Monday, March 30, 2009

Stress and the City

I am not sure if it is the changing of the seasons, the AIG bonus controversy, or the inaccessible cure to spring fever, but everyone in my life seems to have been exceedingly stressed out the last few weeks. It is also true that Joseph Stalin has been yelling extra loudly in my mind these last few weeks, probably because I keep trying to silence him with these healthy stress-relieving activities:

1. Yoga. I once dated a man who asked of my devotion to yoga, "Isn't it just stretching and stuff." Needless to say, it was my devotion to him that eventually dwindled. Whether you try Vinyasa, Kundalini, Bikram (otherwise known as "the HOT yoga" - the room is kept at 104 degrees), or others, this practice makes you, well, calm. As a Type A, caffeine-addict whose mind races every minute, holding poses and doing a bunch of breathing seemed too slow, too boring, too Shirley McClaine. I was wrong. The best part? Joseph Stalin is banned at every yoga studio.

2. Clubs. Getting involved in extra-curricular activities can be a great way to relieve stress. Whether your interest is an outdoor kickball league or you prefer to show off your inner literary theorist at a book club, activities beyond the 9 to 5 grind can greatly reduce your stress. In fact, new moms in the New York area should take advantage of opportunities to focus on themselves with MeTime events, an organization devoted to providing activities to new moms that are NOT baby related - great stress relief. Click on the link for information on the upcoming Mixology for Moms event in April!

3. Find Perspective. In a past life, I found myself having to work at a hospital on the Pediatric burn unit. I remember seeing a boy, about 5 years old, with half of his face burned off, and as I walked by his room, he smiled and waved at me. It is human nature to fall into our own minds and focus on our discomforts, our pains, but often times, hearing the plights of others can serve as a reminder that others suffer around us and it behooves us to recall the good things we have and how much we should be grateful for. For a quick reality check, I recommend going to Post Secret, a website that publishes postcards sent in from anonymous individuals confessing secrets that haunt them.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: In the case that you are a Recessionista that has yet to feel fed up from the doom and gloom of the media and still enjoys reading the news, allows you to access newspapers from all over the world for FREE! Maybe the Swiss have a better outlook on the economy...worth checking out!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dust Off Your Library Card and Check These Out

Read This: Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

The presumably fiction-brushed memoir of sorts brings all the boozy brassiness of the talk show host to paper. From the self-deprecation to snarky date commentary, this book is laden with the sarcastic, less-than-politically correct comedy that Sarah Silverman and Amy Sedaris (and brother David) have brought mainstream.

Watch This: The Secretary starring James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal

What happens when a Sadist meets a Masochist in a small legal office? Well, the birth of a highly acclaimed Independent film occurs, of course. In this smart, smoldering yet comical film, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays submissive secretary to dominant attorney James Spader. Laced with innuendo, double entendre, and subtle acting that contributes to sexy humor between the two actors. Warning: this might be a bit much for a first date, and definitely not the film you want to watch with your parents on Easter.

Listen to This: Greatest Hits by Bruce Springsteen

Who doesn't love the Boss? This compilation includes Born in the USA, Dancing in the Dark (hello, Courtney Cox!), and The River, the personal favorite song of an ex-boyfriend of mine from college who first introduced me to Mr. Springsteen (I was a late bloomer, okay?!) As weather gets warmer, I find Springsteen's music the perfect soundtrack to driving on cool spring nights or as background tunes for your first barbecue of the season.

Friday, March 27, 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 Opportunity to Show Off Your Nerdiness. NYC Recessionistas can enjoy cheap entertainment in the way of trivia and impress a date with The Big Quiz Thing, held at Crash Mansion, 199 Bowery at Spring Street. Bonus: $250 cash prize to the winner.

2. Free Love. For Recessionistas on the prowl but without the financial means to pay the monthly or eHarmony rates, offers a way to connect absolutely free. Still no guarantee the photos are recent though, folks.

3. Free March Madness. Whether you cut cable to save some dough or sold your television on Craigslist for the extra cash, you still can catch every minute of the basketball series online, including a free subscription to the feeds for up to the minute scores.

4. Free, uh, Stuff. One of the coolest sites I have seen recently, lets you claim items others have discarded (furniture, technology, and more) or services (such as a Free Haircut at Bumble and Bumble). Happy shopping!

5. Free Opportunity to Shake It on Sunday Night: Recessionistas in Chicago looking to liven up the drudge of Sunday nights should check out Rodan, where Slava performs live.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top 5 Reasons to Fall in Love During a Recession

Recently, a male friend of mine (who, by the way, is much cuter than Chuck Woolery, host of Love Connection, above) discussed the difficulties of dating in the current economy. As he, along with many others I know, continues to search for a job, the cost of dating - the dinners, drinks, shows, etc - seems like a fiscal "don't." Additionally, there is the pride factor - many individuals are reluctant to seek partners with a less than stellar financial situation. However, I disagree. Here are the Top Five Reasons to Fall in Love during a Recession:

1. No One Cares That You're Broke. Many people worry about being chased/valued only for their wealth. Well, that is not the case in this economy, where broke is the new pink. Enjoy being appraised by prospects for your looks instead!

2. You Have A Great Excuse to Stay In. Though not recommended for the first date, it is much more acceptable to invite someone to come over earlier in the dating process. Pick out a movie and show off your cooking skills, and maybe you will even get some necking in after your parents fall asleep.

3. Drinking Is Much More Acceptable During a Recession. Not good on first dates? Feel nervous thinking about the first kiss? Well, drink up! With stress plaguing the masses, everyone is a bit more understanding if you have one martini too many. Repeat after me: "The Recession made me do it."

4. Lavish Is Out: Forget dinners at Daniel and drinks at the Rose Bar. Instead, this economy is the perfect environment to explore more, ahem, rustic establishments and dive bars. If you are the type of lady who hates heels or gentleman that hates ties, this is your season! Dressing down or going to more casual establishments can really allow for more relaxed conversations and honesty without pretensions.

5. You Are Not In the Foxhole Alone. Everyone is feeling the pains of economic woes. A shared feeling of being sort of "in battle" together through this difficult time can do wonders in fostering and growing a relationship. Plus, it is a great common ground for conversation if you are on a first date with someone (sure beats "That is some weather we've been having...")

In my Weekly Freebies and Cheapies blog entries, I list out free/cheap dating opportunities on a weekly basis. Rest assured, your author is taking full advantage of these tips. The economy is a great time to find love. Nasdaq might be down, but your stock is up, Recessionista!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Living La Vida Broke-ah

If the creators of South Park can come up with hundred of ways to "Kill Kenny," one can imagine that there must be many other sites that offer valuable deals, discounts, and overall tips to fabulous living on a budget. Recessionista Roadmap wants to arm all of the masses with these, and we will continue to spotlight blogs and websites that can contribute to a positive outlook on life during dark economic times. Here are a few of note:

Popsugar: This website offers fabulous up to the minute tips on beauty and lifestyle, entertaining, technology, and, for the uber-indulgent Recessionista, a plethora of celebrity gossip. With special offers and fantastic tips, this is one to check out when you need a break from perusing

Wisebread: Who wants stale, dried-up financial advice, when a deliciously-written, starchy alternative is a hop, skip, and click away? Wisebread offers daily savings tips that, while entertaining you, can help increase the, er, dough in your pocket.

4 Reluctant Entertainers: I've met Martha Stewart and can honestly say there is only ONE of her in the world. Time to get realistic. However, the reality is Recessionistas can throw fabulous parties, be tremendously creative, and accomplish all of this on a budget. This website is loaded with excellent examples and lessons learned. It's a good thing.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: So, you can't quite kick your Starbucks habit - no judgement, Recessionista! However, instead of falling prey to the green and white cupped monster, try a quick stop by Dunkin Donuts instead. A Venti latte at Starbucks will run you $3.65, where the DD equivalent is $3.29. This minor switch saves you $131 annually. If/when you give up your daily DD habit, you save, brace yourself, $1200, yes, twelve hundred dollars. That overburnt office cup of joe never tasted so good, right?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dust Off Your Library Card and Check These Out

Read This: The Warrior Woman: Memoir of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston
Through the literary form of the memoir, Maxine Hong Kingston takes the stuffy genre and reinvigorates it with swirl of the otherworldly, legends, and the female spirit. Kingston tells the story of her childhood, adolescence and adulthood through Chinese cultural idiosyncrasies, gender differences, and anecdotes from the generations of her family. The Warrior Woman promotes so much more than the common "coming of age" story we all share. Through this memoir, Kingston takes us only the tumultuous path of East meets West, Male meets Female, and Youth meets Old Age...and you thought puberty was rough!

Watch This: My House in Umbria starring Maggie Smith, Chris Cooper
A crazy old woman, a bitter middle-aged man, endless glasses of Grapa, and the Italian countryside - no, I am talking about an Italian Soap Opera. My House in Umbria is a story about strangers inadvertently brought together following tragedy, and, rather than a blatant feel-good, chic flick sort of film, this movie captures true pain in life, actual range in emotion, and ultimately, the possibility of finding solace from deep pain in very unexpected places. Keep a box of Kleenex handy.

Listen to This: Dino: The Essential Dean Martin by Dean Martin
Not going to lie, sometimes I pretend Dean Martin is my Romeo, singing all those classic crooner tunes directly for my enjoyment (no judgment, please!) For those Recessionistas not as familiar with the Rat Pack and music of that era, this album seems the quintessential starting point to discover a time of music when men were men, and women were dames (or, less affectionately, broads.) My favorite track is Sway, but with 30 tracks, it will not be difficult for you to find your own song to fall in love with. Don't worry, I won't mind if you claim Dean as your boyfriend too!

Recessionista Tip of the Day: The Golden Rule - I know you remember it! This weekend, I was once again reminded that being kind to others and treating them the way you wish they would treat you not only is a life mantra to follow, but also imperative to the Recessionista budget. By being generous in tipping, kindness, and time, you will find your initial investment multiplies easily, especially during difficult economic times. Case and point: at a Recessionista-friendly bar this weekend, my initial tips on the first couple rounds of cocktails (a nominal amount, but greater than 20%) was noted by the bartenders of the establishment. Not only did they give me a free drink, but took my order over swarm of new bar patrons. Kindness (literally) pays off, so don't forget the Golden Rule!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Recessionista Week In Review

You've had a busy week, Recessionista! Since we don't think that a demanding schedule should rob you of a single Recessionista tip, here is a weekly blog recap to make sure you don't miss out:

1. Cooking at home is not just for June Cleaver and Betty Crocker. Learn how to cook a tasty meal for your friends on a budget - cocktails included!

2. I've been known to sign off a relationship with my spin on the Nietzsche line, "Romance is dead, and you have killed it." In an effort to provide a little romantic direction without extravagant expenditures, check out how to write a romantic or loving letter to express yourself on the cheap.

3. Sure, you know that St. Patrick's Day provides you with an excuse to drink mid-week, but I'll bet you know very little about the man and the holiday. We remedy that with enough information to impress your friends through bar time.

4. Movie night in does not have to be the same old bag of Orville Redenbacher popcorn and Anchorman DVD (no judgment). Recessionista Roadmap shows you how to recreate your own art cinema at home on a budget. Just don't be surprised if your friends try to buy admission tickets!

5.Who doesn't love a deal? This week's freebies and cheapies include free breakfast at Ikea and simulated samples sales at Always worth a perusal!

Recessionista Tip of the Day: With spring break season in full effect, I wanted to include a note about rental cars. Prior to your trip, shop online for the best rate and book a reservation (most places do not even require a credit card to do this.) Next, call your car insurance company to determine exactly what coverage you have (I usually play the "worst case scenario game" - "so, if I total my rental car and someone else's vehicle, am I covered?") Depending on your coverage, you may be able to decline the insurance offered by the rental car dealer - a HUGE savings! (PS -Do NOT even think about taking the gas option they offer you.)

Friday, March 20, 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 Apparel: Most fashion-savvy Recessionista's are well familiar with the concept of Designer sample sales. (Designers heavily discount samples of the newest lines to what is usually an invite-only crowd - I once scored a Versace evening dress for, no kidding, $49.) Hautelook, a website mimicking a NYC Sample sale, gives access to a range of designer sales, allows you to mark your calendar for upcoming sales and will even credit you ten bucks for referring a friend. Now that is haute!

2. Free Italian Ice: For D.C. Recessionistas, our friends at Rita's Water Ice are giving away free Italian ices in honor of the first day of spring. What a sweet way to kick off the season! Open until 9 p.m. on March 20.

3. Free Friends: Perhaps, that is an overstatement, but can actually facilitate the bringing together of like-minded individuals. Whether you are interested in enjoying the company of fellow Pug dog lovers or are looking to bond with other out -of -work investment bankers, Meetup will do the work for you.

4. Free Breakfast: Oddly enough, at the Ikea store nearest to you. For the next two days, March 21-22, Ikea stores will be serving free breakfast to customers. Burn off the extra bacon walking about the low-price furniture and home goods vendor and take advantage of Recessionista-friendly prices!

5. Free Inspiration: "There is only one optimist. He has been here since man has been on this earth, and that is man himself. If we hadn't had such a magnificent optimism to carry us through all these things, we wouldn't be here. We have survived it on our optimism. " - Edward Steichen, photographer and mate to artist Georgia O'Keefe

To find inspiration daily, sign up to have a quote sent to you every day. Bonus: it will definitely increase your pretentiousness!

Recessionista Tip of the Day: The Phone can be your best friend and worst enemy. With all that technology offers, avoid getting caught up in the razzle dazzle iPhone/Storm/whatever, and look at your statements for the last few months - are you acquiring overages? under-utilizing technology (international calling, etc.) that you can cut? Spend an hour this weekend identifying exactly what you need and what you can absolutely live without. Then, make the call! Cell phone providers will always answer!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Spotlight: Movie Night

These days, the price of a pair of movies tickets feels more expensive than the two speeding tickets I received this summer! Spare yourself the unnecessary outing (and the 1200 calorie tub of popcorn) and reinterpret the theater experience at home, with the fabulous Recessionista twist. Bonus: You can leave those annoying teenagers who usually sit behind you and throw popcorn off the guest list.

Budget: $40 (for 6 people)

Movie Selection: Be aware of your guests' preferences (not everyone loved Titanic, Recessionista!) To avoid the mid-movie chatter, try to select something that everyone has not seen before or in a very long time. I recommend checking out classic or independent films from the library and creating a theme around them. For instance, plan "A Night with Humphrey Bogart" and show Casablanca and Sabrina.

Menu: Keep it simple yet elegant with an alternative to the standard popcorn and jujubees. Pair a few delicious yet inexpensive wines with a French picnic style spread, and your guests will feel that you provided a lavish cinematic paradise rather than a ho-hum evening in. Plate the cheeses, slice the baguettes, uncork the wine, and voila! Une soirée parfaite!

Shopping List (NYC prices = most expensive):

1 bottle Alamo Malbec (Argentina): $9

1 Bottle Jacob's Creek South Australian Chardonnay (Australia):$6

1 Package strawberries: $5

1 Container of Nutella Hazelnut spread: $6

2 Baguettes: $4

1/2 lb Brie or Soft Cheese: $5

1/2 lb Gouda or Hard cheese: $5
Total: $40

Lesson learned: An affordable night in can be a memorable, fabulous experience with a little thought and effort put in prior to the evening to provide a sense of occasion.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: You wouldn't get married to a person for convenience alone, so that should not be the sole reason for selecting a bank either. Many banks charge ridiculous ATM fees and monthly surcharges, and, frankly, these are just not your type, Recessionista! Do your homework and do not settle! Especially in today's economy, these banks should court you! You're worth it, after all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lucky Charms

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, with bar and restaurant specials posted and obvious to all, I have decided to arm my green beer-swilling, corned beef and hash munching friends with random bits of trivia about this holiday, Ireland, and good-luck charms to impress your friends on the town this evening. Extra points if you dress up like a Leprechaun.

1. Origin of St. Patrick's Day: This holiday is a celebration of the anniversary of the death of the saint in the fifth century. Though there are many fables about the saint (e.g. he drove all the snakes out of Ireland), the truth is Patrick was a man who was taken into captivity in Ireland who turned to religion for solace. He is said to have many visions from God that led him to eventually become a missionary. Whether you believe this or not, raise your glass to St. Patrick - he gave you a reason to break out those beads after Mardi Gras! (PS - St. Patrick was not even Irish - his father was Italian and his mother was Scottish! Oh, the scandal!)

2. Shamrock: This plant is very special to Ireland; it derives from the Celtic "seamroy" and is said to represent rebirth. It is said the shamrock was special to St. Patrick, who used it explain the idea of the Holy Trinity on his missions. It is also said to be very special to McDonald's, who makes a small fortune on a seasonal ice cream drink named after the plant.

3. Corned Beef and Cabbage: Sorry to say, folks, but much like the Shamrock, CB and C existed as a popular Irish tradition outside of St. Patrick's Day until relatively recently. Personally, my aversion to meat and the smell of this dish make me slightly biased, but I have many Recessionista friends who adore this meal. Just don't enjoy it along side a Shamrock shake - that is a bit much!

4. The Leprechaun: These little men were born of Celtic legends, always illustrating curmudgeon-like, almost sinister qualities. Then, Walt Disney came along in the late fifties with "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" and gave them a personality makeover. Fear not, those of you who insist on a world less than "Disney-fied" - in 1993, a horror movie by the same name and about these wiley little men came out. Bonus: It starred Jennifer Aniston.

Share this trivia pot of gold with friends over a wee little pint tonight on the town.

To all Recessionista lads and lasses, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Once your hangover wears off tomorrow, your mind may drift to (dah dah duhhh) your TAXES! As we come upon a little less than one month away from the due date, I will post some clever deductions and tips/tricks for my Recessionistas. In the meantime, take a look at this excerpt on 11 crazy but legal deductions from Kiplingers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Love Don't Cost a Thing

The greatest tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.

--W. Somerset Maugham

Dear Fellow Recessionistas,
Recently, I was in Bikram Yoga class, attempting a near back-snapping bend in Camel pose, when the instructor came up to me and wagged her finger. "You must remember to expose your heart! That is where everything starts." Although she meant it in the literal sense, this comment started me to think about the vulnerability brought on by difficult times in life -tragedies, loss, and, of course, difficult economic times. Confronting our own challenging "poses", the situations that put us in the midst of strong emotion and stress, it may feel counter-intuitive to "expose the heart," to open up to love -romantic, familial, or platonic. However, just as in the case of my struggling yoga pose, these are the times we are most in need to do so.

One of the most important aspects of opening yourself up to the love and support of others during difficult times is to let those you love know exactly how much they mean to you. Here a one old-fashioned but Recessionista-friendly way to let your lovers, friends, and families know how much you appreciate them, especially in the support they provide during difficult times:

Write a Love (Lovely, Loving) Letter

What if I told you for 10 minutes plus 42 cents, you could make someone you care about, romantic or otherwise, understand that they are a big deal to you - sounds like something you could manage, right? Here are some useful tips in writing a love letter (not a "love email," not a "love text", and certainly not a "love IM") :

  • Be honest and true to yourself and your feelings. No one expects you to be the next William Shakespeare, and sincerity is much more touching than grandiose metaphors.

  • Be specific. Tell your friend/lover/family member (may they not be one and the same!!) what precisely you appreciate about them. For instance, follow up the general "I'm grateful for your support," with a specific example "like the time my jerk of an ex kept texting me and you threw my Blackberry in the toilet."

  • Stretch outside of your normal emotional comfort zone. The yoga pose I mentioned above is one of the most uncomfortable poses in the practice; it is also one of the best for the body. So to, stretch your emotional comfort in the composition of your letter. Be brave and use the other four letter word you normally avoid - LOVE.

  • Simplicity is not a bad thing. An unexpected one-line love note, "You really do make me very happy" can really mean so much more than weekly "Ode to thee, ye of heavenly beauty..."

  • Do not, I repeat DO NOT, create a template and plug/chug names in. In the case of friends and family, this is slothful. In the case of lovers, this is creepy and pathological. Mass texts on New Year's Eve are bad enough, but if you are sending out the same "Hello there, Good-looking," love letter, well, ick.

  • Discover your signature sign-off. "Sincerely" is appropriate when you write the IRS to reconsider auditing you, but not when you are signing off a note of love and appreciation.

If you tend to be a Type A Recessionista (join the club!) and are interested in structural help for your letters, the web offers a number of resources. If you tend to lack inspiration or suffer from writers block, check out examples by English poet John Keats, author Victor Hugo, and even Winston Churchill.

Reminding the people in your life how much they matter to you gives them an opportunity to do the same, allowing for the type of support we all need right now. When times are tight, love is the most important element to help us through. Sign your letter, lick the stamp, and congratulate yourself on coming closer to exposing your heart!

With all of our love,

Recessionista Roadmap

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Coupons are not just for Soccer moms! To access a seemingly infinite supply of coupons for various stores, activities and more, check out Coupon Cabin. There you can take advantage of wide selection of savings in popular stores (Target,the Gap, etc.) but also compare prices, and even follow deals about to expire. Thanks to Recessionista Angie for this outstanding find!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tin Can Chef: Recessionista in the Kitchen

Cooking at home is a MUST during these difficult economic times, where lavish dinners out should be less than frequent (save the extra $$$ for that Recessionista spring break!) We are lucky to have our guest blogger, the Tin Can Chef, bring us a delicious intimate dinner party recipe that will run you, get this, a total of $42* for 4 ($32 without the sparkling bottle of Prosecco, but I do know my cooking improves with a little liquor).

*This represents the purchase of ingredients from NYC, an expensive city with the tiniest grocery store aisles in the county. Anywhere else in the US can be assumed to cost equal to or less than $42 for this meal, and the grocery store aisles can be assumed to be much more spacious.

Spinach En-cheap-ladas(serves about four)


  • Two bunches fresh spinach (Recessionista Tip: Buying unwashed spinach will save you a couple of bucks. However, spinach is grown in sandy soil, you have triple wash if you want to avoid the unpleasant sensation of chewing on grit)

  • 2 cups crimini (aka brown) mushrooms (Recessionista Tip: Crimini are usually cheaper than their more flavorful cousins, the baby bellas. Fear not, though, the difference in flavor will not be noticeable enchiladas, a dish with lots of other competing strong flavors)

  • 1 White Onion

  • 1 large tomato or 2-3 Roma tomatoes

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/2 lb Monterrey Jack Cheese

  • Sour cream

  • 1 can enchilada sauce

  • 1 package corn or flour tortillas

  • 1 can prepared jalapenos

  • 1 can black olives

  • 1-2 cans Refried Beans

  • 1 box Rice


A. Prep work

Pre-heat oven to 325. Dice or cube white onion. Dice 2 cloves of garlic .Wash and slice mushrooms (Recessionista Tip: There is no reason to remove the mushroom stems. These add flavor and make the mushrooms go further). Slice black black olives. Open can of Jalapenos and pour juice into cup. You will use this later!! Dice Jalapenos. Shred Monterrey Jack Cheese. Open can of enchilada sauce and pour into bowl big enough to allow you to dip a tortilla into the sauce Cube tomato(es) If you didn’t buy pre-washed bagged spinach, triple wash spinach.

B. Cooking the spinach mix.

In a large frying pan heat 1 tablespoon oil (preferably a light olive oil). Add diced garlic and onion. Cook over medium-high heat until onion begins to turn transparent. Add mushrooms and allow Mushrooms to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add spinach a few handfuls at time. As spinach cooks down, add more. Transfer into large bowl.

C. Rolling the enchiladas.

Pour a little sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish.Take the tortillas out of bag and warm a few in the microwave for a few seconds (you can also place them on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for a few minutes). The tortillas should be soft and pliable.Make sure your hands are clean because you are going to be working directly with the food. Dip a tortilla in the sauce both sides should be covered. Add spinach mixture and shredded cheese. Roll Tortilla and place in casserole. Remember to save some of the cheese for the top layer. Once all of the tortillas are in the pan, cover them evenly with the remaining enchilada sauce. Now add diced tomatoes and black olives. Sprinkle last of shredded cheese over top.Put enchilada in the oven to bake while you prepare beans and finish rice. The enchiladas will take 30-35 minutes.

D. Rice and Beans

Start the rice first. Most box rice mixtures take about take about 35 minutes to prepare, and follow the instructions on the box to prepare. Open can of refried beans and mash with fork. Pour jalapeno juice into beans a little at a time to add extra flavor. The beans take only 3-5 minutes to heat up in the microwave (be sure to cover them first!). When the enchiladas are done, put the beans in the microwave. This will give the enchiladas a few minutes to cool down and set. Serve enchiladas with dollop of fresh sour cream and rice and beans.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Lately, I have had numerous friends approach me about clever ways to make money. The catch? They already have full-time jobs! However, there are many opportunities out there that allow freelance opportunities outside your 9 to 5. The first step for Recessionistas is to identify skills that might exist outside their resumes. For instance, many dissertation candidates and reporters seek typists/transcriptions to type up notes, papers, etc. on a freelance basis. These positions pay $15-25 per/hour or $1/minute and can be completed in your downtime. I will continue to post such opportunities, so start your self-assessment and get ready to start making the moolah! In the meantime, check out .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dust Off Your Library Card and Check These Out

Irish-inspired in honor of St. Patrick's Day

Read This: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Reading anything by James Joyce is sort of like standing in the middle of a dance club with lights flashing about, techno music blaring, and people bumping in to you continuously - both overwhelming scenarios are best enjoyed with a strong cocktail in hand. In this text, which is far less daunting for most than the more glorified Ulysses, readers encounter the now famous "stream of consciousness" technique of storytelling pioneered by Joyce. Through what feels like haphazard memory recollections interrupted by other moments of consciousness, you will find the story of a young man transitioning between the life of a student and the life of the man. While the "coming of age" theme is nothing new, the style is so representative of Joyce that this is an absolute must-read. If drinking and driving through the mind's work of a genius is too much for you, I recommend reading it in your local cafe, where the snooty barristas will finally give you that nod of respect you've been hoping for.

Watch This: Deadwood Series starring Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant

I despise Westerns. There I said it. Thus, you can imagine my apprehension and resistance in experiencing even one episode of this 3 season HBO series. However, with Ian McShane's portrayal of Al Swearengen, a belligerent bar/whorehouse owner with a terrible temper but a corrupt Solomon-like wisedom, I was immediately hooked. Throw into the mix Timothy Olyphant, the holier-than-though sheriff who, oops, has an affair with a wealthy upper class woman, and a boozy Calamity Jane, portrayed by actress Robin Weigert, and you have created the type of Western that even the most girly-girl Recessionista will enjoy. I mean, this is the same channel that brought you Sex and the City and Entourage, after all.

Listen to This: The Best of Van Morrison by Van Morrison

Because it would have been way too easy to spotlight U2 here, I am recommending an artist less associated with but nonetheless originating from the lovely country of Ireland. Van Morrison's work is timeless and ageless. I have heard this music in dorm rooms, high end lounges, and at the homes of friends of all ages. This is music that makes you feel good, but that you never need be ashamed of owning (unlike, ahem, that Milli Vanilli CD you still hang on to). Turn off the news (I'll summarize what you will be missing - Dow Jones drops...blahblahblah...Economic stimulus...blahblah...the world is ending...blahblah.) and turn on this CD. I promise, you'll feel better immediately.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Because doing good always makes you feel better, we are featuring another opportunity to give. Recessionista Kim is participating in Relay For Life, a life-changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people to:

-Celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer. The strength of survivors inspires others to continue to fight.

-Remember loved ones lost to the disease. At Relay, people who have walked alongside people battling cancer can grieve and find healing.

-Fight Back. We Relay because we have been touched by cancer and desperately want to put an end to the disease.

During this amazing American Cancer Society event, community members and students camp out overnight, and at least one member of each team is walking for the twelve hours we are there! Though times are tough and money is tight, I strongly encourage you to support this event! At the very least, you can support the fact that Kim has to chaperone hundreds of teenagers…if the tent is rocking, she's gonna come knocking!

Friday, March 13, 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 Rent: Often times, leases expire in the spring/early summer. Before you resign for another year or while you are out shopping, it is important to note that real estate agents and landlords are bowing down to the renter's/buyer's market. You absolutely MUST talk to them about a reduced rent and/or free month's rent before committing to anything. As a real estate agent told me this week, "Everything is negotiable these days." Happy apartment-shopping!

2. Cheap Date: Nothing says "hot" like stumbling around the city with a "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" t-shirt on backwards. Well, bring that equally "hot" special someone to the World's Largest Pub Crawl, running in NYC this Saturday, March 14, 15, and, course, St. Patrick's day. Admission is $20 for a one day pass, but if you trust your beer goggles and think you might want to hang out with that special someone again, I recommend splurging on the 3 day pass for $30. Admission gets you entry to over 100 participating bars in the city, $1 Bud products, $3 well drinks, and for the Leprechaun lushes out there, $4 Jameson shots. Chicago Recessionista's can mimic this crawl without having to leave their bar stool - O'Donovan's offers a $20 brunch that includes 4 hrs. of unlimited cocktails, mimosas, "Fat Mary's," and more. Drink up!

3. Free Intelligence: Eventually, when you sober up, you may have to actually talk without slurring to your St. Patty's date. Instead dwelling on the recap of your holiday debauchery, I suggest subscribing to online podcasts of University lectures. Submitted from schools like UC Berkeley, Duke, and Cambridge, you'll impress your date so much with your extensive knowledge of the how black holes function in the universe that he/she may just want to hang out with you again...sober, next time.

4. Free Money Management: For those Recessionistas not familiar with Mint, get on board already. No, I am not referring to the breath-freshening delight! This site helps you to link up all of your accounts (credit cards, loans, rent, etc.), monitoring your spending (Mint is smart enough to figure out that the pair of Christian Louboutin shoes you bought last month blew a third of your monthly budget), and helping you improve your awareness of your spending habits. It will even sent you notifications via email when you have a bill due. Now, that is refreshing!

5. Free Pot O' Gold: Actually, who wants a cast iron, impossible to carry pot of coins, when you could have a free iPhone? Interested in receiving cool technologies and gadgets for free? Check out Gift Monkey, a website that will lead you to the end of the rainbow. You sign-up, refer a few friends (SPAM - what better way to get back at that annoying ex!), and they send you the free items from the offer. You'll be so thrilled, you will likely shout out uncontrollably, "They're Always After Me Lucky Charms" in a terrible Irish impersonation. We forgive you.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Napoleon once said, "In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it." Whether you think you deserve or need it, do not use the Recession as an excuse to rob yourself of your favorite vino. Robin, our Recessionista out of Atlanta advises, "wine distributors will sell off high quality wines at low prices at the end of the month to meet their numbers. If you can find a store that passes on the savings (meaning, no markups beyond normal profit) it's worth checking out discount bins around the end/beginning of the month and asking the owner about good deals." A Toast to Robin!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Date with the Recessionista Computer Guy

Contributed by our very own "Nick Burns" - Charlie Boy

Assorted Software Stuff, Hardware, And Technology... (Project A.S.S.H.A.T.)

Tough economic times right now. So don't spend too much money on big technology purchases. (instead, be like me, and spend too much money on lots of small technology purchases). Here are my thoughts on good places to start...with lots of free stuff thrown in as well.

New Computer: Before you rush out and spend $2000 on a computer because they have a catchy song in the commercial, think about why you need a computer. If you're like me, you probably use it primarily for web surfing, email, etc. If you're not an online gamer or Photoshop junkie, consider a netbook (and see "" below for your Photoshop jones). I just bought an Acer Aspire One for $249. Yep, 250 bones for a totally functional (and cool) computer.

  • 1GB RAM

  • Intel Atom 1.6 GHz Processor

  • 16GB of Solid State Memory. I doubled this for 28 bucks with an SD card... super silent with no spinning hard drive or whirring fans.

  • Windows XP Home (full version). WiFi, Webcam, 3 USB ports, 2 SD/Memory Stick ports

  • 8.9" screen - tiny!

  • Surprisingly usable little keyboard. (warning, try some out at Best Buy...some of these little netbooks have awful keyboards)

  • Lots of people run Linux on these Netbooks, and I may try to install it at some point.

  • The perfect email, web browsing, & Skype machine at a great price.

Also, i searched online and found a $10 coupon for If you're buying stuff online and there's a spot for a promotion code at checkout, take the time to search for a coupon.

SO, once you have your new machine...or if you want to trick out another laptop or, (gasp), desktop, try these great, free, recessionista-friendly software tools:

Rocketdock: if you have Mac Envy like I do, but don't want to buy a f#@ing Mac... This is the tool for you. Definitely the coolest piece of software I own... and it's free. Check out the video after clicking the link.

OpenOffice: Let's say your 60-day free trial of MS Office expired...or you're just all about the open-source movement... or you're just sick of Microsoft. You should try OpenOffice. It's basically a free (and legitimate) impersonation of the Office Suite. As for the quality of the impersonation... I'd say it's worse than Dana Carvey doing Johnny Carson, but way better than me doing Carvey doing Carson. "That is some wacky, wild stuff. I did not know that." See? That sucked.

Make sure to download Word ("Writer"), Excel ("Calc"), PowerPoint ("Impress"), and others if so inclined. All the documents are completely compatible with the original Office software, so you can work back and forth between them with little or no issue. It's rad. And free.

Google Chrome: Have you tried this yet? It's a very different approach to the web browser, and it is reportedly faster than IE, Firefox, and the other browsers out there. And it's, you know -- free. This is a web-based photo editing tool that's really easy to use... and free. You'll be surprised with just how much you can do with this. And you don't even need to register or anything. Just go to the site, upload your photos, and create a mash-up of The Recessionista making out with the dude from Law and Order.

Then sell it to her!(A.S.S.H.A.T. BONUS) Props to my wife for turning me onto this site. Free streaming radio that lets you create your own stations in a really cool way. Pick one or two of your favorite artists, then let Pandora suggest music for you all the live-long day. You'll be surprised at how smart the suggestion engine is -- I play Ben Harper and Pandora suggests Fugazi? weird... but cool. OK, I made that one up, but you get the point. Amazing photography submitted by people all over the world and available for very cheap. Use it for your website or blog... or buy higher-resolution images, print them out at Kinkos, and throw them in Target frames. Without doing any pesky math, I'd say you could get yourselves some awesome framed artwork for 20 bucks or so.

A.S.S.H.A.T. BONUS: you can upload and sell your Picnik'd pics of the Recessionista in compromising positions with celebrity Silver Foxes. (free)

Bit Torrent: Don't use this. It's a totally illegal way to get really awesome free music and movies. Don't use it. It's bad. And free. Check it out. No, don't.

Has anyone noticed what has happened to the price of Flash Memory lately? You can get a ridiculous amount of storage for very cheap now. Check this out... 16GB thumb drive for 29 bucks. I feel like this was how much you'd pay for a 1GB drive like a year ago!?

On a related note, i just recently bought a 16g SD card for $27.50

Enjoy... and post comments with any other recessionista-friendly deals you've found on the interwebs lately.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Negotiate! This is a common theme here at Recessionista Roadmap, but worth reiterating. I know of one Recessionista who just had both of her dogs groomed for the ten dollars more price of one, because she told her groomer she could not afford both. Whether you are at the store, the salon, or at the gym, make sure to ASK, to BARGAIN, and to NEGOTIATE.* Businesses want your business badly, so utilize your power and get yourself some deals.

*Might not be the best idea with policemen though, especially if you are pulled over for speeding for the 19th time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Recessionista on the Road: Travel Tips and Tricks

Spotlight: Honolulu, Hawaii

Aloha mai e! In Hawaii, the locals say this to one another to "invite Aloha to you." For anyone who has ever been intrigued by the warm, welcoming attitude of the locals and island natives, or for those who lust for flower-scented air, juicy and exotic fruit, and ocean waves seeming to rival the skyscrapers of New York in height, the time to journey to the Pacific is right now. Airfare is, brace yourself, around $400 from NYC. (For perspective to those infrequent travelers, my airfare to Dallas two weeks ago was $489 from La Guardia.) If encouraging travel feels uncharacteristic of this site, let it be known that we here at Recessionista Roadmap encourage a balance of savings and savvy indulgence. Part of that process is, eating while the pineapple is ripe, so to say.

1. Be a Tourist: As a frequent traveler, I normally advise individually to do as locals do. Fortunately, in the context of Hawaii, what the locals "do" has become a point of fascination for tourists. Luaus (a must, in spite of any cheesiness you might apprehend), flowered leis, and small tokens and gifts (similar to the Japanese concept of Omiyage)

2. Hike...Everywhere: And bus it, and bike. Not only will you enjoy the luxurious climate and once-in-a-lifetime views, you will save the cost (and carbon monoxide) of a car rental. Plus, trust me when I tell you there is no experience in the world like hiking a mountain in Hawaii - it seems you tour the place where clouds are made. Bonus: If you lack an internal compass, the local Sierra Club will provide a guided hiking tour for $2-4 dollars.

3. (Try to) Surf on the Northshore: Surfing is exhilarating. Surfing is a tremendous workout. Surfing is really, really challenging. Glean the bragging rights you deserve for learning to surf in one of the most famous surfing venues in the world - lesson are more reasonable than you expect. Oahu's Northshore is even the location of the Pipeline surf competition.

4. Volcanoes: If you prefer to stay on Oahu, Diamondhead is an excellent hiking option. I would not be fairly representing Hawaii if I did not suggest day jaunts to Maui or the big island. Warning: they can get very expensive (the helicopter tour runs almost the cost of airfare these days). Prioritize and bargain shop your tours, but don't feed the lava.

5. Dole Plantation: Trust me. The Dole Pineapple ice cream ALONE is worth the trip. They have deals on ticket, tours, and items purchased on location. You can ride around the plantation on a train, enjoy a garden tour, and, did I mention the pineapple ice cream? This is an Oahu must.
Recessionista Tip of the Day: Time to come out of the closet - literally! Grab your wallet and head to Old Navy, the Gap or Banana Republic with this coupon in tow. Not only with you save 30 % on purchases, but 5% of purchases goes to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Foundation. Cancer will touch all of us in our life, so do a little Recessionista shopping to help contribute!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Recessionista on the Web

To start your week properly, I feel it is my duty to bring to you, my fellow Recessionistas, brand new websites to explore during your non-existent downtime this week. Instead of leaving the office, paying $5 for the Frappucciono at the Starbucks down the street, try this quick, delicious make-it-yourself coffee drink and spend 5 minutes of coffee break time checking these out:

"The Poor Man's Mocha Latte"

  • 3/4 cup brewed coffee (make sure the derelict from the mail room didn't brew the last pot)
  • 1/2 packet Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa
  • 2-3 Tablespoon of Fat Free Cool Whip 1/4 cup Milk, Cream or Half and Half
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon 1 Tablespoon Sugar

Mix coffee with Sugar, Cinnamon, Cream, and Hot Cocoa. Top off with the Fat-free Cool Whip and a dusting of cinnamon and sugar, and congratulate yourself - you just saved $5!

Then, check out these sites:

1. : This website is exclusively designed to bring local restaurant deals to you. You enter the site, type in your zip code, and it will display specials occurring in your area (example: Baci Restaurant, in the Washington D.C. area, will sell you a $25 gift card for the cost of $10 to use on dinner. Amazing!)

2. : Nothing solves the mid-day work blues like a little laughter. This faux news website, originally a faux news newspaper born out of Madison, WI, offer laugh out loud satire in the guise of news.

3. : We have all succumbed to the glossy ads and recommendations coming from our favorite magazines, or found ourselves entranced with a clever or enticing commercial on television. No more - we deserve better than to find ourselves as a passive media consumer/drone. This website features the unbiased opinions of the proletariat, the average Joe, and those who have not been featured on reality television.

4. : This site is a must for world traveling Recesssionistas who are seeking the social scene in an unfamiliar area of the planet. Though the site is not updated as frequently as one might like (this Recessionista is living in the most efficient city on the planet, after all), the places and recommendations have not yet let me down when traveling abroad. If nothing else, it is a great incentive to track down that Russian pen pal you had in high school.

5. : When did the English language become so pedestrian that we have to invent new words to keep it lively (not to mention acronyms!) Instead of embracing the vocabulary wardrobe of a Clueless extra, check out this site to refresh your vocabulary and bring a little dignity back to the language of Shakespeare. More good news: you will find many alternatives to the non-existent word "irregardless."

Recessionista Tip of the Day: For Recessionistas interested in yoga but short on cash, you can indulge in the ancient practice guilt free with a fresh daily routine available to you online at . Bonus: No one has to see you fall out of Warrior 3 pose...again (and by "you", I mean me!)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Beating the Sunday Blahs

I have found that many Recessionistas have a difficult time with Sundays, evenings especially. The weekend is virtually over, and work stress steals your last moments of freedom. Stop checking your email, put down the work, and let the laundry wait until tomorrow. You deserve every last moment of your weekend. Here are a few ways to enjoy this evening on the cheap:

1. Phone a friend. Sunday evening is a very good time to call friends you meant to call during the week (don't feel bad - it happens to the best of us.) Plus, because your pal likely has the Sunday blahs too, he/she will be especially thankful for a chat.

2. Indulge Unashamed In Bad Television. Many Recessionistas live very busy lives that afford little time (or interest, for that matter) for television. Regardless of your vice (Law and Order, ESPN Sports Center, Real Housewives of New York), this is the night to enjoy guilt-free. Go ahead and turn on Lifetime Movie Network, no one is watching.

3. Get Hot. Create a little at-home spa time. Run a bubble bath or enjoy a steamy shower, and end your weekend with a quiet evening of relaxing and grooming. You can even get really creative and throw together your own "at home" spa products to enhance the experience. Here are a couple of recipes.

Vanilla Sugar Scrub
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup oil (almond is ideal, but vegetable or olive will work too)
1-2 Tablespoons of Vanilla Extract.

Combine the ingredients in a pretty bowl and lavish on your skin in the bath or shower. Rinse and smile - you just saved the $30 you would have spent at the Origins counter.

Creamy Rose Bath

1 Cup Rose Petals OR
1/2 Cup Rose Water (found in health food stores)
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

Add ingredients to a warm bath and drift away. You would pay $50-100 for a similar experience at the Spa.

4. Cook. Sunday evening is the perfect time to enjoy the quiet solace of the kitchen and prepare delicious entrees (on a budget, of course) for the week ahead. After all, the Sunday blahs might be bad, but the brown bag blahs are worse! (P.S. Look for our upcoming series of Recessionista Recipes!)

5. Get Nostalgic. Make yourself a mug of tea with milk and honey or pour yourself a glass of red wine, then sit down with that big old memory box collecting dust in your closet, and enjoy a proverbial walk down memory lane as you look through photos, cards, and love letters from the ex you un-friended on Facebook.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Whether shopping at the mall or the grocery store, the ease of the credit/debit card can create a false sense of infinite money supply and lead to unplanned and usually unnecessary purchases. Make a list of what you need and bring CASH (only enough to cover the cost of the items).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dust Off Your Library Card and Check These Out

Read This: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

This Pulitzer-prize winning collection of short stories links together the tales by threads of sadness and compassion. It is the first book for Lahiri, who is the author of the novel-cum-film The Namesake. Writers understand the pressure to produce a connection between character and reader, more difficult to achieve in a short story, but Lahiri seems to have what Italian's call "sprezzatura" - the ability to make the difficult appear effortless. You will fall quickly in love with each of her characters, feeling the gentle touch of Lahiri in each memorable story.

Watch This: Waiting for Guffman starring Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard

Part of the Spinal Tap series of satirical films that feature the same group of actors, this film follows a group of small town Blaine, Missouri residents as they pull together a musical in honor of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the city. Led by Corky St. Claire, a director who embodies theater flamboyance and emotion, this makeshift group of actors reenacts the history of town, including an alien encounter with the musical track "Nothin Ever Happens on Mars." The group practices and finally performs in anticipation of Mort Guffman's attendance, a producer from NYC. Guffman never appears, and any Recessionista familiar with the playwright Samuel Beckett sees the obvious parallels to the play "Waiting for Godot." Guest's genius (he also wrote the screenplay) is turning Beckett's themes of absurd of and in life into satire, rather than a more sardonic tale like Godot. If that doesn't convince you, I have two words that will - Parker Posey. No need to wait to borrow this - laughing is still free!

Listen to This: Best of Henri Salvador
For anyone who likes the music of the Rat Pack (and for those who do not, but enjoy impressing others with their worldly taste), Henri Salvador performs Big Band as only the French could - sultry with unapologetic originality. "Crooner" seems a misnomer for Salvador, who performed with a glimmer of mischief in his eye absent from more "blokey" contemporaries, like Sinatra. His voice seduces, but not by happenstance. He knows full well that you are falling for him. This is an album to listen to while contemplating the art of seduction. La Petite Fleur is a favorite.
Recessionista Tip of the Day: What if you could save a life by just opening your mouth? Easy enough, right? Next time you are at the doctor's office, ask about being entered into the National Bone Marrow donors database. Your doctor need only swab the inside of your cheek with a Q-tip, register you, and if you match someone in need, you will be contacted. Need a reason to donate? Check this out: Be someone's angel - it is free, after all.

Thursday, March 5, 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 Date: One of the easiest ways to make it through a first date without sweat stains under your arms is to kick off the night with a few libations. Unfortunately for New York City dwellers, this can mean a $30 -50 bill for the two drinks you both indulge in before dinner. Fortunately, there is Welcome to the Johnson's, a bar straight out of the 1970's, with decor and prices to match. PBR's, running a mere $1.75, are served in a can, the pool table seems transported from your uncle's basement, and somehow the television that your Grandma sold at the rummage sale two decades ago has made its way here. All of that, and you will find the bartenders (see Shye, above - photo by the lovely Angie Cope) to embody Lower East Side sexy. Just don't let your date catch you checking them out!

2. Cheap Smells: Not to be confused with smelling cheap, offers sample sized containers of exclusive fragrances for a mere $3 (Guys, I know, I know - you can practically buy 2 PBRs at Welcome to the Johnson's for that price, but trust me, the ladies love this type of thing.) If your taste in fragrance is a little more mainstream, stop by Sephora - they will make you a sample of your favorites for free.

3. Free Trivia: You are enjoying your PBR with your date (who, by the way, smells awesome because he/she picked up their free vile of fragrance at Sephora earlier) when the conversation starts to dwindle. We have all been there, but, thanks to, you don't have to suffer through an awkward turtle moment. For instance, think of how impressed your date will be when you explain the difference between Celsius and Kelvin, and watch he/she swoon when you tell them 9 Things they never knew about H. Ross Perot. Give Facebook a break and check it out.

4. Cheap Omiyage: The Japanese have this fabulous tradition of Omiyage, the art of gift giving. Even when they go on a first date, gentlemen are expected to bring a small gift as a sign of honor Take a cue, my friends - go to for inexpensive homemade gifts that you don't have time to make yourself. Surprise a date, charm a hostess, or make your boss's day, and it is still cheaper than a bottle of wine. Domo Arigato!

5. Free Shopping Spree: Before your fabulous date, you will clearly need to find a new outfit. Notice I said "find" instead of "buy." Recessionista Kristi from DC suggests grabbing your best friend or trusted fashionista and playing "Dress-up." This involves your best friend and newly appointed personal stylist looking through everything currently in your wardrobe, even items collecting dust (hello, lace bodysuit circa 1990), and creating new, fabulous looks for you by mixing and matching pieces you already own. This is guaranteed to break you out of your everyday black turtleneck rut.

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Student loans - these are the two words that kill any one's jello shot buzz. Wouldn't it be great if you could just make your day to day purchases and slowly but surely the loan would disappear. Your wish is my command, Recessionista! Check out, a site that contributes a percentage of your purchases back towards paying off your loans. Now, that's smart!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Saving a Soul: 24 hrs. in Kuala Lumpur (Part 2 of 2)

A 24 hr. Memoir -Featuring the writing of Guest Blogger/World Traveler/Recessionister Peter...

The notable part of my last day in KL began in an abandoned, walled-off lot I had seen from my room. It was large, about half a square block, but difficult to get into. It contained the ruins of a never-completed building’s foundation, pools of poisonous-looking water, and the brute, green, and magnificently varied growth that covers everything here not paved. I thought it would be good for a couple photographs. As I waited for my lenses to un-fog, two dogs-about-town decided with unerring canine sensibility that I didn’t belong where I happened to be, so I left on the quick.

I had thought about going to the National Art Gallery, but now decided that I would just explore the city on foot, get an impressionistic sense of how it works and is put together. So I started off in the most colorful direction. Here were covered outdoor restaurants where the food was made makeshift and sometimes eaten with hands. Much was made of rice and bean curd, supplemented with ingredients whose English names don’t feature on the handwritten menus. It was at such pseudo-establishments that I ate from time to time.
From here, I wandered through lower-middle class and poorer neighborhoods at a time of day when everything seemed to be about eating and meeting. In all, the people appear to be a happy, or at least not outwardly unhappy, people.
As I write this under the awning of a café drinking Argentinean wine topped with the spray from the daily thunderstorm, I’m reminded by the couple drinking next to me that I may never have been anywhere where there are more inter-racial couples. And the races are many: Malaysian, Chinese, European, Indian, African. I don’t want to draw any facile conclusions from this, but it is notable.

But I had walked all day. I walked, and I took pictures, and I thought of my surroundings. I happened to see my reflection in a shop window where dresses were being sold for the equivalent of US $1.50 and realized with a little embarrassment that I was soaked through with sweat. I decided to ride the monorail. There’s only one, so I knew it would take me back to places I was a little more familiar with. For I had no idea where I now was. Nor did it matter, but I was thinking a drink might reinvigorate me, and something surfaced which had been gnawing at the lower levels of my consciousness all day and the import of which now became acute. I don’t believe that regular drinking establishments as we know them – call them bars, taverns, pubs – I don’t believe these exist as such in KL. There are hotel lounges and clubs, and you can get drinks in nicer restaurants, but I was by now a little worried where my afternoon sustenance would come from. Much of my later wanderings were disappointing searches for cocktail hour, something I never found. But chance did land me in the café I mentioned earlier, and here I am now sitting in a deluge the likes of which are unknown in Wisconsin (where I live).

Damn, it’s raining hard. I lean over to the guy keeping me in wine at this bodega to ask how typical this is. It is, apparently, a big storm, and I’m finally ushered inside so they don’t have to keep the awning propped up over me any longer. Fair enough.
I’ve made no mention of the major shopping area immediately surrounding my hotel and directly across the street from my present situation. It doesn’t interest me at all, but it may interest others that it’s there. This is a world city and not impervious to Gucci, Prada, and other names no doubt important but unknown to me. What actually does draw my attention is that there are fashion ads everywhere, as there are everywhere else, but there is not one among this extremely varied population here who looks anything remotely like anyone in any of the ads. I have no grudge against fashion – how could I? – but the worldwide industrial demon that has taken possession of it, if it had a throat, that throat would require quick slitting, and I’d volunteer for the hit.

Let me now elaborate and summarize, for I’ve taken much of your time. KL is architecture most varied, people good and friendly and sleezy, food delicious and unclean, and I’ve not even mentioned the prominent beauty of the women. In short, it is a vibrant, partly modern, partly developing, city of the world. It is also located on the equator, so much daily activity centers around fluid loss and replenishment, though not so much replenishment as I would wish.
Finally and most importantly to me, but for the occasional times when I wish I were sharing this with someone else, I was able to inhabit a space outside myself; almost 24 hours I did this, and I am healthier for it. The soul is in remission.

The rain has lifted, and it’s time for me to fetch my bags and find the airport.
Recessionista/er Tip of the Day: If a tight cash flow inhibits soul-soothing from being performed abroad, Recessionistas/ers in NYC and Los Angeles should check out, a webstie that offers great deals on spa services, massages, waxes, etc. so you can find a moment of respite on a budget. (Thanks to Kat for today's great tip!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saving a Soul: 24 hrs. in Kuala Lumpur (Part 1 of 2)

A 24 hr. Memoir
-Featuring the writing of Guest Blogger/World Traveler/Honorary Recessionista Peter...

When I was a high school expatriate in the last years before Germany’s reunification, the matriarch of the family I lived with diagnosed me with an ominous condition. “Die Seele ist krank.” The soul is sick. She had no idea.

Twenty years later, the soul is still ailing, and the condition has metastasized to both more and less vital organs. But I am not lost, I am not dead, and I will beat this thing. Today I find my soul, not under the head-shaking gaze of a motherly physician, but in the lap of luxury’s exotic mistress. Two weeks ago, Malaysia was one of hundreds of places I might never visit. But it’s tonight, and I’ve just asked my butler at the Kuala Lumpur Ritz Carlton to wake me with a pot of coffee an hour before sunrise. He glances at my camera bag and asks with a huge smile, “for pictures?”

Yes. It’s half an hour to midnight, and I have twenty four hours to myself. Let’s call this rehabilitation.

The last half hour of February 24th I spend walking and soaked. Finally I was nearing the Petronas towers. I wanted to photograph these lit up, preferably from across the fountain and pool I knew were in front of them. I didn’t know just where that was, but I was probably within a mile now. I took a couple shots of the towers over the tops of other buildings, and then its lights went out. Shit. Things shut down at midnight here. Keep walking, though, I might as well.
A young man in a park tries a ruse. “Card stuck in the ATM machine,” could I give him 8 Ringgits? My instinct is quietly but firmly to refuse, but these are different circumstances. It’s the witching hour in an outdoor equatorial sauna underneath the Gothic imposition of the KLCC towers. So I venture, “I’ll give you 8 Ringgits if I can take your picture,” lifting my camera. He declines. Maybe I’m the fuzz, he might be thinking. I don’t know because he’s gone now, leaving me to change fogged lenses in a too dark park.
I circle slowly around the towers, the eye to the viewfinder seeking some eternal moment to capture, the other watchful for a place to get a drink. I resolve neither the one nor the other for a while. Then I hear some music and move in. No, it’s not music, it’s a dance club. But next door is an outside lounge. I haven’t been able to find out whether Malaysia produces its own beer, but I see a sign for Singapore’s typically Asian rice brew, and I make for the Tiger. This is a really crappy place, and they charge 17R a glass, but once I remember the conversion, it’s not so expensive, and it all seems marginally less crappy, even the lung-aggravating clove cigarette ambiance contributing to what might become an improbable nostalgia if provoked by a few more Tigers.

I borrow a pen from the hostess. It’s here that I’ve written the preceding. After a time, I move out.

In the equatorial dark, one’s compass is a poor navigational aid. I wandered far tonight, and in no certain direction. I passed and photographed and conversed with vendors of food and other fruits of the street. Street food is good for the constitution, and I vow that I will tomorrow eat nothing but species of its genus. The other may be less wholesome and try unqualified systems of immunity, and I leave it alone.

I am on back streets, and by this time there are medium sized animals testing the lesser shadows and I cannot know their dangers or designs. Welcome home says the Carlton Ritz, and plunder please the bar mini. And I so do. My god, did I make it back here? Sleep comes slowly and in small measure.

To be continued in tomorrow's entry...

Recessionista Tip of the Day: Unless you have the luxury to travel for work as my friend Peter, going to exotic, international locations might feel impossible. Even if you can afford the price of the airfare, the accommodations break the bank. Well, if you don't mind putting on your best Bohemian beret and roughing it a bit, you can stay almost anywhere in the world as a guest in a fellow Wanderluster's home! Check out Couchsurfers - a site devoted entirely to connecting Recessionistas across the globe. Freeloading is the new pink, after all.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Homage to March

"No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow."- Proverb from Guinea

By Day, 31 Reasons Why March Does Not Completely Suck...

1. March got dumped! In Ancient Rome, March was the first month of the year...until, the younger, sexier January came along...those fickle Romans!

2. National Reading Day. Pick up a book - it will make you (at least look) more interesting.(Forget Amazon and Borders! Go to the local library! If you have an expired library card - bring a piece of mail and drivers license/passport, and you will renew your passport to brilliance in no time!)

3. U2: New album No Line on the Horizon out today. Love him or hate him, Bono is back.

4. Tell the Truth! On this day in 1861, Honest Abe Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th president of the United States.

5. Spring Awakening: Good news! Duncan Sheik did not disappear with Y2K! The pop-rock band provided the music for the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, and they perform live at the Memorial Union in Madison, WI today for the Recessionista-friendly price of $10 today.

6. Stars are Aligning. Take a date (for free!) to the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles for a dreamy night of star gazing.

7. Peace Corps Day. Jump onto Facebook and drop your friend/brother/cousin in Thailand a note to let them know that you admire and appreciate what they are doing...and, no, sending them a Facebook "poke" is not enough.

8. Religious Services: Okay, so this happens to occur every weekend (and, in some religions, every day.) Take this Sunday as a opportunity to thank your God(s), or, if you are an atheist, your loved ones for all that you have in your life. If you are a misanthrope, I probably lost you at "hello."

9. Toast the Lovely Ladies in Your Life! March 9th is International Women's Day. Celebrate with homemade cosmos, Sex and the City reruns, and a group of fabulous ladies!

10. Talking Marionettes. Pinocchio, the Disney classic, comes out on DVD today in celebration of its 70th Anniversary.

11. Britney is Back. If you love a comeback story and are still bummed that Mickey Rourke lost the Oscar to Sean Penn, perhaps viewing Miss Spears in full lip-syncing glory will boost your spirits. Performance, at the Nassau Country Coliseum in New York, begins at 8 pm.

12. National Girl Scout Day. Bring on the Thin Mints.

13. Friday the 13th: For the second month in a row! Rent the film of the same name, curl up with a blanket, and let out a good blood-curdling scream - very cathartic.

14. That's Genius! Today is the anniversary of Albert Einstein's birthday. Read up on the brilliant man with the wacky hair. We will overlook the mustache.

15. Ogres. Half off of Shrek, the Musical on Broadway. If you loved the movie, you will undoubtedly fall for the real-life remake of the animated take on a fairytale that was never written.

16. An Excuse to Booze on a Worknight: What if someone told you that you could have as many drinks as you wish and only pay $20? No, I'm not talking about a frat party at the Sig Ep house. Bondi Road, at the corner of Rivington and Sussex on the Lower East Side of the city, offers all-you-can-drink in 2 hrs. to patrons who just can't bear Mondays...or unemployment.

17. St. Patrick's Day. As if drinking green beer is not something you do everyday anyway.

18. South by Southwest: For those unfamiliar with the festival, music fans flood the streets of Austin, TX to check out bands on the rise. Bring back a few new artists and you will finally prove to your friends that you are "indie," in spite of the Kate Spade bag you tote around.

19. Mingling with Other Yuppies. Madison Magnet, the young professionals networking group based out of Madison, WI will be hosted its monthly happy hour today. Bring business cards, leave the politics at home.

20. First day of Spring. If there is still snow on the ground, just remember...this too shall pass.

21. Hot Vampires. Twilight, the teen movie phenomenon, is out on DVD today.

22. Dance like There is No Tomorrow: D.C. Recessionistas, take note! Check out the Dance Expo and try as many classes as you like for the recession-friendly price of $20.

23. The Feast Day of Saint Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès: Potentially the Saint with the longest name, the Roman Catholic church celebrates St. Rafqa on this day...and you think people get your name wrong a lot!

24. Labour Day: The holiday we celebrate in September is recognized on this day in Melbourne, Australia. Fake your best Aussie accent when you try to convince your boss you deserve the day off too.

25. For the Men Who have No Game: For D.C. men struggling on how to woo the ladies, fear not. At 7 pm, attend a seminar that will give you the necessary social savvy required to meet and attract the hottest Recessionistas.

26. Festival of Wines. Recessionistas in Boston are cordially invited to attend Wine Tasting and Dinner at Vinalia. Warm Italian food, along with a plethora of wines - what better way to spend a rainy Thursday night?

27. National Skyscraper Day: Kurt Vonnegut once fondly referred to New York City as "Skyscraper National Park." Drive, bus, train to your nearest city and look up at these amazing architectural wonders.

28. Urban Scavenger Hunt: What could be a better way to meet fellow young professionals in NYC than roaming around the city searching for random items and locations?! Event starts at 12:30, so bring your metro card and your flask.

29. Shamrock Shuffle. The name of the race actually might inspire you to participate!! Chicago Recessionistas should cross their fingers for good weather for this 8K run.

30. Break Out the Absinthe! March 30th is the anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh's birthday. Given that the "Van Gogh: Colours of the Night" exhibit is currently showing at the artist's museum in Amsterdam, this might be a great "spring break" destination for Recessionistas on a budget.

31. End March in Appreciation: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”- Marcus Aurelius