Thursday, October 30, 2014

Eugene, Oregon

If someone ever did a "Where Are They Now?" special on hippies from the 60s, a good chunk of the show could be filmed in Eugene, Oregon, where we vacationed last week. It's about 2 hours from Bend, directly over Mt. Washington, and passes through lots of gorgeous forest. If you have a Subaru, you'll love all the windy mountain roads.

Our Subaru isn't quite ready for winter yet - we haven't bought chains or studded tires - but the snow storm we encountered reminded us to get on that...

We hit the first snowstorm of the season - 4 inches over the pass!

Once we crossed over the mountain, the snow turned to rain, and we came up on Sahalie Falls. We've been meaning to check it out, so despite the heavy rain, we pulled over.

Everything on this side of the Cascades is covered in green.

It was totally worth it - everything was blanketed in moss - lush, soft, and misty. It's like something out of a fairytale. Oregon has so many awesome surprises; we feel lucky to live here!

In our new rain gear

Just like a postcard!

Once we arrived in town, Yelp told us that the Cascades Raptor Center was one of Eugene's major attractions. Not one to doubt Yelp, we headed over there to check it out. It's a non-profit, entirely funded by volunteers and donations, and they have over 60 aviaries with rehabilitated birds. Every bird had its story posted outside its cage, which personalized the whole experience, and made you fall in love with individual birds, which you can then sponsor. So clever, and definitely worth a visit. Also it's pretty much free, but they do suggest a $8.00 donation.

our favorite was the little owl on the lower left, who hides in the ground!

On the drive back to our hotel, we spotted some free ranging wild turkeys! 

wild turkeys strutting around confidently

The main reason we were in Eugene was for the Mushroom Show, which was the 33rd annual show, and the biggest on the West Coast. They had lots of cool mushroom themed stuff, mushroom growing kits, and even mushroom-dyed scarves - which you could do yourself, if so inclined. 

the displays were really nicely done, tri-level, and pretty.

one of the Festival-goers awesome cars.

On our way home, we pulled over in one of the forest areas to search for mushrooms. We had some visitors this week and thought it'd be cool to be able to feed them with something we foraged. We found lots of gorgeous mushrooms, and about 4 pounds of chanterelles, which are selling for $39.99/lb at our local grocer right now!

some random mushroom pics from our little hike

Kristy on the hunt!

processing our haul of chanterelles

We had so many that we gave some to our neighbors, and saved some for later. Normally you can just dehydrate any mushrooms you find, but chanterelles don't dry too well and get sort of chewy. So I chopped them up, threw them in a pot with a little salt, and dry sauteed them, until they released all their moisture. Then I vacuum sealed and froze them. 

Mike's pumpkin tribute to our new home.

We are excited for tomorrow (Halloween), because we haven't had trick or treaters since we lived in Long Beach, and even then, I think we only had a few. Our neighbor said we'd get a couple dozen this year, so we carved a pumpkin and bought some candy. Our life is so different from just a year ago, but we are loving it, and really, what more can you ask for?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The First Snowfall

The weather here in Bend is getting nippy, and the kitties are spending their days napping in front of the stove (rough life!). 

Keeferton hasn't moved in two days!

When Mt Bachelor posted a pic of the first snow of the season on October 15th, we figured we'd go and see it for ourselves. It's been so long since we lived in snow, that it's now a novelty to us.

Big Willy got us up there in style!

We drove up to Todd Lake, where we'd been just about 7 weeks before, when Mike was in shorts! It was completely dusted in snow.

Mike at the beginning of our walk.

The first thing we discovered, as we stepped out of Big Willy, is that we don't have the right gear. We have parkas appropriate for cold weather in California. We need parkas appropriate for Oregon. And Mike was wearing sneakers! We need insulated, waterproof boots. No wonder people's homes up here have so many closets...

The stream, still flowing - not sure if it freezes over, but I guess I'll find out!

The fog (a.k.a. snow and sleet) gave the lake a slightly eerie look.

We walked around the lake a bit, but came back after about a mile; the snow was still coming down, and it was pretty slippery out there. We passed a couple people, out with their dogs, completely bundled in North Face winter jackets and with trekking poles. Guess we need to get with the program.

Mike risked a fall into the lake (and hypothermia) for this pic!

As we drove towards home and dropped in elevation, the snow disappeared. It isn't sticking past about 5000 feet or so, so we may have a little bit of time to get ourselves ready (Bend is at about 3500 feet elevation). REI is having a "Garage Sale" tomorrow, and you can be sure we'll be first in line to check out the winter gear!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Marvels of Mycology

This weekend, we joined the North American Truffle Society on a mushroom foray. It was held at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, on the other side of the Cascade mountain range (the rainy side). It's less than 2 hours from Bend. 

part of the Blue River, which is very low this time of year.

Even though it's been raining up here, this is less rain than they normally get, and the Blue River Reservoir was dry, and the river was running super low. The drought's not just in California, unfortunately.

Big Willy! He's available for rental, just contact us.

We took Big Willy to camp in, instead of staying in the provided housing. He's just so comfortable, that we'd rather sleep in him and have the privacy - plus, it was only $5/night to camp, versus $50/night for a room with a shared bathroom. Major deal - a weekend away for $10!

We arrived Friday and met some of the other participants; everyone was super nice and mostly normal, with a shared love for 'shroomies. Us and one other couple were the only newbies, but it turns out, even the experienced people needed help from the 4 experts on identifying mushrooms. There are just so many types of mushrooms that it's impossible to know them all. Tons of mushrooms aren't even named or identified yet.

All day Saturday was spent hiking and foraging, and getting drenched.

Mike on the trail with our fellow mushroom hunters.

Me on the bridge.

the hike alone was worth it - it is beautiful here.

We were not well prepared for the rain (being from LA), but live and learn! Next time, we will bring rain gear and lots of extra clothes. Also, we had to borrow some neon tape to mark ourselves (you can see it tied around our arms in the above pictures). We were deep in the forest and it's hunting season (and Mike's wearing a hat with horns)...

a perfect example of Angel Wings (Pleurocybella porrigens).

The people on the foray were obsessive about mushrooms. Total mushroom geeks. In fact, some of them have PhDs in mycology and have written books. So, we learned more than we ever thought we would about mushrooms, including the latin names, and how they grow and reproduce. It was fun, being around people who are so passionate about something. That's what I'm searching for, for my life - one singular thing that I'm obsessively passionate about.

Shelf mushrooms, also known as conks. Beautiful, but you can't eat them.

Mike was a bit like Bigfoot with his Yeti hat on...

By the end of Saturday, Mike and I were able to positively identify 4 kinds of edible mushrooms - white and yellow chanterelles, winter chanterelles, and hedgehogs! I can't explain the feeling of accomplishment you get from foraging, and this type of learning. It just feels so useful. We can't wait to do this again.

Our haul - winter chanterelles in the basket, white and yellow chanterelles on the table.

After the foray, everyone gathered to clean and sort the mushrooms, and identify the weird ones. We cooked them up and had a potluck - mushrooms sautéed in wine, in butter, in bacon, over pasta, with pesto, with kale, in soup, with cream - and just plain with salt and pepper, so we could try every single type and taste the differences. Mike and I tried lobster mushrooms (they actually taste and look like lobster! see the red blob in the picture below), fried chicken mushrooms (which smell like fried chicken while they're cooking, but taste like nothing), all the various chanterelles, honey mushrooms (bleh, despite the name), angel wings, and oyster mushrooms. All those mushrooms were found on the foray, by various members of the group, and fed FIFTEEN people with tons of leftover mushrooms.

Random mushrooms everyone collected and identified.

It is amazing how much free food is out there, for the picking. And you get to hike in a gorgeous forest, too. I think I'm falling in love with Oregon!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Foraging in Oregon

We are officially back in Oregon for the next few months, and so happy about it! Traveling was eye-opening, fun, and it was so great to see our friends, but there is nothing like your own bed, or your own couch.

I think the kitties missed us at least as much as we missed them!

Since we were in Asia for 3 weeks, it took us about 5 days to really get over our jet lag. But it was a great time to reconnect with our pets and get our fridge restocked, and we took some walks around our neighborhood. While we were gone, fall came to Central Oregon!

The fall colors at the Bend Fall Festival.

one of the many parks near our house.

driving around town - look at all that yellow!

While walking back from the Bend Fall Festival, I spotted a plum tree sitting on a vacant lot. After trying a few and determining that they were, in fact, plums, I went back the next morning and foraged a whole bag.

Then I proceeded to make wild plum jam! Here is the recipe I used, although, because I have no idea how much my plums weighed, I sort of winged it. I also used a little pear juice and only 4 cups of sugar, because 5 cups of sugar seemed a bit much.

All the plums, washed and ready to be pitted.

Threw them in a pot and added sugar...

They came out a beautiful red color.

The finished product! 24 jars - enough to give away.

It was really fun. So fun, in fact, I went ahead and tried to forage apples around the neighborhood (there are like 8 trees within a 2 block radius of our house). But it's the tail end of apple season, and almost all the apples have worm holes. So, I just bought some Honeycrisp apples on sale, and made applesauce.

It's easy, just put the apples in the pot, cores, skins and all, with spices.

I added a cinnamon stick, cloves, and a secret ingredient when I cooked them down. Mike said it's the best he's had (and he is picky!). No sugar needed, which I think is awesome. 

The food mill removes all the stems, skins and cores without wasting any apple.

Last time I made applesauce, with my friend Sheila, she had an automated food mill. This time, I had to use a manual food mill, and man, it gives you a workout!

The applesauce, ready to be canned!

The finished product!

So 5 pounds of apples only made three 12-ounce jars of applesauce (plus a little for eating immediately), sadly. Apples are cheap around here - I can get Gala apples for $0.68/pound, but I wanted to try these Honeycrisp apples, which are $0.89/pound. Not too bad, but I found an orchard which lets you pick them for FREE, which I will be doing next year; by that time I should be pretty good at canning applesauce.

In consolation I made us a Buttermilk Spice Cake. Nothing says fall like spiced-something.

The batter came out pretty thick since I don't have a Kitchenaid mixer.

I followed the recipe mostly (if you know me, I love to experiment), but with a little less sugar, and I made my own cinnamon/nutmeg glaze with a hefty amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered sugar, and just a touch of milk. It came out really tasty and a great consistency. 

The cake was light, moist and fluffy - yum.

We are continuing our foraging this weekend on the Mushroom Foray we signed up for, about a month ago, with the North American Truffling Society. Here's to hoping we learn something useful!

our new truffle rake, brushes, and basket for collecting 'shrooms!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sayōnara, Tokyo, until next time!

As our Tokyo trip wound down, we packed as much as we could into each day, making carefully plotted and planned itineraries, and packing our backpacks with band-aids and bottles of water. We were on a mission. 

We made a special effort to get to a Tokyo skatepark. We were totally impressed by the little kids shredding it up here! I think it made Mike and Josh feel old.

The larger skate park, with its gnarly ramps. BMX bikers used it as well.

Josh and Mike on one of the ramps they had in the back!

Another long trek took us to the Tokyo National Museum. This is where many of the most special Japanese artifacts and historical treasures are housed. It is comprised of 7 main buildings, 6 outlying buildings, and parks and gardens. Basically, it's too big to see everything all at once, so we did the best we could and tackled a couple of the main exhibits.

A whole room full of samurai swords. Wish they had more info in English!

One of the most interesting things I saw was the Buddha, in stone and sculptural pieces from early AD, from three Asian countries - China, India, and Japan. I loved seeing the similarities and differences between each country's take on their deity.

The Buddha as represented by India (almost always sitting, usually in Lotus).

Buddha carvings (statue and the reliefs in the back) in limestone from China.

Japan's take on the Buddha - with guardians.

My favorite piece was this contemporary (1881) piece by Miyagawa Kozan. Those two crabs looked so real in person, that it seemed like they were taxidermied and attached to the bowl, but they're porcelain.

This bowl is representative of Satsuma-style pottery.

I will say that America has something to learn from Asia, in terms of museums and public availability. Every museum Mike and I visited on our trip, from the Hong Kong History Museum to the Macau Museum, cost less than $6.00 to enter. In comparison, the LA Natural History Museum cost $12-$20, and the Art Institute of Chicago cost $27.00. Shouldn't we, as a society, want people to be educated and exposed to history and art? I think if our entrance fees were a little more affordable, maybe we'd have a few less ignorant people. 

One place Mike was determined to see, was the Lucky Cat Shrine, otherwise known as the Gotokuji Temple. I'm sure you've seen Lucky Cats in random Asian restaurants and stores. The original Lucky Cat's name was Tama, and he helped this particular temple flourish, and with it, his legend. Although it's a little bit outside of Tokyo, in the suburb of Setagaya, it was worth the trek.

The Lucky Cat Shrine, and many people's offerings.

The grounds of the temple are beautiful and include a cemetery and several other temples and shrines. You can purchase porcelain lucky cat statues here, to leave at the shrine as an offering (which we did), or to bring home and give yourself some luck (which we also did). Mike wanted one for Subietech HQ, so we got the largest one! He hand-carried that sucker back to the US.

Ringing the bell and leaving an offering at the temple.

Leaving another offering (can't have too many prayers!) of a little cat.

You can also purchase prayer boards, on which you write a wish/hope/prayer and leave, with an offering, at the temple. I got one and wrote a little hope for our future. I think we covered our wishing and praying for the day.

So many prayers, and ours just one of the bunch.

We continued our cat theme with a stop for drinks at a cat café! This was one of Bernice's must-dos for Tokyo, and as all of us are cat lovers, we were happy to oblige. I must say, with all the rules they have at this place (wear their provided slippers, wash your hands, don't bring in your bags, etc), these are some of the luckiest and cleanest cats alive. The room looked like a crazy cat girl exploded.

everything in this entire room is for the kitties and scratchable!

Of course the cat café was right near the Harujuku District, so that was our next stop. There are no words for the insanity here.

A shot of Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street), stuffed with fashion stores.

We stopped in at a Daiso, one of my favorite Japanese stores, on their main street, and bought a package of 20 masks for less than $1.00! We randomly wore them around town for the rest of the trip, and amusingly, no one even took notice. I wonder what kind of looks I'd get if I did this in Bend.

Josh and Bernice going incognito on Takeshita Dori.

Next, we walked up the street to the Meiji Shrine, which was built in the early 1900's to honor the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken. It is surrounded by over 100,000 trees, donated from all over Japan. It is a natural oasis in the middle of Tokyo.

The forested path to the Shrine.

Many sake brewers make offers each year to the Emperor and Empress.

The 40 ft tall Torii gate, made from 1,500 year old Cypress trees from Taiwan.

Cleansing our hands and mouths in the traditional way, prior to entering the shrine.

You can purchase prayer boards here, or simply write a prayer on a piece of paper, and drop it in the box with a little donation. Since we'd already spent the whole morning praying at the Gotokuji Temple, we just prayed on paper here. 

Mike, deep in thought, before the rows and rows of prayer boards.

the courtyard of the main shrine

Our final pilgrimage of the trip was to the Mecca for all Subaru lovers, the STI Gallery. This is a museum dedicated solely to Subaru STIs. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, this is a car that is famous for excelling in rally racing (motor races along actual roads, rather than a track). If you'd like to see all the pictures from this museum, you can go to the Subietech HQ website, or "like" them on Facebook

To the untrained eye, this is a museum full of blue cars.

The museum is in Mitaka, which is about an hour on public transit from Tokyo. So understandably, they don't get a lot of visitors - only a few a week. The museum manager, Ken, spoke perfect English and was happy to answer questions and let Mike and Josh peek under the hoods.

Mike and Josh geeking out with the museum manager.

We had the whole museum to ourselves.

The treatment we received at the museum exemplified what we'd been experiencing all week in Japan. Everyone thanked us for liking Subarus, and acted really grateful that we had come to visit them. As a whole, the Japanese people were very polite and gracious to visitors, and we really came to appreciate and love Tokyo, despite all the communication difficulties. Next year, we will be sure to learn a lot more Japanese before we go!

It is worth mentioning that we were in these countries while some major events went down - the protests in Hong Kong, and the eruption of Mt. Ontake. While we were not physically affected, it does affect us emotionally, and I have been thinking about those whose lives were lost or changed. Life is precious and unpredictable. Be sure you are living it, enjoying it, fulfilling your purpose and experiencing everything you can - none of us know how much time we are given.

A photo of Izumi Noguchi, right before the eruption.

Admiralty protests - Photo by Bill Kwan

Admiralty protests - Photo by Bill Kwan