All Mancation Articles, 17 Dec 2014 15:40:06 -0800Joomla! - Open Source Content (Man Tripping)Making Spirits Bright with 7UP Cocktails for the Holidays is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Dr Pepper Snapple Group. All opinions are 100% mine.

7UP is a great mixer that should be on your holiday shopping list right there next to lights and mistletoe and so I was excited when I was invited to join this campaign to share with you some of my favorite cocktail recipes using it.

For this assignment, I went to Safeway to get ingredients for my two holiday-themed cocktail recipes. Sharing spirits and cocktails with friends is one of my favorite things to do and there is something about cocktails that just works well for Holiday parties. I think it is that the creation becomes more than just a drink and instead it is an opportunity to try new things, a chance to easily generate small talk "how's that drink?" / "did you like that drink?", and it's an opportunity to be a little cheeky as well without being completely inappropriate.

The first creation I made is a play on the ever popular Poinsettia cocktail that is normally made with champagne or sparkling wine. Then I decided to head south to Peru for something a bit more exotic to warm us up with dreams of warmer climates with a special Pisco cocktail.

Holiday Threesome

Vodka and Cranberry is a classic flavor that is good year round but when you add in 7UP you get a cocktail similar to a Poinsettia but without the bite from the champagne.


2oz 7UP

2oz Cranberry Juice

1oz Menage a Trois Vodka

3 Lounge Attire Cocktail Cranberries and a splash of syrup

Preparation is super easy, mix the ingredients in the order above and garnish with cocktail cranberries and add a splash of the syrup as desired. To dress it up a step more you can also add a sprig of mint or holly to give it even more holiday fun.

Peruvian Sunshine

This drink is a play on the popular Pisco Sour but with Passion Fruit juice instead of Sour Mix. It is designed to bring a bit of warmth into your home as you sip something that while a bit exotic with flavors from the tropics isn't fruity sweet like a rum drink. 


4oz 7UP

2oz Welch's Passion Fruit cocktail

1.5oz Pisco Porton

Again, preparation is super easy simply mix in the order above and share with a friend.

While each store may have slightly different assortment (especially with the spirits), one of the nice things about shopping at Safeway is that their stores typically have a pretty good selection of alcoholic beverages as well as other ingredients such as cranberry juice, passion fruit juice, and of course 7UP all in one place. Plus while you are there it's a good idea to stock up on some treats as well!

If you are looking for more holiday entertaining ideas, please check out this link: Find more fun holiday drink recipes and entertaining tips! and let us know what you'll be drinking this year!

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]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 16 Dec 2014 17:39:44 -0800
How to Pack Like a Pro For Your Next Mancation Vacation is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of TownePlace Suites by Marriott®. All opinions are 100% mine.

I'll admit it, I am not always the most organized traveler. That goes doubly so when packing for a mancation vacation with my friends. Typically, I just throw some things together into my backpack or carry-on and that's it. Unfortunately, this typically results in clothes that are crumpled and messy at the other end. In a best case scenario, it means that I will end up leaning on the bag to try and force more clothes into it than the bag thinks should fit. 

That being said, TownePlace Suites by Marriott® contacted me to share with you guys some packing tips that could make things a lot easier, provide a chance for you to win a $100 gift card to TownePlace Suites® as well as share some great travel organization products from their partner, The Container Store®. This last part is especially cool since they are the ones who created the elfa® closet system that is currently found in 11 of their properties nationwide with more being updated in 2015 and beyond.


As you know, I am a big advocate of extended stay hotels when it comes to considering where to stay on a mancation vacation since they tend to be roomier have a couch for hanging out with the guys and almost always have a dining table and kitchen with sink and refrigerator (perfect for hanging out with the guys or pre-gaming!). TownePlace Suites® is no different and with the awesome new closet system it makes even more sense now to consider staying with them on your next trip.

To learn more about elfa®, I went over to The Container Store® to check it out in person and what I saw was pretty awesome. Unlike some systems that are heavy and clunky this was very streamlined and organized.

This is absolutely something that would make staying at an extended stay hotel even better since you won't have to worry about where to unpack all your stuff since typically all the hotels provide is a single rod and cheap hangers.

elfa Closet System

In fact, I could see adding this to my loft since, well ... I don't actually have any closets and it looks like it would mount easily on the wall giving me plenty of space to hang clothes but also organize shoes, belts, ties, and bins for other items.

elfa close-up baskets and hooks

Next I went over to their travel organization aisle to check out what goodies I could get to help illustrate some of my favorite packing tips.

travel organization aisle

What I found there was an awesome diversity in packing helpers ranging from the Eagle Creek system to the Space Bag by Ziploc and so I grabbed some items and headed home.

Now it's time to share some of my favorite packing tips!

Getting Ready to Pack the Bag

Tip 1: Consider What Bag Makes Most Sense for This Trip!

Depending on where you are going, different bags make more sense. For instance, when I travel by air these days I almost always prefer to take my backpack if it is a short trip since it is easy to jam into the overhead bins but if I am going by car or doing a longer trip, I'll take my pack for general stuff and put my clothes in the carry-on or larger for more room.

Tip 2: Fold, Roll, and Compress!

This is a fantastic tip that my wife trained me on. Put simply, the less air you have in the clothes when you pack them the more stuff you can fit into the bag and the easier it will be to close it later.

Using the Pack-It Cube Set from The Container Store® along with the Space Bag from Ziploc this was super easy since I was able to fold my undershirts, socks, and underwear into the nylon cubes so they were nice and organized vs just "shoving it in". With the Space Bag, I was able to take some of my shirts and pants and then rolled the air out of it so that it was SUPER compact.

Backpack Packed

The side benefit is not just having more space but since the clothes aren't moving around in the bag it should keep them from creasing and wrinkling like it might otherwise. This is especially true in the case of traveling by backpack!

Tip 3: Plan for Wet and Dirty Items!

Hopefully when you set out on your trip all of you clothes are clean and dry. However, if you happen to go swimming, travel in the rain, or do something strenuous like hiking or even just going to the hotel gym, chances are that you'll have some wet stinky clothes on the way home. 

You don't want those affecting your clean clothes so take the other Space Bag from the 2-pack and use one for those items since it is waterproof!

Carryon Packed

Tip 4: Consider How It Will Look When You Get There and How You Will Use It!

As I mentioned above, these packing systems will help to reduce or prevent wrinkles but the other nice thing about these Pack-It cubes is that they have a handle that would make it easy to hang up (especially if you have an elfa® closet in your room!).

At very least, by considering how your clothes are organized in your bag, it will allow you to pack easier and more effectively. This is even more important when planning for a long trip where your bag space is even more at a premium.

With those tips in mind, you will be able to travel lighter, quicker, and have more fun with less worrying about crumpled clothes or not being able to pack everything you need on your next mancation and so now it's time for you to enter for a chance to win a gift card to TownePlace Suites by Marriott®!

How to Enter for a Chance to win a $100 Gift Card!

To enter, simplycomment on this Facebook post with your answer to "What do you do to stay organized on extended-stay travel?" Please see official rules for more details. You can also visit TownePlace Suites® Facebook for some additional ideas.

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]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogSun, 14 Dec 2014 19:16:44 -0800
El Agave Tequila Tasting and Dinner in San Diego's Old Town Diego has tons of craft beer bars and great wine is in no shortage either but the craft spirits industry is also growing rapidly here as well. One of the shining stars there is El Agave Artesanal tequila and so I was thrilled that the folks at El Agave Restaurant invited us back to try some additional menu items as well as a tequila tasting led by one of their experts.

I guess it should be no surprise that a restaurant that also serves as a tequila museum with more than 2,000 bottles would know a little bit about the spirit and how to enjoy it best with their amazing menu that we visited El Agave a few months ago.


Like any good Mexican restaurant, our meal started out with chips and a selection of salsas including their bean dip.


Next up we tried both their classic margarita as well as the tamarindo margarita featured above that was flavored with tamarind syrup for a more fruity and less sour flavor.


Before diving into the tequila tasting we also ordered an appetizer platter featuring an assortment of classic dishes including Shrimp and Crab empenadas,3 assorted sopecitos of cochinita, cuitlacoche, and shrimp in chipotle, 3 beef taquitos, 4 mini quesadillas (2 with mushrooms, 2 with poblano pepper strips), and 4 rolled taquitos stuffed with potato and homemade chorizo.


There are many tequila bars in San Diego but most of them are pretty basic and their staff aren't really prepared to lead a tasting and simply provide a menu to order a flight from. Here at El Agave it's a different story since they not only have one of the greatest selections of tequila in California but they also make their own.


El Agave Artesinal tequila was born in Los Altos de Jalisco in 1986 and focus on delivering a high-quality but authentic tequila that pairs well with food and is equally good for sipping as well as served in cocktails.

They use 100% blue agave as they produce their award-winning ultra premium Silver, Reposado, Anejo, and Extra Anejo varieties. In the past few years, they have received a 95 points rating from the Mexican Academy of Tequila, Double Gold from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and Gold, 92 Points, "Exceptional" from the Chicago Testing Institute.


I've tasted a lot of tequilas over the past few years and I am constantly amazed at the differences between different varietals. El Agave is certainly one of my favorites.

Like any spirit or culinary experience though it's as much about the atmosphere that you experience it and that's where El Agave Restaurant excels. One example of this is that while it would be "good enough" to simply provide a flight, our server also provided us something new that I hadn't tried before - Sangrita. 

Sangrita or "little blood" is a traditional partner to drinking tequila blanco and is a mixture of tomato juice, orange, lime, and chili powder that serves to cleanse the palate between tastings as well as highlight tequila's crisp acidity bringing out the peppery and citrus notes that can be hidden otherwise.


After our tequila tasting it was time to explore the menu!

Again - as I noted in the previous El Agave review, this is exquisite gourmet Mexican cuisine and not just the tacos and burritos that most Americans think of when they consider the cuisine.

Tom from BourbonBlog ordered the Filete Chipotle - grilled filet mignon covered with melted machego cheese and chipotle sauce pictured above.


Heather from ChickVacations chose the Medallones El Portal - grilled fillet mignon medallions and portobello mushrooms served in a delicate mixture of mustard sauce and a mild spicy chipotle sauce.


Last time, I tried one of their famous moles, so this time I wanted to try something similar but completely different so I chose the Salmon Natas featuring a perfectly pan seared salmon medallion topped with dungeness crab meat and sabayon then backed and served over a bed of achiote mashed potatoes and vegetables then finished with a remarkable red natas mole.


Everything about El Agave is fantastic and it is clearly one of the best restaurants in San Diego.


]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogSat, 13 Dec 2014 11:01:39 -0800
Swimming with the Dolphins at Dolphin Cove in Ocho Rios Jamaica most people visit Ocho Rios they probably think of Dunns River Falls but on a recent trip we had the opportunity to check out another attraction - Dolphin Cove where I had the opportunity to not just see the dolphins perform but got up close and personal with one of them (even got a kiss!). 

Honestly I was a little bit resistant to this excursion initially because of all the controversy related to Sea World and the bad press that I have heard in various message groups about "swim with the dolphin" places at other destinations in the caribbean. 


However, I was extremely impressed with the professionalism of the staff, the cleanliness of the facility and while I am no expert the dolphins seemed enthusiastic and as excited to meet us as we were to meet them.


The history of the park is that it was founded in 2001 and operated by a husband and wife team - Stafford and Marilyn Burrowes on what was once their home. It has since grown to be one of the top attractions in Ocho Rios according to TripAdvisor.


It's a weird feeling getting a kiss by a dolphin but it's one of those things that is worth doing once :)


Our swim with the dolphins experience included a chance to be in the water with Ziggy where he danced with us, and even towed me through the water for a short distance. Additionally the trainer did a quick show to illustrate the dolphin's athleticism and ability to locate small objects like the rings even from all the way across the pool.


Beyond just swimming with the dolphins, Dolphin Cove has a replica pirate village "Little Port Royal" with other attractions including the opportunity to swim with sharks and stingrays as well as a gift shop and snack bar / restaurant. 

If you visit you'll also want to make sure to check out the "nature trail" featuring iguanas and other


]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogSat, 13 Dec 2014 06:27:00 -0800
Taking the Perfect Twelfie for the Mike's Hard Lemonade Tw'elf Re-Gift-O-Rama's that time of year again, a great time to gather with friends and avoid the cold by sharing stories and alcoholic beverages. That means it is the perfect time to enjoy some Mike's Hard Lemonade. Along with drinking and having fun with friends there will be the inevitable selfie taking but this year you can actually win some great prizes when you share those great pictures online as part of the Mike's Hard Lemonade Tw'elf Re-Gift-O-Rama!

Some of you guys are selfie experts already and don't need the article - so if that's you, just ignore the rest of this and click on the image below to submit your #twelfie and see if you are an instant winner ...


It's easy to enter. A #Twelfie is simple a selfie with any kind of Mike's Hard Lemonade and friends, costumes, furry animals, or other festival elements.

To enter, take your #Twelfie and post it to Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #Twelfie or you can also upload it directly through the Mike's Website. Then just past the URL and verify it on their website to see if you are an instant winner.

Some of you will be instant winners, others will just get an animated gif or video. Either way, you can then re-gift whatever prize you get and have a chance to win something else (1x per day).


With those super simple rules in mind I set out to create some #twelfies of my own!

The first step is obviously to go to the store and get yourself some Mike's Hard Lemonade. I am a big fan of Mike's (including the Chocolate Cherry from a few years ago!) so I was excited to see that Mike's is now available in cans and there is a "Harder" Lemonade that comes in at 8% ABV and they also have an Apple-Ale.

Step One: Grab Some Mike's Hard Lemonade!

For our party last night though I chose the party Variety Pack that is now called the "Tw'elf Pack" this season featuring 12 bottles including: Mike's Hard Lemonade, Black Cherry Lemonade, Cranberry Lemonade, and Strawberry Lemonade. 


Step Two: Find Some Friends!

The next step is to find some friends - mikes is a beverage that deserves to be shared! What we learned though is that after a few Mike's it is more difficult to take a good group shot than we had thought. This is especially true in low light situations as you might find at the party you are going to. I would recommend turning the camera around and potentially using the flash so everyone's smiles come out more clearly!


Step Three: Have Fun and Be Creative!

However, having an assignment like this can be addictive and after a while others were taking photos too!

While taking photos of yourself holding or drinking your favorite flavor of Mike's is good, try something original like this one of Bomber sitting on the bar guarding the box!


Step 4: Try Unique Angles!

For this shot I used a "selfie stick" from Selfie Mojo so that everyone could get into the shot.


At the end of the day, it is all about having fun with friends and sharing. 

I have done a considerable number of sponsored posts recently but this was really a lot of fun because Mike's is a great product that is fun to share and taking selfies with friends is always enjoyable. When you combine those things together it's #winning!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of mike's hard lemonade. The opinions and text are all mine.

]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogSat, 13 Dec 2014 05:13:08 -0800
Three Cheers at Toast Enoteca San Diego Wine Bar vending machines, delicious pizza, and good friends to share it with - what more do you need in life? That's exactly what I found at San Diego's Toast Enoteca & Cucina when I visited there a couple weeks ago and we had a fantastic dinner that would be equally good as a "date night" or as a place to hang out with the guys after a Padres game.

If it was just their collection of more than 400 wines in their cellar and 65 wines by the glass served through their automatic Enomatic wine dispensers, this story would be a lot shorter but it is another restaurant led by Chef Martin Gonzalez who's cuisine we loved during our visit to his other Italian restaurant Acqua Al 2 in San Diego's Gaslamp.


Inside Toast, visitors will notice a well equipped bar but the centerpiece is clearly the pedestal of wines ranging from $150 bottles with a per pour price of $9.60 to $15-$25 bottles with pour prices of just a couple dollars each. 


If you've ever been curious about what a $150 bottle tastes like, this is a great opportunity to try something without investing in opening a whole bottle only to find that you don't care for it. Similarly, even for more moderately priced wines, a system like this makes it a lot of fun to try new types of wine that you may otherwise have ignored.


Our host provided us with wine cards that were pre-loaded and so all we needed to do was enter the Toast Card into the machine, select the wine we wanted to try, and then press the dispenser button.


I've seen this style of wine tasting before but frankly I sort of ignored it as a fancy system that would end up being more expensive than simply buying  glass by itself. However, looking back at it, it was more than just a way to try something new. 

In fact, the whole cadence of our evening and the conversation was affected since we were trying a bunch of different things, walking around, comparing notes, and recommending different bottles to each other. It was a much more "active" experience, compared to sitting passively at a bar ordering drinks every 15-20 minutes.


Along with great wine, we also got to meet Chef Martin Gonzalez who happened to be dining there as well with friends.


While the wine was great, no authentic Italian experience is complete without food and like Acqua Al 2, Toast shines here as well.

Our meal began with a meat and cheese board that was fantastic paired with the wines we were drinking.


Next up, we tried one of their amazing pizzas!

Initially I was only expecting to find the menu the Italian equivalent of "bar food" such as pizzas and appetizers but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Toast featured a full menu of items ranging from La Tradizionale Porchetta (Roasted pork belly), Pollo alla Valdostana (Roasted skin on chicken breast with prosciutto, melted fontina cheese and topped with buttery sage sauce).

Of course, they also have an extensive dessert selection as well, from which we tried the Chocolate Lava Cake with mint gelato.


Finally, it was appropriate that Tom from BourbonBlog and I pose for a toast at Toast! Thank you guys for hosting us, we had a fantastic experience and can't wait to return again soon.

Toast is located in Sn Diego's East Village neighborhood at 927 J Street, between 9th and 10th.


]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogThu, 11 Dec 2014 03:42:39 -0800
A Look Back at How Smart Phones Have Changed Christmas For the Better I look back at photos from Christmas of the past I realize just how much things have changed compared to today, a world where mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous, data plans are cheap, and even great handsets like the Samsung Exhibit from Walmart Family Mobile can be purchased for under $100 without a contract.

This assignment got me thinking about all the great moments from the past that may have been captured on film or even a digital camera but were never shared with friends the way we do it today. Even beyond that, there are things today that we take for granted like being able to do a Google+ hangout from the store with Heather to confirm which tree she wanted me to buy for the loft this year that are now available for everyone.

That got me thinking about some of the moments from past Christmases that I wish I could have shared, so here's my chance ...








For only $79, the Samsung Exhibit is a pretty descent phone that while not on the same level as the Galaxy Note 3 that I use as my primary phone is more than capable of doing what you need it to do. It would make a great gift for anyone in your life that you'd like to stay in touch with during the holidays from hangouts while you shop to having them upload photos from a holiday party so you can pretend to be there with them.


Even in low light situations, the Samsung Exhibit performed well as you can see above.

Of course - by giving them a phone like this and an unlimited data plan you may be subjecting yourself to obnoxious comments filling up your Facebook news feed or inbound texts about the Packers or Ohio State but that's the fun of bringing family together with technology.


The Walmart Family Mobile display is easy to find in the Electronics section of most Walmarts. Some phones will be available in a box, others will need you to take the card hanging on the hook and take it to the cashier to retrieve the unit. Make sure to also get the starter kit so you can get the phone set up quickly and start sharing today!

Now is a great time to check out Walmart Family Mobile and there are a variety of phones that are perfect for any budget including the following with new rollback pricing:

  • Alcatel One Touch Evolve 2 - $49.88 (was $59.88)
  • ZTE ZMAX - $179.00 (was $199.88)
  • LG L90 - $119.00 (was $179.88)
  • Nokia Lumia 635 - $99.88 (was $129.88)
  • Samsung Galaxy Exhibit - $79.88 (was $99.88)
  • Nokia Lumia 530 - $49.88 (was $69.88)

Additionally, from 12/14 - 12/27, the Samsung Galaxy Avant - normally $199 will have a $40 Walmart Gift Card promotion to make the deal even better. Service starts at only $24.88 or $34.88 for Unlimited Talk, Text, and Web and comes with 5 GB of 3G Data. 

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidaysAreCalling #CollectiveBias

]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogWed, 10 Dec 2014 08:50:52 -0800
Mammoth Mountain for Massive Fun This Winter may have all the glory when it comes to California skiing, but an easy 5-6 hour drive from Los Angeles and San Diego lies Mammoth Mountain, one of the hottest ski destinations in the west and it is just perfect for an awesome guys weekend.

If you don't feel like driving and the possibility of putting chains on - there are fast cheap flights from LAX and SAN that go right to Mammoth via Alaska Air including 6 and 10-pack deals starting at only $480 from Las Vegas, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Due to it's location in a gap of the Sierra Nevada Mountains crest, the resort is known for getting an exceptional amount of fresh snow each year - about 400" annually! At 11,053 Mammoth Mountain also has the highest summit of any California resort giving it not just a spectacular amount of snow - but exceptionally high quality snow, on some of the best terrain in the state.


These stats translate into 3,100 vertical feet, 5,000 skiable acres across 150 named trails with 28 lifts. While Mammoth is perfect for skiing, they also have an incredible snowboard park featuring 22 and 18-foot halfpipes


So are you ready to head out to Mammoth for a California guys weekend in the sun and snow?

]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 09 Dec 2014 06:45:00 -0800
Rocket and Peter Plan a Guardians of the Galaxy DVD / Blu-Ray Movie Release Party movies are bigger than just films to watch - they are indeed entertainment phenomena to wrap awesome merchandise around such as books, soundtracks, action figures, and other toys. To celebrate, I decided to step back in time and create my own adventure using some of the action figures from the movie ... just like I did when I was a kid.

Before we start our adventure, let's get some tunes going ...



Now that we got the tunes cranked up, it's time for Rocket and Peter to head out to find Groot and the rest of gang so that everyone is ready for an awesome DVD / Blu-Ray Release Party!


Into the car we go! Peter decided to navigate and since he brought the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 CD with him he won that debate since road trips suck without great music to go along with the drive!


Our hero's arrived at Walmart and while no one sane ever wants to visit the toy aisle during Christmas, that's what they did to liberate the rest of the team!

Narrator's Note: Each Walmart is different and most will actually have a display featuring not just the action figures but other merchandise including the CD, books, space ships, blaster toys and more. And on December 9, the stores will all have the movie itself too! In our store, the Guardians of the Galaxy figures were located right next to the other ones from the Marvel universe so it was pretty easy to locate.


Rocky and Peter were shocked to find copies of themselves at the store along with several versions of their friends, all imprisoned in plastic - likely a trick by the evil Ronan!

Once free again, it was time to continue the journey. While they were able to find a miniature version of Groot, they discovered that to fully assemble their friend they would need to collect all of the Build A Figure Collection figures.


The journey continued and they sought out advice from everyone they knew - including the wise and powerful Niki who offered nothing except wet sloppy kisses.


Before he could escape though, Niki broke into song, singing "I'm Not in Love ..." and the two made up after some quick dancing and pelvic sorcery along with tales of the legend of Kevin Bacon.


 Ok, Rocky! It's time to get serious, where is Groot? 

After uttering a few snide remarks and Peter rejecting Rocky's request for a mechanical foot, the team realized that no matter how hard they looked together they needed help.


As such, the duo decided to head home and gather the team to see what advice they had for where to find the other Groot pieces so they could put him together.


After some expert dance moves, more snide remarks, and general silliness including one of the Nova Corps officers putting a giant Peter mask on and listening to some Terran tunes, the team realized...

We need to go to Walmart ... I bet we can get the rest of the Groot pieces there as well as the DVD!


So, off to Walmart the team goes to get the DVD and more of the gang!

You can do that too and starting on December 9 you'll be able to get the Blu-Ray/DVD/HD release of Guardians of the Galaxy. There is also a $5 Walmart gift card offer when you purchase select Groot, Drax, or Rocket Raccoon figure, so make sure to go there soon and ask a Walmart associate for full details.

Still not convinced that the physical media is worth buying? If you download it you'll be missing out on exclusive features such as a Character O-sleeve, music zinepak, and 65-page magazine with cast and crew interviews, exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and trivia. There is also a custom "cassette" laptop decal. 

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #OwnTheGalaxy #CollectiveBias

]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogFri, 05 Dec 2014 04:41:14 -0800
Have an Uncommonly Good Christmas with UncommonGoods Gifts for Guys're notoriously hard to shop for - or so the women in our lives tell us. That doesn't have to be true this year though! Just show them this post about gifts for guys or even better send them over to UncommonGoods where there are tons of awesome gifts that every guy will love. (Who knows - she might just find something there she likes too!). Really though, we aren't that complicated - Beer Gifts, Whiskey Gifts, Sports Gifts, Auto Gifts, and Geeky Toys  that's what we are looking for and you can be pretty safe picking a present for us from any of those categories. Luckily - UncommonGoods has tons of awesome gift ideas from each of those categories.

Even better is that along with a gift card to go shopping for some cool Christmas gifts for myself, they are also giving us a $50 gift card to give away to one of you!


UncommonGoods was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY. I've been a fan of the site for a number of years since they always manage to have products that live up to their name. Simply put, it is one of the best gift sites out there with cool stuff from $20 to hundreds of dollars to make the ultimate statement. They also have some great inexpensive items that are perfect Santa gifts too!

If shopping for good is important to you, it's worth noting that UncommonGoods is a B Corporation, which means that they met a rigorous set of standards including wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community. Some of the charities that they support through the donation of money and curated collections include: RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and American Forests to help preserve the health of the planet for the benefit of its inhabitants.

From the gifting perspective, they also involve their customer community through the use of a Voting Tool to help determine which products will be able to join the rest of the product assortment as well as providing Uncommon Knowledge to help make each gift more than just an object but something to talk about and share.

Ten Awesome Holiday Gifts for Guys:


Bourbon Drink Dispenser

Anyone can have a decanter for their spirits, but having your favorite bourbon on tap in a gorgeous display like this just makes things that much better. 


Super Magnetic Putty

Geek toys are another great category that you really can't go wrong with and I have had a ton of fun playing with this magnetic putty.


Press and Measure Herb Infuser

When I am not preparing cocktails, I like many guys like to prepare interesting stuff in the kitchen. While foodie gifts for men may normally be restricted to the grill, I think this herb infuser is a great gift for someone looking to expand beyond normal olive oil.

Whiskey Stones Gift Set

This is an item that I was especially excited to check out because it solves a problem and looks cool at the same time. While there is considerable debate between Whisky snobs about whether or not you should add ice or no ice, the truth is (directly from one of the top Master Distillers in the world who told me one night) is that you should simply enjoy your whiskey how you like it. 

That being said - for those of you who just don't like ice (like myself) this is a great gift idea to help chill your spirit a little bit without diluting it. Additionally, just like how a unique glass can add to the experience of sipping your favorite spirit, so can adding these whiskey stones to the drink.


F Bomb Paperweight

Jokes are always fun because it is a gift that will be remembered with a quick laugh each time you glance at it on your desk. I thought this F Bomb paperweight one was particularly fun.


Bike Pizza Cutter

Is the guy you are gift shopping for a fan of bicycling? This is a fun and unique way to help him cut through the crust!


Ballpark Blueprints

What happens when you combine engineering and baseball? You get an awesome gift idea of course! While pictures of ballparks are fun, we think these blueprint drawings are extra special since it also provides some great insight and detail that the guy you are gift shopping for might not already know about his favorite baseball park.


Auto Timing Chain and Gears Clock

We think this clock featuring an automotive timing chain makes a great gift for any guy who loves cars since it is both practical and fun while also incorporating your man's favorite hobby.


Musical Wine Glasses

Don't play with your glass my mother once told me - but you're all grown up now and these glasses are measured out to help you pick the perfect tone. The nice thing about playing a tune on these musical wine glasses is that you can always fill them back up and then drink more to get the full range of notes possible!


Beer Soap

Beer gifts are hugely popular with every guy I know and it's starting to be more and more acceptable to give soaps and stuff for guys so we think this is a perfect combination of ideas and will be fun to try out though we wonder exactly how heavy a scent it will leave and what your boss will think if you walk into his office smelling like lager on Monday morning :)


And of course - here's some gift items that we recommend you check out for the women in your life as well ...


Cheese and Crackers Serving Board

Gifts that make entertaining great are always appreciated I find - especially when they go to make the party that much more special like this cheese and crackers serving board.


Birth Month Flower Necklace

At this point, most of you have exhausted the "birth stone" thing and are looking for something different for your special lady, so how about this birth month flower necklace instead?


Ready to Shop for some Great Gifts for the Guys in your Life?

One of You Will Win a $50 Gift Card to UncommonGoods and we'll draw the winner on 12/19, so there is tons of opportunity to enter, so you can start doing so below ...


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]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogFri, 05 Dec 2014 20:53:40 -0800
Never Hungover - it's more than just a Wish, it's a mission! Drink Before Partying and Feel Better Tomorrow is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Never All opinions are 100% mine.


When I was younger I could party with the best of them but as I got older I had to start watching what I drank and I learned a few tricks from buddies - drink water before / after, eat a greasy late-night meal before heading home, white bread / crackers etc. There is no shortage of "hangover cures" but like the folk remedies of yesteryear while there may be some truth, they can also be imporved and that's where Never Hungover comes in.

Unlike some formulas which may be more marketing and cool packaging, Never Hungover was originally formulated by a holistic doctor and has been credited at helping the CEO, Parrish Whitaker's sister recover from Lupus and later Parrish discovered it was also an excellent hangover cure. The formula contains zero carbs, zero calories, and zero sugars but it is full of nutrient-rich antioxidents that work well to keep the mind and body going.

Never Hungover bottles display

These nutrients Include: 

Potassium: critical to proper hydration as well as proper nerve and muscle function but is often lost during frequent urination

Milk Thistle: detoxify and protect the liver (where alcohol is metabolized)

Vitamin B: replace what is lost during alcohol consumption to help return your energy levels to normal as well as help counteract memory loss, cloudy thinking, and anemia caused by drinking too much

Green Tea Extract: helps clean up the bloodstream and repair cell tissue to promote healthy blood and oxygen flow to the brain as well as the rest of your body

Aloe Vera: contains anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties to help aid the body to clean itself from toxins and pathogens

Together, these important nutrients help eliminate the negative effects of alcohol consumption and get you back in shape to have a great time the next day!

That's just the start of the story though - in 2013, Parrish connected with members of the Maloof Family who's investment portfolio includes the Palms Hotel & Casino as well as the ZING Vodka brand. When Phil Maloof tried a sample at a spirits convention, he loved it so much that he acquired the company and is now bringing it to market nationwide.


Don't worry though - you don't have to buy the whole company to get your cure, you just need to buy a 2 oz bottle, or ask your bartender for a pour from the 750 ml sized bottle that he or she may have behind the bar. For optimal results though the company recommends that you take the product up to an hour before or during the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Never Hungover has been featured on The Doctors as well as featured at Paris Hilton and Seth Green's birthdays as well as in conjunction with various other celebrities and is availale at, Amazon, MGM Resorts, and at GNC stores nationwide.


Disclaimer: we have not tried this product and do not make any specific claims about it's ability to cure any specific ailment since each person's body is different. This article is a sponsored post on behalf of the company but we encourage you to try the product and let us know how it works for you.

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]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogWed, 03 Dec 2014 18:30:27 -0800
10 Ideas for an Awesome San Diego Guys Weekend Diego is an awesome town that is sometimes forgotten about or dismissed as simply a surf town, but what I have discovered over the past year is that there is an incredible amount of awesome things to do here beyond the beach including touring some of the almost 100 craft breweries, exploring vineyards in nearby Temecula and Romona, as well as visiting the Zoo, touring historic military ships and some of the best burgers and tacos in the country.


Craft Beer Tour

With almost 100 craft breweries in town, San Diego's craft beer scene is one of the best in the world. A few years ago it was just a local effort but with brands like Stone and Greenflash being served Internationally now, this is a true epicenter for the craft beer movement that rivals any other in the world. Since they are pretty close together, doing a craft beer tour of San Diego is our top idea for an awesome guys weekend or mancation.

Some of our favorites include: Green Flash, Ballast Point, Hess Brewing, Mission Brewery, and of course you have to try Sunday Brunch at Karl Strauss in Sorrento Valley where the brewery-restaurant is actually in a former sushi restaurant complete with fish pond and Japanese garden. 


Craft Winery Tours

While not in San Diego itself, within an hour drive or so you have two great wine areas - Ramona Valley and Temecula. While wine isn't always considered "manly" we found a place that is worth going to if for no other reason than to see some classic motorcycles! The Doffo winery features some of the finest red wines that I have ever tasted and serves them surrounded by classic motorcycles and race posters. Combine this with delicious Argentine style empanadas and you have a fantastic experience. The vineyard was originally intended to be the owner's retirement project but has now grown into one of the best wineries in Southern California.


Craft Spirits Sampling

You probably sense a trend here but seriously ... San Diego is a great place to drink! With the incredible popularity of Beer and Wine, distilling is coming up fast and hard with world class product including El Agave tequila, Henebery Whiskey, Old Harbor Gin, Three Sheets Rum, and SoCal Moonshine.


San Diego Maritime Museum

Located along San Diego's Embarcadero and only a short walk from the cruise ship pier is the San Diego Maritime Museum. This is a great opportunity to learn more about San Diego's history while touring submarines like the Dolphin pictured above as well as classic sailing vessels like the Star of India - one of the oldest tall ships in the world that still is in active operation as a sailing vessel.


USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum

Located just a few minute walk on the other side of the cruise ship terminal is the USS Midway Museum. The ship is the longest serving Naval aircraft carrier and it now serves as home to 29 restored aircraft and more than 60 exhibits located throughout the ship.


San Diego Zoo

Your guys weekend in San Diego wouldn't be complete without a tour of the San Diego Zoo. I know this isn't your typical "mancation" activity but trust me, the San Diego Zoo is super cool with all the classic animals you would expect like lions, tigers, and polar bears but also the California condor is pretty amazing to see as well.


Burgers, Tacos, and Carne Asada Fries

San Diego isn't a great town if you are looking for haute cuisine but if you want to enjoy some of the best tacos, burritos, and Carne Asada Fries then this is your place. Two of my favorites are the Carne Asada Fries - think of it like chili cheese fries but with your fries covered in guacamole, carne asada, beans, cheese etc. a California Burrito on the other hand is a carne asada burrito with fries instead of rice and beans. Both are amazingly delicious and available at almost all of the taco shops in San Diego but we recommend the Taco Stand in La Jolla and Rigoberto's in Del Mar.


For burgers you MUST visit Slater's 50/50 where they have almost 100 craft beers on tap as well as your chance to make your own burger featuring their 50% bacon 50% beef patty. You also won't want to miss Hodad's located in Ocean Beach who's burgers are stunningly awesome as well.


The Beaches

While the water is cold and you'll probably want to wear a wet suit if you go surfing the beaches can be enjoyed dry too as a place to sit and watch the surfers while munching on a California burrito or telling stories around a bon fire on the beach.


Torrey Pines Gliderport

Whether you are looking to do gliding or simply visit to see one of the best views of the ocean available, the Torrey Pines Gliderport is a great spot to visit on a sunny day.


Padres Baseball at Petco Park

If you are visiting San Diego during the summer or early fall then a visit to Petco Park for a Padres game is virtually a requirement. Tickets are cheap and you can sit in the grass if you want to relax in the outfield too. Even if you aren't from San Diego, don't worry - there are almost always more fans here rooting for the San Francisco Giants, LA Dodgers, or pretty much every other team that visits here so you won't feel like you have to hide your affiliation. 

Even better is that unlike many parks that only serve "budweiser" this is a craft beer town and many of the local breweries have stands here and the same goes for the restaurants too. My favorites are the tri-tip nachos, garlic fries, and a Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point or a West Coast IPA from Green Flash. Other food available here includes Hodad burgers, Phil's BBQ, as well as sushi and of course a Friar Dog since you gotta have a hot dog at a baseball game.


]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 02 Dec 2014 17:49:05 -0800
Why I Chose a Chromebook with Intel Inside for my new Laptop a new laptop is tough, but it used to be a lot easier - Windows or Mac right? Today there is a third option - Chrome but with all the great attributes (lower price, easy to use, light and portable, long battery etc.) comes one really complicated but sometimes hidden attribute ... the processor that runs the whole thing. On the surface it would seem that wouldn't make much of a difference but this IS a laptop and you need a chip designed for that ... not a chip designed for one thing at a time like on your tablet or mobile phone. Truthfully, this is a sponsored post on behalf of Intel but I've been wanting to write this for a while to share my story and why I love my Toshiba Chromebook with an Intel processor!


I do most of my work from my desktop and on my phone or tablet when I am out of the house but when I traveled I had to lug an ancient laptop that weighed a ton with me on trips. It was heavy, it had a short battery, and frankly it didn't look cool when I opened it up next to my friends who were happily banging away on their Macbooks.

After some consideration and reading a to of laptop reviews I knew that I couldn't afford a high-end laptop. Even after looking at laptop deals I knew I didn't want to "settle" and I realized that I do most of my work inside of Chrome on the desktop anyhow, so moving to a Chromebook was an easy choice with lots of great options including the Acer C720 featuring an i3 processor and Toshiba Chromebook 2 featuring a celeron processor from Intel as well as others such as the Samsung Chromebook 2 that featured an ARM processor.

For some, it may be enough to have a device that will be used with only a few tabs open and not running multiple things at once and so an ARM processor might be a good fit. However, for me I knew that I was going to be editing photos, listening to music, watching movies, as well as writing articles, editing websites, and doing email. In short - I was going to be using it as a laptop and that demanded that I go with a chip designed for that purpose ... an Intel chip just like that inside my desktop PC.


Chromebook statistics can be boring but here's some numbers incase you don't believe me - that means your videos will have up to 39.9% more frames per second (less jitters or lagginess), you will experience 62.3% less waiting time when multitasking, and 49% more frames per second in Google Hangouts too. For me in the simplest terms means I'll be able to get my work done faster and spend more time having fun and checking out cool stuff when I travel. Since the battery life is also typically 7.8% longer compared to Chromebooks running ARM chips it means that you are getting a faster device that will also last longer!

This video puts things into comparison great too ...


It's really simple - while Chromebooks started out as "cheap as possible" devices, it is still a tool that you need to get work done during the day and play at night so it's critical that it meets that expectation. This is no longer a situation where you are considering a disposable device like a $99 tablet. These are devices that you will depend on for work as well as play and that means you need something that can do multiple things at the same time so you can get on with having more fun.


For me, I am extremely happy that I chose an Intel powered Chromebook. The battery life is phenomenal allowing me to charge it at night and use it throughout the day without worrying about where I'll be able to find a charging spot. Its more than fast enough to do Google Hangouts, edit photos, and write blog posts like this. Even video performance is remarkable when watching movies that I dowload.


While many of you are avid travelers, this freedom and flexibility could also mean that you can charge your laptop at home and be able to play games or watch movies during your commute to AND from work without worrying about charging it before you come home. It means that if you are going to class that it will work all day and do pretty much everything you need through the browser as well as additional apps you can install through the Chrome Web Store.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Intel but all opinions are mine.

]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 02 Dec 2014 05:35:22 -0800
Top 10 Things To Do with Time Saved by Ordering your Thanksgiving Feast from Buca di Beppo is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Buca di Beppo®. All opinions are 100% mine.

header image

Thanksgiving is fun, you get to spend time with family, drink and eat a bit too much, watch football, boast about your accomplishments of the past year and then do dishes, struggle with what to do with leftovers, juggle too many dishes and not enough space ... Wait? What? That's not fun but it tradition and if you are brave enough to try something new there's a great option this year from the folks over at Buca di Beppo - one of my favorite restaurants. 

The real question is what are you going to do with all that time you saved?

Here's our top 10 Ideas:

  1. Hide out in the den and start your Black Friday shopping
  2. Sneak a pie out to the back porch and hang out with the guys
  3. Watch even more college football!
  4. Give your wife an extra hug and kiss (she deserves it!)
  5. Thank your mom for all the hard work she put in before curb-side Thanksgiving dinners from Buca di Beppo were available
  6. Do an extra check on your Christmas lights to make sure they are ready to turn on tomorrow
  7. Grab your tablet and start planning your next mancation 
  8. Amaze the younger members of the family with spectacular tales from previous Thanksgiving disasters in the past such as the time Aunt Nancy burned the turkey or the time Uncle Stewy ate too much green bean casserole
  9. Have a spirited conversation over which is the BEST Christmas movie
  10. Relax and enjoy how it feels to be the Thanksgiving Hero this year!


Italian restaurants are always about big family style Thanksgiving dinner and so Buca di Beppo knows how to serve up a feast for Thanksgiving! To make thing even easier, they are giving us two options this year - Thanksgiving Feas Pans to pick up curb-side and take home, or you can dine in.

  • Choice of Sliced White Meat Turkey (or Hickory-Smoked Ham)
  • Homestyle Gravy
  • Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Spicy Italian Sausage Stuffing
  • Green Beans
  • Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving at Buca di Beppo

Pricing starts at $15.99 for 10 guests or $299.99 for 20 guests and you can customize with any of Buca di Beppos's traditional Italian sides as well as a pumpkin pie for additional cost. 

If you prefer the dine in option, they have you covered there too with a 3-person meal for $53.99 and a 6-person meal for $98.99 that includes pumpkin pie.

Frankly, you can't go wrong with either option so head on over and make yourThanksgiving reservations today!

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]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 25 Nov 2014 18:07:32 -0800
Schlitz Beer is Fighting Back to the Top with Schlitz Bouts! is a beer that your father or grandfather probably recalls fondly but it isn't at the top of mind for most beer lovers today. That's about to change as the same company that brought PBR back from obscurity is now working to promote the Schlitz brand as well and what better way to do that then do a nationwide tour with a 1920's themed boxing night including cigars, dancing girls, orchestra, and of course ... ice cold Schlitz beer!

One of our guys was at the recent event in LA and had an absolute blast. This was his first time trying Schlitz and he said he is looking forward to trying it again soon!

The event was one part stage show with costumed characters representing (and promoting) Schlitz beer, one part authentic amature boxing match, and all wrapped up as an awesome corporate party with a band, ring girls, and fashion show.














This was probably one of the best corporate parties / launch events we have seen in a long time as it was fun but authentic and left us truly wanting more vs just feeling obligated to write a post about the event. That means a lot and if they can combine this amazing branding ability with the distribution network they already have for PBR I am sure you'll see Schlitz on the beer menu at your favorite pub very soon!


Photos credit: Jerod Harris for Getty Images

]]> (James Hills)Mancation BlogSat, 22 Nov 2014 17:23:23 -0800