FOOD FOR THOUGHT

baconsundae-531x550I am certainly a big fan of eating (not so much the cooking part). And as the interest levels of dining have never been so high, there has been an abundance of food fads and restaurant trends – with some definitely more right than wrong, taste bud dependent of course!

So what takes your fancy, and what should you put on your must try list for 2013?

Bacon with everything. Don’t get me wrong I love a good piece of crispy bacon with my weekend breakfast, but when it is turned into ice-cream, chocolate or popcorn I have to say no.

Butchers opening up their own restaurants. The US leads the way in this trend, and now a ton of other countries are following. The best one I have been to is The Publican in Chicago http://publicanqualitymeats.com/

Every restaurant saying its menu uses local, organic or seasonal produce….zzzzzzz so 2012.

Frozen yoghurt is making a comeback! I am a fan but I can’t help think of the Seinfeld episode on low fat yoghurt – buyer beware.

Taking photos of your food and posting them everywhere. People please STOP this, no one cares!!!

Going Paleo. Hardcore, but I have to say it works. Basically cut out anything fun in your diet and stick to meat, vegetables, and some nuts and seeds. Grains, dairy, and sugar are a no, no.

Non-booking restaurants and queues to eat. Everyone is well and truly over this and restaurants are now reverting to reservations again. We aren’t at Disneyland or 18 years old trying to get into a nightclub.

Healthier kids menus. Say goodbye to hotdogs and mac n’ cheese as the stock standard on children’s menus. Restaurants are starting to step up and offer better alternatives for families, especially as couples with children spend on average 44% more at restaurants than those without children.

Bon appetite!

BORN WITH A SILVER SPOON

baby-globe-rexI find when you are living overseas a topic of constant conversation generally revolves around – what nationality is your child, what passport/s should they carry and can or should you make them a residence of where you are currently living.

To answer that question, The Economist ran a study looking at the economic future of 80 countries in 2030 (when babies born in 2013 will be adults).

So which countries are the best to be born in? Money of course counts, but it isn’t the only measure. Others are good health, safety, quality of public institutions, quality of life, levels of employment, government policies and those countries with the most opportunity.

And the winner is…

Switzerland – it proves boring sometimes wins out!
Australia – the lucky country
Norway, Sweden & Denmark – go the Nordic countries! Maybe temperature or amount of daylight wasn’t taken into account?
Singapore – shows that compulsory National Service is no deterrent
New Zealand – lovely place to be born, just a long way from anywhere
Netherlands – pre-requisite is that you must wear orange!
Canada – perfect if you want to be a professional skier
Hong Kong – the gateway to China

The USA comes in at number 16 (tied with Germany), Britain is at 27 and the worst place to be born is Nigeria at number 80.

It looks like the smaller nations are the places to be setting up home, as bigger isn’t always better!

GOODBYE HOLIDAYS, HELLO BUSINESS TRIPS

art-353-Bound-Passenger-300x0
Happy New Year everyone!

Well it may be happy at the moment as most people are refreshed from a break and settling back into work. But it won’t be long until the euphoria of holidays wears off and the first business trip of the year is thrust upon you (if it hasn’t already been).

So what are the most stressful things about business travel? CWT recently conducted a global survey to find out what they were.

1. Lost or Delayed Baggage – this rated 4 points higher for women too, and I can whole heartedly agree having been a victim of this one too many times
2. Poor/No Internet Connection – on the upside maybe a blessing in disguise and a good excuse to hit the hotel bar instead of working 
3. Flying Economy on Med/Long Haul – this was cited as it reduces the possibility to work for a suitable length of time or to rest properly
4. Delays – obviously this is far worse on the return leg of the journey when you just want to get home
5. Inconvenient Dep./Arr. Times – having to skip time with family was the biggest reason
6. Low Hotel Category – less likely to be able to sleep or be comfortable or in a safe area
7. Inconvenient Hotel Location – added stress of finding transportation to the office, lack of local places to eat
8. Last-Minute Requested Trips – puts a strain on existing routines at home (especially if they involve children’s routines)
9. Not Able to Eat Healthily – hard to find healthy options in meetings and at hotels
10. Traveling during Week-ends – heavily affects work, life balance and family
11. Length of Journey to Reach Destination – impact on health, jetlag and ability to function
12. Flying Indirect versus Direct – similar to the above, you want to limit travel time

One NY blogger had a different view and suggested it was the scarcity of power outlets in airports, seats that don’t recline very far and that must be upright on landing, excessive in-flight announcements, check-in procedure, inconsistent lounge rules, and policies forbidding him to bring alcohol onto planes.

Now that would be far more interesting if it was unlimited duty-free alcohol on flights. Just ask this guy in the photo who consumed all of his within one hour of taking off on a flight this week!

GOLDEN GLOW OR BEER BATH?

Tough weekend and feel like you need some R&R already? Well it sounds like a great idea, but it can cost a nice chunk of your salary to try some of these treatments.

Relieve all that stress with what is deemed the most expensive massage in the world. The Grand Wailea Resort in Maui, has a 20-Hands Duo Massage which will set you back $2,000. That is 10 skilled masseuses working on your tired muscles at one time giving you the feeling of a “hula wave” washing over your body.

If bling in more your style then you may want to consider this –

1. A 24-karat Gold Facial at UMO America in (of course) Beverly Hills. Where the gold is dissolved first to easily spread across the skin and gently massaged into your face until it completely disappears leaving your face with a nice “golden” glow.
2. A Diamond Massage. Hearts on Fire and Spa on Location have joined forces and offer a $1 million worth of loose diamonds placed along your spine as a massage therapist gently massages your back.
3. One for the guys, take a bath in beer. A family owned brewery in the Czech Republic called Chodovar offers this beer spa treatment where the bath is also enriched by a batch of active beer yeast and a mixture of dehydrated crushed herbs. The beer yeast provides the skin with a wide range of vitamins, proteins and saccharides (another term for sugar). This softens and regenerates the skin.
4. Prefer a bath with wine instead… no problem! The Kenwood Inn & Spa , the first Vinotherapie center in the US, offer a barrel bath cabin and patio that look out over the vineyards. Unlike the beer bath you don’t soak in wine, but instead bubbling water with finely crushed grapes extracts and organic oils.
5. Caviar and truffles anyone? Apparently yes, if you would like them on your hair. Hari’s in London wash your hair with a truffle-based shampoo and the smear on the caviar and let it sit. Not sure you would be smelling like roses post that visit to the hairdresser.

Call me boring, but I may just settle for my reflexology down the road… unless of course someone else is paying.

START DATING YOUNGER MEN!

Being part of a significant birthday celebration today, made me think just how much longer is it until we can sit on the beach or relax in the mountains without a care in the world.

With all the financial uncertainty in the world, it is no surprise that retirement age is constantly rising. Even women don’t escape this trend – so no long lunches post tennis in the near future it seems.

Germany was the first country to introduce publicly sanctioned retirement in 1889 for workers over 70. It was meant to care for those in old age, and also to undermine a much more radical socialist movement that was brewing in the country. That initiative paved the way for many later social insurance programs, including Social Security in the U.S.

In the UK the average age at which people retire has risen from 63.8 years to 64.6 years for men and from 61.2 years to 62.3 years for women over the past 6 years.

A Gallop survey in the US has the average age of retirement at 67, up from 66 in 2011. A vast difference to the average in 1995 when people retired at 60. Only 6% of people think they will be able to retire before they are 55.

The US and Denmark have the largest percentage of people in the workforce aged 65 and over (25% and 12% respectively)

On opposite end of the scales are Mexicans retiring on average at 73 and the French much earlier at 58.7 years old.

If you retire in the Netherlands chances are you are going to end up living in a retirement home. A whopping 24% of adults over 65 in the Netherlands live in retirement homes, compared to just 6.6% in Australia, 2.3% in Canada, and 2.1% in the U.S.

And if you are a retired single female even worse news… for every 100 women in the world who are over 85, there are only 39 men. Sounds like a good time to start dating a younger man!!!

TRAVEL SAFE

To insure or not to insure?

The whole area of travel insurance is extremely confusing so hopefully this will help make your decision a little less so, next time you head overseas.

There are three main categories: trip investment (which covers trip cancellation or interruption), personal health (which fills in gaps in your normal health insurance), and personal belongings (which covers baggage loss and car rental damage). You should always have at least the first two. And make sure the personal health coverage includes both “medical evacuation,” which is the cost of getting you to an appropriate local hospital or clinic, and “repatriation,” which covers the cost of getting back home.

Top Tip – most people fail to recognise that most credit cards and health insurance packages already have some form of travel insurance coverage so you don’t need to buy more.

Credit card travel insurance usually covers everything, and of course platinum and higher level cards provide the best coverage. BUT most of the time you’ll only be covered if you paid for some, or all, of the international air tickets on the credit card, which is considered a trigger for the “activation” of the travel insurance. This means credit card travel insurance policies are useless for business trips (usually paid for by your company). So hopefully your company has something that covers you for work trips – it’s worthwhile asking as I have been caught out several times.

Luggage and personal items are covered well on credit cards, sometimes up to $15,000 per person, with a total of $30,000 for all family members. Standalone travel insurance policies quite often have limits as low as $2,000 for your baggage, so don’t assume you need an additional policy to cover this.

Of course, all the usual conditions apply – you may only get reimbursed for lost or stolen items if you have filed police reports within 24 hours, and only if you can provide original purchase receipts to prove ownership.

If you purchase the ticket for plane, train, bus or ferry on your credit card you will generally be insured against death or debilitating injury for a very high amount, such as $1,000,000 for the death of a cardholder. Regular travel insurance generally only pays out normal accidental death benefits of around $25,000 – $50,000.

And if you are lucky enough to have time off and are going on a long trip, choose your card carefully. Credit card insurance is often only valid for three to six months maximum, and unlike stand-alone travel insurance policies, can’t be extended.

HOLIDAY RUN

Sight see and stay fit… now there’s an idea! As the northern hemisphere plans their summer vacations, why not take another approach and think of including a destination run in there too. There is something for everyone’s taste and here are my top picks that may just get you motivated to pack your running shoes.

If drinking is your thing head towards California or Oregon and combine wine tasting with running through the vineyards – http://destinationraces.com

Want to take in some ruins then the Rome Marathon is perfect. Starting and finishing at the Colosseum, it goes past the Vatican City and through Piazza Navona. http://www.maratonadiroma.it

Give back to the local community and have a once in a lifetime experience – the beautiful Angkor Wat half marathon in Cambodia does just that. Proceeds go to the Cambodian children and disabled, while runners get to have this amazing temple all to themselves (and the children in local villages cheering you on is a special treat) http://www.angkormarathon.org

Head north for the Glitnir Reykjavik Marathon in Iceland. The northernmost capital in the world, has some of the cleanest air on earth, along with ideal running temperatures in August. But just watch your pre-race diet as don’t be surprised to come across unique menu options such as Hrútspungar (ram testicles), Svi (half a sheep’s head) and Hákarl (raw, putrefied Greenlandic shark). http://www.marathon.is/reykjavikurmaraton

Don’t expect to set any personal bests at the Great Wall Marathon due to the tough course. But what an amazing experience running on part of a wall that was over 6,000km long and was built in 7th Century BC! http://www.great-wall-marathon.com

And of course, it would be remiss of me not to include the New York Marathon. An iconic run that draws more than 100,000 applicants a year and 315 million worldwide television viewers. http://www.nycmarathon.org

Get running!