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To wrap up my series on our Cape May trip via Living Social, it’s time to talk about what to do in a shore town when half the town is still shut down and it’s way too cold to sunbathe.  Cape May is still full of activities in the off-season, so here are some highlights from our own trip.

Physick Estate
Jared loves touring old mansions.  In fact, whenever we travel, I think it’s safe to say we visit at least one.  We even made a special trip to Rhode Island to do the mansion tours one 4th of July weekend.  This trip was no exception, and with an abundance of Victorian-style homes, Cape May offered a lot of options when it came to tours.

The Emlen Physick Estate is the only Victorian house museum in Cape May.  It’s a neat story.  This house was in disrepair, and then the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts was formed in 1970 to bring it back to its historic state.  I won’t bore you with the historical details, but for $10, you get a 45 minute tour of the estate that concludes with a visit to the Carraige House, which typically has a separate historical display towards the back.  For $18, you can do a combination trolley tour of historic Cape May plus the mansion tour.  Our hotel gave us a voucher for the tours, however, we visited the mansion before we visited the hotel.  Darn.  Check with your hotel to see if they offer any deals for the tour.

Cape May Winery
I’m about to make a huge claim here and say that the Cape May Winery is one of the best wineries we’ve ever been to from an atmosphere perspective.  The tasting room is a gorgeous, expansive room with tables, couches, a bar and barrels lining the whole side wall.  Large enough to accommodate large groups without making other people feel like they are waiting around forever, the tasting room is really just a fantastic room.

Given how awesome the room was and how much it made us want to linger, we chose to do a tasting for $6 that included tasting 6 wines plus a souvenir glass.  Both Jared and I chose a mix of reds and whites to try, along with a dessert wine for me and a port for him, which I usually don’t find too much of at local wineries.  The wines we liked the most, like the Victorian White were very sweet.  That happens to be our preference, however, I also enjoyed some of the other more dry whites as well.

After our tasting, we decided to purchase a full glass of our favorites and sit in the tasting room for awhile, something I’ve never seen at other wineries.  Typically you go straight from tour (if there is one) to tasting, and then to the gift shop.  The Cape May Winery really encourages people to linger, with a balcony upstairs that looks over into the vineyard.  If it hadn’t been so windy and cold that day, this is something I definitely would have loved to do.  In fact, we saw one couple up there splitting a bottle and just hanging out.  Such a great, restful and fun activity, and we can’t wait to open the bottles we ended up buying.  Definitely worth a long afternoon stop on your trip to Cape May!

Cape May County Zoo
Another thing we’re huge fans of are gardens and zoos.  I’ll admit I was spoiled in DC, visiting the National Zoo sometimes every month without having to pay.  The Cape May County Zoo was a fabulous find.  With free admission year round, I was kind of expecting just a few animals set up in a dinky little park, but was pleasantly surprised to find it is so much more than that.

From lions and tigers and bears to simple geese, ducks and wandering peacocks, the zoo layout is one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.  I think we spent about 2 hours wandering around, enjoying the weather and all of the diverse animal populations.  Although the zoo was packed the day we were there, the expansive nature of the set-up allowed us to see everything we wanted to see without crowding around with other people.  Perfect for children and adults alike, the zoo is located a few miles outside of downtown Cape May in Cape May Courthouse.  Worth the drive, particularly since it’s free.  Just remember to support organizations like this with your donations to keep them up and running!

For all those that think of a certain show when they think of New Jersey, try visiting us first.  You’ll see there’s much more here than bumps and fist pumps.

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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!

If you know anything about the changing social landscape, it will come as no surprise to you that the 55+ demographic on Facebook has become one of the fastest growing segments, followed closely by the 35-54 audience.  While Facebook originally began as a way for college students to connect and was only open to these users, the growth and expansion of Facebook has served as a blessing and a curse to those in their late teens and twenties.

Countless news articles have run stories focused on the fact that many teenagers are leaving Facebook because their parents are now joining and “embarrassing” them with comments and photos.  Teenagers have been up in arms about parents being able to join, as they feel it causes a loss of privacy and doesn’t allow them to interact with friends in the way they’d like to without being “policed” by over eager parents.

In my opinion, the teenagers can leave.  I personally am friends with both my parents as well as countless aunts and uncles and have never felt as if my privacy was being invaded.  Now, I’m about 10 or more years older than any teenager these articles have interviewed, but for me, the opening of Facebook to varying demographics has been a godsend.

I’m not much of a phone person.  I would certainly never call relatives just to see how they were doing.  It’s just not my style.  In fact, I have a hard time calling close friends just to chat.  Facebook allows me to connect with family members I previously lost touch with and stay involved in their lives.  This has been such a blessing to me, that I can’t imagine not having them in my life.  If it wasn’t for their presence on Facebook, I’m embarrassed to say these connections never would have taken place.  Imagine everything I would have missed out on!

Additionally, I’ve found as I get a bit older, I reflect often on friendships that carried me through my younger days.  In college, it’s easy to keep in touch with the people around you, but as people move, get married, have children, etc., it’s so easy to lose touch.  Without Facebook, I never would have been able to reconnect easily with some very dear high school friends, or college friends, for that matter.  Being able to stay in touch virtually has allowed me to foster so many more relationships than simply emailing or picking up the phone.  If the doors to Facebook had closed to me after college, I can’t imagine the types of relationships I would be missing out on.

The argument made about people like me is that Facebook and other social networks hinder our ability to make in person connections.  I completely disagree with this, and believe Facebook is the mechanism that brings us together in person.  The connections I’ve re-established virtually have allowed me to take these connections offline through lunch/dinner dates as well as invitations to my wedding.  Without the means to get in touch, these in person meetings never would have happened.

In turn, many are leaving Facebook over privacy issues.  In my opinion, if you’re smart about the way you set up your profile, this is a non-issue.  If you don’t have the “geotracking” feature enabled, who cares if it’s really there?  If you’re smart, privacy isn’t really an issue at all, and is certainly no reason to miss out on connecting with friends and family.

Does the older demographic sometimes post messages that would be better suited as novels all over our walls?  Yes, there is no question about that.  However, in turn, teenagers certainly could use a lesson in appropriate online posting from time to time.  I’d rather have long, mushy messages from my relatives than curse filled diatribes about how awful a teenagers life is for no reason at all.

If the teenagers want to leave, let them leave. They can go back to MySpace, or some other spammy, teen focused site.  Leave Facebook for those of us that truly want to connect with family and friends of all ages.  We’re getting way more out of this than you’ll ever appreciate.  Until you become our age.  😉

My brother and sister are very important to me.  Out of everyone in my life, they’ve been my strongest supporters.  For that reason, I wanted to get them something special to thank them at my wedding for everything they’ve done.

My favorites 🙂

I have to admit, it was not easy choosing something that would express to them how much they meant to me.  I wanted something deeply personal, that could reflect what the three of us have shared. In my mind, I had a vision of a special frame with a quote that demonstrates how much we mean to each other.  I searched for a long time online, but was severely disappointed with the options.  A lot of places didn’t leave enough space for personalization, or added hokey messages that meant nothing to us.

I finally found Personalization Mall, and I’m so happy I did!  The options on the site were a bit overwhelming, but I was just glad to have choices!  I chose the Personalized 5 Photo Collage Canvas with Frame. This allowed 4 rows of personalization up to 20 characters each, along with another inscription that could have our names.  It was really exactly what I was looking for, already packaged in a frame so I didn’t have to spend extra money to find the perfect one.

Sample of the frame I bought

I do have to admit, uploading photos to the site was difficult.  I wanted to use some baby pictures, and scanning them in and altering them to be the right fit for the site took forever.  I chose the black and white option, because I honestly was afraid of how the pictures would look. I had nightmares that it would be low quality.  Once all the pictures were uploading, the online tool walks you through cropping them and arranging them in pre-determined spots. Also a bit of a difficult task, making the images I wanted fit.  However, with Jared’s help, I finished it up and was able to submit the order.

I was truly impressed with how beautiful these were.  Delivery was timely and they were packaged very securely, ensuring they wouldn’t get roughed up before I had the chance to present them.  Kelly and Mark seemed to like them a lot!

I had such a positive experience with this site!  If you’re looking for something truly personal and special, this is really the best place to get the job done.

There are a lot of things people tell you about weddings.  Anyone who has been a bride or groom can back me up on that.  In fact, that was probably the most annoying part about planning a wedding-everyone who had already been there, done that always thought they knew the best way to do things.  When you’re dealing with someone like me who doesn’t ever leave the house without her trusty planners and binders, the advice thing got a bit annoying after awhile.  After all, every wedding is different.  For that reason, I’m not really too keen on dishing out advice unless someone specifically asks for it.

So, this is not my post-wedding advice write-up.  This is a summary of the things I liked most about our day.  Yes, they do have to do with details we had planned and it’s possible other people could use this as advice, but everyone is different!

1.)  Just Say No to Bridal Isolation: I don’t really believe in the old fashioned way of running the wedding day.  Well, I shouldn’t say that.  I knew I didn’t want Jared to see me until I walked down the aisle.  But, that didn’t mean I didn’t want anyone else but the bridal party and the moms to see me either.  We booked a room at the hotel downstairs for hair and makeup, and I wanted as many of my close friends and family in and out as possible.  Not only did it keep me calm, but it also allowed me to spend some wonderful time with the people I love most before the day got too crazy.  I truly cherish everyone who stopped by to see me that morning and made the day peaceful through their presence.

2.)  Non-Bridal Party Helpers: Where would we be without Sharon and Owen??  I’m a control freak.  For that reason, I needed to know that someone other than my girls and Jared’s guys could be out there helping us in the event I needed something and couldn’t leave the room.  Sharon and Owen were invaluable in that regard.  They had a strong pulse on what was going on for the wedding, but were far enough removed that they could see things we might be missing.  Without them behind the scenes organizing things that I couldn’t do that day, I don’t think I would have gotten compliments like “you were the calmest bride I’ve ever seen.”  Appointing people to help you out on the day of the wedding that are outside the direct bridal party was probably the best decision I made!

3.)  Bride and Groom Quiet Time: As everyone knows the wedding day is a whirlwind.  Jared and I were so crazy busy the night before that we didn’t even get to say goodbye to each other after the rehearsal dinner!  Since I wasn’t seeing him until we stood together at the front of the ceremony room, we obviously had a lot to catch up on.  I don’t know who orchestrated this, but someone put us in a meeting room in the hotel alone while the bridal party and parents attended the end of the cocktail hour and just let us catch up.  It was very refreshing to have that time alone to catch our breaths and share our thoughts on how beautiful everything was.

I have a lot of catching up to do with reviewing vendors and our honeymoon experience, so you haven’t seen the end of the wedding posts from me quite yet!

For me, one of the biggest barriers to eating healthy is time.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no super woman.  I leave the house at 7 a.m. and am lucky if I’m home by 6 p.m.  Suffice it to say, Jared’s not getting a gourmet meal every night, because I simply don’t have time to cook a full meal and work out and be in bed by a decent time.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found that planning out our meals has become extremely helpful in keeping us on track and not wasting valuable time in the evenings.  I’ve always read about meal planning before and thought, “Who has time for that?” but it literally takes us about 2 seconds on a Sunday (sometimes Monday!) to plot out what we can eat for the week.

Planning out our dinners gives me an idea of exactly what we’re eating Monday through Friday.  I’m tired most nights when I get home, and my poor memory usually doesn’t allow me to recall what we had the night before, or the night before that.  We could end up having pasta and rice 5 days a week for all I care at that point (hey, I’m hungry when I get home!).  Seeing it on paper allows us to strike the balance among all of the food groups and ensure we’re not heavily loaded one way or another.  Also, knowing what I’m having for dinner allows me to better plan my lunches to ensure I don’t surpass my caloric intake for the day.

Making my lunch the day before is also important for keeping me on track.  In the mornings, I barely have time to put my shoes on sometimes to make it here by 8 a.m.  If I waited to make my lunch, I’d be grabbing whatever I could and not paying any attention to what it was.  Seeing it out on the counter allows me to get a reality check on exactly what I’m eating during the day.

Finally, planning out our meals ahead of time not only helps us stay on track to better eating, but also prevents 2-3 trips to the store during the week.  If I know we need chicken for Tuesday’s meal, we can get that and anything else we need in one shot instead of wasted trips.  And that’s a huge time saver for me as well!

May sound like something only mothers with kids do, but I have to say, meal planning has made the evenings less stressful!  About.com has some helpful guides for meal planning. Best of luck!

There are a lot of stereotypes I disagree with.  I mean, who doesn’t?  But the biggest one that I’ve run up against lately is this notion that now that I’m engaged and going to be married, I won’t make time for my girlfriends anymore.

This is just not true.

I am well aware of the fact that many engaged/newlyweds fall into this happy and easy state of existence where they feel like they don’t need anyone else now that they have each other.  I can totally see how this could happen.  But there’s something to be said about the power of girlfriends.

I’m not saying that I don’t value my relationship with Jared.  However, I truly do not believe that any woman can survive without a strong group of female friends who have known you at your best and, of course, at your worst.  My girlfriends have helped me weather a lot of storms, and I’d be lying if I said I could give that all up just to spend time with a husband.  It honestly would not be enough: with girlfriends, there is just a different level of love and trust and silliness that cannot be replaced by any man.

Jared and I are really close-there are no topics that are off limits.  However, humans are complex creatures and one person cannot possibly meet all of our needs.  There are things that my friends may understand that Jared might not have any experience with, just solely for the reason that he’s never been through it.  And that’s ok!  It’s not “wrong” to turn to other friends to vent or ask for advice.  By staying only focused on your relationship with your fiance/husband, your focus becomes narrow, and your worldview starts to close.

I’ve always vowed to never be “that friend” that has to bring her significant other everywhere.  Although I’m sure I’ve made mistakes along the way, I do think I strike a healthy balance.  After all, it’s not fair to your girlfriends that may need time alone just to be a girl to always have to deal with you bringing your companion.  You may feel comfortable discussing everything under the sun in front of him, but maybe she doesn’t.  And what kind of friendship can you cultivate when your girlfriends feel like they have to censor themselves in front of you?  That’s why I’m a big advocate of girls-only weekends.  I’ve gotten a lot of flack for doing this so often from people that think it rude of me to leave Jared behind, but I have to say, these times away are healthy not only for my relationships with my friends, but also my relationship with Jared.  Screw the critics.  😉

I hope that as my marriage grows, my relationship with my girlfriends will continue to stay strong.  Kelly, Jenna, Ann, Christina, Cate, Sharon, Tracey, Laurie, Devon,  you all are my life blood, and I am looking forward to growing old with you as well.  🙂

I remember it like it was yesterday.  Four years ago today, we lost my grandfather to pancreatic cancer.  January 10th, 2006, a few days before I returned to Susquehanna University to finish my undergraduate studies.  With the gracious support of hospice, my grandfather was able to live out the worst of his disease at home surrounding by his family.  Even though watching him die was a terrible thing to have to go through, the honor of caring for him in his final hours is an experience I will never regret.

My grandfather lost his battle quickly.  He doesn’t have a Patrick Swayze story.  He was diagnosed in late 2005, I believe around October, and we lost him a few short months later.  Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease like that.  Each year in the US, over 42,000 people are diagnosed with the disease and over 35,000 die from it.  The survival rate, although it has improved, is extremely heartbreaking.

My grandfather was a wonderful man, and not a week goes by that I don’t think about him and cry over our loss.  I know that 4 years after the fact, that seems a bit over done, but my grandfather was a hero in my eyes.  A great husband to my grandmother for over 50 years, a great father,a terrific grandfather, and a dedicated public servant, we miss him more and more every day.  I especially miss him this year, as I prepare to take a trip down the aisle.  What I wouldn’t give to have him holding my arm, and walking me to my future husband. He set a great example for what a beautiful marriage looks like, and I intend to honor his example each day of my own marriage.

To honor the memory of my grandfather’s death and support the advancement of pancreatic cancer research, I have donated to The Lustgarten Foundation, an organization that advances the scientific and medical research related to the diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of pancreatic cancer.  I plan to continue to do this every year on January 10th as a tribute to a man I love and still miss each and every day.  If pancreatic cancer is a disease that is close to your heart, I encourage you to do the same.

My grandfather used to tell us before we left his house each time to return to school or whatever adventures we had, “Be good, and you’ll be happy.”  I’ve been good, Grandpa.  But I still miss you terribly.

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