Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Beauty of California Flowers

I'll admit that I'm girly when it comes to flowers. I may not seem like the type, but I do appreciate getting flowers as a gift. They just brighten a room, and in doing so, brighten my mood.

So imagine how I felt when, shortly before my birthday, these appeared at my door:

This beautiful bouquet isn't just a bunch of flowers - it's also making a statement. These flowers were all grown and cultivated in the state of California. So what, right? Well, actually, it's quite an important fact.

75% of all US grown flowers come from California, however they account for only approximately 25% of all cut flowers actually sold in the United States. So where do all the other flowers come from? The remainder are imported from South American countries.

California’s cut flower industry generates $10.3 billion in economic impact for the State of California. The cut flower industry overall generates 121,950 California jobs and $3.3 billion in wages for other industries. Considering the recession gripping the entire country, and the economic crisis that California is facing, I see buying domestic flowers as a small-yet-important thing we can do to help us all.

Beyond economics, there's also the freshness factor. Those flowers on my table meet the strictest growing standards in the world. They were raised in a world-class, year-round environment perfect for growing hundreds of varieties. (A climate I am sometimes jealous of in February.) And California flowers are most likely still in the field just 24 hours before you purchase them and therefore are much fresher and will last longer.

The flowers on my table lasted well over a week before I saw any sign of droop. Their fragrance filled the entire house. It made me happy to look at that bouquet every time I walked past the dining room.

The California Cut Flower Commission, who provided my lovely flowers, recently came up with "hint cards" to help us get the message out about our love of flowers. My husband often forgets that something as simple as a single rose or small bouquet "just because" or for a special occasion is often just as good as, or better than, a larger gift. These hint cards provide a humorous way to remind the special person in your life that you like getting flowers, too.

Until now, I had no idea where my flowers came from. I feel more in-the-know about the flower industry now, and I think in the future I'll take the extra step to make sure my flowers are domestic grown - after all, we encourage everyone to "Buy American" for other products, so why should flowers be any different?

Thanks to the CCFC for sending me the floral bouquet and teaching me a little more about the flower industry!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Give Dad A Sweet Treat & Give Back At The Same Time

When I was very little, I remember my mother and grandmother would take me out to Wendy's occasionally. Wendy's started in Columbus, Ohio, and my grandmother has always liked supporting local businesses. All I cared about, though, was my kid's meal and toy, and if I was really good, I'd get a Frosty as well. Yummmmm...I'd do nearly anything for a Frosty.

(Side note: tell me I wasn't the only one who liked to dip fries in my Frosty? Seriously, nothing better than a hot Wendy's fry with a scoop of Frosty on the end.)

Of course, now my kids have their choice of Frosty treats - chocolate, vanilla, swirled, milkshake Frosty, twisted toffee coffee Frosty - the list goes on and on. I get to be the old person and remind them that when I was a kid, there was only one kind of Frosty, and we all loved it. Regardless, a Frosty is still a special treat for my kids, and this weekend I know we'll be making a trip to Wendy's for that cold, chocolatey goodness.

For the past three years, Wendy's has made it a Father's Day Frosty Weekend tradition to donate 50 cents from the sale of each Frosty to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The money raised goes to the Wendy's Wonderful Kids program, which funds full-time adoption recruiters at local agencies across the U.S., who in turn pair up parents with foster care children needing homes. As you might know, the founder of Wendy's, Dave Thomas, was adopted as a child, and it was his mission to help other children find good families through adoption.

So, you and your family can enjoy a tasty (and affordable!) Frosty together, while knowing you're helping children across the country in finding a family of their own.

You can also involve the kids in this great cause by having them create a fun Father's Day eCard on For every card they send, Wendy's will donate an additional 25 cents to the Dave Thomas Foundation. Kids can attach coupons for "taking out the trash" or "washing the car" onto the cards for Dad.

And who knows? Maybe your kids will actually honor those coupons they give Dad. Add in the deal of buying them another Frosty, and I bet they'll do any chore you ask.

Thanks to Mom Central for alerting me to this special event. I've gone to Wendy's for years and somehow didn't know about the Father's Day Frosty special.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I Double Dare You!

It's no secret that I want my daughters to be tough, accomplished women. I want them to not only embrace their femininity, but also not be afraid to get dirty, be inventive, and have fun doing it.

Which is why when The Daring Book for Girls came out, I had to have it. It was full of how-to advice for all of the things I had forgotten about as a girl, as well as activities I've never had the chance to try. It still sits on my shelf, and I occasionally page through it to see if there's anything new that is now age appropriate for my girls.

So when I heard about a sequel to the book, titled The Double-Daring Book for Girls, I knew it needed a place in our home, too. This book is full of new games, activities and information for the young women in your life. It covers everything from picnic games and how to make a paper lantern to celebrate Chinese New Year, to how to waltz and make your own rope ladder. Great women in history are profiled in short yet informative passages that can easily inspire.

For my girls, we've already made paper lanterns, used some of the advice in the book to tend our "farm" (the backyard vegetable garden), and played several games. Cordy's favorite is the tug-of-war, and honestly she's pretty good at it. She can give the average adult a challenge. But don't try too hard to win, or she'll let go of the rope and send you falling to the ground. (Where's the chapter on not being a sore loser?)

We tried water balloon volleyball, too. Can you guess how many volleys we managed before getting soaked? Try three. Can anyone do better than that?

Overall, this is a fun book that will remind you of your childhood and all of the fun activities we did as kids. With so many ideas, The Double-Daring Book for Girls is the perfect book to battle summertime boredom.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My Night At Yanni Voices

It's such a rare thing that I get to go out to a special event in the evening without the kids, but last night was one of those nights. One2One Network provided me with two passes to see Yanni Voices in concert, along with backstage passes to meet the "Voices" in person.

I've enjoyed the Yanni Voices recorded concert on PBS, and I was expecting a similar show in Columbus. I can tell you that there was no comparison between the two. In person, the show takes on a life of its own! I was stunned at the amazing depth and range of the music, and the incredible talent of the musicians and singers.

While the vocalists were a strong focus of the concert, several of the musicians were given their moments in the limelight. Two violinists battled it out in a "dueling fiddles" type performance that gave me goosebumps. The Brazillian guitarist strummed out a haunting tune. A Hawaiian harp (I didn't even know those existed!) was played masterfully. And the drummer who has been with Yanni since the beginning showed off a percussion set that made me want to pick up my drumsticks again.

But for me, the four vocalists were the best part of the show. These four young, newly-discovered talents have beautiful voices that can bring out waves of emotion from the listener. Even with many songs being in Italian or Spanish, the emotion of the song could still be felt, even if you couldn't understand the words. Nathan made me think he could easily replace Pavarotti in The Three Tenors. Ender's voice was poetic in its strength and ease. Leslie was powerful and pure. And Chloe had a tenderness to her voice that could melt the hardest heart.

After the show, we had the chance to meet three of the four vocalists. We = myself, FireMom and Ellen, along with our guests. We talked at length with Ender and Nathan, and they told us how the stars aligned to get them to where they are now. All four have solo albums they are working on, and they hope to release the albums at some point after the tour. Nathan told me they're planning a new leg of the tour, choosing to restructure the show into more cozy theatres instead of arenas.

And of course, I was thrilled to see Nathan and Ender again, after meeting them at Blissdom. When I asked Ender for a photo, this is how he chose to pose:

He's a hugger. I can tell.

When we mentioned it was Ellen's birthday, she was treated to a rendition of Happy Birthday I could only wish to get:

Yanni Voices is still on tour, and tickets are still available for many locations. If the show is coming near you anytime soon, I highly recommend taking a night for yourself to enjoy some amazing music.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Lee Brings Fashion and Fit To Summer

The one advantage of losing weight is being able to buy smaller clothing. But the one disadvantage of losing weight is having to buy smaller clothing, too. As soon as you change in size, the battle to find clothing that fits starts all over again. Will these be too tight in my hips? Will those be too big at the waist?

My bottom half is notoriously hard to fit. I've got a smaller waist and large hips, plus I like my pants to not be skin tight in the thighs. It makes ordering online practically impossible.

I reviewed a pair of Lee jeans in the fall, and I was impressed with the ability to find a pair of jeans that fit my curves. Of course, that took a lot of back-and-forth questioning with the folks at Lee to make sure I wouldn't have to send them back.

Since then Lee has come out with a new Fit Finder tool on their website. It asks you a series of questions about your body type, your preferences, and then it displays only the Lee pants that are right for your body type. Not a single pair of skinny jeans were present on the screen to taunt me.

From the options given to me, I selected the Natural Fit Belted Desiree Capri pants in Latte. When they arrived, I slipped them on and found they fit me perfectly - not too tight on the hips and thighs, and no big gap at the waist. Perfect! The twill is lightweight enough to not feel heavy, yet still thick enough to prevent anyone from knowing if I wear dark underwear with my capris. They're incredibly comfortable, too - I bought another pair in a denim wash and they have become my go-to pair of capris on warm days.

The only thing wrong was that they ended up being a little big on me, thanks to further weight loss. But hey - I can't fault them for that. I've lost another size in the past month!

The Fit Finder tool was a big help in finding the right pair of capris for me. If I had to give any suggestions, I'd suggest adding a feature to input your measurements so the tool can tell you your ideal size as well. But when it comes to shopping online for clothing, the Fit Finder is a great new tool to make the process easier.

Full disclosure: Lee provided a complimentary pair of capris for this review.