The Grand European Adventure: London Calling

Our adventure began and ended in London- but before I begin the epic that is England, let me give you an idea about my feelings for London:

I have, as souvenirs, obtained a London Underground mouse pad, coffee mug, and poster, a union jack scarf, english yarn from english sheep, english candy, and Many Many Pictures Of Everything.

So, you can imagine my excitement when London finally happened.

 

London was an adventure in three parts: the first section, the day we flew in, was that my sister Lillian and her friend Billy the British Paratrooper were going to pick us up from the airport. Heathrow has this big Arrivals hall where everyone comes out after passing through customs, and someone famous must have been flying in because there were all these teenage girls everywhere- a bunch of them yelled that they like my hair, which was pretty funny. We met up with Lill and Billy the British Paratrooper, and took off for the University of East Anglia, where they are studying. We never made it to school because there was an accident on the M11 involving a lorry, three cars, and a ‘horse box’ – and after being stuck in traffic for 3 hours the police told us to turn around on the highway and drive [on the American side of the road!!!] back the way we came. All the other ways to get back were blocked as well, so we gave up, exhausted and hungry but having had a good lesson on the colloquial differences between American English and British English- and also on the Cockney accent- and Billy the British Paratrooper was kind enough to show us around Essex, (a traditional carvery dinner, a pub, and some sheep painted on the ceiling of an underpass!!) and then let us crash in his house- but not before making us tea the authentic British way!

(Sorry that’s the grainiest photo known to man… selfies in the dark tend not to end well, but SHEEP.)

Not only was Billy kind enough to let us stay in his house and eat his breakfast, he also drove us back to the airport the next morning at 4am to catch our flight to Ireland. Because Billy is the best.

After Ireland, which I told you about in the previous post (If you haven’t read it, at least go back and look at the pictures, because Ireland is so beautiful and so green!), we flew back to London to continue our adventure there.

We took the tube from the airport to our hostel, which was about two blocks from King’s Cross station. The automated voice said ‘mind the gap’, and I had a Huge Nerd Moment about that- you can ask Aric, I was probably embarrassing. That is why I was giggling like a mad woman every time the doors opened and closed…

The first full day was another bus trip- this time to see Stonehenge and Bath:

Stonehenge- which is not, we were told, an actual henge...

Stonehenge- which is not, we were told, an actual henge…

Stonehenge is technically an archaeological site- so we couldn’t go all the way up to it- can’t disturb the fragile earth. Also I guess they’ve had problems with graffiti in the past. It is, however, kind of located on a hill, so it was easy to take pictures of just the stones and crop out most of the tourists surrounding them.

(I am also not ashamed of the number of selfies that happened at stonehenge)

(I am also not ashamed of the number of selfies that happened at Stonehenge)

It was surrounded by pastures full of sheep, and I consider it one of the greatest disappointments of my career as a photographer that I was not able to get both the sheep and Stonehenge in the same picture. I tried, though. Oh, how I tried. Also, my souvenir from Stonehenge is an eraser that just has the word ‘ROCKS’ on it in a huge point size- which I feel is an accurate description of what we saw there.

These English sheep have a wonderful view of Stonehenge.

These English sheep have a wonderful view of Stonehenge.

After not-an-actual-henge (actual henges have some kind of ditch dug around them that this one doesn’t have…I think), we continued on to Bath, where there is a cathedral that is built tall because the angels needed to climb down the ladders from heaven.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

D’you see the ladders? With the little stone angels climbing down? Also, check out those flying buttresses! The building there on the right is the entrance to the Roman Baths, which I’m getting to, I promise.

Another view of those flying buttresses, because they're awesome

Another view of those flying buttresses, because they’re awesome

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We had to avoid the on-and-off rain to take pictures, but it was totally worth it.

After exploring the city a bit, and having lunch at a place that boasted the city’s best baguettes, (they were really good… also we met a gentleman who wrote for the New York Times there, and he and his wife were hilarious) we took a tour of the Roman Baths.

This cool chandelier is not Roman, but it was there, and it was pretty...

This cool chandelier is not Roman, but it was there, and it was pretty…

The neat thing about the Baths, is that the museum lets you explore what’s left of the original Roman architecture, and gives you a pretty good idea of what it would have looked like back in the day. Check out this still-functioning drain, for example:

Roman architecture!

Roman architecture!

It still carries the leftover water from where it overflows from the baths into a very complex drainage system. How cool is that!

IMG_0845The main area had a lot of tourists crawling all over it, but this secondary area was empty. The baths aren’t in use anymore, but there is a spa nearby that still uses the spring water for treatments. At the end of the museum, there’s a fountain where you can try the water fresh from the spring. They really played up how it didn’t taste like normal water, and it was gross and all that- but I tried it and it wasn’t actually that bad. Just a very slight aftertaste, but nothing anyone shouldn’t be able to handle. Since the Romans thought it had magical healing properties (and maybe it does- it has a lot of very good for you minerals in it), I also tried washing my hands in it. There were no immediate changes, but apparently it takes a few days to take effect.. plus, I didn’t sacrifice anything to the Gods. It has, however, been two and a half weeks and my hands are behaving normally- so maybe there’s something to it after all.

IMG_0854Almost all of the buildings in Bath are built from this same kind of stone, but this was the only one we saw with a porous version of it- part of the process that the water goes through before it emerges from the hot spring, is that it is filtered through porous rock like this deep in the ground. It was really cool to see it used in the buildings as well, since it is so integral to the city.

After not enough time at all, we were on the bus headed back to London. It was a beautiful day, and we both agreed that five hours was not enough time for Bath. We would like to go back and spend a week or so there- it’s very laid back, and every inch is beautiful.

I'm very jealous of the view these sheep have. They don't even know how lucky they are.

I’m very jealous of the view these sheep have. They don’t even know how lucky they are.

We got back into London around 7 that evening, explored the portion of the Thames along which lies the London Eye, Big Ben, and Parliament.

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I cannot even explain to you how much I want to live here..

Going up in the Eye is expensive, but I think it’s just as pretty from the ground anyways.

Big Ben!

Big Ben!

We decided to stick around and watch the sun set over Big Ben and Parliament, because I knew that Big Ben would be lit at night, and I sort of assumed that Parliament would be too.

It is lit a little, I guess

It is lit a little, I guess…

It’s a lot darker than I expected. Maybe because we light the White House so intensely here, I was expecting the same of such an important British building. We didn’t get a chance to go see Buckingham Palace, so I don’t know how that is lit at night. Big Ben was beautiful anyways, though.

(And I didn't do half bad for not having a tripod with me...)

(And I didn’t do half bad for not having a tripod with me…)

The next day, we headed off to see the Tower of London- which is perhaps the biggest misnomer in British History. The Tower of London is a castle. Inside some walls, surrounded by a dry moat. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is very cool, and an excellent museum with lots of cool stuff- but a tower? A tower, it is not.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

There are soldiers stationed at the Tower still, but it has mostly been converted into a museum.

Tall Hats! We got to witness a changing of the guard. These guys are serious. I took a lot of photos, but most of them are crawling with tourists.

Tall Hats! We got to witness a changing of the guard. These guys are serious. I took a lot of photos, but most of them are crawling with tourists.

Rather than one big tour, it is separated up into multiple sections, where you can learn about such things as the Kings that lived and ruled there, the history of English currency, conquests, armor and weapons- and, of course, the crown jewels. The benefit of this is that you can pick and choose what you see- the problem is that you have to try really hard to make sure you don’t miss anything. We spent almost an entire day there. The crown jewels were awesome- even if they do put you on a people-conveyor so that you can’t stand around them…and even if they don’t let you take photos.

If not a tower, the walls were tall regardless

If not a tower, the walls were tall regardless

 

Tower Bridge (which is London Bridge if you’re actually from London) was right outside the Tower walls

 

Look! Not falling down!

Look! Not falling down!

There was a little exhibit up inside there, but we heard it wasn’t all that great, so we just took pictures instead. Many pictures.

To be fair, we weren't the only ones partaking in Epic Selfies.

To be fair, we weren’t the only ones partaking in Epic Bridge Selfies.

That day was also an interesting day for pink hair and fashion sense: I actually don’t know if it was the hair or the thigh-high argyle socks I was wearing, but I was glad I felt pretty okay with how I looked because people were staring. A lot. More than usual. Maybe it’s because that area is really touristy, but whatever it was, it was weird. I did observe a distinct lack of tall socks in England, though, and that’s not something I’m willing to give up. People are just going to have to stare, I guess.

If you’re ever in London, I highly suggest you spend a day at the British Museum: entrance is free, and it has the biggest collection of …stuff… that I have ever seen in one place. They have the Rosetta stone, rooms and rooms on ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Americas. As Billy puts it, “It’s a bunch of stuff that we stole!”- and that’s accurate. We stayed until close the first day, and then went back the day after.

Here’s my story about the British Museum, though- I was wandering around one of the Egypt rooms- looking at this really cool beaded burial shroud that included a description of the restoration process that it went through before it was displayed because that’s just the kind of nerd I am…. and this 12 or so year old kid walks up to me (right up to me. 3 feet away or so)- and he holds up his phone, and takes a picture of me! Flash and everything, it was completely the opposite of subtle. So I was just standing there, with my ‘this is really interesting museum face’ on, (my mouth was probably a little open, and there was probably a bit of Resting Bitch Face involved, because that is a thing that I do)- and the kid runs back to his group of perhaps 10 or 11 friends, and he holds up his phone and points at me! So of course, all his friends hold up their phones and start taking photos of me too! Flashes and everything. I wasn’t aware that my pink hair was going to make me part of the Egypt exhibit, but there are now a dozen British schoolchildren with most likely terrible photos of me on their phones, and they’re probably also on Facebook. It’s like being famous, but with none of the perks.

Anyways, pink hair adventures aside, the next stop was Abbey Road, so we could do The Walk…

The Abbey Road Crossing!

The Abbey Road Crossing!

This turned out to be a hilarious train wreck, because there were a bunch of other people there, and at zebra crossings it’s illegal to drive through if you even so much as see someone who might want to cross the road. So basically, all these people are standing with their toes in the crosswalk waiting for the cars to go by so they could do their walks, and all the cars are stopped, waiting for people to walk. It was a mess, but we timed our walks with lulls in the traffic, so there weren’t too many cars. In order for the photo to be from the right angle though, the photographer has to be out in the road as well- so although we did the walk, the photos aren’t quite right.

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Aric and Abbey Road

We also went and found both 221B Baker Streets- first the one on Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes, and now the Sherlock Holmes Museum,- and second, the one that is the filming location of BBC Sherlock- which is not on Baker Street at all. It is, however, really and actually the home of Speedy’s restaurant and cafe, where we had breakfast!

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It was a really tasty breakfast, too- Sherlock and John are so lucky.

We didn’t actually go into the Holmes museum, because it was expensive and I heard that it wasn’t all that great. It’s a huge admission of my nerd-dom that I can say with fair certainty that I probably already know everything that the Holmes museum had to tell anyways. Fact of the day: 221B Baker Street didn’t actually exist when Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his stories- the street didn’t yet go down that far, so it was a made up address. Kind of like using 555- numbers in TV shows, I guess.

check out that constable too!

check out that constable too!

Also, here is a Very Important Picture of me knitting a recreation of Granny’s baby blanket on the London Underground at the Baker Street station:

and for this photo, I get the Golden Tourist Award. Case closed.

and for this photo, I get the Golden Tourist Award. Case closed.

And some Sherlocks:

The Baker Street tube station is covered in tiny Sherlock Holmeses. Some of them even make up bigger Sherlock Holmeses!

These grainy photos do not even begin to establish how excited I was about Baker Street- I don’t believe the words actually exist.

Everything about London in one photo, right here.

Everything about London in one photo, right here.

We found these phone booths on the way to the Transport Museum, which was awesome, especially since the history of London Transport is so interesting. Happy 151sth anniversary to the London Underground, wheee! I’m especially happy about the Underground sign in the background. The Transport Museum’s gift shop is where I got the aforementioned mousepad, mug, and poster. They also sold things made from the fabric that the seats on the tube trains are upholstered with- it’s called Moquette. Each line has its own unique pattern- my favorite was the Bakerloo line, which is kind of geometric honeycomb-esque. Aric said he’s more of a Central Line man, although it is distinctly possible that he was being facetious. Here’s a link if you want to check out the fabrics.

 

So that was London. After four short days there, we were on our way to Amsterdam. I wasn’t happy to leave, but I definitely plan to go back. There is one part left to the London Adventure that I’m going to include with Berlin, because it didn’t happen until the end of our trip. There have been negative opinions about the weather there, but it seems to me like the weather is specifically designed for fair skinned, easily-burnt people such as myself- plus it’s cool, and distinctly lacking in humidity. The accents are wonderful, the people are great. People-watching on the tube is second to none. Plus, they have great television. The tea is excellent, and scones there are much better than the scones anywhere else. Basically, London is the best, and I want to go back.

Keep watching this space for the Adventures in Amsterdam with Pink Hair.

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The Grand European Adventure: Ireland

Hey…

So, since we’ve talked last, a lot of things have happened: My computer crashed (twice), I got a new computer, I graduated, sold a bunch more bags on Etsy including one custom-dyed one (first time for that!), got involved in some T-shirt printing projects, and a bunch of other stuff, but we’ll talk about that later, because the Very Important Thing that most recently happened is that Aric and I went on a Grand Adventure!

We visited Ireland, England, Amsterdam, and Berlin- but since telling you about the whole entire trip would end up being a terrifyingly long blog post full of a terrifyingly large number of pictures, I’m breaking it up into four bits. If, for some inconceivable reason, you just really hate Ireland and can’t stand the thought of reading about our experiences there- feel free to skip this one and wait for England, which will be up in a few days.

IMG_0193We were in Ireland for four days, three of which we spent in Dublin.  The above is a from a shopping center we found. I kind of really wanted to know what it would be like inside there when it was raining, but we had dry weather nearly the whole time we were there. Here, I found a little craftsman shop that had things like handmade fisherman’s sweaters, woolens, hats, and silver stuff. I bought an Irish-made scarf that was made from Irish sheep, and some yarn as well.

Nerd Alert:

For your knitting history fact of the day- knitting was and still is extremely popular in Ireland. Back when its main industry was fishing, (not a thing so much because of the EU) each family had a unique cable pattern that they would use to make sweaters and other woolens for the men going out to sea. If a fisherman fell overboard in a storm and drowned, his body was often identified by the sweater he was wearing. They’re unique to the families, much like Scottish tartans.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

We wandered a bit, and discovered that there are a lot of older churches in a very small area- only about a ten minute walk from our hostel. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest in Ireland, and it is apparently beautiful on the inside but we didn’t go in. This one is still functional, which isn’t true of a lot of the church buildings in Ireland.

Trinity College

Trinity College

We also wandered over to Trinity college, which was very beautiful and which was also entirely gated except for two entrances. We may have gotten a little tiny bit turned around in a hunt for Oscar Wilde’s house- which turned out to be closed anyways, but we made it out alive. Trinity college seemed to have swallowed up his home- it’s part of the building they use for computer science,  and since we went on a weekend, we couldn’t get in.  This is one of those colleges where you’re not allowed to walk on the grass, but everything is so very green and manicured, also. We sat for a bit looking at the green space, and compared it to Truman where someone is always playing frisbee somewhere.

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

At a few people’s suggestion, we visited the Guinness Storehouse, which is basically a museum documenting the history and general goodness of Guinness, along with a brewery tour. I was glad I wasn’t there with Dad, because he probably would have pitched a tent in the corner and decided to stay. One of the very cool things about the place is that it’s in a building that used to be functional as part of the production of Guinness, so it’s got these neat pipes, drains, valves, and duct work everywhere. Besides that, there was also an entire floor dedicated to the many ways in which Guinness has been advertised:

Poster advertisements for Guinness

Poster advertisements for Guinness

This, especially, was super cool:

Guinness through the decades

Guinness through the decades

There was also, of course, a tasting, and a lesson on the ‘correct’ way to drink Guinness, which involved standing up straight, raising your elbow parallel with the floor, toasting the founder, and feeling proud of the Guinness in order to get the full effect. I’m not the hugest fan of Guinness, but the whole thing was awesome: we both had a lot of fun. The Irish work it into everything, too- although I wasn’t the hugest fan of the beer, I had a truly fantastic Irish Guinness stew in a pub, and I’m glad that Guinness exists so that that stew could happen.

On a side note, I’m reasonably sure that I belong in Ireland based on the fact that it is socially acceptable to have a potato dish with two different sides of als0-potatoes plus bread. It was like carb heaven, and if you know me, you know that I have an unparalleled love of potatoes. Why yes, I will have potato stew served over mashed potatoes with a side of fries. Do I get seconds with that?

IMG_0276We were in Ireland for four days, one of which was spent on a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. The nice thing about this trip was that we stopped at a lot of scenic and historic places along the way, so we got to take pictures and learn about a lot of Irish culture. For example, there aren’t a lot of castles or older buildings in general in Ireland, because the English tore a lot down when they decided they wanted Ireland: this castle is a rare exception. (Also, random wild swans?!)

IMG_0284It was a tiny bit rainy during the ride to the cliffs, if you hadn’t noticed. This is a church across from the castle. Fortunately, the weather cleared up as we kept driving.

IMG_0301I spent basically the whole time taking pictures out the bus window- a lot of them turned out questionably, but that’s how it goes. In total, I took 1456 photos on this trip. The Irish countryside is littered with rock structures- buildings like this, and of course the dry-stone walls that divide Ireland into sections so famously. It was really weird to see those walls, because nothing like that exists in the US. It’s all green grassy countryside, but separated by low rock walls- whereas here, there are no walls, but you can tell the separations because of the different lawn treatments and crops that people grown. What we saw in Ireland was mostly grazing land, not cultivation. Irish sheep!

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

By the time we got to the cliffs, it was beautiful and outside again. By beautiful, I mean cloudy so that we pale folks don’t risk third degree burns by stepping out of doors. Ireland understands my needs. Potatoes and clouds- it’s not so hard.

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AKA the Cliffs of Insanity!

In the movie Princess Bride, this was the filming location for the Cliffs of Insanity scene- time to rewatch that and recognize that! I’m pretty sure a lot of it was painted set rather than actual cliffs- and the top of the cliffs in that movie are sandy, whereas the tops of the actual ones are green and grassy- like the rest of Ireland.

A castle on a cliff

A castle on a cliff

When you get to the Cliffs, you do so from behind, and there are two options: turn right, and you get to the area where you can take picturesque pictures of the cliffs (reference: first two photos). Turn left, and you can walk all the way up to the edge of the cliff, if you are feeling adventurous or suicidal. We did that thing, of course. Maybe not toes-hanging-off kind of up to the edge, but at least within a few feet. The castle on a cliff photos are from the left side.

Left is best

Left is best

The water there was beautiful, too. It was this sort of teal color and was crashing up against the rocks at the base of the cliffs. We saw a boat while we were there, and resolved next time to see the cliffs that way: from the water looking up, instead of from the top looking down.

Irish countryside

Irish countryside

All of Ireland is beautiful! Every single solitary little bit. I loved it all.

The Burren/Galway Bay

The Burren/Galway Bay

On our way back to Dublin, we drove through The Burren, which is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him- according to Edmund Ludlow, who definitely knew what he was talking about. It’s beautiful and desolate all at once. The whole place is basically rocks. It’s on the coast of Ireland opposite Dublin, and the bit we visited was at the edge of Galway Bay. In the distance, we could see the Cliffs of Moher.

Stone structures

Stone structures

If you look closely, you can see the dry stone walls dividing up the countryside behind the remains of this church. Our last stop was an abbey from the 1100′s:

Corcomroe Abbey: 1182

Corcomroe Abbey: 1182

There was a plaque: Corcomroe Abbey, St. Maria de Petra Fertilis. Foundation c. 1182, ascribed to Donal Mor O’Brien, King of Munster. In 1248 it was placed under the rule of the cistercian abbey of furness in Lancashire. During the many changes of ownership following its dissolution in 1564, the monks continued to tend the Abbey. Among the many interesting tombs and effigies in the chancel is one of a crowned figure, said to be that of Conor O’Brien, grandson of the founder, and a noted benefactor of the abbey.

Corcomroe Abbey: interior

Corcomroe Abbey: interior

The neat thing about this abbey- other than the obvious oldness and coolness of the architecture, of course, is that if you grow up in the area, you can still be buried there. The plaque mentions that the son of the founder was buried there (or at least he has a headstone there)- but I also saw headstones from as recent as 2012. You have to walk very carefully in order to avoid stepping on anyone’s graves.

Corcomroe Abbey and us!

Corcomroe Abbey and us!

Excuse me while I nerd out some more about the architecture of this place…

Central Dublin- a church which everyone simply refers to as "The Old Church"-which I have a problem with for obvious reasons...

a church which everyone simply refers to as “The Old Church”-which I have a problem with for obvious reasons…

Ireland was wonderful- we went out with some people we met in the hostel, one of whom was  a printmaker from South Carolina who I am now friends with on Facebook- we spent all evening comparing his lithography work with mine (huge nerd alert, don’t mind me…) The food was great, the people were interesting, and it was all a great experience as the first leg of our trip.

There were occasionally other people with oddly colored hair, but nobody stared too hard at the color of mine. A lot of women have dyed dark red/maroon colored hair, which I thought was an interesting choice considering the stereotypical fiery Irish redhead image. When we visit again, we would like to make more of an effort to see other parts of the country, now that we’ve seen the city.

 

There. You have the down low on Ireland, and the beginning of our Grand Adventure. Next stop, London- and an unexpected journey that technically came before Ireland, but which I am lumping in with the rest of England…

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Shawarma: a contemplation of the marvels of modern life

Sometimes, I am struck by the notion of how very small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of the universe. The thought is both terrifying and intense. Sometimes, though, I think about the scale of my little slice of earth in relation to the rest of it, and the comparison is…surprising.

There are so many of us- of humans. So many people, in so many places, and each of us has a story and a future just as incredibly complex as your own. If you’re interested, the word you’re looking for to describe that feeling is sonder. On the surface, it seems like it should make you feel tiny and unimportant- you’re a speck, floating, with a billion other specks, through an infinite void of potential nothingness from and towards a great unknown. Look closer, though.

insignificant

First, there’s the ‘six degrees of separation’ concept. The idea that any human being can be connected to any other human being through no more than six intermediate ‘degrees’ (other people, places, or some other general factor that the two subjects have in common). That makes things seem a bit bigger, doesn’t it?

Then, there’s the miracle of the age of computers. My sister is in England right now, and I had a conversation with her just a few hours ago. I have friends in other states and countries that I get to chat with pretty regularly, and I sell knitting bags to people in places like Norway and Australia. The post office makes my international shipping wonderful, too: Almost any country for just $6.55, so my international buyers love me. My association group spans several countries, and I’d like to think I influence those people at least a bit.

You probably want to know what got me thinking about this. I shall tell you. A few days ago, actually the first day after my cold when I didn’t feel like death warmed over, we went to a Mediterranean restaurant to get shawarma. For those of you unaware, there’s a scene in the Avengers where Tony tells Cap that they should get shawarma once they’re done fighting the aliens. He says “I dunno what it is, but I want some.”- then, the post credits scene is all the Avengers sitting around a table in the shawarma restaurant looking all tired and hungry. Exhibit A:

Shawarma end-credits scene

Shawarma end-credits scene

So, since our favorite Marvel superheros eat shawarma- so should I! As it turns out, shawarma is wonderful. It’s basically little meat morsels and some other things served on pita (and anything served on or with a pita is pretty awesome by default anyways). It’s like meat candy! Seriously, go try some shawarma.

The shawarma got me thinking- how incredibly wonderful it is that I can not only find out about other cultures and their foods, but that I can go out and find that food somewhere within driving distance. This, to me, makes the world seem like a pretty small, and also wonderful, place. If I want to try Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, all I have to do is hop in the car.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking that I was born in the wrong decade. I should so have liked to have been around to witness the 20′s, the 60′s, and the 70′s. I would probably avoid the 80′s entirely, but also Victorian England, man. that would have been cool. The invention of swimsuits that went from your ankles to your shoulders. Yeah, I used to be really hung up on the way things used to be- but if I lived in the 20′s, I’d never have tried shawarma. I wouldn’t have been able to start a very successful business, or meet people from other countries. I actually probably wouldn’t be doing much at all because without modern medicine I wouldn’t be able to feel my arms right now. I’ve come to realize that I definitely belong right where I am- right now, in the present. This is where I can make the most difference, and where I can be the person that I want to be.

I do things like this sometimes- I’m reading in to the shawarma a bit too much, maybe. I love to think about things like this, though. It’s fun to have these little conversations with myself, and I hope I can make you think about some of these things. Maybe you have something to add. If you do, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Sidetracked.

It’s easy to think of yourself as that insignificant speck, but then…well, then you start to think of yourself as insignificant and that is absolutely no good for any kind of self esteem. I love this modern world, I love how people constantly work to make connections with each other, to learn new things, and to create a better life for themselves and the people they interact with. I love that there is technology that makes these connections possible, and I love being a part of the movement.

 

 

PS: Next time, there’s going to be an update on the design side of things. I’ve been working on a lot of stuff lately, and things are starting to come together- stay tuned! There’ll be lots of pictures next time, to make up for the lack of them presently.

 

 

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August 15: The Void

There’s this bag of cookies I keep in my nightstand. I was looking at it yesterday, calmly enjoying a midnight snack, when I realized that the cookies expire in the same month that I graduate. I sort of panicked. We’re not measuring my education in years anymore, are we? We’re measuring it in the time it takes a box of cookies to expire.

I ate the last cookie, just now. What does that mean for the rest of my education?

It will help you to follow the rant that follows, if you have some kind of general outline of The Plan, so I suppose I’ll start with that. I graduate in May, as the cookies have told us, and two days later I’m shipping off to the UK for two weeks of exploration and cultural experience. Then, once back from there, I have a few days’ worth of lull before we’re off on a family road trip to Ohio to congregate with the rest of the family- at the end of which, I’ll be flying up to Maine to be the photographer for a summer camp for six weeks. This all ends on August 15th.

August 15th begins The Void. The day after which- to the best of my knowledge at this point in time- nothing else is planned. I’ll no longer have school, work, or any other obligations tying me to any particular place (besides relationships, which are obviously important, but they don’t make The Void seem any less big).

If any day were to signify my transition from kid to adult, August 15th is it. Hopefully, by the time The Void comes, there will be another plan in place, but for now it’s too early to tell. Plans have a tendency to change, anyways. Basically, my goal now is to stop The Void from opening up on August 15th, and I have between now and then to make that happen.

Then again, if nothing ever ended, then nothing would ever begin.

Here’s a beginning:

photo 1march

My realization of the existence of The Void happened late last week, over a batch of croissants. I was rolling 81 layers of butter between 82 layers of dough, when I realized that eventually, in the not-too-distant future, my life was probably going to be completely different than it is right now. Furthermore, if I wanted to have any control in the kind of different that it was, I had better start planning for it now.

photo 3march

I’ve started poking around for jobs, and the prospects definitely seem good- but it’s also become very apparent that the first real step in this process is going to be updating my portfolio. Who’s going to want to hire me if they can’t see what I’ve done, after all! I’ve started putting projects in Behance, which you can find by clicking in this general vicinity, and that’s gone surprisingly well already. I have a couple of followers already, and my thoughts on Compliments Paid By Strangers are already well documented, so we all know how I feel about this.

photo 2march

The general format of the Behance portfolio page also has allowed me to identify areas where my portfolio needs to be improved. Example: for a person who spends a lot of time thinking about digital illustration, there’s sure not a lot of it up there. Granted, this probably has a bit to do with my own impossibly high standards. I’m working on it, though. More projects will be posted soon, and then the real fun will begin. (Hint: There’s a section for fashion and costume design.)

Prom Dress

It’s occurred to me that this is the only photo I have of this dress. Problem? yes.

So- anyways. That’s where I am with the job hunting, news as it comes. Aric wanted to know how my stress level was yesterday. Despite acknowledging the existence of The Void, I am feeling pretty zen. I told him as much, too. There are a lot of things going right in my life at the moment- big things like the continuing success of the Etsy store, medium sized things like that right now I’m knitting a baby blanket from a historic Shetland pattern that my great great grandmother knit for my Dad before he was born, and also small things like that my new cap erasers are perfect and don’t leave unfortunate colored smudges everywhere. The Void isn’t succeeding in getting me down (if it’s even trying. Is it? I’m not the type to cower in the face of an adventure), and it would take a lot, I think, at this point to make that happen.

This may be a baby blanket pattern, but this is not a baby blanket. If a kid ends up with it in the future that's fine, but it's mine for the present.

This may be a baby blanket pattern, but this is not a baby blanket. If a kid ends up with it in the future that’s fine, but it’s mine for the present.

I’ve also shifted some of my time around so that, although I’ll spend fewer hours reading in the evenings, I can start working on some more portfolio-enhancing fun stuff. You’ll probably be seeing some more of that. If you build it, they will come!

Here’s one very important thing that I learned this weekend. Everyone knows the phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’. I’ve never liked it, it just seemed so pessimistic and defeatist. The sort of thing you’d tell a kid if they wandered off one too many times. I learned, though, this weekend, that the whole phrase is supposedly “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” I did a quick google, and couldn’t find any definitive proof that it first appeared with or without the second bit, but I certainly like it much better this new way. It fits, don’t you think? The only way for me to conquer The Void, after all, is to jump in and trust that I’ll land on my feet.

Go forth, my dears, and be curious! The Void awaits us all.

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The Semi-Annual Report

We’re sort of working on branding a company, which includes annual reports, in Capstone right now, and it’s really interesting to compare my ‘imaginary’ company and my ‘real’ company.

Hi. My name is Kat, and I run a business out of my bedroom.

When I started this whole thing, it was just an excuse to try and make money back for the exposure unit I desperately wanted (remember that?)

Kat's Exposure Unit

basement pictures, yay!

Basically, I wanted to be able to print t-shirts for myself, and I thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’- so I opened a store.

I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that it was a considerably more successful venture than I had originally intended. The end of summer came and went, and it sort of kept going.

At the end of last semester, I’d sold all but 7 of the original bags, and desperately needed more. So, over Christmas break this year, I cut, dyed, and printed approximately 200 more:

This is what a pile of approximately 200 not-yet-sewn-up project bags looks like. They take up considerably less space this way...

This is what a pile of approximately 200 not-yet-sewn-up project bags looks like. They take up considerably less space this way…

I reprinted some of the old designs (the post apocalyptic life skill print always sells quite nicely), and I also designed and printed two new ones. Here’s the first:

(also in pink and purple!)

(also in pink and purple!)

I shall save the second to show you for when they’re actually sewn together, because they’re prettier that way. I’m particularly fond of how this turned out, especially since those silly balls of yarn took way longer than they should have. I’m not exactly in a good line of work to be complaining about drawing balls of yarn, but seriously- one color vector illustrations of balls of yarn is really hard. If you’d care to stop by my little shop and see the other colors, you can do that here.

I spent a good part of Friday and Saturday sewing bags together, with some interesting consequences:

The only thing that could make this better is if I was buried in there somewhere...

The only thing that could make this better is if I was buried in there somewhere…

This, apparently, is what happens when you run a business out of your bedroom. All those bags seem like they don’t take up too much space until you actually lay them out. They grow, I tell you. They expand to fit the space they are given. There’s probably a new law of physics waiting to come out of the way these things behave. “The Law of Whether or Not Katherine is Taking Her Life In Her Hands As She Walks Across Her Bedroom”… I don’t even know what it’s going to be like once they’re all sewn together.

The most colorful of closet doors

The most colorful of closet doors

So that the drawstrings won’t tangle, I’ve draped them over my closet door according to color. It’s nice because it allows me to see how much I have done, but it’s not nice because it forces me to stare at how much is left to do. Also, I can’t close my closet door until I’ve sewn them all together. Incentive?

I find it helps to ward off the boredom of performing the same 5 steps over and over if one has a movie playing in the background, so after much deliberation I bought myself a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and proceeded to wail along with the songs and make all of Magenta’s crazy faces along with her whilst I was sewing:

It's just a jump to the left!

It’s just a jump to the left!

Tim Curry, guys. That man is brilliant. The first time I watched it, I was pretty on board until the ending happened (I shan’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it), after which I didn’t like it at all in the very least, and it took me a long time to watch it again after that. Then again, I also didn’t like Monty Python the first time I watched that, so clearly my opinions cannot be trusted.

Another thing that’s new with the shop is most certainly something I should have done a long time ago…

TAGS!

TAGS!

I don’t know how my shop survived six months before I made tags! I’m a vis comm major after all, the fact that I waited so long to do this is nothing short of disgraceful. Etsy doesn’t give you a lot of personalization space to work with, all I have is a little 75x700px header that I can put an image into, so my shop can’t really have that much branding. However, my hope is that the tags add a bit of a professional vibe, and also that they encourage return customers. There’s a coupon code on the back ‘for your next purchase’, along with care instructions (which are also printed on fabric tags inside the bags but who’s counting). There’s also space back there so that I can write the number and color name of the bag that the tag is attached to.

Action Shots! These were the first two bags to get shipped with tags attached!

Action Shots! These were the first two bags to get shipped with tags attached!

I wonder how many people will notice that there’s a little sheep in the damask pattern. It’s like a little secret in plain sight that I can share with the more observant masses :) Did you notice him there?

There are a lot of little alterations, much like the addition of the tags, that are important to make as one realizes that the shift from ‘This sounds like a cool summer project!’ to ‘Holy cow guys I have an actual business and there’s a demand for my stuff!’ happens. For example, when I started all this in June, my screen washouts occurred outside, which is just a terribly not-good idea when your store still requires restocking in January. With the help of a very friendly powwow of home depot employees, however, I discovered a way to attach the pressure washer to the shower in my parent’s bathroom. Thus, indoor screen washouts could occur!

Along with the cold, wintertime is just generally a bad time to take glamor shots of bags to be listed- although I love everything about winter from a personal standpoint, it is generally ugly through the lens of a camera. Everything just looks dead. Everything is dead. Or hibernating. I solved that problem with $30 and a trip, once again, to my friendly neighborhood home depot:

The college student's lighting studio

The college student’s lighting studio

I have two shop lights, from Home Depot and a cheap (ugh! polyester!) sheet from wal mart, and now I can take really nicely lit photos of the new bags without risking frostbite for something that’s just going to have a drab background anyways. I still much prefer natural lighting, and the pretty backdrop of some vibrant green foliage is hard to beat, but as far as alternatives go, I’m pretty pleased with this solution. The light that my lamps give off is only slightly cooler than sunlight, and I can control the shadows much more effectively. When I grow up, I’d like to have a pair of actual photography strobes, but $30 for a pair is a lot more reasonable than $400 for one, at this stage in my life. For the next few months, I have access to the photo studio in the art building, which I may take advantage of at some point, but the whole point of this store is that I don’t need to depend on anyone else’s stuff to make it happen.

Also, as a side note, don’t be giving me crap about how wrinkly my sheet is- I took this picture of the setup when I was still testing to see if everything would actually work. I ironed the stupid polyester sheet for the actual shoot.

I was talking to Rusty yesterday about the things that I’ve learned here at Truman, and aside from the idea that I think I’ve learned more of the ‘how to deal with this situation in life’ variety than I have ‘what this button in Photoshop does’, we both agreed upon the importance of interdisciplinary learning to a visual communications student. It’s one of my favorite things about Truman, that I can take so many different classes and yet they all relate right back to what I’m doing in vis comm.

Now, most people, in the summer before their senior year, do an internship, but I opened this store instead- and I’m still of the firm opinion that I’ve learned so much more doing this than I could have under any other circumstances. I use skills I learned in fibers, printmaking, and  vis comm, and it has taught me about advertising, business, and marketing, along with some fun facts about SQLs (those things that control what happens when you type a thing into a search bar… COOLEST EVER! I could do a whole post just on how cool that stuff is, but I won’t subject you poor people to it…). What I’m trying to say is, I know a lot of art people in general look at etsy with some degree of disdain, because they think it somehow emphasizes on a different aspect of the creative life than universities do, but it really doesn’t. There are better things to do than to kick at the line between ‘art’ and ‘craft’- everything is both, and everything is neither. The fact is that this store has provided an interdisciplinary outlet for all the foundations I’ve learned at Truman, and has provided me with the time and capacity to think about and question what I want to happen with my life after school, and there’s just no substitute for that.

Sorry, that got deep really quickly. I can go from tidal pool to rift-in-the-ocean-floor in about two seconds, though, so I don’t think anyone is surprised. Here’s a picture of some more bags:

Purple. Purple is the best.

Purple. Purple is the best.

So, a summary: I started the store as a summer project, and it’s taken off in a direction I could never have seen coming. I’m besties with the ladies at the post office, and I ship these things all over the world! I’m a bit proud of myself. Time will only tell what the next six months will bring!

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