Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lassen and Lava Beds Vacation

We did a lot of driving the last few days and it was well worth the time behind the wheel. Scoob and I usually get cranky with each other on trips, but not this time. And that was really nice. This marks the third trip (first road trip, and second trip involving family) together where we didn't get irritable. Does this mean we're finally hitting a groove?

Anyhow, since we drive I-5 so regularly, I decided we would take Hwy. 99 north from Sacramento to Chico for a change of scenery before switching to Hwy. 32. There were a couple of interesting things along the way, like the gorgeous lavender farm, and kitschy things too, like a strange spherical industrial tank that someone had painted a cute face on, but there had been no shoulder to pull off onto to take pictures.

We had a brief delay in Yuba City where I got to languish in the car in the Central Valley heat while Scoob went into Target to buy flashlights we would need later in our trip. Luckily I was able to find a patch of shade in the parking lot and I munched on fresh cherries and read a book while I waited. Apparently the Target was huge and Scoob had a difficult time finding what he needed, and stopped at Starbucks for iced drinks before coming back to the car. At which point he had his snacks and realized he forgot to get something while he was in Target, so off he went again.

All in all, we were there about an hour and a half. I just had to keep telling myself we were on vacation and not to get worked up. We had nowhere that we needed to be that day and dawdling at Target wasn't going to make us late for anything. And it worked! When I would start to get irritated I'd would just think that sitting in the car reading was not all that different from sitting on the patio reading and the point was I was on vacation and relaxing. I seriously need to have these talks with myself more often.

We made it Susanville intact Friday night and went to the family reunion in Westwood on Saturday. We pitched horseshoes (my cousin and I were eliminated in the first round, though I did get two ringers! A first!) and played bingo. We played cow pasture golf, thankfully, cow pie frisbee was off the line up this year. I don't remember a spitting contest, though that's usually a regular event, too. The younguns had sack races, a balloon toss, and a hula hoop contest, and, of course, there was lots of food.

The one thing really missing this year was music. Grandpa always loved to strum his guitar and other family members would either play or sing along with him. Once he had his stroke, music sort of shifted to a group of cousins who had a band and the sing along aspect sort of tapered off. This year there was no music at all. I don't know why there was no music, but for me, the fact that Grumpy's not with us anymore made it all the more noticeable.

My immediate family headed out to Reno Saturday night to see Chelsea Handler, gamble, and whatnot, while Scoob and I headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park. I thought it would be a good idea to enter that park from the south and drive Hwy. 89 through the park to the north side since we were going to continue north. We were about 20 miles from the park entrance when I saw a sign stating Hwy. 89 was closed through the park due to snow.

Apparently they've had a late winter up there and got snow just a few weeks ago and the road is blocked by a 15' wall of snow. This is one of those reasons calling ahead is always recommended. It would have been nice if our guidebook had included contact information so we could have called, or even a note that the main road through the park was closed seasonally.

So we flipped the car around and backtracked to Westwood, then took Hwy. 44 along the north side of the park. Tough we did get some good shots of Lake Almanor and Mount Lassen as we doubled back.

Lake Almanor
Lake Almanor

Mount Lassen over Lake Almanor
Mount Lassen over Lake Almanor

It was almost 4 p.m. by the time we reached the northern entrance to the park, so we decided to skip it and just explore the forest and wind our way north to Burney where I'd planned to spend the night.

Lassen National Forest, landscape in the Hat Creek fire area
The burned out area near Hat Creek in Lassen National Forest

Life finds a foothold in wildfire area
I liked this little plant that found a foothold in a fissure of this fire-blackened boulder.

Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea
I've seen this parasitic wildflower once before several years ago in Yosemite National Park.

Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea
This time I got pictures. It's called a Snow Plant or Sarcodes sanguinea.

Lassen National Forest, Hat Creek running clean and clear
This section of Hat Creek looked so clear and inviting.

Lassen National Forest, on the banks of Hat Creek

Lassen National Forest, small waterfall on Hat Creek

But since we were checking in earlier than anticipated, we decided to use the time to get closer to our next destination, Lava Beds National Monument, rather than sit in a hotel room. So off we went to Alturas. Alturas turned out to be even less inviting than Burney so we grabbed a snack and headed for Klamath Falls, OR. K-Falls is only 45–60 minutes from Lava Beds whereas Alturas is 90 minutes and we knew we'd be able to find more comfortable lodgings there.

For those who don't know, I'm Modoc (among other nationalities) on my dad's side and Lava Beds was part of the tribe's traditional lands. I won't get into a history lesson here suffice it to say several points within the monument are important for various reasons. I've always meant to make the time to come here and I'm glad I finally did.

Lava Beds National Monument entrance

Lava Beds National Monument, Devil's Homestead
This is a section of the monument called Devil's Homestead.

Lava Beds National Monument, Captain Jack's Stronghold
This is part of Captain Jack's Stronghold. I had to restrain myself from punctuating the Park Service sign, which reads Captain Jacks Stronghold.

Lava Beds National Monument, hiking Captain Jack's Stronghold
Scoob and me hiking in the Stronghold, where ±55 Modoc fighters held off aprrox. 600 U.S. Army troops for 5 months.

Lava Beds National Monument, finding life in unexpected places in the Lava Beds
Finding life in unexpected places.

Lava Beds National Monument, dragonfly
This little guy was an excellent subject and kept returning to pose on this perch.

Lava Beds National Monument, Big Painted Cave trail
On the trail to the Big Painted Cave. That's Scoob schlepping back to the car to get water. He says he figured it was easier to go back and get water than pack my heat exhausted body out of there. Now that there is trust—giving him the keys to the car and letting him leave me behind in this blasted land.

Lava Beds National Monument, Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
Indian paintbrush or Castilleja applegatei alongside the trail.

Lava Beds National Monument, purple salvia, Salvia Dorii, against black volcanic rocks
I think this is Salvia dorrii, but I thought it was striking with the black volcanic stones in the background.

Lava Beds National Monument, juniper skeleton
Juniper skeleton.

Lava Beds National Monument, crater leading to Big Painted Cave
Looking down into the crater where Big Painted Cave is located.

Lava Beds National Monument, narrow entrance to Big Painted Cave
That's the throat of the cave. Oh yeah, we went down there.

Lava Beds National Monument, icy floors inside Big Painted Cave
Inside Big Painted Cave. That's ice on the floor of the cave and it was cold in there.
A nice respite from the heat outside.

Lava Beds National Monument, exiting Big Painted Cave
Shimmying back out of the cave.

Lava Beds National Monument, climbing back out of the maw of Big Painted Cave
The maw leading out to the crater from the inside.

Before going to Big Painted Cave we went to Mushpot Cave which the Park Service has made much more user-friendly–installing stairs down into the cave, highlighting different lava tube formations with permanent lighting, and leveling and paving the cave floor with concrete. I wanted to try Mushpot first to make sure I could handle being underground in tight quarters before attempting an undeveloped cave.

After our adventures in spelunking we decided to go for a more standard hike to the top of Petroglyph Point. This is the location where, according to Modoc oral tradition, the land was created. Kamookumpts, the Creator, is said to be sleeping under this bluff.

Lava Beds National Monument, Petroglyph Bluff Trail
The trail up Petroglyph Bluff, or in my case Petrogrlyph Huff and Puff Bluff.
Scoob had no problem getting to the top except that he had to wait for me to catch my breath a few times.

Lava Beds National Monument, wind eroded volcanic rock at the top of Petroglyph Point
Beautiful wind eroded landscape at the top of Petroglyph Point.

Lava Beds National Monument, cliff swallows nesting at Petroglyph Point
Swallows were everywhere and we noticed the condominiums of nests in the crevasses.

Lava Beds National Monument, close up of nesting swallow at Petroglyph Point
Peeking out from an apartment.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point
After hiking to the top and finding no petroglyphs, we realized they were at the bottom.
Oh well, it was good exercise.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point
Nearly the entire side of the bluff had been carved with petroglyphs.

Lava Beds National Monument, petroglyphs at Petroglyph Point

unobstructed view of Mount Shasta
Lovely views of Mount Shasta on the drive home.

It was a great trip and even Scoob had a good time. I never thought I would go into a cave, even though I've always kind of wanted to. And if Scoob hadn't been with me, I probably would have stopped at the throat of the cave instead of going in.

But of all the things we experienced on this trip, the strangest had to be our trip to the grocery store in Klamath Falls. There we were, strolling the aisles, replenishing our road food when a young Native woman approached me saying she'd been moved by the Holy Spirit and wanted my permission to pray for Scoob and me as a couple–more for him than me she said. Two questions came to mind—since when do you need permission to pray for someone? and if she wanted to pray for Scoob, why wasn't she asking him?

Since there's no such thing as having too many prayers said on your behalf, I consented and she, Scoob, and I had a little prayer circle going in the bakery section.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We’re Back!

I know, I know. I didn't even tell you we were going anywhere. But Scoob's kinda funny about that, and really, it probably is better to be careful about broadcasting when you won't be home for an extended time. But anyhow we went up to Susanville, CA for a family reunion and then headed out on our own to explore the northeastern part of the state. More on that later. Right now I have make peace with the furry critters after leaving them alone for 5 days and wash the layers of road grime from myself.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Well, today just seemed so fortuitous that it has left me reeling a bit. I started the day by finding some money in an old man-purse Scoob had stashed away in a closet, which we ran across in our weekend packing spree. Granted, it was just loose change. But still, finding cash is always fortuitous. (I'm still stunned to discover that Scoob even had a man-purse. That, and it looks well-worn, too.) He wants to keep it as part of our household emergency kit to hold fire flints, a Leatherman, and other small items. I just want to keep it as evidence that he had a man-purse.

So after I got to work, I found more money! Well, remember how I groused a bit about the company calling the 401(k) fund migration "exciting?" Turns out there's more news—beginning in October the company will resume the employer match AND at a more generous rate than before. I know! Free money!

And, I had been asked to take part in a webinar today. It was a demonstration of a product we're considering purchasing to manage our internal workflow and production. This is the second demonstration I've been asked to sit in on, and my supervisor told me later that I'll be on the team officially and permanently. The recognition feels good, and I know I'll be able to contribute and learn a lot in the process.

In other news—I totally dropped the bomb about moving at work today. Not the out-of-state move that we will eventually make someday, but the move that gets us into an apartment so we can sell this place. I probably should have brought it up with my supervisor in our one-on-one meeting today, and I thought about it, but decided since it was a local move it wasn't something we needed to discuss.

Instead, I opened my mouth at a casual departmental outing and I did not miss the look that flashed across his face. (I've totally got to stop watching Lie to Me, I'm getting a little too good at reading body language.) He seemed to relax as I was asking co-workers about the neighborhoods they live in and how we needed to find a place that would take both cats and be closer to the office. He did still seem a bit nervous that we were looking to rent and not buy.

Anyhow, that was my day. Here are a few nuggets I found online so far this week:

Many thanks to Backpacking Dad who tweeted this article about the evolution of technology and its impact on reading.

I totally want to have a summer backyard barbecue so I can get these cool LED-lit balloons. At $13 for 15, they're affordable and I don't care how old you are, unless you're allergic to latex, everybody loves balloons. Too bad they're sold out. And too bad I don't have a backyard.

A link to They Draw & Cook was in a cookbook-specific publishing newsletter I get at work. I would not be surprised if the site owners get a publishing contract soon, if they don't have one already. It's cute, fun to look at, and informative! Anyone can submit a recipe and artwork, though it's up to the site editors to publish it or not. I think a couple of the hand written recipes are unnecessarily difficult to read.

This could totally make a fun family-in-the-kitchen project. The kids can help with meal prep and learn about cooking, then they draw the picture while mom or dad writes out the recipe. Even if you don't submit the recipe to They Draw & Cook, it would make a pretty cool Family Favorites cookbook. And then you could give each kid a copy when they leave for college (or some other momentous I'm-a-grown-up-now occasion). Oh man, I'm getting all weepy just thinkin' about it. And I don't even have kids!

Okay. That's what I got.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vacuum Packed

The packing continues. Scoob went on an excursion today to Best Buy and Wal Mart to see if he could get the empty boxes they use for shipping DVDs. I'm still not clear on why we need these specific boxes, but I know he'll feel more comfortable about packing them if they're going into what he sees as an approved container. I've moved once before with the man and have lived with him for nearly 8 years—I think I've learned when (and when not) to keep my opinion to myself.

Case in point, the tutorial I received this afternoon on how to use a packing tape gun. I really, really wanted to remind the man that I worked in a warehouse and know perfectly well how to use a packing tape gun. Ditto for the shrink wrap lesson. But I kept my trap shut and just smiled and nodded. It was far less painful than the ensuing discussion would have been if I had opened my mouth, and left us in exactly the same place. (I still need to work on keeping my opinion out of my eyes and off my face, though.)

Scoob also bought a tool bag while he was out. You see, he's gotten frustrated with how he can never find the tools he needs when he needs them because they never seem to be put away in the same place twice. Hmmmm. I've only been saying the same thing for YEARS and have suggested on multiple occasions that we purchase a tool box. But again, I kept that comment to myself and helped him preen about his acquisition and what a good idea it was.

While Scoob was out on his mission, I was busying myself with my latest move-related purchase—Space Bags. Before he left, Scoob pulled all his bulky winter jackets and clothes out of the closet and we used those as a test run. Apparently we're easily entertained because we vacuum packed and re-inflated the bag several times. So while he was out, I went through the linen closet, an old chest we have, and my armoire, bagging up all the extra towels, bedding, and sweaters and sucking every last puff of air from them.

The Space Bags are much heavier that I thought they'd be, so I won't be packing them into boxes like I planned. But the stuff takes up so much less space. Or it did until Madame Barf-O-Matic decided to taste test one of the bags and punctured it. Duct tape. ☺ Now the bags are in the garage where she cannot get to them.

I found a few things I had forgotten shoved to the back of the armoire, like a little plastic pig with bubble gum coins inside. But the strangest had to be the little zippy bag filled with turkey bones. Not just any turkey bones either, a very specific wing bone. Don't ask me why I thought keeping the bones in my armoire with my clothes was a good idea.

So, you might be wondering what in the heck I was doing saving turkey bones in the first place. No, I didn't start practicing some new version of SanterĂ­a or Voodoo. One of my college professors, who is Shoshone, was constructing a traditional breastplate for his grandson using, you guessed it, turkey wing bones. Similar to this one made with (most likely) hairpipe bones.

Before Thanksgiving one year, he had asked all his students to save these particular bones from their birds. And since I cooked turkey fairly frequently back then, I ended up having several sets of bones. I've thrown them out now.

Scoob has been packing up his magazines and books and even moved his weight bench down to the garage, which has really opened up the living room floor again. I so should have thought that purchase through more before getting it as his Christmas gift a couple years ago. Even though I measured the footprint of the space available for the bench and double checked it against the product spec, I did not take into account the added room necessary to be able to swing weights while using the bench, and as a result it ended up in the middle of the living room floor.

That's our exciting weekend so far. We're going out for Korean food with our neighbors tonight. But I did want to tell you about lunch today. So I remade The Tomato and Snap Pea Couscous Salad recipe and added some sliced red bell pepper and about a tablespoon of cumin and used this Brown and Wild Rice with Quinoa grain mix from Safeway in place of the couscous. Super, super yummy!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flower Power

Well, when I read about Rep. Joe Barton's apology to BP this morning I was seriously pissed because it sure sounded like he was saying that he didn't want to live in a country where people and companies were held responsible for their actions, and all I could think was, "Well, go ahead and resign your post, buddy, and make sure your passport's up to date." I just knew I'd come home and rant political here, which I haven't done in quite awhile, but then something happened, Barton was reprimanded (quite roundly, too, from the sound of things) by his fellow Republicans, and it sort of took the wind outta my sails.

(Sorry if I seem a bit preoccupied. I'm keeping a watchful eye on the spider working its way across the ceiling. It passed by my desk staying close to the wall and thankfully far from my head. But now he appears to be circling back. One of the drawbacks to having a home with high ceilings is that I can't reach it to kill the bugger.)

Other than that moment when I worked up a head of steam I had a pretty good day. Nothing special, and yet special in it's ordinary uneventfulness. Started the day with hugs and fresh strawberries and things just seemed to get better from there. I actually got to pretend I was geeky smart today (and yesterday, too). We're working on laying out specs for a new iPhone app and I was selected as an iPhone Power User Geek and asked to be part of the product development group. Well, if checking email and Facebook, and playing the occasional sudoku game on my iPhone makes me a Power User, so be it.

Yet another project group where I'm the only member not in a managerial or directorial position. Scoob is very optimistic this means a promotion in is my near future. Me? Not so much. Oh, and the other smart things I got to do were to help another team out with their Excel spreadsheets, because apparently I'm the office Excel go-to person, though I do know at least two other people in the the office with at least the same (and probably better) Excel skills.

(Okay, that darned spider is right back where he started. You know, I used to solve these little problems with a can of Aqua Net. The pink extra super hold stuff. I figured if it shellacked my hair so it wouldn't move, it would do the same to a hairy spider. And it always worked. The spider would become immobile, drop from the ceiling, and since it was coated with hairspray, it couldn't scurry away to hide and that's when I would kill it. It's a crying shame I don't use Aqua Net any longer.)

Oh, and speaking of work, I had an email this morning titled "Exciting News about Your 401(k)." Apparently they're moving the employee 401(k) accounts to a new brokerage firm. Yeah. That's exciting. No, exciting would be telling us that the company is going to resume the employer match benefit that was suspended December 2008.

Okay, enough of that. On to the Flower Porn!

Dewy California poppies

Gorgeous red poppy, though the unopened ones do look a wee obscene

Ahhh, the elderberry tree. These flowers are teeny tiny. I really like the pattern that a group of them creates, it makes me think of something familiar that I can't quite put my tongue on. It also makes me think of molecular structures. Oh hey, there. I put my tongue on it. Very feminine molecular structures. They're just cute!

An iris we practically watched open. You know, it's difficult to take good pictures of white flowers on a super sunny day. But when it's sunny in Oregon, you don't complain.

Nine Bark mom uses as a hedge along the street in front of her house.
I've never been there when it's blooming before.

Close up of a Nine Bark bloom. There were just lousy with bees, too.

(Crap. I've lost track of the spider. Okay, now I'm getting the creepy crawlies.)

I tried to do some high-contrasty stuff here with these black and white iris.
They were stunning.

This is a bloom from one of the two tulip trees mom planted in her front yard. I had to use a massive zoom to get this shot because the blooms are high in the trees, and they're so subtly colored. Mom says the blooms have now turned solid orange.

Not a flower, but still a pretty girl. This is Gracie, mom's new dog.

And this, this is my favorite shot. I hope I had the resolution set high enough, because I think I want to blow it up and frame it.
The focus is a bit off though, so I won't be able to blow it up too big.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tomato and Snap Pea Couscous Salad

I made this recipe last weekend and loved it. The snap peas in the couscous were a sweet surprise when I bit into them. I'm pretty sure I'll keep this in rotation as the weather warms up since it doesn't require much in the way of cooking. I'm sure it would make a nice side for just about anything.

Tomato and Snap Pea Couscous Salad

Cooking time: 5 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes

    2 Tbsp olive oil
    1 cup couscous
    ¾ pound cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
    ¼ pound snap peas, thinly sliced
    ½ cup torn fresh basil
    ½ tsp grated lemon zest
    2 Tbsp lemon juice
    salt and pepper

  1. Place the couscous in a large bowl. Add 1 cup hot, almost boiling, water, cover and let sit for 5 minutes; fluff with fork. Add the snap peas, basil, leamon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to combine.
  2. Add the tomatoes just before serving.

This was really tasty and the leftovers disappeared quickly. A note about the leftovers though—If you expect to have leftovers, keep the tomatoes separate from the rest of the salad. I didn't do this when I made it and the couscous that stuck to the tomatoes became very soggy and pasty for leftovers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Eyes. Must. Close.

I know it's been awhile. Again. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. We're gearing ourselves up for another push on purging in preparation for our move to I-don't-know-where, which should happen right around I-don't-know-when. But we're definitely making progress. In baby steps.

Last weekend I went through my shoes and boxed up 8 pairs to be given away. I've since run across 3 more pairs that need to go. Why do I insist on buying uncomfortable shoes? Whoever said "Oh, they'll be fine after they break in," should be shot.

Shoes don't stretch and men don't change.

Oooo, I bought myself a new straightening iron while I was visiting mom. My old one has been around since… Well it's definitely not the same one I had in high school, but it's old nonetheless. The casing on it had cracked and it would pull out or break off hairs with every swipe if I wasn't careful.

So I've been playing with the new one and doing this little flippy thing with my hair. I kinda like it, but it doesn't work well with this cut, which has finally grown out to a length I like and can pull back easily. I want to get the ends trimmed but I know we'll end up taking too much off again and I won't be able to do anything with it again. I need a new cut.

I got the kitties some treats while I was in Oregon, too. Greenies. Mom had heard about these for helping with dog breath and well, Tank has some wicked rancid breath and they make Greenies for cats, so I decided to give them a try. The cats love them! Inhaling doesn't quite describe how quickly they wolfed down their treats. Since the whole point of the treats is to help keep their teeth clean, it would probably help if they chewed that darn things!

So I was pretty pleased, thinking I'd found a new goodie for my kitties that they liked. Then Dozer started yakking. Not an incredibly uncommon thing for Madame Barf-O-Matic. But the solid green mass in her mess makes me think I won't be giving her those treats again if it's just going to make her puke.

Come to find out this is not an uncommon problem with the Greenies products, at least with dogs. Just now as I was looking up the Greenies link I ran across this Snopes article. Even though it hasn't been confirmed, it also hasn't been proven a hoax. Now I'm thinking I'll just toss the rest of the Greenies in the trash.

So, since I bought something for myself and something for the cats, I figured I had better get something for Scoob lest his feeling get hurt. Movies and video games always go over well, but I got him a jar each of marionberry jam and apple butter from Heaven on Earth in Azalea, OR. Darn expensive stuff, but I'm glad I did. Scoob was tickled that I was thinking of him.

Oh, when I left town I'd placed a Going to Miss You note on his pillow thinking he'd find it when he went to bed. When I called him the next day and he didn't mention it, I debated whether it would be bad form to ask if he'd found it. It could have been that he'd found it and it wasn't really as thoughtful as I'd hoped it was.

I did finally ask him and he hadn't noticed it at all. When he went to look for it he found he'd shoved it in his pillow case while he was sleeping. But I could immediately hear the smile in his voice when he read it. So I'm glad I asked.

Anyhow, it's late and I've got to get to sleep. I seem to be having a hard time keeping my eyes open anytime after 4:00 p.m. these days. But I wanted to pop in and at least say something. I've got more flower porn from mom's garden that I'll need to get up soon. And it seems I've had a good streak in the kitchen since I got home and I've got a few new recipes to share, too.