Fitness // October 22, 2012 

You really don’t want to be that person at the gym who gets a wrinkled nose pointed at her because her clothes might not look or smell so fresh. You might be thinking, “I’m just gonna work out. What does it matter what I wear?” But I say, “You’re a put-together woman and your clothes—gym, work, or otherwise—ought to always convey that message.”

Spending a little extra cash on high quality and durable workout clothes is worth it because they’re designed specifically to stand up to all that you’re going to put them through -- sweat, those awkward yoga positions, etc.  Since they are a bit more expensive than your old ratty tee and sweats, you’re going to want to take extra care of them to make sure they last you as long as possible.  What’s the best way to do that?  Try this:

  1. Avoid letting your sweaty clothes sit around in an unvented bag. This allows bacteria to grow while the sweaty clothes fester, which will cause that repulsive stink (and, really, do you want to even think about bacterial growth on fabric touching your skin?). Many gym bags have vented compartments where you may store your post-workout clothes.  If possible, lay them out flat or hang them to air out before you throw them in the wash.  
  2. Machine wash with like colors, in cold water, on the gentle cycle.
  3. Do not use fabric softener, especially on clothing with sweat-wicking, reflective, or any other technical functions. Fabric softener will make all of those fabric promises null and void.
  4. Line dry the clothes made with the technical fabrics listed above.
  5. After a few weeks to months, it’s inevitable that your fave workout clothes’ function, feel, and fragrance (wrinkled nose here) may falter. This is when you enlist the help of a sports wash, which you can find at most sporting goods or other sport-related shops. Soak those articles of funked-up and/or function-failing clothes in a couple gallons of water and a capful of sportswash (the bottle of sport soap should have instructions). Swirl it around and soak for a few hours—overnight if the clothes really need help. Often rinsing then drying will do. I prefer rinsing, then throwing in with my regular wash. You’ll discover what works best for you.

Those are the fab five tips to keeping your workout gear lasting long and staying funk-free. It’ll keep you looking fresh at your workouts too, so everybody will know that you are that girl—the Made Woman.

Published in Health
Sunday, 23 September 2012 23:55

Lifestyle | How to Come Out of Your Shell

September 24, 2012 

If you had invited me to a party a couple years ago, I’d have told you I had to wash my hair.  Or my stomach hurt.  Or my head exploded into a migraine.  Or my face melted off.  You name it, I’d use it as an excuse.  Unless I knew everyone at said party, I wanted nothing to do with it.  People I don’t know well make me…squirmy.  I grew up in a tiny town and graduated high school with a whopping 20 other people – I never learned how to meet new friends because I never HAD to.  

My lack of outgoing-ness doesn’t mean that I don’t have friends or that I don’t like to go out and have a good time (I can find a few bartenders to vouch for that), but the situation has to be “just so” before I’m down to do it.  The problem with that, obviously, is that it’s not exactly conducive to making new friends or starting new relationships.  

If any of this sounds sort of like you, and you want to do something about it, I have some good news for you: you can change.  I made the decision to start pushing myself outside of my comfort zone a while ago; and while yes, it can still be pretty uncomfortable, the situations you force yourself into are usually nowhere near as bad as you imagine.  So how can you put yourself out there more and start acting like a functioning, normal member of society?  I’ll let you know how I did it.

Just Say Yes

Seriously, stop with the excuses.  If someone invites you somewhere and you feel yourself fumbling for a way to say no--quit it.  Say yes, dammit!  If you have no other plans, there’s NO reason for you to not go to that party, networking event, girls' night out with some people you’ve never met, etc.  You are not going to find a date or a new friend by sitting on your couch stuffing take-out pizza into your face.  The more people you know, the stronger your social network is…and that can lead to all sorts of potential benefits.  Force yourself to say yes, and follow through.  It may feel weird and it may produce a little anxiety, but you can do it and you’ll most likely be glad you did.

Do Something New

A cooking class was offered to employees at my new job not too long ago.  The old me would have thought, “I don’t really know many of my coworkers yet, I can’t even cook a Hot Pocket, who am I going to talk to? Will I end up standing in a corner alone hiding behind a skillet?”, etc. etc.   The new me pushed those thoughts out of my head and focused on the fact that I’d be getting free food and wine--at the very least--and at the most, making some new connections.   If your work offers group activities, sign up for a couple.  If there’s a gym in your neighborhood, go take a class.  If you’ve always been interested in sailing, take a lesson.  Do not let that little voice in your head telling you to avoid new, potentially uncomfortable situations, win.  This is about taking control of your fear/anxiety and forcing yourself to think about social situations differently.  You have to put yourself out there or nothing is ever going to happen to you!

Let Down Your Guard.

When I go out with my girlfriends, at least one of them usually ends up talking to a guy.  Me?  Not so much.  I’m the girl who’d rather go off and dance by myself than have some random dude in my face asking me what my sign is.  I’m instantly on guard with guys and it only starts coming down when I’m familiar with someone.  But how do you get familiar with a new person unless you…ya know, talk to him?  So now I at least exchange a few sentences before I make an exit.  You never know who you might meet unless you give them a chance, and if they’re a creep, there’s always that emergency, “Excuse me, I have to go to the restroom!” excuse.

Be Approachable

When I was younger, I was told several times by people that when they first met me, they thought I didn’t like them.  Or that I was probably a bitch.  I would always feel a little stunned by this, but then it dawned on me.  I never really smiled, I pretty much would just give short hellos at work and go about my business, I didn’t make a ton of eye contact; or if I did catch a glance, I’d usually look away.  These things all communicate disinterest.  It wasn’t because I was a mean person – I was just unsure of myself and let’s be honest, was a bit socially retarded.  Once I was aware of how I was coming off, I made a conscious effort to look people in the eye and smile when I walked by them, to say hello to that random stranger in the elevator, to not walk around with my head down and to ask coworkers questions just to make conversation (anything involving weekend plans, i.e .“how was your weekend?” on Monday and “any plans for the weekend?” on Friday is a good start).  Everyone is more attracted to a person who has a smile and a friendly “hello” ready.  

Listen, if you’ve never been extroverted and it feels completely unnatural to you to chat up strangers all the time, you may never be considered a social butterfly… but you don’t need to be!  Everyone is different.  I still have my days where I revert to my more withdrawn self, but the important thing is that I put forth the effort to make little changes here and there.  I’ve definitely made more friends and connections in the process, and people who’ve only known me for a year or two are always surprised when I tell them how painfully shy I used to be.  It’s an ongoing work in progress, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Published in Lifestyle

July 2, 2012

Smooth, soft, healthy skin. We all want it. And hopefully we are exfoliating, cleansing, protecting and moisturizing our way there. But there’s another important part of our skincare regimen that we often neglect: eating right. What you eat can directly affect the shape your skin is in. Learn to love these foods in order to put your best face forward:

Water: OK, so it’s not a food, but it is an essential ingredient for healthy skin.  Water keeps you hydrated so that you stay moisturized from the inside out! 

Papayas: Not just yummy, but also good for flavonoids, carotene and vitamin C.

Kiwi: Kiwi is a good snack when you are on the go, and it contains  --you guessed it-- vitamin C.

Oysters: This shellfish contains zinc, which helps with skin renewal. Soft and luscious skin – now that’s an aphrodisiac. 

Avocado: This versatile miracle food can be incorporated into any meal or eaten by itself. With essential oils, B complex vitamins, and niacin (an anti-inflammatory), this creamy green fruit is a miracle indeed. 

Mangoes: With 80% vitamin A (which repairs skin cells) as well as antioxidants for free radicals, mangos are irresistible. 

Almonds: Great for snacking on their own or as a topping for anything from salads to ice cream, almonds contain vitamin E and help to moisturize skin. Almond milk is also an excellent substitute. 

Cottage cheese: Full of selenium and vitamin E, cottage cheese helps prevents dandruff and provides calcium. Who would have guessed! 

Acerola cherries: Summer is cherry season, so stock up on these superfruits, which are made up of 100% vitamin C and produce collagen. 

Mushrooms: Did you know mushrooms have healing benefits?  They have riboflavins that help with tissue maintenance and repairs (especially after surgery). While grilling this summer, remember to add mushrooms to meats and burgers or grill some Portobellos on there.

Dark chocolate: Is there anything chocolate can’t fix? Dark chocolate contains flavonoids and helps with blood flow. But good luck on stopping after just one serving…  

Green tea: You might want to consider replacing your coffee addiction with green tea. This tea contains EGCG and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Combine those benefits with the added bonus of caffeine and you’ve got the recipe for an energized and healthy day. 

Strawberry, citrus, red pepper and broccoli: All of these fruits and vegetables have vitamin C and help with collagen. Throw them on a salad or bring them to work for snacking on their own.

Squash, sweet potatoes and spinach: These side dishes contain vitamin A and beta-carotene, which make for smooth skin.

Fortified cereal, lean meat, pork and poultry: Each of these foods contains zinc and iron that help skin glow. Breakfast, lunch and dinner made easy!

Try to incorporate as many of these foods as possible into your meals. All of them serve dual purposes: not only are they good for your skin, but they are healthy too. If you need some inspiration, check out Pinterest to look up and create healthy recipes using these ingredients. Your skin will thank you!

Published in Health
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:21

Style | Bedtime Beauty Tips

July 2, 2012

You get up in the morning and proceed to have an hour long prep session before you even start your day. You use enhancers, creams, and miracles on yourself before you feel ready to face the world. But what about when the day is over and you come home? Do you just crash? If your answer is yes then sister, we have a problem. We are all guilty of it; even me, I confess. But we can’t neglect ourselves at night and then look for a quick fix to combat our laziness (yes, I said laziness). I have learned that if I spend a little extra time simply practicing some self-love with my pre-bed beauty regimen, then I really have little need for extra products. Here are a few beauty tips for right before bed; I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 1: Always wash up.

I’m guilty of skipping this step -- and I’ve got to stop! Sweat, dirt, makeup, the day’s grime … all of that sits on our face at night, clogging our pores and aging our skin. So use a gentle facial cleanser and lukewarm water before going to bed, and follow up with a mild toner. And the last and most important step, don’t forget to moisturize your body and skin before bed. (I will too. Pinky promise.)

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 2: Never sleep with your hair in a ponytail.

No matter how exhausted you are, it’s important not to leave your hair elastics in, because they can cause breakage. If you want to avoid morning tangles, try sleeping on a satin pillowcase. It’s easier on both your hair and your face.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 3: Brush and floss every night.

If you skip the dental care at night, you’re not just in for a huge lecture at your next dental cleaning; you might actually be making yourself look older too. Brushing removes stains between and around your teeth, and for healthy gums you’ve got to floss too. Poor gum care can cause your gums to recede, making your teeth look longer -- and you older!

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 4: Let your feet breathe.

Keeping your feet in socks may keep them feeling toasty, but it also creates a moist environment where foot fungus can breed. Yikes!

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 5: Keep a glass of water by your bedside. Not only will this help if you wake up in the middle of the night dying of thirst, but also you are supposed to have a glass of water pre-breakfast to dull hunger and rehydrate. Remember, glowing skin comes from water.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 6: Don’t eat right before bed.

It is so important to eat within a reasonable time of your bedtime. When you eat right before bed, you don’t have a chance to burn off the calories. Certain foods and eating too much right before bed can lead to a restless night of sleep.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 7: Get your beauty sleep. 

I know you really want to stay up late to watch your favorite show, talk on the phone, or peruse the internet, but beauty sleep is no myth. Your skin needs time to heal and restore. Plus, who wants under eye bags? 

I hope you use these tips to re-energize your bedtime regimen. Instead of just crashing and waking up looking like a wreck, put in a little extra effort at the end of the day and stay looking young and healthy. Sweet dreams! 

Published in Beauty
Saturday, 16 June 2012 17:51

Fitness | You Can Do It! Goal-Setting 101

June 18, 2012

I’ve always lived my life on the run. As a former collegiate athlete, I would run from class to class and then to practice and back. Everything was go, go, go. When I finished school, I still hustled, but I noticed the people around me were so busy working and networking that they didn’t take time for themselves. After starting full-time work, many of them gained upwards of 20 pounds, felt sluggish or were faced with health concerns they never expected.

Some things in college tend to stay with you. For me, maintaining a balance between staying busy and staying fit has remained a priority. Others may struggle to find time to workout between an 11-hour workday, lunches, drinks and endless networking functions. Despite these constraints, there is a way to set and achieve manageable health and fitness goals. And, even if you don’t think finding time is necessary right now, consider this upstream prevention. You’re far less likely to face health concerns, like Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes, if you take small steps now.

Here are a few suggestions to consider when setting and following through with your health and fitness goals.

Manageable Goals

It’s great to have lofty goals (i.e., losing 20 pounds, finishing a triathlon etc.). But sometimes these goals are too far off and can become overwhelming. Create benchmarks for yourself. If you note your progress along the way, it will make your end goal seem more achievable. The concept of dropping two sizes won’t feel so overwhelming and you can bask in the success of your positive day-to-day decisions. Plus, you’ll be more aware of what is and isn’t working in your routine. This will allow you to make changes.

Remember the ‘Why’

Make sure that you’re invested in your goals; you’ve created them for a reason. Maybe you wanted to lose weight, train for a half marathon or simply lead a healthier lifestyle. There’s an emotional weight behind accomplishing each of those tasks. No one wants to run a half marathon just to do it; they’re proving something about their physical and emotional capacity. Remembering why you picked this goal will help when your “self-motivation” starts to wane - that moment when don’t know why you’re waking up at 5 a.m. or why you’re passing on that slice of strawberry cheesecake. Having a goal that you’re connected to will help you answer the why. And, before long, your choices will become habit.

Time Management

I work out 6 days a week. Some of my friends claim that they can’t find the time. Curiously, they find time to watch The Good Wife or Game of Thrones. Let’s be honest, we make time for what we want to make time for. When it comes to creating health/fitness goals, time management is a must. I find time to watch my favorite shows but I’m never just watching TV. While I watch, I’m doing abs, push-ups or an interval workout on the treadmill. No one says that you have to workout for 4 hours every day. If you take a serious look at how you spend your time and what those activities add to the essentials in your life, I promise you’ll find time for your health.

Birds of a Feather…

Flock together, yes. Look, it’s much easier to maintain goals if you are surrounded by people with the same values. I’m not saying to totally switch out your friends, but I am saying that it could be helpful to join a gym, a recreational league or bribe a friend to join you on your health quest. Your support system will help you stay accountable. If you’re already having a hard time staying motivated, there’s nothing worse than being surrounded by people who encourage you to veer off track. The little devil on your shoulder will give you plenty of reasons ‘why not’ to work out or skip McDonalds.

Be Selfish

Don’t forget who you’re kickboxing or cutting back on milkshakes for. It’s YOU. You are the most important element in setting your fitness goals. Don’t set goals or hold back pursuing this change based on what others think, want or need. Invest in yourself! YOU are important, YOUR health is important and YOU are in control of your body.

Good health is essential to a happy life. If you want to increase your chances at functioning longevity, you’ll need to make your health a priority. This means eating healthy and staying active despite the pressures and time constraints of life. You can do it! Step by step you will reach your goals.



Published in Health

May 21, 2012 

With neon as the hottest trend for the Spring/Summer 2012 season, fashion these days has become blindingly bright. This look from the 80’s has been revitalized in 2012. While everyone has taken on this look--on television, at fashion week, celebrities and maybe even on the office fashionista—it’s not always the easiest to rock. What goes with neon purple?? No need to worry, here are a few ideas to have you looking fabulous in neon...without looking like a box of crayons.


The easiest way to wear neon is to add a bright accent piece to your outfit. Try adding a neon belt, bag, shoes or jewelry to spruce up your look. When adding neon accents, your outfit should stay pretty neutral in color to allow the eye-catching color to take center stage. Adding a pop of neon to a simple silhouette can take you from average to over the top, effortlessly.




Mix and Match

If you’re not a fashion risk-taker and don’t feel comfortable wearing an outfit of head-to-toe neon, pick top or bottom. You can wear a pair of neon jeans with a neutral top or rock a classic blazer in bold neon to add some pizazz to your look.  With only one key piece in your outfit being bold, it will stand out in a good way.




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Going All In!

If you’re a fashionista that likes to take risks, try wearing a neon top and bottom. You can wear neon in a solid color as a dress or jumper, or you can try color blocking. Keep your silhouette and pieces simple because you are wearing all neon--you don’t want to overdo it with over thetop pieces. The important thing to remember when wearing a full neon outfit is that you need to add neutral pieces to tone down your bright look. Try adding neutral, classic pieces for your jewelry and bag with natural makeup and nails to finish your look.


Photobucket Photobucket

 Color Overload: Oh, No!

Bold neon colors were hot in the 80’s but you don’t want to look you stepped back in time. Remember: don’t overdo it with clashing neon from head to toe.  Avoid looking like a fashion disaster by add a few more muted pieces to your look to balance out the vibrant neon colors. Here are some examples of when neon goes wrong:

Photobucket   Photobucket


When wearing neon, don’t be afraid to play with different looks and styles. For example, you can be masculine, casual or ultra-feminine. Remember when wearing neon is it very easy to look shall we say...cray, so moderation and balance are key elements when trying out this trend.

Published in Fashion

May 21, 2012 

Even professional writers occasionally struggle with writing press releases. That’s because they’re not like anything else we write. A press release may seem similar to a blog article, but it’s really in a category of its own. It has its own set of rules. Don’t get discouraged if you’re tasked with writing one, though. These 10 guidelines should get you started, and everything beyond that just comes with practice.

Press releases are typically a tool to send to media professionals to generate publicity. 

  1. Provide Newsworthy Info – A press release is not an advertisement or an opinion piece. You need to announce actual news, like a new product or service, a recent event, an organizational milestone, a business expansion, or an award. Your thoughts on right wing politics should not go in a press release. 
  2. Consider “Why Should Anyone Care?” – Always ask yourself this question before writing your press release. Just because it’s seems like news to you or your boss doesn’t mean readers will automatically care. Don’t push your product or use clichéd phrases like “customers can now save money.” Focus on unique features that set your news apart. Or pick an interesting angle by tying your news to a current event, popular trend, social issue or recent study. 
  3. Explain Who’s Who – Make sure to mention your company in the headline and first paragraph. It gives the story credibility and also promotes the business. Best PR practices also say to include an “about” section for your company (technically called the boilerplate), as well as for all relevant affiliated companies mentioned (this can be done in the flow of the press release but is usually placed at the end). Don’t just assume anyone knows what a company does, or that they’ll want to go to the company’s website just to find that out. Speaking of websites: Be sure to include relevant site URLs and social media handles. 
  4. Hook the Reader at the Beginning – In this sense, a press release is like anything else you write—from blog to article to novel. Start strong and get the reader interested right away. Your headline, summary, and first paragraph should announce the news and intrigue the reader. Everything else is details.
  5. Be Brief – Unlike many other pieces of content, press releases have specific guidelines about word count. The general rule is to keep them 300-500 words long (I would recommend aiming for 400, give or take). If you use press release distribution services, they will often impose their own limit or charge more for longer publications—especially in the case of business distributions.
  6. Keep it Scannable – Very few people actually read online—they scan. So make sure your content is scannable. Split up long paragraphs into more bite-sized sections, shorten long sentences, and use bullet points where you can.
  7. Take SEO into Account – Effective press releases target both readers and search engines. Don’t go overboard and pack your press release with keywords from start to finish, but do consider your SEO goals before publishing. Carefully choose what keywords you want to target with your press release and incorporate them into the headline, the subhead/summary, the first paragraph, and the hyperlinks. On average, only use one linking keyword per 100-150 words.
  8. Be Professional and Use Correct Grammar – As a rule, press releases should always sound formal and professional, following all the appropriate grammatical guidelines. Always use third person (don’t use “I,” “we,” or “you”); pretend as if you’re a third party writing about your company. Use active voice instead of passive voice. Avoid jargon, exclamation points, hyperboles, exaggeration etc. Be concise and eliminate any unnecessary, flowery words. Most importantly, don’t forget to proofread according to AP Style and get someone else to proofread, too.
  9. Get a Quote – It’s always good to get a relevant quote for your press release, whether this is a customer review, an official statement by the CEO, or an event participant’s comment. A quote breaks up the flow of the press release so it’s not just one long description by the author. 
  10. Hold Something Back – Don’t reveal everything in the press release. If you want readers to click on your links, you need to give them a reason to do so (like learning more). 

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If you’re still struggling, a good place to start is to browse some examples on PRWeb. You’ll quickly realize getting the word out is not as complicated as it seems. Good luck! 

Published in Business

May 21, 2012 

So you just graduated! Yay! You have your cap and gown...and a mountain of student loan debt!! Wait. OK, so there is more to this whole graduating thing than you expected. But you can simplify your loans and pay them off more rapidly. Here’s how: 

  1. Consolidate your loans for simplicity – You may not get a lower interest rate but you will get the convenience of having just one payment to make. Cutting down on managing multiple accounts makes it easier to avoid late fees and keep up with due dates. For more information check out
  2. Check to see if you qualify for the Obama Special Direct consolidation program – This new program started in January 2012 and is available through June 2012. If you qualify, you can consolidate your loans and get a 0.25% reduction in interest rate. You can become eligible for another 0.25% interest rate reduction if the loan is repaid through an automatic debit system. For more information on the program and to see if your loans qualify visit this site.
  3. Make additional payments – By making additional debt payments every month you may be able to pay off your student loan a lot faster.  For example, if your student loan balance is $10,000 with an interest rate of 6.8% and minimum payment of $115 per month, it will take you 10 years to pay off the loan.  If you add another $100 to your monthly payment for a total of $215 per month it will take 4.6 years to pay off the loan.  Also, by paying $215.00 per month instead of the calculated payment of $115.08, you save $2,169.12 in interest charges.
  4. Get someone else to pay – I like this one. There a lot of occupations now offering to pay off your student loans as a recruiting tool. Programs such as AmeriCorps or Teach for America also offer grants to help you pay off your loans. Teaching in a low-income school may also qualify you for loan forgiveness.
  5. And don't forget: If you meet income requirements, you can deduct up to $2,500 per year in interest on any loans used for higher education.

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When dealing with debt, the best thing you can do is educate yourself about your options. Do your research and then work on paying your student loans down step by step. Soon you’ll be able to pay them off and focus on the bright future ahead of you. 

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Published in Personal Finance

May 21, 2012 

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess the last time you said “let's talk about sex, baby,” to someone else, with a smile on your face, it was because Salt -N-Pepa was blaring in the background and you were a few cocktails in with your girlfriends. There was probably a dance floor involved.

Not a very long limb, eh?  That's because for the majority of women (myself included), those are five words that--unless accompanied by the above circumstances--are closely related to the most awkward of conversations we can imagine having with a significant other.  And unfortunately, there are more uncomfortable phrases where that came from.  “What are we?” and anything with the word “money” can (and will, if you're anything like me) make you squirm right out of your mind just imagining the agonizing directions these conversations can go. 

Enter Made Woman.  We make no promises, but we strive to make you feel just a bit more secure as you conduct these conversations. Because, let's face it, unless you have “the talk,” there will surely be an expiration date on your relationship.

Sex… The Safe Kind

I've known many confident, beautiful women who crumble at the mere thought of this conversation for all the wrong, but very common, reasons:  They feel embarrassed or ashamed, a loss of empowerment, or they worry about the other person leaving them. 

What would happen if you entered the conversation with this mindset:  This is my body, and I'll be the one who has to live with it even if he decides to leave.  I am not my parents, or my grandparents, whose biggest risk to having unsafe sex was the possibility of pregnancy.  I can’t hide my head in the sand in the age of genital warts, cervical cancer (a happy byproduct of HPV), HIV and AIDS.  I have the power to protect myself against all of these, and he has the choice to work with me or hit the road. When all is said and done, if the conversation goes horribly wrong, it's in your power to eliminate the idiot who can’t see past a good time in bed. It’s not just about the act of sex, it’s about your health.  Your wellbeing is not something to be timid about.  

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So yes, be empowered! But for God's sake, don't go into the talk anticipating that World War III lays ahead.  And also, make sure you talk about this before any belts unbuckle -- bringing it up in the heat of the moment is bound to make it awkward and will definitely kill the mood.  Start it off as casually as you can, during a relaxed moment between the two of you.  Maybe tell him that you care about him, as well as both of you as a unit and that you want there to be a mutual understanding in your relationship.  Then let the rest flow, as naturally as you can.  You know your boundaries, what you're comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with.  Guess what? He may have been waiting for you to break the ice. Talk and listen with an open mind.

Who knows, you may find that talking about it actually turns you on, and once each person’s expectations are out in the open, you’ll be comfortable enough to finally have a good time. Safely. ;-)

Defining the Relationship

Let's start by not calling it the “Defining Our Relationship” talk in the first place.  I'm not even a guy and my chest got tight just typing those words out.  What about having a “Sell The Relationship” talk instead?  You've got something that he will only get should he choose to become exclusive with you, right? (If you don't, I'll get to you in a second).  What is it?  Is it sex (or having it more often)? Is it your promise to stop giving your number to other guys who come your way during a girl's night out?  Is it more sleepovers? Is it the opportunity to spend more quality time with wonderful you? These are all benefits to being with you.  Use these bargaining chips to your advantage.  Negotiate.  Present him with the benefits, instead of putting him on the defense. 

Okay, so what if you have already given up all your relationship goal before securing a title? Fine, it happens, we can lose our minds once in a while as we fall head over heels.  There can still be a positive outcome for you if you realize two things:  It will be harder, and you will need self-control.  Tell him you have a desire for you both to be exclusive to each other, you're falling hard, and you wish to enhance your connection by becoming singular.  a committed couple.  Tell him you'd be hurt if you knew he was doing the same things with other people that he is doing with you.  Remain calm as you tell him you understand if he's not on the same page, but you'll have to distance yourself from him should he not be.  If his answer is not the one you're looking for, hold true to your statement and back the hell away.  This is where the self-control comes in.  Have respect for yourself –no one wants to be, or look like a lost puppy.  Attractiveness goes hand in hand with confidence, and once he sees that you have the confidence to move on, the confidence to stick by your word and not call or text him... he might just remember it was that confidence that attracted him to you in the first place and come back around.  Should he not?  Like my mama always said: There's always, always more fish in the sea.  Never settle for less than what you're asking for.

What's Mine is... Mine.

I've read it's estimated that money leads to 90% of divorces. This number does not seem out of control to me.  Money means different things to different people:  power, love, security, control, etc.  What does it mean to you? What does it mean to him?  You need to find out before walking down the aisle, as I'm sure you don't want to be the couple who adds any more decimals to that percentage of divorcees.  As with the two subjects above, find a calm moment to broach the subject.  Don't be afraid to kick the conversation off yourself by offering your own opinions about a financial issue.  Maybe use an example of something you saw in the news, on TV, or in a friend's relationship and go on to say what you would have done in that same circumstance.

Then begin to share more personal experiences about money issues.  You might start with how you were raised to thinking about it, how your own family dealt with it, and how it's been dealt with in past relationships –and whether those memories are positive or negative for you.  Be honest with yourself –If you earn more than your partner, would you feel resentment if he skimmed some of your funds for himself? Do you feel more secure with two separate accounts should you get married, or would you prefer one shared? How do you feel about debt?  How do you feel about him taking care of you financially? (In this age of the independent woman, more and more have differing feelings on this issue).  In money discussions, a game-changing moment where you both realize you are not on the same page with an issue could arise.  Work to come to an agreement, but remember, just as in our “Selling The Relationship” talk –never, ever settle for something that makes you discontent. 

If you are married (please, please be married before doing this) and decide to merge your accounts into one, make sure you each retain a credit card that is detached from everything else.  Should divorce, death, or anything else unexpected and tragic occur, it will be extremely difficult for you to get a mortgage or loan without it.

Personally, my game-changer is credit card debt. I will never, every marry someone who has it (or who can't seem to pay it off before walking down the aisle), and I would never bring it into a marriage. No way around it.  It's something I was raised believing and it's something I continue to believe now as an independent woman.  What's your game-changer?  Whether it's an issue of sex, what a relationship means to you, or money, figure it out before the time comes to sit down and talk about it.  Don't let anyone take that away from you, and know that if you can’t reach an agreement with your man, there is someone else out there (we're not being corny, we're being honest here!) who will see eye-to-eye with you.

Published in Love + Dating

May 21, 2012

Ah, spring. The flowers, the sunshine, the cute shoes. But wait – springtime also conjures up a dreadful childhood memory: Spring cleaning. Fear not – you are a Made Woman! Not only does that mean you’re smart, independent and stylish, it means you know to keep your space clean. Well, hopefully. ;-)

Now I know cleaning is not first on everyone’s list of fave weekend activities, but let’s get real. Who wants to come home to or entertain in a place that isn’t tidy? Roll up your sleeves girls, because you have some cleaning to do.

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Here is our fab five list of spring cleaning tips to get you started:

  1. Clean your closet – It’s time to reorganize. Do a Goodwill drop-off of clothing you haven’t worn in a year. Organize your shoes so they’re easy to find. If there are shelves to dust, dust them. Give your closet a spritz of Febreze. Re-hang anything that’s falling off its hanger. Not only will this make your room look better it will cut down the time it takes you to get dressed in the morning.
  2. Clean your coffee pot – This is something I neglected to do until I read an article in HGTV Magazine’s February/March issue. While java drinkers probably clean out the grounds bin and the pot regularly, most of us don’t clear out the whole system. HGTV magazine advises us to fill the reservoir with two parts white vinegar and one part water. Turn the machine to brew and let it do its thing. Repeat twice using just water.
  3. Clean hard floors – If you do this regularly, good job! I usually sweep weekly but I rarely take out the mop. Mix a cup of white vinegar with one gallon of water to scour tile or linoleum. Skip the vinegar solution for hardwood floors; instead check out these cleaning tips from Apartment Therapy. Don’t cheat: You have to clean every inch of flooring!
  4. Clean baseboards – Have you ever looked at baseboards? They are major dust collectors. Somehow they are also collectors of random stains and cobwebs. Keep cleaning simple by running a microfiber cloth along the boards. Use a slightly damp cloth if stuff is really sticking.
  5. Clean the inside of your car – Cars are usually dirtier than we realize. Take an hour to throw out trash, wipe up coffee or tea stains, put away any clothing items that have accumulated and wipe down the dashboard. Vacuum the interior (try a gas station) and give the windows a good clean so your car will be sparkling clean.

Bonus Tip: Before you invest 100 bucks in cleaning supplies, do a Google search on cleaning with vinegar. White vinegar is an old trick that the home-and-garden folk swear by. It gets things uber clean and it’s really cheap.

This is just a shortlist to get you started. There are more obvious cleaning items like cleaning blinds, cabinets, refrigerators, windows and the yard or garage, too, so make a list that works for your home and lifestyle. Turn on some tunes and get cleaning!

What other spring cleaning tips are there? Tell us in the comments below! Sharing is caring…

Published in Lifestyle
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