Neighbor's Auction Gifts

My neighbor brought me these vintage items from a weekend auction. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My neighbor brought me these vintage items from a weekend auction. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Neighbor’s Auction Gifts

One of my neighbors surprised me today with a couple of vintage items she picked up at a weekend auction. We were meeting to try to identify the leaves of a tree she was interested in planting in her yard.. As we caught up on family news she gave me a couple of items that now are prominently part of my home decor.

If you notice the items we carry, they reflect my philosophy that we should surround ourselves with items that have good memories attached and yes, bring us joy. Although I have been clearing closets and donating items I no longer use or want this summer, I tend to keep things that make me smile. I think we need more smiles these days, don’t you?

Here are a couple of ways to inspire you to find gift items that will also bring joy to your family and friends:

One of my favorite garden residents are frogs. I have a lot of them, especially in my small front ponds. So does my neighbor, especially when the kids of another resident bring us buckets of spring peepers out of their swimming pool. We solemnly take them it, dump them in our small ponds and keep our fingers crossed that at least some of them will stay. We know the kids will come by later to check on them!

A friend gave me this print of orange poppies, each with their own frog. This sprint sits in the place of honor in the middle of my basement bookcase, where I have a tiny bar attached I call the “Bee Bar.”

The little oil and vinegar jars are now keeping the frogs company. I will now see those and remember all of the frogs we have shared over the years.

The oil and vinegar jars now are in my basement “Bee Bar” kitchen. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The oil and vinegar jars now are in my basement “Bee Bar” kitchen. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As for the second gift, it is tied to where I live and all of the birds and bird houses I have set up around the property. Since I live on Bluebird Lane, my neighbor thought I needed this vintage blue glass bluebird, which is now keeping a couple of other gifts company on my den fireplace mantle. The glass swizzle sticks and glass jars were gifts from the glass blower and a Navy friend. The birdhouse was a gift from a publishing friend. The wooden bee was a gift from a local club where I spoke recently and now the bee has a friend in the bluebird.

The little bluebird has joined a gift bee from a lecture and a birdhouse from a friend. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The little bluebird has joined a gift bee from a lecture and a birdhouse from a friend. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

So considerate of my neighbor to share these with me and a reminder that you can bring joy to people with vintage as well as new items, the key is that they have something meaningful attached.

Charlotte

Spring Flowers Bouquet

My spring flowers bouquet on my den coffee table. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My spring flowers bouquet on my den coffee table. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Spring Flowers Bouquet

It’s easy to think that a flower bouquet has to be carefully coordinated and immaculate so let me suggest another option. Welcome to my den and, more particularly, to the flower vase I keep filled on my den coffee table.

One of the ways to enjoy spring is to bring some of the flowers inside. Instead of cutting a whole bouquet at once, start with a few flowers and keep adding. Change the water every day or every other day, make a new cut at the bottom of the flower stem and remove whatever is starting to fade.

To add flowers, one would need to take a walk in the garden, preferably in the morning with flower snips to easily cut off a couple of flowers. Maybe even stop and admire them on the plant as you decide whether you want to cut them or not. Look at what may be visiting the flowers and what they are doing. Most flowers should have visitors on them this time of year.

I sometimes also take a jar with water so I can quickly add the cut flowers to water as I take them inside because I know I may get distracted. If you know you will make a quick trip around the garden then no need to take a jar with water, you are going to take them straight back to your kitchen and to your own flower vase.

In this bouquet, I started with two yellow roses still in bud form. I added the coral roses a couple of days later followed by three ox-eye daisies, one of my favorite Missouri native wildflowers.

Today I added beards tongue, another white Missouri wildflower, and the purple self heal, a particularly favorite native Missouri wildflower in the mint family.

Well, yes, I tend to have a lot of favorite flowers, wild or not.

I passed up several patches of self heal close to my hives; I didn’t want to deprive my bees of a potential source of nectar and pollen. As thunder rolled overhead, however, I decided the bees would be safe inside their hives and wouldn’t miss if I took a couple of flowers to enjoy.

Ah, there’s also one sprig of midnight blue Salvia I found already cut in the garden. Not sure what did that but the salvia is now spending a few more days in bloom, even if it is inside.

Two more flowers added to my coffee table flower bouquet. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Two more flowers added to my coffee table flower bouquet. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If your rose petals start going brown around the edges, do what florists do and carefully remove them. The flowers should be fine for several more days.

I just added another couple of flowers to the bouquet, can you tell what they are?

(Hint: bright yellow coreopsis, just starting to bloom this afternoon)

Charlotte



Hanging Bird Prints

Some of my vintage bird prints along a hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Some of my vintage bird prints along a hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Hanging Bird Prints

This is inspiration for those of you who have saved prints but still don’t have them hanging in their permanent location.

Over the years, I have collected a variety of vintage and new bird prints. They were partly inspired by a local bird artist whose original paintings I could not afford. When I first came across vintage bird prints, I would pick them up at thrift stores and sales, then tuck them away for later framing. When a couple of the prints were in good frames, those went up on a wall.

Last year, a workman damaged my mother’s Japanese silk print hanging in the hallway. The insurance company was fabulous, finding someone who could repair the silk.

When I hung it back up in its space in my business office hallway, I was reminded of the other bird prints. The Japanese screen is a scene of birds in trees over peony bushes, one of my favorite late spring flowers.

My mother’s Japanese print that inspired where to place the rest of bird prints. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My mother’s Japanese print that inspired where to place the rest of bird prints. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I didn’t realize just how many I had collected over the years until I placed them all together in the hallway, starting with this large print.

This first bird print started the collection. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This first bird print started the collection. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

They were mostly in oak frames, although a couple had more of a washed out color to the frames. Five still needed frames so I scoured local thrift shops to find something that was complimentary.

I didn’t want perfect matches but more similar colors and frame patterns. Actually it was harder to just find frames that fit the prints so I focused on that part of this project first.

The bird prints are not in matching frames but they do have similar trim. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The bird prints are not in matching frames but they do have similar trim. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

On the right side now is a print of western bluebirds and, on the left side, the side closest to my business office, a print of the bird artist who first inspired this collection.

David Plank is now a renown Missouri bird artist but when I first met him several decades ago, he was just starting his career. I made the mistake of telling myself I could buy his original work later. By the time I had the funds to do so, his prices were out of my reach so I settled on finding vintage bird prints.

My Eastern Bluebird print signed by Missouri artist David Plank. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My Eastern Bluebird print signed by Missouri artist David Plank. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

When I started to hang the prints, I thought I would have to reframe a few of the prints.

After I had them spaced and all on one wall, they looked quite nice and I have decided I don’t need to reframe any of them.

The older oak frames were treated with Howard RestoraFinish oak color and left to dry before hanging on the wall. The rest were all treated with Howard Feed N Wax to rehydrate the frame wood. The two Howard Furniture Refinishing products in a furniture refinishing kit are my go-to whenever I am working with cleaning up anything out of wood.

So here is the collection of bird prints now finished and hanging in the hallway opposite my mother’s Japanese silk screen.

The row of bird prints guiding me down my hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The row of bird prints guiding me down my hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I love walking by these prints, it makes me feel like I am also in the trees among the birds!

Charlotte

Storage Baskets

My collection of storage baskets in use by my garage entrance. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My collection of storage baskets in use by my garage entrance. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Storage Baskets

Baskets for storage have become, and continue to be, popular for home decor. In my house, however, they are more than decor, they are practical and handy for a variety of uses sometimes currently addressed with plastic.

I started to collect baskets that would fit my little metal book case at the house entrance from my garage. By having the storage space there, I can easily lean in and grab what I need without dragging mud through the house. Having the items easy to see also help me make sure the supplies are available.

The challenge in getting storage baskets to work for a specific space is to find sizes that will fit. I kept the available space measurement handy whenever I saw a basket so I could easily decide whether it would work.

The other decision is to settle on a basket style that was relatively available and one I liked. I ended up with this large weave basket in a honey color for inspiration.

I look for baskets with this color and weave. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I look for baskets with this color and weave. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

You can find similar baskets at big box stores. The ones I found that were similar to these started at $24.95 each with the larger ones $34.95 each.

With summer starting, you can save money and have some treasure hunting fun shop garage sales, auctions and thrift stores. Keep one basket handy or take a photo of the basket color and style so you have it easily available to match other finds. These baskets I use ranged from $1-$2 each. You do the math in terms of the cost of big box store baskets compared to thrift store finds.

If you are concerned about cleanliness, only pick up baskets that look brand new. I wash them with hot water and Dawn laundry detergent; then allow to dry.

If you are enterprising, you can also take a basket-weaving class and make your own baskets.

If you find something that will work to store items but isn’t a basket, pick something in the same color. On this shelf I have a wooden box with gardening supplies, see the box on the right in the middle shelf.

The baskets make a handy collection point. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The baskets make a handy collection point. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In addition to not using plastic and ready storage, now I also have a supply of easy to find baskets that I can use to carry things.

Actually they can also be used for storage in cabinets. I use baskets to sort out my freezer bags and storage containers in my kitchen. These baskets vary in color and weave but all have an easy handle to grab.

Baskets used for storage inside a kitchen cabinet. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Baskets used for storage inside a kitchen cabinet. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Not an issue in most households but in mine, baskets tend to be quickly claimed for other purposes.

This was a woven basket I found at a thrift shop that I thought would work well to store magazines under my den coffee table.

Shirley Honey had different plans for my magazine storage basket. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Shirley Honey had different plans for my magazine storage basket. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

At least the basket made its way under the coffee table. Some baskets don’t make it that far before getting claimed for napping spots.

Storage baskets can also be used next to easy chairs and on top of cabinets. I love having them easily accessible to carry things, even if it is a sleepy cat!

Charlotte

Tiny Flower Vases

A close up of the toothpick holders turned flower vases. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A close up of the toothpick holders turned flower vases. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tiny Flower Vases

I like to include fresh flowers in most of our beekeeping classes and meetings. It’s a good reminder that bees have a special relationship to plants as nature’s matchmakers and that we wouldn’t have one without the other one.

I collect baskets with the same thought. Sometimes a flower vase can be set inside a basket to bring flowers into a room, just as this handmade quilt has Tulips in Basket.

In one of our late winter bee club meetings, several attendees were struck by the tiny flower vases holding early daffodils. One said she was looking for something similar for a wedding. Another said she would love to have some small flower vases to easily scatter fresh flowers around her house, something I can relate to and do.

The trick to finding tiny flower vases is to be creative. The “vases” at the meeting started their live as toothpick holders. The reason I like to use them for flowers is they have wider bases to hold water. None of the toothpick holders were the same but they were the same height.

Early daffodils cheered up this beekeeping meeting. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Early daffodils cheered up this beekeeping meeting. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Some miniature orchid pots, the ones without holes in the bottom, also work well as tiny flower vases.

I once used asparagus cans with their paper removed as flower vases so you are only limited by your imagination.

Now can someone pass me a toothpick, please?

Charlotte

Framing Flower Prints

Framed flower prints now in my basement hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Framed flower prints now in my basement hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Framing Flower Prints

A friend recently gave me these sweet US wildflower prints. No, they are not cut out of a book, the set was a reprint of flower plates found in US Wildflower books. Not wanting to spend the hundreds of dollars to have them professionally framed, I settled with five $2.99 per sheet of art paper a little darker than the actual prints.

A visit to area thrift shops turned up the ten 11x14 inch frames, seven matching and three with thinner frames.

Flower prints raspberry.jpg

They all had some wear along the frames so before adding the prints, I rubbed them with Howard RestorAFinish in Walnut. Counter-intuitive, I know, but over the years I have found using the walnut color on oak, for example, nicely covers nicks and keeps them covered.

After they were dry, I cleaned the glass on both sides, cut the art paper to size and added the flower prints.

I did think through which ones would look better in the different-sized picture frames. For example, I focused on the narrow edge frames at each corner to make sure the flowers were in the right direction.

Flower print thin frame.jpg

The frames were hung so that I can read the flower names as I walk by although I recognize some by sight. The calla lilies, for example, are easy to spot in the flower prints without reading the name on the bottom.

Flower print thick frame.jpg

I also placed the tiger lilies over the wall lamp, which nicely now illuminates the print.

The wall sconce now highlights the tiger lily print. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The wall sconce now highlights the tiger lily print. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Here are all ten prints now lining my basement hallway. Can you see where the third mismatched frame is?

Here’s a hint, take a look at the print under the wall sconce.

The ten flower prints in my basement hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The ten flower prints in my basement hallway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I didn’t have to polish or do anything else to the wooden frames, with Howard RestorA Finish they now look good as new.

Now to tackle that gold strip on the wall sconce, maybe I should paint that silver?

Charlotte

Days of the Week Beekeeping Kitchen Towels

bee towels.jpg

Days of the Week Beekeeping Kitchen Towels

It’s beginning to look like spring - or at least sound like spring where I live. We had almost a day of thunderstorms followed by a few hours of sunshine punctuated by a serenade of spring peepers, tiny frogs that can make a huge sound.

These warmer days are also a welcome sight for beekeepers since temperatures over 50F bring honeybees out of hives in droves. They are not only cleaning house in those warmer sunny days but they are also scouting for pollen. The sight of their packed legs returning to their hives is a sure sign that spring has almost arrived.

One of my friends decided she also wants to keep bees as I do but wasn’t sure about having the actual little flying machines in her garden. As a combined birthday and housewarming gift, I sent her a unique, one of a kind Days of the Week Beekeeping Kitchen Towels set .

Made in Missouri from brand new muslin towels we make ourselves, each of the 16x32 inch towels are hand embroidered with different beekeeping scenes, one for each day of the week. Just as we have in this gift set, I included a jar of honey from the Bluebird Gardens Apiaries to use in her tea.

She was thrilled. She said now she can claim to be a beekeeper and won’t get stung!

Charlotte

Santa Doll on His Way

Not a sleight but should still get this Santa to his destination! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Not a sleight but should still get this Santa to his destination! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Santa Doll On his Way

One of my favorite handmade Santa dolls is on his way to Minnesota. Every handmade Santa doll is unique and the face of this one made me smile every time I saw it so I featured it on our home decor page banner.

Most of these Santa dolls are made out of cutter quilts for their suits, giving yet another way to repurpose these pre-loved handmade quilts. Cutter quilts are quilts that now only have pieces that are salvageable so are often cut up into pillows, stuffed animals and, in this case, Santa doll suits.

This Santa doll was a little different. He is wearing a burgundy red suit with a few patches, which is how I imagine the real Santa suit would be after all of those chimney visits!

To get this Santa doll ready for his box ride, I added a label inside his suit.

The last step, adding a label. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The last step, adding a label. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

All of our unique Santa dolls are shipped with a brand new, collapsible doll stand so they can be placed standing near a Christmas tree. The dolls also easily sit for posing on fireplace mantels, gift packages, doll chairs - and they are most definitely huggable.

Every Santa doll is shipped with a collapsible display stand for easy storage. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Every Santa doll is shipped with a collapsible display stand for easy storage. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Just in case something happens to the shipping box, each Santa doll is tucked into a plastic bag only for the trip to their final destination. We recommend you store the Santa dolls as you would lap quilts and regular-sized quilts, in cotton pillow cases or cotton fabric. Plastic doesn’t allow the cotton to breath and can accelerate cotton fiber deterioration.

The Santa doll is in a temporary bag only for shipping. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The Santa doll is in a temporary bag only for shipping. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Oops, almost forgot to add the good wishes!

This Santa doll is also delivering good wishes. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This Santa doll is also delivering good wishes. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A little bubble wrap to keep Santa doll from moving around in the box and off he goes. Not exactly a sleigh with reindeer but it should get him to his final destination nevertheless so that he can continue to make wishes come true!

Charlotte

Paper Clip Ornament Hangers

The Nutcracker is one of our Christmas traditions as in hanging ornaments with paper clips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The Nutcracker is one of our Christmas traditions as in hanging ornaments with paper clips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Paper Clip Ornament Hangers

Are you getting excited about decorating for the season? We all have holiday traditions and this hack now is one of mine. This is such a handy little trick for hanging ornaments, it surprised me over the years how many people had not thought of doing this.

I was among that group when one holiday past I was in an office after hours decorating for Christmas. I was the visitor so I took up the mundane tasks - removing ornaments from the box, separating the broken ones for repair and/or disposal and lining up the rest for tree hanging.

These are traditional ornament hooks for holiday decorating. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These are traditional ornament hooks for holiday decorating. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In the middle of this little enterprise we ran out of ornament hangers, those little slight pieces of pre-formed wires that hold an ornament on one end and the tree on the other. One of my associates volunteered to head off to get some when the senior administrative assistant said no need and headed off to the supply closet.

A few minutes later she handed me a box of office paper clips and started to unbend one end. She attached the short end to an ornament, opened up the larger end and said “back to the eggnog.”

Unbent paper clips can easily be used to hang ornaments. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Unbent paper clips can easily be used to hang ornaments. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Over the years, I have worked in many offices over the holidays to give full-time workers time off with their families. That has given me the opportunity to share this little hack many times. It also works to attach decorations to wreaths and, if the Christmas stockings are not too heavy, once hung stockings from the top of an office cubicle.

Unbent paper clip used as an ornament hanger. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Unbent paper clip used as an ornament hanger. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

And yes, she really did say “back to the eggnog.”

Do you have a favorite Christmas decorating hack to share?

Charlotte

Tiny Personalized Holiday Decor Gift

This tiny holiday scene is an easy personalized gift. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This tiny holiday scene is an easy personalized gift. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tiny Personalized Holiday Decor Gift

This is as close to holiday decorating in a box as I can make it. A friend moved into her first house earlier this year. She wasn’t sure she would have time to put up any holiday decorations so I thought about how I could help her have a little taste of the holidays. I was going to send her our Happy Holidays Cardinal Lap Quilt then remembered she doesn’t have a lot of room so I came up with this tiny personalized holiday decor gift.

I started with a tiny artificial tree, tiny garland and a set of small dog ornaments from our local hobby shop.

If you don’t have a hobby shop you can find tiny trees at any big box store. If you can’t find the traditional garland in a small size, the tiny Christmas tree garland can be anything from a small ribbon to a tiny necklace chain.

I added a few tiny cookie ornaments from my own tiny tree.

The dog ornament at the top has her dog’s name written on the back of the ornament.

Tiny artificial Christmas tree with dog ornaments. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tiny artificial Christmas tree with dog ornaments. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

So that she can finish decorating the tree, four cat ornaments with personalized cat names on the back are in a tiny gift box.

Cat ornaments in a box so she can add them. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cat ornaments in a box so she can add them. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I picked up a cute Santa at the fireplace photo frame at a local thrift shop and repainted it with more primary colors. The original frame had a pink Santa Claus, pink Christmas stocking and hard to distinguish books on the mantle top.

A little paint to brighten the frame and a personalized photo now makes this fireplace ready to place next to the tiny tree.

Repainted fireplace photo frame. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Repainted fireplace photo frame. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

When I was looking for a gift box, I found the little dog ornament that barks “jingle bells” so I had to add that, even if it is not to scale.

Now she can either use this in her home or take it to the office to decorate her desk. Or she can take the singing dog toy to the office and keep the tree and fireplace mantle at home and she will be all set for Christmas!

Can you think of anyone on your gift list who could use a tiny holiday decor gift?

Charlotte

Custom Love Seat

New upholstered love sofa with the new cover and throw pillows. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

New upholstered love sofa with the new cover and throw pillows. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Custom Love Seat

Does this look familiar, someone sitting on a love seat - well, in this case - sleeping on the love seat and falling through the cushions? Better yet, have you tried to find a love seat with a solid back and cushion so that your sleeping cat doesn’t fall in between the pillows? And maybe you don’t as well??

One of my cats is slowly disappearing between the two love seat cushions. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my cats is slowly disappearing between the two love seat cushions. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

From what I could gather from my research, all love seats have two bottom cushions and two back pillows, assuming two people will be seating on the furniture. In my household, however, one person tends to sit on the love seat with a cat on either side, leaving the one person to fall into the center opening between the bottom and back cushions. Or, in this case, the cat slowly disappears between the cushions since we all know cats have to sit and sleep in the smack dab middle of everything.

One of my cats volunteered to demonstrate, see how the back pillows are spineless and it’s easy to fall through the seat cushions? He really is trying to sleep but his back paws are straddling the moving love seat cushions.

My cat is straddling the moving love seat cushions while he tries to sleep. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My cat is straddling the moving love seat cushions while he tries to sleep. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I called a local upholstery shop and explained the problem. Maggie said she could easily make a solid bottom cushion and add fill to a solid back cushion as well.

Once I settled on the fabric and it was in the shop, it took about a month for the “new” love seat to come back home. What a difference!

This is my new old love seat with a solid bottom cushion and solid back. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is my new old love seat with a solid bottom cushion and solid back. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In terms of cost, it was less expensive to have the piece reupholstered than it would have been to go out and buy a new love seat. Even if I wanted something new, I would not have found one with a solid bottom or back cushion.

To make sure we are warm and cozy over winter, I found a matching fake fur sofa cover.

Love sofa covers, this one is fake fur and matches the new upholstery. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Love sofa covers, this one is fake fur and matches the new upholstery. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Hmmm, doesn’t quite look right. Let me make a few adjustments to show you how this really will be allocated and used!

Now this is how the cats will really use this love seat! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now this is how the cats will really use this love seat! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Had to add the Cat Mischief lap quilt, it’s perfect to brighten up the corner. Isn’t it amazing how cats can find the exact center of everything??

Charlotte

Santa Dolls Getting Shipped

One of two Santa dolls from cutter quilts climbing into the shipping box. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of two Santa dolls from cutter quilts climbing into the shipping box. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Santa Dolls Getting Shipped

Two more of our handmade Santa Claus dolls made out of old patchwork quilts are getting ready to travel East. These unique, one of a kind dolls add charm to any holiday home decor and are squeezable, too.

To get the Santa dolls ready to be shipped, their brand new metal doll stands go into the bottom of the box. The doll stands give posing options, including having Santa stand on a mantle or on a side table. These Santa dolls can also be posed sitting.

Each doll is shipped with a doll stand so they can be posed among presents. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Each doll is shipped with a doll stand so they can be posed among presents. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Before going into the box, I add labels to the back of the old quilt doll garment. As I sew on the labels, I imagine Santa in his new home, bringing the holiday spirit.

The last step before shipping, adding our label. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The last step before shipping, adding our label. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Each Santa Doll gets packed in a clear plastic bag to ensure it gets to its new home safely.

Ho Ho Ho, happy holidays! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Ho Ho Ho, happy holidays! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In past years I have given these Santa dolls as gifts and since have seen them return year after year as part of the holiday home decor.

Yes, Virginia, these dolls do bring the holiday spirit!

Charlotte

Last Roses of the Season

My little collection of homegrown roses welcoming kitchen visitors.

My little collection of homegrown roses welcoming kitchen visitors.

Last Roses of the Season

Over the years whenever I was living somewhere besides at home, I had fresh flowers in my room. Usually they were nothing fancy, maybe a sprig of wildflowers growing nearby or a tiny bouquet from a corner florist. When I was working in Japan, one of the embassy staff shared their one weekly chrysanthemum with me. In that country, they appreciate and celebrate the beauty of one flower.

Now that I am working from home, one of my priorities continues to be to have fresh flowers nearby. They may be growing in a pot, which is my favorite way to have that touch of greenery in my rooms, or they can be something I cut from my hillside garden.

As a cold front moved into Missouri, evening temperatures plunged in the high 40s, cooling daytime temperatures into the delightful 70s. My plants appreciated the reprise from hot and humid conditions and delivered a delightful crop of one of my favorite flowers, roses.

The yellow hybrid tea was munched by a couple of insects but it joins the peach hybrid tea with a lovely fragrance. This long-stemmed rose reminded me of the vintage yellow roses quilt I found a few years ago at an estate sale. The two smaller miniature roses made their second garden appearance since spring. I have them tucked away in garden borders to surprise me when they bloom and all I can say, it worked this fall!

I suspect these are the last roses of the season, a lovely way to end the gardening year and extend the growing season if just for a few more days.

Charlotte

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