My Natural Habitat

     I've been busy creating messes. Yesterday I bought myself some new acrylic paints and I've been working on a project for art class. The day before that I was cutting big letters out of black paper. Today I was sitting at my table, fiddling around with toothpicks and glue and paint, and I looked around myself and thought . . . Wow, I'm in my natural habitat again! . . . . Scraps of paper everywhere, art supply boxes spilling all over the place, puddles of glue and paint on random scraps of paper, plasti-tac stuck to odd surfaces . . . . I haven't made a mess like this since last summer, and it feels good.
     Moving takes longer than you think it will. Settling down can take months and months. This move has been especially hard, since we're only living in transitional housing. But you know, it all works itself out. Things eventually right themselves. They really do.

Want to see what I've been working on?
1) Mary Oliver quote. I meant to put this above my table, off to one side, but I made the letters too large. They were almost too big to fit on the back of my door, but I managed. I found the big, black letters a little startling at first, but they grew on me.

2) Blackout poetry. I bought a beat-up, torn-up book at the library sale, because I need book pages for crafts and I wanted to try blackout poetry. Blackout poetry is fun, I like it. It's so strange and wonderful to rearrange an author's words and turn them into something else. The drawback? It gives you a serious sharpie headache.

3) Paint chip/typewriter quotes. I've always been slightly amused by the paint chip fad. These days you can make anything out of paint chips and everyone will love it. Why? I don't get it. Buuut . . . I have to admit that it was very satisfying to pound out quotes onto colorful scraps of paper. Extremely satisfying. As far as paint chips go? Sometimes they're awesome and sometimes they're paint chips.

4) Matchbox craft drawer. Our drawing teacher told us to make something out of a matchbox. He gave us a couple of examples, and he said we could do anything we wanted with it and fill it with anything we wanted. So I made a miniature drawer. I think I have to draw it tomorrow.

What's your latest project? If you put a giant quote on your wall (or door) what would it be? 


School Essentials

Purse // Small notebook, favorite pens, wallet, cellphone, chapstick
Backpack // Art portfolio, box of art supplies, and a book (just in case)

     I like to keep the things in my bags minimal and lightweight. I don't like hauling a heavy backpack around all morning, and I don't like digging through a big purse. Looking at this picture though . . . it's a little ridiculous. This semester I've managed to get by with a very small backpack. It's perfect, because it has these handy pockets on the front, and a drawstring top and it's . . . well, small. I only have two classes on campus (the other two are internet classes) and I don't actually need the textbooks for either class. Textbooks are heavy. So I leave them at home. Next semester, I'll probably have to say goodbye to my tiny backpack. *sniff*

      My purse is also small. I bought it at a thrift store for three dollars. It's leather with a crossbody strap, and it's the best bag I've ever had. Plenty of room for my cellphone, wallet and huge, hideous driving permit. Have I told you how terrible Illinois's driving permits are? Mine is printed on an entire sheet of computer paper . . . 11 x 8 1/2, and I have to fold it up and keep it in a giant plastic bag. Ugh. It takes up the entire front pocket of my purse. (I'm not bitter or anything.)
     I also keep my favorite pens in my purse, so they don't get lost in the bottom of my backpack. I'm very specific about which pens I like. I also have a little notebook, and it's also a specific brand. I have the same journal in a larger size . . . more than one actually. They're that great. I have the little one too, because I bought one for Jana's birthday, and then became jealous ;)

     Of course, not everything I take to school is in this photo. My lunch is the biggest thing missing. I have a square lunch bag that I put inside the backpack, and it takes up quite a lot of room. I usually bring a salad and/or cold chicken. And then I have lots of extras like strawberries or almonds or cheetos. I used to have a water bottle, but it leaked on the second week and soaked my entire backpack and its contents. Goodbye water bottle.
     Also not pictured is a small stash of granola bars, which I consume during drawing class. (A three hour class is too long for my poor little stomach.) Then, of course, there are random papers and homework assignments crammed into my backpack as well.

     I guess my wardrobe is simple too. I always wear jeans with a long-sleeved tee or favorite sweater. And then I've got my boots. That's them in the photo. I wear them everywhere. They have buckles and zippers and laces and they're the best. Yep. Then I have a blue plaid coat, which I also wear everywhere. Finish it off with a great pair of earrings, and that's my usual uniform.

P.S. My dear friend/former neighbor, Jordan, just started a blog! Visit her here.


Hard Stories

      I'm taking speech this semester. I expected to hate it. I didn't know that I had enough confidence to give a good speech. But I do. I didn't know that there would be interesting people to observe and stories to hear and conversations to have. But there are. I expected to hate it because I thought it would revolve around stage fright and nervousness. But that's really just a small part of it. It mostly revolves around people and words and those are two things that I find infinitely fascinating.
. . . . . . . 
      Our first assignment was an introduction speech. It was interesting, the things people chose to share about themselves. Most of us chose to talk about our hobbies, interests and families. But other people chose to tell their hard stories. The stories that hurt. The stories that change them and shape them. The stories that affect their lives every day.
     One woman talked about giving. She said that most of us are born with a self-preservation instinct that prevents us from giving help to others when it would harm or damage ourselves. She said she was born without that instinct . . . but it seems to me that she gives in spite of her self-preservation instinct.That's what is hard for her. Her lifestyle of giving anyway.
       Another woman talked about being a single, teenaged mom. A man talked about growing up on the east side of St. Louis and mentioned, almost as an afterthought, that somebody was shot in his neighborhood nearly every day. The man who sits nearby him told a similar story about growing up in Chicago. Someone else talked about being a troubled teen and said that he was sent to "therapy boarding school" for two years. The oldest man in the class talked about going to jail as a young man. He said the bad decisions he made when he was young have followed him and haunted him for the rest of his life.
     The Marine talked about having post-traumatic stress disorder. He said that when he walks through the hallways he feels like the people who walk behind him are chasing him. He said he always sits in the back of the classroom where he can see every person and every exit. When he told us that he was getting help, he broke down and cried, and I don't think any of us expected it. He's a tough guy who sits in the back of the room and makes jokes. I don't think we guessed he had a story that can make him sob.
. . . . . . . .   
     Thinking about all these hard stories, I wonder about the ones that weren't told. The more people I meet the more I realize that everyone has one. A hard story. I have a story I didn't tell. A long and complicated story about betrayal and rejection and punishment for doing the right thing. But I haven't found the adequate words to tell it yet. And maybe nobody else had adequate words for their story either.
     There's a quote. I don't know who said it. "Every person you meet, every single one, is looking for their story. There are no exceptions. You become part of it by how you treat them." I think that's true. But I also think that everyone you meet already has a story. And that idea, that everyone has a story and is looking for a story, should make us more compassionate. It should make us want to listen, and it should make us feel privileged when someone shares their story with us.


Valentine's Day Playlist

Happy Valentine's Day! Go eat chocolate and make construction paper hearts to celebrate. V A L E N T I N E by Lydia on Grooveshark


Happy Things, No. 1

Beautiful old paperbacks from the thrift store
Lunches with Sarah at school
Cold grapefruit for breakfast
Curling up in my chair to read my Bible, this book, and this book
Listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on radio podcast with Ben and Jason in the evening
Singing "Yellow Submarine" and "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning"
Thick, textured sweaters
Messy stacks of books, scattered throughout my room
The map of Paris in the left bottom corner of my wall collage
My glass jar of colored pencils
Making Sam laugh late at night when everyone else is in bed


Craft Space/Bedroom

     Here, as promised, are photos of my new craft space. Something about the photo quality is bugging me . . . I don't know what it is. Maybe it's just the grey sky. I'm sick of grey. Anyhow, I suppose you can still get the gist of the photo.
     I bought the table for thirty dollars at a horrid little thrift store down the street. It's a very nice shape and size, but it had an ugly laminate top when I bought it, and when I brought it home it reeked to high heaven of cigarette smoke. Hint: don't buy furniture from a place that smells awful. Even if you think the piece smells okay, it probably doesn't in a normal/clean setting. To make a long story short, I sanded the laminate by hand until my arms practically fell off, and then I painted the whole thing with a brown enamel paint. I felt a little insecure about painting it brown, but I really did want a chocolate brown color, and I'm glad I went for it. It turned out great. I'm not sure how well the surface will hold up, but I'm okay with it getting chipped or stained. It's a craft table!
     I bought the poster frame on sale at Hobby Lobby, and I found the poster on amazon. I made a collage above the table using old books, atlases, national geographic magazines, and martha stewart magazines. I suspect I'll switch it up eventually, but I rather like it. The typewriter was a thrift store find . . . I traded my old one to Sam, because light blue looked nicer with my color scheme. All of my craft supplies are in glass jars that I've accumulated.
     Really, everything on the top of the table . . . the jars, typewriter, etc. . . are in temporary places. I still haven't finished setting up. I need some more space for organizing supplies, and I'll probably have some stacks of books that end up on the table. But it's nice. I like it.
      This is my newest piece of furniture. I bought it at the Goodwill for twenty-five dollars. It's very small, but that's okay. I'm small too. It's very, very comfy. The cats tried to steal it right away, and Sam likes to sit there with his laptop in the evening when the little boys have gone to bed. I suppose I'll allow it if he's willing to have his ear talked off. I'm talkative late at night. He laughs at me a lot because I say funny things about myself, but I suspect he knows that most of them are actually true.
     Oh, one last thing. Here's a photo of my bed, just as a reminder that it's . . . yellow! I spray-painted it yellow last year. Yep. It's a very happy colored bed. It has a colorful quilt top, too.

     Sooo anyway. These photos are really bugging me, but I hope you liked them. Photographing your house is hard, because each photo seems very separate, even though the objects are located right next to each other in real life . . . The chair is at the foot of the bed, and the craft space is across from the bed and it all works together very nicely. The yellows and blues are so pretty together. You should visit me some time, and then you can see it for real.

P.S. One more "one last thing." There's also a tall bookcase in my bedroom. Surprised? ;) Nah, I bet you're not.


Letters, Photos, Memories

     Unpacking and organizing is funny, because you run across thing that you don't normally look at . . . things that you forget about, like my old flower book that I bought at the library sale and carried everywhere. Or like the skirt I sewed with my grandma, or my "you are my sunshine" music-box.
      Last night I went outside and photographed the sunset. Then I went in and listened to Jack Johnson while I sat in my little armchair and sorted through the contents of my file box. I've been cramming papers into that box for years . . . letters, photos, birthday cards, postcards . . .
      The amount of letters I've received in my lifetime is mildly astonishing. I sorted them into stacks and tied them with ribbon. I have three or four letters from each aunt, a few notes from my mom, and a sturdy little bundle from my grandma. (note to self: remember to write letters to your grandchildren) The other bundles are from friends. One is from Emily . . . we've known each other since birth. She's my always friend. One is from Jana . . . hers is a good three inches thick. And the last one is from my old friends Rowena and Sonya and has a Winnie the Pooh valentine stuck in the top. 
my flower book and my favorite photograph
     I've saved almost everything . . . not just letters. Cards that my mom and brothers sent me when I went to camp, and notes from my counselor, Aunt Joy. A wristband from the time that I went to the water-park with Dad for my birthday. A ticket for the miniature train at Wildlife Prairie Park. The birthday cards that my great-grandma sends me every year, without fail. A homemade card from Emily, congratulating me on a new baby brother (Jason). A birthday card that my grandpa printed out from his own photos. A brand-new letter from my brand-new friend, Sarah. A notebook recording a trip we made to California. A hilarious note from an angry little brother . . .
       And then there's my favorite photo of Ethan, Emily, and Sam that I took with my disposable birthday camera. I smile every time I see it. Emily and I must have been six or seven, which means Sam and Ethan were both five-ish. We were so cute, but I doubt we realized it . . . E and E were blonde, and Sam and I were curly-haired. It may be a photo taken by a little kid with a disposable camera, but to me it captures all of the best moments of my childhood.

Letters and photos are worth saving. They really are.


And I Quote

   Today I've been fiddling around with watercolors and index cards. I'm trying to build up a collection of quotes for my craft space. I'm excited to show you some photos. I made a giant collage above my table, and I'm waiting for a poster to arrive in the mail. I've got my glass jars with colored pencils and brushes unpacked, and I have my light blue typewriter out. Everything is turning out so pretty and sunny! I smile every time I walk in my bedroom. But enough talk about that. It's not time for photos until my poster arrives. Meanwhile, I thought I would share some of the quotes that I'd like to tack up. Who doesn't love a good quote?
. . . . . . . . 

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -Oscar Wilde

"Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth." -Madeleine L'Engle

"I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right." -Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

"Books have to be heavy because the whole world's inside them." -Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

"It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly." -Cornelia Funke, Inkheart 

"I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks." -Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

"Whoever is happy will make others happy, too." -Anne Frank

"Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." -Mary Oliver 

"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder." -E.B. White

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." -George Bernard Shaw

. . . . . . . .

Have a favorite quote? Leave it in the comments!


World's Most Scrumptious Brownies

     Firstly, I must say that I am not a fan of football. Goodness, I hardly know what a quarterback is! Come to think of it, I don't. The only football term I know is Touchdown! It's that bad. (Sports have never been my thing.) Secondly, I must say that I am a huge fan of food. That's why I define the Super Bowl as: "Finger Food Time!" Yep, I'm all about the food.
     The boys watched the Super Bowl this year with Dad and Uncle David. Mom, Aunt Carolyn, and I opted out and watched Downton Abbey instead. However, we did participate in the food part of the event. This year we had boneless hot wings, deviled eggs, chips and guacamole, and brownies. Amazing brownies. They're chewy, gooey, chocolatey, and every other thing that is marvelous. We've had the recipe for years, and I'm sharing it with you as a sort of gift, because I think you're amazing too. Well . . . actually it's because brownies make a good blog post. But that's the same thing, eh?

1 brownie mix
1 bag miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 tbsp butter

Prepare brownie mix, bake in 9x13 pan. When the brownies are done, remove them from the oven and spread the bag of miniature marshmallows over the top. Return to oven until the marshmallows melt. Keep a close watch! This step can go wrong really fast. When the marshmallows have melted properly, remove the brownies from the oven and let them cool completely.
When the brownies are cool, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a saucepan. Heat and stir until everything is melted together. Remove from heat, and stir in the Rice Krispies. Pour/spread mixture evenly over marshmallows. Refrigerate until set.
Final step, take a bite and melt into a gooey puddle.

P.S. I recently realized that I missed my blog's birthday in January. It's been three years. How crazy is that? I declare the brownies a celebration!
P.P.S. I am very impatient to share photos of my new craft space, but I can't until I get my poster in the mail. Hopefully some time this week!


The Ones I Miss

The best books have the best characters. The day I wake up missing a book character is the day I start calling that book one of my favorites. I think that's why I re-read books. I start missing the characters. I start remembering scenes and missing places and ideas. I have to visit my friends again.

The Ones I Miss
Tristan and Siegfried Farnon
Harry, Ron, and Hermione
Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch
Larry, Leslie, Margo, and Gerry
Dicey, Mina, and Jeff
Dustfinger and Farid
The Austin family
The Pevensies
Tumnus, Caspian, the DLF, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver
Shasta and Bree
Skeeter, Aibileen, Celia, Minny
Barbara Grahame and Peacable Sherwood
Kit and Nat
James and Helen Herriot
Mara and Sheftu
Rose, Charlie, Uncle Alec and Mac
Inigo Montoya, Westley, Fezzik
Anne, Gilbert, Diana

Ever started missing a character? Which characters? You know I'm always looking for "to-read" books ;)
P.S. Contest: match as many of the characters to their proper books as you can.


Me: February Edition

     Guess who's baaaack!?! Wait . . . who? Hahaha. Good guess, but no. It's just me.
      I haven't been blogging much and I feel a little disconnected, so I thought I would start February with one of those lame "get-to-know-me" posts. Just for a quick re-focus. It will lead to better things, promise.

Who's me? 
I'm Lydia. I wear glasses. I can sit on my hair if I try really hard. I move my eyebrows a lot. I read an astonishing number of books. I'm a graphic design student, and I'm a blogger. I'm quiet . . . sometimes. I'm a bit absent-minded. I like to watch people. I have three brothers and a dog named Piper who is beautiful.

What do I do? 
I write. I read. I go to the library. I make things. I photograph things. I listen to Simon & Garfunkel and Jack Johnson. I make messes. I tell stories. I bake. Sometimes I make people laugh on purpose, and sometimes I do it on accident.

What do I like? 
The color yellow. Thrift shopping. Large libraries. Brand-new notebooks. Happy music. Colorful things. Quirky clothing. Laughter. Over-thinking. Conversations. Unusual people.

What do I dislike?
Cliches. Smelly dishrags. Drama. Soggy pancakes. Greasy pans. Stupid rules.

     If you're a new reader (or you've never commented), now is a perfect time to introduce yourself to me. Leave a comment! As for the rest of you, tell me how much you've missed me and how wonderful I am. It will be a good boost for my ego, which sometimes suffers. ;)
P.S. New and wonderful posts coming soon!