New thing #29: Portland (Day 2)

 

IMG_5752Today was a full day of Portland must-dos. Our first stop in the morning was Voodoo Doughnuts (a Portland institution), where we waited in the pouring rain in probably the longest line for a doughnut you’ve ever seen. It was Roxanne’s first time there too. She said she heard the doughnuts weren’t that good and people only go there because it’s famous.

We tried a few, and I have to say, I thought they were pretty F-ing delicious.

Next stop was the downtown Saturday market, where we didn’t spend much time due to the aforementioned rain. It was similar to a standard art & wine festival, but there were lots more interesting booths and art. We probably would have spent more time there if we weren’t soaking and playing a big game of umbrella bumper cars.

After that Roxanne went home for a bit and dropped me off at Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s is the world’s largest chain of independent book stores, and at this location you actually need a map to find your way around, which means of course, that I was in heaven. I was texting Roxanne to take her time. Don’t pick me up. I’m fine here all day. I went to every floor, loitered in the rare book room, went to all my favorite sections, and walked out with a bag full of books and gifts.

After that we went up on the Portland Aerial Tram for some awesome city views, then had lunch at Urban Fondu (my first time at a fondu place), and then went shopping on Hawthorne Street. For dinner we went fancy. Portland City Grill is on the 30th floor of a downtown building, and the restaurant has amazing 360 views of city.

I can’t believe I have to go home tomorrow!

 

 

 

New thing #28: Portland (Day 1)

IMG_5685First I want to say that I’m so glad I decided to take the train. I don’t think I had any movie-worthy train moments, and I didn’t get much sleep, but it was still pretty fun. I brought a backpack full of entertainment, and I barely touched any of it. I wrote a little, but I didn’t read. I didn’t watch the DVDs I brought. I barely listened to music. All I wanted to do was look out the window. I felt guilty even napping because I didn’t want to miss any good scenery.

When I first got on the train it was so packed that they were assigning seats, and I did NOT get a good one. I was on the aisle next to a guy who had the window closed. As soon as the observation and dining cars opened, I left to go enjoy some of the view and some breakfast. When I came back, some people had gotten off the train and I was able to finagle my way into a window seat, and I had the seat next to me to myself too! This was imperative to enjoying the ride. Can we all agree, that life is always better in the window seat?

I arrived at the Portland train station groggy but excited. Roxanne picked me up (reunited and it feels so good!) and our first stop was her apartment, where I met her two cats and developed huge feelings of jealousy that she lives in such a cute neighborhood.

Her place is within walking distance to tons of restaurants and shops, so we spent the day walking and shopping around her ‘hood. She took me to dinner at her favorite Italian restaurant, and for dessert we went to the city’s most famous ice cream place, Salt & Straw, where we waited in the always present out-the-door line. This was seriously some of the best ice cream I’ve EVER had. I mean, Oprah put this ice cream on her favorite things list, so… you know it’s good.

After that we stopped by one of her favorite neighborhood bars, then went to see a movie at one of the city’s many “view & brew” theaters. Portland is big on beer (they have the most breweries per capita of any other US city), so they found a way to include it with their movie watching.

Portland seems like a perfect city for a short weekend visit. Everything is close together, so you can see and do everything on your to-do list in a short amount of time. And the best way to see any new city it is with a friend (preferably one you’ve known for 20+ years who you are way overdue with catching up with) who can show you the ropes.

 

 

 

New thing #26: Sketch & Updates

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Instead of the typical card and cake, my boss asked if I wanted to do a “new thing” for my work birthday celebration. I thought of going out for ice cream, and she suggested we go to Sketch down the street from our office (which happens to be across from the Sierra Nevada tasting room). They are known for their made in-house daily, organic ice cream, and offer more unusual, “boutique” kinds of flavors (I got the vanilla lavender swirl). It was nice to get a small break from the rain, take a walk, and move the work birthday ritual out of the office for a change.

 

Also, today my friend Jamie took me out to lunch for my birthday and gave me this awesome card. She said it made her think of my new things project.

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UPDATES:

Some people have been asking how certain things are going, so here are a few updates:

  • One of the brides from the Narnia wedding commented on the blog when she got back from her honeymoon, and I was stoked that she seemed happy with it.
  • I’m only on page 110 of War & Peace. I hope to catch up after this crazy busy month is over.
  • I was happy to see that the acts of kindness seemed to be spreading. A couple weeks ago someone left change in an envelope taped to our work vending machine. Written on the envelope: “The next one is on me.” Also, more co-workers ended up reading the blog than I anticipated, so at least one of the “anonymous” card recipients found out it was me who gave it to them. Oh well, you can’t expect anything to be kept secret once you put it on the internet.
  • I haven’t been back to BodyCombat class. I’ve barely been to the gym this month at all. Come April I plan to make a full comeback!
  • Mom and I watched our episode of Dance Party. We got on camera a decent amount, but I was surprised by how lame my dancing was, or should I say, my standing around. In my head I thought I was dancing, but on TV, I look like I’m barely moving! Maybe I was more nervous than I realized? I think the only way I would go back is to redeem myself. Go big or stay off the dance floor people!
  • I still want to stop on Frontage Road every day when I drive by it. I might have to start walking there once a week.
  • I got my official acceptance letter from Make-a-Wish! I go to the first volunteer training in May.
  • I found out today on our ice cream outing that apparently there is a lot of controversy surrounding Bay Street. The mall was built on an ancient Ohlone Indian burial ground. Since 2001 the Ohlone descendants host a “don’t buy anything day.” I hope that wasn’t the day I chose to shop there, yikes!
  • So far Match.com is and is not what I expected. I did expect it to feel artificial and forced. What I didn’t expect was how often I would have to ignore people. I thought I could just join, and kind of scope it out for a while, but the site has been livelier than that. I’m constantly getting emails, likes, “winks,” and match updates (I understand this is a typical woman’s experience with this site, so if you like this kind of attention, this is the place for you). Messages like “hey beautiful,” I’m okay ignoring. Some are unintentionally funny (“your eyes exude passion and wisdom…”), but some guys have written some really thoughtful and clever emails. None of them are people I would be interested in meeting/dating though (some due to distance, sorry but I’m not driving to Palo Alto to meet you for coffee), so it’s hard to decide if I should write them back. I would love to thank them for putting effort into their attempts, but it feels like leading them on.
  • I haven’t received my DNA testing kit, but I can’t wait!
  • I mentioned having a crush in my facial post, but people can stop asking about it. It’s clearly an unrequited crush, so there will likely be no interesting updates there.
  • My tattoo is healing nicely. It actually didn’t really need to heal at all, being that it was so small. I still love it, and it already feels like a part of me.

 

New thing #25: Beer Tasting

IMG_5463Last week, a co-worker told me that they recently opened a Sierra Nevada tasting room down the street from our office in Berkeley. So today after work, we went. I know as much about beer as I do about wine (nothing), so he explained what some of the beers were and what the abbreviations on the menu meant (ABV= Alcohol By Volume, IBU= International Bittering Units). He told me what he liked, recommended some I might like, and with the help of the woman behind the bar (server? bartender? beer wench?), I picked the following 5 to try:

Kellerweis

Weizenbock

Knightro

Off-Kilter Scotch Ale

Narwhal (10.2% alcohol, one of the beers you can’t buy in stores)

My favorite was the Scotch Ale. From the website: “An extended kettle boil affords this “wee heavy” Scotch ale its mahogany color and rich caramel notes, which are complemented by hints of cedar spice, smoke, dried fruit and molasses.”

I wish every work day ended this way. I love learning new things, getting to know a cool co-worker, and a little buzz to take the sting out of a rough Tuesday was nice. It’s funny that I keep saying that I’m not a big drinker (I swear I’m not!), but this is my third alcohol focused new thing— HA!

 

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New thing #23: The Cliff House, Sutro Baths, and TATTOOS!

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Today was one long, great day.

Ria, Veronica, Domi and I started the morning with brunch at the Cliff House in San Francisco. I’ve never been to this local landmark but have always wanted to go. It has a long and detailed history that I won’t include here, but I will say that the first Cliff House (it has been renovated multiple times over the years), opened in 1863.

I felt a little spoiled going to two meals in a row at fancy restaurants on the water, but oh well, what are you gonna do? It’s a $50 flat rate for brunch, where you get unlimited food and (more importantly) champagne. We lost count of our champagne refills at some point… probably around the same time we started uncontrollably laughing and didn’t stop till we left. There were many awesome moments at that meal, one of them being when the live harpist played happy birthday for me.

Right next to the Cliff House are the Sutro Bath ruins, which we were able to walk down to and look around. The Sutro Baths was the world’s largest indoor swimming establishment that opened in 1896. Shortly after closing due to high maintenance costs, the building was abandoned and then burned down in 1966. All that’s left today are the “ruins”, which consists of concrete walls, staircases, passageways, and caves. I loved it here! Not only was it beautiful, I have so much fun exploring places like this. I could have spent all day there, but we were in a hurry to get to our next appointment…

at the TATTOO PARLOR!

Yes, I got my first tattoo. This is a big deal for me because for most of my life I have had zero interest in getting one. It’s not so much the pain that deterred me, but I couldn’t imagine wanting anything on my body forever. I just never felt like the tattoo type.

This changed last year, when my four best friends (who all have tattoos already) and I decided to celebrate 20 years of being friends by going on a trip, and getting commemorative tattoos. This is the first tattoo I could ever imagine getting. I love those four girls to the ends of the earth, and I know that even if we ever somehow drift apart, I would never regret a tattoo designed with them in mind.

Our “friendiversary”  trip unfortunately has been postponed, but 3 out of 5 of us did get our tattoos today (Roxanne and Katie, your turn next!). We had tossed around a few ideas, and settled on a star. It was simple, which mostly appealed to me, and it has five points and there are five of us. After more discussion though, the ideas got more complicated and we acknowledged that we didn’t all want the same thing. I wanted to stick with the simple star idea, and Ria and Veronica went with compass designs.

Ria’s friend Earl was our tattoo artist today. He was cool, and didn’t make me feel lame for wanting something small, but he did convince me to do the star a tad bigger (I wanted it really, really small). We played around with the idea of coloring it in, but once he put on the outline, I really liked it that way. It’s perfectly suited to my simple tattoo tastes.

I went first, and I was nervous as soon as I sat on the table. There was really no need though, because it literally took two minutes. It hurt, but it wasn’t that bad. Not even close to the bikini wax pain. And it made me happy to see how happy my friends were that I was actually getting a tattoo. You should have seen their faces. I’m almost sure it was two of the best minutes of their lives.

Veronica went next, who got a compass on her ankle, then Ria, who also got a compass with some roses and a quote from Peter Pan on her back. My tattoo is boring compared theirs, but I love it. I felt proud when Earl admitted that although the others were more detailed, that he was the most nervous to do mine. Perfectly straight lines are not easy to get right.

We were at the tattoo place for a total of 6 hours. I’m exhausted and I can’t wait to go to bed- wake up on my official 31st birthday, and have a relaxing day off work. And I’m positive that I will spend a significant amount of time tomorrow looking down at my new star.

I can’t believe I got a tattoo!

New thing #22: Skates on the Bay & Treasure Island

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

For my annual Machado family birthday dinner, we went to Skates on the Bay in Berkeley. I have wanted to try this place for years, and there is no better time than a birthday to try a new restaurant. I always feel guilty picking an expensive place, but my family is good about insisting that I shouldn’t.

I’m a sucker for any place near the water, and this one is so far out on the water that it felt like we were eating on a boat. I had the Filet Medallions, Oscar Style (steak topped with crab, asparagus, potatoes, and béarnaise sauce… pretty much all my favorite foods on one plate), and it was sooooo gooood.

After dinner, Dad drove me, Mason, and Grandma to Treasure Island to look at the city view. And guess what? I’ve never been to Treasure Island! It was a gorgeous view, and it was also freezing cold, so we only stayed a few minutes.

Thanks fam for another awesome birthday dinner! I promise that next year we’re going dirt-cheap. Burgers and beer all the way.

New thing #13: Cook a Favorite Restaurant Dish

Actually, I made two:

– Benihana’s Fried Rice, with their Ginger Dipping Sauce

If I could choose my last meal on earth, Benihana’s fried rice would at least be the appetizer. I don’t know why it’s leaps and bounds better than all other fried rice, but it is. Their ginger sauce is supposed to be for the seafood and veggies, but I use it on everything, including the rice. I’ve attempted fried rice before, but this was the first time I tried to make it exactly like theirs. I had no idea I could find the recipe for their ginger sauce online, but when I did, I knew I had to make that too.

– Yan’s China Bistro’s Honey Walnut Prawn

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Yan’s is one of my favorite Chinese places, and I can’t go there without ordering the honey walnut prawn. It’s like candy.

 

 

My mom and brother, Mason, were nice enough to be my guinea pig taste testers (Mason even helped me make the rice and chop everything). We all agreed that this was one of the most successful meals I’ve ever made. Not the most complicated or difficult, but no joke, OMG, like WOW! Everything was soooo good.

The honey walnut prawns were sweeter than Yan’s, but still very tasty. The fried rice was good too, but what really made it great was the ginger sauce. I swear I wasn’t expecting it to come out so… what’s the right word? PERFECT. Nothing I ever make is perfect, but it looked, smelled, and tasted exactly like the Benihana’s. Mason said he was sad to know that we’ve wasted so much of our lives not making this sauce, and I agree.

Click on the links below for each recipe I used:

Fried Rice

Ginger Sauce

Honey Walnut Prawn