Sunday, February 12, 2012

Local Guides: Valentine's Day Destinations

It's Valentine's Week.  While many couples have already planned well in advance how they will celebrate this day, or what gifts they will buy, my batch of friends have contributed their suggestions for places that you can get away to - to celebrate Valentine's Day.
Yep, there's no limit to the selection of places (although I have space to mention only a few) or how far you can travel.  Should you want to travel 12 hours away from  USA (time-zone-wise), you can reach Oman.  How about that?  I sure know I am 12 hours away from Las Vegas.

For a couple of weeks now I have been asking friends to tell us why anyone should visit their place, least of all to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Is there something special about each of their places?  I'm sure there is. (Part of which makes each one special too, I suppose).

Meet our local guides as they take you through each of their places, shedding light on the beautiful scenery, exquisite, romantic dining or simply breathtaking trails of greenery.


The Costa Blanca - Spain (Veronica Shine)

The Costa Blanca in the Valencia Community of Spain has much to offer with its historic villages of Greek and Roman origins. Valentine´s Day is extra special in a land of great beauty.
Drink the essence of sherry from the world renowned wine-growing region of Jalon. This fertile valley lays slightly in-land from the Mediterranean coast among majestic mountains.
The seaside is also represented of this area and is simmering with its temperate microclimate weather and perpetual sun. There is a sure bet it will be shining on Valentine´s Day with an awesome sunrise and sunset.
Besides numerous resorts and dining facilities, the coastline is dotted with small and quaint fishing villages.
Nothing compares or is more romantic that sharing the immense discoveries on the Costa Blanca that always compiles countless interests in friends and lovers. 


Las Vegas, Nevada -USA  (Diane Quinn)

I live in a city that needs no introduction—Las Vegas, Nevada.  Sure people come here from all over the world for its obvious attractions: world class hotels, one-of-a-kind entertainment, a plethora of celebrity chef restaurants, and gambling, gambling, gambling!  Held captive on “the Strip,” many tourists never venture outside the city limits to discover that the natural beauty around the city is just as amazing as the neon lights, glitzy shows and gourmet dining on most vacation itineraries. 

Red Rock Conservation Area is my favorite spot with its pristine Mojave Desert flora and red clay cliffs all surrounded by dramatic, granite mountains.  Take the 13-mile scenic drive or hike on numerous trails where you’ll stumble on the remains of buildings from early settlers or petroglyphs written by ancient Paiute Indian artists.  Other notable spots outside Las Vegas include Hoover Dam, one of the world’s greatest engineering achievements, the sparkling blue waters of Lake Mead Recreational Area, and the spectacular new Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that connects Nevada and Arizona directly above Hoover Dam.  After you’ve lost your money playing poker, you’ll have more time to explore these sites that won’t cost you a dime.


Thunder Bay, Ontario - Canada (Raymond Alexander Kukkee)

Valentine's Day is here again.
What better way to spend Valentine's day than to visit  wonderful Kakabeka Falls in Northern  Ontario?  Beauty surrounds this natural Canadian playground, even in winter!

Take in the breathtakingly beautiful natural waterfalls known as the ' Niagara of the North' located in Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park.  Hear the mighty roar of ghosts of  mighty Sioux warriors from times  past.  Visit with friendly locals and ask about the Ojibwa Princess Greenmantle---and the rest of the story.  Take in an afternoon of cross-country skiing on miles of groomed trails and enjoy hot chocolate over an open campfire, winter-camping style.  Visitors are always welcome!  Enjoy!

Mesa, Arizona - USA (M J Joachim)

One of the best things about Mesa, Arizona is its proximity to so many amazing social events and cultural attractions. Popular regional venues include the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, Phoenix Open Golf Classic and Barrett Jackson Auto Auction. These events and many more create welcome opportunities for fun, family entertainment that won’t break the bank. Downtown Mesa provides a quaint atmosphere, full of local mom & pop shops, hosting numerous side-walk arts and craft shows throughout the year. Intimate diners and cafes cater to a variety of tastes, delighting and intriguing visitors who stroll through the town. Mesa, Arizona is home to thousands of people who appreciate living in a neighborly place that is so welcoming, cultural and remarkable.


Town is only about 800 people, but they are friendly and outgoing. Wild Horse Plains is surrounded by heavily forested and beautiful mountains that are home to deer, elk, big horns, mountain goats, wild turkeys and grouse. Clark Fork River flows by town so fishing is nearby and geese are common. This place has a relaxed atmosphere and a person can walk to nearly anywhere in town. It is also literally Big Sky Country and the nights are gorgeous, with lots of stars and an occasional appearance by the Aurora or northern lights.


British Colombia - Canada (Christy Birmingham)

Here on the West Coast of British Columbia, Canada, there is beautiful greenery. The Douglas Firs and Yellow Cedars provide natural shelter for walkers to cozy up under to step away from the rain. Pull up the hood on your jacket and explore the Galloping Goose Trail alongside bikers and dog-walkers. The mountains are so close on the horizon you are almost certain you can reach out and touch them. Take the hand of your special Valentine and explore the scenery of BC.  


Richmond, Virginia - USA (Alexandra Heep)

Richmond and romance may not sound like they go together, but romance can be found anywhere. However, Richmond does have a few places that are especially suitable, like Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and Maymont Park. Since the climate is comfortable, even around Valentine's Day, these two places make a wonderful escape from city life. Stroll through these natural surroundings hand in hand and simply enjoy life and love.  For a romantic date, when weather won't co-operate or to end an evening on a lovely note, two particular romantic restaurants in Richmond come to mind: The Phoenician and Shackleford's.  Whereever you decide to go in Richmond, all you need is to bring your feeling and the subject of your affection to make any place special.


Muscat - Oman (Amanda Dcosta)

Last but not the least... welcome to Muscat, the capital of Oman.  If you are not familiar with where Oman is located, it is in the Middle East, on the east of Saudi Arabia.  Bring your loved one to Muscat to spend Valentine's Day, and enjoy an extensive range of fine cuisine dining from Mediterranean, to Indian, Arabic, Turkish, Iranian, Mexican, Chinese, French and Italian; and yes, even the American cheese burgers and fries.  Visit the Royal Opera House in Muscat or one of the many beaches that border the coastline.  If you are lucky, you can get to witness belly dancers performing at select bars around town.   It is this time of year that the city is at its greenest, so what better way to enjoy the desert setting than at this time, when the land is filled with flowers and the parks are greener than ever.   

With a temperature hovering around 20C (+/- 70F) it’s the perfect weather to go camping outdoors, set up a barbecue party or roam around the city to view the landscape, monuments, or the many oasis along the highway.  Or you could enjoy a walk along the Cornish to see the coast lit up all night.  There’s nothing like enjoying a date with your loved one under an Omani date palm in the city of Muscat, Oman.   


Now that you've had a glimpse of some wonderful places... make your pick.  Well, no, don't.  Since all are spectacular in their own way, how about you decide on a different place for each day of the week?  Throw in an extra day and you will have visited all these wonderful destinations. 

A virtual tour of all these places is fun and I thank all you lovely local guides for your contributions.  I have enjoyed attaching the pictures as it enlivens the page and adds meaning to your posts. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Parents: To Be or Not To Be

I remember someone as saying, "Before I got married, I had nine rules on how to bring up children.  But now, I have nine children and no rules."  Yep, this is what parenting is all about in many cases.  Each child is unique and special, that what is applicable for one is not necessarily applicable for another.  Although we try to be good parents, there are times when we feel 'beat' and inadequate or unable to cope with parenting.

On the flip side, there are many golden rules that also hold fast for children of all ages; some of which can be discipline, or teaching children to tell the truth, be clean, show respect towards others, etcetera. Before I proceed with my discussion about the topic, I'd like to welcome Ann Marie Dwyer to grace my pages for this week with her invaluable feedback on the world of parenting. Lets give it up for Ann Marie (Red as she calls herself) and read what she has to say. 

Writer of the Week

Ann Marie "Red" Dwyer is Momma to ten children and engaged to a man who will bring an additional five children to the brood. She homeschools the two youngest children, who are both autistic. Her experience spans parenting from pregnancy to grave, including toddlers, teens and grandchildren. She writes on diverse aspects of the struggle of parenting from fertility issues to discipline to the empty nest. Her blog offers tips and tricks from saving money and time while tackling some of the difficulties of parenting. 

Alongside parenting, Red has been a woman of diverse professional skills that have helped her keep her family intact and fed.  Should you want to know how to balance your family life with children while trying to keep your professional side sane, Momma Red has answers for your concerns.  You will find more about her interactions with others regarding parenting at her blog Momma's Money MattersIf you have a question, feel free to ask her via the blog or email.

At the onset of 'parenting', the mother has to go through the stages of pregnancy (except with cases of adoption).  A lot of complications happen many times because the mother is not aware of what is expected of her for the initial delivery, and how her co-operation can make for a more healthy delivery.  Dr. Pandula Siribaddana writes about the stages of labor and delivery that every 'first-time mother' should be aware of.  Miraculous Pregnancy by M. J, Joachim also deals with the same topic with a Trimester-wise account of what to expect.

In days gone by, the 'dad' was not allowed to enter the labor room while the 'mom' struggled with labor pains.  The most common scene depicting the dad during this time was his anxious, impatient, to-and-fro pace outside the delivery room.  However, these days, it has become necessary that the 'dad' take an active role in not just being by the delivery table, but also in the exercising program designed for the 'pregnant mom'.   Is your husband scared of the result of you being pregnant?  Does he feel left out from all the 'pregnancy fun' (- the backaches, the tiredness... etc. etc.)?  Why not let him be part of your nine-month trip down pre-mom-hood with these helpful tips for including husbands during childbirth and delivery?   I had to smile when I read this article.  There are many 'husbands' who would willingly claim ignorance.  (They can't try their luck now, can they?)

Yep, your baby's born.  Now the actual fun part begins.  Who's turn is it to change the baby's diaper? (Suddenly there's no one in sight but you, the mom.)  I loved this next article on 'how to change a baby's diaper'.  Kathrine Mills very humorously starts the article 'It strikes terror in the hearts of grown men, makes the most dependable person run in disgust and even the kindred mother's heart turn away in fear'.  Uh oh... terror in the heart of grown men?  Now come on, surely you aren't scared of changing your baby's diaper?  (Yep, you sensed right.  An evil smirk from me again.)

With babies, arrive the next topic: Why breast feeding in public should not be a controversial issue.  I loved a pic that 'Red' passed around  on Facebook yesterday, which illustrated an ill-clad woman (yes, with almost-totally revealing breasts) at a restaurant , and a breast-feeding mom.  The image spoke volumes to me.  Why is it that women who expose their breasts (please excuse my candid approach to this topic) by the way they are ill-clothed, totally acceptable in social circles, while a mom who has to breast-feed her baby as and when the baby demands it, is not acceptable?  I do not understand the logic behind it.  A 'Warped Social Mindset'  is how I can think of labeling it.

While 'abortions' have been legalized in many places, and with Planned Parenthood assisting many abortions, it would be careless of me not to mention this article 'No Escape: Abortion Unveiled'.  Parenting begins at the point of conception, so it will be worthwhile to take a look at this article to understand the procedure involved in an abortion and what a pregnant mother or anticipating father can expect when opting to abort their baby.  It is your decision in the end; so make it the best one while you're at it.

While on the topic of autism, since Red mentions 'autism' in particular, I've added a couple of articles related to this illness and what one may expect from an autistic child.  Autism is a mental health illness that has been looked at in a very negative way by the public in general all over the world. There are three main areas that affect the child  - speech, stereotype behavior and memory.  When there is a deviation from expected childhood milestones, a parent can expect their child to probably fall under this category.  Like any other physical illness such as diabetes or heart problems, autism too needs to be medically treated on a long term basis.  It may be unfortunate for a child to suffer thus, or for parents to have to deal with it, but having a stigma attached to it, is the last thing that one needs when dealing with this pediatric illness.  The most astonishing part though; these kids have such beautiful memory power, its amazing at how easy they can grasp things and remember them for life.  These attached articles on autism gives a mom's (Glory Lennon's) viewpoint and approach to dealing with autism.  Also attached is an article by Dr. Deborah Bauers.

Recognizing autism in toddlers - by Glory Lennon
Recognizing autism in toddlers - by Dr. Deborah Bauers
Tips for easing anxiety about outings for children with autism - by Glory Lennon
Autism:  Special love for a special child - by Glory Lennon
Acceptance issues with autistic children: Parents and the world - by Glory Lennon
Funny parenting stories (autism) - by Glory Lennon

Illnesses aside, many first-time parents are not aware of what to expect from their baby as he/she progresses into toddler-hood.  Parents can be taken by surprise or are not adept enough to deal with 'sudden' movements or mischief as we may call it, by a toddler.  How to keep children safe while playing by Karen Louise Hollis is an article that highlights different phases of childhood and what is in store for parents and children alike.  This was an interesting read and informative.

What about teenagers?  Many moms curse the fact that they hit menopause just about the time their child hits the prime age of 'teenage'.  There can be a better balance with dealing with your teenager if you have the right outlook and know what to look out for.  Understanding your independent teenager which is part of Effectively Human centers around important aspects such as observance, awareness and communication, which are vital to dealing with a teenager without losing your sanity.

Since we are discussing the many aspects of parenting, it becomes necessary to discuss one aspect of parenting which has been vital to many couples: Adoption.  So many couples all over the world have found completion and fulfillment of married life by adopting children, especially in cases when either of them have had reproductive issue. Now here's the part that many couples are scared of initially:  Is it possible to unconditionally love an adopted child?   The answer might not be surprising...  but it is worthwhile taking time to read this article by Carol Gioia and  think of all the children who have been adopted and the families that have been enriched by them. In my opinion, it can be unconditional love if one chooses to love unconditionally... and similar with the case of an adopted child.

My tip for this week....  those who are planning on getting married should definitely watch the movie 'Licence to Wed'.  This movie says it all.  :))))  Are you up to the challenge?

This is me signing out for this week.  Next week's post is on 'Local Guides'.  I request readers to write in 'with 5-8 sentence blurbs' about the place (city/town, NOT COUNTRY) you live in, telling me why I should visit your place.  If you have a 'local guide article' or a pic to add to your blurb, I would be more than happy to accept them for my post.  Please send your entries to  .  Entries from your locations all across the globe are welcome. :)

Image credits:
Holding hands
Parenting skills

Amanda Dcosta - Writer,