Archive for the ‘lighter musings’ Category

October is here! This is one of my favorite months, in a three-way tie with July (sunshine!) and December (Christmas!). A few reasons why I’m particularly stoked about this flip of the calendar:

Travel time! We both have our birthdays in October and think it’s important to grow older with a bang – last year, we celebrated in Amsterdam and Paris. This year, we’re off to New England to take in the foliage and stuff ourselves with lobster rolls.  Bon anniversaire, baby.

Color. Gold and orange and bright, bright red. Add to that the satisfying sound of dried leaves crunching underfoot, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect Sunday afternoon stroll.

Makin’ stuff.  I’m spending less time out on the back patio and more time inside with my yarn and my beads and my tubes of paint.  It started with my weekend bonanza of knitting and basket-painting – now I’m into jewelry making and maybe, possibly art-making again.  My crusty watercolor set has been giving me the sad, neglected stink-eye.

Boot weather. And comfy sweaters. I like my flip-flops and tank tops, but I love my leather boots and chunky knit turtlenecks.  I’m giving the pedicures and the push-ups a rest for now – pressure’s off for the next six nine months!

Fresh Fall fare.  Honeycrisp apples (puts those Fujis I like to shame), acorn squash roasted with butter and brown sugar, my favorite pumpkin muffins (ok, so it’s a stretch to say that canned pumpkin is “in season”, but mmm…).

Happy October, friends!

We are in the thick of Olympic fever here at Chez Schnell – we’ve spent nearly every evening for the past week and a half in front of the TV, staying up until midnight to hang with Bob Costas.  While this has made for some sleepy afternoons at the office, it’s been fun.  A few non-expert thoughts:

I adore Gabby Douglas.  Man, that smile.  And I love her humility and genuine spirit.  You go girl.

Can’t stand those Russian gymnasts – especially Miss Diva Mustafina.  When she grinned during Gabby’s falter on the bars, I wanted to reach through the TV and give her a piece of my mind.  And the way she shrugs off her coach after a poor routine – jeez.

I love watching Danell Leyva interact with his stepdad/coach – so much affection!  Makes me wish it was more common in our culture for adult sons and their fathers to hug/kiss/jump up and down together.

If I had a genie in a bottle, I would wish for the arms of an Olympic track runner.  Dang, those ladies are cut.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are bad-ass.  And they’re so good together – there was a moment after their win tonight when Kerri reached over and adjusted Misty’s necklace so that the clasp was in the back, and it was such a small gesture, but it was just so…sisterly.

If I were to choose the Olympic sport in which I would be the most horrifically awful, it would be the velodrome.  Balance, agressiveness, and do-or-die speed?  Noooooo thank you.

Watching this video really made me want to be a part of the swim team.  How fun does this gang look?  Minus Michael Phelps.  He’s not my favorite.

I like the sappy little athlete bio pieces almost as much as I like the actual events.  Whenever one of them starts, Shane rolls his eyes then turns up the volume.  ‘Cause he loves me.

Holla, USA!

And that’s how it’s done.  Easy as chocolate chip cookie pie (with ice cream on top).

The sun is shining, I bought a bright green twirly skirt today, and we have all kinds of fun stuff on the agenda for the weekend – my mood is officially on the mend. Double-T.G.I.F. And T.G.I.Spring! Our euphorbia plant is blooming and threatening to bust through our dining room window – the sight of this made me so happy that I had to crack open a bottle of champagne and toast to the sunshine. Bon weekend, folks!

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.

When I boarded my plane to Paris 8 years ago to begin my 10 months of studying abroad, I had only a handful of French words and phrases under my belt. I knew the days of the week and the words for bank, bathroom, and bread, and I think I could conjugate ‘etre’ and ‘avoir’, but that was the extent of it. I spent the entire flight from California flipping through my French/English dictionary, rehearsing the conversation I expected to have with my new landlords, piecing together questions like ‘when is the rent due?’ and ‘where do I take the trash out?’. Thankfully, I had a couple of French-speaking classmates that were already in Paris and offered to help me through this first true encounter with the language barrier, but once my check-in was squared away and they headed back to their place, I remember sitting alone in my tiny little studio apartment and thinking, Oh. Mon. Dieu. I was in way over my head. Especially considering I had to spend the first couple of weeks in Paris running from office to office to get my student visa, which I needed to set up my French bank account, which I needed to set up my French phone line, which I needed to be able to call Shane and hear the sweet sound of English being spoken. I would wait in lines with my French dictionary clutched in my sweaty hands, praying that they wouldn’t ask me anything that would force me to deviate from my carefully prepared script of questions and responses. That said, this crash course in the French language forced me to become proficient within my first few months there. And while I never realized my dream of truly speaking as the French do, I learned how to hold my own. And it felt magnifique.

With our trip to France just a few days away, I’ve dusted off the old French workbook and have been spending my evenings making use of my Rosetta Stone access pass. And holy cow, I’ve fallen way off the wagon. I’m slowly picking things back up, but there have been bouts of shouting with the computer during the speaking portion of the lessons, when the computer rejects my pronunciation and I yell ‘Ecoutez-moi! That’s what I said!’. Yes, I certainly won’t be chatting it up with any Frenchies in their native tongue while on our trip, but I do intend to order our carafe of wine in French. And maybe catch a snippet or two of conversation from the table next to us. And I’ve made certain that I can say ‘Un pain au chocolat, s’il vous plait’ flawlessly. What else does one need, really?

There are days when I am struck with the undeniable impulse to shop – today was one of those days, and being that I’ve been practicing great restraint since my big closet purge last month, I decided I would allow myself a little retail indulgence this afternoon.  I hit up a couple of department stores down in Southcenter, hoping to find a cute top or two to wear on our upcoming vacation.  After several unsuccessful bouts in the dressing room, I had to ask myself:  what is up with the latest fashions these days?  It’s like clothes are intentionally being made to fit the female figure poorly – to bunch up in all the wrong places, with ruffles in unfortunate locations and fabrics that either rest on your hips like a cardboard box or find that one area of your body that you’re less than thrilled about and cling to it for dear life.  We’ve all had those strike-out days in the dressing rooms – I guess today was my turn.  So I wandered over to the undergarments section, thinking I could surely find something to buy there.  And I was kind of appalled by the fact that more than half of the items in that section were designed to squeeze, push, tuck, and hide, with comfort apparently being waaaay down on the list of selling points.  So I need a push-up bra and a pair of Spanks in order to wear that stylish new top that’s really just going to make people think that I’m pregnant, anyway?  Sometimes it’s hard being a woman.  Not to get all ‘woe-is-me’ – I know that I am blessed with a closet full of perfectly wearable clothes, but seriously, it shouldn’t be that hard for me to walk into a store and find a shirt that is going to reaffirm the positive body image that I’ve worked at for years.  I deserve to feel good about myself, and I deserve to actually feel good while feeling good about myself, rather than feeling pinched and squeezed and concerned about compromised blood circulation.  But I wasn’t going to let the man get me down, so I hopped back in the car and sought solace in the aisles of DSW, knowing that you can always count on a good pair of heels to come through in a clutch.  Strike three – apparently it’s sandals season in Seattle, as evidenced by three-quarters of their inventory.  And since my toes aren’t quite ready to make their Springtime debut, I left the shoe shore empty-handed.  In the end, I drove back home with a new pair of one-size-fits-all earrings* and spent the remainder of they day in my favorite sweats.  You win some, you lose some.

(*full disclosure:  OK, I also found a pretty flattering new raincoat, but my frustration seems so much more justified if I leave that part out…)

Nearly a year ago, I blogged about my all-time favorite albums and TV shows – and while Six Feet Under and Siamese Dream are still what I would call ‘timeless classics’, I do have a few current faves to add to the list.

Shane hooked me on HBO’s The Wire a few months ago.  I resisted for a long time, not really into the violence-ridden scenes from the streets of Baltimore, but somewhere along the way, I stopped tolerating this show and started loving it.  It’s not just about hustlin’ drugs on the streets of West Baltimore – it’s about the flawed systems of politics and education and media and how the suit-wearing mayor leaning back in his plush leather chair is not as far removed as you might think from the young kid selling cocaine on a shady corner on the other side of town.  Shane recently read an interview with David Simon, the show’s writer/producer, who stated, “American entertainment does nothing but sell redemption and easy victories 24-7”.  And The Wire certainly is not about warm fuzzies and feel-good endings.  It’s tough to watch.  But soooo worth it.

That said, I actually love a show full of redemption and easy victories, so I’ve been balancing my Wire-watching with new episodes of Parenthood.  Shane will roll his eyes when he reads this, since he doesn’t seem to feel the slightest connection to any of the show’s flawed-but-lovable characters, but I’ve come to look forward to this family drama each week.  It feels real to me – like I’m truly getting a glimpse into the struggles and joys associated with raising young kids and teen-agers and middle-aged sons and daughters with families of their own.  True, too many of the episodes wrap up with a family-wide group-hug resolution reminiscent of Full House, but whatever – I’m a sucker for a tender moment, so I’ll keep watching (and admittedly even shed a tear or two).

Music-wise, my playlist has taken a turn lately.  I still love Ryan Adams and Coldplay and Bon Iver, but I’ve also come to appreciate a song I can move to.  What started only as my ‘workout playlist’ (have you tried running on a treadmill to Damien Rice?  doesn’t work.) has made its way into regular rotation when I’m in the car or at my desk.  Yes – I’m on a hip-hop/R&B kick lately, getting in touch with the inner groove I never knew I had.  Favorite albums are Free Wired by Far East Movement, and Rokstarr by Taio Cruz.  Don’t judge me.  I also happen to think Lady Gaga is pretty fabulous.  Seriously, don’t judge me.

When I’m not in the mood for something that’s going to bring on that annoying lip-syncing, head-bopping thing, I keep coming back to Sufjan Stevens.  Seven Swans is decidedly my favorite album of his – it’s not going to motivate you to shave 5 seconds off your mile run, but it will dig deep, and tug at your soul.  Perfect mellow-out tunage – if I ever actually make a habit of turning off the TV/computer/iPhone, lighting some candles, and just sitting back to genuinely chill (why is this so hard for me?), it will be with this playing in the background.

Since we just said a sad good-bye to the final episode of the Wire, and since “Like A G6” is bound to lose its catchiness sooner or later, I’m on the lookout for shows and albums to fill these shoes.  Recommendations?

When Shane told me last Spring that he wanted to buy a subscription to MLB-TV, so that he’d be able to watch all of the Giants games from the comfort of our living room, I cringed a little bit.  I imagined the countless Sunday afternoons we’d have to spend parked in front of the TV, rather than getting outside to enjoy the summer weather; the evenings that I would have to escape upstairs to get away from Shane’s post-loss funk; the fabulous pair of shoes that money could buy me…  But much to my surprise, the more I saw of the Giants, the more I fell into fan-dom.  I’ve always liked baseball, and if I’d ever had to choose a favorite team, the Giants would have been it, but it wasn’t until this year that I truly got behind them.  I learned all the players names and knew their trademark accessories and rituals; I cheered for Buster when he made his stunning debut and shouted at Sandoval throughout his steady decline; I found myself putting the game on even when Shane wasn’t around, checking standings on my iPhone and daily wishing defeat upon the Padres.  I was hooked.  And so I was stoked when the Giants made it to play-offs – what a year to become a fan!  We haven’t been able to watch the last few games at home, since we cancelled our cable, but have found an awesome little sports bar called Auto Battery in Capitol Hill where we can spend our evenings cheering on our team.  It’s been a lot of fun – Jack and La V have joined us there as fellow Orange-and-Black fans, and we’ve found instant camaraderie with the handful of other Giants supporters that frequent the bar.  Tonight was a big night – we all jumped to our feet, cheering and shouting and clinking our beers as we secured our place in the National League Championship Series.  Woot!!!

I’ll leave you with this video, currently making the rounds on YouTube – Let’s go Giants (clap-clap, clap-clap-clap!)…

No really big happenings in the Schnell household these days, but nonetheless, a small handful of ‘newsworthy’ (I use that term lightly) updates…

First, remember my ultra-ambitious hundred-push-up challenge?  According to my original schedule, I should have joined the push-up century club five weeks ago.  But…due to a vacation-related derailment, and a weakness on my part in general, I’m still slowly working my way toward that goal.  Last night I was able to do 25 consecutive push-ups.  Not too shabby, but I’ve got a ways to go…

Second, our little backyard seed patch is finally starting to show some progress!  We’re several weeks away from harvest, but still, these little carrot-tops show definite promise, don’t you think?

Finally, some exciting news on the artistic front: a good friend of mine had a fund-raiser last week for a non-profit group she’s working with, and asked me donate some of my art for the cause.  I framed three of my prints with a hope and a prayer that somebody might find them buy-worthy, and two of them sold!  This was the very first time that money has been paid for a Kelly Schnell original, so this was kind of a big deal for me.  Very affirming.

Yes, May was a relatively quiet month (not that watching carrots sprout isn’t thrilling), but the next few weeks are shaping up to be good and busy – a trip to Portland, a camping weekend with friends, a couple of days in the encaustic studio, and (God-willing) plenty of sunshine and dinners on the grill.  And push-ups.  Lots of push-ups.