Monday, July 28, 2014

Disney Goes On the Road to Philadelphia - and so do I!

Last month I was invited to join in a truly magical day - the Philadelphia stop of the Disney On the Road Social Media Moms Celebration.

The buzz online prior to the event had my expectations pretty high, so I was thinking to myself how the event would never live up to the hype. But of course like all things Disney are amazing, so was this event.

It was my first Disney Social Media Moms event, and it was friendly, incredibly well-run, and full of surprises, too.

I also got to meet in real life many New Jersey bloggers I had only known from our online interactions, so that was one of the big highlights of the day. Here we are showing our Disney Side with a side of Jersey!

Another highlight was getting to meet Debra from The Harried Mom and Gary Buchanan, who does PR & Social Media for Walt Disney World & Disney Parks.

At the event there were several fantastic speakers, including a few from Disney who are experts in social media, blogging and online engagement in general. Here are just a few of the many tips I learned at the conference:
- Always, always, always take video horizontally. It's a simple rule, but it's an important one, too.
- When possible, write posts as a series on your blog. A series on a specific topic really pulls readers in and keeps them there.
- Provide the background and history behind things - people love getting the full story.
- Look for sneak peaks and insider information you can give your readers. Anything that is news about what's coming in the future, what goes on behind the scenes or that readers can't get anywhere else is very compelling content.

Speaking of which, here's some Disney insider information I got at the conference:
- There are lots of cool changes coming to Disney Parks, like the recently opened New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World, which also includes a brand-new parade, The Festival of Fantasy, filled with music and dancing.
- Also recently opened is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, an adventurous family coaster (riders must be at least 39 inches).
- Disney always has ongoing re-imaginings (that's Disney-speak for remodeling) in its restaurants and other spaces.
- Disney has a commitment to creating interactive queues which themselves are part of the ride experience, and as a mother with 3 young children, I couldn't be in more support of that very important initiative.

Thank you Disney for a truly magical experience at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Philadelphia, I even got to meet Mickey!

Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this post or attend the event. I did receive a fabulous gift bag for attending.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Instructions for my husband: Sleep-away camp has all the comforts of home. Even if it sounds like it doesn't.

My oldest, Magpie, at the age of 10 has now joined the ranks of those who can say they've gone to sleep-away camp.

My husband, who never went to sleep-away camp, finds the whole idea of sending one's child away incredibly baffling. And it becomes even more baffling to him because Magpie isn't just at any sleep-away camp this summer, she's at my childhood sleep-away camp.

Which means my husband and I have conversations like this one, which of course only re-enforces his whole idea that the concept of sleep-away camp is extremely befuddling:

Husband: I'm worried about if she forgets something.

Me: Don't worry! If you need something, Blue Boar's has it.

Husband: Blank stare.

Me: Y'know, I told you about Blue Boar's. Actually it's not Blue Boar's anymore, it's Jean Mart.

Husband: Blank stare, now on an increasingly irritated face.

Me: Jean. You don't remember me telling you about Jean? The head of camp for like years and years? Very beloved. She was awesome, truly a very special person. That's why Blue Boar's is Jean Mart now.

Husband: Blank stare, possible smoke coming from ears.

Me: (sighing) The commissary. Blue Boar's, which is Jane Mart, is just the commissary. Okay?

Husband:  (sighing in a way that makes my previous sigh seem like a tiny, little whisper) What the fuck is a commissary?

Me: The camp store. It has everything. You don't need to worry about her forgetting something, because she can get it there. The camp store. The commissary. Blue Boar's. But to be entirely correct Jean Mart.

Husband: Would it have been so hard for you just to say there's a camp store?

Me: It's not MY fault you never went to sleep-away camp.

This is my thirty-seventh instruction in my ongoing series Instructions for my Husband.

Follow along on Facebook on the Instructions to my Husband page since something stupid funny is always going on there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Poison Ivy Advice, Identification And Rhymes, Too!

It wouldn't be summer if I wasn't worrying that every plant, vine and leaf that I see is in fact not an innocent piece of flora, but in fact, the dreaded Poison Ivy.

So you can imagine my happiness when recently I saw this graphic:

Not only are the photos incredibly helpful to know what to avoid, but I love the rhymes like "Hairy vine, no friend of mine." I didn't even know that poison ivy can appear as a hairy vine!

So this summer, I will be consulting this Poison Ivy Identification graphic often, while hoping for the best.

I was not compensated for this post and I'm sorry not to have cited the photo properly, I can't remember where/how/or from whom I got it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

This July 4th I'm Discussing Responsible Drinking with My Kids

My kids are four, eight and ten years old, and it seems like the day I'll need to talk to them about responsible drinking is still years away, but of course, it's not. My oldest starts middle school this fall, and I can only guess that means high school is going to come around the bend sooner than I can imagine.

In fact, my kids not only aren't too young to have a talk about responsible drinking, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), they're actually the perfect ages to have these kinds of discussions because the most “preventative years” for children are between the ages of six and ten. This is the perfect time for us to discuss, and for them to learn, healthy, balanced behaviors around drinking.

July 4th weekend is a favorite holiday for our extended family. We all get together at the beach: aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. We have a huge feast, featuring our favorite summer food, Maryland hard shell crabs smothered in Old Bay.

And what goes best with crabs? Beer. Lots and lots of beer.

While my husband and I could be at most described as casual drinkers, it doesn't mean that we don't pass on a lot of thoughts about drinking to our kids. They hear us discussing what we'll be eating and drinking over the long holiday weekend, and how much we're looking forward to it. They hear the discussions of how much beer we think we'll need for a party of twenty adults, and what other drinks we should serve as well.

And conversations about alcohol don't happen over just July 4th weekend. Our kids hear us agree when friends say they "need a drink" after a long day, and they hear us laugh when someone makes a joke about drinking too much, although the truth is we don't think jokes like that are necessarily a laughing matter. Even if I don't drink much in front of my kids, these other passive messages about alcohol definitely get passed on to them.

So this July 4th when our family gets together, I'll be sure to talk to my kids about the role of responsible drinking at holiday get-togethers, and on "regular" days, too. I'll take this opportunity to remind them that even at events where alcohol is part of the celebration it's always a good idea to drink responsibly and to do what they think is right, whether that means not having another drink, or even just not laughing when someone makes a joke that's really not that funny about drinking too much.

Thank you to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility for encouraging me to have this important conversation with my kids.

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility created this video to help parents begin a lifetime of conversations with their kids about alcohol responsibility. Talking with your kids about alcohol early and often is the best way to keep them safe and the Foundation has tools and resources to help. Visit, follow @goFAAR on Twitter and "like" their Facebook page at and begin the conversation today.

This post is written in conjunction with the sponsorship by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR) for The Blog University (BlogU) conference held this spring at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 4th Craft with Kids: Make an American Flag!

If you're looking for an easy and fun July 4th craft to do with the kids, make an American flag!

We did this for Flag Day, and it was a big hit with my kids, and with me, since it's pretty easy and not too messy. It's also perfect for July 4th - just swap "Happy Flag Day"" for the July 4th greeting of your choice.

Here's how to make an American Flag using dried beans:

1. Buy dried beans in red, white and blue. You'll have a few choices of varieties, any will work. Pictured here, we used kidney beans for red, black beans for blue, and northern beans for white.

2. Make sure you have sturdy construction paper and a strong-ish glue - any craft glue will work fine.

3. Trace out the flag using a pencil, so you'll know where to glue the beans. You can also print out a flag - this is especially good if you're doing this craft project with younger kids.

4. Put down thirteen stripes of glue that will become the red and white stripes of the flag - or less if your kids aren't sticklers on flag accuracy. Add alternating lines of red and white beans, starting and ending with red. Make the first four lines not go all the way across to the left, as that area will become the blue background and white stars section of the flag.

5.  Last, add the blue background and white "stars" by alternating blue and white beans in each row. For accuracy, you'll need 50 white bean stars, but my guess is you'll end up with less. Don't worry, your dried bean flag will still be a thing of patriotic beauty.

6. Let the glue dry completely and then display your July 4th masterpiece for all to enjoy!

Happy Fourth of July!

For lots more Fourth of July arts and crafts, click here.

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