OUTSOURCE ME!

Child-cleaningI am the first person to admit I am a HUGE advocate of outsourcing whatever I can.

I have been known to be somewhat of a control freak (I can hear my family screaming yes at this point!) but over the years I have managed to let go of the need to make sure everything is 100% perfect and give way to someone else having a go at it.

The fact is, we have been outsourcing personal tasks forever, it just didn’t have a label.

When I was growing up it was called working for your pocket money. And if you have ever had the opportunity to have a personal assistant I would put money on the fact that they have carried out some “non-business related” outsourcing task for you at some point, whether it be booking personal travel or paying a phone bill.

Generally the most popular tasks to outsource are – housecleaning, laundry and ironing, grocery shopping, dog walking (not sure what the point is having a dog if you don’t have time to take it outside), car washing and good old lawn mowing. But more and more people are slowly trusting others to pay their bills, or to buy a gift for their loved one.

So how do you get on-board the express train to “easy life”?

The 4 Hour Workweek is really the original how-to guide for ideas on better managing your personal tasks

But if you want to jump straight in you can try some of the following sites (sadly these are not available in all countries).

My favourite one – www.fiverr.com
Basically a list of offerings from people who will do “X” for $5. There are real some gems on offer!

www.taskrabbit.com
One of the better known (and tested) sites

www.elance.com
A great resource for small business with everything from logo design to building your website

www.fancyhands.com
For $25 a month your personal admin issues are solved

Now all this free time now means more time to relax. I am off to order a bottle of wine online that will be delivered chilled to my door in under an hour… now that is service!

THE TOP 10 – WHAT NOT TO WEAR ON YOUR NEXT HOLIDAY

barefoot-in-publicI think I have a pretty good formula for packing when going on holidays, no matter what the climate. Being respectful of local cultures and having items that are practical while still looking decent are key on my list, but I often wonder what goes through other people’s minds when they pack their bags for a holiday.

Clearly a lot of people think that the usual rule of wearing appropriate clothing goes out the window, and anything goes. But then maybe it’s me who missed the memo saying if you are in another country go for it and wear something that usually a 16 year old does, even though you are 50 years old and not in good shape. Sitting on a beach in Thailand, Hawaii or Fiji, or even being at an airport for that matter, can be like seeing a real-life parade from one of those “People of Walmart” emails that gets sent around (www.peopleofwalmart.com).

So what are the top 10 must-not-do’s to keep you looking decent when you head overseas on a holiday.

1. Always wear shoes at an airport, even if you are there just to pick up someone. There is no excuse not to wear them, even just for health and safety reasons.

2. Bum bags, fanny packs whatever you choose to call them went out in the 1980’s so let’s leave them there (along with ra-ra skirts and large shoulder-padded jackets)

3. Socks and sandals. Do I really need to explain this one any further?

4. A g-string swimsuit. Unless your name is Giselle, avoid the embarrassment and leave it at home.

5. Hawaiian shirts. Guys – no one wears these any more with the exception of going to a fancy dress party.

6. Cut-out lycra dresses. If you are under 21 years age then ok, but over that it should be illegal to sell you one, let alone wear one. Think age appropriate dressing.

7. A matching Juicy Couture tracksuit. I totally get the comfort bit, and by all means pack a pair of track pants to change into once you are on the plane (I do), but wearing a bright pink matching towelling or velour tracksuit with the word “Juicy” on your butt is so 1990’s and best left for Paris Hilton.

8. Denim shorts that are too short. Ladies there is no need to see your butt sticking out from under your shorts no matter what your age. At no point is this is a good look. Gents… knee length denim cut-off shorts with frayed hems should come with a fine or jail time.

9. Beer branded fake singlets/tank tops. I have seen enough “Singha”, “Tiger” and “Bintang” tank tops to last me ten lifetimes. Every football team (of any code) on their end-of-season trip can be seen wearing them, purchased from the local street vendor. Which leads me into the final one…

10. Football shirts. The only exception to wearing one of these is travelling to play football or travelling to support your team.

With British women spending over $200 on clothing in preparation for their holiday and women in the US on average $380, I am hoping this isn’t going on any of the above items.

What is the worst outfit you have witnessed on holiday?

PARTY OF 1

como1Last week I treated myself and headed off to Bali for 5 days of cleansing, yoga, walks and massages. I left family and friends at home, and went on this adventure solo on the promise that I would come back a nicer person. And the result…. I feel amazing.

I am used to travelling so much for business on my own I had no issue eating (or in my case drinking juices and soup) by myself, exploring the amazing local rainforest as a party of one, or just reading by the pool. I actually like my own company, well for 5 days at least.

I realise it is a luxury to be able to do this from both a time and money point of view, but if you can afford both, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

So where are the best places to go to have a fabulous healthy experience? Here are my top 5.

Como Shambhala Estate, Bali
This is where I spent last week. My visits to Bali are well and truly in the double digits and I have to vote Como Shambhala as the most special place I have stayed on the island, and certainly one of the best places in Asia I have visited (big wraps I know!). If you want to detox in luxury, this is the place to do it no question. But if detoxing is too hard core, don’t worry, as most guests were just there to enjoy all the wonderful amenities, fresh food and out of this world service. It is a place where “everyone knows your name”, as all the staff know who you are and the only thing I was asked to sign was the final bill.
http://www.comohotels.com/comoshambhalaestate

Chiva Som, Hua Hin
A two hour drive from Bangkok, Chiva Som is consistently voted as one of the best health resorts around. It lets you combine being pampered with embarking on changing a part of your life be it diet, fitness, stress or too much partying. It is located on the beach, as opposed to being in a remote location, so if you do want to escape you always have the option to go into the local town.
http://www.chivasom.com

Rancho La Puerta, Mexico
Started in 1940, this property is one of the original destination spas. Rancho La Puerta offers everything from mountain hikes, pilates, dream interpretation to make you sleep better, through to a cooking school using produce from its own organic farm.
http://www.rancholapuerta.com

Longevity Wellness Resort, Portugal
An eco-friendly resort located it Algarve, it provides spectacular views of the sea and mountains. On offer is state of the art detox treatments, fitness facilities that would rival the best gyms and Turkish baths to recover in. There are even medical “treatments” for people who want more than a facial peel.
http://www.longevitywellnessresort.com

The Farm at San Benito, Philippines
A holistic sanctuary that aims to rejuvenate through detoxification, working towards healing the body of any illnesses or problems. Set in the heart of the Philippine jungle it certainly still holds a luxury title as you can choose to have your massage in your poolside villa or on a secret garden terrace. The Farm is also one of the few health retreats that has a children’s program which includes arts and crafts, cooking lessons and forest walks.
http://www.thefarm.com.ph

So to answer the original question… am I a nicer person? Impossible to be some would say, but I think yes!

FRIES WITH THAT ORDER?

burgerTwo all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!

Aghhh the Big Mac… but over the past few years stock standard fast food has now become a staple menu item in some of the best restaurants around the world. No longer is McDonalds or Burger King the only choice for burgers, as no matter where you live in the world, there is always a good chance you will find a “fancy hamburger” somewhere in that city. And no, Chilli’s or Applebees do not count as fancy!

So where are the most expensive burgers to be found? And I am not including room service burgers in hotels (always over-priced) and the one off Guinness Book of World Records (does the book even still exist??) entries.

Coming in at number one is the FleurBurger 5000 (at Fleur de Lys in Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas) and it will set you back $5,000. Foie gras, a special truffle sauce, it is served on a brioche truffle bun with black truffles on the side. But the price is hiked due to the bottle of Chateau Petrus 1990 it comes with.

Le Burger Brasserie (Paris) in Las Vegas is number two with a $777 Kobe Beef and Maine Lobster Burger, caramelised onions, imported brie cheese, prosciutto and 100-year aged balsamic vinegar. The burger is served with a bottle of Rose Dom Perignon champagne.

New York City delivers the $666 Douche Burger – a foie gras-stuffed burger topped with lobster, truffles, caviar, Gruyere that’s been melted with champagne steam, a barbecue sauce made with coffee beans that have been digested (and pooped out) by an Asian palm civet and served in a gold-leaf wrapper. Yes only the most pretentious would eat this.

The $295 Serendipity Burger from New York’s Serendipity 3 restaurant comes with its very own diamond-encrusted solid gold toothpick.

London’s One Burger King restaurant offers a $200 Wagyu beef, white truffles, Pata Negra ham slices, Cristal onion straws burger in an Iranian saffron and white truffle dusted bun.

The $175 Richard Nouveau Burger( the Wall Street Burger Shoppe in New York) was topped with real gold flakes, 25 grams of black truffles, a seared slab of foie gras and aged Gruyere. And I say “was” ad unfortunately the store closed when banking wages plummeted.

The $120 DB Royale Double Truffle Burger, on sale at New York’s B Bistro and the Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas, is stuffed with red wine-braised short ribs – off the bone – foie gras, a mix of root vegetables and preserved black truffle.

Indonesia’s Million Rupiah Hamburger, served at the Four Seasons Hotel in Jakarta, earns its place in the top ten with the $108 patty topped with foie gras, portobello mushrooms and Korean pears.

The W Hotel in Seoul serves up a $160 burger that’s topped with seared foie gras, a lobster tail and shaved black truffles.

Oh, and don’t count on getting fries with any of those, that is extra!

Where have you had your most expensive burger experience?

PLACES NOT TO PUT ON YOUR MUST-DO LIST

skyviewA recent trip to Dubai has inspired this post after experiencing something that I never need to see again.

We constantly hear about the best places to visit around the world, but what about the ones that are the “must NOT do’s before you die”. Author Catherine Price, has even written a book on the topic.

So where are my Top 7 places you shouldn’t bother putting on your list? Remembering the below is taken from personal experience and taste, and research by other writers (everyone is of course entitled to put together their own list).

Times Square on New Years Eve. Unless of course you like to stand out in freezing temperatures with a million people in a confined space, no alcohol and minimal portable toilets

Four Corners monument. It is in the middle of nowhere where four states intersect – New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. There is nothing to look at but a concrete slab with markings and apparently it is 1,800 feet away from the correct point.

The Seattle Chewing Gum Wall. Definitely not art! Used gum stuck on a wall for 15 years is just not hygienic or pretty. Makes me appreciate the gum ban in Singapore.

Beijing Museum of Tap Water. Yes you are reading correctly! Inside there are 130 real objects, 110 pictures, 40 models and sand tables on display to reflect the 90-year-old history of Beijing tap water. Would suggest saving your 20 cent admission fee.

The Taj Mahal. I know some people love this place, but for me it was disappointing. A 4-hour car journey each way (from Delhi) only to have people trying to rip you off at every turn. Then you line up only to find the building is actually empty except for a while tomb. Lesson learnt – do more research before going.

Burj Al Arab, particularly the Skyview Bar. The excitement of going to a 7-star hotel (I strongly dispute that fact too as it’s self-awarded and just a marketing ploy, I have been to far more luxurious and exclusive hotels)… anyway it was a let down. The Skyview Bar on the top level is a cross between walking into the inside of a computer (complete with circuit boards on the walls) and a bad 1980’s nightclub that has a spaceship theme. Enough said!

Machu Picchu. I have personally done this trek, and again just my opinion. Was it life shattering? Definitely not. To start with, it’s a long way to get to Peru to share a path with thousands of 18 year olds on their gap year. Even more disappointing is the fact you can buy a can of Coke from hundreds of stalls along the way. And then in reality it isn’t really that old (again my lack of research). The Terra Cotta Warriors are approximately 700 years older, the Colosseum 400 years, and Westminster Abbey 300 years older.

So what are your must “not” do’s?

HAPPY NEW YEAR… AGAIN!

snakeAbout 6 weeks too late you say! Well this isn’t the case for over a billion and a half of the world’s population as Chinese New Year is celebrated this weekend to welcome in the Year of the Snake.

So where are the best places to experience this celebration? Of course China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and more recently in the Philippines and Indonesia. And there are plenty of places outside of Asia too – a Sydney claims to have one of the largest celebrations and you can also try LA, San Francisco, NYC, Boston, Toronto and London. For the more obscure locations Mauritius and Butte, Montana also host parades.

And instead of nursing a hangover on New Year’s Day post-partying, you should consider doing the following to ensure a successful year ahead.

- On the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, every door in the house, and even windows, have to be open to allow the old year to go out.
- All debts have to paid by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year.
- Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are totally taboo. References to the past year are also avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning.
- If you cry on New Year’s day, you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated and are not spanked, no matter what..
- Wear red… as it is considered a bright, happy color, sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future.
- Do not wash your hair because it would mean you would have washed away good luck for the New Year.
- Do not use knives or scissors on New Year’s Day as this may cut off fortune.

So don’t be surprised next week when anyone in Asia doesn’t respond to your email… we are all out setting off firecrackers and eating!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

FEELING OLD?

hungover-womanWe all know the population is aging everywhere, and to put it into perspective one third of babies born in 2012 are expected to celebrate their 100th birthday! (there were only 316,600 centurions in 2011)

So if you want to feel young by hanging out with older people where should you go?

The number one place is Monaco, where the median age is 50, and on the upside most likely everyone there is wealthy and retired so not a bad place to be.

Following suit are –

Japan 45.4; Germany 45.3; Italy 43.8; Austria 43.4; Greece 42.8; San Marino 42.8; Slovenia 42.8; Finland 42.7; Belgium 42.6

The UK comes in at 22 (40.2); Australia 34 (37.9); USA at 38 (37.1), and outside of Japan, China is the next highest Asia country at 41st spot (35.9).

At the other end of the scale Uganda is the youngest (15.1) followed by Niger, Mali and Zambia, all under 17.

And age aside, if you are a working female chances are you are going to look your oldest (and worst) at 3.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon. This is when the effects of any alcohol consumed over the weekend hit home, stress levels are at their highest, and the body is most tired…. It really is hump day!

Knowing this, I say book in for a massage or facial every week at this time and the problem is easily solved!