Archive for December, 2011

I put together our 2012 calendar today, which involved sifting through the past year’s photos and selecting snapshots of our favorite 2011 moments.  And I know I say this every year, but dang, it’s been a good year.  This has probably been our biggest travel year ever, with vacations in Florida, Chicago/Minneapolis, and Europe, and lots of little weekend getaways to places like San Francisco, Vancouver, and Portland.  We’ve shared countless meals with close friends, we’ve made special trips to connect with family, we’ve felt our hearts overflow with love, both given and received.  I’ve drawn and painted, I’ve cooked new things, I’ve enjoyed successes and new opportunities at work.  I’ve laughed a lot.  But there have also been moments when big, dark clouds overtook our happy, sunny skies – there have been times this year when we’ve felt deep, deep loss, when our hearts have broken for friends and family that are going through things we can’t fix.  There have been times when I’ve cried to God, asked him “why?” and heard nothing but silence.  And then I take my fingers out of my ears and remember His faithfulness – He reminds me of his presence time and again, in a hug from Shane, in an encouraging note from a friend, in a spectacular sunset or park full of autumn leaves.  Indeed, I have much to be thankful for.

Tonight we’ll close out the year with friends and champagne here at home.  There may be a dance party involved.  There will definitely be plenty of laughter and joy.  Peace out, 2011.  It’s been real.

As much as I loved being home for the holidays, we were all ready for a little mini-break once Christmas was over, so on Monday morning Shane, his parents, and I hopped in the car and headed north to catch the ferry to Victoria.  Almost six hours later, we checked into our lovely rooms at Magnolia Hotel and set out in search of lunch.  We ended up at Bard and Banker for some pub-style fare and then spent some time wandering through downtown’s charming little streets.

As soon as the sun set, I was eager to check out the Inner Harbor, since I’ve heard the Christmas lights there are beautiful.  Indeed, it was like a different world at night – the distinguished, old Parliament building took on the character of a gingerbread house, and the dreary, wet streets we’d walked that afternoon now glittered with brightly colored reflections.

We stuffed ourselves with a seafood dinner and then called it a night – I kept my fingers crossed that I’d awake to blue skies the following morning, so that we could see Victoria really shine during the day.  No such luck…

Yep – gray, gray skies and rain all day on Tuesday.  We did the scenic drive along the coast and marveled at the huge water-view houses, and then took refuge from the rain for another cozy pub lunch, this time at the Sticky Wicket.

And rain be damned, no vacation is complete without gelato, so we had one final stop to make before making the long trek home.

It was a perfectly mellow little trip – comfort food in cozy restaurants, Christmas lights strung on trees and buildings and boats, and quality time with family.  Pretty good stuff, eh?

Merry, indeed.  Our day was full of food, family, football, and plenty of quality rest and holiday cheer.  We ate until we could eat no more (a nine-pound ham, a mound of mashed potatoes, gravy, glazed carrots, brussel sprouts, stuffing, buns, apple pie and pumpkin pie – whew!), we opened gifts, we Skyped with family, we lounged while Shane indulged in an NBA marathon, we ate some more, and then we filled our fridge with Tupperware towers of leftovers.  Shane’s mom and dad have settled into our place, and our home has never felt warmer, with the smell of apple pie wafting in the air and the sound of family memories being recounted in the living room.

Happy Holidays, friends – tidings of comfort and deepest joy from the Schnells!


Dear God,

It’s Christmas Eve – I’m sitting here in the quiet of our living room, reflecting on how abundantly you’ve blessed me. I’m so thankful for family near and far, for our warm home, for our church, for our community of friends. I deserve so little, yet you’ve given me so much. And yet, I come here with one more favor to ask. I’m asking you to take my heart and allow it to soak in the true meaning of Christmas. I want to fully experience the joy and anticipation that was felt at the birth of Christ. I want the carols I’ve sung for years to really ring true for me – I want to hear heaven and nature sing, to see shepherds quake at first sight, to fall on my knees and hear the angel voices. I want to witness Mary’s unavailing courage and strength, to feel the amazement of the shepherds as the heavenly host appeared to them. I want to remember that the Christmas story isn’t just a story; that silent, holy night really, truly happened and changed the world forever. I know, I’ll never experience the smell of that manger, see that bright and shining star, hear that little baby’s cries; but God, somehow, in your divine power, let my heart be there. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”


I don’t know if it’s the warm glow of our Christmas tree, or the addition of some really good stuff to our Netflix queue (have you seen Breaking Bad? o.m.g.…), or the way I fit just right in the corner of our new leather sectional, but I am especially loving home and its abundance of comforts these days. I’m loving homemade cookies and cups of hot chocolate, cranking up my Christmas mix on the stereo and sitting by our tree laden with so many memory-filled ornaments. I didn’t go into work on Monday, thinking I’d get a jump start on the cleaning and grocery shopping before Shane’s parents arrive on Friday, but instead I spent the entire day camped out on the sofa with my knitting and my book, just wanting to soak in the quiet joy of being at home during this Advent season. Home…that word used to conjure up feelings of uncertainty and a longing for times past, having lost my connection to my childhood house when my parents left California; now that word brings so much comfort and contentedness, as we more deeply root ourselves in Seattle year by year. Shane and I are continually reassured that we are just where we’re meant to be, in our cozy little South Seattle town home, surrounded by neighbors we trust and friends we adore, with a bakery nearby that serves the best ginger scone I’ve ever tasted and a pizza place that has redefined our understanding of thin crust (I know, it sounds like I’m putting baked goods and pizza up there with neighbors and friends, and…I am. hehe.). I’ve had a couple of friends make big moves lately, leaving Seattle for the sunny beaches of San Diego, and I felt small pangs of envy as they left, wanting to resist the fact that at the age of 30, I’m already “all settled down”. But really, settled feels pretty good for us right now. There really is no place like home for the holidays.

I’ve been watching the count on my blog entries tick up and up, and today marks a bit of a milestone:  welcome to post #400!  When I started this blog four years ago, it was largely because I wanted an incentive to seek interesting experiences and to document those experiences in interesting ways.  I’m sure that many people blog because they travel, or they make things, or they think deep thoughts, and they want to share that with the world.  Sounds strange, but I was hoping that the inverse would hold true for me – I was in a rut, and I was thinking that I would go more places, be more creative, do more cool stuff because I blog.  Nobody follows a blog full of entries that read, “today was just like yesterday, and tomorrow will be just like today”, right?  To some degree, my backwards logic has worked – I look for ways to make my weekends interesting (and often fail, but whatever), I feel motivated to take on a creative project when I realize how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything in the ‘made’ category, and I take lots more photos now that I have an avenue by which to share them.  And that’s all good stuff; now Shane and I have this nice little record of our trips and our Seattle experiences and our time with friends and family.

But lately, I’m feeling a tug to dig a little deeper.  There’s not a lot of soul-baring going on around here, which is partly due to the fact that I’m still navigating just how personal I want to be in a journal entry that starts with “www.”, but also due to the fact that I rarely make an effort to check in with myself, to put the brakes on, turn down the noise, and think about how I’m really doing.  My posts center around what I did, read, saw, or made, because when I’m not in go-mode, I prefer to just shut off my mind completely, finding my restoration in an hour of napping or TV vegging.  I’m so inspired by the talent some of my closest friends have for bravely, articulately sharing their hearts on their online journals – I want to write with that kind of emotion and honesty and introspection.  So consider this an early New Years resolution: I want to get real.  Sure, you’ll still find plenty of frilly photos and mundane weekend updates popping up around here, but ultimately I’ll be striving to make this place a better reflection of who I am, and not just what I do.  Sheesh – just writing that I want to write more honestly makes me nervous!  This will be be a process, folks – bear (and bare?) with me.

I’ve said it before – I really, really love traditions.  And I especially love sharing those traditions with close friends, our “Seattle family”, watching our relationships change and grow from year to year.  I also love a good party, paired with copious amounts of chocolate and cheese, so when our annual c-group fondue party rolls around each year, I am pumped.  And this year certainly did not disappoint.

We made one minor modification this time around and changed our “post-fondue 5k” to a “pre-fondue 5k”, so the festivities kicked off yesterday morning, when the tried and true met at Seward Park and set off on our 3-mile loop.  The guys left La Verne and I in their dust, but we were alright with that, as we enjoyed a good chat on our leisurely jog.  We spent awhile goofing off at the beach after the run with some photo silliness (we have all decided that Jack’s should win an award for his in-air camera poses), and then headed over to Empire Espresso to kick off our day-long calorie-fest with lattes and waffles.

(photo by Jack)

After a lazy afternoon, we gussied up and headed over to Jack and La Verne’s for the big party.  Shane and I took part in a friendly dual with Jason and Nance over who could make the more exquisite cheese fondue, and after much banter and taste-testing, we ultimately decided to call it a tie.  It’s tough to be super-discerning when you’re giddy with the goodness of wine-infused melted cheese.  However, Jason wins hands-down for best pose for a fondue ad – he could be Gruyere’s poster-child with a gaze like this…

or not…

The evening was pure bliss, full of so much food, drink, and laughter.

The fondue party wouldn’t be complete without our annual white elephant gift exchange.  There are a couple of particularly desirable gifts that pop up year after year – like this crystal-framed kinda-scary photo of Lee.  Jason is laughing on the outside, but inside he’s thinking, “Crap.  Where can I stash this for a year?”

Our active rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas is another old favorite.  Jack kept his role as the guitar-playing “goose a-laying”, and Daniel killed it with his improv version of the “Piper Piping”.

We ended the night with a little Kinect dance party, and finally made our way home just as the cheese-and-chocolate coma began to set in.  What a night…  Cheers, friends – already looking forward to next year.

(photos by La Verne)

When I first moved to Seattle over six years ago, I prayed that I’d find girlfriends here that I could come to know and love and count on through thick and thin; God heard me loud and clear and slowly but surely brought a group of really fabulous women into my life. And I’ve been loving my ladies somethin’ fierce these days, with lots of extra-special girl-fests popping up on the calendar. I was sitting in a movie theater with several friends last weekend, and as we all rolled our eyes (translation: gaped, open-mouthed) and giggled (translation: swooned) together over the latest Twilight movie, I wondered how I got so lucky. It was just so…good for my soul to take part in an all-out ladies night, to sit around a dinner table and share in deep, meaningful conversation, then head to a movie and be silly and young together.

I can’t ever get enough of these gals, which is why I proposed a little a getaway sans husbands to Nancy and La V a few weeks ago. It took all of three seconds to convince them we were due for a night away together, and so we promptly booked a room at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville, scheduled our massages, packed our bags with chick flicks and nail polish and junk food, and yesterday at noon, we were off. It. was. heaven. From the minute we set foot in our room and watched Nancy take a flying leap onto one of the big, fluffy beds, we knew we were in for something good. I think we would have been happy just to put our pajamas on mid-afternoon and hole up for the next 24 hours, but we all had appointments at the lodge’s spa, so we headed back out for our massages and a good, long soak in the whirlpool. Feeling super-relaxed and sufficiently prune-like, we headed back to the room, again thinking we’d be happy to put our pajamas on and call it a night, but instead decided to head down to the hotel bar, where we enjoyed a light dinner, fire-side. The rest of the night was filled with pedicures, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and chick flicks back at the room. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face last night – could have been the massage, or it could have been Ryan Gosling’s performance in The Notebook, but I’m pretty sure it was actually the time with my girls that had me so giddy. This morning was full of more lazy goodness, with breakfast in bed while we watched Little Women, thoughtfully debating which March sister each of us resembled the most, but ultimately deciding it didn’t matter- we really just wanted to end up with Laurie. Check-out time was at noon, and we grudgingly rolled our bags out the door at 12:01, feeling a little bummed that our epic little getaway had come to an end, but certain that there would be more of these in the future.

I’ve mentioned before, I’m big on traditions. Real big. And one of my most favorite traditions is our annual visit to the Christmas tree farm in North Bend. This is the first Christmas that we’ll actually spend at home in Seattle, so I’ve really been looking forward to making our house all Christmas-y, with a tree and sparkly lights and stockings and all that goodness. Project “holiday decor” kicked off this morning as we headed east to find the perfect pine; Jack and La Verne were also in the market for a tree today and joined us on our hunt. It was chilly out there, but dry and with small patches of blue sky over beautiful Mount Si. I’m in the middle of The Hobbit right now, and felt very Bilbo-ish as we meandered among the trees, with “Lonely Mountain” hovering above us. We wandered for awhile before settling on a full, round 7-foot Grand Fir. Jack and La Verne one-upped us with an 8-footer (plus some), and this was after we talked Jack down from the 9 and 10-foot trees he initially had his eye on (I had visions of a tree with it’s top branches bent over at their ceiling, but La Verne’s voice of reason eventually won out).

Our mighty lumberjacks chopped down the trees and we headed to the entrance to get them baled and sip our cider. See that little Honda Civic in the background with the tree perched precariously on its roof? Yeah, that’s us, and it was a slow drive home…

And now here I sit by the light of the tree, glass of egg nog in hand and Sufjan’s Christmas album playing on the stereo, and I am so full of thanks – for good friends, for our cozy home, for the Northwest’s natural beauty, and most of all, for the true reason behind this Advent season. God is good.