Thursday, March 24, 2016

WHAT A HOOT

Not much exciting happening here at Ashton House today so I thought I'd share one of the pincushions in my collection. Dressed in bright blue and purple, this little owl makes quite a statement on my pincushion shelf. I know his colors are pretty wacky but he was made in the 1960s, after all.


Turn him around and you realize he's also a handy tape measure. Curious to know if any of you who lived through the 1960s might have remembered a pincushion like this? Seems like a lot of these novelty examples were made in Japan. They certainly had a knack for quirky designs!


In other sewing-related news, I spent Sunday afternoon at The Quilt Block for our monthly Kim Diehl Simple Whatnots quilt club and got inspired by this show-and-tell quilt from one of the members. Don't you love the colors she used? I should have asked for the name of the pattern!


Back at home, we're still busy preparing for new carpet this spring. We have all the old carpet torn up and hope to get either carpet or hardwood installed by May. We're still checking out other carpet options like this beauty, which unfortunately turned out to be out of our budget. Figgy liked it, too!


We soothed our dampened spirits with some homemade sour cream peach pie. My mom has been making this quick and easy pie for years. It's a little lighter than traditional peach pie because it doesn't have the top crust. Instead, the top is layered with a creamy mixture of sour cream, flour, and other goodness. Luckily, it doesn't use very much flour and I substituted the regular white flour with whole-wheat flour, which my friend Anne says has more fiber. It makes the topping darker, so it's not quite as pretty. I also halved the amount of sugar and used lite sour cream and canned peaches packed in water versus syrup. The topping is then sprinkled with a hearty helping of cinnamon. The verdict? My husband could not tell any difference taste wise. He liked it so much that only three pieces of the original eight remained in the pan this morning! 


Thursday, March 17, 2016

SPRING FEVER

Signs of the coming spring are popping up all around Ashton House as I see signs of life in my garden. This latest issue of Best of Country Gardens magazine, on newsstands only now, also gets me in a spring mood. A couple weeks ago, I found out my African violets made the cover. The miniature violets are staged in my collection of demitasses and tiny tea cups. Inside is an article that I wrote on these pretties. As always, I am happy to provide anyone who contacts me with a brochure on how to grow these enchanting houseplants.


This afternoon finds me preparing my program on Victorian sewing trade cards for my P.E.O group. I enjoy bringing out all these treasures from yesteryear, then choosing which ones to present in my slideshow. I prefer that format since they are a little hard to see otherwise given their size. I hope the ladies will enjoy the slideshow.


I also did a little organizing in my impromptu sewing nook in one of the parlors. I change out the vintage dresses on the antique dressforms with each season. I only purchase dresses that I can actually wear. To me, they are like works of art, so the dressforms are the perfect way to display a couple of them when they're not in use. The brown and pink one on the left is one of my favorites. Maybe it's because that is one of my favorite color combos.


Little Figgy (Figaro) thought he needed to help with the organizing!


When Figgy gets tired like after "helping" me with a task, he retreats to his little chair. This is a shot of him from last month. I can't imagine being comfy in this position but he was sound asleep.


Enjoy St. Paddy's day, my friends! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING

I'm excited to tell you about my latest quilt book editing project, which will be published in May! If you love wool and 1800s reproduction fabrics, you'll want to check it out! Simple Blessings in Patchwork: 13 Traditional Projects with a Twist brings fresh inspiration from the talented sister duo known as Yellow Creek Quilt Designs. Jill and Vicki's designs both grace the cover. I will share more details as I can but wanted to let you know you can pre-order the book on the C&T Publishing website at this link.


Thanks to all who so warmly welcomed my new kitty Figgy who I introduced in my last post. It took him a little while to navigate our stairs to find this favorite hangout on my cedar chest. The vet said he's about a month behind physically but mentally he is quite sharp.


He is fast becoming a spoiled kitty. This surprise package of kitty toys and treats arrived just last week from fellow cat-loving friend, Merry. How sweet is that?! We were so touched by her kindness. The box even came addressed to Figgy! Needless to say, Figgy didn't wait to let me take the toys out of the box. He helped himself to them!




All the toys were quite imaginative and ones I'd never seen before. The cute cat face in the photo above is a laser toy. Figgy especially loved this green toy (I call it a cat dog!). I couldn't get a good photo of him with it because he was moving so fast as he both hugged and kicked it.


I feel a little sorry for Figgy as he's living in a bit of a state of chaos as we pull up our carpet in preparation for new later this spring. It was quite a feat to move all the furniture out of our dining room. Those of you have seen photos of it before will know why! Here's what was under that old carpet. A friend suggested we consider painting the hardwood. Hadn't thought of that. 


I'm sorry to digress from the title of my blog post! I seem to be having trouble focusing this week! This past weekend we had the most wonderful dining experience at Strudl Haus here in Des Moines. It's rare to find a restaurant that has both good food and entertainment, so we were delighted to enjoy an idyllic evening at this Austrian restaurant where we could dine while being serenaded by the sweet sounds of a talented violinist.  She did an amazing job!


She played everything from classical and Celtic pieces to broadway favorites and pop tunes like Lady Gaga's Bad Romance with flair. I didn't think Lady Gaga could sound so good on a violin! No offense to Lady Gaga. I do love her music. The violinist (below) also played classics like the Beatles' Let It Be and the Hawaiian ukulele version of Somewhere over the Rainbow. Figgy loves to listen to the latter, it's so mellow!


We can't recommend the food enough! My husband had the chicken cordon bleu (below) and for dessert, a scrumptious Napoleon and raspberry hot chocolate.



I forgot to take a photo of the Napoleon while we were there but had taken a shot of it when we ate at Gaston at the Des Moines Art Center a few weeks ago. They also serve them there, although they are freshly made at Strudl Haus.


I couldn't wait to dig into the pork schnitzel and a decadent lemon cake (below). Both our entrees came with parsley potatoes and asparagus and homemade bread, and the restaurant serves a sampling of sauerkraut and other salad accoutrements before the entree. We felt the food was very reasonably priced as we were both able to eat quite well and enjoy some lovely entertainment in the process for $50. The chef takes great pride in his food and came out to greet his guests. 



If you live in the Des Moines area or ever pass through it, I'd definitely recommend Strudl Haus. It's not a very large place so reservations are highly recommended. Those who just show up have to wait awhile. The violinist plays on Saturday evenings. Because it was cooler that evening, I was able to get a little more wear out of my winter coats by wearing this vintage early 1970s purple crushed velvet coat. Quite frankly, I thought it was a bit of an oddity when I bought it so I was surprised when two people at the restaurant asked me about it. Most of the time I figure people are just being nice when they mention things like that but one of the waitresses even asked me where I got it. So I'm thinking it must not look exactly vintage. What do you think? I'd be curious to know! And for those of you who remember wearing 1970s fashions, do you recall seeing a coat like this? I buy vintage because I feel like I'm getting something a little more unique and I think it's better made than today's clothes. I also like their nostalgic charm. I've always thought I had quirky taste in clothes so I don't expect anyone to really understand it. The important thing is that it makes me happy.


The very next day I wore this vintage 1960s shift dress to church. Yes, I know, crazy weather we have here in Iowa where we can go from winter coats to sleeveless dresses in less than 24 hours! Again just like with the purple coat, I was approached by a lady telling me that she liked the dress and asking me where I got it. So I'm starting to wonder if vintage clothing doesn't really look vintage? I would be curious to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me. The shop I purchased the dress from suggested I wear it with a belt because the dress was a little baggy. The clogs are 1970s-style Swedish Hasbeens. You would think they would be uncomfortable and take awhile to break in but these were comfy from the instant I put them on! Some of their other styles took awhile to get used to, though.