Thursday, April 30, 2015

Travel Photo Greeting Cards For Every Occasion

To some of us, sending a greeting card seems so 19th century. Oh sure, you send a greeting card for the end-of-the-year holidays, maybe. But for the other occasions that touch those around us -- birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, a promotion, sickness, death and more -- we resort to showing a sense of intimacy or connectedness by what we have at hand: text message or e-card. What if, instead, you sent a friend or relative a physical card, one that exuded specialness because of the dramatic image on the cover as well as the message you handwrote inside? Try it sometime and see what reaction you get. I'll bet they'll recognize the time and energy it took to pick the card and write the message and then, of all time-intensive activities, actually address it and bring it to the mail box or post office.

I've been selling my line of all-occasion landscape and travel photo greeting cards. The time to think about recognizing those you love is throughout the year, not just around the end-of-the-year holidays, and not with an impersonal e-card. The stock of each of these cards is high-quality; the inside is blank, providing plenty of room to compose your greeting. And each of the 12 cards features a different photo from one of my many trips: the two below represent first Japan and then Bangkok. You can purchase them singly or the entire dozen. Hopefully we'll find that sending physical greeting cards isn't an extinct activity.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gear Review: Wind-Proof Travel Umbrella

I'm not an umbrella person, especially when I travel. It's just one more thing to carry and, most likely, lose. Since I don't check luggage, an umbrella has never made it into my bag, that is, until I went to Southeast Asia during the rainy season. I had thought that a breathable but rain resistant jacket would be the best way to deal with the drenching rains that I anticipated. But, realizing the humidity would be upwards of 80%, I knew that even the most breathable jacket would turn me into a soggy mess. Hence, the umbrella. I needed one that would be small, sturdy, and able to deal with blasts of winds that I also anticipated. The umbrella that made it into my bag is the REI Travel Umbrella.

What's unique about it -- aside from the hefty price tag -- is that it has a vented canopy. During some heavy downpours with blustery winds in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the umbrella was quite wind resistant: it never turned inside out. But the umbrella is  small -- don't even think of squeezing two people under it. I'm pretty petite yet, when I carried a shoulder bag, the umbrella barely kept my torso and bag dry. It's also heavy: weighing in at one pound. The open-close button is relatively smooth, though it opens easier than it closes.

All that being said, I now take this umbrella on any non-hiking trip when I anticipate a lot of rain. I'll be walking the Nantes-Brest Canal in Brittany in a month and will be carrying it on that journey.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Gear Review: Shoes So Comfortable They Feel Like Clouds

 My friends joke about how I describe my ideal pancake: it should resemble a cloud and literally feel like it's floating off the plate. And I was reminded of my cloud analogy when testing out these new Chaco OutCross Evo 2 shoes that the company just provided. I tried them out for a week and they are so cloud-like, I sometimes have to look down at my feet to wonder if I've walked out of the house with just my socks. Extremely comfortable? You bet. Though they come in a rainbow of colors, being a New Yorker I chose black, of course. They're billed as a performance shoe -- one that goes from water sports to the beach to the trail -- but I also wore them in the city with skirts, pants and leggings and got plenty of compliments on their low profile style.

When I wanted  to check out their performance, I ventured to Long Island's east end for a weekend of fishing, and beach walking. The speed lace system that Chaco is noted for makes it easy to slip these shoes on and off. When wet, the shoes dry rapidly. No worries about your feet overheating; these shoes are completely breathable. But, though I had hoped for great traction on wet rocks, that's not what I found. As we fished just off shore and I navigated across slick rocks of different sorts, I wasn't happy with the traction I got. And, walking across the beach brought plenty of sand into the shoes which I had to remove frequently during our walks to clear out the sand.

Then I checked out the shoes in Manhattan's wet streets during some spring rainstorms. Again, there were traction issues, this time if I crossed anything metallic -- it was like an ice skating rink. Of course, these shoes are not meant to be city walking shoes. So, this wasn't a fair test. (They are meant to have great traction on natural surfaces.)

Overall, I love these shoes for their comfort and their aesthetics -- two things for which the Chaco brand is noted. I'm packing two pair of Chacos on my next trip to Brittany where I will be walking the Nantes-Brest Canal. One of these I've written about these shoes before as well as the sandals - check out why I love 'em.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reykjavik in Pictures

Reykjavik is one of my favorite cities in the world: full of culture and striking views of mountains and sea, with an ever-present sense of the quirky. So it's a perfect venue for a writer to create and be inspired. No wonder it's the site of the second annual Iceland Writers Retreat that I participated in. Between workshops, receptions, meals, a literary walking tour, and lots of coffee and pastries, I roamed the wee downtown where there's beauty around every corner. 

This short YouTube video slideshow provides a small window into why I love Iceland's capital city. 

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