Make It More Mellow

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Gosh, the light has been so harsh lately. Every time we go out it feels like blazing sun in a cloudless sky, or in a sky where the clouds are of zero consequence, and it's harsh. It hurts my eyes. Last weekend it was, like, 86 degrees or something and I am so over it. I'm ready for things to be a bit more mellow. We are staying home today, and I am glad. In fact, right now I'm up in bed in my nightgown with a second cup of coffee, laptop on top of the comforter, light just starting to come through the windows. I'd like to stay here all day and knit, and drink hot things, and watch TV, and do no chores. Amelia's birthday is coming up in a few days and it will be a busy week, so I'd best recharge. I don't feel ready.

Thank you SO much for all of the orders last week and beyond. I am eternally grateful for every single one of you. Orders come in a bit differently than they used to — the trajectory of orders is lower but longer. We get fewer orders than we used to but there are still over two hundred. I try to ship as fast as I possibly can while sharing the office with Amelia. I make so much noise in there that I have to do it when she's not in school. The office is getting heavily used! Haha.  Actually, every single part is in heavy rotation. We're definitely getting our mortgage-payment's-worth out of this little house lately.

Many trips to the post office later, I have cleaned up the offices and have designed the last (winter) design in 2021's cross-stitch series. Do you want to see the digital? I never know if people want to see that before the finished, stitched photo. And sometimes I think, in my spare time I should be one of those designers that launches PDF patterns based on digital pattern covers; there's a way to export cross-stitch patterns so that they look like they are made of "virtual" stitches. It's not as fun or as pretty but I would have more designs that way. I have more ideas than I have time to stitch. I don't know. Just a thought. I still need to work on my wholesale pattern efforts, which was my New Year's resolution in January of 2020. That got stalled out because of pandemic, but it's still on the list.

Andy's been home on vacation for the past week, mostly to have oral surgery last Tuesday. We spent most of the day on Thursday at the vet with Clover Meadow, who is now fourteen and is probably battling some dental issues herself. Our vet's office says they have lost six or seven of their vets over the past year. I don't know if you've experienced this where you live but it is practically impossible to get a vet appointment that isn't four-to-five weeks out. We had to go way out to the suburbs and wait in the parking lot of a different walk-in emergency vet for two hours to get seen on Thursday. Clover still isn't exactly right and probably needs to have general anesthesia for some dental investigation. It's really hard with dogs this old. Aging has been pretty hard on her. It's tough. I can't seem to talk about it! Urgh. Hurts my heart.

Now, can you believe this, but I'm done with almost all of my Christmas shopping. I was getting up at 3 and 4 a.m. recently and decided to do something productive with my time instead of surfing Pinterest in the dark. So I just did it. I did it all. On my iPad. That's a first. My friend had texted just the night before that she was done herself and I was inspired. I also bought myself five new books to read in the hot tub. I can't remember what all of them are. Mysteries. I also bought Amelia what I thought was a pretty cute birthday present — I got her a new apron, new cookie cutters, fluorescent food coloring, her own icing tips, and a few new bottles of fancy sprinkles. Do you remember when Sears used to have a WishBook catalog that came out every fall? Oh gosh how I loved that thing! I would spend hours as a kid just paging through it and marking things I wanted. I really wish they still had something like that. They have an American Girl doll catalog, and Amelia does love those. But there's just something about the WishBook. Like, I think it must have had every single toy in it. And do any of you Chicagoans remember Service Merchandise? Oh I loved that place! I used to go there with my dad. Wasn't there a conveyor belt or something? I don't even remember how it worked! I just remember that I adored it. I remember one time my parents left us at home with a babysitter and went shopping together and brought home a White Stag sweater dress for me, with a zipper neck. It wasn't from Service Merchandise but I swear I think it was from Madigan's (that was another old Chicago department store that I used to love). Ahhh, sigh. I was just telling Andy yesterday that I really miss going to Amling's for Halloween, too. Does Amling's still have a carnival and caramel apples and pumpkins in the parking lot and stuff like that? Aww, I'm getting so old and nostalgic. When I look at the pictures above, I think, These will be Amelia's memories of getting pumpkins for Halloween in childhood at Dolan Creek Farm. . . . Nicest people ever, and every single member of their family came and found us on the property yesterday and said hello to us, remembering us from last spring when we stayed the weekend there for Andy's birthday.

I bought a cute cereal bowl with a flower design on the rim on eBay the other day, and when it gets here I'm going to make soup and take a picture of it in that bowl. OH! And I found the old poetry books I was talking about in my last post and I will show you those, too. They are so cool. I meant to do that. I'd best press "publish" on this now, though, and get on with the day. Of relative leisure. I hope you are all well and wish you a peaceful weekend. Xox.

(Riverside pictures above from Milwaukie riverfront, not Dolan Creek Farm.)

Edited to add: More from the western suburbs of Chicagoland memory tour: Kiddieland! Come Back Inn! Russell's BBQ! (And obviously Marshall Field's and Weiboldt's.)


Thank you for the update! I love all the autumn photos. My favorite is the sticks and stones hearts! Hope you have a great weekend too!

Cathy Smallwood says: October 09, 2021 at 11:03 AM

Hey! I bought your lovely fall kit. Haven’t cross stitched in years, but so inspired. Anyway, could you suggest a magnifying light? My poor old eyes don’t work as well as they used to work. I’ve looked at Amazon and Joanns. Thanks in advance.

Service Merchandise! Yes! I bought my first sewing machine as a grown up there (I had learned on my mom's machine and she gave me my grandmother's, which pooped out when I was living in my first apartment). I do remember a conveyor belt type situation. I think you'd choose what you want on the floor, pay, and get a claim ticket, and then you'd wait for your item to come out, like at baggage claim?

Patti Smith says: October 09, 2021 at 02:13 PM

Oh Alicia! You brought back some good memories for me. I do remember Service Merchandise, and yes they had a conveyor belt that brought out whatever you bought. I thought that store was so neat. I loved all the old department stores in Chicago, too. Alas, all the good ones seem to be gone now. I am feeling nostalgic myself these days. I guess that comes along with aging, longing for the things you did as a child. Your pictures are beautiful as always. Our Shar Pei, Bella had to have 12 of her teeth removed last year. I felt so bad for her. The first couple days,were difficult for her, but she has made adjustments in eating with less teeth. I know how you feel about your heart hurting when talking about pets. I often think of our previous three Shar Pei’s we had who have died and I still get chocked up. Pets just touch us in such an extraordinary way. Have a wonderful weekend!

I'd love to know the names of the five mystery books you bought. I love a good mystery. I'm getting to the end of Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles series. I've really enjoyed them, some more than others. Your farm photos brought back fond memories of taking my children to pick pumpkins when they were younger. I hope Amelia has a lovely birthday!

Susan in Zurich says: October 09, 2021 at 11:16 PM

I echo Cate ^ I love a good mystery, too, would love to know the titles.
Ah, Sears Wish Book at Christmas! I'm a bit older than you, and I have starry-eyed memories of choosing my absolute favorites for my Christmas list!
Blessings on your many efforts, projects, and an extra prayer for your sweet doggy.
Thanks for the fall photos, too!

Love the pumpkin farm pictures! We don’t really have anything like that here in England, not on that scale really. I love seeing your autumn photos. I’ve just published an autumn walk that I did on Wednesday. If you want to see some autumn pictures from England?

Service Merchandise - my Singer serger came from there 32 years ago and I still use it weekly. Oh the times when Department Stores like Marshall Fields or Carson Pirie Scott on State Street were so special and magical at Christmas. Your photos are lovely.

charlotte m. says: October 10, 2021 at 06:27 AM

I love seeing pictures of Amelia with the pumpkins, or anywhere outside in nature. Such an old fashioned look. Keep her young and innocent as long as you can. The world is just too fast these days.

Such sweet photos! I absolutely loved the Wishbook too! I remember wanting the fisher price schoolhouse and farm ~ and all the dolls! My grandparents lived in South Holland IL and it was such a thrill to go to the Marshall Fields at Christmas. There was also a big craft store and I no longer remember the name of it but would get the cross stitch and rug kits there. They are so ugly but I loved to do those latch hook rugs. I still have a few of those old cross stitch samplers I did so long ago. Ruth on your last post wrote that she wanted a few of your kits in finished form. I would be happy to stitch snything for her if you want to give her my email. Your posts are always welcome in my inbox!

Gasp, the Sears WishBook! Yes, receiving that tome (and then notating/dog-earing it) in the mail was such a delight. Thank you for the reminder!

I still have a couple of old Sears Wishbooks from when I was young. It's still a thrill to page through them. And also interesting to see what else is in them besides toys. ;-) My grandparents always called Service Merchandise "Service Finance" for some reason. We had another place like that -- I can't remember the name. I got a white plastic goose wearing a winter cap and scarf hanging from a long spring. I stuck him to the ceiling above my brass bed and he would just kind of bounce there. Do you know, that thing stayed stuck on that ceiling for more than 40 years?! I finally took him down when we sold the childhood home last fall. The sticky part stayed stuck on the ceiling. I feel like we have needed all the veterinary services during the pandemic. One of our vets (small practice) did retire....we'd been going to him since he got out of vet school. I need to take my little dog to the cardiologist to have her heart murmur evaluated. Next May is the first they could see her. Thank you for your posts! Thank you, thank you!

These pumpkin patch pictures are so perfect! I want to visit that farm. I can't believe Clover Meadow is going to be 14 years old! I remember the puppy pictures so well and we even went and looked at Corgis once after we lost our dog. I've heard about the loss of vets across the country, but we live near a veterinary school, so we still have plenty nearby. Sigh about the Wish Book!

These darker mornings have me staying in bed much longer in the mornings, too. I sometimes feel so lazy and indulgent! But I think the darker days encourage us to cocoon and nest and just "be" for awhile. If wildlife slows down this time of year, why can't we?

Chicagoan here (*waving*)...well, the suburbs. I'm much older than you (59), so I certainly do remember Service Merchandise. Loved that place. They had beautiful jewelry, too.

I'm so impressed that you have your Christmas shopping done already. I have only bought a couple of things for my mom, so far.


I have a book recommendation; The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

I love Amelia's black gingham dress, it's perfect for pumpkin-picking!

SO funny that you mention virtual cross stitch images vs photos of stitched models because I was literally talking about that with Husband two nights ago. Like you I have a million ideas but I'm such a slow stitcher even though I stitch the "fast way" (in hand and going back and forth with half stitch rows unless using hand-dyed floss). Using virtual images seems to work for some people but it *is* a different vibe. If you ever want to talk cross stitch, let me know!

We had Service Merchandise in California too. I lol'ed when you mentioned the conveyor belt as I completely forgot about that! I think my parents got our Cabbage Patch Kids from there.

The Sears WishBook was a favorite as well. That's how my grandparents' did the Christmas shopping. I remember marking different science-based toys like the microscope, rock tumbler and see-through man and woman bodies (ie human anatomy) but my grandma would only get me the "girlie" things like dolls and frilly dresses. Ha!

I hope Andy and Clover Meadow and recuperating ok after their dental work. It has been a rough year for my own teeth but I'm finally on the up and up. I've been convalescing by being a hermit and doing hermit-things and staying off social media. I have far less anxiety these days!

Have a lovely week xx

Lynn Marie says: October 10, 2021 at 06:29 PM

Yes! I loved the Wish Books and Service Merchandise--what a walk down memory lane.
We also have a Cardigan Corgi and she is 14 years old as well and could be Clover's twin. I love that dog. She had dental surgery this past year and has really slowed down. She also had a mass on her spleen and had that removed!! And yes--it is so hard to do normal things like go to the Vet.

Yes, I’d love to see the digital if it means we get to see the design sooner. Those of us who come here are greedy for anything you have to show us. Remember how excited we were when you showed us your laundry basket?

The pre-Christmas catalog! I loved it so much. I have such clear memories of going through every single page and marking the things I wanted while sitting at our kitchen table. I can still feel the pages. I would love to see an old one now to see how big it actually was. It felt massive as a kid.

jenn in GA says: October 11, 2021 at 05:44 PM

my husband grew up in Addison, and i remember him telling me about Kiddieland. we lived there until 2006, and i don't remember Amling's doing a fall carnival the entire time i lived there from 1990 to then.

gasp! clover meadow is 14?!?! i remember the dog before her, so i've been reading here quite a while. amelia is growing up so fast!

someday, i'd like to visit your neck of the woods. that spot by the river looks like the kind of peaceful i'd enjoy. btw, it has been way too hot and way too humid for this displaced Midwesterner's pleasure here in GA. it doesn't cool off here until nearly Thanksgiving, or so it seems. we shall endure, i guess. what else is there to do.

thanks for continuing to write. i'd like to see pics of the old poetry books!

Just came across your lovely website and beautiful designs that i will have to peruse with more time. I do think that there would be a market for digital designs only, without seeing a stitched sample. Certainly PDFs are so easy for embroidery. Thank you for sharing your lovely pics and story. I think we all have venerable department store memories from cities in which we’ve lived. :)


I remember Service Merchandise and the conveyor belt. I am wearing my engagement ring that my then to be husband picked out 41 years ago. The ring lasted, and so did the marriage. Thanks for the "blast from the past". So enjoy all your posts!

Kristi Kenworthy says: October 12, 2021 at 03:33 PM

For better or worse, the modern toy sellers are doing toy catalogs too. We just got a pretty fat tome from Amazon, just toys. (No prices listed!) Last year Target and Fred Meyers sent us toy catalogs too. Much like with the old Sears book, my 6-year old is pouring over it, making lists, circling, dreaming.

Mary Ann Over in Vermont says: October 14, 2021 at 06:29 AM

You have to know how much I love and adore you on Instagram but there will never-ever-ever be anything that brings me more joy, happiness, and peace than this sweet incredible blog of yours. Please, very kindly, keep hot going forever...
Sending across the country so much love. xo

Oh, sweet Clover Meadow. I've been reading your blog for so long that to me she's still the new puppy--how's it 14 years already? ❤️❤️

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About Alicia Paulson


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