Sunday, July 31, 2011

I think this is an appropriate venue for my bragging.

During our stay in England, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to (prepare yourself) go on a private tour into the depths of the Cambridge library. Yes, I know. Let's pause to let the magnitude of this momentous event sink in.

Are you okay? Okay, great. In this private tour, we walked through all these dusty, cold rooms filled to the ceiling with old vellum and manuscripts and scrolls and shoe boxes stuffed to the brim with scraps of paper. There were entire shelves dedicated to old medical records from the 1940s. There were mysterious bins labelled "Do Not Open Until 2025" and "Sealed." The best part of this tour was the Special Collections room. We saw and, more incredibly, TOUCHED the following items in this Super-Secret Private Tour:

1. Darwin's personal notes and diagrams. That's Charles Darwin. Yes, I touched the same paper that Darwin touched. I hope that somehow I absorbed some of his brilliance through my fingers and that, one day, I can be as clever as he was.
2. Rudyard Kipling's personal notes, including a rough draft of "If,"one of my favorite poems.
3. Beautiful illuminated manuscripts dating back to the 13th century A.D.
4. 3rd century A.D. papyrus scraps of Romans chapter 8 (my favorite chapter). Obviously, we didn't touch these because we wanted to avoid disintegrating some of the oldest remaining excerpts of the Bible if we could help it.
5. The Book of Deer, which is the oldest Scottish book from around the 8th century A.D. It's written in Gaelic and we're lucky they even let us take it out. Apparently, with all the Scottish unrest (they're pretty keen to break off from England at the moment, but what's new about that?) there have been people demanding that Cambridge return that book to its rightful owners. So naturally, they keep it under lock and key most of the time.

6. Newton's diagram and calculations for a telescope he was building. Yes, that's right. Isaac Newton. Sir. Isaac. Newton.

My hands still feel all tingly and warm. I've never loved evolution or physics or Latin more than on that epic, unforgettable day in Cambridge, and I probably never will.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Save the Words!

I found a website today completely dedicated to saving old words that are no longer used. They encourage you to adopt a word (or several!), and to use it in conversation, writing, or wherever you can make it work! I already adopted the word Starrify, and it's really working out between us.

Starrify verb: to decorate with stars. I've already thought of a use for it! The first night I slept in my new apartment last year, I was surprised (and rather disgruntled) to find that the previous owner had starrified the wall with glow-in-the-dark stickers!

See! It's fun! Now follow this link and join the cause! There are words that need saving, my friends!

Friday, July 29, 2011


So I'm kind of obsessed with this blog called The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond bakes delicious food, homeschools, writes, takes incredible pictures, and is basically just... really cool. I especially love her photography segments because she doesn't just say, "Hey look how awesome I am!" She says, "Hey, I'm awesome, but don't worry! Here are step-by-step instructions on how to be as awesome as me. Good luck!" She talks about how to manipulate light to make your pictures softer and more unique. Of course, she uses all these fancy words like "aperture" and "f-stop" and "shutter speed" which I usually just skip since my camera is a cute lil thang with (maybe) five different settings and about two or three other buttons. Not much room for experimentation. But one thing I can control is the exposure, which is basically how much light you let in (or something like that...). So I just cranked that baby up and started snapping away! Now, don't you worry. I'm not about to start my own photography blog or anything (because let's be real, I know next to nothing about photography, like RIGHT next to nothing). But I did manage to get some neat effects from the sun:

See, it's just that easy!
Step 1. Find the exposure button (harder than it sounds).
Step 2. Turn up the exposure.
Step 3. Find some adorable and oh-so-willing cousins to model for you.
Step 4. Find the sun.
Step 5. Put your model between you and the sun, preferably in a beautiful location like, oh, I don't know, the middle of the English countryside. Gorgeous trees in the background? 6 points extra. Farm animals? 10 points. (For some reason, I've established a cool-photo point system, but I think it works.)
Step 6. Stand, sit, squat, kneel, lay sprawled out on the ground. Take pictures from every different angle and fill up that memory card. Chances are you will end up with at least one swell picture. (What's that thing Mr. Olivo taught us in Calculus? Something about a monkey writing Shakespeare? You can tell I learned a lot in that class.)
Step 7. Start a blog and post your pictures on them.

Congratulations! You now have all the knowledge you need to take pictures with flare! (Or do I mean flair...? You decide.)

Paperbacks Ink

I just discovered it yesterday, and I love it for several reasons:

1. I'm a huge fan of puns, especially cheesy ones.
2. You can bring in your old books and turn them in for credit. Then you go through their collection of used books and use your credit to buy whatever books you want! It's a B-E-A-Utiful system because you feel like you're getting books for free!
3. The books aren't arranged in alphabetical order. This is inconvenient if you're searching for a specific book, but if you're just browsing it makes things more exciting!

I bought two books:

 I've never read The Enchanted April before, but the film is one of my top comfort movies. When I'm sick or tired or bummed out, I put in The Enchanted April and am immediately transferred to a beautiful castle in Italy where everything is magical and perfect and there's more than enough love to go around.

I've read Night a couple times, and each time I have been challenged with the same emotional questions that Wiesel faced: How could human beings do such evil things to other humans? How could victims have faith in people after going through those kinds of experiences? How could they have faith in God? Night is an emotionally exhausting book to read, but you won't be able to put it down until it's finished, and when you're done, you're left with a feeling, a need to do something to help someone. The book doesn't tell you who. It just tells you to go out and change the world. A pretty heavy task. I wouldn't recommend reading this book if you like where you are and don't want to become more charitable, more loving, more effective in serving others. Don't read it if you want to keep your blinders on. And definitely, definitely don't read it if you don't want to shed a few (or, if you're a softy like me, an abundance of) tears.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Humidity never felt so good

There is a plethora of things that I feel the need to blog about, so for my personal convenience, as well as the convenience of anyone who reads this, I will organize this post in list form.

1. Blessings: Every time I come back home, it hits me how blessed I am. Right now I'm sitting in my air conditioned bedroom that I have all to myself. I am listening to music on my own laptop. I can hear Rebecca using the electric mixer while making chocolate pound cake downstairs. I have a letter on my bed from Addison that I've already read three or four times. Our house is bright and clean and welcoming. I am happy.

2. Barnes and Noble: While we were on vacation, the Evans family stayed in our house. When I came home, I found a gift card to Barnes and Noble on my bed from them! I love B&N. Whenever I walk in, it's like I hear thousands and thousands of little voices whispering: "Pick me!" "No, over here!" "Please, somebody read me!" "I just want to be loved! Is that too much to ask?" And I just want to buy everything and then take them all to the cafe in the back of the store and drink hot chocolate as I read all of them, one by one.

3. A week in England: Our last week in the UK can be described with three words: Chaos. Bliss. Family. My family, Granny, and Uncle Quint's family (Uncle Simon's family visited daily, since they lived quite close) stayed at Wash Farm, a large, yellow house in the middle of the Suffolk countryside. No phone service. No internet. We woke up in the morning to the sound of horses whinnying and, more often than not, rain tapping on the roof. I felt like I was living in Longbourn, and I just knew that, at any second, I would look out the window and see Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy riding up the road and hear Mrs. Bennett shrieking for us to come down this instant. Needless to say, I took plenty of pictures:

This is Wash Farm. The top left window is the room that I shared with Rebecca and Rachel. It had a large wardrobe and a fireplace. 

This is the view from our window. 

It was very stormy for a few days, but between showers we managed to get outside and feed the horses and play a family game of kickball. When it was raining, we played Bananagrams, went to see Harry Potter 7.5, watched the Women's World Cup Final (so tragic), and ate TONS of food.

This is cousin Emily. Isn't she adorable? With her big eyes and rich, brown hair, Emily looks more like Rachel's sister than I do!

This is Charlotte, Emily's younger sister. I love this girl! She cracks me up with her unique sense of humor. She made up a dance to Price Tag by Jessie J. She is always cheerful and trying to make everyone laugh.


Spitting is dangerous. Please, protect yourself and those around you.

Look at my beautiful family! 

This is Audley End, a mansion built to entertain royalty, particularly James I, and was at one time home to General Cornwallis. We visited on our last day in England, and really enjoyed touring the rooms, looking at the extensive portrait collection, and exploring the libraries (there were several). There were over 11,000 books in the entire house, including a beautiful, 7-volume version of the King James Bible. (I didn't take this picture. The weather certainly wasn't as nice as this when we were there!)

4. My Man: Addison comes to visit in a week from tomorrow! I am so excited for him to come and meet my family. I've planned out all sorts of fun, get-to-know-Virginia activities including visits to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and, of course, Busch Gardens! One of my co-workers from last summer is giving us two of her passes because she's sweet like that. I just hope Addison doesn't melt away from all the humidity!

5. Weddings: We came home to find four, yes FOUR, wedding announcements in the mail. Can you believe it! Needless to say, my new pink dress will be getting a lot of use in this next month!

The Book Thief

If you haven't read it, DROP EVERYTHING AND READ IT NOW. The Book Thief is about Liesel, a young girl who grows up during World War II and, at a young age, experiences an inordinate amount of heartbreak and loss. Markus Zusak's writing style is magical and mysterious and eloquent, but he only uses words that are necessary. No superfluity here.
Zusak writes from Death's point of view, and I love his personification of Death. To him, Death isn't the evil, heartless being that gleefully steals people's souls from their bodies when they least expect it. Instead, Death is just doing his job. He ferries people's souls from the earth gently, delicately; he cares for the people he sees. He says, "They say that war is death's best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating on thing, incessantly: 'Get it done, get it done.' So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss, however, does not thank you, He asks for more."
Death's view of the world is dominated by color. He says, "People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it's quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment... Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses." His favorite kind of sky is "a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, dark chocolate." Liesel's foster father has silver eyes. Her best friend has lemon hair. Clouds are the color of copper. The usage of color created a very obvious tone for each scene and often reflects the inner nature or personality of the object or character more than the outside appearance. Rudy, the lemon-haired boy, was a beacon of hope in this book. His bright, yellow innocence and joy were starkly contrasted with the red and black hatred that loomed over him and Liesel.
I think the thing I love most about this book is the way it emphasizes the power of words. Zusak tells about Liesel reading a novel aloud in a bomb shelter, calming and distracting the people hiding there. Her love of words creates a bond of friendship between herself and a young Jewish man they hid in their basement. Zusak also talks about how Liesel used hateful words to hurt others, how Hitler used words to move nations and kill millions. Saviors. Destroyers. Manipulators. Comforters. Words are incredibly powerful tools, and Zusak is a master wielder.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My final day in Caledonia

Tomorrow morning Mom, Dad, Rowan, and I are driving about 10 hours from Fortrose to Suffolk. We're staying in a large farmhouse for a week with my dad's brothers and their families, including our four younger cousins, Emily, Charlotte, Elliot, and Owen. I've posted some of my favorites scenes of Scotland as a tribute to the beauty we're leaving:

(Side note: Caledonia is the Latin name the Romans gave to the Scottish highlands.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Word of the Day

The word catastrophe means 'a sudden change for the worse.' The word eucatastrophe means 'a sudden change for the better.' This word was coined by J.R.R. Tolkien and is one of my new favorite words. 

Monday, July 4, 2011


Today has been a wonderful day.
Firstly, because

Secondly, because my move from the large double bed into the tiny caravan was not as terrible as I was expecting. I'm actually kind of excited to live out here for the next ten days. I love sitting on my bed and listening to the sea gulls chattering and getting a nice breeze coming through our windows.

Thirdly, because of these guys! Their excessive cheeping is adorable and I just want to watch them all the time.

Fourthly, because the weather today was PERFECT. I sat outside in shorts for the first time this summer and worked on my tapestry while waiting for my family to get here. I put on my soundtrack playlist (consisting of Master and Commander, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Inkheart) and relaxed after a busy morning. We did plenty of cleaning, vacuuming, and moving to get ready for the family to arrive.

Fifthly, because of this:

Yes, it's true. This is the view out of my window.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Waterfalls and Chocolate Rivers

Yesterday we went on our final pre-family adventure (they're en route as I type!) to Rogie Falls. I think that walk is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It never ceases to amaze me how many shades of green Scotland can cram into one place.

These are cairns. In the past, according to Wikipedia, they were erected as landmarks, ceremonial markers, or sepulchral symbols. It seemed like something Aragorn would use, which is obviously why I took a picture.

The bridge wobbles when you walk across it. It's pretty terrifying slash exhilarating. Granny and Rebecca look totally calm though. That's the Sutherland blood in them.

During late July, the salmon start their long, arduous journey from the bottom of the falls to the top. We didn't see any salmon jumping this time though.

I'm kind of obsessed with Scottish trees. They are so gnarled and wild and old. I feel like they could come alive and start walking and talking, Ent-style.

This tree is incredible. The archetypal beech tree is thin and straight, but this beech is massive and ancient and probably has some incredible stories to tell.

A tree erupting from a rock. This is my favorite tree ever. There are plenty of easy places for it to grow but no, it wants a challenge.

I spent longer than I'd care to admit to put those pictures together like that.


After our Rogie Falls adventure, we needed a little refreshment, so we stopped by the Maya Chocolate shop for hot chocolate. I'm pretty sure there's a river in heaven made of the same stuff that was in that wondrous mug. It was rich, but not sickly. It was thick and creamy and hot and perfectly mixed and the perfect end to our adventure.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Teach us, Sensei

Last night Granny made a delectable stir fry, so obviously we pulled out the chopsticks to complete the cultural experience. The problem with chopsticks is that they make you eat slowly, and when you're starving (and it seems like I'm always starving) you just can't eat fast enough! And that's true even with expert chopstickers like Granny. Rebecca and I aren't quite to that level yet.

Rebecca knows I love her because I gave her a piece of my baby corn. She couldn't quite manage to get it in her mouth though.

This is much easier!

"Is this how you hold chopsticks Granny?"

"No, Katie-san. This how hold chopsticks. Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything."

Yet more inspiration from Granny, the greatest Sensei in the world.