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!