Archive for August, 2009

When Shane told me last month that he’d been given the opportunity to spend a few days in San Francisco for a work-related conference, I jumped at the chance to tag along, to spend some quality time with my husband, but also snag a little time to myself in one of my most favorite cities.  We flew in on Saturday morning, got settled at our hotel room, and then met up with a couple of old friends who had come into the city for the day to hang out and catch up with us.  Marco is known for making every little outing an ‘adventure’, and indeed, our 8-hour whirlwind tour of 5 different San Francisco bars and restaurants turned out to be an afternoon/evening/night to remember.  We started with drinks at the Gold Dust Lounge – a little saloon-type bar right near Union Square.  It happened to be unusually hot in San Francisco that day, and the bar was pretty toasty inside, so as the beads of sweat began to drip down our foreheads, we decided to call it a day at that place and head out in search of someplace with outdoor seating.  We ended up at Delfina pizzeria in the Mission District and snagged a nice little sidewalk table.  We ordered a couple of pizzas and some wine, and settled into our chairs to enjoy a perfect city evening with perfect food and great friends.  The crostini with fresh mozzarella and arugula was a-mazing, and the pizzas were perfectly light, crispy, and fresh tasting.  I could have sat on that sidewalk terrace all night, but we had a 6 pm reservation at Bourbon and Branch, so we polished off our dinner and hopped in a cab back toward downtown.  I’m still not sure how Marco found out about this place, but Bourbon and Branch has recreated the true ‘speak-easy’ experience.  When you call to make a reservation, they give you the address and a password, and the bar’s entrance is just an old wooden door in an otherwise totally non-descript gray stucco building front.

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When you knock on the door, a man in a Dick Tracy-like hat opens the door just a couple of inches, peers outside, and whispers ‘What’s the password?’.  Quite the production, but totally amusing.  Luckily, we had that magic word and were led into a dimly lit bar, replete with dark wood paneling and furniture, deep red velvet-embossed wallpaper, and a drink menu that would impress any cocktail connoisseur.  Since cocktail connoisseur I am not, and since the first page of their menu clearly states, “Do not even think of ordering a Cosmopolitan!”, I nervously flipped through the menu in search of something that looked like it would fit my tastes.  My first choice was a White Lady, which is a mixture of Cointreau, gin, lemon, and egg whites.  The egg whites give the drink an interesting foamy texture, and the lemon cut through some of the really ‘alcoholic’ flavors.  Shane ordered an Old Fashioned (an homage to Donald Draper, for you Mad Men fans), and claims it was the best cocktail he’s ever tasted.  We stayed for one more round, and then headed back out into 21st-century San Francisco in search another venue to continue our adventure.  We ended up at Lori’s diner and munched on French fries to soak up some of the alcohol that was resting in our stomachs from those uber-strong cocktails.  One more stop after that for a night cap, and we were ready to call it a night.  We said good-bye to Marco and Lisa as they hopped on the Bart, returned to our hotel, and slept like a couple of babies that night, thankful that we’d had the foresight to fill up on food and water before we went to bed.

Yesterday we woke to a fog-blanketed city, but didn’t mind the gray weather, as we had time to get a slow start to the day.

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Really, we had only one item on the agenda:  meet up with a couple of other friends to watch the Giants WIN against the Rockies.  It turned out to be a good afternoon for a baseball game, sunny and clear, and as we put on our Giants gear, we silently said a little prayer that our team would come through with a victory (we’ve watched them lose twice this year already, in San Francisco and Seattle, and I was worried that Shane just couldn’t bear a third defeat).  The Rockies started off strong, and we were nervous when they went into the bottom of the 7th inning with a 5-2 lead.  But then the Giants’ Renteria stepped up to the plate and knocked a pitch right out of the park, bringing in four runs and giving the Giants the lead.  It was one of those all-consuming, totally joyous, game-going moments when everyone jumps up and down and grins stupidly and hugs and high-fives each other.  Very cool.  The Rockies just weren’t the same after that Grand Slam and so our team came through with a 9-5 win.  YESSS!  Games like that make me rethink my only lukewarm feelings about baseball.

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We turned in early last night after a relaxing swim in the hotel pool, and I am now beginning my first day to myself at Café Centro, trying to decided what kinds of adventures today will hold.  I’m suddenly feeling like the opportunities are endless…

This was a fabulous weekend.  Nothing super-special took place, but a lot of little things came together to make this a really good, really productive couple of days.  I kicked off Saturday with a 5-mile run along Lake Washington – it was a gray morning, but I always feel like I’m energized by being near the water, so I was able to pull through at a pretty steady jog.  And I’m finally getting into a groove where these runs don’t take everything out of me, so I was left with enough energy to check off a couple of errands, pick up some groceries, and shampoo our carpets.  It’s embarrassing to admit just how much I really enjoyed giving our carpets a thorough cleaning, but man, it was satisfying to dump bucket after bucket of dirty water down the drain.  Well worth the $25 rental fee we paid to split the ‘Rug Doctor’ machine rental with our neighbors.  And I have to credit Shane with having the better carpet cleaning technique between the two of us – he was able to turn those corners with impressive tightness.  What a man…  We spent Saturday night with some of our most favorite Seattle peeps, celebrating a friend’s birthday and recent return from a 10-week stint in India.  It had been awhile since we’d sat around a table with these people, and we reveled in the joy of sipping our cocktails, stuffing our faces with pineapple cake, and laughing uncontrollably as we all tried on the fake mustaches that were a birthday gift for J.  Weird, yes, but there is in fact a story behind the mustache joke that I won’t go into here…  I think my eyes are closed in this photo, as I was trying not to sneeze – I spent the rest of the evening trying to blow gray fur out of my nose.

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Today was a much more mellow day – we went to church this morning, and then I spent a few hours at the office, which is not how I prefer to spend a Sunday afternoon, but it did relieve some of my anxiety about the mid-week deadlines I have coming up.  Another short jog, a dinner of pork loin and corn on the cob straight off the grill, and I was ready to settle in for the night with my fleece blanket and cup of ginger peach tea.  I definitely earned my “veggin’-out” time tonight, so we are cozy-ing up to watch the latest Mad Men episode before we call this weekend a wrap.

This book was a perfect summertime read – a good mystery/drama/love story kind of a page-turner.  It’s the story of a young Amish woman in rural Pennsylvania who is put on trial for murder.  Kind of mindless, but in a way I appreciated – it had been awhile since I picked up one of those books that you can sit down with and blow through 50 pages at a time.  And this glimpse into Amish life was fascinating – though fictional, it seems from my small amount of Internet research that the author was pretty true to Amish standards and traditions.  Their commitment and strict adherence to centuries-old traditions is both admirable and hard to imagine.  Are there seriously still people in this country who choose to live life without automobiles or telephones?  Mind-boggling.  So, this book gets one solid thumb up – it doesn’t quite warrant a second thumb, but it was certainly one of those ‘fun’ kind of reads.

Wandering the streets of downtown Portland was wonderful, but getting to spend some time hanging out with my niece was even better.  Elise is motoring all over the place these days, darting from room to room, pausing only occasionally to catch her balance, and then she’s off once again.  She still loves books, and I treasure the moments that she’ll snuggle up on my lap and let me read to her.  She is expanding her vocabulary daily, but still uses the bit of sign language she has learned when she really wants to get her point across (the sign for ‘more’ is very popular when it comes to snack-time).  As with any one and half year-old, she has her mellow moments and her not-so-mellow moments.  I caught her on one of her more mellow mornings yesterday, as I hung out with her on Alberta Street while Kathryn got her hair cut.  We went to a coffee shop together, and she sat on my lap as I drank my latte and she munched on rice cakes, while we flipped through the paper together.  It was lovely, true auntie-niece bonding time.  I love this little girl so much, and although I hate to miss out on so much of her growth, I am already looking forward to seeing what new words she has learned or interests she has developed when I catch up with her again next month.  It’s fun to see her personality shine through more and more with each visit.  And is it really possible that she just keeps getting cuter and cuter?

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I returned yesterday afternoon from a three-day trip to Portland – a work-related conference took me down there, but I was fortunately able to squeeze in some time to enjoy the city and hang out with family.  It was nice to have a few hours to myself to wander through downtown with my camera – I was reminded of how much I love the city’s textures and charm.

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Portland has this unique industrial richness to it that imparts a sense of age of vibrancy to the street fronts and neighborhoods.  The brick warehouses and historic water towers of the Pearl district, the fire escapes that zig-zag across the fronts of so many buildings, the facades in varied colors of stone and tile…  I’m a sucker for all of it.

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And for better and for worse, the ‘grittier’ areas are slowly being infiltrated with trendy cafes, boutiques, and galleries.  I love coffee, fashion, and art, so far be it from me to complain, but I hope that these new establishments are able to respectfully work within the existing architectural and urban character of the city.

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Ahhhh, I love this city…

Sunday nights are definitely not my favorite time of the week – sometime between 6 and 8 pm, I usually start moping around the house, mourning the passing of another weekend, dreading the incessant ringing of my alarm clock that will begin without fail come Monday morning at 6:30.  But tonight, as the Sunday night funk began to set in, I stopped, and instead tried to focus on what a great week this has been.  It was a bumpy start, with a couple of long, stressful days at work, but those long hours resulted in a client meeting going extremely well on Wednesday morning, and things were looking up.  The rest of the day was full of highlights:  I enjoyed a nice lunch and dinner with Shane’s parents on their last full day in Seattle; I took my first ever Harley ride with Shane’s dad along Lake Washington; and I spent Wednesday night enjoying VIP treatment at the Seattle Sounders v. Barcelona game, courtesy of a new friend.  The rest of the week was enjoyably low-key, with a couple of deadline-free days at work, a nice stroll through Pioneer Square on Thursday evening to check out a few art galleries, and some quality chill-time spent at home enjoying Shane’s company.  The weekend was also relaxing, though productive, as we stocked our fridge with blueberries, tidied up the yard a bit, and logged some miles on the old runnin’ shoes.  I caught up with friends and family that I hadn’t talked to in awhile, spent some time in my sketchbook, found a cute new pair of sandals on double-clearance at DSW, and finished up a couple of knitting projects that had been nagging me for awhile.  Nice.  And so I won’t mope about the fact that tomorrow is Monday, but instead enjoy the feeling of a week well-spent.

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I am constantly looking for new ‘Schnell Family Traditions’ that Shane and I can instate and take part in year after year.  Today I think we may have found a perfect summer ritual – we called a couple of friends, hopped in the car, and were off to do some blueberry picking.  Our destination was Bybee Nims Farm in North Bend, which was beautiful.  We wandered among the aisles between heavily-laden bushes as Mount Si loomed beneath a layer of misty clouds in the background.  Perfect.

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The berries were fat and juicy – so good in fact, that for every few Shane dropped in the bucket, I caught him popping one or two in his mouth.

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The darling hands of our little helper plucked the berries from the lower boughs…

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We walked away with over 5 pounds of berries, at the bargain price of only 10 bucks!  We’ve been gorging ourselves on them all day – sooooo good.

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I had been on a bit of a knitting hiatus lately, but with the onset of the slightly cooler weather, I was motivated to finally finish these two project which have been sitting in my knitting basket for months.

The scarf was knitted with a thick wool yarn, stranded with a sparkly thread-like ribbon.  Seed stitch, 13 stitches across, size 15 needles.

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The cowl was knitted with a chunky silver-gray acrylic yarn.  Stockinette stitch, size 13 circular needles, cast on 60 stitches and knit round and round…

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We were up bright and early yesterday to catch a ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island, to do some sightseeing with Shane’s parents and some catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in awhile.  We spent most of the day hanging out at our friend’s beautiful beach home -  Shane and his dad fished off the shore, while Shane’s mom and I enjoyed lounging in the sun.  I believe there are few things better than the feel of a cool ocean breeze blowing across your face as you squish soft, warm sand between your toes.  Heaven.

Shane was not so lucky in fishing endeavors, as he didn’t catch anything other than a sunburn on the back of his neck and the tops of his feet, but he wasn’t complaining.  Just the act of standing by the water, casting his line in and watching the waves crash, was enough to put a smile on his face.

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Not a bad place to park yourself for a Sunday afternoon, huh?

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Once we’d gotten our sand and sun fix, we headed into Coupeville for some scrumptiously fresh mussels at Toby’s, followed by ice cream cones from the parlor down the street.  Bellies full, it was time to bid farewell to the island, which we did by way of Deception Pass.  The view of the bay was amazing, but I was just as taken with the lacy structure of the steel bridge that crosses the pass.

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And so another beautiful summer weekend in the Northwest came to a close (and I silently cursed the arrival of Monday)…

I’ve felt rather uninspired lately, having to force myself to open my sketchbook.  But I’m coming to understand the value of just getting into the habit of making art – it’s better to produce something I’m not necessarily crazy about than to produce nothing at all.  And those moments always do eventually come when I touch a paintbrush to paper or draw a line in ink and think ‘nice!…’  So I forge on with this little exercise of weekly sketching.  These are the latest…

springtime (2009.07.13):

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raindrops (2009.07.28):

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abstract fireworks (2009.07.25):

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balloon ride (2009.07.28):

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