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RANKED: The 9 Best Towns In The Hamptons

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The Hamptons — a favorite vacation destination of the rich and famous as well as New York's 'it' crowd — is actually composed of roughly 20 different villages, each one with its own unique flavor.

For this list, we ranked each destination on their quality of beaches, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and real estate, as well as how many celebrities live in the area. We know some people go to the Hamptons to escape nightlife and the celebrity scene, but we included them in this ranking because they have a big impact on local tourism.

We assigned each category a score between 1 and 10, meaning the highest total score any Hamptons town could get was 60.

Without further ado, here are the nine best hamlets in the Hamptons.

9. Sagaponack

Sagaponack The Hamptons rural scene

This tiny village is renowned for its rural beauty, with some of the most scenic beaches in the area. 

The major downside of Sagaponack is that its too small for any theaters or shopping — for those, you would need to travel to nearby Southampton or East Hampton.

Well-known faces who have homes in Sagaponack include “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon and Goldman Sachs Chairman Lloyd Blankfein.

Beaches: 9
Restaurants: 5
Shopping: 4
Celebrity Sightings: 5
Nightlife: 4
Real Estate: 7.5
TOTAL: 34.5

8. Greenport

the frisky oyster greenport hamptons

Often overshadowed by trendier hamlets, Greenport has both Noah's and The Frisky Oyster, easily two of the best restaurants in the Hamptons.

But don't expect to see any celebs while you're here — despite gorgeous real estate, Greenport is still dominated by locals.

Beaches: 5
Restaurants: 10
Shopping: 6
Celebrity Sightings: 5
Nightlife: 6
Real Estate: 7
TOTAL: 39

7. Amagansett

Amagansett beach hamptons

Technically within the town of East Hampton, Amagansett has its own special style with low-key, delicious restaurants and really nice, sandy beaches.

Though it's rare that you'll see a celebrity in these parts, Alec Baldwin has been known to make an appearance here.

Beaches: 8
Restaurants: 10
Shopping: 6
Celebrity Sightings: 6
Nightlife: 7
Real Estate: 7
TOTAL: 44

6. Bridgehampton

Bridgehamton candy kitchen hamptons

Bridgehampton has fantastic and unique boutiques and restaurants, such as Maison 24 and Candy Kitchen.

Though it currently isn't known for celebrity sightings, that could be changing soon now that Donna Karan has opened a boutique hotel in the neighborhood.

Beaches: 8
Restaurants: 9
Shopping: 9
Celebrity Sightings: 7
Nightlife: 5
Real Estate: 6.5
TOTAL: 44.5

5. Westhampton Beach

westhampton beach hamptons

Westhampton Beach has clean, beautiful beaches.

It's also great for people watching: Not only do celebs like Anderson Cooper live here, but the restaurant Starr Boggs becomes quite the scene at night when the fabulous and wealthy mingle in the converted historic home.

Beaches: 10
Restaurants: 8
Shopping: 6
Celebrity Sightings: 7
Nightlife: 6
Real Estate: 7
TOTAL: 44

4. Sag Harbor

Main Street in Sag Harbor Hamptons

Known for being an artist haven, Sag Harbor is one of the prettiest villages with its cute storefronts and old-school Hamptons appeal.

It also has fantastic real estate that draws celebrities like Christy Brinkley. And if you want to see the celebs out and about, check out Italian restoTutto Il Giorno (Donna Karan’s daughter Gabby is a partner).

Beaches: 7
Restaurants: 9
Shopping: 6
Celebrity Sightings: 7
Nightlife: 6
Real Estate: 10
TOTAL: 45

3. Montauk

montauk surfing hamptons ditch plains beach

During the day, surfers flock to Montauk's Ditch Plains Beach for the best waves on Long Island.

Then at night, the pubs take over with a nightlife scene that draws both hipster and local crowds to this fisherman's village.

Plus, Montauk has some of the most succulent seafood in the Hamptons at restaurants like Dave's Grill and Harvest on Fort Pond.

Beaches: 10
Restaurants: 9
Shopping: 7
Celebrity Sightings: 8
Nightlife: 10
Real Estate: 6
TOTAL: 50

2. East Hampton

Sl East Hamptons East Hampton

When it comes to nightlife, East Hampton has you covered with raging dance clubs like SL East and the Pink Elephant.

It also has stellar beaches, tons of shopping, top-notch restaurants, and plenty of celeb spottings. Essentially, East Hampton has everything.

Beaches: 9
Restaurants: 8
Shopping: 9
Celebrity Sightings: 9
Nightlife: 8
Real Estate: 8
TOTAL: 51

1. Southampton

capri southampton

Southampton puts all other villages to shame when it comes to three things: Shopping, celebrities, and real estate.

Southampton is packed with any kind of men's, women's, children's, home goods, or artsy store you could possibly name.

It's also a favorite spot among the rich and famous— mainly because the epic, multi-million dollar mansions that line the ocean are only affordable if you have deep pockets.

Beaches: 7
Restaurants: 9
Shopping: 10
Celebrity Sightings: 10
Nightlife: 6
Real Estate: 10
TOTAL: 52

Disagree on our ranking? Tell us your favorite Hamptons town in the comments!

SEE ALSO: The 10 Best Restaurants In The Hamptons

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See What The Elusive And Controversial 'McLobster' Really Looks Like

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Few regions ever get the opportunity to try the McLobster. 

The sandwich is basically McDonald's take on a lobster roll. The regional dish just premiered in Ontario, and Twitter reviews have mostly been bad

Some diners took photos of the McLobster.  

Here's McDonald's promotional photo of it: 

mclobster

Here are some pictures of it: 

At around $5.99, the McLobster has been deemed too expensive to be a fast food staple. 

SEE ALSO: The Stomach-Turning Process Of How Hot Dogs Are Made

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6 Times That Being Cheap Will Cost You

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costco

Thrifty shoppers are always looking for ways to save money whenever possible, whether by cutting weekly or monthly spending, or by stretching your dollar through sales and coupons.

But take heed, because some common efforts to save actually result in wasting money.

Changing the way you shop, switching to a different financial service, and more — all under the guise of saving — can often be more detrimental than you might think. Instead, think twice and avoid these common pitfalls.

Switching Banks

Why You Think It Saves Money: "Why am I paying all these bank account fees? I'm going to switch banks for a free checking account and more ATMs."

How You Can Overspend: Despite last year's fervor for Bank Transfer Day, switching banks can be costly. You can easily incur overdraft fees from un-posted or pre-written checks and from transitioning automatic bill payments and direct deposits. New deposit requirements or availability policies can result in low-balance fees while you learn how to maintain "free" checking accounts.

Smarter Saving: Find a bank that offers free checking with no requirements and a ready-made bank "switch kit." Keep your old checking account open for several months until you are certain all automatic payments and checks have cleared.



Spending for Rewards

Why You Think It Saves Money: "I get cash back for things I buy anyway, so put it on the credit card."

How You Can Overspend: According to a recent Nilson Report, average monthly spending on a non-rewards credit card totaled $465; with rewards, it reached $890. Clearly, it's easy to feel compelled to spend more when you think that you're earning rewards. But be careful, balances carried over can quickly eclipse rewards as you'll have to pay off interest on your principle balance. Personal finance experts warn, also, that mental accounting weakens with credit card spending. You'll likely have a harder time keeping track of what you're charging, than if you were paying for everything in cash.

Smarter Saving: Stick to your shopping budget and always pay off credit card balances before their due date. For rotating rewards categories, spend only in those higher-paying categories (for example, 5% on groceries vs. 1% on gas). Search for a reward credit card with no rewards expiration dates and no annual fees.



Sharing Your Max Monthly Payment

Why You Think It Saves Money: "The salesman will stick to my monthly payment budget if I tell him what it is."

How You Can Overspend: Rather than offering you the best price for an item (paid for in installments, like a car or loan), salesmen often try to bloat the package cost so that it reaches (or goes slightly over) your max budget. If they know you're willing to spend a certain amount each month, you can bet they won't opt to undersell you.

Smarter Saving: Stay focused on cutting the overall price of your purchase so that you'll end up with a lower monthly payment. Don't let salespeople pack any extras into your plan.



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The 10 Coolest Hotel Pools In Las Vegas

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3 liquid day club vegas

Of the nearly 40 million people who visited last year, The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates that about half of them were there for pleasure and recreation—and no doubt a good number of them started their recreational activities poolside.

The growing number of dayclubs—featuring celebrity DJs, celebrity revelers, and over-the-top cabanas—cater to those who don't want to wait for the sun to go down to get the party started. But there are plenty of choices for those seeking sun-drenched serenity, and some great family options, too.

With things heating up, here are 10 top picks for getting into the swim of things in Sin City.

Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Something of the new kid on the block, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has one of the hippest pool scenes in town. By day, Boulevard boasts an expansive view of the Strip below, as well as a shaded area for foosball, ping-pong, and billiards.

Cool off with liquid nitrogen-charged booze-spiked popsicles, sorbets, and cocktails. During the summer, Monday nights are "Dive-In Movies" night, with screenings of classic, cult, and blockbuster films shown on its 65-foot digital marquee.

Marquee Dayclub on the 17th floor, with cabanas that boast their own private infinity pools, is party central. (Bamboo and Boulevard open to guests only; Boulevard opened to non-guests for evening events; Marquee Dayclub admission begins at $20)



Caesars

At Caesars, all roads lead poolside. There are eight pools spread over an expansive ground-floor "oasis," set amid classical statuary, waterfalls, and fountains.

The Temple pool is a popular splash zone for kids, while Venus is the resort's "European" pool (that's Vegas code for swimsuit tops optional), and Fortuna features swim-up blackjack underneath its 18-foot waterfall.

The Bacchus pool, however, is reserved for high-profile guests, so unless you're, say, a member of the "Hangover 3" cast, this probably won't be an option. (Free for hotel guests; open to non-guests: $10 Monday-Thursday, $20 Friday-Sunday)



ARIA Las Vegas

Local and celebrity DJs spin music poolside at this dayclub tucked discreetly away from Aria's three resort pools, but it's smaller (16,000 square feet) than many pool clubs, and the vibe is decidedly more low key.

Trees, vine-laden trellises, and exotic-looking flora add to the island mood, while the wicker furniture with mattresses in neutral shades bring a modern touch.

If you feel like checking it out first, Liquid has its own restaurant that guests can enjoy without paying a cover charge. (Open to guests and non-guests with cover charges starting at $10)



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10 Things You Probably Never Knew About Money

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MoneyOnTheStreet

Money - it's something we all use every day, but rarely think about, except to lament that we don't have enough of it.

The U.S. has been making money since 1792. That first money was in the form of coins.

These early coins were made of precious metals and had actual value. It wasn't until 1862 during the Civil War that the Department of Treasury produced paper money, which isn't actually paper; it's cotton.

It was created to make up for the coin shortage. Since those early coins contained valuable metals, Americans began hording them as a hedge against the fluctuations in money created by the war. 

Coins have ridges to protect against counterfeiting.

Most of us use coins to purchase items from vending machines, or we throw them in a bank to save for a rainy day, but coins have a fascinating history. Did you ever wonder why the quarter has those ridges on the edge? They were created to prevent counterfeiting. Yes, even back in those gentler times of Colonial America there were improvising criminals trying to counterfeit money. These counterfeiters would shave the edges off of coins because they were made of silver and gold. A ten dollar gold piece was made with ten dollars worth of gold. 

To make a little extra money, people would shave the edges of the coins and collect the metal. If done well enough, the smaller coins would not be noticed by merchants and they in effect would get less than ten dollars in gold for a purchase. This gave the counterfeiter extra gold or silver to make into more coins. Today, the ridges remain as a form of "braille" for the seeing impaired. There are 119 grooves on the edge of a quarter. 



A dollar bill only lasts 18 months before it wears out.

The dollar bill is the most circulated bill in the U.S. One-dollar bills account for 48% of the paper bills printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. A dollar bill usually makes it through around 18 months of use before it wears out. 

If you take the time to look at the dollar bill you will notice a few things. It's easy to notice the "all seeing eye" over the pyramid, the eagle with 13 arrows in its talons and the Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, One). There are a few things, however, you might have missed, such as other phrases on the bill:

  • Annuit Coeptis - "God (or He/Providence) has favored our undertakings" 
  • Novus ordo seclorum - "New Order of the Ages" 
  • In God We Trust - This phrase actually first appeared on U.S. money between 1864 - 1873 on a two-cent coin. It reappeared in 1955 and has been on all U.S. money since 1963

In 2010, the U.S. Mint produced roughly 1,856,000,000 one dollar bills. If you have one-million of them, they would weigh, 2,040.8 pounds. Ask for 20s instead, as one million of them would only weigh 20.4 pounds. As well, you can make change for a one-dollar bill 293 ways.



Living Presidents are banned from having their faces on currency.

Pennies, you either love them or hate them. They were the first denomination of coins struck in the U.S. and they've been around a long time. They've been around since 1793 when they were 100% copper. President Lincoln made his appearance on the penny in 1909. 

Modern pennies are made of a bit of copper with zinc and nickel. There were 4,938.54 million pennies produced in 2011. The current design of the penny still features President Lincoln on the front, but the reverse has gone through several revisions. It now shows a Union shield with 13 vertical stripes, a single horizontal bar across the top which represents the Union, and "E Pluribus Unum." There have been recurring attempts to stop production of the penny, but for now, it is still being produced. 

By legislation created during the Revolutionary years of the U.S., no living person can be featured on a coin. It was to ensure that the U.S. would not appear like a monarchy, as living kings during the era were cast onto their countries coinage. There has been one exception to this rule, President Calvin Coolidge. His image was struck on a commemorative coin that celebrated the Sesquicentennial of American Independence. It was minted in 1926.



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28 Excellent Books You Can Read For Free

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nook reader

A few years ago, I received a Kindle as a gift from my wife. It’s a pretty nifty little device, perfectly designed for reading the text of books.

The problem is that in order to read a lot of books, you have to buy them from the Kindle bookstore. Yes, there are other options out there – you can check out some e-books from your local library, for example – but the selection is often really limited.

Naturally, my frugal side wanted to find ways to really extract value from my Kindle. I wanted to find free books worth reading – and, it turns out, there are a lot of free books out there.

Many of them are trash.

However, there are a lot of diamonds mixed in with all of that charcoal. For example, virtually every work first published before 1920 is considered to be in the public domain and thus it’s pretty easy to find a free electronic version of almost every well-known book from that timeframe.

There are also writers who distribute some of their works for free, either for philosophical reasons or in the hopes that it will attract new followers to the other things they’re engaged in (public speaking, teaching, other books, etc.).

Over the past few years, I’ve been digging through a lot of these resources and cataloguing the books I’ve enjoyed. Here’s a list of 28 of them. Why 28? As I made the list, I kept the ones I really enjoyed and thought about and didn’t include the rest. Now seems like a perfectly good time to share this list.

For the most part, I’ve simply linked to the Kindle-compatible version of the book. You can download a free program for your PC to easily read Kindle books on your screen, so you don’t actually need an e-reader to enjoy these. If you use another device for reading, like Sony’s e-reader or the Nook from Barnes and Noble, a quick Google search will lead you to the resources you need.

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
This is often known as a romance novel, but it’s actually a revenge story. The book tells the story of Heathcliff, a rather strange child who is adopted by a family and is later made to be their servant. Eventually, he runs away after being jilted by a lover, and when he returns, he’s obtained wealth and refinement, but also has a burning desire to destroy both of the families he believes has done wrong by him.

2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This book tells the tale of Pip, an orphaned child who climbs up and down the social ladder of Georgian England. There are a lot of wonderful things going on here: family loyalty, coming of age, a few nice action scenes, and some really memorable characters (of which every Dickens novel has a few).

3. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
This is a legal drama, believe it or not, that basically exposes how painfully the wheels of justice can turn and how some court cases can drastically affect the lives of many. It does delve a bit into specifics of how the law worked at the time in England, but get past that and you have an interesting novel with a lot of subplots that are all tied together by a painful and dramatic trial.

4. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau spent two years living in a self-made cabin on Walden Pond and during that time, he took down his thoughts on the value of solitude and self-reliance. This is a wonderfully thought-provoking book on what it means to be an independent and self-reliant person, mixed in with some great tales of independence and nature.

5. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
This is just a really wonderful action story, with double crosses, fights, romance, and humor. There have been countless film adaptations of this and the various sequels to the story, and no wonder – it’s just a really fun adventure.

6. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
I have never read a better story about a person growing, changing, maturing, and developing a strong sense of right and wrong than this one. The slow change in Jean Valjean from the beginning to the end of this book, along with his interactions of people of various moralities, is simply wonderful to read. There are about a dozen deeply memorable characters in this novel who will stick with you for a long time.

7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This is a horror story, but also a very timely commentary on the public face that people put out there while they sometimes hide darker things. Wilde can’t write a novel without incorporating some humor, but there is a lot of thoughtful darkness in this novel.

8. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
This tells the tale of Siddhartha, a man who simply wants to understand how life works. He starts off being an ascetic in that he gives up worldly possessions, but eventually he moves on from there through various stages and eventually reaches some powerful conclusions about life.

9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
In 2007, Time declared this to be the greatest novel ever written. Oprah picked it for her book club. Read it. You will be glad that you did.

10. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
This is, hands down, my favorite collection of poetry. It includes my single favorite poem and countless other great poems, including the amazing I Sing the Body Electric. If you read a book of poetry in your life, make it this one.

11. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
This is an amazing story about an individual driven to madness by the darkness of the Congo wilderness and the darkness of the reality of European colonialism of Africa. Marlow’s discovery of Kurtz after a long ride up the river is just chilling. The book was re-made into the powerful film Apocalypse Now.

12. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
As my wife once said, “They don’t write romance novels this well any more.” While there’s a romance going on, the book also looks at upbringing, morality, education, gender, and marriage in upper middle class England in the early 19th century. Austen had great observations and could also create some very strong characters.

13. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
A man survives for twenty eight years on a tropical island, surviving cannibals and attacks by mutineers while also building some semblance of a life for himself. It’s a powerful novel of self-reliance and adventure.

14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
There’s a wonderful adventure story here, but what makes Huck Finn stand out is the stark pictures of prejudices and education at the time is how Huck Finn largely ignores society’s ideas of right and wrong to do what he thinks is the right thing. He does this over and over again, which causes him endless problems with polite society.

15. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
This is a wonderful telling of the story of a truly amazing life. Not only is it a great record of an absolutely vital early American, it’s also quite fun to read. Franklin is one of those people with such a varied and impressive life that you can’t help but be amazed with all of the things he achieved.

16. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
This is a harrowing story about workers in a meat-packing plant around the turn of the twentieth century. The descriptions of the work that they do will really shock you and make you want to investigate where your food comes from. The novel ended up having an enormous impact on the food industry in the early twentieth century.

17. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this novel. It’s just a lot of fun. What happens if you take a very intelligent modern man and drop him into King Arthur’s world? That’s the premise here, and Twain tells it with humor and thoughtfulness.

18. The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
What sort of evil things might you do if you were invisible? And what does that say about the person that you actually are? Those are the real questions asked in this great science fiction novel.

19. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
This is somewhat a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but this one is better and you don’t really need to have read the first novel to enjoy it. Several people become shipwrecked on a strange island where things don’t always happen as you might expect them to.

20. From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, as it is a very entertaining fictionalization of what people in the late 19th century believed that travel to the moon would actually be like. Mostly, this novel is a “space race” of sorts, with an individual overcoming all kinds of obstacles to develop and build a device to launch a man to the moon. The sequel Around the Moon is also entertaining, but more fanciful.

21. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells
What’s the line between science fiction and horror? This novel rides that fine line. Doctor Moreau lives on a strange island where he creates sentient beings by combining the parts of various animals. The novel dwells quite a lot on the issues of pain in the name of progress and animal cruelty, while telling a strong story.

22. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
I found Vanity Fair to be incredibly funny. It makes fun of society as a whole, particularly the hypocrisy of people and how they’ll willingly step on someone’s neck to reach a few inches higher. It ends up with an intriguing murder mystery, one that I used to frequently argue about with an old friend.

23. Roughing It by Mark Twain
On a rather different note, Roughing It is Mark Twain’s memoirs of his years spent in the wild West. Twain’s humor is evident here, but it’s also a great adventure story that reveals quite a lot about the nature of the old West.

24. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
If you’re interested in knights, chivalry, and Robin Hood, you’ll enjoy Ivanhoe. It’s as simple as that. It’s a very fun adventure story, vibrant and yet realistic, though the language is just a touch dated in places.

25. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
This is a very powerful look at what morality is and how we can internally and externally determine right and wrong based on objective truth, not on the ideas of the society around us. More often than not, they overlap, but a sense of what’s right based on what we objectively know to be true is a much more powerful guide than just following what others tell us.

26. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
This is a wonderful adventure story set during the French-Indian War of the 1750s. Be careful when reading Cooper, though; if you’ve read one book by him, you’ll get a feeling that you’re just re-reading the same book if you read more. One is very well worth reading, though, and I suggest this one.

27. Accelerando by Charles Stross
Accelerando is a 2005 science fiction novel that Stross has released as a free e-book for anyone to read. It’s actually a series of nine somewhat interconnected short stories telling the story of a family before, during, and after a technological singularity – in other words, a merging of man and machine for a level of superintelligence that neither could achieve on their own. It’s a very enjoyable read with lots of thought-provoking ideas.

28. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Little Brother is a 2007 novel by Cory Doctorow that describes how four teenagers respond to a terrorist attack in San Francisco. During the aftermath of that attack, the Department of Homeland Security tries to crack down on civil rights in the area, and the main characters fight back against it in various ways, often utilizing technology in a clever way. Much likeAccelerando, this one is a great new novel that’s free for anyone to read.

Hopefully, you now have plenty to read without exploding your pocketbook.

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10 Extravagant Items Fit For The Royal Baby's Nursery

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PoshTotsThe Royal Baby Watch begins in earnest today as Kate Middleton was reportedly helicoptered to London from her parents' home.

But it still remains to be seen: How will Kate and William decorate the nursery? 

A child who could one day be the future king or queen of England needs a bedroom to match, which is where PoshTots comes in. PoshTots, known for its luxury kids furniture, has the poshest in baby room décor.

We're talking cribs that cost upwards of $5,000, and playhouses that put your old pillow fort to shame.

The company's lavish furnishings have even adorned children's bedrooms of clients such as Julia Roberts, the Trumps, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Heidi Klumaccording to Style Weekly.

We found 10 pieces of PoshTots' luxe furniture that would be sure to please the new prince or princess.

This carriage bed is perfect for a princess.

On a cedar and birch frame, the delicate-crafted carriage bed sits on wheels and comes with a rear box that makes a great changing table and storage unit.

Price: $19,995



The Fantasy Coach is great to play in, and cozy enough to sleep in.

One of PoshTots's most talked-about pieces is reminiscent of Cinderella's stage coach, handcrafted in England of wood and fiberglass. The large interior is more than six feet in diameter.

Price: $47,000



An old-fashioned pram is classic, stylish, and functional.

Kate is known for her elegant style, which will no doubt be adopted by the royal baby. The Silver Cross Balmoral pram has chrome detailing and handpainted pinstripes, which both mom and baby are sure to love.

Price: $4,498



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I Walked Away From The 'Cruise' From Hell And Still Can't Get A Full Refund

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People get ripped off all the time. They either fight it, or forget about it because they decide it isn't worth the effort.

When my wife and I paid more than $220 for a Fourth of July fireworks and dinner cruise that never actually cruised for the fireworks, I chose to fight for a full refund.

Let this be a cautionary tale to always do your due diligence, even before booking something as innocent as a river cruise.

We booked our cruise months in advance through Wesell.com, which operates their event cruise booking through Oncruises.com.

For $222.95, we were promised a cruise along the Hudson River off New York City on the Star Of Palm Beach. The price was supposed to include "VIP" tickets for a "VIP" table, access to an open bar and a buffet-style dinner from which fireworks watchers could "oooh!" and "ahhhh!" at the pyrotechnic display as they danced, drank, and generally were merry.

Didn't work out that way.

Here's how it went down.

After purchasing the tickets, hopeful cruise-goers are told to line up at the dock by 5 p.m. for a 6 p.m. boarding of the ship. This year, the line stretched out under the sun, in 90 degree temperatures. We waited.

And waited.

OncruiseLine1a

Until eventually 6 p.m. came and went like a summer intern, with no sign of the Star of Palm Beach.

6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. Still no sign of the ship and we watched the other lines dwindle as their boats came, loaded them up, and left. At around 7 p.m. there was a flurry of activity as the front of the line swung around and started heading for another dock to line up. They were told the ship would be loading there. Off we went ...

Book with Wesell.com and prepare to have a terrible time. Oncruise

... where we waited some more. But at least it was out of the heat. Now it's 7 :05 p.m. and the boat is an hour late.

Oncruise cruise terrible

Folks were understandably getting testy at this point.

We continued to wait with no notification from the staff as to what was going on or where the ship was. We started to see staff ferry food boxes and DJ equipment past us onto the dock. Hopes were raised. Then at around 7:30 p.m. the boat docked. Excitement! The crowd settled down a bit until a worker announced that everybody had to move back to the original line, and that only the food and staff would be loading here due to safety concerns.

People were not happy. You can see crew staff here trying to tell people who refuse to leave the line to go.

Oncruise star of palm beach not leaving dock

They eventually gave in and went to line up in the old line. They weren't happy campers.

Oncruises customers unhappy

So we waited some more. And some more. The ship was still docked at the other pier. The fireworks were supposed to start around 9 p.m., and we knew if the ship didn't leave soon we might not be in a great spot to watch them.

Still, we waited. It was still hot out. No announcements. No water.

Oncruises star of palm beach

The ship finally pulled up to the dock where we were lined up. At least the view looked pretty from there.

Oncruises StarOfPalmBeach

Crowding began as staff started actually letting people onto the ship. But they never announced that the boarding began, only that "Those wearing VIP bracelets come to the front!" which further enraged the agitated crowd. There was no such thing as VIP in this line.

oncruises star of palm beach horror

By this point we debated even getting on the ship; thought about calling it a day. But we decided we'd paid for a cruise, and we'd waited this long so we were going to get our cruise no matter what. Were we wrong.

Finally, we boarded. By this time it was about 8:25 p.m. We shuffled on board and found our "VIP" table — keep in mind we paid extra for the VIP tickets — only to find it was a small table inside the ship next to grimy windows you can barely see out of. OK, no problem. We agree we'll get some drinks as we wait to ship off. We got a few Coronas in plastic cups, lined up for some truly horrible buffet (more on that in a bit) and sat down next to the excessively loud DJ booth.

StarOfPalmBeach Fireworks View

8:45 p.m. We still hadn't left the dock. One of the passengers told us he'd heard the ship actually wouldn't be leaving the dock, because the pier is situated directly across from where the Macy's fireworks barges are shooting off their loads, and the Coast Guard won't allow any more ships to leave.

That was the final straw. We got off the boat. The party "cruise" wasn't happening. The ship wasn't leaving for the fireworks. We just paid $222.95 to watch the fireworks from the shore on the docks.

Star of palm beach never leaving the dock

Docked or on the river, this ship wasn't meant for great fireworks viewing anyway. There was no room on the cramped top deck and you couldn't see anything from the dance floor area. Regardless, some people still chose to remain on the ship to at least get some (now) very expensive drinks.

We watched the fireworks from the shore and they were spectacular, then we fought the crowds on the street to get home.

This was a fireworks cruise that never cruised for the fireworks. Some Yelpers said it did set sail after 10 p.m.. The organization was horrible, the staff rude and unhelpful, all of which could almost have been forgiven had the Star Of Palm Beach actually cruised for the fireworks.

To add insult to injury, I got food poisoning from the buffet food. Two doctor's visits, 10 days out of commission and a loss of 13 pounds later, the doc says it was bad food. The only food I'd eaten that day was the buffet.

This is where things get even more tricky.

No concern for the customer

We reached out to Oncruises.com, which re-directs to parent company Wesell.com. You wouldn't know that Oncruises is a property of Wesell.com by visiting the Oncruises website, which makes it doubly difficult to understand who it is you're supposed to talk to. For two days we repeatedly called and left messages with customer service and emailed through their contact form for a request to discuss a refund for the fireworks cruise that wasn't.

Finally, the following week we were able to get through to a customer service representative named Aoise who was very apologetic and promised us a full refund. All we had to do was fill out their online form and they would get back to us Monday. We did as asked, but recieved no call or email that week. This week, we called and left a message on Wednesday, and again called on Friday, when we were finally able to get through.

It was a much different story this time.

Aoise informed us that Wesell.com couldn't reimburse us for any more than 40% of the total ticket cost. When confronted with the fact that she previously said there would be a full refund, she flatly stated she never said that, and there was nothing more she could give. After going around for another 10 minutes, we asked to be escalated up. She put us through to her supervisor Christina Anderson (no relation!) and we explained the situation anew.

Christina restated that they could only "refund what we took in from the event itself," and the best she could do was 50% of the total ticket cost.

I asked her if this policy is in their terms and conditions and she said that everything is there when you purchase a ticket.

This is actually all that is listed for refunds under Oncruises terms and conditions:

Screen Shot 2013 07 26 at 3.39.17 PM

There is no mention of the maximum 40% protocol that was stated by customer service. What is interesting though, is that they will only refund if an event is canceled. Both customer service reps used this as the basis for not giving a full refund for the Fourth Of July Cruise, as the "party event" still occurred on the ship, just at the dock.

This simply isn't the case though, as the event was billed as a fireworks cruise, and that never happened. The ship was docked during the fireworks. The ship didn't make it out until after 10 p.m., over 4 hours late. Not one person on that ship would qualify that event as not being canceled.

To top things off, despite repeated requests as to why the ship was so late in the first place, no answer was ever given.

We asked if there was another contact we could reach out to for this story, and were given the email address for somebody in Wesell.com's business development office. When we asked for the name of the CEO, we were told it is Eddie Miller, but a quick search came back with "Miller Ilya" as the CFO, and were also told that they would not give out his contact information "under any circumstances" even after we informed them this would be published as a story about Wesell. 

At this point, we'll consider ourselves lucky to get back even the 50% refund from cruise that never cruised for the fireworks, the event that "wasn't canceled." 

Here's what we should have done differently ...

Companies hidden behind layers of smaller properties and those that filter their customers through layers of unresponsive and unhelpful representatives that only results in more backtracking and penny pinching aren't companies that you should give your money to.

Judging from our experience, it's obvious Wesell.com is going for the absolute bottom line and taking advantage of those people who have the misfortune of signing up for one of their cruises or "events." The way they're doing business now, there's no recourse for the consumer to push back. Except through getting the word out that you'll likely have a better time sitting at home with friends or family than to ever consider booking anything through one of Wesell.com's properties. 

Your first warning should be the Yelp reviews, the Trip Advisor reviews and the "F" rating on the Better Business Bureau. Should you for some reason not heed the warnings of either, let this story be a cautionary tale as to the full experience we had booking through Wesell.com's Oncruises. 

In our case, it was a New York City 4th Of July fireworks cruise and from beginning to end, the entire experience was a total disaster. Wesell.com's questionable refund policy and travesty of a customer service department is a clear indication of a company that cares little about their customer's experience with their brand.

If you have had a horrible experience with a business, fight back if you have the energy. That's the only way other folks out there end up having less of a chance of getting ripped off. If you're unable to resolve an issue on your own, you should consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

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Hundreds Of New York Women Are Not Shy About Doing The Downward-Facing Dog In Public

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For the last decade, thousands of spandex clad yogis have convened in Bryant Park to perfect their downward facing dog.

Just steps away from the hustle and bustle of Times Squares, it seems like an unlikely location for finding inner peace.

"These days everyone is doing yoga and if they are not doing yoga, they are very curious about it," said Christine Chen, one of the yoga instructor leading the Bryant Park Yoga classes, sponsored by Athleta, the sporting apparel line by GAP.

That certainly seemed to be the case when we visited. Despite the heat, the park was packed with people practicing sun salutations and a crowd of onlookers.

Between 300 to 800 people show up to take one of the free classes are offered on Tuesday mornings and Thursday nights throughout the summer.

Hear more from participants about the payoff and challenges that go along with getting your "zen on" in public.

 

Additional camera & production: Justin Gmoser

SEE ALSO: Bow Ties Are Back In Style — Here's How To Tie One

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What Is The Best Planned City In The World?

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Machu Picchu

This discussion on Quora, entitled “which is the most well planned city in the world?” certainly got us thinking; not only because of the interesting and diverse answers to the question, but also because of the different reasons which were used to support these answers.

Currently the most popular answer seems to be Zurich, on account of its excellent (and obsessively punctual) public transport, organized waste disposal and numerous public drinking fountains. Other cities which are commended for their public transport and cleanliness are Singapore and Seoul. But other contributors seem to have a very different idea of what makes a well-planned city – read on to find out more.

Amsterdam is cited for its ability to maintain 17th century charm without feeling old-fashioned, integrating new and old into its well-planned canal system. On the other hand, cities such as Brasilia, Chandigarh and Canberra are commended as 20th Century, logically planned cities that still adhere to the original vision. Along similar lines, Chicago and Salt Lake City are offered as examples of cities where the gridded road systems adhere to a relentless logic.

Yet more contributors think that the golden age of city planning is long gone, claiming Machu Picchu is the best planned city in the world. Indeed it’s hard to argue with the logic – a terraced, perfectly irrigated city built (without the the wheel) on the peak of a mountain is surely an amazing achievement.

There’s also a nod to Auroville, an experimental town in India which is not only meticulously planned spatially – as a spiral of different districts with its ‘peace zone’ in the center – it is also a planned social experiment bringing together people of different nationalities who share the same worldview.

Finally, even Minas Tirith is mentioned – though strictly this city can at most claim to be the best planned city in Middle Earth.

So what, in your opinion, makes a city well planned? Is it order, rules and regularity? A single guiding vision? Is it combining new and old in a way that enhances both? Leave your opinion in the comments below.

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Pope Francis Gives Candid Speech On 'Exodus' Of Followers From The Catholic Church

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Pope Francis

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Pope Francis, in a stunningly candid assessment of the state of the Catholic Church, said on Saturday it should look in the mirror and ask why so many people are leaving the faith of their fathers.

On the penultimate day of his trip to Brazil, Francis delivered a long address to the country's bishops in which he suggested elements of what could become a blueprint for stopping what he called an "exodus."

"I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?" he said in a speech remarkable for its frankness about the hemorrhaging of the Church in many countries.

The Argentine pope, who is in Rio for a Catholic international jamboree known as World Youth Day, referred to what he called "the mystery of those who leave the Church" because they think it "can no longer offer them anything meaningful or important."

The Church has been losing members throughout the world to secularism and to other religions, including in Latin America, where evangelical groups have won over many converts.

He acknowledged that many people see the Church as a "relic of the past," too caught up in itself, and a "prisoner of its own rigid formulas."

While he said the Church "must remain faithful" to its religious doctrine, it had to be closer to the people and their real problems.

"Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them," he said.

"At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people," he said.

In Brazil, the number of Catholics has dwindled rapidly in the decades since its once-rural population moved increasingly to major cities, where modern consumer culture has overtaken more provincial mores and where Protestant denominations, aggressively courting followers in urban outskirts and shantytowns, have won many converts.

"We need a Church capable of restoring citizenship to her many children who are journeying, as it were, in an exodus," he said.

The address to the bishops complemented an earlier homily in Rio's cathedral, where he urged priests worldwide to leave their comfortable surroundings to go out and serve the poor and needy.

"We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel," he said in the sermon of a Mass in Rio's cathedral.

Since his election in March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, Francis has been prodding priests, nuns and bishops to think less about their careers in the Church and listen more to the cries of those who are hungry to fill both material and spiritual needs.

"It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door and meet the people!" he said.

'SLUM CARDINAL'

Known as the "slum cardinal" in his native Argentina because of his austere lifestyle and visits to poor areas, Francis made a clarion call to clergy to take risks and go out among the faithful who need them most.

"It is in the 'favelas' and 'villas miseria' that one must go to seek and to serve Christ," he said, quoting the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta and using the terms used in Brazil and Argentina for shantytowns.

Francis has set a new tone in the Vatican, rejecting the lush papal residence his predecessors used in the Apostolic Palace and living instead in a small suite in a Vatican guest house, and often eating in the common dining room.

The pope spoke as hundreds of thousands of young people were converging on Rio's famed Copacabana beach for an all night prayer vigil ahead of concluding ceremonies on Sunday, when he returns to Rome.

Earlier, in a talk at Rio's theater, he said leaders must address the issues raised in protests in Brazil, saying dialogue was the only way to resolve the issues.

Latin America's largest nation has been rocked by protests against corruption, the misuse of public money and the high cost of living. Most of the protesters are young.

He urged leaders not to remain deaf to "the outcry, the call for justice (that) continues to be heard even today" and, in an apparent reference to corruption, spoke of "the task of rehabilitating politics."

(Additional reporting by Esteban Israel in Sao Paolo; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren Returns To Pulpit Four Months After Son's Suicide

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Obama Rick WarrenLAKE FOREST, Calif. (AP) — Nearly four months after his son's suicide, popular pastor Rick Warren has returned to the pulpit at his Southern California megachurch.

Warren delivered a Saturday afternoon sermon entitled "How To Get Through What You're Going Through," intended to be the first in a series, at his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

Warren, dressed in his usual casual black T-shirt, took the stage with wife, Kay Warren, and was greeted with a long standing ovation. As it ended he said to the congregation, "Have I told you lately that I love you?"

It's the first sermon Warren has given since the April 5 death of 27-year-old son Matthew Warren, who shot and killed himself in what the pastor called "a momentary wave of despair."

Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Pope Francis Voices Support For Protestors In Brazil

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis voiced support for young protestors who have taken to the streets to seek change as he addressed two million people in Brazil, recently rocked by demonstrations.

The pope told throngs of young Catholics assembled on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach that he "followed world news" and had seen youths protest "to express the desire of a more just and brotherly civilization."

"The young people in the street are the ones who want to be actors of change. Please don't let others be actors of change," said Francis, who returns to Rome Sunday night at the end of World Youth Day, a young Catholic event.

"I ask you to be actors of change, keep overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns taking place in different parts of the world," the 76-year-old Argentine pontiff said.

More than a million protestors poured into the streets of Brazil last month to denounce corruption, lagging public services and the cost of hosting of the 2014 World Cup. The demonstrations often ended in violence.

Hours before his remarks at the beach, the pope addressed Brazil's political, religious and civil society leaders and told them that they should confront social turmoil with "constructive dialogue."

"Between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue," he said. "A country grows when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components."

He continued: "Dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress."

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Armed Man Robs $53 Million Worth Of Jewels From Cannes In Broad Daylight

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An armed man has stolen about $53 million worth of jewels from the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes, BBC reports.

The hotel, located on the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette, was hosting a summer jewelry exhibit from the prestigious Leviev diamond house, which is owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.

Local media reported that the robber carried the jewels away in a briefcase shortly before noon.

"A full and urgent operation is under way to catch the culprit and recover these jewels," a Cannes police spokesman said. "Thieves see Cannes as rich pickings."

In May, during the famous Cannes Film Festival, thieves stole about $1 million in jewels  from a hotel room and a necklace worth $2.6 million from a hotel party.

Coincidentally, a Bosnian from the "Pink Panther" gang of international jewel thieves escaped from a Swiss prison after a dramatic operation involving a van ramming through a gate, ladders used to get above barbed wire, and gunfire from automatic weapons.

Milan Poparic is the third "Pink Panther" to escape from a Swiss prison since May.

BBC notes that the Carlton Hotel is where Alfred Hitchcock filmed "To Catch A Thief"  — his 1955 film about a jewel thief operating in the French Riviera.

SEE ALSO: Inside The Secret World Of Prostitution At The Cannes Film Festival

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31 Stunning Pictures Of American National Parks

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Cactus Saguaro National Park

With everything from vast deserts and gorgeous beaches to sprawling mountain ranges, America is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world—and nowhere is that more evident than in the national parks.

The National Park Service oversees 401 areas throughout the U.S. and U.S. territories and has nearly 300 million visitors each year.

You don't have to be a hiking fanatic to enjoy these places. You can swim, kayak, bird watch, walk, bike, drive, camp, or just relax in the country's national parks.

We found some spectacular pictures of national parks, monuments, seashores and heritage areas around the country that will make you appreciate how beautiful the U.S. really is.

The volcanic basin of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, formed nearly 8,000 years ago. At almost 2,000 feet deep, the lake is the deepest in the U.S.



Visitors come to hike the granite peaks, swim on the beaches, and even get married in Acadia National Park, Maine, the first national park east of the Mississippi River.



Nestled within the nearly 1.5 million acres of parkland at Everglades National Park, Florida, are endangered animals such as the manatee, American crocodile, and Florida panther.



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9-Year-Old Massachusetts Girl Becomes Youngest-Ever Chess Expert

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chess girlCHELMSFORD, Mass. (AP) — Only three years or so since first picking up the game of chess, 9-year-old Carissa Yip can already look down at 93 percent of the more than 51,000 players registered with the U.S. Chess Federation.

She has risen so far up the rankings that she has reached the expert level at a younger age than anyone since the chess federation began electronic record-keeping in 1991, a new level she reached in recent weeks.

Her father, Percy, who taught her until she began beating him within a year, said she could reach master level in as soon as a year.

"Some never reach master level," he said. "From expert to master, it's a huge jump."

But Carissa, who will be a fifth-grader at McCarthy Middle School this fall, has improved by leaps and bounds.

She first played competitively at the MetroWest Chess Club and Wachusett Chess Club, at the latter of which she's the top-ranked player. Last fall, she competed in an international competition in Slovenia, and in December, she'll play the World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

Carissa is hesitant when asked about her accomplishments, saying she doesn't spend much time thinking about them.

But she also set a goal for herself this year to reach 2,100; an expert is anyone over 2,000. Anyone at 2,200 is a master. She also wants to one day become the first female to win the overall championship — not just in the female category, her father said.

"It's not like the rating matters," Carissa said.

She later demonstrated her ability by playing with her back to the board, reading her moves to her father and keeping track of the whole board in her head. She has been called an intimidating player in an ironic way, because she's far short of even 5 feet tall.

Her U.S. Chess Federation ranking places her in the top 7 percent of all players registered with the group and the top 2 percent of female players.

Closer to home, Carissa has impressed others who have been playing chess for far longer than she has been alive.

"This was not a record she won by a few days," said Nathan Smolensky, the president of the Massachusetts Chess Association. "It was a significant margin. So it's very impressive."

Among other younger stars at the Boylston Chess Club in Somerville, where Yip has played, most are in their teens and are boys, Smolensky said.

"Even they say they were nowhere near this strength when they were that young," he said.

Carissa also has three years to reach the next level, that of master, in time to set the record for youngest to reach that step as well, Smolensky said. Five-time U.S. women's winner Irina Krush has the record for becoming a master at age 12.

George Mirijanian, program director for the Wachusett club and past president of the Massachusetts Chess Association, said Carissa and Percy Yip, both Wachusett members, both got a standing ovation when they arrived at the club last week after Carissa reached expert level.

"In my more than 50 years with the club, I had never witnessed such an exuberant outburst from club members," Mirijanian said. "They are really proud of Carissa and what she has accomplished."

SEE ALSO: 12 Chess Terms Every Journalist Needs To Know

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It's National Chicken Wing Day! Learn How To Make NYC's Favorite Thai-Style Chicken Wings

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FishSauceWings 18

Pok Pok Ny is one of Brooklyn’s most popular restaurants at the moment, and this past weekend, knowing full well that National Chicken Wing Day was just around the corner, I stopped by to finally see what all the fuss was about.

Even on a Saturday at 5:30 PM, I waited with three friends for 45 minutes to get a table, but it was worth it. Walking into the restaurant, you find yourself transported into a small Thai village right on the Brooklyn waterfront.

When you think of a top New York restaurant, you don’t really imagine picnic tables with plastic tablecloths and a literal tent serving as a roof, but the food was reasonably priced (not to mention absolutely delicious) and the restaurant’s charm shines through. Family style is key here, so order a few different dishes and dig in.

The star of Pok Pok Ny is, without a doubt, its fish sauce wings. I’ve read that the proprietor, Andy Ricker, fell in love with these wings on a trip to Thailand. Fish sauce sounds scary, but it is a rich, fragrant ingredient that makes these fried wings pop. I would even go as far as likening fish sauce to something like truffle oil  its umami, or savory flavor, makes it surprisingly irresistible (for more on fish sauce, check out my Momofuku Roasted Brussels Sprouts).

Even my less than adventurous dining companions found themselves falling in love with these wings. They’re sticky, sweet, wonderfully crispy, and unlike anything you’ve had before. I have found numerous websites with the original recipe, but I modified it slightly to fit with the ingredients I had at home. I opted for Wondra flour, which is a superfine flour perfect for frying, refuses to clump up and creates a lovely, light breading that doesn’t get in the way of the caramelized fish sauce poured on top of the finished product. If you don’t have Wondra, feel free to use more all-purpose flour, or cornstarch, as the original recipe suggests.

Pok Pok Style Fish Sauce Wings

5 pounds chicken wings

1 cup fish sauce

1 cup granulated sugar

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes

9 garlic cloves, separated (5 smashed and 4 minced)

1 cup Wondra flour + 1 cup all-purpose flour

7-8 cups vegetable oil (plus an additional 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped

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1. You can leave your wings whole or halve them at the joint, it’s up to you. If you decide to leave them whole, I recommend scoring the piece of fat between the joints with a knife to make them easier to eat.

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2. Combine the fish sauce, granulated sugar, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and 4 mashed garlic cloves together in a medium sized bowl and whisk until the sugar has mostly dissolved in the fish sauce and lime juice. Place your wings in a sealable container or bag, then pour the marinade over them. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (as always, overnight is best).

FishSauceWings 4

3. When you are almost ready to fry your wings, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small pot. When hot, add in the minced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is golden and fragrant. Remove the fried garlic from the oil and set aside on paper towels to drain. Wipe out the small pot.

FishSauceWings 7

4. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, add in 7-8 cups of vegetable oil (enough to go up at least 4-5 inches in the side of your pot - you want to be able to mostly cover the wings) and heat to 350 degrees F. Combine your Wondra flour and all-purpose flour in a pie dish. Remove the wings from the marinade, but be sure to reserve the marinade and place it in the same small pot in which you fried your garlic. Simmer the marinade over medium-high heat, stirring frequently and watching carefully so that it doesn’t boil over, until slightly thickened. Turn off the heat and set aside.

FishSauceWings 8

5. When your oil is hot, dredge the wings in the flour mixture, shake off any excess flour, and fry your wings in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry the wings for 8 minutes or so, until cooked through and golden brown. Place each batch on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to drain and continue frying the rest of your wings (they will stay hot and have the sauce poured over them, so don’t worry about them cooling too much). Once you’ve fried all of your wings, place them on a large platter or in a bowl, pour your reduced marinade over the top, and sprinkle with the fresh cilantro, mint and fried garlic. Serve alongside a big salad or pickled vegetables.

FishSauceWings 11

SEE ALSO: The 20 Best Restaurants In Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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Tourists Are Fleeing A Thai Beach Resort After A Major Oil Spill

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Boat in Thai oil spill

BANGKOK (AP) — Black waves of crude oil washed up on a beach at a popular tourist island in Thailand's eastern sea despite attempts to clean up the oil up over the weekend after it leaked from a pipeline, officials said Monday.

Tourists on Samet island were warned to stay away from the once-serene beach, marred by inky globs as hundreds of workers in white jumpsuits labored to scrape the sand clean and remove oil from the water.

About 50 tons of oil spilled into the sea off Rayong province on Saturday morning from a leak in the pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc, a subsidiary of state-owned oil and gas company PTT Plc.

The leak was the fourth major oil spill in the country's history, Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal said.

Streaks of crude oil about 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide marred the shore of Prao Bay on Samet Island, one of the most popular beach destinations for Thai and foreign tourists in the Gulf of Thailand, Rayong Deputy Gov. Supeepat Chongpanish said Monday.

He said authorities closed the bay as 300 workers attempted to remove the oil from the white beach and the water.

"The top priorities right now are to get rid of the oil on the sand and the seawater, and to make sure the spill doesn't spread to other shores," Supeepat said. "This is a very beautiful, white, sandy beach, so we want to make the spill go away as soon as possible."

"The black waves started rolling in since last night and by the morning the beach was all tainted with oil," said Kevin Wikul, the assistant front desk officer at a resort in Prao Bay. "We have advised our guests against going near the beach and some of them have asked for early check-outs."

The nearby area has been declared a disaster zone by provincial authorities, and those affected by the spill will receive immediate assistance.

The company said it detected a leak when crude oil from a tanker moored offshore was being transferred to the pipeline, 20 kilometers (11 miles) from a refinery in Map Ta Phut, one of the largest industrial estates in Southeast Asia.

The company said in a statement Sunday that it has flown in oil spill management experts and a plane from Singapore to remove the crude oil. Thai navy vessels also joined the cleanup efforts.

Authorities said it would take some time to assess the environmental damage.

"The spill is definitely having an impact on the environment, but we have not detected any deaths of marine animals yet at this point," provincial Gov. Wichit Chatphaisit said. "PTT will have to take responsibility for the damage this has caused."

He said pollution control department officials had expressed concern about the effects of the chemical used to clean up the spill.

PTTGC apologized for the incident and said the cleanup will likely be completed within three days.

"We acknowledge this incident has damaged our reputation and we will not let it happen again," CEO Anon Sirisaengtaksin told a news conference.

In 2009, another PTT subsidiary was involved in the Montara oil spill, one of Australia's worst oil disasters, in the Timor Sea off western Australia.

SEE ALSO: Wild Photos From The World's Biggest Water Fight In Thailand

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Maine's Top Chef Shows Us The Right Way To Steam And Eat A Lobster

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Lobster chef

Most people love lobster. But the idea of cooking — and then eating — a whole, live lobster can be a bit intimidating.

What color should your lobster be? How can you tell if your lobster is fresh? What is the most humane way to kill a lobster?

On a recent visit to Portland, Me., I met with Melissa Bouchard, executive chef of Dimillo's on the Water, to get the answers to some of these questions. 

Bouchard, a Maine native, was named the Maine Restaurant Association’s first female Chef of the Year in 2013. Her kitchen kills close to 150 live lobsters every day to feed droves of summer visitors who funnel in from Commercial Street, the tourist hub in the city's Old Port district.  

The head chef and her staff showed me how to steam a Maine lobster, and the right way to eat it. 

There are many species of lobster. However, the authentic Maine lobster, also known as American lobster, has five sets of legs and two large claws that are filled with meat.



Maine is particularly famous for its soft-shell lobsters, mature lobsters that have recently shed their shells. The "shedders" are easier to crack open, and are said to have sweeter, more tender meat than hard-shell lobsters, although there is less meat inside a new-shelled lobster than a hard-shell lobster of the same size. Dimillo's only serves hard-shell lobsters.



When picking a lobster, go for one with the most energy. The color makes little difference. Maine lobsters are typically greenish, brown, or black in color — all lobsters will be bright red once they are cooked.



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Welcome To Business Insider's Education Section!

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columbia graduation commencement ceremony cheering

Welcome to Business Insider's newest section: Education.

From pre-K to graduate school, our education system is in a period of rapid change.

With skyrocketing tuition, plummeting acceptance rates, and questionable job prospects, a college degree has never before been so controversial. And the road getting there isn't so clear cut, either. 

We'll cover these issues and more, bringing you a frank look at what's going on at every level of education.

If you want to know about major news on college campuses, the latest conversation on education policy, or what parents of K-12 students are discussing, we'll have it here.

But don't worry, we'll also have some fun here. From fraternity fails to sorority snafus and every other cringe-worthy collegiate scandal, we'll work to uncover the seedy underbelly of higher education. We'll also have tons of features, from a tour of the most beautiful college campus in New York City to a candid look at the real most expensive colleges in the U.S.

Got a hot tip or a story idea (or just want to say hi)? Shoot us an email at colleges@businessinsider.com. And, of course, be sure to follow us on Twitter at @BI_University for everything education-related.

SEE ALSO: America's REAL Most Expensive Colleges

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