Plummy

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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!

Late-Summer Slow

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The air conditioning was on, and then it was off. We sat in the river almost all day on Friday (the hottest), but by Saturday it was strangely cool and weirdly gray and wanted to rain (though it never really did). I sat in the dining room working and drinking hot chai in a long-sleeved blouse with the breeze blowing through all the windows so insistently that I was cold (and pleasantly confused, and pathetically relieved).

I made pasta with our gorgeous little tomatoes, pasta with olive oil and a little garlic, swirled around with the fresh tomatoes (which were so easy to peel, even raw, without blanching), a handful of basil (also from the garden), and big chunks of fresh mozzarella. Mama mia, that was some good dinner.

I keep forgetting to write out the chocolate cake recipe and the soup recipe! Okay, this week.

I did eat some Indian rice pudding. I could eat rice pudding every day if given the chance. I got mine from a take-out restaurant this weekend, but sometimes I make it.

Alicia's Kheer

4 c. milk
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

(I don't know if this is really a traditional kheer, but I like it.)

Rinse well and then soak basmati rice in cold water for a half an hour. Combine milk, rice, condensed milk, and sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until milk is reduced by half and pudding is thick (or however you like it). Add cardamom, stir, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

I have a sleepy puppers on my lap right now. I wish I could lounge with her (actually, I wish I was that girl on the black pony up there) but we are in full ornament-kit production mode, so it's time for bad Lifetime movies, gallons of iced tea, and several hours of repetitive motion arranging little piles of wool felt. Love it!!!

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I was at the park early this morning, trying to beat the heat. It's going to be hot here these next few days. One hundred degrees plus. Naturally, I am terrified.

Summer Sweetness

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August has a glow. There was twilight birdsong all around us in the field. I cried in the sunset. My sister's visit has been wonderful. The world spins and spins. The flowers. The nights. The years.

Bloomsbury

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I finished my dress today and I just love it. The vast majority of things I try to make for myself look totally horrideous, which is why I hardly ever try to make anything for myself. But I love this (though I had to fuss with the pattern quite a bit). I used mostly cotton lawn, except for the bodice front/back which is regular quilting-cotton-weight. I apologize, but I don't really know what the fabrics are named or remember where I got them (but mostly all locally, and I have a decent size collection of Liberty Tana Lawn from local and various on-line sources). I just collect fabric whenever I see something I like, and am useless with the details. This dress is made mostly of rectangles or versions of rectangles. It's all very floaty and light, with lots of folds and drapes and gathers everywhere. Rather Vanessa Bell–ish, I thought.

The Sigur Ros show at Edgefield last night was exquisite. We have been big fans for many years but this was our first time seeing them live. Lovely, gentle, amazing people. The evening just couldn't have been more beautiful.

The garden is entering the late-summer phase. I think I'm supposed to be thinking about fall/winter planting. I replanted beets and kale already. Maybe I'll plant more beets where the potatoes were . . . ? Half of my butternut squash blossoms fell off, and a bunch of the leaves. A couple of the other little squashes just shrivelled up into little puckered things. Wah. :(

It's a quiet day here. Bright and breezy and we have no plans. Wonder of wonders. I shudder with pure delight.

Summer Swell

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Dude, did you see my garden potatoes? I AM PSYCHED.

Tonight, curried potato, corn, and shrimp chowder. And it's finally cooled off so we can make the choco cake. I'll write out the recipes when I get a sec.

You know how when your one sister goes out to lunch with your other sister for the afternoon and you should be doing some chores that you've been blowing off while you're home alone but instead you decide to make an Afghani nomad dress? So weird when that happens, I know.

High Heat

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Hot, hot heat this past weekend. We sat in chairs in the river all afternoon. Best day I've had in ages. Leaves fell from the trees on the bank and flashed silver as they spun toward the dark water. Even in the heat there was a glimmer of autumn. My sister made grilled peaches glittered with lemon zest and mint. August in a bowl. We've watched hours and hours of the Olympics. Coolest sport = trampoline! The electricity went out last night for several hours. I macrameed a bracelet until it was too dark to see. Needless to say, at 102 degrees no baking or oven cleaning has happened. Though we did make a trip across town to buy pearl sugar for yeasted waffles. Priorities.

Assemblage

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My crew was busy assembling floss packets for ornament kits this week. (Yes, amazingly, it's that time of year again!) For the majority of the early summer I had pretty much decided that I probably wouldn't design an ornament kit this year, just because I've been so busy with the web site and am fried. Then, one day when my computer was broken and I was sitting there with nothing to do for an hour and a half, I started drawing and wouldn't you know it three ideas for new ornaments popped out. I guess that's what it takes — a whole hour and a half with nothing to do and I can think of a major project to do. So the machine started it squeaky but irrepressible crank back up again. And so we will re-issue a limited edition of the past four years' ornament kits, as well as this new one, of which there have been glimpses around here lately and which is called Winter Cabin. Wouldn't you know it's probably my favorite one of them all. I love the palette for it so much. More details on the new kit (and the old kits) to come! For now, my trusty sidekicks assemble floss packs and I make them cappuccinos in the afternoon (good trade off for me, no?). I got this little stovetop espresso maker the other day, and the little milk frother I got last winter has been awesome. These were actually pretty good little cappuccinos, I was surprised!

Hot coffee in the afternoon will probably be a thing of the past this weekend — it's supposed to get up to the high 80s and maybe even 93 over the weekend. Once again, it's only 59 right now so I am enjoying that while I can. Thank you for the perfume recommendations!!! I ordered several testers from CB I Hate Perfume, which several of you recommended, I think. I can't wait for them to come. Maybe my sissy and I will spend a day searching around town for the others you recommended and having a smell-a-thon while she is here. I will report back. :-)

I didn't make the roasted corn soup above (it's from New Seasons), but I aslo have to think of some things to cook while Susie is here. Dear chocolate lovers, she says she has brought the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe in the Whole World with her. She told me I had to get this kind of baking chocolate (Cacao Barry Extra Brute), which I did, so I am ready to taste proof! I'm also hoping she might help me clean my oven with the self-cleaning function because I am afraid of it and need a professional chaperone. Do we know how to entertain our guests here, or what??? Perfume shopping and oven cleaning — thrilling!!!

***The seed pod in photo six is called scabiosa — thanks Jessica!

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.