First Quilt Santa Doll Ready to Travel

 The first handmade quilt Santa doll getting ready to travel to his new home.

The first handmade quilt Santa doll getting ready to travel to his new home.

First Quilt Santa Doll Ready to Travel

It may seem a little early to be talking about Christmas but our first quilt Santa doll is getting ready to travel.

These charming handmade Santa Claus dolls are made out of repurposed vintage handmade quilts with muslin details. The soft bodies are squeezable and easily posable since the arms and legs are made out of fabric and easily move.

I confess I enjoy posing the doll it its box as I sew on the label. I like to imagine where Santa doll will spend his holidays amidst other holiday decor, maybe sitting on presents under a Christmas tree or lounging on a fireplace mantel.

To maximize posing options, each Santa doll is shipped with a collapsible doll stand so that once the holidays are over, the stand is easy to store.

No two Santa dolls are the same, each is unique and gives old handmade quilts a new life, such as this Colorful Santa doll.

 Our handmade Santa dolls repurpose old handmade quilts as Santa's holiday clothing.

Our handmade Santa dolls repurpose old handmade quilts as Santa's holiday clothing.

In honor of one of our first customers, some of our Santa dolls have a blue theme for the snowy winter wonderland home decor theme some people keep up through the end of January.

One of the prettier themes is the blue holiday theme with silver accents, perfect to set off this  Blue Flower Garden Santa Claus doll. The pieces of this traditional patchwork flower garden quilt are about an inch wide.

 Each handmade Santa doll is shipped with a collapsible stand for easy posing.

Each handmade Santa doll is shipped with a collapsible stand for easy posing.

The final step in Santa's departure from our house at least is to temporarily protect the handmade quilt Santa doll during shipping. This pose looks odd but then Santa does go up and down chimneys so he must be quite flexible, don't you think?

 Santa doll folded and heading to his new home with a collapsible doll stand.

Santa doll folded and heading to his new home with a collapsible doll stand.

Even though leaves have just starting turning colors in mid-Missouri to mark the beginning of fall, I know the holiday season can't be far behind.

Charlotte

Cat Reading Nooks

 Cats also enjoy reading nooks, especially the napping part of comfortable sunny reading nooks.

Cats also enjoy reading nooks, especially the napping part of comfortable sunny reading nooks.

Cat Reading Nooks

I have been featuring a number of reading nooks to inspire you to set one - or a few - up in your own living space. Reading nooks are a wonderful way to take a time out, unplug, and reduce stress from our very busy lives.

Part of a reading nook includes having a pet. Giving a pet attention has been proven to reduce blood pressure, take our minds off our troubles and reduce stress. For those who need help with taking a nap, also a good thing to do in a reading nook, cats would be handy to have since they are such experts at napping.

And at my house, my cats have their own reading nooks so here are a few tips on setting up cat reading nooks:

Place the cat reading nooks in a sunny window. There are few things a cat loves more than looking out the window. Helps if the window has a bird feeder outside to watch.

 Cat reading nooks in windows is a must, even if no books are nearby.

Cat reading nooks in windows is a must, even if no books are nearby.

Cat reading nooks, like people reading nooks, can also have greenery.

 Make sure having nearby plants are not too close or they may be paw-wrestled.

Make sure having nearby plants are not too close or they may be paw-wrestled.

Make sure any plant you place nearby behaves itself. I apparently have plants that jump out and require some periodic feline discipline.

Every self-respecting reading nuc should have a place to hold books and magazines. And since this is a cat reading nook, it should also hold...

 Reading nooks baskets hold magazines and books and cat reading nooks hold...well, you know.

Reading nooks baskets hold magazines and books and cat reading nooks hold...well, you know.

In reading nooks, blankets are handy for naps. In cat reading nooks, cover any favorite reading spots with a blanket to prevent cat hair from collecting. I also have fake fur chair pads that help keep the chair warm.

For those cats interested in learning, give them a guide to learn how to read. Each cat will learn at their own pace.

 Some cats are known to enjoy not only napping but actually learning to read.

Some cats are known to enjoy not only napping but actually learning to read.

Shsssh, try to keep interruptions down to a minimum.

 Well, maybe someone else also wants to learn how to read.

Well, maybe someone else also wants to learn how to read.

 This was the charming "teach your cat to read" kit a friend gave me for Christmas.

This was the charming "teach your cat to read" kit a friend gave me for Christmas.

Charlotte

Reading Nook Disaster

 This is reading nook central, where I do most of my writing, research reading and cat petting.

This is reading nook central, where I do most of my writing, research reading and cat petting.

Reading Nook Disaster

I have been featuring a number of reading nook ideas I have around my house to inspire you to set one - or half a dozen - up in your home. Studies show having a quiet space where we can go to relax, read, unplug from our electronic devices and spend time with a pet - is a good way to reduce blood pressure and help us be happier.

I know the traditional approach is to show perfectly appointed rooms but that's not reality so here's my quite real, and a bit of a disaster, reading nook in my den off my kitchen. This is also reading nook central, the spot in my house I use the most because it has the largest side tables where I can use my computer to write, and where I can pile the most books when I do my research.

I know I said unplug earlier, and I will show you how I learned to do that in a minute.

In addition, the two-seater sofa has a bunch of throw pillows. I use some for a head rest, the others to fill in the gaps until I can have the two separate seat cushions merged into one large one. These tiny love sofas are not designed with stereo cats in mind!

 A breakfast tray works well as a computer stand when I don't want to use the side table.

A breakfast tray works well as a computer stand when I don't want to use the side table.

Even so, I still have some of the principles I showed you in other reading nooks, starting with the Four Season's Throw on the sofa back. I like to have quilts and throws close by so I can curl up at the first inclination of a cat nap. This sweet all cotton throw has four panels featuring each of the seasons so I can easily refold it to mark a different time of the year.

Right now I have it folded for the winter scene.

 Four Seasons Throw has four different panels that can easily be featured on the back of the sofa.

Four Seasons Throw has four different panels that can easily be featured on the back of the sofa.

Instead of a basket to hold books, I use an old wood magazine rack I refinished. Magazines don't sit up well in these contraptions but books do so I keep some of the ones slated for further study close by. If they graduate to the magazine rack they are slated for reading soon.

 An old wood magazine rack works better to hold books slated for closer study.

An old wood magazine rack works better to hold books slated for closer study.

I also have baskets, only in this reading nook I don't use some of them to hold books and magazines, I keep them on the side to hold items I need to repair. It's like having a little sewing area close by so I don't put off getting the things repaired because they are out of sight.

That poor little fabric turtle periodically disappears. I usually find it in another room in the middle of a pile of other cat toys, the victim of being purloined by my yellow cat Shirley Honey who has her own ideas of home decorating.

 Several baskets grouped in my central reading nook help me get things repaired quicklyl

Several baskets grouped in my central reading nook help me get things repaired quicklyl

I also shopped for several flat baskets to keep my magazines nearby. Storing them flat prevents them from getting wonky when I tried to keep them standing up in a magazine rack and I can easily retrieve them when I need them. They have also been known to be used as cat napping spots.

 Flat baskets add nice magazine storage space under my den coffee table.

Flat baskets add nice magazine storage space under my den coffee table.

Other simple home decor items have also been re-purposed. An old glass candle holder now holds TV remotes and hand cream. A sweet ladybug candleholder keeps my jump drives and multi-purpose knife handy.

Disaster Reading Nook ladybug candleholder.jpg

The greeting cards I use for book marks sit in this whimsical ceramic napkin holder. I also tucked an address book and some notepads to keep them where I can easily get to them.

Disaster Reading Nook napking holder.jpg

This ceramic flower vase now holds pens, emery boards and thread snips. Interesting flower vases can easily be repurposed so that you can enjoy seeing the actual vase.

 This cute frog ceramic flower vase now serves as a pen, emery board and letter opener holder.

This cute frog ceramic flower vase now serves as a pen, emery board and letter opener holder.

And last but not least, I have greenery. Studies show having green plants around us helps reduce stress and relax.

During summer, I have vases full of cut flowers. In winter, I move blooming plants to the corner of the table, this orchid a dendrobium from Burma that started blooming for the first time for me. Love having fresh growing flowers close, especially when everything outside is gray and gloomy.

 This dendrobium orchid from Burma is now blooming and sitting on my den coffee table. Greenery can be as simple as a small blooming orchid.

This dendrobium orchid from Burma is now blooming and sitting on my den coffee table. Greenery can be as simple as a small blooming orchid.

 In winter, my larger plants are scattered through the house, this is an orange tree.

In winter, my larger plants are scattered through the house, this is an orange tree.

To keep my den reading nook green, I left my large orange tree hanging over the side of the sofa. This was an orange seed someone planted 25 years ago and the tree became too big for their space so they asked if I wanted it. After a little trimming, it's now part of my moving collection, sitting on casters so I can easily move it outside to my deck after the danger of frost is over. Many butterfly caterpillars have been known to munch onthe leaves mid-summer.

Do I relax in this space? Yes, the cats make sure I do, even when I try to work. Margaret the white cat is an expert at cat naps and she likes to have company. She has chewed on the computer cord a couple of times to let me know when she sits in my lap, I am to set the skinny gray box aside so that I give her my full attention.

She's right, we were not meant to spend all of our days attached to electronics, 10-20 minute naps are an excellent way to unplug and recharge our personal batteries. Reading a book to take a break is a close second but only if the cat approves!

Charlotte

Front Porch Reading Nook Idea

 This is the reading nook on my front porch, a little sparse now but full of plants in summer.

This is the reading nook on my front porch, a little sparse now but full of plants in summer.

Front Porch Reading Nook

Reading nooks are wonderful ways to invite us to take a break and relax. I have been sharing some of the ones I have set up in my house to inspire you. Reading nooks can also be set up outside, like this one I have on my front porch. This is a very small space in a corner that started simply enough with an old deck chair.

Years later, the chair graduated to being a small, two-seater porch swing, the perfect spot to sit in and relax after a long day at work. Studies show that spending just a few minutes outside helps reduce stress and extend one's life over time, why not be comfortable while doing that?

 This reading nook has a metal basket on the wall and side tables behind the porch swing.

This reading nook has a metal basket on the wall and side tables behind the porch swing.

As the weather turned cold, I started to drag the nearest throw outside to keep me warm. The beige throw now covers the porch swing and my throw of choice, the ladybug throw, is not heavy enough to keep me warm in single digit temperatures so I have it inside over winter. I like to have a quilt or throw nearby so I can toss it over my legs when I sit there for a few minutes to look over my garden. 

I found a delightful heavy strawberry-themed cotton throw at a local thrift shop for $4 that is now draped on the back of the porch swing for my winter protection. I love all of the strawberries on it; strawberries are part of our family history. My father's line goes back centuries to Hungary where my predecessors were farmers and, in particular. strawberry farmers.

Other basic reading nook concepts are still here, too. Take the idea of a basket.

 Better than a basket, this metal basket is where I can leave magazines and other reading material.

Better than a basket, this metal basket is where I can leave magazines and other reading material.

Because it is outside, the metal basket is a better choice for holding reading material. Not only will it keep the papers dry but with the basket secured to the wall, it won't blow away. Or get stolen by Cousin George, the raccoon.

I also have two little plant stands behind the porch swing that serve as handy tables. I found the little wooden tray specifically for carrying my tea out to the front porch. My local glass company cut the piece of plastic that provides a continual surface over the two tables.

 Behind the porch swing I have two tables I can use to hold my warm tea and tray.

Behind the porch swing I have two tables I can use to hold my warm tea and tray.

The black metal stand in the corner is new so I will be working with that later this year. My thought was I could leave some paperbacks there but visiting wildlife may want to read them, too, or take them. Maybe I will keep some plants there, or better yet leave some basic gardening tools so I don't have to go looking for them when I spot something I need to get done in the garden.

That's the one challenge of sitting outside, there tends to be something I spot that I just can't wait to do later. This is supposed to be a stress-free zone, I know. Well, have to work on that this year, too!

Charlotte

Bedroom Window Reading Nook

 An old-fashioned chair sits in a bedroom corner to provide me with another reading space.

An old-fashioned chair sits in a bedroom corner to provide me with another reading space.

Bedroom Reading Nook

To the left of this space is the bathroom door, which sits between this corner and my bedside reading nook. This is a great spot to sit early mornings and read after waking up and exercising. It takes a few minutes to get my heart rate down so sitting here to leaf through a magazine, or look out the window while I get my thoughts organized for the day is a welcome retreat.

If you don't have reading nooks anywhere in your house, I'm featuring several through my house to inspire you. Studies show taking a break from our hectic schedules by reading and unplugging from our electronics reduces stress and helps us re-boot. Reading nooks are easy to set up and give us all an excuse to slow down, even for just a few minutes.

Here are my suggested steps to set up a reading nook. In most cases, you already have most of these items readily available, all you need to do is re-organize them in a way that beckons to you to sit down.

Ten Steps to Set Up a Reading Nook

1. Comfortable chair and foot stool. These two in photo don't match but their fabrics are complimentary. They will be re-upholstered later this year. Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on how many of those books behind the chair I want to read first!

2. A handmade quilt or throw draped over the back or side of the seating area is good to have, just in case you get cold or need to rest your eyes for a few minutes. Warning: reading nooks can lead to cat naps, another good way to recharge.

3. Side table with help aids, such as a coaster and notepad/pen for making notes. I also leave a pair of inexpensive reading glasses. These are on the bedside table nearby.

4. Fluffy soft throw pillows for placing behind one's head and back.

5. Baskets. I have them all over, some holding plants, others next to chairs to hold books and magazines. And cats. Cats and dogs are also known to help reduce stress because we pet them and by doing so, it calms us and reduces our blood pressure.

6. Natural lighting and/or good reading lamps. Make sure the lamps have enough light so that you don't get eye strain. I like natural light when at all possible.

7. Books and magazines. An Ipad or Kindle is ok to read something, too but no web-surfing or email checking, the idea is to unplug!

8. Note card or something you can use for bookmarks. I like to use thank you cards, that way I get to re-read them every time I tuck them into my stopping spot. I have several tucked into the top book shelf for easy access.

9. A cat or dog for company. See Item 5.

10. Put your electronics on the "do not disturb" setting and take a break, even if it's just for a few minutes.

 There's a basket here, claimed for cat naps so I have a wooden basket to hold magazines.

There's a basket here, claimed for cat naps so I have a wooden basket to hold magazines.

The low white table on the right is a shoe storage unit I have under my casement windows. They are the perfect height to fit under the windows and hold baskets that get periodic cat visits to watch outside bird feeders. Books and magazines are tucked in there, too.

Inspired now? Where are you going to start a reading nook?

Charlotte

Seating Area Reading Nooks

 Ceramic bird bath came in one winter and hasn't moved back outside since, good napping spot.

Ceramic bird bath came in one winter and hasn't moved back outside since, good napping spot.

Seating Area Reading Nook Ideas

One of the first things I do when I set up a reading nook is place the chair in a spot where I can both read and enjoy the view. I love my garden so sitting down to enjoy it, even for a few minutes, is important to me, and relaxing.

Studies show one of the things we can do to be happy is unplug from our electronics and take time to relax. Some people have told me they think that means taking an elaborate vacation or pursuing a hobby. Although both of those can help, having a comfortable corner in your house where you can easily settle in and relax is more doable and something you can quickly use.

In my house, most of my chairs in my living room are facing towards windows, each one a small reading nook. The side table has space for books underneath, and baskets on the low tables by the windows are perfect places to put reading material. Or cats.

Pets, such as dogs and cats, help us reduce stress so spending a few quiet minutes in a chair petting a pet is a good way to take a break and contribute to our health.

More cats use those baskets than I do; the baskets are a perfect place to sit and bird watch.

 Garden view out of the front living room windows include a perfect bird watching spot.

Garden view out of the front living room windows include a perfect bird watching spot.

This chair can easily be turned around when needed.

Behind the chair is by my sofa, also a bit of a reading nook with a full book case nearby. A vintage log cabin quilt is draped over the back of the sofa, a bit of color that helps pull all the other colors together in the room.

It also comes in very handy when I decide a little cat nap is in order. Cat naps of 10-15 minutes have been proven to be very healthy and helpful to recharge batteries in the middle of the day.

 The sofa behind the chair also has a small white bookcase with a selection of favorite books.

The sofa behind the chair also has a small white bookcase with a selection of favorite books.

The throw pillows also pull the main room colors onto the sofa although it's all a bit eclectic. I'm not aspiring for high fashion, comfort is more my priority.

Here are the basic steps for making reading nooks:

1. Comfortable seating, either a chair or sofa. I scrounge for foot stools at thrift stores and antique shops and have a group that gets re-upholstered this year. Maybe.  I match up the foot stools with complimentary chairs so at least they look like they should be together until I update one or the other.

2. A handmade quilt or throw draped over the back or side for easy access will keep you easily warm and toasty, especially when time is pressing and you still want that little cat nap.

3. Side table with help aids, such as a coaster and reading glasses. In this reading nook the little yellow ceramic peach can hide a few chocolates.

4. Fluffy soft throw pillows for placing behind one's back.

5. A small white bookcase fills in for a side table next to the sofa.

6. Natural lighting and/or good reading lamps. Make sure the lamps have enough light so that you don't get eye strain.

7. Books and magazines. Yes, a Kindle is also ok as long as you stay away from checking emails and surfing, the idea is to unplug for a few!

8. Note card or something you can use for bookmarks. I like to use thank you cards, that way I get to re-read them every time I tuck them into my stopping spot. I have several tucked into the corner shelf in the book shelf.

9. A cat or dog for company. In winter, I also like having a fireplace going to keep the chill off the room. The fireplace, and baskets, tends to attract the cats so I also have towels that blend in with the chairs to pick up cat hair.

10. Research shows one of the healthiest things we can do is unplug so put the electronics on the "do not disturb" setting and take a break.

And now for the ceramic bird bath, not your usual living room item, I grant you, nor a requirement for a reading nook. I brought it in one fall to keep it from cracking over winter and one of my cats found a great use for it.

 Bartholomew likes to curl up in the bird bath for naps and intense bird watching.

Bartholomew likes to curl up in the bird bath for naps and intense bird watching.

Bartholomew likes to nap in the bird bath in summer, too, I can easily reach him from the chair to give him a full body massage so the bird bath has stayed inside.

Inspired to set up reading nooks in your home or do you have some already? How about an inside bird bath?

Charlotte

Bedside Reading Nook Clean Up

 BEFORE: One of my most-used reading nooks is beside my bed and a bit of a mess!

BEFORE: One of my most-used reading nooks is beside my bed and a bit of a mess!

Bedside Reading Nook Clean Up

So here's my most used reading nook at bedside, a bit of a mess thanks in part to cats that walk over, knock books down and I have to place them back on the table as I walk into the bathroom. Yes, it's a daily occurrence so the book pile just kept growing.

Re-Think Old Furniture

The bedside table is an old walnut cabinet from my mother that didn't have its original doors. I love having that open space to store books and magazines so re-think furniture pieces for book storage. The open space allows me to keep some basics handy. I keep a dictionary, phone books as well as other material I want to read before sleeping.

I may add a little shelf at the top this year to add storage space for the electronics.

 This old doorless cabinet is perfect as a reading nook side table, offers space for holding books.

This old doorless cabinet is perfect as a reading nook side table, offers space for holding books.

After some re-organizing, here is the same bedside reading nook cleaned up and ready to welcome the new year.

 AFTER: Reading nook cleaned up and ready for the new year and new books. 

AFTER: Reading nook cleaned up and ready for the new year and new books. 

Other Tips for Bedside Reading Nooks

I still have a basket only this one is hanging from the wall and holds hand cream, notepads and pens, remote controls and other electronics.

I moved the wall hangings around so the books standing up don't cover the wall art. The smaller photo is one of Margaret, my 19-year old cat on the right of the photo, napping with her buddy Bob on the bed.

Two metal bookends hold the books I am currently reading. I will be looking for something prettier to cover the metal book ends but these work well enough for now. This makes it harder for Margaret to knock the books over as she walks across the bedside table.

 Reading glasses, a card for a book mark and "Bun Bun" the cat toy that often gets moves.

Reading glasses, a card for a book mark and "Bun Bun" the cat toy that often gets moves.

Must Haves for Bedside Reading Nooks

A thank you note serves as an extra book mark for a new book I may start that doesn't already have a card in it to mark where I left off reading. I will add a few more cards to have them handy.

Reading glasses are a must especially for late night reading when my eyes are tired.

The tiny fabric rabbit is a favorite cat toy that often gets moved around the house. Shirley Honey is my girly girl cat, she enjoys her own form of decorating by leaving cat toys in different rooms and one doesn't move them without her supervising.

I found "Bun bun" in the basket with the hand creams and remote controls and I know I didn't leave it there.

Shirley Honey will find it soon enough and move it to a new resting place.

 I have my Kindle here, only I keep it with the books instead of taking up space on the table top.

I have my Kindle here, only I keep it with the books instead of taking up space on the table top.

When it's warmer, the cabinet will get a little hydration with Howard Feed 'n Wax furniture polish and the clean up will be complete.

Well, except for Bun Bun, the toy rabbit. I will still be finding that cat toy making the rounds!

Charlotte

10 Steps To Set Up a Reading Nook

 One of the reading nooks in my living room bay window, the photo shoot interrupted a cat nap.

One of the reading nooks in my living room bay window, the photo shoot interrupted a cat nap.

Setting Up a Reading Nook

It's a new year and I'm starting by making sure all of my reading nooks are well-stocked and ready for use. Over the years I have dreamed of the day when I could stay home during a winter storm without having to go anywhere. The dream included having comfortable reading nooks where I could stay warm and read undisturbed.

Since my house has the "vibe" of a summer retreat, having reading nooks at almost every turn is not a surprise. So what does one need to set up a reading nook?

Ten Steps to Set Up a Reading Nook

1. Comfortable chair and complimentary foot stool. I scrounge for foot stools at thrift stores and antique shops and have a group that gets re-upholstered this year. I think that officially counts as a resolution, don't you? In case I can't get to that quickly, I match up the stools with complimentary chairs so at least they look like they should be together.

2. A handmade quilt or throw draped over the back or side for easy access. I suppose that's how those smaller handmade quilts got their common name as a "throw" as in "throw over a chair, a sofa..." Looks like I missed changing Santa Friends throw out for something more wintery and snowy.

3. Side table with help aids, such as a coaster and notepad/pen for making notes. I also leave a pair of inexpensive reading glasses, I have enough of those that I can almost leave one at every nook!

4. Fluffy soft throw pillows for placing behind one's back.

 Shirley Honey seems to be checking my reading options in this basket.

Shirley Honey seems to be checking my reading options in this basket.

5. Baskets. I have them all over, some holding plants, others next to chairs to hold books and magazines. Place the books edge up so you can easily select a book to read.

6. Natural lighting and/or good reading lamps. Make sure the lamps have enough light so that you don't get eye strain.

7. Books and magazines. 

8. Note card or something you can use for bookmarks. I like to use thank you cards, that way I get to re-read them every time I tuck them into my stopping spot.

 Uh-oh, Shirley Honey is giving me that "look" that says why is there something in my basket??

Uh-oh, Shirley Honey is giving me that "look" that says why is there something in my basket??

 Never fear, Shirley Honey, there's another empty basket nearby for your comfy napping spot.

Never fear, Shirley Honey, there's another empty basket nearby for your comfy napping spot.

9. A cat or dog for company. In winter, I also like having a fireplace going to keep the chill off the room. The fireplace, and baskets, tends to attract the cats so I also have towels that blend in with the chairs to pick up cat hair.

10. Did you notice I didn't mention a cell phone or Ipad? Research shows one of the healthiest things we can do is unplug so put the electronics on the "do not disturb" setting and take a break.

 Plants fill bay window nook behind the chair, which I sometimes turn around to enjoy the view.

Plants fill bay window nook behind the chair, which I sometimes turn around to enjoy the view.

As look around my house, most of my nooks also include a live plant or plants, a nice addition against the snow-covered landscape outside.

Shop Library Book Sales

For the books, I go to two local library sales and save a pile of books for reading in the middle of winter. Sometimes they are several gardening books, other times its a mixture of garden-related books and favorite mysteries or something interesting I have always wanted to read. The "rule" is the books have to be saved for a snowy, wintery day so no peeking!

Reading Nooks Remind Us to Slow Down

Even if you can't stop and read at that exact moment, a reading nook should at least beckon you to think about stopping what you are doing and curling up in the spot to read. Or look out the window and enjoy the view.

What are your must haves for your reading nooks?

Charlotte

Green Leaves Quilted Table Runner

 Love the way these patchwork leaves look like they are falling, don't you?

Love the way these patchwork leaves look like they are falling, don't you?

Green Leaves Quilted Table Runner

This time of year in Missouri, it's hard to find green leaves. Most trees have turned color so their fall leaves a range of yellow, peach, red and brown with only a dash of green cedars tossed in for contrast.

This table runner reminded me of the fall leaves quilt we have, only the leaves in the table runner have a wonderful shadowing effect that suggests the fall. 

Here are the leaves in the fall leaves handmade quilt:

 This is a basic patchwork leaf pattern without the shadow effect.

This is a basic patchwork leaf pattern without the shadow effect.

Green Leaves Quilted Table Runner would be nice to have as a reminder that green colors will soon be back.

Well, maybe not so soon, it will be next spring but I have enough plants inside over winter to keep my environment green until the outside "greens up" as well. 

The quilted table runner was entered in the 2017 Piece and Plenty Quilt Guild Show held October 7-8, 2017 in Rolla, Missouri. The quilt show is held every other year.

 Making table runners is a good way to practice new quilting techniques.

Making table runners is a good way to practice new quilting techniques.

When I first learned to quilt, we use to make our practice quilt blocks into pot holders, throw pillows and even skirt pockets.  These days, table runners are a popular home decor item to make, especially by beginning quilters. They use up only a few blocks and give the quilter experience working the patterns before they tackle a larger project like a throw or full-size bed quilt.

Charlotte

Sewing Spools Wreath Idea

 Vintage sewing thread spools wreath up for auction at a recent quilt guild annual show.

Vintage sewing thread spools wreath up for auction at a recent quilt guild annual show.

Thread Spool Wreath

I love wreaths. Like quilted wall hangings, they are an easy way to update home decor with little effort so I keep favorite seasonal ones hanging inside one of my hallway closets.

I'm pretty picky about my wreaths. They have to be unusual, and personal. Doesn't matter if they represent something that only I understand. After all, it's my home so I should be able to look at them and smile.

I was walking through a recent bi-annual local quilt guild show when I spotted this vintage sewing threads wreath on the silent auction table. I have an old hat box full of my mother's old sewing threads. Many are too delicate now to thread through my sewing machine but I don't have the heart to donate them or worse, toss them.

This charming thread spool wreath spoke to me. Between the different thread spools, old buttons, thimbles, worn fabric measuring tape and little embroidery scissors, it reminded me so much of my mother and spending rainy afternoons sewing with her in our old barn house kitchen. Later this year I may take a stab and making one of these.

In the meantime, isn't this a sweet handmade gift idea for a sewing and quilting room?

Charlotte

Fall Flowers Bouquet

 Colder weather is starting to move in so I picked a fall bouquet featuring my blooming zinnias.

Colder weather is starting to move in so I picked a fall bouquet featuring my blooming zinnias.

Fall Flowers Bouquet

We've had a fall drought this year, more than a month without rain and record hot temperatures so flowers have been few and far between.

I planted my zinnia seeds late this year so when the first flowers started to unfurl, I decided it was time to pick my first fall flowers bouquet. This time of year, it's hard to say how many more bouquets I will get before frost nips what is still blooming.

Of all of the seasons, fall is the one when my bouquets are a mixed collection of flowers. Blooming mums aside, I may only have a couple of one flower still blooming so the fall bouquets end up being an interesting mix.

 Zinnias make wonderful cut flowers, they can be cut still unfolding and will last a long time.

Zinnias make wonderful cut flowers, they can be cut still unfolding and will last a long time.

This fall bouquet has fall asters, red salvia, a couple of garlic chives still blooming - those are the little white flowers - butterfly weed and the Mexican sage, the long purple flowers. In the center, several zinnias, some picked still in bud form.

These should last a good couple of weeks if cats don't decide to munch on the green leaves.

Going out into the garden and picking a bouquet of flowers is one of my guilty pleasures. I do it when I am finished cleaning house; when I need a hint of beauty in a difficult day, when I just need a break.

I am hoping there is at least one more bouquet to be picked before cold weather settles in. Although I am looking forward to slowing down, I will miss having the fresh flowers to enjoy.

Charlotte

Surprise Lilies

 Surprise lilies in a flower vase in Bluebird Gardens kitchen.

Surprise lilies in a flower vase in Bluebird Gardens kitchen.

Surprise Lilies

One of the nicest garden gifts you can give is a bouquet of surprise lilies, even if it's just to yourself to brighten up a corner of your house.

Surprise lilies are hardy perennial bulbs that bloom usually in August in USDA zone 5b on leafless long green stems. Their aromatic pink flowers fade to a soft lavender as they age, the buds good to cut as they have first started to bloom.

Over the years, I have given away dozens of bouquets of surprise lilies, placing the pink flowers in tall vases and taking advantage of the dramatic look of the flowers on their long green stems. Some of the surprise lily bouquets have been used on altars in weddings.

 Surprise lilies popping up in Bluebird Gardens.

Surprise lilies popping up in Bluebird Gardens.

Let's face it, though, not everyone has the room for a bouquet of tall surprise lilies so don't let those long legs discourage you.

Try surprise lilies cut short in a smaller vase, as I have in my kitchen. You can still enjoy the aroma and beauty of the flowers without having to struggle to peer around the vase!

Charlotte

Bouquet of Daffodils

 Daffodils blooming on my Missouri hillside at Bluebird Gardens.

Daffodils blooming on my Missouri hillside at Bluebird Gardens.

Bouquet of Daffodils

One of the most wonderful bouquets of flowers to add to your home decor is a bouquet of daffodils. Yes, the very same spring-blooming flowers you can grow in your garden from bulbs you plant in the fall. 

These wonderfully hardy perennial bulbs will bloom repeatedly year after year once settled in. They will also expand and give you more flowers if you let them go to seed. And because they give off an unpleasant toxic, they are not nibbled on by deer and other wildlife.

What Stage of Flower to Pick

If you want the inside flowers to last longer, pick the flowers when they are still in bud form.

If you want them for a table decorating that evening, then pick the flowers already open.

I wanted a little vase of daffodils to brighten a corner of my den before having a meeting so I picked this handful early morning using a pair of my gardening clippers and cutting the stems close to the bottom.

 My picked daffodil bouquet, ready to take inside.

My picked daffodil bouquet, ready to take inside.

Once inside, I added them to a flower vase with room temperature water, let them sit for a few minutes, then changed the water one more time and set them in water again, in the vase, their final spot next to my little bee gourd.

A daffodil bouquet fully open like this should last a good 3-5 days, depending on how old the flowers are. In this bouquet, the more yellow-cupped daffodils are younger so they will last longer than the ones that have turned all white.

 Daffodil bouquet inside, keeping my little bee gourd company where I can see both of them!

Daffodil bouquet inside, keeping my little bee gourd company where I can see both of them!

Scientists have proven than having flowers around us is a mood-booster so go ahead, go pick yourself a bouquet of whatever you have blooming in your garden!

Charlotte

Framed Gift Bird Card

 I received this lovely hand-painted bird card from a friend over Christmas.

I received this lovely hand-painted bird card from a friend over Christmas.

Framed Gift Bird Card

I know sending cards is not in style any more but I am lucky to still receive them every once in awhile. And when they are handmade, who needs to buy art, here it is delivered to your mailbox.

This past Christmas, a friend sent me this lovely hand-painted bird card, a combination of bluebird and hummingbird on an old printed book page in french with a solid blue paper background.

This friend is going through a very difficult time so I kept the card on my kitchen counter for weeks to keep her in my thoughts and prayers. One morning, I realized I wanted this bird with me every day and found a perfect spot for it on a wall right off my kitchen. 

Taking it with me to a local thrift shop, I found a frame I thought would work to set off the card's blue background. The recycled frame was $2.

I don't always find something that quickly, nor does a frame easily come apart but it was a good start.

 This framed print at a local thrift shop was $2 and nicely set off the bird card.

This framed print at a local thrift shop was $2 and nicely set off the bird card.

Carefully removing the backing, I removed the frame, used it for the backing to the card and put it back in the frame. I thought about taking the solid blue card off but on second thought, left it on. I wanted to remember the story my friend had written, and the blue card reminded me.

 The print in the frame served as the backing for the bird card.

The print in the frame served as the backing for the bird card.

This way I get to enjoy the card every day I see it without spilling anything on it. 

It's now part of a collection of three similar handmade birds, all cards friends have given me over the years. Love the memories they hold.

Turned out quite nicely, don't you think?

Charlotte

Birthday Wishes Vintage Postcard Friends

 Vintage birthday wishes postcard now has baby birds in a nest salt and pepper shakers.

Vintage birthday wishes postcard now has baby birds in a nest salt and pepper shakers.

Birthday Wishes Vintage Postcard and Salt and Pepper Shaker Friends

The vintage postcards were a gift from my grandmother. She used to include them in the books she gave us from Christmas, sometimes writing a personal note in pencil on the back side.

I now use the vintage postcards to mark special holidays and occasions. I keep a small collection of them already framed, and change them when I want to try something new. The vintage postcards mark special occasions, from birthdays to favorite holidays. There are even a few postcards about favorite subjects, such as cats, and bees.

The vintage postcards sit on a silver tray on a wooden cart in my kitchen, a nice way to greet me in the morning. My kitchen is the heart of my home so it makes sense to have something special where I can enjoy it. I started adding salt and pepper shakers to the vintage postcards last year, a nice way to add charm to the vintage postcards.

I didn't have complimentary salt and pepper shakers to add to the birthday wishes vintage postcard until an afternoon of hitting local antique malls with a friend. I don't plan to collect salt and pepper shakers, I just want a few that can keep my vintage postcards company for easy home decorating.

How do I decide? Quite simple, they have to make me smile. These two yellow baby birds in a brown nest came home with me. Price $2.80.

 The yellow birds are easily removable from the brown porcelain nest.

The yellow birds are easily removable from the brown porcelain nest.

The yellow birds are removable from the brown porcelain nest. Both are shakers, see the tiny holes in the nest?

The little salt and pepper shakers add some whimsical charm to the birthday wishes vintage postcard, don't you think?

Charlotte

"..not even a mouse."

 My fireplace mantle village has a portion full of little mice gift figurines, only one a purchase.

My fireplace mantle village has a portion full of little mice gift figurines, only one a purchase.

"...not even a mouse."

"Twas the Night Before Christmas" is the inspiration for this little scene on my fireplace mantle, although I didn't set out to create it. See the little mouse stocking on top of the Christmas tree?

The mouse stocking has been part of my family stocking line-up for decades, a whimsical tribute to the mice I have escorted out of the house because my cats over the years couldn't be bothered. Not that I wanted the mice to be injured; I would much rather have had them stay outside than running across my kitchen floor the day after the first hard frost and my having to catch them.

In honor of some of those mouse-catching adventures, friends have given me mouse gifts over the years. I grouped them together one year and they have been sitting together ever since, appropriate to be hanging out on the side of the fireplace mantle away from the cat stocking hangar. 

Such a simple little scene but it makes me smile every time I see it, especially the little girl mouse tucked in bed. I was trying to put my finger on why this charms me and I know why, and so do you. It represents the magic of Christmas.

"'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring...."

Charlotte

 

 

Green Fabric Christmas Trees

 Fabric Christmas trees now on my dining room table, adopted from a local thrift store.

Fabric Christmas trees now on my dining room table, adopted from a local thrift store.

Fabric Christmas Trees

So I just posted about seeing these fabric Christmas trees at a local thrift shop and how I passed them by.

Not so much.

The next day, I headed back to the thrift shop and picked them up, not even asking the price. I had the perfect spot for them and wondered why on earth I passed them up in the first place.

It's not that forests and trees are a decorating theme at my house, although they do hold a special place in my heart. As a custom gift business based on quilts, anything fabric-based gets my attention. If it's repurposed, even better.

Just as the custom projects are all about pulling colors together, my little dining room table was waiting for a little tender loving care. The table runner gift is a forest green and has been solitary for a few years, keeping a glass bowl company. The silver trees were also a gift a couple of years ago, which I decorated this year with the two little red wreaths. 

So happy when it all comes together. Merry Christmas!

Charlotte

Make Your Own Fireplace Mantle Village

Fireplace mantle mice village at Bluebird Gardens.

Fireplace mantle villages can be made with a collection of mis-matched but complimentary items.

Make Your Own Fireplace Mantle Village

For years, these were very popular holiday decor items. They could be purchased at major department stores, with new homes or business being released every year.

Mom and I collected a number on sale after Christmas and sent them next year to my brothers for their model train layouts. 

I thought about getting a set for myself but never got around to it. 

Then one year, I was given a couple of little gifts - literally - that inspired me to make my own little fireplace mantle village. Since cats are part of our family, the little mice family seemed like a natural addition to hang around the sleeping cat stocking hangar.

Another year, the little snowman gardener joined the snowman stocking hangar. As with most suggestions for decorating, start with a focal point and go from there. Each of these little fireplace mantle scenes have a little cardboard house that anchors them.

 A collection of gift snowmen now have their own little corner in my fireplace mantle village.

A collection of gift snowmen now have their own little corner in my fireplace mantle village.

The little village scene changes from year to year. Christmas cards get added in the back to add dimension and to be a memory marker of friends who have been part of our lives.

You can start by combining what you have and see if you can start your own little vignettes. If not, keep it in mind through the year as you treasure hunt antique malls and yard sales. The best time to buy Christmas decorations and decor is in the summer.

 I refurbished this nutcracker by gluing missing parts and adding a bluebird on empty wheels.

I refurbished this nutcracker by gluing missing parts and adding a bluebird on empty wheels.

Too much trouble? Have something special you already particularly like or holiday traditions you like to follow?

Start with that, or with a stocking holder, and look for things that can create a scene around them. Doesn't have to be complicated, this little Santa nutcraker got repaired and added to a fireplace mantle corner with a rocking horse stocking holder.

There were only wheels left for whatever vehicle Santa had but I took care of that by adding a bluebird. Looks very personal now, doesn't it, as if it was made just for me...

Charlotte

Putting Up a Christmas Tree

 One of my cats checking out her first Christmas tree at Bluebird Gardens.

One of my cats checking out her first Christmas tree at Bluebird Gardens.

Putting Up a Christmas Tree

If you have pets, you know a Christmas tree is just a big toy to some. Since I grew up with a variety of pets, we had some special things we did to make the holiday safe for everyone.

Christmas trees, for example, were tied up to room posts so that when - it was not an if - cats decided to climb it, the tree would at least be anchored. 

I thought about this as I put up my little artificial tree this year. I used to have several small decorated artificial trees I would scatter around the house but they were stolen earlier this summer so I thought it was time I get a bigger tree.

A quick visit to a local thrift shop and I had a nice 4-foot artificial tree to set up in my living room window. I centered the tree in the window so I could see if from the outside and started to add the garnish.

Didn't take long to realize my placement was less than optimal. I had placed the Christmas tree in the prime bird-watching spot, something my cat Shirley Honey let me know was not acceptable. She tried to settle into her favorite bird-watching spot on a nearby chair. When that didn't make it clear my decor was not working, she moved beside the tree turning back to look at me as if to say this is just not going to work, see why?

After a few minutes, I agreed with her and moved the tree off to the side, next to the fireplace. Now the tree can still be seen from the outside and she can still watch her birds from the comfort of the inside easy chair.

There's absolutely a compromise for any issue, including putting up a Christmas tree with a cat!

Charlotte

Fabric Christmas Tree

 I found this fabric Christmas tree a couple of years ago at a summer yard sale.

I found this fabric Christmas tree a couple of years ago at a summer yard sale.

Fabric Christmas Tree

I have to confess, I found this fabric Christmas tree one summer a couple of years ago and I picked it up for the ornaments.

Yes, my original thought was I could take the ornaments off this fabric tree and place them on one of my tiny artificial trees I used to have. I loved those little trees. Once decorated, I could store them in a tote and pull them out to quickly add a holiday flavor to any room.

They were stolen this summer so I had to re-think my traditional holiday decorations. This fabric tree was in the project section of my business office, waiting to be taken apart and recycled.

On closer inspection, I was reminded of why I picked up the fabric tree in the first place.

 Isn't this little dog in a cube ornament adorable? it's one of the reasons why I bought the tree.

Isn't this little dog in a cube ornament adorable? it's one of the reasons why I bought the tree.

The little dog in a cube ornament was the first thing that caught my attention. The dog reminded me of some of the dogs that have kept me company over the years, especially the long ears.

 Several drums were also attached as ornaments to the fabric Christmas tree.

Several drums were also attached as ornaments to the fabric Christmas tree.

Anyone grow up with the song "Little Drummer Boy?" I remember siblings practicing that song for their Christmas shows. I was never invited to sing. Although I love to, I am basically tone deaf but I smile when I see drums. I would be perfectly happy not hearing the song every again.

 Also loved this little snowman ornament as if jumping across the fabric Christmas tree.

Also loved this little snowman ornament as if jumping across the fabric Christmas tree.

This little snowman also was a favorite, how many times does one see a snowman trying to jump? It's how I feel when I see the first snow of the season.

 Little Santa Claus with bag of gifts ornaments on fabric Christmas tree.

Little Santa Claus with bag of gifts ornaments on fabric Christmas tree.

Have you tried to find tiny Christmas ornaments? Some years I find some, other times it seems years apart, part of the reason why I was going to take these ornaments off this fabric Christmas tree.

 I didn't notice it at first, the little fabric tree has a green star on top among the ribbons.

I didn't notice it at first, the little fabric tree has a green star on top among the ribbons.

I am guessing these were popular in the 1980s just from the fabric selection and all of the red ribbons. 

I saw another one at a local thrift store last week, only this one was not embellished. There was something quite elegant about the simple lines, even without any ornaments. 

 Plain fabric Christmas tree available at a local thrift store.

Plain fabric Christmas tree available at a local thrift store.

On second thought, I am going to keep the first little fabric Christmas tree intact with all of the ornaments and make it my new tradition to add it to my holiday decor. Seems appropriate for a quilting-based gift business, don't you think?

Charlotte