Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hiking, Dancing, Staining and Writing

Wow, so it was less than a week that I last posted but so much has been going on, it seems like ages!

The weekend was eventful, I went on a hike with Damien on Saturday up Spencer's Butte and was really impressed with the view and the steep climb up to a long rocky top. It was the absolute best day to do it! Clear blue skies and we could see out to Mt. Baker and the Three Sisters, all covered in snow. Between the rocks grew an array of wildflowers and the few trees that had taken root near the top were covered in lichens and moss such that you felt like you were looking at an underwater ecosystem. We picnicked on burritos courtesy of Damien and some crazy everything but the kitchen sink muffins I'd made.

The Wildflowers were amazing, you couldn't help but get so close.

A view of the mountain coming out of the driveway, that's how close!
Damien and a view towards the south
That evening we met back up and drove to Corvallis (45 minutes or so away) for a Swing and Blues dancing event! The swing was a blast and, since I'd done it before I was able to pick up fairly easily but it had enough differences that I asked each guy who danced with me that he have patience with me! We had an hour intro lesson and danced for 2 hours and then they turned the lights down and we danced blues for the next two hours.  
No introductory lesson. I hadn't even heard of blues dancing til coming here! 
So I kind of just dove in and did the best I could. The idea is to mimick your partner, and the lead would improvise these slow artsy moves. It took me a while to get use to it, especially with each guy's different style, but I loved it!

This is my underwater scenery...
This stuff was so bright and the knots in the tree were just crazy accents.
A congregation of knots.
This is at the event I covered: a worm compost expert explains the process and gives advice.

Saturday I went to cover an event that was going on in my coverage area, a garden tour. There were booths set up outside of the River House community garden so I just kind of went up to the people behind the tables and asked what they represented and why they were there. I ended up learning a ton about the Master's Garden extension program because many of the booths were some group within that extension: master gardeners with a specialization, like compost, food preservation and just pure gardening. It was a fun afternoon learning about this program and the people were really interesting to talk to. They all are just so knowledgeable. 
There is a good story behind this cake..or inside it!
For the afternoon, Cathy and I had the pleasure of restaining her enormous deck! Neither of us had been looking forward to the job but we sucked it up and got to work. It took 2 1/2 hours and we got a system down and enjoyed talking as we worked, with music playing in the was done before we knew it! So that was nice to get out of the way, especially since we knew if we didn't do it then, we'd have to do it on the long weekend of the 4th and couldn't even be out on it til it dried! We were very pleased with ourselves. 
We are having fun in our class, it's neat to be able to read others' stories to get an idea of different writing styles, but also a little intimidating! If you want to have a look, we post it here to our class blog.

A beautiful residential garden on the garden tour.
For Monday night, while I should have been writing, I was instead eating cupcakes at Divine Cupcake. I met my friend Holly there, who really liked their cupcakes and suggested it. We both got the chai with vanilla/cinnamon icing. I tried not to gulp it down in four bites, but rather savor it with my soy latte while we talked. She is very passionate about knitting and I had said I'd love to learn. Well, wouldn't you know it, she pulls out a pair of needles and a big ball of yarn and set to teaching me right in the cupcakery! She taught well, I did a row or two before we were kicked out at closing time. 

I got home before the night's rain and I turned my article on the Master's Gardeners in a half hour before it's due time, midnight!

Happy girl on mountain.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stacey's First Week o' Grad School

So, despite starting grad school in the summer, I can’t think of anything better...
My first day, we collected in a room in the library for pastries and coffee and a kind of welcome/introduction from Petra Hagen, who is in charge of Graduate Programs in the School of Journalism and Communication. We got a better idea of what we were to expect in the coming months and how she, along with the rest of the Journalism grad faculty crew are all very much available for us. What is happening right now, is that the journalism school building is getting a total makeover over the course of the next two years so our classes will be held in the Library as well as other buildings. The faculty will be stationed in Agate Hall (where I’m told the Vaux’s Swifts swirl out of the sky and down into the chimney in the evenings at a certain time of year!). So it sounds a little scattery, but I’m it’s easy to zoom around from one side of campus to the other on my bike. I think the faculty really wants to make extra care to be accessible to us, what with these changes going on just as we’re coming in.

Funny that Boulder, my other choice of school, was going through very similar changes, it was just their bad luck that the situation blew up in their faces with the audit falling right in the middle of it all.

I have no regrets, though. Just seems like I’m coming into grad school for Journalism just when the educational movement is making sure to keep up with the changes that the field is experiencing. What I like hearing is that we are going to have classes available to us now that keep us right up there in the running.

Willamette River Trail
For example, our first class has us each in front of a huge Mac computer learning about blogging on Wordpress and how to navigate Twitter and use it as a journalism tool. Suzi Steffens is our teacher for this class, Reporting and Information Strategies. The name just sounded boring so I didn’t have much hope for the class.

Not til Suzi walked in the door.

This woman pretty much blew us all away. Not five minutes into class she had us all cracking up, talking about her obsession with twitter and flying from one interesting topic to another.

Before we knew it, we were on our first “assignment”. Like, she literally had us choose a part of town based on our interests, partnered us up, and kicked us out onto the streets to “find some news”!  Way too cool.

So I was partnered with Chris and we took off on our bikes (good thing I got a fellow cyclist!) and headed off along the river trail. Chris is a California native and comes from a background in photography and just graduated a few weeks ago! So in a whirlwind, now he’s in grad school.

This couple was just too charming not to capture in a picture.
We tooled along the trail and checked out some of the various sites just off the trail, the Rose Garden which is now in bloom. I got to talking to this one man and we discovered he was the father of Chad who led our Mt. Hebo trip yesterday, haha, so I got to see him again and he seemed a little horrified that I was meeting his father who had opted to go to the Fairy Festival over joining our hike. His father was a very sweet character.

Chris and I carried on and pulled up to the River House where there was a community garden. With the intention to ask someone about that, we discovered the house itself was run by the Eugene Outdoor Program. After asking where we might find someone to talk to about the garden, we struck up conversation with one of the employees of the program and ended up finding a good story lead in him! He’s the Lead Kayak Instructor and told us about the program and how it caters to the youth of Eugene. Chris manned up and asked if we could get some photos of him (as a photographer, this is something he is use to..and something I’m going to have to work up to!) and took a couple great shots of him in the boat shed with the colorful array of kayaks lined up behind him.

Afterwards, we were outside and found a woman filling up a bag next to the garden and we asked her what she was up to. Turns out the compost is free and she was getting some for her own home garden. The city provides the various community gardens around the city with the fallen leaves and clippings they collect in the fall which is something gardeners drool over.

We rode on and talked a bit with a man in a motorized wheelchair who called himself Scooter. He was outfitted in bright orange reflective clothing and said that even that didn’t keep the cars from hitting him! He’s been here for decades and told us how much change he’s seen as Eugene has developed over time. Nice guy, once he found out we were riding on the sidewalk because we were lost and a little afraid of the road construction that was going on where we had intended to ride.

In an attempt to find a reclaimed farmland (unfarmed and let to return to natural landscape) that Suzi had told us about, we got hopelessly lost. A map would have been helpful, something I usually tend to have on me but of course not today. So we road in what we swore was a straight line but crossed Coburg Rd about three times (despite the fact that I’m pretty sure it is in a straight line as well…). Meh. Smh…

Somehow we found our way home and that night I wrote up my article on the kayak guy and the outdoor program.

That was all just Monday!!

Okay, so I don’t really remember all what happened on Tuesday. Suzi gave us a big tutorial on Twitter and Wordpress and we went over each others’ articles. I’m discovering how cool twitter is after half-heartedly giving a dang about it for however long I’ve been a member (aside from posting links to my articles and blog posts..). You really just constantly have a stream of real-time news right at your fingertips and you can follow whatever you’re interested in and get updates all the while. So I’m excited about my local resources, it’s fun to see what’s going on in Eugene from various different perspectives (including the police, my teacher, classmates, Eugene new resources, Eugene bikers…pretty great. So suddenly I’m understanding Suzi’s obsession and am suddenly realizing I’ve developed one quite similar…

Oh yea! I went on a jog up the trail to Fox Hollow and then on toward’s my second time and will be a long time before I’m not gasping like some desperate, flopping fish out of water as I “run” (aka, put one foot in front of the other, if barely) up the path.

One of the lush, overflowing plots at a Eugene Community Garden
Wednesday Chris and I made another news-finding expedition. We hung out sketchily outside of one locked community garden that had its gate ajar ‘til we got up the nerve to just walk on in. Well after watching us amusedly as we walked up, one of a trio of gardeners asked us what was up and we told him. “Did you come on bikes?” he barked, we nervously pointed at them propped up near the gate. But no, they were actually really nice and eager to talk. Pat Bayes told me he’d been at that garden for two years but has been a gardener for fifty. He pulled me off to show me the various plots while Chris took pictures and talked with the others. Bayes’ dream is to run this garden as a community, rather than having it under the control of the city. In essence, they want “control over our own existence and how we do things”, sharing crops as a community and paying dues with “sweat equity”.

Both days out in search of news, Chris and I have marveled over how open and friendly people here are. We’ve learned so much from this handful of people we’ve encountered who were more than happy to stop for awhile and just talk with us. It’s been really quite an experience..especially for the introvert in me. I definitely have had to give a little extra shove to urge myself toward that next unsuspecting interviewee. They won’t all be so nice, right?

After covering our “beat” for the afternoon, I headed home and met Cathy and we got ready for our Wednesday GEARs ride. I’d had it in the back of my head all day, knowing we’d be doing Gimple Hill which Cathy had told me weeks ago was pretty rough! Well, we met up with the group under some slightly ominous skies and headed up Loraine (which sure ain’t an easy feat in itself!). The ride was pretty flat for the majority after that and the clouds broke apart, allowing for another golden evening that will only be a vague memory in four months or so.

The beautify of the sunlight cannot begin to be fully expressed here
Gimple Hill loomed ahead and Gary, the ride leader told me to just shift way down, take it slow and “enjoy yourself”. Well I made it and am not any worse for wear. Cathy was right there too and I didn’t hear her about hard core-she just did a big ride only yesterday! We were both very happy we’d gone. The skies were phenomenal on the ride home.

For Thursday, Suzi told us she’d be in class for our scheduled block but that we didn’t have to come in. Well, I was glad to see about five or so of us showed to take advantage of another opportunity to learn something new from Suzi. Well, we are definitely being introduced to some interesting slices of the internet! Sorry, I’m not going to divulge all my secrets! Not yet!

We had a little cohort lunch get together, my classmates and I. It was nice to enjoy an opportunity to bond as a group on the patio at Agate Alley. We’ve got some characters! It was great to sit back and relax as we laughed, related to each other and shared our stories.

One thing we all had in common is we are so excited that this adventure is starting and are looking forward to what is to come.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Climbing Trees and Hiking Hills

Well let’s see, I don’t know if I can really remember all that’s gone on in the past five days, but I do know Friday involved a picnic up in Hendrick’s Park (there’s this grassy lawn that is surrounded by rhododendrons, shaded by tall beautiful evergreen, nothing could be more perfect) and my second day at work. The kitchen was about as busy as my first day (a week ago) so I was able to start feeling comfortable knowing what to do (something, anything, all the time!). I met the other “new girl” whose name is Laura. We got along super well and ended up talking while we ate our glorious meals at the end of the shift. Since neither of us had anything to do that night we went along Willamette to find somethin’ happenin’.

We actually heard live music and rode our bikes in that direction, discovering Holy Cow, a small restaurant with a colorful patio and a band in full swing. We got drinks there and enjoyed the music, a local Eugene group who played that night for their dinner!

I took so many pics of my hike that I couldn't fit them all below   
Afterwards we found a restaurant next door with a nice bar and really friendly staff. We ended up hanging with those who’d just finished up their shift, they were a fun bunch and I learned that they have this crazy bike group that I should check out.

On Saturday it was rainy and Laura and I rode down to Morning Glory CafĂ© to meet my friend Damien for brunch. It was a busy but really great breakfast spot. They had some great vegetarian (sorry, ovo-lacto-pescatarian) options and I enjoyed introducing my new friend. I was pleased Laura agreed to ride down so I could get the real ‘riding in the rain’ feel…I try to jump on that opportunity anytime I get it! We were soaked but no worse for wear.

Afterwards, Damien and I climbed Skinner’s Butte and sat up in his perfect climbing tree. It was misting but really nice out. We decided after awhile of talking to go to a bookstore where we grabbed coffee and looked at coffee table books. We learned about space and the solar system as we slowly dried off. We finished the day by going to a cheap movie and riding home to a really pretty sunset.

On Sunday, Cathy and I met our Eugene Hiker’s meetup group and we carpooled about 2hrs northwest of here for a hike up Mt. Hebo. The day was gray but the lush greenery of the forest understory was bright and rich. The hike lasted several hours and wasn’t very taxing. I enjoyed getting to know some Eugeners who like to hike, it was a group of about 9 or 10 of us. At the peak, we munched on our snacks and our trip leader Chad handed out pieces of chocolate. The sun broke through for a moment and we even got to see down into the valley from whence we just came (or so I assume).

We drove to Pacific City which is, as you might imagine, right on the Pacific! There’s a nice pub with a patio that ends in the sand so, after I ordered my drink, I threw off my muddy shoes and ran across the expansive strip of beach to the water. It was crisp and I ran along the shore to the sandstone cliffs, looking out at the massive rock that busted out of the sea around which tiny pinpoints that were seabirds rode the air currents and came to rest at one of the many nests on the rock face. I couldn’t see it too well but memories of working with Andrew off the coast of Washington were vivid.
The dinner was great (salmon had to be involved, of course) and we enjoyed each other’s company while overlooking the great Pacific Ocean.
Cathy and Me!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Final (not entirely) Lazy Days

On Wednesday, I spent the morning writing out on the deck in the beautiful weather. The mornings and evenings have been chilly and it warms up in the day. Nonetheless, it’s always cool in the shade and on the bike so I try to remind myself to take a jacket wherever I go even though it’s June. 

I made a trip to the market and picked up some necessities. I really like our store, it’s called Market of Choice but Cathy still calls it the old name it went by, PC’s, which always comes to mind before M.o.C. and she knows exactly what I’m talking about. Kind of like how People’s Drug changed to CVS back in MD and we called it People’s for ages after. 

Anyhoo, I had my fun strolling along through the aisles. I really, really like grocery shopping. Whenever I’ve lived on my own, it’s always been an event I looked forward to. I just like the process of thinking out my week’s feasts and trying to find the healthy but relatively cheap options. And now, having read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, I’m trying to find the corn-free options, and that’s not easy!

I noticed a sale on what looked like a really great root beer and saw that all but one had been snapped up by all the eager shoppers before me. Well, upon closer inspection, I noticed one of the main ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup. The cheap, plentiful and highly processed “sugar”. So I looked around at my other options and realized that this “gourmet” soda was, at sale price, the same price as some of the other good looking 4packs that used cane sugar and that were fairly local as well! So you can imagine the swagger this smart shopper employed as she pushed her cart on down the aisle.

Cathy and I had planned to go on the 6pm GEARs ride that evening and we knew that for today’s ride they’d be coming from the meeting location south so we decided we’d intercept them before they hooked onto Loraine Rd. Well we weren’t sure exactly where they’d pop out onto it so we parked at a cross street looking back and forth. Suddenly Cathy saw them ahead of us and we rushed to catch up. Well, just our luck, the last in the line just barely made the light between 29th and Willamette and we were far enough behind that they hadn’t noticed us. We waited out the loooong signal and they were far ahead of us as we pedaled our hearts out after them. Where 29th turns into Loraine there begins a long uphill so we labored our way up, hoping to see the group around the next bend. After a great deal of exertion, we made it to the top, and there was the group! Apparently, they’d already broken off from the slower half so we pulled up (utterly spent!) and it was several minutes before the rest of the group arrived! Ha, well we weren’t too worse for wear and, luckily, the rest of the ride would be fairly flat.

The evening light worked it’s magic while we pedaled between the hills. I’m slowly getting to know some of the other regulars, there’s Garry who has my same bike (color too!) the Surly Long Haul Trucker (oh, love of my life..), and Gary, a friend of Cathy’s from when she biked with the group 10 years ago. He lives a couple streets north of us. Rick is a cabinet maker who built a perfect little wooden bench with drawers for shoe-storage that Cathy wanted for the front entrance of the house. There’s Mike, a big guy who coordinates the ride schedule and Sterling, a short man with a long gray beard who said he’d sponsor me as a racing cyclist, haha. There tend to be more men and only a handful of women, none of which I’ve seen more than once. I have only been out for three rides though. I am determined to keep it up, I absolutely love getting out for these treks and doing some longer distances. With the group, I’m challenged to go faster just to keep up. I hope my school/work schedule allows for me to continue with them!

That evening Cathy shared some of her fresh garden greens and we both made delicious salads.We were pooped!

For Thursday, I started my day out making muffins! I had gotten various ingredients from the market yesterday with just this in mind. Cathy made some of her really great ones a couple days before and shared one with me last night and that truly was the inspiration for today's endeavor.

I of course had some company helping me along, giving advice and making suggestions...

In the early afternoon I went down to campus to tend to some matters and I decided to head to the downtown area from there. I parked my bike and strolled around so I could get a slower-paced idea of the streets. It’s a nice downtown, seemed pretty quiet that afternoon. I think the whole of Eugene is much more low-key during the summer. Graduation was this past week and it seems like the visiting families, graduation parties and moving-out commotion is winding down.

I got a veggie bagel from Bagel Sphere and ate it in the park where they hold Saturday Market. There’s a big fancy fountain and some large fir trees that I enjoyed the company of while I ate and watched the people go by.

This will be one of my last lazy afternoons for awhile!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sunny Day Adventures

Wow, this week the days we keep having slow cloudy morning starts but then the sun comes out and it warms up and turns just gorgeous! On Monday I went on a jog on the Rexius trail as it began to get sunny and enjoyed listening to an NPR Fresh Air podcast on my Ipod…learning while jogging!

Later I met up with Jordan and we biked out Fern Ridge Trail, which I’ve been meaning to do for days. It follows Amazon Creek which runs west out of the city. Initially we work our way through neighborhoods but then the valley opens up and you look out across a wide expanse of grasslands. The trail heads to Fern Ridge Reservoir but first there is a big marshland, and that’s where Jordan took me for some bird watching! Turns out he was a big birder when he was younger and, since he grew up in the area, he knew just where a good spot was. We were able to get up on this platform overlooking the pondy marsh area and we saw some really nice stuff: cinnamon teal, osprey, marsh wrens belting out their wild mechanical sounding song from the thick cover of marsh grass, and a group of about 300-40 huge white pelicans! Sure didn’t expect that! Jordan told me that when he came here in his early teens, the birders made a big deal when they saw just a single pelican. Well apparently populations are on the rise!

I did notice there was a weird half circle extruding from the middle of the top mandible of some of the birds’ bills. The first one I saw, I assumed it was some piece of trash that had gotten stuck on the bill but then I saw it on several more individuals. Well, I looked it up online and it turns out that it is a natural protrusion called a horn which grows anew every breeding season! It seems like both male and female adults have this feature which is shed after mating. Pretty weird! I was more ready to call it some kind of human caused thing before thinking it could possibly be something natural!

We watched the pelicans shuffling along in groups in the shallow water, heads submerged as they herded and caught small fish. They are huge birds, even from far away, when they take flight they look the size of a crane.

We also heard a great deal of activity in the grasses, including Virginia Rail, Sora and Least Bittern.  Some other spots included beautiful Black Terns which seem silver-lined, Caspian Terns and a Black-Crowned Night Heron. It was gorgeous out and warm except when the sun went behind a cloud for a moment or two. I still need to get use to this completely different climate (and remember a hoodie wherever I go)! The Eugeners tell me this is still quite cold for June, that it really should be much warmer. I’m not complaining!

For Tuesday, I met up with a new outdoorsy friend named Damien. We went up Skinner’s Butte and it was so clear and blue that we had a perfect view of the snow-engulfed Three Sisters; peaks ranging above 10,000ft! It has been so fun meeting new Eugene people, I feel like I have so much in common with a great number of them. I feel really lucky to be enjoying Eugene in the summer while everyone is out and playing sports, cycling and soaking up the sun. I definitely won’t be taking this perfect weather for granted, though!

On my way home, I decided to turn up Fox Hollow and go up into the hills a ways. It’s a definite climb, but once you get up about a thousand feet, it’s just so lovely..the purple lupines and the dark green conifers against a brilliant aqua sky…it’s also very peaceful up there. I road for about an hour and hurtled back down the hill with supper in mind. As I pulled out my fixin’s to make a killer salad, I remembered my lack of carrots and was thinking “Darn, I can’t have my salad without carrots! Wait. I’m suppose to be picking up my local foods produce today. I’m suppose to be picking it up right NOW!” With ten minutes to go, I dropped everything and ran out the door. I drove down to the pickup spot with a minute to spare and there was my nice local foods lady, waiting to distribute the last of the pickups-mine! Whew! They give your food away to charity if you don’t show up, which isn’t the worst thing to have happen but man those carrots just made my salad. Not to mention the Tokyo White Turnips and the sugar snap peas, as well as the farm fresh egg from last week that I hard boiled. Put some greens under it all, throw on some onion and pumpkin seeds and Annies Papaya Poppy Seed Dressing and you’re good to go!