Archive for September, 2008

I really wanted to like this book – the fantastical story of a group of kids that travels through alternate worlds in a mission to for the sake of saving summer (and all of humanity).  I figured Summerland would be the perfect summer read.  But, yawn.  I had a hard time getting through this one.  It was slow, the writing seemed disjointed and inconsistent, and I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters.  And I knew I wasn’t into this book by page 30.  Yet I insisted on persevering all the way through to page 500.  I have this compulsion about finishing a book once I start it, even if I’m not the least bit taken with what I’m reading.  I used to think this was a positive trait, but I’m realizing now how much time I actually end up spending/wasting on this stuff that I don’t even enjoy.  Is there any shame in putting a book away after only a couple of chapters?  Maybe not.  Especially when I think about how many other fantastic pieces of literature I could be discovering in the meantime.  And so I’m going to have to rethink my stance on “finish what you start” when it comes to novels.  Sometimes the perseverance just isn’t worth it.

Shane and I have been talking about a getaway over to Eastern Washington’s wine country for awhile now, so when Jack and LaVerne invited us to head over to Walla Walla with them for the weekend, I thought, “Good wine?  Fantastic weather?  Time with good friends?  Yes, Please!”  And we were off…

Our first stop on Saturday was at Hightower Cellars in Red Mountain.  The wines there were good, but I found myself particularly taken with this wall constructed out of planks cut from old barrels.  Very cool.

From Red Mountain, we headed farther east and made a stop at L’Ecole No. 41.  This was a very cool spot – the tasting facility was set in an old schoolhouse.  Very charming.  Again I found myself spending more time looking at the building than actually tasting the wines, but that would soon change.  My palette had only been teased at this point, although we were certainly on our way to having an absolutely fantastic day.  Look at those smiles…

After L’Ecole, we headed farther east to an area just south of Walla Walla.  This was where we really started getting into the good stuff.  We popped into a tiny little winery called a’Maurice and I tasted a Viognier that made my eyes get wide and my taste buds go, “Wow!”  K Vintners had a Syrah I really enjoyed and a farmhouse that Shane and I are hoping to retire in one day.  And Waters Winery had a Cab that I will probably dream about next time we are craving a good glass of wine on a chilly Seattle evening.  We hit a lot of wineries and tasted a lot of wine that day (I believe the final tally was 30 pours!), but we somehow still managed to take things slow and soak in the beautiful scenery and warm Walla Walla sunshine.

The fruit on the vines was full and plump and ripe for the picking.  Many of the vineyards were just beginning their crush.  I was glad we were able to see the vines while many of them still held grapes – a vineyard just doesn’t quite seem like a vineyard without these purply clusters.

We kicked off Sunday with a trip to the Walla Walla farmer’s market.  The market was small, but was stocked with some fantastic deals on produce.  We walked away with a heavy sack of plums for $3, and Jack and LaVerne purchased several pounds of tomatoes for just a couple of dollars.  Walla Walla has such a small-town feel to it – quiet, quaint, and full of very friendly people.  The real charm of the town really shone through when the old, slightly overweight Elvis impersonator jumped onto the small market stage and begain his round of Elvis tunes adn 11 a.m.  No one batted an eyelash, as if this were perfectly typical town entertainment.  I have to say, the guy wasn’t half-bad.  And his bright blue, bell-bottomed jumpsuit was an impressive fashion statement.

We hit three more wineries that day, concluding our whirlwind trip with a tour of Col Solare Vineyards in Red Mountain.  We got the insider’s scoop and were able to check out the wine tanks, the cellar, and stroll among the vines.  The view from the winery’s terrace was stunning, and the sun that hit us as we stood there was so wonderfully intense.  I was reminded of California for a moment.

This was such a perfect little weekend jaunt.  I definitely have some work to do on my palette – I don’t feel like I can pick up the subleties of what makes a certain wine really special – but if practice makes perfect, I’m willing to do my homework on this one…

I have been getting a good dose of the arts lately – orchestra concert last week, Phantom of the Opera this week, and plans to enjoy Seattle’s art walk/gallery night next week.  I do love living in the city…

The orchestra concert was fantastic.  Shane has been developing a taste for classical music, being the sophisticated man that he is, so when our friend La Verne informed us that she would be playing with Orchestra Seattle downtown one evening, we jumped at the chance to attend.  The “headliner” was a Chinese violinist who totally blew me away.  In an instant, he could go from touching the strings with such perfect, light gentleness to playing them with a force that was almost violent with power and emotion.  I enjoyed the music so much that I was nearly inspired to go home and pull out the flute I’ve neglected for the last 12 years.  But I thought about it some more and chose not to attempt to relive my junior high band days – those were rather dark times for me…  I’ll leave the music-making to the people with talent.

Last night was “Phantom” night.  Emily and I headed over the Paramount for some good musical drama while our husbands headed over to Safeco for a baseball game.  And I have to say, those guys missed out.  What a show!  The staging was absolutely incredible.  Falling chandeliers; extravagant costumes; a candle-lit, smoke-filled scene to replicate the Phantom’s eerie underworld…  This was a top-notch production, no holds barred.  And I was so impressed by the caliber of the singing.  The woman who starred as Christine Daae hit notes that made my ears ring (in a good way).  The only drawback was that the sung dialogue was a bit hard to decipher at times, but the emotions behind each scene were so evident that it was easy enough to follow the plot.  I do say, I should try to make it to the theatre more often.  Rather.

And next week is gallery night, which should round out the art appreciation kick that I’m on.  Good, good stuff happening in Seattle these days.

Last night Shane and I went to the first class of a 3-part series our church is offering entitled “Faith and Gender.”  A broad topic, yes, but something that certainly pertains to me, since I am a woman of faith who is trying to understand what it means to actually live as a woman of faith.  The discussions last night made me realize that it’s been awhile since I’ve engaged in and wrestled with any deep spiritual, biblical, relational issues.  It feels good to struggle with opposing beliefs and ideas.  But it’s overwhelming, too, and so tempting to simply say “pass” when God calls on me to stretch and solidify my beliefs.  It is alarmingly easy to let one’s faith become stagnant.  And “stagnant” is not a word I want used to describe my thoughts, relationships, or beliefs.  So I’m taking the opportunity to step up to the plate and wrestle with this issue.

I am frustratingly stuck on the question, “How do a woman’s and a man’s roles differ in a Godly marriage?”  I know that Shane is in charge of mowing the lawn and I am in charge of grocery shopping, but our definition of roles can’t just be reduced to a simple task list.  Some would even argue that there should be no difference between male and female roles in a healthy marriage, but I tend to disagree.  I do sincerely believe that a husband is called to lead.  “Leading” is not an exertion of power, but it is a willingness to be held accountable.  It is not about the man “getting his way” – leading often means making sacrifices, compromising, putting his wife’s or children’s needs above his own.  And a woman who is “led” is by no means weak, timid, or constrained.  She should still have a strong voice, a sense of independence, and utmost confidence in herself.  These are things I hold to be true – a man is called to lead sacrificially, and a woman is meant to follow walk alongside him, while still retaining a sense of value and self-worth.  But I’m having such a hard time understanding what this really looks like, particularly in my own marriage.  Am I allowing myself to be led by Shane?  Is he even offering to lead?  In times when Shane is weak, or lost, or “stagnant”, is it my job to step up and lead?  What does “leading” even mean?  Is it about decision-making?  Providing?  Accountability?  So many questions…  I’m not expecting absolute resolution – it is the growth that comes from the process of seeking that is so formative, but still, it would be nice to be able to translate my vague doctrines into quantifiable actions.  And so, I will ponder/struggle/wrestle/explore.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Shane and I left town for the weekend and came back to find that the leaves on our tree out back are rapidly changing from green to orange.  Though the fall colors are beautiful, I can’t help but panic a little bit: is summer really over?  Are the days of short-sleeved shirts and sunglasses already behind us?  And what about all those summer trips we were supposed to take and those summer projects I was supposed to complete?  I become discouraged when I think of all that I didn’t do…  But then I look back on this blog and see all that I did do (camping, canoeing, test-taking, seeing Vancouver for the first time, planting, redecorating, visiting my best friend, sketching, bonding with my niece), and I feel encouraged and motivated to keep planning, keep doing, keep seeing.  No, I didn’t finish that painting I wanted to get done, and no, we didn’t make it over to Eastern Washington for our wine-tasting weekend, but I have a whole new season ahead of me to continue working on that to-do list.  There’s no sense in fighting the onset of autumn, so I suppose I may as well embrace it.  Soon I will be making butternut squash soup, pulling those comfy sweaters out of the closet, putting the garden hose away as nature takes over our watering for us.  Sometimes it’s all about looking for the silver lining (you might be hearing a different tune from me on our 97th straight day of drizzle, but for now, I am remaining positive and optimistic).

Shane and I returned this afternoon from a weekend down at my parents’ house in LaPine, Oregon (25 miles south of Bend), and though the 6-hour drive was long, the trip was well worth it.  Some of our best times down there are when we just hang around the house – Shane and my dad will engage in a die-hard ping-pong match while my mom and I contentedly knit together on the couch – but it’s also fun to get out and do some exploring.  Friday was nature day, as we drove over to Falls River and did some wandering along the riverbank.  I snapped photos, Shane skipped rocks, and we all did what we could to soak in every last drop of the quickly-vanishing summer.

Saturday we sacrificed a walk in the woods for a stroll through the posh streets of Bend.  I am becoming quite taken with this town: lots of wonderful little cafes and restaurants, a beautiful park that borders the Deschutes River, and several of those want-inducing, but all-too-expensive, trendy boutiques.  We spent some time wine-tasting at a cozy Italian restaurant and then walked through the park along the water, stopping to admire the beautiful homes that border the river.  I have a feeling that Bend will be even bigger next time we visit – hopefully it continues to climb the cool-factor charts as well…

Last night we enjoyed a quiet evening at the house, reading, knitting, ping-ponging.  I convinced my dad to build a fire in the wood-burning stove (whether or not it was really cold enough for a fire was debatable, but he humored me nonetheless), and I found such pleasure in just lounging around with my family.

It was hard to leave after only two days there, but such is the life of a working couple, I suppose…

Today could not have been more beautiful.  We knew that we had to take advantage that of the last bits warm sunshine that summer is bestowing upon us, and so we rented a canoe and spent the afternoon paddling around Lake Washington.  We weaved our way back into the arboretum and found ourselves in a wonderfully green, perfectly serene, little corner of the world.  There was a point when Shane turned back and said to me, “Don’t you feel like we’re in Lord of the Rings?”  Yes, I did!  The beauty of it all was almost surreal.  On days like this, my love for Seattle is so strongly reaffirmed.  Lovely.

Haven’t posted lately, for I’m in the depths of studying for architectural licensing test #5, coming up on Saturday.   Have I mentioned just how intensely I’ve come to dislike studying for these things?  Oh yeah, I have…  Well, let me reiterate:  there are so many other things I’d rather be doing right now!  Reading good books (NOT the Architect’s Handbook for Professional Practice), sketching cool stuff (NOT below-grade waterproofing details), curling up on the couch with my husband (NOT with my building materials flash cards).  I’m praying for good weather on Sunday, for I’m declaring it an offical celebratory play day!  (I desperately need something to look forward to, as I wade through the last of my stack of study materials.)  How would you spend a commitment-free, wide-open day in Seattle?

Shane and I returned yesterday from a quick trip to Portland, and once again, I am already dying to get back down there to spend more time with my niece.  She is such a good-natured, lovable, beautiful little girl.  She is growing so quickly, changing with each trip, smiling more, babbling more, becoming more animated in her facial expressions and movements.  And it’s been so fun to see the effect that parenthood has had on my brother and sister-in-law.  I never doubted that Mitch would be a fantastic dad, but still, it’s surprising and wonderful to see him hold his little girl with such tenderness.  Then again, who couldn’t help but to be absolutely melted by a face like this?

top pot stairs (08.08.08):

whirly landscape (08.14.08):

spindly forest (08.20.08):

word trees (08.31.08):