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Three Days of Heaven

Were fast drawing to and end.

Maret Anderson and Gail

Maret Anderson and Gail

Many, many thanks to Maret Anderson, owner of Seams Like Home in Anchorage, Alaska for organizing this retreat and making our wonderful Alaska adventure possible.  It was simply the best!  The students thought so too.

Jyl and her Quilt Top

Jyl and her Quilt Top

Jyl had opted to bring a pre-printed panel and design fillers to coordinate.  She completely finished her quilt top!

Flying Colors at Stillpoint Retreat 2013

Flying Colors at Stillpoint Retreat 2013

It was simply the best time ever!  If you have a craving for an Alaskan adventure, I highly recommend this retreat.  The next one is scheduled for June 2014.  Read all about it at Seams Like Home.  And, thanks again Maret! All that was left to do was to pack up and head on down the road, first via the Danny J, then the gorgeous drive back to Anchorage.

Alaska still held a few more adventures.  So, stayed tuned . . .

 

 

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Tide Pooling

 

The Tide is Out

The Tide is Out

The tides can range up to 20 feet in Halibut Cove. One morning, Michele and I signed up to go Tide Pooling with group leader, Becca, who doubles as the manager of Stillpoint Lodge.  At first glance, it looks like just a muddy mess, but

Anemone

Anemone

Right away, Becca found this small anemone, attached to a piece of the giant kelp that was exposed in the low tide.

Becca demonstrates the tactile abilities of a sea star

Becca demonstrates the tactile abilities of a sea star

What an exciting outing this was!  I learned so much, like the fact that these animals are not called starfish at all, but rather sea stars.  They don’t like being picked up and turned upside down either.  So, with little hairlike tentacles, they grab onto the hairs on your arms in an attempt to right themselves.

Sea Star

Sea Star

Much better now!  Here’s the not-so-little sea star right side up shortly before Becca returned him/her to the sea.

Sea Star Dining Opportunity

Sea Star Dining Opportunity

Sea stars are predatory echinoderms, members of the class Asteroidea.  This four-legged fellow must have lost one of his legs somehow.  Although it should grow back, it hasn’t yet.  Nevertheless, he was chomping on a mussel.  Sea stars extrude their stomachs into the animals they eat, sucking out the edible portions.

Michele and the sea star

Michele and the sea star

Michele was surprised by the grip of this sea star.

Sunflower sea star

Sunflower sea star

On another trip down to the tide pool, we unearthed two Sunflower Sea Stars.   These are the largest and possibly the and fastest sea star in the world.  It can move up to 3 meters per minute, and has been known to travel at least 3 km.  It has over 15,000 tube feet, the little tentacle-like protrusions that help it to move.  Found mostly in the north eastern Pacific, they are voracious predators, feeding on bivalves, snails, urchins, other asteroids, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, and crabs (in other words, just about anything it wants!).

Holding the Sunflower Sea Star

Holding the Sunflower Sea Star

Holding one of these sea stars is rather like holding a large handful of wet slime.  The little (yes, he’s still a little one!) one did not appreciate being out of the sea.

Upside down Sunflower Sea Star

Upside down Sunflower Sea Star

This one didn’t like being upside down either, but enabled us to see all the little feet trying to right the animal.  What amazing creatures these are.

Decorator Crab

Decorator Crab

Last, but not least, Lucas unearthed this Decorator Crab from the tide pool.  These little crabs ‘decorate’ themselves with various materials to help camouflage themselves from predators, like the sunflower sea star.  Our excursion introduced us to the wonders that lurked beneath the surface of the water right at water’s edge!  Definitely educational!

Stay tuned, more stitching ahead . . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flying Colors at Stillpoint Lodge

Class Demo

Flying Colors – Day one

There’s nothing I love more than teaching a multi-day class.  In Flying Colors, we begin by learning about drawing tools that take the ‘scare’ out of that blank piece of paper.  This class was sponsored by Maret Anderson at Seams Like Home in Anchorage, Alaska.  Maret offers this as an annual retreat with a different teacher each year.  It is a delightful getaway from the hubbub of our urban lives.

Drawing Demo

Drawing Demo

Using easy techniques, students move on to working on their original designs.  The facilities at Stillpoint Lodge are spacious and the views spectacular.

Drawing Day 1

Drawing Day 1

It is impossible not to be inspired here.  Students spend the first day working on their drawings.

Everyone Draws

Everyone Draws

The designs ranged from simple to complex.  Some brought ideas and images with them to class, while others had a blank palette waiting to be filled.

Dining Hall with Melanie Janis and Linda

Dining Hall with Melanie Janis and Linda

Delicious gourmet meals arrived three times daily, featuring the local seafood and greens grown in the Stillpoint garden.  Our every comfort was attended to so we could focus on our projects.

Stay tuned . . .

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Welcome to Stillpoint Lodge

Stillpoint Lodge

Stillpoint Lodge

Stillpoint Lodge would be home to 20 of us, Michele and me from Albuqueque, and 18 others from the Anchorage area who would be taking my Flying Colors multi-day workshop (more on that in the next post).  The lodge is open only during the summer months and hosts a variety of retreats.

Da Crab

Da Crab

An artists’ pastoral retreat, the grounds boast hidden sculptures and other art, like this little crab that shouted a silent welcome.

Bird Art

Bird Art

This little pair of birds was strategically positioned alongside one of the walking paths.

Tree roots

Tree roots

Even the tree roots appeared to be artistically arranged.

View from the Deck

View from the Deck

My favorite view from the lodge was the one from the main room, and my classroom, as well as the deck.  It looks out onto Katchemak Bay State Park.  There are glaciers behind them thar mountains!

Pipe Art

Pipe Art

I was shown to my very own little cabin where this pipe art marked the turn off to my path.

Hermitage View

Hermitage View

My cabin was called the Hermitage, a tiny little place with the tiniest kitchen ever.  Talk about a well-planned cabin with an incredible view!  Not a morsel of space was wasted, but it was comfortable and homey!

Shell Wreath

Shell Wreath

A little shell wreath graced the wall next to my cabin door!  What a restful retreat from the world and a wonderful classroom environment!

Next up:  Class begins!

 

 

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Onward to Halibut Cove

Michele Hymel

Michele Hymel

My friend, Michele, who accompanied me on this trip, was sure excited about the boat trip that would take us to Halibut Cove!   In the end, we took the skiff, not the ferry because the smaller boat could get closer to the famed Gull Island!  It is a protected island where human entry is not allowed, a place for birds.

Gull Rock

Gull Island

We were not disappointed either.  There were birds everywhere nesting in incredibly tight quarters.   A few skirmishes were bound to occur and we witnessed some too.  Most memorable were the two kittiwakes that seemed intent on drowning one another and oblivious to our presence.

Common Murres

Common Murres

Most numerous were the Common Murres, packed together and surrounded by Black-legged Kittiwakes.  We had heard tales of Puffins, but only got a few glimpses of them on the very top of the rock.

Tufted Puffin

Tufted Puffin

Finally, two Tufted Puffins floated nearby and, with the smaller boat, we were able to get this one image!  Cute little devils, aren’t they!

Coming in to Halibut  Cove

Coming in to Halibut Cove

It wasn’t but about 45 minutes and we were already pulling into Halibut Cove.  We were told that this used to be a ‘perfect’ arch, but part of it collapsed recently.  I wonder how long it will be until the land bridge disappears altogether.  It was so beautiful, and exciting to think that we would spend the next several days in an area with no cars and no roads.

Halibut Cove

Halibut Cove

Idyllic might be an apt description of this lovely community that has about 40 permanent residents.  The tides in Katchemak Bay and Halibut Cove can range up to 20 feet, hence the excessively long boat ramps.  We dined at the Saltry, the only cafe in the community, accessible only via the local ferry, the Danny J.  There, we were entertained by the antics of a cheeky Northwestern Crow who had clearly figured out how to get many free meals!  Halibut Cove hosts several art galleries, all connected by a raised boardwalk.   One cannot help but relax in this pastoral environment.  Later, we stopped at the coffee shop, where even the local beagle found a relaxing spot on the sofa.

Chubby Beagle

Chubby Beagle

She did seem to have claimed this as her very own.  We did not challenge her!

Float Plane Lands at Halibut Cove

Float Plane Lands at Halibut Cove

After coffee and art, we adjourned to the boat dock to wait for the skiff.   The only other way to get to Halibut Cove is by float plane, like the one we watched landing on the waters of Heavenly Halibut Cove.

 

 

 

 

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Having Fun in Homer

Finally, the tiny port of Homer appeared as we crested a small hill.  Spread before us was the magificent expanse of Katchemak Bay @ Cook Inlet.  Even with the gray, gloomy skies, it was impressive.

Katchemak Bay Overlook

Katchemak Bay Overlook

But by now, it was getting on toward dinner time and we had been driving and sightseeing for a long time.  So, we adjourned to the local drinkery, the Salty Dawg Saloon a longtime fixture in Homer.

Maret and Michele at the Salty Dawg Saloon

Maret and Michele at the Salty Dawg Saloon

The Salty Dawg is a “must” when you are in Homer, not only for it’s eclectic decor, but also for the local culture.  (can you tell in the above image who is a native Alaksan and who is the tourist?)

Bumper Stickers at the Salty Dawg

Bumper Stickers at the Salty Dawg

The back of the bar is festooned with bumper stickers.  My favorite was the one on the top that proclaimed, “Grow your own Dope — Plant a Man!”.  Down in the lower left corner, another asks, “Where is the Hell is PIE TOWN, NM?”  Well, I can tell you the answer to that question, but that is for another blog post.

Ceiling Decor

Ceiling Decor

Every square centimeter is adorned with some memento from afar, from dollar bills to bras.  The Salty Dawg is definitely unique.  The rooms are filled with large tables and benches so bar patrons can mingle, and mingle we did!

Gail and Michele share an Alaskan Amber

Gail and Michele share an Alaskan Amber

Can you see the other folks at our table?  Well, turns out that they are the local fisherman ( and woman)! We learned a lot about the conditions of the seas, how the catch is declining, how the hooks are set so that it reduces accidental catch of seabirds. I was really happy to hear that!!!! The brew was pretty tasty too!  In fact,  brought some home in my suitcase — successfully too.  Sadly, it is already all gone!

Homer Harbor

Homer Harbor

The next morning was cool and cloudy.  We had some time to kill while waiting for the boat to take us over to Halibut Cove, so we opted for a little beach walk.

Black-legged Kittiwake Nest

Black-legged Kittiwake Nest

Black-legged Kittiwakes are the most common gull in the bay, overwhelmingly so!  There are thousands!  And, it seemed as if all of them had decided to build their nests, condo-style beneath the large pier that extended out into the bay.  It was the perfect nesting  place from a gull’s point of view, a nice roof overhead and protected from unexpected attack by the hordes of Bald Eagles that also reside there.

Driftwood and rocks

Driftwood and Beach Rocks

As we lazily walked the stony shores of Katchemak Bay, my mind wandered to photographic opportunities.  So it was that I was looking down at a natural arrangement of driftwood and beach rocks, when Maret and Michele exclaimed in unison, “OMG!  That eagle just plucked that gull out of the water!”  And, I missed it entirely!  That will teach me to be looking in the wrong direction!

Breakfast for an Eagle

Breakfast for an Eagle

I looked up in time to watch the Bald Eagle carrying the already dead gull to it’s favorite dining platform!  I am pretty sure the kittiwake never knew what hit him/her.  And, after all, eagles have to eat too.  Although the lighting is not good, if you look carefull, you may see the feathers wafting down from the eagle’s bill.

Next up — onward to roadless, Alaska!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming to Alaska

Potter's Marsh

Potter’s Marsh

When Maret Anderson of Seams Like Home Quilt Shop in Anchorage first contacted me about teaching for her retreat, I was beyond excited!  We would be staying in a roadless area across the bay from Homer, called Halibut Cove.  Of course, I had never before heard of that place.   My second surprise occurred when I called Maret to confirm my flight arrangements.  I was planning to fly to Anchorage on June 5, the day before I began teaching.  Much to my surprise, Maret said, “Oh no!  You need to fly to Anchorage on June 2!” Then, she went on to explain all the birdly treats she had in store for the trip down to Halibut Cove as you will see in this series of posts.  My friend and colleague, Michele Hymel, had never been to Alaska before, so she decided to come along too.

Girls at Potters Marsh

Girl’s at Potter’s Marsh, Maret, Gail and Michele

So I packed my trusty spotting scope and tripod.  Arriving in Anchorage laaaaate evening, we went straight to bed.  Maret picked us up at 9 a.m. sharp and off we went, driving for a whole — 10 minutes!  That’s how far Potter’s Marsh is from Anchorage, one of the premier birding stops in southern Alaska.  We saw some amazing birds, like . . .

Red-necked Grebe

A nesting Red-necked Grebe, and

several nesting Mew Gulls

several nesting Mew Gulls

We probably spent a couple of hours only 10 minutes down the road.  But then, with our destination in mind – Homer – we set off down the road with plenty of leisure time for stopping, to look at birds, of course, but also Alaska specialty artists.

The Antler Shed at the Gem and Mineral shop

The Antler Shed at the Gem and Mineral shop

This particular shop took a fair amount of time as the rocks (not photographed here) were impressive as were some of the native carvings and the baleen woven baskets.  We did not dally too long and soon were back on the road.

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Only to have me shout, “STOP!”, as we passed over a bridge.  There, right before my eyes, was the second and third Harlequin Ducks I had ever seen.  Found only in the far north, this pair was a rare discovery and a real treat.

Handed carved Wooden Urn

Handed carved Wooden Urn

Our next stop was a wood carving shop that held some unbelievable carved bowls and urns, the likes of which I had never before seen.  The shop owners quite friendly and gave us a tour of the carving workshop out back.  They even give classes in how to make these bowls.  If only the commute weren’t so long.

Moose near Ninilchik

Moose near Ninilchik

Finally, we turned south at Soldotna, meandering our way along the coastal highway and keeping a sharp eye out for wildlife.  Shortly after Maret showed us a stretch of beach, off the beaten path, that held probably 30 Bald Eagles, we were returning to the main road, when we all shouted in unison, “MOOSE!”  It was a female moose and her gangly legged baby who seemed to just be learning to use those long legs.  I couldn’t get a good photo though as Mama Moose was adept at blending  in with the shrubbery and also keeping her baby behind her.

Bald Eagle on nest

Bald Eagle on nest

In addition to the spectacular scenery, there was one final wildlife treasure to be seen.  As we rounded a corner on the highway, I looked over to see a large mass of sticks in a tree.   I hollered, “STOP” and we pulled over.  I knew it had to be the nest of a Bald Eagle, whether occupied or not.  So, I dragged out the scope, walked back along the shoulder of the highway, and set it up.  And, there she was, a huge female sitting on this year’s progeny!  This image gives you an idea of the massive structure that eagles can build, adding new sticks each year.  Some nests can be as much as 10-12 feet across and 10 feet deep.  What a wonderful way to end our first day in Alaska.

I think it only took 10 hours for us to complete the drive that normally take five!

Stay tuned for our Day 2 adventure — Homer and Surroundings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fine Dining – Paducah Style

Caribbean Style

Caribbean Style

Better late than never – ‘Tis my motto! I got sidetracked these last two weeks and am WAY behind on blogposts.  Nevertheless, I wanted to be sure to mention one terrific restaurant, Flamingo Row, where we girls dined on our last night in Paducah.   A couple of blocks south of the main drag, Hinkleville Road, it is definitely worth the effort!  In this small midwestern town, Flamingo Row embodies all things Caribbean, from the menu to the drinks!

Cynthia enjoys a fruity concoction

Cynthia enjoys a fruity concoction

Cynthia said it was delicious.   But, not being of the sort to partake of these kinds of sweetened drinks, I passed and opted for a glass of wine. – a dry white to pair with my dinner of shrimp, grits and green beans, a.k.a. “Haricot Verts”.  The first time I saw these on a menu, I had NO idea what the heck they were.  Turns out that they are French green beans, slimmer and supposedly better tasting!  Now, lest you think this sounds like a not-so-great entree, just take a look below!

Shrimp, Grits, and Haricot Verts

Shrimp, Grits, and Haricot Verts

The shrimp were grilled to perfection, the grits full of chile and cheese (YUM!) and the verts, crispy and crunchy!  Try it next time you are in Paducah!  You will love this place.

Girls at Flamingo Row:  (l-r)Michele, Yours Truly, Cynthia, and Mary

Girls at Flamingo Row: (l-r)Michele, Yours Truly, Cynthia, and Mary

Oh, what fun we had!  We were sad to say good-bye to Paducah and look forward to our next trip there.  On our way out of town, we got one last image of the magnificent dogwood flowers.

Dogwood Flowers

Dogwood Flowers

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