Friday, October 31, 2008

Free Google Ads

When I started this blog I signed up for Google's Ad Sense program. I figured that since I was putting my time and energy into writing this blog, I might as well take the opportunity to make a few cents for anyone who clicked on their ads. I limited the number and scope of the ads to subjects related to my posts and made the ad space very small so my blog would not feel like an advertisement for Google's ads.

As I started telling people about my blog and more and more people started reading and following this blog (a big thanks to everyone), I started generating more clicks. This month I saw that my revenue was finally getting close to the $100 minimum Google requires to send out a check (after 6 months of posting daily). I was excited to actually receive something from Google besides the pleasure of a place to write.

Two days ago the ads on my blog disappeared and Google wrote me saying that they needed to "protect" their advertisers because the clicks on my blog were "not within accepted parameters". I suspect that Google is simply trying to save money by not paying out while taking advertiser money for clicks at the same time. Like the Wall Street wizards who sell nothing for something, Google sold me the promise of a check, but delivered nothing. Perhaps the parameters they use is to simply shut down accounts when they get close to the $100 mark so they never have to send out payments.

I have always written this blog for the pleasure of writing, so I will continue; unless of course Google decides this post is also "outside accepted parameters". So now all the ads are gone from my site, and it feels cleaner. In a way Google helped me clean up my act by making my blog a pure advertiser-free space.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Angels, Sheep, and Penguins

I love candles and have several throughout my home; they give off a soft glow and fragrance that warms both the space and my heart when I see the flickering flame. Finding good candles is like finding good candy; you want to get every flavor, size and color. I found there is a candle that smells of angel food cake made by Illume which also benefits Project Angel Food. For only $45, you can help get meals delivered to home-bound or disabled people affected with serious illnesses. You can literally light up someone's life with a candle!

For only $50, you can purchase a sheep for men and women living in poverty around the world; other dollar amounts provide other animals, like camels or cows, and one animal can help a family make a living (off the wool or milk), so this is truly a "living" gift. If you would prefer, you can also donate 500 trees or an entire forest! Oxfam America Unwrapped, takes care of the delivery and you can even make a donation on behalf of someone.

For those who love animals and want to help them survive in our often cruel human world, you can help raise a bear cub or clean up an oil-slicked penguin with a donation to Animal Gift. They rescue animals that have been abandoned or lost due to natural disasters like hurricanes, and they also raise awareness about baby seals and elephants being killed or poached in their natural habitats.

Who knew angels, sheep and penguins had so many friends in common?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

JBL On Stage

I love the ease of having all my music on my iPod, but I still had my stereo system at home to play old fashioned CDs (who ever thought one day CDs would be old fashioned?). I finally made the move to let go completely of my stereo, but to do that I needed to find speakers that would fill my home with music without taking up an entire entertainment unit.

JBL On Stage caught my eye from the moment I saw it. It is so small and sleek, it can easily be packed for trips. The quality of the sound is the deal maker; it sounds better than the stereo system I had bought for hundreds of dollars. It has a teeny little remote control (2.5" x 1") that allows you to control both your iPod and the volume even from another room! All this for under $100 at most retailers (and for much less on eBay if you bid wisely; I got mine for $50 brand new in the box).

Sometimes moving into the new electronic age is not only easy, but enlightening; I got rid of 15 lbs of stereo and got better music, now the only question is how to apply that kind of enlightenment to every other aspect of life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Swift Financial

In today's climate of credit market meltdowns and escalating costs, it is a breath of fresh air to find a bank which caters to small businesses and offers FREE services. Swift Financial is FDIC insured and they were recognized by J.D. Power for outstanding customer service, so you get the security of knowing that your money is safe and that any questions you have will be handled professionally; valuable commodities in today's banking environment.

Swift Financial is an online bank which offers free online banking, no transaction fees, and a free check scanner. The free check scanner alone is worth opening a business account with Swift; imagine being able to process your customer's checks without having to make a trip to the bank! You save gas and time by scanning checks at your business (even if your business is at home). Never again will you have to rush to the bank before they close; with a simple plug into your computer, you can make your deposits anytime (deposits will of course still post only during bank hours on banking days).

With so many of the brick and mortar banks in trouble, many of the online banks are thriving because they stayed away from the risky business of mortgages and CDO's; instead, they invested in the backbone of cash flow; the small businesses and savers who have gambled on their own products and services.

Everyone is learning about financial value and risk these days. Bring value to your business by saving time and money, and risk spending your time and attention on your customers; your long term dividends will surely bring you great rewards.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Timed Discounts

Some offers are truly for a limited time, so I'm writing this post early enough for you to take advantage of them before they expire.

As I wrote in an earlier post, the Kindle is to reading what the iPod is to music. For anyone who missed the Oprah show last Friday, Oprah loves it so much she gave one to everyone in her audience along with "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" loaded onto it. In partnership with Jeff Bezos of Amazon, everyone can get $50 off the $359 regular price through this Friday (10/31/08) by using the promo code OPRAHWINFREY on the Amazon site for this revolutionary device. The promo code also gives you 10% off the book "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" so you can start evolving into ebooks.

The Palazzo in Las Vegas has a deal on their luxury suites for only $119 per night; because the discounted package includes $50 in free slot play, and $50 to use at Lavo, their new nightclub-restaurant-bar, you end up paying only $19 per suite (plus taxes and fees); just use the code EPOOCTO on their website, or by phone, and book by November 3, 2008. It's a great way to try out this new hotel adjacent to the Venetian (it's older cousin) and the Wynn.

And finally, the one offer that is timeless; Fare Compare allows you to get advance notification of discount fares along your favorite routes BEFORE they are announced on the airline websites. Just sign up for their alerts and put in say $50, so that when fares to your destinations drop by $50 or more they email you.

Discounts are wonderful, but only if you know about them, so now that you know, use your knowledge!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bowen Therapy/NST

I have been getting different types of bodywork and massage therapy since 1980, but I have found less than a handful of therapists I have liked enough to rebook. Because I am trained in the work, I am as picky about my massages as I am about my food; it's as rare to find five star food and service as it is to find a therapist whose work is both healing and nurturing. There are some wonderful therapists (Jessie, Jemuel & Shelly) who work on me and whom I work on; one of the traits that all of us share is our quest to continually educate ourselves so we can improve what we offer to others. There is always room for improvement on our skills and refinement of our energy.

I had an introduction to Bowen Therapy yesterday and I am still basking in the glow of the work I received. It is a technique developed by the Australian Tom Bowen which has evolved today into NST (Neurostructural Integration Technique). The main principal is that the body knows how to heal itself, so the therapist facilitates the healing process with a series of soft tissue manipulations that range from 5-45 minutes. Equally effective on newborns, the elderly, and animals, this process is done with the recipient fully clothed and focuses on a series of deep rolling energetic touches that specifically target groups of muscles, tendons, and nerves in our connective tissue. Key energy points are addressed so that your body can integrate and balance any blocked energy flows while releasing any trauma or dysfunction. The pressure can be adjusted from very light (for newborns) to deep for people with large muscle mass, and with one to three treatments, many symptoms are resolved completely. My therapist was Gary Stuart 800-361-2692, but you can find one near you at NST.

The best thing I can say about NST is that after my session I felt as if I was floating and a day later (today) I still feel as if I am on a cloud of good energy. The one caveat is to schedule your session as late as possible because you will probably want to do nothing more than to sleep afterwards.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Good Kitty Helpers

I must begin by saying that I am allergic to cats. When someone who owns or lives with a cat comes near me, I sneeze and my eyes water. There are times when my allergies awaken to the mere presence of a coat or sweater of someone who has been in contact with a cat.

All that being said, I like cats (and dogs) and I would like them to be happy and comfortable even if they can not be in my home. Diane told me about a cat she rescued and helped (but could not keep) with an organization called Fix Nation. They will neuter a feral cat (for free) and provide you help in trapping (and releasing) a feral cat for neutering. Feral cats actually help keep the rodent population in check, so helping a feral cat can lead you to a happier life (and fix nation happily accepts donations).

Stray Cat Alliance is another cat care organization whose motto is to create a "no kill nation"; they provide a free neutering service and adoption help for stray cats. For every cat lover who can not adopt another cat but would like to help it find a good family, stray cat alliance is a great resource.

No need to become a cat lady or cat man; there are organizations which can help keep the cat population in check and provide good homes for them. Being feral isn't a bad thing as long as it does not breed into overpopulation and disease.

Help a cat today and you could prevent a rodent infestation tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Breakfast Lunch Dinner at BLD

I had lunch with two of my best friends at BLD (a more casual version of the wonderful Grace restaurant a block away) and I have to say it would have been a perfect meal if we had another server. The service from the hostess to the busboy was perfect, but do not rely on your waitress (if her name is Sandy) to provide any condiments, refills or dessert menus unless you are a young male customer. The ambiance is simple and comfortable, especially if the weather is nice and you sit at one of the outdoor tables; avoid the interior during peak dining times unless you don't care about having a conversation with your table mates.

The menu is creative and tasty; whether you choose the grilled vegetable frittata with choice of bread or potatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil pesto; or a thinly sliced flatiron steak with poached eggs, cabernet sauvignon hollandaise, and house made english muffin; or a light nicoise salad with albacore tuna, fingerling potatoes, haricots verts, olives, spanish white anchovies, fried capers, egg, and red wine dijon vinaigrette. Dessert is as fabulously comforting as you wish, from the yellow cake with chocolate frosting and vanilla ice cream, to the crepe with nutella, banana and whipped cream, or a butterscotch pudding.

Parking is easy on busy Beverly Blvd with their valet, and prices are very reasonable (entrees run around $20, and good bottles of wine are priced under $50), so give BLD a try for your next Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner; just make sure you get an outdoor table with a good server.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Olympus SW 770

I bought my first "waterproof" camera over 20 years ago. I can't remember the brand, but it was one of the only ones available for under $1000 (that was a fortune back in 1984). Yes, you could get it wet and take a picture from the water, but the pictures were so blurry you might as well have waited until you were back on land because you could barely distinguish a boat, much less a person once you got the prints.

The Olympus SW 770 is the underwater camera I wish existed in the 1980's. Ironically it costs about $300, the same price I paid for my first underwater camera; technology has advanced as prices have not, and that is always a good combination. We have come a long way in two decades. The Oylmpus SW 770 not only takes crisp clear photos (from as far down as 33 feet underwater), but you can also take mini movies, drop it from 5 feet, freeze it, or step on it, and it will still perform. It's a tough exterior with a smart interior; it's smart enough to know when and what to shoot so that you get a stable image even if the subject is moving or you are; remember that you can use it underwater, so chances are good that you will be moving in the water.

The pictures are remarkably clear, even if you are shooting in the movie mode, you can actually capture that dolphin swimming past you or that stingray swimming towards you. Everyone can now take the kind of pictures that only those with a professional's budget used to be able to take.

Hmmm, underwater photographer, could be a fun new career, but I wonder if there is a way to blog underwater?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

USB Cell

Imagine having your computer recharge your AA batteries so that you don't ever have to worry about losing a charge. USB Cell allows you plug your battery directly into your USB port! Moxia was named on Europe's 100 list as one of Europe's leading and hottest private Clean Technology companies in the Guardian/Library House Cleantech for their innovative way to recharge batteries. The usual "copper top" is a green cover which flips up so you can plug in the USB tip underneath the USB Cell "green top" into your computer.

The implications are not only green, but practical; you can recharge the batteries for your remote controls, your wireless game consoles, your photography equipment, or your speakers. Your options for how to recharge are also varied, from using your USB port, your monitor, your desktop, your game console, your keyboard, or a powered hub which allows multiple cell charging.

With USB Cell, not only will you save our planet by recharging your batteries, but you will be encouraging the development of products which help energize the world economy with new green technology.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Zingerman's Specialty Foods

Zingerman's can satisfy almost any craving you may have for an unusual taste, whether you want savory and sweet (how about a caramel made with Parmigiano-Reggiano and tellicherry pepper?), just plain savory (pepper bacon bread), or just plain sweet (rosemary honey from Provence); if Zingerman's doesn't have it, they can probably get it for you.

The variety of choices from cocoa nibs to organic teas, means that you can find the perfect fit for your budget, taste, and recipe. They are a lifesaver for anyone who lives far away from any good food specialty store; I love them for their exotic marmalades and spices. Even though I have a plethora of great shops in my neighborhood, it's fun to see what Zingerman's offers that I can't find locally. When you are looking for a balsamic vinegar that has been aged for 30 years, or the yellowfin tuna in a can from Spain that you heard about from your favorite chef, or a pecan raisin bread that has over a half pound of pecans and raisins in each loaf, or a cream cheese made the way it was 100 years ago, you can find it here.

If you become addicted to their specialty foods or simply want to explore varieties of your preferred foods, Zingerman's offers a club which offers favorites like their brownies, coffeecakes, cheese, or olive oil, delivered monthly to your doorstep.

Now all you have to do is decide what to order first....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Star Island

Soon you will have a choice of traveling to the Caribbean instead of Latin America if you want to stay in a green resort.

Star Island (an acronym for Sustainable Terrain and Resources) in the Bahamas will be opening next Fall with 60-70 rooms, as an exotic green luxury resort and home site development which aims to be completely sustainable and carbon neutral. Whether you want a vacation in a hotel, or a vacation home, the on site amenities include a pool, spa, and gourmet dining for all guests and owners. Their restaurants and markets will feature local produce, organic products, and fair trade coffee, keeping the green theme in everyday practice. The bungalows all have waterfront views and private plunge pools; the hotel villas each feature infinity pools, full kitchens and living rooms, and the home sites even include personal docks.

All of us are awaiting the unveiling, repeating the mantra, "Open open, open."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tom's Shoes

As those of you who read my posts regularly know, I am addicted to shoes. Like Carrie Bradshaw, I prefer a high heel, but if I actually need to walk any distance (which is not often the car centric city of Los Angeles), I need flats. There is a company started by a man (!!!) named Blake which makes comfortable flats (some are even washable) that are actually cute.

I admit I have a high heel bias, but the best reasons to buy these flat shoes are: 1) they are inexpensive, and 2) for every pair you buy, Tom's will donate a pair to a child who needs shoes. Yes, you read that correctly, for EVERY pair they will donate a pair; they have donated over 60,000 pairs so far. It is one of the most inspiring and fun matching charities, and all you need to do is buy a pair of shoes!

As Tom's says, "Changing a life begins with a single step", so why not make that step in a comfortable cute shoe?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cool Kids

A local Los Angeles ABC television station has a program called "Cool Kids" which airs every week featuring the talents and spirit of a local student. It is inspiring to see how each young person gets their motivation, how they act on their intentions, and how their actions grow into a community of like minded supporters who help them to expand and enhance their ideas. From building wells to building homes with Habitat for Humanity, every project is as different as the person who is highlighted every week.

Just goes to show that no matter what our age, it is never too early or too late to make a difference.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hermosa Beach House

Since we went to Venice yesterday, how about going to Hermosa* today?

The Beach House is an upscale, luxurious, and romantic getaway right on the beach. There are fireplaces in every room, balconies, and if you book a room with a view, the beach is your living room artwork. The rooms are a bit small, but considering you are staying literally on the sand, consider that your room is only for resting in between your outings to the town and seaside. They serve a complimentary continental breakfast, and their concierge can help you with any other reservations, from bicycle rentals (there is a bike path up and down the coast right next to the beach) to spa services.

If you want a touch of extravagance close to home, take a drive down to Hermosa and spend a few nights enjoying what other people fly thousands of miles to experience. Living like a jet setter without having to pay for a jet (or having to get over jet lag) is the best way to live.

*For more about things to do in Hermosa Beach see my earlier post.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Venice Beach Eco Cottages

Sometimes it is nice to getaway close to home (especially with the price of gas this year), so having a Fall or Winter beach holiday in Los Angeles in a cottage that is eco friendly can be the perfect antidote to relieve your "staycation" blues.

The Venice Beach Eco Cottages are just steps away from the beach and Abbot Kinney*. There are only three cottages, so reserve early for the style you prefer (each one has a different decor). What makes this place green? The solar panels atop each cottage, the energy star appliances (including a washer and dryer for longer stays), the 300 count organic linens, the recycled birdcage (now a chair), and the deck made of old milk jugs, all add to the green label.

With prices that start at about $250 per night, you don't have to spend all your greenbacks to be green.

*See my earlier post for more information.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Diving in Air

When I learned to scuba dive I did not know how to swim; when I went skydiving I was afraid of heights (I still am sometimes). I like to overcome my fears, so I went on a strong tandem dive (I pulled the parachute) in Perris at the famous Perris Valley Skydive Center. I jumped from over 12,500 feet out of the plane used in the movie "Point Break". Talk about overcoming a fear in one giant leap!

They give you a training course, set you up with rigging, and make you sign so many waivers you wonder if it is really worth your life to experience a skydive.

It is.

Going up in the plane was the scariest part because of the steep ascent; the pilot warned that if you chicken out of your jump and stay in the plane, the descent is worse than the ascent and everyone decided it was preferable to jump. Jumping out into the cool wind was like jumping into a pool of cool water, with the same physical effect. I never felt like I was falling, just gliding into the sky. The views of three cities were incredible; it looked like we were jumping into postcard pictures. I was so happy and calm after I jumped that the tandem instructor purposely tried to fake a stalling parachute to get a reaction out of me other than "Cool!" (it didn't work). It was so much fun that as soon as I landed I wanted to go back up and do it again. They offer a school with several levels here, so if you become addicted to the sport, you can indulge your addiction here.

Skydiving is like scuba diving; the physical sensations are very similar and the motions and movements are almost identical (you make a turn in the air the same way you make a turn underwater). Both sports free you from the usual sensations of gravity and both allow you to feel and see like another species; it's the closest thing to being a bird (or a fish) for a few minutes.

They also have a wind tunnel for beginners who don't want to jump out of a plane to get a similar experience. Their wind tunnel was featured in the movie "The Bucket List". Some people actually prefer indoor wind tunnels because they can stay in the air longer and practice turns, flips and tricks. I Fly in Hollywood also has a wind tunnel experience closer to Los Angeles. It's fun to watch the experts as they practice their tricks and formations in the wind tunnel and in the air at Perris, so if you don't want to jump, you'll still get to see a show.

No matter how you do it, try it; you may like it, whether your name is Mikey or not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fried Chicken

Do you ever crave fried chicken? I have had this craving for weeks, and I've been unable to satisfy it with anything good, and at the same time, unwilling to do the work of breaking out the peanut oil and soaking the chicken in buttermilk to make what I crave. I have delayed pulling out all the stops and making a mound of fried chicken for myself, afraid I would eat it all and at the same time hopeful that I would find some place which would make fried chicken capable of satisfying my craving.

Good thing I found out about Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken in Culver City (they also have a location in Compton). Honey's makes the best crispy, juicy, tasty, non-greasy version I have found in Los Angeles (my saying that is like giving them a food Oscar for fried chicken!). They offer all the parts separately or in combination with fried catfish, fries, biscuits (they even sell their biscuit mix), and corn on the cob. Honey's chicken is the perfect picnic basket because even at room temperature, their chicken tastes great. If you want to be a little healthier, they also offer a fried chicken salad and chicken skewers (not fried) with vegetables, but if you go, please taste what they are known for before opting for something else. The decor is basic fast food with a nice big screen tv inside, and the service is friendly but rushed (it is usually packed around meal times), so I would recommend taking out your order to eat at home (or try the patio if the weather is nice).

It's nice when someone else does all the work and you get to savor the results.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jewelry Rental

We all know that most of the jewelry we see at the Oscars is borrowed from the jewelers who want their names mentioned on the red carpet; but what if we want to "borrow" some beautiful jewels for a special night out or a special event (like a wedding) and you are not an Oscar Nominee?

One Night Affair rents evening gowns (after all how many times will you ever wear the same gown again?), for your jewelry rental check out Adorn Brides, which rents out the perfect complement to your gown. Yes, they are REAL diamonds and gold, so you will not be embarrassed by someone who can actually spot a fake piece. Rental prices range from about $100 to $1000, and pieces offered include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and matching sets with retail values in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.

Don't even think about keeping the pieces past their dues date (the process works like renting videos, the later you are in returning the piece the more you will pay in fees); you will be charged the retail cost if you are over 30 days late PLUS any rental fees. These are pieces to be borrowed; but if you can afford to buy and want to buy the piece you borrowed, they will work out a finance plan for you.

So now you can rent a beautiful gown along with some beautiful jewelry any day or night you wish; it's like having a fairy all we need is a ball and a Prince.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Essential Oils

A smell can transport you to a person, place, or time. Probably more than any other sense, our sense of smell can provoke a visceral reaction to a memory; ideally, smell invokes a pleasant memory. Who would not like a reminder of the flowers in a garden where you played as a child, the trees in a forest where you hiked, or the fruit you ate freshly picked from a tree.

Aromatherapy is based on the premise that your health and moods can be uplifted, energized, and supported by plant and herb essential oils. Even if you don't totally subscribe to this theory, all of us like certain smells and we would all prefer to smell something we like throughout the course of our day.

The quality of essential oils ranges from the very diluted (some have more chemical than natural essences in them) to the very pure with pricing that varies as much for the packaging as for the quality of the oils. I like the Young Living essential oils because they are very pure, and because they are priced very reasonably (especially if you reorder). One of my favorite things about Young Living is that they blend oils to suit whatever application you seek, whether it is grounding and healing, or uplifting and energizing. No need to be a mad scientist and experiment on your own (unless you like doing that). My two favorite blends are Sacred Mountain and Sara; but they offer a chart and description for every oil and blend they make to suit your preferences.

Enjoy your favorite aroma and breathe deeply.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Desert Getaway

The motto is "Out of the silence comes the sound of your life."

The location was the former hideaway for Al Capone.

It was featured in the film, "The Player."

Two Bunch Palms
is famous (or infamous) as a getaway for both spiritual and practical reasons (one of which is that it is only a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles). Known for its' celebrity and gangster clientele, it is an accessible and and luxurious destination for everyone; especially if you travel midweek or book a special package (with an arrival on Sunday or Monday for three nights they are offering a fourth night free). If you sign up for their email updates, you will receive even better deals.

Getaways are not only for the rich or famous, they are also for anyone who needs a quiet retreat to comtemplate life; if you don't stay the night, take a hike in the desert though Joshua Tree National Park and soak in the solitude and silence on your own private retreat.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wine Sources

Vinfolio offers inventory management and pricing comparisons to entice the novice or veteran wine connoisseur to shop, store, or ship through their service. They can help you develop your cellar, teach you about wine, give you access to a community of other collectors and connoisseurs, and best of all they do it all for free. The bloggers on this site keep you up to date on all things wine related from the latest in shipping regulation to the latest taste test results.

Winecommune is the Ebay of wine shopping; if you are searching for a specialty vineyard, vintage or varietal that you can't find locally, try searching here. They will even help you sell your wine (for a commission). The mechanics are nearly identical to ebay so if you already shop on ebay (and who doesn't these days?), winecommune is a breeze to use. Simply select the varietal or country and narrow down your search from there price wise or with keywords.

As Julia Child used to say, "Wine makes you happy." Go make yourself happy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Drinks for 35 Cents

The Edison in downtown Los Angeles is a mix of classic and industrial decor in a building that was built in 1910 and used to house a power plant. Many of the original parts of the building are intact, including the tall ceilings, winding staircase, and original boiler room, all of which add to the ambiance that makes the Higgins Building a stunning destination.

Even more remarkable is their Thursday night special drink which sells for 35 cents (yes, you read that correctly, you can buy THREE drinks for $1.05, but if you do please call a taxi to go home). The price reflects the price of a drink in 1910 just like the atmosphere, and the special drinks are classics from the era, like a martini or old fashioned (no frou frou drinks from this era, although everything is available off the regular drink menu). There is also a happy hour Wednesdays-Saturdays with a 40% discount on old fashioned drinks.

There is of course upscale bar food to help absorb the drinks, live entertainment some nights, big screens with movies playing, and a pool table. They have a fairly strict dress code (no athletic wear no matter how expensive), and going to the Edison is one of those bright ideas that is best when you reserve in advance or you risk waiting in line for over an hour; you can move to the head of the line by simply calling or going online to make a reservation (up to 10 people) with a credit card guarantee (they will charge your card $50 if you don't show up).

The Edison is a bright spot in downtown Los Angeles.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Simplify Media

Do you have all you music on your home computer or iPod but want to play it at work? Download Simplify Media (it's free) and you can share your iTunes library across all your platforms (PC, Mac, or Linux) and anywhere you regularly go online. Even if you work in an environment with firewalls, this program will allow you access (it is small and contains no dangerous virus or spyware). The founders came from a Silicon Valley company that specializes in secure email and online file sharing; all this means to you is that they know what is safe and how to get around barriers (except if you work at a bank or hospital, both of which use high security firewalls). Coming from the biz, they also know what is legal; you only have streaming access to music, you can not download it.

The best part is that you can share music libraries with 30 of your friends (all for free) and visa versa. And if you are not using iTunes (why not?), the software is also compatible with Winamp and even Linux protocols. They even offer an iPhone app that works with either WiFi or 3G connections, so you can listen to your music on your phone from your home computer as you sit waiting for your delayed flight or train.

Let your music soothe your soul no matter where you are.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


If you or your dog overheats, then you might want to check out the chillow. It's a cooler for your pillow that you fill with water (it absorbs into the material) and put inside your pillowcase. It does NOT need to be put into your refrigerator or freezer; you simply fill it and leave it in your pillowcase. It will gradually warm up to your body temperature as you sleep on it, but when it does, you can flip it over or put it aside for a few minutes to get a cool surface again.

This is great for pets with heavy fur coats (like big Saint Bernards who live in sunny Southern California) or for men who tend to overheat (with or without a furry coat on their bodies). This is also a great idea for women who are having problems sleeping with their hot flashes in the night; it's a cool alternative to freezing out your bed partner with the air conditioning set to 50 degrees (not to mention that it will save you money).

Think of the chillow as the yin to the yang of a hot water bottle.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Paris for Christmas

Because I live in Southern California, I miss wearing my warm sweaters, scarves and boots; going to a place with a cold winter is a nice change (of clothes and climes). Paris is one of my favorite cities in the Fall and Winter; it is a beautiful city even when it is filled with gray skies, wind, and cold air. I love to walk around in what feels like a a black and white Parisian postcard, from the skies and sidewalks to the buildings, all the shades of gray add to the classic beauty of this city. There is something very comforting about going inside a warm cafe for un chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) after being out in the crisp air; your breath slows as you savor the aromas and sounds of a cafe inviting you to take off your coat and linger for awhile.

C & H, one of the consolidators I wrote about in an earlier post, has a fare of $417 round trip from LAX to Paris on Air Tahiti Nui if you book by October 12th, and fly by December 31, 2008. Taxes and fees are not included, but you won't find a better price (I just checked the airline website and the current price is $921, so the C&H price is less than half the regular price).

Give yourself, or someone you love the gift of Paris for Christmas (literally); it's one present that fits anyone who has a passport and wants to use it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Kurosawa's movie Dreams is a visual masterpiece; imagine seeing your dreams onscreen in all their disjointed, lyrical, and familiar pieces. Just as in life when dreams take on various aspects of our days and lives and combine them in strange and symbolic ways, the movie takes us on eight journeys (vignettes) which may or may not be related, but all of which feel real in some way to everyday thoughts or experiences.

There is a school of thought which posits that the feelings that you have in dreams are more important indicators of what they mean than the actions or characters in them; if this is true then feeling happy or angry in a dream tells you the truth about whatever happened in the dream. If you dream of a fight and awake angry, then your have some anger issues to resolve; if you awake happy after dreaming about a wonderful vacation, then you are on your way to living the happy life you dreamed about last night.

Maybe we can be constructive by setting an intention about where we would like insight or resolution in our lives when we go to sleep; perhaps the chance to dream will bring us an answer that we will be able to understand.

May your dreams be as beautiful as roses.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Mahilda is one of my favorite movies of all time because it is like a Harry Potter for girls; both were books before they became movies and both share a plot about an unusual child who possesses talents which annoy, aggravate, and amaze those who surround them.

Some of the greatest minds, hearts and souls are discounted, dismissed, ignored, and vilified when they try to enlighten and educate. Matilda and Harry both remind us that being different is sometimes best in an environment of ignorance, intolerance or fear.

I think everyone who grew up with "different" talents or interests can relate to these books and movies because all children feel isolated if they are not accepted or acknowledged for their skills and spirit, especially if they vary from the mainstream. I don't think any of Einstein's family or teachers gave him any accolades or even encouraged him to pursue his theories when they saw he could not tie his shoe laces. Inspiration rarely fits inside neat labels or boxes; there is no way to contain or quantify talent. Michelangelo was probably punished for drawing on walls as a child before creating his legendary frescoes; Jimi Hendrix was unable to read or write music, but he revolutionized music; and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard even though he now has an honorary degree from the school.

Lighten the world by shining your best and brightest light everyday in every way.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pennies for Cole Haan

Common Cents is a charity started by kids to help feed the homeless. By collecting pennies, they raised over $700,000 last year (about 200 tons) and they use the money to give out grants to fulfill a variety of needs with local communities; the kids decide how much and to whom to give out the grants so the program helps them learn about both the needs of others, and the power they have to help transform the world for the better.

Cole Haan has partnered with Common Cents, offering a 20% discount on all their products with any penny donation (no minimum required) and they will match all donations (penny for penny) in all Cole Haan stores nationwide. It's a great way to save on shoes and handbags while donating to a worthy cause. Cole Haan's penny match shows the company does more than make comfortable shoes; they are making more comfortable lives for those who need shoes.

A penny may not buy a Cole Haan loafer, but it could help buy a loaf of bread for a hungry family.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rent a Book

For anyone who is or has been in college, books are a heavy (literally and figuratively) necessary expense. One of the worst parts is that most books that are required for courses are not books that you would want to keep in your library after you finish the course (do you want to lug around or ever reread a book on accounting or biology?)

In the olden times (when I went to college) we used to resell our books to the bookstore as a way of recycling our textbooks, but we would get only a few cents on every dollar we had spent on buying them. Sometimes we were lucky enough to find a used textbook, but it was usually marked with highlighter and notes in the margins that were more annoying than helpful.

There is now a company that rent books! Bookrenter has filled a niche market by renting books to students for various lengths of time (week, semester, year) for a fraction of the cost of buying a new book. Students can save about 75% off the price of a book by renting a book they probably don't want to own anyway, and they get a pristine (no highlighter, no notes in the margins) copy. No need to try to sell your book after your course, you simply return it to bookrenter just like a DVD. The concept is just like Netflix, but for anyone enrolled school with an average annual book bill reaching $1000 per semester, this is much more practical, and with the savings you can actually afford to rent a movie!

Books that are worth rereading are worth buying, but for any other book, renting is better than buying.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The James Hotel

The James Hotel has the location, packages, and amenities of a world class boutique hotel in the heart of a cosmopolitan city (Chicago). It's the kind of place I love. Whatever package you want, they offer it (or can put it together for you) whether it's a girl's getaway, a proposal, a spa package, a bike tour, or a shopping trip.

I love free services, and they offer free WiFi, free 24 hour concierge, and free parking (reimbursement). You can adjust both the lighting and the temperature in your room and when you make your reservation, you can choose to reserve using their "carbon neutral" reservation system. The presence of a great on premise restaurant (Primehouse, which is renowned for their steaks), and attention to local events (they offer a special rate and package for participants in the October 12 Chicago marathon race), make them a balanced combination of global service and local awareness.

Chicago may not be on your list of go to cities, but if you happen to be in town for business, pleasure, or a layover, check into the James; you may not want to check out.