History is Everywhere

The last few weeks have been an education for me. This month I felt a sudden surge in enthusiasm and starting volunteering at TWO different museums. At the Glen Ellyn Historical Society I have been making an inventory of some items in their collection of historic quilts and textiles, and thinking of ways to improve the textiles storage.

The discovery of numerous boxes of rug braiding material inspired me to… learn how to braid rugs! Luckily, I had an expert nearby (thanks Grandma), and I’ve been working on a project with her help.

Crash course in rug-braiding - a friend thinks I should make a rug shop on Etsy!

Crash course in rug-braiding – a friend thinks I should make a rug shop on Etsy!

A historic quilt from 1895 - I presume!

A historic quilt from 1895 – I presume!

And at the Elmhurst Art Museum, I’ve been tidying up the collections records, adding some new donations to the database, and making sure that every artwork is where we think it is (and doesn’t go wandering off somewhere).

An example of some beautiful modern dinnerware I got to work with.

An example of some beautiful modern dinnerware I got to work with.

I’ve also decided to attend the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting this May, so that all this learning can continue. I’ve actually started a fundraiser so I can attend the conference, and several friends have already helped me out. While I try not to complain about my tiny income, it does make it near impossible to attend such a conference. Which is why I’ve asked for help.

Take a look: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/40194-rachel-s-first-professional-conference

Poetry Party #3

Things that happen at a Poetry Party: reading, pie-eating, and phone-checking.

Things that happen at a Poetry Party: reading, pie-eating, and phone-checking.

We successfully held our third annual Poetry Party! Not everyone likes poetry, so we always try to keep things light-hearted and fun… Once again, it was a successful night with plenty of food and wine, and both very good and very bad poetry.

Seriously, one of the highlights of the night was reading from a book titled ‘Very Bad Poetry’, including a poem about a very large cheese, and a poem written in baby talk. Also amusing, we discovered a new favorite poet by the name of Ogden Nash, who is know for his humorous but clever work. One of the Poetry Party attendants also read their own creation, a piece of verse inspired by the Illinois prairie; well done!

Stumped trying to write a group haiku.

Stumped trying to write a group haiku.

Something to try for next time: ever heard of six word stories? Finally, we also wrote some collaborative haikus, as we’ve done in years past. Here is a small sampling:

Cake is best eaten

White inside with white frosting

I’m a cake racist

Hidden in the snow

Sheaves waiting for spring rainfall

Harvest by autumn

Dinosaur boxing

T-rex arms flailing past face

Extinction is nigh


Poetry Party #2: https://rjsmith2.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/poetry-party-2/

Poetry Party #1: https://rjsmith2.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/poetry-party/

Happy New Year from Leicester!

Hello All,

After a surprise visit home and a week-long trip to Ireland, I have made it back safe and sound to Leicester, ready to start classes tomorrow. It’s been a fun few weeks, but will get very busy from here on!

Just before the break I had gone on another hike in Leicestershire, but winter weather has finally hit: average January high is in the mid-40s! Fahrenheit of course, I see no snow in our future. I missed the first snow in Leicester anyway as I was lucky enough to fly standby home on the 17th of December. My parents were there waiting for me at O’Hare! While I only stayed 10 days, it was truly refreshing to see friends and family, my home and my dog.

But alas, on the 27th I picked up and headed back to the UK, luckier yet this time to get in on Business class! I’ll avoid bragging here. And 2 days later my friend Erica arrived from Chicago to visit me on vacation! We saw some of Leicester’s sights (contrary to popular belief, there are a few), and spent New Year’s Eve with a few of my friends. Erica was expecting to meet plenty of British people but met only international students instead.

On New Year’s Day we headed for the airport to spend a week in Ireland and Northern Ireland. We spent most of our time in lovely Dublin, with a couple rainy days spent in Belfast, and two tours out into the country and along the Giant’s Causeway (look it up). While I don’t have enough time here to talk about everything we saw in Ireland, it was enjoyable to travel with a friend (and conveniently a good way to get over jet-lag). Since I got back to Leicester on the 7th of January I have been getting ready for my next essay, and my next trip. Don’t sound so surprised!

The complimentary pint at the end of the brewery tour!

Poetry Party #2

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This past weekend we had our 2nd poetry party, and we came up with some fun, creative stuff again. Some of the more entertaining poems and creations I thought I would list here as a record of the party. As last year, we wrote some haikus, and also some collaborative free-form poems. Here are the highlights:


“Caribbean Haiku”

Sharks seek bamboo skirts

Pirate Bahama disease

Scurvy will kill you

Jamaican accents

Wish they read the nightly news

I would be amused

The train is coming

Oh shit, where is the airport?

Someone stole my bike


To make the mundane classy

The pig slips on the dressing gown

Oh why must we lie when the truth lies uncovered?

There to be seen by all yet none

Love, change and society

One poet’s desire to not be outdone

The ideas are in my mind’s eye

But the words change like scrabble letters

And I can find no clear picture

I have lost interest in poetry

It is horrible

I would rather make a sandwich

Of the turkey variety

As i spread on the mayo

Inspiration arises

The love returns, the passion exists once more

I am free to create, to do what I was born for

“Cheap Wine”

I went to the grocery store – but alas!

My wallet again was only half mast

Without much money

This night could turn funny

What to fill my glass?

With not much money to spare

Do I dare go with a bottle of red?

Or do I just go home instead?

I can’t return empty-handed

Or my evening won’t be enchanted

But what luck, I’ve found the daily deal

A dollar fifty for a bottle, what a steal!

With change in my pocket

I hit the cheese market

Shelves tumble with cubes and wheels

Fontina, swiss and gruyere

Another world from the chaos of the street

Like a lost island and I a pirate fresh in plunder

Treasure in hand I turn towards the Smith’s, amidst the booming thunder

A Strange Diet in January

Ok, so I’m not actually going on a diet this month, all my friends and family will tell me that I don’t need to. What I am doing is going on a “spending diet”. I got the idea from a blog I read, to give up unnecessary spending (pay only your bills, and necessary things like gas and food) for the month of January, and thought it would be a great way to start the new year.

I thought that with the prospect of going back to school, another vacation this year, continuing to pay off my student loans, and the extra spending that naturally came with the holidays, this would be a good thing. So here I am on day 4, still no money spent.

I find that it’s pretty easy for me to go several days in a row without spending money, but somewhere in there it happens. In fact, I’ve been keeping track of what I spend my money on for months now, and here is how it breaks down:

25% of my money goes to going out, museums, weekend trips and the like

25% goes to food, and eating out

10% goes to my new obsession with Groupon

10% goes to my old obsession with coffee 🙂

5% goes to my favorite thrift stores and shopping

and the rest is a lot of miscellaneous stuff like haircuts, and wedding gifts.

Wish me luck for the rest of the month, I’ll let you know how it goes!


Cleaning Frenzy

I’m looking back to my journal entry on New Years Day of 2009. That’s when my resolution started, to get rid of all the junk I don’t need.  I thought that perhaps I was too materialistic. More than a year later, I’m still going on that project. I mentioned it a few months back as well in another post.

To date, I estimate that I’ve thrown out or donated somewhere around 20 bags of stuff! I’ve donated 5 bags to the GoodWill in town in the last month alone, and my cleaning frenzy has been spreading to the rest of the house, which I assume my mom is grateful for. Because in a house this size there is a lot of room to hide old junk…

Some of the highlights have been uncovering a stash of poetry and journals from my younger days. This seems like proof that I’ve always been a creative person, because I’ve been writing and drawing since before I even learned cursive.  Here’s one from first grade:

“Those Magic Books”
There are windows
in my books
and they show
me the world

But back to the issue at hand! The more I clean, the more I realize how much stuff there is. There are trophies for soccer, and bible camp, there are books with titles like “If God Loves Me, Why Can’t I Get My Locker Open?”, sheet music from middle and high school bands, and lots of cruddy drawings from my life drawing class. What do I need all that for? The cleaning continues…

An ugly corner of the basement has recently become my new studio.

Notice the American Girl stuff, and the plaid coat that has not left this closet since we moved in.

Currently reading: The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose

The journalist and protege of AJ Jacobs, author of ‘The Year of Living Biblically’, transfers from Brown University to Dr. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University for a semester experience amongst evangelical christians. Roose define words like “testimony”, “witness”, and “devotions” for the average reader, but these are terms I’ve grown up with. His insights into the evangelical world, and incidentally also the alma mater of my former pastor, are honest and critical, but always open-minded. I’d definitely recommend the book.

Poetry Party

We had a successful poetry party on Saturday night, although I regret to say that I didn’t take any pictures. My brother was too self-conscious wearing a beret 🙂 We had some great wine and cheese, but the most successful part was probably the rotating haikus: A haiku is 3 lines: the first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7, and then the third has 5 again. So one person wrote the first line and passed it to the person sitting next to them to write the 2nd line, etc. Here are some of the haikus just for fun:

Cheese is really good

But lactose intolerance

Prevents dairy-joy

Deep thoughts, busy days

Are they incompatible?

My haiku says yes

“Sonic Boom”

Can’t hear the music

Color overwhelms senses

Deaf and blind crazy

The frost becomes dew

Sun, the magnifying glass

Now I can forgive

“Think outside the sox”

My shoes are too small

I hate my big finger-toes

Solution: an axe

“Stomach’s Query”


Why is there nothing to eat?

The dog looks tasty

Heavens T’Betsy

I think I have a flat tire

And a balding head

The start of the world

Such that no one can define

Albert Einstein mad