A Travel Journal - Part 2

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hello again Dear Reader! My goodness, I can't believe in less than two weeks I'll be on a plane back home to Blueberry Barn. Being on tour (as my father-in-law explained it earlier today) is like living your life in fast forward. You're meeting so many people and going to so many new places in such a short time that it feels like years have passed once it's over. As I write this - in the middle of Nowhere, Montana - I am struck by how long ago those first few days of the tour seem to me now, and yet I know it was only a month ago!

Well my goodness, what a lovely week we spent in California! I haven't been to the shores of San Diego since 2009, when a family vacation brought me to sunset cliffs and all the beauty the city had to offer. It was like returning to an old scrapbook when we revisited the same places I had gone to with my family.

Before I get to the journal,  let me answer some of those questions you asked!
     -First, the band plays all over, in all sorts of different venues. It's interesting in that this tour we are playing and leading worship in a lot of churches, which we are not often asked to do. It has been a lot of fun playing for the Body of Christ! We have also been playing in RV parks and community centers and concert halls.
     -Second, I play the mandolin, the penny whistle (or the Irish tin whistle) and percussion (usually a snare drum on our swing songs). It's not usually my musical ability that people comment on though, it's usually my inability to stand still, haha! Yes, I dance around a lot on stage - I just can't stand still when I'm playing music!
     -Third, our bus (a forty footer) is our home, which means it's outfitted with a kitchen, beds, and a bathroom (there's even a shower!). We normally cook and eat in the bus, as well as getting ready for shows (this can get really tight, as you must remember that there are four ladies who need to do their hair and makeup!).
If there's anything else you'd like to ask, just comment below on this post and I'll answer you directly! Life on the road is always an adventure, and I am blessed to live and work with my husband and his family. But now, on to the journaling!

One of the best things about going to San Diego was getting to see our dear friend Rebecca Friedlander (whom you may remember from this blog post from this last summer). She had us all over for dinner at her little sanctuary and oh my goodness I felt like I was walking into a magazine! Just look at her lovely table scape (decorated with fresh oranges from the trees around us and things she had bought at a local Goodwill):

We spent all evening in her orange grove, chatting, worshiping together, and catching up on all the news within each other's lives. Later that week we would play several songs at the premier of Rebecca's new film "Celtic Pilgrimage" and what a blessing that was! We even got to wear costumes similar to what we wore for her film while we played the songs, it was so much fun and such a wonderful night.

Rebecca also took us out and took some fun photos of us at the beach (in the water of course!) mostly because Quinn now had an amazing beard and Rebecca said he looked perfect for an Irish king! (Personal note: I am not a fan of the beard, but I told Quinn he could grow it out if he wanted to. And I mean, he does look pretty handsome in this photo! Haha!) She gave Quinn and I chain male to wear, and boy was it heavy! But what a fun time we had, playing in the surf in costumes and getting weird looks from all the beach-goers.
As I think I said above, I was so excited to once again be in San Diego. The only two things I wanted to do were go and see Old Point Loma lighthouse (for I just adore lighthouses!) and go to a little ice-cream shop that my siblings and I really enjoyed called Mr. Frostie's.
Everyone was very kind about this and the first thing we did was drive up to Point Loma (where my parents met at Point Loma Nazarene University) to see the lighthouse.
Someday I will live in a lighthouse, I just know I will! There's just something magical about living next to the wind and surf, don't you agree? The lighthouse at Point Loma is like a museum, with the rooms set up as if the caretaker and his family were still living there. We went on a windy, gray day, but how beautiful it was!

We sure did enjoy the sunshine and warmth of California, but soon we were leaving the green cliffs of San Diego and instead heading out into the desert once again (*sigh*). We drove into Utah and were met with the dry rocky crags, something that is the exact opposite of what I am used to. But even the desert has beauty in it, and we enjoyed hiking (and almost dying) on the cliffs of Zion National Park.
I say we almost died because we decided to climb "Angel's Landing" not knowing how intense of a hike it would be. Abigail and I made it almost all the way up before we decided we didn't want to meet Jesus yet and decided to head back down. Paul, Laura and Quinn made it up fine (though of course with lots of prayer from the rest of us).

We are now on the last leg of the tour, which will take us through Montana, the Dakotas, and back to Iowa to park the bus. I think if for some reason I could no longer live in Alaska, Montana would be the next best thing. For though there isn't an ocean, there are some lovely lakes - and the mountains are quite beautiful.

I do hope this finds you well Dear Reader! Please know that everyone here in the Alaska String Band is doing well and is very excited at the prospect of returning home. Until next time friend!

A Travel Journal - Part 1

Friday, March 9, 2018

Hello from sunny California! My goodness, I've only been away from Blueberry Barn for a little over two weeks yet it feels like a month already! And I am so sorry Dear Reader that I haven't been able to write to you thus far, but the first part of our Alaska String Band tour was quite the whirlwind - and now that we have driven across most of the the US, it seems we're finally due for some down time (hopefully at a nice beach somewhere!). But let me start at the beginning:

Getting six people, two dogs, and a very large truck load of suitcases and instruments "down south" is always a feat, and this time was no different. Yes! We were saying goodbye to cold, snowy Alaska and instead headed for...wait a minute...we're going to Minnesota first?!
We landed in Minneapolis late in the evening, and we were all happy (the dogs more than all of us) to be off the plane. Now we just needed to get to the bus:
We barely fit in the large airport elevators - and we still made two or three trips! Laura, as you can see, was thrilled to finally be on tour. But we weren't prepared for how easily Lupin would take to life in the bus...
 Yes, that's right, Lupin soon understood that if she sat in the driver's seat she was the one that was truly in charge, haha!

So far, we have already been through Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and now we are in the land of the stars, California! I have never been a big fan of the desert, but the charms of ever-lasting sunshine do hold true. It certainly does make a difference for my pale Alaskan skin, which I am trying to keep well covered in shawls or in sun screen! Quinn has already gotten sun burned and paid the price for it, and I am hoping to get out of it this time around (fingers crossed!).

Our shows so far have gone fairly well, and I am enjoying sending postcards to my friends and family far away to keep them updated on all that has been happening. Greta had a wonderful time in Minnesota with the snow, but I don't think she's enjoying the heat of the desert as much (she loves to roll in the dust though, and comes back to the bus looking gray rather than black, the silly girl!).

I shall end my entry for now Dear Reader - I hope you are well and I hope you have enjoyed this small look into life on tour! If you have any questions for me let me know in the comments and I will try to answer them in my next Travel Journal for you. Until next time, have a great day!

A Valentine's Day Party

Saturday, February 17, 2018

My goodness has it been a busy time around Blueberry Barn! You see the Alaska String Band is getting ready for it's Spring Tour, and Quinn and I have been all abuzz preparing and practicing. I started packing last night, and how I am hoping for some warm weather along the journey - as it has been quite cold here in Juneau these past days!

Amid all the hustle and bustle of singing songs and mapping out a show, we were all ready for a break when Valentine's Day rolled around. Of course I had already been planing a few surprises in the form of Valentines and poems, and with Melissa's help a menu was planned and a date was set! We would be celebrating not only the day of love and friendship, but also Paul's, Laura's and Quinn's birthdays! You see Paul was gone for his birthday early in January, and we were gone in Seattle for Quinn's, and Laura's is at the end of February while we are on tour, so we decided to throw a big party and celebrate them all!

On Melissa's menu were: Hamburgers, fries, lemonade, baked beans, chips, roasted veggies, deviled eggs, and a plethora of baked cookies and desserts! I agreed to do the lemonade and the fries (as I had found a recipe for fries made in a Dutch oven that I really wanted to try) and a dessert that had captured my imagination for a long while: Swedish Princess Cake.

You know that I love everything Scandinavian, and specifically anything from Sweden in particular, so when I saw pretty photos of this dessert I was captured. It was just so lovely! I figured a Valentine's Day/Birthday Party would be the perfect time to try to attempt this grand dessert, and so I spent hours the night before the party preparing the separate components of the cake.

I found a very detailed recipe for the cake here on this website. The night before the party I was able to get a large portion of this dessert complete, which proved very handy since I would be so busy the next day. I was able to make the white cake, the pastry cream (which I don't think turned out quite right, but more on that later), and the marzipan (something else I had never made before!). The marzipan would cover the cake much like fondant does on fancy wedding cakes, and I was rather terrified of it. I had never used anything like marzipan or fondant before! Swedish Princess cakes are usually a light green color, but I saw on Pinterest that some were also colored a lovely pink, and so I chose that color for my cake to go with the Valentine's Day theme. As I kneaded the food coloring into the marzipan I prayed that the cake would turn out alright, or else Paul, Laura, and Quinn would have to blow out candles in a cookie rather than a real cake!

The next morning Quinn made the lemonade and the whipped cream for the cake while I started to put the layers together. Between each of the three layers of cake went some of the pastry cream along with a thin layer of raspberry jam. When the whipped cream was all done we added the pastry cream to it and I started the process of covering the whole cake in a dome of cream! Meanwhile, Quinn helped roll out the marzipan (I had started this before putting the layers of cake together, but I found that my frail little arms weren't going at a very fast rate! Thank you honey!).

In the photo above you can see that some of the pastry cream turned out rather lumpy, but Quinn told me it would taste wonderful all the same. As we got ready to put the marzipan on the cake I triumphantly told Quinn that "I've fried chicken before! This should be a piece of cake!" Unfortunately, it was not a piece of cake...
In times like this it is important to take a step back, understand that the end of the world has not yet come, and laugh at yourself. That's why I didn't mind Quinn taking this photo of my ruined marzipan (it tore right down the middle as we put it on) and me still with curlers in my hair. Oh well, perhaps I will be able to laugh at it in a year or so. Haha!

In order to fix the broken marzipan I scraped the whipped cream that had stuck to it from the cake and Quinn re-rolled it into a large piece that we sort of just threw on and hoped for the best. I didn't want to try to cover the large seam that ran through the center of the cake, so I just decided to live with it - after all, hopefully the taste would cover up the patchy exterior. After spending hours upon hours on this cake I was (though it's silly to admit) tired of looking at it, so we put it in the fridge and I prayed that the marzipan would't fall off the cake altogether! To the main house we went, Quinn carrying potatoes and our Dutch Oven and myself with a basket full of Valentines!

Quinn started right away on the fries, while I helped Melissa set the table. We wouldn't be putting out Valentines yet, they would have to wait till after lunch! Greta looked mournfully out the back door, for Paul was grilling out there...

Inside the table was all set and ready, and Laura had set out deviled eggs that she had made. Oh, but wait...it seems someone has already gotten to them!

All the cookies and treats were set out on Melissa's favorite Christmas present: a new cast-iron stove! It seems the ovens had been busy with all of these sweet looking cookies, and who do you suppose those boxes of chocolates are for, hmmm?

One of the other stoves was even more covered than this one, but in brightly wrapped packages!

In the kitchen Quinn called that the fries were done and a group of hungry people crowded around to watch him pull them out of the Dutch oven, looking (and tasting!) fantastic! Paul came in with a plate full of burgers and it was time for the party to begin! As we sat down to eat, someone remarked "Burgers and fries and parties, one could almost believe that it's summer!" and we all agreed!

I think we all must have been hungry because not much was said during lunch, but I think everyone agreed afterward that Quinn's fries stole the show. Before we knew it it was time for presents and Valentines! Everyone retrieved things from hidden spots and carefully set beautiful surprises at each persons place at the table. It was such a joy to see all the colorful things awaiting you!
 As I promised, I'll share with you a few of the poems I wrote for everyone in their Valentine cards. I think everyone liked them, and I hope you like them as well!

For Melissa:
I'm not a flower, nor a dish or a shoe,
I may not be an oven, but I'm in love with you.
And though I'm not a flower, a dish or fancy shoe,
Perhaps you could find it in your heart to love me too?

For Abigail:
Coffee and chocolate are both lovely things,
And boys are alright with their speeches and rings.
So what could I do to win all your love?
I'll kill all the spiders! (And give you all things above.)

For Paul:
I know the doctors have you eating right,
But it won't hurt to take just one bite.
And if you feel bad just remember your kin,
For you come from a long line of Chocoslovakians!

In case you didn't guess, Abigail does not like spiders whatsoever, haha! And the silly Czechoslovakian joke in Paul's poem is all thanks to Abby: One day the band was playing up at the Mount Roberts Tramway here in Juneau. Abigail was quite young then, and someone asked her where her family came from. She replied that they were "Chocoslovakians" which is very close for a young girl!

I think it is safe to say that everyone enjoyed their poems, though I did sign them 
"-Anonymous" so they were a bit baffled at the beginning - but isn't that part of the fun of Valentine's Day? I also gave everyone another Valentine, this one cut from an old road atlas and decorated with confetti from my friend Jaclyn's stationery store, "Leaving a Paper Trail" (which I talked about in the Valentines making post here). Here are some photos of the one I made for Quinn - though each one had a different saying typed out on the front:

I have to say, I felt quite special after opening all the pretty cards and marveling at all the yummy chocolates and candy set before me. It's so nice to feel loved, especially through the giving of silly cards and Valentines! Please tell me about your Valentine's Day celebrations below in the comments, Dear Reader, I would love to hear about them! Did you make some homemade Valentine's this year? Did you make any special treats?

Speaking of which, it was time to reveal the Swedish Princess Cake, oh dear! Quinn again assured me that all would be well, and together we went back to the Barn to retrieve it from the fridge. To my relief the marzipan had mostly stayed on the cake, and it only needed a little moving about to get back where it was supposed to be. Before we went back inside I had him take a photo for me:
Of course I'm trying to hold it so the large seam that goes down the middle isn't visible, but believe me, it was there! Haha! I also read that a lot of bakers will put a pretty ribbon around the base of the cake to cover up the seam of the marzipan, so I did that as well with a bit of lace that I had lying around. I decorated the top of it with mini roses and rose buds that I made out of extra marzipan. 
Everyone was very surprised when I brought it in. It looks so different from what we in the US think of when we think of a cake. It doesn't have straight sides and it has a big dome on top, nothing like what usual fancy cakes are like here. Melissa wasn't sure if we would "ruin" it if we put candles in it, but I said it would be fine, so Paul, Laura and Quinn got to blow out candles after all!
No, none of them are turning 108. Melissa just added up all of their ages, and they each got a candle, haha!
Quinn was super nervous after the marzipan fiasco, so he blatantly told me that I would have to cut the cake, he wasn't going to mess it up again. He's so silly, isn't he? I didn't mind at all, I just hoped it would taste good!

Dear Reader, I'm not quite sure how to say this but believe me that it was worth all of the hours and all of the failure with the marzipan. Yes, it was that good. So if you ever have a spare two days or if you're just swinging through Sweden someday, I heartily recommend getting a slice (or probably two or three) of this cake, because it was fantastic! And the best part, everyone agreed with me! They all loved it as well!

And though Valentine's Day is now passed, the idea of love is still on my mind as I ponder a cherished verse from 1 John:

"We love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

I pray your Valentine's Day was filled with love from family, friends, and the One who started it all, our Lord Jesus Christ. It turns out that I'll be gone from Blueberry Barn for Easter, one of my favorite holidays, as the band will still be on tour, but I hope to celebrate (and decorate the Barn) later in the month of April. Please also know Dear Reader that I plan to keep you updated on the happenings while I am on the road, perhaps in the style of a travel journal, so I won't be dropping off the face of the earth for six weeks, I promise! I would also love to have your prayers as I am away, for a tour is an exhausting experience in nature, though it is filled with new sites and adventures as well. Until next time friend!

The Brambles of Bainbridge

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Soon after Quinn and I were married my parents and siblings moved down to Washington to the lovely Bainbridge Island. I was so sad to see them go, but they are still pretty close to Alaska so I don't mind too much. I got to visit them at the end of January for ten days, and what a wonderful time it was! My mother took off from work for a whole week so she could spend time with us! And since everyone was pining for her, Greta came along as well (and did much better in the belly of the plane this time around!). 

In true Seattle fashion (Bainbridge Island is only a short ferry ride away from the center of bustling Seattle), it rained almost the whole time we were there! I felt terrible about this, as Greta hardly got out of the house at all. Somehow I don't think she minded all that much though...Inside the house was where all the action was and she got so much love while she was there! One bright morning we were able to escape the house though, and so off on a walk we went - to one of my sister Bethany's favorite running spots.
There were ducks of all types all over the park! It was so nice to see so many brightly colored birds, and Greta especially loved barking and chasing them with Quinn:
Spring has yet to come back to Juneau of course (as I write this there is still snow on the ground), but signs of Spring were already returning to Bainbridge. Below is a photo I took of a budding cherry blossom tree, the pink was absolutely beautiful!
There are certain things I always have to do when visiting my family in Seattle:
   1.) Eat at our favorite ramen restaurant in the International District.
   2.) Eat french fries with my sister Valerie.
   3.) Quinn's favorite - Eat at Taco Bell.
   4.) Shop Pike's Place Market.
I just realized that all four of those things have to do with food! Haha! I guess the best times are had over good food, isn't that right?
We got to do all the things listened above (and then some of course!), but my favorite is probably shopping at Pike's Place Market - It's always fun!

Despite the rain, if you are ever in Seattle make sure to stop at Pike's! I know the market inside and out now, and my favorite store is a little Polish Pottery shop nestled under the hustle and bustle of the street-level floor. Quinn's favorite is a comic book store on the same lower level. You can't beat Pike's for beautiful displays of fruit, vegetables, fish, flowers, and all sorts of other things:

Just looking at these pictures makes my mouth water! One of my favorite stalls sells all types of dried fruits and vegetables. I always make sure to get a big bag of their cinnamon apple chips - and then I try not to eat them all before getting back to the ferry!

Pike's is also know for their large selection of fresh seafood, and of course they throw their fish all over! I tried to get a picture of this for you, Dear Reader, but they were too quick for me! Haha! Perhaps next time I'll get one. On a not-so-appetizing-as-the-fruit note, here's some octopus along with your fish:
The octopus is my favorite sea creature, but I'm not sure I would eat it...(though my mother did trick me into squid once. Thanks mom.).

On a brighter note, the flowers! Oh my goodness! If only I could have taken all of them home with me! The brightly colored bouquets were just stunning, and the rainy weather made it all the more difficult not to bring one home!

Just beautiful. I look at these pictures and want to fill the entire Barn with tulips! Washington is known for it's amazing tulip fields, as well as their purple lavender fields. Pike's had plenty of both, and you could get anything with lavender added into it! Not only were their lotions, perfumes, and sachets, but you could get honeys, teas, jams, and all sorts of baked goods with lavender!

I bought a floral printed shawl at my favorite Polish Pottery store, and of course a big bag of apple chips (they're already almost gone! No!), though I may have found a few other things I wanted to take home with me...
How can one resist the call of a herd of corgis!?!

Before leaving Pike's Place we also visited the fabled Gum Wall - and if you haven't heard of this, it's okay, because it's rather strange. You see people (for some unknown reason) like to stick their chewed up gum on the walls of this particular alley way right next to Pike's. Last year, I believe, they had to wash all of the gum off the walls however, since so much had built up that rats were coming and eating the gum. Talk about gross! Although I have stuck gum on the wall in the past, this year Quinn and I opted out, but not before getting some pictures!
I didn't stand too close, don't worry. Haha!

Let's move on shall we? Quinn's birthday was right before we left Juneau, so we decided to celebrate once we were down in Bainbridge. One of our favorite places to visit is the International District in Seattle, where our favorite Asian market (and that ramen place I mentioned) is located. There you can find all sorts of cool things, including foods I would never dare try. But one particular food item has always gotten Quinn's attention when we visited, and this time he wanted to get it for his birthday. What was this food item, you ask? Why one of those cute little ducks we saw earlier:
Here is my brother Wesley and Quinn posing in front of the ducks. We had first planned to just buy a duck or two and take it back to Bainbridge to eat at home, but my momma had other ideas. She had eaten at a restaurant that was known for their duck, so we all met to celebrate Quinn over a dinner of duck and other yummy foods!
Pictured here is my brother Riley, my sister Bethany, my momma, and Wesley. Why Wesley isn't really smiling in this picture I don't know, he was probably just hungry for duck!
The restaurant had a large circle table, and it was fun for all of us to sit around it! Here is Valerie, myself, my dad, and Mikala, my sister-in-law (married to Riley). 

Now, I had never had duck before but I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone more so I was determined to try it. When it finally came out (on two platters! One was the skin, and the other had more meat on it) Quinn was so excited!
I am happy to say that it was wonderful, and everyone loved it! 

Yes it's true, I have such a beautifully photogenic family! Haha! My sister Valerie actually took quite a few of these photos - didn't she do a nice job?

As the meal came to a close we went around the table and said things we admired about Quinn, the birthday boy, making him feel all the more special I'm sure. But this wasn't all! Back on Bainbridge Island there was something else waiting...dessert!
 24 candles!
I'm not sure why everyone is laughing in this next one, 
but I'm sure it was something Riley did.
I know this blog post isn't like what I normally do, but I thought you might enjoy seeing a glimpse into my crazy family. Of course my brothers Cody and Henry weren't there, nor was my future-brother-in-law-to-be Tyler, but it was certainly a wonderful time - and truth be told it was hard to come back to Blueberry Barn, knowing I could't take them all with me. I'll be seeing them again soon though, as Bethany's wedding will be this coming June and that will be a party! 

I think it's true what they say: no matter how far away your family is, you carry a piece of them with you wherever you go. Goodbye for now Seattle, until next time!
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