Monday, December 31, 2007

The Kite Runner Movie - Go See It!

I know, I know, I should have spent Sunday morning getting caught up on blogging and emails but when I saw that movies prior to noon cost $4, I ran out to see "The Kite Runner." I've read mixed reviews about the acting but I thought it was superb. The movie is almost as dark as the book but not quite. Still, it's an excellent movie almost staying true to the book. While little of the film was shot in Kabul, it evoked memories of the trip (here's the blog I kept, in case you missed it) and experience. I need to find some time, soon, to sit and write about the people and the experience some more, before the memories fade away.

Anyway, was happy to see a familiar face in the movie (the man in this photo). The shopkeeper across from the guesthouse has a bit part in the movie. He was also in the movie "Osama" and had a significant role (I haven't seen that movie yet).

All this talk of Afghanistan reminds me, I just received an email from Global Exchange, the group I traveled to Kabul with. They have several Reality Tours (which is what I participated in when I went to Afghanistan) coming up focusing on women's issues. Check them out.

But before you do, I just realized this will probably be my last post in 2007 so...

Just want to say thank you to everyone who's read, lurked and commented on this blog. Expect "different" things in 2008. It should be a fabulous year! Happy New Year!

Reality Tours Explore Women's Rights and Leadership in Afghanistan, India, South Africa and Venezuela

Global Exchange's tours provide insight into women's perspectives on their lives and the futures of their countries. Upcoming women-focused Global Exchange Reality Tours include:

March 1 - 11, 2008
Women's Rights and Leadership Venezuela
In Venezuela, women's advances have been dramatic under the government of President Hugo Chavez. The recently formed Women's Bank is empowering women to create and manage their own development projects through micro-credits and workshops; new laws require political parties to field 50% female and 50% male candidates; and the country is one of only a few in the hemisphere that acknowledges violence and discrimination against women as obstacles to the development of democracy.

March 3 - 12, 2008
Afghanistan Women's Delegation (this is the trip I took)
Join Global Exchange, in partnership with Afghans4Tomorrow on a women's delegation to Kabul, Afghanistan and bear witness to the self-generated transformation of women's roles in Afghan society. This trip provides the opportunity to gain first-hand insight into Afghan women's perspectives on their lives and the future of their country. In addition to meeting with women from all sectors of Afghan society, the delegation will have an opportunity to examine many other aspects of reconstruction including education, de-mining, arts, culture, and the media.

March 3 - 17, 2008
India: Women's Visions Confronting Globalization
Travel through northern India on this new tour that includes visits to highly successful people-based economic projects as well as stunning architectural and historical sites. Your exposure to sophisticated urban life to the dynamism of ordinary Indians in rural areas will give you a much more complete picture of this complex country than most Western stereotypes suggest.

August 6 - 18, 2008
South Africa: Women Building a Nation
This Reality Tour is centered on South African Women's Day, August 9th, which is the day when the Defiance Campaigns against apartheid began in the 1950s. Global Exchange trip participants attend rallies and celebrations, hear choirs and speeches and - most importantly - share the universal concerns of South African women for dignity, the full development of their talents and potentials, and economic self-sufficiency.

For a full list of Global Exchange Reality Tours (there's a trip planned to North Korea in 2008, that would be really cool), Click Here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Home, Sweet, Home

There's always something about going home and being around family and I mean this in a good way. While there was time spent with family (see our Christmas photo) there was a lot of eating and sleeping. Not sure if I was getting caught up on a year's worth of sleep or if the wintry Buffalo climate makes everyone sleepy.

I'm now in my own home, without (again) my luggage. My flight was late leaving Buffalo and I barely made my connection to Tallahassee knowing the luggage probably wouldn't make it. U.S. Airways reserved me a seat on the next Tallahassee-bound flight, which is the flight my luggage is allegedly on.

I tracked the flight online, per instruction, and arrived at the airport about 10 minutes after it was to have landed. There was an eerie silence and no luggage on the belt. Turned out the flight was diverted to Pensacola due to fog. Hope my luggage makes it tomorrow and hope the cheese I packed in it holds up (I froze it, have an ice pack rubber banded to it and in a thermal bag). It's chocolate flavored and Buffalo chicken wing flavored, would hate to have these go bad.

Throughout my journey I read "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. A fabulous, fabulous read. I enjoyed it so much I gave a copy to my sister. Because of the book I want to visit Bali but it's inspired me to do something else, something I can actually do. And that something else will have to wait a little bit because tonight I'm tired and am going to call it an early night in preparation for the return to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Just Had to Share This

Had to share this one with everyone. It was on the back of an SUV in a Buffalo parking lot. Love it!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. I'm enjoying the a white Christmas here up north and plan to resume my (ir)regular blogging next week. In the meantime, here's a photo from what I call my annual hair make-over. My sister can do miracles. Not sure if I'm going to be able to recreate this style once home. It's going to be especially hard to recreate the angelic-glow about me.


Enjoy the season!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Who Let These Guys Past Security?

Made the journey yesterday from Tallahassee to Buffalo via Charlotte. I have to admit, the Charlotte airport is quite nice. Anyway, while waiting for my flight, a group of carolers stood right across to sing me Christmas carols. Just me, mind you, no one else was paying attention. This photo is proof of the airport serenade.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hey! Any Literary Agents Out There? My Friend Needs Ya!

Hey! Are you a literary agent? My friend Mags needs ya. She's written her first novel, I'm sure it's brilliant, it has to be, she wrote it. Check her out!

Finding Hotels in Italy and Touristy Things to Do

Okay, so I'm still working on writing up my little Italy travel articles to include some info about the hotels in Italy, but, I've been a bit pre-occupied (that seems to be my mantra lately - always catching up but the in box never empties)...anyway...

My friends over at CheaperThanHotels.co.uk have inspired me to write this little post about hotels in Italy. After all, I just spent a week in November traveling in Italy so *now* I'm an expert :)

I have a travel agent to thank for booking my hotels in Italy and have to admit, t
he accommodations were pretty good. But, if I had to do it over again and put some more planning into the trip to Italy, I could have easily booked the hotels on my own. Thank goodness for the Internet!

Venice
First stop in Italy was Venice. I loved Venice. Our hotel was on the water and because it's a city of canals, I'm guessing most of the hotels in Venice are on the water.

Venice is extremely tourist-friendly and I recommend this being the first stop in the first-time-Italy-traveler's visit. Venice seems to ease travelers into the Italian culture with friendly people and easy to get around walkways and waterways. Be warned, expect to get lost in Venice, it seems a bit confusing but a tip I read in "Rick Steves' Italy 2008" advised to get lost and follow the signs posted on the walls and sure enough, found the hotel and where we wanted to go each time.

I loved Piazza San Marco and all the pigeons (although they scared me a bit), St Mark's Basilica (pictured above right) and Rialto Bridge. The morning fish market was fun, looking at the fresh catches and fresh produce. Took the vaporetto (think of it as a water bus) at night (I highly recommend buying a 24 or 48-hour vaporetto pass) which was incredible. Took it to Piazza San Marco and walked back to the hotel. It was a lovely walk allowing us to get a taste of the nightlife and see how the locals live.

We stayed at Hotel Santa Chiara, one of many three-star hotels in Venice. My bed looked like a sofa and the shower was small but the room was comfortable. Besides, when traveling to Italy, it's what happens outside the hotel which counts (unless of course, you're with a significant other, but I wouldn't know...)

Rome
Next was Florence, but that's another post for another day. So, I'll fast forward to Rome where we stayed at one of the select four-star hotels in Rome called Park Hotel Dei Massimi.

I definitely needed more time in Rome to explore the ruins and delve into the history. Did get to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain (pictured) so guess that means I'll be returning to Rome someday. Also saw the famous Spanish Steps, Pantheon the Colosseum (pictured above left) by a full moon (yup, that was pretty cool).

Did spend a significant amount of time at the Vatican and was lucky enough to see the Pope. As I've written before, not sure what the Pope said but am pretty sure I was blessed! Took a tour underneath St. Peter's Basilica which was VERY cool. Got to see some of the Pope coffins, cool in a creepy way.

Although the hotel was four-star, I think I could have done better in choosing one of the many hotels in Rome closer to the city center. We had to catch a taxi from the metro to reach our hotel and when traveling on a budget, taxis usually aren't cool - they cut into the budget.

Milan
Heard fab things, especially about hotels in Milan, but didn't make. Did meet a couple of twenty-something gals who looked European (very fashion-forward) but who were from Chicago. They were taking the rail to Milan after Florence.

It's a city I'll have to see on my next trip to Italy. I mean, it has the Leonard Da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology, the Duomo, one of the largest Cathedrals in the world and loads of fashion. Though I'm fashionably-challenged, think I'd enjoy Milan and imagine the Internet makes it easy to find hotels in Milan.

Hotels in Italy
There are loads of tourist-friendly hotels in Venice, Rome and Milan to choose from. In Venice, I'd recommend the Hotel Santa Chiara, it's close to the train station and bus drop off. As for hotels in Rome, if I was going to spend all my time at the Vatican, then the Park Hotel Dei Massimi is ideal but for a future visit, I'd find something either closer to the train station or city center. And finding hotels in Milan? I'd make sure it's near the city center or near a train stop to easily get around.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Would You Stay in a Hotel if You Found This in the Bathroom?

Warning: I certainly hope you're not eating when taking a peak at this photo - it's just plain gross. (Click on it to expand and get the full effect of grossness.)

Would you stay in a hotel if you found this (see photo) in the bathroom? Well, I did. I'm not a picky traveler but this hotel left the light on for me and wish they hadn't so I didn't have to see the dirtiness.

How did this come about? When I returned from Italy last month, my flight landed around midnight into Jacksonville International Airport. I booked into a hotel chain I used to frequent (and now I know why I haven't in a while) and is easy on the budget.

I hopped on the remote parking lot bus heading to lot #1. Of course I was on the right bus, I wrote the lot number down like a good traveler and tucked it in my wallet.

The driver asked where my car is, I told her which parking shelter I was parked and she informed me I was in the wrong lot! Doh! I wrote the right shelter down but the wrong parking lot.

My options were:
  • Be delivered back to the airport and wait (probably another 20 minutes) for the next shuttle.
  • Walk.
It's 12:30 now and I chose to walk. I'd been up for at least 24 hours and sitting on a plane for 7 hours, I needed fresh air to make it to the Jacksonville hotel.

Heading towards my car, a frizzy haired man, who was on my shuttle (and during the short ride, learned he's a grad student at the University of Florida), flagged me down.

"Do you have any jumper cables in your car? I left my lights on and my battery is dead."

Okay, I was sleep deprived yet remembered Ted Bundy murdered in Gainesville. Was this guy out to do bad things to me?

"Yeah, somewhere I have them, but I don't know where my car is. Let me get to my car," I said. I got thinking, there are people in the booths, why can't he go ask them for jumper cables?

I schlepped my luggage across the street to the other remote parking lot. I knew exactly where I parked, hopped in and in my brilliancy when selecting a remote parking lot, I chose the self-proclaimed "easy one. " The one where all you do is swipe your credit card, a receipt spits out and away you go.

Yeah, right...

I swiped my credit card, the machine read, "Processing" then "Approved." It then asked if I wanted a receipt and when I selected "Yes," nothing happened. The machine then directed me to pull forward. I pulled forward until the wooden arm of the gate was at the base of my windshield.

The stupid thing didn't open!

Because of the brilliant technology of the self check-out option, the booths are not staffed. Luckily, when I backed up the car, I found the "help" button (not to be confused with the Staples "Easy Button.")

I could barely understand the guy at the other end. Sounded like going through a fast food drive through.

"Yeah, I swiped my card and the gate won't open and it didn't give me a receipt."

I thought he said, "Do you want an apple pie with that" but after I let it processed, the garbled voice said, "You must have used the wrong card."

"No, I didn't. Why would it say 'processing' and 'accepted' and ask if I wanted a receipt and told me to pull forward if I used the wrong card?" [Hint - never argue with a woman who's been up for at least 24 hours and returning home from a trans-Atlantic flight]

"Hold on."

And then there was on-hold music. Not sure if it was his ploy to make me fall asleep or calm me down. But then the music was gone. He hung up on me!!!

Meanwhile, another patron was trying to leave and had the same issue. He pressed the button and was having the same pleasant dialogue as me.

I called the help button and an attendant was sent over and around 1:10 a.m., I was set free. But I kept a promise to help the frizzy-haired-possible-serial-killer-grad student.

I entered the parking lot (thinking, I better not have to pay for this good deed) and drove to his car.

"I thought you left," he said standing under the light smoking a cigarette.

"No, I got stuck at the parking lot, long story."

"Oh, well I didn't think you were coming so I went to the people in the booths and their sending someone. But thanks for coming back."

"Yeah, whatever, have a good night," and off I went and checked into my evening shelter.

The things I found in that room were disgusting. It took me 15 minutes to get the deadbolt to lock and I ended up shoving a chair under the door handle as added security. I took a shower in the morning and just didn't feel clean. If I hadn't been so tired when I arrived, I would have asked for another room or left, but at that point in the evening (really morning), I stayed. Think I fell asleep around 2:30 a.m. and was awoken around 4:30 a.m. by what sounded like someone trying to break into my room.

Come daylight, I was on the road back to Tallahassee around 8 a.m.

So I ask, what's the most disgusting hotel room you've stayed in?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Get Jets! in Pensacola

Visit to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola today. Gives me a better appreciation of the Navy and military as a whole and helped me understand more of our military history. More about the trip once I get home.
On the way back to the hotel, saw a sign reading, "Navy Shopping Mall." Is that where I can pick up a guy in the Navy? Hmmm...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

View from the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front

In Pensacola for our annual sales staff retreat. Lucky you, I figured out how to use the camera on my new Blackberry AND email them so enjoy the setting sun (which happens to be my view from the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front). Now if I can only figure out the GPS on this thing, I'll be all set...










Anyone Who's Traveled to Japan Will Appreciate This

Right after I returned from my trip to Japan in 2004, one of my team members sent me this video. Having been to Japan, it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I KNEW there was a conspiracy! Enjoy the video.

Which reminds me, I owe Eiko and Hiya cards and Toshi an email. I'm on it...


Japanese Food Culture - The most amazing home videos are here

Oh, and if you haven't read it, here's my article called, "How to Use a Japanese Toilet." My goal for 2008 is to write one about bathing in Japan.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where the Road Will Lead Me in 2008

Next year is less than a month away and time to start planning my 2008 travels. In my quest to reduce my debt, my goal is to *gulp* travel less. Not sure how that's going to work out mentally, but it's just something I need to do. I can't cut back on anything else except travel in order to reach my debt-free goal by the time I turn 40. And I have some serious catching up to do in this department.

Anyway, I've decided to tie business trips with a bit of personal, taking an extra day off here and there. To that extent, this is what I have planned for the first half of 2008:

January: San Antonio, Texas to visit Yellowstone pal Madge. Really looking forward to seeing her. I talked to her over the weekend and she informed me our friend Rebecca, who still lives and works in the park, got married! Very happy for her and need to drop her a line. Madge also sent me the book Letters from Yellowstone for Christmas. Can't wait to read it! Having lived and worked in Yellowstone, I'm still a Yellowstone sponge, soaking up everything Yellowstone.

February: Virginia Beach, Va. Not taking any extra time off for this trip but leaving really late on the last day so I can kayak and bike with the group. Should be interesting kayaking in February. I imagine it'll be cold.

March: Going to TRY and get to Sarasota this month, not sure if it'll happen.

March: Asheville, NC. Haven't spent much time here so am looking forward to it. Arriving a couple of days early to celebrate my friend Zelda Mae's birthday and find some of the pottery places in the area. Airfare prices, though, are outrageous!

April: New Orleans, La. Participating in the Tourism Cares 2008 Project in New Orleans to help clean up Louis Armstrong Park. I wanted to participate with Tourism Cares a couple of years ago when they were in the gulf coast but due to a schedule conflict, couldn't. Glad my schedule will permit me to make this trip.

Atlanta, Ga. I hope to be meeting up with Meg while I'm in town for a weekend show in mid-April Maybe I'll get to see other Yellowstone pals, too.

And that's all I know. My Sarasota trips will be reduced and my car will be paid off in July 2008 (yeah!). I need to hang onto it at least another year, fingers crossed.

Tomorrow I head out to Pensacola for the a work retreat. Looking forward to it since I haven't spent any time (other than driving I-10) to that part of the State.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Kitchen Gadget I'd Like for Christmas

My Mom sent an email asking if I needed any kitchen gadgets for Christmas. The only thing I could think of was a decent wine bottle opener, then I read this article about the Hillary Nutcracker being on Stupic.com's "Stupidest Holiday Gifts" list.

I so want one!!!! Please??? I added it to my Amazon wish list :) It would go with my Bush shot glass and Bush magnet stating, "He volunteered for a beer run, he ended up running the world."

I'm a Traveler, Not a Sightseer

As I've been contemplating last month's trip to Italy and figuring out what I wanted to share about the overall trip, I decided I wanted to share my philosophy on traveling versus sightseeing. I wanted to tell you my strategy for the trip and what I wanted to teach and share with my traveling companion. I had the outline in my head and before putting my fingers to the keyboard, I opened the December 2007/January 2008 issue of "Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel" and it appears editor Erik Torkells and I are on the same page, no pun intended.

In the article "Paris and Amsterdam, Together," Torkells discusses how he takes his sister, who's celebrating her 40th birthday, on a trip to Paris and Amsterdam. He shares with her, and AFBT readers, his philosophy on travel, which happens to parallel my philosophy: I'm a traveler and not a sightseer.

My traveling companion, however, told me she didn't like the traveling part but did like the sightseeing. Perhaps someday I'll write an article about the difference, but in the meantime, check out Torkells's article.

Don't despair, I'm not letting you leave without any recap of the trip. You can check out the nearly 500 snapshots of the journey. A video snuck in there and when I tried to upload other video clips, couldn't figure it out. Enjoy! (Sorry, in order to protect my photos you need to login and register - it's free!)

Do want to share the two most useful items on the trip (despite my handy purse purchased at Kohls):

Rick Steves' Italy 2008: I loved this guidebook and it's the first time I carried and referenced a travel guidebook during an entire trip. The text is candid, attractions, walking tours, restaurants and tips were right on the mark. And, humor's splashed in here and there, i.e., there's a disclaimer in the book reading, "...accept no responsibility for loss, injury, bad pasta, or inconvenience sustained by any person using this book."

Maps are okay and although there's two pages of useful Italian phrases, that would've been useful. Saw loads of other people using the Rick Steves' Italy 2008 book, too. One thing I'd do though is put a book cover on it so it wouldn't be so obvious I was a tourist (I did have a few people ask whether I spoke English and if I knew where specific places were, so maybe I did blend in with the locals a little bit).

Note: Ironically, the same issue of AFBT reviewed several guidebooks about Rome and out of three guidebooks, the Rick Steves one didn't rank as a fave.

Disposable Dress Shields: This deals with hygiene but these things worked great and I didn't feel as gross wearing my shirts twice before washing. The pads are simply stuck inside a shirt at the armpits and absorbs the sweat so it doesn't get the shirt wet. With all the walking around and going in and out of buildings during the trip, we were doing a lot of sweating. These perspiration shields helped keep me fresh :)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What's the Worst Christmas Gift You've Ever Received?

Come on, admit it. Over the years, you've probably received some real stinkers when it comes to Christmas gifts. The worst Christmas gift I ever received? Hmm, well, you'll just have to follow the link to my article on the subject matter. Don't worry, the gift mentioned in the article is NOT from anyone who reads this blog.

So I'm curious, what's the worst Christmas gift you've ever received? It better not be something I've given you. Or get creative, what do you think the worst gift Santa Claus ever received?

Oh, for the record, I'm aware Santa Claus is spelled sans the "e" in Claus - just a little typo :)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Did I Accomplish Anything?

It's Sunday night, the end of another weekend and I'm just as exhausted tonight as I was on Friday. But it's a different tired. I didn't get much done, just a couple of articles for Suite101 (one about the a girlfriend getaway at the Inn by the Sea, Vera Bradley in Seaside, FL; the other about ecotourism travel in Wakulla County.) The goal was to write three because I'm afraid I'm going to get booted off the site for not producing the three monthly articles.

I also had illusions of cleaning up my apartment (I have no idea how I let it get out of control) and catching up on emails, blog comments and blog posts.

None of these goals happened.

I did get most of my Christmas shopping done and ran (most of the way) Tallahassee's Jingle Bell run last night.

I'm exhausted in a good way tonight. A bulk of the weekend was spent with my Wakulla Institute Green Guide classmates. Yesterday was a trip to Wakulla's sinkholes, led by a self-proclaimed 1970s hippie who knows where the swimming (and skinny dipping) holes are. He had some great tales to tell (and I hope I'll get to post more, soon, over on my Tallahassee blog about this).

Today was "graduation" for everyone but me. I'm a part-timer but I went to today's event to celebrate the accomplishments of my classmates. Following was a bonfire at Norm and Melody's place. I swear I heard banjos while driving down the sand road through the woods but at the end is a wooded paradise (Norm and Melody's). Good folks. Thanks to them, the class had a chance to sit around a campfire underneath the stars and tell stories, eat s'mores and enjoy each other's company.

Tomorrow's plan is to finish the third article I started, reply to blog comments, reply to at least 5 emails (I know that doesn't seem like a lot but right now, it is) and clean up the apartment. Just hope I can leave the office at a reasonable hour. I should be able to. Everyone else seems to.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mmm, Enjoying a Greek Treat

Slowly I'm getting caught up with emails, writing, responding to blog posts and blogs following the Italy trip. It's been one heck of a week. Thankfully this is a four-day work week, but it included class three times this week, a field trip Saturday and open house at the school on Sunday. Plus, there are some groovy things going on in Tally over the weekend (Market Days and the Jingle Bell Run, just to name a few).

Upon returning home, I had a nice surprise from the Borderline Gypsies (Paula and Keith). They spent the summer in Greece and long story short, Paula shared Greek treats with her avid blog readers. This is a honey and sesame seed bar and is yummy! Not too sweet and has a nice earthy, nutty flavor. I know Paula posted on the blog specifically what its name is so I'll be heading over there soon.

Thanks Paula and Keith!

GPS Insight is Necessary for Today’s Drivers and Companies

One of my Mom’s cousins was a moving van driver and growing up, I was always fascinated how he moved families coast to coast and lived out of his truck. I always wondered how someone would know if something ever happened to him. Times have changed since way back when and today we have global positioning systems (GPS) and satellites to make life for drivers safer and efficient. My friends over at GPS Insight have some tools to manage truck fleets.

While I’m not in the trucking business, I do understand how good management and efficiency keep a business growing. GPS Insight offers GPS tracking devices and nifty software to track vehicles and I can obviously see how important that is for a business dependent on ground transportation. I checked out their Web site and spent about an hour learning about the various products but have to admit, I loved seeing the capabilities with the maps.

Basically how this all works, a simple tracking device is installed in each vehicle (no, you don’t need to be MacGyver to install it). Hardware can be purchased or leased and for $1.50 to $2 a day per vehicle (contact GPS Insight for specific prices), the vehicles are tracked with the GPS Insight software, which includes maps on Google Maps and Google Earth Maps.

Some of the GPS tracking features include:
  • Tracking of all vehicles on a map.
  • Daily reports.
  • Engine diagnostics.
  • Determining whether a specific vehicle is speeding, idling, etc.
  • Determining how long a vehicle has been stopped.
  • Tracking the direction a vehicle is going.
  • Pinpointing the exact location of a vehicle.
  • Evaluating traffic in specific area, for instance, through a color-coded system, heavy to light traffic is indicated, which would allow the driver to be re-routed.
  • Odometer readings.
  • Watching history of where the driver has been.
I think you get the point and easily see these are pretty vital things to know in order to run an efficient fleet and business.

The maps are impressive and can easily switch between the atlas-style Google Map to Google Earth. A feature can eliminate the topography if the reader prefers reading a smooth map.

GPS Insight’s tracking devices must be good. SoBe Beverages contracted with the company in July 2007 to track the Love Bus Tour vehicles on their Web site map. The services are ideal for any company with drivers on the road, be it delivery vehicles, long haul trucking or a sales force. With GPS tracking, a driver’s time can be monitored, efficient routes can be mapped for fuel and time savings and safety is enhanced.

Dispatchers and managers can easily track and monitor activity (and real geeks will love playing with all the capable, groovy features of the maps) and to me it seems to be a no brainer, having this product is absolutely necessary to manage a team on the road in order to have a successful business.

Interested in learning more? Visit the GPS Insight Web site. Or, checkout their support page or blog.

[BTW: Don't be shy, click on the screen shots to see what I'm talking about or check out the GPS Insight Web site.]

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Italy Trip in a Few Thousand Words

I'm going to let a few photos speak for themselves about the Italy trip. Over the next few days (maybe even the weekend), I'll get a chance to write about the experience after it's sunk in a bit. I will say having the Rick Steves' Italy 2008 Guidebook was really handy. Saw loads of other Americans with it, too.

Enjoy these images!

BTW - the one of me and the pigeon on my shoulder is probably my favorite experience of the trip. It was the first day in Venice at San Marco and feeding the pigeons is the "in thing" to do. I didn't feed them, I suppose the vendors selling bird food get a kick out of throwing seed at tourists and watching the pigeons flock on and around them. Also, seeing Saverio was cool, too - pictured in front of the Pantheon in Rome. And of course, seeing the Pope (that's the dude in white in the distance with his hands raised) was pretty cool, too. Ciao!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Florence

Today's just another day in Italy. Highlights since I last logged on, when did I last log on?

My feet are starting to ache but want to take in as much as possible.

Had quite the adventure yesterday, hopped on the wrong bus from the hotel, thinking we were heading back to the Florence train station, well, it was going to the train station, just at the end of the 70 minute run. Grabbed an hour and 15 minute train to Pisa to see the tower. Got there around 8 p.m., wandered around until we found it. Long story short, made it back to the hotel around 11 p.m.

Today, touring Florence all day with the Original Walking Tours of Florence - three tours, excellent! Saw the highlights and have a better understanding of the Italian Renaissance. Met an FSU alum on the first tour and a Calif. guy named Vince who traced his family to Rome and visited relatives prior to Florence.

Saverio will meet us at the Rome train station tomorrow, will be good to see him. Will try and pack in as much as we can.

Although I already know it, there's no such thing as getting lost while traveling, it's all about the adventure, journey and experience. I'm not a sightseer but a traveler.

As for dinner tonight, steak, pasta and a bottle of good wine. Ciao!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Italy! Venice, to be Exact

Well, made it with little incident (flight was late getting into Frankfurt and was impressed the airline had people waiting for us - those Venice bound - to escort us through German customs and security.) Had to sit in the middle seat which sucked but was not as bad as I thought.

Venice has been good - lots of walking, taking the boat (vaporetta, aka: water bus) and getting lost, but it's easy to find our way back to the hotel - just follow the signs. As the guidebook said, Venice is an island, you'll eventually find your way back.

Heading to Florence later this morning via train, should be another adventure.

Ciao!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Italy: It's Here! It's Here!

I've done as much preparing as I can for Italy and I'm about ready to head out the door in 30 minutes. I'm packed and ready to go, I think. I should be able to access the Internet over there (I'm told Internet will probably be the cheapest thing I pay for) and have just registered with Twitter this week (long story short, word from the World Blog Expo is Twitter - microblogging - is the in thing) and will try to update over there, too.

Oh! Save (from the Afghanistan trip) is going to meet us in Rome on Friday to give us an insider's tour. It'll be nice to see him and get a non-touristy tour.

Ciao!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Countdown to Italy

The great thing about travel is all the people you meet along the journey and finding ways to cross paths again. Has it been three years since I met Paula and Keith, the Can-Am Gypsy Couple, in Key West at a travel writing workshop?

I met Cordelia during the March 2006 trip to Afghanistan (and be sure to visit Cordelia's blog, she recently returned from Iran) and have seen her twice since then.

I'm hoping to see another Afghanistan traveler, Saverio who lives outside Rome (and the sole male on the trip). He's a fantastic photographer (be sure to visit Save's site and see the Afghan images he captured). We haven't made firm plans but there's a good chance we'll connect. If not, that's alright.

I'll also be visiting my aunt and uncle who live in Jacksonville prior to the trip. Since I'm flying from there, thought I'd visit a day early and see them.

I need to finish packing and figuring out the itinerary. Worst case scenario, I punt. Have passport, will travel...

Hey Sarasota! 60's Band Yesterdayze Playing Nov. 24

Wish I was gonna be in Sarasota on Saturday, November 24. The groovy 60's band called Yesterdayze will be rockin' it out at the Eagles Hall, 2926 Wilkinson Road, 7 - 10 p.m. Buy your tickets in advance for $8 either at Fogt's Gulf Coast Music or online. Otherwise, $10 at the door.

The band has a good buzz going for them and from what I hear, can really get the crowd moving and grooving.

Hope I can catch them in March when I make it back down to Sarasota.

Peace out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm Excited About Italy, Really

A week from now, the Italy trip will be half over. I'm not being negative and thinking about the end, I'm excited about the trip, really. I'm not so jaded that I'm not going to take advantage of the opportunity waiting ahead and I know for some people, it's a trip of a lifetime. I just wish circumstances were different, primarily, I wish I had more of a cash flow.

So no need to be concerned, the trip is going to be fine and I have a positive outlook.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Less Thank a Week 'Til Italy

It's crush time now to get plans finalized for Italy. I leave Sunday. Walking tours have been booked for Florence (me and David on Thanksgiving Day!), I've made contact with a walking guide in Venice (including a pub crawl) but the minimum number of people haven't signed up. Venice is definitely going to be play-it-by-ear situation. I'm stressing about Rome. My friend wants to see the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican, don't know how that's going to fit in with all the other Roman things to see. *sigh* I just need to remember to breathe...

I've been using Rick Steves' Italy 2008 to plan this trip. The book says it's doable to spend $35 a day on meals, but I think the exchange rate was calculated at 1.30 (Euro to the U.S. Dollar) and I think it's about 1.46 now. Yeah, it sucks. I wonder what the begging laws are in Italy? Should I bring along a piece of cardboard and black Sharpie to stand on a street corner?

But overall, I'm trying to keep a positive outlook. I looked up the hotels and they don't look as scary as I thought they'd be (one used to be a palace and they look quite lovely) and I've figured out ways to (cheaply) get from the airport/train station to each hotel.

For various reasons, I'm stressed about the trip.

On another note, being Veteran's Day, I'm sharing a beautiful story called "When Veteran's Day is Personal" by the Barefoot. Grab your box of tissues!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's the Little Things

It was one of those off days, you know, one of those days where nothing goes right and the world's working against you. I overslept (that seems to be happening a lot), grabbed the wrong thing out of the fridge for lunch (grabbed green Jello vs. tuna salad and didn't realize my error until I pulled it out at lunchtime) and the work forces were against me.

Since I had to eat my dinner for lunch (PB&J, I had class tonight), I picked up a Happy Meal from McDonald's. I dug around for my cookies (no cookies - don't Happy Meals come with cookies these days?) but was really excited to find Jerry Seinfeld in my bag! No wait, it wasn't the REAL Jerry Seinfeld but Barry B. Benson, the character Seinfeld narrates in Dreamworks' "Bee Movie."

Making this even more exciting, I learned over at the Corporate Social Responsibility Wire (CSRWire) with the press release titled, "Bee Good to the Planet," how the movie contains an environmental message and how McDonald's is taking that theme to encourage kids to eat healthier, enjoy the outdoors and "inspire environmental citizenship." Looks like I should have had the chicken nugget Happy Meal with apples and milk vs. the hamburger, French fries and Coke. Hey! I only had three bucks on me and that's what three dollars gets you these days.

Anyway, Little Jerry Seinfeld (true "Seinfeld" fans will appreciate that!), er, Barry B. Benson, kept me entertained during my 45-minute drive to class. He's going to ride shotgun with me for a while. Suppose I have to collect the other "Bee Movie" characters.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Brrr! Baby it's Cold Outside and I'm Lovin' It!

Tallahassee temperatures are finally dipping and the humidity has gone buh-bye. The feather down bedding is back on so I can nestle in my own little nest and sleep comfortably while evening temps dip down to the 40s.

Maybe it's a coincidence, but I noticed gas prices jumped about 15 cents over night. Is it because fuel will be used for heating? Glad I fueled up on Saturday. Keep warm!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Does Anyone Have a Chainsaw?

Just when I think I have my financial life under control, I looked at the joint boat account with the ex-husband this morning. Guess what? He missed another payment. For those unfamiliar, prior to getting married, he had me co-sign for the boat loan thinking he couldn't get it himself. Since I did the do-it-yourself-version of divorce (aka: I didn't consult an attorney because I didn't have any money; if I had to do it over, I'd get an attorney), he told me was going to refinance the boat and take my name off.

Why do I want my name off?
1. We're divorced!
2. I haven't been in the thing in about five years.
3. It shows as revolving debt I owe.

Three years after the divorce was finalized, my name is still on the d@mn thing and this is at least the second time he's missed a payment. It also means another ding against my credit. I know this is his way of controlling me and it sucks, I can't do anything about it except starting up my barrage of emails begging to get it refinanced and take my name off (I stopped contacting him for a while hoping he would do it but that didn't happen).

I've threatened to drive down to South Florida and get my half of it. Anyone have a chainsaw???

Saturday, November 03, 2007

This is What I Got to do Today...Play with Fish! (And Other Critters)

Today was the Green Guide Class field trip to Mashes Sands Park (yeah, I had no idea where it was either, but now I know!) and then to the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory. Check out my Tallahassee blog to read about my day but also enjoy this video of remora (aka: suckerfish) feeding.

These are the fish seen on the underbellies of sharks, manatees, turtles, etc. They basically eat what the bigger animal doesn't. Look at the tops of their heads, it's like a giant suction cup. And don't worry about the guy's hands who feeding them. He (who is Jack Rudloe, founder of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory) said their teeth are like sandpaper. Enjoy!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Too Much Time on a Friday

Had the day off, used it to sleep in, catch up on errands and shop for Italy. I've been holding off on that part because I want to lose as much weight as possible. The shopping experience wasn't as dreadful as I anticipated.

Not only do I need to find cloths which fit for the Italy trip (most of my stuff is failing off me) but feel I need to find fashionable items. One of the reasons I have no interest in visiting Italy is the country seems so fashion-forward and more formal than the U.S. That's just not me. My travel wardrobe will consist of the basic blacks with the occasional pop of color. Got my thrill at the Gap and having things be too big.

I also decided to dye my hair. The box said "Hot Cocoa" but it looks black to me. Luckily, it should wash away after 28 rinses. What do you think about the new color?

I Like it So Much, I'm Posting it Again

For those who don't make it over to my Tallahassee blog (www.QKGTallahassee.com) and are curious about this image, read about it here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Jury Duty

I received a call a couple of weeks ago from a local research firm asking if I wanted to participate in a focus group. It'd be 90-minutes and I'd be paid $75. Sweet! "I'll be there," I said.

Arrived at the office, got into the room (with the one-way glass mirror) and was told a case pending in Florida would be presented then we (seven others and I) would be asked questions on how we'd decide.

Obviously, I can't disclose what exactly it was about (although, I didn't sign anything saying I couldn't or wouldn't and wasn't told I couldn't, but better judgment is telling me not to) but it was a very cool experience. Makes me wish I am called up for jury duty...

Monday, October 22, 2007

How Cool is This? Uptown Saturday Nights in St. Augustine

Hey Floridians! (Or, anyone who loves St. Augustine, art, antiques and having a good time) Check out these groovy St. Augustine events the last Saturday in October and November (October 27 and November 24 between 5 and 9 p.m.). It's called Uptown Saturday Nights and it's when the historic downtown comes alive with artists, writers and all sorts of other creative types.

Since St. Augustine is the Nation’s Oldest City, it only makes sense the city is full of unique antiques. During these fall months, Uptown Saturday Nights will emphasize on the city’s antique alley, San Marco Avenue.

While I'm fascinated with old treasures, I’m a writer and definitely a creative type. I love books and during the Uptown Saturday Nights, local writers will give readings followed by book signings. I love meeting writers and almost always buy their books when I attend an author event. Art galleries with special exhibits will be open, too. Being in October and November, it’d be a great time to get some holiday shopping done.

It's pretty cool St. Augustine is offering this opportunity to get up close and personal with authors along with other artists in a festive, fun setting. What can you expect? Music, refreshments (including wine), inspiration and good conversation. I know parking in St. Augustine is sometimes a challenge, but FREE (I love free) parking is available at Mission of Nombre de Dios.

Oh! I haven’t mentioned how I love St. Augustine. It’s been about a year since I’ve been, but if you’re going, be sure to take a ghost tour, either by foot or by train. And, go tour the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum and the Alligator Farm. The attached photo is from my visit last December, taken from a train tour, thus the blurriness, err, artistic look (aka: I meant to do that!)

Uptown Saturday Nights are between 5 and 9 p.m. October 27 and November 24, 2007. Check out St. Augustine events for additional information.



My Interviews with Big Brother's Zach Are Up!

I'm so excited! Both my interviews with Big Brother 8's Zach have been posted. Again, I can't say it enough but he seems like a genuinely nice guy, the kind you want and can take home to meet the family. He has a bright future ahead of him. Enjoy!

Interview with Tallahassee's Big Brother 8 Houseguest Zach: Part I


Big Brother 8's Zach Talks About Dolphin Crash

Feeling Flirty with Flirtbox.us

The dreaded holidays are around the corner and I’m already loathing spending them, once again, as a singleton. However, I've been introduced to a new online USA dating service which may offer me the chance at some sort of companionship – or at least a free dinner. (Hey! I’m a single gal watching the budget).

Flirtbox.us is free USA dating service, meaning it’s designed for U.S. residents. Looking it over, it doesn’t have the flash and style of the bigger dating sites, like eHarmony or Match, but has a down-to-earth, folksy feel. It’s easy to register, enter some basic data, throw up a photo then either wait or peruse to see who else is around. It’s a fairly new site so the database is building.

The look and feel of the site makes me think the people on there are a little more authentic and real. Since it’s a USA dating service, I also hope it means the Nigerian scammers and Russian wannbe brides/grooms will stay away. So tonight I’m feeling flirty…

This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Travel Writing Contest: Traveling Stories Magazine

Have a great travel story? Go ahead and submit it to Traveling Stories Magazine, they're awarding $125 to the best story. The contest runs until Nov. 15, 2007.

Amazingly, I got my butt in gear to submit something, Delivering a Message from Afghanistan's Taliban: Sincerity or Lip Service? Rate the story but also peruse the other entries, there are some excellent, fun stories posted there. I enjoy living vicariously through others and reading their travel tales.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Are You Left or Right Brained?

AOL has a cool article up today. It uses an optical illusion to determine whether you're left or right brain dominant. Give it a whirl here. According to this little test, I'm right brain dominant (creative).

I also found this quiz: Are You Left or Right Brained?, and I'm 55% right brained (creative) and 45% left brained (logical, analytical - well, that makes sense).

So, are you left or right?

Who Does He Think He His?

The trip to Italy is a month from now. I don't feel ready for the trip but usually don't for long hauls until I'm at the airport.

I had made arrangements for the Excavation Tour under St. Peter's Basilica with the Vatican in the morning of the only full day in Rome. Groovy, other than air, hotel and rail, this is the only thing confirmed for the trip, before today...

...received an email from the Vatican reading, " the Holy Father imposes the cap and the ring to the new Cardinal...For this motive, the visits of the necropolis are suspended."

WHAT??? NO!!! Who does the Pope think he his imposing on my plans? And how does one impose a cap and ring on a Cardinal? Maybe I'll be able to crash the festivities. Oh dear, what does one wear to crash such an event?

This just goes hand-in-hand with the type of week I've had. But, it's okay. They can fit us in on an afternoon tour. Just means the day will revolve around the Pope...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Interview with Big Brother 8's Zach is Available

Go ahead, call me a geek but I'm a fan of the CBS reality TV show, Big Brother. I admit, in the beginning I was a fan of Evel Dick but as the show progressed, he just seemed mean. I became a Zach fan when he won his first Head of Household competition. It was almost a good versus evil-type moment. At the same time, he seemed so alone.

Fast forward to last week...Zach was in Tallahassee visiting family and friends. He was kind enough to speak with me about Big Brother 8 (I thought the part about Jen finding out about Eric being America's Player during the show was interesting) and Dolphin Crash, his new edgy surfwear clothing line. As I've said before, he's a genuine, motivated guy and it was refreshing speaking with him. Read my interview with Zach where he discusses Big Brother. Next week, our discussion about Dolphin Crash and his true passion, underwater photography, will be posted.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oh! The Places I Could Have Gone

I had big plans for this weekend. A Saturday morning oil change, gym visit, loads of Tallahassee festivals and events and getting caught up on blogs, emails and writing. Nope, didn't happen. Had an unexpected date with the porcelain god all day Saturday, not a pretty scene (thankfully, not quite as ugly as this time). Sunday I had planned on kayaking with my Green Guide class but realized Saturday night, although feeling better, would not have the energy needed to kayak.

Sunday afternoon I was restless and made three batches of jelly/jam. Two batches of hot pepper jelly and one batch of rhubarb jam. Getting a jump start on Christmas gifts!

Anyway, I have a favor. Can you check out my "work" blog, VFg3, (which I don't have time during the work day to post on) and complete the easy survey off on the right hand side? Much appreciated!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just What I Needed...

The dog/house sitting gig ended last night and work has been tiresome. I really didn't think I'd get through today without crying from frustration over the details of what needed to get done. But I got by (without crying) and left around 5:30 p.m.

Although I was wiped out, I had contacted Big Brother 8 houseguest Zach Swerdzewski to request an interview and he suggested meeting up tonight at a local hangout. (He's lived in California for the past six years but Tallahassee is home). I really thought about skipping tonight to head to the gym (since I only ran 5 miles last week) but remembered my duty as a citizen journalist: keep the appointment.

So I did what I hate doing, went to a bar/restaurant by myself. Admittedly, enjoying a good margarita is what I needed. Thinking he wasn't going to show, there he was in a Dolphin Crash t-shirt, with his brother. Yeah, Zach! We had a nice conversation (which will be written up over the weekend) about life before, during and after Big Brother 8, Dolphin Crash (his edgy swimwear and surf gear) and his art.

He's incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about the road ahead of him. From our conversation, he's an approachable and sincere guy. And although he's single and would eventually like to settle down, he's focused on his launching his career. He heads back to California next week.

Here's my photo with Zach

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Something's in the Air

So, the destination where I was asked to jump through hoops for the most bizarre application process I've ever been through and heard of, ended up hiring their director. Let's just say it looks like the good ole' boy network is alive and kicking. Interestingly, he's had a tourism consulting business since the late 1980s yet I can't find anything on the Web about it and not much on him. I realize things from the 80s wouldn't show up but if he's some hot-shot, I'd think he'd done something recently. Hope they checked references. Whatever, I've moved on...

And I can sense something is changing in a good away. I just need to focus and let things happen versus forcing things to happen. I reminded myself today that there are those who talk about doing and then those who do. I want to be the doer in every aspect of my life.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Is American Influence in Afghanistan Good or Bad?

Just when I hear how Afghan women are moving forward with the Afghanistan version of "Top Model," I hear about the child stars of the upcoming "Kite Runner" movie being in danger. I think it's terrific Afghan women are finally shedding their burqas and other Afghan women are showing them it's okay to do so. Modeling may seem superficial in a war-torn country where car bombings seem to occur daily and electricity is a luxury, but it's a step forward in advancing the country. It helps empower women.

As for the boys in the movie, because they acted out a boy-on-boy rape scene, their families and community feel as though they've shamed them. The parents feel as though they were lied to and not told what was the scenes entailed. From the Washington Post article (Kite Runner: Danger On and Off the Screen) however, the scene was dramatically changed and relies on the power of suggestion and not showing the actually act.

As I learned from visiting Afghanistan last year, pride and honor is very important. A similar thing has happened with the women written about in Debbie Rodriguez's book, Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil. Many of the women written about in the book felt their lives were in danger after the release. Their families feel as though they shamed them by revealing too much and a handful of the women believed Debbie took advantage of them. She left Kabul for a book tour in the U.S. and the women didn't understand her leaving. Upon her return, she was quickly removed from the country, her husband feeling as though she left in shame (under Afghan law, she'd need his permission to leave the country).

In an NPR interview, Debbie said the girls didn't understand what she was doing and plans to follow through on her promises. Last I knew, she was trying to get visas for the women to come to the U.S. I requested an interview with Debbie (I had written this article previously) to get her side of the story and she directed me to her publicist. The publicist ignored my request.

As for my thoughts about the boys starring in the "Kite Runner," I don't know what their families were told about the film and I'm sure they feel their lives are in danger. It seems whenever we (Americans) get involved in things over there, we can't do it right. We go over with good intentions but fall short of expectations, causing animosity and putting others i danger. What's the answer?

[Top photo: Young Afghan men in Kabul; Bottom photo: an Afghan boy in Istalif; March, 2006]

Planning a Trip to Use Your Passport? Consider the UK

I learned from a former travel agent friend the best place an American should travel when wanting to visit Europe: the United Kingdom (UK). Why? Her logic makes sense: when traveling outside the U.S., it's a bit overwhelming the first time and in the UK, English is spoken.

Things are a little bit different over there (they drive on the opposite side of the road and London hotels,
Edinburgh hotels and Glasgow hotels may be a bit smaller for our super-sized American bodies) but not overwhelmingly different (just bring a face cloth, they seem to be absent in Europe).

Having traveled to the UK several times, I can attest it's a safe, excellent destination to visit. The people are extremely friendly. I remember going out to a London pub by myself for dinner. All the tables were full but a family visiting from somewhere else in the UK invited me to join them. UK pubs have a warm, cozy feeling, almost like Cheers except everyone doesn't know your name when you walk in but will know it when the pub closes. The staff in the London hotels are friendly, too, looking out for their American cousins.

And hitting the town, one never knows who'll they'll run into. On my last trip to London in Feb. 2005, my UK reps took me out for a chichi dinner at a place called Oxo where we saw the real Bridget Jones! Renee Zellweger was sitting at the next table over, very cool. Not sure which of the London hotels she was staying at but maybe she was renting a flat.

I also saw the "Jerry Springer Opera" while in London. No, Springer didn't star in it but the play was based on his show. I love London's sassy edge.

While the people and activities are fabulous in London, Scotland is wonderful, too. You've already heard my evening with the porcelain god in one of the Edinburgh hotels (for those unfamiliar, I had food poisoning from a Thai restaurant) but I don't let that mar the pleasant experience I had in Scotland's capital city. From the folks at the visitor information center (which has Internet kiosks) to the folks at the hotel trying to make me feel better, I was surrounded by warm hospitality.

Unfortunately, my travels haven't taken me to Glasgow yet and I think I'd fall in love with the city, too. After all, "Glasgow" means "dear green city." Thanks to my friends over at CheaperThanHotels.com, I've learned Glasgow is Scotland's style capital for it's buzz, edge and creative class. I imagine something like Seattle or Portland with all types of art everywhere and hip sounds floating from pubs. Glasgow hotels range in all types and although I'm usually brand-loyal, I'd stay in one of the trendy, boutique types.

Are you ready to visit the UK? Dust off the passport and head over to CheaperThanHotels.com to find deals for London hotels, Edinburgh hotels and Glasgow hotels.

[Top photo: Look kids! Big Ben!; photo to the right: Not sure what I was doing but I liked the sculpture; bottom photo: roller skaters down a London street]

Mmm, Moth! It's What's For Lunch!

Ever hear of Marty Stouffer? When he was a teenager he explored and survived in the wilderness, documenting his journey. He's the creator of Wild America and is probably the most famous wildlife documentary filmmaker. Well, I know I'm not going to be the next great American wildlife photographer, but I caught this today. It's a bit hard to see since the lizard's green but pay attention and enjoy!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Loads of Sparkly Necklace Bling on Shopping.com

I'm a simple gal when it comes to dressing but wearing jewelry is a whole different ball of wax. I like something eye-catching, stunning and sometimes a little bling, especially my necklaces. From classic to funky, I'll wear it. I've discovered an excellent source for fabulous necklaces at Shopping.com

Let's start with price. My friends over at Shopping.com offer necklaces to fit every budget and have an easy to find price range list to narrow the search when looking for the perfect neck jewelry.

Now the fun stuff, the variety of necklaces. There's the bling Swarovski Crystal necklaces to classic elegance of perfect pearls (men, here's a hint: every woman needs a string of pearls) and Celtic designs to personalized name pendants in sterling silver, 14K gold or 14K gold plated ("Sex in the City's" Carrie Bradshaw would be in Heaven with this site). I think you get the idea.

Shopping.com makes shopping for necklaces extremely easy. It's like a clearing house for other sites, bringing together the best and prettiest necklaces on the Web making it easy to browse most everything that's out there in one convenient place. Pendant settings and necklace styles fit everyone's tastes and needs and best of all, budgets.

It's Friday Already?

Last week flew by and so did this week, where on earth does time go? Internet access has been limited this week, been house sitting (check out my Tally blog for more about that) and the client is in the process of moving so although there's a bed, giant television, chair and computer, there isn't a place to sit and use the computer and after a long day (which I've been on the go since last Saturday), I'm too tired to stand and write. *sigh*

I'm excited to hear from my friend barb (yes, the "b" is lower case). She's still working in Petrified National Forest, talking about retiring (already???) to relocating next spring. Very exciting for her. I need to fill her in (and maybe I'm ready to make an announcement) about my plans. I'm excited for her but disappointed I haven't visited her in Arizona yet.

Last week I also received an email from a young man who was going to Afghanistan as a contractor for the summer. I've been wondering how he was doing and was happy to receive a note from him and about his experience. I owe him an email along with a new friend in Pakistan (BTW, although I'm working on ITB, I won't be attending and won't be able to meet. Only my tourism friends will understand that bit).

Anyway, I'm hoping for a Saturday of sleeping in and writing. Sunday is field trip day - yippee!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Have You Met Freegan Girl?

This week's Newsweek has an article by Raina Kelly entitled "Freegan Ride." As Kelly explained, the term freegan is a cross between "free" and "vegan" and a freegan is someone who believes in reducing consumption, recycling and reusing. I can relate to that but the freegan lifestyle is a bit extreme for me.

For a month, Kelly lived the freegan lifestyle, relying on freebies, eating organically and reducing her carbon footprint in our great Earth. Freegans practice dumpster diving, but because of legalities, Kelly didn't do that. Check out the blog she kept called "Freegan Girl."

I'm in agreement we consume too much stuff, I mean, how many sets of dishes, dust-collecting knickknacks and excessive packaging do we need? When I went to Afghanistan last year, it really clicked with me what's important in life and prompted me to write this article on being a responsible tourist.

I also think how much we have here in the U.S. and how little "stuff" other places of the world have, yet, they seem happy. We take for granted the simplest things, like soap and in Kelly's article, she mentions how the cost a beauty bar of soap could feed a small family in a third-world country. What are we lacking that we need to hoard stuff to make us happy and content? I wonder if the slow down in the economy is going to reduce what we purchase.

And does anyone feel guilty indulging in the excess? Sometimes I do. While I appreciate the thought, I feel guilty about receiving items with excessive packaging or are not practical or consumable.

Eighteen Going on 20

A couple of weeks ago I took my body measurements, the first time since I started the gym in March. Needless to say, I was disappointed, six inches!!! That's all I've lost. Granted, when you look at six inches, it's quite a bit but I've been sweatin' in the gym since March. Okay, I haven't been consistent, when I travel I don't make the time to go and since I'm watching my budget, I've been eating a lot of rice, which isn't the best thing in managing the waistline.

I was recently watching ABC's Extreme Makeover (Note: even though I'm a reality TV-aholic, I'm not a fan of this show, with all the plastic surgery, the end result is a different person) and the trainer told the victims, err, candidates (?) they need to spend at least an hour a day doing cardio at the gym followed by weight training. He also advised eating fish and asparagus (it's a diuretic, aka: makes you pee). Of course, it's like NBC's The Biggest Loser, if you have time to spend all day exercising, things would be groovy but I live in reality.

So, I've been trying to kick things up a notch. Today I completed the 18th mile for the week and next week's goal is 20. I reduced the weight training because I'm starting to bulk up and I don't want to look like a manly girl.

Not sure if I'll make the 20 this week. I'm house/dog sitting (for the next 10 days), have two night classes (and homework I need to do this weekend), a field trip next Saturday and need to work on the company blog since there isn't time in the office day to do it (not my personal company, the one which gives me a paycheck and all sorts of other stuff - it's a group project thing).

I discovered how people perceive seeing weight loss in another person. Earlier this summer I ran into a member of the hiring committee who was going to hire me (but changed their minds due to "politics") and he commented on my hair. My hair hadn't changed from the last time I saw him. This week I spoke to a local group and met up with cronies from my old stomping grounds and got the same reaction, "I like your hair, it brings out your eyes."

I'm thinking my face looks different and they can't pinpoint what's different so their reaction is the hair. I know in the office when we look at photos from last year's event, I have to ask, "OMG! Do I actually look like that?" The reply is "No," and I don't think it's a polite "No," but an honest "No."

As for food, Publix has had whiting fish on sale and I stocked up on 99 cent broccoli, apples and acorn squash. Also got my fave snack, edamane, which is great for keeping cholesterol in check. I'll be avoiding rice (and fast food) as much as possible this month. It just takes a bit of planning.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cool Site of the Week: RealTravel.com

I love travel Web sites and am always on the hunt for the perfect online travel guide. Does one exist? Having worked in the public relations side of the travel industry, I know how some writers can be influenced to include (and exclude) certain tidbits in a travel guide.

So what's a way to cut the bias out of a travel guide? Welcome to Web 2.0, my friends. User-generated sites are popping up all over the place and RealTravel.com is the latest user-generated travel site I've found.

It's a bit like TripAdvisor and TravelPost but there's something more approachable about this travel site. It seems a bit more down-to-earth and lacks the flash, which is a good thing. Users submit blogs, photos, honest advice and is a decent, easy to use resource as a travel guide.

Thanks to my friends over at RealTravel.com, I'm now going to see what's been posted about Afghanistan (Pictured: Taliban tribesmen in Kabul, March 2006) and suppose I should see what's posted about Italy.

Ugh! Been Feeling Like a Slug

A few years ago I learned while my good cholesterol was high, so was my bad cholesterol, especially for someone my age. My blood sugar was also borderline Type 2 diabetic. The doctor put me on meds and sent me to a nutritionist. After 30 days, both the bad cholesterol and blood sugar dropped significantly.

I don't like taking drugs and decided to control my health with nutrition. I learned about balancing my meals, counting my carbs and throwing in exercise. When I'm good and do what I should, I feel great but when I eat or drink too much refined sugar or carbs, I feel sluggish, light-headed and borderline nauseous.

I've been on "go" for the past 10 days. Working intensely in the office, hitting the gym and tending to my social calendar (lately, I seem to have one). I've been a bit overwhelmed with what needs to get done and haven't been eating right. With all the sugar and junk I've been pouring in my body, I can barely function. This morning, either my alarm didn't go off or I slept through it (but still made it to work on time).

So what's been my vice this past week? Those darn Publix sugar cookies. They taste sooooo good even though I know the sugar kicks my butt. But I'm getting back on track, I hope.

And the pic is of me (center), my sisters and a giant napkin during the family wedding last month. If only I could make my hair do that all the time...