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. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Thoughts 1

In December, I reviewed the books I'd been reading, and I thought that could be something I'd continue. Every ten or so books I read, I'll do a little review. These are the books I've read in 2015 so far.

The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) - I'll start with the Donna Tartt books. She's written three in her career, each of them 10 years apart, and quite lengthy. I loved all three. I think I liked The Goldfinch the best, though. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014. Each of her books is similar in that they reveal the "twist" in the first chapter, and then the rest of the book leads up to that point. For The Goldfinch, it's revealed that the narrator is in his twenties, has just killed a man, is hiding in a hotel room in Amsterdam, and has had The Dutch masterpiece painting, The Goldfinch, which he had stolen as a child after The Metropolitan Museum of Art was bombed in an attack that killed his mother, has just been stolen from him. Then after the first chapter, we're in New York, the narrator is 13, and he's in the museum with mom. So the whole book leads up to that first chapter, and it's amazing. Donna Tartt's writing is lush and beautiful. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's really long, but it's worth it.

The Little Friend (Donna Tartt) - This is Donna Tartt's second of her three books. It's also beautifully written and over 500 pages. It's set in the 70's in Mississippi. In the opening chapter it's revealed that a nine year old boy is murdered in his front yard, in the middle of the afternoon, on Mother's Day with everyone else in the house, and no one knows who did it or why. The book is about Harriet, his little sister who was a baby when the murder happened, who spends an entire summer when she's 12 trying to solve the murder. There are meth dealers, snake handling preachers, and a lot of generational family drama. I was unsatisfied by the ending, but I also don't think I would have liked the book as much had it ended in a more satisfying way, which I know is vague, but I don't want to give anything away. 

The Secret History (Donna Tartt) - This was Donna Tartt's first book, and probably her most famous. In the first chapter, it's revealed that a small group of friends murder one of their friends. Then you spend the whole book figuring out why and what the consequences were. It's about this group of friends, who are super privileged, bougie east coast kids at college together, and they're kind of a part of this weird cult. They're all in the Ancient Greek program, which consists only of the six friends, and they're completely cut off from the rest of the campus. They are pretentious, mysterious, and the narrator, the newest member of the group, is trying to figure them out. There are secret Greek sex rituals, secret trips to their country house (because they're filthy rich), and in general, a lot of secrets. And you know the whole time that five of them, the narrator included, are going to kill the sixth one. I had an interesting experience reading the book because I messed up and thought they were all going to kill the character Henry, but they're really going to kill the character Bunny. And it becomes obvious throughout the book that they're going to kill Bunny. And I kept thinking, what kind of coup is going to have to happen so that they end up killing Henry! But they don't. Because I read it wrong in the first chapter. I kind of think it enhanced my experience of the book. But who knows. I really loved all three of Tarrt's books. 

Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road (Michelle Tea and others) - In my last book review I revealed my love of Michelle Tea. She started this traveling queer feminist poetry/talent show called Sister Spit. I got to see it a few years ago, and it was such an amazing night. I even got to meet Michelle Tea (see below, she's in the middle)! But essentially, a group of ladies (and sometimes men) travel around the world, reading poetry, singing songs, etc. And it's a new group of women each year, although Michelle Tea is always there. This is a book filled with some of the poems and stories that have been performed over the years. It also has diary entries and comics drawn and written while on the road. It's a lovely little collection.

The Bonobo and the Atheist (Frans de Waal) - This is a nonfiction book about the origins of morality. Many would argue morality comes from religion and is unique to humans. This book argues that morality came before religion, is evolutionarily beneficial, and occurs in other species as well, specifically bonobos. In addition to theology and philosophy, it also discusses a lot of biological anthropology and emotional capability in animals. This was a really fascinating read.

Horns (Joe Hill) - Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, and this is the second book I've read of his. He writes "horror" books, but I haven't found either book of his scary. I've also read Heart-Shaped Box. This book is about Ig, whose girlfriend's been raped and murdered, and everyone thinks he did it. After a drunken night that he can't remember, on the anniversary of her death, he grows horns. When people see the horns, they feel compelled to tell him their darkest secrets, but don't remember his horns or telling their secrets afterwards. Through a lot of secret revealing he finds out who murdered his girlfriend, and then goes about getting revenge. There's some iffy symbolism and mythology in this book. Is he a demon? The devil himself? Is the devil even a bad guy? There's a tree house that represents/is heaven? It gets a little muddled. But you find out pretty immediately who the murderer is, and then you spend a lot of the book in flashbacks. It was a little overdone for my taste, but I enjoyed reading it. Don't watch the movie though. That was a pretty bad adaptation.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More (Janet Mock) - This memoir was so fantastic. Janet Mock is a trans woman, grew up poor and black in Hawaii, was sexually abused, became a prostitute as a teenager, but then got her degree, moved to New York, got her Masters in journalism, fell in love, and is generally an amazing woman. The majority of the book is about her childhood and adolescence. She had every obstacle and hardship thrown at her, but her book isn't depressing. It's funny and poignant and lovely. If you feel like being inspired, read this book.

Yes Please (Amy Poehler) - I love Amy Poehler. I love everything she's done. Leslie Knope is my hero. If you want to laugh and cry and generally feel awesome, read her memoir. I didn't think I could love her more than I did, but I do.

This is How You Lose Her (Junot Diaz) - I'm on hold at the library to read Diaz's most famous book, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I'm sure I will love that book. I'm not sure about this one. This was a book of short stories, but they all revolve around the failed relationships of the same character. All except one. One short story right in the middle had nothing to do with anything. The main character of all the other stories wasn't even in this one. It was completely unrelated and totally threw me off. Also, in general I'm not a giant short story fan. It's happened to me before. I've loved an author, read all their novels, and then they release a collection of connected short stories, and I just can't get into it. This book wasn't bad by any means, but also wasn't my cup of tea.

Child 44 (Tom Rob Smith) - This book is being made into a movie soon with Gary Oldman, which is how I found out about it. It's kind of based off a true story. It's set in the Soviet Union in the 50's. Essentially, there's a serial killer running around killing children. But murder is considered by the state to be a consequence of capitalism, and if everyone is equal in the communist state, there would be no reason to murder. But alas, there is a murderer, a serial killer who has killed 44 children. So the main character, an MGB agent, after getting demoted for suggesting that the killings are not accidents but murders, decides to solve the mystery himself. But he can't reveal that he's trying to solve a crime, because that's a crime in itself. I found this book entertaining, even though I guessed the twist a mile away. Apparently this was the first book of a trilogy, but I don't think I'm going to read the other two. I think the movie will be good. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Long Beach Day 4

Our last day in Long Beach, we went hunting for razor clams! There is only one week a year where it's legal to catch razor clams. And we happened to be there that week! You're only allowed to catch 15, no matter what state they're in. We caught 9 good ones, and chucked 6 to the seagulls. Paul and I are vegetarians. But he eats sea food on occasion if it's sustainable and cooked well. We brought the razor clams last night to an amazing sushi restaurant called Mame and let the chef do whatever he wanted with them!   

For our last dinner of vacation, we drove out to Astoria, and went to Fort George which is this amazing brewery. We ate truffle pizza, which was insane. And then we tried a flight of all 13 beers they had! We got seated at this big table, and everyone seemed to know each other already. Most of them were in their 30's, and it was split pretty evenly between men and women. We found out they were the knitting club of Astoria! And they meet in a brewery! They were so nice. One of them had actually just recently moved there from Eugene and recognized us, so that was pretty crazy.

Our last day in Long Beach we also went to a goat farm. The owner spent an hour with us, showing us around, introducing us to all the goats, and we got to play with the baby 2 week old goats. They were the cutest things! We came away with some goat gouda, goat cheddar, and goat fromage blanc. All in all, this vacation was perfect. We kept busy. We did a lot of exploring, and I had a fantastic time documenting all of it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Long Beach Day 3

Yesterday started off really well. We woke up really early, drove to a look out point, and tried to find whales. Grey whales are migrating back north right now and pass through Long Beach in March and April. We didn't see any though, but we might try again before we leave. Then we stopped in town for breakfast. We went to Laurie's Homestead Breakfast where the portions were laughably big. We took home three boxes of leftovers. The biscuit was so big it took up two boxes. Delicious! Then we went horseback riding! I tried to keep my cool so as not to be obnoxious or freak out my horse, but I was flipping out on the inside. It was so fun! We mainly walked. The wrangler let us trot for about 10 seconds, and that was terrifying. My horse's name was Gunner, Paul's was Earnhardt, and they are half brothers.    

For most of the rest of the day, I didn't feel too well. I had a headache and didn't really want to move at all. So we hung out in the hotel room for a little while. Then before sunset, Paul convinced me to come out and search for tidepools with him. 

We found a little blue shrimp as small as my pinkie finger nail!

I'm glad we went exploring. I think the fresh air helped my head a lot. Here's our little car on the beach! I'm not sure if this is true for all of Washington, but in Long Beach, people drive on the beach. In Oregon, at least where I've been to the beach, you can't do that, so it's been kind of bizarre to see. At any given point, you can see up to 20 cars just cruising along. A few days ago, we saw someone get pulled over, on the beach. And yesterday while horseback riding, we saw a guy, hanging on to the roof of the car while the car was driving, like the car was a boogie board. Very weird. After watching the sunset, Paul and I went out to the best Thai food of my life at this very cute little place in town, then for a cocktail at the restaurant in the hotel (whiskey, cranberries, lemon, and maple syrup), and then watched Friends and fell asleep. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Long Beach Day 2

On our first full day in Long Beach, Paul and I ate breakfast at the hotel, and then decided to explore. Long Beach has miles of paved bike paths along the beach, so we took out some of the beach cruisers our hotel provided and went on a ride. 

One of the places I wanted to go to most in Long Beach was Cape Disappointment, specifically Dead Man's Cove, which has the little island with the one little tree in the middle of the cove. Despite the sign that said no beach access, we hiked down to the beach. It was so worth it. It was supposed to rain all day, but it only rained for about five minutes, when we were at the lighthouse. Then it totally cleared up and we had a really sunny evening.

We went into town and bought a really simple kite. Paul had a blast flying it around. 

 After hanging out on the beach for the rest of the day, Paul and I made a campfire and cooked tofurkey dogs wrapped in biscuit dough, made a can of beans, and roasted some s'mores. I took this picture of a bird sternum for Sam, with the wishbone still attached! Then it got dark out, the fire was burning low, and the stars came out. I've never seen stars like this in my life. There were finally enough stars to have something show up on the night sky setting of my camera. But this picture doesn't even show 1/50th of the stars that were out there. We were the only people on the beach, the hotel was hidden behind the dunes, it was pitch black dark out, and there were just a million stars everywhere. It was totally surreal, and a really lovely second day of vacation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Long Beach Day 1

For Christmas, instead of getting each other stuff, Paul and I decided to plan a vacation. After months of waiting, that vacation is finally here! We got an unbelievably amazing deal on Living Social for a really cute eco-friendly hotel in Long Beach, Washington, and we'll be here four nights. Day 1 of vacation was the drive up to Long Beach. We decided to take the longer route and go up along the coast, and while we were there, we made some pit stops along the way.

 The first stop, about two hours into the drive, was the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Oregon's aquarium and zoo are really amazing, and put a lot of effort into research and rehabilitation instead of into touristy attractions. I hadn't been to the aquarium in years, and this was one of the things I was looking forward to most on our trip. We spent over two hours there. It was so fun. We saw the puffins, sea lions, seals, and otters all get fed!

I wore my whale earrings Paul got me, which I thought were appropriate for a beach vacation.

My favorite part about the aquarium was the exhibit called Passages of the Deep. It was so amazing! There were stingrays, sturgeons, eels, lots of fish, and sharks! I was so excited to see the sharks. And they were huge and kind of terrifying and awesome. 

The flash on this picture is horrible, but LOOK AT THAT SHARK!

The puffins were much cuter than the sharks. I learned that the ear tufts, white face, and orange striped beak only appear after sexual maturity and only during the spring! The rest of the year puffins are pretty plain looking. Also, there was a to-scale replica of a megalodon shark that lived over 2 million years ago. It was like a 60 foot great white shark. Scary. 

The aquarium also had this area for kids with stone statues to climb on, but there were no kids around, so Paul and I took on that role very seriously.

After the aquarium, we stopped by Devils Punch Bowl, which was beautiful. Paul has a McMenamins Passport, and when you go to a McMenamins, usually after solving a riddle, they stamp the passport and then they give you free things, like pint glasses, t-shirts, magnets, and sometimes free food! The McMenamins we stopped at in Lincoln City gave us a free pizza. It was delicious. Then we kept driving. Then we stopped in Tillamook to go to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. We sampled all the cheese and then got some ice cream (cake batter and salted butterscotch). 

Then after lots more driving we made it to Astoria. We made a quick stop at the Goonies house! The Goonies was one of my favorite movies growing up, and Mikey's house is a real house. Someone actually lives there, but they let you park a few blocks away and then walk up to take a picture. There were five other people there when we got there, and this was just a random Monday afternoon, so I can't imagine how busy it gets on a weekend. So thank you people at the Goonies house for letting us bother you, but your house is a national treasure. After ten hours on the road, we finally made it to Long Beach last night. We ate the most delicious dinner in the world at the restaurant in the hotel. The hotel, by the way, is so cute. It's called Adrift, and they have free beach cruiser bikes in the lobby, so that's what I'm off to do now. There will be more blog posts to come.