A Rainbow in Maine (with a little help from my friends)

It’s incredible to me- and I don’t think you can understand it unless you’ve experienced it- how quickly the people you meet in the places you end up go from strangers to best friends. I met so many people at camp, and I won’t forget a single one of them. They’re all such wonderful people, and sure, some of them got on my nerves sometimes (six cups of my coffee at once, Wojciech. We have to ration the caffeine!) and some of them I didn’t get to know as well as I would have liked (Brodsky- even though I’m still not sure if you’re a bigger feminist than me, you’re still pretty awesome.)

The only thing I can think that might be responsible for all the bonds we’ve formed is the environment that camp has created for us. Whatever it is, these people are my people now- and I love them all.

jonandsophie

Here’s my people taking selfies on my computer! (One of them didn’t know a selfie was happening. Does it count as a selfie if one of the participants is unaware?)

One very special and particularly important person is the reason I not only retained my sanity, but also ended up with rainbow hair for half of the summer! Ashley, it seems that this is the only photo I have of us together- which is tragic- but at least that night was loads of fun! I’ll have to come to New Jersey and then we can take a million selfies and I’ll do a blog post all about our adventures.

We both stayed up way past bedtime and painted a Manic Panic rainbow into my hair:

rainbow hair dying manic panic selfie

Excuse me while I have a moment where I miss all of my camp friends intensely…

After sending her an early-morning completed-hair selfie so that we could make sure that she was the first to see it (that’s only fair)- I paraded this new look around for the rest of camp!

As a side note to all you boys and girls out there who are afraid to dye your hair interesting colors because you’re afraid you’ll reduce your job prospects- that is silly. If I can do this, so can you. Rainbow hair, much like Camp, is all about expressing yourself in ways the rest of the world may not necessarily agree with, and it’s a good way to test out things before you take them out into the real world. I, for the record, also got hired and currently have a full time job in the field I went to college for and was hired for said job with this very head of rainbow hair.

Take that, society.

 

rainbow dyed hair

Don’t say tie-dye. It’s not tie dyed. There was no tying involved. Tie dye without the tying is just dye. It is, however, a rainbow- and that is excellent.

My freshly rainbowed hair coincided (totally on purpose) with my last two days off, which were spent wandering the busy streets of Boston and having Huge Nerd Moments about history (and teaching a certain person from New Zealand that The Boston Tea Party was not a literal tea party)…

sheep at the paul revere memorial and cemetery in Boston

Sheep had an excellent time in Boston, as it is full of photo ops, and sheep loves nothing more than having his picture taken! (except travelling. He likes travelling more than having his picture taken…)

Boston is a really excellent city for history-viewing, because it’s all in a very small, walkable area and they even have these clever lines in the sidewalk  (the freedom trail) to let you know if you’re close to something, and what it is. Paul Revere, incidentally, is buried in the same cemetery as Mother Goose, so we got to see that too. After time spent in some really interesting and cool graveyards, we headed to a shopping area to people watch (and, okay, maybe shop a little tiny bit…)

I found this giant rainbow slinky in Newbury Comics, and obviously a girl with rainbow hair who finds her first giant rainbow slinky has to document the experience…

Rainbow hair with a rainbow slinkey at newbury comics

Rainbow hair? Meet Rainbow slinky! I didn’t buy it… photo evidence is good enough.

Day two centered around a field trip to the Science Center- which is located next to a loch, and whose main set of windows overlooks a pretty spectacular skyline. There’s also a butterfly house on the roof (also overlooking said skyline)- which makes it practically the coolest thing I can currently think of.

They say if a butterfly lands on you it’s good luck- but what if it doesn’t stay there long enough for you to take a photo? One of this little guy’s friends sat on my wrist for a couple of seconds until he was distracted by a colorful flower.

These butterflies (much like the sheep in Bath or the ones in the pasture next to Stonehenge) don’t know how jealous I am that their views are better than mine.

Butterfly house overlooking Boston City Skyline

Am I learning about butterflies, or am I devising clever plans to move in to the butterfly house on the roof of the Science Center without the employees noticing…?

On our way to a fantastic little Irish Pub for dinner, we passed the site of the Boston Massacre, and Sheep insisted that we stop for selfies. Sheep insists that this is the epitome of American tourism and is not an opportunity to be missed.

sheep travels to visit the site of the Boston Massacre

There were a lot of people around for this photo. I think it’s possible that you actually get fewer looks when you’ve got rainbow hair and you’re taking photos of a stuffed animal than when you do it with ‘normal’ hair…. (I’m having a hard time with this. This IS my ‘normal’ hair….)

City Hall, where that particular historical event occurred, obviously still exists in Boston. The incredible thing about it, though, is that nothing else that originally surrounded it is still intact. Instead, it’s been blocked in by tall skyscrapers and taller skyscrapers. That little building has a completely different view of the world than it did when it was built, and I think it’s really wild that we get to experience it in this way.

City Hall at downtown Boston, Massacusettes

That’s essentially all of Boston, though. These small bits of historical oldness sandwiched between modern buildings and new-ness.

Boston was a great city, and perfect for doing all those touristy things you think about doing in places like that. It was, however- and very surprisingly so- the first city I’ve ever been to that I don’t think I’d want to live in. Places give you vibes I think, and Boston is a place of rushing and doing and getting done, and I’m not really looking for that kind of thing presently. It seemed disconcertingly… normal. Weird.

fourth of  july fireworks photography

Fireworks on the 3rd of July because we were all trying not to get blown away in the storm on the 4th….

In between all the sports photography I was up to during the day, I used my nights (and occasional early mornings) to my advantage. I love nighttime photos, so that sort of worked out. Opportunities like this sort of make up for all the balls you get hit with… occupational hazard.

star photography skyline

The deck of the wood shop overlooks Coffee Pond, and some pretty spectacularly starry nights are visible when the clouds are gone. (30 second exposure)

Just as things were beginning it seemed, the end of the eight weeks was upon us. I made my end-of-summer slideshows, we packed all the kids into busses to airports and trains, and suddenly camp was much emptier than it had been. I was feeling a little down when I got on my plane, but was swiftly cheered up by a very friendly delta flight attendant who presented Sheep and I each with a pair of Delta wing pins. Sheep wore his all the way home, and so did I.

sheep with a southwest airlines pin

Sheep’s face has a way of always fitting the mood. Clearly, he knows what’s going on in the world. And maybe secretly pleased that he got his very own seat on this airplane…

Camp couldn’t have been a more wonderful experience. I don’t actually know what I was expecting when I signed up in February (other than that I’d be able to delay getting a grown-up job by a few more months) but it turned out to be one of the most incredible summers I’ve had in my (short? long? time is relative, grasshopper) life. I’ve made friends from Canada to New Zealand, and I have couches to crash on all over the world. We all made some pretty spectacular memories, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing (except I maybe would have brought, like, three more hoodies and a sweater. Nights are cold in Maine…)

In addition to having made approximately 90 friends (and four or five new best friends)- and getting a chance to spend at least a little bit of time with that pesky sister of mine who was too busy travelling the world last year to be home pretty much at all- I also somehow evolved from a sun and physical activity/sports hating indoor person to a fairly outdoorsy, somewhat tanned person who hates sports slightly less. Okay, perhaps ‘evolved’ is too strong a word…No miracles were performed at camp (at least none by me…) but I realized there’s a lot more on the list of things I can do than I previously thought. I managed, for example, for the first time in my life to kick a soccer ball in exactly the direction I intended for it to go. I climbed (the easy side of) the rock wall, and took photos of kiddos from the top. I even attempted baseball, which hasn’t been a thing for years. I swam in the ocean, and I climbed a mountain.

I did literally climb a mountain but it’s also a metaphor.

It’s possible I would have learned all that stuff and tried all those things on my own accord, but it most likely would have taken me years to make it happen. Camp provides a safe and supportive place for everyone who shows up-campers and staff alike-to try things before they go back out into the real world; I took advantage of that, and it has instilled in me a desire to climb more mountains. As for the meeting of the people- there’s no way that would have happened without camp, and I’m so happy to have met every single one of them. Even the weird ones.

Especially the weird ones.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A story starts in Maine

Post graduation and Grand European Adventure, I took a job at a summer camp in the lovely state of Maine in an effort to delay the inevitable onset of Adulthood. For the record, this turned out to be an excellent plan. Besides, travelling by yourself on an airplane for the first time is kind of like adulthood…a little bit. It’s like a test run. I met a woman at the airport on the way out who asked me what I was knitting, and through conversation it turned out that she was a pretty successful children’s book author. I told her I wanted to be an illustrator (This is not an untruth, it’s just that I also want to be a screen printer, dressmaker, editor, small business owner, knitwear pattern designer, photographer, and a graphic artist. The whole point of The Void is to give me more time to choose). She gave me her card, which is excellent and very exciting! I was off to a great start- knitting in public places is one of the best ways to meet people. Especially knitting in public places with unusually colored hair.

 

This is as close as I have ever been to New York City: My flight had a connection in LaGuardia, and we flew almost right over the city.

 

IMG_3570

Look at all of it! There’s so much! and look how the water goes all through it! Someday, New York. Someday. When I have some money for fabric and and empty suitcase to fill with it…

Sheep had a grand time looking out the window, because he has never seen New York either. I think. I mean, he could have taken a trip while I was sleeping or something. Regardless, I get the feeling he was feeling pretty excited about the whole thing.

IMG_3197

Nothing screams ‘wishful thinking’ like a sepia instagram filter.

When we got off the first plane (and you must understand that by ‘we’ what I actually mean is ‘Sheep and I’)- we were greeted by a much smaller one for the next leg of the trip. Much Smaller.

IMG_3187

Sheep feels that he is bigger than this airplane. I tried to explain perspective but he remained skeptical.

Some already-present counselors picked a group of us up the airport, and we all headed back to camp. Upon arrival, I spent equal amounts of time being a reclusive weirdo, and attempting to present myself as a social and well-adjusted member of society (Lies! but it turns out nobody else really is either…) During the reclusive phases, I spent a lot of time wandering around camp (read: getting lost) taking photos of this new temporary home of mine.

sunset

Treeeees. The same at home, and yet so different. Taller. And skinnier. Can trees be skinny?

cover photo

This beautiful landscape basically meant my editing this summer was minimal- it’s hard to take bad pictures of this stuff…

Obviously, I can’t post photos I took of the campers. I don’t even have them anymore- but don’t fear! I have plenty of photographic evidence that this summer happened. So much, in fact, that I’ve had to split it up into two blog posts. You’ll notice that in all these photos I have pink hair, and in all the photos of the subsequent post, I have rainbow hair. That happened.

IMG_5961

Spectacular sunsets are a nightly thing- and so far away from major cities makes for uninterrupted star viewing!

After a week of orientation, which mostly consisted of trying to decide whether as a photographer I was considered a counselor or admin (neither?), we were let out for one day off with our new friends. I went with a group of ten or so others to climb a mountain!

Okay, not a very big mountain and not all the way up- but it still counts.

Let’s just have an aside really quick so we can talk about this thing. I went to climb a mountain. Me. She who was in an out of physical therapy and doctors appointments for five or six years, and only recently what one might consider functional, and even then sometimes only with the help of braces and splints. She who gets winded climbing stairs, and flat-out refused ladders for years. She whose knees sound like grinding gravel, and who frequently loses feeling in her arms if she lifts them above her head.

I decided to climb a mountain. I decided to go to a boy’s sports camp and chase soccer balls so that I could photograph the action, and walked miles a day around and around so that I could catch all the kiddos at all the events. I do not know what possessed this little indoor Kat to leave her computer, but she did. And she climbed a mountain.

 

It’s a metaphor.

/aside.

 

IMG_3227

On our way there! Those lovely folks were all at some point asleep on the way home…Most of them the whole way.

 

Here’s the thing about Maine. You’ve probably heard that they have excellent lobster (true) and seafood (also true)- that there are a lot of mountains and lakes and beautiful landscapes (very true. you’ll see). You’ve probably also heard that Stephen King grew up there and wrote most of his horror stories based on that experience.

So there’s a certain dichotomy going on here, and if you know me then you know that dichotomy is a thing I love. We’d be driving along these country roads in the middle of who knows where, and it would all be beautiful when suddenly we’d come upon something that seemed startlingly like it was fresh out of Cabin in the Woods (related note: excellent movie. Do not watch before bed.) I don’t have photos of those things because I was for the most part busy being weirded out by ‘why is that gas station covered in hubcaps?’ and ‘who would put a boat in their front yard if it looked like that

But we were talking about a mountain.

IMG_3167

Tumbledown swimming hole!

So, Tumbledown is a mountain that used to be a volcano that has a crater in the top, and that crater is filled with rainwater- and there’s an entire ecosystem contained in that rainwater-filled crater lake. So we hiked up a mountain to go swimming! There’s a thing you don’t get to do every day. I have absolutely zero photos from the way up the mountain because I was trying not to die (d’you remember the bit about being winded climbing stairs?) but I did take photos at the top!

IMG_3205

This is what it looks like in the other direction- looking out over this from the rocky banks of a lake is pretty spectacular…

Sheep also quite enjoyed the view, although he did not go swimming in the lake.

IMG_3238

Sheep also instagrammed the experience, as is his custom.

So- I survived the upward journey, and I went swimming in a lake at the top of a mountain, and also had lunch and let some fish nibble at my toes- and after a few hours and loads of pictures, we headed back down.

Down was not actually better than up, but I did remember to take pictures.

IMG_3247

Sheep thought down was fine. Sheep didn’t have to walk.

English Peter (not to be confused with Irish Peter) led Sophie astray on the way down and they ended up lost for a period of time, but they turned up at the bottom, so crisis averted. It also turns out that walking downhill isn’t great for questionable knees (much worse than up, surprisingly) so I didn’t really do much in the way of movement for a while after that, but it was still totally worth it.

I climbed the heck outta that mountain.

It was late when we got back to camp, but we all ended up on couches in a basement watching Sherlock Holmes (The Robert Downey Jr. one)- and it was a great last day before the kids arrived. Orientation week at summer camp is a lot like actually being a camper, and it was a little disconcerting when the kids finally did show up…

 

Here’s a picture of a rock:

IMG_3258

Seriously, that’s all it is. A picture of a rock I found by the tennis courts at camp. I just thought it looked cool.

So, mountain climbing aside, camp started and things got hectic. I was taking a couple hundred photos a day, and uploading them to the website at night so the kids parents could see how much fun they were having. After I weeded out all the ones with the weird faces. Let’s talk about the faces people make when they place sports. It’s weird. you’ll have to take my word for it, as all those photos are safe on a hard drive in camp’s winter offices right now. Somewhere in between all the hectic days though, I had a spectacularly excellent 22nd birthday.

I decided to attempt to do all the things from Taylor Swift’s song ’22’, the first of which is ‘Dress up like hipsters’. I had to improvise with a pair of not-my-high-waisted-shorts, and at one point I had a plaid shirt. T Swift also has cat ears in the music video which I felt was appropriate, so I spent some time in the Arts and Crafts shed and made myself a pair.

IMG_7864

Lillian tie-dyed me this awesome Camp shirt for my birthday too!

Annie and Lindsey serenaded me with the song, and I definitely cried a little and am not ashamed. There was also cake:

IMG_7834

Cake! Mostly consumed by campers who came and asked very nicely for a slice, but still cake!

and Sophie and Jon left me a pile of pink balloons with entertaining things drawn on them, so I took selfies with them:

IMG_3271

There was also an astoundingly large bag full of candy but ‘only the pink ones’- which Jon’s bunk full of kids helped him pick out.

Overall, having accomplished nearly all of the things on the to-do list provided by Taylor Swift, this birthday was a wonderful one. There was some debate about whether ‘breakfast at midnight’ should occur on the midnight preceding or succeeding the birthday itself, but I ended up falling asleep before I could decide, two nights in a row… I did miss the ‘birthday girl gets to choose what she wants to eat for dinner’ tradition at home, but it was worth it. Especially when I went to take pictures of the littlest campers, and none of them were there until Karen yelled ‘Hi Kat!’ and they all came out from behind trees and cabins and started yell-singing happy birthday at me. Have you ever had 60 eight to ten year olds sing happy birthday to you all at once? I bet not. It was one of the best moments of the entire summer.

We’re given a few days off throughout the summer (4) and my first one was spent in Portland, which is about an hour away from camp. Portland is wonderful, and from my day-long impression, a very hipster place. Young and full of life and just a tiny bit weird- in the good way. We spent a good bit of time just wandering and observing what we came across- for example the chain link walls of this small bridge are covered in padlocks.

IMG_3302

The rusty ones are the coolest.

My impression of Portland was that I would like to live there. It worries me that I get pretty much exactly that impression from all of the places that I visit. Maybe I’d like to spend some time in a brick apartment building like this, and people-watch passers by from the fire escape.

IMG_3324

I’d have a garden on the rooftop if I lived there.

We also did a lot of window shopping, because windows is about as far as you get on a summer camp budget- but there were some beautiful things that I may even be able to make in the future- like this hanging stained glass piece made with the bases of crystal and carnival glass wine glasses. Who cares if I don’t actually know anything about stained glass…

IMG_3305

note the reflection of my pink hair above the bottom left glass base.

A small graffiti bird on a huge construction wall brightened up a street corner:

IMG_3306

swirly bird!

Do you remember how I mentioned that Maine is known for its lobster? The state is mostly coastline, and summer is lobster season- so what better time to try it than on a day out on the town in Portland?

IMG_3309

Complete, you’ll notice- with a baked potato! I love baked potatoes.

We stopped at a place that was built on a dock overlooking the harbor. There was live music, an awesome atmosphere, and of course- the fresh-caught daily lobster selection for dinner! Although this wasn’t the first time I’d had lobster, it was definitely the first time I’d had A lobster. They literally come with instructions. I have mixed feelings about food that you need instructions to eat, but the glorious taste of lobster dipped in butter kind of negates any argument I was going to make about that. And I am absolutely wearing the lobster bib.

IMG_3325

the lobster bib and the at-that-point freshly finished baby blanket, which I wore as a shawl at every available opportunity until giving it to Mom when I got home.

So, basically- Portland is wonderful, lobster is awesome, and I would absolutely live there given the chance. It was a refreshing break to be able to walk around and just pick a direction whenever we wanted to. And there were no kiddos yelling “Hey Kat! Get an action shot!”- If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me this summer…

 

Back at camp, things continued as normal. Someone left a can of temporary spray-in hair dye in my mailbox, so I went blue for a day which threw some people off considerably (“No!! I liked the pink!”). I sort of figured that the gift giver would come forward and claim responsibility for the awesomeness that ensued, but they never did- so thank you, random friend, for being such a wonderful enabler!

IMG_5346

The temporary tattoo says ‘party grrl’ – I matched with a couple of the boys that day. There are probably photos of that.

The next day off was spent on a beach.

Before we get further into this, you should know that beaches and I have a history, and it basically boils down to this: I am not fond of sunlight, sand, or saltwater, and beaches are all of these things.

We picked a good day for beachgoing though, because the sun remained hidden most of the day but the rain waited until we’d left. So that takes care of the sunlight problem. As for the sand, there was a bit there in the beginning where I was cursing whatever part of me agreed to this plan… (“there’s sand in my shoes! there’s sand between my toes, it’s going to get in my hair and everywhere. Whose plan was this? Why did I agree to come here?! I’ve been tricked! The cake is a lie!”)- and I spent twenty minutes or so on a bench with my feet tucked up under me and a towel over my head.

I adjusted, though. I think if this summer proved anything, it proved that I am capable of adjustment, and that I Tried New Things And Didn’t Even Die.

IMG_3402

The view from the pier. What a profound number of people in such a small area. And let’s keep in mind that this wasn’t normal people’s definition of ‘beach weather’.

There’s me, before I decided that I was going to actually get more than my feet wet. It was a little chilly but the kind that you get used to after you’re in. Eventually I stopped taking ridiculous selfies and went swimming. I went in all the way up to my neck, but I didn’t get my head wet. I didn’t know what the saltwater would do to my hair…

First time swimming in the Atlantic ocean in…. a lot of years! and it was just so much fun!

 

IMG_3433

There was a part in there where we lost track of where on the beach we’d left our stuff, but the crisis was averted once we located the loud Canadian family that we’d left our stuff near. That’s the thing about vacation spots in Maine- everybody’s Canadian and they all speak French.

There- we’re halfway through the Maine adventure, and you’ll notice that something very colorful happens in the next post. So far, the summer was turning out to be so much more than I ever could have expected it to be, and things were on an upward swing. I climbed a mountain, swam in the ocean, and took So. Many. Pictures. And- as someone said at some point- the best is yet to come!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sweet Home Ohio

We’re finally back in the States! Not caught up, though… There are still four or five posts before that happens. That’s what I get for being a procrastinating procrastinator. Alternatively, that’s what I get for having entirely too much fun to bother with blogging. Take your pick.

After Europe and a few days spent at home, we turned right around and headed to visit relatives in Ohio.

Part 1

We had a lot of family time, but also a lot of exploring time. We were all too young to go off on our own adventures when we lived there, but we took advantage this time.

IMG_1804

The Geodesic dome at ASM International! (AKA Materials Park)- it’s open to the public, although it’s also offices so some of the indoors bits are off limits. It was built in the 50’s and you can tell, which I love.

IMG_1809

Under the dome is a garden, which also includes rocks and minerals from around the world. Have I mentioned that I love rock gardens? It’s true.

IMG_1840

It’s just really cool, okay? And so hard to take a bad picture of this place.

We spent a bit of time here because it was such a nice day, and because the last time we visited I was still very very little. I only have very vague memories of it- but it continues to be excellent! It’s a very interesting feeling to be a tourist in the town you grew up in, but when you’ve been away for so long, I think it’s probably allowed.

 

We spent a day at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame which is right in the middle of Cleveland. It overlooks lake Erie, which is also awesome. I can’t believe I’d never visited before, but on the other hand- aforementioned age bracket for adventures had not been reached. Notice that Sheep has a wristband, because while I was taking photos of him in the lobby, a very nice lady called me over and asked “If your lambie would like a wristband as well” and I said YES OF COURSE, and I don’t think that lady knows how happy she made me….

Sheep visits the Rock Hall and is loved by everyone there, as usual.

Sheep visits the Rock Hall and is loved by everyone there, as usual.

A wristband. Seriously. There are the people that think I’m a weirdo, and there are the people that smile and ask questions and start conversations. I never want to stop being able to have conversations with those types of people.

IMG_1854

It’s a really cool place! The first thing you do is watch a 15 minute video on the history of Rock n’ Roll- and then they set you loose on the place.

There are a bunch of examples of advertising from the early stages when the older generations were contesting the new directions that music was taking. One in particular was a headline proclaiming scientific evidence had concluded that Rock n’ Roll leads to Satan worship. So there’s that.

IMG_1865

Of course, there’s the obligatory Elvis exhibit

It was really dark so photos were difficult, but let’s just take a moment to admire David Bowie’s butt in this outfit- (suspend belief for a moment and pretend it’s his and not the mannequin’s)

IMG_1869

See? Appreciate the glory of the butt. It’s like the designer was just asking you to look with that lightning bolt pointing right to it. Might as well be an arrow- “Look at me! Look at this butt!”

This place was massive- we had all day and we planned to visit the Science Center as well, but spent so long in the Rock Hall that there was no time left! I’d love to go back, too- I’m sure we missed bits. There was a whole upstairs exhibit on music festivals, and while I don’t know too much about Woodstock- I would really like to learn more about it. It seems like kind of a pivotal moment in American music culture.

IMG_1879

Also let’s not pretend to deny my particular affinity for screen printed T shirts…

This is the Rock Hall from the outside: It’s a very oddly designed building, but in the very best of ways. It takes advantages of its unusual shapes in really excellent ways, plus there’s a basement area to capitalize on that kind of space. I like it. It welcomes visitors from the bay as the first part of the Cleveland cityscape that they see.

 

IMG_1889

Big, imposing, modern, and full of Really Cool Stuff

We spent some time on the William G Mather (a boat) -which was a cargo vessel used for supplying Cleveland with all sorts of things (Coal. lots of that, and timber and similar stuff). It’s permanently docked right next to the Rock Hall and Science Center and we had a good time exploring and taking photos from the deck.

IMG_1894

[Obligatory Titanic Pose on any and all boats]

Sheep also had some cool Captainy adventures in assorted areas of the boat, and took many photos.

Captain Sheep of the USS William G Mather- Full speed ahead, skipper!
Captain Sheep of the USS William G Mather- Full speed ahead, skipper!

Part 2

D’you remember how I said a lot of our relatives live in Ohio? Cool. It’s time for a lesson in ancestry and knitting!

See the lovely ladies in this photo? The one standing up is Granny (my Great Great Grandmother on Dad’s side), with her mother and her daughter. Granny was a pretty cool lady- I don’t know a lot, but I know she was clever and pretty crafty. I also know she had excellent taste in hats.

IMG_1910

Ask me. Ask me how I know she had excellent taste in hats.

Of course, you’re wondering how I know she was clever and crafty- and I shall tell you!

One yellow baby blanket, good for snuggles and keeping babies warm, of course.

One yellow baby blanket, good for snuggles and keeping babies warm, of course.

Granny made this blanket- I talked about it in a previous post when mom first brought it home on a previous trip to Ohio. She made it for my Dad when he was younger, and it has been passed around in the family since then. To give you a bit of perspective, it was made from acrylic yarn, two years after acrylic yarn was invented. When mom brought it home, I saw it in person for the first time since I was a baby, and I realized that I could totally make it! I figured I’d just copy the pattern, but then some time later when I was looking at other patterns on the internet, I stumbled across an oddly familiar blanket…

Sorry for the random baby picture… (link to website)

That photo links to the website I found that has the pattern….in Dutch. Instead of copying Granny’s blanket, I decided to use Google Translate to get it from Dutch to English, and use that. Except Google Translate doesn’t handle knitting patterns very well… (“place 3 loop on stick 1, pin stick out. Repeat for second and third stick” anyone?)- So I sort of had to translate the Google Translate. But, translated pattern and a few months later, I had myself a brand new old baby blanket! This pattern was loads of fun- I love old patterns. It’s just exciting enough to keep you entertained, while at the same time repetitive enough that you don’t have to be constantly looking at the pattern.

Mom gets to keep this one since she brought the yarn (and, by bringing back the original blanket she is basically responsible for the existence of this one…) but I’m going to make myself another one so that’s fine. Also, maybe I’ll make one out of acrylic for some future very lucky baby. Machine wash-ability is important for babies.

IMG_8797

Madelinetosh Sock weight in “Antique Lace”- 4 skeins, 100% wool.

IMG_8799

Look at that detail! This thing was so much fun. It has a pretty obvious Shetland influence (you can tell by the scallop lace inner border) and that’s apparently where the pattern originated, but the geometric outer border is something I’ve seen in a lot of Russian and eastern-type knits as well.

IMG_3262

Here’s a spectacularly grainy selfie I took when I first finished it- now you can see why I’m totally making myself another one in a more wearable color. I’m going to wear it as a shawl!

IMG_8804

Val was kind enough to do some Vouge-ing for me- even though it’s much too cold to take knitwear photos outside.

IMG_8806

It’s so big! I love this thing. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to, and if you know me at all, you know that doesn’t happen.

We’re sort of a family that has heirlooms- there are a few, but none of them are knitted, and very few of them extend back that far. I’m so very excited that I was able to learn about the history of that blanket, and the really cool woman who made it- and that I was even able to follow in her footsteps and make a version of my own. I know knitting is all the rage these days and many people are starting to pick it up again after a sort of period of dormancy that it had in the 70’s through the 90’s- but its important to not only think of it as a newly re-modernized hobby but also as a piece of social history that goes back for centuries. So here’s the first of hopefully many attempts at making sure the awesome crafty ladies of the world- like Granny, past and present, aren’t trivialized or forgotten.

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Grand European Adventure: ich bin ein Berliner

Well, here it is: The last installment in the story of The Grand European Adventure. No worries, though- There are about to be a lot of exciting things going on around here.

 

So, I’m a little mad about Berlin- and this is for two reasons. First, we weren’t even there for two full days which is just not enough as it turns out, and second because it was the last not-quite-two-days of the trip, and all involved parties were exhausted and just really wanted to sleep a lot. I would like to go back to Berlin. I would like to absorb its beauty, and marvel at the oldness and the newness and the general uniqueness of its situation. I would like to experience the culture because in the 1.75 days that I was there it was apparent that theirs is a culture worth experiencing. I would like to go to the nightclubs and raves, and be alternative and punk, and I want to spend more time in that strange world where my colorful hair is more normal than your natural hair. Berlin questions everything, and takes nothing at face value simply because it is or has been that way. I want to do that with them.

The first thing I saw when I stepped off the train in Berlin was a girl with green hair. The second thing I saw was a boy with orange hair. There is a punk culture here like you wouldn’t even believe. I fit in less for the touristy American clothes I was wearing than I did for my hair- which, let me tell you, is a new thing for me. I spent a bit of time wishing I’d brought some of my [vast] collection of snarky t shirts…

Welcome to Berlin!

Welcome to Berlin!

 

The weather was beautiful for most of the two days we spent there, so we walked all over the place and saw a great many things. Here’s an older style bridge surrounded by an entirely modern city. It’s all like that- a combination of new wedged in between old. Our hostel was actually a beautiful old hotel that’s being slowly restored. There are places where new windows lean up against walls in hallways, waiting to be put up, and the grand marble staircases are dusty with disuse but ever beautiful just the same. Someday, it will be beautiful and I would like to see it when it’s finished. Meanwhile, there’s a rabbit hutch in the courtyard- if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat. I was fond of the fluffy bunnies. It was also very close to a still standing section of the Berlin Wall, so that was our first stop.

 

Here begins the longest still standing section of the Berlin Wall.

Here begins the longest still standing section of the Berlin Wall.

The wall runs along a road, and has been covered in paint and graffiti, some of which is sectioned off murals done by artists from all over the world:

 

" I painted over the wall of shame

“The wall of shame”

Graffiti means something different in Germany than it does in the States- Here, it’s something you try to scrub off or cover up, but in Berlin graffiti is something desirable- you’re sort of more considered more authentic if your building is colored. The entire city is covered and just so very colorful. The wall is something they’re generally trying to forget about- the city is moving on, as well it should, but this section stands as a monument to prove that not all bad things have to end up that way.

IMG_1506

I spent a lot of time thinking about the ‘many small people’ one, especially since the Berlin Wall makes you feel so very small indeed. It sort of gives me hope that maybe the way I choose to live my life will in turn make someone else’s life change for the better as well. We as individuals sometimes feel insignificant in the Great Void of the universe, but we can move mountains.

Many styles from all over the place!

Many styles from all over the place!

Mostly, it’s just really cool that they’ve turned this into a colorful monument to hope and change, even though a lot of people want to hide and forget that particular slice of history.

After we walked down the longest still standing section of the Berlin Wall (which isn’t actually all that long, maybe a few blocks) we field tripped up a ways to see some very cool government buildings, and the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). If you’re planning a trip, this is an excellent spot for people-watching, because it’s right on a big open space, it’s touristy but also with a lot of local types walking around too. Also the American Embassy is conveniently located immediately to my right in this photo (Just off frame)

Selfies at the Brandenburg Gate!

Selfies at the Brandenburg Gate!

We ended up here twice, mostly because it was on our way, and we spent a lot of time because there was a surprise concert that we hung around at for a while. The lead singer had purple hair!- but there were too many people for pictures. Also riot police? Berlin has this thing going on with lots of enforcement-types with big guns. Machine guns for airport security guards, anyone? Don’t think I didn’t notice. Nothing eventful happened with that, though.

IMG_1575The Brandenburg gate is right up the street from a new and very interesting Holocaust memorial. It’s large, imposing, and its job is to make you think. Right in a busy part of the city, only a few blocks from the embassies and the government buildings, it takes up an entire block.

Holocaust memorial, Berlin

Holocaust memorial, Berlin

There’s Lill in the center for scale purposes.

IMG_1676

The interesting thing about this place is that there’s no documentation- you can read about it on the internet, sure, but if you’re there standing in front of it there’s no sign or explanation for its presence. it just is. And it is big. There’s a small plaque with a year and the name of the artist, but that’s only if you know where to look. The general idea is that you draw your own conclusions from it if you know why it’s there, and if you don’t then you’re just mildly discomforted with its presence. That’s what art, is about, right? Disturbing the comfortable? This memorial combines Berlin’s desire to be modern with a need to remember its past.

We also visited the Jewish Museum, which was thoroughly interesting, although really deserved to have been split up over a series of two or three days. There’s just a lot to take in. It’s beautifully organized and curated, but it’s also massive and four stories and packed with stuff to look at.

 

One of the things that the internet told us to do in Berlin was visit the Charlottenburg palace, so we made a special trip out (Okay, so the public transit system in Berlin is fabulous and it really wasn’t that difficult to get to the other end of the city at all, so it’s not like it was all that hard…) to see it- even though it got cold and rainy as soon as we got off the train and had to walk 6 blocks to see it…. We took cover under a building to eat lunch somewhere in there, but our attempt to wait out the rain was nonetheless successful.

 

IMG_1695

OH MY GODS I only just now noticed that the buttons on my cardigan are crooked! Well then.

IMG_1691

I don’t think she’s even capable of being serious for a photo…

The photos we took may have been a little drab, but we had a lot of fun despite the cold and rain.

 

Berlin was beautiful. This post probably seems all over the place and disjointed because all I have to work with are these little flashes from that part of the trip- we were so exhausted and so incredibly ready to go home and I think that colored the experience a little, but it was nonetheless one of my favorite parts of the trip. Lies, it was all my favorite. If I ever have an opportunity again to go back to any of these places, I would take it in a heartbeat- especially if I could spend even just a few more days in Berlin.

Just when we thought the trip was over- we were on out way home, sitting in the airport…we encountered one last adventure. Our plane was delayed overnight due to some kind of engine failure, so the airline put us up in a hotel (we were bussed there along with the 1 or 2 hundred other people who were also on the flight), and finally flew us out the next day. There was much confusion about this, and I have never experienced a concentration of unhappy people as high as that in the reticketing line the morning of the flight. (Seriously, dude- you huffing and pacing behind me is not actually going to make this line move any faster. )

 

waiting for the plane!

waiting for the plane!

On the bright side, over the two days that we were delayed, I finished an amount of baby blanket equal to that which I had finished over the two weeks preceding. I would have finished the blanket on the way home if I hadn’t (been stupid) forgotten to get the last ball of yarn out of my checked bag.

So I modeled it in progress and took loads of selfies instead:

#selfie (not even sorry. check out the in-progress-knitting-needle-shawl-pin look)

#selfie (not even sorry. check out the in-progress-knitting-needle-shawl-pin look)

It was 67 degrees and 86% humidity when we stepped off the plane in St. Louis again, and the first thing I said when I got off the plane was “Nope! Take me back! I want to go back!” The weather is just so much more agreeable there…I didn’t even mind the rain.

I finished the last section of blanket and bound off at camp a month or two later, but we’re getting to that. Meanwhile I reentered the States with a load of passport stamps, souvenirs, and lots of worldly experience (Still not actually sure if I gained any worldly knowledge though) . I’m only sorry I couldn’t blog on the go, because I would have been able to share daily instead of in only four installments with over three months between when it happened and when I wrote about it. I’ll arrange something for my next big trip, though. Stick around and we’ll get to that part of the story too- My world traveling adventures are far from over.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Grand European adventure part 3: Amsterdam

Hi. Again. I sort of up and ran off to Maine for two months before I was done talking about Europe, and ignored the fact that I have a blog,  and kind of a lot of things happened in those two months- but come with me for a ride back in time to Amsterdam, and we’ll be caught up soon:

I’ve been on a lot of planes at this point in my life, but I will never get tired of taking pictures of The View From Above. The interesting thing is, it’s different in every place.

IMG_2676

Amsterdam may be right on the water, but our plane made a big loop around, so we came in over land.

 

IMG_2685

I am a child. It’s the little things.

We flew in at night, and began the next day with an exploration of the Rijksmuseum- which is large, intimidating, beautiful, and awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I would very probably go back to Amsterdam just to go there again.

There is a huge room full of model ships:

IMG_1329

Big model ships, but also tiny model ships. And So Many!

There is a huge room of Porcelain:

Some people are more excited about teacups than other people, and I get very excited about teacups...

Some people are more excited about teacups than other people, and I get very excited about teacups…

There’s even a huge room full of costumes and clothing from all over the world and all through history! There may have been note taking here…

Yes, let's put glass in between the fabric nerd and the historic clothes. Probably wise...

Yes, let’s put glass in between the fabric nerd and the historic clothes. Probably wise…

There were a lot of people crowded up in the paintings gallery, especially since a Rembrandt was involved. Art is awesome, but when you have to fight your way through a crowd of tourists to get close enough to something to really see it, it becomes less exciting. I’m the kind of person that likes to do that sort of examination and thinking in peace, but it was pretty cool to be in the same room as some of this stuff regardless.

Museum Face!

Museum Face!

The Rijksmuseum also has a very old, very functioning Library of Epicness. It’s the largest public art history research library in the Netherlands- and okay, it’s not that big of a country, but its rich in this kind of history and I was practically drooling at all those books.

IMG_1350

I want it. Can I have it in my house? Can it be my house?

We also visited the very famous and cool Van Gogh museum, where you are very strictly not allowed to take pictures or even in any capacity look funny at any of the paintings…his Sunflowers was there, but I would really like to have seen Starry Night in person, and that one wasn’t at this museum. Overall it was great to be able to see his progression as an artist and get to see in person some of the textural aspects of his later paintings that just can’t be captured with a camera.

Most of our time in Amsterdam was spent wandering about the city- it’s built and treated entirely different than the other places we’d been so far, and from anything I’ve ever seen, so I spent a lot of time being enthralled with the differences. We sat and people-watched for a while at Dam Square- a big open area in the central city that is surrounded by imposing buildings and the National Monument (WWII era).

Dam Square, national monument

Disappearing Monument Selfies!

Wandering not too far away from the astounding bustle of the central city, it’s suddenly a place that manages to be quaint and homey feeling while also feeling large and intimidating.

IMG_1367

Canals. Canals, and the fact that the roads are more bike-friendly than they are car-friendly. This is a city that knows what it wants.

IMG_1389

Old cities like this pack so much action into so little space, and I will never cease to be amazed by that.

Windmills!

Windmills!

Holland is apparently full of windmills, and you can go on a windmill bus tour, but there’s really only one easily accessible one if you’re not very mobile. This one is a 15 minute bus ride from the city center, and since I demanded that we see a windmill before we leave Holland, we went. Walked around it, played the selfie game, etc. They’re surprisingly large up close.

 

There was one thing I couldn’t figure out for a long time, and it’s something I had noticed in a few other places during our travels- all of the buildings have these odd beams protruding from or near the roofs- some of the beams have hooks on the ends. I thought about that as we were walking around, and couldn’t figure it out.

Look closely: What do all these buildings have in common?

Look closely: What do all these buildings have in common?

We spent a good portion of time people-watching in the red light district, which is home to a bit more than just what you’d expect. There are a lot of bars, restaurants, and shops of the sort, and I eventually witnessed something that solved the puzzle of the hooks and beams. It’s a hoisting mechanism! The buildings are so small and tall, and the stairs so impossibly narrow that the only way to get something large up to your second or third floor, like say, a piano, or if you’re in the Red Light District in the early evening- a full shipping pallet of Heineken- you attach a rope and a pulley to your hook, and  you pull that sucker up there.

This explains that thing about how pianos used to always fall on people in the ‘old days’… I wonder if anyone’s had a pallet of beer fall on them…

IMG_2710

The red lights come out after the sun goes down

Amsterdam’s affiliations with certain pleasures in life make it an interesting place, and an interesting destination. It’s wonderful to have a place that so readily displays so many Pride flags, and it’s obvious that the kinds of people who aren’t accepted there are the ones who have a problem with anyone else’s life choices. That said, it’s also a city run on tourism, and those tourists are pretty blatantly the drunken bachelor parties that have come for the sex, drugs, and booze. There are two competing factors here- one is acceptance, and one is exploitation. That’s why I have such conflicting feelings about Amsterdam. I’d like to give it more of a chance- to see the rest of Holland, perhaps, and to get away from the vulgarity of the tourists and tourist-oriented gift shops.

 

Let’s talk about Encounters with Pink Hair:

Here’s a lady who wanted a photo with me- She was there for a bachelorette party, although I’m not sure if she was the bride. She seemed lovely, and we had a little conversation- but she has a plastic penis stuck in her cleavage. Take from that what you will, I suppose.

Ladies in Pink!

Ladies in Pink!

This dude, on the other hand, was the groom in a bachelor party. I saw his pink wig on their table before they saw me, but he got incredibly excited and put it on again when his friend pointed me out.

IMG_2786

Ladies in Pink?

We took pictures while his friends snickered, and one of his cohorts took a selfie on my phone between photos of us:

IMG_2787These guys were profoundly Scottish, which I appreciated. The pink-haired fellow is wearing a nightgown and water wings- in case he drunkenly falls in to the canal. We watched a lot of inebriated gentlemen walk by wearing ladies’ dresses and inflatables.

Let’s talk about the other side of things for a moment:

IMG_2720

Stairs. This picture doesn’t capture the effect, really…

The first thing you need to know is that apparently, whoever built Amsterdam wasn’t thinking about stairs until the very last possible second.

We visited and breakfasted in a lovely little restaurant- the English translation of Pannenkoekenhau’s  is ‘Pancake House’- and that’s exactly what it is. The second story of this tiny building is a tiny restaurant, with three tables and a kitchen that was definitely smaller than the entire area of a Queen sized bed.

IMG_2717

Also, teapots, and we all know how I feel about those…

The place was beautiful, glorious, and perfect. The food was great, and the environment was better. There was a Pride flag flying outside the window (also window boxes! With flowers!)- and the place was run by a wonderful gay couple. One of them took orders and brought the food out, and the other was the Chef Of Amazing Netherlands Style Pancakes (somewhere between the thickness of a crepe and an American pancake. Similar to Swedish pancakes but bigger and sweeter). This is what I wanted- not drunken bachelor parties running around degrading freedom of sexuality- I wanted a gay couple working and enjoying the life they had made for themselves, and having the freedom to do that without harassment or fear. Amsterdam has the capacity to give that to people, and I wanted to see more of it.

So this is what I’m trying to say. Duality makes things interesting, and dissonance when played correctly makes you think about important issues in life, like gender and sexuality and whether or not we as a society should have a problem with boys wearing in dresses and people of any gender selling sex. Amsterdam has created for itself a place where those issues can be addressed, and it does it without putting too much strain on anyone- but there’s a right way and a wrong way to wear a dress, I suppose. Are you doing it because you have made the personal choice to do a thing that makes you happy, or are you making fun of people for being different?

I Amsterdam

I Amsterdam

I want to go back. I want to go back and stay longer and in a different area where I can choose to continue people-watching in the Red Light District and try to understand what the tourists think is going to happen to them when they go there, but I also want to see more of the safe, accepting environment that the rest of the place seems to be.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.