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Tell a friend the best peanut brittle you can buy

Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts, by Anette's Chocolates

You may not get a hankering for peanut brittle often, but when you do, the yen can be inexorable. Making it yourself can be more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s not easy to find high quality peanut brittle in most stores, even in candy shops. (A quick search for "peanut brittle" yields mostly recipes, not readymade shopping sources.)

Enter Anette’s Chocolates by Brent, maker of arguably the best commercially produced peanut brittle in the world. Anette’s is based in Napa, the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country. Napa Valley and surrounding areas are known for their world-class vineyards as well as top-notch microbreweries, artisanal cheese, and gourmet food products. Thus, it makes sense that one of Anette’s most popular products is its Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts.

Posted August 4, 2009 by Mariva in edibles, entertaining

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Tell a friend Batter Blaster pancakes

Batter Blaster

This is a story about pancakes. It begins in one of my favorite places. Let me explain.

San Francisco is not the densest city by any means, but space is at a premium nonetheless. So when a single store occupies an entire city block — a large city block — that is a big store in San Francisco. The experience of shopping at the only Costco in San Francisco feels like half-privilege, half-pandemonium. Wheeling a ginormous cart around the street-width aisles of Costco, for me, is a guilty pleasure. There’s only so much paper towel and laundry detergent I really need, but I find any excuse to go. I would imagine that anyone who’d grown up behind the Iron Curtain might bask in the consumer abundance of Costco as a sort of earthly paradise.

In one of the refrigerated aisles, an entire case contained shelf upon shelf of bright golden-yellow spray cans. I thought nothing of the spray cans at first, assuming that the cans were just a brand of whipped cream I hadn’t seen before. But I did a double-take as I noticed something horrifying on the cans: the word batter. Costco, you’ve got to be kidding me, right? Batter — (pancake and waffle, that is, not cake) — in a spray can? Look, spray cheese is bad enough, but spray batter heralds the end of civilization.

Perhaps even more amazing was that the word organic also appeared on the can. I’ve been brainwashed by Whole Foods, I admit, but when I see the word organic, I automatically think healthy. (Or at least healthy-wannbe.) Was it possible for something healthy to be stored in spray can — which, by defnition, indicates processed food? Who could have predicted that I would stumble onto such a paradox in the refrigerated section of Costco? Organic and spray can seem like matter and antimatter: how can they simultaneously occupy the same space?

Posted September 9, 2008 by Mariva in business, edibles, health, innovations, kitchen

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Tell a friend baby safety

Safe Baby Handling Tips, by David and Kelly Sopp

It’s hard to imagine a better — or funnier — gift for the parents-to-be who already have everything than Safe Baby Handling Tips by David and Kelly Sopp.

This novelty picture book is basically a series of contrasting dos and don’ts with regard to taking care of an infant. For example, the correct way to "bond with baby" is to hold and coo at the baby, not attempt to engage him or her in a timed game of chess! And when you’re putting the baby down to play, put him or her in, say, a playpen, not a cage. When taking baby for a walk, put him or her in a baby backpack, not in an old potato sack.

I mean, sheesh, people — take care of the baby! Get this book.

Posted March 23, 2006 by Mariva in books, education, entertaining, entertainment, fun, gifts, home

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Tell a friend Cavallini & Co. stationery products

Cavallini & Co.

In the spacious but homey split-level basement of Cody’s Books, I always find myself drawn to the tables displaying the Cavallini & Co. stationery products. I can’t seem to keep my eyes off the passel of varicolored notebooks, notecards, carte postale (postcards), flashcards and magnets and accessories, among other products.

Many of the designs embody a neo-Victorian aesthetic, reminiscent of decoupage and Beatrix Potter books, whereas the frames have a distinctly Italianate flavor. Whole maps feature prominently in Cavallini’s collection of gift wrap, making the paper itself a gift. (With Cavallini map gift wrap, I don’t use tape and I advise the recipient to open the package carefully without tearing the paper.) The file folders are works of art, almost too beautiful to kept in a drawer.

Posted March 9, 2006 by Mariva in arts, books, decor, gifts, home

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Tell a friend Pacifica soaps

Pacifica soaps

If you like to bathe in luxury, try Pacifica soaps. Before buying, you can wander through a virtual garden of high-quality scents with names like Sandalwood, Tahitian Gardenia, Tunisian Jasmine, French Lilac, Bergamot Amber Rose, Vanilla Orchid, Bali Lime Papaya, Hawaiian Ruby Guava, Thai Lemongrass and so on.

The soaps are nature-friendly (biodegradable, vegan, not tested on animals, no artificial colors), and the scents are strong but smell authentic — it’s hard to detect a chemical base that’s typical for some scented soaps. Each beautifully boxed 6-ounce bar is priced at or close to $7 — which might seem extravagant until you realize that with scented products of this caliber, you get what you pay for.

Posted March 2, 2006 by Mariva in bath & spa, beauty, gifts, home

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Tell a friend Solutions products that make life easier

Solutions catalog

The Solutions catalog offers all sorts of, well, solutions — or, as the company puts it, “products that make life easier.” Lest you think that Solutions products are akin to Kenji Kawakami’s 101, 99 More and The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu, check out this sampling of potentially useful items:

Posted February 22, 2006 by Mariva in decor, entertaining, gadgets, gifts, home, innovations, kitchen, resources, travel

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Tell a friend designer gift wrap

Modern Wrapping Paper Set

Half the fun of a gift is the packaging — and all the better if the wrapping paper is unique. If you’re lucky enough to have this unique designer paper, would you use it to wrap a gift — or would you frame and display the paper itself?


Posted February 21, 2006 by Mariva in arts, decor, gifts, home

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Tell a friend clothes & home sale

Macy's Presidents' Day Sale

Whoo-hoo! Macy’s is having a big fat Presidents’ Day Sale on apparel, jewelry and shoes for him, her and kids — but today is the last day. Also, this is the last week of the annual Home Sale on bed & bath, dining, housewares, luggage and rugs.

Posted February 20, 2006 by Mariva in bath & spa, decor, entertaining, fashion, home, jewelry, kitchen

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Tell a friend vintage products, brand-new

The Vermont Country Store

Ever feel nostalgic for products or supplies that you remember from childhood, but haven’t been able to find in years? Your search may be over. The Vermont Country Store offers a wide variety of products that your parents or grandparents used — all brand-new and recently manufactured. How is this possible? The proprietors get permission to re-create vintage products as close to the originals as possible — including design and packaging — and bring them to market for another generation of consumers. If you’re not in the neighborhood of one of the stores in Weston or Rockingham, Vermont, you can order vintage games, classic New England apparel (warning: not for the fashion-conscious), long-lost fragrances and even food and beverages online. If you can’t find what you want, let them know, and they’ll consider re-creating it for you.

Posted February 15, 2006 by Mariva in bath & spa, business, decor, edibles, fun, games, gifts, home, innovations, kitchen, resources

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Tell a friend Target furniture sale

Target furniture sale

Tarzjay is having a big furniture sale this week. Get cute stuff for your home without spending a fortune.

Posted February 7, 2006 by Mariva in decor, home

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