Wednesday's Weekly Tip

Thanksgiving Hosting 101

For those of us celebrating, Thanksgiving is almost upon us and it’s a wonderful time for us to stop and reflect upon what we are grateful for. It’s a time of hopefully slowing down a bit, eating delicious homemade dressings and pies and just relaxing with family and friends.  However, if you have ever been the one hosting the Thanksgiving meal, you know that might not be the case.

Thanksgiving can be an incredibly rich and beautiful meal to share around your table, but it can also bring an enormous about of stress as you prepare for the big day. We know many of us grad students aren’t always able to travel to be with family for Thanksgiving and end up opening our own doors to friends and neighbors for the first time. If this happens to be you this year, below are some super handy last minute tips that we have found helpful. Happy feasting, hosting and giving thanks!!  -The Graduate Wife team

1) Proper Table Prep 101: Super simple  image teaching you how to properly set a table!

2) Thanksgiving Decorating 101: Check out these sites for some great, easy peasy tips to make your table look beautiful and inviting. (Two more: here and here).  (My favorite is the ‘thankful tree’ idea listed as a centerpiece!)

3) Last Minute Hosting 101:  Great tips on how to prepare to host a party in 24 hours or less!

4) Some Cheap Thanksgiving sides to impress your in-laws

Wednesday's Weekly Tip

Wednesday’s Weekly Tip: Thanksgiving Hosting 101

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and it’s a wonderful time for us to stop and reflect upon what we are grateful for. It’s a time of hopefully slowing down a bit, eating delicious homemade dressings and pies and just relaxing with family and friends.  However, if you have ever been the one hosting the Thanksgiving meal, you know that might not be the case.

Thanksgiving can be an incredibly rich and beautiful meal to share around your table, but it can also bring an enormous about of stress as you prepare for the big day. We know many of us grad students aren’t always able to travel to be with family for Thanksgiving and end up opening our own doors to friends and neighbors for the first time. If this happens to be you this year, below are some super handy last minute tips that we have found helpful. Happy feasting, hosting and giving thanks!!

-Mandy & M.C.

1) Proper Table Prep 101: Super simple  image teaching you how to properly set a table!

2) Thanksgiving Decorating 101: Check out these sites for some great, easy peasy tips to make your table look beautiful and inviting. (Two more: here and here).  (My favorite is the ‘thankful tree’ idea listed as a centerpiece!)

3) Last Minute Hosting 101:  Great tips on how to prepare to host a party in 24 hours or less!

Beauty and the Budget

Beauty & the Budget: Tips for Renters

tips for rentersAre you moving into another graduate student housing dorm soon?  Are you packing up and moving for a graduate degree or post doc. into yet another rented space?  Or are you staying still, but just oh so ready to have a home of your own?  If you flip through some of our Beauty & the Budget files, you’ll see we have lots of tips and ideas to hopefully get you thinking about how to beautify your space, even if it is only for a few months or years.  You can even read this post on how strongly I feel about the importance and value of creating a home that really  reflects who you are, even though the space might be temporary.  As this is the season for moves and transitions, I’ve done some searching online and below are some of the best ‘tips for renters’ that I could find to pass along.

Even if you can’t paint the walls, have you thought of using tempaper (fancy pants temporary wall paper) or purchasing fun chalkboard or sticker decals, or even painting some furniture to give you some color?  Have you thought of getting new hardware for the kitchen and bathrooms to give the cabinets a facelift or even taking the cabinets off and storing them to have a fun open storage thing going on?  What about embracing bold colors in small spaces through a new rug or curtains or adding more throw pillows to the couch?  Lots of fun ideas below to bring life to a rental space. I hope some are helpful and encourage you to make your new abode your own!

-M.C.

tips for renters 1

* Apartment Therapy: 20 Tips, Tricks, & Solutions for Renters; 5 Resources for Temporary Wallpaper

* Better Homes and Gardens: 25 Ideas to Steal for your Apartment

Canadian House & Home: Top Decorating Tips for Renters

* The Daily Buzz: Ten Decorating Tips for Renters

* Salvage Love: Decorating Tips for Renters

Do you have any tips to add?

Wednesday's Weekly Tip

Wednesday’s Weekly Tip: Thanksgiving Hosting 101

 Thanksgiving is almost upon us and just as Mandy shared on Monday, it’s a wonderful time for us to stop and reflect upon what we are grateful for.  It’s a time of hopefully slowing down a bit, eating delicious homemade dressings and pies and just relaxing with family and friends.  However, if you have ever been the one hosting the Thanksgiving meal, you know that might not be the case.

Thanksgiving can be an incredibly rich and beautiful meal to share around your table, but it can also bring an enormous about of stress as you prepare for the big day.  I know many of us grad students aren’t always able to travel to be with family for Thanksgiving and end up opening our own doors to friends and neighbors for the first time. If this happens to be you this year, below are some super handy last minute tips that I have found helpful. Happy feasting, hosting and giving thanks!!

-M.C.

1) Proper Table Prep 101: Super simple  image teaching you how to properly set a table!

2) Thanksgiving Decorating 101: Check out these sites for some great, easy peasy tips to make your table look beautiful and inviting. (Two more: here and here).  (My favorite is the ‘thankful tree’ idea listed as a centerpiece!)

3) Last Minute Hosting 101:  Great tips on how to prepare to host a party in 24 hours or less!

Fashion · Grad Wife Tips!

A Chic Critique: Grad Wife Fashion Advice

Today’s post comes to us from the talented and inspiring Annie Heyward, from A Chic Critique.  I know from my own experience as a graduate wife, I don’t always feel that fashionable. Maybe it comes my somewhat limited budget, the fact that I live in England and it seems I end up wearing a black rain jacket most days of late :), or that fashion sometimes gets the back-seat in my everyday life of dealing with family and academia.  We asked Annie to share some practical advice that she gives clients to help all of our readers feel as chic and fashion savy as possible.  I was so inspired that I went straight to the closet after reading her post and must say I feel more stylish than ever.  Enjoy! -M.C.

As a wardrobe stylist, I’m often asked by first-time clients, “Where do we begin?” At the risk of sounding a bit like Maria von Trapp, I always respond, “Let’s start at the very beginning: your closet.”

All of my wardrobe assessments and styling sessions begin with a closet clean-out (what’s that, you say?). A closet clean-out is a wardrobe “edit” of sorts, where I prune through all of the pieces in your closet – tops, bottoms, dresses, coats, shoes & accessories – and help you consolidate.

It’s imperative that every woman do this at least once a year. The typical wardrobe edit takes me, on average, 2-3 hours, and comes with a fee, but I’m going to give you a few tips for doing a mini closet clean-out yourself. Follow these guidelines for a no-cost, simple approach to simplifying your life and streamlining your style!

 Mini Closet-Edit & Clean-Out

Go through all of the sections in your closet (shoes. jewelry. coats. purses. jeans. dresses. skirts. tops. etc.) and ask yourself these three questions:

Does it fit me correctly?

 Answer honestly – no cheating! If you need to bring in a friend for a second opinion, by all means do so. Does it work for the size you are now? It’s tempting to hold onto that pair of size 4 jeans that you wore before you had children; however, if they don’t fit you now, they aren’t being worn and are clouding your closet. Dress for the size you are NOW. This is one of the hardest challenges women have to confront; however, I encourage my clients to let go of any clothes they are holding onto that they currently can’t fit into. Is the shirt pulling across your chest? Do your sleeves feel too tight? Do your jeans button? Is that old dress too short? Is that dress shapeless and a size too big? Be honest with yourself and get rid of things that do not fit. Style isn’t about being a certain size: it’s about proportion and fit. If it doesn’t fit correctly, get rid of it!

Have I worn it this year?

Ladies, just because something in on sale (or on the clearance rack) doesn’t mean it’s a smart purchase. Before you buy any piece of clothing, always ask yourself, “Can I think of at least three different ways to wear this?” If not, don’t buy it. You should never buy something that doesn’t fit well and work for your proportions. However, many of you have fallen into this trap; therefore, your closet is filled with things that still have the tag on them or haven’t been worn. So ask yourself: have I worn this the last 12 months? If not – get rid of it. Trust me, you won’t miss it.

Is it pilled, stained, damaged or just tired-looking?

Pit stains, fraying, and pilling are all just cause for burial. A good dry cleaning might do the trick, but there comes a point when it’s time to let go. Get rid of your college jeans from ten years ago – chances are that the jeans are dated and faded. Even basic knits and tees lose their shape eventually after 30+ washes. It might be time to say goodbye.

Keep a couple of plastic bins or trash bags handy when going through this process. I always have one bin labeled “consignment”, one bin labeled “Good Will/Charity” and a third bin labeled “To be altered or dry cleaned.” Look for consignment stores in your city – a great place to take an old pair of designer jeans, a leather handbag that’s still in good condition, or a designer dress from a department store or known label. The charity is up to you, but two bags of gently used clothing can always go to a great cause. Cleaning out your closet will help de-clutter your life and simplify the process of getting dressed in the morning. Now you only have what you wear, what fits, and what works for you. Get rid of everything else! Then you can see what you’re working with every morning as you get dressed and more easily put together looks.

After you get rid of what you don’t wear, you can see what the holes in your closet are and what you may still need. Happy editing, and stay chic!

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Getting yourself to bed on time…

So…to be honest this piece (from an interesting study called the happiness project) could be categorized more as a ‘weekly tip’ post than a ‘food for thought’ post, but I found these simple, yet powerful tips worth sharing today.  I think this is the case because this particular Monday morning has me feeling rather sleepy and questioning how I can get more sleep.

Tip  #3 is the most important for me to remember.  It is amazing how much ‘computer time’ wires me up and also seems to suck the life out of me at the same time.

“3. Stay away from the internet for at least an hour before your bedtime. Television, too, but I think the internet is even more apt to make me feel artificially wide awake. I used to try to go through my emails one last time before bed, to get a jump on the morning, but I realized that this stimulating activity made it much harder to go to sleep.”

What about you?  What are some good tips on getting to bed on time, especially while being a student or the spouse of one??  How do you ‘unwind’ after a day of intense research or how do you help your spouse do the same?

-M.C.

Sharing 'Worlds'

‘Carry me home…’ & more thoughts on ‘sharing worlds’

‘Big wheels keep on turning…carry me home to see my kin’ 

These famous words are running through my ears as I start the tedious task of unpacking our suitcases that are tightly squeezed into my daughter’s closet (because we have no room elsewhere to store our summer clothes than inside these suitcases) and re-packing them for our Christmas visit that starts on Friday.

I have done all the laundry, thought through all the bare essentials I will need on my trip back to the states (because let’s me honest, you know I am needing all the space I can get in these suitcases to bring back some American treats on our return).  I hear my husband telling me what a great packer I am and I try desperately to keep my daughter entertained with my bracelet drawer from my jewelry box so she won’t start to un-pack all I’ve managed to squeeze in at this point.

Carry me home to see my kin…

I am going to Alabama on Friday.

I am going home to see my kin.

There is always a rush to make it to the awaited deadline of  ‘traveling home’.  So many dinner dates, lectures, evensongs, and coffee dates to squeeze in that we almost tire out before we get to the finish line. We sometimes feel like we try to squeeze every ounce out of the last few weeks before leaving.  We look forward to the time away…the time at home to rest, re-group with ourselves and our families and to feel refreshed.  Although, I know that  for some of us, this isn’t always the case.

 We live really interesting lives don’t we?  We graduate wives.  Many of us have moved away from our family and close friends.  Almost all of us have started over in a sense.  Almost all of us have forged new community around us (or are trying to) and forged  new friendships….which have become like ‘family’ in many ways, when we do find ourselves geographically distant from our actual families.  We have learned to live with many sacrifices and learned to live with much less than we thought we really needed.  We’ve learned how to support, how to give space, how to understand and how to communicate with our husbands in ways we would have never known if not for the graduate journey experience.  We’ve learned a lot about ourselves (and are daily doing so).  We’ve been stretched, challenged and shaped.  And most of all, almost all of us have…..changed.

We’ve changed.  We’ve lived some interesting, hard, wonderful, strange and fascinating stories. Try as we might, it is sometimes hard to communicate on skype just how drastic or significant the change in our lives and hearts might have become.

Sometimes there develops a large gap between our past ‘shared’ lives and our current lives as graduate wives.  For some of us the journey has been painful and it’s been easier to keep the heartache inside rather than try to share with family or friends back home.  For some of us the journey has been more enriching than we had ever imagined and we haven’t know just how to articulate the joys and highs with family or friends back home without making them feel ‘left out’.

With many of us traveling home for Christmas (yeah!) we thought we’d share the below.  It’s just a few thoughts that have helped us along the way as we’ve tried to share our graduate wife journey with those back at home.  I hope you will chime in with any insights or thoughts of your own as well!  Merry travels and enjoy your visits home!!

1)   Be as intentional as possible about sharing ‘your world’ before your trip home:  This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but I have found it so incredibly helpful to share little bits, even if it is just a quick email or a photograph or a one liner on the phone, about my life here.  I then have a seed planted and look forward to the chance to develop it more when I see the family/friend in person.  All it takes is a conscious effort to share things so that when you go for a visit it won’t seem a daunting task trying to fill in gaps on your life over the past months/year.

2)   Make a ‘thanksgiving list’ listing what makes you thankful for your home and your family/friends there:  This is incredibly helpful if you haven’t seen your family in a while and if you have become happily immersed in your current role of a graduate wife in a new environment and setting.  It is refreshing and helpful to remember where you come from and what joys you are getting to return to on your visit.

3)   Bring pictures, items, and souvenirs from your life now Pick up some of the traditional ‘local favorites’ of your new home.  If in England, bring home some tea to share, or if you moved to a new area of your country, bring home a regional cookbook or some local artwork.  Have a slideshow on your computer of pictures of your lives in your new home and point out the faces of new friends, your colleagues and the University.  Be creative on how to visually share your graduate adventure with others.

4)   Don’t set expectations that are too high:  Let your family be your family and let you be yourself!  Don’t try to force anything, don’t come with a long list of things you feel like you have to talk about or share.  Come prepared with lots to share of course, but don’t push it and don’t expect it all to come out at once.   Relax and try to just enjoy the time rather than always having an agenda.  When we are far apart it is so easy to want to pack in 1,000 things into the week or two of our visit, but try to limit that…allow for time to just ‘be’. And don’t expect everyone to ‘get’ you and your lifestyle, now.  Give them space to see and understand the changes you might have gone through.  This can be especially hard for someone who’s family isn’t all that familiar with ‘going back to school’ and lifestyles and research requirements that come with graduate programs. It might take time for them to process your new graduate wife/student lifestyle.

5)   Give them time:  Similar to what I just stated, step back, relax and give your family and friend’s some space.  Just like I shared in my first piece on ‘sharing worlds’, let them share first.  As my husband always asks about my day, before sharing about his, do the same with your family.  Ask, question, listen and learn from them and then give them space to start the process of digging into your life.

6)   Don’t compare your life to others: Beware of this.  It is so easy to do and before long you start wishing that you or your husband wasn’t in grad school and start to question why you ever decided to follow your dreams in the first place.  It’s tempting to look at friends with big houses, with no student budget and who don’t deal with the stresses of graduate school and get envious.  Maybe it is a good idea to even make a ‘thanksgiving list’ of why you are grateful to be a graduate wife and keep it handy as you are home and around friends and family that aren’t ‘in your shoes’.

-M.C.