Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ashley's Christmas Celebration/Decoration Tips

Christmas is finally upon us, and I couldn't be more excited! However, celebrating in the traditional way proves a *little* difficult when living in the residence halls. You can't decorate the outside of your "house," and trying to fit a Christmas tree into your room would probably displease your roommate. To make matters worse, the holiday spirit always seems to be at its peak during Dead Week and Finals Week.

These two weeks are definitive for IU students. During Dead Week many classes have final projects and papers due and Finals Week keeps many students up for days at a time either from studying and/or stress. However, I've come up with a few fast and easy ideas to help you decorate and celebrate the holiday spirit without wasting precious studying time.

1. Use Your Resources

My roommate and I have a large window that looks out over a courtyard. When deciding how to decorate, I decided that I would focus my efforts on the window because the decorations could be enjoyed from both inside the apartment and from and outsider's perspective. We had a lot of blank glass space so I put up festive window clings and a "Let It Snow" decoration.


2. Keep it Cheap

At a trip to the local dollar store, I found two stockings for a dollar each and suction cup hooks to hang them on the window. Another very cheap, on hand decoration are the presents you plan to give for Christmas. After wrapping all of the gifts, I lined them up against the window instead of hiding them away to bring color and cheer to the room.


Speaking of cheap, when you're looking for gifts be sure to check local stores for holiday deals. The local Borders is going out of business and selling their products for 30-40% off! Needless to say, a lot of my family members received books this year. Also be sure to make a trip to the dollar store! You can find cheap (but quality) wrapping paper, boxes, gift bags, tissue paper, not to mention the plethora of potential gifts. If you're on a budget, a stop at this store is a must!

3. Take A Baking Break

If you're studying for an exam and feeling a little stressed, use the kitchen in your room or the residence hall's kitchen to make a batch of homemade cookies. It does not take too much time to mix together the ingredients, and you can easily scan through a few study points while waiting for your Christmas cookies to bake. You'll be treated to the delicious smell of homemade cookies and will have a snack to munch on while you work.


4. Get A Little Green

While it's true you likely will not be able to keep a full-sized Christmas tree in your residence hall, that shouldn't keep you from getting any kind of holiday greenery! This year I was lucky and found a baby fir tree for only $3 at Kroger. Other options could include poinsettias or cacti with Christmas lights on them.

I know that this time of year is both exciting and stressful, but if you're smart you'll be able to celebrate the holidays and have successful Final and Dead Weeks. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Keeping in Touch

DISCLAIMER: I apologize that this blog post is lacking in photos, but I wasn't quite sure how to link any photos I could have taken with this post! Next week's post will be a photo extravaganza with very little of my babbling. Promise!

As the holidays approach, I find myself thinking more about family and friends than schoolwork. Often, the problem is how much I miss certain people! I'll be walking past the Sample Gates and think about the photo I took of my boyfriend Brian standing awkwardly in front them, or rush by the Tudor Room on my way to class and remember the time my parents took me there for my 20th birthday. Long story short, when you come to college you're often separated from the people that you love, if only for a little while. To help with those home away from home blues, here are a few tips that offer FREE ways to stay in touch and feel closer to the people you're oh so far away from.

1. Skype
This one may seem obvious, but it wasn't to me. When you come to college, invest in a cheap web cam and get ready for some face time! There's a lot to be said to talking over the phone or on instant messenger or even Facebook, but nothing relieves an aching heart better than seeing the person you've been missing smiling at you from miles away. Click here to go to Skype's website and to learn more.

2. StumbleUpon
I discovered this magical web application a few years ago. StumbleUpon is a toolbar that loads into your web browser. When you're bored or you have a few minutes, you press a "Stumble!" button and it brings you to a random website on the internet based upon specifications you select when you register for the toolbar. I, for example, listed interests that included pets, photography, cooking, travel and more. With a random click of the "Stumble!" button I found this photo. It's beautiful, right? If I only I could share it with my mom and boyfriend. Ah! But wait! StumbleUpon's handy "Share" button (also built into the toolbar) will allow you to send friends web pages that you find interesting. The page can either be sent to THEIR Stumble account (so the web page is just a click away whenever they open their web browser) or to their e-mail address. This is a great way to share interests with friends and family! Click here for more info. If you'd like to add me on StumbleUpon, my user name is acn11.

3. Multi-player Online Games
Yahoo!!! There's nothing I love more than kicking Brian's hypothetical butt at Word Racer, a multi-player game on Yahoo! Games. There are literally THOUSANDS of multi-player games that can be found on the internet. All you have to do is search for them! There's nothing like laughing over a game of Monopoly with friends you haven't seen for months. Facebook also has a few game applications that can be used at the site.

4. Movie Nights and Sleepovers
So your best friend just got dumped, but they are in another state! What can you do other than console them over the phone?? Have a movie night, or a sleepover! These are relatively simple once you have Skype. Pick a movie that you both have access to and want to watch, set up your web cam so you can see the other person and enjoy the movie! You can even order a pizza with the same toppings or much on the same snacks to make the shared experience more memorable! You can also do this for TV shows. I highly suggest Glee, ABC's Castle and Family Guy.

5. Care Packages and Letters
Nothing makes my day brighter than when I open my mailbox with a sigh expecting to see the same empty slot and INSTEAD find a mail slip for a package. You have mail! Who doesn't love surprise mail from friends and family? It doesn't take too much effort to send a card with a handwritten note. Care packages are TONS of fun to put together for friends and family. I've sent Brian packages with t-shirts, silly string, homemade cookies, a stuffed rabbit and all kinds of silly trinkets! If you want to take a care package from sub-par to super, take a trip to your local dollar store. You would not believe the fun odds and ends that you can find for a very low price!

These are some of the best ways I have found to stay connected with loved ones, and I hope you'll give them a try! If you would like any additional tips on how to keep in touch with people, feel free to let me know! I have a million of them stored away!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Travel Tales

With Thanksgiving Break on the horizon, many IU students are packing up and getting ready to travel home for a long-awaited break. My house is only a few hours from campus, so getting home will be no more hassle than jumping into my car and taking the highway north. However, for the thousands of IU students who live out of state, traveling will not be that simple. For prospective students, the thought of how to travel to and from campus can be a daunting one. But never fear! This Q&A, based upon my recent flight to Atlanta, will tell you everything you need to know about travel to and from IU via the Indianapolis Airport.

I don't have a car. How do I get to campus from the airport and vice versa?
Great question! Never fear, the Bloomington Shuttle is the answer to all of your problems. Well, this one anyway. For $15 one way, you can take the shuttle from the airport to campus and back. To be honest, I use the service even though I DO have a car. It's cheaper than paying to park at the airport ($12 a DAY), and I can relax during the bus ride. Tickets can be purchased at the Indiana Memorial Union or online. You can find out more info about the Bloomington Shuttle here.


What is the Indianapolis Airport like? Is it confusing?
Indianapolis built a new airport a few years ago, and it is one of the easiest and most relaxing airports I have ever had the pleasure to fly from. The openness of the structure keeps that nervous, panicky "something's going to go wrong" feeling at bay while you look out at the planes landing or see the sun shining through the frosted glass roof.


If you're hungry, there are a number of restaurants to choose from before and after security that range in price from $5 per person to $25. My favorite stop is the South Bend Chocolate Company in Terminal A, but I'm sure you'll find your own travel tradition.


Once you enter the airport, you only choose between two terminals (A or B) and it's a straight shot to your gate from there. Getting your luggage on the way to campus is no problem: pick up your bags on the bottom level, cross a pick-up lane, and hop onto the Bloomington shuttle.


Once you've gotten through security, the only thing left to do is relax and get comfortable! I highly suggest a favorite book. Personally, cold weather is always "Harry Potter season" for me. This past weekend, when flying to Atlanta, I read a few pages of "The Princess Bride." After your flight, be sure to enjoy your destination! Here's a photo of my favorite tourist spot in Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium:


When traveling, just remember to take a deep breath and relax. Remember that even if something does go wrong, it's not the end of the world. Most travel issues have a solution! Best of luck, and happy travels this holiday season!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Foods I Would Never Eat

This week, I decided to do something different and take a look around the Union Street Center for something to feature in my weekly blog post. During my journey I finally wandered in the USC Convenience Store for the first time, despite the fact that I walk past it on a daily basis.


The C-Store opened at the beginning of October and is chock full of goodies... most of them things that I would never consider eating. Don't get me wrong! This C-Store is a great addition to RPS because it is so unique and pushes the boundaries of what is considered normal college student fare. Still, it's not quite to my taste.


I love the fact that they sell fresh fruit, salads and soups late into the evening so that I could grab dinner or a snack during a late night study session. However, if I'm in the mood for something fast, microwaveable and filled with pizza sauce, this isn't the place to look.


Most of the food I found was healthy and organic. Even the candy bars being sold were the fancy kind with pictures of tigers and gorillas on them. The store also sells such staples as soy milk and ingredients for cooking including condiments and organic pasta (which I'm certain will come in handy in the future).


Despite the fact that I'd much rather toss something in the microwave and press the Start button, I'm glad to know that the Union Street Center C-Store is only a moment away. You know, in case I ever decide to eat healthy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quarry Diving Adventures

Last Friday, a group of adventurous IU students gathered at a quarry in Mitchell, IN to do something I found incredibly brave: go scuba diving in 40 degree temperatures. I, unfortunately, was not courageous enough to do such a thing. I did, however, rise from my nice warm comfortable bed at six in the morning to join them on their adventure and photograph the event.


The students were there to do what are referred to as "check out dives." The divers have been taking scuba diving courses through the university, and the trip to the quarry was their opportunity to earn their scuba certification. Most of the students were working to earn their "Open Water" certification, which is the basic PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) scuba certification.


Other students were diving to receive their Adventure Diver and Rescue Diver certifications. The Rescue Diver check out dives were especially interesting to watch. Students had to recover an "unresponsive diver" (a dummy) from the quarry and perform rescue procedures.


Although it was a little bit cold during the dives, the quarry trip was a great experience for the students. Through their coursework at IU, they were able to earn certifications that would have been very expensive to get outside of the university. Students certified through IU also have the opportunity to travel with professor Charles Beeker to dive sites, including the 1699 Cara Merchant (Captain Kidd's last ship) that IU Underwater Science discovered in the Dominican Republic.


As a student in the Advanced Scuba course, I highly recommend that any student interested in scuba diving take E270 and E370 during their time at IU! It's been a great experience for me, and for other students as well!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Midterm Survival Guide

When everyone tells you that college is going to be the best years of your life they somehow seem to magically forget the soul-crushing, earth-shattering, mind-destroying joy that midterms and finals can bring. One day you're enjoying the beautiful fall weather and the next you're locking your dorm room against common needs including sleep, fun and human relationships all for the sake of trying to FOCUS on studying. Which of course doesn't work because you're too busy being distracted by Facebook and reading the FABULOUS status updates from the friends who were previously knocking down your door. They, of course, are riding roller coasters and baking cakes and magically reviving dinosaurs to go for joyrides while you are stuck alone at your desk. All because of an exam that makes up 97% percent of your grade. Or something like that.

All right. So that might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Any college student can tell you that midterms and finals can be stressful. However, if you follow a few essential tips, you'll make it through your midterms with no problem.

1. Get Comfortable
If at all possible, find one secluded and moderately comfortable spot to study and stay there. I'm not saying to chain yourself to your desk, but make sure that you create or find an area that you are comfortable staying in for long amounts of time. Some people prefer the library for studying, but that scholarly atmosphere has always made me (personally) feel nervous. I prefer to study in my room with the door closed so I can keep distractions (including my roommate) at bay while still being in the comfort of my own home.

2. Find someone to cook for you.
This one IS a joke, but the idea is the same: don't waste time on food preparation. If you're anything like me, you'll start out intending to make easy ramen and somehow wind up finishing up the last touches on a three-course meal four hours later. If you have meal points, make use of them at this point and go buy ready-made food so you can have a quick bite before getting back to studying. Or, just have a friend cook dinner for you. This tip has the Sarah Seal of Approval.

Sarah making something fabulous. Again.

3. Get a study buddy!
Sometimes it can be hard to take in everything that you need to know on your own. If you know someone in your class, get together with them and have a study session! Quiz each other and enjoy some human interaction while you work. Or, have a stuffed animal to squeeze. They're good for letting out the pent-up frustration.

This is Georgie Beardell! He's very intelligent, and his favorite subject is apparently Media Ethics.

Sometimes you just need to stop and vent before you can keep going. If you find yourself getting frustrated or upset, step away from the books and LET IT OUT. Go for a run, play a quick round of Halo or cry into your pillow. Get rid of the bad feelings, or they'll get in the way of your studies.

Or be like me and color in a sad face on a pumpkin.

5. Don't Forget Your Other Responsibilities!
It is true that midterms and finals can be time-consuming and make one forget about any other responsibilities, but don't fall into this trap! Be sure to keep up on homework, attend meetings for the extracurricular activities you participate in, feed your fish and go to class! If you begin to skip classes to study for other classes, you've got a problem. Be sure to try and keep a balanced lifestyle WHILE focusing on that ever important exam.

This is my beta fish, Constable. He enjoys food.

Above all, just remember that this too shall pass. Do the best that you can. After all, that's all you CAN do! Hang in there, keep your focus in the right place and you'll be just fine!

Now I just have to follow my own advice!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Foliage

In celebration of the beautiful foliage in Bloomington this time of year, this post will be dedicated to the foliage around Union Street Center!


I have always loved autumn here at IU. In my mind, there is no better place to enjoy the change of the seasons!


Sadly, most of the trees around the new complex are little guys with only a few leaves on them, but in a few years this courtyard will be aglow with the reds, oranges and yellows that paint a mural over campus.


Autumn always inspires me to cook foods and make drinks that only ever seem appropriate in the fall! This evening's dessert menu? Warm apple cider and pumpkin cheesecake bars! Sound yummy? Here's a recipe to get you started!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

1 (16-ounce) package white pound cake mix
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl on low speed, combine cake mix, 1 egg, butter and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice until crumbly. Press into bottom of 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk, remaining 2 eggs, pumpkin, remaining 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice and salt. Mix well. Pour over crust, sprinkle nuts on top.

Bake 30- 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator. Cut into bars. Courtesy of


Enjoy autumn wherever you are! I'm off to play in the leaves before the winter wind blows them all away!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Adventures at the Covered Bridge Festival

This past weekend, I went home to visit my mom and to go explore the culinary wonders of the Covered Bridge Festival in Putnam County. Every year my mom and I go to walk around the festival, spend more money than we should on anything from specialty chip dips to personalized photo frames and eat/buy the amazing kinds of food you can't get anywhere else. It always proves to be a great time.

As usual, the food was FANTASTIC and I was inspired by all of the delicious sights and smells. Everything from Wisconsin sausage, freshly-made donuts (with cinnamon), pumpkin rolls, whoopie pies, funnel cakes and butterfly chips delighted my sense of smell and tempted to empty my wallet. Luckily, my mom was able to keep me moving through the festival.

There were so many delicious foods to choose from!

Of course, there was more than food to choose from. Vendors sold everything from cow slippers to homemade crafts. I admit, I spent a lot of time picking out early Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, these little guys only came in child sizes:

Why don't these come in adult sizes?!

As fun as shopping at the fair was, my TRUE mission was to explore the culinary options and report back to Sarah for future dinner/event ideas. If I wanted to eat this week, I had to bring her back some ingredients and thoughts on new desserts or specialty foods we hadn't yet thought of making to celebrate the fall.

And look what I found! Whoopie pies!

Luckily enough, inspiration struck time and time again. I purchased local honey, Wisconsin sausage and homemade apple butter for Sarah and also brought back a number of ideas for Fall Fun. Pumpkin rolls are a FANTASTIC fall tradition in Indiana, but they can be difficult to make. A simple solution were these adorable Pumpkin Whoopie Pies I found. We're going to modify this pumpkin roll recipe to try and make our own: I bought two boxes of the pies, and we've been delighted by them so far. Hurray for culinary adventures!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bloomington from a Visitor's View

This past weekend, my boyfriend Brian came up to Bloomington to visit me from Atlanta to celebrate his 23rd birthday (yay!). To celebrate the special occasion, I used my new kitchen in the apartment to make my first ever decorated cake. It was Funfetti Ice Cream cake with Marshmallow Fondant. Remember the Fail Cake I posted about a few weeks ago? This was the same cake, but it was slightly more successful to say the least. It tasted delicious, but I had more fun building the roller coaster on top (in the shape of a 23) than I did eating the cake itself.

23rd Birthday Cake

Anyway, on to the rest of the weekend. Brian had been to Indiana during road trips to Holiday World and Indiana Beach, but he'd never stopped in our college town. I wondered what he, a Georgia Tech student, would think of the differences between the big city and my little slice of Midwest paradise. To make sure he had a good idea of what Bloomington was like, I made sure to pick some of my favorite places in and around town to show him. When you're planning your visit to Bloomington, be sure to check them out if you have time. If you've already been to campus, use this info to impress your friends and family with your B-Town expertise!

1. The Musical Arts Center
As an IU student, I've been lucky to have numerous opportunities to enjoy the arts. The Musical Arts Center (or the MAC) is one of my favorite places on campus because of all of the wonderful productions that take place there. On Friday evening I took Brian to his first opera, "Il Barbiere di Siviglia." We had a fantastic time getting lost in the beautiful sets, the unbelievable voices and the jubilant atmosphere that the cast and crew created. It was an incredible production, Brian was dazzled, and the total cost of our tickets was only $34!

2. The IU Art Museum (Aurora of the Midwest)
There is a beautiful, little known (to non-residents) secret on campus that is absolutely breathtaking. After the opera and dinner, I made Brian close his eyes and led him to campus. When I finally gave him permission to open his eyes, he gaped at the light show that was taking place on the wall of the IU Art Museum. Although I nicknamed the show "the Aurora of the Midwest," it is technically named the Light Totem and it casts color upon the wall of the IU Art Museum with the light of 500 million candles. If you're going to be around campus at night, stop by for a dazzling show.

3. The Sample Gates
The quintessential symbol of Indiana University, the Sample Gates are a common spot for everything from first-day photos to protests. As a student you'll be seeing them a lot, but make the effort to show them to your family anyway. In the fall, the trees behind the Gates are painted with autumn colors. If you're going to be on campus, make sure to stop by and take a photo with your family. It will be one to cherish for a lifetime.

Sample Gates

4. The Old Crescent
Once you walk through the Sample Gates, you'll find yourself in the Old Crescent. One of the most beautiful parts of campus, it is often passed over by potential students. If you go through this area you'll be able to experience first hand the "green" feeling of Indiana University as you walk along the brick path that cuts through the woods, shake hands with Herman B Wells (for luck, Brian did!), and take a break in the Rose-Well House. You can also see the oldest piece of IU, a sundial from the original campus on Seminary Square. If you stop by to see it, look through the flowers for a small plaque to learn the secret of two lovers who will be "together for eternity."

Hello Herman!

5. Holiday World
Although it is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Bloomington, Holiday World is the theme park of choice for IU students looking for a day of thrill ride fun. Luckily for me, Brian is a roller coaster enthusiast, so the decision about whether or not to visit the park was an easy one. Admission is VERY cheap when compared to other theme parks (it only cost us $66 for both tickets), and it is one of the top-rated parks in the U.S. thanks to the family-friendly atmosphere, the fantastic rides and the free soft drinks! If you have the opportunity, visit in the fall. There were no lines for any of the rides, and we rode The Voyage (the featured wooden roller coaster) four times. It was a great time!

Holiday World

Of course, there are a million things to love about Bloomington and the surrounding areas. Brian and I had a great time over the weekend walking around town and even though it was a little quieter than Atlanta I think that he had a really great time. If you'd like any more tips about great places to visit or even restaurants to try out, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

IU vs. Akron

On Saturday September 25th the Indiana Hoosiers football team geared up to take on the Akron Zips. It was the second home football game of the season, and I finally had a free moment to attend. After photographing a Big Brothers Big Sisters tailgate for my internship, I headed into Memorial Stadium, a.k.a. the quarry.

Memorial Stadium

School spirit and excitement wafted through the air as fans began to take their seats with nachos, pizza, hot dogs and sodas. The Marching Hundred took the stage with their usual pre-game performance and the team ran onto the field with cheerleaders as fireworks shook the stadium.

Here Come The Hoosiers

The Hoosiers started the game strong, scoring a breathtaking touchdown within the first three minutes of the game. Hoosier fans whooped and hollered, jingled their keys, shouted out chants with the cheerleaders and cheered on the Hoosiers to victory 35-20.

Hoosier Nation

It was a great game full of fun, excitement and Hoosier pride. If you'd like to watch the Hoosiers in action, you can catch the IU vs. Michigan game on ESPNU at 3:30 p.m. this coming Saturday. Go Hoosiers!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ashley's Room Decorating Tips

So you’ve FINALLY moved into your new dorm room, you’ve put your sheets on your bed and your clothes are put away in the closet. You’re settled in to your new home... your new home with big, blank white walls. While it might not seem like a big deal, decorating your dorm room is one of the major challenges you’ll face when you arrive at college--and it can be more complicated than it seems. I have moved in and out of dorm rooms SEVENTEEN times, so I’ve gotten pretty proficient at decorating. Here are a few tips to make the creative process and the actual chore of decorating easier, and give you a dorm room you can be proud of!

Overall Appearance

1. 3M is your friend. Sticky tack may seem like a better option because it’s cheaper, but it has a tendency to stain the walls and not hold up what it’s intended to hold. If you’re putting up something small like individual photos, that should be fine, but for big posters invest in mounting tape.

2. Be 3-D. A lot of dorm rooms suffer from “flat wall” syndrome. Posters add color, but other objects (including anything from bulletin boards to kites) can add dimension and texture to the room.

Theme Park Theme

3. Get personal. While I have up a lot of purchased posters, my walls are also covered with more personal items. Four-by-six photo prints are a great decorating tool. Because of their size, they’re fun to tile and can fit into any available space, and if you pay attention to sale ads you can get them for as little as 10 cents a picture. I also have a section of my room devoted entirely to theme park maps from my adventures over the summer.

4. Use empty space. Have a free spot at the top of your dresser? Put something meaningful there. Your favorite football, cards from friends and family members or even (as in my case) stuffed animals can add personality to the room.

Fuzzy Friends

5. Keep it cheap. Poster sales at your school or stores in town can be tempting, but the best deals are online. If you become a member of a poster company’s website, you’ll receive incredible coupons and deals. At the beginning of this year, my roommate and I purchased 11 full-size posters for only 50 dollars (I recommend, but each person has their own preference).

6. Utilize the ceiling. Remember when I mentioned 3M? They also sell hooks that can be attached to the walls and not leave a mark when it needs to be removed. This can allow you to get as creative as you’d like to be! At the moment I have kites and a Japanese parasol hung on my ceiling but in the past I’ve hung up flags, shawls, and nets. You can also put posters and photos on the ceiling. Don’t be afraid to use ALL of your space, just be careful when trying to put decorations up there.

Sleepy Space

7. Be aware of color. Be sure to think before you hang up a clump of big posters or other objects. Last year, I spent three hours decorating my room before realizing that I had put all of my dark posters in one corner, creating a black hole effect. The rest of my room was bright and colorful, but the cluster of darkness never failed to draw my eye upon first entering the room. Have a plan before you start throwing things up on the walls, and you’ll love the results!

8. Make it cozy! Surround yourself (and your workspace) with things that will make you feel good but won't distract you. I display buttons I got during my adventures in Disney World over the summer, a photo of my boyfriend and myself and a few trinkets I've collected over the years on my desk. Whenever I'm stressed I can simply look up and see any number of things that will make me smile.

Cozy Workspace

9. Don’t take it too seriously. When decorating, just have fun! Remember that your room has to please YOU and no one else. Don’t stress out or be a perfectionist. If you mess up, you can always start again or just start anew the next year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dinner Party Days

Since moving into the Union Street Center apartments with my best friend Sarah, I have found myself INCREDIBLY spoiled. While I am happy to keep dirty clothes off of the floor and chew on cardboard flavored microwaveable meals, she is determined to keep the apartment sparkling clean and just happens to have a passion for cooking. School has only been in session for three weeks and I have already lost track of the number of times when I walk through our door after a long day of classes and she says "Dinner will be ready in an hour!"

The Secret's in the Sauce

I'm not discussing ramen, here. When Sarah says dinner, she means DINNER. Some of our memorable meals have included barbecue sauce-smothered chicken legs, stuffed pasta with a delectable cream and shrimp sauce and stuffed burgers. The woman is a domestic goddess. So, when she told me off-hand that she had invited some friends over for dinner, I wasn't too surprised.

Cabbage in the Crockpot

I hadn't been expecting a big affair for Sunday dinner, but even I got into the spirit of things. After our friends Will and Chandler accepted Sarah's generous invitation, we straightened out the apartment and Sarah got to cooking. The menu? Corned beef and cabbage with potatoes and other vegetables, served with a specialty mustard sauce (and a side of vegetarian pasta for Will).

Family Dinner

By now, Sarah's dedication to the meal made me feel as though I had not contributed enough towards the event, so I decided to try and make a cake with a recipe I had found online. I took a box of Funfetti cake mix and combined it with a pint of vanilla ice cream, three eggs and a cup of water. Five minutes later the cake was in the oven, and an hour later our apartment smelled like vanilla heaven. Will and Chandler arrived for dinner and fun was had by all, until I tried to prepare the cake to be served. It turns out it was a liiiittle moister than I had been expecting, and as I attempted to remove it from the bundt pan the whole thing fell to pieces! Fail cake!

Funfetti Fail

Despite my horrendous failure, we had a fabulous dinner party! Everything was delicious and somehow the Funfetti pile seemed all the more delicious when eaten with out hands. Here's to hoping that we've begun a wonderful new USC apartment tradition: Sunday night "family" dinners!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welcome Week 2010 - Midnight Madness

During your first week on campus, life can get a little crazy. Moving into the residence halls, getting to know people on your floor, trying to navigate safely through the maze of shelves at the IU Bookstore... who has time to go shopping? Sure, you may not have any soap or a toothbrush, but there's so much going on and you can't miss ANYTHING!

Corn Hole Champ

Luckily for all of us, the Office of First Year Experience Programs teamed up with the local Wal-Mart during Welcome Week 2010 to throw a party (and give students the chance to do a little bit of shopping).

Rock Band Trio

From 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., IU students were running around buying deodorant, playing Rock Band, waiting in line to stand in a money machine and playing carnival-style games that included everything from corn hole to Twister.

Ultimate Prizes
For every game they played and won, students were given a red raffle ticket that could be exchanged for a number of prizes that included food, trinkets and gift cards. There were even a select number of ultimate prizes that a lucky few would take home at the end of the night that included a television and a laptop computer.

TWINKIE NOMOther vendors were present giving out free food samples, coupons and small prizes. I had three Jimmy Johns sandwiches for a midnight snack, and my freshman friend Levi chomped on a Twinkie... hey, wait a second...

Midnight was certainly mad at Wal-Mart during Welcome Week, and it was a ton of fun! Hopefully now everyone has everything they need to start the school year right. Including shampoo.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nice to Meet You!

Hello, and welcome to my blog! After this entry, my posts will be about life in the Union Street Center, but first I want to introduce myself. My name is Ashley Nichols and I am from a small town called Russellville, Ind. I’m an Indiana University senior studying Journalism and Public Relations. I’ve been quite the busy bee since I came to IU in 2007. I have worked as an Orientation Leader, a teaching assistant and an office assistant at the Disability Services for Students Office. In my (limited) spare time, I have been a member of everything from the IU Marching Hundred and the Big Red Basketball Band to the Auditorium Usher Corps to the Swing Dance Club (just to name a few). While at IU, I have also had a number of incredible experiences that included traveling to Japan during my 2010 Spring Break and learning to scuba dive.

Being an IU student also helped me discover another wonderful opportunity. I spent this past summer living in Orlando, Fla. working as an intern for SeaWorld. I lived and worked with other college students my own age and spent my summer working in the photography department. I started out as a sales clerk, but by the end of the summer I had become a photographer who took photos of the SeaWorld shows for guests and publications. When I wasn’t busy working, I took a number of behind-the-scenes tours and leadership classes that were offered exclusively to interns. Working as a SeaWorld employee was one of the best employment experiences that I have ever had, and not just because of the work experience!

As a seasonal employee, I was not offered any health benefits or things of the sort. I was, however, offered something FAR more valuable to a young lady my age: free theme park tickets.

I took day trips to visit Shamu at SeaWorld, went to Aquatica (a water park) during my lazy Sundays, swam with the sting rays at Discovery Cove, rode the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster at Universal Studios in the morning before my night shifts and went on evening dates to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. My friend Brian and I also spent a good portion of our paychecks on Disney World tickets. We managed to make our way through all of the parks, and even managed to get to three parks in only eight hours. Talk about a summer of adventure!

I've only been back in Indiana for two weeks and I admit that readjusting to college life has been a little difficult. I did, after all, just return from a three month vacation. Nonetheless, I am glad to be back and Bloomington and getting ready to begin my senior year here at school. The experience has been a promising one so far: being reunited with friends and family and moving into the Union Street Center have all made returning to the Midwest a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Orlando life. I miss SeaWorld and Florida dearly, but it's time to get back to business!