COFFEE FRENZY

Not many people realize how many empty calories they are “drinking” a day, and I am not even talking alcoholic beverages here. While you may be skipping meals, loading up on drinks can be far more fattening than eating healthy food. Next time you are grabbing your coffee on the way to work, you may want to re-think your selection.

Based on a grande size from Starbucks (calories)
Brewed coffee 12
Latte – Skim 130; Soy 170; Full fat 220
Hot chocolate 290
Mocha 232
The worst… Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Crème 500 calories

And that “healthy” scone or muffin to go with your coffee is not so good for you – a zucchini walnut one contains 490 calories and has 110 more calories than a chocolate chunk cookie or 210 more calories than a bagel.

If soda/soft drink is more your thing.
A can of Coke contains 140 calories, while 7-Up is 150 calories and Mountain Dew has 163 calories

I would also suggest being active to go and get it from the fridge, as it takes approximately 23 minutes of walking to burn the calories in 1 can of Coke.

TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL

Over an enjoyable glass of champagne at a parents catch up for my daughter’s school class last night, the usual topics were discussed – school fees, which school next etc. The fact is that sending children to a private school now, can cost more than attending some of the best universities/colleges, and this is before you have bought books and uniforms.

So why do parents invest so much in their child’s education? Often it’s the chance to build a “network” for when they eventually join the workforce, for others it’s the state-of the-art facilities, access to top teachers to get the best education and coaches that can help turn someone into an Olympian.

In the US the average cost of attending a private school (grades one through twelve) is around $45,000 for boarding students and $20,000 for day students according to the National Association of Independent Schools.

But that price can be seemingly cheap compared to other locations in the world (aka Switzerland). Here are a few of the best named by CNBC and The Wall Street Journal.

Institut Le Rosey, Switzerland
Boarding student annual tuition: $99,566
400 students in primary and secondary years
Perks: Students can study up to four languages; extensive facilities include 10 tennis courts, an equestrian center and skateboard park; campus sits on almost 70 acres of land; alumni include monarchs and other royals.

Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil, Switzerland
Boarding student annual tuition: $93,158
180 students
Perks: A view of the French Alps; expeditions to places like Madagascar; a diverse student body with not more than 10 percent of any one nationality represented at a time.

Lawrence Academy, Massachusetts USA
Boarding student annual tuition: $52,640; Day student: $40,510
400 students in grades 9 through 12
Perks: 100-acres campus; Sony Language Laboratory; experiential learning activities such as dog sledding in Minnesota and studying bats in Australian rain forests.

Eton College, England
Boarding student annual tuition: $50,213
1300 boys from age 13 to 18
Perks: Students study two modern languages in addition to English and mandatory Latin instruction; famous alumni include Olympic athletes and 19 British ministers; great odds for college admissions.

United World College Of South East Asia (UWC), Singapore
Boarding student annual tuition for high school: $48,403 Day student: $24,884
3,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12
Perks: Extensive sporting facilities such as 20 badminton courts, six volleyball courts and two Olympic-sized swimming pools; a student body comprising of over 39 nationalities; an environmentally-friendly campus with the world’s largest solar powered air conditioning system.

The Hotchkiss School, Connecticut USA
Boarding student annual tuition: $45,350; Day student: $38,650
600 students in grades 9 through 12
Perks: 827-acre campus; athletic facilities include 15 outdoor tennis courts, two hockey rinks and a golf course; students hail from across the U.S. and 28 other countries; seven levels of language instruction offered in Chinese, French, German, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and Russian.

If you are attending one of these schools the old saying must be true “school is the best days of our lives”!

WATCHES… A MAN’S NEW BEST FRIEND

They are what diamonds are to females…

More and more men are “investing” in watches now as they have become far more than a fashion item or a status symbol. In most men’s minds this makes it a bit easier to justify the entry level price of what could be classed as “man jewelry”… and hey I am all for it!

With the Swiss Watch industry at an all-time high (up 19% in the last 12 months), it seems there isn’t a recession when it comes to watches. Where are these expensive watches getting shipped too? Hong Kong – 21%; USA – 10%; China – 8%; France – 6%; Singapore- 6%.

So how do you choose the right watch for you?

1. You don’t need every shade of gold and 14 dials to tell you the time in Antarctica, but what you do need is something that will compliment your lifestyle.

2. It should reflect who you are, and who you aspire to be (Top tip – pick a manly one, not something girlie!)

3. A watch with a plain black or white face—and a leather strap or a steel bracelet—will go with everything.

4. Don’t buy a watch that makes you a “groupie” ie a Rolex style that everyone you know has

5. You can never go wrong with a steel case

6. Don’t be scared to change your watch band for different seasons – metal, leather, rubber, grosgrain – there are options

7. If you don’t partake in sporting activities then don’t wear a watch that measures everything physical activity under the sun. And no matter what, a Polar or Garmin watch does not look good on anyone wearing a suit.

You should also take the time to know the basics if you are investing in one.

Water-Resistant – “resistant” is the key here, don’t get carried away and wear it non-stop in water
Quartz – the movement powered by a battery and regulated by the oscillations of a quartz crystal (and most accurate at telling the time)
Complication – anything that is added that isn’t the time eg calendar or stopwatc
Movement – all the pieces that run the watch

If you want the best (according to a recent survey of 400 millionaires) then buy a Franck Muller as it’s the most prestigious brand. If that isn’t your style than the other brands that made it were Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Breguet.

And if you don’t have $50,000 to spend on a watch, you can still look sharp. Stick to a classic like an old school Seiko that won’t date and will only set you back about $200.

A FREE LOUIS VUITTON HANDBAG?

YES PLEASE!!

Well that’s my story based on a recent experience.

I had a 3 year old LV bag that was starting to show some wear and tear that wasn’t all that desirable, so I took it into a store to ask what could be done. LV sent it away and a week later I got a call saying come in and pick a new handbag… happy days! That simple (and very pleasant) experience of a brand standing behind its product has left me with nothing but good things to say, and I am now “brand loyal” .

I have invested in the LV brand and that emotional tie is why other brands such as Apple, have such loyalty.

Luxury brands that have successfully engaged with customers and have a “cult” following are (based on numerous brand studies):
- BMW who consistently is the chosen number luxury car brand around the world
- Tiffany for jewelry
- Louis Vuitton for fashion
- Rolex for watches

And now not everyone needs to go into a store to ‘feel the love’. Consumers are more than happy to shop for luxury via the internet with 80% of luxury brands having e-commerce facilities (and gaining the highest traffic to their sites versus the 20% who don’t)

What sites are people purchasing from? Ralph Lauren commands 39.2% of traffic (out of 42 luxury brand sites names by PM Digital) followed by LouisVuitton.com (11.8%) and Gucci.com (10.9%).

I said a few months ago in a post and I will say it again… caveat emptor (buyer beware). Check which sites you are purchasing from as most are fakes. 839 websites in the USA alone have been closed down for selling replica merchandise. 80% of Hermes-branded goods sold on the Internet are not real. So if that handbag price is too good to be true, its fake!

DO-IT-YOURSELF FLYING

Getting on a plane soon? Don’t be surprised if the pain of long lines to board, lost baggage and upgrade requests start to go away as we see some new technology being put to good use to make travelling easier (well that’s the theory anyway!)

Innovations that have been tested over the past year include –

Gate-free
At Las Vegas’ McCarran, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich Airports there are self-boarding stations where passengers scan their boarding passes to open the automated clearance gates and board planes on their own

Lost luggage a thing of the past
Las Vegas McCarran, Lisbon and Milan Airports and Qantas Airlines – a high-tech baggage-handling system using a tag embedded with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip to each checked bag. These are scanned and tracked more easily by sensors from conveyor belt to carousel.
Alternatively you can tag your own bag with Alaska Airlines in Seattle.

Upgrades on demand
“Halo” devices (tablet computers) enable the airline crew to walk among passengers in the terminal and process upgrades. EasyJet is testing as well as airports in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Basel, Edinburgh and Geneva.

Smile
To stop people swapping boarding passes once they have gone through security at London’s Heathrow Airport passengers will have their face scanned for identification upon entering and leaving the departure area. This will happen at an automatic gate and be synced with the boarding pass.
Gatwick is doing the same, but this time via iris recognition.

Boarding pass on the move
Near-field communication (NFC) chips are used as replacement for boarding passes on phones (the iPhone is yet to have this technology). Japan Airlines is the first airline globally to enable smart phones with NFC chips to act as boarding passes for passengers flying domestically, and others are lining up to do the same.

Hmmm… now to get rid of those long immigration queues at some airports.

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.