Month: December 2013

The Amazing Race: Oregon edition

Every now and then, you meet someone with whom you immediately click.  Someone with whom you can share everything with, and no matter how many miles or months may separate you, as soon as you see them again you can immediately pick things back up where they were left off.  Many people only have one or two friends like this in a lifetime.  But I’ve been blessed with several; although they’re scattered all over the world, I’ve no doubt that they will be in my life for a very long time.What’s more, I actually got to see one of them last week!  Rachel, one of my roommates in college, had the nerve to get married and go off to Oregon to go to optometry school.  But I suppose I can’t get upset, since I left her for Korea, haha.  It had been a while since I saw her, and I was blessed with a fantastic deal on the flight, so after I finished up my finals, I headed out west to pay a visit.

I must admit…I don’t think I could ever live in Oregon (**knock on wood**).  The fog and creeping chill is something that I’m not used to, and I imagine would have a very hard time acclimating myself to.  But nasty weather is easily overlooked for a few days, especially when you’re with such lovely people! 🙂

Rachel still had to take a final the first day that I arrived, so Ryan and Seth (an old friend of theirs and also their housemate) took it upon themselves to entertain me while she was taking her test.  We went to a Sherlock Holmes exhibit at a hands-on science museum in Portland.  It was really excellently done.  They had some artifacts from the time period on display, as well as a lot of biographical information about the author, Arthur Conan Doyle (did you know that he was an army medic?  The character of Watson is modeled after himself).  There was even a recreation of Sherlock’s living room!  But after that, it got even cooler.  They had recreated a “crime scene” in the exhibit hall.  We had to go through the clues and compare the evidence to the official police theory, and see if they were right or not.  Eventually we cracked the case!  The police had it all wrong :).  It really was a fantastically done exhibit…I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day, Ryan and Rachel and I went on a walking tour of Portland.  There’s an app called Stray Boots Tours that you can get that sends you on a scavenger hunt around the city, so we bought it and followed the clues.  I felt like I was on the Amazing Race – actually with both the Sherlock Holmes exhibition and the Stray Boots tour, but particularly the walking tour.  I had to remind myself several times that there was no need to rush, we were not going to be eliminated if we came in last.  In fact, between the clues, scavenger hunts, and trying lots of new things – from homemade beer to lockpicking driving super fast cars to videogames – the entire weekend felt somewhat like a tamer version of the Amazing Race, haha :).  They were definitely my kinds of activities, though!

One of the first stops on the Stray Boots tour was a vintage record store
Another clue took us to Powell’s, the largest new and used independent book store in the world.  We spent quite a bit of time there…. 🙂
The rare books section.  I thought I found the most expensive book.  I found out later that apparently there’s a book there that costs around $200,000!
Check out the Christmas Tree – it’s made from beer bottles.  Rather fitting for a famous pub, I’d say 🙂
A map of tea across the world in a cute little tea shop

The rest of the week was marked by board games, an introduction to the video game Portal (every level is basically solving a series of puzzles; I’m not a video gamer, but that one was pretty darn fun), seeing Rachel’s campus and meeting her friends, and oh yeah…a Tesla test drive.  Teslas, for those who may not know, are premium fully electric vehicles (they start around $70,000 and go up from there).  And they are gorgeous.  Ryan arranged for Rachel and I to have a test drive while I was there.  Oh my word.  It was like a dream.  I’ve never really had car envy, always been perfectly happy with my beat up little Subaru; but I must admit, car envy may have reared its ugly head during that test drive :).

It goes without saying that the week flew by all too quickly.  I’m so grateful to have been able to go, and I missed them even before I boarded the plane back to Atlanta.  No time to mourn their absence, though…it’s time to get geared up for Christmas!  Only 3 more days!!

Ryan really liked the Tesla shirt that Rachel got him for Christmas 🙂
Rachel’s campus – doesn’t it look eerie with all the fog and devoid of students??

Christmas is coming…

…the goose is getting fat!  Actually, I have no idea how fat the rhetorical goose is, nor do I have any plans on buying a literal goose, but I do know that Christmas really is coming!  Just a few days away at this point!  Eek!  School and Christmas-y things have been keeping me busy for sure.  There’s not much about school that I particularly want to talk about, other than the fact that it was really hard, but I managed to get all A’s; but there’s plenty of Christmas updates that I have!

The lights, the music, the decorations…everything about Christmas sends a thrill through me.  I absolutely love this time of year.  I dragged a few of my friends with me to Atlantic Station, to see the official lighting of the enormous Christmas tree that they had erected in the middle of the plaza.  The lighting of the tree was actually somewhat of a letdown – there’s only so much fanfare you can have when all that’s happening is a cord getting plugged into an outlet – but they had fireworks afterward, which more than made up for that :).

My church also had a volunteer Christmas dinner at the end of November.  It’s an event that the staff puts on every year, in which they invite all of the church volunteers to a big fancy dinner to thank them for their service.  That was a blast.  As you can see from the pictures below, the people at my church can definitely be clowns…regardless of how dressed up they might be, lol…

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Matt, Amy, and Elizabeth – some amazing friends right there!!

As sort of a last hurrah, I hosted a Christmas party for a bunch of my friends the last Saturday of the semester.  I had hosted a potluck party last year (you can read about that here), but this year I wanted to put a bit more effort into it.  Rather than have people bring stuff, I made the whole meal – the pièce de résistance was a pork tenderloin that I marinated in a honey and brown sugar glaze.  Super yummy!!  Since I’m in a much bigger place now, I also had the space to be able to plan a few more activities this time around.  So we played a few games, did a white elephant gift exchange, decorated gingerbread cookies that I had made in advance, and overall just had a splendid time.  Most of my best friends from Atlanta, and all of my roommates were able to be there.  I felt very blessed, indeed.  And then I promptly fell asleep after they all left – considering it was the first real party that I planned and hosted all by myself, I may have overreached a bit.  I was exhausted by the end of the night.  Was so totally worth it, though :).

L-R: Chelsea and Kelsey

L-R: Lauren, her fiance Michael, Matt, Jonathan, Jessica, and little Nicholas

This is such a fitting hat for Jonathan…

Decorating the gingerbread cookies…

As a bit of a side note…I went to see some of my relatives in the north Georgia mountains with my dear friend Elizabeth way back in October.  It’s not Christmas-y, but I have nowhere else to put the pictures from that trip, so it’s just getting tacked onto the bottom of this post.  We just went up for the day, to get away from school and visit my family and see the beautiful fall colors.  It was a lovely day :).  Pictures are below – enjoy!

Thanksgiving 2013

Spending time with my family is one of my favorite things to do ever.  And around holidays it’s even better.  And this holiday season….for some reason, this holiday is even better than normal.  I have had such a sense of anticipation and excitement at the thought of seeing my family this year.  Perhaps it’s because last year was so darn difficult; this is a nice contrast.  Perhaps it’s because 2 years ago I missed being with my family because I was in Korea.  Perhaps it’s because this year we got to celebrate Matt’s blessing ceremony on top of the usual festivities.  Whatever the reason….the past few weeks have been simply laced with excitement and anticipation.

The highlight of family visits was definitely Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago.  While Georgia Tech only gives Thursday and Friday off, I was able to work out my schedule so that I had nearly a week off.  It took me nearly killing myself the 3 weeks prior, but the time off with my family made it worth it.  Although I must admit…I felt somewhat like Martha Stewart with all the baking I did while I was home.  Sugared peanuts, chocolate pecan pie, apple pie, fruitcake, turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole….the list goes on, but I’m getting hungry, so I’ll stop :).
We celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, but the real Thanksgiving day was on Friday afternoon, when Chris and Julia and her parents came into town.  We haven’t all been together in a very long time, and it was really nice to get to see my Chris.  He only lives a few minutes away from me…I wish I could see him and Julia more often.  But the time we did have together was wonderful :).

Thanksgiving weekend was rounded out with Matt’s blessing ceremony.  It’s a coming of age ceremony, something my parents have done for all the kids; the best way that I can describe it is a Christianized version of a Jewish bar mitzvah.  Family and friends from all over came to celebrate Matt and speak blessings into his life.  It only lasted about 30 minutes, but it was sooo, so special.  I missed Josh’s ceremony because I was in Korea, and I was so grateful to be able to be there for Matt’s.

If you’re interested in watching the ceremony, I took a recording of it; you can watch it by following this link: http://youtu.be/O_2qvvKLFb0 .