School Has Started!

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Yep! It's September! School has started! Amelia is behind me right now virtually presenting her "All About Me" report. She is reading it out loud to her class in the sweetest, most presenter-y voice. I wish I were recording this. "My favorite color is magenta." Agh, she's so sweet. They're all so sweet. I love these kids. Amelia has a gigantic pink gift-bow in her hair right now. It's on a wire and came on a present from someone at some point; I can't even remember who. It's about half the size of her head. She looks like a Victorian doll. But school (they are following the Florida Virtual School curriculum, for anyone interested) is going great so far. It's only been two weeks, of course. But the amount of stress that has been removed from my life now that only the teacher is asking her to do her work and I'm not asking her to do her work (as I was when we were doing Oak Meadow, which turned into a bit of a power struggle, and I hated that) is immeasurable. This seems better for both of us. I mean, I have no idea if this is a "better" education. I'm not saying that either way — I guess only time will tell and I really don't know. But she is happier, and I am happier, and it is just better for our relationship and that's worth a lot right now, so I would say it is a better education for her at this point. She had to answer some multiple-choice questions on the module that gives an overview the lesson set-up, and one of the questions asked what they liked best about learning; she enthusiastically chose “taking tests!” Her second was "doing worksheets." Which, like . . . I burst out laughing. Aren't they supposed to hate worksheets and tests, or . . . ? :) Ha! And I think Andy’s still planning on doing some special studies with her when he’s home. They really enjoyed that.

It's freezing in here! It was 44 degrees this morning. All the windows were open upstairs and the wind whipped through. I've been waking up way too early, like 4 a.m. When that happens I just chuck in any attempt to go back to sleep and get up, go downstairs and make a cup of coffee, and then come back up and get under the covers and surf Pinterest in the dark for a few hours. Surfing Pinterest makes things feel like the old days, when I decorated rooms and made clothes and cooked more. It makes me want to do those things again, so I like it. Still haven't done many of those things but I'm still trying. I don't mind getting up at 4:00 because it's very quiet (aside from Agatha meowing at me; she's a very meow-y cat) and I get some time to myself. I printed off a recipe for apple muffins this morning. That's on my list for the day. Maybe it will be a muffin lunch here.

Having Amelia occupied for part of the day has given me more time to work, and I am so happy to be working. Two new kits are in production right now; FedEx tells me that patterns should be here today. New assistant Anna is just amazing and is putting together all the kits, including two reprints (The Leaves by Hundreds Came and Things of Autumn — we'll re-launch those at the same time as the new ones), and making more lotion bars. Andy has pulled the floss for all four kits and that's all done. We found some stuff (Phyllis Mouse kits and Calicozy strips) in the attic that we didn't know we had so I've been putting some new-old things together as well. Amelia's desk is ready and Andy finished building the big shelf and we gave his old desk away. We've all been working nonstop for the past few weeks and are slowly catching up.

I started a new Porty Cardigan last winter. It's another thing I recently found. I picked it back up and have been knitting the body and am now trying to bind-off. I'm using Jamieson & Smith 2-ply jumper weight. It's probably the scratchiest yarn I've ever used and I really hope I like wearing it when it's all done. It has definitely not been my favorite yarn to knit with, though the colors are splendid. I also recently found and finished another Granny's Favourite in Woolfolk Far for Amelia. I apologize for the scanty info on these Ravelry entries; I don't seem to remember anything about them! Need to write things down more. A few nights ago I had this very old memory of a sweater vest I had when I was a kid — it was navy blue, just a crew-neck wool vest, but it had an intarsia autumn tree in red, yellow, and orange on the front. I remember that I wore it on a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on a beautiful, beautiful fall day and I just loved that vest and that museum and that day. I remember riding the bus on I-290 and looking at the Congress El at rush hour. I found this pattern started it (without the fair isle) in Nature Spun sport and am planning to embroider a fall tree on the front in duplicate stitch for Amelia. I'm hoping to have it done by her birthday. I've been just knitting in circles every night as I watch This Farming Life. (I'm on Season Three, which is the last season for me as I started with Season Four, and I will be SO SAD when I get through it! I love this show so very much! Should I just start watching again? What do I do? I need more!)

For dinner, I made Creamy French Mustard Chicken and everyone here really liked it, including Amelia, which made me feel really good. I roasted some vegetables on the side and, I don't know, there really is nothing like cooking something autumnal that your child will eat to make you feel happy and accomplished.

August Days

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I’m doing this post from my iPad. This is a first so I wonder if these photos will format correctly (ed: they did not, but I fixed them on computer :((( ). Forgive, it seemed better than nothing. These were all on my iPad from the past few weeks. This was August. I’ve had a keen, poignant sense this month of wanting to not “waste” a moment on Amelia's behalf. I try to get us out all day, every single day. I’ve never really done that before, except by accident. This week it’s been morning tennis lessons at the park. The tennis courts are way off in the corner of the park, overlooking the dry hill and the railroad tracks down below. Beyond the tracks is the multi-use path and then the Willamette River that cuts our city in two, east side and west side. We are decidedly east-side people this summer, sticking close to home and, in fact, going to Sellwood, a neighborhood a few miles south. Suddenly everything we do is in Sellwood: Sellwood Park and Sellwood pool and Sellwood tennis lessons, and the rhododendron garden near Sellwood, and my fish-burrito place and Reed College canyon, and my mom’s house and then, I don’t know, back to Sellwood for something again. Too bad we don’t just live in Sellwood. But we've been outside all month nevertheless.

My god, the tennis lessons are terrible. Twenty-five little kids, two teenagers literally on their phones. The “teachers” are sitting on the ground looking at their phones. The kids throw balls across the court for a half an hour. That’s the activity. Just throw balls across the court while the teachers take a break at 10:30 in the morning. Then at 11:00 they do their main activity. That’s stand in line, wait your turn, then go to one side of the court and "serve" a ball over the net. They can barely hit a ball. Amelia throws it up fifteen feet in the air and backwards over her head. If they whiff it, and most of them do, too bad, that’s their turn. Then they go to the other side of the net and “receive” (mostly nothing). Then they go back and wait in line again. They do this for another hour (the teenager, lobbing balls dolefully toward them, gives them no instruction, no advice) and then the lesson is over. There’s only one other mom who stays for the lesson, as I do, knitting at the picnic table up the hill. She, chasing a toddler, is apoplectic (love!), has already emailed and called the director with complaints, and we’ve both spoken to the teenagers — alas, this is all on plan. After the lesson, we compose: Amelia is thrilled, pink-cheeked and delighted that she hit two over the net. She’s with her bright-pink backpack and her racket and her pink water bottle, in shorts, knee socks, and a button-down Peter Pan–collared blouse over a long-sleeved striped t-shirt with her hair in two long, tangled braids, smiling and telling me that tennis is her new hobby, that she’s going to be in the Olympics when she’s a teenager, she will be, in the Olympics, but for gymnastics. All of this breaks my heart in a hundred thousand different ways. I feel pieces of it exploding weakly up into the parched, ancient pine trees above. The air is cool and scented with pine and chlorine. It’s the end of summer and I ache with love and sorrow daily, in every moment. I love her so much and want every good and golden thing for her, every day. She screamed at the park yesterday when the ice-cream man came and she got her Powerpuff Girl ice-cream bar, literally screamed like she'd been bitten; I froze with alarm and turned to look at her but she was just that happy, and we all, even the kids, bubbled with laughter.

I won't tell you about the hellscape of the hospital or what it's like right now, the things that Andy tells me and how tired he is, how hard it is day after day, the beds in the hallways and the skeleton crew, and I burn with a helpless and bewildered fury that it has come to this. Every day, tears in my eyes, trying, trying. We've been instead focused on organizing some of the house a little bit, and had a big shelving unit delivered yesterday to replace Andy's desk, which has become a catch-all for his stuff in general. It's basically become a shelf that really sucks as a shelf. The only time he actually sits at the desk is the day, maybe twice a year, that he cleans off the desk, and that only lasts minutes, at the most. Seems dysfunctional to have a desk that only gets used for fifteen minutes a year. So, once again with the giant wall of cube holes, and storage cubes, and putting things away, and fixing the smallest spaces in a futile effort to assuage the greater chaos and terror of the world at large and all that we cannot control in it.

The weather, hallelujah, I have zero complaints about, and today it will be 75 degrees, max. This makes doing outside things (oh you pretty things!) so doable and delightful, and today, after tennis, we'll go (again and again) to the park.

I have two new fall designs, the next in my seasonal series, coming out soon. I’m still stitching them — well no, I’m still stitching ONE of them. I haven’t even started the hoop-design stitching because the cross stitch is taking forever! It has large areas of solid color. This series has been kind of a departure for me but I have really grown to love it (though I might be the only one — it has not been a bestseller) But did you see the digital on Instagram??? It's adorable. I’m hoping they’ll both be out by early October, at the rate I’m going. I’ll also be reissuing Things of Autumn from last year, as well as The Leaves by Hundreds Came, from 2019, and Andy still has to pull floss for all four of these designs and you can see why things take us a while. . . . But we will get there.

Amelia will stay home this fall and will be enrolled full-time in our school district’s online-learning option. I reorganized her half of the office we share, and got an IKEA pegboard for various supplies and headphones, a computer-monitor riser to raise up the computer (which she doesn't actually use but I use for all my order shipping) and give her room to put her school-issued Chromebook beneath it, and a new filing cabinet for her folders and papers. I spent a few hours over the weekend sharpening every single colored pencil that would fit in the desktop carousel I bought for pens and pencils. I wish that I had done all of this for her last year. I don’t know why I couldn’t figure out that I needed to do this, and I think the disorganization of that desk space — it was all sort of an afterthought, and never didn’t feel like an afterthought, even eighteen months in — did not contribute to her success in any way, though, I mean, she generally succeeded in spite of my failures. I also think that the way we did it (working with her in the mornings on Oak Meadow [the Waldorfy curriculum that we purchased separately] and then having her go to virtual morning meetings with her class and then back to virtual math with them in the afternoon) was actually just hectic and confusing and divided her attention and ours in stressful and unproductive ways. Andy had much more fun with it (and she with him) than I did. But I’m always trying to do my own work in the margins, and that’s hard. Posie is a business and has always needed to be a business, not just a hobby; we rely on the money I make, and not working much these past few years has been really stressful financially, on top of it. We calculate each risk, and make decisions, and worry whether they are “right,” and try to get it all done the very best we can. Like everyone. But wow.

Shows I am OBSESSED with: Clarkson’s Farm and the fourth season of This Farming Life. Oh my gosh I love both of these so much. I love them and every single person in them. I guess I’ve secretly always wanted to live on a small British sheep farm. I didn’t know how much. I love Gardener’s World, too, of course, and there are a gajillion seasons of that, as well as Escape to the Country. But these farming shows. Aghhhh, they really have my heart.

To end, I made the sweet romper (out of luscious Woolfolk Far) for darling Emily’s new baby. And I cross stitched this adorable design by Samantha Purdy for my little sister’s birthday. I can also heartily recommend two Instant Pot recipes that I’ve made that are just awesome. Salsa verde chicken (I might’ve mentioned this one before, but I make it every single week now) and this chicken teriyaki, which Amelia inhaled (no surprise, it’s smothered in honey; you could probably reduce that easily). Also this sumac chicken was great. I like chicken and rice. One good thing about pandemic life is grocery delivery, which has been absolutely wonderful for me and I’m very, very grateful that it exists.

Thank you for the comments on my previous few posts. Your words mean a lot to me and I’m very grateful for your presence here, and for your orders and interest in my designs, at all times. Thank you.

Vacation

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After dinner, we’d watch Season 3 of The Great British Baking Show. Outside, dusk would be falling and the eagles would start their nightly patrol of the river. The house faces east, so mornings are bright and glittering; at night, the sunset leaves the front row of burned-out trees in shadow and turns the ones behind them rose-gold. When we’d first arrived in late afternoon, we gasped to see the damage the wildfire (specifically, here, the 2020 Dowty Road fire, an offshoot of the Riverside Fire) had done. From the house I had vertigo looking at the wall of dead, twisted sticks. I could not stop imagining what it was like when it had been roaring with flame. I texted a few of my friends in distress. They answered, distressed: It'll grow back.~~~~ After a few days we got used to the burned, blackened branches, the charcoal-black tree trunks. But sometimes when I was sitting in the river looking down at my book, I would look up, expecting to see the lush, luminous waves of green I had known, and instead I'd see the black sticks, and it was shocking every time. The grass in the yard was bone dry, the weird, tangled brush that surrounds the property already bleached and brittle. We were melancholy, especially Andy and me, especially me. Amelia seemed, as with all else these past two years, to take it in stride. Each night we'd talk about the things we'd bake when we got home: pavlova, jelly roll, a Religieuse Ancienne. Spanische Windtorte! Yes. Anything we wanted. The darkness fell and it was nicer, though we were attuned then, as ever, to the potential scent of wood-smoke in the air, coming from any direction on the night wind. We never smelled any smoke. But I never stopped worrying that I would. I tracked the sky multiple times a day for smoke plumes or, at the least, that particular orange haze that haunts us now in the summertime west, but the air was clear, the sky was big and blue or just filled with regular clouds. Amelia slept in a different bed every night, the best one by far the upstairs double that overlooked the river, high-up in the green trees on our side.

During the days there was a heatwave and the temperatures were regularly in the high-90s or 100s. This part of the Clackamas River is quite lazy and shallow; Andy is easily able to walk across it. The water is crystal clear unless you walk through and disturb the rocks and sediment. Even then, it settles almost immediately, and you can see that the river bottom is covered with big, round stones, thousands and thousands of them, sliding over each other and slippery with rusty-brown river glaze. On the hottest days, dozens of people (we're only forty-five minutes from our house in Portland here; it's close) floated by in rafts, inner tubes, and boats, from morning until dinnertime. It's so quiet out there except for the sound of rapids downstream about a hundred yards — you can hear them but you can't see them yet, and floaters always lift their heads at that point, becoming interested, securing the cooler and radio a little better, not knowing exactly what’s ahead. But generally they slide past our house in a bright, languid, lazy way, music loud and laughter easy. Their conversations are weirdly amplified; I don't know why. I could, as if they were standing next to me, hear everything — or nothing, maybe depending on the direction of the wind. I started writing down anything I could hear as they passed.

Guy [incredulous]: "There's a Robin Hood festival?!?"
Girl: "Yes!"

"People are leaving the state."

Older lady: "Where are we? [Looks around.] Okay, we've got at least two hours to get sober."

Girl: "I haven't had a period in like seven years."
Other Girl: "And you're having your period NOW?"

"You cannot watch that show. But if you're hammered or if you get high . . . it's so funny." [Ed: I think they were talking about South Park.]

"He's the oldest worker I've ever gotten along with."

Guy: "Cool, we're going on Thursday night."
Other guy: "I'll be there. I can leave the state now. I don't even have to ask permission."

"There was, like, orcas and they were, like, playing with beluga whales. They have this video of, like, a whale coming up and kissing some guy on the boat."

And many more that I heard before I thought to start writing them down, including a lot of stuff about child-custody issues.

I was in the river every day, sitting under my new umbrella from morning until about four p.m., reading. I brought multiple metal chairs out there and had one for myself, one for my basket (with books, phone, water, glasses, etc.), and one for my feet. Andy and Amelia went on several "adventures" down- and upriver, walking into the woods and out of sight, to the pond south of the house, Amelia reporting to me on her walkie-talkie: “Mama, there is a giant salmon here being eaten by crawfish, over!” I rotated my chair throughout the day so I was never actually in the sun (not sure how I made it through any length of time down there in the past without this umbrella). I was reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Searcher by Tana French. Station Eleven is a dsytopian, post-apocalyptic novel. It’s truly haunting in its prescience, a post-pandemic story written in 2014 that nevertheless made me cry when I read one of the pages out loud to Andy, so true to 2020-21 did it ring. (Last summer, just a month before the fires, I read Year of Wonders, which is about a 17th-century village that quarantined itself during the plague, while sitting in this exact same spot. Usually I pick lighter fare, go figure.) Eventually The Searcher, which is equally dark in many ways but takes place in the winter-bare hills of the Irish countryside (I really love that she focuses so much on atmosphere and place), started to win out for my attention and I didn't put it down; I've got about forty pages left now. I've read several Tana French novels now. I've read The Witch Elm, The Trespasser, The Secret Place, Broken Harbor, and Faithful Place. I just think the way she paces these books is pure genius; anyway, they sure take me right along.

Us at the river house in 2020. In 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013. (N.B.: The original house burned down [not from a wildfire] in the winter of 2015 and was replaced with the current one, so that's why we didn't go in 2015 and also why the house is different in the early years.) This place is in my soul and I love it and I pray for it.

Mid-July

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I'm in a brown study today. I'm not sure exactly why. Just so many things feel so hard. Everything still, for so long, feels so hard.

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I was supposed to have lunch with a friend today, my old neighbor, who retired to a beautiful condo on the river a few years ago. I haven't seen her, probably since the summer of 2019. She cancelled today because she has pink-eye. :( Pink-eye is wretched. I got it for the first time when Amelia had it at age two or three. I feel like my eyes haven't been the same since, to be honest. (Well, now I have thyroid eye disease and Grave's disease, good times, yay.)

Reed4

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the orders last month. I truly and sincerely thank you. I am so grateful for your orders. It was a pretty unusual thing for us to make all that soap. I honestly do not know if we will ever do it again. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I don't know!

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I'm getting into making jewelry now. Still trying to find myself somewhere. Boy, I've started a lot of new hobbies lately. Doing things I've always wanted to do. We'll see if any of it sticks. My head is a swirl. I don't understand the creative impulse. It comes and it comes. Then I leave off and another one comes, and I follow. Here I come, beads! Jump rings! Cord ends! Chain-nose pliers! I'm here now. I'm like a zig-zagging runaway. Try to catch me!

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I took Amelia to the Reed College canyon yesterday. We hiked around half of it under a lovely cloudy sky. Amelia says she wants to go to Reed College. She wants to go to the closest college so she can always be close to me. I didn't tell her that she'll have to be a super-genius or win the lottery to pay for it. :| I like to walk around there, though. Campus was closed to the public all year and only recently reopened. I love campuses. This one is very, very quiet. I don't know if that's Covid or typical for Reed. I've been here before Covid and it was also very quiet.

Reed7

A team of student and professors were putting a recently banded bush-tit back in its nest when we were there. I love bush-tits. Gosh, they're the sweetest little birds, like baby mice. A flock of them were in our yard a few days ago. You never see just one. The whole flock — maybe thirty — swoops and flitters, only for five or ten minutes at a time. I have a special bird feeder for them (the kind with the outer cage around the suet cage — they like to be in a sort of enclosed area while they eat). For a long time we had a nest (it look like a gnarly old sock) hanging in our plum tree. Eventually it fell out, long after it had been used, I think.

Reed8

One of Amelia's favorite things to do, she says, is "eat snacks while looking at a pond." When she saw the perfect log to sit on she excitedly sat herself down and pulled out the little cup of trail mix she had packed for herself. Agh, she's so adorable. We sat and watched a family of five raccoons climb off of a log, cross the water, and play on the edge of the pond. Also, insanely adorable.

Reed10

It was strange to see so many raccoons just right out there in the middle of the day, no?

Reed11

Just hanging out. They move very quickly, like kittens playing. I heard their noises and realized I've heard noises like that in our neighborhood. I've seen a giant, hump-backed, more scary-than-cute raccoon walk right into my neighbor's backyard (also during the day). These babies at the pond were so sweet, though. I think there were two parent and three babies all together. They were actually pretty far away and I had my big camera completely zoomed in, with just the kit lens on, so I couldn't get better than these.

Reed12

Tell me what you're up to. Are things hard for you right now? What is hard? What is helping? What are you looking forward to?

Summer Kits (and Lots of Soap) Now Available!

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Strawberry Season Cover JPG blog

Golly day! It's here! The day when I show you all the things! I was up at 4! Then I fell back asleep! Now I'm scrambling! This'll be short! You know what to do! It's Strawberry Season Cross Stitch Sampler Kit, above, and I love it! (Please note actual strawberries and actual flowers from our garden. Free photo props! Yay.) And here is the Strawberry Season PDF pattern.

Summer Wreath Cover Shot web shop

And this is your new hoop for summer, the eponymously named Summer Wreath. The kit comes with the printed pattern, floss, fabric, ribbon, and hoop for framing.  The Summer Wreath PDF is here. There will be a fall coming in 2021 and then we will be done with this sweet series.

Also, we still have MANY Spring Wreath kits, Winter Wreath kits, and Whan That Aprille kits (the first in the 2021 cross-stitch series) left available.

Now, as you might know, Andy and I made a whole lot of soap this spring and it is all now ready to come home to you. We make our soap by hand with all natural ingredients using the cold-process method. We have various but very limited quantities of eight different kinds of soap available today. They are all available here, along with our beautiful handmade, natural lotion bars (finally restocked!). Please enjoy browsing the soaps. I'm running late so I don't have time to post a picture of them each here, but they're nice. They're huuuuuge bars, they're gorgeous to use, I am super proud of them, and I mean seriously — I don't know if we'll ever do this again. We're funny like that. This was kind of a weird lark we both got on for a while during lockdown and I don't know if it will stick.

Bubble Scoops blog

I also just got a little bee in my bonnet to make these little mini Handmade Bubble Scoops, mostly for Amelia's baths but I also made some for you. Filled with natural butters, oils, and skin-loving ingredients, they'll bubble a little in your or your kid's bathtub and just make you smile. I think it would also make a sweet little gift. They're scented with blueberry, buttercream, summer berry, and apricot and smell delightful.

We have also issued 46 Daisychain ABCs Crewelwork Sampler Kits! Yay! You may remember these from many, many years ago. These kits include fabric, nine skeins of Appletons crewel wool, and a printed pattern with all the instructions for transferring and stitching the design you need. This fabric is discontinued by the manufacturer and once these are gone they are literally gone forever. We happened to have these pieces of fabric left over from our original launch in 2011 and I'm really glad. I loved this kit and am happy to have a few of these for you here.

Blog Beauty

I had to include this picture because I literally laughed out loud when I saw the horizontal lines of the wainscoting and the picture frame tilted in opposite directions. I honestly don't know how the heavens I managed to do that, but I can't seem to correct it now so, there it is, my photography circa 2011. Not that I'm much better but I can see it now in a way I probably couldn't then. Or maybe I saw it then. I don't know, I can hardly remember 2011. Anyway.

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Anyway, because look, yay! We have 109 Things of Summer in stock!

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And I just wanted to remind you: We still have 53 Flower and Frond kits left, and these will never happen again, so please enjoy making jewelry this summer. I think you will love it. I'm really proud of these kits.

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This is a lot of stuff. Are you freaking out? I kind of am. My new assistant, Anna the Great, has been working overtime to stuff these kits and wrap soaps and cut fabric and bundle crewel wool while I've been snowed under a cascade of pattern writing and reprinting and printing. Anyway, I wanted to keep you busy this summer, too, so let me know if you have any questions, and as always, thank you for the bottom of my weary little heart. I love you.

P.S. I'm really rushing here so if any of these links are broken or go to the wrong place please let me know and I will correct, etc. Thank you! Also, I've changed my shipping charges to calculate based on the total weight of the order, so I'm praying that works — it's essentially untested because I couldn't figure out how to test, but yeah, let's do this! What could go wrong! :)

A Weekend at the Farm

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Hello! How are you?

Summer is here and I am thrilled. Amelia has three more days of school and then we are FREE. I've never been so happy about the end of the year before in my life!

Andy Paulson turned FIFTY a week or so ago! I spent the week before his birthday making a secret video (which turned out to be over 38 minutes long). I texted all of our friends and family and asked them to make a quick video of themselves saying "happy birthday" to him. Like, everybody. Literally every single person did it. It was epic. Some people were so creative they made entire little movies and wrote original songs! And so many people dropped in little comments in their videos about something very specific to themselves and Andy together. That was so moving to me (let's just say that when I showed Andy the video on his birthday morning I literally wept, sobbing, through the entire thing, ha!). But some people remembered stuff from college, from Missoula, from childhood, just all sorts of inside–Andy Paulson jokes that kept adding up into something just . . . I don't know, but it was pretty spectacular. I am a genius for thinking of this and feel free to steal the idea because it was epic!

The day before his birthday we went for a two-night stay at Dolan Creek Farm. What an enchanted place. From the minute we got there it was so pretty, the weather was so nice, the birds were so vocal, the sunset was so rosy, the breezes so cool. I mean, it was literally magical. The pictures above of Mt. Hood in the distance? Those are taken from the porch of the studio. Just, right from the porch. Where you sit and drink your coffee. And cows come up to the fence to say hello. And swifts swoop across the fields. And bullfrogs call across the pond. Agh. Andy kept saying, "It's just so big! There's so much space here! I'm never in this much space!" Amelia was beside herself with delight, getting to help gather eggs, bring the chickens in, and feed the horse her dinner. On the full day that we were there, I carried a quilt and my little chair to a big tree down by the pond and finished my book (All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews). Birds and bullfrogs kept me company. Andy and Amelia explored the farm and found another hidden pond. They played cards and ran through the fields. At night we barbecued and the owners, Kirk and Chris, started a campfire for us and showed us around the barns and talked to us about the history of the farm and the pumpkin patch they have in the fall and what it was like for their kids to grow up here. (Several nights later, Amelia stayed up way too late listening to music on her iPod and when I came upstairs she said, "Mama, I just listened to a song that reminded me of the farm ["Thank God I'm a Country Boy," which she and Andy had been playing all weekend] and I'm so sad! I want to go back to the farm! I want to go to the farm! Why can't we go for my birthday! [We can, but we can't stay overnight, because they don't let you stay overnight in October because pumpkin patch, etc.]" Anyway, she just utterly melted down, went downstairs to get a drink, came back up with her dad and did the whole thing again, crying true tears. I turned into broken pieces of hay. My god, my darling girl, I would give you a life on a farm if I could. It was my dream when I was a little girl, too, though I've never really mentioned it. Farm Fever is real. I was a bit older than she is but I used to cry myself to sleep I wanted a horse so bad. My parents' garage fell down in a snowstorm when I was ten and they rebuilt a new garage and painted it barn red with white trim and I thought I'd die of longing. No horse in there, just bikes and floaties and tools. Evermore.)

Anyway, it was the first time that we had been off the property at home in almost a year, and my god, it doesn't take much for us Paulsons. Two nights and a day at a farm forty-five minutes away on the backroads and we are REBORN. Ready to tackle these last few weeks of school, make some plans for the summer that involve rivers and trees, text friends to invite them along, hope for our own invitations, etc. Let it be, let it be! Vaccines!!!!!

My electric bicycle has arrived, and though I need to make some modifications to one petal so that I can fit my wonko orthopedic shoe on it safely AND figure out how to lift it into the back of the car (it's so heavy! it's so heavy!), I am further on the road to freedom and reinvention and I need it. Yesterday I saw a video on Instagram of a bunch of people dancing and singing to a band on the road by the reservoir in Mt. Tabor and I've never vicariously related to anything more. If only I had my pedal and could join them! I will get there. I'm meeting a bike guy on Thursday after I visit my friend in her rose garden and . . . just . . . life on earth. It can be so hard and so beautiful.

Much of the soap that Andy and I made six weeks ago and beyond six weeks is now cured, and wrapped, and ready to go! I think I'll have a launch. I've got two new patterns/kits, one a hoopdy and one a cross-stitch that will be ready within days of June 16, which is when all printed patterns get here. We'll have some reissued older kits, too (and just, for the record, this is literally the only time ever that we are reissuing kits — it is happening, and has already happened for some), and we'll have seven kinds of soap, and lotion bars. No, guys, I don't know how I do it either! I'm thinking Monday, June 21, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. PDT. Here's a cool chart that tells you when that is for you!

So, I'm making fish balls for dinner tonight, and this is one of those recipes where you can make almost all of it in the morning and then fry it up at dinner time. And I need more recipes like this, because I am good at things in the morning and I am bad at things in the evening, especially at dinnertime. I recently had my knives sharpened by a mail-in service called Knife Flight and I cannot recommend doing this enough. It is unbelievably great to have nice sharp knives — today I sliced green onions into transparent wafers (not like I have awesome knife skills, but that's how much having a sharp knife will do for you) and chopped up a pound of cod, and it was pure pleasure. I've also cut myself five times just by waving the knife around carelessly and touching it where it used to be dull (the bottom corner edge, hello; the tip, ow). Anyway, it was really perfect timing because I'm trying to cook a lot more. Here is my cake I made over the weekend and other stuff on Instagram, too.

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I mean, just look at this. I can't wait to go back either, Amelia. It was just so, so nice.

Already Mid-May!

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I'm sitting in the living room listening to traffic, lawn mowers, and birds outside. Andy's at work. Amelia just logged into math, and she'll be in Zoom school for at least another hour. Clover is asleep on her pillow and not stalking me to feed her. I've got old episodes of Real Housewives of NYC on in the background. I love Bethenny and I think she's hilarious. "The only person who got the memo was Dorinda, who showed up wasted. She understands. Where we are." Ha! Silly and funny. I find this show so silly it's relaxing. I love all the Bravo shows. My favorite is Shahs of Sunset, but I also like a few of the Housewives, and I love Million Dollar Listing New York and Los Angeles. Agatha is creeping around on the mantle chewing on stuff and chasing flies through the house like she's on fire. She will mow down anything in her way to get to her fly. I still haven't let her outside and I'm not sure I will. We've never had an indoor cat before. She seems to like it okay. The biggest change is that we never have our back door open like we used to. It opens out so there's no screen door. How do you put a screen door on an outward-opening door? Is that a thing?

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I've been trying to work on my gardening. There are a bunch of little calendula and cornflower and strawflower volunteers down in the parkway (parking strip) that I've been nurturing. I water down there almost every single day, and that is unusual for me. I am typically a very unreliable waterer. But now I've figured out how to do it with the small hose (it's one of those fabric hoses) and I can sit on the front stairs instead of standing. Its best done in the early morning when it's all in shade. I was down there this morning at like 8:00. I saw everybody. A neighbor across the street. A lady riding her bike with two kids ("Hey! I got the same bike helmet! It looks so cute on you!"). Two ladies who looked like twins walking down the middle of the street who complemented my sprinkler system (me with a hose on a stair). Then another lady stopped by with a birthday gift for my other neighbor because she wasn't home. So many people! That's more people in one morning than I've seen in a week!

I'm late with my summer cross stitch design and my summer hoop design. I am almost finished with the cross stitch sample. We have made five different types of soap that we will be launching soon, along with restocking lotion bars and making new bubble scoops and bath soaks. Making body care stuff has been bringing me happiness lately. Who knew! I am trying to make some videos about the process and I will post those on IG.

I get my second shot next week and I can't wait. My electric bicycle will be shipping out from California on June 4. I absolutely cannot wait for the bike to get here. We have a long multi-use trail called the Springwater Corridor that Andy and I used to ride our bikes on all the time. It's a 20+-mile-long trail that runs from Southeast Portland to Boring, Oregon. You can hop on it all over the place. I am going to ride all over it with my electric bike. I could not be more excited about it. I'm just going to ride and ride and ride. I just can't stop thinking about it and I can't wait until it gets here. It can't come soon enough.

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I was just heartbroken to hear about the passing of one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever known in the blogosphere, Teresa Kasner. She was so joyful, always so encouraging, so curious about things, so filled with delight, and always, always had something nice to say and took the time to say it. God, it just breaks my heart. Andy and I both (Andy still reads every comment on this blog, and he knew exactly who Teresa was from all of her many years of generous commenting here) are thinking of her and Dayle and their sweet family. Rest in peace, dear Teresa. You set such a beautiful example. Thank you.

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I mean, look at her expression, as she's walking back and forth across all my newly hung hanging clothes (I cleaned my closet). Naturally she's giving me the stink eye. She walked back and forth across here several times, wobbling, meowing, knocking my clothes of their hangers, and looking supremely annoyed by it all every minute, even though she’s the one who put herself up there somehow and chose to stay. Alicia. Why would you put a clothes' closet here where I'm trying to walk?” Ah, we humans are such idiots, I know. This morning I went down to my office and was bewildered by the presence of dried flower petals all over my work island, which I'd literally just cleared and completely wiped down the night before. Looking up, I saw all my cute dried flowers hanging from my cute little driftwood ladder suspended from the ceiling. And now I know what Agatha did last night. Generally she likes to break into my yarn cabinet and drag skein after skein of worsted all the way up the stairs to the second floor, and then drop them all over the hallway while we sleep. But I also cleaned my yarn-cabinet area up and put all the yarn away AND locked the door on it with a twisted rubber-band so apparently she had to find something else to do to wreak Aggie-havoc. She finds things to do that I didn’t even dream were things to do.

For yes, it's been chaotic around here. I've been scrambling to get a handle on it all but no, my taxes still aren't done, my driver's license is expired, the back yard looks abandoned, there are magazines all over the bathroom, yarn all over the house, and, even though my new assistant Ivy is leaving for the summer on June 1, I haven't started any of my summer designs yet.

Nevertheless, I do say to myself every single solitary day, Girl, you did the best you could. I do say that. I say that to the pile of coats, boots, and shoes piling up in Amelia's outerwear corner of the dining room; and Andy's Snack Central bags of chips, salts, and popcorn seasonings scattered on top of our red Ikea cabinet and on top of the cookbooks up there (bags of Funyuns, on top of the cookbooks, good lord); and of course detritus from my own fourteen new hobbies (resin, polymer clay, pottery, and, naturally, metal-smithing among them) covering any available surface. I look around and I say that to all of those things. Girl, you did the best you could today. For what it's worth. Someday I'll get there. Meanwhile I sit on the bed with a giant breadboard on my lap, making soap dishes out of clay and re-watching season 1 of Keeping Faith because Where the hell is Evan??? Season 2 just came out so I will soon know!

THANK YOU thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your orders of my new spring designs and all of the soap and lotion bars and yarn I released. I sometimes cry in the studio and I did cry while packing all of these things, from gratitude and maybe just a little bit of exhaustion but mostly gratitude for all of you and your generous orders and patience and interest in and support of my ideas. Thank you. It means more to me than I can say. My words feel so awkward and hard to find anymore so I don't write often. But I thank you for being here still.

I wrote on my Instagram that Andy and I have been making soap together again, and this, too, takes up much of my sunshine daydreams, thinking about soap and planning for new soap. Milk soap, aloe soap, baby soap, pink soap. We've made two 3.5-pound batches every weekend for the past four weeks. I must say, oh my, I don't know why, but the soap is coming out SO GOOD. Something is good! Maybe we're finally figuring it out. We made an executive decision to stop using anything but natural ingredients in our soap, so no micas or synthetic fragrance oils at all — only natural colorants and essential oils and perhaps pure botanical oils for fragrance. So far we've made a beautiful, creamy pale-pink scented with Ylang Ylang; a pretty seafoam blue scented with Clary Sage and Bergamot; a dull, chalky lavender scented with Bulgarian lavender and peppermint; and the one I'm calling "Dreamsicle," which is a pale rosy orange with cream, scented with orange, pink grapefruit, and balsam Peru (which smells like vanilla), like our Summer Day lotion bar. The bars are cut to 1.5 inches wide, or about 7.5 ounces each, and they are whoppers. They’re huge. And there's just something so beautiful about the big soap. It's so creamy and has these sort of creamy waves on the top that I just smoosh on with a spoon. The consistency of the soap when it's wet is like pastry cream or pudding, but even smoother. It's so satisfying to just mush a spoon through it. It's so pure and beautiful and it smells so good. It plops into the molds with such a ploppy, puddingy sound. I love it. After we put it all in the molds I just lean on the counter and stare at it for a long time. It takes six weeks to cure.

I was thinking about something I think I've written about before — I'm sure I've written about this before but I don’t remember when. I was thinking about this little jewel-box of a store called Essence that used to be on Lake Street in Oak Park, next to the Lake Theater where I worked as a candy girl when I was in high school. Essence sold Crabtree and Evelyn soaps and stuff and all sorts of pretty apothecary stuff, perfumes and soaps and potpourri sachets. The store was the shape of a rectangle with a center entrance and had wooden tables in the center and dark wood shelves on all the walls, and it just smelled so good in there. I used to spend so much time in that store, usually before work at the theater. I still think about it all the time!!! So weird! I also remember this other store that was in Galena, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, where I went for a weekend with my family when I was in high school, because my parents were thinking of buying property out there. There was an apothecary store there, too, and I think it was in an old barn? Maybe? It had dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and it sold herbs and soaps and bath stuff, I think. It was dark and warm and fragrant, like a Tasha Tudor sort of place. And I always remember that because my dad said to me that day that I should own a store like that when I grew up. And I was so flattered. Usually the things he wanted me to do only ever royally pissed me off (I won't get into it, but let's just say I did not want to learn to do martial arts — not judging martial arts but I had zero interest) and he also usually did not say very nice things in general. I remember the few that pleased me, and this was one. Another was that he told me, at my cousin Michele's wedding, before I was dating Andy, that he thought I should marry a hobby farmer and have a rural life (I would've done that). Another one was that I reminded him of Sigourney Weaver, and I will never forget that. I remember those three things. Those things aligned with how I saw myself or wanted to see myself and that was rare for us.

Anyway, I have this vision, those visions, of those places, around these soaps and I don't know why. I don't know if it is tapping into some childhood dreams of mine, or a fiercely beloved version of what I wanted my room to look like in high school (white, with whitewashed siding, and lavender-blue stuff, and dried lavender hanging from the ceiling, and rafters, and a little window, and slanty ceilings, and I swear I got this from an old Laura Ashley catalog I had and can no longer find even though I literally bought all the ones from 1983-1987 on eBay several years ago, I had such a longing to see whatever picture it was that I was "remembering," though I never have found it. Did I make it up?), or something sweet and beautiful that is just literally soothing me right now, in these days. I don't know. I spent a long time looking at '80s calicos again on eBay the other night, thinking this time of how they would look in little strips wrapped around soap. So I guess I haven't gotten it all out of my system. Maybe I'm just homesick. I don't know. I don’t know what it is. Or why it’s happening now.

What's your favorite kind of soap and do you use handmade soap? Do you think about this?

Oh — and also — I went to my P.O. box for the first time in over a year, and thank you very much for all of your kind notes and gifts! I am so sorry it has taken me so long to pick them up! I have not done a good job responding to emails and other contacts this year, and I hope you'll forgive me. I sincerely thank you and am hoping to respond personally soon. XO

Spring Things Now Available!

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Oh man, this morning I was just lying in bed in my nightgown drinking a second cup of coffee watching soap-pouring videos on Instagram at 8:50 a.m. thinking, "Gosh, Andy's got some work to do, he really needs to make sure Amelia is logging in for school, yeah buddy" when I remembered, "Oh mercy mercy me I'm having a sale in one hour and ten minutes and I haven't written my blog post!" Forgive! I am linking every one of these pictures to its product page, which, according to Shopify's new feature, is scheduled to automatically go live at 10 a.m. PDT. Let's see if this works! Above is Whan That Aprille, the first in my 2021 seasonal series. There will be one for each season, starting with this one for spring. The Whan That Aprille PDF pattern is here.

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Above is my new hoop=framed design, Spring Wreath. The kit comes with the printed pattern, floss, fabric, ribbon, and hoop for framing. I just love this one. The Spring Wreath PDF is here. There will be a summer and a fall coming in 2021.

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Okay, this: This is my baby. This is the Flower & Frond  embroidered jewelry kit. It contains a whole lot of what you need to make four embroidered necklaces and one pin. I think my method for mounting the jewelry is a bit different than other tutorials I've seen. Mine is better. I'll tell you all my secrets. We are only making 200 of these kits. I never know if I am going to reissue kits once they are sold out. There is no PDF-pattern-only available for this design. The instructions and templates are specific to exactly these findings that I have sourced. I'm excited and nervous to launch this one! I've never done a kit like this before! In fact, there is nothing even remotely like this available anywhere that I can find. I can't wait to see what you make with it.

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I dyed some yarn. There isn't much but it sure is springy. The worsted-weight skeins are here.

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Fingering-weight is here.

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There are stitch markers made by me.

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A very, very small amount of soap. But we're definitely making more.

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A few Early Spring lotion bars. (And we are definitely making more lotion bars, though probably not any more of these, very soon.)

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Oh! And some finished hand-embroidered jewelry! You know I never do this. But I did it.

We also have restocked Dovegray Doll kits, Time of Flowers kits, Love and Joy kits, and a few Misselthwaite Mitts kits.

Let me know if you have any questions, and thank you so very, very much for your interest and support! XOXO, alicia

UPDATED, 1:03 p.m.: Andy and Amelia just made a few Forest Flower and Summer Day lotion bars! Homeschool!

UPDATED AGAIN, 1:19 p.m.: Yep, I can combine shipping if you place two orders. No problem! :) You don't even need to let me know; the computer should find them and I will refund extra shipping charges from multiple orders at the end (refunds are on a different app on a different computer than shipping).

Web Site Update: Tomorrow, March 18, at 10 a.m. PDT

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Been busy! Lots of pretty new things for spring! I'll be back to talk about them tomorrow! XOXO, a

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.