Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tempeh Rubens

Last night I decided I wanted to make some tempeh rubens as a last hurrah before I start eating trail food. I bicycled 1 mile to the local HEB grocery store and wandered all over the place looking for tempeh. It's usually kept near the tofu, in the produce section. This store didn't apear to have any! I asked a lady wandering amongst the lettuce if she had seen any tempeh. She looked at me blankly and asked, "What's that?"

I hopped back on my bicycle and went to Albertsons, which is 1.7 miles from my house. No luck there either! I asked the produce guy if they sold tempeh in the store. He asked me how to spell it...When I told him it was a soybean product that was usually sold with all the other hippie food (tofu, soy cheese, etc), he remarked that I must be a second generation hippie. He claimed he was just a first generation, and wasn't that advanced in hippie food.

I stood in the produce section for a while, dazed and confused. It just never occured to me that a big grocery store wouldn't have tempeh. It was a real I'm not in Vermont anymore moment!

Ahhh well. I picked up some pasta sauce and zucchini, went home and made spaghetti with red sauce, sauteed onions, zucchini, yellow squash, and a green salad. I'm slowly cooking everything I have left in the cupboards and fridge. I have some chicken in there I need to figure out what to do with.

PCT Updates

Hmmm, how do I update y'all about my PCT trek while I'm on the trail?

I have a couple of options I'm toying with.

1) I could keep my journal and pics over on www.trailjournals.com.

2) I could use this here Blogspot.

3) Or I could keep the journals and pics on my website over at www.HeatherStars.com


Option 1 and 2 would require me to hunt out a computer when I'm in town, and transcribe my handwritten journals on the spot. No idea how I'd do pictures with that system.

Option 3 requires me to bounce my laptop to various towns along the trail, so I can access my web building software, and have a handy repository for all of the pictures I'll be taking.

Another option would be to say heck with updating, and just drop off the face of the internet for the next 5 months and do all of the transcribing when I get back. Wherever "back" is.

I'm starting to experience blogger burnout. I've been writing about various aspects of my life and putting it on the web for years now. I could use a break and get back into writing by hand, on paper, for my own enjoyment only. It would also be nice to land in town and just experience town...not worry about updating.

We'll see. I still need to figure out how I'm going to save my pictures. Right now all I have is a 128k memory card, which has space for about 3 days of normal picture taking.

Oatmeal Bread Recipe

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 T Oil
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 t salt
3 Cups flour
1 Cup oats
2 1/2 t Yeast

Mix everything together in a bowl. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for about 6-10 minutes, until it's smooth and velvety. Coat bowl in oil, then put dough in bowl, coating dough in oil. Cover with wet towel and let rise until doubled...a little over an hour. Punch down the dough, oil the pan you'll be baking in, and put the dough in that pan to rise once more, until double. (40 min - 1 hour or so). Sprinkle top of dough with oats, brush on butter, and bake in preheated 350 degree oven until bread sounds hollow when you tap it. (about an hour).

More or less, that's what I've been doing. I made another loaf of this last night. Mmmmmmmmm!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Countdown to the trail!

Yesterday I got my campsite assignment for the PCT ADZ kickoff party. It quickly threw everything into perspective... wow, this whole trip is real! In less then a week, I'll be kicking back in California, getting to know my fellow PCT thru-hikers. Where did all that time go?

Getting ready for this trip is a bit tricky. I was expecting to get my last paycheck from my job last week, but haven't yet. They goofed and put the name of a former Heather on my check, so they had to send it back and get me a new one. The check still hasn't shown up, more than a week later. Can you say broke?

I still need to buy long underwear bottoms, a 4-6 liter water container, hiking poles, some JB Weld so I can make an alcohol stove, some alcohol for that stove, spare batteries, extra memory cards for my camera, sneakers, and a lightweight foam sleeping pad (My inflatable pad would get punctured the second I set it on the desert floor in my tent - just like it did every night the last couple of days in CA). I also need to buy food to last me a week on the trail.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bread


If it's too hot, get out of the kitchen! Somehow I didn't grasp that idea...It's been in the 90's all day, so what do I decide to do? Why, bake some bread, of course!

The last batch of bread was made into baked french toast yesterday morning. It was so rich, we could only eat a slice apiece. We're still recovering from the ensuing sugar coma. Mmmmmm, sugar...

This time around, I made oatmeal bread. (Last batch was plain ol' white). It's really fluffy, with a delicate edge to it.

What I did for summer vacation




I was introduced to summer fun, Texas style. Yeehaw! As you can see, I forgot the sunscreen and was left with an interesting bathing suit burn pattern. It was worse for the guy I went with...not only did he become a crispy critter himself, but he was attacked by some local wildlife. While we were floating down the river, a giant crawfish swam up his shorts. I'll say no more, other than..... ouch!

That night we caught a free show by Calexico. Amazing! I love these guys! I'm such a sucker for trumpet players. The rest of the band was good, too. :-)

There was lots more involved, but it's too hot to think and type. Time to go jump in Barton Springs...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Rent



This place has me spoiled. If/when I go back to renting somewhere, everything will be measured against my stay here in Austin. It's an awfully big act to follow. Everything is just so...perfect. I love how big this house is, with room to roam inside, and out in the huge, ivy covered back yard. The kitchen, with the adorable double ovens and the industrial stainless steel island. The living room, with the big comfy couch and the amazing stereo and vinyl collection.



My roomie Fred and I are like ships passing in the night...we hardly ever run into each other in the house, but when we do, he's the best roomie ever! I know Fred has been home when I come back to the house to find the chocolate chip cookie supply down and the toilet seat up.

Yesterday I made a big batch of cookies. A couple of Fred's buddies came over just as the cookies came out of the oven. They gladly inhaled a dozen or so, pronounced themselves stuffed, then took off with Fred to go on their annual fishing trip. Half an hour later, Fred suddenly appears in the living room. They had to come back to get some things...after they left, I noticed the cookie pile in the kitchen was down. Hmmm, I thought they were stuffed... :-)

I brought the remaining cookies to Whole Earth that evening, when I met up with the sales guys. We ended up going to Barton Springs for the free swim after 9pm. I love that place! It was extra cool last night, with the full moon glistening across the water.

The point of this post? Ummmm.....Austin Rocks! I'll miss it when I leave. Oh, and I just made a couple of loaves of bread, completely by hand. Fun!

I had never done yeast bread without a bread machine before. I'm getting in as much cooking as possible before hitting the trail. Tomorrow - baked french toast, with the bread I just made.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pictures of the day








And now, the story behind the pictures...

I finally made it to Barton Springs Pool today. What an amazing place! I am now kicking myself for not having gone sooner. I went with Jeff, one of the sales guys from Whole Earth. Before the springs, we hiked along the Zilker Park Greenbelt. (That's where the pic was taken of him walking along a cliff). The Green belt was wicked cool, too. It's amazing how much green space Austin has set aside! Everywhere you look, there's a park.

The other pictures are of the neighbor kitty. Jeff lives in a really cool and wacky RV park. One of his neighbors has a light-up hula girl in his yard, next to the mermaid and the spinning bunny rabbits. The same neighbor has a ladder to the roof of his RV, where he's created a patio area.

It suddenly occured to me why I had trouble leaving Austin before....this town has a bumper sticker that says "Keep Austin Weird". The vortex here is simply trying to keep me. It recognizes me as one of its own.

Randomness

So much stuff happens in my life that never gets written down here. A shame, considering I like to go back into the archives every once in a while and relive my past. Playing catchup....:

The other night I took the buses to town and back rather than bicycle, because the blisters on my feet were killing me. I got off of one bus around midnight and sat there waiting for the next. A car pulled up and the lady inside asked, "You know the buses don't run this late, right?" She gave me a ride right to my door. It reminded me of all the nice people I met while biking cross country. Awwww...

I've sat down at BookPeople and read so many books cover to cover, that I'm quickly running out of interesting new material. The latest book was Freakanomics. And a book on QuirkyAlone.

Another time at BookPeople, I ran into a guy I had first met at the hostel here in Austin my first time through. He filled me in on the juicy gossip concerning the other hostelers. About half of the fellow travellers had stayed on in Austin and found a place to live/a job. This city has a way of sucking people in...

For the past couple of suppers, I've gone to Whole Foods. I pick out a loaf of bread, then go to the cheese guy and have him choose a selection of cheeses that go with it. What a cool way to be introduced to new and yummy cheese! (When I checked out, the cashier loved my selections and recomended a type of bread she thought I'd like, based on what I was buying.) I'll be trying it out next time I go...and visiting the cheese guy to see what he recomends I pair it with. I also have to go back because last time, he gave me a tub filled with a very yummy (and expensive) type of cheese as a sample, providing I come back and tell him how I liked it. Gladly!

I'm such a dairy fiend. For being lactose intolerant, I sure eat a lot of it. Right now there's 1/4 of a 3 pound block of Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar sitting in the fridge. I've gone through about 6 pounds of butter since I've been here...most of it in making chocolate chip cookies. (1/2 pound of butter per batch.)

I bicycle 14-17 miles a day. The most I've done around here in Austin is about 60. I've grown to love bicycling home at night! It's usually 72 degrees with a light breeze. Perfect! Except for last night on the Congress street bridge, when I looked up to see if the helicopter overhead was news or hospital, and crashed into the curb. Oops! I'm scraped up a little bit.

There hasn't been any work scheduled for the past 8 days. I'm going crazy! I need something to occupy my time. And money. I need some of that... Perhaps I'll get a 2 week job at Taco Bell. :-)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Fun and blisters


The Austin skyline

A sign I'm having too much fun: On Friday night I danced so much and so hard, I got blisters on the soles of my feet. Owie! But oh so worth it. :-) I started off the evening with some Zydeco dance lessons, and kept going till 11ish with Contra. The Contra band was phenomenal!
The Zydeco lessons were pretty cool, too. I've always been extremely self conscious about trying something new in public, and the Zydeco was no exception...But hopefully I'm making progress, and can stop being so tense about making mistakes. It wouldn't be the end of the world, sheesh...

It's like when I first started backpacking by myself. I was petrified of the dark. What if some wacko with an axe was lurking outside my tent, just waiting to pounce? Eventually I relaxed and realized that in all likelihood, I was not going to be hacked into little pieces at night and if anything, being alone in the woods was way safer then being in the middle of town. (Think about it - speeding cars, lots of people, hazmat, etc). I now love the feeling of being alone in the inky darkness, just me and my sleeping bag. Eventually I'll also learn to relax and enjoy learning new things in front of other people, mistakes and all. We're all human...

Austin at night


The Frost Building at night

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A day in the life of...

Oh man, I didn't even make it home last night until 3:30am. There are just so many cool things to do in Austin!
I started out the day at the Green Muse Cafe. It's the place I wrote about yesterday. (They have really good chocolate chip cookies!) I did a bunch of PCT research there via their wifi for a couple of hours, then left to explore the downtown parks. (There are a couple pictures of that two posts below).

I went to the usual Wednesday Contra dance and had a whale of a time! Best contra, ever! The band was exceptional (with the exception of two too slow songs), and the dance partners were really cool. I like the fact that all of the guys there are older (30's+), so they're married or have steady girlfriends. That way I can relax and have fun without getting hit on. (It's flattering to have so much attention, but sometimes a girl just wants to enjoy herself without having to tactfully shoot someone down every 5.2 seconds).



The contra ended at 10, so I cycled back downtown to amuse myself for two hours before the free Weird Wednesday movie started at the Alamo Drafthouse. I found what I was looking for... Over in the 6th/5th street area was one of the guys who works at Whole Earth. He was there doing his second job, driving all of the tourists around in his pedicab. It was a slow night, so I rode my bike up and down the streets with him while he trawled for customers.

After bidding him adieu, I went to the Alamo. The movie theatre is upstairs...and on the stairs is a guy wielding a black magic marker. Everybody in front of me held their hands out for him to draw two big black x's on them, so I did too. I figured it was some sort of free admission thingy. I asked him what it was, he said it was to show the wait staff that I was under 21. Whoops! I showed him my ID, and he said to go into the bathroom real quick and wash it off while it was still wet. Whadda ya know, the soap in their bathrooms works really well for that. The whole black X thing doesn't seem to be very foolproof...Not that I had any alcoholic beverages there, but still! :-)

Upon sitting down in the theatre, I discovered I was only a couple of seats away from a guy I work with. I love this guy! He's always in awe of things I've done. I made sure to show him the black tire marks all over my left leg (From me being a klutz and managing to run myself over with my bike just a few minutes earlier).

The movie was called Candy Snatchers. From the description on the Alamo website:

This is an incredible, mean-spirited black comedy that neatly encapsulates everything that was great and scary and wrong and right about the 70’s. A trio of kidnappers; gross fat slob, hot chick and psychotic con man; kidnap a teenage girl named Candy. But when they present their ransom demands to the girl’s father he’s perfectly happy to abscond with the ransom money and be free of the burden of parenthood. Meanwhile an autistic child has discovered Candy’s underground hiding place but his horrible parents don’t believe him. Sounds like a grim, dark, depressing movie huh? For regular squares maybe. But for those of us with a refined taste for the absurd and amoral it’s like an iced magnum of Dom Perignon. Don’t miss this one or you’ll be one sorry bastard. (Lars)

I have to say, it was a really good movie! I'm not usually a fan of dark movies, but this one was brilliantly twisted.

After the movie, I did some people watching and rode around the block with pedicab/Whole Earth guy, then hit the road for home. I went down Congress for a change...partly because he recomended it as a safer route, and partly because the 24 hour bakery wasn't on it. I could see the bakery becoming a bad habit! Mmmmmmm, so many yummy Mexican pastries...flan...coconut juice...mmmmmmmmm.

What I did to my hair


I dyed my hair for the first time ever in Hunt, Texas, on my way across the country. It didn't show up well in pictures, but in real life, I was a redhead. Well, being a redhead was fun and all, but I wanted to go back to my old self. Yesterday I tried to go back to medium brown hair. I must have left the hair dye on too long, because now I'm quite the brunette! Heck, I always wanted to see what that was like too. I feel so incognito...
Last night when I went to the dance, everybody there said I looked familiar, and where had they seen me before? Perhaps they thought I was the redheaded Heather's evil twin. Muhahahahaaaaaa!

More Austin Pics

Austin has so many inviting parks...


A nifty gazebo at one of the parks

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Outdoor Rec

Yesterday I had a grin on my lips that wouldn't quit. Austin rocks! Austin seems to like me, too. My ego got a lot of stroking yesterday...all sorts of really cute guys started coming out of the woodwork to hit on me. The only weird one was an (old! ...like in his 50's) married guy who gave me the line of his wife not understanding him, not enjoying the outdoors, etc. etc., and did I want to go out in the backcountry with him sometime? Ick, gross, yucky!

The reason the backcountry came up in conversation? I was in Whole Earth Provisions, checking out all of the cool outdoor gear. (And the sales guys...) I ended up buying an Osprey Ariel 55 pack. My old pack was too small for taking on the PCT...even though I don't have much gear, I need lots of room for obscene amounts of water in the desert sections, and prodigious amounts of food in the high Sierras. (Old pack being 35 cubic liters, vs 55cl for new)

Osprey has three different styles of hip belts to choose from. Once I picked mine out, the belt was put in the special Osprey oven and baked for 10 minutes. After baking, I strapped it on and wore it around the store another 10 minutes to let the belt cool into shape, conforming to my unique hip anatomy.

After pack shopping, I tripped on over to Whole Foods for some supper. I was originally planning on going to Barton Springs at 9pm (They stop charging after 9), but I had so much fun talking to the cheese guy, I ended up saying to heck with biking over to the springs, and had a leisurely supper out on the patio.

Book People was on the menu next, and I stayed there until they closed at 11. Still not sleepy, I took the long way home...I bicycled to a bus stop, then sat there journaling for an hour. After letting all the buses that had my usual route go by, I got on a bus route that I hadn't been on before, for fun and excitement. I had a great time talking to the driver! Very cool guy, into bicycling and road tripping via car across the US. The bus went out of service at the end of the line (West Gate) but he had to loop back up past my road to get to the bus garage, so I kept riding, and was able to get dropped off just feet from my doorstep. Coolness :-)

Other nifty stuff that happened yesterday: I found a new cafe with oodles of ambiance, free wifi, and wicked good food. There, I had a turkey panini with southwestern sauce to die for, then followed it up by biking to the 24 hour mexican bakery and having a decadent slice of rich chocolate cake with a coconut/condensed milk frosting, ooey gooey cherry filling, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and a cherry. Yummy!

Austin Rocks!





Monday, April 03, 2006

Fun times

I just spent an outrageous amount of money on a pair of sandals. I feel so frivolous! And fabulous! And oh so fine...

The new sandals are a pair of Chacos, something I have been lusting after for years and years and years. I could never justify the cost. I finally reached the point where I just didn't care anymore. Viva la payday!



Part of the decision to buy them came because I liked the sales clerks down at Whole Earth Provisions. I spent a loooooong time trying on sneakers and sandals, then went to go fiddle around with the packs. I ended up going across the street to a tavern for lunch with two of the sales guys. They had real food, I had a chocolate volcano. Mmmmmm. :-)

I am here

One of my favorite spots downtown ... the Halcyon Cafe. They have comfy couches and chairs, great music, and yummy food/drinks.

This was the first place I ran into when I came to Austin the first time around (on my bike trip). When I came back the second time (to live here) and booted up my laptop out on the patio, I was tickled pink to see my wifi setting remembered the place and automatically signed me on. Little things in life are cool. The more you celebrate the little things, the more the big things fall into place. Life is good. :-)

( From a PCT list I'm on )

On Wednesday of this week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be:

01:02:03 04/05/06.

Snuggle Buddy

Well heck, my post about wanting somebody to snuggle up with late at night generated a pretty big response! I guess a lot of people out there have the same thought. What can I say - great minds think alike.

It's almost 1am and I'm still wide awake, bright eyed and bushy-tailed. Since nobody is waiting for me in bed, I've been online reading various PCT hiker journals. Talk about me being antsy! I'm really chomping at the bit to go take a hike. 3 weeks to go, and counting...

Now, how to amuse myself in the meantime? Any local Austinites care to write and tell me all about the cool things I can do in this town? Royalepain@aol.com

To Do?

I do food service for special events. My work schedule is very erratic! I just worked Fri-Sat, and won't have any work for who knows how long... perhaps this weekend, perhaps sooner, or even later.

This leaves me with a lot of free time. The clock is slowly ticking down towards my PCT start date. Why can't it get here sooner? I'm twiddling my thumbs here!

When I get money, I'm immediately running online to buy the PCT guidebooks. I have so much planning to do! And then the really fun part...buying stuff! New gear, 4-5 days of food to start off with, sneakers, etc. It's a good thing I have my very erratic job...it'll supply me with a little extra money, and give me time to explore my newly adopted home city.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More pics of where I live


The dining room and glorious kitchen


Tree outside....it's spring!

Friday, March 31, 2006

The events of the 30th


Yesterday I decided to pack up my things and go on an overnight bicycle trip. I only made it 20 miles out of town before I stopped at a gas station for a snack, and picked up a copy of the paper. There, in the events section, were a couple of cool movies showing in Austin that night. I hemmed and hawed, then decided to head back to town to catch the events. Almost as soon as I pointed my bike back towards home, my boss called and asked if I could come to work the next day. I guess it was inevitable :-)

So, fast forward. I went to the movies. They were free, courtesy of Monkey Wrench Books. One was a documentary on 2 Brits who got sued by McDonalds over publishing a leaflet about McD's business practises, and the other was a short film by a lady who had bicycled over the highest paved road in South America. It included a piece on self sustainability in Hawaii.

After the movies, I got back on the road around 11:30pm-ish. I was cruising along, enjoying the 72 degree temps and smell of wildflowers in the air. I noticed a car speeding towards me along an intersecting road and immediately hit my brakes, missing the side of the car by inches. The man inside slammed on his brakes and hopped out, really worried and asking repeatedly if I was ok. We both stood there for a long time, profusely apologizing to one another. Oops!

I took South 1st street home, and stopped by the 24 hour Mexican bakery for a flan. Mmmmmmm that was good! As I was biking home, I approached a traffic light controlled intersection. I had green. The lady on the side street didn't seem to notice, as she pulled out in front of me. I yelled at her. "Hey! Hey Lady! I have the right of way!" and just barely missed getting run over.

Ooooh, and the day before, I almost got clobbered by some beer kegs! A beer truck sped up to cross the intersection in front of me (I had right-of-way), and as he turned, half a dozen metal kegs of beer rolled out of his truck and into the intersection, barely missing me and my bike.

(Mom, forget everything I've just written. Austin is really cool! And safe!)

Favorite Sign























This sign is on one of the roads I take to get to town. It always makes me smile. :-)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Contra Dancing



Yesterday was a very momentous day. I got my first paycheck, bought a digital camera to replace the one I had stolen, I managed to ride 40 miles just around town, and to top it off, last night I went contra dancing. Weeeeeee!!

The kitchen

The backyard


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Human Touch

I don't want a romantic relationship. I want touch. I want to fall asleep curled up against someone, wrapped in their arms. To run my fingertips over their smooth skin. To lay there late at night with my body snuggled against their warm chest and thighs, the cool evening air caressing and enveloping everything else.

I think most people really just crave a kind, gentle human touch in their lives...and use romantic relationships/sex as a path to get it. The ironic thing is once you start a relationship, the pure and simple holding each other goes out the window. Instead of reveling in the closeness, waking up in the middle of the night and realizing your breathing has synchronized with theirs as you watch them sleep....that sweetness slips through your grasp. The focus shifts to sex and how to get it. Which shifts the focus away from simple enjoyment of one another, and towards creating and maintaining a relationship. Wonderful as sex and relationships are, right now I just want gentle, kind, loving touch. Simple and innocent. No sex involved. No romantic entanglements. No thinking about the future. No wondering what to cook for them on weekend mornings, or if they find me funny, or what to do together as a couple. Just someone to have and to hold at night, to fall asleep with and wake up in the morning next to.

My pillows just aren't cutting it anymore.

Food


Moon ranch in New Mexico, pic taken on bike trip




I woke up this morning to pounding rain and dull grey skies outside. I lounged around in my bed, listening to the rain beat down on the oak leaves and ivy carpeting the yard. Thunder rolled in the distance, lazily announcing its plans to hang around for awhile.

I find thunder very sexy. There's just something about rain and thunder that makes me feel alive, both at peace and energized at the same time. When thunder is outside, I feel like hunkering down inside and cooking up a storm. Today was no exception.

I sliced up a whole head of cabbage and sauteed it in oil with tarragon, crazy salt and pepper, along with 3 onions, what was left in a bag of carrots (about 6), half a head of garlic, and some ginger. I mixed it with 3 kinds of cheese (cheddar, swiss and montery jack), and stuck it in the fridge while I made some dough by hand. Once the dough was finished rising, I rolled it out into circles, filled it with the sauteed veggie mix, and folded the dough over, crimping the edges with a fork. I brushed the dough with an egg glaze and popped the calzones in the oven for half an hour. Fred and I ate the calzones with warm pizza dipping sauce for lunch. Mmmmmmmm.

Fred went to work, and I spent the rest of the day over at Danielle's house (the other girl I went to Fort Worth with), talking and hanging out. We had a devine supper of salmon and potatoes on the grill and a mixed leaf/veggie/crab salad.

When I got back to my house, the only sign that Fred had been back was the platter of chocolate chip cookies that I had made before leaving were demolished. And the extra calzone I had made for him to take to Kate was mysteriously absent from the fridge.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Travel


Me poolside in Phoenix, AZ


Today a copy of Yogi's PCT Handbook came in the mail, courtesy of a fan. YESSSSS!!! I immediately sat down on the couch for some serious reading. It's made me so restless! Now I'm positively bursting at the seams, ready to get out there and start hiking.

This whole planning something out before I do it is really wierd. I mean, with the PCT, I actually need some semblence of an idea of when I start, where I'll be camping each night, etc, so I can figure out food and water and whatnot. Because the PCT is out in the middle of nowhere in a lot of places, I can't just wing it, like I just did on the bike trip. If I did, I could find myself in the middle of a 30 mile waterless stretch with nothing but saltines and a couple of sips of water in the bottom of my bottles.

Brilliant!