Thursday, December 30, 2010

This to That

Check out this website. This to That is a great site that helps you figure out what glue or adhesive you should use to attach this to that. So worth bookmarking. Just thought I'd share :)


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cutest Thing

This is the cutest thing. And it is way too cold today, so he's in a hat. Makes me want a baby to cuddle with!


Monday, December 27, 2010

The Papers of Peter Callesen

Today I really wanted to feature paper cut artist Peter Callesen. I have seen a lot of amazing art in my time, but this is unlike anything I've ever seen. All of his works are made from a single piece of white paper, folded and glued to make the most amazing papercraft sculptures. You have to see them all to believe it! Check it out here.

paper hummingbirdskeleton hand

Breathtaking, aren't they? I am so jealous!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

"What He Thought" by Heather McHugh

I think this might be my favorite poem of all time. It was introduced to me by my high school poetry teacher and I loved it so much I read it at least once a month now. I stumbled upon it again last week and I thought I'd share. Enjoy! I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!


by Heather McHugh

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the Mayor, mulled a couple
matters over. “What does mean this ‘flat drink?’ someone asked.
What is “cheap date?” (Nothing we said lessened
this one’s mystery). Among Italian writers we
could recognize our counterparts: the academic,
the apologist, the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib. And there was one
administrator (The Conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone
narrated sights and histories
the hired van hauled us past.
Of all he was most politic–
and least poetic– so
it seemed. Our last
few days in Rome
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?) to whom
he had inscribed and dated it a month before. I couldn’t
read Italian either, so I put the book
back in the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans
were due to leave
tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant,
and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till,
sensible it was our last big chance to be Poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked
“What’s poetry?
Is it the fruits and vegetables
and marketplace at Campo dei Fiori
or the statue there?” Because I was
the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think– “The truth
is both, it’s both!” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest
to say. What followed taught me something
about difficulty,
for our underestimated host spoke out
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said: The statue represents
Giordano Bruno, brought
to be burned in the public square
because of his offence against authority, which was to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government
but rather is poured in waves, through
all things: all things
move. “If God is not the soul itself,
he is the soul OF THE SOUL of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him forth to die
they feared he might incite the crowd (the man
was famous for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask
in which he could not speak.
That is how they burned him.
That is how he died,
without a word,
in front of everyone. And poetry–
(we’d all put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on softly)– poetry
is what he thought, but did not say.

“What He Thought” is the first poem in Heather McHugh’s collection of new and selected poems Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968 – 1993, published by Wesleyan/UPNE, 1994. Book Orders: 1-800-421-1561.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

5 In-Style Finds at the Thrift Store

Since I've been home I've hit the ultimate thrifting jackpot, and that is saying something in a small town in Iowa. So far I've aquired many wonderful finds including a great long green toggle close sweater, two vintage purses, about 5 skinny belts, two pairs of shoes, two vintage suitcases, a makeup bag, a velvet brown blazer, a thermal long sleeve shirt, and 3 awesome skirts, all for about $30. So here is a brief guide for

1. Skinny belts - they've been in style before, and thrift store belts are a great way to try out this new style without spending a lot of money.

2. Scarves - especially warm ones. If you don't spend much money you can have one for every outfit.

3. Bags and Purses - I've always had great luck with bags because there are lots of different styles available, most for less than $5.

4. Jewelry - Sometimes you have to take it apart to make it really worthwhile, but a lot of the beads or components are good quality, making it well worth investing a little DIY time.

5. Coats - Being warm is always in style, especially when you're from up north like me. I've found great peacoats and trench coats at my local Goodwill and other thrift stores.

Happy Thrifting!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Vocation Prayer

This prayer was passed on to me by a friend and it was originally written by Thomas Merton. As graduate school decisions approach I have been reading this almost everyday. If you're trying to figure out your life you might want to too. ;)


My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I rediscovered FreeRice today, which is a website that allows you to answer various vocabulary, math, geography, and other questions to earn rice that is delivered by FreeRice to hungry people all over the world. This is a wonderful site that can help sharpen some sluggish winter brains and help people at the same time! Please check it out :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This I Believe

I think this is good exercise for everyone to do every once and awhile. I made a list over a year ago and I decided to revisit it again recently to see what I was thinking about a year ago and see what has changed. Here's what I came up with.

I believe in God.
I believe that all women are beautiful, whether they believe it or not.
I believe that poetry has a way of lighting up the corners of our soul that we think are the loneliest.
I believe that no one is a lost cause.
I believe that God can use all things for good.
I believe that God loves all people unconditionally.
I believe that it is possible to be in love for a lifetime.
I believe that men and women have equal, but different, purposes.
I believe that music is it’s own language that transcends all barriers.
I believe that when we start making children statistics they get left behind.
I believe that some people are harder to love than others, but all people deserve to be loved.
I believe that it is always best to try on clothes before buying them.
I believe that aging is a beautiful thing and that people shouldn’t have to hide it.
I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and the sins of the whole world.
I believe that we cannot know how strong we are until we have been tested to the breaking point.
I believe that there are no obstacles that love cannot transcend.
I believe in angels.
I believe that God has a sense of humor.
I believe that people should never try to get rid of laugh lines, because they are the mark of all the things that make us happiest.
I believe that trust is one of the most precious gifts to give and recieve.
I believe that a little chocolate gives in happiness what it takes away in health.

See the rest of the list after the jump.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Free Shipping Day!

In case you haven't heard, today is free shipping day across the web! Check out this site to find out what discounts are available at what stores.

Exciting right?

And I also got my wisdom teeth out this morning. Your sympathy would be greatly appreciated.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Elegant Vintage brown pearl necklace

I am a very inexperienced photographer, but the pictures I took of this piece are some of my favorite. There is nothing quite as satisfying as FINALLY getting the lighting, focus, and piece placement right after hours of trying! I shoot most of my pictures in a very improvised studio that consists mostly of a super bright desk lamp, a box lid, various sheets of extra large scrapbooking paper in lots of lovely colors. Not exactly high tech.

This is a long faux pearl necklace that I reconstructed from vintage beads. When I graduated from school a very nice old woman that my mom works with gave me a gold mine of vintage pieces that I sorted into the "good-as-is," "good-with-some-reconstruction," and "utterly-hideous" piles customary when I get vintage pieces. The necklace made with these beads fell into the "good-with-some-reconstruction" pile and so an hour or so later, minus a handful of tarnished and chipped beads and spacers, this lovely little beauty was born.

It is probably the longest necklace I have ever made and it is a full 22 inches long. It graduates and the largest bead is squarely in the center. It has great drape and all the beads have a lovely sheen. It is the best of Victorian meeting modern style that any woman can pull off. Hope you like it as much as I do!


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Fifteen Podcasts That Keep Me Company

This time of year I start hibernating in my basement workshop, making jewelry like my life depends on it, and usually just avoiding human contact in general. I do, however, have my trusty podcasts to keep me company. Here are my favorite 15. Check them out on iTunes, subscribe, or check out their websites.

1. The Classic Tales Podcast: This podcast offers great classic short stories by many wonderful authors. The guy who reads them is really a wonderful voice actor and the overall quality of this is impeccable.

2. This American Life: A great show from NPR that shares stories on a theme each week. Their archives will keep you aurally busy for hours.

3. Best of YouTube: This great podcast helps you skip all the pointless YouTube searching and skip straight to the good stuff (most of the time).

4. Our Miss Brooks Podcast: I'm a sucker for old radio shows and Our Miss Brooks is one of the best I've found. Miss Brooks is a high school English teacher who is constantly at odds with her principal, Mr. Conklin, and trying to get the bashful biology teacher, Mr. Boyton, to notice her. The innocent humor is refreshing and family friendly.

5. The Great Gildersleeve Replay: In the same vein as Our Miss Brooks, this family comedy from the 1940s features Uncle Gildersleeve and his niece and nephew. Some of the earliest situation comedy, and it's still funny.

6. The Moth Podcast: Not all of the Moth stories are family friendly, but, for a mature audience, I have found them all very entertaining and inspiring. The storytellers are good at what they do, that's for sure.

See the rest of the list after the jump.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Everyone Should Make Their Own Beautiful Things

This is my list of the reasons that everyone should try their hand at some kind of art, be it painting, sculpture, sewing, knitting, crocheting, writing, singing, dancing, or anything else.

10. IT'S FUN!

9. Things you make are inevitably much cuter than things a machine made.

8. It forces you to go outside your comfort zone. If you only make what you know how to make you're not going to grow.

7. Creativity is very important in many aspects of life. Creating art and other beautiful things is a great way to exercise your creative muscles.

6. It is WAY cheaper than buying expensive commercial items.

5. It's a great way to relax, de-stress, and take some you time. Art is calming and rejuvenating.

4. They make the BEST gifts! No commercially, mass produced item could ever say "I care" like something you've spent some time and creativity on.

3. What a great way to be green! Reuse, re-vision, and remake old and worn out things in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

2. It allows you to express your emotions. Feeling angry? Let it out in your work! Now you've really found a way to positively channel feelings both good and bad.

1. You may see beauty where no one else does. Show the world what is beautiful to you!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Photo Highlights of the Alps

It's mostly grey and brown here in Iowa, although we did get a dusting of snow here yesterday. This cold without snow has me thinking fondly back on my recent stay in Austria and my afternoon spent in the Alps. Here are the highlights.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Disney Mean Girls Trailer

Get Excited and Make Things!

I have now returned from the wonders of Europe to the wonders of winter in Iowa. Therefore I must find ways to otherwise occupy myself. And therefore this is my new motto. Can't wait to share the results with you!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keep Us from Pettiness

Keep Us From Pettiness

Keep us, O God, from pettiness;
let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with faultfinding and leave off self-seeking.
May we put away all pretenses and meet each other, face to face, without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.
Let us take time for all things; make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.  Teach us to put in action our better impulses-straightforward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize
it is the little things of life that create difficulties;
that in the big things of life we are as one.
Oh, Lord, let us not forget to be kind.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

And that's it. Exit day. My flight takes me back to the States today. Pray that it goes well! See you Stateside.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All the Tutorials I'm Planning to Try this Christmas Break

I am hanging out in the airport daydreaming about all the thing I want to make when I get home again. I've been going through my bookmarks from this last semester and picking out the cream of the crop to test myself! These are the things I want to try this Christmas break:

Felt Bows
World's Easiest Skirt
Felt Gift Boxes
The Shirt Skirt
Lace Stenciled Frames
Photography Light Diffuser
Simple Screen Printing
Ruffled Holiday Dress
Mini Crepe Paper Roses
Pantyhose Petals
Cute Fridge Magnets
Origami Photography Studio
Reusable Lunch Bag
Vintage Earrings
Doily Racerback Tank Top
Confetti Crayons
Pom Pom Flowers
T-Shirt Weaving

I'm also full of my own ideas... So be watching for some tutorials of my own! I'm going to be a busy busy girl. Can't wait to start!



It has been a wonderful, challenging, sometimes maddening three months away from the States.
  1. Water
  2. Elevators
  3. Public Bathrooms
  4. Internet in English
  5. Lemonade
  6. A Closet
  7. High heels
  8. My family
  9. Seeing new movies in theaters
  10. Ice
  11. English small talk
  12. Libraries
  13. Target
  14. Fried foods
  15. My watercolors
  16. Strawberries
  17. Renting movies
  18. My beads
  19. Bacon
  20. Making smoothies
  21. Reading packaging
  22. Making phone calls
  23. Personal vehicles
  24. Mass and Confession in English
  25. My books
  26. Frosting
  27. My pillow top mattress
  28. Pancakes
  29. My guitar
  30. Texting

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 30: Texting

I was a little late jumping on the texting bandwagon, but it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. I look that little vibration sound coming from my purse, knowing that I have a message. It’s almost like getting a present. Who’s it going to be from? What do they want to tell me? It’s quite fun. So soon.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Alps

Just a quick hello... I am in Austria right now and very removed from the wonderful world of wireless internet, so this not only going to be much shorter than I would like, but won't be accompanied by the lovely pictures I'd like to show you.

But I do have to tell you something: I spent the first Sunday of Advent in the Alps. Like the mountains. Where it was snowing. My life does kind of rock sometimes.

I'll be making the long trek home starting Wednesday afternoon and then I will be able to be much more dedicated, and hopefully share a lot more traveling and photographing goodness with you!


Let Go

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prayer for Students

Finals may be way behind me, but I know that a lot of students are finishing up Thanksgiving break and gearing up for the last big push. I use this prayer all the time, especially getting ready for finals. Hopefully it helps!


Prayer for Students

Father of Light and Wisdom, thank you for giving me a mind that can know and a heart that can love. Help me to keep learning every day of my life--no matter what the subject may be. Let me be convinced that all knowledge leads to you and let me know how to find you and love you in all the things you have made. Encourage me when the studies are difficult and when I am tempted to give up, enlighten me when my brain is slow, and help me to grasp the truth held out to me. Grant me the grace to put my knowledge to use in building the kingdom of God on earth so that I may enter the kingdom of God in heaven.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

You Are Beautiful

That's right. YOU are today's work of art.

The people over are YouAreBeautiful are doing their part to make the world a better place by spreading the message "You are beautiful!" I love their premise and they distribute stickers with that message on them for FREE! Click on the stickers link on the left hand side at this website. You can also see pictures of all the places that they have reminders currently. They're breathtaking. The letters in this picture are 8' x 8'!

you are beautiful

Even though it's kind of long, i thought it was important to share their mission statement:

"You Are Beautiful is a simple, powerful statement which is incorporated into the over absorption of mass media and lifestyles that are wrapped in consumer culture.

The intention behind this project is to reach beyond ourselves as individuals to make a difference by creating moments of positive self realization. We're just attempting to make the world a little better.

Intention is the most important aspect of the You Are Beautiful project in its idea of purity. Nothing is sacred. Everything that has a perceived value becomes commodified. We work extremely hard that this message is received as a simple act of kindness, and nothing more.

Advertising elicits a response to buy, where this project elicits a response to do something. The attempt with You Are Beautiful is to create activism instead of consumerism.

You Are Beautiful uses the medium of advertising and commercialization to spread a positive message.
Projects like these make a difference in the world by catching us in the midst of daily life and creating moments of positive self realization."

To me, that sounds a lot like what I stand for too. I'm going to jump on the band wagon and make my own stickers to put in with my Etsy orders. How do you make the world more beautiful?


TIAMLFTA the USA # 29: My Guitar

Last April my boyfriend gave me a beautiful guitar and though I am by no means a master (who am I kidding? I’m not even a little bit good yet) I miss playing around with it. My ultimate goal is to be able to play random background music while I recite my poetry, which I know is so stereotypically artistic of me, but I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway.  

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Colorspiration: Winter Red

We No Speak Americano

In honor of my first day in yet another new country that uses a language I don't speak at all (Austria), I'm featuring this fabulous music video. Enjoy and wish me luck with the locals. We'll see how it goes.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thirty Things I'm Thankful For

In the wonderful spirit of Thanksgiving I've been doing some reflecting on how very blessed I am. I have many wonderful people, opportunities, and blessings in my life that enrich everything I do. And though it is very far from exhaustive, I have made a list of thirty of these things that I would like to share with you.

So here's my list:
  1. Faith
  2. My boyfriend, John
  3. Family
  4. Prayer
  5. Girlfriends
  6. The chance to study abroad
  7. Stability
  8. Creativity
  9. Leisure time
  10. Language
  11. Strawberries with chocolate
  12. iPods
  13. Central heating
  14. College/Education
  15. Freedom
  16. Theater
  17. Music
  18. Smooth writing pens
  19. Medicine
  20. Literature
  21. Corrective lenses
  22. Laptops
  23. Differences of opinion
  24. America
  25. Rainy Saturdays
  26. Blank notebooks
  27. Ice cream
  28. Photography
  29. Sweaters
  30. Stories

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 28: Pancakes

Actually, it’s more like breakfast foods in general. But pancakes especially would be very nice. Breakfast here is quite, “Oh, you want to eat now? Here’s some bread. I think there’s butter in the fridge.” And that’s not horrible, but I’ll tell you a secret. Most bread in Italy is unsalted because the meat here is so salty, making them both kind of disgusting, especially apart. And the butter? Also unsalted. So my breakfast every day has been unsalted bread with unsalted butter and a boiled egg. But now I am a master with a saltshaker. It’s all a give and take.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks to come! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Listography Love

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Listography, but it is a great website that I use as much as I can! I am a list person, and being able to have all my lists in one place really helps me out. The website is free to use and interesting to browse. Check it out! Here's the link to mine:

Dust and Pearls Listography

Let me know what you think of the site in the comments section!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 27: My Mattress

I don’t know if I even remember what a truly comfortable bed feels like. From hostel to hostel and the villa, nowhere has been terrible, but they’ve been seriously lacking in comfort. I feel like there’s a possibility I won’t be able to sleep because I’ll be too comfortable.

What a problem to have.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Angels in the Clouds

There is a bridge crossing the Tiber River in Rome that has an angel on each of the posts, carrying items from Christ’s passion and death. This bridge pretty much screams “Photograph me!” so I know I’m not the first, and certainly not the last, to do so. I did, however, have the advantage of a fabulous blue sky and wonderful clouds for a backdrop, so please enjoy these pictures. I have big plans for them, so don’t be surprised if they show up again.

I am so sorry that I haven't had time to write much about Rome yet. Know that some more informative posts are in the works! For now, just enjoy the pictures.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Light Grafitti Photography

I wish i knew more about photography, including how to take very awesome light graffiti pictures like these! Check them out, you'll be amazed!

light guitar


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Colorspiration: Purple

Colorspiration - Purple

TIAMLFTA the USA # 26: Frosting

I’ve been doodling in the margins of my notebooks, but instead of hearts and stars like you’ll find in most notebooks, I’ve been drawing cakes I can’t wait to decorate with rich, creamy, American frosting. So far the one I’m most excited about it a round cake decorated to look like an Oreo, with the frosting crème center of course. I’ll save you a slice when I finally get around to making it.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks to come!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Il Papa

I saw the Pope today. Because it's a Wednesday, and I'm in Rome.

And if that wasn't a big enough deal on its own--he was about five feet away from me in his adorable little pope-mobile.

I would upload a picture to prove it... but the internet is going through a "stage" at the moment. Management thinks he'll grow out of it soon.


UPDATE: The internet has grown out of its shenanigans, at least for now. So here's the proof.

And that's without the zoom. Not a bad day, all in all.


Don't Block the Doors

I just kind of love this.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Arrivederci Firenze...

I am leaving Florence for the last time today. It's bittersweet because it was my city for awhile and it has become a part of who I am. The sun is setting on my time here, but there is still so much to look forward to.

Sunset over Florence (As photographed from my bedroom window. Is it any wonder I'm sad to be leaving?)
I'm leaving for 10 days in Rome and the start of another new adventure. Wish me luck! Anything I have to see while I'm there?


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Newsies Dance to Bad Romance

I love this. So much. I've always been a Newsies girl, especially since Christian Bale has grown up. And Gaga is always good for something interesting.


TIAMLFTA the USA # 25: My Books

My reading list has grown exponentially now that I have only been allowed to think about reading instead of actually reading them. Outside of Man Walks into a Room and The Dijinn in the Nightingale’s Eye (which was fabulous, by the way) the two books I mangaged to wrangle out of the library downstairs in the villa, I haven’t been able to find many books to satiate my hunger for literature. First book on my list for when I get home? A trip to the library for The Phantom Tollbooth. 

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks to come!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Photo Highlights of Scotland

Scotland really was beautiful, even though it was wet and cold. Here are the highlights. For more on what I did in Scotland, check out the "Bookbag Challenge" posts.


Half of a full rainbow over the National Gallery of Scotland
the Princes Street Gardens
St. Giles Cathedral
A beautiful Scottish sky

The beautiful fall colors
Cute boots, beautiful leaves
This super creepy mausoleum is "home" to the Mackenzie Poltergeist
And this is the Covenenter's Prison, supposedly the most haunted place on Earth and the first concentration camp. Scots who opposed the King's takeover of the Church in the 16th Century were sent here, where they were horribly mistreated.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the original Hogwarts: an Edinburgh school outside the window of the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books.

Castle Rock, the volcanic rock on which Edinburgh Castle is located. There have been castles on this spot for over two thousand years.

This heart marks the spot where a duel purpose building used to stand: it was the tax collector's office and the holding cells for criminals about to be executed. Therefore, it became tradition to spit on the door of this building, which was marked with a heart, as a sign of distaste. When the building was torn down they replaced the heart in the pavement so that there would still be a place where one could legally spit in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

A Look Back Part Two

 Here is the second half of my paper on what this experience abroad has taught me. Enjoy.

5.     I really and truly am an introvert.
Like most people, I think, I idealize experiences before they happen. I imagine them playing out in a certain way, usually completely divorced from what I already know about myself and how I react to certain situations. And even though I have found my college community to seem too small at times, I thought that living with a very small group of people was going to be absolutely ideal. And it’s not that it hasn’t been good, it’s just that I need just as much time away from people as I always did at school. It has been tempting to feel guilted away from the time that I need alone to write, draw, and process my experiences, but I think that I’ve done pretty well staying true to my own needs. I do struggle with stress and even though the class load has been light, being abroad and planning travels stress me out more than anything else I’ve ever dealt with. I’ve needed a lot of time to deal with things, but I think that this list itself is proof that I did pretty well.
6.     We wear pants for a reason.
This could probably be better stated, “Western Civilization is the way it is for a reason” and I have never appreciated that fact as much as I have while I’ve been here. Thanks to Francesco and his excellent class I learned that there is a purpose behind so many things we take for granted now about how we live, interact, and see the world. Our letters are Roman, our numbers are Arabic, and barbarian horsemen inspire our pants. Every day we are interacting with the past in the present. We are the heirs to a long, long line of tradition and innovation, especially as members of the Catholic Church and Western Civilization. Now we are the stewards of this tradition and it is important for us to preserve it and understand it so that it will not be lost in the future.
7.     Art/architecture/places are more beautiful if you understand them.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel comfortable traveling without a tour guide again, not because I don’t feel confident in my own abilities to get around, but because I have fully realized how important it is to understand the things your seeing. Thankfully I had the opportunity to go on MANY guided tours here in Europe, upwards of twenty by my count, and this helps me to feel like I got as much as I could out of my travels. My mind is full of trivia and tidbits that will be of use or amusement to me for the rest of my life. But more than that, I understood why I should care about what I was seeing. I’m all for appreciating things because of their beauty, but things are that much more beautiful if you understand why they are unique. I’ve seen numerous churches, but there are many that stick out on their own because they were important for specific reasons: The Porziuncula was the church that Saint Francis rebuilt, the Duomo was the first modern church with a dome of that size, Notre Dame is an 800 year old example of Gothic architecture, the list goes on and on. Attention and understanding we’re keys to this semester to me, and I plan to strive to fully understand other places I visit in the future, even if I don’t have a tour guide.
8.     I am thankful that I am an American.
There are so many things about America that I appreciate so much more now. All semester I kept a list on my blog going of all the things I miss most about the States that I’ll be happy to return to such as lemonade, ice, free water in restaurants, frosting, fried food, free bathrooms, and my closet of clothes, in addition to the obvious ones like family and friends. But even more than these things there are many aspects of American attitudes and ideals that don’t play as big a part in the outlook of other countries, such as Italy.
I always thought that I might live abroad, but now I don’t think I will, and if I do it will only be briefly, mostly likely a year or less. Although it’s rather en vogue to belittle America right now, I have no desire to jump on the bandwagon. I’ve seen other parts of the world and have come to appreciate them, but I am an American at heart. I believe in what America stands for and I could never walk away from that. Does it have things to work on as a country? Of course. Could it learn a lot from the rest of the world? Definitely. But do I love it despite everything? You bet I do. And I really can’t wait to go back.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 24: Mass and Confession in English

You can find it, but it’s hard. English mass is only on Saturday evenings in the center of Florence, which is inconvenient but doable, however few things have been as frustrating on this trip as finding English confession. It’s funny how much I have always taken liturgy in my own language for granted. As a member of the clearly post-Vatican II generation, I’d never even been to a Latin mass before this trip. I know that regular Sunday mass will be a welcome experience for me on December 5th!

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks to come! 

A Look Back

Although I still have about two and a half weeks left abroad, classes are over for the semester. Our last assignment for our Study Abroad practicum was to write a five page review of what we learned and experiences abroad. I chose to make a list of what I know I'll be taking home with me from this experience. I'd like to share what I wrote with you in two installments. Today I'll be sharing the first four things on the list and tomorrow I'll share the next four.


1.     I can sleep anywhere.
Though this might seem a bit tongue in cheek, it’s actually quite the revelation for me. When I was in middle school and high school I was very uptight about getting enough sleep, and I depended on a strict routine to allow me to fall asleep. But even then stress would pile up and I would occasionally lay awake for hours tossing and turning. Sleeping in strange places always made me anxious and sleepovers were often a nightmare. College has diminished this problem a little bit, but now I am officially able to sleep just about anywhere, as I have proven on this trip. Whether it was on an uncomfortable (and upright) transatlantic flight, a train sleeper car, or in a Scottish hostel room packed the brim with a loud and post-camping Belgian family, I’m not worried about falling asleep anymore. High stress levels, uncomfortable settings, strange people—none of it bothers me like it used to. I think this also speaks to a level of comfort I have reached with my own capabilities to adapt to new situations and relax about them. I have learned to let go a little bit, at least enough to turn off my brain and go to sleep even when I don’t have everything figured out. 
2. There are still stories that need to be told. 
This one is especially important to me because I came to Europe a disillusioned undergraduate writing student who had forgotten how to think outside the box. I couldn’t shake the feeling that all the stories my life would have to offer had already been told. Reading had lost my interest. I wondered why it mattered to create new work when there was already more than a person could possibly read in a hundred lifetimes. And then I got thrown into not just one, but many new cultures. I re-discovered some of the magic in stories. I found wonder again. I started to see the line connecting all the art of Italy, each work growing out of an amalgamation of others. I realized that there are many stories that need to be told in this time because they grow out of what has come before. But the icing on the cake was the talk by Dony Mac Manus. One of the things he said was that every generation needs its own art. I am one the artists of my generation, and I firmly intend to do what I can to add to the canon of this time. I’m going home ready to learn and ready to work. There is no time to waste.
3.     I cannot underestimate the importance of my hobbies.
You know what you love by what you miss, and what I miss the most actually surprised me. It wasn’t English classes or theater like I was expecting, but my hobbies of making jewelry and other crafts. I also missed painting, which is not something that I’ve historically put much emphasis on. While I’ve been here I have started thinking about other career options based on these interests instead of the interests that I’ve always pursued in school. I’ve had the space and the time to look at my life and see what really matters to me and because of that I know I’m going to make some changes when I get home. Instead of scheduling the GRE exam I might be applying to design school—we’ll see. But for the first time, it’s an option.
4.     Language barriers are especially daunting to me.
As a writer, language is my thing. I love it, I know it, and I can command it. Not so much with a foreign language. Although I lived abroad this summer, it was in an English speaking country. Italy has really been hard for me because I do struggle with spoken foreign language a lot, though I can usually write and read fairly effectively. I get flustered very easy when people start speaking to me in Italian and I also get embarrassed easily, meaning that I haven’t put myself out there as much as I could have to converse. Although it made things uncomfortable sometimes I am glad that I now know this about myself so that I can work on it. I’m really going to try to become fluent in either French or Italian so that I do have another language that I am comfortable conversing in, but also want to continue learning new elements of language because I think it’s good to be challenged like this.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein

Today is our last day of school here in Florence and we have a fabulous Italian final very soon. I can't believe the semester is already over! I was feeling nostaligic recently and I rediscovered this poem, along with the books of Madeleine L'Engle and Phantom Tollbooth, which I am totally planning to re-read over winter break. Inspiration galore! Enjoy the silliness--it keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.


Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Bookbag Challenge Day 5

Here was my day last Friday in a nutshell, highlights are in caps:

Wake up.
Leave hostel.

And btw: this took TWELVE hours. It all really needs no more elaboration than that. Except for the fact that this is what I wore, and I actually took a picture!

The hair is really inexcusable, but I’m just going to say that I was tired of trying. Traveling really can take it out of you. 

And this concludes my foray into style blogging for now. I'm definitely thinking about continuing though. Let me know what you think!

And that was my trip to Scotland! Have you ever been to Scotland? What did you do there? Let me know in the comments section.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to Be Miserable as An Artist

This is not mine, but I agree wholeheartedly with all of it, so I thought I would share.


Bookbag Challenge Day 4

Today we woke up early and braved the morning air to make it in time for the HAIRY COO BUS TOUR!

To me, this initially sounded disgusting, and I was not really interested. But then I saw the words “Highlands tour” and “Free” in their brochure, so I decided to look a bit closer.

True to it’s word, this tour really was a FREE, DAY-LONG bus tour of the Scottish highlands. Umm, yes please. Even if the name is gross sounding.

 Turns out “coo” means cow in Scottish English, and there were plenty of hairy cows to go around. John and Fiona were in love with them, but I was a touch more reserved about the whole thing. They were cute, but really—they’re still cows.

This, my friends, is a hairy coo.

In the end, this was one of the coolest things we did in Edinburgh. We went to the Wallace National Monument (As in William Wallace. As in Braveheart. As in AWESOME.) and there was beautiful fall scenery galore. And just to put the cherry on top, we went to the castle where they filmed scenes for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And they provided us with coconuts. It was fabulous.

 Unfortunately this probably the best picture of my outfit that I’m going to be able to provide you with. That super adorable hat was my one purchase on this trip and I love it dearly. Prepare to see much more of it, especially at the end of this month in Austria!

I regret immensely that our budget didn’t allow us to tip the Hairy Coo Bus Tour more than we did. Please, if you’re ever in the area, look them up. I think it’s important that small (and free!) tour companies like this keep going. Check out their website here.

So here is a better idea of what I actually wore:
Bookbag Challenge Day 4
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