Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day weekend climbing trip!

I spent the weekend on an Outdoor Adventures trip to Owens Gorge - it was fantastic.

We met at 5:30 am. It was dark and drizzling, and despite my decaffeinated state and lack of sleep, I was pretty darn excited. We packed up the 8-person van and set off on the 6-hour drive to Owens Gorge. We had two guides and five participants. Everyone was friendly and good-natured, smart and interesting. We got along exceedingly well, and it was nice to have such a small group.

View Larger Map

We arrived just before noon and went straight to the gorge, pulled out our gear and our lunches, and hiked down. By 1:30, we had two ropes set up and were climbing our first routes!

We climbed 4 routes altogether on Saturday afternoon - a 5.7, a 5.8, and two 5.9s. It's a very different experience from climbing in a gym. Most notably, there isn't any brightly colored tape telling you where to put your feet and hands. You have to think for yourself how to get from the bottom of the top, the result of which is a *great* sense of satisfaction when you figure out how to get past a problem spot. It's incredibly rewarding.

Here's Lisa climbing up a 5.9, one of the tallest routes we did.

After a few hours, we packed up, found a campsite, and made burritos for dinner. Then we ate cookies and chocolate around the campfire until 10, when we were very ready for bed.

We were up around 7, and were at the wall climbing by 10. We got four runs in (a 6, two 8s and a 9) before a rain shower made the rock too slippery and cold to climb. (Our fingers were numb by the time we made it to the top.)

By the time we had packed up all our gear, the rain had cleared. We probably could have kept climbing, but we were pretty chilly, and our fingers were worn out, so we hiked out and went to a natural hot springs. We soaked our cares away and then headed into the town of Bishop. We visited a great gallery, founded by Galen Rowell, a very talented climber and photographer. We stopped at a cafe for the hot chocolate we'd been craving all day, and then went home to our campsite... just as it started to drizzle again. We set up a shelter over the picnic table and spent the rest of the night huddled under it. It rained steadily all night long.

Since it rained all night long, we couldn't go climbing at Owens Gorge in the morning. Definitely a disappointment. We packed up camp, and headed off on a short hike to the top of a bluff to see some petroglyphs. I'm not sure how old they were, or what they meant, but they were incredible. We spent some time puzzling over them, but didn't come to any conclusions. (Photo coming soon.) The sun had come out by then, so we continued down the dirt road about a mile to the Happy Boulders - one of the best bouldering locations in an area famous for good bouldering. We had a great time poking around, trying this and that, abusing our fingers one last time before we had to head home. It was nice and sunny out, and we were very happy boulderers.

At noon, we loaded up the van and drove the 6 hours home, about as tired as we had been on Saturday morning. It was a fantastic trip - I really like climbing outdoors, and I was fortunate to have such great traveling companions.

Here are a few more photos from the trip.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A peaceful Sunday morning

I made strawberry shortcake for breakfast - a sweeter and richer meal than I'm used to first thing in the morning, but delicious nonetheless. We used the extra whipped cream in our coffee, of course.

Now we're side by side on the futon in the living room, listening to Mozart's violin concertos (My parents gave me Anne-Sophie Mutter's recording for Christmas). The window is wide open, since the air outside is still cool. I can smell honeysuckle.

Friday, May 16, 2008

An afternoon in the park

This is a terrible picture from my cell phone camera, but I think it gives a sense of what the fountain in the park is like - seven jets of water coming straight up through the concrete. You can run (or bike, or skateboard) right through the middle of it. Lots of kids like to lie down right on top of the jets. Lots of big trees, so lots of shade and nice rustling noises when the wind blows. The building you see in the background is the long shed that covers the farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Playing in Davis

When I started putting this post together in my head, I thought it was going to be a mopey one. I decided (discovered?) this week that I can't go to my cousin's wedding in June, and I can't go to my five-year Wellesley reunion. It's the money as much as it is the time: I can't afford the airfare (Prices are ridiculous this summer!!) and I can't afford to miss classes (I'm planning to take a biology and a physics course in June and July.). I'm really disappointed to be missing these events. It makes me feel a little stranded out here, very far from family and friends. I find myself wishing I lived in Minnesota, so I could visit my family, and the cabin, and Lake Superior, more often.

However, taking classes rather than earning money is my choice, and I'm convinced it's the right one right now. And I'm definitely enjoying California these days - I have great friends, and tons of great stuff to do.

Playing the Violin
Yoko and I met for a second time last weekend, and played through a handful of duets. The Bach Double went more smoothly then last time (and it still gives me chills, it's so beautiful), and we tried our hands at some classics (Pachabel's Canon) and some Suzuki pieces (the Two Grenadiers, for instance). We played Mozart's Table Music, which is a brilliant composition - one person plays it right side up, and the other plays it upside-down, and the result is a nifty duet!

Playing with Kittens
Last week was my first "Kitty Kindergarten" class, designed to help new kitten owners train and socialize their feline companions. Happily, the instructor provided kittens from a local shelter for the pour kittenless souls in the class, so I got to spend an hour holding a 6-week-old tabby, hardly bigger than my hand, acclimating it to the way a vet might hold it. I can't wait for next Sunday!

Playing Outside
Last weekend was the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis - a fantastic food, shopping and entertainment extravaganza that was very sustainable, granola, hippie, etc. There was organic tie-dyed cotton and flowing hemp clothing as far as the eye could see. All of the food vendors sold vegetarian fare (much of it vegan and organic), and it was served on reusable dishes. All of the trash cans were converted into compost bins, and there were two big dish washing stations set up - very cool. There were two drum circles and four solar-powered stages for different kinds of music and dance. Lots of wonderful social non-conformity, and of course all kinds of peace and love. I loved it.

On the days when there's not a gigantic hippie festival going on, I've taken to spending my afternoons reading in the park. Yesterday was exceptional - it was the hottest it's been all year (around 100°F), so I chose a shady bench on the downwind side of the fountain. I got a refreshing little spray every time the wind gusted, and I got to watch all kinds of people playing in the water. Most were toddlers, wearing nothing but their Crocs, but a few mothers were in there getting drenched too. A college kid came by, dropped his bike, wet his shirt, and rode off. A professional woman in a blouse and skirt looped through the spray a couple of times, getting delicately refreshed. It's a great spot to hang out.

Playing with Pots and Pans
I've been very much enjoying my new cookbooks. As promised in the last post, I made "Zucchini Slippers" - zucchinis stuffed with an egg and cheese mixture - that turned out to be both cute and tasty. I overcooked the lamb shank a little, but it still made a tasty meal, and the resulting lamb stock went into a very good red lentil and apricot soup, as well as a lovely avocado soup.

Strawberries are in season, so I'm hoping to make strawberry shortcake this weekend. We also have a bunch of very ripe bananas, so Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread is on the horizon. And I've been thinking this whole wheat, flax-riddled zucchini bread looks like a good way to use up some aging zucchinis...

Playing Frisbee
I officially made the ultimate team I tried out for, Night Train, and it's wonderful. I love the exercise - we have two 2-hour practices a week, plus a track practice. I wouldn't do the track workouts on my own, but they're really good for me, so I'm glad for the group motivation. And I love being part of an Ultimate team - there's something so great about the culture of this sport. After practice on Wednesday, our captains invited us to their apartment for poolside beer and watermelon. I love my friends from Scott's department, but it's really nice to hang out with people whose common denominator (and most common topic of conversation) is frisbee and not economics.

Also on the frisbee front, I just bought tickets to Potlatch, a super fun tournament in Seattle, so I'll get to spend Fourth of July weekend playing Ultimate with some of my favorite people from DC! Our team name is "Chiquita," and already the banana-related jokes are filling my email. I can't wait.

Playing Dress-Up and Make-Believe
I bought my first wedding magazine today! I feel a little cheesy looking at something so... cheesy, but I decided to treat myself to a grown-up version of make-believe. And two of my friends have agreed to meet me for coffee and giggling over the pictures, I don't feel quite so embarrassed about being excited about these glossy, girly, consumerist magazines - there are other smart, independent women who like looking at them too!

Tonight, we're meeting friends at a fancy-ish bar for a little engagement party! Lisa, who organized it, and I decided we should wear cocktail attire, so I'm excited to play dress-up tonight. I used to own this fantastic black straw fedora, and I'm kicking myself for not bringing it along with me to California. It was a great hat and would have been perfect tonight.

Now, I'm off the to thrift store. I think I need to make a Chiquita Banana Lady costume for myself to wear to Potlatch.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New Cookbook Yields Tasty Breakfast!

I stumbled into a going-out-of-business sale at a used bookstore the other day, and picked up two new cookbooks: The Best American Recipes 1999 and The Best American Recipes 2000. This morning we made Turkish Poached Eggs from the 1999 volume, and it was tasty! You lay a piece of toast in the bottom of a shallow bowl, and put a pair of poached eggs on top. Then pour on your garlicky, minty yogurt (a half cup of yogurt mixed with one clove of minced garlic and one teaspoon of fresh mint), and then drizzle some cayenne-spiked melted butter on top. Lovely!

Tonight for dinner, we're going to make the roasted lamb recipe (Mechoui) and stuffed zucchini ("Zucchini Slippers").

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Photos - people and signage

Two more small batches of photos for your viewing pleasure!

First, pictures of my traveling companions.
Turkey, People

Next, pictures of interesting signs.
Turkey, Signage

More photos from Turkey!

Here are my parent's photos - it's a great, well-edited collection. Enjoy!

(This is one of my favorite pictures of them.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

More Turkish stuff!

Here's my first batch of photos! They're arranged thematically, not geographically or chronologically, and represent a smattering of the art and architectural details I noticed.

(Click the Play button above to watch the slideshow, or click here to go to the album.)

I made Scott an approximation of a Turkish breakfast yesterday. We sliced the fresh tomatoes and cucumber we'd found at the farmer's market, added some fresh cheese (it was Mexican queso fresco, but close enough) and black olives and toast (no simit, sadly) and brewed a pot of the black Turkish tea I brought home. Lovely.

For dinner, we broke out the spice grinder I bought at the Spice Market in Istanbul. It only cost 6 YTL (about $4.50) so I was happy to discover that it works really well! We ground up cloves, cardamom and black pepper for our red lentil dal.

We have some lamb from the farmers market in the freezer, so we'll have to do something Turkish with that for dinner sometime this week!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I'm very, very happy.

Two big things to announce.

First off, Scott and I are getting married!! He proposed last night, while we were walking through the Arboretum. He gave me a beautiful Lake Superior agate to commemorate the moment, and I've been carrying it in my pocket and smiling ever since. The more it sinks in, the happier I feel. I feel absolutely wonderful.

Second item - not nearly as emotional, but still exciting: I am no longer an employee of the Electric Sheep Company. Instead, I'm going to start taking pre-med classes and studying for the MCAT so that I can go to medical school and eventually be a physician! I've been thinking about going into medicine for a long time... but now I finally feel ready to move on it. I have about a year's worth of classwork to do before I can apply, and then it will take about a year for the schools to make their decisions, so the earliest I'll start is fall 2010, which is really not such a long ways away. It's going to be tough, but I know it will be worth it, and it feels good to know that.

Taking a bath in Ankara, and taking Istanbul by storm

We spent all day Tuesday in Ankara, checking out Atatürk's very impressive mausoleum and the city's not-so-impressive old walls. In the afternoon, we split up: Uğur took my dad, aunt and uncle to the civilization museum, and Margaret took Mom and I to the hamam, or Turkish bath. It was great! We entered into a big room with a large table in the middle, occupied by women chatting, smoking and doing their hair. We were ushered into one of the dressing rooms that surrounded the common space and stripped down. We stripped down, wrapped up in towels and teetered into the bathing rooms on the awkward little wooden sandals they provided. The bath rooms had pearly grey marble floors and walls, and the domed ceilings had star-shaped windows cut into them. We were the only foreigners there but felt totally at ease - Turkish people are so welcoming. The bath can be as leisurely as you want it to be. You can sit by a spigot and pour warm water over yourself, or you can lie in the sauna, or you can lie on the big marble slab that covers the fires that heat the entire complex. The highlight is when it's your turn to get washed. One of the women who works there has you lie down on a mat, where she exfoliates you and then lathers you up and gives you a brief, soapy massage. Wonderful.

We spent most of the day Wednesday busing from Ankara to Istanbul. We settled into our hotel near Taksim Square (the most Western part of the city), and then Mom and I went out for an exploratory stroll. Dad joined us for a nice dinner at an outdoor table on a narrow, busy pedestrian street. We enjoyed lamb brain as one of our mezes.

Since Thursday was our last full day in Istanbul, I wanted to see and do as much in as I could. Fortunately, my parents were amendable to my ambitions. We hit the streets at 8 am and walked south, through the New District, across the Galata bridge spanning the Golden Horn, to the Old District. We bought all kinds of great things at the Spice Market - pomegranate syrup for salads, chili pepper paste, a spice grinder and tulip-shaped tea glasses. We poked our heads into the New Mosque (completed in 1663) and took our time in the Rüstem Paşa Mosque (1561) which is small and has the most beautiful İznik tiles of all the mosques in Istanbul. We really wanted to see the Süleymaniye Mosque as well, as it's one of the most important and most beautiful mosques in the city, but it was closed for renovation. Grr. We walked south the the Grand Bazaar where we stopped for lunch, and then continued to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. It has a great collection, but I was disappointed that nearly all of the tiles were off being restored. We stopped at a café for chicken breast pudding (surprisingly tasty!) and then taxied to the Istanbul Modern (2005) - a contemporary art museum that was, disappointingly, closed for May Day. We walked back along the north shore of the Golden Horn and made our way to the Galata Tower (6th century origins). We scraped together the cash required for three tickets to the top and took in the panoramic view of the city, marveling at the ground we'd covered. We walked back to our hotel and enjoyed a relatively quiet night - drinks in the bar with Aunt Flury and Uncle Mel, dinner close by, and some pretty impressive packing maneuvers to get our souvenirs all tucked away.

(Rüstem Paşa Mosque)

We woke up at 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning for our 5:30 flight to Amsterdam. We had a celebrity on the flight - The Enigma and his partner Serana! My parents sat right behind them on the Amsterdam-Minneapolis flight. My Amsterdam-Portland flight was really empty, so I stretched out and watched four movies (27 Dresses, Mad Money, Peepers and Cars) over the course of 10½ hours. Scott picked me up in Sacramento, and I got home safe and sound by 5 pm - about 22 hours of traveling, door-to-door. It was a wonderful vacation, and it's wonderful to be home. Photos coming...