Thursday, May 31, 2007

Creating a customized landscaping plan just for you

There's nothing that smartens up a garden or driveway more than some simple landscaping. It doesn't always have to be fancy or expensive, but it should be creative and beautiful. Landscape Design is so much more than just trimming the bushes and cutting the lawn and involves planning and designing a space around its function and budget. Since we live in an apartment, my garden consists of a pots outside all my windows, where we have wrought iron extensions specifically for our plants, but even here it is possible to be creative and organized my plants in a manner that adds to the look of the area.

I did some research on creative landscaping tips and found SLDA Landscape Design Associates, who are extremely professional about creating a one of a kind garden. The company follows a Three SteppingStone Process that uses design, traffic flow, children as well as pets to decide what kind of landscape you should go for. Keeping things like which door is used most to enter the garden and many other insights, SLDA creates a landscaped garden that will be perfect for the way the residents live and use their garden.

The rains are here!

Ah, finally....the pre-monsoon showers are here!! It's raining as I sit and writing this, along with a lot of thunder and lightning...as if to announce to everyone, Yes I'm here...Goody good good. I can hear kids in the street below enjoying the rain and the lovely cool weather. Even after living here for close to three years, I still haven't got used to absolutely no rain from October to May or sometimes even June. But once the rains arrive, that's pretty much all it does, till September or October.

What book to read next?

So, since I've finished my books, I need to find something else to read. Even though I barely get any time to read, I have to have a book to read at hand. I came across a site call goodreads (which I wrote about on my other site as well) that works as a social network of sorts for books. You can list the books you have read, the books that you want to read, get and give recommendations on books and chat with others on books and authors. I signed up for it yesterday, but have only added one of the books that I just finished reading. Let's see how useful I find the site.

Finished reading

Ok, so I finally, finally finished both books that I had been reading for simply ages. I'm actually embarrassed to say when I started them, since I've never taken so long to finish a book. And the sad part was that they were both good books, both based on true stories. The two books were Wild Swans by Jung Chang about three generation of women in Mao's China and The Art of the Steal by Christopher Mason about the Christies and Sotheby price fixing scandal.

Beware of Hyip scams

Everyone wants to make money online, right? A lot of sites make it sound so easy, but beware of scams, as they are too many to count and multiplying by the thousands. One of the most common online money making scheme is the Hyip, or High Yield Investment Program, which works essentially as a pyramid scheme. While not all Hyips are scams but a lot of them are and Code4Gold is a Hyip listing and monitoring site, that provides a place for people to find companies where they can make money online, without being affiliated with them.

Code4Gold also has a scam alert blog and PTP (paid to post) forums where members can discuss anything from Hyip to autosurf to scams and other moneymaking schemes. Have a look and see if Code4Gold Adv is for you. Although I am unlikely to get involved in such schemes, I found their blog quite interesting to read, as it provided a lot of information on how these scams work and what to watch out for. The above post was a sponsored review. It just seems that the more we progress technologically, the more creative scammers get. Consumers are also easily duped since everyone wants the easy way out.

Update on Holiday City

I've written earlier as well about a travel site called Holiday City and I wanted to post an update to my experience with them. I've made several reservations with them and I really like their site. In fact, my hubby is currently staying at a hotel in Dubai on a reservation that I made on Holiday City. The hotel is as it is described on the site and reviews by other guests were pretty accurate. I sent the site an email a couple of days back regarding a hotel in Singapore and I got a response back within 8 hours. What has really got me hooked onto this site, is that it really keeps things simple.

Most travel sites just have too much information on them, that becomes irritating after a while. When you want to find a hotel room, you have an area you want to look in and a budget and these are the two most important things. Room and hotel details are clearly listed and when I didn't see any information on the availability of broadband internet in the room at this hotel I liked, I sent them a mail and received a positive response from them. I'm thrilled to have finally found a great hotel site, one that works especially well for Asia, as I'm yet to book hotels in the US or Europe with them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Just too humid lately

This ultra humid weather is just sapping every ounce of energy I have and I'm getting really exhausted with it. It's impossible to manage without a dehumidifier in this weather. I do wonder which is the best dehumidifier for your home? I've been searching for dehumidifiers for the past few days and am still not sure which one would suit our requirements as yet, although I am understanding dehumidifiers better and getting closer to seeing which one will work for us. The resource I have found quite helpful is DehumidifierTips.com which has lots of articles on dehumidifiers for your home. Does one buy one for the entire house or on a room by room basis? I had no idea they could be so small and portable, but these look like they would be really handy. Since I work from home, I need to ensure that my work environment is conducive to work and lately it has been hard. I hate having the AC on all the time, since it's right next to me and I end up getting a headache really quick, but a dehumidifiers sees to be the right answer.

Pageflakes: creating your own personal space

Have you created a personalized page on Yahoo or Google yet? Here's another one to choose from, and its called Pageflakes. You can personalize your page with whatever type of news you would like. I thought I would check it out before signing up so bypassed the create a page button. The page that loaded for me had my city info, including latest news, four day weather forecast, events calender along with an interactive map, local pics and much more. Interesting, I thought!! I could start liking this all too easily. You can even configure you email account with it, so you never have to leave it. You can have different pages for different locations, invite friends, add your feed, and much more.

International tickets online

I found a new international flight search site called vayama and plugged in some of our frequently flown routes where I know the general cost. Well, they seem to be more expensive than the fares I pay, when I buy tkts online or offline, for most of the routes. For nearby locations, the difference is about 20% but for further destinations, the costs seems to be almost 75% higher. Their market is obviously not people like me. Will keep checking to see if their fares are dynamic or if they remain the same.

Living healthily

If you're one of those people that constantly lose track of calories consumed for the day, then you're going to love this. The calorie counter from MyFitnessPal.com is actually something all of us can benefit from as it's not only for those trying to lose weight, but rather a tool to teach ourselves to be healthy. Their calorie counter is free for everyone to use, unlike those calculators that people buy and forget about. This system is a lot more user friendly, I think and much more interactive, which is what gets people to stick with the program. The community boards are a really good way to see how others are doing and pick up on tips to live a healthier lifestyle.

Keep track of you comments


Have you seen this interesting site called coComment where you can keep track of all your comments in one place? I have been a bit slow to liking it, but now that I have got accustomed to it, I am quite enjoying their system. coComments allows you to not only keep track of all your online conversations, but also those of top commenter's, the posts that are receiving the most comments and other commenter's who are visiting and commenting on the same conversations.

Building a dream home

As it is with most people, we have a general idea of what we want in our dream home, things that we must have in our home and others that must not be there. Building a dream home is much more than the physical construction of it, it's actually part of your dreams and to turn it to reality is the most fun as well as the toughest thing to do.

Building the home of your dreams is no easy task. Besides the financial implications, the design side of it can also lead to lots of issues and costs. For most consumers it is essential to take a loan to fund the construction of their dream home. There are lots of companies that offer construction and remodeling loans to customers and it is important that you select the right one. A company must give you specific details on what all it entails to take a loan for construction of a home, such as paperwork and contracts.

Trendwatching

Trends, trends and more trends....each is more fascinating than the next and I can't seem to get enough about writing about trends. I find it extremely fascinating to discover what people across the world are coming up with and how it can be adapted to different uses. It's a good time to be a trendwatcher and the site that I've been going to a lot has been Google's new Hot Trends, which lists the top 100 searches for the day. Interesting stuff!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Positive impacts of coaching

Education has always been a very important part of my life, and I have spent over 10 years living away from home to get a good education. Whether you get an education in the traditional form or via newer more modern methods, the essence of the education is what matters. Online courses have been increasing in importance as the methods of teaching have become much more interactive and most students are also working which makes it easier for them to relate to what they learn in the classroom.

Capella University is one of the more prominent universities that offers online courses and one of it's faculty members has co-authored a book on appreciative coaching that is now available. Sara Orem's book is titled 'Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change', that discusses how positive coaching experiences can change the learning process. People are known to perform better when they focus on human ideals and achievements. The book is perfect for managers, executives and many more individuals who work with people in an influencing role. This blog post was based on information provided by Blogitive. For more information, please visit Blogitive.com.

Want anything to drink? You can have exactly that now!

Who hasn't said that anything or whatever is fine to drink? Well, now there really are drinks called Anything and Whatever. Springwise reports that a Singapore based company has come up with these drinks as an answer to all guests who can't make up their minds as to what to drink. To add another twist to the tale, while the drinks come in six flavors, you don't know which one it's going to be until you pop open the can and have a taste. Anything is the carbonated brand and has flavors such as Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon and Root Beer, while Whatever has non-fizzy flavors such as Ice Lemon Tea, Peach Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape Tea, Apple Tea, Chrysanthemum Tea. The buzz doing the rounds is that teens are going wild this new product already.

A cool tool to help you select a car

You're going to love this. An automobile site called Autotropolis has a really great tool to help consumers select cars. The Vehicle Selector Aid suggests a range of cars that will best suit you, based on a number of variables such as are you looking for a family car or a working car or a student car. At the next stage, you can select the importance of reliability, driveablity, safety and price, as well as select the type of vehicle that you are looking for. It's a really great tool for people to find vehicles that will suit their needs. I would like one more variable added though, the cost of running and maintaining a vehicle, which is an important factor in most purchasing decisions. Autotropolis also has other cool tools such as a Dealership Locator that helps you hone in to cars by location. All in all, it's definitely one of the best car sites I have come across on the Internet.

On golfing

I took my first tentative golf swings when I was 17 or so, and only got started playing seriously when I was 23. I took lessons from a local pro and practiced daily to improve my handicap. While my swing was good, I was never too good at distance and my pitching was up and down as well. My putting was pretty good and very good on the day I gave my test to become a member at my local golf club, which is one of the most prestigious ones in the country and has a waiting list of 10+ years just to get it.

Once I got hooked, golf became an important part of my life and we traveled often to play at different courses, which was just perfect since it combined my two current favorite pastimes, travel and golf. There is a huge market in golf tourism as I soon discovered and started playing all my vacations around courses and flights around tee times. Well, golf is like that, once you're in you're totally addicted!

Where to list?

There are a lot of directory listings out there, so how many should you enter your blog into? I have entered my blogs in several but found Blog Catalog to bring in the most hits so far. Their system is simple, efficient and very quick. It's very quick to add your blog and once they check it out, and approve it, you will start getting hits from them. Another good option is to set up a page at Outpost Earth, a listing of blogs that can be categorized by country, city, subject etc. I have found some interesting visitors from Outpost Earth as well.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Weekend workshops

I simply love the mountains. I went to boarding school in the Himalayas where we went for a week of camps and hikes every year, which has instilled the love of taking nature retreats in me forever. There is something very special about being in nature not just as a tourist, but taking part in the growth of the environmnet and ecology. Through tree planting sessions we ensured that the process of deforestation be slowed down, and through our anti-littering drives we ensured that stray forest fires be reduced. It's just a way of life in the hills, one has to be more aware of one's surroundings and specifically on our impact on our surroundings.

My weekend surfing took me to The Lotus Path, an organization that organizes spiritual journeys at its mountain home in the Sierra foothills between Yosemite and Fresno in California. Going on one of these spiritual journeys is a great experience and to do it in beautiful surroundings is even better. The workshops include spirituality and lessons in self awareness. I really liked the idea, because there really is no better place to start your spiritual journey than in nature. Single sessions can be just for the day or one can take one for a longer duration. Costs range from $24-40 per session, which is a great incentive to get started on a spiritual path. Using a mix of Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Shamanism from Hawaii and Africa, The Lotus Path Workshops create a way for an individual to connect with something greater than one's physical being.

Weekend's over too soon

Well, the weekend went by altogether too fast. I got some rest, saw a headache inspiring movie (the new version of Umrao Jaan), read my book Wild Swans by Jung Chang almost to the very end, caught up with the pending newspapers (yes, I do read all the newspapers I have missed reading from the previous day, even if they are not 'new'....it's a genetic thing!!). I missed The Apprentice this weekend, as the timings seem to have changed and I wonder when they will be showing it now. Hmmm....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Vacation fun

I'm getting to be a big fan of vacations where everything is included in the vacation package, so you don't need to spend anything extra. It's like a cruise vacation that has all the goodies on offer for its passengers. So, if you're looking for an all inclusive resort mexico then head on over to Vacations.net, which has some really good options available for all kinds of vacations, such as family or couples only. I had visited this site a few months back too and was thrilled to see that they had made some great changes, such as super pics, details on the destinations, culture, activities etc. The booking system also offers special deals such as a an extra night for free automatically depending on your travel plans and dates. I keep visiting travel sites to see what is happening where and I find that I really like the newly done site.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Creating a travel journal


There are really tons of travel sites of all kinds out there. The one that I keep going back to is Travel Pod, where readers can create their own travel journal, interact with other readers, share experiences, and find friends. You can also upload your travel photos here. I've not started my own journal here, but I probably will be doing so soon. It's also nice to see a travel site that is not bombarded with ads, like most other sites are.

The age of the trendspotter

The growth of a trend right from the time it is barely a blip to when every second person is typing it in a Google search box is extremely fascination. The field of market research never was this interesting earlier on, but has some how transformed itself into the most hip and happening profession. Blog and social media have a lot to do with its popularity, as does the fact that as a society we are constantly looking for the next big idea to hit us. As a retail analyst, I find it an exciting time to be in this business.

Creative sitters for your kids

I read about this quite some time back on Springwise, bu never got around to blogging about it. Instead of just getting a regular babysitter, people are going in for babysitters with creative talents who can inspire as well as entertain children. Sitters in the City was founded by Eugnia Bachaleda and Kristina Wilson who wanted to provide parents with choices of babysitters that could keep a child entertained and amused, and artists and actors flexible jobs that would combine well with their schedule of auditions and rehearsals. Sitters bring their own cache of toys and ideas to inspire kids with books, movies, art or music. Charges are $15 per hour with a minimum four hour booking.

Ah, the weekend!

Looking forward to catching up with some rest and relaxation this weekend. With the way things have been going for the past few months, it doesn't look like work is going to ease up and that's both good and bad. More good than bad, although I need to set some limits for the amount of work I do, so I can get some rest as well. This really is the hardest part of working from home, and unless you can manage to balance this aspect of work-rest time, you're going to end up working more hours than you worked before.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Summer decorating

Part of living in a hot climate is having different sets of curtains, covers and carpets for the winter and summer. During the hot and long summer months, it becomes essential to switch to more summery fabrics for the curtains, but also those that block the light and strong sun. I have found Roman blinds to be most effective in doing this and have got a set made for my dining room windows where I receive the maximum amount of sun. My windows there are perfect for roman blinds since there is a narrow ledge under the window and curtains never flow well past this ledge. I got the idea several months ago when I saw the styles at a site called Terry's Fabrics, which specializes in all kinds of blinds, window treatments, bedding, curtains, rugs, tie backs and much more. I found the site to be a great place to get new ideas and buy stuff at nice discounts.

Not enough time to read books anymore

I became a member of a library when I was 3 or 4 years old. Since then, I have been an avid reader, although my reading has drastically reduced in the past year, since I have been working longer hours and spending too much time working on the computer. I do miss the quiet comfort of reading a book though and still make my list of must read books and must buy books, even though I already have a backlog of a couple of years. Books that I bought in Providence, RI in 2005 are still waiting to be read, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

Free magazines, anyone?

I have always been a voracious reader, taking in everything from novels to newspapers to magazines. Currently, we have subscriptions to 5 magazines a month, one in fashion, one in home decor, 2 in business and the Readers Digest. My subscriptions for both my fashion and home decor magazines are expiring in a couple of months and I'm keen to change it to a new magazine now and add in a travel magazine as well. Free Magazine subscriptions are available on the Internet and that's the best place to get a magazine these days. While the selection of free travel magazines is still small, new magazines are added on a daily basis, so I will be checking back with them until I find the magazine that I want. I'm not sure how I will take out time to read them, but order them I will. One gets so much junk mail that getting something nice in the mail is a great feeling, right? And yes, even though this was a sponsored post, this is really how I feel about magazine subscriptions.

Short projects or long term jobs?

Friday at last! I thought last week had been hectic, but this week I have inundated with work and that too work on several different projects, which means I have had to set aside time for each one and change gears to get into the project. I like working on a project to project basis. I like completing things, and I like completing them fast. Being a Gemini, you always are in a rush to do things and in regular job, there were always lots of continuing projects, but nothing with a deadline like I have now. Most of my projects last a week or so, which is a really nice length of time to do a project, take a break or not and move on to the next one. Besides my project assignments, I do have some work on an continuous basis where I have a weekly deadline. That gives me some base to work from, and not have to depend only on rotating projects. I can't say when I have enjoyed working so much.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Make your travel wish list on 43 Places


In my last post I wrote about 43 Things, a site where you can compile the list of things you can to do and the things you have done already. Their sister site is 43Places, which is all about all the places you've been to and all the places you want to go to. It's a great place to get ideas of where the buzz about a new destination. My five places that I want to go to are: Croatia, China, Romania, Italy and Copenhagen...yes, I know the last one is a city and not a country!

I have listed my university, the coffee shop which we used to frequent all the time in Providence,RI and lots of other places as well. You can see who else is listing these places and get their ideas and information on the place. Nothing quite like getting info directly from people who have traveled to a place or visited a specific restaurant.

Make your list on 43 Things


I love making lists of all kind. Lists of places I have been to, lists of places I want to go to, lists of things I want to do, things I want to buy and so on. A site that caters to just this is 43things. I signed up with them last year and have enjoyed making my lists. For each item you add, you can specify if you want to go there/do it or have already been there/done it and also if you'd like to give advice to others on it. It's definitely a fun site that you can go back to again and again.

Focus on marketing

Travel sites are quite common on the Internet, right? Everyone loves to travel, so why wouldn't they be. So, in this competitive atmosphere, how do you get your travel site to stand out amongst all the others? One way that has proven to be most effective is to market the site using techniques such as search engine optimization, linking strategies etc. What, no time or inclination to do it yourself? Invest in a good program such as thinkBIGsites.com, which is a website optimization firm and has created a special blog marketing strategy to improve branding and ranking in search engines. Using their techniques, it will be possible to get more website traffic which can translate into higher sales and build brand awareness. Branding is the only way to go these days, and rather than just pushing a product or service, tie it in with a brand which in turn will lead to buzz around products and services. It's a different way to do things, but definitely more effective in the long run.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

So, what does your desktop look like?

Frank who left a comment here last night has put up a pic of my desktop on his PC Desktop blog. Definitely an innovative and fun idea, to see other people's workspace and it has inspired me to take some proper pics of my workspace. I only had some close ups of some Plumeria on my desk, and even though it wasn't a pic of my desktop, Frank still added it to his list. Thank you Frank!

On writing reviews


I write a lot of stuff, review a lot of stuff and give my opinion on a lot of stuff, some paid and others not. Sometimes it could be hard to tell which is a paid review or not for a casual reader. Like this post I did last night for a travel site Hotel Shop UK, which offers last minute deals for destinations in the UK. They have some really great places listed, along with some even better prices, and I simply loved the site. In fact, I emailed my hubby who is currently away to Dubai on work to check out the site, as whenever we plan to go to the UK, we will definitely be using it. Now, some people might think that this was a paid review, well it was not and I simply went ga-ga over it because I loved the site and their service. So judge not, if you know not!

The case of the missing blue skies

For some reason the Flickr photo lightbox I have set up is not showing up in my sidebar. It was fine up till yesterday, but suddenly today it has disappeared. Need to investigate a bit, so I apologise for the blank space under the title 'Blue skies'. This time I selected for the complete photo to be shown instead of just rotating thumbnails, which are great to look at but one can not get all the details in such a small picture. Hope to have it up soon, the pics of the skies are really incredible.

Edited to add: Looks like a problem with Flickr as I am not even able to open the site. Hope it gets resolved soon and on its own!

Theme park land

The city of Orlando has shaped up to be a great destination. It has created a great mix of entertainment, sporting activities and business activities to pull in visitors from all angles. With 52 theme parks in the area, along with lots of dinner shows and other entertainment activities, golfing, fishing and other water sports activities, to take care of the leisure traveler, and some of the largest conference facilities for the business traveller. There are tons of hotels in orlando that cater to all types of customers, from the budget to the luxury travelers. As there is always something or the other going on in Orlando, it can be tough to get a hotel booking at times. Orlando.com is a good place to hunt for accommodation as well as car rentals etc in the Orlando area.

Custom blend tea gifts


Customer specialization is getting more attention. Last week I wrote about customized muesli mixes that customers could create for themselves and now it's all about creating your own custom blend of tea. I was never much of a tea buff, until I started living in Providence in the winter, and took up drinking tea instead of coffee. It took me a while to hone in on exactly what I wanted in my tea, but now I have a good idea of what a good tea is. It's not always possible to get good tea when travelling, so I make sure I carry some of my own when I travel internationally.

So, it's quite interesting to read on Springwise about a company that lets you create your own mix of tea. Called Blends For Friends, this UK based company works mostly as a gift delivery service. Customers fill in some information about the person they want to create a tea for, including date of birth, physical appearance, hobbies etc and the master blender Alex Robyn comes up with the perfect blend of tea for them. The tea can be delivered across the world and costs GBP27 plus shipping for 100 gms or loose leaf tea that is gift wrapped in a tin caddy. Reorders cost GBP7 plus shipping.

More travel reading


Another great book for armchair travelers is A year in Provence by Peter Mayle, which is probably the most famous travel book of recent times. It's not a story but rather a history of the area, its customs, food, culture and life, with some personal history peppered in as well. I don't believe this one has been made into a movie as Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun has. Both books are in the style of travel history, not a travelogue, not a travel guide and not a novel either. It's a genre I have come to love very much and am working to collect more books like these.

International credit cards

When you're travelling, make sure you have a good credit card that you can use internationally as well. The good ones will not charge you extra for using in another country, so if you travel quite a bit, it's a good idea. There are lots of travel specific credit cards as well, and these are a good way to accumulated points that can be transferred to frequent flyer miles to get an upgrade or some other service. When you fill out your Credit Card Applications, make sure you have all these details figured out already. CreditCardSearchEngine.com is a good source of information on different types of credit cards, ranging from travel to gasoline to airline miles, to student, to cash back and even rewards credit cards and much more.

Kidzania: theme park for kids to test out real world jobs

Kids and theme parks are a winning combination, but here's an amusement park with a difference. Kidzania offers kids the chance of playing grown ups, and has 70 options to choose from, in a setting that is a smaller version of the big city. Springwise reports that kids from 2-15 can test out to be police officers or fire fighters or TV broadcasters or what ever else they want to be. The kids even earn salaries in the official currency of Kidzania, called Kidzos, which they can spend on buying things in the park. Currently open in Mexico and Japan, new locations in Jakarta and Dubai will be opening soon.

Travel reading


A lot of people are quite satisfied with armchair travel. They read as much as they can about a place, watch programs on TV, see movies etc and are quite satisfied to keep it at that itself or just aren't that curious about other places. I on the other hand need to see for myself all the places that I have read about in books and seen in movies. Ever since I read Frances Mayes 'Under the Tuscan Sun', I've wanted to go to Tuscany. I did see the movie, but that's a completely new story and has nothing really to do with the book, except that it's set in Tuscany and that the main character is a professor. In the book there are two main characters, a husband and wife team of professors, who fall in love with the area when they are on vacation and spend the next several years finding a house to buy. The book is more like a dairy of their life and the history of the area and it's a beautiful book indeed. I highly recommend it, even if you're an armchair traveler.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Last minute hotel deals in the UK


As a travel buff and constant traveler, I regularly visit travel sites to check out prices and destinations even when I'm not actually going to be traveling. Well, if you can't go on the real thing, then a bit of vicarious vacationing isn't all that bad of a deal! Here's a site that offers Last Minute Hotel Deals in the UK. Hotelshop is an easy to navigate site and I really like the way they have separated the kind of vacation such as coastal, country, city, luxury etc that you want to take in the left sidebar.

I selected coastal classics and found De Vere Heron in Blackpool, apparently the most stylish address in the locality. Starting at GBP141 per night including breakfast, which I'm quite sure will be sumptious, it seems like a really great deal. My other favorite part of the site was the section on walking breaks, which give you locations of hotels where you can explore the countryside. I found the Royal Victoria Quality Hotel in Snowdonia, which offers bed and breakfast accomodation starting at only GBP29.99 or GBP35 for bed, breakfast and dinner. Unbelieveable and very tempting indeed. Must bookmark the site and book from here on our next trip.

Marketing a destination

The power of marketing and advertising is pretty powerful. Take Goa for example, which was pretty much only a winter destination. The monsoon time is the low season there, with almost all the smaller shops and restaurants closing up completely for the summer. The hotels and airlines decided to spin the monsoon as the 'magic of the rains' kind of marketing targeted at domestic tourists, rather than international travelers. Thanks to this campaign, Goa is buzzing all year round, both international and domestic tourists are happy and hotels and airlines have filled rooms and seats that otherwise would have gone completely wasted. Marketing is indeed powerful and if done right, very successful as well.

How do you use maps?

I have a good sense of direction and very rarely get lost. One of the first things I do, when I go to a new place, is to study a map and get my bearings, understand the north-south axis and get a general idea of the major landmarks with which I can reference with. While part of this is genetics, the other major role is played by good maps. Unless you have a good map, you can't get to know a new place, no matter how much you keep staring at the map. Map making services are a very niche business offering and the good ones are extremely professional and specialized services.

I still have the 3-D impressions map of my college campus which I relied on to remember all the winding paths that led to buildings on campus. Thanks to this map, I was able to find my way around in no time and gain a feeling of belonging. Whether you use Maps for Business or Pleasure, it is important to go for the best, as it only ends in saving time and effort in the long run. The technology involved has got quite complicated but the need to offer simple solutions still stands.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Eco-friendly hotels on the rise

The trend towards stylish simplicity has been going on for a while now and this is a new angle to it. ALT Hotels, a hotel chain in Canada has opened its first eco-friendly hotel in Montreal, that will be chic and stylish to look at but will use advanced technology to save energy and follow other eco-friendly procedures. Springwise reports that the hotel will use the earth's temperature to help heat and cool the hotel, use energy efficient lighting and recover heat from commercial washers. The hotel has saved money on using innovative methods of construction, such as pre-fabricated rooms that are built off-site and are assembled by the furniture manufacturer while the hotel was being constructed.

Liven up a party with these edible favors

Niche marketing and customization are the two key ingredients to success of a business. If you offer something that everyone else also offers then you're going to have a hard time being noticed. Any business must create a niche for itself that is completely unique in terms of product or service or some other angle. Now, here's a great example of a business that offers a unique product that consumers are able to customize and therefor create a shopping memory. CandyUnderCover.com makes personalized candy bar wrappers, decorated cookies and personalized mint tins for weddings, bridal showers, party favors etc.

I simply love the fact that not everyone else does this and the service and product they provide is completely unique and different. Getting a personalized candy wrapper party favor for a birthday party is a really nice way to make it memorable and ensure that it is a success. These edible wedding favors are a really fun way to liven up an event and make it different from the run-of-the-mill events.

Shift in focus of blog

As you might have noticed, I've been writing a lot more on travel lately. Well, that is what this blog was originally for when I started it in August 2004, along with personal anecdotes on our lives, things that are helpful in our daily lives, books, movies, entertainment, etc etc. Although, I will still be writing on retail and other business stuff, it will be less than before. My retail site The Power of Retail, is where I discuss the global reach and effects of the retail industry, consumer trends, business software, real estate, education and finance.

Advance planning

Summer vacation time is here and pretty much everything seems to be booked up already. With the number of travel and vacations sites these days, there are significantly more people travelling now than ever before and unless you book your Orlando rental home in advance, you can't be sure if you will manage to get a confirmation or not. Rates are usually cheaper if you book in advance for everything from airline tickets, to accommodation, to theme parks and shows. It's just the smarter way to plan a vacation.

Weebly, a new blog platform


Have you heard about a new blogging platform called Weebly? I read about it this morning and signed up to create a new blog. I like the system, it is very interactive and user friendly. I posted a couple of times, but could not figure out how to have the time and date included in the post automatically. Other than that, it works really nicely. There are a decent number of themes available, some really nice ones and all have a clean, spare look to them, which is something I really like. Nothing puts me off a blog faster than 10,000 things flashing, scrolling in multi-color splendour.

Tourist spots in the Midwest

The Midwest is the most underestimated part of the US, in terms of touristic activity. I lived in Kansas City and in nearby Manhattan for several years and simply loved the beauty of the area. In winter it was a stark, bare kind of beauty that transformed into an incredibly fresh and lush spring. Summer was simply glorious and the fall was charming, not like the fall in the north east but still a beautiful time of the year. Nearby, Branson Missouri was a great getaway for its hills, misty beauty and of course all the musical shows that take place. The Ozarks are one of the most beautiful hills and reminded me of being in the Shenandoah mountain park in Virginia.

Changing pics

Changed the pic in the sidebar as well as the rotating light box further down. This time I selected a series of skies, mostly blue but some dark and stormy as well. The pic of the band boys waiting in the truck was right below my window. The building opposite hosts a lot of weddings and the bands are a frequent part of our weekends. These boys arrived in a truck and sat waiting in it until the wedding party neared.

Sending flowers internationally

We recently needed to send flowers to a friend in Singapore and even after looking at the Singapore yellow pages on the Internet, I couldn't find a good florist that I could trust with my credit card. Luckily I found an international flower delivery company that deals in exactly this sort of thing and quickly selected the flowers and filled in the details of where I needed the flowers to be delivered.

For me, this really is one of the best things about the Internet, being able to send flowers to anyone, anywhere in the world. World Florists does not courier flowers, but instead ties up with local florists and gets the flowers hand delivered by them. So you get fresh flowers at affordable prices, even though it's on an international scale, you still pay a price that is in your own currency. All orders are delivered the very next day and with their network of 100 plus countries, it's simply the best way to send flowers and make someone far away feel special.

Being able to use the Internet in this way, to make life simpler and more efficient, is a great use of the power of the Internet. I have been sending flowers on the Internet for over 5 years now and it simplifies life as well as spreads joy. What else does one want really?

Weekend stuff

This had to be one of the most boring weekend's I've had in simply ages. I watched two movies, caught up reading on my book Wild Swans by Jung Chang, read my Elle magazine, read the Sunday papers, surfed a bit, worked for a couple of hours in the morning, but still got totally bored and didn't feel rested at all. So, now it's Monday morning and I'm tired and ready to call it a day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Numbering and naming

Last weekend we were out looking at houses and apartments in a new area of the city and found that while the houses were really lovely, none of them had any signs or even house numbers so it ended up taking some time to finally get the place right. Most people put up a house marker and address plaques as soon as they move in, as it usually represents so much more than just a house number. It represents your ownership and belonging and for a first time home owner, that is a very important feeling.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Holiday City has my vote


I've seen a lot of travel sites, some for traveling and using myself, some for reviews and some for fun, but I think I have found the one site that I will be using whenever I have to travel. Holiday City is a great find and we have used it to book hotels and service apartments in Dubai. The hotels are listed either by price or by area as per your preference and all the details you need show up on the first page of the hotel site, so you don't need to go too deep to hunt for it. I also like that once you enter the travel dates, it automatically uses the same dates for all the hotels you look at, so you don't need to enter them again and again.

You can book hotels in Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, Europe including Scandinavia, Northern Africa and the US on Holiday City. Besides actual details of hotels, there are lots of articles about travels to difference places, and important tips and advice to follow from experience travellers. I am sure we will be using this site to make lots of bookings in the future. And, oh by the way, this is not a sponsored post.

Vacation planning+social networking=A super vacation

I've always found that part of the fun of a trip is the anticipation and the planning that goes in to make it really perfect. Maybe, it's just me, but I think it's a great idea to get ideas and advice from other people, visit social networking sites to see what others have to say about the destination etc. I have found some really great information on nice places to stay, things to see and great restaurants to eat in, using social forums. TripWiser is one such site that offers TripWiser - social trip planner for the USA and Canada and help in building an itinerary. I found the site to be very user friendly, especially the drag and drop feature that lets you reschedule your trip so easily. The site and all of its features are free.

Oops, I still write like a man!

Way back in September 2005, I tried out this fun software called Gender Genie that tells you if your writing is masculine or feminine in this blog post titled Writing like a man?. I was quite surprised to find that 4 out of 5 times, it found my writing to be masculine. Well, I thought it's high time that I try it out again and see if there has been any change. And the results are....I still write like a man! Three out of five times, it said my writing was more like a man, but there is a slight shift towards the feminine. Test it out for yourself and see if the results are what you expect.

An authentic Caribbean experience

The experience of travel is made even more special if one finds just the right property to stay at, instead of a hotel. While hotels are convenient, I get bored with the generic service pretty fast. It's especially noticeable when one goes to an exotic destination like the Caribbean, where I'd much rather rent a Caribbean Villa rather than stay in hotel. The experience will be much better I assure you and must more fun and unique. I would love to stay at something like the Fustic House in Barbados, which is a privately held 11 acre estate that dates back to 1740 and sits on a ridge above the St Lucy coastline, and is just 200 paces from the beach. Maybe, this will be my dream vacation!

Where to go next?

Ah, finally a Friday! Has this week been hectic or what? The only saving grace has been that I have been researching and writing a lot about travel destinations, so it's a bit of a vicarious vacation of sorts. Sometimes, it's hard to really decide where one's perfect vacation would be. Mine keep switching depending on my mood, the weather and the amount of time we can go for. These days is vacillating between exotic beach vacations where I only want to laze on the beach to cultural vacations in Europe where I'd like to visit as many monuments as I possibly can.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Audio guides for Moscow and Paris

Here's a simply superb idea for your next vacation: audio guides in MP3 format. Variant Guides has come up with offering these audio guides that can be uploaded on any audio device and be used as a travel guide to a new travel destination. At present the company has audio guides for Moscow and Paris available, which are priced by the number of areas covered. Listen to the sample guide for the Kremlin in Moscow to get an idea what the guides cover. Topics covered include history of the city and major monuments, restaurants and hotels, galleries, shops and transportation. The use of this audio guide is not limited to just your trip, it can be shared with friends and family and is a great way to learn about a place as one sees is.

Weekend travel planning

Ok, so if a golfing vacation to Myrtle Beach seems a bit impossible, at least for this month and the next, I think I need to focus on the local areas and plan a quick weekend break for the first weekend of June. When it comes to destinations of drivable distance of 6-7 hours, we getting bogged down by having to sit such long periods of time in a car. Living in a big city, one anyways spends so much time commuting and I don't want a vacation drive to feel like a commute. I think a ferry option is better. Now I just have to figure out which direction to take.

Time for a golfing vacation

This is probably the best solution to the problem I mentioned in my last post: too much work. Golfing vacations are something that I look forward to, even though I have not been able to dedicate enough time for them lately. Myrtle Beach is one of the golfing havens, with several of the top golfers having set up homes inthere for its all year round golfing opportunities. I came across CoastalGolfway, a site that offers some great golf packages in Myrtle Beach along with options of tee times and hotel accommodations. Just imaging playing a round of myrtle beach golf in one of the most favored golf destinations in the world. It's probably one of the best ways to keep myself away from the Internet and away from a computer. Interestingly, my parents who are both golf fanatics, took a 45 day trip traveling the country and playing in as many courses as they could. It's definitely one of the most memorable trips one can ever take.

Am I turning into a blogaholic?

Well, I thought I would have a bit more free time, since I've currently taking a break from work, but so far it's not happening. Dare I say it, have I turned into a workaholic or should I say blogaholic? Oh dear, that's not a nice feeling to have. I've never been the sort of person that lets things overtake them, since I like to be in control of where I am going rather than the other way around, but this time it seems that work and blogging is overtaking my life. But only in a fun way; in a way that increases my knowledge of the world; in a way that makes me aware of things going on in the world that are not necessarily appearing in the newspaper; in a way that involves me to a community of bloggers and lots of nameless readers.

Want to publish a book?

Books and publishing are a huge trend that is only going to get bigger. Consumers are at the stage where their personal knowledge has reached a point that they feel they would like to share with others. Reality TV, advice columns, blogs and so forth, are all mediums of expressing oneself and this is carrying over to writing books as well. Usually publishing a book is a real headache and takes over 2 years but with a service such as AuthorHouse, a self publishing company it is possible to actually get a book edited and published efficiently and professionally. The company has been around since 1997 and really know how the entire system works and exactly what consumers are looking for.

Lorelle's book on blogging is out


Finally something that will make bloggers leave their blogs long enough to read this interesting new book, about yes well, it is about blogging. The Blog Herald reports on the launch of a book by power blogger Lorelle VanFossen, whose blog I have been reading as well. Titled Blogging Tips: What Bloggers will not tell you about Blogging seems like a un-put-downable read in my mind and I really need to get a hold of it asap. Lorelle's blog is called Lorelle on WordPress and is a must read for all bloggers, in my opinion. She is also a columnist for The Blog Herald and guest blogs at many other blogs, ezines, websites as well,

Anthony's surfer's paradise

I've been linked by Anthony on his blog The Lives and Times....of Anthony McCune in an interesting collection of blogs that he found by using the newest blog post by on the Blogger home page. He selected blogs based on their names first and once the name made the cut, then the content. After all, it is the name that really makes a blog stand out at first glance. Check it out and I'll bet you will find some new reading material. I already did!

Ad spending on social networking increasing rapidly

Advertisers in the US will be spending $900 million on social networks this year, a significant jump from $350 million last year. According to research by eMarketer in it's report, Social Network Marketing: Where to Next?, ad spending on social networks will increase by 180% to $2.5 billion between 2007 and 2011. According to Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst and author of the report, MySpace and Facebook will continue to be the leaders, accounting for 72% of all revenue in the category.

Locating the right talent

The field of HR has been undervalued for a long time, but now things are changing. Due to changing technology and globalization, the type of jobs in new fields that are coming up require some expert help and advice from professionals. Earlier jobs and profiles were quite clear cut and straightforward, but with the super-specialization and customization of jobs that we have today, it is essential that companies use quality HR recruiters, such as A. E. Feldman Associates. Their company was founded in 1967 and has done work for several high profile clients. AEF works in the fields of financial services, risk management services, legal, communications, technology, human resource consulting and luxury products, recruiting people from the top level to C level management positions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Create your own special mix of muesli


The trend towards creating uniquely customized products has been getting larger and larger and now you can even customize your breakfast cereal. Mymuesli is a German company that allows customers to create their very own personal mix of muesli for themselves. Springwise reports that the steps are quite simple and involved picking a base cereal such as oats or grains, then adding fruit, nuts, seeds etc and then adding extras such as organic gummi bears or alfalfa. You can name your cereal and have it shipped to you, with its unique ID, so you can re-order the same cereal again.

Water features for the home

I grew up in the mountains and being part of nature was the most 'natural' thing in the world. We had lots of streams and rivulets in the area which were our favorite summer escape. I love the sound of flowing water and even brought back some stones from the stream near our orchard as a memory. I've seen lots of these water feature products but they always seemed to be too large and cumbersome to be really usable in my home. I would love to have something small and elegant, Japanese and minimalist, to give that really unique touch.

Well, it's possible to find just about anything on the Internet and I found a site called IndoorFountainsOnline which sells a variety of indoor water features, including wall fountains or tabletop fountains or for the floor or even mist. The sound of water is so calming and God only knows, we all need some of that to cope with our busy lifestyles these days. Interestingly, you can find indoor fountains with different sounds of water, from rivers to rain to waterfalls and more.

For anyone living in a busy city, the sound of music will also work to block traffic and other sounds from the outside and create a tranquil environment. Most of all, a water feature will remind me of where I spent my summers, and that's the best reason of all for me.

Manufactures upset over retailer discounts

Manufacturers from several sectors are protesting against organized retailers use of discounts to customers. These discount offers reduce sales at smaller retail stores, who form the bulk of sales for these manufacturers. One retail expert explained that, "Discount offers provided by organised retail chains are increasingly eating into the small retailers' pie. Thus, creating a problem for manufacturers, since it is the smaller players that drive bulk of their sales, in spite of the hype around the retail boom."

Snack food manufacturer FritoLay stopped supplies to Future Group's Big Bazaar and Food Bazaar stores for the past few weeks to put forth its point against selling its products at lower prices. Organized retailers are not getting cowed down to the pressure since they have faced similar treatment at earlier times as well.

Shoppers’ Stop and Macy tie up

Macy Inc has formed a joint venture agreement with department store chain Shopper’s Stop which is owned by the K Raheja Group. Macy Inc was earlier known as the Federated Department Stores until January this year when it was renamed as Macy Inc. At present there are 112 Macy stores and 38 Bloomindales stores. Shoppers’ Stop has held talks with several international retail companies to set up stores in India, including the Spanish Inditex group, which owns the Zara brand, which did not work out.

On contacting me

I would like to thank everyone who is using the contact from in my sidebar the right way. While I am still getting spammy and self-promotional comments there, the bulk of comments are from genuine people. You know who you are, so thank you! Adding a comment form was one of the most proactive things I did with this blog, as until then, you could comment on a post, but not voice your opinion on other aspects or the entire blog in general.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Making your vacation magical

One of the most memorable vacations for any kid has to be to Disney World, right? It is one of the most amazing places on the planet, a place that makes it all possible for kids; magic, imagination, creativity all come together to create an incredible event. As amazing as all this sounds and is, the tickets to get into this magic kingdom don't come cheap, so if you're looking for Disney World tickets or Universal Studio Tickets or tickets for any of the other 51 theme parks in the Orlando area, then Orlandofuntickets.com is the place that can give you really great deals on tickets for a variety of events, shows, theme parks in the Orlando area.

Go away spammers

Thank god for comment moderation. I love this feature of Blogspot, with which I am able to weed out all the spammy comments. No thank you, I'm not interested and neither are my readers, please go somewhere else. I also have the box of jumbled letters/numbers that need to be filled in when you leave a comment, since that takes care of all the automated spam. Sorry, if you find it a pain to fill in all that, but it's absolutely essential.

To get to know a city

The best way to get to know a city is to read about it, everything from fiction, to magazines, to articles, to watching movies etc. All major cities have their own magazine dedicated to providing information on the city, its culture, attractions, hotels, restaurants, real estate etc. Denver will soon have it's own online version of the Denver Magazine as well; the site is currently under maintenance and has only a basic listing of information though and will be up in full soon. I personally find these magazines, online or offline as great tools in moving and setting up home in a new city.

Time for a break

Not from blogging, just from work!!

I will be taking a break from work for the next couple of months, and am really looking forward to just relaxing a bit. It's been a break-neck pace for the past 4 months and besides two breaks, to Goa and to Dubai, I haven't even been taking weekends off. I think I will spend the time catching up with my other assignments, sorting and organizing the home, resting, catching up on movies and reading. I am looking forward to it.

Re-decorating

I am a Gemini, and like all Gemini’s like to change things around the house every so often. We recently changed the entire look of our living and dining rooms by moving the furniture around. It really was as simple as that and I was amazed at how much difference just moving my own home furniture could make. I was kind of inspired by Nate Berkus, my fave home designer who changes things around in people’s houses in just one hour, one day or one weekend, and shows how the little things can make a huge difference. If this is what I can do with my own furniture, imagine what I will be able to do with new furniture!

Abu Dhabi pics

Just uploaded a new pic in the sidebar, in the 'An insight into our world' section. This photo was taken earlier this month in Abu Dhabi at the recently opened Emirates Palace Hotel, which is chock-a-block decorated in gold inside. Fortune Magazine wrote about the phenomenal growth that is taking place in Abu Dhabi and propelling it to become the richest cities in the world.

Another view from the Emirates Palace Hotel, towards the back. The color of the water is just incredibly blue.


One of the many lobby's. Note the gold everywhere....yes, it is real gold.

Wouldn't you rather be here?


I am always on the search for our next destination and are thinking of going to Croatia next. Well, not sure if it will work out as our next vacation, but we definitely want to plan a trip there. Eastern Europe has been on my father's travel wish list for a long, long time now, ever since my parents did the 6 month tour of Europe when they were young. Subsequent visits have been focused mostly on the UK and Scotland, but Eastern Europe and especially the Adriatic Coast beckons more than ever before.

For great information on Croatia, I found Explore Croatia where I found picture perfect postcards of the country, including of Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo (I had no idea he was born there!!), the island of Krk, the Pula amphitheatre in Istria, the Brijuni islands and so many more amazing pictures. A lot of the major tourist attractions have become a bit too sterile, in my opinion, and I'd much rather explore a new place, one with more character and less branding than traditional tourist spots.

Simplicity is what I go for

I have never been too picky about window treatments, in the sense that I have never placed much importance on them. As long as they are not too overbearing or ugly, I am fine with them. I personally prefer things that have a clean and simple line to them, something elegant and unobtrusive. Most apartments that we have lived in, came with window blinds and I have been quite OK with them. Thankfully, none have been the multi-color variety, since I would not have been able to live with something like that.

Never, ever fly on Air India

It is absolutely official. We will never ever travel on Air India again. They have to be the absolute worst on every front. My hubby's flight early this morning got cancelled after they made all passengers wait for about 8 hours. Their planes are old and badly maintained, their booking systems totally outdated and the majority of their employees have no clue to what's going on. The only people who seem to be rooting for the airline are it's own pilots and their families who get free first class tickets every year.

Our last trip on Air India got delayed by 26 hours, in which we were called to the airport in between, only to learn that the flight had yet again been delayed. I have flown the airline twice, once to NYC and back and last month to Dubai. The first experience was in 2002, and its NYC route is it's most prized route, so everything seemed to be fine. This time around, just about everything was bad. The moral of the story is: Don't fly Air India.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ticket hookup

Getting tickets to football games is getting to be almost impossible it seems. I remember the time in college, when it used to be so easy to get hold of tickets to NFL events. Unless you want to be disappointed at the last minute, it's better to go with Premium Seats to get tickets for all sporting and other entertainment events. So, if you're thinking of getting those Miami Dolphin Tickets this year, you should head to Premium Seats USA for the best prices and the best seats as well. I am particularly looking forward to catching some of the newer comedy shows, where the tickets are notoriously always sold out.

Retailer's China strategy

International retailers in China are expanding to target niche customers, often using Hong Kong as a testing ground for their concepts. Ports Design is one such company that used this strategy by opening in Hong Kong first and has now opened stores in mainland China. Shoppers are looking for places to spend their money and retailers are thrilled at the opportunities the country presents.

Alternative meds

The hot, dry summer months make hay fever quite common and I just can't stand the feeling. It especially bothers me since I wear contact lenses and at times, it's hard to keep them on, as my eyes keep watering due to the pollen in the air. The dusty conditions before the rains also make it a tough time for me. I saw that there is an alternative to expensive hay fever medicines, something along the lines of Flonase, expect that it is a Generic Flonase version, which makes it much cheaper although it is just as effective as the original.

The generic version is manufactured in New Zealand and the company does not charge any shipping fees, so it will work out quite affordable to most consumers. Since this is such a common complaint and a recurrent one as well, it just makes sense to go with something that will not break the bank and will be just as effective as the original one.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The non-importance of time

My watch battery packed up on the 29th of March just before we left on our trip to Dubai and since then I haven't had time to get it replaced. Instead of being hassled and irritated by not knowing the time, surprisingly I find that I am really enjoying not being bound by the time as I usually have been.

I have been told that as a child, I started asking what the time was even before I fully understood the concept of time. I am a child of discipline, the daughter of an Air Force officer, an alumni of a military school, a granddaughter of a police officer who also placed a lot of emphasis on time. Until very recently, I could never eat in bed, never not get ready in the morning, even it it were a Sunday and till date, I get ready for work every morning, even though I work from home.

So, not having a watch, I thought would have dire consequences for me, I thought. It has been the opposite and I find that I am freed by the constraints of time, just because it might be the right time to do something. I find it completely refreshing and quite astonishing.

Traveling to the Outer Banks

In all the traveling I’ve done in the US, I’ve yet to go to the Carolina's, which are supposed to be one of the most beautiful areas of the country. I read a book long time ago set in the Outer Banks and have wanted to visit ever since. There is a type of romance and old world charm to the area, of pioneering spirit, of independence, of living with nature and living by it’s terms. I think a long vacation to the Outer Banks is definitely what is required.

On cars and radars

For any car and racing enthusiast, having a good radar detector seems to be a must. My friend from college, Sarah got one the very next day after she bought a Ford Mustang convertible. While she loved to speed she was quite conscious of not breaking the law and a radar detector was more of a must have accessory than a way to speed without getting a ticket. I wonder if others view radar detectors in the same way?

Branded nail salons


Nail salons are big business in the US. Springwise reports that while every little town has several and all of them seem to be doing well. Interestingly, the majority the 58,000 nail salons are owned by Koran and Vietnamese immigrants and are owned individually rather than a chain like hair salons are. Dashing Diva a new entrant is calling itself the first branded nail salon chain in the US and is working to create a strong brand for its services across all of its locations.

The company has created several interesting packages for bridal showers, birthday parties etc. Every Thursday and Friday evening, is an event where customers are treated to free cocktails while they get their toes done and morning treatments on the weekends get customers free bagels and coffee. Dashing Diva is affiliated to KMC-Exim, the largest manufacturer of artificial nails.

Sunglasses for summer

Sunglasses are one thing that everyone needs more of, especially once it starts getting hot. How about you become a sunglasses reseller? You can buy all the leading sunglass brands, including designer sunglasses at wholesale prices and resell them at higher prices. You can buy Wholesale Sunglasses at CTS Wholesale Sunglasses, you can buy a dozen sunglasses for anywhere from $16-$32 which are amazing prices, you will have to agree. If you're placing bulk orders, you can also qualify for percentage discounts on the total order ranging from 10%-15% per order. The sunglass industry's hottest segment is the replica designer brands, a trend tha is likely to continue for a while, since the discount is so huge, that most consumers prefer to buy replica sunglasses, especially since these items are replaced quite often. These are items that are not supposed to stay with you forever and updating them is something that consumers do every season, so why pay full price.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Retailers and Second Life

Retailers are getting into the Second Life trend and seeing how they could benefit from the buzz over Second Life. One of the first few retailers that have got onto the Second Life bandwagon are Circuit City, Sears, American Apparel, Dell and Adidas. Outside retail, companies such as Nissan, H&R Block and Reuters are also getting into the act. According to Scott Silverman, executive director at Shop.org, the e-commerce division of NRF, “Second Life is a trial for what may very well be the next big thing in Internet retailing.” Elaine Rubin, chairman of Shop.org, is very optimistic about Second Life and says that it is a new way for consumers to connect with each other as well as companies.
The number of Second Life residents, and their demographics, are hard to pin down. One day in early April, the company was reporting 5.5 million total residents: 1.5 million had returned to the virtual world in the last 60 days, and just over 30,000 were logged in at that moment. And some watchers have pointed out that there are individuals with multiple avatars, rendering these counts circumspect.

Friday, May 11, 2007

JCPenney's CEO encourages staff to engage with the customer

At the SIFE National Exposition in Dallas, Mike Ullman, the CEO and Chairman of JC Penney believes that his sales staff should go beyond selling products to "befriend customers" as well. He wants employees to think of making a connection with each customer on an emotional level. Describing retail as a "contact sport", he felt that this was one way to differentiate the store from others. He also added that by doing this, employees will feel that they are making a difference and contributing more. The company's internal surveys show that 73% of employees feel "engaged" with customers, which the company hopes to increase to 80%.

Renting equipment for conferences

The key to a hosting a great conference or seminar is having the right equipment. Even if you have the best discussion and speech planned, unless you have the professional equipment to relay it, it's not going to be good enough. Business professionals rely on technology and business products to improve productivity, clarify new concepts and engage the viewer. Seminars and conferences are the perfect place to do this and the need to have the right projectors becomes even more important. Projector123 has made it their business to handle projector rentals and to deliver items via FedEx anywhere in the US. It's a great way to ensure that you have a profitable meeting without having to either lug your own equipment or manage without it. Products are delivered within 24 hours, which I find really impressive, although I think I would book my requirements much in advance, considering the amount of rush they probably have since they are quite popular in the business community.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The rise of social shopping sites

Shopping online seems to be getting even more enjoyable with the addition of social shopping sites, although the socializing part of shopping is gaining in prominence. The rise of web 2.0 has enabled consumers to go beyond sales transactions to chat with friends, offer and get opinions on products and services and interact with other shoppers and consumers.

Social networking sites that specialize in shopping are able to let consumers interact while regular web retail site are not able to do. They are better than shopping comparison sites too, as these only compare prices and features. What makes social shopping sites so popular is that they are not affiliated with any retail store or product. Some of the most popular social shopping sites include Kaboodle, ShopWiki, StyleFeeder, ThisNext, StyleHive and CrowdStorm.
The impact of social sites already is noticeable, says Shyam Krishnan, program manager and team leader at research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. “E-commerce is being redefined: In this case, a multitude of shoppers are able to interact and pick and choose and recommend products with other shoppers online,” Krishnan says. “This will go a long way in helping online retailing.”

B&Q pulls out of South Korea

I had written this post a few days back about B&Q, a UK based retailer that is owned by the Kingfisher Group, being interested in opening stores in India. Here's some more news about the company via Retail Week. B&Q will be pulling out of South Korea due to lack of suitable sites and high property costs. This is interesting as the company is sure to face similar problems in India, where the commercial property prices are some of the highest in the world. The company has two stores in Seoul at present. The company says that the South Korean market was a trial market for Kingfisher and since it has proved to be quite difficult to operate there, they will be withdrawing. Last year, Carrefour and Wal-Mart also pulled out of the country, making South Korea one of the hardest markets to operate in. B&Q will continue with its expansion in Asia though, and will open it's first store in Hong Kong next month.

Refinancing options

The amount of money that consumers spend on interest on credit cards, loans etc is substantial and adds up to astounding amounts in a lifetime. As consumers, we have become accustomed to the concept of paying high interest rates for services and most people are not too bothered by them. A lot of people are going in for refinancing options for their houses, with rates of California Mortgage Refinance being pretty competitive. One has to study the market for the long term to see how these actions will affect us in the future.

Social networking meets TV networks

American Eagle Outfitters will be creating a series of three minute films that is to replace the first commercial break of the new season of The Real World:Sydney that starts in August. The series will be made by Milo Ventimiglia, who stars on NBC's hit show Heroes and will be 12 episodes long and will be called It's a Mall World. Longer versions of each episode will air on the American Eagle website the next day and will let consumers buy the clothing worn in the episode. The story line of the series is a regular boy meets girl type and in a similar tone to the 1994 film Clerks. By just having one item in the entire commercial break rather than several 30 second ads, the company hopes to keep viewers glued to the channel.

How many internet connections are enough?

The past week or so I've have problems with my Internet connection as my ISP was shifting everything to a new server, so I've had to shift to my other Internet connection which I have in another room. It ended up being a cumbersome task as I had to move the network cables as well and change connections to be able to use my secondary connection. Earlier we used to have both Internet connections in the same room, but when both me and my hubby worked at the same time, it just become too distracting to work. Now, when he works from home, we both have our dedicated work spaces and communicate via Yahoo messenger just as we do when he is in office.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Planning vacations

I love to travel and we have been able to pack in a short trip almost every month and a longer trip every few months. For the times we are not travelling, I spend time researching new places to go to, find tips and tricks to getting good deals and make lists of all the must see places that we should go to. One of the sites I found in my research was Last Minute Hotel News, which has lots of cool insights and hotel news updates on destinations around the world.

A lot of travel sites focus only on the larger destinations, but I find that sometimes these trips can become too sterile and cookie-cutter, especially when all one does is visit tourist spots and only sees other tourists. We are travelers first and foremost and like to get into the local culture to understand the social atmosphere, rather than just to pick up a meaningless trinket to bring back home. I was intrigued with hotel news about a place called Jerez that is located in Spain and is usually not on the traditional tourist routes and is famous for its sherry and its annual Horse Fair that is held from 6th to 13th of May.

Levi Strauss Signature keen to be a hypermarket brand

Levi Strauss youth jeanswear brand Signature is keen on the hypermarket segment and has been talking with Bharti-Wal-Mart, Reliance and Birla Retail for space in their hypermarkets. The Signature brand has affordable clothes in the range of Rs 600-900 and is currently available at 14 Big Bazaar stores. According to ATP Ramani, Business Head for Levi Strauss Signature, the company is very optimistic on the potential of business in hypermarkets and plan to operate at the upper end of this segment.

Long term vacation stays

I simply love being in the mountains, since I spent most of my schooling years there and till date some of my favorite memories are to do with traveling or vacationing in the mountains. There really nothing quite like taking a vacation home rental for an extended amount of time, without rushing or planning excessively. When one travels to areas that one is already familiar with, I prefer to take such a rental, since one tends to spend more time in it, rather than sightseeing all the time when one visits a new place.

Speciality retailers going slow on India plans

The Indian retail market is attracting a lot of supermarket and hypermarket companies to open up shop here, but specialty store retailers are still not keen on opening their stores in the country till the time that FDI rules are changed. Specialty retailers that will stay away are Gap, H&M, Zara, Office Depot and Target. One of the main reasons that specialty retailers are not rushing to open in India is given by Akil Hirani, managing partner of law firm, Majumdar & Company, who says that “In the retail business, companies tend to develop certain internal intellectual properties, which they are not comfortable sharing. If a company has to franchise its business, it will have to share some critical information and data with the franchisee.”

Calorie counter

It's easy to lose track of calories consumed and calories burned when on a diet, isn't it? If you're someone that has faced this problem, you'll be happy to know that a handheld device called CalorieSmart can keep track of them for you. This Electronic Handheld Calorie Counter has over 35,000 food items that you can look up and keep track of your diet. Using this device consumers are able to keep track of their daily intakes which makes it efficient to stick to their goals.

CalorieSmart also has information on nutrition on it and besides recording how much you eat, it also records how much you exercise, so you can see what it will take to lose the weight. It is possible to count only carbohydrates or protein if that is what you need to keep track of. CalorieSmart has information not only on basic foods but also on menu items from over 250 restaurants and 500 brands.

Relying on domain strategies to increase traffic

The emphasis on having the right keywords is changing to a strategy of having the right domain name. A lot of consumers are using what is called direct navigation, which is when a user types a web address directly into the browser, bypassing the search engines. Now, marketers are using a combination of direct navigation along with AdSense and other techniques to open unused web addresses that are only full of keyword ads that will reach consumers better than search engine results. These "parked" sites account for 10% of the pay-per-click (PPC) market. Another way is to buy the relevant domains and redirect traffic from it to your site.
Much like a well-rounded SEM (search engine marketing) keyword campaign, the best domain strategies involve multiple, category defining names. Purchasing several domains ensures that customers who use different terms don't slip through the cracks and creates an understanding that your company is the leader in a particular space. Choosing multiple domain names in a specific category allows you to deliver a personalized Web experience with related content spread across a network of sites. Another major advantage of this is that you can interlink between domains, which will greatly boost Web search engine rankings.

Telecommuting employees

A lot of San Francisco residents are going in for telecommuting after an accident destroyed a section of an elevated highway that connects traffic from the San Francisco-Bay Bridge last week. Most companies in the area such as Sun Microsystems and Intel are fine with their employees working from home and encourage their employees to work in a manner that is the most productive for them. Sun Microsystems has 56% of its 34,494 employees working either from home or from a satellite office, with around 3,200 employees working from home four days a week. The company has been able to save drastically on real estate costs, as much as $67.8 million last year alone and $387 million since the project began in 2001.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Phone systems for small businesses

Small business outfits have a lot of advantages as they are able to try out new technologies very easily as they are usually much more adaptable and creative in their approach than larger more established firms. Take phone systems for instance; they have changed to such an extent that one can easily have your main office connect to branch offices across the country for barely any cost. Xpander Communications provides VoIP Small Business Phone Systems, that drastically reduce costs and maintenance and are very simple to install. There is a free 4 digit dialing between all offices, regardless of their location, which is a really efficient way to stay connected.

Entertaining outside

One of the great reasons to live by the sea is the balmy evenings where one can sit outside and take in the setting sun. Even though it gets hot during the daytime, by the evenings it’s always pleasant and quite enjoyable. My neighbor recently got some really lovely teak outdoor furniture, so she could have larger gatherings and entertain outside as well. Teak has a wonderful quality that makes it look richer and more expensive than it really is, so if that’s the look you’re going for then opt for teak.

Provogue to launch 20 Promart stores

Value or discount retail is one of the hottest segments of the retail industry and its no wonder that retailers are rapidly expanding this segment of stores. Provogue India Ltd. announced that it will be opening 20 Promart stores in the next three years. Promart is the discount priced retail chain of department stores owned by Provogue, where the merchandise will sell for 30-35% less than regular prices. The first of these stores was launched last week in Ahmedabad. The product mix will be 85% apparel and the balance non-apparel merchandise.

Online searching

The Internet has brought about lots of changes in the way we search for information. At one time, everyone relied on physical dictionaries and encyclopedias, but now online help even for these is quicker and easier. Say you need to search for Legal information about companies or people, all you have to do is to go to Encyclocentral and type in your search word or phrase. Covering a wide variety of topics ranging from business to health to hobbies, it's a good place to start your search.

Tanishq’s overseas plans

Tanishq is keen on replicating the success it has found in the domestic market to overseas expansions, and is hoping to achieve a 50% growth from its international markets alone. Tanishq is owned by Titan Industries. The company recently opened stores in the US and in Saudi Arabian and is looking towards Malaysia now. Tanishq is creating an entirely new gameplan for each new country that it expands to.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Are you cut out to be a market researcher?

The field of market research is on the rise again, due to lots of buzz on trends and social media. As companies expand globally, their need for market research on new countries, new cultures, new policies, and new products rises, which has led to the number of market research firms to rise rapidly. I find the field to be an extremely fascinating place, since I too am in research, although more on the retail and consumer side. Market research is for those who are constantly curious, for those who are constantly noticing new things, and for those who are adept at deciphering why people buy the things they do, and so much more.

Still life of flowers and fruits

This week's 'Insight into our world' is a painting that we bought when we lived in Bristol, RI. It's a beautiful piece and I love it for it's simplicity and use of imagery that draws the eye towards the centre of the painting. I love the glorious-ness of the blooms, the ripeness of the peaches, the shadows...and on and on. I was quite surprised when I liked this piece, since my taste goes more towards the slightly offbeat. I like to have a little twist to a regular or traditional art piece to make it more interesting. The painting is actually brighter than in the picture and where it hangs in our dining room, it gets lots of light to bring out its colors.

Owning a dream home

Everyone dreams about their perfect luxury home, right? So, what is yours? We are partial to Italy, especially northern Italy and Switzerland, to own or rent for a long duration a house someday. The Villas in Italy are like no other, they seem to have an immense amount of character and personality that no amount of “distressing” can achieve. These are genuinely aged villas that have withstood the test of time and come with their own history and personality. Until we get one of our own, vicarious pleasures like this will have to do!

Modes of vacation travel

With each vacation we take, we try to add something new and different that would make it more memorable and exciting than just a regular vacation. This usually comes down to either going to new and exciting destinations or doing something different like renting Crewed Yacht Charters in one of our favorite spots Newport, RI. Our last vacation covered all forms of transportation, as we flew, drove, traveled by trains and crossed from Long Island to Connecticut by ferry.

I love to travel by boat. It’s so much more exciting than flying or driving, which we have done so much of that it gets boring after a while. Flying especially has become just too much of a chore, with the long queues, endless security checks, lost baggage etc. Driving is fun as it’s flexible and in your control. Traveling by train is a great way to relax and see the area, as that’s really all you can do. Traveling by boat or renting a boat is the most exciting way to travel since I haven’t done much of it, but also as it has an almost old-world charm to it.

UK based B&Q plans to open in to India

UK based home improvement retail chain B&Q announced that it is interested in opening stores in India and is conducting talks with Indian companies in an effort to form a joint venture. B&Q is part of the Kingfisher Group, which is one of the largest retail companies in the UK.

Steve Gilman, chief of Asian operations for B&Q, who earlier had come to India to see the opportunities in retail in the country, met Kamal Nath, the commerce and industry minister to clarify details on regulations on entry as pertaining to FDI. The company has 700 stores across the world and is currently the largest DIY retailer in all of Europe and the third largest in the world.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Get some polarized sunglasses for yourself

Polarized sunglasses are the way to go these days. Ever since I started wearing Polarized Sunglasses, I have not been able to switch back to regular glasses. What polarized sunglasses do is that drastically reduce glare, which is something that I cannot handle. While tints, mirror coating and anti-reflective coatings all reduce glare, it is only with polarized glasses that you are able to get completely clear vision.

What is important to know is that polarization is not just a coating on the lens, it is in fact a layer of crystals inside the lens that lets in light but blocks scattered light. ADS Sports Eyewear is a good place to buy polarized sports eye wear, such as motorcycle sunglasses, ski glasses etc. I wear contact lenses, and I like to have a pair of prescription sunglasses, which can be sometimes hard to find, but at ADS Eyewear, I found that most sunglasses can be made into prescription sunglasses. The company has great prices and free shipping and if you are not sure of your purchase it can be easily returned.