Archive for Travel

Cat Hotel in France

If you live in the south of France and need to find a cat hotel, you can go to Le Jardin des Chats. The hotel is located between Nimes and Montpellierare. The over night stay is $12 (U.S.) per cat. First time clients receive a 20% discount. There are other services such as grooming and an animal taxi service. You can also watch your cat while on vacation with webcams. It’s been noticed that the cats seem to enjoy their time at the hotel so much they don’t even want to leave.

Le Jardin des Chats was born out of necessity by Amandine and Arnaud. When they needed to travel, they didn’t want to put their cats in small caged kennels surrounded with barking dogs. That just wouldn’t be very comforting to cats. Amandine also didn’t like the ideas of asking friends or relatives to check on their cat too often.

These cats are from the homepage of Le Jardin des Chats. The one in the middle looks just like my cat!

The process took them five years to put together. They had to get permissions to build the cat hotel in their back garden.

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Rooftop Gardens & Urban Farmers

A great way to bring a bit of nature into city living is having a rooftop garden. People usually think of rooftop city gardens as only being in New York City. Usually places used to hold cocktail parties. But rooftop gardening is nothing new, it has been seen in the Hanging Garden of Babylon to the Kensington Roof Garden in London , England.

The popularity of roof gardens have grown in many other cities in the United States as well. Even people in Vancouver, B.C. are joining in on rooftop gardening too. From hotels, restaurants to local organizations. I think that is a great use of extra space and a way to add a bit of green space. It may even help clean the air too.

englandrtgarden2Photo credit: Risc’s Rooftop Garden.

Another successful rooftop garden comes from England. The one pictured here is of Risc’s edible roof garden. The garden is complete with over 120 species of edible and medicinal trees, shrubs, vines and plants from around the globe. You can read more about the place here.

Rooftop gardens are usually seen as ornamental gardens, but the idea of growing your own food is gaining popularity. A great organization based out of Vancouver, B.C. by the name of City Farmer’s has a collection of stories about their work in Vancouver, Canada, and about urban farmers from around the world.

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The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation

Sometimes there seem to be more charities out there then we knew existed. There are charities for children and abandoned animals. Even one for fruit trees, at least for growing more fruit trees. The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation from San Diego, Ca is one charity that is dedicated to planting fruitful trees and plants to benefit the environment around the world. I think this is a great idea as it helps teach people to be empowered by growing their own food and also sustain the environment too. The charity’s primary mission is to plant and help others plant a collective total of 18 billion organic fruit trees. These programs are aimed at enriching the environment, providing nutritious food sources for wild and rescued animals. And to improve human health by bringing delicious, fresh, locally grown raw fruits and vegetables in their area.

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Papaya tree planted in Kenya. Photo from FTPFoundation.

The charity has already planted trees in many locations throught the U.S., Africa, and India. My favorite part of the project is “Orchards for Animals” which provide rescued animals sanctuaries with fruit trees for shade, shelter, and healthy diets. As the trees mature, animals can then eat the fruits and forage for more. During times of extreme heat or precipitation, the animals can seek shade and shelter under the trees. Fruit trees allow for the most natural diet available to animals, plucked fresh off the tree with no chemicals or pesticides. One of the Farm Sanctuary is located in Orland, California. They planted 50 fruit trees. The trees will provide shade and foraging opportunities for rescued animals.

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Another sample of other neat things provided by the program took place in Florida.

Fruit Tree Workshop & Giveaway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

“In November of 2008, FTPF partnered with the Fort Lauderdale Parks & Recreation Department, in a program made possible by Absolut, to implement a a free fruit tree give-away at three city parks and delivered a unique interactive workshop to teach fruit tree enthusiasts about proper planting and care. The program resulted in 671 fruit trees—including mangos, avocados, carambolas, grapefruits, oranges, and tangelos—being distributed to city residents. The effort trained nearly 100 workshop participants on how to plant trees and help restore an area that has lost countless trees in recent years due to hurricane damage—while fighting global warming and providing healthy nutrition at the same time.” Wow! What a great idea. I wish I lived in Florida with a huge backyard. Read the rest of this entry »

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Caledonia

When I first heard the song “Caledonia” sung by Celtic Women, I thought it was such a pretty song. Caledonia may look something like this serene and green pasture in an English countryside. But Caledonia could be any special place we all call home. Recently I heard the original version by Dougie MacLean and it brought back memories of my father who passed away a couple of years ago. I somehow feel his presence when I listen to this particular song. I could not ask for a more kind, caring, and understanding father. I miss him dearly but know that we will meet up again someday.  I am the lucky one to have had him in my life.
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Photo from Hilton Hotels England & Scotland
“Oh, but let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me
And now I’m going home
If I should become a stranger
You know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything
I’ve ever had”

There are some nice Youtube music videos of this song by Celtic Thunder and Celtic Women too.

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Day at the Beach – Half Moon Bay

Happy New Year!

We recently had a chance to visit Half Moon Bay, which is just south of San Francisco. I usually avoid going to Half Moon Bay in the summer as it is always gray and foggy, unlike the beaches in southern California. But on our recent December trip it was very sunny. The water off the coast was deep blue and the sky was clear. The beaches had no surfers, just a couple of seals bopping up and down along the shoreline. The wind off the Pacific was refreshing and the air felt very clean.

We had access to the beaches via the new Ritz-Carlton Hotel and golf links. There were also lots of new pretty beach homes and mansions near the hotel too. Along with an agreement with the city, there’s a public parking lot with the hotel. Once parked, there are access paths to walk along that parallel the golf course near the edge of the coastal cliffs. So it was a good and much needed day trip for all of us.
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On our drive up the winding highway, we made a spontaneous stop at an orchid nursery. I didn’t intend to make any purchases, but was very tempted. But now I know where to get my orchids in the future. And I think they would make great gifts, especially with the long lasting blooms. I also saw this huge cymbidian orchid that my mother would love. It had tons of flowers and look so healthy. It was only $18 and would probably retail for $30 at the florist.

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But as much as I love orchids, I think they are a pain to take care of. The last orchid I had bloomed for 3 months and never again. The pink cymbidian orchid my mother grows in her garden only bloomed twice in the last five years. But despite my (or our) lack of insights into orchid care, seeing an orchid in bloom is always a nice surprise. And I was smiling ear to ear at the sight of this lovely orchid greenhouse.

I actaully didn’t realize Half Moon Bay is home to many nurseries. Amongst one of the best is Nurserymen Exchange. But they are not open to the public. There is a tour that is held every summer for a chance to tour Half Moon Bay’s local nursery, vineyard, and goat farm. It is Tour Des Fluers and held in July, ticket cost $20. You can get a behind the scene look at the day to day operations of these places. I think that would be a great idea and hope to attend the tour for 2009. I just don’t know who would enjoy this tour as much as myself. Especially the tour at the goat farm.

So here are some of my favorite pictures from the orchid nursery:

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Best Products for Winter Dry Skin Relief

The official first day of winter is Sunday, December 21st. But in many parts of the U.S. it has felt like winter has already arrived. One of the things that come with cold weather and indoor heat is dry skin, scalp, and lips. The first step to helping with dry skin is to switch to handmade soaps. I am not just saying this because I love handmade soaps, but it is less drying for your skin. It contains naturally occurring glycerin and less harsh ingredients. And second step that’s free, is to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Sunlight has many good benefits and it can help those that suffer from psoriasis. Just be sure to wear facial sunscreen.

giabI wanted to list here some of my favorite winter skin relief products. I am not paid to endorse any of them. Just thought they would help people not waste their money and time on things that don’t work. It also bothers me when fashion and beauty magazine editors (Lucky, Elle, Health, etc) come out with a list of all these new products that is suppose to be the next best thing for your skin. But you know it’s basically free advertising. And they usually don’t help your wallet, with cost of $30 or more for all these new creams.

I usually prefer to use all natural botanical products, but it this case they did not help me as much as these regular products listed here. And these are also much easier to locate at your local drugstore.

I had suffered from peeling skin on my fingers for the past 9 years and have tried almost all types of cream. Thank goodness they are not contagious! My dermatologist said it was some type of psoriasis. So I have tried prescriptions after prescriptions, and nothing helped. I also tried many drugstore creams, from Corn Huskers to the German brand Weleda, but those didn’t help either. Then about a year ago, a friend recommended Gloves In A Bottle. This one was more difficult to locate, so I got mine at the Kaiser Permanente pharmacy for about $10 a bottle. But I think the price may have gone up to $15 now. After using it for a couple of days, I was so happy with the skin on my hands. It was healing much faster then before and was not peeling as much. Imagine suffering for all those years to finally finding this, it was a miracle for me. And I think more people should know about GIAB. Now I don’t even bother looking at any other brands since using this lotion. GIAB are popular amongst people who wash their hand frequently, such as hospital workers, car mechanics, and florists. The lotion forms a thin barrier that helps retain moisture. Many people have even used this on their face and lips. I think that would be a good idea! Read the rest of this entry »

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Christmas Cheers

The best thing about Christmas are really the lights. Even bare trees wrapped in lights look beautiful this time of year. To help me get into the holiday cheer, I found some really nice pictures from flickr. There is also “Christmas lights of the world”, a flickr group which has lots more holiday lights. Happy Holidays!

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Akfirebug took this picture of a lighted Christmas tree taken in the afternoon at a chilly -20 in Fairbanks, Alaska. I like how the little tree gets all the attention in what looks like the middle of nowhere.

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Idle_Type took this picture of homes in Baltimore. Check out these bright lights on 34th street in Hampden. It would be great if San Francisco had something like this. Read the rest of this entry »

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