Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Huntington Gardens

The Huntington Library and Gardens is located in Pasadena, CA. I don't know if anyone even goes there for the library, but the gardens are INCREDIBLE. It was one of the most picturesque places I've ever seen. There are about twenty different gardens, including lily ponds, bamboo clusters, a statue garden, and an Australian garden. We only saw a few of them because the place is so enormous. Here's a taste of some of the areas we walked through.
1. The cactus garden:

2. The Japanese Gardens. Now I don't really believe in Zen, nor do I even know what exactly that means, but look at the next two pictures and tell me you don't feel Zen.

Also in the Japanese Garden are some impressive koi ponds. My children nearly fell into the water about fifteen times.
3. The Chinese Garden.
Again with the Zen! Look at this peaceful place. I feel relaxed just looking at the picture.

And who is this marvelous-looking creature? I must meet her.
4. The Rose Garden.
INFORMATION FOR GOING TO THE GARDENS: Don't ever pay full price; I think it's $15 a person or something. Once a month, they have a free day. You have to have tickets for free day, but the tickets are free, and you can order them online or by phone one month before the free day. You have to be online or on the phone EXACTLY at 9 am on the day they give away tickets. Then you simply show up with your free tickets and have a great time. Every person (including infants) needs a ticket for free day. You can order up to 5 tickets for free day. Check here to see information for getting tickets for the next free day.
I recommend every SoCal resident go at least once before you leave California! Thanks, Jackie (queen of all SoCal excursions!), for the information about free day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"End of year tipping" ... are you kidding me?

This is an article I copied from Yahoo that was published for US News and World Report. Skim it and tell me if you are as flabbergasted as I am! Sorry, friends, I most certainly AM NOT going to tip my mailman $20.

The New Rules for End-of-Year Tipping

, On Tuesday November 30, 2010, 12:12 pm EST

Few rituals are more awkward than end-of-year tipping. How much do you give your trainer at the gym? What about your regular postal worker or newspaper delivery service? Or parking lot attendants? The list of potential recipients is probably longer than your holiday shopping list, but the decision about how much to spend can be much more stressful because there's so much uncertainty over how much, and who, to tip.

Here's a guide to making sure that you tip well but not wastefully--and that you still have a happy trainer, newspaper delivery person, and parking lot attendant in the new year.

Postal workers: Postal workers cannot receive any more than $20 in cash, which is an appropriate tip during the holidays, says Judith Bowman, founder of Protocol Consultants International. You can also give more personal gifts, such as baked goods or a gift certificate (under $20 in value, of course).

Personal caregivers, such as daycare teachers: Cash gifts are definitely appreciated and, in some cases, expected. Consider joining up with other parents to give each teacher $100 to $300. Think of it more as a holiday gift than a tip.

Doormen of residential buildings: Plan on giving each worker at least $20 and sometimes closer to $100, depending on the type of building and its traditions. Ask long-time residents or the building manager if you're unsure. Throughout the year, if the doorman provides extra service, such as bringing up your groceries, then tip between $5 and $10 per trip.

Cleaning service provider: Give the value of one visit. If you usually pay $100 per week, then give at least an extra $100 around the holidays.

Regular hairstylist, trainer, aesthetician, and other service providers: Similar to the cleaning service recommendation, consider giving a tip equal to the value of one visit. This guideline only applies to people you see regularly (more than once a month). Otherwise, a 20 percent tip per visit without an additional holiday boost is standard.

[For more money-saving tips, visit the U.S. News Alpha Consumer blog.]

Newspaper delivery person: A gift of between $10 and $20 or more in an envelope will help show your appreciation for all those cold and rainy mornings you can pick up your paper without getting dressed.

Garbage collectors: This thankless job often gets overlooked at tipping time, but consider giving each worker at least $20. If you leave extra garbage any time throughout the year, then leave an additional $10 to $20 for their effort.

Skycaps, porters, and hotel doormen you meet along your holiday travels: The skycap at the airport typically gets $2 to $3 per bag, says Bowman. If you are running late and they are of particular assistance, then add $1 to $2 per bag. A flat $20 goes a long way in saying "thank you." When in doubt, always tip up. As for doormen at hotels, tip anywhere from $2 to $5. For housekeeping services, tip $1 to $2 per night. There is usually a hotel-provided envelope that you can use for this purpose.

People to skip: Here's some good news for your budget. There's no need to tip the owner of an establishment (such as a hair salon), salaried staff (such as salespeople), full-service gas attendants, furniture delivery people (charges are included), or a flower delivery person, says Bowman.

Final word of advice: Tipping 10 to 15 percent is old-school, says Bowman. The new standard is 20 percent and up. And if you're a regular customer at a restaurant, you might want to consider leaving more to guarantee you get good service on each visit. After all, says Bowman, the literal translation of "to tip" is "to ensure promptness."