Link Love December: Holiday Takeover

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Happy Hump Day! With Christmas just around the corner, you may have noticed a holiday theme here on the blog in recent weeks. Although my content will soon transition toward more wellness and goal-setting posts for the new year, I wanted to cap the holiday season with a festive Link Love for the month of December.

As far as life updates go, since our last Link Love post in October, I’ve been keeping busy with fun local adventures and have some exciting surprises for you coming to the blog in 2019. Since our last Link Love, I made a pound of chocolate at Farris & Foster, watched a UCF football game from directly on the field, dolled myself up for the Pineapple Ball, and so much more. I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2018 will bring!

What have you been reading lately? Check out some recent favorites of mine and share your own in the comments!

What links are you loving lately? Sound off in the comments section!

Things I’m Loving Lately: Your 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Are you feeling the holiday spirit yet? As the temperatures creep into the 40s and 50s here in the Orlando area, I’m starting to feel it more than ever. My sleeves have been getting longer and longer over the past few weeks, and my morning caffeine fix has transitioned from iced to hot. When the cold fronts are here, that means the holidays are almost here, and that means it’s time to hit the stores.

Earlier this week, I shared a few of my favorite Central Florida stores and boutiques for holiday shopping. However, for those of you who prefer shopping online or don’t happen to live in the region, I wanted to pull together a quick guide for gifts you can purchase no matter where you live. (For a few of my popular guides from previous years, click here and here.) Get ready to start shopping!

Holiday Gift Guide | Wellness & Wanderlust

  • For your organized friend: Bloom Daily Planners Vintage Floral print.
    I’m a sucker for a beautiful planner, and I just invested in one of these for myself for 2019. These datebooks go by calendar year and are the perfect size — large enough to include everything you’d ever need to write down, but small enough to fit in a medium-sized handbag. The Vintage Floral is beautiful, but if your gift recipient is less flowery, check out Bloom’s other prints with marble, flamingos, inspirational quotes, or other cover designs.
  • For the fashionista: These fun cat eye sunglasses by Sunice.
    Sunice Glasses has a variety of men’s and women’s sunglasses to choose from — you can’t go wrong! My favorite styles are the Classy (pictured) and the Aero, but take a look for yourself to choose a unique style. Use my promo code WANDERLUST25 to get 25% off your purchase!
  • For the one who always knows when Mercury is in retrograde: The Mixology of Astrology: Cosmic Cocktails for Every Sign by Aliza Kelly.
    I recently listened to Aliza Kelly’s episode on the Almost Famous podcast (check out more on my favorite podcasts here), and was fascinated about the idea of cocktails designed for specific astrological signs! Whether your friend is really into astrology or just likes to entertain, this book would be a fun addition to any party, bar cart, or coffee table.
  • For the class clown: A personalized potato via Potato Parcel.
    No holiday season is complete without at least one gag gift, and Potato Parcel does not disappoint! Featured on Shark Tank, Potato Parcel allows you to send a personalized potato in the mail with a message or printed photo of your choosing. They are now even selling potato ornaments! Check out their offerings and bundles here (and yes, I have used their services before).
  • For the accessories junkie: The Moon necklace by Civion.
    Civion is a European accessories company with a fun array of necklaces, earrings, rings (I love The Feline!), and bracelets. My readers receive 25% off their Civion purchases with discount code VALERIE25, so be sure to check them out online!
  • For the pet lover: Pop Your Pup apparel and more.
    I’ve written about Pop Your Pup before, but they just keep getting better! Pop Your Pup creates custom clothing and accessories by designing pop art versions of your favorite pet. Since the last time I wrote about them, they have expanded to now sell blankets and throw pillows, phone covers, and even puzzles.
  • For your favorite introvert: Quiet by Susan Cain.
    As an introvert myself, I can appreciate a book that helps me cope with living in “a world that can’t stop talking.” This book is a fun and interesting read that your introvert friends may find helpful (or may be a great gift to give yourself). I am a huge fan of this book!
  • For the bubbly one: These champagne toppers from World Market.
    From mango bellinis to mandarin mimosas, you can spruce up your drinks with these yummy champagne toppers! I recently purchased a 5-pack for a friend’s bridal shower and the gift did not disappoint. These fruity mixers will sweeten your drink and have sassy names like “Trust Me, You Can Dance” that will make you smile.

What stocking stuffers are on your list this year? Sound off in the comments!

Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

 Well, readers, it’s official: the holiday season is here. My fall seasonal décor has been stowed away in exchange for reindeer, mini-trees, and an electronic menorah. My next few weekends are packed with Christmas parties and Secret Santa exchanges. And in just a few hours, I’ll pop a few latkes on the stove in celebration of the first night of Hanukkah.

As someone who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, I usually have my hands full when it comes to holiday shopping. Luckily, there are a lot of great places right here in Central Florida where you can pick up unique gifts while supporting local businesses. Check out a few of my suggested shops and markets, and please share yours in the comments below. (For additional guidance on gift giving, check out a couple of my previous guides here and here.)

Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

1. Magpies Modern General Store (Sanford, FL)
Located on 1st Street in Historic Downtown Sanford, Magpies Modern General Store is the perfect place to begin your holiday shopping. From artisan soaps to housewares and more, Magpies is filled with fun stocking stuffers that are often locally sourced and eclectic. I love to pick up birthday presents here as well!

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2. AntiquiTEAs (Winter Garden, FL)
If you’re a tea lover like me, you’ll fall in love with AntiquiTEAs, a loose tea shop in Winter Garden’s Plant Street Market. As I mentioned in last year’s holiday post, the watermelon oolong is a flavor not to be missed. The shop also hosts private tea parties for special occasions (including my 27th birthday party!), working with other Plant Street Market vendors to create the perfect celebration.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

3. Rifle Paper Co. (Winter Park, FL)
Rifle Paper Co. is known for its fun and vibrant prints, from stationery to tea towels to home décor. This Winter Park shop is located not far from Park Avenue, and hosts seasonal sidewalk sales that will be sure to draw you in. For the ladies in your life, consider purchasing a Jardin de Paris candle — the scent is absolutely dreamy. It will be hard to walk in and not buy a little something for yourself as well!

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4. Light Up UCF Holiday Market (Orlando, FL)
On December 8 and December 21, Light Up UCF will host its Holiday Market Under the Stars, sponsored by CFE Federal Credit Union. Local vendors will set up, farmers market style, outside the holiday-themed event at the CFE Arena at UCF. It will be the perfect opportunity to shop for locally-crafted gifts, while enjoying ice skating, a Ferris wheel, carriage rides, and more.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

5. Wondermade (Sanford, FL)
Handcrafted marshmallows? Yes, please! Sanford’s Wondermade is home to a variety of marshmallow flavors, s’mores, and other themed gifts. In addition to purchasing a box, why not schedule a marshmallow-making class for you and your gift recipient? If you live in Central Florida, these classes are an awesome way to spend a Friday night or Saturday afternoon!

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6. Porch Therapy (Orlando, FL)
When shopping for the plant lover in your life, be sure to check out Porch Therapy at the East End Market in Orlando. The shop offers a multitude of plant varieties, but my favorites by far are their succulents. Be sure to check them out, then grab a smoothie at the neighboring Skyebird Juice Bar.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

7. Orchid Rain (DeLand, FL)
My family and I stumbled upon this little shop in Downtown DeLand on my birthday this year, and were immediately drawn in. With a Volkswagen beetle right in the front of the store, Orchid Rain has a fun retro feel. From jewelry and sunglasses to furniture and housewares, this store is the perfect place to shop for your creative friends. My favorite find? The pocket-sized Buddhas, each representing a different intention (mine is “happiness”). Afterward, take a walk down Woodland Boulevard for some antique-shopping and a bite to eat.

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8. Antidote Apothecary & Spa (Sanford, FL)
When in doubt, give the gift of a pampering session! Antidote Apothecary & Spa in Downtown Sanford offers holistic, cruelty-free spa services that your friends and family will love. Check out my recap on their salt therapy appointments here, or consider one of their massages, facials, energy work, or other services.

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Where are you shopping locally for holiday gifts this year? Sound off in the comments!

Things I’m Loving Lately: Your 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week? The holidays are creeping up on us, and between classes and work projects, I’ve barely made a dent in my gift shopping list.

However, those who know me best know that I love buying gifts! Gift-giving is one of my favorite aspects of the holiday season, and I love sharing my favorite products and gift finds with friends and readers. For those who still have some shopping to do, check out my latest holiday gift guide for fun ideas (or pop over to my 2015 post for some oldies but goodies). Happy shopping! 🙂

  • IMG_1259.jpgFor your spirit junkie friend:  The Universe Has Your Back 52-card deck!
    I loved Gabby Bernstein’s book The Universe Has Your Back, so when she released this deck of 52 inspirational affirmations, I knew I’d have to order one for myself. These cards are beautifully illustrated and provide positive spiritual mantras that anyone can benefit from. My favorite card reads Joy is the ultimate creator, but you can choose from so many other uplifting messages to help guide your day.
  • For your favorite feminist: This GRL PWR coffee mug.
    Effie’s Paper sells some of the cutest stationery “and whatnot,” but I keep coming back to to this mug. Order yours — or check out their other gift items under $25. (Is anyone else obsessed with the marble Post-It notes, or is it just me?)
  • For the monogram enthusiast: This floral monogrammed wine set from ChicMonogram.
    I’ve written about ChicMonogram before and I will always come back to them! Their store features more than 1,000 customizable gift items, from business card cases to kitchen supplies and much more! Some designs even feature Lilly Pulitzer prints. Check out the entire store here!
  • For the friend who loves Cards Against Humanity: Joking Hazard.
    This game is perfect for your friend who has an inappropriate sense of humor (read: me), especially if that friend hosts a lot of parties. This game is like the comic version of Cards Against Humanity, featuring artwork from Cyanide and Happiness.
  • For the natural beauty: Primally Pure beauty products.
    Primally Pure carries skincare and other beauty products with all natural ingredients that you can actually pronounce. As someone with incredibly sensitive skin, I’m obsessed with their lavender dry shampoo for dark locks and pretty much all of their lip balms, but the beauty brand also carries cleansing oils, spa kits, and more.
  • For the crystal lover: This rose quartz heart necklace from Sinus Finnicus.
    Rose quartz is my favorite crystal, meant to attract unconditional love. The store offers a variety of beautiful crystal pendants with other metaphysical properties as well! These pendants are shipped from Finland, so order early.
  • For the tea enthusiasts: This amazing watermelon oolong from AntiquiTEAs.
    I hosted a tea party at AntiquiTEAs in Winter Garden for my birthday earlier this year, and absolutely loved their watermelon oolong! They sell a variety of delicious loose teas online and in their store at the Plant Street Market. Check out the various flavors on their website — I promise your friends will love you for it!

What are you buying this holiday season? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

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Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All Friends

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsNow that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season has officially begun. Hopefully all of you have survived Black Friday! Even I managed to brave the mall and come home with a few goodies this weekend. Of course, as Hanukkah and Christmas loom near, it’s important to start shopping for our friends and loved ones as well.

I absolutely love gift-giving. With so many cool and customizable products out there, I enjoy putting thought into the presents I buy rather than slapping a bow on something really generic and calling it a day.

This week, I’d like to share my holiday gift guide for all types of friends. Most of these products are ones that I either personally own, have sampled, or have purchased for someone else in the past. The best part? You can purchase any of these online in the comfort of your own home! No need to start any fist-fights at the mall this year. 🙂

  • Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Animal Lover: A custom-made shirt from Pop Your Pup!
    Pop Your Pup creates graphic T-shirts featuring pop art designs of your pets. Choose a shirt style and background color, submit a photo of your/your friend’s pet, and the graphic artists at Pop Your Pup will work their magic to make a one-of-a-kind shirt that really does look like your pet. The turn-around time is awesome, and 10% of proceeds are donated to local Humane Societies. I’ve ordered two of these shirts for birthday presents already, and they were a huge hit!
  • The Friend with School Spirit: A bottle of his or her school’s Masik Collegiate Fragrance.
    Masik Collegiate Fragrances is the brainchild of Katie Masik, who wanted to create perfumes and colognes that evoked memories of certain colleges and universities. Last year, I reviewed their University of Florida perfume and their Florida State University cologne, and even though I’m not a Gator fan, I still sometimes wear the UF perfume! The scents are inspired by the buildings, traditions and local plant-life of each university. Click here for a list of all schools represented so far to see if your friend’s school is listed!
  • Unique Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Sweet Tooth: A box of Wondermade‘s handcrafted marshmallows.
    (Paleo readers: You may want to shield your eyes for this one!) I stumbled into Wondermade one afternoon on one of my walks through downtown Sanford. The café is a local one, where patrons can buy marshmallow skewers and s’mores of all flavors that they can pair with coffee or hot chocolate. Wondermade also has an online store, where consumers from near and far can buy boxes of marshmallows in Christmas and fall flavors, as well as other unique flavors. I love to support local businesses, especially ones with such delicious products!
  • The Healthy Chick: A piece of (totally inedible) Organic Fruit Jewelry.
    Okay, paleo friends, you can start reading again. 🙂 Organic Fruit Jewelry is exactly what it sounds like — real fruit dried and preserved into jewelry! This is an eclectic and fun gift, and no two necklaces/earring sets are exactly alike. I’m obsessed with the lemon slice necklace and will definitely be investing in mine soon!
  • The Single Friend: A copy of The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry.
    I’m a nerd at heart, so reading a book that relates mathematical concepts to dating and marriage was obviously right up my alley. This is a great read for anyone — single or not — who wants to see just how applicable these theories and formulas are to our lives. I was never a math lover in school, but I really enjoyed this book! (Check out the related TED Talk if you’re curious.)
  • il_570xN.436081413_kwxfThe Sports Fan: A personalized highway distance sign to your friend’s favorite team’s stadium/arena.
    I absolutely love these stadium signs as a way to support your favorite team! You choose your team’s venue from the Travelsigns Etsy shop, and plug in the number of miles between there and your home. This a great gift for that guy in your life who still hasn’t put anything up on his wall.
  • The Harry Potter Nerd: This Golden Snitch bracelet from Ashley Bridget.
    Seriously, have you seen anything prettier? The Ashley Bridget website features other Harry Potter jewelry as well, along with other gorgeous pieces from their NFL, collegiate, sorority, fairy tale and other collections. 🙂
  • The Career Guy or Girl: A customized business card case.
    You can find these anywhere, depending on your friend’s preferences, but I purchased mine from the ChicMonogram store on Etsy. This is a great gift for someone who recently graduated from college and is just starting a new job. For nearly my entire first year at my current job, I didn’t have a business card case, and instead found myself carrying the cards around at networking events like the unpolished peasant I was. With my personalized business card case (featuring my full name, not just my monogram), I have something to store my business cards and it makes for a great conversation piece!
  • The Fancy Friend: Anything from the Downton Abbey collection at World Market.
    I am in love with this collection’s 2-tiered serving stand and tea spoons, and I don’t even watch Downton Abbey! Buy a few items from this set for your tea-loving friends who like to entertain.

How are you shopping for the holidays? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

Link Love Tuesday: Happy Holidays!

hanukkah-kwanzaa-happy-holidays-christmas-season-ecards-someecardsHappy Hanukkah to all my readers who celebrate! I wish you a joyous holiday filled with latkes and devoid of stupid questions. 🙂 As for many of my other readers, can you believe that Christmas is almost here? The year has flown by, and while I look forward to celebrating every holiday I can with my loved ones, I would like to hold onto 2014 a little longer. What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

 

What are some of your favorite links and articles for the week?

The Weekend Five: My Adventures in Holiday Travel

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Outside the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Bastille Day, 2012

First of all, for those who celebrated on Wednesday, I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! 🙂

Because my father travels for a living, I learned the importance of flexibility around the holidays early on. If he was out of town for an important birthday or holiday, we simply celebrated on a different night and had just as wonderful of a time! As I grew older, I began to experience my own interesting travel adventures that overlapped with holidays, which gave me a few fun memories along the way.

This week, I’d like to share some of my holiday travel experiences with you. Feel free to share your own in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: My Adventures in Holiday Travel

1. Flying to London on the Fourth of July.
What better way to celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain than to fly out to the very country we are commemorating our freedom from? In the summer of 2012, I left for a short-term study abroad program on Independence Day, and the irony was not lost on me. (Of course, I actually arrived in London on the 5th and was able to barbecue with my family a day early, but I still will never forget this very strange and unique 4th of July, which was mainly spent on a plane!)

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Selfie on the Champs de Mars

Selfie on the Champs de Mars, 2012

2. Celebrating Bastille Day by the Eiffel Tower.
On that same study abroad trip, I traveled to Paris for Bastille Day, which celebrates France’s freedom from the monarchy and the storming of the Bastille. My friends and I watched the parade from a hotel room with mimosas in hand, and were able to peek out the window to watch the jets fly by. Later in the day, after climbing the Eiffel Tower, we grabbed an early dinner and then camped out by the Eiffel Tower early so we could watch the fireworks that night. Music played and as people from all over the world sang along, I felt more connected to complete strangers than I would have ever expected. (I also witnessed more marriage proposals than I had ever seen in my life!) It was a beautiful experience, one that I would recommend to anyone traveling to France in the summertime. (I also wrote an article with tips for celebrating the holiday abroad.)

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Celebrating Hanukkah on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, 2011

Celebrating Hanukkah on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, 2011

3. Celebrating Hanukkah in Israel.
When I was a junior in college, I traveled to Israel for ten life-changing days. The trip, which took place in December, spanned across the entirety of Hanukkah, and so it was the first year that I didn’t spend any of the holiday with family. However, being able to spend Hanukkah in a country where a greater percentage of the people celebrate it, I felt a strong sense of belonging and community. One night, when my friends and I perused the night life in Jerusalem, we were approached by rabbis who gave us sufganyot (a Hanukkah food similar to a jelly donut) in celebration. Of course, in America, if a bearded stranger approaches me with free jelly donuts, I’m not as likely to accept so readily, but on that night, it seemed more than appropriate. Celebrating Hanukkah in Israel gave me a unique perspective on a holiday that I had been celebrating for my whole life, and it is a memory that I have carried with me every year since.

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4. Spending Christmas in the Philadelphia International Airport.
My very exciting Hanukkah was followed by a very lonely Christmas Day. My group returned from Israel on December 25th, and because we came from different parts of the country, everyone had different flights to catch from Philly. My flight wasn’t until that evening, so I spent the day reading, walking around, calling family members and people-watching. I wound up celebrating Christmas with my family on Boxing Day that year, but the experience gave me even more of an appreciation for those who work on the holidays, especially in service-based professions.

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sophisticated-ignorance5. Falling asleep early on New Year’s Eve.
When I was fourteen, I went on a family trip to the Netherlands. The trip was a blast – and my first time ever in Europe – but I came down with a nasty cold that was worsened by the flight home (which took place on New Year’s Eve). Because of this, I ended my year in bed, surrounded by tissues and drifting off to sleep before the clock struck midnight.

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What interesting holiday experiences have you had, abroad or otherwise?

What’s Hot/What’s Not: December 2010

With the temperatures dropping lower and covers of Wham! playing in every storefront, we recognize that December and the holiday season are here. Digging our coats out of the back of our closets, we run out to do our last-minute shopping, keeping in mind all of the many ups and downs of the past month. Let’s take a look at December’s edition of What’s Hot/What’s Not!

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What’s HOT
The fun winter fashions we get to try out now that it isn’t 90 degrees out every day.

What’s NOT
The weather itself. (Ha! I couldn’t resist.)

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What’s HOT
Getting in the holiday spirit with festive decorations and celebrations.

What’s NOT
The shunning of Santa Claus in favor of a certain Internet meme that has already started to grow old.

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What’s HOT
Cosmo‘s list of the Hottest Male Celebrities of 2010. (You’re welcome.)

What’s NOT
The many celebrity fashion faux pas that came with 2010 as well.

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What’s HOT
The recent lunar eclipse that took place earlier this week.

What’s NOT
Finding less desirable fortunes in the stars for you.

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What’s HOT
The unfolding of the season-long mystery in the December finale of Gossip Girl.

What’s NOT
The allegedly “pathetic diva” behavior that may have led to Taylor Momsen’s indefinite departure from her role as Jenny ‘Little J’ Humphrey.

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What’s HOT
The now applicable release of Taylor Swift’s Back to December, since we are now in the middle of December. 🙂

What’s NOT
The heartbreaking lyrics behind the song, catchy as they may be.

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What’s HOT
The prevalence of social media in the world around us.

What’s NOT
Social media games taken to the extreme.

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What’s HOT
Getting your New Year’s resolutions in order for 2011.

What’s NOT
Breaking the bank in order to achieve those resolutions.

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What’s HOT
The idea of unconditional love that appears quite frequently in Bruno Mars songs.

What’s NOT
Receiving unwarranted love advice from John Mayer.

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This December, what was hot/not for you?

The Freshman 15: Celebrating the Holidays from Afar

Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish and partially-Jewish readers! Tonight, like many other holidays, is a night typically shared with family and friends, as observers exchange gifts and enjoy household traditions. However, some college students will spend the entire duration of this holiday away from home because of final exams and a few lingering classes. In fact, while we may have Christmas break (and some might not even have that!) and many of us do travel home for Thanksgiving weekend, we do run into this problem on plenty of other occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, mid-semester holidays, etc. Even for those of us who will get to celebrate Christmas with our families, we still miss out on some of the pre-holiday preparations – the weeks of decorating, menu-planning and gift-shopping that some people might do together.

So, does this mean that college students are doomed to lose all holiday cheer? This month’s Freshman 15 is all about how to get in the holiday spirit even when you’re far from home. — Tweet this!

Grab your coats and boots, and let’s get started!

The Freshman 15: Celebrating the Holidays from Afar

1. Decorate your dorm room.
While the picture shown on the right doesn’t do it much justice, my three roommates and I wanted to make sure that our apartment was festive for the holidays. Because we come from different backgrounds and religions or non-religions, our room represents both Christmas and Hanukkah, with an electric menorah plugged in by the window, and Christmas lights and garlands lining the walls and ceilings. You don’t have to go all out, but it’s nice to put up a few holiday decorations here and there just so you have something celebratory to come home to. You can purchase these really cute window clings for $1 at Target, or start the search on your own. Besides, I am a firm believer in the idea that personalizing your dorm room or apartment makes you feel much more at home!

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2. Participate in a gift exchange.
Get together with a core group of friends and set up a Secret Santa or other type of gift exchange. Come up with price limits so that no one ends up with an unfair deal or completely breaks their bank accounts. Presents are definitely not what the holidays are all about, but rather the spirit of giving!

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3. Send out holiday cards to faraway friends and family.
Just because you might not get to see each other on the actual holiday doesn’t mean you can’t wish each other a happy holiday! While a Facebook message can be quick and easy, it’s hardly the most personal way to contact someone, and often text messages can even feel like they were sent out en masse. Instead, a simple card can be endearing. When your friends open their mail and see something waiting there from you, they won’t be able to stop smiling.

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4. Throw your own holiday party!
You’re not alone – plenty of your friends at school will be separated from their families during holiday seasons at one point or another, so why not celebrate the holidays with them? Last year, I threw a small Chrismukkah get-together, complete with latkes and Christmas cookies, and this year it’s going to get a lot bigger. Next Tuesday, my friends and I will celebrate in style! Your party can be as outrageous or low-key as you want it to be, and you can ask friends to help chip in.

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5. Ask your family for left-over items.
If you’re ever going to be home before the holiday and not during, ask if you can steal some extra holiday decorations or other items for your own use at school. In fact, I stole #5 on this list from my mom! Chances are, your family has accumulated a lot of excess holiday decor throughout the years, and more times than not, they’d be happy to part with some of it.

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6. Go to a service.
For those of you who celebrate certain holidays more religiously than others, you might feel more in tune with the holiday if you attend a church or synagogue service. Campuses are usually crawling with groups that are ready to take you in, and if not, you can always look around the community for something that appeals to you. I’m not preaching any religion here, but I do think that being a part of a congregation during the holidays can be comforting to some, and if you’re one of those people, you should consider the option.

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7. Volunteer your time.
This may be the Season of Giving, but that doesn’t limit you to just gifts among friends and family. Because others in the world are less fortunate and don’t have the same luxuries we take for granted, doing some volunteer work may be beneficial at this time of the year. Whether you choose one of those Angels at the mall or you visit a soup kitchen, you can make a difference and make someone else’s holiday season a little brighter.

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8. Build a gingerbread house!
It’s fun to be crafty with your friends. Every year when I’m home on a break, my sister and I decorate our own eccentric gingerbread houses (see this year’s example on the right) with our cousins and friends who are visiting, and it’s a great way to be creative and spread our holiday cheer. Not only is it a fun process, but it also lasts for a while afterward, and provides plenty of laughs and smiles along the way.

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9. Bake something delicious.
The way to a college student’s heart is through his or her stomach, right? So if your dorm room, apartment or other living arrangement is equipped for baking, then win everyone’s heart by baking something holiday-esque for them. Either borrow an old family recipe, pick up some break-and-bake cookies from the grocery store (still arguably just as yummy as any other homemade cookie!) or try out one of these adorable cupcake designs.

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10. Leave notes for your neighbors.
If you’re feeling creative or just hospitable, write sweet little notes wishing people the happiest of holidays, and then tape those notes to your neighbors’ doors for them to come back to. You can sign them from yourself and your roommates (always a fun bonding activity), or you can keep them anonymous. Either way, it’s one of those random acts of kindness that you can’t help but feel good about afterward.

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11. Enjoy the cold[er] weather.
We all tend to associate a drop in temperatures with the holiday season. Even if you’re from Florida like me and all you’re ever exposed to are cold fronts, you know that the holidays aren’t complete without a sweater and scarf. Therefore, one way to feel festive is to go outside and really enjoy the cold weather. Build a snowman. Have a snowball fight. Go ice skating. Floridians, go on a picnic but wear a jacket. Embrace the cooler temperatures because before you know it, you’ll be melting in the heat once more.

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12. Showcase old family traditions.
When you celebrate the holidays with your college friends, everyone should bring a piece of their traditional experiences to the rest of the group. Cook that special dish that has been passed down through your family for years, and try out some of the new customs that your friends bring to the table. Seeing your friends in a setting they might normally experience with family can actually bring a group closer and teach you something about those people you never even realized.

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13. Watch your favorite holiday movies.
Whether it’s Shop Around the Corner, It’s a Wonderful Life or Nightmare Before Christmas, boost your spirits by watching a movie that pertains to the holiday you’re celebrating. Sip some hot chocolate and bundle up.

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14. Pump up the volume.
Create a holiday playlist on your iPod or online, and play it whenever you want to feel just a little jollier. Taylor Swift does an adorable cover of Last Christmas!

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15. Create your own traditions.
Yes, it’s hard to be away from home during holidays, but as you create a brand new “family” at school (not to replace your old one, of course), you will find that new events become important to you, and new traditions will emerge. Embrace the changes that you undergo, and enjoy the spirit of the holidays no matter where you go!

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How do you like to celebrate the holidays? What are your plans?