Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Won! I Won!

I can't believe it, but I won these beautiful wood buttons from

I'm so excited and dreaming of all the ways I'll use them! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A New Find

I love wood! I love branches, twigs, and bark. And I've just discovered an Etsy store dedicated to Tree Branch Buttons. It's called The Hickory Tree.   I have always loved wooden buttons. I've been wanting to incorporate some of them into my knitting and am now thoroughly inspired.'s a day after this original post and I finally got the photo added. Don't know why it didn't work before but here they are in all their beauty.

I learned about The Hickory Tree (and got the photo) from a blog by the name of La Chapstick Fanatique which I just began following. It looks like a thoroughly interesting and fun blog. Recipes, Etsy finds, AND  Giveaways! Check it out!

Friday, January 14, 2011

True Confessions and Getting Home

Whoops! Though I promised this post for the very next day after my last, I just discovered that when I revisited the scheduled post for some last minute edits, it got "saved as a draft" rather than "published". Here I've been thinking it's been up for a week, only to see it's been sitting in my Drafts all along and with a scheduled post date of January 14th. Sheesh! So, at long last...

It's true confessions time.

I have to be honest.  I have to confess.  Spill my guts, own my junk, and come clean.

Here goes....

I wore these three shirts........................

or some combination of them...........

 for at least five days straight at the end of our trip.

Please don't hate me.

Let me explain:

1. We were super busy, of the non-stop variety. I was layering and unlayering like a crazy woman the day we packed up to leave our particular portion of Alaska for the winter.

2. We were camping - in our van, yes, but it's still camping. And let's face it; when you're camping you wear the same clothes for a couple days. I just kinda got carried away.

3. It was REALLY cold and, hey, we lived in a van; it's hard to change clothes.

4. But the real reason was that it was SO cold I slept in my clothes. (Yes, it's worse than you thought.)

5. It was SO cold I was not about to put on freezing new clothes in the morning.

6. It was, you remember, down into the 30's and 20's every night.

7. Which meant waking up in 30 degrees, seeing your breath, and having frost on the ceiling. Just coming out from under 20 pounds of warm covers was enough of a shock. I was not about to change into ice cold clothes. No way. No how. No sir.

8. You can't make me. You can't make me. You can't make me!

9. That's all there is to it.

10. Those conditions just never went away until we drove far enough south, so....

Please don't give me that look.

I can't even remember how it got started, though I do remember at some point I grabbed the giant blue sweatshirt of The Fisherman's one morning because I was in the mood for wearing a huge jeans-colored sweatshirt that day. I wore it as a "jacket" for a couple days, putting it on when I needed an extra layer now and then. The morning after our dusty Denali day, our friends let us use their hotel room to shower up.  I believe that's when I donned the blue long sleeved tee-shirt and the burnt orange colored light sweatshirt. Then, I kept using the giant blue sweatshirt to stave off the cold. And then...well, I just pretty much stayed cold for five more days, with the occasional peeling off and re-putting on of layers.

So, I never got out of those three shirts till we drove out of the bitter cold.

In case you're incredulous,

in case it's just too horrid for you to believe,

in case you're saying "It just can't be!"........

Here I am with the boat on Sept 15, the day we spent all day packing up and preparing to leave our cabin for the winter. It was the beginning of my giant blue sweatshirt addiction phase.

No evidence for the 16th, but we spent the day in Anchorage and I'm pretty darn sure I wore at least the first two of the same layers.

And here I am September 17th in Denali Park.

OK, here we start into the serious problem. September 18th at the Arctic Circle, layers 1 and 2. Layer 3 was bunched up in the car for this shot.

On the 19th at The Pipeline...

(after the all-night Northern Lights chase in 29 degrees, going to bed nearly frozen at 5:30 a.m., sleeping four hours, and hitting the road again). Layer 3, again not making the photo.

Somewhere in Canada around September 22nd or so, driving along, I suddenly realized the shocking truth that I'd been wearing the same three shirts for five days.

I knew I just had to 'fess up and come clean (seriously!), so I gulped back the humiliation and took one final incriminating photo.

So there you have it. My True Confession of The Three Shirts.

So there you have it. I wore the same clothes for five days and what's worse, I didn't get a shower from the 18th to the 25th Yes, I felt gross. But, that's what happens when you're camping, right? It felt GOOD to get clean when we got home, I can tell you that!

On to other things: Note my goofy blanket contraption in the photo above? I rigged it so it would trap the warm air on my feet from the heater. My feet are ALWAYS cold. When the heater was on the "Floor" setting, I'd hook the blanket into the dash and drape it over my lap so as to seal in the heat on my feet. When The Fisherman's feet started to catch fire and he couldn't take it anymore he had to either turn it off or change it to the top vents. Then I would take down my contraption and wrap the blanket entirely around my feet and legs. Why is it that only on the passenger side there's a constant cold draft coming all the way from the back behind my seat and swirling around my feet? The driver's side doesn't have that problem. The Fisherman doesn't have a problem with cold feet. I do. My side gets the draft. Not fair. To either of us actually!

Well, by now we' were getting farther and farther south toward the Canada/US border. The days are a blur with 12+ hours of driving. We cover so much ground I usually don't have much idea of where we are. That phenomenon gets even worse when I try to look back at pictures and remember where we were, what day it was, how close to which border we were. It's all a blur.

But somewhere in British Columbia was this pretty bridge:


And this amazing sunset:

Then, at long last, just 25 miles from the US border, we saw our favorite fruit market.
Their sign boasts, "Grown here. Sold here."

I think it's funny that we come all the way from Arizona, where the name "Mariposa" is more common and fitting, and find a Canadian fruit market named Mariposa.  And it has a goofy cartoon coyote sign. I guess coyotes are everywhere, even in Alaska, but they just seem to be such a southwestern canine to me.

Here's some of their pumpkin and squash crop.

The first dozen boxes in the front are filled with different kinds of apples. Different kinds of apples! The boxes on the other end are filled with various kinds of plums, apricots, tomatoes, peppers and such.

Inside they have more vegetables. They also have tons of jams, syrups, gift packages, flavored oils and on and on. 

If it wasn't 36 hours away from home, we'd buy even more. That is, if we had even one more square inch of space in the van.

That's the end of the photos, friends. Once we hit the States, it seems we're so tired and ready to be home that we run out of picture-taking steam. It's too bad, too, because some of the scenery is really beautiful. Washington with all the roadside apple groves. Idaho with it's beautiful Lake Coeur d'Aleane and quaint town of Wallace. Montana's beautiful rolling hills and distant mountains. Utah's red rocky areas, the hip quaintness of Moab, and the most unusual little town called Bluff. It's situated on flat land nestled right up against some beautiful straight-up bluffs. The highway winds through the town that's just a couple miles long.

Then we hit northern Arizona. Dry, barren, desolate northern Arizona. It's the hardest leg of the journey home. Almost there. Extremely tired. Ugly scenery. Days of driving behind us and several hours to go.

The Fisherman drove 18 hours that last day. He wanted to get me home by Saturday night so I could go to the quilt show I had hoped we'd be home in time for. Its last day was Sunday. I told him I could never mind it and be just fine, that it was OK, and he didn't have to hurry home. But he wanted me to be able to go. Sweet. Sweet. Sweet.

We got home at about 1:00 a.m., said "Hi" to the cats, and went to bed. I got up the next morning, SHOWERED, and made it to the quilt show by 10:30, surprisingly awake and able to enjoy it thoroughly. I even went over to the Fall Festival where we usually have a booth set up to sell The Fisherman's photography. We didn't sign up for it this year because of our special Denali Road Lottery opportunity. I heard we were missed, which is a good thing.

I feel like I've re-lived the whole trip home in posting these photos and telling the stories. In my mind, we just got home and I'm bushed. I just looked at the clock on my computer and it's nearly 1:00a.m. as I finish out these Journey Home stories.  Deja vu, anyone?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Birch Forest

Just a few miles after the meadow and Toad River we came upon this fine birch forest. Or is it aspen? We're not sure, even though we have a tree book. We pulled over and spent a half hour taking pictures.

I think I might have liked the photos better if it had been the height of summer and the grasses were a vibrant green. Still, how can you resist those yellows and browns of autumn?

I found it such a beautiful scene.

And look what a blue sky adds to things.

I took in all the beauty of the forest at first. After awhile, I started focusing on the trees. I'm always drawn to the details, the close-ups. Soon I began taking photos of the bark, thinking of how I'd enjoy sharing them with my friend, Angie. She loves bark. Right, Angie?

I can't imagine what kind of tree trauma might have caused this unusual scaring, but it sure turned out pretty.

Or what causes this typical feature. Anyone know?

Now this one, I think I've got figured out. That looks like a scar from a bear claw to me.

I've always been fascinated with the "eyes" of aspen. What happens to make them?

Soon I was back to taking photos of the gorgeous white-yellow-and blue combination of sky and forest.

One of my favorites....

Time to get back in the van and carry on. As far as photos go, we're almost home. As far as miles go, well, we're still in Canada with about 2000 miles before home. One more post tomorrow and it's the end of the roll, so to speak....if images were still captured on a roll instead of a flash card....if images were still captured on actual tangible film instead of......instead ARE digital images captured anyway?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Toad River

There's a particular stretch of road in Canada that I especially love. The first couple miles include this beautiful meadow with horses.

On one side of the meadow is this house. What a gorgeous setting!

On the other side of the meadow is this house.

This photo would be so much better without the red SUV in the driveway. 

I was having trouble getting my camera settings for the right exposure. The Fisherman took this next photo with my camera but using one of his graduated filters. It's dark on one side, clear on the other with a graduated middle. The foreground is so much darker than the background because it's in the shadows. If you expose for the mountains, the foreground will be black. If you expose for the foreground, the mountains will be washed out.  See how perfectly both came out using the filter.

Now scroll back a couple photos and notice in the horizontal version of this scene just how washed out the mountains are. I love those filters. They're kind of a pain to use but they work wonders.

If I used one for the photo below, the sky would be beautifully blue, as it was in real life.

Last year I bought this book

And I bought it here

The book tells the story of the Lesh family (all 10 of them) who moved from Massachusetts to Alaska in an old bus in the early 1960's. Wife and mom, Sally, was not nearly as excited about it as her husband but she went along with it all, engaging in the plans and the journey as much as she could. On their way, they stopped at Toad River for lunch. It was closed so they fixed a picnic lunch and enjoyed it on a log by an old cabin.   She tells the story of how that old handmade log cabin changed her. As her husband measured and talked about making their cabin in the same fashion, with the same joints, a new heart sprang up in her. She became fully invested in their adventure.

I think this is the very cabin.

It looks like it's used for storage today, but I love imagining the people who built it, way back when, and the lives they lived there. Was it a family? Was it one man? A trapper maybe. Perhaps a man seeking his fortune panning for gold in the Toad River. Did he name the river in disgust, abandoning his dream when the river turned up more toads than gold?

I wonder about these things.

Because we have plans for a genuine log cabin someday, we always take pictures of them. I'm always fascinated with the joints and how they look. The Fisherman studies them, just like Mr. Lesh did, trying to learn how to duplicate such construction.

And, no, we didn't have lunch there.

But we only got a mile or two down the road and simply had to stop for a beautiful birch forest.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Caribou and Folded Mountain in Canada

First off I have a very important question.

Why do Canadians spell labor "labour" but spell caribou "cariboo"?

Just curious.

I suppose they could ask us the same question.


We had the fortune of several good caribou sightings along the way. I got some of the best photos I've ever taken of them.

I love caribou antlers. I think I might even like them more than moose antlers. They are just so interesting. During the winter months, they use the broad paddles at the top to clear away snow and find food.

Great shot, except for whatever got in the way in the corner.

Look at their feet. They have toe-like appendages in two rows above their hooves. I never knew that.

Caribou are, I believe, the only antlered animal where the females also have antlers. Their antlers are much smaller than the males. This gal is in the midst of shedding her velvet.

Antlers grow and fall off (shed) each year. To provide them with the blood supply they need to grow, they're covered in fur until a certain time of the season when it sloughs off in a bloody mess. Enlarge the photo (by clicking on it) to get a better view of her antlers.

They help the shedding process by scraping against trees and brush. When it's all off, the antlers are often stained with dried blood and they're a beautiful brown color. As they endure "wear and tear" through the rest of the season, they become lighter in color. If you come across some shed antlers on the forest floor, they're likely to have a bleached look, being white or grey in color. 

I'd always heard the term "velvet" and imagined it to be sort of like felt. Last year at the antler store near Sterling (on the Kenai Peninsula) we found a caribou antler still in velvet. It's actually a thick short fur.

It feels so good to touch, I can see why it's called velvet.

I'm really glad for this special spot on the antler we bought. It shows how thick the fur is.

We asked the guy at the store if it would shed and become a mess. He said it wouldn't, and so far he's right.

I can't imagine how the huge antlers of the males grow every year. What a feat that is, especially with moose.


The Fisherman pulled over at a special landmark so I could see Folded Mountain. We pulled over and I didn't know what for until he said, "Look up across the road." 


Here's what the sign said about it.

I took photos of the whole mountain in close-up segments from left to right.



Here I went back to the section before and zoomed in a little more.


I love this mountain!