Monday, June 28, 2010

Berry Picking & Dog Mountain

Saturday Tori, Stephanie, Julian and I went berry picking at Sauvie Island, the largest island on the Columbia River.  Sauvie Island is about 10 miles northwest of Portland and is primarily farmland and wildlife refuge.  It is a summer hot spot for picking berries and has an incredible view of Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood and Mount Adams.  It was the perfect summer day: complete sunshine and upper 70s with a slight breeze.  We spent a couple of hours wandering through strawberry fields and rasberry patches.  We would pick a few and put them in our basket, then pick a few and put them in our mouthes.  You can't get any fresher or more organic than that!

The four of us kept saying that we felt like we were on vacation because the drive was gorgeous and relaxing, we got to enjoy an afternoon on an island, and before we left we discovered a peaceful beach right on the river which we are determined to spend a whole day on soon!

When we got back to Portland, we made a delicious southern dinner: fried chicken, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes (with greek yogurt mixed in), corn, sauted spinach, biscuits and homemade honey mustard sauce.  For dessert we had homemade vanilla ice cream topped with our fresh-picked berries.  Then we played corn hole in the back yard until it got dark a little after 9:00 (yes, it doesn't get dark until that late here in the summers).

The vacation weekend continued with perfect weather again on Sunday.  Alan and I went for an intense hike on the Washington side of the gorge.  We hiked Dog Mountain which is a steep 6.5 mile loop with a 2,500 ft gain in elevation.  The scenery was amazing, though.  Once we got close to the top, we were hiking through a beautiful wildflower field and could see miles and miles of the Columbia River as well as Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens.  The tough climb was worth the view!

I believe that the Portland summer is finally here... and once this weather sweeps in it's impossible not to be  outside enjoying every minute!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Caffeine Confusion

Don't you just love sipping on a steeping hot cup of coffee (with peppermint mocha creamer) in the morning while you read the newspaper, watch the news or check your emails?  I always look forward to enjoying that first cup of coffee at work while making my to-do list for the day.  I know the caffeine boost will help me cross off the tasks ahead of me.

This morning I headed to the downstairs kitchen (which, although furthest away from my desk, has the best brewed coffee in the building) to fill my mug with liquid energy.  My coworker Tom was headed to the same spot.  "Yes, someone made a full pot of decaf," he said excitedly.  "What's the point?" I thought.  "Drinking decaf coffee is like a broken pencil... pointless."  Then he reached for the orange pot, poured his cup of coffee and headed off to work.  "That's odd.  He was excited about decaf coffee but he poured from the orange pot.  Everyone knows the orange pot has regular coffee and the brown pot has decaf.  Right?"  Thinking he must have been confused, I poured my cup of coffee from the orange pot as I always do.

I went back to my desk and yelled across to my coworker, "Hey Jen, do you drink the coffee downstairs?  The orange pot is regular and the brown pot is decaf, right?"  I hear her and Michael snicker, "Nope, it's the other way around."  Are you kidding me?!  This whole time I've worked at MTI I've been drinking the wrong coffee?  Every morning.  I've been filling up on decaf.  I've always thought I couldn't make it through the day without coffee.  And I think back on all of the times I've needed a caffeine boost in the afternoon, so I headed down to fill up my mug (from the orange pot), gulp it down and then think, "That's exactly what I needed.  Now I have the energy to make it through the day."  It was all in my head.  I seriously have mental issues.

I couldn't help but laugh at myself all day.  What a rediculous mix up.  Now that I'm drinking from the brown pot just think of how alert and productive I'll be at work!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

South Sister

Yesterday Drew, Alan and I climbed South Sister, the 3rd highest peak in Oregon. South Sister is the biggest of the 3 Sisters mountain (named from an Indian tale of 3 sisters named Emily, Sarah and Mary - or something like that). We've talked about climbing this mountain for a while and we finally made the trip.

Friday night we drove 3 hours south to Bend and camped at the Devil's Lake trail head of South Sister. This was my first experience sleeping in a bivey, an individual tent with just enough room for you and your sleeping bag. It pretty much looks and feels like a tent coffin. In the morning we made oatmeal using Drew's handy camping stove, drank canned coffee, and downed some fruit and energy bars before we hit the trail.

Alan and Drew, my personal mountain guides, have both climbed South Sister before. We accidentaly went off the trail a couple of times which added some time to our climb but let us see more of the mountain (I'm just trying to stay positive about our intensly long climb). The mountain was completely covered in snow and we even got snowed on later in the day - in late June! We charged up the mountain taking only two 10-15 minute breaks hoping to summit while the sky was perfectly blue. But 600 feet from the summit we found ourselves caught in a white out due to clouds quickly moving in around the mountain top. We waited for a few minutes to see if it would clear up and when we realized that the clouds were there to stay we made the safe decision to turn around and head back down the mountain. It was definitely the right decision, but I was frustrated to have put in all of the hard work of climbing through snow to gain 5500 feet and be only 600 feet from the summit and then not actually making it to the top. I felt very defeated. The climb back down remained very cloudy and somewhat windy. My quads, actually my whole body, was tight and tense as we made our way down through the deep snow. At parts of the descent we just slid down on our bottoms - that was probably the most fun part of the climb. It was like sledding without a sled!

We got a little off track on our way down, too, so we ended up climbing for 10 hours straight yesterday!  I have to admit that there were times while climbing through the endless snow when I thought to myself, "What the heck am I doing? This isn't exactly my idea of fun!"  But by the end of the climb I was already trying to plan our next climbing trip.  The enjoyment is all in the challenge.  It was tough (and not as rewarding as it would have been if it was clear and we had summited) but it was definitely challenging and quite an accomplishment. I guess we'll just have to go back and climb South Sister again on a clear day!

Top 10 "Bear Drew Grylls" Camping and Climbing Tips:
Drew is a master mountaineer and I always feel completely safe when climbing with him. Alan and I like to compare him to Bear Grylls, star of Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel, and yesterday we learned many priceless mountaineering tips from him...

10. Always blow up your sleeping pad. It's more comfortable that way.
9. Always pack your tent poles with your tent.
8. If you don't have a bowl, you can just pour water into the oatmeal packet, mix and eat.
7. Always blow your rescue whistle twice so as not to be confused with a "lost bird".
6. When you stop to rest, always put on your down jacket to keep your body insulated.
5. When lost in the woods, stand silent and listen for the river.
4. When a boulder rolls down the mountain, watch where it's going before you move.
3. When you see sawed logs while hiking in the snow, you know you're on the right trail.
2. Don't take unnecessary risks. The mountain will always be there tomorrow.
1. Don't climb a mountain in trail running shoes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

LA Vaca

This past weekend I took a quick trip down to LA - my only trip to California since going to Disney Land when I was 5. My friend Sydney lives there because her husband Hunter is in school at Fuller Theological Seminary. So my friend Anne, who lives in Austin, and I took a vacation to visit Sydney's new home. Anne and I went to Hillcrest Professional Development Elementary School together, Sydney and I went to Lake Air Middle School together, and the three of us were best friends throughout our four years at Waco High School. It was great having a little reunion, which is rare since we all live in different states now.

Anne and I arrived in LAX on Friday evening. Hunter picked us up from the airport and we braved the horrendous LA traffic. We picked up Sydney from their Pasadena apartment and headed to dinner at the Green Street Restaurant. Then we strolled around the downtown Pasadena area near city hall where we window shopped. Then Sydney and Hunter took us to their favorite frozen yogurt spot simply called 21 Choices. This place was amazing - you can choose from 6 frozen yogurt flavors and then add any of the 21 choices of toppings and they mix it all together for you. I choose chocolate yogurt with red velvet cake mixed in - delicious! And while standing in line I won a gift certificate for answering the trivia question (Q: What is the average number of times a human blinks in 1 minute? A: 16). Sydney lost her purse after she set it down while we took a picture with the Jackie Robinson statue and was obviously upset about that Friday night.  We headed back to the apartment to cancel all of her credit cards and everything.  At 11:00 we heard a knock on the door and opened it to find a police man holding Sydney's purse.  Someone found it and turned it in - there are still good people in this world!

Apparently every year Southern California experiences "June Gloom", a term for a weather pattern that results in overcast skies with cool temperatures during early summer mornings. Just my luck - I leave Portland on its most gorgeous sunny weekend and head down to LA during its cloudiest month. Anyway, Saturday morning was a little "gloomy", but we headed to the Pasadena Farmer's Market then picked up an early lunch and brought it back to the apartment to watch the US vs. England World Cup game.

Saturday afternoon we hit up all of the touristy LA scenes: Hollywood Blvd where we hopped out of the car hoping to find a famous sidewalk star and had to settle for Lawrence Welk and the lady from Murder She Wrote; Beverly Hills where we stuck our heads out the window and "ooh"ed and "ahh"ed at the California abodes (including the Father of the Bride house, which is actually in Pasadena); Rodeo Drive where we did some serious window shopping (but of course I didn't spend a dime); and Santa Monica Blvd and Pier where we walked on the beach and then had an amazing seafood dinner.

Sunday, we started with breakfast at Green Street, then Sydney gave us a tour of the preschool where she works, and then we went to the Los Angeles Arboretum. We fought the traffic again to get back to the airport where Anne and my planes departed at 5:00, exactly 48 hours after we arrived.

So it was a quick weekend, but it was great getting to see where Sydney lives and to spend time with these dear friends!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Streak of Bad Luck

The past two weeks have been unbelievable - and not particularly in a good way.  I have experienced one bad thing after another.  I feel like a walking hazard.  The streak started with my phone deciding to silence itself causing my alarm to not wake me on a work day.  Already running late for work, I got in a car wreck one block from my office.  We all know that dealing with insurance companies is no fun and I've been doing a lot of that over the past couple weeks.  Then I bought a new camera, dropped it 3 days later and now it won't turn on.  Today I walked out of church to find a note on the windshield of my rent car which said, "Sorry I scraped your car."  Not to mention the broken wrist I'm healing from.  It seems like when one bad thing happens it creates a domino effect which, at the time, seems to never end.

So I have a choice: let it all get to me and be in a constant bad mood OR be grateful that it's not worse than it is.  Just think, I could have been seriously injured in the car wreck... and the camera is just a material item... and I am grateful for a steady job, a roof over my head, my health, and supportive friends and family.  I'm hoping that with the Portland summer sun, everything else will brighten up as well.

"Rejoice in your trials, for we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the holy spirit whom he has given us."  - Romans 5:3-5

Relieving Stress
I do have some exciting (to me) news.  Yesterday, Portland's first sunny day in 3 weeks, I decided to enjoy the outdoors by going for a run.  I'm running my first 1/2 marathon in exacly 4 weeks and I've been a bit nervous because I haven't been training like I should.  But the weather was perfect, my ipod was loaded with a new running playlist and I was feeling good.  My goal was 8 miles and as I was running I bumped that goal up to 10 miles.  Then I thought, "maybe I could push it and run 12 miles."  Then I though, "heck, I might as well run a whole half marathon."  And I did!  Yesterday I ran 13.1 miles - the farthest I've ever run!  So I'm feeling good about my race in one month and the running helps me relieve all the stress that has piled up over the last 2 weeks.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hannah in Portland - Round 3

This past weekend, Hannah came to visit me for the 3rd time!  She came up for the 1st time last Memorial Day weekend.  That same weekend, Drew's friend Ross came up to visit him as well and we all ended up hanging out in Portland.  Then Hannah and Ross started dating when they went back to Texas (crazy things happen here in Portland).  So exactly a year later they came back up for a rondezvous.  We had a great weekend!  I love when Hannah comes to visit now because we can do new adventurous things that aren't too touristy (since she has already done most of that).  We didn't have the best weather this weekend, but that didn't hold us back.

We picked Hannah and Ross up from the airport on Friday night and drove straight downtown to watch the Rose Festival fireworks on the waterfront.  Then we met up with some people at the opening night of Portland's first dueling piano bar.

Saturday morning, we all hopped on our bikes and rode down to the Portland Farmer's Market where we ate delicious Pine State Biscuits.  These fried chicken biscuit sandwiches smothered in honey and mustard are so yummy, but I only treat myself to one when I have out-of-town guests.  Then we headed down to the Portland Saturday Market to wander through booths of art and trinkets and listen to drummers playing on the sidewalks.  After a short afternoon nap, we geared back up for our traditional progressive dinner.  We took public transportation around town starting with cajun tater tots at The Bagdad, then a wonderful dinner at Thirst Wine Bar and Bistro, and then met up with some friends at The Tugboat, our final stop of the night.

Sunday morning, we slept in a little then went to the 11:00 Imago Dei church service, ate brunch at my favorite spot Bread and Ink, then Drew got us all into the Columbia Employee Store where we got 50% any sports wear and gear purchases.  That night we went to two other popular Portland places: Portland City Grill (located in the tallest building in town) and Papa Haydn's (the best dessert around).

We took it easy on Monday by having a late breakfast at Slappy Cakes (a local breakfast place where you make your own pancakes on griddles in the middle of your table) and then Hannah and I shopped a little downtown.  Yesterday afternoon the guys left for a climbing trip to Mount Rainer in Washington state and Hannah and I enjoyed the only sun of the weekend by playing tennis on Reed College campus.

Overall it was a wonderful weekend.  I loved spending time with these special friends.  It was great to have quality time with Hannah in which we could actually catch up and enjoy being with each other.  Can't wait for her next trip up here!