Archive | October, 2010

Look: Web Round-Up for Oct. 25

25 Oct

Wow, it’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks, and I haven’t gotten to spend nearly as much time blog-surfing and tweeting as normal, so I don’t have very many links for you this week. But what I lack in volume, hopefully, I make up for in variety in this edition of the web round-up.

  • First, Southern Living takes a “budget vacation” to Orlando. Although I love the theme parks and other famous attractions Central Florida has to offer, I personally enjoy showing visitors the lesser known side of my hometown, and Southern Living’s two-day itinerary covers a nice little cross-section of the area’s hidden gems.
  • Next, Sweet Iced Tea–a blog I could love for their name alone–has an entire post dedicated to bacon, the world’s most perfect food. Lots of interesting bacon trivia and cooking tips for bacon-vores.
  • Pet shopping blog Phetched is always full of fun, drool-worthy goodies, but I was especially smitten by their recent post about Crypton’s new line of William Wegman-designed dog beds. Alas, they’re quite out of my price-range for the time-being, but really lovely, don’t you think?
  • Finally, in honor of Pit Bull Awareness Day, which was Saturday, I’m posting an oldie but goodie: the Find the Pitbull Quiz. One of the problems with breed bans is that people have a hard time identifying “pit bulls” from other breeds or breed mixes. Trust me; it’s harder than it looks. I consider myself quite a dog fancier and it took me about five tries to get it right. Go take the quiz and let me know: how many tries did you take?

Live: Color Me Amused

20 Oct

Marketing researchers pay big dollars to attempt to understand what drives consumers’ behaviors, but the truth is our reasons for buying are often a mystery even to ourselves. Case in point: I bought nail polish to match my dog. No, it wasn’t intentional, just a happy accident that shows our minds work in mysterious ways.

Dixie, my weimaraner ...


... and her matching shade of nail polish.

 

I was having a crummy day recently, and when I stopped at Walgreens to pick up a few essentials, I decided to treat myself to a little bottle of nail polish as a cheap pick-me-up. As soon as I saw Rimmel’s Lasting Finish Pro “Steel Grey” on the shelf, it was love at first sight. It’s an unusual shade for nails–somewhere between warm grey and taupe–but I was inexplicably drawn to it. It took me a few days to figure out why. I was admiring¬† my newly pedicured feet, propped up on the sofa next to my dog, and I suddenly realized the new nail color was an exactly perfect shade of weimaraner grey!

I’m not sure I’m ready to admit in public that I’m now matching my fashion to my dog, but I have to admit the connection made the color seem all the more charming to me. Color me amused, I guess!

Nest: And the Winning Mood Board Is …

18 Oct

We posted three sets of potential mood boards for our baby boy’s nursery in September, and the response from all our readers both here on the blog and on the other forums we shared them on has been phenomenal. Thank you so much to everyone who took time to weigh in on our design selections.

After getting feedback on our initial selections, we were able to short-list our options to three choices: Orange and Blue, Modern Meadow and Exotic Elephants. We kicked the tires on the furniture we were considering at Ikea, made some updates to all three boards, and finally, it was decision time. Ultimately, we still liked all three themes, but in the end, one of them just felt right. So the winner is …

Modern Meadow

The relaxing, tranquil mood of this theme is what won us over. While we loved the energy and playfulness of the Orange and Blue theme, we decided we wanted the nursery to be a peaceful sanctuary.

We made a few adjustments from the original board, substituting a sturdier dresser for the inexpensive one I originally chose and substituting a “terracotta” rocker for the original red, which was back-ordered into next year.

Now that the design work is done, it’s time to bring everything together. In the coming weeks, we’ll finish clearing our old furniture out of the room, painting the room and buying and assembling all the elements of the room. Stay tuned for updates as we prepare for our little one’s December arrival.

Savor: Epcot Food & Wine Fest Photos & Reviews

13 Oct

We visited the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3. For an overview of the Festival, as well as my top tips, check out my post from last week. If you’re ready to sink your teeth into some photos and reviews, then this post is for you.

Le Cellier

Our visit on Saturday began with lunch at Le Cellier. I know it sounds odd to visit a table-service restaurant when there are so many great things to taste at the Festival, but Le Cellier is one of the most difficult advance dining reservations to get at any of the Disney parks, so when we were able to snag a lunch spot, we jumped on it.

We failed to take any photos at lunch, but I can tell you everything we ordered was delicious and nicely presented. My husband enjoyed their signature dish, the filet mignon, and I had the chicken crepe. (Yes, I was the girl who goes to a steakhouse and orders chicken! ::dies of shame::) Both entrees were excellent. I especially liked how the crepe was light, yet savory, and was paired with a light, slightly spicy potato salad. We also had a side of poutine with our meal, a traditional Canadian comfort food that mixes french fries with cheese and rich gravy. Sadly, we barely ate a third of it between the two of us because it was so rich. The poutine would definitely be better for a larger party to share. All-in-all it was a fun experience and I can definitely recommend Le Cellier (if not, perhaps, the six month wait to get a reservation).

The Brewmaster’s Collection

 

Clausthaler N/A and Alt Beer from Brewmaster's Collection

 

Our first stop after lunch was to pick up a cold beverage. Even though, being pregnant, I can’t currently drink any wine or beer, I was delighted to find out Disney had me covered. The Brewmaster’s Collection booth had my favorite non-alcoholic beer, Clausthaler, on tap. It was a nice treat to be able to safely enjoy a cold, tasty beer. My husband enjoyed one of the alt beers the booth had to offer.

Champagne and Desserts

 

Dessert Trio

 

Our next stop was at the champagne and dessert booth. This year’s dessert booth featured a trio of mini-desserts that could be purchased individually or as a group. We tried all three, and while all of them were good, I don’t think they were quite as outstanding as the desserts the booth featured last year. My favorite was the strawberry dish, which was light and refreshing.

Hops & Barley

 

Pecan Bread Pudding

 

This seems to be one of the most popular kiosks at the festival. We’re not sure what draws so many people in–the Sam Adams beer selection or the ever-popular lobster roll and crab cakes–but whatever it is, be prepared for a long wait.

For our last taste of the day on Saturday, we were actually waiting to try the pecan bread pudding. Living in the South, my husband and I have become bread pudding snobs. This one was pleasant, but didn’t quite live up to our standards, mostly due to consistency rather than flavor. We prefer our bread puddings more solid and bread-like than soft and custard-like. This one was decidedly in the custard camp.

WDW Foodie Fest

We headed back to the park on Sunday, and our first stop was to check in at the WDW Foodie Fest. The Foodie Fest was a very cool, free open-house event, hosted by the Disney Food Blog. The event offered refreshments, plenty of opportunities to mingle with other Disney fans and Disney bloggers, and our personal favorite, a scavenger hunt. My husband and I completed the scavenger hunt while enjoying the Food and Wine Festival and were very excited to successfully complete the “master clue.” We were even more excited to learn this week that we were selected as the winning entry. What a nice treat!

Ireland

 

Fishermans Pie

 

Ireland’s booth is a perennial favorite of festival-goers and for good reason. The booth’s offerings include Guiness on draft, mead, a decadent chocolate dessert and an excellent cheese assortment. This year we only had room to sample one item, the lobster and scallop fisherman’s pie. The pie is a warm and hearty dish with lots of tender chunks of seafood. While it wasn’t our top pick at this year’s festival, it’s a dish we’re likely to return for again.

Charcuterie & Cheese

 

Charcuterie Plate

 

The Chartuterie & Cheese booth was a fun, new addition at this year’s festival. We sampled the charcuterie plate, which featured applewood smoked beef, duck and ham. All the meats were pleasantly smoky, and it was a filling portion.

France

 

Braised Short Ribs in Cabernet with Mashed Potatoes

 

France is another outstanding booth at the festival. It took a lot of willpower to pass up the escargots and creme brulee this year, but we couldn’t say no to the short ribs. Incredibly tender, flavorful meat, layered beneath light, fluffy potatoes makes this one of the most filling and most delicious dishes at the festival.

Belg-YUM!

 

Leffe, mussels and a Belgian waffle

 

The Belgium booth was another new addition to this year’s festival, and it was our personal favorite this year. We enjoyed both the mussels and the Belgian waffle. The mussels were in a creamy, savory sauce, with a side of toast to soak up every delicious drop. The mussels could have been served a bit warmer, but the excellent taste wasn’t compromised by the temperature. The Belgian waffle was a standout, light and fluffy waffle topped with pleasantly tart fruit compote and whipped cream. The booth also featured several Belgian beers, and my husband chose Leffe, a delicious golden ale.

USA

 

Bison Chili and Heirloom Tomatoes with a view of Spaceship Earth in the distance

 

The United States booth featured a couple of interesting selections. We sampled the bison chili and heirloom tomatoes. The chili was rich and flavorful, although in all honesty, I was surprised that the bison was almost a mild as beef, not gamey at all. The refreshing tomatoes were paired with blue cheese and slivers of red onion for a pleasant contrast.

Karamell Kuche

We had to pay a visit to one of the park’s newest permanent addition’s, Werther’s Karamell Kuche (Caramel Kitchen) in the Germany pavilion. We were so delighted with the treats we purchased that we utterly failed to take any photos, but if you’re curious, Disney Food Blog recently featured photos of the kitchen’s many delicious offerings. Don’t walk in here with an empty stomach or you may take home everything in the shop; the treats inside all look truly amazing. We selected a traditional caramel apple and a vanilla fudge/caramel sandwich. Both were heavenly, and I’m willing to bet this shop will soon be a favorite dessert stop for many.

Tangierine Cafe

 

Chicken and Lamb Platter at Tangierine Cafe

 

Our last stop before leaving the park was at Morocco’s Tangierine Cafe. This is a regular quick-service establishment and not part of the Festival, but the cool, shady patio and tasty platters beckoned to us. We had the chicken and lamb platter on this visit, which paired the meat with bread, hummus, tabouleh and couscous. It was a large portion, even shared among both of us, and was very satisfying. I must admit the hummus was very mild compared to some more spicy or more garlic-y recipes I’ve had, but I suppose that’s to be expected in an establishment that serves the tastes of so many different people. In the past, I’ve had the vegetarian platter, and although the lamb and chicken were tasty, I think the side dishes are the stars here, so I’ll probably go vegetarian again on my next visit.

Overall, the Food and Wine Festival was a great way to spend a weekend. If you’ve been to the Festival, please tell us in the comments which dishes were your favorites this year. If you’re planning to go later, which dishes are you most eager to try?

Look: Web Round-Up for Oct. 11

11 Oct

This edition of Web round-up has gone to the dogs; we’re featuring a few fun dog-related links:

  • Just in time for Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, the ASPCA has put together a great article with the top 10 reasons to adopt an older dog. Adopting an adult dog (or cat) is often a great choice for many families, but sadly, they don’t get as much attention as their puppy and kitten counterparts. Take a look at the article and, next time you adopt, consider giving an older dog a chance.
  • For pure cuteness, these photos of big dogs with a tiny newborn baby will make your day. The dogs’ devotion to their new sibling is evident, and it’s wonderful how their family has captured the moment.
  • Speaking of cute, the lightly cartoonish illustrations on DoggieDrawings.net are also always good for a smile. You can sign up for an RSS feed of the artist’s latest drawings or you can pick up a calendar or other merchandise on the site. Especially neat are these dog behavior posters that convey important information about canine body language that everyone should know.
  • And, finally, again in honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, I’d love to share the link to Petfinder. If you’ve ever adopted a pet from a shelter or rescue, there’s a good chance you’ve used this site before, but if you haven’t, I encourage you to get familiar with this excellent resource. While the best matches are made one-on-one with your shelter or rescue group of choice, Petfinder is a wonderful starting point to see the amazing variety of great pets that are available for adoption and to learn about rescues and shelters in your area that you might not otherwise have been aware of.

Savor: Top Tips to Enjoying Epcot Food & Wine Fest

4 Oct

Walt Disney World is amazing at putting on special events throughout the year to keep the park-going experience fresh for passholders and other repeat visitors. They’re all fun, but the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, held every fall, is my favorite.

The concept of the Festival is relatively simple: booths representing different nations are set up around the World Showcase to sell tasting-size portions of food, desserts, wine, craft beer and cocktails. Guest are invited to eat and drink around the “world.” The main attractions are the tasting booths, but the festival also offers a series of free concerts, cooking demonstrations, wine and beer tasting seminars and a variety of special dinner or cocktail events.

After hitting the Festival for a few years in a row, I’ve put together a quick list of my favorite tips for getting the most out of your visit:

  1. Plan ahead: It may sound a little Type-A to plan ahead for a tasting event, but trust me, once you enter the World Showcase, every booth will look and smell amazing and you can easily fill your belly and empty your wallet before you get half-way around the Showcase. By picking up a festival guide when you enter the park (or visiting the Festival website the night before), you can make a list of must-try items that will sound so delicious it won’t be as hard saying no to the other booths.
  2. Prepare to splurge (or set-up a budget): The one downside to the Festival is that it’s not cheap. Sure each portion has a tiny price tag (most items are under $5), but those tiny little purchases add up fast. It’s easy for a couple of two to spend $100 on food and alcoholic beverages at the Festival. You have two options: 1) relax and chalk it up to a splurge weekend–we all need those from time to time–or, 2) if you’re on a strict budget, pick up a Disney gift card for the amount you want to spend and when the card is empty, it’s time to head home. Epcot has begun selling mini-sized gift cards with wrist-straps made especially for the Festival. Although, I haven’t tried them, it looks like a fun and convenient option for managing your budget.
  3. Share your tasting for double the fun: The portions may look small, but they’re more filling than you might think. To keep the fun going longer and maximize the number of items you can taste, I recommend sharing each portion with a partner or friend. Not only will you get to try more items, but you’ll also have the fun of comparing tasting notes when your friend tastes the same items with you. And, don’t forget, if you really fall in love with an item, you can always go back for another portion later in the day or on your next visit to the Festival.
  4. Stay hydrated: This isn’t just a top tip for the Festival; it’s probably my top piece of advice for any visit to Walt Disney World. Even in October and November, Central Florida gets warm, and it’s easy to get dehydrated before you know it. This advice is even more important for people who are enjoying the Festival’s alcoholic offerings. Your mouth may not feel thirsty, but your body is, so make sure you take in some water between samples or you’re likely to have quite the headache later, even if you’re drinking only a moderate amount.

Those are my top tips for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Do you have a great tip for the Festival? Please post it in the comments below.

Later this week, I’ll post some photos and reviews from my visit to the Festival on opening weekend. For additional coverage of the Festival, check out the always great Disney Food Blog for live coverage and breaking news.