Thanksgiving Survival 101

thanks surv

It’s that time! The beginning of family holiday gatherings and once again you are thrown into the ring to fight and answer questions like, “So are you still single?”. Possibly your family gatherings are stern affairs where nobody says anything and everybody looks disgruntled. Maybe none of this applies to you and you have a great time, but it is still simply exhausting. Whatever the recipe may be, winter holidays are a wonderful, but sometimes overwhelming experience. Here are the easiest strategies for Thanksgiving survival this year:

Host Friendsgiving Before or After Family Thanksgiving This will help you have a comfortable and laid back experience to associate with the holiday even if real Thanksgiving was stressful. Do it potluck style to make it even easier.

Offer Lots of Help at Thanksgiving Dinner The more you have to do, the less you’ll get involved in conversations with people that you don’t want to have. Offer to do the dishes, which is a solitary task that will give you the option of getting out of the crowd.

Practice Changing the Conversation If it’s going in a direction you don’t want it to, gracefully change the topic. If you’re asked a personal question, politely reply with the fact that you would be happy to discuss it later.

Chaperone the Kids It’s highly unlikely kids are going to stress you out like the adults will, and you can get away with playing football outside or building lego castles while everybody else does the normal Thanksgiving routine.

Bring a Friend Families will be on their best behavior if you bring someone new into the mix. Chances are you have a friend who is too far from home to go for the holiday, so offer your celebration. It can be a win-win for both of you!

 

Happy Stress-Free Thanksgiving!

 

 

Controlling the Technological Mess

techno

“Swimming in a Sea of Tangled Cables” sounds like it could be a Decemberists song title in a parallel universe, but it’s really more of a contemporary fact of life in many apartments. I have a catch-all basket overflowing with assorted technological odds and ends I keep my apartment’s living room which haunts me daily. In addition to the heap of wire and plastic in the basket, cables emanating from everywhere under my desk, like a vicious hydra go untouched from fear of making the mess somehow worse. However, this all stops now. This is how I plan to tame the technologically messy beast, and I’m hoping it will come in handy for you too.

Dedicate the better part of a day to this task so you can take your time. For example, a Saturday when you don’t have plans until the evening is better than trying to cram this task into an evening when you’re already tired. Plan your day, fix some tea, and take a deep breath!

 

  1. The first step is to unplug, untangle, and label what you have in use. Binder clips can help keep wires together or separate while you work. Use masking tape or white labels to wrap around wires and create a writing surface to label, “router” or “modem”, etc.
  2. Consider utilizing cable storage solutions, like these from IKEA, which will help keep the cables straight and hide their garish appearance.
  3. Use tape to conform cables to furniture legs or to attach to the wall to keep them from dangling all over the place.
  4. Revel in fantastic fruits of your labor!

 

One final note – this is by far the cutest cable keeper ever, but I have yet to figure out how to purchase it. Take a look here!

 

 

Holiday Happiness: Don’t Break the Bank

holiday happiness

Chances are you’ve already been bombarded by fifty different sale emails for this year’s Holiday shopping extravaganza. I think it actually started the day after Halloween this year, meaning Black Friday has taken a back seat to a day which extends the shopping season even further backwards into the beginning of November. I will gracefully decline to go on a rant about how people probably spend too much time and money on gifts and less on what really matters (insert cheesy Christmas movie moral here), but I will offer a few pointers for reducing the already nutty holiday shopping and money blowing stress that ensues during the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

Set a Budget – If you don’t, you may suffer a mild heart attack when your credit card statement arrives. Without a maximum amount, you may find yourself spending willy nilly and not even totaling your purchases up whatsoever which, in all likelihood, will haunt you later.

Shop Early – This memo may be a little late in the season, but if you’re already out doing something else, take a second to look around in case you see anything for your gift list while you’re there. Keep a designated place at home where you store all gifts you’ve purchased early so they don’t go missing when you need them.

Make and Bake – Handmade is always more personal and the internet is absolutely brimming with easy and inexpensive DIY gift ideas. These are especially great because it’s so simple personalizing a gift you’re making yourself. One simple point of caution – don’t get taken to the cleaners at the craft store. Keep your DIY’s as simple and thrifty as possible and stock up on Jo-Anns and Michaels coupons! Baked goods are another inexpensive gift option. Just remember to be aware of food allergies your gift recipients may have.

Be a Scrooge – Well, not really. But in a day and age where the idea of gifting has spiraled out of control, say no to gifts and write cards instead. Being thoughtful does not require deep pockets.

 

(photo credit: bluevelvetvintage.com)

Time for Tea!

time for teak

In my book, it’s always time for tea…especially hot tea. For those who aren’t completely tea crazed and indefinitely hooked like myself, fall and winter provide the perfect reason for a hot drink, even though it doesn’t get unbearably cold in Gainesville. Regardless of that, tea simply seems to fit the season, in which warmth and coziness is embraced so we can try to forget the fact that it’s not comfortable to lounge in the pool with a drink in hand.

One of the compelling arguments for drinking tea is the long list of health benefits. This being said, if you like your tea’s taste to rival hummingbird nectar, the sugar in your tea may outweigh the good aspects. Without sugar or with a small amount, black and green teas have been found to provide a number of positive contributions to a person’s health. Time Magazine lists tea as: improving muscle endurance, improving heart health and possibly help prevent heart attacks, reducing the risk of certain cancers through the high amount of antioxidants found in tea, hydrating the body, and possibly increasing bone density.

That being said (and since you are now completely sold on the idea of sipping tea), Here is a breakdown of types of tea. All teas from actual tea leaves (not herbal teas) come from the plant Camellia Sinensis.    

Black – black tea goes through a full oxidation process, removing all the water from the leaves and incorporating the most oxygen. Black teas are fuller in flavor and higher in their percentage of caffeine. Black tea is what your sweet tea is made with, but many black tea blends make a robust and delicious cup of hot tea. Steep 3-5 min.

Green – green tea undergoes only a partial oxidation and then the leaves are heated to stop the process. Green teas are less robust in flavor and have less caffeine. Usually they have a more earthy flavor. Steep 2-3 min.

White – white teas are made from the youngest parts of the tea plant and are not oxidized at all. White tea has a delicate and subtle flavor. Steep 1-3 min.

Oolong – it is oxidized an amount which is between green and black teas and has a floral, earthy fragrance, and smooth flavor. Steep 3-5 min.

Now that you know more than you ever wanted to about tea, you can go try them all and see which you prefer with your November routine. If you’re feeling adventurous, try this homemade chai tea (spiced black tea) recipe.

Added bonus: if you use loose leaf tea, you can learn to read your tea leaves.

reading tea leaves

(photo credits: nocturnalaurora.tumblr.com, harrypotter.wikia.com, information on tea from teasource.com)

Eating In: Dining in a Small Apartment

Chrissy

Do you have a designated dining area in your apartment? Many small apartments squish kitchens and living rooms together, leaving little space specified for a real place to sit down and enjoy a meal. I’m guilty of frequently eating at the kitchen counter, standing up, which isn’t exactly ideal when you have company eating with you. So I’ve been plotting for a while how to squeeze a dining area into my little home and these are some of the solutions I’ve found for this apartment conundrum:

You don’t have to use real dining furniture. Odds and ends provide excellent character when combined to create an eclectic dining set, so don’t be afraid to use what you have or what you can find cheaply at the thrift store. Patio furniture, like bistro tables, are great for a small dining space, too. Square or rectangular tables with straight edges are easy to push against the wall to minimize the amount of space used, but small round tables can be pushed into corners and also add a great deal of visual appeal.

Consider using a folding table. If you’re really short on space, collapsible furniture is your best friend. You may not want to bust it out every time you eat, but if you’re having company it can be the perfect solution.

Tables with leaves are optimal if you want to entertain. Select-a-size is the way to go if you plan on hosting a group of people instead of mainly feeding yourself at home.

Add a chandelier or pendant light to pull it together. If you’re going the permanent furniture route, a great way to tie everything together is to mount a hanging light fixture above. This one little thing will magically make your dining space look complete.

 

(photo credit: tvland.tumblr.com)

Party Time! Excellent!

Waynes World

Ok, this post isn’t exactly about Wayne’s World. But it is about how party decorations are underrated. As an individual on a relatively small decorating budget, I want to be able to make the most of something with the least amount of damage to my wallet. This is why I’m a huge fan of the party decor trend, which is so simple and cheap, but is also fabulous way to make a blank wall pop.

Time to relax   The first on the party decor list is the “DIY phrase banner” (I found one at Target, but lots of online shops have them), which you can use to spell out anything you want to say in big pretty letters your walls. These banners include a number of each letter so you can mix and match to spell out whatever your heart desires. They are also reusable, giving you the opportunity to mix it up for different seasons or whenever you find your new favorite phrase. Quotes, inspirational messages, or just your name make for fun decorations when spelled out in big pretty banner letters.

Let’s not stop there – there’s a whole world of party decor to be utilized! Fun garlands and honeycomb decorations, such as these from IKEA, brighten up a room and make it festive year-round. If you really want to get squirrelly, why not make your own?

Last, but certainly not least: string lights are not just for holidays anymore. With a plethora of colors, shapes, styles, and more, there are string lights out there for anybody. Using string lights adds instant playful ambiance and whimsy to your apartment.

 

(photo credits: thisdayinsnlhistory.tumblr.com, suuzenco.blogspot.com)

 

How Do You Do Coffee in Your Apartment?

coffee

Are you a coffee drinker? Folgers lover or shameless coffee snob? Either way, it’s totally cool. Most of us are helplessly addicted to caffeine at this point in our lives, and some of us actually just plain love coffee. The aroma of brewing coffee alone almost provides a little bit of a pick-me-up.

How do you make coffee in your apartment? There are so many different ways to brew a cup of coffee without a bulky coffee maker and achieve great tasting results. With limited space and limited funds, I’m partial to these:

The Pour Over

pour over

Pour overs are great because they require no equipment other than a simple cone pour over dripper which you can find in most home goods stores. If you want to grind your own coffee beans (which is recommended to keep the coffee’s freshness in tact), you will also need a coffee grinder. Other than that, keep the right size coffee filter around and if you have a way of boiling water, you have coffee. So beautifully simple!

How to do a pour over

The Moka

moka

A Moka is an Italian stovetop coffee maker which, with beans ground correctly, produces an espresso style coffee. Mokas are also great for making Cuban style coffee (a sweetened espresso drink). They are good for making small amounts of espresso style coffee relatively quickly, and inexpensively.

(image credit: dearcoffeeiloveyou.com)

How to make coffee with a Moka

The French Press

french press

Easy to use and adorable, the french press makes a quick cup of coffee. If you like your coffee thicker and stronger tasting, this is the method for you. Since the grounds are in contact with the water for a longer period of time, a french pressed cup of coffee is full of flavor.

How to make coffee with a french press

How do you do your morning joe?

(title image credit: chavacoffee.tumblr.com)

How to Spend Less on Your Groceries

groceruy

Grocery bills add up quickly, unfortunately especially so when you are trying your best to eat a healthy diet. Don’t let the grocery store get you down – keep these things in mind when shopping to help save big bucks.

Don’t Buy Something Just Because You Have a Coupon – Coupons can be great for products you know you’ll use, but if it’s something that is less important to you and you’re not sure about, skip the coupon.

Price per Ounce – Most grocery stores will list the price per ounce on the shelf label below a product. This is the best way to compare prices between competing brands. Often food items are packaged in different sized containers, so this gives products a level playing field to compare on.

Know When to Buy Organic – It is important to buy produce which is not covered in harmful pesticides, but some fruits and veggies are cleaner than others. The ones you have to worry about the most are: sweet bell peppers, apples, celery, strawberries, spinach, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, grapes, nectarines, hot peppers, peaches, and potatoes. It’s less of a risk to buy the non-organic version of the other fruits and vegetables, which saves you some money.

Buy in Bulk – I don’t mean go to Sam’s Club and buy 24 steaks at a time, but what I mean is use the bulk bins in grocery stores for things like grains, loose tea, spices, and pasta. These are almost always cheaper ways to get the same things that come in a box and you can take and reuse your own containers most places.

Buy a Few Extra When the Price is Right – If it will keep and not go bad, buy when the buying’s good.

 

(image credit: fifties-sixties-everyday-life.tumblr.com)