nightgown, and all of the bedding. When I write it all out like that, I can see it's a lot. I've ordered nineteen different fabrics from seven different distributors or manufacturers, and thirteen different colors of felt from one. One hundred and eighteen cones of floss in thirty-seven different colors. Eleven thousand gray mini buttons. Twelve hundred 3/8" snaps. Two hundred and ten cones of sport-weight yarn. Sixteen different colors for that. Oh, and there's a teddy bear. I forgot about the teddy bear. Make that fourteen colors of felt.

It's both exhiliarating and terrifying. I've been making kits for a long time now, and I love it. I do truly love it. Of all of the things I've done in the past fourteen years of having a business, this has been the best for me, and the thing most suited to my abilities and interests. Certain things that I've done were so ill-suited to my abilities and interests (owning a shop, for one; I really have no words to say how miserable that made me) that when I get stressed out about these kits, I just remember how much I hated those things. But this part, this part where I'm figuring, and measuring, and ordering, and simultaneously designing, oh lord. It stretches me out flat. I burble and stagger. At night I sit like a zombie, watching my Alaska shows: Alaska: The Last Frontier. Buying Alaska. Coast Guard Alaska. Alaska Fish Wars. Railroad Alaska. Ultimate Survival Alaska. None of us can figure out exactly why I am, apparently, obsessed with Alaska. I don't even think I am actually obsessed with Alaska. (I also don't seem to be able to tear my eyes away from House Hunters International, though I have absolutely zero plans to ever move from this house.) Baby Mimi goes to bed between six and seven p.m., and oh, my goodness, that girl is a good sleeper (and is, once again, sleeping through the night, no problem). Isn't it just kind of a great moment when, after ordering fabric all day and being told that they have bolts that they don't actually have when it comes time to ship, and that four of the prints you've wanted are discontinued, and you'll have to pick other things even though you already have ordered several other things that go with those original things that you can't get, so you'll have to spend hours desperately scouring the internet to get those things somewhere else or give up and pick other things, isn't it sooooo just kind of a great moment when at seven p.m., after you've put your babylove to bed and put on your nightgown and taken out your contacts and brushed your teeth, you come back downstairs and pick up your knitting and then you get to watch a new episode of Railroad Alaska??? I mean, does it get any better than this, people?!?!?!?!?! No. Not for me. Ordering twenty-nine bolts of fabric does not seem as scary and difficult as, say, using an avalanche cannon, or trying not to get hit by a gigantic ice dagger. Or even using a dilapidated outhouse in the dead of winter. Perspective.

So, we're almost at the point where all of the ordering has happened, and the stuff is starting to come in, and the preparation of all the stuff begins. I work on the sewing and the knitting and the photographing and the writing, and the girls work on the floss-pulling and the button-bagging and the felt-folding. We are having all of the fabric cut now by Spooltown, the little factory down the road. Greta and I will go there today and drop off some fabric that's already come in. They'll fold it for us, as well. At night I talk to the animals and make sure we're getting it right: Do you want the pinkish dress, or the yellow? You want the yellow. That's what I thought. We usually agree.

My plan for 2014 is just . . . not to rush. When I decided to stop designing ornament kits last year, some of it had to do with the schedule that designing for a specific date — like a holiday — forces upon you. It turns out that it's almost never the actual work that is so difficult, it's the deadlines that make it so tough (for me, anyway). Since I work for myself, and only ever want to work for myself, this is something I can control. This is one of the perks. (There are downsides, trust me, but this is one of the perks, especially as a working/stay-at-home mom.) So, we're looking at this spring, sometime. I'm not going to set a date until we're very close to being done. But it feels good. I love working and I'm so lucky to have such excellent people helping me. So lucky to have them.

Thank you so much for all of the birthday wishes! We finished the cake a few days ago, and then there was another one over the weekend, because my brother-in-law's birthday is two days after mine, and my mom's is the day after that. I think everyone's quite partied and present-ed out. It's finally back to regular days. I'm looking forward to it, truly.

My Wish

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Two years ago yesterday I went for a walk in the woods and made a wish on my birthday. Though I didn't know it then, that night, that very night, my wish (at last, at last, for I'd made the same wish for many, many, many, many birthdays) began to come true. And now she is here. My birthday miracle. The miracle of my life. My wishes are all for her now. Darling, darling, darling wonderful girl. Thank you.

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Happy New Year to you, and thank you so much for all of your kind Christmas wishes! Oh, it's been so lovely and slow here. Slow like only the week between Christmas and New Year's ever is. It's the only one like this in the whole year. How I long for a snowstorm to keep it going, keep the glacier-pace of these quiet, messy, wonderfully slow days going! Alas, it's already January 2. And we have only moss on logs and gray skies for our winter so far. No snow in sight; we might have to go and find some.

Merrymaking

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In the mornings, I listen to her waking up. She hums and talks to herself in her baby language. Da-dee-dee. DA-dee-dee. Outside it's still black and cold. The lights from the baby monitor, the alarm clock glow in the dark. I listen to her: Hmm-hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm-hmm. The first six notes of "Jingle Bells," over and over. I hum the rest to myself, smiling. Eventually she insists — HMM HMM HMM! — and I know it's only a minute or two until it's a flat-out squawk — Come and get me now, people! I got you, babe. I am here.

These bright, brisk days the house fills with her sounds. The humming, the chatting, the thumping of the walking, the thumping of the dropping of things, the sliding of chairs across rug, across wood, the bongo drums, the tiny piano, the jingle bells that she shakes and bangs, the stumbling, the falling, the crying, the giggling, the chasing of the dog, the banging of spoons on trays, the banging of blocks on gates, the clatter of the tin cake-carrier when she drops it (favorite thing to carry around), the bubble-blowing, the singing, the questioning, the humming, the dear, sweet, jolly blah-blah of babydom, and oh, my stars, oh, oh how I love it so.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a wonderful week of peace and tenderness, and simple pleasures wherever you find them. I hope joy comes to you, and your family, and your friends, and your animals in this wintertime, and I hope there are wonders, too, and wishes that come true. I hope you get to give a kid a great present, walk in the snow, go ice skating, see the city lights, sit in front of a crackling fireplace, or hold a sleeping baby. I hope you find magic in the season, especially in the moments when you least expect it. Thank you for being a part of our lives this year, and, from all of us Paulsons, I wish you much love and happiness. Merry, merry Christmas to you.

Xoxoxoxoxo,
a+a+a+c+bee

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.