Gardening and decorating



Before a turkey gets put in the oven, a few decorative ones are brought out to set the mood for this short time between Halloween and Christmas.  The day after Halloween, the Jack-o-lanterns and all Halloween things get put away to make way for Thanksgiving.  Granted, Thanksgiving decorations are limited but I do have my vintage wax turkey collection that I always display.  They add just the right touch here and there, blending in with my dishes and other display items.

And of course,  some of my favorite harvest quilts take center stage.  This year the two pictured are some of my very first designs.  Harvest Mix from my second book, At Home with Thimbleberries, is hung over two stacked trunks.  Holiday Bouquet from The Collection of Classic Quilts is perfect for the back of the couch which I can see from the kitchen and dining room.  They certainly set a warm, cozy tone for this time of the year.


This year I came up with a craft idea I thought I could do with my grandchildren.  As it is always a good idea to test it out before presenting it to them, I found it was a bit too challenging for them.  However, I love the one I did and it is standing proudly on my mantel. I used an artificial pumpkin (Funkin or any fake pumpkin you can easily punch small holes into), scrapbook paper, bamboo skewers and a hot glue gun.  Luckily, I had everything in the house which is always a plus.  I have figured out a version of this for Taylor and Ella to do without working with sharp skewers. 

In case you want to try your hand at this festive turkey, here are some general instructions. All the parts are done (cut) free handed, so don’t worry about the exact measurements.

Cut feathers from a large variety of papers. Cut three sizes. The longest is 12″.  Then cut medium (about 8″) and small (about 5″) feathers.  To make the feathers, cut 1-1/2″ – 2″ wide strips. Use the 1-1/2″ strips for the smallest feathers.   Fold in half lengthwise and cut edges into a feather shape. 

Glue a bamboo skewer in the fold of the feather on the back side,  extending the pointed end of the skewer about 2″ beyond the bottom of the feather. 

Using a spare skewer, pre-punch holes in the pumpkin following the grooves of the pumpkin. There are three rows of feathers and the rows are about 2″ apart.  The holes for the feathers are about 1″ apart. 

The turkey body and head are make from paper as well.  Fold a piece of brown paper (5″ x 6″) in half lengthwise  and cut a body/head  into a fat pear shape.  Head details are free handed for the beak, eyes and waddle. The folding makes the body three dimensional and easy to get an even sided body shape. Starting with the long feathers, insert into the pre-punched holes of the back row.  Proceed to the medium feathers and then the small ones. Glue the body to the pumpkin.  All of these measurements are just guidelines, because, of course, everything depends on the size of the pumpkin you are using.

Kid’s Version…I prepared all the parts for the Festive Turkey, but eliminated the faux pumpkin and gluing skewers to the backs of the paper feathers.  Taylor and Ella glued the feathers onto a piece of cardboard with glue sticks…much more kid friendly.  They were thrilled with their finished turkeys which immediately found a spot on the windows in my dining room. 


Last year I made some fun Halloween pumpkins using Mod Podge, printed napkins and artificial pumpkins.  This year I made another pumpkin that looks more like Thanksgiving, using a lovely paper napkin with a print worthy of being printed on cotton fabric for quilting.  You can use either the matte or glossy finish Mod Podge to glue the napkins on, but for best results, use the glossy for the finishing coat. 

To make make the pumpkin, cut the napkins into strips approximately  2″ x 4″ wide.  Eye these cuts, don’t measure.  This is not a precise craft.   Most decorative napkins are two ply.   Remove the second ply of paper leaving the thin printed layer of the napkin.  Use a small brush (1″ wide ) or a disposable foam brush.  Work with half the pumpkin at a time.

Place the pumpkin in a bowl (bottom up) and start applying the Mod Podge in small sections (4″- 6″) directly onto the pumpkin.  Lay a piece of napkin on the glued surface of the pumpkin and using the brush, gently press to adhere.   The napkin will wrinkle into the crevices of the pumpkin.  Continue to apply strips until the bottom half of the pumpkin is covered.  Let dry.  Flip to continue the same process on the top half.  You will have to overlap strips as you go.  None of this will show when dry.  The Mod Podge goes on white but dries clear and the crinkled napkins give some texture to the surface of the pumpkin when dry.   Put a topcoat of gloss Mod Podge to finish for a finishing sheen.   Remember, it dries clear.


I took a little road trip to Redwood Falls, MN last week.  It is a small town in southern Minnesota featuring the most outstanding Christmas shop, The Light of Home.  The displays were pretty fabulous and certainly got me in the mood for decorating.  The mother-daughter team really has a talent for creating a wonderland of Christmas baubles, lights, artwork and accessories.  It is well worth the drive if you are luckt enough to be in the area.  One store front away is The Farmer’s Wife featuring primitive furnishings and accessories and a very nice selection of hand-dyed wool with  books, patterns and kits to inspire.  It was a fun day out and about and certainly got me in the spirit of decorating for this whole season of celebration.  













We had fabulous weather all last week with temps in the upper 70’s.  This is pretty unusual for Minnesota so we all think we stole a week away from an early winter.  Warm days at this time of the year are treasured.  The cool nights combined with warm days really make the fall colors intensify.  I have lived my whole life in this climate and every fall I am still amazed at how beautiful this season is between lush green of summer and frosty white of winter.  I think you can see how my fall fabric collections were influenced by my surroundings.  Even the simplest image would have been an inspiration.


This past weekend was also the last of our Sunday night boat rides around the lake.  Everything is pretty wrapped up for the winter. Boats are put into winter storage and docks and boat lifts are pulled out of the water.  It was a pretty night and we got the last trip in right at sundown.

The wind and rain in the forecast will eliminate the remaining leaves on the trees but these are hanging on for dear life.  This orange tree outside my sitting room window actually casts an orange glow into the room.  This is always the last tree in the yard to “give up”.


This is what greeted me last Thursday out my front door.  When the leaves are changing, everyday is different.  I can see this view from my living room and from the main hall of the house, so every time I walk down the hall I see this.  I really hate to see this week end.  I am sure big changes on on the way.

The bench on my front steps is a fun place to decorate, so I change it often.  This might be able to hang on until November and then the Christmas/winter arrangements will be next.

In October, I host a birthday dinner for a friend that has been a tradition going back decades. I am always happy to have October as my month to host the group.  I have found a great cookbook that was written by Amy Thielen.  She is a Minnesota native that was trained in the culinary environment of New York city.  She and her family have returned to MN and her cookbook, The New Midwestern Table has become a favorite of mine.  Check it out at your local bookstore or Amazon.

I made her Chicken Wild Rice Casserole for the main dish of my dinner and served it with red cabbage (Ina Garten’s recipe) and baked winter squash with a maple syrup glaze.  I will definitely make this meal again.

For dessert, I served a Caramel Apple Cream Cake, which was also a hit. I found the recipe in my recipe box and have no idea who it came from but saved it for years and had never made it. The original recipe directions included making it in a bundt pan, which I did.  It was pretty, but a little hard to serve.  Next time I make it, I will use a 9″ x 13″ pan.  That way I can skip the step of cutting off the top to make a flat space for the apples and the bottom will be flat making it easier to serve with the extra whipped cream topping.  I snapped this picture before cutting and topping with the whipped cream.

Get recipe here.

I have taken on the task of stitching small  wool felt animal and figures for the Countdown to Christmas envelops my daughter uses for Taylor and Ella in December.  Technically, I should come up with 50, so I better start in ernest TODAY.  Kerry and I made this extravaganza 3 years ago.  The kids love it so it will go up again this year.  They are not candy eaters so other small treasures are needed for the envelops each day in December.  They are growing up so fast, I think maybe this year might be one of the last that they would be excited about finding these in their envelopes each morning.  So far, I have made three….that makes 47 to go.

I made the envelopes (one for each kiddo, for each day) from left over envelopes and Christmas cards and small felt figures from craft stores ad well as scrapbook papers.  I punched a hole in the corner of the envelop and used narrow ribbon to tie onto branch bundles that Kerry gathered from her yard.  The envelopes have held up well and can be used again this year. 

I think I should put string loops on the wool felt figures so they could hang them on the little trees they have in their rooms during the holidays.  It will keep them from getting lost in the shuffle with the other thousands of little things in their house they have collected.


















Truth be told, I have never been too excited about the ghoulish elements of Halloween, but rather the fall colors and pumpkins with just a hint of Halloween whimsy here and there are always fun at this time of the year. There is a sweetness about childhood memories of Trick or Treating in the neighborhood with friends for me and for my own children.  And now, I get to experience the fun again with my grandchildren.  Granted the costumes are far more elaborate than the homemade ones from my past but the excitement of Trick or Treating seams to endure.  So, now it is time to dig out some of my favorites for the season.


Here is a little piece of artwork made by Taylor at the age of 7. I thought was so special and deserved to be framed and kept to be used year after year.  He made it from white tape and black constructions paper.  Kids make things like this skeleton and bat in such quick order it is hard to understand why the proportions and details always seem to be right on.  For the background of the picture, I decopauged a fall napkin on a piece of cardboard with Modge Podge and mounted the skeleton and bat under the glass with just a touch of glue.  It is a perfect complement to the two Halloween figurines and brings a smile every time I catch a glimpse of it.


Years ago, I produced a series of fabric panels that featured artwork from magazine covers of the twenties and thirties.  The series was titled, Cover Story. Some of you may have some of these panels.  The original kits included a panel and instructions to piece into a wall quilt.  Later, the series was re-issued as complete panels with faux pieced borders that required only quilting to finish.  The Pumpkin Boy was always one of my favorites and I had the artwork printed in a very large format and framed.  It is the first thing I put up each October.


It is always tempting to collect vintage paper Halloween items but pretty difficult to display.  I like them best when gathered into a collage which make a great piece of art.  This makes much more of a statement than trying to display them individually.  This is a collection of paper items I have collected.  I started with an interesting old frame and covered cardboard with some orange fabric for the background.  It serves as a bulletin board for mounting the items.  For the most part the items are slipped under the frame edges and ocassionally a small stick pin was used to anchor the items in place.


This drapery rod mounted on the wall has been one of the best ways to display quilts. I shared this with you previously but must tell you it is really a handy way to show many quilts grouped together.   Sometimes I will carefully fold and hang the quilts in an orderly manner but this is probably my favorite way to group them.  It is so much fun to see them clustered together rather than folded up and hidden away in a cupboard.  I change the group many times throughout the year, generally reflecting the season.  I got my rod from West Elm but I see them everywhere.  It has an industrial look and is so strong and perfect for the job.  But, I am sure any strong rod would do and the great thing is the size can be adjusted to exactly the space you have.


Last fall I ran across a picture taken of a barn on the farm where my father grew up.  The picture was taken 40+ years ago the day the barn was demolished.  I have fond memories of my grandma’s farm and specifically playing in the hayloft.  I am one of those people who love old barns and am always drawn to images of them or in a natural rural setting.  I am sure that all started in my childhood with grandma’s barn. I painted this simple image of the barn, exactly as the photo captured it 40+ years ago and love seeing it each day.


One of the best things to do is to repurpose items you already have to create something new.  I recently added an antique punch bowl to my collection and went about creating this showy piece for my kitchen island.  Years ago I found some orange Christmas ball ornaments at a discount store on sale after Christmas.  I had no idea when orange ornaments would ever be used on a Christmas tree, but purchased them at a deep, deep discount (no wonder) thinking I might just be able to use them in the fall.  They finally got their chance.  I filled the punch bowl with the assortment of orange balls and faux moss balls.  I then gathered up some artificial grass, berry and leaf sprigs from my stash and inserted them into the bowl.  The ornaments and moss balls held them all in place.  I placed the arrangement, surrounded by a fall twig wreath, on a tin cake stand to elevate it, which always makes an arrangement like this pretty outstanding.  The best part is, all of the items were in the house and got reused in a new way.

The best thing about fall arrangements is that just about anything goes.  Here I collected items from outdoors.  It is just about ready to freeze here and kill the plants so it is a good time to bring a few of the fall blooms into the house.  This arrangement is simply Little Lime Hydrangea blossoms with Autumn Joy blooms, ornamental kale and cedar.  It will last a long time and here it is grouped with a cluster of white pumpkins and Carnival squash, which is my favorite baking squash.  Oh, the colors of fall can’t be beat!













We are having one of those stretches of weather where our days are sunny and the nights are cool…just perfect as far as I am concerned.  My garden has started to take on a decided look of fall.  Everything is still mainly green, but hints of bronze are sneaking in and the plants that bloom late in the season are outstanding.  It is such a joy to work outside when the temps are reasonable and the humidity is low.  The weeds have settled down because all of the plants are big enough to crowd them out so there isn’t much weeding to do.  Mainly, I just need to deadhead and trim things back a bit when they get little out of control.  I can honestly say, my September garden is my favorite. 


I have started to bring out the pumpkins and fall quilts.  The whole fall palette is still a favorite of mine.  It is hard to pick and choose between all of the quilts and runners that I have in my collection.  One of the newest, is the Harvest Lone Star Burst that was recently featured in my last book, Quilts with a New Attitude.  I know I designed it as a wall quilt but it looks pretty great on my island and table as well.

The deck got a makeover this season as well.  I just couldn’t resist.

And even the pumpkin potholder made the cut this year, adding a nice touch of fall color to my counter by my ovens.


Just like all of you, I have been finishing up projects that I have unearthed in my sewing room. I started this wool project years ago while on vacation.  I purchased it as a kit and no longer know who published the pattern.  I do like working with wool and love to travel with wool stitching projects.  This one, however, got lost in the shuffle for many, many years….happy to have it done and in use.


The first thing I do in the fall is change out my pillows from the lighter ones I use in the spring and summer to my “harvest” pillows.  In general, I keep the same pillows, and switch out the covers.  That keeps the pillow storage under control.  The bench in my front entrance is a fun place to load up with a lot of different pillow designs and sizes.



This summer I have been doing some hand work, specifically, a couple of embroidery pieces for Ella’s room at their cabin.  She has this sweet little space that has been outfitted with two antique twin beds, comforters, quilts, pillows and a tiny dresser tucked under the window. The teddybear is outfitted in a sweater I knitted for Ella when she was a baby and grew out of in and instant.   I found two darling designs on in their free design collection and they were perfect for her room.  There isn’t much wall space as you can see so these little framed pieces of stitchery added the right touch.  Most importantly, she was thrilled with them.

Taylor was very interested in what I was doing for Ella’s room so he and I discussed what I could stitch up for his room.  He decided he would like a combination of his favorite animal (tiger) and his favorite sport (football).  So, I turned to my wool felt stash and embroidery floss to whip up this little treasure for him.  He was thrilled.  This might be my last shot of stitching something he will be excited to have.  He displays it on his nightstand by his bed, which obviously makes grandma feel really good.

Recently we entertained a group of friends and thought I would share a couple of the recipes I made for the evening that really work nicely for buffet service and a large group. Best thing is, both could be made ahead of time, which is always an important part of entertaining for me.  It takes all the stress out of that last minute rush that happens when everyone has arrived.

For my table decor, I used my antique McCoy flower vases filled with zinnias I picked up at the farmer’s Market earlier in the day.  Nothing says summer like these brightly colored flowers.  I made the runner from scraps of cotton and linen canvas from the Cotton+Steel collection.  The strips are cut between 4, 5 and 6 inches and randomly pieced together with the same print at each end.  This piecing was the best for the fabric…no need for complicated piecing.  It was also completed in a jiffy…perfect for when you have a few minutes and you want to sew a little and get something done fast. I thought it was a perfect complement to the flowers and vases.

For the main course, I served a salad, garlic bread and baked spaghetti and meatballs.  I found a recipe in a recent Southern Celebrations Autumn magazine (which, by the way, has a lot of great recipes in it as well as fall decorating inspiration…worth picking up), I altered the recipe a bit knowing a few of my guests object to both green peppers and mushrooms. I also doubled the meatball recipe because half the crowd was men. It was very tasty and a hit with everyone.  I made two casseroles for my group and everyone was happy.  I stopped in at our local farmer’s market earlier in the day to pick up all the fresh ingredients for a hearty salad and we were all set.


For dessert, I made a strawberry shortcake trifle.  This should be made at least 8 hours in advance, which is why I always turn to it for a dinner party.  Also, guests can serve themselves which makes it even easier when you are busy with everything else going on.  I do make my own bundt cake for the trifle, but a purchased pound cake also works well.  A tall glass bowl works well for a trifle both for presentation and the height allows for many layers of cream and berries.




July flew by and I guess I have spent the whole month in the garden and at the cabin.  I did work on some fun stitching projects for Ella and Taylor’s rooms that should be ready to share with you next time.

I have little to show you from my sewing room, but did take snapshots of my yard last week. July is the peak for most of the plants in my garden. Some early blooming plants are lingering and the late summer blooms have arrived. Take a few minutes and “stroll” through my garden (more…)


I think the category of “out-of-print patterns and books”, most specifically, past Block of the Month patterns is the most requested information I receive.    Next is the category of “out-of-print fabrics”. In many cases, consumers are looking for items from ten to fifteen years ago and I just do not have resources for those items any longer.  I understand many of you are (more…)


I can tell summer activities have consumed me.  Between yard work here at the house and the cabin as well as kitchen duty, the summer is flying by and I haven’t kept up on my blogging.   In my last post I think I included a picture of one of my pots that I was planting.  Well, here it is a month later.  It has survived 4 hail storms, some high winds and some unseasonal cold temps but is thriving.  I like having the pictures…it comes in handy when deciding what to plant next spring.  Above is the pot the end of May, and here it is now. 

This is one of my favorite views of my back yard.   (more…)


This week found me outside everyday.  We had one of those weeks of weather that makes a gardener go crazy.  We call it Minnesota beautiful.  That means sunny, no wind, a high of 70° and no humidity.  It was perfect for everything…work and leisure.  I have learned over the years that I generally need two to three trips to the nursery. (more…)

Spring Spruce Up

Each season always brings a renewed effort to spruce up the house and garden.  It is always fun to change things up a bit without major investments.  The first thing I turn to is moving my accessories from room to room and changing up the combination of items. This exercise always makes things look fresh again and each time I do it I think I have found the right combination. But soon, it will change again. The space above my china cupboard in my dining room is always the first place I start and is the most fun to do.  I know have shared  this view a number of times, but items are a new combination.

I have been dabbling a bit painting with acrylics and this past month did two new paintings for spots in my house that needed a change of pace.   (more…)

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