Chocolate Paradise in Venezuela

Feb 8, 2012 | Posted by | 0 Comments

As a certified chocoholic I’d always had visions of what staying on a Venezuelan cocoa plantation might be like. A Bridget Jones style indulgence, perhaps, of fresh-from-the-pod chocolate and South American sunshine. I pictured waking to a frothy cup of cocoa, photographing lush fields of flowering pods, and chomping through bullion sized bars of chocolate.

Venezuela's Criollo Cacao: A Chocolate Lover's Paradise

But sucking on raw cocoa beans, in the middle of South American jungle had not featured in this wishful prescience. In fact, my first trek into cocoa-dense vegetation seemed to have more affinity with Indiana Jones than Bridget.

It transpires that unlike coffee or tea, cocoa pods cannot be farmed in open fields, and will only grow sheltered within dense thickets of jungle. The best way to cultivate this environment, quite simply, is to use the real thing.

Green Anarchy

“The cocoa plantation has been described as ‘green anarchy,’” explains Billy Esser, the plantation owner, who has just cracked open a fresh pod, and scooped out the beans for me to taste. “The trees grow where they want to grow, and the pickers remember where each tree is when it’s time to harvest.”

In terms of cocoa production, Venezuela can lay claim to some impressive heritage. The country has grown, harvested, and eaten chocolate since the Aztecs, farming cacao Criollo — the world’s purest strain of cocoa. And if Venezuela is Paradise, then the cocoa plantation where I’m happily ensconced must be where chocoholics go to die.

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Why Parents Have a Midlife Crisis

Jun 30, 2011 | Posted by | 0 Comments

 

 

I’m certainly not a licensed therapist, but I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out the reason why every married couple in their 50’s either bicker with each other for 10 years straight or end up in divorce- it’s due to their children’s failure to launch!

 

 

Once the kids move out of the house and they start to get used to the awkward stage of only having to consider each other, it’s our duty as children to step up and give them something to distract them from arguing! They should be watching our kids, planning weddings, preparing for the company we’re bringing to Easter dinner. My parents have none of that- just me visiting every 2-3 months!

 

 

So everyone in your mid-twenties: Save your parents’ marriage and get something on the go already! They’ve done enough bickering and they’re now ready to be distracted until they’re at such an age, that age distracts them!

 

 

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You Don’t Like the Meal You Ordered- Now What?

Jun 24, 2011 | Posted by | 0 Comments

 

I recently visited Vinnie’s Pasta Bar in Halifax, NS with the girls. I’ve been to Vinnie’s many times and I always order the same thing: Fettuccini Alfredo. This particular time, I was  convinced to go out on a limb and try a new dish, so after reading the menu (and assuming that the Italian terms meant ‘olive oil sauce with spaghetti-like noodles’), I agreed!

 

Shortly after ordering, our fresh pastas were delivered to the table, and I stared at my bow tie noodles in red sauce with sadness.  It was nothing that I expected it to be- but this was what I had ordered- so I was prepared to suffer through it.

 

One of my friends at the table saw my disappointment and, even though I told her not to say anything, she informed the waitress of my wrong assumptions.  To my surprise, the waitress didn’t mind at all that I wanted my usual!  I’m not sure if most restaurants would tell me to “stuff it” or if this is a common practice in the restaurant industry, but off she went to bring me my usual with no fuss. I left the restaurant feeling full, satisfied, and ready to return!

 

Customer service is a huge factor in running any business, and the “customer is always right’ concept is really being pushed. The waitress knew she took my order correctly and she still didn’t mind brining me my usual. Don’t be too shy to speak up if you don’t like what you ordered. Yes, the restaurant will lose out on the cost of one meal, but they want you to enjoy your food, and above all, they want you to come back!

 

 

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How To Overcome Anxiety About Flying

Mar 22, 2010 | Posted by | 0 Comments

In this day and age, there are very few people who go their whole life without having to fly in an airplane. All things considered, we should consider privileged to be able to fly as often as most people do, as it enables us to do business on a larger scale, see family more often, and visit parts of the world some people only ever get to read about. But for some people, while the ability to fly is a privilege, the act of flying is a task, and a stressful task at that.

Many people deal with a fear of flying, and whether it is mild or very severe, any fear of flying is unpleasant. For those coping with anxiety while flying, here are a few tips to help ease the tension and allow you to relax enough to possibly even enjoy your flight.

Take Gravol: First things first. If you tend to suffer from motion sickness, there is nothing that will make anxiety worse than a little nausea thrown in there too. To avoid this, take some gravol, which will help ease the effects of motion sickness. In addition, it might make you a little drowsy, which could help you sleep through part, or all, of the flight.

Keep your mind occupied. Nothing’s worse for stress than a wandering mind. To keep your brain actively engaged, bring several forms of entertainment. This could be anything from your favorite book, to some work you need to finish up (that gets rid of two forms of stress at once!), or even a Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Also, with modern technology, it’s even possible to watch an entire movie during a flight thanks to portable DVD players and laptops. Our suggestion is to bring a funny movie. After all, laughter really is the best medicine. Just pop in a movie, have some laughs, and you might even find yourself wishing the flight was longer so you could finish your movie.

Soak in some tunes. There’s a reason music therapy works. Music has properties which are capable of transporting you to another time and place. When you have flight anxiety, just about any other time and place will do. If you think you could fall asleep, put on some relaxing music and it might ease you into a slumber. If you know you can’t sleep, you could still listen to relaxing music, or you might want to put on some old favorites that remind you of old times and bring a sort of “comfort factor.”

Stay comfortable. This includes dressing in clothes that will allow you to relax, avoiding sitting next to the most high-strung member of your travel party, and taking care of any other needs you may have. If you tend to get headaches on airplanes, plan ahead and bring some Advil. If you get cold, bring a blanket that will keep you warm and cozy so you can relax. Overall, take care of yourself so you can be as comfortable as possible and before you know it, the captain will be asking you to turn off your electronics, stow your tray table, and prepare for landing.

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Planning Your Vacation Online

Mar 19, 2010 | Posted by | 0 Comments

Using Social Networks To Plan Your Next Vacation

With new social networks springing up every day, and more and more people spending time on these sites, there are, need we say it, more ways to use social networking sites than ever before. Some people use them to reconnect, some people to keep in touch, some people to play games, and some people to stay up on the latest news and trends. No matter how you normally use social networks, the fact is there are probably several ways to use them that you haven’t even thought of yet, for example— planning your next vacation.

Bet you didn’t see that one coming. But really, there are several ways to make planning your next vacation not only easier, but more time efficient and less expensive as well.

Let’s start with picking a destination. The easiest thing you can do is use your social networks to simply ask for suggestions. This is the equivalent of asking a travel agent for destination suggestions, except your responses will be from trusted friends and/or, at the very least, acquaintances who you know are not trying to sell you something because it will get them a better commission. This approach works especially well if you’re trying to decide between a few specific locations. By broadcasting the choices to your friends, you will get responses from people who have actually experienced the locations, and can tell you the pros and cons from firsthand experience. And all in a matter of minutes, which sure beats calling 200+ people to see where they’ve been and what advice they have.

You can also find great travel deals through social networking sites. For example, Jet Blue and Southwest are good examples of airlines using Twitter to extend great travel deals to their followers. Many times, twitter followers of these airlines will be the first to know about special $99 promotions and other deals. This will allow you to book your flight for a cheaper price if you start looking for these deals in advance, so you can save the extra money for souvenirs or a nice dinner on your trip.

If you are planning a trip for a larger group, consider using wikis to keep the planning process flowing smoothly. A wiki is a space which allows people in different locations to collaborate on the internet to have conversations as well as share documents and Websites. Wikidot and Wetpaint are good examples of these. Google docs and Google wave are also very effective, and Google wave even has a “voting” feature so different members of your party can offer suggestions and the rest of the group can vote and comment on them.

Finally, you can use location-based social networking sites to gather advice on activities and destinations ahead of time. In addition, you could use these networks when you’re actually at your destination to find people you know who might be visiting or live there permanently.

However you use them, there is no doubt that social networks can be a great planning tool, as they integrate technology which gathers all of your friends, helpful reviews and location based technology, all for the purpose of helping you out.

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The History Of Daylight Savings Time

Mar 12, 2010 | Posted by | 0 Comments

Why Time Matters

“Spring forward, fall back” is a familiar phrase often used to remind us when to change our clocks an hour ahead or an hour behind. But why do we follow this practice year after year? The simple answer would be to adjust to the lengthening or shortening of daylight which occurs during the summer and winter months. However, there is a history behind why we adjust our clocks yearly, and a controversy surrounding whether it should be done at all.

Even ancient civilizations worked their schedules and routines around the change in daylight. However, modern daylight savings time was first introduced in 1784, with a published paper in France by Benjamin Franklin. He proposed rising earlier to use morning sunlight instead of overusing candles. In 1905, William Willett re-introduced the idea of daylight savings time who felt daylight was being wasted during the summer. He published his own proposal about the subject suggesting the clock be advanced during the summer months. Germany began implementing his idea during the start of World War I as a way to conserve coal, and other European nations, as well as the United States, began following suit.

Today, there are several reasons given to justify the continued use of daylight savings time. One benefit is energy conversation. “Delaying” the times in which the sun rises and sets saves on lighting, which accounts for almost 4\% of electricity use in the United States. There are also effects on the economy because of daylight savings time. Retailers and other businesses can benefit from the extended sunlight, which encourages consumers to shop longer and participate in outdoor sports and hobbies. However, it comes as a cost, as the clock change can mean extra work to support remote meetings and computer applications. A drop in crime and traffic fatalities has also been observed in correlation with using daylight savings time, as the extra daylight gives more time for commutes home and the completion of errands before nighttime. Depending on the location, a reduction of daylight can also effect overexposure to sunlight, as well as more time for outdoor exercise and activities.

Many view daylight savings time as a negative and unnecessary practice. Some say it affects health negatively, disrupting sleep patterns and ruining sleep’s efficiency, which can lead to seasonal depression/disorders. Farmers largely dislike daylight savings time, as they must rise with the sun no matter what time it is, and it forces them to change their schedules to sell crops. Many view the practice as just a large inconvenience, disrupting travel, timekeeping, heavy machinery and computer equipment, and schedules.

Daylight savings time has indeed been a controversy since it was first officially used, and despite several government changes to the practice, it will undoubtedly continue to be a controversial practice. Whether you find it beneficial or a huge inconvenience, just remember to “spring forward” or “fall back”, or you may find yourself sleeping through an important business meeting or missing out on some extra hours during a lovely summer’s morning. So don’t forget to change your clocks this weekend!

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Alternative Spring Break Destinations

Mar 11, 2010 | Posted by | 0 Comments

Believe it or not, Spring Break, or March Break, isn’t all about partying the night away anymore. Many college students are now opting to partake in alternative Spring Break trips. Alternative Spring Break can still mean sun, sand and surf, but usually involves volunteer work or travel to a remote destination clear of bikini clad co-eds, making the week without classes very rewarding and relaxing experience for all participants.

Students can find information about alternative Spring Break volunteer programs directly from their college or university outreach programs. In addition to programs affiliated with a college or university, numerous private organizations offer alternative Spring Break programs. They are moderately priced and usually include room and board and transportation at the destination in the program cost.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

If you’re interested in a relaxing spring break at a sunny location, but want to skip the co-ed wet tee shirt contests, check out Playa del Carmen, Mexico. A calm, yet beautiful alternative to the crazy Mexican spring break destination of Cancun, Mexico. A popular destination port for cruise ships, Playa del Carmen offers all-inclusive hotels each featuring daily activities for students and families alike, travel opportunities to secluded beaches and local restaurants. If you arrive and Playa turns out to be too relaxing for your taste, Cancun is only an hour away and transportation is available by shuttle.

Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit organization. Habitat works with local donors and volunteers, experience not necessary, to build sustainable housing for families in need. With locations throughout the United States, students have the opportunity to travel domestically during spring break, volunteering and interacting with locals while simultaneously exploring a new city. Additionally, Habitat for Humanity offers volunteer opportunities internationally in countries such as Myanmar, China and the US Gulf Coast. For more information about this alternative Spring Break, visit their website.

For a Spring Break that doesn’t include a two-week hangover, check out alternative Spring Break destinations. Your wallet, liver, and conscience will thank you.

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