This and That

It’s happened. I’ve hit the proverbial blogging wall. As a matter of fact, I’ve smashed right into it. I’m trying to figure out how to get around it or perhaps climb over it. Hopefully soon too.

So…this post is going to be a little of this and a little of that. My mom used to say “everything but the kitchen sink.” You never know…I may throw that in too.

What have I been doing?

I’ve been sewing. And sewing, and sewing and sewing. There are lots of new things in my Etsy shop so if you have time, take a look. I’m very excited about some new pieced grain sack pillow covers.

Pieced Grain Sack Pillow CoverThese pillow covers are not for the faint of heart. They are for the true grain sack lover. The stripes don’t exactly match. The color and textures of the pieces are very different. But when I put them together, it made me smile. I also made these little storage bins. It was trial and error for a while but by the third one I had it right! I’d like to add a few more sizes at some point.

Repurposed Grain Sacks from Sutton Place DesignsOne thing you might not know about these pillow covers is that they are very family friendly. I prepare the fabric before sewing so you can throw them right in the washer.

I made some more tote bags too.

Grain Sack Market Tote BagI switched the handle material from grain sack to a sturdy twill. I thought the grain sack handles were too heavy. They made the tote fall over. The twill is nice and smooth on your shoulder and is much lighter weight.

Vintage Redwork Tea Towel from Sutton Place Designs on EtsyI picked up this lovely piece of redwork the last time I was at my antique mall. It was originally a double pillow sham. It was shredded along the edges so by taking the best part from the middle I was able to make a generous tea towel.

OK…enough of that. Lest you think I chain myself to my sewing table, we really need to talk about Downton Abbey.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Along with the rest of America I was heartbroken that Matthew was killed in the last seconds of the season finale. For reasons beyond me, Dan Stevens did not renew his 3 year contract. Julian Fellowes defended his decision to do away with Matthew by saying this:

“Audiences across the world have been captivated by the ups and downs of Mary and Matthew’s relationship, culminating in their wedding. Fans have enjoyed what has become a solid and loving marriage. It is for this reason that the producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the [Season 3] finale.”

Seriously? We could have totally handled a coma or some other sort of medical condition. At least it would have given us a shred of hope that Matthew and Mary would reunite. Season 4 should be very interesting.

Switching gears now.

Let’s talk hydrangeas. I have such a hard time getting mine to bloom. I’ve planted in all different places and used different brands. So far I haven’t had much success in the bloom department. I read somewhere that coffee grounds added to the soil helps with blooms. Is this true?

Here is one of my bushes. This was mid summer 2012 and there should have been mountains of blooms. Pretty sad actually.

On Sutton Place Fence Row GardenSo…I’ve been saving my coffee grounds. The problem is I don’t know how much I need or when to apply it…or am I totally wasting my time? Any advice?

Well was that random or what?

Rest assured that I’m trying to think ahead to spring. Easter is early this year and before I know it March will be half over. It’s hard to do when snow is flying and it’s freezing cold outside. I will get my act together soon. Promise. In the meantime, stay warm and don’t be too sad about the death of poor Matthew. I’ve heard they are lining up a hunky new love interest for Lady Mary. Truly something to look forward to.




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Thoughts from my friends...

  1. says

    stopping by to say hi Ann!! You have been busy :-) I love all the new blog design updates…..oh and my husband was so funny after Downton Abbey….he said, “ln real life, life is tragic enough……I don’t need to see it on TV” I guess they had to kill him off…..I’m with the producers, it’s not like they could have wrangled up a divorce or anything, we all LOVED how in LOVE they were so it would also be tragic to see them seporated – best to just kill the man (as I’m wiping away my tears) :-) WHY oh WHY would he not renew his contract?? What’s better than being on Downton Abbey??

  2. Nanci says

    Please give “spoiler alerts” next time. I hadn’t watched it yet, and it was ruined for me. Oh well….what will happen with Mary now? I don’t like her character very much.

  3. says

    I’ve hit that same wall, Anne! Although I’ve been busy sewing and creating things for my Etsy, too, I haven’t got too many projects planned for around the house since I did most all of them last year. Add to that I just haven’t felt very creative or energetic in the past couple of months and there I am – stalled. Your pillows look wonderful and I love the tote!

  4. says

    I had to laugh when I read your post … as I am writing the exact same post, only mine is called “Newsy bits and pieces.” But I have nothing milling in my head for my regular blog posts. Hmmm…. and I have no good reason, like I am sewing for my etsy shop.

    Fun post.


  5. Carole says


    I love the “mixed up” pillows! I think they’re rather charming. I have to check your Etsy Shop soon.
    Regarding Matthew……I too am very sad. I hadn’t been watching Downton consistently, but this past Sunday, I caught practically the whole last season in one day… a marathon. As soon as I saw him driving happily down that country road, I said: “Oh no, something bad is going to happen.” And, of course, it did! I nearly fell off the sofa. Just when I started really getting into the series. I’m also a big fan of British comedies, which I watch on Saturday evening if I’m home. Love PBS. I enjoy your easy going blogs. I feel like you’re a friend just catching up. I’ve passed some of your recipes on to my daughter who is a great cook, and has a cooking blog, called Main Street Cuisine (I think it’s WordPress). Regarding the hydrangeas, I think Jane from Cottage at the Crossroads is right…..they like shade. Good luck with them.

  6. Rondell says

    Your posts are always great Ann and so is your sewing, just beautiful!
    I wish Downtown Abbey wasn’t done, I so loved Sunday nights and snuggling down on the couch to watch it:) I thought it was an exciting season and can’t wait until season 5!

  7. says

    Ann, you may have thought you hit the blogging brick wall but this was one of my favorite posts ever!!!! :-) I was looking at those grain sack pillows on your etsy shop last night and thinking that they sure are awesome with those mix and match fabric and stripes. I really like the contrast. Have a good night! ~ Dori ~

  8. dee says

    Consult Sunset garden book for correct growing conditions for your zone (area). It’s the only accurate information. There are many plants/shrubs/tree that must be pruned at specific times to ensure bloom the next year. That’s one reason you are getting conflicting information about pruning. Maybe it is one of the plants that is sensitive to the depth it is planted. You can order the Sunset garden book from Amazon. I have the Western version, but I live on the West coast :-)
    Good Luck, you can get these to grow and bloom.

  9. says

    I really love the pillows and what a great way to use all the little ends that were left over from other pillows. This post was still great even though you feel you’re hitting a wall.

  10. Debby says

    You can cut hydrangeas back, but not all the way. You have to leave a couple of (nubs, nodes) or whatever they are called, or they will not flower the next season. I found that out the hard way. I have mine all in pots and they do quite well. I just use fertilize from the nursery. I was sooooooo sad about Matthew. I did not know he did not want to renew his contract. I was stunned.

  11. says

    Hey Ann, I know what you mean. I have not been able toget back in the swing of things since I got back to civilation and got my internet back! I’m just so preoccupied with the house, storage and work that my brain can only do so much! Love your new stuff. Love the red towels. I’m using that red color a lot in the new house, love it!! Take care and stay warm, it’s almost impossible right now with the temps and wind. I’m so over it!

  12. says

    I think we all hit that wall after the holidays, Ann, but, then, once Spring arrives, we all feel a bit inspired! I love all of your recent creations … you’ve been quite busy … do you ever rest?!

  13. says

    Ann…the pillows and storage bins are wonderful and I love the redwork tea towel….I too hated the ending…too many tragedies for me…I like happy endings…
    Hydrangeas…I just let my hydrangeas die down in the winter…i do not cut them as I was told that I may cut off pending blooms…my large hydrangeas started out as three small plants and now they are huge…last year was a great year for them, until the awful heat wave came…I just fertilize them with Miracle Grow…

  14. Eileen says

    My mind has been in tatters over Matthew. I’ve watched Downtown Abbey from the first and am so invested in this series. First Sybil, now Matthew! Masterpiece Theatre and PBS are the best of TV and the scenery is so lush and stunning. Now, about the hydrangea, I cut mine back. Now I’m reading that’s wrong. I’ll have to do research…now that its too late?,

  15. says

    For hitting a blog wall, I think you did just fine with this post! I love the grain sack projects, so pretty.

    Do you prune your hydrangeas, Anne? You shouldn’t because that sacrifices blooms. I do trim off some blooms near the end of the season for drying, but I cut as close to the flower as possible. Also, is it in a protected area? The flower buds form the previous year so if they aren’t protected, they will get killed by the cold. And if you have a warm spell prompting the buds to start growing followed by a late frost, that will kill them off, too.

    Hydrangeas prefer aluminum sulphate, they need high acidity in the fertilizer. Coffee grounds are neutral since the acidity is brewed out into the coffee. They are still good for the soil due to being nitrogen rich, but don’t rely on them for acidity.

  16. Donnamae says

    It’s simply not fair…I only started watching Downton Abbey this season…and I had grown rather fond of everybody…now, I’m in mourning! Hasn’t that family endured enough? Sorry about your wall…it seems hard to get inspired in February. I’m ready for Spring! ;)

  17. says

    I’m feeling that same wall, although mine is more due to not having the time I once had.

    Downton couldn’t be more heartbreaking! Sybil was bad enough, but Matthew was a real heartbreaker. Even though we all knew he didn’t renew his contract, I hoped they’d come up with something better than making him die. I guess we all wanted that hope that they could get back together in time. :(

    I am going to try the coffee grounds too. I did use them last year, but I didn’t learn about it until after I had only 1 stinking bloom, so it was probably too late at that point.

  18. says

    Sewing is good. Sewing means business is booming. I’ve had the Etsy closed for a few weeks now. It’s starting to stress me out a bit, but if I open now my living and dining room projects will come to a screeching halt! So as I caulk and paint I’m plotting and planning for the re-opening that might include some advertising investments and giveaways …

    :) Linda

  19. says

    I don’t know how you have time to sew and blog. I am struggling with the blog and new house. I wanted to do some other things with my blog, but so far, I’m stretched too thin. Loving your grain sack items, and those cartons are gorgeous!!!

  20. says

    I kept expecting Mathew to be shot while stalking. Never in my wildest dreams a car accident. When you think of it though, cars were still rare in those days. I wonder the odds of Mathew meeting a truck on the road.Perhaps that is the reason behind the writing. Sybil wanted out of her contract or didn’t want to renew.

    The redwork tea towel is beautiful! Love everything you do, Ann.

    Your blog muse will return when you least expect it. I usually have a little blip in blogging during Winter.

  21. Sandy says

    I added coffee grounds to my hydrangeas last summer to make them bloom pink. And they did, but my bushes are at slow speed when it comes to their growth pattern.

    I saw on you tube Matthew’s demise before the show aired, so I didn’t need tissues. I hope Dan Stevens doesn’t regret his decision to leave Downton Abbey.

    Did you ever watch the show Eli Stone back in 2007/8? I was a big fan of the show and just realized the same actor plays Sherlock in the new series Elementary. (My contribution of a little this/ a little that.)

    Really like your new grain sack storage bins:)

  22. says

    I knew about Matthew from the start of the season, as I’d been on the Internet trying to catch up on Seasons 1 and 2. If not I would have been infuriated, especially since they were asking for pledges right after…ugh. And for the hydrangeas, Kari, from Thistlewood Farm suggested the coffeegrounds. My bushes were in terrible shape last year with the drought and dosing them a couple of times a week at the base with old grounds and some coffee really helped. They started new blooms, but by that time it was late in the season. So I’ll be using it again this year. Love all your grainsack goods, Ann. the pieced ones are such a fun idea!

  23. says

    Oh Anne….we sat in shock at the ending of Downton Abbey. No! Did we really see that? But I guess we should have known this family doesn’t get many fairytale endings. I just wish we didn’t have to wait so long for so few episodes (sigh).

    Love your knew designs. Your shop is always so pleasant to visit and you are always so welcoming.

    An aunt had hydrangeas that were showpieces on Cape Cod. She always said it was the salt air that nurtured them. Sorry I’m not any help with them.

  24. says

    Ann, do you cut your hydrangeas off? I ask because we had a bunch of them at our last house. One bed never bloomed but would have beautiful foliage. I could have sworn that salesman told us to cut them back to the ground in the winter – so we did. Turns out we shouldn’t have been doing that. Soon as I stopped cutting them they bloomed profusely.

  25. says

    Hi Anne, love your random thoughts. When we first moved to this house, there was a hydrangea planted out in the front natural area. Never bloomed! Finally, we dug it up and transplanted it to the backyard under the pine trees. It gets a fair amount of shade but started right off blooming profusely. I was so happy! Some years, it blooms a lot and some years, not so much. I read somewhere to throw the leftover ash from your fireplace on the soil at it’s base. Did it but have no idea if it helped. :)

  26. says

    I’ve got a case of Downton mourning. Sybil and then Matthew?! How much can we take? However, since Dan Stevens wanted to leave, I don’t think they could have handled it any different way. Downton Abbey is such lovely eye candy. Can’t wait for the next season. Love the items in your etsy shop.