Monday, April 27, 2009

Portland Peer Pressure

In Portland, being environmental is the cool thing to do. I'm feeling the pressure to go green - everybody's doing it! I'm looking into buying a bike, I drink herbal tea every night, weekly attend yoga classes, I feel guilty when I drive my car to church which is only a mile away (heck, sometimes I feel guilty for driving my car, period), our house is in the minority for owning a microwave, I make my own granola (the epitome of being "granola"), I'm researching how to grow an herb garden, I only use canvas grocery bags, and I'm growing dreadlocks - okay not really, but can you imagine!

A few weeks ago I pulled into my #82 parking spot at work and reached the elevator at the same time as one of my coworkers. “So, you’re the one who drives that big truck.” “Yep, that’s my car. The one with the Texas license plate.” “Mmhmm,” he says with a censorious tone. The next week, I’m sitting in the break room eating my homemade lunch (whole wheat pasta with fresh organic basil) and reading the newspaper. The same coworker walks over and points to an ad for a Smart Car. “Now that’s a nice car.” Yeah, if I want to die instantly just by bumping a curb.

Here at the office, people drink V8 like it’s going out of style. Many of the office workers won’t go a day without consuming a can of the heart-healthy smoothie. Some of them skip the hassle of swallowing the 12-ounces and simply inject themselves with the blood-red liquid through the newly invented “Don’t become a vegetable” V8 feeding tube, created through a Murdock science grant. I just recently drank my first V8. I forced the salty cold tomato soup down my throat and had to eat some chocolate candy to get rid of the taste. I guess that defeats the purpose. Our in-house V8 expert says that it’s an acquired taste. I’m going to give it another try today.

Yesterday, I visited a couple’s house and was standing in their kitchen chatting with them. The wife opens the refrigerator and gasps. She pulls out a gallon of milk, points at it and sternly asks her husband, “Where did this come from?”“I bought it at the store; it was on sale,” he replies, proud that he helped out with the grocery shopping. “It’s not organic,” she says with disgust. “But it was only 99¢!” “Exactly. I don’t want to die because of hazardous milk from mad cows injected with growth hormones.” I jump into the conversation: “I’ll take it. I love biological chemicals and stuff.”

I refuse to become a tree-hugging hippie and I will not let anyone force pan-seared tofu down my throat, but I don’t mind becoming more environmentally conscious. I guess there are worse things to be peer pressured into.

Which came first...

Which city deemed itself "weird" first: Austin or Portland? This city slogan can be found on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and tattooed on people in both cities. And which one is weirder?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Weird Food

I tried to have a nice, peaceful lunch yesterday and today, but I caused a bit of a ruckus. Apparently my choice of meal is a little unconventional, even weird to some of my coworkers. I took out 2 pieces of bread and start cutting slices of cheese to put on one piece of bread. Pretty normal. But then I pull out my raspberry jam and smothered it on the other piece of bread. My coworkers who were eating their common spaghetti, salads, and turkey sandwiches start eying my less-than-traditional sandwich. "Are you putting those pieces of bread together? That's weird." "Um, yeah. It's actually quite a fancy food served at sophisticated luncheons in Texas. You obviously wouldn't understand." (I've found that anytime people think something I do or say is "weird" I can just blame it on Texas.) I actually did try this sandwich for the first time at a friend's bridal shower in Austin. It is delicious - so don't knock it until you try it!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Grace!

This past weekend was wonderful thanks to the glorious weather! Friday evening, my roommate Kathy and I went for a bike ride. This was my first time to bike around Portland and I'm addicted! I also enjoyed the outdoors this weekend by going for a run (even though I bit it on the sidewalk and now have a banged up knee, leg and hands), reading in my front yard, sitting on a blanket in the Laurelhurst park with some friends (and about 100 other people), and driving around with the windows down.

Saturday night was our friend Grace's birthday. Tarah bought her a lifesize cutout of Edward, a character from the hit Twilight series (a vampire romance story which everyone seems addicted to but I refuse to read). Here are some pictures of us (and Edward) celebrating Grace's birthday at La Carreta (a somewhat decent Mexican restaurant).

from left to right: Kathy, Grace, Mary (remember me?), Jennifer, Tarah, local guitarist

me, Grace, creepy Edward, friendly waiter, Kathy, Tarah, Jennifer

Friday, April 17, 2009

Multnomah at Midnight

Two nights ago, my friend Grace talked me into going for a night hike in the Gorge at Multnomah Falls. I had been to the falls once during the day and it is a beautiful scenic landmark right outside of Portland. Grace and I made the 30 minute drive and reached our destination at 10:30 pm. As we pulled up Grace asked "Did you bring a flashlight?" Neither of us had stopped to think about that before we left. Thankfully, we found one in the glove compartment of her car. We got out of the car and she asked me to manually lock the back door. Right after I did, she realized that her keys were still in the ignition. Thankfully one of the side doors was unlocked and we weren't stranded. We got lucky!

So we start our hike and Grace casually mentions "I don't think this will be a problem, but I hear that if you run into a bear you should be loud and make yourself appear bigger than you are. That will scare them away. We really don't need to worry about that, but just in case..." I quickly interrupted her: "Well, if we don't need to worry about it then lets just stop talking about it." She quickly adds, "And just so you know, I get spooked pretty easily."

I change the conversation as we hike up the mountain to the look out point. It was incredible being by ourselves in the middle of nature at night, able to see the stars and hear the rush of the waterfall.

God in Creation

I will lift my eyes up to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber.

~ Psalm 121:1-3

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ninfa's Green Sauce

I've really started to miss good Mexican food. I went to a little Mexican restaurant for happy hour on Friday and got a margarita. Worst margarita ever - it had orange juice in it! What I wouldn't give for night at Ninfa's. Fortunately, I ran across the recipe for Ninfa's green sauce and after an arduous search throughout Portland grocery stores for the "ethnic" ingredients, I was finally able to make the sauce. And I was shocked at how much it actually tastes like the yummy sauce that goes perfect with a Ninfarita and always whets my appetite for spinach enchiladas. So now every time my stomach growls due to its lack of Tex-Mex cuisine, I can just throw some tomatoes, avacadoes, and cilantro in a blender and make myself a little bowl of spicy happiness.

Ninfa's Green Sauce
Ingredients:
3 medium-sized green tomatoes, coarsely chopped (you can substitute yellow if you can’t find green ones, but never use red)
4 tomatillos, cleaned and chopped
1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed and coarsely chopped
3 small garlic cloves
3 medium-sized ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 sprigs cilantro
1 tsp. of salt
1 cup sour cream (optional)

Combine chopped tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapenos and garlic in a saucepan. Bring to a boil (tomatoes provide the liquid), reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Place tomato mixture with the avocados, cilantro and salt in food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into a bowl and stir in sour cream.

Makes 4 to 5 cups

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kuyasa Children's Choir

Tonight I went to see the Kuyasa Children's Choir from South Africa. They performed at Warner Pacific College, so my friend Conner (who has also been to Africa) and I went to enjoy their music. I loved it and it made me miss Uganda and the African people...

video

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter!

He is risen! Yesterday was a wonderful Easter. I went to the early church service at Imago (which was quite peppy) and then had a wonderful Easter lunch with the Moores. Maegan and Madison suprised the family by flying in for the weekend and my friend Drew (another out-of-stater) joined us for the holiday. We all enjoyed great conversation a tasty meal with ham, potatoes, asparagus, salad, rolls and delicious Texas sheet cake for Steve's birthday. Then Drew and I headed over to hang out (and eat some more ham, potatoes and rolls) with some people from our home community group. We ended up playing an intense board game called Vegas Showdown and hanging out for a long time, so by the time I finally got home I was exhausted. It was a great Easter holiday with a special group of people.

I decided to get a little creative with a homemade Easter dessert this year. I made chocolate eggs (not chocolate-covered eggs) by using balloons as a mold (and no we did not eat the balloons). So you blow up a balloon about half way and dip it in melted chocolate. The key is to let the chocolate cool a little before dipping the blown up balloon in it - for we all know that balloons and heat do not go well together. Apparently I didn't let the chocolate cool enough when I dipped the first balloon. So I completed coated it in chocolate, set it on a pan to cool and... pop! Chocolate all over the me, my white jacket and the kitchen. I filled the chocolate eggs with peanut butter mousse and whipped cream. I spent the entire day in the kitchen so this is probably the last time I will attempt making these special treats.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Queso? Que?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I get to choose the menu for our next staff lunch due winning the office bracket challenge. I ended up going with a Mexican meal (I got a few complaints about the tofu omelet - can you believe it?). I told one of the ladies in the office exactly what I wanted the lunch to include and she emailed my request to our caterer. I get a phone call today from our caterer, Muggs, and it went a little something like this:

"Hi Mary, it's Muggs. Sheila emailed me your request for the staff lunch. There is some kind of dip listed, but I'm not exactly sure what it is. I can't quite make it out."
"I would like to have chips and queso."
"Chips and what?"
"Queso."
"Could you clarify exactly what that is?"
"Its a cheese and salsa dip. You know... queso."
"Could you spell that for me?"
"Q-U-E-S-O... queso!"
"I think I know what you're talking about. I make a dip similar to that, I just call it something different. Thanks, see you at the lunch next month."

I have no idea what she calls this dip and I'm not sure if I want her to attempt making queso if she couldn't even spell it. We might end up with a bowl of melted velveta.

Foreign Food
I found a recipe for Ninfa's green sauce (the best dip in the world) and decided I would give it a try. The recipe calls for 3 tomatillos, 1 jalapeno, and 3 green tomatoes. I have searched all week, grocery store after grocery store, looking for these ingredients. It was near impossible. Today I finally found tomatillos and a jalapeno, but I'm still on the hunt for green tomatoes. Good Mexican food, even homemade, is hard to come by around here!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

March Madness

Say hello to the champion of the 2009 Murdock Bracket Challenge! That's right - this little ol' girl from Texas who has only been here for 2 months has risen to the top. Many of my coworkers have entered this tournament year after year hoping to come out victorious, but this year I swooped in and claimed the victory! Shoot, I didn't know what the heck I was doing as I filled in the bracket a month ago, but apparently that doesn't matter. So besides bragging rights, I have also won the choice of menu for our next staff meeting. In response to this morning's announcement, I sent out the following email:


I’m not exactly sure how I pulled this off, but I am willing to come back next year and offer bracket consulting. Unlike Kathy, however, the price might be a little steep (winning doesn’t come cheap)! My current strategy: of the two opposing teams, pick the one located in the place you would rather live. Looks like I might be moving to North Carolina soon!


I’m sure you’re all wondering what the staff meeting menu will be. I have a new favorite meal: tofu omelets with a special ingredient (fish sauce). Don’t knock it until you try it – and everyone must try it.


Mary

Okay, maybe I'll stick to my Texas roots and choose enchiladas, beans and rice, chips and queso, and Texas sheet cake!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Disconnected

Yesterday I left work early to watch Baylor play in the NIT Championship game (I won't even comment on the disappointment). I talked to Drew that afternoon and made plans to drive over to his house to watch the game. He gave me directions to where he lives on Reed campus. As I'm driving that way, I reach into my purse to make a quick phone call. I pull out a wallet, chapstick and an ipod... but no phone. I start to panic. Then it hits me: I left my phone on my desk at the office! Noooooo! My life is over; I'm completely lost and have no connection to the outer world! Hold on; take a deep breath. You can do this! Just keep driving to Drew's place. So I reach into my bag and pull out a napkin, a receipt and a ticket stub... but no directions. I begin hyperventilating. I realize that I left the directions to Drew's house stuck to my desk. I really am completely lost with no connection to the outer world. But I tell myself again, You can do this! I somehow find my way onto the Reed campus and to the dorm where Drew lives as the Resident Director. But I don't know exactly where he lives and I can't call to ask. So I casually hang around the dorm area waiting for a student to walk by. A young, akward college guy strolls up. Hey, you live here? Yeah, why do you ask? I tell him my delima and he points me in the direction of Drew's room. I am so proud of myself for blindly finding the way to my destination.

All this to say, I made it through a night without a cell phone. But seriously, how did people survive before the days of cell phones?!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Day to Celebrate

Today was a day of celebration in the office. We started the morning off by eating scrumptious fruit tart and singing Happy Birthday to Kathy, the youngest 65-year-old I know. The celebration continued after lunch with an engagement party for Daniel where we enjoyed champagne cake and heard the engagement story. Between the parties we might have been somewhat productive. Then tonight after home community group, we all treated ourselves to Papa Hyden's Dessert Bistro - just to celebrate us!

Bubbly Cake
Champagne cake is a special treat I like to make when celebrating engagements. Just substitute champagne for water using a regular white cake mix. Top it off with classic white icing and you've got a celebration cake! (Don't ask what to do with the half a bottle of champagne that's left over.)