A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ogden Valley Balloon Festival. I will live here in less than two years!

Off to Eden!

Today and tonight the joy of Drum Corps Semi-Finals (nothing like a hundred brass instruments blasting through you to perk up the serotonin), then tomorrow to Eden for two lovely weeks including a quilt show and the balloon festival.

I hope everyone gets to enjoy the end of summer as much as I plan to!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Vacation Report

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
A Driving Tour of the Midwest

Sunflower field in Nebraska

Well, at this point it seems like that's what it was.

Twenty years ago I watched my children grow and grow and grow and realized that there was no way we were going to be able to provide for these two boys as we wanted to. Not on one teacher's salary in post-Prop 13 California. I was doing what I had always wanted to do. It didn't have a name then; now
they call it "Stay At Home Mom." I loved being with my boys. But they were outgrowing their clothes and shoes at an alarming rate (both boys were 6' 2" tall by the seventh grade). My oldest was born without five adult teeth and was going to need extensive orthodontia. (He ended up with 11.5 years in braces, three implants and a set of veneers at a cost of $30,000. At least he smiles, now.) And we were committed to giving them college educations. It just wasn't going to happen unless I started bringing in some bucks.

The best I could come up with was to become a teacher. At least then my work hours, days off and break times would coincide with theirs. I returned to college and finished a degree in History, worked one year as a substitute teacher, then was hired to teach history AT the jr. high school my boys would attend (in fact, my youngest ended up in my eighth grade History/Language Arts class which was a blast, but a whole different story.) The boys are grown and almost gone, so I no longer spend my summers a
t PONY baseball games or at the beach or hauling kids around.

But as teaching has become more and more difficult, I have come to value those summer breaks more and more. In my early years I spent summers catching up with the deep cleaning, yardwork and
other chores that are neglected during the teaching year. After a while I realized that I was never having any fun. During the school year I was either too busy with school work or too exhausted from teaching to really do much, so I felt I had to catch up during the summers. I wised up, though, and now those chores just don't get done. Instead, I try to make memories during my summers.

This summer will be a good one to remember.

Don't get me wrong, I did do some cleaning right after school was out. My sister
was training to be a Mary Kay Consultant and I said I'd have a party for her. Three days later my family came to my house for a BASH (birthdays and Father's Day). I scrubbed and mopped and dusted and vacuumed and cleaned the stove and cleaned windows. Both events went well. Then it was time to get ready to leave for The Road Trip.

This is the third time I have driven my Mom from SoCA to NE Kansas to visit her sister. We have a lovely time traveling because, instead of stopping at the traditional rest areas, we find the
quilt shops in small towns along the highway. Definitely more expensive that just a potty stop, but we get more exercise wandering the bolts for a half hour and the shop owners are always happy to let us use their facilities. (And yes, we always end up buying something.)

We started off on July 5. After picking Mom up we took the 118 to the 14, the 14 to Mojave, then got onto the 58 to cross to the 15. Neither Mom nor I like the desert, so this first leg of the jo
urney is always a drag. When we got to Las Vegas we stopped at our first quilt shop. Nancy's Quilts is always a favorite. It's a huge shop with wonderful lighting and a terrific selection of fabrics. (She also has a knitters corner that Mom - showing great fortitude - avoided.) It was there that I fell for a Halloween fabric they had used in a sample, only to learn that they were all out of it. Sigh.

After Nancy's we headed for our first night's stop, the Virgin River Hotel and Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. Call early for reservations and get a room with two queen beds (very comfortable) for $29.99. We had dinner in their Chuckwagon Restaurant (prime rib dinner for under $10) which is now t
otally non-smoking!

After a good night's sleep (and cheap, delicious breakfast at the Chuckwagon) we headed off for day two of our journey, and at this point the scenery is much more enjoyable. A short distance out of Mesquite we drove through the Virgin River Gorge, a spectacular collection of geological features
that will take your breath away. The Gorge is in that little part of Arizona that dips down between Nevada and Utah. Just beyond the Gorge is the Utah border, and five miles later the city of St. George. In St. George we stopped at another great quilt shop called the Lazy Dazy Cottage where I found a piece of fabric to use for stitchery.

During the trip I had been sending my husband text messages with periodic reports of our locations and realized that I was going to need a car phone charger if I was going to con
tinue to do so. We found the local Verizon store (and I bought a pink charger for my pink Razr) next to a Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree stores carry a delightful line of scrapbooking papers by a company called Miss Elisabeth, so we stopped there (and at every Dollar Tree we saw for the rest of the trip) to pick up new papers and stickers.

On the road again we continued North, finally taking a break at Cornwagon Quilts in Springville, Utah. This is my all-time favorite ever quilt shop. It's in a three-story brick building, loads of character and lovely people. In the basement they have a traditional embroidery section and I always find a new Bareroots or Macadoodles pattern down there. The last leg of our journey for the day took us through the incredible Provo Canyon Pass (past the entrance to Sundance), through the valley and up over the Tr
apper's Loop (access hwy to Snowbasin, where the downhill events for the 2002 Winter Olympics were held) and into the Ogden Valley. After a delicious dinner at Harley & Buck's (which everyone still calls the General Store since that was the building was for a hundred years) we stopped at the market, then made our way up and into our condo.

Living area of our condo in Eden, Utah. I made the quilt on the wall. Very cozy and comfortable. Currently for sale in hopes of building a permanent retirement home up there.

Summer before last I had taken two friends from work on a five-day tour of the quilt shops of Utah (15 shops in five days). Mom had wanted to see some of those shops so we scheduled a day to do some shop hopping. First we went to Gardner Village in West Jordan (south of Salt Lake City). Archibald Gardner was a miller who built a little house for each of his eleven wives. Now the houses, mill and outbuildings (supplemented with newer construction in a similar style) are little shops. It's an absolutely charming center, with terrific down-home style food at the mill. Mom and I visited Pine Needles, and it was at Pine Needles that we each got one of our favorite finds of the trip, the Winter Wonderland embroidery/quilt pattern by Crabapple Hill.

Then we went over to Quilts Etc., Etc., Etc. in Sandy, Utah. This wonderful shop seems to have started in one building, expanded into the building next door, then expanded again into the building across the street. If you can't find the fabric you want here, you will need to make it yourself because it doesn't exist. It was here that I found the Halloween fabric that I had fallen in love with at Nancy's (as well as the ghoulish piece at the top of the picture.)

Mom had had enough by then so we went back to the condo an
d rested for the rest of that day and all of the next. By the following day we were hitting the road again. Our first rest stop was in Green River, Utah, at a shop called Keama's on Flaming Gorge. At Keama's we met the delightful Londa, who took us a tour of the samples for their strip club collection. I couldn't resist Christmas quilt and ended up buying the strips and border fabric for this fantastic quilt. She also had MaryEllen's spray starch, which I had been looking to try since finding a review of it that said it superior for everything, most especially for prepping fabric to transfer embroidery patterns (yes!). We also stopped at A Little Country Character (up at the end of Uinta just before going into Flaming Gorge National Park. Mom has always loved their flannel collection. Last time we went there she bought enough flannel to make my dad the quilt he naps under every day. She (and I) were much more controlled this time, although she bought some snowflake fabric for the Winter Wonderland project and I picked up some fat quarters and a Moda charm pack.

Wyoming is such an interesting state to drive across. Of course, the historian in me must exercise great control NOT to digress into all the historically significant sites along the way (westward expansion was my focus in college). It always sparks my imagination to drive the 80 and wonder what it was like to walk that terrain on the way west. There's another wonderful quilt shop - remembered from a previous trip - in Cheyenne, but by the time we reached Cheyenne we were getting tired and concerned that we would be on the highway in the dark (my rule, reach destination while the sun is still out) so we passed through and on another hundred-ish miles to Sidney, Nebraska.

In Sidney we had dinner at the Perkins and stayed at the Days Inn. The next morning, after breakfast at the Perkins, we drove into the delightful little town proper to visit Borders Quilt Shop. It was at Borders that I found snowflake fabric for my Winter Wonderland project (Mom
having bought the end of the bolt in Wyoming). The piece I found was actually cuter than Mom's, so she ended up getting some, too. Borders still had some Shop Hop bags so we bought one and scored! The booklet for the border-to-border Nebraska shop hop was in the bag, so we headed off. Our next rest stop was at the Downtowne Quilt Shop in Grand Island, Nebraska. (I just love these little Nebraska towns; the downtown areas are charming and the quilters are, too.) It was at this shop that I was introduced to the "Jo's Little Women" collection. I didn't buy any, but these prints haunted me through the rest of the trip so, on the way home, I detoured to this shop again and bought several pieces. Little Women was the first book I fell in love with as a child (I really think my love of history started with this book) and I look forward to making something of a tribute quilt with these fabrics.

From Grand Island we proceeded to Lincoln, then south to Marysville, Kansas, then east to our destination. My aunt and cousin share a house in Fairview, Kansas. Fairview is proud of their population of about 250 which has remained consistent for over a hundred years. The short main street has brick sidewalks and a charming cafe (called the Cozy Cafe) where my aunt's friends meet for coffee every morning and where you can get a delicious lunch (you pick the day you go for lunch based on what one item is being cooked up for that day). The make terrific pies, but you better get there early and order your pie first or it might be all gone by the end of lunch.

It's always wonderful to see my aunt, my cousin and whichever of my cousin's children and grandchildren are around. And I swear, my aunt has the nicest friends I've ever met. Truly, if I could convince my husband, I would move to this part of KS in a heartbeat! It's beautiful in almost every way. (Of course, the highway that runs three doors down from my aunt forms the western border of Tornado Alley but hey, that's what basements are for.) The next town down the highway is Hiawatha, county seat. In Hiawatha it's always fun to visit the Sunflower Quilt Shop (and yes, I managed to buy some fat quarters here, too.)

After a few days I left my mom with her sister and I drove to visit an ex-colle
ague who had moved to Odessa, Missouri, about 2.5 hours from my aunt's and just outside Kansas City, MO. The next day, the two of us headed to Bloomington, Illinois, to spent a couple of nights with another ex-colleague. (Did you know there is a Bloomington in Indiana, too? I almost learned that the hard way.) My Illinois friend lives in the penthouse of the Lafayette Building in Bloomington, a wonderfully restored turn-of-the-century building. (Her rent sounds cheap compared to SoCA!) Her circadian rhythms are different from ours, so the next morning my MO friend and I slipped out to see some of the sights of Bloomington. Our knowledge of the area being extremely limited, we didn't stray far from the apartment. Happily, we found the corporate HQ for Beer Nuts just three blocks away and made good work of the company store.

Souvenirs for everyone!

We also found an amazing place called the Meijer store, kind of like a giant, 24-hour WalMart. My friend and I had a great time comparing favorite dvd movies as we wandered the three (or was it four?) aisles of dvds. (She and I both like to watch movies over and over again.) We headed to Ruby Tuesday's for a delicious lunch (yes, I found more scrapbook paper in the Dollar Tree in the same strip mall), then returned to our friends apartment for conversation and reminiscing. That evening, our friend treated us to Henry V at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Her son, Alec Wild (a delightful man in every way) is artistic director there and also directed Henry V. The theater is spectacular (check this link for a picture of the grounds Bloomington, Illinois) and, as always, Alec's production was delightful. It had been hot, rainy and humid all day, but the evening cleared and we were treated to starry skies and cool breezes.

Suicide by Photography. I'm flying down the highway at 75 mph with my right arm extended toward the passenger window to snap pictures of the beautiful countryside. Someday I'm going to pay big time for my stupidity, but I'm always alone when these beautiful shots go by.

The next morning my friend and I returned to Missouri, where I dropped her off and drove back to my aunt's. The next day, I packed up my mom and aunt and we headed to Oklahoma City to see their brother and his family. I love my family (again, wonderfully nice people but to be honest, I don't care for Oklahoma City). Still, they do have the Hobby Lobby and the day after we arrived we had to take a field trip there (we don't have them in SoCA). Talk about a score! All their scrapbooking papers an
d a lot of other scrapbook supplies were 50% off. In addition, I was able to find this critter border.

At Easter I had purchased the all-over fabric in this line and my sister fell in love with it. When I went back to get her some, the store was all out. I bought some of this border print (or stripe, I guess it is) and will make her the tablecloth she wants with a solid top.

Just a day after we returned from Oklahoma it was time to head for home. Coming home is never as much fun as going somewhere, and this trip was no exception. We did stop in Grand Island, NE again so I could get some Little Women fabric, and at Keama's in Green River, WY, but otherwise, other than some spectacular clouds and rainstorms in the distance, it was a pretty boring drive. We only stayed in Utah one night, leaving the next morning in time to stop at Shepherd's Bush, my favorite ever shop of any kind (I will be living fifteen minutes away when I move to Utah). There I got to meet Lonii Tingey, designer of the Moonlit Dreams and Tattered Seams traditional (or primitive) embroidery patterns. What a sweeheart! (Check out the picture tour on the site; Lonii is one of the ladies in the counter picture.) I managed to escape without buying another cross-sttich chart although I did get another magnifier, Lonii's pattern "How does your garden grow" with button pack, a pack of needles (they sell the needles that they put in their kits ten for $1) and a packet of Mary Arden Tapestry Petites (really tiny tapestry needles that might be good for working on linen so I wanted to try them out).

Now, at this point you'd think that we'd seen every piece of fabric made and there couldn't possibly be anything new to tempt us. However, I stopped at Gardiner's Sew and Quilt in Ogden (near Riverdale) to see if I could find a fabric that had been in the Keepsake Quilting catalog (I don't want to buy it until I confirm the colors and I don't always trust catalog pictures.) They did not have what I was looking for, but I had to have these beautiful fabrics:

I have the Paper Panache Garden Fairy Wreath pattern and I'm thinking I should be able to use these for that.

On our way home through Utah we were thrilled with the cloud formations and storms in the distance (which we eventually caught up with and drove through.)

Just after we had left the Utah ranch country on our way up, dry lightening had set multiple fires and 95 miles of Hwy 15 had been closed from St. George to Fillmore. It saddened me to see extensive fire damage, especially between Fillmore and Cove Fort. This is always one of my favorite stretches to drive. But, the rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived home in time for me to drop off my mom and her treasures and get home myself before sundown.

After a few days to recover (I was tired this time) I decided to go try out my new Disneyland annual pass. I found my paver (a thrilling Christmas gift from my family), rode Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain, explored the new Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer's Island (time to go back, Sam), rode the new Finding Nemo Submarine Ride (spectacular - time to go back, Sam),
watched Parade of Dreams, and smashed pennies (using the various penny press machines) all over the park. A thoroughly delightful day. I was out by 8:00 and - much to the surprise of my family - home before 10:00.

Now I'm shoveling my room. There is no way I can function in the new school year with it as it is. Wednesday I have a doctor's appointment, Thursday I drive my husband for his bi-annual opthalmologist's appointment in Santa Barbara (about 60 miles along the ocean - ahhhhhh...). On Friday I take my dad to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (60 miles the other direction) for the Drum Corps International Semi-Finals. On Saturday Larry and I leave for our vacation together in Eden for the Ogden Valley Balloon Festival. (Go here to see the pictures Larry and I took two years ago.) We'll be there two weeks, then drive home in one day on Saturday the 25th. I go back to work on Monday, the 27th. With any luck, this will be my last summer break because we are hoping I can retire next June and move to Utah permanently the following fall. However, with the economy in the pits (yeah, I know "they" say the economy is strong but "they" live on another planet) I may end up working indefinitely.