The Coolest Website You’ve Never Heard Of

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I’ve talked….a lot about my adventures as a seasonal worker in Alaska. According to the Alaskan Research and Development Council tourism in Alaska generates about 1.8 billion annually in visitor spending. There is money to be made if you’re up to the adventure.

But how do you find these thousands of jobs, not just in Alaska, but Colorado, the National Parks, and even the Caribbean? There is one website, www.coolworks.com, that has been offering an alternative to the 9-5 since 1995. It’s an online job board promoting tourism and seasonal gigs, and their motto is “Jobs in Great Places”.

I spoke with their social media manager and self-proclaimed “Coolworks kid”, Kelcy Fowler. For Kelcy, it all started when she visited Coolworks.com in 2006 and found a summer front desk job at Grand Teton National Park which then opened the doors to a more permanent position as a recruiter which lead to her current job at Coolworks. She says of her Coolworks experience, “It’s been a real compass, I feel it’s very near and dear as a part of my story.” Here are some more of her thoughts on what Coolworks is all about.

Q. I’ve seen job postings from all over the country, can you talk a little about your market, do you primarily post North American jobs, or international jobs as well?

Currently, Coolworks has job offers solidly in the west. However, we are working to broaden our web presence. One of the challenges for international jobs is the visa situation. We do occasionally post jobs abroad, for example, English-speaking hiking guides in the Swiss Alps. We see a fair amount of volunteering opportunities for work in South America and abroad as that doesn’t necessarily require a visa.

Q. What are the typical jobs you can expect to get when looking into seasonal work?

 Most of the jobs are service jobs, the majority in fact. A lot of the positions are entry level, guest service, and hospitality. There are more and more coming up outside of that. For example, in outdoor education, untraditional education, schools, programs, unique environments, summer camps. And professionals sector career positions like recruitment and HR.

Q. What are some of the most popular destinations for seasonal workers?

A lot in the west, Maine, Cape Cod, the Great Lakes. Coolworks is deeply rooted in the national Parks, and there are tons of jobs in Alaska.

Q. How does a company get his or her job posting on your website, can they post themselves or do they send the info to you?

It’s a combination of all those things. Bill was a recruiter in Yellowstone National Park and wanted to find a better way to get the word out about these jobs. Coolworks lets the employers come to them.  We vet every employer and get to know the businesses as best we can.

Q. The website was founded in 1995 by Bill Berg, how has it changed since his original vision?

The biggest and truest change happened just around thanksgiving with the new website design. It’s the same website with a new face and wrapping. There are 6 of us in the team and Bill just left, The idea of jobs in great places has always been there, the website grew but the core value has stayed.

Q. What’s the coolest part of your job?

With every job, your favorite thing one day might not be your favorite thing the next. One of the coolest things working for Coolworks is that we work remotely, we can work wherever we want, it’s a flexible job. Being able to travel is huge. Even more than that is my title “The one who walks amongst our people” I was talking to a fellow Coolworks kid and I just adopted this comical title, it stuck.

 Kelcy looks at Coolworks in the long term. For her, it’s also about giving back and sharing a little bit of the magic she experienced at Grand Teton National Park. Now at Coolworks, she has the opportunity to give back to a new generation. If this sounds even a little appealing to you visit Coolworks and check out what they offer and if you are already a seasonal pro, keep sharing your experiences because it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Mountains are Calling and I Must Buy That T-Shirt

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Since I’ve been back in the Midwest after my second Alaska stint, I’ve had more time to think about all those amazing experiences and the crazy world of Alaskan tourism. Sometimes I forget that Skagway wasn’t always a city filled with jewelry shops and cheap souvenirs, it was a booming Gold Rush Town.

There are several sides of Skagway. The tourist side complete with vendors and tours that promise Alaskan excursions and really just nudge you to the gift shops after a few picture stops. And then there are the Skagway mountains, the trails, and rivers frequented most often by summer workers on their days off. That such kitsch could stand side by side with the Alaskan scenery, is a bit of paradox.

Are those hungry tourists so different from the hungry adventurers from 100 years before? It was the desire for gold that made Skagway the town it is in the first place. A port town like Skagway was a jumping off a point for prospectors and adventurers hoping to strike it rich. One look at that White Pass Trail from the comfort of your car and you are struck dumb by the thought that people walked with few hopes of getting anything but a cold, frostbite or a tumble off the side of a mountain. All wishing to striking it rich. At least one Madame or barkeep back then must have found it a bit strange that next to such un-tampered beauty and majestic mountains were those adventurers ignoring the perils and landscape to get the gold.

When you look at Alaska’s tourism industry, you have to at least admire that not a whole lot has changed. Sure those cruise ship passengers aren’t walking the White Pass Trail and their vacations are only a few weeks instead of a quite a few years, but like those prospectors being duped by Skagway’s less than reputable salesmen, the tourists of today walk the streets in hopes of finding something worth bringing home. More often than not that something is a t-shirt.

Alaska always had and always will be a kind of mystical place. An enigma of unfettered beauty and wild unsettled territory. And I always say that it was a one of a kind experience and everyone should go. If it takes a couple of t-shirt stores and fudge shops to get some tourists to look around and be caught off guard even if it’s through the lens of a bulky Nikon camera, who am I to judge?

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My Oh My, Quilt Supplies: Tips for Getting the Basics Without Breaking the bank

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I didn’t realize how great I had it. When I was in Alaska, not only did I get a steep discount  because I was working at a quilt shop, I also lived with quilters, all of whom had either left supplies or brought their own and were happy to share. But, coming back I had to leave a few things behind. I couldn’t justify stuffing 5 yards of fabric and my sewing kit on top of my already stocked full suitcase.

But what’s a crafter to do, back home with no supplies? I decided to stock up and get some basics for when I wanted to tackle my next sewing project. Whoa are quilting supplies expensive. Thankfully Grandma had a sewing machine for me.Which brings me to your biggest money saver.

1. You Never Know Until You Ask

If you need supplies or fabric, before you hit the shops, ask your friends. Chances are pretty high that your crafty friends will have some fabric they don’t have a use for, or old mats and scissors they no longer need. Post on Facebook, check with grandma, join a quilting circle. But if you do have to buy a sewing machine, or need to scout the big box stores, weigh your options.

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2. Investment

Your sewing machine will be your biggest investment. And if you’re a beginner, dropping a hefty sum for a high quality machine might not seem too appealing. Luckily there are options. I had a friend find a relatively inexpensive Singer and Walmart. Yes, Walmart. Think about the use, how likely you are to use it after your first big project. Are you planning on selling your projects? All these are going to help you find the machine for you.

 

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3. Know the Necessities

Quilting is a multi-billion dollar business. And it can be so tempting get wrapped up in the latest gadget and tools that you see in video tutorials and magazines. There’s lots of really cool tech out there, made specifically for the quilter. But if you’re quilting on a budget learn to weigh the difference between cool gadgets and must haves. Here is the list I made of what I knew I would need for my sewing space.

  • A Cutting Mat $25-90 (depending on size)
  • A really good pair of fabric scissors $8-16
  • Measuring Tape $1.50-3
  • Rotary Cutter $10-20
  • Spare Blades
  • Extra Bobbins $2
  • Sewing Machine Needles $4-10
  • Seam Riper $4
  • Pushpins

Everything else, fabric, thread, fabric can be budgeted when you actually have a project in mind. coupon-2004245_1280

4. Coupon Chic

Do you like Hobby Lobby? Who doesn’t! The best thing is, before you check out you can pull up a 40% off coupon for your most expensive item. Bring your friends and have them each use the coupon. Go coupon crazy. For the big box stores, Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, chances are a quick google search before checkout can save tons.

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5. Consider a Side Hustle 

Do you just absolutely love quilting, are you addicted to fabric and all the things with it? An easy way to help fund that addiction is trying to work a few hours at your local shop. You will probably get a discount and you’ll get first pick of the new merchandise. Even if your shop is fully stocked, consider teaching a class, specifically partnering with your local quilt shop. They may agree to host the class, discount supplies, or provide door busters for your class only.

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Those are just a few things to help ease your wallet and still get you quilting. What works for you, have any amazing deals that you have come across? Let me know

My First Quilt and What I Learned

My Grandparents recently had their 60th anniversary. I was invited to celebrate with them and saw so many of my relatives, people I hadn’t seen since even before I left for the land of the midnight sun. It was a night of revelry, reminiscing, and catching everyone up on what I have been up to. The answer, not much. But I did get the opportunity to show my very first quilt to my Grandma and Grandpa.

Now, my grandma is exactly like your grandma, if your grandma used to quilt like a fiend. She was the quintessential grandma, cooking dinner whenever we went to visit and ready to impart her quilting wisdom on any willing ear. However, in my early years, I was not willing. I appreciated the quilts my grandma would make for me and the cousins, but I never truly marveled at the artistry or time she would spend on them. And I had no interest in learning the tools of the trade. Feeling that if I could sew a hem or at least use a sewing machine, I was set.

Cut to years later and I find myself smack dab in the middle of the quilting industry and who do I suddenly turn to, my grandma. All of the sudden I was emailing my grandma with stories and questions. Regaling her with my quilting knowledge, happy to have some common ground and learning more about my grandma than I ever had before. We take for granted the arts and skills of our relatives or at least I did.

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(Rushin’ Tailor Interior)

I sent her a book about quilts in Alaska and half yards of the specialty Alaskan Batiks we carried. I took pictures of the quilts at the shop and my own projects.  I had a whole new slew of topics I could talk to her about. And when I finally cracked down to make my first quilt, she inspired me to finish it with ties instead of quilting the top. We’ll get into that later. Quilt shop.jpg

(Just a few of the quilts I saw every day)

 

What better souvenir for my crafty summer of fabric, fleece, and quilting know how then to make a quilt. I decided the best quilt would be a scrap quilt. Mostly because I am no good at following strict patterns. I was the kid that colored waaaay outside of the lines and my type of art was cut and paste. To this day I am a collage art pro. And a scrap quilt is the collage of the quilting world. Even so, with a scrap quilt, I needed to do some basic math.

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But I was determined. My handwritten notes about length, width, backing, the size of scraps needed, and borders looked more like the algorithms in “Hidden Figures” rather than simple numbers.

I came to the conclusion that I would make a scrap quilt of squares, each pieced together with individual different sized scraps, measuring 8 inches by 8 inches.

So I had my squares. Or at least I had a general starting point. This is where it got fun.

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(4 such “squares” put together. I know they don’t fit)

When my fellow coworkers left at the end of the season, knowing I was planning to work on a quilt, they relinquished their yards and yards of Alaskan scraps to me. I had bits and pieces of animals, Eskimos, flowers, and northern lights. I would pick a color or theme and cut out different pieces to highlight a specific animal or flower, sew them together to make an 8 by 8 square. One square might take as many as four or five different fabrics. I started this project in July and could do as many as 4 squares before I started getting cross-eyed.

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Never the less, eventually I had about 50 squares, which meant is was time to start piecing the squares together. This is where things got really tricky. You know that old adage, measure twice cut last. Or something like that. Boy, is it accurate. When I would sew  5 of my 8 by 8 squares together, I had uneven borders, different sized squares, feature images covered up with seams. But somehow I got all my squares together.

Then came the border…s. Because my squares had been slimmed down in an effort to make them cohesive and all similar sizes, my quilt was smaller than I wanted. I did some major slicing. I needed some borders. I chose two. Measuring and sewing those were a little easier. But I wasn’t done. Because every quilter knows you need to make a sandwich. I had my backing, I had my top. But I needed the batting.

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Slicing and ripping the thick batting into different large pieces that would fit together to sit between my backing and batting was a bit of an adventure. I felt a little like Frankenstein.

Then came the moment, the bane of all quilters existence. Binding.

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Now I know what you are thinking: “Binding before quilting, are you crazy?!”

I needed to bind it together because I wanted to enter my very first quilt, haphazard as it may have been in the Skagway Fiber Arts Show. Yes, a town of 800 has an annual quilt show.

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Somehow, with a basic beginners understanding, I made my very first quilt. I made mistakes, I kind of learned from them, and I completed it. Agonizing start to frantic finish. Now I have the best souvenir that completely encompasses my experience working in a quilt shop in Alaska one summer. The best part was showing off the fruits of my labor to quilter extraordinaire grandma. She gave me some tips for tie quilting and was eager to see what I would do next. She even gave me her sewing machine. I don’t know when I will make a quilt again. Or what that quilt will be. But now that I’ve done it, I can take myself out of the role of a complete novice. When those little old ladies ask me about batting, sizes, measurements, and my thoughts on auditioning fabric, I’ll have a little more to say “I’m not a quilter.”

 

A Guide to the Best Coffee Shops in the Northland: Heading South

Here’s a fun scenario for you: Back in your hometown after having spent an incredible 9 months trampling through Southeast Alaska, what do you do when you just need to take a break? For me I hop in my trusty old hatchback, still in working order after being abandoned to a summer stuck in the yard, and head south. Or North. Or really anywhere. But for this post, it’s south. About 30 minutes outside of my hometown, a breezy drive down the highway lies the shopping mecca of Rice Lake, Wisconsin. This is the town with the Walmart, this is the town with a movie theater that has more than two screens, this is the town with the  restaurants and now it has a Hobby Lobby. It’s a happening place. So today I got in the car and drove to Rice Lake to spend a quiet afternoon at one of my favorite coffee shops in the area.

With so many awesome coffee options in Spooner, why would I drive 20 minutes away from Spooner just to be a coffee shop cliche? Sometimes you just need a road trip for no reason, and sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere where you aren’t a local. But still get the warm welcome of one. Rice Lake boasts several coffee shops, each catering to something different. My personal favorite is Cabin Coffee. This funky little cafe takes the cabin feel to the next level. But instead of cabin by the lake, you’re at the ranch. The places oozes cowboy but it never takes itself too seriously. There’s a cozy fireplace and cozy furniture. It’s a small franchise. I like to consider myself I bit of a coffee snob, so I try and shy away from the chains but Cabin Coffee’s brew is as homey and warm as its atmosphere.

Sometimes though a half hour isn’t enough of a drive to really get the feel like I’m “getting away from it all”, even just for a day. If you decide to nix the exits of Rice Lake and keep on heading down the highway you will not be sorry in coffee trip terms. No trip down 53 would be complete without stamping your coffee passport in Chippewa Falls at the 4:30 am Coffee Shop. Despite what its name suggests, the shop opens at 6:00 am and is a staple for Chippewa Falls residents. I’ll let one of my friends who used to work there tell you more about it.

“It is a very small town coffee shop feel. A lot of retired folks in the morning and school and local business people eat lunch there. As well as a lot of high school kids. They do offer free wifi with purchase. The owners and workers are really good about being entertaining. Coffee shops are the new bars and the baristas there really have to have that fun personality that keeps people coming back. It definitely has that Cheers vibe, where the baristas will memorize your order and have it ready when they see you coming.”

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And just a few more miles past Chippewa Falls you will come to Eau Claire. Talk about mecca. This city hosts the University of Wisconsin-Eau claire, one of the larger UW campuses. To say it’s a college town is putting it mildly. Nestled in the heart of downtown is one of the hippest coffee shops I know. And I was a barista at a  vegan and vegetarian Cafe in Chicago. Racy’s in Eau Claire is the quintessential coffee shop.  From the worn mismatched furniture right out of your first apt to the tattoo and bearded baristas. It’s the perfect place for deep discussions, a caffeinated study session, catching up, or just grabbing some delicious cold press on the go.

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Where will my coffee adventures take me next? Check back to find out.

A Guide to the Best Coffee Shops in the Northland: Spooner Edition

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It has come to my attention that while writing about the experiences I’ve had with crafting, mountains, and Southeast Alaska, I have been remiss to discuss the other essential element in my blog tagline: Coffee. Believe me, no one is as surprised as I am to discover the sheer lack of caffeinated content on this blog. In Skagway there were a few options for a coffee fix. And Heritage Coffee, a premiere coffee roasting company based in Juneau, can be quaffed all over the area. Back in the Midwest there is also no shortage of coffee shops. If you are from this area then you are well familiar with the coffee scene. Believe it or not, there are quite a few local coffee shops that any connoisseur finding her or himself in the northern areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin would be remiss to, well miss.

Join me as I present a guide to the best coffee shops in the Northland. But first a small history.

Once upon a time I was  young sophmore in High School, looking for my first job. Luckily for me a new coffee shop was opening in my small, small hometown and I applied immediately. So began a lifelong love affair with the delicious cup of joe. Before I went to Alaska, I was a long time barista, bouncing from shop to shop. I’ve worked as a peddler of espresso in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Chicago. I became immersed in the how, why, and where of the glorious bean. And I even perfected, well ok, I was an amateur at latte art.

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Now back in my hometown, it is only fair that I share my knowledge of the area’s bespresso should you ever find yourself road-tripping, traveling, vagabonding, or just nearby.

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              Episode One: Spooner and the Coffee Wars

How would it be possible that a town of less than 2,500 has not one, but three possible destinations for all your coffee needs. And I, born in raised in the area, have worked for all three on them. Calling it the coffee wars may be a bit of hyperbole, as each shop boasts its own flavor and feel.

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Alley Cats

Located on the outskirts of town is a small joint called Alley Cats. Sometimes you will see colorful umbrellas outside, and to park you need to drive down a small alley. It may be small, but it has one of the most dedicated followings of any coffee shop I have seen. You will always find at least one of the owners behind the bar ready to prepare your drink of choice. To this day even though it’s been years since I was a regular at the shop, the owner still asks about my life as If I’m there every day. They know their regulars and prepare some of the most out of box creations given the sheer lack of space. The sandwiches are hot, the smoothies refreshing, and the espresso is well crafted. Don’t miss out on a stop to Alley Cats.

Maybe you are right in the heart of downtown and can’t make it out to Alley Cats, then head on over to The Dock Coffee.

The Dock Coffee

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This coffee shop will amaze you with it’s carefully coordinated decor. You will feel like you’re at a cozy cabin complete with fireplace. But this coffee shop isn’t just your average ambiance filled coffee emporium. The kitchen is always abuzz with made from scratch specials and soups. The chefs are always looking for the new and exciting. Tired of your typical soup and sandwich cafe options? The Dock serves a variety of delicious flatbread pizzas, salads, and even the most amazing Mac and Cheese. And this is nothing compared to what’s going on behind the bar. The ruby red espresso machine is sure to catch your eye. The baristas are more like chemists, crafting beverages with creativity, ingenuity, and topping them with candied and whip cream creations that look more like works of art. And even if you aren’t a fan of coffee, you can sample their wine and beer selection. The Dock Coffee delivers excellence and the owners are happy to welcome one and all. Even though it is a new addition to Downtown, it is fast becoming a local favorite.

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And say you’ve hit up the shops downtown and you want to shy away from the coffee shops but still crave a little caffeine? Head over to Spooner Market and Grill.

Spooner Market and Grill 

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While I wouldn’t categorize this as a coffee shop, and the locals don’t necessarily head over here for lattes and blended coffee drinks, this place has some of the best baked from scratch scones and coffee in town. It’s a fantastic restaurant offering alternatives to the diner and fast food options of Spooner, and this is where I first learned to truly appreciate the art of coffee. The owner and proprietor of Spooner Market and Grill spent many years working for the Starbucks corporation and as such had a wealth of coffee information to hand out. This is where I learned what espresso really was, how an espresso machine worked, and the underestimated artistry of an Americano. Looking for a bottomless cup of Joe that doesn’t remind you of muddy water to enjoy with some of the best food in town? Look no further than Spooner Market and Grill.

Three awesome options all within about a mile of each other, and each one unique and offering something different. But each knows its coffee and doesn’t skim on the service or foam.

Stay tuned for more coffee destinations throughout Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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A Different North

Hello!

Has it been a few months? Well yes. And what has been going on  with the Nerd of the North? Well she’s in a different, colder corner of the world at this moment, but still as nerdy and northerly as ever.

So to catch up: Last we spoke it was high season in Skagway. The cruise ships were coming and going, sailing into the sunset and leaving us Skagway summer residents to frolic in our own personal Alaskan playground. But the days got shorter, and colder. The rain was more frequent, and when September rolled around, every store featured end of season sales. The tourists were far more interested in the mega sale at The Alaskan T-Shirt Company than the poor Red Onion Madame Ghost Walking Tour in the cold and rain.

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As you may or may not remember this was my second Skagway summer, my first summer I left at the beginning of September. I missed the changing weather and the closing shops. This time however, I was lucky enough to have my contract extended and I got to see Skagway when the ships leave. Skagway when it turns back into a small town. I got a taste of an Alaskan Winter. I mean it’s southeast Alaska, so it was never truly winter like I know, or even close to what they get in the Interior. But if snow tipped mountains are gorgeous, the entire mountain covered in snow was a sight to behold.

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Skagway is steeped in adorable traditions like Halloween haunted house crawls, gingerbread house contests, tree lighting ceremonies, and even the White Pass Train hosts a Santa Train.

While everyone warned me that the weather would  be bad, the days would be short, and the company lonely. I found Skagway to be a warm and welcoming town. Even more so after the cruise ships left because everyone could slow down a minute and take a breath. And while the days were getting short, we lucked out with sunny days well into November. And nothing beat those snowy views.

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Since my contract is over, I’m back in my hometown of Wisconsin. Not nearly as exciting or romantic as The Alaskan Frontier, but the wilds of Wisconsin are just as beautiful in their way. Stay tuned as I put my nerdy twist on my home state, search for jobs, and enjoy what the Northland has to offer.

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Machine Quilting vs Hand Quilting

I’ve spent four wonderful months working in a quilt shop in Skagway and as such, I have had the opportunity to talk to many quilters and crafters from all corners of the world.  I’ve learned that quilting in Australia and New Zealand is a booming industry. More and more Aussie quilters are getting on board. There are cruises specifically catered to quilters and knitters. I can’t imagine a better way to sail the seas than sharing your love of quilting with like-minded individuals and learning from some of the top teachers in the industry. I’ve had people tell me they are novices and looking for something easy to start. Or I’ve had people tell me they can get a quilt out every couple of months. There are the quilters that do it for fun, for their business, and for charity. I’ve met all types.

I’ve had dozens of men roll their eyes and talk about their significant other’s obsession with fabric while begrudgingly getting out the plastic to pay for more fabric. I’ve seen people stare in awe at the quilt models, saying they just love to look even if they don’t quilt themselves.

Young, old, you name it. Grandma finding pillow case fabric for the grandkids. The young kid who just really likes the flower fabric so mom buys it on the condition that she will learn to sew. The sewer who just wants something to do on the ship because the lack of a project is causing serious problems. For the most part, every customer who comes in is a truly lovely soul. Enamored by the quilts we have on display, in love with our batiks, asking for help with auditioning fabric for an Alaskan quilt to commemorate their trip. But every now and then you come across some quilting snobbery that I simply have no time for.

I suppose since quilting is like any other type of art form, there will be several schools of thought on the best way to achieve the end result. My personal motto is that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, or how you get it done, as long as you have something you love at the end of it.

But hand quilters are a different breed entirely. Feeling that because they would never deign to use a machine they are the quilting queens. The lesser machine quilters aren’t even fit to call themselves quilters. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for people who quilt by hand. Keeping alive some traditions through their artwork. Keeping a piece of the past with them. But why put machine quilters down?

I had a woman tell me flat out that machine quilters aren’t quilters or artists, instead they are simply machine operators. Which to me was so bogus. If someone writes on a laptop, are they still a writer? Of course, they are. The laptop doesn’t make their talent or artistry any less. The graphic designer who uses computer code and programs to create amazing logos and pictures is still the creator. They are just utilizing tools to help them. The computer program didn’t do it on its own. If a person drives a car, yes they are operating a machine and using a GPS program to help them get to the end, but they still have to watch the road, follow the road signs, and turn the wheels. the car would get nowhere without the driver. Same with machine quilters, and long arm quilters. The quilt wouldn’t get made without the artist at the wheels.

Instead of feeling superior to a machine quilters, wouldn’t you just be happy that quilts are being made and shared? That fabric is being purchased keeping local quilt shops in business? That new tools and techniques and patterns and designs are being created all the time to enrich the industry and keep it vital and alive? That new quilters are getting passionate about quilting and putting modern twists on the classic designs and making it their own? I know I am. And for every quilt snob, there are ten happy souls just happy to be in a quilt shop and share their newest project with me.

 

 

A Train Ride to the Yukon

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Working in the beautiful, boundless, part of the world that is Alaska comes with a lot of perks. Discount tours, discounts at the stores, meeting new friends from all over the world, and having friends from home come join you. My friend and travel buddy from back home came up to help us out for a few months and it is so much fun sharing all that Skagway has to offer with her. Especially because now I have an excuse to go on all the touristy excursions I never had the time to before.

You would think as this is my second summer I would have done it all and then some. But for us seasonal workers, work is the name of the game. We get time to frolic and hike. But sometimes arranging a tour or going on an excursion is more challenging because they are often full up, or you can’t exactly justify spending the entire day in Canada when the laundry is piling up.

The fates aligned however on one beautiful Sunday when we both had the day off and one of my friends who works as a tour guide for the White Pass Train got us tickets for the summit tour. The sun was shining and it was the perfect day for a steep train ride up the White Pass. Following the trail, those prospectors hiked in the Gold Rush. A trodden path still visible from the train this day. Living proof of a land, marked by pioneers 100’s of years later.

The train takes you up through stunning vistas. I’ve driven through the pass before but seeing it from the other side of the valley was a whole other thing entirely. We chugged along through forests, over the churning rapids, in pitch black tunnels, and ending up in Canada. The hills were dappled with Fireweed and our tour guide gave us the perfect balance of train and Gold Rush history. We learned how the train came to be and the harsh conditions the prospectors faced hiking the pass.

The White Pass Railroad is probably one of the most famous excursions in Skagway. And it did not disappoint. A perfect tour for a day off. A perfect way to learn more about Skagway history while surrounded by that beautiful, boundless scenery.

 

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Fourth of July, Skagway Style

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The Fourth has come and gone here in Skagway. From the parade that turns around and goes back the other way, to the fireworks that reverberate off the mountains at midnight (because that’s the only time you can see them), this town’s celebrations are something else.

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There’s egg tosses, the slowest bicycle race (the goal of which is to literally make it the finish line last), an arm wrestling contest, the ducky derby, and corn hole. Not to mention the street parties and live music. Skagway is just like any other small town celebrating it’s nation’s pride. It’s all about the food, the fun and the parade.

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Even though the cruise ships still come into port, many stores close early or for the day. Everyone wants to be out and about, checking the festivities, eating some fry bread and walking down  the red, white, and blue festooned main street.

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I was lucky because the shop I work at closed for the parade.  I got to experience Skagway in its full celebratory glory. Complete with good time gals from the Red Onion Saloon.

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Even Canada gets a piece of the action. There were Mounties marching in the parade and the Bagpipe brigade came from Whitehorse.

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If you are lucky enough to come to Skagway for the Fourth you might not get to do as much shopping, but there’s plenty to see and do.

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