The Dallas Chocolate Festival is back!

dallas chocolate fest

This weekend, Big D will become Big C — chocolate will rule as the sold-out Dallas Chocolate Festival rages at the Addison Conference Centre today, followed by chocolate workshops going down at 3015 Trinity Groves on Sunday. Can you handle it, chocoholics?

If you’ve already bought your tickets, you won’t be alone in sampling rich treats from the likes of Valrhona, Dude Sweet Chocolate, Dallas Caramel Company and many, many more at the festival. Worry not if you didn’t snag tickets to the fest, though — you can still buy entry into tomorrow’s workshops, which include a dessert class, a chocolate-making seminar, and (my personal fave) a sweets and wine-pairing course. Even sweeter than the subject matter is the fact that you can get 10 percent off any of the workshops and/or the three-workshop package. Just enter the promo code “divachocolate” for a tidy little discount. Tell ‘em the Diva sent ya!

Get fit fabulously for fall at MoveStudio

Work it out like a Diva at MoveStudio!

Work it out like a Diva at MoveStudio!

Workin’ on your fitness? If you’re like me, you’re always trying, which means looking for fun and exciting ways to burn some calories. For years I’ve been curious about MoveStudio, the North Dallas fitness studio with a huge range of classes to choose from, and I recently was bestowed a chance to try it!

While I was unable to try Nia, MoveStudio’s popular fusion of yoga, global dance moves, cardio and even martial arts, my fitness friend and I did attend Chair Dance Fitness, a sexy, slinky class where we not only got a terrific workout, but picked up some super-sassy moves. Hubba-hubba (and ouch the next day)!

We also took a Zumba class, working up a sweat to dance routines in hip-hop, Latin and Bollywood styles. I can’t get enough of Zumba, personally, but our instructor’s joy in leading us was totally infectious and added to my enthusiasm.

Zumba and Chair Dance are far from the only classes you can take at MoveStudio: From a wide range of yoga varieties to pilates to ballet-based workout classes, there’s something for every fitness level and interest, morning and night. Plus, MoveStudio has drop-in classes for everyone or series and workshops for those who want to commit to one methodology for a little while. Peek at their schedule and find your fit niche this fall!

[Disclaimer: MoveStudio gave me a one-week pass to check out classes, but these opinions are strictly my own.]

Satisfy your inner tech diva at Big (D)esign

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Credit: Jeremy Johnson

Next weekend, Big (D)esign, a showcase of tech and tech usability breakthroughs, is back in Dallas, regaling lovers of innovation with what’s new and next in gaming, web and film.

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Credit: Jeremy Johnson

While serious tech geeks will get a kick out of the educational seminars happening from the conference’s Thursday start through Sunday completion, those of us who are simply fangirls/boys for nifty tech should head to the Addison event to check out the tradeshow, happening Friday and Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. For $25, you can check out and play with toys like a spaceship-piloting simulator and virtual reality headset. Plus, artists from Pixar and Disney will be on hand for meet-and-greets; also in attendance will be Academy Award-winning special effects meister Phil Tippett, who’s worked on Star Wars, Robocop and Jurassic Park.

Check out the entire Big (D)esign schedule here and get fabulously geeked next weekend!

Why Bossier’s hot pool lounge is your next getaway

dare pool view2

Hola, chickadees! I just returned from a terrific girlfriend’s getaway at Horseshoe Casino Bossier City, which was highlighted by visits to the destination’s luxe pool lounge, Dare Dayclub. If you’re up for end-of-summer travel this month or next, you should consider investing a weekend in Louisiana to check out this hot outdoor lounge! Whether it’s a girlfriend’s getaway like I had, a romantic jaunt or just a road trip with your party posse (Shreveport/Bossier is just about three hours away), you can build the ideal visit due east. Here’s five reasons my stay was superb and yours can be, too:

1. The Dallas douche factor at this lounge is nonexistent.
I love Dallas. You know this by my blog name. But Dallas clubs attract a certain inescapable $30,000 millionaire situation. Thankfully, as you’re scanning the scene at Dare — packed as it is with a good number of visiting Dallasites — you’ll notice the folks in the cabanas and in lounge chairs are having a genuinely good time, focusing on their friends, dancing and enjoying the pool, as opposed to glowering and posing with their bottle of Ciroc. And that makes for a convivial party atmosphere.

2. The pool is actually swimmable!
Unlike the pool lounges I’ve found in Dallas, Dare’s pool is 4 feet deep, which makes swimming and contented floating possible and terrific (you’ll have to practice your dive technique elsewhere, alas). And the club throws in fun floatables like beach balls and inflatable sharks. Sweet!

dare cabana

3. There’s plenty to do away from your cabana.
In what was the perfect luxury travel touch, me and the gals were treated to fabulous massages at the Horseshoe’s peaceful on-site spa, Indulge, which also has facials and a slate of salon services on its menu. Plus, hello — the casino is right there. If you’re like me, you’ll hit the quarter slots and the poker room!

4. The music at Dare slays.
The DJ who held court the Saturday my group was there played a killer mix of pop hits, throwback hip-hop and serious R&B grooves. We couldn’t keep to our seats.

5. Drinks and eats at the pool are reasonable.
Costs for bottles of liquor are a nice change of pace from Dallas’ markups. A bottle of Grey Goose is way less than $300, whereas we’ve never seen it less than $400 in Big D clubs. And if you’re gonna get your drank on, it’s a better bet than ordering individual cups from the bar. As for eats, a fine shrimp cocktail and a couple California rolls will set you back way less than $30, and are delicious fuel for heading back to the pool!

four winds food collage

Bonus: Drinks and eats at the Horseshoe restaurants are damn delish!
We stuffed our faces at both Four Winds, a high-end, pan-Asian restaurant, and at Jack Binion’s Steakhouse, a palace of meat and seafood. There’s a taste of our spread at Four Winds above. Crab rangoon, the best fried rice evah, Peking duck, orange scallops, and shrimp in lobster sauce were among the highlights.

jack binion food collage

From our spread at Jack Binion’s, seafood was the thang: Gigantic crab legs, marinated crab claws, escargots, fried crab claws and shrimp cocktail were some standouts. Another was our joyous and personable server, Jarvis, seen here with our generous selection of desserts …

binion jarvis

What a charmer! He took great care of us and peppered our evening with great conversation. All in all, he helped make this a wonderful weekend at the Horseshoe.

And hey — the long weekend’s just begun — you still have time to travel east for a phenomenal time at the Horseshoe!

[Disclosure: The Horseshoe Casino Bossier City provided my accommodations, dining and cabana rental during my visit. But these opinions are all mine!]

Weekend viewing: ‘Are You Here’

are you here pic

By Josue Alva

Stars: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler and Laura Ramsey.

Director: Matthew Weiner

Synopsis (from IMDB): When Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), a womanizing local weatherman, hears that his off-the-grid best friend Ben Barker (Zach Galifianakis) has lost his estranged father, the two return to Ben’s childhood home to discover Ben has inherited the family fortune, leaving the ill-equipped duo to battle Ben’s formidable sister (Amy Poehler) and deal with the father’s gorgeous 25-year-old widow (Laura Ramsey).

My thoughts: Friendship is the main theme of this film (which opened Friday), with its apex coming when Wilson delivers a speech about friendship, professing it’s “rarer than love because there’s nothing in it for anyone.” What a great line – such poignant words. I really wanted to like this first feature by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, but I was disappointed from the beginning. Wilson plays a bad version of himself – I’m not a huge fan, but I know he can be funny and likeable. His character lacked depth and intrigue; it really seemed like he lacked direction. Most of the jokes were as flat as gluten-free pizza. Not even Galifianakis or Poehler could manage to squeeze a laugh out of me; the most they got was a light chuckle – and they usually have me rolling. Witnessing all three actors deliver such a collectively mediocre performance was tough to experience. Go to the theater about 40 minutes after the movie is supposed to start then leave after you hear that splendid line delivered; you’ll thank me in the morning.

My ticket-bidding experience at ScoreBig — and how to win your own!

Score big pic

Last week, I put a stadium food-lover’s twist on something I haven’t done in AGES — attending a Texas Rangers game. I snagged three tickets in Globe Life Stadium’s All You Can Eat Seats at a terrific price on ScoreBig, a website where you can bid on tickets to some of the best concerts and sporting events in town. The process was simple, and you can have a chance to test-drive it, too! But first, the game!

At last Friday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, I had a wonderful view of the field, and the weather was lovely — warm but thankfully not super-humid. And when they say All You Can Eat Seats, they aren’t kidding! So it’s not the kind of grub that’ll win any awards, but my three stadium favorites were in plentiful supply: popcorn, hot dogs and nachos! Soft drinks, barbecue chicken sandwiches and peanuts galore are included in the ticket price, too, and there is a small bar for beer purchases.

Getting the tickets through ScoreBig couldn’t have been easier. Thanks to a recent website overhaul, it’s quite easy to start bidding. You simply pick your city and scroll through the list of available events. Once you’ve found your desired event, you just click Find Tickets and follow the prompts that direct you to choose number of tickets and the tier of seating (i.e., price level) you’re aiming for. From there, you enter your bid. ScoreBig even has an indicator that lets you know how likely you are to get your bid; then the website lets you know instantly whether your bid is accepted or not. Easy-peasy! I found the website intuitive and straightforward, and my bidding and buying experiences were not only seamless but pretty quick! Receiving my physical tickets was as simple as printing them off at home. Loves it!

Want a chance to take ScoreBig for a spin? I’m giving away a $100 voucher to use on the ticket-bidding site! Just enter through the handy Rafflecopter module below, through next Sunday and cross your lovely little fingers. Good luck!

[Disclosure: ScoreBig provided me with one voucher to test out the website, and one voucher for this giveaway.]

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Weekend viewing: ‘A Most Wanted Man’

Photo courtesy: Roadside Attractions

Photo courtesy: Roadside Attractions

By Josue Alva

Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright

Director: Anton Corbijn

Synopsis (from production notes): When a half-Chechen, half-Russian, brutally tortured immigrant turns up in Hamburg’s Islamic community, laying claim to his father’s ill-gotten fortune, both German and US security agencies take a close interest: as the clock ticks down and the stakes rise, the race is on to establish this most wanted man’s true identity – oppressed victim or destruction-bent extremist?

My thoughts: Corbijn sticks with a formula he knows well: spy thriller with a lead who is a silent, lonely man, with a troubled past but a good heart –- it worked well in The American and also Control, minus the spy thriller angle. In Corbijn’s latest release, we are introduced to Gunther Bachmann (Hoffman), the disheveled head of a small intelligence group stationed in Hamburg. The group works in the shadows, stealthily keeping a diligent watch over the cities Islamic community for potential terrorist cell activity. As in his previous films, this film goes easy on the action and heavy on the dialogue, which some viewers may find hard to sit through –- I must admit, I was hit with a mini-yawn attack halfway through the film – but what great dialogue it is, and there’s no doubt that the actors, under Corbijn’s direction, really bring these characters to life. The moments of action are succinct and really grab you – I’ve never experienced such an intense signature writing scene; I broke a sweat. If I have anything negative to say about the film, it would be that Hoffman’s accent didn’t work for me. I’m no expert on
German accents but it seemed inconsistent from scene to scene, but then again, what do I know; I’m no expert. Here’s the skinny: I liked the film and will definitely watch it again and probably again but the pace may be a bit too slow for most movie-goers. If you have the patience for a delicately detailed film with intriguing characters and a wow ending, then head on over to the theater, take a seat and prepare for a 121-minute scenic cruise.

Plan a sweet holiday getaway to the JW Marriott in San Antonio

jw slide hotel

Today is your last day to take advantage of a spectacular flash sale happening at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. The gorgeous property is slashing reservation rates for stays occurring Nov. 23-30 and Dec. 12 to Jan. 3; on those dates, a resort rooms will be $139 per night, and a resort room with a view will be $159 per night. That’s a crazy-good savings of 55 to 60 percent! And you know what the timing means? You can plan a totally luxurious jaunt to SA and stay at the JW!

I stayed at the JW Marriott just last month, and fell in love!

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Date night gets delicious at P.F. Chang’s

The Twisted Whiskey Sour and Ahi Tartare with Avocado

The Twisted Whiskey Sour and Ahi Tartare with Avocado


Disclosure: P.F. Chang’s sponsored this post, but the opinions expressed are mine, all mine.

It’s been a long while since I’ve dined at P.F. Chang’s Dallas, so to find out that the Asian bistro is broadening its culinary horizons with the launch of hand-rolled sushi, small plates and new cocktails, I thought, “P.F. Chang’s? More like P.F. Changes!”

The chain invited me to take some of the tasty newness out for a spin, so I turned the visit into a date night with the bf at the Northpark Center location. The space was fresher and more airy and open than I remembered, and I loved its casually sexy vibe — perfect for a night out! But let’s get to the food and drink …

I couldn’t wait to dive into the handcrafted cocktails, so I picked the Twisted Whiskey Sour, featuring
Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Cointreau, OJ, and honey with blood orange bitters. The drink is actually ideal for cocktailers on both ends of the beverage lovers spectrum: It’s stiff and bourbon-based to please seasoned tipplers who love their spirits, but delicately sweet and fruit-tinged enough for those who skew more toward lighter cocktails. I loved it, and it paired with the ahi tuna like a dream (below).

ahi up close2

And that dish … oh, how sublimely tasty. Sushi-grade tuna was dice-cut and tossed with cukes, scallions and a citrus soy sauce and served with avocado slivers and fried wontons. It was a feast of textures, too, with the juicy fish, the creamy avocado and the crisp wontons, all mingling on the tongue. It was the bf’s favorite by far.

Next up, I savored the new tempura shrimp hand roll, with a soy wrap stuffed with fried shellfish and strips of avocado, cucumber and Japanese rice. For such a simple dish, it was quite delicious — can I take a moment here to comment on the rice?

tempura shrimp hand roll

Maybe I’m just jaded on the rice that typically comes with or in sushi and Asian food dishes, but I really, truly loved the heck out of the texture and flavor of the rice in the hand roll and sushi. It achieved just the right sticky-to-fluffy ratio, and as a home cook, I know that’s a tough balance to strike! But speaking of P.F. Chang’s sushi

dynamite scallop roll

… the rice wasn’t the only star of the show in the Dynamite Scallop Roll (above). This Cali roll is crowned with gently seared scallop slices and a dot of creamy sriracha sauce. With a dip into my pool of wasabi and soy sauce, this roll was endlessly craveable. The sweet scallop was a nice touch against the spicy sauce, and, well, you already know how I feel about the rice that enveloped it all.

Our last date-night nosh was the Saigon summer rolls, a simple Vietnamese treat starring julienned carrots, celery root, cilantro, peanuts, mint, Thai basil and juicy lemongrass chicken wrapped in rice paper. I loved how the brightly wholesome flavor of each ingredient shined through; it tasted ready-made from the garden, it was so fresh, with veggies boasting a nice snap.

Overall, our picks from P.F. Chang’s new menus were winners, and there’s so much more to try, we’ll have to pencil in another date night there soon. In addition to the above dishes, there’s also Edamame Hummus, Jicama Pork Tacos and Cucumber Rolled Kappa Maki to try, and drinks including the Long Island Rum Tea and Red Sangria.

To make your date-or-other-occasion night that much more delicious, DFW-area P.F. Chang’s will offer “Sushi, Small Bites & Wine Flights Wednesdays,” an all-day special where diners can pick a flight of three vinos that’ll be paired with items off the sushi and small plates menus; cost is $25 or $35, based on your picks. Between the wine flights deal and an incredible expanded happy hour, Wednesdays at P.F. Chang’s could just be the yummy antidote to the hump day blues!

Our new beauty reviewer tries the latest goody from Kiehl’s!

Photo courtesy: Kiehl's

Photo courtesy: Kiehl’s

[Ed. Note: I adore cool beauty products and love sharing great finds with my chickadees when I discover them, but it's something I've gotten away from in recent years. Happily, I've just landed a hand from Tasha, an esteemed fellow lover of all things beauty and convenience! Look out for future pieces I will henceforth call "Tasha Tries ..." spotlighting fantastic products that come across our radar, but for now, enjoy Tasha's review of a new Kiehl's product!]

By Tasha Young

Product: Kiehl’s Since 1851 Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash

What They Say: “The formula was developed to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier while cleansing, without stripping skin of its essential moisture.”

What Tasha Says: Let me start off by saying I am a huge Kiehl’s fan. Now with that being sad, I specifically love my Ultra Facial Cleanser, so I’m thinking, “can a facial wash really get better?” My conclusion? Yes! Meet my new favorite skincare product, Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash ($12.94 for 7.8 fl.oz). This creamy face wash is designed to cleanse normal-to-oily skin without stripping away moisture, and, above all, ensures that the skin barrier is protected. It has a smooth, rich texture and a very light, fresh lemon scent. It foams up just a little bit with water, and leaves my skin feeling very clean, without any tightness. I especially love it because even on my heavy makeup days, it washes absolutely everything off with ease. But it’s still super-gentle on the delicate areas — no stinging my eyes!

Kiehl’s claims this product will cleanse your skin, soothe and hydrate by utilizing calendula flower extract, and it does not disappoint. My skin felt hydrated all day long without feeling oily. It has a reasonable price point, and a little goes a long way! I love the rich texture, how extra gentle it is, and I am super partial to the lemon aroma. It keeps my skin feeling clean and happy. I definitely recommend this one!

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