Sunday, November 27, 2011

Midnight at the Mall: Our guest blogger lives to tell the tale

Photo credit:
By guest blogger Will Watkins, 21, a college senior home for the holidays who hit Montgomery Mall's midnight Black Friday sale

Thanksgiving is one of the few days my friends from home ever feel too tired and full to go out, and so we found ourselves with a Thursday night and no idea what to do.  The night quickly took a turn toward the aimless nights of high school, with a group of guys piled into my car and no destination in mind. We headed to the Shell station next to Montgomery Mall—yes that was our best idea—and on our way we noticed cars streaming into the mall parking lot.

“Should we check out Black Friday?” I asked the group.

“Nah, there’s no reason to go.”

“Dude, we’re actually hanging out a gas station.”

After the aforementioned argument quickly took care of itself, we pulled into the mall and miraculously found a spot on the first floor of the jammed garage adjacent to the movie theater. We entered the mall--it was packed. As we walked into the food court, we were instantly brought back to our days of Walter Johnson open lunch: high schoolers were everywhere. 

Even so, we took note of the surreal nature of being in a crowded shopping center at 1 a.m. on a holiday. Hollister and Abercrombie had their half-naked models out in full force, and a DJ near one of the cell phone stands was blasting Miley Cyrus for the whole mall to enjoy. 

I realized I could pick up some toys for my sister. The gym where she works, CrossFit Done Right, was hosting a 5K race in support of Toys for Tots. After  stocking up on Matchbox cars and Batman action figures at Smart Toys, we were back in the food court waiting for my friend Tom to get Chik-fil-A (I guess Thanksgiving wasn’t enough?).  While we were waiting--and waiting--I realized that I needed a new pair of jeans. Tom echoed my sentiments. 

Our first destination was Old Navy, which promised all adult jeans at only $15 a pair. This was enough to get us into the store, but the line stretched from the cash registers all the way to the back wall. Given the fact that the Old Navy checkout lines are dreadfully slow when the store is empty, I decided that the savings were not worth the time.

Our next stop was American Eagle, which offered 40% off all purchases made before 9 a.m.. This too was attractive, but once again the line was too much for us to handle. 

Just as we were ready to leave, I spotted the sale advertisement at Aeropostale: 50% off everything in the store, with an additional 20% off before 9 am. I sped into the store. After some initial puzzlement about whether or not I was looking at men’s jeans, I found a pair that looked good and was roughly my size. It was marked at $49.99, and with the discount and tax they came to about $20, a great deal for good quality denim. As were waiting in line, another friend, Kyle, suddenly decided that the deal was too good to pass up. He went back for a pair and handed them off to Tom with some cash. Kyle needed shoes too, but he decided that DSW on a regular day was cheaper than anything in the mall on Black Friday.

We left the mall feeling satisfied with our purchases. I am definitely planning on returning to Black Friday next year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The stars come out for Porcelanosa's opening party

When a tile store has a world-renowned chef, an Argentine supermodel and the Spanish ambassador attending the opening party, you know it must be special. And that's after guests were greeted by a four-beam spotlight blazing from the parking lot.

The superstars as well as designers, clients and friends showed up to celebrate Porcelanosa's new location Thursday night on Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane. The upscale showroom offers cutting-edge flooring and tiles--glass, ceramic, porcelain and stone--that have graced well-furnished homes both here and abroad, including Prince Charles's royal residences. The store also carries luxury bath and kitchen fixtures.

Well-heeled clientele --there was no shortage of Chanel, red-soled shoes and great haircuts--filled the streamlined store and knoshed on authentic Spanish tapas. Most interesting to me were the "liquid olives" served in a spoon. At first I thought they were clams, but the man proffering the tidbits told me to just "put it in your mouth, where it will work its magic." I did as I was told and was greeted with a silky, liquified version of an olive. Delicious.

The guests also included my own kitchen contractor, Eugene Zagoskin of Z&P Construction, who's been working with Porcelanosa for 15 years. Another guest was my son's former volunteer baseball coach, a designer with Kitchen Land. Here are some examples of the kinds of streamlined, European designs you'll find in the new store.

Love this giant shower head

One of many powder/bathroom displays. This happened to be my favorite. 

Liquid olives

The sleekest range hood

Early guests in the airy showroom

Just had to do it--snagged a photo with Chef Jose Andres and a Porcelanosa owner.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let it Snow! Apres Ski on the W Hotel Rooftop

Though I was nearly breaking a sweat in my Chanel-esque white wool jacket on a balmy 60 degree night, the Apres Ski Lounge at the W Hotel's rooftop bar last night was a virtual frosty wonderland.

Between the actual skis on the Ski Chalet display, the bright red glittering Ugg boots, the s'mores and the introduction of several new hot toddies, guests were transported to a wintry lodge complete with bright snowy branches, reindeer antlers-and skis. 


 The fete, put on by Gilt City, was preceded by a media preview of wonderful warm winter cocktails:

Hot Apple Butter Rum
Rum, Apple Butter, Spices
Four drinks photos by Geoff Chessman for W. Washington D.C. 

Pumpkin Cider
Vodka, Pumpkin Cider, Spices

Whiskey Skin
Scotch, lemon peel, sugar, hot water

Sheridan’s Coffee
Jameson, brown sugar, cream

Guests who knocked themselves out on the Kinect winter sports games appreciated the Bliss massages--all guests scored a swag bag full of Bliss products and a brownie bite. The best touch was that the festivities took place high above the city. We were all treated to amazing views of the White House, the Washington Monument and even the blazing spires of the Air Force Memorial off in the distance. Let it snow!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Voli! Come to Mama!

Voli (read: VOdka LIte) just burst onto the DC scene in a wealth of delicious flavors, and right on cue as the holidays approach. Though we love sipping on a cocktail (or two), we hate fighting the battle of the bulge that often accompanies holiday (and everyday) indulgences.

Hence, Voli steps up to the glass with a premium vodka crafted in France from natural spring water and wheat—and no more than 81 calories per serving. A nice addition: electrolytes to help ward off a hangover. It comes in five delicious flavors like pear vanilla, lemon and raspberry cocoa. If you still want to be creative and mix a drink, below are some fab ways to mix it up.  Though I didn’t spot Voli yet in Montgomery County liquor stores, it is available in area Sam's Clubs and in other locales around Maryland--including near Ellicott City and the Baltimore area. To order online and find a list of vendors please check

The Blushing Berry:
1.5 oz Voli Lemon
¼ oz Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
2 oz cranberry juice
top with club soda
135 calories or 100 calories if made with diet cranberry juice

The Winter Wonderland:
2 oz Voli espresso vanilla
1/2 oz Bailey's
Shake and strain
150 calories

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Passport to Style

Driving rains didn't keep the crowds away from the Passport to Style event at The Shops at Wisconsin Place in October. Kelly Collis of Fresh 94.7 emceed the fashion show, which showcased area stores including Bloomingdale's, White House Black Market, Adolfo Dominguez, Eileen Fisher and BCBG. Those BCBG looks were straight off the runway and not available in all stores. Even the dogs donned their Halloween best and enjoyed a night in support of their kind. Patrons could choose from an array of food from area restaurants (sliders, lettuce wraps, cupcakes and more) and wine from The Tasting Room and were treated to a stocked swagbag. All $20 ticket sales benefited either Fashion for Paws and the Washington Humane Society or Hope for Henry.