Monday, December 15, 2008

On vacation

Vacation time is here! We're off to Kerala at the end of the week and I'm super-excited about the trip. This is an area that I've been wanting to go to for ages, but it never seemed to be the right time, well now it is! We first head to Bangalore, spend some time there, catch up with friends and relatives, and then start our journey to Kerala. We'll be stopping a couple of nights on the way, so it will be a nice relaxing journey. In Kerala, we will be going to a Birds Lagoon and staying on a Spice Plantation. We'll also be spending a few days on the Ketuvellums and ending our journey at Kumarakom.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Spa Vegas

The thing with holidays is that they tranport you so quickly into an entirely other world, one that is so relaxed, so free and so joyful. Just the thought of a vacation or traveling somewhere puts me in a good mood. As a New Year's destination, Las Vegas is one of the best, especially if you love to party the night away. Finding a hotel in las vegas is not a problem even if it is last minute, and this site always has special rates. If you're not a party person, then the spa and rejuvenation spots of Las Vegas will surely beckon! Considering how much they have been picking up, these are generating huge sales in themself and not just relying on the gambling, shopping or marrying crowd anymore. I think I would love to go to Vegas for the spas, and do some gambling on the side, instead of the other way around!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

standing guard...

...a Chinese warrior in my living room.....guarding my books, the glorious sunshine and lending a sense of calm.

I bought this years ago from The Bombay Company, which sadly doesn't exist anymore. I love to buy a few things from each of my trips as a memento of it and this is certainly one of the most memorable things I bought in my summer trip to San Francisco.

standing guard...

Switching credit cards to avoid interest

As the credit crunch seems to worsen day by day, all one can do is to focus more on one's own finances and see how and where one can cut down any losses. As anyone with credit card knows, it's not the things one buys that are expensive per se, but it is the interest and late payments that really get you. A lot of people are thinking of switching their entire balance to a new credit card where there might be a few months interest free or some other promotion. The popularity of balance transfers credit cards is only going to rise in the coming year, it seems, as people try to juggle their debts from one place to another to minimize interest and finance charges.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A slice of our life in Dubai!

Dubai is certainly not only about skyscrapers and malls! Living in Dubai means that you have to wade through miles of bureaucracy with a fine tooth comb and hope you manage not to get deported for a spelling mistake on an application that you made 3 years ago for a PO Box.

Life seems to move from one governmental fiasco to another....Salik (toll tags) to one-family-one-villa policy to no-cars-over-20-years-old-on-the-road to endlessly skyrocketing rents to 5 hour daily traffic jams and the latest the National ID card imbroglio.

The National ID card is a must for everyone, the deadline for expat professionals is December 31st 2008, which was announced in October 2008. Well, it was announced earlier, but only in the Arabic newspapers, which as the officials say, all expats should read, since it is the official language of the UAE!

The process is cumbersome, there are applications, pre-applications, pre-registrations and so on. The online form takes 4-5 hours to fill and decides where you work (apparently most of Dubai works in DIFC--Dubai International Financial Center) and takes a guess whether it wants you to be a male or female. So after half a day of willing the pages to load, you print out a form that has info that is completely different to what you filled and no bar code on the right side...why? Because they decided to create a page that is wider than and A4 paper, so it gets chopped off.

We are in the process of getting our ID cards....in the sense that we submitted forms that we bought at the post office (bought illegally after it wasn't available at any of the post offices), got it typed at a typing center and submitted it to the post office for a "Smart Form" to be made and mailed to us. Once we get the smart form then we go to the registration center and wait for 4-6 hours on probably 3-4 days to try and get an ID. Piece of cake, its all in a day's work in Dubai!

And oh, by the way, one should get the form back in 3 days, but it's been 2 weeks now and it's still not done, so I don't think the form is very "smart", but that's only me. On the plus side, this way we get to visit our beautiful post office and check our PO Box on a daily basis. It really has made an improvement to our lives, I must say!

And so the saga continues!

Hope you enjoyed a slice of our life here in sunny DXB!

Monday, November 24, 2008

standing guard

I love moving things around at home. As a Gemini, I cannot have the same arrangement for too long a time, it has to be movable, it has to be able to look different. I recently shifted stuff around and like the look of the living room a lot more now. Well, it all comes down to change....and change is very important to me. Here's a shot that I took earlier this month...love the sun pouring in.

standing guard...

The right bed

When it comes to setting up home, the most important piece of furniture is probably the bed, since if you don't sleep well, you cannot function at a 100%. So, it is really very important to have a sleep number bed that is just right for you. I find that I do not like a very soft bed, or one that is too firm. It has to be somewhat firm, but must have a soft, downy mattress pad, for the softness and coziness. To each their own!

Getting closer now!

Less than a month to go now.... less than a month till we go for our winter break... less than a month till we head out to a new destination.... less than a month till we start a new adventure.... less than a month till we meet up with family.... and less than a month till I have a tech free break, no internet, no work, cell turned off! Looking forward to it all!

being creative with Christmas cards

I've been getting creative with the printer lately and have decided to use it for something other than just boring old regular Word document prints. Like most good printers, mine has the capability to print out photographs and art work as well and I am making the most of this and being creative about my Christmas cards. So no store bought cards this time around, only stuff that I have made. It's going to be lots of fun!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the yellow wall

I love going for my morning walks as it is so peaceful and serene. As the sun is rising later, I am going for my walk later, but that has made my walks less serene as there are school buses and commuters going to work etc. But it still is worth it for the fresh air one gets and for the quiet time to think and ponder things through. Here's one I took last month. I must go back and take it again in the evening, since the light will be much nicer then.

a yellow wall

The craze for losing weight

Each time I pick up a celebrity magazine, I find that I find more and more emphasis on losing weight and looking ultra thin. The trend that started out with just a few celebrities has filtered down to the average person on the street and has resulted in a craze for diet pills and other things that make you lose weight quickly. The pressures of society are becoming so great that most ignore the warnings from their body and usually go overboard. While diet pills are effective, if you do not take them as prescribed, then you're going to cause yourself some problem or the other. In doing some research on diet pills, I have found that many users find them so effective initially, they they end up taking more than the recommended dosage and that's where the trouble begins. Be sure to follow the instructions and get yourself checked up by a physician before embarking on any kind of severe health plan.

Loving blurb

I've written about Blurb before, but I wanted to write again, since I simply love the site. I've ordered my book for the third time today, each time with some changes, although the book is essentially the same. Today was the deadline for ordering to use the special holiday coupon and I thought it was a good idea to get a move on my holiday gifts. The only thing I do not like about Blurb, is that they do not accept PayPal as a payment source. I'd much rather pay for books on Blurb from PayPal instead of using my credit card and I do hope that they include PayPal in the authorized payment methods soon.

Looking for information on fat burners

Some of my recent articles and assignments have been on the health and diet industry. I have spent a good amount of time researching the various diet methods and am now looking for someone who has used an ephedra-free fat burner to lose weight and is willing to share their experience with me. Lately, it seems that all these fast weight loss plans are really gaining in popularity and have been featured on some of the more renowned shows on TV, both talk and sitcoms, which give them a real boost of authenticity and fame. So, if you or someone you know has used this fat burner, I'd be interested in knowing more about the experience.

travel planning online

Well, our next trip out is exactly a month away! Yippee! Next month this time, we'll be busy packing for our trip....a trip to a place that I've not gone to before and is completely new to me, even though it has been on my must travel to list for quite some time. I don't want to write about where I'm going just yet, but wanted instead to write about the convenience of being able to book flights, hotels, tour packages online. The entire trip was researched online and withing a few telephone calls to travel agents, it was all decided, confirmed and booked. More on the trip later on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A different option for vacations



Everyone needs to take a vacation every now and again, but with the economy worsening, one of the first things to be cut are unfortunately vacations. Don't despair, it still is possible to take vacations, but one just has to do it slightly differently. In fact, a lot of people much prefer this method of vacation, since it is much more personal and friendly. Vacations by Owner and vacation rentals is the way to do it, as this way you deal directly with other home owners who are offering their home for a vacation. With vacation rentals, there is no middleman to pay, no commission, no fuss, just plain fun, that's all.

Say you're looking to visit Disney World in the spring, check out the section on Orlando vacation rentals and you'll be able to find a great place to stay and save lots of money as well. There are lots of other options in Florida vacation rentals if you'd rather focus on fishing or golfing. The options are quite varied and the great thing about this is they are ideal for family vacations, so if you're traveling with kids, this is really the best way to go about it.

Destinations are listed by state, making it easy to search to find a destination that you're looking for. The Exchange Club is another great section, where you can find people to swap homes for vacation with. The layout and navigation of the site, makes it extremely easy to find one's way around, and it's not cluttered with too many ads, as a lot of other sites are these days. If you're an international traveler, there's also a listing of worldwide destinations.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My new favorite travel site!



About a month ago, I was surfing to fond some interesting places to visit, and I came across a really nice site dedicated to exactly that, but with an added twist, that of traveling responsibly and in an eco-friendly manner. The site in question is Responsible Travel and it lists destinations and resorts from all over the world, which have done something different, have helped in preserving for the environment, contribute to local growth and activities and so on.

I ended up surfing the site for hours, quickly closing all the other tabs I had opened from other sites thrown up by the search engine. This one site had all the information I needed. I bookmarked several destinations and resorts and filled inquiry forms for several places for destinations ranging from Morocco, Cyprus and Egypt. I got replies to my queries within a day and was really happy with the experience. I haven't booked anything as yet, but I have some really great options at least.

Happy exploring!

Cafe franchise is the way to go

We're big fans of drinking coffee and tea at cafe's, especially a well-made cafe mocha. I was reading about how coffee franchises are a really huge business, especially in the newer areas and countries, where the saturation point has not been reached as is the case in some places in the US. While all kinds of food franchises are extremely popular, it is the cafe franchise that remains at the top of the list. With the coffee culture only growing the world over, this trend does not seem to be easing up anytime in the near future. Interestingly, a lot of coffee houses have incorporated tea into their business as well, so they are able to pull in tea drinkers as well. It's all good business sense.

Rain shelter

The hardest part of a vacation is when you come back and remember all the little moments that went into making it so special, so memorable and so wonderful. I really enjoyed my vacation in September and posting photos on Flickr about the trip is making me both nostalgic on one hand, but since I'm able to relive the moment, also very happy. It's a funny feeling and I know it's only going to be solved by taking another vacation....Yay, that's already planned. The location of the vacation I will write about later on though.

Rain shelter

Time for a change

It's time for some changes at home! As a Gemini, I love to shift things around, in fact I get claustrophobic to have the same arrangement all the time, through the seasons. So now it's time to get a new bed and bed frames, which will make the room look quite different but also be a lot more comfortable. The one we have in the room right now was a gift and while we really do appreciate the intention, it isn't the most supportive of bed frames and it's time for a change now. I think as the seasons change it is nice to change the things we have in our home as well.

The secret of blogging

It's been such a long time since I blogged here regularly, that it sometimes feels funny getting back to it. There's so much I want to share, but don't want to get boring and monotonous and dreary about it, right? A blog is a good place to speak ones mind, so to speak, but it can be quite tedious for the readers, who don't know much about you. One has to strike a balance in sharing information that others would probably be interested and information that can be easily avoided here. The problem is that while it's easy to point out what is tedious in other people's blogs, in ones own blog it seems important enough to write about. Well, do a rethink, since it's probably not. Let your blog be interesting, informative and fun. I hope I'm on the right track as well.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Looking through!

Buying a new pair of glasses has been pending for quite some time now, but I keep putting it off since I wear contact lenses most of the time and only use my glasses for a few minutes each day and while traveling. It really isn't something that one should ignore actually, since if you don't get the right power of glasses, you will only end up making things worse. While my power seems to be alright, these glasses always seem to be crooked and no amount of bending and twisting seems to make it alright.

So, it's time to get those new pair of glasses now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A peak into my trip to Mussoorie

Our trip to Mussoorie was really great. The weather in end September is just right, since the rains have cleared the dust from the atmosphere, one might get some spells of light rain, but it's mostly warm sunny days, cool evenings and always a lovely gentle breeze. I love traveling to the hills but somehow never made it to Mussoorie, so it was a nice treat for me. What I was looking forward to after the heat and dust of Dubai was some fresh air, places to walk outside, sit outside and enjoy the scenery. I got to do all that and more!

Bliss

Back now!

It's been a long while, but I'm back now. Our trip was super fabulous, with a bit of everything from parties, shopping, sightseeing, a trip to the hills, which was the best part of it all for me. I took lots of photos, of which I will post a few out here, but best of all were the memories and remembrances that I will always have. We often forget to enjoy the little things in life, the daily pleasures, the spontaneous joyful events, since we are so focused on the long term goal, money, power, success or whatever it is. The little things should not be sidelined, and if you do, you end up wasting half a life.

Monday, September 01, 2008

just a flower

A little photo break.

I took this shot a couple of months back, I think, but never got around to posting it since the light was just too yellow for my liking. So, I photographed it a few other times to get a better and more mellower feel. In the end, what worked best was just to decrease the saturation on Picasa and that's how I got this. Enjoy!

the flower and the crooked corner

thinking long term

Anyone working on a home renovation project understands the importance of spending more money on the kitchen and bathrooms of the house. These are the two areas that require the most investment, but are also the most used rooms in a house. So deciding on sinks and other items becomes a very serious aspect of the home renovation project. On the whole, I think it is better not to scrimp on getting a good sink, as one will really use is and it's really hard to do any changes later on. So, look carefully, plan well and enjoy the beauty and utility of it for years to come.

going away

Yay, its September already! Hard to believe how fast the year has gone by, isn't it? I'm super excited as we are going away for a while and all kinds of trips make me excited. Although our trip this time is not a complete vacation, we will get to travel to the hills for a short time, which hopefully we will extend, since that will definitely be the best part of the trip for me. Don't you just love the anticipation of a trip? I certainly do, and have to start winding down my work and getting together all the stuff to buy to take with me. I will probably not be blogging much for the next month too....Enjoy!

The long term solution

Ask any teenager or young adult about what their most stressful beauty problem is and the answer is usually, acne. Interestingly, there are a growing number of adult acne cases too, which is mostly because of the way we are living our lives today. There really is no simple solution, as even though the medications for acne are really quite good and strong, how it affe3cts your body and skin can be very different from person to person. A better approach is to make changes to your diet and lifestyle alongside using acne medications, as this will be a much more long lasting solution.

Monday, August 25, 2008

seen in the neighborhood

I have found that I love to take photographs of the daily things, of the little things that one sees around us, in our homes and in our neighborhoods, but often overlooks. Thanks to my morning walks, I have become much more aware of everything around me and have started noticing how they would photograph. Since I have a good but basic point and shoot camera, I try to always use the light to my advantage. The early morning light is always wonderful when I walk in my neighborhood and I have been able to spot and document lots of interesting sights in the past few months.

Stop for love

A new recipe stash

I'm an avid fan of searching for stuff on the Internet and the one kind of search that I've been doing a lot of recently is of recipes. I'm no chef and need all the help I can in the kitchen and I find that a lot of recipes that one finds on Internet sites are not only tried and tested recipes but also much more simpler and less complicated ones than what one finds in recipe books.

The next step after finding recipes is organizing them and that's where sites like myrecipes.com comes in with its recipe organizing tools. Not only will you be able to find some really great recipes here, but you will also be able to store them for future use, so you don't have to go crazy looking for them later on. As a first time visitor, I was really impressed by the site and found some really great chicken recipes which I stored and have made on several occasions.

I really like the option of being able to search by ingredient, so I can find a new recipe for odds and ends that always seem to get left right before one goes shopping again. Another thing I really liked about this site was that it is very user friendly and looks very appealing design-wise. I've been really happy with it and am so glad I found it.

the next trip

Well, our next trip has been booked and we're excited to be getting away for a while. We're planning a two week trip back home for some family functions as well as a short but much needed retreat to the hills. I do hope it will go according to plan, as there are lots of balls up in the air, so to speak. I really need to go out for some fresh air, especially fresh mountain air, it will be six months since I last went up to the hills and I'm dying to be there again. The hardest thing for me to deal with living in the desert is the constant heat and air conditioning. The past few months it has been too uncomfortable even early in the mornings, so I'm starting to feel a bit claustrophobic now. Just thinking of the hills makes it better though.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

current must haves

I've really been surprised at the number of name brand that have become so important in the baby industry. Every one now must have a recognizable and rather famous Bugaboo stroller or something that everyone can recognize from celebrity photographs. It's certainly a very interesting place and time to be in, and to study the sociology of the people involved. In fact, we are all involved, since we are all influenced by trends, fads and things inspired by celebrities. With baby products, this has been taken to a whole new level though, making it a very interesting segment to watch.

photos of Madinat Jumeirah

Some shots from our trip to the Madinat Jumeirah hotel in June. It was a fun trip, which we made using an abra (water taxi) to go and using a golf cart to return. The abra was definitely a better experience, more interesting and more memorable of course as well. This was the Al Qasr section of the hotel which is only for hotel residents and their guests. They make a photocopy of your id before they take you to this section of the hotel, which is all very interesting.




falling car prices and insurance

I've been reading in the newspaper about how much the price of expensive gas guzzling cars has dropped since the gas prices have sky rocketed, and have been wondering how this will affect car insurance rates. For a lot of people, this is a great time to buy a vehicle, although buying a gas guzzler is not good for any time of the year or economic situation, I feel. Insurance rates usually stay quite competitive, especially if you search online, where it is possible to get some really good rates. I wish I had done that when i bought my last car, when I ended up getting insured by the agent tied up with the car dealer, often the most expensive of the lot.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

a blogging lincoln

It's been ages since I visited bLaugh.com, which is one of my favorite cartoon sites online. Sadly, the site no longer has any new cartoons, barely one in 4-5 months or so, which is practically nothing. Anyway, because there is nothing new, I've been checking out their archives and found this one about Lincoln and blogging. How weird it would have been!

Enjoy!
If Lincoln Blogged

How we usually select our financial services

A lot of my assignments have been on the banking industry lately, and so I've been doing a lot of reading and researching on different kinds of bank accounts, interest rates, how to go about getting a balance transfer credit card, the advantages of transferring your balance to another credit card and so on. Every adult has a bank account, or at least should have one, but I serious think that no one really does any kind of research before opening an account. The location of the bank seems to be the number one priority, along with free and available parking. The actual banking services don't even get discussed, and if they do it's only about the basics, which is really sad, since they doing them selves a disservice. Do take time out to understand what your bank account is about and what the fine print is in the credit card statement. It'll pay off, I promise.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A flickr milestone

I started my flickr account a couple of years back, but didn't start turning my photos public till January this year. It's simply been an amazing run to get a great set of flickr friends from across the world and to see photos of people, places and things that are going on in Houston or Finland or Bali or Mozambique. For anyone who hasn't given flickr a try, i would highly recommend a visit to their site and also the explore page.

Here's a shot that I took some time back and uploaded yesterday.
Rolling past 10,000...or is it 38,000+?

finding stuff

There are those who are experts at all things electronics and for the house. Well, unfortunately, I'm not one of them, and I like to rely on the experts for their advice. Say, I want to get some audio racks but I'm not sure where I can get the nicest ones, I'd rather just go and Google it along with my area and go to wherever the results say. I do pay attention to the forums etc, which I find is a great way to get a true picture of what people think of a product or service, and not the marketed version. Everyone has their own system of doing things and this one works for me.

July reading

The past month has been super, super hectic for me. It's been a great month for work and I have done several fun assignments. It's also been a really great month for reading and I have managed to read 4 books instead of my allocated two for each month. The first two I read were about the Bush presidency, The Fall of the House of Bush and Imperial Presidency, both of which are good reading, but I personally preferred the first one. I then changed tactics and read The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory, which is about two of Henry VIII's wives. I also read Deep France by Celia Brayfield, a British writer who moves to the Bearn region of France for one year and writes about her experiences in this book. I highly recommend the last two books, they were enjoyable, knowledgeable and engrossing.

summer decisions

It happens every summer. The sales of all kinds of diet pills increases significantly as everyone tries desperately to get into shape as fast as they possibly can. When taking any new kind of diet medication or diet plan, one must make the effort to visit one's physician so that there is no medical issue that can be compromised in your quest to lose weight. All diets must also be taken slowly and steadily, since the slower one loses the weight the longer it stays off, which is the best goal to have. For some, taking weight off too slowing is just not enough incentive, but it has been proven to be the most effective.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Noticing the little things

I love taking photos of the little details of life that we often overlook. It makes it so much more interesting to actually see everything around us in a new light, to notice things and to absorb and appreciate their beauty. This is right outside our house and I see it everyday, but I'm so glad that I stopped to photograph it one day. It's usually so hot outside, that one never lingers and in the rush-rush of our lives, we never bother to just notice things just for the sake of that alone.

Enjoy!
creeping through

Why Orlando is just so right

It's no surprise that Orlando is such a hit with people of all ages. The Orlando area has over 50 theme parks, has one of the largest conferencing facilities, innumerable sports activities ranging from golfing, fishing, water activities and much more, a huge variety of eating out, great shopping, and lots of entertaining events such as dinner theaters. That's exactly why Orlando vacations are always in demand, no matter what time of year it is and what the weather is like. For a city to attract a range of people, it has to offer more than one kind of activity, and that's exactly what Orlando has managed to do. The city ha also perfected the art of combining official and personal events, so if you come to the city on a seminar, you can combine it with some golfing as well. It's really a great way to make your work more fun too. tra

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

summer time

Summer is here in full force and we are doing everything we can to not let it overtake our lives and keep us indoors. Even the minimum temperatures here are so high that it's hot and humid early in the mornings as well. I never thought it would be humid here in the desert, but along the coast it does get pretty humid in the summer. I can't wait for better weather, but it seems like ages away. In the meantime, here's a drink to cool off with.

a starry summery drink

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Traveling right!

As an avid traveler, I have learned that one can easily ruin a trip just by not packing correctly. These days it has become even more important to be vigilant when one packs so that one doesn't put some of the banned items in the carry on luggage and so on. One of the best things that one can buy, is a set of TSA travel locks, that can be opened by security agents without having to be broken and alert you whether they have been opened by security or not. Having the right set of travel supplies really does make all the difference in traveling worry free. Being able to carry some basic amount of toiletries on board is permitted, but one must carry them in the right kind of containers, else you will have to toss them. Such a waste, but that's the rule. It's not a fun way to start off a journey having to abandon your super expensive face cream at the airport is it? Much, much easier just to have the right kind of clear containers and travel without worry.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

We all need a sense of community

I've found that I love taking photographs in my neighborhood. It wasn't until I started going for my early morning walks that I realized how peaceful it was to wander and connect with the area one lives in. At one time, we all had a great sense of community, but with time, this feeling has got lessened to the point that a lot of times, we really don't know anything about our neighborhoods, and the people who live there. It's quite sad really, but that is really the way the majority of us who live in modern cities have become. In all the places that we have lived, we came to know only our immediate neighbors and that too only quite superficially. This time around I am making a bit more effort to get to know them and establish a sense of community in out own little area.

Here's a photo I took some time back of a street nearby.

got to love this branch

Another summer trend

Summer is here and it's that time again, where everyone is looking out for the newest and latest of diets to go on and get into the best shape possible. There is a list of best diet pills here if you're interested. But as usual, I must add that before starting on any diet or exercise plan it is essential to get a health check done. If one ends up losing weight too quickly that can lead to lots of complications, so its best to be a bit cautious about it in the beginning itself, and not have something to regret later on in leisure. All the tabloids and celebrity magazines have really fueled this trend and there doesn't seem to be any slowdown to it as yet.

Sign of changing times: The new milk jug

The newly designed milk jug that has been adopted by Costco and Walmart is supposed to be a better designed jug, but the majority of consumers are not happy with it. The newer jugs are a lot cheaper for the manufacturers and are easier to ship as well, they cost less and the milk in them is fresher, but the downside is that these new jugs have no spout which leads to spilt milk everywhere. The new gallon jug is only one example of the thousands of products that are undergoing a rethink, in how to make them more cost effective and efficient.

“This is a key strategy as a path forward,” said Anne Johnson, the director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of the nonprofit group GreenBlue. “Re-examining, ‘What are the materials we are using? How are we using them? And where do they go ultimately?’ ”

The new jug marks a sharp break with the way dairies and grocers have traditionally produced and stocked milk.

Today, they bottle and ship two different ways. The old way is inefficient and labor-intensive, according to members of the family. The other day, a worker named Dennis Sickafoose was using a long hook to drag plastic crates loaded with jugs of milk onto a conveyor belt.

Traveling right!

Each time I travel, I worry about my suitcases. I worry whether they will arrive on time, whether they will be in good condition when they arrive, and whether they will be the oldest and most tired looking luggages on the baggage carousel. I think if I had something like these famed Zero Halliburton luggage, I would not worry at all! I've always thought of them as super cool, and loved seeing them in spy movies, so it would be really great having one or two myself. Spy movies have been a great source of inspiration for trends and a lot of thing one sees in these movies, eventually makes its way to the mass market.

Personalize your party M&M's

Did you know that you could personalize M&Ms? I didn't, so I was quite thrilled to find out from their site that you can personalize them with your own mix of colors, captions and now even photographs! I think that's really adorable! Just image how cute it would be to get some made with your child's photo on them! M&M's has long been a favorite of kids around the world (in some form or the other....ours used to be called Gems!) and I would have loved to have some personalized ones myself!

How to have the perfect vacation!

Whenever someone asks me for advice on planning a great vacation, I just cannot stress enough the importance of getting some travel insurance. It is the one thing that will ensure that your vacation does not get ruined if you fall sick, lose some important papers or your luggage. A lot of people think of it as wasted money or something to get only if you have a lot of money, but there are lots of cheap travel insurance companies out there who can provide you with all all the amenities of traveling without any worries. This is a great option for the adventurous traveler who wants to travel without too much of a plan and go for treks and backpacking adventures.

The other thing to note is that if you buy travel insurance direct from the insurance company, it will save you money instead of buying it from your travel agent or from some other source. For budget conscious travelers this is a great option. Just having a backup while you are away from home, out of your comfort zone is a great relief and is a sure way to ensure that you have an enjoyable vacation. Another key factor is to ensure that the agency that you get your insurance with is well networked and easily available in the places that you will be traveling to. Don't mess with your vacation, get travel insurance before you head out!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

thanks to the light

I got a lot of positive comments on this photo, so I wanted to post it here as well. I took this one in May, but somehow never got around to posting it till now....think I had posted too many shots of neem leaves and flowers already! We get lovely light in the house, especially in the afternoon and evenings and so most of the work is already done, and all I have to do is to be around and notice things.

enjoy!
the light, the light

Get set for school

Even though your next semester in college is a while away, it's a really great time to get your required textbooks, since you're sure to get some really great deals on them. As the semester nears, prices always increase, so it's best to buy in advance. A lot of bookstores reorganized their inventory during these lean summer months, so many books might be on the reduction table, if you're lucky. It doesn't always happen, since the bookstores correlate their stock with the books that the professors require for your classes, but the summer months are your best bet at finding great deals on textboks.

Schmap it!

Having a great map is essential for all travelers and I am really liking these new kinds of software that help you map your trip and location. Schmap is one such site that uses an interactive process to show you places on a map. All content is integrated dynamically so that it is completely intuitive and will have real-time photos of the places on the map. How do you use it? Well, you have to download the Schmap 2.0 and then you can use it offline. I think it is a superb trip planning tool, especially when you're not exactly sure of where you want to go in a city, and don't want to read reams and reams of tour guides to pick your options. So far, the company has mapped over 200 destinations in the US, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

On finding the perfect job

I find it very interesting how the process of finding a job has changed so much in the past few years. Where at one time, one actually had to hunt through newspapers and job agencies, now one can find a job sitting at home in your pajamas half way around the world. The entire concept of a job search has been reinvented. The jobs have changed too, so it has been a great way to keep up with the changes that have taken place. Now it is so simple to find a job in a location that you will be moving to, before you even get there. Thanks to the Internet, searching for a job has become a very easy task, but landing the perfect job can still be tough, especially in the current economic scenario. So, pull out all the stops, use all your avenues to get that job you want.

a new me!

I've really made a concerted push to doing things that make me happy, since I often get down in the dumps for no reason at all, but enough is enough, life is for living and I'm going to make sure that I'm having a heck of a time. The weirdest thing is that taking photographs made me realize this, as it made me slow down and think about the present instead of fretting about the past and worrying about the future. The now is what I concentrate on these days, and I can't tell you just how great it is to do that. Thanks to photography and this new me, I've been doing lots of things that I never thought I would do, but am actually enjoying them a lot.

Here's a shot I took early one morning.
early one morning

the right gift

Finding the right gift for someone is always a stressful job, but thanks to the xbox 360 pretty much everyone who gets it is thrilled with it. I find that to be a huge relief, since I am not that great at buying gifts for teenage boys and this was a really tough one for me. Thankfully, my know-in-all neighbor helped me out on this and get me going in the right direction. After searching on the Internet for a bit, I realized like a lot of other electronics, buy.com seems to be the best place to get one of these much in demand gizmos. Thankfully, this entire process has been quite painless!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nothing like a bougainvillea

I simply adore bougainvilleas. The variety is amazing and these plants are so giving, always blooming the most beautiful of flowers even in the harshest of conditions. I hope I never get tired of looking at them and admiring them. I've been photographing a lot of different ones on my morning walks, but these are probably the most vibrant ones that I have shot to date. I love the background in the picture as it really makes the blooms appear more vibrant and alive.

a bolt of pink

movie theater dreaming

We've always been huge movie buffs, and have been planning to st up a nice home theater when we move to a new location. Even though, we're not quite sure when it will happen, it hasn't stopped me from looking for the perfect home theater sconces, reclining seats, cozy blankets and everything else that one needs to create the perfect home theater room in one's own house. We do love going to the theater but one often gets so busy that one cannot manage for long periods of time, and end up missing some great movies, but if one has a superb screening room at home, one can always get the same quality on DVDs as well. It's a bit of a splurge but well worth it I'm sure.

Travel inspiration


I found a pretty cool travel site today. It's called TripTie and its actually a travel planning website where you can check out other people's travel plans and use them for your own trip, add your own info to their trips, such as updating a restaurant closure or recommending a particular dish and so on. I've not signed up or used the system as yet, but I've certainly enjoyed browsing through some of the listed trips. They are a great source of travel ideas and inspiration. Besides information on the itinerary, there are also details about the cost, hotels, restaurants and much more. It seems like a great site to get ideas on where to go, although so far I saw mostly trips in the US with a few in Europe, Japan and China. I would love to find more information on European trips, especially to off the track spots that normally don't feature in the magazines and travel guides.

A luxe trip maybe?

In between working, I have been doing a lot of searching for a different kind of vacation. When we usually travel on vacation, we like to mix the budget with the expensive to get a little bit of everything, but this time we're considering going on one of these all out luxury vacations. We haven't really decided where we want to go as yet, or even when, but it sure is very tempting to search for a vacation that immediately sucks you in and makes you drop everything else! I search for everything from luxury cruises in the Caribbean to Swiss style chalets in the mountains and I'm completely consumed in trying to figure it all out. But then, that's all part of the fun. I simply adore vacation planning!

Monday, June 30, 2008

I love expat blogs

Reading blogs opens up a whole new world for you. I find it fascinating that thanks to a simple blog, one can read about someone living their life across the world and see what their experiences are. Ever since we moved abroad (again!) I've been quite active on expat boards and am forever searching for expat blogs, so that have people I can relate to. So it was pretty cool to come across, Culture Shock which is a blog that covers exactly that. Written by Kristie, a native of Southern California, the blog covers her move to Norway on getting married and is currently about her not-so-good stay in an Ashram in India. All her travels and experiences certainly make for very lively reading, that I am quite enjoying.

Daily reading material

As a blogger, one automatically gravitates to reading other blogs and over the years I have built up a nice list of bookmarks of sites that I like to visit. I haven't been doing it too much recently, ever since I have been caught up with my Flickr-addiction, but one of the blogs that I used to read regularly and now am looking forward to reading again is Table For Five which is authored Elizabeth. As a mommy blogger, Elizabeth covers a wide range of topics from things to do on the weekend to product reviews and launches, but what I really like is that she always makes it interesting by putting her own personal take on it, which is always interesting.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

a book pic

A few days back I wrote about finishing reading The Family by Kitty Kelley, and so here is the photo of it. I agree that the objects in the photo are totally incongruous in relation to each other, but I didn't set up the shot or arrange it. These were just objects that were lying on the table and when I saw the sunlight coming in so beautifully, I ran to get my camera and take a shot. That's what life is all about right, capturing the moments without too much fuss and without changing things around too much!

Enjoy!
my latest read
The photo has been reduced in size to fit on this page, so the lines are not aligned etc. To see the pic in all its glory, click on the photo!

a secure thing

In the past decade or so, the kind of home security systems that have become available have really changed. Not only have them become much more secure, but they have also become so much more simpler for the consumer to understand and use. Earlier, it was quite easy to find a way around the system, since everyone used to use the simplest of passwords and just about anyone could get around them. A system such as ademco however offers a much higher level of security and one can keep track of one's property from another location as well, which is a very useful tool to have. Besides all the basic security elements, it also has several options for elevated security and ease of use. I was quite impressed with all the features when I visited their website.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I could have been here too....

I'm missing out on a major adventure these days! Instead of being here at home I could have been at Club La Costa, Alpine Center near Zell Am See. Wow, now that would be a great summer vacation right? I thought so too, but had to decline to go since I had a lot of work and family stuff going on here at home. Oh well, that is life!

Sometimes I think that since I love to travel so much, all I ought to do is to travel! What a life that would be, right? Till I can do that, all I can do is dream, dream, dream!

Traveling without worry

As an avid traveler, I cannot stress the importance of getting travel insurance before heading out on a trip. Nothing is worse than losing your luggage, getting ill and misplacing your wallet while you're far away from home. I always take out a health insurance policy before leaving for vacations, something that will cover me and any illness at our destination.

The thing about travel insurance is that a lot of people offer them, so it's effectiveness all depends on who you buy it from. A lot of people get a policy from their travel agent simply because it saves them time, but you should actually be buying one directly from the insurer as you will definitely get a better rate and also get better coverage. So, the little effort you make to get travel insurance direct is well worth it.

If you get travel insurance directly from the insurer, you can also select the specific type of insurance that suits you, so if you're traveling a lot each year, you can get a multi trip plan instead of a single trip plan. And if you're into being adventurous, you can take out a backpacker insurance plan which will cover you for all unexpected events and situations. Happy traveling!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Finished reading : The Family by Kitty Kelley

I'm really thrilled with the amount of reading I've been managing to do these past few months. While two books a month is not much at all, it was hard for me manage even that before, so am very happy to keep up my current reading rate. I finished reading Kitty Kelley's The Family yesterday and must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've read one of her earlier biographies on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and that was got me interested in reading biographies, albeit totally unauthorized ones, which make them so much more interesting instead of being preachy and squeaky clean. The Family, which is about the Bush dynasty is quite compelling and tells a lot of secrets that the family wanted to keep hidden. All in all very interesting reading.

That awful teenagery thing!

Many teenagers will feel that there is no right solution to the problem of acne but in fact there are some very good acne solutions that will take care of the problem once and for all for you. The thing to remember is that teenage acne is triggered off by so many different factors and combinations of factors that sometimes even the best of solutions might not work. It is important to drink lots of water so that all the impurities are flushed from the body, eat a healthy and nutritious diet, be active and most importantly be happy. Acne is caused by hormones and they play havoc if you are miserable, so this is one of the best solutions.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A different one!



I've been posting a lot of pictures here, but they're usually the same ones that I post on Flickr, so this time I decided to post something that I have not uploaded to Flickr. I took this one in April and I liked the mix of colors that I got in the shot. Color and light are the two things that I look for when I take a photograph and I don't like things that look too dreary or sad. I agree, that there is beauty in surprising places like a ditch or a broken pot, but I don't find it too appealing. I do however love rust in photographs, as there is something very earthy about it.

More than just telling the time

I've always been a fan of watches. I don't have a huge collection, but I have to wear a watch at all times. I feel weird if I don't wear a watch, so getting a watch as a present is always a useful and great gift for me. I recently saw some very cool looking Guess watches that would be really fun to wear. Guess is a brand that is straddling both the cool and the luxurious with great ease, since a lot of brands have trouble being both. One of my all time favorite watches is the one that my parents gave me on my eighteenth birthday and I still take it out and wear it every once in a while.

Books read in April and May

I tallied my recent reading and I'm happy to note that I am making good progress on this front. I have always loved to read, but the past few years have seen my reading habit go down by quite a bit, mostly because I am spending a lot of working on the computer and then would rather not concentrate on more reading. But in all that, I forget the wonderful sense of calmness that one gets just from sitting still and reading. We're doing too much of multi-tasking these days that we feel guilty if we do less than 3 things at a time. But with reading, one has to concentrate and that is a wonderful way to forget one's daily work and troubles.

My tally so far:
April:
Fatima's good fortune by J & G Dryansky
Passion India by Javier Moro

May:
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Dark Lady by Charles Higham

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer traveling

Summer is a wonderful time to travel in Europe. My parents will be traveling to Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Poland in a three week trip that I could have gone on too, but had to refuse since I had some important stuff going on at home. Since they have done a decent amount of traveling in Europe, they are quite well versed in how to find the best places to stay, where all to visit and how to find the best deals. So if you say you are looking for the best Paris hotels, they will know exactly where to go to find them.

They plan to stay for about a week near Salzburg, after which they will travel to several different places and stay two-three days in each location. When they were looking for Salzburg hotels, they found a wide range of options in many of the locations that they were interested in. For Munich hotels, they found a perfect hotel in the Nymphenburg area of town, close to the tram station and in a very elegant location that is full of historical buildings.

Since all bookings have to be done in advance and you only have s few photographs to see of each location, being able to get some reader feedback, see a location map of the area and know what all amenities the hotel has to offer are all important tools in finding the right place. There's nothing worse than reaching your hotel to find that it's not in the right location, and does not stand up to its photo on the Internet. That's why it is so important to do your bookings at a reputable site, one that you can be sure to be straightforward and honest.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Zorro

My parent's beloved dog Zorro passed away after battling diabetes, which was only diagnosed four months back. He was only 4 years old and such a wonderful and affectionate dog. We will surly miss him a lot. Here's a photo I took of him in March. He was already ill by this time, had lost weight and was not his usual chirpy self.

zorro looking lovingly...

what is enough memory?

Ever since I started taking photographs and storing them all on my computer, I've been a bit worried about running out of memory space. I decided to check up on if I needed to increase the ram or random access memory on this laptop, and if my external drive would be enough of a backup. Well, it turned out that I was worried for no reason at all, since I have plenty of space still available, even with some of the large format photographs that I have been taking. The good thing is that one can easily upgrade one's memory capacity whenever one needs to, so there is always a solution handy. Just imagine if one could do that in real life too!

more on packing and moving...

As people go, we've moved around the world quite a bit already, and we're nowhere near done as yet. I love to travel and experience living in different places, but this last move did wear me out, if I'm to be absolutely frank. Maybe, it was because we had so much going on at the time, maybe it was because we decided to sell most of our stuff and buy new things once we got here, maybe it was because of my attachment to the things I sold and gave away. All of these and more contributed to making it a very emotional and physically tiring move. I definitely would have been simpler if we had brought our things along, since they would have taken a month or two to arrive and we would have found a place by then with ease. In retrospect, things always look so clear, don't they.

Moving lessons

Moving is not an easy business. For a while, it definitely can be a lot of fun, but it can really wear you out, if you don't have the right sort of help, including having a mover NYC company to help you organize and sort things out. With the way they organize things, it becomes quite simple to handle the rest of the things oneself. In all our moves, we have had help with the packing and moving and that has really been a huge help. In our last move, we decided to sell most of our things and shipped only a small amount of household goods. Looking back, I feel that we should have utilized the packing services and sent it all here instead of selling it. Oh well, one lives and learns, I guess!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why you must read 'Three cups of tea'


I finished reading 'Three Cups of Tea' a book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, last night. If there is one book that you absolutely must read, this year, this month, this lifetime, then this is it. I read through it in five days, and could not tear myself away from this absolutely beautiful story. And it's really not just a story, it is a true account of one man's vision to change lives half way across the world, and ultimately change the lives of everyone reading the book.

Greg Mortenson was a climber who after a failed attempt at K2, sought refuge at the village of Korphe, where he was welcomed as one of the family and treated with respect and love. Saddened to learn that the village had no school and eager-to-learn students were forced to sit out in the freezing weather scratching out marks on the ground with sticks, he vowed to build a school for the village.

His quest to build a school in a remote village in Pakistan, in the shadow of the Karakorum mountains, turned him from a somewhat lost dreamer and climber to a focused visionary who saw far beyond just the building of a school, one who saw how this one thing would forever change the lives of all the students. The Central Asia Institute that runs the schools was nurtured by Greg Mortenson to become the organization it is today, running over 50 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and hoping to open in other countries as well.

The book is a veritable font of information about the region's geography, history, culture, tribes, politics and wars. Even though I have just finished reading the book, I know this is something that I will be reading again and again. There are lots of inspirational books out there, but this one is different, it touches the heart, it makes you feel that you must do something as well, that you must help out in any way possible.

The world needs more people like Greg Mortenson, and with all the schools he has opened and the inspiring lessons he has taught, there might just be several in the making! Looking forward to see who takes his legacy forward.

Saving your finances

When it comes to taking care of personal finances and daily accounts, it is essential to have a good savings account, where you can start a bit of 'saving'! Banking principles are something that can be very confusing for some people, but that is not something that should deter you in finding out all the details and figuring out which is best for you. Besides a saving account, you can also have a current account from which to deal with on a daily basis. All banks offer all of these services and more and it is such an easy task to get all the details, right! Surprisingly, there are millions of people who do not believe in banks and would rather stash their money elsewhere, which is quite a bad idea actually. To each their own, I guess!

Cool, cool stuff!


If you're always trying to find a cute and unusual gift, but can find the right thing at the mall, then you need to look at this cool site called Fredflare.com which has tons of really cool items. Some are quite gimmicky, but some are priceless, and there are definitely many that will make you smile. I like having a few reliable sites like these on hand, so I can quickly browse through and order things that are completely different from what is locally available. Even though I'm not buying anything right now, I enjoyed looking through and finding some cute stuff like these rainboot gardens.

a great accessory

So, how many watches do you really own? Everyone has more than one, right? I have three watches, but generally only wear the same one, since the others are mostly for sentimental reasons. They get spoiled very easily an I keep getting them fixed only to have them get spoiled again within a week or so. That means that I need to buy a new watch, or a couple of them! I usually go for the slim and delicate variety since they suit my wrist best of all, but there are lots of fashionable chunky watches out there too, like this Hublot big bang watch which are also great option. Watches are a great way to accessorize and create a unique outfit without having to wear too much jewelry if you're one who doesn't like anything fussy.

A fine photographer



I've always been interested in buying art, but lately I have been searching for interesting photography to buy as well. I think I have started to appreciate the technique more since I started taking an interest in this medium myself and understood just how technical it can get. One of the photographers, whose work I have found interesting is Mary who specializes in portrait, wedding as well as fine art photography. Her store Magic Island General Store has been a good find on Etsy.

With 14 years experience as a photographer, having previously worked as a freelance photographer with The New York Times and AP, and also having exhibitions at museums and art galleries across the US, has given Mary a nice perspective of the creative and the practical. Based out of Ocracoke Island in North Carolina, where she has a real store as well, I found Mary's wedding photo's to have a wonderful quality in them. Not all people are good at catching the right moment, but Mary is perfect at this.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Travel safe and worry free

For all international travelers it is quite a good idea to get one of these tsa locks, which let you know if your baggage has been inspected or not. They are the first of their kind, with the red indicated that the lock has been opened and the green indicating that it has not been opened. With all the security restrictions and checking, it is a good idea to get a lock that the security officials can open and seal again, unlike the other locks that need to be tossed if they are opened. I've lost several items over the years to bags that were missing locks simply because security officials cut it off and sent an unsealed bag on to its destination. For frequent travelers, this is a great travel accessory to have.

A glass of oj a day, keeps the blues away!

I've become hooked onto having freshly squeezed orange juice on a daily basis and with me taking photographs around the house, it was inevitable that a glass of oj makes an appearance sooner or later. It actually has been there already in a couple of my earlier shots, but was never the focal point. So, I decided to take one of it as the center of attention!

Enjoy!

a shot of orange

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Creating a mum-worthy vacation!

While going on vacation is supposed to be a fun event, it actually is a lot of stress for those planning it. If you are traveling with kids and have to create a wonderful holiday for them as well, then you've got to do planning with even more finesse. So why bother even going on vacation, right? Well, there are those who cater to exactly this segment of customers, specifically mothers and work to plan the perfect vacation for you. The Mums' Holiday Guide is a great place to find out all the information you need to know to plan a vacation, what to take with you, packing the right way, how to de-stress and a whole lot more.

Say for example that you would like to plan a trip to the Orlando theme parks, a veritable heaven for the kids, but a potential nightmare for you, with all the tickets that need to be booked and bought for the theme parks, dinner shows, hotels, aquariums and so on. Using the resources of the Mums' Holiday Guide, you will be able to do all this and more with ease and manage to enjoy the trip. When traveling with families, a good option is to find large holiday homes to rent around the world and plan a vacation this way. Planning such a vacation is a lot of fun and when one is traveling in a large group, especially of the family, it is a much better option to find a home to vacation in rather than hotel rooms.

It's with tips like these and more that the Mums' Holiday Guide is a great place to start the vacation planning. You can of course supplement it with finding discounted tickets at Travelocity, which always has some great deals or the other. I find that TripAdivsor is also a good site to find information on travel planning, deals on hotels, condominiums, flights and so on.

How much is enough?

Looking through the archives of bLaugh and found a cool cartoon. This is just so on the mark that you have to love it, for its preciseness and for the way that you can relate it to your way of life as well. The folks at bLaugh are not updating their site too often, so have been going backwards and finding fun stuff and this one was a great find. Simply loved its directness.

Enjoy!

A Sign From Above

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

easy riding!

There are some people who know absolutely everything there is to know about cars, machines, technology and so on, and then there are others who are not quite able to tell some car parts from others. The good thing is that even if you know absolutely nothing, there are people that you can rely on when it comes to all things related to cars without having to worry at all. For a lot of people this is a major relief to not have to worry about their vehicles. The Internet has made it all so simple to be able to find things and to utilize them to make life simpler. Leaves more time for other things, right?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Using those frequent flyer miles


We all love collecting miles and filling up frequent flyer cards every time we travel, but do most of us actually use them? Well, there are lots of ways to use them, besides getting a free ticket. That is the ultimate reward, of course, but you have to be patient and book your seat way in advance as most airlines keep on a few "award seats" for each flight.

The number one rule is to book in advance and to know all the different alliances, so you can maximize your miles. Credit card companies also give miles as rewards for usage and they are a good way to accumulate miles and use them in one go. Other than getting a ticket, you can get an upgrade to a business class seat with your miles.

There are several alliances, with StarAlliance being the largest and encompassing the North American and European carriers, along with some of the smaller European flyers as well. There are also SkyTeam and OneWorld alliances with several major airlines. Check Flyer Talk for more information.

the power of a funny t-shirt

One of the most fun assignments I did as a college freshman was about the marketing effects of funny t-shirts. Some might disregard them as idiotic, some might just consider them as fanciful forays into childishness, but the one thing that you cannot do is underestimate their power of reaching out to their peers. If their is a product that you want sold in a specific niche, then the one thing that you must do is use a funny t-shirt campaign that will get you publicity, lots of advertising and create a buzz in the marketplace. It's a plan that has worked for thousands of companies and is likely to do so in the future as well.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reading material

Been trying to keep up the reading schedule that I was on in March, especially since I know I can never give up or slow down buying books, so might as well make a greater effort to enjoying them! I picked up a few books during the shopping festival from Books Plus, which is a pretty good store and since it is a smaller store, it is easier to find books, especially new fiction. At Borders, one just gets lost trying to find a decent book.

I picked the top book in the pic, Fatima's Good Fortune on a whim, mostly because I liked the cover, so I didn't really have many expectations from it. I was completely wrong in my judgment as the book was beautiful, with great insight into the heart and mind of the protagonist, delving into relationships, kindnesses, and a joy of living. All in all, it's a great feel good read, that makes you think of how you can live a better life as well.

a streak of sunlight

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Do you skype?

Are you one of these folks? Keeping up with technology that's often changing at warp speed is not simple task, but it sure does give a lot of opportunity for creative cartoons, right? We've been using Skype and Google Talk for over a year and we wonder why we didn't get started on it earlier. Even though we don't use it as much as we'd like to, we do try to make all our long distance and overseas calls to family and friends on it, and not even pay a dime. It's a great way to save some money, and I'm all for adapting to new technologies.

Skype Me!

Ensuring a good trip

If you're going to be traveling overseas, then travel insurance is something that you should definitely get for yourself and your family. There is nothing worse than ruining a vacation for this reason alone. Travel insurance is such a simple thing to get these days, but is usually one of the things that people tend to overlook. One thing that I really liked about this travel insurance company was that you could get an annual travel insurance, if you were going to be traveling on trips of less than 38 days at a time, which will make it so much simpler to travel at ease each time.

A lot of consumers are a bit wary when it comes to buying online travel insurance, but with the kind of backups that are offered, there is so guesswork or hassles involved at all. Travel insurance has taken care of all the possible kinks that you could encounter and smoothened your trip out for you. With all the required details on travel tips, what all documents you will require, selecting a policy, and tips on safe travel, this is a great guide for all things that will ensure a great trip.

Home exchanging catching on


Home exchange programs are really picking up lately, and coming into the mainstream. This is a system of exchanging homes with other people so that you don't need to stay in a hotel when you travel. This is actually just the tip of the iceberg, as the home exchange system offers a whole lot more. Usually one exchanges homes directly, as in the person I give my home to, exchanges their home for my vacation, but it can also work in more complex ways.

How one usually goes about it is that one signs up with a home exchange company by paying an annual fee and gets into the database of those interested in exchanging their homes for vacations. A lot of people will also offer their cars to be exchanged while of vacation as well, making car rental obsolete as well. From the kind of reviews I have read, I have been most impressed, but I have not got around to becoming a member at any of these organizations as yet. Some of the popular sites include Jewett Street, Exchange Homes, Home Exchange, Home Link, Home for Exchange, Home Base Holidays, ahago, Home Exchange, Holswap, and Digsville. I personally prefer browsing through Jewett Street's listings, as they seem to be the most interesting and most viable.

going back in style

When it comes to shopping, there is one thing that is really catching on, and it's a trend for vintage sunglasses. Makes you wonder if you should have saved your mother's old ones, right? It's pretty crazy just how small the fashion cycles are becoming, that trends are being repeated within our life cycles. There needs to be a little longer time gap before the same or similar trends are brought back, I think. The trend for vintage sunglasses are a bit older though, maybe something your grandmother might have worn kind of thing, which does make it more interesting actually!

Steve & Barry's to the forefront


We all love fashion don't we! Well, I do but I hate to spend a fortune on it like a growing number of like minded consumers. The answer might just be Steve & Barry's, one of the most fun and interesting stores to be noticed in recent times. Started 23 years ago, by Steve Shore and Barry Prevor, the chain is taking America by storm, leaving similar concepts by Old Navy, H&M and Forever 21 way behind. It's closest competitor is Wal-Mart, which is not nearly as fashionable, of course.

With 264 stores across the country, Steve & Barry's are becoming the go-to store for fashionistas everywhere, albeit those who would rather spend less than a month's rent for a pair of pants. At Steve & Barry's everything is under $20, and these days everything is $8.98, since they are running a special offer. So Everything, yes Everything in the store is priced a flat rate of $8.98.

Even crazier is that this price also stands for Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten line of clothing. The store is the only place to get official Sex & the City, The Movie merchandise as well. So how do they really manage to sell things at such a low price? Well, they cut corners everywhere besides the actual clothes. Even senior executives hunt for low budget fares and travel economy class, stay at budget motels and don't have extravagant offices, case in point the $20 office chairs. The company also selects locations that are a bit out of the way and not doing too well, to get a lower lease rate.

The difference a good car insurance company makes

There's one thing that usually everyone dreads, and it's none other than car insurance payments. In reality, if you are with the right company, there is nothing to worry about, so if you dread renewing your contract and wince at every payment that goes out of your bank account, then it is time to look for another agency for your car insurance. The thing is that, this is something that we just cannot do without and since the companies know that, they usually get whatever they ask for, but there are some great companies out there and all it takes is just finding the right one and you will be all set for the coming year. It definitely is worth the effort.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My first Etsy purchase!



I am super thrilled as I did my first purchase on Etsy last week and my paintings have already been delivered. I have been browsing the art pages and saving my favorites for quite some time, but never got around to buying anything. Until I found Mandy Budan's BudanART on Etsy and fell in love with her style of painting. Mandy is an award winning Canadian artist, who is inspired by nature, but paints it in an abstract manner. Her paintings are just amazing, with the right mix of realism and abstract that made me want to buy it asap. I've always liked artwork that has a bit of realistic quality but with a twist, and what a beautiful twist this is.

My questions and concerns were answered so promptly and efficiently, that I was quite amazed, and my package was delivered in less than a week! Best of all, Mandy sent me a free gift, a print of one of her paintings! Such a wonderful surprise! I can't wait to frame them and have them up on my walls. The painting shown here is one of my purchases, but in a different size. I simply love it, for the colors, for the luminosity, for its variations as you step closer or further away. This time, I've just bought prints of her work, but I hope to buy originals too one day.

reaching a state of bliss

What is it about taking nature loving vacations takes us back to feeling young again? I think it has to do with remembering our childhoods when we go for treks and camping, things than one always remembers nostalgically. What if you could plant to take a annual vacation to the mountains, where you could ski, fish, walk, trek and be one with nature? Sounds great, right? Well, thats what fractional ownership is all about. I love the idea of having a place to go to in the hills, and going back to the same place gives it some familiarity and a sense of home instead of a hotel or resort like feel. I've stayed at several such places and have been very impressed by the level of service and dedication to making everything perfect for visitors. Being able to visit Lakota in Winter Park, Colorado on a regular basis would be bliss to me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fare predictions at Farecast


I found a cool site that tells you the likely hood of fares increasing or decreasing on a certain sector. It's part of MSN's travel section and it's called Farecast. i found it pretty cool, since if you're not really decided on a destination and are waiting to find good fares to give you the nudge then this is a great site which will do just that. So, while some fares will be shown as 'record low-will increase', some are shown at a high and will be likely to fall. I will definitely be keeping track of this site, but hope they will be adding more destinations to their predictions.

gaining control

There's been a lot of talk lately about the wonders of the new diet pills, and a lot of people, especially women are jumping at a chance towards an easy way to be slim. There are lots of things to be worried about though, and it's never as simply and easy as it sounds. There are tons of places to get hold of cheaper variants of famous drugs such as generic Phentermine but the risk is in not taking it seriously and yo-yoing back and forth between binging and taking diet pills, thinking that they will do all the work for you. For some, this has reached dangerous proportions and need interventions and therapy. Will all these medications are easily available, it is important to remember that there really is no easy way to lose weight.

Going on a business trip? Take the kids along!

A greater number of hotels are encouraging business travelers to bring along their families. Hotel chains such as Omni and Embassy Suites have already launched child-friendly options in an effort that travelers will bring their children with them and generate more income for the hotel. So if you take your kids along, you will see goodie bags, goldfish, toys and denim couches in the kids rooms which are connected to the main room, creating a large suite effect.

According to a survey conducted by Y Partnership, a marketing firm, about 38% of adults traveled for work once a week with their children in 2007, up from 26% in 2000. Says Peter Yesahich, the CEO of Y Partnership, "Work habits in America have become so oppressive to people that they look at vacation as a form of family union." Another factor is that hotels are seeing more empty rooms during the weekends and are looking to generate some money from other avenues.

Based on the research conducted by Y Partnership, one-third of travelers on business trips extend their trip for leisure when possible. In 2000, this figure stood at 60%, but as business travel has become more serious and not considered as entertaining as it used to be, travelers are bringing their families on fewer of the trips.
The time-tested tradition of giving away toys and goodies is the most common strategy. Omni Hotels distributes free backpacks with small toys to children, as well as milk and cookies delivered to the room each night. This summer, Kimpton Hotels will start distributing tote bags with yo-yos and bath sponges and provide goldfish in some rooms. Loews Hotels has partnered with Fisher-Price, and guests can borrow the toymaker's electronic "Smart Cycle," which is an exercise bike/learning tool.

Swissotel Chicago has introduced suites with aquatic, dinosaur and planetarium themes. Converted from two rooms, each suite starts at about $800 a night. The aquatic room is adorned with toy whales, a child-size table and DVDs/books about fish and the environment. The package comes with four tickets to local museums, about $100 in value, says spokeswoman Nicole Jachimiak.

where to stay in Australia


The Australian travel segment has generally been a bit different from the US and European markets, and a lot of people are not all that familiar with the options available there. As business and leisure travel is increasing in this area, consumers are slowly becoming more aware of the value and class of Sheraton hotels that are located in a large number of locations across the country.

While some might consider Radisson hotels to be a bit too upmarket for a budget traveler, there are several special deals available, that you can get and enjoy the amenities of this world class hotel chain. As a business traveler, it is essential to have all the supports available such as conference rooms, business centers with the complete communication facilities at hand.

There are also other brands such as Rydges hotels and Travelogde which are always located in convenient spots and offer all the business and leisure facilities that you might need. While a lot of hotels are geared towards business travelers, there are always lots of options ofr leisure travelers as well at these hotels. It's all a question of finding the right place to do the booking and getting a good deal.

Monday, May 05, 2008

All roads lead to cuteness!


Trend watching has never quite been this much fun! I was reading up on Japanese culture becoming part of main stream America and came across this cool site called FredFlare.com that offers all things classified as Japanese cute. They are definitely not the traditional Japanese stuff, but they are what is catching on really quick in Japan and elsewhere. Japanese cuteness has become a worldwide commodity and is influencing fashion, music, movies, books and lots more with their trademark style. Check it out and you'll be hooked!

A high speed vacation



Another great vacation idea would be to spend it in Germany, one of the most picturesque countries in my mind. If you're thinking of driving in Germany, then you're in for quite a ride! Whether it is Berlin hotels you are staying at or in a small country bed and breakfast, you are sure to have a unique experience.

Germany was the first country in the world to have a motorway or Autobahn and has one of the most well developed and dense road systems in the world. There is no speed limit on the motorways in Germany, although there are some speed limits and restrictions in the congested areas. There are some Köln hotels that offer a very special offer for summer travelers.



Whether you are staying at one of the posh Frankfurt hotels or at a more simpler place, it's a treat in itself. No trip is complete without a stay at one of Munich hotels of course! Highway signs are easy to follow in Germany. The national roads are called Bundesstrasen and the signs are labeled as "B" along with the number of the highway, with the more important roads having a lower number. Odd numbered highways are for east-west routes and even numbered highways are for north-south routes, making it simpler to find ones way. Finding a place to stay is also quite simple, you only need to check out Hotelsdeutsche to find something in your area and price and it's as simple as that.

When a cell phone is not just a cell phone!

Browsing through the archives at bLaugh.com and found this gem! I really do think that sometimes we are heading for too much technology in our lives. I mean do we really need all of it, or are getting it just because it's there? A bit of both and a lot of keeping up with the Joneses, I think. Take a look at this cartoon from blaugh and you'll see what I mean! I still use my cell phone simply as a cell phone, not for making notes, or listening to music, or taking pictures or surfing the Internet. My dear hubby on the other hand, is quite hooked to his Blackberry, which has become attached to his hand, especially in the mornings!

Cell Phone Overkill

A dream driving vacation in France


There is something about driving holidays that I find so charming. I've been on several of them, but none would be as grand as going on a driving holiday in France. I can already imagine a trip where I would travel to Marseilles, Toulouse, Bordeaux and of course no trip to France is complete with a stay in one of the finest of Paris hotels. The highway system in France is very well developed and there is a good network of toll roads. When traveling on these, make sure you save your ticket as it is required when you exit the toll road.

I personally want to stay at one of Marseilles hotels, one that I read about ages ago in a book, but has remained with me to this day. A good trip would be to mix the driving between the highways and the narrow single lane back roads, that will really give the true feel of the countryside and access to the smaller and more picturesque towns dotting the country. If you're looking to stay at Toulouse hotels, then look no further. Vacation and wine go together so well, don't you think? The wine country is a beautiful area to drive in, and one of these Bordeaux hotels would make the trip even better.

Since many of the old towns were built before cars were available, roads here are not always suitable for larger cars, so keep in mind when renting a larger car. Alternatively, park your car outside and use public transport. Do remember that France drives on the right side of the road.

The great thing about traveling in France is the you can always be sure to find a great place to stay in France, whether locally or through an Internet booking agent such as Hotelsenfrancais, which has a very comprehensive listing of hotels of all price ranges, locations and last minute availability.

Write now, post later

Have you read the latest on the Blogger Buzz? It is now possible to schedule post publishing, so that you can write as many posts as you like and schedule them to be posted at a later time. With this feature, your blog need not feel abandoned when you are away on vacation as you can schedule a new post to be automatically published at 9am every morning while you are away. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

I've yet to use it, and will definitely be testing it out....for my weekend posts most likely. Not really sure, if I will be using this feature when I go on vacation, but it's a good option to have. While Blogger has been a great format to blog on, it has been slower than Wordpress to offer such options, but I'm glad it's getting there.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Are you a beer pong fan?

As an avid surfer on the Internet and trendspotter, I am quite surprised to note that I missed this one, the rise of beer pong, which has been become a very popular game with college students and young adults. When I found that so many of the younger forums where discussing it, I had to go and do a bit of research of my own. I've yet to play it, but am looking forward to it soon. The thing with most campus trends is that they come and go so quickly that one might not even notice them, but the ones that manage to hang on longer, are sure to get absorbed into the mainstream of consumers outside of college campuses as well. They are one of the most interesting places to research for new things and you can be sure to always find something different and interesting every time you visit.