Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Long-Awaited Return to Blogging

After a very (very) long hiatus, I have decided to return to blogging!  As a grad student, I find that my head is constantly full of this and that, and I feel that blogging will be a good way to relieve some of that mental pressure.  My posts will likely be light and short (though I'm sure that there will be the occasional exception), and I'm excited to see where this leads.

So, for today's post, just a few things that make me happy lately.

1. Cooking fancy dinners

As a graduate student, I feel like I never have time to cook.  If I do have time to cook, I'd usually rather spend that time doing something else!  However, occasionally the cooking bug bites, and I actually eat a complete, rounded meal.  Earlier this week, I made soy and brown sugar marinated salmon and a salad with goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette, rounded out with some french bread from my mom.  It was delicious!

2. Cooking not-so-fancy dinners!

I blame Pinterest for this one.  I saw this idea and I couldn't resist the cuteness!  So, I had mini tacos for dinner.

3. Criminal Minds

I've always enjoyed a good drama, especially one that had a good cast and team dynamic (I blame watching too much CSI during my formative years).  I was intrigued by Criminal Minds, and I noticed that Ion Television had regular marathons.  Thus, I've spent the past few weeks watching ridiculous amounts of Criminal Minds and not working as much as I should have!

4. Knitting

My mom and I took a knitting class together over winter break, and now I'm officially addicted.  I love the repetitive, soothing action and learning new stitches and techniques.  Basically, everyone can expect a lot of knitted presents in the future!

5. Mary Cassatt at the Louvre by Edgar Degas

I saw this pastel over monotype in my Modernisms class today, and something about it really grabbed my attention.  Beyond its attractive aesthetic qualities, there's something about the visualization of a woman looking at art that speaks to me as a female art historian.  Degas presented Cassatt as engaged in the act of looking, inaccessible to the viewer through her turned back and complete attention to the paintings in front of her, and I can definitely relate to that!

6. Complete (and successful!) conference presentations

Last week I presented at my first official conference, and I was definitely a ball of nerves for weeks leading up to the actual event.  However, it went pretty much perfectly, and I got great feedback on the content of my paper and my presentation itself, and I really enjoyed the experience.  Sometimes, that's all you need!

(Also, kudos to anyone who gets the Lord of the Rings reference in the title of my post!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

That's that

Today, I found myself struggling to complete my African Islamic Art and Architecture reading with tears streaming down my face.  Obviously, I was sad for some reason, but it was more frustrating than anything.  What the heck is wrong with me?  I have no real right to be upset.  I make enough money to live on my own (for the most part), I am able to get a good education, I see my family regularly, I have friends even if I don't see them much, and I'm studying material that I love, even if I don't always like it.  So seriously, what gives?

I think a problem with our culture is that we always want more.  No matter what we achieve, there is another step.  You graduate from college?  Great, now go get a job or go to graduate school.  You get an A on a paper?  Great, now go present it at a conference.  You're successful in school?  Good for you, now go excel socially.  You have everything you could possibly need in life?  No you don't, you need more experiences to add to what you already have.  By the time we reach adulthood this has become so ingrained into our very nature that no matter what we do, we're never satisfied.

Anyways, I don't really know where this blog post was going and I should probably go back to my homework.  Actually, I should probably find some handy quote or verse that talks about waiting or being satisfied in the now or some such thing.  But that's part of why I feel this way.  I'm tired of pretending to be perfect all the time, and happy, and responsible.  So now I'm just going to say that yes, I'm sad, and upset, and I want more out of life than I have no matter how selfish that is.  I guess that's that.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Crying over art

I hope that art always makes me cry.

This may seem to be an odd statement, but it's something that I find completely true.  I have often said to myself that when I stop crying about art, I need to find a new career.  I've been in a bit of a funk lately about a lot of things, but I've also been discouraged about my career and my future.  Maybe this is normal, but it seems to come at an odd time.  I just finished my first year of graduate school and did well.  I have three positions this summer that will teach me a lot and look great on my CV.  Still, I find myself inexplicably down in the dumps and discouraged.  So tonight, rather than worry about articles I haven't written or published yet, teaching expertise I don't have, trips I haven't taken, and a future that is uncertain, I decided to utilize the Google Art Project and cry over some art.

The Google Art Project is an invaluable tool for teaching and exploring.  I find that the GAP lets me feel like I'm close to the artists and works in a way that almost makes up for not being able to travel.  So tonight, I revisited some of my favorites and made myself remember just why I decided to become an art historian.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Doni Tondo, c. 1507
Obviously, I love Michelangelo as a sculptor, but his use of color will never cease to knock me over.  I really wish they had some of the Sistine Chapel frescoes or drawings on the GAP, but this tondo is still striking.  The vibrancy of the colors, the folds in the draperies, the contrasting tones...I could look for ages and never get tired of it.  Basically, I am going to be an emotional mess the first time I see the Sistine Chapel in person. (disclaimer: this work is in the Uffizi in Florence and not in Rome.  I simply compare it to the Sistine Chapel for the purpose of the color comparison)

Balthasar Griessmann, Ivory Goblet, c. 1680
I love sculpture...usually larger marble works, but sadly those works are better experienced in person.  However, I'm developing an affection for small ivory and wood carvings, and this goblet brought me to tears.  The intricacy of this small scale carving just caught me by surprise and before I knew it I was tearing up.  It's beautiful and sometimes that's all that's important.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies for a Holy Family, 1505
With a lot of Early Modern artists (generally speaking, Renaissance and Baroque), the final works were the result of a workshop where the contribution of the artist to the final work varied widely based on commission, size, payment, etc.  This was true of many of my favorite sculptors.  That makes preparatory works, such as models or sketches, all the more precious and emotional to me because they are one place where I can be sure to see the hand of the artist.  This sketch by Michelangelo is gorgeous and it makes me so excited to see some of his sketches in person in the very near future.

Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom, 1888
Vincent van Gogh makes me very emotional in general.  I know he is probably one of the most popular artists to the average art viewer, beginning art historians, pretty much every hipster on the planet, etc.  However, van Gogh ties in to some of my personal history in a way that will always make tears threaten to fall.  The tactile presence of his works just further emphasizes my emotional connections to the works.  Here, in one of my favorite paintings of van Gogh's bedroom in Arles, the brushstrokes seem to leap from the canvas and declare van Gogh's authorship.  Again, I will be an emotional mess when I see van Gogh's works in person.

Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1887
One of the things I love most about van Gogh are his self portraits.  I can't help it...I connect with artists and I study, and I spent a semester examining van Gogh's self portraits and his letters and the sense of searching for truth and self that I personally found in both the portraits and the letters is something that resounds with me.  I could spend hours staring into van Gogh's eyes in his self portraits...and sometimes I have.

I guess sometimes you just have to go back to the beginning to know why you do something.  For me, that always means going back to the art and that emotional connection that I have with works, whether they be sculptures, paintings, or something else entirely.  That is my motivation and that is something that I pray I will never lose, even if I don't know where I'm going from here.

I'll close with a Bible verse that my Big just posted that partially inspired this post.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  -Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


As an art historian, I talk about perspective a lot.  The perspective of the viewer, the perspective of the artist, atmospheric perspective, linear perspective...the list goes on.  Yesterday, however, I had a moment that opened my eyes to just how vital a change in perspective can be.

It all started with a W-2 form (don't all the best stories?).  You see, I never got mine.  I spent last week tearing up my apartment, sure that it must be somewhere in one of these piles of paper since I'm basically a packrat and never throw anything away.  Long story short, I actually never did get one.  Somehow my apartment number was entered as B06, not 1306, and I eventually managed to track someone down who figured that out for me.  Success!  So, now I knew where my W-2 form was...which was not in my hand, but rather in some random building on a side of KU's campus I'd never even ventured to.  Still, it was a lovely day, so I left the museum and set out on my trek to strange new lands.

You may think that I'm exaggerating here, but really, I was taken aback by this whole area of campus I never knew existed.  Sure, I knew the campanile was up on the hill - I hear it about a zillion times a day - and I knew there was a large park area right behind the museum, but imagine my surprise when I'm stumbling down what feels like the hundredth flight of stairs of my walk (yesterday was a rather clumsy day for me) and suddenly, spread across my vision in a slight valley is a beautiful little lake, surrounded by emerald green grass and topped with lily pads.  I literally stopped in my tracks.  I thought that I was hallucinating images from my lesson about Impressionism for the week.  It was like walking into a Monet in the middle of Kansas, and not just that, but in the middle of the campus of the University of Kansas.  It put a smile on my face.

Eventually, I continued on my way.  I thought people were probably wondering about this random red-headed girl in the multicolored scarf who stood stock-still in the middle of the sidewalk for a good five minutes.  I eventually found the building I was looking for, flashed my ID, and got my W-2, no problem.  Time to wander back over the hills to my familiar territory of Mississippi Street.

I was walking back, enjoying the day and the sense of newness, when I reached the top of a hill and suddenly saw before me the campus of the University of Kansas.  Now, the campus is large enough that you can't really see all of it at once, but at this moment I saw more at one time than I ever had.  And it was beautiful.  For this homesick Horned Frog, it was a revelation.  I will (and have) talk anyone's ear off about how beautiful TCU's campus is.  I can bore you to death with minutia of the things I love about the campus and memories I have of specific locations.  TCU was my home in a way I never expected it to be, and I have been so resistant to becoming a Jayhawk, to being at KU, because I didn't want to lose that part of myself, that special part of my past.  Yesterday, standing there, looking the campus that opened up before me in a way so different from TCU, my perspective changed.

Yes, I will always be a Horned Frog.  Yes, I will always bleed purple.  You had better believe that come September 16th I will be decked out in my purple cheering on my Frogs in the stadium in Lawrence.  But that's not all of who I am anymore.  I'm growing up. I am a graduate student now.  I'm learning new things, about the world, about art history, and about myself.  I'm studying at the University of Kansas and there's nowhere I'd rather be pursuing my future.  And that is a pretty amazing perspective to have.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Spaghetti Squash Experiment

So, I decided in 2012 that I wouldn't be scared of trying new things.  Today, I faced my first challenge...a new type of food!  I'd seen dishes of spaghetti squash on Pinterest and elsewhere, and I was intrigued.  It seemed relatively easy to make, sounded tasty, and it's good for you!  I was sold.

Here is what a spaghetti squash looks like:

I was very excited to find one for a good price while grocery shopping today.  So, I came home and looked up recipes.  The one I chose was an Emeril recipe for Herbed Spaghetti Squash.  I choose it because it was fairly basic and I knew I'd be able to really taste the squash itself, which I was curious about.  So, I turn the oven on and get started.  Very quickly, I ran into some trouble.  You see, the first thing you're meant to do is cut the squash in half.  Emeril makes it seem like no big deal, but he apparently wasn't counting on me.  You see, I had an issue with this step.  Mostly, I just have an issue with knives in general after cutting my finger a few years ago.  However, as a result of that issue I don't have a set of culinary knives.  I have a grand total of five knives: a bread knife, a serrated knife, a fish knife, and two paring knives.  So, you can see where I ran into trouble...

Still, I eventually cut it in half.  Victory!

The next step was to steam it in the oven for forty-five minutes.  Piece of cake.  I might have burnt my finger with the steam as I took it out, but hey, it's the price of culinary innovation.  I turned the squash over and put it in for another 15 minutes.

As the squash continued to cook, I quickly sauteed some shrimp in olive oil and set them aside.  Finally, the squash was ready!  I took it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.  I was very impatient to see how it turned out!  I scooped out the seeds and then ran a fork over the inside to pull the 'spaghetti' out.  I was amazed with the results.

Once I'd removed all of the insides, I placed them in a skillet with a little butter, some parsley, and salt and pepper.  I tossed it all together and then put a serving in a bowl with some shrimp on top. Voila!

I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of taste.  I'm not sure if it needed to steam longer (my squash was a bit bigger than the recipe called for), but it still had a crunchy texture.  It was a bit like eating carrots, honestly.  Which is fine, because I like carrots!  There is a ton of squash leftover so I think I'll try it some different ways in the coming days.  However, I would definitely make it again, though only on a weekend because it does take a while to cook.

So, there you have it!  First new thing of 2012!  I can't wait to see what else I will try this year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: A Year of Change

2011 really was an extraordinary year.  Not only was it an extraordinary year, but it was also a remarkably balanced year, a year of bookends, of each high with its accompanying low.  Still, as I look back, it's those high points that stick in my mind, that I know I'll remember for years.  Those moments are the ones that matter in this bigger picture of my life that I am just now beginning to see develop.

Just look at the very first day of this year.  January 1, 2011.  I was in Los Angeles, California.  I woke up at 4 in the morning, marched in the Rose Bowl Parade, performed my last halftime performance in the Rose Bowl, and cheered TCU on in their victory over Wisconsin.  Once in a lifetime, amazing experience!

And then, in contrast, the heartbreaking loss to Baylor at the beginning of this season.  It was my first game as an alum and much more emotional than I anticipated.  As my mom tells the story, the game hadn't even started yet when the cameras panned over the TCU marching band, I gasped out "Band!" and started crying.  It was hard to learn how to be a long-distance fan, but I watched every game this year and was even able to attend the Homecoming game against New Mexico.  It was also TCU's last year in the Mountain West, and I'm very excited to be a part of the Big 12 next year and continue to cheer for my Frogs, in good times and bad!

Technically, I suppose the most monumental event of 2011 would have to be my graduation from TCU in May.  Four years of hard work paid off, and my family was there to watch as I was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, became an Honors Laureate at a ceremony in front of Frog Fountain, and then graduated with Honors in Art History, Magna Cum Laude, with a B.A. in English.  Just a few short days later it was time for another big change, as I packed up my apartment and moved back home, leaving behind my TCU family.

Still, the friendships I made were too strong to be damaged by the distance between Texas and Kansas.  I had barely been home three weeks when I saw my G-Little, Meridith, in Fort Scott.  Later my Big, Julie, came to visit me in July and I had a great time showing her around Kansas City.  I was also able to visit Fort Worth twice, once just because and once for Homecoming.  Julie and I took advantage of technology via Skype to have frequent catch-up dates, and when I didn't have anything else, I always had the scrapbook she made me as a graduation present to remind me of how much I was loved and of all of those whom I love...I even took it to the basement with me while taking shelter from a tornado!

2011 also marked a lot of development in my drive, passion, and development towards my future in art history.  In February, I found out that I was a finalist for a Fulbright grant to Italy, something I was obviously ecstatic about.  Unfortunately, in June I was informed that I did not receive the grant.  I was devastated.  However, I was one of 81 applications for my specific grant and one of 10 finalists, of which 5 received the grant.  That is still an accomplishment to be proud of, and not going to Italy opened to door for me to attend the University of Kansas.  While it has been challenging, I love the History of Art department at KU.  I've learned things I didn't even know I needed to learn and been exposed to more people and life experiences than I could have ever planned.  I also taught my first class; I was responsible for three discussion sections from a larger lecture class with around twenty students in each.  If that wasn't a learning experience, I don't know what is!

There are so many other events which marked my year.  I recently went shopping for bridesmaid dresses with one of my dearest friends.  Our family overcame many obstacles and I hope we are stronger for it.  I read a lot, saw a lot of good movies, and listened to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks more times than is probably healthy for one individual.  I discovered many things about myself and hopefully grew as a person, and also found areas that I will continue to work on in 2012.  I want to focus on my faith, including finding a church in Lawrence, travel more, enjoy life, and be happier with myself.

As one of my absolute favorite quotes says, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover." - Mark Twain  In 2012, I will endeavor to live this quote, to follow my heart, and to find joy in every moment.

Happy New Year's, everyone, and to many more years as exciting as 2011!

Photos from the year:

TCU Colorguard at the Rose Bowl!

The best Spring Break trip with three of the best friends a girl could have.

At my last KKY/TBS District Convention - banquet with my family!

At 3rd Degree - the best family ever!  I don't know what I'd do without my Pink! family.

After my Honors Thesis presentation with my Uncle Doug
Pink! family love forever <3

M&Ms in Frog Fountain!

The long awaited zoo date with my Little Kayla :)

Kiss the Frog - it's time for graduation!

Newly graduated with my parents

Great friends at my graduation party

My G-Little Meridith and I at Fort Scott!

My mom and I before we saw Josh Groban in concert!

My Big and I in Kansas

My sister and I before the Harry Potter midnight premiere

Kelsey and I were reunited!  And made butterbeer cupcakes

First trip to Fort Worth - Heart Start Walk with Beta Delta!

Homecoming - Go Frogs!

Yay for being reunited with friends :)

The big family Thanksgiving

Annual Starbucks and Christmas lights outing with the family

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jesus Take the Wheel

So, I was driving between Olathe and Lawrence this evening and I had my iPod on shuffle because I'm really tired of all the music I've been listening to, so I was trying to mix it up.  Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood came on and I almost skipped it, but at the last second decided not to.  So I'm just driving down the road singing along, and all of a sudden I just start crying.  Apparently that song was exactly what I needed to hear/pray at that moment, and so I'm sharing it in case someone else needs it like I did :)