Archive for October, 2009

DIY Halloween Costume + Accessory Roundup

Well it wouldn’t be a holiday if I didn’t give you a DIY post, now would it? Here is a collection of cheap (and fun!) costumes you can make yourself.

Random Accessories

TV/Movie Inspired

Inanimate Objects

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1 comment October 26th, 2009

Prioritizing & Balance: 3 Ways to to Begin


I can’t say I was surprised when the results of the latest poll showed that almost 25% of you chose “maintaining balance” as your top worry for this school year. Why? Well honestly, it is one of my top worries, too.

From balancing a budget (ugh!) to keeping on top of my workload, and trying to do laundry, remember to cook (and not burn) dinner, meeting with my friends for morning workouts and book club, and making time for my family and my sweetie, I am probably busier now than I have ever been!

So to keep all these balls in the air, I’ve been doing a lot of research–and soul searching–and I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. Here are 3 of my secrets to (mostly) having  success in the whole life-balance arena.

1. Prioritize.

If you’re anything like me, you start the day excited about all the things you can get done. So how is it that at the end of the day all you’ve done is spent 3 hours on facebook and written two (terrible) lines of an essay that’s due on Friday? You haven’t checked your priorities.
Each day I set myself a couple of goals (sometimes just one or two!) or tasks that MUST get done by the end of the day–and I start them ASAP.

2. Eliminate Distractions.

One of the biggest problems in our multi-tasking society is stimulus overload–there is so much going on that we can’t focus on the task at hand (even when it’s not homework!).

Taking away some of that stimulus helps your mind calm down and focus on what you’re doing, making you more efficient (so you have more free time) and even allowing you to enjoy fun things more.
Limit yourself to one or two things going on at a time, like maybe emailing with some music on. Simple things like only checking your email a couple times a day (instead of hourly… or more!), leaving the TV off, or signing out of chat when you’re writing a paper can help you get on with the work and on to the play!

3. Set a Schedule.

Growing up, Monday and Wednesday were laundry days. Every. Single. Week.

I never understood how important that was until I moved out on my own (and at first only did laundry when I ran out of underwear). It isn’t so much the laundry itself that’s important, but the comfort and manageability of a routine.

Before I set a schedule, I felt like I was always rushing to catch up–and I never could. It was discouraging. After a while I figured out how that planning my week left more time for catch-up and social time. Here’s how to start.

  • Print out your class schedule. This is the skeleton of your weekly routine, and it’s already made for you.
  • Add in your other can’t-miss activities like work, club meetings, religious attendance, athletic training, etc.
  • Look over your week so far. Fill in the gaps with study time or other chores, and choose which days are your laundry/grocery shopping/whatever days based on which have the lightest workload.
  • Schedule time for relaxing and fun. If you don’t you will feel burnt out and start resenting and hating your schedule. 🙂

What about you? How do you keep your crazy life in balance?

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7 comments October 22nd, 2009

Go Green: Eco-Friendly Cleaning on the Cheap

I’m just a little late for blog action day, but let’s get on the eco-friendly (and wallet friendly!) bandwagon for a minute anyway, shall we? 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for a way to save a buck, and live a little healthier, so when I found out about these super cheap and easy ways to clean up your place while still being friendly to Mother Earth, I was pretty stoked–and I immediately thought of you guys!

So next time you’re thinking about cleaning up your place (like as an excuse to postpone studying for finals…) try out these inexpensive green-cleaning ideas! They’re healthier for your body, your bank account, and the environment!

Ingredients

Yes, you can go shell out 4 bucks for the commercial green-clean spray stuff, or you can really go green (and keep some green in your wallet!) by grabbing this stuff:

  • Dish soap – Usually both cheap and mild, dish soap is great in the kitchen. Besides dish washing, you can use it diluted to clean counters, or more concentrated to cut grease.
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  • Vinegar – I am amazed by how awesome vinegar is. (Is that totally dorky? Probably.) It is inexpensive, but it disinfects, shines, and cleans. It can even eat through soap scum and hard water, the stuff you usually have to scrub at forever to clean up!
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  • Baking soda – Not only is this great for scrubbing when mixed with a little warm water, it can also be used alone to tame unruly smells.
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  • Salt – So cheap, but great for scrubbing. See below. 🙂

(Remember to keep this stuff separate from your cooking-grade products of the same kind, though, just for sanitation’s sake!)

Cleaning

Below are a few examples of how you can use the ingredients above to get your green-cleaning done.

  • Toilet – Flush so the water level goes a little lower, then pour undiluted vinegar around the rim. Scrub, flush again, and you’re done. (Resource!)
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  • Sink/Tub/Shower – For basic cleaning, you can use some vinegar again. If you need to scour away hard water stains or soap scum, try mixing 1/4 cup salt with 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and scrub away. (Resource!)
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  • Hard Floors – If you have linoleum, you can use a diluted vinegar mixture. Just pour a little vinegar in a bowl or the sink, dilute with water, and mop. You don’t need much vinegar to get the job done! (Resource!)
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  • Carpet – If your carpet smells a little funky from the pizza your roomie left under the bed for six weeks, fear not–sprinkle some baking soda over the spot, let it rest a minute, and then vacuum it up!
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  • Smells – Set a little cup or bowl of baking soda in any room or closet with a weird smell (or even your in fridge!). It absorbs nasty smells (see above!). Just remember to rotate fresh baking soda in when it becomes less effective.

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2 comments October 19th, 2009

Not Your Average Dinner Party

Food is a big deal in college, whether you’re on campus or off campus–especially when your main source of nutrition is ramen and cereal. Why not make dinner (or breakfast! Sorry I know that picture is of breakfast… But doesn’t it look amazing??) a little more interesting, and kick your social life up a notch in the process?

Round and Round

Starting a dinner club could be the best thing that ever happened to you if you’re tired of eating at the caf for every meal. Just pick a few people (preferably people who can cook a little!), and take turns cooking meals for each other. It will help everyone save money, and it means a fresh cooked meal a couple times a week.

Plus, if you all eat together, you get some bonus socialization.

True Cuisine

Already mastered the art of boiling water? Start a monthly food club where you can challenge your skills (and your taste buds!) A group of my friends started doing this their second year, and it was amazing. Each week they’d pick out a meal they’d always wanted to try, and get together and (at least try to) cook it. Sometimes they invited other people (like me! woohoo!) to stop by for samples. They honed their cooking skills, and had some pretty funny stories to tell by the end of the year.

A Little Friendly Competition

If any of you caught the Top Chef All-Stars this summer, I hope you saw the episode where the chefs had to cook amazing food in a dorm. It was awesome–I couldn’t believe the food they came up with using just microwaves, toasters, and hot plates!

Whip up a super-amusing dinner party Iron Chef style, using only the cooking utensils and items you have available. Your required ingredient can be anything you want, but keep it dorm-themed to be extra amusing. Gum? Easy Mac? You get the idea.

Get a couple of groups together, and assign judges to award a title to the winners. (Just keep in mind, this could go horribly wrong, so plan on ordering pizza afterward so you have something to eat!)

Looking for more ways to expand your social circle? Check out these ideas for parties (and here) and meeting people (and more here)!

If you’re more concerned with food than friends, why not take a peak at our cheap + easy college recipes? 🙂

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1 comment October 13th, 2009

Cheap Easy College Recipes: Yummy Morning Granola

Until a few months ago, I would have chosen an afternoon snack of m&m’s over granola any day. But then I tried this fantastic Trader Joe’s granola, and I was floored. It was actually good. Really good. And it has a lot more health benefits than junk food.

Last week I tried making my own, and it came out really good. I’m addicted–I have it at least once a day now.

First-Timer Yummy Morning Granola
(my novice version of this one from–where else–Cooking Light.)

  • 5  cups  regular oats (not instant microwave kind)
  • 3  cups  puffed rice cereal
  • 3  tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4  cup  pineapple juice (if you don’t have this, using all apple juice is fine)
  • 1/2  cup  apple juice
  • 1/4  cup  honey
  • Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Combine oats and rice cereal in a large bowl.

3. Combine the juices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 2/3 cup. Remove from heat; stir in honey.

4. Slowly pour juice mixture over oat mixture, tossing to coat. Spread oat mixture evenly onto a pan coated with cooking spray.

5. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. (Cook longer for crunchier granola.)

6. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container.

Make it Better: For more crunch and pizazz, consider replacing 1 cup of the oats and 1 cup of rice cereal with fruit (dried cranberries, apples, blueberries, etc.), nuts (walnuts, toasted almonds) and/or oat bran, wheat germ, or other healthy alternatives. It will cost a little more, but it is super yummy.

Mix it Up

Granola on its own is okay, but mix-ins are the spice of life if you ask me. Try eating your fresh-baked granola:

  • With fruit flavored yogurt
  • Topped with berries over milk (or vanilla yogurt)
  • Ice cream (a yummy topping, I’d pair it with chocolate or berry syrup)
  • In a fruit parfait with alternating layers of granola, fresh fruit, and frozen yogurt
  • Mixed into oatmeal for crunch
  • With fruit juice
  • As an addition to cookie-and-ice cream sandwiches (roll the open sides of your ice cream sandwich in granola… mmm!)

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Add comment October 8th, 2009

Reader Dorm Design: Marissa’s Room

Reader Marissa linked to some pics of her electrically gorgeous dorm room from my recent post on amazing DIY dorm decor. I loved it so much I asked if she would let me feature it, and lucky for us she was game.

So, let’s talk about what I LOVE about Marissa’s space:

1. Color Crazy. I think you’d have to agree, there are no holds barred when it comes to color in Marissa’s space–but she (her side has the striped bed) and her roomie stick with a pr consistent palette of greens, blues, pinks, and oranges. It’s just enough to spice up those white white white walls–a big pick-me-up during long hours of studying.

2. Twinkle Twinkle. I adore the spunky, sassy lighting Marissa has going on. The pink + orange goes with her palette, and helps raise the height of the room by redirecting your eye upward. They give the space warmth AND make it feel bigger.

3. Dorm Zen. You know I love me some Dorm Zen, and Marissa’s collection of plant life (real and faux) along the top of her desk help to ground her busy study center.

4. Texture. This room abounds with texture–from the woven rug to the unusual shapes of the hanging lanterns. I love the quilting on the comforter, and the matte finish of the fabric against the glossy sheen of magazine pages…

5. Personality. And speaking of magazines, did you guys check out this amazing inspiration wall? Marissa covered up the blah white paint with photos that inspire her, in essence wallpapering her dreams and goals right over her bed–talk about a great (and cute!) motivator. All kinds of other personal touches–from stuffed animals to photos and cards–show she’s made herself at home.

A big thanks to Marissa for sharing her space with us!

Want to see your dorm room featured on Surviving College Life? Leave a comment, or shoot me an email at jamie(at)survivingcollegelife.com. 🙂

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3 comments October 6th, 2009

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