Tuesday, February 24, 2015

GIVEAWAY WINNER

Thanks to everyone who entered my latest impromptu giveaway for a copy of the latest edition of Victoria magazine with my article as well as a half yard of adorable flannel woodland friends fabric. It was delightful to hear from old friends as well as so many new ones. I'm go glad you found my blog and hope you'll return for future visits. I enjoyed reading about what you all love about spring. I share all your sentiments about this lovely season! Greta, you expressed my sentiments about spring so well in your comment! It does come around just when you need it! As promised, I drew a random winner via Random Generator and that person is:


I have started following you on google. :)

Congrats go to mlhummy! Please email me your mailing address by this Wednesday by clicking the Email Me button in the right-hand sidebar. I will ship your package out on my weekly run to the post office this Thursday. As always, I wish I could give something to everyone who entered but rest assured, there will be more little impromptu giveaways this year. I always like to share the wealth whenever I can!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

THINKING SPRING

                          THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

The January/February issue of Victoria magazine with my article on the Dallas Arboretum arrived in the mail last week and it definitely got me in the mood for spring.


I enjoyed writing the piece on the Dallas Arboretum, which puts on a spectacular botanical show of color every season. The article is aptly named "Season's Best". I hope you'll check it out (Read on for details on an impromptu giveaway for a copy).


I hope you all had a happy Valentine's Day. My heart purse, which I ordered from England, showed up a week late but I still had a fantastic day. Thanks to some styling help from the online shop I ordered my dress from, I got a cute vintage-inspired pair of shoes that complemented my Valentine's dress, and best yet, they were on sale for less than $15! I was so glad to get some styling guidance as I have no idea how to pair shoes with dresses or tights. You might call me fashionably impaired!




My dear hubby surprised me with a couple other gifts, including this handy shoe storage unit that hangs on a door and accommodates up to 36 pairs of shoes. Unlike many women, I don't have that many because I'd rather fill my closet with what's photographed in the next photo. Nonetheless, it's a great storage solution for a closet in our 1885 Victorian home—These old Victorians aren't known for their ample closet storage or storage space in general!


Yes, I'd rather fill my closet with fabric than clothes, and more than half the built-in shelves are taken up by fabric rather than clothing! 


Hubby also gave me this sweet owl book of quotes. Even the little bookmark is an owl!


This quote echoes my sentiments exactly!


And how sweet are these quotes? Winnie the Pooh was certainly a wise little bear. His quote on the second page is so true.


Hubby saw this owl bag on my Pinterest Wish List page and ordered it for me all the way from England. I thought that was really thoughtful of him. I never thought I would actually get it.


Hope you are all starting to think spring, too. To get you in the mood, here's a little impromptu giveaway for a copy of the Victoria magazine shown in the first photo in this post and a half yard of this owl/forest friends flannel fabric (shown below). You needn't be an official Google Blogger follower, though if you are, please feel free to enter a separate comment telling me you are for an extra chance to win as a thank you for your support of my blog. The giveaway is also open to my international blogging friends. This is just a quick little giveaway, so it will end Tuesday, Feb. 24, at noon central time, and I'll draw a name that evening. Winner will be responsible for contacting me as several bloggers are non-comment bloggers, which means your comments come through with no email address for me to reach you at. To enter, just leave a comment telling me what you like most about spring.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

THE SWEETEST DAY OF THE YEAR

I'm trying the auto-post feature of blogger and hope this post pops up Saturday afternoon! We will see! Several years ago, we found these vintage valentines in the attic of our 1885 Victorian, and it seemed appropriate to share them with you today as we celebrate Valentine's Day. They just don't make them like they used to!


To celebrate this special day, I surprised my hubby with these sugarless mini chocolate cookies made with unsweetened 100 percent pure cocoa and natural stevia in place of sugar. As I mentioned earlier, he is pre-diabetic and I'm trying to find ways to indulge his sweet tooth without raising his risk of diabetes. I even purchased a cookbook on using natural sweeteners in baking--I know that many artificial sugar substitutes like Splenda or ones containing aspartame, sucralose, etc. are harmful to your health. I served the cookies on my vintage shell pink leaf plate.


I found the sweetest little mini mint chocolate chips at my local baking shop and sprinkled some of those on top to give the cookies a hint of sweetness. Mini chips are certainly a nice alternative to the regular sized chips. These little mint green chips are sprinkled with brown spots—such a delightful color combo!


I have a wish list on my Pinterest page and if I'm lucky, my hubby occasionally surprises me with one of the items on it. Here is one such gift that my hubby surprised me with this morning—a new Marc Jacobs quilted pink iPad case! I love that it has a strap, which will make it more likely that I'll take it with me while on the go. It goes perfectly with my new pink plaid wool coat, which is pictured with it. 


Tonight the hubby will take me to my favorite downtown Des Moines restaurant for a special Valentine's dinner. I bought the pink heart dress (featured in my previous post) just for this occasion and plan to surprise the hubby with it this evening. Hopefully he will like it! Hope you all have a very sweet Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

FINALLY FEBRUARY!

Looking out my window at our slumbering arbor garden, it is hard to believe that spring is next month! January is always the hardest month for me. By February, I can at least see the light of spring at the end of the tunnel!


Even though winter still has us in its icy grip, it's not too early to think spring! Our latest issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects magazine will help you cultivate the seeds of creativity with a fresh crop of projects ranging from quilts and hooked rugs to wool appliqué and punch needle. It's on newsstand now! I'm currently editing projects for the summer edition. 


Now that it's February, I'm in a Valentine's Day mood. My fabric stash is lacking in Valentine motifs but I recently found this cute fox fabric. Have you noticed that foxes are becoming as popular as owls? Seems like I see more and more of them. 


Speaking of Valentine's Day, my hubby made dinner reservations at one of my favorite downtown Des Moines restaurants and I ordered a special dress and purse for the special occasion. As usual, the online boutique I ordered the dress from was very helpful in giving me measurements to make it more likely the dress would fit and luckily, it did! Yippee! Since it is always so cold here during this time of year, I will wear my black shrug over the dress to stay warm. The purse is in transit, so I hope it arrives in time.  



I will eventually post more details about the dress on my Pinterest as well as my pink blog, Tickled Pink, that I started last summer (There's also a clickable button on my right sidebar that will take you there). It's just my fun corner of cyberspace devoted to my love of all things pink. I had so many things in that hue that I decided it would be fun to have a place to record many of them.

In other news, February finds us continuing our goal to eat fish 2–3 times a week. I've always said that if fish weren't so expensive, I could live on it. Ever since I was a kid, I've loved all sorts of fish except for tilapia (Not a fan of that). Best yet, fish is easy to prepare even on nights when I don't feel like cooking. My father-in-law is taking a little break from ice fishing, which has prompted us to try some new fish. I saw some wild-caught hake fillets in the grocery store last weekend and decided to try them. Hake is less expensive than one of my favorite fish—wild-caught Pacific cod—so I thought why not give it a try? I first tried baking them and they were okay. The next night, I grilled them, which produced a much nicer flavor. If I were to have them again, I would definitely grill them! It seems like fish like this and halibut are best grilled, and it's so easy to do that on my stovetop grill pan (No need to brave the cold with an outdoor grill!). All Clad makes a nice stovetop grill pan that makes those grill marks on the fish like you see in my photo below. Broccoli is about the only veggie that my hubby and I will eat, so we steamed some to go with our meal. The verdict? I still prefer cod to hake but I wouldn't rule out buying it again. 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

COZY COMFORTS

After enjoying a high temperature of 50 degrees yesterday (which is pretty balmy for an Iowa winter), we're back to typical conditions today. It's cold and blustery—the kind of day that makes you want to nest indoors. I did have to venture out this morning to get a routine blood test done for my kidneys but I'm hoping to remain in the comfort of my home the rest of the day. Part of the benefit of working from home is that I can dress in sweats and my comfy, quirky slippers! How nice is that?!


This is the kind of day that calls for curling up with a warm cup of tea and a good book. I got this Matcha tea by Teavana for Christmas and am anxious to try it. For me, a good book involves Jane Austen. The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England offers a glimpse into day-to-day life in Jane Austen's time with tips on how to behave at your first ball and throw a dinner party. I don't imagine I'll ever have a need to put the former tips into practice but they're fun to read!


I also received these Teavana macaron tea tins, filled with loose tea leaves, for Christmas. The burgundy tin holds their Gingerbread tea, which has a sweet caramel apple flavor and the rust tin holds their Golden Monkey, which features golden-tipped black tea leaves and rich cocoa undertones. The tall yellow container harbors their Strawberry Cream white tea. After that container is empty, I plan to use it as a storage container for my sewing room as I don't think it will hold up to use in the kitchen with its pretty yet impractical paper wrapping.


After I finish my tea, I will resume sewing my latest project—a baby quilt. I am so excited that I am going to be an aunt! My husband's brother and wife are adopting a little girl. It is a joyous event for our entire family and we are eagerly anticipating her arrival. Because I love mixing patchwork and appliqué, I've decided to make another version of the below quilt (A Prairie Star pattern) that I made earlier. I like the pink and green color scheme and think it will be perfect for her room. 


I was originally debating between making the above quilt and the below Kitty Cucumber quilt made from a kit. I started it, too, so I can always change my mind on which to give her.


In addition to sewing, there is much work to be done here, too, but I'm taking a little break from that this afternoon to nurture my creativity. To see what I've been up to lately in the writing department, check out my previous post. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

THE BUSINESS OF BLISS

I'm delighted to tell you that Victoria magazine's special entrepreneur issue, celebrating the talents and accomplishments of women business owners, is on newsstands now! As many of you regular readers know, I am fortunate to get to write for this beautiful magazine.


I wrote three articles for this particular issue, including a profile for their special Business of Bliss section that spotlights eight talented women reaping the rewards of living the life they love. It was a thrill to interview Hedda Dowd, co-owner of the Dallas soufflé salon aptly named rise n 1. Hedda's passion for French food, including soufflés, began when she was just a child. Every summer she visited her maternal grandparents in France, where she would often help her grandmother in the kitchen, making memories that would last a lifetime. 


I also had the pleasure of interviewing Texas bridal gown designer Patti Flowers whose talent for fashioning fabrics and embellishments into classically elegant gowns is truly inspiring. From a treasure trove of silks, delicate lace, and Swarovski crystals, she crafts the gowns of brides' dreams. 


The third article I wrote features an authentic sugar shack outside of Montreal, where maple syrup is made the same way it was more than a century ago. Indeed, time stands still at Sucrerie de la Montagne (Sugar Shack of the Mountain) run by the Faucher family. Son Stefan was a joy to interview and even invited me to visit the sugar shack. Wouldn't it be cozy to stay in a cabin like this? To create a storybook village that echoes time past, Stefan's father transported centuries-old log dwellings from neighboring towns to the site of the sugar shack.


I hope you can find this issue at a newsstand near you and check out these articles, plus many more! I have a piece on the Dallas Botanical Garden coming up in the next issue of Victoria that I will share more about later.

Friday, January 9, 2015

QUILTS, COOKIES, AND KOALAS

What do all these things have in common? This blog post! Read on to find out what I have to say about them. First of all, I hope everyone who emailed me requesting the recipes for the pumpkin cookies and chicken salad featured in my previous post received my replies with the recipes. If not, please email me again as according to my notes, I've responded to everyone. Also, I wanted to thank all of you who emailed me about the oddity with my hands that I mentioned in the previous post. It was very kind of you to think of me! Now back to today's happenings. I had my eye dilated at my annual ophthalmologist appointment this morning. So what does one do until the eyes return to normal? I can't really do my editing work at the moment, so I thought I'd write a blog post! It could be a very interesting one, though, since typing is more challenging when the eyes are dilated. Last Sunday afternoon, bad winter weather almost prevented me from getting to my monthly Simple Whatnots quilt club meeting but I'm so glad I ventured out as I had such a fun time. Whenever I get lazy and feel like staying home, I try to shake off the temptation as you never know what you might be missing—it could be a terrific day! My hubby was kind enough to drive me to the meeting so I wouldn't have to worry about the road conditions, which turned out to be perfectly fine (As usual, the weather forecasters made a mountain out of a molehill). At this month's meeting, our group facilitator, Marge, shared her awesome collection of antique and vintage doll beds. Aren't they dear?


I was especially smitten with this sweet doll cradle, which Marge said she found on a trip to England. 


At each meeting, Marge gives us a fabric history lesson and shares some swatches of her reproduction fabrics that reflect each of the types of fabric she highlights in the lessons. This time, she talked about conversation prints and our swatch featured the sweetest little kitty sipping tea from a cup (see photo below). Being a cat lover, I asked her if she could tell me the fabric line so I could purchase some yardage. Marge was so generous to give me her piece of the fabric! If you're reading this, Marge, thank you so much! You really made my day. 


We also got our first glimpse of this month's charming project, which can be made with or without the appliquéd center medallion.


Mary, the owner of the shop (The Quilt Block) where our club meets, has assembled a nice display of Kim's projects, books, and fabric.


One of the fun things about the club is that we always get a fun bonus project. This month's project was this scissor keeper that you can hang around your neck. The shop provides all the materials to make it.


After the meeting, my hubby took me to eat an early dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant, where we indulged in jasmine tea and chicken fried rice...


...and my hubby's favorite, Pad Thai Eugene...


The restaurant owner herself cooked the dishes for us. One of the things I like about her dishes is that they don't taste so heavy, oily, and greasy like some Chinese dishes can. It appears the secret might be the kind of oil she uses. I asked her as I thought I might consider using more of it in my Chinese cooking. So that was my Sunday afternoon. Not a bad one, was it? Now back to today... Before sitting down to right this blog post, I decided to try making a new healthier version of chocolate chip cookies that my friend gave me this month. It uses no flour or margarine/butter, and the chips are dark chocolate—my favorite type of chocolate! I'm letting the dough chill as I write this, then I'll pop the cookies in the oven! When I look at healthier recipes like this, I only want ones that don't sacrifice flavor. If it doesn't taste good, I won't eat it—no matter how much healthier it is! But if you can make an old favorite healthier while still tasting great, why not?!


And here's a feel-good story to leave you with before I close. Did any of you see last night's news segment about the koalas who were caught in those terrible Australian wildfires? Many suffered burns to their rumps and paws as they clung to burning trees. Well, local knitters are coming to their rescue by knitting special healing gloves to help them recover. I snapped this photo of one on my TV set. Aren't knitters and quilters the kindest people!? International donations of mittens are welcome, too. They require a special pattern to fit the koala's unusual paw shape. If you'd like to knit some mittens for them, the pattern can by found by clicking this link.



Why am I writing this? Because I have always had a soft spot for these adorable marsupials. As a kid, I collected stuffed koala bears instead of Barbies and dolls like my sister. This childhood photo of me shows me with my koala family. My mom saved all my koalas (which totaled 25) in a box for me, which I still have today.