Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Haul-idays $500 Chronicle Book Give Away!

I LOVE Chronicle Books!  They are an independent publisher of distinctive books, journals, stationery and more.

Their Mission Statement says a lot about their vision and their integrity:
"Inspired by the enduring magic and importance of books, our objective is to create and distribute exceptional publishing that's instantly recognizable for its spirit, creativity, and value. This objective also informs our business relationships and endeavors, be they with customers, authors, vendors, or colleagues."

When I received an e-mail from Chronicle Books that they were having a contest to award $500 book giveaway to a blogger and the same prize to a reader of that blog, I jumped right to making my wish list of the books I'd want to order if I was chosen as the winner. Here is my list of my most wanted Chronicle Books with a total value up to $500! I'd love to win them, and if I do, one commenter on this post will also be a winner of the same books!

The winner will be announced by Chronicle Books on December 13, 2010, so you have up until midnight December 12, 2010 to leave a comment on this post.  As full disclosure I was offered no compensation by Chronicle Books to review these books and all opinions are my own--all words in  italics are descriptions from the Chronicle Books website. Link to the official contest rules.

I love to cook and I already own many Chronicle cookbooks from their Food and Drink category.  Here are new ones I'd love to add to my collection:

1) Southern Pies A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan By Nancie McDermott Photographs by Leigh Beisch  PRICE: $22.95

Who wouldn't want to learn how to make some of the best pies in the country? Totally tempting!

2) The Winemaker Cooks Menus, Parties, and Pairings By Christine Hanna Photographs by Sheri Giblin PRICE $ 35.00

"Hanna shares her wine expertise and entertaining savvy with 100 recipes, and 75 color photographs capture her tabletops overflowing with local ingredients and products. A souvenir of the good life."  OH YES!

3) Michael Chiarello's Bottega By Michael Chiarello Photographs by Frankie Frankeny PRICE: $40.00

My husband and I dined at Bottega while on a vacation in Napa Valley this summer, and Chiarello's cuisine was absolutely divine!  I would love to won a copy of his cookbook 

Farmers' Market Desserts Gorgeous Fruit Recipes from First Prize Peach Pie to Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes By Jennie Schacht Photographs by Leo Gong PRICE: $24.95

"This collection of tempting desserts inspired by those markets and the farmers who share their produce there satisfies the sustainable shopper's sweet tooth with more than 50 recipes for tarts, crisps, cupcakes, puddings, and more."    I've seen this book in my local library ad I'd love to own my very own copy as the recipes are all delectable!

I am part of the "sandwich generation."  I have one grandchild and I'm expecting another, and I have an elderly mother that I help care for. Chronicle Books has many books in their LIFE & STYLE category that were very interesting to me.  My choices from this category are:
1) Lullaby Baby 50 Songs to Read, Sing, and Hear Illustrated by Audrey Ficociello  PRICE: $29.95

This beautiful collection has 50 classic songs, and a beautiful  illustrated songbook that features an on-board sound module that lets parents and grandparents  learn each song as they sing along with the melody.  It would make a wonderful baby shower gift! 

2) The Grandparents Handbook Games, Activities, Tips, How-Tos, and All-Around Fun Quirk Books By Elizabeth LaBan with Barbara Trostler and Dr. Myron LaBan  PRICE: $16.95

"The Grandparents Handbook features dozens of activities that will guarantee hours of fun, educational quality time—from building dollhouses and catching fish to flying kites, baking bread, making your own mini golf course, creating a family newspaper, and much more. These illustrated instructions will lead grandparents down surprising paths of discovery as they teach the youngest generation about family, friendship, and the world around them. It's the perfect gift for any grandparent and grandparent-to-be."   This is exactly the type of book I've been looking for to keep as a reference for having fun with my grandchildren!

2) Memento My Life in Stories By Michael McQueen  PRICE: $19.95

This book is a incredible journal with simple, thought-provoking questions to be filled in by one you love. I'd love to give this to my Mother and collect her life stories to become a keepsake for future generations.

3) Secrets of Simplicity Learn to Live Better With Less By Mary Carlomagno. Illustrations by Andrea Cobb  PRICE:  $19.95

"Secrets of Simplicity shows how to make practical changes to unburden your closets and calendars and make room for what's really important. Readers can record their successes, as they declutter their homes and in the process, their minds."   Yes, I really need this book as I've lived in the same house for 32 years and I have accumulated quite a bit in my closets, that's for sure! It's good to have a guide to help sort out what's important to save and what can be donated or disposed of. I'd love to simplify my life to free myself from the burdens of too much "stuff"!

I have a large collection of children's books in my home and I'm always adding more.  Some wonderful books I found in Chronicle's Children's category are:

1) Giant Pop-Out Farm A Pop-Out Surprise Book  PRICE: $10.99

"Packed full of impressive pop-out features, this interactive book is sure to engage and entertain curious preschoolers"  My grandson loves animals and pop up books!

2) Creature ABC By Andrew Zuckerman  PRICE $19.99

"An elegant addition to any library, this deluxe alphabet book features 120 pages of Andrew Zuckerman's breathtaking wildlife photography. From alligator to zebra, each featured animal boasts two striking studio portraits against a clean white background, offering a unique up-close view of the animal kingdom."  The animal photography in this book is stunning! A wonderful book to share with children and a collectible as well.

3) Julius! Touch-and-Feel Stroller Cards By Paul Frank Industries PRICE: $9.99
"Stroller time is much more fun when these flash cards come along for the ride! Each set features 5 double-sided cards with engaging textures and pictures. Easy to attach to a stroller, backpack, or diaper bag, these cards won't get lost, and the interactive touch-and-feel feature makes them great independent entertainment for toddlers on the go. "  This would be perfect for my new grandchild who is expected this Spring!

After the holiday season, when the long nights of winter arrive, I find it is a perfect time to learn a new skill. I could not resist the following books from the Arts and Design  Crafts Category!

1) French General: Treasured Notions: Inspiration and Craft Projects Using Vintage Beads, Buttons, Ribbons, and Trim from Tinsel Trading Company By Kaari Meng Foreword by Marcia Ceppos Photographs by Jon Zabala   PRICE: $24.95

"With these vintage baubles as her inspiration, Kaari Meng shares projects that crafters can make with their own flea-market finds or with contemporary materials they have on hand: a button charm bracelet, whimsical petite prize medals, an heirloom-worthy memory book, shimmering handbags, and more. Kaari's colorful inspiration boards lend design guidance, while her tips and resources help notion-lovers build up their stash of treasures."   Oh my!  It sounds so blog worthy, doesn't it? True eye candy!

2) Every Day's a Holiday Year-Round Crafting with Kids By Heidi Kenney Photographs by France Ruffenach    PRICE: $22.50

A treasure trove of ideas to use with children for festive classic and new and unusual crafts Always a good book for a grandmother to have on hand.

3) Pretty Pantry Gifts A Recipe &Wrapping Kit for Delicious Jams, Sauces, and Pickles By Tara Duggan PRICE: $19.95

Fifteen recipes and wrapping material to help make homemade treats and then presenting them as gracious gifts! Perhaps a last minute Christmas gift can be made and presented using the supplies and instructions in this book.

 4) Everyday Celebrations Savoring Food, Family, and Life at Home By Donata Maggipinto Photographs by France Ruffenach  PRICE: $24.95
"Donata Maggipinto, lifestyle contributor for NBC's Today show, reawakens our appreciation for all that has meaning in life in Everyday Celebrations and shares her sensational craft and food recipes to create heartwarming gatherings at home."  This sounds like a wonderful blog in book form!  I'm so curious to try her seasonal crafts and recipes.
Who wouldn't want a collection of fine literature and books on timely subjects? My picks from Chronicle's Literature category:

The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles   Price $60.00
"The Beatles have opened their personal and management archives specifically for this project, allowing the unprecedented release of photographs which they took along their ride to fame, as well as fascinating documents and memorabilia from their homes and offices." What a fabulous collectible book!  Each page is brimming with personal stories and rare vintage images.

2) A Child's Garden of Verses A Classic Illustrated edition By Robert Louis Stevenson
PRICE: $ 19.99

 A beautiful classic of Robert Louis Stevenson's best loved poems with with vintage illustrations. A true keepsake for all ages!

3) House Blessings Prayers, Poems, and Toasts Celebrating Home and Family By June Cotner
PRICE $15.95

"In House Blessings, best-selling anthologist June Cotner has assembled a moving collection of interfaith prayers, poems, and toasts that speak to the experiences we share in turning our houses into our homes. With 112 pieces collected from 38 writers, this little book offers a reading for every occasion." Doesn't this book sound delightful?

As you know I love to travel, so my first books would be from the Chronicle Books Travel Category would be:

1) California's Central Coast: The Ultimate Winery Guide -From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles
By Mira Advani Honeycutt, Photographs by Kirk Irwin ,Foreword by Jim Clendenen   PRICE: $22.95

Having visited Napa and Sonoma, and using Chronicle's guides for both, I'd like to one day visit the wineries in the central coast of California and I know this would be an excellent guide.

2) City Walks Architecture: New York  By Alissa Walker Maps by John Spelman PRICE: $18.95

As a lifelong New Yorker I never tire of learning more about my city and walking is one of my favorite activities so how could I resist the chance to use this resource of twenty five two panel cards with 25 NYC walking adventures ?  

3) City Walks Architecture: Paris By Michael Herrman Maps by John Spelman  PRICE: $18.95

 I dream of visiting Paris and this deck contains 25 walking adventures that introduce users to the city's one-of-a-kind buildings, parks, and monuments, and features insider information on historic structures. A wonderful resource to savor!

So there it is!  Almost $500 worth of wonderful books that I'd be thrilled to win, and hopefully that a reader will also win. Make a comment on this blog post and keep your fingers crossed that we will both be chosen by Chronicle Books as winners on December13, 2010!  Good luck!

In the meantime you can visit the Chronicle Books website and use their excellent "Gift Finder" where you can search by Recipients, Occasions, Personalities or Prices for books you would like to to buy for yourself or as gifts.You can also read the Chronicle Books blog or sign up for their newsletters.  They also have the most delicious collection of Moleskine journals for sale -- a prefect stocking stuffer gift!

Just in time for the holidays Chronicle Books is offering 35% off + free shipping until December 12th, 2010! Use the code FRIENDS at checkout! 

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CSN Give Away Win!

I won Penny's blog, The Comforts of Home CSN online Stores $55 gift certificate give away last week, and I asked my daughter-in-law, who is expecting our second grandson, to choose something she needed for the baby with it.

She chose this adorable Badger Basket Natural Hooded Moses Basket with blue gingham bedding! It will come in handy when the baby is born. It is very portable for when she needs a comfortable place for the baby to sleep when she brings him out with my older grandson to a friend's house, or to playgroup.  When he is older and can no longer use the basket the hood detaches and it can be used to hold toys.

There was also enough left on the gift certificate so that she was able to order this cute Sevi Tambourine for my grandson, so that also got a treat! He's almost two years old so making music is a fun activity for him and I'm sure he'll enjoy dancing and marching to his music DVD's while he plays his tambourine!

Thanks so much Penny!  I enjoy your blog so very much and it was excitng to win your give away! You've helped me to give some early Christmas presents to my family.  If you love fluffing your home to make it a warm and inviting place you'll love visiting Penny's The Comfort of Home blog as she shares to most delightful decorating tips and crafts. She also is a supreme mosaic artist and you can see her work on her fabulous Lavender Hill Studio blog. You may find an unique handcrafted mosaic gift for someone special there!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Business Projects Photo Safari Weekend

 The Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle.

As I mentioned on my main blog I won a fabulous give away from the blog NYC, Style and a Little Cannoli for a weekend Photo Safari workshop walking tour of areas in New York City with the help and instruction of a professional  photographer.

The Trump International Hotel and Tower

Miguel Gomez was the professional  photographer that accompanied our group.  He has worked for numerous clients that commissioned personal projects in Great Britain, the U.S.A., Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, Costa Rica and Colombia. As an active member of the photographic and artistic community, Miguel’s work has been exhibited in several galleries and is part of private collections.

A view from  inside the Time Warner building of Columbus Circle.

The safari is intended for participants with beginning to advanced amateur skills and will include visit to locations such as City Hall, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, among other stops and visits. Our group concentrated between the Columbus Circle area and Central Park in Manhattan.

A view from Central Park of the famous Dakota cooperative apartment building.

It was nice to meet Rosemary of NYC, Style and a little Cannoli blog. Rosemary visits NYC often and loves to show the variety of wonderful stores to shop in, and places to stop to have a delicious dessert, when you visit the city.  I'm sure you'd enjoy visiting her blog!

A large boulder inside Central Park.

Our instructor, photographer Miguel Gomez, focused on composition, lighting ideas and exposure, as some of the topics we covered during our class.  All the photos in this blog post were taken by me during the class and were reviewed and critiqued by Mr. Gomez as to how they could be improved and I learned quite a bit from him.

The Sheep Meadow in Central Park

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park

Although I have a DSRL Nikon  D 60 camera, I have been reluctant up to now to use it off its automatic settings and Mr. Gomez showed me how to switch to manual and adjust my lens and light settings to achieve the results I wanted. A few examples of that can be seen in the following series of photos taken inside an ornate walkway in Central Park.

Photo taken on automatic settings.....

..and now on manual settings. Notice how more light enters the photo and the edges of the room can be seen more easily?

Two more photos examples of using the manual camera setting and experimenting changing settings. The inside of this walk way is quite dark and using manual settings allowed my camera to catch all available light, yet remain subdued in effect.

I was excited to learn to take more chances with my camera and to learn how to frame my photos and use the rule of three with outdoor compositions. Miguel was easy to work with and gave us a wealth of information about how to care for our cameras and what to look for in buying additional lenses according to what type of photographs we like to take.

We concluded day one of our instruction with a late lunch, where we met another photographer, John Corrado, who specializes in food photography.  He gave us valuable tips and insights into styling food photography shots.

Here are two food photos, above and below, taken on manual camera setting of two of the delicious entrees we had that day at The Brooklyn Deli where we had lunch!

All in all I had a wonderful experience and would highly recommend the Photo Safari workshops to all as a fun and informational way to learn how to take great photos that you can use on your blog or personal collection while seeing some of the fabulous sights of New York City!

Please visit my main blog MILLE FIORI FAVORITI where I blog about the places I visit and the events I attend in New York City! It is the greatest city in the world and there is always something fun going on!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This is my review blog where I post from time to time about products and events I won in contests and give aways and do paid reviews of products that I enjoy for Blogher advertising.

Please visit my main blog at this link:



Friday, July 9, 2010

Special Thanks

I won the opportunity to chose a fabulous authentic Venetian Carnavale Mask from the web store 1001 Venetian from a give away Joe, of the wonderful blog Italyville, held on his blog.  The winner of the give away was presented with a $50 gift certificate. 

There are many wonderful masks on 1001 Venetian, and it was not an easy choice, but there was something about this traditional red, black and white Nazo Turko Mask which made me feel it was one of the more mysterious and unusual masks, and one that would stand out in a crowd! Don't you agree?

Thank you Joe!  Please visit Joe's blog Italyville where he, in his words: "writes about growing up Italian in Massachusetts, his experiences living and working in Bologna, visits to the family's Olive farm in Calabria and everything along the way."  I particularly enjoy his authentic Italian family recipes.

This is my review blog for give aways and contests.  
Please return to my main blog Mille Fiori Favoriti to read more about my main topic: Life in New York City!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meeting Rocco DiSpirito, and the End to a Culinary Day Into the Heart of L.A.

We are back in the limousine on the last leg of our all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles courtesy of Bertolli Frozen Foods.    (all details and part one and two can be found in prior posts)

( all photos can be enlarged by double clicking on them - use your browser's back arrow to return to post)

Our next stop was The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Their web sites states: "The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills has been providing the widest variety and the highest quality imported cheeses to the nation since 1967. The Cheese Store is the purveyor of choice for the professional chefs and caterers of such worthy Los Angeles restaurants as Water Grill, Patina, A.O.C., Saddle Peak Lodge, Bon Appetit at the Getty Museum, and Spago, as well as legions of home cooks because of the hundreds of hard to find cheeses from all regions of France and Italy, not to mention at least a dozen other countries."

Not only was the shop a cheese lover's paradise, it also sold an array of fine wines, oils, vinegars, seasonal white and black truffles, Italian prosciutto, Swiss braesola, French ham, 6 varieties of French butter, the best pure foie gras, and the freshest Russian was a true gourmet haven!

The owner, Norbert, replicated a scene from one of the Bertolli's "Into the Heart of Italy" commercials in which Marisa Tomei, Rocco DiSpirito and Dan Cortese visited Lucca, a beautiful town in Tuscany, Italy, and while there visited a cheese shop where their challenge was to taste three samples of cheese and choose which one was made from cow's milk, sheep's milk and goat's milk.  If you'd like to watch the entertaining commercial's video you can see it on the Bertolli web site. It was one of the videos I watched on Claudia's web site Journey of an Italian Cook and then answered questions about clues given in it, in order to be entered to the contest to win this trip!  Bertolli has utilized traditional Italian artisanal culinary techniques to make their new line of frozen meals, and I was impressed to hear that their ingredients are all natural and high quality.  Their frozen pasta meals are really delicious, and a real time saver to just heat and serve on a busy night.

Here are the three cheese samples we were given to taste: cow, sheep and goat. Although Norbert gave us some hints, I think as "foodies" we were all able to taste the difference in all three without much difficulty!  Norbert also treated us to some bread and extra virgin olive oil to dip it in, and pieces of gorgonzola cheese (my favorite) and slices of salty Italian prosciutto. If you want to see some of the delicious cheeses that The Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills sells, and learn about their flavors, country and animal origin, visit this link.

Now it was almost 5 PM, and we were driven to our final stop on our "Into the heart of L.A. Culinary Tour" to meet celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito! It was a top secret location, and we were told by the Bertolli and Unilever representatives to not twitter about it as paparazzi might show up!
It was The Four Seasons Hotel of Beverly Hills and we were taken into a private room of the dining area called Culina. The Four Seasons web site states that  "Culina – from the Latin word for “kitchen” – showcases the intersection of traditional and modern Italian cuisine with a menu guided by exceptional ingredients. Guests can linger over small plates and fine Italian wines at communal tables carved from a salvaged 200-year-old magnolia tree, enjoy Mediterranean raw seafood delicacies at the crudo bar or settle in for a night of superior dining under spectacular glass chandeliers."

Rocco DiSpirito came in, joined us at our table and was utterly charming, asking us about ourselves and telling us stories about making the Bertolli commercials in Italy.  He and Claudia chatted about their mutual birthplace of the borough of Queens in New York City and I asked him if he read food blogs, which he said he did not. Now I wonder if he is visiting our blogs to see what we wrote about him? He does love to communicate through Twitter, so if you'd like to follow Rocco, you can catch up with him there! 

We were treated by Bertolli to a fabulous wine tasting and small bite pairing.  Of course as good bloggers our cameras were snapping away throughout the meal!

Plate One ( upper left corner in the photo collage) was "Involitini Di Manzo"  
prepared with  Kobe A-5,  Delta Asparagus, Enoki Mushrooms, Parmigiano Reggiano
This was paired with the wine Nebbiolo d'Alba. giacosa fratelli. 2007 Peidmont

Plate Two (upper right corner) was "Caponata Di Carciofi"
prepared with Baby Artichokes, Castelvetrano Green Olives, San Marzano Tomato
This was paired with the wine Pinot Bianco. habele. alois lageder. Alto Adige 2007

Plate Three (bottom of photograph collage) was "Suppli Al Telefono"
A Saffron Risotto Croquette with Mozzarella Di Bufala, Tomato Sugo
This was served with Mamertino. cru timpanara. Vasari. Sicily 2006

All were prepared with exquisite perfection by chef Victor Casanova.

Rocco was so impressed with plate one's imported Japanese Kobe beef ingredient and he asked the chef to bring out the entire portion to show us what this ultra expensive cut of beef looks like. It is considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture.  It melted in my mouth with a slightly salty, buttery flavor -- absolutely intoxicating, and a taste I will not soon forget. The Caponata and Suppli Al Telefono were equally superb. Of the three wines the Mamertino from Sicily was my personal favorite, as it was robust and full of cherries and pomegranate flavors, with a full velvety palate.

After dinner Rocco signed the copy of his new cookbook "Now Eat This:150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories," that Bertolli gave us a gift.  I had also bought three copies with me, and Rocco inscribed one that I am giving away on my blog!  There is still time to enter my give away by leaving your name on this post, as I will be tallying up the numbers there and  also the ones left on my main blog, and having the Random Number Generator choose the winner on Friday evening, and I will announce the winner on my main Mille Fiori Favoriti blog in my Pink Saturday blog post.  If you wish to become a follower of my blog, and have a second chance at winning by telling me so, please do so at my main Mille Fiori Favoriti page and not on this back page review blog. Sorry this is so confusing, but Blogher ads will not allow me to blog about this trip on my main blog, as it is against their editorial guidelines, and I had to make this "back page blog" and link to it in order to be able to blog about this trip.  From now on I will be using this back page  review blog only for any promotional product reviews that I may do, or to write any contests I might be lucky enough to win in the future.

I have some wonderful photos of the shops on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, so be sure to come back to my main blog on Saturday to see them!

Rocco and I had a good laugh over the name of my blog. What was I thinking when I picked such a tongue twister blog name?  Sadly by this time of the day my hair was unfortunately a mess, as I did not have time to have to it cut it before the trip, as I found out I won on Friday and flew to L.A. on Monday morning. This trip was one of the most spontaneous events of my life, that's for sure!

I even got a nice hug from Rocco!

Back to our hotel, The Thompson, in Beverly Hills, and some views of its elegant roof top pool and bar.

The views of L.A. from the roof top were breathtaking!

This was the way Claudia and I ended our perfect day -- we relaxed and treated each other to a round of drinks at the roof top bar. It was so nice to meet Claudia on this trip, as we have been reading and enjoying each other's blogs for quite awhile. It is wonderful to make a friend through blogging and to feel a mutual camaraderie in personality and interests.  This was an experience I will never forget.  I am so happy I won, Claudia, it was a dream come true!

I also thank Unilever, Bertolli Frozen Foods and the Zocalo Group for making it all happen and Rocco DiSpirito and all the proprietors we meet at all our culinary stops for being so gracious, and our limousine driver for navigating that big SUV so skillfully.  It was also so much fun meeting all the other bloggers and their winners that were on the trip.  I give links to all their blogs on this post and it is well worth you while to visit them!

The next day I flew home to New York, saying goodbye to L.A. for now, but with a desire to return one day and see more of this beautiful large and diverse city, and to revisit the culinary delights I thoroughly enjoyed!

FTC disclosure: I received the trip courtesy of Bertolli Frozen Meals (all-expenses paid covering transportation, hotel and meals) and my opinions are independent of the paid or sponsored relationship

It's the letter "R" for "Alphabe Thursday" on Jenny Matlock's blog today, so in honor of Rocco I am linking up to join in all the fun!  Thanks Jenny!

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