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I don’t typically do things like this, but since my brother is getting married on Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to share some thoughts I have on the relationship my siblings and I have shared and continue to share.

I never thought that the relationship that my brother and sister and I share was all the unique, until I got older and saw how other siblings talked about one another and interacted.  Now, I’m not saying that we didn’t get on one another’s nerves (anyone remember when Mark punched that window because Kelly and I wouldn’t come see him ride his bike without training wheels?).  However, there are certain experiences that shape you and allow you to build such wonderful relationships with your siblings that many fail to understand.

My brother, sister and I share experiences that we would never even speak of to anyone but each other.  When you go through hard times, you really have no choice but to embrace the only people that truly understand.  When you start to realize that no one else gets you the way your siblings do, or that they don’t want to believe the things that are going on in your life, you begin to cherish the unique bond you share.  After all, they know things that no one else should ever find out!  😉

Although I certainly wanted to have control over my brother and sister  (hence my creation of the Vacation Club, the Christmas Club, the Christmas plays and every single other group imaginable that would allow me to be president and order them around) I realized in the end that it was Mark that actually ended up leading us.  Through his faith, his committment to working hard, and his fortitude through the hard times, I’m almost embarassed to say he’s my little brother-after all, he’s light years ahead of us at times when it comes to some things.  It’s amazing to see how far he’s come, despite some of the obstacles he might have faced.  I mean it when I say, no one works harder than my brother!

It is for this reason that I chose to have my brother walk me down the aisle at my wedding.  Although this decision came with some controversy and many thought it was disrespectful, it was a choice I felt comfortable making.  My brother has been like a father figure at times, and who better to walk me down the path to my future than someone who knows my past almost better than I do.

Mark, you truly exemplify to me what it means to be a son, a brother, and now, ultimately, a husband.  The way you supported Mom all those years when Kelly and I were away is invaluable to us.  Just knowing you were there to take care of things  was enough.  All our lives you’ve given us the confidence to move forward with thing, as we know you’re right there behind us every step of the way.  We hope that as you embark on this journey with Pam, we can provide the same kind of love and support to you as well.

We love you!

I’ll be the first to admit it-holiday shopping for four families is hard.  While we have created some new Secret Santa traditions with most sides of our families, there are still people that stump me every year-including my husband!  I’ve consulted gift guide after gift guide, and I never find the suggestions to be particularly relevant.

This year, Shop Smart had a list of gifts as well as Web sites with unique gift ideas.  Yet again desperate for new ideas, I went straight to the Web to see what was worth it.  Uncommon Goods proved itself to be my top choice.

Uncommon Goods is exactly what it says it is-a site that has a plethora of unique gifts and products.  Considering most of our shopping these days is for adults that don’t really need much, I like to play the unique part up as much as possible.  However, sometimes it’s hard to find unique gifts that are practical and not totally off beat.  Uncommon Goods marries unique and practical very nicely.  Even better is the fact that they feature a number of handmade goods and keep the environment in mind with all of their production decisions.  Plus, a portion of each order is donated to a charity that you get to choose upon check out.

While I can’t reveal exactly who we shopped for on this site quite yet, I can say that the selection was absolutely perfect for this person’s taste.  Checkout was simple, and the best part was the timely delivery.  We chose the lowest option since we didn’t need it right away.  We ordered on Friday the 17th and our order arrived on Monday the 20th.   Pretty awesome!

The structure of Uncommon Goods makes it easy to find whatever you may be looking for last minute or beyond the holidays.  I have to admit, I thought the prices would be outrageous since some of the products are hand made, but the prices are extremely reasonable.  You can find some great gifts for under $25 by sorting by price.

Happy Shopping!

Before we moved to Martinsville, my manicurist told me that her boyfriend’s family owned a restaurant and ice cream shop there called Gabriel’s Fountain.  I of course forgot about it until we moved there, and drove right past it while exploring.  While Martinsville doesn’t really have what I would consider a “Main Street”, Gabriel’s Fountain is located in the heart of the shops that make up the majority of the main center of town.

Jared and I went for ice cream once at Gabriel’s Fountain, and found the selection to be fabulous.  When my sister came a few weeks ago, we decided to check out dinner.  Gabriel’s Fountain was also kind enough to send us a multitude of coupons when we moved in, and who can resist a cheaper meal?

The atmosphere of Gabriel’s Fountain is interesting.  Frank Sinatra music is on repeat, and the decor is very homey.  The menu is pretty extensive for what I always thought was a small place.  From burgers to pizza to chicken and seafood, there really is something there for everyone.

My sister and I went for the burgers.  Each burger gives you a choice of beef, chicken or garden, making it vegetarian friendly for sure.  In addition to the delicious, seemingly homemade chips we got upon sitting down, I went for the sweet potato fries as an addition.  Totally worth it.  Jared got a pizza, which was a great size and made exactly the way he wanted it with toppings of his choice.

Dessert is really the main event here. The ice cream and topping lists are endless, and the sundaes are too tempting. Jared and I split a Peanut Butter Slam Jam, which I have subsequently dreamed of for nights on end.  This was a dessert that even I couldn’t finish with Jared’s help.  Kelly got a cup of ice cream with a topping, a much more reasonable option.  They have a whole list of cakes and cookies as well, which is really just too much!  But definitely worth it.

Gabriel’s Fountain is an excellent, local restaurant choice for families and couples alike.  While they do not have a liquor license, it is BYO so you can’t even complain about that (except that we didn’t know on our first trip!).  I can see this being a dangerous stopping place in the summer for ice cream, but hey, it supports the local economy, right?

My rating:  10/10

Gabriel’s Fountain
1948 Washington Valley Road
Martinsville, NJ 08836
732-469-5800
http://www.gabrielsfountain.com

*Writers Note:  Due to a handful of complaints that I have not written in awhile, I’ve decided to commit again to trying to post a few times a week. Yet again, I have no excuse for not writing, just been busy!

Jared and I love getting out for the weekend and creating new experiences.  There’s just something about a full weekend ahead of you to explore that really excites us.  Since I don’t really have long stretches of vacation to take, lately we’ve been looking for shorter trips we can take in and around the state to ensure we still get our fix without spending a lot or driving too much.

I wrote awhile ago about Groupon, the social buying site.  At the same time I signed up for Groupon, I signed up for Living Social, which is extremely similar, just with different deals.  I soon started getting emails about “Living Social Escapes“, which were vacation packages at a discounted rate.  The one that caught our eye was a Cape May Weekend.

I’ve always wanted to take a trip down to Cape May. New Jersey Monthly always writes about great restaurants and places to stay.  The deal that we found gave us one night (Friday or Saturday) at the Carroll Villa B&B Hotel that included a bottle of champagne, a gift basket of “goodies” and a complimentary breakfast at The Mad Batter.  All for $150.

The deal was that you had to book a night between now and May 7th.  Let me break down for you what a trip like this would cost normally for the weekend we chose:

1.)  Overnight accommodations at the Carroll Villa B&B typically cost anywhere from $99 per night to $239 per night.  The catch is that many rooms require a two night reservation.  For the room we are staying in, we would have had to pay about $238 for the weekend.  By the time we got there on a Friday night, it would have been so late we hardly would have had time to take advantage of our surroundings.  Major savings right there, allowing us through the site to only have to book one night.

2.)  Breakfast at The Mad Batter looks like it would cost about $15-$20 per person.

Couple this with the gift bag of goodies, and I’d say we’re looking at a low-cost weekend away just as Spring is about to arrive in NJ.

Booking the trip was easy.  All I had to do was buy the deal, and call the hotel to redeem.  The hotel has a specific person that handled the Living Social bookings, which I thought was fabulous.  I’ve worked with places before that have had no idea what you’re talking about when you try to redeem something you found online.  The process was seamless, easy, and stress-free.  And let’s face it, for two of us to go away for a weekend in Cape May for only $150, I’d stay it was totally worth it.

*Note:  Someone asked me recently if we had to “meet up” with the other people that purchased the deal.  Living Social is a social buying site, not a social meet up site.  The only social part is the buying element.  No other interaction required.  🙂

Looking forward to sharing our review of our Cape May Weekend come March.  Stay tuned!

Oh, and sign up for Living Social today.  Even though a lot of the deals may not be relevant to you, you never know when something great is going to come along.

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