Monday, March 25, 2013

just another day in ramona

When I first decided to take Clint up on his offer to give me an escape from a job I didn't enjoy & the upcoming Midwest winter, I imagined their house in a nice little culdesac somewhere with a little backyard, possibly a pool, & a back patio draped with some sort of flowering vines. Someone who I shared this vision with nearly laughed when I talked about moving out of the boondocks to highly populated SoCal. "They live down a dirt road & you can't see their closest neighbors. They have goats." Ah. And as I nauseously tried to keep down my lunch on the way to their house, experienced aforementioned dirt driveway, & learned about Max, the crazy English neighbor, I thought to myself, "Perfect." And I meant it.
It's a different SoCal than I was expecting, but Ramona, with her hitching post at the brand-new Starbucks, "Keep Ramona Rural!" signs, small town feel (I recognize my cashiers at Stater Bro's & I'm not going to admit how I know the daily turnover at the local Goodwill...) has weaseled her way into my affections.
Even if there are mornings like this one, where a scream from Becca brought the entire Califamily hurtling to the backyard. There, in their sprinkler-tended back yard, was not one, but TWO snakes. You know how I feel about snakes if you started reading this little blog in November when I moved here. Terrified. And horribly fascinated. I am not ashamed to admit I stood on a chair from the concrete a safe 20 feet away while Clint paused his conference call to dispose of the rattlesnake. The other snake was a king snake, which eats rattlesnakes, so he lived to die another day. You can bet I wore my boots the rest of the day and tread carefully.

Friday, March 22, 2013

aunt & uncle

 Have I emphasized enough how nice it is to get visitors from home? It doesn't matter if it's someone I didn't necessarily spend a lot of time with when I was in Forrest, or knew well--it's just that glimpse of a familiar face & sliver of central Illinois that brings a warm rush of affection for them. But these visitors were ones I knew rather well. Holly saw me grow up, made me "gak", put me to work in the garden, separated her daughter and I in church, never batted an eye when I just showed up at their house. She even got me in trouble a time or two:). Always well-deserved, I won't deny that. Larissa & I had some questionable escapades. How long ago it seems! She's going to be a mom soon (eek! Larissa, weren't we just sitting the tub with all our clothes on, bawling our eyes out while our moms laughed over the phone?), and I'm getting married. Holly said as much. They were here to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. I quietly observed a marriage of 30 years from the backseat. And what I saw was, yes, it does just get better, despite my fears to the contrary. It's hard to imagine how it can get any better right now. But I know it will. God is good.
It was fun to spend some time with them in the desert; an adventure. (Stopped in Julian and got some pie first...what? We hiked it off.) We went to the "slots", a canyon hike aptly named. I'd never been there before, and I might've directed Glen into someone's campsite & did some meandering circles in the barren landscape before finding the trail. It isn't a place to get lost; cell phones have no signal, and the roads, and by roads I mean paths in the sand that don't have any particular rhyme or reason of direction, aren't marked. But we did find it. And enjoyed it. There's a beauty in the desolate creamy rock, an awe that plants can survive in such harsh conditions, a hugeness in the blue sky that makes a person feel so very, very small. And it's good to feel small sometimes. To be put back into our place. I'm so glad they came.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

food & the city

Yasmine organized a lady's night out for my birthday & simply because we haven't done one since she had her baby. It was lovely. I haven't really gotten into downtown outside of tourist traps, which don't count, and the airport, which counts even less. Ramona's a wonderful town--unpretentious, practical, yet spunky, but I do love the city. It rejuvenates a part of my soul that lies quietly (and quite contentedly so) most of the time. But every so often, I need to put on some shoes that click when I walk down the sidewalk and get some food that I can't make myself. Add in some dear friends, subtract the kids, make someone else drive, & it's a great night.
And the food was fantastic! When I entered Extraordinary Desserts, it was like stepping into some of my sharpest culinary memories; I remembered the first "tarte aux framboise" I ate in France; I thought of Shara's stint at Chic, and eating a cake she'd made and brought back to the family one Wednesday night, breaking all kinds of school rules; I heard the footsteps of Evan & I echoing on a concrete floor when we browsed an indoor market in Colmar, ogling the glass cases of desserts not dissimilar from this display; I remembered a day in Columbus with one of my dear friends, splitting a "Suiss Chocolate Bombe" after an especially grueling class. And now I've got another foodie memory to add. Ricotta lemon cake with blackberries; the creamiest feta I've ever had; this chocolate pastry with an unidentified gooey center that was like cookie dough, but hardly plebian enough to actually be that; toasted hazelnuts on my salad...I'm going to have to recreate it. 
After food, we went to the mall where I hit up anthropologie, which was just the icing on the cake. That store...just going in it makes me happy (which is a good thing, because I rarely walk out with anything). And it was so nice to look at lamps & cut-glass knobs & yellow sherbet dishes & think, "This could go in my house. My house. What a strange & wonderful thought!" (Btw, we do not have a house yet. Before you ask.) 
I ended the night by polishing off my leftover Ricotta lemon cake in bed. I am blessed. 

fruited salad with toasted hazelnuts...just doing my job to support a certain Oregon farm. 

Ricotta lemon cake with blackberries...I've always loved berries, but now, I can't seem to order or eat anything else. It's actually quite embarrassing. An OCD thing, I suspect. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I waited 10 years for a niece. Not that I don't adore my nephews and would want them to be anything other than what they are. But there's something about a niece. And I've got the sweetest one. I can't believe she's one already! So bittersweet, to miss out on her. I can't think about it too much. Shara, tell Madeira all about her aunt Jenna and how she loved to come over on her lunch break just to give her little niece a squeeze. And how she bought her clothes and had them in storage for years just waiting for the perfect little girl to fill them out. And how she stayed up one night finishing a pair of slippers for her that fit her for about a week before she outgrew them. And how her aunt was there for her very first step she took New Year's Eve 2012. And how much she misses her and wishes she could be there for all the little moments, but that the distance doesn't mean her aunt loves her any less. 
Don't let Deira forget her Aunt Jenna. She is "My"Deira. I'm so glad I got to be there for the first 8 months of her life. Give her an extra squeeze for me today. Happy birthday, Deirest.

Monday, March 11, 2013

all about me?

I started this post intending to talk about my life, other people, and what's going on outside of the wedding--I never wanted to be one of those people that couldn't talk about anything but the wedding, or the fiance, or the plans...but I realized, there's not a whole lot outside of that. : /. For better or worse, I'm afraid that's what's going on these days. And honestly, it's hardly wedding stuff taking precedence in my mind, but more wrapping my mind around the idea that I will be a wife, married, with my own house, in-laws, a new last name. But I'm still me. Still just Jenna Dotterer, a girl with tendencies to put off what really needs to be done and make paper flowers & apple cake instead. 

It was nice to take a break from all the newness and make paper flowers from an old map with Sophie. She's so patient with my absentmindedness and loves to talk about the wedding. She even came registering with us on Friday and was such a trooper! Eight hours of mind-numbing decisions & a doozy of a "bridal consultant". (Please look at my registry with a grain of salt! I'm tweaking it online this week. No, I do not think I'm entitled to $300 luggage or $75 "side sleeper" pillows. :).) Getting engaged has been a life lesson in asking for help. It was such an odd feeling to register, knowing I'll get the majority of what's on my list. I felt greedy & a little guilty. And so appreciative for my church family. And overwhelmed by the fellowship we have. And also a little burned out...I'm glad I've got Soph around to keep me enthused when I want nothing more to do with decisions--she keeps it fresh & exciting. And makes it impossible to totally be removed from reality. The kids have been so good for me right now. I do have some responsibilities to them, & they need attention from me, & to see a good example in me. I fail them frequently. There are times Sophie needs help with school, and I'm trying to tweak my registry, or make lists, and I find myself a little irritated at the interruption. (To my shame.) But just look at those big brown eyes! How could anyone stay irritated? Or not admit that perhaps it's not her, but me that's out of line? She has such confidence and trust in my good intentions. A good accountability. I'd hate to let her down.
So if it's apple cake & paper roses that keep me from becoming too caught up in planning, so be it. I will bake & make as much as it takes. And tackle that to-do list tomorrow. Hopefully, by the time June 16th rolls around, we'll all still be sane and our friendships will survive the journey.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

the first visit

I spent the weekend up in Silverton with my soon-to-be family. On the way out of the gate at PDX, my heart was a little skippy. I was about to meet my family, the ones who'd be next door for the rest of my life. What it's like for other people, I have no idea. But meeting my in-laws was so easy. They made it easy; drew me into conversation, asked me questions about my childhood, let me observe their family interact. I appreciated it so much. Especially since I didn't always do that with my in-laws...I deserved something much less pleasant. Right, Mr. Social?
Darwin's family is big. Eleven kids. And I love it. Growing up in a family of 7, there was always something going on. Dinner took a few hours sometimes between resolving intellectual arguments & waiting for Evan to get out of the bathroom. When my older siblings started getting married and moving out, life at home changed. It definitely felt like the early years in my childhood at Darwin's this weekend. Saturday was a lazy day, where everyone milled in and out, taking care of little chores in between hanging out together in front of the fireplace & in the kitchen. I think the kitchen is where a lot of their bonding takes place. After meals, everyone whisked away the dishes and helped clean up, even then boys (hem, hem, AlexWesEvan). The meals were a group effort, with at least three different chefs. They are a close family. Which made me even more appreciative that they included me so much. And not only are they emotionally close, but geographically too; across the road is where his grandma lives. She so sweetly offered her guest room, even though she was having some health issues. She's also the one who encouraged Dar to pick me up at the airport the very first time we met, last January. I owe her. Yes, that is the family I am marrying into. I know! 
Not only was his family great, but Oregon (despite many well-meant cautions on, you know, the possible difference in sky color between San Diego and Oregon) was beautiful. I, ahem, don't have any pictures to share. My camera never made it out of its bag. So my wordy descriptions will have to suffice. Trees clothed in lichens and moss, ferns dripping with color (and possibly rain...) nestled in the rocks, rivers winding their way through gentle hills & past cottages with deep porches & bright trim. And the smells! The smell of daphne was a new one for me, but I can see why every year, Edie mails a few sprigs to Laura in Ohio. It's the freshest, cleanest smell & reminds me of spring in the Midwest. It would be hard to feel blue when you were smelling a sprig of  daphne, I think. The daffodils, crocuses, & hyacinths were blooming too. And with all the rain comes that smell of dirt and green things growing. I suppose my farm roots are more intact & deeper than I thought because it smelled much more like home than I was expecting.
Darwin took me around, showed me all the workings of a berry farm. Despite having said I'd never marry a farmer, I'm quite satisfied with my fiance's occupation. Perhaps it was Alicen's blackberry custard pie Sunday night that softened the blow. Or the triple shakes we had not once, but twice while I was there. Or the marionberry jam at breakfast. I think I will adjust just fine to having blueberry bushes outside my door and a father-in-law who has 8 rows of "hobby" raspberries. And I can't think of  a better way for my nieces & nephews to spend their summer than on their aunt & uncle's berry farm. I see the relationships between Darwin's family & their cousins in Illinois, and it gives me hope that my family doesn't have to feel the distance. It'll take work to maintain relationships, but it's possible. And I've got my little blog to shorten those miles.