Friday, November 30, 2012

Flashback Friday #5 - Blessed in Bulk

Week 5 and going strong! - This week we flashback to some time well spent, or well wasted (you decide) at your local blessed in bulk store! In the case of this example we will be talking about Costco. Living in suburbia for pretty much all my life I have witnessed the evolution of America's fascination with shopping in bulk. It is probably safe to say that in recent years this fascination has reached its peak, but bulk shopping will most likely never fully disappear. There are several benefits to shopping in bulk such as lower prices, larger selection, and of course greater quantities, which comes in handy for big families. At a store like Costco, which gives new meaning to the term Big-Box store because it is quite literally a HUGE BOX, one can find several different items like food, cameras, TVs, toys, wine, clothes, candy, pizza, car tires, eye glasses, books, DVDs, you get the picture. But since it is a bulk store when you find the item you want you find about 50 more right next to it (as demonstrated in the photos above). At regular stores you might be lucky if you find just 2 or 3 of the same item out on display, which makes bulk shopping that much more fascinating and overwhelming. I bring this up now because I know all of you are getting ready to go out and buy a bunch of Christmas presents for the holidays. Be sure to shop smart this season and remember that sometimes the best present is hand-made and not store-bought. Keep it REAL!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Flashback Friday #4 - Thanksgiving

It's Friday again and since yesterday was Thanksgiving I thought I would do a flashback themed around that. This year my family and I spent Thanksgiving in New York City with my sister who lives in Manhattan. It was one of the first times we have spent the Turkey holiday in a place other than "home." But, as the old saying goes, 'Home is where the heart is' so we did not feel far from it. The above photos are from years past showing all the fixings and the classic pilgrim salt and pepper shakers. For several years we hosted our family at our house in Florida, but recently we have traveled to Atlanta for Thanksgiving. My family has also spent a Thanksgiving in Italy when my sister was there on a study abroad trip back in 2007. That was a most interesting Thanksgiving because we had to celebrate a purely American holiday in another country and when we went to buy Turkey we had a hard time finding enough! We certainly could not find a whole bird, but after some very interesting conversations with some butchers (they seemed very confused as to why we wanted so much turkey!) we were able to get quite a few pieces of cut turkey. It was like going to a grocery store and buying up all the brussel sprouts, but we had what we needed and were able to celebrate in style. I hope you and your family had a most enjoyable and tasty Turkey Day! Until next time readers - Keep it REAL!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flashback Friday #3 - Holi in NYC

Hello readers! It's Friday again and you know what that means - Flashback Friday! Today we are going back to NYC again. You may be asking yourself 'Mark, you talk about New York quite a lot. Whats up with that?' Well, I travel there a lot (almost twice a year for the past 4), my sister lives there and I may be moving there myself, and on top of all that it is just an awesome place! Plus, I will be going there next week so this serves as precursor to that trip. Today we get to look back on a special event I got to experience on one of my trips to the Empire State - Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. This celebration normally lasts several days during the month of March and officially ushers in spring, the celebrated season of love. The significance of the holiday and respective festivities lies deep in Hindu scripture and belief. The story starts with a great King of Demons named Hiranyakashipu. This Demon King had a son named Prahlada who prayed to the God Vishnu instead of his own father. In classic ancient God style Prahlada's father ordered him to be burnt alive for his insubordination and being without fear Prahlada followed his father's orders, but prayed to Lord Vishnu for protection. Vishnu heard his prayers and kept him safe while allowing Hiranyakashipu's demon sister Holika (Prahlada's Demon Aunt I guess) to burn alive instead. The salvation of Prahlada and burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi. The festivities include the burning of bonfires on the eve of the holiday as well as the throwing of colored powders and scented perfumes at one another. This you can see in the photos above and as you can imagine it was quite a 'colorful' time had by all! Perhaps one day I will get to celebrate again, but for now I will enjoy the memories. Thanks for reading and Keep it REAL!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Four Families

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of seeing my friends' band in concert at Jack Rabbits in San Marco. They recently changed their name from Robin R├╝tenberg & Friends (see previous post) to Four Families and have been enjoying quite a lot of publicity as well as different venues while on their recent tour. While their name may be different, they still have the same great music! Which is very important because they were in a Battle of the Bands last night and they did it up right. Looking good and sounding good is hard to do, but Four Families made it look easy and they are currently ranked 2nd out of 40 bands in the battle! (see battle standings here). You should check them out on-line and support live music by seeing them in concert. But whatever you do, remember the name (Four Families) and continue to Keep it REAL!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Flashback Friday #2 - Georgia Aquarium

We are back! Flashback Friday two weeks in a row! Lets keep it rolling. This week is a loaded one about the Georgia Aquarium. Earlier today I received news that the Aquarium has controversial plans to obtain more Beluga Whales for its exhibits. The full details as of right now include importing 18 Beluga Whales from Russia and spreading them over 6 different aquariums here in America. If it goes through it would be one of the largest such imports in the past 2 decades. The controversy lies with the ethical treatment of the animals and the length of the journey they must take in order to get to the United States. On the other hand, if the whales do arrive, they would lend valuable resources to both scientists and the average American population in the way of research and environmental awareness. 
I do not have a concrete opinion on the matter yet, but what I can say is that I love the Georgia Aquarium! As you can see from the pictures above it is a most inspiring place to be in. I have had the pleasure of visiting there a few times over the past few years and after each time I have left wondering when my next visit would be. One of my favorite spaces is shown in the middle photo. It is a tunnel that goes right down the middle of the largest tank in the aquarium called the Ocean Voyager. There is a moving walkway on one side to keep traffic flowing, but you can stop and stare if you like as well, which is what I like to do. Once you get across you take a journey through some exhibition spaces that tell you about the Whale Sharks (shown in the first and third photos) and how they got to the aquarium. Who do you call when you want the world's largest fish delivered on time?...well UPS of course! I'm not lying. They flew them over by UPS and the whole exhibit reads as one big advertisement for them, but if you look through that you can see some really great human ingenuity. Beyond the UPS Ad....cough cough....I mean will reach a giant viewing window (third photo). I mean giant too! It's more of a viewing theater than a viewing window. You could sit there for hours just staring at all the different fish and several people do just that. It is a most wonderful place and I hope you can travel there some day. If you would like to read the story about the Beluga Whales please click here - and, as always, keep it REAL!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Flashback Friday #1 - NYC

Hello readers! For a long time now I have been toying with different ideas of how to make my blog more interesting and more consistent. Several of the blogs that I follow have weekly postings which make them more relevant and current for their readers. I have tried to do this on my blog but I have been unsuccessful. If you look back through the archives you can find whole months that have only one or two posts! That is not a very consistent streak I have going. But that is all going to change. As of today I am starting a new series called 'Flashback Fridays.' Every Friday I propose to make a new post using a photo (or photos) I have pulled from my vast personal photo archive. I will be going through many genres of photos such as portraits, architecture, concerts, automotive, candid, street, travel, and much more. I hope you will join me each Friday for a new photo and story!
Today's photo and story takes place in New York. I have traveled to New York several times over the past few years and I will be heading there again later this month. While I was there in March of 2011 I ran across some Japanese locals who were tap dancing in Union Square to help raise money for Japan which was suffering in the wake of a huge earthquake and tsunami. New York is a very amazing place when at one moment you can be eating pizza in a place were everyone is talking Italian with corresponding hand gestures, and the next moment you can be in a public square watching Japanese people tap dancing. Have you ever seen a Japanese person tap dancing....? Thats right, I thought so. But they were and they were really good too. The photo in the middle was taken in Brooklyn and I liked how it paired up with the other two photos because of the shoes and it also reminded me of some photos I have seen recently of New York in the wake of hurricane Sandy. New York is one tough place and I have no doubt that they will be able to handle the clean-up. It will be interesting to see what has changed when I am there in a few weeks. Until then readers...Keep it REAL!