Archive for January, 2010

Five Cheap or Free Dates for Snow Days!

A blanket of snow isn’t a sentence to stay indoors! Get some warm (and water proof!) clothes on, and venture out for a snow-date with your honey (and then warm each other up afterward!). Let it snow!

1. Eskimo Kisses. Whether you have fond childhood memories of snow-fort building or you’re a complete newbie to the winter wonderland gig (like me!), I definitely recommend you get out there and build an igloo out of snow! (For faster work, make it a group-date, or just enjoy the time alone with your crush.) Be sure you pack your snow tightly before you hollow out a little room, and keep some structural “columns” inside to help hold it up. It will look magical lit up inside at night!

2. Snow Painting. Need another reason to get out and play in the snow? This is the only time yellow snow isn’t dangerous! 😉 Fill some spray bottles with water tinted with a few drops of food coloring. Write love notes. Paint each other’s portraits. Be ridiculous.

3. Sculptorades. Want to make a masterpiece like the one above (but maybe just a little bit smaller)? All you need is some time, a ton of snow, and a cardboard box. Use tools you have on hand, like a spatula, beach shovel, and tablespoon, to carve out your snow masterpiece. For more directions and tips, check out this article about snow sculpting. (Search Harbin Ice Festival for more inspiration!)

4. Icy Icee. Not into the whole freezing-to-the-bone bit, even for a date? Pick up some flavoring syrups at the grocery store (they work for Italian sodas, too–yum) and whip up your own custom snow cones (or cups, use whatever you’ve got.) Just make sure the snow is fresh so you don’t get any surprises. 😉

5. Candlelight. Take the traditional candlelit dinner to the next level–make clusters of glittering ice-candles and light up an outdoor mini-picnic. Start the day before and have everything ready when your crush arrives. I suggest warm-weather clothes and mittens, some quilts and something dry and waterproof (a simple tarp would be fine) to sit on. Skip the full-on dinner and do dessert instead (you can only brave the cold for so long). Gingerbread cookies and cocoa are a great start.


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Add comment January 29th, 2010

It’s FAFSA Time Again…

I’m not going to lie, I hate filling out the FAFSA (a.k.a. Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It feels a lot like just another tax form. BUT, higher education financial aid gurus (including my boss, nationally recognized college funding expert Deborah Fox) recommend that you do it anyway, so let me break it down for you:

Why Should I Apply for the FAFSA?

According to Ms. Fox, every student–even students who probably won’t qualify for need-based aid–should fill out the FAFSA. If you come from a family on the lower-end of the income scale, you could potentially be awarded federal, state, and school funding (including “free” money you don’t have to pay back, such as grants and scholarships).

If your family is in the mid- to higher-end income range, you should still file the FAFSA because it is the only way to qualify for federal student loans (which are much, much more consumer-friendly than private student loans, as they have lower interest rates and more protections for you, the borrower).

What Do I Need?

To apply for the FAFSA, you’ll need to provide a good deal of information, including your personal income for the past year as well as your parents’. Ms. Fox has outlined how you can prepare ahead on her Pay for College Blog in a really helpful post called How to Get a Jump on the FAFSA. Look it over (or just send the link to your parents and hope they do it for you!).

How Do I Get Started?

Start by visiting, the official online application for federal student aid. Next year’s application (for the 2010-2011 school year) will be available on January 1st of 2010 (that’s not too far away!) and you’ll want to fill it out ASAP because a lot of the aid is awarded based on who applies for it first.

(Important: Do NOT visit other sites like, which is a service that will charge you to file the FAFSA. The FAFSA is completely free, so don’t get swindled!)

I’m no expert, so if you’re just getting started with the FAFSA, I suggest you click over to these helpful posts at the Pay for College Blog, and be sure to link your parents in, too, so they can help you prepare:

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1 comment January 15th, 2010

Goal Time: Making Your “I’m Going to Work Out” Goal Stick

Every year when I make my list of New Years Resolutions, the work-out goal pops up. I want to banish the extra holiday season flub. I want to run faster, jump higher, and yes, do some push ups. But mid-way through the year (or, ahem, sometime in February) a lot of our goals seem to go out the window.

This was my first year of really sticking to (at least some) of my goals. Here’s what I’ve learned about making sure you meet that work-out-this-year(!!!) goal:

1. Be Realistic. In every way. Understand your limitations (you probably can’t fit in a work-out every night, but I bet you can 3 times a week). Know your body–don’t expect to shed ten pounds a week; it’s really hard to have massive weight loss healthily!

2. Pick a Winner. One thing that will keep you coming back to your routine is finding something you love. Though I do the typical run on the treadmill (and hate it) I also do some pilates (which I love). There are tons of alternatives to just jogging at the gym. Intramural sports, swimming, kick boxing, karate, dance, bike riding. Choose something you enjoy so you look forward to work-out time as a break from studying.

3. Join a Team. I’m at me most consistent when other people are counting on me, because they help me hold myself accountable. So whether you round up a group to casually run, or join up with a school sport, make sure there is someone else around to help you push yourself to keep going.

4. Choose a Distraction. If you, like me, are a wuss when it comes to physical pain, then you are going to need a good distraction to keep you from allowing the internal whining to consume you. For me, the best distraction is talking with a friend. Conversation keeps me going, and I love running with other people. Second best is music, with a good solid beat. Third is a TV show. I can never really focus, but it at least gives me something to look at besides the SUPER SLOW timer on the treadmill. But you can choose whatever–maybe you like to make lists in your head, or plan out your tomorrow, or go through good memories. Do whatever works for you.

5. Make it Work.
So maybe a few weeks into your plan you realize that Monday nights you NEVER go to the gym, and you feel discouraged that you have yet to reach your target running speed. Allow yourself some leniency, and work around it. Let your body work up to your goal (you’ll get there if you stick to it) and schedule your workouts on nights when you KNOW you can do it. Any workout is better than none.

6. Stop Making Excuses. This is by far the biggest one, and thus the hardest one. I realized this year (watching The Biggest Loser, no less) that I make excuses all the time. I’m too busy to go to the gym, or too tired to run the full 30 minutes, or just “not motivated.”

So I decided to stop it, and just decide to go. Even when I’m tired, busy, or not motivated. I go. And while I don’t always make it every scheduled day, and sometimes can’t keep up with my previous day’s record, and honestly, can’t say I really enjoy the running itself, I do love the feeling of heading home knowing that I did it in spite of myself. That feels really good.

Good luck, my friends. I’m fighting the good fight with you. 😉

photo by Lynette Lan

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1 comment January 11th, 2010


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