Friday, April 2, 2010

It's a Nice Day for a Green Wedding!

As wedding season approaches, I thought I would share some pearls of wisdom with bubbling brides-to-be; ) As some of you may or may not know, I was a wedding and event planner for many years. And as of a few months ago, I planned & put on my own wedding! I took what I learned over my years in the biz and put it all together with our limited budget to host the most eco-friendly and affordable weddings I had ever planned. If I do say so myself, it was quite beautiful and I missed none of the elements that come with a large and expensive event.  So I figured I would share some insider tips and secrets with you in the case that you or someone you know is headed down the aisle and is frantic about finances and/or their carbon footprint ; )
  • Plan Ahead & Be Flexible -  I've planned many weddings within all kinds of time frames. From a couple of years to a couple of weeks. Depending on the size and style of your wedding, you may only need a few months but I typically advise on a year.  Especially if you are looking for a specific date or venue, in which case I advise 18 months.  This is why I say, be flexible. More often then not, the perfect date and/or venue will not be available at the same time so be sure to have options. And a lot of times, getting 1 and or both come at a premium cost. Consider an off day like a Friday or a Sunday, as well as an off season date. Many venues have lower rates on off days and seasons so try to plan around those dates to get the best possible rate in your dream location. Also, think outside of the box. Traditional venues come with many rules and stipulations that can either jack up the cost of your day or force you to use vendors that aren't at the top of your list. In my instance, we chose to do our ceremony at a park overlooking the ocean. We had our guests stand, created an aisle with flower petals and let the scenery be our decor. Price tag - $0. Afterward we had some champagne with our guests, sent them on their way to dine and freshen up while we took our photos, making it back home just in time for our backyard reception. Lucky for us we have a fun patio complete with a tiki bar but if you're looking for affordable, consider asking a friend to use their house or yard for the reception.  It can be their wedding gift to you. Stringing up some market lights will do wonders to a backyard, making it look simple and elegant for the cost of dinner & a movie, if not less.  We saved time, a ton of money, frustration and added to our eco-karma by not renting chairs or having anything delivered. So again, be flexible with your times, dates, themes, etc. because you may be surprised at how great it turns out if you give yourself some options ; )
  • Pool Your Resources & Get Creative - There are many elements to a wedding: flowers, music, dresses, food, photos, videos and on and on. And having been a part of the wedding world for almost a decade, I will tell you that as soon as you mention the word wedding, vendor prices sky rocket.  What makes a regular portrait session any different then an hour of wedding photos? Or why is a wedding cake boatloads more then a  birthday cake? Because it's your "special" day and why shouldn't you have the best, right? Wrong! You can totally have the best and save money too! Get together with your honey and see between the two of you, who might be able to cover what. Do you have a buddy who is a an amateur photographer or budding film maker? Do you love your aunt's cupcakes? Is your neighbor a phenomenal seamstress? Put your heads together because you might find out that you've got a handful of vendors within your circle of family and friends! Fill in the blanks with vendors you don't have covered but do it wisely.  Don't have a dj? Consider making your own play list, adding it to your ipod, renting a speaker system for $50 and hitting shuffle. Rent a microphone for an additional $20 or less for toasts and announcements & you've just saved yourself a good $2k or more! Know how to sew? Make your dress or find one at a second hand store and tweak it.  Do your own hair &have a fab friend do makeup. Have the guys wear suits they already own, not tuxes. There are a number of ways to get the same result for a lot less, just get creative and don't be afraid to ask.
  • Make a list of "Must Haves" & "Could Do Withouts" - As I mentioned above, see what you've already got and what you don't. You may have a few photographers in your contact list but you may not like their style. No worries, make a list with your sweetheart of what elements have to be perfect and what don't. You may find that all you really care about is what your dress looks like and the cake, everything else can be average or even be left off the itinerary entirely.  We opted to not have seating the ceremony and asked a friend to marry us. We decided to have cake and cocktails instead of serving dinner. We hired DJ Ipod instead of a real dj. For us, we chose to skimp on certain things that for us, didn't make or break the wedding. For some, getting a friend ordained may not cut it so be sure that a church wedding makes it in the must have list. But if you can do without printing programs, do so. If you do want a program but can't afford to print up 150, print one big one and display it at the ceremony site. Make a copy for you to keep in your scrapbook but don't worry your pretty little head about what the guests take home (it usually ends up in a landfill).  There are many things that make up a wedding but it is important to choose what makes up YOUR wedding. Just because a wedding check list says you need x,y and/or z, doesn't mean you need the entire alphabet. Customize your wedding the way you want it and don't feel guilty if you don't have wedding favors, open bar, a chocolate fountain, etc - it's ok!
  • Reuse, re-purpose, recycle & re-imagine - Here is where you can save some serious cash ; ) There are so many ways that you can be green and save green while wearing white! For instance, making your own centerpieces, sign-in book, favors and more.  This may sound like a lot of work but really, it's a snap. If you're crafty, you will enjoy it and if not, have your girls over for some wine, snacks and Martha Stewarty time.  What I chose to do was make my own card drop box, favors, and sign-in book. I gathered some cardboard boxes, in different sizes, and wrapped them in wrapping paper that matched my wedding colors. Instead of buying a card box for $50 that I would never use again, I cut a slit at the top of the box, wrapped the whole thing and printed the label on my computer. I decided I didn't want a traditional sign in book so I used an old photo album and decorated the pages with wedding themed stickers & scrapbook goodies. I used recycled construction paper to have people write their wishes & messages on and stuck those to the blank pages of our book after the wedding. I wrapped a tea canister with the matching wrapping paper and voila, a cute pen holder! Lastly, we didn't have favors in mind but I had plenty of neat construction paper left over. So I created a recipe that reflected Dan & I's fave combined dessert and printed them up for our guests to take home as their gift. All of this cost us about $15 total, if not less, and I did it all in 1 evening ; ) You can create your own everything from your invitations to your bridesmaid jewelry. It's all a part of the must have vs. do without step along with a touch of being creative, green and budget conscious. I will add that my dress was 100% green and made by my one of my closest friends, Anna of Annatarian - we bought no fabrics to make the dress, just what she already had in her incredible eco-studio!
  • Have a potluck meal or a cocktails & cake reception - For many, this might not fly, but again, consider it. To be frank, most guests don't care about what their eating, they are there for the party & the couple. A lot of the times, wedding food is less then average and if it's not, it cost more then half of the wedding budget. If you're spending a third to half of your budget on catering, it's time to re-think it.  You can still have a beautiful, sit down meal if it is a buffet style, potluck. You would be surprised how many people enjoy potlucks because of the variety of foods as well as the feeling of inclusion that they have been able to contribute to your celebration. You cut out a big chunk of the budget so that you can put it towards a better photographer or a few more days on your honeymoon. Again, what do you really want and what can you do without? In our case we opted for cake and cocktails. We bought booze and mixers at Costco and had some chips, salsa, guac and hummus to nosh on. We offered our favorite cocktail choices (Margaritas and Jack N' Cokes), serve yourself style, as well as beer and wine so we didn't have to spring for stocking an entire bar. Remember we had a few hours in between ceremony and reception so folks could grab a dinner of their choice and meet back up with us for the fun part.  In addition, we had people voluntarily show up with trays of food so we were more then covered.  Because of this, we didn't need to rent table and chairs so we saved ginormously! Because we didn't have to squeeze in a meal, we had more time to spend with our guests, dance and enjoy all the reception events (first dance, garter & bouquet toss, slideshow, toasts & cake) without rushing.
  • Borrow - I'm a huge fan of borrowing items for weddings. Even though it is your special day, you really only use things once and afterward it takes up lots of space if you choose to hang on to it. I've been hearing that a lot of brides are renting their gowns which is a smart choice. This way you get the designer gown of your dreams without the hefty price tag that goes with it. I've also seen brides borrow each others dresses because chances are, there will be very few overlapping guests and no one will know the difference. Share the cost of the dress and enjoy it 100%. If you're having a home wedding, borrow furniture from friends and neighbors, don't spend money on rentals. Create neat spaces like loungy areas, standing areas and seated table areas with mismatched furniture. Tie it all together with a common theme like candles, lighting, centerpieces, etc but ultimately you can save thousands of dollars by borrowing seating while making it feel more personal and quaint.  We made a few fire pit seating areas around our patio which lent itself to some fun guest interaction and spread the crowd out so as to not have everyone crammed next to the food or bar. Conserving resources and cold hard cash!
  • Make it a collaborative effort - One thing you will learn is that many people want to help you with your wedding. You will also learn that what is meant to be YOUR day isn't yours alone, it's everyone's, especially close family. So instead of resisting because you want things just so, take them up on it! If you delegate well, you will have a stress free, beautiful day that everyone involved can rejoice in. You can have plenty of your own days with you wedded partner on your honeymoon ; ) Think of it, how much more fun would it be if Aunt Tilly made the flowers instead of an overpriced florist who has 5 more weddings that day? How much would you love to have your uncle Joe's lasagna for dinner instead a plate of wilted lettuce and bland pasta? Wouldn't you like your detail oriented best friend setting up your reception just the way you want it instead of handing it over to a catering manager who might not get your vision? This all ties back in with planning, flexibility, must haves and not cares. If you are willing to let go of the gold encrusted linens for handmade table cloths made by your grandma and the 5 tiered castle cake for a tower of your favorite cupcakes, go for it. Bringing friends and family into the planning and execution of the wedding day not only makes it more personal and unique, but all the more memorable. 10 years from now you might not remember the name of your caterer but you will remember your family crammed in your kitchen, prepping for the big day and having a wonderful time ; )
All in all, it's your day and you want it to be special. But remember that the most important thing is the marriage and the wedding day is a celebration of that. Make it unique and memorable but don't drive yourself to crazy with the details. In all honesty, in a short while from now, will you remember the details or will you remember the day?  Don't miss out on your journey to the altar worrying about minutiae, budgets perfection. Make the most of what you've got and savor it, happily, healthily and affordably ; )

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Healthy Voyager Radio - Seasonal Spring Cooking & Eco Shopping

Listen to the Healthy Voyager Radio right here!! Featuring The Blissful Chef, Christy Morgan & Sydne Garchik from

Next week we talk health, fitness & possible new careers with Suzanne Monroe from Real Life Food & Jenna Phillips of Mission Possible!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Healthy Bunny's Spring Giveaway

Yes, the Easter Bunny is due in just a few days but he'll be bringing candy, chocolates and a bunch of stuff that's probably not so good for us. Enter the Healthy Bunny!  He comes at the same time every year, spreading the message of health and green living ; ) This year he's giving one lucky winner one of his best prizes yet.  This Sunday, the Healthy Bunny will be giving away a Life Factory beverage bottle!

Just like me, the Healthy Bunny believes that glass is the best way to store your beverages and Life Factory's bottles take the cake.  They are large (22oz), wide mouthed glass bottles, encased in a colorful, non-toxic silicon sleeve. You can add just about any beverage along with ice, fruit, tea bags, whatever, and no chance of slipping out of your hands with the super cool sleeve. A $22 value, the Life Factory bottle will become your very best friend.

How to enter:  Leave a comment describing a Spring time beverage you'd like to put in your Life Factory bottle as well as the color bottle you might like. Be sure to leave your email as well so that I may contact you if you win. The winner will be chosen this Sunday, April 4th by (with some help from the Healthy Bunny).

Good Luck!!

Spring Clean Your Kitchen (And Your Body Will Thank You!)

Spring is upon us and with new season comes the idea of sparkling freshness. Out with the old, in with the bright, shiny and new.  So what better area to spring clean this year than your kitchen? Now, I could go on and on about the kinds of foods you should be stocking your cupboards with or how to prepare healthy meals to get you ready for swimsuit season. However, did you know that what you are cooking and storing with is just as important? You might be surprised to know that many of the items we use on a daily basis can be causing us harm. You may be eating the purest, most organic foods but if you are cooking with or storing foods in any of these items, you might be rendering your healthy foods useless. I’ve compiled my top 5 items that should be added to your toss pile this spring cleaning season in order to keep you and yours as healthy as can be!

·     Non-Stick Pots & Pans - The most important health factor that should be considered is the transfer, or leaching, of the cooking surface material to the foods being cooked. Heat changes the composition of materials so what may be safe at room temperature can be extremely toxic when heated.  Non-stick surfaces like Teflon, are the biggest offenders when it comes to leaching. In fact, it has been admitted by Dupont, that when a non-stick surface is heated beyond a certain level, the fumes can kill birds and create a sickness in humans they call Polymer Fume Fever, producing symptoms resembling a cold. Most recipes call for the cooking surface to be heated to a medium to high temperature so cooking with a non-stick pot or pan will almost always be dangerous.  So don’t wait until the bottoms of your pans are chipping to trash them, start replacing your most used pieces as soon as possible. REPLACE WITH:  Ceramic, stainless steel, cast iron, and/or glass. Be sure there are no toxic paints or coatings.

·     Plastic Containers – As I mentioned above, leaching is hugely important factor to consider.  Whether it is food or beverage, plastic should never be the vessel. One must even be cautious of BPA-free containers as there are other contaminants that can be leached from low-grade items.  Be a discerning consumer and buy the best! When you add hot foods to plastic storage containers, it draws toxins from the container and mixes with your food. This is why you should never leave plastic water bottles in the car. Ever taste “plasticy” water? It’s been sitting in the heat, leaching toxins into your otherwise healthy beverage. This happens when you store food as well and even more so when you microwave them. Don’t let chemicals be the secret ingredient in your dishes. REPLACE WITH:  Ceramic, stainless steel and/or glass

·     Dish Towels & Sponges - Bacteria breeds mainly in cool, damp places like sponges and dish towels. We use these every day to clean up our counters and plates but if not taken care of properly, we are doing more harm then good.  A sure fire way to keep your cleaning aids at their best is to: wring them out to release excess water after every use, store them properly so that they can air out and dry quickly, wash regularly and throw them away every 2 weeks to a month. If you have old towels and sponges, it’s time to go shopping!

·     Overcrowded Refrigerators/freezers – Clutter is never a good thing and that goes for refrigerators and freezers too.  When these are overstuffed, there isn’t enough room for the air to circulate properly and decomposition begins. In addition, many foods will pick up the odors of others which will most likely cause you to gag, throw a way your food and waste quite a bit of cash. This can also cause bacteria and mold to grow in between containers, on walls and in drawers. In freezers, overcrowding can cause freezer burn as well as forgetfulness! Ever forget what’s in the back of the freezer but it’s to frozen over to get to it? From now on, toss foods as soon as they expire, don’t keep items that you “think” you will use someday like fast food sauce packets, properly pack and label your foods with the date and consolidate items when possible. Your food will last longer, will taste a whole lot better and save you a considerable amount of green.

·     Microwaves – I know that there is quite a controversy when it comes to microwaves. But I’m here to tell you, anything that heats your food that fast and is otherwise cool to the touch, can’t be good for you. These microwaves that are heating your quick lunch are actually transforming the chemical makeup of your foods on a cellular level. Ever notice that many things are less crispy and more rubbery when nuked? That’s because while those little waves are heating up, they have mutated your food. And mutated food not only loses it texture and taste, it loses all its nutrients too. REPLACE WITH:  Convection oven and/or toaster oven

While a full kitchen overhaul may be costly, be sure to at least make a dent by getting rid of and replacing your most used items.  You can always add from there and have fun doing it. We should all make an investment in our health and the kitchen is a great place to start. I wish you all a very happy Spring as well as super healthy cooking spaces ; )

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Genesis Awards Night

The 24th Annual Genesis Awards was held a few weeks back and I was lucky enough to be able to attend. A star studded gala that is The Humane Society's version of the Golden Globes. In fact, these awards are held in the same location! The Genesis Awards honors media, print, TV, film as well as individuals who have made strides in highlighting animal rights stories in their medium. Stars from TV and film present these awards after a lavish vegan meal, that is then followed by a swanky after party. And if you're lucky, you get to go home with a rockin' gift bag (I was a lucky one!)

The evening commenced with a fabulous dinner (featuring Gardein) by none other then celebrity vegan chef and friend of The Healthy Voyager, Tal Ronnen.  The awards show was sweet, inspiring, entertaining and even at moments, tear jerking. I was taken with the number of news stories as well as films and TV shows that do so much to bring light to the cause.

The after party was complete with vegan sushi and decadent vegan desserts as well as attendees letting loose on the dance floor.  A bunch of notable vegans chowed and boogied the night away like Rory Freedman, Ari Solomon, The Discerning Brute and the gals of VegNews & Vegetarian Times, to name a few. We all had a blast but here's a bigger scoop!

The winners of the evening were:
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - Tippi Hedren
  • Feature Film - (tie) - Hotel For Dogs & UP  
  • Documentary Film - The Cove
  • Sid Caesar Comedy Award - Family Guy "Dog Gone" 
  • Dramatic Series - Bones
  • Children's Programming -  Nick News With Linda Elerbee  "Kids to the Rescue!  Helping Homeless Animals"
  • TV Newsmagazine - Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell  "multiple segments"
  • News Feature - KCBS / KCAL TV (Los Angeles) "Animal Shelter Abuse, Faux Fur Investigation"
  • News Series - KLAS-TV 8 (Las Vegas)  "I-Team: Shark Fin Soup"
  • Morning News Show - Today on NBC  "multiple segments" by Jill Rappaport
  • Talk Show - The Ellen Degeneres Show "Eating Animals author Jonathan Safran Foer"
  • TV Documentary - Death On A Factory Farm- HBO
  • Reality Series - Whale Wars "The Stuff of Nightmares" Animal Planet
  • TV Film - A Dog Named Christmas
  • Brigitte Bardot International - Bear Sanctuary - Animal Planet Europe
  • Ooutstanding Written Word- Isthmus (Wisconsin)  multiple articles by Bill Lueders
  • Newsmagazine - Time  "The New Age of Extinction" and "The Real Cost of Cheap Food" by Bryan Walsh and Abused No More by David Von Drehle
  • Magazine - O Magazine "What Are They Thinking?" by Eugene Linden, "Wild Things" by Rick Bass, and Operation Rescue by Barry Yeoman
  • Brigitte Bardot International Print - The Independent (UK)  "multiple articles" by Martin Hickman
A few of my favorite gift bag goodies were:
The bag was jammed with great stuff (a lot of companies I already love) but these were new and exciting to me!
And of course, some of the stars in attendance were:
  • Teri Hatcher
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Maria Menunos
  • Kristin Bell
  • Ginnifer Goodwin
  • Emily Deschanel
  • Moby
  • Jon Lovitz
  • Tipi Hedren
  • Melanie Griffith
  • Michael Vartan
  • Carrie Ann Inaba
  • And more!!!

For more information on The Genesis Awards as well as the Humane Society, please visit their website. I was honored to be a part of such a wonderful event and look forward to attending again next year ; )