Archive for August, 2009

Cheap, Amazing Dorm Room DIY

Dorm decorating can be a seriously daunting task–at first glance it doesn’t seem there’s much you can do with a white cinderblock wall and some painter’s tape or rubber cement. But once you start thinking outside of the box you might be surprised how amazing–and cheap–a little DIY dorm decor can be.

Wall Paper?

If you’re not into the traditional posters-and-Christmas-lights dorm look, why not paper your walls with something a little more exciting? Cute wrapping paper and a staple gun can paper your walls in no time, inexpensive fabric can be cute and temporary, or why not make a polaroid wallpaper (like the amazing room above, found via Apartment Therapy.)

Do Over

Want the chic look of brand new decor on a serious budget? Grab a thrift-store find or a hand-me-down and some paint and get cracking. We repainted a 1979’s desk from wood-color to black, swapped out the brass hardware for some sleep silver handles, and voila, we had a modern looking desk for only about $20.

Or check out this amazing transformation (spotted via YoungHouseLove). That cute turquoise lamp was once a nasty brass throwback, but a little spray paint and it’s reborn. Without DIYing, it would probably run you $40+, but I recently saw a similar lamp at Goodwill for $7. Add in painting accoutraments, and you could probably get the whole thing done for $14!

This works with pretty much anything, too. My sweetie and I have reupholstered our old couches, sewed up a slip cover for a freebie chair and redone other wood furniture with sandpaper and paint. You can even repaint old photo frames for a new look on the cheap.

Want More?

Check out my previous post on college dorm decor on the cheap, which has links to DIY ideas and tutorials (or peruse the whole dorm category for more ideas on making your dorm your own).

And check out sites like Young House Love, my latest DIY decor obsession, for all kinds of price-range appropriate oraganization, storage, and decor ideas. I love how they transformed this don’t-paint-or-hang-anything apartment sunroom into a chic, gorgeous bedroom with only $200 (and a trip to Ikea!). I am in LOVE!

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8 comments August 26th, 2009

What to Know About Your First Week(s) of College, Pt II

Already in college? Share your tips and I’ll post them & link back to you! Email me at [jamie(at)survivingcollegelife(dot)com]!

Here’s a little more “first-weeks” advice for you. (Check out the first installment here.)

Map it Out

Freaking about getting lost on your way to your first class? Take this opportunity to explore your campus a little. Sample the dining hall foods–we had two cafs that were far superior to the rest–check out the art collection or weird buildings, find the best coffee cart, visit the library, and learn a little about the layout of your school. It may feel like you’ll never remember where everything is, but after a few weeks you’ll feel much more at home.

…and if you’re really nervous, map out your classes and head out to find them a day or two before. It’s better than showing up a half an hour late for your first-ever college class. (But if you are lost the first day, most profs are pretty understanding–after all, you’ve never done this college thing before!)

Open Door Policy

Want to meet your floormates ASAP? Don’t lock yourself in your room! If you’re just hanging out, leave your door open so you can talk to people walking by, and say hi to your neighbors when you’re headed off to the caf (and if you’re feeling brave, invite that cute guy or girl in the elevator to join you).

Stock Up

While you’ve still got Mom & Dad (and their credit cards) around, you may as well hit the grocery store for some healthy–or at least yummy–snacks for the inevitable late-night hunger pangs. (Unlike your parents’ kitchen, school cafs have a closing time!)

Grab a good selection non-perishables like ramen noodles or Easy Mac, granola bars, or other favorite snacks to last you through the first semester!

photo: Tongji by sinoreport

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2 comments August 24th, 2009

Fast Food: Easy Snacks + Meals for College

As I was rummaging through our surprisingly full fridge today trying to think of what to eat my brain kept coming back to cereal. I can’t tell you how many bowls of Waffle Crisp I downed during my freshman year (but my roommate probably could…) but I know it was probably 75% more than it should have been. Well, okay, I am no longer a freshman, so why am I still thinking of cereal as a viable lunch (or dinner) option?

If you’re still finding yourself craving Coco Puffs at two in the afternoon, here are a couple ideas for beefing up your “fast food” options the healthy way. 🙂

Wrap it Up

I kept reading about wraps, but I wasn’t convinced until I gave them a try–now I’m an honest convert from sandwiches and bagels. In fact, I eat a wrap almost every day. Not only are they cheap and easy to make, they are also perfect to eat one-handed while you’re driving to work, texting your bff, or whatever. 😉

How: Grab a whole wheat tortilla (you can get them in several sizes) and pile on your toppings of choice. Wrap it up burrito style: fold the top and bottom over your filling, then roll from one side to the other. Nice and neat and ready to eat!

Filling ideas:

  • Caesar Wrap: Lettuce, chicken, Caesar dressing
  • Apple Wrap: Apple slices, shredded cheese, chicken
  • Thanksgiving Wrap: Cream cheese, cranberries, turkey
  • Fruit Salad: Cream cheese, peaches, strawberries
  • Leftovers from last night (ground hamburger, fajita stuff, salad, whatever you want)

Slice and Dice

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to eat less sugar–I cut back to just one dessert per day, which with my chocoholic ways was pretty tricky! One of the easiest ways to beat those mid-afternoon sugar cravings is to have other (healthier) stuff on hand and ready to go. For example, I buy carrots and celery to snack on and cut them all up and bag them on the weekend so they’re ready to grab and go during the week.


  • Baby carrots (+ dressing)
  • Celery (+ peanut butter)
  • Trail mix (raisins, nuts, maybe a little chocolate!)
  • Granola/granola bar (+ yogurt)
  • Pretzels
  • Pita bread (+ hummus or a fruity salsa)

Plus, did you know that having sugar in the afternoon can actually make you feel more tired? The initial kick of eating a sweet will give you energy for a while, but afterwards your body will experience a sugar crash, making you crave even more. So opt for something flavorful but healthy so you can get your studying done and get on with your life. 😉

photo by lhunt

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Add comment August 21st, 2009

What to Know About Your First Week(s) of College, Pt I

Feeling a little freaked about your first day(s) of college? I don’t want you to feel like you’re in the dark, so I’ll be doing a few posts about making the most of your college experience.

Already in college? Share your words of wisdom by leaving a comment or sending me an email at [jamie(at)survivingcollegelife(dot)com]. I’ll compile your ideas and link back to you! 🙂

Chill Out

First things first. If this is you–What if I hate my roommate? And I have no friends? And my classes are too hard? And I can’t find my car in the parking lot or I walk into the wrong classroom or I lose my key and can’t get back into my room in the middle of the night???–relax.

Everybody else is feeling like this, too. I’m serious. No matter how cool and confident your fellow freshmen may seem, they honestly have no idea what they’re doing.

So calm down, take a deep breath, and turn on your best 100-watt grin. Because as you may remember, confidence and laughter can get you through even the most embarrassing moments.

If you’re living in the dorms or on-campus apartments, you’ll have a Resident Advisor (RA) or living on your floor. Usually they’re 3rd or 4th year students, and except in the most extreme cases, they typically fall into the category of “people person.” Otherwise why would they want a job working with brand new college kids? 🙂

RAs are trained to help you deal with pretty much anything–from roommate trouble to finding your classes, and beyond. My RAs were amazing, helping some of my floormates figure out how to cope with issues like having an anorexic roommate to finding a ride to the airport. They were our go-to people for help and for fun, and there was usually a good group hanging out on a couch in the RAs’ rooms.

So when you are totally freaked out by something brand new and collegiate, head to your RA’s room and just ask.


Your first week of college is the ultimate time to socialize. Campuses, dorms, clubs, and Greek organizations have all kinds of parties and activities, so you should be able to find at least a couple things you want to do.
If you’re not into the late-night party scene, check out the daytime activities. My first week UCSD offered activities like kayaking, a sunset bonfire, a spirit rally.

And you guys, please say “Hi,” to a bunch of people. Chances are most of the people around you don’t know very many people, so the more people you chat with, the more likely you are to find your new BFF at school.


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3 comments August 19th, 2009

Define Yourself: Your Style

One thing I loved about getting out on my own was the lack of parental commentary on my wardrobe. I never went too crazy–I’m a jeans-and-T-shirt girl at heart, hence my choice of sunny, beautiful UCSD–but I tried pairing black nail polish with pearls, got an extra ear piercing, and considered going by my middle name.


College can be an amazing time–the freedom to be yourself, finally, and most times the ability to leave your high school label behind. If you were the criminal, the jock, the princess, the nerd, (yeah sorry, I love The Breakfast Club) then, now is your opportunity to break the mold. To redefine yourself.

Now that I’m out of school, I’m working on redefining myself once again. Hey, if Madonna can do it at age fifty-something, I think we have the right to do it at twenty-something. Right? So I’m working on finding a look, a style, that encompasses who I am.

Find Your Look

First, obviously, you need to find your look. I love scoping out the amazing style at (found via Charade), a website that lets everyday people post their fashion forward looks for all to see. Because they aren’t models or magazine editors, their looks and fashion choices are much more accessible to our teeny budgets.

For more inspiration, check out The Sartorialist, a blog devoted to fashion on the streets of cities like Paris, Florence, and Milan.

Three Secrets

If you’ve ever read a good fashion article, you’ve probably been able to piece together these three secrets of good style:

  1. Be yourself. Your clothes should reflect the person you are on the inside, projecting an honest image. Remember, first impressions make a difference (one of my best friends caught the attention of her now-husband with a pair of Converse tennis shoes!). Plus, you should feel comfortable (at least emotionally, even if those heels are killing you!) in your clothes, and comfortable with yourself.
  2. Start With Basics. I just adore Tim Gunn. He is all about being positive and projecting the best you. And he–and other fashion pros like him–recommends starting with the basics. Get a couple of good quality classic, neutral pieces that will go with anything you wear. He’s written a whole book about style, but here are his top 10 essential wardrobe elements.
  3. Tailor. The difference between looking professional and chic or sloppy and clueless isn’t money–it’s fit. A tailor (or, if you’re lucky, your mom, grandma, or fashion student BFF) can make simple, inexpensive adjustments to your favorite clothes. A good fit looks good and feels good.

That’s about it for my style expertise. Please feel free to share your fashion tips and go-to links in the comments!


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1 comment August 15th, 2009

The Best Ways to Cope With Embarrassing Moments

We’ve all been there: you’re hanging out with some cool new people, trying to make the best impression, and wham-o, the Most Embarrassing Moment (MEM) attacks.

And when I say we’ve all been there, I mean it. In fact, I was “there” just this past Monday. So let’s look at the situation, and your best options for handling your own MEM.

The Story

Monday night my sweetie and I were invited to a welcome dinner put on by a 2nd year med student and his wife. Several new med students and their significant others were going, and it was sort of a get-to-know-you deal, with dinner and the chance to ask some questions about the upcoming school year.

We don’t really know many people here, so I was very excited to go. I chose a special, brand new outfit, carefully did my makeup, and did several mirror checks before we left to make sure everything looked okay. We got to our host’s house right at six, perfectly on time.

And then as I was getting ready to get out of the car, my brand new pants split. Big time.

My sweetie and I had a sort of panicked “honey-my-pants-split!!!” conversation. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say I turned around for him to assess the damage, and it was just as BAD as I’d feared. We searched the car for anything that might be wrapped around my waist, but there was nothing to be found. No change of clothes, no sweater, nothing.


If I learned anything from junior high, it is that nothing glosses over an MEM like your own ability to laugh about it. If you turn red and get horribly embarrassed, people will remember it. They’ll bring it up in conversation. They’ll tease you. And you’ll probably get embarrassed all over again.

If you laugh at it yourself, you basically take their power away (why should they tease you when you already think it’s funny) and you might even be able to find the humor in the situation.

I immediately started laughing, and since we would have been at least a half an hour late if we’d gone home to get me a change of clothes, we decided to go in anyway. I considered telling the story to the hostess and asking her for a sweater (that probably would have been the best idea) but since we had never met them before, I  decided against it (though I look forward to telling her the story later when we know each other better!).


If you’ve read even the back cover of pretty much any relationship or networking book, you know that people are attracted to confidence. While we opted to do some clever maneuvering–my honey had to stand behind me as we walked in and out, and while we got our buffet-style food, and I was pretty much glued to my chair any time in between–I also made sure to talk normally and comfortably, stand tall, and act like nothing was wrong.

Projecting confidence not only distracted people from noticing my wardrobe malfunction, but also made me feel better about the whole issue–and prepared me to be able to laugh if anyone mentioned it.

The End

So that is my most recent MEM–a pretty good one if I do say so myself. I’m happy to say we made it through the evening without anyone noticing, but you can bet I’ll do a more thorough wardrobe check before we meet new people from now on. 😉


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2 comments August 13th, 2009

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