Send Rain

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Ahhhhh, August. It's you. You with your parched-out lawns and your afternoon dust-devils, your back-to-school shopping lists and melancholy swimming pools. The air is hot and dry. The light is languid and golden-red from the smoke of faraway forest fires, and my heart has been heavy for California these many weeks. In the afternoon our yard is littered with the detritus of a kid with nothing to do: a baby pool filled with cloudy water and grass and Lego people. Two umbrellas (neither of which are the one pictured here, naturally). Several glasses filled with iced tea from three days ago. A Star Wars bike helmet. Playskool houseboat. "Welcome to Margaritaville" lawn chair. Lawn chairs (sans greetings) that I will sit on, and tired, sun-faded hippie pillows. A dozen desiccated former bouquets, left everywhere you look. Silly Putty (dehydrated). Dozens of colored paper clips that got taken out of the house for some desperate purpose, only to be scattered around and forgotten, minutes later. I wonder what lawn mowers make of paper clips. . . . Not that there's any cause to mow the lawn. It's completely dead, just like everyone else's. I've kept the flower beds alive; the lawn and the parkway garden are fried up and gone. All gone.

Summer is hard for me. It's been HOT most of the time, like literally too-hot-to-go-outside hot, at least for me. I'm a mushroom who looks like a roasted ear of corn, in spite of everything, everything. I try to go to the parks, playgrounds, run errands, all that stuff, before lunch. At lunch I drag Amelia around on my never-ending quest not for the best food but for the most-air-conditioned Thai restaurant in Portland. My questions, when considering what to eat: How far do we have to walk from the car to the door? Will they let me sit next to the AC vent? And do they consider 80-degrees an acceptable indoor temperature (I don't)? I can't believe I am this type of person. Amelia eats Pra Ram with tofu and I have my fried rice or green curry. She draws with ballpoint pens on napkins or on printer paper that the waitresses bring her because I never seem to have these things, or she stabs anything she can with toothpicks, or she makes pictures with toothpicks, or she snaps chopsticks apart. Sometimes I read my book (right now, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and I can't put it down) and she finds tiny plastic animals in a basket and makes them talk to each other. We frequently bring stuff home for dinner because it's just too hot to cook. We still have a month until school starts. Almost every single kid we know is in day camp, so it's been hard to make plans. Consequently, she tends to play with an ever-rotating cast of unfamiliar kids at an ever-rotating series of playgrounds. She's good at this, and will walk up to any kid anywhere and introduce herself (occasionally to be met by the other kid's sheer terror at being approached, or their indifference, or their outright rejection, which always makes my mama-heart secretly shatter into a hundred million pieces). But, in general, as Only Children need to do, she makes friends quickly and easily, and always, eventually, finds at least one little kid to pair off and run around with. Nevertheless, I think we both dearly miss the consistency of seeing our school friends (the same friends) every day, day after day, and having a routine, and staying more scheduled in our daily lives. Ironically, when we have gotten together with our old friends, the same kids who used to spend hours and hours every day together at preschool playing their various made-up games with unknown-to-anyone-but-them kinds of rules, they can barely manage to give each other the time of day. I've seen this happen almost every time! And now it makes sense — as easily as they make friends, they easily forget them. Because they live in the moment. And that moment, the old moment, has passed. I, however, am looking forward to being part of something again, and having that sort of regular interaction with people. I know I've said this before but one of the most shocking things about parenthood to me is how many people you get to know and then leave behind, never to be seen again. Moms (mostly moms, some dads) at school, moms at ballet, moms at swimming lessons, moms at the park (to a lesser extent, because you rarely see the same people twice, but sometimes you do). I honestly had no idea that so many mom-relationships are so temporary. I mean, I have mom friends in the neighborhood and in my life that don't change, etc., and that's good. But I'm talking about the people that you get to know a little bit through the various activities that you're there doing temporarily, and then when those things are over, it just goes poof! I think that's so weird! I mean, I'm not saying I really want to change it — I'm as pathetic at staying in touch with people as they come, and anyway, these aren't really those kinds of relationships (the staying-in-touch-kinds) yet, honestly. They're the pool-deck kind, and the park-bench kind. But I just have never had this kind of experience so often with anything or anyone else in the history of my life. It must be a bit like being a camp counselor, or traveling a lot for work, or running a bed-and-breakfast — you're constantly saying hello and then, very quickly (in the scheme of things), saying goodbye. And I'm just saying that I am ready for some consistency and stability myself, and more hanging around and less departure.

Back to the book I am reading (points above). I want you to know that I found the link to that for you all without really looking at the computer screen because I do not want to know what ratings this book got or read a single spoiler about it or anything like that. Nothing. I barely read the flap. I'm on page 200ish of an 800-page book and I believe it's going to get me all the way through our vacation at the end of the month without me wandering away. And that's more than I can say for the probably twenty other library books I have checked out and returned, unfinished, this summer. I know it's me, not them (probably), but what can I say. Nothing's been sticking. Until now. Fingers crossed. I do live in constant fear that I'll get really into a really big, fat book like I did with The Goldfinch only to get to the end and have the world's biggest hissy-fit, which is what I did — I hated the way that book ended so much. I was furious. My roaring anger at it (and I mean, I really was shouting when I finished it) was in equal and direct proportion to how much I had loved it while reading it, and the whole experience was just waaaaaay too radical and insane, even for me, and I'm not looking to repeat that right now. So, you Luminaries, CONSIDER YOURSELVES WARNED. . . . Don't you let me down or things will get ugly. It’s hot here.

Now. I have finally gotten my Summer Storm PDF up in my web shop. I need to finish the pattern for my autumn cross stitch — I finished all of the stitching and the floss and fabric have been ordered, but I need to finalize the actual chart. Then, just as I woke up one morning thinking, "Hey! I should do some kind of hand-dyed-yarn advent calendar!" someone wrote to me and asked me if I was going to do some kind of hand-dyed yarn advent calendar. And then all hell broke loose in my brain and I started hammering ideas at Andy Paulson while he was trying to wrangle a small child and a small dog (paybacks). So all day today I've been sketching out ideas for what this would look like from me. In case you've never heard of this concept (it's pretty trendy in the hand-dyed-yarn community, but until I started dyeing yarn I'd never heard of it before, to be honest) you would basically pre-order this special box of goodies that I would ship to you sometime in November, so that you were ready to start opening on December 1. In the box would be twenty-five separate little packages, all wrapped up and labeled with numbers 1 through 25, and, just like a regular advent calendar, you would get to open one package each day. Among the packages would be mini-skeins of yarn, along with a full-size (100g) skein of yarn (for Christmas morning, of course), plus a special full-size lotion bar, plus various other luxurious little winter- or knitting-related presents for you, picked or designed or made by me. I don't even want to tell you what the things are yet because I'm too excited and my ideas aren't fully baked yet. But all day I've been thinking of ideas and running numbers and looking at clip-art and researching prices and sourcing packaging and calculating shipping costs, etc. Nanny Katie will be leaving the Posie studio to return to her full-time teaching position in the fall, but one of her friends may take over for her here, if everything works out. I know I can't do this alone, but if everything does work out, I seeeeeeriously want to do this, because it would be so much fun. I would do a very limited run, probably fifty max, just to see how it all goes. These can get kind of expensive because I can already see that they are a lot of work to put together, but people seem to like to buy them. What do you think? Have you gotten one before? How did it go? Tell me everything.

August

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I'm having a lazy day. Andy and Amelia are at the zoo with friends and the house here is quiet and calm. The sky is overcast, the air cool. All of this, every single thing, is so different from how it's been around here lately, how it's been around here usually (hot, loud, chaotic, bright, messy, frantic). I'm looking outside and there's not even a breeze to ruffle the leaves. That's how quiet it is, and how still.

We finished swimming lessons for the summer yesterday. I get very, very nostalgic as each thing finishes lately. Last year swimming lessons seemed to go on forever. This year, July flew. Is that how everything's going to be now? Fraught with flight? Swimming lessons, by their nature, go too fast. There's so much preparation: getting the kid to stop doing whatever she's doing to go potty/put on bathing suit/put on sunscreen/fill up water bottle, then hustling out to car with swim basket in tow (clothes, underpants, towels, goggles, sunscreen, etc.), then driving twenty minutes up to the lesson. Then going to the half-hour lesson. Sitting on the lawn chair, watching, I remark to anyone within earshot that I wish the lesson lasted three hours. I would like to sit there on the lawn chair with my feet up in the shade, listening to the pool sounds, watching people play in the water, watching people play with my child, for three full hours. That would be a good start. But before I know it, it's over. Amelia, dripping, beaming, comes toward me. I hold the towel open and gather her into it and she climbs on top of me and lays her wet head on my chest. We lay like that for as long as I can get her to stay, just resting. But then she wants to take her shower so it's up and to the locker room where the girls stand there, trance-like under the running water. We try to get them to share the space, to rinse off, to wash their hair, to rinse out the shampoo, but they're zombified by the warmth and the spray. We moms fuss, wringing out wet suits, collecting goggles, looking for brushes in bags, encouraging our daughters to make room for incomers, and perhaps even move along. The girls stand and stare into space. Finally, one of us: "Okey dokey, let's go, ladies." Reluctantly they come, shuffling out. Again, towels. Peeling off suits, dropping dry clothes onto the sopping floor, picking them up, stuffing damp arms into dry sleeves, all in slow motion. Getting dressed literally takes a forty-five minutes. The half-hour swim lesson, which goes by at lightning-speed, winds up actually taking half a day, when all is said and done.

Nevertheless, I will miss it all. But it's August, already and finally August, and now we get to be lazy. There's nowhere to be every morning at 10:40 a.m. anymore. I couldn't care less what time it is. I let Amelia take an entire bag of tortillas into the studio and eat four of them along with half a bag of frozen blueberries in front of the computer, watching Tumble Leaf for three hours. The weather last week was so relentlessly scorching hot that I literally felt cooked. Deep fried. One night the air conditioner stop working and I bleated in panic, and thought about dumping a glass of freshly poured ice water straight over my head. July was just so busy, and so hot. I feel like I'm in recovery from it, somehow, and just want to lay in front of the open windows, drinking iced tea straight from the pitcher while surfing pictures of unicorn cakes on Pinterest. That feels like plenty to do now. A good day's work. 

Surfacing

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Oh, hellooooooo. Hello! It's me! How are you? How is your summer? I hope it is going well!

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The weather this week has been fairly cool in the morning and blazing hot in the afternoon. I'm finally coming up for air after the past few weeks, which have been overrun with lotion bars and cross-stitch kits. I was really behind. Finally Andy and Katie and I got everything done. It was a great feeling. I literally felt my veins flood with relief when I dropped the last package off at the P.O. Thank you so much to everyone who has been so patient, and thank you to everyone who has written to me and told me that you are pleased with your orders! That makes me feel absolutely great!!! I have a lot of emails to answer and I really am hoping to get to them soon now that I am getting caught up.

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The photos are from our front yard. My echinacea is blooming and it is my absolute favorite. Agh. They're such lovely flowers. They seem so emotional. They seem like soulful poets, weary and brave and hopeful. In the very early mornings, I sit in the cool air and wait for the birds to come to our flat feeder. I drink coffee in my nightgown and hope that anyone walking past with a dog, getting in their car to go to work, pushing a grocery-cart full of cans, or jogging down the middle of the street just pretends I am not there. I hear train whistles and birds. Eventually Amelia and Andy come out. Amelia climbs on me or climbs her tree. Andy drinks coffee and pets Clover. Mornings are the nicest. If I ever have a trail name, it's going to be Morning.

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So, six weeks of summer left. There are lots of things I want to do and lots of time I just want to spend hanging out. I have lot of things I'm working on that I want to show you. Amelia's been in swimming lessons every morning and will be through this week and next. We'll spend some time at the fountains and the pools and the parks and the river. We're planning to go to the river house we go to every summer for a few days. I have a stack of library books I'm working on. I've designed the fall cross stitch and am starting to stitch it. And I found some delicious soft-serve ice cream with strawberry dust. It's all really been so nice. I have more pictures but I'll save them for another day. I'll have more time, now, to write so you'll see me soon. I hope you are having time yourself to do every summery thing you love. What are those things? Tell me about them. I'd love to hear.

Strawberry Moon

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The picture I took of the strawberry moon, above, was actually taken in the early morning. The moon was so bright the night before I couldn't even look at it. And I saw two planets, one way to the left and one way to the right. I think I read that one of them had to have been Saturn, Amelia's favorite planet (thanks Little Einsteins). It was so beautiful.

These pictures go way back! It's been a bit of a scramble lately. I'm still making and shipping lotion bars at all hours, and now we're waiting for more labels to come from the printer, which is taking forever. They are supposed to arrive on Tuesday, now. Next time I launch anything I'm going to do it as a "pre-order." I should've done that with these but . . . I don't know why I didn't. I've been doing this long enough to know better, I would think. But anyway, thank you again for your patience — I've written directly to people who are still waiting for bars to let them know where I'm at. All is still on-track for Summer Storm kits (and the lotion bars that were ordered with them, as well) to ship, probably in the third and last weeks of July by the time we get it all together. Andy has pulled all of the embroidery floss, cross -stitch fabric is supposed to arrive today and then it will be cut, and I sent in the pattern to be printed yesterday. Nanny Katie, who used to help me with Posie years ago (seven years ago now!) is a high school teacher these days. She is on her summer break and is going to be working with me again until the fall. She started this past Monday and it's been so great to have her hanging around again. Love it.

And by the way, we are planning to do 600 Summer Storm kits so there are still tons left if you would like to order one. And the PDF for that pattern will be released as soon as I get caught up with all of this shipping. I'll let you know when it's ready to go.

Other than that, we've been hanging around the house quite a bit, going here or there when it's possible, otherwise just hanging. It's been really, really nice. Since Amelia got out of school several weeks ago, we've literally had nothing at all scheduled. I thought that would be stressful, but it turns out that she is just at the absolute perfect age to simply hang around. It's kind of amazing. We were at the park with some preschool friends the other day (which took, let me tell you, about twenty emails between ten people to find two hours when three of us could get together — ridiculous — this is why I miss school!) and she was just able to play, and play, and play, for hours, completely in flow and absorbed in her sand castles and sand balls and water sourcing. Watching stuff like that, watching them just be so occupied and lose all track of time, and not care where their snacks are, or what's happening later, or who's around or not around, etc., is one of the absolute greatest joys of parenting for me. Hands down. Isn't it just incredible that they do that? Is just so . . . human. Humans just have that capacity to find things so interesting, even really small humans. I mean, I don't know. I really do only have one life-goal for Amelia, and that is that I hope she finds something in life that she just loves to do. That's really all. I think everything else can come from there. I know people who don't really have that and I think it's hard for them, and then lots of other things are harder. . . .

I've got many sweaters happening at night. The white-ish sweater is one I started, honestly, months ago now. It's Alfred's Sweater by Petite Knit for Mimi, on size 3 needles in single-ply fingering, dyed by me. It is a sloooooooow knit. So slow. Basically, it's an entire sweater done in ribbing. It's so pretty but I'm ready to move along. The greenish one is the Rose Sweater by Knit by TrineP in 6-12 month size in single-ply Merino fingering, dyed by me, that I made for the @knit_beyond_borders auction on Instagram. The pinkish one is another Rose Sweater, this time for Mimi, in single-ply Merino fingering called Antique Rose, dyed by Lichen and Lace. I've been terrible about updating my Ravelry page with the things I've worked on this spring and summer, but hopefully I'll get my act together an do that soon. I'm super anxious to start a #sorbetcardigan and my yarn for that should be arriving any day. That one's for me. I wish I was a notebook-keeping type of person because I feel like I have a lot of things that I see that I want to keep track of and make in the future, or color combinations that are pretty, or someone's yarn that's sold out that I want to remember and try to get next time, or whatever, and instead all of these things just scatter through the air around me like dandelion seeds, or something. I'm incredibly disorganized about my inspirations. I have Ravelry and Pinterest boards and IG saves and all of that. But I don't really have my own personal method of keeping track of anything, anything at all. And I want that. I think it would help me lower my shoulders. I keep a lot of things in my head and I'm not sure why.

I did just treat myself to this lovely sounding book box and I can hardly wait until it gets here. And now I think I'm going to go get some fancy ice cream to bring home to Andy and Amelia. Summer. I'm gettin' on board. It takes me a while, but it's happening.

Work in Progress

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InProgress

Thank you so, so, so much for your orders! Seriously, thank you! I haven't had a minute to jump back in here this week and the days are just flying by. So, I am in the weeds with lotion-bar orders that came in without a kit order, meaning they need to ship ASAP. I am trying to pour and package and ship over 200 orders just for the lotion bars right now, so I promise I am doing my best. I've shipped a hundred so far this week, but I really underestimated this one, I'm sorry! I've ordered more stickers, more tins, more supplies, everything, and I have the next two days while Andy is home to make and ship as many of these on their way as I can. So if you were among the first to order last week and haven't already received your advice of shipping, please watch for it over the next couple of days. Other people who ordered lotion bars to ship with Summer Storm kits, I am still planning to ship yours with your cross-stitch kit in July as discussed.

I've gotten a much higher number of emails with order amendments, requests for additions, etc., this time and I do answer those as quickly as I can. But, for the record, if you didn't add a lotion bar to your kit order and you would like to do so (and your first order has not shipped yet), the best way to do that is to place another order for the lotion bar (and anything else you would like) and leave me a note to combine your open orders on the order comment-box itself, and not sent in a separate email. I use a separate shipping app (ShipStation, which is awesome) for all of my shipping and it does a brilliant job of combining orders. But I must do that manually within the app itself, and I have a better chance of getting it right if you leave me a note within the order itself, where all the information is. Please know that I do not have access to credit card or PayPal information, and I cannot automatically add things to anyone's order, and I do not send invoices for extra items. Placing another order through the web site and leaving me a note is the best way for me to combine your open orders. With a volume of orders like this all at once, things always get a bit tricky to manage on my end, so thank you so much for your orders and your interest and your patience, and I promise you will be hearing from me soon.

Thank you, you sweetest people!
XOXOXO,
Alicia P.

Summer Storm Cross-Stitch Kit Now Available for Pre-Order

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SummerStormBlog

The SUMMER STORM Cross Stitch Sampler Kit is now available for pre-order. Please CLICK HERE to order.

All week here in northwest Oregon we've had scorching hot weather and blazing sun broken by the onset of sudden cloud cover, wind, and thunder rumbling long and low across the sky. I have been thrilllllllled with these summer storms. They are exactly like I remember from my childhood in the Midwest, and are what I tried to capture in this little cross-stitch design. In my front garden here at home, today on Midsummer Day, my dahlias and daisies are just starting to bloom. I couldn't be happier to see gray skies and bright clouds. It's my favorite kind of summer weather. I'm weird, I guess.

Summer Storm is the third in a series of seasonal pieces I'm designing. The first, for winter, is called First Snow (a kit is available here; the pattern is here). The second, for spring, is called Time of Flowers, and unfortunately the kit for it is sold out (but the pattern is always available here).  A design for autumn (on the most delicious color I don't even know how to describe — sort of a rosy pale brown) will be forthcoming later this year. 

Vital Statistics:

Finished Size of Design Area: 6.25"w x 8.5"h (16cm x 22cm); 100 stitches wide x 138 high on 32-count fabric

The kit contains:

One 14" x 16" (36cm x 41cm) piece of 32-count evenweave Country French embroidery linen in Rain 258 from Wichelt
(54) 24" (61cm) lengths of various colors of DMC 6-ply cotton embroidery floss
Stitching instructions
Full-color cross-stitch chart with symbols over color blocks
One piece of chipboard for creating a floss organizer

You will need your own:

#24 tapestry needle(s) for cross stitch
Embroidery scissors
4" (10cm) embroidery hoop
Frame and framing supplies

If you are new to counted cross stitch, or need a refresher on the basics, please see my "how to do counted cross stitch" tutorial here.

This kit is designed to fit in a ready-made 8" x 10" frame. All you need to do is make sure the frame is deep enough to fit a piece of foam core (and glass, if you want to use glass. I never use glass. I don't like it. I have my embroidered pieces hanging all over the house, and I don't feel that they suffer appreciably for being exposed). What you will do is wrap you embroidery around a piece of foam core, and stretch it with the help of about a million sequin (about 1/2" long) straight pins. You can read my tutorial about how I've done that in the past (though I finished the rest of the framing with custom frames at a frame shop). But with an 8" x 10" piece you can even buy the pre-cut foam-core at the craft store (JoAnn's or Michael's, or easily online) for just a couple of dollars. A frame store can also cut foam core for you for just a few dollars if you ask nicely.

This kit will be shipping sometime toward the middle of July. I will order the fabric as soon as I get a handle on the number of pre-orders we're getting, but the distributor has a ton on-hand, so we will be able to take as many orders as needed. We will pull floss and assemble patterns and ship as soon as we have everything here.

The pattern-only option will also be available separately as a downloadable PDF, but not until sometime in the next couple of weeks. I'll post here when that is ready, too.

This kit is done with two plies of DMC cotton embroidery floss on 32-count linen. That means it has sixteen stitches per inch. If you are interested in waiting for the PDF because you're worried the 32-count linen is too small, I think you'll want to read this post about cross stitch that I wrote a couple of months ago. It will help you determine what supplies you need to purchase, particularly fabric.

And, as always, I carry my favorite embroidery supplies in my web shop, should you need lovely, high quality tools. These are the exact ones that I use every day.

I also have finished developing my lotion bars, and oh, I love them so. Here is Summer Day:

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And here is Forest Flower:

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When I started dyeing yarn earlier this spring, my hands started to get really dry from all of the washing and rinsing of yarn I needed to do. I got interested in making lotion bars with my own customized essential oil blends. Lotion bars are great because they have no water in them, so they last for ages and a little goes a long way. I've been so pleased with how they well they work and they smell absolutely amazing! Summer Day is made with beeswax from local bees; coconut oil; unrefined shea butter; lanolin; and essential oils of grapefruit, orange, lemon, tangerine, neroli, and a drop of balsam Peru. It reminds me of sitting on the screen porch on a summer afternoon, eating a Dreamsicle after spending all day at the lake.

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Forest Flower is made with beeswax from local bees; coconut oil; unrefined shea butter; lanolin; and essential oils of cedarwood, Ylang Ylang, clary sage, bergamot, sandalwood, and jasmine absolute. I think it smells like a walk in the woods after a spring rain.

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To use, just hold the lotion bar in your hands for several seconds until it starts to melt a bit, then rub lotion into skin and cuticles, or anywhere you need some TLC. It also works great on feet, elbows, and knees. 

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Doesn't my friend Sahra (not to be confused with my three friends named Sarah) have beautiful hands?

All bars come in a reusable tin, as pictured. Please note: Lotion bars are solid at room temperature but can start to soften in very hot weather while in transit. Your bar will be packed in its tin with absorbent paper, but shipping it at this time of year may result in the design appearing a bit soft by the time it reaches you. This won't affect its qualities. I left my lotion bar packed but upside down on my back deck in 90-degree weather and nothing much happened to the design, honestly, but I did want to mention it in case yours arrives a little less crisp than it looks in these photos. Do let me know how they travel (and, of course, let me know how you like them) — I want to hear it all.

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I love the labels that the lovely Greta Gohn of Thrive Design designed for me. She has also designed a new pattern template for my patterns, as well, and it will debut with Summer Storm. I can hardly wait to use it. It's just so pretty and fits so perfectly in with the rest of my branding (yes, I actually said that). We've been working together for a few months to get some new packaging and a blog ad and yarn labels and this new template together, and working with her has been such a great experience. I absolutely love the entire process of doing stuff like this and it's been a while since I've had some pretty new things. I can't wait to send them to you. I'm doing all of the packing and shipping now since Stacey went to grad school and I have really been enjoying that, too. I get emotional seeing everyone's names and addresses. It's weird, but I do.

We do ship overseas! To place your order, you will be required to read this information, which contains details about international shipping and customs fees you may incur when ordering outside the U.S. (If you are overseas, the shipping cost charged by Posie does not include any further charges you may incur when importing goods.) To see the shipping-only costs for your order and location, just place the items in your cart and choose your location (or enter your zip code, if you are in the U.S.) and it will tell you how much the shipping is. As usual, I have a sincere request: Please check on and update your shipping address correctly in your Paypal preferences so that there is no confusion when we go to ship. If you do need to add things to your order or change your address after you've placed the order, just email me and we'll figure it out, no worries! I just like to remind people of this ahead of time, because it's a bit easier.

Please note that all lotion bars and supplies, and anything else you order at the same time, will be shipped along with your Summer Storm kit. If you need other items before Summer Storm goes out, please place a separate order that will ship right away.

Phew! Okay, hopefully I got this all right. I'm sitting in a coffee shop right now and the music is loud so, fingers crossed. I always feel very nervous whenever I launch new things. Thank you so much for watching me develop these things and for being excited about them as I've talked a bit here and there about what I've been doing for the past few months. I have more coming, more yarn and stitch markers and patterns, and I'm just keeping my head down and working away. I'm so grateful for your interest and support and the very real fact that it all allows me to continue to do what I do to help support our family financially and also stay home and take care of Amelia full time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. I honestly can't thank you enough.

With much love and hope for lots of rainy days this summer so that I can talk about more than my ever-present obsession with the weather,
Alicia

School's Out!

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Yep, it happened — preschool ended. Preschool is over. I took it hard. Not so much because I mourn the loss of baby days (I really don't) or have a hard time seeing my girl grow up (I really don't). I really love watching this beautiful, curious, hilarious, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed little creature grow and change and climb and talk and write and read and do things for herself, more and more and more every single day. I have absolutely loved aged five, and I feel like I love each year even more than the one before, quite honestly! But I have found the end of preschool a little bit difficult because, I don't know, I just liked it. I liked the place and I loved the other kids and the other parents, and I loved our little after-school hang-out group, and our little school-yard playground, and our picnic table, and our mom-convos, and the dramas, and the boo-boos, and the monkey-bar feats, and the worry over the stupid unlocked gate (grrrr) and the lead dust (grrrr), and the hiding in the camellia tree that drove me insane, and the tears more often than not when it was time to leave (and let it be known that we were almost always the last to leave as it was). I'm going to miss our friends and my flails and my rants and their patience and the laughing and the sometimes crying, and the potlucks and the lantern walks and the birthday celebrations and the shady wall on which I sat with ivy poking into my back while knitting a thousand rows. I'm going to miss my friends and the things I learned from them. Most everyone is going to different kindergartens next year. We have only one acquaintance at our new school, and although I think it is a lovely place and I know we'll make friends and hopefully we’ll love it, these two years of preschool have been magical for me. Watching Mimi get off to such a great start has been a dream. And I'm just so grateful for that experience.

***

Conversation after taking Amelia to meet the admissions director and tour her new school last week, during which she was nonchalant and inscrutable, saying hardly a word (though her eyes were just darting everywhere), and after which she got into the car and immediately fell fast asleep:

Me: “Did you like your new school?”
Her: “Yeah.”
Me: “Oh good! I’m glad you liked it! I thought it was wonderful!”
Her: “Mm-hmm. Yeah.”
Me: “Were you a little nervous? I always get a little nervous when I go somewhere for the first time, and meet new people for the first time. . . .”
Her [looking at me like I am insane]: “No.”
Me: "You weren't nervous?"
Her: "No."
Me: “Oh! Oh, well, that’s good. Wasn’t D. [admissions director] so nice?”
Her: “Yes!!! She was! Mom, she was as nice as . . . FROSTING!!!”

***

I will confess that the first morning of summer vacation Amelia and I just laid around in bed, binge-watching cartoons and drinking coffee and eating bananas and surfing Instagram until practically eleven o'clock, and we never do this. It was wonderful. Then we fed the birds and cleaned the house a bit and went out to lunch and went to the grocery store, and all of it did have a perfectly leisurely quality I am not used to. There was mint growing outside of the Thai restaurant we frequent and we asked Wassana if we could pick some and she said yes; we stopped and got lemons and an English cucumber and I made cucumber simple syrup and squeezed the lemons and mixed up a really great cucumber lemonade with mint, sweet and cool. The weather here has been PERFECT. Coldish and cloudyish and only a little bit sunnyish, perfect for sitting outside and birdwatching in the front yard, or reading on the chairs, or playing with the neighbors' guinea pigs at 5:00 p.m., an hour that will be so blazing hot by next month I won't be able to stand it.

Construction projects in the neighborhood are still ongoing. No sooner did one wrap than another porta-potty appeared on another lawn and another project started, at the third of the four properties that border ours. This time, roof replacement. The sound of summer: Nail guns, compressors, banging, guys talking, trucks beeping, trucks IDLING (seriously, whyyyyyyyyy? why are you idling?????), power saws ripping, high-screeching things doing I-know-not-what. I never thought I'd be like this, but I literally growl when it all starts getting going around 8 a.m. every morning. I am becoming my father. My father was just exactly like this about noise. DNA is no joke, people. I try to tell you.

Buried deep in my office on Andy's days off (like today), I label yarn and work on cross-stitch charts and stick new labels on new things I'm excited to show you soon. The next installation of my seasonal cross-stitch series (called Summer Storm) is finished and I'm very excited about it. I'll start taking pre-orders for that next week. The distributor has plenty of fabric in stock, so we'll take as many orders as there are orderers. Mid-summer is not the best time in the world to launch new things, but ah well. This is where I'm at in my life, so hopefully it'll be okay. Andy is going to start pulling embroidery floss for me next week and we should be able to ship this one by mid-July for sure. Then I'll have one more coming, for autumn.

I've been putting my hand-dyed yarn through its paces. I finished Amelia's Flax Light sweater in my own hand-dyed merino sport (that's the one with the garter stitch on the sleeves; Andy wants one now) and my lord, do I ever love that base. It is the absolute perfect yarn for me. It's sturdy but soft and it has a bit of halo but not too much. Agh. I'm happy with it. I started another sweater for Amelia out of the same, this time based on Rat's sweater in the Inga Moore–illustrated Wind in the Willows (which the illustrations above are from, and which is part of my own personal non-depressing summer reading list, which also includes Three Men in a Boat [one of Andy's favorites] and Diary of a Nobody, which I've read before and which I absolutely adore. Thank you for the suggestions, too! I'm planning to do a lot of reading this summer, so I'm thrilled with them). I also made Amelia a little skater skirt (it started out as the dress in my last post) using one of the three fingering bases I will be dyeing yarn on, this one made in the United States from 90% superwash Targhee wool and 10% nylon. I machine-washed the skirt on hot and dried it on high heat and I honestly couldn't believe how much it softened up. Wow. No wonder people like superwash. I mean, there's a whole debate. I never machine-wash knitwear, myself, and still don't really recommend it but . . . it worked. Anyway, more on me and my yarns and thoughts about yarn soon. I feel like I'm taming an octopus with all of these things I've got going on, but slowly they are all coming together and I'll be officially blathering even more about them soon. I still need to put all three of these new knits on my Ravelry page, sorry.

Also, I need to tell you about all of the awesome shows on TV I've been watching while knitting but I don't have any more time today.

For now, I mean, just look:

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First day of school this year | Last day of school this year. Look how much older she looks. Maybe I actually will cry, I don't know.

A Happy Birthday

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The  most marvelous Andy Paulson had a birthday this week and we celebrated in style, picnicking at the creek and playing in the woods. A crow flew off with Amelia's entire sandwich — an untouched 6" turkey sub — right off the picnic table while we were down at the water's edge. It was actually kind of amazing to watch. He stalked it, then he took it. I was amazed that he was able to carry it. Amelia and I baked Andy a cake and decorated it when we got home. She picked everything, the colors and style and the decorations, and I just helped. We used my go-to birthday cake recipe (it's the best chocolate cake in the world, I think, if you need one) with plain buttercream frosting. Andy laid on the chaise lounge out back and read his book while we shouted hints out the back door toward him about what we were doing. "Oh, this looks good!" "Yeah! And we hope you like things that are green!" "We hope you like things that are pink!" "We hope you like things that are LURID!" He said he did, on all counts, so we carried out our plan fearlessly. Neon frosting, geranium flowers, rose petals, giant sprinkles, traffic-cone-orange powdered food coloring, and lots of blobs. I think it's one of our best ever, myself, and it was by far the most fun. Happy birthday to you, my darling, darling husband. I love you beyond words and am so thankful every day that you were born.

Thank you so much for all of your gentle and generous and thoughtful comments on my last post. I've been thinking about it all a lot and just kind of . . . absorbing, I guess. I was particularly touched by the people who said something like "well, of course you want to know these things — that's what we, as people, do." In reading those comments it struck me how, even in writing what I had written and sort of saying "oh, well, I'm not sure why this matters" in it, I was still on some level denying myself permission to be doing it. The looking. Or rather, I was trying to keep myself from feeling the need I felt to know, as if I wasn't really allowed to have feelings about it. But I think  I am. And I think that's something unexpected that I've gained from this experience: I'm just letting myself go there, and feel whatever it is I'm going to feel, or not feel, about it all. I'm encouraging myself just to be . . . human. Knowing names and dates and places doesn't necessarily answer the important questions. But maybe it is a start. It may also be the only part of the story I ever find. I don't know. I don't know yet.

Coincidentally, I started reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (which just won a Pulitzer for biography) several weeks ago and was struck by this:

Discovering how Charles Ingalls and his family came to find themselves a few miles from the shores of Lake Pepin, just a few years after Pepin County was first marked on a map, is a detective story tracking generations into the past. Pieces of the family portrait survive, but the whole remains elusive, obscured under the soot of time. It may never be complete.

That is always a problem, in writing about poor people. The powerful, the rich and influential, tend to have a healthy sense of their self-importance. They keep things: letters, portraits, and key documents. . . . 

But the Ingallses were not people of power or wealth. Generation after generation, they traveled light, leaving things behind. Looking for their ancestry is like looking through a glass darkly, images flickering in obscurity. As far as we can tell, from the moment they arrived on this continent they were poor, restless, struggling, constantly moving from one place to another in an attempt to find greater security from hunger and want. And as they moved, the traces of their existence were scattered and lost. Sometime their lives vanish from view, as if in a puff of smoke.

So as we look back across the ages, trying to find what made Laura's parents who they were, imagine that we're on a prairie in a storm. The wind is whipping past and everything is obscured. But there are the occasional bright, blinding moments that illuminate a face here and there. Sometimes we hear a voice, a song snatched out of the air.

That said, this book is so depressing, I must confess. A lot of it is about Rose, of whom I knew nothing, and now I sort of wish I knew less. (I haven't even read all of the Little House books themselves, but Mimi is super into the junior versions of them right now, so there has been a lot of prairie talk around here lately.) I'm on page 347 of 515 of Fires and although I don't like it very much I can't seem to actually stop reading it. But when I do finish it I plan to read something utterly trite, so please feel free to recommend all manner of beach-reads because I'm all over it.

Andy made bangers and mash with brats for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, and Mimi and I finally did wind up making the rhubarb pie. If I could pick my wedding dress over again I'm pretty sure I'd pick this one:

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Princess Caroline's in 1978 (I think). From the pictures it almost looks like it has a gathered — like, elastic! — waist. I would totally do my hair like that, too.

Some of my new labels for stitch markers, lotion bars, and yarn should be starting to be delivered this week. I'm ridiculously excited to see them, and to launch these new things I've been working on for what feels like forever now. Andy and I drove out to pick up my very first wholesale order of bare yarn a few weeks ago, and I've been dyeing it little by little when I have time. I will tell you more about it as soon as I get myself organized enough. I went to a really fascinating lecture the other night about the state of the wool industry and our place in it given by Clara Parkes. I learned so much and I have so many more questions. There is so much more I want to know. I feel like I'm at the very beginning of a whole new phase of my creative life, and it is quite thrilling. And a bit overwhelming, honestly.

I also have finished stitching my next cross-stitch design, the third in my little series of seasonal pieces this year. This one is called "Summer Storm" (at least, that's what I'm calling it so far) and if I can collect myself enough to take some pretty pictures of it in the next week or so, we'll open pre-orders sometime in June. If you're not finished with Time of Flowers, don't worry — it will be several weeks before the fabric arrives and we have time to pull floss, etc. But still, I want to mention it because yes, there are two more in this seasonal series, this summer one and then one I'll do for the fall. And because the Time of Flowers fabric has been discontinued, we will probably do around five hundred of these next two and then call it good, and I don't want you to miss out.

I'm almost done with my Flax Light sweater I'm making for Mimi, and I've started a knitted dress for her that kind of looks like Selekjolen by Hoppestrikk. I wasn't able to find the pattern for it, and then when I did find it it was in Danish. I bought it, hoping to figure it out, but instead I just kind of started winging it. When I tried it on Mimi she told me she liked it while at the same time ripping it off her body as if it was on fire so, might not be worth starting over. . . . This is how kid-knitting is lately. I knew this day would come.

Shine Bright

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I had such a wonderful Mothers' Day weekend. It was filled with sweetness and food and family and fun. Amelia's birthparents and -grandparents and -siblings were all here on Saturday and it was such a perfect day. On Sunday we went to brunch with my mom and sisters and brother-in-law and nephew and had a great time. It was alternately busy and relaxing, and included lots of pampering and lots of playing and, best of all, lots of snuggling with my baby girl, who's no longer a baby but still loves to cuddle and have her back rubbed and hold my hand and give me Eskimo kisses and look into my eyes to see what color they are. I return every gesture in kind, a thousandfold, and thank the heavens above for giving me the gift of her life and love. She is the sweetest, most darlingest, most lovable, lunatic of a creature and oh I love her so much!

Life with a five-and-a-half-year-old is filled with the usual prosaic sort of chaos. There is constant climbing on everything, falling off of everything, interrupting you talking to them with some random completely bizarre talk of their own [indicating they're actually not listening to you whatsoever], playing "kitty" with totally realistic and seriously terrifying meows, refusing to sit on those automatic-flushing toilets in restaurants or stores [I hate those things!!!], climbing trees that are too small, climbing trees that are too big. Always running or otherwise crashing through every place. The other morning I was about to get in the shower and I asked Mimi if she wanted to get in. She likes to shower at the pool but she's only ever taken one shower at home, preferring the bathtub here. But this time she said yes. We have one of those corner, capsule-like showers upstairs; it's a standing shower but also has a little cedar bench for me to sit on. So I'm sitting on my bench and holding the doors open for Amelia to come in. She's standing outside the shower trying to decide if she wants to, sticking her hand into the water and yanking it back while I am saying with, admittedly, some urgency in my voice, "Come in if you want to. Water's getting all over the floor." Shower doors still open. Her standing there, reaching vaguely toward the water with her toe. Then her hand. Then her toe. Hand. Me: "Do you not want to?" Her: "No, I want to!" Me: "Okay, well, decide, so I can shut the doors either way," and as I'm saying this she apparently decides she doesn't want to and instead turns quickly on her heel and starts to tear out of the bathroom, only to wipe out on the wet floor and face-plant into the wastepaper basket and the dog's water dish. Wailing. Tangle of arms and legs. Bathmat bunched. I come lumbering quickly (oxymoron) out of (still running) shower, dripping more water everywhere, to help her up. She stops crying abruptly, apparently having remembered something else she wants to do. Exits. I climb back into shower and sit down and crank the water up, almost as hot as it will go, face in hands, steaming water streaming blissfully and finally over my head. Thinking: "God. It's only 6:32." This, and things like this, all. day. long.

Other moments, reading together, snuggling together, her sweet drawings and her forty-five stuffed animals (I protest), her singing to herself and talking to herself in the sweetest voice, her good nature and her easy smile, her smushing my face so hard to her own face that I can't breathe, her spontaneous hugs, her head against my chest, her "shop" in the window of my studio where she sells 6" pieces of yarn, her trying to write words, her love of Dairy Queens [sic], her portraits with big earrings and big smiles, her outfits (for Blue Day, White Day, Pink Day, Pick-Out Day), and her spiderwebs of yarn/embroidery floss/tape measures wound between table legs and drawer pulls. All of this sweetness. It's everything, everything to me.

I didn't bake any pies for Birthmother's Day. I wanted to, and had wanted to get up early and go to New Seasons (grocery store) all by myself and get ingredients and bake them that morning. But instead the pies you see above were baked by New Seasons bakery. I was too tired to make them because I wound up staying up late the night before, having finally, after about a year of searching, found my dad's birthparents — or at least the two people who I am pretty much 100% sure were his birthparents — on Ancestry.com. It was a total coincidence that I found them in the very early morning hours of Birthmother's Day (which is, if you weren't sure, the day before Mother's Day), but I had gotten a few very important DNA matches with close relatives on Ancestry within just the past couple of weeks and I knew I was close to figuring it out. When I did, when that last puzzle piece in the form of a marriage certificate between the two families whose names just kept showing up in my ghostly family tree, I actually got lightheaded. It was late at night and I was in bed in the dark, looking at my iPad, and I swear I literally heard something in the universe go click.

Sophie. Veronica. Manda. Anna. These are the names of my father's birthmother and -grandmothers and -great-grandmother that neither I nor he (he passed away in 2000) ever knew existed. Well, surely I knew they had existed — somewhere in my rational mind I knew that someone must have existed. But really, more frequently, I felt like maybe I had (mostly) fallen straight out of the sky. Until last year, I only knew one-quarter part of even just my biological ethnicity. My dad's was entirely unknown, and my mom's mother's was unknown. Or rather, we thought we knew, based on names (Lucile DuMont sounds French, doesn't it?) and legends (Italian, Italian, Italian). But we were wrong. I'm Croatian and Polish on both my mom's side and my dad's biological sides, with 1/8 English from my mom's half-English (not French) mother.

It's hard for me to explain why any of it even matters. I mean, I honestly don't exactly know why it matters now. Most of the time I'm not thinking about it. I'm living my life in the present moment, chasing my little butterfly as she zooms around on her scooter and brings me dandelion bouquets eight times a day and nose-dives into the dog bowl. But I always wanted to know how I got here. How we got here. I was always interested in history. I was always interested in geography. I was always interested in peoples' stories, and I always felt like I didn't truly know any of my own.

It goes deeper than that, though. In researching my family's history, in discovering just how many people in how many different families on how many different sides and for how many generations were keeping secrets, I can see that the legacy of . . . confusion . . . sadness . . . loss . . . insecurity . . . and even anxiety . . . around these mysteries runs deep, and also lasts for generations. It has certainly affected my family, and my sisters and me, in ways I'm only beginning to attribute. Eight years ago when Andy and I began the process of becoming parents by adoption, we always knew that in the best-possible-case scenario we wanted a local, open adoption, and we are lucky enough to have that. I don't talk about it that much because it involves so many other people, and their stories just are not mine to tell. But every single part of it, even the hardest parts and the hardest days, has been a total blessing (even in the days before Amelia when, oh trust me!, it didn't seem that way at all). I think, in life, you can try to mitigate the losses and maximize the gains. And what we have all — Andy and I, and our families, and Amelia's birthfamilies — gained from loving Amelia and loving each other is so profound it still regularly brings me to tears of gratitude and joy. How lucky we all are to be in this together! I think it's pure magic.

I obviously cannot and would never presume to speak for any other adoption experience or decision. People have very strong feelings about these things and I have the absolute, utmost respect and deep reverence for that. But I'm just telling you how I feel, and how it's been for me (and Andy), and how Amelia's birthfamily tell us it is for them. We'll always encourage Amelia to express how it is for her, especially as she gets older and is better able to articulate her thoughts for herself. All of us want so badly to be the best moms (and dads, and grandparents, etc.) we possibly can be. And for me, that effort is starting to include truly examining my own feelings about my own growing-up in a cloud of secrecy. Finding real names of real people who lived and breathed and gave life to the people who gave me life is an effort to peel back some of those layers, and let in the light. So that I can shine bright for my beautiful baby girl.

May Days

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It's a cold and chilly day today, and I love that. This morning Amelia and I were up before dawn. We started the coffee and then sat out on the back porch and listened to that one bird who always seems to sing the loudest. Actually, he sort of is the only bird within hearing distance. Way far off we can here other lone birds singing the same sky-lightening song. Amelia lay, wrapped in her comforter, looking up at the sky. I sat and drank coffee and watched the silhouettes soften into colors. I relished the quiet, save for the bird song. These days our property is drowning in noise from two major construction projects going on separately at each of our closest neighbors' houses. It's literally been almost enough to drive me out of my mind. The noise is shockingly loud and maddeningly constant. And I mean constant. They seem to howl in stereo. Or actually more like call and response. East-side starts, then stops. West-side starts, then stops. East-side starts. West-side starts. Guys talking on one side of the fence. A radio coming from the other side of the other fence. Passive-aggressive construction-dude conversation with new roofer guy: "Okay [skeptically]. If that's what you want to do. . . . Which [incredulous] one do you want? But that's gonna . . . uh . . . o-kay [majorly skeptically]." They all seem like nice-enough guys but uuuuugh. Shush. We can barely hear ourselves in the house. Nail guns. Power saws. Hammers. Compressors. Giant machine noises. Nail gun, nail gun, nail gun. Nail gun nail gun. Power sawing. More power sawing. Fourteen nail guns in a row. Are you annoyed yet? Welcome to our house! It's hard for me to think, I apologize. It's all been going on for weeks and it will be going on for many more weeks.

Inside it's really not that much better. Everything's fuzzy around the edges and needs a good cleaning. Dog hair, dead flower petals, sticks, dead bees. Puzzle pieces, dirty boots, a couch that looks slumped and weary. Andy went back to work today after having two weeks off and I confess to breathing a sigh of relief. When I'm alone in the house I go into a weird, efficient cleaning trance, wiping down crumby counters, sweeping dirty floors, picking up every last ponytail, straightening pictures, dusting surfaces, secretly tossing the kid-drawings that just don't make the save-cut. The list of chores I made went to the second side of the paper. Maybe it's not as bad as I think. I don't know. It does bring me a sense of accomplishment and peace to check things off the list, I must say. It doesn't take much to get it all to a good place but it does take some, and when there are a lot of people in the house I feel like I can't do it. I have a much lower tolerance for disorder than my family. But things are coming together!

Birthmother's Day is Saturday and we are having a party here, so I'm baking pies. I'm thinking coconut cream and banana. Maybe rhubarb if I can still find it in the grocery store. Or maybe chocolate cream? I would love to do one of those super fancy pie crust things that you seen on Pinterest all the time, with the cut-outs and the flowers, etc. Isn't this one so pretty?

I have things I want to write about but I think I'll be able to write more next week, when it'll hopefully be just a bit more quiet. Wishing you all a very happy weekend with lots of love and peace in every way. XOXO

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.