Saturday, December 25, 2010

Now, an otter

There were two otters in Newport, both parents to a baby otter that we weren't quite lucky enough to meet. I think this was the girl otter, because the other one was huge. She was fun, and when we walked back and forth, she followed us.

Since you can't quite capture the cuteness of otters in photos, I thought I'd take video of the otter following John. You can't see John, but he's the reason the otter keeps swimming back and forth -- too cute!

Newport Aquarium

We were greeted by this awesome fish made completely out of plastics and other trash found on the beach. It's part of a program on display there called Washed Ashore, which features art made out of trash all through the aquarium. It was super cool, including a giant jellyfish made completely out of clear plastic, teaching people about how much trash we leave behind.

I could have stood here for hours, just watching the sharks smoothly glide through the water. So mesmerizing.

These guys felt like showing off in the shark tank. Cool to see their undersides!

More from Washed Ashore. Cute big turtle!

The best part of the aquarium -- sea otters. So remember river otters at the zoo? These things are about 10 times bigger. One of them weighed about 70 pounds! This guy was playing with us. Video pending in a separate post of the otter following John back and forth. He stopped playing every time someone else walked up, then swam right back to play with us. Adorable.

Sand dollars in their alive state. Did you have any idea they were deep purple and fuzzy?

Awesome jelly fish are fun to watch.

This. Is. A. Starfish. Do you believe me?

Scary sea nettles.

It was sooo much fun. They also had sea lions being silly, an anaconda (one of the scariest things I've seen in awhile) and tons of other things that I couldn't possibly post all the photos of -- it would have been the longest post ever! I'll try to post the otter video soon, then my photos from Sunday -- a trip to South Beach and the Heceta Head lighthouse.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Feast of kings

The highlight of thanksgiving for us. Make it. Trust us. It will be the best tasting cheesecake you've ever had.

Pumpkin cheesecake with marshmallow-sour cream topping and gingersnap crust:

For crust:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 9 ounces)

1 cup pecans (about 3 1/2 ounces)

1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For filling:

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin

5 large eggs

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

For topping:

2 cups mini marshmallows or large marshmallows cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Grind cookie crumbs, pecans, brown sugar, and ginger in processor until nuts are finely ground. Add butter; using on/off turns, process to blend. Transfer mixture to prepared pan; press onto bottom and 2 inches up sides of pan. Bake crust until set and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in pumpkin. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on low speed to incorporate each addition. Add flour, spices, and salt; beat just to blend. Beat in vanilla. Transfer filling to cooled crust. Bake until filling is just set in center and edges begin to crack (filling will move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool 1 hour. Run knife around sides of pan to release crust. Chill cheesecake uncovered in pan overnight.


Stir marshmallows and milk in medium saucepan over low heat until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Cool marshmallow mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Add sour cream to marshmallow mixture; fold gently just to blend. Pour topping over cheesecake and spread evenly, leaving 1/2 inch uncovered around edges. Chill to set topping, at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Cheesecake can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Read more:

Here's the delicious cheesecake before:

And if you don't have a springform pan and choose to use a pie pan, this is how much filling you will have leftover. (It's OK, right now we have a throw-together graham cracker crust, cheesecake with candied leftover pecans [which went in the original gingersnap crust] bars in the refrigerator, cooked in a brownie pan. WORTH IT.)

And....after! This stuff went quickly. An amazingly light way to end a heavy dinner (well, light in feeling, not calories, haha).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coos Bay is (was) a snowglobe

So the Oregon Coast got snow. It was about an inch, but it was awfully pretty. Everyone was freaking out. People at work were saying things like, "glad I don't have to leave for awhile," and "I'm glad I'm not going to lunch, I can't drive in this," and running to the window saying "wow, it's really coming down out there!"

And it was, actually. But it certainly wasn't sticking. It hasn't been cold enough to freeze the ground, making it impossible for the roads to become treacherous. But residents were a little too excited to think there's no way the snow stays around, and yes, Coos Bay schools canceled classes Wednesday early on Tuesday afternoon.

I can play in it? Mommy?

No, maybe we'll just cuddle on the blanket. It is cold after all, and the humans won't turn the heat on.

Ozzy, you've got a little somethin'...

Always cold and wet and sniffing hands awkwardly.

OK, seriously, why is he laying on me? Can you move him?

Actually, he's pretty warm. Maybe I'll just lay here awhile...

As I'm writing this, there's basically no snow left. And yes, Coos Bay gets off school tomorrow. Lucky jerks. It is going to be "cold," i.e. going down to like, 23 degrees, so they said it was because it would be cold and "icy." Geez.

Probably the last snow I'll see until we end up moving! And remember, this storm that stretched all the way up to Washington is probably heading easterly, so heads up Midwest.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A cat's life

Life is hard. A cat's life isn't.

Seriously, how did they get so lucky? I mean, right this second, they're both curled up next to each other on the couch, Ozzy in his nest and Hendrix in a yoga position.

Ozzy's major obsession is this blanket made by my friend Michelle — and in his defense, it's super warm and soft. So he often looks at it — pleading — until I form it into the perfect nest-like structure. Then he'll climb inside and sleep for hours at a time.

The highlight of his day. Aside from d-i-n-n-e-r.

Maybe we can trade lives one day.

Of course, it's telling that I'm home at 3:26 in my pajamas, and have been for hours. Lay off, I worked for about 9 hours on Saturday sitting at a volleyball tournament while I was deathly ill. And I didn't get home until 10 p.m. last night.

A cat's life, mine isn't.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Around this time last year (actually it was closer to Halloween, since I vividly remember laughing at costumes roaming the streets), we were right here, enjoying the fall weather in Newport.

For some reason, the changing of seasons makes me pine for traveling. We live in a state that I like to call "the best state for weekend trips." Seriously, where else can you drive three hours and get to Crater Lake, drive a few hours south and hit California, drive north and take in lighthouses and adorable coast towns, and drive inland to check out volcanos and high desert?

Or we could sit next to an icy cold creek near a campground at Crater Lake...

Or show off your tan lines after getting stranded on Wizard Island...thanks hiking boots. The tan line is still there, by the way, a wonderful reminder that Oregon doesn't get enough sun to make it go away. I may have it forever.

Either way, I want to welcome the season. Fall sports makes life hard for me. I work nearly every night of the week, and Fridays are especially tough. With the long days and difficult work, weekends are becoming lazy and blah for me. I don't. Do. Anything. Because sooner rather than later, Monday will return. Everybody's weekends start around 5 p.m. on Friday. Mine starts Saturday morning when I roll my dead body out of bed.

And the best part? The weather has been awesome. Unprecedented even. As I look out the window right now (in my pajamas as I wait to suit up to cover a soccer game at 7 p.m.), the sun is shining, there's a crisp breeze, wispy clouds accent the bright blue sky and trees are changing colors, though barely.

Yet, here I sit, just knowing I've got to go back to work all night. Then get up early again tomorrow.

As soon as this fall season is over, we're out for a weekend. See, I don't want to take a real vacation when I only have 10 days of those to give, and I'd like to get home in the next fiscal year. But in Oregon, day trips are easy. And cheap.

I'll go anywhere with a yurt. Soon it will be too wet to use our tent, but the yurts will be well prepared! Most people want to sit around in fall, but I want to welcome it with driving all over this beautiful state, seeing how different climates prepare for cooler weather.

In the meantime, we're going to make an apple pie and make some yummy, slow-cooked food. I've got to celebrate the seasons changing some way, since pumpkins on a shared balcony isn't exactly the best idea. We need our own porch, big time.

But I'm pining to drive through the Willamette National Forest to take in the short window of leaf peeping we have here in Oregon. On the other side of the forest? Bend. My current obsession of travel. I must get there.

I must learn to nordic ski. I must take a starlight canoe tour given by a group that serves desserts and hot chocolate and teaches about constellations. Or snowshoe, I could do that by snowshoe, too (yes, Bend tour guides offer both those options for a great price). I must visit the obsidian flow at the Newberry Crater. I must eat at the Deschutes Brewery, and taste-test their craft beers we can't get in Coos Bay. I just want to see the Three Sisters in person.

Go ahead and google image search Three Sisters Wilderness. I'll wait. Jealous? Me too.

All this? Spurned simply by being over-worked, under-compensated and pining to hit the trails.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day Two: Stranded

On the next day, we got up suuuuper early and bought two of the last three tickets available for the early boat ride. That's right, a boat ride around Crater Lake. For $38, you get a boat tour on the way to Wizard Island, the famous little volcano island in the middle of Crater Lake. You can choose to stay on Wizard Island for three hours and hike, or continue on with the tour of the lake. Boooooring. We stayed on the island.

But first, you must hike down this steep, dusty trail to Cleetwood Cove, which is 700 feet down to the lakeshore. It's small and rocky there, but it's nice to sit there along the super blue water.

Then we hopped on the boat, and got schooled on some Crater Lake knowledge. That I probably couldn't recite because I was too worried about being enamored with the blue-ness of the lake (I was convinced it HAD to look less blue when you get up close -- not true) and sweating from intense heat.

We were told it was going to be COLD. And it was chilly that morning, but there were no clouds, and the sun was a-shining. Needless to say, we quickly stripped off our outer layers before we even got to Wizard Island.

So we got to Wizard Island, which was awesome. They dropped us off and basically said there's no way to contact them at all unless it's an emergency and we broke this glass case to get a key to get into a locker which had a radio in it. Serious stuff.

But we decided we were going to hike to the top of the volcano, and were equipped with water and lunch for the summit. Here's a view on the way up.

And the thin air got to us, so it took awhile. But eventually, we summitted, and here's the crater of a volcano!

OK, so it's difficult to tell it's a crater. But it was and it was deep and big. But the view from the top was amazing! Here we are, tired but happy.

Fumerole Bay. It's apparently a good place to swim, though I wasn't swimming in the 50-degree water. Some did though. I just enjoyed how beautiful the water was. Take that, tropical islands. I'll take a volcano-turned-lake-upon-massive-explosion any day. It's only fed by rain and snowmelt (it snowed there not long after we left! EEK!), so it's unreal clean.

When it came time for the boat to pick us up, we all met on the dock, waiting. The sun was warm (OK, hot) and the water was cool. We used up all our water, and I was ready for the rest of the lake tour, hike back to the top of the caldera and a yummy, campfire dinner.

The view from the dock, where about 50 people were gathered. My camera is mere inches above that famous blue water.

But. But, but, but. The boat was supposed to return at 1:30. We sat. 1:30 came and went. Then 1:45. Then 2:00. Then I became readily aware that my skin was baking like it hadn't baked before. We were a lot closer to the sun than I was used to. And the boat was nowhere. In fact, no boat had lapped the lake since we had been there. The natives were restless. And a little concerned that we would be stranded.

Around 3:00, a boat magically appeared, and everyone was excited. My skin was hot, I was thirsty and hunger was attempting to set in. We had only brought enough to stay until 1:30!

So the park ranger hops off the boat, and everyone was excited to get back on. But. They were having technical difficulties with one of their three boats (though we're still questioning how one of the other boats couldn't pick us up), and couldn't get us and had no way of communicating that. Awesome.

But. There were four dudes toting fishing poles on the other side of the island. They had planned to stay twice as long as the rest of us so they could fish (fish aren't native to the lake, obviously, since there's no actual water source running into the lake). Unfortunately, we had to wait for them to hike from the other side of the island, since they wouldn't be taking another tour out that day. We also didn't get to finish the lake tour, but we didn't care. 

Once those fishermen got back, we were ready to go, and not looking forward to the rather steep and difficult hike we were faced with to get to our car.

Luckily, we took our hiking shoes off once we got back to the cove, and cooled off our feet before we attempted the hike. Here's the water up close.

That's a family of swimmers. The dad was French, and very so. Thick French accent, counting in French and an innate ability to get naked just about anywhere. Apparently he didn't feel the need to wear his swim "trunks" (more like underwear) under his shorts -- he just stripped down right there with people around. Thank goodness he wrapped a sweatshirt around his waist, though it was far from modest.

The boat that rescued us from the volcano island.

During this time, a major headache (most likely brought upon lack of water and too much sun) set in for me. The hike up was nearly unbearable, and I was never so happy to chug down the Gatorade we were smart to bring on the trip. Despite being stranded, it was a gorgeous experience, and a fun story in the least. 

Also, I have a nice souvenir from the adventure. Peeling sunburn. I've never peeled this much before. As I've never had sunburn like this before. Had we KNOWN it was going to be as hot as Hades on the lake (we were informed high of 50), I would have known to wear sunscreen and I would have known that my sweatshirt would most certainly not be protecting my arms. Ugh.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day One (or more like, Evening One): Sunset

As if the Rim Drive wasn't enough, we got super excited and went on a ranger-led hike listed in the brochure: a sunset hike to Watchman's Peak.

Since we were embarrassed about our abilities (or lack thereof) to breathe in the thin air, we left a little before the ranger-led group. The hike climbed to more than 7,000 feet, which is awful thin in my lungs' book. It didn't take us long, though it was steep. Once we got to the top, we knew why this hike was so popular, despite its difficult nature.

Here, looking south toward Klamath Falls. We believe the shadow of that giant mountain in the right center of the photo is Mount Shasta.

A look at the parking lot from above (and with a little zoom, otherwise you wouldn't be able to tell it was a parking lot full of cars).

Watchman's Peak (which houses a small building that's still used to spot wildfires in the forest) offers great views of Crater Lake and the Cascade Mountain range to the west. As we were patiently (and coldly) waiting for sunset, the moon was rising from the other direction.

A misty look to the northwest: some Cascade foothills in the near-sunset light.

The sun begins to set just above the Cascades.

As the sun sets, a pinkish hue rises beyond a glassy Crater Lake and lights the moon. It was incredible.

The colors were intoxicating, and photos do an awful job of portraying them. But I love the look of the mountain silhouettes against the vibrant oranges. 

If I could paint, I would paint this. This is what met us after we hiked back down and stood in the parking lot, not wanting to leave, but really wanting to crank up the heat in the car.

Also, this. The moonlight reflected in Crater Lake. If it looks like a painting in the photo, it's because it looked like a painting in person. Overwhelming.

Next up: getting stranded and burnt crispy on the volcano.

P.S. If you click the pictures, they pop up bigger. I realize these are kind of small, and they might be best viewed by clicking.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day One: Pleased to meet your acquaintance, Crater Lake

We arrived on Saturday, after just a three and a half hour drive (much shorter than we thought). We didn't do anything exciting except set up our tent and start a fire (which took much longer than we anticipated).

But here's our sweet Marmot tent. Inside: millions of blankets that turned out to be necessary the first couple of nights when it was down in the 30s, and two sleeping pads from REI, our new addiction. Those sleeping pads save LIVES.

Our humble abode (with its bug-like rain fly):

The next day, we decided to get acquainted with the former giant volcano turned deepest lake in America after a blast that was hundreds of times bigger than Mt. St. Helens. Hence, the Rim Drive. Thirty-three miles of road with great views of the lake, Wizard Island (the volcano inside the lake, more on that later) and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Golden ground squirrels. Mainly, chipmunks. And they were everywhere. And perpetually hungry.

Proof we were there (also proof that we're apparently selling Ohio colleges).

Blacktail deer on a hike. There were two babies, and we turned around shortly after this. We were huffing and puffing in the thin air, plus, we thought we might run into bears if we ran into deer. Not sure what kind of logic that is, but it scared us enough to turn around and keep on driving.

The surrounding mountain range.

Unaltered lake color. Seriously, it's that blue.

Phantom Ship. Which is apparently really exciting, though I think it's just a rock sticking out of the lake. It does look like a ship, though.

Vidae Falls on the eastern portion of the Rim Drive.

Then we went back to camp and ate and packed for our evening ahead. The sunset hike to Watchman's Peak, which gets it's own post soon. The photos are that amazing.