Celebrating a Birthday

Tim’s birthday was Thursday. We spent a good percentage of the week celebrating because birthday fun should always last at least a few days! The excitement kicked off on Tuesday with a snowshoeing adventure in Mt. Hood National Forest. We took along our friends and enjoyed a day in gorgeous, warming sunshine.

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We stopped for lunch (and a hefty dose of much-needed vitamin D!) at the frozen, but beautiful Lower Twin Lake. While we were eating, a curious gray jay landed on my friend’s head – perhaps mistaking her for a mound of snow.

Emiko and a Birdie

When Thursday rolled around, Tim and I headed for the central Oregon coast. The optimal time to visit is during winter because crowds are non-existant and you end up having a massive stretch of beach all to yourself. We spent two hours in pure solitude near Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge.

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Tim loves recording nature sounds and took advantage of a low wind day to capture the waves ebbing and flowing.

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I goofed around,

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and wrote messages in the sand.

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We wandered to a different portion of the coast and watched people come and go.

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Once back in Portland, we stopped at the downtown Veggie Grill for Tim’s birthday meal (they have a birthday club and if you join, you get a free entree on your special day!). The food was delicious. The photographs didn’t turn out very well, but… There was homemade birthday cake later in the evening!

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Double chocolate layer cake with chocolate ganache filling, chocolate frosting, and chocolate curls sprinkled on top. It was… chocolaty! That ends Tim’s birthday celebrations!

A Day Trip

Since the Pacific Northwest isn’t getting much snow in the mountains, Tim and I took a little road trip to the Oregon coast instead. We visit the coast frequently and it never gets old. Birds, whales, sand critters, rocky sculptures, and mighty waves make exploration incredibly fun.┬áNothing compares to the coast for mental and physical relaxation. It’s just so lovely!

On our drive to the coast, we passed by this scenic spot, where low clouds were weaving through a small farming town:

Our first stop was Cannon Beach. It is an incredibly popular destination, even in the off season. When the tide is low, peeking into all the exposed tide pools is my favorite activity. We didn’t arrive during low tide though so we opted to walk a massive stretch of sandy beach… In the inevitable wind and rain! Luckily, the sun came out halfway through our walk.

I took photographs while Tim recorded the sound of waves splashing on rocks.

And then, after we ate our lunch, it rained for the remainder of the day! We did spot a beautiful rainbow on the drive home though (taken through the car window)!

Backpacking Wacky

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This past weekend Tim and I headed down to the southern Oregon coast to go backpacking. Despite crazy heat and mosquito posses, it was an absolutely gorgeous area. We saw tiny frogs, snails, birds, lizards, snakes, leopard slugs and so many (think dozens of varieties) colorful wildflowers blooming on hillsides. We even got to jump and swim around in two cold rivers as a reward for enduring the toasty sunshine each day. And, we had complete solitude the entire time – we didn’t see any other people until we were about a mile from the end of the trail. A perfect escape from the city.

Oftentimes, people think of dehydrated packaged meals as the staples for backpacking fare. Tim and I discovered years ago that a little creativity and fresh veggies and ingredients make for much more exciting meals on the trail. While this option might make our packs a bit heavier, we eat tastier, healthier meals! I was too lazy to photograph our lunches but we snacked on homemade bagels (recipe from the kickin’ sweet Vegan Brunch) smeared with peanut butter and bananas we dehydrated a few days earlier. We also had homemade cajun tofu jerky, carrot sticks, pumpkin seeds, and a medley of other dried fruits we made. Here are some photos from our trip, starting with meals.

Soba Noodle Curry

A simple soba noodle curry – We brought along small plastic bottles of coconut milk and a spicy peanut curry sauce to pour over soba noodles (broken in half) and sauteed mushrooms, red bell pepper and broccoli. The meal was then topped with sesame seeds and some toasted coconut. It was delicious.

Of course you can’t have dinner without dessert, right? Right. When Tim and I backpacked around New Zealand in 2000, we brought along an Outback Oven. It’s basically a convection-style oven that you can use with a backpacking stove. It is small, fairly lightweight, and portable. We don’t always use the outback oven, but some of our favorite foods have been enjoyed on the trail when we do bring it along (think cinnamon rolls, pizza, scones…). For this trip, we made a chocolate wacky cake. My favorite recipe is from a Mollie Katzen children’s cookbook. We simply quartered the recipe, packed the dry ingredients in a ziplock, and the wet ingredients in a small bottle. Everything mixed up nicely in the pan and baked in about 15 minutes. We used some addictively yummy chocolate agave packets as a frosting (see photo of packets below).

Wacky Cake!

Wacky cake with about 5 minutes of baking time left.

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This stuff is so incredibly yummy. I admit to eating a packet straight up by itself. That’s right, you would too.

Next up:

Brekkie Couscous

Breakfast Couscous – Whole wheat couscous, powdered soy milk mixed with water, our own dried strawberries, pecans, agave, and cinnamon. Super quick and simple!

And now some photos from our mini vacation:

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I am pretty sure I could do this every weekend…