Monday, December 30, 2013


Christmas 2013 was a good one here at Ashton House. My dad, who is recuperating from surgery at the hospital, was able to come for a few hours to celebrate the holiday with us. We were also able to see my Grandma and spend time with my in-laws. It is always a gift to see loved ones at such a special time of year. On my blog, I like to remember some of the holiday gifts I received, so if that's not your kind of thing, you might want to skip this post (I'll be back to regular programming in a couple days!). As usual, the hubby surprised me with some very thoughtful gifts, including this extra special one (pictured below). He commissioned artist Sara Pulver to paint a portrait of our two black kitties (Teddy and Poe) and ourselves. Sara sells her art on Etsy and is known for her quirky paintings, prints, and cards of animals. We are big fans of her work and love how she often cleverly interchanges the role of people and pets in her portraits. For example, in our painting, our cats are shown quilting and sipping tea with crumpets while we are downsized and curled up on a small rug near the fire. Can you see us?! What a special one-of-a-kind treasure this is!

Before I move on from the subject of kitties, I wanted to share the sweet little stocking that my friend Belinda made me. She made the hanger with some pretty cording. Belinda makes beautiful cording and seeing it always makes me recall the day that she taught me how to make it. It sure adds a wonderful touch to everything from stockings and ornaments to pincushions and beyond. I am always so touched when friends take the time to make something for me by hand. There's just nothing like a handmade gift, and I've been lucky to receive several beauties from Belinda over the years. 

On a funnier note, my husband also gave me a hairbrush in the color of Shrek! I had to ask him what that was all about. He said that on the internet it looked like my favorite shade of spring green and he had intended to brush my hair with it as a treat. So that solved the mystery of the garish-looking hairbrush! 

I've been wanting a pair of pink UGG boots for years. Well, my hubby surprised me with a pair of beribboned hot pink ones this Christmas. I was afraid I would never be able to find a pair of them as my feet are too small for any of the adult UGG sizes, but the hubby found a pair of kid-sized ones that fit perfectly! They couldn't have come at a better time as we just got a fresh layer of snow this morning! Speaking of pink and feet, the hubby also gave me a beautiful little pink glass decanter that holds soothing foot massage oil from the Ancient Ways shop here in Des Moines. It's nice because it doesn't make your feet slippery afterward!

A day colored with pink is always a good one, and today my friend Merry showered me with this generous box of pink goodness. I was so touched that she took the time to knit me this beautiful pair of socks in my favorite shade of pink and the cozy fingerless gloves. I was totally awestruck by her workmanship. Take a close look at those exquisite socks and gloves. Knitting is a mystery to me, so I really admire those who have mastered the art of it. The delightful cranberry and cream china is precious egg cup, and she found the piece of wonderful pink wool (bottom left) and rose quartz (top) for me while vacationing in South Dakota earlier this year. Merry loves to search for unique china pieces and has a keen eye for finding pretty and well-priced ones.

My friend Cinda gifted me these cute little journals as she knows I'm always jotting something down. With such fun graphics, their covers really inspire my creativity! I already have a few new ideas for wool portraits.

If you're a regular follower of my blog, you might know that I write magazine articles for Victoria magazine. What a wonderful resource I received in this thoughtful gift from my friend Anne. It's a DVD containing the complete set of Victoria magazines since its inception in 1987 to 2012! 

I received several gifts from employers, including the kind sisters (I call them the "prim sisters") behind Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine, who sent me this yummy gift set of gourmet pastas and pasta sauces. My hubby is looking forward to enjoying a nice pasta dinner!

I promise not to bore you with all my gifts but must share one last one—this captivating green milk glass nesting hen. I've collected nesting hens for more than 15 years and like to decorate my kitchen with them. This beauty measures 8 inches from beak to tip of tail and 7 1/2" tall.

In years to come it will be fun to look back on previous posts like this one to see all the fun gifts I've received over the years. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I'll see you in 2014! That sounds so far away but it's only a couple days away!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Well, I finally got my internet back—just in time to wish all my fellow blogging friends the merriest of Christmases! I will be back later this week after all the festivities. Despite a serious lapse in internet service yesterday, I was able to get the Spring 2014 edition of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine to the printer on time, so I'm a much happier camper now than I was yesterday! I will be sure to post more about it very soon. All of us here at Ashton House are looking forward to spending the special day with loved ones. It will be another white Christmas here in Iowa!

Monday, December 23, 2013


I'm in need of a little Christmas cheer about now as I'm not feeling so merry. Our internet went down at 8 p.m. last night in the middle of a critical work deadline and we've been told it might be 24+ hours before we're back up and running. If you live in a small town like we do and have CenturyLink service, internet just isn't very reliable. I can't recommend CenturyLink for that reason. This is the fourth time in a year that our internet has been down for more than 15 hours and that's bad news for someone like me who relies on internet for business purposes. Luckily, we were able to set up my Mac elsewhere bright and early this morning so I could make my noon work deadline! And as I wait for the designer to get some layouts back to me for review, I thought I'd share a few festive holiday images from a wonderful local shop named Hinge, which was has been decked out in holiday finery since Thanksgiving. The owner has a knack for dazzling displays like these santas on a miniature spiral staircase.

I've got a weakness for lanterns, and this one looks so magical in silver. It seemed to have a Turkish flair. 

Doesn't this little glittered house cozy? I was tempted to get it but decided on a pink Santa instead. I am a pink kind of girl, after all. 

I hope your day is off to a better start than mine! If I'm unable to get back online before the holidays, I hope you and your family have a wonderful one!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Victoria magazine's special interest publication, Tea Pleasures, will soon be on newsstands (This is not part of Victoria's regular subscription, so you have to get it separately). I was delighted to write copy for eight of the sections. Each of the sections highlights a different tea theme.

There is even a sewing theme to inspire lovers of needle and thread to get together with kindred spirits in a nostalgic setting accented with antique sewing accessories. As you might imagine, that was my favorite section to write!

In the spirit of giving, I'm giving away one copy of this magazine. The first person who would like a copy and emails me by clicking the Email Me button under my profile pic will get a copy!  For those who might not be able to get this magazine, I will have a few copies for sale for $7.99 plus shipping. 

The mag has been claimed! Thank you!

Monday, December 16, 2013


Back in 2011, I posted about Tabitha the treadle, a beautiful antique New Home treadle sewing machine I received as an anniversary gift. Well, Tabitha is back in the spotlight today on the Janome website. A couple months ago, Janome contacted me, asking if I would be willing to share Tabitha's photo and story on their blog as part of their spotlight on heritage sewing machines (Janome merged with New Home back in 1960). If you're interested in checking out the post, just click on this link.

Can you believe Christmas is nearly here? It seems like just yesterday it was so far away. With work deadlines piling up, I find myself far behind on the usual holiday activities like baking and Christmas card writing. I did take a little break from work this afternoon to make peanut clusters for my husband's work team. Those of you who are regular blog readers probably know that I prefer softer clusters that won't break your teeth. I'm also a bit odd in that I like fewer peanuts than normal in my clusters. Many years ago, I got a great recipe that makes soft, creamy clusters from a family friend. We've been making them ever since!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week. I again hosted the annual gathering at my house. We were blessed to have Grandma join us once again! She made homemade rolls for our dinner and afterward, made sandwiches with them and the leftover turkey. She very much believes in keeping her hands busy! As a thank you for the rolls, I sent her home with a few new African violet babies, which she gladly accepted.

My mom usually makes the cranberry relish, which I've pictured on my blog before (see an old photo of it below). We always serve it  in my Martha Stewart green milk glass turkey dish. This year, Mom wasn't able to make it since she was busy taking care of my dad, who recently had surgery and is back in the hospital, following a second surgery in less than a month. So my mother-in-law graciously took over the relish-making duties and did a wonderful job I might add! It's one of my favorite foods. If I were to have a last dinner, it would consist of this, freshly-baked fish, and morel mushrooms! 

This Thanksgiving I received a surprise special gift from my mother-in-law's sister, Aunt Vonnie, of all people. She made this felt advent calendar for us. She enclosed a nice note telling me that she's enjoyed making these calendars for several years. 

As you can see, a lot of time and love went into making each and every one of the little ornaments. I was tickled to receive such a thoughtful gift. What could be more heartfelt than a handmade gift? 

I can't believe another week is nearly at an end. This week, I've been writing another Quilt Sampler article, editing a new KC Star quilt book, and working hard on the spring 2014 issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazineThe spring issue is always due out just before Christmas, so it makes an already busy holiday season even busier! As usual, we have an awesome mix of projects for our dear readers—quilts, of course, plus hooked rugs, pillows, a pincushion, two punchneedle projects, and some of my wool portraits! Well, it's about dinner time here as I wrap up writing this post, so I'm off to get a salmon patty dinner ready for the hubby and me. Have a good evening! I plan to catch the live TV performance of The Sound of Music tonight.