Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reality Bites

To my lovely readers:

It has been a while since Recessionista wrote you, but as the Recession has taught us all, sometimes Life interrupts our plans. Thankfully, this Recessionista has been blessed professionally to continue to work in a stable industry, but personal challenges have reminded me again of the importance of perspective during trying times.

My grandmother, a woman who worked every day until she was 76 years old and finally retired, quite possibly might be the most inspiring person I know...and she is dying. She has lived a long and proper life, married for 62 years and counting, hosting Bridge club for many friends in the small town she has lived her entire life and fretting about what to get her grandchildren for their birthdays. Every weekend, she was up around 5 a.m., in the basement of her house grading her students' papers and sipping coffee, and back when I was quite excited to wake up at 5 a.m. and staying at her house, I would join her and chat (because, of course, at 7 years old, you think adults want to spend every waking moment with you, as you are clearly the most interesting person in the world.) She would send my sisters and I with my grandfather to the grocery store in the morning, making sure to instruct us that we should select any donut we liked for breakfast (ahh, remember the time of life where we could eat donuts without adding an extra half hour to our treadmill time? Sigh.) She was insistent on taking my sisters and I on trips during the summer, trips turned into memories that I will always treasure.

Elizabeth Brieman, Betty to those who knew her well (but always "Elizabeth" to my grandpa), wanted to be a lawyer, but had to give up her dream when World War II hit. She became a teacher instead, but her love of learning and helping others by teaching birthed a natural support for the ambitions of her daughters and granddaughters. Unlike the grandparents or parents of my friends, she would pull me aside at Christmas and tell me how proud she was of any accomplishment, big or small, professionally and wouldn't dream of asking me when I was going to get married or have babies. She always smelled of Dove soap, and loved me even when I had a mullet which my mother thought would look great with the addition of a home perm.

She is a remarkable woman and my own personal idol. Her suffering and all the pain that accompanies this sort of thing reminds me how important gratitude and appreciation is in my life. All of us, even moments of tragedy, have blessings in our life that should be recognized and leaned up during our most painful moments. My Economist friends (they are really smart, let me tell you, being Ivy League Profs and all) tell me the Recession is coming to a close. Economic growth may be slow, and the real estate market will lag behind in bounce back, but the pendulum may soon swing in the direction that we all adore. Change, good and bad, has come upon us.

I will, in optimistic anticipation for the final days of the Recession, have started a new blog:

www.actionjunkieslullaby.blogspot.com

Come find me there, my friends, and be grateful for today.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wishing

When I was a little girl, I remember negotiating with the universe for rainbows. I loved rainbows - a sign of hope, a beautiful display of colors, an unexpected gift after tumultuous storms. I bargained with the gods (Jesus/Allah/Yahweh/Ganesha/Anthony Bourdain, etc.) that if he/she/they gave me a rainbow, I would sacrifice the ultimate and clean my room. As was the case with negotiations with my parents, sometimes I got my way, sometimes not so much.

Wishing is a powerful tool for us, even beyond youth. In some ways, it is the bouncer standing at the door of our most exclusive dreams. Candidly, I'm a huge fan. Wishing brought Dorothy to Oz, and then brought her back, and who would not want that flexibility in travels.


Yet, it is surprising what we bargain for. Regardless of your religion or lackthereof, everyone invariably encounters moments in life where they find themselves negotiating with God, logic, the Universe (you can select more than one response in this blogger's world.) What are we asking for? What do we get? Questions and answers range from as shallow as a one night stand in college to as deep as a 60 year long love affair (Hi, Grandma and Grandpa!)



Many years, many science classes later, I must admit that rainbows are not the first things I would ask for divine or universal intervention on, at the end of the day. Their replacement, ironically, is not so far away from the general concept of a rainbow. Peace. I wish for peace in my life, peace in the the lives of loved ones, peace in the world. Putting your priorities in order should be your number one priority. Once you do that, well, feel free to make a wish.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Losing Your Way on the Ride to a Fabulous Life

Recently, a friend called to tell me he had made a mistake in choosing his current job role. In the same week, a female friend of many years shared a multiple-martini conversation about how she felt unhappy and unsure of her relationship of many years, despite being on the cusp of signing a mortgage with her partner. Another friend discussed frustration with her current job situation but feels trapped due to economic conditions. The brown spots on the banana of life continue to reveal themselves to us, ironically without a knife handy to slice them off.

Yogis repeat a common mantra from Sanskrit: "Satnam." It translates (generally) to "Truth is My Identity." What that means for each individual of practice is different, as truth is, well, a matter of perspective. Basically, what you feel, what you do, what you believe - these are the important factors that define you, which you might find, at some point, find to be in direct opposition to your current career path, lover of choice, or lifestyle. Satnam is a respite, a way for a person to vacation from the perfectionist tendencies, 3-5 year plans, or pressured obligations from those we love. It is, in essence, a "Get Real" moment of Yogic practice that can be incorporated into even the most Capitalist, Ambitionist, Western sort of lifestyle.

Sometimes, I have found myself reading novels, quickly anticipating the ending, or how I would expect the novel and its characters to reveal themselves. When they fail to follow the course I have charted, I have found myself less impressed, but more disappointed. Why, oh why, would the author have deviated down a path I never saw. I am educated, a critical reader, and emotionally intelligent. It seems counter intuitive - should not I, as a Westerner, so immersed in that which follows the formulaic course, revel in the art of surprise or deviation from the norm?



The truth is more basist than I'd like to admit. We like to control. Actually, we thrive on control, on the art of feeling like we are gods of our own lives, masters of our own universes. Rather than delight in a large surprise or unexpected turn of events, it makes us uncomfortable, irritable, dismissive of new pathways. We feel that our internal GPS has led us astray.



Yet, the truth of our lives is defined solely by us. A literary hero of mine, Salman Rushdie, recently spoke of memory and its importance to our lives. To grossly paraphrase, we recall things, not as they were, but as we choose to recall them, making history a scrapbook fuzzy photos and clever annotations, but not ever really a scientific book of truth. Yet, and yet, that is as it should be. Everyone, especially during difficult times (economic or otherwise), will eventually airbrush the experience to a Sophia Patrillo, "Picture this, Sicily, 1925..." type of story.



Regardless of the degree that you feel you have veered off-course, reconnecting with yourself can be the best way to re-navigate the path of life. Take a breath, take a moment, take all the time you need, in fact, because we have only one life, and, as it happens, it is an open road.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Art of Negotiation

The economy continues to struggle, and the cost of items of need continues to feel overwhelming and more than you can afford (forget the items of desire, which feel about as attainable as the Powerball winning ticket numbers these days.) The good news is that the economy continues to be friendly to the spirit of negotiating, finding a way to access products and services of need (well, and sometimes those of desire), even if you are a neophyte at the art of negotiation. Remember a simple acronym, and you will find yourself as compelling as an attorney for AIG in the art of negotiation, saving yourself much more than A BUCK.

1. Always Ask: Deals are not always published to the masses, and often times you can save the most money just speaking with someone one on one. Recently, on a shopping trip, I left a store with 8 deluxe samples of cosmetics, having made zero purchases, just by chatting with the sales associate, engaging in a knowledge-seeking conversation, and developing a vendor-client relationship that will continue to pay off for both the associate and I. Though this example is small, the same principle applies to your auto insurance provider, your credit card or bank of choice, and so forth.

2. Be Decent. For many years, I worked in a customer-service capacity. When I served as a Pharmacy Technician, and people were less than civil to me because of the cost of their drugs (not that they did not have a right to be infuriated regarding the cost of prescription meds, but that is a theme for a different entry), I closed down and was less inclined to go above and beyond to help them. As egalitarian as we all like to think we are, occasionally our human sides take over. If you are on the consumer front, recognize that there is an actual person on the other side of the negotiating table, and both parties are better served by decency in dealings.

3. Understand the Party You are Negotiating With. As an extension of #2, empathy is an imperative component in the art of negotiation. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are bargaining with. What do they really want from you? What is the best case scenario, from their perspective? What is the worst? Most importantly, what agreement could be reached that they would view as symbiotic, where perhaps you would feel you had the upper hand or walked away with more than you expected.

4. Culpa in Contrahendo. Latin for "obligations in negotiations," this expression implies a need for care in negotiations. You do not want to be a swindler. You do not want to be a person who isn't fair, or the person who play Bernie Madoff to the person on the other side of the negotiating table. Put aside the morality of this position, my House-ian friends. Logic and rational thinking should guide you to the same path. The world is small, your reputation matters...if you have learned nothing from this season's Gossip Girl*, you should have learned that.

5. Know thy Ally (if you are bargaining with enemies, you haven't been paying attention or you nominated yourself the new Secretary of State). If you lack skill in the art of empathy, as, not to mention names, some of us do (ahem, like a couple of superficial exes of my...friends), you may find this skill will develop further if you spend more time in conversation with the party you are negotiating with. A few weekends ago, a telemarketer called me, and before we both knew it, we were discussing our dating histories and she was offering me a smartphone cell package 50% lower than she was allowed (I know this to be true because I checked online...four times.) Spend time getting to know the people you are negotiating with, pay attention to their names, ask how their day has been going and MEAN IT! You think they like spending Saturday afternoon haggling with strangers?

*Note: The author of this blog entry does NOT profess to watch Gossip Girl, but has watched several episodes...enough to deduce the analogy holds true. However, if loyal fans rebel, the author will gladly substitute Sex and the City, Dallas, or Sesame Street (hello?! what if people referred to your surname as "the Grouch.")

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ten Wines Under Ten Dollars

Recently, I shared a bottle of champagne with a generous friend...generous, because the bottle cost about $350, and while it was delicious, I would probably have been just as content with a glass of my favorite Prosecco. Before you take out a small loan in order to buy your next bottle of vino, try out a few of my favorite wines around $10 a piece. Oh, and of course, drink responsibly.


Reds


1. Santa Christina, Sangiovese, Tuscany.

2. Alamo, Malbec, Argentina.

3. Menage a Trois, Red, California.

4. 14 Hands, Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington

5. Harrow Road, Cabernet Sauvignon, California.


Whites

6. Little Penguin, Chardonnay, New Zealand.

7. Fat Bastard, Chardonnay, France.

8. Firestone Sauvignon Blanc, California.

9. Smoking Loon, Chardonnay, California.


Sparkling

10. Riondo Prosecco, Italy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

10 (Free or Cheap) Paths to Zen

Life can be tough. Finding that proverbial work-life balance seems less likely for you than the US Government finding Osama Bin Laden. Plus, dealing with "Empty-Pocket Syndrome" only makes it worse. For your consideration, Recessionista, here are 10 ways to find a little peace in your life without spending the money to hire on a personal guru. Enjoy!

1. Write an Open, Honest, Seething Letter to Your Ex. Go ahead, say all of the horrible things you wanted to say face to face but never did. Use as many four letter words as you like. Bring up issues you had "forgiven" him or her for. Bring up the issues you never made into issues. You even can have carte blanche to go below the belt and tell him/her that you have never smelled feet so stinky. Once you sign off the letter with "Have a nice life," count to ten, and tear the letter to shreds. Exorcism complete. Repeat as desired.

2. Call in to the Local Radio and Request A Song Dedicated to You. Because you deserve it - you are fabulous! Who needs to wait for a romantic gesture to come from someone else, you owe it to you to romance yourself a bit! Caveat: You might want to stay away from requesting tunes such as "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera, the musical equivalent of a self-help book.

3. Turn Off Everything. Power-off your iPhones and Blackberries. Shutdown you laptops. Turn off the television, the DVD player, and the stereo. Turn off your lights (light a candle before you do this, of course.) Now, sit. Ignore the immediate wave of panic that comes with device separation. Think and breathe. Notice and be aware of where your mind travels to. Okay, your time out is over...you can now turn House, M.D.back on.

4. Create Your Own Cocktail and Name it After Yourself. I have had the good fortune to have a Master Mixologist in New York City, Mark Noonan., create a cocktail and name it in my honor (and, personal bias aside, it is AMAZING!) If you have neither the geographical nor financial means to find yourself in similar good fortune, fear not! Put your amateur mixologist hat on and stir away. Bonus: No judgement if the "Amy X" cocktail consists of Vitamin Water and Vodka; it's your signature, after all.

5. Take 48 hrs. to Detox from the News. No CNN, no NY Times, no Drudge Report. Give yourself a break from taking the weight of the world on your shoulders and spend the time catching up with news of equal importance - the news of your friends, family, and acquaintances.

6. Listen to the Dustiest CD in your Collection. Hey, you bought it for a reason. While the thought of listening to Don Henley's Greatest Hits might evoke an initial wave of nausea, one round of "The Boys of Summer" will bring you back to brighter times.

7. Take a Picture. Regardless of your location, the camera forces you to see the world (literally and figuratively) through a different lens. Take an afternoon, pretend you are Annie Leibovitz, and start shooting. You might be surprised at what you start to see around you.

8. Schedule One Hour of "Me Time" per Day. Whether you devote the time to knitting, skateboarding, or playing on your Wii, it is important to spend time with and for yourself. (Note: this should also involve powering down the iPhones and Blackberries. You don't want to be a rude date to yourself.)

9. Start a Gratitude Diary. I have recommended this before, but it is worth reinforcing because often times we forget how lucky we truly are. Pick three things daily to document, and you will soon discover how blessed you really are.

10. Find a Mantra. It does not need to be something from Sanskrit, but rather choose a phrase, quote, or expression to repeat to yourself when stress finds you. One of my favorites is "I can always move back in with my parents." I'm sure you will find yours. Namaste.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Importance of Being on Facebook...

Once upon a time, in an Internet-free world known as the early 1990's, a first love was born. A boy meets a girl, they flirt over double cocktails of Vodka made with a mere splash of cranberry juice. Boy makes girl laugh, and she takes him up on his offer to walk her home.

They kiss. They hug. They promise to call. They make plans to have dinner next weekend. Maybe, they reconsider their plans for spring break (Him: Cancun, Her: Las Vegas) to include one another in a makeshift frat/sorority encounter. He looks in her eyes, and says, "I have never met anyone like you." She blinks her eyelashes twice, and perfectly times her answer, "It is nice to meet someone totally real, you know?" He looks at her in the eyes, pausing a contrived moment, then kisses her on the cheek, hugs her, and leaves. She sighs as she opens the door to her apartment, beginning to plan for their imaginary wedding.

Fast forward a decade, and enter Facebook.

Years after inception, Facebook continues to grow in importance in terms of its relevance to society, particular in the generation of young people who use the social networking site not only to network, but to size up the person they met at the bar ("OMG - he wore a toga during Greek Week!"), to validating the truth of what they understood to be true about a person ("she told me she is single, so why does her relationship status say "It's Complicated?), or to go on a truth-seeking mission to vet friends, family, coworkers, and, of course, their significant others. Facebook offers a powerful tool in terms of finding answers, providing a clearer picture (or multiple pictures) of an individual, as well as communicating, via passive aggressive ("de-friending" someone) or subtly flirtatious actions ("poking" someone). In essence, it is a sort of parallel universe of our day to day existence, a cyber-reality.



In this reality, as in real-life, truth can be a person's best friend or worst enemy. In a recession, it behooves all to consider the latter. Facebook recently noted a 276% growth in the 35-54 year old sector, doubling ever month. This social networking site is quickly moving from collegiate ownership to a phenomenon of the masses, and those masses include employers, coworkers, and prospective clients. Expect to see more and more merging of the social and professional networks. Expect to have prospective employers search you on the Internet, including your profile on social networking sites. Expect that prospective clients will want to vet you in any way that Bing or Google allows.

Time for action. Review your profile on your social networking sites (those ridiculous pictures from your birthday three years ago are really NOT that funny anymore.) Remove anything that might be embarrassing, should it be published in the NY Times. Remove flagrant or off-color remarks, wall-postings, or photos, and limit security of those "friends" who contribute to the undoing of your career. No joke, photo, or one-liner is worth losing a professional opportunity. Finally, resist the urge to publish the state of your current Romancia (or lack thereof.) Though I personally follow the daily news feed updates of you two ("single", no, "it's complicated", no "in a relationship", wait no, "single"), professionally you might as well admit that the latest Danielle Steele novel is based on your life.

The Internet blurs past, present, and future, but the good news is that we all still own control over what cyber-scrapbooks we choose to share with the masses. If it was 1990, and our imaginary couple went through an immediate discussion on politics, religion, and exes that continue to flirt with them, a second date would be unlikely. Treat social-networking sites as such, and, remember, manners and discretion go a long way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

10 Things that are Not So Weird in a Recession

We all have our oddities, ah, idiosyncrasies. Difficult times can often accentuate personality quirks and neuroses. Don't be ashamed, but rather flaunt them! People are more forgiving of weirdness then ever in a bad economy, probably because each person has their own anxieties to deal with. Here are 10 things that are completely acceptable during the economic downturn.

1. Using the 2012 end of the Mayan calender/Armageddon to relieve anxiety about your current unemployment. Hey, the world will be ending soon anyway.

2. Turning down an evening out for "financial reasons", when you really just want to stay in to watch the newest round of the Real Housewives series. Further justification - you could learn a lot from the ladies of the OC/New Jersey/Atlanta/NYC.

3. Wearing your favorite "going out" ensemble, twice in one weekend. You don't have the extra moola to swing by Saks, and besides, that outfit makes you look really hot.

4. Justifying the purchase and consumption of a big slice of pizza with the need to be frugal. A $2.50 dinner? Who can go wrong?!

5. Dusting off the old Backstreet Boys/TLC/Busta Rhymes CDs and patting yourself on the back for remembering all of the lyrics. In this economy - Miley and Kanye who?

6. Buying the six pack of Miller Light instead of the more expensive foreign brew. Throwbacks to junior year of college are not only fun, but good for the wallet.

7. Making daily visits to Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com while imagining the perfect job and how you will kick butt at it. Now, go ahead and apply...see#1.

8. Openly reading the gossip magazines for a blatantly lengthy amount of time in the grocery store. Like you really are going to PAY to read about John and Kate Plus 8.

9. Openly reading Dostoevsky at Barnes and Noble for a blatantly lengthy amount of time to cruise for smart hotties. Better odds than the local dive bar!

10. Drinking that second martini with the justification "We're in a Recession." Just make sure you are only using this logic during Happy Hour, rather than late evening, when drink prices jump.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Free Inspiration: Consume Liberally

Although I recoil from the notion of adding one to my email signature, inspirational quotes from the sages of the ages often provide me a boost of, well, inspiration. Here are my Top Ten Inspirational quotes to capstone July with a boost of wisdom...feel free to use them to impress your friends.

1. "Nothing is worth more than this day." - Goethe

2. "A smile is the beginning of peace." - Mother Theresa

3. "The most wasted of all days is the one without laughter." - e.e. cummings

4. "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." Theodore Roosevelt

5. "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. " - Henry David Thoreau

6. "The way to gain a good reputation, is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. " - Socrates

7. "A man is not finished when he's defeated; he's finished when he quits" - Richard Nixon

8. "All men have a sweetness in their life. That is what helps them go on. It is towards that they turn when they feel too worn out." - Albert Camus

9. "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change." - Buddha

10. "Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art; to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul." - H.D. Longfellow

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Top Five Ways to Be a Decent Human Being

In the midst of a recession, stress levels are raised, alcohol consumption increased, and morale is low. It can be easy to succumb to "Debbie Downer Syndrome", providing your friends with constant updates on negative things going on in your life and in the world.

However...

Even if you "don't care what people think of you" or subscribe to the "I am who I am and nothing with change that", it behooves you during this economy (well, and in general) to re-examine yourself and look for areas of improvement. I don't advise this to be unnecessarily critical or harsh, but rather to assist. The job market is competitive, but even in achieving every day deals (discounted oil changes, unexpected sales, free babysitting), a kind-hearted, upbeat attitude goes a long way. Pardon any preachiness, but this is for your own good!

Here are my top five recommendations for Being a Decent Human Being:

1. Try to Avoid "Fade Out Syndrome." Whether you are in a mall, walking on the street or in a cab, it is easy to turn off the awareness button and cruise along, either talking on your cell phone or bopping along to the Jonas Brothers. The problem is you don't notice your cabbie's frustration that he can not find the vague address you provided, the mother in the mall with her child in hand trying to reach a toy dropped beyond her grasp, or the elderly woman on the street corner who is trying to ask for directions from anyone who will listen. Put down the misanthropic gadgets and tune in.

2. Perform at Least One Altruistic Gesture Daily. Whether you babysit your friend's child for a night while she goes to the spa or simply smile at a passerby though your mood is less than sunny, it is important to commit to doing something kind that does not benefit you in any way on a daily basis. Note: this is not about making you feel like a good person. This is about you committing to build awareness of those around you, in order to continue to build empathy and kindness.

3. Don't Play Games. Whether you are interviewing for a new job or starting a relationship, lies, embellishments, and all the razzle dazzle spin your jazz hands can offer may actually hurt you in the long run. I know a person who fibbed regarding his scope of responsibilities at his previous employer, and the prospective employer found out. He is now essentially black-balled in the industry. Try to subscribe to the Mark Twain school of hard truths (paraphrased) - Always tell the truth; that way, you don't have to remember anything.

4. Open Doors for People. Literally and figuratively. Helping others not only builds your awareness of those around you, but helps add to your Karmic bank account. You will be surprised how kindness and empathy will pay off in your life.

5. Never Burn, Well, You Know the Rest. Whether you find yourself in a seemingly irreparable fight with a friend, or feel the desire to tell off your soon-to-be ex-employee, I strongly advise against burning bridges. This advice is only for your own good. The desire and tempting instant gratification of responding or acting on emotion coupled with the strong influence of pride can be a difficult recipe to resist. Abstain! Such action or response will only serve to hurt you down the road, regardless of how immediately gratifying a good "Screw You" might feel.

During tough times, with pride bruised, emotions raw, and a general shared sense of anxiety, it is imperative we pull together and all do our very best to be decent human beings.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Homemade is the New Hallmark

With Father's Day around the corner and birthday and barbecue invites piling in, costs associated with adoration of friends and family can wreck havoc on a Recessionista's budget. Instead of running out to Hallmark for a series of cards (running $2-6 a piece!) or purchasing a pricey bottle of Kettle One to bring to a Barbecue, consider homemade (and more meaningful) alternatives. Here are a few ideas:

1. Write a Letter. Your dad, your step dad, your grandfather, or whatever inspirational male figure has guided you through the years deserves a little celebration this June. Take a few minutes to think about what that special person has brought to you and jot those thoughts on paper (it does not have to be from Papyrus). No one expects you to be Shakespearean, but sincerity goes a long way.

2. Channel "Top Chef". Even if you abhor kitchen time, it is likely more economical to bring a dish to pass to the BBQ, rather than purchasing expensive alcohol or a platter to share. One savvy Recessionista I know puts together dishes to pass based on left overs in her refrigerator, and they are always big hits at parties (think Tuna Salad with almonds and white grapes or mini grilled-cheese sandwiches made with brie). Be resourceful and creative and you will save mucho dinero.

3. Gifts from the Heart. All of the best gifts I have received in my life have come with little or no monetary value associated with them (to my ex-boyfriends - this in no way means I do not continue to love the Prada handbags!) Recently, a friend greeted me at happy hour with a used book I adore. My sister crafted a jewelry box out of stained glass over fifteen years ago that is still on display in my apartment. Putting your resources and talents to use in order to create something memorable and special for a loved one will save you money and better express your appreciation for them. Also, there is the ever-reliable homemade "coupon book" if you get desperate - get witty and creative with this classic!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shrinking Wallet, Hidden Deals

On weeks filled with conference calls, emails, and administration overload, in lieu of coffee, martini lunches, and cigarette breaks (Starbucks, Kettle One, and Malboros are cash killers anyway), there are some excellent online shopping websites to check out for amazing deals. I think of online shopping as performing my patriotic duty of stimulating the economy (how is that for shrugging off guilt!)

1. Wear Today, Gone Tomorrow. Summer seems the season of occasions - weddings, galas, barbecues, parties. All of these events can make it very challenging to find appropriate attire, especially when you are snuggling up to the socialistas in the Hamptons, where H&M is probably going to be difficult to pull off. Check out www.weartodaygonetomorrow.com for the amazing opportunity to rent, yes, RENT designer duds for a small fraction of the price of owning the garment.

2. But, if you MUST own...Try Fisch for the Hip, a designer consignment store on West 18th in NYC, offers amazing gently worn designer ware for the masses. Soon, the website will be offering an online selection of wares for the masses. Check it out...http://www.fischforthehip.com/

3. Gilt Groupe. This is the fastest-growing online designer sample sale around! Think Roberto Cavelli, D&G, Marc Jacobs, and more - all merchandise around 80% off. One catch: Gilt Groupe is by invite-only, so poll your friends (or email recessionistaroadmap@gmail.com) for you passage to an incredible shopping experience.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going Green With Little Dinero

Ever since "An Inconvenient Truth," becoming environmentally-conscious has become extremely en vogue. Still, one sashay down an aisle of Whole Foods, and it quickly becomes clear that doing the right thing for the environment might be economically unfriendly. Here are five ways to be a friend to the environment while still being kind to your pocketbook:



1. Transportation: Whether it is cross-country or cross-town, it can be pretty expensive to get from Point A to Point B these days. Well, Recessionista, it is time to get creative! With the weather turning warm and lovely, channel you inner Green diva and get outside - walk, bike, or, if you are extra daring as the author of this blog, invest in some retro rollerskates and turn your town into your very own roller derby rink!



2. Recycle. Okay, so you already throw your empty cans of Red Bull into your special blue bin, and that is great. However, a common vesicle that you toss into that same bin on a daily basis can be used again and again before it is offered up to the Recycling gods. Specifically, the containers you purchase that delicious, designer water in can be rinsed out and reused. Simply refill (if you hate tap water, use a Brita filtered pitcher to refill, Miss High Maintenance!) and put in the refridgerator until your parched, diva self needs a guzzle.



3. Electricity. Summer brings on warmer temperatures and extra electricity devoted to air conditioning. Although I recommend using air conditioners sparingly, you can save additional power by turning off lights and lighting candles instead. Get in the habit now, then you will be clear of conscience and of the contrived when you bring that special someone home and leverage a little "mood lighting" to set the evening's tone.

4. Periodicals. Although the New York Times might be in financial trouble, you need not go and purchase your weekly paper copy in an attempt to single-handedly save them. Major publications with online editions of their paper counterparts receive big bucks from advertisers. Save a tree and spend time perusing the Style section on the web instead. Plus, you will save yourself the coffee splotches on the print edition.

5. Disposibles. Recessionista, you have way overworn those 1998 Juicy Couture sweatpants anyway...ditch the so-five-minutes-ago JLo trend, and cut that little terrycloth number into reusable cleaning clothes in lieu of paper towels. Not only will you save yourself the extra cost the Brawny man insists you need (no matter how good he looks in flannel, trust us, you do NOT need to buy disposible, tree-wasting paper towel!), but you can feel good for doing your part to save the environment. Juicy would approve.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Turning the Pink Slip Lemon into Pink Lemonade

On a weekly basis, seemingly since the start of the Recession, I have been receiving phone calls from friends who are out of work - some by choice, some by chance, and some by sheer bad luck. After you empty your desk, have a few inebriated evenings searching for the why's, how's, and what next's at the bottom of the tequila bottle, and get over the initial sadness of leaving your last position, the time comes to think positively and proactively about your next professional endeavor.  Here are a few inspirational examples of friends who took the "time off" and started to follow their dreams, passions, and, well, keep their proverbial chins up along the journey.

1.  One friend, a long time business associate committed to spreadsheets, PowerPoint's, and presentation, took time off to give the left side of his brain a break, focusing on starting a music enterprise, including song writing, scoring, and consulting.  This individual invested in himself and his time into exploring his love of music, including the composition of a song dedicated to the Recessionista, an 80's pop-ish number definitely worth a listen.  Check out his samples at http://www.sonofanutcracker.net/index.htm.

2.  Our friends at Recessionwire serve as fantastic role model of how to think creatively and follow your dreams after getting laid off.  Writers from Conde Nast, the ladies at Recessionwire took advantage of their new found freedom to develop a site that continues to gain press and popularity, and, as a bonus, they no longer have to work for "the man."

3.  There are unanticipated consequences of the Recession - hourly cutbacks, pay cuts, slashed or eliminated bonuses.  Many friends who have managed to stay employed have felt the Recession in their shrinking paycheck.  Creativity saves the day!  Check out freelance opportunities - consulting for market research firms, exploring weekend photography gigs, even freelance blogging opportunities.  There are many websites designed specifically to broker these connections - we like http://www.ifreelance.com/.

Moving on from your current employer can be scary.  Just remember that you are not alone, you are now free to explore opportunities that will be so much better than your last, and, by keeping optimistic and positive, your fabulous will shine through to all.

Cheers!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekly Top Five Freebies and Cheapies

Every week, I scavenge the Internet, US cities, nay, the world to bring you, my beloved, the best freebies and cheapies that life has to offer. (P.S. I promise to include at least one "date" offering for my penny-pinching friends who know that lack of income should never mean lack of love!)


1. Cheap Designer Shoes. In case you are a bibliophobe, rest assured that Amazon is not just for bookworms! Stop by here and cheap out 80% off luxury brand shoes from Givenchy and others.


2. Cheap NYC Theatre. What if I told you that for the price of $10 plus the role of a dice, you could see 30 plays? Not to worry, my ADD friends, these plays, an exercise in interactive chaos, are performed in 60 minutes, engaging the audience, who is welcome to BYOB to the show. Check out the Neo-Futurists play, "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," every Friday and Saturday nights at 10:30 pm.


3. Free Street Fairs. For NYC dwellers or visitors for the holiday weekend, the Street Fair is a staple NYC summer affair, a carnivalesque arena of cheap trinkets, exotic wares, and a range of ethnic foods for your sampling pleasure.  I crave the falafel in the off-season.  Check out this site for the wheres and whens.

4. Free Perfume.  Download this coupon and receive a free purse size bottle of Clinique Happy.  Like we have said all along, in a recession, it is still free to get Happy!  (Bad puns, unfortunately, are also free!)

5. Free Advice for the Pinked-slipped.  Recessionwire has done a great job of consolidating and centralizing excellent articles on the how-to's of unemployment.  Check out everything from severance advice to debt management.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Perspectives are Still Free

Holidays, birthdays, etc. generally make me very uncomfortable, and I do not think I am alone in that. While it is always a wonderful pleasure to reunite with friends and family, it seems that there is never enough time to see everyone, never the perfect gift to be given, and rarely an event without some sort of drama to boot. This past holiday season, I was left with an empty void, as I was not able to travel home to be with family. Luckily, I joined my parents a few weeks prior, and my mother gave me what will probably be the best present of my life - the journal of my Great, Great Aunt Melaine, the only other person in my family to ever life the crazy, electric life that the city of New York offers. On the front page, Great, Great Aunt Melaine posted the following poem, which I have traced to the poet Sam Walter Foss and found to have great relavence and hopeful inspiration to these difficult times:

The House by the Side of the Road

THERE are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat
Nor hurl the cynic's ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.
Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Sam Walter Foss

Monday, May 11, 2009

Under the Weather Without an Umbrella: Part 2

Between Obama's stimulus plan for Healthcare, the H1N1 virus scare, and the surge of unemployed Americans finding themselves without health insurance, confusion and anxiety over what will happen to access and affordability of care has become a hot topic in the media as of late.  Still, most Americans are passive consumers of the healthcare system - people drive to the closest hospital/clinic, attend physician office visit unprepared to ask educated questions of their doctors, and fail to ask for the generic version of their prescriptions.  The lack of understanding and initiative on behalf of the patient really serves as a detriment to the patient, the provider, and the system at large.  This series will provide a number of ways to improve your understanding of the healthcare system, save time and money, and become a champion of your health:

Making the Most of the 7.5 minutes with Your Doctor

For all of the twenty minutes I spend in the clinic waiting room perusing a 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine, and the following twenty minutes I spend in my provider's examination room staring at the eye chart and attempting to determine if I am due for a new pair of glasses, I do not think that I am alone in my lack of preparation for the average 7.5 minutes I spend with my doctor when she enters the room.  Here is a list of preparatory tips that will help all of us make the most of their time and ours:

1.  Be Honest.  Perhaps one of the biggest time wasters we are all seem guilty of is our failure to be upfront in all of the reasons for our visit to the doctor.  When you check in at the registration desk and offer "annual physical" as your reason for your appointment, then launch into a roundabout discussion about this birthmark you are worried about when your provider enters the room, you waste valuable time that could be better served taking a deeper dive into your concerns if that information had been available prior to your physician entering the room.  I know it can be embarrassing discussing that bump, those headaches, or those intestinal issues up front, but, guess what, the medical staff working with you sees them all day long, every day.  

2.  Know Thyself.  Come your visit prepared with a comprehensive list of all medications you are taking.  Even if your provider is utilizing an electronic medical record, which generally provides a trackable list of all your medications, he/she might not be aware that you started a prescription from another provider or that you are fighting insomnia with the Melatonin you picked up from the drug store.  The same idea is true of allergies, especially as some allergies develop over time (ask my friend and fellow Recessionista Pam, who recently discovered the hard way that she has a shellfish allergy!)

3.  Ask Questions...the Right Questions.  If you doctor is prescribing a new medication, ask if you are able to take the generic version instead (which can save you a lot of money.)  Ask about the drug's side effects.  If you have a chronic complaint, ask about alternative activities available to provide a more holistic approach to managing your condition.  Many MD's will recommend, for instance, utilizing exercise and yoga as a means to assist the treatment of anxiety, beyond drug therapy.  Alternately, your provider is not likely to know how much a treatment costs or the price of the medication you are taking.  Those questions are better addressed by others, but...

4. Don't Be Afraid to Get Financial Questions Answered.  In advance of your visit, doing a little legwork can assist with an assessment of how much your visit might run you.  Particularly if you will be going to the doctor to have a procedure performed, such as an x-Ray taken, many organizations publish this information online - it is available in something called the "Charge Description Master" (CDM).  Otherwise, call the facility's billing office; charges may vary based on provider fees, etc., but they should be able to offer you an estimate.

5.  Be Respectful of Your Doctor's Time.  Under fluorescent lights and practically naked under a sheer hospital gown, it is understandable that a vulnerable atmosphere can make you more inclined to share more information or anxieties with your doctor than you would with, say, your banker or dog walker.  Try to put into perspective that, although you feel this is the perfect opportunity to explain how you are still upset with your mom from the Thanksgiving comment she made about you inabilities in the kitchen, the time you are taking to share this is time another, likely sicker patient no longer has.  Doctors are expected to have an outstanding bedside manner, but that does not mean you have to share everything under your metaphorical sheet with them.  Keep the interaction pleasant but purposeful, and you will provider to be of better service to you and the patient next door.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Under the Weather Without an Umbrella: Part 1

Between Obama's stimulus plan for Healthcare, the H1N1 virus scare, and the surge of unemployed Americans finding themselves without health insurance, confusion and anxiety over what will happen to access and affordability of care has become a hot topic in the media as of late.  Still, most Americans are passive consumers of the healthcare system - people drive to the closest hospital/clinic, attend physician office visit unprepared to ask educated questions of their doctors, and fail to ask for the generic version of their prescriptions.  The lack of understanding and initiative on behalf of the patient really serves as a detriment to the patient, the provider, and the system at large.  This series will provide a number of ways to improve your understanding of the healthcare system, save time and money, and become a champion of your health:

Health Insurance.  

As if getting pink-slipped is not enough, you now have a serious amount of paperwork to siphon through and figure out, making that last break-up with the ex seem like a cakewalk in comparison.  Here is some high-level options for you to consider, to insure you are insured as you work to figure out and find your next professional move.
  • COBRA:  Most employers offer the option of continuing the current health plan you enjoyed as an employee for a limited time period after your departure (usually 6-18 months)  Under the stimulus act (and assuming you lost your job after September 1, 2008), this means you will pay 35% of your healthcare premiums (the government will recompensate the employer or insurer for the remaining 65% through certain tax credits).  In layman's terms, you will be able to enjoy the same benefits of your previous plan provided through your job, but will be paying a lot more out of pocket for your premium. 
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield/State Programs:  Most states offer a multitude of Blue Cross/Blue Shield programs, that range in benefits and prices.  The website is generally very helpful in guiding you through the necessary steps to attain coverage, but there are a few things to consider before selecting your plan.  First, determine realistically what you need (not necessarily want) in a healthcare plan.  If you have not gone to a physician since Bush I was in office, you may want to consider a "High Deductible" plan - less money paid monthly, but more money paid out of pocket if you do decide to get that annual physical your spouse has hounded you about.  On the other hand, if your provider's clinic seems to serve as a pied a terre, consider a higher premium, more comprehensive plan.    
  • Medicare/Medicaid:  Under certain conditions, you may be eligible for further government assistance with medical expenses.  Because eligibility varies by state, you will need to contact your Local Medicare/Medicaid office to determine if you qualify.  The government has recently put in place additional program funding to aid pregnant women and children who are without insurance.        
When determining the correct option for you, perform an assessment of your overall health needs and expectations of care, along with an analysis of what you can afford.  Ask tough questions and be ready to negotiate ( a common theme in this blog.) Though you may be unemployed, remember your health is still your responsibility, so manage it well!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Recessionista at the Races

The Kentucky Derby has been an American tradition since the 1930's. With a legacy of distinct glamour (think seersucker suits and big, bigger, BIGGEST hats) mixed with accessibility (Infield tickets generally run for about $25), the Derby continues to offer the majority of Americans an experience of a lifetime. Since I was an eager and fortunate neophyte to the Kentucky Derby experience this year, here are, free of charge, the findings I brought back from Churchhill Downs and Louisville:

 1. The Notorious Mint Julep. Lesson one: Just because it tastes delicious, doesn't make it any less potent. Most of the time, this Recessionista sticks with a safe Chardonnay, but when in Louisville...If you have the good fortune to attend the Derby, note that Kentucky natives are very proud and even more particular about the Derby drink of choice. Proper mint juleps are served in a silver glass (the Kentucky Derby collector glasses used in box seating are generally the exception) and made from Kentucky bourbon. To recreate a bit of the excitement at home or for friends, follow the recipe from the official Kentucky Derby website:

The Early Times Mint Julep Recipe

·         2 cups sugar

·         2 cups water

·         Sprigs of fresh mint

·         Crushed ice

·         Early Times Kentucky Whisky

·         Silver Julep Cups

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

2.  Derby Attire. Generally, dressing up for the races is protocol.  For men, this means suits (bonus points for seersuckers accessorized with hats).  For women, this means dresses and noteworthy hats.  Look through your closet, and, while trying to avoid black, opt towards something you might wear to an upscale, nighttime spring/summer wedding.  The exception to this rule is Infield ticket holders - nothing is worse in a mudpit than an evening gown or tux.

3.  Placing Your Bets.  To be perfectly honest, I was a little overwhelmed with this one.  If it is not available already, someone should write "Derby Betting for Dummies."  I will keep it simple and use a "one horse" example ( we will use Einstein, a horse that won Race 9).  If I had (and luckily, I did) suspect that Einstein was going to place (i.e. 1st, 2nd, or 3rd), I would place my bet (minimum $2) by saying #6 (Einstein's number) to win, place, or show, as I passed on my $6 (one $2 bet per prospective placing).  Payouts are determined based on odds (2 to 1 will bring in a lot less of a payout compared to 50 to 1, for instance.)  There are other permutations (Trifecta, for instance, which is a sort of equivalent to a Poker Royal Flush - 1st, 2nd, 3rd place finish in the exact order you had bet upon), but I will save the more complex and involved betting strategies to the experts.  Once you put your money down, simply take your tickets back and say a "Hail Mary" or two.

4.  Louisville Proper.  For Recessionistas that are less than familiar with the Southern hospitality, you are in for a treat.  The people of Louisville are proud of and excited for the Derby, a stark contrast to many other cities and their reception of out-of-towners.  A stand out establishment is the Executive Spa in downtown Louisville.  Not only were my fellow Recessionista and I treated like princesses in the male-oriented, full-service executive  lounge, which includes a billiard table, shoe shines, and straight razor shaves, but my internationally-renowned master barber Farrell Stephens proved with my hair cut and style his acclaimed ability in working the razor beyond his notorious shave technique.  To ease into the Derby experience, I would be hard-pressed to find a better place to find the relaxation you deserve.

Whether your tickets are in Millionaire's Row or in the midst of the infield, the Kentucky Derby is an experience of a lifetime.  You will truly enjoy the entirety of this event...I'll bet on it!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Work the Runway




As Recessionista Roadmap has continued to rise in popularity, we took our show on the road (well, Park Avenue) for a promotional photo shoot. In the name of my readers, I was willing to endure a lengthy amount of standing, posing, and hefty amount of blushing in the middle of the busy New York street, along with a grueling second round from a tar-covered Manhattan rooftop. As passerbyers gawked, giggled and guffawed, I worked a sandwich board that advertised slogans that inspire others to keep a sense of humor during these difficult times. Here are some of the highlights, photos, and general shocking moments from the shoot:




1. Everyone, from a man wearing a cravat who lives on the Upper East side to the masseur working at Ricky's to the drunk personal trainer to the homeless man competing for "business" found extreme humor in my "Will Work for Shoes" board. In fact, many stopped to talk about their own challenges during the recession, as well as opened up to share many of their own tips for dealing with economic hardship.




2. Part of standing in the middle of a higher-end Manhattan street wearing a sandwich board involved reacquainting myself with humility and embarrassment, not unfamiliar emotions during this difficult economy. Despite feeling the need to constantly explain (it is for a PHOTOSHOOT, I am not really looking for a JOB!!), I realized the metaphoric emotional experience of what I was doing with how it feels to lose a person's job or experience economic hardship. Those experiences may feel embarrassing, frustrating, or shameful, but just as I was eventually able to remove the board, you will find a path out of the difficult times. Humor goes along way in the meantime.




3. Modeling is not for the faint of heart. Being posed, standing for long periods of time in uncomfortable positions/environments, and wardrobe changes - these are not enjoyable endeavors for the multi-tasking sort. Thankfully, I had a patient photographer who dealt with my diva antics. Also thankfully, I was able to return to my nerdy self after a couple of hours, rather than have to endure being prodded and adjusted every day. The experience reminded me how important patience really is when we have to deal with less-than-ideal circumstances.




Utilizing the (free) efforts of a photographer friend of mine, along with donated set (courtesy of the city of Manhattan and a friend's apartment building rooftop), we were able to keep the shoot costs to a minimum. The price of my pride, well, that is still being paid off...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Weekly Top Five Freebies and Cheapies

Every week, I scavenge the Internet, US cities, nay, the world to bring you, my beloved, the best freebies and cheapies that life has to offer. (P.S. I promise to include at least one "date" offering for my penny-pinching friends who know that lack of income should never mean lack of love!)

1. Free Coffee. Spending a rainy Saturday afternoon perusing the books of my local Borders bookstore is a (free) guilty pleasure for Recessionistas as is, but now the National bookstore chain is offering a free cup of java to boot.

2. Cheap Derby Day Delights. Free bluegrass and $3 Mint Juleps make Union Hall in Brooklyn (Park Slope) feel like Louisville meets Recessionista meets Big City. My money is on Summerbird. (PS - Look for the upcoming entry on "Recessionista at the Races" for our recap of the actual Kentucky Derby.)

3. (Relatively) Cheap GPS. If you are one of many flocking to Louisville for the weekend, save yourself the headache of the often confusing highways and dreaded "shortcut through the park" with a GPS system, like this one, which, at $180 compared to the regular price of $400, is Recessionista-approved.

4. Free Way to Make a Buck from Fido. If you think your pet is the animal-equivalent of Miss Universe and you live in the Chicago area, time to cash in Lynne Spears style and loan your pet out to Animal Talent. For $60-200 per hour, you pet will participate in photo shoots for advertising firms and mug for the camera, while you sit back and sip Pellegrino. Ah, life in the limelight...

5. Free Way to Earn Your Way to Heaven. The old proverb says, "Good intentions pave the road to hell." Put your good will into action without spending a buck - go online to http://www.thehungersite.com/ , spend a few minutes meandering around, and site sponsors contribute money to cure hunger in the third world. Of course, you will have to sacrifice those extra five minutes you might have sent reading Perez Hilton, but no one said charity was easy.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Take a Contemplative Coffee Break


Before you jump on that next conference call with that Debbie Downer executive, enjoy your next Venti Skim Latte with an inspirational boost from one of the dear old Brahmin poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What the World Needs Now...

Last week, I was walking down a bustling New York City street, lost in my own thoughts, when I heard a loud, cantankerous voice shouting in my direction.  A bit startled, I narrowed my focus and saw an older gentleman, struggling in along in a walker up the street as he approached me, and, as I did not recognize him I assumed he was either senile or had mistaken me for someone else.  He drew nearer, and I finally understood what he was struggling to yell...

"You have a lovely smile," he said. "Fantastic, dear.  It made my day."  

He reached out, took my hand to his old wrinkled lips, and kissed it as a gentleman of The Greatest Generation would.  With that, he clack-clacked along past me on his way.

This encounter started me to wonder about the ways we inadvertently affect people through our very presence and demeanor on a daily basis.  How do you project yourself when you are walking down the street, furiously messaging on your Crackberry or iPhone, unaware that others are aware?

The attitudes that we convey on a day-to-day basis are often projected to the masses, despite our ignorance.  When we ruminate on a fight with an ex, a dispute at the workplace, or even when we internalize our offence at the rudeness of being cut-off in traffic, we are often unaware of the furrowed brows and frowns we wear down the street.  

Perhaps it sounds a bit too prescriptively Pollyanna for our bustling, self-absorbed society, but smiling as you walk down the street (or, God forbid, saying "hello" to people you pass as is customary in the South), speaking kindly to people you are in line with at the grocery store, or showing gratitude to the waitstaff who are working hard while you unwind at your local restaurant can all go a long way towards making a person's day.  Try to foster an awareness of those around you.  After all, one day, God-willing, we will all be clack-clacking down the street and the smile of a stranger may be one of the last remaining rays of sunshine we have in our lives.  

Smiles are free - give and take liberally.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dust Off Your Library Card and Check These Out...


Read This: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

Most famous for Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger offers bite-sized offerings of his talent in this collections of short stories.  Every tale draws readers in, usually with the same unconcern discomfort evoked by Holden Caulfield, the depressed intellectual youth and main character from Catcher in the Rye.  In fact, one to the stories in this collection, For Esme with Love and Squalor, captures much of the same powerful wistfulness of the loss of innocence as his more notorious text. Plus, busy Recessionistas may delight in rediscovering the short story - perfect time filler between subway stops or to relax you as you wait for your Match.com date to show.

Watch This: Vicky Christina Barcelona starring Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson

Playing, once again, with our general fallacies when it comes to love, Director Woody Allen serves up a tale of romance abroad, with two women falling prey to the seductive qualities of a handsome foreign man.  Enter into the love triangle a fourth, Penelope Cruz, who plays the ex of Juan Antonio (said Don Juan),  and you produce a complex, tragic but beautiful tale about the uncontrollable, uncontainable effects that passion produces within our lives.

Listen to This: The Fame by Lady Gaga

Even if you still have an N*Sync hangover from early this decade, the pop of Lady Gaga is edgy enough to warrant a listen.  Her latest released track, Pokerface, fuses dance-club-electronica with bubblegum pop in a distinct song that will have your body unintentionally moving in no time.  Plus, her costumed, exaggerated look ensures you won't confuse her with any other pop princess (no offence, BritBrit.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weekly Top Five Freebies and Cheapies

Every week, I scavenge the Internet, US cities, nay, the world to bring you, my beloved, the best freebies and cheapies that life has to offer. (P.S. I promise to include at least one "date" offering for my penny-pinching friends who know that lack of income should never mean lack of love!)

1. Free Beach Read. For those of you heading ocean side this spring, nothing compliments the smell of suntan lotion and taste of that first pina colada like a good, old-fashioned chic lit novel. Get a free copy of the book (most recently turned film) Confessions of a Shopaholic for that perfect vacation trifecta.

2. Cheap Fashion. Maxstudio's Supersale, with many items 70-80% off, allows Recessionista's to indulge their inner Fashionista without the trip to Confession post purchase.

3. Free Comedy at Your Fingertips. For those of you who cut cable extras, like DVR, to save some dinero, you no longer have to miss out on the latest from those cuddly, crass characters of Southpark. Check out http://www.southparkstudios.com/ for the latest episode in its entirety (with no commercials!) Just don't overindulge in the cheesy poofs!

4. Reduced-Price Lingerie. This Recessionista simply can not "bare" to describe La Perla undergarments as "cheap!" NYC Recessionistas can indulge in this exquisite line's sample sale today with as much as 80% off. Tres Jolie!

5. Free Recession Lexicon. To be en vogue these days, you must stay on top of the vernacular of the moment. Thankfully, the ladies at Recessionwire are giving up-to-the-moment vocab lessons to keep you trendy and clever at cocktail hour. Learning terms like "Slay-offs" and "Funemployment," you will be the hit of the discounted happy hour you attend tonight!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Love Don't Cost a Thing

"Ignorantly is how we all fall in love; for it is a kind of fall. Closing our eyes, we leap from that cliff in hope of a soft landing. Nor is it always soft; but still, I told myself, still, without that leap nobody comes to life." - Salman Rushdie

Love In the Time of Internet

Once upon a time, there lived a lovely princess, with no shortage of suitors. At that same time, there lived a prince, who earned the affections of every fair maiden in his land. Though the princess, with her perfect manicure and Manolos, and the prince, an utter Metrosexual and affinity for fine wines, were perfectly suited, miles, nay oceans, between them, there was little hope of ever meeting...until the the world wide web was born, that is.

Internet dating has arguably become the American take on arranged marriage. Who has time to to rely on a chance encounter? There must be an algorithm to help with this check box of the American dream! With the inertia of every day life, the metamorphosis of gender roles, and the general desire, no, compulsion towards instant gratification, Internet dating sites have found a lucrative market in a romance-starved society.

For love of the Recessionista readers (and a desire to remind myself of that life exists beyond my computer), I signed up for a short trial of one of these sites. The following represents a series of observations, concluded with some advice, should you choose this adventure...

1. Not Everyone on Internet Dating Sites is a) Desperate, b) Unattractive, c) A Player, d) A Freak, or e) All of the Above. While my busy schedule only allowed for a handful of dates from the site, all of the individuals I went out with were observably classy, witty, attractive, and VERY busy. This perhaps provides insight into why many might choose to seek love online - time is valuable and nightlife can be a crap shoot.

2. There is a Defined Etiquette to Online Dating. In my sophomore year of college, my best friend and I tried out "The Rules," a silly book that essentially promoted females playing hard-to-get until they get a diamond.  A decade older and wiser, I figured game playing was not for me, but, alas, it is alive and well online. Who initiates the first contact?  Is an email too bold or a wink too passive?How soon is too soon for an actual human encounter? How does one play coy through "LOLs" and "TTYLs"? I was not very good with games when we spoke in English a decade ago, and I am even worse in acronyms.

3. If Someone Asks You Out, Meet in a Public Place. I was very fortunate in my experience with online dating...every man who took me out was entertaining and a gentleman. However, knowing people who have been preyed upon (men and women!) in the dating scene, you MUST be careful, no matter how many points you match up with the person.

4. Expect Honesty, and Settle for Nothing Less. If someone posts a picture of his/herself circa 1990 and they look completely different, or they claim to be a liberal, but are, in fact, a card-carrying member of the NRA, call it out. Dishonesty is never an attractive quality.

5. Set Expectations for Yourself. I certainly have friends who have gone to these sites expecting to meet "the one." I also know friends who sign up for this type of matchmaking as a, "see, all the good ones are taken" justification for not braving the dating scene.  I suggest sitting down with yourself and having a clear conversation, one on  one with your heart.  Are you really looking to meet someone or are you looking to date many?  Are you ready to fall in love or are you really flirting with lust?  There are no right or wrong answers, but doing a bit of a self-assessment in advance will help you be a more honest cyberdate.

All and all, I have heard stories of people who met online and fell in love. I have also heard stories of disastrous dates that seem almost fictional. Personally, I think Internet dating sites are as good a jumping off point as a happenstance encounter at a bar or chance conversation at the grocery store. Still, my personal bias is to have the story..."he came up to me, and I told him to get lost...he persisted" or "she laughed so obnoxiously that I turned around and immediately fell for her." Forgive me, I was an English major in college.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Celebrationista


Spotlight: A Night Under the Stars

By the time April has come around, most of us will do anything that we can to get outside and enjoy the warming temperatures and signs and smells of spring. Though April evenings can sometimes get chilly, my friends and I would not let that deter us from hosting parties and events outdoors in early spring. For those Recessionistas looking for an antidote to spring fever, consider hosting a group of friends for a glamorous but budget-friendly take on the drive-in cinema.

Since you will be hosting the theater and providing the venue for a sizable crowd, lower costs by asking guests to bring an appetizer to pass and a bottle of their favorite spirit for this starry night soiree.

Cost: $200/20-30 guests

What You Will Need:

  • A Recessionista movie screen - $99*: Recessionista found this amazing deal on one that is not only reasonably-priced, but super easy to set up at http://www.yardtheater.com/home
  • A movie projector - $99*
  • Your laptop (just plug into the project - EASY!)
  • A favorite DVD

Tell Guests to Bring:

  • 1 Bottle of favorite spirits and mixer if required
  • An appetizer to pass
  • A blanket or two

Set-up is easy, and the tone of the gathering can be as casual or elegant as you prefer (choose an appropriate film to match your theme - it is a bit awkward to sit through Team America in a black cocktail dress, as I can attest through personal experience.) Despite the initial cost of equipment up front, you will be able to replicate this theme party and offer different versions throughout the good-weather months. Even if you only use the equipment 4 times this season, it breaks out to $50/party and you can not beat that!


The magic of a night with friends under the stars beckons nostalgia, enchantment, and the creation of new and lovely memories. Under the blanket of night, rest easy...you are amongst friends.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekly Top Five Freebies and Cheapies

Every week, I scavenge the Internet, US cities, nay, the world to bring you, my beloved, the best freebies and cheapies that life has to offer. (P.S. I promise to include at least one "date" offering for my penny-pinching friends who know that lack of income should never mean lack of love!)



1. Free Personalized Radio. This was a fantastic discovery of the week! Pandora prompts users to enter the name of a favorite song or artist and will immediately begin playing songs and artists similar to the the one you entered. I put in Lady Gaga, and, in addition to hearing her latest "Poker Face," I was treated to music from M.I.A., Rhianna and more. You can create multiple stations and infuse multiple artists into your station. Watch out, Samantha Ronson, there is a new DJ in town!

2. Free Reason To Smile. For the .02% of you have not yet met Susan Boyle, check out this uplifting tale.

3. Cheap Groceries. If you can pull yourself away from searching the millions of reduced cost books for sale at Amazon, you can utilize a $25 off coupon for grocery purchases of $69 or more. You don't even have to use your Greenpoints (sorry, inside joke for NYC Recessionistas!)

4. Free Ice Cream. Our favorite left-wing cats out of Vermont are sharing the ice cream wealth on Tuesday, April 21st. Saunter out to your local Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop for a free ice cream cone from noon to 8 pm, and you may find yourself having a Howard Dean "yee-haw" moment!

5. Free NYC Haircuts. This is a secret I was tempted to myself. The Carsten Institute of Hair and Beauty, an Aveda teaching school offers free(!) haircuts, reduced hair color (think $30), and more from morning until 3:30 pm on Tuesday-Friday. Call and make your appointment today with a graduating student!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Importance of MeTime



In the last several years, a number of my girlfriends have had children. It has been quite a magical experience to watch ladies that used to veer towards the wild side adopt a warm, compassionate, and tame lifestyle and observing them caring for their children has been really inspiring to this Recessionista. Though I personally am not certain that child-bearing is in my future, I have a tremendous respect for the women (and men!) who serve in the most important job in life, that of a parent.
However, the aftermath of pregnancy is often times less than a series of perfect, Lifetime-movie moments. To go from a constant state of only having to worry for one to spending the majority of your time constantly worried about another can be exhausting, to say the least. Additionally, a woman's identity shifts from that of a full-fledged person to that of a "mother." (Thanks, Society!!) Phrases like "well-rounded" and "work-life balance" become laughable. That life goal of learning Japanese feels far from achievable.


So, when I learned of MeTime, a company started by an extraordinary, not to mention beautiful young woman named Bea Arthur (with zero resemblance to the Golden Girl), I was immediately impressed. The mission of this company is to provide non-baby-centric activities and outlets to moms, giving them a "night off" from their identity as a mother and reminding them that they are , in actuality, fabulous women! MeTime will offer a series of get-togethers and activities, like Japanese cooking classes, to remind mommies that there is life outside of baby and they deserve to enjoy it!


Last night marked the debut MeTime event - a cocktail creation class sponsored by Domaine de Canton, a French Ginger Liqueur, as well as bar/restaurant Haven in Midtown east. With upbeat tunes and a high end lodge/lounge vibe as backdrop, our instructors Jennifer Craig and James, walked all of the MeTime attendees through the art of making cocktails that will not only impress dinner party guest, but, as I pointed out, we can make on a quiet night in just because we are worth it.



I learned three important lessons of the evening. The first and foremost, mothers are my heroes. What these ladies have to balance requires superhuman abilities and most do it with a constant smile on their faces. Second, I found a liqueur that I would actually buy. I am normally a pretty simple cocktail consumer - a glass of wine or a vodka martini. However, Jennifer proved me wrong with this delicious (and not super sweet!) ginger, honey, and vanilla infused liqueur. I challenged her and James, and through a series of cocktail creations, they made a believer of me - a bottle of Domaine de Canton will now be a regular part of my cocktail concoctions. Finally and begrudgingly I admit this, I realized that (some) models have brains, as I spoke with James who not only makes the world's best mojito, but has appeared in Men's Vogue and works full-time as a model. Snaps to both Jennifer and James, who were very patient and excellent instructors, even when the mommie crowd got a little rowdy.



Thanks to Jennifer for introducing the MeTime crowd to a lovely and elegant liqueur. Thanks to James for being patient with me as I over-poured my mojito. Thanks to Bea for putting on a lovely event that truly provided an escape from the everyday role that mom's have to play. A special thanks to the folks at Haven - an exotic, eclectic local with excellent service and great drink specials - a must if you are ever in NYC!

Domaine de Canton Mojito

2 Lemon wedges (yes, lemon!
4-5 leaves/sprigs of mint
1/2 ounce sugar syrup (depending how sweet you like it)
1 ounce Domaine de Canton
1-2 ounce(s) white rum
1 splash of soda/seltzer water

Muddle lemon, mint and sugar for a good 20-30 seconds (as James said, work out some aggression here - make sure you are really pressing the flavors out). Next, add the Domaine de Canton, followed by the rum. Add about a cup of ice, then shake it, baby! Top off with a splash of soda and even an extra squeeze of lemon, if you are feeling sassy! Then, drink up!

Monday, April 13, 2009

As A Recessionista Thinketh...

Once upon a time, in a world very different than today, I accepted a date with a man who, prior to our first date, gave me a small book as a gift. The small green hardcover text was As A Man Thinketh, by James Allen. Fast forward several years, and the wisdom of that book, much like the lessons learned from the lovely time I spent on that date and the relationship it developed into, has continued to make me a wiser individual and better person, despite some challenging self-examination that both prompted. Here are a few of the lessons Allen teaches in a book that every Recessionista can learn from...

1. "Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions" In the difficult economy, it is easy for all of us to feel victims of the circumstances around us. Allen offers that we are directly in control of our circumstances via our thoughts, our outlook. For instance, I have two friends who have recently lost their jobs - one is completely overwhelmed, feels helpless, scared, frustrated, and is, unfortunately, flailing, whereas the other has remained calm, self-assessment, and, as it happens, is now being courted by prospective employers. Coincidence? Maybe. Yet, we are clearly at an advantage as masters of our own thoughts, so give it a go.

2. "Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself." These difficult times can bring out a range of emotions and behaviors. People never inclined to moodiness have devolved, and I have seen the coolest of cucumbers revert to a trembling mess. However, this difficult time has also revealed amazing strength in others - I have seen those who have experienced great loss turn around and give away more, those who are suffering who spend their time comforting others, and a spirit of camaraderie that has pervaded the nation. Difficult times offer the opportunity for us to examine who we really are...and they offer the opportunity to change that.

3. "Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results." This, in my opinion, is an inarguable truth. I have consistently found kindness and understanding, as well as keeping a clean, honest spirit, is a recipe for happiness, and by proxy, self-sustainment and fulfillment. Across most major religions and societies, the concept of being kind to your fellow man/Recessionista persists, despite Darwin, war, etc. My grandparents have shared stories of the Great Depression with me - people used to share what little bread and meat they had with their neighbors..."survival of the fittest" did not define the "Great Generation."

4. "A man can only rise, conquer, and achieve by lifting up his thoughts." I have an inkling that the author of the book "The Secret" has read James Allen before. This sentiment might feel a little Oprah, but actually, I will testify, it works. Keeping "intelligently positive" as I say, will serve as a method to waylay anxiety, keep your head clear and spirit up. For Recessionistas interested in purchasing a copy of this short yet powerful text, go to http://www.amazon.com/. For Recessionistas even savvier with the dinero, it is also available for free online.