The Big Birthday Quilt!

comments: 17


Ta da! It's here! The big birthday quilt, made of squares contributed by all of you from across the country and beyond! (You can click on the photo above to see an enlarged version of this image.) It was such a fun experience, and the finished quilt came out so great. Andy made it entirely by himself with Amelia's help. It is BIG — bigger than a queen-size batting, so he used a king-size batting. Almost every square is completely unique, with just a few fussy cut from different parts of the same fabric "to get different pictures." What follows here are Andy's phone photos of the process (he takes almost exclusively vertical photos). They had so much fun and it was just such a great project for our family. (If you missed the origin story of how this quilt began, see this Instagram post from this summer, and catch up with this one, this one, this one, and this one.) Thank you to every single one of you who sent such amazing fabrics, and kind notes, and pretty packages, and adorable stationery, and lots of love. We felt it all and are blessed to have such aunties and uncles around the world as you. Thank you, thank you! 

















Even Miss Agatha Raisin Paulson thanks you, as she has had great fun with this quilt as well as our birthday-beauty-sleeper, above. Thank you again, darling friends. I know she will have this quilt forever. It's a treasure. XOXO

Just How

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Oh, such a birthday girl. My darlingest darling turned eleven a few weeks ago. I just . . . how. How. I've been very emotional about it, enhanced by the most heartbreaking and just . . . crushing, crushing . . . state of the world and the Middle East, as I know every one of us are. Last night I cried on the bed while Amelia ate a bowl of cherry tomatoes. It only lasted a few minutes, and in truth she's almost never seen me cry (I usually keep my cries pretty private) but, suddenly, as I sat down and bent over to take my shoes off on my nice warm bed in my nice warm room, with my warm, sturdy child eating tomatoes next to me, I just couldn't keep the tears in. I know I was crying for a lot of things, and then they all turned into just me missing my mother-in-law at that moment, in these post-birthday days, and thinking of all of our past family parties, and how much my mother-in-law loved celebrating Amelia's birthday, and loved celebrating Amelia herself, and how much I miss those old days, those parties, our people, my plans and the things I did. Amelia asked me what the weirdest noise I could make was, so we tried making weird noises that made us laugh, and we skipped reading to just snuggle on the bed while she worked on her cross stitch (she's doing Pink Bird) with my arm around her, and we just laid there and hung out talking for much longer than usual. My darling baby. I am feeling tender and grateful and too soft to get through all there is to process some days. I pray for every mother and their children tonight. The hurting world.

Last weekend we went to the pumpkin patch she first went to with her preschool class to get some pumpkins and also stopped at Edgefield so that I could take a photo of Amelia and Andy holding the finished quilt that he made for Amelia from all of the quilt squares that you all sent and let me tell you, the quilt is absolutely fantastic. I will write another post with a photo of the whole thing in all its lovely glory, but you can see a few sneak peeks of it in the photos above. It is a truly beautiful quilt, and so special, and I thank you all so much for making it with them. All of your notes and your sweet stationery and your decorated envelopes and the fabrics you chose and the stories behind them, and . . . guys. Thank you. I'm moved to tears again. I'll save the tears and more words about this for the quilt post (coming next).

On her birthday, Amelia very impulsively decided she wanted to get her ears pierced, so that was kind of the special event of the day. That morning, while I was brushing her hair to get it up into its bun (which I am still terrible at doing but getting better at) I just casually said, "Hey, when are you going to get your ears pierced?" which made her cry suddenly, and she said, "I'm not going to I don't know I want to go do it todayyyyyyy [crying]." And yes, suddenly it was a plan, though a fearful one. She was really scared. Me [on way to ballet]: "You don't have to get your ears pierced today, or any day. Take the morning to think about it. Think about it at ballet." Her: "No, I want to! I'm going to! I do want to!" And that was that. She wanted to go to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch, then to the candy store at the mall, and then we stopped at a mall kiosk for the piercing, and she did it, still crying, all by herself because Andy and I had to stand on the other side of the counter from where she was. I was really proud of her because she was quite scared. And I think she was very proud of herself.  And now she has tiny little cubic zirconia studs that she must spray with an antiseptic spray morning and night, and she must not touch her ears. That part is a bit tricky but so far they look absolutely perfect and it's been almost two weeks, so just over four to go. Proud of her. Eleven.

Amelia had a really fun birthday party the day after her actual birthday where she and her friends made cute crafts at a crafting place and laughed and played and ate cupcakes together, and sometimes I wish I could work with kids like teachers do and get to be around them when they're all together all day. I actually just like being kind of a fly on the wall and observing them, and listening to all of the crazy things they say, and laughing at the ridiculous things they think are funny, and marveling at their creativity and kindness to each other. It turned out to be a very excellent birthday weekend after all.


Happy birthday, my sweetest girl. I love you beyond every star.

So Many New Things I Want to Tell You About! Phew!

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Hello dear friends! Are you as happy as I am that autumn has arrived? I know that not everyone withers and melts in the summer sunshine as I do. But honestly, I lovvvve it when it starts to cool down. I'm so happy when I come downstairs to make coffee in the early morning and can open the back door to that cold air and the sound of crows cawing as they commute back and forth across my neighborhood. I start to feel much more like myself when it's colder.

I've been working on all sorts of new things over the past few months. The first is the final installment of this year's seasonal series and it's called HARVEST MOON.


Harvest Moon is the fourth installment of my seasonal series of samplers (along with Evening Skate, Full-Moon Planting, and Summer Breeze) done on 32-count Belfast linen from Zweigart in Whisper with DMC floss. It has a stitch count of 138w x 168h and on 32-count fabric finishes with a design area of 8.63"w x by 10.5"h (22cm x27). It is also available as a downloadable PDF pattern.

I've also been working on an entirely new collection of mini cross-stitch patterns and kits for beginners and kids. This has been a dream of mine for quite a while and this summer I finally was able to dig into the idea and pull it together. Here are just some of the designs in little 3" hoops done on 8-and 14-count Aida cloth that are some of my favorites:


There are a lot more than these on my web site (and in my brand new Etsy shop) so please have a look! Kits include a printed pattern, Aida fabric, 3" hoop, all floss needed, felt for backing, a ribbon for tying, as well as a tapestry needle and needle threader, all packaged in a recloseable zipper bag so they (and you) can keep everything together and tidy.

Your Kit Includes w imagesBlog

Printed pattern in kit includesBlog

It was so much fun to test these kits out with some of my friends and their kids and see how excited the kids were to start and complete their projects, some of whom had never picked up a needle or hoop before. I just love this picture of beautiful Mila and her bird so much.


I don't know. That photo just almost brings a tear to my eye because . . . KIDS. They're all so sweet and brave and I love them so much. I really just wanted to do something cool for kids because they deserve some good, old-fashioned, analog, non-screen FUN!!! There are a lot more designs on my web site (and in my new Etsy shop) so please check them out! These will make great little presents and stocking stuffers for anyone! More will be coming for Christmas and winter.

Anyway, yes! I have opened my first Etsy shop! When I designed these new patterns and kits I knew I really wanted to get them in front of an audience that is searching for more beginner and kid-centric crafts, so I am really hoping to get some traffic in my Etsy shop. Even though I've had an e-commerce web site for Posie since 2000, I have never had an Etsy shop before and I am so nervous! Excited, but nervous (my resting state)!


When I started doing some research on Etsy this summer, I learned about print-on-demand products, as well, and I have been having so much fun designing some needlework swag in the form of tee shirts (as well as a burgeoning collection of mugs, and tote bags). These items are designed by me but printed to order and shipped directly from various "printing partners" around the country. (I use a company called Printify that manages that process). They will ship separately from other kits or supplies you might order from my shop. They all have FREE shipping right now, so please have a look through the tee shirts on my web site and the tee shirts, mugs, and tote bags in my Etsy shop and let me know what you think. :) I ordered several of the tee shirts and I love them so much. They are soft and comfortable and exactly what I wanted. I got one for Andy.


HOT, right? I know. :) Anyway, I am regularly cracking at least Andy and myself up while designing these, but if you have any ideas for a stitch tee shirt you would like to see, seriously let me know and I will try to make it. I have a running list of ideas and I will be making more in the next few weeks. I'm going to keep most of this swag in my Etsy shop because I think that's where most people are shopping for things like this.

Thank you guys so much for reading this far! This was long! Thank you for bearing with me. These always feel so impossible to write because they actually represent so much alone-time for me, kind of working in little pockets of time that I have and not really having the organization or wherewithal or time to share the process. But now that everyone is back in school and I have more time, I really want to do that more, and expand on the development process because it has been really, really fun. I have a lot more ideas and am currently working on getting my watercolor calendar I was working on last year printed, and I am excited to show you that, as well. Okay, now I will stop talking!!! Thank you!

Settling In

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We are officially finishing up the third week of school today. It's so hard to believe! I laugh. Time whooshes by and I volley at the net, trying to whack at the ball as it comes toward me, not fleet of foot nor good at pivoting quickly. Ballet started this week, and it will be a different experience for everyone at our school this year, as the school has moved (closer to our house, which is nice) and is now is a newly remodeled building. There is more space but it doesn't feel like there is more space, as now there are twice as many classes going at once, and that means twice as many kids (and bookbags, and outfits, and SHOES on the floor, all over every hallway and every studio and the lounge) and twice as many parents. I'm still figuring it out. Parking is tricky enough that I don't want to leave, and lose my great parking spot (we get there early) but also I don't want to stay, because it's pretty crowded and makes me feel claustrophobic. Well, I need to come up with a plan. I will, eventually. We're there three times a week now, so . . . we'll see how things develop.

School-related after-school activities start next week, and I think Amelia is getting in the swing of things. In addition to being on the "safety-patrol" (i.e.: crossing guards), she is also doing the lunch choir twice a week, chess club, electronic music club, and yoga. She absolutely loves her teacher and has made some new friends (mostly all boys) and is just so easygoing and cheerful and sturdy and game that it is, as always, so inspiring to me. She will be eleven next month and I am still trying to process that.

This will be her first birthday without her beloved Grandma Paulson and that is going to be hard for all of us. Andy's mom's 78th birthday would've been yesterday, and her loss has been felt here every single day since she passed away. Andy and I wanted to do something special yesterday so he and I dropped Amelia off at school and went up the the Portland Japanese Garden, where I took these pictures, and it is just the most beautiful, peaceful, sacred space you can imagine. It was a place that we'd gone with Sue (and our niece Brooke) in July of 2019, during one of her last visits to Portland. It was a gorgeous day yesterday, and we wandered and sat and thought and remembered her, and just missed her so much. I miss her smile and her laugh and her sweet texts and just, so many things. I miss you so much, Sue.

I've been staying very busy because I have new things going on, none of which I have really shown to anyone because I have been trying to get everything ready so that I can show you what I've been doing. But then I get super overwhelmed by how to show anyone what I've been doing. Mostly because it presumes that anyone cares what I've been doing! Though I still insist on believing someone does. But regardless — I mean, I am doing my thing, but I seem to be toiling in obsurity, which is weird for a blabbermouth like me. I will have the last installment (autumn!) of my seasonal cross-stitch series available next week (still need to photograph it). I've got sample watercolor calendars at the printer's right now and am waiting for them to come back. I've got lots of kids' and beginners' cross stitch kits and patterns to launch. And I've been busy designing lots of super fun needleworkers' swag. What I have NOT been doing is working on my cookbook (sob), which is about half done but which I have hardly worked on all summer. One, because, to be perfectly honest, I really struggle with summer and I find it to be the most difficult season to cook in. Fresh vegetables and fruits (alas, I mean seriously) are not exactly the cornerstones of my cooking repertoire [cringe]. I'm more of a fall/winter cook. But, even so, I was originally going to try to have my cookbook finished by Christmas and then at some point this summer I realized that that was just an unrealistic schedule and that I should really be shooting for next Christmas (of 2024). So, that took some pressure off and I am feeling good about it. But I am looking forward to getting back to that. I just need more hours in the day, as they say.

Thank you to all of you who have sent quilt squares to us!!! We have a huge stack of envelopes we need to open this weekend! Andy was in Chicago with family last week and Amelia did not want to open anything without him, so we've been waiting for a quiet moment. Andy has started working on the quilt and it is just so cool. Thank you all. (Please check the last five or six posts on my Instagram if you don't know what I'm talking about.) You couldn't possibly know what great timing it is or how much your generosity and kindness means to us right now. Thank you so much! He's hoping for a Mimi-birthday quilt. :) And thank you also for all of the TV suggestions — oh how I love TV suggestions! We decided to watch all of the High School Musicals as a family and Andy and I are currently working our way through Death in Paradise (very mellow and watchable). When I'm on my own at night while Andy is at work, I am watching Covert Affairs, which is super fun and I love Piper Perabo. It sort of reminds me of Alias lite. Anyway, thank you all for all of your suggestions and now I feel like I can really dig into stitching at night with so many options on my watchlist, which thrills me!

I'll be back soon to show you all my new designs! Love to you all, and I hope you are all having a lovely start to fall!

As we get into the swing of school and as the weather cools down and as I get more caught up, I promise I will be blogging more. 

Fastest Summer Ever

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Fair 3










Missouri Star 2

Hello, dear friends! I'm so sorry I've been absent here for so long! Summer has been so wonderfully busy and full of joy. We have been doing lots of things and also lots of nothing, and it has been just perfect. Pool days, fair days, lazy days, work days. Many afternoons at our favorite Thai restaurants playing Uno and eating pad Thai. Many afternoons riding bikes up the road and getting hotdogs, playing videos games, going to movies, getting boba tea. Days at the pool, nights jumping on our neighbor's trampoline. Campouts with air mattresses on the living room floor, playing video games, having Zoom chats with Uncle Mike, watching more movies. I have been working a lot in my office, developing a new collection of cross-stitch kits for beginners and children along with a few other things. I have not been cooking or working on my cookbook, at all, but I am truly hoping to get back to it as soon as the weather cools down and school starts (it's just too hot to cook like I was, and I've been spending all my time on these new kits and patterns). We haven't been doing anything particularly special, but somehow it's all felt special. I can't believe school starts in a week. For the first time ever, I am not ready for it. None of us seem to be. Summer rules. This summer, the summer of perfect weather here, although my heart is absolutely breaking for Maui, and Yellowknife (I am a big fan of the show Ice Lake Rebels), and other places in Oregon and Washington that are suffering with wildfires. The sky is smoky here today for the first time all summer, and we have a fluorescent red sun setting in a hazy sky. Many of you are looking or have looked at that same kind of sun this summer, I know.

What have you all been up to? Andy is making a quilt for Amelia (after he finishes the one he is making for himself, which will probably be next week when his batting gets here — the man made an entire quilt top in about three days!). I started a new knitting project for Amelia because I found out that our ballet school, which is moving this fall to a new building, will now (hopefully, if the rumor proves true) allow us into the building to wait for our kids, and I will need something to keep my hands busy while waiting again. It has been years since I've been able to wait and watch while she dances, and I am thrilled (especially since she'll now be dancing three days a week, wow). I making her a Novice Sweater by PetiteKnit in Feeling Good yarn in Mineral Pink. I'm doing a women's XS because we are there now. We are there. Has anyone been knitting anything new? Do you have any good TV to recommend? I've watched everything, literally everything that has seemed even remotely appealing to me and I have nothing left to watch, so please send your favorites. Nights are darker earlier. Fall is suddenly approaching. Amelia's needs new clothes and she got bangs cut yesterday at the salon. She starts fifth grade on August 29. Dearest darlingest girl.

I hope everyone is well! I have so many new projects to show you and plans to tell you about. Once school starts I will have my regular working time back and I will show you everything I have been doing. I made about a dozen digital quilt blocks (this one is a Missouri Star block) in InDesign yesterday and I absolutely love making these blocks. This is the only kind of "quilting" I have done, myself! It's rather satisfying, I must say!

Summer Breeze, and a Parade of Summer Stitches

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Oh dear me, it's already the end of June! I am finally here with my summer design! She is, without further ado, SUMMER BREEZE!

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This is my dream of summer: A beach house. Clear skies. Butterflies and kites soaring on the wind. Lazy days spent by the daisy-bordered lake, swimming and playing with our friends. Aspirational, yes, but truly heartfelt, as I hope your (and my!) real-life summer includes all of these dreamy things.

The design area on this (and its two season companion pieces, Evening Skate and Full-Moon Planting) is 8.63"w x by 10.5"h (22cm x27) on 32-count fabric, or 138 stitches wide x 168 stitches high. The fabric I used for these kits is Belfast linen from Zweigart in Whisper, color 786 cut to size 14" x 16" (36cm x 41cm). Please note: There is only about 2.5" extra fabric widthwise for this design, so please make sure you start your stitching in the middle of the fabric. As I mentioned last time, we definitely try to maximize cutting fabric so as to have zero waste, so this design fits a bit tighter on the fabric called for. I'm starting to think that having full 3" (7.5cm) margins around the design area is a bit big, myself — it's just a lot of extra fabric to crunch up in your hand (if you stitch in a small handheld hoop, as I do) and you wind up cutting off most of it when framing, anyway.

Kits include a professionally printed full-color pattern with a four-page chart, the fabric, and all the (DMC) floss you need, along with a piece of chipboard that you can use to make a floss caddy. To do that, cut lengthwise strips of chipboard about 2" (5cm) wide. Mark 1" (2.5cm) sections across the top of each until you have 10 marks. Snip a ½" (1cm) -deep notch at each mark. Label each notch with the color number of the floss. Separate the colors and place the floss in your labeled floss caddy. You may have to double up in some notches. Please note, in case you have not purchased a kit from me before: We include all of the floss in one big hank of thirty-five colors that you will need to separate yourself. It is not as hard as it seems! The color chart will list a color chip, the name of the color, and the number of lengths included, and with that information you can do this within a few minutes, I promise.

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 PDF patterns at 100% (no scaling) at high quality for best results.


And now that it's midsummer you do need thiss lotion bar, Summer Day. Made with beeswax from local bees; coconut oil; shea butter; a touch of lanolin; and essential oils of grapefruit, orange, lemon, tangerine, neroli, and a drop of balsam Peru (which smells like the natural version of vanilla), the Summer Day lotion bars remind me of sitting on the porch on a summer afternoon eating a Dreamsicle after spending all day at the lake.

Beauty3 blog

And here is the last design that I did for the (partial) A Tender Year series, June. I was planning on finishing this series in embroidery, but instead, as I've mentioned, I've done it in painting. Still putting that calendar concept together for 2024. But I love this little design.


Ah, Summer Storm. I just took some pictures of Amelia in the garden that reminded me of this one so much. We have some tall grasses that are blowing in the wind with their feathery plumes, dwarfing all else, and it's funny how sometimes life imitates art, years later.

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"I only have to break into the tightness of a strawberry and I see summer — its dust and lowering skies," says Toni Morrison. Same. And again, the daisies I planted in my front and back yards many years ago have now taken real hold and bloom reliably, in drifts and drifts of volunteers, just like I had dreamed. This is Strawberry Season.

Summer Wreath Cover Shot blog

More summer florals in the Summer Wreath kit. These are so easy and quick to do and make great gifts. The hoop, backing felt, and ribbon are included along with the fabric and floss.

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Things of Summer, one of my absolute favorite designs ever. I have this hanging in our upstairs hallways right now. For some reason I had not framed it until I was getting everything ready for Nashville and I'm really glad I did. I loved this whole "Things Of" series, I have to say.


All of the above kits are available as downloadable PDF patterns here, but I have to remind you of two older designs that are only available as PDFs (and not kits). One is 'Night, Neighborhood, this enchanted little counting design that I made for Amelia when she was very small and just learning her numbers. This design never got the traction that some of my other designs have had but it remains a steadfast favorite of mine because it just evokes the summer magic for me, kind of like the Elsa Beskow books I used to read to Amelia at that time. I need to do more designs like this. I love the feel, and miss those days, when we were learning to count.


And this pattern, Midsummer Sprigs, created when I was in my Mary Delaney phase, is actually one of the better sellers to needlework shops. Stitching on black fabric can be tricky unless you put a white dishcloth on your lap. I'm not kidding — you will be stunned at how much easier it is too see the holes, and then it's a breeze. 


Also, look at this little darling in her Scarborough Fair skirt the other night at the Midsummer festival. If you have not made one of these for your summer days yet (this pattern is only $8.00 and there are NO pattern pieces to cut out — the skirt is made of rectangles based on your own measurements), YOU SHOULD GUYS.


And these two summery oldies but goodies: The Jane Market bag and the Ollalieberry Ice Cream quilt (which is now in real life so faded and soft it hardly resembles this very old picture [cracked heart emoji here].

Please let me know if you have any questions! Thank you so much for your interest and your orders (in advance, and in the past) over all of these many years! I am working on a kids' cross stitch kit using gingham but I have not gotten very far now that Mimi is out of school. (If you have any requests/ideas/feedback about that, let me know — it's totally in development and it will be my first thing for kids!) Just cooking breakfast (then cleaning it up) and lunch (and cleaning it up) and snacks (she cleans those up) and dinner (and, yeah, cleaning it up) feels like a full-time job, my god. I literally am either watering my plants or cooking or cleaning. Wow. I don't know what to say about that. What's been really nice is that Amelia has been having lots of playdates here this summer where the girls play in the hot tub (we set it to 82 degrees and it's basically a giant kiddie pool), play games and draw, play MarioKart when they get bored, etc., and wow, it's the greatest. Ten-year-olds are AWESOME. I cannot believe how self-directed and cool and fun they are. I love it. I absolutely love it.

Summery Scenes

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Good morning! It's summertime! Wow! School is out, the sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming! I hope you all are well. We've been busy and I got a new computer last month and have been trying to get all my ducks in a row on it. I knew it would be messy, and yes, it has been messy. I hadn't gotten a new computer is over ten years. I hate getting new computers. I went from a PC laptop to a MacBook Air. The Mac is nice, and I have an Apple phone and iPad and I've had Macs before, so I am not new to them. But there's still been a bit of a learning curve, getting all my fonts onto my new computer, figuring out photo stuff (really different process to upload, etc.), making sure I can access my old files (PC Stitch, which I use for all of my cross stitch designs naturally does not work on the Mac, etc.). Just, annoying stuff. Getting email to work (totally different email programs and I am not a fan of MacMail, etc.). But I think I'm getting to a new place and once all of this kind of yucky stuff is dialed in I will love it, I know. This is the first blog post I have really written on my Mac with all photos resized and color-corrected on the Mac (oh, and I had to get a larger monitor to plug into it because the screen is so small, so I've been trying to manually color calibrate that, because it's a very inexpensive monitor and I'm trying to make it work). I'm lying in bed right now, next to Meems who is watching a Toca Boca (Toca Life World) video. (Note: She typed that last part for me :)) hee hee! She wanted to make sure I got it right.) The first day of tennis camp was canceled today because it's been raining and the courts are too wet to play.

Ahhhhh, sigh. So! Yes. In between that, I have been food shopping and cooking and photographing food (for better or worse; I am struggling with that lately) and cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the kitchen. That said, we are eating well here lately! My cooking has increased approximately 7,000%. Approximately. I fell down the rabbit hole of watching YouTube videos on cooking Thai and other Asian foods and have been determined to figure out how to make some of my take-out obsessions, including Chicago egg rolls, Thai fried rice, Thai curries, pineapple fried rice, boba tea, Mei fun noodles, homemade bread for banh mi, char siu pork, chicken satay. . . . I mean. . . . We have eaten a lot. I feel proud because these are things I have been wanting to figure out how to make forever. YouTube is amazing. At night I knit and watch cooking videos and during the day I cook and cook. The kitchen is taking a beating, however; cabinet doors are literally falling off, and today I am going to pull out a paintbrush and touch up all of the scuffy marks on the counter edges, cabinet doors, drawers, etc. That is one hardworking galley kitchen, I tell you. There is literally no room for anything. I had the mildly surreal experience of looking at pictures of a pretty house Pinterest the other day and wishing I lived in it and, you know, it was actually my own house, just six or seven years ago, when it was cleaner and tidier. . . .

In between we have been getting out and about to parks and woods and restaurants. The weather has been absolutely spectacular this month, and school ended with most wonderful, beautiful days, inside the building and out. Amelia had an incredible year and an incredible class and an incredible teacher (who won a Major Award this year and we are so proud of her, and have been so thrilled to have been in her class). There were many emotions and tears last week (mostly mine) as school ended! It was an awesome year, and I am just so relieved and grateful for that.

I have a new summer cross stitch design for you and am just waiting for paper patterns to get here and then I will launch it. I am also developing a kid's beginner cross-stitch kit using gingham, so I will show you more about that as I go along. It's going to be cute, I think. We'll see if I can get Amelia to test it out. She "knows how to embroider already," so she tells me (hmmm) so, I will report back after my ten-year-old tester tells me what she thinks. XOXO

Blossoms and Ballet and . . . Vignelli Grids

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Oh, we have had a busy, busy few weeks around here. Amelia's ballet school performed Don Quixote over the weekend and it was just fantastic. I'd never seen that ballet before and I loved it. Andy and I watched three performances of it (one on Saturday with Amelia, so she could see it, and two of her performances on Sunday) so — luckily, we loved it! They were looooong. Two and a half hours each. But wow, they did a great job. The costumes were just gorgeous — the skirts on almost every costume were just layers and layers of fantastic ruffles, and the colors were so pretty. Salmon, mint greens, dusty greens, mustards, reds. This ballet was mostly the big kids at the school, including all of the graduating seniors, who each come out onstage and are introduced by the owner of the school, who shared their accomplishments and got choked up almost every time she mentioned, very movingly, what she was going to miss about each one of them. Amelia's class (the "little kids" in this ballet, though the school does other performances that include even the littlest toddlers) were the "Village Cleaners" and they each got to leap over a broomstick onstage. She (and everyone) did so great and, I don't know, these ballet performances really move me, every time. It makes all of the driving and the waiting not "worth it," exactly, because obviously it's all worth everything — but we don't get to watch them dance on a daily basis anymore (no room in this school for parents to watch), so I really just love seeing these performances so much. Amelia had a great time and is sad that she'll have to wait until Nutcracker season for the next one. Maybe she'll do ballet camp this summer. 

I have been ferrying this dancer back and forth all over the place lately so my time to work has been tucked into every corner, it seems, and I won't lie — I'm kinda tired and could use some downtime. I played Pickleball yesterday and that was great.

(Amelia won a cake at the school carnival cakewalk, which was very exciting until we tasted the cake [the label from the fancy grocery store was still on it and I could see that somebody had paid $35 for it!] and it was absolutely disgusting — dry as a bone and with gluey, inedible frosting. Wah! Still quite exciting.)

I've been working on the cookbook like crazy. Every morning I get up and drink coffee in bed early, before anyone else is awake. I read stuff on my iPad and just generally surf around. One morning I read this excellent article by Kendra Aronson about her experience self-publishing a cookbook. In it she said, "Design dictates everything," and mentioned the concept of the Vignelli grid. So I watched that video and knew that, although I had been diligently making recipe lists and writing recipes into a Word document (yes, more to come on the promised style sheets discussion), the design — or my lack of any concrete ideas about it — was really bugging me. I felt like I needed to get some kind of handle on it in order to move forward, so Kendra's article came at the perfect time.

Creating a Vignelli grid made sense to me because I knew I was wanting to use a lot of my blog photos for my book. Not as the main food shots but just as supplemental lifestyle shots throughout the book. Because almost all of my blog photos (for the last ten years or so) have been sized so that they show up at a reasonable size onscreen — they are 660px x 495 px, or about 7" x 9" at 72dpi (which is the resolution used to view images onscreen). But when you print images on paper, they need to be at a much higher "resolution" — that is, they need to be at 300 dpi (dots per inch). Dots are like pixels, but for printing. Once you've resized your photo, the dots you have are the dots you have -- you can't really create dots (you sort of can, but let's just keep this simple). You can't create more dots. So resizing an image that is 660px x 495px at 300dpi brings its print dimensions all the way down to about 2.2" x 1.65". So, pretty small. Nevertheless, I have thousands of photos at this size, so they are going in the book

I decided to create my Vignelli grid out of blocks that were about this size (2.2" x 1.65"). After a lot of tweaking and watching this video I created a modular grid that was three blocks wide and five blocks tall, on a letter-sized (8.5" x 11", which is listed as one of the hardback sizes that Amazon will print on demand) document, all matched perfectly to my baseline grid. I knew about the baseline grid (basically, a design grid that makes sure that all of your type is consistently lined up from page to page) from the novel-design Skillshare class I had watched. 

So: Once I had figured out how to get this all set up in InDesign (by Googling and watching videos) I had a grid template on which I could build my design. Can you see how it works? I've inserted these sample-page screenshots so that they are quite large; click on them to see them even bigger if you'd like.

Screenshot 2


Can you see how things, from pictures to text, get slotted into the grid? Pretty cool!

I also picked some fonts — one serif font (for titles and headnotes) called Bodoni Egyptian Pro Light and one sans serif font (for ingredients and directions) called Proxima Nova Thin. Picking out fonts gives me a massive headache, to be honest. I don't know that these will be my final fonts but I like them. I did not want a trendy display font, or a handwriting font, or a cutesy Posie-ish font. I just wanted very simple fonts that were classic and would not look dated in two years. And ones that just felt "right." Fonts are bizarre. I have to be in the right mood to think about them, otherwise my brain gets super tangled up, for some reason.

Originally, I was going to finish my whole manuscript in MS Word before flowing any of it into design. But that's really a "traditional publishing" kind of workflow. When you're doing your own design, it just makes sense to me to write directly into the design document, so that you literally are writing to fit, for the most part.  I haven't quite figured out the details yet, but plugging the recipes directly into the design is already alerting me to potential problems with that, etc., and I'd rather know now. What I've done this week is basically make an entire book dummy, and assigned pages for sections, chapters, recipes, intros, frontmatter, backmatter, index, everything. Now everything has a place, and in theory this book is 222 pages long. So we'll see how that all holds, or shakes out, as we go!

One thing I am really confused about is some of the printing details at Amazon. I can't find anywhere where they tell you whether to use jpgs or tiffs, or whether you should submit files in RGB or CMYK. I was assuming CMYK but there was some chatter online that I could find where people were saying that they strip all color profiles before printing anyway? Is that a thing? Like, when you export as a PDF does it still matter? If anyone knows, please advise. I talked to my friend who is a production director at a book publishing company and she said they submit jpgs to their printers. And I also contacted another self-published cookbook author on Amazon who said she submitted all tiffs. . . . Hrmmmm.

I'll try to talk about style sheets next time!

Thunder, Flowers, Cookbooks

comments: 17




Good flowery, rainy, thunderstormy morning to you! I’m writing from here in my office where we’ve had all manner of thunder and lightning this morning. This is very unusual for Portland, Oregon, where rain tends to fall as a dull curtain of mist instead of a dramatic, rolling cacophony of sound and shattering light. I have a new app on my iPad called “My Lightning Strike” and I kept my neighborhood moms’ chat punctually informed of all nearby strikes (one just 700 feet from our house, and one across the street from Rebecca’s) because a bunch of lightning happening right as everyone is getting the kids to school is a bit stressful (and, I have to repeat, really unusual here). But everyone now seems to be safely installed wherever it is they should be this morning, and although our power just went out and came back on (everyone in moms’ group’s did as well) and the sky is dark dark dark, the rain seems to have mellowed into a drizzle, and I’m going to keep writing and saving this document every three minutes, just in case.

Thank you for all of your enthusiasm and encouragement over my cookbook idea! I’m so excited! I’ve had a busy week of running around and playing Pickleball and having lunch with someone almost every day (very unusual for me, actually [laughing]) and am just today getting a chance to catch up. But I wanted to post about some of the details of my process so far. These details will be kind of random because — it’s all pretty much happening in real time. So I’ll just jump in and get going with the first thing I did!

1. I made a very comprehensive recipe list from the blog.

One great thing about having a blog, especially having a blog for so long, is that pretty much anything that we’ve cooked in the past eighteen years that we’ve been proud of or that we eat regularly has made its way onto the blog. So I started here. I went backwards through the “Cooking and Baking” category on my sidebar and just wrote down every single thing that we had made and photographed. And it was over a hundred different things. That was pretty shocking. I put all of the names of the recipes into a table in a Word document, and organized them by categories like “Breakfast,” “Main,” “Soup,” and “Sweets.” I also kept track of the date on which a thing appeared on the blog, whether I wrote down the whole recipe or had taken a photo of it, so that I could go back and find it if I needed to.

2. I went through my recipes in my recipe box, in my little notebook, in my Paprika app, in my binder, in the stuff my mom had given me years ago, in Andy’s binder, in Andy’s handwritten notepad pages, and in some of the magazines we’ve kept since we were first married.

There were definitely a few things that in these sources that I had forgotten about and wanted to include.

3. I looked at the recipes themselves and started to think about which ones to include.

Once I had the giant list, I started looking closely at the recipes and thought about whether these were things I had made from other peoples’ recipes or whether they were my own or my family’s recipes. We immediately eliminated anything that was solidly from another person’s recipe that we make but just don’t change at all, and wouldn’t want to change. (But I was also reminded that I really loved those recipes and want to cook them soon, even if they won’t be in my book, so I still recommend doing this step!) Some were definitely in a gray area so I wanted to know what the actual copyright laws are around recipes in general and found several resources for further information:

This resource at the Copyright Alliance gives an overview.

Here is a great blog post by David Lebovitz that discusses using other peoples’ recipes.

And an article from

Basically, if you use someone else’s recipe in any way (even if it’s just on your blog or web site), you definitely want to give attribution (and a link, if you’re online) to the original writer at the very least, and you will need to rework and rewrite the recipe to make it your own version of the recipe if you want to publish it. This is pretty commonsensical, but you can find many other discussions of this topic online that will help clarify any questions you have about it if you just start searching a bit.

4. So now I’ll whittle down the recipe list even more.

I think I’m aiming for around fifty recipes, which should be about half of my original list, but the number will be whatever it is. I would like to finalize it very soon so I know. I think I will do that this weekend.

5. I think the categories will be:

Sweets and Other Things

I also plan to write an introduction, chapter openers for the categories, and maybe include some old blog excerpts if they are relevant. I’m guessing I will also include:

Cook’s notes (discussions of ingredients, what you should have on hand, etc.)
Resources (web sites I’ve loved and cooked from, shows about food I love, YouTube channels, etc.)
Table of Contents (but will this have each recipe listed?)
Measurement conversion charts for overseas readers
Other stuff?

6. I plan to have large photos for every single recipe.

I will either re-shoot those photos (they’ll have to be verticals) or dig into my archives to look for the hi-res I have from whenever I originally blogged that recipes. And I will also be slurping up many other photos directly from the blog through the years and including them on “collage”-type pages. Those photos from the blog will print small — 2.4”w X 1.8”h at the most — because they are sized specifically for my blog, not for printing, and there is no way I could go back and resize every single one of the photos I want to include or we’d be here for years. (I will definitely talk more about photo sizing and photo considerations in later blog posts, but I just kinda wanted to write this down so I had an idea of what I need.)

* * *

I’m not a professional chef and this isn’t a fancy food blog — I’m just a home cook who likes to cook (sometimes!!!), and has to cook most of the time, and even loves to cook occasionally, and my cookbook will definitely reflect that. This will be a book of family recipes from our moms and my dad and our grandmas, along with ones that Andy and I have made over the years, some completely original and some definitely adapted. It will be a book that represents the way we eat here, at home, in our very tiny, very un-fancy kitchen, with our little will-try-anything girl, as we make the meals that Andy and I both ate as children, and while we were becoming adults (many of my favorite recipes I started making in college!), and during the past thirty years of living and learning and cooking together with our family and friends and the people, all of you, who read and have read this blog.

* * *

Some stuff I’ve listened to, read, or ordered this week that you might be interested in:

  • I’ve been listening to a podcast called Everything Cookbooks which is hosted by three cookbook authors named Molly Stevens, Andrea Nguyen, and Kate Leahy. I’ve listened to the first four episodes, titled, respectively, 01: Should You Write a Cookbook, 02: Do you Need a Cookbook Agent, 03: Cookbook Proposal Writing Tips, and 04: Let’s Make a Cookbook Deal.

This is obviously (so far) a podcast about publishing a cookbook with a traditional publisher, but since I’ve done a couple of books with a traditional publisher I’ve been interested in what they’re talking about and there is a lot of great information and discussion here for anyone writing a cookbook, self-published or traditionally published, I think. I’m going to keep working my way forward through the podcasts because I have already gotten some great recommendations from this one for further reading, including some books, such as Recipes Into Type by Joan Whitman (I’ve ordered it, haven’t gotten it yet) and The Recipe Writer’s Handbook by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane L. Baker (ordered, haven’t gotten yet).

I am very much looking forward to having those books as resources.

  • I’ve also been listening to a podcast called Cookbook Club, which is hosted by Sara Gray and Renee Wilkinson here in Portland. They pick a different cookbook every month (not all of them new), make a bunch of recipes from it, and then talk about what they’ve cooked and what they thought about that. It’s really fun to listen to and I’ve gone to the library and checked out several cookbooks they’ve used.
  • I’ve been watching Nigella Lawson’s newest show on BritBox called Cook, Eat, Repeat. I always, always love Nigella and have been watching her shows since her Domestic Goddess and Nigella Bites days, and I just love her. That’s all. I checked out all of her books that I didn’t already own at the library the other day and I just love reading what she writes. So I read them like novels, from the introduction right through.
  • Unrelated to cooking: I am also watching The Diplomat on Netflix and it’s very fun to watch although I think it’s too smart for me (I literally have no idea about half of what they’re saying, literally — it’s so fast, and I am a tired mama, and I need to watch it twice in order to figure out what the heck just happened). But I love Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell, too, and they have pretty great chemistry. (I have a soft spot for Keri Russell ever since Felicity, which Andy and I used to watch every single week. That was a pretty amazing show about growing up, honestly. I think it was really underrated.) The Diplomat is super fun to binge.
  • I also bought the book Book Design Simple and Professional by Nancy Starkman but I haven’t had much of a chance to get to it yet. I’m not really there yet, but I feel glad to have it for when I am ready.

I looked at many, many cookbooks at the library and on my own shelves for inspiration, and just thought about what I liked about them and what types of things in them I wanted to include in my book. I also thought about what I didn’t love about some of them and made notes of that. More on these kinds of specifics in future, as well.

A few cookbook editors emailed me or commented (still need to get back to you all and thank you personally — until then, thank you!) and their comments warrant much further discussion (that we will have), because they were all talking about style sheets, and every single thing they said was super helpful. I had already been thinking about style sheets (if you don’t know what a style sheet is, stay tuned — we will discuss) but their comments really stressed to me the importance of of creating a style sheet early in the process rather than later, so in my next post I will be talking all about style sheets — what they are, why we need them, and how to make one.

If you are joining me on this self-publishing adventure, please comment with a link to your own blog or  Instagram or wherever you would like to send us so that we can follow along! I will re-post all links here at the end of each post so that they are in one place. And to the people who sent emails sharing their own previously published cookbooks or cookbook dreams, thank you so much and please comment here again (in this post, so everything is in the same place) if you'd like me to share your blog (or whatever you have) with the group. I truly would love for this to be a collective experience as it really sounds like it's something that at least a few of us are interested in exploring. So whether you are at the point where you want to share, or are just following along as we go, welcome! And please don't be afraid to join in at any point on this journey. It's a big project, and it's going to take a while, so I look forward to settling in and having a great time together. XO

Making a Cookbook

comments: 53

MimiSpring Break











22 Pastitsio 4












Thank you so much for the spring orders! I truly appreciate every order and every comment on my new designs. Thank you! I hope you are enjoying making them! I just mixed up some no-knead bread (pictured above) and covered it with a towel to rise for the next 90 minutes. Why did I do this? Why did I cook all of this food over the past week, and take pictures of it? Because I've decided to self-publish a cookbook and I want to include the recipes! As you do!

Are you familiar with self-publishing? Like Kindle Direct Publishing? I had never really heard of this (I'm really not sure how I'd never heard of this, to be honest) but I was immediately intrigued when I first heard about it a few weeks ago. Ever since my days working as a production editor when I first moved to Portland (and through working on my own books with Potter Craft), I've always been interested in book design itself. I've never actually done it but I've always wanted to learn it. So I opened InDesign and started playing around with it. I design all of my patterns through Microsoft Word — I'm not sure exactly why I started doing it that way many years ago, but that's just what I've always done, and that seems to work just fine. But InDesign is a really cool program and I've always wanted to get better at it, and it's what pros use to create documents like books. (You can use a bunch of other kinds of book-design-specific software, too, but InDesign is more sophisticated and gives you a lot more options.)

So I started practice-designing a novel. I watched YouTube videos about how to do this and also watched a few SkillShare classes. In the classes they were showing how to design novels using books that are in the public domain, like Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre. I decided to work on one of my and Andy's favorite old novels called Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (you can see over seventy thousand fee e-books that are in the public domain at Project Gutenberg — what an amazing web site). But I realized that I really wanted to walk through the entire process — not just designing a book but actually publishing it, too. So I did some research and found out that you can publish novels that are in the public domain but if it's free content that is already available in the Kindle store, they will only let you publish a differentiated version. You can do that in a few different ways, and one of the way is by adding relevant illustrations. So I decided to do that, with my watercolors.

But then I got the idea to make a cookbook out of many of our family recipes and recipes that I have made here on the blog through the years. (I may still finish Diary when I'm done with this.) And that's when I got really excited. I started spending ballet-waiting time at the library just down the street from the ballet school, and I have been sitting there with big stacks of cookbooks in the afternoons while I wait. Cookbooks are really amazing. There are a lot of different kinds of cookbooks, LOL. I started thinking about my favorite cookbooks, and dreaming about what kind of cookbook I would make. We also (not coincidentally) looked at our budget and saw how much we have been spending on eating out, and knew something had to change — we absolutely need to start focusing much more on cooking at home again!

So all weekend Andy and I talked about our book, and I've been making lists of our favorite recipes that he and I have been making for over twenty years. I know I'm not a foodie, nor a trained cook (but my sister is, so I'm going to talk her into helping me, and my mom will be looking at all of our family recipes, too), and this is not a legit "food blog." But I looked back through the "Baking and Cooking" category on my blog and found over a hundred different things that I had cooked or baked or photographed! I had no idea how many recipes I had talked about over the years — it was so interesting to see that number. We pulled out our recipe binders and my mom's recipe box, and the tattered, stained pieces of copy paper with recipes we'd printed out that were stuffed all over the place in the kitchen drawers, and the "cookbook" Andy made for our family and friends a long time ago, and the tiny little notebook that says "Recipes" on the front that I started way back when we first got married. And I don't know, but I just got very excited.

So, yeah! I'm going to design a cookbook of our recipes and my photos and even a bunch of blog photos throughout the years! This won't be the world's most comprehensive cookbook or the most well-rounded, but I do want it to include all of our favorite family and friend-made recipes, the ones we've been making for twenty years, the ones I want to pass down to Amelia — the ones she's grown up eating and the ones I want to teach her how to cook. I want to make an e-book as well as a paperback version and a hardback version. I will ultimately list them on Amazon and IngramSpark and all of the other e-book/self-publishing outlets. I want to learn about the entire book design and self-publishing process in doing this, both so that I can gain experience and learn something new and also because I am really excited to be making a book as an author/photographer again (and this time, designer, too). I published my craft books fifteen years ago now. I mean, I actually had to look that up, and it's been fifteen years. A lot has changed. And I'm really excited to catch up with the whole industry.


I hope you will join me on this journey and in this conversation! If you've ever wanted to make a cookbook, maybe you will be interested in going through this process along with me (cookbook-a-long, anyone?). Have any of you ever written a cookbook? Even a family cookbook or a community cookbook? Do you have any advice? What are your favorite cookbooks? As a home cook, what do you think makes a good cookbook? Please advise! I'm new!

About Alicia Paulson


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