Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I’ve started to write this post several times since last November but for some reason the words just wouldn’t come out. On November 20, 2015, we lost our remaining kitty, Poe. When we lost his brother, Teddy, in 2014, the words came flooding out immediately. I don’t know if it was because Poe was the last of our kitties or just because grief works in mysterious ways that I haven’t been able to write about this until now. 

Poe came into our lives in the summer of 1999 when we were visiting the flea market near my hometown. We weren’t planning to get a cat that day but as it turns out, God had other plans and Poe found us. A family that lends its yard to parking during the flea market was trying to find a home for the last kitten in the litter (Poe) and they were going to take him to a shelter if they couldn’t find him a home by the end of that weekend. They told us some sad tales about how Poe spent his days foraging for food in the nearby junkyard. When I held Poe in my arms and he purred and touched my cheek, I knew immediately that he had found his home. I couldn't understand why he was the last kitten from the litter to find a home. Black cats are the sweetest. Poe immediately got along well with our other cats, Teddy and Caesar, and he took to the indoors like a fish to water. He was always the mellowest of cats, never playful but always loving beyond words. We called him our little shadow because he followed us wherever we went. He had a knack for making himself comfortable wherever he was—whether that was smushed between the cushions of our chaise longue...

...or smushed under my husband while he read a book...

...or cuddled up on a doll bed...

...or nestled in his chair...

After Teddy passed away, Poe was a great source of comfort to me and took over many of Teddy’s habits like begging for a bit of breakfast. It was as though Teddy was inspiring him and Poe was trying to fill his big brother’s footsteps. In the spring of 2015, we noticed some behavioral changes in Poe and took him to see his vet several times between then and the fall of 2015 but tests never indicated a problem. It wasn’t until early November of that year that his health rapidly deteriorated and an x-ray revealed he had intestinal lymphoma. During his last few weeks, Poe would approach me while I was sleeping and look at me intently. I’d reach out to give him a reassuring pat on the head then he would go lie back down but soon after, he'd be right back up near my head. I'm not sure if he needed assurance from me or as one of my friends suggested, he was trying to assure me? He was such a sweetie that it would be just like him to do something like that even though he must have been feeling quite sick. Poe spent his last day comforting me. Can you believe that? When I started to cry, he curled up on my lap and nestled his head against my stomach. 

On the day we were take him into the vet to be put to rest, it started snowing. Although I was irked by the snow at that time because I was concerned it would prevent us from getting Poe the help he needed, I now look back on it as a bit of a gift. The soft dusting of snow that fell on his fur made him look so pretty and I'll never forget how peaceful he looked when I took this last photo of him and my husband on our way to the vet. 

It's strange, I always thought of Poe as Tom's cat and Teddy as mine but at the vet, I was the one who held my precious baby in my arms as he drifted to sleep and over the Rainbow Bridge. It was hard to believe what remained was just the shell of a wonderful companion but somehow that made it easier to leave the room after we shared those final precious moments with Poe. I don’t think I could have if I’d felt Poe were still there. I will miss him terribly just like I do his brother but I know someday I will get to see him again—my grandma always reminds me that animals go to heaven, too.

The house is oddly quiet now without the pitter patter of kitties. This is the first time in our married life that we haven’t had one in the home. Despite the fact Poe is no longer with us, I am endlessly grateful for the 16½ years I got to share with him. I am also thankful to my two dear friends Mary and Cinda who have been a constant source of support since he passed away. Thank you, Cinda, for all your comforting phone calls. Mary emailed me every night for several weeks after he passed. The nights were often the worst at first, so I was especially grateful for those thoughtful emails, which were a bright spot during those difficult nights. She also gave me this precious memento to honor Poe’s memory. I do believe there are angels in our lives to help us through the darkest days, and these two special ladies are mine. Of course, there are others who have kindly offered their condolences and I am thankful to them as well. Most of all, I thank Poe for the unconditional love and kindness he showered on me every day of his life. Until we meet again, dear friend...

I have a question for those of you who have lost pets. Have you ever had dreams about your pets after they have passed? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to email me. Shortly after Poe passed, I had several very vivid dreams about him and Teddy. In one of them, I was going through a door and suddenly saw Teddy with a black kitten by his side but I shut the door on them. When I awoke, I was horrified as I would never have done that in real life but a friend interpreted the dream to mean that Teddy was encouraging me to get a kitten but that I wasn't yet ready for one. 

Monday, January 25, 2016


Thanks to all who left such kind comments on my previous post. I responded directly to everyone unless they were a no-reply comment blogger (which means their message didn't come through with a return email address). In that case, I replied in the comment section. I can't believe the first month of 2016 is nearly over! I had a rough start to my new year after taking a hard fall and landing on my face. I ended up in the ER for an afternoon but luckily, I did not break any bones. Before my mishap, I was happy to hear from my friend MJ that one of my favorite local antique haunts—Found Things—had reopened. It has a great location at 1433 Walnut St. in downtown Des Moines.

Marsha, the owner, is back with lots of unique treasures beautifully displayed in a spacious building. I was so sad when she had to close the store in her old location in March of last year. Living in an old Victorian house with pitifully small closets, I was tempted by this beautiful wardrobe but the thought of having to transport it was a bit daunting. 

If you're in the Des Moines area, I hope you'll check out Marsha's new home. She would be thrilled to see both old friends and new. While I was in the area, I checked out the nearby Furry Friends Refuge to check on the little black kitty (Indigo) we are sponsoring. She is still available and I hope she will find a home soon. She's a real sweetie. Because she is sponsored, she can be adopted for free! She's at the Grand Ave. location in Des Moines.

It's been almost two years since our dear cat, Teddy, passed away and we are hoping when the time is right, a new kitten will find his way into our hearts. We have a soft spot for the boy kitties. They've been so good to us. Until we find him, we stop by Furry Friends often just to feel the love of so many wonderful kitties—girls and boys. I believe this kitty's name is Gracie. Luckily, she found a home. 

Thanks to those of you who answered my call for help finding a recipe for cereal clusters. I made several batches to give to friends and family over the holidays. Later I also found a 1950s recipe for the cereal clusters and tried that out but decided to skip the marshmallows. It was a special treat to make a batch for the lady who gave me the recipe for the peanut clusters more than 10 years ago (she can no longer make them and had asked my mom if I could make her a few). Hers are the best clusters I'd ever tasted because they are so creamy and soft—unlike a lot of peanut clusters that are so hard. Everyone who eats them seems surprised by how soft they are.

After the holidays, we are back to eating a little healthier with our sockeye salmon, which is my favorite of the salmons. I sprinkled it with some parmesan cheese and dried parsley. Doesn't everything taste better with a little cheese? Due to health reasons, I can't eat the orange cheeses but I can indulge in the light ones like mozzarella, swiss, and parmesan.

And here's one last photo to leave you with for the day. I've always loved old cupboards. They always spark grand ideas of what I could display in them. This one recently caught my eye but it was much too expensive for my budget. Isn't the color and dry sink dreamy? A girl can dream, can't she? 

Thursday, December 31, 2015


It hardly seems possible that 2015 will soon be a memory. Before it does, I wanted to wish all of you who visit my blog a very happy 2016! A special thank you to all who take the time to write me notes and leave comments. I started this blog as an occasional online journal of sorts to record the mundane details of my life for future reference but it's nice to know that I do get an occasional visitor!

I don't usually like to go out for New Year's Eve but this year, my husband wanted to check out Noce, the new jazz club and cabaret opening on New Year's Eve. The Des Moines Big Band as well as some other artists will be playing some classics. We plan to head over there after enjoying a dinner at one of our favorite downtown Des Moines restaurants. While we were in Minneapolis this fall, a nice lady at Nordstrom helped me pick out a pretty ensemble (below) to wear for the occasion. It's a lovely white-and-black short-sleeve dress that she suggested I pair with a black shrug for winter. She also suggested the silver/pewter heels and a blush pink purse. Now I can't decide whether to go with the pink purse or the cute cat one (pictured below). I know next to nothing about fashion, so feel free to give me your opinion if you read this before 6:00 p.m.! 

Like all years, 2015 was filled with ups and downs but I wanted to quickly share a few happy memories before I have to get ready for our New Year's celebration. After local weather forecasts repeatedly said that we would not have a white Christmas, we awoke to this on Christmas morning just before we left to celebrate the holidays at home with family. I guess there really are Christmas miracles!

I received this early Christmas gift from my husband. I love its Flower Power theme and am going to love riding it around come spring. I did manage to squeeze a few rides in before winter.

We were thankful to get to host our 13th annual Thanksgiving dinner for family. As usual, hubby did the honors of carving the turkey.

For three years, we've been blessed to have the Yang family come over and make egg rolls in early December. They make the most delicious ones and I've always wanted to learn how to make them on my own (they are a bit complicated!). This time I think I paid enough attention to actually make these on my own. Their daughter Catherine (below right) helped me (below left) mix up the ingredients.

Their daughter Isabella (below left) taught us how to roll them up! Here is a photo of me with her trying to figure it out. 

Their mom Sandy fried them up for us. We promptly devoured as many as our bellies could accommodate.

I hope this New Year's eve finds you safe, warm, and happy. I look forward to chatting with you again in the new year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


A Happy Holiday wish to anyone out there who might be wondering if I'm still here! Thanks to those of you who emailed asking me if I was okay. It turns out that November was a rough month but that's another story for another day. Since I promised myself I would continue blogging to record the mundane events of my life even if no one reads them, I am back again! I finally got some holiday decorations up around the house, including this lovely handmade pom-pom wreath.

After seeing this sweet little reindeer in one of the project photos for our magazine (Primitive Quilts and Projects), I decided to hunt for one of my own, figuring it might take me years to find something so unique.

Turns out, I found one almost immediately on a trip to the Twin Cities back in early November. I couldn't believe it. I probably would have even paid a premium for him but it turns out, he was only $12.

While I was in the Twin Cities, I was surprised to get several compliments on my double decker bus purse. I just buy purses that speak to me in some way and don't really think of them drawing much of any attention.

As those of you who've read my blog before know, I enjoy wearing vintage 1960s clothing. This fall, I've been delighted to find three vintage coats from the 1960s. All are in excellent condition. Here are a couple of them. Even though I wasn't alive during the 1960s, there's something about these clothes that I just love. The top one is faux fur and the bottom one is a navy and green plaid 1960s wool coat. The top one was $22 and the bottom one was a little more than I wanted to spend ($70) but it is hard to find coats that look decent on my particular frame, so I decided it was worth the investment. All in all, I considered it a bargain to get two coats under $100, and they sure are better made than today's coats! If you are looking for vintage coats, just remember that the sizing is totally different than today's sizing. In vintage, you'd look for a size roughly double than what you are in today's clothes. If anyone happens to be reading this post and remembers wearing coats like these, I would love to hear from you at tkhook@msn.com or leave a comment.

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!