Memorial Day Weekend: Enjoying the Moment

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Sometimes we get so caught up in day-to-day life that we lose sight of the little moments of joy and pleasure. I am so guilty of this. My mind always seems to be 2 steps ahead of my body. Plus, ask any blogger what they are usually thinking when they are in a situation, and you're likely to hear this response, "How can I turn this into a blog post?".

It is sooo true. It's always on my mind, I can tell you that.

But this weekend I wanted things to be different. I wanted to enjoy the time with my husband and kids...without distractions. I'm not gonna lie. When you are constantly in the mindset of a blogger, it's mighty difficult to switch gears. So, I turned off the part of my brain that it always anticipating the next post, the next tweets, the tweets to which I want to respond, and the unanswered emails.

I picked up my camera and took pictures while paying close attention to the moment. When we've got those cameras in our hands, it so easy to miss fleeting moments. In the blink of eye and the click of the shutter, they are gone. It could be a first dive, a first ball hit into the outfield, a first goal scored, a first wave ridden. Those are moments we don't want to miss.

We jam-packed our weekend with lots of fun, food, family, and friends. Last night when we were beyond exhausted, we all agreed that we had a pretty fantastic start to the summer!

Family Fun Day at Monmouth Park Racetrack.

S'mores galore!

Swimming, breakfast at Starbucks, and dinner al fresco on the deck.

We topped the weekend off with ice cream from the one and only Hoffman's. If you visit the Jersey shore, you MUST make a stop at Hoffman's. O. M. G! I love the s'mores flavor, but you can't go wrong with any of them, especially the butterscotch krimpet. Yeah, to die for and worth every. single. calorie.

When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses? It had been a while for me, but I know I'll definitely be doing it more often.

Friday Fun: Mirassou Wines #mirassou

Friday, May 25, 2012
It's Friday! It's the unofficial start of summer! It's time to kick back, unplug, and enjoy the first weekend of the summer season. Woo hoo!

In addition to paying tribute to the wonderful servicemen and service women of our country, I am also paying tribute to Mirassou wines. Mirassou is the official wine sponsor of Bloggy Boot Camp. At the close of each Bloggy Boot Camp, the SITS girls host a fabulous cocktail party featuring the wines of Mirassou.

My favorites were the sauvignon blanc and the pinot grigio. Hey, it's summer. I like a nice, crisp, chilled white wine. The word on the street was how yummy the moscato was. I gave it a shot knowing that it's a bit sweeter than I prefer. I have to say, it was tasty, but I just can't get into the lingering sweetness.

The cocktail parties always include a "red carpet" complete with some fun props. Jessica and I had some fun with the signage!

Be sure to check out the many varietals of Mirassou wines. They are such a great value for the money. Most bottles cost about $12 and can be found at many locations throughout the U.S.

You must be 21 to consume alcoholic beverages. When doing so, please drink responsibly. No drinking and driving, and no drinking and texting!


My Summer Reading List

Thursday, May 24, 2012
Ever since finishing the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trilogy for the second time, I haven't been inspired to pick up a book. But now that summer is upon us, I'll kick up my summer reading a notch. I've drafted a summer reading list and have every hope and intention of finishing each and every book on my list.

Here's what I'll be reading this summer. Have you read any of these?

1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (currently reading)
A story of two 10 year old girls in Copenhagen during World War II. My daughter is currently reading this book for her 4th grade class. It sounded compelling, so I decided to download it and read along.

2. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
An historically fictitious account of Ernest Hemingway's first wife Hadley's life in 1920's Paris. After seeing the movie Midnight in Paris, I knew I had to read this book.

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

4. Skinnydipping by Bethenny Frankel
In Frankel's first novel, we follow the adventures of Faith Brightstone as she pursues her dream of having it all in the city of angels.

5. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
I've wanted to read this book for what seems like forever. Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bike in rural Vermont. Her life is forever changed. Laurel withdrawals into her photography and spend most of her time at a homeless shelter.

6. I Do, Now What?: Secrets, Stories, and Advice from a Madly-In-Love Couple by Giuliana and Bill Rancic

You can find me on the beach or lounging by the pool with my face buried in a book or in my Nook.

Do you have a summer reading list? Do you have any books that you'd recommend I add to my list?

Recap: #GLOParty Cocktail Party

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I had been looking forward to the pre-Bloggy Boot Camp cocktail party hosted by Girls' Lunch Out {GLO} for what seemed like FOR-EVAH!!!! On Friday, it was showtime!

I arrived early at the Marathon Grill to help check-in attendees. There were close to 100 women in attendance, but Pam and I kept pace with the mass onslaught of arriving women. It has been such a rewarding experience to see how women have embraced GLO.

Yeah, you were there or you were square! Lots of wining and dining! The place was hoppin'!

UPS, the title sponsor, was on hand to fill attendees in on their offerings, including UPS My Choice, a service that allows you to schedule your deliveries around YOUR schedule. Love that!!!!

Although I was busy at the check-in desk for much of the night, I was able to sneak away for a picture.
photo credit: Girls' Lunch Out
With GLO co-founders Tina (second from left) and Erica (far right), and fellow blogger, Rebecca.

With Rebecca.

And I may or may not have indulged in one or two of these scrumptious cupcakes throughout the night!

It was yet another successful Girls' Lunch Out event! I am so honored to be part of the GLO team. I value the professional relationship as well as the friendship that I've developed with Erica and Tina, and I look forward to sharing many future events with the lovely ladies of GLO.

Were you at the party? If so, what did you love most about your experience?


Lessons I Learned at Bloggy Bootcamp #BBCPhilly

Monday, May 21, 2012
Despite how much you know, there is always something to learn. Never was this more clear to me than this past weekend when I attended my second Bloggy Boot Camp.

Tiffany and Fran are the beauty and brains behind SITS Bloggy Boot Camp, a blog conference geared towards beginner, intermediate, and advanced bloggers. What I love about Bloggy Boot Camp is that it's a travelling conference, hitting up to 6 cities per year. For many, travelling to a distant city isn't an option. Often it's a matter of timing. Other times, it's the cost that is often an obstacle. SITS makes it possible to attend a conference within driving distance while taking just a day out of your schedule.

While many bloggers are writing recap posts, I'm taking a different approach. Because I walked away armed with pages upon pages of notes, I thought I'd recap the lessons I learned.

Lessons Learned at Bloggy Boot Camp Philly

1. Work with intention
This was advice that I desperately needed. It seems as though I've been flopping all over the place lately, and I needed someone to set me on the right path.
  •   Set office hours. This will help set expectations with your family. They know when you are off limits, and office hours will help you to better manage your time.
  •   Read email twice per day. Time spent on email is time spent away from something else. Block out time for Facebook and Twitter too.
2. Protect Your Social Identity
Don't post online (whether it's on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+) when you are having the worst day of your life. Your brand should reflect the best of you. The worst of times hardly bring out the best in us.

3. Be Seen IRL
Social media by default is an industry in which people hide behind computers, iPads and smart phones. Get out and get in front of others in social media. The best connections and deals are made face-to-face.

4. Know How Much Your Blog Costs Per Day
If your goal is to make money on your blog, you need to know what your blog is costing you per day. From expenses such as domain names and hosting costs to the amount of time that YOU spend on it each day, every expense needs to be taken into consideration.

5. Don't Try to Label Yourself as a Niche Blogger If You Are Not
It's OK to not have a niche. The key is to work your unique angle, and the loyal readers and opportunities will follow.

6. Vlogging is the Next Big Thing
Vlogging is the next big thing in blogging. Vlogging gives your readers a chance to see you in a different way, an active way. They see you and they hear you. What a concept! More and more brands are turning to bloggers who successfully connect with their readers through videos to promote their products. I really need to step up my game here.

7. Be Loyal to Your Readers
  •     - Consistency is key. Post at the same time each day. I need to focus efforts here as I am very inconsistent with my posting schedule.
  •     - Sponsored posts should tell a personal story. Make a connection between you and the sponsoring brand.
  •     - Have your readers' backs. Use language that shows your readers that you are watching out for them. If you are loyal to them, they will reciprocate.
8. Stay Ahead of the Trend
Being the first to blog about a product, a book, a concept, or a current event yields traffic. Be the first to offer it, and the readers are sure to come.

My favorite quote of the day:
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

There were lots of famous people quoted throughout the day, but the above was by far my favorite. When I worked in software consulting, I always said that there were two types of people: the visionaries and the worker bees. Some people have great talent in the form of ideas and concepts. Others are productive and  execute with hard work. There are the lucky ones who have both. On the days when your talent isn't working its A game, stick to good old-fashioned hard work. You won't go wrong.

If you are a blogger and are considering attending Bloggy Boot Camp, you must do it. In addition to a great education, you'll also get to meet and network with incredibly talented women. To be in a room with 150 fellow bloggers who share your vision and your goals not to mention that they just "get" you is priceless. You seriously cannot put a price tag on it. It is so worth the $100.

Where's my mojo???

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Ever have one of those weeks where your motivation totally ditches you? Just takes an unexpected hike, and you have no idea how to track it down?

Yep. It's been one of those weeks.

It started on Monday. Waking up to some pretty crappy weather didn't lend itself to starting the week off with a jump start.

I had a pretty great week last week. I had 2 fabulous Paint The Town Pink events including meeting Bill Rancic. My oldest turned 10! I spent Saturday with my girls at an Angelina Ballerina performance and a nice lunch. And Sunday was Mother's Day. It was such a wonderful week filled with lots of fun events and activities.

Of course, this week paled in comparison.

I haven't been to they gym all week - not because I've been busy, but because I've been a little less than motivated.

I've barely posted on my blog all week.

My presence on Facebook and Twitter has been fair at best. I've almost completely forgotten about Foursquare.

I did crank out an article for Meridian Momtourage on avoiding distractions during family vacations. You can read it here. Plus, I've been volunteering at the Scholastic book fair at the girls' elementary school and helping to plan the 4th grade breakfast. I like to think that those count for something.

But still...I can count the number of productive things I've done this week on one hand. Now that the week is winding down, I have this overwhelming feeling that I've wasted most of it.

Even as I write this, I struggle to get out of my funk. I am scrambling to turn things around this week. Better late than never, right?

This weekend is Bloggy Bootcamp in Philadelphia. I'll be there Friday night and all day Saturday. I am seriously hoping for some major inspiration to strike as a result of the weekend's social media activities. I am in dire need of recharging and refreshing. The Girls' Lunch Out cocktail party on Friday night and Saturday's conference should be just the things I need.

Do you ever have days or weeks like this? I never do, and this is a rare and unwelcome feeling for me. What do you do to get your mojo back?


Mother's Day Photo Shoot

Monday, May 14, 2012
Each year, the girls and I take a few commemorative shots for Mother's Day. I set up the tripod and program the self-timer and snap away.

It's so much fun. We get goofy and playful and usually end up giggling like crazy. But this year, something was different. The kids were indifferent about the photo shoot. I was disappointed. I don't ask for anything fancy. I just wanna have some fun with my little girls. I can't put my finger on what exactly was the road block this year, but I suspect it may have had something to do with the fact that this was our first Mother's Day without our beloved cat.

He has always been a part of the Mother's Day photo shoot. This year his absence was felt. We missed him, and the photo shoot just wasn't the same. I didn't insist on the tripod. I took some impromptu shots with my iPhone. And in the end, it was a suitable replacement for the usual photo shoot. It was actually fun!


Wordless Wednesday: Belmar Fishing Pier

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Belmar Fishing Pier, Belmar, NJ on a cloudy day in May.

A Night with Bill Rancic #paintthetownpink

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Last night I had the pleasure of spending the evening with Bill Rancic. The devoted husband and savvy businessman visited Red Bank, New Jersey where he spoke at the Count Basie Theatre as part of the Paint The Town Pink's week-long event to raise breast cancer awareness.

The event was sponsored by Meridian Health and as one of their MomTourage bloggers, I was invited to attend the event as a representative of MomTourage.

Rancic's wife, Guiliana, an anchor on E! News, announced in October 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Originally scheduled to undergo a lumpectomy, Rancic later disclosed that she chose to undergo a double mastectomy.

During last night's show, Bill Rancic spoke candidly and openly about the couple's struggle with infertility and later with breast cancer. It was refreshing to hear his honesty, to hear him admit how frightened he and Guiliana had been. He spoke of their "dark" days and how eventually, the sun began to shine brightly for them.

The couple is now expecting their first child, thanks to the generous efforts of a gestational carrier. This, clearly, is a couple who deserves a happy ending.

Rancic's face lights up when he talks about how he and his wife first met and their subsequent courtship. You can't deny that he's a man in love.

Rancic sat down for a chat with Meridian mom blogger and moderator Chrissy MacCarrick.

During the informal chat, Chrissy asked Rancic questions that were submitted by audience members. You literally had the feeling that you were sitting in your living room directly chatting with Rancic.

Rancic was kind enough to stick around to sign autographs and pose for pictures at a VIP meet and greet following the show.

I can't say it enough...this is an all-around fabulous guy. He is the salt of the Earth. Guiliana is lucky to have him. They are lucky to have each other.

Bill and Guiliana are proof that miracles and happy endings really do happen. Can't wait for them to become parents!

A Mother's Day Special: You Know You're a Mom of Girls When...

I can remember being a little girl and envisioning my "dream" family. You did that too, right? Doesn't every little girl dream of her perfect family at one point?

My perfect family consisted of me, a husband, and 2 little girls. The girls were 2 years apart and had long, soft, perfectly brushed blonde hair (a girl can dream, right?). At the time, I had a huge crush on a boy who was a lifeguard at our local swim club. In my eyes he was dreamy: tall, blonde, perfectly tanned skin, and his dad drove a Jeep Wrangler. So cool!

I had always pictured my perfect family in a Jeep Wrangler, top down, the beautiful blonde hair of my children blowing in the wind.

I didn't marry the lifeguard, but I did get my husband, two beautiful daughters (one of whom has blonde hair) and the Jeep Wrangler. So things didn't pan out too badly after all. Little did I know back then that those little girls would come with a ton of idiosyncrasies and "stuff". Things. Mostly tiny things. That end up on the floor.

Today, I am teaming up with my friend and fellow blogger Jessica from Found The Marbles on a special Mother's Day post. Jessica is the mother of 2 young boys. We are both mothers, but the similarities pretty much end there. Jessica's experiences are polar opposites of mine. It's true when people say, "Boys are so different from girls". To prove it to you, Jessica and are are sharing our respective motherhood experiences. We've also polled fellow bloggers for their insights as well. Be sure to visit Jessica to read all about being the mom of boys.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE A MOM OF GIRLS WHEN... (according to moi!)
- you're in search of a hair tie, and you merely need to look on the floor to find one.
- your makeup case looks as if it's been ravaged by a pack of bears.
- you can NEVER find a hairbrush because they are hiding under the girls' beds.
- your laundry basket looks like a sea of pink.
- despite how often or how well you wash your little girl's hair, there's always glitter in it.
- the employees of Claire's, Bath & Body Works, and the beauty supply store know you by name.
- the answer to the question, "What should we do today?" involves shopping, manicures, or pedicures.
- my missing jewelry can be found in the jewelry boxes of my daughters.
- my missing shoes (mostly heels) can be found in their closets.
- you can name every Disney princess and her prince and the best location to find her at Disney World.
- you thought you'd never play with My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake or Hello Kitty since you were a girl.
- when the bottom of your foot is aching because you've stepped on yet another plastic ring.
- you wouldn't trade all the pink, glitter, or sparkles for ANYTHING in the world!

Below are insights shared by fellow bloggers. Please be sure to check them out at their own sites!

- when everything you own is either pink or covered in glitter, stars, or sparklies! From Debra at The Harried Mom.

- when you give birthday request lists of: skirts, tights, shirts, and Barbies and find yourself living vicariously through your girls and their fancy frilly clothes and things.
And when your preschooler starts talking about going to the ball and getting married to the cutest boy in class...all at age 3. From Hilary at A Fancy Girl Must.

- when she takes longer to get ready than you do. From Desiree at Writing to Sanity.

- when you are sitting down to a tea party with teddy bears and donning a fuzzy pink boa. From Beth at Life in the BAT Cave.

- cannot locate any of your shoes or purses, because they are all stashed in the dress up bin! From Kimberly at (sort of a) Rock Star Mom.

- when you have played yea party enough times that when your daughter sees someone adding cream to his/her coffee, she yells, "Cream! Sugar!" to let the person know what to do next. From Beck at Crafty Garden Mama.

- when  you are late to work because your toddler decides that 2 ponytails is "too baby" and she wants one "humongous puff" because she's a "big girl." From Brandi at Mama Knows It All.  lol!

your biggest battles are over clothing styles (or, as a mom, your TOTAL lack thereof). From Stephanie at Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom.

when glitter falls out of your shoes (as you are taking them off to teach a yoga class). From Trish at Yoke

- when your clothes, make up, jewelry, sunglasses, perfume, socks and anything else you think is personal comes up missing but found in HER room. SIGH! From Uneeka at Power Mommy Nation.

when you clean out the dryer link tray and it is full of sparkles! From Toni at Tickles and Time Outs.

 when you can't tell if you're washing clean or dirty laundry anymore (because of frequent outfit changes). From Cindy at Whatever Works.

 your shopping cart is full of all kinds of feminine products, special hair tonics, deodorant, makeup, and bras! (and none of it is mine!) From Alison at Kitchen Table

- when you find yourself saying, even to your 2-year-old, "Sorry! Sorry! We just have to get these knots out of your hair!" From Alissa at Fun Finds for Families.

- when you've gone out with little headbands or whatever in your hair after your daughter has done your hair.
- when you've walked out of the house with a princess sticker on your butt. From Melissa at Girly Mama.

Are you a mom of girls? What would you add to this list?


Get Fit with Fitness Alliance

Thursday, May 3, 2012
The other day I was chatting with an acquaintance about exercising and the impending bikini season. While discussing the merits of exercise, she asked why I go to the gym religiously. "You're so skinny", she said. "You're not seriously trying to lose weight?", she asked.

The whole conversation bothered me. What? Thin people can't work out? Why must I justify myself to her? I have every right to get my fitness freak on just as anyone else does.

The truth is I work out for health reasons. Some people struggle with their weight. I struggle with my blood pressure. I NEED to workout to control my blood pressure. In addition to prescription medication, I use regular exercise as a remedy for my high blood pressure.

But in addition to maintaining normal blood pressure levels, I want to be fit and toned - not just skinny. I want to be healthy. I want to look healthy. I want curves. More than anything else, I want to prevent myself from having a heart attack or stoke. Because uncontrolled blood pressure and untreated high cholesterol can lead to both heart attacks and stroke.

When I think about making an excuse for not exercising, I think of my health, and I know that it's not worth it to give in to complacency or laziness. However, the gym isn't for everyone...

Fitness Alliance, the creators of P90X 90 Day Review, specializes in fitness programs that yield quality results. You want to get in shape? Do you want a Beach Body? You need a program from Fitness Alliance. If you don't like gyms or fitness equipment, if you'd prefer to exercise in the comforts of your home, Fitness Alliance has designed various programs with you in mind.

If time is an issue, Fitness Alliance has created several programs designed for the time-challenged. No more excuses about not having the time to spare to exercise. Looking for an Extreme Body Workout? Fitness Alliance offers several intensive workouts that will get you in shape FAST!

The buck stops here! The excuses stop here! Your new life starts NOW! Check out Fitness Alliance to get started.

Disclosure: This is a guest post provided by Fitness Alliance.

Wordless Wednesday: May Flowers Bring...Bees

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
As much as I simply adore my azalea bushes in the spring, the bees that they attract are quite a nuisance. Unless they stay still long enough for a snapshot...