My life is in boxes. My house has been slowly emptying, room-by-room, and box-by-box. My roommate (not LB, my other roommate!) has moved out most of his things. My parents came and went, taking with them all of the pictures and memories and fragile things that we could not take to Hawaii but couldn’t bear to part with. One of the couches is gone and the other is leaving in a day or so, leaving us with only the floor to sit on as the chairs have already been moved out. Even my plants have found new homes, all except for the one that I’ve had for over 10 years – the one I bought for my college dorm room – that one goes to my dear friend Kristin, for safekeeping. The woman who was going to buy our bed neglected to call this weekend and so, thankfully, we still have a mattress to sleep on until we leave - the extra fifty dollars suddenly taking a backseat to the comfort we seek in our sheets after long evenings of packing and separating, separating and packing...this to Hawaii, that to storage, this to donate, that to toss in the recycling bin or the garbage can...twenty-nine years of accumulation being pared down to only the most important of material things.

My kitchen is packed away, bundled in bubble wrap, coddled by tissue paper and Styrofoam, and taped up - ready to be shipped to Hawaii. Most of my bakeware, my pots and pans and kitchen gadgets, unless exorbantly expensive or very high quality, were given away or sold at our yard sale a week ago. The rest was stored with my parents or went into the 6 uniform cardboard boxes with the U-Haul logo printed on the outside in dark green ink. After our final round of packing tonight, LB will rent a mini-van and haul the boxes to Portland tomorrow to be shipped as freight, arriving a week after we get to the Island. Then, we’ll start the process of cleaning the house, hoping to retrieve as much of our rental deposit as possible, to put towards helping us afford this vastly expensive endeavor. Next weekend, we’ll rent another car (ours will be gone by then – it already belongs to someone else who has graciously offered to let us use it the rest of this week), we'll drive down to San Francisco, California, put our dogs on a plane as “cargo,” and hop on separate flights trekking halfway across the Pacific Ocean to Honolulu, Hawaii.

I hope it all goes well.

Moving is so hard. People keep telling me it is one of the most stressful things we humans go through. I don’t necessarily feel stressed out (more exhausted really), but I know that the increasing ease with which my tears come as I slowly say goodbye to friends that I won’t see again for an indeterminate amount of time is a sure sign that I’m feeling the impact of leaving and this chapter of my life coming to a close.

I know that this is an adventure; a unique experience that will be good for me and open up new opportunities that I never knew existed. It’s a chance to begin again and see what the world has to offer. And, though I haven't said it before on this blog, it’s my last attempt at a job in science – academia anyway. And if I find it isn’t what I want, that it doesn’t enrich my soul or make me excited like it once did, then I know that it will be time to move on to something else. Who knows, perhaps I will no longer be an “accidental” scientist or maybe not even a scientist at all...my forays could lead me to seek a job in the food world. Or, I could fall back in love with science – that complicated companion that has led me through so many ups and downs during graduate school, almost on the verge of quitting more than once. And yet, having given nearly 12 years of my life to it, is so difficult to let go of.

I imagine that I could love coral reefs and the scientific inquiries to be explored within them – that was what I originally set out to do in graduate school, after all. But that remains to be seen – my funding for the job I have there has yet to come through, meaning that the road is wide open and I will have to find a temporary job in the meantime (shhh...I’ve been looking at bakeries and restaurants). I will miss Eugene. I will sorely miss the people here and the community. And of course: the food. This is the town where I found my passion, my love of all things culinary. This is where I fell in love with Pinot Noir, with chanterelles and sweet black truffles, hazelnuts and oysters. This is where I really started cooking (I had only really dabbled before), it’s where I began trying new things in the kitchen and where I started up this little blog (nearly two and a half years ago!). The excitement I feel for a new beginning in Hawaii is tinged with bittersweet sadness. Still, my bags are packed, and the plane leaves in a little less than a week. There’s no turning back now, so I’m trying to face forward with an open mind and an open heart to what Hawaii has to offer.

I know that in a few weeks I’ll be sitting in my new kitchen, opening boxes instead of closing them. I know that my closest friends will be carried with me in my heart and are only a phone call away, and that I will meet new people and make new friends, and that comforts me. And I know you’ll be here, dropping by to say hello and offer support, to see what sort of new culinary adventures Hawaii holds for me – and I’m excited to be able to take you along as I explore my new home.

For those of you in this area, or interested in this area, I leave you in the very capable hands of Culinaria Eugenius – a new food blog here. Go and visit and read about her adventures in her kitchen; she’s sure to keep you entertained and coming back for more about Oregon’s culinary offerings. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I hope you’ll come with me too. The next time I post here will be from Kaneohe, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu – I’m not sure when it will be, but hopefully within a week or two...we’re hoping we have internet access at the house we’ll be renting (just imagine – weekend posts!!).

So, my friends, until then? I’ll see you in Hawaii...


Face It Boys: There are No Panty Tickle Fights

LB has this hair-brained idea that whenever women get together in a group with just the ladies, they have themselves a panty tickle fight, ie. they attempt to tickle each other, sans pants (not sans panties, mind you, just pants). I’ve tried repeatedly to convince him that this doesn’t actually occur, but he’ll hear none of it, preferring instead to live happily in his ignorance, imagining such an event occurring in its half-naked splendor. At first, I assumed this was purely an LB thing. I learned quickly, however, after being introduced to several of LB’s friends and catching snippets of conversation among other men when told my girls and I were about to have a “Girl’s Nite Out,” that this (or some variation on it) is actually a somewhat widespread phenomenon. In fact, it either came from, or at least is widespread enough to have garnished its very own Seinfeld episode:

"What else did you two do?"
"Oh, you know, girly stuff."
"So, uh, flower shows, shopping for pretty bows, then back to her place, strip down to bra and panties for a tickle fight."
"That's really what you think girls do, isn't it?"
"Yes, I do."
- Jerry and Elaine, in "The Pool Guy"
Needless to say, I was shocked! Do men really believe we women run around in our panties tickling our best girl friends (braless cleavage struggling against tiny shirts, no doubt)? Oh, dear. And why am I talking about panty tickle fights on a food blog, you might ask? You see, the Ladies and I just recently returned from an overnight Girl’s Weekend Away. We headed up north to the beautiful McMinnville - right in the heart of Oregon wine country. We spent the night there at the lovely McMenamins’ Hotel Oregon. Together. In the same room. The same bed, actually, because the McMenamins only has single bed rooms. A big, king-sized bed. All three of us. To be honest, we didn’t sleep well – it’s just hard to sleep when you have two bodies in bed next to you, but we saved some money and we’re all small ladies so we fit just fine. LB, of course, was in imaginary heaven at the mere thought of all of this (all that time and proximity for panty tickle fights no doubt), and I am writing here to set him straight.

So, dear LB, let me just say that while I could possibly envision walking across a room wearing my panties and a t-shirt at some point during a weekend away with my Girls, “hanging out” like that is an entirely different story! And quite frankly my dear, the very thought of approaching my incredibly educated friends and trying to tickle them while I am not wearing any pants sounds just about like the most abnormal thing I can imagine!

Instead, here's what really occurred:

Being the fine, upstanding women that we are, my Girlfriends and I converged upon Willamette Valley wine country and got drunk off perfectly fermented grape juice instead. We gorged ourselves on lots of great vittles afterward. Then, we went shopping in the big city of Portland, just as any good women should do. So, sorry LB, instead of running around chasing each other in our panties, we were drinking, eating and shopping. And let me tell you, that was far better than any panty tickle fight you can imagine.

So here then, is where the food comes in and how I can justify flirting with a risqué post on my blog. You see, not only is this particular region of the Willamette Valley a veritable treasure trove of good wine, such notable and infamous Oregon restaurants that have pioneered local food movements in this region, notably The Painted Lady and Wildwood, are plentiful. We made our way to, count ‘em seven wineries during our trip. Thankfully, for the sake of our wallets, our figures and our wine tolerances, we learned quickly that the purchase of a single taste (usually $10) was plenty enough for three Girls to be able to have a few sips to taste the wine, talk about it and not get completely sh!t-faced by the seventh winery.

Ah, but the food. We had dinner at a lovely spot in downtown McMinnville called La Rambla, a tapas restaurant chosen because it was recommended by one of the tasting room pourers at Archery Summit Winery, which had the best Pinot Noir flight of the trip over-all. The food was delicious, especially the ham and manchego cheese croquetas with a smoked paprika sauce. The grilled artichoke hearts with lemon aoli (I full on plan on reproducing this at home! Someday when I have my pots and pans unpacked, perhaps, but still someday!) and the arugula, d'anjou pear, manchego and walnut salad with a Jerez vinaigrette (the “ensalada de arugala con peras”) were also excellent. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on this trip, so I only have a single picture from the entire trip, borrowed from my friend...

Dinner was great, but breakfast was the real winner. When we asked the waitress at La Rambla where to eat breakfast, she didn’t even hesitate and said with a definitive nod, The Crescent Café. She quickly followed this recommendation up by saying, “they get in there at 2:00 AM to make their homemade bread and they even make their corned beef hash from scratch!!” Needless to say, I was sold, and so were my friends.

We ambled in there the next morning after a short 15 minute wait (considering that this was also a restaurant recommended in the February 2008 Gourmet magazine) and were pleasantly surprised at the cozy, homey nature of the place. There were probably 15 tables and all of the waiters and waitresses were cheery and helpful. The man that showed us our table informed us that the orange juice was freshly squeezed, that it was blood orange juice, and that it was the sweetest and most wonderful of the entire season that very day (so, we of course, ordered it, and it was true – a gorgeous ruby-colored little drink as sweet as it could be). He also said that if we liked eggs benedict, we were in luck because today the chef had decided to make it and his lemon hollandaise was absolutely fabulous (yeah, I ordered that too, and a side of house-made pork sausage). The Crescent Café sources all of their ingredients from local area farms and makes as much as possible from scratch using fresh ingredients whenever possible. All of the food was delicious, and the restaurant comes highly recommended from this food blogger.

I've listed my favorite wines from each of the wineries we visited below, should you end up in the area, wanting to have your own panty tickle figh...ahem...I mean, your own Girl’s (or otherwise) Weekend Away, in Willamette Valley wine country.

Lange Estate – 2005 Yamhill Vineyards Pinot Noir (this wine was my fave from the trip, and the view from the grounds is stunning - we had a picnic lunch, wine in hand)
Torii Mor – 2005 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (decent wine, but the service left much to be desired, and I'm not the only one who has noticed this)
Sokol Blosser – 2006 Rose' of Pinot Noir (beautiful grounds and friendly service abounds at this organic winery)
Archery Summit – 2005 Premier Cuvee Pinot Noir (excellent wines - almost all of them were delicious!)
Domaine Drouhin Oregon – 2004 Pinot Noir Laurene (run by the fourth generation of Drouhins - Robert Drouhin came over from France and helped begin the Pinot Noir revolution in Oregon)
Vista Hills – 2005 Treehouse Pinot Noir (cute boutique winery featuring wines made by two different winemakers from their family run vineyards)
De Ponte – 2006 Rose (small winery, features wines from one of the same winemakers as Vista Hills)