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.