3 Halloween Themes for a Spooky Apartment Party

jackolanterns

Halloween decor is the only type I’m tolerant of coming out months early. The excitement of fall and all the crazy, fun decorations makes my heart all aflutter for October festivities. The decorations, costumes, and boatloads of creepy movies to watch keeps me happy all month long and helps segue into the cooler months and more laid back holidays.

So now that we’re halfway through October, you’re thinking of throwing a monster mash for the 31st at your place and wondering how to decorate for the occasion…

These are some of my favorite styles for the bash-

Beetlejuice-Inspired – If you grew up in the 90’s or not long after, it’s likely you’ve seen this movie once or twice. Easily one of my favorite creepy, yet amazingly goofy Tim Burton films, Beetlejuice is all about bright wacky colors, black and white stripes, everything absurd, odd green lighting, abstract furniture, and polaroids. Indulge in lots of purple, green, and over the top, bright decor. Get green light bulbs or black light bulbs to replace some of your regular ones with to get that Beetlejuice ambience. Anthropomorphizing your furniture will help too, so think about sticking on some googly eyes or felt faces with painter’s tape (which shouldn’t hurt your upholstery). Don’t forget the fog machine! Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!

Victorian Gothic – If you are a fan of the elegantly macabre, try this sophisticated style. Decorating primarily with a combination of black and violet is a good place to start. Next, use candelabras and ornate photo frames with old photographs to set the stage. You can often find old frames and photos both at thrift stores and the frames can be painted black with craft paint. Spider web, snake, and raven decor (consider crafting with black feathers!) help create a classy but dark themed space. Use lots of candles or LED candles, to play it safe, to set the mood.

Retro Halloween – Stick to a classic orange and black color scheme and decorate with twisted crepe paper streamers, paper bats, and fake cobwebs. Any good old-school Halloween party comes with the tried and true green punch in an old punch bowl for guests. The theme is not just decorations-centric, but also involves fun class activities. You can put together a tub for apple bobbing and a station for making candy apples. If you want to get a little creepier, bust out the ouija board, a classic favorite. Make sure you have all the Halloween themed oldies on your playlist…including the Monster Mash of course.

3 Easy Cocktail / Mocktail Recipes to Learn for New Year’s

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New Year’s Eve is coming up soon and if you want to throw a party, it’s nice to have some fun and festive drink recipes in your mixologist’s arsenal. Drinks for this time of year are usually full of warm flavors and aromatic spices, things which make you feel cozy and at home in the chilly weather. These drinks don’t have to be made with alcohol for those of you who would rather not partake – they are all excellent virgin cocktails/ mocktails as well!

With these easy recipes you’ll be able to host a great party or get-together without stressing over intense cocktail recipes. Keep things simple and enjoy ringing in the new year!

Spiced Cider Lemonade Cocktail from A Beautiful Mess

1 part lemonade

1 part apple cider

1.5 ounces whiskey

A pinch of cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and serve. The ladies from A Beautiful Mess also garnish the drink with cinnamon sticks and orange slices for an excellent visual effect!

 

Champagne and Sorbet cocktails from Paper and Stitch

1-2 scoops raspberry or blood orange sorbet

Champagne (or substitute with sparkling juice)

Scoop sorbet into glasses (try making her countdown glasses!) and pour champagne or sparkling juice over top for a frothy and fruity cocktail. Simple and sweet.

 

Moscow Mule Mocktail from the Merrythought

 

½ cup ginger beer

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

3 tbsp club soda

Mix these ingredients in a copper mug about ¾ of the way full with crushed ice. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge. If you want to make a traditional cocktail version of this, replace some of the club soda with vodka. Enjoy!

A Fun Crowd-Pleaser Holiday Gift

holiday-gift

I normally don’t advocate expensive gifts because I know firsthand how out of control holiday shopping and spending can get – and it’s a real damper on your finances if you don’t keep a close eye on it. I’m all about handmade, small gifts, which tend to be more meaningful anyway. However, there is one I’ll recommend any day…

I have to admit one of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a Fujifilm Instax camera, which I continuously use and enjoy. It’s a great gift for just about anyone who appreciates the fun and spontaneity of the instant camera (and who maybe is a little tired of taking pictures with a cell phone). Perhaps part of it stems from my early childhood, using my grandparents’ bulky Polaroid and then the disappointment when Polaroid stopped making the cameras and components. It’s always been, and still is somewhat magical taking a picture and then watching it develop before your eyes to see how it turned out. The Instax cameras also have features which allow you to leave the shutter open for an extended time while you take a photograph to get interesting light effects or even take a purposefully double-exposed photo.

It’s a really versatile gift for anyone who’s a bit of a shutterbug or even a younger friend or relative who’s learning about photography or just wants to scrapbook some fun memories!

Here’s the version I have, the Neo Classic (slightly better than the original) on Amazon, $129  

Instax film comes in a variety of frame styles, so you can get the traditional white or opt for something funky like these packs.

 

Giving Gifts that Pay it Forward

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I’m a little bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to the holiday shopping extravaganza that happens every year. I get bummed out over people spending oodles of cash on things for the sake of giving somebody “something”, whether or not that person wants or needs it, but because we feel socially obligated to. I know you’re letting out an audible groan at my Grinchiness right now, but I’ve given it some more thought and pose the question – If you must buy gifts, why not buy gifts from companies who do something charitable in return?

Out of Print is a company which provides literature lovers with the necessaries to outwardly express their favorite novels and authors. They sell shirts, socks, accessories for the home, and more. Proceeds from their sales go toward literacy programs and book donations to children in need.

My Out of Print pick, West Egg (The Great Gatsby) Pennant for the apartment

 

Hand in Hand Soap not only makes and sells soap, but donates a bar for every bar sold. The company works with My Neighbor’s Children charity group to donate soap to people in areas where sanitation is an issue. The charity primarily focuses on helping children in Haiti.

My Hand in Hand Soap pick, a face tonic and hand salve (in jasmine for me) gift set sounds amazing!

 

Twice as Warm creates quality made in the US winter accessories (hats, scarves, gloves) and donates one to a local shelter with each purchase. Twice as Warm designs are classic and simple and the products are great for gift giving.

My Twice as Warm pick, a chunky knit black marled infinity scarf that looks pretty darn cozy and cute.

 

Good Deeds: Something Nice To Do This Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday full of family, friends, warmth, and good food. Thanksgiving travel, on the other hand, can be a complete nightmare. And for that very reason, many people do not go home this time of year to be with their friends and families. So when you’re planning your Thanksgiving celebration, try to embrace “the more, the merrier!” motto and extend an invitation or two.

If you’re lucky enough to be close to home for Thanksgiving, or to be hosting, think about your friends and what their plans are. If you have a friend or neighbor who can’t make it home for Thanksgiving this year, invite them to yours. This is the beginning of the holiday season and it can be trying for those who have to spend it alone and don’t want to, especially for those who have just lost loved ones or have recently gotten out of serious relationships.

If you’re stranded at college with a group of others not returning home for Turkey Day, try out “Friendsgiving” instead. Round up all your friends not traveling home for the holiday and do Thanksgiving potluck style. That way it is fun and affordable for everyone attending. Throw in some football or games for the day and it’s the perfect way to kick back and enjoy taking a break from school on your Thanksgiving break.

Halloween Movie Night: Cult Classic Edition

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Halloween movies are some of the absolute best movies in my oh-so-expert opinion. You can go so many different routes – traditional horror, goofy comedy, stop animation, bizarre and whimsical, and more. Some of the most enjoyable ones are not always the big blockbusters, but the underappreciated cult classics that steal my heart. So this year when you throw your Halloween party at your apartment or when you have a weekly movie night, try one of these indie bad boys.

The Evil Dead – This film is incredibly popular these days, but it wasn’t originally so popular and is still considered a weird cult classic in its own right. It’s low-budget, gory, strange, and surprisingly funny. It starts off slow, but it will pull you in and have you saying “what exactly just happened?” in no time.

Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Manos: The Hands of Fate – If you want something to make you laugh this Halloween, enjoy what is considered one of the world’s worst B movies commentated on by the cast of MST3K. Watch as a family vacations at a creepy motel, only to find the staff there isn’t exactly what they seem. While you watch, robots Crow, Tom Servo, and show host Joel poke fun at this hilariously bad thriller.

Rockula – Easily one of the goofiest screwball vampire comedies, it’s chock full of bad puns, innuendo, and cheesy 90’s humor. Rockula is a vampire who is condemned to live forever and continuously watch the love of his life die and get reincarnated. He has to break the spell somehow, but messes up every time until…well you’ll see. Definitely a great pick for a movie night with friends.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – A huge cult favorite. Watching it annually is excellent, but seeing it performed live every year is even better! Dance the Time Warp, throw rice, and play with water guns while watching RHPS’s strange musical rendition of what would happen if you and your fiance accidentally ran into a castle full of Transylvanian transvestites and space aliens. I mean, how could that go wrong?

Donnie Darko – Being a 90’s kid this film caught me at exactly the right age. Full of angst and confusion Donnie Darko lives in a world of social expectation, anxiety, and suburban “normalcy”. Donnie challenges authority, dives deep into the dark inner workings of his psyche, and tackles time travel, which all climaxes right on the evening of Halloween. This is my personal pick for the time of year – the soundtrack is the perfect 80’s dark wave mix, the dialogue is provocative, and the visuals are intense.

House on Haunted Hill – Vincent Price at his best in this classic creepy flick in which he invites people willing to spend the night in his haunted mansion $1,000,000 to be locked in for the entire evening…if they dare. Classic horror at its best.

It’s Time for Fireworks!: Independence Day 2016

4th

Summer is officially here! With the fourth of July right around the corner, you’re sure to be making plans for this year’s big patriotic celebration. Here are some of the events and happenings in the Gainesville and surrounding northern and central Florida areas:

Fanfares and Fireworks

This celebration of music and fireworks will be taking place on July 3rd, with music starting at 7pm at Flavet Field. Three musical groups are scheduled to play and fireworks will start around 9:40 that evening.

http://www.wuft.org/fireworks/

City of Alachua Fourth of July Celebration

Join the all-day celebration on July 4th at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex where the city is hosting its annual Independence Day blast. The festivities start at 3pm and last until 10pm. There will be events, activities, music, and vendors for everyone in the family. Fireworks start at 9:30pm!

http://www.cityofalachua.com/index.php/2015-july-4th-celebration

Keystone Heights’ Our Country Day Celebration

An annual event started in 1969, this Fourth of July event has grown over the years and includes a parade, 5k run, arts and crafts, and more. The event is split between two days: it begins on July 2nd with music and dancing from 7-11pm at Keystone Airport and picks up on Monday, July 4th with the remainder of the activities.

http://www.ourcountryday.com/

Micanopy Independence Day Celebration

The town of Micanopy will be kicking off their July 4th celebration on Monday with a parade at 11am, and a fish fry at the Micanopy Museum immediately afterwards. Events for families will also be taking place at the Micanopy Ball Park, ending with fireworks in the evening at sundown.

 

Happy [Almost] Lunar New Year!

lunar new year

The Lunar New Year (same as Chinese New Year) is in one week! I’ve always been drawn to the allure of Asian culture- the food, art, zen and taoist philosophies, the beautiful languages (both written and spoken), and the list goes on. So I always enjoy partaking in Lunar new year even if it is in some small way.

Traditionally, Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival as it is also known, is a time to celebrate new beginnings as well as one’s ancestors and relatives who have passed away. The celebration continues for a number of days until the fifteenth of the first calendar month, which is called the Lantern Festival. According to chinahighlights.com, the Lunar New Year is celebrated with food (dumplings!), festivities like the dragon and lion dances, firecrackers and fireworks, and red envelopes which are traditionally filled with money and given to the children of the family. Homes are usually decorated with various signs of good luck or possibly red lanterns. I always like to go to the local Asian market for cute New Year decorations.

This year will be the Year of the Monkey! The monkey sign of the Chinese zodiac is a smart, quick-witted, charismatic one. Read more about Lunar New Year 2016 here.

If you want to join a celebration in the Gainesville area and learn more about Chinese culture, the University of Florida will be holding a festival on Sunday, February 7 and you can find out how to get tickets here!