Hello, February

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It's been a vaguely exhausting few weeks. Colds and coughs and chicken soup. The days sort of blur together. Last night I sat on the sofa after Amelia went to bed and before Andy got home and strung 24" of the tiniest seed beads in the world into a necklace while watching Fixer Upper and drinking golden milk (steam 1 1/2 cups of milk with 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon of honey) and felt like I wished the moment would last for hours and hours. I've been squeezing work into every free space I've had lately, finishing all of the big crocheted critter samples and patterns and sending them out to the tech editor, designing a new little cross stitch pattern and kit for spring, thinking about whether we are going to reissue any animal softie kits this spring (we aren't; get them while you can [and yes, to those who've asked, patterns will always be available]), thinking about what's next, wanting to do new things, wanting to make some things that aren't actually kits. I have a million ideas and very little time. I guess that's life. That's my life right now, anyway. The stay-at-home, work-at-home mom. And now for my next trick. . . . I pull dinner out of a hat. I wish.

For some reason, I like to paint stuff in February. I did the same thing last year and I think the year before, too. It's weird. Amelia prefers to paint her hands, face, and bare legs rather than paint on paper, or beads, or anything else. Her attention span is very short. I like painting little wooden beads. Winter colors: mint, pale-sun gold, lavender hellebore, gray sky. The sun, when it's out, absolutely glares. It's such a strange time of year. Spring is coming here. Tulips are poking up, daffodils are already blooming, trees are budding, and yet most yards are still covered in fall and winter debris, mud, things that are dull and fast asleep. It takes Amelia and I a half an hour to walk two blocks home from the the playschool. She's busy going up driveways, "planting" sticks in Al and Peri's yard, checking Holly's mailbox, getting caught in her open umbrella she drags along the sidewalk upside down, shouting goodbye to her friend. Oh I love her. Sometimes we walk up to the bakery or the ice cream store and it's an all-afternoon venture, a mile an hour. But I love the time. I love the cold. I love the cold, wet yards; the purple clouds; the fat, cold buds. The raindrops on tangles of branches. The rosy dawns. The plaintive crows. The black trees. The violet sky. The quiet, cold morning frost. There's a small, local circumference to our life right now, in winter. A sort of resolute burrowing, slightly nervous and not quite ready for longer days. Spring is coming here. It comes in February now.

***They put the January Golden Rose recipients' stories up on the web site. They make me cry. So many amazing people, doing these things every single day, everywhere.

January Ends

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Amelia's portrait of me is as accurate as could be, IMHO. I'm wearing my glasses and my hair is sticking out.

My computer — and I — are in a state of semi-function. Computer is more or less working properly, loaded back up with its stuff, though everything is different — different email program, different photo transferring software, different mouse pad thing (that I hate), different Photoshop (I'm on Creative Cloud now, after using old CS3 forever), different color calibration, different lots of stuff that is making life on the computer both easier in some ways and harder in others. I'm trying to figure out how to reset my defaults to where they had been, or something. . . . It's really amazing how automatic my old processes were to me, for better or worse. This has been one of the harder transitions to new equipment for me. I'm getting old. And googly-eyed.

Also, I have a cold. I'm still just not quite up and running.

Andy's home today. I'm hauling my basket of yarn upstairs to watch House Hunters International and crochet. I'm working on my new patterns, which will also be kits. There's Honey Bunny (a pink and a blue version) and Lovey Lamb. They've been the perfect January projects — very simple, and very long (well, the lambie, at least, has been almost tediously long, which has, strangely, been also quite perfect). Kits and pattern will be ready in the spring. I'm sad that January is almost over, I really am. I was sitting on the sofa the other day, doing absolutely nothing. Amelia was completely confused. "Mom, what are you doing? Mom, are you okay? What are you doing?" Me: "I'm sitting here doing nothing." Her [bewildered]: "Why, Mom? What are you doing?" Me: "I know this is very strange for you, Amelia, as it's quite possible you've never seen me sitting down and doing nothing in your entire life, but people actually do this. I'm going to do this, and then Daddy is going to bring me some cinnamon rolls. Isn't that wonderful?" Her [uncertain]: "Yeah!"

I'm not even kidding, we literally had that conversation.

Thank you for all of your kind words on Andy's award. We were both very touched by your kindness. Thank you. Amelia and I were back up on the hill on Wednesday to see Andy be presented with another award at the OHSU Golden ROSE (Recognition for Outstanding Service Excellence) awards ceremony (another one!). This one is awarded every month to several different OHSU employees who are nominated by someone else at the hospital. Each nominator stands up and reads their nomination to the roomful of people while the nominee stands next to the podium. The stories were amazing. I wish I could remember all of the details of each of the stories, but I know I'll get them wrong, and the January recipients aren't up on the OHSU web site yet. I will link over there when they are. (Update: Here they are!) I couldn't be prouder of Andy, or to be a part of OHSU, both as a patient and an employee spouse. It's such an exceptional place.

Today, the sun is shining as bright as could be. The angle of the sun is low, and glaring — a winter sun. Everything is soaked and glinting. Keep warm out there, friends. Stay slow. Let's drag it out as long as we can.

***By the way, that's Andy's view every day at work. And that picture doesn't even capture it, really. Isn't it amazing?

 

Winter Days

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I don't have much to show for the past few weeks. Things have felt alternately rushed and then slow and then rushed and then slow — hurry up, wait, hurry up, wait — depending on what I'm doing and who I'm with. Days with Amelia are long and lovely and also generally mildly exhausting, as life with three-year-olds in wintertime must be for most people. We don't stay home much. With her, it's truly harder to stay home. She gets bored. We go to our usual places to play, take hours to eat lunch at various Thai restaurants and brew pubs and sandwich joints from one side of the city to the other, visit Daddy at work and see him be presented with a very special award (so proud of you, babe), go to potluck suppers with all the neighbors and neighbor-kids, wander around Ikea for most of a day, splash in water rooms and pound clay in kids' museums, linger over ice creams in empty ice-cream shops, watching the rain and talking, talking, talking. My girl. I like the quiet days, the rain, the lack of a certain kind of expectation. When I'm not with Amelia, I'm going as fast as I possibly can, wrestling with two computers — one old, one brand new — trying to get the old one to work long enough for me to get the new one up and running, and no matter how much you back up, there is still just a ridiculous amount that you have to do (or at least I have to do, and no, I don't really know what I'm doing) to get the new one working. Well, not working, but properly functioning — get all my files migrated, and my software installed, and the updates installed, and the fonts installed, and all the stupid passwords transferred, and get new software to replace the obsolete software, and the printer drivers, and the email, etc., etc., etc. Apparently there are People who can do this for you, but apparently I don't believe it, or something, because I haven't taken my computer to anyone, anywhere. Blech. How bored are you right now, seriously. I'm sorry.

I'm also trying to fix some things on this blog — well, I myself am not trying to fix those things, other people are, thank goodness. Hopefully when all is said and done 1) the monthly blog archives will look like the home page, so there aren't those little thumbnails where you have to click on every single post to read the blog (hate that), 2) I'll have some sort of way to occasionally respond to comments (which I can't do easily now because my template is customized, and the code just isn't there to easily turn this "on"), and 3) I'll have a new subscription service, so that if you want to subscribe to this blog (which you don't now, because of the boring) you can get updates in your email inbox (instead of through feed readers).

Stuff like that. Etc., etc., etc.

I guess this, too, is what January's for, in a way.

At night I've been buying vintage cotton voile saris on Etsy with the intention of making kaftans for summer, and crocheting a woolly lamb. I'm glad January is thirty-one days.

 

Slow Lady

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Hello! How are you? Happy January! It's been quiet around here. I'm relieved, and I might even say thrilled. The house is disheveled and so am I. I had a birthday last week. It was lovely. We went swimming over the weekend at an indoor water park and it was awesome. We were there for three hours and Amelia didn't want to leave (and that's a first — usually she's ready to go and they have to drag me out). It felt like a little mini vacation. At night I've been crocheting a little bunny guy. It's time to get back into a regular routine (apparently) but I'm gonna try to hibernate for as long as possible. I'm just not ready to get up and at 'em yet, you know? New books, hot baths, and plenty of yarn. Thumbs up, January.

***The bunny is a pattern I am working on. I'll let you know when he's done. :)

 

Happy New Year!

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Best New Year's gift ever: We woke up to snow early on Sunday morning, and Andy had the whole day off! Nothing can compare to this, for me. I dream of it. To watch our daughter playing in the snow in her own yard, on her own street, and in her own park is just beyond-words wonderful. It was so much fun. It was just one day, but oh, it was the best day. I'll never forget it.

***Yep, she's a sled dog. :)

Starlight, Starbright

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Sweet days, and a rush, and and now, hopefully, a hush to the finish. Christmas was so nice. A bit of a whirlwind, really. I must admit that as it speeds up I just try to hang on for the ride. I'm better at downtime. I'm good at January and February. I feel accomplished if I manage one thing a day, then.

With my smidge of remaining energy, I had a cleaning fit on Sunday and donated our extra blankets, coats, and toys to make room for some of the new ones. (Amelia's amazing dolly was made by Hillary. Isn't she so big and cool? Thank you, dear friend! I need to get a picture of the crocheted giraffe [Raffy] that Andy made, too. She is awesome.) On the way home from the shelter, it snowed. I was possibly in the least romantic of places when it started — driving on Halsey and NE 122nd (not particularly picturesque) with a sleeping toddler in the car who missed the whole thing. By the time we reached the house (I'd planned to hustle us inside and start heating up hot chocolate as fast as I could) it was over. Just big, fat, cold drops of rain. That's okay. In December I did nothing but drink Burgerville chocolate-peppermint milkshakes and make appetizers for everyone I've ever met and clean the house fifty thousand times. In January I plan to devote myself unflaggingly to breaking in my new flannel sheets, reading actual books, and wishing for snow. I think that's plenty.

So, house and brain are disheveled and fluffy, which feels kind of nice. We have no plans for New Year's Eve, thank goodness. Andy works both Eve and Day, and Amelia and I will probably make shrimp cocktail and I'll see if I can get her to watch Snow Buddies (which has actual dogs and not cartoon dogs) and we'll be in bed with the new flannel sheets by 7:00 p.m. Should you lead a more exciting life have need for some party food, I can highly recommend everything that I made from your appetizer suggestions a few weeks ago:

Smoked salmon dip
Onion and bacon marmalade (spread onto goat-cheese smeared crostini)
Snowman cheese ball!
Shrimp with cocktail sauce
Badenjan dip
Olive cheese spread on English muffins
Jezebel sauce over cream cheese
Taco dip
Bar nuts
Spinach dip

Forgive me for not also mentioning each commenter who made these suggestions! Many of them were repeated so I took that as hearty endorsement and I will say that all of the food got eaten — the olive cheese spread most of all! I thought the homemade shrimp cocktail was amazing, myself. And, to note, I was looking for mostly cold appetizers to serve; the list above was a nice mix of mostly cold with just a few things that needed to be heated up. It seemed like the perfect amount for about twenty-five to thirty people (who were all going on to eat other courses elsewhere). It was a really fun night. My favorite part was when Amelia shouted, "C'mon, everybody! Let's go to the next house!" (and then, naturally, walked to the McNeil's front door and opened it herself and tried to leave). The girl loves a party.

That said, now that I've paid my Appetizer Dues, I'm seriously rethinking this cooking-for-parties thing. I love having parties but it is such a ton of work to make all of that food. I've had four in the past three months, including Amelia's big birthday party (also lots of appetizers), and you know what? I'm having at least that party catered next year. I swear it costs practically as much to buy the groceries, and then you still have to, you know, make everything yourself. With a toddler running (and climbing) around and a galley kitchen, it's just too much. And I don't have the storage space to do anything ahead of time. I'll make one special thing myself, the birthday cake, or maybe crab cakes for a holiday party, but otherwise I'm going to start saving up a little Catering Fund so that I don't wind up sprawled in a chair, hoping someone will bring me something to drink and hoping someone else will keep my kid from touching every single thing on the table. (As if that were even possible. That's not possible. But that's why I have to save my strength.)

The day after Christmas we went outside. I felt like I hadn't been outside in weeks. It was cold and clear, and that's unusual lately. I could've walked all day. Resolution for 2016: Find a flat, wide trail in the woods along which it is possible to push the stroller for the walk back. Like a logging road, but flat. I only need it to be about a half a mile. Anybody know of one like that? You'd think this would be easy, but it's very hilly around here. Wide and flat is pretty rare. Meems is great on the way in, not so great on the way out. The woods were so green, like a fairy tale. They got me thinking about gardening again, in a dreamy kind of way.

Two seed catalogs have arrived in the mail. Wintertime is for dreaming. I think I might make a list of things I want to do in the new year. I've never actually done that before. I wonder why I haven't. I'm in the mood for it now. It might be nice to write some things down.

Happy, happy almost–New Year to you! I hope your days this week are slow, and sweet, and filled with light and quiet and peace as we roll into 2016.
Xoxo, a

***Lots of questions in the comments I'll try to answer here: The snowflake mobile is many years old, from Pottery Barn Kids. All the knitting on the table is detailed on my Ravelry page here. The little deer was at my sister's house and I'll have to ask her where it's from, I don't know. I got the Territorial Seeds catalog (local) and one other one from Iowa I can't remember, and can't seem to find now. All of my electric (well, battery) candles I've bought locally at American at Heart in Sellwood, and I know they don't ship, so I'm sorry I don't have a source for out-of-towners. They're wonderful; I'm sure you can find something similar on-line. And my Swedish pancake recipe is here:

Swedish Pancakes

4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 c. milk
a little bloop of vegetable oil

Whisk eggs, flour, sugar, and salt together into a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in milk until just combined, then add a bit of oil (just to keep them from sticking) and stir again. Ladle or pour the batter onto the griddle over medium heat, and tip pan to swirl batter into a thin circle. Flip when edges look dry.

 

Before Christmas

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The weeks fly by as swiftly as Santa's reindeer, coursing through the night sky. It's always that way; December's a spangled, sparkling whoosh. With a three-year-old, the whole month feels like a confetti shower of raindrops and cookies and elves and stars and fake snowflakes. Magic. Every morning she woke up and ran to put a new ornament on the advent tree. Every night I read her to sleep with Christmas books. The Night Before Christmas. The Snowy Day. Santa's Workshop. The Christmas Magic. It's astonishing how well I remember some of the specific illustrations from my own childhood, which makes me think they were special to me, even then. Oh, Christmas. You make me remember things, places and people that are gone or far away, things that I wished for and got or didn't get, days that I missed almost before they were even over. The cold, clear Sunday afternoons when I skated on the ice at Keystone Park for hours and hours, and walked home in the dark under the big, bare trees, the air filled with the smell of smoke and ice and wet wool and powdered hot chocolate, my skate blades hitting my back as I walked. I remember riding the Empire Builder through the snowy mountains of western Montana and across the plains of North Dakota to Chicago, reading The Brothers Karamazov, my embroidered pillow against the window and embroidered boots tucked under my seat. I remember midnight mass at St. Luke's, singing with Mrs. Miller in the choir, and the parties afterward at the Millers', how everyone in town would come, how delirious with fatigue I would be, and how beautiful it was to drive through River Forest late at night, looking at the lights.  I remember my dad burning frankincense and myrrh in a little log cabin incense holder, and the winter sunsets at the house, and our Christmas Eve parties, and my cousins and aunts and uncles coming over. I remember sleeping under the Christmas tree with Andy twenty years ago, in the huge, old house he lived in in Davenport, Iowa, and when he said, "This is my dream." I'm glad I remember some things, though they make me cry. I've forgotten so much.

I wish you a merry Christmas, filled with good memories and peace and love, and gentle moments, and children, and small gifts that feel big, and friends and family and warm animals curled on your feet, and I thank you for all of your many, many sweet words and the kindest generosities you share here throughout the year, and these many years. Your kindness and attention has given me more than I can ever say. I wish you good tidings, and great joy, and, most of all, peace during this season. Peace be with you, dear friends. May we have peace in this world.

With love always,

Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and the Lady Bee.
XOXOX

(P.S. I'll tell you all about the appetizers I made for the party sometime soon! Thank you again for the suggestions — it was awesome! :)

 

Evergreens

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the appetizer and party ideas!!! Seriously. VERY GOOD. Apparently, a lot more people enjoy cheese balls than I ever would've thought! Good to know!!! I am not sure exactly which appetizers I am going to make yet, but I'm feeling much better about the whole thing, so thank you, most sincerely. And there WILL be a cheese ball. Absolutely.

Oh, it's been quieter here. Quite nice. Quiet and nice. I'm heading off to Amelia's playschool Christmas party in a minute. (Then it's three weeks with nooooooo playschool. Ack! She's going to go crazy. Or one of us will.) The rain hasn't stopped much, but we did take a fairly dry walk to the grocery store yesterday. Aunt Susie brought calzones last night and Grandma's bringing chicken and dumplings tonight. Andy's on day three of four days at work in a row (they work twelve-hour shifts, so that's actually a lot). Play-date this afternoon, and maybe I'll get the rest of the Christmas cards done. Need to make a dolly-cradle mattress and blanket and pillow. Plenty of milk in the fridge for hot chocolate. Need cookies very badly. New knitting project going fast and very nicely. It's all good. Deep breath. It's good. I always think solstice comes to quickly. I'm trying to go slow.

Rainytown

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So. Much. Rain. It never seems to stop. If it does stop, it quickly again starts. We're used to doing everything in a downpour now. Pushing a grocery cart full of groceries and a toddler through a parking lot in the pouring rain. Walking the dog in the pouring rain. Eating Christmas cookies in the pouring rain. Christmas shopping in the pouring rain. Ah, I shouldn't complain. . . . It's very cold rain, though. And did I mention, it never stops? . . .

Wintertime in Portlandtown. Make some coffee, light some candles, turn on the made-for-TV Christmas movies (favorite new Christmas movie: Just in Time for Christmas. I absolutely loved it.) Knit knit knit. Have a party or two. We've been having or going to party after party, which is not our usual style, but it has been really fun. All different groups of people. We're having another party here next weekend! That's the neighborhood progressive dinner. We're doing appetizers here. Can you suggest easy, cold appetizers for twenty people? I don't really know how to do this, but I do know I don't want to be shoveling hot things in and out of the oven. Even when they originally came from the freezer at Trader Joe's. Dips, cheeses, crackers . . . er . . . what else . . . ? This is only the first course of several, so, I think it can be pretty simple. All advice welcome!

It's busy right now, isn't it? No matter how you try to slow it down. There are just lots of things! The Christmas cards I ordered should be arriving in the mail here today. I'm going to make some hot tea and find the address book. Doing the cards is one of my favorite things. I've been looking forward to this. Go slow, Monday: I'm gonna settle in, stay warm, and write to all our friends with an actual pen.

***To those who have asked, the dollhouse is one I got at a secondhand store years and years ago. :) Sorry, I don't have a lead on a new one!

 

Tiny Lights

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Christmas things, loving things, soups and breads and friends and parties, lights and candles to fill the December days. This morning it is raining as hard as I've ever seen it, and it's as dark as late afternoon. We have a busy week ahead (who doesn't), and I'm resisting the urge to climb back into bed and pull up the quilts and knit and knit and knit; but no, that won't happen. Instead I light candles and say a prayer for the world, the news of which I can't lately seem to absorb with anything but melancholy, though I strive for hope. In the mornings, we snuggle for hours (one of the benefits of getting up hours before light sneaks up on the windows). Andy and Clover sleep. Under the covers, I pull my daughter's warm body into mine. She holds my big hand on her small belly. She eats a banana (two bananas) and I drink very hot, very strong coffee by the light of the string of paper stars we got a few months ago. I've put them on a dimmer, and thus can turn them down to the barest, dimmest, almost-golden glow. We're under softest flannel sheets and wool blankets and wool-filled quilts, with a dozen pillows at our backs. Foxy, Pengy, Snowy Bear, Bruno, and Big Bunny — all here, too. Quietly, quietly she sings back to me the lullaby I sing to her each night. It's a tune I made up, with the words from a book. Her sweet voice, her lisp. Her whisper-singing: on key. Her warm, bare legs sliding along mine. She fits so perfectly against my shoulder, under my arm. I ask her if she can hear the rain and she nods (mouth now full). It drums, relentless, against the old windows just inches behind us. I hold her close and kiss her head, and press my cheek to her hair. Stay like this. Just here. We'll let it all swirl and rumble outside. I'll hold you tight. I'll hold you tight.

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

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.