Bacon Makes Everything Better!

Wow – what a great bellydance show at The Blue Monk on Saturday night! It was quite the turnout to see the Offbeat Bellydancers strut, shimmy, and shake their stuff – Chris and I had a great time, and it was awesome to see my instructor perform along with many other dancers. Everyone definitely had their own style, and I must say that the white Russians were tasty as well.

But you’re probably wondering where the bacon comes in, right? After the show, Chris and I were almost home when we decided to turn back around and head over to Voodoo Doughnut, a Portland institution that I had never been to before. We had to pay $8 for parking (“but the sign says $2 for the first half hour!” “Yes, but that will still be $8, Sir”) and wait in line for about a half hour, but we finally got our donuts and left post haste so that we could devour them in the privacy of my home. Oh – question: do they make hair nets for facial hair? Just wondering…

Anyway, Chris dared me, yes dared me, to get a maple bacon donut, one of Voodoo’s most popular. And damn, if I didn’t take him up on it (and I didn’t even wait for the double dog dare!), although I was scared because the sample maple bacon donut sitting in the display case looked excessively old and crusty. But Beardy pulled out a “fresh”(?) maple bacon delight from the back, bagged it with Chris’ raspberry jelly donut (wimp!) and we were off.

Let me just say that many of you may know that I don’t eat mammals much anymore. For the most part I stick with chicken, turkey, non-mammal seafood, and anything else without nipples. However, sometimes I let my cravings get the better of me and break down when it comes to eating piggy products. Bacon and sausage, mostly, but sometimes ham. I just can’t help myself because it’s so friggin’ delicious. Regardless, I had a bit of trepidation when confronted by the maple bacon donut bar in my dining room. Granted, the bacon looked crispy and not overly fatty or chewy…and I do like McGriddles (my one yearly McDonalds breakfast purchase), so I crossed my fingers and chomped. Hey – it was pretty good! The taste was rather pleasing – a nice combination of salty and sweet, even if the texture was a bit surprising (crunchy bacon with creamy donut??? hmmm…). I’m not sure I’ll get it again, but it was at least an experience.

You should definitely check out the Voodoo Doughnut menu and perhaps try a taste adventure of your own. Or at least purchase a t-shirt that says “the magic is in the hole”. Yummy!!!

Swift Watch at Chapman School

All during the month of September the Vaux’s swifts roost in the chimney at Chapman School, which is just a few blocks from my apartment. Mid-month I walked over to watch the flock aggregate and enter the chimney for the night and I can tell you it was pretty freakin’ amazing. This is the largest flock of Vaux’s swifts in the world, and they’ve been roosting in the chimney every year since the late 1980’s – in peak years, the flock was up to about 35,000 birds! Typically it’s around 15,000 – I’m not sure how many there were this year, but it seemed like a lot.

The swifts start circling the chimney about an hour before sunset and the flock grows bigger and bigger as individual birds join in. Just after sunset, all of a sudden, the birds start diving into the chimney all together – it takes a while for them to all get in there, and it is a prime opportunity for hawks to come swooping in for a meal. Apparently, the hawks will not only dive through the flock (which then scatters – it reminded me of the way a pool ripples when a stone is tossed into still water), but they’ll also sit on the edge of the chimney and even enter the chimney to grab birds. Interesting thing about the swifts too – they don’t perch – they cling to the inside of the chimney like a bat would. Anyway, here are some photos and a video for you to see what I’m talking about (the Portland Audubon Society also has some great information about the swifts here).

Chapman School and the chimney.
Up to 1000 people will gather on the lawn each night in September to watch the swifts!
Finally, the swifts start going into the chimney for the night.

New Digs

I know I’ve totally been slacking on my blog. Sorry! But facebook has been getting a lot of my attention – so if you’re on facebook, you can check me out there. I’ll attempt to catch up a little bit now though, for all you non-facebookers…

First off, before I left for Portland, my friends in Carlsbad threw me an AWESOME going away party. Susan hosted and nearly all my friends made it to the party – there was even a Snow White pinata filled with mini-alcohol beverages, courtesy of Michelle and jeep. And the food was awesome! Everyone chipped in to get me a $170 gift card to Powell’s Books, and I gave everyone an appropriate Non-Performance Award.

The next day several folks helped me with loading the truck. At one point they were convinced that not everything would fit and I almost had to rent a trailer, which I was definitely not looking forward to doing. However, everything was jammed in – not a square foot to spare – and only two things didn’t make it: the cat tree was donated to Sparkles (Michelle’s new kitty), and jeep had to bring up my office chair the following week. It always works out in the end, but I’m thinking that my next move will entail a 17′ truck instead of a 14′ truck. At least.

It took two full days of driving, but Mom and I finally got to Portland. My apartment managers are assholes, but I’m trying to forget about that. I got really lucky in finding my apartment – it’s in the Bretnor Building, constructed in 1912, on NW 20th and Lovejoy – right in the heart of all the cool stuff that happens in Portland. 21st and 23rd have a ton of restaurants and shops, and I’m about 6 blocks from the Pearl District. Everything is within walking distance, too – aside from work, I don’t have to drive my car. I’ve walked to Powell’s Books a few times, and even down to the Saturday Market. And now that I have a bike, it will be even easier.

I had to start my new job at the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office the next week – I wish I had some more time off, but dems de breaks. Gots to make money, you know. The new office is nice – lots of native plants around the building, and one entire wall of my office is windows that look out into a virtual jungle of bushes and trees. I’ve been enjoying watching hummingbirds and chickadees – and a towhee – along with bees and other insects buzzing around. My office seems to have quite the spider population in it, but so far it hasn’t been a problem. Once those little guys grow up though…that’s another story…

Catching Up…

So…lots of stuff has happened between now and my last post. There’s too much to write about right now, but I will provide you with links to pictures. That’s the good part, anyway, right? The big news is that I recently moved up to Portland, Oregon, where I will be starting a job with the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office in Vancouver, Washington. I guess my official title is Recovery Assessment Program Leader, but basically I’ll be a fish biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was definitely sad leaving all of my friends behind in Carlsbad, but I’m very happy to be up here in Portland. I found a great apartment in a really cool part of town…the next step is getting a bike! I’ll post some pictures of my place once I get a bit more unpacked.

In the meantime, here are some photos from previous events.

First, in the beginning of July, my friend Michelle came and visited me from Pennsylvania. I hadn’t seen her (or talked with her) since graduating from West Chester University in 1998, but we found each other on facebook. We met up in Old Town San Diego, went to the Wild Animal Park (of course), and cruised around Point Loma and downtown San Diego over the weekend. You can view the photos from her visit here.

Next, at the end of July, I drove north to Blue Lakes (near Ukiah) for a Koski family reunion. I was there for a couple of days and it was really nice to see everyone, especially the next generation of Koski’s. The weather was perfect and it was great connecting with most of my cousins, although three of my blonde beautiful cousins were MIA (you know who you are, H’s!). Check out the photos from the reunion here.

After the reunion I drove up to Eureka to meet my friend Cara. We went to a Roller Derby (go, North Jetty Betty’s!), then went to Arcata to dine on crepes at one of Cara’s favorite restaurants. The crepes were FANTASTIC! Cara works and lives at Redwoods National Park, so the next day we hiked the Damnation Creek trail to the coast where we explored the tidepools. Then, it was time for me to head back south (sigh)…but the photos still linger here.

The only unfortunate part of the trip was that my check engine light went on, and upon taking it to the shop for a diagnosis, I learned that one of the catalytic converters has crapped out on me and it would cost $2000 to fix in California. Fortunately, I’ve moved to Oregon where it may not be illegal to use an after-market catalytic converter so I might not have to junk my car…but like I said, it looks like I’ll be wanting to invest in a bike soon. It won’t work for getting me over to Vancouver every day, but it’s at least a little less pressure on my aging Outback when I need to go out for groceries or local errands!

Better Late Than Never, Right?

I know it has been a terribly long time since I’ve posted anything, and I know that most of my posts start off with this slightly guilt-ridden statement. Honestly, I don’t know why you people bother to keep checking my blog, since everything I post is pretty boring anyhow. But today, I have a couple of items to share: first, I’m now blogging on a very nice new computer, an HP 17″ laptop that I’m loving (so far). I had a few issues last weekend, but those problems seem to have resolved themselves…so my new computer appears to be self-healing as well, bonus.

Second, I went on a vacation that I have yet to tell you about. Actually, the pictures from my road trip to Portland (which happened about a month ago, ahem) have been posted to the right for a few weeks now, so I don’t feel too bad about not posting until now. But I’ll give you a brief rundown of my trip:

Saturday – I dropped Teddy Bear at Beth’s house, then started driving north. I had a great drive just being by myself, breaking in my new Garmin nuvi GPS, and catching up on listening to all my podcasts. I arrived at Gramma Koski’s house in Paradise at about 5 in the afternoon. We enjoyed a quiet evening chatting and eating.

Sunday – I spent the day with Gramma, who barely let me go an hour without insisting I eat something. We went to Red Lobster for a late lunch, where I finally got cell phone coverage and a report from Beth indicating that Teddy had been barking until 3 a.m. Sigh.

Monday – I start on the next leg of my trip north, which was quickly and briefly delayed by another call from Beth saying that Teddy Bear peed on her couch the previous night. I called my mom to pick him up and put him in a kennel – dang! But the rest of my drive was good – Mount Shasta was beautiful, and there was snow in the mountains just south of Ashland. I got to Corvallis to stay with my friends Jeremy and Dana and their daughter Autumn just in time to take them out to dinner at a tasty Indian place downtown. Yummy!

Tuesday – Jeremy and Dana took me to breakfast before I drove about an hour and a half north to Portland. By the time I got to my brother’s house, I was certain that I needed to take my car in because of a grinding noise that, I was hoping, would simply require a half-turn of a Phillips head screwdriver and cost me about $5.50 to repair. Anne got a referral for me to Vu’s Car Care, where they diagnosed the sound as coming from my dying transmission, which would take two days to replace and cost $925. This vacation is turning out to be a bit more expensive than I was anticipating! But the yummy pad thai Anne and Paul made for dinner, as well as Adelaide’s shenanigans, almost made up for it.

Wednesday – I woke up from a night of snuggling with a surrogate cat (Bosco) and kicked around the house with Anne and Adelaide. We went to lunch at the Laughing Planet, and surprise surprise, my car repairs were fixed by 6 pm. Yay!

Thursday – Paul, Anne, and I drove up to Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge and hiked up to the top. Adelaide contributed to the serenity of the falls by crying when Paul stopped walking. But the falls were incredible, and we had a nice snack at the restaurant below. That afternoon I stopped by the Portland FWS field office to introduce myself and prove how awkward I am at networking. But I took Anne and Paul out for a Moroccan dinner down town, which was lots of fun (although the belly dancer was rather blonde and caucasian…).

Friday – Me and my newly quiet car began our reluctant journey south towards home. I stopped in Medford to meet up with Jack Williams, who treated me to a burrito for lunch. After that, it was back on the road until I got to Gramma’s. More eating.

Saturday – The end of my vacation was in sight. I spent one last day driving, enjoying the thoughts I had to myself, and my music and podcasts. I was stuck in LA traffic for about an hour, but managed to get home in one piece. Mom picked up Teddy from the kennel for me, so when I got home he was there waiting. Yup, my vacation was definitely over.

My Pacific Northwest "Vacation"

So last week I used 40 of my hard-earned annual leave hours to fly up to Portland. I had originally planned on simply visiting my mom and brother (it was his birthday on the 19th – happy birthday, Paul!), his wife, and new daughter Adelaide. However, additional vacation duties also included helping my mom pack up her house, clean it, and drive back down to Escondido for her move back down to SoCal. I still had a good time though, even though Mom’s cat, Leo, had to be put down the morning I arrived in Oregon. Leo will definitely be missed, although I don’t think we could have fit him into the car for the long trip south considering that the parrot and dog took up the majority of the available space.Other activities involved visiting two (!) REI stores, walking around Lacamas Park in Camas, initiating a corruptive influence on my beautiful and awesome niece (I bought that ABCD onsie for her when she was only a fetus!), celebrating Paul’s 33rd birthday at Deschutes Brewery in downtown Portland, and spending the better portion of a day walking around the Pearl district.

Lacamas Park in Camas

Corruption Phase 1 Initiated


Packing for the trip home…

The drive back down to Escondido was fairly uneventful, and let me tell you that the landscape only gets MORE BEAUTIFUL as you travel south, leaving the lush green fresh scenery of Washington and Oregon for the shriveled brown smog-laiden traffic-scape of our urban coastal community. Sigh. And, to make things even better, Michael (Mom’s parrot, severe macaw, actually) took the opportunity to fly away the evening of our arrival home. She went missing for two days, but Mom miraculously recovered her after plying her with wheat thins, peanuts, and a squeaky ball. I’m thinking that with this experience, Mom now has the know-how for earning supplemental income recovering rogue feathered pets.

Then it was back to work on Monday…it will only take another five months of work to gain those 40 hours of annual leave back, so I’d better get on that I guess.

Christmas in Camas

I flew up to Portland for Christmas this year to spend the holiday with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law. I stayed with Mom, who lives in a really cute house in Camas, Washington. Camas is home to a huge Georgia Pacific paper factory, or as it appeared to me, a tree crematorium. Paul and Anne live across the river in Portland, and they came over to open presents Christmas morning. Lots of presents. I think I like giving presents better than receiving them, especially when I get to give presents to the fetus that is nestled in Anne’s tummy right now. I gave the fetus a black one-piece outfit that says “ABCD: for those about to read we salute you”. Awesome. It snowed a little on Christmas day, but was otherwise gray, dark, rainy and cold. Huh – who would have thought that winter in the Pacific Northwest could be so dreary? I enjoyed sitting on the couch by the fireplace during most of my visit, staying warm and dry. Here are some pictures to enjoy!

Christmas Eve – yup, that’s a pink tree, and “A Christmas Story” on the TV behind it.

A very bad picture of me, but clearly Mom’s cat (Leo) and I bonded during my visit.

Below, Bailey savors the remains of his stuffed turkey, destroyed and eviscerated within 15 minutes of presentation.

Whirlwind trip to Portland and Back

Well, it finally happened. Mom sold her house in Escondido and moved up to Portland. What an endeavor! Packing up her home took several weeks and it was very strange seeing the house completely empty. We started out on Friday and drove for about ten hours, stopping overnight just north of Sacramento. From there we drove about eleven hours all the way up to Portland. The second day was much prettier – we drove past Mount Shasta, and the landscape became rolling and green. I’m actually kind of jealous – I want to move up there now! Michael (the parrot) was very good the entire trip – she sat next to me the entire time and happily clucked throughout the drive. I think she rather enjoyed sitting in the car! Mom drove the white Durango (pictured below) with Leo and Bailey, and overall, the trip went very well. I flew back home on Sunday and called in sick on Monday to rest. It will be very weird being here without my mom, but things change, and I think she’ll be very happy in Portland. Here are some pictures of our adventure:

Ah Portland – the Sister City I Never Had…

I know it has been a very long time since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Well, I’ve been busy, ok??? I mean, I’ve got a real job now, an apartment, two cats and a dog to feed, you know – actual responsibilities. So, blogging, sadly, has gotten moved down on my priority list. But don’t worry – I haven’t completely forgotten that all you folks out there need a little Marci fix every once in a while. So, here’s the latest.

Mom and I flew up to Portland, Oregon, during the weekend of my brother Paul’s birthday – he turned 31 (shoot – I thought he was turning 15) on August 19. Anne is a power-house crafting dynamo, sewing and baking and being fit and all that crazy stuff that I can only dream of. Their cats are insane, but cute. And their house…ok, I must say I am a bit jealous. Well, sniff, I used to own a house, sniff, and maybe, sniff, if I work real hard, sniff sniff, some day I’ll, sniff, own one again. We went into Portland a couple of times for shopping dinner, and good times, good times. My Uncle Tom and Aunt Tje also stopped in – Paul and Anne’s one bathroom was working overtime, but managed the job well considering the circumstances. I had a great time – Portland is a cool little town, and it had been too long since seeing the bro. I’d like to get up there again soon (hee hee – look out, Bosco, watch your back!).