Monday, October 29, 2012


My hubby and I just returned from our second trip to the Twin Cities this month. While we were there, we couldn't resist stopping by a few antique shops. One of our usual stops was this cozy shop decked out in autumn splendor. I've been wanting to make a decorative banner like this one for my mantel.

This particular shop is located in a gracious vintage home. Isn't it pretty?

It has the neatest decorative iron railings on the windows.

The inventory is a mix of old and new as well as some handcrafted items. Burlap certainly seems to be a big trend these days, and that's what the pumpkins on this daybed were made of. 

Here's another angle of the festive fall room.

Covered in a burlap tablecloth, this accent table hosted pumpkins and candles on pedestals.

Here is the view looking down from the spiral staircase. What a cozy scene!

While we were away, we stopped by to visit my sister. She had recently lost her beautiful dog, Albert, who was only 6, to cancer. He was a gentle giant who touched a lot of lives during his 6 short years. His loss has left a hole in all our hearts. I didn't realize that Bernese Mountain dogs have a much higher rate of fatal cancer than other breeds and nearly half die from it. I have thought about getting one but don't think my heart could brook losing a furry friend so soon.

We enjoyed seeing my sister's other dog, Tillie.

We took her to the local dog park for a 3-mile walk, where we encountered several other furry friends...

The dog park was located in a wonderful wooded area, where the dogs had plenty of room to roam. It was supposed to be a very chilly afternoon but it ended up being fairly mild and sunny, so there were lots of other pet owners out on the trail as well as shown below. 

By the time we returned to my sister's house, we saw that her cat Mochi was still napping in his usual spot.

Eventually, he woke up to say hello.

Before I close, I have to show you my sister's beautiful old upright piano that has accompanied her over the years from Portland to Berkeley to her days at Smith College in Massachusetts. A lot of people just tear these old beauties down but I'm glad my sister could see its value. 

I'll be back later this week with more scenes from my trip. In the meantime, have a terrific week. My thoughts are with all you fellow bloggers in Sandy's path. I hope you all stay safe. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Thanks to all who stopped by and left a comment on my last post about how you decorate for the holidays. I loved reading how you all deck the halls! Such great ideas! As promised, I wanted to announce the winner of the Victoria Holiday Bliss magazine, which includes several pieces that I wrote. As usual, I let Random Number Generator do the honors of drawing the winner.

I always wish I had enough to give to everyone but I have just one to give away, and that copy goes to sewprimitive Karen who said...

Gracious, so many articles. I have to check these out. Melisa at Sweet Home is so fabulous. I like to decorate with my collection of hand-made ornaments and antique books collected over about 40 years :-). Karen

Congratulations, Karen! Just email me your mailing address and I'll get your copy sent out in the coming week! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Earlier this year, I had a fun opportunity to write much of the copy for Victoria magazine's special interest publication, Holiday Bliss. Well, it's out on newsstands now!  So if you're in the mood for some holiday bliss, be sure to check it out. I'd love to share a copy with everyone but I only have one copy to to give away to one of my readers. If you'd like a chance to win it, just leave me a comment telling me how you like to decorate for the holidays by Saturday, October 27, at 10 p.m. (central time). I'll draw a name and announce it on my blog Sunday evening. The winner will then need to contact me with her/his email address.

In other magazine news, two of my articles were recently published in the Fall 2012 issue of Quilt Sampler magazine.

They feature two fabulous quilt shops—Sweet Home Quilt Co. in Conyers, Georgia, and Lone Star House of Quilts in Arlington, Texas. The shop owners couldn't have been more gracious with their time and contributions. Their passion for what they do was obvious—and contagious. After my QS interviews, I always feel like retreating to my sewing room all day! If you haven't visited these terrific shops I hope you will check them out. I know they're on my list of go-to shops! Here's the entry spread for the Sweet Home Quilt Co. profile...

And here's the one for the Lone Star House of Quilts article. Both shops have welcoming porches to greet their guests.

A few of you Country French decorating fans who know I write for Country French magazine asked me to notify you when the next issue was out. Well, it's here and I have an article in it.

My article—called "Enlightened Elegance"—talks about how a seamless medley of painted finishes, French antiques, and calming colors draws out the softer side of a Houston home shared by a busy mother and her four daughters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


In an earlier post, I was pondering what program to do for an upcoming Halloween gathering that my husband and I are going to. I finally decided to do a recitation of Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, "The Raven". I haven't recited a poem publicly since college when I had to do a dramatic recitation of Tennyson's tragic ballad, "The Lady of Shalott", so let's hope I can pull it off! It's not going to be pretty if I can't. Back in college, I had to memorize all of the "The Lady of Shalott", so I figured I might as well do the same for Poe's poem. Now I can't get those foreboding entry words, "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary," out of my head!

After my recitation, I will briefly mention the tradition of the Poe toaster—the mysterious person who paid homage to the famous American author by visiting Poe's gravestone under the cloak of darkness on Poe's birthday for more than 60 years. The shadowy figure is famous for pouring himself a glass of cognac and raising a toast in Poe's memory, then leaving the unfinished bottle and three roses at the grave before vanishing into the night. As far as I know, this is the only known image of the Poe toaster.

The Poe toaster's visits stopped in 2010 as mysteriously as they began in the late 1940s, and he has not visited the grave since. Now that it's been three years since his last appearance, most assume the tradition has officially ended. Some surmise it's because the toaster passed away. Others speculate that 2009, which marked the bicentennial of Poe's birth, marked a logical ending to the tradition. I guess the toaster's true identity will remain shrouded in mystery—for now, at least.

On a cheerier note, be sure to stop by my previous post to see some charming little quilts that I recently had the pleasure of viewing at my local Prairie Women's Sewing Circle.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


In my previous post, I was pondering what kind of quilt to make for my newest vintage doll bed that I found on an recent antiquing trip. Well, I found a bunch of inspiration at my latest local Prairie Women's Sewing Circle (by Pam Buda), where we were treated to a wonderful show of little quilts compliments of two talented ladies—Dorothy and Joan from a nearby town. Jacque, the owner of the local quilt shop and the group's facilitator, provides the added bonus of a guest speaker at each of the meetings. Joan talked to us about string-pieced quilts and shared several examples during her chat.

Dorothy and Joan are longtime quilters with a passion for miniature quilts. Joan has also taught quilting classes. In fact, she mentioned that one of her first students was a young Marianne Fons before she started quilting! This was the first pieced miniature quilt that Joan made.

She also made this darling miniature yoyo quilt. 

And here is Dorothy's miniature yoyo quilt. 

She made the little roses in this appliquéd quilt with yoyos, too.

Dorothy also made this wonderful poinsettia quilt with beautiful Japanese-style prints.

Her miniature crazy quilt won a blue ribbon at the state fair.

It was also a treat to see this lovely antique quilt made and designed by Dorothy's great grandmother, who died in 1886. Dorothy told us that the plant featured in the quilt was inspired by one that her great grandmother found when she ventured out into the woods. It only grows in the southeastern part of Iowa.

Since this time's Prairie Women's Sewing Circle focused on women's undergarments of the pioneer period, some of the members brought some vintage examples to share with us. One of our members, Diane, has a treasure trove of antique quilts as well as other lovely things. I couldn't believe what she brought for us this time. It was a 19th-century ladies hoop that was worn under their skirts!

Diane also shared this wonderful treasure from her trunk of treasures—a 1906 schoolgirl's sewing book filled with sewing samples and lessons, which were then graded by her teacher.

Now wouldn't you just love to see what other treasures are in her trunk?! We are so fortunate to have so many members who bring in their lovelies to share with us. I hope to share more of their treasures in future posts but I think this is enough for one day! 

Friday, October 19, 2012


I'm taking a little break from my Halloween posts to share my most recent vintage doll bed find. I found this little treasure for $34 during my recent trip to the Twin Cities. It was a little more than I wanted to spend but I couldn't resist it with its delightful small posts and charming headboard.

Of all my vintage doll beds, this is the smallest at just 14" long x 10" tall. When I first tried take a pic of it, the brown all blended together so I threw a piece of fabric on it to give you a better idea of its dimensions. It's in front of my kitchen cabinets, so hopefully that gives you an idea of its scale.

I don't even have a quilt small enough for it, so I guess I'm going to have to make one. I would love to hear any suggestions for color schemes that you might have. I am always drawn to brown and pink, so my current collection of quilts leans quite heavily toward that color scheme, but I was thinking of trying something new for this little bed. I'd also be curious to hear from anyone else who has a bed like this. Sadly, it didn't come with any information on its history.

Okay, before I close I can't resist a little Halloween sidenote to show you this sweet Halloween owl fabric that I purchased from Adel Quilting and Drygoods. Anyone who knows me well can attest that I'm a bit little owl obsessed. Always have been ever since I was a little girl growing up in a state park where a nocturnal symphony of owls often serenaded me to sleep. I was listening to a most intriguing program about them the other day on Iowa Public Radio. The host was talking to wildlife biologist Jim Pease about the owls of Iowa, including the barred owl, great horned owl, and tiny screech owl. It was quite entertaining, too, as he replicated some great owl calls. If you're interested, you can listen to the entire program here.

Even my parents-in-law feed my owl obsession. My mom-in-law gave me this sparkly owl ring along with a cute owl hand towel the other day when they visited. Before I removed it from its tag, I had to try it on.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It is hard to believe another Halloween is nearly here, and I'm really behind on my "spookifying" my old Victorian. This afternoon, I strung my glittered black cat garland across the antique mirror in my dining room. An interesting sidenote—the mirror came with the house, though it is not original to it.

The effect of my cat garland is not nearly as spooky as the Victorian tradition of covering mirrors when a loved one died. As you know, Victorians were exceptionally superstitious. They believed that reflective surfaces such as mirrors were portals to the spiritual world and if you didn't cover them with black crepe, the spirit of the deceased would become trapped in the reflective glass. Clocks were also stopped at the time of death to allow the spirit to move on to its final resting place. As a grade schooler, I learned the touching song called "My Grandfather's Clock" written by Henry Clay Work in 1876. It tells the story of a longcase clock purchased on the morning of the narrator's grandfather's birth. When the grandfather died, it suddenly stopped, never to run again. Here is a stanza from the song. Very sad, don't you think?

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp'd short — never to go again —When the old man died.

I hope you don't find this post morbid, but death was such a way of life during the Victorian era with its poor housing conditions and sanitation, not to mention cholera and other diseases, that a child was quite lucky to see her or his first birthday. Perhaps this is why the Victorians were so fascinated with death and embraced such extensive mourning customs. I will try to touch on more customs in future posts this October. My husband and I have been invited to a Halloween party and as the host knows I love to give little talks on various subjects, she has asked me to assemble a little Halloween-related program on a topic of my choosing. I'm thinking about either Victorian mourning customs or something else. Will let you know!

And on a sidenote, I posted this quickly on the heels of my previous post about my friend Mary's exciting renovation project. So if you haven't read that one, please take a look while you are here. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012


In a world where so many seek what's new and perfect, it's refreshing to find kindred spirits who value the beauty in patina and timeworn finishes. My friend Mary is one such person. She and two of her friends recently bought a wonderful old structure in Perry, Iowa, for $1 with the goal of restoring it so a new generation of residents and visitors can enjoy it. No stranger to polishing diamonds in the rough, Mary and her family beautifully restored the town's old telephone company building into her cozy shop of art, antiques, home accessories, and handcrafted goods by local artists. So I know that she and her friends will do a beautiful job bringing this building back to life. Built in 1913, it originally served as the post office. In later years, it was a school administration center, then an alternative school. Sadly, it was vacant for the past two years—until Mary and her friends stepped up to the challenge of reviving it. As you can see, the exterior with its clay tile roof is in wonderful condition.

I love the original light fixtures and graceful arched windows. In honor of its heritage, the three friends have named the building "La Poste". Why don't we step inside for a little peek at this beautiful old gem?

I was immediately struck by the gorgeous architecture and the beautiful terrazzo tile that accents many of the lower walls (The bathrooms are lined in marble walls). Mary and her friends envision this beautiful space as a future gathering place for those who love art, music, and good food. They intend to transform it into a gallery where artists can display their creations or rent studio space. 

And just look at the elegant coffered ceiling.

Mary's friend Joe, a woodworking artist himself, is helping to restore the spacious building. He's a brave man to scale these heights! My photo doesn't capture the true height of the ceiling!

One of Mary's friends thought this side room might make a nice chocolate factory, where they could also incorporate an old-fashioned taffy machine.

I was struck by the generosity of local groups like the Forest Park Museum, which had the post office's original sorting table but gave it to Mary and her friends so that it could return to its rightful home.

The museum also donated a bookshelf that used to be in the town's Carnegie library as well as a 9-foot-tall stained glass window that adorned the old Methodist Church, which was sadly torn down several years ago. Mary, a gifted stained glass artist, will be restoring the window to its former luster. Mary is quite an artist at many other mediums, too. We share a love of china painting and met in painting class seven years ago. I fire all my handpainted china in my handy kiln in the basement.

Even the basement holds a wealth of possibilities for future gatherings. The new owners thought this room with all its shelving might make a great wine cellar where they could hold wine tastings while listening the dulcet tunes of local musicians.

As I walked through the building, I enjoyed glimpsing whispers of its earlier days, including these wonderful ceiling radiators...

And the old coal shoot...

The basement also harbored a marvelous chippy cupboard—a remnant from the building's alternative school days. I just love these old gems. I have no doubt that Mary will find a great new use for it.

I'm so glad that Mary and her friends are preserving this important part of Perry history. Without dedicated stewards of the past like them, many of these wonderful old structures would be lost. It was probably only a matter of time before this one would be, too. If anyone from Perry happens to be reading this post, I hope you will stop by to see the wonderful changes taking place in this amazing building and consider donating to its preservation. For more information on the renovation project, contact Mary at 515/465-4222.