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 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!


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.


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 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 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.