Posts filed in: Portland and Oregon

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.

 

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.

 

Fields and Furrows

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Oh, the pumpkins, the pumpkins, and the little kids. The gray pumpkin morning turning to mist and drizzle (perfect). The birds, my goodness, what you hear there in the cold, country air. The sky is filled with birds, and they are enchanting. The kids run and stumble. There is all the time in the world here with our dear friends, the Montgomeries, and their darling boys — my heart bursts watching them all pick right up where they left off last year, covered in mud, searching for the world's smallest pumpkin, Amelia and Asher walking straight out into the field without a backward glance, the cow train over the rutted fields jolting every adult on it into slipping a disc, the caramel apples and sausages and kettle corn we can't resist. Faces painted. Zinnias blackening. Sunflowers folding. Cornstalks softening in the rain. Later, beer and burgers at the brewpub, and I can't wait for them to light the fireplace there. If only every weekend were this one.

Look how little they were last year, and the year before. Oh, sweet darlings.

Speaking of rainbows: At home, I begin to achieve the unthinkable, and fold my fabric stash onto comic book backer boards. During every waking free moment I have. It feels like I will never get to the end. But look how pretty! More on this soon.

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In Fairyland

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Oxbow Park on Saturday. The weather was absolutely perfect — cool and cloudy and still, still, still, the light flat and clear. We puttered near the beach then hiked a little trail into the forest I've always wanted to wander. All the leaves hung like mobiles, gently turning, or not even turning at all. The woods smell so good. It was wet, which was good. Mushrooms bloomed like fairy umbrellas, a different kind at every turn. Rain-soaked moss glowed green against the soaked soil. Our girl ran fast and sure down the trail. She's happy here, and my heart explodes into a confetti of pine needles and tiny acorns. She picks up things to show me. She puts her sorrel dollies to bed on a log under her dad's ever-present bandanna. High above, out of sight, we hear birds. I try to stop her to listen, which she does, for a short moment. But mostly she is high on freedom, zinging along down the path, turning around to go back to something she saw, trilling her own special song, sometimes serious and quiet but mostly prancing, dancing. Suddenly, a tiny winged creature whips into the tangle of bracken and branch. I stop in my tracks and look for it, and see it for a second, settled on a tiny tree. In another second it is off, shooting lower into the brush. I strain to see it again, but I don't — the tiniest bird I think I've ever seen, hardly bigger than a moth! What was it? Brownish gray, and very round, like a flying baby mouse? A bushtit, perhaps, but extra small? I'm so charmed I can hardly move. I would venture into the fairy circle at that moment, following, I feel quite sure.

Sometimes I think I'd like to bring a chair, and sit. It's not the walking so much as the being inside the forest that I like. The woods are so dense, the trails so skinny, with drop-offs and margin-less shoulders, at least where we go, that there's really no place for just sitting. I'd probably feel self conscious, parking a chair on the trail, if someone came by (and someone always comes by). But if I could, I'd sit in the chair with my feet up, and watch, and listen. I'd sit very still, and wait. I'd hope for something to ignore me, and get close. I'd hold my camera in my lap and use the articulated LCD screen to see something if I wanted to take its picture so that I wouldn't have to raise my arms and scare it off. Amelia would wander and find a place to be alone, talking to herself and making dolls out of pine cones and petals, houses of rocks and wood. Andy would probably lie back and look up at the trees. I hope I can find a place, just a little place, where we can do this all alone. I'd like to stop, and sit, and think, and listen, listen to the birds and my girl's sweet voice in the forest, and watch instead of move.

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.