North Pole, Alaska

We found Santa’s Workshop!! In North Pole, Alaska there is a magical place that houses a magical man, his wife, and their elves. He wasn’t there when we went in March of course. I am assuming he and his wife were on vacation in a much warmer climate, maybe Hawaii! His elves were also not a sight to be seen, but people were representing them as Santa’s helpers in his little shop.  We walked around and looked at all the handmade toys and gifts available for purchase and I bought these cute little Eskimo salt and pepper shakers for my table at home. They had a magnet in their head so their heads would touch and noses met in an Eskimo kiss. I say had because my beautiful dog broke them recently. He wanted to see what was on the table and they were atop a tile floor. The woman was shattered but the man and dog still remain in tact. I am mentioning this in the blog because it was an impactful memory for me, an accident by my dog, and a lesson in time about what is truly important. I am glad to have my memories of Santa’s workshop and his house since the memento is gone.

After our purchases we continued to walk around, and then, we found his chair!! It was huge, so Santa must be a giant in real life. I do not know where our pictures are from that moment but the memory lives on inside my head with happiness. We sat, we wished, and our wishes came true. We all wanted to see the lights for my cousin’s birthday. We were on our way to stay at a cabin in the woods with a field right behind it where the lights were said to appear. They did!! On the very night of her birthday, we were sitting in chairs we brought, in the middle of the field, and they danced across the sky. This time they were green, yellow, and purple!! This is her favorite color, purple, so you can imagine our excitement. (The purple is not pictured here for your eyes ti see unfortunately.) Another wonderful thing that happened was that they were dancing in the beat of happy birthday. Aroush and I started singing happy birthday to her right then and there and the lights put on a show. That moment was super special to us because our grandmother always sang to us on our birthdays no matter where we were and we both felt she was with us. Do any of you have a memory like this that lives in infamy?

After leaving the lights, due to a huge drop on temperature, we proceeded back to the warm cabin. Before we entered we looked at one another and our eyebrows had frost on them. Aroush had frosty snow on his face and he looked like Santa himself. We took off all our snow gear after walking through shoulder deep snow to the cabin’s door. When we were finally inside, we got to sit, relax, and enjoy the amenities. The cabin felt like a warm blanket hugging us. I love this similar, I may have used it in a previous blog. It just makes me feel cozy every time I read it. We made hot chocolates and lit a fire and stared outside at the snow while talking about our Alaska trip as a whole. All three of us remember that time in our lives fondly and still talk, or in this case write, about it. We loved it and our time together. Hoping you all have someone to travel with that lights your imagination up, makes you feel safe, and that they are just lovely to be around. I am grateful for the two people I chose to travel to the wilderness with. Hoping everyone in Alaska, and the lower 48, also including everyone reading in the world…has a happy weekend filled with wonder! If you celebrate Christmas, there are 17 more days until the big day and I still have ornaments available! They make nice small gifts or stocking stuffers. Thank you for reading and supporting my art journey!

-Karen Hilliard 

Also, if you would like to show support, I recently joined “buy me a coffee” which is a way for anyone to contribute to the creative process behind the paintings. Fuel the artist so to speak. Here is the link if you are interested and I truly appreciate the support and the fact that you are liking these blogs, as well as my art posts. I am working hard to bring you all fresh content!
Thank you again for all of your support!

Lights and Ice

We drove back from the Ice Show listening to music and rolling around in the back of a van, then we were greeted with a Light Show upon our return to the hostel! What an amazing sight to see those lights and that sky in person. Pictures do it justice but the overall experience of standing below them, and looking up, is truly magical. They are unworldly. I felt as if I was standing on another planet or in space. The way the auroras moved and glided through the sky like a river flowing and carving out a canyon, it was breathtaking. On that night we were blessed with green and yellow lights. After staring at them for quite a while, we decided to go back to Billie‘s, grab our cameras, and try to capture the moment. By the time we got back, the lights were very light and fuzzy so we decided to head into town and go to the local bar. We drank, we danced, and we talked all night. Then we walked back to the hostel and enjoyed each other’s company.

The next day, my cousins came back, and I told them about the show.. We all decided to go that night because they wanted to experience it. I thought it would be the same as the night before, and I was wrong. All the sculptures were there that I saw before, but something amazing happened! When the sun fell, and the night came on, the head of the ice show and the workers lit a bonfire inside a giant ice cube. It was such an amazing sight to see. I loved watching the people stand around, looking like shadow figures and the light of the fire going up into the night sky. There were no aurora borealis on this night so this was a whole other light experience. Basically, Alaska was just an experience of lights. Between the aurora borealis, the ice show, and the bonfire we were treated to amazing wonders all around.

My cousins and I walked around and found a little house made out of ice that we sat in and talked for a while at the little table that the artist made. We sat in a ice car and pretended to drive it around. My cousin threw a snowball at her husband. Then they both put their tongues on ice and stared into each others eyes, and we were all grateful that their tongues didn’t get stuck to it like in a Christmas story! Hindsight… Super glad they didn’t get stuck. My cousin did grow up in Utah, in the snow, and took survival training when she was a young girl in high school, so she knows a lot about snow and ice. She wasn’t worried. Then we just walked around and talked and had a great time and that was when the sun was still in the sky. As I said, when the night fell on, the bonfire got lit, we just stood there and stared at it in awe of where we were. Forever grateful for this life and those experiences. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday! I have an ornament collection this year inspired by our Alaska trip. Also, if anyone would like to show support, I have joined ”buy me a coffee” recently where viewers can contribute. This small act of kindness helps keep me motivated and is much appreciated. Here is the link, and Thank you!

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the Christmas Ornaments for 2023! These have motivated me to write about my trip to Alaska, and I hope you enjoy the journey. The link to all my Tundra Collection is HERE!!

Chasing Lights

Sitting around the kitchen table late at night and into the early morning became our daily routine while in Alaska. My cousin, her husband, and I arrived in Fairbanks and had scheduled ten days total for our trip. We were hoping to see the lights either in Fairbanks or at the North Pole; we were fortunate to see them in both places and for five out of the ten nights we were there. As we sat around the table at Billie’s Backpacker Hostel chatting with others about the best times to see the lights, we were also discussing cameras. Everyone was sharing information about lenses, apertures, how their cameras did in different temperatures and how the atmosphere would affect them. Luckily, I met an amazing person who helped me with my camera and timing. Because of him we were able to come home with some very nice pictures to go with our memories. 

As the PM was slowly turning into AM, we all piled in a van and headed to the spot on a hill where everyone said the best place to see the lights would be.  And…it was. The lights filled the sky with greens, and yellow hues, and were dancing across it with such a vibrant movement. It was amazing to watch them go from thick to thin and wispy. They were strong and powerful, full, and then quickly thinned out and flowed like a river winding through a canyon. We all just stood there in complete awe and wonder. Some of us already had cameras out and were clicking away. My cousins and I were just captivated and standing still with smiles on our faces. I realized I needed a tripod so we waited until the next night to take pictures and just decided to enjoy the moment. Sean Penn said it best in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty about how some moments aren’t meant to be captured, but enjoyed.

We stood for what felt like hours and then piled back into the van. The next time we went out I was able to borrow a tripod from another nice person at the hostel. Billie’s truly is a magical place and I cannot rave about it, or her enough. As we went out, the temperature was dropping fast and I was able to get some amazing shots before my camera froze. I did not know that could happen. I always imagined the photographers with their giant lenses taking photographs of polar bears in the arctic and National Geographic photographers taking pictures swimming in frigid water, therefore thinking everything would be fine. My little Canon Rebel and I learned a different lesson that night. My camera probably knew it would happen and thought, hey lady, put a sweater on me, but I had no idea. Learning. Nonetheless, we went home with wonderful photographed memories. Other people had fancy cameras and I asked my cousins if they wanted pictures like that where the sky looked like the Milky Way. Her husband, my cousin, said, “Nope. I want it to look like how we saw it when we were here. I cannot see that purple sky and all those stars with my own eyes so I like how your pictures look. How we really see it.” In that moment I realized we captured the true moment of enjoyment. It was pretty awesome! Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday! 

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the Christmas Ornaments for 2023! These have inspired me to write about my trip to Alaska, and I hope you enjoy the journey. The link to all my Chilly Wonderland Collection is HERE!!

Off to Fairbanks!

A few years before meeting Chris, I had the opportunity to travel to Alaska. I was living with my best friend, who is also my cousin, at the time. She researched when the best time to see the Aurora Borealis was and found out March was a great month to try. This also happened to be her birthday month so we were pretty excited. She came to me and said, “Do you want to go to Alaska to see the Northern Lights? Bill Nye the Science guy is taking a team of people there in March so the lights must be beautiful that time of year. I replied sure! We thought, if Bill Nye said so, it should happen, right? Why would he go to try and film a show if there was a chance it may not work out? So, we saved and then booked our trip to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Getting to Fairbanks was quite a journey. We left out of Las Vegas and instead of flying direct to Anchorage, we ended up going to one of the other States first with a long layover. We slept in the airport for quite a long time, or tried to, it was freezing! Her husband, who was her boyfriend at the time, ended up walking around to stay warm. This was a much better idea than trying to sleep on uncomfortable seats. After the long wait, it was off to Anchorage, Alaska for our next layover.We had so many stops because we took the cheapest flights possible and ended up taking a day from our trip. We didn’t mind at all because we needed our funds for when we were there. I never had planned anything for my trips before and this trip changed all of that. My cousin loves making itineraries and budgeting for things we want to do. It was very nice and relaxing with a lot of wiggle room for new adventures. She taught me how to have fun by making tentative plans.

My favorite part of the trip was the dog mushing through Denali National Forest Area. I will save that for another blog. Alaska deserves a few, if not several blogs!! It truly was one of the best times of my life. For now, I will write about arriving in Fairbanks, and Billie’s Backpacker Hostel. If you ever go to Fairbanks…Please stay at Billie’s. You will not be disappointed. She, and her staff, make everyone feel like family. There are rooms upstairs and a communal kitchen downstairs. Everyone ends up in the kitchen really late at night discussing when to catch the lights. We felt like storm chasers at times. This hostel is so warm and welcoming that anyone who arrives becomes a friend. I still talk to the people I met there and we were only there less than a week. Highly Recommend! We had our rooms reserved and when we got there some other people showed up. Billie only had the heated garage available for them but her maintenance man and friend slept there with his dog. These people were afraid of dogs so we said we would swap our room for the garage. Billie was very appreciative and everyone ended up happy. The dog was awesome by the way. Wednesday I will tell you about our first time seeing the lights. In it then, have a great Monday, and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Here are the Christmas Ornaments for 2023! These have inspired me to write about my trip to Alaska and I hope you enjoy the journey. The link to all my Chilly Wonderland Collection is HERE!!