Got Books?

Yet again, I have to apologize for not writing in a while. Finals are approaching and the weeks preceding them are often more packed than the exam week itself. Between papers, normal homework, projects, art pieces, final club meetings, awards ceremonies, and last attempts to enjoy Baltimore, students get caught in the riptide of life and have to put some things on hold.

But, I’m back now! For a little while at least. I want to write to you guys one or two more times before exams hit and before I know it I’m back in New Jersey.

Ah, New Jersey, home of the nasal “a” and dropped “t”s, pork roll (aka Taylor Ham), some of the most gorgeous state parks and top universities, American Revolution landmarks, and, well, my life for the past 20 years.

When I think about my previous summers in NJ, my most distinctive and pleasurable memories are those when I’m curled up with a good book. I’d find a good spot on the front porch, maybe the lawn if I felt like I could hazard getting some sun, or if it was super hot I’d stay in the air conditioning. And I’d just read. I’d get lost in a different world, become a different person, forget about all the problems and worries I had in the real world for just a few hours. I’d become best friends with the characters. If I read right before I went to sleep, sometimes I’d dream of the ending or the next chapter (though I don’t think my dreams were ever accurate). It was beautiful.

I think it’s amazing when you meet someone who has that connection to books, or a certain character, or anything really, that gets them so excited they can just rant and you understand each other because of shared enthusiasm. Last week I met someone like this, not on campus per say, but in my homework for English class. We just read Mr. Pip, a novel by Lloyd Jones about the life of a village during the political upheaval of the 1990s in Papua New Guinea. The children on the island are read Great Expectations, another book we read in my English class. I don’t want to say too much because it’s a wonderful read and one of those books that makes you see the world differently. But the narrator described that connection with literature perfectly.

“By the time Mr. Watts reached the end of chapter one I felt like I had been spoken to by this boy Pip. I had found a new friend. The surprising thing is where I found him – not up a tree or sulking in the shade, or splashing in one of the hill streams, but in a book. No one had told us kids to look there for a friend. Or that you could slip inside the skin of another. Or travel to another place…”

That. That right there. That’s what the best books have. Friends. Well, sometimes the most brutal enemies, too. I don’t think I’d ever been more upset when I read The Order of the Phoenix, or The Book Thief, or The Hunger Games, or The Fault in Our Stars, or even the Elegance of the Hedgehog. As much as I hate characters dying in books, I think that’s what makes you appreciate them so much more. They had something to tell you, something to share, and maybe they couldn’t share it in their world, but they got through to you. You learn something new with every book you read.

And this summer I intend to learn a lot. I’m compiling a list of books I want to get through, make a schedule plan so I can actually pace myself and remember what I’ve read. So far, I’ve got Beowulf (In modern and Old English), The Canterbury Tales, Gray’s Anatomy (there will be a lot of sketching involved with that), Good Wives, The Beauty Myth, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide, Merlin (started in December, haven’t finished it yet), Storm of Swords, The Help, the list will grow I am sure.

In fact, help me make it longer. If you have a must-read, a cry-your-eyes-out-but-love-it-anyway, a mystery, a romance, an anything, let me know! Comment, message, email. I’ll put it on my list.

This summer is going to be good, that I am determined to make possible, but these books will make it fantastic.

Wooly Weather

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when the weather turns cold, a knitter must be in want of good wool and a hot beverage.

It’s that time of year again. The time to bundle up in thick scarves, chunky sweaters, over-sized hats, and drink copious amounts of tea and coffee to ward away the afternoon drowsiness which accompanies darker evenings.

For me, this weather is perfect. I hate the heat, though my complaint actually lies with over-exposure to the sun (I’m super pale. Like, I glow in the sunlight in early spring. And I’m as red as a lobster in the summer). Right now I’m really excited to break out the wool socks and mittens. I’d be super happy if it snowed this week, but I know that it wouldn’t be a good thing for those who are still out of power from Sandy (like my parents; they already got half a foot of snow last night).

Still, my idea of a perfect winter afternoon is curling up in a huge armchair in front of a fire, snow swirling outside the windows, shelves of books host to infinite new worlds, my cat in my lap, and knitting in my hands. Some quiet music would be nice, too. Maybe some tea on a table beside me.

Biltmore LibraryTudor house in Elmira NY

Well, at the moment I’m lacking snow, a fireplace and my cat, but I have some form of the rest at school. The reading room has wonderful chairs to curl up in, Barnes and Noble is only a bus ride away, I have my iPod, I just bought a cup of coffee, and my knitting is in my backpack beside me.

When it comes to hobbies, I am not your average 20 year old. My art prof saw my knitting this past week and asked “Shouldn’t you be texting or something? Constantly tapping away at technology?”

Trust me, I do my fair share of that, but my answer will always be “No, I’d rather be knitting.” And what I knit isn’t your typical scarf or blanket either.

I started knitting when I was homeschooled, and made little stuffed animals and knick knacks but nothing very complicated. I stopped knitting for a few years, and then got back into it in high school when I was given sock yarn one Christmas. Since then, I’ve made

socks

First pair of knitted socks!

hats

Polka-Dot hat - took me forever!Blue Beret

scarves

Scarf in Progress

and now I design my own patterns. Which, let me tell you, involves more math than you think (Reasons why it’s good to have math core at Loyola).

I actually have Loyola to thank for getting me started on designing patterns. When I visited here my senior year of high school, I wore a hat my sister had knitted for me, but lost it when my mom and I were checking out Fells Point. I was really ticked because it was something my sister had put a lot of work into and I really liked wearing it. So, instead of associating bad karma with the school, I decided that I would try to make my own hat. I sketched out ideas, looked at other hat patterns, and came up with this:

Designs for my first hatLove wearing this, it's so soft and warm!

Since then I’ve made leg warmers, a fez, hand warmers, sweater motifs, and a Batman hat

How I plan out patterns: lots of graph paper!For my friend Ben :D

I currently have a Superman hat in the works!

Pattern in Progress

Writing patterns and knitting is so much more suitable for cold weather. Soft wool slipping through your fingers, smooth needles click clacking away, and the rhythmic hand motions are all very soothing.

I think it’s time to end this and take out my knitting. Productive Procrastination!

Walls Can Speak Louder Than Words

When I started blogging I was told “Write the way you talk. Have a conversation with your readers.” When I sat down to write, my brain filled with cliches of introductions and I stared at a blank screen for a very long time. And then I stared at my wall, which is far from blank.

Some college dorms are decorated so they look like they came out of a Pottery Barn ad. Others bear resemblance to an insane asylum with white walls and overly bright light fixtures. There are a lot in between, but it’s safe to say that my wall is a fairly accurate depiction of myself: my interests, humor, loves, hopes, and eccentricities.

Which is why I have come to the conclusion that maybe by explaining my wall I can describe myself to you lovely readers.

And so it begins.

The first thing you’ll notice on my wall are all the art postcards. I’m (probably) a double major in English and Fine Arts, with a minor in Entrepreneurship. I really enjoy beautiful things, from sunsets to sautéed chicken, or violets to Van Gogh.

After you get over the 100+ postcards interspersed on my wall, you’ll notice 4 large posters. The first is an illuminated copy of “The Tyger” by William Blake I made in high school (I like writing poetry, not just reading it!). I grew up on the West coast of New Jersey in a very small town and went to a medium sized high school that strongly encouraged the arts and reading (my first love). But before that I was homeschooled for 6 years, which included the watching of PBS as part of school, taking history tours of the cities my parents visited, and going to a lot of science museums (along with normal schoolwork).

Of course, you can’t watch PBS for years and not see some late-night Monty Python or go to museums and avoid the dinosaur exhibit. Which is why I have “The Ministry of Silly Walks” and “Dinosaurs of Distinction: Pittsburgh” posters. The fourth and final large poster is of the TV show Doctor Who, one of my favorite productions of the BBC. If you like British accents, ridiculous plot twists that defy the laws of physics, and traveling through time and space, you should watch it.

The rest of my wall is made up of smaller posters, like The Beatles, Extreme Ironing, and some of my friends’ and my own art work. I also keep a map on the wall covered in pins of where I’ve been and where I want to go.

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

I know it seems like a lot to have on a wall, something that is usually taken for granted as simply a building’s structure. But my wall is an extension of myself. Its bright colors and memories held up by thumbtacks make me smile after a long day of classes or an evening meeting of Philosophy or Knitting Club.

No matter how busy and stressed I get, I know I always have a place to call home. My room and my roommates are part of that, as is the Loyola community as a whole. Speaking of which, I have some homework to finish up before I watch 500 Days of Summer with my friends.

I know I haven’t told you as much as you might want to know, but there are many more posts to come!