The Palmer Garden & Art Faire

This past weekend I got to enjoy the Palmer Museum Garden & Art Faire.  This is the third year I’ve gone to the faire (check out the first visit here) and always enjoy it.  The forecast didn’t look great, but the day turned out beautiful and just perfect for this type of event.  There were vendors, live music and instructional classes throughout the day.

I had planned to attend a couple of the classes offered but my schedule didn’t work out.  While browsing the vendors I noticed that Lakeside Forge was instructing a couple of workers.  I’m not sure if they had signed up or if this was part of his display, but they sure looked like they were learning a lot!

The Hubs met me at the Faire on his way to run some errands and we got some lunch from the food vendors.  Because there was another event going on in town there wasn’t as much selection as years past, but we enjoyed the BBQ pork & noodles we got from Momma Rav’s.  While we waited in line, I was eyeing the cool truck next door which was built on an old International truck!  We also sampled a couple of the Rhubarb Rumble entries at the vendor booths while we browsed.  Although we didn’t make it out to all the locations around town with recipes for sampling, our favorite was the rhubarb strawberry salsa with cinnamon chips.

After the Hubs went off to run his errands I checked out a few more of the activities at the fair.  There was a group of painters capturing this lovely scene full of peonies.  Some took the abstract route, while others created a portrait.  As a photographer, it was fun to see the differences these creatives had in their visions of the same set up.

Next, I took in some of the history of downtown Palmer.  The city was started as a farming colony as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program during the 30’s.  Inside the museum they were playing a documentary that showcased what life was like as the colony was built through interviews of those who were there.  I’m so grateful for those brave families who left everything they knew behind to start over in Alaska.  They were the foot hold for the wonderful community we love today.

The museum also had displays of life in Alaska during those times.  One display featured the history of the Matanuska Maid, a local icon and mascot of sorts for the local dairy & creamery.  They also had displays of the native cultures in the region and the mining history of the surrounding ranges.

They also had displays about the daily life of the pioneers including the giant cabbages they could grow due to the long hours of sunlight and the typical household items they used, including dresses made from flour sacks.  Nothing went to waste due to the limited resources and minimal funds available.

There were also displays about the difficulties the pioneers faced in creating the farms out of the Alaskan wilderness.  Not all of Roosevelt’s plans worked in Alaska and many had to be altered to fit the unique circumstances encountered here.

I spotted these pretty glass emblems in the window of the gift shop area and immediately fell in love with them.  I had something similar with the Norfolk Mermaid on it from when I lived on the East Coast.  There were several designs to pick from, but I think I like the iconic water tower the best.  I decided to think on it some and come back to get one in a few weeks.

This enamelware pot was right near the entrance and drew my eye instantly.  I loved the simple charm of the rusty bucket and the faux lavender was the perfect touch to finish it off.  If it had been for sale it would be in my home right now!

I also toured the exhibition garden next to the museum.  I’ve been to this garden many times and always love seeing how things grow here so I can compare how they will do in our yard which is just a few miles away.

The new truck statue between the museum and the garden looked great with the new plantings starting to fill in.  I’m excited to see how they decorate it for Colony Christmas this winter!

There were also several antique tractors on display outside the museum.  I’ve seen a few of these before in local parades, but it was fun to get up close and see some of their details.  The vintage lawn mower was tucked in between a couple of the big tractors and caught my eye with it’s unique design.

I also learned about a new project some local veterans are spearheading.  They are fundraising to purchase the fuselage of an old cargo plane and turn it into a traveling Alaska and military art gallery, performance venue, and museum.  Learn more about this unique project at their website: www.rollingboxcar.com.

While I didn’t find any garden art that called my name this time around, I did come home with this lovely peony bouquet to brighten our dining room. We also bought two of the mason jar strawberry lemonades I had the first year to enjoy at home.

It was the perfect mid-summer event to celebrate the community, local growers and the season.  I look forward to seeing what they plan for next year’s event!

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My New Garden Bell

With all the other yard projects we’ve been working on the Hubs finally got my upcycled propane tank garden bell installed!  This was my first purchase at the Junk Bonanza show in Portland 2 years ago and it had to stay at my Mother-In-Law’s house until we made a trip with the trailer because it was so heavy.

I wasn’t sure exactly where I’d hang it but when we ended up with an ‘extra’ footer while constructing the new deck the Hubs suggested we make it into an arbor for the bell.  I was totally game and knew it would look great there.

He worked out the footings for the other side and put in a cross bar at the top last season before winter arrived.  We picked up from there this season, hanging the bell with the chain it came with and building a box around the base to act as a planter for a clematis I needed a trellis for.

Once the planter box was constructed I filled it with dirt and transplanted the clematis, then covered the dirt with wood chip mulch to reduce weeds.  I’ve been slowly training the clematis branches up the two posts.  Eventually it will cover the entire structure and frame the bell beautifully.

I also had the Hubs install the coordinating bird bath on a hook off to the side.  That way I can fill it when I water on dry days.  Now I just have to let it grow and enjoy the pretty rusty patina as I  wait for the blooms to show!  And work on incorporating the planter box into the rock landscape I have planned for around the deck. 😉

Expanding the Egg Table

The Hubs picked up a fancy new smoker a few months back and has been using it pretty regularly, so he decided to incorporate it into his existing egg table.  He had originally sealed the whole table with Thompsons water seal but that didn’t seem to be holding up too well to Alaska’s winters so he knew he was going to have to sand it down and refinish it this season anyway.

He built a new section to wrap around the smoker that matched the style of the original table and attached it with his Kreg tool.  I was working on other projects while he was doing this stage so I didn’t get any pictures of it but you can figure out the setup from the finished images in this post. He cut a small hole in the side to access the wood chip drawer on the smoker.

We decided to go with outdoor deck paint for the refinish and chose a dark grey that should hide dirt and any minor damage it might get outside.  The Hubs said it went on like tar so it should provide a pretty good barrier to the elements.

The new extended size is a perfect fit for the smaller rug we had from last season and makes stepping out from the house to grill a bit comfier.  The new expanded top gives him plenty of room to prep things before they go into either the grill or the smoker and is the perfect spot for my big cast iron lantern and piggy planter.

Once it was all painted, he added the bottle opener we picked up forever ago to the side, which is conveniently located right next to our new dining set.   And with the herbs growing nearby he can pluck some to add to his culinary masterpieces.

I’ve also found that it works well as an impromptu potting bench when I’m prepping pots for the deck.  Good thing he’s ok with sharing every now and then! 🙂

Iditarod 2018 Willow Restart

Despite living just a half hour away for the past several years, I had never been to the Willow restart of the Iditarod.  But after attending the ceremonial start the day before to work a tent for my full-time employer I was excited to see the action in a more natural setting.  The Hubs and I arrived super early to set up before the crowds arrived and were greeted with single digit temps and freezing fog.  Luckily, the fog burned off and the sun came out to create a wonderful Alaskan winter day!

The restart takes place on a frozen lake, so the area is wide open.  I took a break from working our tent – which you can see off to the right of the start line in the picture above to enjoy the festivities and get some photos.  As you can see it was there was a BIG crowd.  It’s basically an Alaskan tailgate party in the middle of winter.

The view from the hill where the lake’s shoreline is, allowed us to see the mushers as they headed down the beginning of the trail lined with supporters.  The crowds continued across the massive lake and into the trees beyond.  Many also have cabins on the surrounding lakes, which the trail crosses and would go out to cheer on the mushers as they go by in those areas too.  This vantage point also gave us a good look at the musher’s lot where the teams were preparing for their turn at the start line.

I headed down to the corner of the mushers’ lot to watch the behind the scenes action and had the perfect view to see the teams up close as they approached the staging lane for the start line.  One by one, the teams lined up as the event staff directed them through the process.

Then the next stop was the start line, where the teams would leave every two minutes.  This time they no longer had an Iditarider or drag sled like they did at the ceremonial start so the sleds are lighter  and it takes all of the handlers to keep the teams from heading straight out onto the trail as they approach the starting line.

I was able to get several great shots of the mushers too.  Their smiles show just how much they love this sport and their teams.  Some led their teams in and others managed the sled while their handlers directed the dogs, but they were all excited.

Once they were in the shoot it was time to focus on the final preparations, check their dogs and enjoy last moments with family before they begin the 1,049 mile trek to Nome over the next several days.

The dogs were just as excited to head out as they had been the day before.  We all swore they knew how to count as they bolted off the line each time the countdown ended for the next team heading out.

Although the crowd on the other side of the starting line was wall-to-wall I was able to squeeze in toward the end to get a few shots of the final mushers as they headed out.

Several stopped to give their dogs a final motivation for the race ahead and thank them for their part on the team.

Many had final hugs and handshakes from family and supporters, while others gave quick interviews or posed for a photo with fans before the final countdown began.

And of course there were several high fives with their handlers as they headed out on this epic journey.

Then it was down to the last musher, who wore a ‘cat in the hat’ hat in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  He paused to honor his team getting down on their level and bowing to them.

Then he was off on the “Last Great Race” with a big thumbs up and snow already gathering around his feet.

It will take the teams approximately 8-9 days to complete the entire route.  You can check out each musher’s current standings and location on the Iditarod’s website.  I wish them all a safe and successful race!

Iditarod 2018 Ceremonial Start

The 2018 Iditarod began this past weekend and I got to be right in the midst of it!  Known as “The Last Great Race” it celebrates the teams who organized during the 1925 diphtheria epidemic to rush serum to Nome to save lives.

The company I work for is a sponsor and had a tent near the starting line where we were doing give aways.  The area we were in required an access badge and when I was able to take breaks from working at the tent I could go into the ‘chute’ where the teams were staged right behind the start line.   The teams would line up on the street to await their turn to begin the race.

Several of the mushers led their teams in from the front, rather than riding in on the sled.

Then they’d check over their team and equipment to ensure everything was as it should be.

And a few would stop to have conversations with their dogs, pose for photos for fans and enjoy the moment with their family members who were nearby to cheer them on.

Each team had a group of handlers to help guide the dogs into position.  Sled dogs are born and trained to run, so they are VERY high energy and once they are in the harness they have a single mind focus.  It takes several people to keep them in position as they move up through the staging lanes.  It’s also helpful to signal down the line in all the celebration so the mushers or helpers on the sled know when to set the brake and release it as the line moves.

Many of these handlers have worked with the mushers for months prior to the race and know the dogs personally.  That familiarity can be a calming aspect for the dogs as they anticipate the start of the race.

And of course a few rubs while they wait are always welcome too!

And some just want a hug before they hit the course. 🙂  One of the mushers is a correctional officer when not running the trail and several of his handlers had a fun message on the back of their gear that said “You think your job is tough?  Correctional officers run the Iditarod to relax.”

The anticipation gets heavy and the dogs get louder with excitement as the iconic start line comes into view.  At this point of the race every musher has an Iditarider on their sled.  Usually this person has won the opportunity to ride the ceremonial start in a contest or charity auction.  The money raised is used to offset expenses of the race and provides each musher who finishes the race after the top 20 – who receive cash prize winnings – with $1,049 to help get their teams home.

There is also a secondary sled, or “drag sled” behind each team’s main sled.  This extra sled is meant to slow down the dogs because they are so excited to run and the course is lined with spectators and this helps keep everyone safe.  Each sled is configured differently based on how that musher likes to carry on the trail.  The dogs are so ready to run that they literally jump up and down while waiting for their turn at the starting line.

And often look back at the sled as if to say “Why aren’t we going?!”

While the dogs may not enjoy the waiting it does provide a perfect opportunity to get some closeup shots of them and their expressions.  Each has their own unique coloring and personalities.  Some are young and just waiting on the signal to go, while others are veterans and have a calm but alert stance.

Some were so eager to get going that they were jumping over each other to trade sides because they couldn’t move forward!

And some were providing a touch of reassurance to their team mate.

And then the announcer would say it’s time and they would be off!  The musher waves to the fans, with their Iditarider aboard for a once in a lifetime experience and the dogs do what they love to do.

The teams run 11 miles through Anchorage for the ceremonial start with fans along many stretches of those trails to cheer them on.  The next day, they restart the race in Willow, about an hour and a half away.  This is when they begin the full trek to Nome and their race times officially start.  I got to go to that portion of the race as well and will share that tomorrow!  In the meantime, visit the Iditarod website to learn more about the race and the mushers competing this year.

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! 🙂

Merry Christmas on the Porch!

As promised in my last post, I’m sharing the festive decorations on our porch today!  I’m really enjoying styling the little vintage cart we picked up at the junk show in Washington for each season.

It’s just the right size for this little awkward corner on our porch and is the perfect start to each season’s look.  Luckily it’s also well protected in this spot so I don’t have to worry about it too much.

For Christmas, I continued our winter theme with frosty trees, white lanterns, a Christmas sign I picked up at the Alaska Chick’s Market, Rusty the reindeer and a larger tree that I DIY’ed to fit in the crock we picked up on the same trip we got the cart.

I added the antique sled I’ve had for a while to the corner of the set-up.  I may still add a bow or wreath to the sled, but if not it looks nice just as it is.  It had that thick paint job when I found it, so I may strip it down to see what lies beneath one day.

If you’re wondering how I made the tree in the crock, here’s a little behind-the-scenes.  It’s a tomato cage wrapped in garlands and a strand of lights.  I didn’t do a step-by-step for this project since I’ve seen them all over the web and it was so simple that I did it while watching a movie with the Hubs! (Hence the crappy cell phone pics! But at least I got it done before Christmas!)  Just tie the three stake feet at the bottom together to form the point of the top of the tree and start wrapping the garland from there toward the bottom – or what used to be the top when it was used as a tomato cage.

I can say having twine or wire handy to tie off the end and beginning of each garland so they stay in place, and to buy more garland than you think  you’ll need.  This one took four 12′ garlands and I still didn’t make it all the way to the bottom of the cage.

I think it turned out quite pretty and the extra part of the cage at the bottom was perfect to anchor it into the crock so that it’s very stable.  I may be making more of these next year to add trees in the bedrooms!  Have you made a tree from a tomato cage?  If so, I’d love to see it for inspiration for next year’s decorating! 🙂