Sweet Days

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Thank you very much for all of the comments on my last post, and for the music recommendations! I haven't had time to check them out but I plan to — thank you. Thank you also to those of you who suggested here (and emailed — my inbox is a disaster, so I can't often get back to everyone, I'm so sorry) portrait artists several months ago. I wound up having Amelia's portrait painted by Olga of Olinka Fine Art on Etsy, who I found myself while browsing Etsy for portrait artists. She did an absolutely incredible job, and was a total joy to work with. The picture I gave her (from this post) was taken a little over a year ago, but even when I took it it just looked like a painting to me, and I always meant to have it painted. I really don't know how she could have interpreted it more beautifully; I think it perfectly captures Amelia at that time and with that expression, a face I've seen a million times, tired at the end of the day, her serious, slightly melodramatic look (which I think it sort of amuses her to give), hanging out in her high chair, with the late afternoon light coming down from the west-facing windows. I love it.

We had a busy weekend, and I have more pictures, but little time! The pool is open. I find it hard to leave.

Do you like frozen custard? Try this. Crazy rich. You hardly need to eat any to be quite delighted, seriously. And I think I'm going to change that recipe so that you heat the half-and-half and the cream at the same time. Why would I have you temper the eggs with half-and-half and then add that back to the (cold) heavy cream separately? Couldn't the creams both be heated, added to eggs, then put back in the pan to heat a bit further? Trying to think of the best way not to scramble the eggs. . . . I'm no expert; please advise!

Sunshine

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Days alone with a toddler are really hard to describe. I don't know why. They're some of the absolute most exhausting and absolute most sweet days I've ever had in my life. In between those two extremes are a lot of utterly prosaic hours — the taking off of boots that are on the wrong feet; the cleaning up of water that gets carried in a soap dish to the bed; the picking up of hundreds of thousands of barrettes, doll shoes, blocks, puzzle pieces, wooden dogs, sippy cups, pieces of tape, felt pancakes, tiny saucepans, wooden boats, baby sweaters, Matchbox cars, bunny stickers, little socks, plastic wolves, and ponytail holders; the pitting of cherries and slicing of apples; the changing of diapers; the braiding of hair that's halfway down her back; the practicing of arabesques on alternate legs; the learning to skip; the learning to spin; the strapping into car seat covered in crackers; the grabbing of soy sauce bottles as they're about to be flung; the grabbing of almost everything as it's about to be flung; the recapping of markers left on the floor; the wiping of chin; the drying of tears; the putting on of Hello Kitty Band-Aids; the smothering with kisses; the getting of hugs; the taking off of pants put on backwards; the washing of dishes; the popping in of Charlie and Lola DVDs when the sun starts to sink, and all I want is a half an hour to sit and stare at the sprinkler before dinner.

She's not a stay-at-home girl. Every day, we go somewhere: the library, the bookstore, the fountain, the park, the museum, the other museum, the mall, the pool, the playground, the river, the woods, the store, a friend's house, a restaurant. We go out. She's easy. She'll go anywhere, do anything. She likes places, and parties, and people. A diaper change in the back of the car, cold milk, and some dry clothes buy us hours. She sleeps on the way home. I listen to Elizabeth Mitchell radio on Pandora and try not to sob. Children's music. I had no idea. I can't even listen to this song without bawling. I've never cried more to any music than to children's music, usually in the car while she sleeps. I look at her face in the mirror. I drive slowly down through the woods. The sunlight flashes through the trees. The birds sing up above. I drive through downtown, with the buildings and people, then back over the shimmering river, and go through the Burgerville drive-through for a fresh strawberry milkshake. It tastes like every single dream I ever had, all come true at once.

Happy, happy, happy Midsummer to you. May it be filled with everything little and sweet. Xo

Basil Fox Back in Business

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Just a quick note to let you know that dapper little Mr. Basil Fox's softie kit is back in the shop with several shirt options (even a new, 1/4" magenta gingham, which is adorable). I also added some fabric/yarn options to Maggie Rabbit (who was sold out, too, in case you were waiting for her) and Juniper Kitty. Just click on the little thumbnail photos on the product pages to see the options, and be sure to choose them from the drop-down menu when ordering!

Thank you! I'll be back soon with a post, but I'm doing some housekeeping today, so . . . working on my to-do list! :) Feels good. Xox

Bright Hot

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I have been so busy and so happy. For one thing, I cleaned part of my house (the kitchen, and some of the living room). That kept me busy and made me so happy. I tried to make a list of some other stuff I really needed to do and got very overwhelmed and confused. Eventually I did make the list but then I immediately went to the river. That made me very happy. The next day we went downtown for the parade (why do marching bands always make me cry?) and the fountain and the fair and the boats. That made me happy. The next day the weather was scorching. That made me sad! But I have air conditioning and that made me happy. There's a lot of happy/sad talk at home right now. Amelia is figuring out how to express these two things, and figuring out how other people express them (no one here has much trouble expressing themselves). Most things make us happy. A few things make us sad. When she throws a plate of strawberries that I just cut up for her on the floor (she's a big thrower, ugh), she touches my arm gently, "Mom, are you sad? You sad, Mom?" Then, she pats my arm, consoling: "It's okay. It's okay." Turning her face up to look into mine. Oh, sweet, dear love! She makes me laugh fifty or sixty times a day. I'm starting to write down so many of the funny things she is saying. I love this age so much!!!

One thing that made me unbelievably happy was getting to spend an entire day with Amanda while she was here in Portland this week. I HAD THE BEST TIME. We had a sweet little lunch at Maurice, which is like a tiny little jewel box of light and deliciousness, then just hung out at Powell's for the entire afternoon?!? Not only do I not ever do things like either of those two things anymore, but . . . with Amanda, who is as thoroughly awesome as you would expect. The girl is beauty through and through. I love her. What a great day. Thank you, Amanda, for being you, and for coming to visit. You inspire and delight and teach (and have taught) me more than I can ever say.

And today, oh! It's cool and cloudy! I panic, not sure what to do with such a perfect day! (It was in the 90s over the weekend! It was horrible!) The woods are calling. Maybe the farm. Maybe the river. Summer, you overwhelm me with goodness. Where to start?

Flowers Featured

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The sun shines, and flowers abound. We're mostly outside; occasionally we come in. I open all the windows and doors (did you know we don't have mosquitoes here?). Amelia goes to bed around seven or eight. I sew or knit. My Ramona sweater is making me HAPPY. Even though my stupid ear is still messed up. It's better, but not completely; apparently, according to the ENT doc, it can take six more weeks to clear up. I knit and knit. I cannot believe I'm actually making a big sweater. Turns out I'm not sure that an adult sweater knit in aran weight has that many more stitches than a bitty sweater knit in, say, fingering weight??? Either way, man, I am enjoying this more than I could've predicted.

I made a new Midsummer dress for my boo. I made the whole thing up myself. It was based on the first one I made for her (and more info about that one is in this post) when she was a baby boo (oh, and look how leeeeeeetle she was then!!! Sigh!!!). I'm a bit proud of it (them), I confess. The new one came out exactly the way I was hoping. Please regard the beauty of my invisible zipper. [Puff puff.] Guys, that was EEEEEEEEASY. I really had no idea. In over thirty years of sewing, I'd never put in an invisible zipper? SILLY. The bodice of this dress is fully lined. You do the embroidery before you cut the bodice pieces out. No, no stabilizer or anything like that. I don't want to make my hands do anything harder than they have to (I find stitching through anything more than linen or cotton just too hard on my wrists and fingers). I'll be doing a pattern for this. I'm a little excited.

It's just — isn't it a cool feeling when you have an idea for something and then it just turns into exactly what you were trying to do? That doesn't always happen but sometimes it does and it is cool!!!

And now, my boo is knocking on my door

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and trying to get it open

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so I gotta go! Have a great weekend, everybody. I hope it is filled with sunshine and flowers!

***Andy says thank you very much for all of your kind birthday wishes!!!

***The quilt under the sweater is my Ollalieberry pattern.

Birthday Beauty

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Andy had a birthday last week and I'm still glowing with happiness for what turned out to be an awesome weekend. I "surprised" him with a couple of nights at the river cabin and a trip up the mountain for breakfast. I say "surprise" because I forgot to tell pretty much everyone else it was a surprise, and he woke up on his birthday to his phone blowing up with sweet texts, several of which said something like, "Happy Birthday, Andy! Have fun at the cabin this weekend!" He's all, Um, honey, what cabin? Oooopsie. Oh, sweet love, it was the best. Amelia sauntered around, free and excited and happy and big and loud and thrilled and thrilling. I sat and listened to the river, and watched the sun move, and smelled the pine. Andy crocheted (that's his squirrel head, Marty — Andy is such an amazing crocheter — he's cagey about his Ravelry page — I will get details) and chased Meems and threw rocks in the river. We had breakfast at beloved Timberline on Sunday morning and hiked a little way up the path behind the lodge, from which you can see a stunning view of Mt. Jefferson peeking above the valley (camera cannot capture the panorama here). On Monday morning we woke up to rain splashing the river. Everything so green. Birds singing. Flowers blooming. Baby marching. What a great weekend. Happy Birthday, my dear, sweet, amazing, wonderful, lovely, exceptional Andy Paulson. My true love. Happy, happy, happy birthday. I love you. Xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Splash!

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Summer has come kerplunking in this week — today it's supposed to be 80-something degrees, and, suddenly, it's here. Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, grass is growing, sidewalks are being chalked, iced lattes are being ordered. It's still light out toward 9:00 p.m. The grill has been lit, the plants need water, the plums are already starting to fall on my sidewalk. Last weekend the weather was chilly and overcast. Suddenly, now, it's summer.

I have absolutely no plan for the summer. Nothing. There's nothing in place. Not that there ever is. But we really have no plan. I'm not great at volleying at the net. I feel that I should come up with something, even if it's just some general organizing idea? I don't know. Watering the yard with a toddler can take all afternoon, for instance, so I suppose there's really not that much need for a plan. . . .

Thank you to everyone who commented about my library post. Your comments were very poignant — so many people have memories of libraries, and so many libraries seemed to have changed. That was so surprising to me. I don't know why. I thought libraries were so immutable! Why would I think that? Newspapers have changed, and I used to think the same of them. Thank you to those of you with information about or offers to take pictures of the River Forest Public Library! I really enjoyed hearing news about it, thank you. I think this summer maybe Amelia and I will do a library tour, and go check out a bunch of the Portland branches and see what they have for us. She's even sort of letting me read my own book everyone once in a while which feels fantastic. Right now I still have Sometimes a Great Notion, Brideshead Revisited, and Canada by Richard Ford in my backpack. Those all seem too hard, don't they? I don't know what I want. But I think it should be lighter than these. There's a reason they call 'em "beach reads," right? (Not these, I mean — the other ones I don't actually have. . . .) Because it's hot in the summer and you need something light. I think I want something funny. . . .

Warming Up

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

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

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

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

Summerblooming

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quiet Days

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

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

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

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

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About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.