Wednesday, September 17, 2014

COOKIES AND QUILTS

Cookies and quilts. Sounds like a delightful combination, doesn't it? Well, it's a lovely day for a blog post here at Ashton House. We just sent the latest edition of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine to the printer this morning, leaving me to enjoy a leisurely afternoon of cookie baking. With fall in the air, I was in the mood for pumpkin cookies. I'm making a healthy version of them, which contains NO sugar or flour. I did sprinkle the tops of them with mini chocolate chips since I don't like a lot of chocolate. I used a non-sugar natural sweet baking substitute in place of the sugar.


Instead of regular flour, I used oat "flour" (aka oats that are processed until they are the consistency of flour). If you can't find oat flour, you can find lots of easy guides on how to make your own on the internet. For small amounts like what this recipe calls for, I like to use my Cuisinart mini food chopper instead of my regular food processor. And in case you're wondering, yes, it's pink! No other color brightens my world quite like this hue does!


While the cookies are baking, I thought I'd share some wonderful photos from a fellow quilter's home, which I'm featuring with her permission. This past Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Marge's home for tea time and an introduction to the latest quilting class she's leading at one of the local quilt shops. She invited all her past students and future students to her beautiful home. I've been to Marge's home before and believe me, you're in for a treat!


Since I decided to scale back on my work starting now, I'm actually able to take her class. It seems like ages since I've been able to take a quilt class and it feels great. The class Marge is leading is Kim Diehl's Simple Whatnots class with an added bonus that Marge will also be sharing tidbits of Iowa farmwife history and a mini lesson on a sewing technique with an additional crafty project to make. I'd say that's a pretty good value for this six-month quilt class that costs $50 at The Quilt Block! I've taken classes from Marge before and she's an excellent and kind teacher. Don't you love Marge's sewing room (below)? It's decorated with lots of fun vintage finds, including antique toy sewing machines and vintage sewing accessories.


This darling vintage child's drying rack holds an enchanting array of doll quilts. Marge has another child's size drying rack filled with quilts nearby--you can see a hint of it in the previous photo.


This sweet vignette of quilts and doll accessories is just outside her sewing room. Marge is a decorator after my own heart—she loves to fill walls with her finds. They're meant to be used after all! A bare wall always looks so sad to me.


Marge and I both like to collect vintage doll cupboards. Here's another one of her cupboard treasures that pairs perfectly with a little antique crazy quilt.


It sits atop another table that reveals a treasure trove of antique quilts. Indeed, every nook and cranny is filled in Marge's home!


This cheerful little cabinet enlightens an area just off Marge's kitchen. I love how she paired it with a quilt and shelf enlightened by vintage lunch boxes.


In a lot of houses, a wall like this might go unused but not in Marge's. It showcases everything from aprons to mini vintage lanterns.


Quilts even take center stage in bathrooms. 


After all of Marge's students had the opportunity to explore her charming home, we gathered for tea and treats served on beautiful vintage china snack sets. 


After the tea, Marge treated us a trunk show of some of her many quilts. Marge had this beauty on her design wall.


This medallion masterpiece was made with a wonderful center chintz panel imported from overseas. Marge's quilts have won many ribbons over the years. As you can see, she is a very talented quilter.


And you might remember this captivating quilt pattern from Cheryl of So Many Quilts, So Little Time who graciously provided patterns for it on her blog a couple years ago—or was it a few years ago. I've lost track of time! Marge's version certainly turned out beautifully.


Well, I hope you enjoyed this little quilted house tour—or should I say BIG quilted house tour. There's so much more that I wasn't able to show you in a single post. If you're like me, seeing warmly decorated homes like these renews enthusiasm for the pleasures of an everyday haven where we can be surrounded by the things we love most. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

FALL FLOURISHES

It's about that time of year when I start decorating the house for fall and Halloween, and this year, I have a special painting to add to my display of seasonal splendor. My dear hubby gifted me this sweet portrait of our cats for my birthday. It's by the same artist (Sara Pulver) who painted this earlier portrait of them. I was really touched by how he included our kitty, Teddy, who passed away this April, as an angel. He's holding the hand of our remaining kitty, Poe. Until I can find a fitting frame for it, I have it displayed on the marble mantel in our front parlor where I can see and enjoy it every day.


You might notice from the previous photo that I like to decorate with old books. To me, these beauties are as much objects of art as much as good reads. They add a cozy feeling to any display. I have found most of mine for $2 or less.


I found this little beauty at a tag sale this weekend. It was only $1. In an earlier post, I'd mentioned that the color gray was growing on me. I used to not like it all but something has changed. I especially like it when paired with yellow as on this book cover.


Do any of you like decorating with books, too? If so, how do you incorporate them into your decor? Would love to hear what you do with them. Even new books can be pretty. As a magazine editor and writer who works on a variety of subjects, I receive new books from publishers. Earlier this year, I was sent this beautiful pink book. Naturally, the pink cover had me intrigued! Nutritious food really is good medicine. I have noticed since I've been eating more fish that my skin and hair have improved remarkably. Best yet, I can eat more, not less, and feel better. I have always had a healthy appetite for savory, non-sweet food. 


My favorite fish are halibut, wild pacific cod (Atlantic cod is endangered), wild pacific (non farm-raised) salmon, and of course, the wonderful local bluegill that my father in law catches for us. We enjoyed a feast of it this past Saturday. I typically fix about 30 pieces, half for my hubby and half for me! 


With fall just around the corner, it was time to start eating some comfort food on Sunday. This slow-cooked boneless pork chop with roasted garlic mushroom sauce certainly fit the bill. We relaxed the rest of the night by watching the Ken Burns Roosevelt documentary on PBS.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

ALMOST CAME HOME WITH A KITTY

A funny thing happened on the way home from our evening walk tonight. This furry fellow ran toward us and followed us all the way home. We were so tempted to give him a home. After losing our sweet black kitty, Teddy, this past April, we are just now open to finding a furry friend to join our family—if the opportunity presents itself. It would practically have to smack us in the face. We always thought Teddy would send us sign when the time was right to welcome a new kitten or cat into the family. I think our remaining cat Poe would like a new friend as he sometimes seem lonely. The only thing is this cute kitty seemed way too friendly not to already have a home, even though he had no collar or identification, and we'd hate to take him in if he already has one. So we sadly bid him a good night and left a little bowl of food out for him in case he gets hungry.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

SPOOL DREAM COME TRUE

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you might remember this wooden spool pincushion and scissor keeper that I designed last year.


I'm always on the lookout for vintage wooden spools to craft into creations like those above and more. In fact, I'm getting ready to sew up a new "garden" of scissor keepers and coneflower pincushions. Thanks to my sweet dad-in-law, I hit the jackpot with spools. It was the stuff that spool dreams are made of. He recently surprised me with this treasure trove of vintage wooden spools in a 12-inch tall bag filled with more than 100 of them!


Here is a small sampling of what was inside.


I was delighted to find that there were even some vintage needle holders! I can't wait to dress some of those up in wool.


I love the graphics on these vintage wooden spools and boxes. They just don't make them like this anymore. A big thank you to my dad-in-law for gifting me these awesome treasures!


Monday, September 8, 2014

FALL FUN AT MINGLEWOOD LODGE

It feels like ages since I last posted. My only excuse is the overlowing pile of work that awaited me once I recovered from my recent health issue last month. I've been preparing the latest issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects to go to press next week. Just in time for the holidays, we have some bonus gift tags and appliqué templates to help you with your gift-giving. Watch for more details later this month! We're still working on the cover but here's how it's shaping up. We hope you'll like the new look of the magazine title and the top banner detailing our focus features—quilting, rug hooking, and stitching. I welcome any constructive comments. Feel free to drop me a line by clicking the Email Me button under my profile pic.


One week, I literally didn't leave the house because I had so much work to catch up on. Needless to say, I was ready to escape the house, and a recent quilt book trunk show for one of the quilt books I edited gave me an excuse to do so since it was just a couple hours drive and therefore, a nice and easy relaxing day trip for me. The Quilted Moose in Gretna, Nebraska, hosted my author, Betsy Chutchian, for a special book signing of her hot-off-the-press book, Just Treats, No Tricks! The shop's owner, Deb Roberts, hosted the event in her charming Minglewood Lodge just a short drive from her quilt shop. This rustic fireplace lent a beautiful backdrop for Betsy's talk.


Betsy brought quilts from all four of her books with The Kansas City Star—Gone to Texas, Lizzie's Legacy, History Repeated, and Just Treats, No Tricks (the latter two of which I edited).


Attendees were treated to a fabulous show of quilted eye candy and fun tidbits detailing some of the wonderful stories behind these beauties.




It was fun to revisit some of the quilt projects that are featured in Betsy's latest book, Just Treats, No Tricks. They will definitely get you in the mood for fall! This little quilt called Max's Matches was inspired by vintage matchbooks in Betsy's dad's collection.



As a book editor, you occasionally get the opportunity to name some of the projects. I had a fun time naming this sweet little bag "Jack Be Little" and his larger counterpart "Jack Bewitched."


We called this hooked version of Betsy's chair pads "Cozy Comforts."


Searching for a fun fall pinkeep? Try this sweet wool bat named Batilda! In the book, you'll find a couple bonus projects as well.


We had quite a crowd for the event.


Deb and her team staged a gorgeous fall tablescape with lots of edible delights for guests to snack on. The dips were especially scrumptious.


How can you not love fall looking at this scenic table setting?


If you ever have an opportunity to attend a quilt retreat or event at Minglewood Lodge, you're in for a treat. I shot this photo of the cozy kitchen from the stairs that lead to the second floor bedrooms. The shop hosted two workshops by Betsy at the lodge the following two days after the trunk show. I had to return home right after the trunk show on Wednesday but it was a fun quick trip for this editor who was getting some serious cabin fever!



Friday, August 8, 2014

ANSWERED PRAYERS

Three weeks ago, I found a lump in my sweet cat Poe's neck, and last Thursday, he underwent surgery to remove it. He had previously undergone two other surgeries in the last year and a half to remove lumps in the same area. This time, the doctor suspected cancer due to the shape and area of the lump and we were told to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Evidently, there is an aggressive type of cancer caused by the very things that are supposed to protect our furry friends—rabies and feline leukemia vaccinations, and Poe's lump was in that exact area. He was given a 50/50 chance of it being cancer. Worst yet, we had to wait a week for the biopsy results. It was agony. God answered our prayers yesterday when the doctor called with good news, letting us know that Poe beat the odds and that his lump was a fatty benign tumor. Even the doctor said that he was surprised it wasn't cancer. After losing Poe's brother Teddy so recently, I wasn't sure how I was going to get through the loss of another furry friend. Below is a photo of Poe recuperating. You can see the spot where his back hair had to be shaved for surgery.


When it rains, it pours as I have also been dealing with my own health issue the past few weeks. It became so bad that I couldn't keep any food down (even a popsicle) and ended up on anti-nausea medication among other things. So if I owe you a return email or call, please be patient as I play catch up. I think the best medicine of all was just hearing that Poe was okay. I have much to be grateful for, and trying times like these always serve as good reminders of that, although I have always been one to value the meaning of gratitude. One blessing is that my mother-in-law came to stay with me for several days this week to look after me because I felt so ill. She took such good care of me. Some people are just natural caregivers and Mom is one of those rare gems. One night while I was recuperating on the sofa, my hubby took Mom out to dinner as a thank you for helping us. When they returned, the hubby woke me up and Mom surprised me with my very own iPad! So now I have a new toy to play with when I feel better.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

QUILT BOOKS AND CHOLESTEROL

It's a great day here at Ashton House. I'm making good progress on two of the quilt books that I'm editing this quarter. The one closest to completion is Betsy Chutchian's ode to autumn joys. The title is Just Treats, No Tricks: Bewitching Quilts and More to Celebrate Autumn. Her love of all things Halloween is a common thread throughout the book but you will find much more than just fun accents for that holiday. There are plenty of autumn-inspired quilts and projects to enjoy, too!


Not far behind Betsy's book is Dawn Heese's latest title, Autumn Splendor: Folk Art Quilts and Projects. Inspired by the splendor of the season, Dawn has created a charming cornucopia of six quilts and two coordinating smaller projects. With her folk-art flair for appliqué and patchwork, she puts a fresh twist on autumn-inspired motifs. Don't you love the kitty on the straw bale on the cover? Luckily, both Dawn and Betsy are fellow cat lovers.


Both books will be released in September, so be sure to watch for them at your favorite quilt shop! And stop back in August for a giveaway when I'll share more details about both books.

In other good news, I just got a good report from my doctor at my appointment today! My blood pressure is now down to 98/68, an all-time low for me (and that's with no medications). I've been off my blood pressure medication for more than a year now and it feels great. My cholesterol numbers had also improved from last year and especially from 2012—again without any medications of any kind. My doctor said that it's best to have a total cholesterol level of less than 200 and mine is now 154, down from 220 in 2012 and 194 in 2013. My triglycerides (fat in the blood) level is now 81—down from 133 in 2012. My doctor said the ideal range for triglycerides is under 150 and under 90 is even better. I'm still battling some kidney issues but am hopeful they'll improve soon. Now I'm celebrating the good news by eating a couple blue raspberry cookies my hubby made last night! Yum! Yes, my doctor would probably cringe at this but a girl's gotta have her sugar, right?! 


I've also been making good progress on my summer-cleaning venture. I've been tackling my bedroom closet and gathered six whole bags of handbags as well as clothes which no longer fit to donate to Goodwill. I realize this venture is long overdue as I still have some clothes from my college days! The only down side to the cleaning fest is that it left only a handful of clothes in my closet. Most are pink.


Well, I suppose I should get back to work now. I was just so elated about my cholesterol reading that I had to record the great news with a blog post.