Archive for December, 2012

Grand ambitions gone awry – it’s kind of a weekend theme at the Schnell household.  I figured I would take advantage our open schedule to get some housework done, do some cooking to counteract all the eating out we’ve been doing, finally get out in the yard to rake up those leaves that fell from the trees so many weeks ago. But then we decided to head downtown and see a movie on Saturday.  And then we decided to make a whole date out of it, with shopping and coffee, followed by dinner with Jack and La Verne at a Korean joint we’ve been wanting to try.  Those leaves could wait.

We left church today with an entire plan-free afternoon stretched out before us.  What to do?  Hot tea in the snowman mug I unearthed last week in my search for my cookie cutters, macarons fresh from Paris (thanks, Jack and La V!), and a whole lot of snuggling under a blanket with my Kindle and Mr. Schnell.  Oh, and a nap (the really, really good kind where you wake up and haven’t the foggiest idea how long you’ve been out). We capped off the day with dinner at Jason and Nance’s, and I had officially made it through the weekend without doing a bit of cleaning, cooking, or raking.  I’m feeling just the slightest twinge of laziness-induced guilt.  Better pop in an episode of Dawson’s Creek to see if that can take my mind off of it…

Ahhhh, what a very merry Christmas in Portland.  We ate, we lounged, we doted on those two irrestibly sweet little girls.  ‘Tis indeed the season for joy and love and all kinds of thankfulness.

We arrived at Mitch and Kathryn’s on Sunday afternoon, and as usual, Morgan and Elise were quick to warm up to Uncle Shane.  Also as usual, he was wrapped around their little fingers in a matter of seconds – I think he read Good Dog, Carl a total of 14 times in three days.

I had to work a little harder to earn their affection, but it wasn’t anything frosting and cookies couldn’t handle.

We ordered Thai take-out for dinner, played a round of Quiddler, and then were ready to put a bow on Christmas Eve Eve – it had been quite a day.

We were thrilled to see sunshine on Monday morning and headed over to the park for a couple hours of sliding, swinging, and playing in the sand.

Uncle Shane clearly takes the cake as best swing-pusher ever.

The grown-up girls headed out during naptime for a coffee break and a little shopping.  Kathryn, my mom and I strolled down Williams Avenue, ogling the perfect wares at Ink and Peat and then sipping pretty lattes at Ristretto Roasters.

This double-decker dress shop/bus was so…Portland.

My mom whipped up a tasty pot of red lentil and veggie soup for dinner, with some extra special help on the chapati flatbread from two dear little elves.

After dinner, Kathryn, Shane and I loaded the girls in the car and braved the crowds at Peacock Lane to take in all the brightly lit houses and yards.  Morgan and Elise both got a kick out of the whole ordeal – I mean, does it get any better than giant glowing lollipops?

The girls were tuckered out by the time we got home – there wasn’t much resistance to bedtime that night, as we assured them that Santa would be on his way once they were fast asleep.

Elise burst into our room bright and early yesterday morning to shout “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” and urge us to come check out the loot Santa had delivered.  We spent the next hour watching the girls tear into their gifts – Morgan was quick to cuddle and feed her new baby doll and Elise was raring to go on her new roller skates.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around the warm and cozy house as rain fell on a cold, wet Portland.  We played games, we painted with Elise’s new watercolor set, we snuggled up on the couch to watch basketball and doze.

Oh, and for the record, Shane is the favorite for a reason – the lengths that guy will go to for an extra cuddle…  No shame!

I’ve prayed a lot lately for a spirit of gratitude – I’ve mentioned before how hard it can be for me to keep the “don’t-haves” from overshadowing our multitude of blessings.  But my blessings were made so abundantly clear yesterday – a house filled with the giggles of little girls that I love so much it makes my heart ache, the company of a family that makes me feel whole, the tenderness of an incredibly kind and loving husband.  And looking down on all of us, a Savior that came to earth so many years ago to dine with tax collectors and prostitutes, to turn the world’s notion of justice on its head, and to give the ultimate sacrifice.  Because he loves me.

My parents left early this morning and we headed out right behind them.  One final stop at Barista for what may be the best latte I’ve had all year, and then we were homeward bound.

I spent this afternoon in the office and spent this evening unpacking – back to business as usual, I suppose.  I’m hoping my post-holiday letdown can be warded off with chocolate and a living room screening of Love Actually.  I’ll let you know how that goes…

Tomorrow we head to Portland to celebrate Christmas with the Jarrells.  But today?  Today was the Schnell family pre-Christmas Christmas bonanza.  And it was glorious.  Shane and I stayed in bed until 10 am, at which point he rolled out to pick up scones from the neighborhood bakery.  I poured us a couple of glasses of festive-looking green juice, we dug into our breakfast, and then it was time for presents!

There were several gifts under the tree this year to Boo from Boo – I scored a sweet new lens for my camera and Shane was happily surprised with a bottle of fancy absinthe.

It felt good, our little family of two sitting by the Christmas tree and listening to Nat King Cole sing about roasting chestnuts.  So warm and cozy and…right.

I spent the better part of the afternoon in the kitchen, rolling our sugar cookies and making my favorite cranberry cornmeal biscotti.  Can’t wait to decorate these babies tomorrow with Elise!

We headed downtown later in the day to do some shopping and catch a movie.  Shane bought me a couple of pairs of earrings from my favorite boutique and then we walked over to the theater for Silver Linings Playbook, which turned out to be my kind of movie – romantic and sad and happy and just a little bit cheesy.

After the movie, we strolled through downtown, taking in all the Christmas lights one more time before heading to dinner in Capitol Hill.

We capped off the night at home, snuggling on the couch and watching Elf while Shane sipped his spiked eggnog and I ate the cookie cast-offs (no sense in letting that armless gingerbread man and four-pointed star go to waste!).   It was nice to soak in the peace and comfort of home today – I feel rested and thankful and so, so ready to engage in some serious playtime with two very special little girls.  Portland, here we come!


Shane and I had dinner with one of our pastors on Monday night, and as we laid all of our hopes/longings/sorrows out on a table filled with piping hot bowls of pho, she reminded us that we shouldn’t let our dreams for the future get in the way of reveling in the present.  Damn, she’s good.  I get so wrapped in wishing and wanting that I forget how good things can be right now.  We’re young and active and healthy.  We live in an amazing city with all kinds of amazing people.  We have good jobs and a home we love.  And we have boatloads of freedom.  We can jet off for a weekend getaway when the mood strikes us, we can spend an entire Saturday lounging in our pajamas after a long and tiring week, and we can turn tickets to a 7 pm comedy show into an epic night out on the town.  Last night was such a night – we had tickets to see Louis CK at the Paramount and decided to meet up after work for a pre-show bite at Kushibar.  We’ve been wanting to check this place out for awhile, and the big bowls of tonkotsu ramen did not disappoint.  We’ll come back next time with bigger appetites – I wish I’d had room for the fried octopus balls (as in fried balls of octopus meat – don’t be gross)!

We had some time to kill post-dinner, so we popped into Shorty’s on a whim to play some pinball.  This place is pretty divey, but once you get past the sticky floors and the musty odor of whiskey-soaked dudes, it’s a fun joint.  Oh, and I crushed Shane at pinball, for the record.

We made our way from Belltown to the Paramount and could hardly contain our excitement as we settled into our seats.  Shane has been a big fan of Louis CK for years, and I’ve recently come to see past the occasional (err…frequent) crudeness and get a good laugh out of his stand-up.  I had pretty high expectations heading into this – it was our first comedy show and I’d heard from a couple of people that this tour was hilarious.  And wowsers – he hit my high expectations out of the ballpark.  My cheeks hurt from laughing by the time he left the stage.  And then he came out for an encore and I howled some more.  Thanks, Louis – we needed that.

I assumed we’d jump on lightrail and head home after the show was over, but Shane had another whim up his sleeve as he pulled out his phone to look up downtown dessert places.  We walked down 4th Avenue, taking in the decorations and the lights and the clear, crisp night.

We landed at Purple wine bar and after four seconds of perusing the menu, I settled on the creme brulee.  Shane ordered a stinky blue cheese plate and a glass of port, and we sat there for awhile, still chuckling over our favorite Louis jokes and remarking what a fun, random night it had been (the Shorty’s crowd and the Purple crowd are typically not one and the same).

Much love to my man and my city – we should all get together more often.

I remember having a “preach it, sister” moment when Nance shared in c-group a few weeks ago about how hard it can be to hold sorrow and joy in tension, not letting one disallow the other.  This has been particularly difficult for me this holiday season - our unrealized baby hopes have squashed my spirit, leaving me frustrated and broken at a time of year usually marked with thankfulness and cheer.  I’ve had a hard time finding the good in the midst so much sadness.  But I resolved last week to turn it around – to hit pause on my wallowing and enjoy a weekend full of Christmas parties and gift-wrapping and soaking in God’s abundant blessings.  I had my Christmas playlist all queued up, my little black dress picked out for the office holiday party, our cupboards stocked with the ingredients for pumpkin bread and my favorite biscotti.

And then Friday morning happened.  I was out shopping at lunchtime when a friend’s Facebook update popped up on my phone – I saw the words “tragedy” and “children” and pulled up the NY Times to check the latest headlines.  Tragedy didn’t even begin to describe it.  I stood there for a minute on the sidewalk, stunned and suddenly feeling very alone among the crowds that were rushing in and out of stores, chatting and smiling and going about life as usual.  I headed back to my office and nearly came unglued as I read the latest breaking details.  27 people dead.  20 of them precious little children.  Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, teachers facing the loss of so much innocent life.  God, where were you?  It’s hard to find His light in the midst of such suffocating darkness.  It’s easy to feel forsaken and lost.  But I can’t, I won’t forget His promise.  I won’t forget the baby that came so long ago to redeem the world, to defeat death and pay for our sins with His suffering and sacrifice.

It still seems awfully dark out there, but as I stumble and search and cry out to Him, a light flickers as He reveals His ultimate goodness.  I see Him in the stories of the courageous and selfless teachers that loved and protected their students.  I see Him in the candles that were lit across the nation as people stood in solidarity with Newtown.  I see Him so vividly in our community of friends, our “Seattle family”.  He was there when we gathered on Saturday night for our sixth annual fondue party, where we ate and laughed and danced and experienced the joy of belonging.  God is indeed good.  Yes, there will be reasons to weep and mourn and question His ultimate plan, but there will also be reasons to dance.  And I think I’m finally seeing those reasons through the blur of my tears.

I started baby-sitting Shane’s cousin Elizabeth when she was just two or three years old.  A couple of years later, her parents introduced me to their super-hot nephew, who was visiting from Minnesota for a summer job and looking for friends (“friends“) in the area.  Seven years later, I married that guy.  And six years after that, sweet little Biz is visiting Seattle to tour UW in hopes that she’ll start there as a Freshman next Fall.  Where do the years go?  It was tough not to dwell on the fact that I’m gettin’ so dang old, but I put my vanity aside for the weekend and set out to woo Shane’s cousin and her best friend with our city’s finest charms.  We dined on fresh pasta at Tavolata and desserted with waffle cones from Molly Moon’s. Shane showed them around the U-District and gave them their first lesson in chopsticks at Thai Tom. We did the whole market shebang – gum wall and brass pig and mini-donuts and all.  We walked along the waterfront to the sculpture park and then headed over to Capitol Hill to warm up with coffee at Bauhaus.  It was fun to do the grand tour and hit a couple of our old favorites.  We’re hoping that a year from now, Biz will be coming over on Sunday afternoons to do her laundry and fill us in on what’s actually cool in Seattle.  Fingers crossed!

After dropping the girls off at the airport on Sunday morning, we set out for our annual trip to North Bend for our Christmas tree.  It was cold and drizzly and I almost bailed on our tradition, thinking it would be so much easier to just hit up the tree lot in front of Home Depot, but I’m glad my sentimental spirit (with Shane’s prodding) won out.  Snow-dusted Mount Si was beautiful, and we found our perfect tree in record time.  Plus, Shane makes a cute lumberjack.

This is one of those times when I could really use a post-weekend weekend to catch my breath, but I’ll have to settle for a quiet Monday evening reading by the light of the Christmas tree.  Not too shabby…

Yep, I’m a knittin’ fiend these days!  I whipped these out in just over a week, which felt like some kind of record after spending nearly a year on my last project.  And I love them – soft, simple, super-cute.  Bring it, winter – I’m ready for you now.

Pattern is Camp Out Fingerless Mitts, found on Ravelry.  Yarn is Mal Abrigo merino wool, color Mariposa.

There are a list of things I’ve developed over the years as sure-fire “pick-me-ups” – a pampering massage, a bout of retail therapy at the mall, a long chat with a girlfriend…  And then there are perfect weekends like this past one, when all of these little pleasures were wrapped up into a couple of epic days of relaxation and fun:

Nancy, La Verne, and I had such a good time on our trip to Woodinville last year that we declared the getaway an annual tradition and named it L-Dub (short for Ladies Weekend).  After much anticipation, L-Dub 2 kicked off on Saturday at Truce Spa in Bellevue.  Massages, facials, manicures, oh my – we walked in there with our crazy internet deal vouchers and walked out three hours later with perfect nails and glowing skin.  My joy overflowed when Nancy suggested that we do some shopping before heading up to Kirkland to check into our hotel.  Nance is not a shopper – I don’t know if I’ve set foot inside a store with her, ever, but she must have taken a drink of La Verne’s and my Kool-Aid, because she was wanting to hit the mall hard.  We wandered from store to store, offering each other advice on the perfect wallet or the best deal off the sale rack.  I didn’t buy much, but there’s something about shopping with girlfriends that seriously tugs at my female bonding heartstrings.  As we sat on that mall bench together and ate our frozen yogurt, shopping bags tucked between us, I felt so content, so close with those two.

We checked into our lake-view room at the Woodward around 7:00 and settled in for a wild night of room service and chick flicks.  The food was so-so, the movie was kind of terrible (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in a romantic comedy?  What were we thinking?), but the late-night conversation was the perfect way to round out a perfect day.  It’s nice to know that I’m not too old to enjoy a good slumber party.

Breakfast was delivered right to our door on Sunday morning (room service – so brilliant!) and we ate our pancakes in bed.  Coffee, toenail painting, a bit more lounging, and then that dreaded check-out time rolled around and it was time for us to hit the road.  I was ready to get home to Shane and show off my fancy French manicure, but still, it was hard to see this little escapade come to a close.  We had taken “pick-me-up” to a whole new level.