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Planning for Next Halloween

Posted by mandy on November 6th, 2010

Every year stores and businesses start planning earlier and earlier for holidays. They bring out Christmas decorations before Halloween is past and Valentine’s items appear on the shelves almost the day after Christmas. Individuals can take a page from this early planning to get a head start, but try taking it a step further. Instead of waiting for July or August to plan for Halloween, start on November 1st.

A big advantage of any holiday is the post-holiday sales. This means that the week or so after Halloween is actually the best time to purchase decorations and other items for next year. While it’s inadvisable to buy candy a year in advance, there will be a selection of Halloween costumes , spooky lights, and party and table decorations to be had at serious discounts for next year’s parties. Some stores even offer color-coded storage bins for sale immediately following a holiday, look for orange and black in the post-Halloween sales. These are perfect for storing all those post-Halloween sale finds.

Another way to plan for next year’s Halloween is to make a list of all the Halloween parties and events that occurred this year. Noting which parties were flops — and why — as well as which were successes can help in planning next year’s, but only if an honest review is made immediately afterward. This also applies to decorating tips and costumes. Taking notes about how long it took to assemble a do-it-yourself haunted house or to make a robot costume from scratch will make it much easier to estimate how long things will take next time.

Thian Hock Keng Temple in Singapore

Posted by mandy on March 3rd, 2010

Sought-out sights in the world have always included the architecture inspired by spirituality, such as great cathedrals of Europe and ancient temples in China.  In the case of the island city-state of Singapore, you’ll find the oldest and most prominent is the Thian Hock Keng or the Temple of Heavenly Bliss.   Built in 1839, around twenty years after Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore as a simple trading post on the Singapore River and about one hundred and seventy-one years from today, this Hokkien Temple was constructed to honor the Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu or Mat-Su.

The story behind Mazu is a fascinating one, in which a girl is transformed into a goddess.  There is history about this girl contained in immensely old edicts from the government, from court documents, and even shipping logs, as well as Taoist scriptures, that describes Mazu as a young girl and the goddess she became.  Even to this day, she has fifteen hundred operating temples and about a hundred million followers.  Folk tradition for Mazu describes how in times of trouble if you call upon her by name, Mazu, she will come to your aid; however, if you address her in a more formal manner, such as the Empress of Heaven, then your rescue will be postponed as this means she must delay in order to put on more formal attire.  The goddess is based on a woman named Lin Mo Niang to which people attribute miracles during her brief lifetime.  She knew Chinese medicine and came to be known as a healer; some of the miracles, though, were about stopping seastorms, and this established her as a protector of sailors and travelers.

The temple’s history is contained in granite tablets which reside on the wall of the Entrance Hall; there’s an inscribed plaque also inside which Emperor Guang Xu of the Qing Dynasty from 1907 gave to the temple, a sign of how important people considered this site.  The plaque reads, Bo Jing Nan Ming, which means Gentle Waves over the South Seas.  The building is composed in from the traditional form of Southern Chinese architecture.   There were no nails used in its construction, and is considered a masterwork of architecture which uses tiles and wood, stones, statues of dragons and phoenixes, and intricate carvings and sculptures amidst the columns.

This temple is only one of many sights available to a traveler in Singapore.  All one need do is to arrange for a flight and to stay in one the hotels in Singapore, and begin exploring.  If you go to Singapore, be sure not to miss this building, which has been declared a national monument of Singapore for the last  thirty-seven years.

Melbourne, Melborn or Melbin

Posted by mandy on November 24th, 2009

If you ever find yourself in the Southern hemisphere and landing in the second largest city of Australia, it might be helpful to know that this city’s name is pronounced closer to Mel-bin, as opposed to Mel-born, a mistake travelers might easily make, considering the spelling of the city’s name: Melbourne.  I recently made the same mistake myself when speaking to an Australian resident.  He assured me there was no “born” in Melbourne, in one of those quirks of pronounciations that tend to confuse visitors, somewhat in the same way New Orleans, if you’re in Louisiana, is usually pronounced N’awlins.

Of course, like many world class cities, it wasn’t always known by the same name.  The settlement was first known as Bearbrass, but by 1837, the name changed to honor the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, William Lamb.  Ten years after that, Melbourne officially became a city, declared by Queen Victoria, and it became the capital city of the Victoria colony.  Like California on the opposite side of the world, in the 1850s, Melborne experienced a gold rush, known as the Victorian gold rush, and it was this period that molded Melbourne into one of the great cities of the world.  When nation of Australia was createad in 1901, Melbourne was its first center of government.  Today, if you find yourself in a Melbourne luxury hotel, outside your door, you will find a city that is now a center for a whole range of entertainments:  Here is the city in which Australian film and televison was born; it’s where the Heidelberg School of art (the impressionist art movement) began.  From film to dance to music to sports, the city well deserves its title as Australia’s cultural capital.

In another recent talk, I learned that four million residents of Melbourne are also called Melburnians.  Why not Melbinians?  I’m not sure.  Looks like I’m going to have to go back to my friend from Australian with even more questions.

Rocking the South African Daisies (and Gardens!)

Posted by mandy on September 27th, 2009

South Africa is one of the world’s most spectacular countries.  With an extremely rich history, diverse population, and stunning landscapes, there is something for everyone here.  Guests of all ages can find something enormously pleasing here, and in every city.  Whether the taste is for street fairs and festivals, historical museums that cover the complicated and fascinating history here, a lively night life with acoustic instruments or electronica, there are many choices for each of these.  And there’s always so much more.  It’s a country that’s unable to stand still, offering the best cuisine, the best culture, and the best hotels.  South Africa understands hospitality, and guests here are treated to a fantastically luxurious treatment.

After some delicious rest, and a mouth-watering meal, it’s a good time to explore what South Africa has to offer.  For festivals, there are always plenty of events on the menu in most cities, and two of the finest music festivals of recent years are the Rocking the Daisies festival in Cape Town and Rocking the Gardens in Johannesburg.  The Daisies festival has been underway for awhile, and is a three-day festival, where The Gardens is still one-day only, but is sure to turn into a longer event.  These are both extremely well-organized and publicized celebrations of music and lifestyle, and the emphasis here is on eco-friendliness.

They’ve partnered with some lofty and worthy partners, like Food and Trees for Africa to help promote an environmentally-conscious and eco-aware audience, but it’s not only for a good cause, it’s enormous fun.  Food and drink booths keep you well-stocked and belly full, and there are also nannies present at the grounds for childcare.  There are lots of interesting performers, including bits of theatre and stand-up comedy, but the focus is the music.  Both festivals have the power to attract an absolutely stunning line-up, and it’s a fabulous way to get to know South Africa, through its musicians and the audiences.

First Friday

Posted by mandy on September 8th, 2009

There is a big storm heading this way from the south, coming up the Baa peninsula. We get very little rain here in Phoenix so I hate to complain and really won’t but doesn’t that just seem to be the way rain when it is least welcomed. With plans to vend art work at an out door event Friday night I really hate to miss the opportunity to show and sell especially when this event comes only once a month because of some rain. The reports earlier in the week were calling for the storms to begin bringing rain to the area Friday afternoon or evening. Mid week forecasts have changed to predicting the rain won’t begin till Saturday, but the wind could pick up Friday late in the day. That would be nice giving us a reprieve for First Friday night from rain but still the possibility of wind. The event, first Friday, encompasses much of the Roosevelt Row area of downtown Phoenix. Artists and musicians selling work on side walks, galleries having openings and restaurants having specials and staying open latter are all part of the evening of fun and festivities. Visitors to Phoenix seem to enjoy the event. Frequently people from around the world are visiting and stumble onto the First Friday scene. Once I met the proprietor for the best Singapore hotels while viewing some very interesting art work combining found objects, fired clay castings, paint and bead work. This event has gone on for over a decade and has grown to involve a couple of areas in the central phoenix areas. The Grand District and Melrose also have First Friday events along with the Roosevelt Row area. An evening at 1st Friday include seeing art demonstrated, spontaneous performance of music and theater, gallery installations, street vendors and food.

Nikotin Rocks Dubai

Posted by mandy on September 3rd, 2009

When it comes to five-star hotels, Dubai might have some of the best selections in the world.  With a splendid talent for combining both innovation and tradition, featuring high-tech amenities and luxurious hospitality, Dubai knows how to take care of travelers.  Our hotels are no exception, and are carefully selected from this already-magnificent selection, to provide you with the best of the best when it comes to excellence in accommodations.  Dubai is a very exciting place, and there are reasons why it is one of the world’s hottest spots for travelers.  After a stay in our lodgings, it will be plainly simple to understand why.  With gorgeous rooms decorated by our designers to showcase the best of international and local splendor, and meals prepared by top chefs trained in all the intricacies of world cuisine, you will be ready to have your own Dubai adventure.
Dubai is growing by leaps and bounds, seeing unprecedented development.  It has some of the finest shopping malls in the world, where ostentatiousness is embraced to demonstrate an unmistakable sense of material plenty.  There are a fantastic number of new galleries opening every year, taking part in Dubai’s rise in reputation in the international art world.  It attracts new generations of artists all year, looking to be part of the next scene, and doing a terrific job of creating one.  The new alternative rock band Nikotin is a fine example of this.  They are part of a local music scene that is rather stunning, with a large number of festivals taking place in Dubai every year.  Add to this a number of tours that come through, and countless local music events that happen in the city every night.  Things are happening here.
Nikotin started, it might be said, at the right place at the right time.  The guitarist and lead drummer, Mr. P. and Psycho that is, met in 2005 at a music shop.  It was a watershed year, as the two hungry youth started talking about mutual interests, and soon found themselves practicing together.  This was the formation of Nikotin a band of five young men, from Dubai and the U.S., who are causing heads (and ears) to turn in the UAE.  Their sound is a pretty solid and crisp classic rock, mixed with some alternative music sensibilities, to make for a sonic experience that touches roots.  They’ve been playing locally at all the right haunts, with their driving rhythms and solid vocals, including even some acoustic sets, to the delight of local fans, and international audiences who are just starting to catch on.

The Attraction of a Holiday Spent in Mauritius

Posted by mandy on August 26th, 2009

Mauritius is one of the Mascarene Islands located just off the coast of Africa.  This is a tropical island with a climate that is characterized by dry and moderate winters, and hot and humid summers.  The island has a series of monsoon storms with weather during this time being stormy and a bit unpredictable.  These storms happen during the summer months, so many of the travelers find that the best time for a visit is during the winter months, and they find accommodations in any one of the best hotels.  Mauritius is a city very cosmopolitan in nature with a variety of cultural and ethnic groups living together in a tolerant way.

It is this spirit of tolerance that creates an atmosphere of warmth and friendliness, two of the many characteristics that draw many visitors year after year.  The capital of the island is Port Louis, which has been the major site of the export business of the sugar industry on the island for many years.  The sugar cane plantations that cover the island and the production of sugar accounts for the amazing economic growth of the island, although the tourism industry is not far behind.  The official language on the island is English, however the languages of French, Hindi, and Creole are widely spoken as well.

The island itself is beautiful in an ephemeral kind of way, with palm tree lined beaches of pristine sand.  The beauty of the beaches and the clear blue water and the famous cloud filled skies has provided inspiration for many artists who have traveled to the island over the years, and are a perfect backdrop for those interested in any of the myriad of outdoor activities, including hikes, mountain bike, surfing, and scuba diving just to name a few.  And for those just interested in a chance to relax and unwind, the island offers many opportunities to such as well.  The beaches are ideal for long walks or for lounging about sunbathing, a nice retreat from a hectic world.

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