Tag Archives: vacation

9 Ways to Save During the Holidays

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It’s the same story every year, isn’t it?  The holidays arrive, in a whirlwind of candied yams, spiked nog and flimsy tinsel, and then all of a sudden it’s January 2nd; you’re cold, still hungover and decidedly broke.  So what’s a festive yet cash strapped gal/guy like yourself to do?  Why, start your shopping bonanza with thriftiness as well as cheeriness, that’s what. 

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Don’t Budge (from your budget), Blixen 

Most people begin the shopping process by fashioning a list of all the people they need to procure presents for, in a jolly and jovial, Santa-esque manner.  This is a big Ho-Ho-No.  You first need to look at the cumulative present budget that you have to work with.  Now, you can break it down, communist-like, by dividing the figure by the exact amount of people you need to buy for, and each person gets a present within this set monetary parameter.  The other option is to allocate varying percentages of the budget to each individual (let’s face it, great Aunt Trudy who’s visiting from Albuquerque, that you’ve met once, shouldn’t get the same caliber of present as, say, your spouse).  After you perform a fair assessment of who should get what, you may find that you need to trim some fat from the list; sorry, slightly sketchy Steve from down the block, no fruitcake for you this year.

Be Practical, Prancer 

A further caveat to factor in to the spending budget is any and all other holiday related expenses.  These may include, but are not limited to, shipping costs for delivering presents to those pesky out-of-state folk, postage for holiday cards, any new holiday specific home decor items, the anticipated surge in the electric bill due to lights continuously running, scrumptious holiday themed treats, and merry more.  Decide what is essential and then assign these things a monetary cap.   

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Carols & Cash only, Comet 

This is an age old trick that can help even the most magnanimous shopper stay within required fiscal boundaries; leave the credit cards at home and only carry wintry-cold, hard cash.  Some people can never stick to the budgets they have devised once they find themselves in the glittering shopping malls, all strategically loaded with goods designed to drain your bank accounts.  To avoid a Maxed Out X-mas, leave all forms of plastic behind and just bring the set amount of bills necessary to get all your stuff.  This way when your cockles are warmed by the sight of a Twerking Elmo or an Electrolux with disco lights – ‘That would just bring little Timmy oh so much joy this year!’ – you are forced to stay within the confines of your cash limit.  

Don’t dawdle, Dasher!

Often the weeks leading up the the big events can be hectic and stressful, leaving you with little time to get your shopping done.  So what’s the result?  You end up sprinting through whatever stores are open on Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa Eve; a virtual prisoner to whatever items are left in stock, at ridiculously marked up rates.  “Was gonna get Janey a doll made of yarn this year, but the only thing left here are these Tiffany earrings – oh well!  We’ll have to get her ears pierced, too – they do that for toddlers, right?”  No matter how busy you are, don’t procrastinate!  Get your shopping done post-haste.

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DIY, Dancer

Sure, everybody likes shiny wrapping paper and all that jazz, but some presents can take the form of actions rather than goods.  Offering to shovel an elderly neighbor’s walkway, cat-sitting your crazy aunt’s even crazier cat, making a few extra gingerbread cookies for your ornery mail-person; all these kindly gestures are presents that will be very much appreciated and don’t cost a red-nosed cent.  

Use e-Cards, e-Cupid!

Holiday greeting cards can be fun, but when you think about how expensive they can be, along with the added burden of postage, in addition to the amount of trees that have to be murdered… e-Cards look like the way to go.  With zero waste and tons of fun, you can customize these little fellows to say (and even sing!) anything you like.  They are either free or very inexpensive, relative to physical cards, so utilizing these can help free up some extra cash for the rest of the budget.  Also, they’re quite time efficient; knock out that entire list in a just a couple of clicks.   

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Donate, Dunder 

If times are tight for you, just imagine how bad they can be for some others out there.  One way to combat the rampant commercialism and overindulgent consumerism is to collect a few of the more mature members on your list (not the lil’ ones, of course), and see who would be amenable to taking a donation (in their name) to a charity in lieu of a present.  Volunteer that you would like to do the same thing; this way several of you can combine your assets and deliver a sizable gift to the organization of your choice.  It’s the season of giving, and going through with this will have you feeling truly in the spirit.  

Let’s Vacay, Vixen

If you have a significant other, significant mother or close-knit family, you may want to skip the gifts altogether and go on a trip.  The good news here is that during the actual holiday dates (Christmas, New Year’s Eve), prices on hotels, plane fares and the like take a dramatic dip.  It’s a great way to come together as a couple, or entire clan, and see some of the natural and man-made gifts already out there for the taking! 

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Be resourceful, Rudolph 

If you end up with a couple of pennies left over after all is said and unwrapped (or are given a few of those super thoughtful ‘gift cards’ to various stores yourself), you can think ahead to next year and take advantage of the cavalcade of sales now occurring at all the local shops (and online as well).  Yes, shopping may be the last thing you want to engage in all over again, but the slashed prices on inventory (that just needs to be moved) are really unbeatable in January.  So light your sleigh to savings! …or something like that.  

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-Joe Leone   

Most Romantic Cities to Propose in: Focus on Jaipur

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Jai ho!  Thus far, we have directed our attention primarily on the world’s most romantic European towns as potential places to propose.  It’s now time to grab your passport (and visa) and head halfway around the world to the mystical and breathtaking land of India.  We shall visit Jaipur, “The Pink City,” and investigate all of the heart-stoppingly gorgeous locales, from forts to palaces to garden spectaculars, sure to have your very own Princess Jasmine swooning with amorous delight.

Nahargarh Fort

To truly understand why this was deemed ‘The Pink City,’ you need to check out the epic view of the cityscape from Nahargarh Fort.  Perched high on the Aravalli Hills, there is no other place that lets you fully drink in the luscious pink hues that permeate Jaipur’s sprawling edifices.  The reason why this place is dripping in this light fuchsia color is because in 1853 every building in the city was painted this way to welcome the ruling British Prince of Wales who was stopping in for a visit (guess he was very secure in his masculinity and had quite the penchant for pink?)  Striped and expansive, Nahargarh Fort is colloquially known as “Tiger Fort,” as ‘Nahargarh’ translates to “house of tigers.”  So bring your wildcat of a woman to the roof terrace and gaze out over the vast and pulchritudinous terrain.  You will feel like real royalty as you ask her to reign over this awe-inspiring and ancient kingdom with you forever.

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Amber Fort

This 16th century reconstructed palace hosted the esteemed Amber family for several generations, hence the eponymous title.  It is quite the feast for the eyes, inside and out.  After traversing through the beautifully intimidating threshold, you may find yourself in any number of rooms rooms completely covered in minuscule mirrors.  Take a moment to view the artfully fractured images of yourselves.  Next, weave through the ornately designed hallways until you find a massive room thoroughly ensconced in inlaid jewels.  This is the spot.  Even if the ring you are proposing with has a rather diminutive stone, it will be bolstered by the seemingly never-ending waterfall of brilliant gems surrounding the two of you.

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Elephant Ride

If your special someone has an affinity for large (yet gentle) quadrupeds, you may just want to take advantage of the elephant rides provided at the base of the hill leading up to the Amber Fort.  These majestic, and coincidentally, adorable creatures are painted in a wonderful array of bold colors, and their broad backs may just offer up the idea location for a big-question-popping.  Imagine her delight as you share a post-‘Yes!’ kiss atop a naturally elegant elephant, as it leads you on an actual and simultaneously metaphorical journey upwards (not to mention the sheer selfie-potential this moment has).

*Just as a side note, for those who are justifiably concerned with the welfare of the elephants, these amazing animals are so relatively large that the weight of a pair of humans on them is virtually unfelt.  Also, they love when you give them treats.

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Jal Mahal

Is your future betrothed an aquaphile of sorts?  You may hit the proposal jackpot with the Jal Mahal (“Water Palace”), which appears to defy the laws of physics as it hovers over the surface of the magnificent Man Sagar Lake.  This palace was constructed at the onset of the 19th century, but was made to resemble another lake palace, in Udaipur – so it’s got a lot of history imbued into the architecture.  You currently can not gain entry into the palace, as it is being converted into a luxury hotel, but that is just as well; the most amazing views to be had are when the palace is just in the distance, so you and your sweetie can take in the entire lake vista.  The sun reflecting on the lake’s surface does magical things, so it’s in your hands if you want it to be a sunrise or sunset themed proposal.

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Vidhan Sabha

If there is one thing Jaipur-ians know how to do, it’s put on a spectacular light show.  Meaning, some of the building exteriors are so extravagantly lit up at night that they feel almost other-worldly in their splendor.  The perfect example of this is Vidhan Sabha.  Structured in the typically wondrous fashion of Rajasthan architecture, this opulent legislative complex is aesthetically satisfying inside and out.  However, it’s the lustrous nighttime lighting and ambiance of the facade that really wows.  Bring your soon-to-be yours here for a remarkable proposal, bathed in pink, amber and lavender luminescence.

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Hawa Mahal

Further fueling the pink-ness of this city is the gigantic and extravagant Hawa Mahal palace.  This incredible experiment in architectural magnificence is commonly known as the “Palace of the Winds,” as it was erected to allow the females of the royal family to secretly watch the goings-on of everyday life below.  It was also built to resemble Krishna’s crown, giving the lovely rose structure a pious tinge to it.  Either venture inside with your dear and do the proposal deed as you watch the hoi polloi mingling from afar, or simply from down below, as the two of your bask in all the palace’s coral glory.

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Central Park

Much like the park of the same name nestled in the middle of Manhattan, this garden laden enclosure provides a peaceful and serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the main metropolitan area.  The lush gardens feature numerous Jaipur-specific flower breeds that are as rare as they are delicately formed.  There is also a variety of sculptures and artfully designed structures to get lost amongst, as you find the perfect grass carpeted nook to rest upon with your beloved.  Again, pick the time of day that showcases your snookie and their surroundings in the most flattering light, and then ask away.  You’ll never feel closer to nature, and each other (…especially if an inquisitive and mischievous monkey pops over to say ‘hi’ and inadvertently scares your lover, causing them to clutch you even tighter).

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Smriti Van

If you want to take things to the extreme in terms of an ecological haven, then Smirti Van is the environmentally lush way to go.  Ensconced in naturally occurring wonder, the rolling hills of this vegetation rich forrest provide many cozy locales to snuggle up in with your sweetie.  There are tons of different tree and plant species therein, as well as flocks of exotic birds dancing about in the sky.  There’s even an open air theater that is accessible to the theatrically inclined public.  Overall, this could be a great place to escape to after visiting all the iconic forts and palaces of the otherwise populated and arid city.  Wind your way down a path amongst the sounds and smells of the rich atmospheric greenery and then pause…drop to one knee…and let the magic of Jaipur do the rest.

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-Joe Leone

Best Places to Propose: Focus on Prague

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So we’ve (virtually) ventured to Paris and Venice in our quest to find the perfect locale to pop the question, but our next whimsical destination may arguably be the most picturesque and swoon-inducing yet.  Yes, pulchritudinous Prague, the Czech Republic’s crowning achievement in gorgeous Gothic architecture and Roman Era throwback romance.  So grab your passport and your best gal as we czech out one of Europe’s coolest and most heart thumping cities!

The Astronomical Clock (the Prague Orloj)  

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If you want to send your sweetie the message that your love transcends all space and time, then you must propose to her under the auspices of the awe-inspiring Astronomical Clock.  The world’s oldest running timepiece of its kind, this old clock was first installed in the Old Town City Hall, in the famous Old Town Square in 1410 – bottom line: it’s old.  It records the actual time of day as well as the moon cycle and possibly all the time that humanity has left on the planet.  Regardless, it’s ornate, epic and unforgettable; the perfect place for the woman who really enjoys memorable metaphors.  As well as, of course, reading her ever-accurate horoscope.

Prague Castle

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The Prague Castle is the most massive (still standing) ancient castle on earth.  Old, intricately designed and ginormous: kind of a theme in this town.  Just to name a few of the numerous structures therein, The Castle is comprised of the beautifully intimidating Saint Vitus Cathedral (Basilica), the breathtaking Basilica of St. George, the chaste

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St. Vitus Cathedral at twilight

Church of the Virgin Mary, the delightfully cavernous Vladislav Hall, a secret chamber where the Czech Crown Jewels are stowed away, the rolling St. Wenceslas’ Vineyard just off to the east, and, oh yeah, the official residence of the Czech President.  Bring your hopeful bride-to-be to this historically rich and splendidly sprawling Castle and its grounds only if you both are sturdy enough to hike through the inordinately expansive terrain.  You don’t want to get down on one knee just because you’re out of breath.

Charles Bridge / Vltava River 

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Practically every super romantic city has at least one major river winding through it, with an iconic bridge arching overhead.  The Charles Bridge, named after its benefactor King Charles IV, provides some of the most astonishing views the city has to offer.  Construction on the bridge began in the 1350’s, and it wasn’t completed until around 1400 (and you thought that K-mart being built  in your town was taking forever).  This “most” (Czech for ‘bridge’) was built to replace the Judith Bridge, which crumbled after a devastating flood, and was possibly named after Judith Light.  Anyway, if you time it just right and bring your shnookie there at dusk, the bridge is lit simultaneously from underneath, from strategically placed lampposts above and, inadvertently, from the overlooking buildings of the cityscape.  Thus, drenching you and your full-time lover in an ethereal, otherworldly glow that is more romantic than Cupid riding a pink diamond covered unicorn that secretes Rosé champagne.  If that scene alone doesn’t completely knock her socks off, remind her that the Vltava river runs all along the Bohemian Forrest, a mystical place of magic and wonder.  Sigh.

The Dancing House (Nationale-Nederlanden) 

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Does your woman really stand out from the crowd?  Like, really stand out?  Then perhaps a proposal trip to the deconstructivist Dancing House (aka the “Fred and Ginger” house – get it?) is in store.  This structure stands in stark contrast to the preterite surrounding architectural motifs that Prague is typically associated with (Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau), and had numerous Prague-ites up in arms when it was built in 1996.  It’s uber modern, funky lines and ‘almost falling over’ slants make it seem like something out of Tim Burton’s wonderfully warped mind.  It was actually a joint venture between two innovative architects: the Croatian-Czech Vlado Milunić and the Canadian-American Frank Gehry.  If you’re getting your future ‘Mrs.’ an alternative engagement ring, this could be the ideal place to present it to her.

Wenceslas Square

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If the Old Town Square (where the Astronomical Clock is featured) is just a tad too mainstream for you and your cutie-patootie, a nice stroll to the Wenceslas Square may be in order.  Equally rich in history, Wenceslas is more oblong-shaped than ‘square,’ and has housed many demonstrations and parades dating as far back as the good ole days when the area was simply known as “Bohemia.”  It features many stand-out sites, such as the gilded facade of the Hotel Evropa, the legendary National Museum and more ‘Man on Horse’ statues than you can count.  This location could be quite nice if you want your proposal to have that classical, weighty and storied feel to it…or if you guys are equestrians.

Mucha Museum

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Does your lady fair have a flair for art?  Groundbreaking Art-Noveau, in particular?  One of the most beloved artistes to come out of Prague is Alphonse Mucha, a turn of the 20th century provocateur d’paint.  Best known for his revolutionarily styled portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, Mucha became synonymous with the sweeping Art Nouveau movement.  His work can be seen throughout Prague, in stained glass, such as in the luminous piece above featured in the St. Vitus Cathedral (possibly a nice proposal place too…but you’d have to do it really quietly since you’d be in a church).  The Mucha Museum showcases many of the eponymous artist’s works, and just may put your betrothed in the optimal mood for rococo romance and eternal, everlasting love.  Sigh again.

Star Summer Palace (Letohrádek Hvězda)  

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If your special someone (who’s to say they have to be a ‘woman’ – it’s 2015, after all) likes to travel off the beaten path, the Star Summer Palace, or “Star Villa,” could be just the romantically remote spot to take the knee.  A few miles away from the center of the city, the Star Villa is located in the middle of a game reserve (which could appeal to the animal lover as well).  The building itself was constructed during the Renaissance period, and has that ‘maiden trapped in the window’ / Rapunzel feel to it.  The structure is in the shape of a six-pointed star (hence the stellar name), and could be worked into a proposal phrase, along the lines of “You are a shining star / I’m starry-eyed when I look at you / Want to watch Star Trek?” …or something to that effect.

Whichever spot you opt to take your loved one to, it will be amazing, as all of this dazzling city is aesthetically, historically and atmospherically bountiful.  So good luck, or as the Czechs say: “hodně štěstí!” …just rolls right off the tongue.

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-Joe Leone

10 Things to do with Inheritance Money (Acquired After Selling Your Diamonds!)

You’ve just received a substantial amount from an inheritance sale.  What to do with the money?  Odds are that the person who willed you the funds wanted you to use the capital for something fulfilling.  Now is your chance to either invest in your long term future or blow it on shoes.  From the funds procured off a modest stone’s sale, all the way up to a Hope Diamond-esque cash windfall, here is an ascending list of options for what to do with your newfound cash.

$5,000

1 – Invest in a stock, CD or something else related to your “financial portfolio” …or, a racehorse!  An albeit risky investment, it does have the potential to pay out high dividends.  With an average purchase price around $60,000, your 12% investment will go a long way.  Highlight: front row seats at the race track while you cheer your mighty steed on, coupled with the possible thrill of victory/making a huge profit.

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20 Things To Do After Divorce

 

Life doesn’t always play out the way we plan.  In fact, it more often than not seems to work the other way around.  After going through a divorce, you will inevitably experience a wide array of emotions, many of which are far from pleasant.  This is all part of the process of moving on.  In taking the proper steps for self preservation and healing, it is important to realize that your life is not over – far from it.  A new chapter in the Story of You has begun.  New opportunities and challenges await around every corner, and when you are indeed ready, amazing things will be within your grasp.

Here is a compilation of twenty activities (ranging from simple, free to ones to those that will potentially require substantial funding) that will have you relishing your newfound single life and will help to provide the necessary closure you need.
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