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Archive for September, 2010

Montana Sunset…

If only I was a poet or painter…or a writer that could describe the sunset some of us witnessed last night in Cut Bank, Montana…

These photographs cannot begin to capture the wonder of the event…

The colors began to soften and slowly fade as the night sky descended…

What a privilege to be a part of this world…

Pat

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Last Night In Canada…

We have traveled far the last few days and left the breathtaking mountains and Alaska Highway behind. Now settled in for the night in Cochrane, Alberta, the terrain has turned to open vistas and long, rolling hills.

Hay bales lie neatly rolled in the harvested fields and it is apparent we are in a predominantly agricultural area. All ready, I miss the snow capped peaks and spindly black spruce of the tundra. The turquoise waters of Northern British Columbia and Yukon Territory have once again settled in my heart and a return to their rocky banks will not come soon enough.

This has been our home since August 16th…

It has provided us with a shelter on cold, rainy nights, or a hot shower in the morning. We know every nook and cranny and all its little quirks…

We have experienced one blown trailer tire and a cracked bracket on the shackle area – trust me, not a good thing, but the good folks in Whitehorse, Yukon took care of that in a timely manner. So, all things being said, our little house on wheels has behaved itself fairly well on this trip. Considering that it is now 12+ years old and has made the journey over the Alaska Highway for the 3rd time, we can’t really complain.

Our traveling library has been well used also – the pages are curled, a few loose from the bindings and all are marked and highlighted with notes that only add to the memories…

We have not gone hungry either while on the road – nothing very elaborate, but good, “home-cooked” meals…no fast food restaurants for us. We even found time for a leisurely breakfast on occasion when being on the road by 8:00 a.m. wasn’t called for. I really learned to enjoy coffee in my nifty new French Press Coffee maker too…it makes a very mellow, tasty cup and I just may have to get a 2nd one for the house.

All that bacon? I am lucky to get 1 or 2 bites – the rest of it goes to our girls – Sasha, Molly and Kelsie who travel with us. Now the little sweet roll? That’s another thing…

Tomorrow, we head for the US Border and will go through Customs at Coutts, Alberta. Then into Montana and turning eastward…

For tonight, the setting sun over the distant Canadian Rockies bids us a farewell. I whisper a quiet promise to return again…

What a blessing to have seen all of this – we live in such an amazing world with wonders at every curve in the road. It is all laid out for us – we just need to decide where to head next!

Born in Britain, raised in Scotland and ultimately writing much of his famous poetry while living in Yukon Territory, Robert Service is a favorite of mine – this is an excerpt.

From “The Wonderer” by Robert Service

“…Then there’s the wonder of my Eyes,

Where hills and houses, seas and skies,

In waves of light converge and pass,

And print themselves as on a glass.

Line, form and color live in me:

I am the Beauty that I see;

Ah! I could write a book of size

About the wonder of my Eyes.”

May you find a new journey to see through the wonders of your eyes.

Pat

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Yukon Gold

I really like the Yukon Territory…In fact, you could say I love it and have since our first visit in 2005. There is something about this particular part of Canada. It reminds me somewhat of Alaska, only – with a more “cozy” feeling. Perhaps because it is snugged in between the vastness of Alaska and its neighboring sisters…the Northwest Territories and to the South, Beautiful British Columbia. With Whitehorse as its capital and the majority of its population(total – 30,000+ – 2006) centered there (26,418 – 2010), that leaves a lot of room for up close, spectacular scenery that is untouched by development.

I think the attachment with the Yukon may have some roots in my childhood. Growing up in the early 50’s, before TV took over everyone’s lives, the radio was a very important feature in most homes. Ours was no exception. Dad had a large table top radio that was encased in beautiful inlaid woods . The front speaker was covered in a heavy fabric and if you peered into the back, there were dozens of huge glass tubes that glowed…all fascinating to a young child. I can remember recovering from various childhood illnesses such as measles or chicken pox that required bed rest and “isolation” from the rest of the household.  Mom & Dad would bring the radio into my room where I was curled up in bed under layers of blankets. I could tune in some great shows…comedy, spooky mysteries and if the conditions were just right & the night was clear, a static filled broadcast from the BBC could be heard. One of my favorites was Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and his courageous dog, King. I was transported to the snowy Canadian woods as the unstoppable Sargeant along with other heroic Mounties always managed to save someone lost or capture an evil villain.  That was the beauty of listening to radio – even with studio sound effects, you needed to use your imagination – an element missing from present media. Around 1955, the radio series left the air and was reinvented for TV. I always enjoyed those too, but the radio broadcasts were what I remember now. I can still hear the theme music too…and picture myself wrapped in furs aboard a sled pulled by a team of hard working sled dogs – off through the woods to some grand adventure…

Today, our adventures are of a different nature – it is us in a hard working diesel truck pulling a travel trailer. It is not winter yet, but there is a nip in the air and the sense that soon the woods will grow silent with falling snow. When we stopped for another roadside lunch by Pickhandle Lake along the Alaska Highway – a favorite place we have visited on previous trips, that theme music echoed in the sunlight.

It was a Yukon Gold day – absolutely perfect, and I knew somewhere nearby, Sgt. Preston and his faithful Malamut, Yukon King were keeping watch.

And so the journey continues…

With more stops along the way…

About a quart of freshly picked rock cranberries or lingonberries – for muffins on a cold morning…heading home…

“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference…”

Frost – A Road Less Traveled

Have an adventurous week…

Pat

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to Fairbanks…

We have packed so much into the last few days – the first and most difficult was saying goodbye to these two…

It will be a long winter and no Christmas reunion this year. We must wait until early Spring of 2011. However, we leave them happy, well, and taking care of each other. That will keep us going for now.

One of the necessary chores that needs attention on a road trip of this length – we are heading into our 5th week now…is auto maintenance. Time to have the tires rotated…while waiting at the Anchorage Sam’s Club, we had extra time on our hands and found this great item – $79.00! With six cup holders no less and its own cooler…  This is Annie getting comfortable…

we were laughing like crazy as we recalled Lily Tomlin from Laugh-In – remember her character Edith Ann? By the way, you would need a really long truck to carry this chair. We decided to pass on the purchase…

Sunshine continues to warm our faces and the skies have cleared to that incredible crystal blue

…it made our visit to Talkeetna such a pleasure. This little town is 60+ miles north of Palmer-Wasilla. The name of Talkeetna comes from the Athabaskan word for “river of plenty.” The town is located where 3 glacially fed rivers meet – the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna. Its history really begins during the gold rush and there are a handful of historic buildings that are left.

In the last few years, tiny gift boutiques and art galleries have sprung up, making it a fun place to do a little shopping. On our first trip in 2005, I found a lady who made very tasty jams from local fruits and berries. She is still located there and we were able to stock up on Lady of the Lake, Rosehip and Fireweed jellies to bring back home. Another shop featured salmonberry jam which we added to the collection.

Quaint signs dot the sides of buildings – beckoning the visitor to linger a while…

Seward’s Folly – available for lunch at the Pub & Grill where we ate…$25.95…we opted for a more “sensible” bread bowl with soup!

And a pair of comfy rocking chairs to rest in…

If the day is clear, any trip along the Parks Highway can offer glimpses of Denali…once again, she performed beautifully by being “out”…every bend in the road provided us with a view.

Far off,

Or caught from behind in our rearview mirror…Our usual routine when traveling from one point to another, is try and find a spot to pull over for lunch.

We open up the slide out on the trailer and fix something light…even a simple bowl of soup warmed on the gas stove takes on additional flavor when enjoyed next to a little lake on a sunny day…

Everywhere we look, there are spots of color as summer gives way to autumn in the 49th State…even a wild roadside plant shows it Fall sparkle…and the nights grow chilly…

The surrounding woods glow with golden hues along a little path next to Hurricane Gulch…

We found the day’s drive to be tiring  and decided to camp for the night in Healy. This made for a short drive back to the south and allowed us to take the 15 mile trip into Denali National Park and Preserve. It’s hard to figure – the Park is home to many different types of wildlife – moose, caribou, lynx, and grizzly bears, just to name a few. Did we see any of these critters? Not a one! I do have a theory though…in this distant photo, you can see a small guard house and then a gravel road that curves to the top of that far ridge…

To get past that guard house you must either be in one of the Park’s special shuttle buses or have a highly prized permit. The buses offer round trip tours that go as long as 11 hours – some are shorter. But sadly, we could not arrange to do this. So, I know, in my heart that just on the other side of that far ridge, all the wildlife in the Park awaits…my plan? Next time….next time….

For now, just viewing some of  the incredible expanses of this vast area is quite humbling…it is true wilderness and a human footprint is very tiny. This land does not belong to any man…

Along the Savage River - Denali National Park

We have arrived in the Fairbanks area tonight – actually staying in the little village called North Pole…we will be here for a couple of days and plan to visit the Museum of the North, located on the campus of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Then we will turned southwards towards Delta Junction and the end of the Alaska Highway and the beginning of our long journey home. Stay tuned…more to come.

Have a wonderful weekend and wishing each of you special times with those you hold most dear.

Pat

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A Quilty Day…

Over the years, I have attended a number of quilting workshops, both in my own home state of Wisconsin and as far away as Australia. Usually, I come prepared but very apprehensive. The feeling of not being quite as smart as the other quilters around me, working too slow and agonizing over fabric choices (the person sitting next to me ALWAYS brings just the perfect selection!) often have led me to being frustrated, feeling inadequate and sometimes disappointed at the time and money invested with not very visual results. Don’t get me wrong, the instructors are not at fault…though on a few occasions, I wondered why they were bothering to “teach.” It is just a hang up I have had for what ever silly reason.

Such was not the case with the workshop I signed up for at the Valdez Quilt Festival. My supplies and fabrics were all in order well in advance as they had to be packed in the RV back in August. My dear Bernina survived the Alaska Highway and I even remembered to pack the all important cables and cords. So, bright and early on Saturday, September 11th, off I went to the Valdez Convention Center. This was the view from the Center…pretty nice location, don’t you think??!

I was warmly greeted by a great bunch of Alaskan ladies, checked in and presented with my name tag and a very cool canvas tote bag which was filled with local store coupons, pens and pencils, a real neat measuring tape, etc. A quilter can never have enough tote bags, right?

Our instructor was Marsha McCloskey, someone I have admired for years.

Some of her books are on my quilting bookshelves and one of my earliest quilts was a Feathered Star (which is probably best forgotten now)…oh my, I need to do another one! Her method of accurate triangles and HS triangles really gives good results. The focus for our day long class was to make 3 different blocks using her Precision 6 ruler. While the blocks are usually quite simple to piece, Marsha’s tips improved my accuracy quite a bit. I think sometimes, we fall into somewhat sloppy piecing techniques and get a little lazy or as Mary Ellen Hopkins often used to say…”if it looks good from a galloping horse…”

We spent the first part of the morning, working on basic drafting techniques on graph paper…something I have not done in many years and for most of us, probably not a tool we often rely on.

The rest of the class was spent with this ruler – designed by Marsha…very easy to use and I quickly grew to appreciate its simplicity and the accurate results achieved.

Can you see the markings well enough (sorry for the blurry photo) and nicely the lines can be used to ensure everything is pieced correctly?

I really liked the idea of the little circles which are placed at the exact center point of the unit you are piecing.

We pieced a basic Ohio Star, Judy’s Star (or Castles in the Air, depending on color placement) and Centennial Star.

We also practiced piecing 4 1/2″  pinwheel blocks and Marsha suggested we could trim them down to size – 3 1/2″ to work into any of our block centers, which I chose to do.  They could also be used in the border later on as in each of the 4 corners of the tablerunner which these blocks will ultimately be placed into. Our blocks will finish to 9″. Marsha also showed us how to cut accurate side triangles to complete the project. Most of us had been taught that you just cut triangles larger than needed, attached them to the rows and whack off the excess to size. Her thinking is more straight forward – why not cut them accurately in the beginning for a perfect fit? We talked about straight of grain and bias edges, and why it often happens that the edges are wavy. It was surprising how many students were not aware that you should avoid bias edges along the sides. We came from many different levels of experience and Marsha was so patient in her explanations – everyone felt very comfortable. Marsha even used my Bernina to demo a piecing technique…I am hoping just a little of her skill and talent was left on my quarter inch sewing foot!! LOL.This was one of the very nicest workshops I have ever attended…good, solid basic information we could take away and use to improve our skills. Time well spent, a good return on my investment! And icing on the cake…meeting other quilters from Alaska…I was the only student from the “Lower 48.”

Unfortunately, because of how the classes were set up and time constraints, I could not photograph any of the quilts on display. The setting was quite dark and the main focus for the Festival was the actual workshops. There were about 4 or 5 vendors total.

It is now Sunday evening and the RV has been cleaned, laundry done and most everything packed away…tomorrow morning we head back to the Palmer-Wasilla area for a few more days of visiting with our son and Jena. Then we head North towards Denali and Fairbanks for a while before beginning the long journey home. I leave Valdez with much reluctance…after 10 days we have grown to really like this place….there is so much to see here and we have done it all. The local museums filled with Native Alaskan art, objects that survived the 1964 earthquake, the history of Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill, the special Labor Day with friends and family, our memorable boat trip, a haunting visit to the former location of Valdez prior to the 1964 earthquake and a freezer filled with salmon…it has been a very special visit.

I will be back again soon and I hope you will continue to follow along on our adventure…I so appreciate the time you take to read my blog and your comments are a treasure. Take care and come back often.

And always take time to stitch and learn new techniques to keep your quilting fresh!

Pat, on the road again in Alaska…

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A Day On the Water…

Being in Valdez for 10  days has allowed us to explore at our leisure. Today was spent cruising the waters of Prince William Sound. Thought you might like to see our sturdy little craft…

Actually, this is what we really boarded…much more seaworthy!

Leaving the dock at noon, we left the harbor behind us in a thick shroud of fog. As we made our way through the Narrows, the light began to change and the surrounding shoreline, mountains and glaciers began to reveal themselves…slowly at first, quietly, we glided through the calm waters, the boats’ fog horn sounding our approach to others nearby.

The day turned into a perfect day to be on the water…little wind, a warming sun and good companions…

My trusty camera did not receive much use because the scenery was a bit too distant – I need a bigger lens! Instead I chose to learn how to operate our cam corder…so I don’t have many photos to share of the wonderful sealife we encountered. We met a few stellar sea lions…

And negotiated our way through icebergs from the Columbia Glacier…

We saw orcas, sea otters and a few puffins…come to my house and I will share the movie with you!

My favorite color of water – and tiny little islands…

Six and half hours of taking in the sea air has made me so sleepy…the chair is swaying as I type…the motion of the boat is still with me and I think a good night’s sleep is ahead…

Up early tomorrow and off to my Marsha McCloskey quilting workshop…a quilty posting next!

Pat in the land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod…

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Years from now when asked what Labor Day Holiday is best remembered, I will return to this time and place.

In Valdez, Alaska – by the harbor in Prince William Sound…

Gathered ’round the campfire with dear family… and friends – some known for awhile and some just met…

There is talk and stories of the day’s fishing – of shrimp pots filled and the salmon that have been running for almost a month…and how to make a tasty etoufee…with shrimp only a few hours out of the water…

Kids of all ages – and the newest member – 6 month old Logan, Alaskan born and dressed in Packer green and gold…

Our Dave and Jena enjoying bowls of etoufee over rice….

while waiting for the grilled salmon and warm garlic bread…

A soft sunset over the mountains to end yet another perfect day…

More to come…later this week…the Valdez Quilt Festival and my class with Marsha McCloskey…

Have a good week everyone!

Pat

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