Thursday, October 29, 2015


In the hubbub of work deadlines and other commitments, I hadn't fully realized autumn's arrival here at Ashton House until yesterday when I had a moment to survey our landscape. I know it's autumn when pretty gourds adorn my porch and my little rusty toy truck with their intriguing colorations.

 And the ornamental kale that line our sidewalk are the showiest jewels in our garden.

And when soon-to-be-mulched leaves blanket our flowerbeds. I love how they mingle with the silvery, soft foliage of lamb's ears.

And when the rose hips on my rugosa rose turn a rich red.

I hope you are enjoying autumn's many splendored gifts!

Monday, October 12, 2015


It was another fun-filled and productive weekend here at Ashton House. I was delighted to finish a project I've been working on for Quilt Market, which takes place later this month. Riley Blake Fabrics is releasing their new wool line this fall, and they sent me some pieces to fashion into a project for their booth.

I decided to make my Florabunda project with their pretty palette of wools. The wool pieces are glued to the backdrop. They are in the process of drying and will be ready to ship out this Wednesday.

My weekend actually started a little early since my friend Anne was visiting from out of town on Friday. I had promised to take her to the local vintage clothing shops since she shares my love of vintage 1960s fashion. Somehow when I am with her, I end up coming home with more than I bargained for! We both found a vintage dress and I also found a vintage crocheted cardigan that looks like those granny-square afghans. Speaking of vintage clothing, I took advantage of the end-of-summer sales last month and scored this cute pink 1960s dress for $10 (marked down from $40). It was the zig-zag collar that really attracted me to it. I was wishing it was a solid white, though, since it would stand out more. 

I like to pair it with vintage 1960s brooches like this strawberry or floral one. Yesterday we had some unseasonably warm weather (in the 80s), so I was able to get some more wear out of the dress. I am not fond of 80-degree weather, so I was delighted to hear it would be cooler today—in the 70s. The 60s would be even better!

On Saturday morning, I headed over to the local Vintage and Made Fair but forgot my camera. My hubby took this pic of their vintage thermos display with his phone. How fun is that?!

I did not find as much there as I do at the spring version but I still enjoyed seeing all the vintage goodies. This small vintage milk glass hen nesting dish did go home with me. I've seen a lot of large ones but none as small this one (about 3 inches long). She now sits on the shelf in one of my kitchen window wells.

Later that afternoon, my friend MJ came over and we went to the Covered Bridges Festival in nearby Winterset. We enjoyed perusing the many vendor booths on the square. I loved the freshly-picked bouquets in this one and found a few cockscomb stems to harvest seeds for next year's garden.

Several booths boasted yummy-looking baked goods. I was intrigued by the Snickerdoodle fudge and bread that this booth was selling and I bought a loaf for the hubby.

I spotted this cool antique Pfaff sewing machine in one of the booths. I didn't realize the Pfaff company went back that far!

On Saturday evening the local vintage shops were hosting a shop hop and tour of homes, so my hubby and I decided to check those out and didn't get home until after 9 p.m. It all made for a fun but busy weekend! Now it is back to work. Need to make a lot of progress at it this week! Hope you all have a great week!

Monday, October 5, 2015


It's starting to look like autumn here at Ashton House. The gourds and pumpkins are making their annual appearance on the porch...

Summer's bold blooms been replaced by the foliage finery of ornamental kale (shown here) and ornamental cabbage, which adorn urns on the porch. A fairytale pumpkin adds a fanciful touch to the display of autumn splendor.

One of my favorite autumn traditions is picking out pumpkins and gourds from the local pumpkin patch. The wartier the better, don't you think?!

Speaking of pumpkins, we found this enormous one growing in Grandma's garden when we visited her this weekend. She was delighted to hear it and asked if we could harvest it and bring it in to display on her living room table. It is such a treat to see her get so excited at her ripe old age of more than 90 years!

Over the weekend, we were delighted to host the talented duo behind Yellow Creek Quilt Designs for our second photo shoot at the house this year! We hosted one for a flea market magazine earlier this year. Sisters Jill and Vicki are a joy to work with. We first worked together on their debut book, Kindred Spirits. This photo shoot was for the lookbook for Jill's second fabric line with Windham Fabrics. They were shooting quilts for the second installment of their Kindred Spirits Quilt Club. I'm not going to show detailed shots of those since the fabric line is not yet out, but here are a few behind-the-scenes peeks of the shoot. The sisters relied on Aaron, the photographer, to work his magic staging the quilts and projects to best capture their charm.  

After Aaron snaps his shot, Jill and Vicki have a chance to register their opinions. Here they are checking out one of Aaron's vignettes.

I'm always intrigued by what furniture pieces photographers like Aaron choose to incorporate into their shots. The antique upright piano I inherited from my sister when she moved across the country found its way into one of the shots. 

Even a simple sofa can lend a cozy backdrop for a quilt!

If a photo shoot weren't enough to make for an exciting weekend, we also enjoyed attending the last flea market for the year. One of the booths beckoned with vintage 1960s clothing and accessories. I collect vintage milk glass hands like these because they reflect a common Victorian theme that fits right in with our 1885 Victorian home. With this being the last flea market of the season, the vendors had terrific prices and were more than happy to negotiate even better prices.

These sweet pink gloves showed off jewelry pretties. Tempting though they were (especially the owl), I did not buy either. In getting ready for this second shoot, I was able to donate several more items to various charities. So I'm not too eager to add anything back at this moment—unless it's something I really, really want or need!

My favorite finds of the day were these vintage pink pearl buttons made in Washington, Iowa—still on their original cards. I bought one box of them. 

The vendor had a wide array of pearl buttons from the same Iowa factory. Among the hues were ruby reds, rich browns, buttery yellows, and soft aquas. 

As you know, I like to share the wealth when I can. So I'm giving away one card of the pink pearl buttons. If you'd like a chance to win, just leave a comment telling me what your favorite buttons are and I'll randomly draw a name this Wednesday, October 7, and email the winner directly (In order to enter, you will need to provide an email address if you are a no-reply comment blogger as that means that your comment comes through with no email attached. So I have no way of reaching you). I don't know that many readers actually make it through my entire posts, so those who do and want to enter will probably have a good chance of winning! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


On Sunday afternoon while working at my computer, I heard some loud clunking noises on my back porch. I looked out the window to see two happy dogs there. I was going to go outside to investigate when I noticed the black one had already moved on to my arbor garden. I caught this pic of him or her from my window.

I was not able to get a photo of his or her friend, a three-legged yellow dog wearing a bandana. The fact he had only three legs did not seem to hamper him in the least. About 30 minutes later, I looked outside the window and saw this...

Apparently, a trio of yellow kittens has taken up residence in our dog kennel, which runs the width and length of our garage. Unfortunately, they are scared of humans so you can't get close to them—hence this very bad photo where I tried to zoom in on him! Speaking of shy kitties, my hubby and I recently visited the local Furry Friends Refuge, a no-kill shelter here in Des Moines. While there, we met Indigo, a very shy black female (see below). The helper on duty said she is less likely to be adopted because she is so shy. While initially timid, once you start petting her, she is very affectionate. So we decided to sponsor her, which means she can adopted for free. If you are looking for a sweet kitty and don't have small children in the house, please consider Indigo. She is at the 1723 Grand location listed in the below pic. We would have adopted her but our vet has advised us to get a kitten since our remaining cat Poe is geriatric. You can read more about her at this weblink by looking for Indigo:

Since I last posted, we've completed painting the library! We are loving the new warm mustard hue that picks up the color of the lady's chair, which sits in that room. Click on that link if you wish to see the chair. Now here's an interesting sidenote about paint and this house. Choosing paint colors always came quite easy to me in our previous house in the Beaverdale area of Des Moines. The colors were as you would expect them to be, but because this house has so much natural light, colors are often not what they seem. As a result, nearly every room has taken an average of three paint tries to get right! The only exceptions are the kitchen and the front parlor, both of which are shades of blue. I thought the library would be easier since it's a back room that doesn't get as much light but alas, I was wrong. Suffice it to say that we've learned $3 paint samples are the way to go in these rooms so we don't end up spending a small fortune in paint!

The new wall color is a welcome change from the dilapidated old wallpaper that once cloaked the room in darkness (see previous post for a shot of that). The wall art pops much more, including my framed Victorian wool art and collection of vintage toy pianos (below). I think they say three of anything makes a collection, right? Or is it two? I actually have more than just these three. 

Our next step will be finding a suitable carpet for the room and the adjoining two rooms—a goal we hope to complete by this coming spring. We found good hardwood flooring under the carpet in the TV room, so we want to leave that room uncarpeted. Unfortunately, I don't think the flooring in the other three rooms fared as well and my husband suspects it is bad.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Even though it's only been a couple weeks since I last posted, it feels like much has happened during that time. One of the most exciting is that we celebrated Labor Day by removing the hideous wallpaper in our library! Whoever installed it did an extremely poor job, leaving seams between the sheets and applying it over raw sheetrock instead of the usual plaster or drywall. Because of the raw sheetrock, no water could be applied to help soften the paper for removal. All of that made for a fairly ugly day of wallpaper stripping but how gratifying to see it quickly becoming a distant memory. Luckily, we had an eager and willing set of helping hands, thanks to my hubby's parents who came over and assisted us the whole day. By the end of the day, all of the wallpaper was gone.

We haven't even painted the room and it already looks considerably brighter. We properly treated the walls and are now ready to apply a fresh coat of paint. I'm thinking a warm mustard or gold color would look nice in this room and segue well with the blue/green color of the adjoining parlor, but we'll see. Because of the abundant windows and subsequent natural light, this house is very tricky to paint. What you would think would look good often does not. We had to try three different shades of green to the dining room before we got the right one. 

Once painting is complete in this room, it will be time to start thinking about replacing the carpet in this room and the adjoining rooms. When they came over on Labor Day, the hubby's parents surprised us with a gift of money that will allow us to get some really nice carpet—more than we thought we would be able to afford. So over the weekend, we headed out to some carpet stores to check out options. We really like the patterned carpets like this Nottingham style that add a little character. We're not sure what we'll go with—we might still pick a solid color like our current one. I've been debating between beige and a light gray. What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts—feel free to email me by clicking on the Email Me button under my profile pic on this blog. Because we have so much furniture to move, we have decided to carpet room by room rather than all at once. Our goal is to get the carpet in on the main level by next spring. The upper level is another story!

We'd like to have the main level carpet installed before finding a little friend for Poe (pictured below—he can't resist an empty box!). It's been more than a year since his brother, Teddy, passed away, and we can tell he is very lonely. He stays close by me throughout the day, rarely leaving my side. Right now he is curled up to the base of my office chair as I type this post. 

Since I last posted, I also celebrated another birthday. Hubby surprised me some delightful gifts, including this vintage frog planter that I'd been eyeing at a local shop, and took me to one of my favorite restaurants—a French-style one called Django's here in Des Moines.

He also took me to the local New Orleans Jazz Band Party at the Des Moines Social Club. They were terrific! We got there a little late so had to settle for a seat to their side rather than in front. It was fun to watch them play.

In other news, we're continuing our organizing efforts upstairs, and that means more trips to Goodwill. Over the weekend, I found a nice vintage end table for our bedroom, so we can now donate the little book table (pictured below) that we were using for it for the past 10 years. 

I also found several patterns and a couple vintage quilts including this redwork one to donate to the local quilt guild's annual sale last month. 

I'll close with this photo of my streptocarpus, which is blooming up a storm in my kitchen window. 

Monday, August 24, 2015


I am one of the few people who likes rainy days—as long as they don't carry the threat of severe storms and tornadoes! Thought I should add that caveat. A soggy late Saturday afternoon and evening gave me a chance to bring out my vintage umbrella while running some errands. Like a lot of things, they just don't make them like they used to! This is one of my three vintage umbrellas circa 1960. It's a pagoda-style umbrella and has the prettiest gray and pink flowers on it. I also have a pretty pink vintage umbrella that I will have to show you sometime.

Rainy days are perfect for baking, and I took advantage of it by baking a cake in the vintage cake pan I found at the flea market that we went to earlier this month. Here is a photo of the pan with the cake. I'm not usually one for buying vintage pans but I was drawn to the heart design on the top of this one, plus the pan itself was a nice size. At just shy of 7 inches in diameter, it's small but that's perfect for our little household. I think it will be a pretty little pan to use for future cakes for teas. 

Speaking of cakes, I found the prettiest cake (gateau) recipe from marie chioca's website (below is a photo from the website where I found it—this is NOT a cake that I made), but it was in French! Luckily, I knew just the person to translate—my sister who is fluent in French and worked at a French-speaking elementary school. She translated it for me and I can hardly wait to try it! She found out it is actually gluten-free, so she plans to try it herself.

Saturday evening found us indulging in a favorite summer treat—freshly-picked sweet corn grown just outside our little town. Its flavor can't be beat. Since I can't have much margarine due to my kidney condition, I flavor mine with some creamy whole-grain mustard as shown below or I just eat it plain. Either way tastes good to me! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Last Thursday I escaped the work routine with a trip to the Iowa State Fair. I must admit the fair is something I can only take every few years but I was eager to revisit it after a three-year break. First stop was the Fabric and Threads area, which houses the quilt exhibit. Mary Shotwell, a very talented member of our local quilt guild, won Best of Show with this beauty.

Several years ago, I took a quilting class from quilt designer Froncie Quinn, who authored the historical quilt book, Enduring Grace: Quilts from the Shelburne Museum Collection. Perhaps you have it in your quilting library? Anyway, Mary also attended the class and shared her amazing quilt made with Froncie's fabrics. I took a photo of it and thought this would be the perfect time to share it. I happen to have yardage for a few of the fabrics—including the border—used in the quilt. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to email photos of them (or I might post them later if I get a chance). I will sell them for $8 a yard.

I also enjoyed this gray-and-yellow quilt by Margaret Beal, another talented quilter who happens to live in my town. This is one of my favorite color combinations. I wish they had space to display the entire quilt.

I was also captivated by this blue-and-brown LeMoyne Star beauty by Carole Livingston.

All that quilt inspiration made hubby and I hungry. Hee hee! So we headed over to enjoy our first food stop of the day. We'd heard about all the new food offerings but decided to try an old favorite first. This delicious fried cauliflower was our mid-morning treat.

Next we tried the new apple-pie-on-a-stick at this fun stand. Wow! This one was my favorite. The pie was light and flaky with a delicious apple filling. 

My hubby wanted to try the new garlic fried cheese curds, which were attracting quite a bit of interest at this stand.

I'm not too keen on cheese since I lack the enzyme necessary to digest dairy, but I have found I can tolerate the lighter colored cheeses like swiss and mozzarella pretty well. Luckily, these happened to be mozzarella. 

Hubby also enjoyed a foot-long corn dog.

As a sheep and wool lover, I had to check out the sheep barn, where I spotted this freshly shorn fellow enjoying a nap.

If my stomach weren't so full, I might have tried this Zero Gravity ride. Don't you love the pink, green, and yellow colors? I think it might have inspired a new pincushion design for me. Funny how inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places when you look at your surroundings with an open heart and mind.

To walk off some of that food, we decided to take in the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden in downtown Des Moines after leaving the fair. Before we knew it, we were walking the streets of downtown Des Moines for a couple hours. We sure felt better by the time we were done. 

My hubby mentioned that I should have included a photo of my red polka dot dress that I wore to the State Fair, which I forgot to take, but you can kind of see it in the reflection of the sculpture that I took in the above photo. 

Many people have asked if the red dress is vintage and it is not. I continue to try adding vintage dresses to my wardrobe. My goal is for at least a quarter of it to be vintage 1960s. I wore my vintage 1960s dress with white platform wedges, pictured below, to the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market on Saturday. I love how this dress is shapeless and conceals the waist and hips for a comfy fit. What really makes it special is the long bow that extends from the top of the dress all the way to the bottom. It was so windy that it wouldn't stay put in any of the photos my hubby took, so here is a self shot that shows it a little better. What I love about vintage dresses is that many are handmade and are better quality than today's clothes. I do have to carefully inspect them for damage but if you get one in great condition, I really think you have something special. I wish I'd lived through the 1960s. It must have been so fun.

If there's anything I love more than vintage dresses, it might be shoes. Do you like clogs? If so, you might want to check out the wonderful Swedish Hasbeens. They call them clogs even though they don't look like the traditional clogs one might envision. Below is a photo of my gray ornament clogs. Each shoe is handcrafted in Sweden from a single piece of lime tree wood. The quality is truly impeccable and the fit is great even for people like me with small, narrow feet. And NO, this is not a paid advertisement! I just love these shoes. I think I might have to start a Pinterest board for them on my Pinterest page.

And what pink-accented skirt would be complete without a pink phone purse? Couldn't resist this one.

I'll close with some photos of our dinner from Fair Day. We figured since we'd already indulged at the Fair, why not stop by our favorite Chinese food place on the way home?  

We also split this coconut bubble tea. I love how the tapioca pearls pop in your mouth, giving you a burst of fruity flavor.