Monday, April 23, 2018

THANK YOU

Thanks to all who came out to our garage sale as part of our city's annual garage sales event this past Saturday. We couldn't believe how much traffic we had—well over 200 people. This gentleman was our first customer of the day and found all of these goodies. We ended up with a nice mix of antique and new wares. We think we even ended up finding a home for our grand old piano, which we advertised in the sale. Many people oohed and ahhed at the photos of it but only a few people expressed genuine interest. We will wait to say for sure that it's found a home until the person who agreed to give it a home actually comes to get it in a few weeks. I know the best laid plans can fall through and hope they won't in this case.




Although we fell $142 short of our goal to make $1,000, the sale was still well worth our effort since we were able to get rid of so much stuff. The hectic day ended on a high note. When we got back after grabbing a bite to eat (we were ravenous after the sale as we were so busy that we could not break for lunch), we found these lovely daffodils that our sweet neighbor left for us. She has a nice patch of these spring harbingers. It's random acts of kindness like this that reaffirm my faith that there are still good-hearted people out there. It's a wonderful reminder to spread kindness whenever you can. The very next day we had an opportunity to help a neighbor in need. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

GARAGE SALE THIS SATURDAY

Adel's annual city-wide garage sale is this Saturday and we decided we had enough stuff to participate in it. You can find us near the XX from 8 to 4 this Saturday. I'm still sifting through boxes and getting things priced like this pretty tea set. I have several other pieces of china--both new and vintage--ready for the sale. We will have new and old housewares, home decor, garden fountains, accent tables, collectibles, holiday decor, cookbooks and garden books, Wardian cases, and much more.


These garden fountains served us well over the years.


I used to love collecting the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks but it's time to part with them. I only kept a few of them. 


I always thought I would find a place for this chandelier but it's just not large enough for our rooms with their lofty ceilings. It even comes with four shades.


And I found a bunch of holiday decor items that I no longer use like this collectible Bethany Lowe old-world Santa. Perhaps he will find a home on Saturday!


And we're still looking for a good home for our antique piano that is sadly no longer tunable but its beauty remains. I fell in love with its craftsmanship and if I had the room, I would keep it as a decorative piece. 


If I have time before the sale, I might post more photos here.

Monday, April 9, 2018

WHERE IS SPRING?

If you live in the Midwest like I do, chances are you are starting to wonder where spring is. Snowflakes were flying as recently as yesterday. So what do you do when you desperately need a little spring when it looks anything but outside? You make it yourself. That's why I fashioned this impromptu spring vignette in my parlor. I found the vintage metal planter already painted this cheerful shade of blue, and paired it with equally colorful planters that remind me of the vintage McCoy pots that I own. Once I determine that our cats, Figgy and Winnie, will leave them alone, I will pot them with my African violets. Now when I pine for spring days, I just go into my parlor and soak up the "sunshine" of this lovely scene.


About this time of year I'm especially grateful for my houseplants. My pink-edged episcia is happily growing in its terrarium. These plants, especially the pretty pink ones, are not for the faint of the heart as they are rather finicky. I lost my 'Pink Smoke' episcia a couple years ago and planted cuttings of 'Cleopatra' in this terrarium a year ago.


Despite the terrible weather we've been having, my rhubarb patch is giving me hope that it will eventually feel like spring. All seven of the plants we transplanted from my grandma's garden last spring survived the winter and are unfurling their glorious foliage. I love this stage of the growing process when you can really see its wrinkles. Do any of you grow rhubarb? It doesn't seem like a lot of people grow it around here. Everyone seems surprised—albeit delightedly so—when I bring some of my crop into work to share.


Spring also means that it's time to service our bikes! I got my flower power cruiser (pictured below) serviced a couple weekends ago and my green bike is in the shop now. I'm hoping by the time it's done the temperatures will be more hospitable for a bike ride. 


I continue to turn to tea for comfort, especially during these chilly days. I spent most of last week tied to my computer writing articles and sipping tea. I like to dress up my gong fu tea tray (pictured below) with fun tea accessories. These came directly from China.


Young Winston says hello. My little boy is destined to be little forever. At only 11 pounds, he's much smaller than our dear departed kitties, Poe and Teddy, who weighed in at 17 pounds in their prime. We were concerned that there might be something wrong with Winnie as he is very shy around everyone except for me to the point where he doesn't come out when strangers visit. We found out from our vet that Russian Blue mix cats are often like this and tend to pick one particular person to bond to. I'm hoping I can get him to come out of his shell. If any of you happen to have a Russian Blue mix, I would love to hear if you have encountered the same thing. Feel free to email me at tkhook@msn.com. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

PIANO IN NEED OF NEW HOME

We are looking to find a new home for our beautiful antique upright piano. I am in the West Des Moines area. It is free to a good home but you would need to arrange moving it. After five wonderful years with it, we can no longer get it to stay in tune adequately for me to play on it. Plus it has one stuck key. Our piano tuner no longer feels it's prudent to tune it since it loses its tune so quickly. So be aware its value lies more in its beauty than functionality. The thought of letting it go truly saddens me and I've struggled with the decision to do so but I need a functional piano. The upright piano is featured in the photo below and was made around the turn of the 20th century and it is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. It has a decorative interior that you can't even see here. I got the piano from my sister when she moved from Minneapolis to the west coast. If you would be interest in giving it a good home, please contact me at tkhook@msn.com. I can also email you more detailed photos of it if you are interested. The piano stool is NOT included.


On another note, I wanted to mention that the garden bookazine I assisted with editing this past fall will soon be on newsstands! I enjoyed working on it and it really helped me survive this brutal winter by giving me plenty of inspiration for spring! Soon it will be time to till the soil for planting. Can't wait to get my zucchini and lettuce seeds in the ground.




Tuesday, February 20, 2018

COZY COMFORTS

I've been staying busy since my last post with my editing and writing work as well as preparing for a spring garage sale. The highlight of last month was getting to see the classic ballet, "Giselle", at Stephens Auditorium in Ames. The Russian dancers did an amazing job and I so loved seeing the ballerinas' beautiful costumes. I didn't expect to let so much time elapse between this and my last post but here it is February already! In my last post, I shared a photo of a vintage skunk pincushion I recently found and I promised to post about another recent vintage pincushion find. It's this sweet sofa pincushion. At only $8, I couldn't resist buying it!


This pincushion is quite large as it doubles as storage for sewing supplies. I'm not very good when it comes to dating fabric, so I can't be sure of when it was made. If any of you have a clue, please feel free to email me at tkhook@msn.com. Perhaps some of you have a similar pincushion passed down from a family member? I'd love to hear from you. The little sofa looks so cozy, it makes you wish it was large enough to snuggle up on and read a book!


Speaking of feeling cozy, I love drinking a warm cup of chai tea to chase away the winter blues. This is my favorite time to year to make my chai tea. I simmer it on the stovetop for two hours, then add cashew milk and a small amount of honey. This is the batch I made this morning.


As I drank my cup of chai, I was wishing I had more of the delicious scones that my husband and I enjoyed at a tea shop last week. This herbs de provence scone was among the best I've tasted.


We saved a matcha one to share when we got home and it was equally delicious. And what a treat that it was adorned with equally tasty icing.


This winter I've been reading a lot of books on the healing properties of herbs and I recently had an experience that enlightened me to their healing powers. I've always enjoyed using them in cooking but rarely used them for other purposes—except for drinking elderberry syrup from November to April to ward off the flu, which I haven't gotten for 12 years now. In January, we inherited a fairly new car with seat warmers. Well, to make a long story short, I suffered first-degree burns from my seat warmer. I sought help from the usual place you would go to for a skin issue, my dermatologist. The cream they prescribed did not work and they told me the burn would likely cause as scar. I didn't much like that so I decided to go to my herbalist/naturopath. When western medicine fails to solve a medical issue, I have no problem seeking alternative solutions and wow, did my herbalist come through for me. She made this healing herbal comfrey salve for me. In just under two weeks, the burns were completely healed—with no scars! This experience left me disappointed in my doctor. I don't know why she didn't recommend an herbal solution that could have solved my problem in little more than a week?! I am starting to see why more and more people are advocating an integrative approach to treating patients, using the best of what BOTH western and herbal medicine have to offer. Have any of you had similar experiences when a simple herb solved a problem that your doctor couldn't? 


And one last question—this one is for those of you who have made your own yogurt. Have you ever made it in an Instant Pot? I've been wanting to learn how to make my own yogurt since the kind I get is quite expensive. Since I'm lactose intolerant, I have to eat coconut milk yogurt instead of the traditional dairy kind. Well, the hubby surprised me with an Instant Pot for Valentine's Day and I hope to learn how to make yogurt in it so I don't have to keep buying it. For Valentine's dinner, we decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Django's. I wore my favorite pair of cat shoes on our outing. Just looking down at them makes me smile and I hope it leaves you with a smile, too, as I close this post. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

TEA FOR ONE

What better way to warm the soul on this cold winter day than with a cup of Korean walnut almond yam tea poured from the most adorable vintage owl teapot! I found him yesterday at a local antiques shop for only $5. He's only 5 inches tall so he makes the perfect teapot for one. I had to find a smaller cup to use with him. Luckily, I found one on my shelf of Yixing clay teapots.


Here are my other finds from the antiques shop. Yes, I have rather odd taste! That's a vintage skunk pincushion and a vintage patchwork quilt. I collect vintage pincushions and will share another one I recently found in a future post. I was drawn to the green color in the quilt, which was in very good condition.


My kitty companions, Figgy and Winnie, are keeping me in good company today. I had to get up early for an early-morning phone interview for a magazine article I'm writing, and these two guys got up right with me and watched over me from their perches in the parlor. 


Wishing you a warm Wednesday from all of us at Ashton House!

Monday, December 18, 2017

MAKING MOCHI AND MORE

Long time, no see! I had fully intended to post back in October but once again, time got away from me. Since then, much has happened. One of the highlights was making my own mochi. I've loved this Japanese rice cake treat for years. (I am not Japanese but I can see why they love making it.) It's traditionally made with a red bean filling so I made one version with that and another kind geared more toward American tastes with strawberry. Of course, I had to make both pink! It seems like it would be difficult to make but it was much easier than I anticipated. My husband was so excited that he snapped this photo of me with my sweet little mochi.


And now back to October when I had intended to post! It was the first hard frost of the season and I was very sad to say goodbye to my beautiful squash plants. We harvested all we could that night. This was our last pick of the crop—beautiful acorn squash, 'Eight Ball' zucchini, patty pan squash, Middle Eastern zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and my favorite, my delicata squash.


We have a root cellar so I'm able to still enjoy the fruits of my harvest. Today I'm roasting some of my delicata squash for lunch. It's so easy. The hardest part of cooking winter squash for me was always cutting it because its exterior is so hard, but I found a solution that has made all the difference. I pierce the skin with a fork and heat it in the microwave for two minutes. It's then tender enough to easily cut. For delicata, you simply cut the squash in half lengthwise then cut it into 1/2 inch slices. 


Speaking of yummy things to eat, I found a new healthy recipe in a calendar I was recently given. It's for spinach puffs! They're made primarily of potato flakes and you guessed it, spinach! I scoop them with my largest cookie scoop onto a baking sheet and bake them for 30 minutes. I loved them so much that I made them as a side dish for our Thanksgiving feast.


I must admit the highlight of this year's Thanksgiving feast was making my own turkey broth. Those of you who've done this for years probably think this is crazy but for novices like me who have never done this before, it was truly a thrilling experience. I suddenly realized what I'd been missing all these years. The broth was incredibly delicious. The only thing that threw me initially was that it gelled into a jello-like consistency. It looked like a big bowl of turkey jello! The following Monday I called my local home extension service to ask about this and found out this was a good thing, meaning that the simmering process had really drawn out the collagen from the bones, creating the jelly consistency. Here is a photo of the broth right after we took it out of the pot so it hadn't gelled yet.


Our broth adventure also yielded this wonderful bowl of turkey meat from the carcass and veggies. This meat was so much more flavorful and tender than the one we ate for dinner. I enjoyed many dinners of this delicious broth and turkey meat.


With our Thanksgiving dessert, I always serve tea. One of my favorite teas is blooming tea in which you place a tea bloom in a pot and let it steep. My favorites are jasmine and chrysanthemum tea. I buy a lot of my tea at Little Woods Herbal and Teas in Ames and I took this photo of one of their tea blooms steeping in a glass teapot. If you're going to bother with blooming tea, you want to serve it in a glass teapot to show off the beautiful bloom.


These are my glass teapots. I served my tea in the larger squatter pot on the right since it serves more people. I haven't used the little one at the left yet but I love its shape. It's better suited to serving two or so people. 


I didn't have much time to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving like I usually do. The pink Christmas tree is up, though. (You can see photos of it in last year's December posts.) I did find these wonderful paper accordion trees from West Elm. I was worried that they might be sort of flimsy but they're very stout little things so I was worried for naught. They make a delightful little winter forest on my table.


I don't know about you but when the weather turns chilly, I suddenly get more in the mood to curl up and read a good book but not just any good book—one that promises to enrich my life somehow. Here are my picks for December. I've read many books on the Danish concept of hyyge so why not this one on the Swedish art of balanced living?


This is totally unrelated to anything that I've talked about but it certainly made me smile when I saw it so I thought I'd end this post with a photo of sweet little sheep fob I recently found. Those who know me well know that I have a fondness for sheep. I don't know if it comes from my love of wool or the fact that sheep are just plain cute creatures. Who knew they made sheep fobs that you could hang from your purse?!