Archive for February, 2012

It seems we’re spending a lot of time on our couch these days – it’s only a matter of time before a Kelly-sized imprint starts to form in my favorite corner of our sectional.  But I suppose that’s part of what winter is about for us, holing up indoors and spending our evenings watching our favorite shows and the latest movies.  And with the Oscars having just taken place and all, I thought I’d cast a few of my own votes:

Best Movie:  I only saw half of the Best Picture nominees, but of those The Help was my favorite, with Moneyball as a close second.  Neither of them were Oscar-worthy in my book, but they were both perfect for a popcorn and pajamas kind of movie night.  On my to-watch list:  The Artist and Hugo.  (p.s.  Shane is reading this over my shoulder as I type and insists that I give a shout-out to Tree of Life on his behalf.  I say…eh.)

Best TV Drama:  Breaking Bad.  Duuuuuuuude – where have I been and why did I hold out for so long on watching this show?  Symptoms of following Walter White’s steady decline include bouts of depression and mild to moderate anxiety, but it’s completely worth it.

Best TV Comedy:  The New Girl.  Hands down.  I heart Zooey Deschanel.  And I’ve had “We built this Schmidty on Tootsie Rolls” looping in my head for weeks.

Best “I Need to Unwind After A Long Day” TV Show:  The Daily Show.  Some serious laugh-out-loud goodness going on there lately – Jon Stewart’s comedic mockery may be the only good thing that has come out of all the campaigning and crazy politicking taking place these days.

Best “I Know This is No Good but I Can’t Turn it Off” TV Show:  The Voice.  I could take a pass on Christina Aguilera’s spray-tanned cleavage, but how funny is Cee Lo with his fluffy white cat?

And just ’cause, Best Oscar dress:

Toss-up between the ladies in red: Michelle Williams and Emma Stone almost made me want to trade in my pj’s for something more glamorous.

Still loving watercolors. And hexagons…

glass house (2012.01.31):

dragon scales (2012.02.03):

treeline (2012.02.22):

hex hills (2012.02.24):

Yesterday was the first totally plan-free Saturday we’ve had in awhile, so we started scheming on Friday for a little day-long getaway.  We decided on Port Townsend as our destination, packed our coats and scarves (the forecast called for chilly temps and heavy winds), and yesterday morning, we were off!

We arrived in Port Townsend just before noon and settled into a cozy table at Sweet Laurette, a cute little French bistrot with gigantic omelettes and mimosas served with a slice of pineapple.

We had hoped to settle our full bellies with a walk along the beach, but about five steps out of the car, and I was so chilled I had to turn back.  Brrrrrrrr…

And so we drove through the nearby state park, stopping to have a chat with the deer that didn’t seem the least bit bothered by our presence – such friendly locals!

We then bundled up and strolled through the charming little downtown.

Five blocks later, we had seen the extent of Port Townsend’s mainstreet (yes, I said mini adventure), and so we ducked into a coffee shop where we could enjoy a view of the water with a warm mug of chai.

When deciding on which route to take back to Seattle, Shane had to utter only one word to seal the deal for taking the ferry via Bainbridge Island:  Mora’s.  This is one of my all-time favorite ice cream shops, and a split-scoop of blackberry and sabayon was all I needed to make the entire trip totally worth it.

We stepped out onto the deck of the ferry as we neared Seattle and watched the sun struggle to break through the clouds, feeling so thankful for the charm, beauty, and flavors that make up the Pacific Northwest.

Admittedly, I wallowed a bit on Friday.  But sometimes I need to be down before I can be up again, so my grief wasn’t all for naught – after a bout of heartache, I eventually climb out of my hole and more genuinely appreciate life’s little blessings.  And this weekend was full of these glimmers of goodness…

Like my beautiful latte at Vivace on Saturday morning, sipped over a particularly good book club meeting with the ladies.

And my perfect, moist frosting-topped cupcake, a super-thoughtful little gift from Erica.

My new gray wedges and black heels, cause sometimes shoe shopping really is the best medicine.

Sunday morning brunch with Shane at our favorite cozy Irish pub, complete with Mimosas (for Shane), hot coffee (for me), and thick, crispy bacon (for us).

The satisfying feeling of tiredness that came after a run along Lake Washington.

And then spending the rest of the afternoon in my pajamas, drinking tea and painting and listening to the lastest Coldplay album.

I’m also so thankful for the people in my life that pull me out of that hole when I find I’m too tired to climb out of it myself – the kind comments and text messages and hugs and cupcakes are like new shoes for my soul – merci, friends.

In the course of my schooling and career, I bet I’ve taken hundreds of tests. Nine months ago I took a new kind of test – one of the easiest ones I’ve ever taken, but also one of the most significant. I saw those two little pink lines and I lost my breath. I got all light-headed and tingly and my mind struggled to keep up as I sat on the bed next to Shane and said, “I think I’m pregnant”. We had wanted this for awhile, but somehow it still came as such a surprise. That morning was a euphoric blur of trying to take it all in and still keep our cool – we snapped a few goofy pictures in front of the mirror with that little stick of proof held out in front of us, we said a prayer thanking God for this miracle, and then we went about our day as normal. Except it wasn’t normal – I spent the morning secretly Googling due date calculators and early pregnancy symptoms and things I should and shouldn’t eat. I walked around the office with a sly smile on my face and looked at my pregnant coworker with newfound feelings of camaraderie and sisterhood. I marked February 17th on my calendar as the little one’s due date. I thought about shouting out our news over the office intercom, but I restrained myself – I wanted this to be Shane’s and my special secret for now, just in case. But just in case what? What could go wrong? We were prepared for this. We were healthy, young, ready to be a mom and dad.

Two weeks later, it went wrong.

I started seeing signs that things weren’t quite right, and after a visit to the doctor and several follow-up calls with the nurses, my dreams broke into a thousand little pieces and the pregnancy was declared over.  Where there was once fullness and joy, there was now sorrow and grief.  Deep, sobbing, soul-shaking grief.  Over the previous two weeks, we had already become so attached to the little one, nicknaming it “Poppyseed” once we’d read that an embryo at that stage is the size of one of those little black specks. I had started imagining the ways we’d transform our extra bedroom into a nursery, I was wandering into the baby section of department stores, and I would fall asleep at night with Shane’s hand on my stomach, dreaming of him as a father and our moms and dads as proud grandparents.  But for reasons far beyond our human understanding, this particular baby wasn’t meant to be.  Damn.  Damn, damn, damn.

I looked in the mirror this morning and couldn’t stop myself from picturing what things would be like if Poppyseed hadn’t been lost. My belly would be big and round. Or I might have a wee little baby in my arms, swaddled in warm blankets and nuzzled against my chest. It made my heart ache.  But there is hope in the midst of sorrow, and so much love in the midst of grief.  So I’ll cling to the hope and the love and be thankful for the plans God has for us.  But I will also shed tears  for the baby we’ll never know.

There’s a part of me that wants to dislike Valentine’s Day – I know it’s become a “Hallmark Holiday”, full of commercialism and consumption and cheeseball sayings on little candy hearts.  But here’s the problem when it comes to me hatin’ on V-day:  I’m married to a man that decided to surprise me with a decadent French dinner at Chloe tonight and hold my hands across the table and be all romantic and stuff.  And really, who am I to turn down champagne and mussels and sorbet-topped meringue?  So I’m putting aside any bah-humbug feelings and embracing the mushy-lovey-dippy-doo.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Schnell.  It was fun to get out on the town and be all fancy-pants with you (and it’s also fun to sit here in our PJs and catch up on the Daily Show).  I heart you mucho.

The past couple days might very well go down as one of the best weekends of 2012.  I know, it’s still early in the year, so I might be jumping the gun, but we did some serious lovin’ life and livin’ large this weekend.  On Friday afternoon, we hit the road with Jack and La Verne and headed east to snowy Leavenworth for a big-bash weekend to celebrate Jack’s birthday.  La Verne had found an amazing house and loaded the car with food and wine, and from the moment we opened the door, set our bags down, and watched Jack pop the sugar-crusted slow-roasted pork in the oven for dinner, I knew: this would be epic.  The rest of the party people trickled in as the evening went on, and by 10:00, all fourteen of us were sitting around the living room, enjoying the warmth of a fire and the company of good friends.

It was dark when we arrived on Friday evening, so I was happily surprised when I awoke on Saturday and found that the house was perched on a ridge overlooking a river on one side a pear orchard on the other, in the midst of serene, snowy, pine-covered mountains.  I took one look out the huge living room windows and was ready to move in.

In addition to the incredible views, the house came with its very own ukelele – I couldn’t resist snapping a pic as La Verne strummed its strings and Shane gazed pensively out the window.  Such a Zen kind of morning…

A few of the guys headed out to hit the slopes at Stevens while the rest of us cozied up for a day at the house.  I changed out of my pajamas around 11 am and did a little yoga with La Verne and Alice, then showered, napped, read, had a living room dance party with little Gryffin and Isaiah (I would understand if Nancy never forgives me for introducing her boys to Britney Spears…), and generally reveled in the joy of a warm mountain cabin.  The clouds parted in the afternoon and Shane and I took a short walk to check out the orchard and the amazing little terrace overlooking the river.  We sat on a bench and took in the view while the sun warmed our faces – it was, in a word, perfection.

We all convened in the kitchen once the skiers got home and feasted on hearty helpings of spaghetti and meatballs – this was Mike and Alice’s first weekend away with the group, and I believe Mike used the phrase “eating like kings” at some point.  Welcome to life with Jack and La Verne, dude!  It’s goooooood.

We sat around the table and ate and played games and drank and laughed, eventually making our way to the living room to build a fire and sprawl out on the couches and floor for more laughter and story-telling.  Sometimes I wish I had a tape recorder for our bizarre, hilarious late-night conversations.  Then again, some things are better left unrecorded…  I went to bed that night with abs sore from so much giggling.

Sadly, we had to check out on Sunday morning, but not before enjoying a few more precious moments in the snow.

I’m so glad I documented Brian’s beard-stache combo while it lasted – he showed up on the doorstep on Friday night in a brightly wrapped box, and when Nicole told Jack to open his present, he found…this:  Brian had carved away at his beard and styled his facial hair extra-fancy just for Jack (who has admitted to a total inability to cultivate anything more than a patchy fuzz on his own baby-skinned face).  Sometimes you have to get creative when gift-giving for the man who has everything – well done, Brian.  Well done.

The birthday boy and his rockstar wife…

We stopped in the town of Leavenworth on our way home, saddened to have said good-bye to our party pad, but finding consolation in beer, brats, and gelato.

We made it back to rainy Seattle mid-afternoon, the weather here fitting for the post-party funk I quickly fell into.  On the bright side, I have so much to be thankful for in the friendships we’ve found in this funny, close-knit, brilliant group of people.  We have already declared this trip an annual tradition – and I’m counting down the days to 2013.

It’s been too long since we’ve seen those darling little girlies, so we headed down to Portland yesterday morning for a couple of days of  catching up with my brother’s family.  It was a quick trip, but so good for my soul – Elise and Morgan continue to be lights of my life, and I’m so, so thankful for our quality time with Mitch and Kathryn.

It was a sunshiny afternoon when we arrived and we were eager to get in a quick run to the playground before naptime.  Morgan is suddenly very quick on her feet – gone are the days of her scooting around on her chubby little arms and legs (sigh).  And Elise is nearly impossible to keep up with – that little lady’s abundance of energy astounds me.

We played hard, and then rested hard.  Uncle Shane tucked Elise in for her nap, and Morgan snuggled up with me in the living room.  Best feeling ever.

Kathryn booked a sitter for the evening and so the grown-ups went out for a night on the town.  We feasted on Indian food while chatting about family and travel and current events – I feel so lucky that the four of us enjoy each other’s company so much.  It’s a good, good thing when the family and friends are one and the same.

I love waking up to the sound of the girls chatting on Sunday mornings, getting out of bed and poking my head into the kitchen, where I’m greeted with smiles and sweetness and plans for a day of fun and play.

I promised Elise a special treat from the neighborhood coffee shop, so we bundled up and headed over to Posies for bagels and orange juice.

Elise was intent on stopping at the park on the way home, and so we spent awhile playing on the swings (huge hit), testing out the teeter-totter (not a huge hit), and climbing/crawling/sliding on the jungle gym.  Shane takes the cake as best swing-pusher ever – Elise squealed in delight as he propelled her from behind, from in front, and from…below.  Silly Uncle Shane.

We went back to the house and tea-partied and read and played music – Elise sang her own rendition of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed and strummed her guitar.  Mitch has high hopes for this one.

Morgan’s not quite ready for sing-a-longs yet, but what she lacks in verbal skills she makes up for in facial expressions.  Her winning grin is a guaranteed heart-melter.

Praise God for family and babies and Indian food and sunshine.  Life is grand.

Yesterday marked the end of our annual month-long practice in frugality.  31 days of no eating out, no shopping, no spending outside of regular bill-paying and grocery-buying.  It was a loooong January…  It’s tempting to ramble on about the things I missed or craved or bitterly denied myself, but I have to remember what a blessing it is that we do this out of choice rather than necessity.  The fact of the matter is this: we live a very charmed life.  So I’m looking back on the month with a couple of lessons learned, a couple of goals for the coming months, and a whole heap of gratitude for the multitude of blessings we enjoy that money can’t buy.

First, Starbucks is a non-necessary evil.  There are three Starbucks stores within one block of my office, and I had developed a habit of making not one, but often two trips in a day to indulge in a latte or Americano.  Not so much for the caffeine fix, but because I liked the routine of it – I liked the mid-afternoon break, the smile from my friendly barista, the warmth of that white-and-green cup in my hands as I walked back to my office.  And yet, I was surprised to find that I hardly missed my visits to the old ‘Bux around the corner last month.  The office tea cupboard is well-stocked, and let’s be real – that barista I felt so attached to didn’t even know my name.

Second, eliminating eating out from your diet usually results in a caloric decrease – weight loss may indeed a positive side effect of frugality!  However, if you’re baking chocolate chip banana bread and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting to pull yourself through the long, restaurant-less weeks, don’t even bother stepping on that scale.  Damn.

Third, it pays to rummage.  There were several days when my meal planning went amiss and we were left scratching our heads, staring at the cupboards and complaining that there was nothing to eat.  But when faced with the challenge, I unearthed the fixin’s for some pretty good meals – pasta with marinara sauce, curry noodle soup, veggie stir-fry’s.  Then there were the nights that I ate an apple and peanut butter with a side of chips and salsa for dinner.  Don’t judge.

Fourth, sharing a home-cooked meal with good friends at a dining room table beats sitting in a crowded restaurant (almost) any day.  We shared meals with our fellow frugal-ites (it’s become something of a movement among our friends!) almost every Sunday this month, and it was grand.  When at home, you linger longer, you get to pick the music playing in the background, and you can wear yoga pants and slipper socks at the table.  Nice!  Spending time in the warm and cozy kitchens of friends was what made feel the month feel not-so-bad.

We’re determined that this practice of discipline will influence how we think about consumption over the coming year – it’s not just about saving money, it’s about being more mindful of the “needs” vs. “wants” vs. “shoulds and should-nots”.  Lucky for me, my lunchtime burrito bowl with a side of chips qualified on all counts.  T.G.I.February.