March 3, 2011

Picking 101: Big Trash Day

It is March! Finally February had melted away and spring is right around the corner. For college students, visions of sugared daiquiri rims and sandy beaches dance in their heads. For Boyfriend it’s the Kansas City Royals home opener. For me, though? There is one thing this weather means. Big Trash Day.

Big Trash Day is the mother of all trash days. It is an inspiration for people all over the city to bust out of that winter funk, throw open their windows and clear their houses of junk and the dust it collects. Spring Cleaning was never really a concept I embraced. (When we had to spring clean at the sorority house, I checked in and then made my self scarce. As long as someone at least saw you down there for a minute…) The Spring Cleaning phenomenon culminates in one glorious day where the city allows you to put TWO PICK-UP TRUCK’S worth load of trash at the end of your drive way. Appliances, furniture, rusty old water heaters and all kinds of stuff! The garbage man will take it all…

…Unless I get to it first.

There is a certain art to gathering one mans trash to transform into your own treasure. What we call “picking” is a concept I believe I learned from my precious Granny. Her house was a maze of picked chairs and trinkets she lovingly spray painted gold. She picked for the good of others, always having a couch or bed frame available for someone in need. Taking things off of the end of people’s driveways takes guts and requires no shame because, chances are, the nosy homeowner is peeking out their window and wondering why the hell you want their crap. They are most likely imagining the new home for the drawer-less dresser you are struggling to stuff into your car… and it ain’t pretty.

This course on “picking” (essentially taking awesome pieces of trash to transform into awesome stuff) centers largely around Big Trash Day, simply because it is the easiest of picking opportunities. A successful pick is one that is discrete and quick. Even though picking is totally legal (I think), there is a certain rush associated with the grab-and-go. When you are cruising through a neighborhood and a forlorn lamp with no shade catches your eye, it is easy enough to screech to a halt, jump out of your car grab the lamp and Go! Go! Go! No one saw you and even if they did, you were quick enough to leave them wondering, “What just happened?” Small picking is easy.

It is the big stuff that, unless properly handled, can lead to pulled muscles, scratched bumpers and (most importantly) a damaged ego. It is important to know your limits, which is why I am devising a “How-To Pick” for all you wannabe Big Trash Day Treasure Hunters.

Stay tuned for this How-To because, baby… It’s Pickin’ Season!

March 1, 2011

Pretty as a Peony

After the knee jerk decision to choose a soft and sweet pink for my latest bargain buster I couldn’t be more thrilled. Usually decisions this simple throw me into a whirlwind of anxiety and self-doubt. For example, McDonald’s Drive-Thru Crisis: February 27, 2010. Caramel Sundae or Shamrock Shake? I chose the Shamrock Shake and was left clutching my tummy with regret. See what wrong decisions do to you?! Wrong decisions punish you. They are gut-wrenching reminders that hindsight is 20/20 and your foresight needs Coke-bottle lenses. Bifocals, too. Oh… and did I mention your foresight just fogged like you opened the dishwasher during the hot rinse?

This lack of regret and absence of “what ifs” is wonderfully refreshing. I didn’t even lose a wink of sleep over my “Ballet Slipper” decision.

I imagined the school desk as a super girlie piece and playing school with my sisters was just the beginning of its petal pink persona. With February thawing into March, I am starting to crave peonies… a thirst just barely quenched by this month’s issue of Midwest Living:

I’d be lying if I told you this House Beautiful didn’t have something to do with my inspiration, as well:

(Though between you and me, I am doubting that all men love pink. Also, how awesome is that yellow and white stripped chair?)

As March roars in like a lion, thawing away my winter blues, I am sure I won’t be able to pinpoint any one inspiration for these pretty pinks the same way you’ll never know why “Candy” by Mandy Moore is on repeat in your mental boombox on a random Wednesday afternoon. The thing that has me baffled was that uncharacteristic snap decision under the fluorescent lights of the Home Depot paint displays. But I guess I just knew.

When you know, you know. You know?

(Also… Paint is temporary. An aversion to Shamrock Shakes is not.)

(…until next year.)

February 28, 2011

Playing School > Actual School

As the youngest of three girls, I often leached on to whatever my sisters were doing, saying or playing. I am sure this got annoying at times and despite their attempts to ostracize me (they coined themselves “The Bigs”… a nickname that clearly didn’t involve their baby sister), I managed to weasel myself into a few games where three participants were absolutely necessary. The most notable of these games was “School.”

Playing School was simple enough. One person was the teacher and the other two were the students. The teacher was always my oldest sister, Katie. Meghan and I were always her obedient pupils… a trend that carried over to all aspects of our lives as her minions. In order to play School, Katie would demand her privacy while setting up the schoolroom in the unfinished playroom area of our basement. Meghan and I would wait patiently in the living room as Katie toiled away with lesson plans and handwritten worksheets.  We would play with My Little Ponies, hop from pillow to pillow avoiding “Hot Lava” stretches of carpet, or just sit on the sectional and pick our noses until Katie opened the door.

Our schoolroom was a wonderful place. Thin black carpet covered the unfinished, cold, cement floor and the unpainted cement walls were covered in chalk drawings and schoolgirl declarations of love. (So-And-So hearts Whats-His-Face! Me + Boy-In-The-Other-Class = LOVE 4EVER!) There was a just-like-the-cartoons, green chalkboard and yellow chalk and a colorful, pull-down map that still featured Thailand as Siam. An old computer cabinet served as the teacher’s desk stuffed with old textbooks we scrounged up from garage sales and recycling day at our grade school. As perpetual students, Meg and I saddled up to real, laminated wood, hinged school desks that spilled everything on to the floor when you tried to access a pencil stored inside. It was perfect.

What made playing school so much better than actually GOING to school? It was just us three for the most part and Katie usually got sick of playing ten minutes after she allowed Meghan and me into the schoolroom. (But not after sending one of us to stand with our nose pressed up against a thick, chalk dot on the wall—a punishment dreamed up by kids who have never known a switch or a smack.) Do little boys play school, or is it just the girls that accidentally call their teacher “Mom” every once in a while?

When it came to painting the desk I picked up a few weeks ago, I originally planned to paint it something crisp and fresh or bold and dramatic, not whimsical and girlie. I walked into Home Depot determined to pick a color that fell into one of those categories, but walked out with a color called “Ballet Slipper”… a color reminiscent of the paint that was smeared across my bedroom walls during my years playing School.

Ballet Slipper

February 28, 2011

Stuff Solution

I am a fake and a total phony. I wasn’t always this way. No… a few short months ago I was just “me” and now I am a big faker. Everyday I pretend to be a real-life, living and breathing grown-up. Let me tell you what… It is killing me. Before landing a spot in the Real World (not to be confused with the television show that more accurately depicted my previous life) I would wake up and… Wait. Some days, the most taxing thing I would do would be getting up.

But nowadays, I have to pretend that getting up, getting dressed and not hanging out in a t-shirt and undies all day comes natural to me. To be at work at 8:00 am I roll out of bed at 7:00. (Okay, fine. 7:20. And that is after hitting my snooze and resetting my alarm because for some reason I thought I might actually get up and exercise, or at the very least, shower.) In order to give the illusion of a fully functioning adult, I have determined that I need some stuff.

Stuff is the cure-all for any problem. Messy room? Head to target for some organizational stuff! Flabby abs? New spandexy workout stuff. Unsightly blemishes? Stuff! Stuff! Stuff! The problem, however, with all this stuff is this: Stuff won’t solve any problems if you don’t use it correctly. Sure, shove an organizational tub in the corner you have a handy new place to hold a pile of clean unfolded laundry. Three pound free weights make great door stops. Three bottles of Proactiv next to my bathroom faucet are just squatty plastic statues that remind me that (just like me) Katy Perry, Julianne Hough and Jessica Simpson all have breakouts from time to time. So, what is my solution to these unused solutions? One more thing.

(By the way, a “thing” is a the singular term for an item of  “stuff”)

When I was in high school, I tutored children from a nearby homeless shelter after schools. Together, we would work through work sheets. And by together, I mean I completed most of the worksheets with my left hand to make it look like the kids did it. What can I say? I wasn’t cut out for elementary education. (Or any job really for that matter…) I actually enjoyed doing the worksheets, though. Tracing over dashed letters of the alphabet and matching nouns to adjectives really suited me. I suppose that is where the inspiration for this poster came from.

It is easy enough. Fill in four goals you would like to complete each day and color in the corresponding circles each day. The goal is to have a poster covered in ink, rather than empty like this one is now.

Feel free to click and download the link below and join me in 12 weeks of goal dominating. Because you’ll never know how much you can do until you get up off your ass and do it. (But don’t hold me to that… I am starting over on Monday.)

Goal Stuff

(Wrote this on Friday… Not sure the Starbucks and Pumpkin Bread count as healthy…)

February 23, 2011

Suck In!

Quickly approaching is the Kansas State Wabash CannonBall, a black tie gala event that raises scholarship money for high school seniors in the Kansas City Area. As a recent college graduate, my closet is lacking in anything that isn’t 100% cotton, stamped with sorority letters or only appropriate for Halloween in a college town. Does black tie mean I have to trade in my leggings for jeans? Okay fine… What about dark jeans?

Now picture calendar pages whipping away in the wind as I am scrambling to find something to wear… Because I don’t think Racecar Driver or Sailor fall into the black tie category.

Last night Boyfriend kindly agreed to go to the mall with me. Again. As if the first time wasn’t bad enough for him. With Prom 2011 just around the corner, the formal dresses are more outlandish (read: scandalous and ridiculous) than ever. (Kids these days!) As I wandered through a maze of tulle, glitter, satin and sequins I noticed one I liked and pointed out that it was a “cute, little number.” Cue Boyfriend for the remainder of the evening commenting that each dress I picked up was a “cute, little number.” I think he was making fun of me.

I tried on a few dresses and chose a one-shoulder, black taffeta “little number.” The only problem? It is a size bigger than I would like and still a little snug. After some zipper tugging, light thinking and belly flattening I made the entirely rational claim that “I am not eating for the next two weeks!”

Stay tuned to see how I may actually accomplish this one. I can tell you this much… I am going to need some new stuff to do it.

February 22, 2011

The Desk

This past weekend, the Boyfriend and I returned to Manhattan, KS for the first time as Kansas State Alums. The grueling two-hour trip that used to be filled with dread of upcoming tests, late projects and early (because 10:30 am used to be early) classes was now a bright and cheery portal for escaping the Real World.

How could I have ever dreaded going back there? Sure, people told me to enjoy college while I could. “These may be the best four years of your life,” they reminded me. My sisters warned me of the bleak reality that lurks past graduation, just waiting to chew you up Mondays at 8:00 am and spit you out Friday at 5. In college, you have 153 hours (9,180 precious minutes or 76.5 episodes of 30 Rock) of free time. Real World? You only get 80 and half of that is spent sleeping! Plus, weekends don’t really count because you are either busy running errands or dreading the Job Monster that is drooling all over your desk at work, just waiting for this weeks meal. Guess who is on the menu?

Needless to say, the weekend served as a well needed break from the already monotonous drone of an eight-to-fiver.  There is nothing like a college town to make you feel young again. (I know that is cliché, but there is a reason retirement communities are springing up in Universityvilles all over America.) On Friday, Boyfriend and I stayed at his house from last semester, practically revelling in the filth of no-responsibility. Staying up late! Drinking bottom shelf liquor! Hunan Express’ General Tsao Chicken at 3 am! We were practically drunk on the thrill of being students again… a feeling further fueled by actually being drunk.

Saturday afternoon, fueled now by Gatorade and Tylenol instead of Barton’s Flavored Vodka and Natural Light, we drug ourselves back to Aggieville–Manhattan’s main bar and shopping area. Soaking in what has changed around there (a lot in just the few months we have been gone) we habitually wandered into our favorite store, Acme Gift. I was immediately revived by what I found. No ibuprofen pill or sports drink could perk me up like a SALE! And not just any sale… Acme Gift was having a GARAGE SALE.

Sorting through stacks of clearance dashed prices and never-quite-right items was just what the doctor ordered for my hangover. Table after table, my hands were full of  just-perfect-for-so-and-so stuff. Then Boyfriend made a mistake in which I thought he knew better.

“Hey, look at this! It looks like it came straight out of my speech classroom!”

There it was. The perfect reminder of our days as undergrads and a shining metaphor for our future as alums.

The Desk

Sure. It was covered in a permanent marker note unlike the desks we knew  carved with Greek Letters and childish drawings of the male anatomy. But if you looked past that… It really was a desk straight out of Bluemont Hall. I walked around it. I ran my hand across the scratched desk. I took a seat.

The Desk

It creaked and moaned when I shifted my weight, but so will I eventually. Ingrained in its table were the faded remnants of math problems and chemistry solutions, slowly vanishing the way the same information is fading in my mind. It was stamped with KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY, not unlike I was as I turned my tassel in December. It was $5.00.

And now it is mine!

Update: The desk has been sanded and ready to prime. Stay tuned to see what happens!

February 22, 2011

Stuff That Makes Me Tick

I have always had a thing for stuff. Now, I was always taught that money can’t buy happiness… but what about stuff?

Ever since I was little, I was frenzied by stuff. Stuff sent me into the type of hysterics that would land most kids a one way ticket to a shrink. Stores knew just how to lure me in, too. I was (and, admittedly, still am) a sucker for “Two-for-One” or “Buy-One-Get-One” deals because, Hey! …more STUFF! In order to save money, I had to remind myself that if I buy Item X, I could have bought ten of Item Y. (But, I could have Item X now!) Crippled by indecision, my delicate child psyche was shot by stuff. Needless to say, my sense of quality over quantity was slightly skewed as quantity wins when you err on the greedy side.

Every once in a while, I would realize it had been a few days since I accumulated any new stuff. I began clearing the top of my dad’s dresser of any loose bills and change on a regular basis, a process I called “scratching up money” in an effort to get stuff. When that didn’t go over so well with Dad, I hatched a new master plan to get my fix of stuff. I would sneakily slip stuff out of my sisters’ rooms and set up a sort of yard sale outside my bedroom door. They would eventually stroll by, notice their price tagged Beanie Babies, Pet Rocks and bedazzled purses, and exclaim, “Hey! That’s MY stuff!” I innocently would claim it was found in the common areas of our house therefore free game for my peddling. I’ll admit, this wasn’t the most ethical of business practices, but they were actually buying their stuff back from me! And everyone knows… you need money to buy more STUFF.

Years have passed and I have accumulated and disposed of more stuff than I can even recall. I would like to say that my stuff has gotten nicer and more worthy of my coveting, though recently I have developed a habit of finding “free” stuff. You won’t believe the stuff some people throw away!