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Old School: Celebrate "Record Store Day"

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When was the last time you bought a new album at an actual brick and mortar record shop? In the age of iTunes, it’s become the norm to download music from the internet. I'm guilty, too, even though you can frequently find me and my camera jammed in the front row covering concerts for various music publications.

Tomorrow, take advantage of the spring weather and head over to your local record shop for Record Store Day, a celebration of independently owned record stores in the United States, and other countries worldwide, now in its third year.

In addition to special vinyl and CD releases being made exclusively for Record Store Day from the likes of Phoenix and Jamie Lidell, there will also be a number of in-store appearances and performances from a wide variety of musicians, including Slash, Emmylou Harris, and Yeasayer.  Search for your local participating stores here. I’ve put together a short list of standout events after the break.

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Fried Food and Dinosaurs on the Road to Memphis

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When my boyfriend was invited to read a story of his at the launch of the newest issue of The Pinch literary magazine, based in Memphis, I convinced him we had to go. I love the South—for its friendly locals, music, and most importantly, for its food.  Instead of spending upward of $300 on a flight, we decided to take a road trip. Surprisingly we only got lost once in 1,000 or so miles between New York and Memphis. And it was all because the ferocious beasts at Dinosaur Land distracted me from my navigatrix duties. Oops.

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Invisibility Cloak for Your Camera

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While traveling, I'm either too slow to take my camera out of my bag to capture that perfect moment, or too nervous to flash such a pricey piece of equipment in public.

Enter the Cloak Bag, the world's first shoot-through camera bag. The bag's unique bottom zipper design allows photographers to snap away without removing their SLR cameras from the bag, which saves time and also affords photographers a bit more discretion when taking photos in unfamiliar locals where thieves may target tourists. For $49, it's a steal to have that peace of mind.

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New Family Travel Auction Site Launches

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FamilyGetaway.com, a new website for value-seeking families, just launched and is offering travel packages at up to 65 percent off retail prices at places like the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Koloa, Hawaii, Highmark Steamboat Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.

Owned by the same company as LuxuryLink.com, FamilyGetaway.com operates in a similar manner as the popular luxury travel website by offering two purchase options:

-Auction: Those with flexible travel dates can submit bids on the package of their choice, assuring the website’s best values.

-Buy Now: For those with less flexibility, there is the Buy Now option that still offers steep discounts (often up to 50 percent off!).

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You Slay Me: RBC Coffee

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RBC Coffee, which opened last month in Tribeca, is quickly becoming one of New York's favorite coffee spots (it's barely been open for a month and it's already nominated for a 2010 Time Out NY EatOut Award!).

And with good reason: these people are serious about coffee. The passionate baristas here pull awe-inducing shots of espresso from their super hi-tech Slayer machine. While many focus on the $18,000 price tag of this machine (this is the only one on the East Coast), it's what comes out of the machine that makes it so incredible. The Slayer's variable pressure brewing, or "pressure profiling" allows baristas complete control over every aspect of the brewing process in order to create impeccable texture and flavor.

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Valentine's Day: Love Potions

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Whether you're happily single or madly in love, there appears to be a bartender in each corner of the country ready to lubricate your weekend's activities (with alcohol, of course!). Take a sip of the "Skinny Dip" Cocktail in Denver, knock back a vile of Love Potion #299 in New York, or fit in a few MO'Kisses in Boston. Keep reading to find out what's in each of these love-inducing drinks, and more.

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Hot Chocolate Festival in the Big Apple

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Hankering for something hot and sweet this bitter-cold February? If you're in New York, you're in luck. Monday marked the beginning of the 28-day long Hot Chocolate Festival at The City Bakery, which is renowned for its viscous cups of cocoa topped with giant, creamy homemade marshmallows.

This year's new flavor is Moulin Chocolate Rouge—a blend of pomegranate, espresso, dark chocolate and lemon. Read more about how City Bakery owner, Maury Rubin, comes up with these inventive cocoa flavors in Time Out NY here. Check out the other 27 delicious flavors. (And yes, those are strands of marshmallows you see below.)

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Hyatt Debuts Two New U.S. Properties

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The Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa opened today off of Florida's West Coast, outside of Tampa. The West Indies-inspired beachside resort features 250 suites with full kitchens. Clearwater guests will also be able to enjoy themselves at an eco-friendly spa, a 24-hour gym, and an eighth floor pool deck with 20 air-conditioned poolside cabanas, in addition to a pool and hot tub on the 16th floor Sky Terrace.

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"Come Up To My Room"

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With all the Olympic buzz going on now, it might be easy to forget there are plenty of other events happening in Canada this winter. On the other end of the country, Toronto's Gladstone Hotel just kicked off their annual alternative design event Come Up To My Room. Starting yesterday, art installations took over the hotel's second floor gallery space and 14 public spaces and will be there until this Sunday, January 24.

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New Year's Detox in the Catskills

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Be honest. You've probably broken your New Year's Resolution to eat healthier by now. (I know I have. The sticky toffee pudding at Brooklyn's Beast tapas restaurant is just that good.)

To get back on track, the best thing to do is get thee to a health spa, like the Copperhood spa, just 120-miles northwest of New York City in the Catskill Mountains. An ideal place to recover from the chaos—and over-indulgence—of the holiday season, it's specially tailored health and wellness programs will also help you detox and get a move on your New Year's resolution to lose weight and feel fab.

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