Martha’s Diary

In Memoriam

 A few weeks ago the morning had just begun when I heard a long moan. It was coming from a few blocks away to my right. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I’d been accustomed to the recent roars of large equipment removing snowpack, the low babble of men and the scraping of shovels during roof cleaning. Soon came the deafening horn and sirens from the fire department. It wasn’t long before I discovered the cause of the hubbub. The roof on the old Masonic Temple had collapsed. There was silence for a while. The day grew noisier as it wore on. Excavators worked their shovels until at day’s end, the relic was a pile of rubble. And that got me to thinking.


The old Masonic Temple was a landmark in our warm-hearted city, dating back to 1906. Soon after the Masons moved out, someone I know looked at the property with an eye to renting it. It was obvious even back then that the building made up in charm for its lack of modern amenities. With its distinctive tinwork as well as its rectangular meeting hall with theatre seats, it had the power to deliver nostalgic emotion. But the reality of sawdust insulation, decaying beams, and neglected wiring and plumbing turned a rational mind in another direction in a hurry. Despite its place on the National Register and dreams for a dinner theatre or banquet hall, the old temple languished for years on a list of property for sale, left to its own demise, given only a nod or two by passersby. I can see parallels with the story of the old temple and my story of becoming Martha. 


I was largely fashioned from a dorm door that was put up for sale at a UAF surplus auction many years ago. In that state, I looked like a hunk of good wood to the man who purchased me. He thought to himself, “that’d make a good table, or something.” Not a bad deal. So, door that I was, I was shoved into the back of a pickup truck and relegated to a shed away from the elements for many dusty years. When the need for me arose, he said, “I think I have just the thing—I have a dorm door that would make a good Martha.” And so my life as Martha began. In my early days I had done good duty as a solid core door; open and shut countless times, sentinel to good study habits and bad, as well as a few more unmentionable activities. Students had carved their initials on my exterior and I bore those tattoos until I was sanded down for my stint on the street. I was a throwaway when my life as a door was over, but fortunately this man saw a future for me, even before he knew what that future was. He knew I was worth salvaging; he knew there would be another purpose for me. I was safe and dry, cobwebs not withstanding. Never would I have imagined that I’d be here on the corner of Third and Cushman all these 20 years, greeting thousands of people as they come and go. It’s a heady thing!


I wish the Masonic Temple had experienced the same fate. I wish at least the façade could have been spared, but coming down as it did, with a bang not a whimper, time had run out for the old place. There is a lesson in this for all of us. We need to be aware of what is around us and care for it as best we can. Maybe we can hear the moan of the Masonic Temple as a call to action because right down the street there are two other historic buildings for sale. What would happen if we embraced them and brought them to new life, kind of like I was when I was repurposed from the dorm door? Let’s put our glasses on. Hindsight is 20/20. It’s just a thought.

Taste the Difference!

 Here at the store we’re starting off the New Year with an explosion of tastes.  Our January First Friday event offers you the opportunity to taste award winning artisan balsamics and olive oils.  Our Ritrovo Selections  are all organic, aged in oak barrels and produced in Italy.  

Organic Citrus Balsamic Vinegar:  inspired by the sun-drenched lemon groves of Sorrento, this bright balsamic vinegar is a blend of lemon juice, Trebbiano white grape must, and wine vinegar.  Serving suggestions:  finish grilled or smoked salmon; drizzle on fresh garden salads; add zest to fruit or berry deserts; drizzle on ice cream; use in seafood, chicken or tofu marinades; blend in Shrubs for a Spritz or cocktail (Shrubs are a blend of fruit, sugar and vinegar, originally created during the Colonial Era to preserve fruit long after harvest. The vinegar provides a distinct tangy bite); pair with a Tuscan blend or milder extra virgin olive oil for a sunny dressing.

Organic Tomato Balsamic Vinegar:  delivers an invigorating sweet and savory flavor.  Serving suggestions:   use for tomato vinaigrette; pair with extra virgin olive oil for caprese or tomato salads; use in seafood salad; drizzle on grilled tuna, halibut or oysters; use on burgers instead of ketchup; add to tomato-based soups and stews; ideal on bruschette; add zest to Bloody Marys; drizzle on oven roasted tomatoes.

Organic Apple Balsamic Vinegar:  a combination of organic Trentino apples with organic Modena white grape must which produces a balanced “agrodolce” vinegar.  Serving suggestions:  use as a finish on pork chops; use on roasted beets; drizzle on fresh fruit and cheese plates; use on spinach salads; add to BLTs; blend with olive oils for dressings; pair with a fruity extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and Fennel & salt.

Organic Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar:  a combination of Italian raspberry juice and Trebbiano white grape must.  Serving suggestions:  use in salads with spring greens, feta cheese, fruit, and pine nuts; drizzle over grilled radicchio; use as a sauce for duck; drizzle over cheeses or yogurt; drizzle over fruit cobbler or pie; pair with a fresh mint-infused olive oil for an exotic dressing; pair with a milder extra virgin olive oil for vinaigrettes.

Enjoy.  I wish you healthy eating in the New Year!


Small Wonders

IMG_4553As we enter the holiday season, I am reminded over and over again of small wonders. Geese preparing for migration, rime ice forming on the trees around the Chena, a child’s laughter, and a stranger’s gesture of kindness.

In the store you can see small wonders everywhere you turn: the sparkle of candles; a story of friendship between a fox and hare, instructive for the holiday IMG_4531season and beyond; ideas for setting your own décor for the holiday season; artisanal foods and candies sure to delight. If you’ve noticed my holiday attire, you’ve seen that I’m playing my part as a northern princess in my ethereal blue and silver. Nothing fancy, most of my outfit is fashioned from packing material, but see how I shine! I hope each of you take time this holiday season to slow down, set your intention on noticing each small wonder as it comes your way. By the end of December, you’ll have a notebook full of small wonders, which will help you retain gratitude and the wonder of the season into 2018.

May Memories

IMG_2241Around this time of year, I’m thinking of how change creeps up on us.  It was nineteen years ago almost to the day when I first began my Cushman Street watch, announcing each day that the store is open and ready for business.  Since that time downtown has seen many changes.  We now have a variety of venues for gathering with friends, a lovely riverwalk, FairBikes conveniently located in places where we can hop on and off at leisure, the Morris Thompson Center full of information, world class exhibits and friendly people, as well as great places to shop including galleries and gift shops.

What’s at the core, though, is that fine value of making a place home.  In the nineteen years I’ve been around, I think we’ve worked to make downtown Fairbanks more our home.  As the birch trees leaf out on Cushman Street and the world becomes green, I hope you’ll think back on the changes and embrace your hometown downtown and community.  Fairbanks is a great place to call home and we’re happy to share it with our visitors all year around!

Gather Round

IMG_3634On this mild November day, I am preparing to think of thanksgiving and peace. As the sun sinks lower on the horizon, I am reminded of how the light bends and falls at this time of year, of the glorious sunrises and sunsets, of the moon, edging ever so close to the earth in this, of all years. I am reminded of our continuing need to support each other, to allow wounds to heal, to be still, to listen. I hope you can take time out from all that is busy to tune in to what is around you, to offer kindness, to love and be loved.

As the seasons change, so does If Only. The staff enjoys preparing for this time of year and over the past week, they have transformed the store into a holiday delight. The items in the 2016 Holiday Collection will make you feel at home. I invite you in to our If Only home. It is created for you.

I’m Back!

IMG_3639It is a pleasure to stand once again on Cushman Street. The construction is finished and I’ve had a complete make-over as has the store sign. Our building is freshly painted and our flowers are flourishing. Be sure to be downtown for the Cushman Street Celebration on July 11th from 5-7 pm. There’ll be fun, food and music.  What? Did I hear someone say they are closing the street for this event? Lol my Facebook fans!

Down For the Count

IMG_3528You’ve probably missed me while I’m off the street for awhile. Yes, 18 years takes its toll when I’m subjected to the elements day in and day out. I’m getting a makeover and I’ll be back soon. In the meantime you can follow my progress on our Facebook page. And you’ll want to be sure to come by to make your Mother’s Day and graduation selections.  New products await you and as always our staff is ready and willing to assist. Remember I’m smiling, even though you can’t see me.

Think Spring

IMG_3369Everything is changing all around me. The bases of light poles are unobscured by dingy snow, sidewalks clear, and puddles abound. Yes, it’s breakup. Already pussywillows abound, there is talk of geese, Creamer’s Field is being cleared for the upcoming migration. We revel in this short season that soon bursts forth with green leaves and spring flowers. Inside the store, we’re ready to help you make the leap into spring. We’ve filled the store with ideas to pique your imagination and give you incentive to plunge into spring cleaning and spruce up your home decor. If you haven’t been in for awhile, it is time to make your way on back. We’ll be happy to see you.

I’m Back!

IMG_3250My, my, my. The Cushman Street project sure had its ups & downs. Once the sidewalk was poured, I was relegated to the arctic entryway as we needed to reposition the holes for my installation. Yesterday, that finally happened. I am sure glad to see cars headed toward the river once more. And it was great greeting all the First Friday revelers that came out last evening. We had a good time featuring the work of members of the Northwoods Book Arts Guild. If you missed it, you can still catch what’s left of the book selection and the display for the next few days. Elves will be working every night next week preparing the store for the introduction of our 2015 Holiday Collection. Shop early, shop often, shop with us! We’re here for you, Fairbanks!

A Word From the Street

IMG_3193The Cushman Street project continues. The electrical wires are being pulled today. Light poles are up, and curb work continues. There is a lot of action in front of the store, and Martha is inside, waiting for a bit more project completion outside before she is reinstalled to welcome everyone to the store. The big news for all you customers out there is that the cross streets are open again. Accessibility is greatly improved with the opening of Third and Fourth Avenues. You can get here, and you must!