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Best of Blogs: What Tops Your List? February 29, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in General.
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Every day I look forward to perusing my Google Reader page and seeing what’s new in my personal blogosphere. When I saw this article in Real Simple magazine, I found it interesting and thought you would too. Basically, they have researched and found what they consider to be the Best Blogs. They evaluated nine categories: home, organization and personal productivity, food, beauty, fashion, health and fitness, parenting and family, travel, and news and pop culture. I’m certainly looking forward to looking into some of the blogs they have listed to see if they rank high for me because isn’t a “Best of Blogs” list really a matter of opinion?!

A Coat for Your Coffee February 28, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Eco/Green.
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I love my Starbucks coffee: grande two pump vanilla cappuccino. While Starbucks certainly takes great strides to do their part to offset any negative environmental impacts that their operations create, I often wonder about the waste created by those little pesky cardboard cup sleeves and the cups themselves.

One way that Starbucks is trying to make a difference is by using paper products that contain a minimum of 30% post-consumer content. However, did you know that if you bring your own mug, they will give you a $0.10 discount. If bringing your own mug seems like a hassle, then at least consider not using the cardboard cup sleeve. I know that without that sleeve your hand is more than likely going to catch fire, so I’m going to provide you with an eco-chic alternative. I was reading about a company called Cup Couture who make CupCoats, “High Fashion Thermal Sleeves for Paper Cups”. I’m a big fan of the Heather and the Angelina. Not only are they reusable and stylish, they also act as an insulator keeping that hot beverage hotter for longer.

For a closer to home perspective, check out a story they ran on the local news last night about the amount of trash that we create as individuals and how it all adds up. Their story puts a new spin on an ever growing problem.  It’s all about the baby steps: doing just one thing, no matter how small, can eventually make a big impact.

Packaging that Gives Back February 27, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Beauty, Eco/Green, Shopping.
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I love shopping. While I may be helping our economy, I certainly don’t think that my habit is helping the environment. Product packaging has reached a tipping point in terms of its effect on the environment. Think about how much is trashed every time you purchase something new. I recently purchased new eye cream over the internet. This little tiny jar which is only about 1.5″ wide came shipped in a box at least 10 times that size. Think about food packaging, especially meat items like burgers, steak, and chicken, packaged on a foam tray and wrapped in plastic wrap. The list goes on and on.

Well, I’m glad that some companies are thinking outside the box and coming up with new solutions to combat our consumer waste. Skincare items made by Pangea Organics are packaged using a “new Zero Waste process with 100% post-consumer paper and organic seeds like sweet basil and amaranth. Simply slip off the label, soak the box in water for a minute and plant it in the earth.”

Cargo Cosmetics is taking it one step further. Not only is their new line of 20 lipsticks, called PlantLove, beautiful; each tube is made of corn, the packaging can be planted and will bloom into wildflowers, and they will donate $2 from the sale of each tube to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Talk about giving back!

The Good, The Bad, and The Disposable February 26, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Eco/Green, Gadgets, Shopping.
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I was standing in a store at DCA last week and a rack caught my eye. It was a rack of DVDs that had the following statement on the package: No Return DVD Rental. What the heck? Ok, so now my interest is peaked. I picked up the package and began reading. It’s a DVD that, once opened, is only good for 48 hours. It’s actually called an EZ-D and upon opening the package a bonding resin on the DVD reacts to the atmosphere around it making the disc unreadable after 48 hours. It’s the development of a company called Flexplay.

Environmentalists are up in arms about this product. They are complaining that these EZ-Ds are an unnecessary disposable product. Why take a perfectly good reusable product like a DVD and add a time limit which turns it into waste? Art LeBlanc, the president of Flexplay, said that the development of this product “is intended to address people who find renting inconvenient.” I’m not that convinced about the convenience factor that this provides. We subscribe to Netflix and there’s no inconvenience there (is it that hard to walk to your mailbox?) nor is there a time limit for how long I can keep the movie. The one positive aspect that Flexplay provides is that the discs are fully recyclable. You can visit their website and request a prepaid label to send your EZ-Ds back to Flexplay for recycling. However, what is the environmental impact of creating these EZ-Ds? Supposedly it’s no different than a regular DVD. What about price? The price point seems to hit around $4.99 per disc.

I can see some value in offering this type of product in an airport when you might be looking to view a movie on the “fly”, but in regular day-to-day viewing, I’m not really sure that I see the added convenience that it is supposed to provide to the consumer.

My Heart’s Delight February 25, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Around Town, Food.
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Cheesetique was having a grand opening of their new location this past weekend…two doors down from their old location. Their new location offers quite a bit of additional space including maximized space for their tastings. Note: You need to sign up for their newsletter to get additional details about their events/classes.

After getting our fill of Banana Pudding custard over at The Dairy Godmother, we popped into Cheesetique to check out their new diggs and get a few wedges of cheese. We walked away with two delightful cheeses: Truffle Tremor and Whiskey Cheddar. Truffle Tremor is produced by Cypress Grove Chevre based in California. It’s a blend of two of my favorite things: goat cheese and truffles. It just doesn’t get any better than this combo. It has a soft, creamy texture slightly similar to brie, and the taste is amazing. Casey’s not a big soft cheese fan, so it didn’t rank as high on his list. You know what I have to say about that…more for me!!! Their website suggests pairing it with mashed potatoes which sounds like something I could really get into or maybe blending it with a lobster risotto for the ultimate luxurious dish.

The second cheese, Whiskey Cheddar, takes a Farmhouse Cheddar and blends it with a single malt scotch whiskey. The flavor is unique and decadent. From the second I put this cheese in my mouth, I was already thinking of how delicious it would be in a mac & cheese dish.

I noticed that they also had a Chimay cheese which certainly peaked Casey’s interest. Here’s the thing about Cheesetique, you want to buy everything! However, you can only eat so much cheese at one time and it’s hard to pace yourself with the purchasing as you linger in front of those glass cases.

On a side note, we also noticed that a new butcher shop, Let’s Meat on the Avenue, is opening up in Cheesetique’s old space.
Check out additional coverage for Cheesetique and the butcher shop over at The Houndstooth Gourmet!

Is That the Payless Version? February 23, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Fashion, General.
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This morning we flipped to the Weather Channel to see what the temperature was for our area. One of their meteorologists was talking about the weekend weather in California. She mentioned that rain was moving into the area on Sunday and how she hoped that the ladies walking the red carpet at the Oscars had rubber boots to wear over their “Milano Blahniks”. Casey and I looked at each other and just started chuckling.

For those that don’t get why that’s funny, see the correct spelling/pronunciation here.

The Weekend Dish February 20, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Around Town, Food, Shopping.
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During my blog reading, I came across a review of a few new openings in Old Town. Ramona over at The Houndstooth Gourmet did a review on Fontaine’s Caffe and Creperie and the Grape + Bean. At her recommendation, Casey and I thought that we would pop in over this past weekend.

We headed to Fontaine’s for brunch on Sunday. The restaurant is quite charming and what I imagine a bistro in the heart of Paris to be like. The atmosphere is cozy, so from the second you walk in, you want to sit and talk for hours over their delicious coffee. On an everyday basis, I typically drink Illy coffee which I love for it’s strong, bold flavor. Their coffee was no different. Fontaine’s serves Bristot coffee which is a strong cup of coffee without that bitter aftertaste. We decided to start with savory crepes and then enjoy a sweet crepe for dessert. Casey had the Alexandrian full of ham, swiss cheese, and mushrooms. I went with the Norwegian because how could I pass up on the combination of smoked salmon and caramelized onion topped with cream fraise. Fontaine’s savory crepes are served with a small, mixed green salad on the side which is coated with a delicious vinaigrette. We followed suit with the Lemon Drop crepe filled with a fluffy lemon cream. The flavor reminded me of one of my favorite Girl Scout Cookies, Lemon Creme Sandwiches (now called Lemon Chalet Cremes). Keep in mind that the food is light and delicious, so this isn’t the type of meal where you’ll leave feeling completely engorged. I would suggest going here for lunch or a light dinner. We’re already making plans to go back with some out-of-town friends and family.

After getting our fill of crepes, we headed across the street to the Grape + Bean. They should rename the store the Vice-a-Rama because it holds all of my vices under one roof: wine, coffee, bread, and cheese. We met one of the owners, David Gwathmey, who gave us the scoop on the store which has only been open for barely a week. They carry a unique selection of wines (David handpicks all of the wines from small production wineries), specialty beers, locally baked breads, artisanal cheeses, whole bean coffee, and other various gourmet food items. At the coffee bar, you can order a cup of joe or take the beans home with you. At the time of our visit, they had approximately seven different varieties which had been roasted only the week before…talk about fresh! The description of all of the breads sounded so delicious; however, since I was still operating on a “crepe high” we didn’t purchase any. They plan to have a couple of bottles of wine open for tastings during the weekend afternoons which I’m sure will be expanded as they get up and running. The Grape + Bean certainly fills a gap in Old Town for much needed small, independent businesses. This is the kind of store where you go when you want to get personal attention, enjoy a laugh, learn something new, and then leave with great-tasting quality products.

Game Night Goodies February 19, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Food.
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Saturday night our bible study group had a game night, and we were asked to bring an appetizer or dessert. I’ve always been an overacheiver, so I brought one of each!

For the appetizer, I made Roast Beef Party Sandwiches. I saw the recipe in Southern Living back in October. It was an easy-to-follow recipe that received good reviews from those at game night. I’m sure you could try other meat/cheese/preserve variations for different seasons or occasions. I think a turkey/brie/cranberry pomegranate combination would be tasty for the fall.

For dessert, I prepared Praline Pecans mainly because I had been craving them. They turned out great…almost too great. The recipe makes a quatrazillion pralines, so they obviously didn’t all get eaten! What does this mean? Well, it means that every time I walk into our kitchen, I find myself having a praline…or two. Curse the pralines and their sweet, nutty goodness!

Lick It. I Dare You. February 15, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in General.
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Last night, I was watching the local news and they did a story on this. Gross and fascinating all in one package. What will they think of next?

Have Our Dinner and Fondue, Too February 14, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Around Town, Food.
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Since we’ve been married, Casey and I have ALWAYS gone to the Melting Pot for dinner on Valentine’s Day. We’ve made it our tradition and love it. I called a month ago to make reservations for this V-Day and there was only one spot available at 10 pm. I don’t know about you, but gorging myself on fondue at 10 pm is not my idea of fun or romance! So I have decided to make V-Day dinner at home, and we’ll enjoy the Melting Pot on Friday night instead. It actually works in our favor since traffic is ususally a nightmare on V-Day.

Hmmm. What to make for dinner? I wanted to do something delicious, yet easy. So I saw this recipe for Shrimp and Grits in Southern Living’s February issue and thought that I would give it a whirl. It’s fairly simple and quite simply what we consider good comfort food. A meal of Shrimp and Grits tends to conjure fond memories for the both of us. I’ll pair it with a simple salad and glass of wine. Now on to dessert. We’re going to have Chocolate Pots de Creme based on a recipe from Rachael Ray. I’ve made these before and they are quite easy and very, very good. I know that true foodies will frown on this, but I don’t make my own whip cream, I just use the store bought kind. Then I sprinkle each cup with a few raspberries.

Sounds like the perfect dinner…at least for us, anyway!
Happy Valentine’s Day!