September 30, 2010

My Blue Days

 {a partial view of my google calender}

No, I'm not sad. Let me explain.

The other day my friends and I were trying to figure out a weekly time that we could meet to do our economics homework together.

We could probably do it alone, but our professor recommended that we work in groups, and so we've been irregularly meeting up in pairs and threes to try to get a few problems done at a time before scrambling together on Sunday to finish putting all our answers on the same piece of paper. Finally we decided it would be easiest if we found a weekly time that worked for all of us, and stuck to it.

So we all sent our schedules to one friend, and she assumed the responsibility of finding a time that worked for all five people.

Apparently, the only times all week we're all available at the are a two-hour break on Monday afternoons, or evenings after nine. And even then, not everyone is free every evening. I have responsibilities with the Keyfrees, some people work, some people babysit, whatever.

The point is that even with just fifteen or so hours of class a week, it was still impossible for all of us to free up enough time - between classes, homework, extra-curriculars, and work - to all meet at the same time every week, for even just three or four hours.

We're all too busy.

I just started using Google Calender a couple of weeks ago, and now I feel like it already rules my life. The nagging blue screen that dictates how I'm going to be spending my day - it never goes away! But it does work. I always know where I need to be, when, and for how long. And I rigged it up so that I get friendly reminders texted to me five or ten minutes before important events.

My old pen and paper system of writing things down in my little Moleskine seems so prehistoric now, especially now that my calender is synced with my iPhone; how did I ever live without being able to edit my plans on the go?!

And paper agendas only have so much space. God forbid you write in pen and have to cross things out when you change your plans. If you fill up that little space allocated for today, that's it, you can't make any more plans!

But that blue screen, that's what gets to me.

You see, Google Calender isn't actually a blue screen. It has a pretty white background - so open, so free. And then your events, like little rectangular bites taken out of your free time, are the blue part. My week a month from now looks polka-dotted - the two or three spread-out daily events are not at all visually intimidating.

But this week? I can't even see the pretty white background. From 8:30 am to (usually) 9:30 pm (if not later), my entire day is blocked out. Between classes, recitations, meetings, study groups, reading groups, taking care of the kids, and various info sessions and night-time events, I barely even have the time to fill in the left over blank spots with even more blue squares that ration out my free time between my various reading assignments for the week.

I have so much to do every single day, that taking time off for luxuries - like watching an episode or something, or painting my nails, or even blogging (I miss you guys!) - seems so irresponsible.

But, it's great.

I know it sounds miserable, but it isn't. It's hard, yes, and exhausting, and frustrating, and sometimes even tedious, but it's great. It's fun. It's new. But most of all, it's worth it.

I wouldn't trade my blue days for anything in the world.

September 26, 2010

Weekly(ish) Photo Essay: Pretty Green Playground

This weekend I went on a lovely  retreat upstate with about thirty of my fellow Human Rights concentrators.

It was fun (we played games), interesting (we learned all about each other), educational (we talked to our professors and did a humanitarian crisis simulation), relaxing (we indulged in a bit of wine and socializing around a campfire), but (almost) best of all, it was in the middle of nature!

I hadn't realized how great it would be to get out of the city for a weekend.

The place we stayed was a beautiful old farmhouse compound turned summer camp (there were bunk houses and signs about bad behavior and disciplinary consequences all over the walls) with a little lake, a stream, waterfalls, meadows, farm animals, a pumpkin patch, a covered bridge, and a whole bunch of quaint colonial-looking little buildings.

It made me start thinking about how little time I spend in green places. I live about two-hundred feet away from central park, and yet I hardly ever go there. Even though I really enjoy spending a little time in nature.

I will do a Weekly(ish) Photo Essay from the retreat, but I'm still waiting on some other people's photos.

In the mean time, I've rounded up a few pictures of some of the the pretty green places I've been in the last few years. These are for us indoor- and city-confined people to enjoy until our next nature adventure, or at least until I post the retreat photos.

 bird sanctuary, massachusetts

 bird sanctuary, massachusetts

 lago di bracciano, italy
 cortona, italy

 cortona, italy
 grasse, france

 grasse, france

 quebec, cananda

 quebec, canada

 quebec, canada

 quebec, canada

 gaeta, italy

 gaeta, italy

 gaeta, italy

 alhambra, granada, spain

 alhambra, granada, spain

September 24, 2010

Blanking Out

I'll spare you my regular weekly comment about how time flies, but it does, doesn't it? Not that I'm complaining. It was a long week and I'm glad that the weekend is here.

Despite all the work I've been doing, I have managed to squirrel away little bits of time for myself. Last night I went to a party thrown by the Latin American Student Association, and they definitely know how to throw a good party! And tomorrow I'm going on a retreat to upstate NY with everyone in my Human Rights concentration.

Ok, so apparently my social life revolves around school too (don't judge me! I don't have time for a normal life!), but at least I didn't have my nose in a book until midnight last night.

(Actually around midnight last night my nose was in a Rye and Ginger, but that's neither here nor there)

It's time for another round of Fill-In The Blank Friday! Don't forget to link up with Lauren if you play along!

1.   In the story of my life the actor who would play me would be     Jennifer Aniston (I've been told we look alike)  or Reese Witherspoon (I've been told we act alike) .

2.  If I could change one thing about the world it would be     ending violence  .

3.  Yesterday     was a very long day  .

4.  My favorite comfort food is        a nice steamy plate of creamy risotto. So soothing  .

5.  My new favorite blog find is      The Everyday Minimalist. I think everyone can use a little help learning to cut down  .

6.  If I could meet any blog friend (who I haven't met yet) in real life, I'd choose to meet      Leigh Ashley, she's so sweet and I'm sure we'd be fast friends if we met :)  .

7.  My favorite breakfast food is       Eggs Benedict with asparagus and Canadian bacon on an English muffin, smothered in hollandaise sauce. And mimosas. Plural  (I feel like I just answered this question...) 
 And now I'm off to whip up some garlic lemony rosemary chicken for dinner with the Keyfrees. 
Have a wonderful weekend! 

September 23, 2010

Do The Ends Justify The Means?

This was one of the most important questions in my Conceptual Foundations discussion group yesterday.

We were talking about Realism, and Liberalism, and all the other IR paradigms (don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a lecture about International Relations), and the question came up.

When, if ever, is doing something less than desirable now worth it because of the potential - although never guaranteed - outcome?

When is it OK to leverage the present against the future?

When you talk about it in terms of IR strategy and state relations, you're usually talking about very unpleasant means - such as war and conflict - for questionable ends - such as state security. Your first instinct is to doubt that the violence is worth it.

"Do the ends justify the means?" is a question that generally has a sort of negative connotation.

But if you really think about it, it doesn't.

Think about everything you do now for the future.

Do you party hard every night of the week? Spend all your money on clothes? Pay thousands of dollars in rent on a luxury apartment overlooking the park?

Or do you try to take care of your health, and try to save money, conceding yourself the occasional, reasonable treat? Are you paying a mortgage now so that one day you'll own the house and have security?

Although we have moments when we all want to party and shop and live in a downtown penthouse, we know we can't.

Why? Because of the future.

We're all already leveraging our present for our future.

We're all doing less desirable things now to work towards a potentially better (though never guaranteed) later.

And the fact that we do it even though the future isn't a promise is what's so amazing. Having that future security is so important that even if you don't make it as far ahead into your life as you intend to (knock on wood), it's worth it to spend your life trying.

Because if you didn't, and you did end up living to a ripe old age without having made provisions for yourself, you'd be totally screwed.

This rings particularly true to me now that I'm back in school, taking "the ends justify the means" to the most extreme level. I am literally leveraging my time, money, and energy against my future security and success. But I'm not just investing thousands of dollars into my education for the prospects of a better job in the future. I'm not just meeting people and networking to create connections that will help me when I try to find a job when I graduate. It's not just about the long-term future.

I'm sacrificing my time now - spending fourteen-hour days at school - in class, studying, reading, and learning, so that I can understand the lecture next week, let alone so I can do well on the exam next month, or write a good paper at the end of the semester.

Sometimes the ends you're justifying are not as far away as they seem.

And to be honest, the means aren't as undesirable as they seem either.

Yes, the studying is hard. Being in class at eight-thirty in the morning and staying on campus to study in the library until ten-thirty at night is hard. I was on campus studying from ten in the morning til eight in the evening on Sunday.

Wading through the legal jargon in International Human Rights Law is hard. Resuscitating the dormant IR part of my brain that's been sleeping since college is maybe even harder. And doing calculus - for the first time ever! - is agonizing.

But I'm actually having fun. I might even be doing this if it didn't ensure me a successful future.

Which means, I suppose, that at this point my means justify themselves.

Do yours?

{all photos via weheartit}

September 22, 2010

Wee Bits!

Today is a miraculous day.

I have the time to blog twice! (Once now, and once before, writing something that I've scheduled for tomorrow morning).

Well, I don't actually have the time. I should be catching up on this week's reading and summaries and econ problems, or at least getting ahead on next week's reading and summaries and econ problems and Spanish homework.

But today I didn't spend the entire afternoon and evening torturing myself in the library (while actually reading about torture, believe it or not) like I have been for the last three days.

I had to come home and do homework with Little Keyfree while Mrs. Keyfree was at work and Big Keyfree was at a doctor's appointment. And I knew that there was no way I was going to get any reading done while helping her with her journal entry, so I cut myself out a little square of  homework-free time (at least free of my homework, since I was helping with someone else's) to dedicate here.

And as we all know, it's Wee Bit Wednesday! Don't forget to link up with Leigh Ashley if you play along!

{one} what is your happiest childhood memory?
I definitely don't have a single happiest memory, but I think the best times I had as a kid were with my brother. We had wild imaginations and would invent entire worlds where we could get lost and play for hours and hours.

{two} what is your middle name?
Yes, like the hotel. Or the crackers. Or the photo place. 

{three} what’s the habit you’re most proud of breaking?
Biting my nails! I used to be a horrible nail-biter until middle school. 
Luckily at the beginning of high school I stopped. But it's taken them ten years to grow long and strong again!

{four} what do you order when you order Chinese food?
Crab Rangoon, and Crispy Duck, and something with lots of snap peas! Maybe noodles?

{five} what’s the best bargain you’ve ever found at a garage sale or thrift store?
A beautiful grey Calvin Klein dress for like $15.

{six} what’s the best costume you’ve ever worn?
My second year in college I dressed up as Mia Wallace
(Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction for those of you who need it explained to, tsk tsk!)
I had the black wig, ripped white shirt, syringe coming out of my chest and a little white powder and fake blood under my nose. A little gruesome, but definitely spot on.

{seven} who’s your favorite game show host?
Alex Trebek! 
Especially when played by Will Ferrel, with Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, 
on SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy!

{eight} what’s your favorite breakfast food?
Eggs Benedict with Asparagus and Canadian Bacon on an English Muffin, 
smothered in Hollandaise Sauce. And a Mimosa. Or three.

{nine} what’s your least favorite word?
I have many. See for yourself!
But I really hate the word Onus. Ew.

{ten} describe something that happened to you for which you have no explanation.

Once I was on the train in Chicago with my friend Molly on our way to a party, 
and this crazy old guy looks at me and says, 
"No! Pantalones No!" 
Apparently he wasn't happy that I was wearing pants
(pantalones means pants by the way),
although I'm still not quite sure what happened there.

September 20, 2010

Missed Anniversary!

In the whirlwind of school and studying and econ problems (for which I spent all of Sunday at school!), I completely missed a very important date!


On September 17, 2010  
The World Is My Oyster turned one!

Happy Birthday little blog! You are now one year and three days old! :)

I want to say thanks so much to all of my wonderful readers, and I want you all to know that I would have never kept going without all of your encouraging comments! This has been a much more rewarding and enriching experience than I could have ever imagined when I started.

Thank you!

September 17, 2010

Early Morning Blanks

For once I'm not running into class 1 minute late, all flustered, with my tea flying everywhere.

(Ok, that doesn't happen every morning, but almost!)

I got to school half an hour early, with enough time to sit and enjoy my earl grey, and even blog!

But let's not waste anymore time, or I won't get to finish the blanks!

As usual, link up with Lauren if you play along.

1.   When I get a day to myself I like to     sleep in, take a niiiice loooong shower, take the time I need to make my hair pretty. And if it's a nice day, I'll go outside and walk around and run all the errands I never have time for. If it's a crappy day, I'll stay at home and read and catch up on all my favorite TV shows.   .

2.  High school was....     not at all like in the movies. I had an amazing group of friends, with whom I had so many fun adventures. There were no "popular" people or "geeks" or "jocks," or rather there were, but they all kept to themselves and no one made it their job to make anyone else's life miserable. I had just enough fun to get in trouble every once in a while, but I was still a good enough girl to get (almost) straight As .

3.  A little dream I have is     open up R&R Bakery/Stationer's/Cafe`/Book Shop with my friend Noah  .

4.  A big dream I have is     to work with, or even start, and NGO for Children's Rights   .

5.  If I could drive any car my pick would be    a Fiat 500, or a vintage Mercedes convertible from the 1950s .

6.  A time that I felt really and truly beautiful was     right now.  I had extra time between getting the kids ready for school and getting myself ready for school, so I took some time to pamper myself. It's nice to feel pretty all day, even if it's just for school :)  .

7.  Tomorrow I will....     probably spend most of the day getting ahead on my reading for class and doing laundry. Nothing thrilling, but if I'm good and do all my homework, I might go out a bit tomorrow night!.

September 16, 2010

An Ode To Autumnal Nostalgia

I'd ask you where the days go, but I'm pretty sure you don't know any better than I do. 

Although I wish you could tell me. I'm curious.

October is in two weeks and one day. The month of pumpkins, Halloween costumes, sweaters, apple picking, hot cider, tights, boots, and pretty orange leaves.

Normally I would be a little upset that summer was ending so soon, but to be honest, I'm really excited for fall. I feel like I haven't had a real autumn in years. 

Not that I've somehow skipped the season - if that were possible I'd save the skill for February and March - but I haven't lived in a place with nice full autumnal season in years! 

In Montreal it's summer until the end of September, and then there's a good chance that by the end of October there will already snow on the ground. You have about a month to make the mental transition from summer to arctic hell, and by the time you come to accept it, you haven't even noticed that fall has stopped by for all of five minutes.

You might not even notice it until you see a sad little orange leaf... covered in snow.

Italy has a nice long autumn - it doesn't start until October, and it runs well into December - but the traditions aren't the same. 

There's hardly any Halloween and no Thanksgiving, and they barely know what to do with pumpkins - they sell them already all chopped up for cooking, where's the fun in that?
There's no hot cider and there's certainly no apple picking.

The first couple of years I was thrilled! Trips to the beach until September? Shorts and flip flops in October? Juicy farm-fresh tomatoes until November? Yes please!

But then it got a little tiring to hear all about my family's Thanksgiving back home without me, for the third year in a row. Last year I came home the first week of December and devoured the plate of Thanksgiving dinner I had asked my mom to freeze for me.

True story. 

This year I'm so happy to be back in the North East, the one place that really knows how to do autumn. 

And I can't wait to go apple picking, drink cider, wear tights and scarves and my new green hunter boots and go crunching around in piles of leaves. 

I can't wait to carve a pumpkin, or just make pumpkin pie. 

 I was even happy to start seeing Halloween candy in the drug store displays, and I'm the first person to be annoyed with premature advertising. 

So I'm finally ready for autumn, and I plan on enjoying the ride.

But I hope it lasts a long time, because I'm definitely not ready for winter!

{all images via weheartit}

September 13, 2010

I'm Over Here Today

Today I'm over at Leigh Ashley's with a guest post tutorial 

for  an adorable Peony Headband!

Click over and go check it out!

September 12, 2010

Sunday Sweets: Etsy Finds

Even though I'm a poor grad student now, and I can't afford to buy all the pretty things I like, I can still do some harmless window shopping on Etsy, and browse all the lovely handmade and vintage items on the site, without actually buying anything.

As long as my credit card is across the room and stays there :) (See, Maman? I'm being responsible!)

And even though I wish I could buy these, either for myself, or as gifts, I know I can't, and so I thought I'd share them will all of you, so that if something strikes your fancy, maybe you can indulge a bit and get it for yourself.

And I can live vicariously through you :)

And last, but not least, and certainly not for me,