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Things to Do While Social Distancing

The past few weeks have been a difficult and often scary time. Between UT’s shift to online classes and the continuously changing state of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel anxious or hopeless. One thing that we all can do to help slow the spread, or “flatten the curve,” is to take part in social distancing.

 Social distancing can look a bit different for everyone, but basically it boils down to limiting interactions with people and keeping a distance between you of at least six feet when you can’t go without that interaction entirely. It can be tempting to want to go out and socialize or still take part in spring break plans, but this issue is beyond us as individuals. For the sake of public health, we need to do our part and stay home. Obviously, this can get boring pretty quickly. Here are things to do to fight boredom while practicing social distancing.

Start Your Spring Cleaning

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I’d like to think everyone else has a drawer that is always a junk drawer. Whether you have old clothes sitting in your closet or a dresser that needs dusting, though, cleaning is both a time consuming and productive thing to do. If you have a big area to cover, try breaking it up into pieces to conquer throughout the week. Even if you aren’t one of those people who find it relaxing (I certainly don’t), there’s likely to be a sense of accomplishment when it’s all said and done. 

Make a Vision Board

Photo by Courtney Smith

A vision board is a great way to set intentions and put your desires onto something tangible. The great thing about this activity is that it can be as elaborate or simple as you want it to be. I already have a large vision board made of a cork board, scrapbook paper, and magazine images, but I decided to make a smaller one to add to it. As individuals we are always changing, so this is an activity that can be done multiple times whether you’ve made it with long term goals and dreams or short term ideas. All you need is a surface such as a piece of paper/poster board/cork board, magazines or internet images to cut out, and glue/thumb tacks to secure the images. If you’re artsy you could even add paint or drawings to your vision board. This is also a great way to take your mind off of the craziness of the day and think about things you’d like to do for yourself. 

Host a FaceTime Party

Photo courtesy of Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Even if you’re social distancing with your roommates or family members, it can still feel lonely and dull. For those having to leave the dorms or other living arrangements near campus, it can feel like you’re being ripped away from your friends, support system, and overall routine. Luckily we have technology at our fingertips that can help us reconnect. Text your friends/family and set up a FaceTime date. Grab some snacks, get comfortable, make sure your device is charged, and keep each other company! You could also try playing a game or watching a movie “together” if catching up feels repetitive.

Get Outdoors

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Avoid getting stir crazy by making it a point to go outside everyday. According to this Time article, going outside can lower stress, decrease blood pressure, and improve your overall mood. Walking your dog, going for a morning/evening walk, visiting a spacious park, drinking your coffee outside, opening up a window, having a picnic in your backyard, outdoor yoga, going for a run, or riding a bike are just a small sample of things you can do to get outside.

Workout for Free (and at home) with YouTube

YouTube

Instead of going to the gym, try something new from the comfort of your home. YouTube is a great way to get fit for free and there are literally hundreds of channels to choose from. If you’re looking for a quick, high energy workout, I recommend the Body Coach TV. Joe Wicks is the “Body Coach” and is probably the only person who can make me smile while doing a plank. His specialty is HIIT workouts and he has a huge variety of videos to try. For pilates or yoga, checkout Boho Beautiful or Yoga With Adriene. The Boho Beautiful videos are always in a unique destination that can either give you some future travel inspiration or help you pretend like you’re in Bali. Adriene from Yoga With Adriene is Austin based, so you can support a local yogi by watching her videos.

Bake

Photo courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Baking is another way to pass time that is productive, entertaining, and (hopefully) delicious. Whether you fancy yourself a future Food Network star or barely know what a whisk is, now is a great time to get cooking. Try and use what you have to avoid going out in crowds. If you don’t have a favorite recipe to whip up, these cookie recipes by Tasty can be made using cake mix and are both easy and delicious. Wanting to make something from scratch? This chocolate cake recipe or these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are two of my absolute favorite recipes. 

Start a New Show/Book

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Although the adrenaline rush of binge watching a series when you have an exam coming up may not be there, it’s still a great time to start a new series or begin reading a book. It doesn’t have to be actually “new,” either. Never understood the hype of The Office because you’ve never seen it? Now’s your chance. Wanted to read Michelle Obama’s book but didn’t have the time? Well, now you do. 

Journal

Photo courtesy of Plush Design Studio from Pexels

Journaling can be both a creative outlet as well as a therapeutic release during times of stress or uncertainty. It can sometimes be difficult to keep up with a traditional journal or know what to write so if that isn’t your thing, try using a bullet journal or a prompting/list journal. I love this reflections and intentions journal because it has fill in the blank prompts for things like gratitudes, reflections, and mood while being flexible enough so if you miss a day it is no big deal. Plus, it’s designed to be used in the morning and again at night, making it more of an activity that you can add into your new routine. A bullet journal can be bought online for relatively cheap and is a great option for those looking to tailor the journaling experience with a bit more creativity and freedom to doodle. There is a ton of inspiration for bullet journals on Instagram and Pinterest, too!

Social distancing is an important part of slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, but it can be difficult emotionally. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone and, while it may not always seem like it, staying home is one of the biggest ways you can contribute right now. It’s also important to recognize that while getting things done while at home can feel like a valuable way to pass time, it’s okay if you aren’t “productive.” Taking care of your mental health is just as important and that can look different for everyone.

 If you’re struggling with finding things to do while staying in, try the tips above or come up with some ideas of your own and don’t forget to let us know on social media how you’re social distancing! 

Featured image courtesy of Alessio Cesario from Pexels

5 White Elephant Gag Gifts That Are (Kind of) Useful

White Elephant is a popular Christmas tradition among friends and acquaintances, other than Secret Santa of course. Unlike Secret Santa, however, the game offers participants a chance to give an anonymous gift suited for anyone. Gifts can be something nice like a Starbucks gift card or, if you’re feeling creative, it can be a gag gift.

Gag gifts are a huge hit in White Elephant, but no one wants to go home with something that has no real use. Instead, it’s time to get creative with these gag gifts that your friends will actually want.

Bob Ross Heat Changing Mug

Photo courtesy of Amazon

The man, the myth, the legend. Bob Ross is a meme to all for his inspiring quotes and DIY videos for intricate paintings. This heat changing mug reveals a painting behind Bob Ross whenever a warm drink fill the mug. This gift is perfect for coffee lovers. It can be snagged for $15.95 on Amazon.

Giant Pizza Blanket

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Know a pizza lover? Know a taco or burrito lover? Give the gift of a warm blanket for the winter season with this novelty blanket! This blanket comes in different patterns including, pepperoni pizza, supreme pizza, or even a tortilla! This giant pie can be bought for $18.00 on Amazon.

Cookie Spoon Pan

Photo courtesy of UncommonGoods

Save the environment and stop using plastic spoons. Instead, give your friends a reason to eat more cookies by gifting them this cookie spoon pan! Your friends don’t know it yet, but they need this cookie spoon pan. Save the environment and win White Elephant for only $18.00 on UncommonGoods.

DIY Taco Bell Survival Kit

Photo courtesy of GetYourHolidayOn.com

Looking to make something cheap and easy? Make a Taco Bell Survival Kit filled with toilet paper, a pack of wet wipes, hand soap, air freshener, and some hot sauce packets. It might seem silly, but this stuff can be pretty useful for someone’s bathroom even if they didn’t actually make a stop at Taco Bell. Stop by your local dollar store for the cheapest prices on these items! If you’re feeling a little generous, slip in a Taco Bell gift card.

Gift Card Wheel


Photo courtesy of Journal Henley Games

Got a few of your old gift cards lying around that you need to get rid of? Put them together to form a wheel and only put one with money on it. Your friends will love this gift, but get frustrated checking to see which gift card has money on it!

So what are you waiting for? Get creative and happy gift giving!

Featured image courtesy of Giftpundits.com from Pexels

New Traditions to Richen Your Holiday Season

As the sun stirs into another cold morning, the holiday season can be felt in the air. Business’ fill their stores with red wreaths and lace green garland along their tables. Tiny lights are wrapped around trees and the charming ring of a bell excites the hearts of people young and old. Carols, cookies and community fill you with warmth and gratitude. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year spent with family, friends and full stomachs. But before you know it trees that were once trimmed are taken down, and the warm crackling of a fire turns to ashes. In the blink of an eye, the holiday magic disappears.

For many people, traditions make the holiday season richer and slower. Whether it is baking grandma’s famous cookies the night before Christmas, or buying a new ornament to decorate the tree traditions add to all the enchantment. If you are looking to delve deep into the holiday cheer this winter, here are some traditions to begin with family, friends and loved ones. 

Make Festive Food, Ciders and Desserts

Cooking is a great way to have fun with your loved ones and start a new tradition or family recipe. Cooking is also a great way to incorporate your family’s individual culture into the holidays.

Deck the Halls and Decorate 

Decorations enhance the Christmas magic more than anything. Make decorating an event in your household. Invite over friends, play Christmas carols and make your home festive. Also consider homemade decor options to spend more time creating with loved ones. 

Give Back 

The holiday season is also a time of reflection. Many families chose this time of the year to express gratitude for one another through gifts and service. Make it a tradition in you family to buy toys for children in hospitals, donate to the homeless or give gifts to your neighbors. 

Have Cozy Nights In

Make a festive Christmas cider, like wassail, and host your loved ones at your house. Put on your favorite Hallmark Christmas movie and start a fire. Share laughs, hugs and quality time with your family.

Go See Christmas Lights

Christmas lights and Christmas decor can be elaborate and impressive. Go see a light show local Christmas light show and take pictures of all the beauty.

Holiday traditions are unique and special ways to make this season full of  joy, gratitude and love. Be creative with your traditions and celebrate with people you love because it isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you do it with.

Featured image courtesy of : Creative Commons; “Christmas Tale” by Alexandr Ignatiev

Long Time No See! 5 Creative Ways to Stay in Touch with Long Distance Friends

Let’s face it. When you came to college, you promised all of your besties that you would keep in touch with them no matter what. You made this promise despite the fact that you’re going to be 858.9 miles away, homework and exams and meetings are going to consume your day, and you’re going to want to spend as much time as possible with that new girl you just met on your hall.

It’s a lot harder to keep in touch with old friends than we initially think, and turns out we’re really good at forgetting to text people back (like really good). And that’s okay! It’s natural, maybe even expected, for friends to go through periods of limited communication. Even if y’all survived freshman year talking weekly, sophomore year presents a whole new set of unforeseen challenges. 

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

But no need to fear! In the age of technology, there are so many ways to stay together even when you’re apart. 

So without further ado, here are 5 creative ways to stay in touch with that long-distance friend.

1. Host a Houseparty 

No, not an actual house party. Houseparty is an app that allows you to video-call multiple people at once. This idea is perfect for keeping up with your friend group that ended up scattered across the country. Trust me, I know how hard it is to coordinate a group Facetime with more than 3 people, but the app offers a loophole. You and your friends just need to download the app, add each other as friends, and you’re set! Whenever you have a spare moment, maybe while getting ready to go out, just open the app and it will notify your friends that you’re free to chat! If they get the notification that you’re “In the house”, they can just click on it and join you for an impromptu catch-up session.

2. Snail Mail

While it can make you feel like you’re stuck in the 19th century, snail mail can actually be a great way to stay in-the-know without being updated in real-time. Writing an old-fashioned letter to a friend, telling them about the past couple of weeks and the boy you’ve been talking to, is not only effective but also therapeutic. Plus, think about all the cute letters you’ll get back from your bestie! Put them in a shoe-box for keepsakes and you can look back on them later (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before energy, amiright).

3. Forgetful? Set Reminders!

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

I am the most forgetful person I know. It’s honestly shocking that I’ve made it this far in life, so when it comes to remembering to check in on that one friend, I struggle hard. One of the simplest solutions is to set a reminder on your phone! Just go into the reminders app on your phone (this is assuming you have an iPhone… if you don’t, I’m sure there’s an app to download and also I’m judging you), set a reminder to “TEXT LINDSEY”, and tell it to repeat every two weeks!

4. Lists on lists on lists

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

If you’re anything like me, you love making to do lists and grocery lists and wishlists. But one of my favorite lists is the one where I write down all of the stories I want to tell my best friend on our next skype call. Although we don’t get to talk too frequently, when we do have an opportunity to Skype, I remember to tell her about that time when I lost my phone in the middle of campus at midnight riding home on a Lime scooter. 

5. Slideshow Presentation

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

This is something I saw on twitter and honestly I am dying to try it. Basically the idea is, if you don’t have the chance to stay in touch during the semester, when you’re home for break you make a slideshow to recap the past few months away from each other! You can put all of the crazy snapchats you took during the semester on there and then host a sleepover where all of your besties show off their slides. It’s like a review session but for each other’s lives!

These are just a couple of my favorite ways to stay in touch with my closest friends from high school. If you’re reading this and realize you haven’t talked to your friend in months, just remember it’s never too late to shoot off a quick text and reach across the distance once again.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Weekend Getaway: Magnolia Market

Exploring new places isn’t always easy on a college budget with constant deadlines and org meetings, but luckily there are so many places that are worth a day (or even weekend!) trip from campus. Recently I decided to go to Magnolia Market in Waco to see what all the hype was about- and to see if only HGTV fans would be there thanks to Chip and Joanna Gaines’ show that inspired the marketplace. Below are my tips and review of the infamous Waco weekend getaway. You can look at the overall scores for each of the things I’ll be covering (right), but keep reading for a more in depth look at the trip.

Getting There

One of the best things about getting to the market is that it’s only an hour and a half away! I stayed in Waco from Friday to Saturday afternoon, but it’s close enough to do all in one day. Magnolia Market also has free parking which is a huge bonus compared to, well, pretty much anywhere. You have to either get to the market early in the day or late to snag a spot, though. If not, Waco also has a FREE trolley system. Either way, getting to Magnolia Market (and parking) is overall quite easy and inexpensive.

Insta Worthy Moments

All photos by Courtney Smith

Given that Magnolia Market was literally designed by an infamous design and house remodeling duo, it’s no surprise that every inch of it is super aesthetic. The grounds themselves have flowerbeds, cute lawn chairs, and plenty of eye pleasing white walls for a photo backdrop. The shops are also just as instagrammable and include a home decor/souvenir store, garden shop (check out the mini greenhouse for a cute picture) and a bakery. All of that on top of the picturesque food options make Magnolia Market a top notch place for photographers and amateur influencers alike.

Food

One of the most important things about any trip: food. Luckily at Magnolia Market there was equally as much thought put into the food as into the design. There are several food trucks at the market itself and, out of those, I definitely recommend the tea from The Alabama Sweet Tea Company. For $8 you get a 24oz souvenir mason jar with a reusable straw and some great tea- plus it’s only $2 for a refill. It seems pricey, but the reusable factor and the size makes it an okay value. The Magnolia Table food truck also is at the market and features some of the same items from the actual sit down restaurant, The Magnolia Table, but with less than a third of the wait time. I got the avocado toast from their food truck and while $8 is a bit hefty, it was also the best avocado toast I’ve ever had, TBH. So take that however you want. If you have the time/desire to wait for a seat at The Magnolia Table, it’s worth it. You can technically leave the restaurant while you wait (check out Spice Market downtown or go back to the market!)  which makes the long wait bearable. You absolutely must get there early if you want to eat there- the waitlist often is closed off by noon. The Magnolia Table also has a takeaway market with some of their products and grab-n-go food which makes a picnic or road-tripping back home easy and delicious. At the restaurant I ordered the skillet oatmeal and it was super satisfying. The pancakes, pastries, and hash-browns are all also worth ordering and very tasty. If you’re looking to grab food somewhere else in Waco, the Health Shack (definitely a sarcastic choice) and Bubba’s are two good options nearby that are also pretty budget-friendly.

Cost

Visiting Magnolia Market is definitely worth it, but it isn’t exactly the cheapest. While admission and parking are free, souvenirs and food in the market itself can set you back quite a bit of money. However, if you plan ahead and eat some meals/snacks outside of the market you won’t spend as much on food. Buying souvenirs at Spice Market is also an alternative to the pricier items at the shops on the market grounds. That being said, whether you’re a mega-fan of “Fixer Upper” or just looking for an eye-pleasing couples/friend getaway- Magnolia Market is definitely worth it.