Charge ahead with the myCharge HubPlus

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If you are out and about, running errands, picking up the kids, taking them to activities, getting the family shopping done, commuting to work, and trying to keep up with your social life, chances are your phone is not lasting as long as you are in a day.  Nothing is worse than seeing that sliver of red is all that’s left of your battery life, and you are only half way through your day, and you don’t have time to plug in and wait to recharge.

With the dismal battery life of iPhones these days, and fear sparked into the hearts of smartphone owners everywhere by the Samsung 7 battery explosions debacle, portable battery chargers have been the answer, at least temporarily, to stave off dead phone woes.

But not all phone chargers are alike, and before you buy one you should check out some important features that might make a difference in your charger being a lifesaver or a dud.

The myCharge HubPlus portable charger ($79.99) is one of the better chargers I have used, for many reasons. One feature that is rare in portable chargers is that it features a USB port, in addition to a built-in lightning and micro USB cables. The built-in USB and lightning cables can be sleekly tucked away on the side of the hub, so that they don’t tangle up with other items in your bag.

Of course, with the size and power needed to accommodate a USB port, the myChare HubPlus is a bit larger and heavier than many chargers; it would have to be, until the technology improves, to provide the juice needed to power up larger devices.

This means it’s a little less portable, and a little more weight and bulk in your pocket or bag. The flipside is that this device will keep your smaller devices running longer, lasting up to four times your device’s battery.

This extra power can come in handy on the subway, on a camping trip, or other places where you can’t plug-in for hours. Also an added feature of the HubPlus is it has a built-in wall prong for plugging directly into an electrical outlet. This is convenient because you don’t have to carry along a charger cord and charging block to re-charge your portable charger.

The bummer is that in this day and age, most household electrical outlets are spoken for, so often you will have to unplug something in order to accommodate it.

The charger features four lights on the side which show when the battery is charged up and ready to go. It also features a safe cell technology to limit the charge to give you the highest level of charge without overdoing it. It also has smart sense technology which ensures device compatibility.

Overall this is an excellent power bank for emergencies and peace of mind, if you don’t mind toying around a little extra heft.

Family tripping in style in the 2017 Cadillac CT6

1467229383047Our family recently had the opportunity to cruise in style in the 2017 CT6 on family road trip.  We love living large, so was fitting that rolled out in this spacious and grand high-end Cadillac car.

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For starters, with two kids along, an awesome entertainment system is essential. The CT6’s backseat is the ultimate modern kid play pen.  Not only is it huge, with rear-seat legroom of 40.4 inches, it is fully equipped with a comprehensive infotainment system with dual adjustable 10-inch HD-Blu-Ray compatible diagonal screens that retract into the front seatbacks, along with wireless phone charging and connectivity for surfing and streaming on smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices.

But it’s not all about the kids. This is a grown-up car packed with pleasures for adults. Audiophiles will delight in the dynamic range and clarity of the 34-speaker Bose Panaray audio system, designed specifically for the CT6 and inspired by the technology in professional concert halls and high-end home audio systems.  It’s basically a concert on wheels.

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Aside from the incredible entertainment technology, the CT6 is loaded with high performance technology to make driving and riding in it an absolute power trip. Some highlights of the Premium Luxury 3.6L CT6 are the 335-hp 3.6L V6 engine with auto stop/start and Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation), active chassis controls with V-Series-derived Magnetic Ride Control, active rear steering, driver assist package with night vision, rear camera mirror, automatic front and rear braking, and adaptive cruise control.

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With these features, the Cadillac CT6 takes drivers to a higher threshold of involvement, with technologies that make them more aware of their surroundings, chassis systems – including active technologies – that make the most of control in all conditions.

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One great new feature we loved was the Auto Vehicle Hold, a feature that prevents forward or backward vehicle creep when the driver’s foot is off the brake. For long drives and city drives, this is great for reducing fatigue during heavy stop-and-go traffic, and it improves vehicle control on steep grades. Another handy feature was the True 360-degree camera that can see and record video all around the vehicle, which provides security when you are exiting your car, and it also reduces blind spots around the vehicle, so you can spot the kids and their scooters before backing over them.

With all of this assistive technology, it’s like having a backseat driver that sees everything and reacts instantaneously without being annoying.

As far as large luxury cars go, this is one of the lightest on the road, thanks to its aluminum-intensive architecture that incorporates 11 different materials to give it strength, performance and efficiency thresholds that put it in the top class of the world’s elite luxury performance sedans.

And forget all that stuff about luxury cars being built for comfort not for speed.  This sedate sedan can peel out when needed.  Under the hood it features the new Cadillac Twin Turbo V6 engine that provides an estimated 400 horsepower (298 kW) and 400 lb-ft of torque (543 Nm) that provides race car power on demand.

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Cadillac lives up to its brand with the CT6 with ahead-of-its-time creature comforts including a Quadzone climate system, which employs a secondary full-HVAC system that allows passengers to personalize temperature and airflow for each seating position, along with ionizing air purification.

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My only consideration about driving a big luxury sedan like this was that the kids wouldn’t think it was cool. But that theory was shot full of holes when each time we headed for the car the kids took dibs on who got the key fob so they could trigger the welcoming lights outside the car when we approached; and then they scrambled to get in and plug in.  It was like their own private crib, gansta style.  No worries here about not being cool.

The starting MSRP for the 2017 Cadillac CT6 is $53,795.

Valentine’s Day gifts for those we love

Valentine’s Day is an occasion to express our love for those who are special in our lives.  Show your sweetheart you care with these thoughtful Valentine’s gifts for her or him that are sure to warm your loved one’s heart.

I heart dogs

For those of us who love our pets, the way to our hearts is often through our furry friends. Hugger Memories has found a way to capture our sentiments for our pets and express them in a unique art pieces using inspired fabrics. Sarah Gibson Wiley, the artist behind these creations, uses photographs and stories to render Custom Pet Portraits in the form of monogrammed style pillows or fabric art suitable for framing. These home accents are sure to become a family heirloom and a gift that preserves special memories of a pet to cherish for years to come. $225 for a single pet.

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Jewelry from the sea of love

Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to give a special piece of jewelry, like a design from artist Wendy Mignot. Each of her unique and elegant bohemian chic creations features pearls and natural and reclaimed items from the ocean and surrounding terrain. Her pieces combine Tahitian, South Sea, and freshwater cultured pearls along with sea glass, shells, stones and ancient and shipwrecked coins, strung on soft, hand rolled-leather and tied with precision to create a one-of-a-kind piece that can be worn to the beach or a ballroom.  Priced $75 to $1,250.

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The face of love

Pamper your sweetheart with Annemarie Borlind natural skin care products for that make the wearer feel beautiful inside and out. The anti-aging LL Regeneration collection with proprietary bioactive complex includes a Gentle Cleansing Milk ($43.99), a Revitalizing Blossom Dew Gel ($49.99), Revitalizing Day ($59.99) and Night Cream ($59.99), and Eye Wrinkle Cream (54.99). These cosmologist-created, vegan products, made in the Black Forest, are made from plants, deep spring water and all natural and pure ingredients like Shea butter. in laboratory tested formulations that make skin look and feel firmer and revitalized. To make you feel even better about the line, none of the products are tested on animals and all are made in an ecologically responsible manner with fair working conditions and no child labor.

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I’ve got your backpack

Your loved one works hard for the money, so make carting around work stuff easy. Solo backpacks look as stylish as they are functional, with rich textures and thoughtful details such as fully padded laptop compartments, key clips, internal iPad or tablet pockets, front pockets, cloth interiors, and lightweight but durable materials. Two polished and preppy styles for her or him are the Bridgehampton Ladies Backpack, $89.99; and the East Hampton Backpack, $119.

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Locks of love

Your Sweetie will have a good hair day and feel spoiled with luxurious hair care products from Obliphica Professional.  The heart of Obliphica’s rejuvenating formulas is the powerful and therapeutic Seaberry superfruit, a centuries-old secret to beauty, rich with bioactive compounds, that naturally nourishes, heals and protects the scalp and hair, and has been revered for its rejuvenating powers by ancient cultures since 5000 BC. The Seaberry Shampoo ($24, 300 mil. size) cleanses hair and scalp, removes impurities and softens the hair, controls static and protects hair with natural UV filters for longer-lasting color, hydration and shine. The Seaberry Mask ($38, 250 ml. size) intensely hydrates and repairs the hair, and nourishes and moisturizes the scalp. Seaberry Serum ($38, 65 ml. size) nourishes and repairs hair, while leaving a luminous, shiny and silky finish.

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Sizzling hot love

Give your honey a gift that he or she will use every day and think of you. IMUSA Induction Sauté Pans are go-to every day pans that are both durable and versatile. Great for sautéing foods, making pancakes and eggs or grilling sandwiches, these pans are quintessential pieces for any kitchen. The induction bottom is suitable for gas, electric, ceramic and induction stove tops. The hundred percent ceramic nonstick coating makes cleanup easy and allows you to use less oil. Available in assorted sizes of 8 inches, 10 inches or 12 inches for all size cooking jobs.  $54.99 for a three-piece set.

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Light up your love light

Set the mood for your Valentine’s Day celebration by lighting up fragrant Goat Milk Stuff candles. These soy candles last up to 50% longer than paraffin candles, and they burn slower, cooler and cleaner, and they hold their sent beautifully. They come in a variety of fragrances and colors, such as the soft pink Luv Spell scent, to suit any mood and taste. $6 each.

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Fig & Olive offers a taste of the Mediterranean stateside

img_3563My epicureanly enlightened son proclaimed at age 7, “I could not live without olive oil.” And so it has been. Almost daily we find a use for olive oil in our diet, and when we dine out, it is olive oil, not butter, in which we douse our bread. So imagine my delight to find a new favorite restaurant that shares our enthusiasm for this “liquid gold,” elixir of the gods, Fig & Olive.

The restaurant’s concept is one of pairing its food dishes with olive oil, its menu’s main ingredient. Offerings include a sweet and delicate olive oil from the French Riviera that pairs well with a Steamed Lemon Sole Papillote to an assertive Spanish Picual or a Tuscan olive oil that holds its own with Seared Salmon with Fennel and Green Olives, or Grilled Branzino glazed with a fig balsamic vinegar, served with figs and snow peas finished with a sweet Picholine Olive Oil and a green-fruit Provence olive oil served with a Green Apple Sorbet.

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The restaurant’s expansive assortment of over 30 varietals of extra virgin olive oils are imported from the Riviera and coastal regions of the South of France, Italy and Spain. Each is selected to pair with specific flavors and dishes, and guests are offered an assortment of oils for tasting at the beginning of each meal. If you fall in love with an oil, you can take it home for $12 to $32 a bottle.

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If I were to put together the elements of a restaurant to love — besides one themed around olive oil and the healthful Mediterranean diet — it would look like Fig & Olive: an open space that is bright with natural light, filled with live plants integrated with the decor, and decorated elegantly yet comfortably, creating a relaxed intimate atmosphere for dining with friends and family. It is this is as if Fig & Olive read my mind.

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It’s dining room, designed with limestone stucco walls, a terra-cotta ceiling, and green rosemary and olive trees, along with olive branches crafted in black wrought iron and lit with candles, exudes the warmth and essence of the Mediterranean. When entering the dining room, guests are greeted by a long, white marble communal table and tasting bar that stretches across the dining room, lit by pendant lights and bookended by glowing illuminated shelves of extra virgin olive oils and wines, a display that welcomes and impresses at once.

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img_3542The restaurant not only is pleasing in its atmosphere, but when just after we were seated our server brought us an assortment of all of olive oils, along with breads and veggies for dipping to start off our dining experience, I was sold. They had me at, “Welcome.”
Fig & Olive is a place where olive oil aficionados, like wine snobs, can sample various formulations and describe them in similar terms, like, “This one is pungent and self-assured with woody edges and a touch of mint.”

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And speaking of snobbery, I would not speak in those terms in association with this fine restaurant. While its eight locations nationwide reside in tony neighborhoods in DC, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and it attracts a well-heeled crowd for power lunches and dinners, the atmosphere is not stiff or cold. The wait staff are friendly, and the tone set by the environment, which is tranquil and hospitable.

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When my dining partner and I recently dined at Fig & Olive, before we knew it hours had passed and we had well overstayed the restaurant’s lunch hours. We had been happily engaged in conversation, and not once did we feel rushed or pressured by our server. In fact, quite the opposite. When the place was nearly empty and the staff was resetting the restaurant for dinner, we requested our check, which the server delivered but assured us, “Take your time.”

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Indeed, among the olive trees, aroma of rosemary and the treat of a variety of flavorful olive oils on the table, I never wanted to leave, and I eagerly await my next visit to the Mediterranean, if only for a meal.

Fleming’s Steakhouse: a great place for a date night or girl’s night out

flemings-filet-and-ribeye-group-shot_largeFleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar has a hipper swagger than your traditional steakhouse. It has the dim lighting, crisp white table cloths and large booth seating that you expect from a fine dining establishment, but unlike the staid and almost library-like atmosphere of many steakhouses, Fleming’s feels like a party.

This energy could be partially owing to the vivaciousness of the servers, like Tyler, who took care of me and my dining companion on our last visit, but it is also the general vibe of the place, from the laughter of the well-heeled patrons mingling at the bar to the steady flow of patrons in and out of the restaurant, milling about in the entry, greeting the host and hostess as if they were old friends, maybe they were.

But of course, the ambience and atmosphere are important, but the food is essential, and here is where Fleming’s truly excels. Being a steakhouse, of course I ordered a steak. As a huge fan of the bone-in T-bone, I ordered the one and only size of its variety, the 20-ounce steak, which was a meal fit for a king, or two. Of course, with an Uncle Buck sized steak like this, I figured I would end up boxing up a good portion of it to take home, but it was so juicy and flavorful that I did not leave as much on my plate as I had expected, but still enough for a second excellent meal the next day.

As we had started our meal with the outstanding crabcakes, wading in a puddle of roasted red pepper and lime butter sauce, followed by the Flemings salad of candied walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes, onions, herbed crostini, lemon vinaigrette, we did not want to overdo it, and so we only ordered the shoestring potatoes as a side, though we had heard good things about the crispy fried brussels sprouts and the monstrous onion rings, but we will have to wait until next time to order those.

Tyler kept us happy, making sure all our dishes arrived as ordered, hot and fresh. He was not afraid to give his opinion on the best way to have our food prepared, such as recommending having my steak seared on both sides before cooking it to a perfect medium rare, versus broiling it. He also had excellent suggestions regarding wines, and he didn’t judge when I asked for white wine with my steak, and he selected for me a rich and buttery Chardonnay that paired perfectly with the juicy flavor of my steak.

To finish off our most excellent dining adventure, Tyler recommended Fleming’s extraordinary carrot cake. A tall layered slice of this goodness was delivered with a bowl of fresh whipped cream, which we sampled liberally with each bite of this decadently delicious dessert.

Our dinner experience was leisurely, with Tyler pacing the delivery of each course to give us time for conversation and to whet our appetites for the next course. Noticeably, many of the same folks at the bar who were there when we arrived we’re still there when we left.

Despite the festive, jovial atmosphere, full of lively conversation and activity, it did not feel hectic, nor did we feel rushed, even though it was a busy night. Our experience felt more like we were among a gathering of family and old friends.

Where the stuffy steakhouse can sometimes be, well, scene-y, Fleming’s was a nice respite, where one could be dressed up and enjoy an upscale evening out without the uppity stiffness of some restaurants in town where in the end you are just glad it’s over. Fleming’s is a place where guests want to linger, for the food and drinks, and just because it feels comfortable to be there. Fleming’s has locations nationwide, including two locations in Virginia at Tyson’s Corner and Richmond.

B8ta brings the brick-and-mortar experience to tech products

b8ta“What’s old is new again” is a philosophy that one would never imagine apply to technology, but B8ta proves it does.  The world is migrating to online commerce, but nostalgic consumers once again crave the brick-and-mortar store experience. Clicking to buy is convenient, but the missing link is a sales person to explain the benefits and features of a product, and the opportunity to see, feel, and test an item before you purchase it.

Today many items consumers would have never dreamed of buying online, such as furniture or prepared meals, are shipped door to door in days; but sometimes there is a disconnect between the consumer and the seller. The savviest of the new commerce entrepreneurs are bridging the old school and the new way of doing business, such as online mattress seller Luxi, which is now developing a complementary program where customers can try out their product in a retail store and then purchase it either in-store or online for the same price.

B8ta has ingeniously harnessed the best the best of both worlds with their pop-up like retail stores where they consign traditionally online only products, such as eero Wi-Fi extenders, Pearl RearVision rearview automobile camera, or Muse brain-sensing mediation headband.  The cleanly designed storefronts resemble single-brand showplace stores, such as Apple, Sony or Microsoft store, but of course B8ta sells unlimited brands.

So far the stores are only on the West Coast, naturally having outlets in tech hubs in Northern and Southern California, with outposts in Santa Monica’s “Silcon Beach,” Seattle, Palo Alto, Burbank, Aliso Viejo and Livermore.

Having an actual retail store where consumers can go to handle the merchandise and speak to a knowledgeable sales person can make the difference between browsing and buying. When I recently went into the store in need of a portable battery charger, I was sold on the Flux, which was displayed at B8ta along with approximately 100 other devices, when I was able to see in person how thin the device was, and I was able to hold it in my hand to feel how lightweight it was. No number of YouTube unboxing videos can demo this experience.

B8ta has combined the tactile with the virtual experience of modern shopping with each of the items displayed near a video tablet on which a prospective customer can watch explainer videos. Enthusiastic black-shirted tech geeks stroll the isles eagerly awaiting the opportunity to answer questions about the merchandise.

The customer can also check on specs and other information from the video screen, including a countdown of the number of the product left in inventory.

So whereas some experiences don’t require a personal interaction to make them fulfilling, such as was the case when consumers were able to pump their own gas and never look back at the days of gas station attendants, buying tecnical products has not achieved this status, and signs are it will not, as the success of B8ta is proof positive that a hands-on shopping still has a place in the tech age. 

 

A special holiday dinner by the sea at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach

lb-gallery-brunchOn my recent visit to Los Angeles for the holidays, I wanted to choose a restaurant for Christmas dinner that was as special as the occasion, a tall order which Las Brisas in Laguna Beach fulfilled for me and my LA family.  I had not visited the restaurant in 10 years, when I last hosted family from out of town when I lived in LA, and I wondered why it had been so long.

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The drive from Los Angeles to Laguna is about an hour, and like many Angelenos I tended to dine within a 20-minute drive radius, but every so often I would venture further outside my culinary comfort zone, such as to Malibu or Laguna, and Las Brisas is one of those venues that makes the drive worth it.  As a dining destination, Las Brisas has it all.  A spectacular vista of the Pacific coastline, excellent food, superb service, an elegant yet laid-back atmosphere, and a few bonuses, such as a bird’s eye view of surfers and divers who are drawn to the famous seascape, and a warm, friendly atmosphere that can only be cultivated by decades of being a local establishment beloved by its neighbors.

The legendary restaurant was built in 1938 as the Victor Hugo Inn, a world-class restaurant and celebrity getaway, and it became Las Brisas in 1979, a first-class sea-to-table culinary destination attracting both locals and visitors of discriminating tastes.

The menu features an infusion of the best of Californian cuisine with authentic Mexican recipes of rich, sweet, sour and spicy flavors, such as the Shrimp, Tampiqueños an entree of Spicy wild Mexican prawns sautéed with shiitake mushrooms, Chardonnay and garlic. Traditional Mexican dishes are given a modern twist, such as Caleta, a savory seafood enchilada with skirt steak or the choice of free-range chicken or grilled fish soft taco; or La Asada, a Chipotle-citrus marinated natural skirt steak with a chicken enchilada.

For our holiday dinner, the fare was more continental and limited, with a fixed menu offering including beet salad, butternut squash soup, chops, steaks, scallops, seabass and of course, surf and turf; and for desert a seasonal eggnog crème brulee or apple cinnamon tart.  Despite the fact the restaurant was packed on Christmas night, with diners overflowing onto the patio, where they were warmed comfortably by the glowing flames from glass tower heaters, and guests were brimming out front door on one of winter’s chilliest nights, the maître d seated the waiting guests swiftly and efficiently.

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Likewise, the service was meticulously organized, with hot plates being delivered within a few minutes of ordering, and my medium rare filet was cooked exactly right and the perfect temperature.  We were amazed at how our uber-efficient server juggled the at-capacity crowd with aplomb, answering our questions about the menu, chatting with guests about the holidays, and taking the time to help us select a wine to pair with our entrees.  I half expected him to start spinning plates on a pole.

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One large group that was being seated next to us began to grumble about having a chair placed on the end of the table for an extra guest, so without any discussion the server quickly conferred with the host who obliged the group with a larger table by a window, very much met to their liking.

This is the attitude of “aiming to please” which has made the restaurant a favorite for those occasions when patrons desire impeccable service that makes them feel special.  For the holidays, the restaurant decorated its dining rooms with festive lights, Christmas trees, candles and orchids adorned with holly berries for the season, but the centerpiece for guests of all ages was a giant aquarium that resides in the foyer, which perpetually has small children gathered around, gazing at the brilliant coral and sea life.

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The aquarium is a dependable mainstay, like the restaurant, and no matter the fact it has stood for 38 years in the same place, it is always dynamic and exciting, well worth the trek out of LA to find an experience you can’t have sitting on a city sidewalk.