THE PERFECT GIFT

nikeFirstly apologies for the radio silence… it seems running a company does take up a lot of time… as does being a mum, catching up with friends etc etc you get the picture!

This week I was tasked with buying a lovely friend a birthday present. Now this person truly has everything (and I don’t say that lightly) so what do you honestly get someone who falls into this category? I know it’s the thought that counts blah blah, but I wanted to get something she didn’t have and here is what I came across. Some great personalised gifts, and a lot that won’t break the bank too.

THE WORLD TRAVELLER
A Louis Vuitton passport holder with personalised initials – USD$320
Or if that’s too much, you can always do the luggage tag
http://us.louisvuitton.com/eng-us/women/personalization

THE ART LOVER
There are a lot of personalised art sites around but this is my stand-out
Blank Bespoke Art
http://www.blankbespokeart.com
I actually have the map and a “my favourite things” hanging in my office – starting from USD$190

THE WRITER
Classic timeless stationery from Smythson. And of course personailsed
http://www.smythson.com/personalised-stationery/landing
Starting from USD$300

THE ENVIRONMENTALIST
Adopt a Reef at the Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa in the Maldives (other resorts do it too)
This was actually gifted to my daughter by some wonderful friends when we were there and we love following the photos of how her reef is growing each year
http://reefscapers.com

THE PRINCESS
For all the adults that are still children at heart, you can have your very own Elsa and Tinkerbelle Disney products customised.
http://www.disneystore.com/personalized-shop/mn/1002301/
Starting from USD$12.95

THE ATHLETE
Work out and look better than everyone else in your Body Pump class with customised Nike shoes and bags
http://www.nike.com/gb/en_gb/c/nikeid
Starting from USD$100

So what are you waiting for… Just do it!

1, 2, 3…. SKI !

ski1Winter is upon us (in Northern Hemisphere anyway) and with all the snow falling the best way to make the most of it is a skiing vacation. While the busy Christmas holiday season is over, now is a perfect time to go skiing as there are less crowds and even better snow.

But if you have little ones, finding the balance of them having fun and you being able to do the same, can be a fine line. So where are the best ski schools that allow you to rest easy and know that your kids are having a great experience while you tear up the slopes?

1. Deer Valley Ski School – Deer Valley, Utah
Always named the best and in USA and I can personally vouch for this one, having taken my 3 ½ year old there last year for her first ski experience. Amazing service and run with very tight guidelines that ensure your child will love their ski experience and want to come back again. http://www.deervalley.com/WhatToDo/SkiSchool/ChildrensGroupLessons

2. Les Elfes – Verbier, Switzerland
If your kids are a bit older (8 – 18) and happy to go on their own, then a week long camp at Les Elfes may be for them. Skiing during the day, optional language lessons, cultural excursions and a 3-course meal and games at night. http://leselfes.com/winter-camp/

3. Niseko International Snow Sports School – Hanazono, Japan
The best kids ski program in Japan (we tried this school in December). International instructors, purpose build magic carpets, great indoor activities and amazing lunches for the little ones. A perfect balance to keep them entertained all day. Oh and a very amusing mascot “Kamonohashi” that is a skiing platypus! http://www.hanazononiseko.com/en/winter/niss/kids-programs.html

4. Mix Academy – Beaver Creek, Colorado
Kids have their own Buckaroo Express Gondola, taking them to their own special ski area. For girls aged 7-16 there is even a program inspired by Lindsey Vonn And when they aren’t skiing, they can be found tubing or having warm chocolate chip cookies every afternoon at 3 pm. http://www.beavercreek.com/plan-your-trip/book-ski-and-ride-lessons/lesson-results.aspx?ages=Child&sport=ski&skill=intermediate&pfm=lpclick

Where are your favourite kids ski schools?

SKI HARD!

FESTIVE MADE EASY

376843_10150951698575082_1686002459_n
You better watch out, you better not cry! It’s time to start soaking up all that Holiday Season cheer.

No matter what you have planned – whether it’s a vacation somewhere or spending time at home with loved ones, there is always some level of organisation that needs to take place to get you through the holiday period (that, and a lot of wine!)

So while you may be stuck at your desk at work, or too busy to try and find a parking spot in the overcrowded shopping malls, here are some great websites that let you get organised from the comfort of your desk or sofa.

http://mymerrychristmas.com
Hailed as “The World’s Largest Christmas Community” – full of ideas, décor, food and even recommended Christmas movies to watch

http://www.styleathome.com/organizing/organizing-ideas/12-days-of-christmas-organizing/a/28692
A step-by-step “12 Days of Christmas” daily countdown guide to get yourself ready for the Holiday if you are hosting it at home

http://christmas.organizedhome.com/
A site showcasing how to make this Christmas simple. Some great suggestions on things to do that won’t break the bank and kids (and adults) will enjoy.

http://www.christmasmarkets.com/
If you are in Europe – here is a list of over 400 Christmas markets you can visit

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/christmas
And let’s not forget a guide to the magical New York City, where the lead up to Christmas is celebrated more than on December 25

AND FOR HOLIDAY SHOPPING ONLINE WITH A TWIST

https://givengoods.co
Given Goods is the marketplace for products that give back. Every product offered on Given Goods makes a tangible social impact every time it’s purchased

http://www.uncommongoods.com
An online marketplace offering creatively designed, high-quality merchandise at affordable prices

http://www.custommade.com
Exactly that! Custom made your Christmas present.

http://youngrepublic.com
A community you can find unique designs from all over the world from up and coming fashion designers

What is the best Christmas website you have found?

Ho, Ho, Ho!

TO BE, OR NOT TO BE

rio-carnival-2013-unidos-de-vila-isabel-53Last week I was lucky enough to watch the famous Bolshoi Ballet perform Swan Lake, and personally I would consider it to be an experience that should be included in the “once in a lifetime events” if you are able to. So this then triggered the question, what else should be included?

In no particular order here are some of the world’s best cultural activities (and strictly my opinion only!)

Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre, London England
A very unique open-air theatre that was re-constructed to reflect where the playwright’s greatest works were performed during the 16th century

Rio Carnival, Rio Brazil
Held in Rio de Janeiro it is considered the biggest carnival in the world with two million people per day on the streets

Tea Ceremony, Kyoto Japan
Chado (“tea ceremony”) is a traditional ritual influenced by Zen Buddhism

Guggenheim Art Museum, New York USA
A New York institution and one of the world’s best-known art galleries

Opera at the Fondazione Arena, Verona Italy
Around 150 performances of five operas and a ballet between mid-June and the end of August every year

Thai Cooking Class, Chiang Mai Thailand
Surrounded by picturesque rice paddy fields, learn to cook amazing dishes from from Thai Master Chef’s

Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow Russia
Iconic Swan Lake in the famous theatre, where it was originally performed in 1877

So what is your must-do cultural experience?

GET YOUR MOVE ON

Working Abroad Tips Resized_1
Looking to move overseas to work?

There are positives and negatives in all countries, so just what might seal the deal for you and where should you go?

According to a recent survey by HSBC (http://www.expatexplorer.hsbc.com/#/countries) Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam will give you the biggest bang for your buck, as the cost of living is the lowest in these three countries.

Germany tops the position in the Raising Children Abroad when looking at factors such as education costs, quality of childcare, health and experience. Singapore ranks second in this area, and comes in first as the safest place to live.

Beware on the tax front if you are moving to Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, France or the UK as these countries may have you ending up worse off – with combination of lower earning potential coupled with higher expenses and likelihood to pay more personal tax rate than at home.

And the number 1 overall may surprise you!

stats

So where would you choose to live?

IS SEA CHEAPER THAN LAND?

HT_marquette_tk_120708_16x9_992Firstly, apologies for the radio silence on WTF… it seems the “work” part has been outweighing the travel and the fashion piece lately. With that, I will blatantly promote the launch of my new business www.geekteam.asia and now get on with this week’s post!

It seems you can’t go to a dinner party at the moment without the conversation turning to the topic of buying a home. No matter where in the world you live, prices seem to be higher than ever and people are now having to look for alternatives to the white picket fence dream.

And where is one place they are looking? On the sea.

The World (www.aboardtheworld.com) was launched on 2002 is a private ship owned by its residents. The 165 apartments are owned by people from over 19 different countries with some living on board full time and others part time. With a grocery store and deli, a boutique, golf simulator, putting green, full-sized tennis court, jogging track, gym, movie theatre, 6 restaurants, bars, nightclub, 12,000-bottle wine cellar and a myriad of classes on offer – plus visiting ports around the world from 2 to 5 days. Life could be worse. Cost $1million to $14million for an apartment.

The Marquette (www.rivercitiescondos.com/cruising) will be the largest inland passenger vessel in the world with 180 residences, and accommodation is a bit more reasonably priced at between $310,000 to $1.8 million for full ownership. Facilities though are not as extensive – a gym, golf chipping course, pool, library, theatre and 2 restaurants. And the cruising is not worldly – it is within the US on the rivers.

Utopia Residences (www.utopiaresidences.com) are tipped to be the most extravagant residences (200 of them) on the water. Prices start at $3.9 million through to $160 million. There is a residence only section for owners, and communal amenities will include a casino, a world-class spa, a fitness centre, waterslide, restaurants, multiple bars and lounges, a nightclub, a theater, swimming pools, a floating marina, art gallery, shopping facilities and a helipad. Launching in 2014 so get your cheque book ready!

And if you had your heart set on living on the QE2 sadly she will be retired soon to the docks and her only full-time resident (89-year-old Beatrice Muller) will be looking for a new ship to call home.

So is sea cheaper than land? As always it depends on your taste!

POP THE CORK!

champAfter a wonderful afternoon of champagne, lobster and even better conversation yesterday, I was asked why I had never featured such an important topic as Sunday brunch on WTF. After all, in some countries (most located in Asia) it is now an institution.

What constitutes a good one? In my mind quality – food, champagne, service and ambience.

So here it is… the world’s best Sunday champagne brunches (according to me and in no particular order)

Singapore
New comers to the island are generally surprised to learn of a great Sunday tradition – hotel brunches. Free flow French champagne, a buffet of lobsters, Wagu steak, amazing cheese platters and a chocolate fountain are stock standard at most of them. And don’t be afraid to bring the kids as the good brunches have an amazing Kid’s Room filled with jumping castles, face painting, special children’s menus and arts and crafts.
WTF Picks – The Four Seasons and Shangri-La (both amazing with kids), Grand Hyatt and St Regis (for adults)

Hong Kong
Not quite to the extent of Singapore, but there is still a good brunch to be found.
WTF Picks – The Ritz Carlton Kowloon for a view, Mandarin Oriental for old school style, Zuma for free-flow extended hours

Dubai
Brunch is held on a Friday in Dubai (Sunday is a weekday for anyone who lives in the UAE) and they do them bigger and better than almost anywhere in the world! But just remember to observe the local laws and don’t get too crazy once you leave the safety net of the hotel as others have been known to end up behind prison bars after too many drinks!
WTF Picks – Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah for over the top madness (a map is supplied when you are seated!), Spectrum On One Fairmont for a party, Planet Hollywood for families

New York
Not so much focused on the free flow of lobster and French champagne, NYC brunches are better known for serving Mimosas or Bloody Marys alongside your eggs benedict… and there is nothing wrong with that approach either.
WTF Picks – The Standard Hotel for fun and funky (loved this first-hand on Christmas Day), The Plaza Hotel for old school, Brasserie Beaumarchais to be seen

Shanghai
China has quickly followed their Asian neighbours and embraced the art of Sunday champagne brunches.
WTF Picks – The Westin has something for the whole family and the Hyatt and Shangri-La for style and service

Of course a brunch experience is always influenced by the company too, so choose your guests carefully!

Where do you think the best champagne brunch is?