Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Campbell's Blogger Event

I wanted to share with you a little bit about my quick trip out to Philadelphia. It was for the very first (and hopefully not the last) Campbell's Blogger Event. It was such an honor to be invited and help pave the way into the world of social media and blogging with their company.

I was in truly the best company, surrounded among some of the best women in the blogging business.

MomCentral.com, Stacy Debroff

Table4Five.net, Elizabeth Edwards

ThisMamaCooks.com, Anne-Marie Nichols

Busymom.net, Elizabeth Thielke

Thisfullhouse.com, Liz Thompson

Fromdatestodiapers.com, Christine Young

BecauseIsaidso.com, Dawn Meehan

Momtothescreamingmasses.com, Carmen Staicer

Momof3girls.net, Deb Steenhagen

Chicagonista.com, MJ Tam

I felt so lucky to have been invited and looked forward to my time in Philadelphia with the Campbell Soup Company. One of the best PR agencies in the world, in my humble opinion, Weber Shandwick, arranged our event and did an excellent job of fielding our calls as poor weather and flight cancellations from many of us made it difficult to get to our destination. We all arrived safe and sound though and settled into our wonderful accommodations for the night, to begin our day with Campbell's in the morning.

When we arrived we hung out in the lobby and got a kick out of what was sitting behind the receptionist. Hot water, juice, and tomato soup. Everything you might need while waiting in the reception area at the Campbell Soup Company!

We filed in for a breakfast with some of the wonderful people behind the company. One of the highlights for me was listening to Pat Montgomery, in charge of the Global Nutrition, share not only about their products, but also opening it up to us for discussion about our concerns about their products and how they could help us make the dinner hour easier. Many of the moms in our group shared their difficulties with all gathering around the dinner table, others had children suffering from severe food allergies, and other moms were looking for the best bang for their buck. I bet you can guess which category I fell under? Nothing was off limits and the time that they spent with us... invaluable and never rushed.

These were some of the images that they had gathered from moms when explaining how they felt about making dinners. The time bomb, no answers for dinners, complete chaos, and the feelings of being cornered were all voiced by the moms they surveyed. We all laughed, but agreed that dinner can often be a challenge for our families.

After our discussion, we got the opportunity to see how time intensive it can be to make chicken noodle soup from scratch and why they developed their product. Chef Tom Helsel, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and the American Culinary Institute, has been with Campbell’s for 10 years and shared his expertise on making the soup. One of my favorite tips that he shared was to parcook the noodles before making soup. It will help so that the noodles do not absorb the liquid from your soup, leaving the broth in the soup instead of in the noodles. He says that you can take it a step further, and parcook the noodles in chicken stock to help develop your soup flavor even more. The recommendation was for five minutes of parcooking and then rinsing them with cold water.






Next, we were guided through a taste test of their soups. They put out two soups- one that was low sodium and one that was not. We were challenged to take their taste test and see if we could figure out which variety was which. I love salt and I add a ridiculous amount of salt to everything that I eat. I didn't want to tell anyone that I had an unfair advantage, but couldn't wait to show off how knowledgeable I was. I was floored when I was completely wrong on both. While the company would not reveal their secrets, they were very proud to have matched the taste so successfully.

After the soup taste testing and a fabulous lunch and more great discussion on how Campbell's could provide great meal solutions for moms, we were taken on another fun tasting and got to try out the V8 V-Fusion Juice. They were all really yummy, but I navigated towards the more traditional Strawberry Banana & Peach Mango flavors. What can I say except that I am a total traditionalist!

We then got a chance to try making smoothies out of a variety of fruit, V8 juices, and nonfat yogurts. They were so delicious and I really enjoyed trying all of the juices. You can try them too and use a coupon at TryV8.com for a $1 off of the purchase price.

We slipped back to our rooms to get ready for a fun dinner out where I had some of the best gnocchi I have ever tasted in my life and discovered that they make varieties of white Bordeaux wines, which I had not known. The dinner was delicious and I got to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world to boot.

Christine at From Dates to Diapers!

Dawn from Because I Said So!

Liz from This Full House!

Yes, it was another wonderful trip that I am so thankful I got the chance to be a part of. These trips feel like winning the lottery to me and I am always appreciative to get a turn to share my feedback with companies, particularly on food products. Thank you to the Campbell's team for greeting us with open arms and making us feel right at home in your kitchen. Another big thank you to Weber Shandwick for making all of these arrangements and bringing bloggers and companies together in a very authentic way.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Suave Glamour Reel Moments Event: Premiere Night

My last full day in L.A. was when all of the real excitement started happening. We began the day with a beautiful brunch at our hotel, the Sofitel, and what a brunch it was! Trays and trays of food- eggs, hash browns, fruit platters, croissants, egg sandwiches, yogurt with berries... it was beautiful.



This brunch was a chance to listen to a panel of the wonderful people who made the Glamour Reel Moments experience possible. Included on the panel were Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith (a first-time director); producer, Francesca Silverstri; Glamour Associate Publisher & Glamour Reel Moments Executive Producer, Leslie Russo; and Glamour Reel Moments directing alum & moderator, Andrea Buchanan. Thoughtfully, Michelle from Scribbit, used her Flip Camera to record the entire event so you can read exactly what was shared on this panel.

At the end, as we were leaving, I noticed that Kirsten was also heading out and in my nicest voice, asked if she would mind having her photo taken with me. Happily, she obliged and Michelle also felt brave enough to ask too- so here's our moment. Notice how teeny she is? Finally someone who I can see eye to eye with!


A group of us (Liz, Beth, Michelle, & Dawn) all decided to hit the road and squeeze in some site-seeing. Beth, from Role Mommy, caught all of the moments on her Flip Camera so you can view her funny video here. At least, I thought it was pretty darn funny, but it might be one of those things that you just had to be there!

We headed back to the Chinese Theater for the gals that hadn't gotten the opportunity to see it. I was so glad we went back because we were able to see everything that we hadn't gotten to see before because it had been blocked off for a premiere.
Another Camp Baby reunion- two in one week! My new BFF's- Liz, from This Full House, & Dawn, from Because I Said So.

Next we hiked it up to the Hollywood sign. When in my life will I ever get to do this again? I was loving the view, even though I am a little afraid of heights.

Liz enjoyed the view from very far, far away! Michelle, on the other hand, was tap dancing dangerously close to the edge giving us all heart attacks.




Next we dipped our toes into the freezing cold water of Santa Monica Beach. It was so beautiful there and I spent most of the time with my camera out taking tons of pictures. After that, we headed over to the pier and ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp before busting our tails to get back to our car, cutting our time way too short to get ready. We literally got back about a half hour before the cocktail hour so my look had to be pulled together quickly. I am pretty slow when I get ready so this was a stretch, but I wouldn't have changed anything about it.

Here is what my dress looked look- I just love this dress! I scored this dress through my wonderful & sweet friend, Kathy Friend, who writes over at Fashion Questions & Answers. She let me model in a premiere for a local boutique that opened in South Bend, Flourish Boutique. They gave each of us a gift card for modeling and I used mine to buy this little number. Kathy also loaned me some killer shoes so I would look even more stylish for my big night! Now that is a TRUE friend!

I headed down for the cocktail hour that was sponsored by Suave before we headed out. They thoughtfully made sure that we ate plenty since they knew it would be a long night for us!
We received our invitations and headed over to the Director's Guild Theater! I think I was shaking when we walked in.

Here was our big moment walking down the red carpet! Doesn't everyone look stunning? We were all so nervous and excited as we got our photo taken. (Photo Credit: Lester Cohen/Wireimage for Glamour)

Our view after our moment looked like this. Most of the celebrities walked by us though to enter the theater and that is where we got to see everyone- Matthew Perry, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, the entire Arquette family, Kirsten Dunst, and so many more celebrities. I so desperately wanted to ask for an autograph or just talk to them, but just stood in awe at what an amazing opportunity this was.

Then we headed into the theater to catch all the movies. You can watch them all on the Reel Moments website. All of the films were really great, but my favorite though had to be Streak, directed by Demi Moore!

The car came to get us and then we headed over to Chateau Marmont for the after party. There I bumped into Matthew Perry a couple of times, murmured a gracious, "You did a great job!" to any celebrity who turned in my direction and enjoyed circling the place a few times to make sure we saw everyone.

At the stroke of midnight, our car came to pick us up and we headed back to the hotel. As we waited for our elevator, it opened and one of the Jonas Brothers came out of it. It is as though our brains couldn't process it and as the door shut, Liz said she should go back down and see if she could get an autograph for her daughter.

I headed to my room to pack and the next morning made the long flight back to Indiana. I returned to pouring rain and realized that my cell phone was stolen from my carry-on luggage. The laundry lay waiting for me, the fridge was empty, the library books were overdue, and the diapers would need changing again.

My husband & children were snuggled up with me in the morning and Emily kept stroking my face, as though she couldn't believe I was there. The kids kissed and hugged me and my husband kept saying how glad he was to have me home.

That is when I knew that I was right where I belonged!

Thank you again to the entire Suave Team for making me feel so at home in California! It was an opportunity of a lifetime & I will never forget a moment of it!

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Suave Glamour Reel Moments Event: Days 1 & 2

When I am normally invited to PR trips, it is usually packed with information and meetings about the brand and what it is or is not doing for our family. There are discussions, speakers, noteworthy & (at times) tiring days filled with focus groups, but the Suave sponsored mommy event was NOTHING like any of that! Perhaps it was because they had so many moms within their company letting them know that all they would want to do if they had a few days away from the kids would be pampered and have time to themselves to explore the city. Other than a short little informal chat before getting my hair styled, you would have just thought the gals from the company were some wonderful friends who had great connections.

The company hooked us up with car service from our homes to the airports. They had to use a different car service than normal because apparently there are not a lot of great car services in the middle of nowhere Indiana. Imagine my embarrassment, when a fancy sedan pulls up and a man gets out dressed to the nines with a handlebar mustache to take me to the airport. In an ironic twist, the whole neighborhood apparently was outside for the event and the faces on my neighbors was the exact face I would have been making.

It was a long day of flying, but the car service & an amazing Suave representative met me at the LAX airport to greet me and get me settled at my hotel. As we pulled up to the hotel...NO WORDS! Swanky and right across the street from the Beverly Center, the beautiful Sofitel. French & chic!

I checked in and tucked into my room was a beautiful basket with the most thoughtful inclusions. There were snacks, water, spa slippers, tons of really great Suave products, movies that included each of the directors from the movie event in some way, a map of the city, a listing of great places to visit, a pink Flip camera, and even a card with their contact information that we could tuck in our wallet. What a greeting! There was so much thought put into all of the things we would need including spending money for lunches & incidentals while we were sightseeing.


I didn't sleep the first night with excitement and the time change so I stuffed my silly with the ridiculously overpriced room service and anticipated the morning.

I started the morning out with coffee with Liz & Michelle. Unfortunately, they had to head to their salon appointment and I didn't know anyone else to hook up with yet so I spent the day alone until my salon appointment. I headed over to the Beverly Hills Center though to do a little window shopping, which was great!

As if my husband was not a good sport enough, he thoughtfully included a t-shirt for me that he won through a contest. My shirt, although backwards in the picture, says Los Angeles because he said he wanted me to look just like a celebrity.
Nothing says celebrity though like a big ol' scarf in the middle of the blazing heat. This addition is a $5.80 steal at Forever 21. Who says Indiana girls have zero style? The only thing I forgot in my packing were my favorite sunglasses because that would have certainly helped to complete the look. Off to the Beverly Hills Center I went...



Obviously, there was a lot of WINDOW shopping going on, but I browsed around the same affordable stores that we had at home until Liz & Michelle were done with their appointment. We got together to head over to the Chinese theater and eat a little lunch.

We couldn't really see anything because the theater was blocked off for the Max Payne movie event, but we still enjoyed walking around aimlessly and chatting. All of our chatting was mostly geared towards learning more about each of our blogs, how we were doing with our businesses, and more talking on blogging shop. It was so great to enjoy all that sunshine and have such great conversations.

I then went to get my manicure, pedicure, and have my hair done by stylist to the stars, Luke O'Connor, at Lukaro Salon in Beverly Hills. Luke was the nicest guy in the world and agreed that I had a good length and cut, but he just made my hair do exactly what it was supposed to. He said to use very little products and recommended a line of Suave products that would be best for me. Suave took all the pictures though so when I get those, I will be sure to post my transformaton photos when I get them.





Off to dinner! We went to the very chic & famous, Club Nobu I had never eaten sushi before, which is why this first course floored me. Isn't it supposed to be all rolled up and disguised with rice and seaweed? I made a pact to myself that I was going to try everything and I did. Every. Single. Dish. It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but still preferred the rolls and cooked dishes more. We dined family-style and I swear there were sixteen courses so we practically rolled out of there after all of that good food.


Luke O'Connor himself dined with us! As you can see, he definitely improved my look a bit! He gave me a little swing to my hair that I certainly could not have achieved on my own. Here's hoping my stylist here will be able to keep up my Los Angeles style.

Tomorrow I will share more about our last and most exciting day!

In the meantime, check out all of the bloggers amazing sites. I think I made some of the best friends of my life- I feel so darn blessed!!
Beth Feldman

Dawn Meehan

Michelle Mitchell

Liz Thompson

Lianne Farbes

Cindy Bokma

Nadine Haobsh

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