13 Things To Do On Black Friday (that don’t include standing in line at Target)

Friends, can we talk about things to do on Black Friday?

Can we talk about people camping out on the sidewalk for discounted microwaves? Or elbowing each other in the face for 50% off Keurigs?

I’m not trying to to saddle my high horse here; I’m very busy waiting for Cyber Monday. Mama needs a new Roomba.

But if you – like me – hate crowds, shopping, and crowded shopping malls, this list is for us. This list is for those of us who’d rather chew their hand off at the wrist than navigate a mall parking lot on a holiday.

You, too? You’d rather chew your hand off? Cool. Read on.

13 things to do on Black Friday

1. Make stock from your leftover turkey bits

Stock, how I love thee – let me count the ways. I love thee when I make quinoa or couscous. I love thee as a base for soups and stews. I love thee for sauces and gravies.

You guys get the idea. Stock is a great way to make use of your entire turkey and if you’re planning ahead you can also save all the extra vegetable bits from your Thanksgiving meal prep.

2. Ride the gratitude wave + write thank you notes to people who’ve helped you

After all the conversation and extravert-ing of Thanksgiving day, it’s nice to curl up with a cup of tea and a box of blank cards and think grateful thoughts. Think back over the past year and consider the people who have helped you – the friends who helped you move, the professional connection who recommended you for your job, the buddy who nursed you through that breakup.

Put pen to old fashioned paper and write them a note sharing how they helped you. Everybody loves snail mail and it’s nice to close out the year on a note of gratitude.

3. Purge your closet

Getting rid of things is probably my second favorite hobby. Maybe you don’t list ‘decluttering’ as an interest on Facebook, but we could all benefit from going through all those ex-boyfriend t-shirts and jeans that don’t fit. And you’re making room for all the awesome holiday gifts you’re going to receive!

4. Schedule downtime into December

Is your social calendar already filling up with a million parties and recitals and family obligations? Open up Google calendar (or your actual, physical calendar) and allot at least five nights to super low-key things like “watch White Christmas” and “string popcorn and cranberries.”

Literally block out those nights on your calendar and if someone invites you to do something that night, sweetly inform them that you’re booked.

5. Go through old photo albums + home movies

This is particularly fun if you do it with out of town family members you don’t see very often! Laugh at everyone’s hairstyles and marvel at how gorgeous grandma was.

6. Take a day trip to a nearby small town

Stock up on car snacks and podcasts, pile into the Prius and head out for parts unknown. If your destination has any cute boutiques or antique stores, consider buying your holiday gifts there – support small businesses!

If you can’t find anything gift-worthy, check out the local diner or supper club. If you’re in the Twin Cities, here’s a list of the 10 best day trips.

7. Host friends-giving

If you have one metric ton of leftovers or a challenging/unpleasant family situation, give yourself a ‘do over’ by hosting friends-giving. Make it easy by using compostible dishes and utinsels and asking everyone to bring their best leftovers. After you’ve stuffed yourself silly, fill up on a tv show that properly captures your friendship – like The Sandlot.

8. Play board games

Using our minds and hands and interacting with people instead of screens? Whaaaaaat?! Yes. I love oldies-but-goodies like Pictionary, Scattergories, and Cranium but my friends and I love a version of the not-really-a-board-game Celebrity. Whenever we book a cabin weekend we play it for hours!

9. Make something with your hands

Gosh, but it’s relaxing to create real, tangible things. Assemble a gingerbread house. Cut paper snowflakes. Sew a new set of curtains or embroider a dishtowel. Get started on gifts with one of these 25 awesome DIY presents.

10. Volunteer somewhere

It’s good to give back to your community any time of year, but the holidays bring out the charitable side in more of us. Think about the causes that really resonate with you and see how you can help out. Can you walk dogs at the animal shelter? Play with kids at a crisis nursery? Landscape with Habitat For Humanity? If you’re in the Twin Cities, consider showing your support for the Black Lives Matter protests.

11. Package up your leftovers + give them to homeless people

Tuck some of that turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes into a tupperware container, grab a bottle of water and drive through the highway onramps that are commonly frequented by homeless people asking for change.

You could also use this as an opportunity to teach the kids in your life about compassion. Work together to assemble care kits and hand them out.

12. Go to a museum

They’ll probably be awesomely empty because everyone else is standing in line at Target! Check out a weird museum you’ve never been to or something you suspect isn’t quite your taste. You might be surprised!

If you’re here in the Twin Cities, MIA is always free and is offering free admission from 6am-10am to their Delacroix exhibit,  free coffee and treats, and discounts in the museum store!

13. Visit a state park

Because Minnesota is The Actual Best they’ve made every single state park free on Black Friday! Even if your state isn’t doing the same thing, a state park visit is a great way to spend the day. Go for a hike, clamber around waterfalls, peer at wildlife. It’s a great way to work off a bit of the pumpkin pie and socially decompress from all that holiday, family-time gossip.

What’d I miss? Share your Black Friday ideas in the comments!

P.S. The perfect outfit for Thanksgiving dinner

Yes, It’s Worth It To Spend Money Improving Your Apartment (what to do + how to do it)

This guest post comes to us from Liz at Bolster Studio. She’s an ASID-certified designer who helps everyone (apartment dwellers! people on budgets!) make their home gorgeous. Check out her awesome Pinterest boards or her pretty Instagram.


Hi, friends! I’m back talking about ways to spruce up your rental digs. Sarah suggested that I write a post about why apartment improvements are worth your time and money in the first place! Her request came at the perfect time; I’m in serious nesting mode as winter hibernation time is almost upon us in Cleveland.

It’s no secret that home ownership instills a sense of pride and a having a stake in your local community. But what about those of us who can’t afford to buy or aren’t ready to settle down with a thirty-year mortgage? There is nothing that says renters can’t also take pride!

I can’t think of a valid reason to wait until “someday” to make yourself feel at home somewhere. Sure, ripping out a bathroom or replacing flooring surfaces is likely out of the question, but it doesn’t mean you can’t inject your personality or creature comforts into your landlord’s place.

At the end of the day, you’ll feel better coming home to a place that’s comforting and personalized to your tastes than you will when coming home to someone else’s poor, beige decisions.

Let’s talk about how to elevate your space without emptying your savings account.

Blank walls make me sad. And because I don’t have a fabulous art budget, I’ve gotten creative over the years about hanging things on my walls. Here are some ways to get big art on a small budget, without utilizing your old NKOTB posters:

  • I made a pretty intense wall mural in college through The Rasterbator.

  • Aunt Peaches shows us how to turn wrapping paper into legit art.

  • If geography is your thing, blow up or photocopy a map and break out the Mod Podge for an inexpensive oversized map. I made something like this for a first-anniversary gift to my husband and now we paint the route of every road trip we take together. Awwwww.

  • Washi tape can make magical things happen to your walls.
When hanging art, remember to keep it relatively at eye level, and hang pieces in groupings on large walls if your frames are less than 36”.

Kitchens and bathrooms in rentals typically leave a little to be desired. Without causing damage, you can typically make some small changes to make cooking feel a little nicer. Here’s how:

  • Upgrade your backsplash. A few rolls of temporary wallpaper or a quart of paint and a stencil can make a huge impact.
apartment improvements
  • Swap out your knobs & pulls. Knobs are easy because they have one screw, but did you know there are adjustable pulls on the market? They’re great because you can haul them from place to place. These are my favorite.

  • Take off some cabinet doors! My teeny apartment in college had two-toned kitchen doors that were peeling, so I yanked them down and installed pretty contact paper the back of the cabinets. The kitchen felt larger and the doors were no longer mocking my sensibilities.
  • Need extra storage? A few inexpensive wall shelves and a can of gold spray paint might just solve all of your problems.
apartment improvements

If you’re having trouble locating the right furniture for your space, check out my old post on tips for selecting pieces that can move with you from place to place.

apartment improvements

And finally, check out my tips for giving your lighting a boost and installing good window treatments, all on a budget.

apartment improvments

If you have any other suggestions for giving your apartment a little love, please share in the comments!

P.S. 11 DIY headboards + 5 ways to hide your tv

photo credits: decor8 holly // bolster // brit + co // plaster and disaster // homey oh my! // bolster // ikea // cc


True Story: I’m A Dog Trainer

gary-cassara-dog-trainerTell us a bit about yourself! 
Hi, Von Bargen nation! I’m Gary Cassera.  I’m a 36-year-old entrepreneur and new resident to LA. I live here with my super amazing wife Melissa and our three dogs; Jacob (aka fun police), Kita (aka monkey feet), and Lily (aka little badness).  I grew up and lived in NJ for 33 years. I have spent the last three years living in Napa, CA before moving to LA.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for my entire life. At five years old, I started walking dogs in my neighborhood, charging the owners when I got back – much to their surprise!
My wife and I own a few businesses; one of which is a dog walking and pack walking business. We specialize in socializing dogs who can be a little naughty.
For fun we do most things with our dogs.  We hike, go for beach adventures, and eat at amazing restaurants wherever we are.  Mostly, I work a lot! I find a lot of truth in that famous saying: “Do something you love and you never have to work a day in your life.”
What path lead you to working as a professional dog trainer?
I was a tennis player after college and I was starting to get old and tired. We adopted a Shih Tzu who was totally gregarious and fun loving, then suddenly … wasn’t. I had a friend who hired a behaviorist and she passed the info on to me.  After working with the behaviorist – it just clicked. I started doing everything I could to learn more about dogs and started my company Balanced Dogs soon after.
Let’s say I just got a puppy. When should I start training her? What are your favorite resources? Which commands should I start with?
The first thing question people should ask themselves is “Why did I get this dog?”  If you can be self-aware when answering that question, you can head off a lot of potential problems. Fifty percent of my clients could fix their problems if they focus on that answer!  Owners make their job harder when they can’t answer that question.
As far as commands, for me, that’s not a first priority.  Down the road, it can be fun to show your friends that your dog knows how to sit, but if you’re using those commands to avoid problems like jumping or door bolting, that’s a different issue.
My goal is to help my clients socialize their dogs and show the dog how they should interpret objects and scenarios.  If either the dog or client is nervous, I help them through it. If they are too pushy, I show them how they should be.My favorite thing about dogs is if you teach them how to be, you never have to ask them to do anything like sit, down, etc.
Would your suggestions be different for someone who just got an adult rescue?
The first thing I do when I get a dog is imprint them on me. Imprinting is the process by which your dog learns the behaviors of a parent, other dogs, humans or other beings, and gains some of his basic socialization skills. I give them structure structure structure.I show him where he sleeps, where he eats, where he goes to the bathroom, how we walk, etc.

Once the dog starts following me around without the leash and starts to anticipate and be connected to me, then I can start challenging him more. I might introduce him to a new dog, teach him to relax when a biker goes by, show him how to relax around kids, etc.

The best advice I can say about rescuing an older dog is to be honest with the level of project you can handle.  It’s okay to say “This is too much dog for me.” Really, it’s the responsible and admiral choice! My clients who have committed to the wrong dog really struggle.
While I’m on the topic – cute is not a reason to bring a dog home.  It plays a part, but please don’t make that mistake.


In a best case scenario, how long does it take to teach a dog basic commands? 
I don’t focus much on commands right away.  I believe commands cause confusion in a dog’s brain biology.  Why we want them to lay down and why they lay down are two different reasons. We think commands give us control when we are unsure of an outcome or scared of something happening so we say “sit” or “down” – like saying “sit” before they jump on Grandma.

Avoiding a problem not really solving it. Dogs lay when they are tired.What they should be taught is to respect Grandma’s space and not jump on anyone unless they’re invited.  That’s why I socialize my dogs so I don’t have to give them commands. I can let them be responsible for their own decisions and they live with the consequences, good or bad.  That’s real life.

What are the most common mistakes owners make while trying to train their dog?
Too much freedom and no plan.  Be more proactive instead of reactive.  Have a good offense.
Dogs love structure and so do we. Imagine driving on a road with no signs or lights.  It’d be complete chaos!  Would you feel stressed? Hyper alert?  That’s what most dogs are living every day.
So, if you are having problems, a little more structure and teaching the dog what is expected, will help your relationship and avoid confusion.
Is there really such a thing as a dog who can’t learn new tricks?
Do dogs have genetic problems? Of course, just like humans.  But I have not met a dog I couldn’t help. If a dog has been practicing the behavior like any ingrained habit, he can be a little more challenging to help the dog through it but it can be done.
In your opinion, what’s the best dog for a young family? A retired couple? A single apartment dweller?
I offer a service for people by phone or in person where we go through a series of questions to diagnose what they really want.  Everyone’s environment is different.

Do you walk a lot? Do you need a dog that accepts strangers well? Do you live in the country and want a dog that barks like crazy because there is a sense of comfort knowing they are watching the property? Will you have children one day? (Editor’s note: if you’d like Gary’s insight into which type of dog would be best for you, you can email him directly at balanceddogsllc@gmail (dot) com)

In my opinion, most people want a social dog they can take everywhere.  Be real about how much physical and mental  challenge you can give the dog every day.

I wouldn’t get a guardian breed if I run a home therapy business.  Is the dog going to take kindly to new strangers every day? Not naturally or without guidance.  So to flip it, I might say if you really want a guardian breed, do you realize that socialization is very important?  You must make time with the puppy to have positive interactions with everyone that comes in the house.
If you are a marathon runner, don’t get a greyhound.  They walk 10 min and then they are done.  So if you hike 12 miles on a weekend and you want to bring your dog it may not be the right fit.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from your work that any of us could apply to our daily lives – even if we don’t own a dog? 
Your dog’s behavior is a barometer for your feelings.  Are you angry, frustrated, anxious, scared? That’s why your dog acts out. It’s amazing the connection. A fellow trainer has a great line: “Your dog’s behavior will change as soon as yours does. You just have to go first.”
My dogs have taught me about anger that I needed to dive deeper into. They taught me patience and that we all move at our own speed – which has helped me in my marriage.

My dogs are here as much for me as I am there for them.I get emotional all the time thinking about the selflessness they show me every day and the forgiveness they show me for my errors.  No judgment, just total forgiveness.All they want is a calm stable environment and they are reminders to me every day to search for that.

Thanks so much, Gary! This was incredibly helpful! Do you guys have any questions for him?

P.S. True story: I trained bunnies for agility competitions + 4 ways to be a boss in work + life

Web Time Wasters

How was your week guys? I won’t bore you by telling you how busy I was BUT OMG I WAS SO BUSY MY HANDS ARE GOING TO FALL OFF AND MY HEAD IS GOING TO EXPLODE.

A Facebook post I wrote about how to help refugees went viral (as I type this it’s been viewed by 1.2 million people!) so I also spent a lot of time refreshing the page and deleting racist slurs and blocking people. :/

I’m recovering by eating popcorn for dinner, brunching, and sleeping.

But enough about me! Let’s talk about you!

I loved this quote from Georgia O’Keefe.

Random recommendation: grating your cheese with this makes every dish feel fancy (and you use less cheese!)

Super interesting: You really don’t need to work so much.
Once upon a time, it was taken for granted that the wealthier classes enjoyed a life of leisure on the backs of the proletariat. Today it is people in skilled trades who can most find reasonable hours coupled with good pay; the American professional is among those subject to humiliation and driven like a beast of burden.

If you’re trying to buy fair trade items this holiday season, Befair.org is an awesome one-stop shopping portal!

Ooooh, stock photos. Is this what you think lesbians look like?

My sister is adopted. This article was so, so interesting and enlightening for me.

New lifestyle idols! Kate and her wife restored an old Airstream and are traveling around America with their five-year-old daughter. AWESOME.

Ooof. Yes. How to stop eating crap all the time.

Privilege is an incredibly touchy subject. Most of us want to believe that we don’t have it and that we’ve gotten where we are “on our own.” I’ve certainly indulged in that perspective before! If you find yourself having that knee-jerk reaction or a you’re not sure how privilege works, this comic will clarify things.

Love it! The classic Richard Scary children’s book Best Word Book Ever has been updated to be more inclusive!

20 rules for life as a twenty-something.

I love Elise’s commitment to ‘slow,’ ethical fashion. Here’s her super comprehensive guide to slow fashion basics – tees, hoodies, etc.

My friend Dana is an elementary school teacher turned graphic designer and now she’s turning some of her favorite student quotes into screen prints. I particularly liked this one!

FASCINATING. 11 smells that are slowly disappearing.

A reminder to all of us: girl-on-girl jealousy is not inevitable.
We aren’t competing with other women, ultimately, but with ourselves — with how we think of ourselves. For many of us, we look at other women and see, instead, a version of ourselves that is better, prettier, smarter, something more. We don’t see the other woman at all.

And a Yes & Yes post you might have missed: How to get what you want in 2 easy steps. Seriously.,

Sweet grits + Intuitive eating + Loving & dressing your body

You know the deal. I round up some of this month’s sponsors’ best posts, you get to avoid dishes and laundry for another hour. Yes? Yes.


Favorite posts:
Is it really that easy? Using the law of attraction the right way //
Who is in control of your money – you or your circumstances? //
Is generosity good or bad for prosperity?
Let’s be friends!
facebook // twitter // pinterest // instagram


Favorite posts:
Beyond emotional eating // You need more science in your life //
When did you stop eating intuitively?
Let’s be friends!
facebook // twitter // pinterest // instagram


Favorite posts:
Loving + dressing your body at any size // How to stay stylish when you’re running on empty //
How to look + feel amazing when you’re struggling with a major illness
Let’s be friends!
facebook // instagram // pinterest // twitter


Favorite posts:
Authenticity is a moving target // Liking exercise when you don’t really //
Redefine your health (in 5 chapters)
Let’s be friends!
facebook // twitter // pinterest // instagram

Favorite stuff:
BAM! I’m A Jew: Sandwich Loaf, Showers, and Sweet Sweet Benedict Cumberbatch //
Thanksgiving, Twin Peaks, and Traditions //
Slow Cookers, (Cole) Slaw, and Sexy Whispers from Ryan Gosling
Let’s be friends!
instagram // twitter // pinterest

PicMonkey Collage

Favorite stuff:
Start Here // How to add Google Fonts to your website //
How to use colors to communicate your brand
Let’s be friends!
facebook // twitter // pinterest

PicMonkey Collage

Favorite stuff:
Natural deodorant for kids // Tea that’ll up your iron intake // Libido care
Let’s be friends!
facebook // pinterest

Want to see your face and products here? In front of 12,000+ people? It’s cheaper than you’d think! Check out my ad rates and info here or drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org.

How to enjoy work (even when you’re busy + kind of overwhelmed)



Here’s a fun fact about most bloggers:

The things we write are the things we, ourselves, need to read.

So in honor of the 12 hour days I’ve been working lately, I present to you – on my small business blog – How to enjoy work (even when you’re busy + kind of overwhelmed). Pop over and have a read if you’re in a similar situation!

A goat in a flower costume + December ad space

Guys, it’s that time of year again.

Time to watch goat videos and think about holiday sales.

If you have an Etsy store, an online boutique, or any retail space in which humans can purchase gifts for other humans. You might want to purchase ad space on Yes & Yes in December.

Sidebar ad space is available in one, two and three-month packages with pricing discounts at two and three months. All 300 x 100 sponsors will be included in the mid-month sponsor introduction post.



80 and $200 sponsors also have the option of offering discount codes to Yes & Yes newsletter subscribers (4,400+ people!) at no additional charge.

newsletter screenshot

Some facts about Yes & Yes:

Daily unique visitors: 3,200 – 3,500 a day
Page views: 240,000+ per month
Twitter followers: 8,040+
Facebook fans: 5,120+
Instagram followers: 2900+
Google Page Rank: 4
RSS feed subscribers (between Feedburner, Bloglovin’, Feedly)12,000+
Newsletter subscribers: 4,400+

Some of the nice things that previous sponsors have said about Yes and Yes?

We chose to spend our first ever advertising dollars at Yes and Yes because Sarah is an expert entrepreneur who develops fantastic content, and we knew the mid-month sponsor post would be a golden opportunity for increasing our traffic. We couldn’t have asked for a more successful experience! We chose to focus traffic from Sarah to three places: our blog and our two Instagram accounts. Our blog traffic improved in all areas: the number of unique visitors per day jumped significantly, our bounce rate went from over 60% down to 40%, and the average visitor stayed for up to three minutes and viewed several pages. The bottom line: advertising with Sarah sent tons of real people over to our blog, and they stayed long enough to actually read our content! And did I mention our Instagram following has nearly doubled?! We are over the moon and will be back for more!Catherine and Becca, The Field Guide

Having advertised on Yes and Yes in the past, I knew Sarah was the person to contact when I was launching my 21-Day Instagram course. I made nearly a 500% return on my ad investment. If your target client is a smart, savvy young woman with a desire to better herself and the world around her, advertising with Sarah will help you reach her. –Melissa Camilleri, Founder of Compliment, Inc. and the 21-Day Insta-course

I’ve sponsored with Sarah a few times, and each experience has been amazing! The day my sponsored post went up I got five times my usual traffic! Not only is she a breeze to work with and prompt with communication, but she is also genuine and really does want to support other bloggers. So many times, advertising on another blog is a one-way street, but when I sponsor Sarah I feel like we’re supporting each other. It’s wonderful to have someone like her in the blogosphere! – Stephanie, The Loudmouth Lifestyle

If you’re interested, drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and we’ll get you started!

Read // Eat: Jollof Rice from ‘Americanah’


This post comes to us via my dear friend/food stylist Benjamin Plante! You can read his hilarious food blog here or drool over his Instagram here.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah came highly recommended. As is with other parts of my life, I turned to my friends to gauge whether or not this novel would pique my interest or leave me grumbling in bed, dry-eyed, and disappointed that I was missing a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation on cable. One friend’s reply was so passionate (sent in all CAPS so we know they meant it) I knew no way I could ignore my bedside library.

With peer pressure set to high, I settled in with a bottle of wine and got acquainted with Adichie’s leading woman and man, Ifemalu and Obinze.

We meet Ifemalu, a well-established blogger writing about race in America from an African point of view, as she makes her way from Princeton to nearby Trenton to get her hair braided. While en route, she lays the foundation for a love story that crosses oceans, spans decades, and may hit too close to home at times. Thankfully, Adichie injects plenty of wit and gumption along the way.

Obinze starts this story as a married family man, still in Nigeria and doing very well in real estate. About half a bottle of wine in, his story takes us to England on an adventure of illegal documents and undesirable jobs as he struggles to make his American Dream a reality.

Since, I’m always thinking about my next meal, you can imagine I was drawn to the food of this book. Adichie references food subtlely. The man on the train platform eating his ice cream; the inexperienced journalist unsure of the American deli spread at a fancy Nigerian party; the fish and chips shared by Obinze and his maybe future wife.

I have a standing rule of not frying fish where I sleep so I passed on the idea of fish and chips. Instead, I settled on jollof rice (what I will preemptively describe as DELICIOUS!) Mentioned periodically throughout the novel, jollof rice is a traditional meal served for a variety of occasions. This rice, tomato, and chicken based dish can be made in many different fashions, from complex to simple. I opted to try one with a moderate amount of work. However, I will say it can be a good beginner’s recipe (and inexpensive at that!)

jollof rice ingredients jollof-rice-americanah

Jollof Rice

Recipe Inspired from Jamie Oliver


8 chicken thighs
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground white pepper
Vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, on the vine
4 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 chili peppers, deseeded and chopped
A bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped, stalks finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato purée
vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
50oz chicken stock
2.5 cups long grain rice
1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. In a bowl, toss the chicken thighs with the ground coriander, white pepper and a pinch of salt. Add a glug of oil to a large saucepan and fry the chicken over a medium heat for 7–8 minutes, until browned all over. Transfer the chicken to a medium-sized roasting pan and cook in the oven for 30–40 minutes, until golden, adding the cherry tomatoes to the pan halfway through.

Meanwhile, using the same pan you browned the chicken in, add a splash of oil and sauté the onions, garlic, chili and parsley stalks over a low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes, then pour in the chicken stock. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, pop the lid on and let it bubble away for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding water if it gets too dry.

Finally, stir in the parsley leaves followed by the cooking juices and cherry tomatoes (discarding the stalk) from the roasting pan. Mix well, squashing the tomatoes into the rice.
Serve the rice with the chicken pieces on top and lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over.

*Note on the recipe: I halved the recipe and it made enough for my single self to eat it for three days at both lunch and dinner.

Have you guys read Americanah yet? It is, hands down, the best novel I’ve read in YEARS. Go read it right this second! And then read Purple Hibiscus, too!

P.S. Lamb stew from The Hunger Games + 5 Louisiana foods that will change your life + diet.

The Cheapskate Guide To: Philadelphia


If you’ve never been, the City of Brotherly Love is well worth a visit. It’s home of the famous Philly cheesesteak, hot live music venues, and one of the fastest-growing culinary scenes in the world! Allow us to expertly acquaint you with the best spots to checkout while you’re in town!

Located in the heart of the city, Philly PR Girl is known for having the inside scoop on “All Things Philly,” and our downtown office – located just steps from iconic City Hall – positions us right inside of all the action. Most of our sociable staff are lifelong Philadelphians, so it’s safe to say we know the best places!

Philly is easily accessible from New Jersey, New York City, Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC. The Megabus has tickets starting as low as $1! Purchase a month or two in advance to lock down the best deals. (One of our girls just booked a bus to New York City from Philly for $3!)

The Cheapskate Guide to Philadelphia

Rented Rooms
It is possible to find cute, clean, and unbelievably cheap accommodations for two for as little as $35/night! Check out this private room just 13 minutes from the city and this gorgeous, shared loft tucked away in Rittenhouse Square, the city’s ritziest neighborhood.

The Cheapskate Guide to Philadelphia

Hostels & shared rooms
Other options include grabbing a bunk at The Philadelphia House – one of Philly’s few hostels, and undoubtedly the best. They have four, eight, or 12-person rooms at their quarters in historic Old City, also starting at only $35/night.

If you’re an even thriftier, consider Couchsurfing. Plenty of Philadelphians are happy to open their doors (and their pull-out sofas) to visitors for free! Some hosts do ask that you bring a significant item (culture, city, food etc) of your choice as a trade-off, but that’s just part of the fun!


Liberty Bell – Free
Touring Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell is one of our favorite (and free!) recommendations for those new to the city. You can see the room where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed, and then take a few steps across Chestnut Street to see the great symbol of American independence for yourself. Avoid waiting in line by visiting on off-peak hours.

The Cheapskates Guide to Philadelphia

Philadephia Magic Gardens – $7
Attention narcissists: If you love snapping selfies, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens makes the most amazing photo backdrop. This mosaic gallery and its labyrinth sculpture garden is one of the coolest places to visit in the city, thanks to mural artist Isaiah Zagar. You can check out photos online, but trust us – pictures really don’t do this venue justice.

Love Park – Free
Named after the iconic Love Sign by Robert Indiana, this park is the perfect meeting place, and is aptly located in the heart of Center City. Snapping a picture in front of the sign is cliche, but so necessary. Those in need of respite will enjoy sitting around the fountain in the center of the park or across the street at the relatively new Dilworth Plaza. During the summer months, you’ll find kids splashing in the water. And in the winter, Love Park hosts a lovely Christmas market with a variety of vendors.

North or South Bowl – $5-6 a person
Nobody does retro quite like this bowling alley. Whether you’re near their North or South Philly location, pop in for their amazing happy hour, and stay to bowl the night away under their old school neon lights. On weekdays from 5-7 p.m., you can enjoy $2 PBRs, $3 Jim Beam Kentucky Fire shots, and $5 games of bowling.

Philadelphia Museum of Art – $20 or Pay What You Wish
No trip to Philly would be complete without mimicking Rocky Balboa’s iconic run up the Art Museum Steps. Enjoy the scenery of the Parkway from the top of the stairs before making your way back down to the Rocky statue. If your trip falls on either the first Sunday of the month or on any Wednesday, you’re in luck! Enjoy “Pay What You Wish” admission after 5 p.m, and check out the incredible exhibits our city’s monumental museum has to offer!

The Cheapskate Travel Guide to Philadelphia

City Hall Observation Deck – $6
Fun fact: Philadelphia’s City Hall is the largest and highest in the United States. Take a ride up to the observation deck, just below the iconic William Penn statue, which offers a magnificent 360-degree view of the Philadelphia region. The tour last 15 minutes – we’ll understand if you don’t want to come back down.

Comcast Center – Free
The venue that houses Comcast’s world headquarters is  the tallest “green” building in the country (and the tallest building in Philly, period). It’s practically impossible to miss The Comcast Experience Video Wall – a 2,000 square-foot LED screen that projects incredibly lifelike, vivid images. After taking in the sights for a few minutes, head downstairs to The Market at Comcast Center for some shopping and a daily cheese pairing tasting at locally renowned, gourmet grocer DiBruno Brothers from 4-7 p.m.

The Cheapskate Guide to Philadelphia

Race Street Pier – Free
The Race Street Pier is a great place to stroll, but if you really want to enjoy the city like a local, get your vinyasa on with a little urban yoga by the Delaware River. Voted “Best Free Workout Class” by Philadelphia Magazine, Yoga on the Race Street Pier offers free classes every day of the week. On weekends, classes start at 9:30 a.m. Don’t forget your mat, and a small donation to show your love.

MilkBoy Philly – $10-17
MilkBoy Philly highlights three of the things that we do better than any other city in America: amazing food, booze, and music! Owned by music industry vet Tommy Joyner and Philly restaurant vet Jamie Lokoff, this small, multifunctional venue offers a stellar lineup of national and local recording artists. Stop in for dinner or drinks and enjoy one of their awesomely cheap shows, happening most nights each week.

Enjoy the great outdoors – Free
Philly doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its beautiful outdoor spaces. If you want to get a real feel for the city, catch an outdoor movie along the Schuylkill Banks, enjoy a seasonal concert or event on the Delaware Waterfront, or rent a bike to cruise down Kelly Drive just behind Boathouse Row.

If you’re visiting in the winter, grab your skates and head over to the Blue Cross Riverrink for a few laps on the ice. Cuddle up by one of their rustic, outdoor fire pits while checking out the gorgeous view of the Ben Franklin Bridge. In the warmer months, this multifunctional venue converts to Spruce Street Harbor Park, complete with food and games, a floating beer garden, and outdoor roller rink!

The Cheapskate Guide to Philadelphia


Yakitori Boy – $1 skewers and $3.50 sushi rolls
Located amongst the exotic shops, restaurants, and bars of Chinatown is one of our favorite late night spots. Where else can you find authentic apps for so cheap? Wash down sashimi, tempura, and yakitori with $4 domestic drafts. Yakitori Boy’s happy hour specials will keep your pockets and your belly full. Plus: belting out karaoke on the second floor is mandatory. Rent a private room for you and a group of friends, or just bring your A-game to the bar!

Cavanaugh’s – Half priced steaks, $3 tacos, and 50 cent wings
With four locations across the city, Cavanaugh’s is a great place to stop by for a quick and seriously satisfying bite. Their awesome daily specials make them an affordable option, and their food is certainly a step up from traditional bar fare. We love their funnel cake french fries, half-priced-burger-Wednesdays, and free Quizzo! No matter when you stop in, we promise… something awesome will be on special.

The Cheapskate Guide to Philadelphia

Federal Donuts – $2.50 for the best donuts you’ll ever have
Need to refuel with a midday sugar fix? Federal Donuts has five AWESOME locations in the city. They only do two things: donuts and fried chicken. And they do them oh so well. Choose either fresh and hot classic flavors (vanilla spice, strawberry lavender) or fancy, which constantly change but currently include lemon ricotta and chocolate eclair. For $9, you get half of a fried chicken, a side of Japanese cucumber pickles, and a honey donut. If you wanna indulge in some down-home fried food, Federal Donuts is the place!

Honey’s Sit’N Eat – $6-14 Brunch
This cash-only BYO is the perfect place to brunch; or breakfast, depending on when you stop by. Grab a bottle of champagne to pair with their fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juice or, if you’re in a hurry to explore the city, take advantage of their weekday breakfast special: two eggs, potato latke, grits or home fries with toast and a bottomless cup of delicious La Colombe coffee for only $4.95!

The Cheapskate Guide to Philadelphia

Philly Pretzel Factory – Three pretzels for $1.50
Baked fresh every day, the Philly Pretzel Factory is insanely popular, so you won’t have trouble finding a location while roaming the city. However, you may have a bit of trouble deciding on a dipping sauce to pair with your soft, freshly-baked snack. And, if you want to balance out all those carbs with some protein, try their pretzel (hot) dogs or a gooey pretzel cheesesteak.

Cheesesteaks & water ice – $2-9
If you’re visiting in the spring or summertime, be sure to complete your trip with a pit-stop for water ice! Rita’s is a beloved regional chain and Philly Flavors is the go-to around Center City, but definitely stop by John’s Water Ice if you find yourself in South Philly.

Of course, no trip to Philly is complete without a classic cheesesteak. Most people swarm to the glittering lights and hubbub of Geno’s and Pat’s rivaling mainstays on East Passyunk, but we recommend that you head a bit off the beaten path to Del Rossi’s Cheesesteak Co. or even Campo’s Deli. Trust these local favorites to prepare an authentic Philly cheesesteak that is worth every bite.

What did I miss, fellow Philadelphians? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. How to travel on the cheap – 11 tips that helped me travel for 10 months on $5,000 + The Cheapskate Guides To: Minneapolis

photos by dave z // airbnb – patrick // airbnb – dominic // philadelphia house // chris favero // cucombre libre // kaitlin // scott d welch // dcwriterdawn // delaware river waterfront instagram // schuylkill banks // terry robinson // yakitori boy // cavanaughs // federal donuts // philly pretzel factory // cc

How To Hygge (Or: 29 Ways To Actually Enjoy Winter)

Imagine looking forward to the cold and dark of winter.

Can you picture it?

Pulling out your favorite soup recipes and a pile of cozy sweaters.

Lighting candles around the house and inviting friends over for sledding and board games.

Snowshoeing through a forest muffled with snow, towards a bright cabin full of your favorite people

When we put it like that, six months of dark and cold seems almost …. pleasant.

If you’ve never heard of hygge before, it’s the Danish concept of warm coziness during the winter months. It’s “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people” (according to Denmark’s official tourism website.)  Those Danes actually enjoy winter! They embrace it and look forward to it! Whaaaaatttt?!!

And as a third-generation Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent, I know a thing (or 29) about winter. I know how to cozy down and warm up.

So if you, too, are looking for a more social, more enjoyable winter – this post is for you. Bookmark it for the coming months when the excitement of the holidays has worn off and now it’s just cold and dark and dreary. Pour yourself something warm, settle in, and have a read.


1. Try a new hot drink

Put it in a travel mug and take a walk through your neighborhood! There’s something wonderfully smug about being outside when it’s cold and dark, but feeling all snuggly and warm.  Look at you!  Beating the elements!  Aren’t you the clever one?!

One of my favorite things to do after dinner is to make myself a decadent hot drink, pour it into a travel mug, bundle up and then take a walk around my darkened neighborhood.  I see who already put up their holiday lights, say hello to neighbors walking dogs, and check out decorating schemes in living rooms with uncurtained windows.  Seeing so many families tucked into their sweet, warm houses is such a lovely feeling.

A few hot drinks you’ve never heard of:
Hot, Sweet Ginger Drink // Dreamy Nightime Drink // Hot, Buttered Rum // Hot, Spiced Cider // Hot, Scotch Cocoa

2. Host a sledding party

Remember when you’d spend an entire Saturday with your friends, trundling up and down hills in your snowsuit?  And that zip-zop sound your snow pants would make as you trudged up the hill?

Well, sledding is still awesome and it’s still free.  Gather up your favorite friends for a night of sledding.  You can make it an event by starting the evening with a big pot of soup and some loaves of crusty bread and then head to your nearest hill and devote an hour or two to racing each other down the hill.  If you’re really brave/foolish you could try sledding on an inflatable mattress.  Or a tray filched from a cafeteria.

Or just cut two holes in a plastic shopping bag, stick your legs through and see how fast you go! After you’re tired of climbing back up the hill, head inside for hot drinks and a few rounds of Pictionary.  Lovely!

3. DIY spa day

Have a night in with a bunch of homemade moisturizing beauty treatments!  Winter can dry out your skin and hair something awful.  And constant hat-wearing somehow manages to give me both oily roots and straw-like ends.  Awesome.

Awesome DIY spa treatments for you:
Homemade bubble bath // moisturizing tea + avocado mask // banana + yogurt hair treatment

4. Write actual letters

Is it awesome to stay in touch with old high school friends via Facebook?  Yes.  Is it the same as getting a handwritten letter on hilarious Japanese stationery?  No.

If you’re looking for a good inside, cold-weather activity it’s hard to beat letter writing.  Start with your grandparents or other people who aren’t necessarily all over the internet.  What about your old friends from band camp?  Or your freshman year roommate?  If you’re looking to brush up on that language you studied for years, sign up for a foreign language pen pal or just sign up for a regular pen pal!

If letters aren’t really your thing, buy a big pack of postcards and make it your goal to write all of them before spring.  Or dig through your old photos and when you find a duplicate, pop a stamp and address on the back, write a note and send it off like a postcard to the person in the photo.

5. Make a winter bonfire

When you think about it, it makes a lot more sense to have a bonfire on a crisp winter night than during the sticky, sweaty summer – and a bonfire is a great way to dispose of your Christmas tree!

Have a few friends bring over their dried up holiday wreaths, trees and trimmings and get your fire on.  Here’s a great how-to on proper fire-building technique.

If you’re feeling particularly festive, roast marshmallows or hot dogs.  You can even wrap potatoes in tin foil and tuck them in the coals or do the same with bananas sliced in half lengthwise and stuffed with pieces of chocolate.  Of course, be sure to check out your city’s fire policies before you bonfire it up!

6. Visit someone who’s housebound

Nothing will cheer you up faster than a reality check.  If you’re feeling stuck this winter, take a few hours to visit someone who is really, truly housebound.  Maybe it’s your grandma who’s laid up with a bad hip, your friend with a broken leg or a former teacher whose arthritis is getting the best of her.

Call ahead and ask your friend what time works for them (just because someone’s stuck inside, doesn’t mean they love unexpected visitors).  Bring over a snack or meal to share and maybe a DVD.  Or just go old school and make conversation!


7. Embrace seasonal produce

Cooking with seasonal produce is healthier, cheaper and better for the environment.

Also: winter strawberries are mealy and gross.  Why pay $3 for one withered red pepper when you can make spicy sweet potato soup or dip tiny delicious kumquats in dark chocolate?

Here’s what’s in season during the winter and some awesome ways to cook ’em!
Persimmon pudding // Shredded brussels sprouts // Broiled grapefruit // Butternut squash soup with a kick // Spinach pomegranate salad // Creamy Roasted Parsnip Soup // Kumquat marmalade // Jicama appetizers

8. Make the perfect playlist

We all have songs that we simply can’t resist.  Staff meeting, traffic jam, client conference call – the setting matters not.  When you hear those first few notes, it’s all you can do not to excuse yourself and have a one-person dance party right there, right that second.

I’ve been cultivating my Irresistible Playlist for at least two years and sometimes – come mid afternoon – I listen to it instead of having a third cup of coffee.  Seriously.  Such is the power of Shakira and Flo Rida. Your playlist needn’t be cool or impressive (mine’s certainly not) it just needs to include songs that make you dance around your living room and shout the lyrics while pointing aggressively into the middle distance.

For your enjoyment, here’s mine:
Shakira: Shewolf // Flo Rida: Good Feeling // Ke$ha: Kiss N Tell // Two Door Cinema Club: I Can Talk // Madonna: Hung Up // Britney Spears: I Wanna Go

9. Pamper your hidden body parts

It’s easy to forget that your toes and legs and shoulders even exist during the winter.  Where’d they go?  I don’t know, because they’re constantly buried under three layers of wool and I haven’t seen them in months.

If you can afford it, splash out on an awesomely over-the-top pedicure (I love neon pink with rhinestones) or set aside a few hours to do one yourself.  You’ll feel sexy and pulled together every time you look down at your cute toes in the shower.

Mix together some sugar scrub and exfoliate the sweet bejesus out of your legs and if you feel so inclined, engage in a bit of lady-part maintenance.

If your back and shoulders haven’t seen the light of day (or are jacked up from shoveling and gift wrapping) consider the wonder that is a professional massage.  Full-priced massages can be spendy, but you can frequently find deals on Groupon or LivingSocial.  If your city has a massage school, you can get massages from students for a fraction of what you’d usually pay.


10. Host brunch

Lady get-togethers needn’t be limited to summer patios and fruity drinks.  Why not invite your girls over for a wintery Sunday brunch?  You can listen to cozy, jazzy music (I like the ‘French Cafe’ Pandora station) and tuck into to warm, decadent dishes that wouldn’t feel appropriate in July.  Besides!  This is an excellent opportunity to pull out your ‘good’ dishes and that sweet tablecloth from your grandma!

Awesome brunch recipes!
Irish coffee // Zucchini mushroom strata // Cinnabon clone // Whole grain waffles // Dutch babies // Apricot mango mimosa

11. Choose happy books/music/movies

Now, I love few things more than a good, properly depressing piece of literature.  (What’s up, everything Joyce Carol Oates has ever written?)  But perhaps December is not the time to indulge in that stuff.  Instead, let’s make space for music, movies and books that make us sigh with joy and laugh out loud.  If you don’t have any go-to feel-goods, here are a few to get you started.

Joy-filled Movies
Bridesmaids, Easy A, Babe The Gallant Pig, American Teen, ElfClueless

Happy-fying Books
Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie books, Bossypants, Bridget Jones, anything by Bill Bryson or David Sedaris

Wonderful Music
Vampire Weekend, Two Door Cinema Club, The Wombats, Lilly Allen, Jesse J, Beyonce

12. Get more sun

One of the leading causes of seasonal depression is lack of vitamin D – the vitamin you get from being exposed to the sun.  Of course, it’s hard to see much of the sun if you’re inside working the entire time it’s light out.  Here are a few ways to get more sunshine into your life.

* Take advantage of your lunch break
If it’s sunny, bundle the eff up and get outside on your lunch break.  Try out a new restaurant that’s several blocks away, run some errands (on foot) in your neighborhood, or just put on a podcast and walk.  You’ll get some exercise and some vitamin D!

* Load up on sun during the weekend
If you are chained to your desk all week, make sure you get outside and into the sun on the weekends – and not just for two minutes as you walk through the Target parking lot.  Plan some fun outdoor activities (snowshoeing! skiing!  snow fort building!) and make ’em happen.  Or you can just put a hot, tasty beverage in a travel mug and explore a new neighborhood.

* Work next to a window
Now, you can’t actually absorb vitamin D through glass, but you’ll still feel a lot better about life if you’re sitting in the sun rather than toiling away in a dark corner.  If it’s really too cold to be outside or you have a huge computer-based project to finish, pull your desk or chair into the light.

* Splash out on a Sun Box
If you have really severe seasonal depression, you might want to consider getting a lightbox.  Light boxes are essentially huge lamps that use light, filters and angle to replicate the sun.  They’re not cheap but they’re allegedly quite effective!

13. Show people you love them

February is the month of love, right?  And though romantic relationships are really lovely, let us not forget all the other people that we love.  Because just like any long-term relationship, friendships require maintenance. You wouldn’t expect a lover to go years without any expression of your affection, why would you expect that from a friend? It’s important to let the people in your life know that they matter!

If you’re one of those people who require three beers before you can manage an “I love yoouuuu, maaannnn!” here are a few ideas:

* Send them a link to a music video you guys used to love

* Post a picture of someone or something gorgeous on facebook and tag it as a photo of them.

* Check in on them when you know that they’re going through a tough time
Not just during the tough time, but in the weeks following the tough time. When something bad happens to us, we’re often overwhelmed by good wishes and sympathy in the days following a death/breakup/job loss. But those things are still hard in the following months and we all need love then, too.

* Go on new adventures. If your friend is one of those people who needs a push to do things that they love, take charge and schedule that salsa class or day trip to Chicago that you know they’ve been wanting to take.

* Announce to them that they’re your favorite thus-and-such
My mom did this all the time. She used to tell me that I was her favorite blond daughter. (I’m also the only blond daughter).

* Make a big fuss over their birthday/graduation/promotion
I have a theory that when people say they don’t want a fuss made, they’re lying just a little bit. Maybe they don’t want a huge party with lots of people singing to them in a restaurant, but I bet they’d like it if you called them and cheered and then took them out for dinner.

* Help them move
Ugh. I know. But friends help friends pack and throw out unflattering onesies.

* Send them a link to the Golden Girls theme song
I did this earlier this year and it made me all tearful.

*Schedule a video call
Texting is easy, email is great and calling is good. But if you live far apart, it’s so, so lovely to see your friend’s face and get a tour of their kitchen and watch their new puppy try to sit. I also find that video skyping really removes a lot of the ‘I haven’t seen you in ages’ weirdness that can occur when years pass without in-person hangouts.

* Write a blog post about all the ways in which they are awesome
Also, you can pawn this off as a birthday gift.

* Take them to the airport or pick them up
I’m not just mentioning this because I need airport pick ups/drop offs, like, five times a year!

* Equalize the calling
We all get busy and find our days filled with meetings and errands and obligations. It’s easy to lose track of friends, forget to call them or sit sulkily on our couches wondering why the phone isn’t ringing. For the love of Pete, call your friends. Who cares who’s doing the calling?! You want to hang out. So do it!

* Share your guilty pleasures
Isn’t it fantastic when you confess to someone that you love something and they’re all “I knoooow! Me, toooo! And don’t you quietly love looking through Kylie Kardashian’s Instagram account?” When you’ve got a friend who loves the same weird stuff you do, do it together! And then you’ll have someone to back you up when all your other friends try to mock you for loving Jersey Shore.

* Cultivate the inside joke
I love being at a crowded party or bar and hearing something that makes me lock eyes with my friends and exchange those glances that can only mean “Did you hear that? We are totally going to talk about that later!” I love being able to communicate with my besties in our own verbal shorthand. I love that we can reduce each other into a heap of giggles by referencing a heavy metal band that featured a didgeridoo.

14.  Embrace the “No bad weather, only bad clothes” rule

In Sweden (land of 4:00 pm sunsets and six-month winters) there is a saying: there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.  That, my friends, is kind of true.  Of course you hate winter if you’re shoveling your sidewalk in a cute jacket and high heeled dress boots!  Obviously, January is abysmal if you’re walking to work in ballet flats.  Just about everything in life is more fun when you’re properly prepared.  Let this be the year that you actually invest in proper winter clothing.  Warm winter gear need not be bulky and unflattering.

Some necessities to add to your winter wardrobe:

Silk long underwear
Sure, they’re a little bit spendy but they’ll last you years and probably pay for themselves in lowered heat bills.  They’re insanely comfortable, thin and layer-able under just about everything.  Get a full set – top and bottoms.

Merino socks
These are wool socks’ sexier cousin.  They’re nearly as warm but much, much thinner.

Lined mittens and gloves
Yes, those sleek little leather driving gloves are cute.  But they’re not doing much for you when you’re scraping off the windshield are they?  Invest in a nice pair of mittens or gloves that are fleece lined, so you needn’t keep your hands jammed deep in your pockets all winter.

A variety of cute head and ear coverings
Mild winter = cute, cable-knit headbands and furry earmuffs.
Medium winter = cute, cable-knit hat or beret.
Harsh winter = fleece-lined stocking cap.

Proper winter boots
I’ll say it again.  Those fake leather motorcycle boots from Target don’t count.  You needn’t drop $200 on a pair of Sorels, but you need something with laces, lining, and grip on the soles.

15. Yes, try a spray tan

I think we are all aware that exposing your skin to real, actual sun and Vitamin D is what results in tanned skin.  And – shockingly enough – you won’t actually get any Vitamin D by spraying your skin with tan-i-fying chemicals.  But that doesn’t mean you might not enjoy looking less pale!  Or giving yourself fake tan lines!  Or making your coworkers ask “Did you really have the flu?  You look oddly healthy and golden.”

When done incorrectly, self-tanners can turn you into an Oompa Loompa.  Let’s be smarter than my girls on Jersey Shore.  Try a spray tanner that’s right for your skin tone (I’m looking at you Paley McPalerson grabbing at the ‘dark’ bottle) or use a lotion that builds up color very gradually over many uses.  Or keep your eye on Groupon for discounts on a fancy salon-administered spray tan!

16. Shovel someone’s sidewalk

The holiday season isn’t the only time of the year for good deeds.  Maintaining sidewalks during the winter can be really time consuming and an icy, unsalted walkway can be really, really dangerous.

If you’re young, able-bodied and in the market for some good karma, have a go at someone else’s sidewalk after the big storm.  Of course, you can use this as an excuse to get closer to your good-looking neighbor, but it’d probably be a lot more helpful for that little old lady or your friend with the broken ankle.

17. Eat your vitamin D

One of the main causes of seasonal depression is lack of vitamin D – because we have less exposure to the sun.  Of course, the best way to stock up on Vitamin D is by getting some sunlight on your skin, but if sub-zero temperatures are preventing that, you can also eat your D!

Here’s a list foods that are particularly high in Vitamin D – chief among those are fish, soy, mushrooms and vitamin-fortified cereals.

Want to cook up some Vitamin D-tastic dishes?   Try fish tacos, homemade chai with soy milk or mushroom pie.

hygge-winter-ideas18. Try a winter sport

Sure, there are lots of things you can’t do in winter – skinny dip, picnic, pick wildflowers.  But there are also tons of fantastic winter-specific sports and activities that you can’t do outside of December – February.  So why not embrace all those snowy, icy options?  Surely there are at least a few of these that you like!

Why not try:
Sledding // Ice skating // Curling // Broomball // Hockey // Ice fishing // Snowmobiling // Downhill skiing // Cross-country skiing //
Snowshoeing // Snowboarding // Tubing // Polar bear plunging // Snowman building

19. Make snowcream

If you, like every other elementary school girl, read Little House On The Prairie, you are probably already well-versed on the wonders of snow cream.

Wanna make some?

Here are the ingredients:
1 gallon of snow
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk

When it starts to snow, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes. When full, stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency. Serve immediately.

20. Make arm or leg warmers

One of the keys to enjoying winter is embracing the things that make it different from other seasons.  And one of those things?  Leg warmers and arm warmers.

Now, I know that Target has some cute $15 leg warmers on offer.  But wouldn’t be more fun to make them yourself out of that old wool sweater?  And some of that cute ribbon sitting around?

Here’s a great leg warmer how to and here’s a nice one on arm warmers.  And if you need something to dress up your boots?  Check out this boot sock how-to.

21. Plan a weekend away

Isn’t funny how a change of scenery can make all the difference in the world?  Pile into a car with your friends, drive three hours and sleep in a bed that’s not yours and all of a sudden the world is a new and splendid place.

Planning a weekend away can take a bit of work, but I promise you – those memories are worth their weight in gold.

Some ideas for weekend adventures that won’t break the bank!

* Somebody’s parents’ vacation home
Do you know anybody whose parents own a second home?  Or better yet – a lake house?  Chances are they’re not using it in the winter and they’d be happy to let you spend the weekend there, snowshoeing in the woods and checking out the little towns nearby.

* Camping cabins
Many state parks include adorable camping cabins.  For $50, you and three friends get a heated cabin with electricity and beds (but no bathroom) deep in a state park.  You’ll feel so rugged cooking on your camping stove and sleeping in a sleeping bag.

* Megabus adventures
Grab a few friends and check out the Megabus website.  If you live in a large-ish city in the Northeastern half of the country, there’s a good chance Megabus stops in your town.  Take a bus to Chicago for the weekend!  Or Cleveland!  Or Madison!  It’s super cheap and you won’t have to worry about parking or driving in scary traffic.

* Last-minute travel packages
If you’re feeling really splashy, check out the last-minute flight+hotel packages on Orbitz and Travelocity.  You can frequently find flight and three nights in a hotel for less than $500 to lots of different warm weather destinations!

22. Learn the winter constellations

I was probably 25 before I realized that the constellations in the winter sky were different than the ones in the summer.   Be ye not so stupid as me, friends!

In addition to sounding smart, constellation spotting is just plain fun.

There are three ways you can do it:

1) Bundle up with a friend, put a hot beverage in a thermos, grab an astronaut blanket and lay down in a snowy field.
2) Borrow a friend’s car with a sun or moon roof and check that business out from the warmth of your car
3) Buy/borrow/steal a telescope and check ’em out from inside your house.

Of course, you know that option one is the most fun.

How does one go about identifying constellations?  Here’s a great tutorial.  Or, if you’re lazy, there’s obviously an app for that.

23. Make a snow fort

There are certain things that we never grow out of.

For me, those things are:
1) Eating cookie dough
2) The Muppets
3) A deep and abiding love of snow forts

They’re super, super fun to make.  It’s a great way to spend the afternoon with friends.  All your nieces/nephews/neighborhood kids will think you are The Coolest and when you’re done, you have a cool place to hang out.

You know, instead of inside your perfectly nice apartment with central heat.

Building the perfect snow fort is something of a science, requiring very specific snow and tools.

Here’s a great (and funny) how-to.  And here’s another one.

hygge-winter-tips24. Listen to old music

Isn’t music from the forties and fifties deliciously cozy?  This is not to discount the awesome that is Nirvana or Ace of Base, but those are hardly bands that make you want to canoodle in front of a fireplace.

Best case scenario?  Scour your local thrift stores for a real, actual record player and records starring dapper, crooning gentlemen or sweet-faced girl groups.  There’s something really lovely about the pops and crackles of records.

If you can’t swing that, tune into the Pandora stations of Etta James, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis or Frank Sinatra.  Turn the lights down low, pour yourself a glass of wine, turn off all your electronic gadgets and sink into those gorgeous voices.

25. Take a traditional sauna

Did you know that saunas are more than just sweat-scented rooms at the YMCA?  Yes.  Let this winter be the one that you perfect the art of the real, true Scandinavian sauna.

Here’s how!
1. Learn how to pronounce it correctly.  Annoy everyone by doing so.
2. If at all possible, find a friend who has an actual sauna in their home – not one at the gym.
3. Take a shower before you enter the sauna
4. If you’re feeling brave or you’re with close friends, strip down to your birthday suit and sit on a towel
5. If the sauna isn’t humid enough for your liking, add some water to the hot coals – put a bit of eucalyptus oil in the water if you’re feeling fancy
6. For those devote traditionalists, thwap yourself with some birch branches (!) or – probably more realistically – have a go at your rough spots with a loofah
7. When you’ve reaching your boiling point, jump into a cool shower, into a lake or have a roll in the snow.  You’ll feel
a) really awake b) like a million bucks
8. Drinks tons and tons of water

Though it doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable or relaxing, as someone who grew up around saunas, I can personally vouch for their awesomeness.  It’s a great way to spend a Sunday night!

26. Have an indoor picnic

Just because it’s snowing outside, doesn’t mean you’re limited to hot soups and heavy casseroles. Why not throw down a blanket, splash out on some out of season produce and put on a spring-ful playlist?

Ingredients for a successful indoor picnic!

* A thermostat that’s turned up
* A blanket
* Your cutest sundress (you can top it with a cardigan and wear it with cute socks and oxfords)
* Festive plastic dinnerware
* A thermos full of adult beverage (like ginger shandies or cucumber-lemonade chiller)
* Muffuletta sandwiches
* Watermelon and cantaloupe salad with mint vinaigrette
* Playing cards for all sorts of fun, old-fashioned games

27. Perfect a difficult recipe

Winter is the perfect time to get really, really good at indoor activities – and if those activities lead to something delicious – so much the better!

Why not devote a few quiet nights to perfecting an advanced, challenging recipe?  Sure, it’ll probably take you a few tries to get it right but it’ll be a great adventure and learning process.  Once you’ve got it mastered, you’ll win every dinner party ever.

Some super impressive recipes to try?
Savory souffles // Coq au vin // Mole // Beef wellington // Napoleans // Paella

28. Play board games

Words With Friends on your Iphone is great.  As is Angry Birds.  But one of the things that makes winter awful is the fact that no one wants to leave their house and engage in actual human contact.  Let’s fix that – invite a bunch of friends over for a night of vintage board games, drinks and nibbles!

29. Learn to layer

Chief among our frustrations with winter is the fact that we have to dress warmly.  Dressing warmly and cutely isn’t always easy – but it’s not impossible!

Tips for layering while cute!

1.Silk long underwear
I’ve sung their praises before but it bears repeating.  Go buy a pair.  Yesterday.  They’re comfortable, warm and so thin you can wear them under everything.  These are especially necessary if you walk to work, work in an under-heated space or are trying to save money by keeping the heat low.

2.If you’re wearing boots, wear wool socks
No one will the wiser, but you’ll be exponentially warmer!

3. Layer from the thinnest piece up
The thinnest piece of clothing you’re wearing should go against your skin (silk long underwear, a camisole or Spanks) and the heaviest layer (a sweater, scarf or jacket) goes on top.  If you mix this up, you’ll just look lumpy!

4. Show off the contrast between your layers
Layering a blue sweater on top of a blue tank top isn’t particularly exciting.  What about a solid color over a print?  Or two different prints in coordinating colors?  Or a silky scarf over a tough tweed?  Now we’re talking!

5. Don’t layer like with like
Ruffled cardigan over a ruffled shirt = no.  Ruffled cardigan over a simple chambray shirt = a hearty yes!

Here are some more cute layering ideas.

Whew! That’s a small novel devoted to making winter nigh-on lovely. Please read it, use it, share it with your friends who live in cold, snowy places! 

Now I’d love to hear from you! How do you make winter cozy and enjoyable?