Happy New Year!

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Best New Year's gift ever: We woke up to snow early on Sunday morning, and Andy had the whole day off! Nothing can compare to this, for me. I dream of it. To watch our daughter playing in the snow in her own yard, on her own street, and in her own park is just beyond-words wonderful. It was so much fun. It was just one day, but oh, it was the best day. I'll never forget it.

***Yep, she's a sled dog. :)

Starlight, Starbright

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Sweet days, and a rush, and and now, hopefully, a hush to the finish. Christmas was so nice. A bit of a whirlwind, really. I must admit that as it speeds up I just try to hang on for the ride. I'm better at downtime. I'm good at January and February. I feel accomplished if I manage one thing a day, then.

With my smidge of remaining energy, I had a cleaning fit on Sunday and donated our extra blankets, coats, and toys to make room for some of the new ones. (Amelia's amazing dolly was made by Hillary. Isn't she so big and cool? Thank you, dear friend! I need to get a picture of the crocheted giraffe [Raffy] that Andy made, too. She is awesome.) On the way home from the shelter, it snowed. I was possibly in the least romantic of places when it started — driving on Halsey and NE 122nd (not particularly picturesque) with a sleeping toddler in the car who missed the whole thing. By the time we reached the house (I'd planned to hustle us inside and start heating up hot chocolate as fast as I could) it was over. Just big, fat, cold drops of rain. That's okay. In December I did nothing but drink Burgerville chocolate-peppermint milkshakes and make appetizers for everyone I've ever met and clean the house fifty thousand times. In January I plan to devote myself unflaggingly to breaking in my new flannel sheets, reading actual books, and wishing for snow. I think that's plenty.

So, house and brain are disheveled and fluffy, which feels kind of nice. We have no plans for New Year's Eve, thank goodness. Andy works both Eve and Day, and Amelia and I will probably make shrimp cocktail and I'll see if I can get her to watch Snow Buddies (which has actual dogs and not cartoon dogs) and we'll be in bed with the new flannel sheets by 7:00 p.m. Should you lead a more exciting life have need for some party food, I can highly recommend everything that I made from your appetizer suggestions a few weeks ago:

Smoked salmon dip
Onion and bacon marmalade (spread onto goat-cheese smeared crostini)
Snowman cheese ball!
Shrimp with cocktail sauce
Badenjan dip
Olive cheese spread on English muffins
Jezebel sauce over cream cheese
Taco dip
Bar nuts
Spinach dip

Forgive me for not also mentioning each commenter who made these suggestions! Many of them were repeated so I took that as hearty endorsement and I will say that all of the food got eaten — the olive cheese spread most of all! I thought the homemade shrimp cocktail was amazing, myself. And, to note, I was looking for mostly cold appetizers to serve; the list above was a nice mix of mostly cold with just a few things that needed to be heated up. It seemed like the perfect amount for about twenty-five to thirty people (who were all going on to eat other courses elsewhere). It was a really fun night. My favorite part was when Amelia shouted, "C'mon, everybody! Let's go to the next house!" (and then, naturally, walked to the McNeil's front door and opened it herself and tried to leave). The girl loves a party.

That said, now that I've paid my Appetizer Dues, I'm seriously rethinking this cooking-for-parties thing. I love having parties but it is such a ton of work to make all of that food. I've had four in the past three months, including Amelia's big birthday party (also lots of appetizers), and you know what? I'm having at least that party catered next year. I swear it costs practically as much to buy the groceries, and then you still have to, you know, make everything yourself. With a toddler running (and climbing) around and a galley kitchen, it's just too much. And I don't have the storage space to do anything ahead of time. I'll make one special thing myself, the birthday cake, or maybe crab cakes for a holiday party, but otherwise I'm going to start saving up a little Catering Fund so that I don't wind up sprawled in a chair, hoping someone will bring me something to drink and hoping someone else will keep my kid from touching every single thing on the table. (As if that were even possible. That's not possible. But that's why I have to save my strength.)

The day after Christmas we went outside. I felt like I hadn't been outside in weeks. It was cold and clear, and that's unusual lately. I could've walked all day. Resolution for 2016: Find a flat, wide trail in the woods along which it is possible to push the stroller for the walk back. Like a logging road, but flat. I only need it to be about a half a mile. Anybody know of one like that? You'd think this would be easy, but it's very hilly around here. Wide and flat is pretty rare. Meems is great on the way in, not so great on the way out. The woods were so green, like a fairy tale. They got me thinking about gardening again, in a dreamy kind of way.

Two seed catalogs have arrived in the mail. Wintertime is for dreaming. I think I might make a list of things I want to do in the new year. I've never actually done that before. I wonder why I haven't. I'm in the mood for it now. It might be nice to write some things down.

Happy, happy almost–New Year to you! I hope your days this week are slow, and sweet, and filled with light and quiet and peace as we roll into 2016.
Xoxo, a

***Lots of questions in the comments I'll try to answer here: The snowflake mobile is many years old, from Pottery Barn Kids. All the knitting on the table is detailed on my Ravelry page here. The little deer was at my sister's house and I'll have to ask her where it's from, I don't know. I got the Territorial Seeds catalog (local) and one other one from Iowa I can't remember, and can't seem to find now. All of my electric (well, battery) candles I've bought locally at American at Heart in Sellwood, and I know they don't ship, so I'm sorry I don't have a source for out-of-towners. They're wonderful; I'm sure you can find something similar on-line. And my Swedish pancake recipe is here:

Swedish Pancakes

4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 c. milk
a little bloop of vegetable oil

Whisk eggs, flour, sugar, and salt together into a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in milk until just combined, then add a bit of oil (just to keep them from sticking) and stir again. Ladle or pour the batter onto the griddle over medium heat, and tip pan to swirl batter into a thin circle. Flip when edges look dry.

 

Before Christmas

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The weeks fly by as swiftly as Santa's reindeer, coursing through the night sky. It's always that way; December's a spangled, sparkling whoosh. With a three-year-old, the whole month feels like a confetti shower of raindrops and cookies and elves and stars and fake snowflakes. Magic. Every morning she woke up and ran to put a new ornament on the advent tree. Every night I read her to sleep with Christmas books. The Night Before Christmas. The Snowy Day. Santa's Workshop. The Christmas Magic. It's astonishing how well I remember some of the specific illustrations from my own childhood, which makes me think they were special to me, even then. Oh, Christmas. You make me remember things, places and people that are gone or far away, things that I wished for and got or didn't get, days that I missed almost before they were even over. The cold, clear Sunday afternoons when I skated on the ice at Keystone Park for hours and hours, and walked home in the dark under the big, bare trees, the air filled with the smell of smoke and ice and wet wool and powdered hot chocolate, my skate blades hitting my back as I walked. I remember riding the Empire Builder through the snowy mountains of western Montana and across the plains of North Dakota to Chicago, reading The Brothers Karamazov, my embroidered pillow against the window and embroidered boots tucked under my seat. I remember midnight mass at St. Luke's, singing with Mrs. Miller in the choir, and the parties afterward at the Millers', how everyone in town would come, how delirious with fatigue I would be, and how beautiful it was to drive through River Forest late at night, looking at the lights.  I remember my dad burning frankincense and myrrh in a little log cabin incense holder, and the winter sunsets at the house, and our Christmas Eve parties, and my cousins and aunts and uncles coming over. I remember sleeping under the Christmas tree with Andy twenty years ago, in the huge, old house he lived in in Davenport, Iowa, and when he said, "This is my dream." I'm glad I remember some things, though they make me cry. I've forgotten so much.

I wish you a merry Christmas, filled with good memories and peace and love, and gentle moments, and children, and small gifts that feel big, and friends and family and warm animals curled on your feet, and I thank you for all of your many, many sweet words and the kindest generosities you share here throughout the year, and these many years. Your kindness and attention has given me more than I can ever say. I wish you good tidings, and great joy, and, most of all, peace during this season. Peace be with you, dear friends. May we have peace in this world.

With love always,

Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and the Lady Bee.
XOXOX

(P.S. I'll tell you all about the appetizers I made for the party sometime soon! Thank you again for the suggestions — it was awesome! :)

 

Evergreens

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the appetizer and party ideas!!! Seriously. VERY GOOD. Apparently, a lot more people enjoy cheese balls than I ever would've thought! Good to know!!! I am not sure exactly which appetizers I am going to make yet, but I'm feeling much better about the whole thing, so thank you, most sincerely. And there WILL be a cheese ball. Absolutely.

Oh, it's been quieter here. Quite nice. Quiet and nice. I'm heading off to Amelia's playschool Christmas party in a minute. (Then it's three weeks with nooooooo playschool. Ack! She's going to go crazy. Or one of us will.) The rain hasn't stopped much, but we did take a fairly dry walk to the grocery store yesterday. Aunt Susie brought calzones last night and Grandma's bringing chicken and dumplings tonight. Andy's on day three of four days at work in a row (they work twelve-hour shifts, so that's actually a lot). Play-date this afternoon, and maybe I'll get the rest of the Christmas cards done. Need to make a dolly-cradle mattress and blanket and pillow. Plenty of milk in the fridge for hot chocolate. Need cookies very badly. New knitting project going fast and very nicely. It's all good. Deep breath. It's good. I always think solstice comes to quickly. I'm trying to go slow.

Rainytown

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So. Much. Rain. It never seems to stop. If it does stop, it quickly again starts. We're used to doing everything in a downpour now. Pushing a grocery cart full of groceries and a toddler through a parking lot in the pouring rain. Walking the dog in the pouring rain. Eating Christmas cookies in the pouring rain. Christmas shopping in the pouring rain. Ah, I shouldn't complain. . . . It's very cold rain, though. And did I mention, it never stops? . . .

Wintertime in Portlandtown. Make some coffee, light some candles, turn on the made-for-TV Christmas movies (favorite new Christmas movie: Just in Time for Christmas. I absolutely loved it.) Knit knit knit. Have a party or two. We've been having or going to party after party, which is not our usual style, but it has been really fun. All different groups of people. We're having another party here next weekend! That's the neighborhood progressive dinner. We're doing appetizers here. Can you suggest easy, cold appetizers for twenty people? I don't really know how to do this, but I do know I don't want to be shoveling hot things in and out of the oven. Even when they originally came from the freezer at Trader Joe's. Dips, cheeses, crackers . . . er . . . what else . . . ? This is only the first course of several, so, I think it can be pretty simple. All advice welcome!

It's busy right now, isn't it? No matter how you try to slow it down. There are just lots of things! The Christmas cards I ordered should be arriving in the mail here today. I'm going to make some hot tea and find the address book. Doing the cards is one of my favorite things. I've been looking forward to this. Go slow, Monday: I'm gonna settle in, stay warm, and write to all our friends with an actual pen.

***To those who have asked, the dollhouse is one I got at a secondhand store years and years ago. :) Sorry, I don't have a lead on a new one!

 

Tiny Lights

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Christmas things, loving things, soups and breads and friends and parties, lights and candles to fill the December days. This morning it is raining as hard as I've ever seen it, and it's as dark as late afternoon. We have a busy week ahead (who doesn't), and I'm resisting the urge to climb back into bed and pull up the quilts and knit and knit and knit; but no, that won't happen. Instead I light candles and say a prayer for the world, the news of which I can't lately seem to absorb with anything but melancholy, though I strive for hope. In the mornings, we snuggle for hours (one of the benefits of getting up hours before light sneaks up on the windows). Andy and Clover sleep. Under the covers, I pull my daughter's warm body into mine. She holds my big hand on her small belly. She eats a banana (two bananas) and I drink very hot, very strong coffee by the light of the string of paper stars we got a few months ago. I've put them on a dimmer, and thus can turn them down to the barest, dimmest, almost-golden glow. We're under softest flannel sheets and wool blankets and wool-filled quilts, with a dozen pillows at our backs. Foxy, Pengy, Snowy Bear, Bruno, and Big Bunny — all here, too. Quietly, quietly she sings back to me the lullaby I sing to her each night. It's a tune I made up, with the words from a book. Her sweet voice, her lisp. Her whisper-singing: on key. Her warm, bare legs sliding along mine. She fits so perfectly against my shoulder, under my arm. I ask her if she can hear the rain and she nods (mouth now full). It drums, relentless, against the old windows just inches behind us. I hold her close and kiss her head, and press my cheek to her hair. Stay like this. Just here. We'll let it all swirl and rumble outside. I'll hold you tight. I'll hold you tight.

T-Day and Tree Day

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My sister was hosting Thanksgiving, but her whole family came down with the flu last week (ugh, poor dears) so we had a little dinner at our place. Amelia dragged her chair around the table so she wound up sitting next to each of her guests at some point throughout the afternoon. I love her. The weather has been so perfect — very clear, and just cold enough to feel like winter. I love the weekend after Thanksgiving. We always go and get our tree right away. I do so like to get things going early so I can relax and go do fun stuff. Tree is up, house is more-or-less decorated, stockings are hung. Parties need to be scheduled, but shopping is done. Wrapping and shipping is not. Cards need to be ordered. Amelia keeps saying, "Mom, is it Christmastime yet? Mom, is this Christmastime?" Oh, December! With a three-year-old, things are magical (and vaguely bonkers), already. I love this season and all it brings. So many gifts. So many beautiful, sparkling little things.

Last year at the tree farm, and the year before.

Cold and Clear

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So cold these past few days, and the air tinged with blue, or silver, or some color I can't quite capture. Frost color. A ballerina's skirt color, frozen drops balanced in the air as evening descends. So begins my longing for snow. Maybe this year. Maybe this year. . . .

Inside, outside, inside, outside. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we go over the river to be with family. I've been thinking so much about forests and trees and little houses and fields. I was telling Andrea about my junior-high American history teacher who didn't use the hideous overhead lighting in the room (oh, it was wonderful, wonderful, and I still remember him for it) and gave us a new hand-drawn, hand-labeled map of somewhere in New England almost every day. The maps were absolutely exquisite, the names magical. Plymouth, Concord, Dover, Wethersfield, Salisbury. Every year at this time I think of them, and would give anything to find that binder full of those lovely maps. How do we ever know what will stay with us, and why? Will Amelia remember the tune of the lullaby I sing every night as we snuggle and read under the quilts in the big bed? By the light of our tiny lamp, with the winds blowing outside, overwhelmed with gratitude I wrap around her, and quietly sing of small things.

I wish you much peace and comfort and love this holiday weekend, and throughout the season. Thank you for your generous, peaceful, and kind presence here. May your days be merry and bright, and filled with love.

Love always,
A+A+A+C+B. Xoxo

***The book pictured is The Big Book of Slumber, and it is one of our very favorites.

 

Autumn Leaves

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Hard week filled with terrible losses, both across oceans and across the street. I've had a bad cold since Wednesday and have been prone under layers of covers for a couple of days. The only crafting accomplished was when I effectively felted my hair to my head, rolling around while alternately broiling hot, then freezing cold, then scorching hot, then shivering — perfect felting conditions, along with the frustrated, erratic tumble-dry of my tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. When I woke up (not entirely accurate, as that implies that I was asleep, which I really hadn't been in days), I went into the bathroom and saw that my hair had matted into a pretty decent Brillo-pad tower. Marge Simpson. Feeling a lot better today, but wow. I don't know what that was.

Amelia and I went out for a walk this morning, my first time outside at length in quite a while. It was sunny and lovely after days and days of cold, dark, howling rain. Autumn is hanging on, brilliant and sparkling with quiet beauty. I'm grateful for this, for eating biscuits at the bakery with my girl, for her dramas and discoveries, her sweet hands on my cheeks, crying because my skin was too hot, playing with her toys all yesterday afternoon in the warm house while the winds wrapped 'round, and we stayed quiet, and close. I wish you warmth and light this weekend, and peace. Peace be with you, dear friends. Xoxo, A

 

WIP Mash Up

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So then. I have a bit of a list. A whirling, swirling to-do. It's all because (I'm convinced) Stacey (Wonder Assistant) and I finally took the time to clean my office very well. We emptied every nook and cranny. We didn't get rid of stuff as much as we thoroughly rearranged. It had been a few years since the last time. Remember how pretty my studio was then. I'm sobbingly happy to say it now basically looks exactly like that again. Even better, in fact, because I folded all of that fabric in the glass cabinet onto the comic book backer boards. That project, though it took a long time, was a righteous success for several reasons. 1) Obviously, it's much neater and more functional now — I can actually see what I have and that means I am using it like crazy. 2) I became intimately acquainted with those fabrics again, and that was kind of nice. I feel like I really know what's there now, and it is inspiring to feel in control of that pile. And 3) There's a lot less fabric there than I thought (believe it or not). Not, perhaps, in terms of numbers of prints. But certainly in terms of actual yardage. To be wrapped on a piece of backer board, a length of fabric needs to be about 18" or it won't really fit nicely around it. Many of the pieces in my Glass-Cabinet Stash are between 18" and a yard. Some are 2 yards. Very few are longer. A TON were less than 18" (and those are all folded into shoe holders from Target, now on my sewing table). Anyway, all of this was very, very satisfying and also revealed to me that I have more quilts, toys, and patchwork dresses in my future, because I am determined to use up this stash (even though it fits oh so perfectly now I almost can't bring myself to touch it. But only almost) and this stash is made of smallish pieces.

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Okay. So, that's nice. Something else that's nice is that my dearest is now old enough to be in the studio with me. She watches Blue's Clues and Backyardigans on the computer, draws in her handy-dandy notebooks, eats an incredible number of bananas, sorts buttons into complicated rows, breaks a lot of colored pencils by smashing them, tip-down, as hard as she can, tries to get her hands on any marker or pen we accidentally leave lying around, "knits" (which means she takes yarn and wraps it around her hand or finger about two hundred times), sweeps, types, and generally keeps me very good company. This is a new development and it has been life-changing for me. For both of us, really. She's very proud to be "working" in here with me. I couldn't be happier.

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The other day I said, "Are you going to learn to knit and sew when you grow up?" And she said, "Yeah. I'll do that for you."

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[Insert wide-eyed emoji guy here.] Only if you want to, baby girl! Only if you want to, really! Wink.

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I just want to squish her all day long. MWAH. I love you.

Now, projects. Do you like her sweater? Apparently I knit an entire sweater without mentioning it once or taking any progress photos. It still needs to be blocked, but, yum:

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This is the Top-Down Garter Stitch Baby Jacket on Ravelry. My details (not many, sorry) are here.

I think I started that back in September. Or maybe it was after I'd finished the birthday quilt, in October. Regardless, I like to have easy projects for nighttime. Really easy. We wake up early around here (5:00 a.m., every morning, no matter the morning) and go to bed early — Amelia is asleep by 6:30 (since the time change) or 7:00 p.m. every night. That gives me about two hours of total and complete leisure time before I fall asleep. I get every single chore finished before I put Amelia to bed so that there is absolutely nothing left to do other than drink tea, watch TV, and knit/embroider/crochet. I like this schedule. A few weeks ago, I saw these lovely photos (I actually saw one first on Pinterest) and decided to make a blanket exactly like the one pictured (I just figured out her color scheme, chained 160 to start, and am simply doing V-stitch), using my fairly substantial stash of DK- and sport-weight yarn.

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This will have a border like the one in the picture (white, I think, with blue, and black?) and is, ostensibly, for Amelia's future big-girl bed, which we've been talking about a lot around here and which I think will be this one, because those head- and foot-board panels are calling out to be wallpapered, aren't they? Cuteness. I told Amelia that when she goes potty only on the potty seat we can get rid of her changing table and crib, and then she can have a big-girl bed. She was very excited. The next day she told me, "When I get my big-girl bed, then I'll go potty on the potty seat!" Errrrrrr, um, no that's. . . . I did not see that coming. . . .

NEXT. Thanksgiving dress for Meems:

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Blue gingham for the blouse, vintage calico (from Knittn' Kitten, I believe) for the pinafore. Probably the long version because I have such a soft spot for a long dress for the holidays. Interestingly, this blue gingham fabric (which is like a voile, super light) is on my work table in one of the photos in the studio re-do post I linked to above, from five years ago. I believe it was from Mill End Store. Will probably go for a brick-red ribbon on this. Eighty-five cents for a pattern back then. Wow.

For me, I've been making skirts like this:

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This takes 2 yards of cotton calico, with extra for the patch pockets. It's gathered crosswise, from selvedge to selvedge, onto a 2" waistband with elastic in the back. It's pretty much the skirt I've been wanting for years and just never really got around to making for myself. I've made two so far (the other one was teal calicos), and wear them with some really soft cowl-neck sweaters  (I wear them tucked in) I got from Ann Taylor Loft, and really soft and wonderful over-the-knee socks from Sock Dreams. And a chunky clog. Good, classics-professor-at-the-grocery-store winter uniform. Hoop earrings. Another skirt planned in these fabrics:

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I'll write a tutorial or pattern or something when I get some time. Really easy. (And by the way, that orange poppy fabric I just got last week at JoAnn's. The smaller brown calico was in the stash.)

NEXT. Amelia's nightgown and robe. She wanted both, and I just couldn't resist this pattern, or fabric (double-sided pre-quilted cotton, also from JoAnn's).

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I'm not sure how she even knew what a bathrobe was. We don't wear them, but I may rethink that because:

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Aaaaaaaaaagh!!!! I love it so much! It has a drawstring waist. I did the neck with binding using toothpaste blue vintage bias tape. I want one exactly like this for me. Mommy-and-me robes? Too Grey Gardens?

The nightgown (flannel, also from JoAnn's [yes, I used about four coupons there that day] with a vintage embroidered ribbon from I know not where) is from a vintage pattern, Simplicity 4719, and there are a couple more planned. Next is one out of this dotty grayish-blue.

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I have a few more nightgown patterns, too. Just realizing now that she needs a new one for Santa Lucia. Last year's is so worn out it's dingy, and too small. This is a problem I relish.

NEXT. A winter sweater. And a swingy skirt (I need to adjust the waist, because it's too big). I don't have the pattern in front of me but I don't recommend it, either way (it was vintage). Next time I'll use the same formula I developed for my gathered skirts above. This one is kind of a circle skirt.

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The sweater pattern is Trixie on Ravelry, and it's quite darling, though there are no projects to date, so I'm not sure what it looks like on. I'm making the 2-3T size in House of a la Mode Stunning Single Ply yarn in Candy Cane Lane. Love this yarn, and it's local, too, from Happy Knits, my happy place (and Amelia's, too):

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Yay! Isn't it brilliant of them to have a play area? With chalkboard-painted walls? Oh my stars, how I love these guys she is drawing every single day. They are so cute. The arms? Or legs? Love.

What's next. Advent calendar. This goes closer to the top of the list. I don't want to be late with this.

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This is the Advent calendar pattern from Purl. They have a kit, too, but I have a ton of felt I'm trying to use up. I did order their sequins and beads, though, just for something special. I've never really had an Advent calendar before. I think we had paper ones, with little windows, but they weren't a big tradition with us. Andy says this one is similar to the one he had growing up. I changed the pattern a bit and am adding Velcro dots to stick the little ornaments on the tree (instead of straight pins). I finished the number embroidery and added the dots yesterday, and it's cute. The dots look like snow.

Lastly but certainly not leastly, a Friendship Quilt based on a beautiful quilt that Lucy made.

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I'm making this with my BFF for the past twenty-six years, Martha. She lives in Boston. We were college roommates, and sewed Laura Ashley dresses together waaaaaay back then in our little white cottage with the big blue table on 8-1/2 Avenue. She wore flats with hers, I wore Doc Martens. She has a wicked-awesome stash of rather proper '80s calicos. I have a mish-mash with mutt-like provenance. We're trading 30 or so 2" selvedge-to-selvedge-cut strips, then doing something like this with a mixture of our own and each other's strips:

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Each little square on the grid represents 1.5". Colored rectangles are blocks of horizontal strips. I've been wanting to do a quilt like this since I re-pinned this one a long time ago. I really love my quilting Pinterest board. Sometimes I just look at it and feel generally extremely happy that someone invented quilts. They are so beautiful. This one is going to be special to me.

This post is very long.

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

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.