Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oceanside Memories

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city," said George Burns

 and I couldn't agree more! I say I agree with ole' George but it's not because I don't love them. I think living away makes me appreciate them more. I cherish the time we get together. Plus I'm close enough to visit but far enough away to (usually) not get pulled into any drama. 

Last spring, my sister, my dad, and I all made plans to take a vacation to the beach together. 

My dad is a workaholic. He lives in New Mexico with Katie and literally a year or two will go by before I see him sometimes. However, I talk to my dad 3-4 times a week. We discuss books, movies, traffic, or whatever else is on our minds. I love my dad and have mostly considered myself daddy's girl. As an adult, it has been difficult to accept that I don't see him more. I used to take it personally that he couldn't find time to vacation in Oregon. I've learned that my dad just rarely vacations so this trip and commitment from him was a big deal!

My sister lives just four hours away in a small Oregon town. I see her fairly often - probably 5-6 times a year. We were NOT close growing up. As a matter of fact, I'm often amazed that I consider her one of my best friends now. And I adore my niece and nephew. We try and "trade" kids during the summer. This is the first year my boys haven't gone on a camping trip with her. 

The boys and I haven't had a vacation together in the past year. Divorce made my finances tight and it's been difficult so I was excited to have a few days with them away from home. We loaded our suitcases into the car, turned on the tunes, and headed out for the Oregon coast. 

It was during the journey I quickly realized what a beautiful state we live in. We started in the southern part - good ole' Klamath Falls. Our area is high desert - it's not as green as most expect Oregon to be. We have mountains and pine trees and 363 days of sunshine a year. We're surrounded by lakes and rivers. 
You leave the high desert and Hwy 97 to head towards the valley. The drive over Hwy 58 is gorgeous. Lots of green trees and waterfalls. 
You arrive in the Willamette Valley and marvel at the open-ness of the farmland, lush and green. Plus this is where our state begins to become populated. Large urban areas - Eugene, Salem, Portland. This part of the state is home to many vineyards. 
And then of course, we got to Hwy 101. A windy road with the most gorgeous views you'll ever see!
The kids and I decided we wouldn't hurry. We'd stop wherever our hearts desired. Our first stop? Five Guys Burgers and Fries (I have boys, what can I say?). We'd heard people rave about this burger joint. When you walk in your treated to some peanuts. The kids thought this was cool and it helped keep the little one busy while the line was long. 

Their menu isn't extensive - burgers, fries, and hot dogs. But their lineup of toppings was a mile long. It was easier to tell them what you didn't want than what you did. I liked that they had a sign telling you where your potatoes for the french fries were grown. It was yummy. 
After stopping for lunch, the boys opted out of any adventure. Their bellies were full and they were ready for a nap. I asked where they wanted to stop next and their answer was - Rockaway Beach - our destination. 

We arrived at roughly the same time as my sis and dad did and the fun began. The car doors hadn't opened when the kids were begging to walk the beach. We all spent a few minutes hugging before heading out. Last time Katie had seen the kids Nate was in diapers. Marcus was shorter than my dad (by alot). 

We spent three days on the beach. Building sandcastles. 


Flying kites

And just hanging out enjoying time with eachother.

The beach is one of my favorite places on earth and I love all the sights that go with it. Beautiful blown glass artwork, flowers in bloom, funky painted birdhourses and gadgets that grab your attention.

We ate well. Crepes made at the Creperie.

Taffy pulled at the local candy store.

Blackberries picked from overgrown vines.

We attended a very "un-bonfire" hosted by the local chamber of commerce and "enjoyed" local musicians:

We visited tide pools and learned about the animals we saw there:

We watched glass blowers create works of art
 We posed for photos on the beach
 And built campfires in the sand
 Roasted marshmallows on the beach
 Stumbled across wildlife in unexpected places

But best of all and most of all, we created memories. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Local Flavors

On Saturday, a trip to our local farmers market inspired me to work on my list of 37 before 37 ~ try five new vegetarian (vegetarian meaning eggs and dairy products are okay but no meat) recipes this year. Two down, three to go!

First up,

Dill Pickles

At the farmers market, one grower had small pickling cucumbers that looked crispy and delicious. Rob mentioned that his grandma used to make pickles and they were a favorite.

In a saucepan, combine:
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of pickling salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Bring it to a boil. Wash and place 36 cucumbers in a container. Add 5-6 sprigs of fresh dill. Add 5-8 cloves of garlic. Pour boiling mixture (above) over the cucumbers. Put in the refrigerator. 

EASY! These pickles are yummy - so crunchy. And of course, have a different texture than pickles you buy at the store. 

It's only been two days but already they are pickled. I'm guessing these won't last another week before they're gobbled up. Even the kids loved them. You should have seen the surprise to learn that pickles start out as cucumbers

Before baking

Farmers Market Veggie Tart

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together:
  • 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup ice water
Mix until a soft dough forms. Roll out on work surfact to fit pan. I cooked mine in a 9-inch springform pan. Trim the edges. Spread 2 tbsp dijon mustard on the crust. 

After baking
  • Next saute one sweet onion (sliced thin) in a bit of olive oil for about 20 minutes until golden and soft. Add 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar, cook 5 minutes and set aside. 
  • Saute one medium zucchini until golden (about 5-7 minutes). Set aside.
  • Slice two large tomatoes. 
  • Layer the veggies (above) starting with the tomatoes. Keep layering, overlapping the veggies until all are used. 
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil over the top of the tart. Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesean cheese over top (I also added three tbsp of feta cheese). 
Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes. Slice into 8 slices and serve.

Both of these recipes were divine and Rob and I agreed we'd try them again. Next time, I'll try marinara sauce instead of dijon mustard on the crust and I'll add some artichoke hearts. 

Back to my weekend, after walking around the Farmers Market, Rob and I decided to visit our local museum. Rob's never been and it's been a while since I was there. Our local museum is housed in a former national guard armory built in 1935.  First a few interesting facts on our town:
  • Klamath Falls (and Klamath County) is named after the Klamath Indians that lived here for thousands of years. 
  • Klamath Falls was founded in 1867 by George Nurse and but was then called Linkville, after the Link River that runs right through town. The name was changed in 1892.
  • The Klamath Basin didn't start to really grow until 1909 when the railroad came in. Even though Oregon became a state in 1859. 
  • Our county is home to Crater Lake National Park. It was the nation's fifth national park, established in 1902. 
Back to the museum, it was a wonderful mix of history. It had quite a bit of information on the Klamath Indians as well as one of the most known conflict - the Modoc Indian War. It had information on the military presence here that includes Kingsley Air Base. During WWII, Klamath welcome soldiers at a newly constructed Marine barracks. The museum was full of interesting facts, trivia, and exhibits. The staff and volunteers were nice and ready to share their knowledge. 

The museum has a new exhibit about our area's forests. Klamath County is 6,000 square miles, 75% of which are national forests. The forests provided jobs for many years in the form of logging. The forests have long been a source of recreation for hikers, bikers, campers, hunters, and more. The exhibit is the newest (I believe) at the museum and it was put together very well. I even learned a couple of things I didn't know. Here are a few photos:

The exhibit showed the various ways our forests are used.

The exhibit did a nice job showing all the uses of the forests - jobs, economy, recreation, etc.

It also featured examples of the wildlife that inhabits the forests like this elk.

And of course, our state animal - the beaver. This fun exhibit allowed kids like me to stick our heads through and see what the inside of a beaver den looks like. 
 Rob and I left wondering how many in our own community don't know about the wonderful museum. Looking at the visitor log, I didn't see any on the page that had signed in from Klamath Falls but it was exciting to see visitors from nearby like Washington and California but as far away as Germany and India. 

I'm often telling friends and family that we take home for granted. The museum reminded me to appreciate our area and its rich heritage. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Have Tent, Will Camp

Camping is one of my favorite childhood memories. Heading out to a remote location, setting up camp alongside a creek, river, or lake. Building a campfire, roasting marshmallows, watching the stars at night...it doesn't get much better than that.

Suprisingly, it's something I haven't done a lot with my own kids. This year, I set out to get at least one camping trip in. We live in an area made up of 75% national forests and miles upon miles of water. With 300 days of sunshine per year and little precipitation, Klamath is perfect for camping types.

I'll start by saying things have changed since I was a kid. Growing up, Mom and Dad selected a remote spot (usually one my dad found while working) and we set up camp there. No neighbors, no predetermined firepits, and no store to rescue you if you forgot something important. As an adult just getting started camping "on my own," I decided an established campground would be a good place to start. A tip for the beginner like me - start early. Reservations fill up fast!

I finally settled on Howards Prairie. According to many "experts" the fishing is good, the campground is fantastic, and it's close yet far enough. My review in a few minutes. . .

We headed out Friday afternoon. In my typical fashion, our camping party grew. My cousin Heather, her boyfriend Neil, daughter Jaelie, and Neil's nephew joined us. And if that wasn't enough extra people, I decided to take along my niece and nephew plus Rob and I's kids. Yikes!

The lake was absolutely breathtaking and I am pleased to report - not a single mosquito bite amongst all of us.

Now for my review of Howard's Prairie.

  • easy to make reservations online
  • clean and well-taken care of
  • nice bathroom facilities and showers available
  • beautiful lake
  • marina for fishing supplies and boat rentals
  • store with soft serve ice cream
  • Too many people!! With 300 or so campsites, it felt like I was in a small town.
  • Campsites packed together.  I could hear our neighbor snoring. We were too close
  • Campsites along the water made it hard to the lakeshore without feeling as though you disrupted someone
  • Lots of traffic (again probably due to all the people)

In an attempt to find some seclusion, we drove about 2 miles down the road to the Grizzly campground and were pleased to find...no one. There wasn't a single soul except us on the lakeshore. (Until the overweight, middle aged guy showed up in the speedo. Seriously. But don't worry - I spared you the picture!)

I forgot how much work camping is (but totally worth it). After setting up the tents, setting out the chairs, making dinner - it was finally time for the very best part of camping - the campfire!

Our camping trip was fast and furious and 100% fun. The kids swam, played in the water, fished, ate, ate, and ate some more. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the weekend.

Marcus getting ready to go fishing
The girls soaked up some sun. The big girls were kind enough to let the little girls hang out with them.
Marc and Zach got some quality canoe time in.
We treated all the kids to ice cream at the little store.
Aw, love this kid.

I'm really not sure what they are doing but it makes me laugh.

Nate enjoyed playing with cousin Paige.
I'm so glad we went. It was a great time building some memories. It also gave me a long, long list of things to get for next time. And things to leave at home. And ideas for making our next camping adventure even better!

I'd love to hear tips for making camping a great time. Recipes, shortcuts, tips I may not have thought of. Spill the beans - give up your camping secrets.