Monday, January 19, 2015

New Year's


I don't really have a plan for this blog post. It's a little about my cats, and a little about what I've been up to recently. First, the cats. This is Buffy. I feel like she doesn't get enough love (picture wise), but that's mainly because as beautiful as she is, she's not very photogenic. Joey is always rolling around, posing, and being dramatic. But Buffy does a lot of sleeping in positions that make her look like a big rock. She was attentive for these pictures because she wanted to attack the wrist strap on my camera! I'm the first one to admit it, but I'm crazy for my cats. I'm obsessed. I talk about them to people I hardly know. So get ready. 

We adopted Buffy last Memorial Day weekend. I saw her picture on the Humane Society website, and I knew she was the one. Even when we saw her in real life and she was a little grumpy, and the people there said she didn't really like other cats, I had this feeling she'd be a perfect playmate for Joey. I was right. She's big, clumsy, and pathetically affectionate. She likes butt scratches, being on top of you, and kneading her big paws. 


Our cats aren't very affectionate with each other, but I hope they might be in time. They definitely like each other. They'll sleep next to each other, and Buffy likes to lick Joey's face sometimes (if Joey lets her). But they love to play together. It's cat playing, so it mainly looks like they're fighting. Joey (always the instigator) will walk up to Buffy, paw her in the face, throw herself down on the ground belly up, and then Buffy tackles her. Joey will escape, run away, Buffy lumbers after her, tackles her again. Joey escapes, runs away, hits Buffy in the face, lies down on her back, and then Buffy pounces on her again. It's the same every single time. Joey instigates, waits to be tackled, and then lets it happen.  


That's probably enough cat gushing. On to beautiful things gushing! For Christmas, Paul and I had some gift cards to play with at Powell's in Portland. Among other things (mainly cookbooks) we bought this amazing Mexican cookbook. First of all, it's gorgeous. But secondly, Mexican food is my favorite food, and I'm so excited to have this 700 page masterpiece to play around with. Paul and I make tacos several times a week, something we picked up after coming back from Mexico last December. But I want to make more than tacos and the occasional enchiladas. I'm thinking I might "Julie and Julia" this book, at least the vegetarian dishes. Yes, I just used "Julie and Julia" as a verb. I want to go through the book, dish by dish, and make everything. And blog the process? One of my new years resolutions is to make an effort to blog more, especially everyday things, not just the big fun things. Also, for Christmas, Paul's mom got me this beautiful Portuguese speckled baking dish, which I took a picture of just because it's so beautiful. 


Finally I thought I'd end this post with another bit on new years resolutions. A big one for me is to be more mindful. Mindful of my body: what I'm putting in it, picking up cues it's giving me on how it's feeling, how I talk about it to myself and others. Mindful of myself: my privilege, how what I'm saying affects others. I'm also trying to be mindful about things that make me happy. This term I'm working more hours than I ever have before. So I'm taking time to do things for myself. I've been going to the ceramics center on campus almost every single day. It feels good to be creating. It gives my hands a nice break from all the typing I do as a transcriber.

 I'm also trying to do things that I like, even little things, and not worry about what others think. I've been doing yoga almost everyday since September and I've been documenting it all on instagram.  Is it annoying to all the people following me? I don't know. But it keeps me accountable and lets me see my progress, so I'm doing it for me. Now I'm doing handstands, headstands, all sorts of balances, and being upside down, things I thought would be impossible. I credit it all to taking time everyday to practice, and document it. And isn't it silly? That we worry about such little things, like what people will think of something posted on instagram? I have a lot of really intense views on feminism and body positivity and social justice and all sorts of things like that. I want big changes. I want to do big things. But I'm starting with little things. Like posting pictures of doing a headstand on instagram because it makes me feel proud of myself. 

Another thing that kind of relates is blogging. I feel like I get really self conscious taking pictures in public. But I don't want to not take a picture of something beautiful just because I'm embarrassed. That's what these last two pictures are about. The picture of the front window of Red Wagon Creamery and the lake at Cougar Hot Springs may seem like they have no connection to each other. But they were both pictures taken this month, they were both these perfect little moments I thought were beautiful, and I took the pictures even though I was in public, and people were watching. Here's to 2015. Here's to the little things that make us feel like we can tackle the bigger things.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

End of the Year


Long time no blog, but I have been busy. I've been a transcriber for 13 terms now at the UO, and this past term I worked double the hours I ever have in any other term. So I've been mildly overwhelmed, but well paid, and happy to be busy. In that time, my little sister completed her first half marathon and I was very proud.  


This term was really great. Paul finished his internship after a year and a half and really began working on his thesis. I had morning classes and a night class to transcribe, but always had at least an hour or two in the middle of the day to come home and eat lunch with Paul. I also read a ton, which was amazing. In classes, I transcribe pretty much word for word what the professor is saying, but if there was a quiz, or free time to work on group projects, I just got to sit in the back and read my book until the professor started to lecture again. Classes were two hours long, and quizzes don't take up that much time, but with transcribing six classes a week, most of them meeting twice a week, that time added up, and since I'm a fast reader, I got to read about a novel a week. My job is amazing. I don't choose the classes, but get assigned to whatever classes the students in need are taking. I'm not a student in the class, so I don't get credit, do homework, or take tests, but I do get to go to every class and transcribe the lecture, so I get paid essentially to learn things, and sometimes, read books.   


I transcribed 8 am classes all term, but it was worth it to see sunrises like this one. I thought I might interrupt the regularly scheduled program here to do a little review of the books I read in the last few months. Rae, whose blog I love, does book reviews and I check out a lot of books from the library on her recommendation. I'm pretty sure I'm missing at least one or two books that I read, but here are the ones I remember. 


Valencia - If you've read any Michelle Tea, you will be prepared for Valencia. If you haven't read Michelle Tea, I don't know how to prepare you for this. Her work is always semi-autobiographical, slightly stream of consciousness, graphic, and in my opinion, awesome. I saw her perform live and I love her and if you want to read anything of hers, maybe start with her column on xojane called Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea. Anyway, Valencia documents Michelle Tea's (she's both the author and the main character) journey as a broken hearted, permanently drunk lesbian after moving to San Francisco. 

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher - This is a non-fiction book documenting the life of Edward Curtis, who spent decades in the early 20th century photographing Native American culture. If you've ever seen a sepia-toned/black and white picture of a Native American, I bet you five dollars it's an Edward Curtis portrait. He was an uneducated, self taught man who wormed his way into the circle of people like Teddy Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan to create one of the greatest and most expansive anthropological studies of all time. More than learning about Edward Curtis's life, you learn about Native American culture (and its brutal decimation) and I can't even put into words how important that is. If you read any book I talk about here, read this one.

A Tale for the Time Being - This book was lovely. It goes back and forth between the diary of a suicidal Japanese teenager who's writing to document her Buddhist monk of a grandmother's life and the lady who finds the diary washed up on the coast in Canada, with some diary entries of a Kamikaze pilot scattered in there. So you're reading the diary entries as the narrator is reading them, and then the narrator sections (the lady who finds the diary on the shore) are all about the narrator's response to the diary so far. It's non-linear, beautifully written, has some elements of magical realism, and I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it. I loved this book.

Through the Arc of the Rain Forest - I read this book years ago in an English class, loved it, forgot about it, and wanted to read it again. This book is pretty wacky, so I'll just write what the back of the book says here: "This freewheeling black comedy features a bizarre cast of characters, including a Japanese man with a ball floating six inches in front of his head, an American CEO with three arms, and a Brazilian peasant who discovers the art of healing by tickling one's earlobe with a feather. By the end of this hilarious tale, they have risen to the heights of wealth and fame, before arriving at disasters -both personal and ecological- that destroy the rain forest and all the birds of Brazil." This is a satirical, ecologically minded novel, heavy on the magical realism, and if you're up for it, it's awesome.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - This book kept showing up on "books you should read" lists so when I saw it at a garage sale for ten cents, I bought it. It's from the perspective of a boy with autism as he tries to figure out who killed his neighbor's dog and ends up figuring out a lot more about his family and the secrets they hide from him because of his autism along the way. This book is being turned into a play, which should be interesting, but honestly I thought it was a bit "meh." I didn't dislike it at all, but I also didn't really think it was great either.      

Mockingjay - I wanted to read this before the movie came out. I've read lots of horrible reviews of this book, about how it's a terrible conclusion to the trilogy, about how Suzanne Collins ran out of ideas, blah, blah, blah. I see that. But I also didn't mind it. I thought that it was a logical conclusion to the series. It's a little frustrating how passive Katniss is, but in the book, Katniss is frustrated about how passive she is too. I don't really have anything else to say.

Bonk - Mary Roach writes these really great non-fiction books about weird stuff. I read Stiff, which is her book all about the history of what science does with corpses, and this book is all about the history of research on human sexual response. As usual with Mary Roach, it's really really funny and interesting, but if you're at all squeamish, don't even bother. 

White Oleander - If you've ever taken a creative writing class, you know that one person who just thought they were so great, but in reality they were cliche and used lots of big words and adjectives to disguise from the fact that they were horrible at writing? That's this book. It's from the perspective of a teenage girl going through the foster care system (which should be interesting) but every other sentence is a simile or metaphor and you have to read through eight obnoxious adjectives just to get to the point. I love poetic prose. If you want a beautiful and well written novel that reads like poetry, read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and skip this "fiction 101" crap.  


And now back to the blog! Yesterday, feeling a little spontaneous, Paul and I drove our friend Sam out to the coast. Despite being in the middle of December, it wasn't too cold. We talked, ate car snacks, did cartwheels and handstands, and searched for tide pools.



The Oregon coast is beautiful. We had the whole beach to ourselves.


Before/after.


While exploring the tide pools, there was this hole in the rocks that the tide would periodically burst through and create this big geyser effect. I caught a picture of Paul and Sam getting absolutely soaked. They were so thrilled. It was very thrilling to watch. But I was glad to be dry. The water bursts before this one were significantly smaller, so I don't think either one of them anticipated getting that wet. This beach trip was awesome. Other awesome things: eggnog in my coffee, the scarf I'm knitting, my cats, Serial, Gilmore Girls. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween


I haven't really celebrated Halloween for years.  I love dressing up. I love witchy spooky creepy things. I really love Halloween. But Halloween in college meant three or four days of parties and that was really not my scene. But since I've been out of college for a while I decided this would be the Halloween to step outside of my comfort zone and go all out. I'd put up with parties if I got to dress up. Among rejected ideas were the Black Dahlia and zombie Bonnie and Clyde (Paul refused), but I finally settled on the perfect dead girl, Laura Palmer, which is especially seasonally appropriate considering the recent announcement that after 25 years, Twin Peaks will be back for a third season. 


Twin Peaks is arguably the best TV show pretty much ever. Thank to Netflix I have the ability to binge watch the whole series whenever I want, and this has happened several times. I love every single thing about the show (other than James Hurley's plot line in season two which I always skip through). Everything else though is great. Audrey Horne. The jazzy music! Agent Dale Cooper is even the background of my phone. And Laura Palmer, the cracked out prostitute small town homecoming queen, doomed, dead, wrapped in plastic, may she rest in peace.


This year was going to be my year. I had an awesome costume. Paul had an awesome costume. He just dressed up as gothic version of himself. He thought he was so cool! I saw him checking himself out in the mirror all night. 


But I'm not a partier. I failed at Halloween. It was the end of my 12 day work week which was a bad first move. I was exhausted. But I pushed through and we spent hours getting dressed up, we went to Falling Sky for dinner where we consumed sandwiches, burgers, and beer, full of gluten which my doctor has specifically told me not to eat. This was another bad move. We had so many plans! We had parties to crash! But we came home after dinner, and as soon as I was on my bed, that was it. Night over. Couldn't move. Wouldn't move. Poor Paul. He wanted to go out so badly. It was going to be our first real Halloween in years. But I took off all my makeup, nursed my sad stomach ache, and we watched The Avengers instead. 


The best part of Paul's whole costume was this sharpie arm tattoo.  He was going to write the famous Slaughterhouse-Five quote "everything was beautiful and nothing hurt" but change it to "everything was beautiful and everything hurt" to make it gothic and edgy and anarchist and hardcore. But we realized halfway though beautiful that he had written every, not everything. I haven't laughed that hard in a while.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Apple Daze


Last week Paul and I went to Detering Orchards to pick apples with two of our friends. We picked two flats of apples and then bought some vegetables and fresh pressed cider that we're fermenting into hard cider. But after a week of eating apples and making crumbles, we didn't have enough to make applesauce, the whole reason I wanted to pick apples in bulk in the first place, so we decided to go again this week with our friend Sam who is also really into canning/preserving/applesauce-making like we are. I met Sam working in the primate osteology lab last year, and not only is she a great friend, but she really understands my obnoxious love of animals and also of my weird love of things like bones and taxidermy. When we're together we do things like go get ice cream and then check out DIY taxidermy books from the library, or walk her dog in the rain and then go get tea. So the first thing we both wanted to do at the farm was pet the cows. We also weirdly had on the same sweatshirt, rolled up blue jeans, and Chaco sandals.


The cows were extra vocal and extra slobbery. I think they were in a pretty great mood. The curly headed one really liked getting behind her ears scratched. I'm positive there are plenty of great places to go apple picking in Eugene. But I'm weirdly attached to Detering Orchards. I get very loyal to things that don't require my loyalty. I usually bring my lunch and snack from home, but if I buy food on campus, I eat at the same Jewish deli every single time. Not only am I always in the mood, but I know I like it there, and I would feel weird if I went somewhere else. It's the same thing here. If I'm picking apples or peaches, I want to go to Detering Orchards. It's cute and really cheap. It's not organic, but honestly, I care much less about the official label of organic than I do about supporting local businesses with good, ethical farming practices. It was started in 1934 by a couple who hadn't even finished building their house before they started growing vegetables. It's one of the most diversified farms with the most crops in the Willamette Valley. The founder's grandson runs it today. I just love it. 


Here's a funny candid picture I couldn't not include. Sam and I were posing for pictures, and stopped to contemplate the apples we were using as props. Sam's apple was too juicy. Mine I apparently did not like that much.


I think the only disappointing thing about the whole trip was the fact that despite being the end of October, it was pretty hot, almost 80 degrees. That's too hot for apple picking. The weirdly hot and not rainy weather this fall in Oregon also messed up the apple ripening schedule. There were some apple varieties that weren't even supposed to be fully ripe yet that were already all rotten on the ground because they peaked way too early with all of this heat.


I think we got to the orchard around nine in the morning and we were the second car in the lot. By the time we left it was maybe one or two, and all the lots, even the one across the road were all filled up. Some people were picking like half a bucket of apples and then leaving. Sam, Paul, and I go big or go home.  All of these apples on the cart translated into two flats of apples for Paul and I and three flats for Sam.


After apple picking, we were all a little exhausted, so Sam took us to one of her favorite places, a cute little neighborhood pizza shop called Whirled Pies. It's a place I've been wanting to go for months, but we're never in that part of town. It was adorable. I especially liked their sense of humor. Recently, a really awful couple was booted from the restaurant after being scary and disruptive. The couple came back that night, broke the window, and lit the curtain on fire using their homemade moonshine as fuel. Their attempt to burn down the restaurant was unsuccessful and since, Whirled Pies added a pizza called Moonshine Molotov to their menu, which has spicy garlic cream sauce, sausage, and green chilies. Way to make the best of a crappy situation. 


We got a pizza with peanut sauce, cilantro, roasted garlic cloves, red onions, and fresh chaunterelle mushrooms. A+ pizza, A+ friend, A+ apple picking twice in two weeks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Autumnal Things


I'm here again for another mismatch of random photos that have nothing to do with each other, except for they were all taken either in September or the first week of October. This is Buffy, the cat we adopted in May who is a total gem. She's endlessly affectionate, clumsy, and never ever mean or grumpy.


This is Joey. She is prone to being a drama queen. But she's still sweet and I think literally anything she does is cute.


One day I was looking at my nightstand (which Paul actually made for me out of a palette) and I noticed the beautiful and strange assortment of things I keep by my bed.


This was an awesome day. Falling Sky, a wonderful local brewery and restaurant hosted the world's shortest bike race. They advertised on Facebook for weeks with slogans like "13.1 feet of hell," "two pedals to victory, "and "someone will win without even trying." I think over 100 people showed up and they did it in heats of five people. It literally took like 20 minutes, everyone was laughing and in a great mood, and afterwards everyone went inside and bought a beer. If that was the secret marketing scheme behind all of this, good job Falling Sky because it worked. The race course was literally 13.1 feet long. They gave away free t-shirts. Paul and I convinced our best friend Muhammad to come and he was really skeptical and kept asking questions like "what's the catch" and "why is this happening." He was convinced it was going to be straight up hill or that people would throw things at you. Nope. That's him on the right finishing second place in the leg of the race where you were supposed to go as slow as possible. So he was the second most slow.


My little sister just moved to Eugene to start college and she's so grown up and I'm so proud of her and we went to the farmer's market and, among other things, bought pumpkins.


I wanted to make a blog post about how orange is my favorite color. My bike is orange, my Keds are orange, my new messenger bag I bought myself because I have tons of hours at work this term is orange. Our bedspread is orange. My yoga mat is orange. My KitchenAid is orange. Probably other things too. So I wanted to take a few pictures with my bike and my bag and my Keds, and on the way to take the pictures, Paul sneakily took this candid shot of me walking ahead, but I ended up liking it most out of all the pictures. 

On the right is a very strange succulent. A few months ago, Buffy chewed it in half. So we kept the half with roots in its pot and we put the top half in a pot of its own.  It used to be just one stalk with leaves. But since it was bitten in half, all of these branches keep popping out of the main stalk and now it's this beautiful little tree thing.


I have lots of reasons to smile right now. I'm working the most I've ever been working. It's actually a little overwhelming. But I'll actually be able to start saving money because I'll be making more than just rent. I kind of feel like an adult. I still have another transcribing job on the side. And I just found out recently that I've been chosen as the artist to do the biological illustrations for a bone manual being produced by a very important biological anthropologist. 

This is a crazy cool opportunity that I stumbled into. I'm just a twenty-two year old who studied comparative literature, Spanish, and poetry, graduated, started volunteering in an osteology lab because I fell back in love with science, and drew some bones for my own benefit during a research project I was doing. People in the lab saw the drawings, liked them, paid me to put them on their conference posters, and a very important lady happened to see them and like them. I'm not a professional illustrator, but with an opportunity like this, it could kind of happen for me. So I've spent the last few weeks drawing at my kitchen table, either listening to the oldies or watching American Horror Story, with monkey bones scattered everywhere. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Valley of the Rogue State Park


Fair warning, this is about to be the longest post ever...


Paul and I really wanted a vacation this summer. We spent two weekends at the beach in June, but that was for a class, and we spent a long weekend in Portland in August, but we were attending a wedding. This trip was just for us. We chose to go camping in a yurt at the Valley of the Rogue State Park in southern Oregon for three nights. Camping in a yurt is pretty luxurious. In addition to furniture, we also had heat and electricity!





We arrived on Sunday evening, unpacked, explored the campgrounds a little, and took a quick dip in the river, which was refreshing after a two hour drive with no air conditioning. 



Our second day we went white water rafting on the Rogue River! I didn't get any pictures of the trip, but we went with a guide for seven miles, and hit class 1, 2, and 3 rapids. It was a total blast and surprisingly physically exhausting, so when we got back to camp around four, we took naps, made dinner, and went to bed.


We also had a great view of the harvest moon which was especially orange because of all the wildfires in the area.


Our last full day was amazing. We drove about an hour and a half out to the Oregon Caves National Monument, which is a two million year old marble cave. You can take a 90 minute guided tour, and we ended up being the only two people on our tour, so we got to chat with the ranger a lot and hear a bunch of cool stories. The cave is a series of narrow passages that kind of end in these little pockets or rooms, before narrowing into a hallway again. My favorite story had to do with this room here, the Banana Grove, where the only death has ever occurred in the caves. 

So the story goes, in the 30's, pretty much only rich people could afford to explore the caves, and one such young, wealthy couple was Frank and Victorina (awesome name). Considering the camp ground by the caves was full of rich people, there were rumors that the caves were full of bandits hoping to steal from them. Frank was having none of this, so he took his gun, along with his lantern, with him in the caves. He got to the Banana Grove, tried to climb the walls, and fell because the walls are extremely wet and slimy. As he fell, his lantern shattered, and he accidentally discharged his gun. The bullet ricocheted off the walls four times. Victorina had one match, which she lit to see the bullet lodged in Frank's right eye. He died in Victorina's arms, and after a few hours, in complete darkness, following a string that lead her back to the entrance, she made her way through the cave and back to the campground covered in his blood. 

Apparently, people see Frank's ghost all the time. Guests and rangers report seeing him, seeing light from the lantern, and hearing footsteps and voices. They don't tell this story when children are on the tour, but one time in the Banana Grove, a five year old girl asked the ranger who the man was, and when the ranger asked what man, she said, the man with the lantern who's been following us for the last two rooms. Spooky! 

Also every morning, one of the rangers has to go through the whole cave system alone, making sure the lights work and whatnot. About two months ago, one of the rangers was just past the Banana Grove when he heard something, turned around, saw a man with reflective red eyes. Being a jolly older guy, the ranger waved and said something like, "Hello there sir!" but the man moved out of sight, and the ranger said something to the extent of, "Well have a nice day then!" The ranger did the rest of his rounds really quickly, got back up to the lodge, freaked out, and they actually closed the caves to the public that day to search for the man, but they couldn't find a trace of anybody. Because it was Frank!


On the left was my favorite part of the caves, a room called Paradise Lost. You had to climb up a two story ladder to get there and it's this tiny room (so the ranger let us go up by ourselves) with these crazy structures 360 degrees around all swirling up to a point that's so dark you can't even see. It's both the point of highest elevation in the caves as well as the furthest into the mountain. It was breathtaking. It reminded me for some reason really strongly of the catacombs in France, and apparently another visitor said the same thing just last week, so it's not just me.

On the right is a wall that had been signed by Thomas Condon, a famous geologist, in 1856 (although signing walls in a two million year old cave would be super frowned upon now). The University of Oregon even has a building named after Condon, a building I actually spend a lot of time in, so it was really funny to see his mark in the caves. They've tried to clean the markings, but it's actually part of the stone now. When water drips on the rock, it calcifies, so in the last 150 years, a thin layer of rock has grown over the writing, so Condon's not going anywhere.

  
   After hiking through the caves, you're popped out pretty much at the top of the mountain. Then you can either take the 15 minute hike down one side, or the 30 minute hike on to the peak and then down the other side. We went to the top obviously. 





The moral of the story is, watch out for ghosts, and Oregon is the most beautiful place in the whole world.



After getting back to camp, we made dinner. Both nights we had tofurkey hot dogs, baked beans, and corn on the cob. Classic camping food. Paul made this makeshift s'more with an onion cracker, a piece of crystallized ginger chocolate, and a toasted banana slice. He said it was interesting. I did not partake.


We woke up this morning, and started our drive home, but not before we stopped in Azalea, Oregon for a big breakfast. We saw this place on our drive down, and knew we had to stop on our way back up.


  Here we attempted to eat the world's largest cinnamon roll. We did not succeed. We took it back home with us where it will serve as breakfast for the next week.