8 signs you grew up celebrating the holidays in Alaska

1. “The star’s on!” is your way of saying…
“Let the holiday preparations and festivities begin!” When that big, beautiful 370 bulb star appears on the Arctic Valley mountain side, you can’t resist smiling like an idiot— even if you’re alone in your car.

2. You clock more hours shopping at a wholesale warehouse than the mall.
Sam’s Club, Costco, and Three Bears aren’t just for stocking up on party platters, veggie dips, and extra large tubs of ice cream. They’re also some of your favorite spots for running into friends and buying Alaska-sized versions of everything— gifts included.

3. Your holiday feasts take a walk on the wild side.
No Alaskan holiday spread is ever complete without some authentic harvest season fare. Bring on the wild Alaskan smoked salmon dip, reindeer sausage and cheese plates, fresh Alaskan oysters, moose steaks, baked halibut cheeks, meaty Bristol Bay king crab legs, plump hand picked wild Alaskan blueberry “made from scratch” pies, and more.

4. You enjoy ogling holiday light displays way more than the average American.
There’s nothing wrong with driving at a snail’s pace to thoroughly relish all the twinkly lights. Those mesmerizing electric gems help make the darkness endurable. Besides, everyone else is doing it. It is icy out, after all.

5. Rudolph isn’t the most important reindeer in your world…
It’s Star.

6. When “North Pole” pops up in conversation, it never references the direction a compass points…
To you, it is the location of Santa Claus House.

7. Your excitement over the New Year’s Eve fireworks is for a totally different reason than everyone else.
It’s the one BIG annual holiday where fireworks are actually visible and worth watching… from the relative comfort of your heated car with the defrost on full blast.

8. Celebrating a holiday on the actual holiday is your win of the year.
It might as well be called ‘Holiday Roulette’ considering loved ones frequently work out of town and family is scattered around the lower 48. Celebrating a holiday on time with everyone important present and accounted for? Priceless!

Celebrating the States: The Pacific Northwest

I visited the States for the first time when I was 21. At the time I lived in London and was doing a one-year paid internship as a part of my degree. Instead of traveling home on my holiday, which is what I usually did, I counted my pennies and decided I had enough saved up for a transatlantic flight. Choosing my first-ever U.S. destination was a no-brainer — I was set on exploring Portland, OR and wanted to get a taster of the Pacific Northwest.

This all happened before social media was a thing and before smartphones made exploring new places so easy — my preparation and inspiration for the trip was a copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon, a book that would guide me to some of the most strangely interesting places in Portland that I’ll never, ever, forget.

What initially drew me to visit Portland was the environmental consciousness in city planning and the focus on walkability and public transport that promote both wellness and equality in city living — these subjects, along with lack of racial diversity, and displacement in the region, still deserve much more attention and focus. What brought me back to explore the Pacific Northwest region from the Oregon coast up to northern Washington the following year were the people I met on my first trip, the vibrant art scene (the likes of which I had never experienced before), and the focus on locally-grown, farm-to-table food that I couldn’t get enough of. All this, set in breathtaking surroundings that range from sandy beaches and cliffs to glorious pine tree forests and mountains. Since my first trip to Oregon, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and explore more than half of the states, each unique in their own right. The Pacific Northwest will remain one of the best chapters in my book of travels. —Sofia

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Myra Callan is the designer and founder of Twigs & Honey, a design studio focusing on bridal adornments and accessories, with an emphasis on fine craftsmanship and attention to detail.
“ What endears me to Oregon is the way it keeps surprising me with new adventures while remaining consistently beautiful and livable. My husband and I enjoy the mild weather and gorgeous summers and with that, we’re able to maintain an active lifestyle that includes fishing, hiking, camping, foraging, skiing and road-tripping year-round. We often explore the state on our motorcycles and love finding new hole-in-the-walls serving up delicious, fresh cuisine grown or caught in the Pacific Northwest. With its lush greenspaces, rich creative community and welcome affordability, it truly is the best place to live and grow.”

Boutique hotel vibes was the inspiration in this chic Portland, Oregon bungalow.

Bradley Huson is an experienced Landscape Designer and Interior Decorator residing in Oysterville, Washington.

Bradley Huson and his partner Dan renovated their late 19th century Oysterville, Washington home mindful of its history and original charm.

The kitchen in Bradley and Dan’s Washington home features an antique Victorian sink, soapstone counters and a beautiful view of Willapa Bay.

Louie Gong is a Nooksack artist, educator, public speaker and founder of Eighth Generation, a workspace and shop that fights cultural appropriation by selling Native-made art and goods. It is also the first Native-owned company to ever produce wool blankets. Louie shares, “ Washington State is one of the most beautiful places on earth. At any given time I can look out one way and see the water, look another way and see the mountains, or the forest — and it’s also full of amazing people that care about making the world a better place. So as a cultural artist that draws inspiration from the natural environment, and is also doing social justice-oriented work, this place is ripe with opportunities both creatively and economically. I feel like the justice-oriented messaging embedded in my artwork might not have flourished in the same way that it has if I hadn’t started my artistic journey here in Seattle.”

After 25 years in the global design industry, Oregon-based Angela Medlin moved on to establish the Functional Apparel & Accessories Studio (FAAS), mentoring and coaching the next generation of designers with the aim to diversify the industry. She is also the founder of House Dogge, a range of locally produced natural dog toys and accessories. Angela shares, “This is my third time living in Portland since the 90s. Each time I moved back to the City Of Bridges, it was for my apparel design career with Adidas and Nike. The city changed a lot in between each relocation. This time after deciding to start my own businesses, House Dogge and FAAS, I chose Portland as my home and work base. I’ve since had the opportunity to explore and discover an entirely new world of art, food, and creative culture… Speaking of culture — I’m often asked my perception as a person of color living in a city where I am represented by only 5% of the population. For that reason, I see Portland as a place for me to stand out in a bold, unique way. I’m happy to say I have found my tribe through creativity and I am really enjoying being supported as a PNW ‘creativepreneur.’ Third time’s a charm!”

Angela Medlin and her Olde English Bulldogge, Wubbi, in the dining room of their 110-year-old Oregon home. Photo by Schoolhouse Electric Company, see the full story here.

Mia Gerbino is a Senior Designer at Amazon. As a Seattle, Washington native, she’s the go-to person for recommendations about the best local pizza, pasta, coffee, plants and shopping. She’s also passionate about the local design community, participating in art benefits such as The Hello Poster Show. “I am lucky to call The Emerald City home — a place where you can ski and surf in the same day,” Mia says. “Seattle is an ever-changing landscape where art and technology meet. It’s a genuinely modern city with a diverse, thriving design community where people are grounded, yet driven by curiosity. Here, the elements don’t stop us, rather they inspire us.”

Ka’ila Farrell-Smith is a Klamath Modoc visual artist and art mentor based in Portland, Oregon.
“As an Indigenous Oregonian, I am deeply connected to my ancestral homelands,” she shares. “I work for Signal Fire and we share the beauty of Oregon by guiding diverse networks of artists on backcountry trips. I am inspired by Oregon’s unique geology that has been shaped through fire and water. I can be in lava caves in the high desert, swim in mountain lakes, hike to a waterfall, and camp on the coast all in one day . Most of the year I’m outdoors, guiding trips, going on artist residencies, and teaching decolonizing through an Indigenous lens workshops. I spend the rest of my time in the city, painting, enjoying organic garden foods, and mentoring up-and-coming creative professionals. Oregon offers it all if you are willing to challenge yourself and stay positive.”
Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz, Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA).

This student’s dream home in Eugene, Oregon is rich in history, memorabilia and clever spatial solutions.

Alison Wu is a stylist, recipe developer and wellness blogger residing in Portland, Oregon. Her delicious rainbow-layered smoothies make her nothing short of the smoothie queen!

The unused attic in this Oregon home was transformed into a work studio for jewelry designer Kiersten Crowley.

Salimatu Amabebe is a visual artist and chef based in Portland, Oregon. She is also the founder of vegan and gluten-free food and recipe blog Bliss House and the head chef and creator of Black Feast, “a monthly pop-up dinner celebrating black artists and writers through food.” Photo by Cheryl Juetten.

A moody color palette and bohemian flair add personality and character to this Washington family home.

Born and raised in India, Rina Patel now calls Washington home. She shares, “O n my first visit to Seattle from the East Coast, I felt I was in a different country and I fell in love! It’s so gorgeous here. We are surrounded by two mountain ranges, and the lakes and bay — no matter where you look it’s beautiful. Yes it does rain, [but] all you have to do is look outside — it’s beautiful. And oh when the sun comes out! It makes up for all the rain. My inspiration for my paintings is from the natural beauty that surrounds me.”

Whimsical art creates a beautiful juxtaposition in this historic home on the Longbeach Peninsula in Washington.

Washington artist Samantha Leung shares this about her home state: “Washington is a magical place to live. From the mountain ranges that seemingly envelop the city of Seattle, to the largest temperate rainforest in the US, and the Evergreens that make Washington perpetually green, this is a place that is so naturally beautiful. What truly makes Washington magical though, is the people that live here. People intensely passionate about what they do are encouraged by their community. Innovation and technology are as important as supporting your local businesses, and getting to know your Farmer, Chef, Distiller, or Craftsperson is something that is treasured.”

Samantha Leung is the founder of Hemleva, a company and brand “focused around bringing greenery into the home and into our daily lives.” Her handmade brass mobiles and plant-inspired enamel pins are all locally produced in Washington. “Creativity and technology are fostered alongside ideas of sustainability, fair trade and supporting as local as possible,” Samantha adds. “This is a place where Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft were born. This is a place where people will wait an hour in line for a bowl of local, organic, traditional pasta made in house from a shop open only four hours a day. It is because they value not only the incredibly delicious food, but also the technique and skill of the artisan making the dish. Like many other people who live in the Seattle area, it may not be where we were born or where we grew up, but it is where I choose to call my home.”

Jocelyn Rahm is a painter, consultant and teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon. She also runs the local furniture and homeware destination Beam & Anchor with her husband Robert. “ What called me to Portland from the Bay Area is still the same thing that keeps me here 14 years later. There is a counterculture spirit here mixed with liberal values, deep kindness, and a casual yet well referenced sensibility. Portland always feels like a small town regardless of how large the city grows. While the winters are bleak, they lend themselves to a robust creative life which is in direct contrast to the summers which are like a [lively] college party that never ends. In an ever more complicated world, Portland offers an ease and simplicity that feels like a panacea.”

This Oregon mid-century pied-à-terre offers its owners a “no-frills” space to display vintage finds and a vast record collection.

Lindy Dodge, founder of Thimble & Cloth, shares her takeaways from life in the Pacific Northwest: “It’s taken me some time to love the changing seasons of Washington without longing for more sun. I had twin babies which forces you to slow down, savor and enjoy, and this shift in attitude stretched to every aspect in my life. I don’t get caught up in wishing to be anywhere else, I enjoy what the seasons have to offer and what they’ve done for me creatively as well. Whether it be farmers’ markets in the spring, gardening in the summer, long days of sewing in the fall or early nights in the winter, the seasons force you to focus on the present. I’ve had many a creative breakthrough in my studio on a long, grey, rainy Washington day.”

Lindy and Travis Dodge have filled their Tacoma, Washington home with a combination of rustic, vintage and modern pieces for a breezy and laid-back feel.

Lindy and Travis updated the kitchen in their century-old Tacoma, Washington house by pouring concrete on the existing countertops, repainting, tiling and updating the hardware.

Lokokitchen founder Lauren Ko is a writer, artist and self-taught baker who lives in Seattle, Washington. She shares her stunningly intricate pie designs on Instagram.

These Alaskan Sisters Want You To Get Back To Nature And Eat Your Salmon

Emma and Claire, the Salmon Sisters

Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton, also known as the Salmon Sisters , own and operate their own fishing company, harvesting wild seafood from Alaska. They learned the skills of the trade long ago while growing up on the far-flung Aleutian Islands on their family’s homestead, which ran on alternative energy sources. Born into a hard-working commercial fishing family, these sisters spent their summers fishing for wild halibut and salmon. Even though the sisters eventually left home to attend college, the call of the wild brought them right back to Alaska and to their love of nature, wide-open spaces, and fishing. These fisherwomen sell inventive apparel, housewares, and boots as well as ship thousands of pounds of wild halibut, sablefish, Pacific cod, and salmon all over America. Plus, they have a new photograph-filled cookbook with 50 recipes and stories that inspire readers to live close to the land.

The current pandemic has affected the Salmon Sisters fishing business, ran by an all-female crew, but not in the ways you might think. I asked Emma questions about her livelihood, giving back to Alaskan communities, and why it’s so important to create space for spending time in nature while also following your passion.

What is it like working with a sister? Tell me about your childhood as it relates to your current success. What lessons did your parents impart?

Working together has always felt very natural to us. Experiencing so much together from a young age has given us a common thought process – communicating is easy, and we know each other so well we don’t need to explain things or justify them, we just know. Working on the boat together when we were younger made us learn to really trust each other and understand each other’s reactions to difficult situations. The everyday challenges of running a business seem more doable because we get to do it together - when one of us has a bad day, the other brings the optimism. We also have different and complimentary skill sets, which helps us split up the work and inspire each other.

What was it like growing up so close to wilderness?

The homestead we grew up on in the Aleutian Islands was very remote, so our childhood was special, wild, and also difficult at times. The closest people lived a boat ride away in a small village, so our family spent most of our days together and Claire and I had each other for company. There was a lot of work to do to keep the homestead running like: collecting and chopping driftwood for firewood, tending our garden and greenhouse, putting up salmon that we caught in our net, keeping our waterwheel and hydroelectric power running, making all of our food from scratch, picking berries, catching fish, mending fishing nets, etc.

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From a young age we learned how working with your hands and body can be rewarding, and we learned to work with our family and each other. We had a lot of time to play outside, made a lot of artwork and explored on the beach all the time – creativity and resourcefulness was passed down from our parents. We were given the opportunity to work on our family’s commercial fishing boat when were teenagers, and from that experience learned about trust and the simplicity of life on the water and the honest work of a fisherman.

Emma and Claire grew up on a homestead in Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands.

Tell me a bit about your background and how your company came alive. What were the initial challenges?

We grew up on the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula in a fishing family. We worked on our family’s boat catching halibut and salmon through high school and to pay our way through college. I studied art and English at Williams College and Claire studied Business Administration and Nutrition at University of Vermont.

We studied abroad in Italy during the same year and I started screen printing some of the fish we love catching in Alaska. I made t-shirts and tote bags with a Yellow Eye Rockfish print and gave them to friends and family for the holidays. Claire helped set up an Etsy shop and, after we graduated from college, started spending more time on new designs and online sales. Claire was also selling fish with her husband Peter in the Midwest and in Seattle, and we were fishing in the summers.

Salmon Sisters definitely started as a sister project and became full time jobs that supported the seasonal lifestyle of fishermen. We loved being able to spend months on the water, and then bring back all that inspiration to land again and spend the winter creating and building our business. Initially, we took our business seriously, but it took a while for others to see it as more than just our hobby. It was also difficult to keep the momentum going when we left for months at a time to go fishing, but we basically just told customers we were “gone fishing” for the summer. It took time to find the right production process for our apparel, and to figure out the logistics of selling and shipping seafood. We eventually hired a team and opened up shops in Alaska, and every step of the way has had its challenges and learning opportunities. It feels like there’s always a new opportunity to learn from.

How does Salmon Sisters celebrate Alaska's coastal heritage and the wild places where you live and work?

People in our coastal communities are amazing because of the knowledge, resourcefulness, and creativity that living in Alaska has cultivated within so many of its residents. We celebrate coastal heritage through storytelling, profiles of local makers and artists, young fishermen, and other inspiring people in our community.

We strive to raise awareness for the importance of a healthy habitat for humans, animals, and salmon. We do this through our designs and products, and also through food. Connecting people to wild fish is a good way to get them thinking about where their food comes from and the importance of having a clean ocean and healthy ecosystem for their food to grow and live in. We tell the story of wild Alaska seafood and the people who harvest it, who are also stewards of the ocean and natural resources they depend on. We offer a connection to wild places through food, industry, ecology, and recreation.

Since they were young, Emma and Claire have worked on commercial fishing boats and continue to fish . [+] each summer while running Salmon Sisters.

What is the company ethos and culture around food security in Alaska, healthy eco-habitats and ecological commercial fisheries, and sustainably-sourced products?

We give fish to the Food Bank of Alaska to support healthy communities connected to traditional and local wild food. We partner with organizations working to protect marine ecosystems and the people who depend upon them in Alaska. We promote Alaska’s responsibly-managed fisheries, fishermen as stewards of their marine ecosystem, and Alaska seafood as a renewable resource for future generations. We tell stories of Alaskans’ connection to the ocean and all users of salmon. We offer original designs and functional products that are sustainably sourced and ethically manufactured for an ocean lifestyle.

How does Salmon Sisters give back through the Give Fish Project and the Food Bank of Alaska?

We founded the Give Fish Project in 2016, to give back to the Alaskan community that has supported us and our business over the years. Eating wild Alaska seafood makes us feel healthy, happy and strong – which is something we want to share with as many people as possible. 1% of our net profit is set aside to purchase wild seafood caught by Alaskans, which we donate to the Food Bank of Alaska, supporting both fishermen harvesting this delicious wild protein and those who need it most.

Salmon Sisters has donated over 130,000 cans of wild salmon caught by fishermen in Alaska to the Food Bank of Alaska , which distributes our donation across the state. Close to 1 in 7 people, and 1 in 5 children, struggle with hunger in our state. We are proud to play a part in tackling food insecurity by sharing the bounty of the ocean, and we hope to inspire other businesses to find creative ways to address challenges in their own communities.

2. Or just for those under-the-weather days

“Matzo ball soup as a starter or appetizer before Rosh Hashanah and Passover meals is a meaningful food tradition that has been passed down in my family. Interestingly, matzo ball soup as an appetizer for the big holiday meals even has bled into becoming a staple in times of illness in our family. From a cold, to a flu, to, say, a difficult first-trimester pregnancy (for me), matzo ball soup has been nourishing and traditional.

Now that we have a small baby, he'll be partaking in the tradition of matzo ball soup (except that he is unfortunately allergic to egg, so we'll use a substitute). Judaism is all about upholding traditions, and the edible ones make it all the more fun. There's something about matzo ball soup that is comforting, soothing, festive, safe, and brings a sense of security.” —Monica Auslander Moreno, M.S., R.D.N.

National NAHM Virtual 2020 Celebration

November 9 – Virtual Kick Off Celebration

1:00-2:00pm EST Live at www.doi.gov/events

Our keynote speaker at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2020 National Native American Heritage Month Celebration is Tara Mac Lean Katuk Sweeney (Iñupiat), Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, DOI. Ms. Sweeney is the first Alaska Native and the second woman to be confirmed for the position. Ms. Sweeney, from Utqiaġvik, grew up in rural Alaska. Ms. Sweeney is a tribal member of the Native Village of Barrow Traditional Iñupiat Government and the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, both federally recognized tribes in Alaska.

She has spent her professional career working to empower Native organizations and communities through advocacy at all levels of government, with a strong focus on the federal process. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Ms. Sweeney is married with two children. The Assistant Secretary is responsible for carrying out the Department of the Interior’s trust responsibilities regarding the management of tribal and individual Indian trust lands and assets and promoting the self-determination and economic self-sufficiency of the nation’s 574 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and their President Trump proclaimed November as National Native American Heritage Month. At the Department of the Interior, we are committed to upholding our trust responsibilities to Native peoples and advancing tribal sovereignty and self-determination, as well as honoring the historic and significant contributions American Indians and Alaska Natives have made to our Nation.


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