In the introduction of my first column for The Badger Herald, I wrote, "Outside my window, resting heavily upon the Madison skyline is what looks like a charcoal sheet of rain clouds." Well, despite the four months that lay comfortably in between my first article and the one I am currently writing, it seems as though I have come full circle. Just as so much has happened from one rainy day to the next, fashion has continued to change and grow throughout the semester as well. At the end of the day, however, chances are we (as individuals) still hold the same sense of style — and the rain, which became sunshine, and then snow, and then sunshine once more, is yet again pitter-pattering outside my window.

Usually in literature, weather reflects the characters' emotions, and if I didn't know any better, I'd think we're all part of a novel right now. Between finals, the ugly weather, the slushy snow, the stress and the caffeine-low after pulling all-nighters at the library, it's safe to assume that a lot more than just your sense of style has gone out the window. In heavy anticipation of a warm bed and a home-cooked meal just grazing the horizon, it's hard to stay focused and pull through the next couple of weeks.

So, in the spirit of procrastination — or just simply needing a well-deserved break and/or daydream — why not focus on something a little more enjoyable? In addition to the delicious food and all the comforts of being back home, we also have the holidays to look forward to! The holidays mean a number of things, but let's face it, they mean presents, which are a lot more fun than a house full of family members whose names you struggle to remember.

Why not take a break from studying for a minute and think about all the great gifts you'd like to give (and receive) this year?

Throughout the course of the semester, my columns have covered an array of possible present choices in everything from boots to bags. Maybe you have a friend who loves jewelry, which means that you should be on the lookout for something simple and chunky. Big flashy "bling" rings are also a great gift and a fun way to adorn a holiday cocktail outfit.

Or maybe she's really into vintage, which means that a trip to your local thrift store is definitely in order. If you're on the lookout for your mom, scarves are always a big hit. Even if you haven't quite gotten around to picking up a pair of knitting needles, there are plenty of fabulous styles available already. When searching, however, it is best to go with a chunky knit in either a deep jewel tone or pale pastel.

For that special someone who you've decided is worth sharing even your peppermint hot chocolate with, the more original and personal it is, the better. And if all else fails, pick up a little something from Victoria's Secret for yourself — and don't feel selfish about it, chances are he'll like it even more than you do.

When picking up the perfect present for the ones you love, it is important to remember that there are millions of people out there who won't be able to buy (or receive) presents this year. In my fifth article for the Herald, I discussed Bono's (RED) campaign, and his plan to raise money to send adequate medication to help AIDS victims in Africa. This holiday season try being a "conscientious consumer" and shop at stores like the Gap, which are selling special products and donating a portion of their profits to the campaign. Although material gifts might be gracing your to-do list this month, giving the gift of hope, even if you'll never see the smile on the recipient's face, is worth every penny.

So this season — whether you're giving your best friend those fur boots she's been gawking over all winter or your dad that red Motorola Razor phone — the heart and style is there. While I've always been a sucker for handmade gifts, and will probably spend the first few days of break hovering over a sewing machine making things for friends and family, there is still an abundance of fabulously fashionable choices available in the stores. So forget about the rain and the exams, and take a few minutes to think about what you're going to give this year. And in the spirit of the holiday season: Hark! This Herald angel sings, "Glory to the newborn… 'bling' ring!"

Sydney Burdick is a freshman intending to major in fashion journalism. What's on your holiday wish list? Let Sydney know. Direct questions or comments to [email protected]