Oysters may be an aphrodisiac and truffles might seem romantic, but there’s nothing sexier than offering to cook your date a simple meal at home.

Especially on Valentine’s Day, when the hottest restaurants in town are all packed to the brim and serving predictable prix fixe menus, a candlelit dinner at your own table can be just what Cupid ordered.

Whether you’re looking to save money or show off your skills in the kitchen, we have put together a super-simple, recession-friendly Valentine’s menu that anyone can cook at home…

The Wall Street Journal is calling this the “age of going solo.” The reasons are obvious: more people are working independently, because they gave up on the corporate world or were chucked out. A startling 20-plus percent of US workers are freelancers, consultants, contractors or (my personal favorite) “micropreneurs.”

Are you one of them? Could you be? The Journal’s story by Richard Greenwald offers some powerful tips on how to succeed. Read the original article for more, like what to beware of in a professional network.

Think long term

You might see this as a temporary, in-between jobs situation. But it might not be. And if you think of it that way, you won’t be very good at it. And with competition for gigs fierce, your halfhearted approach won’t make you a pile of money.

Learn and teach

You need cutting-edge skills, both to justify your rates and improve your chances of getting a full-time gig, should you want one.

A daily review of the employment fallout around the country and the world.

Today’s Total: 2,262

The Bank of Scotland Ireland, owned by Lloyds Banking Group, is terminating 750 positions, effective completely by this coming July… SAS Scandinavian Airlines is planning to cut 650 full time jobs as part of a cost reduction plan… The Somerdale Cadbury plant at Keynsham is terminating 400 jobs between March and July, even though Kraft had assured workers that they would keep their jobs… Nokia is laying off up 285 workers from its Salo plant…

“Hi, my name is X, and I’ve been feeling a little bit screwed by the economy.”

“Hello, X.”

It’s not likely that such a formal introduction will take place when a support group for recession victim gathers this Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Odessa Cafe in Manhattan. But the group, a Meetup titled “WTF Now?“, does take its inspiration from other aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous, according to organizer Chrissy Rossettie.

“My boyfriend goes to AA and gets a lot out of it,” she says. “So I thought, ‘Why not have a support group for unemployed New Yorkers?’ If nothing else, I’m hoping that it will provide a forum for people to vent and blow off steam, and maybe feel a little less alone and lost.”…

What a year it has been. We have seen the he-men fall; retailers give us better discounts; the ups and downs of economic forecasts; and changes in gender balance on the home front. The world certainly feels different from a year ago, when “recession” was still cocktail-party chatter, not a serious matter of devastating losses of jobs, homes and savings. Back then, it seemed it would be a brief period of hunkering down; now, we know better.

But we see the positive, too: We’ve seen families get closer, our national savings rate improve, businesses get smarter, values re-emerge. We’ve seen individuals empowered by what they didn’t know they could do…

Say what you will about commercialism and Valentine’s Day—it’s hard to reject a day that celebrates love in all its squishy glory.

Stop using money as an excuse to check out–who says you have to buy roses at inflated prices, or shell out for an overcrowded restaurant? In fact, sharing V-Day in a way that involves less spending (much, much less…) can be even more special. Start with our nine tips for gifts, meals and activities that will
make your Feb. 14 about connection, consideration and romance, not cash and cliches.

Say it with pictures

Or as PhotoJoJo puts it: “If you love someone, shoot them.” Go out and take portraits of each other, even if it’s with a crappy camera…

You know the score. It’s all about personal branding these days. You know what to do: the blog, the Twitter account, the Facebook page, the … you know, the branding stuff. You need a job, and to get it, or that fat yet elusive raise and promotion, you have to distinguish yourself. With branding.

Hold the phone, there, sweet pea. Before you go all Seth Godin on us, take a moment’s pause. Just a moment – well, OK, I lied, more like several moments. And get clear on just what kind of brand you’re communicating to those prospective and current Powers That Be.

What the Heck Is a Personal Brand Anyway?

A lot of folks are writing about personal branding without a clear understanding of what that is. So let’s clarify our terms first.

A personal brand is not just the way you present yourself. It’s not merely your self-image. It’s that, and a promise you make to others – a promise that you’ll deliver on that image. That you’ve got the goods to back it up. In short, your personal brand is an assurance that your ego isn’t writing checks your skill level and experience can’t cash…

The American Dream is dead– and it ain’t a bad thing.

In a recent survey by Context-Based Research Group, a Baltimore consumer anthropology firm, 78 percent of respondents said they believed the AD was kaput. But they also agreed that it should be, because the dream has become defined by what you can buy, rather than by freedom and ideals.

If there’s one thing we learned in the past few years, it’s that lots of things are more important than money. So here’s some more good news: Those surveyed said they had taken steps to spend less (85 percent) and had de-cluttered their homes (61 percent). Well, now that all that stuff is gone, what’s taken its place? People…

Talk about upside potential.

In the recession, lots of entrepreneurs have had to bootstrap their startups. They’re dying for talent, but can’t pay salaries. Meawhile, there are lots of smart people willing to work for, um, “alternative” compensation (i.e., equity, low pay, or nothing), because they want to build their resume, take a shot at a startup or just do something with their unemployed selves.

Enter JobNob.

Our smart friends at JobNob bring the two sides together. They have held eight successful mixers in Silicon Valley for job-seekers to connect with startups, and they’re brining the show to New York on Feb. 9…

A daily review of the employment fallout around the country and the world.

Today’s Total: 2,328

Lost Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa has ordered 1,000 municipal job cuts… Hartford, CT based insurance company Aetna Inc. has laid off 625 employees 200 Wayne County employees are in danger of losing their jobs if the county’s temporary layoff plan isn’t implemented… Republic Airways Holdings Inc. will be transitioning to jet service, resulting in 175 employee layoffs this coming April… California’s Alvord School District is considering 128 staff layoffs Wisconsin’s Bay Shipbuilding Co. is planning 116 job cuts due to begin in early April…General Motors will leave 64 Jacksonville warehouse workers jobless this March… Beverly Hills Unified School District is recommended to lay off 20 teachers to meat budget cuts.