Each year people commission paintings from me for holiday gifts, and I’ve always completed them on time. As I’ve said before, my favorite part about commissions is the stories behind each painting. I also love being involved in the surprise, and try very hard not to ruin it. So, now that everyone has received the paintings, I can finally show them to you. This year I completed nine oil paintings during the holiday season in time for Christmas, or anniversaries. Each one is super unique, and meaningful to my patrons, and the recipients. Thank you to all who commissioned paintings this year, and in the past!
Every year Arctic Valley Ski Area has a fundraiser auction, and this year I bid on a pair of custom skis from Go Custom Skis in Seattle, Washington. I couldn’t believe I was the winner at $75 below retail value! Tristan runs GC Skis, and we started communicating about my new set of boards right away! I wanted a pair of skis that looked like the ones I painted in an image called Ski AK that I have been selling since 2013. The graphic is a nod to the Alaskan flag and says “Alaska”. When I was designing my new skis I put the same graphics on the front, and created a new one for the back of the skis, which was not visible in the painting. I put my Arctic Valley trail map painting inside the text spelling out “Alaska”. The skis got made and hand-delivered by Tristan, who is also a jet pilot for Costco. He happened to fly a group of execs to Alaska and brought the skis, which saved me having to pay for shipping. I bought some nice Marker bindings, and had them mounted at SkiAK.
Yesterday was Santa Skis Free day at Alyeska Resort, and my first chance to try out my new “Alaska” skis. Santa Skis Free day is a blast! Nothing is funnier than seeing 750 Santas riding the lifts, rocking some turns, crashing, drinking beers, and occasionally gathering up scattered gear from an all-out Santa yard-sale. Everyone who dressed up like Santa head-to-toe, or Ms. Claus, an elf, or a reindeer got a free lift ticket!
My skis had just been hot-waxed, and were way more slippery than my old skis. It was also a classic Alyeska ski day with overcast skies, some flurries of snow, fog, and overall terrible visibility. Since I broke my hand up there last year, I hadn’t been back to ski at Alyeska. The new skis were handling way differently than I expected, and I nearly wiped out on Silvertip just after I got off the lift. This happened mostly because I couldn’t see anything. There is a significant drop-off where speed is needed to get up the other side. I didn’t biff it, but I didn’t look very smooth either. I pretty much splayed my legs out and avoided going down from the sheer strength of my groin (imagine me doing this in a Santa costume). Snow sprayed up all over me and I looked like an abominable snowman for the rest of the day. After the fifth run I was getting more comfortable with the short turn radius, and I could sit back and ride them a lot more proficiently. Maria and I made it to the Santa group photo, and skied a few more laps, stopping in the woods for a quick sandwich. We then made it down the mountain with no repercussions. I got many compliments in the lift line, and on the chairlift on my “Alaska” skis, and gave Tristan props each time.
After we took off our Santa suits we went over to Girdwood Brewing to nab a tasty brew! I got the GBC 500: a Brewing Odyssey, and Maria had the IP-AK. Last time I had a beer at GBC after a ski day at Alyeska I was icing a broken hand. Much better to be sitting there without a broken bone. We drove home with enough time to catch the end of my Russian lesson on Zoom, and then we helped a friend assemble a brand new dining room table he had built from a large slab of Elm and solid Walnut. It turned out to be a great day! Cheers to new skis, an amazing new table, and the genius who came up with Santa Skis Free Day at Alyeska Resort!
Turnagain Brewing graciously hosts a contest each year for members of the Great Northern Brewers Club called the Tart Side Challenge. Ted and Mary Rosenzweig, owners of the brewery, give each club member one gallon of wort containing the brewery’s proprietary sour culture from the solera tank we all affectionately call Big Bertha. Our task is to flavor the wort any way we wish, and to ferment it into beer. The entries get judged at the GNBC annual summer campout, and then Turnagain Brewing brews the winning recipe. Last year, Maria won the contest. When I created the recipe for my entry this year, I referred to my experience making small batch beers. I had been mixing beer and fruit for a couple of years now, and I know how much fruit to add to make a beer explode with flavor. I wanted to bottle-condition this beer, since oxidation is one of the easiest and worst things that can happen to a beer at this stage. I also know that people generally tend to like slightly stronger beers over weaker ones. Since this was a beer tasting committee I was aiming to please, I added a 1/2 cup of malt extract to not only slightly increase ABV, but also to restart fermentation. I also added some of my own yeast from my yeast ranching project, since bottle-conditioning doesn’t work without yeast present.
I was unsure what fruit I wanted to put into the beer. Last year Maria won with a blueberry recipe, so I knew blueberries were a crowd pleaser. I also love the Piña Colada beer Ted has been making for Serrano’s Mexican Grill. It all became clear to me when I was making my morning smoothie with a healthy dosage of sour yogurt, pineapple, and blueberries. Blueberries and pineapple would play the starring roles in my beer.
Ted didn’t have enough space to ferment my beer, so he used a French oak barrel, which added Brett to the equation. Ted and I were sipping on the finished beer at the brewery and I suggested that he bottle my beer, so we could cellar it to allow the Brett to develop. Since I’m the local beer artist, I also offered to make a label design for my beer.
I had to design the label quickly, and I think best when I am out running on the trail. The next morning I figured it all out when doing my five mile loop. I came up with the name, “Solera Eclipse” and decided upon a design inspired by the yin yang of T&C Surf Designs. Ted’s solera is where the wort originated, and an eclipse is a noteworthy astronomical event. The yin yang showed off the the contrast of the blueberries and pineapple perfectly. Since it was fermented in Ted’s favorite old wine barrel, I included some barrel parts in the design making a sun.
I am very excited to try the commercial version, I have one bottle left of my homemade version, and I look forward to sampling them back to back! The beer will be released at my art opening at Turnagain Brewing tomorrow (12/03/2021)! I’ll be there 5-8pm, and hope you’ll stop by to try my beer, check out my art, and buy a couple bottles to cellar.
Cheers to Turnagain Brewing for doing this fun contest for GNBC!