Silver Spring

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Although the temperature has been getting into the seventies regularly, you can tell it's still late wintertime in the woods. There's a silver haze on the green. It feels quiet, and a little empty, and a little chilly in the shade. Everything is delicate and spare. She prances and chirps. She lies down and looks around. Thursday afternoon, March 5: We have nowhere to be, nowhere else to go but all the way around the evergreen loop. Few people are here now, this early in the season, but this is Hoyt Arboretum, in the heart of the city, and it's a popular place. Sometimes I long for a little piece of land of our own, away from the sounds of traffic and other people, where we could spread a blanket, build a fort, make fairy houses, read in a patch of sunlight, make a fire when it gets cold. But there's something so precious about this preserve, and so sweet about its convenience, just across town. Birds are so easy to hear right now — no leaves on the trees to muffle their excited trill — and so are other things. What's that noise? She halts and gasps and asks dramatically, several times a day. What's that noise? An airplane, a bird, a tiny stream gurgling through a culvert. A far-off truck, a motorcycle, a leaf blower doing its work in the neighborhood just around the bend. There are so many things to hear in the urban woods. What a beautiful city we live in! What a beautiful state. Yesterday I drove home from the children's museum while she slept, tired from her play. Weaving for a couple of miles through these same woods, past the garden, past the playground, past the flowering trees and the view of the city below, I couldn't drive slowly enough, listening to her breathe softly behind me in the back seat, paint on her face, roses in her cheeks. Down the hill, through downtown, over the bridge, back to the house. What a commute. Let it be long, and slow. My favorite season has arrived.

More Maggie Kits Now in Stock for Easter!

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I was supposed to tell you this two days ago but I am a little behind, I'm sorry: We have more Miss Maggie Rabbit softie kits now in stock for Easter! Yay. This is good. I love Maggie. We put together a whole bunch of kits with various Liberty of London dress fabrics and yarns that we have used previously, or used for other animals. Available right now (in limited quantities) are:

Danjo

Elysian

Betsy

Meadow

Edenham

Each of these images will link to the Maggie Rabbit kit page, and then you can choose your option from the drop-down menu (click on the tiny arrow at the right edge of the product options box to see the drop-down menu). To see the original post I wrote about Maggie Rabbit (which has answers to some questions you might have), click here. To see so many adorable Maggies that people have made over the past two years, click here!

My new ABC cross-stitch kit, along with more Juniper Kitties, Basil Foxes, and even more Maggie Rabbits will be available sometime in April — but not before Easter, so I wanted to make sure we got these out to you in time to fill baskets.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Back very soon with arboretum pictures. Xoxo, A & Co.

***If you would like a kit for another animal, all of the animal kits can be found here. Digital PDF patterns (and more sweaters, clothes, and accessories) patterns can be found here. Thank you!

***I'll remove any of these fabrics that sell out, so no, you aren't seeing things if you come back and something's missing! That means it has sold out. Sorry! And thank you very much!

Springthings

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Andy was on staycation last week and it was just awesome. The weather was EPIC. In the sixties and seventies and nary a cloud. Really, one of the greatest weeks ever (aside from the vague sense of unease because it was in the sixties and seventies and there was nary a cloud, and it's March . . . ). We made chicken tikka-masala (this recipe is absolutely fantastic, but do NOT add all of the salt it recommends — I don't know why they don't fix it — but we use about 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt in the marinade and about 1/2 teaspoon in the sauce, and also you want to double the sauce, as well). We made chicken enchiladas with tomatillo salsa from this recipe (and they are also awesome). We walked. We hiked. We went to Slappycakes. We went to the arboretum. I sewed: How cute is that dress? I made it from a vintage pattern, Butterick 9315 (the sleeves are from Simplicity 6066, also vintage). The fabric was Robert Kauffman, London Calling, #15276 (a rare instance where I know what the fabric was called — I usually don't keep good track of stuff like that though I know I should, I'm sorry). I finished my Irish Chain quilt top and brought it to a professional (such a luxury!) to have it finished. I cut out a pink Swiss-dot pinafore to go over the new dress, and planned several more spring dresses. I worked a bit on the Little-by-Little quilt (that's it, hanging on the sliding door). Andy painted the part of the house that had been fixed and planted a blueberry bush. He mulched the flower beds. Mimi played and talked and bounced and drew and hiked and napped and laughed and climbed and ran and generally delighted in everything, and delighted us beyond measure. Happy girl. Happiness here. Spring has sprung!

I am proud of my Irish Chain. I think it's the only quilt I've ever made that has had an actual plan. I've wanted one like this for many years. The finished top is about 72" x 72". I think it will go on the sofa, or over me when I'm on the sofa. The backing is peachy-pink calico, and the binding is dark gray calico. I will show it in detail once it comes back and I wash and dry it and make it all squishy and yummy.

I also finished a hexagon pillow cover top, but I forgot to take a picture of it. I'll do that. It's kinda cool.

***I'm sorry I don't have an exact pattern for the Irish Chain to point you toward, because I kind of just looked at a bunch of them and made mine up. The only reference I can find to it here on the blog is in this post, which sort of shows how I did the patchwork patches. This pattern is sort of how I did mine, though the measurements are a bit different and I used a square in the center of the B blocks, with bars on all four sides. But that pattern is very close, I think.

Sunshine Songbird

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She doesn't walk through the woods as much as careen. Chattering and singing, running, spinning, flinging rocks into the water. She lies down in the middle of the trail. A woman walks by and says, "She's grounding! I get it." Within seconds, she's up and running around the bend, or headed across a bridge, or doing an arabesque. The morning is so beautiful it takes my breath away. White sunlight through delicate trees. Soft carpet of faded duff. A chilly, mellow gurgle from the creek. The ravine is only barely awake, a sleepy, pale-green tangle, every slender branch just beginning to fuzz and froth. Listen, baby: Do you hear the birds? "Ooooooh, yes," she says, squatting to hear them better. "Tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet."

Portland Audubon Society; Sunday morning, March 1, 2015.

Sunshine Day

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Amelia and I had a rare Saturday to ourselves. I honestly can't even remember the last time Andy worked on Saturday, but it will be a regular thing now, as his schedule is slightly rearranged. I was worried we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves — a Saturday! precious Saturday! — but we managed quite nicely and actually had one of the nicest days I've had in a long time. I made Irish soda bread from our local bakery's cookbook, and an Earl Grey latte (half water, half milk, a teaspoon of sugar, the contents of two tea bags, heated in the beloved Capresso then strained — yum. Isn't there a name for this thing? I can't remember it). My dear friend Sarah had given me some Kerrygold butter. What a lovely, grown-up breakfast for Mama! Amelia wasn't impressed with any of it (except the raisins!) but I was in a state of bliss, reading a book with my breakfast on a beautiful, sunny, late-winter morning. Sweet Saturday. Later we went to the big park, then took a long walk from that park up to get frozen yogurt, then walked around some more in the stroller, talking about birds and flowers and ducks at the duck creek. Came home in the late afternoon and she took a nap while I looked at quilts on Pinterest. Quiet, wonderful, gentle, sweet little day. We missed Andy but we made the most of it, I think. Saturdays just feel different from every other day.

My mixer's lowest speed is way too high. I need to take that somewhere and have it adjusted. Flour was everywhere, even with the towel.

I finished pillow #2 (that's it, on the sofa) and it was fun. The quilt-as-you-go technique is a lot of work. I think the pillows came out cute, but I want to wash them so that they pucker up and actually look quilted; as they are the quilting isn't showing yet, so it seems a bit unnecessary. Thank you for the advice about that — I think I'll wash them without worry. I still have the third pillow to make. I got distracted, though. I suddenly found myself randomly sewing strips together, inspired by this amazing quilt. Then I remembered that I had oh, half an entire Irish Chain quilt started . . . somewhere. I found it (miracle) and hung up my completed sewn-together blocks on the window. This was all from several years ago. As I looked at it I was kind of astounded by the memory of that time, a time when I'd had time to do anything like this. But everything that I'd used then was there, in the basket, including a bunch of blocks that hadn't been pressed, and lots of strips, and more fabric, etc. So, I'm going to try to finish it. It feels like it came from another life. It feels weird to work on it, in a way. I got emotional the first day I worked on it. I felt like I was literally reconnecting with the person I was back then. I thought of myself then, sewing all of those tiny squares, pressing those seams so carefully, hope in every patch. I'm not sure why I put it away — I just don't remember. My throat is tight while I write this. I'm not sure I can find the words to say any more except thank you, thank you, God. For getting her here. For getting me here.

So now I've got Irish Chain to finish. And Pibbow 3. And the new quilt I started made out of strips (strings? what's this lingo? I know nothing). The new strippy quilt fabric is coming out of the same log-cabin strip basket that I used for Amelia's log cabin and the first two pillows, and I'm also cutting up the scraps in my big scrap basket, little by little. This is a little-by-little quilt. Whenever I have a couple of minutes, I go back and do something — press and cut some scraps, sew some strips together, press some seams. All random. I decided that this would be a family quilt, for the big king-size bed, and that the scraps from all the things I've made over the past few years are going to go into it. Violet used to sleep in this scrap basket, and now Bridget does (unless she can find a little sunspot). All of this makes me so happy and content.

The (First) Pibbow

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Have you ever done the quilt-as-you-go technique? I never had. I got this book the other day and decided to try it. I think it came out pretty cute. I used the 2" strips I had left over from Amelia's log cabin quilt. I have a whole basket of them. You can get a feeling for the whole technique from that first picture — you stitch the hearth directly to the batting, then add your first strip (log) to one side. Press that open, and then quilt it (I just stitched parallel to the seam, down the length of the strip a couple of times). Quilt (verb) after every added strip. Didn't think too much about the finished size, so there is one extra strip on two sides of the pillow (because I needed it to fit the pillow form). Mimi loves pillows, just like I do. We talk about pillows a lot, either for ourselves or for the dog or for the dolls. I think we talk about pillows every day. But she calls them "pibbows." Which works. We need some pibbows very badly in our living room. I'm going to make a few. I bought three new pillow forms. I like the bamboo forms. I like flat, hard pillows. I hate super-soft pillows. I HATE down pillows or any kind of pillow with feathers. They give me pillow rage. If I wanted to be jabbed in the face with a thousand little pins while also being smothered, then I would get a down pillow. But I don't.

By the way: The gingham chair (Ikea) is cute but lightweight. When she was smaller, Amelia liked to get up on that chair and essentially hurl herself against the back of it while peeking over the top at whoever was in the dining room. To stabilize it, we put a webbing strap with one of those tightener things around both of the front legs, and put several barbells — hand weights, I guess — on top of the strap. So if she pushed against the back, the weights counterbalanced and held the front of the chair on the floor. They also stay pretty neatly under the chair itself (and the slipcover). Anyway, I just thought I'd mention it in case you have a baby that does the same thing. Most chairs like this one are against walls, I would think, so it's probably not super common to have one like ours, in the middle of the room. But I just saw a little boy tip a dining room chair over backwards at the zoo cafe the other day, so I'm guessing it's pretty common with those kinds of chairs.

Drawing on a domino with a golf pencil (after silently, stealthily stealing my knitting-notions bag, and I'm not even sure why there was a domino in my bag). Wearing a doll stocking on her hand while holding an umbrella. I can't make this stuff up. I love this kid so much. I love her.

I want to make three or four more pillows. I'm not sure what kind I will make. Can you wash the quilt-as-you-go pillow cover if the batting isn't actually backed with fabric? I didn't really think about that. I kind of did, but then I just kept going, because I don't have any time. There's a back to the pillow cover, but not to the quilting part, do you know what I mean? I wonder what will happen when I wash it. We'll find out!

Her dresses: 2nd Birthday Dress (shown here, details in here), Lichen Woods (the Lichen Woods sweater, already way too small!), Lemon Layer Cake. Her sweater: My Cricket. I love this sweater. It fits perfectly and is such a pretty pattern. I love it. Her sleeves are rolled up in the children's museum pictures, but when they're down they are really cute. I must say that I originally got the NatureSpun sport only for my animal kits, but I have used it several times for Mimi-sweaters, and though I was worried that it would be a bit scratchy, it has turned out to be one of my very favorite yarns for her clothes, too. It gets soft and drape-y, it doesn't pill that much, it holds its shape really well, and it's got a really nice sort of rustic quality to it. I don't know. For a long time I was just so into alpaca. Alpaca is soft and smooshy and feels like a dream when you're knitting with it. In practical use, it's not my favorite. "Practical use" is not always my priority, mind you. My own knitting comfort is often the priority, quite frankly, and soft, delicious yarns like alpacas can sooth the knitters soul and the baby's skin. But it tends to pill like hell, and get really distorted with wear. I don't really care about those things that much, until the buttonholes stop working, or whatever. But I'm starting to appreciate the plain, straightforward, hardworking wools I used to pass up.

***Details on my workroom? All here!

The Usual

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Sunny, quiet days. Playing, working, cooking, watching the man fix the house, which is apparently falling apart all around us. Ugh. Stucco repairs, rotted sills. Blossoms abounding. Sunlight through soap-sketched windows. Sleeping puppers. French braids. Playing the drums on my back with her fingers. "Drumsticks." She points to the neighbor's flowers and says, "Daffodils!" How in the world does she know those are daffodils? She knows everything. We marvel. Oh wondrous, glorious child of spring! I scoop her up like a cradled baby and smother her cheeks with kisses. "No, Mommy!!!" New boxwood shrubs, finally. Piles of crumbled stucco in my flower beds. Dust on my hellebores. Cluttered studio. I can hear the man pounding on the house as I write. Love and squalor. The usual.

The Only Snow

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The only snow we see here is in books and the little snow-capped mountain of whipped cream on the berry-biscuit sundae I got at Salt and Straw yesterday. Poor Meemers slept through it, even though it was her idea to go. I did everything I could to wake her up but alas, I just had to buy a pint of Woodblock Chocolate to take home. For her. :)

We went for a walk to look for signs of spring, and no, we didn't have to look very far at all. It's here, apparently, as unnerving as that feels to me. My car thermometer read 65 degrees on Tuesday. Without exaggeration, we needed sunscreen at the park Tuesday afternoon. And it was one of those low-angled, sort of glaring white winter suns, without benefit of leafy trees, puffy clouds, or sunglasses. Yesterday, though, was all gray, and dark. Through the mucky brown leaves of winter, daffodils and crocuses stretch and yawn. Trees froth forth with petal and little leaf. We had our yard cleaned up by a lawn service this week. I just knew we weren't going to have time or energy to do it ourselves, and I get so bummed out when the spring clean up is late, and we miss the show. So, we're ready for the show (yard-wise, if not psychologically), and the show is here.

That said, if you're lucky enough to be covered in snow like my bestie, Martha, who lives outside of Boston, Mass., and sends me pictures of mountains of snow in driveways, front yards, backyards, on top of garbage cans, and generally everywhere on everything, and who tolerates me saying things like, "Awesome! Oh man! I'm so jealous!!! Wah!!! Poor me!!!" like, a lot, when actually her arms are about to fall off from shoveling, you might like this spaghetti casserole. It's another one from my childhood winters — funny how having a child makes you want to cook her food from your own childhood. What's up with that? Mom knew what kids liked. This one is pure convenience, and comes out hot and bubbly with little effort. Basically, you boil up 1 pound of spaghetti, and please under-cook it a bit, so it's quite al dente, or I'll have to throw up. (I hate overcooked pasta.) Beat 2 eggs and add them to 1 cup of milk. After draining the spaghetti, put it back in the pan and add the milk/eggs and 4 to 8 oz. of plain cream cheese. Stir everything together until the cream cheese melts. Dump it into a 9"x13" pan and top with your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce (I only use about 1/3 jar) and Mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until cheese melts and everything looks browned and delicious.

My new year's resolution was "Try not to be such a jerk about the hot weather in the summer." Technically, it's still winter, so . . . agh. That's a technicality. I only said "summer" because it never occurred to me I'd be complaining about it in winter! This one's gonna be hard to keep. Actually, obviously, in spirit, I've already failed. And it's only February.

***The umbrella is probably fifteen years old, originally purchased at the incomparable but now-so-sadly defunct Daisy Kingdom. Miss you, DK.

Pretty in Pink

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We went for a Valentine's walk on Saturday. Sixty-something degrees and sunny. Apparently we've skipped winter entirely and moved straight to spring. Our walk was just a tiny portion of one we'd taken several years ago (Walk 6, Portland Heights to Council Crest Loop), from the book Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster. I cannot possibly say enough about this book, I love it so much. Walking tours and history and a wonderful, friendly, thorough, savvy writing style. I love this little essay about walking (on Laura's web site). Now that we have a junior walker, our family walks have a whole new pace and style. The picture just after the one of her boots? That's Mimi doing "sassy walk." I think she does it when she's really happy. Swinging her elbows and shaking her hips, tromp tromp tromp. Like she owns the place. Oh how I love it when she does sassy walk. This neighborhood is way up in the west hills, across the city from where we live. Some of the houses are worth millions; just blocks away, some of the houses are in various states of dishevelment. I think we were walking on SW Hawthorne Terrace, SW Davenport, SW Elizabeth Street. And Robin's Crest Drive: my favorite part of our walk, a little fairyland at the end of that dead-end street. Around there, charming, once-fancy little houses in need of paint and new roofs, forgotten winter-crusted gardens brimming with Kenilworth ivy and hyacinths, ancient Mercedes parked in the driveway. Wild birds everywhere. Mossy steps and cracked sidewalks. Pine-scented breezes and impossibly lovely camellias. My favorite season now approaches, ever so strangely early. Pink fairy magic.

***Mimi's pink dress is from JujuBunnyShop (but over a year ago), her tutu is from H&M (but over a year ago), and our lasagna recipe is here!

XOX

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Oh me oh my thank you for all of the suggestions — cookie, portrait, and otherwise. I am literally still reading them all. Awesome. Cookie experimentation to come! I will post dispatches from the trenches!!! Here, today, our tulips are starting to unearth themselves. Before Valentine's Day? This doesn't seem right. And our plum tree, blooming now? This doesn't seem right. Too soon. I came in this morning to find Andy going through a bag of stuff that got taken off of the refrigerator in 2010, and among the stuff a picture of the two of us from around 1992, twenty-three years ago, when we first started dating. We look like BABIES. Jeesh. And yes, he's holding a piece of potato sausage over a plate of Swedish meatballs, and yes, I think this is actually the first picture we have of ourselves together during the five years we were dating before we got married (we hardly have any, maybe ten, and we even knew each other for several years before we were dating, and don't have any from then, either). And yes, it cracks me up every single time I see it. Pah! And then there's Amelia, already grown so, so big, who wanted to squeeze into her baby basket this morning, and then she asked for her quilt (which you can also see here), and then she put herself and Baby Bunny in every possible position in the basket (I literally have forty pictures of that, so adorable). And her joy reminded me of this picture of myself, just a bit older than she is here. Time flies. I want to fill it with love. Happy Valentine's Day, dear friends. I wish you love. Xoxoxoxoxoxox.

embroidered A

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.