Monday, October 26, 2009

Candy Land



A very popular signature environment for Bat Mitzvahs is Candy Land. We had the opportunity of interpreting the perennially favorite game for a Bat Mitzvah this past weekend at the DuPont Country Club and incorporated the Bat Mitzvah girl's favorite colors in centerpieces, linens, place cards and table cards as well as her Sign-In Board. The ever popular water pearls were a big hit with all in the "just-enough-different-from-each-other" kids' and adult's centerpieces with custom over sized lolli-pop bouquets.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This brought a smile

Classic Singing Telegrams

I received a Singing telegram from Classic Singing Telegrams today. A cute guy named Kevin, dressed as a Bell Hop, arrived bearing mylar ballons and sang several songs in a fabulous voice. It was a great way to start the day and I also received a framed "Telegram" and Godiva chocolate truffles. A cute guy, chocolate and song- what else could a girl ask for except maybe money and a cosmopolitan.

Interested in delighting someone with a singing telegram? Call (856) 217-2422

Great for any Special Occasion: Birthday, Anniversary, Get Well,Good Luck, Congratulations, Engagement & Wedding Shower, Bachelor & Bachelorette
Check out the website: www.classicsingingtelegram.com
I read this today: 5 Industries that are doing work

Finance
This time last year, the finance industry crashed big time. Now we're happy to say that the marketplace is making a comeback and events are ramping back up. Look to the big banks as potential customers, with smaller institutions coming into the fold in mid-2010.

Medical
The medical industry has been holding strong this year. Associations, bio tech, and pharmaceuticals are big business no matter what the economic climate. Consider these folks as potential clients in the coming months.

Large Charities
Social need is greater than ever and the larger non-profits are ready to make a difference. Expect to see a rise in charitable giving in 2010. Try linking up with the major charities for their benefits and fundraising galas.

Education & Training
Particularly strong this quarter have been training events and seminars. As people gear up for doing business in this new landscape, organizations are hosting more educational events than ever. Also, be on the lookout for an uptick in university events as the new year unfolds.

Government
Take advantage of expanded government programs as they host more events and meetings this year on both a national and state level. And don't forget the steady stream of campaign needs when seeking new business — there's always a new election coming up.

Looking for Something New to See on Vacation?

World's Strangest Monuments

From a 25-foot shark crashing through a roof to Mongolia’s giant statue of Genghis Khan, the world’s weirdest monuments display local quirks.

By Lyndsey Matthews

Charge your camera batteries before visiting these monuments: You might need photographic evidence to prove that they’re not just a figment of your jet-lagged mind.

Saint Wenceslas Riding a Dead Horse
Prague

What It Commemorates: Saint Wenceslas, Bohemia’s patron saint.

What Makes It Strange: For almost 100 years—even during the dark days of Communist rule—the grand sculpture of Saint Wenceslas in Prague’s Wenceslas Square has been a source of national pride. But today, even the revered saint isn’t spared from the Czechs’ irreverent senses of humor. Sculptor David Cerny’s parody of the St. Wenceslas statue, hanging in the Lucerna Palace mere yards from the original, is of Wenceslas mounted atop the belly of a dead horse that’s been strung upside down.

Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue
Tsonjin Boldog, Mongolia
What It Commemorates: The infamous founder of the Mongolian Empire, known locally as Chinggis Khaan.

What Makes It Strange: The 131-foot-tall, 250-ton stainless steel statue, unveiled in 2008 and located an hour’s drive from Ulaanbaatar, is the world’s largest equestrian statue. Visitors can take an elevator to the viewing deck on the horse’s head and look out on the expansive Mongolian steppe. Until 20 years ago, Mongolia’s Communist government banned any celebration of the military leader, but in a surge of nationalism, Mongols have slapped his image and name on everything from an airport to a university and bottles of vodka. The statue is part of a planned theme park featuring nomadic lodging and restaurants serving horsemeat.

Duke of Wellington Statue
Glasgow

What It Commemorates: Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and commander of the British forces that defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

What Makes It Strange: For the past 20 years, this innocuous statue—erected in 1844 on Glasgow’s Queen Street—has been a magnet for late-night pranksters, who scale the statue and top it with traffic cones. Locals argue that the cones are an integral part of the statue, as well as the city’s identity. The government doesn’t agree. City workers knock off the cones with a high-powered water jet, and police have threatened to prosecute the pranksters. But since the public has ignored these warnings, anyone caught putting cones on the Duke is simply told to move on.

Fengdu Ghost City
Fengdu, China
What It Commemorates: This necropolis is modeled after the Chinese version of hell.

What Makes It Strange: During the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), two court officials named Yin and Wang moved to Mount Mingshan to obtain enlightenment. Combined, the surnames of this mystical pair sound like “King of Hell” in Chinese, and ever since, locals deemed this a gathering place for spirits. The Ghost City that developed is a complex of Buddhist and Taoist temples adorned with macabre demon statues dismembering humans as they guard the entrance to the netherworld. Landmarks bear frightening names, such as “Last Glance at Home Tower,” “Nothing-to-Be-Done Bridge,” and “Ghost Torturing Pass.” Ironically, the area is literally a ghost city now because of the massive Three Gorges Dam project, completed in 2009, which flooded the town and forced the region’s residents to relocate. Mount Mingshan is now a peninsula that is visited mostly by tourists on Yangtze River cruises.

Calder Mercury Fountain
Barcelona

What It Commemorates: The siege of Almadén, one of the largest mercury mines in the world, by Franco’s troops during the Spanish Civil War.

What Makes It Strange: Keep your hands away from this one. Poisonous liquid mercury pours through a series of iron and aluminum troughs, splashes against a metal piece that sets a mobile in motion, and cascades into a circular pool of deadly metal. American sculptor Alexander Calder designed the fountain as an anti-fascist tribute for the Spanish Republican government for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris (where it was displayed opposite Picasso’s Guernica). Calder eventually donated his fountain to the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, where it is encased behind glass.

Headington Shark
Headington, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
What It Commemorates: The dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

What Makes It Strange: Officially called Untitled 1986, the 25-foot-tall beast known commonly as the Headington Shark appears to have crashed headfirst through the roof of a quaint British home. House owner Bill Heine commissioned the work as a reaction to nuclear power and as an expression of someone “ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation.” Made of metal, polyester resin, and plaster, among other things, the shark was originally viewed as an incongruous eyesore that the city council desperately tried to remove. Today it is accepted as a landmark.

Georgia Guidestones
Elberton, Georgia
What It Commemorates: The monument serves as a set of directions for rebuilding civilization after the apocalypse.

What Makes It Strange: Designed and commissioned by an anonymous group, the Georgia Guidestones consist of five 16-foot-tall granite slabs, arranged in a star-shaped pattern, that function as a compass, calendar, and clock (drawing comparisons to England’s Stonehenge). Some local Christians deem the creations the “Ten Commandments of the Antichrist” for their unsettling nature. (One guide reads, “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”) The stones have their fans though, including covens of witches and Yoko Ono.

Memento Park
Budapest

What It Commemorates: Hungary’s Communist past.

What Makes It Strange: Most Eastern European countries ceremoniously destroyed Soviet-era relics once they gave occupying forces the boot. However, rather than demolish all vestiges of a painful past, the city of Budapest removed 42 statues from prominent locations and placed them in a suburban park. Statues of Lenin, Marx, and Engels are all displayed, along with the Boots, a 1-to-1 replica of the remainder of a 27-foot-tall Stalin statue that an angry crowd tore down in 1956.

Underwater Gallery
Grenada
What It Commemorates: Reef ecosystems.

What Makes It Strange: This series of sculptures in the clear, shallow waters off the coast of Grenada has one highly unusual characteristic: it is accessible only to divers (though it can also be viewed through glass-bottomed boats). Sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor created the works, a series of human figures in various groupings and settings, as the world’s first underwater sculpture park, which also serves as an artificial reef to promote conservation awareness.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Don't Want to Fly Coach?

A Flier's Guide to Snagging an Upgrade Now

by Scott McCartney
Monday, October 5, 2009

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You want a first–class upgrade on your next trip—who doesn't? But airlines have made it more expensive—and more confusing—to snare one.

In recent months, many big carriers have changed their upgrade rules, adding more restrictions and upping fees. More changes have already been announced for next year. So now is a great time to take a close look and compare airlines' programs.

Continental Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. fliers should pay particular attention because Continental is leaving its SkyTeam partnership with Delta this month and joining the Star Alliance with UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. That means customers of Delta and Northwest will lose some opportunities to earn miles and will see their reward trip options shrink. United and US Airways partisans, however, stand to gain. New York will be a prime battleground since Continental and Delta customers will likely want to choose one or the other, but the changes may lead to frequent–flier program jockeying across the country.

"I fully expect Continental to bring not only their frequent fliers but also some of their former colleagues' frequent fliers as well," said Glenn Tilton, chairman and chief executive of United.

Some airlines say competitors have even been surreptitiously dropping promotional cards in their airport clubs trying to entice travelers to switch. If you want to switch, airlines will match your elite–level status in a competitor's frequent–flier program.

Picking the right program can depend on a host of factors, from the service each airline offers at your hometown airport to the size and reach of the carrier's alliance network so you can earn and burn miles wherever you like to go. But for many road warriors, upgrades are by far the most enticing reward in a frequent–flier program: They are a better value than redeeming miles for tickets, and they greatly improve your travel experience.

The rub: Some airlines make it easier to upgrade than others. Here's a guide.

International Upgrades

The apple of most every traveler's eye is the international upgrade—moving to a cushy business–class seat that lies flat for sleeping without spending many thousands of dollars. Under financial pressure, airlines have made international upgrades more expensive, just as they have upped the price for checked baggage or reservation changes.

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Continental and US Airways have all added "co–payments" to mileage awards, charging frequent fliers both miles and cash for upgrades. United will add co–pays in January.

US Airways is among the more–expensive for trans–Atlantic upgrades, charging 30,000 miles plus $300 for a one–way upgrade to Europe. Continental charges only 20,000 miles plus a $100–to–$500 co–pay, which varies based on the fare you paid for the coach ticket. The cheaper the fare, the higher the co–pay.

Delta, including its Northwest Airlines subsidiary, takes a different approach: It severely restricts the discounted coach fares eligible for an upgrade, forcing you to pay hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more for a coach ticket to qualify for the chance to use miles for an upgrade. Only the three highest classes of coach fares (Y, B and M) are eligible for international upgrades. (And you still have to use 25,000 miles one–way.) For a New York–Paris trip in February, for example, Delta's Web site offers coach fares as low as $592 plus taxes, but if you want a coach fare that's eligible for a 25,000–mile upgrade, you have to pay $2,530 plus tax. (A discounted business–class ticket on the same flights is only $3,312 plus tax.) If you want to make sure you're buying a fare that is eligible for an upgrade, Delta lets you drill down on its Web site to search by specific fare class.

Matthew Bennett, who publishes the newsletter First Class Flyer, says Delta's cheapest upgradeable international fares are often $1,000 or more than the lowest upgradeable fares on other airlines. Sometimes other airlines cost more in miles, but the cash savings makes them more attractive. American, he notes, lets customers upgrade from just about any coach fare.

San Diego tax lawyer Chris Cooke frequently flies Delta and almost always gets upgraded on domestic flights, but international trips are a different story. "Since I virtually never travel in one of those [highest fare] classes, I've never been upgraded on an international Delta flight," he said. On a New York–Dublin round–trip earlier this year, he sat in the coach cabin being knocked by passengers visiting a nearby bathroom and wondered why the airline wouldn't offer one of the many empty business–class seats.

"I got about two minutes of sleep," he said.

As airlines have added co–pays, most carriers have made more fare classes eligible for upgrade. And some have reduced the miles required for upgrades, deadening some of the sting of the cash payments. Continental and other airlines say a big advantage of the co–pay system is that travelers don't have to buy tickets at higher fares just to be eligible, then end up sorely disappointed if no upgrades end up becoming available. Typically, upgrades get confirmed after tickets get bought and at least a day before departure.

"The co–pay is roughly equivalent of buying into a higher fare bucket," said Mark Bergsrud, senior vice president of marketing programs at Continental. But customers only pay the higher price if they actually get the upgrade.

Domestic Upgrades

In general, Continental and US Airways have the best domestic upgrade programs, offering them free to elite–level frequent fliers when seats are available. Delta comes close, but offers free upgrades only to elite–level customers who have tickets in certain fare classes. (But more classes of tickets are eligible for domestic upgrades than for international.) Frequent fliers on American and United can snare upgrades by trading in the 500–mile electronic coupons they earn by flying or buy directly from the airline.

But, like international upgrades, the best way to upgrade on a domestic trip these days is to pay, unless you have super–elite status and are sure to get it for free. You can upgrade coach fares with miles, usually 15,000 one–way, and some airlines require a $50–to–$150 co–pay.

Another way to land in the first–class cabin: Buy a "Y–Up" coach fare that comes with an instant upgrade. Airlines offer coach fares with instant upgrades to help customers evade corporate–travel prohibitions on buying first–class fares. You end up paying several hundred dollars more for a ticket, but usually save hundreds of dollars off a first–class fare.

American's Web site shows fares with instant upgrades, if available, when you search by "schedule and price." FareCompare.com offers a tool that lets you search from your departure city for all destinations.

The cheapest upgrade of all can be the last–minute splurge: Buying an upgrade at the airport. Airlines have been experimenting with selling upgrades to customers at check–in, after elite–level frequent fliers have claimed first–class and business–class seats. Prices vary considerably: American charges $45 for every 500 miles of a flight, so a 1,500–mile flight would cost $135 to upgrade, one–way. United charges $77 for every 500 miles on domestic trips. Delta says its domestic upgrades sold at check–in are priced $50 to $150; Continental says its upgrades start at only $25 for short flights and top out on domestic trips at $250 for routes like Los Angeles–Honolulu and Houston–Anchorage.

Most airlines offer the upgrades only at airport kiosks and counters. US Airways, however, offers a unique deal: You can call 24 hours before departure at the airlines reservation line, 800–428–4322, and try to snag an upgrade. Price: $50 to $250 for domestic flights; $300 to $600 for trans–Atlantic trips.

Scott McCartney: middleseat@wsj.com