Pet Insurance (Yes or No)

Many people do not think of getting insurance for their pet thinking it is not necessary or a luxury.  I personally feel that Pet Insurance is well worth it.  I have only dealt with 1 company VPI Insurance so I cannot compare it to others.  They have several different plans available for pets depending on the pets age group (Puppy, Adult, Senior).  Puppy care covers vaccinations, boosters, spay/neutering.  Adult care includes dental care ear and skin infections etc.  And Senior care covers things like cardiac care.

While I do not know how good other insurance companies maybe.  VPI is truly excellent.  Customer service is very helpful and friendly.  The process of being reimbursed is very simple–you simply fax them the receipt from the Vet and about 2 weeks later you get a check in the mail.

We have needed the insurance for 2 lipomas (benign), spaying, dental care, as well as all our pets vaccinations/boosters.  Recently our Vet heard a heart murmur and we had to take our dog to a Veterinary Cardiologist.  Thankfully everything turned out to be ok. But having the insurance was really lucky–the bill for the Cardiologist was over $850!!

So I would highly recommend getting Pet Insurance.

A Great App for iPad “Zite”

I have discovered an amazing App that I now use everyday on my iPad.  It is called Zite.  It is a free download from the App Store which is great.  What it does is allow you to customize your own personal magazine.  For example, there are sections such as Arts, Music, Politics, Mac, Personal Finance etc.  You simply chose the Sections that interest you and Zite will then pull content from the Web to match the section.  What I love about the App is that it lets me find articles that I probably would never come across.

The Mayonnaise Jar Story

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are
important to you…” he told them.

“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Please share this with other “Golf Balls”

How to Taste Whisky

There is no specific way to taste whisky. There is no right, and no wrong, no etiquette to be observed and no rules to worry about. Whisky is there to be enjoyed, and if you enjoy yours out of a coffee mug and loaded with pineapple slices then go for it.

There are however a few pointers that can make your whisky drinking more enjoyable and they’re listed below. If they work for you, then dive in, and if they don’t then just ignore them. It really is as simple as that.

To water or not to water?

Adding water to whisky can be a good idea because it actually alters the molecular structure of the whisky and literally opens it up, allowing more flavors and nuances to be detected. This is why professional whisky tasters routinely water their whisky. But the amount is key. Literally a teardrop of water is enough to liberate new flavors, and from there you can keep adding fractions to taste if you feel more is needed for your palate.

Whatever you do, don’t drown it. That ruins the whisky, and is the way most people first  start drinking it.

Used (very) sparingly though, it can be a great addition and you’ll find some whiskies will actively benefit while others will become worse. To sum up: experiment, enjoy, and do precisely whatever feels right for you

Ice 

Whisky on the rocks is called just that for a reason. It’s whisky, poured over rocks of ice. So while there are no rules with ice, adding your whisky to your ice rather than the other way around will reap far better benefits.

Nose

Most of our tasting is done by smell, so use your nose with your whisky. Get your nose as close to your whisky as possible without getting it wet, and inhale, slowly and deeply.

Drinking

One of the greatest pieces of advice I heard came from a veteran distillery manager who recommended holding a sip in your mouth for one second per year of maturation. So 12 seconds for a 12 year old, 18 for an 18 and so on.

This allows the whisky’s flavors to flood out, but you need to gently roll the whisky around your mouth for this to work – this lets it contact all of your different tastebuds and catch every region of the tongue (different parts taste different flavors). At the same time the whisky will mingle with your own saliva, which acts like a drop or two of water to further liberate the tastes within the whisky.

The better the whisky, the smoother, deeper and more varied these flavors are and the longer they last.

The aftertaste

Good whiskies keep on rolling up the taste sensations long after they’ve left your mouth. Catch these after effects by breathing out gently after swallowing your dram and quietly allowing these final flavors to reach your palate. There’s a lot to savor.

And finally

Remember these are just suggestions , they are not rules. As we said earlier, whisky has no rules. Whisky’s there to be enjoyed, so go forth and enjoy!

How to Choose Your Airline Seat Using SeatGuru

Do you want to know if you have a good seat before flying.  Remember not all seats are the same.  Some allow for more leg room or incline.  Some are close to bathrooms.  And who wants to get the dreaded middle seat.  So what can you do?  I have found a website that I use before EVERY FLIGHT.  It is called Seat Guru.  It is a free service.  Here is what a sample looks like

So lets say that you are flying on United Airlines.  One the Home Page on the Left Side there is a listing of Airlines.  So you would choose U-V-W.  Click on United. Then you will see

Now just enter your flight number and airline.  It will let you know what type of plane you are on.  It is important to realize that just because United flies for example from New York to Los Angeles each day they may not use the same plane type for each flight.   For those of us hoping for an upgrade you may want to select a flight with more Premium Economy or First Class seats.

Seat guru will show you the seat that you are in on a seat map.  it will also tell you if you have a Good Seat or a Bad One.

Accelerating Your Mortgage Payments

People are constantly looking at refinancing a mortgage.  This might be an attractive option if you plan on paying a mortgage for 15+ years.  The problem is for people that are under 10 years away from paying off their mortgage.  For the latter case it might not always be worth it.  You need to do your due diligence.

With 5 year arms below 3% it is very tempting to think about refinancing.  Just remember re-financing also can involve a lot of fees.  This is why it is usually only worth it in the long run because it is only with time that those fees are saved through a lower payment.

There is however an easy way to accelerate payments and reduce interest.  The best way to reduce your home mortgage quickly is to participate in a 26 Payment Plan. Usually these plans are free and offered by all mortgage companies. In this plan instead of paying your mortgage once a month you will pay half the amount every 2 weeks. Since you are paying every 2 weeks you will end up making 1 extra monthly payment per year or 26 payments (13 monthly payments) per year.   By paying every 2 weeks interest does not build up all month long since you are paying more frequently.

I know that paying 1 extra payment per year can be difficult but the upside is that it will generally take 7.5 years off a 30 year fixed mortgage. If you use a mortgage calculator you will see that it will save you 10,000s of dollars.

Re-Visiting My Rules for Investments

It is worth going back to your rules of investing from time to time.  This is what keeps us grounded and disciplined so that we do not start following the latest trend.   Remember that slow and steady wins the race.  Warren Buffet once said ” I am greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.”  The take away message is that oftentimes we are swayed by panic.  For example, in 2008 GE one of the Worlds greatest companies was trading just below $6.  I purchased some but I wish I had purchased more as the company is now pushing $20 a share.

So are some rules:

  • I am an investor–I do not trade my investments frequently.
  • I am also a saver–I routinely invest each month using my savings.
  • I know every asset has risk and I consider the risk before buying.    I accept the risk by owning a diversity of assets.
  • I have an investment plan and plan for allocation.
  • I invest regular amounts each month in both falling and rising markets.
  • I spread out my investments among stocks and bonds.
  • My share of bonds equals my age.
  • I rebalance once a quarter.
  • I know that stocks are risky in the short run but not so risky in the long run.
  • I force myself to sell high and buy low.  Patience is the key here.
  • I put at least 20 percent in international assets.
  • I stick to my plan and try not to check my stock balances every day (this one is not easy).

How to Find the More Perfect Hotel Room

I have discovered a website that I love called Room 77.  What Room77 does is allow you to see what kind of hotel room you are going to get and the view from that room.  So you type in the city and name of the hotel where you are staying and it will show you the view from that specific room.  Because we all know that not all hotel rooms are created equal.  Who wants to look at a Wall when you could look at a park.  What I have done is write down the rooms I like before arriving.  This way prior to the Front Desk employee giving me the key I can suggest the rooms I would prefer.  Usually they will assume I have been to the hotel before and will provide better service anyways.

I Love This Cognac

I found Tesseron Cognac a couple of years ago and I am a huge fan.  Unlike many other brands this is still a family run company started in 1885.  The Cognac is made in Châteauneuf-sur-Charente, France.  They have many different variations that they sell. Personally, I like the Lot 76 the best.  It is also one of their least expensive.  The bottle will set you back about $80.  What makes this Cognac distinct is the caramel sweet undertone.

Tesseron Lot N° 76 “X.O Tradition” is an exceptional blend of reserve stocks of Grande Champagne Cognac, matured to perfection in old casks. Lot N° 76 immediately establishes its quality on the nose which exhibits a wealth of caramelised peaches, almond and candied fruit aromas. This carries through magnificently on to the palate, with rich, delicate flavours of nuts and dried fruits. A rare range of tasteful sensations.

A Perfect Pizza: 2 Amy’s in Washington DC

A picture is worth a thousand words so let me know what you think?  2 Amy’s located at (3715 Macomb Street Northwest  Washington D.C., DC 20016 Tel (202) 885-5700) has the best pizza in Washington DC and maybe in the USA.  They are one of the only Pizza places with D.O.C. (See Below).  This is a fantastic and delicious place.  They also have a great variety of beer.  Simply Delicious!!!!!

What is DOC?  In 1998 the Italian government formally recognized Neapolitan pizza as a traditional food worthy of preservation and granted it D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status, which specifies the legally permitted ingredients and methods of preparation necessary to produce authentic Neapolitan Pizza. Only soft-grain flour, fresh yeast, water, and sea salt may be used for the dough, and only Italian plum tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh basil or dried oregano may be used for the toppings.

Quickly create new Sticky notes on a Mac

There are 2 ways of making a Sticky Note on your Mac.  The first way of creating a new note as easy as highlighting the text and/or images you want to jot down and pressing a keyboard shortcut. That shortcut? Command-Shift-Y.  Your new note will near-instantly appear on your screen, containing the text you just had selected.

If keyboard shortcuts aren’t your preference, there is a second approach, too. You still start by highlighting whatever it is you’d like to save in Sticky form. In this method, however, you simply drag your selection onto the Stickies icon in your Dock. Once again, your newly-created note will leap to the front of your screen, reflecting the entirety of your selection.

Dominique Ansel: An Outstanding Bakery in Soho

I recently visited Dominque Ansel, a bakery in Soho.  I love this Bakery.  It is very relaxing and just exudes a great energy.  The kind of place you would love to hang out in.  It is very casual with Coffee served in paper cups.  But the coffee is fantastic and the bakery is amazing.  All the products are baked on-site which is rare these days.  I loved their Croissant, Cannele, and Madeleine.  I definitely love this place and highly recommend it.  They are located at: 189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson) New York, NY 10012.

Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco

I have been ordering Coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee for the past 2 years.  They provide an excellent aromatic coffee, freshly roasted within 24 hours of shipping.  However, I recently discovered Sightglass Coffeethat is also located in San Francisco.  They have an excellent customer service team.  I ordered the Ethiopia, Gedeo, YCFCU Single Origin Espresso. The aroma of the fresh coffee was amazing when we received the package.  The coffee was very flavorful and well balanced.  Will definitely be ordering again.

TASTE NOTES

Ethiopia’s Yirga Cheffe region is known for producing coffees with refined fruit-like brightness and delicate floral aromatics. The Gedeo lives up to it’s namesake, offering kaffir lime and jasmine floral aromatics. These floral attributes show in the cup beside flavors of watermelon, bergamot, and crisp cucumber.

DETAILS

This is a washed processed coffee from the Yirga Cheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. YCFCU farmer members tend to small plots of land at high altitudes ranging from 1700-2200 meters above sea level. These small plots are in Ethiopia’s Yirga Cheffe region, specically the Gedeo zone, an area known for producing coffees with refined fruit-like brightness and delicate floral aromatics. The Gedeo opens with kaffir lime and jasmine aromatics, leading to flavors of watermelon, bergamot, and crisp cucumber.

Mileage Manager

I have been using Mileage Manager for the past year.  I find it to be a very convenient and inexpensive way to manage my airline, hotel, credit card and car rental miles in 1 place.  It is very simple to use.  You simply add the user name and password for each frequent flyer program you belong to.  It then gives you a summary of all your frequent flyer programs as well as the points needed to get to the next status level.  They also alert you of mileage bonuses.

Crosby Street Hotel in Soho (NY)

We just came back from spending a few days at the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho.

The hotel is simply fabulous. The Staff could not be more friendly. The Rooms are so nicely decorated.

The location is fantastic–right next Balthazar Bakery.  If you are looking for a hotel with a super friendly staff, well located, well priced for New York, and excellent restaurant I could not recommend this hotel more strongly.