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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #52
May 07, 2008

Flower Power

My Fair Lady + A Flower Market Visit

Most of us remember our first phonetics lesson perfectly: we repeated "the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" along with Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. What most of us have forgotten is that My Fair Lady is the perfect family film. Adults appreciate the now-classic score and witty repartee, tweens are taken with the mismatched romance and haute couture, and kids love the lavish sets. Even young fans will follow the simple plot in which an upper-crust linguistic professor wagers he can transform a Cockney-accented flower girl into a lady. By the movie's end, Professor Higgins gets more than he bargained for when he falls in love with Eliza and learns that the heart obeys no class boundaries.

Following in Eliza's footsteps, we explored our local Flower Market one morning. We gave each child a budget and meandered amongst the blooms, all fresh and all at wholesale prices. Our sons went sniffing for the best smelling roses, our daughters went comparison-shopping for Gerbera daisies, and we were seduced by rare orchids. After roaming for an hour, we tallied up our final purchases, happily discovering that everyone (even the moms) came in under budget. After we unloaded our bushels of flowers onto the kitchen table, everyone in the family got crafty. Our boys added a few drops of red food coloring to their water before adding their blooms, and our daughters foraged the cabinets for old coffee cups and then filled them with daffodils. We moms had fun cleaning out our fruit bins and filling the bottom of our vases with shiny apples. After spreading arrangements throughout the house, our kids suggested that we shop for fresh flowers every week. Oh, wouldn't it be loverly.

Film Title: My Fair Lady
Directed By: George Cukor
1964, Rated G, 170 minutes

Our buttery bits of wisdom about this film:

  • Why It's Worth It: This movie is long, but Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison's snappy banter and the incredible songs will hold the attention of everyone in the family. Perhaps make this a two-night screening.
  • Red Flags: No nudity. No sex. No profanity (unless you count “Move your bloomin’ arse!”).
  • Why It Still Looks so Good: Most Audrey Hepburn movies have wonderful costumes and My Fair Lady is no exception. The film landed Cecil Beaton an Oscar for costumes and set design. Once your little fashionistas have noticed what was hip among the Ascot crowd, you can remind them how fashion cycles come and go.
  • Why It Still Sounds so Good: We remember waltzing our babies to sleep while humming "I Could Have Danced All Night." Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe both won Oscars for their memorable lyrics and music. Sing along with the stars by printing out the lyrics to My Fair Lady.
  • COOL FACT: Most of Eliza's songs are dubbed; that's singer Marni Nixon behind the microphone.

Want to know how to talk to your kids about the movie? Here are some conversation starters:
  • Movie Star Savvy: Casting Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle caused quite a stir. My Fair Lady opened on Broadway in 1956, starring Julie Andrews as Eliza, but Jack Warner chose Hepburn over Andrews because she was already a box office star for films like Roman Holiday, Sabrina and Funny Face. Hepburn, however, did not garner an Oscar for her performance; the golden statuette went to Julie Andrews for Mary PoppinsAsk your kids to think like members of the Academy and decide which actress they would have rewarded with an Oscar.
  • Literature Savvy: Both the play and the movie were adapted from George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion, which, in turn, was based on a Greek myth about a sculptor who falls in love with a female statue of his own creation.  Parents will recognize the same story line in Pretty Woman.


Visit a Flower Market or Farmers' Market and Make Flower Arrangements

Age Recommendation: Five and up
Time allotment: 1 hour

Our buttery bits of wisdom about this Adventure:

  • What We Learned: Whether your city has a wholesale flower market, or you visit a farmers' market, kids love getting their hands dirty and making their own arrangements.
  • Get Crafty: Flower arranging is a perfect family activity. We scoured the house for fun vessels -- everything from coffee cups and shampoo bottles or old trash baskets were up for grabs. Our littlest florists love adding a few drops of food coloring to the water -- somehow, this makes it feel magical. We also encouraged foraging for old marbles, plastic toys and coins, to add sparkle to the bottom of vases. We moms rummaged through the fruit bin and had fun adding soft limes and lemons to the bottoms of our arrangements.
  • Before You Go: Set a budget before you arrive; it's easy to get carried away at these rock-bottom prices. For a clear cut lesson in economics, have your kids pay attention to the difference between wholesale or Farmers' Market prices and retail prices at a florist. One of our daughters found that she could purchase only six Gerbera daisies for the same price she paid for two dozen at the Flower Market. How much does convenience cost?
  • Stroller Babes: Read young flower lovers Miss Rumphius before the trip to the Flower Market.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google your city + flower market, public garden
  • Boston: With spring flowers in full bloom, the annual Mother’s Day Parade “Make Way for Ducklings” only serves to enhance the beauty of the day. The parade begins at 1:00 on the Boston Common, opposite the State House. Here, hundreds of kids, dressed as ducks, wind their way up and down Beacon Hill before they stop at the Public Garden’s duck sculptures, those created in honor of Robert McCloskey’s famous children’s book. Get all the details on Friends of the Boston Public Garden.
  • Houston: Cruise down to the Fannin Flower District, where it's never to late to pick up flowers - some of the stands are open 24 hours every day! A string of very reasonably priced shops line both sides of the street, each having a range of potted and hanging plants, as well as cut flowers. The Flower District is one block south of Highway 50 on Fannin. Listed as one of the 52 things every Houstonian "must do" by a local magazine, it's the perfect place to load up on beautiful flowers for your special mom.
  • New York: The month of May brings a myriad of flowers just in time for Mother's Day!  Your in for a treat when you visit any of the New York City area botanical gardens and parks.  At The New York Botanical Garden, in May lilacs and crabapples will begin to bloom as well as the azalea and rhododendron collections which scatter their acres of woodlands. You can't miss the beds of formal tulips, peonies and irises. The Botanical Garden also boasts one of the largest daffodil collections in the United States!  Though Mother Nature may alter the plan slightly, you can check out the bloom schedule for Central Park's Conservatory Garden and take in its vivid spring display. If, after meandering through these lovely gardens, you wish to create your own Mother's day bouquet, take the kids early one morning to the bustle of The New York City Flower Market which is located on 28th Street from 7th Avenue to Broadway and 6th Avenue from 27th-29th Streets.
  • San Francisco: The San Francisco Flower Mart has more than 100 vendors to choose from, making it a fragrant find in the heart of the city. Best of all, the kids can go pick out some blooms for Mom during public hours, occurring daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For a free guided tour of a floral oasis, check out the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park, or step inside the the park's gorgeous and lush San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, North America's oldest existing public conservatory. An added bonus of the conservatory stop is a live butterfly exhibit in one wing, featuring more than 25 species of butterflies free to fly among humans, including nocturnal butterflies and moths you can spot during special Night Safari events starting this month.
  • Washington, D.C.: Take in the springtime blooms at the U.S. Botanic Garden and the classical garden at Bartholdi Park. Bartholdi Park is behind the Conservatory and can be accessed at Independence Ave., Washington Ave., or First Street.  Admission to both is free. Afterward head over to Eastern Market and check out the Farmers' Line for some fresh blooms for mom.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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