Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When the Sun Shines, Shine Back!

On Sunday night I looked outside at the rain that was falling and told myself I had the wrong attitude. We need rain, and it's the reason the redwoods grow so tall here. Plus, it makes a delightful sound on the roof and windows when you're snuggled warmly inside. So I went to bed Sunday night with a great appreciation of the rain--and awoke to sunshine on Monday morning!

I went to campus with every intention of spending long hours in my office preparing for lab today. Then Mary called me. "The sun's out!" she said, "We're going to the beach!" And, just like that, I was convinced to abandon my work for awhile and enjoy the sun.

We drove up to Trinidad State Beach, about 15 miles north of Arcata. The path was a little muddy, but nothing we couldn't handle. We took a long stairway down to the beach, which opened up on College Cove. The beach was beautiful. There were kids playing in the surf, and a bunch of surfers braving the cold water to enjoy the waves. One of the coolest things we found was a rock area covered with seaweed. Because of all the water running down the hillside right now, there was a constant drip off of the seaweed. It was so cool. The mussels and little barnacles we found on the rocks along the beach were pretty neat, too.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Arcata Community Forest

Today, amid the threat of rain showers, Michael and I decided to go for a hike in the Arcata Community Forest. We had some crazy rain and hail earlier in the day, so I was a little leery about hiking around in the forest. Plus, we had a big storm roll in earlier in the week and it's been constantly raining, so everything is saturated. The gutter along the street outside of my apartment has some really thick algae growing in it, and seems to be constantly flowing with water.
 We had plenty of energy when we started out. And, what's that, matching dimples? 
 We did encounter mud in a few places, but nothing we couldn't get around easily. A lot of the trails are made of really compacted gravel, and we were even on what were marked on the map as roads. It definitely wasn't as muddy as I expected it to be.
About half way through we came across a picnic table and stopped for snacks. There were a couple of hummingbirds flitting around, which I found far more interesting than my sandwich.
Post-hike rosy cheeks! We did a total of 5 miles in 3 hours, but according to the GPS unit spent 1 hour stopped. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Still waiting for Spring

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I haven't been out experiencing spring too much. Until yesterday we'd had two weeks of rain, which just wasn't something that screamed "Go explore outdoors!!" I've been reading a lot on my Kindle. After finishing the 8th book in the Anne of Green Gables series I downloaded a story by L.M. Montgomery called Kilmeny of the Orchard. It was a short and easy read, with a predictable, yet still sweet plot. Right now I'm half way through The Secret Garden. It's one of my favorite films, and I enjoy the book immensely as well.

I've learned to hula hoop.

And I've been constantly thinking about San Diego, mostly the Zoo. It's always at the back of my mind--I want that job at the San Diego Zoo! So here are a couple of photos I dug up... 1) a baby meerkat, and 2) a passionflower.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2 minute update

Well, I haven't been up to too many exciting things lately.

1) Babysitting a couple of days a week in addition to my TA job.
2) Didn't get swept away by a tsunami on 3/11. There were evacuations in the low lying areas around here, but I was out of harms way all day.
3) Still reading tons of Anne of Green Gables. woot.
4) It rains here--a lot. Too much?

see ya later!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Another great weekend!

This weekend has been very enjoyable. On Saturday morning my roommate Mary and I window shopped along downtown Arcata. There are ton of neat little shops, most notably one with great sewing and crocheting supplies. I'm definitely going there the next time I need yarn, as most of their products are made with natural fibers, not acrylic.

Saturday afternoon saw me in Eureka at the stables that Heart of the Redwoods Horse Rescue uses to board some of its rescue horses. We were meeting to create training teams for one of the horses currently housed by the rescue. It ended up being a really nice, relaxing afternoon of brushing horses with other volunteers while it poured down rain outside. After we got Angel cleaned up we took her to the arena to do a little longeing. She was difficult at first, and would trot in the direction she was sent, but stop and do a quick change in direction if she got the chance. Everyone tried their hand at sending her in a circle. While I'm a bit out of practice, I was thrilled when she circled for me without any of her direction-changing tricks! Then, as I could tell I had her attention (nose and ear pointed in, etc.) I dropped down and looked at her hindquarters, and she disengaged perfectly, turning to face me and stopping as asked.

Then this morning I did something crazy. I woke up at 5 am to watch birds. Which isn't really so crazy. My roommate Jordyn and some of her classmates were going to the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge for the 9th Annual Aleutian Goose Fly-Off, and I snagged the last seat in the car. We left Arcata around 5:30, aiming to be at the refuge by 6:45, the anticipated time of sunrise. We got there at 6:28, just as the first wave of geese were flying away. There must have been thousands of them, and it was amazing to watch. There wasn't much light most of the morning, so the pictures aren't great, but the little black specks should give you a general idea of how many birds were in the sky.

We wandered through the reserve watching the geese and other birds for about an hour. The other people I was with are all taking an ornithology class right now, so they quickly and easily identified just about every bird we came across. 27 species in all. It was a pretty fantastic morning.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Roommate Dinners

I live with some pretty neat people. It's become our weekly tradition to have a "family dinner" on Thursday nights, with a less-than-varied-menu: Lemon Pasta. Or, as Mary has deemed it, 'Lauren's Luscious Lemon Pasta.' I have to give the credit to Rachel Ray, but I think I do make it quite spectacularly. The mix of lemon, garlic, crushed red pepper, and cream is just wonderful. Whenever we're trying to come up with something to eat, lemon past is the first suggestion. I've made it at least 3 times in the past 3 weeks, but haven't managed to get a photo of the finished product, as it seems to be almost instantly devoured! But here you have it, one photo of the ingredients before all kitchen magic breaks loose:
Here's my usual recipe as of late:
Fill a large pot of water and heat on the stove. When boiling, add the desired amount of pasta. The original recipe is written for a pound of spaghetti noodles, but I've found that I like fewer noodles so they're more covered in sauce. The shells in the photo, for example, are only a 12 ounce box. While waiting for the water to boil I usually start the garlic and crushed red pepper simmering in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. I like to put it over super low heat so that the garlic sweetens up and doesn't have too much of a bite to it.
When the pasta is about halfway through its cooking time I add the lemon juice, heavy cream, and a ladle of pasta water to the garlic pan. The original recipe calls for fresh lemon juice and zest, but the bottle of Italian Volcano Lemon Juice was such a steal at Costco that I've been using it exclusively--everything still tastes great. The sauce then needs to be brought to a bubble, and reduced to a simmer, to thicken up. I drain the pasta when it's done, then add the parmesan cheese to the sauce. Once the cheese is melted I dump the pasta noodles into my big, beautiful saute pan and stir everything to coat. And that's it--super simple. You could garnish with basil, but this isn't usually something I remember to have on hand.

Here's the ingredient breakdown:
12 to 16 ounces pasta
3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (or a smidge more) lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 heavy cream (depending how much parmesan is on hand)
1/2 to 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

There aren't usually a significant amount of leftovers, as the whole pot of pasta gets scarfed down quite quickly. Then we do fun things, like play Scrabble. I'm not so good at strategizing on how to get the highest number of points, I'm usually more interested in using as many of my letters as possible. My roommate, on the other hand, is a Scrabble master, and almost always beats me. The other day she blocked a great, and high scoring, word I was going to put down, which made me...
Y'all better watch out--Mary's going to train me to be the next Scrabble Master!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Easy, Simple, YUM!

My big success for this week has been a tofu-mushroom-cabbage stir fry. Last week I had an epiphany with my tofu cooking, which simply means I heat some oil, toss slices of tofu in it, and turn my back on them for a few minutes. One flip, a few more minutes of neglect on the stove, and they're about good to go. Just before the tofu is done I add sliced mushrooms. When the tofu-mushroom mix is almost done cooking, I toss in my shredded cabbage and pop a lid on the saute pan to wilt it. It turns out pretty yummy.

Tuesday's version included a sweet red pepper that I diced up and tossed in while the tofu was cooking.