College Couples on Valentine’s Day: Know When to Splurge and When to Cut Back

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If you’re a couple in college, Valentine’s Day can be tricky. You want to make it a special day with your loved one, but budget restrictions may prevent you from splurging. You need to carefully think about what is worth the extra money and what to cut back on. Don’t worry, though, you can celebrate on a budget. Here are some ideas to help you and your honey plan your special day:

1. Jewelry vs. a Trip Together

For the man who is contemplating splurging on jewelry, consider an alternative to a present that only she can enjoy. Instead, use that money on an experience, like a road trip or a quick getaway to bed and breakfast. The experience of vacationing together can strengthen your relationship in ways you don’t expect. Check Expedia for travel and hotel deals and apps like Groupon for activities and restaurants. This way you might even pay less for a trip together than on a single piece of jewelry.

2. Dinner and a Movie vs. Cooking in and Renting a Movie

Because going out for a dinner and a movie on Valentine’s Day is so popular, you might sacrifice on the quality of food, run into long wait times or spend a lot of money at restaurants. The alternative is to save money and cook a meal together. You can collaborate on the menu, shop together for the ingredients and open a bottle of wine while you cook. Guys also can bring a bouquet of flowers from FTD as an unexpected surprise for their girlfriends. There is no replacement for enjoying quality time together.

3. A Box of Candy vs. a Gift Card

According to Visual Economics, over 50 percent of people buy candy on Valentine’s Day. At $20 per box, it may not break the bank, but it also may not be worth the so-so impact. Once the candy or chocolate is gone, it will be a fleeting memory. Instead, skip the candy and treat your sweetheart to a gift card to a place he or she can relax and enjoy like a coffee shop or a spa. This will allow your loved one to relax and really enjoy the gift.

4. An Expensive Gift vs. an Experience

Maybe you are tempted to buy your loved one a big ticket item to celebrate the occasion, but you might want to consider spending that money an experience you can do together instead. Think outside the box for this activity to make it memorable. For example, go to a track to race cars, go horseback riding or fly over the city in a helicopter. By doing something you’ve never done together, you will create memories that are scrapbook worthy.

Even though you may feel some pressure to splurge on Valentine’s Day, be smart about your choices and stay within your budget. You can still have fun, but try to think out of the box and focus on the gestures and experiences that will create real memories.

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4 New Year’s Resolutions for 20-Something Girls

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Any day is a great opportunity to make a positive change. But the New Year in particular is the most exciting time to envision a better future. Cozy up with a latte or pour a glass of red wine, hit “play” on your favorite Spotify playlist and spend some quality time declaring your resolutions for the next 12 months. Here are four ideas to inspire New Year’s resolutions for the 20-something girl who wants to make every year of this defining decade count.

Personal Challenge

Make this the year you break free from fear and insecurity. Life’s too short to not take risks, be adventurous or test your limits. Are you watching life pass by in a personal safety zone, surrounded by cushy comforts and mediocrity? It’s terrifying to think about what you want deep down inside, but be too afraid to go after it.

Turn your “Wanderlust” Pinterest board into a reality and plan a backpacking trip to Europe for real. Prove to yourself you can train to run a marathon and cross the finish line. Have fun dating men who aren’t necessarily your type, and blog about it. Be open and fearless. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Challenge yourself.

Financial Commitment

A financial resolution to save for a trip, build up a savings account or pay off debt can seem close to impossible. If you’re like the typical 20-something, an entry-level income allows you to just get by, if that. Practice healthy money habits now to help you establish smart finances in the long-term.

Millennials are branded as the generation of entitlement. Commit to saving a certain amount of money each week. Truly save your credit card for emergencies. Help prove that all Gen Y-ers aren’t broke and entitled narcissists who take extravagant trips and buy expensive gadgets with nonexistent money. Schedule an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account. You can also use apps like the Mint to help budget and DebtTracker Pro for following a debt payoff plan.

Wardrobe Rehab

Your 20s are a time of transition. Shopping should become more about quality over quantity and developing style over showing skin. You’re striving to impress your work colleagues, not your sorority sisters. If you’ve got a closet overflowing with college hoodies, party dresses and hot tops for bar hopping, a major wardrobe overhaul can come at a high cost.

Approach rebuilding your wardrobe as a year-long project and vow to make smart, purposeful purchases. Gradually replace items of your former self with classic pieces that are sophisticated and sustainable. Keep on eye on basics in neutral tones like black, white and cream. Indulge in few luxuries like a beautiful Rolex watch and Coach designer handbag are timeless accessories for everlasting style.

Strengthened Relationships

The people we love the most tend to be the ones we take most for granted. The 20s can be a “me” decade dedicated to your wants, needs and desires. Are you guilty of texting Mom superficial messages to make up for calling her less? Do you love your friends to their face and gossip about them behind their backs? Has your romantic relationship become routine and dull? Is your relationship with yourself self-deprecating and damaging?

Resolve to strengthen your most significant relationships, whether you connect with your family more meaningfully, tighten your social circle or decide to fly solo. Most important is the relationship you have with yourself. If that’s suffering, practice self-care, self-respect and unconditional love. Learn to treat yourself kindly with positivity and be your own best friend.

P.S – Welcome to my 200th post on The Reporter and The Girl!!

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Bonne Année et Bonne Santé

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Happy 2015!

Or, as we say in my house — “Bonne Année et Bonne Santé” which means “Good Year and Good Health”.  In the Haitian culture, New Years is big, and if you have any Haitian friends, you may have heard them whispering about “Soup Joumu” this past week. Pictured above, this is the soup that was mandated to be eaten by every Haitian on the Independence Day of the Republic of Haiti on January 1st, 1804.

And the tradition still continues, as every year we eat soup joumu in our home, and the homes of relatives and friends; as well as we give away candy to children and exchange gifts too. So our culture rings in every new year celebrating a historical momentum of being the first free Black nation and the prosperity and hope for the future.

This year, I am looking forward to some big changes, changes that only I can make happen. And instead of making resolutions, I realized that sometimes I do not keep those goals because I do not have the right mindset. Thus, I have acquired some affirmations to help me think more positively and ambitiously about my future.

The only way to get ahead in life, is by starting.

So  this year for one of my major goals— working abroad preferably in the U.K., I’m going to start by updating my CV and reaching out to recruiting agencies. I also reached out to some expats living here so I can network and get some advice. Its not big but steps in the right direction, are better than living a fantasy.

The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year, but rather that we should have a new soul.

Definitely some more spiritual and emotional growth for the New Year. Having a better sense of self, will help me get to where I’m going. Without that, I could get lost easily. So as a person, I’m thinking of my weaknesses that need fixin’ and what traits stand out that make me a real asset.

Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.

OK, so I need to stop being a clam or a hermit. Because the only way I can make it out there, is by getting out there and seizing more opportunities. On Tuesday, I helped a cousin move a bedroom set to his friend’s place. And  as a gesture, his friend introduced me to deer sausage. Now I’m totally ready to go and shoot my own deer and smoke it. Thus, I think I found a new hobby, but that would never replace blogging with you folks, of course!

Last year, I was very job-oriented, as I was starting a new job in a new industry and really wanted to excel. So I focused– and put a lot of time and energy into my new job. I may have forgotten to take a bird’s eye view of life in 2014 and where I wanted to be. So hopefully, these affirmations will put me back on the right track and out of the rut.

So do you have any aspirations for 2015?

Tweet them to me @ReporterandGirl or on Facebook — TheReporterandTheGirl

Online Dating: 4 Tools That May Keep You Safe

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With a surge of dating sites and apps, online dating has become the norm. Hey, it’s how TheGirl met the reporter, after all! Most websites and apps require a detailed profile or access to your social media accounts including Facebook. Whenever you pony up personal information online, you take on some risks. Keep it fun and practical sans the danger with these tools. It’s better to be prepared and know that you’ve protected yourself before opening up to complete strangers and letting others into your personal life online.

Lifelock

Lifelock is a company that protects users against identity theft. Through its system, it tracks and alerts you if someone is trying to use your identity for different services. Based off of five points of protection including monitoring, scanning, restoring, guaranteeing and tracking, you can have peace of mind that your identity is protected. Not only do you have that guarantee, Lifelock also sends alerts to your email or phone whenever a threat is detected, and each month members are sent a summary email of their account with a report on the health of your identity. Another added bonus is that the company sends out newsletters about the latest security breaches so you can be proactive and protect yourself.

Smartphone

Not only should you have your cellphone on you at all times, alert friends and let them know of your exact location. Call them when you get to the location and when you arrive home safely after the date. Another way to use your phone to protect yourself is to set up tracking. All smartphones are equipped with a GPS device that tracks your phone. These location services must be set up and activated before finding your device, so make sure that you are all set before you go on your first date.

5Star Urgent Response

Along with GPS tracking, this small device that can be attached to your key chain has a built-in emergency response system. For those who do not have a smartphone or want to take the extra step to protect themselves, this 5Star device offers online tools that track your location. Give the login to a close friend or family member so they can track where you are if you go on a date. Also, the device offers instant access to an emergency and medical alert system at the push of a button.

Background Check

After you’ve met up with someone a few times, it might behoove you to run a background check on the person. Although it may sound a little extreme, doing a background check is a great way to protect yourself before you get in too deep. For as little as a few dollars, you can find out someone’s past public records including any criminal action, divorces and legal action taken against him or her. Detailed reports can give you peace of mind and an early heads up if there are past behaviors that you should have reservations about.

Something we all would want to know about!

@ReporterandGirl

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And a Very Merry…

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A very happy holidays to all! I hope most of you are in bed sleeping off whatever happened last night (no judgment)!

I spent most of my day preparing dinner for my family. It is the second year that we did this; but it looks like it is becoming a tradition that I cook for the family on Christmas and make my own eggnog!

I totally love it –the eggnog and the tradition!

Featured above, is the honey rosemary chicken that we feasted upon.

I am hoping with the next few days off, I can get back to writing as I have slacked off the last month or so, but I did want to drop a quick note to wish everyone a happy season and a very merry New Year!

And…share my recipe for the chicken and fruit stuffing.

For Brine:

  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • neck and giblets removed and reserved

For Stuffing:

  • 1/2 cup rice (I use Basmati)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 pear
  • 1/4 cup chopped and pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped and pitted figs
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cranberries

For the brine, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add salt, honey, peppercorns and rosemary in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate until needed.

Place chicken in a leak proof ziplock bag,or in a pot or container. Pour brine into the bag or container. Make sure chicken is completely submerge in brine mixture for at least two hours up until 24 hours.

When you’re ready to roast, preheat oven to 350°F, and cook rice as instructed on package. Peel, core, and chop the apple and pear. Once the rice is done, pour in a bowl, and mix in the chopped apple, pear, dates, figs, rosemary, fresh cranberries, and honey. Mix well.

Remove chicken from brine and proceed to add stuffing into the cavities.

Now some folks prefer to add the giblets into the stuffing mixture, but we prefer to cook it on the side; its up to your preference on how you cook the giblets.

Place chicken in a pan and into the oven, baste every 25 minutes. After the first hour and a half, flip the chicken so it can roast on its other side. For the 6.6 pound chicken featured here — roasting was just under 3 hours.

Enjoy! And let me know how it turns out!

@ReporterandGirl

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