samedi 30 avril 2011

Minimalist Plus Dinnerware

Now that I know where I'm going to college, I'll have to get ready for dorm life. I've been thinking a lot about the minimalist lifestyle and it seems like a good fit for my personality. I don't like spending time cleaning, I don't usually buy a lot of stuff, and I'm always in trouble for leaving things lying around the house... what better way to fix that than just to get rid of the offending property? Plus, I might actually be able to fit into my dorm room, without being crowded out by things.

The only problem is that I don't know how to reconcile minimalism with...

...well, and this is going to sound particular but...

as you probably guessed from this blog's title, I like formality. If I am a minimalist with one dinner plate and a spoon, how will I have a dinner party? Okay, and even if I splurge and provide spoons for everybody...

The logical answer would be that I should be a moderate minimalist. Hum, and I don't know what moderate minimalism looks like. See? We're getting into grey areas here... Spoons or no spoons? Minimalism or not?

Concretely, I guess, I'll be a minimalist plus dinnerware. There. Problem solved.

mardi 19 avril 2011

College News

There's good news on the horizon: I might get to go to Kalamazoo College! After a bit of a go-around (is that the right expression?) with the Registrar's Office (very patient people) we've determined that I will be able to transfer two AP units (Kalamazoo's version of 3.33 college credits), hopefully a third if I score high enough on their French Placement Test, and I will probably be able to transfer six units from the Community College. That would make it 9 units out of 36 needed to transfer. Exactly one year's worth. Which is exactly how much I needed in order to have a shot at affording Kalamazoo College.

On one hand I'm sad that I most likely won't be able to afford the full four years of college but I'm lucky that I ended up with enough transfer credits to give me the chance to go to a great college. I was a little bit sad yesterday because some of the staff have been implying that would be quite a loss not to go to Kalamazoo for the full four years. It's not that I don't want to stay, though... I just can't.

In any case, we're still not sure if I'll be able to go. I'll make my decision this week, I think.

jeudi 14 avril 2011

Finishing Impossible Things

Sometimes when I'm overwhelmed I can't figure out where to begin to make things better.

An example: I'm really bad at keeping my bedroom clean. Especially when I'm busy. Clothes pile up on the furniture, art supplies clutter the floor, my bed is never made... eventually I stop putting things away at all because it doesn't make any difference. My bedroom looks like it has been ripped apart by a class of angry kindergartners.

At this point I have no motivation to clean my room. It looks like a circus? So what. It always looks like a circus. A messy one. 

Except that that's a lie and eventually the mess starts to get on my nerves.  

But I'm too lazy to clean it because I'm busy watching The Office.

Enter the Rule of 10. Actually, it's two rules:
1. I have to do ten things to make my room look better. Put away ten pairs of socks. Put ten colored pencils back in the pencil box. Whatever.
2. I can't do anything to make the mess worse. No more using my bed as a filing cabinet. Clean clothes have to be hung up upon entering the room.

If I follow these rules it ends up taking a really long time to clean my room. But it also doesn't take more than a minute every day. Usually I find that if I put ten things away I'll want to put ten more things away, and then ten more. You know. Inertia.
Mostly, though, it helps me to feel like I'm more in control. Like an it's going to take forever to do this but at least it won't be difficult sort of feeling.

This concept can be applied to a lot of projects that seem impossible.  Writing a book?  Write ten sentences.  Starting a garden?  Plant ten plants.  Doing your homework?  Finish ten problems...

Growing a High-Maintenance Garden

Aside from my personal vegetable garden, we have a family garden that we put in last year. We tried to grow squash and beans but the zucchini and the monster tomatoes took over. Well, and then the tomatoes suffocated the zucchini so it ended up being a tomato garden.

Part I: Before we planted our garden we came to the understanding that it was to be an organic garden. Marigolds. Pepper spray. Hand-picking the caterpillars and relocating them.

It was great, actually. The plants were doing really well. Unnervingly well. Especially the tomatoes, which by mid-summer were taller than a regular-sized adult. The caterpillars, too, were probably snacking on the robins that popped in once in a while.

It was great until the tomato plants grew bigger than my car. Then it was scary. We could almost hear a fe fi fo fum floating from the tops of the tomato stalks. The caterpillars were multiplying. Unfamiliar insects were breeding in the shade of the tomato trees. We should have started pruning a long time ago.

Part II: The Fertilizer Man (sorry I can't think of a more dignified name for him) was not on board with the organic aspect of the organic garden. I walked outside one day and my mom handed me a broom. "Here," she said, "the lawn man came."

Sweeping fertilizer pellets out of a garden is hard. Sweeping fertilizer pellets out of a tomato jungle is harder.

I guess the point of saying this is to emphasize that we can fuss as much as we want over things, but sometimes we just can't control what happens.  We planted marigolds to use as a pest repellant so that we wouldn't have to use chemicals in the garden.  The marigolds ended up thriving on artificial grass fertilizer.

(Organic gardening is worth the fuss, mind you.  I just wish the Fertilizer Man agreed.)

mercredi 13 avril 2011

Growing the Easiest Garden

My compost pile is the love of my life.

I used to like gardening. A lot. Literally, I would turn my bedroom into a greenhouse in the winter. I planted every seed I could find, as well as some things that in hindsight I'm pretty sure were not seeds. (Cheerios, for example, will not grow.)

The problem is that I killed every plant I owned except for one aloe vera plant and a ponytail palm tree (my mom is in charge of taking care of them). I dreamed of starting a garden but my seedlings would die before they ever saw the Great Outdoors.

I tried really hard to grow a garden. I planted beans. I watered flowers. Everything died. I planted beans. I watered flowers. Everything died. I planted beans. I watered flowers...

It took me a while to accept this, but growing plants is not my calling. Not now.

No, I have a different vocation. It's called Composting Kitchen Scraps and I'm really good at it. It's simple: you take your kitchen scraps (no raw meat) (or any meat) and put them in a bowl. Take the bowl outside. Dump the bowl on your compost heap. It helps if you can contain your compost in some way so that the wild animals and your little dog Abbey won't carry yesterday's mango peels into the neighbors' yards. I built my compost pile around a huge pine tree in our backyard, inside a fence we made from old bricks.

Composting isn't all that different from gardening. It's just that instead of creating food from dirt you're creating dirt from food. Reverse gardening.

Lately, I've found that my compost pile bears great benefits called Mystery Plants That Grow in Piles of Food Scraps. Mostly these are seeds from food that we ate earlier in the season, and which have germinated. So far we've had squash, broccoli, potato, squash, onion, squash, and squash plants, plus a few extras that we couldn't identify. While we don't feel comfortable eating these plants, I have to tell you that they don't die. Let me repeat that: I cannot kill the plants that grow in my compost heap. It's compost and a garden all in one!

How Not to Get a Job

Thinking about paying for college is seriously scary. I feel like I'm going to dig myself into a hole of debt that I won't be able to climb out of. I mean, I've never had a real job. I've never even finished a job application. How am I supposed to pay for an education?

There are two job applications sitting on my counter as I write this. I brought them home a few days ago and I was pretty gung-ho about filling them out until I googled "How To Fill Out a Job Application" and came to the realization that I was supposed to fill out the applications at the store. So I'm afraid to turn in the applications because now that I think of it the lady at the flower shop gave me a funny look when went skipping out the door with my application in hand.

Well, and then I have to send in a résumé. Which would be fine except that I haven't got any idea how to write a résumé. And even if I did, what would I put on it? I'm good at writing, and teaching French. That's not going to help me get a job at the supermarket.

Special skills? Verb conjugation.

Special interests? Words and sentences.

Maybe people are wondering why I don't just go find more French students.
I am, too. I don't know where to find them.

There's always a third option: henna tattoos. I have a skill for giving people henna tattoos.

I guess my first step toward paying for college would be to find a job. Who wants a tattoo?

mardi 12 avril 2011

Little Etiquette Book

I found an etiquette book at a garage sale and it changed my life.

Did you know that there are rules of etiquette for cleaning your bedroom? Amy Vanderbilt does. She wrote a book about it.

Now I do too. Thanks to my etiquette book. (But don't clean your room before you clean the kitchen -- that's a no-no.)

The greatest thing about having an etiquette book on my shelf is that -- as weird as it sounds -- it improves my self-esteem. Never again will I have to worry about how to set my table, or how to seat guests at a party, or which kind of stationery I should use to send a letter to my grandma. My etiquette book is all-knowing. When is it appropriate to wear nail polish? How do you announce an adoption? What is the proper way to host a bridge party (assuming I ever learned to play)? Where at the table do I sit if I'm left-handed? What sort of gift is appropriate for a nun? What in the world is a linen shower for???

This is what happens when I take more than fifty cents to a garage sale.

In a spirit of adventure, I've decided to make a habit of improving my etiquette. Mostly so that I'll stop accidentally offending people but also because... well actually that's the only reason. If I think of another reason I'll let you now.

Task #1: Make my bed every morning. Simple enough.

lundi 11 avril 2011

Choosing a College

Today I have two missions:
The first is to make chocolate chip cookies.
The second is to determine whether or not Kalamazoo College will let me transfer any of my dual-enrolled community college credits. It's a critical question because, you see, I have to choose between Hope College and Kalamazoo College before May 1st, when the enrollment deposits are due. Kalamazoo is the top choice but Hope has been enticing me with offers of accepting my community college and AP exam credits... possibly allowing me to graduate in three years. Plus Hope College accepts CLEP credits, which Kalamazoo doesn't. So... hmm... go to a college that I love or pay at least $30,000 less to go to a college that I really like, with the possibility of graduating in three years or less? Decisions, decisions.

One of the more perplexing aspects of getting ready to go to college is the nagging feeling that I should have my major picked out. The Nice College People with whom I've spoken have told me that I won't have to pick a major until my sophomore or junior year. Since, you know, college is for finding yourself and whatnot.
Well, um, as much as I'd like to pay an extra $40,000 or so to spend two years finding my passion, that's not going to happen. I insist on taking the straightest path to my major. No frills.

It would just help a lot if I knew what I wanted to major in. (Let me rephrase that: It would help if I knew what I wanted to major in that wouldn't leave me on the streets. I want to major in French but I'm pretty sure that straight-up French is not a good idea...)

Today Mr. Physics Teacher read us a list of the 10 top-paying undergraduate degrees.
It reads as follows:

4.Computer Science
8.Programming or something like that
9. Engineering
10. Engineering

I'm pretty sure I didn't see any Art or Foreign Languages on that list...