Monday, December 14, 2009

Staycation: Destination NYC

11_16_helitour (28)

The increase in travel fees, limited vacation time, and more conservative budgets can sometimes get in the way of a much desired vacation. However, oftentimes a simple change in scenery can provide the temporary escape that you may need.

Infected by the travel bug, I seize any and every opportunity for a new adventure. In this time when we have to be more creative with our time and finances, the “staycation” has quickly become popular. I’d like to share how you can give yourself the joy of a vacay within the boundaries of your hometown (and your budget).

Those of us in New York are fortunate enough to have an endless plethora of things to explore. However, in NY it is also easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the daily commute and the stress of the workday, not to mention overwhelmed by the daily demands of your personal life. With that hectic lifestyle one seldom takes advantage of the opportunity to admire the intricacy of the city that so many others come to witness.

I encourage you, for one whole day, to take a spectator’s perspective on a City Sights NY tour* **. For less than what you would spend on a roundtrip flight, you can view NYC from air (in a helicopter), water (on a Circle Line boat), and land (on a double-decker bus), granting you three unique views. Although you may already be familiar with the city, these tours open your eyes to things you may have never seen before, share information you may have never known, or simply just allow you a whole new perspective and appreciation for where you are.

11_16_helitour (37)

This would be great for a family outing, a girls’ day out, when hosting out-of-towners, or as a solo adventure. This is also highly recommended for anyone visiting the Big Apple. It is nearly impossible to see NY in a short visit, but these tours do a great job of giving you a broad idea of what this city has to offer.

*City Sights NY offers a variety of tours, any of which are sure to be a great experience.

**If you are only interested in the helicopter tours, go directly to Liberty Tours to save $15.

Monday, December 7, 2009

'Tis the season to be... Broke?!: 6 Smart Saving Tips for the Holiday Season

Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the season, came and went. Many people brag about how much money they saved in exchange for waking up early and waiting in the cold on long lines. But what’s the point of “saving” all that money on Black Friday, just to go into debt a month later shopping for Christmas gifts?

I’m sure we all don’t mean to spend as much as we do, but this year let’s try to turn intention into action. Here are 6 simple tips on how to make this Christmas more jolly and less stressful on you and your bank account.

1. Try to limit your gift giving to family and closest friends. If you’re a gift-giver like me it might be tough to limit the amount of people you shop for, but you should use the recession to your advantage. It won’t be around for long! Categorize your gift giving to those people who absolutely desire store bought gifts (ie: toys for kids), those who can appreciate homemade gifts, and those who will cherish the thoughtful nature of a personalized card.

2. Make a shopping list and don’t depart from it! Identifying what you’re going to buy ahead of time (ideally before you enter the store) saves the last-minute pressure of buying because you need “something” to give.

3. Once you have a list and ideal budget, make a commitment to it!
There’s no excuse for not taking a couple of minutes to sit down with pen and paper and estimating the amount of money you feel comfortable spending this holiday season. Count on the money you already make and have in your account, instead of any bonuses or credit limit you’re hoping to increase.

4. Carry cash instead of debit or credit cards.
It’s a sure way to keep from spending more than what you’ve allotted for your Christmas budget. If you have a hard time disciplining yourself, this is a great way to make sure you don’t have access to money you shouldn’t be spending. Some people believe that psychologically, the plastic “tricks us into forgetting we are deducting money from our account,” so this year use paper instead of plastic.

5. Do not open store cards.
According to Accion USA, “Many people find that their credit score goes down in January, and the dip in the score is usually due to two reasons:
1. High balances on their credit cards (from used credit and unpaid balances)
2. The amount of inquiries in their reports is relatively high (don’t be deceived- 10% off your first purchase is not worth the drop in your credit score when opening several new cards in a short period of time)."

6. Remember, Christmas is just one day- Is it financially sound to go into the New Year in debt over gifts? Can some of those on your “store bought” list wait 2 days after Christmas to get their gifts? If so, why don’t you wait to catch those after-Christmas sales? Think about the bigger picture instead of whoever might be upset at you and “de-friend” you on FaceBook because you sent them an e-card instead of the generic soap and lotion set you usually send them. Focus on beginning 2010 in good financial standing, let positive spending habits spill over into the New Year.

To a happy and financially healthy holiday season,

Her Journey Team

Tracey Calvo Clarke, 24, enjoys stumbling upon great writing, food, and travel deals. Her ideal job gives her the freedom to write about travel experiences, personal enhacement and entertainment events. She has been a member of Her Journey's Support Team for about 6 months and looks forward to seeing what's in store for the magazine

Monday, November 30, 2009

Staycation Part 1: Cruising My City

Usually around November and December I take a vacation out of New York City. I love the bright lights, great subway and bus system, food, nightlife and the NYC air. This year I decided not to go away but to do a staycation (stay-at-home vacation). Normally, New Yorkers don’t take advantage of the arts and culture. I am not sure we realize that we don’t have to go very far as we have many theaters, museums, art galleries, malls, outlets, bars, clubs and other special interest places right at our fingertips.

I knew that I wanted to rest and paint the town red. Like so many other working ladies, I don’t get the chance to explore the city and sites. Back in July 2009 I finally received my driver’s license. I don’t own a car, but I have a trusty unlimited Metro Card. Getting around the city via public transportation is great, but I wanted to actually drive myself around and go wherever I wanted.

Shopping was at the very top of my list. I wanted to visit the outlets, drive to Queens to visit my family and cruise the city. On November 14 I rented a car from National Car Rental, and it was a journey getting home. I got lost quite a few times because I thought I could navigate my way through Queens; it took me two hours to get home. The last time I got lost I decided to get off at Northern Boulevard and drive until I saw a sign for Brooklyn. I was not sure I was going to find one but I just continued to drive over 100 blocks to I finally made it to the BQE.

However, I got to see parts of Queens I hadn’t seen in years. I jammed to music, and I felt liberated the whole time. It was awesome. Even when I was sandwiched between two monstrous trucks! I made it home to Brooklyn in one piece. Over the next few days, I went to Queens, Mineola in Long Island (Nassau County), cruised Queens and Brooklyn, drove around with friends and visited more shops.

I never made it to the outlets but I had a great time but just being in the car. The car was my ticket to a great vacation. I didn’t relax much but I had an awesome time just cruising. Stay tuned for Staycation part two and three. Who knows what I will do, but I will take advantage of my city!

Desiree Frieson, 24, is a marketing & pr coordinator at Odyssey Networks, a faith-based non-profit media production organization in New York City.

Photo provided by http://www.richard-seaman.com/Wallpaper/USA/Cities/index.html.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Serving on Thanksgiving Day

Have you ever stopped to think about the word "Thanksgiving"? It's a compound word made up of the abused word "thanks" and undervalued word "giving." Although most of us "give thanks" (sometimes consciously as a pre-cursor to eating by praying or simply by thanking the cooks/contributors for a meal well prepared) how many of us actually perform a substantial act of service on Thanksgiving? On the contrary, how many selfish statements do we make on Thanksgiving Day?

"Today is Thanksgiving, my day off to relax"

"When is the food going to be ready, I'm starving!"

"Run to the store and get what? I have to find an open supermaket in this cold?"

"Who's washing the dishes? Not me!"

How about changing your mentality this year from Thanksgiving as a verbal assertion to Givingthanks as an action? For some, it is hard to recognize that we are taking our home and families for granted. We just expect that Mom/Pop or Grandma are going to cook every year, that cleaning up the house before our relatives get there is enough service on our part, and that there will be sufficient money for such an occasion every year. This year, don't let setting the table or taking the garbage out at the end of the night be justified "enough" help from your part. Service, ideally, should begin at home.

Here's a couple of ways you can "give" more at home, what I like to call In-house services:
  1. Ask your parents/relatives if there's anything they would like you to do throughout the day, and when they ask you to do that and more be a cheerful giver.

  2. Have rugrats running around your house on Thanksgiving? Sit down and engage them in a game (For ideas and printables visit: Nickjr.com) instead of warning them to keep out of your room.

  3. Offer a service to someone in your family who you know lacks it (for example: a ride if you have a car, an outing with a younger cousin if you have extra cash) Remember, your time is a valuable gift. All gifts are not monetary.
If you're already satisfied with your in-house services, consider extending your gift outside of your home. Think about the thousands of people this year who won't have a choice between pumpkin pie or apple pie, white meat or dark meat. Instead, they must visit soup kitchens and be grateful with whatever food is served to them. There is something about physically volunteering yourself and being humble enough to receive instruction in order to make someone's Thanksgiving Day a bit more comfortable. Doing a bit of research to find the right organization that fits your availability might be a bit challenging, but the pay-off is definitely worth it! Start with your local churches (they most often offer weekly soup-kitchens) and ask them if they are serving Thanksgiving meals. For those living or planning to stay in the NYC Metro Area, the Bowery Mission's Thanksgiving Volunteer Registration is now closed, but they have another list of opportunities on their website. Also, New York Cares and Volunteer NYC highlight chances to serve this upcoming week.

Happy Volunteer Hunting and Givingthanks Day!

Tracey Calvo Clarke, 24, enjoys stumbling upon great writing, food, and travel deals. Her ideal job gives her the freedom to write about travel experiences, personal enhacement and entertainment events. She has been a member of Her Journey's Support Team for about 6 months and looks forward to seeing what's in store for the magazine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Work and Life Balance

Work can be a high stress factor in many of our lives and contribute too many forms of mental, physical and emotional illness. It doesn’t help that most of our personal lives are just as stressful. How do we escape from these stressful situations? One can easily say try not to be stressed-out, whether work or life related but it’s never that easy. I am not entirely sure we can truly escape stress but I know first-hand that the best way to deal with stress is find a balance—equal or unequal---or middle ground where you can take the time to relax and pamper yourself.

At work, when we have demanding work schedules and workloads, it’s hard to feed the mind and body. When we leave the workplace, we have other factors that contribute to living the stressful life. The stressful life includes worrying about student loan repayment, rent, car insurance, credit card debt and all the countless bills. I know I spend so much time worrying about the problem that it makes me sick. But I’ve realized that I am not superwoman and cannot do it all. I can only put programs and methods in place to lessen the severity of certain situations.

The most important way to deal with stress is for one to find the core problem(s) that is causing many aches and pain. By assessing the many challenges we face at work and in life, we can find specific ways to deal with our problems and ways to reduce stress. I am not an expert or a doctor but I do know that at times, we need to evaluate what we want out of life and if our place of employment or other personal areas are conducive environments to our health. However, at the end of the day, we need to feed our body and soul. That is key and the main message I can provide to you on your journey.

I don’t have all the answers or ways to ensure the mind and body is properly fed. Everyone’s situation is different and we all find ways that work best for us. But we can learn from the experts at the Mayo Clinic, WebMD and other leading sources for mental health.

Thanks to eHow, here are a few tips to maintain a healthy work life balance
  • If you can, leave work at work. After the workday, go home, sit back and relax. Or if you have little ones and partner at home, focus on yourself and your family.
  • Use your vacation days before you lose them! If you don’t receive paid vacation, take a short trip or go on a staycation.
  • Institute a policy of work-free weekends. If you work weekends, devote time to yourself, family and either relax or have much needed fun. Its okay to have fun once in a while.
  • If you belong to a gym or attend an exercise program, devote pockets of time in your schedule to exercise. If you don’t belong to a gym, take walks during breaks, walk longer from the subway or bus on your way to work or house clean.
  • Last but not least, sleep! Sleep is very important. Most doctors will say they don’t know why but its very important to our health.
Mayo Clinic- Adult Health

Web MD- Health & Balance

Desiree Frieson, 24, is a marketing & pr coordinator at Odyssey Networks, a non-profit interfaith media production organization in New York City. She is a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women- Manhattan Chapter where she serves as the Chair of Membership and Co-Chair of Fundraising/Public Relations.


Whether you’re planning a Girls’ Night Out, a date with your boo, or night of solo bliss, let me recommend Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man to satisfy your chocolate loving needs. When a friend of mine suggested that I visit this chocolate heaven, my mouth was watering before she finished describing her meal. After my own firsthand experience, it is my chocolate loving duty to share it with you.

Please be advised that there may be a wait because everyone wants some of the chocolate goodness, but it well worth the wait, and you will have an opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere. Feast your eyes on the two chocolate mixers at the entrance, a chocolate bar filled with heaps of chocolate, chocolate pipes running throughout the restaurant, and walls lined with jumbo jars of cinnamon and other sweets. The “Look Mom! Willy Wonka does exist!” sign sums up this fantastical place perfectly. Once seated, you will get to flip through a menu dedicated to chocolate with pages of unique hot chocolate blends. Although The Bald Man also offers entrees that I hear are full of flavor, Max Brenner is the only place that justifies my regular routine of choosing my dessert before (or instead of) choosing my meal.

Max Brenner offers a great variety from traditional fondues and s’mores to internationally inspired crepes to uncanny creations like the chocolate pizza. You can even find chocolate filled syringes to feed your chocolate cravings. The dishes are served with fresh fruits and sweet treats like gummy bears, and the quirky dishware (a hug mug that fits perfectly in the palms of your hands, metal straws, vials of chocolate, for example) only enhance the experience. Max Brenner certainly creates a gratifying atmosphere. It has been said that chocolate creates feelings similar to that of falling in love. So whether you fall in love with your boo or the chocolate itself, you will leave Max Brenner with a mushy feeling inside, and not just from the chocolate fondue you devoured.

Oded Brenner, coincidently a bald man, is the man that we owe the gratitude for this chocolate heaven. Taking inspiration from some famous chocolate experts including Michelle Chaudun, and with insight from designers such as Jean Paul Gautier, "Max Brenner" had the revelation that chocolate was more than just food but something that should be appreciated through all the faculties and sensations as an all encompassing experience. After opening chocolate bars in London, Australia and Isreal, Max Brenner further developed the idea into Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, which launched in Singapore and the Philippines. In 2006, Max Brenner shared the ultimate chocolate experience with New York, opening two locations, one in Union Square and one in East Village.[1]

Sharing the passion for chocolate with each customer that enjoys this amazing chocolate experience, Max Brenner has truly made a name to remember, and many are singing its praises: The March/April 2008 issue of Hi Class Living mentions “the first restaurant entirely devoted to chocolate” and recommends the Chocolate Martini. The January/February 2008 issue of Travel + Leisure Mexico even raves en español. Many also recommend Max Brenner’s chocolate bars that can be found in the chocolate shop. Even celebrities like Orlando Bloom, find their way to enjoy the chocolate creations of the bald man. So if you have not been there yet, you should put it on your to-do list.

Other chocolate spots in NY that should be on your to do list:
The Chocolate Room

Share some of your favorite chocolate spots with us!

[1] Courtesy of Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man contact

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make it a Girls' Night!

Being an only child I was always drawn to groups like The Baby-sitters Club and Best Friends Clubs, and as an “adult” I still long for slumber parties and girls nights. With the prevalence of sororities and female bonding shows like Girlfriends and Sex and the City I find comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who enjoys sisterly support.

Many of us take our girly gatherings for granted, but time with the girls can contribute to your overall well-being: helping to reduce stress, providing emotional support and extra motivation.

When you’re overwhelmed with your job and you’re tired of forcing a phony smile for your coworkers and boss, what’s better than to convene with your girls who you can shed all of the cordial layers with and just be yourself? Or when you’re fed up fighting with your boo, who just doesn’t get what you’re saying, you need your girls who you can hold a complete conversation without a single word, only grunts and glances. For example:

Girl 1: Spotting a girl whose orange underwear clearly should not be visible through her white pants, “Hmph.” (Translation: Oh no she didn’t! Why didn’t one of her friends tell her that wasn’t a good idea?)

Girl 2: Glances at girl 1, head cocked to the side and eyebrow raised. (Translation: I’m glad you said something because you know I don’t like talking about people.)

Girl 1 and 2: Simultaneous laughter. (Translation: That’s why I love you. You always know exactly what I’m saying.)

No matter what the reason, time with your girls can rejuvenate your spirit and recharge you to face those who don’t really get you once again.

Unlike Joan and Carrie and their respective posses, we do not all have an extensive budget for our social life yet. While a girls night out is always fun, a girls night in can be just as fun and more cost effective. Whip out the calendar and schedule some days for the girls:

Girls Night Out


Girls Night In

Dinner and a movie

One of my favorite girls’ nights included Max Brenner and Sex and the City, and that was all I needed.

Invite the girls over to bring a dish and invest in NetFlix or RedBox (DVDs for only $1/day).

Pamper Party

Try martini and a manicure at Beauty Bar, sip while you spa at Dashing Diva, or call SPArties to customize a spa package for you and your girls.

Call the Mary Kay lady! They do free product demonstrations. I recommend investing in the Satin Hands set for your at-home pampering pleasure.

Work It Out

Try exercise and/or dance classes together. Some places offer free classes for first time customers.

Pop in a workout DVD and work it out!

Dance Party

Thankfully, for a night out on the town, we ladies have it relatively easy because there are many “Free before __ for Ladies” nights.

Create a playlist and dance the night away. For you daring souls, try your luck at Dance Dance Revolution (also good for a workout).

Game Night

Who said adults weren’t allowed to play? PlayDate US provides just that, play dates for adults in various cities around the U.S.

Dust off the Scrabble board, whip out the Tabu and bust out the Twister mat because it’s on. It’s game time!

Girlfriend Getaways

Plan a trip to LA, NYC, Miami, Tobago, Paris, or wherever. You can find great flight/hotel/car rental packages using sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, Orbitz, Priceline, etc.; Greyhound and Amtrak are also good for a fun day trip, or road trip!

Visit a far away friend to enjoy the scenery in good company without the hotel costs.

When life’s too much, make it a Girls' Night!

What are some of your favorite girls' night memories?

Send a photo of you and your girls to HerJourneyBlog@gmail.com, and we'll include them in a future post!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Get Started NOW!

"Don't wait; the time will never be just right: start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along." –Napoleon Hill

There are a lot of people who have dreams and goals they want to accomplish. Yet, when you ask them why they haven't started they say, "Oh, I can't do this yet because I don't have or I have to wait for (fill in the blank)." Is that where you are today?

Let me just break it down for you. There is no ideal time when all the moons are aligned. I encourage you today to stop waiting. The sooner you get started, the closer you will be to getting what you desire. There is no other perfect time than right here, right now. If you continue to wait for the perfect time, you run the risk of never getting started. And, I'd hate for that to happen to you.

If you want to write a book, start writing. You don't have to have whole plot in your head now. Even if it is just a idea, just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and let those words flow.

If you want to start a business. Do it NOW! Please, don't wait until the news tells you that the economy is better. Have faith and make a product or service people will want. Because it doesn't matter what the state of the economy is, if people want something, the will find a way to get it.

Want to change careers or move, do the dag gone thang. It's your life.

Whatever it is that you have in your mind to do, or have been putting off until "the right time," just take little action steps to start accomplishing that goal.

You're life is waiting to get started, don't procrastinate anymore.

Have a stellar week,


You can find more of ChaChanna's wisdom on her site Twentity.com: What Your Parents and Professors Never Taught You About Life After College.