Cloudy Fall Morning

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Cloudy, and I can almost feel water in the air for the first time in ever so long. Hallelujah. Happy dance. Suddenly, under the flat gray light, I can see the fall colors. More dancing. I harvested the onions, a couple of eggplants, my precious butternut squash, another smattering of candy-sweet tomatoes this morning. I still can't get over what those tomatoes taste like. The vegetable beds are quite worn out. I thought about watering and decided, again, to let it go. I'm not sure how much is left to take out. Sweet potatoes — I don't think they did much. Carrots — the one I pulled was about the size of one of those little yellow Ikea pencils. This garden was a great experience for me.

Out there, the sound of acorns falling from the great oaks onto the pavement and the tops of cars. It's the sound of my childhood Septembers. The constant pinging of falling acorns on Forest Avenue. We had so many ancient oak trees there, and that sound of acorns falling, and bouncing, like other sounds from that place — freight trains coming then going, the cooing of an unseen mourning dove in the morning, cicadas, another freight train — is something I feel like I never hear enough. It's a sound you don't remember you've forgotten until you hear it. And it sounds like it's all yours.

I've decided to become a frozen-food person, and this morning put frozen pizza dough and two little frozen chicken pot pies from the bakery (where I go almost every morning to get a chai — kind of a little luxury I allow myself) in the freezer. It felt kind of like the year that my friend Allyson and I decided that we were French and wore stripes and scarves and spoke only Franglais, or the time I decided that I was a ballerina, and stood, whenever still, in fifth position. Or sometimes first position. Usually fifth, so there would be no mistake. This morning I decided that I would be one of those people who cooks things like soups and stocks and chilis and curries in big batches and freezes them in clearly labeled containers, and who then, when she is hungry, takes them out and cooks them for dinner. Eureka! This actually seems do-able. I have very low expectations for myself with meal planning. But this seems do-able. I have a freezer, and electricity. I want to believe.

September mornings forever remind me of traveling around Europe when I was a lass. I pulled out my scrapbook from that trip this morning. I haven't looked at it in ages. Photo taken in September of 1990, in Berlin, when I was twenty-one.

Catch Up

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I slowed to a wander on Sunday. It felt good to be so lazy and slow. The weather has been gorgeous. Bright and dry and just generally so pleasant. Our yard has been suffering the drought. It's been months since it's rained, I think. I was watering a bit through the summer and then I got busy and stopped. Andy spent the day moving the hose around from place to place. He did an imitation of a hydrangea before and after watering that was spot on — I wish I had a video. "Before" was this sad, parched, drooping, reaching thing; "after" he was bouncing in place and looked like he was on his way to a birthday party. :-) Pretty cute. I think the yard is a bit happier now, but honestly, I'd be relieved to stop worrying about it. A good rainy day would be most welcome, but all week we're supposed to be mid- to upper-eighties, and clear as a bell.

Before the slow, we packed and shipped orders, cleaned the fridge, got some groceries, did some laundry, watched television. Every night lately we've been falling asleep before 10 p.m. I made the blueberry cake again with marionberries, and a version of this pasta for dinner, but with sage instead of rosemary. I need to get it together, and get back into my cooking routine. I feel like this happens every year at this time! I need to sit down with my cookbooks and get inspired to cook for fall. Maybe actually plan [shivers involuntarily]. I suck at that. I don't mind the cooking; it's the thinking of what to cook every day that hinders. "What should we eat?" "I don't know. What do you want?" "I don't care. What do you want?" "I don't know. Pizza?" And pizza, because unless I'm actually looking at a cookbook or a recipie or a restaurant menu it's the only food I can seem to remember. I have the palate of an eighth-grade boy now. Hrrmmmm.

Making a new little preppy-hippie quilt. It's very yang. Thinking about maybe putting together a little quilt kit this winter. I think that would be really fun.

Puppers worries so when her Andy is down in the front yard without her. . . . What if he should fall down? Or need help with the sprinkler? Or someone should walk by? Or someone and A DOG should walk by? "Could you open this thing please?"

Last year (or maybe the year before?) the dahlias were $2.50/bu. Inflation. Still, a bargain.

September Field

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Somewhere around Corbett, Oregon; September 10, 2012. Pretty psyched about that bee photo :-).

Town and Country

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We've been here and there. Ramblers and loungers. A nice mix for me. A little bit of home and a little bit of away for a day. Then home by dinner. Late-summer sunlight. Fields and furrows. Gray layers of light over fuzzy blue hills. Cold mornings and cold water. Regiments of geese fly low over the river, right above our heads. They thread their ways upstream, stopping to rest just beyond the rapids. Four eagles circle high in the clear, sharp light, talking to each other. Yellow leaves flashed silver as they fell. My body warmed the shallow pool of river water in my chair. I dared not move lest I chill it again. He examined stones and skipped rocks the size of salad plates. A river crayfish tried to git me. I insisted it was lobster. But Andy saved me. I have certain fears: going into banks, vinegar, wet cat food (disgusting beyond belief), crustaceans. He does his best, as always. Helping me always. My dear love.

Thank you thank you — for all of your orders, and your kindest words about the new ornaments and the new shop, and all of your gentle kindnesses, and constant generosity, and sweetness here all summer, and always. I feel raggedly sensitive lately, in good ways and difficult ways. I'm disheveled and flushed, a purple and smudgy September plum, ready to bust and ooze at a light touch, taking things personally, and I'll take your kind words personally, too. I'm grateful for them, more than you'll know.

Monday. He picked lavender for me while I sat in an old metal lawn chair with a poufy cushion and ate a chocolate ice-cream cone. Bees and butterflies rushed the blossoms, so many it felt like a fairy meadow. Harvest ball. There was a box where you put your five dollars for a bouquet. A broken-down shed. An ancient apple tree. Across the field, a wooden house. Once I was in the chair I felt like the field felt: tired, wilted, relieved. Four o'clock. Nothing else needed, then, beyond his quiet company and the holy, golden sunlight. How grateful I am for all these things.

Winter Cabin Ornament Kits, and a New Web Shop!

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Hello! Do you like bluebirds? And tea kettles? And lighted windows? I do!!!

Introducing my new 2012 ornament-making kit: WINTER CABIN:

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There is a Lighted Window, to welcome all passersby . . .

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There is a Western Bluebird, to provide the winter song . . .

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And there is a Whistling Tea Kettle, to make the Earl Grey . . .

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Each Winter Cabin Felt Holiday Ornament Craft Kit contains materials to make one of each of the three ornaments, including:

16 pieces of wool blend felt in assorted colors
11 skeins coordinating DMC cotton embroidery floss
1/4 yd imported French gingham ribbon (for hanger)
1/2 yd imported French rick-rack (for hangers)
1/2 yd imported French calico bias tape (for curtains)
Stitching instructions
Pattern templates
Illustrated embroidery tutorial

You will need to have your own:

Wool batting or Polyester Fiber-fill
Sharp embroidery needle
Dressmaker's chalk pencil or fabric marker
Dressmaker's chalk carbon paper
Sharp fabric scissors and paper scissors
Motivation
Snacks
Fireplace
Kitty-puppy foot warmers
Television to watch the new season of Psych if they ever start it for goodness sakes!!!!!!! This is exactly what I said last year and it's double-true now. C'mon, son!

We have also put together limited editions of previous years' kits, including:

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2011's kit, SWEET HOME:

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It includes a Blue Door, with a wreath to welcome you home . . .

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A Glowing Candle, to light the night . . .

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And 2010's kit, SNOW DAY:

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2010's kit, SNOW DAY:

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It includes a Red Wool Coat, to keep you warm and dry . . .

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A traditional Norwegian Selbu mitten, to keep your hands toasty . . .

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And a Polar Bear, far from the Arctic Circle, peeking out from behind the trees.

2009's ornament-making kit, WALK IN THE WOODS, is also available:

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It includes the Cozy Cottage, with the wood fires burning:

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The Snowy Tree, sparkling with ice crystals:

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And my favorite, the Little Deer, who watches shyly from the trees:

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And there are also a few of 2008's kit, ICE SKATING AFTERNOON, as well!

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There's the Hot Cocoa Cup, to warm you up:

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The Ice Skate, with pom-pon for good measure:

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And lastly, the Gingerbread Girl, the sweetest of all:

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Please click on the links for each of the kits above to take to you the web shop pages, which list what's included in each and what you will need to have. Each ornament kit costs $30 each, plus shipping.

About the skill level needed to complete these: In previous years I said that, while I don't think of these kits necessarily as a children's or a beginner's project, if you have some experience working some basic stitches, these ornaments take more time and patience than skill. I will include directions on transferring the designs to the felt, and basic diagrams for completing the types of classic embroidery stitches you will need to know — backstitch, lazy-daisy stitch, satin stitch, French knot, and blanket stitch — but once you are comfortable working those stitches, if you just take your time and settle in, you will be fine.

If you are interested in ordering any of these kits, the very best advice I can give you is do not wait to place your order. Unlike previous years, we are not taking pre-orders this year: We have instead made up a limited number of each kit, and will ship them out as fast as we can. In previous years, these kits have sold out every year long before Christmas, and once they are gone, they are absolutely gone until next year (and even then, there are no guarantees that we will continue to do them, of course). Usually, Andy and I put these kits together ourselves, sourcing all of the materials, cutting the felt and the ribbons, packaging the embroidery floss, scooping beads and sequins, winding yarn, and then doing all of the shipping. This year, we have been so lucky to have Greta helping us with every aspect of this operation all summer long, and together we have completed 1,200 kits total. It's a lot of shipping to do in a couple of months, but I think we have a great system now, and with the new web shop and shipping system, I am beyond excited about how easy it will be to ship these kits quickly — they're finished! — and easily. And yes, we do ship overseas, and THAT has been ridiculously simplified now as well. So — I'm really excited.

(That said — I also wanted to mention that because we are shipping so quickly, PLEASE make sure that your shipping address is correct when you place your order. In some cases, we are shipping orders the exact same day the order is placed, so it's important that you check your address on your end properly before submitting your order, because once it's out there, it's out there!)

All five patterns are also now available as downloadable PDFs. (Usually we wait until all the kits are shipped to release the PDFs, but I got everything finished early this year.) A list of the specific felt colors and piece sizes and floss colors you need can be found here. The cool thing now, too, is that all of the items — from kits, to digital downloads, to embroidery supplies — can all be put in the same shopping cart. I will give you a full-on tour of the site later this week, too, but when you go over there you can cruise around a little bit and see what's available to help you complete your projects.

The new web shop has been quietly open for about a week as I've worked out various kinks. I feel really confident that it is funcioning well now, but if you have ANY problems, questions, or comments, please leave your messages on the blog there (there's a little News blog that is just for the web shop), and I will do much best to keep a sharp eye on that and fix anything that comes up. And of course you can always email me at posie@rosylittlethings.com.

Again, thank you beyond words for all of your enthusiasm for and support of these kits over the years. They are a big part of my life and I am so grateful that your interest and orders allow me to continue to do exactly what I love to do, every single day. Thank you, more than I can ever find words to say, for that.

Old and New

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Another day, another hippie dress. Not like I don't have fourteen other things I should be doing. There is so much hand sewing on these things. The bodice lining is stitched in by hand, along with the entire hem, and the sleeve hems. Two entire afternoons of hand sewing. Good thing I like — love — that sort of thing. Especially because we have a new sofa. With the chaise lounge thing. Best invention ever. Except you can't get out of it. Literally; it tilts backwards (need wedge). Finally, we have enough seating. Comfortable seating. It's not the nicest sofa in world — kind of scratchy (compared to our old microfiber one), and from Ikea (it's the Kivik). But it's kind of frumpy in a way that is really appealing to me right now. We are very hard on our furniture. We wear it out. It serves us well, but we live hard on it. Now I have three offices: the studio, the office, and the chaise lounge.

My first hippie dress was Bloomsbury. My second one (which I guess I never took a picture of), Hefeweizen. This one, guest lecturer in medieval studies at Reed College. Last night I was thinking the next/fourth one would be Sigur Ros groupie but then I changed my mind to Joanna Newsom groupie (because I was watching her on TV last night [it was TiVo-ed], and took a picture of the TV). I wore the second one to the mall the other day. I took my extraordinary, luminous niece/goddaughter shopping for some school clothes. I got some interesting looks while wearing the dress. I think some people thought I was on my way to my handmade-soap booth at the Oktoberfest. Cool!!! Or about to serve them a hot pretzel and a pitcher. I said to Andy that I thought it might be a bit too "bar maid." He said, "You say that like it's a bad thing!"

There was a barbecue with lovely new friends, there was more curried soup, there are now eggplants in the garden, there was brown sugar–banana ice cream good grief. There has been almost no reading. I thought this was going to be my summer of reading and it's been my summer of no reading. I don't know what the problem is. I picked everything up and put everything down. And then I fell asleep. Summer kind of wears me out, I think. It was good to have the long weekend of lazy. I think I needed that.

The best part of this summer were the afternoons we spent sitting in the river on our chairs together, watching the rapids and the hawks. I think of those afternoons every day. I hope there's a chance to go back one more time before it gets cool. I really, really, really, really enjoyed those afternoons.

Plum and Moon

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They were absolutely delicious, too. Beautiful little things.

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Hello! How are you? We are sleeeeeeepy puppies around here. I can't seem to get up and do anything productive thank goodness. I am having a wonderful day.

One of my dreams came true on Sunday night when the boys played "Tales of Coming News" at Edgefield. I apologize to anyone standing near me because I sang every word as loud as I could (we were standing right next to the speakers). The show was just awesome. It was our fourth year and fifth time seeing the Avett Brothers. The Crystal Ballroom show a couple of years ago (or maybe it was last summer?) was so great, but I have to agree with the people on the fanboards that Sunday night's setlist at Edgefield was epic. I can't say enough about how much I (we) love this band. In thinking about it, this song is probably more of a fans' song than a song that will make you fall in love with the band if you've never heard of them before. (They're repertoire is enormous, so you will find something.) But if you click on the video (and thank you again for sending it to me, Kari, and thank you marysstikal for posting it originally), be warned there's a guy in crowd who in the first few seconds of the video drops the f-bomb about five times in a row at the top of his lungs when he hears the opening notes he is so excited. I completely understand this.

Anyway.

All of those fabrics were from JoAnn's! All on sale, too! Two more new dresses for me. I am desperate for some fall clothes. I almost never buy clothes for myself but lately I want to. I've got new tights but now I need some clothes to go with them.

I love this book. A girl can dream.

I was thinking about fall colors. Stereotypical fall colors — that is, crispy golds and jewel-like reds and shocking oranges — are not really the fall colors I see out my windows. Here, our fall colors are dusky plums and russet reds and heathery grays and blue-ish greens. Not quite as brown and muted as winter's sunless, mossy, piney, muddy colors. But still somewhat dimmer, duller than classic, sassy red, or crackling-bright orange, or blazing yellow. Sunset-lit and smudged. We have these smoky-coated plums on the table. I picked some up off the street the other day while we were out walking in the neighborhood; a tree had dropped an entire branch in the road and there were piles of them all over the place, yellowy-blue, not quite ripe. I couldn't believe how beautiful they were. I put as many as I could fit into my coffee cup to take home. We have a plum tree (two actually) but the plums are nothing like these. (I wish they were like these.) I will take a macro picture of them so we can see them better.

I think I like fall. I think it's the shortest, and, in its own way, the most precious season in the Northwest. I hear a lot of people say that about summertime here, that it's the shortest and most precious season. But for me, the season I yearn for and try to hold on to is definitely fall. (Once the rains start, that's winter.) Andy is a summertime person. He really tries to stretch it out as long as possible. We have brilliant conversations about September:

Me: "That [whatever it is we happen to be talking about] will be in the fall, in September."
Him: "That's not fall, that's still summer."
Me: "September is fall."
Him: "No, it's summer."
Me: "No, it's fall."
Him: "No, it's summer."
Me: "No, it's fall."
Him: "No, it's summer."

I really can't tell you how many times we have had this conversation. We must like it.

He has a point. September sometimes feels as hot as July here. I sit in the hot wind and the fried up grass, holding my tights and my clogs, and hope the temperature will drop like a stone.

Autumn in the Air

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Autumn is around here somewhere. You can just tell. Things have a russet undertone. The light is lower. The yard looks frizzle-frazzled. In the morning we take quilts out to the back porch with our coffee. A wind comes up in the late afternoons now and blows dry stuff around. It's been cold at night with the windows open. Perfect sleeping weather. I may have to put the down comforter back on the bed now. I think I was cold last night. Joy!!!

I made the soup again last night, and while I was at the grocery store I realized that I forgot to tell you about the creamy part of the one can of coconut milk that we added to the soup at the last minute (recipe amended)!

I also forgot to tell you about the blackberry breakfast cake I made with this recipe that one of you sent to me (though naturally I can't find the email so I can't remember who it was, I'm sorry!). That was the best coffee-cake type thing I have ever had. I keep one of those little containers of powdered buttermilk mix in my fridge and frozen berries in my freezer so always ready for something like this.

Also, remember how you asked me about the macrame bracelets and necklace I was making a few weeks ago? I used this book to learn how to do it. I'm not very good at it but I might keep doing it. It was a fun thing to do while watching the Olympics and waiting for the car to be repaired (yes, I brought all the macrame stuff with me to Les Schwab).

And while I'm at it I have been meaning to tell those of you who have asked about my pretty crocheted pebble that I often photograph: It was made by the lovely Julianna McDuffie and you can get your own here. I got mine a few years ago and I love that thing.

And yes, she is the cutest, sweetest, jolliest, most special and lovable kissable dear little black dog in the whole entire wide world. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxxxxxoooooooooooooooooooooo

Some Recipes I've Been Meaning to Share

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For many, many years I have loved my favorite chocolate cake recipe. But my sister Susie's is even better. This cake is awesome. It's dense, moist, perfectly chocolatey, and, I don't know, but there's just something really sophisticated and steady about this cake. It tasted as good as it did on the third day as it did on the first day. I agree with Susie. This is the

Best Chocolate Cake in the Whole Wide World

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we used Cacao Barry Extra Brute, which she says is the best)
1 1/4 cup hot water
3 cups brown sugar
2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
9 oz. butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (warmish) water

Preheat oven to 350 F, unless you have a convection oven. I have a convection oven and we baked this at 315 F and it came out perfectly. Grease and flour (or use cocoa powder instead of flour if you aren't going to frost the sides) two 9" round baking pans, and maybe throw a few cupcake papers in some cupcake tins in case there is more batter than you need. (Note: I use this 6" x 3" cake pan for my little cakes. The baking time is almost twice as long. I slice the cake into thirds when cool.)

Mix the hot water with the cocoa powder and let it sit for a few minutes until the cocoa is dissolved. Combine the brown sugar, cake flour, baking soda, and salt — paddle (we used a Kitchen Aid mixer, but you could use a hand mixer on low) until it is all combined and looks consistent. Add the cocoa water to the dry ingredients and beat on low until combined. (Side note: She was not happy with how fast my lowest Kitchen Aid speed was — we had to put a big dish towel over the mixer to keep the batter from flying out of the bowl everywhere, so be careful.) Cut up the butter into smaller pieces and add to the batter. Paddle for about 3 minutes on low. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Beat eggs lightly and mix them with the warmish water and the vanilla. Add these wet ingredients to the batter in thirds until just combined. Scrape down the bowl a lot. Pour batter in the cake pans until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 22 minutes and then check them; a toothpick poked into the center should come out clean. The cake might take 15 more minutes, but you don't want to overbake it. Let the cakes cool in their pans, then remove and frost with Cloudburst Frosting. (Please also read my notes there about this frosting; you have to beeeeeeeeeat it a lot lot.) Decorate to your heart's content! I used crazy-good fresh blackberries and mint leaves.

 

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I also made up this soup. I almost never make up any recipes but I have to confess I was super happy with this one, and everyone else seemed to like it, too (including my brother-in-law, who ate it out of a glass dish that Andy and Susie brought to him at the bar where they were meeting after he got off work to play pinball [in his suit, unless they brought him a t-shirt, too, I don't know]. I just thought the image of him eating this in a bar was so hilarious).

Curried Potato-Shrimp Chowder

2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons good yellow curry (I use Dean and Deluca's)
Salt and pepper
1 quart chicken broth
2 ears fresh corn (you could use frozen; I'm not sure how much that would be, maybe 1 to 1 1/2 cups?)
1/2 pound fresh shrimp, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed
A handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 or 2 little ripe tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded, then chopped up, just 'cause I had them
*1 can coconut milk

In a large stock pot, fry the bacon until it is crispy then remove it from the pot and let it drain on some paper towels. Pour out the bacon grease and then add the olive oil to the pot. When it's hot, add the onions, carrot, celery, and potatoes and sautee until the vegetables are starting to brown. Add the garlic and the curry powder and the salt and sautee for a few more minutes until it's really fragrant. Add the chicken broth and simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender (I like them quite tender, almost mushy). Add the corn, fresh shrimp, peas, and bacon (thanks for catching this JenW!) and simmer until the shrimp are cooked and the corn and peas are heated through. Add the basil and some chunks of fresh tomato and chow down (at the bar).

Hopefully I got these recipes right [bites nails nervously]! I get very nervous posting recipes!!!

*DRAT: I was just at the store getting ingredients to make this again and realize that I forgot to mention: We also added the thick part of one can of coconut milk, too! You could leave it out but it's really good with it in. I am really sorry I forgot about this!

embroidered A

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.