Incurable Curiosity

In-cur-able: (adj.) Not likely to be changed. Cu-ri-os-i-ty: (n) A desire to know.

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Tips From A First-Time Traveler: Top 3 Items Packed

At the end of May I had the privilege of  being a first-time visitor in Scandinavia, going on an 11-day mission trip to Denmark and Sweden. Researcher that I am, I spent the preceding months researching every travel website and Pinterest tip on long-haul flights, language navigation, and living out of a suitcase. Meaning to take only a carry-on (this Ebags model that I have named The TARDIS) and small backpack (a well-worn Baggalinni), I was pretty concerned about taking only necessities. Here are the top 3 things I was glad to have brought:

  1. Good walking shoes that didn’t look like walking shoes. These Keen shoes were a lifesaver. I wore them half the time in Denmark and exclusively in Sweden, doing everything from biking city streets to climbing around a rocky island. They held up like a dream, and you’d never have guessed that I hadn’t had time to break them in before the trip. Bonus: I didn’t stick out so much as a tourist with these as I did with my hiking shoes.
  2. A pocket-sized notebook. Blank when I started and half-full when I came home, my notebook held flight info, short lists of common words and phrases in the languages we’d be encountering, daily commentary, and scattered notes on just about everything else. It was a quick-reference in airports that also kept my passport and boarding passes handy. A small pocket in the back held everything from metro passes to business cards and receipts.
  3. A feel-like-a-human-again kit. My first long-haul flight left me feeling slightly less than awesome, but I had already prepared by packing a non-liquid toiletry kit in my backpack and keeping an extra t-shirt in a front pocket of my carry-on. The kit included things like ear plugs and an eye mask for the long flight, and deodorant, hairbrush, toothbrush, and facial cloths to use between flights. Yes, it took up some space in my personal bag, but it was very much worth it. Once we got to our destination city I added all my liquid toiletries and it became an all-in-one kit.

Since these are universal items, I’ll definitely be packing them on all future adventures. What are your top 3 travel necessities?


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Photo Series 2: Still Life

Still Life. It’s a style of photography that I hadn’t really looked at before this challenge. I’d always associated it with paintings. And I figured it would be an uninteresting couple of weeks.

There’s a kind of science to still life that can’t be produced in the genres I’m used to – in fact, I always leaned away from manipulating the subjects of my photography (mostly flowers or outdoor scenes). I didn’t expect to enjoy staging a shot, especially when it was late at night and I realized that I hadn’t touched the camera all day. But enjoy it I did. Yes, I missed a couple of days here and there, but when I took the time to do it right, the effort was worth it.

Looking through the collection, it’s pretty obvious that I didn’t spend as much time on this series as I should have. I think I like Day 22 the best – it was certainly the most fun of the series to photograph, and I think the line of the flower is good. As seen in days 19, 22, 23, and 28, I like playing with shadows.

What do you think? Which side did I play in the chess game? Is there something you’d like to see in my upcoming series, Black & White? Comment below!

Photo Series 1: Macro Photography

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When I was planning my year-long photo project, I thought it would be a good idea to start off with a style of photography that I’m already familiar with: Macro. I got really used to shooting in macro with my point-and-shoot, and I thought it would be much the same with the new DSLR. In fact, the opposite was true; due to a lack of understanding of flash vs. natural lighting, I actually gave up on learning the macro mode right off and ended up utilizing the Creative+ feature for most of the last two weeks.

My subjects ranged from flowers to clock keys to my mother’s quilting project, and everything in between. Day 1 was a shot of sheet music – the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme, quite appropriately. On day 4 I found myself doing a photo shoot of a bush in my front yard. Day 9 is an antique clock key. Day 10 features what I’m still reading, a Christmas gift copy of ‘The Hobbit’. I had kind of given up on day 11, hence the poorly-lit fabric detail. However, that is immediately followed by the awesome day 12, when I got to photograph a baby shower. Macro series ended with a close-up of a needle and thread.

Next Up: Still Life.

This gallery contains 14 photos

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Photo Project 2013

Last year I decide that I would try another Project 365 in 2013. Then I purchased my first DSLR in November. It didn’t take long to realize that my new Canon Rebel t3i was more camera than my faithful point-and-shoot could ever hope to be, and that I had a lot to learn. So why not combine the two things? I wondered. Take one year to get to know all there is to know about this thing, and figure out my style of photography at the same time. (In all reality I probably won’t figure out either one before December 31, but it’s worth a try.)

That’s how my version of Project 365 came to be. I made a list of commonly recognized styles of photography and put them into a Google calendar. Two weeks for Macro, the next two for Black&White, the next two for Still Life, etc.

I didn’t see a reason to create a new blog just for photography, so this will be where I post my photos after each 2-week session.

What do you think about this challenge? Are you trying something similar in 2013? Comment below!

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Words on the Page: Best Reads of 2012

Christmas Lights

Dear Readers,

It’s the start of a new year. A new year means endless possibilities in the world of literature. But before I start dreaming about the books I’ll dig into this year, I need to look back on what I read in 2012. Yes, it’s time for my annual list of favorite reads. Once again, I’ll split them into the categories of Fiction and Non-Fiction and end the post with my absolute favorite. So, without further ado:


Wonderland Creek, by Lynn Austin. A lovely historical fiction piece set in the Great Depression, Wonderland Creek follows the adventures of Alice Ripley as she becomes – quite by mistake – a rural librarian delivering books by mule in the mountains of Kentucky. This is a delightful read by an expert storyteller.

Spider’s Web, by Agatha Christie

Spider’s Web, by Agatha Christie (novel adaptation by Charles Osborne). This play-turned-novel showcases my favorite things about Christie’s writing: her story craft and her subtle, dark humor. Perfectly outlined and perfectly paced, Bravo, indeed!

Tomorrow We Die, by Shawn Grady. When I picked this one up, I was not expecting such a level of authorship. If you’re looking for an example of the show, don’t tell rule, look no farther. This medical-mystery-action novel doesn’t need a glossary to aid readers; rather, the terminology is brought to life on the page. A strong lead character with a quirky sidekick doesn’t hurt, either.

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Another on my ‘I’ve heard good things about this story, but I keep forgetting it’s on my to-read list’ that I read in 2012. My reaction was similar to when I read Jane Eyre. This story is as good as that in Pride and Prejudice, but more gritty and realistic. (The recent BBC adaptation isn’t bad, either!)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This one has to make the list, simply because of how much the series made me think. Granted, I still hold a grudge against the copy-editor, but I’m working past it. There are ideas in here, something most young adult literature desperately lacks. You just have to take off your Hollywood-tinted glasses before you read.


The Vampire Defanged, by Susannah Clements. This one tickled my logic-loving, connect-the-dots imagination. Vampires are a touchy subject in literature and film. Somehow they’ve gone from fearsome reflections of depravity to the epitome of awesome. How did that happen? For such a short book, Defanged provides an extensive paper trail on the evolution of literary vampires. 5 stars.

F for Effort, by Richard Benson

Introverts in the Church, by Adam S. McHugh. Think you’re the only one sitting in church wishing for a bit of peace and quiet? Wrong. There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, Introverts argues that you have a unique connection to the foundation of the Church. (Having grown up with the oh-so-shiny evangelical church, this one struck a chord.)

Catch Me if You Can, by Frank Abagnale. I read a biography this year! Biographies aren’t usually books I get excited about, but this one – with action, travel, and a flat-out reckless author – kept my attention. I do not condone the actions of ethics of the author, but I do see a moral in his final occupation: working for the FBI in fraud detection. Cool story, and an interesting way of writing.

F for Effort, by Richard Benson. If I had traveled anywhere this year, this would have been my choice for airplane read of the year. Short, funny, and travel-sized. We all know kids say ridiculous things, but this focuses on what they write when bored or stuck in school. Two halves make a whale – didn’t you know that?

Getting Things Done, by David Allen. I confess, I have this listed because of how ridiculous it is. Try reading beyond the introduction without banging your head on the nearest hard surface, either by choice or unconsciousness. Determine whether this process is actually applicable to your life. Skim the rest, and laugh.

Top Read of 2012:

Quiet, by Susan Cain

Quiet, by Susan Cain. The highlight of my year: a reference guide to introversion. If you or someone you love is programmed to prefer solitude, reflection, and quiet, please read this book. It is not a self-help, pseudo-scientific fluff book written for a bestseller list. No, there is science and experience compiled in one place, in a reader-friendly format no less. Studies about workplace design, educational differences, and social interaction abound. Stories from real people, not case studies, illustrate each point. There’s even an answer to why some kids hate clowns and others seek adrenaline highs.

What were your favorite books of 2012?

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NaNoWriMo 2012

I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time last year, without a plan and without much of a plot. An idea was there, but the words didn’t come as I had hoped. The good news is that I found in it an idea for a real-life project that may be attempted in January.

This year, I prepared for my novel several weeks in advance. I had a plot and began an outline. Characters came from nowhere. The outline became more detailed. On November 1 I began my second novel. By the second day, I realized something:

My story is not centered around events in the plot, but the words my characters say. The vast majority of my current 6,000 words are put into dialogue, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. My novel is not void of description; rather it does not rely upon setting. That might be due to the way my own mind works; I focus much more on words than on place, and in this project the words come out as dialogue.

Last year I couldn’t pull any sensible conversations into my story, while this year I struggle for anything but conversation. That may be due to switching from 1st-person to 3rd-person omniscient, or maybe because I have 7 central characters with no respite of thought in which to retreat. This may be a noisy novel indeed!

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On Joining the Dark Side: A Pinterest Member I Am

Ok, I finally caved in. I joined Pinterest today. Have I gone crazy, turned into a crafty-wanna-be who has nothing but time and no time at all? I certainly hope not. Did I join for some greater cause, to show how Pinterest “should” be used? Not in the least.

I joined because I wanted to have a place to collect ideas outside my own memory. I’ve already set up boards for this year’s NaNoWriMo and next year’s Project 365*. At the moment they’re empty, but I’m curious to see how this tool can be used to further my creative goals.

In other words, I’ll be using the site to supplement my own ideas, not to copy someone else’s. Given my history of starting projects that  will likely never be finished, this may or may not work out in the end.

So, will Pinterest replace my notebooks and random scraps of paper? I doubt it. Pictures are nice, but I still love my little paper trail of inspiration.

*Updates are coming soon. No, really. I have actual plans this time.