• Evan Sung/Stick With Me Sweets(NEW YORK) -- Chocolate is the top gift for Valentine's Day with Americans spending $1.8 billion on candy for the holiday, according to the National Retail Federation.But there's way more out there to delight your sweetie than the cliché box of dark or milk chocolates these days.There's a booming group of small-batch makers and chocolatiers from around the country who are doubling down on craftsmanship and high-quality ingredients."This craft culture is promoting the idea that chocolate is very complex food and not candy that we mindlessly munch on throughout the day. People want to know more where their food comes from and where it's made," said Michael Laiskonis, the Institute of Culinary Education's creative director, who helms the New York City school's bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab.Chocolatiers are making chocolates that are both beautiful and arguably more flavor-forward than ever before and while using their creations as canvas for storytelling."As complex and as interesting as chocolate on its own is, it's also a great platform for other flavors," Laiskonis said. "We are seeing this in food in general, [chocolatiers] are drawing influences from all over the world, building new flavor profiles that might be unfamiliar to many people -- whether its Asian flavors or flavors from the Indian subcontinent."Stick with Me SweetsAt Stick With Me Sweets, a boutique chocolate shop in New York City, their signature chocolate bonbons are edible pieces of art.“Everyone is now eating with their eyes and not just on their mouths anymore, it becomes a whole other level of experience,” Stick With Me Sweets founder and head chef Susanna Yoon said. “You’re not just looking at square, dark chocolate. You’re looking at different colors, different art, different types of chocolate that didn’t exist, like our dessert in a bonbon, which is very different to people.”Yoon, a Per Se alum, handcrafts their signature bonbons until they shine like exquisite jewels.The entire production process takes two to three full days, she says. No detail is too small, starting with the finest of raw ingredients in the creative concoctions: 18 different kinds of chocolate, 10 different kinds of nuts, 22 different fruits and citrus like yuzu, kalamansi and passionfruit, etc., and 60 different colors.“When creating our designs, we [conceive] the flavor first. Once we create the recipe, we find colors and designs to bring life to the ingredients inside or the story behind its creation,” Yoon said. “No two pieces are alike. Each stroke is created similarly but different at the same time. Some are pressed harder or lighter, longer or shorter, more or less color, and so on. Each bonbon is genuinely unique.”The gourmet bonbons have scored Oprah Winfrey’s nod of approval on her annual Favorite Things list."Her style is colorful ... and the exterior decoration calls out what's in it. She's been doing a lot of interesting things with different textures -- not often you find a piece of a cookie inside of a chocolate bonbon -- or she'll do a riff on a lemon meringue pie, some of the more nostalgic things but done in very refined way," Laiskonis said.Laiskonis lauds Yoo for her texture combinations and incorporating nostalgia at a highly-refined level."She's been doing a lot of interesting things with different textures -- not often you find a piece of a cookie inside of a chocolate bonbon," he said, "Or she'll do a riff on a lemon meringue pie, some of the more nostalgic things but done in very refined way."For Valentine’s Day, Yoon has a special collection of limited-edition flavors inspired for the holiday.Read on for some more chocolatiers that you can't go wrong with this Valentine's Day -- though you may end up needing to get a box for yourself too.Compartes ChocolatierCompartes chocolate bars are anything but basic. The Los Angeles-based company handcrafts th
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  So what you're single on Valentine's Day.There's plenty to watch to keep you entertained on the annual holiday dedicated to romance. YouTube, specifically, has become not just a video-sharing platform to share silly cat videos, but quality programming that's perfect to binge-watch.From panel-style talk shows to romantic comedies, YouTube provides quality content no matter what you're in the mood for. Here's our favorites:FirstThis might be the most romantic series on YouTube ever. "First," written and starring Jahmela Biggs opposite Will Catlett, is a favorite. It centers on two life-long friends who discover that they're actually in love with each other. Oh, but that realization doesn't come easy, which makes "First" a fun binge. Southern ComfortWhat happens when you marry right after high school then decide you want to split from your husband? Oh, by the way, you're still in your 20s. Find out in "Southern Comfort," a new hilarious web series, created by New York City-based comedian Malorie Cunningham. The series is centered on two women who do just that to the disdain of their small, southern community. It premieres on Valentine's Day.The GrapevineMeet "The Grapevine," a panel-style talk show created by Nigerian-American producer Ashley Akunna, that tackles topics you'd dare to debate about. From discussing current events to topics such as, "Are Men Intimidated By Successful Women?" this web series goes there, debating both sides of the argument. With over 46,000 subscribers, it seems like everyone wants to know what the rotating panelists think.My Gimpy LifeIt's hard enough being a young starlet in Hollywood. But "My Gimpy Life" details what's it like to be young, hungry for onscreen work and looking for love. And as creator Teal Sherer noted in the Season 1 trailer, "You probably notice I use a wheelchair." This award-winning online series now has two seasons to binge.The CoupleThis 2012 web series starts off, in Episode 1, with viewers being introduced to a couple on Valentine's Day. Throughout the dramedy series, "The Couple" tackles many of the aspects of relationships that are so painfully funny. From trying to choose what to eat, to forcing your partner to compliment you, "The Couple," created by Jeanine Daniels, Dennis Dortch, and Numa Perrier, is just pure funny -- even years later.Permanent RoommatesMake sure you click on the English subtitles before you watch this binge-worthy web series filmed in India. "Permanent Roomates" centers on one long-distance couple who find themselves suddenly thinking about marriage. Created by Indian filmmaker Biswapati Sarkar, this comedy series has two seasons for you to binge-watch. And good news: A third season is coming this year.I Hate Being SingleGuys worry about relationships too. And in "I Hate Being Single," we see what's it like after a Brooklyn guy finds himself begrudgingly single, again. The episodes are at most six minutes long, so it's super easy to binge-watch this series, created by Rob Michael Hugel, on Valentine's Day.Tough LoveAfter three seasons of "Tough Love," this Emmy Award-nominated web series created by Roni and Caleb Davis, has amassed a cult-like following with more than 36,000 subscribers on YouTube. "Tough Love" centers on friends living and dating in New York City. The third season tackles dating subjects like Groupon dates, the struggles of living together and even depression after losing a parent.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Valentine’s Day is a time for showering those you love with gifts and flowers – and the numbers show that Americans open their wallets wide for this romantic holiday.Spending in the U.S. this Valentine's Day is expected to reach a whopping $19.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.More than half of Americans - 55 percent - are expected to mark the holiday, spending an average of $143.56 each, the retail federation said.The highest amount of spending is expected to go toward jewelry, with 1 in 5 consumers planning to purchase it, for a total of $4.7 billion. The most popular gift for Valentine’s Day is candy, with 55 percent of Americans expected to buy sweets for their loved ones. Spending on candy alone is expected to reach $1.8 billion.The treats will be well received, according to the National Confectioners Association.The trade group said 94 percent of Americans say they want to receive chocolate or candy for Valentine's Day, a higher percentage than for any other gift. Americans are also expected to spend $2 billion on flowers for the holiday, the National Retail Federation said.Roses are the favorite flower for Valentine's Day. The Society of American Florists estimates 250 million roses are produced for the day. Greeting cards are also hugely popular.The lovestruck exchange 190 million greeting cards on Valentine's Day, according to the retail federation. Spending on cards is expected to be $1 billion, the Greeting Card Association said. Happy Valentine’s Day!Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. stock market, which has lost more than $3 trillion in the last 15 days, ended the week with a dramatic late-day rally in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 331 points after tripping and falling more than 500 points earlier in the session.The Dow gave traders a whipsaw day with a series of stomach-churning nosedives and precipitous spikes before bargain hunters moved in during the final two hours of trading and sent the market soaring into the closing bell.The Dow closed up 1.38 percent to 23,190.The other major indexes also traded up. The S&P 500 jumped 38 points to close at 2,641, and the Nasdaq vaulted 97 points to 6,874, up 1.44 percent from the previous day.It was only the second day in the past six trading days that the Dow finished in the green. Friday's rally came a day after the Dow tumbled 1,032 points. The week started with the index sinking a record 1,175 points.Overall, the Dow ended the week down 5 percent.Since the Dow hit a record high of 26,616 on Jan. 26, the U.S. stock market has lost a whopping $3.1 trillion, Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist for JonesTrading, told ABC News.The seesaw day on the market came after the Asian and European markets both closed in negative territory. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 508 points, or 2.32 percent, to 21,382, and China's Shanghai composite sank 4.02 percent to 3,130. The Pan-European STOXX 600 was off .70 percent and Britain's FTSE was down 34 points, or .49 percent.The Dow and S&P 500, which also soared to a record high of 2,872 on Jan. 26, have both pulled back more than 10 percent in the past two weeks, thrusting the market into a full correction.Fueling the topsy-turvy market have been indications of inflation on the horizon, including whether rising wages and an increase in the number of jobs added to the economy will prompt the U.S. Federal Reserve to accelerate a rise in interest rates."It's always encouraging when you end the week on an up note and you see buying into the close," Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab, told ABC News.But Frederick said he was still jittery about the market, citing a key indicator of volatility. He said the CBOE Volatility Index, also known by its ticker symbol VIX, closed at 29.06, way above its long-term average of 19.5."I'm not convinced this is over yet," Frederick said of turbulence in the market. "We're still looking at some sizable movement in the market in the coming days."
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  • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Apple's newest product, a smart speaker called HomePod, hit stores today and the reviews are generally positive.The HomePod was set for a December 2017 release, but Apple delayed it to 2018, saying that it needed more time to perfect it.Priced at $349, it's much more expensive than the Amazon Echo and Google Home, which are roughly a third of the price.Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the HomePod at a keynote address in June 2017, saying that it would "reinvent home music."The Hardware"The music quality is second to none."The HomePod comes in two colors -- white and space gray -- and features a high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier."HomePod is a premium speaker with much better music and sound quality than the Amazon and Google alternatives," Jim Martin, editor of Tech Advisor, a site that covers consumer technology, told ABC News.Jim Dalrymple, an Apple expert at Loop Insights, a tech news site, said he was "pleasantly surprised by how well the music in the room seemed to just kind of envelope you.""The music quality is second to none," he added. "Music is the reason I would buy HomePod."The HomePod uses spatial awareness to adjust the audio accordingly."I've heard the Echo and, to be honest, it kind of sounded like music from a tin box," said Dalrymple. "Any speaker can blast music but the "HomePod puts music around the room."The six microphones built into the device lets Siri hear a user even from a distance.Dalrymple claims the HomePod responded to his voice from at least 20 feet away.A waveform display appears at the top of the cylinder base, letting a user know that Siri is listening, and it doubles as a control pad.Built with an A8 chip that acts as the brain of the speaker, the HomePod easily transforms from speaker to home assistant.The Intelligence"I think Siri could be expanded."Siri can send messages, give news updates, check the weather and control smart devices that are synced with the HomePod and other Apple products, the same features of the Amazon Echo and Google Home.But it could do more."I think Siri could be expanded and will be in the future," said Dalrymple. "I would like to see Siri do more in the Apple ecosystem so I could control things like the calendar.""HomePod is an Apple-only device, so it is much more limited in what it can control in terms of smart home gadgets," said Martin."It won't work with Android at all," he added, noting that Amazon's and Google's devices can.And the HomePod won't play music from popular streaming services like Pandora or Spotify.It exclusively plays tunes from Apple's own music subscription service, Apple Music, which costs $10 a month and offers over 45 million songs."[You] really need an Apple Music subscription to make the most of Siri's capabilities," said Martin.However, there's a way to get another music streaming service to play through the HomePod."You can play any music or audio through the HomePod from your iPhone or iPad via AirPlay," said Martin. "So it can play Spotify without the deep integration and control with Siri."Both experts agree that the HomePod is a powerful music player, but it still has some kinks that Apple could fix in future models.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images(PYEONGCHANG, South Korea) -- Thousands of drones were used to put on a light show during the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday morning for the first time, according to Intel, which is overseeing the event.A total of 1,218 drones outfitted with LED lights were used to paint a "colorful illustration in the sky," setting a new Guinness World Record on the number of drones flown at the same time, according to an Intel spokeswoman. Intel holds the current record after 500 drones were flown simultaneously for a light show in Krailling, Germany, on Oct. 7, the spokeswoman said.The drones are controlled through an automated software program, though they do have one pilot for backup, Intel said.In addition to the opening ceremony, the drones will be used throughout the games, creating light-filled formations every night from Feb. 10 -24 during the nightly victory ceremonies."It's something that we wanted to integrate that experience into the Olympics on a daily occasion, because not everyone is going to be at the opening ceremony, and we want to give everyone in Korea a chance to see these shows," said Natalie Cheung, the general manager for Intel's drone light shows.An athlete on a snowboard; a bird of prey in flight; and, of course, the five interlaced Olympic rings are among the aerial illustrations that viewers can anticipate seeing during the shows.The drones are lightweight and are the only ones of their kind, built specifically for outdoor light shows, according to Intel.Because Intel's drones had never flown in such cold temperatures, members of the drone light show team ventured to the Alps to test how they would operate in minus 10-degree Celsius weather."We were a little bit more creative about this," Cheung said. "We changed our operations so that we had literally minutes for us to bring the drones outside the temperature-controlled room into the fields so we could fly. We needed to make sure the batteries were warm enough so the drones could fly."Intel is the official drone partner of the Olympics.
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