Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Can it be that time of year already to wish you a merry Christmas?! As usual, I'm scrambling to get things done right up until the last minute. I didn't even get my holiday cards sent out in time. I might just have to start a tradition of sending them out AFTER the holidays.

We won't get our wish for a white Christmas this year but here's a past snowy snapshot of our home to satisfy our dreams for a white Christmas.

We celebrated Christmas with my hubby's parents last night. They took us out to eat at our favorite seafood restaurant where we feasted on coconut shrimp and grilled halibut. Afterward, we went back to their house to open presents. Here I am trying to unwrap one. For some reason, it takes me twice as long to open gifts as everyone else.


Ever since my mom-in-law went to Germany several years ago and brought back handcrafted wooden smokers (wooden figurines similar in style to nutcrackers), we've had a tradition of gifting them a smoker. Here is dad admiring this year's chef smoker.

We gave mom a vintage classroom songbook for her piano. Here she is flipping through the pages. We had a good laugh listening to some of the funny lyrics from the songs.

And here are a few favorite holiday gifts I received this year. I've always purchased Rowenta irons and have been very happy with their performance but when this pink Oliso iron came out for Breast Cancer Awareness month, it went on my wish list! Lucky for me, a kind elf got it for me.

I fell in love with this mirrored headband of posies and leaves the moment I saw it. Hubby was kind enough to get it for me. 

And last but not least, I received this fun pair of English wellies. One can never have too many wellies in my opinion. And here's a quick little side note about boots: If you wear size 5 or 6 shoes, did you know that you can often get the same patterned boots in the kids section for a cheaper price? That's what I've often done with boots like Joules and UGGs. If you wear a size 6 adult shoe, you can get a kids size 4 (The boots shown in the photo below are a Joules kids size 4. They are very comfortable with room to spare in the foot area).

With that, I will bid you adieu until after Christmas. All of us at Ashton House wish you and your family the merriest of Christmases! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014


It was lovely to hear from all of you fellow tea lovers in my last post! I heard from so many new folks in addition to old blogging friends. What a delight it was to read your kind notes. Thank you for taking the time to write me. As promised, I drew a name via random number generator and the winner is....

Susan of The Victorian Girl

Congratulations, Susan! Please email me at the email button in my right-hand sidebar and I will get your complimentary copy in the mail this coming week. For those who did not win, please don't be discouraged. I try to have a giveaway on my blog as often as I can, so there will be other chances to win goodies!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


                                       THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED!

Has it really been a month since I last posted? I honestly don't know where the time goes. In the days since I last posted, I've been up to some fun and not-so-fun things. One of the fun things is Kim Diehl's Simple Whatnots Club at my local quilt shop, The Quilt Block. This is the next little quilted treasure we'll be making! Mary, the quilt shop owner, sells kits to members who wish to purchase one. This one is very reasonable at just $11.95. I don't have a lot of Kim Diehl fabric, so I've been purchasing all the kits.

At our most recent meeting, the group's facilitator, Marge, shared some of her antique and vintage quilt blocks with us. We talked about how blocks are often known by various names.

This fun club is a very good value as we get a quilt history lesson from Marge complete with fabric swatches, plus a fun bonus project. At the latest meeting, our bonus project was ribbon candy ornaments made with ribbon instead of candy. We were also treated to tea, cider, and goodies like these colorful spritz cookies. 

After the meeting, we like to browse the shop to see what's new. I spotted this fun new pink Bernette sewing machine. Isn't it cute? I still have my trusty Bernina that I purchased from the shop 14 years ago. 

In the not-so-fun category is venturing up to Minneapolis in search of some fall and winter clothes (Although the trip had a fun component since we also went for an African violet show!). Searching for clothes was quite an odyssey since it is not my favorite thing to do but our search was surprisingly successful. My hubby promised we could go to my preferred destinations such as antiques stores and quilt shops IF we found at least four pieces of clothing for me first. We decided that the Mall of America would be the most efficient use of our time since it has so many shops in one place. I came prepared with a list of all the shops I wanted to visit so I could get out of there as fast as I could. One of the shops beckoned with a window of pink goodness. It can be difficult to find age-appropriate wear at this particular store, but a friend who likes fashion had told me that they now have a line for women of my age, so I decided to check it out. I'm glad I did as I found several fun pink tops—several of them furry—to try on (Seems that faux fur must be in right now. I personally would never wear real fur). I also found a nice pink faux fur vest at Nordstrom. The salespeople at Nordstrom were very knowledgeable and advised going on the smaller, tighter side for vests if you are petite like me. Otherwise you end up looking like what my husband refers to as a Yeti (aka Abominable Snowman)! And you know, what?! He's actually right. I won't bother posting pic of me as a Yeti.

My new pink purchases coordinate with that new pink rubber purse (pictured below) that I bought back in October. Speaking of that purse, it certainly garnered lots of attention during my trip, much more so than here in the Des Moines area for some reason. Several people, including a couple men, actually asked if they could touch it. I thought it was rather amusing!

Despite all the pink goodies, my favorite purchase was this adorable kitty sweater that reminds me of my dear cat, Teddy, who passed away in April. I think of him every time I wear it. I also bought the coordinating compact. How could this cat and pink lover resist?! I noticed a lot of the clothes ran large so I sized down for this particular sweater. 

After finding my necessary four items of clothing as dictated by my hubby, it was on to a fun section of town dotted with unique boutiques and antiques shops. Among them are larger chains like Anthropologie. I love Anthropologie, so I decided to see what was new. As usual, they had the neatest kitchen accessories displayed on vintage pieces.

Had to indulge in this pretty muffin pan. It's almost too pretty to use!

One of my weaknesses is Penguin Classics books because they have such fun covers. These went home with me.

One thing on my clothes wish list was mustard corduroy pants. Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved corduroy pants. Well, it so happened Anthropologie had the perfect mustard corduroy pants! And the staff there was so helpful in finding the right size for me and suggesting some other items that would look good on me. It's a rather amusing story because in the process of trying on pants, I discovered I have apparently been wearing my pants too baggy. Am I the only one who likes my pants on the larger size for comfort? I will often buy a size bigger in pants and tops (like this sweater) just for comfort. Well, the girl who was helping me try on the pants kept insisting I try one size down until I landed at this pair, which she says fit correctly. I must admit they were quite comfortable throughout or I wouldn't have purchased them. Unfortunately, they didn't carry the petite versions in the store, so I'll have to hem it but that's easy enough. If you are interested in their corduroys, I think they run large as I ended up with a pair two sizes below my normal size. 

Last but not least, I've been rediscovering the joy of writing. Losing Teddy earlier this year convinced me that I need to take more time to do the things I truly love with the time I have on this earth, so I decided to reduce my editing workload to allow more time for my first love of writing. One of my articles recently came out in Victoria magazine's special tea publication, Tea Pleasures. Would you like a copy? I will be giving away one. For a chance to win it, just leave a comment mentioning you want to enter in the comments section of this post. I will drawer a winner this Saturday at noon central time.

For my assignment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charleen McCain, owner of Simply Scrumptious Tea Room and Emporium in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Charleen was a delight to work with and even sent me her tea room's lovely cookbook filled with many of the recipes featured in the team room. You can order your own copy by clicking here.

I hope life has been treating all of you well and that you are finding time to enjoy the holiday season. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Fall usually flies by so quickly I barely know it's there. So this year, I'm trying to take the time to savor this beautiful season. That means stopping to notice the small things like these lovely freshly-fallen leaves on my driveway.

Having been ill for nearly two months this past summer reminded me that health is truly is our most precious gift. I count my blessings that mine was fully restored. Earlier this month I celebrated my recovery with a visit to the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market, where I was delighted to happen upon this colorful display of gourds galore.

I picked out the wartiest pumpkin I could find to bring home and put on my little green stand.

Fall flourishes can also be found indoors, where I display my festive lighted Halloween house on the piano.

Fall also means it's time for Houston's International Quilt Festival, which runs October 30–November 2. If you're lucky enough to go, please stop by Millie P's booth to see all the quilting eye candy and check out my latest pattern, Florabunda (pictured below). I hadn't been planning to complete it in time for the Festival but finished it just in time for Becky, the shop owner, to take it with her. So she will be the only carrying it at IQF. I hope you'll stop by her booth to see all the wonderful things she has in store for you. And if you're in the Anoka, MN, area, be sure to stop her colorful shop! It's definitely worth the drive. 

The only thing I don't like about fall this year is that I have to do some clothes shopping as I was left with only a couple fall/winter tops that fit after my illness. So until I can fit back into those, I need a few things to make do on. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I abhor clothes shopping. Last week, my hubby had to practically drag me to a store where he was hoping I could find some fall clothes but what did I do instead? We spent the entire evening in the shoe department. While I hate clothes shopping, I do LOVE looking at shoes and bags. I've been searching for a nice set of wellies to wear rain or shine. When I spotted these blue floral English ones, I knew I had to try them on. Sorry the shot is not so good. I did not have my camera along, so hubby had to take it with his crummy work phone.

I had so much fun trying these on! It seems these were meant to be mine as they even had one left in size 5, which fit me perfectly. 

Not only did they go home with me but also a pair of cute pink and cognac duck boots and these adorable gray rain boots, pictured below. The gray boots are also available as small as a size 5, which again fit perfectly. I spent the sunny weekend wearing these everywhere. No need to wait for a rainy day—they look just as cute on anyone in the sunshine!

My hubby was a good sport for taking me out and not coming home with a single item of clothing but three pairs of boots instead! I'd gladly pay someone to shop for my clothes so I don't have to. I even tried a personal styling/shopping online service. You give them your measurements and likes/dislikes and for a nominal styling fee, they send you a selection of clothes to try in the comfort of your home. You can send anything back you don't like free of charge. I tend to go for pretty simple fare like these turquoise cropped pants and cozy gray flannel skirt, which I did decide to keep since they fit well.

This past summer, I was looking for a dress for a special occasion and they sent me this cute black one, which much to my surprise, fit me perfectly. Best yet, it was only $35 but I would have gladly spent more on it just not to have to look for it myself!

I could get used to this service but I'd still rather spend my money on shoes and bags—or fabric—any day!

Sunday, October 19, 2014


As promised, it's time to draw two winners for my quilt book giveaway. Let me first tell you how much I enjoyed reading all your comments about your favorite autumn joys. I share many of them and am glad to live in a state where I can at least enjoy part of this fleeting season. I also enjoyed reading about your many projects. I must live vicariously through you as I rarely get into my sewing room these days with so many work deadlines encroaching but I'm hoping that will improve as I make my work schedule more manageable. As always, I wish I had a book to give to every single one of you who commented. Don't be disheartened if you didn't win as there will be more giveaways on my blog. Without further adieu, let me congratulate the following winners:

The first winner via Random Number Generator is The Civil War Quilter, who wrote:

I'm a follower. I forgot to mention what I'm working on in my first comment. I'm putting my queen-size "Civil War Generals" quilt in the frame this weekend for my hand-quilting project this fall and winter.

She will receive Betsy Chutchian's new book, Just Treats, No Tricks

The second winner via Random Number Generator is SLM, who wrote:

Autumn .... I love this season so much. The air seems to crackle with energy, and the smell of wood smoke lingers throughout the air. Pumpkins, corn stalks, tree leaves turning beautiful colors, mums, soups, stew, and chili. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, apple cider, hay rides, and oh so much to enjoy. Sweet Halloween decor is fun too. I am working on a quilt pillow for my grand-daughter.

She will receive Dawn Heese's new book, Autumn Splendor

Just a reminder to both winners to email me your mailing addresses by this Monday at noon central time so that your books can be on their way to you! I will be shipping them out later this week. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014


It's a wonderful time of year to hold a giveaway for two quilt books that celebrate the splendor of this season! They're also very near and dear to my heart as I had the pleasure of editing them! There will be two winners of this giveaway—one will receive a copy of Dawn Heese's latest title, Autumn Splendor, and one will receive a copy of Betsy Chutchian's latest book, Just Treats, No Tricks. So sit back and take this sneak peak at these two hot-off-the-press titles, then read the details on how to enter this giveaway.

With her signature flair for folk art style and appliqué, Dawn has created seven fall-fresh designs to celebrate this gorgeous season! Appropriately named Autumn Splendor: Folk Art Quilts and Projects, her latest book is filled with lots of eye candy to put you in a fall mood.

Her stunning feature quilt abounds with vases and a cornucopia overflowering with Mother Nature's bounty. All the location photography took place at Dawn's idyllic property in the country. The photographer even managed to capture one of Dawn's furry friends in the cover shot, above. Talk about a terrific photo op!

Here are the other spectacular designs you'll find in Dawn's book. You can read more about them or order a copy of her book at the Kansas City Star Quilts website by clicking here.

The other fun fall book I had the pleasure of working on this past summer is Betsy Chutchian's latest must-read, Just Treats, No Tricks: Bewitching Quilts and More to Celebrate Autumn. Like me, Betsy is a big fan of that festive fall holiday of Halloween. But it's worth noting that this book has much more in store for you than just Halloween-themed projects. It also features LOTS of fall projects to warm your home this season or year-round.

A colorful patch of pumpkins, a fanciful bat make-do pincushions, and cozy quilts in earthy tones cast a bewitching spell in this celebration of autumn joys. 

To find out more about this creative concoction of quilts and more or to order a copy of this book, check out the Kansas City Star Quilts website by clicking here.

Here are the details on how to enter my giveaway. Simply leave a comment on this post telling me what you love most about fall and what quilt or sewing project you're working on now. This giveaway ends on Sunday at noon central time (October 19). I'll draw random winners and announce them Sunday evening. The winners will then have until this coming Monday at 6 p.m. central time (October 20) to contact me with their mailing address. I ask for them to contact me because some who enter end up being non-comment bloggers, which means your email comes through with no corresponding email address to reply to. If I don't hear from the winners by Monday, a new winner(s) will be drawn. Books will go out to the winners next week! As usual, you do NOT have to be an official Google/Blogger follower to enter but I would like to thank those of you who are for your support by giving you an additional entry. In order to get the extra entry, you need to post a SEPARATE comment since I'll be drawing names via Random Generator.  
Good luck and happy fall to all!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


It hardly seems possible that October is here already. This month's arrival signifies a favorite fall tradition as we visit our last big flea market of the year. It's located near my family's home, so we usually take my mom to the annual AAUW (American Association of University Women) book sale at the nearby mall the same day. It was there that I happened upon my most exciting find of the day—a beautifully bound book of 19th-century ladies magazines. A year's worth of them!

It so happens that I collect these vestiges of the past, so I was thrilled to find it and especially at the bargain price of a $1. These beauties are filled with treasures, including hand-colored portraits of 19th-century ladies in their fanciest frocks.

Charming illustrations of storybook dwellings...

The latest fashions of the day and much more...

I have several volumes of these wonderful magazines, and as you can imagine, they provide endless hours of inspiration. I saw many fun things at the flea market as well but most—like this 19th century wool portrait—were too pricey for my pocketbook. We have two of these wonderfully woolly portraits in our Victorian home. They're a fitting accent for a wool lover like me.

I pondered this handmade chest of drawers made from old cigar boxes (another collectible of mine) but it was out of my price range. I love the charming graphics that you can find on many of these vintage repositories. This might be an idea I'll have to keep in mind for future reference. I think my hubby could make something similar with some of my old cigar boxes.

This box of vintage Christmas baubles caught my eye. I like to decorate my wire tree with ornaments of this vintage.

So what did I go home with? Not much but I did find these fun vintage wooden spools. They were a larger size (at 3 inches tall) that will work well for some of my pincushion designs, and their price was right at $5 for 30 spools.

Before we knew it, the day was drawing short and it was time to head home. On the way home, we stopped by to visit Grandma, who as usual, had some homegrown goodies to send home with us. Just look at this lovely acorn squash, sweet potatoes, and onions that she gave us! I took this photo of them in my kitchen. The vintage scale matches the blue of my kitchen walls. 

Grandma also gave us some regular potatoes, which I threw into the slow cooker with the pork roast that I'm fixing for tonight's dinner. 

I also found some cute small Parisian potatoes at the local food mart, so I threw those in, too. I usually cook my roast in chicken broth but it's been a challenge to find a broth that's low enough in sodium for me. Because of my kidney condition, I had to severely reduce my sodium intake. That was very difficult as I LOVED salt. Most of the reduced-sodium chicken broths are still very high in salt. For example, the Swanson's reduced-sodium broth has 570 mgs of it or 24% of your daily allowance. I finally found an organic low-sodium chicken broth with only 70 mgs of salt or 3% of your daily allowance. If any of you have found one lower than that, please let me know. I sure love the ease of pot roasts, and they're so yummy on these crisp fall days! Nice to know that dinner is taken care of! So it's back to work for now. There are magazine articles to write and quilt projects to edit!