Archive for February, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my plate. Figuratively, I mean. How big is my plate, how much stuff is on it, am I filling it too full, or failing to maximize its area? My life is in need of a minor re-org, as I’ve been feeling swamped but also unproductive, and unable to take on anything new, or even successfully maintain the relationships and activities that I already hold dear. So, I’m taking inventory…what’s on my plate, can any of it be pushed aside and fed to the dog, and what do I want/need to make room for?

Work is…work.  My job obviously consumes more hours than anything else; I am a full-time architect and have accepted the time commitments and responsibilities associated with that.  The best I can do is minimize night and weekend work, which I’m usually able to do, although duty still calls more often than I’d like for it to.  Exercise is another one of those necessary time-consumers – I’ll call those evening runs at the gym ‘eating my broccoli’. As much as I detest that treadmill, with it’s countdown clock that seems to run at about one-third of the speed of normal time, missing my work-outs puts me in a physical and emotional funk, so I just gotta suck it up and make sure they happen. Kind of like housework – I’ve just gotta do it, and as much as I hate tackling those piles of dirty laundry or that sink full of dishes, I sure am glad I made the effort once it’s done.

Then there’s the stuff on the ‘want more of it’ list, like my creative outlets – taking pictures and blogging and art-making.  I get so much satisfaction from an afternoon spent drawing in my sketchbook or putting together a good blog post, but these are some of the first things to get pinched when I’m running low on time or energy. And even when I do pretty well about keeping up with things (setting goals like my weekly sketching exercise have helped a lot), I am still left wishing there was time for more.  Maybe it will always be that way, and I should just be thankful for my creative thirst.  Then again, thirst can be irritating, exhausting, unsettling.  Not sure if/how/when to quench it.  And there’s Shane, my most favorite person in the world, who I’m always wishing I could spend more time with. If I were to assign him a place on my plate, he would be my double chocolate fudge brownie, served with a scoop of perfect vanilla gelato (if you know how much I like dessert, you will understand what a compliment this is). All in all, we do a pretty good job of being aware when there’s a lack of quality time, and making sure that we set aside an evening or a weekend to reconnect when we get off-track.  It just feels unfortunate that the disconnect has to happen in the first place.  I have several friendships that would also benefit from a bigger time investment – I want to have the kind of schedule that allows for mid-week Happy Hour meet-ups, or Saturday afternoon outings to the cafe.  Workin’ on it.  Other ‘want-more’ activities include cooking, traveling, reading, participating in neighborhood events, sewing, being more involved in our church, gardening, and staying closer in touch with family.  Phew!

I want a tapas-style life – lots of little plates of varied and balanced flavors.  I don’t want to let work be that giant serving of heavy Pasta Alfredo that doesn’t leave room for anything else.  And I don’t want to-do’s like exercise and housework to keep me from enjoying my dessert or that after-dinner glass of wine.  So…what to do?  I’m realizing that there’s not a lot (or anything) that I’m willing or able to push off my plate at the moment.  But I could make better use of the limited hours that exist in a day.  I’m going to give morning work-outs a go, to free up my evenings for other things.  And I’m going to scale back on the TV time-wasting – there’s nothing wrong with indulging in some quality veg-out time as needed, but I watched 8 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy when Shane was out of town a couple of weekends ago. That was quite possibly not the best use of an open Saturday afternoon (damn you, MacDreamy!).  So, here’s to hoping that few small steps can make a big difference.  And to promising that there will always, always be room for brownies.

(Random aside:  I made my (ok, Martha’s) mint fudge brownies today, and they are quite possibly the best thing ever.  Worth every single gooey calorie…)

And…ta-da!!!  Operation Dining-Room-Makeover is now complete.  And we’re thrilled with it – the table fits in the space perfectly, the color on the walls is bright-but-not-Whoa!, and our new blinds add a clean, crisp finish to the nook.  I’ve mixed in some new accessories (we scored that clock on the wall from a cool little shop in Bellingham last weekend) with a couple of sentimental items (the candle-holders were used in our wedding ceremony, and the vase was bought on our last trip to Paris).  I’m working on a couple of drawing/collages that might look good on the walls when they’re done, but for now, the encaustics are a good fit.  Next step: use it!  We’ve had a long-time resolution to eat more home-cooked dinners at the table, and our new cozy little nook will be good incentive to do so.



The breakdown:  table: Grace dining table from West Elm;  chairs: Klismos dining chairs from West Elm;  rug: House Pet tiles in Gerbil from FLOR;  paint color: October Bronze by Valspar;  accessories: Maxie Wall Clock from Digs, Porcelain Tealight Holders and Wood Tray from West Elm;  artwork: encaustics by me.

Shane sent me an email while I was at work yesterday that said something to the effect of, “Hey, it’s supposed to be really sunny this weekend.” I quickly replied with, “Really? Time for an adventure?” Within minutes, my all-star trip planner of a husband had mapped out a perfect little Saturday jaunt. We were up early-ish this morning, and after a quick breakfast with Jack and La V at Randy’s Diner in Tukwila (imagine Denny’s, but with an even older crowd, and even bigger pancakes!), Shane and I were off to Bellingham to do a little exploring. Our first stop was Larabee State Park, for some sunshine-absorbing and sight-seeing. We shivered when we stepped out of the car and into the crisp February breezes, but decided we would still brave the cold and take the short trail down to the water. Ten minutes later, we were standing on a tiny stretch of beach with the sun glinting off the waters of the Bellingham Bay, and I knew: this was going to be a very, very good day.  We tucked ourselves into a nice little spot on a rock out of the wind and spent awhile just listening to the sound of the water, breathing in the salty air, shedding the week’s stresses and to-do’s.  It was…perfection.

Post-walk, we headed into Bellingham to check out the town.  The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent eating, shopping, drinking, drinking, eating, and shopping.  Lunch at Taco Lobo, perusing the modern wares at Digs, coffee at Woods, cocktails at Temple Bar, dinner at Tivoli, and, for good measure, a quick stop at the Tulalip outlets on the way home.  Did I mention this day was perfect?  We had a chance to really get caught up with one another after a busy week, I delved deeper into Harry Potter book 4 while sipping an exceptionally creamy latte, we found the finishing touches for our dining room make-over, I discovered a new cocktail Shane can’t wait to mix up for me at home (a variation of the Sidecar:  Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice, served in a glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar), and we both ate and ate till we could eat no more.  Thanks, Bellingham, for being so good to us when we really had no idea what to expect.

There is something so satisfying about a day that is simultaneously busy and relaxing – I’m heading to bed tonight tired, but refreshed.  Amazing what a mini-adventure can do for the soul…

I have always dreamed of being one of those people that has time every morning to brew a pot of coffee and enjoy a half-grapefruit and slice of cinnamon toast while reading the paper in my plush terry bathrobe.  Instead, I am the person that flies out the door on my way to work with my tube of mascara in my pocket (to be applied while on the train) and a tangle of earrings and necklaces in hand (I have a talent for accessorizing on-the-go).  On the days when I really have things together, I remember to grab a yogurt out of the fridge and shove it in my bag before I head out.  And so I when I emerge from the lightrail tunnel and see that green and white Starbucks sign, I feel beckoned by the promise of sweet blueberry muffins or banana bread.  For both budgetary and caloric reasons, I usually resist the urge to carbo-load on these not-so-good goodies, but still, the urge is there.  So I came home yesterday and decided to one-up Starbucks with my own home-made muffins.  My own moist, flavorful, low-fat, banana-pumpkin-raisin-pecan muffins, complete with some stuff that’s actually good for you, like flax seed and wheat germ. And oh-my-gosh – these are good.  Now Shane and I have something tasty to bring to work with us for the next few mornings - I hardly even noticed the Starbucks sign on my way into the office today, knowing these little gems were tucked inside my purse.

Recipe from here, with my variations below:

2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1 can pumpkin
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix bananas, pumpkin, and eggs in a food processor.  Mix those wet ingredients with honey and oil.  Mix all dry ingredients.  Stir dry ingredients slowly into the wet.  Fold in raisins and pecans.  Insert paper liners into muffin pan. Fill each muffin tin 2/3 full.  Bake for 20 to 24 minutes (your house will smell like heaven on earth), or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Enjoy with a cup of coffee and the morning paper (set your alarm 20 minutes earlier if necessary).

After our low-key but just-right 2010 Valentines Day, spent eating cereal for dinner while watching Project Runway episodes, Shane decided to put aside our home-body-ish, old couple-ish tendencies and make reservations for us at a cozy little Seattle bistrot.  Cafe Campagne is our little slice of Paris in the Pacific Northwest, and though it lacks French-speaking waiters and a view of the Seine, it still ranks pretty high on the romance-o-meter.  We were seated at a little candle-lit table at the back of the restaurant, handed a wine list and a menu, and the rest is a euphoric blur of rich foods, bubbly champagne, and great conversation.  There was escargot, there was Chevre-topped salad, coq au vin, creme brulee, espresso, oh. mon. Dieu.  And there was talking, about travel and friends and the prospects for the 2011 Giants.  It was perfection.  So, Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Schnell.  Je t’aime de tout mon couer.

It’s been a full weekend, kicked off with some quality party time on Friday night in honor of Jack’s birthday, as we visited the symphony, then stuffed ourselves with decadent food at Lecosho, then sipped on hand-crafted cocktails at Mistral (I’m afraid Shane has developed a bit of a man-crush on the expert bartender there).  I hesitate to admit that it’s been awhile since we’ve stayed out past…10 pm, so it was fun to be young and cool once again and close out the bar.

(photo by La Verne)

I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning to see Shane head off for his weekend in the woods with the boys, then did some quality lounging and squeezed in a quick yoga session before heading out for lunch with La Verne.  As we caught up with each other over Irish fare at Paddy Coyne’s, I was reminded that there really is no substitute for quality girl time.  I got my dose of ‘me’ time on Saturday afternoon, as I worked on a couple of things around the house, did some sketching, and whiled away a few hours catching up on Grey’s Anatomy (I never realize just how fiercely Shane guards the remote control until he’s gone and I’m free to watch whatever I want).

Today was all about gettin’ stuff done, with grocery shopping and cooking and painting our dining nook (after being talked off the ledge of painter’s remorse by Shane when I applied the first few strokes and realized just how bold I’d gone with my color selection).

And…phew!  House is relatively clean, leftovers are packed for lunch tomorrow, paint job is finished, and I am tuckered out.  This is one of those nights when I’d give anything for a weekend-extension.  But I suppose I’ll have to settle for spending the rest of the night relaxing on the couch, watching the Grammy’s (who is this crazy bird man playing the piano?!…) and drinking a cup of tea.  Already trying to figure out how to battle the inevitable case of the Monday’s that will fall upon me in about 10 hours…

Nearly a year ago, I blogged about my all-time favorite albums and TV shows – and while Six Feet Under and Siamese Dream are still what I would call ‘timeless classics’, I do have a few current faves to add to the list.

Shane hooked me on HBO’s The Wire a few months ago.  I resisted for a long time, not really into the violence-ridden scenes from the streets of Baltimore, but somewhere along the way, I stopped tolerating this show and started loving it.  It’s not just about hustlin’ drugs on the streets of West Baltimore – it’s about the flawed systems of politics and education and media and how the suit-wearing mayor leaning back in his plush leather chair is not as far removed as you might think from the young kid selling cocaine on a shady corner on the other side of town.  Shane recently read an interview with David Simon, the show’s writer/producer, who stated, “American entertainment does nothing but sell redemption and easy victories 24-7”.  And The Wire certainly is not about warm fuzzies and feel-good endings.  It’s tough to watch.  But soooo worth it.

That said, I actually love a show full of redemption and easy victories, so I’ve been balancing my Wire-watching with new episodes of Parenthood.  Shane will roll his eyes when he reads this, since he doesn’t seem to feel the slightest connection to any of the show’s flawed-but-lovable characters, but I’ve come to look forward to this family drama each week.  It feels real to me – like I’m truly getting a glimpse into the struggles and joys associated with raising young kids and teen-agers and middle-aged sons and daughters with families of their own.  True, too many of the episodes wrap up with a family-wide group-hug resolution reminiscent of Full House, but whatever – I’m a sucker for a tender moment, so I’ll keep watching (and admittedly even shed a tear or two).

Music-wise, my playlist has taken a turn lately.  I still love Ryan Adams and Coldplay and Bon Iver, but I’ve also come to appreciate a song I can move to.  What started only as my ‘workout playlist’ (have you tried running on a treadmill to Damien Rice?  doesn’t work.) has made its way into regular rotation when I’m in the car or at my desk.  Yes – I’m on a hip-hop/R&B kick lately, getting in touch with the inner groove I never knew I had.  Favorite albums are Free Wired by Far East Movement, and Rokstarr by Taio Cruz.  Don’t judge me.  I also happen to think Lady Gaga is pretty fabulous.  Seriously, don’t judge me.

When I’m not in the mood for something that’s going to bring on that annoying lip-syncing, head-bopping thing, I keep coming back to Sufjan Stevens.  Seven Swans is decidedly my favorite album of his – it’s not going to motivate you to shave 5 seconds off your mile run, but it will dig deep, and tug at your soul.  Perfect mellow-out tunage – if I ever actually make a habit of turning off the TV/computer/iPhone, lighting some candles, and just sitting back to genuinely chill (why is this so hard for me?), it will be with this playing in the background.

Since we just said a sad good-bye to the final episode of the Wire, and since “Like A G6” is bound to lose its catchiness sooner or later, I’m on the lookout for shows and albums to fill these shoes.  Recommendations?

We returned this afternoon from a super-quick trip to Portland, to spend some time with family and pick up a couple of things at West Elm for our new dining room.  Our time there was short, but it was so good to catch up with my brother and sister-in-law, and dote on the darling nieces.  Morgan is 6 weeks old, and much changed since we saw her at Christmas.  She’s looking around a lot now, loves to be held and cuddled, and looks like a perfect little angel when she sleeps.  I spent much of last night and this morning with her tucked into my arms – I am decidedly in love with this little girl.

Elise is also changing with each passing month, becoming more independent and coming into her own as a grown-up little girl (where did my baby niece go???  sigh…).  Favorites include cartoons, cream cheese (I discovered at breakfast this morning that the bagel is only there as a surface for the cream cheese to be scraped off of), and living room blanket forts.  It took her longer than usual to warm up to us this time around, but Uncle Shane was able to wriggle his way into her good graces this morning, with a ride down the playground slide.

It’s so hard to say good-bye to these little girls each time we leave, knowing that they will be growing and changing so much between visits. But then again, it’s ok – I have visions of taking Elise shopping someday, instilling in her my appreciation for a good deal and comfortable pair of heels, working on art projects with Morgan, smearing paint on canvases together while we chat about school or family or her favorite books and TV shows, and having the girls up to Seattle for a sleepover with their Auntie.  So I can look forward to that, deal with the changes, and revel in the amazing little people that they are quickly becoming.

I have come to believe that three-day weekends should be the new standard (as opposed to the one-day weekends I’ve been having for the past month or so).  And so I took today off as a post-deadline stress-detox kind of day, to get some rest and catch up on a few to-do’s.  And it was lovely.  I started the day off with a solid workout, came home just in time for an appointment to have our windows measured for blinds (part of our dining room makeover), got our dinner into the crock pot, cleaned up the house a bit, made myself a yummy-but-healthy lunch, and then had every intention to continue my productive streak by painting the dining room and attacking the mound of laundry that has begun to crawl out of our closet.  But then I sat down on the couch, and sitting turned into laying, and laying turned into napping, and I figured I’d had just about enough ‘to-do’-ing for one day.  There’s no shame in some hard-earned relaxation.  I rolled off the couch mid-afternoon and realized I still hadn’t had my celebratory day-off latte, so I got in the car and made the trek up to Queen Anne to check out Le Reve – a French bakery that I’ve heard some buzz about and wanted to check out.  I can’t give this place a solid two thumbs up, since I’m not a fan of their ‘no laptop’ policy, and my eclair was served more chilled than I like it, but nonetheless, with my book, my coffee, and the knowledge that on any other typical Friday afternoon I’d be plugging away at the office, I couldn’t complain.

Ten minutes after getting back to the house, Shane called me from his way home and asked if I wanted to meet him for a drink at St. Dames – a neighborhood joint that recently opened and shows definite promise as our personal ‘Cheers’.  I have already taken a liking to both their head server/owner and their Happy Hour Cabernet, and it’s exciting to have a cozy joint like this one just two blocks away from our house.

We ended the day with a rousing game of Settlers with Jason and Nance.  Once I was able to tame my losing-and-bitter-about-it attitude, the night ended up being lots of fun, with plenty of laughs and homemade cake and the joy of just chillin’ out with good friends on a Friday night.

It was a great day.  And the best part?  The weekend has just begun…

Still snipping up bits of colored transparencies, putting pencil to paper, finding inspiration in buildings and brick and strings of power lines…

canyon (2011.01.12):

bridges (2011.01.15):

letterbox house (2011.01.24):

amtrak (2011.01.30):