Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Those of you who regularly read my blog may know that we've been searching for a friend for our tuxedo kitty, Figgy, who we adopted this past February. About a month ago, we found the sweetest little friend for him—a Blue Russian mix kitten who is as soft as velvet! We named him Winston Finch (Winnie for short). Here he is with big brother Figgy. He looks larger in the photo than he really is since he is in the foreground. He was four months old here and just four pounds.

The best thing is that Figgy adores Winnie and after just a couple days, they were cuddle buds. Here they they are hugging each other on the cat bed, which just happens to be next to a heating register. They love the extra heat! Who can blame them living in a drafty old Victorian house?!

Ever curious like typical cats, they both love to watch my husband and I work in the garden. I took this photo through the kitchen window so it looks a little grainy but you can still see a couple cute cat faces.

Winnie is affectionate and braver and more gregarious than Figgy. Case in point is that he went right down to the basement the first day he arrived while Figgy has yet to step foot in the basement willingly. Winnie has really done so much to bring Figgy out of his shell in the brief time he has been here. Sometimes, he's a bit too brave—like when he decided to climb our new pink Christmas tree. Look closely at the below photo and you'll see something that does not belong. It brought back memories when I was looking at our Christmas tree many years ago and saw our black kitty Poe peering right back out at me.

My husband and I finished decking the house out for Christmas over the weekend and found more ornaments for the tree. Part of the fun of trimming the tree is rediscovering the wonderful ornaments we've collected over the years and the memories that are associated with them. We found this vintage-style ornament on a trip to Minneapolis.

We just found this charming tree topper at Hobby Lobby of all places. It looks just like the old German ones and its hues were perfect for my tree.

As darkness fell, we illuminated the tree and admired our "hard" work.

You might have detected a bit of a color theme going on here at Ashton House with pink being the focal point. Even my pink Featherweight gets in on the decorating action with a small but cheerful holiday accent. Nothing perks me up like a primitive snow lady—in pink no less!

We changed out the dining table centerpiece with a holiday-themed one. In keeping with my pink theme, I bought pink pillar candles to go with the silver rings of holly leaves and berries. Because the colors are not overly Christmasey, I think I will be able to keep these out through the winter until Valentine's Day! I will share the centerpiece of the arrangement in a future post.

And just when I said there was a color theme going on, we do break it here and there. This little red shelf gets populated by bottlebrush trees and snowmen in traditional holiday colors come December. There's even a little sheep tucked in there! Can you spot him?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I am lucky to live near the Iowa Quilt Museum, which opened earlier this year in Winterset, Iowa—home to the famous bridges of Madison County. I had recently had a free Friday afternoon and decided to pop over for a visit. What a treat it was to catch their star quilt exhibit, “Stargazing: American Star Quilts" which features more than 30 antique and contemporary star-studded quilts. My friend and antique collector Virginia Berger curated this amazing exhibit and she has played an instrumental role in getting the museum up and running. Won't you step inside this charming building with me to take a peek at the quilts?

Set amidst the nostalgic charm of an 1886 building that was originally a hardware store, it's quite a sight with the original tin ceiling, museum-quality light fixtures and beautifully refinished floors. Several antique items native to Madison County—such as treadle sewing machines, display cases from historic local merchants and a four-poster bed from the local historical society— accent the interior.

The quilt to the very left of the previous photo and below was made by Liz Porter of Fons and Porter. Inspired by 19th-century star quilts, she used 1800s reproduction prints from her stash to create this beauty.  

I loved the way the walls were arranged to spotlight the quilts on display. I was especially charmed by the pink quilt in the below photo. According to its accompany info, it is called Broken Stars and was made 1930. Virginia assembled lots of intriguing info on the history of the patterns and some of the featured quilts were loaned by her. I had as much fun reading her information as I did looking at the quilts!

On the second floor, we were able to catch a bed turning of more lovely star quilts like this pretty green one. I'm afraid I did not catch the details on it but it was certainly a treat to see it.

The second floor even included an enchanting display of toy sewing machines! Don't they just make you smile?

To get a closer look at the quilts featured in this post plus many more, be sure to plan a visit to the Iowa Quilt Museum by January 24, 2017, when the exhibit closes. I hope this post will encourage you to go. I really feel so fortunate to have such a quilting treasure trove so close by! The museum is located at 68 E. Court Ave. in Winterset, Iowa and admission is $6 for adults or an annual pass for $20. For more details on the museum, visit iowaquiltmuseum.org.

I thought I'd close this post with a couple star-theme photos from my own photo archives. The below shot is a snippet of my antique LeMoyne Star quilt, which is predominantly the same green you see in the photo. Because I believe in using the quilts I have, I drape this one over the pink sofa in my parlor. It makes a nice nesting spot for my kitties!

And here is a little star pincushion I designed for the Moda Bake Shop several years back. It is inspired by an antique one I picked up in Lexington, Kentucky 15 years ago that had what looked like little fluffy balls attached to each star point. 

I'm curious to know if any of you who read this blog have made star quilts or are lucky to have found an antique one. Whether old or new, they certainly make cozy accents for our homes!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Those who know me well know that there's no color I adore more than the cheerful hue of pink. It puts a spring in my step like no other color. So when I spotted an enchanting pink Christmas tree in a magazine while perusing the magazines in a book store earlier this year, I decided to deviate from our usual green Christmas tree this year. Best yet, the tree happened to be on sale when I ordered so we got it for 40 percent off!

One of our favorite night-before-Thanksgiving traditions is dressing the tree in our collection of Victorian-style ornaments. That way, our Thanksgiving guests can enjoy the fully embellished tree come morning. 

The tree came pre-lit in matching pink lights. So as night falls, we illuminate it in all its glory. This photo doesn't do the tree justice. I'm just tickled to be able to enjoy a pink Christmas tree, which I plan to keep up through Valentines Day. After the holiday, I'll switch out the ornaments with Valentine-themed and romantic ones. Hope you are all getting in the holiday spirit like I am!

Monday, September 26, 2016


It's a sweet start to the work week here at Ashton House. I couldn't seem to stay asleep last night so I got up at 4:00 a.m. and made some 50-calorie, healthier brownies (can't say it's healthy as what brownie is?!) for my husband to take to work today. They do not contain any flour, butter, oil or refined sugar (except for the pink sprinkles, of course!). Those of you who read my blog regularly know that my sweets-loving husband was pre-diabetic so I am always looking for low- or no-sugar delights to try. That way, he can still indulge without developing diabetes.

Instead of the typical powdered sugar, butter and milk mixture, the frosting is made with a low-sodium, soft cheese called quark that has a smooth, creamy texture that lends itself well to frosting. I'd heard that this is a nice alternative to traditional frosting for both people like my husband who want a no-sugar option and like me who have to be on a low-sodium diet due to my kidneys. I do flavor it with natural sweetener.

In other news, it has been a productive last few weeks here at Ashton House. We wrapped up production on the winter issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine, which I edit. Gracing the cover is our stunning wool sampler by Blackberry Primitives. This issue, which goes on newsstands in mid October, features part 2 of the 3-part series.

I also write regularly for Quilt Sampler magazine. The Fall/Winter issue is out and you can find one of my articles in it.

I got to write about Merry's Stitchins, an inviting quilt shop right here in Iowa! Owner Merry Backes started the shop in a room in her house and expanded over the years before building a 4,000 spacious square-foot building across from her driveway. Hers is truly a homegrown success story!

It is always a treat to write for this gorgeous bookazine, Country French, and I have an article in the latest issue.

If you happen to see it on newsstands, my article is titled "Everyday Escape", so named for the homeowners' idyllic surroundings both indoors and out. 

A few of you emailed me asking how my organizing efforts were going. Although I got sidetracked by a few big work deadlines the past couple weeks, I am back at it and found a couple more books to part with. If you're interested, I would sell the Pennsylvania Patchwork Pillowcases book for $15 plus $5 shipping (SOLD) and the Quilts and Coverlets: The Beamish Collection for $20 plus $5 shipping (SOLD).


I am also parting with these new cross stitch supplies from Sudberry House—a candle screen, small carriage clock, Shaker boxes, and Nantucket lightship basket cushions. I would sell any for half the regular price. If you want more detailed information and pics, just email me by clicking the "Email Me" button in my blog sidebar. I wasn't sure how many readers are cross stitchers so I didn't want to clutter up the post with too many photos. The large Shaker box is $90 (SOLD!), the small Shaker box is $50, the carriage clock is $17, the candle screen is $25  (SOLD!) and the Lightship basket cushions are $5. The dark brown square box ($15) in the top photo is actually set inside a larger whitewash oak box (SOLD!) pictured in the bottom photo.