Sunday, April 6, 2014


July 1996—April 4, 2014

Into each life some rain must fall...and sadly, it has here at Ashton House. A few weeks ago, our dear 17-year-old cat Teddy fell seriously ill and we learned he was dying from kidney failure. The only thing we could do to prolong his life was to administer fluid therapy (a kind of dialysis) to rehydrate him each night through an IV. We decided to try it as long as he would not be in any pain. For the first three days, he was so weak he spent all of his time in his little cat bed, eating only the shredded turkey meat we brought him. He rallied on the fourth day when shadows of his old self returned as he left his bed to bask in the sun of the living room—something he always loved to do. He even started to eat his usual food again and he ran around the house like the old Teddy. He improved so much that we thought he might be able to make it to his birthday in July. But by the end of the third week, it became apparent that he could not live the way he wanted to. So we did the only thing we could for him. He spent his last night doing all his favorite things—like basking in the warm glow of the fireplace, playing with his favorite little lizard Beanie Baby toy, and sleeping at the foot of my bed—something he hadn’t been able to do for a year because of his bad arthritis (Our bedroom is on the second floor, so I decided to sleep downstairs on an air mattress that last night so he could cuddle up). He ran right for the bed when he saw it and spent the night cuddled up on my feet. In the morning, it was time to say our final farewell to Teddy as we took him to his vet, Dr. John (Broderick), who he always liked very much. The following pictures were taken on his final morning with us. His passing was peaceful and he was surrounded by loved ones. Teddy died this past Friday, April 4. It's hard to believe he is gone. 

We are so grateful for those last three weeks with Teddy. What a precious gift it was to have that time to say goodbye. I know that’s something a lot of us don’t get a chance to do with our pets. Still, there aren’t enough hugs I could have given him in those last three weeks. He was a dear friend who was always there for me and it’s hard to envision life without him. I want to remember him the way he was when he was healthy and a little mischievous. As a youngster, he pulled all the beards off our nutcrackers one Christmas eve and we awoke to find little white tufts all over the house, and I'll never forget the time he managed to grab a pair of underwear from a dresser drawer we forgot to close and brought it down to our living room while we were entertaining guests! Can you imagine how mortified we were?! Here is a photo of him during his younger, healthier days. He was such a beautiful cat both inside and out. Even on the morning of his death, an assistant at the vet clinic admired him and told him what a pretty kitty he was. He seemed to like that.

I want to dedicate the following beautiful song to his memory. The song can be interpreted many ways but to me, it reflects what I feel for Teddy. I think of the mountains in the song as the many challenges Teddy faced with grace and courage over the past five years with his bad kidneys, which caused premature arthritis and many other problems. Despite the medication we gave him for arthritis, it became so difficult for him to climb stairs yet he continued to do so even on his last day. I think the last year of his life was especially difficult, but he was such a trooper because I think he wanted to be strong for us. Through his kind and gentle spirit, he encouraged me to live each day to the fullest—something that was a little difficult for me to do as, like the lyrics in the song, I am someone who often lives life looking behind. With all the health challenges I've faced the last five years, it's easy to think the best years are behind me. Like the song says, "All we have is here and now", so we need to treasure all our moments with loved ones. Just a few short months ago, I had no idea I'd have this little time left with Teddy. If I had known, I would have done some things differently. We really should live today as though it is our last day.
On the day we put Teddy to rest, we heard this song on the radio. I like to think it was a sign that Teddy is okay now.

Up Where We Belong

Who knows what tomorrow brings
In a world, few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it's real, I keep it alive

The road is long, there are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry on a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know, up where the clear winds blow

Some hang on to "used to be"
Live their lives, looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our life, out there to find

The road is long, there are mountains in our way,
But we climb them a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry on a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know, up where the clear winds blow

Time goes by
No time to cry
Life's you and I
Alive, today

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry on a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know, up where the clear winds blow

I’m sorry this has been such a somber post but it helps me to write and talk about Teddy. I know if I keep him in my heart, he will never be forgotten. The Loving Rest Pet Funeral Home gave us this precious memento of Teddy—an impression of his little paw print—and a touching poem written from the pet's perspective. Thank you for letting me share a part of what Teddy meant to me.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Congratulations go to Laurie of Iowa, who wrote:

Thank you for the opportunity to win this new book... it looks wonderful!

She won by Random Generator...

Laurie, you have until this Monday at noon central time to claim your prize by emailing me at the email button under my profile pic on the right side of this blog.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


In an earlier post, I mentioned my latest quilt book editing project—a delightful title on small scrap quilts made with 1800s reproduction fabrics. The little treasures were all designed and made by scrap quilt extraordinaire, Tara Lynn Darr.

Good news! The book is hot off the press and will soon be arriving at your local quilt shops. In the meantime, I'm celebrating its arrival with a giveaway! If you're a small scrap quilt lover, this book is a must-have for your quilt book library. It's filled with fun projects like the following ones, plus 12 more designs that are perfect for those scrap bags of leftover bits and pieces from previous projects. In fact, MOST of the blocks can be made with 5" charm square or smaller pieces of fabric.

To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment on this post telling me what subject you'd most like to see in a future quilt book. Because many of my past giveaway entrants have been no-comment bloggers (meaning that there is no email associated with your comment, so I have no way to contact you), I will announce the winner on this blog and it will then be your responsibility to contact me with your mailing address. You do NOT have to be an official Google follower to enter this giveaway but I will give those of you who are an extra entry as my thank you for your support—to get your extra entry, just enter a separate comment telling me you are a follower. I need you to do that since I'll be choosing the winner via Random Generator. This giveaway ends on Saturday, April 5, at noon central time, and I will announce the winner later that day. The winner then will have until Monday at noon central time to contact me. Good luck to all who enter!

Friday, March 21, 2014


I started this morning bright and early all ready to jump right back into my spring cleaning fest. This time, I was in my sewing room sorting through many of my UFOs. The larger blue-and-white quilt, pictured below, is one of Renée Plains' Liberty Star patterns and the pink and black kitty on the little kitchen towel is adapted from the Crazy Cats quilt pattern by Carolyn Hosier.

At the bottom of the pile was this mini basket quilt I made a couple years after I started quilting. The piecing work leaves a lot to be desired but it's neat to see how far I've come since then. I placed a quarter on the quilt to give you an idea of its smaller scale. I had intended to sew a final outer border to it, so that should be easy enough to do!

I also tackled my overflowing collection of sewing and quilt books, and decided it was time to send 50 of them to the library so that others could enjoy them. Many were oldies but goodies.

It finally feels like spring here in central Iowa on this bright, sunny day. Luckily, I was to get out and about to enjoy the refreshing change in weather. After an appointment, I stopped by Meredith Corporation, home of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine, to pick up some contracts and other other materials. Speaking of APQ, have you seen their new special publication, Quilts for Every Bed

After stopping by Meredith, I met my hubby for lunch at A Dong, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant here in town. My hubby had Udon noodles with shredded pork, vegetables, and mung bean sprouts while I enjoyed my usual chicken dish with bamboo shoots, straw mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli (I am a creature of habit and have been ordering this same dish for more than 10 years!). It's served with a side of saffron rice and a vegetable egg roll, though I'm usually too full to enjoy the egg roll by the time I get to it and this time was no exception, so the hubby gladly ate that. My hubby snapped these photos of my lunch as I didn't have my camera with me. I should have had him snap the shot BEFORE I'd nearly cleaned my plate!

Speaking of lunches, I made organic amaranth grain for the first time for my lunch yesterday as I've been trying to find gluten-free food that I can feed my sister (who has a gluten sensitivity) when she comes to visit next month. It looks like a smaller version of quinoa and takes just as long to cook. I made mine with a mixture of water and chicken broth, but next time, I think I'll just use the water as it turns out the amaranth is quite flavorful by itself. It tasted great with my reduced-sodium turkey and alfalfa sprout sandwich.

What a lovely day it's been to make more progress on my spring cleaning AND see my hubby. We don't get together for lunch very often. Hope you are having as nice a day as I am!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


After taking some much-needed time off, I returned to the office ready to complete the last phases of the editing Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine's summer issue. Every issue abounds with at least 15 cozy projects designed to spark your creativity. For the upcoming issue, we've assembled 16 diverse projects—including a darling cross-stitch box to store your buttons, two hooked rug designs, and a medallion masterpiece inspired by the classic oak leaf design. Behold our beautiful cover below!

For my fellow fans of Victoria magazine, I bring glad tidings of their latest special interest publication—Spring Bliss (This is not included in the regular magazine subscription). I was fortunate to get to write a couple pieces for this pretty publication, which is now on newsstands!

Speaking of spring, this week I continued my pre-spring cleaning fest with the help of my mom-in-law, who helped wash all the china on my big green hutch in the dining room. I was able to thin out some of the china so that I could better spotlight my collection. To celebrate our progress, we decided to get a small Shamrock Shake at McDonald's. I have to have at least one of those every March!

I am so lucky to have supportive in-laws nearby. Over the weekend, my dad-in-law surprised me with some fresh sockeye salmon from the local fish market. I immediately baked it up for one of our dinners. Yum! 

My mom-in-law got me some wonderful Pacific wild cod, which I grilled on my stovetop grill. A 5-ounce portion has only 120 calories. The parents even surprised my husband and I with some delicious rolls from Jaarsma's bakery in Pella. I love their glazed twists and promptly ate three of them! Their apricot danishes are scrumptious, too. Life is good.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Anyone in the Des Moines area interested in a vintage dress form? I'm selling mine for $70 (originally valued at $120). Pick up only.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


The pre-Spring cleaning fest continues here at Ashton House, and with it comes the opportunity to bring out fresh quilts to display around the house. While washing the sheets for the two Jenny Lind twin beds in one of our spare bedrooms, I thought I'd audition some new old quilts to display on them. This room is home to many of my vintage 1930s/40s/50s quilts and treasured heirlooms like teddy bears, doll beds, and Peter Rabbit figurines that spark fond childhood memories.

While cleaning out another closet over the weekend, I also found a large box of cross stitch fabric. Since my stitching friends tend to use only linen and these were not, I donated it to Goodwill. I have only a few more boxes of it and will probably end up sending those to Goodwill, too.

I also decided it's time to get rid of my old Cricut personal electronic cutter. If you're in the Des Moines area and interested in purchasing it cheaply, let me know. I only used it a few times before I upgraded to their Imagine machine, but I don't think I have the cutting mat for it anymore (however, you can buy those separately and inexpensively in stores). THE CRICUT HAS BEEN PURCHASED, THANKS!

Before I close, I wanted to share a few precious Valentine's Day gifts that I received from my husband this year. The weather was not the best that day so we stayed in and had a nice grilled cod dinner, which I prepared on my stovetop grill. He gave me this sweet card featuring two of my favorite themes—kitties and a bicycle.

When I opened it up, I was serenaded by a melody you might hear in some Parisian bistro. 

I even got a card from my two kitties, Teddy and Poe.

The hubby gave me lovely trio of flowering African violets and a gift certificate to get some of my favorite Too Faced and Urban Decay cosmetics. I was also delighted to receive this new cast-iron teapot, pink watch made of recycled materials, and soft blue ceramic holder for my bamboo matcha tea whisker. It was another lovely Valentine's Day that I will look back on fondly. Now I should get back to auditioning those quilts for the beds. Decisions, decisions!