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. 

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.