The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide (for last minute shoppers)

This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.

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Calling all last minute shoppers! If you haven’t checked off everyone on your holiday shopping list, then you’re not alone. Normally I’m really good about getting my shopping done earlier, but this year I’m still hunting for the “perfect” gift for some of my friends and family. I blame school, work, and the three weeks that I spent being atrociously sick. Luckily, my BabbleBoxx friends hooked me up with the ultimate package of perfect gifts. Any one of these items would make a great gift, so feel free tweet/share this post as a massive hint to the people you’ve been nice to this year. Or you could always choose the fail proof method of treat-yo-self (just saying, it’s fail proof).

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When I was much, much younger I used to spot the Omaha Steak ads in the Sunday coupon adverts. I swore that one day I would order steaks from them, they looked amazing and special and I just knew they would taste so good. Fast forward to recently and I can honestly say they are some of the tastiest steaks that I’ve had. And my whole family – including my hardcore steak fan father – agree, they are super tasty.

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The Tasteful Gift Gourmet Collection includes 2 filet mignons, 2 top sirloins, 2 boneless pork chops, 4 potatoes au gratin, 4 caramel apple tartlets, and 1 signature seasoning packet. You can gift this collection by way of a gift certificate. Omaha Steaks associates are super-friendly and cashing in their voucher is a breeze, shipping is included in this collection and can be enjoyed year-round. Honestly, if you know someone who likes steak or good food, this is a perfect gifting option.

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And that’s not all that’s a great gift for the foodie in your group of friends and family. The Vermont Brownie Company has an amazing Gourmet Brownie Sampler, I’m pretty much heartbroken now that I’m done with mine. With flavors like Espresso Dulce de Leche, Maple Toffee Crunch, Triple Chocolate Chunk, and (my personal favorite) Peanut Butter, this sampler is a definite win.

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Usually I have to beg my sister to make brownies, but now that I know that the Vermont Brownie Company makes such tasty brownies – well, let’s say I won’t be asking her to make hers any time soon. The Vermont Brownie Company’s brownies are all fairly large (you could probably split one between two people if ice cream is involved), and are dense without being cakey – pretty much model brownie material. The Company sources their ingredients from local vendors, which include the likes of Cabot Creamery, Callebaut Belgian Chocolate, Vermont Creamery and King Arthur Flour. The Vermont Brownie Company is offering 15% off to The NYC Talon readers when you order through this link!              

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Have a yogi in your family? Chances are you probably have a friend or family member who have perfected their mountain pose and downward facing dog. YogaJewelz Unity Om Pendant Necklace is great gift for the yoga lover (or “serenity now!” shouter) in your family. Promoting energy and strength – which, honestly we all use a lot more of – this petite pendant is a gorgeous piece for anyone’s jewelry collection.

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I love how intricate the design is, but also how simple and unobtrusive the necklace itself looks. A constant reminder to live an inspired life, YogaJewelz Unity Om pieces make a truly meaningful gift.

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Since I pretty much flat iron my hair every other day, the LumaBella Cool Mist Straightener is without a doubt the coolest beauty product I’ve seen this year. Why? Well this straightener delivers a conditioning treatment, via cool mist technology, to your hair as you straighten it. This technique helps prevent frizz, hydrate and moisturize strands, and delivers salon-quality shine. It’s pretty darn amazing and yes, I’m obsessed. Score 20% off your own LumaBella Cool Mist Straightener with the code ‘MIST20’ – this offer is valid through 12/30/16 so snap up yours now here!

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As someone who has respiratory issues, the Spire Wearable Wellness & Activity Tracker immediately caught my attention. I’ve always been curious about gathering data regarding my breathing behavior, especially whilst I sleep. The Spire stone works by sensing respiratory patterns to detect changes in your state of mind, then it delivers gentle notifications, insights, and suggested breathing exercises to help you unlock a more mindful and productive day.

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I’m always down for anything that will help to manage stress, and I love that the Spire is fully integrated into the Apple Health App and works with Apple watch and an Android App is also now available! And for a limited time you can also use this link for $10 off your Spire purchase  – which makes gifting even easier!

So what do you think, which of these items are making it on to your wishlist?

Pixi by Petra’s Holiday Beauty Picks

It’s that time of year! I’m lucky enough to have gotten my mittens (have you broken yours out of storage yet? I sure have!) on Pixi’s newest holiday additions. Holiday collections are always so much fun in my opinion, as they always feature such creative designs. This year, Pixi’s holiday picks have this really beautiful holly and mistletoe design that feels like a lovely modern take on an old-school holiday motif. Honestly, I don’t know what it is about this year but I feel really nostalgic for old-school holidays – maybe I’ve watched Little Women too many times? Can one actually watch Little Women too many times? The answer to that is no. Anyways, enough about my Jo & Laurie obsession, here are Pixi’s prettiest under-the-tree treats and stocking stuffers:

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If you’ve used Pixi before than you know that their Endless Silky Eye Pens are amazing. I used to say “they’re money!” in a very Guy Fieri-like manner, but then I was banned from using that term by my family when Guy Fieri became persona-non-grata after an over-enthused Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives binge-fest. It happens. Now I just say that these pens are amazing, and they are. Silky, ideal color payoff, warm blendability, and the color selection – which was great to start with – has now expanded to include this drool worthy rose gold color called OpalOvercoat. Stick it in your mother, daughter, co-worker, beauty addicted friend’s stocking. They will love it. You get a great rose-gold shade with this that is buildable and easy to work with.

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The Palette Rosette is an all-in-one colour kit featuring highlighters, eye shadows, and brow shadows, as well as glow, blush, and contour in some very pretty shades. The contour powder looks like a warmer, subtly glowing, version of their Natural Contour Powder. The shadows themselves are very useful basics (the ones you always run out of), great for travel, my sister asked for this in her wishlist – she’s not a big fan of having to root through her makeup bag in the morning and wants a palette like this to streamline her process. It is new to their collection, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s a holiday exclusive – so I would snap it up now just in case.

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The real pièce de résistance is the new Fairy Dust Favorites. A tower of high pigmented loose shadows, Fairy Dust Favorites come in two varieties – Metallic Warmth and Matte Classics. I love, love, love that Pixi has Matte Classics – as you know glitter and shimmer is not always ideal, especially if you have more delicate eyelids, so Pixi including this collection of five matte loose eyeshadow pigments scores major points in my book. I was sent Metallic Warmth, which features these beauties:

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As you can see, these colors are really rich and beautiful. They show up in tone and in person almost exactly as they look in this pic, with the added metallic dimension. I must admit, was a little apprehensive about the black pigment. I feel like if you buy even the most basic of palettes, you’ll get black eyeshadow. I have so many black eyeshadows that getting another one is not a thrill for me. BUT this pigment does not show up as pure black for me. It has more depth and comes out as this smoky gunmetal that actually makes this shade a completely new one for me. It’s really fun to play with, especially with the deep red and bronze pigments. Speaking of which, I spilled the red all over myself. I looked like the victim of some unfortunate accident and I was utterly devastated that I lost half of the eyeshadow in one go. Somehow I will pick myself up and find a way to soldier on.

If you only get one thing from Pixi from this post, get the Fairy Dust Favorites. I already plan on purchasing the Matte Classics and can see myself repurchasing the Metallic Warmth (especially after the spill!). If you’re buying for someone else, definitely give the palette a look – the value and quality is definitely worth it. And if you’re just looking for a guaranteed winner – that rose gold eyeliner is too cute to ignore.

Anything catch your eye?

PIXI Palette Rosette ($28) | Fairy Dust Favorites in Metallic Warmth ($12) | Endless Silky Eye Pen in OpalOvercoat ($12) | Mattelustre Lipstick in Classic Red ($12)

Gilt & Gilt City’s Black Friday Sales Reveal!

As the holidays loom ever-closer, most stores are rolling out their best deals and savings. If you’re like me and prefer to shop Black Friday sales from the comfort of your couch – with leftovers and pie within reach – then you’ll definitely want to check out what Gilt.com & Gilt City are offering for the holidays. You don’t even have to wait until after Thanksgiving! Starting on Sunday, November 20th through Cyber Monday on November 28th, you can stock up on coveted women’s, men’s, and kids’ fashions and accessories, chic home essentials, and unique Gilt City experiences, all at steep discounts! Gilt has given us the full schedule of sales to share with you! Check it out:

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Black Friday Countdown

GILT:

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (11/20-23):

Extra 40% off on categories such as: Cashmere, Outerwear, Shoes, Designer Accessories, and Top Holiday Gifts (sales launch at Noon and 9 PM ET and run for 24 hours only).

Thursday (11/24):

Up to 80% off on categories such as: Designer Apparel, Designer Handbags, Designer Fragrances, Designer Sunglasses, Designer Shoes and Fine Jewelry; Bedding, Bath, Furniture & Lighting, Kitchen Steals, Barware and Luggage; Kids’ Clothing, Accessories, Gear and Toys (sales launch at 8 AM and Noon ET).

DOORBUSTERS on must-haves from Giuseppe Zanotti, Adrienne Landau, Max Mara and more (launch at 6 PM ET).

GILT CITY:

Thursday (11/24):

20% off Site-wide “Rush” from 5 PM EST – 10 PM EST


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Black Friday

GILT:

Friday (11/25):

Up to 80% off coveted designer brands such as: Jimmy Choo, Cosabella, Australia Luxe, Moncler, Schutz, Tod’s, Paul Smith, Jacadi Kids, Nespresso and Dyson (sales launch at 8 AM and Noon ET).

DOORBUSTERS on must-haves from Missoni, Yves Salomon, Cuisinart and more (launch at 8 AM ET).

Win Your Wishlist Sweepstakes: Gilt recently launched a new feature where members can Favorite products (via the heart buttons) and create Wishlists from these Favorites in the Account section. Enter to Win Your Wishlist starting at Noon ET!

Saturday (11/26):

12 Sales running for 12 Hours only on seasonal merchandise. Sales include: Luxe Winter Essentials, Holiday Dressing, Designer Ties, Shoe Steals, Candles & Diffusers, Toy Time and more (9 AM to 9 PM EST).

GILT CITY:

25% off Site-wide from Friday, November 25th at 6 AM ET through Saturday, November 26th at 11:59 PM ET.


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Cyber Monday

GILT:

Sunday (11/27):

Cyber Preview: Sales on Top Brands including Roberto Coin, Spanx, Ray-Ban, Diesel, Burberry, and Mini Melissa (sales launch at 9 AM and 9 PM ET).

Monday (11/28):

Cyber Monday: Sales on Top Brands continue with Charlotte Olympia, Salvatore Ferragamo Accessories, Cartier, John Varvatos, Villeroy & Boch, and Kidkraft toys (sales launch at 8 AM and Noon ET).

GILT CITY:

20% off Site-wide starting on Sunday, November 27th at 7 PM ET through Tuesday, November 29th at 11:59 PM ET.


 

Gilt offers so many exciting items, and Gilt City is such a great resource for new and exciting experiences – there really will be no shortage of gifting options!

The NYC Chocolate Project: Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland

With two locations in the city, Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland offers NYC tourists and locals some seriously decadent confections. Founded in 1932 in Switzerland by Dolf Teuscher, Tuescher’s signature offering are the champagne chocolate truffles – of which I have eaten many, many, many of. The chocolates themselves aren’t the prettiest things to look at, they’re simple, polite domes dusted in a powdery white sugar coating. But the quality and care put into creating these unassuming treats are obvious in the flavor.

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Teuscher’s champagne chocolates are made with Dom Perignon champagne (the good stuff! I feel like Ina Garten would approve), butter cream, surrounded by a dark cream ganache, then enrobed in milk chocolate. These rank up there with Grey’s Papaya hot dogs, good pizza, and good sushi for me. Pure comfort. My family has actually made a yearly tradition of walking to see the tree at Rockefeller center, taking a touristy picture, then swinging by Teuscher. There’s something about being surrounded by the chaos and glamour of the city while enjoying fancy chocolate flown in from Zurich. Then, of course, we brave the crowds and descend upon the problematic subway system (you did hear that they’re raising the fares soon? Crazy!).

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Don’t sleep on Teuscher’s other chocolate offerings though, these jewel-shaped gianduja truffles were silky and ideal. The Bailey’s Irish Cream and Pistachio truffles are definitely worth trying too. What’s really pleasant about Teuscher chocolates is that you can taste the intensity of the chocolate without missing out on the flavoring aspect. You taste the champagne in the champagne truffles, but the chocolate is good enough that you taste that too. There’s nothing quite as trying as a champagne truffle that doesn’t taste like it has even the remotest splash of champagne in it. You won’t experience such disappointment here.

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Though the $112 a pound price tag can cause general sticker shock, two champagne truffles usually cost between $8-9, which is not entirely astronomical considering that they’re flown in from Zurich and are comprised of quality ingredients. If you’re looking for an extra special gift, stop by during the holidays. These pictures are from the Summer, where they go all out on décor and specially styled boxes, so you can imagine the effort and imagination that goes into the holiday offerings. My family actually hangs a little Swiss doll ornament that we purchased at the Rockefeller Center shop years ago.

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If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, the 61st Street shop is much smaller, and much quieter thanks in part to their no cellphones rule (suggested by a sign posted on the door). Find more information about Teuscher, and to purchase your own chocolates, click here.

Interview: Alice Through the Looking Glass Costume Designer Colleen Atwood

Earlier last month I joined Disney and famed designer Colleen Atwood for tea and a chance to talk about her work on Alice Through the Looking Glass, which has recently been released to DVD and Blu-Ray! I’ve been a fan of her work for a while, she has such an inspiring story and has designed for some of my most favorite movies including Edward Scissorhands, Little Women, Planet of the Apes (2001 movie), Big Fish, Memoirs of a Geisha, Into the Woods, The Huntsman movies, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and of course both of the Alice in Wonderland films.

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She’s so lovely in person, and I was so thrilled that I was able to, along with other bloggers and press, ask her a few questions.

Q: Are there any secret locations or places where you find inspiration?

Colleen Atwood: Well I find them everywhere, like fabric stores – sometimes I see a piece of fabric that’s great and I go “oh! That could be this!”. I get ideas from all over the place basically. There’s a great flea market in France, in Paris, that I go to in the north of Paris and it’s always great for inspiration for bits and pieces that are interesting. So many movies are made in London – this movie is made in London -and London has Portobello Road [flea market]. Which, sometimes I don’t really have a purpose in mind, I just get up early on Saturday morning and go there when it first opens, before it gets crowded and wander around and find like – he has a lot of weird buttons on his costume and most of those are sourced there and you know, old hat pins, just weird stuff people have in trays in front of their stalls and it’s fun to just discover things that way.

Q: Any favorite flea markets in New York?

CA: You know in New York I like the – and I meditated on going down there this morning – the one on 26th street, it’s like a garage you walk through and I love wandering around there. And there’s the emporium there that has some great stuff so I usually visit there. And there’s a great lingerie place there that’s beautiful, upstairs, it’s quite expensive but she has great stuff. There’s a few places, sort of warehouse wholesale, that I’ve gone to in Brooklyn but they’re not as accessible to people who are just walking around and shopping.

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Q: Time has a really distinct costume, what was your inspiration or thought process behind that?

CA: I wanted him to be, kind of feel like he was something to do with a clock without literally being a clock. And I also loved the sort of graphic aspect of the clock kind of towering over little Alice, luckily Sacha’s [Baron Cohen, who plays Time] already about 6’3”-6’4” so that helped that I didn’t get a short guy for the part. But I put him in really high platform boots for part of it, and then he has those long thin legs so we did long skinny legs and a poufy pant and the big shoulders to get him wider, sort of like a grandfather clock. And then we came up with an idea to get him even taller with using a tall hat on him like the bishop’s sort of medieval hat that he has, sort of like a Greek Orthodox style from way early in time. And in his fitting for that we had brown paper and we just kept putting it in different hat shapes and trying them on him and figuring out which one was the best for him and for Time, and we came up with that one and it was sort of maximum height. We had some that were taller but it was too much, it almost made him look shorter. In the movie you see on his hand he has a thing that has all these rings and stuff – that was a piece of metal mesh that I found in a flea market and then I found all these watches with convex lenses on them that stuck out so that they were like cabochon jewels, so we took those and made them into his hand piece to make it a sort of element of time. And the rest was all kinds of stuff, different materials. We had a long cape on him and then most of the time he wore the short cape because it made him look funnier with his skinny legs.

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Q: Movement is such a big part of this film, you chose to use very different textures in the fabric. Was that something that you just felt, touched it, and knew that this would be a great dynamic on the screen?

CA: I’ve done a lot of digital films at this point and know kind of what the camera sees, and especially when you go darker than a medium ground, it’s really important to have a texture and almost like a surface that has a little shine to it that kicks back some light. Otherwise all you get is sort of a black shape, you don’t really get much depth. So I’ve learned to paint into costumes, and add layers, add stuff to them to give it more dimension that way it’ll work in a lower light situation. So I use that trick a lot on this movie and I like texture, I think it tricks the camera in a way that’s interesting because sometimes you can’t even perceive what it is but it gives you a feeling that’s nice and a little bit more interesting than if you had just used a fabric as it comes off the peg.

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Q: Obviously designing for a sequel is going to be a lot different than the first time, what was your approach when you were revisited these characters and kind of built of the way that you already had designed for them?

CA: I felt like it was nice, I felt like I knew them. I knew who they were as people so I felt like I could have a little more play with them. I had a couple more opportunities because we had the flashback for the girls, where they were there kind of their teenaged selves, and then each of them had been on a journey. My constant was, other than her flashback, was Mirana – the Anne Hathaway character – her costume sort of remained the same. But Alice, when we left Alice she was going off to see the world and she came back as a very rare thing, a sea captain as a woman, so I had the opportunity to take the beautiful uniforms of the period and make one for her. Then we had to create her Chinese look from her Chinese journey, and then re-visit something that perhaps the Hatter had made for her in her final costume with the balloon pants and the kind of whimsical blouse made out of strips of fabric. So I kind of took each character and sort of felt like I could go free with them, it was sort of like a totally new movie for me as a designer but with the people that I knew from before.

Q: Is there one character from the movie that stands out as being the most enjoyable to design?

CA: Well, when you get a movie like this they’re all fun! Because they’re all such different things. I mean I love Helena’s costume and her take on the character is so much fun, and it was great to get to do her armor which I really loved doing with the thorn heart chest piece, and the military braid hoop and the sort of deconstructed military madness that the Red Queen would come up with. Mia’s clothes were great; I mean they were like a really beautiful journey. I got to use embroidery and all sorts of techniques that I hadn’t used before on the Alice prequel.

Listen to the entire interview here!

Alice Through the Looking Glass released to DVD and Blu-Ray on October 18th, if you don’t own it yet then it would make a great gift this holiday season! Alice Through the Looking Glass is a spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories in which Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter.

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Enter to win your own copy of Alice Through the Looking Glass right now – just leave me a comment about your favorite outfit in the movie, or if you haven’t seen it, is there anything you found interesting that Colleen revealed in her interview? Personally, I loved when she spoke about creating Time’s outfit – the amount of detail is really incredible! Leave an extra comment/entry if you RT this!

*Giveaway ends 11/23/16. US, 18+.

Straight from London: Artisan du Chocolat

I can’t believe the holidays are already here. I know it’s only October, but really, people have clearly brought out the pumpkins, pumpkin spice lattes, and are only a hop and a skip away from rocking around the Christmas tree. It’s thrilling, and if the weather would be a little more autumn and a little less winter I would be even more excited (no, but seriously, it’s been icy cold here in the city). If you haven’t already started thinking about the holidays, then now’s the time. My favorite gift to my mother last year was these amazing chocolates from Artisan Du Chocolat. Because the famed chocolatier is located across the pond in London, naturally some gifts like this one will take a little more forethought and planning.

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The chocolates can take up to a couple of weeks to transport, I ordered early in December last year and sat the box on a cold windowsill until Christmas morning – they arrived with plenty of time to spare. I’m not sure if the excellent shipping was because I live in NYC, so I would definitely advise giving yourself a week leeway if you live on the West Coast or in the mid-west or basically anywhere else that’s not the East Coast.

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These photos are from last years’ haul, but Artisan du Chocolat has whipped up some new and exciting offers for this year’s holiday season including an advent calendar for children and one for adults as well. The calendars are a great way to familiarize yourself with their chocolates – or you can pick up any of their assortments.

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Last years’ Holiday Beseen Assorted Tin was fantastic, featuring some of Artisan du Chocolat’s best chocolates – ganaches, salted caramels, chocolate pearls, coated nuts, etc. An assortment like this is perfect for holiday gifting, and also really great to keep around the house for holiday visitors.

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But what really makes Artisan du Chocolat worth the swoon-worthy shipping fees are, of course, their salted caramels. Or more specifically, their Original N°1 Salted Caramels. I first discovered them when I was at The London years ago at a press event where our parting gift from the team at Gordon’s restaurant there was a few of these salted caramels.

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These sea salted caramels where originally created for Gordon Ramsay’s menu at Claridge’s in 2002 or 2003. I’m not shocked that Chef Ramsay placed them on his menu as they really are a special treat. Unlike most salted caramels, this chocolate solidly encases a surprise of liquid sea salted caramel. Artisan du Chocolat uses pure untreated grey salt which is “harvested by hand from clay marshes, holds a wealth of minerals and trace elements that enrich its taste.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I’m a massive fan of passion fruit desserts, anything tart or even citrusy appeals to my sweet tooth. If you’re like me and like a little tart to cut through your sweet, the Passion Fruit Sea Salted Caramels are right up your alley. These chocolates are delightfully intense.

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Artisan du Chocolat chocolates are all prettily packaged, if the conversion rate was friendlier I would definitely buy them as gifts for all my friends and clients. For now I’ll make a holiday tradition out of ordering these for the woman that brought me into this world (and myself!).

More details on Artisan Du Chocolat, and to order them, click here.

How Bootler is Simplifying Online Food Delivery

bootler-chicago*This post is sponsored by bootler, all opinions presented are my own.*

The hottest question in my house is “What is for dinner?” And on Friday nights, it also happens to be the main source of contention. Of course we’re ordering out, but what are the delivery fees? How quickly (or slowly) will the food arrive? And are we sure that we’re getting the best price from all our delivery service options? If you live in Chicago, then Bootler has got you covered. And luckily for me, they’re headed to New York soon too!

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If you don’t know, Bootler is an online aggregation service for food delivery. Bootler works with 6 different food delivery services to allow customers to pick restaurants, compare prices and availability, and ultimately save both time and money. As someone who occasionally feels overwhelmed by all the delivery options out there, this is music to my ears.

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Check out their quick vid for more info:

Bootler is simple, you just enter your address and select what type of food you’re craving from the restaurants available to your location. They recently launched their mobile app in September and are growing exponentially – did I mention we can expect them in New York City soon? I’m so excited! They’re also headed to more major cities too! Of course this means while you Chicagoan’s are currently enjoying some Epic Burger Delivery, soon I’ll be searching on Bootler for my own epic burger too.

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With 100,000 visitors per month, and 2,000 people ordering via Bootler daily, I cannot wait to take advantage of Bootler’s service. You can also order alcohol from Bootler in Chicago from a delivery service called “Saucey” – so we know where you’ll be getting your New Year’s beverages from!

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The ordering process is wonderfully simple – you search and pick where you would like to order from, you create your custom order, then you can compare the different delivery services’ and select which one to place your order with. Ta-dah! Pizza (and champagne from Saucery, if you’re over 21) just in time for Friday movie night!

Find out more and sign up with Bootler here.

Rethink Sweet with Buddy Valastro & Whole Earth Sweetener Co.

Buddy Valastro has recently partnered with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. in a campaign to Rethink Sweet, featuring new and exciting ways to make tasty treats using Whole Earth’s line of sweetener – and if the Cake Boss says it’s good then you know it’s good! Whole Earth Sweetener Co. offers a line of lower calorie, non-GMO sweeteners that have 50% fewer calories per serving than their traditional counterparts. Fortunately for me, I was able to see the sweetener put to the test firsthand when I was invited out to the Lackawanna Cake Factory & Filming Studio out in Hoboken a few weeks ago. I don’t often find myself in that neck of the woods, but I don’t think twice about crossing state lines when cake is involved.

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First off, the inside of the factory/filming studio smells insane! Like butter and sugar and everything good and lovely to eat. If you don’t know (I didn’t!) the factory is where all of the Cake Boss cakes are made. This means not just the wedding cakes, but the store-bought Cake Boss cakes that you see at other bakeries and places like BJ’s. Basically they bake up all the pieces of the cakes and pastries and send them off to be assembled closer to the location of where you would buy them.

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We were given a tour of much of the factory, which was super exciting. There were giant mixers, a room where we saw employees rolling out innumerable pastries, and so much more – but my favorite had to be the decorating room.

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I actually tried my hand at cake decorating a few years ago and it is hard work, and I for one do not have the knack for it. While I’ve resigned myself to the life of a mere cake-eater, I have such an appreciation for the decorating team at Lackawanna Cake Factory –  if you’ve seen the show, or have been on their website, then you know that their work is beautiful.

Buddy also stopped by to tell us a little about why his partnership with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. –

“As a fourth-generation baker, quality and taste are a top priority, and Whole Earth Sweetener Co. uses ingredients sourced from nature, like stevia and monk fruit, which are crafted and manufactured into a great tasting line of lower calorie sweeteners that you can’t find anywhere else. Not only do Whole Earth Sweetener Co. products taste great, they also let you indulge in the sweet foods you crave and love, but with fewer calories.” – Buddy Valastro, Cake Boss

He also spoke about working with Whole Earth’s Sweetener and how he went through a testing process of using the sweetener and altering some recipes to accommodate any changes in the final product. He really stressed how that was most important to him – that what you bake tastes good, which is why he really loves Whole Earth’s sweeteners because it is a lower calorie sweetener that was still an excellent tool for him as a baker to make great treats.

buddy-valastro-rethink-sweet-eventbuddy-valastro-rethink-sweet

After having a couple of slices (yes, it was that good and I have no control over what happens when me and cake are in a room together) of cake made with the sweetener, I was completely sold! We also decorated these cute gingerbread men that were also made with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. – I put my, albeit limited, decorating skills to the test and created this little gingerbread man who is clearly ready for colder weather.

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Whole Earth Sweetener Co.’s range of products feature a Baking Blend, Turbinado Raw Cane 50, Whole Earth Sweetener Honey 50 and Whole Earth Sweetener Agave 50 – which are now available in 45 states from more than 60 select retailers as well as on amazon.com. To find out more about Whole Earth Sweetner Co. click here.

Must-Have Home Tech: Netatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor!

Chances are, you have the latest tech in your pocket. The newest phone, the latest laptop, netbook, tablet, and activity tracker. We adapt to new technology because they adapt to our needs, they make our lives easier – they change the quality of our lives. So when new tech like the Netatmo hits the market, I definitely sit up and take notice. With a seamless design and fully integrated app, Netatmo is the smart indoor climate monitor that takes four critical measurements of your indoor environment which can then be used to make healthy changes.

Netatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.com

Netatmo hosted media (including me), this afternoon for a Parisian baby shower, where we were able to have a first-hand view of the Netatmo Healthy Home Coach in action. The event was held at The Hudson Hotel penthouse – which has some of the prettiest event space in the city, and is simply gorgeous.

Netatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.comNetatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.comNetatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.comNetatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.com

We were joined by lifestyle expert Limor Suss, who shared with us the ways that Netatmo makes her life easier as a mom. The Netatmo Healthy Home Coach is slim and compact, allowing it to blend seamlessly into your nursery or home décor. What it does is use sensors to measure that space’s noise, humidity, air quality, and temperature. Lorni mentioned how babies sometimes wake up from their naps a little sweaty, well, the Netatmo climate monitor will notify the app on your phone when the room gets a little too warm or humid for your baby and offers suggestions on how to alter the room’s climate.

Netatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.com

The mobile app is compatible with iPhone iOS8 and above, as well as Android smartphone 4.3 and above. Alongside a handy dashboard, you can ask Siri the status of a rooms climate (it works with HomeKit), and the app also enables you to send notifications to whomever (babysitter, grandma, husband/wife, etc.) is at home and would be up to opening up a window when it gets too hot, or turning down the humidifier.

Netatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.comNetatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.com

Believe it or not, according to Netatmo most of us spend up to 80% of our life outdoors. So it’s definitely wise to invest in maintaining our indoor space. I really loved what the Netatmo representative said, “Stop guessing and start knowing”. Netatmo’s Healthy Home Coach is not just for babies – if you’re especially sensitive to humidity or would love to track the noise levels in your New York City apartment that might be causing you loss of sleep, the indoor climate monitor will definitely be useful to you too. Personally, I’m pretty excited to incorporate this device into my home, I love the concept of having access to information that will allow me to take more control over my home environment.

Netatmo Debuts Smart Indoor Climate Monitor | read more at nyctalon.com

The Netatmo Healthy Home Coach is available online here, as well as at Best Buy, Home Depot, and Amazon (ARV $100).

A Better Snack: Olives From Spain

This post is sponsored by Olives From Spain

Every year, Spain’s top wineries get together to celebrate their latest and greatest offerings with both wine novices, connoisseurs, and industry professionals. Hosted by the Trade Commission of Spain, Spain’s Great Match was packed this year. Thanks to Olives From Spain, I was able to attend and not only get a peek at popular vinters, but also dine on the country’s other favorite – olives!

Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.comOlives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com 

I’m actually a hardcore olive eater – if you’ve been following me on twitter or Instagram you might know this already. Not only do they rate as one of my favorite snacks, but they are a strict requirement for my cheese plates. I mean, really, a cheese plate is not a cheese plate unless there’s a decent Manzanilla olive somewhere on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually know too much about olives, aside from my preference for the Spanish Olives mix at the grocery store. Luckily, the Olives From Spain team was on hand to school me on some interesting facts:

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

Did you know that most olives are used solely for oil extraction? I had no idea! And while the time it takes for every olive to go through the process required to get them ready for eating may vary, only a select few are deemed suitable for consumption. I love that – it makes my snacking olives feel that much more special. Speaking of special, the olives served at Spain’s Great Match by Olives From Spain were something extra – just look at these Olives with Marcona Almonds (another Spanish specialty), diced piquillos, and Carables cheese. So, so good.

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

But my favorite was the Queen Olives stuffed with goat cheese, and served with a slice of apple, honey, and extra virgin olive oil. Queen Olives are named for their size, which the Olives From Spain folks informed me correlates to their price. The larger the olive, the more expensive it is. I’m familiar with stuffed olives – I’ve had them with piquillos, lemon, and almonds, but up until this event, I’ve never had them with goat cheese. I expected the cheese to come across as sharp and bitter, but the combination of the olive with the cheese, apple, and honey struck such an ideal balance that I had to restrain myself from snapping them all up and eating them myself.

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

Spain’s olives not only deliver great flavor and make a great low calorie snacking food, they also pack in a surprising amount of iron and fiber! There are currently more than 300 million olive trees in Spain, so there’s plenty to go around (or at least enough for my snacking habits). Which is a good thing, seeing as how Spain produces about half of the 145,000 tons of olives we import every year. Suffice it to say, the US is a massive fan of Spanish olives.

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

How do you enjoy your olives? Do you serve them as a table snack? Or do you use them in marinades, salads, or stews? Olives from Spain are so versatile, but if you’re looking for a creative way to serve some look no further than http://olivesfromspain.us/ for more recipes and to learn more about your favorite Spanish olives!