Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I just got back from the whirlwind that is Spring Quilt Market. I got back just in time to catch the series finale of Mad Men. What a brilliant way to end the show with the Coke ad--at first I thought it was a bit ambiguous but then I totally got it. But I digress! Back to Quilt Market matters. This spring it was held in Minneapolis, an easy drive for me. Opening day was last Friday, and my first stop was our booth (For those of you not familiar with my blog, I'm the editor of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine). Gretchen and Leah did a great job setting it up. Gretchen is one of the three founders of the magazine, and Leah is the daughter of one of the other founders (Judy).

While Gretchen and Leah greeted guests in the booth, I walked the floor, scouting potential project designers, checking out the latest products in the quilt world, and catching up with the many designers whose projects have graced our pages. One of the latter is the effervescent Phyllis Meiring, who has a knack for turning wool into the most whimsical creations. I've worked with her wool for several years now and can't say enough positive things about. The colors are out of this world.

I always enjoy seeing Pam Buda and her timeless designs. Enveloped in warm brown and red tones, her booth made me want to curl up with all the beautiful quilts. That classic color duo also takes center stage in Pam's latest fabric line, Treenware & Berries, inspired by Pam's personal collection of early American Treenware. Be sure to check it out at your local quilt shop or an online quilt shop.

And it was lovely to run into fellow Iowa girl, Deanne Eisenman, whose projects have been featured in multiple issues of the magazine. Isn't the quilt behind her spectacular? Deanne has a new book out. It's called Blooming Patchwork: A Celebration of Appliqué in Quilts. It's definitely one you'll want to add to your quilting library.

That's all I have time to share today today, but I'll be back with more posts about my Quilt Market trip, including some cool products and fabric, as well as some scenes from the few area shopping excursions I managed to squeeze in after Quilt Market duties!

Thursday, May 7, 2015


It's that glorious time of year again when the magical morel mushroom makes its awe-inspiring appearance, and my husband and his dad sure hit the bumper crop during their latest forage for these golden nuggets. Searching for them is harder than you might think as they like to hide under brush and twigs (see below photo) and the woodland terrain can be rigorous. Undeterred by this challenge, the intrepid duo emerged victorious from their mushroom-hunting excursion, bringing back more than 100 of them! Dad put them into gallon bags and only kept about 10 of them and let us have the rest. How lucky am I? My husband doesn't eat many, so I end up eating the lion's share of them. I'll eat these goodies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they're all gone as you want to eat them as fresh as possible.

As soon as my husband returned with this golden harvest, I got right to cleaning them in time for dinner.

It's hard to imagine a more memorable meal than one with morels. They're the cream of the mushroom crop—or for that matter any food! Typically, I sauté mine in butter. I love the mixture of their crunchy exterior with their soft, spongy interior.

Because of my kidney condition, I have to limit my intake of fried foods. So lately, I've been baking these beauties instead. I do miss the buttery flavor but they taste equally divine freshly baked since it's the mushroom's inherent flavor—and not really the butter—that I truly love. These are dipped in egg, then covered with Panko breadcrumbs (I use about 1 cup for my whole batch—I typically eat about 20 mushroom for one meal, depending on their size). Like many mushrooms, morels are very nutritious. They are low in calories (just 20 calories per cup) plus they are packed with iron and potassium (the latter is something I especially need and is now the only medication I have to take). Here is what they look liked baked:

It must have been my day as that same afternoon, my crazy cat lady outfit—a delightful black-and-white cat dress and two pairs of low heels—arrived in the mail. A few weeks ago, I noticed the company that sells the cat shoes was having a 25 percent off sale with free shipping. The shoes fit perfectly and are so comfortable for heels. I bought the dress because it reminds me of Teddy, my sweet black kitty who passed away last year. The dress will come in handy for my goal to wear more dresses this spring and summer. So far, I have worn 10 new dresses in the past month. I wear them anywhere from church to a simple trip to the post office. As one fashionable friend told me, you don't have a special occasion to wear a dress, and you know, she's right. It's about wearing what makes you feel good and quite frankly, that's all that matters. 

Monday, April 27, 2015


\It's been a year since I've attended the local Junk Jubliee, so I was in the mood to rediscover its many treasures. Of course, this booth filled with quilted treasures from the past caught my eye.

This quilt in my favorite color combo of pink and brown was too expensive for my pocketbook but it was a delight to see.

I have a fondness for vintage children's cupboards like this one. Their diminutive size is so charming and is a great fit for the nooks and crannies of homes.

Can you imagine having enough trinkets and treasures to fill this massive antique tool holder? 

Several booths were filled with plants and garden tools—just in time to get us in gardening mode!

Here are my finds from the day...a lovely selection of vintage 1960s fabrics. I especially love the pink and green one. I'm thinking it might make a nice summery skirt.

These three 19th-century needle books were a steal at $3 each. I love Victorian wooden leaf frames but most are too pricey for my budget. Luckily this one was only $6.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Did the title of this blog post pique your curiosity? I hope it did enough for you to read on. It will all make sense!

Are you all enjoying spring's arrival as much as I am? This season seems to recharge my batteries like no other. I know it's spring when I see all the neighborhood chickens out and about again. During one of our evening walks, we met this pair of lovely hens. They were so docile that they gladly ran to their owner, pictured in the below photo, to get a bite to eat. In our small community, I think we are only allowed to have up to six hens.

Spring also means new treasure hunts, including the first flea market, which is rapidly approaching in May. Sadly, one of our favorite antique haunts—Found Things—closed its doors this past Saturday. East Village won't be the same without it. These were the last treasures I found among the shop's many wondrous finds. If you're a regular blog reader, you know I am sucker for Victorian ephemera like the old book pictured below. I was also delighted to find the vintage pink fabric and vintage trivet (a very tiny size compared to the others in my collection).

One of the reasons I couldn't resist the book was that it was filled with the sweetest kitty illustrations like these. It's the perfect eye candy for a cat lover like me. The Victorians must have loved kitties as much as I do—just proof that we really are kindred spirits.

Later in the day, I met up with a friend to explore a vintage clothing shop. I could tell I was going to love it just by looking in the window, which greeted passersby with a blast from the past—pretty pink dresses from the 1960s (What could be more perfect for a pink lover like me?). When I stepped in the door, I was greeted by a dazzling rainbow of frocks and fancies from days past. Henry Mancini's Moon River from my all-time favorite Audrey Hepburn movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's, was playing in the background. It couldn't have made for a more blissful shopping moment! When I think of the 1960s and 1970s, I often think of wild, psychedelic colors, but these were a pleasant sorbet of pretty, feminine hues. Best yet, the shop owner provides bust, waist, and hip measurements on the tags so you can get a better feel for whether the dresses will actually fit before trying them on. If you are interested in finding out more about this shop, feel free to email me and I can give you all the details.

I was even able to find some petite dresses, perfect for shorter gals like me. Have any of you ever heard of Staccato Petites? What a fun name for a clothing company. This dress came in a pretty lilac color that seems to be very popular this spring. It's amazing how everything old is new again! Anyway, I left the store with two fun 1960s dresses, including this one, and the funny thing is, I'm not sure anyone would guess that they were vintage. Is it just me or are the 1960s dress styles in again? I'm no fashion expert so I wasn't sure.

But my favorite find from last Saturday was this vintage 1960s purse, which I found at another shop. Most of the other purses I spotted at the shop were pretty wild and I couldn't see myself carrying them around, but this one felt more understated since it was primarily brown. It would be really pretty with a buttercup or mustard yellow dress. It looks to be handmade, perhaps a kit that people could buy? I'm not sure since I'm by no means an expert on 1960s clothing. If any of you out there know anything about this purse style, I would love it if you would drop me a line! You can reach me by clicking the Email Me button under my profile pic in the right-hand sidebar of my blog.

Friday, March 20, 2015


The first day of spring is always a welcome sight here at Ashton House. That means it's time to start thinking about seeds, and packets galore are pouring in from the seed companies. As a freelance garden writer, I get to trial various seeds and plants in my garden each year. It's interesting to see which ones fare well and which ones flop. My climate is not very forgiving of anything that needs a lot of maintenance.

This year I'm hoping to try more edibles. Family and neighbors often gift us a bunch of tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, and potatoes but it seems we hardly ever get zucchini, which happens to be my favorite vegetable. So this year I hope to remedy that problem by growing some of my own. Renee's Garden sent me the following mixed variety package containing Clarimore—a plump pastel green zucchini, Raven—a glossy dark green beauty, and Golden Dawn—a buttercup yellow variety with a delicate, nutty flavor. 

Among the other seeds was this vibrant purple carrot from Holland that is said to be a vigorous grower and loaded with antioxidant flavonoids. It has a little yellow core.

I also received some All-America Selections winners, including this 'Butterscotch' butternut squash bred by Johnny's Selected seeds.

I am not a huge fan of beets (This 'Avalanche' variety is a sweet, mild-flavored variety bred by Bejo Seeds). Let me know if you'd like some seeds and I would be glad to share. 

Spring is also the time when many of us look forward to retiring our winter clothes to the back of the closet in favor of some spring-fresh ones. I love my coral pink daisy embroidered dress because it reminds me of my garden, which includes these cheerful flowers. In the below photo, I've displayed the dress on my vintage Bauman dress form. I wasn't able to find a dress form in my specific size but this one still works pretty nicely and makes a charming accent for my sewing area. Speaking of dresses, I watch an Italian cooking show called "Extra Virgin" on the Cooking Channel and it's hosted by the most charming couple, Debi Mazar and her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos. Debi wears the neatest dresses even in casual settings (I rarely see her in something other than a dress) and I thought it would be fun if I challenged myself to wear more dresses this spring and summer. For the longest time, I shied away from them because I didn't think they would fit normal body types, but you know, life is too short not to try something new. A health scare last year taught me that I need to do the things I want to do NOW, not later (If there can be a "blessing" in a health crisis, perhaps it is that it makes you realize how important it is to live the life you have more fully, no matter how mundane the details get). So I'm going for it! Luckily, this dress is designed to be very loose fitting, so it's really comfortable. For a cheerful dose of more pink goodies, head over to my pink blog by clicking here

And for all you quilters who haven't yet heard, C&T Publishing is having a SPRING FLING sale with up to 70% off some items this Friday–Monday. They asked me to help spread the word. So head on over to the sale by clicking here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Greetings, my friends. It's been a busy week here at Ashton House editing the latest edition of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine, which goes to press late this month. Seems like we just wrapped up the spring issue. Where does time go? I'm also staying busy with my writing. Design profiles for Country French magazine and Decor magazine are in the works this week. Last Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed going to the latest installment of my monthly quilt club where we got to see some stunning quilts. Our teacher Marge shared this lovely little Carolina Lily quilt that she made. What makes it even more stunning is its tiny size. I don't think it was even 18 inches long! The border strips are even—I just cropped this photo badly!

I also enjoyed seeing this vintage beauty made of cigar silks. We were talking about those types of fabrics in our textile history lesson, so it was a fitting show-and-tell! It was truly astounding to see this variety of them all in one quilt! In the foreground, you can see some of Marge's vintage laundry child's toys. Laundry days of the past were one of the topics of our conversation.

After the club meeting, I made a quick detour by one of my favorite antique haunts, where I found this vintage doll bed. It's very similar to one I purchased from Mary Ghormley (author of Childhood Treasures: Quilts Made for and by Children) seven years ago. I don't believe this one is particularly old (probably from the 1960s) but the price was right at $16.

Also snagged this darling antique pink lusterware bowl for $10 and blue feedback print for $4.

I capped off a wonderful day by watching the season finale of Downton Abbey and indulging in fried cod strips from my favorite seafood restaurant (Their half pound special is a great deal at just under $7). Since I now cook most of our meals, it's quite a treat to get carryout once a week!

A few weeks ago I found out that one of my favorite local antiques shops is closing its doors later this month. I've enjoyed going to Found Things for what must be close to a decade. Its owner, Marsha, is a real gem, and I forged an instant connection with her. Have you ever been lucky enough to meet someone who instantly "gets" you? Well, Marsha was one of a handful of those people for me. She had a way of making me feel like I was the neatest person in the world—don't worry, I didn't get a big head. That's never been of my problems! Her one-of-a-kind shop will be sorely missed (I can't imagine how the new tenant is going to fill those shoes!).

Over the years, I've found everything from Victorian scrapbooks and calling cards to toy pianos and 1960s kitchenware in this treasure trove. When I see each find, I'm reminded of how fun it was to discover them. Along the way, Marsha was there to share in that excitement. I think she was as genuinely thrilled for me as I was. If you're in the area, I hope you can stop by her going-away party on March 28. It will be a sad day but we all wish her the very best in whatever new adventure life takes her next. 

Last but not least, I'm selling a couple of clothing items on my pink blog here. If I don't sell these by next Monday, I'll be taking them to Goodwill so someone else can hopefully enjoy them. If you're local to the area and are interested in any of them, let me know.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Thanks to everyone who entered my latest impromptu giveaway for a copy of the latest edition of Victoria magazine with my article as well as a half yard of adorable flannel woodland friends fabric. It was delightful to hear from old friends as well as so many new ones. I'm go glad you found my blog and hope you'll return for future visits. I enjoyed reading about what you all love about spring. I share all your sentiments about this lovely season! Greta, you expressed my sentiments about spring so well in your comment! It does come around just when you need it! As promised, I drew a random winner via Random Generator and that person is:

I have started following you on google. :)

Congrats go to mlhummy! Please email me your mailing address by this Wednesday by clicking the Email Me button in the right-hand sidebar. I will ship your package out on my weekly run to the post office this Thursday. As always, I wish I could give something to everyone who entered but rest assured, there will be more little impromptu giveaways this year. I always like to share the wealth whenever I can!