Posts filed in: House and Garden

Beautiful Blur

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A swirling, whirling, freezing, twirling, wonderful, beautiful blur indeed! Forgive me for being away from here for so long! The days have just disappeared in a whoosh of wind and wonder that has turned into, yeah, an ice storm. The photo above is the current state of my mudroom roof, which is pretty scary. I know much of the country is experiencing wild weather right now. I'm on Day 8 of literally not leaving my house, even to go on the (icy) porch. It started with snow and really heavy wind last weekend, and has turned into inches and inches of ice, all over town. School has been closed for over a week, along with canceled ballet lessons and rescheduled doctors' appointments and store shelves absolutely empty of fresh produce. Andy had to work on Tuesday and was able to make it in to work (he takes the bus, which is generally one of the only ways to get around town during a "weather event" like this, as Portland doesn't plow side streets or salt roads) but planned to sleep over at the hospital that night, which he did (that's him, in the hospital gym-turned-employee-hostel). He started his shift the next morning at 2:30 a.m. and was able to make it home the following night, during another lull in the freeze. Conditions are far worse now, so I'm relieved and grateful that he's home (at least until Sunday, when he'll have to go back).

I hope you are all home and warm and safe! My two local friend-group chats have been on overdrive for the past week, as we all navigate lockdown/power outages/nearby fallen trees (Portland has literally lost hundreds of trees this week, and the beautiful picnic shelter where I had Amelia's birthday party a few years ago has been destroyed) and really, really bored children. I've been keeping myself very, very busy preparing some new things for a Valentine's Day launch, coming soon! I've been making soap, earrings, quilt hoops, painted candles, and hand-dyed embroidery floss and having a fantastic time letting myself explore and indulge in some new mediums. I cannot wait to show you. It's been a bit challenging to take photos in literally near-dark conditions, but thank goodness we have had our power on all week, which is much, much more than many of my friends and neighbors can say. So, I'm going to go now and keep working while my electricity continues to stay on, and I bid you all a very happy new year, and hope you are staying cozy and content, and I send you all every wish for wonderful 2024!

(And thank you SO, so much for all of your calendar orders last month — I can't even tell you how stunned and grateful I am for how the calendars were received. They are sold out now but I will definitely bring them back for 2025. Really, truly — thank you so much. XO)

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.

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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!

Signs of Spring

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Oooo, my stars, it seems I actually have a day to myself, and it’s a chess day (so I don’t pick up Meems until 4:15). I literally can’t remember the last time I had time to blog. It was probably March 1, the date of my last blog post. More like a million years ago, it seems.

Nashville is over and everything is back home except of course for the one box filled with patterns that got lost and never made it there. Lost forever, according to USPS. In the weeks since, I’ve spent the days unpacking, creating electronic orders from handwritten order forms, establishing accounts, writing thank-you emails, formatting a list of stockists, reprinting patterns and getting them mailed out to people who wanted them but couldn’t have them in Nashville because, of course, they never made it to Nashville (or, in the case of The Stitcher’s RSVP, it actually sold out, yahoo!). But, it’s all good. I think mostly everything is in hand now. Beth, Natalie, and I have not had time to have our official Zoom debrief but I’d love to do that when the dust settles. I’m so grateful to all of the shops who purchased my patterns! I have stockists now! If you have a local needlework shop of your own, stop by and see all of the wonderful things I’m sure they brought back with them. There are so many absolutely brilliant designs out there! People are just so clever and wonderful. 

Outside, the weather has been slowly but surely turning to spring. We Portlanders are still wearing our heaviest coats and standing in the rain while waiting to pick up our kids most days, but on Saturday it was sunny and in the ’70s, and the power of that warmth and light could not be underestimated. I felt reborn. A friend from my neighborhood-moms chat hosted an impromptu potluck dinner at the pavilion at school and it was just so great to be outside without coats on, eating with new friends and our families, and watching all the kids play on the playground until dusk. Dang. It really takes so little sometimes. Life has felt kind of cold and rainy and quiet and lonely lately, and I really needed a party.

We couldn’t get our yard done so we hired a crew to come and take away the piles of dead oak leaves, cut back last year’s dead perennial growth, and haul away the massive butterfly bush that bit the dust in the snow storm, and also a giant, rotting tree trunk that had been growing mushrooms and was left, inexplicably, in our driveway. I don’t even know when or by whom. (Our driveway is kind of a black hole, bordered by fences and a woodshed, and is too skinny to drive a car up, so we never have.) The guys came the same day we called, and, in a frenzy of leaf blowers (ugh, I know), rakes, and clippers, blew the whole place out. I asked that they cut all of our ornamental grasses back to the ground and that’s what they did — now the borders look like they’ve all had horrendous haircuts, and there are stray pieces of dried grass everywhere, along with some ravaged, forlorn daffodil and tulip leaves that got caught in the crossfire. I should’ve had all of this done before the new growth had started, I know. What can I say. One of the problems in our perennial borders (we have four small ones, all more-or-less identical) is that every single thing in them gets cut back to the ground in early spring. So just as spring is springing and daffodils are sprouting and things are unfurling, our garden looks bald and . . . seriously hacked. It will all fill in, I know. I hope it doesn’t take too long. It could use some compost and mulch, for sure. That would help.

Spring break is next week and I am looking forward to Mimi being home, and getting a chance to just do some fun Mimi-things — going to the mall, going to a movie, maybe getting some new clothes, playing mini-golf with Andy. We will have new designs and kits for you in early April. Everything is here, we just need time to put it all together! I will show you everything at launch, including two new digital versions for things that I am planning for summer. Ah, summer. . . .

My Favorite Picture of the Year

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It occurs to me, as I try to resize these many photos, that I need to hurry, hurry, as the wind is absolutely howling outside, and everything is whipping around. I have The Holiday on in my office, and it's in the California part, sunny and warm — but here, oh boy, it's absolutely frigid. And from the looks of the forecast across the country, many of you are feeling a similar Arctic blast. I'm scared we may lose power, as it is supposed to start raining ice later. . . .

All of us have been home sick all week! We don't seem to have Covid but we definitely have something, all of us: fevers, mostly, though mine's been gone for several days, and lingering coughs. Lots of pajamas, lots of blankets, lots of carrying the heating pad around the house, lots of orange juice. Lots of television. Gifts have been wrapped and long-since shipped, groceries have been gotten, cards went out last week. The first half of The Sound of Music has been watched, along with several Hallmark Christmas movies, and many more episodes of Alone (season 6 now). In spite of feeling off-and-on poorly, we're having a lovely, lazy time now. The last few weeks have been just nonstop busy so in every way it feels so good to just be resting. I must say.

But Nutcracker week was so, so special! It kind of does literally feel like a dream. There is just something just so excellent about first times. Everything about it was truly magical. I think I mentioned that photographing the actual performance is prohibited, which is always so sad! But I get it. My friend Claire took the lovely picture of Amelia backstage, waiting to go on (the swish in her dress, oh my stars) and I will treasure having this forever. The rest of the pictures of her in costume are from dress rehearsals at the school, etc. The first time she walked into Lincoln Hall for the dress rehearsal on the actual stage she was bouncing up and down and she said, "This is so exciting! This is the best day ever!" It was really, really fun, watching her be that excited. Someone snuck me into the theater to watch her group onstage in the dress rehearsal (Andy and I of course later saw the actual performances, and even a few she wasn't in, but I was as excited getting into that dress rehearsal as I've been about anything in years — I later got choked up thanking the person who had gotten me in, ohmigosh — I'll never forget it — I don't even know the lady's name). Amelia had been nervous about being on the big stage, but the dress rehearsal on Monday night went well. The next night was a night off, and, she got a bit nervous again about having an audience there the next time. It was almost bedtime and I had just come upstairs. She said she was feeling nervous and I told her to sit quietly and play the music in her head and go through the whole dance in her mind. She sat right down and started to do it. That's what she is doing in this picture. She sat like this for ten straight minutes, occasionally closing her eyes, and sometimes I could see her fingers or her hand moving to music I couldn't hear. I don't even think she noticed one bit when I quietly propped my phone up and quickly snapped a picture. I've literally never seen her sit this quietly for this long (not that long but it's long for her). When she was done she just turned her face to me and gave me the biggest smile. I said, "How did it feel?" And she said, "It felt just like Monday night!" And off she went to bed like no big deal.

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I don't know, it was just one of the best moments of my own life, right then, and I can't even believe there's a picture of it. Watching her find her way, right before my eyes. It's so, so good to be part of the world again!!! My big, brave, beautiful girl, finding her way!

I wish you all, from our family to all of yours, a Merry Christmas, and a very Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanza, and a blessed Winter Solstice, or whatever you might celebrate at this time of year! I'm so grateful for all of you who have been here with me through my days this year, and these many years. Thank you for your patience and your encouragement and your cheer and your always-kind words and your optimism and generosity. I know these past few years have been very challenging for so many of us for so many different reasons. I am just so glad and lucky that I have all of you to share my days with, and I cherish your attention and kindness to me in the million ways that you show it. Thank you for that, more than I can ever express. I wish you every blessing in the coming days, and a warm and wonderful start to the new year.

Love always,

Alicia, Andy, Amelia, and Agatha Paulson
XOXOX

Pretty Skies

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin and Sunshine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parks and Playdates

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Was May

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This was May, though there were a lot more necklaces, paintings, flowers, books, getting cats out of trees, worry, and tears for the state of the world. A lot more tears. And helpless, seething anger and fear for our children's futures. Every night I fall asleep to a sleep story (right now, Humphrey in Rio) on my Calm app, taking big, deep breaths and listening to the traffic outside. In my head, when the story finishes and I'm not yet asleep, I throw imaginary pots on the potter's wheel, slowly centering clay, feeling it push against my hands, feeling myself attempt to steady and control it. I'm terrible at it, in fact. The clay spins and slumps.

The weather has been warm but still very rainy, generally speaking.  The sweetest thing is watching Agatha learn how to be outside. At times we're still unsure about this decision we've made to let her Out. But she, mostly with great caution, has been going outside for about a month or two now, ever since the weather has warmed up. The backyard is fenced and she mostly stays in it (though we did find her in the driveway a few weeks ago, which is why I say "mostly"). But mostly she literally creeps around the backyard, trying to move so no predators see her, apparently. She listens to the birds and sniffs the air and lays on the warm bricks in the sunshine, watching little bugs crawl in and out of the cracks. She sits on the back porch and tilts her face up toward the sun. She runs over to me, meowing loudly — it's genuinely like she's trying to talk to me, and tell me things about Outside — whenever I come out. She sits under the thick hood of climbing hydrangea against the wall when it rains. Three times she's run straight up the trees — twice up the apple and once up the dogwood, each time going way too high. Making the choice to run up a tree gets you a swift trip back into the house. (Andy and I look at each other, grimacing, picturing ladders and balancing and trying to grab a cat that is trying to stick every claw into you while you teeter precariously. Great.) We bring her in whenever we are done worrying about it for the day, or whenever we leave the house. But her joy — her absolute wonder and pure delight as she sprawls out, furry belly splayed on the hot wooden stair, listening to birdsong — you can literally sense it, and it makes me so happy. I wish you similar, simple joys.

Amelia and I have been spending several hours every week in the children's department at a suburban library. She gets her homework done and I sit in a big chair and read and read. I don't know why we didn't do this all year, but we only started a few weeks ago. It's really nice. She's motivated to finish the homework so she can go play on the library computer. I'm thrilled to have several hours of enforced reading time that I don't normally get/take. I've finished two books there since we started going (one was Northern Spy and one was The Secret Place; not sure I recommend either, actually). Not sure what I will read today.

Thank you very much for all the feedback about the books that Amelia is reading/listening to. I really appreciated the discussion about Anne with an E (and Harry Potter). I think I will watch that Anne myself sometime and save the Megan Follows version for Meems this summer. We are almost finished with reading Anne. And now I really have no idea what we should read this summer! I like reading the classics out loud to her because I know she probably wouldn't pick these up herself. But she really likes listening. Hrmmm. What next?

Last (and late): A Tender Year: May is finally now available. Thank you so much for all of the sweet ideas for this, and I'm so sorry for the delay. Hoping to have June finished before July, I swear.

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Big Blossoms

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That exact lilac is sitting on my desk right now, the first I've picked of the season. It's actually my neighbor's bush that hangs over our fence. It's way in the back of their yard where they never go and I'm not even sure they know it's there. Last night we had a FROST warning. I'm so over it. It's just freezing cold and raining every single day. We broke a rainfall record for April. My car is leaking from somewhere onto the passenger-side floormat. It's perpetually wet. I had wanted to have a few girls over for pie under my apple tree. I thought of this about a month ago. I even bought a new tablecloth for the outside table. But there hasn't been one reliably clear day yet during which I can do it. The garden is EXPLODING nevertheless. We kind of miss the show, however, as we run in our raincoats from the house to the car, trying to keep cold rain from hitting us in the face. My gosh, the flowers are so beautiful! The piiiiiiiiinks. I staunchly insist this is my favorite time of year but, I won't lie, I am freezing and kind of tired.

My May Tender Year design continues to be nowhere in sight, and I don't even have a drawing for it yet. It just doesn't feel like May! It feels like March. What things should I put in May? Help. I don't even have any ideas! If you're keeping up with me on these and you are waiting for May, feel free to yell at me. :| I know. I'm sorry. The days unroll in a scattering of pompoms and beads and blossom petals across the floor. I seem to be doing the bare minimum, somehow. Not sure why.

There is a month or so left of school. Amelia will go back to in-person next year. I am both happy and sad, worried and relieved. Or something. I don't know what I am. I'm trying to savor this time without simultaneously wishing it would change. I can see her growing up before my eyes. At bedtime (or actually, several hours before bedtime, as it turns out) we do our usual routine where we go upstairs (this is early, at about 6:00 p.m.) and we change into nighties and brush teeth, etc., and then I read to her like we always have. We used to snuggle on the big bed in the big pillows and read picture books from the library. But now she likes to play with this pretty fabulous Calico Critter apartment complex she set up in my bookshelves. There are several floors of rooms. It's a hive of activity. So I sit on the bed. She plays and plays and I read chapter books out loud. (Then I go downstairs and she stays up and plays. I need my mommy-TV time.) Right now we're on Anne of Green Gables. I read a chapter or two a night, editing it on the fly (there is a lot of negative adoption talk, among other things). Every night we say, worriedly, delightedly, "Oh, I cannot wait to see what trouble Anne is going to get into today!" Amelia, the child who had more homemade dresses than she could wear, is perplexed by all the talk of puffed sleeves, and Marilla's unrelenting refusal to provide: "Why doesn't she just make her a dress with puffed sleeves?" Genuinely nonplussed. :) I have not watched the newest Netflix version and Amelia has not seen any of the TV series. Not sure which one we'll watch when we finish the book. We read The Borrowers this fall and watched The Secret Life of Arietty shortly after. I didn't really like it, I remember. I didn't realize there was an actual live-action Borrowers (from 1997, apparently) but maybe I'll check out that one. I do remember liking the Megan Follows Anne series when I was younger. I've heard the Netflix one is violent? Or something? Disturbing? Maybe I'll preview it. Amelia recently finished reading the first Harry Potter book to herself, so we are all watching the movie at dinnertime, a half-hour or so at a time. It's the first "big" book that she's read alone to herself so it's been fun to wait for her to finish to watch the movie. Believe it or not, I have never read the books and I guess I had watched the first movie twenty years ago but remember almost nothing about it. My most vivid memory of anything Harry Potter–related is inadvertently going to Costco for one of the first and last times (we just have never really been Costco shoppers; the stores are really far from our house) on the Saturday morning that one of the Harry Potter books had just been released (I don't remember which book it was; probably the third or fourth) and the store was literally filled with children sitting in shopping carts — like, in the actual cart part of the cart — reading big huge Harry Potter books as their parents pushed them around and tried to stuff groceries in the cart around them. Like, fifty different shopping carts, each with a reading kid in it. Isn't that a funny image? Lol. It seemed very meta, actually, like something I could picture happening at Hogwarts itself. It was so sweet. :)

I've been trying to think of and make some props for my jewelry pictures I want to take, so I spent the weekend crocheting little things and making a big Perler bead girl. Maybe I can style them to figure out how to include them in my pictures. I really enjoy doing Perler beads! They have the same meditative quality as designing or doing cross stitch except that you can do them with your kids. We tried dyeing some white Perler beads with Rit synthetic dye, which dyes plastic buttons really well. But the dye did not strike the Perler beads nearly as well as it did the buttons so I don't know if I will try that again. The were pretty, though. But like, the red dye turned the Perlers to peach, and I couldn't get anything darker than that no matter what I did. So it's only good for certain colors. The peach was pretty, though.

Okay, better go figure out what's for lunch. Anyone else have a hard time figuring out what's for lunch? I literally never have a clue what to make.

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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