Jul 31, 2013

famous roofs from around the world - guest post by George

As well as being an essential part of every property, roofs have more than just a practical purpose. As examples from around the world show, they can be a work of art, too. Here are just a few of the best:

Australia The Sydney Opera House 

One of the most famous structures in the world, the roof of the Sydney Opera House is instantly recognisable. With its iconic half shells, the design was the work of competition winner Jørn Utzon, who is claimed to have constructed his plans from 30 “rejected” designs by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen – perhaps the reason why the finished product has such a disjointed appearance.
The design team involved in the construction took 6 years to find a realistic and economically viable way to build the shells, which were of unspecified size in Utzon’s initial plans – a process that saw one of the first uses of computers in structural analysis. The outcome was 2,400 precast ribs and 4,000 roof panels, manufactured and fitted on site by the Hornibrook Group Pty Ltd, who also helped with some of the interior work.   
United Kingdom Millennium Dome/O2 Arena
Built to mark the year 2000 celebrations, the Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena) is a familiar sight on the Greenwich skyline. Despite being sturdy enough for James Bond to roll down in a famous scene in 1999’s The World is Not Enough, the roof of the dome is actually constructed as a large big top, with the weight of the entire structure coming in at less than that of the air contained within the building. Made from PTFE-coated fibreglass material, the domed roof is 365m in diameter and 52m high in the middle, representing the number of days and weeks in the year in which the building was open respectively. 

Wimbledon’s Centre Court
Wimbledon Roofing
Staying in the UK, another famous roof – one that also serves a highly practical purpose – is the retractable structure over Wimbledon’s Centre Court. Fitted in 2009 to help combat the unpredictable weather of the British summer, the Wimbledon roof was designed by SCX Special Projects Ltd, with the mobilisation mechanism plans drawn up by Fairfield Control Systems. Responsibility for maintenance and upkeep is shared between the two. Despite allowing play to continue during periods of rainy weather, it takes roughly 45 minutes for the Wimbledon roof to be put into place and achieve an atmosphere and temperature that is conducive to playing.   

 Germany Olympiapark
Sticking with the sports stadium theme, Munich’s Olympiapark complex was built for the 1972 Games, and is instantly recognisable for its sprawling mass of buildings, complete with ‘skinned’ roofs. Although lightweight and not constructed from solid materials, the roofs of the park’s various sporting venues are robust and can be walked upon, as well as reflecting the sun in a visually attractive manner.   

 Malaysia The Thean Hou Temple
A number of locations for religious and spiritual worship could have made this list – particularly across the Eastern world – but the Thean Hou Temple in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur combines elements of both the modern and traditional in its design. Despite having the appearance of an ancient monument, Thean Hou was actually built in 1987 in honour of the Cantonese goddess of the same name, and its resplendent roof includes a feast of coloured tiles, deep curves and many a dragon.

why sandals are my go - to for every outfit

These days all I wear are sandals and I think that's perfectly okay. They look fantastic with a variety of outfits and they are extremely comfy. Plus, with the variety of sandals that are available on quality sites, it gives me plenty to choose from.

I'm in Northern California right now and all I brought with me are sandals and flip flops. You might think I'm pretty boring, but I think I'm practical. Here are 3 reasons why I LOVE sandals and I don't find myself trading them in for boots anytime soon. Well, except for when fall and winter rolls around and I'm visiting Utah. 

They're Versatile
Sandals really go with anything. Whether you're wearing a dress, skirt, or a pair of jeans, it's easy to slip them on and go. Headed to a concert? Sandals look awesome with your concert outfit. Headed to a Yoga class? Slip on your sandals and take them off when you arrive at the studio. It's easy to make your sandals work with any outfit.

They're Comfy
Since their are so many great sites and shops that sell sandals, it's a lot easier to find comfy sandals that don't hurt your feet. I always try on the sandals prior to purchasing if possible and if not, I read the reviews or buy from a shoe brand I've worn before. This always helps me make a decision prior to purchasing a brand new pair of sandals and whether or not they will work with my wider feet.

They're Chic
And of course, the biggest reason of all why I wear sandals? They're so cute and chic! I always wear sandals to Yoga, Pilates, to the mall, and on road trips. Basically I wear sandals everywhere. I know that not all of us work independently, so your work may not allow flip flops and sandals, but if you're on the go like me they are quite ideal and look super cute. My current everyday staple usually consists of Lulu Yoga pants, a Free People top, and a pair of sandals. Yes, please! ;) Also -- they are perfect for the beach!!


Jul 29, 2013

castles and coast - Turkey’s most beautiful attractions - guest post by Katie

There’s just something about the ocean that’s good for the soul. And, given that Turkey is bordered by four different seas – the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterranean and the Sea of Marmara -  it’s the perfect destination for beach lovers.

Turkey is vibrant and unique, a place I’d always wanted to visit. We opt for a three-centre trip, first to the popular Turkish holiday destinations of Bodrum and Olu Deniz and then on to Istanbul – covering both Asian and European attractions in a bid to make the most of our visit.

Once a sleepy fishing village, Bodrum is now an ultra-fashionable city which attracts A-listers and the international jetset. Roman Abramovich regularly moors his mega yacht here and Jade Jagger loves it so much, she’s just opened her first restaurant here, The Secret Garden at Halikarnas.

It’s a picture-postcard scene that we delve straight into on our first day with a visit to Bodrum Castle. I’ve always been fascinated by castle’s – I must have read too many fairytales as a child – and Bodrum’s is simply spectacular. Known as the Castle of St Peter, it was built by the Knights of the Rhodes during the Crusades of the Middle Ages and we while away a morning exploring the ramparts and the Museum of Underwater Archaeology which is housed there. The views back to Bodrum and out over the Aegean Sea have to be some of the best vistas anywhere in the world.

We also spend time looking out over the ocean elsewhere. There is a myriad of beaches around Bodrum, but Bitez is our favourite. A mix of shingle and sand, it has a more relaxed vibe than busy Bodrum or neighbouring Gumbet.

Olu Deniz
It’s the most photographed beach in Turkey, so we had to visit to see this beauty spot for ourselves. And we’re not disappointed. It’s no wonder the Blue Lagoon Beach is consistently voted one of the best in the world by travellers and industry insiders. On the Turquoise Coast, the sea truly is a sparkly shade of the prettiest aquamarine. We watch paragliders swirl lazily down from the mountain peaks behind before swimming in the crystal clear waters, accompanied by shoals of the tiniest fish. 

I could probably have happily spent an eternity here, but we don’t want to miss the chance to see what is reputed to be one of the oldest Lycian cities in the world at Tlos, a few miles east of Olu Deniz. Here, says the legend, was the home of the winged horse Pegasus. We sit in the back row of the town’s Roman amphitheatre, among the cracked stones and the wild flowers, and imagine actors there in days gone by.

As we don’t have flying horses, we have to make do with an internal flight to Istanbul. The red tile rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar have become the stuff of film iconography after the spectacular opening scene of Skyfall, featuring Daniel Craig’s James Bond in a dramatic motorcycle chase. 

We, however, stick to terra firma, getting delightfully lost among the thousands of stalls selling everything from jewellery to ceramics, lanterns to carpets. There are authentic Turkish treasures along with fake designer labels. In total, the Grand Bazaar, or Kapali Carsi, has an overwhelming 4,000 stores, 66 streets, a mosque, a post office and a police station. The choice is truly overwhelming. In the end, I opt for a gorgeous Byzantine-style piece of jewellery from Necef in silver, with lovely semi-precious stones. Just be prepared to haggle your heart out – the stallholders always ask for at least double what you should be paying. 

With tired feet after a busy day shopping, we sip refreshing mint lemonade at the historic Fes Café. It’s there that the owner gives us the tip that leads us to the Princes’ Islands, known in Turkish as Adalar. Just a short ferry ride away, they’re a haven of sandy coves and calm waters that seem to be largely undiscovered by international visitors. No cars are allowed on the islands, so it’s like stepping back in time.

We mop up meze with fresh bread at one of Buyukada’s seafood restaurants before taking a horse-drawn cab tour. We feel truly privileged to have found such a Turkish delight. 

Katie, a newbie travel blogger from the UK shares the highlights of her first trip to Turkey, from castles to coastlines and an east-meets-west melting pot of cultures.

Jul 28, 2013

I can't wait for these upcoming Disney movies!

Disney is always coming out with the most amazing films, and this fall and winter is no exception. Thor is coming out in November and then just wait until Christmas...Saving Mr. Banks is coming out! I've been a Disney fan as long as I remember, and I'm so excited that they continue to come out with wonderful films.

Here is a little bit more about Saving Mr. Banks; I've provided Disney's movie summary below. I'm especially excited about this one because I love Tom Hanks!

Saving Mr. Banks

Two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen.

When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.
For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.

It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.

Inspired by true events, “Saving Mr. Banks” is the extraordinary, untold story of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen—and the testy relationship that the legendary Walt Disney had with author P.L. Travers that almost derailed it.

SAVING MR. BANKS opens in theaters limited on 
December 13, 2013 and opens wide on December 20, 2013!

Thor The Dark World
Who is excited about Thor: The Dark World?! I can't wait for this film.

I love this pic above where Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman 
are together once more for the first set photos of the duo from Thor 2!
They have the best chemistry and I can't wait for this action movie and 
their on-screen romance! ;)

What future Disney movies are you excited to see?


Jul 27, 2013

summer concerts I want to go to

I haven't been to a concert in the longest time, and I keep on receiving emails that I've subscribed to reminding just how much fun I'm missing out on! Since I'm currently saving I'm not sure I can go to these fabulous concerts, but if I could you better believe I'd be checking them out and buying a lot of tickets to my favorite artist concerts asap. It would be so much fun to look at Selena Gomez tickets to take one of my little second cousins to (I'd probably enjoy it too!) or head off to see Michael Buble. His voice always melt my heart.

Here are some concerts I would love to go to this summer and who knows -- I just may have to splurge and buy some tickets!

Gavin DeGraw 
Gavin has been a favorite artist of mine for some time now. I started listening to his tunes after college and I've been obsessed ever since. He also sang one of my favorite songs from the movie Tristan and Isolde called "We Belong Together." It's BK's current ringtone. ;) After college Gavin got me through a lot of heartbreak and then he also helped me really relish in my new found love with my current and forever love BK. I love his song "Follow Through" and all of his duets with Colbie Caillat in particular. Best. Song. Ever! If I could buy some tickets I would definitely head off to see Gavin in Phoenix, AZ or Los Angeles, CA for sure. If I could travel to a different country to see him in concert as well, that would be so much fun!

Carrie Underwood
Who wouldn't want to purchase tickets to see Carrie Underwood in concert?! I know I would and she only has a few concerts left this fall in Texas, so if you want to see her I would suggest buying tickets soon. I'm kicking myself for not going to her concerts in the past, because not only is she an amazing performer, but she's an incredible role model to women everywhere. I know she's my role model. I heart Carrie and her songs. Plus, she's so down down to earth and has this incredible faith in God. She's amazing!

Selena Gomez
Sometimes a girl has to embrace her inner pop princess and Selena allows me to do just that. Come on, you know you can admit to playing "Love You Like a Love Song" on repeat, right? Well, I think it would be just as fun to sing this song with all of her fans in concert. Selena Gomez tickets could lead to a very fun and popful night, especially if you made a little sister's or little cousin's night by bringing her along. So sweet! ;)

Justin Timberlake 
I don't really care for JAY Z, but he's touring with Justin Timberlake and I bet that would be an amazing concert to go to. I love that Justin is back and he's hotter than ever, both vocally speaking and with good looks too. Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, this would be an awesome concert to see because he's so so talented. I wish I could get tickets right now!!

So...what concerts do you want 
to go to this summer Ocean Dreamers?
Or, have you been lucky and already attended a few? 

P.S. I know there are a lot of fun country tickets and 
shows that are coming up soon too! I Want to go so bad!
(Hello Miranda Lambert Locked & ReLoaded tour!!!


Jul 5, 2013

the boom of social gifting - guest post by Marcela

Image courtesy of Chris Messina / flickr.com

The latest craze in e-commerce and social networks is social gifting, a platform that allows people to give gifts via social networks, texting or email. With social gifting, people are able to send presents to their friends without the hassle of running to the post office. These presents are usually gift cards, but can also be actual products and goods.

Social gifting allows you to send a present the minute you are notified by Facebook or other social network notification of a friend’s birthday or special occasion. You are also able to send gifts to distant locations in mere minutes, and without having to find your address book. Some social gifting services allow you to pool your money with other friends so that the total contributions can purchase something substantial, like a laptop or an exotic vacation.

While social gifting is a fairly new venture, the industry is growing rapidly. Here are some of the more successful companies actively engaged in the social gifting trade and are changing the landscape of gifting:

Image courtesy of Chris Messina / flickr.com

One of the largest social gifting services available, Wrapp allows people to buy and send gift cards from major retailers to their friends on Facebook. An easy-to-use app on smartphones, tablets and computers, Facebook friends can also collect funds together for a larger sum. The recipient can redeem the card online or in stores. Wrapp customizes the gift card options based on your friend’s profile and demographic information.

Also powered through Facebook, friends are able to send “treats” to each other. Merchants specify items that can be gifted. Treater works like a credit card, allowing you to send small gifts instantly from the web to the recipient's smartphone. The “treats” can then be redeemed in the store or restaurant. Pay for the items you want to send to your friend and Treater will then email or text your friend a link to a one-use Visa or MasterCard payment card for the actual amount of the “treat.” The recipient then uses that payment care in store or restaurant to redeem the item you’ve treated them. 

Treater focuses on smaller ticket items than Wrapp—like a burrito or a coffee, aiming for everyday (rather than special occasion) gifting.

It’s On Me
Yet another social gifting service that uses Facebook, It’s On Me allows both yourself and businesses to send gifts via this social network. Geo-targeted, this platform focuses on companies and stores local to the recipient.

A social gifting app focused on food, restaurants and photography, Plumfare converts your photos into gifts. You take a photo of something you’re eating or experiencing—like a meal at a restaurant—and send it to a friend. That photo can then be turned into a gift card for a meal at that restaurant.

Another social gifting platform focused on food and restaurants, Gratafy expands the parameters to include nightlife and bars as well. Currently focusing on the Seattle area, the company has partnered with more than 40 restaurants, bars and nightlife venues in the Seattle. Also integrated with Facebook, you can buy gift cards for these partner locations for any of your social network friends.

Boomerang began its business as a social gifting company, using Facebook as its primary database as well; however, in the last month, Boomerang has announced that it is no longer strictly a peer-to-peer social gifting service as it is moving in the direction of viral marketing as a means of redistributing direct-to-consumer gift card promotions.

The only gifting service listed here that focuses on business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer (instead of strictly peer-to-peer gifting), DropGifts operates much like Wrapp. Retailers are able to reach their consumers via sampling and gifting campaigns through their social networks.

Although social gifting will take the fun out of unique gift wrapping, and many business’ rely heavily on packaging as a powerful branding tool, only time will tell if this latest marketing buzz will last in its current permutation or take on a new form. In the meantime, utilize social gifting services so that you never miss an important event again. 

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing professional from Southern California, as well as the founder of Gryffin Media. Her writing covers everything from technology and gaming, to personal health and fitness, to business and marketing.