Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ra Ra Riot

Portland is known for its great live music scene. Last night I went to my first concert here in the city. My friend Eric got us tickets to see the band Ra Ra Riot at the Doug Fir Lounge, Portland’s hottest music venue. I had never heard of this group before, so I downloaded their album onto my iPod this weekend and learned the songs. I really liked their music, but loved their live performance. The lead singer has a unique voice and the band includes a violinist and cellist which added a great sound! The performance was high energy and entertaining. I had a great time, but today I feel like a grandma: I’m tired and still can’t fully hear, but it was totally worth it!

Before the concert, Eric and I went to the Adidas Originals Store, a trendy Adidas sporting wear shop. Eric is a biotechnical researcher for the Adidas headquarters here in Portland and tests the kinesthetics of their basketball shoes. Every last Tuesday of the month, Adidas employees can get a 50% discount in the originals store - and so can their friends! So we did a little shopping there and I got quite a deal on a jacket and tote bag. It's nice to have connections!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Case of the Missing Crab (body)

This weekend I cooked crab for the first time for my friend Rachel's birthday! We bought the crabs live, killed them, cleaned them, de-clawed them and cooked them in a wok. They were quiet tasty little critters! However, when we were cleaning up we could only find 5 of the 6 crab bodies. One of them mysteriously disappeared - despite having no legs! (I hope it didn't end up in one of the girls' beds.)

Anyway, I made spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer. This is a great recipe for parties!

Spicy Spinach Artichoke Dip

2 pkg chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 8-oz pkg cream cheese (I used light or fat-free)
2 cans Rotel
8-oz fresh parmesan cheese
8-oz monterey jack cheese
1 small onion, chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, diced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder

Blend first 2 ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and stir.
Bake uncovered @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Serve with toasted pita bread or tortilla chips.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Unconditional Love

Last night in my home community group, we talked about Love. What is love; how does our culture view love; what does that mean to us as Christians? The two Bible verses that come to mind are:

  • Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    1 John 4:11
  • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
    Romans 5:8
During these past 3 weeks in Portland, I have been shown this unconditional love - a love with no limits, expectations, requirements or obligations. The extended family that I have up here is giving me a wonderful place to live and amazing support and advice - not to mention the job that brought me here! My aunt makes coffee and cooks dinner for me. Her prayer group prays for me every Wednesday morning when they meet. My coworkers are more than welcoming and hospitable. We have lunch and dinner together often. They want to get to know me. My friend Carrie has invited me to her church, over to her house, on a weekend trip to Seattle! I have gotten connected with a wonderful church community group who is accepting and glad for me to become a part of them.

This sounds so cliche, but their kindness and love for me makes me want to be a better person. Its so easy to be exclusive with groups of friends or social activities. We often expect something in return for our good deeds.

I find this love to be contagious. It's simple: God loves us, so we should love our neighbor - whoever they may be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mary!

So this past weekend was Mary's birthday. "This Mary", not "That Mary". I work with a lady by the name of Mary Hill (there is also a MaryBeth). Terry (not to be confused with Mary or another co-worker, Carrie), refers to Mary Hill as "This Mary" and me as "That Mary". So sometimes it gets pretty confusing.
Recap: This Mary, That Mary, Terry, Carrie and MaryBeth.

Anyway, this past weekend was That Mary's birthday, so yesterday I made cake balls to take to work today for her birthday celebration. Usually I make red velvet cake balls, but apparently people up here don't make red velvet cakes. I went to 3 grocery stores and could not find a red velvet cake mix! So I made funfetti cake balls instead... and they were a hit at the office!

You ask if I'm bribing my coworkers with yummy treats? Is that wrong? :)

Cake Balls
1 boxed cake mix
1 (16 ounce) tub frosting
12 ounces chocolate chips
4 ounces white chocolate

* cream cheese frosting goes best with red velvet cake *

1. Bake cake according to package directions. Let cool completely.
2. Crumble cake mix in large bowl and mix in container of icing
(I find it is easiest to use hands or spatula).
3. Roll into 2 inch balls and freeze for about 1 hour.
4. Melt chocolate.
5. Dip balls in melted chocolate and set on waxed paper to dry.
6. Melt and drizzle white chocolate.
7. Let cake balls set in refrigerator.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday in Seattle

Yesterday I took a day trip to Seattle with some friends. This was my first time to visit the Emerald City (really anywhere I visit in the Pacific Northwest is a first). It's about a 3 hours drive north from Portland to Seattle, so we left early in the morning and went straight to Pike Place Market. Have you ever seen on tv the place where vendors throw big fish around? That's the Pike Place Market! It is a large outdoor market full of fresh flowers, food and crafts. We visited the original Starbucks, listened to several folk bands playing on the street, stuck our gum on the famous gum wall, and even met a "cat whisperer". The market was very crowded yesterday because it was Valentine's Day and lots of people were buying flowers and food for dinner. We bought 2 and a half pounds of salmon, fresh vegetables and fruit, orzo, and a loaf of olive bread.
After we left the market, we visited a few parks that had a beautiful overlook of the city. First we went to Carey Park were we witnessed a couple get engaged! The guy got down on one knee, proposed, and then we took pictures for them. Next, we went to Gas Works, a park containing remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the US. The views from these parks were gorgeous. I have only seen pictures of The Space Needle, Seattle's iconic building, on tv and in movies, so it was neat to see it in person.
I loved Seattle and can't wait to visit again and experience more of the city!

Pike Place Market in Seattle

A folk band playing in front of the original Starbucks

fresh and delicious produce

smelly, but tasty, salmon

our group in front of the gum wall

the view from Carey Park

Oh yeah, we went to visit the troll under the bridge and met the Seattle Hash House Harriers, a "drinking group with a running problem". They had just completed their Valentine's Day Red Dress run... interesting people.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Home Sweet Home?

I’ve really been trying to check out all of my options for a place to live here in Portland… and it’s been an interesting search! I’m trying to keep an open mind about different available living situations. The right place just hasn’t come along yet. Here are the interesting options I have encountered so far:

- Extreme Makeover: A roommate who shaves her eyebrows and pencils in green ones to make her eyes pop.

- Mountain Man Roomie: A house of 3 girls and occasionally "Luke, a bearded mountain man who lives on Mt. Hood. He and his lovely dog, Tischer, crash at our place every once in a while (we have a nook with an extra bed) when he's in town teaching outdoor ed classes. he's really loveable." I'm sure he is.

- Business Woman by Day, House Maid by Night: A house of 3 guys who will "trade rent for cleaning around the house."

- Not So Lofty: "There is a loft that cannot be considered a bedroom because there is no closet and a bed can't technically be fit through the doorway, but fear not, we will make it work."

- The Zoo: A girl showed me around the house and when we got to her room she said, "Sorry about the mess and the smell, i have 2 guinea pigs and a cat." No thanks!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Real Snow Day

I woke up this morning, looked out the window, and everything was white! Snow - real snow! Now if something like this happens in Texas (which in never really does), everything would shut down. People would lock the doors, board up the windows, pull out the canned goods, and take off of work/school for a week. Here, everything went on as normal. People were even out jogging with their dogs! So I pulled out my spatula (primarily used to flip pancakes), scraped the snow off of my windshield, and crept down the road to work. Several times today, I caught myself staring out the window mesmerized by the snow. This is something I'll have to get used to.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Enchilada Dinner

Tonight I tried my mano (hand) at black bean, chicken 'n' spinach enchiladas (aka "beaspinckenchiladas"). I went to the grocery store yesterday to load up on all of the goods: beans, enchilada sauce, diced green chilies, tortillas. And where would I find these items in the Portland grocery store? The "ethnic foods" aisle, of course. The choices were slim and the prices were high, but the meal came together nicely and was pretty tasty, if I may say so myself. That should satisfy my mexican food cravings... at least for now!

(a combined recipe from Southern Living and Emily Belf)

3 cups cooked chicken
1 (15oz) can black beans
1 (6oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup salsa
1 small can chopped green chilies, drained
2 cups (8oz) shredded Monterrey Jack or Mexican blend cheese
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 (16oz) can enchilada sauce

Stir together the first 11 ingredients and half (1 cup) of the cheese. Spoon mixture evenly in each tortilla and roll up! Arrange in a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over wrapped tortillas. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Top with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 5 minutes. BUENO!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Portland Spirit

This afternoon, I attended the Portland Blazers vs. New York Knicks NBA basketball game. My friend Esther got us tickets, so we walked across the Willamette River on the Steel Bridge and into the Rose Garden Arena. I enjoyed watching the first half of the game and clapped when Portland made a basket. But by the second half, I was on my feet cheering for my home team! It turned into an extremely exciting game and the Blazers ended up winning literally at the last second. The Knicks were ahead 108-107, but Brandon Roy got the ball with 3 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter and made the winning shot at the buzzer. The crowd went wild! When we walked outside, we were greeted by a drizzling rain. But our spirits weren't dampened - Go Portland!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Irresistible Revolution

I've found over the past week that it is easy to make judgements. For example:
- Texans wear cowboy hats and boots, have big hair, drive trucks, and love Chuck Norris.
- Portlandians (?) wear skinny jeans and beanie hats, have a lip/nose ring, dreadlocks, soul patch, and drive Subaru Outbacks.
- Christians listen to only Christian music, wear purity rings, are right-wing extreme fundamentalists, and don't know how to have a good time.

Tonight I went to a friend's church to hear Shane Claiborn, author of Irresistible Revolution, speak. I have never read the book or heard of the author, so I didn't know what to expect. The speaker came onto the stage: tall, skinny, dreadlocks, do-rag, glasses, long goatee. I have to admit that I was somewhat judgemental at first, but this man who is living "the simple life" challenged my unnecessarily complicated life. I am sure that if he had lived during Christ's time on earth, he and Jesus would have been best friends. Here are some thoughts that I wrote down and would like to share with you...

  • Christianity is spread not through force, but through facination.
  • When the disciples asked Jesus, "Are you the one we've been waiting for or should we expect someone else?" Jesus replied, "Go back and report what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." If someone were to ask us "Are you a Christian?" would we be able to reply, "Tell me what you hear and see."
  • You can have all the right ideologies and still be mean.
  • Fascinate the world with grace and interrupt injustice with your life.
  • Sometimes it's easier to love orphans in Africa than it is to love the people we live with.
  • God, give us fresh ears to hear the whisper of your love.
  • Our God is a god who, for some strange reason, doesn't want to change the world without us. We ask, "God, why don't you do something?" and He replies, "I did. I created you." We are to be His hands and feet on this earth.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Northwestern Hospitality

I've been overwhelmed by how friendly and welcoming everyone up here has been. On Monday, several of my coworkers took me to lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Beaches. We walked in the door and above was a chalkboard that said "Welcome to our Special Guest: Mary Carter"! Apparently my boss had told the resteraunt that this was a special lunch to celebrate my first day of work.

My aunt's prayer group has been praying daily about my move to Portland and my search for a place to live. I got an email from on of her friends inviting me to attend a college grad Bible study and meet her daughter who is my age. Another one of my aunts friends drove by a rent house that I heard about just to see if it was in a good neighborhood. So thoughtful!

Tonight a friend invited me to a gathering with his "community group" from church. We enjoyed an interesting tortilla, egg, tomato and cilantro dinner and then we played a fun "get-to-know-you" game called Big Happy Family. The game is actually one that my family plays at Christmas, so I had a slight advantage. (I ended up winning the game, but that's beside the point.) I'm getting connected with so many wonderful people around the city.

Everyone has been so welcoming to even me, a young Texas girl with an accent. No homesickness here!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Moving On...

Signs I'm in Portland, not Texas:

- reset all of my clocks to PST

- took the keys to my Waco house off of my key ring

- pulled out my gloves and scarfs

- set Oregon NPR on my radio

- can't satisfy my mexican food cravings

- enjoyed the scenic drive to work

- experience traffic and get lost frequently

- conciously said "you guys" instead of "y'all"

- receive comments on my "accent"

Down the Road...
"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."
- Jack Kerouac
On the Road

Monday, February 2, 2009

Across the Country

I made it to Portland - finally! After 24 hours of driving, flying, layovering, diverting and busing, I arrived in my new hometown. (Coming Soon: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles II, starring Mary Carter!) Due to heavy fog at the Portland airport, my plane was not able to land on Saturday evening. I've never been to Seattle (and I didn't really care to go there this past weekend) but that's where I ended up. After hours of sitting in the airport, waiting to see what the airline was going to do with us, we were all shuttled to a hotel where we got a little sleep, then put on a Grey Hound Sunday morning and bussed into the city - welcome to Portland!

I am grateful to be staying with some of my family, the Moores, while I get settled in the city and look for a place to live. I started my new job today and had a wonderful first day of work at The Murdock Charitable Trust! I couldn't ask for a more welcoming office or more friendly coworkers. I can already tell that this job is going to be a wonderful experience which will challenge and strengthen me, professionally and personally.

An exciting journey is beginning. A new chapter of my life is opening. Emotions are running through me: excitement, nervousness, anxiety, fear, anticipation.

Miles Between...
"You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you."

- Frederick Buechner
Telling the Truth