Holiday House

I was in Juneau, Alaska last week.

It was a treat to see real winter, as ours in Seattle tend to be mild.

Mostly I was there to see my sister Constance, a well known Alaskan artist.

Her solo show, “Breakthrough,” was at The Juneau City Museum, and scheduled to open for Juneau’s big annual Gallery Walk.

We hung her paintings the night before.

Her work is vibrant and exciting.  It catches your eye from across the gallery…


…and is mesmerizing up close as well, with intricate detail and creative use of negative space.


Then we shopped for cheese, crackers, nuts, and veggies to serve at the opening.

Constance’s friend Nancy made five dozen deviled eggs, which were also a work of art. (Nancy’s husband Andy applied the garnish.)

 There was a great turnout, and Constance sold some beautiful paintings.  Her work will be on display until December 27th.  To view her artwork for this show and to read her artist statement about it, click here.

The whole town turns out for Gallery Walk.  Every shop and gallery in town serves refreshments and features local artists.  People come out in droves, wearing their sequins and snowboots. I popped over to Annie Kaill’s and saw my sister’s painting, Holiday House, in the front window of the shop.  This festive painting was on loan to the gallery from its owners.  Someone I talked to said he overheard people praising the painting in St. Petersberg! My favorite art tells a story, and this one tells a story I know.  Constance painted it as a gift for her neighbors Jeff and Terry.  Look closely and you can see Jeff in his brown overalls on a ladder, putting up his Christmas lights. Jeff is the kind of neighbor every neighborhood wants and needs, but few are fortunate enough to have.  When he mows his own lawn, he also cuts the grass of an elderly neighbor.  If Constance comes home and finds her driveway shoveled, she can guess who did it. Constance met him for the first time decades ago, when she bought a sandbox for her kids out in the valley and it wouldn’t fit in her car. She recognized him and, not knowing what else to do, asked a stranger’s help transporting it in his pickup.  It was all set up in her yard when she got home.  On our visit to Juneau last summer he heard that my son Eli was interested in fishing, and offered to take him out on his boat.  Jeff helped Eli land a thirty pound king salmon.  It was the highlight of his trip–all of ours, really, because eight of us ate fresh King salmon every night and there was still some to share with the neighbors. Every year Jeff spends the weeks preceding Christmas putting up tens of thousands of lights on his house, and at least a dozen Santas and snowmen.  His electric bill spikes each December, but the people of Juneau count on him to put some serious twinkle into their holiday. Some people save their treasures for heaven, but I think there’s a twinkle light shining on his house for each kindness Jeff has paid to others.  They add up, all those little lights, and push back the darkness for us all.

All words and images copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Paint.

Click here for more interpretations of Nancy Merrill’s Photo-a-Week Challenge: Artsy.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle.



  1. niasunset says:

    WOW! This is amazing, should be so beautiful to be there, in Alaska and especially to see your sister. Her art work is great. You know I dream to visit Alaska and Himalaya 🙂 Beautiful photographs and memories. Thank you dear Naomi, love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      Yes, it was incredibly beautiful there, but I loved seeing my sister best of all. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your response to her work.

  2. scillagrace says:

    Constance’s paintings certainly do twinkle! Such brilliant color. You can tell she has a vibrant personality!

    1. She does indeed! This show really was a breakthrough for her. She started working really big, which was new, and this work is more abstract than previously, but it pops! Thanks so much for the visit, Priscilla.

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    I’m no art fan but Constance’s work is very eye-catching. Juneau looks perfect if a little cold for me.

    1. Hi Roy,
      Nice to hear form you! It was pretty chilly up there. But this is Alaska we’re talking about. They’re tough. That first photo of Constance was taken while she was sitting outside sunbathing! I hope you are well, and have a great holiday! Thanks for checking in!

  4. raptekar says:

    Thank you, Naomi, for sharing your love once again. Glorious Alaska. Color-plus-plus Constance art. Her work lifts the spirits of Alaskans in the long and dark winter months. I can taste Eli’s grilled salmon. Mmmmmm. And Jeff’s lights show the way for Juneauites at xmas-time. Love your latest blog.

    1. HI Richard,
      So good to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas too!

  5. dogear6 says:

    Thanks so much for sharing family stories about your sister and her neighbor. I loved seeing her work and the town. I’m glad she had a good turnout and support for her artistic efforts.


    1. Dear Nancy,
      Thanks so much for caring. It was a real gala. In Juneau, where the weather is so often terrible and the nights are long and cold, those folks know how to push back the darkness and celebrate. The show was indeed a breakthrough for Constance, and I’m so glad I got to be there to see her shine! Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, Nancy!

  6. Naomi says:

    The arctic is a place I would really love to go someday.The first photo in your post is gorgeous. And, your sister’s art is stunning! I love the colours! I also enjoyed the touching story about her neighbour – a perfect heart-warmer for the holidays. Thank you!

    1. The light there is beautiful, Naomi–so soft and gentle. I wish I could show you her work in person. These photos can’t capture the breathtaking intensity of color, but at least it gives you an idea. I think one day they will make Jeff a saint, and he deserves it.

      1. Naomi says:

        I would love to see your sister’s art. Maybe someday I’ll make it to Alaska…

  7. what beautiful scenery and who wouldn’t want to live next door to Santa’s Grotto; the kids must love it

    1. Hi Dallas,
      It’s a treat to walk by that house, and just looking at it takes the chill out of the night–even for us grownups! Thanks for the visit.

  8. Going to Alaska this time of year is on my bucket list. Thanks for the tour love the art, the lights, the warmth.

    1. HI Carol,

      There is very nice cross country skiing out by the glacier. It’s very fun to take the Marine Highway ferry boat up the Inside Passage. I hope you do get to cross that off your bucket list! Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Wonderful post, Naomi!

    1. Thank you, Steve! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It’s a sci-fi themed New Year’s Eve this year–costumes highly encouraged–and you are surely welcome. Carol will be here for Christmas, if you feel like stopping by.

  10. I’ve never been in Juneau, Alaska till just now. Thanks for the lift and the tour. Gorgeous pictures and a fabulous rundown of art showing. I love bright and colorful. Your sister’s art is awesome. I’m used to snow and don’t really need to go to Alaska to experience it, but I did anyway, with you. 🙂 🙂

    1. HI Tess,
      Thanks so much for coming along for the ride, and for your kind response to this post, and my sister’s art. It was a blast to get to be in the snow, as we usually have a green Christmas here in Seattle.

      1. Something for everyone, then. 😀 😀

  11. leecarlsonyoga says:

    What a sweet post! I love Eli with his enormous fish, and it’s neat to see the contrast between the Holiday House painting and the “Holiday House” in real life! What fantastic paintings our sister has created, vibrant and magical. I wish I could have been there with the two of you.

    1. Hi Lee,
      I do love to see Con’s vision of the world through her painting. Eli had such a good time, and catching that salmon was a highlight. We wish you could have been there too!

  12. I love Juneau. I used to live there in the early 90’s. It feels like a small town community. I only wish I’d known about events like this when I was there, but I was young and probably missed it. Beautiful artwork!

    1. Hi Juliann,
      Wow! You were in Juneau at the same time my sister was there–you might have bumped elbows at the same grocery store (Foodland?) What took you to Juneau? Were you there long? Juneau really has a lovely small town feeling to it.
      Thanks for the visit, and for sharing a bit of your story. I’d like to hear more!
      Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  13. What a lovely story, Naomi! Thanks for taking me into your family and congratulations to your sister! I love your first two photos and your story caught me in particular because we just came back from driving around looking at Christmas lights Would you send me a bit of snow for Christmas? It doesn’t appear that the Chicago area will have any and I do so want some. 🙂

    A merry and blessed Christmas to you and yours!


    1. Hi Janet,
      It’s not looking too good for a white Christmas here either–I had to go to Alaska for a bit of snow, and it was all gone from Seattle by the time I got back.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.
      Best wishes to you for a Merry Christmas!

  14. Such a great story, Naomi! I can certainly see the family resemblance too. 🙂

    1. Thank you! Best wishes for a Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year!

  15. Dorota and Richard Rahn says:

    Dear Naomi,

    As usually your photos are beautiful and the story about Jeff is wonderful. Does your sister still have the painting with exploding colors (she stands in front of it in a fancy outfit). I am interested in it.



    1. Dear Dorota,
      So good to hear from you! Jeff is an amazing guy, and I wish there were more people around like him–I think the best we can do is to try to follow his example. I am sorry to have to tell you that the painting you mentioned, which is titled “Full Spectrum,” sold on opening night. I really loved that one too.
      See you soon!

  16. I love the raw beauty of Alaska and I also particularly love that first painting. What a talented artist your sister is.
    Knowing you like reading as much as I do, have you read “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey? It’s a wonderful adult re-imagining of the fairytale and is set in Alaska in the 1920s. The author lives in Alaska and her descriptions of the landscape are mind-blowing.

  17. Her art is lovely just like you. I’ve been considering an Alaska visit for the first time in my life. It’s a bit closer now and I have a feeling I’ll be craving some snow next year. Still good for now! 🙂

    1. Dear Britt,
      First of all, thanks so much for your visit, and a very sweet comment. Secondly, now that you are out on the West Coat, Alaska is closer than you think. Just look for the magic moment and take the plunge. You won’t regret it. You could take the ferry up and sleep on the deck with all the others who would rather not pay for a cabin. That alone is a trip in itself as you fill up your story banks and get to know others who are also having their own adventures.
      Best wishes for the holiday, and a great New Year!

      1. Happy Holidays to you, Naomi!

  18. What an amazing display of Christmas lights. I’m not surprised the neighbours enjoy the show. 🙂 Your sister’s paintings are wonderful. Well done to her for creating an awareness for the need for nature conservation through her work. That salmon must have been really delicious. What a treat, and the devilled eggs look so yummy. Happy holidays, to you and your family. 🙂

    1. Dear Sylvia,
      Thank you so much for the visit, and for sharing your very sweet comments. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your whole family!

  19. footsy2 says:

    Lovely lovely post – merry Christmas 🙂

    1. Thank you! Same to you, Footsy. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  20. wonderfully heartwarming again Naomi. Lovely paintings by your sister, an Alaskan adventure, a thoughtful neighbour and twinkling lights. Everything for the season!!!

    1. Thank you, Cybele! I hope you have everything for the season too! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

  21. You and your sister… many similarities! Both beautiful and talented and warm-hearted. Her work is so vibrant! And that neighbor! Wonderful!

    We have not seen the sun in Oklahoma this month other than a couple of days….hubby and I were just talking this evening, wondering how our friends in Alaska handle it!? And you’ve given us the answer…talent and ingenuity….they make their own sunshine! Love it, Naomi! Glad you were there for your sis! ♥

    1. Dear Paula,
      What a wonderful message to find waiting for me! I hope you have had some improvement in your weather. Thank you for your warm response to my sister’s work. You are so kind in your response to my sister’s art, and to everything, in fact. You are a positive force of nature in this world. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, Paula!

      1. Merry MERRY Christmas to you and yours ♥

  22. socialbridge says:

    What a colourful, creative family. Brilliant!

  23. Madhu says:

    Constance is gifted. That is evident. But your story telling is an equally precious gift Naomi. Thank you for sharing the beauty.

    1. Dear Madhu,
      You are so kind! Thank you for giving me a lift in spirits, which is only one of the many gifts you share with the people you know.

  24. nutsfortreasure says:

    Nice post! Happy New Year!!!!

    1. Happy New Year, Eunice!!!!!

  25. pattisj says:

    A heart-warming post filled with excitement for your sister’s art show, “real” winter, and the neighbor everyone wishes they had. Hats off to Jeff.

    1. Hi Patti,
      Thanks so much for the visit and the kind words. Best wishes for a very happy New Year!

  26. Kathy says:

    I love Alaska. I’d love to summer there. I have in-laws in Wasilla, where there’s also a wonderful bookstore. They tell me I don’t want to winter there, but I’d like to try for a couple of weeks, as long as I have no responsibility for stocking up on groceries or reading material anything else necessary to life.

    “They add up, all those little lights, and push back the darkness for us all.” So right.

    1. HI Kathy,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response to “Holiday House.” I love Alaska too, and I even love visiting in the winter, but the weather in Seattle is perfect, and I think Alaska winters might wear on me.
      Thanks again for stopping by.

  27. I’ve been trying to talk the hubs into moving to Alaska. He was all for it until we hit 9 degree in Oklahoma. Now, he’s saying no. lol. I’m still working on it though. Congrats to your sister!

  28. Wonderful entries. Thanks for joining my challenge!

  29. Hello Naomi,
    I was posting on Ailsa’s challenge and saw your url. I popped right over.
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful moments in your photos for us to see. There’s a story in each one of them.
    It sounds like the festivities at the gallery opening were a success. Her paintings encourage the uplifting of ones soul. Colors vibrate and I felt her magic in every stroke she placed on the canvas. Can’t wait to go to the web-site.
    A friend is opening her own gallery this weekend. I’ll be attending. I’m anxious to see her new work. She’s a fiber artist. I’ll try to take pix’s.
    Thank you again. It was nice to pop over for a visit. Have a great week.
    Isadora 😎

    1. Hi Izzy! So good to hear from you. I hope your friend’s opening went well. I’m looking forward to reading about it, and seeing the photos. Thanks too for sharing your warm and eloquent response to this story–it was a wonderful lift!

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