Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Day is 40

This year, Earth Day is this Thursday, April 22nd and it marks the 40th anniversary.  It’s interesting that I hear all this buzz about it being the 40th anniversary because I’d say that easily the first twenty plus Earth Days went by largely unrecognized by most of the population.  In fact, only upon hearing that it is the 40th Earth Day was I able to connect back that I was a bystander to the 10th anniversary.  Heck, passerby might be more accurate.  I was in Washington, DC for Spring Break with my family and I distinctly remember driving by what appeared to be some sort of a demonstration or a carnival, to my child’s mind.  Peering from the backseat of my parent’s 1970’s gas-guzzling sedan I read “Earth Day” on the signs.  The year was 1980.  I do not believe Earth Day hit my radar again for at least several more years.

Even though Earth Day itself did not hit my radar, plenty of things that equal “being green” or “earth friendly” sure go back as far as 1980 for me.  My hometown in Massachusetts was an early recycling town, and that doesn’t mean curbside recycling!  We actually hauled our paper, glass and aluminum to a central location twice a month where trucks picked it up from us.  My mom started Household Hazardous Waste Recycling in our town in the 1980’s as well.  From there the list could go on and on and on for another twenty years.  Now THAT would be a really BIG post.  So, to keep it current, I thought I’d do a round up of some Earth Day related things I’ve done the past couple of months.  Some Earth Day related kids stuff.  I’m also going to throw in some new things that are being kicked off in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.  My Earth Day Post:

For the past two years, I have been invited to attend the Go Green Expo in Los Angeles which is a convention featuring all different types of green products and initiatives.  One product that I had been considering and was featured by several companies at the expo this year was artificial grass.  No, not astroturf, this stuff looks like real grass.  At first I didn’t understand how fake grass would be considered “green” other than in color.  Then I got it.  You don’t need to water it!  And in California, where water is constantly an issue, that is huge.  I met some nice people from an artificial grass company at the Go Green Expo and through their referral, I hired a local landscape designer who installed some fabulous artificial grass in my backyard and turned off my sprinklers.

Planet Earth I know many of you will remember Planet Earth (a BBC/Discovery co-production) that aired on The Discovery Channel in 2007.  In celebration of Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, the beloved and award-winning 11 episode BBC Earth series Planet Earth is now available on iTunes with a special, one-time free episode download (“Pole to Pole”) from April 12 – 26, 2010.  So head on over to iTunes for your free download!  Planet Earth is a perfect precursor to Life which is now airing on Discovery and you may recall my story of my attendance at the premiere.  Life is coming out on DVD in June.  Both Planet Earth and Life are the ultimate in TV viewing for Earth Day.

There are some kid’s characters that are sending the go green message to the preschool set.  I’ve received a couple of DVD’s recently that Chip and Lulu both really love to watch.  In Wubbzy GoesWubbzy Goes Greez Green, a DVD from the Nick Jr. preschool series, many situations are presented that give kids a chance to see how decisions can impact their environment.  To help celebrate the new release, and Mother Earth, Anchor Bay Entertainment has partnered with the Alliance for Community Trees (ACT).  For every Wubbzy Goes Green DVD sold, Anchor Bay will donate $1 to ACT to help support the planting of trees in playgrounds and schoolyards across the country. The special tree-planting initiative continues through May 31, 2010.  In Dora Earth Explore The Earth, Dora the Explorer and her compadre Boots globetrot to beaches, the South Pole and rainforests.  What better way to start to explain that we are on this place called Earth than by pulling the globe off the bookshelf as we watch Dora and try to figure out where she is?

AvatarDVD Guess what?  I have not seen the film Avatar.  I have two toddlers and trips to the movies are not easy to come by.  Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is releasing Avatar on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on Earth Day in the US. (Internationally the release rolls out between April 21 – May 6)  Yay!  This means I will get a chance to watch it!  “This is the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, and we felt it a fitting day to release a film with such an eco-friendly theme.” says, Elysia Yeary of the Avatar Media Relations Team.  Avatar grossed over $2.6 billion dollars theatrically worldwide, making it the biggest film of all time.  To add to the launch date theme, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has teamed up with the Earth Day Network to plant 1,000,000 trees worldwide in celebration of the BD and DVD release of the film. 

Earth Day Network will spearhead the initiative and collaborate with its international partners to plant the one million trees, indigenous to each region in 15 different countries, by the end of 2010.  The organization is committed to caring for and nurturing the trees to maturity, as well as considering natural disasters such as fires and landslides during the planting process.  "I am pleased to have the opportunity to share the environmental messages from AVATAR through the efforts during the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and with Earth Day Network,” said James Cameron "Earth Day Network's commitment and actions to promote a healthy, sustainable planet go hand-in-hand with the themes of AVATAR.”  People who purchase the film will be given a unique access code that allows them to go online and actually adopt one of the million trees being planted, charting its location and progress.

I want to say that every day to me is Earth Day.  I don’t modify my behavior just on one day and I truly hope no one else does either.  Rather, I would hope Earth Day is more a day to spread the word about new ideas, initiatives and advances.  Every single day I make an effort to minimize my “eco-footprint” by recycling, re-using or re-purposing.  I bring cloth bags to the supermarket.  I recycle so much household plastic, paper, metal and glass that our recycle bin is often full in advance of trash day and I have to run around in the morning to see if my neighbors have space in theirs.  Meanwhile, my trashcan always has room in it.  I only run full loads of laundry and dishes.  I have trained myself to think: is this the most eco-efficient way to do this?  Before I embark on something.  It’s a constant learning process.  Everyday I try to keep myself open to learning something new about making life more simple, safer, healthier and greener.  We are all inter-related.  Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Toyota FJ Cruiser Test Drive

2008_09_09_fj_cruiser_47-thmb I’ve been intrigued by the FJ Cruiser ever since they arrived on the roads about four years ago.  My first car, meaning the first car I actually bought on my own, was a Jeep Wrangler.  The second car I bought after that was another Jeep Wrangler, then I bought my BMW.  You know the rest.  I like the up-high-military-tough-utility-vibe you get from the Wrangler and I also was getting that from the FJ Cruiser.  So, when Toyota was kind enough to give me the opportunity to test drive an FJ Cruiser for a week recently, I was thrilled to have the opportunity.  The FJ I received was Army Green in color, which was beyond awesome to Chip.  He kept calling it the “Army Guy Car”.  I was able to install both kid’s convertible car seats in the back seat fairly easily.  There is not a huge amount of room to maneuver in the back seat but it was sufficient.  I think that also, as I became more familiar with the car it would become easier.  There definitely was not room for a third car seat or another person in between the two kids.  The rear cargo area, 27.9 cubic ft. was larger than a typical sedan trunk and more than what I needed for my daily use that week.  With the rear seat folded down, you get even more space.  Visibility is very good because you are up high.  Windows are overall, smaller than the typical car, with a wide yet vertically narrow windshield, although not distractingly so.  Everything from the controls to the cup holders to the rubber floor mats feels very utilitarian.  The front seats are comfortable and upon climbing behind the wheel, I felt like I was in a really, really tough, solid vehicle.  Seating materials are not only water-repellant, but also provide excellent ventilation. Seats are covered with a fabric backed by a special breathable resin coating to enhance the material's ability to shed liquids, making it easy to wipe down the seats. Even the stitched seams of the seat covers are treated with sealant to prevent liquids from penetrating. The FJ Cruiser's floor surfaces are covered with an easy-to-clean rubber-type material.  When you look inside the FJ, you kind of get the feeling you could hose the whole thing down.  [And if you’ve ever had a kid throw up inside your car, that could be a nice option].

The FJ handled really well on the city streets and the highway.  The turning radium was excellent which I find typical of Toyotas.  One thing that I absolutely loved about my Wrangler was being up high and the visibility that gave me.  The FJ definitely delivers on that.  I definitely had some challenges when going in reverse in the FJ.  Now, to be fair, in my minivan I have both a back up camera and sonar, so I’m spoiled.  However, being up high and having the small rear window did require me to be extra vigilant going in reverse.  Rear passenger visibility is not ideal with the smallish windows.  My kids were happy and and liked to wave to the guys in the trucks who were now at their height.  However, I don’t know how long that would have lasted and keep in mind they are toddlers.  The height to climb into the FJ was fine for both myself and the kids because of the body side steps.  I did have to make sure I helped them getting out, something I don’t worry about in my lower minivan.  The FJ is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that provides 258 horsepower.  I found the cabin to be fairly quiet and fairly well insulated from road noise while on a forty minute highway drive.  The FJ is offered in both 4x4 and 4x2 models, I drove a 4x2 which only comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission.  EPA Estimated Fuel Economy of the 4x2 is 17 mpg (city) 22 mpg (highway).

There are some unique things I’d like to point out.  Although the FJ Cruiser looks like a 2-door it really is a 4-door: The FJ uses side access doors that open 90 degrees in clamshell fashion for easy rear-seat ingress and egress. Additionally, a swing-up glass hatch is incorporated into the side-hinged rear door. The glass hatch opens independently of the rear door and helps accommodate longer items.  Finally, the windshield wiper uses three arms to provide nearly complete coverage of the wide windshield. 

In summary, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is a cool car with a solid Toyota Land Cruiser history and lore behind it.  Do I like the car?  Yes.  Here is who I might recommend this car for: a single person in their 20’s-30’s who wants a sporty SUV but usually doesn’t need to have someone in the back seat.  A family that lives in a snowy climate that already has two cars and would like a 4x4 as a third car.  For me, with the two toddlers, I just can’t give up the minivan yet, but if I had a third garage, I would not be opposed to having an FJ Cruiser in it.  Chip, for his part, would like the “Army Guy Car” returned as soon as possible and is greatly dismayed that I only had it for one short week!

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. provided me with a 2010 FJ Cruiser to test drive for one week.  I received no compensation from Toyota in relation to this post.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Private Chefs Of Beverly Hills Met With Me Privately

PrivateChefsPic Without planning and with the LA traffic gods singing, I sailed the minivan into the valet at The Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills at exactly 7:25 pm this past Tuesday.  Which allowed me to make to take a quick couple of steps across the small boutique hotel’s lobby, smile and nod at the front desk staff and elevator it up to the roofdeck.  The manager checked my name off the guest list and there I was walking into the event…As literally the first guest to arrive to a Food Network Party for The Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.  The beautiful pool shimmered before me, the hipster bartender and staff were preparing the hip cocktails and all six of the Private Chefs were putting the final touches on their tasty offerings.  So what else was there for me to do? I started talking to the chefs!  First up, Brooke Peterson, who is expecting a baby girl in a few weeks.  We found out that in addition to sharing the same last name, we both love to have theme parties.  I next stepped over to Irishman Stuart O’Keeffe who made the most rocking Guinness-marinated-short-rib-sliders! I swear vegetarians were converted.  Still on that side of the swimming pool, I finished up with Manouschka Guerrier who is heavily influenced by her Haitian roots and served me a plaintain cup with oxtail and a champagne chocolate cupcake with pink frosting that was sooo pretty.  I hit the bar for a glass of cab and flipped pool sides.  I wanted to sample Brian Hill’s fare, but he wasn’t quite ready.  He did assure me it would be fabulous.  I told him I’d loop back.  Next I hopped to Sasha Perl-Raver who was a hoot and had some good eatin’ at her table.  Sasha was working a lemon theme with lemon squares to-die-for.  Crab bites and some other yummy bites.  All soooo good!  More guests were coming, so I wasn’t feeling so ALONE and ODD, which was good.  I also now had friends at the party which was quite nice.  So then I moved over to Jesse Brune’s table.  Jesse was working a red theme with watermelon and tuna sashimi, strawberry pepper soup and a red cocktail.  The watermelon and tuna was better than I thought it would be.  At last I was able to connect with Brian Hill and sample his salmon with mango salsa.  I told him going in that I had developed a salmon aversion with my first pregnancy and needed just a small bite to see how I could do.  He told me, “I worked for Mary J. Blige! I can do whatever you want!”  I wasn’t sure what that meant but I was like, “Ok!”  Brian was so awesome.  I asked him what the most memorable part of the series was.  He told me that the “glamping” (glamour+camping=glamping) segment in tonight’s premiere episode was quite the challenge.  After that he said, “I knew I could do anything in life!”

So, I had met all the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, most of them privately, and the sun was setting over Beverly Hills.  The Food Network Team took the stage to welcome us and introduce the series.  In The Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, The Food Network peeks into the high-demand world of culinary glamourPremiering Friday, April 9th at 10pm ET/PT, this delicious docu-soap follows six gifted cooks from Big City Chefs, Beverly Hills’ premiere
private chef placement agency. On-call 24/7, the chefs must cater to the whims of their over-the-top and eccentric clientele in Los Angeles’ most posh neighborhood. Find out more at . I do believe I learned a new term that that night: Docu-Soap.  So, my friends and I settled into a poolside cabana as all the tv’s set up around the pool and in the cabanas began to show the premiere episode “In The Dog House”.  The episode shows the six chefs on three different assignments, each of them very, very funny.  We were laughing out loud.  Can I just take a moment to say I was sitting in a cabana at The Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills, with The Private Chefs themselves all nearby, while I watched their show.  Kind of funny on its own.  The show is laugh out loud funny.  I will watch this show.  I am telling people to watch this show.  I am telling you to watch this show.  I met the chefs.  I like the chefs.  I like their food, them and their show.  Premieres tonight on The Food Network.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Love Fresh & Easy

There is a very interesting chain of stores called Fresh & Easy and I just love them.  If you are fortunate to live in California, Nevada or Arizona, you just might live near one.  Living in Los Angeles, I live near quite a few of them, including the headquarters!  So, I’ve shopped at Fresh & Easy since they pretty much opened a couple of years ago.  There is so much to love about them that I actually can’t tell you everything right now but here are five things: the prices, the special parking spaces for families, the peanut butter cookies, the self-service checkout (it’s fun for me), and that there is always something new!  Just last week I was invited with some other local bloggers to visit Fresh & Easy’s headquarters to taste their brand new Eatwell line which launched today, April 7!  Basically, Eatwell is a line of prepared meals with limited calories, fat and sodium.  The idea is to give customers nutritionally balanced meal options without having to give up quality or flavor.  Below the "Eatwell" title on each package is the catchphrase "no compromise on taste".  I was intrigued as I perused the new packages while I sipped some of Fresh & Easy's wine offerings waiting for the tasting to begin.  Each package has an easy to understand label that shows the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium per serving on the front.  Each Eatwell complete meal contains 25% or less of your daily caloric intake and 25% or less of your recommended fat and sodium intakes (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).  The first phase of the Eatwell launch consists of 17 items including prepared meals, soups, salads, sandwiches and sushi.  Like the other Fresh & Easy prepared foods, the Eatwell line is all made in the Fresh & Easy Kitchen.  There is a second phase coming and it will consist of grocery items.  Stay tuned for the launch announcement.  I will have the breaking news.

At our tasting, among the Eatwell items I sampled were: the Bruschetta Chicken ($3.99), Farmer’s Market Salad ($3.99), Honey Dijon Salmon ($4.99), Veggie Hummus Wrap ($2.99), Spicy Tuna Sushi Square ($3.99), and Turkey Chili ($1.99).  Of those, my favorite was the Spicy Tuna, really, really good!  Everything was tasty, very light and fresh, which I appreciated as I thought about the frozen soggy "diet meals" of my past.  The Turkey Chili could use some spicing up which would be easy to do with some Tabasco.  At the tasting as I asked some questions of the Fresh & Easy team and learned more about the products, I realized what an amazing concept they really have here!  You can basically go into Fresh & Easy and buy a day’s worth of meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, controlling the portions, calories, fat and sodium and do it all for oh, about $13.  There are Hollywood meal delivery services that essentially do the same thing for you but for about $50 per day.  How exciting that Fresh & Easy is making it so simple to eat healthy, tasty and affordable prepared meals.  I wasn’t able to swing over to my local Fresh & Easy today but I look forward to getting there tomorrow and filling my shopping cart like I always do.  I’d like to thank Fresh & Easy for extending the kindness of inviting me in for their wonderful tasting and tour of their headquarters.  They also gave me a very nice cloth wine bag wine carrier, available in their stores and a bottle of Saludas Red Spanish Wine.  I’d also like to thank my good buddy Caryn, Rockin mama, for taking all the fabulous pictures you see here on my post and sharing.  My camera is on the fritz and she is my photographic hero.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival

disneylandFood&Wine I had the opportunity to attend Disney’s Food & Wine Festival last year and am looking forward to attending again this year.  The theme for this year’s festival is “The Art of Flavor”.  I just took a look at the calendar and it definitely looks like there are many fabulous see events happening throughout the event which is now in its fifth year.  Each year the events and offerings get bigger and better.  The festival kicks off April 16 and ends May 31, 2010 at Disney’s California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort.  I attended the festival on three different days last year and had really great experiences each time.  There are complimentary and signature ongoing during the course of the festival.  Signature events such as Winemaker Dinners are on sale now and some will sell out before the start of the festival, so be sure to make your reservations asap.
CELEBRATING 'THE ART OF  FLAVOR': Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2010 with a new theme, “The Art of Flavor.” This exciting festival runs from April 16 through May 31 and features hundreds of complimentary experiences included with park admission. Guests will enjoy entertaining culinary demonstrations with Disney chefs and celebrity chefs; wine, beer and spirits seminars; and delicious food and wine.  For more information, visit
 (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)
Every day you will be able to attend complimentary demonstrations by culinary experts and celebrity chefs including Guy Fieri, Cat Cora and Robert Irvine.  There are also seminars that feature, wine, beers and spirits.  All these events take place at various locations throughout Disney’s California Adventure in locations that are easy to find and with ample seating.  There are also “wine walks” that allow you to taste several different wines along a walkway.  I did that with some friends last year and had a lot of fun.  I went to a couple of cooking demonstrations which also allowed us to taste what the chefs demonstrated—a fun bonus!  I highly recommend the signature events for special occasions like a birthday…Coincidentally, mine is April 16th, the first day of the festival!  Maybe someone will give me a signature event ticket for a present?  One of the times I went last year was with four girlfriends and we had so much fun going on the rides at the park as well as doing a couple wine walks, two cooking demonstrations and we finished off the day with a signature event.  It really gave me a totally different appreciation for a way to take in Disneyland.  With Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival running for six weeks, there is absolutely no excuse not to attend this year!  For full information please visit

If you are traveling to the Disneyland Resort, be sure to check out for their compilation of reviews, sites and info for travelers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hellmann’s, Bobby Flay & Me

Last month I told you I had just shot a cooking video for with Bobby Flay as part of their new campaign: The Real Food Project.  I’m very excited that I can now tell you a lot more about it including links to my video and some behind the scenes footage.  The Real Food Project is all about solving America’s dinner dilemmas and showing you how.  One thing I want to clear up is that Hellmann’s is Best Foods west of the Rockies.  The jars look exactly the same otherwise.  It’s kind of funny because I grew up in Massachusetts so Hellmann’s seems totally normal to me, but as I’ve been working with Hellmann’s and telling people here in LA about it, I get some confused looks from the natives.  So, anyway, now that we’ve got the Hellmann’s and Best Foods Mayonnaise names straightened out, let’s get on with the campaign:  Last week, The Real Food Project was kicked off on by Chef (and dad) Bobby Flay and actress (and mom) Lori Laughlin who is herself an aspiring “Real Food Mom”.  As side note: my vey first blogging interview was with Lori Laughlin.  For that interview, I had Chip and Lulu with me and they were babies.  Lori was so great and we talked about her two kids who are also close in age.  When I heard Lori was on board with The Real Food Project, I thought what an excellent choice!  Bobby and Lori unveiled the Real Food Project on where you will find a comprehensive online resource offering tips and ideas on how to create real meals made with Real Food.

HellmannsGreenOnionPotatoSalad Since for many people, seeing is believing, The Real Food Project features a series of entertaining how-to tutorials – starring Flay (one with me!)–  to give parents the tools and techniques to prepare great-tasting, at-home meals for their families. The videos are available at  Lori Loughlin says that her kids have unadventurous palates which is something that I think pretty much every parent can relate to.  It was something Bobby and I talked about at our shoot.  One thing Bobby and I agreed on is that you just keep offering new things to your kids and if they don’t like it, try it again in a week or so.  I know it’s tough to get shot down by your kid, but it’s something I try to do, just put a piece of whatever I’m serving on their plates and not make a big deal about it if they do or do not eat it.  The recipe Bobby showed me how to make is Green Onion Potato Salad.  One of of the really cool things about this recipe is that it uses Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise.  It didn’t even taste like it was light because it had so much added flavor with all of Bobby’s ingredients here is a link to the video of me cooking with Bobby and here is a link to the recipe both of which are on the Hellmann’s website.  In the Sunday paper last week, I saw an ad for Best Foods Mayonnaise (because I live West of the Rockies) that featured Bobby and MY recipe (well, Bobby’s, but you know)!!!  I was so excited I cut it out and scanned it for my blog post.  One really fun aspect of the shoot was that during a break I got a chance to whip out my flip video camera and ask Bobby some questions.  Here, exclusive to my blog is some footage from that Q & A.  Bobby is a really fun guy and I feel really lucky I was given the opportunity to cook with him and learn all about the Hellmann’s Real Food Project.

When you head over to you’ll find a wide range of recipes, including sandwiches, entrees and side dishes, that provide delicious meal solutions.  I took a look and I’m pretty sure you’ll find something for every member of the family. The Real Food Project site will feature tips and suggestions for everyday meals in addition to seasonally appropriate recipe ideas including spring, Memorial Day, July 4th, Back to School and Thanksgiving.  Visitors to the site can also play “The Wheel of Real” instant win game and enter the Real Food Sweepstakes for a chance to win great prizes including a food essentials bundle, Bobby Flay Grill It cookbooks and Hellmann’s and Best Foods products.  So, please check it out, test out some recipes and try something new!