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Friday, July 29, 2011

Carissa Designs It All

My friend and fellow American University alum, Carissa, really does design it all. You might remember Carissa’s designs from the post “A Save the Date to Save the World.” She designed my oh-so-cute Lovely Love Story dinosaur inspired save-the-dates. Not only did she shop around for recyclable soy based inks, she also found a printer who used recycled paper. To top it off - half of her design fee went to UNICEF Japan to aid the children who had been impacted by the earthquake and the subsequent other disasters.

Now, just when I was thinking that all hope was lost (being dramatic), Carissa swooped in and helped me to design the perfect invite- one that is both environmentally friendly and socially conscious.

The invitations will be printed on eco-friendly, recycled paper- and even better, the RSVPs will be done 100% via phone or email, which will reduce waste because no RSVP card or envelope will be included. This time, Carissa’s invitations will benefit another cause that is important to her, Saving Promise, whose goal is to elevate the issue of Domestic Violence to become a national priority. 

Current statistics show a steady rise in the incidence of domestic violence. In fact, domestic violence has joined heart disease and breast cancer as the leading issues affecting women in the United States. In fact, domestic violence is the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 15 and 44. Saving Promise wants to elevate awareness of the proliferation of the domestic violence issue.

Founded by award-winning author and former corporate executive L.Y. Marlow, who was also a victim of domestic violence herself, Saving Promise brings a powerful new perspective to the age-old problem of domestic violence. Ms. Marlow not only survived and overcome an abusive relationship, but she came from a family where mothers and daughters suffered more than sixty years of domestic violence.  The organization was founded when Ms. Marlow discovered that her 22 year old daughter was in an abusive relationship in which the abuser not only threatened her daughter’s life, but the life of her granddaughter named Promise, as well.

Ms. Marlow wants and action and she questions why domestic violence remains in the shadows despite its prevalence, saying “Heart disease and breast cancer organizations get us thinking about those two issues every time we see the color pink or red—they remain at the forefront of the American consciousness. But what about domestic violence?”
Saving Promise encourages people to get involved and raise awareness in whatever way possible. You can start in your own community by signing their OneVoice petition, joining their online “community” of people who are talking about domestic violence, planning a ‘Gotta Talk About It’ event in your community at a church, social club, workplace, or even in your home.  You can also look for an official Saving Promise event in your community and if there are none in your area, Saving Promise asks that you invite them to come to your community. Of course, you can also always make a donation to Saving Promises.

The lovely Mr. & Mrs. Nee at their own wedding.
For Carissa and her husband Kevin, who are happily married – giving back to Saving Promises is a way of helping others who are not so lucky. After all, you don’t have to be a victim of domestic violence to recognize the seriousness of this issue. Carissa’s generosity and her eagerness to help people who are in such great need is truly commendable. It’s still amazing for me- even after all these months to see others using their talents for a cause! Stay tuned in a few weeks for a full pic of the invite- for now you'll just have to settle for the sneak peek below...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beauty That's More Than Skin Deep

This weekend, despite the heat wave, Andrew, my sister, and I took a trip to Philly. My sister’s stint in DC for a summer internship is coming to a close and this sparked the urgent need to show her more of the east coast. We had a good time exploring the city and sharing hair and make-up tips, which were mostly hers because anyone who knows me knows that “styled” is not an adjective to describe my “natural” look. Andrew was a good sport and just zoned out of these convos. Anyway, last night in our swanky hotel room (thanks mom!) my sister and I both had the same dream- that there was no one at my wedding to do our hair and make-up. 
Sisters- professionally made-up for our BFF Rach's wedding.
Both of us having the same dream made me feel a little bit uneasy, but I have faith in Get Polished (my make-up team) and I’m sure it will all work out. Our chats on make-up and our subsequent shared dream did get me thinking again about how make up can make things better – and not just on the surface.

Recommended to me by my friend and Engaged With A Cause reader, Rebecca, PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics has been on my radar for a few months. Now seemed like the perfect time to blog about the organization and its unique mission to connect women in the developed world with women who don’t have the same resources or opportunities – through (dramatic pause) make-up. Also, it is the first cosmetics line to give all of its after-tax, distributable profits to women's health advocacy and other human rights issues.

In order to ensure that their business practices match their altruistic mission, PeaceKeeper goes above and beyond to ensure that it is a 100% slave-labor free company and by making sure that the companies they are working with, in the US and overseas, pay employees a fair wage. For the past nine years PeaceKeeper has given one half of one percent of its gross revenues to human rights issues.

In addition, they give a percentage of sales from their "UNIFEM" lip gloss to benefit the United Nation's Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). UNIFEM supports programs around the world that work to end violence against women.   Five percent of all sales of the UNIFEM lip gloss go to benefit the organization or about $.80 (US) per gloss sold.

 Peacekeeper also designed the V-Day Gloss, a natural mineral lip gloss, whose proceeds go to support Eve Ensler's campaign to stop violence against women. Like the UNIFEM gloss, five percent of the V-Day gloss or $.80 per tube goes to benefit various V-Day related charities. 

"V Day Gloss" in an oh-so sexy Candy Apple red.
 When you purchase PeaceKeeper’s Eternal Equity Gloss a dollar goes to women and girls who live on less than a dollar a day via  Micro-Credit Enterprises. Peacekeeper's all-new Fairness Gloss was created to support the Paycheck Fairness Act. If passed, the Act will strengthen existing equal wage laws and eliminate the pay gap between men and women who earn 33 percent less on average than men with the same level of education and in the same job. 

 You can also purchase the new charity gift box set, which includes the Fairness, UNIFEM, and V-Day glosses. The charity gift boxes are 15% off the cost of the products if you were to buy them separately. They offer a variety of gift boxes in all shades and colors for women of all nationalities.  You can choose from their large selection, or customize your own. 

One major benefactor of PeaceKeeper's charitable works is The Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities (DEPDC). The DEPDC is a non-profit NGO (non-governmental organization) in Thailand dedicated to preventing the trafficking of women and children into the sex industry, as well as into forced and exploitative labor situations. DEPDC offers free education and vocational training, as well as full time housing for young girls and boys.

PeaceKeeper also cares about non-human's rights too. None of PeaceKeeper’s products are tested on animals and they offer 100% vegan products including, but not limited, to Eco-Sensual Lip Balm, the “Paint Me ...”
nail polish line that includes Paint Me Eternal, Paint Me Tranquil and Paint Me Tender polishes, as well as Nail Renewal Oil and French Manicure Kits. 

Since being founded in 2002 by Jody Weiss, PeaceKeeper has given over $55,000 in cash donations and $30,000 in products to women-focused non-profits for their silent auctions or VIP events. To find out more about how you can be part of Peacekeeper's charitable mission visit their website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Say I Do to Charity with Carlson Craft

I’ve written several posts on the fabulous I Do Foundation. Considering my recent predicament in my search for invitations, I figured it was the perfect time to write about the charitable invitations that they have on their site via their partnership with Carlson Craft.

Known for their high-quality products and fast turnaround, Carlson Craft has more than 60 years of experience in printing, publishing, and they offer a broad array of wedding and other printing services. Carlson Craft's online wedding site has hundreds of high quality and reasonably priced invitations available direct from a professional printer!

A lovely example of Carlson's craftsmanship.
If you visit the "I Do Expressions" Carlson Craft online store through the I Do Foundation's site, 10% of your purchases from Carlson Craft will be donated to the charity of your choice at no additional charge to you or your guests. You just have to register at the I Do Foundation to choose the charity of your choice. For more information, visit

The I Do Expressions site offers countless different options, no matter what your taste or price range. Planning a destination wedding? You can pick from the Seasons and Destinations category, which includes beachy themes like sea shells and coastal maps. Shopping on a budget? Check out the "value with style" section.
You can value style and save with this lime green invitation card for just $159.90 for 100 invites!
In addition to invites, Carlson Craft's charitable online shop also offers save the dates, personalized stationary for newlyweds, menu cards, direction cards, and of course, thank you notes.

This black and white themed thank you card is the perfect way to say thanks!
Not in the market for wedding related goods? They have a whole host of other items, ranging from holiday cards to get well wishes to congratulations.

A beautiful holiday card featuring a stained glass dove.

In addition to partnering to offer charitable invites, Carlson Craft's Naturally Ever After line is both charitable and eco-friendly. The Naturally Ever After invitations are all crafted on quality, recycled papers containing at least 30% post-consumer fibers. The cleverly titled "Reaching Up" invite, featured below, is one of my favorites. Not only is it in one of my wedding colors, but it packs quite a socially conscious punch, since it is both recycled and charitable.

"Reaching Up" and helping out.
With so many options - ranging from elegant to casual - and everything in between, it is hard to imagine not being able to find your ideal invite on the I Do Foundation's site. What are some of your favorites? I'll leave you with a couple more of mine.

Beautiful "Blooming Blossoms"

A stylish paisley print that gets elegant with copper foil.

 Available online as part of the "blue" collection.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Charming Charity

This is another one of those weeks. Actually June and July have been full of those weeks. I’ve just been too busy. What happened to lazy summers?

Anyway, enough complaining from me, the wedding is just three short months away and if those months go by even half as fast as the last three months our wedding will be here before we can say “I do.”

To have cake pulls or not to have cake pulls? The questions that keep you up at night three months out from the wedding! I jest, but this has been a contentious issue. Mom wants ‘em, I’m kind of eh about 'em. So, I began looking for alternatives- boozy, charitable alternatives.

Wine is a little bit more to my taste than cake, so I went on a mission to see if wine charms could be used in a twist on the cake pull tradition. Well, I stumbled across “A Charm For Charity,” which just so happens to create unique wedding “wine charm favors” that can be customized with your wedding colors and info.

For $15, you can buy this set online and $5 of your purchase will go to the Orange County Red Cross.

Even better, the favors are just $2.75 each (with a minimum order of 10), and 50 cents from each wine charm is donated to the charity of your choice. For the back of the charm (on the paper) you can opt to have the “A Charm For Charity logo” on or off. It's up to you.

Not getting married, but want some wine charms? Or maybe you want matching bracelets for your bridesmaids? Just trying to help others? No problem. Charm For Charity can cover all these bases. They also offer two other charming options for creating your own charity fundraiser:

Option 1: You tell A Charm For Charity about your cause, and they design a (very low cost, but quite pretty) bracelet or other jewelry item for you to direct people to via A Charm For Charity's online boutique. The design and set up are free. A Charm For Charity will make a recommendation for you on what you should charge for the product, as well as how to promote it. Then you can start fundraising! At the end of your “fundraiser” or an agreed upon interval, A Charm for Charity will send you your check and an electronic file of receipts for purchases, along with addresses and e-mail addresses of those who have supported you.

Option 2: You can order items at wholesale cost in bulk to sell on your own in order to raise funds for your group or project. There is a 10 item minimum for this option. Check the A Charm For Charity shop to see all the great causes they are already helping now.

So far, A Charm for Charity supports Red Cross, Becky’s House, Tour de Sight, Save our Beach, and the Maddie James Foundation, to name a few.

Tour De Sight fundraiser bracelet just $15!
 Perhaps the most remarkable thing about A Charm for Charity is that it is run by a mother and daughter team- and the daughter isn't even old enough to drive! The business is brainchild of mom and entrepreneur, Denise Vakili, but it was inspired by her then nine-year old daughter's talent and interest in making and designing charm accessories. So, Denise and her daughter set up the charitable model, created a website and began to make all the handmade charms and accessories on their own and A Charm For Charity was born. Talk about becoming a social entrepreneur at a young age!

In addition to her crafty philanthropy, Denise also just started Charity Chatter, a blog where she and her daughter showcase their charitable jewelry and wine charms in order to raise money for good causes. Through the blog, Denise shares the “feel good” behind-the-scenes stories of the charities in order to give people potential customers a connection to the charities their purchases will go to support.

Check out Denise's charms on her website. You can also find more information on creating your very own fundraiser for the cause of your choice. Now, if I can just get my mom to think that a champagne brunch is a better option than cake and ice cream...

Monday, July 11, 2011


This post is by returning guest author, Caroline Gerdes. Along with my bf and matron of honor Rach and my roomie Candace, Caroline hosted a very special Hen Party for me last weekend. My friends came by car, bus, train and plane. It was wonderful to have all my girls in one place and I appreciated them making the trek so much.

So, what do books, Justin Bieber and a bachelorette "hen" party have to do with charity? Well, it just so happens- a whole lot!

At most bachelorette parties, the only charitable donation is a wad of ones in a stripper’s g-string. Don't cringe, you thought it was a little bit funny. But, Rachael (the matron of honor) and I both knew that simply wasn’t Julie’s style.

No pink glitter or phallic shaped pasta was going to make an appearance at Julie’s Fourth of July Hen Party. Instead, we planned a grown up pajama party/girls sleepover (that I’ll admit had a few naughty surprises), wine tour and sightseeing day for out of town guests in DC - with some charitable twists, of course!

Birds of a Feather- Yummy treats at the Hen Party
Rachael and I, hard as we may try to be good, took forever to come up with charitable ideas for the party (I don’t know how Julie comes up with them every week?!). We both thought we should incorporate a charitable activity into our sightseeing day. We heard of other bachelorette parties serving soup in kitchens or building a house for Habitat for Humanity. But in the end, Rachael came up with a genius idea that perfectly suited our bride’s personality: Books for America.

Books For America, located in Dupont Circle, was the perfect place to end our day on the town. This non-profit accepts gently used books in order to stock libraries, DC area schools, shelters, prisons and other organizations. Books for America’s goal is to provide DC children with their first take-home books.

This was the ideal organization to incorporate in our charitable writer’s bachelorette weekend!

After a long day of eating, sightseeing, more eating, wine and an impromptu second line at the Dupont Circle metro stop (another story for another time), we brought Julie to a surprise location – the Books for America used bookstore. This “Bookstore with a Purpose” is the organization’s headquarters, its primary outreach tool and it provides the charity’s primary resources. It was here that we revealed to Julie that her guests donated 30 books in her name.

Julie then realized why all of our bags had been bulging at the seems when we left the house that morning … Are those books in your purse or are you just happy to see me? That makes no sense, I apologize for my cheap attempts at humor.

Since Julie’s guests gifted in her honor, it was only natural for them to receive charitable favors.

While most maids of honor give guests naughty shaped candies, I decided to go a classier – still delicious – route.

Whole Foods carries a line of organic Endangered Species Chocolate, 10% of the brand’s proceeds go to species and habitat conservation efforts. According to their website, they are “fully committed to providing premium, all-natural, ethically traded, naturally shade grown chocolate products." Endangered Species Chocolate also confirms that all beans used in its products are purchased from "family-owned properties where the income benefits the community.” It should also be noted that they are delicious. I may or may not have eaten two bars.

The second half of the party favors included another charitable project, which as embarrassed as I am to admit … is the brain child of Justin Bieber. I know, I know, insert several jokes about the words “child” or “brain” in such close proximity to the Biebs (that’s a nickname for him, right?) here. But the “One Less Lonely Girl” campaign actually goes to a really great cause.

“One Less Lonely Girl” is a nail polish collection by OPI branch Nicole. I just found out while googling that it apparently also is the name of a song by the Biebernator (another great nickname, thanks People magazine!). This collection supports Pencils of Promise, which helps build schools and support education in the developing world.

PoP and Justin have joined forces to build 100 schools and help children across the globe. Nicole introduced 14 new shades to support the campaign in January: Not a Gold Bigger, I've Got Bieber Fever, Make U Smile, Red-y to Runaway Love, I'm a Belieber, One Time Lime, Prized Possession Purple. "Baby" Blue, My Lifesaver, Step 2 the Beat of my ♥, OMB!, Me + Blue, Give Me the First Dance, One Less Lonely Glitter.

I can only guess these are song title puns that were written in drunk texts by pre-pubescent girls? I joke, I joke! The colors are actually pretty awesome – we all had fresh polish after the favors were given out!
My favorite name: OMB! Best color, in my opinion: My Lifesaver.

I am bad at conclusions. But if I were good at them, I would say something here about how I hope the bride had as much fun as her flock at the hen party. I would also like to thank my other girls of a feather for all of their help. There would be a few cutesy puns. Oh! - and it would be funny. And I would look smart.

One more pic of the very pretty Hen Party.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Inviting Cause

Apologies for my absence as of late, but between cross-country travel, a killer migraine and my bachelorette party (more on that later), I'm a bit behind and out of my normal rhythm. Here's to a calmer July! I also want to wish a very happy 86th Birthday to my grandma. Happy Birthday, Oma!

I’m in the midst of what for me is turning out to be the most difficult part of the wedding planning process- choosing the invitation. I initially thought I would breeze through and just pick whatever struck my fancy. Wrong.

Recently, a friend of mine advised me that the invite “sets the tone” for the whole wedding. Another friend told me “it should represent who you are as a couple” and “the invites will let your guests know what to expect at the wedding.” Talk about pressure.

To make matters worse, I happen to be a hopeless idealist who is searching for an invite that is both charitable and environmentally conscious. Well, imagine my surprise and joy when I discovered that an organization called
WomanCraft met both of these objectives. Not only that, I even liked their invitations and thought they might just set “the tone” for the evening.

There's just one problem- WomanCraft closed last week. This breaks my heart - not because I couldn’t get my invitations, but because they were such a wonderful organization. Despite my disappointment, I wanted to honor them and all the good work they have done, even if this post ends up sounding a bit like an obit.

WomanCraft was a social enterprise of Heartland Human Care Services with the incredibly unique dual mission of being both a non-profit paper maker and an entry trade job for women who have suffered abuse. In order to fulfill its mission, WomanCraft provided artisan positions and transitional jobs to women who would otherwise have faced barriers to employment. As an artisan, each woman earned a good income, improved her job skills, built a work history and increased her economic self-sufficiency.

WomanCraft's socially conscious philosophy was inherent in all areas of the business. All of the profits from their paper goods went back into training women and giving them jobs and life skills. Even their beautiful designs, which were crafted by the artisans, were environmentally conscious. WomanCraft used 100% recycled shredded office paper and paper remnants to make their handcrafted items. They even stored the leftover pulp from sheet formation in a refrigerator and rehydrated it to form new sheets for
wedding invitations and programs, corporate event invitations, birth announcements and more. 

The botanic elements in the paper were from donated flowers that were past their sell-by dates. Another way they recycled botanic elements was through their "Bring Us Your Bouquet" service, in which WomanCraft put flowers from a special event into custom handmade paper for memory books, thank you notes and other customized items.

Particularly unique were their Wildflower Seed multi-purpose notes, which were embedded with wildflower seeds such as echinacea, cornflower, larkspur and black-eyed Susan seeds. The sheets could be planted in soil and after seven to 14 days the seeds would sprout. The non-seed part of the paper was made from remnant paper fibers and reformed into handmade sheets, making them doubly recycled!

Also, through a partnership with the Avon Walk, WomanCraft created a Breast Cancer Awareness Postalette set that includes 10 pink WomanCraft paper mailers hand stamped with bright pink ribbons, 10 Breast Cancer Awareness first class postage stamps, and 10 printed stickers for sealing the postalettes. Packaged in a biodegradable cellophane bag, this kit provided a great way for people to raise awareness via personal correspondence. 

Despite the fact that they are closing, WomanCraft's socially conscious legacy will live on.WomanCraft is donating its paper-making machines to women in Ethiopia so that they will not go to waste. Hopefully future generations of women will be able to gain self-sufficiency and job skills through the art of responsible and sustainable paper making.

While I am back to the drawing board for my own invitations, I can honestly say that WomanCraft's mission has served as an inspiration to me. More to come on the invite search in the coming weeks!