Welcome to American Homestead. I'm happy you have found my blog. Make yourself comfy and see what's been happening around here. I write about the things that interest me ~ creativity, travel, food, nature and a happy life. I'd love to read your comments.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

And the Winner Is...

The time has come to pick the winner of the book,
75 Fun Fat-Quarter Quilts!

Drum roll please!
since Christmas is 2 days away
Pah Rum Pum Pum Pum!

And the Winner is:

I will be contacting you by email to get
your mailing address.  Bonnie liked Big Red
and Garden Paths.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the
giveaway and even if you didn't win on the
blog tour I hope you will consider buying 
this book.

Also, I have a lecture and trunk show for this
book, so if your quilt group, guild or shop would 
like to see the quilts in person and see how easily
 I made them, with lots of tips and hints, then 
please contact me at:

All the best,


Sunday, December 20, 2015

A New Book Project!

75 Fun Fat Quarter Quilts

An exciting new book has just been released.
It is called 75 Fun Fat Quarter Quilts and many
designers have written chapters and I am happy
to be one of them.  My chapter is called 
One Simple Block
because all the quilts are made from, yes, you 
guessed it, one simple block, The Contrary Wife.
The quilt shown above is called  Au Contraire.

This quilt started with this sweet fat quarter
bundle because remember, this book is about
quilts that can be made from fat quarters.  And
all the quilts in my chapter are so easy to make
because the blocks are made from 4 half square 
triangles and 5 squares and you sew them into
a simple 9-patch block.  What makes this chapter
so interesting is the eight quilts that I designed 
all look so different by changing the colors or
changing the way the block was placed in the
quilts.  And just to get you a bit more excited,
I'm going to give you a sneak peek at the quilts.

This is Falling Leaves, a great Fall themed quilt
but you could use the same idea with any fat 
quarter bundle that you may love and it would
 look beautiful.

This is Chain Link, a completely different look
using white, red and black fabric.  This color
grouping is the favorite of my daughter Katie
Rose so I have lots of these fabrics in my stash.

This is Big Red, those of you that know me know
I love stars in quilts, they are such a traditional,
iconic look.  But this quilt looks bold and modern
by using bright, bold colors.

This quilt is called Magnificent Valour, I thought 
it would be perfect for those of you that make all
of those wonderful Quilts of Valor.

This is Ups and Downs, as you can see, again, I
have lots of red, black and white in my stash.  I 
think this would also be great if you did each row
in a different color.

This is Garden Paths, it reminded me of a show
garden with lots of flower beds surrounded by
grassy paths that meet with a fountain at the 

This is Candy Garland,  I thought of strings of
wrapped candies when I designed this one.  It 
would also be fun in Christmas fabrics.

And this is just one of many, many chapters from
all sorts of talented designers.  So there you have it, 
just a snippet of the chapter I wrote, after all, we want
 you to run out and buy the book so you can see the full 
designs for yourself.  And remember, this is all from
One Simple Block!

To win a free copy of this book* please leave a comment
on this blog post, let me know which of the quilts in my
chapter is your favorite or you can just say hi!
  Remember to include your email address with your 
comment so I can reach the lucky winner.  On Wednesday, 
December 23 I will select a winner using a random 
number generator. 

*If your address is  in the United States you will receive a 
hard copy of the book.  A winner from outside the US will 
receive a free e-book version.

So many people can get to know about this new book we
are having a blog tour.  Stop by these other sites to see
what some of the other designers have to say about their 
chapters.  There are still a few more days of the tour!

12/14 C&T Publishing blog
12/15 Jera Brandvig
12/16 Melissa Cory
12/17 Kate Colleran
12/18 Sue Pfau
12/19 Tiffany Jenkins
12/20 Ellen Murphy
12/21 Amanda Castor
12/22 Jo Kramer

All the best!   ~ Ellen

Update!  A winner has been chosen for 
this giveaway.  It was Bonnie.
Thanks to everyone who participated!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Birthday American Homestead ~ 5 years!

It is the American Homestead blog's 5th birthday!
It is easy to remember since it is my birthday too.
Five years ago I started this blog to chronicle the
changes I expected to have in my life.  My kids were
growing up and living at school and I was suddenly
faced with reinventing myself.  At the time I had no
idea what would happen in the future but in five
short years so many things have changed.  I started
a business and from that I have written a few books.
In the last five years I have circumnavigated the world
twice and had many other travel adventures as well.
I have watched my kids grow into interesting, smart
adults and I have celebrated 25 years of happy marriage 
with my Mr. Wonderful.  
Stay tuned for new adventures to come.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Majestic Autumn

I guess I have some catching up to do.  As many
of you know this has been a big travel year for me.
I think I have been away as much as I have been
home.  Between mid-May and mid-September, I
traveled over 50,000 air miles and then there were
the additional thousands of miles by car, train,bus,
boats, bikes and elephants. 

The last time I posted on this blog it was still hot
Summer.  Since then I have been busy as always,
just not blogging about it.  In September I went 
to Alaska for a big quilt retreat and I will be writing
about that soon.  Just after getting back from that
trip my laptop got very sick and had to be sent away
to the hospital.  Sadly all my data was lost including
all my photos.  I am working to get them back and I
will post about the retreat once I have photos again.

When I got back from Alaska I decided I had to 
attend to some chores around my house before
the cold weather set in.  I spent a day painting
my garden shed with primer and in trying to reach
the roof I ended up doing some interesting gymnastic
moves while hanging from the top of the ladder and
I ended up seriously injuring my back.  For quite a 
while every time I tried to move I would actually 
scream, it was very embarrassing.  

Once I got moving about a little better I got to work
and made 7 quilt tops for a new book I am involved
in that will come out in December.  I wrote a chapter
of the book and my chapter alone has 8 different quilt
designs.  I am working on a new lecture about my
chapter in this book.  Here is the book if you are 
interested in pre-ordering: 
Now it is on to the quilting and binding of these
quilts.  Perfect work for this time of year as the days
are getting colder.

I took a nice long hike in the woods today and thought 
I'd share some photos from this beautiful Fall day.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Shelling on Sanibel Island

Just call me Shellin' Ellen!

Last week Mr. Wonderful and I celebrated our
25th Wedding Anniversary.  I wanted to do 
something special to mark the occasion and  at
first I thought we would go out for a nice dinner.
The more I thought about it though, that didn't
seem to be special enough to mark such a big
milestone.  As I was travelling all over the world
earlier this summer, I would fall into bed exhausted
and talk to Wonderful on the phone each night and
ask him to take me to the beach for our next trip.
Something relaxing and laid back.  A big anniversary
seemed like a good reason to head to Sanibel Island.
Well, it was laid back... I'm not sure if you would call
 it relaxing.

I'd have that poor guy out on the beach at dawn 
each day so I could have an early look at what 
washed up overnight.

We got up close and personal with the local
wildlife.  We saw dolphins and manatees and
all sorts of shore birds and an eagle flew right
over us one morning.

I would walk for hours down the nearly deserted
beaches.  I was lost in my thoughts listening to the
waves crash on the shore and the tinkling of the 
shells as the waves went back out to sea that sounded
like the most beautiful wind chimes you have ever

The best reason to come to Sanibel is for the
shells.  This is what I found in just the first day
and a half.  I especially love the beautifully 
colored calico scallops.  While most teenagers
were rebelling against their parents, I was traveling
with mine.  My Mum and I would spend weeks
collecting those beautiful scallops and finding so 
many now makes me miss her even more but at
least I have happy memories of times gone by.

On our third day at Blind Pass Sanibel beach, we
arrived early and I was noticing the shell line was
being pulled out onto the sand bar,  I worried that
maybe the sand bar was weakening and there could
be a rip current.  I went for a walk for a few hours
 and when I got back the area that looked strange
that morning had become a mountain of shells.  It
was as if it was a volcano and the lava was shells.
The really odd thing about this was it happened
right in front of where we had set up camp for the
day.  I think the mermaids got together and said
Ellen has come here for a big celebration, let's 
give her a present from the sea.  And by the next
day it was gone, all washed back out to sea.
(I'm so sorry I didn't get a photo of the mountain!

We had a great time on our little getaway.  Oh, how
I miss living near the beach.  We also got to catch a
few terrific sunsets.

Too often I see people watch the sun set into the
water and then they take off.  Then they miss the 
after show, always wait for the after show!  That's
when you can often see the best color.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Can, Can, Canning!

This weekend I pulled out the canning equipment 
from a back shelf in my laundry room.  I haven't 
used it in years!

I didn't grow up with much canning in my family.
If we came home from Bramhall Woods with a pail
filled with blackberries and the scratches to show 
for the effort, my Mum would take pity and whip
up a batch of jam but it wasn't something that 
happened on a regular basis.

Her brother on the other hand was mad for gardening
and always put up some of the fruits of his labor.  Uncle
Ed would make the best zucchini pickles and once we 
said to him, "Unc, the zucchini is great but we fight over
the onions at the bottom of the jar."  Wouldn't you know,
the next season he put up jars of just the onions.  We 
would pull off a piece of Italian bread, spread it with
some brie and top it with the pickled onions ~ it was

When I moved to the Midwest twenty-five years ago
(25!), I was in my Country Living phase.  I dreamed 
of living in an old farmhouse and going down to the
cellar to shelves lines with jars of things I canned 
from my garden.  Of course, I didn't know how to can
but I was moving to the Midwest and thought I would 
learn.  About 30 minutes away from where I lived at 
the time was Muncie, Indiana, the home of the Ball
Corporation, the canning jar people.  I marched into
their corporate office building one day and admired 
all the old jars in their lobby and asked where do I
find out information about canning?  They looked at
me like I had two heads.  They had no idea.  I told them
they should...

I had to teach myself through books and I generally
stuck to just fruits.  I would go to the strawberry farm
every June and pick 30 pounds of strawberries and make
jam.  When the kids were little, we had friends who 
lived in the country who had grapes on their property.
We would fill the station wagon with boxes of grapes and
go home and make a big mess and enough grape jelly to
last us all year.

Then life got too busy for canning but luckily we had our
Uncle Jamie who was a mad scientist in his kitchen and 
he whips up all sorts of chutneys and pickles and preserves.
Every Thanksgiving he comes with boxes filled with goodies

so we really relied on his delicious efforts.  

When we were at his house after the big trip this summer he
served us a snack that used his Pike County Tomato Preserves.
Kate and I were crazy for it and we said we'd make some for 
ourselves this summer.

It is tomato season in our neck of the woods and this
was the weekend to "put up" some preserves.  I went 
to the Farmer's Market at Minnetrista yesterday
morning which coincidentally is where the Ball Brothers
lived years ago, their mansions still stand on the property.

The first table I went to had a display of Ball canning items
and the ladies were making Bread and Butter pickles. 
They gave me some good info on where to find the best
stores with the largest selection of canning items.  We
picked up some tomatoes from another vendor and also 
stopped at a farm stand near our house.

I made two batches of Pike County Tomato Preserves.
The recipe calls for tomatoes, an orange, a lemon, sugar,
salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Mine aren't as good as
Uncle Jamie's but I'm happy for my first attempt.

We like to eat ours on a thin cracker spread with whipped
cream cheese and topped with the preserves.  Num!

In the stores I was happy to see a big selection of
canning supplies.  There must be a resurgence of 
interest for major retailers to give up that much shelf
space to canning.  I had to take home these little jar
toppers.  They are made to look like a fabric and 
ribbon top that we have all used at one time or
another but they are made of silicon so they keep
your jams or jellies fresh in the fridge since it keeps
the jar airtight.  

I'm already thinking about zucchini pickles...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Asia Through the Back Gate and The House of Waris

With such a limited time in Istanbul we knew 
our days would be busy.  We started the day 
with a beautiful Turkish breakfast.  Mr. Wonderful
and I had stayed at this hotel the first time we were
in Istanbul.  We told Midi about it and he stayed 
here the next time he was in town.  It is a small hotel, 
the rooms are small but nice but the reason we stay
here is for the breakfast, it is fantastic.  It is such a 
spread that our first time we stayed here we had to
make two trips to the buffet just to be able to taste 

This is the honey dispenser,  I'd love to
have this at home.

But enough with the food, we had sites to see.
The first stop was the Hagia Sophia,  I told my
kids that the first time I entered the vast room
I gasped and I hoped it would have the same 
effect on them.  Sadly, there was construction
scaffolding on one side so that took away from
the soaring impact of the space.

We could still enjoy the beauty of the architecture.

And enjoy the beautiful mosaics.

After leaving the Hagia Sophia we strolled
over to the Spice Market and stocked up on
some of our favorites.

And who could pass up the Turkish Delight?

Afterwards, it was time for lunch and we decided
to go to Asia.  Asia you may ask?  Yes, Istanbul is 
the only city located on two continents and it is 
only a short ferry ride away.  

We arrived in Kadikoy on the Asian side of the
Bosphorus and I was looking for a particular
restaurant.  We hiked up and down winding lanes
trying to find it.  Locals were happy to help us, one
young woman google mapped it and even called 
the restaurant to confirm the directions.  

When we finally arrived I told the man at the
door that I had read that some said it was the
best restaurant in Istanbul ~ he countered with,
oh no, the world.  We weren't disappointed.
There were no tables outside though and since
it was such a nice day we wanted to eat outside, he
said no problem, we have a few restaurants on 
this street and all the food is the same.  He took 
us over to one of the other restaurants and gave
us a description of each of the dishes.  The food
was fabulous.

We walked off lunch with a stroll back through 
the winding streets to the port to catch a ferry
to Karakoy on the other side of the Golden Horn.
From there we took the funicular or mountain
tram as they call it and walked up the hill until we
reached the Pera Palace Hotel.

The Pera Palace is a grand old hotel and it
was especially interesting to us since we are
Agatha Christie fans and this is where she 
wrote Murder on the Orient Express.

The grand tea salon was being used for a private
party so we headed out to the terrace.  Kate and I 
headed inside to find the wash room and came into 
the tea salon as the turbaned and bearded Waris
Ahluwalia of the House of Waris was giving a 
speech about creativity and our need to take time 
for tea.  Waris is a some time actor, designer and
now I suppose tea peddler.  This event was part of
Istancool, an international arts and culture festival.
The crowd had gathered in the middle of the room
and Kate and I were stuck in the crowd so we stayed 
for the speech.

Back on the terrace we enjoyed some lovely
beverages and desserts.  Following this we
headed back to the hotel for a rest.

Later in the evening we went back to 
Sultanahmet for dinner.  On our way 
to find a restaurant we came upon a
Whirling Dervish performance.

Brennan chose the restaurant this evening, he
wanted one of the places where you sit on the
floor on pillows.

Thankfully, the food was good too.

Then we stumbled back to the hotel and
fell into our beds.  A grand day in a grand city.