Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dyson Airmuscle Pet Vacuum

A message from Kitai the dog: Recently I was offered a Dyson Airmuscle Pet Vacuum to have mom use and review as part of a focus group on Dogster.com. A lot of you are probably aware that mom doesn't do very many product reviews. She's a stickler for only reviewing something if we actually needed and used it. Because I shed year round like a team of Huskies it didn't take me long to convince her to accept the vacuum. When it arrived I put her to work cleaning up after me and here's what she had to say:

Never in her wildest dreams did she know that vacuums could ever be this amazing.

To start with she loved the box it came in... Mom's never seen such a well designed package before. Ever. The box was easy to open and way easier to remove the vacuum from then she had expected it to be. Too bad more products don't put more effort into their packaging. Mom took this as a good sign that if the box was this well designed the vacuum would be even better.

Assembly was easy. Mom took a few peeks at the diagram and had the whole thing put together lickity split.

We have two kinds of carpet in our house. A low shag and a berber. The shag was easy to vacuum. The berber, even on the low setting was really hard to vacuum. The drag made it so that mom had to use two hands to move the vacuum over the berber carpet. While that's a drag (no pun intended) mom says it's good and her arms are going to get really toned from vacuuming the living room carpet from now on.

Emptying the canister was very easy and much cleaner then the vacuum she had been using. Mom was literally stunned at how much this vacuum picks up. She's guessing it picks up a good 70% more dirt out of the carpet then our other vacuum does. After barely vacuuming what looked like a clean area of shag carpet the canister was practically full with way more "dirt" then she typically sees in the old canister. She was also surprised by how much more "white" the newly cleaned carpet looks. It looks like it was shampooed and cleaned, not just vacuumed.

The hose is not super flexible but because mom says she is freakishly strong for her size she didn't have any problems manipulating the hose any direction she needed it to go. And thought she hasn't used it yet... Mom is in awe that the hose seems to be designed to knock out any blockages with a built in feature. Too many times she's found herself with a long wire coat hanger trying to dig out blockages from hoses in the past. She can't wait until she has the opportunity to unclog this new hose with a simple push back in of the retractable tube.

The furniture attachment brush is great! It does seem to work better picking up the dog hair then cat hair and cleans the seat area with just a few passes. The trickier part is the crevice between the seat and the chair back on our fabric covered dining chairs. That requires switching attachments to clean that narrow strip but all in all she is thrilled with not having to use tape or pick most of the hairs off of the couch cover by hand anymore.

She also tried out the attachment brush on a small fleece cat bed Squash sleeps on in the window. It was old and dirty and kind of lumpy. A few passes with the brush and it literally looked new again. The bristles not only removed the embedded cat hair but fluffed the fleece back up again making the bed soft and puffy again. A lot of fluff was then embedded on the brush attachment roller but just took a few minutes to remove by hand.

The only thing mom doesn't care for is that the release to lower the handle area is located on the front of the machine instead of the back. It is slightly awkward. What more then makes up for that though is that one of her favorite button features is the selections for floor surface types is located at the top instead of near the bottom of the front of the vacuum as it's been on every vacuum she's ever owned before. With 2 types of carpet, linoleum in the kitchen and stone tiles in the main hallway and one bedroom with hardwood... This makes the whole process SO much easier to use the correct type for each room and area. The rest reminded her a lot of her mac computer that was designed to be very intuitive so that manuals and diagrams are not needed. Just simple steps to get you up and running.

From Mom: The price is steep enough that to be honest I'd have to say I never would have purchased a Dyson on my own. But now having used this one? I can't imagine not having one ever again. There are times when a high price is reflective of a trend or "name" and other times when a high price is reflected in the quality and capabilities of how an appliance performs. I'd definitely say that this Dyson Animal Pet Vac falls into the latter category. Having used this one and being able to see firsthand what an amazing job it does, when the time comes to replace it I will definitely go with another Dyson.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Being a Better Business Person

Very cool. This morning I received an invite to a Small Business Fair hosted by my local Congressman Mike Honda and SCORE. For those of you who aren't familiar with SCORE I'd like to share a bit about them with you.

For starters they are the Service Corp of Retired Executives who volunteer their time to mentor people who want to start or improve on their own small business.

What they offer you as a small business entrepreneur:

Mentoring advice 24/7 Ask SCORE online.
In Person Mentoring 370 offices. Find an office.
Low-cost workshops nationwide. Find an office.
"How to" articles and business templates.
Online workshops and learning.

I first went to SCORE years ago. A friend had told me about them and two words stuck in my head: FREE ADVICE.

I called and signed up for a session. What did I have to lose? Each time I went I got to talk to not one, but two retired executives. I will say this. I wish I'd have gone to SCORE before I ever launched my first company 12 years ago instead of 5 or 6 years later. It seems to me that many people don't create a formal business plan when they start their own company. They tend to focus more on how much will it cost instead of how to create a business plan.

Yes, it is possible to create a viable business by taking your hobby to the next level or, like myself, accidently discovering you have a marketable skill. But if you want to enter the arena one step ahead of your competition, working with a business advisor can help you save precious time and money.

So if you're starting a new company or are finding a need to reinvent yourself during this tough economy... A visit to SCORE might be worthwhile. They offer their services nationwide so check out their site to see if they have a local office where you live. If they don't make the most of their online mentoring service. It's like having your own business development team and it doesn't cost you anything but a few hours of your time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Smart Planner Blogging Bootcamp SF

Recently I attended The Smart Planner's Blogging Bootcamp by Liene Stevens held at the Hotel Monaco in downtown San Francisco. To answer the first question you probably have her name is pronounced "Lynn." :)

There were 14 of us who signed up for the bootcamp. All women. Guys? Where were you? I know some of you want to learn this stuff!

Topics included: your blogging voice, how to create killer content, long term goals, analyzing your stats and traffic, how to increase readership and more.

The Blogging Bootcamp wasn't about why to blog, but about how to blog. How to be effective in both your marketing message and from a web savvy, geeky POV. Liene's own blog receives over 3000 visitors per day. I don't know about you but my blog doesn't receive that much traffic so I knew there were things I could learn from her if I signed up.

Liene Stevens is a wedding planner based in Arizona. I first began reading her wedding business blog, the Blue Orchid Blog, years ago and watched as her readership not only took off but soared. When Michelle of MB Wedding Design and Events told me that Liene would be coming to SF for one of her signature "Blogging Bootcamps" I was so excited to attend and learn from one of the wedding industries best.


I have to say that it is a common misconception that if you do something well, you don't have to continue to learn how to do it better. This may hold true for say, learning how to play one song on the piano or mastering a great mac and cheese recipe. 

I'd received quite a few comments from people who were surprised that I would want to take a day long class about blogging because they thought I already knew enough. All I could say in reply was: I may know what I know but blogging is one of those technology related fields that is constantly changing and ever evolving. So to become and stay successful one has to be willing to make the commitment to constantly learn and improve.

Our thanks to Ashley Dicksa who facilitated Liene coming all the way from Scottsdale to San Francisco to lead the workshop.

MB Wedding Design and Events, Janae Shields, Jewel Savadelis and Catie Ronquillo

And to close things off Liene did a short session all about Twitter. Since I am only just beginning to understand how Twitter works and doesn't work this part of the workshop was really helpful. To be honest I've become more interested in learning about Twitter to help my cousin Tami find a bone marrow donor then for wedding purposes. I've found it's a really great way to reach out and connect with others to broadcast important news, not just where I personally  am or what I'm doing at any given moment.

I'd like to thank Liene for the great day and information. I've already begun implementing several of the suggestions she made that day here on my Fun and Flirty blog.

If you want to go for the full on Bootcamp experience you can view her upcoming tour schedule by clicking here.

If you want to learn what we learned but can't attend a bootcamp in person be sure to visit Liene's Smart Planner Blog. It's full of great advice about blogging and web-internet-tech related content. It's a gold mine of information.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Paws In The Park" Furry Friend's Rescue Fundraiser

Paws in the Park at Santana Row & Kara's Cupcake Fundraiser for Furry Friends Rescue

Furry Friends Rescue, where my friend Vicki is a volunteer, has partnered with Santana Row and Kara's Cupcakes to bring you and your pet a dog-friendly outdoor event!

Join them:

Saturday, May 30th
1:00-4:00 p.m.
Santana Row Park (by Maggiano's and Starbucks)
3055 Olin Avenue
San Jose, CA 95128

CLICK HERE for more details and a PDF flyer

Bring your pet for a fun filled afternoon and cupcake fundraiser with proceeds benefiting Furry Friends Rescue! Activities Include:

A Doggie fashion show, raffle prizes, contests - $5 entry fee and an adoption showcase.

Shopping with Your Pet:

Also check out Santana Row's new - "Paws on The Row" - Shop and Dine Merchants List with your Furry Friends

Santana Row is launching a new program to help shoppers and diners know which shops and restaurants are pet friendly with a "Paws Welcome Here" decal displayed on shop windows. Or come by the FFR booth and pick up your Pet-Friendly brochure!

Participating merchants include:

Ann Taylor Loft
Anne Fontaine
Atelier Aveda SASAlon
Bang & Olufsen
BCBG Max Azria
Beau Bijou
Bellarmine Salon
Best Buy
Borders Books
Boutique Harajuku
Brooks Brothers
Cole Haan
The Container store
Crate & Barrel
Design Within Reach
Donald J Pliner
Eli Thomas
Indigo Palms
Intero Real Estate
Mai Do
Optical Illusions
Paper Source
Penelope Boutique
Pink Stripes
Puripan Tea Garden
Salvatore Ferragamo
Smith Alder
St. Croix Shop
Sunglass on the Row
Sur La Table
Taryn Rose
Ted Baker
The Blues Jean Bar
Tommy Bahama
Urban Outfitters
Vera Bradley
Vintage Wine Merchants
Z Gallerie

Patio Dining with Your Pet

Ben & Jerry’s
The Counter
El Jardin
Hot Dogs on the Row
Left Bank Brasserie
Maggiano’s Little Italy
Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Pizza Antica
Pasta Pomodoro
Rosie McCann’s
Roux Louisiana Kitchen
Strait’s Restaurant
Thea Mediterranean
Village California Bistro
Vintage Wine Bar
Wahoo's Fish Tacos
Yankee Pier

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Prince's Rainforest Project

I guess this is becoming PSA week here on The Flirty Guide because I still have a couple more events to share... You'll find out what they are soon :)

This is such a great cause I had to share.

The Prince's Rainforests Project is working on a plan to raise emergency funds to help protect rainforests now. This funding will help rainforest nations to continue to develop industry, without the need for widespread deforestation.

If you think what happens in a rain forest doesn't effect you you might be surprised to learn that it does. That without the rainforests sucking up all of our carbon emissions the planet would be in far worse shape then it is. And did you know that as the forests are clear cut and burned they release all of those emissions right back into the environment? The rainforests have protected us for decades, now it's our turn to help protect them.

I just joined the the site for updates. I hope you'll consider doing the same.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Prayers Needed for a Very Special Sick Pup

Some of you may recall my posting about the Kansas Puppy Rescue I participated in with some of my friends from Dogster. What began as a collaborative effort to save these 6 girl puppies from being euthanized at a high kill shelter turned into something special. 

We've affectionately dubbed ourselves "The Criss-Cross Rescue Underground Idiots" because we had no clue what we were doing. Despite our lack of expertise our good intentions did in fact save all 6 puppies. We'd been told the girls had 2 brothers that were adopted out before we came along so over a year later when this dog appeared at the local shelter of the same small town in Kansas we were convinced it was one of their brothers.

Levi frightened and malnourished at the shelter.

This set off our efforts to save Levi. Once again we banded together and with the help of the shelter manager, members to transport Levi from Kansas to Ohio and our collaborative fundraising efforts we were able to save not only Levi but a German Shepherd Dog named Uncle Buck. Buck went on to be placed in a pure breed rescue and Levi was adopted by his foster mom, my friend.

Yesterday the Vet told her that something is wrong with Levi. He'd been off of his food for a bit and has had issues with his weight and protein levels... There is a mass that showed up on an x-ray. It could be a tumor or blood or organ fluids of some type. No matter what it is the vet said it doesn't look good :(

The x-ray also revealed that Levi is full of buckshot. *tears* Yes, some terrible person actually shot him when he was just a pup. He also has scarring on this hind legs where it looks like his legs were cut after being caught in barbed wire or something similar. This has impaired his ability to jump up on his hindlegs properly. For instance he can't jump up onto the bed even though his mom wants him there :(

We are praying that when he receives his ultrasound next week whatever is wrong with him will be easy to fix. We just can't bear the thought that after having such a terrible start in life and having now found a good and loving home, that something bad could happen to him now, now when he's safe and happy.

Did I mention he is the sweetest dog ever? This was the greeting I received from Levi when I flew to Ohio last summer to meet him and one of his sisters.

If you're curious you can read our entire Kansas Puppy Saga on Kitai's Cutest Dog Ever website.

And by the way, if you're thinking of adopting a new pet and are considering getting a dog or a cat from a rescue or shelter? Please do :) For your convenience the Cutest Dog Ever website is full of links to Northern California Shelters and Rescues.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grace Street Catering Luncheon

How gorgeous is this? When I was invited to a luncheon at Grace Street Catering I can honestly say I wasn't expecting such a treat! Rather then an industry colleague I felt like a real guest. Founder Erin McKinney has created a full service catering company where brides and grooms can select their food, cake, flowers, rentals and more.

Upon my arrival I was immediately offered this hibiscus juice libation made on site.

My favorite hors d'oeuvre was this calamari on a crisp plantain chip.

If you want to entertain your guests with a really unique service, have you considered custom poetry? Mark Lynch of Éclat greeted each guest and chatted with us for just a minute or two. Shortly after, we were presented with a custom poem written for each of us.

No detail was too small. Each black chiavari chair was decorated with a fresh, ruffled, Gerbera Daisy in a tiny bucket on the back with a bright yellow ribbon.

This is a new location for Grace Street Catering. They had been at their former address for 22 years and only this January moved into the historic Oakland Cable Car repair barn built in 1891. The building was perfectly suited to accommodate not only the dining area you see above but extensive food prep and kitchen areas, storage of their place settings and serving dishes, linens, chiavari chairs, an in house floral department and an indoor loading dock. 

After a tour of their new facility we were treated to lunch... What did we have? Glad you asked :)

Green Almond and Grape Gazpacho soup. This was sooooooooo delicious! I swear I could have had a pint. It was light and tart and such a surprise. I'd never heard of grape soup before and am willing to guess most of you haven't either.

Our main course: Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Creamy Polenta and Haricot Vert Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Even the bread was fancy. No simple slices of sourdough and wheat. There were freshly baked poppyseed, buttermilk and parmesan cheese biscuits. And no square butter pats, the butter was formed into mini tiered wedding cakes.

This space is so gorgeous that it was no surprise to me to learn that clients have already begun inquiring if they can rent the reception, area where we dined, to host their rehearsal dinners on location. There is plenty of room for the dining tables and still have plenty of space to hold a cocktail hour.

Oooooh YAY! Dessert was not only scrumptious but adorable too.

The Spring Trio consisted of: Strawberry Mousse, Strawberry Lemon-Poppyseed Cake and a Chocolate Tartlette. I'm not sure which was my favorite. They were all so good in their own way. The Mousse tasted so strawberryie (sp?), the Lemon-Poppyseed Cake was soft and moist. And the chocolate... You all know how much I love chocolate!

One of the kitchens where the magic happens.

Here Chef Arik Markus and Pastry Chef Nancy Vittoria-Jess were thanked with a round of applause for the fabulous lunch they created for us.

There were beautiful flowers everywhere designed by Rhonda Stoffel, lead floral designer at Grace Street. Her resume is impressive. In the past Rhonda has worked for some of San Francisco's top floral and event design companies. Now she is the principle designer creating her gorgeous arrangements for Bay Area brides and grooms. 

On my way out I was able to take this photo of just some of the team at Grace Street Catering: Jessica Rampel, Rhonda Stoffel, Bill Pierce

As if lunch wasn't enough of a treat, there were gift boxes for all who attended.
As soon as I untied the ribbon and lifted the lid this little bee popped up to greet me. So cute! Totally made me smile, as did the bag of cookies, Blue Chair Jam and the gorgeous pictures in the mini photo album all tucked inside.
What a great way to market your product!

While dining, Bill told me that they were recently hired to create a vegan reception this year. Completely undaunted by this special request the staff came up with not one vegan cake flavor option but 3 for the bride and groom to choose from! I love to hear about companies who understand the importance of a client's needs and are not only open to challenges, they embrace them wholeheartedly.

Many thanks to Erin McKinney and his wonderful team at Grace Street Catering for the lovely afternoon. I'm certain the brides and grooms who find their way to their new location are in for a real treat.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Words to Live By

My friend Joan has the funniest signature she uses on her emails and such. I have no idea who the author is but it made me laugh the first time I saw it:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO what a ride!"

Lately after spending so much time learning about bone marrow need, transplants and the sheer number of people who could be saved by a transplant but who won't be saved because a match will never be found for them? It makes me appreciate that quote and makes me want to not just read it but live it. Living each day to it's fullest. I've never been accused of not doing enough with my life but my cousin Tami's recent illness has put my life into perspective to not just fill it, but to fill it with things that really mean something to me, have fun, and take chances. Though of course as I scream "Woo Hoo" my hands would be full of cupcakes and sparkling sake. Or a cupcake and a club soda with lime. LOL

I also just read a blog post from my new friend Roger, who recently received a marrow transplant. He had smilar words to share today in his blog iHaveMDS. Roger's blog is a testimonial to what a blood cancer diagnosis is like. He chronicled his highs and many lows over the past year from diagnosis to post transplant. Roger is a fighter and someone I have a lot of admiration for. Today he posted a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

      "In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts; not the one who points out how the strong stumbled, or wherethe doer of a deed could have done better.

       The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strive valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is effort without error and shortcoming; who does actuall strive to do the deeds ; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have tasted neither victory or defeat"

LOL so take your pick. Roger's quote may be more elegant then Joan's but it struck me as funny how they both basically say the same thing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Wedding Floral Academy by Nancy Liu Chin

When I started my first company making custom bridal accessories I learned the hard way: On the job. For anyone who wants to learn how to become a floral designer and lives outside of the Bay Area, now you can learn from a pro. Not just how to create floral arrangements and floral design but how to be a business person, an entrepreneur. Best of all you can learn both at the same time.

When Nancy Liu Chin contacted me to see if I'd be interested in presenting to her workshop attendees about the benefits of blogging I was happy to say yes. Most of you know I am a huge fan of blogging and am always eager to help people find their blogging voice. Since I'll be participating I wanted to share with all of my out of state readers the opportunity that Nancy has created for those who want to learn more about how to run their own company.

"Helping others reach their business goals through coaching, mentoring, and sharing my secrets is a dream that I've had for a long time. What I hope to accomplish is to entry level wedding floral designers grasp solid business ideas along with exceptional floral skills. "
Nancy Liu Chin

Wedding Floral Academy: Design & Business Development Workshops

There are only 6 Spots Left so don't wait to register if you really want to come to SF!

Date: November 7 -10, 2009
Location: San Francisco, California
Space is limited.
Investment: $1250 for 3 day course.
Including materials, lunch, snacks, takeaway binders, & tote.


{ Design Modern Classic Table top Arrangements }
{ Design Hand tied Bouquets, Flower Girl Accessories, Groom's Boutonnieres }
{ Learn Nancy's inside Floral tips and tricks }
{ Develop a Proposal }
{ Learn the benefits of Marketing - Website, Sponsoring Events, Advertising}
{ Discuss the importance of Branding}
{ Find out how to get your work Published }
{ Learn how to Create Meaningful Websites and Blogs }
{ Learn tips on Building a Strong Portfolio by taking your own photos}
{ Create a Picture Perfect Wedding - More than just Flower Design }
{ Visit San Francisco Flower Market to see what is available}

The staff at NLCD including Nancy herself will provide an intensive, hands on workshop. One of Nancy's favorite things about San Francisco is the dynamic floral market. One morning will be devoted to a visit of the San Francisco Flower Market where attendees will be encouraged to select flowers that they will be using to create their own floral designs. Nancy will also give you a tour of some of her favorite rental and props businesses in San Francisco. You will take home a wealth of information in Nancy's customized binders. It wouldn't be a NLCD without nourishment so lunch and morning snacks will be provided. Prior to the workshop an outline will be emailed to you with a complete syllabus.

Included with the 3 day workshop is the kick off cocktail party at Nancy's beautiful loft home. Meet some of the Bay Area's most talented wedding vendors at this event to celebrate your arrival to San Francisco.

If you are interested in attending please email Nancy at weddings@nancyliuchin.com. Full payment reserves your spot.

Photos of Nancy by Ricky Wong of W Photography, San Francisco

A Gothic Birthday Party at Asiel Design

When Asiel Design, A Video Reflection, f. duncan reyes events by design, Enhanced Lighting, Hartmann Studios, Jen's Cakes and MB Wedding Designs and Events decided to throw a Birthday Party for Jonathan of Asiel Design? They went ALL OUT! The invitation said the attire was gothic chic...

That's me with Jonathan the Birthday Boy, Amy Frugoli and Kelly Kodak Clifford in a photo taken by David Ehtridge.

So what exactly does a flirty gothic girl look like? I had no idea. LOL.

Unfortunately I didn't plan ahead to have any make up done. I thought about going to pick up some essentials... I wanted smokey eyes, with mascara and eyeliner and grey eye shadow... But what can I say? That didn't happen so it was my usual lipstick only kind of night. LOL

The bartenders looked like vampires.

I asked Duncan to look creepy and this is what I got!

Michelle of MB Wedding Designs and Events, Augie Chang and Jennifer Skog and her hubby who I'd just met for the first time that evening and I have to say looks nothing like this picture of him. He's actually much taller and very handsome. He was just posing :P

Oh yeah, these people knew how to party and have a great time.

In the forground is Linnae and Jon and there in the background was DJ Ron Grandia who really got the crowd up on their feet and dancing like crazy. I left the party early but heard that others stayed well into the night and even past the wee hours of the morning.

Ron working hard.

Megan Woods with her feathered "Goth" hair do by get your DO up!

There was great ambiance.

Kellye Clifford, Amy Frugoli and Cassie Dresti

Chung Li, Elisheva Bassari and Katherine Knoller-Fernandez

Yummmmmm by Jen's Cakes!

Goth Flamingo, Tanja Lippert and Tia Reagan

The whole party was totally creepy cool. In lieu of Birthday gifts Jonathan requested contributions be made to www.armsoflove.org

Their website describes Arms of Love as "A Christian ministry that establishes and operates homes that provide long-term care for orphaned, abandoned, and abused children in a family environment."

What a great Birthday party and a great cause.