Friday, October 29, 2010

Tranquilli Regali Jewelry: Not Your Momma's Keepsakes

When my oldest daughter was born, a friend's aunt gave me a 'mother's locket.' It was a gold-plated, oval-shaped pendant with 'MOM' spelled out in curlique letters and small pearls surrounding a space to put a photo of my baby. It was a keepsake of the miraculous birth of my first child.

It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen.

Of course I never told her that, and I did keep the pendant. In a drawer.

Which is why I was so excited when my friend Michele came out with her own line of jewelry, Tranquilli Regali, and among them keepsake items that I would actually wear. In fact, she'll be making me one using a photo of my two daughters, now 12 and 14, but she told me first she needs a photo of the two of them really close together. After she said that we both just laughed and laughed and realized how impossible that would be and I told her she would just have to make me two separate pendants.

I've known Michele for a long time. Her husband and mine have known each other since high school and are in a band together, and they were one of the first of my husband's friends I met when we were dating. Obviously he ignored their advice to 'get out while you still can.'

Michele spent 21 years at Disney in event planning before starting her own jewelry line, and moms everywhere should breath a sigh of relief – keepsake jewelry that you can actually wear.

Here's her business in a nutshell, in her own words:

As a mom, I always found it hard to find custom personal jewelry pieces that represented my children. It was rare to find anything other than engraved pieces, and I could never find jewelry that would incorporate their photo. So after all these years of purchasing overpriced, mediocre personalized jewelry, I decided to start my own line. School spirit is huge at my son's school among the parents, so in the line I also incorporated custom pendants and key chains with the school crest, the student's sport and jersey number.

I've had a love affair with jewelry most of my life. My maternal grandmother loved jewelry and always wore a lot of lovely pieces. Even as she got older, she was always decked out in her jewels. To this day I still think of her whenever I hear the tinkle of a charm bracelet .
The unusual, hard to remember name: 'Tranquilli' Regali Fatti a Mano, came from 'Tranquilli', my maiden name, and 'Regali fatti a mano' meaning 'Handmade Presents' in Italian. 
But mom keepsake jewelry doesn't make up the entire line – there are some beautiful vintage-inspired pieces and as she mentioned, a line of pieces to show your school spirit. She even has – and I can hear some of my friends squealing now - keepsakes of your pet. Me, I refuse to get a piece of jewelry with a photo of my cat until the lazy bum learns how to bury his own poop.

The holidays are fast approaching, so check out Tranquilli Regali and give your friends the gift that keeps on giving. And that won't end up in a drawer. Also, place your order in October and a portion of your purchase will go to Breast Cancer Research.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Wendy's Pick 2 Menu: Do the math and win a prize!

Last week I was invited to try out Wendy's new Pick 2, a new menu they're featuring that pairs one of their gourmet half-sized salads with your choice of one seven other menu items for $4.99. I agreed to check it out, mainly because I like food, and also it was a great chance to hang out with my friends Amy and Bernadette. They like food, too. They also like piƱa coladas and walks in the rain, but that's a sordid tale for another day.

(If you're against the consuming of fast food, you may want to stop reading right here. If you're like me and feel it's fine in moderation, then pull up a french-fry caked chair and join me, won't you? Sorry about the ketchup stain on your pants.)

The idea behind the new menu is not only value, but encouraging the consumer to make salad a part of their meal. Also, the salad is 1/2 the size of their regular offering, so portion control is also addressed. By choosing one of the seven other menu items 28 combinations are possible giving the consumer many options, with 18 of them being 600 calories or less.

It's sort of like Garanimals, but with food. Wendy's, you have my permission to use that as your new tagline.

So, to break it down, you have your choice of one of four salads: BLT Cobb, Spicy Chicken Caesar, Baja, and Apple Pecan Chicken, and then get to pair it with one of seven of their other menu items: Jr. bacon cheeseburger, chili, baked potato, Chicken Go Wrap, a small Frosty, Dasani water, or any other small beverage. (To me the cheeseburger or the Frosty don't necessarily do much for the 'healthy' image of the menu, but who am I to judge - I once had bacon-wrapped pork belly.)

That makes two items for $4.99. I used my abacus for that one.

I decided to try the BLT Cobb, since it had bacon on it and that makes me happy. I paired it with their chili, which I've had before and is one of my favorites – it really does taste homemade, isn't overly sweet like many restaurant chilis are. If I had my choice I'd spice it up a little, but I guess that's what the bottle of Tabasco in my purse is for.

The salad was really good, and I appreciate them using something other than big chunks of iceberg lettuce and carrot shreds. Although half-size, I found the portion more than adequate - I'm having a hard time imagining what the full-size looks like. There was a couple of slices of actual bacon (no bacon bits here), a generous portion of grilled chicken, chunks of bleu cheese and other veggies on top of a green salad. I ate the whole damn thing. Here, look:

Overall I'd say it was a good meal, and one of the better fast-food meals I've had in a long time.

Then again, I could be lying, which is why I'm offering to buy you your own Wendy's Pick 2 meal so you can judge for yourself. Just leave me a comment before midnight Wednesday, October 27 telling me what your combo of choice would be, and I'll use pick a winner on Thursday, October 28 for a Wendy's giftcard. You can count on your fingers if you need to.

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I received a stipend, lunch and giftcards for participating in this program.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baby you can drive my car, but put your phone down first

This is sponsored content from
BlogHer and LG Text Ed
I admit it – my kids text and drive. Well, at least they text while I drive. If I have a message I HAVE to get out while I'm at the wheel, I hand them my phone and dictate what I want the text message to say. It's my new method during those times when I'm running five minutes late (very often) or need directions (rarely) or forget to tell my husband to make that cappuccino a double (with alarming frequency.)

My two daughters are 12 and 14, too young to drive (thank goodness) but not too young to hear about the dangers of texting and driving. They know it's against the law, and they do know that before that law was passed they saw their mom occasionally read or send a text at a stoplight. Only once or twice. Okay, maybe five times max.

What does worry me are other parents who text while driving, other parents who at some point may have my kids in their car while they're driving and doing said texting. That scares me, as while I appreciate the “im going 2 b late but im bringing donuts” message I don't want to get it while they're rolling down the freeway at 65 miles per hour. So I've instructed my kids to speak out if they see someone texting while driving – nothing accusatory, more like, "Hey, Ms. B how about I send that text for you so you DON'T GET A TICKET (and we don’t die)" kind of thing. And I will certainly think twice before ever letting my kids get in that car again. Free donuts be damned.

Let's face it – texting is here to stay. And unless they come up with some sort of mind-melding communication device to replace it, texting while driving will definitely be an issue in 1-1/2 years when my oldest daughter gets her learner's permit. Or as my husband and I like to call it – 'All Cars Off The Road' Day.

What have you told your kids about texting and driving? Have they ever seen you text while at the wheel?

Give me your thoughts on these questions. For every comment left on this post a donation of 50 cents will be made to, up to $5000.

And for goodness sakes please do not text your comment in while driving.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Secretariat: It's No 'MacGruber' And That's a Good Thing

Let me tell you a funny story. Well, it was funny at the time.

Earlier this year my 14-year-old daughter and her friend, both big Saturday Night Live fans, talked my husband into taking them to see "MacGruber", the "MacGyver" parody that started off as an SNL skit and then inexplicably was stretched into a full-length feature film. Even though the movie was rated 'R' we had seen the skits and figured the movie probably just had some foul language and a fair share of bathroom humor. What harm could it do?

Let's just say you know something is truly inappropriate when the first words out of your kids' mouths after the movie are, "OMIGOD I AM SO SCARRED FOR LIFE." Also, it's never a good sign when you see your husband walking out of the theater, all the color drained from his face and he's mumbling something about having reached 'a new low in parenting.' Apparently there was a harrowing scene involving a stalk of celery. Use your imagination.

So I was relieved when I got an opportunity to redeem our parental standing when a few weeks later I was invited to a screening of Disney's "Secretariat." I hate using the overused label 'family film,' but that's what it is, and only in the best sense of the word. It's a thoroughly enjoyable film for adults, but one that's also wholly appropriate for kids as well. I took my 12-year-old, and despite her insistence that she is "not down with horse racing yo" she - and even more so I - really enjoyed it. And because I am horrible with summarizing, here is the plot via a little publication I read occasionally called The Los Angeles Times:
While the horse plays a central role in the movie, which was directed by [Braveheart writer Randall] Wallace and written by Mike Rich, "Secretariat" ultimately focuses on Penny Chenery, a Denver mother of four who against some family members' wishes took over her late father's Meadow Farm stable and bred and raced Secretariat. "Big Red," as the horse was popularly known, not only became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown and also set records in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes that still stand today.
(Also, the film stars Diane Lane as Penny Chenery, so there's enough of a reason to go right there.)

As my kids get older I'm finding it harder to find movies that are appropriate for them yet not painfully saccharine for the adults. "Secretariat" fits that bill – it's not a groundbreaking movie, but enjoyable and also one that presents some valuable lessons that I think could make an impact on older kids and teens. The main one being that through a lot of hard work, belief in yourself and a healthy dose of respect for those around you, you could come out a winner.

Also, I should point out that the celery in this movie was fed only to the horses. Through their mouths.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your Last Chance To Get Some 'Skin'

By now you've already heard me talk, chat, post and Twitter about Mysterious Skin, the amazing, haunting play that is on stage at East West Players. You also know by now that the production stars my nephew as a young man who is convinced he was abducted by aliens as an 8-year-old boy, only to discover that his memories are actually tied to a devastating incident from his childhood.

(I should add that the performers effectively portray some horrific occurrences in a searingly raw, honest and gritty way and the production is intended for mature audiences only. Which is why when my 89-year-old mom asked to come see her grandson on stage we had to make sure she had some activities down at the senior center to keep her busy for the duration of the play's run.)

In fact, the only thing you might not know is what I wore to opening night, or that a few scenes in the play were so intense that a couple of elderly women next to me were audibly gasping, or that before the show I sat next to George Takei at a sushi restaurant around the corner from the theater. Yes, I was chowing on a spicy tuna roll in the presence of Sulu. I'm not even a Star Trek fan, but my husband had to stop me from interrupting George's dinner with the Vulcan salute.

But now all you need to know is that this is the very last week that Mysterious Skin will be on stage, so get your theater-supporting selves over there NOW. There are all levels of pricing – only $5 will get you a ticket this Thursday, and on Friday you'll even get free wine. Although I can't guarantee you'll get to sip your chardonnay next to George Takei.

Thursday, October 7
Tickets go on sale one hour prior to performance time.
$5 suggested

Post Show Discussion:
Wednesday, October 6

Auditioning at EWP!
Hear the directors of this season, Tim Dang, Leslie Ishii, and Jeff Liu speak about what they look for in actors during the audition process, and hear the cast of MYSTERIOUS SKIN speak about their own audition process.

Performance Runs:
Through October 10, 2010
Wednesday - Saturday @ 8:00 p.m.
Sundays @ 2 p.m.

Regular Performances:
Single Tickets $25 - $35
Senior & student discounts available.

Wine Down Fridays:
Join us on Fridays @ 7:00 p.m. and enjoy complimentary glasses of white or red wine served before the production.
(Must be 21 years of age)

Rush Tickets:
Arrive 30 minutes prior to any regular performance.
Student Rush Tickets $15 (Wed & Thur); $20 (Fri - Sun)
General Rush Tickets $20 (Wed & Thur); $25 (Fri - Sun)

Half-price tickets if you show your SAG, AFTRA, or AEA union card

Union Center for the Arts
120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles.

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