Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Favorites in the mail!

It isn't often that I get REAL mail any more but this week was a treat! Back in June I signed up to participate in a "My Favorites Swap" and I was paired up with my new favorite person in Ireland, another Sherry. This is the fun (handmade, I'm sure) package I received at my doorstep.

This is what I discovered all neatly put together just for me! So many little treats to explore. She has a favorite shop near here home that is called Avoca. It is one of the oldest family-run businesses in all of Ireland. This shop is known for it's traditional handwoven rugs and throws but what Sherry really likes are all of the "gifts, gadgets, goodies and lovely everyday trinkets". So she generously picked out well more than 3 of her favorites to send to me to fast become my favorites! She has included lovely, fragrant bath petals; flower-shaped scrub sponges; colorful clothes pins; pink & green THICK dish clothes; a sweet teeny, tiny silver spoon; teeny tiny colored pencils; a fabulous cookbook called Avoca Tea Time filled with the most delicious looking photos and recipes; and to top it all off -- chocolates Roses by Cadbury! Isn't that just the best combination of fancy little tidbits to enjoy on a daily basis! I am so lucky to have gotten such a clever swap partner! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have restored my appreciation for snail mail!

PS: I have definately added Ireland to my "must visit" list!
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sweating it out!

This is the temperature right now... about 12:40 pm Saturday afternoon. It is not as hot as it has been for the past 4 days but it is definately HOT ENOUGH especially since we have NO air conditioning!

Oh, did I mention we are here in St. George, sweating it out! Yesterday the high was 107! Yikes! But that was before the a/c unit decided to give out. Seriously, what were we thinking... coming down to St. Geroge for the 24th of July/Pioneer Day holiday?!?

Now let me explain. Since 1983 we have been coming here on as regualar a basis as we can get away with. My folks bought a condo here and they have been so generous to let all family members (all 125+) take advantage of the "inexpensive getaway" it provides. Mostly people like to come here in the fall, winter and spring when it is very pleasant. Most people stay away this time of year when it is typically over 100 degrees for weeks on end. Oh, but not us! Paul loves, loves, loves the heat. We mostly just sit by the huge swimming pool and relax -- me in the shade of a huge palm tree and Paul in the direct, skin-baking sunshine.

Last night around 8 pm we started to sense that it was not very cool in the condo even though we could feel the air blowing down the heating/cooling vents. Don't you just love it when the major equipment breaks down on a weekend evening! We called about 10 different ads from the yellow pages and finally got a real person who came over and told us that our 1987 air conditioner unit was dead!!! But, good news (???), he could get one Saturday morning and we'd be back in comfort ASAP (just in time to pack up and head home). That was somewhat good news; it solved one problem but created another. At 10:30 pm last night it was still 96 degrees. Sleeping here at the condo, even with the windows open, was going to feel like sleeping on a house boat at Lake Powell this time of year and we have already done that before. So we packed up our toothbrushes and pjs and moved over to a nearby hotel for the night.

Pretty soon we will be enjoying (and appreciating) cool air again!
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Taking a hike

This summer I have gotten to enjoy one of my favorite outdoor activities -- hiking!

I love to hike but truth be known, I seldom do it. Mostly because I don't want to go alone and I don't have a lot of friends or family that have any interest in going with me so I was very excited to discover, a few weeks ago, that our Stake Relief Society (women's organization of my Church) sports specialist had organized a weekly hike. I live within 10 minutes of the most beautiful mountains here in the mountain west (with world famous ski resorts). Amazingly enough, I did not even know about this particular trail and the fantastic waterfall it leads up to.
It is called the Bells Falls Trail. This is Bells Falls. This pictures doesn't even begin to portray the magnificance of this gushing, intense waterfall. You can't tell from the photo but all around us here we were being sprayed with the water as it bounced off the rocks as it rushed on down. We had to climb down a very wet, muddy, slippery section of steep mountain side just to get to this lower vantage point. The sun was just coming over the mountain peak above the falls so it was hard to get a photo without a huge glare of sunlight.

Our group of 7 headed out at about 7:30 am. The trailhead begins on a major roadway in the foothills of Little Cottonwood Canyon and continues UPHILL for 2 1/2 miles. The scenery is spectacular. When you get up a ways you can look out over the whole valley below.

It was a delightful temperature because most of the trail weaves through pine trees and quaking aspens and runs along side the Little Cottonwood Creek which kept us cool and shady too. But the boulders and uphill terrain kept us sweating no matter how protected we were from the direct sunlight. Even though I try to exercise most every day, my legs and knees were very aware of being "off road". It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get up and back as well as spend some time up at the falls just enjoying our accomplishment. This really was a highlight of my summer. I hope to do it a couple times more this season. I'll bet it would be beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing too!
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Retired... from what?

It's official ... I'm RETIRED! from my career as secretary/office manager/receptionist & toilet paper replacer.

About last November it was decided that I could gracefully phase out of my office responsibilities by July 2008! So when July 1st arrived, I stayed true to the schedule and as soon as I got the bills out for June, I too cleared out my desk and turned my back on a mere 25 years of going to the office (most) every day. I have to admit I've had it pretty good since I have been married to the boss all these years.

Now if you are like a lot of people I have told, in person, that I'm retired, you may be wondering "what is she going to do with all her time now?" Oh, don't you worry. I have probably worked harder in the past 2 or 3 weeks since I've been home every day than I ever did at the office (don't tell Paul though). I have been making lists in my head of all the things that I have neglected over the years that now I need to take care of... and I have tried to get lots of them done ASAP.

First of all, you'll remember I posted about our new remodel job. Well, it has taken me a whole week just to get everything back where it all belongs but cleaned out and organized to boot. I have done all those jobs like cleaning baseboards and dusting ceiling fans and cleaning blinds and shutters and windows. There is a lot of dust from remodeling and it has ended up EVERYWHERE!

But if that wasn't enough, I have this HUGE project that I have taken on ... "I" am remodeling the guest bathroom! See those stars in the photo above... Katie painted those about 12 years ago and I have been very tired of them for atleast the past 5 or 6 years - since she got married and moved out. First I had to sand all of them, then paint the ceiling, then paint the walls,

then remove the carpet, then remove the baseboard and then take the free workshop at Home Depot on how to install tile!!!

So far this is what the tile is looking like... I'm very happy with the results and it is not too difficult. I borrowed a tile cutting saw from a friend and that has been a new adventure... nothing like power tools to broaden your talents. I still have to finish cutting the intricate shapes that go around the heat vent and the toilet area and then I still need to grout everything but so far so good.

This could look good on my resume if I ever do need to go back to work full time. (I think I'd try for a job at a quilt shop first though.)
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Quilt of the week, again (finally!)

So this is really why we went to China... to hand deliver Cory's birthday present!

Cory's birthday was April 14th and since we were headed to visit them anyway, I decided to make something bigger than I would have been able to mail over to him. Mr. Cory's favorite color is ORANGE! This was such a fun quilt to make. When I went to the fabric store, I ended up buying as many different orange fabrics as I could find that were bright and whimsical. I have been saving used, abandoned and worn out jeans for years ... in fact, I have a whole shelf full in my sewing room. Denim seemed like the perfect companion to the glowing, intense oranges.

For Cory's birthday party, he had a big soccer game with lots of his friends and their dads. They were split up on two different teams and I'm sure the boys whipped the dads! So when I found a soccer ball fabric that had International Country flags on the soccer ball spots that are usually black, I knew that would be perfect for the back. There was even the PR of China flag! Coincidentally, one of his friends gave him a birthday present that was a pillowcase that his mom had made using a similar soccer ball fabric. It was the perfect compliment to the quilt. I think it is safe to say, Cory was ok with having to wait a few weeks for his birthday gift from Grandma!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Biking the city wall

Here is the original, totally in tact, city wall in Xian, China. We came to Xian for the main reason of going to see the Terra Cotta warriors. We were in the city for less than 24 hours but it was worth the extra effort it took to get there. Xian is another huge modern city like Beijing with a huge population -- many hundreds of thousands of people live here. Heidi, Paul, Quincy and I went to see the Terra Cotta warriors in the morning and then met up with Eric, Colton and Cory for lunch. Colton and Cory had been really sick for about 36 hours so they actually missed going to see the warriors. Hopefully, they'll get to go again before their time in China is over; they would have loved seeing them. After we all went to lunch, we decided to go to the old city wall where we had heard that you can bike around the whole wall. This place was amazing! Just stunning. To think that it is still standing and in such prestine condition after hundreds of years -- I forgot exactly how old it is but I think about 400 years old.

By the way, notice the beautifully landscaped park area there in the photo. That is how so much of China looks. They do an amazing job of landscaping. Almost always, the plants are laid out in a very artistic, flowing design with many different colored plants used as highlights and contrasts. It must be a fung shui thing.

There were about 100 steps to climb up to the top of the wall but I wasn't prepared for how huge this wall was on top. It reminded me of the Great Wall with all the extra, security towers on every corner and bigger buildings randomly placed along the wall's corridor. We only had enough time to ride about 1/4th of the entire distance and that took us about 45 minutes. This was really a cool experience. Heidi and Eric were on tandem bikes with Cory and Quincy and Paul & I each had our own bikes. You could pay for the bikes and pick them up at one gate and drop them off at any other gate along the wall so you could go as far as you wanted to or stop when you had had enough. Very convenient.

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Dumpling delight!

Eric had been to visit Xian in about 1991, if memory serves me correctly, when his family came to pick him up from his mission to Taiwan. They ate at a very famous dumpling restaurant and that memory had stuck in his mind for all these years. The only thing that Eric wanted to do in Xian, for sure, was find that dumpling restaurant and enjoy another memorable meal.

We weren't quite sure if we found the exact restaurant but we did enjoy a wonderful meal here (I have no idea what the name of the restaurant was). I think the dumplings are called something like dim sum here but in China these tasty little morsels are called dumplings. We sat down to eat at about 2:30 pm and we were the very last customers for the lunch menu. We chose a "special" that included 14!!!! different!!!! dumplings! as well as soup and rice and I think even some kind of salad. It was tons more than we could eat but we gave it our best efforts. All this for only $11 a person!

Here is a closer look at the variety of dumplings they served us. I loved that they were all brought out to our table in those round, bamboo steamers hot off the boiling water and steamed to perfection! Some of those little treats were almost works of art. I don't know how they shaped those fancy ones... looks like a time-consuming, tedious amount of effort involved.
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Back together again

I should have taken some "before" photos so you could see what a transformation has taken place at our house. This is actually the finished product! Yea! And the reason I haven't blogged for a week (or so). Back in March, Paul and I decided we needed more space on our upper level. Since the missionaries moved into our basement, 1/3 of the house has become unavailable to us on a daily basis. #1, that is where I kept my treadmill which we had to move into an upper level bedroom which #2 then resulted in losing our "guest room".

When we built our "new" home 15 years ago, we had a large balcony built that we could access from our bedroom on the upper level. But over the years we have realized that we seldom actually went out there and enjoyed it like we thought we would. So last March we decided to close it in and have the space become usable space to us on a daily basis rather than just used a few random times a year.

We hired the man who did the original framing of our house 15 years ago. He thought it was a smallish project... would only take 3 to 4 weeks!! "Let's do it!" By the time he got our city to approve the building permit, we were leaving for China in a couple of days (that was back in May). We were gone to China for 3 weeks. We thought we'd come home to a finished project. It has ONLY taken a mere 6 more weeks --- but it got finished this week!! and it was definately worth waiting for!

Here is Paul's office (before it was completely finished) which has gained about 10' x 12'. This is where we will use his stationary bike and my treadmill. It also makes his office feel a lot more open. The whole space, opposite the bike in the photo, is what was the outdoor balcony area.

Here is the additional space that was added on to our bedroom. You can see the "foot print" of the former wall which was a bay window shape. It didn't add that much more footage -- about 4' at the most but it made the room rectangular shape instead of bay window shape and that alone makes it feel more spacious.

So for the past 6 - 8 weeks we have had total chaos in this upper level where we usually spend most of our time. Everything in Paul's office and our bedroom has been shoved into my sewing room and the spare bedroom and bathroom and it has been impossible to find anything! Last weekend when we went to the cabin for the 4th of July, I had to pack my clothes in a laundry basket!! We moved our king size mattress downstairs into the living room and that has been our bedroom for the past 2 weeks! A week ago the new carpet was laid EXCEPT for on the staircase (the guy mismeasured) and we have been walking precariously up and down stairs with only tack stripes and bare wood.

I have spent this whole week reorganizing and cleaning all the upstairs rooms, hence no computer time! There is only one problem that I have discovered with this whole updating process... it makes everything else look "needy". Now I have a few more projects on my "to-do" list. I'm afraid these things never end!
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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Terra-cotta Warriors at Xi-an

Back in 1974, some local farmers out in the countryside were drilling a series of wells in search of water. To their surprise, they dug up some pottery fragments and some ancient bronze weapons. It was soon discovered that these farmers had been living and farming on top of this incredible army of terra-cotta warriors and had no idea of what lay just about 15 feet under their feet.
The emperor, Qin Shihuang, who had all of this army created was born in 259 BC! He became emperor when he was 13 years old and began ruling when he was 22 years old. He seemed some what paranoid (my opinion) since he began putting together this massive army of approx. 8000 warriors to protect him in his "afer life". His reign was full of war and bloody murder but eventually he unified all of the country of China which was a huge undertaking and accomplishment but very ruthless and savage at the same time. He used thousands of people to complete this obcession he had and then he instructed his son to kill every person that was involved in this work and knew the location of where they buried this whole army and the emperor, when he died. It is estimated that his son killed 725,000 people.

They Chinese government has found 4 pits so far. The first pit is pictured above. When they first found it, they just dug every thing up and left it all exposed to the elements (rain, sun, winds, snow, cold, hot, whatever). After about a year, they realized this was not a good way to preserve this amazing find so they built a building structure to cover it. Eric visited here in 1992 and he said it was still really rustic -- more like just a tin shack covering it. For the other pits, they have first built a building and then started doing the digging and things have been preserved much better with less damage.

Some time between then and now, they have built these beautiful buildings to protect and display this wonderful, incredible find. We spent about 1 1/2 hours here with our own personal guide who approached us in the parking lot and for about $7 gave us just the best, most informative, personal tour. As we were leaving we passed a visitor's center and our guide said that some times the farmer that discovered the army is in that building to greet visitors. The door to the building was open and as we walked closer our guide said, "there he is". So we went inside and met him and shook his hand and had our picture taken with him (on Heidi's camera so I don't have that photo) and even had him autograph the book I bought. Our guide told us that the government had "reassigned" him from farmer to "celebrity" and that is his job now, to meet the visitors!
This was a mind-boggling experience. I can't even begin to comprehend how long ago 259 BC is! It was wonderful to be able to experience this first hand... it was so impressive in real life!
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A tedious job!

About 4 years after the Emperor Qin Shihuang died, his enemies did find these buried warriors and smashed them and set fires to destroy them. So this is pretty much what it looks like as they have unearthed each of the pits. Because the destruction was smashing and knocking the pottery figures over, most of the broken pieces and shards were scattered but close by so as they have excavated they have been able to put the pieces back together just like a HUGE puzzle

Here is an area where they have been reassembling the warriors and horses. You can see missing pieces and cracked lines all over the figures. This must just be the most tedious work ever! I'm afraid I'd lose my mind if I had to deal with that for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Here are more repaired warriors ready to be moved back into the pits. Here is a quote from a book we bought in the Visitors Center there. "Ever since the terra-cotta warriors and horses were discovered in 1974, only one third of the restoration work has been finished although work on discovering and restoring is persistent. Meding broken figures becomes a painstaking work for archeological workers."
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more warriors

There were a few of the warriors that were featured in glass enclosures so you could see them up close and see all the details on them. We were told that each warrior was scuplted using a different real person as the model so on every body they found 2 names: 1 was the name of the person that was the model and the second name was the artist that sculpted the warrior. The warriors were in different poses. This one is a kneeling warrior. He would have been holding some kind of weapon in his hands in a position to be prepared to go to battle.

This warrior is a calvaryman with his side horse. When they initially unearthed the warriors they were all vibrantly colored but after being exposed to the air all of the colors have faded. They have been testing different ways to recolor the statues but nothing will hold the color except for one German technique that has lasted for 5 years. They plan to wait until 7 years and then make a decision as to whether they will stick with this method.

This gives you a view of a group of the calvary warriors lined up in battle formation.
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