Madrid + Barcelona

Hi, all! I’ve been done with school since about the second week of May, but I haven’t been around much since just a few days after arriving back me and my family jetted off to Spain! Despite speaking Spanish, I’d never been to Spain proper, and as my mom and dad both had art they wanted to see there, it seemed like the place to go.

We first flew into Madrid and were there for a few days. We mostly walked around the city and saw a few art museums such as the Prado and the Reina Sofia.

After seeing our fill of Madrid we took a (super fancy) high-speed train across the country to Barcelona! Madrid was wonderful, but I honestly preferred Barcelona by far. My photos seem to show that too since I have many more from the second city.

Barcelona is really the city of architecture, and it seems like there’s something designed by Gaudi on every third block. It’s also a really great city to walk in, and I feel like we definitely did walk the entire city.

We had a lot of great food while in Spain, but the very best was El Quim, which is located in a market called La Boqueria. I encountered El Quim about a year ago when it was featured in the Barcelona episode of the show I’ll Have What Phil’s Having (which is wonderful and well worth watching, by the way) and I knew we had to go there.

Being a restaurant in a market, it took a little bit of patience and some finagling to get a seat, but the food was fantastic. I was also rather pleased to be served by the owner of the place.

Out of the more special locations we went to in Barcelona, we visited two Gaudi designed places, Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia. The park is very cool and fun but the Sagrada Familia is amazing. I’ve been dragged to seen a lot of European cathedrals in my time but this one really wow-ed me. It’s very modern and sort of timeless, and the stained glass windows are truly beautiful. They don’t praise Gaudi for nothing, y’all.

Probably one of the best parts of the experience was also going up one of the cathedral’s towers. We choose to go up the Passion, which is on the side that is still under construction and also looks out over the city centre. There is an elevator to take up to the top of the tower, but you do have to climb the stairs down.

The climb down was actually really great since there are windows all along that you can look out to see either the city or the details of what was being built as we watched.

Another cool thing we managed to see is an Olympic stadium! In case you don’t know, I love the Olympics, so even though we couldn’t seem to find the aquatic center / it’s not there anymore, it was still nice to walk around the former Olympic park and imagine what it might have been like when the games were played there in 1992. Nearby to the park, there was also an architectural installation that my dad wanted to see. It was super minimalist and not something I’m a huge fan of, but all the reflective marble was nice.

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Fall Semester Favorites

My first semester has been officially over for a while now and I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the entire experience… As well as planning for next semester. I thought today I’d share a few of my new favorite things during this fall semester.

Doctor Who

This is actually a pretty recent one. I was obsessed with Doctor Who in middle school, and that obsession waned in high school. But I recently re-discovered it and I absolutely love it again! I really liked the latest seasons – Clara is a great companion (I love the interludes of her teaching) and I think Capaldi makes a really amazing doctor. He might just be my favorite doctor of the reboot.

Quarter-Zips and Down Vests

What I didn’t realize about moving to Illinois is that the climate would be different enough that my normal go-to outfits wouldn’t be quite right. I’ve found myself favoring sweatshirts over sweaters, and sometimes full coats are just too warm. My style has also changed a little too, and I’ve started to like the more preppy-style of fleeces with collars and down vests.

Staedtler Pens

I really like to write my lecture and class notes in a bright variety of pen colors. It helps me see where each lecture started and ended, and it also just makes me happy. I started out the year with a pack of colorful gel pens, but they were pretty much dead by the middle of the semester. During a weekend trip to Chicago I made a stop in an art store and purchased a set of steadtler pens, and while I’d shied away from them before over the increased cost, let me tell you they are worth it. The glide super well and barely bleed, and they have a beautiful color selection.

Best Friends Whenever

So, this was the series I marathoned over labor day weekend when everyone had gone home and the dorm was empty except for fellow out-of-state-ers. It was only the second week of school, too, so I really didn’t have much homework. I had been eye-ing this particular Disney channel series since it was first released (yes, I regularly watch TV and read books for 12 year olds…) and when I saw it was now on Netflix it was kind of a done deal. This show is basically about two high school friends who together are able to time travel thanks to experiments by their science-genius neighbor, and I marathoned it hardcore.

The Secret of a Heart Note

I didn’t read a ton during the semester, but out of the books I did read this was one of my favorites! It is super adorable, and the descriptions of flowers and plants were just gorgeous.

What have been some of your favorite things lately?

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The Dorm Room

Hi, everyone! It’s been a while. I’ve been super busy here at college, but today I am pumped to share with you what my dorm room looks like. 😊

As you may know, I am attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One great thing about this school is that it has some pretty nice dorms. But I also get extra lucky in that I am living in the second newest dorm building on campus. It’s not a dorm freshman have resided in during past years, but as I am living in the Honors Living-Learning Community I got what I would say is one of the nicest rooms on campus.

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Another cool thing when picking housing at U of I is that you not only get to choose a roommate and hall, but you get to pick your very specific room number. (and as a sophomore and up you can even reserve an entire side to side block of rooms for you and your friends/teammates/sorority sisters/basically anyone) As the nerd I am, I looked at the floor plans for my building before choosing a room, and therefore got one of the four largest rooms in the hall. Seriously, I knew it was bigger, but this place is huge.

My roommate is named Maya and is a sophomore in Engineering. She is seriously the greatest but I’m not going to be displaying her side of the room because that would be weird.

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The first thing on the left (my side) when coming into the room is my bed. I have this awesome rainbow striped duvet cover that was new this year, and a really soft blanket that my swim coach gave to me as a graduation present. On the wall, I have a strand of twinkle lights (nowhere near the advertised 10 ft) a caricature drawing I had done during one of our orientation events, and a row of photos. Some that I’ve taken, some of me, and a few from this last year’s swim team photo shoot. I’ll probably be adding more to the walls eventually, but at least they’ve gone from “utterly blank” to what could be considered minimalist. You can also kind of see the container I’ve been using as a bedside table in the bottom corner of the picture.

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Next is my general desk area. I have some shelves with cups, my camera, books, notebooks, and my camera. Then my desk with my bookshelf and just general work area. Off to the side, I have a full-length mirror and a hook with my Rainbow Rowell tote bag and sheet-music umbrella hung from it.

On my bookshelf I have Every Day by David Levithan, (which I am reading for a class!) the (now completed) Alcatraz series by Brandon Sanderson, and a plethora of fall ARCs that either have yet to be released or are already out into the world. I’ve “decorated” the shelf with my time turner necklace, my New York Yankees cap, and a rubber duck that I was given when I joined the synchronized swimming club here at school.

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On the back of the desk, there’s a metal panel where I’ve been keeping magnets, bookmarks, and have taped up other postcards and things.

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There’s my dorm room! What other kinds of things do you think I should hang on my walls? What other college type things would you like to see posts about? Make sure to let me know in the comments!

♥, Tamara

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One Last Time

I’ve lived in the same place my entire life. Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Twin Cities. I love it here: I really do. We have mountains of independent bookstores, (including three focused on young adult lit) a great art scene, an incredible library system, and basically every kind of store or restaurant you could ever want.

But, I’ve always been a sort of restless person. I get exhausted by doing the same thing day in and day out. I love discovering new places. My family has always traveled as much as possible, and that’s something that’s very important to who I am. I knew that for college I couldn’t stay in the same city… Or really the same state.

In a few days I leave for that (somewhat) far away college. The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, about 7 hours and 500 miles from my childhood home. Even though I’m ecstatic to live somewhere entirely new, I still know I’m going to miss it here. So in this last week I’ve tried to fit as many of my favorite things as I can, while still participating in a few hometown activities that I’d never done before.

aug9smallFirst, I know I am seriously going to miss all the favorite books that I can’t possibly bring with me to college. I know it’s cliche to say but I am missing them already. I want to re-read them all simply because I will suddenly have no access to them. Part of it is silliness, part of it will probably prompt me to bring a few more book than I intended, and for part of it… Well, I’ve done a little re-reading. I read The Accidental Hero by Matt Myklusch, and am working on reading the sequel, but I don’t know if I’m going to make it before Tuesday. I also think I’m going to be adding Sanderson’s Alcatraz series to my bag so I can revisit before the final book is released. Pretty sure I’m more excited for that book than I am about turning 18.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with friends. Any chance I get. On Thursday all of my greatest friends from my school orchestra took a trip to a lake beach. We did a little swimming, even though I kind of hate swimming in freshwater. We grilled burgers and brats and ate chips and cookies. One of my friends gets there and pulls out a knife and cutting board to cut tomatoes and onions and lettuce for the burgers, and then pulls out his own grill to make the food on instead of using the (slightly questionable) parkside grills. We don’t call him superman for nothing.

That night I picked up the first season of The Newsroom from the library and finally got one of my other friends into watching it. I adore that show. It’s witty, fast-paced, and fascinating. Even in it’s third or fourth watch it stands up completely.

I went to my first baseball game. I had wanted to do that this summer. I thought it wasn’t going to happen since the brand new field caused the tickets to be constantly sold out. But then miraculously my family won a pair of tickets at the farmers market, so I went off with a friend to see the Saint Paul Saints play the Sioux Falls Cardinals.

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We had a grand time drinking a malt, watching the game, amusing ourselves by observing the 3rd base coach named Sheldon who was for some reason wearing dress shoes and a hitter’s helmet, (jersey number 23!) and laughing at the antics put on between innings.

Lastly, I’ve been watching the Olympics. I love the Olympics so much. I managed to get access to NBC’s live streams of allll the events and I’ve been jumping around to whatever looks interesting. Fencing! Badminton! Sailing! This morning commenced the Synchronized Swimming competition with the Duet Free Routine Preliminaries, and obviously I watched the entire thing. My favorite performances were Russia, Spain, and Japan, though the US looked very good!

Looking forward, tonight I have a going away/graduation party of sorts, (I was too busy with synchro earlier this summer to have a traditional grad party) and on Monday I have my final YA Book Club at the Red Ballon Bookshop. This group has been so good to me. It got me into ARCs and reviewing, and led me to meet many great authors. I’m hoping I’ll be seeing this group again soon, even if I will no longer be high school age.

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Brandon Sanderson signing in April 2015 and the Penguin Teen tour in March 2016.

Even though I will be super busy now going into College, I’m planning on staying active on here with all my reviews of fall books and college adventures. And remember, you can also find me talking and live-tweeting synchro on my Twitter, and posting pictures on my latest reads on my Instagram.

♥, Tamara

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A Touch of Spring (And Sweaters) #OOTD

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Monday, being Presidents Day, was a day off of school for me. (Thanks, Mr.President(s)!) My mother, the knitwear designer, wanted to take some photos of one of her new sweaters at the local conservatory, so I decided to take some photos of the outfit I had chosen that morning too.

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My very favorite room in the conservatory is the Sunken Garden because it is always filled with light and they switch out what kind of flowers are there depending on the season. During the holidays it had been filled with poinsettias, but they must have recently switched those out for pretty pink spring flowers.

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As it was pretty cold outside I was a little over dressed for the heat of the conservatory. Minnesota in February is really all about layers on layers on layers. I especially like this cropped sweater and button down shirt combo with my usual skinny jeans. I also love this layered necklace I bought at an art show in fall. With the bright red stone it’s so different from anything I see in stores!

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Ombre Beanie (knitting pattern) // Aeropostale Plaid Shirt (similar) // Delias Cropped Sweater (similar) // Aeropostale High Waisted Skinny Jeans // Layered Necklace (similar)

Bonus: Me attempting to imitate the statue’s pose. 😉

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