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The V-Day Quirky Gift Round-up 2016

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I was compelled to put another alternative gift list together for those of us looking for something that hasn’t yet been beaten to death by Hallmark. So, here are a few gift choices for the quirkier of recipients, from the organ lover to the fungusphile.

Heart of Gold Metallic Plush ($39). Come correct with this plush heart, complete with razzle-dazzle ventricles. Via the adorably named website IHeartGuts.com.

Tattoo Notebook ($13). This reminds me of adult coloring books with a twist. Sketch out planned or fantasized ink in this body part-filled notebook. Found at suckUK.

Star Wars as told in the style of Shakespeare. Whether ’tis nobler to turn to the Dark Side…Found at Firebox ($18).

Tabasco Chocolate ($8) I love this one because it’s an inexpensive foodie gift with a collectible tin – always feels more substantial to give than a cardboard box of candy. There are even suggested recipes to try with this kind of hot chocolate, such as chili chocolate beef. Found at Firebox.

Grow pink oyster mushrooms in your own kitchen and whip up a plate of pink pasta, risotto, mushroom tempura, or a rosy omelet. $27 from the Espresso Mushroom Company.

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Whether you call it a cat cave, hole, bed, house, or vessel — and the Etsy seller who makes these is ok with all of those —   this handmade wool kitty nook is also a nice little home decor item. $53; found at nerdwallet.

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From the PR Desk: Blizzard Ruin a Wedding Planned by a New Englander? Nevah!

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From a recent media side gig for a very talented woman…click above to read about my friend Tara’s adventures planning a New York City wedding with a very unwelcome guest. Feel free to use and share this blog post.

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Wild and Woolly ArtZoo

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Earlier this week, the Family Rags got to check out the Berkshire Museum’s new exhibit ArtZoo at its preview party.

The show blends art with natural history and cultural pieces surrounding all types of animals, arranged to mirror an actual zoo. The big cats are grouped together, the primates, the birds… it’s quite a collection.

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Adding to the fun of the party were treats at every turn: cones of popcorn next to Mega Mammals, airy cotton candy in the Aviary, and ‘downward dogs’ next to the Animal Yoga station. At the risk of hearkening back to my community newspaper days… A good time was had by all.

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Read my full article at Berkshire Family Focus!

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Try NatGeo’s Badlands for Making a Murderer Withdrawals

NatGeo has had some programming highs and lows in the last decade or so, and until recently I’ve been unable to find something truly binge-worthy in its line-up.

But I stumbled onto Badlands, Texas during a particularly slow viewing night and got hooked. It has true crime, human interest, a slice of Americana…not unlike a certain Netflix docu-series that’s been making the rounds lately. I actually started watching Badlands before Making a Murderer, though at the traditional real-time TV pace once a week, so it’s still going strong.

The show tells the stories of the residents of Terlingua, an off-grid border town in Texas. It’s filmed in an almost impressionist style, with a lot of badlands b-roll and abstract visual sequences like glass shattering in slow-mo, or puzzle pieces falling into place on a stark white table.

Some of the characters add to this eerie feel, in particular a man I just refer to as The Stranger (but whose real name is Ty Mitchell) because he reminds me so much of Sam Elliot’s role in The Big Lebowski. He couldn’t have been written any better in a fictional script…he’s got a 10-gallon hat, snake-skin boots, a leather eye patch, a gnarly scar down one cheek, and a bottle of beer set next to his propped up legs on a rustic table, while he holds a cup of black coffee at the same time.

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At first, I thought the show would be focused solely on telling the stories of Terlingua’s residents, which would have been fine. But nay; as soon as we’re introduced to The Stranger, Trailer-Rental Ronda (who is strikingly gorgeous), ‘Doctor Doug’ and the rest of the cast of characters, we’re on to the real meat of the matter: one of this tiny town’s residents killed another resident. They were both loved, they were both drunk, and now one is dead and the other doesn’t remember doing the deed.

Cue the trial; cue Episode 2.

Badlands, Texas is on NatGeo and available on Hulu.