SkyMall Monday: Tex The Armadillo Can Holder

The NFL playoffs are heating up and soon people will be gathering for Super Bowl parties all across the world. The problem with Super Bowl parties – and all winter parties for that matter – is that cold weather requires you to entertain your guests indoors. That means that your home could sullied by muddy shoes, clumsy drunks and, perhaps worst of all, inconsiderate people who don’t use coasters. There may be nothing worse after a party than discovering that your coffee table has a brand new ring-shaped stain thanks to someone leaving their glass directly on the wood. Here at the SkyMall Monday headquarters, my girlfriend monitors coaster usage like Secret Service watches the president (not counting that unsightly Kennedy assassination). The problem with coasters, however, is that they are either woefully boring or horribly kitschy. It’s challenging to find something that will protect your surfaces from drinks while also spotlighting your interior decorating skills, impeccable taste and sophisticated character. That is, until now. Thanks to SkyMall, your drinks can now have a safe and attractive home that will make all of your party guests green with envy. Feast your eyes on Tex the Armadillo Can Holder.Coasters can only do so much. While they protect tables and countertops, they don’t prevent glasses from being knocked over. That’s where Tex comes in. Armadillos, unlike humans, hold beer cans using not only their hands, but also their tails. That third support point is what separates them from their human overlords. You see, tail support is key for balancing your brew and keeping its thick rich head from ever staining your table.

Think that an Armadillo-shaped beer can holder is tacky? Believe that there is nothing wrong with plain old coasters? Well, while you polish all of your hardwood for the third time today, the rest of us will be reading the product description:

Protect your beverage of choice until you’re ready to uncap and unwind! Our rough-n-ready armadillo, Tex, is a sure-fire conversation piece from his textured armor to his whiplash tail.

Coasters are only conversation pieces until drinks have been set down upon them. After that, they are concealed and forgotten. Meanwhile, Tex is always on display and ready to entertain your guests once you’ve gotten too drunk to be interesting.

No matter what the reason for your party, you’ll want to keep your home immaculate. So, whether it’s for the Super Bowl, the Oscars or your brother-in-law’s overdue circumcision, keep your tables clean with Tex the Armadillo Can Holder.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

The Spice Isle: Where trails are paved with nutmeg shells

“You can use it for tea” he says after picking the small leaf and handing it to me to smell.

There doesn’t seem to be anything that Telfor Bedeau doesn’t know about Grenada’s plants. In the past 50 yards alone, he’s pointed out trees that would’ve gone unnoticed as anything other than anonymous tropical trees. But now they’re recognized as some of my favorite things in the world: guava, mango, cinnamon. I’m already imagining my next supermarket trip back home going a little differently.

Telfor would be considered spry for any age, but especially since he just turned 70. He celebrated the day by doing what he seems to do (and love) best: hiking up to the top of Grenada’s highest peak, Mount Saint Catharine (2,757 feet).

It was his 157th time.

Known as the “Indiana Jones of Grenada,” he reached the milestone of having hiked 10,000 miles throughout Grenada in 2005. Guiding since 1990, he hikes in jellies (plastic sandals) while everybody else on the trail relies on treaded sneakers and walking sticks. He’s easy to extend a smile to everyone, and a hand to anyone who needs one.

It’s not that I’m writing this to flatter him — there’s little chance that he’ll read this, since he doesn’t use a computer or have email. No doubt it contributes to his youthful appearance. That and all the hiking. And the fact that his diet solely consists of raw fruits and vegetables.

So it was with intrigue –- both in my hiking guide Telfor and the trail –- that I hiked to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls in Grand Etang National Park.

%Gallery-77232%It’s a manageable walk — about 45 minutes one-way. If it’s considered tricky at all, it’s because of the ramped up mud- and slick-factor after a rain shower (and it is home to a rain forest, after all).

After paying EC$5 fee (per person) because the trail is on private property, we descend between plantations that are growing food I’m just getting to know for the first time, like callaloo and sorrel. We continue down steeper terrain where steps are made of large rocks, or clay that’s reinforced by bamboo (which also grows along the trail and creaks in the wind at intervals). The path meanders through lush greenery of all shapes and heights –- ferns, banana trees, strangler figs, palm trees.

Telfor takes a swipe at a vine stock with his machete, to show me its hollow core. “It’ll grow back,” he explains. Such is the nature of these quick-growing plants here — the first to sprout after Hurricane Ivan.

Areas that are muddy are mulched by nutmeg shells — an ingenious use of the island’s abundant throw-away. (You can even catch a subtle whiff of fragrance after the shells break underfoot.)

After rock-hopping across a river, we reach the two cascades of water, each falling into its own pool. There’s room for lounging along the side, but most people seem to head straight into the waterfall of the upper pool. My preferred vantage point: mid-way in the upper pool, looking up at the steep cliffs on either side, covered in a mix of big-leafed, exotic greenery.

The return trip is the same route back. In this direction, you’ll likely use the walking stick (on loan from the start) to help with the upward climb, rather than to navigate slippery sections downhill. I figure that the slower uphill pace gives me more time to look for the rain forest’s mona monkeys and armadillos, but no such sightings.

If you want to replicate the Seven Sisters hike on your own, you can reach it by hiring a car or joining a tour. Or you can specifically hire Telfor as a guide for the day (US$40 for 1 person, $30/each for 2 people, $25 for 3+ people, regardless of how long the day is. Phone: 473.442.6200).

Alison Brick traveled through Grenada on a trip sponsored by the Grenada Board of Tourism. That said, she could write about anything that struck her fancy. (And it just so happens that these are the things that struck her fancy.) You can read more from her The Spice Isle: Grenada series here.

“No Reservations” season 4, episode 14: Uruguay

Location: it’s a Bourdain family vacation to Uruguay, the hidden secret of South America. Quietly tucked between beach-strewn Brazil and boisterous Argentina, Uruguay is the unsung hero of grilled meats, beautiful scenery and a quintessential “laid-back” lifestyle.

Episode Rating: Four bloody meat cleavers out of five. The cleavers are extra bloody this week from the insane amount of meat Tony eats during his Uruguayan odyssey. It’s worth noting that the high ratings so far this season are not inflated – every single new episode this summer has made for highly-watchable television.

Summary: Little did we know, but the Bourdain family has a colorful family history, starting with Tony’s grandfather who headed across the Atlantic in 1918 to settle for a few years in Uruguay. It is this mysterious voyage across the ocean which frames Tony’s trip. Who were his ancestors? What was life like in early 20th Century Uruguay? To help in his quest, Bourdain invites along his brother Chris, and the siblings set off to try and find some answers (and possibly eat some animal flesh during their downtime).
There’s no better place to begin a trip to Uruguay then by visiting the country’s capital, Montevideo. It’s a majestic old gem of a city, full of crumbling old buildings and picturesque streets. And perhaps no landmark is more emblematic of Uruguay than the Mercado del Puerto, arguably the “beating heart” of the country. The market is filled with vendors selling a virtual cornucopia of meat of every shape and size, slow-cooked a la parrilla (on the grill) over the burning coals of a huge wood-fed fire.

It’s here that Tony lays out his “meat manifesto” for his brother while the two gorge themselves on steak, sausages and loins served with a side of the ubiquitous chimichurri sauce. The consumption of potatoes, vegetables or bread of any kind while eating meat is forbidden! It only serves to fill you up so you can eat less meat. Mercado del Puerto truly seems tailor-made for Mr. Bourdain.

But this is Uruguay after all – there’s much more grilled flesh to be eaten, so Bourdain and his brother travel to “Gaucho country” near the village of La Galleja to visit a Uruguayan estancia. While there, Tony is hosted by a family originally from Canada that has made the Uruguayan countryside their home. The family cooks a huge feast in honor of Chris and Tony’s visit, including a whole piglet a la parrilla, an Estofado (a South American stew) made with sweet potatoes and Nandu and the centerpiece: an armadillo. Tony’s reaction: it tastes like chicken. Really Tony? Is this not the cardinal sin of food television?

Next up is the sleepy village of Garzon, population 200, where Tony pays a visit to renowned chef Francis Mallmann. Mallman has retreated from the glitzy dining scene of nearby Punta del Este to focus his energies on simple, traditional Uruguayan cooking. To demonstrate his new focus, he prepares Tony a meal using the traditional styles of asado – meat cooked between two iron grills, meat cooked in salt crust, vegetables cooked in hot ash and a pascualina spinach-egg pie on the side. As they eat this simple, delicious meal, Francis and Anthony discuss virtues of patience and the ultimate simplicity and primal nature of barbecue. The normally vitriolic Bourdain is downright mellow and rightfully so – an enormous simple meal of grilled meats seems to be perfectly suited to Bourdain’s temperment.

Seemingly satisfied with his time in the interior, Bourdain heads for the coast where he relaxes in Punta del Este, Uruguay’s infamous summer beach retreat for the rich and famous. After sunning himself on a beautiful stretch of sand, Tony and Chris have dinner seaside at La Huella, where they dine on fire-roasted prawns and sauteed octopus. Not surprisingly the Uruguayan seafood is just as good as the barbecue.

The two brothers then head up the coast to the hippie enclave of Cabo Polonio. They drink at a small bar with a local named Raoul, downing shots of the local moonshine made from grapes while the bar’s pet penguin, Pancho, scurries about beneath their feet. How did the penguin get there? He just sort of got lost one day and decided to stay. About the same way most wanderers find themselves in Cabo Polonio.

Upon their return to Montevideo, Tony and brother Chris conclude their visit at a raucous street fair featuring chorizo sandwiches, some drum based candombe music and siete y tres cocktails made from a mixture of red wine and coke. Though Bourdain and his crew clearly planned the event for television, the scene quickly becomes a full-fledged party as the friendly locals notice the commotion and begin to gather. It’s fairly typical of Uruguay – it just sort of sneaks up on you with its beauty, its surprising and fantastic food and the unassuming friendliness of the locals. But don’t expect Uruguay to stay under the radar much longer – a place this good can only stay a secret for so long.