Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

See you in 2009

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


With January around the corner I'm in a mood to organize. The stores are featuring storage bins on sale so it's a good time to open a closet and clean out. I know it's called Spring Cleaning but I like to work at getting my ducks in a row in January. My step mother used to always tell me "Everything has it's place and everything in it's place".
I try to avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking my projects down into little itty bitty pieces. Today's goal was to put all my Christmas and Halloween fabric in one bin.

Mission accomplished and it wasn't even all that painful.

The weather has been beautiful here for the last few days. All the snow from a few weeks ago quickly melted, and we are back to red rocks and blue skies.
This is the view of the mountain right behind my house looking out from my backyard.

Just north-west of our property is a beautiful area called "Castle Rock". You may have seen it briefly as a background shot in the movie "High School Musical 2" that was filmed nearby.
Next summer when I'm whining about the heat just remind me how fabulous the winters are here in Southern Utah. I've been reading about all the blizzards and storms going on all around the country and I'm wishing I could fit you all in St. George. I'm feeling a little guilty and spoiled. Mr. Cactus even went out and did a little golfing today.

Monday, December 29, 2008

After Christmas Sale

I really wish all of you had been with me today. I walked into the local Hurst/Ben Franklin here in St.George and they had their Christmas fabric at 70 % off. Shelves of beautiful Moda's and Robert Kaufmans just to name a few. I really had a hard time narrowing down my selection there were so many choices. The sales lady said it was an unadvertised special. No kidding!

I was thinking I was tired of all the Christmas decor, and ready to put it all away. Not as of today! I have so many projects running through my mind on how I could use this fabric. I almost don't know where to begin. Maybe if I start my Christmas projects soon I might have a few of my presents ready for next year.
I didn't have time this last fall to join Nanette of Freda's Hive in her Christmas Cottage Exchange. I still want to make her pattern as a 2009 goal.
I also could use some of this fabric to make Kim's (of Bitty Bits and Pieces) Scrappy Kaleidoscope quilt.
Every time I look at their blogs I want to sit next to them and make everything they are making.

Don't you think this pin cushion from Jill Finley of Jillily Studio would look good in Christmas fabrics? I'd better get started on these right away! I have a few project to finish up first, but then look out Christmas here I come again.

Ben Franklin also put all their Halloween and Fall fabrics at 70% off. I didn't buy any today, but I already know I'm in trouble.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hoover Dam

Last night we arrived home very late after driving from Phoenix, Arizona to St. George, Utah. We left early enough in the morning to make it home at a decent time, but ran into some interesting traffic. Highway 93 is the primary link between Phoenix and Las Vegas. A very uneventful ride through the desert until you approach Hoover Dam. Then the traffic comes to a standstill, especially if you are traveling near a holiday. The road is one lane in each direction, with dangerous curves that take you across the dam. There are no traffic signals to direct the myriads of pedestrian tourists who cross the street at any personal whim. Cars stop to accommodate the pedestrians, and long backups are common.
Five miles before the dam we came to a complete halt. For the next two hours we mainly sat, with an occasional move forward inch by painful inch.

When this dam was built in 1931 the two towns of Phoenix and Las Vegas were very small, and the freeway connection was sufficient. Now as the only road between these two major cities, going across the dam, although very scenic, is also a nightmare.
In 2005 construction began on a new 2,000 foot bridge called "The Hoover Dam Bypass Project". Completion is anticipated for June 2010. We're counting the days.

We figure we made this trip about 7 or 8 times in 2008. Our grand babies live in Phoenix and they provide great motivation to make the drive.
Until the bridge is completed we will just have to resort to our "dam humor".
We are not a swearing family. In fact, I've worked pretty hard to teach my children that there is always a better way to express ourselves.
Until yesterday when we sat and sat and sat for two hours.
What is there to talk about? Yawn
Mr. Cactus pipes up: "We're really stuck in this dam traffic."
Followed by my brother: "Boy am I dam tired."
Paul: "This dam situation really sucks."
Mr. Cactus again: "It's because the dam traffic control is deficient!"
On and on they went.

When my daughter Amy was a newly wed she went across the Glen Canyon Dam while traveling with her in- laws and family. Previously her husband had informed her that in growing up the only time the kids could swear was crossing the bridge, and then they would say the word "Dam". Somehow Amy got her story mixed up. She thought they were allowed to say any swear word. You can probably already guess her most embarrassing moment. As she was seated between Dano's little sisters and they were going over the bridge, Amy let out a string of swear words. The family looked at her in shock. Dano clarified "Amy, we're only supposed to say 'Dam'". Fortunately, Dano comes from an awesome family and they all had a good laugh, although they did give her a hard time about it (in good fun). Amy still blushes when she tells the story.

The bridge spans the border between Nevada and Arizona and has two different time zones.
I love the Art Deco architecture of the 1930's.
Originally the construction contract was given to 6 companies. Then during the Great Depression, work was accelerated to help create jobs.
""Winged Figures of the Republic"

My friend Ruth has taught me the concept to look for the gift in every situation. I've been practicing. Yesterday while everyone else was saying "Dam" I finished the last 6 baskets in my satchel quilt. Maybe I should have handed a needle and thread to everyone in the car.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas a day late! I hope everyone had a nice day yesterday. I'm in the Phoenix area where we have all gathered at my daughter Amy's house. Elizabeth flew in from the Salt Lake area. My brother flew in from California. It's been so wonderful being together as a family, which for me is what the holiday's are all about.
I've been most happy kissing on my grandson's faces.
Isaak is 3 and for the first time seemed to really understand what Christmas is all about.

Noah will celebrate his first birthday in about a week. He's been sick with a cold, and yet he was a happy boy, enjoying all the noise and attention.

My favorite present of all was being able talk to my son Scott who lives in Brooklyn, New York via web cam. What great technology! This is the first time in Scott's life I have not had him home for Christmas and I was really missing him! My son in law has a web cam on his lap top and connected us up.
For an hour it felt like we were all in the same room. Well..almost. We laughed and shared Christmas memories from times past.
One of the things we missed the most was having Scott join us in playing board games. Next time we thought we'd set up a web cam in his chair and he could still play with us via the net.
We love you Scott!
I am thrilled to report that Santa brought me a new camera! I am so happy! It's just like the one I got last Christmas, and somehow lost (or had taken?) at Disneyland a few months ago.
My memory card will hold 1,000 pictures which I plan to promptly fill up with the beautiful faces above.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Toile A Good Night" Quilt

I have had quite a few requests through e-mail that I share a little bit more about the "Toile A Good Night" quilt that I showed on a post a few days ago.
The pattern was designed by Dana Brooks of Lazy Daisy Cottage. The original size was a throw (42X50). I made mine larger. I will share with you the fabric requirements for the original. If you want to enlarge, you can do your own math.

There are only 2 relatively easy blocks to make for this quilt. One is a 9-patch, using 5 pinwheels and 4 toile blocks. The adjoining blocks are a simple 9 1/2 inch piece of Toile.
The original quilt had 3 rows across and 4 rows down.
Fabric Requirements: 1 1/2 yds Toile, 1 yd dark fabric, 1/3 yd light fabric.
I made mine with 6 rows across and 7 rows down. * Make sure to allow for extra yardage.

To make the pinwheels, cut 2 3/8th inch squares of both the light and dark fabric. Cut in half diagonally. Piece together to make a 2 1/2 inch half square triangles. Place 4 of these together to make the pinwheel block. The joining toile pieces are cut 4 1/2 inches square. The final block should measure 12 1/2 inches unfinished, or 12 inch finished.

Cut the connecting Toile pieces 12 1/2 inches.

The pattern said the first dark stop border is 2 1/2 inches. The outside border is 5 inches wide.
*Again, I changed mine to other widths. My outside border is 3 inches.

I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please feel free to e-mail me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joseph Smith Tribute Quilt

Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805-June 27, 1844)

Tomorrow, December 23rd is the birthday of the founder and Prophet of our church "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints".
In 2005, members of our church world wide celebrated Joseph Smith's life on what would have been his 200th birthday. We honored him through books, plays, music and pageants.
A tribute quilt was designed by Nancy Nielson and Joylyn Rigby of Highland, Utah.
The quilt was introduced at the beginning of 2005 as a block of the month with 12 patterns. My girlfriend Judi called me one day and asked if I would be interested in joining her for the first preview of the quilt at Broadbents in Lehi, Utah and to sign up for their monthly kits. The minute I walked in and saw a standing room only crowd, I knew this quilt would be a hit.
We immediately called Ruth (with two of her daughters) along with Beth and made plans to have them join us in making the tribute quilt. We spent many wonderful days together in 2005 working on our blocks. Each month we received not only fabric and instructions, but also ""biographical information on the life of the prophet, the events in his history, and the people he loved."
This quilt now hangs in my living room as a special reminder and tribute to Joseph Smith.
Each block has a special meaning in the life of Joseph. The first month we made a row of log cabin blocks. Inside the pattern was the story of the cabin where Joseph Smith was born, and a history of the events that took place in his parents home.
Below is "Kings Highway" with the black squares representing the martyrdom of Joseph and his brother Hyrum.

This block is called "True Lovers Knot". The authors shared with us the love story of Joseph and his wife Emma, along with some of the love letters he wrote to her.

Nancy and JoyLyn not only selected quilt patterns with names that fit Joseph's story, but also used colors with symbolic meaning to emphasis an event. They also tried to find fabrics that had been reproduced from the time period of Joseph's life. For example, Joseph's wife Emma might have been able to purchase these very same fabrics.
Our friend Janis is the buyer for Broadbents. She is actually the one who gave Judi the heads up on the making of this quilt so we could be included. Janis and the staff at Broadbents worked very hard that year trying to keep up with the tremendous response they received of people doing the BOM.
Tree of Life Block, representing Lehi's dream and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

For the back of the quilt Nancy and JoyLyn designed a beautiful stitched label. The Sampler was "created to serve as a map or legend to the quilt".

Happy Birthday Joseph.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Just Couldn't Help Myself

One time when my daughter Amy was a little girl she did something she shouldn't have done. I can't recall now what it was. But I remember looking at her and asking "Amy why did you do that?". She looked back at me with her big angelic eyes and sweetly announced "I just couldn't help myself".
The last few days I have been feeling like that.
I made the mistake of walking into a local quilt shop and seeing the pattern below. My girlfriend Judi has been eyeing the kit for a year now, and I have told her to be sensible. She has unmade kits stacked up that need to be done first. It is silly to take on a new project when so many are waiting. (yada yada yada)
Maybe I should have entitled this post "Eating Crow".
I have stacks of quilts waiting to be made, many with upcoming deadlines. What did I do? I bought the pattern to "Little Red Hen" and made the first block. I just couldn't help myself!

With only a few days left until Christmas there is so much to be done. Starting a new quilt project was not on the list. Not even close.
But then.... I saw these spring fabrics with so much color. It's been snowing here with several cloudy days. I loved touching the fabrics that brightened the room and made spring and its warmth seem to be just around the corner.
There are six appliqued blocks in the quilt. I promise I will put the rest away and get on with the other quilts that need to be completed for upcoming events.
It was fun while it lasted.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Candy Cane Cookies and More Santas

When Mr. Cactus and I got married many, many years ago, we received a "Betty Crocker" cookbook as a wedding present. We were married in November, and I remember for our first Christmas together I wanted to bake him something special. I made him "Candy Cane Cookies", and they have continued as a tradition in our family every year since.

I usually have all the children help me with making these cookies. With only Paul left at home, today he was the elected "helper". I'm glad he likes to cook, and appreciates even as a teenager, the importance of keeping traditions. Christmas just wouldn't feel like Christmas with out making candy cane cookies.

First you mix the shortening and butter with the egg and sugar. One of the best part of these cookies is the almond extract flavoring. It adds a very distinctive taste that we all love.
Then add in the dry ingredients. Divide the dough in 1/2 and mix red food coloring into one batch.

Take a small ball of each dough and roll each into the shape of a rope.

Twist the ropes into the shape of a candy cane.

An optional idea is to sprinkle peppermint candy on the top. We tried doing it before we baked the cookies today, although the recipe says to do it after they are out of the oven.
Paul is my creative one, who likes to do something different when he cooks. Because the recipe says make in the shape of the candy cane, he always has to include other shapes and designs. The cookies taste good this way too!

Bake and let cool. When the kids were small, we always put a plate of these out for Santa on Christmas Eve.

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. shortening
1 C. powdered sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red food coloring
*Optional: crushed peppermint candy mixed with even amounts of granulated sugar
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix butter, shortening, powdered sugar, egg and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Divide the dough in half, blend food coloring into one half.
Shape small amount of dough from each half into a 4 inch rope. For smooth, even ropes, roll them back and forth on lightly floured board. Place ropes side by side. Press together lightly and twist. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Curve top down to form handle. Bake about 9 minutes or until set and lightly brown. **Can mix candy and sugar and immediately sprinkle cookies with mixture.
Belinda of Brown Dirt Cottage requested I share more of my Santa Collection.
My most favorite Santa comes from a set of Russian Matryoshka Nesting Dolls. We purchased these when we were fortunate enough to go to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Only the largest Doll (the Santa) looks very Christmasy. The others that nest inside look a little more like winter, especially the penguin at the end.

I'm still using Mr. Cactus' old archaic digital camera that is giving me fits. (Remember I lost my camera in Disneyland a few months ago?) I've requested a new camera for Christmas and until then will keep grinding my teeth while trying to appreciate that at least I have a camera to use. Sorry so many of these are blurry and react poorly to the different settings I tried to use with the flash.

I made this Santa a few years ago when doll making was the latest thing to try. He makes me think of an Old World Santa.