Thursday, August 28, 2008

McKenzie Pass and The Three Sisters

This past week I took a three day weekend from work and Matt, my friend Robin and my friends Anya and Stephan who were visiting from Berkeley went on a camping trip to the Three Sisters area of Oregon. I had never been there before and was very excited to explore a new part of Oregon. The Three Sisters area is about an hour east of Eugene Oregon and a 3 hour drive from Portland.

We set out on Thursday and after finding a great camping spot headed off to Proxy falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in Oregon. It was a short hike to the falls and we soon discovered that this area shows many signs of Oregons volcanic nature. Here's our intrepid group of travelers heading out through the lava.

We were pleasantly surprised to find huckleberries on the trail and Robin and Anya started picking away (the rest of us joined in too). Originally we were going to go camping in the Indian Heaven area near Mt. Adams specifically so Robin could pick huckleberries for canning or winemaking, however with the late snowpack in Oregon this year the huckleberries had not come in yet!

The glory of Proxy Falls:

After Proxy Falls we headed up to the Dee Wright Observatory at McKenzie Pass. There we checked out a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. The Forest Service has a great display which identifies all the surrounding mountains and the heights and distances. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast so we couldn't see the Three Sisters very clearly (3 10,000 foot plus mountains grouped tightly together) but we did have a nice view of the lava flows and Belknap Crater.

The next day we headed out to a few of the mountain lakes and were fortunate to get a clear day so we could get some nice photos of the 3 sisters. The 3 sisters from Hand Lake:

And the 3 Sisters from Scott Lake:

Here's Matt and I eating lunch at Scott Lake. Matt's expression says "hurry up and take this picture so I can stop being eaten alive by mosquitos". This was the only place that the mosquitos were bad. Quite a pretty lake though. By this point Anya and Stephan had taken off for California and Robin was heading back to the trailhead to do some painting.

That afternoon we headed over to Linton Lake so that Matt could seek out one of his "holy grails" of waterfalls or Linton falls a series of 2-3 falls that fall over 600 feet (that's really really tall). I submitted to going on this adventure with a few reservations and Robin stayed at the trailhead and painted and read.

I'm very happy I went along because the lake was gorgeous. The prettiest lake of the day even if it had no mountain views. It was a beautiful green color and the forest surrounding it felt very wild and natural.

The hike to the lake was about a mile and a half and half way around the lake the maintined trail ends. At that point we encountered huge amounts of downed logs that we had to navigate over and under.

We finally reached the point where the falls runs into Linnton Lake and headed up to find the lower tier which was about a 90 foot falls. It was a bit too much adventure for me, but I hung in there and climbed up and up over logs. After almost making Matt quit looking we finally found the lower falls. It was quite pretty.

The reward for me was finding this beautiful Cascade Lily at the top of the falls. I stopped to photograph it while Matt kept climbing up to see if he could find the bottom of the upper falls.

Even though I was exhausted the trip down made me feel like I would really like to return to Linton Lake for a backpacking trip because it was so beautiful.

Looking over my photos I'm realizing we really packed a lot of events into one short trip. One the way back to Portland we hit up too more waterfalls that were literally right off the side of the road. Koosah and Sahalie falls. They were powerfull and beautiful:

We ended are trip with a rainbow.

This trip really made me want to spend more time in the Three Sisters area. It will be hard to get back there but I'm already looking forward to the next time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Creating a Wedding Cake

This past week I reached somewhat of a milestone in my pastry career. I made my first wedding cake! It may not seem like a lot, but for me it was a big endeavor and challenge to see what I could do. In culinary school I was required to make a wedding cake, so I had some experience with the process, but doing if for a real wedding where so many expectations were on the line was a whole different matter. It was a lot of work, a lot of fun and was definitely appreciated by my friend Jen, whose wedding I made it for. Here's the final results of more than a week of work:

The wedding was on Friday August 1st, and I started baking about two weeks earlier. Cakes hold up very well in the freezer and even gain moisture, as long as you don't freeze them for too long. I baked both chocolate buttermilk cakes and carrot cakes.

The Tuesday before the wedding I came home from work after my 4 a.m.-12:00 p.m. shift and spent the afternoon cutting, layering and frosting all 4 cakes with vanilla buttercream. My 5 lb bag of sugar wasn't enough and I ended up going to the store a second time for more butter and sugar.

On Wednesday and Thursday I went to work making the buttercream as smooth as possible and picked up the flowers from the florist. Friday morning I arranged the flowers, dowelled the cake (inserted plastic straws in the bottom 3 layers for support), and boxed up the cake. Matt helped me take the cakes to a YMCA camp near the site of the wedding (Oxbow Regional Park) and we went to help the set-up effort.

Unfortunately for my friends Jen and Al they managed to pick the one rainy day of the summer for their outdoor wedding day. What a Portland thing to happen! Luckily for them they had great friends organizing their wedding and we moved everything into the covered reception area and the wedding was still beautiful.

After the ceremony I left to pick up the cake and assembled it in the reception area. Matt documented me putting the layers together.

Then I made last minute fixes to the few areas of the borders I squished while putting the layers together, and the cake was good to go.

One of the sad things about being a pastry chef is that you create these beautiful things and then you have to accept the fact that they are meant to be eaten and they will be destroyed! The cake was only up in full form for about an hour before we cut it and distributed. Matt was my sous chef and helped hand out plates of cake. It seemed like everyone was happy and it was a great success.

After all that stress it was time to relax! Wine was the order of the day and Matt and I both enjoyed some and took a stroll through the woods. It's not every day you get to walk down a trail with a glass of wine!

All in all I was really happy to be a part of Jen's wedding. It was a community effort of all her friends to put on the wedding and it just felt really nice to be a part of the process. It was also great to be able to test out my wedding cake baking skills on a good friend that I know and love. She and Al were so appreciative and it was great to see what I'm capable of.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Yes indeed summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Every year I seem to forget that it really takes until late June/early July for the heat to set in up here and for the rain to disappear. The weather has been absolutely lovely lately and I was thrilled when we had record 100 degree heat last week.

My summer started with a weekend down to Sacramento to see Susanne, John, my nephews and my parents! It was a short weekend but great fun to see everyone together and have a chance to visit. I played tons of games with the kiddos and they always find plenty of ways to make me smile. I wish I could play with them more often.

Last weekend I got out early on Friday and went hiking to Angels Rest which is a hike very close to Portland that has fabulous views of the Columbia River Gorge. There were tons of flowers up there and I had the trail completely to myself from 7:30 til 10:00 and then was reminded that it is indeed tourist season in the Gorge when I saw about 30 people on my hike back down. It pays off to go early! It was great to get out hiking again as I haven't been much in awhile

On Saturday I went strawberry picking with my friends Lisa and Robin. Lisa grew up on an Oregon berry farm so she looked right at home out in the fields.

Oregon Strawberries only come into season for about 2-3 short weeks. So if you blink you will miss them! I can't count the number of people that went berry picking independently of me on the same weekend! I made strawberry jam and syrup as well as some strawberry lemonade which was just the opitome of summer.

The garden has been looking great and looking at the pictures from my last post I can't believe how much its grown in a month! Craziness. I've been eating salads of baby greens, arugula, spinach and radishes entirely from the garden. My cucumbers and tomatoes are blooming like crazy so in a month the garden will be doing great.

I know for a fact that summer this year is going to disappear before my eyes. Here are some major events coming up:

- Susanne and family stopping by this Sunday
- Matt comes back July 20th!!!\
- My friend Angie and her parents potentially visiting the week of the 18th-23rd
- My friend Jen Sanders is getting married August 1st and I am making her wedding cake, so major work the week before, and major planning all this month
- Reed and Regina (my roommates) leave for D.C. in early August, come back August 10th and then promptly leave for Mexico for a year. They will bring back the Mexican teacher who will be living with us for a year.
- Mid August my friend Anya and her boyfriend Stefan visit for a week. Camping trip to Mt. Adams with Anya, Stefan, Robin and Matt
- Trip to the coast and Neahakanie Mountain September 12th-13th to celebrate Matt and my anniversary on September 10th and my birthday on September 12th.

Whew its going to be a busy one but who can complain about so many great things happening!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My Gardening Obsession

Every few years it seems that I find some new activity to be interested in. Five years ago that was wildflower photography, a few years ago yoga, and last year it was definitely hiking and camping around Portland. This year I have become positively obsessed with vegetable gardening. I might even go as far as to say that I'm addicted to growing vegetables.

I've always had a general interest in growing veggies at home but either never had the space for it, was in a short term rental where I wouldn't see the end of the growing season, and I generally just didn't feel like I knew what I was doing.

So this year I am living in a house where I will still be living all next year and thankfully living with my roommate Reed who has been my gardening mentor. The past few years I've planted a few things from starts that I got at the nursery...lettuce, basil, chard and herbs. This year however, I tried seeding for the first time and had a great time of trying to get things to grow. I'm very happy to say that everything in our garden at the house Reed and I seeded ourselves (with the exception of one cilantro and one thyme plant). We produced so many plants that we've given away multiple plants to 5-6 friends and still have seedlings left over!

It's amazing the difference this has had on me. It's incredibly empowering to grow things from seeds. And its wonderful how connected it makes you feel to the earth, and how much more aware I am about how long it takes to produce food. I've always had an appreciation for farmers, but my appreciation level has gone way way up.

So shall we take a tour of the garden?

We have 3 main areas where we're growing things. First is the deck. On the deck we have in containers tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, a bell pepper and some basil.

I did quite a bit of container gardening as I wasn't sure where I would be living next year. Happily it turns out Matt and I will be living here for another year. My roommate Reed got a prestigious Fulbright scholarship and will be teaching in Mexico for a year. So Matt and I will be staying here to take care of the house and cats. We will be living with the teacher from Mexico that Reed will switch teaching assignments with. Very exciting!

As it turns out my tomatoes in containers are actually doing way better than the tomatoes in the garden. We also have small containers of arugula and mesclun greens.

The second area is a side yard where Reed has put in yellow squash and zucchini. She plants these every year and they always get enormous.

Then in the back of the yard we have two large raised beds. Probably about half of them are filled with tomatoes and the other half has brocolli, beans, snap peas, radishes, lemon cucumbers, spinach, arugula and bell peppers.

The yard in general is looking very beautiful right now. There is an amazingly beautiful bunch of bright orange poppies, roses of all colors and what I think is clematis. Earlier in May we had probably 10 different colors of tulips popping up all over the yard. It really is a treat to be surrounded by so many flowers.

So there is my current obsession in full color. I'll have to update in a month or two and show the progress. It's definitely been a fun project for spring and summer!