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!


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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.

Color Kittens

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Oh, Mommy is tired. I've yawned about fifty times today. Once I start I can't seem to stop. Andy and Amelia are sitting on his skateboard and riding around the dining room. The house is covered in toys and books and blankets (so that makes it a bit difficult). The rain whips and the wind is whistling outside — last night, lightning and thunder! I missed them, because I was sleeping at 9:15 p.m. But still: stormy few days here, lots of inside stuff, very small house. The weather finally turned, and we have rain and rumpus.

I made a little painting on Sunday morning. Later we all went to the art supply store to get more paints and stickers and stuff. When I was finished with the little painting (which includes stickers:) I was excited because I thought it reminded me a lot of The Color Kittens, which we read almost every night. It's funny how these little books and their characters become such a part of your life. Our days and nights have a lot of books in them. They don't get photographed that much but they should, because I so don't want to forget them in the context of our sticker-covered, draw-on-your-face, pink-painted, Golden Book–filled days. I just don't ever have a camera when we're snuggled. "'Oh Angelina,'" I read, with great mama-drama, "'your dancing is nothing but a — '" "Nuisance!" yells delighted Amelia, not really able to pronounce the word, and not really knowing what it means, but maybe she does. Same with "arabesque." I'm amazed at the words it appears she understands. There are others. I need to think of them. I need to write this stuff down, and take some pictures of our little books. They're so good. I love these days.

I make the WORST chocolate chip cookies. Recipe straight off the bag, and they suck in a different way every single time, time after time, year after year. I make pretty decent broccoli and bow ties. But who can't do that. That's all Ina. Maybe I should see if she has a chocolate-chip cookie recipe. I can't imagine she does not.

Suddenly obsessed with making a toy boat we can actually float on the casting pond this summer, and having a portrait painted of Amelia (any recommendations, let me know?). Isn't it weird how you just get these ideas all of a sudden and then they're all you can think of, when you're daydreaming? When you have time to think of these things? I feel like I have a different idea about something or other every week.

Her squishy-yummy pink cardigan is here. :)


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It's the winter that feels like spring. Without flowers. I see daffodils and irises and other little spring bulb-type things popping up through the mud, though. The rest of the country is covered in blizzard after blizzard and foot after foot of snow. ALAS, poor us, we have nothing but sunshine and 60-degree weather. Sigh. I am possibly the only person in the Pacific Northwest who's bummed out about that.

The days at home have been lazy and lovely, nevertheless. I made this chicken tartiflette (channeling après-ski fantasies) with the new mandoline I got for Christmas, and it was very, very good. We've been playing and reading and sleeping and stitching. I've been working on version 2.0 of the sampler and I really love this. The new sampler kits should be available in about eight or nine weeks. The fabric is on order, and we're still calculating amounts and colors of floss. This thing has forty-seven colors in it. I'll print the chart very large for you to try to compensate for the small size of the stitches. Also, yes, we're in the process of ordering more materials to make more Maggie, Juniper, and Basil kits. Those are a few months out, too.

Does anyone out there from River Forest or Oak Park or Forest Park remember the smiley-face cookies with the chocolate eyes from Kay's Bakery? Man, those things were the best. And the chocolate bismarks from the bakery next to River Forest Market on Lake Street. Is the market even still there? I loved that place. Thinking about it, and home, lately. I wonder why. I think it's the snow. I remember standing in front of the bakery eating a bismark, waiting for the bus in the freezing cold. Chocolate and pastry cream. The smell of exhaust on the icy morning air. Rush hour. I miss that.

Amelia carries her dolly around, cuddling her and kissing her on the forehead. I say, "Mimi, you're such a good mommy to your baby." She, impatiently: "Oh, I know, I know.

***The book she is looking at is A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books. One of our favorites.

Pinky Paint

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Our pink painting, January 27, 2015. :)

Winter Clean Up

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Grocery-store tulips and hot tea. The chores were piling up. We tried to clean up a little bit, but I still feel daunted. I think it's more perceived chaos than real. But I do have a punch list, and I need to get on it. I get frustrated when I let things go that you can't really get away with letting go, for very long. Wah. This happens to me every January. I want to rest, but the girls need their 1099s, or whatever they're called, so I have to do The Books (which I really don't do all year, in spite of the many, many times I have sworn that next year I will do The Books all year, every month, every day) and The Forms and The Files. And, you just have to do it. I get no better at it, nor more inspired, as the years pass.

The sky today is pale, pale gray. Andy bought tiny light-bulbs for my grandma's two pink glass antique lamps, so they are glowing. I had an idea about making a painting for the mantel, so I bought a cheap canvas from the craft store. I fussed a bit with the mantel — all the foliage on there is dried or fake, sort of a late-winter/early-spring bunch of bits, and (it being fake) I can just look at it and be happy and not have to do any work about it — and then I hung the blank canvas where it will ultimately go. I was very pleased, in fact, with the blank white. It felt like the only white space in the room. An open door into possibility. As they say. What will it be? I thought the three of us could paint on it and see. Maybe this afternoon. A family painting.

My dear Amy and I went to Kachka for dinner the other night. I had the best time. Cute place. Great company. She and I can talk about cross stitch for half an hour and get so excited we are essentially shouting. It was loud in there, especially with what sounded like Russian Tom Waits booming, but still. Dear Amy. xo

Mimi's crocheted dress is my Mina. I need to make more of these, or of knitted or crocheted dresses in general. They are perfect for winter days, and keep her core warm. Crochet. Andy's crocheting starfish because the dog ate two of our real ones. That's a sentence I wouldn't have thought I'd ever write, for some reason.

Winterwoods Sampler (Again)

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Thank you so much for all of your generous comments on the new sampler! Since my post I've been getting emails about and orders for the Winterwoods ABCs Sampler Kit so I just wanted to pop in really quick and show that to you again here in case you want to try it out. I designed this kit in 2012. It is very dear to my heart. You can read my original post about it here or order it here. I know that many people  who had never cross-stitched before have made this, which makes me ridiculously happy. This is a good winter project. I love it.


***Also, in answer to some questions from the last post: The muffins were made from this recipe, and the Mammagetti is an old family recipe that came from my mom's mother. I think that's my sister's handwriting on the card. My mom said that when she was little she would often have ice-skating birthday parties and then everyone would come back to her house for Mammagetti. It is kind of a strange recipe — I made it for the first time last week in about ten years. There is an absolute ton of vegetables in this thing, so use a huge pot. My mom says that you really do HAVE to add the cheese. It totally changes it. And you really do have to cook it that long, I guess. As far as the cheese container size goes, I think the one I added was 8 oz. Obviously, you can substitute fresh grated Parmesan or your own favorite spaghetti sauce for the Ragu, but this was the way we always made it in our family. It's a nostalgia thing. I love this but, ironically, my sister doesn't (anymore). I serve it over thin spaghetti with a big blob of ricotta and a big glass of milk. Sunday-night winter dinner. Yummy stuff.

****Oh yeah — thank you for reminding me, Cynthia (and thank you for your kind words) — the line in the recipe that says "fill to almost with water" [sic]. My mom says to add 2 cups of water. Sorry about that!!!

Swirlywhirl, and Slow

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January. What would I do without you, specifically your frowsy second half, after the holidays and the birthdays and the outings? Because there are the lights . . . and the burnt-out lights and the only-half-put-away decorations and the only-half-put-away presents and all the things, things strewn here and there and everywhere, things that only appear here in the second half of January, somehow, and somehow my normally compulsive tidying impulse just drifts away like a little piece of fluff on the sodden winter wind. Bye-bye. There it goes! Instead I settle, and heavily, into the downy puff of calico on our sofa, let Amelia watch too much Peppa Pig (but she's so soft and snuggly, tucked under my big, soft arm where she fits so perfectly, when she's watching!), and cook giant batches of things to freeze for three more dinners, or twelve more breakfasts, all to minimize my time away from needle and thread. Because when I get an idea, especially in January, make way, all you other things I should be doing (cleaning! taxes! grocery shopping!). I must sew.

Could anything be more antithetical to my life right now than making tiny cross-stitches on 32-count linen? Oh my stars, it is slow, so slow, and so small. I couldn't decide if this was a good or a bad thing. For sure, it is stark relief against the background of days with a whirling, twirling toddler, who once again has started dragging the chair all over the house and getting into everything on every surface: the basket of punch cards and keys and stray coins we keep by the front door; my dish of extra buttons from new clothes, and jewelry, and random push pins (?) I apparently (though I had forgotten it, until she found it and strewed the contents around the room) keep on my dresser; the houseplants that are (leaf by leaf) being denuded of leaves; the Lenox wedding-china teacup she brought to me, holding it up in both hands as if presenting a rare bird. I gasped to see it and r u s h e d — you know the oxymoronic slow rush you must do so as not to completely freak her out and cause her to just wig, and throw it? — out of the kitchen to pluck the cup neatly from her little hands and try to determine how she managed to (silently) finagle the elaborate system of ponytail holders we have holding the china-cabinet doors closed (since the attempt at installing the baby lock on that door actually broke the door frame, etc., etc.). When her hair slides loose from its braids, and she is rushing from one of her work stations (the mail basket!) to the other (the dining-room lamp cords!), she looks like Animal from the Muppets (Andy's favorite childhood character, conveniently) in the midst of an epic drum solo. Our house is only so babyproofable. Not babyproofable enough, right now. Winter in Portland: You don't know what raining means until you have a careening, ambitious toddler that can't go to the park every day.

Nevertheless, oh my darling girl, how I love the torrent of language that is flowing from her lips. Almost constant chatter, and much of it starting to make sense, and the sense it makes is so sweet and so funny and so fascinating to me. Wow. The babble, the questions, the songs, the pretend noises (dinosaur! kitty!), the shouts, the calls, the exclamations (yuck-y! mine! no! yes!) the thrilling sentences ("I want to play with this one!"). A jumble of expression, numbers and colors and songs and letters like a burst of confetti thrown into the air every minute. How could I not make an alphabet sampler for my tiny love who is just learning, right at this very moment, the ABCs? I couldn't not. I have never had such fun designing anything, or done it in such a real-time way.  Amelia takes the half-finished sampler from my hands, and names her world: apple, boat, kitty. Egg. Umbrella. Zebra!

I did the designing part quickly, like I do most everything else these days, rushing to finish plotting out every stitch on every single letter and image in one free afternoon. But then the stitching part — oh, that's the slow. And, well, now that I'm committed, it's a lovely, lovely slow. I had forgotten how lovely embroidering can be. I let myself completely settle in. It happens at night, after baby bedtime. Every night this month, by the white light of my hideous full-spectrum lamp, I stitch a motif, and a letter, and maybe half of a next one, drawing the thread through over and over again, finding it restorative after a season of so much activity — holidays, parties, events, trips, hikes, presents, people, etc., etc., etc. — and days of so much swirling, twirling toddlerness.

It's been a long time since I've designed a cross-stitch sampler, and I wanted to make this one a kit to use up the pretty substantial overstock of floss (from ornament kits, embroidery kits, and animal kits) that Stacey recently catalogued. There is a lot, and the palette is so pretty, I think. Most of the other cross-stitch pieces I've designed (and there have been quite a few that I never talked about here, because I did 1/3 of my second book on cross stitch, and none of those could be shared while in progress, which doesn't suit me) have been on 28-count linen. I thought it was my preferred. I do love it. But I couldn't get the color I wanted — Stone Gray, this sort of clay-colored, rosy gray — in 28-count (Cashel linen), only in 32 (Belfast linen). (To refresh your memory about cross-stitch counts, my tutorial on counted cross-stitch is here.) I pouted. I whined again about the cross-stitch industry (oh, fun!). I looked at and tested out about ten different colors. But I wanted Stone Gray. So I grudgingly started stitching on the 32-count, and I worked a few motifs on other colors of 28-count just to torture myself. And what happened was (you saw this coming, I know), I fell in love with the 32. Smaller, yes, but not even appreciably more "difficult" than stitching 28-count, and the motifs wind up looking tighter and brighter and more saturated, and that just feels right for this (rather large, in fact) piece. So now I love the 32! This almost never happens, but it did this time. Then the distributor called and said that Zweigart would custom dye, in Stone Gray, the yardage that I wanted for the kits in 28-count linen. And I said no. Now I'm sticking with the 32. So that's how that all went. And let's hope we can get this fabric.

Did you need to know all this? Probably not. But such is the exciting life of a cross-stitcher. I could hardly keep it to myself! And who else could I tell but you???

I love the design process so much, especially when it's not for a book, where there really isn't time to tweak the colors of the design. When I design on my own, I get to take my own time, and redo stuff until I'm happy. You don't know if colors are really "working" (that's relative) until you've stitched them. And they totally change depending on what background color (and, to a lesser degree, what count of fabric) you're using. I love all of that. I love working it out, and balancing it, and shifting it. I love obsessing about one color over another, changing the placement of an eye or mouth, or just swiftly rendering something to capture the feeling of energy that can't be belabored. You're seeing the first draft of it all here — these are not the final motifs or colors, but they're close. It's a funny life, in a way, to care about such little things in my few quiet hours of the day. It must provide some sort of weird balance, somehow. I don't even know. But it gives me something. It always has.

These are January thoughts, in the year that my baby girl is two.

***Answers to some questions here (more or less copied from the next post): The muffins were made from this recipe, and the Mammagetti is an old family recipe that came from my mom's mother. I think that's my sister's handwriting on the card. My mom said that when she was little she would often have ice-skating birthday parties and then everyone would come back to her house for Mammagetti. It is kind of a strange recipe — I made it for the first time last week in about ten years. There is an absolute ton of vegetables in this thing, so use a huge pot. My mom says that you really do HAVE to add the cheese. It totally changes it. And you really do have to cook it that long, I guess. As far as the "cheese container" size goes, I think the one I added was 8 oz. Re: the line in the recipe that says "fill to almost with water" [sic]: My mom says to just add 2 cups of water. Obviously, you can substitute fresh grated Parmesan or your own favorite spaghetti sauce for the Ragu, but this was the way we always made it in our family. It's a nostalgia thing. I love this but, ironically, my sister doesn't (anymore). I serve it over thin spaghetti with a big blob of ricotta and a big glass of milk. Sunday-night winter dinner. Yummy stuff.

Into the Woods

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Enchanted forest. This is the west end of the Old Salmon River Trail. It's just outside of Welches, Oregon, in Mt. Hood National Forest. I think it's our favorite walk (also pictured here and here). I'm hard-pressed to find an easier (it's flat and wide), more beautiful hike, fairly close to home. My hiking abilities are about on par with our two-year-old's (and here's her sweater, by the way). I don't care how far (not far) we go, just get me to the quiet sitting-down place and I can stay for hours, listening to the river, watching for birds or slugs, making stone soup, smelling the evergreens and the moss and the mud. It's a wild, twisting, silver-greened, soft-floored forest, so different from the upright, oak-filled midwestern woods I grew up walking in. I never liked to go very much, then. We were required to, and I balked at being made to go. As an adult, I'm much more sympathetic to my dad's intentions. But for many years I wanted nothing less than to go into the woods. I walked — oh how I walked! — but only ever among the houses, in the neighborhoods, and for miles and miles and miles, everywhere. Anywhere. But always in town. At some point, when I started living with Andy and we moved to Montana, I let the woods back into my life. Not long after that, I was run over by a truck and my left foot was destroyed. They put it back together, but it's a patchworked, fragile, frustrated thing, protected with gel pads and compression stockings and the special silly-looking orthopedic shoe I wear with every step I take, even just when going across the room. It usually hurts. But in the woods I do not care how it feels. I just feel happy. We wander and amble, stop and sit. She prances and talks. She sings and babbles, pointing, chattering away like a little bird. She cooks in puddles and throws sand. She is always carrying something — a stick, a leaf, a flower, a handful of rocks. She squats to look, or does her funny, swaggering walk, like she owns the place. She gets carried on her dad's shoulders when she's done. He carries me too, in our own way. I want my girl to love the woods. And I think she does.

embroidered A


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




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.