Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall is in the Air...The Oregon Edition

Well, folks, looks like summer is officially over. There may be a nice day here or there, but you can feel the crispness in the air.

I really do love fall. I love the leaves falling off the trees and piling up on the sidewalk. I love the wind blowing and creating leaf gusts. I love the crisp mornings and the sunny afternoons. I love the fog and the rain - the sweater weather. I love that fall means cozying up with a blanket, pumpkin lattes, candles in the evenings, and Thanksgiving! I love all that stuff and more.

But, as so many Oregonians do, I realize that fall leads to winter and winter means rain and dark and no more Christmas lights and being constantly damp and not seeing the sun for weeks at a time and...and then I just feel depressed. Is this normal, I wonder? But then, I talk to a few people and realize it may not be normal, but it's common enough to warrant a name.

It is commonly known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. I'm not sure that I actually have that. I would refer to mine as pre-SAD. Like I'm not really depressed when winter actually arrives. It's the looking forward to months of it that makes me depressed. And all this happens when the weather is still at it's best!

I realize this may make me sound crazy and that's okay, because I know I'm not the only one out there that feels this way. You're not alone!! :)

Maybe this is actually just a mourning of the seasons as they pass. Sure. Let's go with that. Sounds more poetic...and less crazy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Pub Crawl, You Say? In Salem??

You know how sometimes you wander around downtown Salem and the place looks like a ghost town? Well, guess what? Tomorrow is NOT going to be one of those days.

Tomorrow is going to be rockin'! Tomorrow night downtown is going to be full of revelers. People will be laughing, drinking, meeting new friends, ringing bells. Tomorrow night is the Pub Crawl. That's right, people moving from bar to bar, eating, drinking, and having a good time. And yes, that will be happening right here in Salem.

And get this!! For the first time ever, there will also be a wine crawl. I think this is a great addition to this event. The wine crawl will go slightly slower and have a few less venues, but I think it will be a great, relaxing evening.

So come on down Friday night. Meet at 6 pm at Cascade Baking company and get your free wristband that allows you to participate in all the specials. If you can't make it at 6, wristbands will be handed out at the Rivers Condominuims on Front St. until about 10 PM, I believe. Either that or you can just look for the band of happy people parading to the next venue and tag along.

Oh, and don't forget to dress for the Back to School Fantasy Theme!

For more info, click here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Love Guacamole!!

Some days you just need guacamole. It's been one of those days for me for about 5 days now. I finally got some avocados on Sunday and made up a big ol' bowl of guac...which I have been eating for pretty much every meal ever since!

I had asked my local Twitter friends for some advice on where to buy avocados here in Salem and they mentioned Winco (which is where I eventually bought mine), Cash & Carry, and Safeway for good produce options. I also wondered if Morrow's on Silverton might have some, but I didn't get over that way to check.

Here's my guacamole recipe, which I have perfected after several trips to Mexico and watching my Mexican born friend make it for her family.

Caution: This makes a lot, but since it's pretty addicting that's usually a good thing. It'll be gone before you know it!

4 avocados
4 medium tomatoes (I used vine-ripened Roma's from my sister's plentiful garden)
1/2 an onion (I used red onion because that was what was in my fridge)
1 and a 1/2 fresh jalepenos (medium/hot spiciness, use more or less depending taste)
1/2 cup or so of fresh chopped cilantro
The juice of one lime

Chop it all up, mix it together, and then eat it all up! Yummmmmm. Happy tummies!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mt. Angel Oktoberfest - Chicken Dance Anyone?

I can't wait for the Oktoberfest this weekend in Mt. Angel. For one, I love Mt. Angel. For two, I love chicken dancing. :) And for three, I love to wander around looking at booths and drooling over delicious dining out of small trailer-like kitchens. It's just a wonderfully campy adventure to the music of accordians and the smells of sausage and kraut.

Oh, plus the drinking. That's fun too, if you're in the mood for a little partying beyong the standard chicken dance in the street by the gazebo pavilion. I think I might try the wine garden this year. I hear they have good music as well as good wine!

Oh, and the people watching at Oktoberfest is always superb. It was even better back in the day, before the ban on grocery stickers (which was really a good thing) when you could watch people coming out of the beer garden covered in the strangest places with stickers that said things like fresh meat or hot. They were banned to keep people from sticking them on building all over town as they left and leaving a mess for the locals. A few contraband stickers always get in anyway, but nothing like the grocery sticker heyday.

This year I am going to do the Oktoberfest 5K run/walk on Saturday morning that supports the local high school track and field team. It's my first one and I am really excited. I hope the rain holds off! Wish me luck. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vietnamese Cuisine in Salem

I am a big fan of Vietnamese food. I just love the flavors and the textures and the smells...soooo pretty much everything about it I guess.

My long time favorite restaurant in the Salem area is Kim Huong's on Silverton Rd. They have great summer (fresh veggies in rice paper) rolls, delicious Bun salad, and the Lemon Chicken is to excellent.

More recently, I discovered Vietnam Restaurant, which is situated just between my home and work, for an easy stop-off for dinner on the go. Vietnam Restaurant is on Center St across from the Rite-Aid parking lot. I must confess I can't say a lot about the variety of food because I've only tried the Bun salad with grilled pork and shrimp. It is just that good. I order it every time! I CRAVE it. So, that is the only thing I order there, and I never regret it. The service here is usually really good. I say usually, because periodically the family's son (looks about 10 or so) has the day off from school or something and decides to take over the serving. Usually his dad doesn't let this go on for too long, but the boy is quite a character, and having him serve you will be an experience you will never forget. :)

Now, for the Super Pho! I have been hearing about it, but the last time I drove by it was still closed (apparently I don't get to Lancaster much). I tried it out the other night for the first time and I must say the pho was super. Super taste, super sized, super service. The one funny thing we noted was that the place was freezing when we walked in. When we said something about it they said we just needed some pho to warm us up. Oddly enough, as we ate it we felt perfectly comfortable, but then when we were done, sitting and chatting, we froze again. It was weird. Who knew hot soup could warm you up 20 degrees or so. So don't plan and hanging out here after the meal is done. It's not a lingering place - unless you bring a blanket.

The server at Super Pho did mention that they are starting their to-go menu and a drive through window soon, so you'll be able to get your pho to-go and enjoy it in whatever temperature you prefer!

Even though we don't have multitudes of places to choose from for Vietnamese food in Salem, we have a few quality spots...and they really hit the spot sometimes. :) Sorry, folks.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Camping In Oregon

One of the things that I love about the Northwest is the abundance of camping options. I once upon a time lived in Ohio for a few years, and I remember trying to camp one year. Trying was the operative word. We finally found a KOA camp (nothing against the good people of the KOA, but it isn't exactly my idea of camping) on a small lake. And then came the thunder storms. You know those Midwest summer thunderstorms that are so great when you're cozy in your house? Yeah, not so cozy in a tent with the wind nearly blowing the tent over on top of you, dropping big branches dangerously close to your head, and the rain seeping in the seams of your brand new tent. Apparently I was spoiled by growing up in Oregon.

So this summer, as usual, I went camping with my family. We stayed one night at Detroit Lake, which is pretty and has flush toilets and showers. If living without your hair dryer sounds like too much of a sacrifice, then Detroit Lake is the camp for you. The downside of Detroit is that the lake is difficult to access in some places unless you have a boat and the camps are quite close together. It's only about an hour from Salem though, so that makes for a nice quick trip.

The next place we headed to was Suttle Lake. I really love Suttle Lake. It's about 20 miles west of Sisters which makes it about 2 hours from Salem. It's a beautiful little lake. Although motorized boats are allowed it is pretty quiet and peaceful. We stayed at the Link Creek camp on the west end of the lake. It does not have electricity, but it does have water spigots spread througout the sites and it has some pretty decent pit toilets. I mean, you can only expect so much when you're talking about a pit in the ground serving as a toilet, but this one actually had an air freshener, and almost no bugs. :) So I'd say that's pretty decent.

Sailboat on Suttle Lake

The best part about Suttle Lake is the big campsites and the easy lake access. It was great to be far enough away from your neighbors that it was possible to turn your chair towards the lake and forget they were there. The lake is accessible for swimming or rafting or whatever you want to do. It has a nice easy slope and the bottom is covered in small gravel (water shoes might be good for extended lake time as the gravel can be a little rough on the feet). The water is clean and cold, the views are classic central Oregon lake and tree views, and the people are friendly and far between. Just the way I like it! Oh, and the stars. The stars are amazing at night!

And after writing this, I realized I'm an anti-social camper. :) Sorry folks, I guess I go to get away from people.
Does anyone else have any great spots they like to camp? I'd like to try out some new places next year.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blackberries Mmmmm!

My apologies on my lack of blogging this summer. I'm going to try to catch up and keep up now that my life is back to it's normal schedule.

Every summer I pick blackberries at Willamette Mission State Park. Until this summer. Someone on Facebook kept saying how great the blackberries were at the new Keizer Rapids Park, so I decided, hey, why not try something new. Another way technology is changing my life.
So I headed off to Keizer Rapids with a friend. Now, I've never actually been to this park before. If you haven't been there, it is quite a hidden gem. And I do mean hidden. You kind of have to either know where you're going or be ready for a little adventure. Things aren't exactly well marked. Most of the park is more like wilderness. Which is exactly how I like my parks, but can take a little of an explorer's heart to navigate.

So navigate we did. We finally picked a spot near the end of the frisbee golf circuit and picked our way along the paths. It was really beautiful out there. We ran across a beautiful swamp. Yes, I did say "beautiful swamp." It was full of wildlife and the frogs made beautiful music to pick blackberries by. :)

I'm not sure the pickings were as good as Willamette Mission, but there is no parking charge (I'm referring to the $3 parking fee for state parks) and it is less of a drive. It is also much more like being out in the wilderness. And I got PLENTY of berries for a beautiful blackberry cobbler using my grandmother's recipe. Delicious!
My blackberry pickings
Berry Pudding Cake made with my grandmother's recipe