CultureTravel

The winter break for a native New Yorker can seem pretty uninteresting. After all, I’ve been hanging around the five boroughs for about two decades, and the crowded museums and expensive restaurants and confused tourists lose their luster. The best thing to do is to find a few friends and do some cool things together. Even a seemingly sad trip to a noodle restaurant can be great bonding time. Here are a few things that anyone, including local college students, can do this winter break in the city!

1. Ice skating

I know. I know. You go every year and you’ve given up trying to do a triple lutz years ago. But have you been to every ice skating rink in the city? People always go to Rockefeller or Central Park’s ice skating rinks, but there is one in all of the five boroughs. My personal favorite is Bryant Park because if you own your own pair it’s free admission, and because I get to gorge myself on food in the holiday markets outside. I also tend to go in the middle of the day so it isn’t terribly crowded. Each rink has its own vibe, so go on different skate days during the weekdays (less crowded) and see if you find your own favorite. Speaking of food…

2. Food Day in Flushing

While everyone thinks of Manhattan and Brooklyn, there’s also Queens. Specifically, Flushing. It is mainly a Chinese neighborhood, meaning there are tons of restaurants and shops to go to. Grab a few friends (vegetarian friendly!) and head up to Flushing via 7 train. Spend the day walking around, going to food courts, mulling over ­posted menus in the window, and dare your friends to try to eat something they can’t pronounce. You never know what you’ll find!

3. Bushwick Shopping

A lot of my friends live in Bushwick and commute to school via the L train. Along that line are a lot of new businesses, and with that, shopping opportunities. Whether they be thrift shops, jewelry shops, or small cafes, Bushwick is a good place to go explore. If you have a friend who lives there, make some plans to do a tour-­and-­explore day. A nice brunch and a girl’s shopping day, and since it’s the holidays, what better time to shop?

There are plenty of things to do in the city, even for the jaded New Yorker. Find some friends and explore the boroughs. You never know what you may find!

Image: AntheaAtlas

CultureSkills

Before Macklemore made it cool, hipsters used to roam the empty aisles of local thrift shops, handpicking hidden wardrobe gems as the occasional indie tumbleweed rolled by. Fast forward a few years and a catchy chorus, and everyone wants to be a thrifter.

This new trend is really fantastic, because it means: less waste, less sweatshop labor, support for local non-profits and, of course, killer jumpsuits, sweaters, hats, and bowling shirts galore. Self-expression rocks.

Of course, with so many new thrifters on the block, finding those coveted diamonds in the rough has gotten more difficult, and prices have even gone up.

That’s why I’m here to share some tips that will have you poppin’ tags and takin’ names.

1. Patience, friends.

Sometimes you’ll have to search high and low before you find something you want. Other times, nothing will call your name. It’s ok to go home empty handed. Collecting as you go will allow you to slowly build up a collection or wardrobe of items you love.

2. Be willing to get dirty.

If you really want to find something worth writing home about, sometimes you have to go the extra mile. Sift through the entire wall art section; dig through the book bins and clothing piles. I know, it can be a battlefield in there sometimes, but stick it out and you might go home a very happy camper.

P.S. dress comfy and even consider wearing close-toed shoes if you’re heading to a massively popular store on restock day.

3. Research first.

Many thrift shops have great clearance events; call ahead to see if any are coming up. Additionally, ask what days the shop generally restocks its selections. Show up on those days! Be warned, they’ll get hectic at good thrift shops (see item #2).

4. Pay attention to the tags.

Many thrift shops have tiered pricing, meaning they will put an item out at one price, and then lower it a bit if it hasn’t been sold in a couple weeks. The price will continue to drop until the item is discarded to a clothing recycler. If you love that funny floor lamp but don’t want to drop $15 this week, check out the dates on the tags or ask someone working how long it has been out and if/when the price will drop. Just be aware – anything you’re not holding or don’t already own is fair game. That lamp may be gone tomorrow. It’s all about making the tough judgment calls.

5. Budget yourself.

A good way to make those judgment calls is to allocate the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Macklemore only goes in with $20 in his pocket. How much are you going to take? I like the cash thing, because it not only eliminates credit card fees, it allows me to control what I spend. Leave the cards at home or in your glove compartment, and walk in with your allotted cash as your only form of currency.

6. Throw out the gender stereotypes.

By this I mean that a large portion – we’re talking at least 60 percent – of my winter wardrobe consists of sweaters from thrift store men’s racks. They’re oversized and awesome. Don’t limit yourself to your gender’s section only. Gender stereotypes belong nowhere in this day and age, and thrift shops are no exception to that rule.

 7. Use your imagination.

Turn old drawer pulls into wall hooks, and key chains into necklaces. Get super DIY. A good way to get imaginative without losing control: when you see something you might want, envision its purpose in your room, wardrobe or wherever you plan to put it. Does it work? Does it serve a purpose of some kind? If no bells ring, don’t buy it.

8. Keep an open mind.

You may find clothes that scream “I’m weird!” But they could also turn out to be the coolest clothes you’ve ever worn. Don’t be closed off to finding things you didn’t expect to want. While shopping for my new apartment, I went to a thrift shop in search of a lamp. I left with a super cool bed. It happens.

It’s great to see thrift shopping growing in popularity, and it’s even better to see people rocking outfits that match their own individual styles. It’s also an incredible way to save money on clothes that you’ll be able to spend on other experiences. All in all, good things come from thrifting. Do you have any thrifting tips?

Image: Sabrina Dan Photo

EducationSkills

We all know (and fear) the mass of college loans that await us at the end of our four years, so why not save a little money when it comes to shopping for your dorm? What do you really need to survive your four years? It can be tricky to narrow it down when it feels like you need everything and anything for being on your own for the first time. Here’s a generic list of things I believe are worth having when staying on campus:

  1. Bed Products: Two words: Twin XL. Make sure your sheets fit the bed that your school is providing you with! You can get away with full sheets if you tuck them in or a twin comforter since they’re made longer in order to hang over the edge of your bed. I also recommend getting a mattress pad and bed bug protector. No matter where you go, those beds aren’t going to be as comfortable as the one in your room at home, and it’s always better to take precautions rather than not. Also, bed risers can be a life saver when it comes to under bed storage. Don’t forget to load your bed up with some comfy (and cute) pillows!
  1. Desk Products: Putting aside your standard school supplies, there are some items you’re going to need to have in and on your desk at school. One of the most important things is a lamp. You’re going to want to have proper lighting for all your studying and late night surfing the web endeavors! Which comes to my next necessity; a laptop. It’s an unavoidable need to have to get you through all you classes whether to help you with cramming for that big exam or writing that research paper due at the end of the term. Also, remember to have lots of containers and bins to organize your supplies in your desk draws! As for personalizing your desk, consider having a few nicely framed pictures and a mirror so that you can avoid trying to do your makeup in the bathroom in the morning; it’ll truly be a life saver!
  1. Medicine/First-Aid: I highly recommend having a homemade first aid kit handy somewhere in your dorm. You can keep Band-Aids, Neosporin, Advil, Tums, sterilizing wipes, and any other medical items you may need as the year goes on.
  1. Beauty Products: All things under the categories of makeup and hygiene come into play in this category!
  1. Bathroom Products: Whether you’re sharing a suite or using a communal bathroom, it’s always a smart idea to have a shower caddy. It makes bringing all your bathroom necessities from your room to the bathroom so much easier. Some other generic necessities include towels, shampoo and conditioner, and all your mouth hygiene needs!
  1. Miscellaneous: There is a list of items that I recommend that don’t necessarily fit under one particular category, but come in handy nonetheless:
  • Batteries: There’s always going to be something you have that needs batteries and having them hidden in a draw somewhere will save you lots of time when you do!
  • Full Length Mirror: You have to be able to check your outfit before going out in public, right?
  • Trash Can: Self-explanatory.
  • Laundry Bag: Save yourself the trouble of attempting to lug all your dirty clothes with the stereotypical overflowing pile in your arms.
  • Umbrella: Rain or shine, you’ll be stuck walking to class.
  • Tissues: Commonly forgotten and always needed whether it’s to fend off that common cold or clean up a quick spill!
  • Backpack: A life saver when it comes to lugging your books from class to class.
  • Paper Plates: Easily disposable and a great way to keep your room from being littered with crumbs!
  • Sewing Kit: Usually overlooked, but you really never know when a sewing kit can save the day!
  • Flashlight: If there’s a power outage, you’re not going to want to waste your cell phone battery to guide your way around.
  • Garbage Bags: These will make your life so much easier when it comes to emptying out your trash can!
  • Mini Fridge: There is going to be food that you’ll want to have that need to be refrigerated (or those leftovers from dinner last night).

Happy dorm shopping!