Saturday, August 30, 2014

Take Me Back to a Sunburned Country

One year ago I was headed to Boston to set off on the most amazing experience of my life.  Now that it's been a year I can say that I miss Australia more than ever.  It's normal to miss your abroad experience.  I never thought that I would miss my abroad experience more than I miss my own home.

Missing your abroad experience is more than missing the country itself.  It's missing the experience as a whole.  I went abroad with a group of people from my University and I stayed in a home stay.  Never again will I experience Australia with those same people again.  I will never spend days in the outback playing charades with my classmates or swimming around the great barrier reef with my professors and Australian professors by my side. I will never return to those specific moments with those specific people and that is a sad feeling.  There are times that I miss being abroad with people so much it hurts.

So if you're headed for an abroad experience this semester take the time to truly enjoy the experience because never again will you be in those exact moments with those people.  Try to remember small things like the bus ride home or the smell of your home stay.  Make sure you remember the moments when you spent bonding with your abroad friends over the experience.

I've never been in love but sometimes I think leaving my Australia experience was like falling out of love with someone.  It's painful because nothing will be the same but you cannot help remember the great moments with a smile on your face.

ox Caitlin

P.S.  I'll leave this little song here as a little piece of my Australian experience.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Goodreads | Amazon
I just finished The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.  It's the end of summer and I had to give my sister her kindle back.  (I've commandeered it for about a month now).  So I had to finish the story which wasn't difficult because it was a good story.  

The Girl of Fire and Thorns follows the life of Elisa, the second born daughter of the king who lives a relatively uneventful life. Her sister is always been destined to be queen and is always been the strong smart one.  But despite feeling like she doesn't deserve it, Elisa is blessed with the gift of the god stone.  It sits in her belly button and means that she has great powers that can be unlocked when the time is right.  This is why she is married off to the neighboring king, Alejandro, and why her life is in danger.  She soon learns she is the only hope of a kingdom in great peril and goes on a great adventure to help those in need.  But is Elisa strong enough to be the hero that the people need?

I decided to read this because I was ready for some high fantasy. I wanted something with a little magic and a lot of adventure.  I am happy about my decision.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was a good read because of the characterization of Elisa.  Elisa is not your typical heroine.  She isn't destined to be queen and doesn't feel she deserves the power that the god stone gives the bearer.  She also makes multiple references to her weight.  While sometimes I felt these references were overdone I do think it is refreshing to have a heroine with a slightly larger figure.  Girls need better role models that show us that strength comes from within.

I thought the world building was well done.  I had a clear picture of what the world looked like and where Elisa was heading.  Because the major conflict was a war I think it's interesting to know the geography and set up of the world.  The faith of the characters was another interesting aspect and I think Carson presents their beliefs well.  By developing her characters' beliefs she creates a world with more depth.

The pacing was a little disappointing.  I often felt the plot was rushed or too drawn out.  This left me feeling bogged down or too rushed.  I also found the romance to be distracting and a little forced.  While I love having a little romance in my novels it almost seemed as if Carson added the romance just to have it.  In Young Adult novels romance is almost expected so I understand why the romance in the novel was included but I just wish it was more seamless.

This book is great if you are looking for a new fantasy series.  It reminded me a little of the book Graceling by Kristen Cashore, which is a book I love.  While I wouldn't say I liked this book as much it was a great book to end the summer with.

ox Caitlin

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Heading Through the North Country!

I thought I would give a quick update because I'm in the middle of traveling all over existence (really just Maine to New York).  This week my sister and I are both moving back to school marking the official end to summer.  Some part of me is feeling a little more nostalgic this year because I will probably never do this drive again.  While bringing my sister back we drove through Malone, New York.  If you've never been you're not missing much.  There is just a lot of cows and even more corn.  Some parts are pretty beautiful, though.  If you're in to sprawling country landscapes you should head up to the north country sometime.

On the way to Malone we always see a ton of windmills.  Entire farms will be covered in them.  Usually they are surrounded by acres of corn.  I believe the farmers rent out their land to the windmill companies (though don't quote me on that).

Some people think windmills are ugly.  Maybe it is just the biologist in me, but I think that anything that doesn't spew horrible gasious fumes into their air is not ugly.

I'm sorry for the reflections in these photos and I will spare you from the blurry pictures of some cows.  Basically this is the whole experience of the North country.  

I'm heading into my senior year (Ahh!).  Classes start Monday so I'm going to snatch up as much summer as I can before the work gets piled on.  If you're heading back to school I wish you the best of luck.  Now that I'm in my last year I kinda wish I could do it all over again. No matter how difficult school ever got it was never as scary as the future.  The real, adult future.

ox Caitlin

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Little Update

Hey there.  I'm currently driving all over existence to get back to school so I thought I would leave you with a little update on Doctor Who.  I'll probably post some photos of the whole journey because I think it is a beautiful drive through northern New York.

Anyway I watched Doctor Who, for those of you that are wondering.  It was a wonderful episode, although I do love most of the episodes so that isn't saying much.  Peter Capaldi was brilliant but I have to say I was most pleased with Clara.  Up until this point her character development has been slow, if not nonexistent, but the show runners have finally stepped up her character.

I found this good quote that sums up Clara's development in this episode over at Literally Darling.
The article also states how Peter Capaldi will allow the character of the Doctor to change.  He is the oldest doctor since the reboot in 2005 and from Saturday nights show I can say that he is going to make a great doctor.

If you aren't in to Doctor Who, I can also say Literally Darling has some other great articles.  It's mostly millennials talking about things millennials will like to hear, but there are also some yummy recipes and some beauty stuff.  Overall, I'm pretty sure any young person could find something interesting to read on that site. 

Well I have to get driving but until next time

ox Caitlin

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Call the Doctor

Today is the day!

The new season of Doctor Who premieres today.  I'm a huge Doctor Who fan.  If you aren't as nerdy as I am, Doctor Who follows the adventures of an immortal alien who flies around in a spaceship called the Tardis.  He spends his time saving the universe with the help of his human companions.  It's a long running BBC show that began in 1963 but was cancelled in 1989.  It was revived in 2005 and has been going ever since.  This season there is a new doctor played by Peter Capaldi.  He's older than all of the new Who doctors, and I cannot wait to see the dynamic between Capaldi and his companion Clara, played by Jenna Coleman.

I know it's kind of nerdy, but are any of you Doctor Who fans?  If not and you're a sci-fi fan in need of a new show quite a few of the seasons are available on Netflix.  Just be careful.  You might get sucked in.

ox Caitlin

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unwind Review

Goodreads | Amazon
The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

 The cover says it all.  Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a terribly haunting story that questions faith and our current views on life.  I actually read this book about a month ago but I couldn't bring myself to talk about it for a while.  

Now I'm not a particularly squeamish person.  I can deal with blood, I watch Game of Thrones, and I was an avid Bones fan for a while. This book is not a bloody book but the content is difficult to read.  Kids are unwound during the course of this book and it was difficult for me to read.  I had to put the book down multiple times during this story just to get through it.  

Shusterman does a good job creating characters.  In real life, Connor might not be someone I relate to but in this novel he becomes a hero.  I was able to sympathize with him in a way I wouldn't normally sympathize with a character like him.  Then Shusterman makes an incredibly relatable character in the form of Risa.  She is a kid caught in a bad situation and you cannot help but feel for her.  The final piece of the puzzle is Lev.  In my opinion he has the most growth throughout the novel.  He grows from being a passive member of society to a strong hero who questions the rules he has been brought up to view as his destiny.  Overall, Lev embodies how we should all view changes to our society. 

This book is most haunting because it could happen. It addresses increasingly important issues within our society.  These aspects make this book a great example of the role dystopian fiction can play in showing us a possible future.  I recently read an article from Wired, which talked about how we need dystopian novels to help children understand the criticize what is occurring in our own society.  Dystopian novels mimic the uncertainty of our future and maybe make us better prepared for dealing with the future.  Unwind is just another example of how dystopian fiction is asking critical questions we may one day need to address.  

Unwind is a good novel if you don't mind being truly frightened by the content of being unwound.  I'm not sure I will continue with the series, not because I didn't like the book but I feel like I've had enough of this subject matter. Definitely give this book a try!  It's worth the feelings of terror. 

Also If you'd like to check out the Wired article here is the link

ox Caitlin

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Surviving the First Semester of College

I seriously don't know where summer went.  Doesn't it seem as though it was just beginning? Now I can feel the tendrils of fall creeping in on the wind.  Around this time four years ago the cool temperatures sent nervous jitters through my stomach and I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out. I was heading to a little liberal arts school in upstate New York where I knew no one.  Today I'm getting excited butterflies.  I'm looking forward to returning to my beloved school for the last year.  Any nerves I have are related to the fear that this year will go by way too fast and soon I will be wearing a cap and gown taking some pivotal steps into adulthood.

But I don't want to think about the future for the moment.  I want to talk about the past and my transformation from a lonely scared freshman to a confident senior.  I've met so many new people and had amazing opportunities and experiences that I would have never imagined three years ago.  As the oldest child in the family, (and I mean truly the first born.  I have one younger sibling and two very young cousins), I've always been the first to do things.  Let me tell you, being the guinea pig can be pretty nauseating. So I thought I would help those other first borns (and worried younger siblings) feel a little better about their new adventure with some tips I learned over the years.

1.  Meet as many new people as possible.

In my opinion, college is the best time to meet people.  If you're like me, and are planning on heading off somewhere far away you may not know many people.  In this case, it will be easier to find new people to hang out with.  Chances are other people will be in the same boat and everyone will be looking for a whole new group of friends.  No one will have any previous friend groups, so you will all be free to meet and hang out with whomever you want.  If you do know the people heading to your school try to make friends with others outside of your group.  Meeting new people will give you so many new connections and perspectives.  You will make lifelong friendships at college.

2.  You're going to feel a little uncomfortable for a while.

Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.  College is a new place and change can always be difficult.  If you don't know anyone upon entering the first semester, or even first year, can seem a little strange. Everyone is trying to find their niche of friends and sometimes it takes a little while to settle. At some point, you will miss your best friend from home. For me it happened during orientation. My family had just taken off to head back home and I was surrounded by new people and experiences. I missed the familiarity of my best friend. It didn't take long for those feelings to subside.  While I will always miss my best friend, I've made so many new friends that I feel comfortable and happy around.  Remember to never give up. By sophomore year you will have a solid friend group to count on no matter what.

3.  Find friends that compliment your lifestyle and have similar interests.

The beauty of making new friends and starting at a new school is finding people that care about the same things you care about.  As a kid, you were friends with other kids because you went to school together (and you probably liked the same Barbie or something).  At college you can find people who share your interests.  You can find that person who shares your love for obscure indie music.  One important part of making friends in college is finding people who share your lifestyle.  If you're not into partying find other people who don't party.  Choosing friends that compliment you will help you be happier throughout college.

4. Call your mom (but don't rely on her for everything).

 Up until this point, you have probably relied on your parents for almost everything.  They feed you and cloth you and give you most of your love.  No matter how much you think otherwise they love you and are on your side.  If you have a problem or are just feeling down about something give them a call and they will undoubtably talk you through the tough time.  This being said, college is also a time to get off your feet and do things for yourself.  Relying too much on your parents won't allow you to grow into an adult.  Think of college as the beta version for adulthood. You have to work out some of the bugs but you can only do this if you do it on your own.  I try to call my parents once or twice a week. This works for me. My best friend at least texts her mom every day.  Find a schedule that works for you and makes you and your parents feel happy.

5. Have fun and be safe!

College should be fun.  Sure you have to do a lot of classwork but you gain a whole new social life. There will be no other time in your life when you can meet tons of new people while studying anything you want.  However, there can be such a thing as too much fun.  This is your first time being out in the real world on your own.  Remember to be responsible with you time and yourself.  There is no need to ruin an amazing experience!

Also, as one last thing.  If you think you are having a problem fitting in to the college environment make sure you take full advantage of the resources on your campus.  Every campus has a counseling center filled with people who are ready to help you make the transition between home and school.

I hope you all have a great year at school.  I know I'm looking forward to seeing my campus in a couple weeks.  Good luck!

ox Caitlin

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Maine Summers

There really is no place like home.  I think we often forget how beautiful our own backyard can be.  Over the past year I have traveled around the world to some of the most unique and beautiful places but every time I come home I realize that no matter how lovely those places are, my home is pretty spectacular.

This past weekend I was out hiking with my family around Acadia National Park and it reminded me how much I love living in Maine.  With the moderate summers and the rocky coastlines Maine comes alive in the summer.  A beautiful view is only a ten minutes drive away and nature is right out my door. The more time I spend away from my home the more I fall in love.  Absence makes the mind grow fonder, after all.

Sometimes our homes are associated with work and stress.  We get bogged down in the every day and the routine that we don't spend the time to appreciate the world around us. I know it is hard to put everything down and enjoy the environment we live in, but sometimes it's helpful to take a day.  Just breathe for one day and enjoy your hometown.  Vacations are great but learning to take a good stay-cation without thinking about life is just as important.  If you are wondering what to do during a boring weekend take a moment to enjoy your hometown.  The experience will truly make you appreciate your home more than ever before.  Plus, you can reduce your stress level without spending tons of money and time traveling!

ox Caitlin

Friday, August 8, 2014

How I made the Blogger templates work for me (without learning to code)

Up until this point, I never felt my blog wasn't personalized enough for me.  I was using many of the different blogger templates but there never seemed to be enough options to customize my blog so that it was unique to me.  Everywhere I looked I saw beautifully designed blogs and I wanted to stand out just like them.  However, I always thought that you needed to be able to code and artistic to make major changes to your blog.  That all changed today.

I finally decided to take the time to learn how to make my pre-made blogger template work for me. I was able to create a personalized banner and some social media icons without ever needing to code.  On top of this everything I have done here I did for free!  Today I thought I would share what I have learned and some of the websites I used to help others struggling with their blog design.


  • Over at Dana's blog, Wonder Forest, there are some great tips for creating a stylish header without being an artist. 
  • I used pixlr to create my banner.  I don't have any graphic design experience and this program was pretty easy to use.  Plus it's free!  
  • When creating your banner make sure it is the right size for your blog.  Mine is 650 x 250 pixels and it fits well into the simple template in blogger.
  • If you use the templates on blogger they will be right justified.  I wanted mine to be centered and Elaine's explanation on centering your header was the most helpful. 
  • If you want to center the navigation bar as well, this site was helpful.
  • As always, if you do use images it is important that you have the rights to those images.  You can find many free images online.  Also their are tons of paintbrush shapes to choose from and you can download more all over the web.  I used the ones found on pixlr. 
Social Media Icons
  • Here is the tutorial I used to create the icons above.
  • Many of the tutorials I came across used PicMonkey to make their icons but in some cases you may need to subscribe to get full access to all the tools. 
  • I used pixlr again to create my icons.  Again it was free!
  • is where I made the icons work.  The mapping tool has been updated since the tutorial was written but everything is still pretty strait forward. 
  • Again, I found vectors the most helpful when creating the personal graphics but you can use whatever shapes you would like.  
After this point, I just used the normal customization tools to tweak the other fonts and colors on my blog and viola!  I now have a customized blog that I can call my own.  

I know these are just tips and sometimes learning to use a graphic design program can be tricky but I hope I have helped you create a blog you love.  If you have any questions feel free to ask.  I'm not an expert but I will try to help. 

ox Caitlin

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

If I Stay Review

Goodreads | Amazon
My interest in If I Stay, by Gayle Forman, wasn't sparked until I saw that the movie was out.  I'm the kind of person that won't read the book after seeing the on screen version.  This is the reason I have yet to read Game of Thrones.  I just can't seem to get myself to read something that I've already seen. I guess the plot has been spoiled.

The novel focuses on Mia, a senior in high school and a musician aspiring to go to Julliard.  Her plans are suddenly changed when a seemingly normal ride with the family on a snowy day turns into a fight for her life when the car smashes into a truck.  Now Mia is trapped in a state between life and death where she can see what is happening around the hospital and can relive peaces of her life before the crash.  Along the way she sees the people she loves, including her boyfriend Adam, try and give her the strength to live.  Mia must decide if she has enough to live for now that her parents and younger brother are gone.

Now at first I thought, why is the world so obsessed with dying teenagers recently.  I mean I love a good tear jerker every once and a while but I thought the world would have been satisfied for a while with A Fault in Our Stars.  (Not to say that I didn't love that book. If you want to know what I thought I wrote about it here).  Then I proceeded to read the book in one day. I was able to read this book quickly probably due to three things.

1.  I haven't read something in about two weeks so I was hungry to get my hands on something else to read.

2. The book was addicting. It is the perfect concoction of drama and cute romance to keep you going.  I loved the point of view because while the book is told in first person narrative it has many elements of third person narration because Mia can see everything while she is in the limbo between life and death.  This take on narrative allows the reader to see the events but also gives us an opinion on those events.  I felt pulled in by both the plot and Mia's commentary.

Then there is the tear jerkiness of the whole plot that makes it addicting.  I cried multiple times and no matter how much it hurts we all know sometimes you need a good cry.  Plus, crying is always better when its for books and movies.

3. The book was an easy read.  If you read a book in six hours you undoubtably skim a little and if the book is easy to read you are able to skim that much faster.  I know it's not good, but I skim and skip over sections of books.  In the case with If I Stay there were bits of narrative I was simply not interested in knowing about.  This was especially true in the later half of the book.  Whether this makes the book good or bad I'm not sure, but I do know that these sections were not long enough to warrant putting the book down for more than five minutes.  That must say something about the books merit.

I think this book was a good quick read.  I would say it's an easy beach read but I ended up crying.  Unless you are alright with the public seeing your tears you might want to stick to reading this on a rainy weekend day.  Also here is a peak at the movie trailer if you want more incentive to read this book.

ox Caitlin

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bits of Happiness

A bog orchid from my time doing research this summer. 
I'm a worrier and as a worrier I spend a lot of time being anxious about things that I can't control. This anxiety often overshadows my current happiness and sometimes I find it hard to appreciate the good things that are happening around me, so I thought I would share some things that made me happy this week in order to put everything into perspective.  Life really is better than it may seem!

1.  I started getting into my blog again.  I began planning everything out more and trying to make my blog a bigger better place for me to spend my time.  Blogging has always been fun for me and for a time that fun got muddled in the jumble of life.

2. I finished Cinder by Melissa Meyer this week after setting it aside for far too long.  Seriously, I only had about a chapter left.  I don't know why I put it down.  It's a great book.  I posted all my feelings about it here if you are interested.

3.  My sister and I played tennis this week.  We both played in High School but it's been over a year since I've picked up a racket.  It felt great to be back on the tennis court even though I lost by quite a bit.

4. I got to spend a whole afternoon in an antique and used book shop on Thursday with my mom.  Recently I've found out that I love combing through antique shops for treasures.  There are some weird and beautiful things hiding under the dust.  Also I'm always up for some used books!  It's scary to think that those old books might be gone some day.

Books for miles!
Can't you just smell that old book smell?
I wish I could have gone home with all the books.  Some of them had such beautiful bindings.  Others needed some love.  Sadly I could only grab a few bargains, including one book with some very funny notations from a  previous owner.

5. Today I spent the morning at the farmers market.  Ever since spending Saturday mornings with my host parents at the farmers market in Australia, I have gravitated toward these markets.  I tried to go every week while I was at school in the beginning of the summer and enjoyed going today.  The farmers market is filled with a great sense of community and it's a great way to support the local economy.  Plus, they aren't all just veggies.  Many of the markets I've been to have a variety of crafts, baked goods, and prepared food.  Today I got some yummy indian chutney with my veggies and my mom got some hand made wooden spoons.

Yum Chutney!

These are some highlights from my week.  It's so important to remember these little glimmers of hope  for those times when you are feeling down.  I find that it has really helped me to write down what has made me happy.

What made you happy this week? Don't worry if it was something small.  All the bits add up!

xo Caitlin