Archive for November, 2008

This is the first year that I’m trying my hand at some handmade Christmas presents.  We exchanged gifts with Shane’s family on Thanksgiving, and it was nice to watch people unwrap things that I had made specially for them.

Slippers for Shane’s mom: Made with a soft, washable cotton blend yarn.  I made a pair of these for myself a few months ago (pattern found here), and I can tell you that they are guaranteed to keep your feet toasty.

Scarf was for Shane’s sister:  Made a super-soft silvery bamboo blend yarn, paired with a bronze ribbon that was used as a second strand.  Cozy, pretty, and hopefully perfect for those Minnesota winters…

I’m such a sucker for these female-solidarity, strong-women-making-it-on-their-own types of novels.  Charms for the Easy Life is the story of a girl, her mother, and her grandmother living life together during the trying times of World War II.  These women are unlike anyone you’ve ever met, but still somehow incredibly real.  The grandmother is this headstrong, quirky doctor without a license who removes warts at dinner parties and always speaks her mind.  The mother is dramatic and glamorous.  And the daughter is quiet, bright, and a thoughtful narrator.  This was a beautiful story – heartfelt, but not sappy, and cleverly balanced with humor and drama.  Two thumbs up.

It feels good to be back in Seattle, but I am more and more coming to appreciate the small-town charms and natural beauty of rural Minnesota.  There are so many things that set it apart from city living.  For example, you don’t see signs like this at the sporting goods store in downtown Seattle:

Seriously, though, small-town living does have its charm.  It was strange to go to the mall with Shane’s mom and sister and see them run into at least 10 people that they knew.  It’s very rare that Shane and I run into people we know downtown, and never do we run into anyone that we’ve known for the last 20 years.  Traffic seems non-existent, people are friendly, and there is something very sustainable about filling your freezer with the fruits of your hunting and fishing expeditions (although I don’t think I’ll ever be much of a hunter, I can appreciate this form of “living off the land”).  And the scenery is beautiful.  The golden fields of corn and wheat are lovely in their sparseness, and it seems you can’t drive more than a mile without coming across a lake.  I loved hopping in the car with Shane and going for destination-less drives, just enjoying the countryside.

I’d say my heart still belongs to the city, but this is a perfect place to get away, relax, and enjoy time with family.

Today was our last full day here in Minnesota, and I would definitely say that we’re ending our trip on a high note.  Our bellies are full, the dishes are done, the games are put away, the kids have gone home to bed, and I’m taking a moment to reflect on just how wonderfully blessed I am.  I’m filled with this sense of such pure contentment. 

I am so thankful for my family (both blood relatives and in-laws).  I missed my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my niece today, but I could not imagine feeling any more at home than I do here at Shane’s parents house.  They continually amaze me with their generosity and graciousness.  Shane’s sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew are such a blessing to us in the way that they live out life as a loving family.  How lucky I am that “holidays with the in-laws” is something I look forward to and cherish.

I’m thankful for our health.  Shane and I are looking forward to getting up on Saturday morning and going for a nice, long run together (the freezing weather here in Minnesota has prohibited much outdoor activity for the past week).  We should not take for granted the fact that we have both the ability and the desire to get out and be active together.

I’m thankful for our home, which day by day, comes closer to “home” in the truest sense of the word.

I’m thankful for the time and the will that I have to pursue my interests and hobbies.  I am gradually becoming more well-read, I am sharpening my skills as a photographer, and I am developing my artistic gifts.  I find such satisfaction in these small, but quite meaningful, accomplishments.

I am thankful for our financial security.  May God lay peace on the hearts of those who are struggling to keep their heads above water during these times of economic uncertainty.

I am thankful for the very close-knit group of friends we’ve come to know through our church.  I am constantly amazed by the talent and blessed by the thoughtfulness of these people that have done so much to make us feel rooted in Seattle.  Community is a valuable, beautiful thing.  And we’re living it.

I am thankful for Shane.  To think that I ever wondered whether or not this was the man I was supposed to marry.  He continues to impress me with his generosity, his ambition, and his unfailing, 100%, all-out commitment to our relationship.  I could sit here and wonder what I did to deserve the love of this man, but my list would always come up short.  That’s the beauty of our marriage - I don’t “deserve” his love, but he lavishes it upon me anyway.

May God bless all of you.  And may we remember to say “thanks” daily (rather than annually).

I took another licensing exam on Wednesday night, which meant that my weekends and evenings prior to that were filled with studying.  Many nights, I fell asleep with my flashcards in my hands or my study guide propped up on my chest.  Notes and books were strewn about the living room.  From the minute I schedule an exam, it becomes a constant, nagging weight on my shoulders.  What a relief to have another test over with and to be able to put that stuff away for a little while!  Thursday night, I reveled in the bliss of an obligation-free evening and spent some time knitting, baking, and returning a couple of overdue phone calls.  Made a batch of peanut brittle and finished up a knitted Christmas gift.  Called my best friend and chatted with her for nearly an hour.  That’s the upside of all these tests and all this studying – when I do have free time, I tend to want to make the most of it.  I don’t spend too many nights just vegging out in front of the TV anymore (although there certainly are times when vegging is completely necessary and acceptable).  It feels good to get back into my neglected hobbies, even if this break may be short-lived.

Saturday night I tore myself away from my study materials (sweet relief!) and Shane and I headed over to Capitol Hill to enjoy an evening of live music.  We bought tickets a few weeks ago for the “Hotel Cafe Tour” solely because we are both big fans of Rachel Yamagata, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the four other artists on tour with her were extremely (though not equally) talented.  Meiko opened the show and was charming and beautiful, with her incredibly sweet voice.  She makes strumming the guitar look deceivingly effortless.  Emily Wells has this very cool hip-hop/violin/live-mixing-chamber thing going on.  With the use of a recorder and some fancy equipment, she layers her vocals over her violin over a deep hip-hop beat to create this fascinating “one person symphony”.  I was entranced.  Lenka was good, though quite bubbly, and possibly a little too Feist-like.  I like Feist, but I also like originality.  Thao Nguyen was so much fun to watch, with the way she bopped around stage with her guitar.  She reminded me a little of Bjork, but still had her own thing gong on.  She’s one of those singers that can “scream” and still make it sound musical.  And then there was Rachel Yamagata.  This woman blows me away.  She can sit at a piano and woo you with her deep, bluesy voice, and then stand up and rock out on her guitar like the bad-ass that she is.  All in all, a very good show.  And it was nice to see something in a small venue like Chop Suey – we weren’t more than 15 feet from the stage.  The performer-audience interaction that comes with such a small space adds a lot to the experience.

All of that said, I have a confession: I am not perfectly cut out for this whole hip live music scene.  After two hours of standing in the middle of the crowd on the beer-splashed concrete floor, my feet began to hurt, my back began to ache, and I became increasingly irritated by all of the concert-goers around me.  I was annoyed by the guy standing next to me who keep swaying to the music and bumping into my shoulder.  This dude in front of me with the biggest hair ever kept blocking my view of the stage.  I started to wish that I’d worn shoes that were more orthopedically supportive, rather than my cute little ballet flats.  And I was hot, desperately wanting some fresh air, but not wanting to give up my spot so close to the stage.  Tiredness set in around 11:30, and I was trying to hide the fact that I couldn’t help yawning every 10 minutes.  Is it possible that at the young age of 27, I have become so un-hip that I can’t thoroughly enjoy a two and a half-hour set?  Are Shane and I resigned to a lifetime of spending Saturday nights at home, eating ice cream in our pj’s?  Hopefully not (though I do love our weekend pajama parties…).  I’ll pretend I’m cool for at least another couple of years.

I’ve been trying my hand at baking lately – the cool weather is upon us and there are few things I love more right now than the feel of a cozy kitchen, filled with the warmth of the oven and the smells of baked goodies.  Last Saturday was a perfect “pie day”, with the rain falling outside and the stores full of freshly harvested Washington apples.  We had a couple of friends over and spent the afternoon chopping apples, rolling out homemade crusts, and then anxiously awaiting the moment when the pie would be pulled out the oven and ready for sampling.  And it was so worth the wait.  The crust was flaky and warm and buttery and so melt-in-your-mouth yummy.  And the apples were the perfect balance of soft, yet still just slightly crispy, spiced with just enough nutmeg and cinnamon.  My own little slice of autumn goodness, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and cup of hot tea.  I would say my first attempt at a from-scratch pie was a smashing success.  (And, I was able to cross #2 off my list.)

This weekend is cookie weekend – the dilemma now is “oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip”?  Decisions…

This was a really simple project, but something new for me – I had never made (or worn) a cowl before.  I’m pleased with the results, though it did end up being a little more “drapy” than I’d planned – I was hoping for something that would have a little more stiffness.  Next time I’ll use a chunkier yarn that will hold its shape more.  Nonetheless, it’s cute and super-soft.  I wore it to work yesterday and received a couple of pride-inducing compliments on it, although one of my coworkers did refer to it as a “dickie” (those weird half-shirt things that people would wear under sweaters or blazers – think 80’s news reporter with big hair and shoulder-pads).  I was quick to correct him.

Excuse the pics – I was not in the mood for playing model today, and so I draped the cowl around my favorite vase rather than my neck for the photo shoot.  You get the idea…

Details:  Pattern found in Joelle Hoverson’s Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.   Knitted using size 6 circular needles and a fingering weight baby alpaca yarn (so soft!).

I know my blog has been kind of “foliage-focused” lately, but I can’t help myself – I am absolutely obsessed with the colors of the fall this year.  This morning, I noticed the large number of leaves littering the sidewalks and lawns and realized that this weekend might be one of my last chances to capture this autumn season in all its glory.  So despite the drizzle, I grabbed my camera and headed out to the Japanese garden in the arboretum (thank you, Jon and La Verne, for the inspiration!).

Proof that these leaves won’t be around much longer…

I’m afraid I was already a little too late in certain instances…

Is it really possible that December is just around the corner?  This shot sure makes Seattle look “wintry”…

p.s.  Special thanks to Shane for the super-awesome lens that he bought me for my camera last month.  It’s serving me well!

Liking color these days.  And the use of tightly spaced lines to create texture.  I’ve also been playing around with stitching on paper, kind of “drawing” with a needle and thread.  Lots of ideas floating around in this head of mine, though it seems I never have all the time I’d like to flush them out on paper…  And it seems I can’t ever quite match the physical drawing to the image in my head.  Got to keep thinking of this sketchbook as a work-in-progress.

view through the trees (10.05.2008):

happyland (10.13.2008):

blue and yellow make green (10.28.2008):