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What Are You Doing With Your Tax Refund?

It's that time of year again! Break out your W2s and all of your receipts, because tax season is here. Now is the time when many of us are scrambling to complete our taxes, mainly because there is a pot of gold with a refund check in it at the end of the rainbow. So, what are you going to do with your tax refund? Since I am known to get all up in your business, I have a few suggestions! Take them, or leave them, but I'm giving them! Enjoy!

1. Save or Invest It - Saving your refund is probably the simplest thing you can do. Maybe you're saving for a wedding...or a new baby...a new home...or a vacation. In any event, your tax refund may be a good place for you to start. If investing is your thing, it may be a good idea to meet with a financial planner who can highlight favorable investment options.

2. Reduce Your Credit Card Debt - So, you overdid it during the holidays and maxed out your credit cards. Or maybe you encountered an emergency and needed to use your credit cards to get through a tough time. The truth is that credit card debt is a reality in many of our lives. In order to alleviate the agony of making monthly credit card payments, use your tax refund to pay off, or pay down, your balances. Your credit score will thank you!

3. Make an Extra Student Loan Payment - I am well aware of the fact that my mere mention of a student loan payment makes you want to gag. But think about this: if done every year, using your tax refund to make an extra student loan payment could dramatically reduce your payoff time. Did I get your attention?

4. Invest in Bettering Yourself - As professionals, our careers are our bread and butter.  Many of us are so invested in our careers that we strive every day to be the best at what we do. Why not spend some of your tax refund to make yourself a better professional?  You can use your tax refund to take a continuing education class, or enroll in an education program that will help you advance to a higher position, or be better in your current position. Upward mobility is always a good thing!

5. Give to Charity - Do you have a charity that is near and dear to your heart? If so, why not make a donation to the charity in your name. You would be contributing to a great cause, and you could possibly write off your donation on next year’s taxes. Double win!

Okay, I'm done sticking my nose in your business! Whatever you choose to do with your tax refund, spend it only comes around once a year!

Take Two!

And the second term begins! On January 20, 2013, President Obama took the oath of office to officially begin his second term as President of the United States. My hope is that all Americans rally behind the President and Congress to facilitate a productive four years for the country we love. Let's put aside our petty differences and let's get to work...there's plenty of it to do!

And on a completely unrelated note, I must say that I am loving FLOTUS Michelle Obama's new hair! She's so amazing!

Happy Inauguration Day!

Dr. Oz's Green Drink!

Greetings Divas and Gents! As some of you may know, I have recently become a huge fan of Dr. Oz. There's something so comforting about him, and I love the fact that he is always sharing ways to better one's health. I recently found myself stalking browsing Dr. Oz's website, and I came across the recipe for his Green Drink. Some months ago, I started making fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies to enjoy on my way to work. After doing so for a while, I found myself feeling more energized at the beginning of the day, and less hungry. So when I came across the Green Drink, I was all in!

According to Dr. Oz, the Green Drink is high in fiber, low in calories, and full of important vitamins. For those of you who are habitual breakfast skippers, this may be a great option for you. Prep the ingredients the night before, throw them in the blender in the morning, pour it into a travel container, and's definitely worth a try! If you so dare, here is the recipe for Dr. Oz's Green Drink:

2 Cups of Spinach
1/2 Cucumber
1/4 Head of Celery
1/2 Bunch of Parsley
1 Bunch of Mint
3 Carrots
2 Apples
1/4 Orange
1/4 Lime
1/4 Lemon
1/4 Pineapple

Combine all ingredients in a blender. 
(Yields 28-30 ounces, or 3-4 servings)

Just a quick disclaimer: I have not yet tried the Green Drink, so I'm not sure how it tastes. I intend to try it this weekend, and tweak it to my liking. If any of you have tried the Green Drink, let us know how you like it. Also, let me know if you intend to try it...maybe we can exchange notes!

Happy Blending!

A Quick Note For Success Seekers...

Let's be honest...when climbing the corporate ladder, many of us spend way too much time focusing on what the next guy/gal is doing. We take the precious time we could be spending nurturing our own careers, and we use it to concern ourselves with someone else's moves: what are they much are they making...does he/she do his/her job better than me. Worrying about someone else's moves can cause you to lose focus of your own goals and achieving your own successes. For those of you who find yourself way too enthralled with another person's path, may I suggest the following: stop worrying about the next person, and DO YOU!

Now, there's nothing wrong with glancing across the hall to see what another individual is doing. You may even take a moment to learn about that individual's process so as to help you adjust your path. After all, if this individual can teach you something that will help you along the way, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of the opportunity. But the moment you find yourself wondering about that individual's path with an envious eye, you are putting your goals in jeopardy...and you're, in essence, being a hater. Wouldn't your time be better spent working on your own self-improvement and your own career climb?

I'll stop preaching, but I wanted to leave you all with this: take the time you spend worrying about what someone else is doing and what someone else is getting, and apply it to reaching your goals. DO YOU!

The doors of the church are open...

My Best Money Saving Tips...In One Post!

Over the past couple of years, I have published several posts highlighting money saving tips. Recently, a Chronicle reader suggested that I select the most effective tips and post them at the beginning of the year. I thought this was a great idea, but I thought it would be a better idea to have actual readers select the tips they enjoyed the most...and they did! So, without further adieu, here are my top 5 money saving one post! Enjoy!

1. Bring Your Lunch to Work - This is always an easy fix. The fact is that preparing your own lunch at home and bringing it to work will always save you money. I remember a few years ago, me and another colleague agreed to bring our lunches to the office and eat with each other during lunch time. We would sit in my office, or hers, and eat our home-prepared lunch. We went on like this for a few months, at the end of which we ended up saving a few hundred dollars. My colleague went on to purchase her first home, and I am sure the extra cash helped. Now don’t get me wrong….I understand that in the professional world business lunches are key networking opportunities. During these times, going out for lunch may be necessary. My suggestion is that you bring your lunch to work at least 4 times during the 5 day work week, and use the remaining day for power lunching. Try it for a week and let me know how much you save!

2. Sell It On EBay - We all have an abundance of items in our home that we do not use, nor do we intend to use them. As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So list your items on EBay, and turn them into extra cash. I do it all the time!

3. Do Your Own 'Do - Growing up I was one of those Divas who visited the hair salon once a week for an old fashioned shampoo, deep conditioning, and roller set. That was until I went away to college, and needed to hold on to the money my parents would send me every month. I always had a talent for doing my own hair, so I used this talent to do my own hair…and many of the women on my campus. 

As I entered Corporate America, I fell back into my weekly visits. Needless to say, a weekly visit to the hair salon isn’t the most frugal activity. As such, I recently ventured into the beauty supply store, and purchased a new hard top hair dryer, rollers, and setting lotion. Instead of going to the hair salon every week, I go every four weeks. In between time, I do my own hair. My initial investment in supplies: $70. Amount saved: about $90 per month….or $1,080 per year….need I say more!

4. Change Your Cell Phone Plan - A couple of years ago, I started looking for ways to cut back on my cell phone usage. Why? Because the bill was way too high! Every month, I exceeded my allotted minutes and text messages, and ended up paying much more than I anticipated when selecting the cell phone plan. I came across an unlimited plan that allowed me to do any and every thing I wanted with my phone for as long as I wanted for a low monthly fee. Needless to say, I immediately switched to that plan. A few months later, a friend of mine told me that our mutual cell phone service carrier recently unveiled a different plan with a better deal! So what did I do….I switched to that plan! The moral of this diatribe is that you should always stay abreast of new deals offered by your carrier that could save you money. The first step is to assess your current usage, and then see if your carrier offers a less expensive option. My savings in the end amounted to about $50 per month. Not too shabby!

5. Skip the Coffee Shop - A while back I read an article on My Thirty Spot that shared an easy way to prepare the perfect iced coffee (Get the Article Here!). It got me to thinking just how much money we spend in coffee shops each year. If you cut your visits to the coffee shop in half, you’d be surprised at how much you can save. Not convinced? Then check this out: Let’s assume that a Tall Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks costs $3.50….that’s $17.50 per work week….and $910 per year! If you cut your visits in half, you can save $455 each year. Did I do my math correctly? In any event, that $455 would look really good in your savings account!

Happy Saving!


Quick Meals For A Busy Diva...Shrimp-Stuffed Shells!

Photo Credit: Johnny Autry; Styling Credit: Mary Clayton Carl

Greetings Divas! We've made to another weekend! For me, the weekend provides much needed time to do those things that I've neglected during the cooking. Now, just because it's the weekend and I have a few moments to cook a good meal, it certainly doesn't mean that I want to hang out in the kitchen all day. Especially when the mall is calling me! 

Cut to Cooking Light, my favorite cooking magazine. I love the recipes presented in this magazine because they taste delicious, they can be made in a short amount of time, and they often pack a healthy punch. The Shrimp-Stuffed Shells recipe is no exception. I've made this dish on several occasions, and it's amazing...deliciously amazing! And it only takes me about a 35 to 45 minutes to prepare, which gives me more than enough time to cook and make it to the mall for doorbusters! Check out this recipe for Shrimp-Stuffed Shells...courtesy of Cooking Light magazine. Enjoy! 

  • 20 uncooked jumbo pasta shells (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (such as McCutcheon's), divided
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Cook pasta 7 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.

3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add cream cheese, milk, and pepper; cook until cheese melts, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Place shrimp in a bowl. Sprinkle with potato starch; toss well to coat. Add cream cheese mixture to shrimp; toss well. 

4. Divide shrimp mixture evenly among pasta shells. Coat a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; spread 1 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Arrange shells in prepared dish; top with remaining 2 cups marinara. Sprinkle shells evenly with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until shrimp is done.

If you would like to check out the recipe online, click here! Let me know how it goes! Enjoy shopping cooking!

Divas Must Have...A Shemergency Kit!

Photo Courtesy of

Divas, I recently stumbled upon something that has revolutionized my entire life...well, maybe that's a bit extreme, but I did find a product that every professional woman should have in her work bag. Allow me to set the scene. You're in a taxi on your way to a job interview and you carelessly popped off the top button of your blouse. Or, you're in your office quickly changing into a little black dress for a company cocktail reception and you realize that you've smeared white deodorant remnants on your dress. Or, you found yourself extremely famished during lunch and ate an entire rack of ribs...the proof is in the little pieces of rib that have lodged themselves between your teeth. Let's just face the fact that sh*t happens! And when they do, you should have a Pinch Provisions Shemergency Kit in reach!

What's a Shemergency Kit? The Shemergency Kit is an amazing product from Pinch Provisions which contains 25 items that women find themselves needing to rectify common mishaps. Each kit contains the following items: a folding hair brush with mirror, hair spray, clear elastic bands, earring backs, hand lotion, a nail clipper, an emery board, clear nail polish, nail polish remover, a mending kit, a safety pin, double-sided tape, a lint remover, shoe shine towelettes, stain remover, static remover, breath freshener, lip balm, dental floss, pain reliever, deodorant towelettes, a tampon, adhesive bandages, facial tissues, and blotting tissues. The Shemergency Kit is portable, and can be highly effective in resolving the common mishaps that we encounter. The Shemergency Kit will run you only $25, which is a steal considering its potential to avert a number of different disasters. 

Photo Courtesy of
If you're looking for a mini version of the Shemergency Kit, Pinch Provisions offers the Minimergency Kit, which contains 16 items. The mini versions start at $13...again, a steal!

I can go on and on about the Shemergency Kit, but I won't. I will simply say that every Professional Diva must have one...or more. If you would like to see for yourself, check out Pinch Provision's website. You can thank me later!

Have a great weekend!

Disclaimer: I was not solicited or paid by any one or any company to blog about the Shemergency Kit. I simply think it is an awesome find for Professional Divas, and I wanted to share...because I'm all about sharing!

International Stress-Reduction Tips!

Stress is evil...plain and simple! And I am always on the lookout for different relaxation methods. I've actually tried several things, which have generally had favorable results: spinning...running...ditching my cell phone...each of these have been effective in the past, but I am always open to new things!

The truth is that being a professional and dealing with the everyday ups and downs of Corporate America usually brings unintended and unwanted stress. Unfortunately, too much stress can have negative effects on your physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, chronic stress can trigger headaches, chest pain, and elevated blood pressure. Additionally, stress can be attributed to insomnia and alcohol/substance abuse, as well as physical aches and pains. And for professional women of child-bearing age, stress can also be a contributing factor in infertility.

Needless to say, it is imperative that professional women find ways to avoid and relieve the daily stress we encounter, both at home and in the work place. As a constant seeker of stress-reduction methods, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across an article in the Huffington Post entitled "Stress-Reduction Tips From Around the World." I was all in! The article took a look at stress reduction methods from Sweden (taking a few coffee breaks), India (head massages), Japan (going shoeless at work), Finland (sweating it out in a sauna), and West Africa (dancing). The article is highly interesting, so in the interest of sharing I am passing it on to you! Do yourself a favor and check it out!

What are some of the methods you use to destress? 

10 Things Every Professional Diva Should Do For Herself in 2013!

Greetings Divas! And welcome to 2013! With each new year, many of us take the time to set goals for the year, most of which take the form of a resolution. This year, like last year, I have resolved to do certain things that are beneficial to me. I also resolved to share these things with all of you so that you too will do certain things that are beneficial to you…you totally deserve it! Do yourself a favor and check out my list of 10 Things Every Professional Diva Should Do For Herself in 2013!

1. Get Healthier - Losing weight is one of the most common resolutions made before the new year. I am willing to bet, however, that the success rate in achieving this goal is not that great. My guess is that resolving to lose weight is short-sighted, thereby increasing the rate of failure. My suggestion for 2013 is similar, if not identical, to my suggestion in 2012: instead of resolving to lose weight, resolve to get healthier. Striving to get healthier allows you to focus on eating better foods and getting more exercise in order to improve your health. It also allows you to reduce or nix other vices that may be damaging your health, like habitual smoking and excessive drinking (both are also common resolutions!).  Placing a numeric value on weight loss can turn it into a daunting task; but resolving to get healthier by changing your diet and getting regular exercise is an attainable goal that can lead to weight loss. Look at the bigger picture!

2. Use Your Vacation Days - You have them, so use them! I can't tell you the number of professional women I know who refuse to use their vacation days. The reasons why they choose not to use them vary; some are worried that they will lose their footing at their job, and some simply claim that they are way too busy to take time off. I would personally like to go on record in saying that using your vacation days is a necessary element in maintaining a healthy work life/personal life balance. You need that vacation time to unwind and reboot. For those of you concerned about losing your footing at work or being too busy to vacate, I offer you the following suggestion: plan. Take a moment at the beginning of each year to plan when you would like to take your vacation. Consider where you may want to go and how long you plan to be away from the office. Once you have your dates in place, plan your workload with your vacation in mind. Hopefully, planning will alleviate some the anxiety that accompanies any discussion regarding taking vacation time. However you choose to work it, make sure you use your vacation days. You have them, so use them!

3. Create Your Medical Team - Regular Chronicle readers know that I am passionate about women health issues. Specifically, I am an advocate for women obtaining the  appropriate health screenings at the appropriate times in their lives. I understand that professional women tend to forget or perpetually reschedule their doctors' appointments because "something came up," but one's health is nothing to fool around with. As such, I propose that in 2013, professional women start to build their medical team. What do I mean by medical team? Your medical team is your list of physicians and/or specialists that are tasked with handling your total health. Your team should, at minimum, include a general practitioner, an OB/GYN practitioner, a dentist, and an eye care physician. Other team contenders are podiatrists, chiropractors, and dieticians. If necessary, your team should also include any specialists required for any of your specific health needs, such as a cardiologist or an endocrinologist. Your general practitioner may be a good place to start your search for physicians to draft to your team.

4. Maximize Your Work Day...And Then Go Home - There are some days that I head off to work and leave efficiency at home. The result is that I end up staying at work much longer than I would like to finish up the things on my "to-do list." But then there are some days when my efficiency levels are off the charts. I come in the office and start working, and I only come up during feeding times. I work steadily all day, and I complete all of my task. On these days, I am able to leave the office by 5 o'clock (or sometime near 5). The conclusion is simple: when I maximize my day and work diligently and efficiently, I can go home early. And getting home early allows me to capitalize on the all-important "me time." Now, I am completely aware that this option is not the norm, but aim maximize and go home at least two times per week...including Fridays! 

5. Watch At Least One Reality Show Per Week - This may seem like an odd request, but hear me out! Every day we head to work and deal with serious stuff. Things in which our jobs depend on in a big way. After 8 or more hours of all of this seriousness, a good, non-serious reality show is perfect for mellowing you out. Think about it...many of these shows are non-cerebral and almost never require you to think deeply. I promise you that watching reality television is the perfect way to forget what happened at the office least for an hour. Need some recommendations? Try the Biggest Loser, the Real Housewives of Anywhere, Ink Master, Top Chef, or Project Runway.

6. Take a Chill Day With a Like-Minded Friend - Last year, one of my friends and I decided that we would take a day to get manis and pedis, go to lunch, and go shopping. She and I are both attorneys, and we both have busy and occasionally stressful work schedules. What started out as a single day for us to hang out and relax quickly turned into a bi-weekly ritual. But our outings are much more than just two women hanging out all day. These outings became a way for us to catch up, relax, gossip, and lament and vent about things that were bothering us professionally. It became a time for us to give and receive advice about our career paths and personal dilemmas. We also give each other fashion and beauty advice, much of which evokes inspiration for some of my posts on the Chronicles. While our outings are fun and often last longer than planned, I always feel good afterwards because I've had the chance to shoot the breeze with someone like me. Someone sharing similar professional experiences. Did I mention that neither one of us is tempted to work when we're hanging out?

7. Adopt a Relaxation Technique - Stress is the professional woman's kryptonite. Too much of it can cripple one's productivity, and can have adverse effects on one's health. At some point it becomes necessary and important to adopt some sought of relaxation technique(s) to take off the edge. Maybe it's yoga...or jogging...or meditating. Massages, spa treatments, or listening to soothing music may be some additional options. Whichever technique(s) you choose, choose one! The ultimate goal is to get your stress in check.

8. Schedule a Phone Date With A Friend Once Per Week - I have a really dear friend that I met back in 1998 when I was moving into my freshman dorm at Spelman College. After we graduated from college, she went to one part of the country to attend law school and I went to another to do the same. After we concluded our schooling, she moved to Texas and I remained in the New York City area. Needless to say, it became necessary for us to periodically schedule phone dates with each other to catch up on the going ons in our lives. I value my scheduled chit-chat time with Mrs. Jackson because it allows me to connect with someone I love and talk about any and every thing...except work. It turns out that many of my good friends live many many miles away from me. It also turns out that many of them are working professionals with busy schedules, just like mine. I try my hardest to schedule phone dates with at least one of my friends each week...just to catch up. This practice has proven to be good for my soul, as it permits me to forget about work and further seal the bond I have created with my friends. It's the little things in life that keep you going.

9. Pad Your Emergency Fund and Save for Retirement - I personally think that this should be a permanent fixture on your list of things to do this year. Having funds readily available in the event of an emergency is highly don't want to be caught out in the storm without a poncho. Additionally, you should take full advantage of your company's retirement savings plan (i.e. 401K). If in doubt or if you need assistance in getting your finances in check, seek out the advice of a financial planner.
10. Buy Yourself Stuff - I saved the simplest task for last, and I'll explain it simply: you work make've responsibly paid your bills and student've contributed to your savings and retirement've purchased the obligatory birthday gifts for your mother, children, and/or significant should buy yourself stuff! What's the point of working hard and being responsible if you're not going to reward yourself with a new pair of shoes, a dress, or an electronic device? The simple fact is that you should make it a point in 2013 to reward yourself for your accomplishments, including (but not limited to) finishing up a big project, giving a stellar presentation, or getting an article published in a journal. Trust me, you've earned it!

Do me a favor and considers some of the items on this list. You owe it to yourself to ensure that you are the most happy, healthy, and fabulous Professional Diva you can be, so treat yourself well. I wish you all a prosperous and successful 2013!

Welcome to 2013!

From my family to yours, have a happy, prosperous, healthy, and fabulous 2013! I wish you all love, faith, and hope as we begin the new year. I would also like to thank you all for your undying support in, thank you!

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