Wednesday, December 25, 2013

merry christmas 2013!

The Tom Sinn family minus Jesse & Laura
Our Christmas picture (since I didn't send any out this year, just in case you were wondering why you didn't get one...)
The hazelnut crepe cake I made for Christmas dinner (for my sisters! I'll let you know how it tastes)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the smell of oregon

Someone once told me that if they could reduce Oregon down to a smell, it would be woodsmoke on a piney breeze. "How romantic & poetic!" I thought then, in the midst of a beautiful summer. And then, then fall came & I instantly understood what they'd meant. It is a smell of times past. It means the homes that start beaming their lights out in the hills after sunset are full of families winding down for the night, tucked around a cozy fire. Many of the homes I've been in do have woodstoves. We have our own little stove, (albeit propane:/) and we do our share of cozying up to it. The gray outside doesn't seem so dreary then. This year has been uncharacteristically sunny so far, in case you were worried about my mental coping:) & for that I have been thankful. But it isn't so bad when you get to end your day with a crackling fire & steaming cup of tea. 


Braetzle, a thin, crispy Swiss cookie, was something my Grandma Kathryn (and what a lady she was!) made every Christmas. I didn't love it as a child, I thought it was a little flat & unexciting as far as cookies go. The history & culture behind it were lost on me too. I ate one dutifully every year because Grandma made them & it was my one chance to.  But now, I don't mind the cinnamony wafer-thin braetzle & even if I did, I'd eat one anyway for memory's sake. To be part of the same tradition here in Oregon 2,000 miles from where I learned braetzle, (and I've never met anyone else who even knew what they were), made me feel a sense of belonging & comaraderie. An "oh! You too?" kind of moment. It's silly little things like that that make me feel at home out here. Things like seeing Slagel kids at the local fertilizer co-op's customer appreciation dinner. Or scotcheroos at church lunch. Anyway, braetzle: we got together with the family & made it a multi-generational event. Grammy was the all important braetzle iron timer, I was a section shaper, Tom ran the iron, Edie rolled logs (& made the dough). The rest? Taste testers. Lots if them. It was terribly fun & nostalgic.
It's quite a production making braetzle (not sure what the plural of braetzle is...) 
1) roll out chilled dough in quarter wide logs
2) cut into 1/2" sections

3) Press in braetzle iron
4) let cool
5) enjoy (don't tell Dar this photo's on here. Thank you.)
Maybe this will make him feel better.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas decor

Here are some promised photos of what our home looks like this Christmas along with some bits & pieces of the process.
The greenery all came from the Sinn's backyard (got lots of help hacking off "fir" boughs:) Uncle Lynn, are you reading this?). I made the wreaths and garland myself --don't look too closely!  The other decorations are curtesy of my mother, the queen of all things festive. She's a wonderful gift giver & has contributed vastly to my supply of Christmas accouterments. For example, while she was here last weekend, (I sadly & uncharacteristically took no photos of her while here, so you will just have to take my word for it that she was) we went shopping at the antique shops in Silverton, and I eyed this jar full of vintage dice. Dar and I however, have just gone over our spending since our marriage and regretfully, jars full of vintage dice are not in the budget plan. But my mother, that dear sneaky soul, somehow bought it from under my nose, snuck it home, and put it on my bookshelf without me noticing it. 
Anyway, I've thoroughly enjoyed having a whole house to dress up for the holidays instead of just a bedroom. Maybe someday that will change, when I have my own kids who use my felt and bottlebrush Christmas trees as bowling pins, but for now I will enjoy it.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Snow in the Willamette Valley causes quite a stir. I have to confess I was right there with the rest of the Valley, giddy with excitement and awe over the scant inch of snow dusting the landscape out my window.  There's something about snow during the holiday season (which is in full swing now) that is so satisfying and right. There always ought to be snow at Christmas time. The fields here my still be green and not need the beautifying white snow to blanket it, there may be buds on the trees and crocuses cautiously poking their way out of the frozen ground, but to see snow is still enough to send us all into flurries of festivity.

The college boys got even more snow and as proudly as if they'd manufactured the weather themselves, told us it was "too snowy and dangerous to come home for the weekend, so if we wanted to see them, we have to come down there." With promises of inches and inches of snow we made the trek on Saturday. It was a gorgeous drive; limbs mounded with snow, the sun glinting off the blinding whiteness, geese by the hundreds winging their way across the icy blue, then orange and pink sky as the sun set.
We walked around the campus by the light of the old-fashioned lampposts, a velvety night sky overhead, cupping steaming cups of coffee and hot chocolate. It was so festive (Mom, that's for you). Between San Diego and a lack of snow last Christmas in Illinois, I think it's been years since I walked in snow deep enough that it made that lovely squeaking noise. I forgot how the cold stings your lungs when you breathe and how nice it feels to thaw out in front of a fire. How easily we forget the blistering heat of summer!

It put me in a real Christmas mood, and then we could drive back up to Silverton where the snow had mysteriously disappeared (I say mysteriously because it hasn't gotten above freezing for days) and have the convenience of a clear driveway. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

easy Christmas project

As much as I adore fall--the earthy, deep flavors, slowing down from summer, crispy mornings--I start craving Christmas music, citrus, creamy smells before November's even over. After looking around my house trying to decide how to make the transition from browns & gourds to sparkle & fir boughs, 
My eyes lit upon this window sill arrangement I had & saw potential in those pine cones...visions of sparkly, glittery pine cones danced through my head.
And against all odds, I happened to have everything on hand to make some sparkle happen. All I did was spritz a little regular white spray paint on the cone, then sprinkle fine glitter over it: the wet paint acted as glue. (I'd initially tried painting each seed on the cone with modpodge, but this was MUCH easier & faster. The modpodge had an annoying habit of drying in spots before I'd finished the whole cone.) They were so fun & easy, I made them till I ran out of spray paint.

Now I've got a veritable army of them to scatter artfully around. I'll post more photos soon of the rest of my decor. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

thanksgiving 2013

I love Thanksgiving. It's such a necessary reminder to reflect on all I've been blessed with. And because I'd rather spend this lovely sunny Oregon day outside with my husband & his family, I shan't keep you too long here: I will leave you with some parting shots of my "thanksgiving tree" & an assurance that, yes, I am so very thankful. Have a lovely one with those you love! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

wes + kinsey

Wes: he is the most irritatingly lovable person I know. I can simultaneously want to hug him and smack him. Growing up right under him, I was frequently his patsy  & occasionally (when he was feeling gracious), his partner in crime. I can't recall a single instance where Evan & I managed to gang up on him; Wes made sure he was always on the winning side, pitting the remaining two of us against the other while somehow contriving to appear purely innocent. Ev & I both adored him & were gluttons for punishment. It didn't matter how many times we got burned by his antics; we kept coming back for more. Manipulative is an understatement. But he didn't do it meanly. He did it simply for sport & pure enjoyment. And he has never lost an least in his mind. Though there was his crowning debate in that instance of the great North Pole argument. He was right. And boy, does he have a quick wit. He is the king of comebacks & pranks. I will never forget the night I came into my bedroom after another lengthy grooming session on the bathroom. Wes had inevitably needed the bathroom as soon as I entered & locked the door. He banged on the door for a while, vainly attempting to rush my 16 year old self. Nothing doing. But he got his revenge when I came blissfully unaware into my bedroom, completed the last minutes of my night time routine & turned to climb into bed only to find him in my bed, shaking with silent laughter as I shrieked to find a person in my bed who'd obviously been there for the whole routine! That's Wes. Quick in his feet. I could never get any sort of revenge worthy of his pranks. When we got into high school, he continued to slide out of trouble & get me in it: I served a Saturday detention due to tardies that were the result of his sleeping-in habits while he slipped through his senior year with nary a tardy to his spotless reputation. After high school, we both attended Ohio colleges, giving us a special bond none of the other siblings shared. And then we both moved back home. The pranks were fewer then, & we had some good late night chats over our shared Christianity. Those are some of my favorite memories of my closest (in age) brother. We haven't lived in the same state for over a year now, with me in California & now married in Oregon. But he tells me we'll probably be seeing a little more of each other now than expected. Because, you see, he's getting married to a girl with some Oregon roots of her own. And I am so happy for both of them:) Wes, I wish you & Kinsey the best. May God bless you both & give Kinsey patience & a good sense of humor to deal with your antics!! On a more serious note (to which I can just hear your biting sarcastic retort about the extent of my cheesiness & sappy marriedness), I love you dearly & hope life from here on out continues to be as interesting & enjoyable as it has been so far. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

a wee bit lonesome

This was what I got in the mail yesterday. A delightful care package full of goodies from my sister and a few hilarious letters from the oldest nephews. They were my first and will always hold a special place in my heart. Not that more isn't better (oh, yeah!). I do have to confess though, I might have got a little teary-eyed reading their letters. When one of them asked if I liked him or Riley better, Illinois or Oregon better, my heart broke just a little. He didn't mean anything by it, just 9 year old boy curiosity, I'm sure. With all that's going on back in Illinois, I do feel a little left out. I guess you could call it homesick. But, to  quote Grammy, "There would've been something wrong at home if you didn't get a little homesick now and then." And so I might cry a little, but it's only because I've got some stinkin' cute niblings & equally awesome siblings. And FYI, care packages are pretty great. Hint hint.

Friday, November 15, 2013

the valley, the hills, & the mountain

One of the things I like most about Oregon is a variety of landscape. That and how proud the residents are of it. They appreciate the beauty around them, they really do. We live and "the valley", which everyone knows to be the Willamette. (will-LAM-ette, not WILL-a-mette.) It's relatively flat and mostly farm ground, dotted with fir groves and small ferny forests. Not too far to the east, the land starts to gently climb into "the Hills". The landscape shifts to more pines and evergreens, with the only openness wide ribbons of grass seed fields. It isn't good farm ground, but one understands immediately by the German settlers chose to make "the Hills" their home: it feels a little dark and dense, like the black forest where they came from. Further yet beyond the hills lie the start of the Cascades. It grows even wilder and less inhabitable, with patches of harsh lava beds, miles of pines made bare and skeletal by ravages of fires, foggy mountain lakes tucked in crevices, rough towns of loggers and lumberjacks. Then the Cascades start to dwindle back down and the climate becomes a little more arid and ranches and miles of split rail fences replace the tangle of forest and rushing rivers of the mountain pass. The forest are all Lodgepole and Loblolly with nary a fern to speak of. Instead of green, one sees golden carpets of dry grass and sage. It's a whole 'nother world on the other side of the mountains.

Yesterday, Dar and I took a little trip over there. It was raining in the Valley and not much for a farmer to do. I love the drive over to Eastern Oregon. After winding through the hills, we saw a little snow on the mountains, then dropped back down into Sisters where the sun was shining. We got a pretty intense hike in at Smith Rock. Do go there if you ever get a chance. It was beautiful in a rugged, dry, Louis L'Amour kind of way. The golds and browns were a change of pace from all the green we see in the valley. And did I mention it wasn't raining? It's pretty awesome that I have all this and less than a three-hour drive. So different than the Midwest! Though to be honest, when we got back to our little, semi flat valley, with all the neat rows of berries and orchards of filberts, and charming red barns dotting the sod fields like knots on a green patchwork quilt, I was glad this is where we call home.  There must be more of the farmer's daughter in me then I thought! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

an ode to coffee

Coffee. It’s more than just a drink. Let me explain: it’s a chance to pause. It’s an experience. It’s a tension soother. It’s a conversation aid. It’s a date. Has anyone ever said, “Hey, are you busy tomorrow afternoon? Want to get together to chat over a glass of water?” Of course not. But there’s something about coffee. I can still remember the satisfied, “Ahhh,” accompanied by a smack of the lips my dad would make every morning after his first sip. Of course then, I was too young to enjoy it, but I knew there was something to it. Now, Darwin & I both thoroughly enjoy our coffee. And thank God for small mercies, we both like it black & strong. Other than that, we aren’t hard to please. It’s such a seemingly insignificant thing, coffee, but it makes life just a little more enjoyable. For a pittance, it turns a regular mundane day into a treat. It seems such a luxury when Darwin says, “Want to stop for some coffee?” It never gets old or feels boring. We did just that yesterday, to counteract a rather frustrating visit to the bank. And even better, we got both our drinks for free because our cups had stickers on the bottom! So even if it has been gray for a few days here (and Dar’s gloomily told me this is it, winter’s here), at least I have coffee to get me through.*
*as a disclaimer, I need Christ more than coffee to really get me through, but I hope that's a given. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm not Anne, sigh

A few of my friends have been reading Anne of Green Gables lately--which is one of my all-time favorite series, by the way--and so I've been in "Anne" mode just a little bit. Everything around me in nature seems just a hint more lovely and magical. I want to tack the words, "dear", "lithe", "sweet", & "willowy" onto all my descriptions from bare tree limbs to young girls. The view from my living room window at sunrise (which I saw before the time change, not anymore) sent me into "absolute raptures". I use italics waaaay too much. I got itchy feet to go traipse around the countryside gathering ferns and golden leaves for my own little house of dreams. But, like my best friend told me years ago when I was on another such "Anne" kick, "Jenna, you're not Anne."

And, sigh, she was right. And sometimes I think it's so hard being me. NOT that it's actually hard to be me, I mean, I don't even have a job.  And I'm perfectly healthy, my husband sweet, my family's wonderful, we don't lack for anything. No, what I mean is, it's hard being… Me. Because sometimes I'm not sure who "me" really is, and who is the one trying to be like someone else, no matter how beautiful their descriptions of cherry trees are. Savvy?

I try to be myself on this blog. (Whoever that is…) I think most of the time I am, if a little edited and bland. And for aesthetic and personal reasons, I don't always share the nitty-gritty of everything (trust me, you wouldn't want to know.) But I hope I'm real. I hope I'm genuine. I hope you don't think I'm nicer\smarter\better\glamorouser than I am. And grrr, if this sentiment isn't something cropping up on blogs all over the country, but I mean it! 

So here are some snapshots of the real me, unedited & real. (I can be serious though too.)