Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween! We have tradition in our family that leads to getting ready for Halloween. For 30 years now we have carved pumpkins for Family Home Evening, the Monday before Halloween. It doesn't matter how many kids are left at home. It doesn't matter if they bring friends. Come one, come all, you will find us at the kitchen counter carving away. Of course, we require the perfect ambiance to get the creative juices flowing. I always provide glazed donuts, and apple cider. If it was a snowy evening, I added in hot chocolate. When the kids were little, and there was a baby in the family, we always put a pacifier in the baby's pumpkin mouth. Once the kids were bigger I added in really scary music. (See below). Now Paul says this music is just plain ol' dumb, but he wants it on anyway.

Getting out the pumpkin "guts".

Mr. Cactus and Paul

Only three of us at home this Halloween, but my daughter Amy called and said they were carving pumpkins with the boys. I remember the first year Amy was dating Dano (our son-in law) and he said he had never carved a pumpkin before. We looked at him with astonishment! How could that be possible? He promptly sat down and began working on his pumpkin and carved with meticulous detail. He was in. We knew Amy could marry him after that.
Mr. Cactus made his a "4th of July" pumpkin. Notice the fire cracker nose and the mouth that spells "Boom"!

We like to put candles inside, and then take them out to the front courtyard.

Here are some of my Halloween decorations on an entryway buffet.

Paul came out pretty early this morning wearing his costume as he headed out to school. He's 17 and a Junior in High School, but still loves the traditions of Halloween.

This year he's going as Wesley from the movie "Princess Bride". I think he has watched that movie so many times he can now quote every line.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Snow Canyon State Park

About a 5 minute drive from my house is one of the most beautiful State Parks I've ever been to. "Snow Canyon State Park" feels like a little known secret in Southern Utah. Most tourists travel to our end of the state to see the magnificence of Zion National Park, or Bryce Canyon. Stunning as they are, I'm still a big fan of Snow Canyon which I feel is every bit as spectacular.
In the evenings Mr. Cactus and I like to walk the trails of Snow Canyon. Some trails are nicely paved and the views are so captivating I hardly feel like I'm exercising.

These pictures off Mr. Cactus' camera hardly do the park justice. My camera was somehow lost on our trip to Disneyland, so this will have to do for now. The sun was also setting behind the mountains, so the colors are not as vivid as they are in real life. The mountains are Red Navajo Sandstone, capped by an overlay of black lava rock. Just outside the park we can see clusters of ancient volcano heads.

The paved trail pass through a myriad of desert vegetation that include cholla cacti, and sage just to name a few. The park covers 5,700 acres. We often go off the paved trail onto other hikes because most paths are not very strenuous, and can be accomplished in a short time range.

The state park has a very clean 35 unit campground, with 17 units for RV's. Even though we live close by, I'm tempted to bring my family and camp here it's so inviting. As we hike we rarely see others in the park. Very quiet and secluded. Voices leave an echo that travels far, so we are usually aware if others are in the vicinity.

One of my favorite parts of the park are the petrified sand dunes. One range is in red, and the others are white, showing what was once flowing mountains of sand.

There are lava caves scattered on the desert floor that are well marked.

You can see the black lava rock through out the range.
Now that the weather is cooling down, the evening walks are so pleasant.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Food for The Gods

Every year when we do our girl get away we eat the most fabulous food, or as Judi puts it "Food for the Gods". I thought I'd share a few of our recipes with you. Please remember we are not in our own kitchens. We have to work with the supplies the hotel room provides. We ate off paper plates because the dishwasher was not much bigger than the microwave. Even still, it's yum, yum, yum!

Judi is our example of a person who eats very healthy. She has studied nutrition most of her life and is so good about rarely cheating. The rest of us try to eat healthy but still hide chocolate in our rooms. Or suddenly decide to take a walk, and actually head over to the gift shop for a treat. (shhh.. don't tell her). She made these roasted vegetables and even Beth who doesn't like squash, was asking for the recipe. I made these for Mr. Cactus once I got home and he announced I could make this recipe every night and he would love it. The recipe is from her memory and she probably created as she went. ( Yes, she's that type of a cook.)
Judi's Roasted Veggies
Sauce: Mix together
2T. Shirley J's bullion
1 T. minced dried onion
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Herbs deProvence
In a roasting pan, or 9 X 13 pan add a variety of root vegetables. For example: onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, celery, peppers, carrots, beets, butternut squash, etc.
Mix together 1/4 C. melted butter, and 1/4 C. olive oil. Pour over veggies. Sprinkle the herb mix on top. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour at 400-415 degrees. Take the foil off and let the veggies get crispy, cooking for around another 20 minutes.

This is a favorite in my family. We even had it for our Easter dinner this last year. Not traditional but we love it so much we were just happy. (The colors are kind of Eastery aren't they?) My brother, who is a gourmet cook, shared this recipe with me. We've adjusted a few things from the original.
Mahogany Chicken:
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts in 1 1/2 " cubes
Marinade: 5T. brown sugar, 3T. Dijon mustard, 2 T. bottled hoisin sauce, 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, 1/2 C. fresh squeezed lime juice. In a medium bowl, mix brown sugar, mustard, hoisin sauce and vinegar. Reserve 2/3rds of this mixture. To the remainder add 1/2 C. lime juice, and stir in the chicken. Cover and refrigerate.
Thread chicken on 8 bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water. Broil 6" from heat, basting with remaining Mahogany sauce until done, about 8 minutes. (I rotate the skewers as I baste to make sure all sides of the chicken gets cooked).
Smoky Lime Sweet Potatoes:
2 -3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 in pieces
2 T. unsalted butter
1 tsp. chopped canned Chipolte peppers with Adobo Sauce (found in most Mexican sections by the canned diced chili peppers)
1 tsp. Adobo sauce (from the canned Chipolte) *since you only need a small amount from the can, I put the rest in a ziplock bag and throw it in the freezer. When I make the potatoes again I just shave off a small section and put the bag back in the freezer)
3/4 tsp. Cumin
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice and lime zest
1/8th tsp. salt 1/8th tsp pepper
Cook potatoes in boiling water, covered, about 15 minutes. Reserve 1/4 C. of the liquid, then drain. Return potatoes to the water. Add butter, chipolte pepper, adobo sauce, lime juice, lime zest, cumin, salt and pepper. Mash.
On a plate, layer mashed potatoes with chicken skewers on top. Drizzle with this sauce my brother created.
Jed's Sauce
In a blender combine: 1/2 C. sour cream, 1/3 bunch cilantro, 1/2 chopped Jalapeno pepper, 1/2- 1 juice from a lime, and lime zest if you want.

I got this recipe off "Every Day Food Storage" blog, and used cinnamon instead of pumpkin pie spice. The best part was the sauce that is put on top.
Bread Pudding
1 C. whole milk
1/2 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs
5-- 1/2" to 3/4 " cubed hearty bread slices
1/2 C. pecans
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix milk, sugar, cinnamon and eggs in a large bowl with a whisk. Stir in bread cubes and pecans. Pour into an ungreased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Drizzle with sauce and more pecans.
Bread Pudding Maple Sauce: 1/2 C. butter, 2 T. water, 1 large egg, 1 C. sugar, 1 tsp. maple extract. Melt butter in saucepan, over low heat. Do not allow to simmer. Remove from heat. Mix water and egg and stir into the butter until well blended. Stir in sugar and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in maple extract. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Store in fridge.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Parowan, Utah

Last week when we were at Brian Head, we heard that there was a quilt store in Parowan. We originally went through Parowan, and then drove 15 minutes up the mountain to get to our resort at Brian Head. We had enough fabric to keep us busy for years, but knowing there was a quilt store nearby sent us driving back down the mountain one morning.
We arrived at "Sew Crazy" at about 10:15 am and found the doors locked. We waited around for a few minutes and then surmised that because we were in a small town (population of around 2,500), maybe the store was closed for the day.
Our next stop was to find a copy shop. We went into the visitors center for directions and were greeted by a lovely lady named Jet. She asked where we were from and we explained that we were quilters and came down the mountain to visit the quilt store, but it was closed.
Jet: "Wait a minute, let me see if I can find Connie on her cell phone...hmm, no answer."
Jet as she dialed on her phone again: "Let me see if her husband knows where she is."
Turns out Connie was in Cedar City for a quilt event and her husband guessed she wouldn't be back any time soon.
Thanking Jet, we left and then decided to check out some of the stores in town. Parowan is the oldest town in Southern Utah, established in 1853. There are many historical buildings, homes and museums.
We strolled into a wonderful antique store called "Affordable Treasures" on Main Street.

After shopping for about a half an hour, the phone rang at the antique store. The owner, Phyllis Semick handed me the phone and said "It's for you".
"Huh?" was my puzzled reply.
"Yes, it's for you".
"OK.....??...Hellloooo???" At this point I'm wondering how anyone on the planet would know where I am.
The voice on the other end asked "Are you the ladies from Salt Lake wanting to go to the quilt store?"
"I'm Connie, and I own the store and I'm back, so you can come on over if you like."
"OK...we'll be there soon" stumbled out of my mouth.
My girlfriends were all looking at me with the most puzzled expressions. When I explained who was on the phone, we all burst out laughing. Being from big cities, we got our first taste of small town communication and concern. Can I just tell you how wonderful the women of Parowan are? After a half hour in their town we felt like family. They had gone out of their way to help us feel welcome, and I knew if I needed anything, anytime, they would try and help.

We jumped in our car and drove over to Connie Biasi's quilt store called "Sew Crazy". She's a young mom, and as sweet as can be. The store is small and limited in selection, but she had some really nice fabrics. Judi found a good selection of pinks and browns that she was hunting for. Connie also has a long arm in her store. She charges 1 cent an inch for overall quilting, and 1 1/2 cents an inch for custom. I saw some of her work and she is very good. Terrific prices, and she said she does mail orders. You can find her at "Sew Crazy 63 E. Center St. Parowan, Ut 84761 (435) 477-9136"

I found this great new book by Heather Mulder Peterson of Anka's Treasures called "Fat Quarter Cottage".

Cupcakes seem to be the rage right now so I bought some of this fabric, although I'm not sure where I'll be using it.
When I called Mr. Cactus and told him the experiences of our day, he had one word of advice. He said "You girls better behave yourselves. You're in a small town and everyone is going to know what you are up to."
When we checked out of our hotel room we vacuumed and cleaned it up extra nice because we might want to go back there sometime. We didn't want them to say "Oh yeah, WE REMEMBER YOU SALT LAKE QUILTERS WHO LEFT THREADS ALL OVER YOUR ROOM!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Girl Get Away at Brian Head

"None of us can face life--it's ironies and surprises, it's challenges and barricades, it's tragedies and traumas--on our own. Nor should we be expected to do so. A belief in the brotherhood and sisterhood of all men and women follows naturally from a belief that God is the father of the human race. In many ways we are all in this together, and our common humanity runs much deeper than our similarity or differences in race, color, or creed." (From the book 'Holding Fast' by Robert Millet)
Last week I spent the week with 3 of my girl friends at Brian Head, Utah. We were adding up the years and figured we have been doing this girl get away together for around 13 years now. It's a week of emotional therapy for us to be able to leave the world behind and nurture each other. Of course we get a lot of quilting done, and prepare each other fabulous food, but those things almost seem incidental. We talk late into the night, and gain tremendous strength from each other. For me it's a very spiritual experience.
Me, Beth, Judi, and Ruth
Every year we pick a different location for our girl get away. When I lived up North we often went to Heber, or Park City. Now that I live in the Southern part of the state we sometimes head this direction. Last year it was Las Vegas. This year we picked Brian Head, a small ski resort near the city of Parowan.

The weather was beautiful, and we loved the fall colors. We took some wonderful walks each day.
Judi and Nedra

Judi and Ruth

Having an entire week to quilt without any interruptions was heavenly. I finished the binding on my "Round About" quilt.

I loved the design "Cinnamon Buns" by the long arm quilter.

While we were at Brian Head, my friend Ann stopped by. She has a cabin about a 5 minute walk from the resort.

Ann's cabin

A girl could get used to a place like this.
We stayed in a very nice room at the resort. Two bedrooms, both with fireplaces. We moved all the furniture aside so we could set up our sewing machines in the living room/ kitchen area.
OK- we make quite a "creative" mess as we work on our projects. But we always clean everything up and put things back in their proper places before we check out.
The resort had a very nice indoor pool area, complete with 2 large hot tubs, sauna's, fireplace and reading area. We spent most of our evenings swimming, and relaxing in the hot tubs.

"Are we going to be best friends forever?" asked Piglet. "Even longer" Pooh answered. ( from Winnie The Pooh)
Ruthie sewing away.

I finished my "Fun and Done" quilt

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can be stupid with them." (Emerson)
Judi worked on several quilts, and discovered she forgot "parts" so she couldn't complete very many of them. We started to tease her about it. We then realized we each forgot "parts" to many of our projects too!

Beth started making a scrap quilt made of little squares she cut out of left over fabric.

All 3 of the other ladies brought lap tops to work on Digital Scrapbooking. Every night at 9:30 they gathered around Judi's laptop and listened to a "webinar" to further their computer skills. I was impressed. They kept reassuring me that once you get past the learning curve, it gets easier to do.
Bethie got the most scrapbook pages done.

Ruth made this cute advent calendar for one of her daughters. Each block is a pocket that can be filled with a treat for the 25 days leading up to Christmas.

I had so much fun making these Halloween potholders that I brought them the supplies so they each could do a "Make It and Take It" project.
Ruth made 5 potholders for her daughters.



I taught Judi how to make a "Fun and Done" quilt. This one is so beautiful in dark jewel tones.

"Ah, how good it feels! The hand of an old friend." (Longfellow)
What do I get from my girlfriends? So much more than quilting. Sometimes I feel like an alien in this world. When I am with them I have come home to the "mother ship".

The time together went so quickly. We weren't ready to go back and face the real world again. But after a week we figured our families needed us home. Now we are counting down the time until we can get together next year.