the ghosts of vacations past.

I don't know whether I've traveled a lot or barely scraped the surface (truthfully, it's probably somewhere in the middle), because it depends on whom you ask, but I have a fair amount of memories from vacations stockpiled in my brain. I like to play 'remember when' and imagine I'm there again. These are some things I remember, going back in time.

I remember New York in sixth grade. It was March, and bitterly cold. Don't go to New York in March if you can avoid it. It doesn't have the magic of the holidays and Central Park is too dead to house the picnics and music it's famous for. It's still fun, though. I saw the Statue of Liberty, went to the MoMA and the Guggenheim (but not the Met, go figure) and stayed in the smallest hotel room ever.

I remember Chicago, the summer after fourth grade. We went to Navy Pier and I rode, half petrified, in the Ferris wheel. I remember the hall of mirrors, and my cousin screaming "I found the exit!" only to hear a big crash two seconds later.

I remember taking the bus to Mexico with my dad and my sister when I was seven. We went to Monterrey where the mountains rose around us and the air was sticky and hot. I remember my sister throwing up after breakfast in a little cafe. I'm sorry for that image, but that's a part of vacations, too, you know? I'm just keeping it real.

I remember Florida, for Thanksgiving in first grade, maybe? It was the furthest east in the U.S. I'd ever been. I went to the ocean, but most of my memories revolve around pilgrims and Indians. That's how it is when you're little.

I remember Germany, when I was four, the last time I was in Europe. But that is a lie. The only thing I remember about Germany is something I thought for the longest time was a dream. I was standing on a platform when a train pulled up. Everyone around me rushed on and I tried to do the same, but the doors closed and the train sped off before I could. Luckily, my aunt was with me.

What do you remember?



chalk typography.

a piece from last weekend.

I'm that nerd at the bookstore who stops dead in her tracks, because she likes the typography on the cover of a book. This may or may not have happened last week at the grocery store, too (it was a really nice apple sign, okay?) My mom smiled and nodded, but was probably just wondering how on earth she raised such an odd daughter...

I love fonts. I really do. However, I fail miserably at typography. Or any form of graphic design, to be honest. I much prefer tangible mediums, such as pencils and oil paints. Last summer, I painted a chalkboard wall in my bedroom. Needless to say, chalk has become a new favourite medium of mine. And though I still have so much to learn, I'm loving this juxtaposition of digital typeface and good old-fashioned handwriting.

What's your favourite art medium?



caramel popcorn.

It's a family favorite, and one that I typically start making in September or October. It goes perfectly with our fresh-pressed apple cider and everything else that fall entails. Lately though, I've been craving this caramel popcorn. (Carlotta gave up sugar for Lent, so now would be a perfect time to submit all your sugar-laden recipes. ;) The best part about this recipe? It takes ten minutes, tops, and it all cooks in the microwave.

Here's the recipe.

You'll need:
two bags of popcorn
one stick of butter
one cup of brown sugar
one/fourth cup of corn syrup
one/half teaspoon of salt
and one/half teaspoon of baking soda

Take the freshly popped popcorn, (we pop ours on the stove, but you can use whatever low-salt option you have) and pour them into a paper grocery bag sprayed with cooking spray. Set it aside; you'll need it in a minute.

Next, combine all the ingredients except for the baking soda into a microwave safe bowl. You'll want to microwave it for two minutes, stir it, then put in in for another minute. When you take it out of the microwave, stir in the half teaspoon of baking soda.

Pour the entire caramel mixture on top of the popcorn. This next part is key. Roll the top of the bag closed, and shake it. The harder you shake it, the better mixed it will be and the better it will taste. Continue shaking until your biceps start burning. Put the entire bag back in the microwave for a minute and forty-five seconds. Then shake it. Then put it back in for another minute forty-five. Shake it. Are you getting the picture? ;) Finally, it needs to go back in the microwave for another minute. Shake it again, and you're through! I usually pour it onto a cookie sheet covered in wax paper, and let it cool. (The best part is all the little popcorn/caramel bits stuck onto the bottom of the bag. Those are best scraped off with a spoon and eaten quickly.)

It should last up to a week, if you have any sort of self control and don't eat it on the first day. (I speak from experience...) Enjoy, and let me know what you think!



sunday afternoons

Between our regular staffers, our guest posters and our reads, we all have different rituals and routines to our Sunday afternoons. Some of us spend them with our family, others at church, others catching up on homework. There is a certain suspended magic to Sunday afternoons though--the way they last much longer than any afternoon does, and how they are perfect for daydreaming away the hours, and also that no other afternoon feels quite so silent and calm.

At my house, there's a lot of tea and coffee drunk on Sunday afternoons. Oftentimes we tell stories about our family and our friends around the dinnertable, and our evening meal lasts longer in the hope that we can postpone the next day. There's scrabble sometimes, and usually books, and today there were plans for summer holidays. But above all else there was a sense of peace and of quiet. Sunday afternoons are the calmest time of the week for me.

What are they like for you? Please share yours in the comments!



playing pioneer

Like most kids, I went through many literary phases when I was younger. At different times, and to different degrees, I have been obsessed with Jane Austen, Greek mythology, Nancy Drew, those Royal Diaries books about princesses, the Holocaust, and yes, even Twilight (I was eleven, okay? People change).

And there was the time, around second grade, when I read the Little House on the Prairie series.

I got the complete set of all the books around that time and I remember reading the very first on an airplane to California. I remember this because I left it in the seat back pocket, never to be seen again. It was eventually replaced, but that was the start of it all for me.

I had my mom make me a pioneer dress, complete with a bonnet. I didn't wear it out in public, of course, but on Halloween and lazy Saturdays it would make an appearance. I recall days spent in the living room with my two younger sisters, playing like we were pioneers. I'd lug out the old tin bucket, for lack of better word, and pretend to wash clothes in it. Sometimes, we'd pretend someone was sick and 'call' for the doctor. Or act like Laura and Mary, running around on the banks of Plum Creek.

There's more, though. One time, I went to a pioneer fair with my family, where I made candles and little dolls and rode in a covered wagon. At school that year, we had to decorate a pumpkin as our favorite book character and who did I chose but Laura Ingalls Wilder. Who else was there, really? And when it came time for biographies...well, I don't think you even have to ask.

That was my first big book obsession. You might even say it was the start of it all, what led to my hopefully life-long love of reading. There will be others. But I'll never forget Little House on the Prairie and days spent playing pioneer.



moleskine, volume one.

I collect notebooks like some people collect shoes. That might be an exaggeration, but the number of folders, papers, and journals that are scattered throughout boxes and stuffed in drawers in my room outnumber my shoes ten to one. I always have at least one in my purse, and have countless more notes and scraps of paper with scribbled thoughts on them. I have spiral bound notebooks dating back to when I was eight, sketchpads from when I was five, and some artwork in folders from when I was three. I've always been a documenter, artist, and journaler, but I never found a notebook that fit me just right. And then I received a glossy moleskine for my birthday, pages creamy and clear and the entire journal brimming with promise. What else to say? It clicked. Perhaps it's silly, but I do my best work in it. I love writing, sketching, and generally just jotting down everything on the sheets of paper bound together in leather. Here's a peek into the many pages of the book that I love...all of them filled. Now? Onto volume two.



photographs from italy.

I cannot tell you how it felt to float down the Canals of Venice by gondole. I am not even able to describe to you how delectable the gelati was. Not because I don't want to. Simply because I've never been.

These are my dad's photographs. He took them on a school trip (he's a teacher) a few years back. I remember that breezy summer evening after he came home. Laptop in tow, we found a picnic table in the park. We then proceeded to go through every single photograph he had taken. With the photos, he shared stories - and then some sweet little gifts he had brought back for my sister and I. Ever since that night, I have had such wanderlust for Italy. But until the day comes where I see the country with my own eyes, I'll live vicariously through photographs.

tanto amore,


hazel grace and augustus waters.

She's 16 and her thyroid cancer has moved to her lungs. They have no idea how long she's going to live. He's 17, and his osteosarcoma took one of his legs. He should be fine. They meet at Hazel Grace's ironically depressing Cancer Kid support group.

I'm not really sure why their story connected so much with me. Maybe it's because they're the same age as I am. Maybe it's because the story is in two places very dear to me. Maybe it's because they're both so real that I couldn't help falling in love with them.

Hazel Grace and Augustus are the kind of teenagers that, a lot of times, I find myself wishing I could be like. They're witty and entertaining. They read good books (and obsess over the books just as much as I do) and daydream about meeting the author.

I feel silly for saying this, because they're not real people, but Hazel and Gus are so cute together. I don't know, their personalities fit so well together.Can we talk about Gus for a minute? I love him. A lot. While I was reading this book, I would laugh out loud, stop, tell my sister something that he said, and continue reading.

One of the big parts of this book is the fact that they're not portrayed like cancer kids typically are. They aren't wiser than their years, or somehow enlightened because of their cancer. They're just kids like me. And she has a crush on him, and they watch a movie at his house...and so it goes.

you can buy the book on amazon or barnes and noble



chicago by night

When I'm so high up in the air at sunset, a sparkling, twinkling city--made even more magnificent by the dusk--laid out before me, I can't help but feel an incredible sense of awe. It's so gloriously spectacular and I feel so small, yet so privileged to witness a sunset from a bird's eye view. Flying does that to you, makes you feel a wonderful sense of amazement, no matter the circumstances. Lord knows I've been in planes often enough, but each time the wonder never fades. I could be content watching sunsets from a few thousand feet up in the air every day for the rest of my life...

much love,


the story behind the jewellery

In my mum's dresser, there's a wooden box. It holds badges from when she was young, a few baby teeth from me and my brother, and above all--jewellery.
She has pretty earrings that have been given to her by friends as gifts over the years. There's a lovely pendant she found in an antique shop which still smells of perfume. And there's bangles and beaded necklace and rings too. Whilst some of these pieces aren't worn all that often, they all have a story behind them--sometimes silly, or seemingly inconsequential, but stories all the same. And when I look through my own jewellery box, that's what I want it to be like.
I remember when certain pieces were given to me, but I want there to be a story behind everything. And if I'm deeply in love with something, and if I don't remember a time when I wore it or the time I became the owner of it, those pieces of jewellery (and clothing, and books, and knick knacks) will be given to someone who can take them and build their own stories around them.
Because really, our outfits and our accessories are just another way of presenting ourselves to the world and sharing our story. Of showing who we want to be and how we perceive ourselves and how we want to be perceived. Of letting you know, this is our story and there is reason for what I wear.

Do you have a story to share about something you wear?



disneyworld's epcot.

Traveling has a certain appeal to the dreamer in all of us. In reality, it is somewhat difficult to take a plane to another continent or a train to another country or state. Sometimes life gets in the way.
If you're traveling to Disneyworld in Florida and would much rather be visiting France or Germany, make sure to stop by Epcot. Epcot is a park that celebrates many different countries throughout the world, creating replicas of many famous places and monuments. These “countries” in Epcot are just a short walk from one another. You can sample cultural foods and watch street performers. If you love shopping, there are a few places in each country to find unique items.
A couple of favorites for Fernweh readers include…
    The Tea Caddy (United Kingdom Pavilion)

    The Model Village (Germany Pavilion)

    Italian Street Performers (Italy Pavilion)

    Ferry Boat Ride (Center of Park)

    Illuminations (Fireworks Show)

If you get the chance to go, those are just a couple of attractions to enjoy. Epcot offers so much more, and is enjoyable for the entire family. If you're going, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
    For photographers, make sure and take a zoom lens. I was thankful that I brought my 55-200mm lens to shoot during the daytime. (Fireworks are best shot with a regular lens - I used my 18-55mm.)
    Don't try and see everything in one day. If you are taking your time in Epcot, you might consider setting aside two days to truly enjoy it all.
    If you're not a fan of scary or fast rides, definitely go to Epcot. I highly recommend the Spaceship Earth ride. 
Bio: Amanda is a writer and photographer from the East Coast.  She is preparing for a career in journalism after she graduates this spring. Her ramblings and photography may be found on her blog, Farmgirl Writes.


a story about bread

(the first draft of a very short short fiction story)
Every Thursday was the same. She would come in from school, hang up her bag on the rack by the door, and walk into the kitchen. On the shelf above the sink, there was a pile of aprons, and from there she would take her favourite one. It reached past her knees and had a deep pocket that made her feel like a professional baker. Even as she grew she would still take this apron every time.
At the table he stood, measuring out flour and yeast and water. She would step over to him, and hug him tight round the waist, and then she rest her elbows on the table, watching him.
Across the table, he would be mixing together all the ingredients. Once everything was combined, they would sprinkle flour across the table together. It looked like the snow they got in the winter months when it was cold out, or maybe like the way the blossom fell from the trees in April when the wind blew. They would take it in turns to knead the bread, and she watched as he controlled the way he punched at it, and the way each time he hit the bread, he did it not as if he was hitting it, but almost as if he was hugging it.
Often, their best conversations came from those Thursday afternoons of baking bread. It was the only way he knew, in the later years, what she was doing. Sometimes the silence and the focus and the way she punched the bread would tell her all he needed to know. And sometimes the way she would just stand there, tracing her finger listlessly in the flour, drawing the same patterns over and over again, would tell him all he needed to know. Somehow the bread brought them closer together.
After years of Thursday afternoons spent baking bread, he was alone at the table. He was alone in the house too. And now he was hitting the bread with a punch and no conversation came with the process. Most of the time the cooked loaf went to the birds in the garden.
But she grew tired of sliced mass-manufactured loaves from the supermarket shelf, and her broken gas oven, and the kitchen that was too small to bake bread in.
She came in from the cold, hung up her coat on the rack by the door, and walked into the kitchen. On the shelf above the sink, there was still a pile of aprons. Again she took her favourite one, but it barely grazed her thighs.
Her father still stood at the table, measuring ingredients. She stepped over to him, hugged him tight around the waist, and watched him across the table.
He kept mixing the ingredients, until the dough in the bowl was just right. Together, they sprinkled flour across the table, and they split the dough into smaller pieces, and they each kneaded a piece. And somehow, they both seemed to be hugging the bread, in the way they used to, and that told them everything they needed to know.



city girl

For as long as I've lived, I've lived in the city. It suits me. Some people would think that as a quiet person who needs their alone time, the hustle and bustle of the city would upset me. But I like that. I like anonymity of it, the diversity, the never-exhausted supply of new stores, restaurants, and people. There's always something new to explore.

My city has a little of everything. You can dress up and see a play, or you can wear sweatpants for yoga in the park. You can ride your bike or you can ride the bus or you can risk a lot of traffic and drive your car. There are locally owned vegetarian places and there are taco trailers, just as local. There's always something going on, some sort of celebration or festival or protest for people standing up for what they believe in. There are college students, families, and people who have lived here for 60 years. There are weirdos galore, and lots of animals, too. It's perfect for people-watching (and dog-watching, too).

I live about 10 minutes from downtown, which feels like the best of both worlds. We run into people we know at the grocery store, but it doesn't have that feeling of being stuck there. The skyline is both a comfort and a thrill, and there's music everywhere you turn.

And if you're feeling like a hermit, something I do a lot? There's room for you, too. Between the shelves at the library or on an empty bench in the park. Don't let anyone tell you it's impossible to hear yourself think in the city. It may lack the wide open spaces the Dixie Chicks sing about, but sometimes, if you search hard enough, you can look past the street lights and headlights to see some stars. It's just as beautiful.

It's not just my city that I love, either. San Francisco, Kansas City, Boston (pictured above), and Washington D.C., I've all fallen in love with. Up next is Los Angeles next month. I'm excited to see what sort of things that holds!

Are you a city mouse or a country mouse, or maybe something in between?



a match made in heaven

Peanut butter and chocolate are, hands down, my favorite food combination ever. Even more than butter and bread or olive oil and vinegar. They just win. So when my grandma gifted us with this truly magical Magic Bullet blender a few years ago, I knew what had to happen. And thus, this smoothie was created. Add in the bananas and it's practically healthy for you! Think of it as a milkshake for people without ice cream. It's not quite to the milkshake level, but it's definitely delicious.

chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie

1 packet of Carnation Breakfast Essentials Chocolate Milk (I haven't tried it but I assume that any other chocolate powder would work the same)
1/2 of a frozen banana, chopped
peanut butter
ice cubes

I use a Magic Bullet blender and it works perfectly for this. Pour a packet of the chocolate powder and the frozen bananas in a blender. Add two spoonfuls of peanut butter, three ice cubes, and fill about halfway with milk (about 3/4 cup). Blend it until smooth, then enjoy!

Note: This is one of those recipes that you have to fiddle with for a while, because a lot of it depends on personal taste. For instance, if you're like my sister and don't care for bananas, leave them out. If you don't want as much peanut butter, put less in. If you want a stronger flavor overall, add less milk, and vice versa.

Yes, definitely a match made in heaven.