Autumnal Elation

Ah, autumn has come at last! Leaves crunch underfoot, wind whips down alleyways, and it wouldn’t Ireland without a good dose of cold rain.

And by rain, I mean torrential downpours that come at you sideways broken up by squalls of lighter, slightly more tolerable rain. What would have been a pleasant walk to the train station was more like a swim. I mean, I was soaked. I could squeeze water out of my pants, that’s how wet I was.

Now, why on earth would I subject myself to such unpleasantness?

For Science!

Ahem, sorry, *cough*. I mean, For Service!

The study abroad program at Loyola requires all students complete an immersion project, which can either be a massive scrapbook (including interviews!)/paper reflection about your experiences, or 15 hours of service while abroad and a reflection.

Erin and I chose to do the latter, so we were very happy to hear that there was a service fair provided by the chaplaincy to make it easier for students to find service organizations to volunteer for. At the fair, we came across a table for Fota House, a restored 19th century mansion and grounds that holds events and workshops during the year and hosts tours during the spring and summer.

Being the history and reenactment nerd I am, I was super excited to check them out. And by excited I mean I filled out the volunteer form and returned it to the house this week, full of anticipation for working in what is basically Downton Abbey.

This week Erin will be helping with Halloween workshops for kids, and the following week I’ll be pressing apples for cider with the gardeners! Ah! So psyched!

I think a large part of this excitement is missing the fall traditions of home. Not exactly homesickness, but just certain things that are my favorite memories at Loyola or New Jersey.

In case Halloween/Autumn Fever hasn’t hit you yet, here are a few things to get you in the mood!

  1. Dorm Decoration! I’ve had so much fun with this the past two years. Whether or not you opt in for kids trick-or-treating at your door, it’s still fun to get your orange and black on.
  2. Apple or Pumpkin Picking. Ok, so I haven’t actually done this since high school, but it’s a blast. I keep on seeing pictures of friends on facebook picking apples back home at Terhune Orchards, or with a Loyola group on a trip.
  3. Pumpkin Carving. While it’s technically an extension of the above, it’s by far my favorite Halloween activity. Ever since I can remember I would design the pumpkin faces for my family, and eventually got to carve them myself. I don’t care how gross pulling out the “guts” can feel, it wouldn’t be Halloween without the smell of pumpkin in the apartment!
  4. Halloween Movie Marathons. Whether it’s Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein or Friday the 13th, everyone loves a good movie scare. And if you’re not up for scares, ABC Family is probably showing Halloweentown or Hocus Pocus (Ah, the good ol’ days).
  5. Foooooood. Everyone loves it. Grab some orange frosting and ice some creepy cupcakes, or turn pigs in a blanket to mini-mummies. No matter what you make, Halloween themed foods are the best.

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!

Sensory Exploration

Shuffle shuffle fwoomp, ugh, sweater hair, straighten. Slip tie, slip tie, up we go. Shrug shr-, oh drat arm’s stuck; I’ll have to repair that sleeve hole, -ug, straighten, slip button slip button. Hoist, grunt, mmf, shift, check jacket collar, earbuds in, pull the handle, step, step, Step…
Stairs!
Step…
Step…
Push, check reflection in windows, push, step step and
Woah.

It’s overpowering. Crisp air, gray sky, fresh leaves, slight breeze, chilly fingers, stinging eyes.

It’s autumn.

If you ask me what my favorite smell is I wouldn’t be able to give you a direct answer. I would debate and question myself indeterminately for hours and it would still be tied between woodsmoke, old books, freshly fallen leaves, and sautéed onions.

More leavesRight now two out of four infiltrate my nostrils as I walk to classes and a third will be served with tonight’s dinner. As I sit writing this at my dining room table, steam rises from the air vent outside, hits my window, and makes visible waves of moisture, reminding me of Jack Frost’s fingers on a snowy window pane. It’s getting me excited for November.

I can’t wait for the crunch of leaves underfoot, the wooly happiness of snuggling into a scarf, the smell of hot apple cider, the

Oh. Wait. Cider.

Just thinking of it makes my mouth water and transports me back to second grade, staring at the giant wall of trees in the state park at home. My Girl Scout troop is tramping through the dew covered leaves, wiping away at bleary Saturday morning eyes and hungrily looking ahead to the trail-mix in our leader’s backpack. Orienteering always meant an energy-zapping morning followed by hot cider stored in thermoses, PB&J sandwiches, and the previously mentioned trail mix. I’m pretty sure there was an early bedtime when I got home.

But that cider.

Sweet, spiced, and simple, the piping hot drink will always make me happy, no matter how busy or stressed I am.

I usually don’t get homesick, but right now I have to admit that I kind of miss the fall rituals from home. Even though I’ve outgrown some of them, it’s still nice to look back and bask in the memory of reading Harry Potter with my dad after a bike ride on the canal path, or frantically looking for a tissue after coming inside from raking leaves in the chilly October air.

Postcard1Postcard2Postcard3

Yeah, I’m definitely missing the pumpkin carving and corn mazes right now.

If I’m this psyched over fall, I hate to think about how I’ll be come December.

Don’t get me started on freshly chopped pine trees.