Monday, October 28, 2013


Happy Monday! It could be a better one here at Ashton House but I'm making the most of it. So I'm taking the advice of my favorite Sound of Music song and thinking of my favorite things! And this time of year, it's pumpkins—and the more unusual, the better. When I spotted this mottled orange and green one at the local grocery store a week ago, I knew I had to have it. It was lopsided, which probably explained why no one had picked it, but I couldn't resist its charm.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


By random draw, the winner of the October issue of Victoria magazine is....
Garden of Daisies

Congrats! Please email me your mailing address by clicking the Email Me button under my profile pic and I'll get your copy sent out this week.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Brimming with autumn splendor, the October issue of Victoria magazine is on newsstands now. In it, you'll find an article written by me! Entitled "Shades of Serenity", it profiles the Portland Japanese Garden. I didn't know much about this magnificent garden until I researched it for the article. Its subtle yet striking landscape, which adeptly melds stone, water, and plants into a seamless whole, is a living tribute to the history and culture of Japan.

Always one to share the wealth, I'd love to gift a copy to one of my readers. If you'd like to be included in the drawing, please leave a comment telling me what you love most about autumn on this post by Sunday, October 27, at 6 p.m. central time. I'll draw a random name and announce the winner later that evening. You needn't be an official follower to enter but I would like to thank those who are for their support with an extra entry (For the extra entry, you just need to enter a separate comment telling me you're an official follower who shows up in the Google Followers sidebar on my blog. That way it can be counted when I draw the name on Random Generator).

Before I close, just a quick sidenote about Victoria magazine: For all you tea lovers, Victoria is producing a tea special interest publication, and I'm writing some of the copy! In fact, that's what I'm doing today. The publication features several themed teas—including a sewing tea accented with several vintage sewing notions—as well as delectable recipes to accompany your teas. You won't want to miss it. What a perfect fit for a tea-loving quilter like me! 

If you haven't checked out my previous post on a new vintage sewing machine purchase, will you please stop by to take a look? I received a couple informative emails from blog readers but I'm still hoping to hear from someone who might know more about my particular machine model. Information on it seems sparse. Don't be shy! I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


While searching an antiques shop with my friend Merry, I found this vintage sewing machine painted a lovely soft blue. It came across as gray in my photo but it's actually blue. I put in an offer for it at the counter and decided if the dealer was willing to meet me halfway, I would buy it.

And here's the best part about the machine—It has a local connection! The label on it says "Younker's De Luxe". Well, Younker's happens to be a local department store here in the Des Moines area. That's what sealed my decision to put an offer on the machine.

In search of more information about the machine, I took it to my local Prairie Women's Sewing Circle group to see if any of the ladies might know anything about when it might have been made or even remember seeing it in the store. In the process, I discovered Younker's once had a fabric department (who knew?!) and that they did sell their own brand of machines. One of the ladies remembered seeing sewing machines there and estimated that this machine was made in the 1950s or 1960s. I wasn't able to find much about it on the internet but did run across one source that said the machines were made in the 1970s, though this machine doesn't scream 70s to me. If any of you know anything about these machines, would you please, please, please leave me a comment or email me by clicking the email button under my profile picture? I would LOVE to find out anything about the history of my machine. Wouldn't it be neat to see a photo of what the machines looked like in the store? We tested mine out at the shop and it appeared to run well. Plus, it came with its original manual, although ironically, it didn't include a copyright to give me any hint of when it was made. My other fun finds of the day were these vintage wooden bobbins. The price was right at just $1.25 each (the really big one, which is 8" tall, was $2). They'll make great bases for my handmade pincushions!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


There's something about this time of year that brings out my nesting instincts, and I like to feather my nest with the cozy charm of handmade autumnal pretties like this woolly squirrel and pumpkin penny rug. They sit on a tiered table in my green dining room.

The penny rug's sunflower-adorned pumpkins bring a smile to my face every time I see them!

Thankfully, autumn's arrival hasn't put a stop to our fish dinners. On the menu a couple nights ago was this grilled halibut, which I prepared on my stovetop grill. It was ready in a snap! I must confess that halibut is my all-time favorite fish. 

Soon we'll be preparing soup and pot roasts to warm our tummies. I just found this lovely blue-and-white damask crockpot that matches my yellow and blue kitchen perfectly! It will come in handy for preparing those hearty soups as well as a crockpot salmon casserole recipe I like to make. 

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful season and that you have a wonderful weekend. This morning I'm off to give a program on the history of pincushions to my local Prairie Women's Sewing Circle. It promises to be a fun morning!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


It is finally starting to look and feel like autumn here at Ashton House, where summer's sweltering days have thankfully been replaced by cool, crisp days and a splendid show of falling leaves. The Victorian hand decoration on our front door, which usually grasps a "Welcome Friends" sign, now holds a simple tussie mussie filled with autumn splendor.

While antiquing in Minneapolis last month, I spotted this rusty old little truck and put it in my cart. I got a strange look from my husband, who wondered why I'd want to buy such a thing. But I knew its wonderful weathered patina would make a great fall accent for our porch when paired with autumn's bountiful harvest of gourds.

I found the perfect-size gourds for my little truck at this pumpkin stand in Pella when my mother-in-law passed through there on a visit to my grandma's. The teeny ones are barely 2 inches tall. 

I love the friendly feel of small towns like Pella, where people still trust others to do the right thing. Another bonus? The gourds were a much better price than in larger towns like Des Moines! 

Saturday, October 12, 2013


With this summer's unseasonably hot temperatures and devastating drought, I was especially eager to greet fall this year. The only thing I'll miss about summer is all the wonderful fresh fish that my husband and I were able to enjoy, compliments of friends and family. My father-in-law is an avid fisherman who often catches 30 bluegill during a single fishing trip and occasionally a catfish or large-mouth bass. We are also blessed to enjoy fresh fish from one of my husband's coworkers, who caught some wonderful walleye during a trip to Canada. We had the last of it this evening. Instead of frying it like we usually do, I breaded it lightly, baked it, and served it with some plain quinoa (pictured in the last photo of this post) cooked in low-sodium chicken broth and broccoli.

Besides being a delicious treat, fresh fish has had another positive impact on my life. A recent trip to my doctor revealed that I've been able to lower my cholesterol 40 points from borderline high to well within ideal range in just three months—with NO medication of any kind and no other dietary changes or any exercise! The only change I made was adding fresh fish to my diet two times a week as much as possible—we don't always have it that often. My husband and his dad are planning a fishing trip up north this winter and hope to catch walleye, perch, and pike. I can't wait to see what they bring home! Fresh fish in the middle of winter would be a real treat.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I almost came home with a kitten this weekend! My husband and I were returning home from visiting my parents and going to flea market late Saturday afternoon when we stopped by the local garden center. We noticed the most adorable tiny black kitten (only about 8 inches tall) sitting on the counter, nestled among two other furry friends.

She had the sweetest temperament. It seemed like all the customers were just falling in love with her, as you can see in the photo below.

After all the attention she was getting, she was ready for a little cat nap. Knowing that the garden center often had litters of kittens who sometimes needed new homes, I asked the owner if they would consider giving this little girl a new home, and she said they would. So I told her I would go home and think it over a little. It was hard to leave without her. My only hesitation is that I already have two black cats, one being elderly, and I'm just not sure if this is the right time to introduce another furry friend into the family. As an adult, I've never had a female cat. We've always gotten boy cats since we'd heard they have such wonderful purrsonalities. We've been very happy with our boy cats. This little girl just melted my heart. If we didn't already have two kitties, I know she would have come home with us yesterday. I guess I will have to pray that I will make the right decision about whether to get her or not. 

I'm so glad we stopped by the garden center! While there, we noticed they'd gotten new fairy garden furniture and accents in! If you read my blog regularly, you might recall that my mom-in-law and I had taken a fairy garden class there earlier this year. Isn't this the cutest display? Since I have seem to have a pretty good radar for anything owl, I immediately noticed the cute feathered friends in the upper left of the photo below.

Now how could an owl lover like me resist getting a couple of these guys? Had to get the hedgehogs, too.

It was so hard to decide what to get but I finally decided on the fanciful gazebo, two chairs, a table, a little bridge, two owls, the hedgehogs, two matching blue pots, and two little pink mushrooms.

You can see what the little mushrooms look like when they're properly inserted into the fairy gardens in the photo below.

One of the things I really liked about the new furniture was its wonderful blue color—and the fact the gazebo even had a chandelier hanging from it!

Despite the rainy forecast, we decided to head over to the flea market bright and early Saturday morning as it was the last one of the season. We didn't find much there but did go home with a few treasures, including some metal planters of succulents. The dealers were in the mood to negotiate on prices, and my hubby was able to get a much lower price than the tag on this diverse planting in a vintage baking pan.

Speaking of fun plants, I saw the neatest plant while on a day trip Friday with my friend Merry. They looked like miniature pumpkins! I thought they were perhaps a tomato variety that just looked like mini pumpkins but it turns it out it was neither pumpkins nor tomatoes but an eggplant variety. Since they were only $5 a plant, I decided to get one and harvest the "mini pumpkins" for my autumn decor.

Merry and I both like to look at antiques so we spent most of our time perusing shelves of vintage wares and other fun items like this old sampler. The photo below shows a small portion of it.

This fun vintage print was on the back of a vintage quilt that I bought. How fitting that it shows a lady playing a piano—one of my favorite pastimes.

Saw these cute vintage towels embroidered in a fun owl design but didn't get them.

By the end of the day, Merry and I both found a treasure or two to bring home. I also found a Victorian autograph album, a few green buttons, and a vintage mottled pink-and-green Unde washer (below). Merry actually spotted the latter. I'd never heard of such a thing as an underwear washer but I decided to get it the price was right and it was in my favorite colors—green and pink (the photos don't show the true colors the best but the handle is pale shell pink and the rubber portion is also a lovely shade of pink combined with a leaf green). Plus, this unusual find will make a fun accessory for my laundry room, which is decorated in a 1930s vintage style. At first, its design resembled a toilet plunger to me but it's much smaller and shorter than that with a totally different design on the underside of the base.


Here's a vintage advertisement for an Unde washer. Evidently, they were used back in the 1930s. If you know anything about them, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me an email or leave a comment! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013


What a fun-filled day I had at the AQS Des Moines quilt show yesterday! Like last year, I attended the show with my friend Belinda and my hubby. If any of you fellow bloggers go to the show and want to meet up there next year, let me know and we'd love to have you join us! It was a fun chance to see friends like quilt designer Jill Shaulis of Yellow Creek Quilt Designs. I had the opportunity to work with Jill and her sister Vicki earlier this year on their first book with Kansas City Star Quilts. Their book, Kindred Spirits, was wonderfully displayed along with its many featured projects like these stunning framed beauties. If you want to buy a copy of their book, visit their shop site here.

I was so delighted to see that our Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine (which I edit) was also well represented at the show! Jill, who has designed projects for us in the past and has another coming up in the Spring 2014 issue, had the magazine displayed so nicely in her booth.

I also found some of our magazine projects displayed in the Little Red Hen booth. Kathi McGlothlen designed this charming crazy-quilted purse and small quilt for us.

Dawn of Sew Cherished also had our magazine displayed in her booth along with her autumn-inspired project, which appeared in our Fall 2013 issue.

Be sure to check out our inspiration-filled winter issue coming very soon to your mailboxes—or a newsstand—near you. It features 16 festive projects to deck your halls! More details on that in a future post. 

It was so nice see Becky and Pam of Millie's Quilt Shop again. If you read my blog regularly, you know I enjoy visiting their shop every time I visit the Twin Cities. They have a fabulous shop in nearby Anoka, Minnesota. You can read more about their shop in this previous post. Belinda and I both oohed and aahed over this fun pincushion that can be placed over the arm of a chair or sofa. The shop had it dressed in such spirited fabrics. They were also selling the fabric to make it. If you're interested in purchasing it, head over to their booth or contact Millie P's at 763/421-0367.

And how could an owl lover like me resist these darling owl buttons? Had to get them.

We also saw one of our favorite designers, Lisa Bongean, and one of our favorite bloggers and quilted jewelry makers, Julie Letvin, over in the Primitive Gatherings booth. Lisa had some of Julie's jewelry displayed in her booth and we were admiring her workmanship when she suddenly appeared. Talk about serendipity! All those good things we were saying about her must have drawn her to us somehow! There is always lots of eye candy in Lisa's booth. Did you know she has a new line of fabric, Floral Gatherings and Floral Gatherings Shirtings, coming out? I've been using them in a couple little quilts that I've been working on for the past few weeks. I really love the colors, especially the pinks and greens. As you know, I'm passionate about pink! According to Moda, the fabric will be available in quilt shops by next month but Lisa actually had some pre-cut bundles available for sale in her booth in case you can't wait till then.

The vendor area was a wool lover's (like me) dream. It seemed like there was more wool there than in past years. Jill, Dawn, Lisa, and Kathi all had wool for sale in their booth. I also love the wool dyed by The Woolen Needle of Williamsburg, IA. Bursting with a rainbow of colors, their wool stand was drawing quite a crowd of wool lovers.

It was hard to choose from all their luscious colors as I liked them all. I finally settled on 14 different shades.

As you can see, I found some wonderful wools (below). I brought along my handy Orla Kiely tote to hold all my quilt show finds. Of course, this photo shows only a small sampling of the wools that came home with me. I needed another bag to hold the rest of my finds, which Kathi of Little Red Hen kindly gave us.

As usual, we were awed by the quilting talent at the show. It was a treat to see this Blindman's Fancy quilt made by Colleen Henrichs. The actual pattern was featured in another quilt book that I edited—History Repeated by Betsy Chutchian and Carol Staehle.

I am a big fan of Anne Sutton's Bunny Hill Designs patterns. Julee Prose made her Chocolate Baltimore Bunnies design. I loved the pink and cream toile she incorporated into the quilt center. 

This quilt made by Ann Reed was another favorite of mine. Entitled "Miko Rules", it is an homage to a favorite neighborhood pup.

And what can I say about this masterpiece other than WOW!? "Kootenay Peony" is the work of Dawn Fox Cooper.

Just look at these exquisite ruched flowers.

The quilt show also featured an exhibit of some of the museum's miniature masterpieces but unfortunately photos were not allowed in that area. I was delighted to see fellow blogger and miniature quiltmaker extraordinaire Sheila Holland's work displayed there. Her miniature Mariner's Compass quilt was spectacular. After the show, we headed over to the local antique mall for a little more retail therapy. There, Belinda found a gigantic vintage wooden spool for a good price and I found this fun multiple-compartment piece for my mudroom--or sewing room (haven't decided just yet).

Also saw this neat vintage game with a neat owl litho on the box cover but didn't get it.

I won't bore you with any of our other loot. Just wanted to recap this fun-filled day for posterity as this blog also serves as a handy journal for recalling what I did and when! I'm looking forward to another fun-filled day tomorrow with my friend, Merry, as we head out on a day trip.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


In this final installment of the Quilted House Tour posts, I wanted to share a few more captivating scenes from Sally and Tom's beautiful Victorian home. I loved how quilts were displayed in every room, including the bathrooms. In the master bath, a striking strippy Flying Geese quilt took center stage.

Their vintage bathroom sink reminded me of one in the first home we lived in. Like Sally, we finished ours with a skirt. For ours, we did so to conceal cleaning supplies. Storage is always at a premium in old homes!

In an upstairs bathroom, this small redwork quilt evoked yesterday's charm.

A cozy feeling emanated from this bedroom enveloped in book-filled shelves. 

One of my favorite rooms was this cheerful sunroom partially lined in brick walls just off the kitchen. It overlooked the outdoor swimming pool and a beautiful pastoral view of the property.

Above the sofa, redwork panels were cleverly displayed in old window panes.

The house abounded with other fun decorating ideas like this old door frame outfitted with chicken wire that displayed vintage photos.

In the master bedroom, the hand-wrought charm of vintage linens enlightened an old wooden ladder.

I loved how Sally decorated her kitchen—right down to small details like these wooden totes filled with cooking staples and fresh produce.

Before I close the Quilted House tour, I wanted to share Tom's dream woodworking shop nestled in a renovated dairy barn on the property.

For the tour, the barn door greeted visitors with this delightful sheep quilt.

Outfitted with tons of amazingly crafted storage, the interior was truly a woodworker's dream! This is just one corner of the shop.

As you can see, the Quilted House Tour was the ultimate treat for this quilter. As we drove back down the winding gravel road past quilts hung on the fence, my husband and I marveled at the wonderful job that Becky and Lori had done in orchestrating this event as well as the spectacular location they selected for it. If you want to attend one of Eagle Creek Quilt Shop's future Quilted House Tours, held every September, be sure to keep an eye on their website for details. To avoid disappointment, it's always good to make your reservations early as the slots get filled up quickly. The response to this particular tour was so great that they couldn't accommodate all the requests. Thanks to Sally and Tom for their permission in sharing my photos of their home on my blog. Thanks also go to Becky and Lori. Most of the quilts featured in the home tour are from patterns that are carried in their shop.