Spring In Edinburgh- A Sight For Sore Eyes

It’s official… I’m a terrible blogger.

I have a good excuse though!  It’s called a MASTERS PROGRAM.

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Submission Week… UGH.

I wish I could say I’ve been adventuring to see new places and relaxing outside street cafes and frolicking over the heather in the highlands… But alas, I’ve been chained to a computer screen.  My partner for the term project is great fun, which is about the only reason I survived!!

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I even invented a new coffee drink at home, inspired by facebook… Tastes just like a sweetened latte!!

Good Lord this has been a busy semester, we hardly had time to breathe.  On our second day back we had a field trip, and then another one in the first week in February, and it’s been non-stop since then.  The cool thing about the semester is that all our assignments build on the same project, so they all unique but tie together into a big exhibition in the next few weeks.  But it meant I didn’t do much except school this semester.  Outside of school, I’ve been doing my best to explore new parts of the city and to visit shops I’ve been wanting to see.

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A visit to Mary’s Milk Bar with Cecilia. We got hot chocolate floats! This one is a white cardamom hot chocolate with a scoop of rose gelato. SO GOOD, and you can’t beat the view!

When I can, I go to see my good friend Moira who let my parents and I stay at her house over Hogmanay, and who takes care of me here in Edinburgh.  She had her hip replaced at the end of February, so any spare time I had I made it over to her house to help her while she recovered.  She’s healing slowly despite several setbacks, but she is starting to be able to move around easier.  Sore, but determined to heal.  She’s a tough lady, I think that’s why I like her so much 🙂

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Willow and I went to visit Moira, and had fun reading her get well cards 🙂

When classes finished on April 2nd, my classmates and I had a celebratory lunch at Ting Thai Caravan (THE BEST THAI IN EDINBURGH) and I went home to SLEEP.  I desperately needed to rest and not think about the project.  I’m happy with it despite a few things (as things always go) I just needed to take a break.  We are on Spring Break from the 3rd until the 22nd, so we get lots of time to breathe and revise our work before our exhibition on the 20th of May.

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The first blooms of spring… Crocuses in the Meadows!

This week has been GLORIOUS!! Edinburgh got the memo that we were on break, because the same day we gave our presentations the sun came out, and stayed out!  It has been absolutely gorgeous in this city all week.  Gorgeous days followed by gorgeous sunsets.  I dressed up for Easter and made my own holiday lunch, then headed to Portobello Beach for the evening church service.  I hadn’t been there yet so it was lovely to see the ocean.  I want to come back and explore a bit, but I’ll settle for figuring out the bus route for now 🙂

Easter

AMAZING Easter dinner, the gorgeous day at the beach, and stunning sunset from after church!

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Does this look about right, mom? Heehee 🙂

Tuesday was fantastic as well with a wonderful box from home!  Daddy put it together while mom was at a conference- it has JELLY and HONEY and his homemade candies in it!  It all tastes so much like home it almost makes me cry.  Mama sent me a lovely bracelet and an Easter basket with Reeses eggs, my absolute favorite candy OF. ALL. TIME.  She knows me so well 🙂 AAAANNNNNDDD…. Drumroll please….. SHE’S COMING FOR A VISIT NEXT MONTH!!!  It will be so good to see mom again!

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Easter love from HOME!!! I love my family so much 🙂

I’ve done more shopping than I should, slept a lot, cooked a lot, and am getting back into the swing of exercising.  It’s been so nice out, I’ve broken free of the treadmill 😛 Now that I’ve gotten my brain back I can start working again next week.  One more paper for my elective and then the exhibition, and it will be dissertation (thesis) time! Scary…

It’s hard to believe I’m almost a third of the way through my time in Edinburgh.  It makes me really sad to think of leaving.  This place has truly become a home and I love living here.  I DO know that when I leave at the end of this term, I will definitely be back!  I have met too many wonderful people for this one year to be the last time I see them. Moira, for one, would never forgive me if I didn’t come back 🙂

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Beauty wherever you look 🙂

Mom visits in a month, in two months I head to Seattle for Amanda’s wedding, and then I have just a month and a half left to enjoy the wonder of this city.  Time really, really flies, much faster than I wanted it to.  I’m doing my best to make the most of every single second I have left in this new home of mine.

Next time… I will hopefully have a few more updates from Christmas!!! I know I know, I am a dismal failure of a blogger, but I’m doing my best 🙂

See you soon!

Love and Laughs,

-Taylor

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Mid-term Revelations

And now I want to talk about Edinburgh at present.  (This is the super fun part of waiting forever to blog… you all get to see my split personalities! Teeehee) Let’s be real, if you know me, this is as organized as my ADD lets me get 🙂

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My room has evolved… Again 🙂

I’ve been having a moment or two.  You know, one of those “sit back and look at life” moments.  I am the kind of person who has been looking forward to her life, her whole life, if you follow.  I am always looking forward to the next step, waiting for the perfect.  Subconsciously putting my life on hold because I am holding out for what the future holds.

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It still takes my breath away.

For the first time in a VERY long time, my now and my future have collided.  I am happy here not just because I am living out a personal dream and goal, but because I truly feel like God has me right where I need to be.  I am happy because I feel like I belong.  I have spent many years being the odd one out and feeling just ok with it, because I knew who I was and I knew I just needed to find where I fit.  While this might not be where I stay, this is right where I belong, right now.

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My flat mates spoiled me for my birthday!

I have great flat mates who are fast becoming my family.  I feel like their mama bear and feed them my culinary creations… No one seems to complain haha.  They take care of me when I’m to stubborn to take care of myself, and we work through our struggles together that come with living in a foreign country.  I love them, and I will be truly heartbroken when I have to say goodbye in six months.

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Valentine’s Day treats 🙂

I have amazing classmates who remind me to LIVE in this awesome place we have all moved to!  They remind me to laugh no matter how rough the classwork is, and to take time to enjoy life instead of holing up in our dungeon *cough cough* er, studio.  We are all here to learn and grow as students, but I am learning so much more from these guys, my favorite goofballs 🙂

Goofy Classmates

I love them all 😀 Nehaa and Cristina | Cecilia | Chu and Christina extricating a bowtie off Kawin 🙂

I am blessed to have found a great church community.  The college-ish folk have accepted me and care for me like I have been there for years!  My dear friend Moira has firmly lodged herself in my heart from day one, and for reasons I still haven’t figured out, spoils me ROTTEN.  She has become my Scottish Grandma, this feisty 75 year old with more spunk than anyone I know.  She offered her HOUSE to my parents and I over Hogmanay, and slept at her neighbor’s house so the three of us could stay together!!! If that ain’t generosity, I don’t know what is.

Cheerleaders

By biggest cheerleaders. The hardest two to be away from…

And always always always, I have the love of my family and friends cheer-leading from 4112 miles away.  My heart aches from missing you, but the encouragement you send keeps me going when I feel like breaking down. You are all the reasons I had the courage to go on my big adventure.

Love from Home

Love from home 🙂

I am still learning, still loving, still laughing, still making mistakes.  I look a little less like a doe-eyed tourist and still explore the crevices of this old city.  It’s weird to think back to where I was last year and to imagine what I would be doing if I hadn’t said yes to this crazy adventure.  It makes me even more thankful to the people who kicked me out the door and told me not to be afraid, to live this adventure with my coattails blazing!  Even though I don’t know where I’m headed, I just keep walking where God tells me and find joy in knowing I am where he wants me to be 🙂

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Haggis, Neeps and Tatties for Burn’s Night! That’s about as Scottish as it gets 🙂

Love and Laughs,

-Taylor

Smoke-free Amsterdam?!

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Yes, I Am-sterdammed 🙂

Ok I know It’s been awhile since I’ve done a post… I’m sorry!  Second semester hit like a ton of bricks right at the start, with a big project submission (that I COULD have worked on over break, but I went on an adventure instead) an all day field trip to our semester project site, learning new software, a week-long field trip to the Scottish Borders and Newcastle, and this week yet again more submissions.  And life in there somewhere.  So yes, I am a terrible blogger, but I’m first a mediocre student! I gotta get school done before I can play 🙂 will TRY to get a few more out there this week!

First things first! I promised trip updates!

Oh Amsterdam… Such a bizarre conundrum you are!!

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Who am I to disagree? Annie Lennox for the win!

After Belgium I caught the bus to Amsterdam, or what I thought was Amsterdam!  Listen up kids- take out your earplugs when the bus driver is talking, or you may get off where you don’t want to!  I got off the bus and wandered to the train station, then asked the info desk man where Marnixsraat was… he told me Amsterdam.

Me: “Um… does that mean I’m not in Amsterdam??”

Info desk man: “Yes.  You’re in Utrecht.”

Me: “Oh… How do I get to Amsterdam??”

Info desk man: “Get a ticket and catch the train behind you.”

Awesome.  One hour after my expected arrival I made it to Amsterdam!  The tram took me straight to Marnixstraat (Marnix Street) and I settled into my dorm, just me and 14 empty beds!  Sounds ok to me 🙂

Here’s the big kicker: what do you do in Amsterdam, the city of pot and prostitution, if you have no interest in getting high or -well- other stuff??  Amsterdam really has an amazing history and beautiful beautiful architecture, so I started there.  I KNEW I wanted to see Anne Frank Haus, and that’s exactly what I did on my first morning.

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Anne Frank Haus. You would never know there were eight people hiding the back rooms of the house.

Everybody!  Yes, you too!  I need your attention!! Go to Anne Frank Haus.  Today.  Your life will never be the same.  If you have read her diary it’s just fantastic to see the pages come to life.  If you haven’t read it- what are you waiting for?!? Go read it, then go to her house!!

But in all seriousness, Anne Frank Haus left a mark on my memory I hope never fades.  The sheer perseverance a human is capable of, and the ability to stay human, to still love, in the face of all adversity.  She was not a hero.  She was not a perfect, happy little girl.  She was a nervous, anxious, extremely perceptive young woman who had no one to talk to except her diary, and she spoke of life with insight well beyond her fourteen years.  She dreamed of being a famous journalist, and her father ensured the world would know her name.

Anne is a wonderful reminder to live your life, to live each day with love and laughter, and to cherish what you have while you have it.  You never know when your world could unravel.  Emma Thompson said in a speech that circulates through the main floor- “her ‘what-ifs’ are our opportunities” and Emma is right.  We can learn from the heartache of the past by taking the opportunity to change our lives.

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Cool modern art set against beautiful old architecture 🙂 This non-architect can not tell you ANYTHING about it…

Moving along, I kept at it trying to keep myself busy.  Another solution to not being interested in the, er, ‘major attractions,’ is to walk.  A lot.  It was about this point in my journey I started crunching numbers and realized I REALLY didn’t need to see all the museums and attractions, because I REALLY didn’t want to spend money on them.  I made a decision to see ONE major attraction in each city, and spend the rest of the time just seeing the city itself.

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Love the canals 🙂

Amsterdam was a great place to start this practice because the ONE other place I wanted to see was the Van Gogh museum, and it wasn’t cheap.  I’m super glad I went though!  My perception of Van Gogh before visiting the museum was that he was a moody, eccentric, mentally troubled man who happened to paint really well.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  (Even though he DOES paint really well).Van Gogh, as soon as he realized he wanted to paint, spent the rest of his life pursuing perfection.  He studied and studied and sketched and inquired and tried new things.  He moved to Paris because he knew it was where all the best painters were.  He painted until the day he died, still working towards his perfect ideal for himself.

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Starting to get the hang of this world travelling stuff!

The rest of my time and most of the last day of the trip was spent window shopping and writing my paper!  I’m really starting to make progress and getting some good points down.  The hotel staff think I’m insane for sitting on my tablet instead of exploring the city… But I’m saving my money for the rest of the trip 🙂

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This backpack has officially reached full-on champ status.

An easy bus, a delayed plane (and a chatty German who looks JUST like my old roommate Becca’s brother… The perfect doppleganger!) and I was jumping into yet another country!  My first German adventure is coming up next!

Keep smiling!

Love and Laughs,

-Taylor

Belgium- The Beginning!

Belgium was a lovely place to start my mega-adventure.  My flight into Brussels-Charleroi airport only cost £25 from Edinburgh!  The flight was easy and I was able to catch a cheap taxi from the airport to the city.

Brussels

Busy street | Mannekin Pis, aka the Little Pisser 🙂 | WAFFLES!

A nice guy from Lisbon who couldn’t speak English paid my taxi fare for me, then I walked the few minutes to my hostel and sent mom an email before heading to bed.  The next morning I found the Little Pisser, then grabbed the best waffle I have EVER had!  The Belgians have this figured out… The waffles have a slight caramelized crunch on the outside, which would be delicious alone… But seriously, this little (or GIANT) morsel was made infinitely more awesome with cream, custard, strawberries, and an accidental drizzle of chocolate from the nice girl behind the counter.  She asked if I minded the mistake… Um, more chocolate?? Yes please!

Ventured to the Grand Place- yep, it was grand.  Moving on.

That was pretty much all I had on my list for Brussels.  I only had one day scheduled and I was really excited to head on to Bruges, so I caught an early train and met a nice lady named Karen and her dog Mila on the way.  Got to Bruges and wandered through town before I headed for the hostel.  This little place has so much old world charm it practically oozes from between the stones.  I liked from the first few minutes 🙂

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Storefronts ready for Christmas | A merchant’s home with false storefront | San Salvator’s Church

When I checked into Snuffel Hostel (HIGHLY recommended, and free breakfast!) I was just in time for the free city tour with Steve.  He was hilarious!! He gave us great local advice on where to get chocolate, beer, and fries, as well as super cheap pasta.  Made friends with four Spanish Erasmus students on the tour, great fun 🙂

Bruges is great for just wandering and finding lovely local shops.  The big chains are still there but I had a great time walking through the little shops all over the city.  I visited the windmills along the edge of the old city and walked the canals.   Met ANOTHER four Spanish Erasmus students and spent the evening with them, and even went to a club!  Believe it or not they are headed to Amsterdam next as well, so we hope to see each other when we get there!

I could absolutely live here, hope I live here someday.

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Next I took a day trip to Antwerp to see where my friend Miss Thony grew up.  It was beautiful, but you could still see many remnants of communism leftover.  Big concrete tower blocks and the like.  It had lots of Christmas markets and the cathedral was STUNNING.

Antwerp

The ‘hand’ legend of the founding of the city | Antwerp Cathedral and Christmas Lights | Antwerp Central Train Station

 

I got tired of the crowds pretty quickly and headed back to Bruges before dark, then took a few night photos there and got gluhwein… LIFE CHANGER!  I don’t like wine at all, the dry taste is just gross to me.  But this sweet, spicy, hot drink is the perfect thing to warm you to your bones!  VERY good 🙂

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The next story is a little gross… read ahead if you are squeamish- word to the wise, no matter how hungry you are, take small bites.  I bought a gorgeous bratwurst with onions and ketchup.  The first thing I did was take an ambitious bite, but I couldn’t totally get through.  I was thinking, ‘oh crap, that’s really hot on the roof of my mouth!’ Still can’t get the bite, now I’m thinking ‘Holy mother of… that’s freaking hot!’ When I finally get through the roof of my mouth feels cooked itself, and burnt like I have never managed to do before.  Two seconds later I feel the skin come loose, and next I’m spitting out what used to be the roof of my mouth.  Grossest thing ever… But do I let that stop me? No way!  I finished that delicious bratwurst through tiny side bites and tearing off pieces as I went.  Hey, this was a budget trip!  I wasn’t going to let pain get in the way of good food, much less throw it away because of a third degree burn!  It just meant lots of ice cream and cold drinks the next day 😉

 

I am officially a Belgium fan and can’t wait to go back.  Have you been to these cities too?  I would love to see your photos and hear your stories!

Next post will be about my thoughts on Amsterdam, and what to do if you neither smoke nor care about the sex trade… Which is NOT easy mind you!

Stay tuned 🙂

Love and laughs,

-Taylor

European Shmorgasbord

Hello and a very happy (albeit late) New Year/ Hogmanay to you!!

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Taken outside Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna

It’s hard to describe my past month and a half without being struck by just how blessed I am.  I have dreamed since age six of travelling and going to far flung corners of the world.  While none of the places I visited in the last five weeks are flung very far, I was still able to see 8 countries and 18 cities with one backpack (mostly) and one pair of shoes (til Mom and Dad joined me 🙂 ) Not bad for my first backpacking adventure!

Since this post would quickly become a novel if I wrote out my whole travel story today, I have decided to break it down into much more manageable chunks of travel goodness.  Over the next few weeks I will do a post on each of the cities I visited and what I experienced along the way.  Don’t worry, I’ll still be mixing in my good old Scottishenanigans! 🙂

Not many shenanigans today I’m afraid… My first full day back in Edinburgh consisted of laundry, catching up on homework, and sending a million emails to sort out everything I neglected while I was away.  Classes start up on Monday so I have to figure out where my A-game went and get it polished before then!

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While it’s still generally regarded as the new year, I’ll quickly mention the bedlam that is Hogmanay!  Scotland’s New Year celebration rings in each year with a bang… And Edinburgh starts off with an amazing torch procession up Prince’s street!  The next night is the 31st, and the street party that shuts down the middle of the city.  I didn’t partake, but I did pick up a t-shirt!  And just saying… The fireworks are INSANE.  The best I have ever seen.  Stop by YouTube to see just how cool they were.

Happy Friday, stay tuned for my first holiday stop- Brussels!

Love and laughs,

-Taylor

…And I’m FREEEE!!!

After last week’s ridiculous self-inflicted trauma, many prayers, and what I can only credit to God’s grace, I am so happy to be DONE!!! WOOHOOO!!!

Recap: One giant paper, one giant project, and one giant Thanksgiving celebration to plan and cook.  The paper was knocked out at various coffee shops, bars, and even in the LIBRARY.  Woah.  The project was done the night before while juggling Thanksgiving pre-cooking and turkey defrosting.  Want to know something that was only funny in hindsight?  I didn’t get approval to buy the groceries until Wednesday morning, at which time it was too late to set up a delivery to my building… Which meant I got to walk to the store, buy £100 of food including 15 pounds of turkey, and take it all by taxi to my third floor flat.  Haha funny!  Nope.

Our project for sustainable design went REALLY well!  It was all based around a building remodel, and we proposed building on an atrium to allow natural heating and ventilation to the building.  This would also allow us to plant inside the atrium, with plantings that absorb toxins commonly found in office environments.  Cool stuff!  Our professor liked it and gave us good constructive feedback for the actual submission.  WOOHOO!

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A diagram explaining how sunlight will enter our building at different times of the year. Neat stuff 🙂

After presenting, our professor had arranged a champagne toast (no seriously.  Tell me again how cool YOUR professor is? Mine wins 🙂 ) I rushed home to help my AMAZING flat mate Willow, who volunteered to put in the turkey and get things going while I was away on campus most of the day.  Seriously, thanksgiving would not have happened without this gal.  Another flat mate Andrea helped get veggies chopped and cheese grated and dishes done- There is nothing that makes you more thankful than great friends who help you when you are at your most stressed and sleep deprived state.  Thank you ladies!!!

People started trickling in at 7 PM, and we ate around 7:30.  More than 20 people came to our Thanksgiving celebration!! I have to say, I was pretty impressed with our spread 🙂

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And this wasn’t even the whole feast!!! It wouldn’t all fit on the table!

Hot spiced apple cider, turkey roasted with sage and garlic, gravy, vegetarian stuffing with spiced butternut squash seeds, cornbread, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with pecans and marshmallows, roasted butternut squash, a Chinese stir fry, scalloped corn (a family favorite) broccoli bacon salad, and pumpkin pie, apple pie, and , and chocolate shortbread bars for dessert.  Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was playing in the background, lots of people gathered around to try all the different dishes (most of them for the first time) and everyone left with full stomachs.

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A fair share of our lovely Thanksgiving guests!

 

Two awesome gents even did all the dishes, thanks Morris and Daniel!! I considered the evening a HUGE success, and left to Skype my family before going to bed.  It was so nice to have a lovely group of people over to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, especially one that makes me miss home like crazy.  I was still homesick, but my heart was happy too 🙂

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Thanks for doing my least favorite kitchen chore, guys!!! 🙂

The next day I helped my good friend Moira from church set up her Christmas decorations, since her hip needs a replacement and no one wanted her climbing up and down a ladder to get things down!  We had a wonderful day together and she even lent me some decorations for my own tree.  She is a treasure everyone needs to meet.

Oh… And here’s another cool abbey I visited on Monday ;D This is Dunfermline Abbey.  Also went to Edinburgh Castle yesterday… No big deal, just castle hopping everywhere.

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Now, on to VACATION PLANNING!! For my own safety I won’t go into much detail about where I plan to go, but I am super freaking excited.  I WILL say my plans involve backpacking, taking TONS of photos, and seeing lots of old things 😉  I will post about my travels after I meet up with my parents for Christmas!!! Let’s just say it is completely a dream come true, and I get to share it with my two all time favorite people.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!!

Love and Laughs,

-Taylor

Crunch Time

Every single semester I tell myself I won’t procrastinate.  I say “alright Taylor, this time you will start the work early so you don’t have a meltdown in the last week of school.”  I have these super-student I WILL CONQUER ALL!!! moments, determined to cross the finish line in cool, collected victory.

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This is ALWAYS my reality… So much for calm and collected.

This semester’s particular evils are a 4,000 word essay in my Scottish Architecture class, due next Thursday.  Current word count? 600.  At this point insidious tendrils of fear begin to clutch my soul.

Next- final project for my Sustainable Methodologies class.  Also due next Thursday.  My brain has started to melt like ice cream on a sidewalk.  Please note: this scenario usually results in tears from the person who USED to have a lovely ice cream cone.  Just a note.

Climbing onward, a 2,500 word essay for my Theories and Contexts class due mid-December, right in the middle of my December travels.  I’m hoping to have this done before I leave for vacation (see opening paragraph to know the reality of this statement)!

And the cherry on top- I have volunteered to host Thanksgiving for my whole housing complex- you guessed it- NEXT THURSDAY.  Cue the maniacal laughter due to complete loss of brain function.

Hey, I haven’t survived 32 semesters thus far only to crumble at #33!  I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, slipped a trick or two up my sleeves along the way.  I can do this.  I can make it happen.  If only my brain can focus long enough!  My motivation is the SIX WEEKS  of travelling Europe once school is done, and meeting MOM AND DAD WHEN I GET THERE!!! It might be the exhaustion talking, but I am freaking excited to see my parents again.  I don’t care if being a 23-year-old mama’s girl/daddy’s girl is lame, I will embrace that lameness til I die 🙂


Oh, and I got to visit a castle this week! St. Michael’s Parish Church and Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots.  AWESOME places to visit, especially if you have an architecture historian going along telling you what it looked like in its glory days!

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The main aisle, the beautifully painted window and tracery, and an incredibly rare pre-reformation stone carving. Most of these carvings were destroyed and defaced at that time.

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Linlithgow Palace

Alright- it will probably be quiet on the Scottish front until the semester is over next week.  Wish me luck, send good-focus-vibes, and I’ll see you on the other side!!

Love and Laughs,

-Taylor