Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - the year by numbers...

...with maybe a few pictures thrown in for good measure!

53 - the number of books I read this year

42 - the number of days I spent in England

1 - the number of days I spent in Paris <3

5 - the approximate number of journals I filled up

8 - the number of classes I took this year

323 - the number of pennies it takes to buy my latte at starbucks

6.7.11 - the day I met Miss Ida

221 - the number connected with one of this year's biggest obsessions ;-)

10 - the number of people in my growing familia

03:00 - the hour I got up to watch a wedding

21 - the number of years I've been dreaming

294 - the number of blog posts I had this year

3 - the number of Shakespearian plays I saw this year

5 - the number of times, as of this year, I've read Pride and Prejudice

2 - the number of cricket matches I attended

13 - the number of British spiders I sent to Hades

4 - the number of films I saw at the cinema

countless things in 2011:
dreams fulfilled
new friends
Well, exchanging my "midnight masquerade" for a midnight in Paris... still a happy new years eve =)
Here it is! As promised, here's the list of books I've read this year. I've been really excited about it because I honestly don't know how many I've read this year--all I know is it felt like a lot. I purposely have not added them up yet, so this is as much a surprise to me as it is to all of you.

So here it goes, the list, in order of completion:
  1. Caleb Williams - William Godwin
  2. Wieland - Charles Brockden Brown*
  3. Radical - David Platt
  4. Letter's from an American Farmer - J. Hector St. John de Crevcoeur*
  5. Charlotte Temple - Susanna Rowson*
  6. The Spy - James Fenimore Cooper
  7. Through a Screen Darkly - Jeffrey Overstreet
  8. Aurelia's Colors - Jeffrey Overstreet
  9. Cyndere's Midnight - Jeffrey Overstreet
  10. Raven's Ladder - Jeffrey Overstreet
  11. The Ale Boy's Feast - Jeffrey Overstreet
  12. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen*
  13. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
  14. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen*
  15. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen*
  16. Emma -Jane Austen*
  17. Persuasion - Jane Austen*
  18. Sanditon - Jane Austen
  19. Manalive - G. K. Chesterton
  20. Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
  21. A Jesuit Off Broadway - Father James Martin
  22. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
  23. Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury
  24. A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. A Mercy - Toni Morrison
  26. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  27. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  28. Agamemmnon - Aeschylus*
  29. Room - Emma Donoghue
  30. Eumenides - Aeschylus*
  31. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  32. Seven Against Thebes - Aeschylus
  33. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
  34. Prometheus Bound - Aeschylus*
  35. Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
  36. Oedipus Tyrannos - Sophocles*
  37. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte*
  38. Antigone - Sophocles
  39. Philoctetes - Sophocles
  40. History of Love - Nicole Krauss
  41. Hippolytos - Euripides*
  42. Medea - Euripides*
  43. The Gangster We're all Looking For - Le Thi Diem Thuy
  44. Alcestis - Euripides
  45. Bacchae - Euripides
  46. A Gesture Life - Chang-rae Lee
  47. Frogs - Aristophanes
  48. Hard Times - Charles Dickens*
  49. Loneliness as a Way of Life - Thomas Dumm
  50. Surprised by Oxford - Carolyn Webber
  51. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
  52. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
  53. Mockningjay - Suzanne Collins
___ read for school

Aside from obvious favorites by Austen and the Bronte's, a few of these I'd recommend are:

  • History of Love - A "beautifully sad," multiple-narrator novel about an aged and lonely holocaust survivor named Leopold Gursky and the lives his writing unknowingly changed--including his own.
  • Room - The story of Jack, a precocious 5-year-old, who lives with his mother and has never been outside the Room he was born in. Told in his 1st-person, present tense perspective, this intense and gripping narrative reveals the beauty of a mother's love.
  • Manalive - G. K. Chesterton's hilarious novel about Innocent Smith--a man who defies religion and convention. Chesterton masterfully demonstrates that to do the truly right thing in modernity, we have to "break the law."
  • and Surprised by Oxford - The memoir of a grad student studying English at Oxford, who found herself swept into the deepest Romance she could possibly imagine. Carolyn Webber's original imagery, constant literary allusions, and brilliant prose would be reason enough to read this--the setting and story make it magical.

I'd love to hear what you read this year and here's to many more books in 2012 =)
{favorite moment of the first book}

Friday, December 30, 2011

The last few days have been so very Oxfordian.
It's enough to make a girl cry =')

On Wednesday, I finally met a girl who I had heard went to Oxford the summer before I did. Our conversation over favorite places and memories ended with both of us near tears.
Last night, my dear friend Kristina called me just to say "hi." Miss her like crazy!
Then today I got to meet someone who went to Cambridge but visited Oxford.
So all around, I miss it and I'm dying to go back... I think this was the motivation I needed to finish my application (just 3 weeks left =\ =)

These pics are some my friends have taken of the city I love:
A view across Magdalen's entrance with St. Swithun's Quad in the background

Magdalen cloisters

Magdalen & the tower from Addison's walk
[photo credit: wm]

St. Mary's of the Virgin and Radcliffe Camera
[photo credit: mm]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

via Kati via Esther =)

The BBC apparently believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. Bold the ones you've read; italicized the ones you've started:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell 
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins 
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy. 
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert 
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen 
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth. 
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold 
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville 
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome 
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt. 
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery 
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare 
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

24 read. 7 started.

Twinnie singing a beautiful rendition of one of my favorite songs =)
Just thinking about books I've read this year... and all the books to come.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Stoked to hang out with this lady tonight!

Steph (a.k.a. Tepo =) and I first met around a camp fire about 4 or 5 years ago... but we only became good friends about a year and half ago. At the time, we were in the same home group and both leaders in the youth group. Though things have shifted, we're still getting to know and appreciate one another more! We have a very special relationship. Special. Who else would give me a Woody lego for my birthday? Or a ring-pop to celebrate the royal wedding with? Who else freaks out with me over our countdown to the trailer of the Hobbit? She is one of a few who knows how to communicate in my other language--movie quotes. A few weeks ago, we got to enjoy one of my favorite things together--the Future of Forestry Advent Concert =) And best yet, she's now my neighbor!!
Well, looking forward to an amazing night tonight... but here's to many more years of friendships filled with midnight showings, animated films, concerts, baseball games, and, of course, legos! =)
Its a joy to be friends with you, Steph!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Just checked my facebook while listening to a fave--Diane Krall's rendition of "What are you doing New Year's Eve." And there, I found a very special invitation for Saturday evening.

First thought in my head was this line from Sabrina:
Dad, please. I promised myself years ago, all those years, hundreds of times, thousands of times, and now I'm invited. all that's left is to convince my parents to let me go to my first real New Years Eve party [wish me luck!]

Every family has their quirks...

Well, having an enthusiastic father and sandwiched between two brothers, one quirk I've grown to appreciate is that we are a sports-fan family. My dad is a track/cross-country star (which I'm quick to tell anyone who cares =), but he's always been a huge admirer of the big three--football, basketball, and baseball. Therefore, our family cares about sports. Even if you don't think you care, my dad's fiery passion will convince you otherwise. He can tell you not only who won, but who played on the winning team of the 1964 World Series. He's lost his voice during countless football games (live or otherwise) having a heated, one-way conversation with the ref. He introduced us to great sports films like The Pride of the Yankees and Hoosiers and I watched him get emotional in Cooperstown. He pretty much amazes me.
But like I said, the whole family gets swept up into this. Now, I imagine that plenty of families and work places get involved with picks for the NCAA tournament. But have you had to guess every April how many wins the Mariner's would have or how many hits Ichiro would get in a season? 
Well, December is "College Bowl Month" in our house and everyone--including my unsuspecting brother-in-law--has to pick a winner for the 35 bowl games. It's a big deal, especially as the month progresses. I mean, there's a $5 Starbucks gift-card on the line. I usually don't fair too well and I can't even remember the last time I won the gift-card =/
But this year, I have a secret advantage. You see... most years, I guess blindly, or, at best, for colleges where I have friends attending. This year, I worked every Saturday afternoon when the games were being played. But--I just happen to work right in front of a TV =)
I caught more college football games than the rest of my family put together. And, thanks to my dad, I can't just watch a game. No matter who's playing, secretly or spoken, I have to pick a team to root for. So this year, guess who is actually educated about the football teams?

And guess who, after 8 bowl games, is the only one to still have a perfect record?


Friday, December 23, 2011

"45 minutes--aaaaall to myself."

Watching White Christmas and wrapping my dad's presents for him =)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are."
- "Date a girl who reads" by Rosemarie Urquico 

These by-now familiar words are an all-too perfect description of my present state. So it may come as no surprise that I find my tired self tearing up at work while in the middle of this book:

I apologize... but for now, these characters are real. All too real.

Last day of work before Christmas and my boss bought us Starbucks =)

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Goal for the day: compose a draft of my statement of purpose.

[why is this so hard??]

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Four full days of break
      + Two books read
"Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people--
people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of books."
- E. B. White

Currently researching and trying to make a decision on which college to apply for within Oxford... woah! Way too many amazing, beautiful colleges to choose from. It looks like all but 1 offer the program I'm applying for. My response, "Uh... Jesus, you pick!" This might happen, too. You get to list 1 college preference, but they'll move you to a different college depending on space, funds, etc.
Well, we shall see =/ =)
I've got to admit, I'm starting to look forward to his performance as Marius...

[poor student in Paris? yah... he's got that look down]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Just some treasures from Surprised by Oxford:

"Anything not done in submission ot God, anything not done to the glory of God, is doomed to failure, frailty, and futility. This is the unholy trinity we humans fear most." - Dr. Deveroux, undergrad professor of Carolyn's at her public university

"There is nothing as pitiful as a young cynic, because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing."
- Maya Angelou

"Even Oxford's infrastructure was conducive to contemplation, revelation. Its walls seemed infused with mystery... It was tempting to think that resting my head against htis stony chest would betray a heartbeat, or by putting my ear to this shell, I could hear the distant but undeniable advancing and then retreating of whispered wisdom." [so true, may I add!]

"Life is messy. Life is beatuiful and terrible and messy. So why would we expect a faith in this life that is easy to understand?"

"Take away paradox from the thinker and you have a professor." - Soren Kierkegaard

"Any student of literature knows that metaphor is far more precise than the literal..." [YES!]

"Books become alive not only when read, but when shared..."

"A happy ending makes up for a lot."
- TDH (tall, dark, and handsome)

"You're going to need all the fire you can get if you're going to be a woman and a believer, in academia." - a former Oxford professor and mom, offering Carolyn whiskey, haha

"The only God worth believing in is a dancing God..."
- Friederich Nietzsche [for once, we completely agree]

After quoting Jane Austen, Carolyn muses, "dead authors really do make the best friends."

And finally, at the risk of making me actually like him:
"The world surely, has not another place like Oxford: it is a despair to see such a place and ever to leave it."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to someone very special...

A very Happy Birthday

to Jane Austen!
[Jane Austen, December 16, 1775 - July 18, 1817]

[frontispiece for Sense and Sensibility, the first novel "By a Lady," celebrating its bicentennial]

[chapter 1, Pride and Prejudice]

[quote from Sense and Sensibility]

[her six novels in order of publication]

[one of the few mansucripts we have of her novels]

This past year, I am more grateful for this author than ever.
This year I have written 4 research papers on her, re-read all of her novels (plus some juvenalia), walked where she had walked, visited her house, left flowers at her grave, and discovered so many unanswered questions I want to probe.

[Austen's writing table]

[signature to a letter]

Here's at least one thing I can agree with Virginia Woolf on:
“Anyone who has the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware of...[the fact] that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness...”
[her grave]

[my flowers]

Happy Birthday to "a Lady" who did so much for literature--who pioneered within the novel form, who opened the door for other women writers, who created unforgettable characters paired with undeniable wit. A very happy thing that she was born indeed!
Today has been one of those days where you have a reocurring revelation that you were not prepared.
Can I go back to bed and start over?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

As many of you know, this is the book I'm currently reading. I highly recommend it!

It's just so funny because--other than the fact the author did not grow up in a Christian home--this girl is SO me!
She loves literature. Her memoir is riddled with incredible literary allusions, profound poetry, and U2 lyrics. Haha. She's cute and clumsy. She's a fellow logophile. And, while an incredible over-achiever, she still cares about fashion =)
And--most important--she lived my dream. She studied for her Masters at Oxford, with a focus on English Lit from 1780-1850. She was pursued by the most amazing man. She's taught at some incredible universities and she's a mom.
I feel like I'm reading about myself, or about how my life may be.
In fact, I'm beginning to think that this book was written just for me.

Right before going to Oxford, a friend from our sister church recommended this.
Then, in October, my uncle sent our family an email with the subject: "A book Samara would enjoy." haha... starting to get the picture.
I, of course, now own the book and am half way through.
But today was the real kicker.
Today my dad visited our dentist, who I saw just a few weeks ago.
He is an amazing dentist (seriously, I never dreaded going to the dentist growing up).
He's also a Christian and we've been seeing him for as long as I can remember.
Over one of those awkward conversations while some tool is stuck in your mouth, I was able to communicate that this summer I traveled to Oxford to study Jane Austen.
He informed me that he's visited Oxford and loved it and that he is also a huge fan of Jane Austen.
Well, that was three weeks ago. Today when my dad was there, Dr. Bemis told him, "Hey, I was reading Christianity today and there was a book highlighted there that just screamed 'Samara.' So I bought it for her. It's called Surprised by Oxford. When it comes in, I'll just call her so she can come pick it up..."
Oh wow! I mean, whose dentist buys them books?? Haha.
All of this had added up to a wonderful little *hint* from the Lord =) I love it!

Needless to say, I will now have a lending copy.
One of my photographer friends, Cami, was in Oxford this October. Her photos are gorgeous, so I thought I'd share: 
[one of the many little lanes]
[Vaults and Gardens Cafe - cutest cafe--in a Cathedral--and one of the spots I miss the most]
[Radcliffe Camera & Bodleian Library - where a majority of my time was spent this summer]

Ok... so I've been swept off my feet through plenty of men in novels--but the hero of a memoir? I feel like such a sinner. I mean, he's a real person. He's already wooed and wed the author.
But how is a girl supposed to resist such a gracious and gentlemanly courtship? Especially set in so magical as setting?

Have I mentioned how much I love this book? I've found it hard to even relay how I love it to my friends and family without reading long passages and whole chapters to them.
auntie love

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sometimes I think that I get way too emotionally affected by books to do the work of a critic. Tonight I'm working on a paper and keep getting swept up into Jane Eyre. I can't help it.

Jane in the moment of her greatest distress:
One idea only still throbbed life-like within me--a remembrance of God: it begot an unuttered prayer: these words went wandering up and down in my rayless mind, as something that should be whispered; but no energy was found to express them:--"Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help."
...and this is just one of the reasons I love Jane Eyre.

And now for afternoon tea with these fine folks... :)

Working on the last paper of the quarter. I'm hoping to have it done by tonight.
Can't really complain though, when I get to write on incredible books like Jane Eyre =)

Here's to one more paper and one more day till Christmastide!

Sunday, December 11, 2011



T-18 hours, but I'm heading to bed.

study break...

dos favoritos =)
Home alone tonight with my favorite candle, homemade chai misto, and Andrea Marie on in the background. I have to finish one paper by tomorrow and another for wednesday. But with this environment, I should be productive.

It's like my sanctuary.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


My professor for English honors next quarter just emailed to say we need to read the 500 pg. D. H. Lawrence novel by our first day of class Jan. 5 =(
I had a beautiful list of happy, wonderful books to read. D. H. Lawrence? Over Christmas Break?? I don't think so. Oh shoot. I guess it will be good to get it out of the way =/

Hello, Love
I did not recognize you

You don’t look like I thought you would
You don’t feel like I thought you would
You’re more real than I thought thay ou would be
More wonderful than I remembered in my dreams

Hello, Love
Stay with me forever
Lift your eyes to mine
Keep me in your side

- Andrea Marie,
Hello, Love

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quote of the day

"Nerds look sadder..." - Sarah

what the heck?? haha
Dad and daughter date-night... too cute!!

Seriously, nothing gets me like dads with their kids :'-)

writing final papers...

 [This is what my well loved books look like]

 [London Fog]

[thinking and scribbling]

[I've spent all day in History of Love and I still adore it!]

Skipped class this morning and opted for a writing day [I love you, Aeneas, but I'd say I'm fairly familiar with Rome's foundation myth].
On page 9 of 15 for my final paper for English honors. That's good, right? =/

Happy friday night!