Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It's been a very quilty kind of day here—not making quilts but editing a quilt book and a quilt magazine. Over the lunch break, I managed to carve out a little creative time to make some more button-embellished ornaments for my feather tree. Check out my previous post to see some other ornaments I made. A day spent with wool is always a treat for a wool-lover like me! I took advantage of my wool stash to make these fuzzy flower ornaments.

I used the i-top button/brad maker to make my wool-covered buttons. It works beautifully with the wool. To find out how you can win one of these nifty tools, check out my previous post. This ornament is made with a beautiful shade of midnight blue wool and a bright pink wool-covered button! I must warn you that making these little embellishments could be addictive!

Monday, November 28, 2011



Back in July, I blogged about a nifty tool called the i-top that allows you to easily make cloth-covered buttons. It also works great for covering brads, magnets, or badges with paper or even photo printouts. Well, the inventive team at Imaginisce—the makers of the i-top—have recently come out with a new and improved i-top 2.0. Here it is...

The previous i-top could make 16mm, 22mm and 28mm buttons. The new one allows you to make all of those, plus an even larger size (34mm). It is also lighter weight and has more space between the rubber heads, making it easier to use, in my opinion.

I've been putting my i-top 2.0 to good use making some simple ornaments for my feather tree. To make these quick and easy fabric rosettes, I just sewed a gathering stitch along the long edge of a fabric strip and added a fabric-covered button in the center. It couldn't be simpler! I'll share an updated photo of my feather tree once I'm done making all my fabric rosettes.

For more information on this nifty tool and a detailed tutorial on how easy it is to use, see my previous post at this link: i-top tutorial
Here's a shot from that tutorial showing how the tool works...

Thanks to the generous team at Imaginisce, I’m giving away one of these handy tools to a lucky blog reader! The winner will also get a selection of metal button sets so she/he can start using the i-top right away. Here’s how to enter the giveaway and how the winner will be announced:

1. Because the prize will be shipped directly from the manufacturer, only U.S. entries are eligible to enter.
2. You do NOT have to be an official follower of my blog to enter. However, I do want to reward those of you who officially followed my blog before this giveaway for your support with an additional entry. So if you were already an official follower before this post went up, please leave an additional, separate comment letting me know that. You need to leave a separate comment for it to count as an additional entry.
3. Leave a comment telling me what kind of project you'd like to use this tool for. 
4. If you choose to enter anonymously, please include at least your first name so I have a way of identifying you if you win. 

The giveaway will run until this Saturday, December 3 (10 p.m. central time US). I will choose a winner by random draw and I will announce her/him on Sunday, December 4. The winner must respond to me by Tuesday, December 6, at noon (central time US) to claim the prize. If I don’t hear from the winner by then, I will draw another name. Good luck to all!

Friday, November 25, 2011


It's hard to believe another Thanksgiving has come and gone! I hope you all had a good one. In my family, I always host the holiday dinner, but guests always help out by bringing plenty of food. My mom makes the most delicious cranberry relish—a treat I've enjoyed since childhood. I serve it in my green milk glass turkey.

Mom grinds the cranberries and other fruit for the relish in her old-fashioned meat grinder and it comes out much lighter in color than this, but as the fruit marinates, it deepens to this rich red color.

Of course, the most anticipated dish was the turkey. Even the cats eagerly awaited a morsel of it. Here's Teddy on the kitchen floor, hoping that my husband, who carves it, will give him a bite!

My guests brought me the sweetest hostess gifts—a pretty speckled poinsettia, bags of vintage wooden spools, holiday ornaments, and more K-cups for my Keurig including a raspberry truffle coffee and milk chocolate hot chocolate!

They even brought our cats some goodies. Here is Poe with his bag of tuna treats. He doesn't look like he's starving, does he? Believe it or not, he is on diet food.

I gave all my guests these small glass turkey nest dishes, which I tied up with ribbon and set beside their place settings.

By day's end, I was a little tired and settled in to watch some television. Apparently, Teddy was, too. He curled up with me and took a nap. I caught this picture of him smiling as he slumbered.

There wasn't much time to sleep, though, as I was up bright and early this morning to do a little bargain shopping on Black Friday. I don't typically set foot near stores on Black Friday but I did brave the crowds today to get a printer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In my family, I always host the annual Thanksgiving feast. And when I need a trusted recipe for the special day, I turn to my handy cookbook cupboard in my kitchen.

It is filled with cookbooks I've collected over the years. Many came from the prop sales we had at Meredith Corporation (publisher of Better Homes and Gardens magazine). Others are from garage sales or relatives.

This is one of my favorite cookbooks. I've had it for about 13 years now, and it has a delicious recipe for winter vegetable chowder, which I always make for the first course of my Thanksgiving dinner. So guess what I am doing tonight? Yes, I'm chopping up the vegetables and getting them ready for my soup. It even has a touch of sherry in it but I don't use as much as the recipe calls for since I'm a bit of a teetotaler. My husband and I have made it a tradition to make the soup the night before Thanksgiving so it's all ready when our guests arrive the following morning.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, however you plan to spend it. I am thankful our Midwestern weather is behaving so that our loved ones can travel safely to our home. 

Monday, November 14, 2011


Every month, I get together with my quilting circle of friends. Our get-togethers are held in our homes, and today was my turn to host. I started preparing for the gathering early this morning in the kitchen. This photo doesn't show it very well but our cabinets are buttercream yellow, which we chose to complement the home's sunny yellow exterior when we remodeled it shortly after we moved into Ashton House.

I finally got a chance to try out the egg souffle recipe that I got at the bed-and-breakfast in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, earlier this year. I love eggs and don't mind eating them any time of day!

I served the ladies their choice of tea, apple cider, or chai latte with my handy Keurig.

I didn't have time to make anything special for dessert but some miniature muffins and these chocolate-covered biscuits and wafers that I picked up over the weekend seemed to please.

After having a bite to eat, we retreated to the parlor, where I gave a demo of my AccuQuilt fabric cutter. The ladies seemed to be quite intrigued by this time-saving tool! These green velvet pieces were cut using the Fall Medley die.

I have been a member of this group for seven years and what I enjoy most is just getting together and catching up with everyone. They are a very encouraging group of ladies and I seem to come away from each meeting feeling refreshed and energized to start another project. One year, we decided to do a block exchange, using fabrics that each of us selected for our own quilts. Of course, I chose pink and brown reproduction fabrics. The ladies made me these blocks, which I've been working into a quilt.

Friday, November 11, 2011


As we remember our military veterans today, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the namesake behind my blog and home—Thomas Ashton. We know very little about him but we do know that he enlisted in Iowa's 39th infantry in 1862 and fought in the Civil War. He also served as postmaster of his regiment. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Parker's Cross Roads and eventually paroled. After that, he returned to our small Iowa community, where he started a livery business and farmed on 136 acres of land. He is buried in our local cemetery alongside his infant daughter. Much like the simple home he built, his gravestone is humble and unassuming (we had a hard time even finding it!).

Someday, I plan to research Thomas Ashton, his wife, and children. So far, the trail ends in Modesto, California. Based on the information I do have, I just have a feeling there's an interesting story—and probably some eccentricities—behind this family. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011


It hardly seems possible that another work week is nearly over! By day, I spend my time writing magazine articles and editing books, but late at night, I switch gears to making pincushions. I've been filling some orders for them this week and have a few boxes ready to send out. A box full of tuffets, strawberries, and a couple of my Parsley bunny pincushion designs are heading for California.

All those vintage wooden spools that people are kind enough to gift me sure come in handy for my spool birds. Here they are, getting ready to take flight!

Here's a batch of velvet strawberries and woolly tuffets all nestled safe in their box. 

Monday, November 7, 2011


I didn't greet this Monday very fondly with its gray skies. But a good mail day can brighten the dreariest of days—especially when fabric is involved. And that's just what arrived today. I can't resist much of anything to do with owls, and this one was especially eye-catching to me with its pink and blue color palette. I'm not usually crazy about the color yellow but it sure brightens this print.

I loved this print so much that I also bought it in the blue colorway...

And the pink/red/orange...

As a cat lover, I'm always looking for fun kitty-themed prints that aren't too cutesy. This one caught my eye and I knew it would be perfect for a pocketbook project that I am working on. 

I couldn't resist this trio of felines either. Love that little black guy, who reminds me of my cat Teddy with his wide eyes.

I fell in love with the colors in this new fabric line. After all, you can't go too wrong with a pink and brown color palette in my book.

Last month, I talked about how gray fabrics have grown on me in this post, and sure enough, I added this gray piece to my fabric collection (or should I say hoard?).

And last but not least, I got my Mollie Makes magazine! I've been subscribing to this inspiring publication since its debut issue earlier this year. You can't help but smile when you see all the wonderful projects in it.

I especially loved the cover of the last issue with the fun crocheted carrots and peas. Now if only I could crochet!

Friday, November 4, 2011


Have you seen the new issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine yet? I am so thrilled to be a part of this inspiring publication. I was fortunate to get to edit the winter edition! If you didn't see it in my earlier blog post, here's the cover that the publishers picked for this inspiration-packed issue.

As usual, you'll find projects from your favorite primitive designers—Paula Barnes of Bonnie Blue Quilts, Maggie Bonanomi, Lori Brechlin of Notforgotten Farm, Rita Briner of Quilter's Station, Nancy Conn, Lynne Hagmeier, Lynda Hall, Dawn Heese, Heather Lynn, Jo Ann Mullaly, Gloria Parsons of Olde Green Cupboard Designs, Jan Patek, Cheri Payne, Renée Plains, and Tonya Robey of Mad Hen Primitives. So if you're looking for a new winter-themed project or gift idea for a fellow sewing friend, you definitely don't want to miss this issue. This sweet wool snowman design from Jo Ann Mullaly is sure to warm up your winter surroundings.

If you're looking for a quick and easy gift idea, check out Gloria Parsons' nifty tabletop project that uses a pre-made table runner.

As I write this post, we're already busy at work on the spring issue. We'd love to hear your feedback on the magazine. I welcome your comments, suggestions, questions, and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at the email button underneath my profile pic in my blog's right-hand sidebar. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


As fall sets in here in the Midwest and the garden is put to bed in preparation for its winter slumber, my thoughts turn to my houseplants—particularly my African violets. After all, they're the only living blooms I'll be able to enjoy from now until May. Like the Victorians, I enjoy displaying my houseplants under glass. The other day I was trying to think outside-the-box a bit and found this weathered lantern that I'd stashed in our attic when we moved into the house. It makes a splendid home for a candy pink-and-white African violet on my dining room buffet. I thought a lady slipper orchid would look lovely in this, too, but I don't have one short enough to fit!

Violets like humidity and this particular enclosure has holes which provide good ventilation so my violet won't overheat. 

You regular readers know that I am a magazine writer and editor by trade. Years ago, I wrote an article on the Victorian glass gardens known as Wardian cases—the predecessors of the modern day terrarium. I had such fun researching the topic since my other major in college was history. The Wardian case concept was discovered in 1829 by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, a doctor and accomplished amateur botanist. I found some illustrations of these glass treasures in my collection of 19th-century ladies magazines that I thought would be fun to share.

During the Victorian era, many English botanists traveled to distant lands in search of exotic plant specimens to bring back home. To protect them on their long journey, they enclosed them in sealed glass containers—the predecessors of the larger Wardian cases. With their penchant for showy splendor, the Victorians eagerly embraced the concept and often displayed their most prized plants in these elaborate indoor glasshouses.

Even if you don't have a fancy Wardian case, you can create your own version with a simple lantern like mine—or a glass dome atop a garden urn like the one shown here. It's amazing what ideas you can come up with just a little creativity.

And there's another important advantage of having a few houseplants! They purify the air, removing up to 87 percent of toxins found in ordinary household products. Placing several in a room will increase humidity, which can help prevent respiratory problems—always a good thing during the upcoming cold and flu season! To purify the air, experts recommend using 15-18 plants for an 1,800-square-foot house. It might seem like a lot but that's nothing in my house, where some 50 African violets, orchids, and rex begonias make their home!