Back to College: Dorm Room Supply List, Part 2

Here is part 2 of my dorm supply list. Boy, this looks like a lot of stuff…it’s very easy to see why college kids on their way home for the summer have their cars packed to the ceiling with stuff. It’s crazy to think of just how much stuff we need…even with just the bare essentials.

    Household items

    • Vacuum cleaner (the dorm may have one for tenant/community use, but a lot of students prefer to have their own)
    • Alarm clock
    • Desk lamp
    • Towels and washrags
    • Microwavable Plates, bowls, eating utensils. (disposable or reusable)
    • Laundry hamper/basket
    • Garbage can (and bags)
    • Plastic drawers and/or storage bins/containers for extra clothes, shoes, bathroom items, dishes, snacks, etc.
    • Sheets, bedspread, pillows
    • If you have an actual kitchen area with stove, then you’ll need pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc.
    • Can opener (something small and forgettable, but very important)
    • Additional appliances such as a toaster or a mini grill. (check dorm regulations b/f purchasing extra appliances.)
    • Hair dryer, etc.
      Clothes iron
    • flashlight (in case of power outage)
    • Fan
    • Mirror
    • Electric blanket (space heaters are usually not allowed)

    Everyday items

    • Groceries (drink, sandwich stuff, microwavables, easy prep stuff, snacks)
    • Laundry detergent & supplies
    • Dishwashing liquid
    • Handsoap
    • Several rolls of quarters for washing machine/dryer, coke machine, etc.
    • Cleaning supplies
    • Soap, shampoo, conditioner, razors, etc.
    • Plenty of clothes (especially if you live several hours from home and don’t know how often you’ll be coming home.)
    • Medicine & first aid items
    • Bathrobe (especially if you have a community bathroom)
    • Shower shoes (ditto)
    • Ziplok bags

    Decor/Personal touches

    • Pictures, posters, picture frames
    • Bulletin board and/or marker board
    • Figurines, souveniers, momentos
    • Small area rug

    Entertainment

    • TV & DVD player, or personal dvd player
    • Video game system
    • Stereo
    • Ipod/MP3 player
    • Appropriate cables, cords, adaptors, surge proctectors, etc.
    • Camera (to capture all the memorable moments)
    • Bicycle, sports equipment
    • Books/magazines (I know it may sound a little archaic to some teenagers, but at least one or two shouldn’t hurt them too much.)
    • Batteries
    • board games


    Back to College: Dorm Room Supply List, Part 1

    With fall semester coming in just a few short weeks, parents and students will be flocking to Wal-Mart, the mall, office supply stores, and more to get all those must have dorm room supplies. But for a kid that’s never lived away from home, and for a parent that’s never sent a kid to college, it can be an overwhelming experience, and it can be hard even knowing where to begin when it comes time to shop for everything. The best thing to do is to sit down and make a list of items. It’s best if you divide the list into categories for organizational purposes (and to make sure nothing is forgotten)

    But I don’t think you ever really have an idea just how much time and effort goes in to preparing to move in to a dorm and how much stuff you actually need until you do it yourself or watch someone you know do it.  For that reason, I’m posting my own list here of college supplies.

    For the first half of my list you’ll find School & Office Supplies, and Furniture/Big Items. And part 2 of this post will include Housewares, Everyday items, and Entertainment items.

    School Supply Items
    • #2 pencils
    • blue/black ink pens
    • Loose leaf paper and printer paper
    • Backpack
    • Planner
    • Wall calendar
    • Spiral notebooks or 3 ring binders (I prefer binders w/ clip & pockets b/c you can always add more paper, and it gives you a place to put handouts/syllabus/internet articles)
    • highlighters
    • Jump drive/Removable computer drive to store work. (a must!)
    • Computer (I recommend a laptop, must have internet/Microsoft office, Word is a must, and Adobe Reader)
    • Printer (good to have your own for 24/7 use, to save you a trip to the computer lab, and to keep you from having to pay for copies)
    • Post-it flags (I use these to mark my page in a book I’m reading and to flag important pages in books and articles)
    • Post-it notes (obviously to write reminders to yourself, but I also use these for research purposes…I leave the post-it note on the appropriate page, and make a note on the post-it about what is important on that page)
    • Stapler (for print outs and work that is to be handed in)
    • Hole punch (to place syllabi & handouts into a binder)
    • Paper clips (comes in handy for research projects)
    • Envelopes & stamps
    Other Office Supplies You Might Need
    • File box/cabinet (great to keep important notes and term papers, although for myself, I keep all my papers/notes in large binders)
    • Index cards (good for research notes)
    • Graphing calculator (if taking math/chemistry/etc)
    • Notepad
    • Tape
    • Tape recorder
    • file folders or folders with pockets (good for keeping up with and organizing research articles)
    • tab sheets
    • page protectors
    • For certain classes you may need other tools, software, or supplies as well.
    Furniture/Big items
    • Student desk (if one is not provided)
    • Mini Fridge
    • Microwave
    • Desk chair
    • Bookshelf (at least a 3-shelf, if you don’t have a collection of books now, you’ll have them soon. between text books & library books, they’ll pile up soon.)
    • Futon, loveseat, or extra chairs
    • Night table
    • TV table/stand

    Back to College: Deciding Where to Go

    Things to Think About When Choosing a College:

    For many the first two on the list are the most important, but don’t underestimate these other factors.

    • Location
    • Cost of tuition
    • Cost of room/board (if living away from home)
    • Programs/courses offered
    • Teachers/Faculty (a lot more important than you may think)
    • Social atmosphere of the campus

    After taking cost and location into account, it’s very important to do your own research and really get informed about the colleges you are thinking about attending (or thinking about sending your kids too). Even if you are looking at community colleges or universities in your immediate area, the decision should not be taken lightly.

    • Always visit the campus before deciding to attend a college.
    • Use the internet to read about the colleges you are looking at attending (but take their message with a grain of salt…go see the place and meet the people yourself. Remember the website is designed to make you want to go there.)
    • Talk to students that attend the school.
    • When you go for your scheduled campus tour, take the opportunity to meet professors working in the department that you’re most interested in.
    • And/Or contact “potential, future” professors by phone/email and let them know you’re interested in their program. It’s very important to find out about your instructors ahead of time, to find out about their classes, and their perspective on the subjects they teach, and their teaching philosophy.
    • Read department newsletters and school newspapers to find out what kind of cultural events are held at the school. (plays, exhibitions, guest speakers, ) While this may not seem important, it is because it can tell you a lot about the school’s political leaning and agenda.
    • Also, when finding out about the college, you should find about about work study programs and inquire about student organization and the overall campus environment.
    • Prospective students should also consider attending a class or two to find out what the classroom environment is like. (or you can sign up to audit a class for a semester)

    Why This is Important to Me

    It may seem kind of silly that I devoted an entire post to “deciding where to go to college,” and really in some cases it’s just a no brainer that you would find out about a college before you go there. On the other hand, I know that a lot of people (myself included) attend a college because it’s affordable and nearby. But I wanted to write this post as a word of caution to some.

    And here’s why: My husband and I went to college together, and he’s currently in graduate school. My husband has loved the subject of literature for his entire life. He is very passionate about it! Before he began attending grad school, he looked over the website of the college he currently attends, and it sounded like it would be a good fit for him. Unfortunately for him, he was never more wrong. He’s taking the last of his classes right now, and all he has left is to write his thesis, but his love for the subject….his fire and flair, has fizzled out dramatically.

    He began with thirst for knowledge, and he’s leaving with a bad taste in his mouth. This college, like many, is filled with teachers that bring their political beliefs in to the classroom, and they are very indifferent and even hostile to students who believe differently. And aside from that, they’ve taken a subject that my husband loves and changed it completely, focusing not on works of literature themselves, but on what’s missing in the works and focusing more what critics say about the works, and they completely lack objectivity.

    I could go on longer, but for the sake of trying to keep this post as short as possible, I’ll just leave it there. But if you have any questions or would like to know more about this, you can contact me and I’ll be glad to answer your questions.


    Back to College: The Importance of Planning

    As part of the goal of Simply Sweet Home, I like to give out information not just on recipes and housekeeping but on other topics that are relevant to families. Several years ago I was starting college. Neither my parents nor my brother went to college, so it was a new thing for my family. And even though we had other relatives to get advice from, for the most part we were just feeling our way through it and really had no clue about what was going on. And if I had known what I know now, I would have done things differently and had a much better/different college experience. (Not that my experience was bad, but you know what I mean.)

    So I decided to do this series on college issues, mainly to help those who have no experience themselves with college. Whether you’re sending kids to college, or you, yourself, are going to college, there’s a lot of stuff to know in terms of planning to get started and handling things once you get there, which can help to save you money and help you in your overall college experience and career.

    *********

    My husband suggested that to begin, I should focus on the importance of planning. Planning is a key that cannot be stressed enough. Other than choosing a spouse and a career, choosing a college is one of the most important things you can do in your life, and after starting at the college, ultimately the major you choose and the courses (and teachers) you choose will impact you in one way or another. And for this reason you should really think on this a while before making any decisions. (more on that in a later post)

    But also, a lack of planning means that you will spend more money in the long run. Whether you’re deciding where to go, registering for classes, looking at financial aid options, deciding where to live while in school, or even purchasing text books, a lack of planning will cost you.

    Even if your kids are young, it is never to early to start thinking about college. When I was younger, my dad looked in to doing a pre-paid college program, but my mom didn’t want to do it, and this cost us. Aside from financial planning, it is a good idea to start planning and preparing kids for college by making sure that they enroll in high school courses which will help them in their college career. Even if you’re child is going to a community college or a college without strict admissions requirements, taking courses like advanced math & science and honors English & history, will help them when they get to college and have to take these difficult courses.

    Also, starting in the 9th grade, your child should go and visit the guidance counselor every semester so that they can be sure and stay on track, in terms of researching colleges, preparing to register for the courses in high school that will best help them later on, registering for ACT and other college placement exams, and sending off college admissions forms and scholarship forms. It’s also not a bad idea to get the phone number of the guidance counselor and talk to them yourself, or schedule a meeting with them each semester to make sure that you’re doing everything to get your child ready. The guidance counselor is there to help you…it’s their job! (and they should also be more than happy to help, because when they are up for a raise or looking for another job in the future, they take credit for all the scholarships and etc. that they “help” people to get.)

    You should also carefully plan your class schedules. Usually colleges post a tentative schedule for the next few semesters for planning purposes. If future schedules are not posted then you can speak with professors to find out when certain classes will be offered. This is very important because some classes are offered every semester, while others are only offered once a year (or less than that). It’s very important to know when classes will be offered in the future to make sure that you don’t miss out on a class, which would cost you more time and money in the long run. Schedule planning is especially important if you plan to transfer to another college.

    Planning can save you a lot of time and money and it will keep you from backing yourself into a corner and being trapped in a college or a program that you aren’t happy with. And if do decide to change colleges or majors it will be much easier for you to come up with a new plan for yourself


    Tips & Must Haves for the Perfect Summer Party, Part 2

    As promised, here is a list of food and drink tips for your barbecues and backyard summer parties.

    • Never underestimate the amount of time it will take to grill. If you are having a lot of people over, do the majority of the grilling early so that it will be ready as the guests arrive.
    • If you’re having a lot of guests, you may want to ask a friend to bring over an extra grill for you to use. (and if someone asks you if you need help grilling or cooking, don’t be too proud to accept their assistance)
    • Do your cooking the night before in order to avoid having a hot kitchen on the day of the event, and this way, on the day of the party you can focus on some last minute tidying and placing your food out to serve.
    • Avoid making too many casseroles and heavy foods. Instead try salads, fresh fruit, and chips & veggies with dip.
    • Also, try some simple side items like mac & cheese, baked beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob, and potato salad.
    • For dessert, keep it light. Trifles are easy to make, and they look and taste great. Banana pudding is another great choice, or try a little key lime or lemon icebox pie. Homemade ice cream would also be a big hit.
    • Be sure that you have plenty of ice on hand.
    • You can never have enough drinks either. Be sure you have plenty of ice tea and bottled water. Also, have a good selection of regular and diet drinks. Lemonade or punch is also great for a hot summer day. And consider serving Kool Aid, Powerade, or juice boxes to the kids.
    • Be sure that you have plenty of coolers so that you can keep the drinks on ice, so that they won’t fill up your refrigerator, and so that everyone can grab a drink at his/her convenience.
    • To save money, make it a potluck dinner.
    • Decide ahead of time if you would like to serve alcohol at the party so that you can put it in your budget. I was reading a tip in a magazine that suggested to make one specialty drink for your guests like pina coladas or some other cocktail. Other than that, if you’re having a backyard barbecue, most people will bring their alcohol if they desire.
    • While you may be tempted to leave the food out so that people can come back for seconds, it would be better to put the food away in the fridge or in a cooler, in order to prevent spoiling. Just let your guests know what you’re doing so that they can get seconds if they like. Also, consider having your buffet inside the house, to further prevent spoiling and to keep bugs out of the food.
    • If you’re going to serve outside. Salads, fruits, and dessert items should remain inside until time to serve so that they can maintain the proper temperature.
      If you’re not much of a cook, try going to local resturant to have your party catered. You can get a large pan of pork barbecue, ribs, or wings & chicken fingers for everyone at a fairly good price. And you can sometimes get a good deal on side items too.
    • Even if you’re not doing a potluck, someone will most likely call and ask if they can bring something. While a simple “No thank you” is an okay response, most of the time these people will bring something anyway, so you may as well suggest something simple for them to bring, (ie – a dessert of their choice, chips, or a package of rolls) And if you’re grilling out, don’t be surprised if someone brings over some extra meat to put on the grill.


    Tips & Must Haves for the Perfect Summer Party, Part 1

    It takes proper planning and organization to have a successful party at any time of the year. But no matter how much planning we do, there’s always a chance that we’ll forget something. So I’m making a list of tips and must haves for your summer parties and backyard barbecues. Part one will have some general tips, and part 2 will having some tips concerning food and drinks.

    • Try to place chairs in a shaded area under some trees, or set up a big tent, canopy, or an umbrella to provide shade.
    • Make sure you have plenty of chairs. It’s much better to have extra chairs than to not have enough. Consider renting some chairs, or check out the selection at the local dollar store. Or ask some of your guests to bring extra chairs to the party.
    • If your party will be held outside, purchase a couple of electric fans to create a nice breeze.
    • Be sure to turn on ceiling fans and turn the thermostat down in the house for people who want to sit inside. Homes are always hotter when there’s a lot of people inside, especially if you’ve been cooking. Not to mention, people will be going in and out the door, letting the hot air in.
    • Be sure to purchase plenty of ice and have plenty of drinks on hand, especially bottled water, tea, or lemonade/punch. I also recommend Kool Aid, Powerade, or juice boxes for the kids.
    • Use Off candles, mosquito coils, and other repellants to keep bugs away.
    • As the party host, it is your obligation to have things on hand that your guests may need. Make sure that you have the following: Off bug repellent, OTC pain relievers, sunscreen, band-aids and other first aid items, Benadryl/corizone cream for bug bites, and a sting kit.
    • If you’re having a family party, be sure that you have a kick ball or some other recreational equipment for the kids to play with so that the adults can talk.

    Tips for Making and Keeping Resolutions

    The time has come to make resolutions for the new year. Just about everyone makes promises to themselves to accomplish some goal in the New Year, whether it’s to lose weight, keep the house clean, take vitamins, or start a new business. Unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t follow through with their resolutions. Why? It’s true that a lot of people procrastinate on various projects throughout the year, yet we still manage to accomplish a lot. Why is it so difficult to keep New Year’s resolutions? I believe one reason is that we choose the wrong resolutions to make, and the other reason is poor planning.

    Here are some tips on choosing and keeping your resolutions:

    1. Resolve to do something that’s actually important to you. If you choose to do something that is actually important to you, you’ll be more likely to make your resolution a priority and stick with it. (For example, you cannot lose weight or stop smoking unless you actually want to.)

    2. Make specific goals. (For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to lose weight,” say, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds.”)

    3. Make realistic and obtainable goals. It’s okay to aim high, but pick something you can actually do.

    4. Take a few minutes to write down your resolutions on paper. Consider posting the list on your refrigerator or at your desk, or some other place where you can see it. You’ll be much more likely to do the items on your list if you see a constant reminder.

    5. Create a plan of action. Think about how long it will take you to achieve your resolution and what you’ll have to do to make your resolution a reality. Then write it down. One main reason a lot of businesses fail is because they do not make a plan; the same can be said for resolutions. When writing down your plan be very specific. Consider creating a timeline for your goals: What do you want to accomplish by the end of January? By the end of May? (and so forth)

    6. Keep a calendar/planner. Keeping a calendar can be a helpful tool for you to write down your goals in, and a calendar will help you to chart your progress.

    7. Make an extra effort in January & make the resolution a part of your daily/weekly routine. Just like with anything else, the first few days and weeks are the toughest. But after you’ve made your a plan and made your resolution a part of your routine and you’ve gotten in the habit of working on your resoultion, the rest should be a down hill effort. (For example, if you resolve to take a multi-vitamin everyday, and you decide to take your vitamin first thing every morning, then after just a couple of weeks, the resolution should be second nature to you. This concept will also work with other resolutions that are a continuous effort, such as quitting smoking, changing your diet, keeping your house clean or organized, exercising, ect.)


    12 Tips & Shortcuts for Your Holiday Party

    Whether you are having guests over for the holidays, or you are the guest, nearly everyone is responsible for doing some cooking. It can be stressful, especially if you are not used to cooking for a lot of people and you have several recipes you have to make. Here are some short cuts and tips to help make your holiday cooking a success:

    1. Potluck – If you are the host, have your guests to each bring an item. Even if you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, if someone asks you if she can bring something, make a suggestion. Chances are if someone asks to bring something, she’s going to bring something even if you say no. You might as well make a kind suggestion like, “yes, i really love your potato salad.” Meanwhile, if you are the guest, try to bring something to the party, even if your host swears she doesn’t need any help.

    2. Gathering Recipes – The week before your holiday party, gather all your recipes so that you can begin making a shopping list of everything you’ll need to cook with.

    3. Clean out fridge and pantry – You should clean out your refrigerator and you pantry. Check the expiration dates, and throw out old ingredients, in order to make room for all the new food you’re going to buy and so that you’ll have room for all the left overs. Also, you can use this opportunity to do an inventory and make a more accurate list of what you will need to buy.

    4. Shop early – Buy everything you’re going to need the week or weekend before the big day. This way you can beat the crowds, and you won’t have to stress about the shopping trip anymore. Plus, if you wait and shop at the last minute, there’s a good chance the store might be out of something you need, and you’ll be more stressed and more likely to forget something.

    5. Buy bags and containers – This would be a good time to buy extra ziplock bags and storage containers. Not only will you be storing leftovers, but you may also want to make a few “to go” plates for your guests.

    6. Microwave – Consider using the microwave to cook certain items faster. You can use it for baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, and certain breads. It’s also a good place to keep your side items warm till the rest of the food is ready.

    7. Rolls – Save time by getting rolls from a bakery, or buy rolls that can be baked within just a few minutes, out of the bread, frozen, and refrigerated sections of your grocery store.

    8. Frozen Vegetables – Frozen vegetables are often better than canned and are the next best thing to homegrown. Depending on what you buy and your method of cooking, most frozen veges can be cooked up in 20 minutes for less.

    9. Cooking several days before – You can save time by making pies several days before the party. Simply make your pies and then freeze them. Just don’t forget to get them out in time to thaw before the party. If you place pies that are traditionally eaten warm (such as apple) in the oven for a few minutes before your meal, they’ll come out tasting warm and fresh like they were just made. Holiday candies are also a good item to make several days ahead, especially the ones that take a long time to make. Just be sure to look at the instructions on the recipe to find out if they can be stored in a container at room temperature, or whether you need to have them chilled in the fridge.

    10. Cooking the night before – Other time consuming recipes can be cooked the night before such as potato salad and deviled eggs. You can also make dressing and casseroles the night before. Simply mix them up, and place them in a dish, and then all you’ll have to do is bake them the next day.

    11. Crock Pot – Often people forget about the slow cooker. What is great about it is you can place your ingredients in it, and it does the cooking for you. You don’t have to do a lot of prep work, and you don’t have to constantly watch it. Use it to cook your dressing, a stew, meat, beans, or side items.

    12. Clean up – When you have a lot of cooking and baking to do, you may not have much time to clean your house. So try doing the majority of your cleaning the week before your party. Be sure to clean your bathroom, kitchen, and living area, and don’t forget to clean the guest room if you are having people sleep over. If you do most of the cleaning ahead of time, you’ll be a lot less stressed, and then you can do just a quick clean up the day before the guests arrive

    Making Your Battle Plan for a Clean Home

    The hardest part to any job sometimes is getting started. Whenever you have a big task in front of you like cleaning the house, a lot of time you may find yourself saying, “Where do I begin?” Here are some strategies for planning your house cleaning attack.

    First you should assess the “damage.” Take a few minutes to walk through your home, and do an inspection of each room. If you are planning to do a massive clean up job, it will help if you carry a notepad and pen while you look around. Start by listing each room in your house. After a quick walk through, prioritize. Decide which rooms need the most work. Then do a more thorough inspection.

    Go in to each room and make a list of things that need to be done during the clean up. Ask yourself the following questions:

    1. What do I not like about this room?
    2. How can it be improved?
    3. Is there any unnecessary clutter?
    4. What is the biggest problem in this room?
    5. What cleaning products, tools, and other items will I need to get the job done?
    6. Then ask yourself when the last time was that you did certain tasks in that particular room. (ie – vacuuming, dusting, organizing) If it has been a long time since you performed a certain task in the room, you may decide that it should be added to your notes.

    You can use these notes as a check list. Having a list is good because it gives you direction and prevents you from getting side tracked. It also ensures that you will not forget to do something, and as you check off the items on this list you will know exactly what you’ve done and have a sense of accomplishment.

    After inspecting each room and getting your lists together, you should make sure that you have all the cleaning products and other items that you need. There is nothing worse than starting to work thinking you have everything you need, and then an hour into the project you realize that you are out of something.

    Next you should decide, based on your schedule, when you want to clean. Do you want to try to pack everything in to one weekend, or would you rather spread the work out over several weeks?

    • The Marathon Cleanup – Sometimes my dad will have time off from work for holidays or because the plant where he works has a shutdown. Usually he’ll use this time off time to clean up his house. He’ll take two or three days and get up early in the morning and basically clean for most of the day. If you have the time to do this, it can be a good strategy because even though you’re working for long periods of time, the time will go by pretty fast, and you are able to get everything done in one big swoop over a few days. (basically you get it over with in a hurry so you don’t have to worry about it anymore)
    • A Little at a Time Cleanup –Through it is great to get everything done all at once and in a hurry, if you are planning a major cleanup of your entire house, you might want to space the work out a little more, especially if you work full time and do not have the time to do a marathon cleaning job. My suggestion is that you pick a day and work in one room of your house, starting with the room that you listed as the one that needed the most work. You may decide to spend several hours on your day off working in one room and then set a goal to try to do one room each week. Or if you only get one day off each week and you do not want to spend it cleaning, you can still plan to do one room each week, but perhaps try spreading the work out over the entire week instead of doing it in one day. For example, plan to dust on Monday, and organize and/or declutter on Tuesday, and so forth.

    Don’t be surprised if it takes you longer to do a job than you had at first anticipated. It’s good to set goals for yourself and keep an eye on the clock to make sure you’re not spending too much time on one thing, when you’ve got a hundred other things to do. However, most of the time, especially if you are organizing or doing a lot of extra tasks that you don’t do on a regular basis, it is going to take a little longer than you would expect.