Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Just a quick note to stay hello to all you fellow friends in blogland. Thankfully, Tuesday's winter storm here in central Iowa didn't stop me from getting to Kansas City this  Wed. morning for the photo shoot for my next quilt book editing project. The authors are writing their first book with us and we're shooting all the featured projects for it on Thursday at a local historical home. I'm so excited to see all their quilts in person! As we get closer to the release date, I will share more details about it. I already miss my cats, Teddy and Poe, but know they're in good hands with our friend Shawn who is staying with them at our house. While out and about, I stopped at some antiques shops and hope to post some scenes from those when I get back very soon. Hope all of you are having a good week!

Friday, February 22, 2013


In an earlier post, I mentioned my new owl design—a Valentine version inspired by my recent visit to a local Owl Prowl where I got to see a live Barred owl. One of my dear friends recently lost her furry four-legged companion of many years and I wanted to make something to cheer her up, so I gave Merry this framed portrait of "Valentina" the barn owl when we got together this week. I have a fondness for old frames and pick one up far too frequently for my own good. Well, it's times like these when they actually come in handy! I rummaged through my large box of vintage wooden frames and picked out what I thought would be the perfect one to frame Valentina. I've been making wool portraits for the past year, and last fall, my aunt took some to the local craft fair where she sells many of her crafts. She was able to sell all of them there, so I plan to make more this year. Some of my wool portraits will be published in a magazine. I'm still working on a larger portrait and pincushion of Valentina. In the meantime, I'll be making more of these owl portraits for friends and family.

Speaking of owls, Merry gifted me this adorable large owl box filled with many delightful surprises. I plan to store some of my vintage lace and trims in it.

I'm always on the prowl for fun owl stuff and recently found this fun owl binder and pencil case. What a hoot! I've rarely met an owl office accessory I didn't like!

One more Valentine's Day note to add before I go—My mom and mom-in-law recently celebrated their Valentine's birthdays with us. As an annual birthday tradition, I host a luncheon in their honor. This year, they requested a simple meal of homemade winter vegetable soup and potato croquettes. The night before they came, I mixed up all the ingredients for the soup in my Dutch oven on the stovetop.

The morning of the luncheon, I prepared the potato mixture for the croquettes—one of the few times I break out the food mill. In this case, it was to get a completely lump-free potato mixture.

It rices the potatoes into these tiny tidbits.

I then mixed that up with a medley of other ingredients, including parlsey and scallions. I won't bore you by showing all the stuff I put into it but you get the idea!

Once they're breaded and cooked, you get this...

Both the moms enjoy bunnies, so I gave them these adorable wooden bunny nutcrackers as a reminder of this special day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Valentine's Day is always a special day at Ashton House because it's also my mom and mom-in-law's birthdays and I'll be thinking of them today.

Yesterday afternoon, I realized I still needed to get a card and little box of chocolates for my hubby, so I ran out to get that. He usually surprises me with something special on Valentine's Day. This morning I was greeted with these goodies wrapped up by him. I wonder what could be inside? The card contained a little poem he wrote for me about how I love houseplants and hot baths. There was even a little stanza on how I love to eat eggs for breakfast or any time of day! I thought that was pretty sweet of him.

Do you have a favorite romantic song you like to hear on Valentine's Day? For me, it's "Lollipops and Roses" by Jack Jones...

...and Andy William's "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's. One of our dear friends gave us a music box that plays this song for our wedding and we like to play it on Valentine's Day and our anniversary. I guess we're just romantics at heart!

Wishing you a lovely Valentine's Day and many more to come!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I love owls. I’m not sure if I got this love from my paternal grandmother, who also admired owls and collected anything with an owl on it or because I loved listening to their nocturnal serenades as a child living near a state park. As an owl lover, I had a memorable experience last night. My husband and I went to a local Owl Prowl, which is a presentation on owls of Iowa as well a hike where you learn owl calls in hopes of getting a reply from a real owl. We learned that the most common owls in this area are the Eastern Screech, Barred, and Great Horned. Most fun of all was getting to see a live owl! Barb (pictured below) is a barred owl who was injured in an unfortunate barbed wire collision but thankfully rehabilitated. 

She was very calm for an owl but kept her eyes clearly focused on the handler most of the time, so it was difficult to get a shot of her entire face. She weighs about 1.5 pounds.

Somehow I managed to capture Barb blinking. Isn't this precious? No wonder I love owls!

And here is a side view of this magnificent creature. While she has been rehabilitated, she will never be able to return to the wild again due to her injury. She has a good home but I think she needs a companion to keep her company. After all, how would you like to spend all day alone?! There was some talk of finding another barred owl to join her and I hope that will happen. 

The rest of the owls we saw during the presentation were taxidermy examples—still a sight to behold. This dapper duo features another barred owl—so named for the bar-like markings on its chest—and the Eastern screech owl. Sadly, we learned that when the young owls embark on their new life of independence away from their family, they have a 70 percent mortality during that first year.

This grouping from left to right shows a Long-Eared owl, Barn owl, and Great Horned owl. We were told the first two are not common in our area. The Barn owls get their name from the fact that many farmers used to construct perches for them in their barns to encourage them to roost and hunt rodents and other pests. My husband remembers one such perch in their century-old barn and seeing barn owls as a child. The Great Horned owl stands 25" tall and is nicknamed the "Flying Tiger" because of its deft predatory skills. Among its prey are other owls like the Barred and Barn owls. 

They opened up the second half of the program to questions from the inquisitive audience. One of the kids in the audience asked if it was true that owls could turn their heads practically all the way around. It turns out that's not quite true but they can turn their heads a whopping 270 degrees. Compared to humans' 180 degrees, that's quite astounding. We learned that their ability to do that is due in part to their vertabrae, which allows for more flexibliity. They have twice as many vertebrae as humans. The program ended with some tips on how you can help the owl population. Apparently, several die each year because of rat/mice poisons from the rodents that they ingest. For this reason, the speaker urged that you not use such poisons outdoors. He also encouraged us to resist the temptation to cut down dead trees, which provide homes for many of these cavity nesters. At the end of the program, a nice lady handed out candies shaped like owl pellets for everyone.

All of this talk about owls inspired me to dig through my wool stash when I got home late that night and make my own little Valentine's version of a barn owl. This is just the start of her—nothing has been stitched and I still have more features to add.

Instead of a perching her on a tree branch, I thought I'd try a pinked wool strip for a fanciful twist as I love incorporating those into my designs. The edges are so delightful (as shown below). As you might imagine, my sewing room is scattered with several pinked wool strips!

For all you blogging friends from afar, I hope this post brings a smile to your face just like Barb did to mine!