A Day in Girdwood, Alaska

I recently had a few days off from my full-time job and booked a photography client for an elopement in Girdwood during that time.  Since that’s a 2 hour drive from our home we decided to make it into a little day trip to celebrate holidays.  We stopped in Anchorage on the way down to take care of a few quick errands and then stopped a local eatery in Indian, AK called Froth and Forage for brunch. They specialize in organic, locally-sourced meals so they had a great menu and cozy atmosphere.

The elopement came next and was done in an open field with amazing views near Alyeska Resort.  The temps were nearing single digits, so after the ceremony we all headed to the hotel to warm up for a bit and do a few more photos there.  Once I wrapped up with the bride and groom the Hubs and I hung out at the hotel enjoying the big couches around the cozy fireplace and pretty views of the grounds and tram up the hill out the window.

The moose above the fireplace kept us company along with skiers and snowboarders there to enjoy the mountain’s activities.

The hotel was decorated for Christmas and the snowy trees covered in lights created the perfect mountain retreat winter wonderland feeling.

After relaxing for a while, we headed to the infamous Double Musky Inn for dinner.  It’s the local hot spot for fine dining in this sleepy ski town and while the Hubs has been there several times, this was my first visit.

Like most buildings in Alaska the exterior is simple and deceiving of what you’ll find inside.  The impressive wine cellar is on display behind a window as you enter the building and head toward the restaurant.

As you turn the corner into the dining room there’s a completely different feel.  A collection of random items hang from the rafters and a hodge-podge of signs cover every inch of the walls.

We got a table in the solarium, where I had a great view of the bar area.  It too had an eclectic variety of decorations including several well recognized flags across the ceiling.

I ordered the Redout Volcano cocktail, which had a fun hint of coconut.  I enjoyed sipping it watching the candle light flicker against the massive stained glass window our table sat against.

The Double Musky’s menu is based on cajun specialties, which started with jalapeno bread that came with our salads.

We decided to try the cajun stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and were stunned at how big they were.  We each only tried one so we could leave room for our meals, knowing the portions are always generous at this venue.

While the Hubs went with the Musky’s classic peppercorn steak, I selected the crab stuffed halibut with baked potato and it didn’t disappoint.  It was flaky and moist, with just the right amount of spice to the sauce.

Both of us only made a dent in our entrees before we were full, but we had to try the creme brulee for dessert so we split it.  It too was delicious and just the right mix of crunch on the top and smooth inside.

Rather than order another cocktail when I finished my meal I opted to go with a hot chocolate, which the waiter added chocolate sauce drizzle to.  It was a great way to warm up before we headed back out to the cold for the drive home.

While it was only a short get-away, I’m glad we were able to squeeze it in and spend a little quality time together.  Although I will admit I slept a good portion of the ride home while the Hubs drove thanks to a content and full belly! 🙂

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Colony Christmas

We’ve been trying to make it out for the Colony Christmas festivities in Palmer the past several years, but schedules haven’t lined up.  Luckily this year they did and we were able to catch some of the merriment.  The Hubs had to work until around 3, so we decided to start with the ceremonial lighting of the iconic water tower at 5 pm and the parade right after that.

Alaska Picker helped orchestrate the lighting and housed the historic red light for the top of the tower for a while in preparation.  We spotted these awesome hats celebrating the tower, being worn along the parade route where everyone was gathered,  I wasn’t able to get a shot of them before they disappeared into the crowd.  Luckily our friends saw them too and stopped them to ask for a picture!

The parade was done on the main street in town, which has a quaint historic small town feel. Since it’s so dark this time of year, many of the vehicles in the parade were decorated with lights or pulled trailers decorated in lights.

We even spotted the Grinch far above watching the action from his modern day Mt. Crumpit.  There was no sign of Max, who I’m sure would have loved to see all the people and pretty lights!

One parade float done by a local church had a nativity scene, while others featured Christmas trees, large snowmen or pretty packages.

A new consignment shop in town had this pretty lighted arbor design with cut outs of items offered a the shop around the edge of the display.

The best entry of the night was this old truck, completely outlined in lights from a local coffee shack.

The big boom truck from the electric company was my second favorite because they decorated a good portion of the truck with lights, including a star on the grill.

After the parade we headed over to check out a bazaar at the train depot which was PACKED!  We made a quick lap to see all the products and the headed outside to catch the fireworks.  While waiting for the fireworks to start I enjoyed the light displays around the depot, including this one of a train driven by a moose.  There was also a Grinch with little Whos, the Grinch on his sleigh, moose and snowmen along with others.  There were so many people around the displays that I couldn’t get good shots of them, but I’ve shared links to shots that our friends got earlier in the evening.

The fireworks were totally worth the wait in the cold.   I made a video of them, which I’ll share on Facebook later today.  On the way back to our truck we spotted the old truck again and got to see it up close, which was even better!

While we were admiring the truck, the same friends who got the shots I linked to above spotted us and invited us to join them for dinner at a nearby cafe.  The rest of the night was spent laughing and sharing stories around a table.

It was a great way to kick off the holiday season.  I think this might need to be our new tradition, with a whole day devoted to all that’s available during the weekend!  I’d love to hear what activities you do to kick off the season, so be sure to leave a comment below.

Antiquing in Camas

During my last visit to Portland I made a point to stop in and see an antique mall I’ve been following on Facebook for a while now.  Camas Antiques is located in the heart of the historic downtown Camas, WA and is just as charming in person as it is online. Just look at this sweet storefront!  It just begs you to come in – although I certainly didn’t need any convincing!  Inside there were numerous vendor booths, each with a unique style.  Since it was early summer during my visit many of the booths featured garden themes.

I spotted this simple window upcycle in one of the booths and showed it to the Hubs so he’d know what the heck I was talking about when I create something similar with the ones I still have stashed away in the shed.  I’m thinking they would be great done up for hanging stockings at for my holiday show in November.

This chalkboard message made both myself and my mother-in-law, who is also a novice gardener giggle.  At least we know we’re stretching our gardening muscles! LOL

The European vibe in this booth near the back of the store drew me right in and I lingered for quite a while, although I didn’t find anything that came home with me this trip.

I was amazed to realize there was a basement full of even more vendors!  It was like getting a second scoop on your ice cream cone.

I loved the lace tied to the light strands above this booth and might appropriate the idea for my booth at the bazaar if I have room.

I also pointed out this display to the Hubs since he always teases me for collecting driftwood!  I loved the wreath made out of the larger pieces.  I have a whole bucket full of pieces similar to this that I could use to make something similar.

This farmstyle area had me at first glance and I spent a good amount of time checking out all of the items.  That goat pillow gave me an instant smile and almost came home with me.  Those little faces were just so adorable.  I just couldn’t bear to think of putting them away after the summer season so I left them for someone else to find.

I finished touring the rest of the upstairs, ending at this fun booth in the front of the store, just behind the checkout counter.  It was full of great inspirations for little touches.  I may have to recreate those hanging lights somewhere in our home.

After I’d seen all of the booths, I paid for my rather large pile of finds that had been collecting at the front counter as I shopped and we headed out to find some food since we’d been there a few hours.

We ended up at a delicious Mexican restaurant, Nuestra Mesa, just a block away where I enjoyed a sangria with very yummy tacos.  It was the perfect way to wrap up a sunny vacation day in the Portland area!  If you’re ever in the area I definitely recommend planning a stop at both of these great spots.

 

Soul to Soul

 

After sharing our experience at the Alaska State Fair and the Josh Turner concert yesterday I realized I’d never shared a recap of the Tim McGraw & Faith Hill Soul to Soul concert we went to in Portland during our trip back in May.  I’ve seen Tim in concert a couple of times over the years, but hadn’t seen Faith in concert or with Tim before so that was a real treat.

We had great seats – just off the right side of the stage in the first level above the floor.  It was a great vantage point to see all of the special effects they had built into the stage, like the big display screen and curtains that they did projections and lights on.

Tim and Faith performed together for the first portion of the concert, doing a mix of their well-known duets like Speak to a Girl and It’s Your Love along with a few cover songs.  After several songs Tim took a break and Faith had the stage to herself.  She did several of her top hits including This Kiss, The way you love me and Breathe.

Then it was Faith’s turn to take a break and Tim came out to perform solo.  He did several of his hits including Indian Outlaw, Felt Good on my lips, Something like that and my fave Humble and Kind.

They teamed up to sing together again at the end of the show with Back at Momma’s and another cover song.

They had some pretty cool graphics on their large screen at the back of the stage, including this one that was a glass pane that would break to reveal a live shot of them and then come back together before breaking apart again during their new duet Break First.

Their encore performance was pretty unique too.  It included Faith coming out of a side entrance to the floor of the stadium where she walked through the crowds while singing Mississippi Girl.

Tim followed suit walking the floor on the other side of the stadium singing Real Good Man.

Their last song was I Need You, which they sang facing each other on a suspended portion of the stage and then shared a kiss right at the end.

They have an amazing chemistry which is amplified in their songs together.  I thought I was recording the entire last song on video only to realize I apparently hadn’t hit the button fully and nothing had recorded as they wrapped the song.  At lest I got a great kiss shot from the big screen.  Then apparently I was so wrapped up cheering at in the end of the concert that I forgot to pull my finger out of the shot… sorry. 🙂

The King and Queen of country certainly put on a phenomenal show!  While the tickets were quite pricey – to the point that the Hubs and I agreed that they were our birthday/anniversary/Christmas gifts to each other for the whole year – it was well worth it.  The concert was just a few days before our anniversary so it was a great way to spend a little time together to celebrate.  I’ll be sharing more of our trip to Portland next week so stay tuned for that!

Exploring Homer

This past weekend I headed down to Homer to photograph a wedding and had a couple of hours to explore before the ceremony.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day, which was a welcome change to the constant rain we’ve had in south central Alaska for the past several weeks.

Since I was only in town for a few hours I opted not to rent a car.  Instead I decided to focus my sightseeing on the Spit, which is easy to walk.  Although I’d been to Homer before I hadn’t had time to wander and check out all the little shops so this was a rare treat.  I started at the Seafarer’s memorial which is dedicated to those who are lost at sea.  Fishing is a big part of this region and with that comes the risk of not making it back to safe harbor.  The base of the statue was covered with trinkets and messages from loved ones and friends of those honored here.  Nearby there is a bell that is tolled during ceremonies when names are added to the plaques contained in the memorial.

Nearby the memorial was this uniquely decorated laundromat for an RV park.  The wall had an eclectic assortment of things from the region including buoys, urinals used as planters and even a petrified moose leg.  It’s definitely one of a kind!

My next stop was the iconic Salty Dawg Saloon.  I waited several minutes to get an unobstructed shot of the lighthouse style building and original log cabin.  I also took a quick tour around the inside of the cabin, which is virtually wallpapered with messages written on money and a variety of other items.

Back outside I took a peek at the less famous side of the Salty Dawg, which had an adorable free form garden containing a variety of nautical accents.

The shops were grouped in clusters up and down the road, including this batch which were built on a pier over the waterfront.  It reminded me of the Outer Banks in North Carolina where I used to visit often when I lived on the east coast.  Looking out from the deck of the pier you can see RV’s parked near the shoreline.  Since the Hubs wasn’t with me I texted him to say that I wanted to plan a long weekend road trip in an RV here next summer.

I popped into one of the shops on this boardwalk called Sunken Treasures.  They had a great inventory of nautical and Alaskan items including these fun signs.  The sunny days one is sooooo me! 🙂

One of their shop windows had cracked and rather than try to hide it they had embraced it and added an inspirational quote to follow the curve of the crack, which mimicked the curves of the mountains across the bay!

Out on the deck were several spots to sit and enjoy the food options available.  Most included some sort of repurposed fishing equipment, like this table.

A little further down the road was this cool cabin style store, which looked like a cross between an Alaskan Mountain Man’s hunting lodge and a Viking Hall.  I almost came home with one of the cute stringers of carved fish displayed out front, but decided to save my money for another trip we have coming up.

Up and down the main road were a variety of artistic and unique signs, including this massive milepost and hand-painted Salmon Dawgs ad.

I had to chuckle at the ingeniousness of this shop owner’s signage, which can be changed by just moving the velcroed N to indicate if they are open or “nope”…

Another shop I stopped in, called the Blue Urchin.  There were a lot of unique items here too, but the ones that I fell in love with were small vintage style bells that will be added to the ends of driftwood garlands I plan to make from driftwood collected on our many adventures.  In fact they had one just like what I’ll be making for sale in the shop, so I snapped a picture for inspiration.  I’ll share my finished garlands when they are done.

Another fun thing I spotted was this classic truck parked outside one of the many small eateries.  There were two older gentlemen standing nearby discussing the truck who were surprised I showed interest until I told them I have a 1955 F-100 at home. 😉

After my sightseeing was done I made my way to the end of the Spit to have lunch on the deck at Lands End, where the wedding reception would be held.  On the way there I passed the ferry terminal docks which were occupied by a swarm of seagulls who were in constant chatter.  All I could think about was the Finding Nemo scene were all the seagulls chant, “Mine. Mine. Mine!”

The sun was out in full force when I made it to the hotel.  I’ve stayed here with my family when we traveled through Homer to take the ferry to Kodiak.  It’s THE landmark for the Homer Spit.

I snagged a table out on the deck with a fantastic view of the bay and watched the boats go back and forth.  Although I couldn’t enjoy a cocktail since I still had work to do it was a much enjoyed little break with my Dr. Pepper fix.

While waiting for my lunch I spotted several sailboats crossing the bay.  It was so peaceful to watch them glide across the water in contrast to the fishing boats that powered toward the marina leaving waves in their wake.

Lunch was a cup of clam chowder and this amazing caprese stuffed mushroom.  It was just the right amount to keep me full until dinner at the reception.  And it was well complimented by the sunshine and surf.

It was only a couple of hours, but it was a wonderful little mini-vacation as summer begins to wrap up.  I hope we get to enjoy a few more beautiful sunny days like this before the white stuff arrives!

 

A Day Trip to Kenai

Over the weekend the Hubs and I made a quick trip down to Kenai to visit family who come up from Arizona each year to fish for salmon.  This year we were blessed with fantastic weather and a few extra familiar faces as additional family friends were in the area too.

The fishing was quite slow the day we were there, but it made time for conversation between those fishing and those of us watching from the walkway above.  The Hubs caught up with his uncle and cousins as they cast.

I enjoyed the sunshine and the view of the river which was full of others fishing on the opposite bank and boats making their way up and down the river.

It was quite calming to watch them all cast and reel repeatedly with patience as they joked about prior visits to the river, shared old stories from their childhood days together and caught up on each other’s lives.

Eventually the fish did start to bite and it was a team effort to make sure they were reeled in successfully.  It’s a great example of why we love Alaska – its a place where others willingly stop what they are doing to help you out, knowing that you’ll do the same for them when the tables turn.

The Hub’s cousin seemed to have the best luck with the fish, although several played hard to get.  One even jumped back out of the net after being scooped up – prompting some interesting net wielding!

Several fish teased the anglers by brushing by their legs in the water.  Another decided to give the cousin a good splash when he was running the net for someone else, but that he didn’t complain too much and quickly got back to helping out.

There were a few surprise catches too, including this rainbow trout that we all thought was a dolly at first.

During one of the lulls I spotted this dog napping on a boat drifting down the river.  A little while later they were heading upstream and the same dog was standing at the bow, tail wagging like it was the best day ever. 🙂

I took a break to relax in the sun on a nearby bench which was apparently the good luck charm for the group, because that’s when the fish finally started biting.  Although they still played jokes on the guys, swimming into their stringer of other fish or along the shoreline that was covered in tree branches and sticks, making it likely to tear the nets.  But with every fish that was caught the smiles got bigger and bigger.

And every time I sat back to relax I’d hear “Fish On!” and jump up to see who had a taunt line.

As the day wore on the other fishermen in the area left to go home for dinner so we soon had the area to ourselves and it was just our group in the water.

Another friend of the cousins’ stopped by to chat and ended up running the net for them several times.

It seemed their luck had turned and they were all happy to show off their handiwork as a team.

The Hubs and I had to head out to make the 4+ hour drive back home for the work-week, but we left the guys to fish under Alaska’s midnight sun and share more stories – or create new ones.  Several of them will head back to the lower 48 this week, but we’ll see them again next year when they return.

The Hubs will head back down this weekend to join those still here in the river and catch fish of our own, so hopefully soon our freezer will be well stocked for the colder months to come. 🙂

4-Wheel Adventures & An Alaskan Spa Treatment

While my sister was visiting we made arrangements to borrow a couple of extra 4-wheelers and hit the trails, which is one of our favorite things to do during the summer.  The dogs are quite accustomed to riding in our side-by-side and quickly jump in the rig to go.  Apparently, Stoli thought he was driving this time!

Since we went on a weekday there were only a handful of other people out on the trails so we had the area pretty much to ourselves.  It had rained quite a bit the week prior to our outing so there were several areas of standing water to navigate.  The trail from the parking lot is fairly wooded until it opens up near the river.

This particular location has a variety of trails that criss-cross each other so we had many to choose from.  We let the Hubs lead with the goal of getting as close to the glacier as possible.

As we approached the sandy area along the river, Stoli decided that he didn’t want to ride and since we didn’t let him drive, he hopped out and led the caravan at a run.

Along the river the trail opens up to a wide sandy shoreline and vegetated sand dunes off to the left.

There were some larger vehicles up on the dunes, so we opted to stay along the river heading toward the glacier, which we could see in the distance.

My sister got a pretty good shot of her hubby on the 4-wheeler with the glacier in the background when we paused to consider the trails we could take from this point.

We decided to hang out on the shore and let the dogs play a bit before continuing so they could get some energy out, while my sister walked the beach looking for good shots.

Stoli led the way when we decided to head out along the river bank as far as we could go before heading up into the tree line.

You’re probably wondering where the spa treatment part of the title for this post comes in by now.  Well I’m about to tell you.  The trails got pretty muddy once we headed into the trees and we soon realized the river was too high to cross so we started exploring the wooded trails.

While fording a larger puddle my brother-in-law had a little mishap and ended up tipping his rig over right in the deepest part of the puddle, coating his entire right side in silty muddy water.  Once we made sure that both he and the rig were ok, we all enjoyed a good laugh about the moment and I teased him that women pay big money to be shipped glacier mud for facials and he just coated almost his entire body for free! 🙂

My sister was apparently too stunned to get a shot of him in said puddle before we pulled him out, but I’m sure you can imagine the sight.

Once we got the rig running again we made a b-line for the truck so we could get him warmed up and dried out.  We didn’t make it to the glacier but it was a fun outing regardless.  While they didn’t get to take their picture on the glacier I did get some shots of my sister along the beautiful river that’s just minutes from our house in Hatcher Pass.

I tried to take her up to the historic Independence Mine at the top of the pass that day, but the fog had rolled in, hiding the mine.  We made it as far as the red cabins at the main parking lot before calling it and heading back down the river.

I’m glad they both got to experience a bit of the local sights and outdoor adventures this area of Alaska offers.  Plus they went home with several fun stories to share – which is always the sign of a great trip!