One of my very dear friends was getting married last weekend in Tuscany – one of my favorite places in the whole world so, naturally, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go along and help them celebrate. I have known Sylvia and Pascal for over 10 years now and so it was with a little surprise that I learned they were finally ready to tie the knot. I had actually resigned myself to the fact that they would just grow old together outside of marriage – they certainly were the kind of couple that I could never imagine being apart but, having lived together for so long, it was something that I had basically dismissed as never going to happen.

So, I was a very happy person as I traveled along the beautiful drive from Montalcino to Siena on a picture perfect morning. The wedding itself was held in the stunning San Pietro D’la Marca Castle near the beautiful old city of Siena and it was truly a fairy tale wedding. From the amazing hand crafted and locally made pearl sequined dress to the fantastic fresh food seafood and, of course the stunning boulder opal pendant and black diamond earrings worn by Sylvia it was something that could have been designed by Disney!

wed1The venue was resplendent in peach and white linen and flowers were everywhere. If there was one criticism it was the weather – it was almost too nice!! We strolled around under perfect blue skies with hardly a breath of wind and the views out over the bay were simply stunning. The castle itself is over 1100 years old but has recently been modernized and is now one of the premier wedding venues in the region – and its not hard to see why. It made a welcome respite from the mid-day heat and, at night, when we ventured out onto the lawns we were treated to a spectacular fireworks display – it was a sight and time that I will never forget.

Wine, food and good company, what more could you ask for – well, for me the highlight was, of course catch up with many old friends – and I have to say that the years have been good to all of us – another bonus as we get older.

This wedding is the the first chance I have had in recent years to get back to Tuscany, but it certainly will not be the last. As a wedding venue, holiday destination or simply just as a place to kick back, relax and enjoy a slower pace of life, there is nowhere else that I would rather be.

And, as we say in Italia “Ne di Venere Ne di Marte non si sposa ne si parte!” – chiao for now friends

We have recently just had some smart new presentation folders designed and printed – thanks to the guys at Ashgrove Trading – – and damn nice they were too. But, as well as making me think about marketing, the whole process got me to thinking about how you present your business and the importance of brand identity. Heres an interesting piece I found about the power of good presentation folders.

Designing presentation folders does not simply involve choosing pretty pictures and pretty words. The good kind of custom folder printing requires a degree of finesse and cunning that should be inherent in most businesspeople. If you do not know yet how design your presentation folders with that right kind of finesse, then we have some work to do.

Below, you will find a list of initial tips about folder printing and design. These tips are all about acquiring a design with certain finesse about it, getting people to engage and respond to those custom presentation folders well. So let us start with the list.

a. Audience Research – Have you heard of the phrase “knowing is half the battle?” If you do, then you know what I am talking about here. Audience research is the key if you want to be effective with your folder printing. By knowing precisely what your readers like to see, and how to attract and engage them with text and designs, you can easily deliver a great presentation folder that will engage them without too much difficulty.

Moreover, proper audience research gives you a good guide in developing all the other aspects of your presentation folders, including the content you will put inside it. So make sure that you do your preliminary research. Know who the likely audiences are, their demographic information and any cultural or personal preferences they might have. With the right knowledge, it should be easier to create great custom folders.

b. Using key power words – Research in hand, one of the simplest things you can do to have some finesse with the design of your custom folders is to use key power words in your title. Your audience for your presentation folder will likely have a few wants and needs that can be engaged by some words. For example, if you are presenting to investors, words like “profit”, “revenue”, “returns” are great words to include in the folder title to start engaging them at the presentation folder level. This can easily be applied and customized to other audiences of course. It is simple and direct, but those words will have their impact.

c. Using key color tones – You can also practice a little finesse with your design using key color tones and schemes. Certain colors connote certain meanings of course. When used correctly in a design, you can easily integrate a certain emotion or meaning into those presentation folders even if you do not have the images and text yet.

As a general rule, you can use bright colors like yellow and orange to inject energy, dynamism and happiness to the design, whole cooler colors like green and blue to illicit calmness, focus and stability. Just choose the right colors for the right mood that you want to put out with your presentation folders.

d. Using powerful imagery – Lastly, finesse with the design of presentation folders means using the right and powerful image elements. You should not just pick pictures that are just pretty. You should use images that have a direct impact on your audiences. If money or prosperity is one of their primary goals, then an image expressing wealth might be good. If they need to see professionalism and excellence in your report, then you should show them precisely that in your images. You have to pick your images in this precise way for your custom folders to get that immense impact that will help you succeed in your presentation.

So that is how you design custom folders with finesse. Just remember the concepts and themes above as you design for folder printing. Your color folders will be unstoppable after doing them.

Going outside, into nature to try a Skye ridge guiding experience, for example , or to a new place like Italy is always exciting. Especially if you are going to visit new areas and see new things – it is a trill that only true travelers can enjoy. But its an experience is twice as pleasurable when you discover it for the first time and this is why many people decide to visit new places rather than the ones they already know. However, going in new places can sometimes be dangerous. On the one hand some people say that researching the place you are going to visit kills the surprise, while others say that it is important to know what you are getting yourself into and what you should expect.

First of all, research has never been a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that you have to see photos of the place or to look at it until you feel like you have already been there. Nevertheless, it is not a bad idea to know what you are getting yourself into. There are several reasons for that.

First, it is important to gather information about when is it appropriate to visit the certain place. Keep in mind that sometimes on your way may be obstacles such as rivers and waterfalls, and they cannot be crossed at every time during the year. Also paths can become muddy if it is raining. You should always check the condition of the roads, because if it is a raining season this can impede your travel a lot and cause quite the inconvenience. You should also research the different ways you can go to the place and evaluate the ones that you can enjoy best – it will improve the experience you will have.

Second, it is good to know if there are going to be a lot of tourists. Some people don’t mind it, but some are really frustrated when they walk quite a lot of time to reach a place and find it crowded. Check it if is official tourist season and whether you will have to share two square meters of the beautiful place with three other people. It is also important if the way is partially to be taken on the road. If it is tourist season chances are that many people will be there early and parking spaces will be scarce.
Third, it is important to know if the place is safe. Sometimes rocks fall, waterfalls dry, or become too strong, rivers get poisoned. It is important to know the environment you are going to get yourself into. Without previous research you may stumble into problem, which is something very serious in the nature, as help is far.

So this is why you should always check the place you are planning to visit. It can save you a lot of trouble and it can greatly improve your experience. Don’t look to much at pictures and descriptions so you savor the moment when you reach it, but safety comes first so always research the road conditions and the place itself.

Last week, my nephew told me he was trying to find his own apartment. He said that he had been thinking about it for a while, because he really wanted to get out of his parents' house, but he really had no idea where to start. He asked if I would help him, and I told him I certainly would, because I have lived in several apartments in my time and have developed a really effective approach to find an apartment that will best fit your individual needs. He came over for lunch and then we went to work.

I told him that the first step to find an apartment was to determine what price range he found acceptable. I told him this was an important step because he did not want to find an apartment that he found really appealing and then learn that it was out of his price range. He understood completely. We even found a local company who provide a range of great serviced apartments – – but they weren't really what he was looking for.

Then I told him that we needed to figure out what part of town he wanted to live in. I said it was important for him to find a pretty safe neighborhood first and foremost, and then think about other features he wanted. He was not sure what I meant, so I explained to him that he might want to be near entertainment, public transportation, shopping venues or night life, so he needed to think about what appealed to him. He thought about it for a minute and then started to make a list of what he wanted. Luckily, Aberdeen  is a great city and theres lots of nice places to live, so picking a good location wasn't much of a challenge.

I told him that he would also need to think about what type of apartment he wanted in terms of style, amenities and so forth. I said that this is a step sometimes forgotten when people want to find an apartment, because they are often just looking for a place to stay. I informed him that while a swimming pool might be really important to one person, a playground could be important to somebody else and a workout facility might be important to another person.

We made up a plan and were on our way to find an apartment. We spent about three hours going from place to place, and before long, we found the one for which he was looking. It was not that pricey, it was in a safe neighborhood and had all the amenities he needed.

It is not hard to find an apartment. I think that it is important to have a good plan in place and to think about what you need, but once those things are done, it is usually fairly easy to find what you want.

Matera hasn’t changed a whole lot since I was last there many years ago to see its most spectacular festival, the Festa della Modonna Bruna.

Hotels are still hidden in the monochromatic landscape. In September, the crowds aren’t so visible, although the restaurant we chose to eat at was fully booked at lunch, Ristorante Nadì. It was so good we booked a table for dinner. And they have the provocatively titled “crapiata”, a soup of grains and beans like ceci, fave, and white beans, drizzled with some spectacular olive oil. I’m now a crapiata fan. I wish we could get “I heart Crapiata” bumper stickers.

The September weather is perfect; you can eat lunch outside and you can still climb the sides of Matera’s “bowl” and not feel the effects of too much heat.

Y’all get over here, ya hear?

Ah, I’m lucky to have this view from my window on a Friday evening at 7pm, an hour before dinner time. We’re at Hotel San Paolo Al Convento in Trani, on the Adriatic coast in Puglia, a very nice place to be right now.

401tWe took friends on a Lunigiana castle tour this weekend. The weather wasn’t bad. The surprise came at Malgrate Castle, where the normally empty parking lot was full, and a tour bus had parked smack in the middle so that people had to gingerly back out of parking places. The unmarked and as yet untried Ristorante La Torre di Malgrate was animated with voices of coach tourists at 2:45 pm, which happens to correspond to the time we arrived.

The castle opens at three. Well, it’s Italy, so 3:05. The tower, when observed in the right light, looks a bit ominous, as if stained with the blood of those who’d fallen from (near) the top and washed (down) with boiling oil. Perhaps I am reading into the scene. Excuse me.

Malgrate castle, like most of the castles in the Lunigiana, is a Malaspina castle, devised to protect the byways and waterways through the Lunigiana (and extract taxes from travelers, just like the current castle charges you 2 Euros to pass through). The castle in its current configuration was built around 1275, but was certainly built upon older ruins. It’s been recently restored and there is an exhibit inside about the restoration with pictures of the ruins they started with. Impressive.

Inside the tower there are frescoes and some heraldic insignia (you can’t go up to the top, so those of you who suffer palpitations upon thoughts of ascending tiny, internal staircases can, without fear, take your he-man spouses to this castle to poke around). Over on the left is a picture of the best fresco, the one that appears just left of the entrance to the upper story, easily accessed via external stairs.


One of the heraldic arms caught my attention as an Alfisti (that’s someone who has owned and liked an Alfa Romeo so much that he just had to go out and buy an Italian abode to live in and murder the Italian language from).

402tThe snake swallowing a man (child, they say, but it’s not my idea) is the symbol of Milan (and the Visconti who ruled it) and appears on just about every Alfa badge

It costs a mere 2 Euro to go inside Malgrate Castle. You should. A walk around the 16th century village is nice as well.

If you are planning to visit Italy, or any other European country it pays to get good insurance, especially if you plan on driving, as we did. The most effective way of getting the best car insurance coverage at an affordable price is by shopping around for the best insurance quote. Remember to get quotes from three or more insurance brokers and compare policies as well as monthly fees. It also helps to be sure that the company you will be dealing with is reliable and has been around for quite a while in the industry; go online and research about car insurance companies’ backgrounds and join forums that discuss how previous customers were assisted.