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Today is Earth Day and there are many ways to help the Earth with simple acts, some of which will get you free coffee and trees:

1) CREEDO is planting a tree in your honor if you simply click that you like them on your Facebook page by April 30, the more people click, the more trees get planted, so pass on the information and post it on your wall.

2) M Cafe is offering $1.00 off to all take out customers who bring in their own bag to take home their food, and if you bring in your own reusable mug they will give you a free coffee as well.

3) Lowe’s is giving away one million trees today, stop by a store and pick one up.

4) Starbucks is giving away free coffee today when you bring in your own reusable mug.

5) Do what you can everyday to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle 🙂

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>Today is Mardi Gras, and what better way to splurge than to spend the night in Beverly Hills? Even better, how would you like an extra free night in your plush Beverly Hills hotel room?

Click here for the list of participating hotels in Beverly Hills which are giving away a free night if you book 1-3 nights*, and they are including a free breakfast in the deal! You have until June 30, 2011 to book your stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel (in a bungalow), L’Ermitage, The Penninsula (in a suite), The Montage, or the Beverly Hilton.

Laissez les bons temps rouler today or as they might say in Beverly Hills, “Let the marvelous times begin”.

*There are varying minimum stays required for different hotels, so check before you book.

I’ve been wanting to try Blue Stove in Nordstroms at the new Santa Monica Mall since they opened, but with the holidays and then the gift return season, I have avoided going to any mall for a few months.

Since the entire menu is small bites, you can taste as many dishes as you would like in true tapas style. Most items are about $10 with a few of the heartier plates like the braised short rib or lump meat crab cakes at about $15. I opted for the clams with pasta and chorizo as my first plate. It was a very tasty take on the clams and chorizo combination, although it was a bit rich.

I asked my very efficient server Lisa which of the other seafood options she would choose as a second plate and after hearing the salt and pepper calamari included the tentacles (yeah!) I chose it. It was a generous serving, very crunchy and tender, but the bottom of the plate belied the greasiness of this dish because it had a coating of residual frying oil.

I ordered a crisp glass of Chardonnay from France to cut the richness of both plates and was delighted to find my total bill with two plates and a glass of wine was only about $32 including tax and a 20% tip. My waitress Lisa gave me a helpful tip in return for my explanation of how Open Table works; if you eat at any restaurant in the Santa Monica Mall, use the Valet parking because a restaurant validation will give you FREE parking for THREE hours instead of the two that come free with self-parking!

The best tips are mutual!

Blue Stove (Nordstrom) on Urbanspoon

Sorry for the missing post yesterday, it was due to technical difficulties; Time Warner decided to black out both my cable and internet service for more than 14 hours!

But I’m back and I have two great “gifts” for you courtesy of Joie de Vivre Hotels and Grom Gelateria.

Joie de Vivre (literally the Joy of Life) Hotels is helping you celebrate your birthday no matter when it is this year by giving you a $100 credit for any stay of two nights or more that you book by January 31, 2011 for a stay through January 2012 within 7 days (before or after) your birthday at any of their hotels. You can use the credit for a celebratory dinner or spa treatment and revel in one of their luxurious rooms in San Francisco, like the Petit Auberge (rates start at $109), The Ventana Inn at Big Sur, or the more local Shorebreak Hotel (rates start at $269) in Huntington Beach.

If you are looking for truly authentic gelato, Grom has 33 locations in Italy and only four locations outside of Italy (including this one), so make sure you stop by Sunday in Malibu for their Grand Opening because they will be giving away free gelato all day to introduce their newest location with special January flavors like the Torta Caprese, made with Venezuelan Ocumare chocolate, Sicilian almond chips and biscuits, and Tiramisu, made with espresso coffee, biscuits, and Teyuna chocolate chips.

Coastal Contacts is doing it again FRIDAY December 17, 2010 (tomorrow) starting at 9am EST (that’s 6am here in CA). If you missed their promotion last time for a free pair of prescription glasses, get yours now by either calling or ordering online using the promo code FREE4ALL. It took me about half an hour of trying online before I finally got the glasses I wanted (I paid a few dollars extra for the tint and UV coating), but yes these were FREE, all I paid was about $10 for shipping. I checked out the exact same frames elsewhere and they were selling for about $100. Having already taken advantage of the promo I can not partake again, but I do have a few tips for your who are patient enough to keep calling or keep trying online.

1) Make sure you have your current prescription and if you like your current glasses, have those in front of you so you can choose a similar model. The site has great explanations on what the tiny numbers/letters on the side of your glasses mean and you can have their system automatically pick a similar size/style.

2) Have a good mm ruler so you can measure the distance between your pupils if your prescription does not show that (mine didn’t); watch the tutorial on how to get this measurement (with a mirror or a friend).

3) If you also wear contacts, order them at the same time as your glasses and get an additional 10% discount.

4) Go ahead and get all the extras you want, like tints, UV coating, progressives, transitions, or anti-reflective coating because all those prices are 50% off even with this promotion.

5) Share this promotion with anyone who has a current prescription, who has not already taken advantage of this promotion for free glasses before, and who does not live in your household!

6) Most importantly be patient, this is a really good deal which is why everyone is trying to get their free pair, so think of your time as what you are “paying” to get the glasses. I figured for my 30 minutes I got over $100 of value so that’s not a bad pay rate; some designer glasses are worth even more (up to about $500) and yes, they are also free!

I got a confirmation email as soon as my shopping cart was processed (it took several tries) and my glasses came with a wonderful hard case, lens cleaner cloth, and a repair kit!

Good eyesight is a gift, but if you need glasses, Coastal Contacts is giving you a great gift!

The only part of my trip to Memphis that was pleasurable was that I would finally taste authentic Memphis BBQ. I saw Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ was at the airport, so this was an easy way to sample one of the top three BBQ places. All the most popular choices were on the menu for either dining in or as take out for flights. Wouldn’t you rather have a chopped shoulder of pork sandwich than whatever packaged plastic food the airline is serving?

I decided to eat in so I could eat the messy ribs at a table with plenty of napkins. There was no choice of wet or dry, so it was a good decision to eat in because the ribs came soaked in sauce. I chose two sides of coleslaw rather than baked beans. The cole slaw was finely chopped and a refreshing counterpoint to the rich BBQ pork ribs ($8.85). The ribs were tender and juicy, but I must say I was disappointed with the flavor of the sauce.

Jim Neely's Interstate Barbecue on Urbanspoon

I asked everyone I met to tell me their favorite place for BBQ and unanimously the answer was Corky’s, so I knew I had to find the time and a way to get some Corky’s before leaving for Los Angeles. As I was checking out of my hotel I asked the receptionist where the closest branch of Corky’s was and whether I could walk to it. The wonderful rumor of Southern Hospitality is true as she said she would have the airport shuttle driver take me. I got to Corky’s as they opened at 10:45 am and got my order of two racks to go for less than $35. I got them dry with some packets of sauce because the shuttle driver recommended them that way and who am I to argue with a native?

They double wrapped the ribs in heavy duty foil when I told them I was going to fly out and they said there would be no problem taking them through security (there wasn’t). They even sell the rub and sauce in the airport, so you can pick some up after passing through security and before getting onto your flight. The smell of the ribs was magnificent, making everyone seated next to me salivate.

There is a reason everyone I asked said Corky’s was their favorite BBQ place in Memphis. The ribs were wonderfully tender and perfectly seasoned with a smoky rub that was equally good alone or with some of the fantastic BBQ sauce.

The wonderful thing about Corky’s is that they ship their ribs (and beef brisket or pork shoulder) nationwide and if you call them at 800-9-CORKYS before December 31, 2010 and mention offer code FR1 you will get a FREE SLAB of ribs with your order (with a minimum order of $69.99). The only thing better than great ribs, is a free rack of them, so maybe Christmas this year will include a package from Santa that comes from Memphis.

Corky's Bar-B-Q (East Memphis) on Urbanspoon

With the weather and the holiday both conspiring to sweeten the week-end, why not indulge your sweet tooth too?

July is National Ice Cream Month, yes it is an official designation, so it would be unpatriotic if you don’t eat some ice cream this month, right? Head over to the new Sweet Rose Creamery in the Brentwood Country Mart and you can have your ice cream in a sandwich, a sundae, a float, a shake, or on a cone. With flavors that change daily depending on what is fresh locally, you can choose from specials like Nectarine Plum Frozen yogurt and Black Sesame non dairy ice cream made with Meji Soy Milk, to the more traditional like Malted Chocolate with Toasted Hazelnut Praline, Fresh Mint with Homemade Chocolate Chips, or the slightly twisted flavors of Earl Grey or Salted Caramel. Freedom is about choice and here you can choose how adventurous you want to be with your ice cream taste buds.

Even though you may live in Los Angeles, you may not have tried the restaurant Breeze in the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel, after all, we live here, so how often do we go out to restaurants in hotels in our own town? It may be time to go to local hotel restaurants more often because if you eat at Breeze on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights during July, you will receive a complimentary mini red velvet bundt cake. If you want more than one, the recipe is provided with the dessert should you choose to take on the challenge or replicating the talents of the baker. If you want to have a staycation at the Hyatt, you can also get one night free after staying for 3 consecutive nights through Labor Day, so you can play tourist in town but with insider knowledge of all the things to do and see. It could be fun to be a local incognito and see Los Angeles through fresh eyes.

I started using Open Table years ago just to find restaurants which were open and had availability for last minute dinner plans with friends, but now it has expanded to include ratings and reviews by diners, special promotions for artisanal dinners, wine events, and special occasion menus. If you make your restaurant reservations through Open Table, (it’s a free service) you get points for dining vouchers to use at any restaurant in their system, just think of it as a frequent dinner award system. They even have a mobile app for those who prefer to use their phones for everything other than phone calls.

Through July 3, you can take advantage of using Open Table to reserve a table for Kid’s Restaurant Week in Orange County. A family of four can eat for $20-$40 for lunch or $30-$60 for dinner. Bluewater Grill has a special price which calculates the kid’s price at their age x .25, and at Anaheim House, Savannah Chop House, Riptide, Lulu’s, Marrakesh, JT Schmid’s, K’ya, and Don the Beachcomber’s, kids get their meals free (with paying adults).

So take advantage of feeding your kids for free, and not having to do any dishes this week.

Hopefully by now, you all know that you are making public the posts, pictures, and videos you post on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, even if you set the highest level on your privacy settings.

There is always the potential that a “friend”, stalker, disgruntled ex, or snoopy family member will pass on that embarrassing comment or photo to your boss, current spouse, or next door neighbor. In spite of knowing all this, people are still shooting private videos, and even if you are not famous, you still probably don’t want private videos being spread virally. Let’s face it, it’s really only fun to go viral if you get a recording contract from your video being seen millions of times, not so much if your video goes viral of you acting like an idiot after a night out drinking.

VidMe is a free service that allows you to ONLY share a video with consent from the owners. It is like having a safe deposit box for your videos that requires two keys to open. You may share one private video for free (multiples cost $ but they have package deals) with whomever you choose. You set the controls for who is allowed to see it, download, and share it, and the privacy controls includes privacy for the comments on it. When you post a video, the URL is masked, so no one can copy and paste it to forward, even from an email link you send.

So now you can make that tape for your private collection and it will stay private, unless of course you want the world to see you dancing in your underwear to “I Will Survive” with a hairbrush in your hand, if you don’t mind that being public, you must really be a survivor.

Do you have a favorite chef? If you could ask them a question, what do you want to know? Now is your chance to ask and get answers!

If you know the names Wolfgang Puck, Josiah Citrin, Karen Hatfield, Mark Peel, Susan Feniger, or Joachim Splichal, then tune in TODAY for a FREE panel discussion with all six innovative chefs. The program will be moderated by Lisa Foxx of 104.3 MYfm. You can even submit your questions to them and watch the free webstream broadcast here from 7-8pm.

This is fun interactive live education at its best!

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