Pretty Skies

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Oh, guys, it's been a wild and wooly week! First and most sincerely, THANK YOU so, so much for all of your orders of the new kits! In spite of the chaos that ensued almost immediately after I posted my last blog post (basically, Typepad went down and went down hard, for many days, without much information, causing panic; I am so sorry if you were trying to get here and couldn't). Eventually the blogs all came back online and hopefully everyone is able to see the photos now. I'm so thrilled with the orders and have gotten everything out except for everything that has come in since yesterday morning (and I'm hoping to do those today, or definitely tomorrow). I am so grateful for you and how many return customers that I have. I also just loved reading all of your special skating and winter activity memories. Gosh. I needed all of that. If you have more, please share. I really want to hear them. Thank you!

It's a gorgeous, gorgeous morning here, cold and clear and sunny and soggy. After a weekend of copious amounts of rain and dark clouds, it is so nice to see the sunshine, I must say. The house feels happy and bright (if messy). This picture of Agatha just waking up makes me laugh so hard. She sat like that for a full ten minutes, just blinking into the light. My photo is not great because I was rushing to get it, not realizing that she wasn't going anywhere. (Often when I run to grab my big camera to get a picture of her doing something cute I never get the shot because she normally doesn't linger.) But she looked so much like a grumpy little girl who just got woken up in a cold house. (She is very grumpy about it being cold out.)

I was lucky enough to get to spend last Friday morning with Amanda when she was here last week. We got to sit around in my living room and drink chai and catch up and I just wanted her to stay for hours and hours. I love her. And then Andy was home all weekend and he made stuffed shells for me on Sunday, which was so nice. The amount of stuff I sweep up off the floors after he goes back to work after a weekend is stunning. I think it's a hard time of year for the floors — lots of muddy boots banging around and spilled popcorn everywhere. But I mean, look at his view! The photo of the city from above was taken by Andy, and that is his view at work. He sends me photos of it every few days and it never ceases to fill me with joy and wonder. So beautiful. (Though I totally missed the lunar eclipse this morning and I'm so mad! I was up and everything, just forgot to look!)

Anyway, yes. I'm home alone this morning and missing both of them terribly. I frequently experience the fervent desire to have some time to myself only to fall into absolute gales of loneliness once I have it. It's the most bizarre thing. Nevertheless, I'm working on learning Adobe Illustrator and also painting a lot of watercolors lately. This is my latest thing. I absolutely love it. Amelia and I have been doing Skillshare painting classes together (here is a link to a free trial if you are interested) and it's really fun. I've been painting a lot on my own when she is done. I don't really know what I am doing but I am enjoying it more than I can even say. I've been meaning to tell you that, yes, I totally dropped the ball on my "Tender Year" series after June. I have to confess I was already struggling to do the embroidery patterns every month and then when mid-summer hit I knew I had to get my fall and winter cross stitch designs done and I just could not get it all done. It was too much, especially with no school. I instead started to paint all of the little things I had drawn and embroidered so far. I don't know why. I played around with maybe making a calendar out of them. I'm not sure where it is all going, but I'm riding this wave. I'm learning to just go with these things are do my best. I am hoping to get back to Tender Year next year. It will be Tender Years, apparently. Well, they are. So I guess I should've seen it coming.

It's soup season. I need to go hunt down my favorite recipes. And bake some bread. That's what November is for.

New Designs Now Available!

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Evening Skate Blog

Update regarding Typepad problems: Apparently the problems at Typepad have been solved and the blog should be working these photos should look normal now — I truly apologize for the frustration, and thank you all for the orders! Back tomorrow with a normal blog post, fingers crossed everything works!!! Agh!

BUT: Hello! Do you like WINTER? Oh boy I do. I have three new designs for winter and Christmas for you! The first is EVENING SKATE, above!

This design was inspired by its frame. Weird, I know. But one morning I was browsing eBay for vintage frames, as I do, and I found four of these matching frames available for a pretty decent price, so I bought them. They're nice and generously sized — the frame opening is about 9.5" x 12.5" — and the frame itself was thin, the way I like. The wood color and finish just reminded me of some of my mom's embroideries from the '80s. And it got me thinking about what I wanted to design for this.  Since I had four of them I knew I would do a seasonal series for winter, spring, summer, and fall. And I've been wanting to do something kind of Grandma Moses–inspired for a while. So I had the idea of the ice-skating rink I used to go to in my old neighborhood, when I was a child. It was an outdoor rink at Keystone Park in River Forest (Illinois), a few blocks from the house where I grew up. Every year they would flood the park and make an ice-skating rink for the neighborhood. On winter weekends when we were growing up, my friend Monica Sloger and I would meet up at the end of my street and walk with our pom-pom-decorated skates hung over our shoulders to Keystone Park to skate. It would be so cold, so we'd have double-socks on, and hats and mittens and scarves. Sometimes we'd bring thermoses of hot chocolate to drink in the warming house there. Oh, we used to skate for hours and hours. They would shovel snow off of the rink and pile it up around the sides. Sometimes the big boys would play hockey on one side of the rink so you'd have to watch out. Neither Monica nor I had ever taken any lessons or anything like that, so we weren't very good. But we'd hold hands and try to help each other skate backwards, occasionally do a wobbling spin. When it got dark, we'd head home, walking under the train tracks and near the woods. Funny how I was never afraid then. If it was Sunday, I knew my mom would be making dinner, maybe spaghetti sauce (just "sauce," if you're Italian — we are [though apparently not by DNA, I've come to find out — story for another day]) or chicken and dumplings or beef Stroganoff. Something rich and warm. And my fingers and toes would be just bone cold, and I'd run them under warm water, trying to resist turning it up as hot as I could. Gosh, I just loved ice skating. I remember when I first moved to Portland twenty-five years ago I was stunned to find out it doesn't really snow here. I'd had no idea! I'd never lived anywhere that it didn't snow, and Portland seemed pretty far north to me? But no. Skating happens indoors here (and I have a reconstructed foot, so it doesn't happen for me now at all). But those starry, sparkling-cold nights walking home from Keystone Park still live in my dreams as one of the best parts of childhood, and one of the things that I look back on with longing.

So Evening Skate is my tribute to that place and that time. I have three more designs for spring, summer, and fall planned, and spring and summer are already designed. All four designs are similar in that they share the same alphabet and general design elements, though the details are different. Spring is has a group of people planting a garden, summer has them swimming in a pond, and fall will have them picking pumpkins in a pumpkin patch.

It is stitched on 32-count Belfast linen in Mystic Gray. The design area is 8.63"w x by 10.5"h (22cm x27) on 32-count, and 138 stitches wide x 168 stitches high. The work is done with DMC six-strand cotton floss. Almost all of the design is done with 2 plies of floss over 2 threads EXCEPT for the doggie, which is done 1 over 1. It's not as hard as you'd think, so please don't be intimidated by that. (I just needed that dog to be a dog, and I couldn't do it 2 over 2.) Kits include a printed full-color pattern with a four-page chart, the fabric, and all the floss you need. The frame is not included in the kit. :) The kit is available here. The PDF pattern-only is available here with both full-color and black-and-white four-page charts. This is a big pattern. I recommend printing patterns at 100% (no scaling) at high quality for best results.

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Next up is CHRISTMAS IS COMING! This is a cross-stitch ornament kit that includes everything you need to make the four ornaments here. The finished size of them is about 3" x 3" (and the stitching area is about 2" square). The pattern with the kit includes full-color charts as well as a photo-illustrated tutorial on how to mount the stitching to make the ornaments. The kit includes the cross stitch fabric (32-count Belfast linen in Stone Gray), the cardstock on which you will mount the stitching, the vintage calico fabric, quilt batting to make the stitching a bit puffed up, the ribbons, and four of these cute little "2022" charms with 8mm jump rings to attach to the back (or front, if you like):

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Cute! We have Andy Paulson to thank for these! (And I still have many extra charms on-hand, so if you are buying the PDF pattern for this but you need some charms, please email me and I’ll send you some!)

Anyway, these little ornaments were designed kind of on a whim – I don’t know but I have just been feeling so nostalgic lately, and yearning for things that remind me of home (as in, childhood home). I was remembering this time when I was around Amelia’s age, probably a few years older, and I was in a play called Ebenezer. It was a version of A Christmas Carol that was put on every year by the Village Players in Oak Park (Illinois) and I was a member of the children’s cast for several years (any suburban Chicagoans out there remember the Village Players?). We kids had a pretty small roll (it was a mostly adult community theater company) so the group of eight or nine of us kids spent a LOT of time just hanging out in a room backstage, waiting to go on. It was such a fun time. The production was Victorian and we had to have our own costumes. One year (this was sometime in the early 1980s) I saw the cutest outfit probably at Marshall Field’s or Weiboldt’s (those were two of our department stores in Oak Park) and it was a long skirt and a vest made out of dark green velveteen trimmed with cream-colored rosebud calico, worn with a high-collared, full-sleeved kind of prairie blouse with a little self-tie at the neck made out of the same calico as the trim. Oh, I wanted it so bad! But it was expensive and my mom said it was too expensive. At the time, Weiboldt’s still had a fabric department upstairs. And I remember we went up there and looked through the pattern books and found a pattern (seriously, it was probably this one, or something very similar to this) and found green velveteen fabric and cream rosebud calico and she literally made me practically the exact same one that I wanted but even better. It was perfect. I loved that outfit so much. I felt so excited to wear it every night of that play. My mom could and would sew me anything I ever wanted, even in college, and it was all beautiful.

Well, these little calicos are vintage ‘80s and remind me exactly of that outfit, and the cream rosebud one might have even been the exact fabric that my mom used for my outfit. It looked exactly like that. I wanted to design something that was very simple with very few colors that would be really good for beginners, or if you just wanted to whip something up for a friend or co-worker in one evening. And if you want to make all four for your own tree I think that would be wonderful. And I hope they spark a happy memory of days gone by for you, too. The Christmas is Coming! kit is available here. And the PDF pattern is available here. :)

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Now on to what I think/hope might be a memory for Amelia. This past summer, the ballet school she’s been going to since she was three closed down permanently. Amelia is a casual dancer – I mean, I don’t think she’s serious enough about it (or anything yet) to really pursue it to any great extent. But she enjoys it well enough and I want her to do some kind of after-school sport (I have a lot of thoughts about this that I find myself needing to express to someone, anyone, somewhere, but I will spare you here and save that for a post for another day), so we decided to keep doing ballet but at a different ballet school (further away, more expensive, but we’ve decided to give it this year to see if it’s still something she wants to continue to do. This school is lovely (from what I can tell; parents aren’t let in the buildings anymore, unfortunately) and they do quite a production of The Nutcracker every year.

When Covid hit, Amelia was in first grade and she was a couple of months away from being in her first ballet recital, which was scheduled to be held in the big theater at a nearby community college. That got canceled and never was rescheduled. Then they had a very small in-person performance for just parents this past summer, but it was basically in their regular classroom and not particularly fancy. So this year, she will be in her new school’s production of The Nutcracker and it feels like kind of a big deal! She is a “party girl” from the “rich family” (which of course she is thrilled by, ha!). This is in the party scene at the beginning. She is wearing a fancy white dress (and apparently her sash is purple, though I didn’t know about the purple sash when I designed this, or I might have made it purple instead of blue; though I guess blue feels more traditional) and also a “wiglet” (I wish I had a video of the first time I showed her the wiglet – her face was hilarious – she just stared at it like she was trying to figure out what it was and then she finally understood it and burst out laughing – it’s basically a cluster of ringlet curls that they wear over their buns).

Anyway! I personally love The Nutcracker and I designed this for Amelia because I think, even if she doesn’t decide to continue to dance, this will be a memorable experience for her, just like my childhood theater stuff was for me. Aside from singing one song onstage with her first-grade class at parents’ night a few years ago, she’s never been onstage before. I just wanted to make something to celebrate this ballet that is beloved to so many people during the Christmas season. In my design, NUTCRACKER SWEET, Clara wakes from her snowy, sweet dream under the giant tree. . . .

Nutcracker Sweet Blog

I had more fun stitching this than I have had in a long time! It is done on 32-count Belfast linen in Blush with DMC threads. You could easily change Clara’s skin tone and hair coloring to reflect your own dancer’s with a little bit of extra floss that you might have, or if you need some let me know what kinds of colors you need and I’ll be happy to send along. My favorite parts of this design are the owl clock and the mouse crown (which Amelia herself suggested). I will say that it has been really difficult to get this Belfast Blush here – I’ve been waiting for it for way over a month, and they were only able to send me seven yards. (“Supply chain issues” are real, and really frustrating.) So we have a total of only EIGHTY kits in stock right now – if you want this one, don’t wait. We will make more when more fabric comes in, but I’m having a very hard time pinning my distributor down on when exactly that will be. So I honestly feel incredibly grateful that they were able to send me seven yards, and I’ve been waiting to launch these here until I had it in my hot little hands (because mama has been burned before, people). Anyway, we have eighty kits in stock right now and will be shipping all orders next week. The Nutcracker Sweet kit is available here. And the PDF pattern (with both color and black-and-white charts) is available here.

And to go with this, my gosh this is a lengthy post, but we also have a new lotion bar, called SUGARPLUM lotion bar:

Sugarplum Blog

Yes. I could not resist. This would make such a sweet little stocking stuffer. It is a bit more petite than our other lotion bars. It is made with beeswax from the local bees of Mickleberry Gardens (and their beeswax is absolutely the best, and I have tried a few); coconut oil; shea butter; lanolin; and a natural fragrance oil from my favorite trusted source for apothecary supplies, Brambleberry (you can read about the difference between essential oils and their natural fragrance oils here). It has a sweet, fruity scent that is a mix of grapefruit, raspberry, melon, sweet pea, rose, and coconut. It is perhaps a less sophisticated scent than our other lotion bars made with essential oils. But it is just delightful and I’m so happy to add it to our collection for the holiday season. We have just restocked ALL of our lotion bars after being sold out for a while (they go quick) – but Andy made a ton of these for me last week while he was home on vacation, thank you babe! So they are ready for you and make great little teacher gifts, stocking stuffers, or hostess presents. As always, they come in a reusable tin, ready for gifting.

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Okay guys, I have rambled on for a long time here. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to post this but as I said, I needed to have that pink fabric in hand before I said a word about any of these, and on top of that, Typepad does not seem to be working properly, either (I can see that these photos are cut off on the side, but I think it's on their end, so will try to investigate). I also think I will trot out my backlist winter designs (I forgot to do it for fall) again here soon because I do like to do that on the blog to see all the seasonal stuff together, but that will wait until next week. I’m so excited to have these new things out here, and I truly wish you many happy hours of stitching these designs in the coming colder days. Much love to you all, and thank you for being here. Xo, a

Also: I'm just so curious: What are your memories like this, that you find yourself returning to? Specifically, I mean? Do you have a certain winter memory that just makes you smile, or cry, or . . . something in between? If you have time please share them here with me, especially the little details. I'm feeling so strangely full of longing these days (maybe this happens when your baby turns 10? I don't know) and I really want to hear if anyone else can relate.

Big Birthday Girl

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My baby is ten years old. I know. I can't, either. I just cannot believe it. My big, beautiful girl is ten. She had such an amazing birthday weekend. Andy's parents flew in from Chicago for the first time in three years. It was pure joy having them here after so long. One of Andy's family's traditions is to wake-up the birthday child (or adult!) in the early, early morning with a rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" and a plateful of lit candles for them to blow out, so we always do that here. It's super sweet. By some awesome stroke of luck, Amelia didn't have school on her birthday, and her grandparents had arrived the day before, so she got to spend the whole day with them and my mom, who we met at the food carts for lunch. The weather was bright and sunny all weekend and we had so much fun hanging out. Amelia decorated her own cake on Friday afternoon and I made chicken paprika and dumplings for her for dinner. (I make it in the Instant Pot so I need to rewrite that recipe.) On Saturday we all sat around and played with the things she had gotten for her birthday, and then on Sunday afternoon she had her friend-party at the roller-skating rink. That was absolutely wonderful. Her friends all came and skated for an hour or so and then they were all able to have pizza, juice, soda, cotton candy, and cupcakes (!!! I know!) in the cafe. They all did so well on skates I couldn't believe it. I mean, don't get me wrong, there was a whole lot of wiping out and a few tears, but overall they were all smiles and I think everyone (Andy and another dad skated with them, but most of the kids did pretty well on their own) had a blast. It was just a great day, and a great weekend. We dropped Andy's parents off at the airport yesterday morning and they made it home safe and sound. We all slept well last night. I am so proud of Amelia. It was a long, busy, wonderful weekend, and we will still be trying to hook up with more family and birthfamily in the coming days, but this girl is a partier!

Did you see the crocheted bonsai tree that Andy made for Amelia? Amazing. He's been working on it for weeks. (Here is the pattern he used.) He has crocheted something for her for her birthday every year since she's been born. I made her a bowl in my ceramics class. She's so cute opening her presents. I always forget this, especially on Christmas, but Amelia is a very slow present opener. She does not tear through her gifts to get onto the next one. She is very slow and deliberate about them, and generally looks carefully at everything. It's very, very sweet.

I just can't believe she's ten years old. I'm overwhelmed with love and so grateful for the miracle of her life. I'm just so, so grateful to be her mama. My sweet, amazing, darling girl. You have been pure joy since the moment you entered the world. I love you so.

Ceramics!

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Pottery Blog

My office is overflowing with pottery things I've made so I listed some ceramic pins and soap dishes in my shop. All between $10-20 each. I love pottery! It's so much fun.

Pumpkin and Sunshine

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Oh, the sunshine. The sunsunsunshine. It shines and shines and shines. Like, 88-degrees-everyday-and-no-shade shines. It just keeps shining. Every single day. Into October. We're now in October. And it's still 88 degrees. (Note: That was yesterday, when I wrote that — today, trying to finish this, it is cool and cloudy and I am thrilled.)

We went to the pumpkin patch! Everyone wanted to wear plaid and flannel, so they did. All were sweating by 1 p.m. But darn it, it was worth it. Hasten autumn! I am ready for you! My retinas at the very least are ready for you!

Thank you so much for the orders for the new kit and patterns! I truly appreciate every single one of them. All of the Pumpkin & Moonshine kits were shipped last week. The patterns for the kits and for the future Christmas kits are all here; I'm waiting for one more bolt of fabric and then I will at the very least launch pre-orders for all of those. I'm excited about them. Three very different things. Stay tuned for more.

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I took the week off of cross-stitching now that I'm kind of in a waiting mode — waiting for fabric to arrive, waiting for Andy to pull floss. The hard parts for me (basically the pattern writing and proofing, and sending off for printing) for this next batch are done, so I treated myself to some plain old knitting. I made a really cute sweater for Amelia from the Stopover Cardigan pattern by Mary Jane Mucklestone. I knit it in NatureSpun worsted on size US11 needles (huge!). It made a very floppy, very loose fabric (that has grown like crazy with blocking, but hopefully will still fit her). I made the women's size XS. It's a steeked cardigan so I'll steek it once it's dry. I gave three big bags of Amelia's outgrown hand-knits to my friend yesterday to pass down within our friend group who has younger girls and it was very liberating. And now I see that Amelia needs stuff. I couldn't see it before with all of the old, too-small stuff hanging around. So on the list for her are new mittens, new hat, new legwarmers, and new ballet sweater, for a start.

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If there is a folded-up quilt around, Agatha will find it and put herself into it and take a nap. Isn't that the cutest? She totally put herself here.

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Amelia helped make cookies (we made butterscotch chip cookies from this recipe which I think is the absolute best best best — I have never been able to make good chocolate-chip cookies myself from the Tollhouse recipe but now with this McCormick recipe I do and I am happy to have found it; I think I originally stumbled upon it on Pinterest). Then I made this Spicy Chicken Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Cabbage by Sohla El-Waylly and it was possibly the best soup I have ever had in my life. Not just made, actually had. I used four bon-in, skin-on chicken thighs but otherwise did everything exactly the same, down to the Fritos (also possibly the first time I've ever bought Fritos — you could definitely just use any kind of corn tortilla chips here). WOW. It was so great. Amelia and I had it for dinner and then Andy came home and ate the rest of it. There was not a drop left. It was that good. Highly recommend. I love Sohla's videos and recipes. (I watch a lot of cooking videos on YouTube streamed to my TV, which is so nice.)

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Kind of a cool thing happened yesterday when Andy and I were about to leave the house. Some people showed up and said they were from Salt Lake City and their relatives used to live here from 1946-49 and they brought us some pictures. The first one is of the house (obviously) and the second one is of the daughter of the family who lived here. She's with her fiance or husband (I think the man said this might have been an engagement pictures?) in front of our fireplace. She was 18 and he was 20. Aren't they just so lovely and fancy and sweet? Look at her gorgeous dress! What is that flower spray on the fireplace behind them? And look, the shelves had doors! And the woodwork is so nice and clean. And their carpet is gorgeous. The people didn't stay very long but I gave them my card and I hope they get back in touch and send more pictures. They said they would! Fingers crossed. It was such a random and cool thing!

Pumpkin & Moonshine, and Something for the Birthday Girl!

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BlogBeauty

Hello! This is my new kit and pattern for Halloween! It's called Pumpkin & Moonshine (inspired by one of our very favorite books). I have always wanted to do some little silhouettes and this seemed like the perfect opportunity! These designs are done on 32-count Belfast linen in the color Antique Ivory, which is sort of like this wonderful, warm pale pumpkin-rind color. And they are stitched with two skeins of DMC six-strand cotton floss in color #3371. The kit is $23 and includes a full-color printed pattern with a black-and-white chart, a 14" x 16" piece of fabric that you can use to stitch both designs, and two skeins of floss. The kit is available here. The downloadable PDF pattern is available here.

The framing supplies are not included in the kit, but here's the story of how I framed these: I often surf eBay for vintage and antique frames for my cross stitch. Some old frames come in really weird sizes that are not standard. I found two little 3" x 7" frames, new in their package, and the price was right so I ordered them. Before they came I was excited and I went ahead and designed these based on the reported frame opening. By the time the frames came, the stitching was done — but the stitched pieces looked really bad in the frames. (The frames were too dark and heavy, and the stitching went way to close to the opening edges, and I just didn't like it.)

So I cut two pieces of 1/4"-thick foam core that were 4" x 8" and wrapped my stitched fabrics around them. (By the way, I buy these boards to use for my cross-stitch pieces, and cut them with a sharp Exacto knife if necessary, and I use short sequin pins to secure the fabric through the edges of the foam core — if you are interested in a tutorial for how I do this, I have details here.) Then I cut a few pieces of kraft cardstock (you could use a cereal box, or some cardboard pieces, or a leftover flat mailer) that were just 1/4" wider all the way around than the mounted embroidery (so, 4.5" x 8.5"). I happen to have a plum tree out front with very straight twigs on it, so I cut some of those perfectly to size (keep the top one a bit longer) and hot-glued them to the cardstock just on the verrrry edges of the cardstock. Make sure you can fit the mounted embroidery in the space and then you can glue that in, too (though I just used fabric glue for that — hot glue around actual embroidery kind of scares me because I'm not that good with it and the glue gun is always falling over and getting on everything). Then I tied a little piece of leather cord (kinda like this one, which comes in a bunch of colors) to the longer ends of the top twig. And voila! I really like them!

I am using a new printer and all four of my new patterns that I am kitting (including three Christmas patterns that I will be releasing in the next week or two) were sent to the printer last week and they are due to arrive here on Monday, September 26. As soon as they get here we will get Pumpkin & Moonshine orders out the door on Tuesday, as I have all the fabric cut and the floss is waiting!

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I have also designed this sweet little treat, called Birthday Girl. I made it for Amelia's upcoming birthday because this girl just loves her candy, and her cute little things, and balloons, and everything sweet. (It didn't seem right to use her actual name and birth date for something I was going to sell, so I just purposely made up a name and date that would fit her name perfectly, but I apologize if this bears any resemblance to someone's actual name/birth date! I'm going to frog all of this and replace it with Amelia's details when I get a chance.) I think it would also be so cute as a birth announcement for a new baby! It's quick to work up and really fun to stitch. The Birthday Girl pattern comes with both a full-color chart with symbols and a black-and-white chart with symbols, as well as a full alphabet chart with both capital and lowercase letters, numerals from 0-9, and a blank worksheet for you to create your own text at the bottom of the pattern. It is available only as a downloadable PDF pattern, not as a kit.

I am going to start designing more patterns that I release only as PDFs. This just sort of frees me up as a designer sometimes, as I don't have to worry so much about which fabric I am using and whether it's going to be available by the time I go to kit it, and which floss colors I'm using and whether I have enough to kit, etc. And also — it's just easier and faster to do a pattern, for obvious reasons! So yeah, more patterns coming in the future!

That said, as mentioned above, I have three more new Christmas/winter kits/patterns coming, and they are all finished and printed and are being shipped to me as I write. I don't want to launch them until I have the fabric in hand (that's the most important thing to have, and let me tell you, it can be tricky to get fabric in large quantities these days) and the fabric has been ordered, and some of it has been shipped (and some of it is on its way from Europe). I'm crossing every finger until it all gets here and then I will show you pictures and have all the information! I'm really excited. It feels so good to be making things!

We Can Do It

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1stDay

School has started! Child is excited! There have been many emotions!

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The first two weeks are under our belts and overall things seem to be going well, though I won't lie — it's been intense! Amelia is excited, her teacher is lovely, the kids are wonderful. It's great to be back, and we are figuring it out. The first week she was "revving high," as we say here. Lots of zooming around the school yard, lots of hooting noises, lots of chasing people trying to give them things, or pick them up or carry them around, or — I honestly don't even know what all was happening. Andy took the first week of school off and he and I would be there waiting together under the tree when the last bell rang, and she would be as energized at 3 p.m. as she was at 8:30 a.m. At home, also lots of energy, lots of talking in a very intense new, big-girl sort of voice (you know it if you've heard it — I can't explain), lots of excitement, a tiebreaker-in-the-fifth-set sort of ever-present anticipation, knees bouncing, racquet up: Ready to serve! Ready to receive! Then, on the third or so day after Andy went back to work, sudden tears. Clinging. Hugging on the blacktop. She didn't want me to leave. The bell rang and she bravely carried forth. I shed a tear of my own on the way home. Oh, my heart. The teacher sweetly emailed me later in the morning with the subject line "weepy drop-off." She let me know that she had given Meems some extra TLC when they had gotten up to the classroom and all was well. (I so appreciated the email! During the school day! Wow!)

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The days rolled by. We started getting used to the new routine. New bedtime-time, new breakfast-eating time, new leaving-the-house time. At school, several reported wipe-outs and trips to the nurse's office — a scraped elbow, a second scraped elbow (on the same day), and then yesterday a completely scraped NOSE. And lip. When pressed: "I was carrying Caitlin piggyback and I fell into the grass with my face." Telling me for the fourteenth time that she is "strong enough to carry a fifth grader." Me: "That's wonderful, but unless you are carrying someone out of a burning building, I want everyone's feet on the ground." Gah. Yesterday, after the nose-scraping wipe-out, her first after-school class at new ballet school across town (our [mellow] old nearby one has permanently closed): It did not go well. Parking/drop-off was chaos. The class was also very crowded (not great), and after it she came flying out the door, red-faced and streaming tears, throwing herself into my arms and saying that her shoes were too small, and she had a giant hole in her tights, and she "didn't know anything." Me: "Oh sweetheart! It's okay! What did the teacher say?" Her, wailing: "I have no idea!!! I didn't understand anything!" Ooof.

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So yeah. She left school halfway through first grade. And now she's going back as a fourth grader. She was a little kid, and now she's a big kid. As capable as she is, and as positive as she is, it's been a leap, across a very real gap, and not without a few tears and a few tumbles. But I am just so, so proud of her. I'm constantly in awe of her bravery. My big, beautiful girl. Today after school she wants to go to the dance store to get new ballet slippers to be ready for ballet class tomorrow. She said, "Everyone who saw my nose was like, 'Oh my gosh, what happened to your nose? Are you okay? Does that hurt?' but I just said, "Nope! Ha ha!'" Me: [insert quizzical emoji face] "Mmmkay!" She's figuring things out. Andy and I are figuring things out.  And just trying to take it one day at a time. It really has been kind of a manic two weeks, comparatively. I keep remembering to be gentle with her, and be gentle with everyone, and with . . . everything, everywhere. And to give it the time to let it all settle, as it feels a bit like a prescribed dust-storm right now. But it's starting to settle. I think it's starting to settle.

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I've been home designing cross stitch patterns. I have five new designs for you. Literally five. In like . . . two weeks of work? Apparently I had a few ideas I'd been waiting to explore. Fingers flying. I will be back with at least one to launch right away. It's for Halloween. My first-ever Halloween design. I'm not really into Halloween. But I don't think anyone considers you a legit cross stitch designer until you have designed something for Halloween so you know I did. I want to proof the pattern one more time and then I'll have it here for you ASAP.

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 These are heady, exciting, mildly nutso days! My girl is growing and learning and changing and trying. And so am I.

And the winners are . . .

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Drawing

3rd Place: Laura Minnich

2nd Place: Kristin Singer

GRAND PRIZE: Ruth Scherer

My "summer ends" sale ended last night at midnight! This morning I printed out all of the names of every person who ordered since the sale started last week and Amelia pulled three winners out of the bag. Congratulations to you Laura, Kristin, and Ruth! And thank you so much to everyone who ordered/entered! That was very exciting! We will have to do that more often now that I have the web site set up for sales. I still have a few orders from the past two days to ship out today, and I will be contacting the winners and getting their prizes out early next week! And I'll be back with a blog post then, too! Lots of exclamation points! XOXOXOXOXO, a

Near the Summer's End

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The Paulsons, Portland, OR, August 4, 2022

Our vacation was really fun, sunny, wet, and hot. We will remember our favorite memories which are mourning doves, floating in the river, crayfish, cool mornings, eagles, wildlife, sandwiches, sleeping, photography, Great British Baking Show, crocheting on the porch, tacos, taking baths, ridiculous tubers, reading, watching Sonic 2, warm rain, eating lunch while relaxing in the river, flowers, fresh air, geese, sleepovers, knitting, pancakes and bacon, which rock is bigger (game), fishies, music, nice rooms, birds, clean, cold water, and listening to meals being cooked.

(Written by Amelia [though we all contributed our favorite memories] in the guest book on the morning of our departure from the river house; edited for spelling :)

I know I've been gone for a while, and I'm not even that sure where I've been. Nowhere, really. Honestly, this summer has been quietly wonderful. We didn't do anything big. There were days at the library and days at the park, days at the pool and lunches in the shade, ice creams and popsicles. Play dates, playgrounds. A lemonade stand. A trip to a movie theater for brunch, a day at the mall. Days spent outside at grandma's, afternoons spent watching television at home in the air conditioning. Bike rides and reading. Before school starts, we're planning a trip to the zoo next week. The sweet, simple pleasures of a summer where we didn't have endless heat waves (they were short) and the sky wasn't filled with wildfire smoke. I've never been so grateful for a summer.

We went to the river house for several days this month for our annual summer vacation. The owner texted me the morning before we were supposed to leave and said, you can actually come today if you want to — no one's here and it's ready for you. For free! We were all just sitting around for once, so we packed real quick and headed down a whole day early. Bonus day! It was great. That was just so nice of him. Amelia used my big camera a lot and took some of the photos above. I usually have epic reading experiences at the river but this year — I really had no book that pleased me! And it was kind of a bummer! But, never mind. I sat in the river under my beach umbrella, listening to eagles calling, listening to the water, listening to Amelia and Andy play. The riverbed is covered with a thick layer of giant, slippery cobblestones. Millions of them. It's very shallow where we are, but very hard to walk in, so my foot and I usually stay put. Amelia walked up ten or fifteen yards and floated back toward a waiting Andy dozens of times. Every day, all day. He patiently waited for her to "swim" down to him. She loved it so much. I loved watching them. Overhead, swallows swooped. I tried to take some quilt pictures but it was so hard — I had forgotten the tripod, so it was impossible to get good shots inside. (I'm still planning to sell some of these but I seriously cannot get decent photos of them and it stresses me out.) For dinner, we made tacos, or chicken verde, or spaghetti. For lunch we ate sandwiches in the sun. At night we watched The Great British Baking Show, something we did last year and loved doing again. We have traditions there. It's our ninth summer there. We've been going since Amelia was baby. She says it's her favorite place in the world. I think it's mine and Andy's too. Gosh, it was just so nice.

It was sweet but short, though. The end of summer is nearing so quickly. Amelia starts school back at her neighborhood elementary school on August 30, and as that date approaches I am filled with so many conflicting emotions I can't even count them, let alone name them. I am a spaghetti tangle of feelings. Andy and I have both been working a lot the past few weeks. I have some new designs coming up that I am excited to tell you about — I will have a birthday/birth announcement sampler pattern release this fall, and then a whole brand new seasonal cross-stitch kit (and pattern) series available for 2022-23. The first one of the new series will be released as a pre-order in a few weeks — it is a winter design called Evening Skate. I have winter, spring, and summer already (digitally) designed, and am working on autumn 2023 (so, a year ahead — wow, first time for me to plan ahead!). Anyway, I also have some exciting (to me, at least) announcements coming up this fall — my wholesale preparations are getting going (I'll be talking more about that soon), Andy and I are testing out some brand new lotion-bar shapes and scents (and yes, we will finally be restocking our classic bars [and a lot of our sold-out supplies in general] as well), I want to have some cross-stitch Christmas ornament patterns for you, I will be dyeing some yarn for a holiday release, I want to write a new quilt pattern, and my friend has invited me to participate in something really awesome next spring (more on that soon!). So, school is starting for Amelia and work is starting for me!

Before that, let's have a sale! In preparation for making my web site ready for selling patterns wholesale, my web designer added something I've been wanting on my site for a while now: a discount code! Yay! I have been wanting this for ages and finally it has happened! And as a way of saying thank you to every one of you for being here on this blog and in my web shop through thick and thin, I would like to have an end-of-summer sale of 15% off everything in my web shop from now until the end of August.

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In addition to that, every single person who orders anything on my web site during the sale time will be ENTERED INTO A DRAWING for one of three prizes:

Third prize: One Stitcher's RSVP kit (currently sold out!), or any in-stock kit of your choice if you already have this one

Second prize: One Stitcher's RSVP kit (see above), one Hardwicke Manor 4" embroidery hoop, one package of twill tape (for wrapping hoop), one package of Bohin size #24 tapestry needles for cross stitch

GRAND PRIZE: One Stitcher's RSVP kit (see above), one Hardwicke Manor 4" embroidery hoop, one package of twill tape (for wrapping hoop), one package of Bohin size #24 tapestry needles for cross stitch, one Bohin heart-shaped 3 1/2" embroidery scissors, one skein of hand-dyed fingering-weight yarn, one yet-to-be-released new-designed lotion bar, one big bar of all-natural handmade cold-processed soap, and one handmade-by-me ceramic soap dish!

You don't have to do anything besides order to enter (and you can place as many orders as you like, but there will only be one entry per customer). The sale will go from now until midnight on August 31! After the sale ends, I will put all of the customer names who have ordered during that period into a hat and have Amelia draw three winners. I will announce them here on Thursday, September 1!

I've never done anything like this before but I've always wanted to! I've been so conflicted about summer ending, but I hope this will be fun for all of us, and I look forward to seeing who wins! And thank you very much for participating!

Parks and Playdates

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Oh my, the busy days! A lot of these photos were on my phone. We've been busy around town and busy at home. Amelia went to a week of pottery camp and is doing tennis camp this week. In between there have been lots of visits to parks with friends and having friends over and swimming with friends and just generally having a lot of fun. It's wonderful. I try to take these big vertical photos to show you the big trees at our playgrounds. At least the playgrounds that this mama prefers! (Some playgrounds literally have no trees and no shade, and I honestly cannot handle those.) It's hot today — 97 degrees forecasted — but really, until today, the weather has been absolutely perfect this summer. Eighty degrees and sunny, sometimes cloudy (yay!). Once it stopped raining, the sun came out (mostly) and the local gardens absolutely exploded with joy. We needed that rain so, so much. A few months of spring rain has made summer living just blissful. Absolutely blissful. I'd forgotten that the grass could be green, the plants could survive, the trees could look quenched in July. Well, I am loving it.

Next week is Andy's and my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Egads!!! That means we've been together for thirty years now. Silver anniversary. Instead of getting a silver present, we bought three little gardens to plant in our raised beds. We got one August Afternoons and two Summer Dreams pre-planned gardens, all from High Country Gardens. They shipped to us back in May and we planted them then. The plants were very small and a few did not make it. But all of the rain we had this spring — oh man. What a lucky, lucky break for us and these little gardens. Everything got watered in so well and now it is just lush and growing beautifully. The above picture is from the day last week when Andy planted a few of the replacement plants I bought at Portland Nursery and Amelia was helping him dig and tidy. We weeded everything, trimmed the vinca and clover, and fixed the willow fences, and everything is looking so pretty now. (In the picture there are a lot of oak leaves on the ground, and I'm now remembering that in the days before it was really windy one night and a ton of leaves blew down from the neighbor's trees — that was weird, because they usually don't do that.) But anyway, that area looks better in real life now than it does in that picture and I will take another one to show you how nice. I think I really recommend these gardens. We have replanted that areas so many times. Over the past twenty years it has been a rose garden, many failed vegetable gardens, a random wildflower garden, a random flower seed garden, and kind of a messy dahlia garden. BUT NOW it is going to be an August Afternoons and Summer Dreams garden and I am absolutely determined to take care of it and not replant this area again.

The tree to the left of Amelia in the picture is a gnarly old plum tree that dies more every year. I'm fairly certain it's almost a hundred years old and it has had so many large limbs that have died and then been trimmed that it just looks horrendous. It also drops cherry-sized plums all over the sidewalk which explode upon landing and make such a mess that people actually cross the street rather than walk past our house (like right now — they're falling now). We are going to apply for a permit to have it removed and replace it with an Eddie's White Wonder dogwood I think it is. Or a Venus dogwood or a Starlight — any opinions on these? (There's a list of approved parkway trees under power lines that we have to choose from.) I hope our permit gets approved. You can't really see the tree in this picture but it has a large, low-hanging limb that hangs over the driveway into our neighbor's parkway and it is dead now. There are sooooo many of these plum trees around Portland and they all look to be really ancient and just totally gnarly. The plums are sour as anything (and are super tiny to boot) and the trees just get so covered in lichen and suckers and, I don't know. They're pretty gross. I wonder if they were all planted at the time these neighborhoods were built in the 1920s. I have no idea how much it is going to cost to remove the tree, or plant a new one. I'm scared. I hope it's not a huge amount of money. We've been putting this off for a while. We were told the last time we got the tree trimmed (maybe four years ago) that it needed to be 50% dead to be removed, and ours was only 40% dead. Pah!

Anyway, mid-July. I'm taking a pottery class at the community college down the road. I went to my first class on Friday, having completely missed the actual first class the week before because I read the date wrong. I literally almost cried. I was just sitting around doing nothing, anxiously awaiting the start of my pottery class!!! Hello! I threw two pots in the class. Well, in open studios, too. The class is from about 9:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and then open studios (where you get to just practice on your own) is from 1:30 until 4:30. My second pot took me two hours, I do know that. The clay (B mix?) was so, I don't know, sturdy? I couldn't get the pot "open." I didn't want to mess it up! Which was just silly. But I mean . . . let me just say . . . how unbelievably awesome it is to just sit there for two hours and throw one pot. I didn't even care. The music was on, the other students were so sweet and friendly, the teachers were just great. And I just sat and centered the clay and then opened the clay and then pulled up the sides. For two hours. One pot. Me to teacher, at 3:30: "Paul, I want to throw another pot but we only have an hour!" Paul, drily: "I could throw an entire dinner set in an hour." Hah! Paul. Gahhhh, it was so amazing. I was there from 9:30 until 4:30, all by myself! I don't know the actual last time I spent seven entire hours away from either Andy or Amelia. It's been years, guys. Y e a r s. It felt like the most ridiculous luxury. Throwing pots! Listening to non-Minecraft music! Not rushing because no one needed me to do something other than what I was doing, and nothing had to be cooked or cleaned there, and no one was crying about anything, or needed to be driven somewhere! Oh have mercy it was an exquisite indulgence, and to think I missed the first class!!!!!!!!!

Thank you SO MUCH for all of the orders these past few weeks, as well. I am so grateful for your orders and your interest and enthusiasm — thank you so much! The Stitcher's RSVP kit is almost sold out and I haven't decided if we will re-issue it. I have some extra evenweave fabric from kits over the years that I am going to try to use up before buying more. The minimum amounts I need to order from the distributor have increased (for certain fabrics) and I just don't have the numbers that I used to to make doing large quantities of kits an absolute no-brainer like it used to be. 2022 was the year I was supposed to be getting my patterns ready for wholesale (along with, you know, 2021, and 2020, blurgh) and I am going to focus on that when Amelia goes back to school in the fall. I swear I am going to! That said, I have lots of new ideas, so I will have lots of new patterns — they just might not all make it into kit form. We'll see. It's been a long few years and I've been doing my best not to just get . . . lost in space. Like everyone else, I'm sure. One foot in front of the other. That said, A Tender Year: July hasn't even been designed yet. It'll all get done eventually, I hope. Maybe just not during this actual tender year. But when I have more help from Portland Public Schools.

Some good shows: The Great Pottery Throwdown (obbbbbviously). We've watched it two or three times now (and the most recent season is so great). We really liked Signora Volpe (kind of a cross between Miss Marple and Under the Tuscan Sun). I just finished bingeing all of the seasons of Line of Duty on the recommendation of a friend and that was intense! If you have a child, we all really liked Just Add Magic. I also really liked Redemption, though Andy didn't see it. I love television.

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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