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Back to Shopping

Chelsea Baranoski

It's that time of year again: back to school, aka back to shopping. The sale papers keep rolling in, jam packed with specials on backpacks, notebooks, colored pencils, and every school supply a ready-to-learn student or a ready-to-teach professor could ask for. This time of year really makes me want to pull my hair out. Summer has vanished, and I'm left with two weeks to buy all of my back to school essentials.

You would think that the majority of back to school shopping ends after the first year of college, right? Wrong! Sure, most people still use their twin xl bedding, brightly colored bath towels, and rubber shower tote from freshman year, but there is always a boatload of extra items that need to be purchased as one gains seniority on campus. Last year, I needed to buy a covering for a sofa, oodles of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, a floor lamp, surge protectors, ottoman, etc. because I lived in a suite and now had a bathroom and a common room to furnish. This year, I am living in an on-campus apartment, meaning that I must purchase kitchen supplies.

Ahh, kitchen supplies. Or better stated, AHHHHHHHHH!!! Kitchen supplies! Have you ever stood in Wal-Mart and gazed at the seemingly trillions of shelves lined sky-high with kitchen utensils? Chip clips, spatulas, cookie cutters, cutlery, colanders, Tupperware, ice cream scoopers, etc. Shopping for kitchen supplies overwhelms me. I would not be surprised if I discover my first gray hair from looking at too many crammed shelves of kitchen items. I feel like the kitchen aisle was made for Emeril Lagassi! Recently, I walked into the kitchen outlet in Gettysburg and found a little gadget used to take the leaves off of strawberries. Don't 99.9% of people use their fingers to take the leaves off of strawberries?

I also noticed a brownie pop maker, aka an item that resembles an ice cube tray. You pour brownie mix into the tray and put in some sticks and voila! Brownie pops! Even though brownie pops look and sound delicious, I couldn't easily whip them up between classes. Finally, I discovered a dumpling and pierogi maker. Who knew that this mechanism existed? Being Polish, I think that a pierogi maker is a cool invention. Am I getting it for my apartment? In the words of Michelle Tanner from the TV show, Full House, "No way, Jos!" I need to concentrate on the basics. That means a toaster, a microwave, and frying pans. Not a strawberry leaf-remover, a brownie pop gadget, and a pierogi maker.

There is only one "kitchen luxury" that I ntend to purchase and that is a flame red quesadilla maker. Since I think that I actually know how to make quesadillas without starting a four alarm fire, I believe that I will get the bang for my buck (as well as a few extra pounds and a tighter pair of jeans).

Even though I have come to fear kitchen supplies even more than the swine flu, I have found a pain-free antidote: shopping for home dcor. Every year, my picture frame collection grows by leaps and bounds. Every summer, I print out the three billion pictures that I snapped throughout the previous school year. These pictures always need a home. Whether it is a funky tabletop frame or a new French memo board, I've got it covered. My idea of fun is decorating my walls with pictures of friends, family, and one of my favorite hangouts: Annapolis.

I'll admit that my eyes often wander from the miniscule black print of a class-assigned novel to the glossy multicolored prints on my bedroom walls. Distracting? I guess so, but they make me smile. That must count for something, right? It's better than feeling like I'm in a jail cell. I like to think that my picture-clad walls make my room more stimulating, which is apparently good for education. In high school, the principal told a math teacher that he did not have enough visually stimulating items on the walls. So, he put up a plastic mounted fish. Did this help the students learn math? Probably not. But, was it fun to look at? You betcha.

Sometimes I wish that back to school shopping was more like it was when I started middle school. Back then, the school sold pre-packaged bags of school supplies. The bags were stuffed with binders, colored pencils, Ticonderoga number two pencils, a plastic pencil case, dividers, etc. Even though these school supplies were extremely cheap and probably didn't last for more than a month, the "bag of goodies" sure did make my life easier. Everything you needed to start school was in a single plastic bag. No need to run to Target and then Wal-Mart and then back again.

Now, I can barely fit all of my back to school essentials into my mom's spacious green van. One of these days, I'm going to need a U-Haul for all of my "necessities." Sure, I could probably do without the fifteen shirts, the dress or two, the few pairs of shoes, the collection of purses, and the various knick-knacks, but I am one of those "you never know" people. I am probably the best person to be stuck with on a deserted island because I pack like I am about to travel the entire universe, from Tokyo to Timbuktu.

I wonder if back-to-school shopping would be easier if I was a boy. I wager that boys have it easier packing for back to school - they tend to live without a ton of the decorative elements and even some of the cleaning supplies, for that matter. Boys also don't need to pack a million clothes and a million mix-and-match accessories. Lucky ducks!

Even though it seems like the shopping will never go away and that my cash supply will never be reimbursed, I know that soon it will all come to an end. Soon, I will be sitting in a desk in the Academic Center listening to the finer points of personal writing, the image of my perfectly furnished apartment neatly tucked away in the back of my brain. This day can't come soon enough.

Chelsea is a senior at Mount St. Mary's majoring in English

Read other articles by Chelsea Baranoski