The Rebel House

Last Friday night Jeremy and I checked out Rebel House, a gastropub-style restaurant in Boca Raton, and really enjoyed it.  The menu is creative and exciting and the environment is upbeat and fun. Located on the north side of Palmetto Park Road just south of Mizner Park, it’s definitely not your grandma’s Boca restaurant.  Instead, I felt like I was at a very cool party with delicious food and drinks.  The staff of tattooed hipsters played their alternative-rock music loudly, but it was still possible to have a conversation and hear each other.  It’s a good spot to bring a date or get together with a group of friends.

When we arrived around 9:15 p.m., the place was packed.  Luckily we made a reservation for 9:30, so we didn’t have to wait too long.  I strongly recommend making a reservation if you wish to go and actually get a table on a weekend night.

Before I get to the food, I must first rave about the cocktails.  Before being seated at our table, we went to the bar for a drink.  The bartenders were slammed when we got there, but that was fine because it gave us a few minutes to go over the drink menu.  I guess the bartender felt bad about keeping us waiting, because when he did greet us he poured us a sample of the Gonzo Berry, a vodka drink with muddled strawberries, lemon and simple syrup.  It was tasty, but a little too sweet for me.  I ordered the Sweet Revenge, a mix of vodka, fresh watermelon juice, simple syrup and some jalapeno that made it really spicy.  It was so delicious that I ended up ordering another one with dinner.   Jeremy tried the Rebel House’s take on the Old Fashioned- the Bee Sting, which mixes bourbon with honey, a sprig of rosemary and a hint of jalapeno.

The food is just as creative and great as the drinks with the way the ingredients are cleverly mixed.  Something as simple as guacamole had chunks of lump crab added to it and was served with three types of chips.  The beet salad, mixed with arugula, candied pecans and grapes, came with these fried little nuggets of hot brie that oozed out of them.  Drizzled over the salad, it was delicious.

My personal favorite menu item was the Spinach & 4 Onion Dip.  If spinach dip and French onion soup got together and had a baby, this would be it.  Mixed with gruyere and parmesan cheeses, topped with a pipperade and served with garlic toast, it was absolutely delicious.

The service was a bit slow, but our server was very friendly and helpful with food recommendations.  As I mentioned before, the place was packed so I understand that she was busy. Before leaving, I knew that I’d want to come back for more someday, so I asked her about happy hour.  The good news is that they have one on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and it cuts the price of well drinks to $4.  The bad news is that there’s no food included during happy hour.

All in all, I really liked the Rebel House.  Happy hour or not, I will definitely be back for more Sweet Revenges and to try more items off the menu.

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Grandma Betty Update

From time to time I will post stories that I have written about my grandmother, Betty Collura. I lived with her for about 14 months in 2006-2007, and it was during this time that she started showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It was an interesting time with many significant ups and downs, but I have a unique story to tell for almost every single day.

December, 2012
I am happy to say that my grandma came to spend Christmas Eve with the family this year. She refused to come last year when my uncle attempted to pick her up and bring her to my parents’ house. He begged, pleaded and tried to reason with her, but she refused to get dressed and leave her bedroom. I guess she was just having a rough day.

My grandma has been living in an assisted living facility that specializes in Alzheimer’s care for the last two years or so. Even with a woman living with her that watched over her and my mother visiting once or twice a day, her house became too unsafe. My grandma had finally reached the point where she required constant care.

Her heart, lungs and body are still in great shape. At 84 years old, the doctors say that if it was up to her body, she could live another 10 years. Her mind is a different story. My grandma is at the point where she does not know who any of us are anymore, and she really has no idea what’s going on around her. Sometimes when a family member goes to visit her, she will recognize them as someone that she has met before. But she is usually not able to recall their name, or her relation to them.

Every so often she’ll have a day where she is sharper than usual, and will tell accurate stories. Mostly they are old stories that date back to her childhood and teen years. But a majority of what she says is random chatter that doesn’t make sense. If a dog barks, she will make up an outrageous story about how it’s her dog, and tell it to us like she could actually convince us.

I often wonder if she believes herself as she rambles. The Alzheimer’s mind sure is an interesting little world. One thing I am grateful for is that at least in the case of my grandma, this little world appears to be a bright, colorful one that doesn’t seem scary or harsh. Like anyone else with Alzheimer’s Disease, she has a few cranky days here and there where nothing you do or say can snap her out of it. She acts like a big five year old and getting her to be nice or go anywhere is impossible. We’ve had to cancel hair and nail appointments for her at the last minute before, and last year we had to do Christmas Eve without her.

But overall Grandma is chipper, friendly and pleasant to be around. She smiles and giggles as she people-watches and will chat with anyone that approaches her. According to my mother, the conversations that she has with the other people at her home (who are in a smiliar mental state) are entertaining.

This Christmas Eve she sat in a chair near the middle of the room and enjoyed socializing with everyone around her. She also enjoyed watching and talking to Coco. Whether she recognizes my dog or not, she always gets so excited to see her. My grandma ate well and was in the best mood possible. I wonder if she understood that she was surrounded by family members who love her. Whether or not she remembers, I’m pretty sure she can feel the love.

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Interesting Internet Facts

  • If the Internet were a country, its population would be greater than North America, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East combined.
  • There are more devices connected to the Internet than people on Earth.
  • In one month on Facebook, 30 billion pieces of content are shared.
  • After Usama Bin Laden was killed, a computer programmer in Pakistan tweeted the military raid on his compound hours before any news sites reported it.
  • After an earthquake hit the east coast people in New York City read tweets about the quake 30 seconds before they felt it.
  • North America is the continent with the highest percentage of Internet users, followed by Australia and Europe.
  • The average American spends 66 hours a month on a computer- NOT including computer time spent at work.
  • 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • 210 billion emails are sent daily.
  • China is the country with the most Internet users.  Barbados has the fewest.
  • There are more internet users in China than there are people in the U.S.
  • A number of countries, including Estonia, Finland and Spain have declared access to the Internet as a legal right for citizens.
  • The global number of users doubled from 2005 to 2010.
  • China, Taiwan and Korea recently accepted Internet Addiction Disorder as a psychological diagnosis.  In 2013, the U.S. will mark it as a real disorder too.
  • Apple’s sales in 2011 were $128 billion
  • About 50% percent of consumers think a brand’s Facebook page is more useful than a brand’s website.
  • Since 2003 Google has answered over 450 billion new unique queries.
  • Instant previews on Google load in 1/10th of a second on average.
  • The 29 poorest countries in the world must combine their revenue in 2010 to equal the $29.3 billion dollars that Google earned from advertising that year.
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The Newest iPod Nano is Sweet!

My mother is pretty much the last person at the gym, aside from a few 80 year olds who go there to use the pool, who doesn’t listen to music while she works out. My brothers and I decided to buy her her first iPod (ever) for Christmas this year.  I went to the Apple store and bought her a Nano in her favorite color, purple, and then realized that my mom will have no clue how to set it up herself.

So I took it out of its package and hooked it up to my iTunes so that I can load it up with music, playlists and photos.  I haven’t felt the need to have an iPod Nano since the iPhone came out, so it’s been a few years since I’ve held one.  As I played with it, I couldn’t get over how different and cool the new ones are.

This seventh-generation Nano is the thinnest ever and roughly the size of a credit card, but its display screen is almost twice the size of the previous model.  Even though the screen is small, the photos that I loaded on it still look good. And, thanks to the accelerometer, photos auto-rotate as you go from portrait to landscape, which was nice.

The new Nano has a touch screen and is the first model to have a tiny home button, just like some of its bigger siblings. It has five buttons in all- a slender power button on the top and a three-way volume rocker that allows you to adjust the volume and, by pressing it in the middle, play/pause music or skip tracks.

Because my mom will be using the device while working out quite often, I will advise her to use the Nike+ function, which has been made better by having everything built-in.  Her Nano can track her walks and runs, and she can even connect a Bluetooth heart monitor wirelessly.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the new design of the Nano.  I think it’s the best yet, bringing lots of functionality in a tiny package.  I look at it as $149 well spent, and I’m excited to give it to my mom and watch her fall in love with her first Apple product.

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Push For Pizza

pizza

The most creative thing idea I’ve seen today is pizza at your fingertips – literally.  Created by TBWARAAD Dubai for Red Tomato Pizza is a fridge magnet that orders your favorite pizza for you with just the push of a button.

The magnet was given to some of Red Tomato Pizza’s most loyal customers, and it has their favorite order preset.  If hunger or a craving strikes, all they have to do is press the button to place an order.  The magnet is connected to the Internet via a Bluetooth connection on a smartphone.  After pressing the button, Red Tomato Pizza sends them confirmation text and then delivers the pizza soon after.  If the customer’s favorite order changes, they can sign online at any time to change it.

Pretty cool!  What local pizza places do you wish would deliver at the push of a button?

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BMI Elite Buys Employee A New Car, Then Takes Staff to Bahamas

There’s never a dull moment around here at BMI Elite.  We’re back in the news once again, this time for surprising one of our longest and most deserving employees with a brand new 2013 Ford Escape for his 52nd birthday last week.  We’ve been on the front page of the Sun Sentinel’s money section, on the homepage of MSNnow, and many other news channels including CBS12, CNN and WPBF.

Chris Ninos has been BMI’s chief financial officer for the last two years and is one of the most loyal, honest, trustworthy and hardworking employees that our CEO Brandon Rosen has ever met.

“Chris will call me up at midnight, at 5:00 a.m., and on holidays just to talk about business,” said Brandon.  “He’s one of the hardest workers I know.”

Chris has been driving an old 1998 green Ford Escort for the last 11 or 12 years, and recently it’s been giving him lots of trouble.  Even though everyone around the office has been telling him to trade it in and get something new, Chris was determined to ride it until it died.  So last week, a few days before Chris’ birthday, Brandon and BMI’s president, Dan Lansman, decided to surprise him with the new Escape as a way to thank him for all that he does for the company.

Chris was told by some co-workers that they were taking him out to lunch to celebrate his birthday.  They said they needed to make a stop at the Maroone Ford dealership, and when they arrived at the showroom, Ninos was surprised with a new 2013 Ford Escape filled with balloons.

Before this all happened, BMI contacted the media to capture the moment as well.  Not only did Chris get a new car, but he also got the celebrity treatment for a few days.

If that wasn’t enough, BMI Elite is taking its entire staff on a cruise to the Bahamas this weekend for our holiday party.  I am excited and I feel lucky to be working at a company that is doing so well.  In less than two years, BMI has grown from two employees to 55 and next month, we are moving from a 4,500 sq. foot office to one that is over 21,000 sq. feet.  There are lots of big things to come!

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Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed With Blue Cheese

Aside from being able to brew fresh tea and carefully follow each step of extremely simple recipes, I have little to no skills in the kitchen.  I’m great at cleaning up after Jeremy cooks for me, but when it comes to cooking, I am his opposite.  He can spend hours in the kitchen just daydreaming and playing around with ingredients, only to come up with a fantastic meal as a result.  Making it up as I go along never seems to work out for me, which is why I have come up with a few safe guidelines and I stick to them.

Over the years, while making food for others, I’ve found that there are ways to hide the fact that I’m not such a great cook.  My advice is to pick a simple dish that’s hard to mess up, and then throw in a fancy ingredient or two.  A traditional salsa with diced strawberries and kiwi mixed in.  Lobster mac and cheese.  I once added two drops of truffle oil to a bowl of honey on a fruit and cheese plate and it was a huge hit.

When cooking to impress I also often include bacon in the dish, even though I haven’t eaten pork in over 18 years.  People LOVE bacon, and as long as that’s cooked crispy and perfect, they never seem to care or talk about the rest.

Last week for Thanksgiving I made bacon wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese for Jeremy’s family. They came out great and they were extremely easy to make.

To get started, here’s what you need:

  • A container of dates
  • A pack of bacon.  I recommend thick, center-cut style.
  • Crumbled blue cheese (gorgonzola or goat cheese also works if that’s what you prefer)
  • Toothpicks
  • A baking sheet

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Slice the date open a little but don’t cut it in half.

3. Stuff the date with cheese.  I use a small spoon or a cheese knife to do this.

4. Close the date and wrap with about 1/3 of a slice of bacon, enough to go around.

5. Secure it with a toothpick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Put in the oven for about 25-35 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy.  I recommend turning them over about halfway through.

7. After they’re done baking, put them on some sheets of paper towel – that helps soak up some of the bacon grease.

8. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Man Uses Google Maps to Walk 5,000 Miles Across Asia

In the summer of 2010, my brother Ryan and I drove from Miami to Los Angeles using only the Google Maps on my iPhone3G (in a Mini Cooper).  I thought that was impressive until I just heard about U.S. Marine Sgt. Winston Fiore, who used Google Maps to walk 5,000 miles across Asia.

Using an Android phone running Maps, Fiore walked across Brunei, China, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam to raise money and awareness for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation, a charity that provides free facial reconstructive surgery for kids with cleft palates in developing countries.  He began walking last October and finished Monday.

In this journey that he dubbed the “Smile Trek,” Fiore said Google Maps was “the hub” of his entire trip.  He used it to find the most accurate and easy walking directions and it guided him through remote villages and along dirt roads.

“Walking directions in Google Maps were critical to my trek. The directions were accurate and efficient — it’s essential to take the shortest route when you’re walking 20-25 miles each day,” Fiore told Google. “But the best part was being routed onto roads and trails through areas I otherwise never would have discovered with, say, driving directions, or even a physical map.”

During Smile Trek, Fiore also used other Google products including Google Latitude, which allows you to find your friends and family on a map and share where you are with the people you choose, My Tracks, which records GPS tracks and shows live statistics such as time, speed, distance, and elevation and Google Translate.

In 408 days, Fiore raised more than $65,000 for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation.

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Instagram Gets Web Profiles

Today, as most social media companies like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn work to improve their mobile interfaces, Instagram has done just the opposite.  The popular mobile application recently introduced web profiles to give users a chance to share photos and find friends on the web.

The photo sharing website looks a lot like the Facebook timeline, which is a good thing because 14 million Instagram users also use Facebook. This is most likely due to Facebook acquiring Instagram for about $1 billion in April. Since Facebook is one of the largest photo-sharing outlets in the world, they have not allowed Instagram to upload any pictures on the web.

This remains true for now, but users are now able to like and comment on other users’ photos, in addition to being able to browse your own and other users’ photos on the web.  It’s so nice to be able to finally view photos on something larger than an iPhone or tablet screen!  Users can also change their name, bio and profile picture via the web.

A lot of marketers are happy to have Instagram on the web because they have wanted to expand their mobile followers to the web. The social network is now a more effective place for brands to boast their services and products.  Instagram did not function before like some of the other more prominent networks did because it was solely a mobile service. When I visited the site before, all that was there was a simple page which welcomed users and some information on how to download the mobile app.  All of Instagram’s traffic so far has come from mobile platforms. This has been the main setback that marketers have faced in seeing their full potential with a photo sharing social media platform. Imagine what brands can do now that it is on the web.

This is something a lot of people wished Instagram did a long time ago.  Websites like Webstagram allows users to surf profiles on the web, but it isn’t the same experience. It is kind of like buying bootleg DVD’s on Canal Street instead of watching it in IMAX theaters. I am really happy with this Instagram launch and I cannot wait to see what they do in the future.  Instagram founder Kevin Systrom has already hinted at more stuff in the works, saying “It’s not the last thing you’re seeing from us on the web.”

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Did You Unfriend Anyone During This Election?

For the last few months, I have been waiting for the election to end.  Not so much because I was eager to know the outcome (I wasn’t particularly crazy about either candidate), but more for the ads, phone calls, and social media rants to end.

In elections past, before the days of Facebook, I couldn’t tell you where most of my friends stood on the political spectrum.  There were no “like” buttons and I didn’t have to listen to a political rant unless I tuned into a talk radio station or was in the presence of someone speaking about a candidate.  But now thanks to social media, I now know how hundreds of my friends feel about Obamacare, abortion, gay marriage, Big Bird, the Middle East, horses and bayonets, marijuana legalization and more.

Sometimes I read and saw a lot more than I would’ve liked to.  If I see one more person threaten to leave the country or post another Sesame Street meme I’m going to scream.  My news feeds were constantly filled with political chatter, and it was negative more often than not.

During this election I realized how politically fired up some of the people I care about really are.  Before social media I had no idea that they were total right or left-wing whack-jobs who had so much to say that they felt compelled to write a 400-word Facebook status every single day.

Many times I wanted to add to my “Most Annoying People on Facebook” list, and a few times I even considered unfriending.  I didn’t, reminding myself that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that it’ll be over soon.

I was not alone in considering to unfriend people.  According to a Mashable poll of 2,772 people, the majority of voters (46%) couldn’t take it anymore and unfriended someone during this election.  Like me, 32% thought about it but didn’t, and 22% didn’t even consider it.

Mashable poll results of who unfriended someone on social media sites during the 2012 election.

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