Wednesday, July 31, 2013

{friendship} A few more notes about Penpal Circles



Oh my goodness!  Thank you so much for your overwhelming response to the Penpal Circles!  I am working busily behind the scenes grouping up ladies and starting the welcome packets.  

A few more notes:
+ The project is open worldwide, as long as you can write your letter in English!  
+ I am including myself in a few of the circles because I want in on the fun! :)
+ Sign-ups will be actively open until Sunday evening on August 4, 2013.  After that point, anyone interested can e-mail me directly and I will try to pair them with a group.

Thanks again for all of your support.  Spread the word!  


{Image via}

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

{friendship} Announcing the next phase of the Penpal Project: Penpal Circles!


I am so excited to share with you the next phase of the Penpal Project: Penpal Circles!  The purpose of a Penpal Circle is to create long-term relationships with a group of women through the written word.  My hope is that this project will be an opportunity to grow community, to bring us together and learn from one another.  And getting letters in the mail is pretty exciting too! :)

This is how it works:
+ Participants will be put into groups of four in a circle.  
+ All participants will receive a welcome packet from me, explaining the process and the names/addresses of your circle members.  Expect a few goodies inside as well! :)
+ Your welcome packet will explain who to write to first.  For the first round, pairs will be made so everyone receives mail.  Afterwards, you are free to write to whomever you wish as often as you like!  A good rule of thumb is that you send out one letter whenever you receive one.  But if you'd like to write to the entire circle, feel free!
+ Large gifts in every letter are not necessary.  The purpose of the Penpal Circle is to create community through the written word.  Your words are enough!  If you'd like to send a little something along with your letter, that is entirely up to you, but not a requirement! 

A few other things to note:
+ If you signed up for the first phase of the Penpal Project and would like to participate in the Penpal Circle, please sign up again!
+ While this was created with Mammas in mind, you do not have to be a Mamma to participate.  We have so much to learn from women from all walks of life!
+ Your confidentiality is incredibly important to me.  I will keep your information safe.  That said, by signing up, you are also agreeing to keeping your circle members information safe as well.  
+ Please spread the word!  I would be forever grateful if you would share the project with your friends and blog readers :)

I'd love to have you join me!  Please sign-up below!
**SIGNUPS ARE NOW CLOSED**

Monday, July 29, 2013

{family} Our 2013 Family Vacation + Two Tips that Worked for Us


Our summer vacation this year was magical.  Maine is always a magical place for me, but this year was something else.  My four children experienced so much of what I remember as a child: days spent swimming in the lake, BBQs at our little camp, playing on the front porch of the farmhouse, exploring the sites.  It was surreal and amazing.  I will remember this summer forever.   

Highlights of time in Maine:
+ Sunsets on the water that leave you breathless
+ Watching my boys go from timid swimmers to confident ones
+ Watching J love on my aunt and uncle's cat, Little Miss (he LOVES animals!)
+ Foggy mornings on the lake
+ Teaching the big boys how to play the card game, War
+ Iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts when the heat reached into the 90's (!!)
+ Seeing all of the renovations done at the real big white farmhouse
+ After dinner fishin'
+ Watching S devour her first blueberry pancake
+ Kayak rides at sunset
+ Running my very first 6.1 miles and living to tell the tale!
+ Mickey Mouse pancakes in the morning (a BIG favorite with the boys)
+ Getting tan (and sometimes burnt)
+ Running 2 miles in my leg of the family triathlon in record time (7:30/mi!)
+ Picnic lunches and flying kites at Portland Headlight
+ Morning hike with some of the fam
+ Seeing "the big boot" at LL Bean
+ Lobster night
+ Seeing the relationships grow between my children and my grandmothers, aunt, uncle, and cousins



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Two Traveling Tips that Worked for Us
Our road trip to Maine took about ten hours.  That could be a recipe for disaster with four children!  I thought I would share two things that made our vacation run a little smoother...maybe it can help you with your next adventure! 


No. 1: Individual Backpacks.  We were so blessed to receive these personalized backpacks from Personal Creations awhile back.  I can't believe it has taken me this long to share about them!  They are the small size, which make them perfect for road trips.  I spent two or three weeks before the trip finding surprises to tuck inside: coloring books and crayons, little readers, and action figures all were huge hits.  The front pocket held snacks in resealable baggies.  Huge money saver and we avoided both fast food and unnecessary pit stops! :)


No. 2: Individual Toy Tubs.  Since we were going to be gone for 2+ weeks, I knew we would need to pack some toys for the boys to play with.  I decided to use these plastic tubs (with their names written in scrapbook letters!) and then they had free reign to choose what they'd like to bring.  Any item could come as long as it fit in the bin!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

{guest post} Five Ways to Make Your Next Family Vacation a Success


Hello friends!  My family has recently returned from a wonderful two-week vacation in Maine and I can't wait to share with you some of the photos.  That post is coming soon. Until then, please enjoy this guest post from a traveling extraordinaire, Kendra Thornton!  

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Summer may be well on its way, but it's not quite time to pack the kids off to school. This can be a great time to plan a family vacation and make sure you get the most out of the season—before it ends! The key to a fun family vacation is proper preparation. This may sound obvious, but it’s something too many families overlook before taking off for their destination. Most problems that occur on family trips are predictable, so make sure you avoid them and soak up the fun this summer! Here are 5 tips to help you do so:

1. Plan Ahead --Way Ahead
One of the worst mistakes you can make is waiting until the last minute to pack and plan the trip. Create an ongoing list for weeks leading up to your departure; this will save you from numerous headaches while you’re on vacation. If something like a list is sure to be lost in your purse or under a car-seat, try out an app like Packing Pro, which lets you create a list right on your mobile phone.

2. Choose a Place That Will be Fun For All
When choosing your accommodations, try to find a place that is both fun and family friendly. This will allow everyone, the kids and adults, something to do. Look for places that have a pool or are in close proximity to a water park, and even a spa for mom and dad! Kids clubs are also a great feature, as they supervise the kids and provide you and your spouse some alone time. I used Gogobot to look through a great list of Orlando hotels, and was able to find an affordable family friendly hotel.

3. More Fun Than Flying
Flying nowadays can be a hassle, not to mention expensive. That's why it can be a good idea to plan an old-fashioned road trip instead. To make this as interesting as possible, have the whole family help plan the itinerary. Having the kids involved in the decision-making process will give them more reason to enjoy the trip as well. Plan to stop somewhere fun during the drive, and also remember that comfort is key for long rides. Bring a pillow and blanket for your kids as well as yourself, and consider car window shades to help block the sunlight and help the little ones get rest.

4. Mobile Devices for Educational Purposes
Kids often get lost in their electronic devices when they are bored. On your next trip, provide them with something interesting and educational to play on their iPod or MP3 player. Audiobooks will give kids something to concentrate on for long periods of time. These can be downloaded from various sites and even public libraries. Since they'll be listening with headphones, they won't be disturbing anyone else while “reading” the book.

5. Have Your Diapers Shipped
If you have a baby and you're tight on space, it can be a hassle to bring along lots of diapers. One way around this is to order them and have them sent to your vacation destination. Diapers.com has next day shipping, so you can have diapers waiting for you at your vacation home or beach house upon arrival.
I hope these tips are pertinent to you and your family as you prepare for a summer vacation! Be safe, and enjoy your trip!

Kendra Thornton: Travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, proud wife and mama of 3. I am a long time travel expert who has been packing my bags and traveling the world since I was 3 months old! I've found my utmost desire in life is right here in my own home. I have taken my excitement for travel and brought it to you with some of my favorite travel tips and tricks. Enjoy!

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