28. March 2010 · Comments Off on Disney’s Dive Quest · Categories: Travel And Leisure · Tags: , ,

One of the highlights of my family’s recent trip to Disney was taking part in Disney’s Dive Quest. The tour takes place at Disney’s Living Seas in Epcot. What a trip! We arrived at our tour time (around 4:30pm) outside of Epcot’s front entrance, near the blue sign where our dive masters met us.

A behind the scenes tour of the Living Seas was first with a history of the facility. Classroom time included a video and overview of the safety measures and rules. The staff was more than courteous and answered all questions thoroughly. We had to show our dive cards (required) and give the basic information to be out-fitted for our dive. All equipment is provided except for a mask/snorkel, not surprisingly Disney requires you to wear their approved gear so everyone looks similar.

For the beginning of the dive, you stay with the instructors and they bring you around to the various photo shoot areas. The dive is videotaped and you have the opportunity to buy it at the end. We had our first picture taken with our family (they were on the other side of the very thick ‘plastic’). We then went into an air tank underneath the water where we could take off our masks, wave to the camera and say hi. The last photo opportunity was when we went through a rock structure in the tank.

The Living Seas has 8,000 species of under-water life and was truly the most diverse population that I have ever seen on a dive. There were 4 gigantic turtles bigger than me, numerous sharks and tropical fish. While on the dive you are not allowed to touch any of the wild life (even the coral that is fake) but one of the turtles did brush by me. Very cool. I thought I would be a little more nervous with the sharks but they did not come very close and the one or two times they did I just swam away from them. This was truly the dive of a lifetime. The dive lasted 45 minutes (15-20 with the instructor). The entire tour is 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

After the dive we returned to the well stocked locker-rooms. They provide everything including towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, hairdryers, etc. Anything you might need beforehand and afterwards. Women are given special ties for their hair so the animals are not hurt if an elastic comes out while on the dive. Nothing is rushed.

When we went back to the classroom, we were given Disney Divequest t-shirts, pins and shown the movie of the dive. Of course we purchased it (it was around $20 or $30). There were drinks provided including tea/coffee/soda/water.

The dive cost $140.00 and you do not have to have admission to Epcot for the day of the dive. So if you had a day at the hotel/pool and then headed over to Divequest you could save a day of admission because once you are done they do not escort you out of the park (although it is about 6:30pm). The adult dive certification card (NAUI / PADI) is required and they ask for a driver’s license or other government-issued picture id. You must be at least 12 years old in order to dive in The Living Seas and my little one has already expressed an interest in doing so.

27. March 2010 · Comments Off on Pedro Almodovar · Categories: Arts And Entertainment · Tags: , ,

Pedro Almoldovar was born in 1949 in Calzada de Calatrava in the Castilla la Mancha region of central Spain. Since his film making debut in the eighties he’s written, directed and acted in more than thirty films and can easily lay claim to the title of Spain’s greatest living film director.

Famed for his use of melodrama and his labyrinthine plots, his films have never shied away from serious subject matter – homosexuality, transvestitism and death (particularly death by AIDS) have all popped up as themes throughout his work. Almodovar also likes to use marginalised, socially ostracised characters and groups in his films. It is this hunger for the unconventional that has made people take note of his work. In many respects his films were a response to the decades of oppression under the dictatorship of Franco and Almodovar was at the forefront of an artistic movement that was free to express itself for the first time since the Civil War.

In 2004 the controversial director launched his most recent film at the Cannes film festival. “Bad Education” drew on the directors own experiences at a catholic school during the sixties. The film confronts the sexual abuse of the boys by the teachers and also the homoerotic love of two young students. The film was met with universal acclaim and cemented Almodovar’s position at the forefront of world cinema.

The films success followed on the back of the acclaim of his two previous directorial efforts. “All About My Mother” was released in 1999 to high praise from critics and cinema goers alike; it was a candid story that showed a softer more mature side to Almodovar’s direction and continued his use of women and the idea of sisterhood that is prevalent in many of his works. Almodovar later dedicated the film to “all mothers and any actress who’s ever played a mother” and the Spaniard picked up numerous awards at home and abroad including his first Oscar for “Best overseas film”. In 2002 Almodovar released “Talk to Her” to similar rave reviews and critical acclaim and the film earned him his second Oscar for “Best screenplay”.

Before this golden period in Almodovar’s career, many thought that his talents had lost their direction. His films of the late 80’s and 90’s had come in for some fairly heavy criticism and had been the cause of some fairly fierce debate in cinematic circles. “Tie me up, Tie me Down”, “High Heels” and “Kiki”. Some were lambasted for their supposed misogynistic undertones including a shocking rape scene from “Kiki”. “Tie me up, Tie me down” also came in for some heavy criticism from women’s groups for it’s portrayal of a women who falls in love with her kidnapper.

Almodovar also famously gave a first acting role to Antonio Banderas in his 1987 film “Law of Desire”. Banderas also took on the lead role in the aforementioned “Tie me Up, Tie me down”. Banderas later moved to Hollywood where he achieved great fame as his career blossomed.

Amoldovar is currently shooting his latest offering due for release in 2006; it’s entitled “Volver” (“Filming” in English) and will star Hollywood actress Penelope Cruz, one of Spain’s most successful daughters. At the moment it seems as if the Spaniard can do no wrong and he’s acclaimed as one of the best film makers in the world today having produced many films that are already viewed as cinematic classics. At age 55, it’s clear that the man has still got a lot to offer and we could still be watching his creations for many years to come.
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26. March 2010 · Comments Off on Women Who Behave Badly · Categories: Womens Interests · Tags: , ,

Sisterhood! It’s such a loaded term for women. No two of us define it quite the same way. There has always been a particular rhetoric about women as sisters, but for some of us, the reality doesn’t always measure up. Our collective struggle against class and gender barriers are ties that theoretically bind; the word sister itself has become synonymous with woman. Yet women from every socioeconomic group still report that the search for true sisterhood is at times clouded with confusion-if not straight-up pain. At times, women’s relationships with one another have often been fraught with tension. Truth is, sometimes we are our own worst enemy…. Whatever happened to lifting each other as we climb?”

Sociologists point out that each of our lives leaves an imprint on our collective sisterhood; how we treat one another has a ripple effect that extends far beyond the women directly affected. Perhaps you don’t have a tattoo of boxing gloves, but ask yourself: Have you ever looked another woman up and down? Have you ever laughed about another woman behind her back? Spilled her secrets? Have you ever flirted with another woman’s husband? Have you ever had a silent thought, even for a split second, wishing failure on another woman at the job? Be honest!

The fact is, to varying degrees, most of us are guilty of being less than sisterly at some point in our lives. As women we must agree that our struggle to love ourselves is at the crux of our issues with one another. “At the core of being able to be a sister, of being someone who can be relied upon for unconditional love and support, is being able to love yourself. What I have learned thru various relationships with women from all walks of life is that “Intrinsic to sisterhood is self-love, self-esteem, and understanding and accepting who you are.

23. March 2010 · Comments Off on “coffee for $1.00” at J.p. Licks · Categories: Food & Beverage · Tags: , ,


Coffee sampling and $4.00 off promotion

In addition to offering a $1.00 coffee, J.P. Licks will also offer free coffee samples every evening from 6-9 p.m. in all locations and will be providing customers during this time a coupon for $4.00 off a one pound bag of their home roasted beans. The samplings will enable customers to try some of the different varieties of coffees that J.P. Licks has to offer, including their wonderful decafs, all of which are Swiss Water Processed, which uses no chemicals in the decaffeination process.

It’s all in the Blend

Since February is “Specialty Coffee Month”, you’ll be able to try a variety of coffees such as J.P. Licks’ Rainforest Alliance coffee known as “Don Telmo Reserva” from Colombia. It’s certified organic, shade grown and bird-friendly, and the Rainforest Alliance seal ensures that everyone in the chain (growers, harvesters, processors, and Mother Earth) gets fair treatment and compensation.

Don Telmo Reserva Colombian coffee is one of the smoothest Colombian flavors. It’s medium bodied and very well balanced with slight notes of chocolate. Those who like bold, full flavored coffee such as Sumatra or Ethiopia, would like J.P. Licks’ Winter Blend. The House Blend is perfect for folks who like smooth coffee with medium acidity. Each of these coffees, as well as a dark roast and a decaf will be available during the $1 coffee promotion.

J.P. Licks offers one of the widest varieties of coffees on a rotating basis. Their Fair Trade Organic coffees include: Ethiopia, Mild Blend, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Decaf Cascadia Blend, Decaf Mexico and Decaf Sumatra. Other favorites offered are: Costa Rica, Espresso Blend, House Blend, Guatamala, Kenya, Kilimanjaro Blend and Decaf Espresso.

The award-winning homemade ice cream café with eight shops in and around Boston has coffee blends to please any palate. To learn more about J.P. Licks’ special coffee brews or other offerings, visit jplicks.com.

Best of Boston and Beyond

For more than 27 years, J.P. Licks has been serving homemade ice cream, frozen yogurt and other specialties in their eight Kosher-certified shops in and around Boston. They have won, literally, hundreds of awards over the years. Most recently, J.P. Licks has received six “Best of Boston’s” from Boston Magazine; 10 consecutive “Best” awards from the Boston Phoenix Reader’s Poll and three consecutive “Bests” from The Weekly Dig magazine. J.P. Licks was also chosen as Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s “Small Business of the Year” in 2007.

Additionally, J.P. Licks roasts their own fair trade and organic coffee beans in the Jamaica Plain store AND they cater ice cream parties, too. Visit the website at jplicks.com for even more information.

17. March 2010 · Comments Off on 7 Hot Christmas Gifts For A Man Who Has Everything · Categories: Shopping And Product Reviews · Tags: , ,

I write all about mens gifts, and one of the most common questions I get asked through my website is “what gift do I buy for my man. He has plenty of money and buys what he wants, so he already has everything he wants”.

This is of course pretty common. Lots of men just get out there and buy something if they want it, they don’t drop hints near birthday time hoping that the hint will be picked up and acted on. Almost by definition, if he wants it he’s already got it.

Not always of course, often it’s a question of cost. There are men with a list of wants that they would like to fill, but just can’t afford them. If your man is like that, and you can afford those gifts, then ask him and see what he’ll say, he’ll probably jump at the chance to tell you about those things he’d love the most but can’t buy for himself.

But lets assume for a moment that your man can afford what he wants, and so you’re a little stuck for ideas for unique and unusual birthday gifts or Christmas gifts that are going to get his juices going.

Here’s 7 ideas for gifts for him. He may love all of them, he may love none of them, but I doubt it.

There’ll be at least one gift for him there that he’ll love. Some are extremely expensive and some aren’t.

1. Lingerie. Now it isn’t entirely a unique gift idea but it’s one that is almost guaranteed to work. Men love lingerie. Worn by their women of course. I have seen lots of lists of favorite gifts for men and there is one common gift theme. Lingerie is always up there.

No matter how many pieces of beautiful lingerie a woman has, if she selects well and chooses the right piece I can just about guarantee her man will love it, provided of course she wears it for him.

It’s almost a can’t fail gift.

And there is wonderful lingerie available for women of any size, so girls it’s no excuse to say that you’re a little large. If your man loves you large he’ll love you large and looking great in some sexy lingerie.

2. Adventure gifts. Most men love adventure and adrenalin. Not all, but most. And many women aren’t

aware that there are some excellent companies around that cater to this extremely well. It’s possible to find all sorts of adventure gifts for men and women that you would never have thought existed.

And for all sorts of tastes. Would he love to do his first parachute jump? Try white water rafting?

Drive a tank or a supercar? Go zero-g just like the astranauts do in training? You can give him a gift of any of these things and thousands more, from the extreme adrenalin gift to the gentle and invigorating and pampering gift. The adventure gift companies cater for all tastes in outdoors and adventure and adrenalin, even to beautiful and luxurious days like wine tastings and spa days. There’s something for everyone.

3. An eco holiday. There is a growing worldwide movement to charity and volunteer and ecological work and travel. Rather than just buy him a holiday in Europe, which is a little ho hum, why not buy him some volunteer travel with a difference. There are lots of companies which offer adventure travel with a twist, volunteer work that helps out those less fortunate than ourselves, both people and animals and the environment.

He may end up on a research vessel in the waters off Mexico counting turtles or in the wilds of Africa measuring the distribution of African animals. The destinations are almost always exotic. There is work to be done but it is so interesting and adventuruous and invigorating that he probably won’t even see it as work. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s adventurous and it gives back to the environment and to many less fortunate than ourselves helping committed scientists with their research.

It costs, it’s not free, but it’s an extremely unique and fabulous holiday that he’s unlikely to better.

4 Chinese art. This is a favorite of mine because I lived in China for a while and just love Chinese art. We have so many pieces that we don’t have enough space to hang them all. From beatiful Chinese wall hangings to the absolutely fabuluous and quite unique teapots of Yixing, there are so many Chinese artworks that would go so well in so many of our Western homes.

And it’s so cheap. For the man who loves his art, Chinese art is a gift of art with a difference.

5. Mens jewelry. Now this is a gift for a man who likes to wear jewelry obviously, and you need to establish this first. However for a man who does like his jewelry there are some extremely modern and stunning jewelry pieces available on the net now at very competitive prices. And they are made exclusively for men using some of the finest and most masculine of jewelry metals. Like Titanium. If you haven’t checked out Titanium jewelry for men on the net lately and your man likes jewelry you should do so. It makes for a wonderful and sometimes extremely romantic gift for the right man.

6. An elephant painting. Another one for the man who likes his art. Painted by a real Asian elephant on paper which is made from elephant dung. Now before you wonder if I’ve gone mad check it out. The elephants really do the painting, I have a video of it on my website. And believe it or not they paint recognisable objects. The paintings look great, are extremely inexpensive, and would make a great artwork to hang near the table to stimulate some evening conversation with his friends.

And in Thailand, where a lot of the elephant paintings are done, they also make the most stunning paper from elephant dung. And yes, again I’ve got links on my website to sites where you can actually see how it’s done, it’s not a fraud. It’s beautiful paper, and you can get his elephant painting done on elephant dung paper.

7. And for the man who has absolutely everything and who won’t like anything at all from number 1 to 6, then buy him a whale. It is perfectly possible to do. He doesn’t actually get a whale wrapped in paper to unwrap on his birthday. However there are organisations like the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin trust that track and identify individual whales and dolphins, and allow you to name his own whale or dolphin. There is a real whale or dolphin out there that is named for him.

The money helps in the protection of our whales and gives him a unique and memorable gift.

So there you have it, 7 suggestions for great gifts for the man who has everything. Ranging in price from $50 or so, to seriously expensive.

Now you don’t have any excuses to say “I have no idea what to buy him for his birthday” any more.

15. March 2010 · Comments Off on Love? Sex? Oh! That is Just 5% of What Love Might Represent! What About the Other 95%? [part 1 of 3] · Categories: Relationships · Tags: , ,

All of us are blessed to love and to be loved, Cheers!

TO LOVE is to show by examples of loving all mankind through sharing and caring.

TO BE LOVED is to expect readers to understand the message of ‘to love and to be loved’ and learn from it and apply them to yourself, your family and to all other humans beings. Why?

The message here is clear and dear. Love is a great topic where no one is not touched. But perhaps to many people, love is restricted to only just that special one or just within the family or his circles of friends. It is not wrong too. Isn’t this love only for someone or our parents or those whom we are related? “Ask me to love others? Impossible, they don’t love me, why should I love them?” I want to mind my own business, I am too busy with my ‘loved ones’.

But if one can just accept the fact that we are brothers and sisters living in the same planet, Earth, try to expand this most powerful emotion, LOVE for all. What I am talking now is about divine love, a genuine love which is called an UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Our Lord even loves the sinners, it is true! Loving sinners and everyone of us. Aren’t we also sinners? If God discriminate people in groups of saints and sinners, which category will we be then? Where can God place us then?
Let’s look at the types of loves that people always eye differently. When we talk about love, many minds would be reminded of the physical act of love between males and females. Oh! that is just maybe 5% of what love might represent. What about the other 95% Love? A white blank sheet of paper dotted with a small black spot; and the rest of the paper left untouched! What can we see on this piece of paper? The answers of most people will be seeing the black dot, not the 95% of the paper which is white!

Well, it is just natural…. nothing to be alarmed… Most of us have been trained to see the black spot, not the big white space that surrounds the black spot. Most people are not trained to see the white space in the paper. Most people looks at things negatively.

There are many different types of love, I have collectively written them down for all to have a glance…. maybe you can add in some more…these are just some of these love.

[1] Divine or Genuine love

This is divine love that radiates from the highest level of love that mankind knows and needs. It is from a divine source. It is an unconditional love for all mankind, his creations. The cup of love will be so full that it will overflow and the more you give, the more the cup will be filled up….

This is the universal language that unites. This is the grandest love of all, unfading and eternal, it has been in existence beyond any creation in space or cosmos, before time or after time……this love will create and bear the fruits of peace and happiness and encourages spiritual wealth and health that will exists forever….

Because of this love, we are ‘lighted’ with this powerful source of emotion, this is the ‘bridge’ to peace, joy and faith. Love knows no barrier, love knows no hate, love knows no lies…. Love is flawless.

Many problems arises among us because we have forgotten to place Divine Love as priority. Divine Love when placed first among other loves will solve countless problems on entanglements.

[2] Parental love

Whoever you are or whatever status you are now, we are all born of a woman, the most respectful woman whom we call our mother. And raised in a family where there is this male-head, we call the father. We cannot deny this fact, we are not cloned or mass produced by any material source. We are born human and we have human parents. Respect and love is demanded and expected of us. No other love can exceed this human love from our parents. gee…. our parents call us babies no matter how old we are…. rite? In our parents eyes, we are and will be always babies for them even when one climbs up the family tree to become a grandfather! It is as commanded, love our parents.

There have been countless stories of unconditional love shared on parental love, telling us on how great and valuable this parental love is. You might not understand yet, but when you become a parent, you will taste it too. So, take some time to be with our parents, call them, serve them, obey them, heed them, love them….at least to see them comforted and provided for till one day they be rested. By then, don’t regret that you have loved less, cared less and cry over those things you have never done!

[3] Siblings’ love

We talk about brotherhood or sisterhood…. actually there is no such word, but to evoke in all a better memory of brotherly or sisterly relationships. Blood is thicker than water, know what I mean? Brothers and sisters are all born of the same womb of your mother. Remember these? That we grew up together, we played together, bathed together, laughed together and fought each other…. We spent many years together….

Love between siblings are wonderful bonds that are shared only among brothers and sisters. Reflect on what is genuine and expand it… There are touching real stories where the strength of brotherly or sisterly love are tested. As brothers and sisters, we love and trust each other at the same time gain mutual understanding and partnership.

to be continued…

15. March 2010 · Comments Off on Can You Recognize The Signs Of Restless Leg Syndrome · Categories: Medicine · Tags: , ,

Some researchers estimate that Restless leg syndrome affects as many as 12 million Americans.

RLS was once thought to be due to disease in the blood vessels of the legs or in the nerves in the legs that control leg movement and sensation. Both of those suggestions have been rejected. RLS occurs in both genders, although the incidence may be slightly higher in women. Symptoms may begin at any stage of life, although the disorder is more common with increasing age.

Restless leg syndrome usually begins slowly. Over time, the legs become more affected. Individuals affected with the disorder describe the sensations as burning, creeping, tugging, or like insects crawling inside the legs. When RLS is advanced, a person may feel these symptoms in the hands and arms.

Certain medications-such as anti nausea drugs (prochlorperazine or metoclopramide), anti seizure drugs (phenytoin or droperidol), anti psychotic drugs (haloperidol or phenothiazine derivatives), and some cold and allergy medications-may aggravate symptoms. Other triggering situations are periods of inactivity such as long car trips, sitting in a movie theater, long-distance flights, immobilization in a cast, or relaxation exercises.

Because moving the legs (or other affected parts of the body) relieves the discomfort, people with RLS often keep their legs in motion to minimize or prevent the sensations. They may pace the floor, constantly move their legs while sitting, and toss and turn in bed. Exercise and relaxation techniques may be helpful to relieve the discomfort. People combat the sensation of restless legs in a number of ways – by stretching, jiggling their legs, pacing the floor, exercising or walking.

There are herbal supplements such as LegCalm that will help to eliminate the crawling and uncomfortable sensations experienced in RLS. This particular herbal supplement will also aid absorption of minerals from the diet, preventing deficiencies and anemia. as well as improve circulation.

RLS is often unrecognized or mis diagnosed. In many people the condition is not diagnosed until 10-20 years after symptoms begin. Once correctly diagnosed, RLS can often be treated successfully.

14. March 2010 · Comments Off on Sisters On A Journey: 10 Best Ways To Ensure The Midwifery Profession Continues To Struggle · Categories: Careers · Tags: , ,

Sisters on a Journey: 10 Best Ways to ensure the midwifery profession continues to struggle or How to Self-Destruct While Providing Entertainment for the Medical Community

1) Do not make students feel welcome – Being a student midwife is particularly difficult in states that do not embrace out of hospital birth. Ensure that the dinky group of practicing midwives remains miniscule and ineffective by alienating as many new recruits as possible. Whenever students are present at educational meetings, discount whatever comments they may add to the conversation, after all, they are merely midwives-to-be and couldn’t possibly know more about a topic than you. And if a student expresses an opinion different than yours – she’s wrong.

2) Allow clients to not pay you – turns your business into an expensive hobby and ensures that future clients are treated in a discriminatory manner if they pay you.

3) Criticize and belittle – whenever possible, particularly with a public audience, discuss how another midwife handles renatal care, labors, births, postpartum care wrong – meaning – she does it differently than you do it. Consumers who are privy to a number of these shred fests, come to believe no midwife knows how to do anything properly. Point Fingers & Wag Tongues – Each time some poor midwife ends up with her name plastered in the media, tell the media “this” would not occur if only there were licensing. Never mind that consumers don’t “get it” because they know bad things happen with licensed professionals and everybody knows someone whose physician or nurse made an error.

4) Create exclusive organizations – Ah, what better way to snip the growth of midwifery in the bud than to slam the doors of membership shut on those who are not your clones. Of course, it’s ok to revere foreign midwives, particularly those from 3rd world countries because they have preserved customs.

5) Permanently entrench a select few in national and state professional organizations – A puppet board is the best way to be sure that no change will occur. Keeping control to only those sharing a narrow view keeps the midwifery “race” pure and myopic.

6) Adopt ever more invasive technology as the standard of care – Midwifery is heavy duty science and must incorporate all the latest devices and lab tests in order to provide the best care for women. Or does it? Are all those tests producing healthier moms, babies? Whose best interests are really considered — yours or mom’s?

7) Talk out of both sides of your mouth – Be a passionate supporter of the rights of competent adult women to make their own childbirth choices but deny those women a lawful opportunity to experience those choices by encouraging licensure that criminalizes those midwives who provide the particular care those uppity pregnant women want.

8) Join a gossipy discussion group – talk a lot, do nothing productive -This little enterprise is about as productive as those advertised “stuff envelopes from home” and make a ton of money jobs. It’s a great time-waster and generally produces nothing of value. Permits a handful of those with lots of time and hot air to spew their view of the world. If only those who log on would donate a nickel each time, midwifery causes would be well-funded.

9) Do not support a midwife fighting the State – At all costs, make the midwife caught in the cross-hairs of the state stand alone, lest her bad luck may rub off on you. Never mind that any midwife could be in her shoes because of faulty logic and greedy aspirations of political State’s or District Attorneys. Proclaim her a heretic who deserves what she is getting, just because.

Discourage others from providing emotional, financial and physical support by announcing her conduct to be unorthodox, peculiar or without any standards. Engage in gossip speculating on the unknown details and embellishing on those released by the prosecution to the media. Under no circumstances open your wallet for a midwife in need, especially if she needs money to defend her practice from the state. Rationalize that you can’t be sure she did everything “right”, whine about how poor you are, how broke because … but then fly to a conference, stay in a hotel, hold hands in a circle of midwives and sing about the sisterhood. Buy stuff.

10) Be a Judas midwife: Agree to be a witness against a midwife – There’s no surer way to destroy midwifery than to hold yourself up as the savior of women and proper midwifery because your way is the only way and the best way. Ignore the fact that unexpected bad outcomes occur without any fault. You can be especially effective if you lack any experience dealing with the specific problem. For example, if it is a breech birth or shoulder dystocia under scrutiny and you have no experience as a primary midwife attending a breech or shoulder dystocia, you can criticize away because your record is pristine.

13. March 2010 · Comments Off on An Insider’s Guide to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Mexico · Categories: Travel And Leisure · Tags: , ,

Living in Mexico was an adventurous fairytale; due to the variety of things to do, beauty of the country and the kindness of its residents. I am originally from Ohio but spent substantial time living in Mexico, studying the nature and history of this beautiful place. Here are some ideas and tips I learned from being there that may help you on your next trip to the Yucatan Peninsula.

Using the public bus system is infinitely cheaper than taking taxis everywhere. If you are looking for cheaper transportation to and from the airport, take the bus to downtown Playa del Carmen or Cancun. It is easy and the bus stations are centrally located in both cities. You can choose to ride an air-conditioned bus for a small amount more than the non air-conditioned bus. I would use either, whoever left soonest. There are bus schedules posted for local travel or throughout the country. The nicest buses when I was there were the plush tour buses for longer trips, called ADO. Really nice buses that cost more but are worth it.

If you need to make phone calls in Mexico, buy a phone card there and use them from any pay phone. They can be used to call internationally as well. The locals, many of which do not have phones in their homes, use them all the time. You can buy them in the Casas de Cambio (places where you can exchange your money into Mexican pesos). A note on exchanging your money, check around, to look for the best exchange rates as they may vary place to place.

Those who don’t scuba can enjoy the beauty of the underwater coral gardens and scenery by snorkeling. Go to the scuba shops and inquire about what excursions they offer for snorkelers, or ask your resort’s front desk if you can sign up for snorkeling tours there at the hotel. Wear sunscreen while doing this daytrip, don’t expect a white t-shirt to protect you, because it won’t. If you don’t use sun protection, you will come back lobster-red, trust me.

A word about avoiding Turista (Montezuma’s Revenge, the Tourist Trots). These very unpleasant bacterial infections happen, frequently, to travellers. To avoid spending most of your vacation in the bathroom recuperating, I suggest you don’t eat raw fruit (unless it’s already peeled), and don’t drink drinks that have ice that isn’t round, with a hole in it (purified water ice cubes). The large resorts’ food is safe, as far as I have experienced. I’ve stayed in a few before moving to Mexico and never got sick by eating or drinking their food. Big resorts take precautions against contaminated foods and drink. But, out on the street, those bacteria free float into the food offered at taco stands (and I love those, by the way), and wherever fruit is sold. If you buy fruit, peel before eating it. If it isn’t peelable, then forget it. Drink purified, bottled water at all times. If you go to day-long trips out in the heat, bring a gallon jug of water, you will need it.

Hire only qualified tour guides through reputable agencies (usually found through the hotels or your travel agent). Don’t use freelance tour guides because I was told when living there that some will make information up as they go along. Independent tour guides will approach you at places like the ruins of Coba, Chichen Itza and Tulum, for example. Go with a tour group to these places. I liked the Apple tours, but there are many others that are good, too. Ask around to see who are most highly recommended. Chichen Itza is a big site, worthy of seeing, if you are going to choose a sight to see. The pyramid there, called El Castillo, is spectacular. I have been inside it (very, incredibly claustrophobic if you decide to brave it up the narrow stairway inside) and on top of it (steep stairs lead up to a few small rooms on the top, where nobility would perform rituals, etc.) Take a camera and stop at the nearby hotel for lunch if you have the chance. There was a show there where dancers in Mayan dress entertained us as our group ate there. It was a good break from the heat of sightseeing this ancient city. Word to the wise, bringing a family-size vat of sunscreen wouldn’t be a bad idea. And as much water as possible. Walking around the site all day will dehydrate and bake you if you aren’t careful.

Check out the cenotes (lakes of brackish water in the jungle), accessed by taking buses or taxi, along the Playa del Carmen-Tulum corridor. I liked going to the Cenote Azul or the Cenote Dos Ojos. Cenotes attract nature, and while visiting them, I saw a variety of fascinating flora and fauna from basilisk lizards to a diving duck. Cenotes are the entrance points to underwater caves, which are only safe to go to with certified dive experts. Underneath the Yucatan peninsula there are a large network of underground caves that expert divers like to explore. Do not attempt to dive these on your own, because it is dangerous. If you want to see what an underground cave is like, go nearby to the nature park of Xcaret, where there are underwater caves for the public to swim in.

Speaking of Xcaret, it is a must to visit if you love nature. It is full of educational activities and fun things to do for the whole family. Expect to spend an entire day there. There is swimming with dolphins, horseback riding, exploring an ancient Mayan village, seeing Mayan dancing shows, snorkeling in a large lagoon, all built into the jungles. It is a top-class place, and even has its own small zoo, butterfly garden and aviary. I know, I used to be the main illustrator for the park years ago. The restaurants are atmospheric and the food is good. Don’t forget to see the Mayan musicians do their flying pole exhibition, which is done all day long. They start on top of a pole, and “fly” down, while playing their instruments, while hanging from ropes by their ankles. You won’t see anything quite like it out of this region. Xcaret has a variety of natural history exhibits near their large gift shop. It is a “must” for all.

If you want a fun trip by boat, go to Playa Linda (in the Hotel Zone of Cancun) and hop a boat over to Isla Mujeres. Aqua Tours has a big, luxurious yacht that goes over there a few times a day. On the way to the island, you are served drinks, are entertained by the staff and get a great view of the Cancun coastline. Once at Isla Mujeres, you are taken on excursions to places like Tortugranja (a sea turtle farm, where they raise endangered sea turtles from small to large), or Hacienda Mundaca (a supposed former estate of an ex-pirate, who built it for his love interest, according to local legend). They offer snorkeling, too. It’s a fun day trip, and the shopping is pretty good on the island, too.

Another interesting place to visit is Merida, the capital city of the state of Quintana Roo (where Cancun is located). It reminded me of Europe, with its lovely, large mansions,outdoor cafes and stately buildings. There, you will find the United States embassy, among others. If you need to replace a lost passport or talk to embassy officials, this is where you want to go. It is a very international place, worth the very long bus ride from Cancun.

Downtown Cancun has a few interesting places to shop. There are authentic food and crafts at Plaza 2000, or see Chedraui (a department/ grocery store), or Pelicano (another general merchandise store). I haven’t been to Cancun since the devastating hurricane there, so check to see if these places are still in operation, if so, they are definitely worth going to. Take a bus or taxi to these places, to get a more “authentic” Mexican experience. Staying just in the Hotel Zone is fun, but not a slice of everyday Mexican life. Try some of the great food stands where the locals go. I love the chicken cooked on spits everywhere, called “Pollo Rojo” (red chicken) due to the spices used. It is to die for and incredibly cheap. If you see people on the street selling tamales, try them, they are excellent and really cheap. I could easily eat my way through Mexico by living on tamales (meat inside a corn-based “cake”) and empanadas (meat turnovers) alone. If you buy bakery items in Mexico at the grocery stores, bear in mind that they use much less sugar than Americans are used to having, in their recipes. I like the Conchitas, breads shaped like shells. If you want sweets, buy the cakes sold under the brand name
“Bimbo” (yes, that is the name of it). It is a major bread and snack food producer in Mexico.

Enjoy your stay in the lovely Mayan Riviera. Walk the beaches and admire that stunningly turquoise water, it is truly paradise. Enjoy the hospitality of the friendly and helpful Mexican nationals. Remember to have fun, but remember, it is a foreign country, so obey their laws and be respectful of the differences in culture. If you go, you’ll want to go back again and again. I know I did. The more you go, the more you know. Living in the Yucatan was an unforgettable experience, visiting there is too, so make it a memorable trip for yourself by seeing as much of it as you can. You won’t be disappointed.
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It’s only April, and we are already getting a sneak peek at the new costumes for Halloween season. Most costumes don’t arrive in stores before the summer, but supplier Disguise have started the season off with new trend setting costumes. This year, the biggest influences are movies, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Spiderman 3. Costumes are available in a variety of price ranges and sizes. Here is a small sampling of costumes that will be arriving in the summer and early fall.

Disguise has designed a new line of licensed Pirates of the Caribbean costumes to coincide with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End this May 3rd. A Prestige Premium Jack Sparrow costume is a reproduction of the famous character played lovingly by Johnny Depp. This deluxe costume comes complete with the famous brown leather look jacket and even includes his leather look tri-corn hat and bandanna with beaded braids and boot tops. This is an improvement over the costumes from last year that had all parts sold separately. It is available in adult, teen and child sizes. A simpler version and less expensive costume are also new for 2007. It comes complete but without the coat. Introduced this year, is a new Elizabeth Pirate and Elizabeth Empress costume. They are both available in adult, teen and child sizes. Villains Davey Jones is now available in a Quality version for kids. Maccus Sharkman hammerhead costume is complete with rubber mask and is available in Adult and tween sizes.

Next to Pirates, the most anticipated movie this year is Spiderman 3. A complete new line of licensed costumes are available in both the red and blue Spidy style, and the new Black suited style. They come in three versions of quality, quality muscle (muscled torso only) and deluxe muscle (muscled torso and legs) and all come complete with mask, body suit and shoe covers. Gloves are sold separately. There is a full range of sizing, including toddler and child sizes. Infant sizing is available in the red and blue costume only. The red and blue versions are a slightly darker hue from the classic Spiderman, which for die hard fans, are still offered by Disguise. Villain costumes are also new this year. New Goblin and Venom costumes are available in Quality and Deluxe versions and in Adult, teen and child sizes.

Some notable mentions for this year are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes, with Raphael and Leonardo available in both Quality and Deluxe versions. These are sure to be popular this year with the release of the animated feature, TMNT. Diego, of Dora the Explorer fame has child sizes of the Nickelodeon character in both Quality and Deluxe versions. All new for 2007, are 2 versions of the Power Rangers – Operation Overdrive. They are available in a full range of child sizes and in your choice of red, black, blue or the skirted pink suit for girls. The suits come complete with belt, buckle and mask. Gloves and boots are sold separately.

Disguise also has a large new line of non-licensed costumes that include Garden Charms for tots, Fairy Precious for girls, and Shadow Ninjas for boys. This is just a small sampling of what’s to come. These products and more can be viewed at on-line retailers or at your local costume shops by early fall.