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Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricanes, Halloween & Weddings: Getting in the Spirit

With Halloween just around the corner and Sandy (aka Frankenstorm) looming, there is definitely an eerie, albeit mixed mood about. Some people are stocking up on staples like toilet paper, jugs of water and batteries, while others in my neighborhood are buying Halloween decorations, pumpkins and candy corn. One thing both groups are buying up is alcohol, lots and lots of alcohol.

Like any good Louisianian, I know that a cocktail or two or five is the perfect way to pass the time during a storm. After all, one of New Orleans' most famous drinks is the Hurricane. (Click here for my sister's delicious Hurricane recipe). To be honest, New Orleanians don't really need an excuse to imbibe, it's a pretty regular occurrence- especially during a Saints' season like the current one, but aside from Mardi Gras and Hurricanes, New Orleans weddings often take the cake or er...bottle.

I've blogged on charitable wines and beers, but this got me thinking- are there any charitable liquors out there? Well, it just so happens there is at least one boozy way to give back via your big day (or at your Hurricane Party).

Heroes Vodka was founded by Veteran Marine Travis McVey and buisnessman R.S. Lipman and is billed as the "Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation." Bottled on 11.11.11 (Veteran's Day), a portion of proceeds from all sales of the vodka go to support veterans and other service organizations. In keeping with McVey's mission, The Heroes Giveback program aims to honor veterans and service organizations based in the US. Every year on Veterans Day, Heroes Vodka announces it "Giveback Partners" for the year. Heroes vodka supports these partners with direct contributions and in-kind donations for events and fundraisers.


In 2012 Heroes Vodka Giveback partnered with Operation Troop Aid, which provides care packages to service members with funds generated through concert promotions and donations. Since 2005, Troop Aid has sent over two million dollars in goods to soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Heroes Vodka also partnered with Nashville based organization, Operation Stand Down (OSDN), which provides social services for veterans.  OSDN offers a full complement of services to veterans. The four major components of the program include: a Service Center, employment services, transitional housing and the annual stand down event. Since 1993, every fall a coalition of over 50 Nashville organizations has worked together to hold a three-day event that provides outreach, information and services for the region's homeless veterans.  
John Daly's at our reception. Photo credit: Fine Arts Exposure
If you're choosing to serve alcohol at your wedding, keep Heroes Vodka in mind. Ask your vendor if they can stock it or if you can bring it in to use for a signature cocktail. Our signature cocktail at our wedding reception was a John Daly (aka a vodka spiked Arnold Palmer). It's a simple recipe and perfect for a late summer or early fall wedding. The mason jars give the perfect (eco-friendly) touch too.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 ounce Heroes Vodka
1 Part Iced Tea
1 Part Lemonade
1 lemon wedge

In the "spirit" of the Halloween season with the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy's relentless rain, I hope everyone enjoys a nice (charitable) cocktail and stays safe and dry. Drink charitably & responsibly!








Monday, October 15, 2012

One Year Later


Today is our one year wedding anniversary. In some ways, I can't believe it has already been one year and in others- it feels like much longer than that. Maybe because we've been together about six!
With this milestone anniversary, there comes a certain nostalgia for the wedding day and other things of the past, but it is also a nice time to look ahead and think of what is in store for us and all the adventures we want to take together.
As you all know, philanthropy was a big aspect of our wedding day- it touched all aspects of planning from the cake to the bridesmaid dresses to the photography. 
Our first dance to George Harrison's "If Not For You." Photo: Fine Arts Exposure
Unlike the last slice of wedding cake we plan to eat tonight or the wedding accessories that have already achieved heirloom status, the charitable element of our wedding is very much alive and well. In fact, it is a defining aspect of our marriage. 
My husband is the kindest man I know and that is saying a lot- because we are blessed with many wonderful and thoughtful family members and friends. His patience and big heart encourage me to be a better person. Just as my passion for helping others and getting the word out on important causes has influenced him.
So, it is only fitting that for our first anniversary- our "paper" anniversary, we decided together to make a small donation to a very special cause. If there is one issue that pulls our heart strings more than any other it is education, particularly the education of young girls.
Two weeks ago, we caught the end of Nicholas Kristof's documentary Half the Sky, which was based on Kristof's book with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. The film confronted a host of issues addressing women across the globe ranging from women's health issues to gender based violence to sex trafficking.

All the organizations featured were unbelievably inspiring. The Somaly Mam Foundation in particular really struck us. Co-founded by sex slavery survivor and ardent activist, Somaly Mam, the Foundation works to eradicate sex slavery by liberating, empowering and educating survivors. Many of the survivors go on to become change agents themselves, thus furthering the non-profit's mission.
With the multi-billion dollar human trafficking industry growing stronger and stronger (it's the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world), it is vital that this global crisis be stopped. Some estimates have suggested that around two million women and children are sold into sex-slavery each year. The Foundation supports rescue operations, shelter services and rehabilitation programs in Southeast Asia. Additionally, the Somaly Mam Foundation runs advocacy campaigns to bring awareness of the issue.
Somaly Mam and her girls. Photo found online.
Together we decided that the best paper gift we could give would be a charitable receipt from The Somaly Mam Foundation. Looking ahead, we know this is just the beginning of our involvement and dedication to supporting those combatting this troubling and difficult issue. 
Yes, I know this is a rather heavy topic to write about on my wedding anniversary, but when I think of all the happiness and good fortune we have had in our lives, it only feels right to focus on those who have not had the chances we have had. This is not to say that we didn't get each other little gifts as well. 
As I sit here and typing and looking at the beautiful orange flowers Andrew surprised me with, I'm reminded of the thoughtful little gestures that make up our life together. Tonight, we will enjoy a bottle of champagne from a dear friend, a cheap sushi dinner, and a slice of year old wedding cake as well as the knowledge that we are making a small difference- together. While our donation is not a large one and our wedding day was just one day- we hope the sentiment of it all strikes a cord with others and that as a result, more weddings and anniversaries will celebrate the love of others just as they celebrate the love between two people. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tri to Help Others

Next week will be our first wedding anniversary. This weekend we're looking forward to celebrating and... exercising. Leave it to me to schedule my first triathlon on my anniversary weekend! Even though I'm starting small with a sprint tri, the training has been a challenge- particularly the swimming portion. When I began training three months ago, I couldn't swim one lap- now I can do 1.25 miles! The training process has been rewarding in and off itself, but what makes me feel extra great about the whole event, is that the race will benefit Recreation Deeds for Special Needs, a non-profit Friends and Family organization established to provide camp scholarships, adaptive equipment and training and volunteer support to children with disabilities. 

Children benefitting from Recreation Deeds for Special Needs support. Photo found online.
While many brides are too busy to undertake the challenge of training for a tri while also involved in the stressful wedding planning process, it can be a great way to de-stress and get in shape for the wedding. Even better, many triathlons and races have entry fees that benefit a multitude of causes.

When I was planning my wedding, the thought of participating in a tri and overcoming my open water fear was was too daunting to take on, but I did participate in a few charity runs and walks, which are a great way to shape up for the big day. In my post, Shaping Up and Helping Out I shared some great 5ks, 10ks and even marathons that benefit a score of charities from domestic violence prevention to diabetes to breast cancer.

But, if getting ready for a tri sounds like the perfect plan for getting in shape for the big day.   there are training programs, like Team in Training (TNT), that provide flexible, group training while raising funds for blood cancer research, education and prevention. TNT began in 1988, when Bruce Cleland formed a team that raised funds and trained together for the NYC Marathon in support of Cleland's daughter who had leukemia. To date, Team in Training has raised over $1.3 billion dollars. 

A TNT team on race day. Photo found online.
TNT athletes train and raise money together. The program provides coaches, group training and even virtual and online support. At the end of the training program, the group travels  for the race day. The race events are often selected for their exciting locale- with groups participating in events like the San Diego marathon and the Nation's Tri in Washington DC. Team members can choose between over 2oo events in total!

TNT is a great way to get in great shape and give back. If you're like me and you have already been training on your own, you can understand the benefit of having the support of others during those long rides and runs. If you're already training and looking for a few events that give back, here are a few options.

I'm looking forward to this weekend and to the post-race celebration with my very patient husband. Thank you, Andrew for all the support and for "training" with me! I'm hoping to give Andrew a break for my next endeavor by participating in the TNT program- and maybe next year I'll give us the anniversary weekend off :)



Monday, October 1, 2012

12 "Pink" Products Brides Will Love


October is here! I’m a tad too excited as usual. Nothing makes me happier than the arrival of fall. I have always loved the month of October and so has my husband. That’s why we chose to get married on October 15. With my wedding anniversary just two weeks away and that autumn smell in the air, I’m excited to break out my fall wardrobe- complete with oranges, browns, olive greens and pink. Yup, I said pink. 

Admittedly, pink is not my favorite color, but October is breast cancer awareness month, which means lots of great pink items for an important cause. So, for all you brides searching the cosmetic aisles for great products or looking for the perfect favor- this month might be the best time to find said product- especially if you are the spring wedding type who adores pastel hues.

I scoured the Internet and with some help from my Google and Family Circle Magazine I picked 12 new breast cancer awareness products that any bride would love.

Causemetics
Every bride wants to look her best on the big day. Here are three charitably minded beauty products to help any lady shine.

·       Smashbox “Be Legendary” lipstick in “Inspiration,” for $19. Five dollars from every purchase will support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). You can also find this fabulous lip color at Sephora stores or go online at www.sephora.com.
·       Jane Iredale Cherish Lip Fixation, for $34.  This fantastic lipstick is not only a gorgeous color, but 100% of profits to Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Visit shop.janeiredale.com for more details.
·       Sonia Kashuk Brush Set is available from $15-$30 at participating retailers including Amazon and Target, with 15% of sales benefits BCRF. Target also has a whole host of other breast cancer awareness products.

Sonia Kashuk Brush Set. Picture taken from Internet.
Polished and Pink
Looking for a pop of color for the big day? Perhaps a girly hue for your toes? Here are two great, charitable options:

·       ORLY “Pretty in Pink” nail polish collection, $10 each. Twenty percent of the profits benefit Fran Drescher’s “Cancer Schmancer,” which supports breast cancer prevention, education and early detection. Visit www.orlybeauty.com for more information.
·       Dermelect Cosmeceuticals “Provocative” nail polish, $14 each. During the month of October, 30% of net sales of “Provocative” go to CEW Cancers & Careers. Visit dermelect.com for more information.  


Be-Jeweled
Going non-traditional on the big day with your jewelry? Perhaps even with your wedding band? Check out these gems.
·   Whiting &Davis mesh ring finished in pink gold, $95. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds will go to The Ellie Fund, a local organization working with breast cancer patients and families during treatment Click here for more details.
 
·   LOFT with Giuliana Rancic “Live in Pink” necklace, $69.50. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds will benefit BCRF. Available in LOFT stores or online at www.loft.com.

Pink Treats
People love sweet treats as favors at the wedding and other wedding festivities. I know cupcakes were a huge hit at my bridesmaids’ luncheon.  Here are some treats that you can feel good about eating.
·       Georgetown Cupcakes Pink Ribbon Cupcakes in chocolate or vanilla, $2.75 each (or $29 per dozen). The full purchase price will go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. A whopping 100% of the purchase price will go to Komen for the Cure with a commitment of at least $50,000 from the company.  Visit georgetowncupcake.com.
·       Edward Marc Pink Salted Caramel ApplesWhat could be better for fall? 100% of online sales to  Komen for the Cure. Purchase at edwardmarc.com.

Photo from EdwardMarc.com. How cute would this be as a bridesmaid luncheon favor?
 Or even a wedding favor at a small wedding?
Accessorize!

·       Smartphone Wristlet/Wallet by Deux Lux for Everything But Water for $44.  25% of proceeds goes to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.


Deux Lux Wristlet. Photo found online.
Bonus: You can bid on Patricia Nash's “Maria Menounos” signed handbag, beginning on October 15. aThe purse will come jam-packed with essential items for your big day! Auctioned off with the following essentials: M.A.C blotting papers, Smashbox lipgloss in Candid, Altoid mints and a small notebook and pen, the estimated value is $238.  You can bid for this beauty at www.patricianashdesigns.com/ubid. All of the auction proceeds will benefit BCRF.