Monday, December 24, 2012

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!

On this Christmas eve, I wanted to wish all of you the happiest of holidays from all of us at Ashton House, our 1885 Victorian farmhouse.


What a wonderful holiday season this has been. This past weekend we celebrated Christmas with my husband's parents in their new home. One of my gifts to them was the brand new American Patchwork and Quilting 2013 calendar with my little "Je t'aime" quilt in it. I quilted it on my machine using an historical design from one of my antique Le Moyne star quilts.


I enjoyed wrapping all the gifts in some fun pink holiday gift wrap that I bought last year. I even hand-made several gifts this year—something I've been wanting to do for awhile! Unfortunately, I can't share what I made the parents-in-law here as I still have a couple other packages with a similar theme to deliver.


After we unwrapped the gifts, the parents treated us to a wonderful meal at the local Waterfront Seafood Restaurant. My husband enjoyed the oyster po'boy sandwich and sweet potato fries (shown below), while I feasted on halibut—my favorite fish. Yum!


Among the season's most special memories is receiving this lovely homemade gift from my grandma. Aren't handmade gifts the best? I always feel extremely blessed and honored when someone takes the time to make me something with their own hands. I love how Grandma appliquéd an old doily to the center of the table topper, which is quite large at 24" in diameter. When she was here for Thanksgiving, she told me she planned to make several of these but I didn't know how she would find the time with all her other sewing projects.


Many years ago, she made me this smaller version, which is the perfect size for a tabletop tree.


Grandma is 93 years young but you wouldn't know it by her energy level. She runs circles around all of us. If you have her out for a visit, you'd better plan to have a lengthy list of things for her to do for she cannot sit still. Every morning she wakes up at 4:00 a.m. and at 6:00 a.m. starts sewing quilts for Project Linus until 5:00 p.m. This year she made more than 300 quilts!  She is an inspiration to me, and I can only hope and pray that God will grant me the same ability to help others through my humble skills.


As I noted in my previous post, we have been granted our wish for a white Christmas. Although the blizzard kept us housebound for a day, it didn't dampen our spirits. We enjoyed a cozy evening by the fire, indulging in homemade egg casserole. I thought it was the perfect night to make some comfort food!


My husband ate every last morsel on his plate!


The bad weather also gave me the perfect excuse to make more peanut clusters. For those of you who asked for the recipe, I will email them after our holiday celebrations as we're getting ready to head for home to spend Christmas with our family. Just have to wrap a few more gifts and make one more batch of peanut clusters. After I get back, I'll be taking a little break from blogging to catch up on my pincushion orders and spend some time with family. 
Happy Holidays to you all from Ashton House!



Friday, December 21, 2012

LOVE BUG KIT AND MAGAZINE WINNER

I'm back to announce the winner of my Love Bug pincushion wool kit and magazine! I enjoyed reading about all your favorite color combos. As I work on future pincushion designs, I will keep those in mind. I found many of my own favorite color combos among your responses. I do wish I had enough magazines and wool to share with you all. The winner of the giveaway, by random draw...

...is...

Stitches who said:


I'm also a happy follower of your blog...

Congratulations, Stitches! Please email me your full name and mailing address by clicking the email button under my profile by Saturday at noon central time. As I mentioned earlier, due to the quickly approaching holiday, your prize (including the magazine and a kit for the wool only) will be mailed out AFTER Christmas. I hope you will enjoy making the Love Bug as much as I did. And for those of you who are still interested in making your own Love Bugs, be sure to check out the latest issue of Stitch Craft Create magazine, on newsstands now!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'M DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS

Well, it looks like we're going to get our white Christmas after all! The first blizzard of the season arrived last night, leaving several thousand people in the nearby Des Moines area without power. The tree branches were so laden with the thick, wet snow, that we could hear several break off last night as we sat in our parlor! Luckily, our power held on here and that was a good thing since the Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine that I edit was due to the printer this morning! With the storm, I was worried that I might not have computer access to work on them. Turns out everything went fine, and I even got to drop by my friend's house for lunch. It's only seven blocks away, so not even a snowstorm could thwart those plans. Here's a photo of the winter wonderland just outside our 1885 yellow-brick Victorian. Actually, this is a photo from an earlier snowstorm this year but it looks practically the same today!


The weather was so bad that even my husband stayed home and is working from here today. Early this morning, he got a chance to try out the new snowblower his dad got him last year. For several years, he resisted getting one even though our driveway is 110-feet long! Don't the trees look pretty sprinkled with snow? If only it weren't so damaging to them. Our house is surrounded by century-old maples, oaks, and ashes (the latter are succumbing to the emerald ash borer). If only they could talk, I'm sure they'd have tales to tell of 19th-century life at Ashton House. 


Since I've wrapped up the magazine for now—until the printer proofs are ready—I think I'll make a batch of peanut clusters this afternoon. For years, I searched for a peanut cluster that wasn't so hard it nearly broke my teeth. Ten years ago, a family friend brought a batch of them over for a holiday gift and they were the creamiest, softest ones I'd ever eaten, so I asked for her recipe and have been making them for the holidays ever since. This is the perfect weather for snuggling up with a good book and a cup of tea. Tonight, I think I'll do just that if I get the rest of my to-do list done. I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of a book I recently ordered. It's called Cranford, an 1851 English classic by Elizabeth Gaskell. Many of you might remember the BBC's series from 2008. You can find this pretty Penguin classics edition on Amazon.


Just a reminder—if you entered my Love Bug pincushion giveaway, be sure to stop back by tomorrow when the winner is announced. Until then, stay safe and warm! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

LOVE BUG PINCUSHION MAGAZINE and KIT GIVEAWAY

Last week, I mentioned I was going to do a blog giveaway for my new Love Bug pincushion design, which is featured in the new issue of Stitch Craft Create magazine. The editor kindly let me share these fun magazine photos of Love Bug, a pink and gray ladybug made of wonderful Weeks Dye Works wool and embellished with rick rack, pomp poms, and buttons. The giveaway will be for a copy of the magazine as well as a kit containing the wool to make the ladybug! As noted earlier, I can't guarantee it will be the same wool I used but it will be for a pink and gray ladybug.


When the Stitch Craft Create editor asked me to design a wool project for the magazine's winter issue, the idea for a Valentines-inspired ladybug came to mind. The magazine staff was great to work with. I've loved this magazine since it made its debut last year with a bevy of beautiful projects to spark the imagination, and this issue is no exception. In addition to Love Bug, you will find a potpourri of other projects to warm your winter days—embellished sweaters, a floral scarf, buttoned up pillow, sweetheart cookies, and much more.


Here's how to enter my giveaway: Just leave me a comment telling me what your favorite color combo(s) are. You needn't be an official blog follower but those who are will get one additional entry as my thank you for their support. To get your additional entry, be sure to leave an additional separate comment telling me you are an official follower. I'm opening the giveaway to all, though, to discourage people from feeling like they have to follow to enter. International entries are welcome. The giveaway will end on Friday, December 21, at noon central US time. I'll announce the winner that night and they will have until Sunday, December 23, at noon central US time to claim their prize. Because so many bloggers are non-reply bloggers (meaning there is no return email attached to their email), it will be the winner's responsibility to contact me at the email button under my profile pic since I have no way of contacting them if they should be a non-reply blogger. Due to the holiday, the magazine/kit won't be mailed out until after Christmas. Don't be alarmed if there is a delay in your comments posting. I have to approve all comments before they are published and I'll be out for awhile today. Good luck to all who enter!



Friday, December 14, 2012

HANDMADE HAPPINESS

How can it be December 14 already? Before the holidays, there is a quilt magazine to proof, three more articles to write, presents to wrap, and much more! As some of you know, I edit Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine. We are in the process of proofing the spring issue, which will debut a new design. You won't want to miss this issue. We've got a whopping 17 projects—two additional projects than usual—and some absolutely gorgeous eye candy. I can't wait for you to see it. In between proofing and writing this week, I've been back in my studio painting china. I love the Dresden style of painting with its fanciful flowers and delicate details. They are all hand-painted on porcelain and fired in my kiln. As a creature of habit, I keep painting the same little floral scene over and over again on trinket boxes but no matter. The important thing is that I'm having fun. This little trinket box will be on my TDIPT page on the 15th.


And here's a tidbit of exciting news to share with you. The Stitch Craft Create magazine issue with my Love Bug pincushion will be out on newsstands in less than a week! The editor generously gave me this photo of her to share with my blog readers. This means that it's about time for a giveaway, which will be in a future post. To celebrate Love Bug's debut, I will give away a copy of the magazine to one winner. I was thinking of putting together a kit for the wool for the winner, too. I can't guarantee it will be the very same colors. Let me know what you think about the kit idea. Otherwise, we'll just do a giveaway for the mag, which by the way, is filled with a bunch of other whimsical winter projects, including many Valentine's Day-inspired goodies. What quilter couldn't use a pink and gray ladybug pincushion for Valentine's Day?!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

LOOKING FOR A HOME

My sister fosters furry friends from her local shelter in the Minneapolis area until they can find a permanent home. Her latest guest is this elderly heeler named Mildred, who is looking for a relatively quiet home. If you know of anyone in the Twin Cities area or neighboring states who might be interested in giving Mildred a forever home, please email me privately at the button on the right hand side of my blog.


Also in need of a home is this sweet 8-month-old orange tabby named Buddy.


I know quilters are known for their kind hearts, so I figured what better place to spread the word than here?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

DECKING THE HALLS

It's beginning to look a little more like Christmas around Ashton House. We put all the electric candles in the windows, even the attic. It is very hard to get a decent picture of them since it has to be in the dark, so this is the best I could do. We usually put our large artificial Christmas tree in the big bay window but I just don't think I'm up to it this year.


Several years ago while visiting an historical house decked out for the holidays, I took a photo of this great holiday decorating idea. Now isn't that festive?! The Victorians certainly had a flair for decorating.


That very year, I experimented with that idea in my much humbler dining room, using pink and green ornaments and a pretty pink ribbon from the local Victorian gift shoppe. I'm thinking I should try it again this year now that I actually have some pretty window treatments for all the windows, thanks to my mom and mom-in-law, who helped me make them three years ago.


I also like to deck the halls with some velvet strawberry pincushions that I make. These were for an order I was working on last night. The penny rug underneath them was made several years ago of wool felt before I got into the 100 percent wool. 


Funny story about my sewing projects! My cat Poe, below, gets jealous whenever he sees me sewing for some reason—it's only when I'm sewing. On one occasion, he came over and knocked over my jar of seed beads so they all scattered on the floor. Another time, he took off running with my Perle cotton. When I finally got it back, he gave me this look of disdain as though I'd done something wrong! I'm not sure why he finds sewing so threatening but he does. I guess he's my crazy cat!


This photo of Poe reminds me of number 5 on this funny cat email that my mom sent me earlier this fall. You might remember it from an earlier post but I thought I'd repost it as it might bring a smile to your face this lovely Sunday afternoon. Have a good one!

Friday, December 7, 2012

COMPUTER WOES

I have a love/hate relationship with my iMac computer. Sometimes I think it's the best and other days, I want to toss it to the curb. Yesterday was one such day for the latter. I was working on an article when all of a sudden the power went out. When it came back on, I went to Time Machine, which Apple touts as a reliable back-up for your info. When I went there, it was no where to be found! Luckily, I only lost about a paragraph of info, but I was a little disappointed that Time Machine isn't all it's cracked up to be. We had a hard-drive issue with my iMac a few months after we purchased it three years ago and Apple eventually had to give me a whole new machine because they weren't able to solve the problem.



All of this has made me really question whether I should get an iPad, which my husband wants to get me for Christmas (I would still keep a desktop computer for work purposes, of course. This would just be for on the go).  Do any of you have an iPad and if so, what do you like or not like about it? Does it really do more than other tablets on the market? I'd heard that the new Microsoft Surface tablet does almost as much for less than half the price, which I must admit is compelling. It does seem like Apple charges a premium for its products.

In happier news, I've been making good progress on the annual fall tradition of organizing my sewing room and closets. I found 20 more yards of fabric to donate to my grandma's Project Linus quilts. In addition, we took five large boxes of stuff we no longer need to Goodwill the other day and a box of books to the local library. While going through my many sewing boxes, I found this bag of clear buttons that I won't be able to use (I love the pearl buttons and use those and the vintage plastic ones for most of my projects). If anyone in the Des Moines area wants them, you can have them for free if you can meet me at the local quilt shop to pick them up. BUTTONS HAVE BEEN SPOKEN FOR, THANKS!


Before I close, I have to share this adorable owl humidifier that the hubby surprised me with last night. He knows I love owls, and as our house gets so dry in the winter, it was actually a very practical gift. It's set up in my office where I can get the most benefit from it. The water vapor is released through the top of his head. 


He also surprised me with this lovely little plant advertised as a "frosty fern". At first, I thought its white coloring was fake (like when they dye poinsettias blue!), but then I realized it was variegated. Houseplants are always welcome here as they not only beautify the surroundings but they're good for your health, too! While researching a houseplant article several years ago, I discovered that plants remove up to 87 percent of toxins found in everyday household objects from the air. As part of the photosynthesis process, they release moisture, which increases humidity—a welcome thing during dry Midwestern winters! To help purify the air, experts recommend you use 15-18 plants in 6- to 8-inch diameter pots for an 1,800 square foot house. That's basically one plant every 100 square feet. I guess I have that more than covered with my 50 African violets, rex begonias, and moth orchids!

Monday, December 3, 2012

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

With December now upon us, I decided it was time to start trimming the tree but I wasn't quite ready to tackle our 9-foot-tall one after being down with a leg injury. So the tabletop trees will have to do for now. This is my wire tree, which is decorated with vintage glass ornaments year-round. I've had it for seven years and it's displayed in my pink and green dining room because it just seems to go in there!


I purchased a few ornaments each year until I had filled up the tree. The vintage topper was a gift from Carolyn H.


I wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who emailed me get-well wishes last week. I'm definitely on the mend, and things are looking up. It feels great to be able to walk again! My mother-in-law kindly offered to take me to my first physical therapy appointment last week. My dad-in-law accompanied her on the second session and together they brought me a couple bags of vintage pearl buttons (In the photo below, you can see Dad sifting through the buttons). Sorting buttons was a great way to get my mind off my pain. It was a far better pain reliever than the kind the doctor prescribed!


Over the weekend, I had a chance to catch up on my reading. I've had this Jane Austen sewing book for three years and enjoy revisiting it from time to time. It features craft projects and stories from her novels. If you like Jane Austen novels, here's an interesting sidenote—there is a link to a fun quiz you can take to see which of her heroines you're most like at the bottom of my blog. Turns out, I'm most like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice!


My friends at Schiffer Publishing produce some wonderful books on historical quilting, and this new title called Quilts in Everyday Life 1855-1955: A 100-Year Photographic History by Janet Finley is no exception.


If you love looking at old photos of people with their quilts like me, you won't be able to put this book down. There are some sad post-mortem photos of departed babies and others but death was such a way of life during those times that such photos were a very typical practice. 


Barbara Brackman's new book, Civil War Sampler, has also been on list of must-get books.


And last but not least, I finally got around to reading some of the recipes in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook by Christina Tosi that I bought this spring.


Last year, I had seen its pastry chef, Christina Tosi, on the Martha Stewart Show making these yummy-looking cookies with cereal milk—flavorful milk soaked in cornflakes. Since I love the flavor of cereal milk, I had to check it out. I'd love to make this birthday cake from the book.


By Saturday afternoon, I was coming down with a serious case of cabin fever, so my dear hubby helped arrange a brief escape to some of my favorite shops, including Domestica (a home accessories shop with lots of fun prints and locally handmade items) and Raccoon Forks Trading Co. (an antiques-lover's delight).



Hope you all had a good weekend! There is much to catch up on this week but things are off to a good start. I'm working on the remaining two of my three Quilt Sampler articles and just finished up an article on container gardening for Victoria magazine. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MEET LOVE BUG

It doesn't seem possible that Thanksgiving is already over, does it? I hope everyone had a good one! The day before the big day, I managed to injure my sacroiliac joint (didn't even know what that was until my doctor told me on Tuesday!), which kept me bed-bound for four days. I'm slowly getting back to normal but can't sit at my computer for very long periods of time, so while I recover a little more, I thought I'd do a quick post on my newest pincushion design. I call her "Love Bug" as she is a pink and gray ladybug made of hand-dyed wool and fanciful embellishments such as rick-rack and pom-poms. This past summer, the editor of Stitch, Craft, Create magazine asked me to design a wool project for them. Because of all my editing and writing work, it's hard to carve out any time to design these days but since she asked, I happily agreed! Love Bug is the result of my efforts and will be featured in a future issue of Stitch, Craft, Create magazine.



While flipping through the latest issue of the Stitch, Craft, Create magazine back in October, I noticed a photo of Love Bug in their Coming Soon feature!


Love Bug was inspired by my fondness for the color combo of pink and gray. Love Bug also happens to be the term of endearment that my husband uses for me—I suspect because I am lovable and at times, irritating! Hee hee! I will post more about Love Bug when the issue comes out. I've missed reading all your blogs but hope to be back to regular blogging—and blog reading—by next week!

Monday, November 19, 2012

COUNTDOWN TO THANKSGIVING

As my hubby hung the new handmade clock that we found on our recent trip to the Twin Cities on our kitchen wall this weekend, I was reminded of how quickly time flies—particularly in relationship to the rapid approach of Thanksgiving! It's become a family tradition that I host the gathering at my house, and I look forward each year to seeing family and friends. In past years, we have not only invited family but friends, coworkers, etc. who would have otherwise spent the holiday alone. It is a good time to be reminded of all our blessings. And in this year of challenges, it's worth celebrating the fact that we are still standing! This year, my fondest hope is that my grandma will be able to join us. Although she is in pretty good health for her age, I don't take for granted the time we have with her.


I've been working some overtime hours this weekend to complete work assignments so I can devote my time starting tomorrow to preparing for the Thanksgiving gathering. It's time to roll out the welcome mat for our guests. The Victorians seemed to love these motifs with hands, so I thought it was appropriate to hang one on the front door of our old 1885 Victorian home. I can easily change out the greeting to fit the occasion. That is an old-fashioned doorbell below the sign. You turn it instead of push it like modern doorbells.


It's also time to polish those china teapots and teacups! I have been collecting antique English teapots, particularly Sadler ones, since I was a young newlywed.


I like to mix and match pink and green plates and goblets on my dining table, although some years I go simple with brown transferware.


Soon, I'll be retrieving those trusted holiday recipes from the handy cookbook cupboard in the kitchen...


I've been trying recipes from this trusted cookbook for the past 15 years. It's a fitting cookbook for someone who lives in a yellow farmhouse, don't you think?!


It has a wonderful recipe for trifle with Grand Marnier! Yes, Mom, this teetotaler does enjoy a little liqueur now and then! She likes to tease me about the fact that we have a wine rack in our kitchen but never drink anything from it. 


Guess, I'd better get back to work if I intend to be ready to work on Thanksgiving preparations tomorrow. Just wanted to drop in and say hello!