Warming Up

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Yesterday Amelia and I went to the library. I couldn't help think about my own childhood library. It was the River Forest Public Library. Beautiful little library. The children's department was downstairs, and presided over by two perfectly classic librarians, cliched in the very best possible way, older ladies in tweed skirts and baggy brown stockings and crepe-soled shoes and powder-puff-colored blouses. They had been there forever. Everyone knew them, and they knew everyone. They knew every book. They were always there. There was never anyone else there to help you; it was always them. Wonderfully, magically them.

You went down a couple of steps to get into the children's department. That was a diminutive world — the shelves were small, the tables were small, the chairs were small, the windows were high. Everything was so old and old-fashioned, and wooden, and sweet. It smelled so delicious, like nowhere else in the world. It was still the time before computers, so your library card had a little metal plate on it, run over purple ink and used to make an impression on each book's library card. Then the librarians — I can't remember which one was which; they were always a pair, to me — would press the little inked metal plate down on your hand, a stamp. I was a serious summer reader. I filled out my chart diligently, placed my stickers the minute I finished the book. Some of my favorite books I can remember from there: Miss Jellytot's Visit. Farewell to Shady Glade. The Witch's Sister.

Across the hall from the main room was another, emptier room. This one had shelves all along the walls — maybe the picture books were in here? — and then the middle of the room was empty, with chairs, I think. The lights were often turned off, and only sunlight filled the room. It was warm in the winter and very cold in the summer. I spent a lot of time reading in here. (These were the days when you could ride your bike to the library by yourself, and stay, alone, for hours.) Does anyone know if the downstairs of this library is the same as it was thirty, forty years ago? Is the fireplace with the chairs in front of it still there, upstairs? I know the library itself was renovated at some point, and I've been there since then, but it's been years and years. I can't find any pictures of the interior of the library on line. If you live in River Forest, will you take a picture for me? I really want to see it. I'd sort of forgotten how in love I'd been with that place. I want Amelia to have a place like this. Portlanders, what are your favorite library branches for kids? I don't know them at all.

At home, we're starting to get our backyard groove on again. Things are cleaned up, pots are planted, weeds pulled, grass cut, flowers blooming. I feel like summer is getting off to a slow start around here. That's probably good. Let it be slow. Let me take my time. I plod.

Summerblooming

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We were going to go hiking but then instead of going straight we turned left, and found ourselves at the river. It's time to put the summer stuff in the car — an extra bathing suit, sunscreen, camp chair, shovels and cups, quilt, binoculars. It's time!

"Do you like the river?"
"Yes."
"Do you like the sand?"
"Yes."
"Do you like the birds?"
"Yes."
"Do you like the trees?"
"Yes."
"Do you like the . . . rocks?"
"Yesssssss."
"Do you like throwing sand on the blanket?"
"Yes."
"I thought so."

Everything is draped in flowers right now. The roses droop majestically and we admire. My little raised beds in the front look scruffy and random, peppered with poppies, alyssum, yellow daisy things, white statice, other things, I have no idea what. The weather has been so unbelievably perfect. I hold my breath.

My sweater comes along! The color is extremely uninspired. The yarn is nice to work with, though I wish my cable were longer. I feel like my stitches are all squished on my cable and I don't like that. I think my other cables are in my basket of shamefully incomplete WIPs. That's like, double lame. Not only are the projects not finished, they have needles/cables sitting in them. Perhaps I should be not so lazy and do something about that. Bah.

Our friends made dinner for us at their beautiful home Saturday night. Their seven-year-old daughter answered the door when we arrived and then wordlessly came out to the porch and squatted down and threw her arms around Amelia, who threw her arms back around her. They stood like that, hugging each other, for a long minute and I almost cried. Sylvie doted on Amelia all night long, letting her play with every toy, bringing her everything she wanted, playing with her for hours. Amelia watched Sylvie and tried to do everything she was doing: eating with a fork, not throwing food at the dog, coloring on the paper and not on the table. When it was time to go home, we were all saying our goodbyes and I asked Amelia to return the baby carriage to Sylvie's room. She wheeled it down there but then didn't come back out. I went down the hall to find her and there she was, alone in Sylvie's (absolutely adorable) bedroom, fully tucked into her big-girl bed, with the covers pulled up to her chin. Serious, hopeful look on her face. God I love this kid.

 

Quiet Days

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Well, the doctor says the ear infection is much improved, but my ear is still clogged-feeling and I can barely hear out of it. It's not painful anymore but it is very annoying. It's a middle-ear, Eustachian tube thing, on the inside of my eardrum. They have me on a nasal spray to see if it will help clear it. Blah. I feel like I'm in a bubble. Fingers crossed that it improves. And thank you very much for your kind words!

Around the house, things are quiet, too. I've been trying to take it easy, which is really nice (and feels so strange!). The weather's been cloudy and flat and I do like it that way, especially in the spring, when everything is so green. Today it's cool and dim, and there's not a hint of a breeze — it's as still and quiet as I've ever seen it. Meems goes to playschool two mornings a week, and she's there now. Our routine is usually pick up with the stroller and take the long way through the neighborhood over to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner, talking to cats, bugs, and flowers on the way. On Wednesday I made Indian butter shrimp and that was totally delicious. Definitely special-occasion-type stuff — very rich, perfectly spicy. I love Indian food. I'm not sure what we will make tonight? Maybe Thai salad rolls with tofu? I have fresh basil, too.

So, I finished The Swan Thieves a week or so ago. (SPOILER ALERT!!!) I kept reading it all the way to the end but I must admit that I was completely befuddled by why Robert Oliver was obsessed with Beatrice? Yesterday Amelia and I went to the mall to get some new summer clothes and shoes and I came home with this (which I got to sit and read for an hour while sitting in an armchair high above the ice-skating rink at the mall while she slept in her stroller. I've never done that before but that was pretty nice). I think I might have heard an interview with one of the authors on NPR not too long ago? I'm already on page 74 which is kind of crazy for me, because I am usually a pretty slow reader!

I'm also starting to knit this sweater. Isn't that a pretty pattern?

All of It

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People, Mama went DOWN. Like a felled redwood. I hit the forest floor. Then curled up like a roly-poly bug and moaned. Everything was going well until Saturday night. I thought I was feeling pretty good! We had a great day on Thursday, a wonderful Mother's Day party here with Amelia's birthfamily on Friday, and then Andy worked on Saturday, and Mimi and I had the best time going out to lunch and then shopping for a birthday present for her cousin. We got home around three. Amelia had just fallen asleep on the sofa-bed and I went out on the back porch to read — first quiet moment in days. I was so happy. But no sooner did I get four or five pages in (I'm actually trying to read this, which may have been partially to blame? Not exactly easy reading, what am I thinking) than my ear seemed to spawn an enormous puffball mushroom on the inside. I shook my head like a dog. I stuck my finger in my ear. I tipped my head upside down. I shook my head harder. What in the hell??? I Googled "my ear just filled up like a water balloon and it's gonna blow!" I had no idea what was happening. The next morning, I was at Zoom Care the minute they opened. "Ah yes, you have a little ear infection brewing." My first ever. All my life I've heard people talk about ear infections but I never really knew what they meant.

Sad face! :(((( If you don't know, try to keep it that way, seriously.

Ah, well. No brunch, no rose garden, no new dresses. Instead it was just lots of snuggle time on the sofa yesterday with my sweetest boos, Charlie and Lola episodes on repeat, Andy-made stuffed shells for dinner (my favorite food), sunshine and sitting around in the back yard when we got bored, me endlessly describing my symptoms in great detail. It was actually pretty wonderful, aside from the fact that I couldn't hear anything anyone was saying, and felt like my ear was going to burst, Mt. St. Helens–style, right off the side of my head. I kept looking at my ear in the mirror like, really? But it looks so normal! I just couldn't believe it was skin-colored (and not chartreuse) and regular sized (not gargantuan, like an elephant ear). I thought maybe I was hallucinating the fact that it appeared normal.

In spite of it all, my God, I must be the happiest, luckiest, most-blessed mama on the face of this earth. I kissed my girl a thousand times yesterday, and said my prayers, and I say them for you, too. I wish for all of it, every bit of it, for you. Not the ear infection part. Just everything else. Xo

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Ah, there's a fair amount of dishevelment among our number this morning. Runny noses, sneezing, coughing, and general incapacitation. Andy has it the worst. I have never, ever, EVER been sick as much as I have this year. Ever. It's possible we're on the other side of it, or possibly possible this is only the middle. I think tomorrow will tell. I'm picking up very hot, very spicy Tom Yum soup with tofu and plan to knock every germ out of my system with a blast of chili. Right? Gah.

This past week, when I wasn't watching Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery while lying in a tangled pile of quilts and feeling like a battered sweat sock (?), I wasn't cleaning out drawers or reorganizing shelves or going outside, either. I was making a bodice sloper (fever-induced mania? I am bewildered by my own self). Do you know what a sloper is? It's a basic custom fitted pattern that allows you to design whatever you want (in a nutshell). I ordered and used this one. I don't have any pictures, or any current thoughts about the process because I was essentially in crisis (both sewing-wise and sick-wise) the entire time I was doing it. It's actually really hard to do it by yourself and I don't recommend it. BUT, I finally got a really nice fit (and wow, am I crooked, and wow, my boobs are bigger than I thought — no wonder nothing fits — hello, full bust adjustment, as if I didn't know that).

Completing it successfully was nothing short of seriously empowering!!! [Cue sputtering germ-spreading coughing fit of enthusiasm.]

No, really. I haven't made a sloper in twenty years. If I were to do it again, I might use this blog post to help me draft it from scratch. (I might still do that when I feel like I can lift my hand to do more than change the channel or cuddle Meemers.) The coolest thing about it is just that you learn so much while doing it, and clothes suddenly seem much less mysterious, and you really do feel like it's just all a bunch of measurements and adjustments that you can make based on those measurements, and not that you are somehow a human anomaly that just shouldn't wear clothes.

Do you know what I mean? Have you made one?

Oh jeesh, and THANK YOU so much for your very kind comments about my new quilt!!! It's been making me very happy as I sit under it shivering and sneezing. Thank you! :)

My Quilt is Finished!

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My quilt is finished! I love her. I think she came out so nice. I had her professionally quilted by my friend Sherri at Bumblebee Quilting. She did the quilting and the machine stitching of the binding, and I stitched the back side of the binding down by hand. It was really nice to finish that part myself after making this thing. It's definitely one of the fanciest things I've ever made in my whole life, and it's by far the most (only?) traditional quilt I've ever made. It's nice and big — a very generous square throw. I can't remember the dimensions. I don't like throws that are small. I've been carrying it around with me — sitting under it on the sofa at night, carrying it up to the bed to go to sleep, snuggling under it with the crew in the morning, dragging it back downstairs during the day. I love it so much. It got super puckery and poofy after washing. I used cotton batting this time because I happened to have some; for the past few years I've been using wool batting and . . . I probably still prefer it. It's lighter. But I was surprised at how fluffy this got after its wash. I'm one of those people that never pre-washes any fabrics for quilting. I make the quilt then wash it on hot and dry it hot. One of my favorite things in the world is taking the quilt out of the dryer the first time it's washed (and subsequent times are pretty awesome, too). Ah, that's the best! Fluffy wonderfulness! I love my quilt. I'm so happy.

Grandma Paulson is here visiting so I've been generally goofing off, doing all sorts of things I don't normally do, fabric shopping by myself, going to Knittn' Kitten where the ladies let me look through several huge boxes of '60s and '70s patterns (seriously awesome), going to a MOVIE with Andy where I completely freaked out over the fact that they were serving ice cream — like, the kind that you scoop — at the movie theater: "Oh my goodness! Is this new? Did you just get this? I haven't been to a movie in a long time! Oh wow! How exciting!" And the dude's like, "Uh, no, we've had it for . . . a long time." Me: "Oh!!! Really? Oh my! I need to get out more!" Bounce bounce bounce, down the aisle to the auditorium. We saw The Age of Adaline and we loved it! I'm not going to tell you anything about it because it's better if you don't know. But we both loved it. We're sappy like that.

Rainbow! And sun-lit rain! I love spring.

Outside, Outside

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Andy worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so Meems and I were out and about most of the weekend: children's museum, Crystal Springs garden, farmer's market, a picnic with friends, playground, watering our plants at home (can you believe it? Everything already needs water), a little bit of napping  and breezes through the window. It was HOT out. April, and summer is here.

Inside (and this is why I really don't want to be inside) it appears that every single drawer, shelf, and cabinet in this house needs to be emptied, organized, and refilled. Like, every single one. I can't open anything without a tangle of toothbrushes, skirts, books, cans, piles of patterns, dresses (yes, I keep my dresses in a drawer), cough-drop wrappers, toys, dolls, parts of toys, parts of dolls, doll clothes, cars, ribbons, washcloths, muddy shoes, lone socks, ponytail holders, more books, piles of fabric, and take-out Thai containers falling on me. HOWL. I am a disaster. My house is so disorganized right now. I can't stand it. When in the world am I going to have time to do all this? I don't know.

I seriously think that because we spent so much time outside this "winter," the normal nesting things that need to happen when you've lived in a house for fifteen years (I can't believe it's been fifteen years), didn't happen, because we just kept going outside. And now that it's summer, it's . . . summer. And we keep going outside.

I need a plan. And to stay home occasionally.

***Details about her dresses are here. :)

Two and a Half

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Playing with Phyllis Mouse and a Calico Critters' cottage. Phyllis is wearing Juniper's boots. Amelia is exactly two and a half. I don't want to forget what this time is like. How she can take Phyllis out of her high chair and put her back in twenty times, and I'm fascinated. How she's starting to talk in pretend voices, especially the floaty, high, very sweet voice, with a lisp (that's not pretend), doing dialogue for her animals and objects, sometimes so softly I can't hear what she's saying. How she can keep herself occupied now for long stretches with the smallest of things, without needing anyone else's attention. How she loves her routines, and talks about the things she regularly does when she's not doing them (for instance, talking at length about going to the museum when she's taking a bath). How amazing her memory is, and her eye; encountering any new thing that reminds her of something she already knows makes her exclaim it with delight. How sweet she is, putting her animals to bed under pieces of Kleenex, with blocks for pillows, kissing their noses and saying, "Good night, I love you, sweet dreams." Oh, oh. I love you, girl. I love you so much.

I just finished a hilarious book: Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe. My gosh. I laughed out loud while reading the dialogue so many times I lost track. So deadpan. No plot. Lots of swearing (be warned!). Totally prosaic details of everyday life. I loved it. Now reading The Swan Thieves, which my mom gave me for my birthday. I didn't read any of the reviews or blurbs or even the back cover (sometimes I just like to read from cover to cover without knowing even one word of the summary, so I have no expectations), so I can't really tell you about it yet, but I'm 165 pages in. It's a little dark, and a little slow, but I'm sticking with it. Have you read it? I do love nanny novels. I've read several: The Country Life (super weird, I loved it), The Diary of an American Au Pair (terrible title — apparently the original title was Do Try to Speak as We Do, which I think is waaaaay, better, personally; however, I loved this book and have read it several times), The Nanny Diaries (not so much, kind of depressing). Wait, what other nanny novels are there? I feel like I've read others I just can't remember. I love the genre.

Dearest Ginny and Grace are having a stitch-along for My Sweetiepie sampler! Please join them if you want to stitch along and post progress photos on Flickr and Instagram. I actually got a little teary-eyed last night when I read Ginny's post and the sweet comments, and then read some sweet emails I received after people started getting their kits in the mail. I can't even really explain why, just so many things. I always feel like crying after I put something new out there and someone says something nice about it. Thank you, ladies. You made my day, truly. Xoxo

Don't you just love this picture of Joni Mitchell at her house in Laurel Canyon (1970)?

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"At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds. It had a smell of eucalyptus, and in the spring, which was the rainy season then, a lot of wildflowers would spring up."
                                                                                                                                                    — J.M.

Photo (by Henry Diltz) from an article in last month's Vanity Fair, the only magazine I seem to read every month, my grocery-store guilty pleasure, along with Harry's chocolate pudding and already-cut-up cantaloupe. I've been dabbing the house with eucalyptus oil every other day now and listening to Blue.

Edgefield

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Spent the day with my sister Susie at Edgefield; April 6, 2015. Spring there is green, soft, quiet, a little enchanted, a little haunted, a little empty, certainly lovely. I've been to Edgefield many (wonderful) times in full summer, on golden evenings, with beers and bands and blankets. But now, in the spring, on an overcast afternoon, you can see its dim, gentle, melancholy beauty, and I almost prefer it.

April Flowers

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Oh my goodness, thank you for the sampler orders. Thank you VERY much!!! I am so happy. I truly appreciate your orders and all of your sweet words. I'm really excited about this project and this kit and I really can't wait until they start arriving in mailboxes and you get stitching. Stacy is packing and shipping like a rock star. I'm very proud of this one and I truly hope you'll be pleased! Thank you so much for your interest and your enthusiasm and your support. It means the world to me.

Answers to questions, mostly about what was represented by certain letters: Yes, J is for Jam (or Jelly, or Jar); V is for Violet (after my sweet Violet girl); P is for PIE (blueberry, in this case). AND yes, there is a PDF pattern available if you have floss and fabric of your own — it is available for immediate download here.

As far as making the design in a fabric of a different count (i.e.: one with fewer stitches per inch, presumably), yes, you can do that. Please read through my tutorial which includes a discussion of stitch count (and how it's related to the "thread count" of your fabric). Theoretically, you can work a counted cross stitch pattern on any thread count evenweave fabric you prefer, though it's important to have an understanding of how changing the thread count will change the look and the overall size of your motifs and your entire design. Most cross stitch patterns will give you the dimensions in stitches, as well as inches (or centimeters) on whatever count fabric has been used for this sample. In this case, the finished size of the design area (that's from stitch to stitch, not including any margins) on My Sweetiepie is 13.1" x 10.3" (33cm x 26cm); that's 210 stitches wide x 165 high on 32-count fabric. If you are using a different thread-count fabric, it's important that you recalculate the dimensions in inches or centimeters so you know how much fabric you will need (plus framing and handling margins). For instance, if you are using 28-thread-count fabric, that's 14 stitches per inch; divide 210 stitches by 14 to get the width of the design area in inches, and divide 165 stitches by 14 to get the height (of the design area) in inches. It works out to be 15" x almost 12". So you'll just want to make sure you understand that before you use a fabric with a different thread count.

Ahhh, the days have been busy! Four days, no naps. You know what I mean. Funny things being said. Yesterday, after dinner, I'm in kitchen loading dishwasher, Mimi's in high chair in dining room, starting to wimper.

Me: "Meemers, are you sad?"
Amelia: "Yes."
Me: "Why, honey?"
Amelia: "Because I want to go to sleep in my little crib!"

Later, we're both lying in the big bed and she's pretty much completely asleep. She suddenly pops straight up and says, loudly, as if startled, "I love APPLES?!?!?!"

I whisper, "Yes, you do." She lays back down and goes to sleep.

Easter was lovely. On Saturday there was a neighborhood Easter-egg hunt, which was very sweet. We had brunch with my family on Sunday and then spent the rest of the day gardening and going to the park. She got a watering can from the Easter bunny and watered in all the new plants. Remember my wildflower garden from the seed packs in the parkway beds last year? Well, tons of those flowers were perennials, and they're coming back. I threw a whole bunch more seeds in, too. I thought they were incredibly pretty, though the beds got pretty scrappy as the really hot weather moved in. But, what didn't. I get pretty scrappy when the really hot weather moves in. 

Today, though, it's wonderfully cold. Birds are singing. Flowers are blooming. Leaves are busting, so juicy looking you want to munch a mouthful like a little bunny. Favorite spring dinners? Any suggestions? I need cooking inspiration, yet again. Last night I made my shrimp bowls. Thinking about doing that again, with quinoa and chicken. What are you making? What's good?

***Her sweater details are here, and her dress and pinafore here. :)

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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.