January 2013
Tomorrow kicks off National Chocolate Lovers Month. I don’t know about you, but I am a chocolate fan. Bad day? Chocolate. Good day? Chocolate. I try to hold myself to some sort of a standard as to just how much chocolate I allow myself to ingest, but you know what? It’s Chocolate Lover’s Month, so bite me dietary guidelines, because I’ll be biting into just as much chocolate as I want.

With the advent of Valentine’s Day, a lot of guys are out on in force searching for chocolate gifts, and chocolate is everywhere to be found! An overabundance of chocolate options can get a little stressful, no doubt, but I’m going to lay just a few more suggestions out on the table for you gentlemen. If you’re a single gal like me, there is no harm in sending yourself a gift basket full of chocolate either. Your dentist may disagree, but why split hairs?

I’m going to tell you just a little bit about what Arttowngifts.com has to offer in the manner of chocolate. We have so much chocolate on the site that it would be impossible to cover it all in this blog, but I’ll definitely highlight a few of my favorite options…

For starters, let’s talk about the Chocolate and Nuts Gift Chest.  The chest itself is just gorgeous, makes me want to keep mementos inside once the chocolate’s gone! Inside is a large collection of scrumptious goodies that are just about too sinfully decadent to mention. From Moravian Chocolate Cookies to Almond Roca, it’s delicious down to the last bite!
Chocolate and Nuts Gift Chest

Godiva, anyone? This Godiva Chocolate Collection has yummy covered with Raspberry Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Covered Pretzels and White Chocolate Pearls just to name a few of its mouthwatering components. I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to finish writing this post without finding myself some chocolate post haste…
Godiva Chocolate Collection

The Mulberry Lane Spa and Chocolates Basket combines relaxation with chocolate for a girl’s dream come true! I’m going to have to send myself this basket for Valentine’s Day. The basket features mulberry scented bath salts and mulberry scented candles along with other spa essentials to help a girl relax and pamper herself. While she is enjoying some much needed spa time, she can delve into her choice of truffles, cookies, caramel peanut clusters and chocolate covered cherries just to name a few.
Mulberry Lane Spa and Chocolates Basket

Last but not least I want to talk about our Chocolate Temptations Gift Basket. Inside can be found chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate shortbread cookies, white chocolate amaretto cookies, triple chocolate toffee and a large assortment of Ghirardelli chocolate squares in various flavors. This gift will keep your chocolate supply at peak levels for at least a matter of days!
Chocolate Temptations Gift Basket

If you are purchasing one of these gifts for a loved one, I really hope they share, for your sake. If you are sending a basket to yourself, I hope no one visits. I would probably hide the basket under my bed, but that’s just me. Anyway, you can find these and tons of other Chocolate Gifts at Arttowngifts.com. Also featured on the website are tons of tempting Valentine’s Day baskets filled with sweets for a sweetheart. Come check it out, and bring your appetite!
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Prepare for a picture-perfect 26th anniversary celebration! You have 26 years’ worth of photos to document your relationship, and this year, you can put them to good use.

Traditional: No traditional 26th anniversary gift
Contemporary: Original Photos
Flower: No 26th anniversary flower

Do something creative this year for your anniversary. Put together a photo collage to decorate your den, create a family tree using photos to display on the wall, personalize a photo frame or make a scrapbook for your spouse. You can make something truly unique this year, and the gift possibilities are endless! There are even websites to help you create books full of photos for someone special. I have created a photo book before, and it makes a really fun project. The result is a book full of memories that can be kept for years to come!

There are also millions of really beautiful personalized frames available online and in stores. Insert a favorite photograph for a very personalized piece of décor. This Family Pretty Paisley Picture Frame from Arttowngifts.com is one of my favorite personalized frames. The website offers tons of Custom Picture Frames to choose from.
Family Pretty Paisley Picture Frame

You might also consider a custom print featuring your names and a date. Framed prints like this one feature lovely scenes customized with your names, dates, quotes or whatever else you can think up to add. Pieces like these can hang in a bedroom or on display in an entryway as a fun reminder of your anniversary and of your relationship.

Life is But a Dream Print with Wood Frame

Congratulations on 26 years of memories, both on film and just between the two of you. Capture a favorite memory and create a memorable gift that will serve to take you back to this anniversary each time you look at it. Enjoy your celebration! Join me next time for year 27.

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Cluster of Gamay Grapes (Photo credit Wikepedia)
Gamay Grapes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gamay is a deep purple grape variety most notably grown in the Beaujolais region of France. This grape variety has been around for a very long time, with cultivation beginning in the 14th century in the village of Gamay. Cultivation of this grape helped the village recover from the destruction of the Black Death, but was soon outlawed and production was moved to the Beaujolais region. Apparently the Duke of Burgundy thought that the land was better suited to growing the popular Pinot Noir. So, we find dominant production of this grape varietal in Beaujolais. The wine is typically bottled under the appellation Beaujolais. It is also grown in Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Oregon, California and just a bit in Italy and New Zealand.

The grape is relatively easy to cultivate and produces light-bodied, low alcohol, low tannin, highly acidic wine. The wine is characteristically very fruity, exhibiting flavors of strawberry, raspberry, red cherry and banana. Hints of bubblegum, cotton candy, vanilla and chalk may also be detected depending on the region in which it is grown.

This wine is meant to be drunk after little to moderate aging, with no more than two years of aging suggested. Beaujolais Nouveau is bottled before the grapes have even finished fermenting, lending it a chemical sort of taste reminiscent of paint thinner. Carbonic maceration is the technique behind making Beaujolais Nouveau. Carbon dioxide is added to the grapes, speeding up fermentation. Sugars are converted to alcohol without yeast, leading to a youthfully fresh wine. It is very fruity and light bodied, with almost no tannins, meaning little to know flavor structure or complexity. Beaujolais Nouveau is known to be released to the public on the third Thursday of November each year. Two other Gamay wines, Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais, are allowed to age longer, resulting in medium body and a bit more substance.

A glass of Beaujolais red wine with salad (Photo Credit Wikipedia)
Beaujolais Wine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many enjoy light, fruity wines, including me. Gamay varietals may be right up my alley. Gamay grapes are often used to make rosès, which correct me if I’m wrong, are known for being sweet and sparkly. I’m all about sweet and sparkly! Gamay is also commonly blended with Pinot Noir. Gamay wine is light and palatable, making it easy to drink and perfectly able to be paired with a large variety of foods. Common food pairings include chicken, fish- often salmon, mild cheeses, squash, pork, and foods with tomato based sauces. Try it sitting down to a light lunch of chicken salad or pasta for a pleasant afternoon break.

This concludes my exploration into Gamay. Join me next time for a discussion about Cabernet Franc.

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Two Loving Gold Roses in Personalized Heart Vase

I wonder how many of the ladies reading this receives a bouquet of roses each year from your valentine. It’s pretty standard to get teddy bears, chocolates, and roses. Romantic clichés are a dime a dozen and the Valentine’s Day market is flooded every year with pink and red hearts, stuffed bears and boxes of chocolates. And of course, fresh rose sales soar right up to the 14th as guys seek out simple and classic ways to impress. There’s nothing wrong with traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, most of us really enjoy receiving them, but this year, guys and gals alike can really standout by giving a very different kind of flower.

Our line-up of Gold Dipped Roses at Arttowngifts.com is truly stunning. You can find roses that have been totally immersed in platinum, gold or silver as well as colorful lacquer roses with leaves and petal tips that have been trimmed in precious metal. These colored trimmed roses are available in many hues and metal trims including the traditional Valentine’s Day red, gold trimmed rose. Some people collect colored roses and buy a new color each year!

We also have Personalized Roses, with your choice of messages inscribed on the petals. You can even add birthstones to the petals or include a personalized heart charm. This assortment of unique preserved roses also includes floral jewelry. Mini rose buds and orchids are preserved to create earrings and pins that are both eye-catching and affordable. With so many color and style choices, you can end up with a very personalized, unique gift, tailor-made for your honey!

Be My Valentine Rose
All of the roses in this collection are real roses that have been picked at the peak of their bloom, preserved in lacquer and dipped in gold, silver or platinum. Gold dipped roses require 40 steps performed by hand to complete the process. Our most popular colors sell out quickly so order early to be sure of getting your favorite color. Ordering early also ensures the timely delivery of gifts and keeps shipping prices low. Don’t wait to the last minute; shippers are overwhelmed during this time of year! Avoid the hassle of a botched delivery and get it done well ahead of time.

At Arttowngifts.com, we seek to provide you with a whole new brand of Valentine gift to help impress your sweetheart. These rare roses make a special treat for a valentine expecting the same-old, same-old. Surprise your special someone with something totally unexpected and completely unique with a rose from our Gold Rose Collection for Valentine’s Day 2013!

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You have achieved 25 years this year, a milestone anniversary that is most definitely worth celebrating! Congratulations on a quarter of a century together. The 25th wedding anniversary is known as the silver anniversary, so gifts of silver are typically in order for this very important year. Here is the breakdown…

Traditional: Silver
Contemporary: Silver
Flower: Iris
Silver Squares Cuff Links

Silver leaves a gifter with plenty of options to choose from. Jewelry is common with bracelets, necklaces and earrings for women and cufflinks and pocket watches for men. Another unique gift that a man might enjoy is a card carrying case. The Silver Plated Card Case from Arttowngifts.com is very classy and professional, and can be engraved for a unique gift idea. Personalized gifts always make a good impression and make great keepsakes, and Arttowngifts offers plenty of custom silver options. Find custom cuff links, pocket watches, wine bottle openers and even a silver plated wine bottle stopper perfect for a classy husband.

All of you hubbies could benefit from taking a look at the Personalized Rose Collection at Arttowngifts.com. You can find pure silver roses, or colorful lacquer roses trimmed in silver. You can even personalize a rose petal with a sweet message or add both of your birthstones to a rose’s petals. The Photo Heart Charm Rose features a photo of the two of you on a heart charm attached to a rose in your choice of colors and trims. The photo below shows the rose in gold trim, but a silver option is also available. All of the roses in this collection are made from real roses preserved in lacquer to endure the test of time. With so many options, you are sure to find the perfect rose for your wife, and she is sure to thank you a million times over!

Photo Heart Charm Rose
The 25th anniversary flower is the Iris. This bold and vibrant species comes in a wide variety of colors. The word iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow. The husband looking to surprise his spouse with an iris bouquet should have plenty of colors to choose from, and the bold look of this flower will definitely impress.

I hope your 25th anniversary is one to remember. 25 years is something to be proud of, and an accomplishment that not many can boast of. Enjoy a night out on the town or a romantic evening in, or even throw a party with the whole family! Whatever the event, this occasion certainly deserves a heartfelt congratulations and an enjoyable celebration of some sort. Here’s to you! Join me next time for year 26.

My first impression as I look into Barbera wine is that it isn’t the most highly prized among members of the wine community. It has a reputation as being an Italian table wine primarily sipped as an everyday companion to meals. One thing to be said for this wine, it pairs excellently with a large number of foods due to its high acidity and low level of tannins. Not the most flavorful, it can complement a large variety of foods without overwhelming them. Now for a few basics about Barbera wine…

Cluster of Barbera. Photo credit: Wikipedia
The Barbera grape variety is red and dark skinned. It is primarily grown in the Piedmont region of Italy, and has also gained a foothold in Australia, Argentina and in California, though sparingly. It is known to be very acidic, producing wine that is bright and tangy, very characteristic of Italian wines. The wine exhibits a slight berry flavor, usually cherry or blackberry. It is a medium to heavy bodied wine, ruby red in color.

At a young age, the wine is very bright and tastes of cherry, primarily. As the wine is aged, it exhibits a denser sour-cherry taste with hints of plum. The wine has never been overly popular, but is gaining momentum among members of the wine community as winemakers continue to improve growing and aging methods. It is often aged in oak barrels which balance its acidity and help contribute some tannic structure, as the wine is known for being low in tannin.

Straight Barbera wines are produced, though it is thought by many that Barbera blends are superior, as this highly acidic wine can be blended with a varietal higher in tannin to produce a more balanced, flavorful wine.

The typical bottle of Barbera wine can cost anywhere from $10 to way out of my price range! Critics and lovers alike claim that a good bottle of Barbera doesn’t have to be expensive and that $13 can get you a very decent compliment to your meal. 

Best Food Pairings:
  •  Pizza
  •  Pasta
  • Grilled Poultry
  •  Meats
  • Prosciutto
  • Anything with Tomato Sauce
I haven't been able to locate a bottle to try for myself yet. If any of you readers have an opinion, feel free to share. I plan to keep my eye out for a bottle to taste test. This wraps up my research on Barbera wine. Join me next time for a discussion about Gamay, a grape variety grown in France.

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How to Send Gifts to Military Addresses

For those serving overseas in the military, holidays can be a lonely time. Valentine’s Day is an annual celebration of love and you can bet that those serving far away miss their loved ones a lot during this time, just as they are missed by those back home in the states. Cheer up your soldier with a Valentine’s Day gift to let them know they are on your mind and in your heart.
Valentine Care Package

What are the Best Valentine Gifts to Send Soldiers?

Arttowngifts has an entire collection of Valentine’s Day Gifts that can be sent to military addresses and PO boxes including APO and FPO addresses. On the list are gift baskets and care packages, gold dipped roses, personalized gifts and signs. Find romantic gift baskets featuring messages of love and chocolates for a sweetheart, gold roses to melt her heart, and a huge selection of personalized gifts for adding that thoughtful touch to your choice of hundreds of items from steins to cufflinks. With such a wide variety of gifts available, you can be sure to find something perfect for your soldier.

How Early Should I Place Valentine Orders for Delivery to APO Addresses?

A word of caution; be sure to place orders now so that your gift is certain to arrive in time for the holiday. Shipping to military addresses takes much longer and is unpredictable. In my article, Sending Gifts to Military Service Members Serving Overseas, I address the specifics of shipping to military addresses to help you understand why it takes so long. The importance of ordering early is clear, so order now to be sure that your loved one receives their gift before Valentine’s Day.

Spending holidays alone is hard for anyone, but serving overseas in a foreign country far from friends and loved ones must be extremely difficult, so remind a soldier that he or she is missed with a special gift to open this Valentine’s Day!
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It’s time to celebrate 24 years of making beautiful music together. In the beginning, the music probably sounded like magic, but after a while, the same old song gets boring. On this anniversary, spend some time appreciating the beauty in your song, because it is the only one of its kind! Here are a few gift ideas to help you celebrate one another

Traditional: No traditional 24th anniversary gifts
Contemporary: Musical Instruments
Flower: No traditional 24th anniversary flower

Photo credit: esc861
Perhaps one of you is musical? Musical instruments don’t typically come cheap, so a quality instrument may be something you have to save up for. For a spouse who plays the piano, a new piano would make a very exciting gift. Perhaps you have an older piano that could use tuning or restoring?

A guitar is a fairly easy instrument to pick up, and for a spouse wanting to try their hand at music, would make a great instrument to start out on. There are also plenty of musical accessories for a spouse who already has an instrument. Personalized guitar picks, sheet music, fresh strings, a tune up, a new case, a tuner, capo, whatever your musician may be in need of. This is a good year to get creative because music is a wonderful gift and can fill your home with many happy sounds!

As you go about the daily routines that make your song seem repetitive and old, think about the intricacy behind it. If you were both just notes on a page, you somehow managed to meet each other, and miraculously, produce a piece of music in harmony. Not just any two notes can do that! Congratulations on making it 24 years, hope its music to your ears. Join me next time for year 25.
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I am going to begin my exploration of wine types with red wines. I must confess that red wine is my least favorite. The flavors are very bold and seem bitter on my palette. I like the lightness of white wines better. I also have a sweet tooth, so the sweeter the wine, the better. So what gives red wine its particular flavor?

English: Graps of Slovenian Red Wine Variety Z...
Grapes of Slovenian Red Wine Variety  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Red wine is produced from grapes that range in color from red to purple to blue. The flavor of red wine is typically described as being more complex when compared to white wines. This complexity of flavor is due to the length of time that red grapes stay on the vine. The growing season is longer, allowing the grapes to remain on the vine for a longer amount of time. Red wine complexity also comes from the skins of the grapes. The skins remain in constant contact with the juice as the grapes are processed into wine, releasing tannins and giving the wine its red color.

Tannins give red wine flavor structure. A wine is described as tannic when it makes the mouth pucker and has a bitter aftertaste. Wines which are younger are much more tannic, but as the wine ages, the tannins dissipate and the wine tastes less bitter.

Wine Body
Red wines are often characterized as being either full-bodied or light-bodied. Light-bodied wines contain less tannin and have less presence in the mouth. That is, the wine feels lighter on the tongue, more similar to the weight of water. Full-bodied wines contain more tannin and feel heavier on the tongue, similar to the weight of milk on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Sweet vs. Dry
Red wine can also be considered sweet or dry, dry being the opposite of sweet. A wine may be made sweet or dry during the fermentation process. Sugars are converted into alcohol during the process, so dry wines are left to ferment longer so that most of the sugar is converted to alcohol, making it taste less sweet. The presence of tannins and higher acidity are also perceived by the palette as dry. So now when you are out wine tasting, you will be able to perceive the sweetness/dryness and body of your wine!

Common Flavor Descriptors
Other flavor descriptions typical of red wines are spicy, earthy, herbal and fruity. Hints of cherry, strawberry and blackberry can often be detected in the fruitiness of the wine. There are many flavors that can be picked out in wine as your palette becomes more flexible and sensitive. The specific types of wine each have distinctive flavor characteristics that you can practice detecting as we explore the various types.

Serving Etiquette
Connoisseur Red Wine Glass Red wine is best served in a large, wide glass. The largeness of the glass allows room to swirl the wine, and the wideness allows more surface area for the wine to breathe. As the wine is given time to aerate, the wine warms up, which allows aromas and flavors to open up, softening and mellowing the wine. The distinct flavor characteristics of the wine should be more detectable after aeration as well. Red wine is best served at between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A red wine that is served too warm will exhibit a stronger taste of alcohol. Red wines served to cool taste overly bitter and astringent.

A Note on Titles
As I started to research the various types of red wine, the titles began to confuse me. It seems that European wines are often named after the region in which they are produced, while U.S. wines are named by grape varietal. When I walk into the grocery store I typically see Chardonnay and Merlot, which are grape varietals. In the U.S., we name our wine specifically by varietal. Bordeaux, on the other hand is a European wine, and the name lets the buyer know that it was made in France. Specific wine varietals are used to make the Bordeaux, but the wine is not named by these varietals, as it would be in the U.S. I’m still a bit lost on this concept, and hopefully as we progress, things will become a bit clearer. If any of you have anything to add, please feel free!

Below is a list of the types of red wine that I will be discussing as the series progresses. Join me next time for a discussion about Barbera wines, made from an Italian grape variety.

Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon
Pinot Noir
Shiraz and Syrah


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Understanding Wine Labels

Welcome to wine for beginners! When I’m out shopping in the grocery store for wines, I’m always overwhelmed by the labels. Sometimes the words on the label are in a foreign language, and even if in English, can still be pretty confusing. The terms on wine labels are there to describe the wine, where it came from, when the grapes were grown, the types of grapes used, etc. I find myself simply picking a wine based on how pretty the wine label looks. So  I have put together a small list of definitions that will make reading wine labels a bit easier. I have also included links to other web pages that will also help you out with understanding wine labels.

Photo Provided Wine Folly

Wine Label Content Definitions

Producer - This identifer can refer to the Winery name or brand. Sometimes it contains a reference to the variety.

VintageThe year the grapes were picked to make the wine

Region - The location of the grapes.

Varietal - A varietal wine is made primarily from a single grape variety. Examples include Merlot or Chardonnay. In the U.S., wines are typically named according to varietal as opposed to Europe, where wines are usually named after the production region (appellation).

Blend A wine made from more than one grape variety

AppellationThe area or region where the grapes were grown 

Wine Label Diagram Provided by Napa Valley Vintners
Non-VintageA wine that is produced from a blend of grapes picked in two or more years. Often marked on wine labels as NV.

AOC / DOC: Appellation terminology in multiple languages that indicates a higher or special quality wine

While perusing wine facts, I came across this instructional web page for reading wine labels that I found really helpful. http://www.bettertastingwine.com/winelabel.html

As an aside, there are tons of terms used to describe the taste of wine. If you are interested in wine tasting, I found this great list of wine terms which includes descriptors for the many flavors in wine. https://www.erobertparker.com/info/glossary.asp

Now that we can understand what we are looking at a bit better, let’s delve into our study of the major types of wine. We will kick off the series with a look at red wines.  I am planning to spend as much time on the subject as it takes to understand it, and I’m sure that for the purpose of research, I will have to try a few bottles myself. Research doesn’t always have to be boring! See you next time…

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A wedding anniversary is a celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.
                                                                                                     ~Paul Sweeney

Silver Plated Heart Jewelry Box
Happy 23rd anniversary! What are you celebrating this year? The qualities that sustain a good marriage are always worth celebrating, because they take a lot of hard work to perfect, if ever we can consider them perfected! On this anniversary, take some time to celebrate a quality that you have had to work on this year. Hopefully you will be able to see the improvement that your hard work has amounted to. And of course, celebrate one another with traditional 23rd anniversary gifts..

Traditional: No traditional 23rd anniversary gifts
Contemporary: Silver Plate
Flower: No traditional 23rd anniversary flower

Silver plated gifts are on the calendar this year, and there are plenty of gift ideas in this particular category. Ladies, your hubby might enjoy a nice pair of silver plated cufflinks, a watch, or a wine bottle opener. I had a friend with a husband that loved sushi, so she ordered him a pair of silver plated chopsticks for their anniversary, which I thought was quite unique! For the guys, silver plated jewelry, jewelry boxes, serving dishes or picture frames make nice gifts for wives. The Silver Roses that we offer at Arttowngifts.com are really unique as well. A real Silver Plated Wine Bottle Openerrose is preserved in lacquer and then dipped in silver for a one of a kind gift of silver. With so many options available, it is sure that you can come up with something silver plated to match any interest or sense of fashion.

Now that you are brimming with gift ideas, you can start thinking about all of the qualities in your marriage worth celebrating. Have a memorable anniversary worth every bit of hard work you both put in this year! Join me next time for year 24.