Sunday, September 27, 2015

North Bend Part 2

Yesterday I returned home after three nights in North Bend with my best friend Sam. The last blog post I did was also about North Bend, when I went to help her move in, and I promise I've actually done some pretty interesting things in between, but this is what I took pictures of. I got there Wednesday afternoon and we went on a nice hike through the estuary, which had these interesting raised wooden platform pathways through all the marshy land.  

Does anyone have an explanation for the crab massacre I found on the side of a hill in the estuary? The crabs were tiny, very dead, and literally everywhere.  

We walked Sam's dog, Sprinkles, at sunrise, and it was unreal. For all the difficulties of living somewhere so unlike Eugene, Sam does live about four blocks from the bay, which makes up for a lot.

Another great thing about North Bend is that Sam has a very cute apartment filled with very cute things. 

On Thursday, three bicycle tourists came to stay with us through the website Warm Showers, which is this place where bike tourists looking for a warm place to sleep connect with hosts who offer up their homes. Sam's done some bike touring herself, and has been a Warm Showers host for years. We had three people, Tom, Marta, and Mattia, all biking south, having started in Canada. Marta and Mattia, from Portugal and Italy, were a couple biking down to San Diego, and Tom, from the UK, was biking all the way to the bottom of Argentina. We cooked all our meals as a big group, chatted a lot, and even did some yoga together. It felt a little like summer camp, all cramped in the living room, but in a pleasant way. They were incredibly warm people and I'm glad to have met them. Then on Saturday, we had a big American breakfast at a diner (very exciting stuff for non-Americans: they all tried maple syrup and we had to explain what biscuits were), and they were on their way again.

Tomorrow the new school year starts, which means my job working on campus as a transcriber starts again. And next week I'm going on an epic road trip through the Southwest, so I will definitely blog that. I've been really happy lately, and surrounding myself with interesting people has played a big role. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

North Bend

This weekend, I accompanied my best friend Sam on a spontaneous 24 hour vacation to North Bend, where she is moving for the year. She needed to move some of her stuff from Eugene to her new apartment in her new car, but her car is a stick shift, and she's just learning how to drive stick. So I came along for emotional support. North Bend is a tiny town on the coast about 2 hours away from Eugene, right down the road from a slightly larger town, Coos Bay. I'm sad she's leaving, for selfish reasons, but I also think she's going to love living on the coast and it's for a really good opportunity. Plus we talk on the phone about once a day anyway, even when she's only one mile away! So I imagine with two hours between us, there will be lots of phone calls. Also, two hours isn't all that far to drive when it involves your best friend and the beach. Sam, her dog Sprinkles, and I had a very nice mini vacation. We drove down, unpacked the carload of her stuff, ate lunch on the floor of her new apartment, went on a nice hike along the coast, saw a whale, drank beer, cooked some frozen pizzas, and did a very difficult puzzle until we fell asleep in our sleeping bags in the middle of the living room's empty floor. Then we woke up early and she drove me back to Eugene so I could go to work.

One of my favorite parts of the trip, and apparently the only part I took any pictures of, was Shore Acres State Park, which is a botanical garden off the hiking trail to Cape Arago. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I couldn't believe it. It was this crazy, lovely manicured garden, all fenced in. From the outside all you could see was a tall fence and then some trees, right in the middle of the forest on the edge of the coast, and I almost didn't go in because I didn't think there would be anything interesting inside. 

Within the park, there was a greenhouse with some really funky plants I had never seen before. I was obsessed with all the colors.

I don't know the official term for this type of flower, but I call them dancing ladies.

Probably my favorite part of the whole garden was the section with all the roses. I didn't even think I was that big a fan of roses, but I am now. I've never seen roses like this; they didn't look real. This post took a lot of restraint, because I took over 100 pictures of roses and I pared it down to 4. Some of my favorite varieties had names like Cinco de Mayo and Hot Cocoa.

This trip made me feel a lot like an adult. My best friend moved away, and I helped her pack and helped her settle in. We went on a 24 hour road trip and I was back for work the next morning. My other best friend Muhammad also moved recently, all the way to Wisconsin for the next five years for grad school. But we talked on Skype this week for four hours and he gave me a Google Maps tour of his new neighborhood, because technology is amazing! I don't have a lot of close friends, but the ones I do have, I love very much. I felt like an adult this weekend because we got a lot of stuff done on our little trip to the coast. I felt like an adult because I feel like I am handling the moves of my two best friends within two weeks pretty well. Because I know that it's not goodbye. It's see you later when I come to visit, and when we talk on the phone tomorrow. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Oregon Country Fair

On Sunday, I went to the Oregon County Fair for the first time. I've lived in Eugene for five years, and this was my first time going, and I'm sad it took me so long. I've generally always worked weekends and haven't had time before. But I took the day off specifically so I could go, because Paul was volunteering there, at the native edible plants information booth.

The Oregon Country Fair is indescribable. It's set on 280 acres in Veneta, about 30 minutes away from Eugene. It started in 1969, and in 1972 hosted The Grateful Dead as a fundraiser for Nancy's Yogurt which is run by Ken Kesey's family. It's the mecca of counterculture.  

 About 45,000 people come a year.  It's huge! I've been to other festivals, like Sasquatch, renaissance fairs, and Faerieworlds, but this was on another level.  Paul and I wandered around for several hours, but when we looked at the map, we had only looped through 1/4 of the fair.  I heard someone say that walking through the whole fair one way was 3 miles of walking. And when you spend eight hours there, and you do a lot of going back and forth, like Paul and I did, that's a lot of walking.

It's really combination of a lot of things. There were hundreds of craft booths, selling everything from jewelry to handmade soap to puppets. There was a lot of delicious food; Paul and I had beignets, a chalupa, and Ethiopian food.  There were also informational booths, like the plant booth Paul volunteered at, where they gave some public talks. Lots of booths had these tree house like structures built on top of them, where the workers camped out. It was insane. It was like a whole two story city built into the middle of the forest. Then there were about 14 stages scattered throughout where they performed music, acrobatics, and just about everything else.  Paul and I saw a really interesting mime/dance performance where someone swallowed a sword. There were also little yurts and tents set up everywhere for hula hooping, juggling lessons, yoga, and a dance floor.  There were also all of these big interactive art installations, like the giant hummingbird made of plastic bottles filled with different colored liquid, a giant globe, and a big maze of colored ribbon to run through.

  Some people went just because it was a thing to do on the weekend. Some people's whole year revolves around the fair. There were old people, young people, families, naked people, people of all colors, shapes, and sizes. And everyone was happy. An acrobat took the microphone in the middle of their performance and gave an impassioned speech about Bernie Sanders. Paul and I, while in line for food, befriended a cattle farmer who had been a vegetarian for 34 years. People were always waving at you saying "happy fair!" When we ran into friends, they asked us, "how's your fair?" because it's not just an event you go to, it's an experience in itself, not how's the fair, but how's your fair. I think that's really beautiful.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Doris Lake

Paul and I have been really busy lately, as he works full time and I just got a second job. It's also been really hot; the little animation on the weather app on my phone has not been a sun, but a danger symbol, for over a week. Also, recently at the REI garage sale, I purchased a backpacking backpack for 70% off. All of these factors together, plus getting the weekend off, meant we were going backpacking, to Doris Lake in the Deschutes National Forest. We parked our car at the trail head and hiked for about an hour and 20 minutes until we reached the lake. You'll notice my clean feet in the picture above, before we started hiking.

And after.

The first thing we did when we got to the lake was swim around for a while. That was nice, but I was the most excited about all the critters I saw. Then we set up our camp. Doris Lake had a little peninsula that jutted out a little bit into the lake, and we decided that was the prime spot for camping. It was awesome to be completely in the middle of nature by ourselves. When we first started swimming, there was a family there too, but they left eventually. And we saw a tent set up across the lake, but the lake was so huge, it was as if we were alone. This actually wasn't my first time backpacking. We went once about a year and a half ago, where we had to snow shoe into our camp, but it was freezing, I strained my hip, and I had a panic attack where I cried hysterically about Ted Bundy coming to get us all night. So this was much more successful! 

My favorite part about this trip hands down was relaxing in the hammock. My mom got us this two person hammock for Christmas two years ago, and while Paul's used it a few times, this was my first time getting to use it, and it was awesome.

How unreal is the view from inside our tent? Oregon is the best state. Also the best, reading while camping. I was reading The Motorcycle Diaries and Paul was reading Bel Canto.

This was a very short little trip. We had planned to spend two nights but ended up only staying one. We both woke up the first morning feeling a little ill, and the combination of the mosquitoes and worrying about how our cats would handle the 4th of July fireworks without us, in addition to the concern that we might wake up the next morning feeling even worse (we were right), we decided to hike back to the car around 3 in the afternoon, and then drive home. But we had a glorious little 36 hour getaway. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Thoughts 2

The Shining Girls (Lauren Beukes) -  This book could have been so much better. But it wasn't horrible either. The premise is great. There's a serial killer, he time travels to kill his victims across several decades, he meets them when they're young, returns later in their lives to kill them, leaves them with a trinket from another girl he's killed, and creates this whole web of girls. All of these girls "shine" to him, that's why he's obsessed with them. But one girl survives his attack and goes about trying to catch him. The plot is interesting, though it kind of gets muddled at the end, but because of the complex plot, the characters really suffer.  We don't really know about the serial killer, his motivations, other than the girls are shiny to him, and even that term is never explained. The characters are really flat, even the main characters. I didn't read it that long ago, but I've forgotten a lot of the details already, because I just wasn't very invested in it. But I did like it while I was reading it. 

Gulp (Mary Roach) - This is the third Mary Roach book I've read: Stiff was about corpses, Bonk was about sex, and now Gulp was about digestion. She writes nonfiction delving into the weirdest stories about the weirdest topics. I personally love her books, read through them very quickly, and end up laughing a lot. They might be a little much for some people. Paul, for example, did not make it through Stiff. This book, being about digestion, includes the discussion of spit, Elvis's colon, and whiskey enemas, so if you can stomach that, read on.

The Casual Vacancy (J.K. Rowling) - I really liked this book.  Heck yeah J.K. Rowling! This novel is very character based. It's set in a small town in England, where a city commissioner dies of an aneurysm, and the book explores how that affects the rest of the community, where everyone knows everyone.  There's lots of small town politics, rich vs. poor, parents vs. children, gossip, secrets revealed. I thought the book was really lovely. Even though it's pretty long, I read it really quickly. BBC just recently made a 3 part TV mini series of this book, which is on my list of things to watch, but I heard they changed a lot, so I would totally recommend the book first.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (John Berendt) - This is a book that's been on my list for a long time, and while I knew it was based on a true story, I didn't know it was actually considered nonfiction until after I read it. That actually explains a lot of my frustration with the book. It's essentially the story of a wealthy eccentric gay antiques dealer from Savannah, Georgia who kills his young lover, and he goes to court three separate times to prove that it was in self defense. That's the main plot. But then the narrator spends a lot of the book describing many of the other people who live in Savannah. Savannah is really a character itself in this book. I enjoyed a lot of these chapters, because the upper crust of Savannah is a very odd bunch, but a lot of characters showed up, were described in great detail, and then were never really mentioned again. Thinking this was a typical novel (albeit one based in truth), this was confusing and made the book feel a lot longer than it was. Knowing it's completely nonfiction, this makes more sense. Still, for a book with a title like this and that includes murder, voodoo, and small town shenanigans, I was expecting it to be a little more exciting, but maybe I watch too much Hannibal and The X-Files. Did I like the book? Yes. But less than I thought I would. 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Madness, and Magic at the Fair that Changed America (Erik Larson) - I read some reviews online that people think this book is boring. I really don't think so. I loved this book! It's nonfiction and goes back and forth between two parts: Daniel Burnham, who was the architect in charge of designing the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, and then H.H. Holmes, who is coined as America's first serial killer, who committed most of his murders in his hotel he built specifically for the world fair. I had heard of this book before, because I'm pretty interested in serial killers, but it was recently mentioned in an architecture class that I'm transcribing. At this particular world fair, they debuted the Ferris wheel which held 2000 people at a time, the first zipper, Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit, and shredded wheat. Thomas Edison was involved. Annie Oakley got her start. The man who designed Central Park was the landscape architect of the fair. I just can't picture anything like this at all today, 100,000 people a day from all over the world for 6 straight months coming to the exposition. They said the average person went everyday for 2 weeks just in order to see it all. It was several square miles, built in three years completely from scratch, all in a very classical style, and it only lasted until the fair was over. I went into this book only really expecting to be interested in the serial killer part, but the construction of the fair itself was actually super interesting. 

Of course the H.H. Holmes part was really interesting as well. It's written kind of like a novel, but every single piece of dialogue actually comes from a letter or newspaper (it has a huge index), so it's all true. I think it painted a good picture of what America's first known serial killer was like, what motivated him. He was a doctor, he was charming, he had very blue eyes, kids loved him. Despite not being an architect, he built a hotel by the world fair specifically for the purpose of killing the occupants. People place his murders anywhere between 27-200 people. He built secret passageways, a murder kiln in the basement, and had the ability from his room to seal off and gas any room in his hotel. It was really insane. But Chicago was also a pretty tumultuous place at the time, and there were hundreds of thousands of young single women traveling to the world fair, hoping to have a new life in the big city. So it's crazy how he got away with it for so long, but also, the way he was described, not at all surprising. He was actually in prison already for insurance fraud by the time they found out about the murders. I've now written two giant paragraphs for this book, but I just really enjoyed it and found it fascinating. I currently have 12 books out from the library, but this is the one I chose to read first.

The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton) - This is another book I really wanted to like more. It took me so long to get into, over 200 pages in before I found it engaging. I think part of that is due to its structure. It's all set in New Zealand in the 1800's at the height of the gold rush. A man walks into a room in a hotel, having just had a very weird experience himself, and it's obvious that he's just interrupted a secret meeting. It turns out the content of the secret meeting has a lot to do with the strange experience he himself just had. The first 200 pages or so catch up this man (and the reader) until everyone in the secret meeting is on the same page, and then they all leave the hotel, and go about their business, all a part of this little secret club. 

That's where it gets interesting. Unfortunately it took a long time to get there. But once it got there, and once you learn all 12 of the characters I really liked it. Also, fair warning, it's almost 850 pages, and really feels like it's 850 pages. It has some supernatural elements (kind of?) and it really tries (and fails, I think) to incorporate elements of astrology. Each of the 12 main characters is assigned an astrological sign, each chapter starts off with an astrological chart, and chapters have titles like "Venus in Capricorn." I don't think the novel quite pulls off what it wanted to, especially with the astrological "mystery within a mystery" stuff, but I did end up enjoying it, even if I spent several hundred pages kind of hating it.

Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) - I had been on the waiting list for months and months before I got this book because it's been a classic for 20 years, but it also just got made into a TV show. I watched the first half of the first season, then started reading this book, and I'll keep watching the show now that I'm done. This book is about Claire, an English WWII nurse, who's in Scotland with her husband, touches a big rock after seeing a druid ceremony, and gets transported to Scotland in the 1700's, right before the Jacobite rebellion. She meets a handsome red head named Jamie, falls in love, and then spends a lot of time on horseback running away from people who wish her and her new husband harm. Jamie also has a price on his head for a murder he didn't commit, and is the object of obsession of a very bad English commander, who happens to be Claire's 1945 husband's ancestor. This book is famous for its sex scenes, which it has a lot of, but in my library was categorized as historical fantasy. Yes, there's time travel, but she time travels the one time and then is pretty much stuck in the 1700's, so I would say it's 5% fantasy and 95% historical. I don't know if I'm going to read the other books in the series, but for what it's worth, I did like this one. Also fair warning, the Scottish characters (so pretty much everyone but Claire, the "outlander") have dialogue written with an accent like, "ye werena the first lass I kissed" which I'm neither a fan of, nor against.  

Pet Sematary (Stephen King) - This was my first Stephen King novel and I can't believe it took me this long. I loved this book. As a disclaimer, I did not find this book scary, as I'm a little bit of a creepy person, but others might. It's apparently King's best selling and considered his most scary book. I think this novel shows what a fantastic writer King is. There are only about eight characters, so you really get to know everyone involved. The plot itself was really great, but I didn't expect it to be so funny. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and now have lots of other Stephen King on my list to read. The basic premise is that there's an old Native American burial ground next to a pet cemetery (spelled wrong in the title on purpose) where if you bury your dead, it comes back to life, but evil. The main character's two year old son dies. You can guess what happens next. But what I found interesting is that all of the inevitable evil two year old creepy zombie kid stuff happened right at the end. The whole rest of the novel was really masterfully building up to that point, and it was awesome. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Blue Pool

On Friday, Paul and I went to Blue Pool, a place that's been on our Eugene bucket list for years. When we went to Sahalie Falls a few months ago, we were actually trying to go to Blue Pool, but didn't realize it would be an extra 10-12 miles on top of the hike we already did. The McKenzie River goes underground in lava tubes for a while, and then pops back up to create Blue Pool, and I'm not entirely sure why, but it's so blue. This place is pretty magical. We even found wild orchids, which are my Grammy's favorite flower, and she's not doing too good right now, so it made me happy to see them.

The hike was incredible. It took two hours to drive there, each way, and then about four hours round trip for the hike which includes the extra time spent climbing down the 60 foot cliff to get to the lake's edge, but the hike itself (until the cliff part) was easy and very flat. Paul and I might not be in Oregon next year, so we're soaking it up while we can. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The One Where I Make Things

By now, I don't think it's any secret I like to make things. This year, I have made a real effort to spend my free time being creative. I have also made it a goal to document more things on my blog, so here we go.

A couple of days ago, Paul and I spent several hours making ravioli! We had Friends on in the background and it was great. We roasted beets and used them to make the dough. Then we made three types of filling: carrot ricotta, caramelized onion goat cheese, and stinging nettle goat cheese. We used the fromage blanc goat cheese we got in Long Beach. I got stung by the stinging nettle! It hurt for over 48 hours! Once you boil the nettle though, it doesn't sting you anymore, so the raviolis are safe to eat. I'm not entirely sure how many raviolis we made, but it's definitely over 100. We put them in the freezer, so we'll have an easy meal ready to go anytime in the next few months. You could totally roll out the pasta by hand, but it's easier with a pasta machine. They're not that expensive, and they're really handy. Homemade pasta is the best. We used the leftover dough just to make normal fettuccine, which we ate last night with roasted vegetables on top. It was so good.

I spent a day at the Craft Center recently making a bunch of little pinch pots. Then for my birthday Paul got me some soy wax and supplies to make our own candles. So that's what we did! We added some essential oils to the wax, and I'm not sure if I added enough for them to actually be smelly, but they are really cute. Making things is really rewarding. Everyone should try it. Even if you don't think you're particularly crafty, make yourself a nice dinner, or a pie completely from scratch. It's fun, I promise.