Party Girl

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

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

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

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Pre-Party Prettying

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

It's October

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Oh, autumn, everywhere, and yet, it's still consistently above 80 degrees here. But the sun is low and lovely in the morning. Amelia and I play in the front yard. She collects leaves, crow feathers, splinters of chalk, seed pods and puts them in a candle holder that looks like a bird cage. I sit on the top stair and watch the world go by — dog walkers, cars and bikes, baby strollers, squirrels. Up and down the stairs she goes, leaning against me as she passes, pausing to give me a hug or sit on my lap, hair blowing against my face, sturdy little body pushing into mine. I lift her shirt and kiss her soft belly. So much sweet softness in such a hard, sad world sometimes. My heart is heavy for the people of Roseburg, Oregon. I send a prayer into the sky, up toward the morning moon. Peace be with you, friends. Please, peace.

Inside, the light is changing. I've forgotten how pretty my pipsqueak of a kitchen is in the afternoon. It has a big door-window facing south, and the light turns rose-gold around three or so. Rice pudding must be the ultimate comfort food, and Andy's grandma's is my favorite — it's more like a cooked custard with rice in it. This is her recipe, written in her words:

Helen's Rice Pudding

Wash 1 c. rice (not Minute Rice) in ice cold water. Put in double boiler and add 2 c. hot water. Steam rice until dry. (*Note: I just cook it like normal; I actually always use a rice cooker. You just want cooked rice here. :) Put in large baking bowl. Add 2 more cups of milk and 1 can [sweetened] condensed milk, 3/4 c. sugar, and 4 beaten eggs. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and put pieces of butter. Bake in medium oven — 375 degrees about 1 hour, until pudding is firm.

I've made a lot of homemade Swedish meatballs. I've never liked any of them. Or at least, I felt they were rarely worth the work they took to make (I don't like making meatballs). Martha and I were on the phone discussing something else entirely when suddenly we were talking about Swedish meatballs, and she told me that her brother made the meatballs from the Ikea cookbook (or something like that? This recipe is the same as the one she gave me that her brother had written out) and they were awesome. I then immediately made them and they were AWESOME (though still a lot of work. But awesome, so it was okay). In Andy's family, they serve Helen's rice pudding with Swedish meatballs and this is, indeed, just the best, heaviest, but most comforting plate of food in the world, should you be in need. Highly recommend.

Peanut-butter chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies, with raisins added. Not bad.

For the past six months or maybe a year or so I've been more-or-less consciously really trying to bust my stash, both yarn and fabric. Now that Amelia's birthday quilt is finished (it's finished! Photos to come!) I am in the mood for something easy easy easy. I'm thinking a blanket like this: single-colored solid granny squares (that tutorial makes a very nice "square" square, in my opinion), in a checkerboard pattern but with this sort of pale salmon pink I happen to have about six big skeins of (why?) instead of the cream. I saw the blanket in that pin and went really crazy for it and I think it will be a very nice project to work on a square at a time, with no fuss. Just a bag of skeins of worsted-weight yarn, and an ever-growing pile of squares. People don't like the joining part, I guess, but I always kind of do.

We're about to get ready for a birthday party around here. I can't wait!

***The painting is "Spring Lambs" by Bonnie Fisher.

Soup and Sew

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Well, thank you. Thank you, thank you. What an incomparably lovely experience it was to read your kind comments (for Andy, too; I don't know if you know he reads every post, and every comment as well). Thank you so much! I took the quilt top and the batting and backing (yep, I embroidered a tag, as well; I'll show you that sometime, probably when I'm completely done with it all) over to Modern Domestic for the afternoon that same day last week and used their tables to lay it all out and pin the quilt sandwich together. That place is pretty rad; you can pay to use their space and equipment to get stuff like this done, and I'll never do it at home again. The tables were nice and tall and I spent hours pinning and my back did not hurt at all (mine at home is way too short — I absolutely need risers — all my stuff is too short for me, actually, including the kitchen counters). Anyway, I got it all pinned together, and got the front part of the binding sewn on, and now I'm hand quilting a few squares and stitching down a bit of binding every night. I have two more weeks. I'll definitely finish. I'm really happy.

Answers to some questions that came up:

Yes, I changed the October patch significantly. I kept the same girl, because I really did not want to lose any of the continuity of this amazing design, but added a simple birthday cake from another book by the same designer and some bunting.

As far as getting the book that these patterns are in, it is (sadly) out of print. I found mine easily on Etsy, but I'm guessing there aren't too many of them out there, I'm sorry. I don't really have any good advice about how to get your hands on a copy other than Googling the title or ISBN (in the previous post), or trawling eBay, Etsy, or other Japanese craft book sellers.

The top was pieced with strips of the salmon/silver background fabric. I think I did all the blocks going down with short strips between (to make three columns) and then added four long vertical strips to finish. For the back I used this 100% cotton gingham in gray. The salmon/silver background calico came from JoAnn's. As far as the rest of the fabrics used to make the calico frames, er. . . . I'm not great at keeping track of that kind of info. All of it was already cut into strips by me at some point, and kept in my big 2" strip scrap basket. I buy almost all of my fabric locally, at JoAnn's, Fabric Depot, and Mill End Store, and also at Knittn' Kitten. Some of my fabrics are Liberty of London Tana Lawn cottons, which I've been collecting for probably twenty years. I have never been good at keeping track of the names and designers of fabric, and I really am going to try to be better about that. But my stash has been accumulated over such a long period of time and from so many places that it just overwhelms me to try to keep it straight. (And also, for the people who have asked where I find most of the vintage patterns I use for Mimi's dresses, I just get them on Etsy or eBay, or at Goodwill or Knittn' Kitten when I see something I like. Eventually I'm sure I will sell my collection of vintage patterns but I don't really have time to do it right now. I like vintage patterns because they have already been cut out [most of the time] and you don't have to fight with multiple sizes and giant pieces of tissue paper, or printing and cutting and taping, etc. And of course I just like the styles better, too.)

Anyway, I was mostly just kidding about not letting Mimi use the quilt. She'll absolutely use it, but I will try to keep it nice. I will absolutely try to keep Clover and Bridget off of it (they are going to be bewildered, seriously — I've never tried to keep them off of anything in their lives). I'm definitely going to wash it cold with some of those color-catcher things. I've never been worried about dye in embroidery floss running before, and of course I did absolutely nothing to mitigate the possibility, but in that June block especially, oh shasta. That one's gonna be tough to imagine not running, honestly. . . . That umbrella is so solidly packed with red thread (against a white ground). Ugh. Oh well. That's life.

Anyway, once again. You guys. Thank you. Your enthusiasm made my day just so big and fun and bright. I truly appreciate your kindness and, just, I don't know how to explain it anymore, but all the thoughtfulness that goes into what you say. All of the things you said, the stories you offered, the kindness you shared, all of it has also gone into that quilt now. And I don't know, that makes me cry, too. It's just cool. Thank you.

So, there's a lot of soup up there. There's chicken with wild rice. There's black bean. There's Andy's chicken soup (we were sick). There's a loaf of bread, as well, but it was a just a loaf of frozen white from the grocery store, which, though it only weighed about an ounce (seriously, I actually laughed out loud when I picked it up) after it was baked, made kind of a nice turkey sandwich, I have to say. Also, there's a Halloween costume. It's Little Red Riding Hood's dress from Simplicity #2571. I know. I . . . yes, I already made part of a Halloween costume. I have no explanation.

***Her poncho; her dress; her sweater.

A Birthday Quilt for My Girl

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A few months ago, I stumbled upon this pin on Pinterest. It was a set of embroidered coasters designed by Japanese embroidery designer Hiroko Ishii in the (all-in-Japanese) book Stitch Ideas Volume 11 (ISBN 978-4-529-04826-2). Before I knew it, I had ordered the book, planning to make a birthday quilt for Amelia.

In the book, there is the pinned picture, another detail picture of a few of the coasters close up, and a tiny set of line drawings — each one about 2" square, maybe. I enlarged the drawings on a copy machine so that they were almost the width of a letter-size piece of paper, so about 8" square. I spent a day gathering my fabrics and planning colors and transferring the designs (I always trace my designs on a lightbox with either a fine-tipped permanent marker or a fabric marker, or in the case of the black one, a white quilting pencil). I kept most of the fabric colors, most of the floss colors, and most of the designs exactly the way they were in the original. (I changed October somewhat, to be more birthday-ish.) And then I started to stitch. And stitch. And stitch. And stitch. Every night, after she went to bed, I hurled myself onto my chaise lounge with a cup of tea and a bag of Raisinettes and some Ice Lake Rebels (obsessed) and got to work. Last week, I finished the embroidery. This week, I framed the squares with 2" calico strips and stitched them into the quilt top. Today, allow me to show you the months of the year that have occupied my every August and September night at the end of this glorious summer we had, the one just before our girl turns three years old.

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Oh man. Someone draw me a bath and bring me a good book and pick up my kid from playschool and make some dinner for me, please. Then it'll be right back to work to make some money to start saving for the pony for her fourth birthday because there's just no possible way I can top this thing on my own, ever.

I'm rather proud of this. Andy came in while I was working on it and said, "Oh wow, that's awesome! That's too nice to use!" I said, "I know." He said, "But we are going to use it, right?" I said, "No." Then I said, "Just I am." Then he made that face like the emoji with the big eyes and the straight line for a mouth.

I actually did cry about four times while sewing the top together the past few days. One time was when I was listening to the song Little Waltz by Basia Bulat. Another was when I was remembering the day Amelia was born. And there were two other times. It was just getting so big and I was really happy with it, and kind of weirdly relieved that it was coming together, and my baby girl is growing up. It's strange to have hours to myself, sewing, and thinking, thinking about her, which is what I had over these past few days, alone in my studio. I did little else but work on putting this together, using some of the strips of fabric from clothes I had made her over the past year, the October block framed by the fabric that I'd used to make her birthday dress last week, the background fabric one I've just always loved — salmon-colored flowers against an opal-gray background, like the bright leaves on our dogwood tree against the autumn sky, as it was the October day we brought her home — and that solid-colored frame around the first calicoes the color of moonstone. Oh, my love.

. . .

The top's big, about 54" x 72", so she can use it on her toddler bed and hopefully on her double bed when she moves into it. The back will be 1/2" gray gingham and the binding a sort of pale mustard with lilac dots. I'll try to finish the back today. I'm using cotton for the batting because I have it already. Everything for the top and back I already had in my stash, or got out of my scrap basket. All of it, even that, felt really good. I can't say enough about how much I love Hiroko Ishii's design. It's like a sweet, quiet, wistful, charming poem. What an privilege it's been to make this. I think it's my favorite thing I've ever made, ever.

Now to make the quilt sandwich, and then to sit under it while doing the quilting and binding. By hand (it can be no other way, I don't think). I may not finish it by her birthday. I doubt I will. It'll be close though. You can't rush hand sewing. You don't want to.

It was really hard to photograph this, for some reason. I apologize for the wrinkles. I dragged it all over the place looking for normal light in my house which apparently I don't have. Nevertheless, thank you for indulging me. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll answer them here. I'm gonna go eat a sandwich now and watch Judge Judy.

Hello there!

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Hello there! How are you? We're settling into fall here. It's come on with speed and determination. At 6 a.m. this morning, Amelia and I laid in bed in the dark bedroom, listening to the rain outside. She noticed it. It sounded beautiful. It's so dark in the morning now. We snuggle until the quilt and the wool blanket, both kitters and puppers in the bed, too. After a long summer of tremendous heat, everyone's suddenly cold, and grateful for that. The transition to new season and new routines has been unexpectedly hard for me these past few weeks, though. I feel like I'm scrambling to find traction somehow. I think I'm getting it, but I've been a bit all over the place. I was so anxious for it that I immediately started panicking and flailing about once it happened. Typical.

We went to the river for the last time this summer. It was so shallow it was hard to believe. A flock of geese sat on the sandbar all afternoon. The leaves, tinged yellow, fell into the water. I really loved all the days we spent there this summer. I know Andy and Amelia did, too. Our intrepid explorer has grown so much these past few months. What a blessing, to have these nearby places to be free together. Home by dinner, bath, and then early to bed, clean and tired.

Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comments lately, and for all of the glorious-sounding apple recipes, and for the big-girl-chair advice. I made my sour cream apple pie and this thing just never, ever disappoints. Highly recommend. Double the topping if your pie plate is big and wide. (Put tinfoil under your pan if you think that stuff might bubble over and drip off, though; you don't want that spilling in your oven.) Next I'm going to go through the recipes you suggested and find some more that sound good (they all sound good!). I'm getting back into the whole cooking routine I was so excited about a couple of months ago. SOUP is going to make life just ever so much easier. It tastes just as good the next day. I made kale and potato soup with corn and chorizo and it was fantastic. I had it again the next day and it was absolutely just as good. Tonight I'm making the chicken with wild rice soup I made last year, because I know that was really good. Should walk up to the store and get some sweet potato to make biscuits to go with. And boom, that's tomorrow, then, too.

The big-girl chair is a work in progress. We got a Keekaroo — I happened to spot one at the kids' resale shop that cost the exact amount of the credit I had. I like it (though, as everyone says, we've tripped over it literally every single day since it's been here) but the seatbelt has got to be replaced — she is totally able to take it off herself, thus completely defeating the purpose. Dinnertime now is a constant negotiation where I try to get her to stay in her seat. Last night I said, "Well, I just started eating, and if you can't stay in your seat for a little while I might have to go get your old high chair and bring it back, if it's really hard to stop getting down." I thought that warning might work, since just last week the idea of sitting in the high chair was so distasteful it caused all sorts of pandemonium . But she just got these big, bright eyes and said, "Oh! Can I have my high chair?" Pfffft! LOL. But the big-girl chair'll be good with a toddler-proof seatbelt. The clip is just too easy to snap open. She's not quite ready to be free yet, and, quite frankly, neither am I. Getting there, though. She and I eat dinner alone three nights a week when Andy is at work, and our days start around 5:00 a.m. By 5:00 p.m., I just need to sit for a little while.

Do you like the poncho? I think I like it — well, I love the pattern, I just don't know if I like my colors that much. Does it look like I went to Michael's and got one of those little strips of acrylic paint pots (the "country" colors), and then matched them? Maybe that works, I don't know. This has yet to be blocked. I was going to wait for a warm day and block it outside on the outside table so it will dry faster. The details are on my Ravelry page. Her groovy dress is from a vintage nightgown pattern (Simplicity 4719) that I shortened. I like peasant dresses that gather onto a bias strip, and have a continuous placket and a snap in back. I added pockets to this one but I matched them to the fabric so they almost don't show. It's the softest baby wale corduroy, from Fabric Depot, a few years ago now, I think.

Some very cool vintage postage stamps to use on Amelia's birthday invitations. And paper party hats I can't stop making: I used some of the floral designs in this most awesome book, printed them onto lightweight cardstock on my ink-jet printer, then traced my party hat pattern, glued them together at the seam, added some cotton rick-rack, and made a yarn pom for each. These are for everyone besides the birthday girl (who will get a felt one, of course). I absolutely love party preparations. Love them.

Wuthering Heights

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

Honeycrisp

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Autumn weather is taking her time, coming in in spurts, though the apples are already mostly picked, with brown spots and worms in the ones that are left. We found a few small beauties, sweet and crisp and filled with summer, still. This is the time of year when I feel the most longing. I can't seem to get traction. September sparks emotions that are russet-colored, and crackling, and capricious. I feel one way and then another. The grass is colorless, defeated. The skies routinely cover-over in a merciful low, gray haze. Right now I'm looking out at my backyard and it's as still and clear gray and matte-flat as I've ever seen it. There is no breeze, but it is cool. I hear squirrels and birds and, a-ways off, cars. No one's mowing a lawn, no one's cutting down a tree, no one's nailing shingles to a roof. There are no flashing highlights, no glints, no searing-white light-spots. It's very quiet. And I feel relieved, for a moment. I wish it would stay.

I want to stand in the kitchen and peel fall things, apples and squashes and onions, and I want to saute mushrooms, and roast garlic heads, and make oatmeal for my boo. I made Eve's Pudding (it was okay, not life-changing) and have plans for my pie, and a cobbler, and a crisp. I love apples. I crocheted a toddler poncho and have embroidered ten out of twelve panels (still need to take their pictures for you) on my girl's birthday quilt, all of this at night, on the sofa, watching Ice Lake Rebels and a movie my friend Martha recommended, The Grand Seduction. At night, the breeze blows through the windows at my back. It gets dark before Andy gets home from work. I'm still in my summer nightgowns. I'm trying not to rush so much. It's so hard to break the habit with some things.

***Any apple recipe recommendations?

Forest Flower

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It was finally cool and cloudy enough to go for a walk in the woods. Oh sweet mercy, how I have missed them. Ever so much.

Her Forest Flower, made ever so many years ago, now a perfect fit.

This still-green canopy, and this little wanderer, soothing my hot, dusty little heart. Wishing you a cool, peaceful, love-filled, very sweet start of a lovely new season.

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Late-Summer Sunset

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I have very few photos to show for the past few weeks. In reality, there's been a blur of activity, but I couldn't keep up with it. Andy has been on vacation since August 17 and we've done so much stuff. We had several conversations while sitting on benches at the children's museum, the science museum, the park, and anywhere else there were benches for parents to sit on while their kids run around, about the hilarity  of how every time we sat down we started yawning. Incessantly. He does a lot more running around in these spots than I do, granted. Yesterday, at OMSI, which was a madhouse (since it was the first truly rainy day we'd had all summer and everyone was inside), I sat on various benches and crocheted while he chased the nipper all over the place. It was actually pretty fantastic. The view of the river and city from there is smashing. Especially when it is pouring rain from the sky. I was beyond delighted.

These photos are all from before that, though, from when the sky was filled with the smoky haze of Northwestern forest fires, and the sun glowed through the veil with relentless certainty. The movie in the park was cancelled due to the smoke but we, along with a few other people who didn't know that, wound up there after dinner anyway, running through the dry grass for a while before bedtime. It's been a tough summer, weather-wise. On Saturday, the forecast was nothing but rain, but instead we got nothing but wind, and it blew dried, fried debris out of trees, cracking limbs and sending splintered kindling into every yard and road. The acorns are already spattering every surface and they are absolutely perfect this year. I've never seen such ridiculously perfect specimens. They don't even look real.

Daddy's staycation (usually we go to the river house for several days, but it burned down this past winter, which I didn't really know until a few months ago, and we were just heartbroken, and didn't have the heart to find another spot; they are rebuilding, but still, so sad) has meant a terrific amount of morning-noon-and-night mommy-sewing. More than I've done in ages and ages. Too lazy and sewing too fast to take pictures. But I will. Her dress above is out-of-print Simplicity pattern 6054, from 1973. It's the perfect stash-buster. Also just the perfect dress in general as there are no sleeves to set in in anyway. I've made three so far. I might try to make a pattern like this, and eliminate the zipper, and maybe add some pockets. For now, I just cut and sew and dream in color. Other projects-in-progress include a massive embroidered birthday quilt, a peasant dress and groovy pinafore, a crocheted poncho, a crocheted cowl, a bunch of bloomers, and several more dresses. Details to come when I am not so lazy. I have all sorts of stuff planned. Man, I do love sewing for this kid. It just makes me happy. Everything about her makes me happy.

There has been very little mommy-cooking. There have been more than the usual amounts of eating out (cringe), though Andy has totally been pulling weight in the kitchen. Still, there's been a lot of popcorn. Chili on the rainy day and barbecue on the hots. Also, there's a new dishwasher, which is nice. But I need to get back in my cooking routine, and recommit. It's the last day of August. Andy goes back to work on Wednesday. I'll power-clean the living room and sort the clothes and clean the fridge and sweep the floors. I'll buy some apples and some flowers and make some of my new chai tea, and make a list of things for fall. Mittens and rain boots and oatmeal cookies and roasted root vegetables and quilts and flannel nightgowns and walks in the woods again. It's been a great summer in a million ways. But I'm ready for September. I'm always, in spite of myself, ready for September.

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.