Posts filed in: Portland and Oregon

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.

January Ends

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Amelia's portrait of me is as accurate as could be, IMHO. I'm wearing my glasses and my hair is sticking out.

My computer — and I — are in a state of semi-function. Computer is more or less working properly, loaded back up with its stuff, though everything is different — different email program, different photo transferring software, different mouse pad thing (that I hate), different Photoshop (I'm on Creative Cloud now, after using old CS3 forever), different color calibration, different lots of stuff that is making life on the computer both easier in some ways and harder in others. I'm trying to figure out how to reset my defaults to where they had been, or something. . . . It's really amazing how automatic my old processes were to me, for better or worse. This has been one of the harder transitions to new equipment for me. I'm getting old. And googly-eyed.

Also, I have a cold. I'm still just not quite up and running.

Andy's home today. I'm hauling my basket of yarn upstairs to watch House Hunters International and crochet. I'm working on my new patterns, which will also be kits. There's Honey Bunny (a pink and a blue version) and Lovey Lamb. They've been the perfect January projects — very simple, and very long (well, the lambie, at least, has been almost tediously long, which has, strangely, been also quite perfect). Kits and pattern will be ready in the spring. I'm sad that January is almost over, I really am. I was sitting on the sofa the other day, doing absolutely nothing. Amelia was completely confused. "Mom, what are you doing? Mom, are you okay? What are you doing?" Me: "I'm sitting here doing nothing." Her [bewildered]: "Why, Mom? What are you doing?" Me: "I know this is very strange for you, Amelia, as it's quite possible you've never seen me sitting down and doing nothing in your entire life, but people actually do this. I'm going to do this, and then Daddy is going to bring me some cinnamon rolls. Isn't that wonderful?" Her [uncertain]: "Yeah!"

I'm not even kidding, we literally had that conversation.

Thank you for all of your kind words on Andy's award. We were both very touched by your kindness. Thank you. Amelia and I were back up on the hill on Wednesday to see Andy be presented with another award at the OHSU Golden ROSE (Recognition for Outstanding Service Excellence) awards ceremony (another one!). This one is awarded every month to several different OHSU employees who are nominated by someone else at the hospital. Each nominator stands up and reads their nomination to the roomful of people while the nominee stands next to the podium. The stories were amazing. I wish I could remember all of the details of each of the stories, but I know I'll get them wrong, and the January recipients aren't up on the OHSU web site yet. I will link over there when they are. (Update: Here they are!) I couldn't be prouder of Andy, or to be a part of OHSU, both as a patient and an employee spouse. It's such an exceptional place.

Today, the sun is shining as bright as could be. The angle of the sun is low, and glaring — a winter sun. Everything is soaked and glinting. Keep warm out there, friends. Stay slow. Let's drag it out as long as we can.

***By the way, that's Andy's view every day at work. And that picture doesn't even capture it, really. Isn't it amazing?

 

Winter Days

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I don't have much to show for the past few weeks. Things have felt alternately rushed and then slow and then rushed and then slow — hurry up, wait, hurry up, wait — depending on what I'm doing and who I'm with. Days with Amelia are long and lovely and also generally mildly exhausting, as life with three-year-olds in wintertime must be for most people. We don't stay home much. With her, it's truly harder to stay home. She gets bored. We go to our usual places to play, take hours to eat lunch at various Thai restaurants and brew pubs and sandwich joints from one side of the city to the other, visit Daddy at work and see him be presented with a very special award (so proud of you, babe), go to potluck suppers with all the neighbors and neighbor-kids, wander around Ikea for most of a day, splash in water rooms and pound clay in kids' museums, linger over ice creams in empty ice-cream shops, watching the rain and talking, talking, talking. My girl. I like the quiet days, the rain, the lack of a certain kind of expectation. When I'm not with Amelia, I'm going as fast as I possibly can, wrestling with two computers — one old, one brand new — trying to get the old one to work long enough for me to get the new one up and running, and no matter how much you back up, there is still just a ridiculous amount that you have to do (or at least I have to do, and no, I don't really know what I'm doing) to get the new one working. Well, not working, but properly functioning — get all my files migrated, and my software installed, and the updates installed, and the fonts installed, and all the stupid passwords transferred, and get new software to replace the obsolete software, and the printer drivers, and the email, etc., etc., etc. Apparently there are People who can do this for you, but apparently I don't believe it, or something, because I haven't taken my computer to anyone, anywhere. Blech. How bored are you right now, seriously. I'm sorry.

I'm also trying to fix some things on this blog — well, I myself am not trying to fix those things, other people are, thank goodness. Hopefully when all is said and done 1) the monthly blog archives will look like the home page, so there aren't those little thumbnails where you have to click on every single post to read the blog (hate that), 2) I'll have some sort of way to occasionally respond to comments (which I can't do easily now because my template is customized, and the code just isn't there to easily turn this "on"), and 3) I'll have a new subscription service, so that if you want to subscribe to this blog (which you don't now, because of the boring) you can get updates in your email inbox (instead of through feed readers).

Stuff like that. Etc., etc., etc.

I guess this, too, is what January's for, in a way.

At night I've been buying vintage cotton voile saris on Etsy with the intention of making kaftans for summer, and crocheting a woolly lamb. I'm glad January is thirty-one days.

 

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.

 

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.