Everything but a date for the homecoming dance

Not to shove that “never stop learning” stuff down your throat, but even the most hardened teacher-hater probably feels a pang of nostalgia at the first cool breezes, crisp apples and honk of the diesel exhaust-spewing yellow bus. Happily, there are ways to get school spirit without revisiting your locker combination — or even having to live vicariously through a backpack-toting sixth grader. Below, Xpress offers fun ways for grown-ups to get some class.

Pencil case

As in, buy one. Shopping for school supplies is what makes endless hours at those cramped desks all worthwhile. And now you don’t have to do the desk time. Once you get that perfect pencil case, here’s what to fill it with:

• Rainbow pencils with your name on ’em. Check K-Mart; they still stock these ’70s classics.

• Swap spiral-bound notebooks for tidier diaries and datebooks. Moleskine (www.moleskineus.com) makes a line of hearty-yet-classy journals that fit easily in a pocket or purse. Rumor has it, Moleskine was the journal of choice for the likes of Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway.

• Ditch the protractor to make room for quirky post cards. Collectibles (like those Edward Gorey sketches) are fun for jotting quick notes and sending off to friends. Keep them pre-stamped and think of it as old-school e-mail.

• One good pen. Doesn’t matter if it’s a glittery gel roller or a snooty fountain pen — just find one that you love using. Check your local art-supplies store for colorful porous points, calligraphy kits and refillables.

Reading, writing & ‘rithmetic

These used to be the basics, but desk work no longer means logarithms or state capitals. Just make sure you’re not killing off gray matter playing Free Cell.

• New software offers plenty of opportunity to hone a skill or get creative. Check out the Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe 2005 program (about $40), the 3D Home Architect Landscape Design Deluxe 6 (about $25) or the Oregon Trail (about $10), an updated CD-R version of the old fave where kids and adults alike attempt to win the virtual West.

• Crafty how-to books can offer inspiration for projects you never even knew you wanted to attempt. They also look smashing on your coffee table. Asheville’s own Lark Books offers some of the best titles, like Andean Folk Knits, Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Winged Wonders to Your Backyard, and Crafting Personal Shrines.

• Series books hearken back to the days of Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown. Plus, you don’t suffer end-of-a-good-read withdrawal when you know your favorite characters will pop up in the next installment. Some classics: The Monsieur Pamplemousse gastronomic mystery series by Michael Bond, Peter Mayel’s Provence trilogy, and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (not just for kids).

• Stationery is better than construction paper and can be found in nifty packages that will make you want to write. Check out offerings by Mudlark Papers (available at M’Press Cards & Eclectica, 236-2282); Dark Horse Deluxe (try the Sword & Grail, 254-9989); or paper goods by Yoshitomo Nara (Barnes & Noble, 296-9330).

Recess

That all-too-brief chance to burst outside, scream your lungs out, swing from the monkey bars and get a cootie shot. Here’s a refresher course:

• Get some exercise, silly. Start taking walks on your lunch break. Study up on your cubicle yoga. Reinstate jumping jacks.

• While you’re reinstating things, here are some playground favorites: the hula-hoop, the pogo stick and the unicycle. Bring any of these items back into your life and you’re bound to feel younger, have fun and up your heart rate in the process. Next task: Find a hippity-hop.

• Arts and crafts keep the brain active while helping office drones lighten up. And it just so happens crafting is sweeping the nation. Visit your local Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group (www.stitchnbitch.org), drop in on a scrapbooking workshop, or sign up for watercolor at your local continuing-education center.

• Do what you always did best at recess — hang with your friends. As we get older, it gets harder to squeeze buddies into the schedule, so declare a self-imposed break time for coffee and gossip.

Extracurricular

This is the part where your folks hauled you off to soccer, ballet, T-ball and Girl Scouts. The good news is, you can still take the field trips, but you don’t have to wear the dorky uniform.

• Sports aren’t just for under-tens and steroid poppers. Check the Xpress community calendar’s Great Outdoors section for biking and hiking clubs, singles golf, rowing, table tennis and ultimate-frisbee gatherings.

• Dance no longer means pink tights (unless you want it to). Local instruction studios and teachers offer classes in swing, ballroom and Latin. Pick up a few steps and strut them in the clubs.

• Love book learning? Try cookbook learning. Options like Quick and Easy Thai: 70 Everyday Recipes, Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking and The Mafia Just Moved in Next Door and They’re Dropping by for Dinner Cookbook: Easy Italian Recipes to get started in the kitchen. Keyword: Easy.

• Because high school French lasts about five minutes after the mortar board leaves your head, there are language lessons for adults. Peruse the AB-Tech continuing-ed schedule (www.abtech.edu) for evening classes in Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, French and American Sign Language.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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