Posts filed in: Portland and Oregon

Summer Spirit

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Oh boy. It's good. It's so good. Here, there, and everywhere. I have almost no time to work or be on my computer these days. No childcare at all, and every day at the pool for swimming lessons, then most afternoons staying afterwards to play in the pool. This is my dream, these golden-lit days, buzzing with children and water and wildness. We're on the go, and the go is good, though I can, if allowed, beach myself in the shallow end and sit for hours, hours. Hot weather is tolerable, even preferable, when I'm covered in four or five inches of sparkling turquoise water, and I find it very hard to leave the pool. There's no need. I sit and watch toddlers negotiate who's gonna get the ball and who's gonna get the pool noodle, have water poured over my legs fifty times from a plastic cup, help my girl learn to blow bubbles and lay on her back, see her enormous smile as her dad swings her around as fast as he can in the middle depth, over and over and over (he's one of those AWESOME DADS and never tires [insert starshine emoji here]). Joy radiates from her beautiful face and I just can't stop smiling. There's no photograph of this, but I'll never forget.

At home, the house waits for us to return with our damp towels, damp suits, tubes of sunscreen, snowcone-stained shirts. Every day we get home around four or five and try to find something to eat. For Father's Day I ordered Giordano's stuffed spinach and sausage pizzas to be delivered and oh, modern living, you got this one thing right, if nothing else. (I'm finding modern living and the state of the world at large to be very challenging lately.) Overnighting four frozen pizzas is ridiculously expensive but seriously, it tasted EXACTLY like home, and what a strange miracle that is. It was worth it, and the papa was psyched, so thumbs up on that, I think.

The house stays cool and clean. It reminds me of my grandparents' house in the summertime — climate controlled and quiet, the sound of the television at night playing Hallmark mysteries or Strangest Weather on Earth (I'm obsessed — and have you seen a shelf cloud lately? A haboob? Creeping ice? I find all of this ironically relaxing). After Amelia goes to bed, I put on my white nightgown and knit, two Lil Shepherds so far (and another one still on the needles), a sweet little green one for sweet baby Mae, born one week ago, above. My Christmas cross stitch was almost finished before I dropped it to knit, too [insert wide-eyed, startled-looking emoji]. I have made no moves to dismantle the stash but I do have a plan, so that's a start (I was fascinated that so many of you were feeling the same way, honestly). Sometimes I just have an urge to do something and I do it until I get it out of my system. Currently that urge is to knit and not purl anything, and also sit in some water for long periods of time while water is poured on me (see above), so things are working nicely. I try to keep it simple.

Middle of June

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The apples on our Cox's Orange Pippin apple tree are already turning red. I'm not sure if that's normal, for mid-June, but it seems early. The weather this week has been blissfully cloudy, cool, rainy, and it even hailed yesterday, but the weekend should heat up in time for swimming lessons to start next week. Amelia is excited, and practices "swimming" circles around the living room, showing me how she will blow bubbles and paddle and put her face into the water like a big girl when she gets there. This age, oh man. It is just awesome. It is busy. It is mercurial. But it is fantastic. There's just so much going on for her right now as she gains independence and confidence and grows in physical and emotional ways. When she's angry, she stomps her foot as if trying to freeze the entire kingdom (thanks, Elsa) and her fury truly blazes, hot and sure. When's she's cuddly she'll wrap every long limb around me and tuck her face deep into my neck, or put her hands on my cheeks and look into my eyes. When she's sweet, she tilts her head to the side and talks to her stuffed animals in the sweetest little mommy voice, explaining things patiently and patting heads and tummies with reassurance. When she's silly she squeals and launches herself in wild arcs around the king-size bed, flopping and jumping and bucking and kicking, trying to reach the mobile with her feet. She's very tall for her age, I think, taller than the other kids who were exactly her size when they all started playschool together last fall. Every week we measure her against the yard stick at the library, and she's grown four inches since her third birthday, eight months ago. My sunflower, stretching and swinging and singing for the sun, sweet and big and brave and true.

I made honey/garlic/butter/coconut milk shrimp for dinner, and it was delicious. I made a couple of pairs of baby-doll pajamas (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5562, c. 1982) and a couple of shirts (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5757, c. 1964) and a couple of skirts (from vintage McCall's pattern #7882, c. 1982). I made plans for a birthday dress (vintage McCall's #2661, c. 1970) and ordered some beautiful Tana Lawn (Michelle, in Blue) for it. I finally started knitting a present for a friend (more about that later). I think I may have resolved to give away almost my entire yarn stash. I feel like it's just holding me back somehow, and I can't really explain that, because it's not that big, and I did feel like I was making a good-sized dent in it this past year. But there's just something about it that isn't helping me anymore. Maybe it can help someone else. I feel like my palette and my fiber preferences have changed, and my stash is reflecting a me that was, and not the me that is. I don't even want to have a stash at all, in fact.

Weekend Ways

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Thank you ever so much for all of the kind comments about 'Night, Neighborhood and for all of the orders for the kit and pattern. Thank you, thank you. I am so thrilled that people are excited about this and can't wait to see how everyone gets on with this one. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and I think you will. I have some things to tell you about cross stitch in general and I'm going to work on a post about that soon, one that answers some questions that non-cross-stitchers might have about getting started, and some general information about stitch counts, fabrics, flosses, etc. For now, I believe all of the orders that came in last week have shipped, and we will ship everything that came in between Friday and today on Wednesday. A huge thank-you also to my intrepid assistant, Stacey. She single-handedly pulled all the floss for this kit, and packaged it, and assembled every kit itself, and processed and shipped every single order. I don't have that much time to work these days, so I concentrate solely on design and stitching and pattern writing and printing, and she does all of the hands-on work of managing our floss inventory, pulling all of the floss, all of the assembly of all of the kits, and then all the processing and shipping of orders every day. It's a pretty good system we have going, and I'm so grateful for her careful, diligent, tireless help. She'll be working on the grape harvest at the end of this summer and I won't have her help for about four months during harvest season this year (August through November), but we're hoping to get a Christmas kit happening here soon, hopefully ready by September.

I sewed a bit for Amelia yesterday, a couple of pairs of babydoll pajamas and two little swingy skirts. I will take photos and give details when I can find them all (flung, right now, all over the house). I had wanted to make her a dress for the Midsummer Festival at Oaks Park this year but I found the golden stripey one at the Hanna Andersson outlet for 40% off and it just seemed perfect. We had a nice day there, although it was a bit chilly! I'm not complaining, but it was chilly. So many hard things going on in the world; our hearts are breaking for the city of Orlando, and the LGBT community, and all people who love freedom and pursue the right to gather — and dance — in public everywhere. Have courage, have courage, spread love. My heart feels weary today. I sew and think and pray.

Sweet treats: my homemade vanilla ice cream, and a peach cobbler. I doubled the biscuity topping (for some reason, I had a box of Bisquik and I thought I'd try to use it up), which I don't necessarily recommend. It's also quite clear I have absolutely no idea how to slice fresh peaches — well, get the peach part off the pit, specifically? I truly mangled these babies, and that just wasn't pleasant. I looked at some directions on the internet that said cut it in half and twist one half off of the pit, but there was absolutely no way mine was going to come off the pit. . . . Oh well, it was still pretty delicious! Tonight we will have our new standby — the chili-lime chicken tacos with the Mexican street corn salad (links in this post). This is just too good, and it goes on the table about once a week, now.

Andy's home, and he's planning some fun activities with Meems for the day. It's cold and raining again, and I'm going to enjoy that — ride my bike out to get some lunch, read my new library book (Us by David Nichols) by myself, make some tea and sew. I don't get a lot of days like this, so I am a little excited. I try to soak it all up, and wait for my loves to get home.

Summer Starting

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Andy had a birthday over the holiday weekend and it was one of the nicest ever, I think. We went up to Multnomah Falls for lunch, which has become sort of a birthday tradition in our family. It was crawling with people (on a Saturday, in May — of course) but it's still a beautiful place and a nice lunch. Andy and our brother-in-law went to see a band on Saturday night, then Michael spent the night. I made homemade dirty-chai cinnamon rolls with this recipe for the rolls and using this filling and glaze and, oh my. Ridiculously decadent and the perfect treat for a birthday morning. We had lunch at Por Que No and then I baked a cake in the afternoon. Amelia and her friends had an almost-sleepover down the block on Sunday night while all of us parents barbecued in the backyard. We were all home by 9:00 p.m. and sleeping within the hour! Har! But happy birthday, my love. Forty-five looks very good on you, dear papa bear!

This week we're putting the finishing touches on the 'Night, Neighborhood kit, and I am thrilled about this. The floss is almost all pulled and the fabric is here. The patterns arrive tomorrow, and I am nervous; I used a new printer this time, and I'm hoping everything looks good. If it does, we'll put kits on sale next week. It's a weird time of year to launch a new product, but it just worked out this way, and this one has such a summery feel I actually think it'll be perfect. If you are looking for a good project this summer, stay tuned. I will talk a lot about this one next week. I'm so happy with how it all turned out.

Today, oh glory be, it's rainy and cool. Birds are singing, Mimi's about to take a bath, and then we'll go to the grocery store and make some kind of pasta tonight (I'm thinking bacon, chicken, and mushrooms, since it feels like fall). I have a stack of library books it would be lovely to crack. Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Ikea, playing house in the fake kitchens and living rooms for hours (I was the baby and she was the mommy), finishing the day with a fruit bowl, chocolate cake, and a cup of coffee for mum in the cafe. Highly recommend.

***Sorry I forgot the links to the cinnamon roll recipes — all fixed now. And for those who asked, those are just rock pies in the tins above. :)

Glorious Greening

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Oh, busy bees! Parties and family and friends and here, there, everywhere. We had such a nice Birthmother's Day party at our house on Saturday, went to my sister's for a nephew birthday/Mother's Day party on Sunday, and then out to my other sister's (glorious) place on the creek on Monday. I have so much to say but no time, it seems, to say it right now. I'm playing Twister, my hands and feet pointing in every possible direction as I contort and balance. I'll leave you with a delicious coconut cream pie recipe (and the cake is my old Cloudburst standby here, though I use this recipe for my chocolate cake now; make two of them for a double layer). Late spring. My goodness. Time whirls around me. Blur and wonder.

Morning Light (and Night Neighborhood)

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Oh my, the mornings! Honeygold and fragrant with apple blossoms and lilac. We moved some chairs to the front yard and that one hour, from about seven a.m. until eight, is now my favorite of the day. Andy had the whole weekend off, which rarely happens. The weather was consistently beyond glorious, which rarely happens. I said I wasn't going to make a cross stitch pattern and then five minutes later I did, which often happens. Good thing my capriciousness is so predictable. It keeps me employed. And out of trouble. More or less.

Flowers Fair

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First walk in the woods of spring, just the two of us. A Wednesday afternoon, temperature perfect. The trillium is blooming, and the yellow violets. We don't go that far, just up the trail a bit to the meadow, wandering as if we have all day, and we do have all day. Trying to catch a butterfly. Stuffing pockets full of rocks. We turn around and go back to town for ice cream when we're done. Days of green. The smell of trees. The song of birds. The soft trail. Holding hands on the sidewalk. Her little hand in mine.

Season Change

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Saturday morning. Cuddles. Chat. It's still dark. We listen to the birds outside. The crow says caw. Caaaaaaw, caaaaaaaw. Amelia tells me that today is Ceiling's birthday. (Ceiling as in "the ceiling.") This is convenient, as we happen to be having a party tonight. I'm planning my dad's chili, potato-leek soup, and a chocolate cake. Our friends bring chips, salads, beer. Amelia decorates the cake (I use my cheater frosting — 2 cups of heavy cream, whipped, with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a box of vanilla instant pudding mixed in; claggy but yummy) with sprinkles, pink hearts, and gold stars. She asks for candles. I forget that it's Ceiling's birthday until she asks for the candles. "How old is Ceiling?" I say. "Four." Ah. But oh, how I love three. Flowers, rain-showers, wet grass. Sunshine. Squabbles. Passion. Planting and playing. She hits her friend square in the forehead with a toy teacup and her friend pulls her hair. Kisses and tears and not sharing and then sharing. Windows open. Trees blooming. Freedom and fresh air. No more high chair, no more baby gates, no more crib. "I'm so proud of you, honey." "I'm so proud of you, Mom." Holding hands while we walk all the way to the grocery store. I pick her a bouquet of grape hyacinths and pansies and she arranges them herself in a tiny vase for her new nightstand. I turn on the fake fireplace in her little room. We can hear the raindrops hitting the window as we read, propped up with pillows in the new bed. There are soft new white sheets, a new quilt, and the softest, squishiest little eiderdown I ever did see. I feather a small, warm nest for my little bird. At the party, everyone sings "Happy Birthday" to Ceiling while Amelia points up, then blows out the candles. I pray for peace in this world.

Rainflowers

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I just finished the quilt! I'm really happy! It's in the wash right now. I can't wait to see it after it's been washed and dried. I backed it with pale mauve-pink double gauze, soft as a cloud. I used cotton-wool-blend batting (I think it was Hobbs). I used a cream-colored fabric with tiny turquoise dots for the binding. I did the binding completely by machine: I used 2 1/4" cross-grain strips, folded in half lengthwise and applied to the front of the quilt sandwich with a 1/4" seam. I wrapped it around to the back and made sure it just covered the seam on from the back, and pinned it perfectly in the ditch, just catching the back edge. I pinned a lot. Then I stitched in the ditch all the way around, catching the back edge, and it worked perfectly. You have to go slowly, and you have to pin a lot, and you have to remember to look at the front edge of your presser foot as you stitch in the ditch — don't watch the needle, watch the groove in the front of the presser foot and make sure it's centered perfectly over the ditch. My stitches were almost imperceptible. The back edge was just barely caught and looked great. I always do my binding by hand on the back, but honestly, this looked so good and saved soooooo much time, and so many hand stitches, I don't know that I'll ever do it by hand again! Well, maybe I will, but not in the near future. This looked really nice. The trick is the pinning exactly in the ditch. If you've pinned in the ditch, and you've caught the back edge, you will catch it when you stitch. Just take your time.

To quilt it, I decided I really wanted it to be as soft and light as possible. I was thinking of tying the whole thing, but again I just didn't want to take the time, as the big-girl bed has been purchased and just needs to be put together. Tying this would've taken too long and I'm just getting more picky about what I want to put my hands through these days — tying is pretty hard on your fingers. So, proud of my ditch-stitching on the binding (and yeah, I bound the edges first; the double-gauze felt a little shreddy and I thought it would be best to get the edges completely enclosed before I started handling it too much), I decided to quilt it by machine-stitching in the ditch around every patch. I just started on one edge and tried to follow it as far as I could. This required pushing a whole bunch of the quilt under the arm several times, so I don't know how this would work on a regular machine on anything bigger than a throw (this quilt measures 55" x 57", and yes, this was a fairly random measurement on my part; I basically just wanted something that would work right now on that little bed, and I didn't want it to be too big that she couldn't curl up under it easily on the sofa after it's too small for the bed; conveniently this just fit on a packaged throw-size batting [60" x 60"], but that was sheer luck, because naturally I don't think about any of these rational things beforehand, good grief) but it worked out just fine on my machine. Anyway, I just kept  stitching seams, backstitching a bit when I would hit a dead end, and then starting over. The batting package said I had to stitch it at most 4" apart, which is pretty tight. On the bigger patches I added a few ties.

I daresay I've never enjoyed making anything more! A lady at Fabric Depot once said to me that the best quilts are fast, fun, and finished, and this one certainly was that. I'll be hard-pressed to ever do a quilt another way, honestly!

I'll take more close-up pictures once we get the bed set up. That's going to require the whole room being rearranged so it may not be until next week.

***Oh, oh — and for those who have asked, some details about my crocheted blanket (also for Meems's new bed) are here (and I think that stitch is called the harlequin stitch, maybe?), and the bloomers pattern I used was Style pattern #3206 from 1980.

Hello, February

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It's been a vaguely exhausting few weeks. Colds and coughs and chicken soup. The days sort of blur together. Last night I sat on the sofa after Amelia went to bed and before Andy got home and strung 24" of the tiniest seed beads in the world into a necklace while watching Fixer Upper and drinking golden milk (steam 1 1/2 cups of milk with 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon of honey) and felt like I wished the moment would last for hours and hours. I've been squeezing work into every free space I've had lately, finishing all of the big crocheted critter samples and patterns and sending them out to the tech editor, designing a new little cross stitch pattern and kit for spring, thinking about whether we are going to reissue any animal softie kits this spring (we aren't; get them while you can [and yes, to those who've asked, patterns will always be available]), thinking about what's next, wanting to do new things, wanting to make some things that aren't actually kits. I have a million ideas and very little time. I guess that's life. That's my life right now, anyway. The stay-at-home, work-at-home mom. And now for my next trick. . . . I pull dinner out of a hat. I wish.

For some reason, I like to paint stuff in February. I did the same thing last year and I think the year before, too. It's weird. Amelia prefers to paint her hands, face, and bare legs rather than paint on paper, or beads, or anything else. Her attention span is very short. I like painting little wooden beads. Winter colors: mint, pale-sun gold, lavender hellebore, gray sky. The sun, when it's out, absolutely glares. It's such a strange time of year. Spring is coming here. Tulips are poking up, daffodils are already blooming, trees are budding, and yet most yards are still covered in fall and winter debris, mud, things that are dull and fast asleep. It takes Amelia and I a half an hour to walk two blocks home from the the playschool. She's busy going up driveways, "planting" sticks in Al and Peri's yard, checking Holly's mailbox, getting caught in her open umbrella she drags along the sidewalk upside down, shouting goodbye to her friend. Oh I love her. Sometimes we walk up to the bakery or the ice cream store and it's an all-afternoon venture, a mile an hour. But I love the time. I love the cold. I love the cold, wet yards; the purple clouds; the fat, cold buds. The raindrops on tangles of branches. The rosy dawns. The plaintive crows. The black trees. The violet sky. The quiet, cold morning frost. There's a small, local circumference to our life right now, in winter. A sort of resolute burrowing, slightly nervous and not quite ready for longer days. Spring is coming here. It comes in February now.

***They put the January Golden Rose recipients' stories up on the web site. They make me cry. So many amazing people, doing these things every single day, everywhere.

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.