Pura Vida

A week ago today, I arrived back in the United States after a week-long trip to Costa Rica.  It honestly seems so much more recent, and it still hasn’t completely hit me that I’ve been back in the US for as long as I was away.  I’m honestly still experiencing a bit of reverse culture shock (look it up, it’s a thing).

I was in Costa Rica for a class that I’m taking this semester.  It’s a really awesome opportunity, available only to people in my major, to study sustainable development in a place that has devoted itself (politically, at least) to pursuing environmentally friendly growth.  The class involved a weekly seminar and a series of presentations, all leading up to a trip to Costa Rica over spring break.  Over the course of the trip, we hiked through national parks, saw all sorts of tropical forests, including the absolutely fantastic cloud forest, toured various farms, including a large-scale pineapple farm and a sustainable coffee farm, visited a volcano, listened to lectures by biologists in the area… I could go on for days.  The trip was packed with educational activities, and I know that I learned a lot from it.  There’s something much more powerful about experiencing the world first hand instead of just reading about it in a classroom.

I honestly think that travel, if done correctly, is one of the easiest ways to broaden your horizons.  I’ve gained something from every place I’ve ever been.  I’ll never forget the trips that I’ve been lucky enough to go on, and Costa Rica is no exception.  The people there are some of the most generous and welcoming individuals that I have ever met.  Wherever we went, we heard people saying “pura vida”.  It means literally “pure life” in spanish, and it’s become a sort of catchphrase in Costa Rica.  It’s become a greeting and a goodbye, a general response to a wide number of social situations.  I think that the phrase neatly sums up the joy and satisfaction of living life.  It’s a way of saying things are good without getting too cheesy.

While I was in Costa Rica, I took a whopping 670 pictures (yes, I literally did take my camera everywhere).  Here are a few favorites:

pura vida, everyone.

On Popes

I’m sure that practically everyone, regardless of their religion, has been bombarded with news about the new pope, elected yesterday.  Even if you’re not Catholic, it’s a pretty big deal.  Catholics make up about 1.2 billion of the 6.9 billion people in the world.  That’s about 17% of the world’s population.  Even if you don’t happen to be Catholic yourself, you probably know quite a few of them.

I’m not particularly showy about it, but I was raised Catholic, went to CCD (which I just discovered stands for “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine”) for all of elementary and middle school, and was confirmed at 13.  Even if I’m not the best Catholic out there, and even if there are some things about the Church that I’m not particularly fond of, I still identify as a Catholic and don’t plan on leaving the church anytime soon.

Obviously, I care about the new pope and feel the same mix of nervous anticipation and inexplicable excitement about Pope Francis that I’m sure many Catholics share.  Even if he’s supposedly directed by God and the Holy Spirit, every pope has a different way of going about things, and their beliefs and loyalties can change the direction of the Catholic Church.  The last two popes, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, were both pretty conservative, favoring tradition.  On the other hand, John XXIII was more liberal.  He decided to hold Vatican II, which is the reason that mass is no longer said in Latin.

I’m excited about Pope Francis, because he’s a Jesuit, a South American, and the first pope to choose the name “Francis”.  For those who aren’t Catholic, Jesuits are an order of priests and brothers that are known for their focus on education (you’ve probably heard of Georgetown, Boston College, etc) and research.  Even though the Jesuits haven’t always been particularly popular, they’re known as scholars, and I like that.

I’m pretty much indifferent about the fact that he’s from South America.  It’s kind of cool, but location really shouldn’t determine that much about a person.  I like the fact that he picked Francis as a name though.  I guess he’s cool with being different.

We can’t really tell what’s coming, or what direction things are going to go, but it will certainly be different.  No two leaders are the same, and that goes for popes as well as everyone else.

Going Home

Today, for the first time this semester, I’ll be going home.  I haven’t seen my family in person in about 2 and a half months.  I’ve talked to them, texted them, and communicated through Facebook, but I haven’t actually seen them for quite a while.  This is one of the strangest parts of being away at college.  For the first 18 years of my life, I saw these people every day, and now I only talk to them every so often and go for months without seeing them.  It’s kind of weird and I never realize how much I’ve missed my family until I see them again.  I’m actually incredibly excited to see them all.  Even though I’m nearly 20, I still miss my mom.

I’ve also lived right near Chicago for most of my life and the city’s been a big part of my life.  I don’t end up going downtown too often, but it’s always been comforting to know that if I really wanted, I could go down to the city for an adventure.  In high school, my friends and I really enjoyed taking the train down to the city and walking around the loop, visiting some museums, or just chilling in millenium park.  There’s always something interesting to do down there, and I really love getting out of the sleepy, organized suburbs and visiting the city.  It just seems so alive down there.

Also… Kanye’s from Chicago, too… and that’s pretty cool.

Typography

Lately, some really artistic and stylized typography has been popping up all over the internet.  I’ve seen examples on a Pinterest, Tumblr, and a few of my favorite blogs.  A few days ago, HonestlyWTF posted about a series of “Daily Dishonesty” images created by NYC graphic designer Lauren Hom.  They’re really cool, and I especially love the stylish, simple designs.  Here’s a few examples:

I also took a look through my quotes board on Pinterest and found a few of my favorite typographically focused quotes.

Inspired by all of these great examples, I started sketching.  I pretty much always have a notebook of some sort on me for writing/drawing/doodling.  It’s also a fantastic way to look like you’re paying attention in lecture when you’re actually not.  After sketching out a few words, I scanned it onto my computer and cleaned it up in photoshop.  I also added some color and a few little accents.  Mine is not nearly as good as those done by professionals, but I think it’s passable.  It was also pretty fun.  Guess I’ve found a new way to procrastinate!

Honey Almond Ginger Oatmeal

The other day, I went to the grocery store.  That probably sounds incredibly boring and humdrum, but for a college kid, the grocery store is a big deal.  The closest grocery store to my dorm is still nearly a mile away, and of course I walked there in the cold–how else would I get myself there?  I went because I needed some food for my room (meal plans don’t cover everything!).  Grocery shopping is scary.  When I go, I almost feel like a real, grown-up person, and I’m not ready for that yet.  At this point, I’m counting down the last few months of being a teenager… eek.  Also, sometimes you find jars of pickled pigs feet.  That one kinda grossed me out.

Well, anyway, whenever I go grocery shopping, I always end up with at least one impulse buy.  Today it was a package of crystallized ginger.  Lemme just say, I absolutely love ginger.  When I get sushi, I actually eat the pink slivers of pickled ginger that come with it.  Ginger’s not for everyone though.  I tried feeding some to my roommate and she said it tasted like soap.

This morning, I (as usual) missed breakfast at my dorm and instead decided to make some tasty oatmeal.  I’m not a big fan of plain oatmeal, but add a lot of stuff to it, and it’s one of the best breakfasts ever.  Today, I added honey, almonds, and a few pieces of my newly purchased crystallized ginger.

Instructions:

1.  Make oatmeal.  Because I live in a dorm, I used instant oatmeal, but real oatmeal would work just as well.

2.  Drizzle honey on your oatmeal.  Generously.

3.  Drop in a handful of almonds, preferably not salted or flavored in any way.

4.  Put in a few pieces of crystallized ginger.  The sugar on the ginger ends up melting off and flavoring the rest of the oatmeal.

5.  Mix it all together.  It looks a lot prettier when it’s not mixed, but it tastes better when everything’s all blended together.

6.  Enjoy!

Dyeing to be Seen

I’ve been fascinated with colorful hair for quite a while now.  For the longest time, the only people I ever saw with colored hair were punky teenagers or “scene” kids.  Even though I was never really part of that group, I was always secretly jealous of their rainbow hairstyles.  Even though it didn’t really fit in with the whole white-girl-from-the-suburbs look, I really wanted rainbow hair.  However, I wasn’t nearly rebellious enough to ask my parents if it was ok, so I had light brown hair all through high school.

Recently, colorful hair has become much more mainstream (and socially acceptable).  Hipsters all over are dyeing portions of their hair in all colors of the rainbow.  Here are a few of my favorites…

I’ve been thinking about dying my hair like this for a while and on Friday the stars aligned.  My roommate and I decided not to go out and were sitting around, trying to come up with something to do.  Obviously, we decided to run to Walgreens, pick up some hair dye (and snacks, duh), and dye our hair.  She went with black, and I picked out the brightest blue I could find.  I think it turned out pretty well.  I’m still experimenting with hairstyles, but I really love it so far!

I used Splat Rebellious Colors Complete Hair Kit, in “Blue Envy” from Walgreens.  It can be found online here or in stores.

Tips and Tricks:

Even though the dye package says to leave the dye on for only an hour, I decided to wrap up my hair and sleep with the dye in.  This’ll make the color last longer without fading.

Don’t wear a shirt you actually care about.  Mine now has blue splattered all over.

Don’t shampoo right after dyeing.  You want to give the dye at least some time to set.

The color will continue to run for at least a few shampoos after you dye it.  I only dyed my hair a few days ago, so I’m not sure how long it’ll take to stop dripping colors when wet.

Oh yeah, and have fun.  I guess that’s pretty important too.

A Blue-Gray Kind of Day

Sundays always seem to tend towards melancholy.  All the fun of the weekend is over and everyone’s busy picking up the pieces and worrying about the coming Monday.  Yesterday, the weather was cooperating perfectly with the somber mood on campus.  Somehow, despite the fact that we have no class today (thanks, Martin Luther King Jr!), Sunday was still gray and gloomy on campus.

I managed to spend pretty much the entire day in my dorm room.  I knitted, hung out with my roommate, and spent some quality time browsing the internet.  It was incredibly peaceful, not something you get too often on a college campus.  I also snapped a few pictures just for kicks.  All of these were taken in my room yesterday afternoon.

Snapshots–Back on Campus

I just got back to school after spending three weeks at home doing some combination of sleeping, working, crafting, reading, hanging with my family, and generally relaxing as much as humanly possible.  Today, I had my first day of classes for the semester, and I’m loving being back on campus.

The first week of the new semester is generally known as “syllabus week”, because it’s used by most professors to hand out the syllabus and discuss in detail everything on it.  Today, I spent two hours learning about course policies, grading scales, etc (my other two classes don’t start meeting until next week…yay).  Syllabus week is one of the best parts of the semester.  The professors don’t really give homework, labs don’t start up until a few weeks into the semester, and no one is studying for exams.  It’s basically a great excuse to just catch up with friends and hang out at college without the pressure of studying/homework/etc.

Another benefit is that I generally have a bit of extra time to do things like go out and shoot (pictures, not people).  Because it was beautiful out today, I grabbed my camera and walked around campus a bit this afternoon.  On most Mondays, I won’t be able to do this because I have a physics lab scheduled from 4-7, so I decided to take advantage.  Here’s what I came up with:

I really love the way the light looks just before sunset.  The golden glow of late afternoon makes everything look good.

Faking It: Cable Knit Scarf

Something about winter makes scarves, especially knitted scarves, absolutely irresistible to me.  Wrapping myself up in a warm, wooly knit scarf makes going out in the cold almost enjoyable.  When I go into shops, I often head straight for the accessory section and start trying on the scarves, but I never buy them because I know how to knit.  I’m not a pro or anything, but I just can’t bring myself to buy something that I could make myself.

Most of the time, I don’t actually end up making the scarf that I want, but occasionally I find myself with enough time to buy yarn and start a new project.

I’ve been eyeing this scarf from urban outfitters for a while now.  It’s really soft and cozy and warm… basically everything I might ever want in a scarf, but I haven’t bought it because it’s a pretty simple pattern and I could easily knit it myself.

BDG Cable Knit Scarf in Grey, Ivory, and Purple: Urban Outfitters

However, because I’m currently on winter break and have an abundance of free time (which I should probably be using to apply for internships for the summer…), I decided to actually trek out to Joann Fabrics and buy some yarn.  I found a bulky weight wool/acrylic blend yarn that’s nice and soft, and I started putting together a pattern.  It’s actually incredibly simple and is going pretty quickly.  Here’s my progress so far:

The pattern that I made up goes something like this:

Materials:  2-3 balls Bernat Roving Yarn (or something like it) and size 10 1/2 straight knitting needles

Gauge:  Does anyone actually care about the gauge?  I usually just YOLO it

Instructions:

1.  Cast on 30 stitches

2.  Knit 1, Purl 1 for the first 7, then knit 16 stitches, then K1,P1 for the last 7

3.  K1P1 for the first 7, purl 16 stitches, then K1,P1 for the last 7

4-7.  Repeat steps 1 and 2

8.  K,1P1 for the first 7, put 4 stitches onto a cable needle (spare circular needles work pretty well too) and pull to back.  K4, then knit the 4 stitches off the cable needle/circular needle.  Put the next 4 stitches on the cable needle and pull to the front, then K4.  Knit the 4 stitches off the cable needle, then K1,P1 for the rest of the row.

9.  K1,P1 for the first 7, purl 16 stitches, then K1,P1 for the last 7

10.  Repeat steps 2-9 for the rest of the scarf and cast off.

11.  I’m going to add tassels to mine eventually, but I haven’t gotten there yet…

TADA.  That’s about it.  Pretty simple, huh?

Blogorama

I’ve spent the last few years lusting after other people’s blogs, following some of them religiously, and jealously coveting the idea that if I wanted to, I could beat all of them.  If I started a blog, it would be popular, beautiful and, most importantly, it would be cool.  I would write out my hopes and dreams, opinions and desires, and I would be loved for it.

Yeah.  Big dreams, huh?

These were big, unreachable dreams that resided only in the clouded delusions of my own imagination.  I wanted the recognition that I thought that I deserved, and I thought that, once I had put myself out there, followers would come.  My ideas would slowly seep out there, not just part of yet another forgotten blog, popular with a few lonely 12 year olds and a couple of really nice ladies who like crafting.  Instead, I would have been great.  The type of fashionable girl who follows blogs would get to know me and start caring about my the pieces of my life that I would put up on my blog.

But… sometimes you actually have to try this sort of thing out, and it’s not exactly easy.  I tried having a blog over the summer, but it didn’t really work out (by “it didn’t work out”, I mean that I didn’t really care enough to update it).  This year, I decided (on a whim) to revamp it and start over completely.  I literally deleted everything I’d posted and started fresh.

This time, I’m just going to write whatever I feel like, post what interests me, and not give a flying fuck about what anyone on the internet or otherwise thinks of it.

Come at me, bro.