Sketchnotes and the Talent that Wasn’t

I Confess I’m Envious

For years I’ve been slightly and openly envious of the people in my life who are able to take notes with corresponding illustrations. To my mind, it is an indicator of deeper understanding of a concept which implied a more complete learning/recollection of it. A year or so ago I discovered Sketchnotes. It appeared to be a system for hybrid note taking so I set about trying to learn how to do it. For the life of me the reading of the tools never lent itself to an understanding of the process.

Cue the long and thoughtful look at how this is a direct parallel to digital literacy and empowered access to the tools we work tirelessly to provide.

So when I heard that there was a workshop happening in my town I signed up immediately.

I’m Good at What I Do…

…mostly because I avoid what I know I’m not good at. It turns out that sketching on the fly is one of those things I’m not good at. It’s not like I didn’t have a hint that would be the case. I have a large drawing of my college campus on  my wall that I did, though, so I certainly hoped I was wrong.

Apart from the fact that my taco sketch definitely looks like a hotdog, it’s not the worst I’ve ever done. I’m going to share the process photos a bit later, since that’s the part that makes all the difference, but I wanted to be sure to share my first attempts here.

Next Up?

Sketchnotes of my travels from the year. I’ve taken quite good notes, without ever even considering doing this, and I might as well make sure they are put to good use. In the weeks and months to come, prepare yourself for some mediocre and slowly progressing sketching and noting!

The Time I Was Stubborn About Pasta


This is pasta carbonara with extra smokey bacon and extra garlic. I guessed at the proportions of the ingredients, as I often do, so I have no idea how true to form it turned out. It was perfect in my book, but I have very low standards of myself for this dish since the last time I was trying so hard to perfect it was a nightmare.

To give you some context, I had just graduated college and was cooking basically everything out of a skillet so I spent a lot of time with recipes that required only one pan. I also hadn’t yet figured out how a person shops for only one person, so I was still doing that thing where you buy a gallon of milk, two pounds of pasta, 18 eggs, and more bacon than any single girl could possibly consume before reaching food-borne illness stages.

All of this being mapped out at is it, I imagine you’ve figured out that pasta carbonara was for some reason my go-to-meal for a number of evenings alone in my apartment.

This is no simple task.

My First Attempt

My first few tries at this recipe (I was eternally hopeful) were doomed from the beginning. It was the recipe I used today with great success, but along with only owning one shallow skillet, I also only owned a small set of flatware. And wasn’t sure how to properly cook bacon. This recipe required you to strain the pasta (which I sort of managed to do), scoop it out with tongs (which I did not manage to do), and then “toss it vigorously and non-stop” until the “heat of the cooked pasta turned the eggs into a silky sauce”. Garlic factors in there somewhere, but I didn’t have the nerves to give it a go.

I think it’s safe to say I sloshed the pasta around in the egg until it got clumpy and then garnished it with soggy bacon chunks.

My Second Attempt

Having procured a gallon of whole milk (what was I thinking), I set out looking for a recipe that involved cream. Yes, I planned to use whole milk in place of cream. Yes, my mother is French and I know better. I know better now, anyway. I did not know better than. This experience was not dissimilar to attempts prior, but more blatant butchering of the dish took place. I had missed, not only all of the motherly teachings about how to make sauces, I had also magically missed that part about not straight out boiling dairy.

This dish wasn’t even carbonara. It was spaghetti in a weird parmesan, cheese curd sauce, only without the bacon. I was determined to have something tasty to eat and I just ate that on its own.

My Third and Final Attempt

By this point I had, probably, called my mother for advice. To this day I don’t know if she makes this dish, but she’s a great cook in general so the skills are relevant. I don’t remember very, very much about the actual conversation, but I do remember that I managed to strain my pasta. I also remember that I didn’t ask how high one should have the heat when “sautéing garlic until fragrant”. Not very high at all, is the answer, but I was sort of a high-heat-or-no-heat sort of chef at the time and charred the ever loving health benefits out of it. Then threw it all into the pot with the rest of the ingredients without so much as a “my doesn’t that smell bitter?” and mixed it really well.

This was my final and least edible try at the dish. I vowed never to make it again.

Don’t worry, I’ve got this

The biggest lesson I learned from this misadventure is that “one pot” is not synonymous with “simple”. Now that I actually know how to cook, it clearly went just fine. Silky sauce, no dairy, slightly eggy, with a salty touch of bacon.

Fourth time (and many years’ worth of time) is the charm.

Arkansas Air and Military Museum

For the first time since I was very young, we took a trek to the local air and military museum. As large as this place is for a museum, it was very recently still used as a regional airport… for which it would be woefully small. Here are a few of the sites we saw, including an airplane featuring a caricature of a snorting hog!

Story Bridge in Brisbane

Things I Learned While Traveling to Brisbane

One of my favorite parts of traveling, other than checking out the local architecture, is how I get the chance to broaden my horizons. I recently told someone that you aren’t really an adult until you get out of your comfort zone, out of your country, and start learning about other cultures.

My short trip to Brisbane reminded me a little about international travel, but also taught me a little about the local history and flavor of Brisbane, QLD.

  • Asking people to politely deplane out of order doesn’t work.
  • Planes are huge.
  • LAX has shuttles that drive on the tarmac and thankfully obey signs that day “stop for planes”.
  • The Queensland University of Technology has this cool thing called The Cube.
  • Cab drivers drive crazy.
  • The art museums on the South Bank are jaw-droppingly wonderful.
  • Australia isn’t liberal with free public Wifi.
  • I had a wonderful chat with a fellow woman-in-STEMM at Super Whatnot (what a great name, amiright) after we failed to make it to Brew.
  • Australia is called… Oz. I can’t tell if that’s a local thing or not, so correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Aussies are very friendly.
  • The Emu War of 1932
  • Queen Street Mall gets millions of visitors a year.
  • When you embark on the way back, your next day is both tomorrow and today.
  • Meat pies are amazing.
  • Brisbane uses the word “riparian,” which I’ve only ever heard in British comedies up until now, all along the river that snakes through the city.

Next up? Photos from the journey!

MIZZOU c. 9 pm – “Ready to go?” I said as I grabbed his keys. He turned to answer when the door swung open. In the doorway stood a boy with dark hair holding a large water gun.  I immediately reverted to my RA frame of mind, my eyes locked on his and without a single sound I shook my head as a caution against spraying that thing at me. He shrugged, displayed the hunk of plastic and left not long before we headed out to the car. I grabbed my stuff and headed back in saying my hellos to these new aquaintances, hoping they didn’t know my name because I most certainly didn’t know theirs.

MIZZOU c. 10 pm – The television buzzed and flashed to my left as I sat on the bed with my back against the wall, knees bent toward the ceiling and sketch pad balanced against one knee.  The blunt tip of my pencil makes a faint noise that inevitably becomes a lulling mantra as I flesh out the pitcher’s glove and arm.

MIZZOU c. 11 pm – The pencil dropped to the page as I stretched my fingers. I sighed as I picked up the remote and turned off the credits of Family Guy and as I placed it next to me, I heard that familar scratching of pencil on paper. It wasn’t until I heard a boyish giggle from the hall that it occured to me that the noise I had heard was water coursing down the door and not my pencil at all. That brown haired boy – the one who I had cautioned earlier – was outside in the hall with that infernal water gun. I walked to the door and had placed my hand on the handle of the door that was being pelted by stream upon stream of water. In a mad moment of clarity I realized that if I opened the door, obviously, I would be drenched. After a moment of thought I did the next best thing. I yelled. I yelled about the mess coming in from under the door and then I swung it open.

The hall was empty but far from silent as the bricks resounded with footsteps of people who had recently fled an angry visitor. I strode barefoot down the hall to the first open door and peered in at the wet boy sitting so innocently in a chair. He promised he had nothing to do with the “assualt” and I, with nothing I could imagine to say, pointed and asked where the other boys were. He shook his head and as I was stalking back to the puddle in the doorway I heard a cry of ‘all clear,’ turned to see two boys hauling it out of the bathroom and listened to them feign bewilderment as they retreated into rooms to change into something dry.

MIZZOU 11:20 pm – Now you are all on my site. You will have females read about this. They will comment about you to me. I will laugh and divulge every detail they want. I will name my next animal Mizzou.

Take that.