Beatrix Blanket

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Well, hello! Apparently, it's March. The days just go so fast. . . .

Thank you for all of the sweet words and reminiscences on my last post. That was so much fun. It took forever to put together but it was really fun to do. I wish I could do cool stuff like that more often but I don't because my brain is not that organized. I made a to-do list the other day and it looked like the dog's breakfast, as they say. I'm kind of all over the place. Volleying at the net, as I say. Thwack, tennis ball. Thwack at you, another tennis ball. Backhand, forehand, through the legs. Missed that one. We all went for a long walk last weekend and got lost, and wound up wandering around randomly, eventually working (ugh, it was a slog, uphill) our way back to a favorite cafe and a club sandwich for mama, after which I felt much better about everything. Everything feels mildly reckless and scattered. My projects are coming together, but I need to keep my racket up. I feel flat-footed. Quilt kits are 75% of the way there but they're not there yet.

I love age four. I love it. She's so sweet and so dramatic and so imaginative and so, so, so sweet. Aaaaaaagh. I love her so much. Girl doesn't stand still. The only clear picture I could get of her in her new sweater was when she was trying to balance a yardstick on her head. She never stands still, or sits still, or lays still until the minute that last note is sung (I sing her to sleep every night) and we get under our covers together and I wrap my arm around her, and she literally falls asleep in less than a minute. I lay there in bed with her, luxuriating (finally stopping for a minute) in between the pale pink flannel sheets before slipping out of bed. I leave her in the big bed until Andy gets home at 9:00 p.m., and then he transfers her to her own bed long after she's fallen asleep. When I open the bedroom door, Bridget and Clover Meadow are always just on the other side of it, waiting for me. The minute Amelia is asleep the pets always come out, and seem to relax. We all go downstairs and clamber onto the couch to wait for Andy to get home. I pull out my yarn basket. I'd made a new Cricket sweater for Mimi much earlier this winter but just got around to blocking it. The Thousand Tiny Tulips sweater came out quite cute, and she loves it, and I needed that. I saw Amanda's blanket and, at almost the exact same moment, a little vintage copy of Tale of Two Bad Mice that Andy had bought me as a surprise arrived in the mail, so I decided to start a sport-weight stash blanket for Mimi inspired by its colors. The blanket is crocheted, in moss stitch, with an E hook, wide enough to fit across her toddler bed, done is horizontal stripes, each one as wide as whatever amount of yarn I have left in that partial skein. No thinking, other than choosing the next color. This is the start of my Beatrix Blanket (it's folded in half, here):

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I think this is right:

Chain an odd number of stitches the width of the blanket you'd like.

Foundation Row: Sc in the 3rd ch from the hook, *ch 1, skip next ch, sc in the next ch; repeat from * to end, turn.

Row 2: Ch 2, sc in the next ch-1 sp, *ch 1, sc in the next ch-1 sp; repeat from * to end, ending with a sc in the ch-2 sp at the start of Row 1, turn.

Repeat Row 2, changing color at the end of a row when you run out of yarn for each color, until your blanket is the desired length.

 
It feels good to make a stash blanket and use up some of this stash that has been, literally, in some cases, almost two decades in the making. I think Beatrix and I have almost the same palette, so, colorwise, this is no stretch, and immensely satisfying for that, as well.
 
***Oh, and: Mimi is wearing her Bunny Rabbit sweater, above, too, which is here.

Whirl and Swirl

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One by one I've been reading all of the Beatrix Potter stories to Amelia at bedtime. They're quite edgy little stories. Some are too long for her right now. Some I knew and some I've never read before — actually, most classic children's literature was not actually a part of my childhood reading. But I'm enjoying them so much (likely more than Amelia, but isn't that always the way). When we got to The Tale of Two Bad Mice the other night I could not stop laughing: Tom Thumb and his wife, Hunca Munca, notice that the dolls have gone out for the day, so they venture into the dolls' house to have what they think is going to be a marvelous feast. When they find that the beautiful food is all made of plaster, they basically have a fit and trash the doll house. They smash the plates and then try to burn them in the kitchen fireplace, but that's fake, too. Tom Thumb throws all the doll's clothes out of the window. After pulling half of the feathers out of the doll bolster, Hunca Munca (who "had a frugal mind") remembers that "she herself was in want of a feather bed" and they set about stealing the bolster by dragging it to their mouse hole (along with a bunch of other furniture, including the doll-baby cradle). In the end, the dolls return (and silently survey the scene) and the little girl who owns the dollhouse puts a policeman doll in front of the house to guard it. Tom Thumb redeems himself by putting a crooked sixpence that he found under the rug in the doll's Christmas stocking to pay for the damages, and Hunca Munca sneaks in every morning with her broom and dustpan to sweep the dollhouse. I love this story so much. The first time we read it I went downstairs the next morning and stood gaping at Amelia's own utterly trashed dollhouse. "Did the two bad mice do this?" I asked. "Yeah," said Meems, chagrined. I convinced her to put it to rights, but I suspect that Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca might be up to their old tricks in our dollhouse again. . . . The funny thing is that when you start buying miniatures made by miniaturists, tons of it says, literally, "This is not a toy suitable for children under fourteen." Fourteen! Ha. I get that. Like, I think I had my first job at fourteen. When you go to high school you can play with your dollhouse, kid.

I've done almost nothing but cut calico fabric for weeks. Weeks. I stand in the studio, cutting strip after strip for the quilt kits I'm building, and think about things. Often I think about my own inspirations for these quilts in particular, which feel like a story I've been telling myself for a long time. I thought you might like to see some of the images that swirl and twirl around in my head when I'm coming up with a project, so I made this little collection of things, woven together with pictures of some of the actual fabrics that will be going into the kits. These are turning out to be kind of epic, if I do say so. I will give you more info as I get closer to releasing them in the next few weeks, so thank you for your patience. I will be offering a pattern for the quilt-comforter (in sizes from toddler through king, including throw) that you will have to download, and then about a hundred (total) toddler-sized kits to make the quilt top in seven or eight different general colorways. There will be options to purchase kits for larger sizes, as well, but I'm still working that out. I will say that, as with a lot of things that I do, these are a totally limited edition, even more so than usual. All of these fabrics have come from eBay and Etsy or estate sales or my own stash. They are rare. I've spent the past month combing every listing, looking for all of the best stuff, and it has been a massive project. I've cut close to 225 yards of fabric into 4.25" strips by myself. And I have more to go. But I honestly think you're going to be really thrilled when you see these. They're pretty special. Again, stay tuned for more info on these over the next few weeks as I get closer to finishing them. It's taking a long time, I know, but honestly, I pretty much spend every single free minute I have working on them and it's just been a huge project. I think, short of my books, it might be one of the biggest projects I've ever done.

There's no school again this week, for teacher in-service this time. Poor kids. It really never stops raining. We're way ahead of average rainfall for February. Oh that we could have some of this rain during the summer months!!! Yesterday, despite the weather, was a great day. Andy was home and we all went out to lunch and then came back and laid around the house, me knitting, Mimi and Andy playing for hours with the Matchbox car track. Andy made a roast chicken while Amelia and I watched the season one finale of The Great British Baking Show. You get so attached to everybody. It's a very sweet show. Thank for the recommendations of some of the other shows, too. I will check them out.

I finished reading The Orchardist last week, as well, and I don't know that I've ever been so disappointed with a book. (Not since my hissy fit about The Goldfinch, anyway.) When I finished The Orchardist I literally just sat there (alone in my favorite Thai restaurant) shaking — it was, in some ways, so good. But ultimately it felt so empty to me, and it wasn't until the very end, when I finished it and then just put the book down in slow motion, stunned with a very particular kind of Reader's annoyed-disbelief, that I realized how much more I wanted. Demanded. And it was a demand that felt entirely created by the beauty (the almost-beauty) of the book itself. There were so many places where it could have and should have pushed, where something should have been made clear and bright, where hard things to write should have been written and not just circled around and ultimately, almost stylistically and willfully avoided. Toward the end, when Evangelene throws her arms around Talmadge's neck in the wagon after he gets out of jail? There? Right there! That was a massive moment that should have been cracked wide open — even one brilliant sentence could have saved the book there, and it didn't get written. Well, I was mad about this. It felt like plaster food. I marched right upstairs and, though I didn't quite hurl the book, Tom Thumb–style, out the window, I did grab my copy of Howards End (which for me, does the hard things) and huffily opened it, needing my faith restored. Now I will expect too much from you, E.M. Forster. And so it goes.

 

Photos and illustrations, from top to bottom: 1. Cecile Veilhan, My Treasure 2. Eloise Wilkin 3. Unknown, from Pinterest 4. Carmen Hawk 5. Unknown, from Pinterest 6. Erich Heinemann, Siebenpünktchen 7. Ross Laurence 8. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 9. Girls in Laura Ashely Dresses with King Charles Spaniels, 1970s, from Paris Vogue 10. WIlliam McGeorge, Picking Blackberries 11. Anne Andersen 12. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Autumn Story 13. Still from Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 2008 14. Stevie Nicks 15. Tanja Kuvaa, from the Pretty Gingham blog 16. Edouard Vuillard 17. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 18. Sarah Freeman and Emma Ashley Photographed in Laura Ashley Dresses, 1960s, from Paris Vogue 19. Eloise Wilkin, from My Goodnight Book 20. Sleeping Mimi (by me) 21. Tasha Tudor 22. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Spring Story 23. Sydney R. Jones, The Village Homes of England

More February Flowers

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Oh, I've been poorly. Sick all week. Hot, cold, sore throat, headache, so tired, no sleep, lots of sleep, achy. Ugh. I actually felt too gross to knit. I'm feeling better, a little bit better, but not great. I started the above, Pickles' Thousand Tiny Tulips, yesterday. It was a rough start, with incorrect counting on my part (duh), too-big needles to start (corrected), some wandering off before finishing an entire row (nope) and coming back and re-starting at the wrong place in the pattern. Pfffft. I really wanted to do it but I was outmatched, even by simple counting. The yarn, however, the yarn. Pickles' Summer Wool. It's 70% cotton, 30% merino. The palette is gorgeous. I've never liked knitting with cotton before but this is so nice (except that there are little tiny fibers in it that I have to pick out — not a huge deal, but they would definitely scratch her if I left them in). The fabric is smooshy and super soft. She's rejecting all my knits lately because I just can't find something soft enough for her. She says they feel soft enough on the skein but then when the sweater's done, she wants to take it off. If she won't wear this, I'll throw up my hands in defeat. I made Amelia another ballet wrap, this time in baby alpaca (and she's still saying that's too scratchy). I wish I had made it out of Summer Wool. For those who asked about Amelia's cowl in my last post, the pattern was this one, but I didn't follow the pattern exactly. I can't seem to tell you what I did do, because for some reason I can't find this on my Ravelry page and I made it years and years ago. I don't even know what yarn I used. Malabrigo, or maybe Madeline Tosh? That one she actually will wear.

Last weekend Andy put up wallpaper on three walls in our house — one in the dining room, one in the living room, one in the kitchen. All of them are from Brewster and the collection is called Andover Miniatures VI. I've been wanting to do this for ages and I really love it. A true testament to Andy's incredible cheerful spirit is that he actually enjoyed wallpapering for two straight days. I did it for approximately seventeen minutes over the two days and it was sixteen minutes too much. He is amazing. Thank you, sweetheart. I love it.

Amelia and I made Valentines inspired by these yesterday. I think they're very sweet. I wound up doing most of them while she brought half of her dollhouse stuff over to the table, plunked it down on top of all the craft supplies, and preferred to play rather than craft. I tried to get her to sign her name and I think she made it through two. (Andy had more success with it this morning than I did.) I sat at the table all afternoon making twenty-eight Valentines. It was really fun, but it was a lot. They're suncatchers, so I need to hang some on the window. Today it is beautiful and sunny, but all week it's been pouring rain. I've never seen so much rain. I got to teach Amelia what the phrase "sheets of rain" means first hand, because we literally couldn't see across the street. Flooding, sinkholes, landslides. We've got it all here this week. My sister Susie lives way out in the country now, up on Dairy Creek, and she slept over a few nights this week because she wasn't sure she'd be able to get out of her area and go to work. It's intense.

I love this Irish soda bread from our local bakery. Love it. I just started watching The Great British Baking Show and it's really fun. It reminds me of that recent Onion headline: "Mom Just Wants to Watch Something Nice." And I do. :)

Took a break from working on the quilt kits while I was at my worst but received five eBay boxes of fabrics this week, all stacked up in my office, waiting for me, so when I'm up to it it will be full-steam ahead. Thank you for all the suggestions on displaying these kits when it comes time to sell them — I was thinking along the exact same lines, so that's good. Fabric previews coming up. Stay tuned.

Oh jeez. It's pouring again.

February Flowers

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Hello dears. The wind whips around the house today. Out every window is flashing daylight and blowing branches. Something on top of the roof of the studio clanks and clanks. It's some sort of metal flap. Over and over again it's slapping against the roof. The power went out once this morning and then came right back on. Every few minutes comes a raging, howling gust. I'd better write this quick, before all electricity leaves, as it seems it surely could.

I've been tucked into the studio, spending most of my free time with floral fabrics. This is good medicine. Why should it soothe? I don't know. Thank you for your kind words and enthusiasm about the new quilt and the pending quilt-top kits! I couldn't be more thrilled, and am trying to collect so many fabrics that I want for these. They're more rare than I thought. I can't believe how beautifully they all work together, though. In the back of my mind I'm constantly thinking about how to offer these kits. The amounts of each fabric that I'm able to get are so varied. I'm not sure exactly how to display what you'll be getting, as there will be too many different arrangements to photograph each individually. Maybe I'll have to describe them in general terms and let you trust my design sense. I'm not sure yet. I'm pretty much finished with the pattern, which offers a toddler size, throw size, twin size, full/queen size, and a king size. It's been kind of fun working on all of the layout diagrams for each size. It's not all there yet but it's getting there.

February. I don't feel quite ready for it. I think we'll make Valentines today. Spread a little love around.

Rest and Recharge

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I made a quilt-comforter. I patched the top and pieced the back, and for batting used an inexpensive polyester comforter from Ikea. All of the fabrics I used for the top are old calicoes, mostly from the '80s, I think. I did not bind it, but layered and turned it: comforter on bottom, backing right-side-up on top of that, then quilt top face down on top of that. I stitched around the entire outside edge with a 1/4" seam, leaving an 8" gap, then turned it right-side-out and stitched up the opening. Then I tied the whole thing, through all layers, with black embroidery floss. The finished patches are 4" squares, set on point; I cut all of the squares on the edges of the quilt in half along the bias (effectively turning them into triangles along all of the edges) once the whole top was sewn together. I have wanted to make a quilt set on-point like that forever. I really, really love it. It's about 76 inches square, a "throw" for me to sit on the couch with. Our couch is freezing when it's cold because it's right in front of so many windows. When I was done tying it, at about 10 p.m., Andy ran it downstairs and threw it in the washing machine for me. He dried it the next morning and it was a fluffy, poufy cloud of 1980s-calico bliss when it came out of the dryer. I was so happy. I am so in love with pretty much every single one of those fabrics, which cause such a nostalgia-fit in my heart. My best friend, Martha, sent me a whole bunch of them several months ago, and I also search them out at Goodwill and online and I just can't get enough of them. I love the Peter Pan and vintage Joan Kessler ones, especially. I loved the exact same ones when I was a little girl and a teenager, so some things never change.

Oh ho, that snow. Full snow-loving disclosure: By the time it left I felt weary and limp as a colorless dishrag, ready to be flung toward the hamper and retired. "I need a hot shower and some alone time," said Mommy, the introvert, who scores nineteen out of twenty on the introvert portion of the Meyers-Briggs test. Nineteen is a lot. I surprised even myself the first time I took it. I've taken the test for twenty years now and it's always the same. It means: Shhhhhhh. Let me sit in this quiet corner and recovvvvvvver. Parents never do get to do much of that, and the past month and a half has been extra-challenging. The ice and snow stayed for eight days. We were in the house alllllllllllll the time. There was no driving, and, once things started to melt and then refreeze overnight, the walking, even with the Yaktrax, was pure treachery. By the time the ice finally melted, Amelia had only been in preschool for sixteen hours in thirty-six days, including holiday break (I counted), and I only left the house only three times (I counted) during the entire week of snow. The only people any of us saw during snow week were our neighbors, and, well, mercifully, we are a tight, loving crew. Our kids romped and rampaged, and we adults sat around all of our tables, in turn, over chili and beer and tea and tangerines and talked, and talked. Yesterday I swept piles, actual piles, of dirt and dog hair and dust and mini-legos and ponytail holders and half-Cheerios and pine needles from the floors. I sweep all the time but we've lived hard in this house lately and, Tomten-like, I dream of flowers, again. I loved that snowstorm, but I do love flowers, too.

I have plans to make a toddler-bed quilt-comforter, like an eiderdown (but without the down), for Amelia that fits the top of the bed and does not need to be tucked in anywhere. Her bed is IMPOSSIBLE to make. She has one of those extendable toddler beds from Ikea, extended right now to the middle length. The bed is perfect for her but every single time I go to make it I 1) stub my toe on that middle bed leg, 2) break my back because the bed is so damn low to the ground, and 3) curse the inventor of duvets and duvet covers, which I unapologetically loathe no matter what their size because they always look like such a sloppy mess with the cover sliding around over the duvet and the corners of the duvet never staying in the corners of the cover and the whole thing weird and bulbous and I could go on and on. I get duvet-cover rage over those things. I prefer to buy good old-fashioned comforters but they are hard to find. At least ones that I like. So, I'm going to make her one that's similar to mine, and I might even make a pattern and a limited-edition kit for the just the top (toddler-eiderdown sized), with all vintage calicoes for it. Would anyone be interested in a kit for that? I would take pre-orders so that we wouldn't run out or make too many. I'm kind of excited about this idea. There is still winter left to get cozy for.

I ordered three different rolls of wallpaper today so I can (or someone can) wallpaper a wall in the dining room (the one with the big window), a wall in the living room (the one with the mantel), and a wall in the kitchen (the one with the back door). Should be here in a week or so. Our house has been in need of a bit of sprucing up. I folded up our red gingham curtains and got gray gingham curtains (from Country Curtains, but they don't seem to have them anymore), and got a new braided rug for the dining room (ours had been dog-puked on just one too many times). Feels good. January changes. I trimmed six inches off of Amelia's hair right after I took that picture of how long it was. I think it immediately aged her approximately eight months. Approximately.

Thank you ever so much for the sweetest birthday wishes! You are so kind. Thank you!

I haven't forgotten to show you the dollhouse but I'm still waiting for a couple of things that I ordered for it to get here before I take pictures.

***Paintings and illustrations, from top to bottom: Illustration from The Story of the Snow Children; bunnies can be found here; Little Miss Fairfield (1850) by William Matthew Prior; amazing watercolor of Mimi riding a rabbit, which was a gift for her from the dearest Emily Martin; illustration of the tomten from The Tomten, my absolute favorite winter picture book ever. I just love this book and we read it almost every night. Doesn't Clover kind of remind you of the tomten?

Birthday Dream

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Boy did I ever have a great birthday. The self-timer picture above, with the camera on the tripod, was taken just an instant before Andy blew out all of my birthday candles. We were going to do it altogether but I don't know what happened. We tried again with just three candles, one for each of us, and that time Amelia blew all of those out one note before the song was over. There was a three-fold stunned pause followed immediately by the most sheepish little "Sorry, Mom" you've ever heard in your life, and then Andy and I, on exactly the same beat, burst into huge peals of laughter. It was the funniest, sweetest, dearest thing, and I'll never forget it. I love these two so much. When it started snowing around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night, I thought I might explode with pure joy. It took Andy two and a half hours to get home on the streetcar and bus; he was giddy with delight though frozen solid when he finally walked through the door, neither of us realizing that it was even supposed to snow that day. Indeed, getting more than eight inches of snow here overnight pretty much threw the whole city into a complete state of wonder and disarray (and a few other things, I'm sure). Snow absolutely paralyzes Portland, Oregon, and this much snow hasn't fallen in this short amount of time in almost forty years. It was just extraordinary. It's still on the ground, and will be for several more days. Snow day after snow day after snow day. They hardly plow anything here, and they almost never salt. It all shuts down, and they tell you to stay home (though medical personnel never can, so Andy always has to go in, but he has had the past several days off). It's glorious. Everything's canceled, everything's quiet. The light in the house is so clear and bright I can hardly believe it's the same house. I put on the Yaktrax (bless those things — I've had them for about five years now and they have been life-changing) and we walked and walked. It's a bit colder now, and a little icy, but for the first three days it was just perfect snow — cold but not too cold, no wind, perfectly white. I mean, it was just . . . totally . . . excellent. We had lunch and hot cocoa at the bakery, went sledding at the park, hung out with all the neighbors, made waffles, ate dinner by candlelight (and thank you for all of the birthday wishes and birthday-dinner ideas; I wound up taking Nickie's suggestions of chicken à la king over rice and it was great snow-day food — thank you, Nickie!), played with the dollhouse (I'll tell you more about that later), took baths. Made miniature baskets. Hung out with neighborhood friends. Read books. Watched movies. Watched birds. Saw the full moon rise last night, and cut out old fabrics for a new quilt. I don't know. It was the best. It was just the total best. Xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo.

Happy New Year!

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Oh, the messy, bright blur and wonder of all of these days! For goodness sake. Where does the time go? I would've written sooner but I was too busy making a dollhouse floor out of Popsicle sticks and looking at every miniatures web site ever constructed for the perfect diminutive wallpaper. I certainly am enjoying Amelia's Christmas present! And everything else about the holidays. It's been a glorious few weeks. Christmas with a four-year-old is the absolute best.

Today the winter sun is shining ever so brightly, and it's so windy that my office is flashing with light. It's freezing cold. It's Amelia's first day back at preschool in three weeks. Ahem. Mummy is a bit  e x h a u s t e d. The holidays, no matter how "simple" you try to make them, wind up being crazy busy. At least for us. Yesterday I got to spend the day by myself, and that was the first day that I haven't spent pretty much all day (and night — she keeps waking up) with Amelia in the past weeks. I went out to lunch at the brewpub all by myself, and they gave me such an awesome table, right in front of the roaring fire. I ate fish tacos and read my book and texted my friends. Then I went to the bookstore for a few hours and then I went to JoAnn Fabrics. At JoAnn's, which was pretty much empty, I wandered aimlessly and thought about things like should I buy these seven little silver cones (apparently jewelry-making findings) for $3.49 or should I use an old toothpaste cap for a tiny pendant-light-fixture (made out of a drawer pull) escutcheon??? I think about things like this now, when I have time to think of things. It was quite wonderful to wander aimlessly. I even looked at a magazine. Yes. It was a really nice way to finish the "vacation."

I wish you all a very happy new year and hope that you had a wonderful holiday season! It's my birthday in a few days and I want to make something good for dinner but I don't know what. Any ideas?

***The raspberry thumbprint recipe can be found here; the dress pattern I made for Amelia is Simplicity #9297 from 1979, and the fabric is from the wonderful Pioneer Quilts; the dollhouse I got used on Craigslist (but the same one is here) and I was totally inspired to get it because of Artemis's darling version — seriously, is that not the cutest ever; and I made Meyer lemon pudding with some gorgeous lemons my dear friend Sarah gave me for Christmas the recipe is here. I honestly don't think you need to add the butter, and a little zest could easily replace half the lemon juice.

Moon on Their Wings

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It's Sunday night, the fourth Sunday of Advent. I'm watching The Sound of Music on network TV. The colors and the clothes, if not certain details of the interiors (Maria's room: my dream) and, of course, the songs and scenery trigger some deep holiday memory within me that I can't even identify. They play "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi" on the children's Pandora station we listen to in the car, and, even though she's never seen the movie and has no context for the songs, Amelia always listens intently to them. They hold up. Julie Andrews's voice is comforting and confident. Would that we all had such an enchanting, capable governess in a dangerous world.

Typepad has a new function where you can upload a whole bunch of images into a blog post all at once. I flung every picture in this post at the screen in one fell swoop; they uploaded successfully, but were placed in some random order only Typepad knows. Usually I string my photos together more-or-less chronologically from top to bottom; here they lay (more or less) where they landed, and I am too tired to reorder. Happy accident! Their (dis)order seems better reflective of our life this week than any chronology I could've mustered. Wild snow-blur — more snow, more ice, lovely sunshine, long walks, lunatic child, freezing pipes, sleds and snowpants, kindest neighbors, cold hands, cold swings, tomato soup, starry nights. These days of December. Impulsively and though she has never expressed interest in such a thing I buy a used dollhouse one night on Craigslist, and first thing the next morning Andy and I, giddy with excitement (and haste over the forecasted snow), drive out to pick it up while Amelia is at school. We hide it in the basement. Coincidentally, as if channeling my suddenly appearing and rapidly filling Pinterest board of tiny teapots and miniature fireplaces, Amelia starts pointing to every dollhouse in every catalog and every picture book she sees, saying, "I want that for Christmas." I literally gawk at her. So much for the big surprise! Your wish is my command. This morning she said, "I want a wind-up cow that runs around the house. "

A wind-up . . . huh.

Me: "You're eating a lot today. Are you having a growth spurt?" Her: "No, I'm not. I'll have one when I go upstairs."

Kids and cookies and carols and Christmastime. Age four is truly magical. It's all just starting to sink in, and I marvel each time, at each holiday or event, at both their sense of wonder and their nonchalance. She liked the M&Ms I got her at intermission as much as she liked The Nutcracker; I, however, was trying not to cry as the curtain went up. The beauty! The orchestra! The snowflakes? My lord. I had forgotten. She sat on my lap in the dim theater and swayed, pivoting occasionally to throw her arms around my neck and lay her head on my chest, yawning dramatically. My heart, my heart. At bedtime, by the glow of the twinkle lights, she asked me again about the Mouse King, and, after much questioning, was vaguely relieved to find out that he only pretend-died, a fact I hadn't even thought to make clear from the start. Dearest, sweetest, darlingest girl. I try to get her to make ornaments for everyone and it is almost impossible. I taste-test hot-chocolate mixes and buy fabric for her pinafore. Andy makes Swedish meatballs and we eat by candlelight. The snow we've had this past week is my Christmas gift; I want for nothing. I wish you hours of love and joy as we glide into this last week before Christmas. Slow and steady. I can see my breath in the cold air. I lift a prayer into the dark for the homeless, and the hurting. Peace be with you. Peace, if only peace, on this earth.

Snow Day

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Oh, snow. I wait, I wait. When it comes, I'm beside myself, even though, almost every time, snow in Portland quickly turns to ice. I can't get off my own front porch. The enormous orthopedic shoe I wear on my left foot has as much traction as a salad plate, and is almost as big. Nevermind; the winds were too strong to brave going out, anyway. The branches on the black trees whipped and whistled. The air was ice cold. I pushed open the back door against the wind and scooped cup after cup full of snow; she ate it with an espresso spoon. We sat in the upstairs windows and watched the slice of neighborhood we are granted to observe. No one came, no one went. The mail lady came and quickly went. Inside, Amelia nibbled on raspberries and watched Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I drank hot chocolate and took a bath and read Farmer Boy. By dinnertime it was raining ice. I flung salt toward the front path from the front porch. Not even from the porch — from the door. Ice covered everything. On the way home, around 9:00 p.m., Andy's bus broke a tire chain on the bridge. Everyone but Andy got off the bus and onto some other bus. He sat and chatted with the bus driver, who was from Cleveland. Eventually, someone came with new chains. He made it home and I relaxed. This morning, ice still covers everything but it's raining hard. We're having a party tonight.

Above: the ornaments I made for Amelia's little tree and our mantel. I loved making every single one of them. The gnome and mushroom and raccoon and owl are from Little Dear (Aimee Ray); the running bunny and animal portraits are from Bumpkin Hill; the angel is from I. Manufatti; and the winter girl is from Mimi Kirchner. I bought a bunch of these patterns last year and just never got around to making them. I made almost all of them over Thanksgiving weekend, and stitched the year on the back of each (unless I forgot, which I did sometimes). I got the stockings from Etsy, too; just search for "vintage quilt stocking." There are tons of them.

Every night, for weeks now, I have been knitting Amelia this sweater. It's bottom up, and I'm not even to the sleeve join. I've never knit anything so slow in my life. I love it but . . . ugh. Every. Single. Night. That lace pattern just doesn't grow. I've looked at a few versions of it on Ravelry and I like the look of the lace unblocked and sort of squished down, so, there ya go — even slower, then. Hopefully I'll finish it while it's still cold out. Last night while I was putting her to bed, we were lying in the dark and she said, "Mom? I want you to knit me a [insert me bolting upright here] sweater . . . with buttons on it, in the front." Me [feigning nonchalance]: "Oh, a cardigan? Sure, baby. I'd love to. What color?" Her: "Pink . . . no, rainbow!" It took every ounce of strength I had not to jump out of bed and run downstairs and start surfing Ravelry for patterns. Fifteen hours later and I've got pattern picked and yarn on order. . . . Hurry up, Faunajakke lace!!! I've got an order for a sweater from my kid.

Another conversation: "Meems, don't you think it would be nicer to keep your room cleaner and not have so much stuff on everything and falling off of everything all the time?" Her: "No." Me: "But don't you think that when it's too cluttered and there's too much stuff on your nightstand you can't see what you have to play with because there's too much stuff everywhere?" Her: "No."  Me [flailing]: "Oh. But if there's too much stuff in your way it's kind of overwhelming and you can't, like, play with it . . . very well . . . because it's falling . . . everywhere?" Her: "No." Me [twitching]: "Um. . . ."

Santa Lucia nightgown at the ready. Milk-white flannel. Tiny lace trim and a silk ribbon. Simplicity 3586. We do agree about this.

December

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Cold toes :: A jingle of bells :: Amelia singing :: Ballet in the dining room :: A drive in the country :: A tree farm :: Woodsmoke and hot cider :: She learns to love hot chocolate ::  Making tea every night :: Nightgowns and nightgown plans :: Amelia destroying one advent calendar, and eating chocolate from the other at 5:00 a.m. :: Impatience :: Winter mornings :: Lone birds :: Sore throat :: Early hours in bed with coffee and Christmas music :: Amelia setting up all sorts of little scenes with little stuff :: My insane cat who tries to attack me while I knit and then gets her claw caught in my sock and freaks out (as do I) :: Hot milk with turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, and honey :: Andy "playing" with Amelia by accidentally knocking her down then wiping out and practically falling on top of her while my friend and I sit with our hands over our eyes, trying not to laugh :: Winter faire :: Wreaths and lights :: Ballet talk :: Brew pub lunches :: Gnomes and toadstools :: Battery candles :: Christmas movies and Christmas cards :: Roast chickens and mushrooms :: Silver sun :: Winter moon. I love December.

***Answers to some questions in comments: Cinnamon buns by Pillsbury (get Grands, unroll, re-roll, etc.); A's crown here; felt pastries were a gift, but I think I remember they were from Etsy.

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.