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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back to Reality


(Did you hear my Eeyore voice?)

Got home Tuesday night. So depressing.

This is for my friend, Linda. Linda's been going through SUCH a rough time in the last year or so. One recent tragedy is that her house burned out. Not up - looks OK from the outside - but from the inside out. The whole inside is, well, gone. She's in the process of picking and choosing for the restoration and commented that when she tells people her house is decorated in Disney, they look at her like she's nuts. I want her to know she's not alone.


So, my trip to Utah with my mom was exceptional. Exceptionally lazy. Exceptionally relaxing. Exceptionally beautiful. Exceptionally uplifting.

Our trip up was slightly eventful, just enough to make it fun. The first leg of the journey is always across the San Fernando Valley (making gagging noises here) to the 14 fwy and through Santa Clarita and Lancaster (I won't make a comment here in fear of offending anyone about their home towns). That is truly the worst part of the trip and I always heave a sigh of relief when I hit the town of Mojave. I am not a fan of the desert, but at least it's interesting. I'm always fascinated by the small homes along the highway. Who would choose to live here? What are they like?

Our destination for that first day is the resort town of Mesquite, Nevada. Usually I do a 'rest stop' at Nancy's Quilts in Las Vegas, but this year I decided to check out the shop that Kathryn mentioned. Did I forget to mention that smack on the state line (just about half a mile from Primm) we picked up our own personal thunderstorm? It poured on us, then hooked itself on our bumper so it was raining as we slid onto the 215 to the Henderson area to check out Quiltique. After a few miles Mom needed a restroom and I was afraid I was lost, so we got off the fwy when I spied a shopping area off to the side. By the time we scored a restroom for Mom the rain had stopped. We took care of business (and I got myself square with the directions) and headed out again.

We found our way to Quiltique (it wasn't hard; I just panicked too soon) and enjoyed a pleasant hour in this nice shop. Unfortunately, the woman I asked for permission to take a picture of the shop to share on this blog declined (too many original quilt designs) but I can share what I bought.

Remember when I went to the Long Beach Quilt Festival (IQA)? I bought a pattern for a passport bag from one of the vendors thinking I would make one as a gift for my daughter-in-law's mother. Mama is a fashion designer in Japan and VERY chic so when I saw these black and whites I thought they might be appropriate for her.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned that I'm nuts for Christmas fabric and am constantly adding to my collection. This piece is unlike anything I've ever bought before (I'm much more traditional) but seemed like the kind of fabric that would really sparkle up a traditional quilt.


And my first Kaffe Fassett purchase. This is a bug I haven't really caught yet, but I have a plan for an event in January and wanted to pick up some fabrics just in case I decide to walk this path.

Without any trouble we made our way another 90 miles or so up the highway to Mesquite and checked into the Virgin River Hotel. This is our usual stop. It's cheap for a Motel 6 quality room and just a half hour from the Utah border. Just as we pulled up in front of our room, that little cloud we dragged with us from Primm started spitting drops. We barely got our stuff into the room (actually, I ended up getting pretty damp bringing in the last load) when it really let go.


Used to be you could get a great dinner for cheap there, too, but the economy must be hitting them pretty hard. We ordered the $4.99 prime rib dinner which USED TO include a salad, baked potato, side veggie and decent piece (8-10 oz) of prime rib. Our meal this time was a potato, side veggie and a piece of meat that you MIGHT consider appropriate for a sandwich (how do you slice prime rib that thin?) The salad cost an extra $1.99. But, the beds were comfortable and the room was amazingly quiet for being right behind the casino. The air conditioner was too loud but then, they always are, and at least it worked.

The next day we continued up the 15 into Utah. We couldn't face the casino food again so decided to wait to eat until we reached JB's in St. George. Once we get out of Mesquite the scenery changes dramatically. You drive across the Arizona border into the Virgin River Gorge, spectacular rock formations along the Virgin River (which, when it has water in it, is red). You come out of the gorge into southern Utah which is red rock desert. Once you get out of St. George the landscape changes to cedar hills and volcanic formations, and when you get through Cedar City you are in the ranch country (my favorite part of the drive). We passed a few little towns along the highway but didn't stop until we reached Springville and Corn Wagon Quilt Co.

I showed remarkable control at Corn Wagon, just picking up a few fat quarters of Christmas fabrics (these are more my usual style). Of course, I'd been there just three weeks before so they hadn't had time to get much more in...

Just past Springville is the turnoff for Provo Canyon and the back route to Eden. The other option is to take the 15 from Provo to Ogden, a truly hideous freeway drive. Utah is smart. They put all their ugliest stuff along the freeway (junkyards, refineries, manufacturing) to try to scare us Californians away. Just ten minutes through Provo Canyon (a spectacular place on it's own with - we counted - three waterfalls just cascading down the mountainside right there next to the highway) and you can drive through mountain valleys past beautiful reservoirs and reach the same destination in the same time.

And that's what we did.

Arrived in Eden in the early evening. Stopped for groceries then made it into the condo and died. We were both pretty tired. Mom doesn't walk well and has fallen three times this year. I was terrified that she would fall on this trip and really hurt herself (not how I wanted to spend my vacation in Utah) so I wouldn't let her take up any of her own stuff (you have to climb uneven stairs and sidewalks to get into the building). Which meant, of course, that I had to make double trips.

I was determined to try to get exercise on this trip, but that first day was for recovery from the two long days of driving. It was hard to decide just which lazy activity to indulge in, but we picked reading. I had picked up a handful of Susan Wiggs' romances and it didn't take long to get caught up with Isadora and Ryan in The Charm School.

The next day I took my first (and last) walk. The condo development has a walking path that, according to my new pedometer watch, is a little over 1/2 mile in length. Problem was, since the development is on a mountainside, over half the route goes uphill. At 5200 feet. And I live my real life almost at sea level (about 200 feet altitude here).

Yeah.

By the time I reached the "summit" for me, anyway, my heartrate was up to 165. My cardiologist wants me to push myself, but I don't think he had quite that target in mind. The return route should have been downhill, right? But they managed to take me steeply downhill for a while, then UPhill again before going downhill, then UPhill - well, you get it.

It was sure pretty, though. Teasles grow in this area (I'm mad for them in all their forms) and they were in bloom.


I made it safely back to the condo and opted for Chair Dancing for my exercise the rest of the visit (all two times I remembered to do it.)

The second day we started stitching. I started this piece from one of the English cross stitch magazines.

You can almost see that it's on an opalescent piece that I bought at a stitchery show from Picture This, Plus.
The background is supposed to be a little town all in blues, but I'm not going to do that part. There are a number of leaves on the left side (I'm dedicating them to you, Chiloe) and leaves and berries on the branch, all covered with snow. My reward for finishing the leaves, berries and snow will be the brightly colored, striped stocking that the little bird sits over. Waiting for Santa.

We pretty much spent two weeks just reading and stitching. We did to into Ogden one day and spent some quality time at Shepherds Bush.


Let me share a piece of advice about shopping at Shepherd's Bush (illustrated by these truly awful photos. If I use the flash it just reflects off the plastic bags and I'm too lazy to do a better job today.) Based on my experience, this is what you will do when you shop at Shepherd's Bush:

You will drive up to their purple door, which is usually strung with flowers of the season. There is usually a pot of flowers on the step. Your heart will speed up a little in anticipation. After all, if someone will go to that much trouble to decorate the door the inside should be good, too, huh? You will step through the door and find yourself in a very long, narrow room with stitcheries on the wall. There is a table with a guest book (and a terrific sheep planter with some kind of flowering something). You will take all this in and you will want to explore this area for a while: Where did this bench (which looks like a church pew) come from? What techniques are used in these stitcheries? Should I sign the guest book? Who designed this sheep pot with all the curls? You are seeing all of this and these thoughts race through your mind as you scan around the space and then it happens!

You spot the door into the shop itself, and you are lost.

I cannot tell you what techniques are used on the stitcheries on the wall because I have never been able to resist the magic door. I've never signed the guest book and don't know squat about the bench or the sheep planter because as soon as I step through the magic door all sense - all intelligence - all control - just flies right out my ears.

I think the cheapest I've ever escaped from Shepherd's Bush was about $60 (and only because it had been my second visit that trip). There is no way to describe this shop; I highly recommend popping over to their site to watch their video tour.

The very first thing you see when you enter is a delightful display of charts (and other stuff) of The Season. On this trip The Season is Halloween and I am paralyzed by indecision. Which of the three new Halloween charts that I have snatched off the table do I start on? Or should I just start on the Autumn Band Sampler (which, happily, does not have an alphabet, just specialty stitches to learn).

When you walk through the magic door, your eyes will fall on something that takes your breath away. In my case it was the aforementioned autumn sampler:

so I decided to start collecting the things I would need for that.

And here is THE ADVICE: When you pick up a chart at Shepherd's Bush, do not pass GO, do not start buying any fabric or any fibers. Go directly to the counter and ask this important question: Do you have a list of changes for this chart? If you do not follow this advice you will waste time gathering floss and buttons and charms and whatever else. You will gather these things and feel a rising disappointment as it becomes obvious that the sample on the wall is nothing like the picture in the chart. You will argue with yourself that maybe it was the photographer's lights or something else washing out the colors. If you're lucky, one of the Shepherd's Bush angels will rescue you and steer you in the right direction by handing you the changes list. Ahhhhhhh.... now it's making more sense. Shepherd's Bush shop samples almost never match the charts (unless they are designed by someone in the shop). Even with my lousy picture, I think you can see that the Autumn sampler I make will be much "richer" looking than the one pictured on the chart.

So, ASK first, then shop.


After a break for lunch at the Union Grill (yummy fun) we had a little energy for a stop at Gardiner's Sew and Quilt.

I was thrilled that they still carried this Willowberry Winter line by Willowberry Lane & Maywood Studios. I bought my first pieces ( a charm pack and a couple of fat quarters) two summers ago. I kept pulling it out and fondling it through that year, then the next summer I bought some larger pieces. I never figured out what I wanted to do with it until I bought the set of BOM patterns for Leanne Beasley's "Butterfly Garden" Quilt. Of course, having found the perfect project, I realized that I didn't have nearly enough fabric. Butterfly Garden is pretty scrappy and I was able to round up quite a bit from my stash to use, but wanted more of the Willowberry fabric to use throughout the blocks to kind of tie the quilt together. Since this is an older fabric line (this is the third summer for it) I was worried I wouldn't be able to find any. But, good old Gardiner's still had a whole endcap of it. When the owner did my cutting she said it has been a great seller for her (I think she said she would order 50 bolts at a time and they would fly out of the shop) but that she can't get it anymore. Whew! I am so lucky!

As nuts as I am about Christmas fabric, I'm even more so about Halloween stuff. Just can't resist it. Last summer (or was it the summer before?) I found a panel of a haunted house surrounded by pumpkin characters. I would bet a nickel that it was the same designer as this fabric:

I have a design in mind for a Halloween quilt based on a Harry Potter panel I bought years ago. I would not use this fabric in it (the design is too strong, too distracting) but can sure see pulling the haunted house together with this stuff into - well - something. For now, though, it will just get placed into the fabric museum for occasional visits and fondling.

Speaking of Halloween, I went to the newly moved and re-opened Quilted Bear in Ogden. They had opened just that day so everything was new and clean and all the new product was out. I could not resist a set of 8" wooden letters that say "BOO" or a set of 4" black wooden blocks with "PUMPKINS" in orange print. You'll have to wait, though, until October when I bring out my Halloween entry quilt and set stuff up for the season to see a picture. Hey! If I can look foward to posting here, I might actually get all the stuff out this year, ya think?

One afternoon I called my old and dear friend, Judy, and invited her to go show my mom Dottie Beck's and have apple walnut cobbler (ala mode, of course) at Harley and Bucks and she accepted.

At this point in history, old town Eden consists of an old general store (that houses Harley and Bucks) next to an old Victorian home (that houses Dottie Becks). Across the street you can see a row of old buildings that don't house anything but are very picturesque. A developer is working on building a commercial center behind that row of old buildings (preserving the "feel" of history). Behind the General Store is a strip of retail (log style, like the store) and there are newer buildings behind and across the street. Directly across the street from Harley and Bucks and Dottie Becks is the city park. Along the city park runs an irrigration channel that looks like a stream. Of course, every view in this valley is backed by some spectacular mountain view. My point is that walking into Dottie Becks is an experience for the senses. The garden in front is always spectacular. The shop itself is charming and packed full of unique gift items. Harley and Bucks has some of the best food ever, anywhere. We ordered one serving of apple walnut cobbler (don't be fooled; there's no 'crust' in this, just the most delicious apple-walnut-syrup goop you've ever tasted) topped with vanilla (and cinnamon?) ice cream that three women could not finish. Well, I finally stuffed down the last bit because I had a bigger weapon neither of the others wanted any more.

As we chatted away Judy asked if we had seen Mama Mia! yet and we ended up making plans to go see the movie together.


Oh. My. Gosh.

I missed ABBA somehow. The only song I recognized was "Dancing Queen." But what really blew me away were these highly respected dramatic actors seeming to have the time of their lives in this musical. If you haven't seen it you have to go, but plan to see it twice because, if you're like me, you will spend the entire first viewing glued to Meryl Streep.


I decided Colin Firth was the sexiest man on the planet when I saw him in one of the BBC's productions of Pride and Prejudice.


Well, the guy does it for me in this one, too, and can sing and has some good moves, to boot.


After the movie we were all talking about how blown away we were by Meryl Streep's singing voice. Turned out we all had enjoyed A Prairie Home Companion (another movie where she sings and knocks your socks off). Judy has this amazing theater in her home with a huge screen, theater seating and Egyptian styling - the walls are movie set styrofoam and you feel like you're in a tomb down there. She even has two repro sarcophagi (sarcophaguses?) in niches on either side of the screen. No, the rest of her house is not Egyptian, just the theater. Great fun.

Anyway, she invited Mom and me to come up the next night and watch Prairie Home in her theater. As the next afternoon came, however, Mom said she just wasn't up to that. Judy and I decided to go back into Ogden for another Mama Mia! night and had a blast.


That weekend was the annual Ogden Valley Balloon Festival (formerly the Eden Balloon Festival). I'm sad to say that I think the economy really hurt the festival this year. Instead of the usual 30-35 balloons we only counted 17. Still, these gorgeous, peaceful critters are a real treat and I was grateful to the pilots who did fly. They launch just after sunrise each morning for three days. Mid-August is the beginning of fall in the valley and the mornings were quite crisp and clear. A little chilly on the balcony (not quite 50 degrees yet) but we just bundled into our warm socks and sweats with hot chocolate and a lap blanket and we were fine.


Views From the Balcony



I was playing with my zoom. Most of the pictures did not turn out that well, but this one is OK. This was a new balloon this year and I really liked the art deco design. On the other side the same design is from the bottom up. A striking craft.


On the third and last day, the pilots participate in a rally. In this shot they are "dancing". Just seconds later the two rows of balloons changed positions all at the same time. Lovely.

And they form lines. Last year I caught over a dozen craft perfectly spaced in a straight vertical line. Cool!

After the flight Sunday I started puttering around, gathering things up, packing the car. We were supposed to leave the next morning and I did not want to make all those trips up the stairs from the basement, down the stairs to the car within the same two or so hours the next morning. It was much easier to do a trip, then rest, then do another trip and so on all day. The only bad part was that we couldn't really have that last day of denial. Yep, we had to leave the next day.


And leave we did. We got away at about 10:00 am. Stayed the night at Mesquite again and had an uneventful trip home. Stopped in Provo at the Borders for a potty stop and picked up some magazines and a copy of the Mama Mia! movie cast recording which we listened to non-stop for two days.

Not a bad way to end a great vacation.

Now I have a problem, though. Can you guess what it is?

Um, where do I put all these treasures (not to mention the two dining room chairs I hauled back this trip)? If you're a regular reader here you know, I'm full up. No room to stuff in anything. Remember that space I created earlier this summer. All gone.

Oh, well. it was worth it.

3 comments:

Kathryn said...

I'm glad you got a good long rest before plunging back into the chaos of teaching. With the exception of a few projects That Must Be Done, I am taking this week to rest after our long drive to Denver and back. James is in San Francisco and Honolulu and I start jury duty on Monday (I hope it is as short as the rest of the times I have been called).

Alison said...

I often think that amount of driving is akin to catching a plane. The feeling you have the next day is just like jet lag and you need 2 days to recover.

Love reading your blog...I'll be visiting Ogden next month. :)

Stitcher S said...

What a great post, thanks.

I must say that these words could have been from my mouth:
"I'm always fascinated by the small homes along the highway. Who would choose to live here? What are they like?" I alway think the same thing!

We've driven from California to the midwest MANY times via the same route of which you wrote. I so agree with the beauty around St. George, and Provo Canyon. Heavenly.

Glad you had a great trip, and how lovely that you got away before the hectic days of teaching begin again.