Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

for Your Holiday Shopping List...

It’s that time of year. We’ve put away the turkey and taken out the holiday shopping list. It seems to get easier every year to shop online and the deals this year are simply amazing. Skip the search for a parking spot, save some gas, and even save some money by shopping online.

Before you even think about shopping online, sign up for Ebates. You will immediately earn a gift certificate and then you will start earning money every time you shop online. It gets even better – they have coupons. So, you click on Ebates, find the store you want to shop in, see the coupons for the store and then you will get more money back at the end of the quarter.

I have vowed to dramatically cut down on paper this year and it’s working great. I love my Apple iPad for everything from reading magazines to catching up on television shows, to taking notes so I don’t have all those pieces of paper. My mom is spending all her time on her Kindle and is reading more than she ever thought she could. And, I hear the new Kindle Fire is even better. I don't know anyone who wouldn't love either of these gifts.

Wines, Red Wine, White Wine
If you are reading this I think it's a pretty good guess that you enjoy wine and spirits. Wine Globe is one of the few places online where you can order a good selection of both. They even have some wonderful gift baskets if you aren't sure of what to get. Also look into some of the great glasses and wine storage units at Wine Enthusiast for a gift. They are even running a sweepstakes so you may end up with a gift of your own.

You will find some great bargains out there if you are looking to give travel as a gift. You can save up to 70% on Business Class Flights with Alpha Flight Guru. Then, book a luxurious place withPreferred Hotels & Resorts, or find a cute Bed & Breakfast.

Before you make a final decision, read reviews and discover more great deals at Trip Advisor.And, for that special traveler, check out some of the neat and unique gadgets on sale at Magellan's.

What beer lover doesn't want to be a brewmaster? Now, anyone can thanks to supplies from Mr. Beer. You can by everything one needs for home brewing right here.
If you happen to be in the Ohio area, you are in luck because there are some wonderful Belgium beers brewing at Rockmill Brewery. Pick up a three pack of their beautiful bottles for a deliciously interesting gift.

Save before you ShopIF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO GET
There isn’t anyone who doesn’t like a gift certificate. If you aren’t sure what to get, the gift certificate is the way to go. I recently discovered EBillMe. Not only can you get a whole bunch of different gift certificates at the same place, but you will actually receive cash back on the purchase.

Another option, if you want to give your recipient a big headstart on paying for a great dinner, pick up a gift certificate and you can give them twice as much meal for half the money! Similar discount certificates to events and stores are available atGroupon..

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tasting Time, An Assortment of New Beverages

The Fed Ex guy has been spending a lot of time making drop offs at my apartment lately. This weekend I had some friends help me check out some of it.

Downslope Wine Barrel Aged Rum
Downslope was one of the distilleries I sampled on my trip to Colorado. Aged rum is not unusual, but Downslope has chosen wine barrels for its aging. The result after one year is a 80 proof rum that definitely tastes differently from most rums. I felt it tasted like cognac and my fellow tasters agreed. I highly recommend Downslope Wine Barrel Aged Rum it if that’s your taste in spirits.

Belvedere Bloody Mary
I was a little apprehensive when I heard about Belvedere Bloody Mary. The premise is that it contains all the spices you need to make a Bloody Mary if you just add tomato juice. I actually brought this bottle along with some tomato juice to a tailgate and it got an interesting response. I enjoyed it very much and would definitely keep a bottle around the house. The results were mixed among others, mostly because it isn’t very spicy. I happen to like my Bloody Mary’s mild, but those who like spicy ones said it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of having to start flavoring this, it would be easier to use Bloody Mary mix and straight vodka.
Also of note on the Belvedere front is Belvedere Red, but this isn’t a new and different spirit, it’s a very special bottle. This special edition of the vodka is all about giving back as Belvedere is donating 50% of the profits to the Global Fund in Africa to fight HIV/AIDS.

Bols Genever
Bols Genever is considered to be gin, but it tastes like anything but – and this comes from a true gin drinker. This is a spirit that has been made in Holland for nearly 200 years. It’s a grain spirit, made whiskey-like with a wheat, corn and rye distillation, barrel aged for 18 months in oaked. The gin designation comes from a distillation of juniper and other botanicals. The bad news is that – as a gin drinker – I didn’t like Bols Genever. The good news is that it got the thumbs up from some Jack Daniels drinkers who quickly mixed it with Coke and enjoyed.

Twist Essence Water & Kona Red
Not all of the liquids that come my way are alcoholic.  I recently received two beverages that come without any alcohol that are totally different. Kona Red is made from the fruit of the coffee plant and is full of antioxidants. It’s delicious and full of nutrients, however, it is rather high in calories and sugar. I would suggest mixing it with some club soda (or a clear spirit) if you aren’t prepared to give up 380 calories for a bottle.

Twist Essence Water doesn’t have any calories, but that puts it in a class with dozens of other fruited waters. As a Vitamin Water Zero fan, I was interested in trying this. The Pomegrante-Blueberry just has a very light fruit taste and is even a bit tart (despite an addition of Stevia). On the other hand, I really liked the Mango-Acai. I thought it was fruity and slightly sweet and I would definitely think of purchasing this as a Vitamin Water substitute.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Exciting Activities at Two Great Places

Whenever I see something I want to find room for in my schedule, I know it’s worthy of passing on. Willows Lodge in Washington will forever remain and the tip of my tongue thanks to the hot bubble bath they had waiting for me when I came back from dinner. As for Pueblo Bonita, I haven’t made it to their Los Cabos properties yet, but if they are anything like the Mazatlan ones, you will want to book your plane ticket!

Willows Lodge Holiday Food & Drink “Boot Camp”
If you are looking to prepare food and cocktails like a pro this holiday season, why not join the pros at Willows Lodge in Woodinville for their Holiday Entertaining Classes in the Fireside Cellars Lounge.  The classes will take place on Wednesdays from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm and the lineup looks like a lot of fun:

November 30, 2011
Party appetizers with Barking Dog Executive Chef Bobby Moore

December 7, 2011
Desserts with Pastry Chef Matt Kelley

December 14, 2011
Cocktails with Restaurant and Wine Managers Matthew Davis and Jennifer Schmitt

Visit the Willows Lodge website to make reservations for the classes and the hotel. Classes are free, but space is limited.

* * *

Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas in Cabos San Lucas
I had toured Pueblo Bonito when I was in Mazatlan and was quite impressed with this luxury chain. Now I hear that the chain’s properties in Cabos San Lucas are working toward the addition of an all-inclusive plan, which will begin December 1st.

All-inclusive packages are already available at the Mazatlan location, as well as at Pueblo Bonito Rose and Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos, but the company was looking to do something a bit different at the more secluded Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach. They have introduced a “Luxury Without Limitations” plan that includes extras such as beachside dining, poolside lunch service and free wireless internet.

For more information on Pueblo Bonito properties, visit their website.