A Mini-Date at Alyeska

I had a photo session scheduled over the weekend out at Alyeska Resort, which is a well-known Alaskan ski destination and when I found out that the hotel was offering free tram rides up the mountain that day I asked the hubs if he wanted to make a day trip out of the booking. Game to spend his day off with me, he agreed to come along.

Although we’ve lived in the area for almost 2 years, I hadn’t been up to the hotel until recently when I was asked to shoot an elopement there this fall, but I didn’t get a chance to explore the area so I was excited to have an opportunity to check it out.   The hubs had last visited the hotel about 10 years ago, but that was before the tram was installed so there was plenty of new things for him to see too.

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It was foggy down by the hotel, but we heard that there was fresh powder up on the mountain which is why the hallways of the hotel were crowded with skiers and snowboarders waiting to head up the mountain when we first arrived. Luckily, most of them were already up top by the time we finished my session and headed up ourselves.

Just like when we rode the tram in Juneau we climbed into the fog bank hoping for the best.  The view on the way up made me feel all Christmasy inside!

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The fog started to clear as we approached the tram terminal at the top.

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This was the view as we stepped off the tram! Sorry for the glass reflections, but it was the only spot to get the shot.

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The view got even better as we headed out of the tram area and passed a small café which was PACKED with folks trying to catch a quick meal before getting in some more time on the mountain before the limited daylight hours passed. We hung out in a ski lift chair at the end of the walkway that was set up as a swing for a while just enjoying the experience.

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We visited the little gift shop/museum called the Round House which is the octagonal building seen in the photos above. They were having an end of year inventory sale and I found a pretty scarf that was super soft on sale for just $16! The view from the walkway of the Round House was absolutely stunning and just required a panoramic shot to capture the whole scene.

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I spotted another photographer on the walkway around the shop and asked if he would take a photo of the hubs and I with the beautiful background, which resulted in this shot. Notice that new scarf!? 😉

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Next we headed over to the Seven Glaciers restaurant where we sat in a corner with windows on both sides so we could see the tram as well as the people coming down the slopes.  Check out the amazing view!  Even the hubs had to do a panoramic picture!

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But I mostly enjoyed checking out this view… 10
As we waited for our food we spotted the same photographer who had taken our picture working with a bride and groom out on the edge of the slopes! Seeing him work, I felt bad that I’d set the camera to auto before handing it to him to take our photo! Oh well.  While we were eating I spotted these cool bells hanging from the ceiling. I’m not sure what they were from but they were obviously made by a crafted by a skilled artisan or two as the bells themselves had etchings and the collars they were attached to were quite intricate.

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We enjoyed our lunch, watching the tram come and go as the light started to fade and the number of people out on the slopes dwindled.

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We decided it was time to head back down the mountain and start the journey home. Although the tram deck looked empty when we first arrived from the restaurant, it soon filled with folks carrying their snow gear and ready to head back to the hotel for the evening, which made our tram back down much fuller than our tram up had been.

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As we descended, we entered the fog once again and slowly the hotel appeared as we approached. It was definitely an entirely different weather experience on the ground than it was at the mountain top.

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We headed back through the hotel pausing to warm up by the large fireplace where a moose mount sported some festive cheer.

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And as we left the hotel we spotted this polar bear who unlike the moose, didn’t look too excited about being dressed up for the holidays.  Maybe his scarf was a little too tight.

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We don’t have a lot of down time with our busy schedules, so I’m grateful we were able to fit some in around other activities. It was a perfect winter mini-date to get us excited for Christmas.

Meet My Herd

Each of the women in my family has a decorating theme at Christmas. For my sister it’s snowmen and for my mom it’s Santas. For me its reindeer, which is totally fitting for life in Alaska! But I don’t just welcome any ol’ reindeer into the herd. I have to feel a connection with them. And once they are in the herd they have to have a name. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorites.

HollyHolly has my shotgun rider during the Christmas season for several years now. Even when traffic is insane and I’ve had a bad day I’ve got a little bit of festive cheer looking back at me from the dash.

RudyWhile Holly keeps me festive inside my ride, Rudy is my Christmas spirit ambassador on the outside, high atop my antenna!

FinkFink is a fun little guy that my mom found for me. There is a button under his pedestal that when pushed makes him collapse over, but he pops right back to attention when it’s released! 

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Noel

Fancy swirls make Noel so pretty and feminine. But she’s tough too and can still pull a sleigh.

MaxMax is a hand me down addition to the bunch who I adore and welcome back each year.

MIloI locked eyes with Milo’s sweet face at a craft bazaar and never thought twice about bringing him home with me. I just love his little floppy ears, twig antlers and big goofy nose. I smile every time I see him. 🙂

MoeMoe’s knotty knees and gangly feet were just too sweet to pass by. I’m sure he was crafted just for me and I plan to keep him forever.

GusAlthough he can be a real couch potato but I still adore Gus’s casual laid back vibe.

RustyRusty was too big to make the journey from Virginia to Alaska when I first moved and I dearly missed him every Christmas. Luckily, he made the trek to our new home when we brought my ’55 up north.

WoodyMy favorite, Woody also had to be left behind in Virginia until our recent haul brought him to the last frontier, where I hope he will soon be joined by a Mrs. Woody and maybe even a little one or two!

FlintRedFlint and Red are two of the newest members of the herd, having just been found last year. They found a safe haven from the dogs on the mantel and I love how they look there.

SebastianElegant and poised, Sebastian whistled at my mom in the store so she knew he was a keeper. I’m not joking. He was the only one on the shelf but she wasn’t sure he would ‘speak to me’ as much as he did to her, so she put him back on the shelf and walked over to the next aisle to “think about it”. Then she heard someone whistle from the aisle she’d just been on. When she looked around the corner there was no one there, except Sebastian. She took that as fate and bought him for me.

Of course this isn’t everyone in the herd, that would just take too darn long – There are at least 10 who live on the tree alone! There are few newbies this year who are on interview. If they don’t fit well with the herd I’ll find them another home to be festive in next year. So now that you’ve heard about my wacky Christmas decorating, I want to hear what your traditional décor includes!

The Most Wonderful Time of Year?

Christmas is my favorite holiday and I always look forward to the fun traditions it brings. Unfortunately, the past week or so I feel like I’ve been hurtling through December, with an impending face plant into the brick wall of reality that Christmas is just ONE WEEK away. It’s been non-stop at work with 5 separate holiday parties to plan, I crafted for two holiday bazaar booths this month and of course this is the one of the busiest times of year to be a photographer! Even though I was moving at light speed and constantly crossing things off my to-do list, everywhere I looked I saw signs that I was failing:

  • That laundry basket of sheets on my counter which needs to be folded and stored in the vacuum seal bags I got for items on the top shelf of our master closet. FAIL.
  • The large box filled with smaller empty boxes left over from shipping Christmas presents out, still sitting next to the bar wall. FAIL
  • The dust bunnies that swirl in my wake as I hustled down the hallway to and from our bedroom. FAIL
  • The kitty litter I feel beneath my feet on the laundry room floor as I put on my boots each morning. FAIL
  • The pile of supplies sitting on counter for Christmas craft projects that will likely not happen before Christmas. FAIL
  • The box of holiday décor items by the front door that was left out to because I had grand plans to do some more decorating on the porch, but haven’t. FAIL
  • The photos I took for the blog that I haven’t had time to edit for posts. FAIL
  • The outfits for family pictures which I haven’t taken for our Christmas cards that also haven’t been designed yet. FAIL
  • The pile of ‘stuff’ to go through on the side table by my chair which has been there for over 6 months. FAIL
  • The set of classic Christmas movies I haven’t had time to watch yet this year even though it’s one of my favorite traditions. FAIL
  • The spare room full of stuff that is waiting for other projects to be done so they can be stored or displayed. FAIL
  • The coupon for the photo book I was supposed to order weeks ago for my grandmother’s Christmas present. FAIL
  • The funky looking stem of our Christmas tree that I had planned to hide with a tub or crate this year but didn’t. FAIL
  • The empty spots in our pantry because I haven’t gone grocery shopping. FAIL

The list goes on and on. Each item added another layer of guilt, coupled with a major lack of sleep, which made me feel overwhelmed and downright Grinchy. I was in need of some serious grace. That’s when God led me to this post and this post (two of my favorite blogs) to remind me we all have our flaws and self-criticisms, it’s part of being human. And then to reassure me that he made me strong and capable of handling any struggle he drew my attention to two presentations on Lifetime (The Red Tent and Women of the Bible) that highlight the important, yet often overlooked role women play in his plans.

It all gave me a revised perspective and made me notice the blessings I’d overlooked recently.

  • The hubs planned meals for the next week and went grocery shopping for all the ingredients.
  • Despite this being the first Christmas with us or ever for three of our fur children there has been no damage to our tree or ornaments.
  • Although there isn’t a ‘family’ picture for the Christmas card yet I was able to capture a great group shot of the dogs that I absolutely adore.
  • I found personal and thoughtful gifts for most on my list and all have been shipped in time to be opened on Christmas morning, plus I’ve come up with a plan to still get my grandmother her photo book in time.
  • We’ve accomplished a lot of projects around the house since we moved in this time last year and have plans to complete the next few soon.
  • The hubs recently got a job offer for a new position which comes with a substantial raise that will help us pay down our debts.
  • I received an exceptional compliment on my work ethic and success from the President of the company I work for, which was followed up with multiple comments in agreement from several senior managers.
  • And most importantly, we are all in good health and in need of no life basics.

It’s not a complete 180, but my mood has shifted. I’m taking time to enjoy a little bit of Christmas each day starting with watching A Charlie Brown Christmas last night surround by my fur babies as I sat in my chair by the fire. It was just another message from above. Watching Charlie Brown’s desire to celebrate the season with a heart of joy was like looking in the mirror and when Linus remind everyone what the real reason for the season was it drove the nail home. And I’m so glad it did.

Crafty Christmas Creations

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I began making ribbon characters a few years ago after finding tutorials on Pinterest for several holidays. My Christmas collection includes a Christmas tree, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Clarice (Rudolph’s girlfriend), a snowman, a snowlady and a penguin. I’ve also tested angel and Santa designs similar to the snowman and lady, but haven’t perfected them yet.

At first I just made them as hair clips for my nieces, but I soon realized that if I sent clips to the girls I’d have to send something equally cute for my nephews so they didn’t feel left out. The solution was simple – put the same characters on broach pins. Not only did the boys enjoy them, adults who wanted to show off their festive side in a professional way couldn’t get enough of them!

This year I started making them as ornaments as well, since not everyone wants to wear a hair clip or broach pin. They haven’t been as popular as the clips and pins, but it’s nice to offer the option since I let customers mix and match for a price break from $3 each to two for $5.

Want to order one for yourself or someone on your list? Check out my Etsy shop where they are listed!

Getting in Tune with the Holidays

December 1 marks the beginning of the Christmas season for me and there’s nothing that brings me into the holiday spirit quicker than Christmas music. That used to mean digging into my Christmas storage tubs for my holiday CDs, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I now have a “Christmas” playlist in iTunes and all I have to do is click play wherever I am – my desktop computer at home, the iPod in the vehicle or the iHome at my office.

Like my other playlists, this one is pretty eclectic ranging from country to classic. Although the music included comes from multiple sources, two albums make up the majority of the list so I thought I’d share them with you. The first is “Heavenly Christmas” by Jackie Evancho. If you haven’t heard this gal’s AMAZING voice you’re missing out big time. Every time I hear her sing I get goose bumps. Literally. I’m so glad my mother-in-law was watching a special about her while I was visiting a few years ago because otherwise I probably still wouldn’t know about her amazing talent.

The other is LifeScapes Christmas Stress Relief, a 2-CD collection of 24 instrumental classic Christmas tunes. It’s the perfect background music when I’m working but still want a festive feel. I stumbled upon this album at Target several years ago while playing with the music sample kiosk.

I also have a few favorite singles on my list such including:

So now that you know what’s on my playlist, I want to hear what’s on yours! I’m always on the hunt for new favorites to add, so share your suggestions below.

Hang a Star on the Highest Bough

StarOldI’ve had the same tree topper for years.  I bought it on sale after Christmas one year and added a string of lights so that it lit up.  I loved it, but it was always so heavy and cumbersome, requiring a rod to support it and a special extension cord to be run to it for the lights.  After fussing with it for 15 minutes this year and still not liking how it was sitting, I decided it was time for a change.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted exactly, but figured it would be another star because that just seems right to me.  I know an angel is traditional, and I think that’s what I had as a child, but many I’ve seen are down-right creepy or psychedelic.  I like the symbolism of the star, which guided the wise men to Jesus’ manger and being an Alaskan, the North Star is always a favorite.  So star tree topper a-hunting I went.Picture 2

My first stop was Target, which had tinsel options, but nothing that seemed to fit my style.  I was considering researching DIY options when I decided to stop in at Pier One because I had a 20% off coupon.  They didn’t have any tree toppers but I did find this large glittered star ornament.  They called it a snowflake, but it sure looked like a star to me, especially in gold.  I wasn’t sure if it wold work as a tree topper so I carried it around with me as I browsed other areas of the store.

Something told me that even if I didn’t end up using it as a tree topper it would find a use in my holiday decor so I went ahead and bought it.  It was already a good price at $6.95, but I also got my coupon discount on top of that, so it was a super deal.

Once I got home I climbed on a chair and placed it at the top of the tree, arranging branches to make it sit just so.  After a few times off the chair to check and make sure it was straight, I was completely happy, so I cut off the hanging string and left it atop the tree.  It’s just the right scale to complete the shape of the tree and it coordinates with other decor in the house, so I think we have a new annual topper!  And for less than $6 it’s the best deal I’m likely to find, perhaps even after Christmas!

Star

O’ Christmas Tree

Although I had the movers put the Christmas tree box in the family room because I intended to put it up right away, I didn’t actually get to that task until about a week after the move.  We’d just bought the tree last year, but we had to send it off to the tree infirmary after Christmas because as the Grinch says “there’s a light on one side that just won’t light” – although in our case it was a whole section. This was the first time I’d opened the box since it had been shipped back to us and had to chuckle when I spotted a tennis ball right on top!  Apparently the workers found it somewhere in the tree and put it back in the box to make sure we got it back!  Only us!

TreeBoxBall

I initially planned to put the tree in front of the windows next to the fireplace, but once we arranged the furniture there wasn’t room for it there.  So I tried it on the other side of the fireplace next to the TV, but it was too big for that spot.  Then I decided to try it at the corner of the family room where the dog bed had been placed.  I moved the dog bed – much to Sangria’s dismay – and started setting up the tree near the hallway, only to decide I didn’t like it there either.  It still felt crowded.

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At that point I stood in the middle of the main area and looked around trying to decide where to try next.  It was about this time that the hubs woke up from his night shift sleeping and saw me standing there pondering.  I explained my dilemma and he agreed that it didn’t fit right next to the TV or fireplace.  I told him I was considering placing it next to the back door where I’d just placed the curio cabinet – one of the few pieces I hadn’t ‘envisioned’ a spot for before the move – to see if I liked it there.

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Notice the fixed doggie door gap?! 🙂

The problem was I did like it there.  I knew my brain would see wherever the tree was placed for our first Christmas in this house as “the spot” it would go from here on out and I didn’t want to commit to moving the curio each year to put up the tree.

Hubs said he thought that was the best spot for the tree and then wandered off to wake up further.  I continued to stand puzzling, like the Grinch over Whoville.  Finally, I decided to try it just to appease my curiosity, which required moving the curio to three different spots before finding it’s temporary home in the guest room.  I started again with just the base section and liked how it looked, so I added the other two sections and started fluffing branches.  About that time the Hubs returned and noted that the tree looked good there.  I agreed and stated that he’d been right all along.

Unfortunately, I got distracted with some other project at that point and the tree remained undecorated for several days until I scheduled time to finish decorating this past weekend.  And here’s the final result!  I love the traditional feel of the white lights and this model has flocking and faux pine cones that make it feel real, especially when I get the sugared pine wax melts going!

TreeFinished

Our family has a tradition of letting each child choose a new Christmas ornament for themselves each year so that when they move out on their own they have an entire collection full of memories to decorate their own first tree.  I continue the tradition for myself, choosing a new ornament to add to the tree each year.  This year I found a wonderful vendor at a local craft bazaar who made ornaments from clay and I just couldn’t choose between two, so I got both.  One is a reindeer with a strand of lights tangled in his antlers while the other is a classic truck, much like my own 1955 F-100.

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TreeOrnamentNew2Although I love the look of themed trees seen in the magazines and stores, I still like having my eclectic grouping of ornaments at home because they remind me of the stories behind them.  Here are a few of my favorites.

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Still my #1 favorite, an Egyptian hand-blown glass ornament my mom got for me many years ago.

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I bought this little guy on my first trip to Kodiak. He’s lost an antler since then, but I still adore him.

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Found this at a craft bazaar in Kodiak and loved the simplicity of the design. I actually bought a few for my nephews too!

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Antler slice ornament with an otter I picked up at another craft bazaar.

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I loved the otter but also loved the reindeer on this one, which is why I bought both! I’m sensing a trend.. 🙂

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One of my top faves – The Grinch, which I ordered from another crafter.

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I bought this ornament for my husband to commemorate his time with the Coast Guard. He’s not super fond of it, but I am because it reminds me of his character and desire to help others in all he does.

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I don’t remember where this ornament came from – probably one I picked out and mom bought me, but I love the different designs on the deer.

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I picked this up on my layover in London on the way to Prague. Another great memento.

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The ornament my sister got us after our wedding.

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And the one my mom got us too!

Do you have favorite ornaments?  If so, what makes them special to you?