Madagascar Unmasked

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Experience the wilderness of Madagascar in this travel post by guest blogger, Nellie Huang of WildJunket.com. Nellie was Dabble’s featured blogger in Issue 5‘s I Dabble In… profile.

There are few places as remote and wild as Madagascar, and even fewer that offer such fulfilling and authentic travel experiences.

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La Grand Isle (as it is known in French, meaning the big island) is like nowhere else on Earth: it is home to a unique group of endemic animals and plants which had evolved after the island’s separation from the African continent 165 million years ago. Only in this part of the world can you find cheeky lemurs, chameleons and ferocious fosas, as well as bizarre-looking baobab trees and spiny forests.

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We experienced the wilderness of Madagascar–sleeping in the forest, watching lemurs and chameleons in their natural habitat and flowing down rivers on dugout canoes.

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In the Kirindy forest, we saw the adorable grey mouse lemur upclose and personal and watched sifakas leap from one tree to another. At the Tsingy de Bemahara, we climbed sharp karst rock faces to get a awestriking view of the jungle from above. Back in the town of Belo-sur-Tsiribihina, we wandered through the colorful and bustling central market, taking in Malagasy culture. By the time we got to Morondava, we were thrilled to be feasting on cheap and delicious seafood at Chez Maggie.

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Kicking back at the laidback, empty beach town of Ifaty, where the ocean and spiny forests surround us, I’m writing this from our thatched-roof beachfront bungalow at the gorgeous Hotel Le Paradisier–the sun is setting before me and the ocean is turning from a shade of deep blue to golden. I’m blessed to be here, and can’t wait to see what more surprises Madagascar has to offer.

Madagascar is an excellent place to get in touch with raw, unspoiled nature. Read more about the wildlife, nature and beautiful people of Madagascar on Nellie’s blog, Wild Junket.

The Best of the Best: Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2012 Part 3

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When you go to a show like the Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2012 that is chock-a full of the fabulous and the latest and greatest in home design it can sometimes be quite daunting. However, being a total professional in the dezign hunting business, there is nothing more exciting than attacking the target full blast and unearthing some fantastically wonderful new products. Here is one of three marvelous companies featured at ADHDS’12 that everyone should keep on their radar.

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Dom Interiors:

Dom Interiors represents the Italian kitchen manufacturer Valcucine. They had the new Logica kitchen on display which is totally dezinglicious! Trust me, I have been to kitchen showrooms, and this one deserves three stars for ingenuity and beauty.

The piece de resistance is the glass front on the cabinets and drawers. Talk about different. They come in any colour you want (think Chinese red or lemon yellow). Above all, the entire kitchen is sustainable.

This piece was written by Interior Designer and guest blogger Gail Shields-Miller. To read Gail’s blog, visit Dezignlicious

The Best of the Best: Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2012 Part 2

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When you go to a show like the Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2012 that is chock-a full of the fabulous and the latest and greatest in home design it can sometimes be quite daunting. However, being a total professional in the design hunting business, there is nothing more exciting than attacking the target full blast and unearthing some fantastically wonderful new products. Here is one of three marvelous companies featured at ADHDS’12 that everyone should keep on their radar.

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Diamond Spas:

Diamon Spas fabricate spectacular bathtubs out of copper and steel. This is not your grandmother’s bathtub we are talking about; These are highly dramatic contemporary interpretations of luxurious bathtubs and they are dazzling, to say the least.

If you are a fan of taking a bath and want to create a spa-like feeling in your ensuite, this is the company to call. Their product line includes: swim spas, cold plunge pools, water features, kitchens and bath (inside or out), custom cabinetry, and artistic exterior/ interiors architectural metal work. Everything is hand crafted and customized.

This piece was written by Interior Designer and guest blogger Gail Shields-Miller. To read Gail’s blog, visit Dezignlicious

The Best of the Best: Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2012 Part 1

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When you go to a show like the Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2012 that is chock-a full of the fabulous and the latest and greatest in home design it can sometimes be quite daunting. However, being a total professional in the design hunting business, there is nothing more exciting than attacking the target full blast and unearthing some fantastically wonderful new products. Here is one of three marvelous companies featured at ADHDS’12 that everyone should keep on their radar.

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Think Glass:

Think Glass uses state-of-the-art ovens to make glass, which allows them unlimited design possibilities. At the Architectural Digest Home Design Show they had a 4′ thick backlit glass countertop that was truly magnificent. Think Glass also manufactures stairs, wall panels, sinks and tiles.

This piece was written by Interior Designer and guest blogger Gail Shields-Miller. To read more from Gail, visit Dezignlicious

5 Non-Olympic Things to do in London

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This informative piece was written by guest blogger and travel enthusiast, Matt Long of Landlopers. He passionately imparts his knowledge of London, offering options to travellers who want take part in all that London has to offer, not just the Olympics.

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‘London will soon be reveling in the global hoopla that comes along with hosting the Summer Olympic Games. Many people will use the opportunity to add London to their travel list and explore what is truly one of the great cities of the world. While the Olympics are fine, there’s obviously a lot more to do in the city.’

To read Matt’s five favourite non-Olympic London activities, visit Landlopers.

To read more from Matt in Dabble, visit Issue 4: Sep/Oct’11.

On the Bus in Rajasthan

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An excerpt from the book, Song of India, written by guest blogger Mariellen Ward of Breathe Dream Go.

On my first three trips to India, totaling more than nine months, I had been on or in almost every mode of transport you can think of: plane, train, taxi, private car, autorickshaw, bicycle rickshaw, motorcycle, even elephant and camel. But until very near the end of that third trip, I had never been on a public bus.

I was beginning to think I was afraid. Public buses in India are known for being hot and crowded and free of modern amenities such as A/C and suspension. I had heard stories about leering men, live chickens and lunches cooked on small stoves.

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But, to be fair, just before my first trip, I promised my brother –a man whose idea of an adventure vacation is hitting the bars in Cancun — that I would not get on a bus in India. He was reading a book about all the terrible things that can happen to you around the world, and I guess bus accidents in India figured largely on the list.

So, though I had raveled from one end of India to the other, from Dharamsala in the hilly north to Kanyakumari at the very southern tip, where three oceans meet, on that first trip, I never once took a bus. And by my third trip, buses just never made it into the itinerary.

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But then one day I found myself in Pushkar. Pushkar’s like that; it draws people; people who like to relax and soak up the atmosphere, or the ‘vibes’ as they are known in this part of the world. I spent nine days lounging on the perfect rooftop terrace restaurant of the Seventh Heaven Inn, soaking up the vibes and meeting other women travelers who all arrived by public bus –and who all left by public bus.

When it was my turn to leave, I investigated the options. I was going only about 100 kilometres, to Roopanghar, another small town in central Rajasthan. I decided it was time to take the plunge. I figured the statute of limitations on my promise to my brother had expired. And besides, the trip was only two hours on flat, desert terrain. How bad could it be?

I hitched a taxi ride to Ajmer with a fellow traveler, walked confidently into the bus station, bought my ticket, found my bus and waited only about 15 minutes to load. As I struggled to get me, my bag, my purse and my camera bag onto the bus, I was pushed from behind by two very assertive Indian women. I found a seat and by the time I loaded on my stuff, there was just enough room for me, and not much for anyone else. And then the bus filled up and I found myself crammed in with two children, an older sister and younger brother, sitting virtually on my lap.

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We left on schedule as people settled into their seats and the people around me settled into staring at me. Especially the two pushy women in from of me and their young daughter, who didn’t seem to have a seat at all, and opted instead into standing as close as she could to me, shoulder to shoulder.

The women kept smiling and talking to me in a language I didn’t understand, the girl kept trying to get as close as possible and the bus kept getting hotter under the noonday sun and it was all very interesting for about the first hour. Eventually, I was starting to feel suffocated, and wondering if the last hour of the trip was going to be an endurance test, when the young girl handed me a candy.

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These were poor people; people who didn’t have very much, nor much hope of ever having very much. I was moved by her generosity and as I took the candy I felt the bittersweet tug of genuine humility. A little while later, she gave me another.

Rooting around in my purse, I found a little beaded bag I bought in Rishikesh and handed it to her. She dutifully handed it to her mother and grandmother, who looked it over and approved. Then they smiled at me with real warmth and the little girl hugged me, and I noticed how beautiful she was. She had huge eyes and delicate features and long fawn-like limbs.

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I turned away to look out the window at the dry desert landscape, baking under the scorching sun, and dotted with mud huts and women walking with huge bundles of twigs and branches on their heads, or almost as equally large jugs of water. My eyes filled with tears as I realized the real reason I had avoided taking the bus.

For more information visit Song of India. Read more from Mariellen Ward at Breathe Dream Go.

Best Places for Cruising: Africa

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More and more African ports open up each year to tourists. But the best one remains Cape Town. Visit a winery, a shanty town, a penguin colony or take the cable car up Table Mountain.

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Make sure to purchase a hand-painted ostrich egg, which makes a great souvenir of your trip. If you have a chance during your cruise, go on safari but make sure you bring a camera with a good zoom and adjusts well to dusk and dawn shots.

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The ultimate trip of all is Victoria Falls which can be done in 3-5 days as an overland tour. Victoria Falls borders Zambia and Zimbabwe, plus Botswana is close by if you want to check several countries off your bucket list.

Heather’s Cruise Line Pick: Silversea offers several shorter African voyages.

For more great places to cruise, check out Best Places for Cruising, Issue 4 Sept/Oct 2011.

Guest Post by Heather Visser

Best Places for Cruising: Asia

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The countries in Asia offer a rich mix of diverse culture in a relatively small area. Enlighten your senses as you take in all the sights, sounds, and smells and feel the excitement of the fast-paced cities that literally never seem to rest. Prices are very reasonable for everything from massages to souvenirs. You can’t beat the famous sites there too.

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China offers an intriguing mix of old and new from the Great Wall and Ming Tombs of Beijing to the modern city of Shanghai with its high speed MagLev train which reaches speeds of almost 600 km an hour. Xian is a short and worthwhile flight from Beijing to see the Terracotta Warriors.

And don’t forget Hong Kong with all of its colourful markets to explore. China also offers fantastic scenery with a boat ride along the Li River and a visit to Guilin, located on the river’s West bank.

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Heather’s Cruise Line Pick: Regent has smaller ships that can get into the smaller ports in Asia which will save you a lot of travel time to the big cities.

For more great places to cruise, check out Best Places for Cruising, Issue 4 Sept/Oct 2011.

Guest Post by Heather Visser

Perfectly Organized Bookshelves

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After sharing our take (well, 3 takes to be exact) on how to really organize those bookshelves, we went on the hunt for more inspiration. This post by guest blogger Amanda Burdge of AB Home Interiors Blog is just what we were looking for.

Perfectly Organized Bookshelves

I cannot tell you how many bookshelves I have styled over the years. Like candy coated pipe dreams, clients organize, shuffle and shove everything into less than Martha Stewart perfection.

So how on earth do we come up with our brilliant creations? It isn’t complete rocket science (well, maybe), but designers do look first at the shelf, the color, the style, and finally how those books relate to the whole. From there we start sorting like creative scientists gone mad! Expertly master-minding where and how each piece will fit into the puzzle.

Beautiful Matching Books

These suckers are hard to come by. Gone are the days of encyclopedias, thanks in big part to the information highway. But you can find beautiful sets of encyclopedias at vintage bookstores, and antique malls. Books that are the same size, and color are pleasing to the eye and create a resting point. Not to mention it grounds the shelves visually so the overall look is easy to read.

Add Accessories

To help break up the monotony of book after book, add accessories for visual interest. It is also a great place to display prized mementos to show off to your guests.

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Colour Palette

Keep books and accessories with in a particular color palette, that matches your existing furnishings. By keeping everything in the same color palette the bookshelf makes sense.

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Honour Thy Books

If you love books, and have more than you care to give away, devote an entire room that respects and honors your collection. If the shelves can’t be simplified, create a simplified room that is pleasant and easy. Get rid of all the clutter and allow the books to be the focal point.

Read the full post on : AB Home Interiors Blog

Black and White Inspiration

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Showcasing 35 fabulous black and white contemporary interiors, Freshome pays tribute to this unique combination. For those of you considering designing your space in black and white, here’s your inspiration. We selected 4 of our favourites from their list.

From lacquered furniture to original-shaped decorating elements, these decors are sure to surprise and trigger the creativity of the viewer. Enjoy the refinement and elegance exuded by the black and white interiors below.

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ABOVE: Add touch of bold to a simple palette.

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ABOVE: A strict black and white bedroom.

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ABOVE: A minimalist space.

For more inspiring black and white design, visit freshome.com.

Laundry Room Organized

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Get the DIY cure for organizing your laundry room and keeping it tidy from guest blogger Amanda Burdge of AB Home Interiors Blog.

Laundry Room Organized

Let’s face it, we have to do laundry. As much as all of us can attest to hating one of the most basic and utilitarian household chores, it’s a necessary evil. Most clients that I work with never touch this space, furnishing it as if it were lucifers closet. The laundry room truly gets the least amount of love and dollars. The good news is, when this space is fun and efficient it makes doing the wash less of a chore and more of an enjoyable space.

Arrange your Products Accordingly

We all know the term, ‘birds of a feather, flock together’. Keep this in mind when organizing your cleaning supplies. Having detergent in one place and softener in another doesn’t make sense. Button up your efficiency and keep like-minded products together. Make your laundry room work for you.

Folding Tables

Every laundry room needs a place to fold. Always create an area to fold your laundry with ease, and make sure the counter surface is at least 36′ high. If you don’t have space for a folding table, keep an ironing board in a handy place. It can double as a surface and be neatly put away when not in use.

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Drying Racks

Whether you choose to have a garment rack or an area devoted for hanging several pieces, always include a portion of space for drying outside of the dryer.

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Seating

If you are lucky enough to have ample space, a seating area in a laundry room can be quite utilitarian. It is a great place to plop down to sew on buttons that need repair, fold in comfort, or a place to relax and read a book while the dryer finishes. It creates a more inviting environment, and makes the space more homey and less chore oriented.

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Read the full post: AB Home Interiors Blog

Inspire, Plan and Share

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Travel inspiration starts innocently enough – you see a photo, a post from a Facebook friend, a great travel deal in your inbox, or have a conversation over dinner – and the trip is suddenly on. But where to stay? Where to eat? Where to play? We rely heavily on trusted resources to answer these questions and ensure a winning trip.

Flyer Style News Airline KLM partners with designer Marcel Wanders to create tableware for its frequent flyer set. This spring, KLM’s business class passengers will dine in style on restaurant-quality wares with a twist of traditional Dutch lace.

Check out more featured gadgets: Travel Geek

Guest Post by Anne Taylor Hartzell