Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dinner — Almost How It’s Supposed to Be…

Life is good. I think I can officially say that the move is over. We still have a few boxes around, and things are not hung on the walls, but the pressure to get it all done is off. (Which most likely means that we’ll still have things that need to be hung at this time next year…)

Last night I picked up those little boys from school, and we had a really nice afternoon (minimal yelling from anyone involved.) At about 5, I had a glass of wine and fired up the barbeque. Once the Major came home, he had a glass of wine with me and we had dinner outside at Turbo’s request. Of course, Turbo suggested that we eat outside and then as soon as the table was set, he began throwing a fit — “Why are we eating out here? I want to eat inside….” Agh!

For once, I just enjoyed dinner. I didn’t harangue the boys about eating two bites of this or four bites of that… we had artichokes, so they were both very into pulling the leaves off and eating them. Turbo would scrape all the flesh off with his teeth over and over and then tell me, “I can’t do it! I’m not getting any…” While Lunchbox, following his brother’s example, would dip the leaves in mayo and then just suck the mayo off and show me the untouched leaf, looking quite proud. Regardless, it was so nice. I didn’t worry about food on the floor/chairs/table (part of this may have been the 2 glasses of wine), and I just enjoyed the perfect weather, the company, and the beauty of our new home. More than that, I was finally able to just sit and revel in the wonder of having a family to call my own. It felt wonderful.

The Major took care of baths while I cleaned up, and then we put the little guys to bed and had a nice evening together. Most nights, we kind of go our separate ways after bedtime, doing our own things. But last night we talked, watched an episode of Mad Men (my new addiction) and even went to bed at the same time! (I am usually in bed by about 9:30 and the Major tends to stay up late.) It was really nice.

This morning I got a real treat. I got up at my usual ungodly hour, but instead of getting ready for work, I…wait for it… got to go to the gym! That’s right! This is the week that the Major and I begin our gym rotation. I am going to go on Tuesday and Thursday, and he’s going to handle little boy responsibilities on those mornings! He’s going to go on M, W, F. It was really freeing to walk out of the house, just me, and drive away to do something good for myself. Of course, I spent most of the time wondering how things were going at home, and hoping that the Major wouldn’t forget anything or end up really late or anything. Despite the fact that I usually manage responsibilities for three people every day of my life, I suffer from tremendous guilt on the days when I rely on the Major to do it. I feel like I’m asking him for some huge favor, and I worry constantly that he’s going to be annoyed or put out. I’m not sure why, since I know he doesn’t worry at all about whether I’m annoyed about being the “default parent.”

This is probably a whole other topic — but I talk about it with some friends regularly. Why is it that the man in the marriage can basically do what he wants to do, while the woman takes on most of the responsibility for day to day management of children? One good example of this was one that a friend gave me the other day. She was downstairs herding small children all afternoon, and her husband walked through the room where she was peeling her youngest off of his shrieking brother. Sure that he’d come back any second to help, she found herself searching for him a few minutes later when he didn’t reappear. Where did he go? Upstairs to close the door to the master bedroom and take a 2 hour nap. Could she (or I or any other ‘default parent’) just decide to go nap? Definitely not. If I want a nap on a Sunday afternoon, I basically have to ask permission. I have to make arrangements for the care of the TLAs. If the Major wants a nap, he just says, “hey, I’m going to go take a nap.” And I get to say, “oh, okay.”

Is this always the case? Why? I’m not really complaining — like I said, I had a great night with the Major and am in a happy place at the moment. But I do wonder why moms are the auto-parents and dads have to be asked to step in…

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pass The Duct Tape Please

You know how when you were in college, you slept on a mattress on the floor and most of your furniture came from IKEA and had to be assembled with those crazy hex wrenches? Well, we haven’t moved on from that phase yet. A lot of my furniture is from IKEA. I actually really like the whole Swedish minimalist aesthetic, but in reality, the stuff looks pretty good and is cheap enough that you don’t get too upset when the moving guys (who visit us military spouse types every 2-3 years) bang it up, sweat all over it, break the legs off, etc. Or at least you’re supposed to not get too upset. But, dammit, I’m upset.

If you’ve ever put together IKEA furniture, you know that it revolves around “locking cams” and bolts, right? And if you decide to, say, take this furniture apart because you are a government-hired moving person getting minimum wage to manhandle the beloved goods and household belongings of a family that includes at least one person who puts his or her ass on the line to protect your freedom, you might want to make careful note of where those all-important locking cams and bolts end up! Like, you might want to, say, put them all in a baggy and make sure that they get attached to the actual piece of furniture that they belong to. Maybe. Just a thought.

But not everyone can come up with ideas as brillant and original as that one that I just shared with you.

It seems that OUR particular government moving people have not ever experienced the frustration of having all the pieces of their furniture laid out in front of them, with NO WAY to put them together to form a useable object. Like, say, a CRIB. Or my damned BED. Or the GUEST BED on which I have actual guests planning to sleep this weekend!! Currently, the guest bed is fully assembled, reliant totally on the small wooden dowels that go between the parts to hold them in place politely while those big bolts and cams do all the dirty work of making sure things actually STAY put together securely. I even put the boxframe and mattress on the bed, and dressed it up in all it’s pretty sheets and pillows. The Major came in surprised, “oh! you found the hardware!” When I told him no, he looked at me quite skeptically. I explained that I thought that if our friends laid in the bed carefully, the distribution of their weight over the surface area of the mattress would prevent any one tenuous joint from having to bear too much of a load, thereby ensuring that they did not actually find the bed collapsing on top of them. Or under them, to be specific. Do you think it is rude to ask your houseguests to please refrain from performing any variety of the horizontal limbo in your guestbed to ensure their own safety?

Don’t worry. I’m going to come up with a solution before they arrive.

The solution for the lack of hardware for the crib was to buy a whole new friggin crib at Walmart. I was the most angry crib-buying mommy they’ve probably ever had in that Walmart baby department. “Give me the cheapest crib you’ve got!” When the pimply adolescent Walmart employee pulled the giant box out of the shelf for me, looking somewhat frightened, I eyed it skeptically and then proceeded to pick it up and drag it BY MYSELF up to the register, abandoning my shopping cart and ordering my 4 year old to WALK. NOW. I can’t believe I had to buy a whole new crib. But Lunchbox doesn’t deserve to sleep in a pack and play for the rest of his babyhood when there’s a bunch of perfectly good crib pieces leaning against the wall in his room, right?

The last piece of the no-hardware puzzle that needs solving is my bed. I loved that bed. It had a built in bookshelf in the headboard. Which is totally obsolete now that I read everything on my iPad, but it’s still a nice idea.

And do NOT suggest that I go to the hardware store to pick up replacements. I tried that. These are special secret-squirrel IKEA-specific Swedish metric system parts that are not available in your neighborhood Lowe’s. IKEA is only helpful if the parts weren’t included in your original purchase. I haven’t yet tried duct tape. Maybe that will work.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It’s a Fort It’s a Doghouse It’s a Spaceship And Look we Have Four Thousand of Them

No, Turbo, it’s a box. And yes, we still have four thousand of them. Only they have been flattened and placed strategically in that pile in front of the front door because Mommy is desperately trying to get them broken down and out of the house so that I can figure out what kind of floor our new rental house actually has. Cuz I haven’t seen it yet.

Turbo and Lunchbox have spent the last week proving the old idiom that the best toy you can give your kid is the box it came in. They spend their evenings smashing and crashing around the living room and play room in their newly received kid-sized boxes, screaming like banshees and giving me a chronic nervous headache. They spend their mornings whining and crying because their spaceships/doghouses/forts have mysteriously vanished overnight, though the back of the truck holds a boatload of cardboard that looks suspiciously familiar to their tiny eyes.

We’re close, though. I think there are four more boxes upstairs and maybe four downstairs. And there’s a crapload of crap in the hall. Both halls. That’s because the Major’s organizational strategy seems to consist largely of taking things that don’t belong in one place and deciding that he isn’t sure where they belong. So they end up in the hall. And I think they’re all slated for the attic. And I’m so tired of looking at it all that I think I might actually haul it up there into the 125 degree sweatbath myself.

Turbo is turning four this weekend. And we’re having houseguests. If that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is! I know this blog has been less than scintillating lately… and I would like to tell you that I’ve got all kinds of gems saved up for you. But I’d be lying. For now I’m just trying to maintain my sanity and sobriety — turns out unpacking is easier if you’re just a teensy bit tipsy because you no longer care where things go. Makes it tougher the next day though:

“Major, why did I think it would be a good idea to put my curlers in the pantry?”

“I dunno. You said something about the stairs being tall and not wanting a workout, and then something else about curlers and coffee and killing two birds with one stone in the morning. I’m not sure. I don’t really listen when you talk.”

“Oh, ok. Thanks.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This Mommy Needs a Drink…

It turns out that unpacking thirty kazillion boxes while trying to manage the never-ending interests of a two and four year old is difficult. Maybe impossible. It turns out that apple juice and goldfish are going to trump unpacking just one tiny box during every spare second between getting home from work, making dinner and getting the TLAs into their beds. (TLA – tiny little assholes… no, they aren’t really assholes. But sometimes the Major and I need to feel like we’re getting a good curse out here and there without them knowing, so we call them TLAs. I know. God hates me, etc., move on.) ANYWAY, I suppose that during this time, I haven’t been quite the nicest mommy in the world. I have a lower than normal tolerance for having to ask ninety times for something to get done, for repetitive questioning, for pretty much everything that goes along with being a small person who ALSO just moved his entire life and is way more confused about the whole thing than I am. But a couple times since we’ve gotten all our boxes, Turbo has told me that he wants a “different mommy” because this mommy is mean. It’s funny… but it also hurts. Because I know I am not always a nice mommy. When I really question him about this new mommy, or give him my permission to go find a new one, he usually breaks down and says that he only wants THIS mommy. And THAT is always nice to hear. (But it ain’t helping get these boxes unpacked, either.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

7 Most Powerful People in the World

1.Hu Jintao

Age: 68
Title: President
Organization: People’s Republic of China
Residence: Beijing, China
Country of citizenship: China
Marital Status: Married
Paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world’s population. Unlike Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts. Recently surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy both in absolute and purchasing power terms. Credible estimates have China poised to overtake U.S. as world’s largest economy in 25 years–although, crucially, not on a per-capita basis. Creditor nation oversees world’s largest reserves at $2.65 trillion–$1.5 trillion of which is in U.S. dollar holdings. Refuses to kowtow to U.S. pressure to change its exchange-rate regime. Heads world’s largest army (in size). His handpicked successor, Xi Jinping, set to assume the presidency in 2012.

2.Barack Obama

Age: 49
Title: President
Organization: United States of America
Residence: Washington, DC
Country of citizenship: United States
Marital Status: Married
Children: 2
Obama’s Democrats suffered a mighty blow in U.S. midterm elections, with the president decisively losing support of the House of Representatives, and barely holding onto the Senate. It’s quite a come-down for last year’s most powerful person, who after enacting widespread reforms in his first two years in office will be hard-pressed to implement his agenda in the next two. He can take comfort in the fact that he remains commander-in-chief of world’s largest, deadliest military, leader of world’s largest (in spending) and most dynamic economy and holds the unofficial title of “Leader of the Free World.”

3. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud

Age: 86
Title: King
Organization: Saudi Arabia
Residence: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Country of citizenship: Saudi Arabia
Marital Status: Married
Absolute ruler of desert kingdom that contains the world’s largest crude oil reserves, two holiest sites in Islam. State-owned oil producer Saudi Aramco has reserves of 266 billion barrels, or one-fifth of planet’s known supply (worth $22 trillion at today’s oil prices). Pushing for gradual social and legal reforms, while maintaining good relations with deeply conservative religious establishment. Ultimate succession unclear: 86-year-old king’s official heir is 82-year-old Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. Established committee of senior princes to ensure smooth transition in the event both become incapacitated.

4. Vladimir Putin

Age: 58
Title: Prime Minister
Organization: Russia
Residence: Moscow, Russia
Country of citizenship: Russia
Marital Status: Married
Prime Minister still more powerful than his handpicked head-of-state, President Dmitry Medvedev. Former KGB officer will likely replace protégé in 2012. In the meantime, has final say over one-ninth of Earth’s land area, vast energy and mineral resources. Declared nuclear power has veto on U.N.’s Security Council. Russian government agency reported to have already registered web address Putin-2012.rf. On running again: “The president of the United States, Roosevelt, was elected four times in a row because it did not contradict the American Constitution” (September 201o).

5. Pope Benedict XVI

Age: 83
Title: Pope
Organization: Roman Catholic Church
Residence: Vatican City
Country of citizenship: Germany
Marital Status: Single
Highest earthly authority for 1.1 billion souls, or one-sixth of world’s population. Staunch traditionalist deplores secularism, consumerism and moral relativism, unbending on birth control, gay marriage and ordination of female priests. Despite major gaffes (including lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying Bishop and quoting a 14th-century source that declared the only new things the prophet Mohammed brought were “evil and inhuman”), appears genuinely interested in healing old wounds. In September, not only became the first Pope to visit Westminster Abbey since the Protestant Reformation, but also shook hands with a clergywoman (another first). Widening sexual abuse scandal could undermine moral authority, but increasingly willing to tackle issue head on: “Forgiveness does not substitute for justice.” Stylish: Has brought back traditional red, custom-made “pope shoes” and old-school Ecclesiastical headgear.

6. Angela Merkel

Age: 56
Title: Chancellor
Organization: Germany
Residence: Berlin, Germany
Country of citizenship: Germany
Marital Status: Married
Most powerful woman on the planet. Chancellor of Germany oversees Europe’s largest economy. Renowned free-market champion and favorite of big business, boasts nine public companies with annual sales in excess of $70 billion. In all, there are 57 German companies on the Forbes Global 2000 ranking of the world’s largest public companies, with aggregate sales of $1.7 trillion.

7. David Cameron

Age: 44
Title: Prime Minister
Organization: United Kingdom
Residence: London, United Kingdom
Country of citizenship: United Kingdom
Marital Status: Married
Youngest British prime minister in 198 years is product of privilege: Eton, Brasenose College, Oxford; is descended (illegitimately) from King William IV. Hailed by some as the second coming of Margaret Thatcher, Cameron shares the Iron Lady’s determination to slash government expenditures (defense, higher education), but as the leader of a coalition government he can ill-afford to repeat her brash divisiveness.

7 Most Exclusive Neighborhoods in the World

1. Kensington Palace Gardens

Location: London, England
Average home price: $85 million
Tucked between Kensington High Street and Notting Hill, this half-mile street is London’s crowning jewel of residential excess. Even the richest Londoners secretly seethe at the regal mansions that line the street, since few are actually owned by Brits — Middle Eastern and Swiss tycoons have grabbed first dibs. Strangely, the turnover of many homes is high, signaling that these aren’t really homes, but rather fleeting investments.
What not to miss: House number 18-19, billed at more than $160 million, is London’s single most expensive house.

2. Jupiter Island

Location: Florida, USA
Average home price: $5.6 million
Forty minutes from glitzy Palm Beach lies this little enclave that has been rated by Forbes as the most expensive ZIP code in the United States. Not surprisingly, this community of mansions linked to yacht clubs and golf courses, which flank a 17-mile-long beach, has been the home to some of America’s — and the world’s — richest families. Among its most illustrious denizens are President Truman’s Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett, and former President George H.W. Bush.
What not to miss: A boat trip past the Intercoastal Waterway beaches is scenic and relaxing.

3. Belle Haven

Location: Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Average home price: $5 million
Seeking small-town solace, New York’s brokers and mutual funds wizards relocated to this New England refuge with clean streets, lush parks, golf courses, yacht clubs, and an awesome beach. The harbor is dotted with boutiques that buzz with activity in the summer. And only a 50-minute commute away from downtown Manhattan, it’s the perfect getaway for the world’s most stressed businessmen. Belle Haven, the city’s wealthiest neighborhood, has no houses selling for under $3 million.
What not to miss: The Homestead Inn, a luxury inn and restaurant, is known for offering the best dining experience in New England.

4. Pacific Heights

Location: San Francisco, California
Average home price: $4.5 million
With a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay, Pacific Heights is home to San Francisco’s first families and accomplished artists and businessmen. Tourists to the Bay Area flock in droves to catch glimpses of the ber-refined locals strolling in and out of Fillmore Street’s swank shops and cafes, and returning to their Victorian mansions. In July, Pacific Heights hosts the largest jazz festival (Fillmore Street Jazz Festival) on the West Coast — a must-see.
What not to miss: The steps between Broadway and Lyon, tucked between mansions and the Presidio, offer the classic Pacific Heights experience: a view of the Palace of Fine Arts with the Bay in the background.

5.Victoria Peak

Location: Hong Kong, China
Average home price: $3.5 million
“The Peak,” for those in the know, is the top visitor spot in Hong Kong thanks to its altitude, which offers an unparalleled view of the bustling port city. The neighborhood is dominated by the Peak Tower, a wok-shaped structure housing multiple shops and entertainment venues, such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium and Madame Tussauds wax museum. A stone’s throw away, you’ll find picturesque nature walks through Victoria Peak Gardens.
What not to miss: A ride on the Peak Tram, where a panoramic view of the city from above attracts six million people a year.

6.Sea Island

Location: Georgia, USA
Average home price: $2.23 million
For generations, its natural beauty has attracted America’s ultra-rich, who habitually rent the island’s vast cottages in the peak seasons. The upscale character of Sea Island is underscored by colorful buildings and luxurious homes designed by Addison Mizner, as well as golf courses known the world over. Nature lovers can stroll through the misty woods, which are as close to enchanted forests as they come. Athletic travelers will enjoy kayaking, boating, fishing, and horseback riding.
What not to miss: Clay shooting at the 70-year-old shooting school.

7.Shibuya Neighborhood

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Average home price: $1.8 million
Shibuya, in west Tokyo, is a newer shopping and entertainment district abuzz with bright lights that attract Japan’s ultra-trendy like moths to a flame. You’ll find Japan’s Olympic stadium and dizzyingly huge department stores, which beckon even the staunchest non-consumer. The NHK studios (Japan’s public television and radio broadcaster) are also a great site, offering tons of attractions for visitors.

7 Largest City in the World

Considering the amount of “different” information about this subject, this is probably (so far) the post that took me more time to put together valuable and reliable information. Finally here we can check the Top 7 Largest Cities in the World.
Each of the places in this list can be called “Megacity” which, by definition, is a recognized metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million people. Some definitions also set a minimum level for population density (at least 2,000 persons/square km). A megacity can be a single metropolitan area or two or more metropolitan areas that converge upon one another. All population figures for the world’s largest urban areas are simply estimates. There’s no way to know the exact population of such a large place, but this is one of the most accurate estimate that we found:

1. Tokyo

English name: Tokio
Country: Japan
Population: 34 200 000 people

City population: 8 489 653 people (*)
Area: 7 835 sq km
Remarks: Metropolitan population including Yokohama, Kawasaki, Saitama. This city is served by one of the Top 7 Busiest Airports in 2010. Also has one of the Top 7 Most Exclusives Neighborhoods in the World and is considered # 1 in our Top 7 Most Expensive Cities in the World in 2010
Official Website: http://tcvb.or.jp/en/

2. Guangzhou

English name: Canton
Country: China
Population: 24 900 000 people
City population: 8 524 826 people (*)
Area: 2 590 sq km
Remarks: Northern Pearl River Delta including Dongguan, Foshan, Jiangmen, Zhongshan
Official Website: http://english.gz.gov.cn/

3. Seoul

English name: Seoul
Country: South Korea
Population: 24 500 000 people
City population: 9 895 217 people (*)
Area: 1 943 sq km
Remarks: Metropolitan population including Bucheon, Goyang, Incheon, Seongnam, Suweon. The city is served by one of the Top 7 Best Airports in 2010
Official Website: http://english.seoul.go.kr/

4. Delhi

English name: Delhi
Country: India
Population: 23 900 000 people
City population:  9 817 439 people (*)
Area: 1 425 sq km
Remarks: Metropolitan population including Faridabad, Ghaziabad

5. Mumbai

English name: Bombay
Country: India
Population: 23 300 000 people
City population: 11 914 398 people (*)
Area: 777 sq km
Remarks: Metropolitan population including Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Thane, Ulhasnagar
Official Website: http://www.mcgm.gov.in/

6. Ciudad de México

English name: Mexico City
Country: Mexico
Population: 22 800 000 people
City population: 18 204 964 people (*)
Area: 2 137 sq km
Remarks: Metropolitan population including Nezahualcóyotl, Ecatepec, Naucalpan

7. New York

English name: New York
Country: United States of America
Population: 22 200 000 people
City population: 8 143 197 people (*)
Area: 11 264 sq km

7 Best Beach in the World

1. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Fernando De Noronha is one of the Unesco World Heritage Site as “the most beautiful marine park in the World”. Fernando De Noronha, is an archipelago of 21 islands and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, around 220 miles offshore from the Brazilian coast. It features some of the most magnificent beaches and the calm emerald waters are ideal for diving lovers. In fact, you can encounter some aquatic species such as dolphins, sea turtles and various types of fish. Fernando de Noronha is a thoroughly protected spot for its pristine environment which makes it a dream come true for nature enthusiasts.

2. Anse Source D’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles (tie)

This eternal paradise has been voted as the ‘best beach in the world’ by numerous travel shows around the world. It is also one of the most photographed beaches in the world thanks to its completely stunning beauty. This charming beach offers a natural wonder not often seen, so if you are looking for the ultimate beach experience, head to the Seychelles and prepare to be amazed.

2. Whitehaven, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia (tie)

There are dozens of candidates for the mantle of Australia’s best beach, but for picture-postcard, sheer drop-dead gorgeousness Whitehaven is pretty special. Imagine super-fine, white silica sand surrounded by warm, clear, azure waters sandwiched between tropical forest with various islands dotted around in the distance. Just make sure you come for longer than a day (the preferred option) as once the day cruisers have left you can walk around here or curl up under the shade of the forest and feel like you have this uninhabited piece of paradise all to yourself. It´s quite a trek getting to Whitehaven, the surf isn´t up to much and for half the year you have to wear a stinger suit to swim in the sea – but these are small prices to pay for such beauty. Sunglasses are a essential at this beach because the sand is really white.
Where to stay: The only way to stay near the beach is to camp: a permit is needed from Airlie Beach town on the mainland.

4. Boracay, Philippines (tie)

It’s no wonder why the Philippines is considered by so many one of the best places to travel to. The proof is in its picture-perfect beaches. Boracay is an island in the Philippines that located about 200 miles south of Manila and 2 kms from the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Visayas Region in Philippines. Boracay has become a favourite tourist destination because of its fine powdery white sand, clear warm water and lovely weather. Boracay is a vacationer’s haven! It’s the perfect place to forget your worries, relax and enjoy the natural, splendid scenery. In 1990, it was elected by the BMW Tropical Beach Handbook as one of the best beaches in the world and again in 1996 by the British publication TV Quick as the world’s number one tropical beach.

4. Lanikai Beach, Hawaii (tie)

Lanikai, which means “heavenly sea”, is located in the Southeast part of Hawaii. This secluded but inviting beach has a mile long stretch of soft, powdered sand and crystal clear waters. Ideal for snorkeling and kayaking fans but laid-back visitors who just want to feel the sun shine on and bathe in warm water won’t ever be disappointed. If you’re looking for a picture-perfect vacationing spot in Hawaii, don’t miss out on Lanikai

6. Maldives

The best calm beach in the world. Beautiful, quiet, modern and secluded. The very rare combination found on the beaches in the world.

7. Las Islas Cíes, Galicia, Spain

Mention Spanish beaches and most people instinctively think of the Mediterranean. Yet the wilder, stunning Atlantic coastline of Galicia, just north of Portugal, has far more dramatic praias – with far fewer people on them. One of the jewels of this coast is on Las Islas Cíes, a 40-minute boat trip from the pretty town of Baiona. Once a pirates’ haunt, Cíes is now an uninhabited and pristine national park, open to the public only in summer. Galegos come here to spend long, lazy summer days on the Praia das Rodas, a perfect crescent of soft, pale sand backed by small dunes sheltering a calm lagoon of crystal-clear sea.
Locals call this their “Caribbean beach”, and the water is turquoise enough, the sand white enough to believe the comparison … until you dip your toe in the water. Then it feels more like Skegness. You can sleep in an idyllic campsite, shaded by tall pine trees, with a view over the ocean. And, this being Spain, there’s even a proper restaurant serving great seafood.

7 Richest People in the World

1. Carlos Slim Helu & family

Net worth: $74 billion
Age: 71
Title: Chairman
Organization: Telmex
Source: telecom, self-made
Residence: Mexico City, Mexico
Country of citizenship: Mexico
Education: BA/BS, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
Marital Status: Widow
Children: 6
The world’s richest person for a second year in a row, the Mexican telecom mogul is also the year’s biggest gainer, having added $20.5 billion to his fortune and widened the gap between him and nº 2, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, to $18 billion. A 19% rise in the Mexican stock market, a stronger peso, and successful mining and real estate spinoffs from conglomerate Grupo Carso all contributed to the astonishing increase. He also merged his fixed-line telecom company into America Movil, Latin America’s largest wireless carrier; the Slim family stake in that holding accounts for 62% of his net worth. He has other holdings in retailer Saks and the New York Times. Recently opened a new building for his Soumaya Museum, which houses his vast art collection. It is open to the public for free.

2. Bill Gates

Net Worth: $56 billion
Age: 55
Title: Co-Chair
Organization: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Source: Microsoft, self-made
Residence: Medina, WA
Country of citizenship: United States
Education: Dropout, Harvard University
Marital Status: Married
Children: 3
Microsoft mogul, futurist and America’s richest person has, with help from billionaire buddy Warren Buffett, convinced nearly 60 of the world’s wealthiest to sign his “Giving Pledge,” promising to donate the majority of their wealth to charity either during their lifetime or after death. He is no longer the planet’s richest person, but that’s because he’s given away $30 billion to his foundation. The Gates Foundation, the world’s most influential charity, tackles tuberculosis and polio and funds famine-resistant crops to fight hunger. He is calling for “a higher sense of urgency” in AIDS vaccine development and also pushing for better tools to rate teacher performance. Gates holds 70% of his wealth in investment fund Cascade, dabbling in everything from autos to hedge funds to Mexican Coke bottler Femsa; the rest of his wealth is held in Microsoft stock.

3. Warren Buffett

Net Worth: $50 billion
Age: 80
Title: CEO
Organization: Berkshire Hathaway
Source: Berkshire Hathaway, self-made
Residence: Omaha, NE
Country of citizenship: United States
Education: MS, Columbia University; BA/BS, University of Nebraska Lincoln
Marital Status: Widowed, Remarried
Children: 3
The venerable investor’s Berkshire Hathaway climbed more than 15% over the last year adding $3 billion to his to fortune. The 80-year-old is still hunting big deals: “Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy.” Along with bridge partner Bill Gates, the Oracle of Omaha is coaxing America’s richest to pledge half their fortunes to charity. “Too often a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse and long-standing friends.” Buffett faked breathing problems when he was 12 so he could move back to Omaha from Washington, D.C., where his father was a freshman congressman. He had read every book about investing in stocks in the Omaha Public Library by the time he was 12. He met value investor Benjamin Graham at Columbia; bought textile firm Berkshire Hathaway 1965, and transformed it into massive holding company: food, insurance, utilities, industrials. Buffett acquired railroad giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $26 billion in 2009.

4. Bernard Arnault

Net worth: $41 billion
Age: 62
Title: Chairman
Organization: Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH)
Source: LVMH, inherited and growing
Residence: Paris, France
Country of citizenship: France
Education: BA/BS, Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne
Marital Status: Married
Children: 5
The Lord of Luxe easily retains title of richest European. Fortune surged by $13.5 billion as shares of his luxury good outfit, LVMH, rose by more than half over the past year thanks to strong demand for luxuries like Dom Perignon champagne, Cognac Hennessy, Tag Heuer watches and Louis Vuitton accessories, particularly in Asian markets like Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City. The group acquired 20% of Hermes last year; Arnault insists he is a friendly shareholder but Hermes sees it as hostile. In March the Bulgari family transferred its majority holding in its brand to LVMH in exchange for LVMH shares and board seats. LVMH fired Christian Dior designer John Galliano after he apparently made anti-semitic remarks. Renaissance man also owns yacht builder Royal Van Lent, a hotel in Courchevel; has stakes in French retailer Carrefour and French tour operator Go Voyages.

5. Larry Ellison

Net worth: $39.5 billion
Age: 66
Source: Oracle, self-made
Residence: Woodside, CA
Country of citizenship: United States
Education: Dropout, University of Chicago; Dropout, University of Illinois at Urbana
Marital Status: Married
Children: 2
The Oracle chief sits atop a fortune that is $11.5 billion bigger than last year thanks to a 30% jump in the software company’s shares. In November, Oracle won a mud-slinging copyright infringement court battle against German software rival SAP worth $1.3 billion. SAP is contesting the outcome. Oracle has acquired 75 companies over the years worth $40 billion, and figured out a way to turn a profit on its latest big buy, Sun Microsystems, in 2010. One of the highest-paid executives in the U.S., Ellison reaped $960 million in compensation in the past five fiscal years, mostly from exercising stock options; he recently cut his salary to $1. An avid yachtsman, Ellison spent a decade and over $100 million on his quest for the America’s Cup, which he finally won in February 2010, beating Swiss rival (and billionaire) Ernesto Bertarelli. He is bringing the America’s Cup to San Francisco in 2013. Intends to give 95% of wealth to charity.

6. Lakshmi Mittal

Net worth: $31.1 billion
Age: 60
Title: Chairman
Organization: ArcelorMittal ADS
Source: Steel, inherited and growing
Residence: London, United Kingdom
Country of citizenship: India
Education: BA/BS, St Xavier’s College Calcutta
Marital Status: Married
Children: 2
Net profits at his ArcelorMittal, world’s largest steel-maker, are up 18-fold to $2.9 billion in 2010 due to recovery in steel demand and higher margins. Group spun off its stainless steel unit into Aperam, a new listed company, and also acquired Canadian miner Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation. It has funded a 377-foot sculpture called ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park for the 2012 Olympics. Europe’s richest resident, he bought Alderbrook Park, a 340-acre country estate outside London, where he plans to build an eco-friendly country mansion for a reported $40 million. Daughter Vanisha acquired stake in Roc Capital Management, a New York hedge fund. Daughter-in-law Megha owns German fashion house Escada.

7. Amancio Ortega

Net worth: $31 billion
Age: 74
Source: Zara, self-made
Residence: La Coruna, Spain
Country of citizenship: Spain
Marital Status: Married
Children: 3
Amancio Ortega stepped down as chairman of Inditex, the $15.8 billion (sales) fashion firm in January; he still gets 87% of his fortune from his stake in the publicly traded firm. The company, which operates under several brand names including Zara, Massimo Dutti and Stradivarius, has 5,000 stores in 77 countries. Ortega also owns properties in Florida, Madrid, London and Lisbon, a horse-jumping circuit, a stake in a soccer league; and has interests in gas, tourism and banks. Railway worker’s son, he started as a gofer in a shirt store. With then-wife Rosalia Mera, also a billionaire, started making dressing gowns and lingerie in living room. Daughter Marta works for Inditex.

Source: Forbes

9 Facts About Mars

1. Mars has the biggest mountain in the solar system.
It’s called “Olympus Mons” and it’s actually a dormant volcano. Olympus Mons is 15.5 miles high and 372 miles across. To give you an idea, Mt. Everest is between 5 and 6 miles tall. Mars also has the biggest canyon system in the known universe, the “Valles Marineris,” which is 2,500 miles long and 4 miles deep.

2. People have always wondered about life on mars because of the “canals” first seen by early astronomers.
This is why we have always imagined alien invaders coming from there, and not Jupiter or Venus. Actually, Mars is one of the least habitable planets, with freezing temperatures, solar winds, and almost no atmosphere. It is far more likely for there to be life on Venus. The canals seen by early observers are long, straight lines on the planet’s surface that scientists believe are evidence of water.

3. Mars is named after the Roman god of war because its red color reminded early observers of blood.
The reason for the red color is that the soil is composed of iron oxide, or what we commonly call rust.

4. Compared to the other planets in the solar system, Mars is quite small.
It is half the size of earth. Mars has about a third of the earth’s gravity, which means that you can jump three times as high.

5. In the 1970′s, the Viking orbiter took pictures of what appear to be giant faces and pyramids carved into the planet’s surface in the Cydonia region.
The biggest looks like the Sphinx of Egypt and is 2,000 feet high and miles across. While this discovery has gotten UFOlogists excited, scientists say they are just eroded mesas. Many still believe that the faces are too symmetrical to be natural, and that they are evidence of ancient alien civilizations.

6. Mars has some of the wildest weather in the solar system.
It has tremendous wind storms, dust storms and small tornadoes (dust devils). In 2001, a huge dust storm covered the entire planet for several earth days. Scientists are puzzled that a planet with so little atmosphere could have raging storms such as these. They don’t know what causes them, but there are more storms when Mars is close to the sun. When it’s on the farther end of its orbit, there are icy clouds made of carbon dioxide and dust. This is also strange because Mars has no surface water.

7. There has been a search for life on mars, and also a search for water.
After years of studying every crack on the planet’s surface for evidence of water, scientists have finally found it. The Phoenix mission found that there are huge deposits of ice underneath the planet’s surface.

8. Mars has two moons, and one of it is going to crash into it.
The moon Phobos orbits dangerously close to Mars’ atmosphere. Someday, the gravitational pull with smash the moon to bits. The debris will stay in Mars’ orbit, making a ring like the rings of Saturn. Eventually, it will rain down on Mars. Scientists don’t know when this will happen, but predict it will be in the next 50 years.

9. Only 1/3 of all the missions to Mars have been successful.
So many missions have disappeared that it has led scientists to wonder if something strange is happening. They refer to Mars as the “Bermuda Triangle” of the solar system.