Archive of ‘Family time’ category

8 Tips to Make Your December More Enjoyable

Christmas is just around the corner.  As the song goes it is my favorite time of the year. There is so much to get excited about, but with that can also come a lot of stress and feeling overwhelmed.  There is a lot of pressure associated with pulling off a spectacular holiday for your family.  Busy moms deserve to have an amazing stress free December with their family.  The key to making things go smoother for me is to have a plan of action and be organized several days or weeks before the event actually occurs.  I am not good at waiting until the last minute to throw something together.  Here are some tips that I have found helpful to make my December more enjoyable.

Tips for a stress free December. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

Tips to An Organized December

  1.  Decide what Charities and groups you will help early on.  There are lots of opportunities to help others around the holidays.  Our family is very involved with a group called PIN (People In Need).  It helps the homeless community get back on their feet.  My husband has been a huge part of this charity for quite some time.  Although we help them year round, we have also made it our family Christmas project. We save toiletries all year and then make care packages to hand out at Christmas to the homeless shelter.  If you don’t know of someone personally in need or don’t have a charity you can always give to Toys for Tots or the Angel Tree.
  2. Make your lists and shop early–  I try to make my master shopping list in late October and get a jump on my shopping in early November.  I like to have the majority of it done by early December so I can actually enjoy December.  I love for family members to give me a list of items they would like to receive. This makes my job a lot easier and my family gets what they want. I even keep my kid’s lists each year and we have fun looking back at the letters they wrote. It’s fun to see what they wrote to Santa when they were younger and what kinds of things they asked for each year.  If you can shop early, I would say that is the one thing that could save you from being overwhelmed in late December.
  3. You can’t do EVERYTHING in December if you want to stay sane-  You have to learn to say No.  There are certain events that you just are not going to be able to attend if you want to do what’s best for your family.  This one took me a while to get a grip on. There are so many extra events and parties between Thanksgiving and Christmas that you just want to cram everything in.  Well that’s when the bad moods and meltdowns are going to occur.  Stick to your family traditions that you enjoy and are a “must do” and a couple of other events.  Say NO to the rest.  Then you will have time to get your list done.
  4. Get your family traditions scheduled on the calendar ASAP-  There are things my family does each year that we want to continue doing.  Some things need reservations and if I’m not on the ball prior to the Thanksgiving break then we are out of luck.  One year, I was too late on setting up the brunch reservation at the place we eat each year.  We get dressed up and go to the hotel and look at all the holiday decor around the property. It was completely booked on every Sunday in December by the time I remembered to call.  You would have thought I had boycotted Christmas the way my kids acted.  But you can guarantee I will never forget to book that brunch because my family loves it so much. It is just part of what we do in December that makes it Christmas to us.
  5. Wrap your gifts as you buy them-  Wrapping your gifts as you purchase them can really keep you organized. Sometimes I actually forget what I have already purchased or lose small things like gift cards or jewelry.  Keeping the gifts wrapped as I go gets them out of my closet and under the tree.  I also use different paper for each child so it’s easier to pass out gifts on Christmas morning. Plus they like choosing their paper each year.
  6. Finish your Christmas Cards Early–  This is a hard task for me each year.  I don’t want to leave it until the middle of December. I really have to start thinking of this in October or my photographer will be booked.  I try to have him take the pictures and do a custom card for us.  It is just easier for me and I always love what he does. However, Minted offers such great cards and prices that you can create something amazing to show off your family to your friends. I like to start addressing them by Thanksgiving break and send them in early December.
  7. Make all special gifts for teachers, neighbors, and party hosts early- Get your ideas and supplies together for gifts you need to make for the special people in your life.  When my kids were younger we used to make DIY gifts for their teachers, bus drivers, and our wonderful neighbors.  It was fun to get them involved in the process.  We would throw some Christmas music on and get in the crafting zone. They took pride that the gift came from them and the teachers always loved something personal.  Of course it always came with a gift card.  Come on…. I’m a former teacher so I know what teachers like… There are only so many coffee mugs full of candy you can get in a season. But it’s the thought that counts. 
  8. Try to Shop during the week or online if you can- Shopping online saves so much time and you don’t have to go out and be bothered by the crowds.  Most sites are offering free shipping now so look for those deals.  Also try to search for coupons prior to your shopping. Most sites will actually have coupon codes that you can print out to take to the stores.  It’s worth a couple minutes to do a quick search.   

Do you have any tips that could help us save time and money this holiday?  Leave a comment below. I am always interested in learning something new.  Christmas is my favorite time of year and I would love to get through it with the least amount of stress as possible.

Yours Truly,

Jenn

Be Our Guests

  The Ultimate Guest Room

If your home is like ours you probably host a lot of guests during the holiday season.   There is one thing you can be sure of, after I travel 8 hours with two teenagers for Thanksgiving, I am the perfect one to describe items that weary travelers need when they arrive at their final destination.  You don’t want your guests to have to ask for items they may need or have forgotten to pack.  This guest room has a coastal design and is just amazing.  The furniture is from Outer Banks Furniture and was in Tara Preston’s Homearama home this year.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to help decorate this home.

The majority of this house is done in blue tones. However, I think the yellow accent color makes the room so bright and cheery.  Of course a guest room needs to be aesthetically pleasing, but there are several necessities that I immediately think of when I entertain overnight guests.

Blue guest room with a coastal design. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

Musts for your overnight Guests

1.Have closet space for guests to hang their clothing-  Lots of us use our closets for storage.  However, when guests come to spend the night at your home, they will have clothing that will need to be hung up.  Always have empty hangers in the closet and make sure there is room for their clothes.  Nobody wants to open a closet and have an avalanche of your items fall on them.

2. Luggage rack- It is always a good idea to have at least one luggage rack for the guest room.  It makes it very convenient for your guests to place their bags on the rack and not have to put their suitcase in the floor. These are easy to find and don’t cost very much.  Plus you really don’t want luggage placed on your nice furniture so it is just easiest to have this for your guests.

Guests need a luggage rack and place to hang their clothing. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

3. Lamps-  Having lamps by the bedside tables give your guests the proper lighting they need.  Some people like to read before bed and this gives them the opportunity to do that without having to keep the ceiling light on.  Plus, if they have to get up in the middle of the night this gives them the option of having a light source. Sometimes, I even leave night lights in the bathroom especially if the guests have small children.

4.chair-  When I visit other people’s homes I love when there is some type of furniture in the room.  You can use it to layout clothes for the next day, sit and read, or just rest a few minutes in between activities without having to get into the bed.

5.tv- This isn’t a necessity, but I think it is a luxury most people would appreciate.  There will definitely be down time and time at night where your guests will have time to themselves and they can unwind by watching tv in their room.  It doesn’t have to be large or the latest smart tv, but your guests will appreciate the option of having one in their room.

6. Reading Materials- My mother in law has the best magazines for us when we visit her house.  I always take a book when I travel, but when I go to her house I never have to take magazines. We all know how much the decorating magazines cost so having several out for your guests would be greatly appreciated.

7. Wifi Password-  If your home has a password to use the wifi, you need to make sure your guests have instructions on how to use their technology. This is something you don’t want them to have to ask about.  You could even put this in a basket of goodies.

8. Basket of Goodies– Sometimes guests feel insecure asking for food or drink at other people’s homes.  To make this less awkward, leave a basket of goodies and water in their room.  Then they can access this whenever they feel hungry.  I’ve used nuts, granola bars, trail mix, and water to name a few.

Coastal decor for the guest bedroom. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

9. Extra Toiletries- Of course I always have things in the shower like shampoo, conditioner, bath gels and soap. I also put out enough fresh towels for my guests.  However, I leave a glass jar of extra toiletries just in case they forgot some things such as a razor, toothbrushes, toothpaste, q-tips, hand lotion, mouthwash, and small shampoos in case the large ones have agents they may be allergic to.  My son is allergic to lavender and lots of products have scents that bother me to the point where I get migraines. This makes me very sensitive to that issue and I try to put out things that I would normally pack myself.

10. Clock- Even though your guests are on vacation it is important to have a clock in their room.  some activities you may be doing have time constraints like dinner or theater plans and guests might need to be ready at a certain time.

11. Extra blankets– It is a great idea to leave extra blankets of varying weights and pillows in the room so guests can control the temperature.  I’m allergic to feathers and always prefer the down alternative options at hotels.  It is definitely something to think about when buying linens for your guest room.

12. keurig station-  Having a coffee and tea station set up in the guest room would really make your guests feel at home.  They could wake up and get the caffeine kick they need first thing in the morning.  Or in the evening some hot tea might hit the spot right before heading off to bed.  I know I would really appreciate this amenity.

Other Guest’s Amenities

I have insomnia and unfortunately am a late night snacker. Therefore, I know what it is like to be up late at night when everyone else is sleeping and you wish you had something to eat or drink. I like to stock a little basket of healthy snacks such as granola bars, nuts, fruit snacks etc… along with bottled water for guests. It also makes taking medications easier on guests if there is water in the room. Also, place some current magazines in several different genres for your guests to read during down time.

 Royal Treatment

The most important thing is to let your guests know up front that you are there for them and wish to make them as comfortable as possible. If you establish that from the start, you’re bound to have an amazing visit with your guests. The best thing to do when preparing your guest room is think about the things you would like or need when staying away from home.  Then you really design a beautiful, but functional room that you and your guests are happy with.

From Casa Ely we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and travel safely.

Yours Truly,

Jenn

Mother’s Day Brunch

What are some of your Mother’s Day traditions?  Do your kids get up super early and make you breakfast in bed?  Do you go out to eat and then visit your mom?  I love to know how other people spend their holidays.  When my kids were little they always made me breakfast in bed on a tray with beautiful flowers.  Then we would spend the whole day together with them being super sweet (no fighting).  I would pick all my favorites throughout the day.  Now they are teenagers and we are all clamoring for sleep. Now my favorite way to celebrate is sleeping in and having a more leisurely start to my day.  So I thought a Mother’s Day brunch as a family would be a perfect way to spend the day.  Here are some great ways to celebrate with your whole family. Starting off with a fabulous Mimosa bar for mom.

Mimosa Bar

Mother's Day Brunch juices and sunflowers. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

Beautiful Mother's Day brunch for the whole family. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

Gorgeous naked cake for Mother's Day celebration. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

Sunflowers for a Mother's Day brunch. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

Use several juice selections for your brunch. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

If you are looking to have an outdoor celebration or you want to try some bolder color choices, try this Marimekko collection for Target.  They have included several different color choices in their collection.  However, my outdoor furniture features black and white so I thought these were perfect to go with the decor I already own.

Mother’s Day Brunch

Black, White, and blue collection from Marimekko for Target. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

Gorgeous dinnerware from Marimekko for Target. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

 

Target dinnerware from Marimekko and Pier 1 lanterns. www.yourstrulyjenn.com

However you spend your day, make some great memories and enjoy the people around you. That’s what it’s all about.  Happy Mother’s Day.  For some Mother’s Day gift ideas check out this post I did with Minted.

Yours Truly,

Jenn

Tips for Creating A Family Holiday Card

It’s the busiest time of the year!! One of the things you have to check off your list is your family holiday card.  Every year it seems to sneak up on me.  Thanksgiving zooms by and I’m left heading into December without an idea of what I’m going to do for a card. The last two years I had them done professionally so it was taken care of for me.  If you can go that route it’s nice to have a professional calling the shots and guiding you.  However, not everyone can do that or wants to do that.

Luckily, I have obtained the help of Local photographer, Lori Woodhouse. She is going to guide us with her knowledge and photography expertise.  Below she answers some highly asked questions that arise when taking holiday photos.

Follow These Simple Tips

1. What should families wear in a holiday photo? Deciding what to wear for the Christmas family portrait is a key step in creating perfect frame worthy holiday pictures. What you wear helps set the mood and tone for your portraits, so it’s very important that you choose wisely. There is a difference in choosing outfits for indoor portraits versus outdoor portraits. Indoor portraits tend to be more formal and outdoor is more casual. Coordinating outfits is an easy way to create an unified look in your Christmas portraits. Keep in mind matching doesn’t have to translate into identical. A few examples of matching formal outfits include white, red or green shirts and dark slacks or skirts. You could also wear matching sweaters or jackets, or choose varied outfits in a single shade of red or green. When you are posing for casual shots, you need to consider freedom of movement when selecting outfit choices. Don’t underestimate the versatility of blue jeans for your Holiday family portrait. Jeans can be coupled with sweaters, sweatshirts or even outdoor clothes for a relaxed look. Jeans also provide an excellent base for a variety of tops. Try coupling them with plain white shirts, red sweaters, or green coats. When deciding what to wear for the Christmas family portrait the best idea is to talk to your photographer. He or she can give you a better idea of how your portrait sitting will be set-up and what style of clothing is most appropriate. If you’ll be changing outfits during your sitting, try to save more restrictive outfits for the end of the shoot. Tight-fitting clothing can leave marks which may show up in the finished photo. Finally, make sure your clothing is neat, clean and in good condition before heading to the photo studio or outdoor location.

Lori Woodhouse Photography

This beautiful family portrait was done by local photographer Lori Woodhouse.

2. What are some good locations for a holiday photo? So much of what makes a holiday portrait spectacular is your surroundings. Finding a place that has good lighting, provides a beautiful and scenic background, and channels your family’s personality is almost more important than wearing color coordinated outfits. So, where are some fun places to snap a holiday photo in and around Hampton Roads you ask?
First Landing State Park, Cape Henry Lighthouses, Virginia Beach oceanfront isn’t too far away! Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefields, Boat Docks near Air and Space Museum, Mariner’s Museum, Huntington Park and Beach, Chrysler Museum, Newport News City Center, Willoughby Spit, Hampton’s Old Whythe Neighborhood, Kiln Creek area, Park in Portsmouth, Hague section of Ghent, Intracoastal Waterway, Christopher Newport University, Downtown Norfolk, Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Bacon’s Castle, St. Luke’s church, Oak Grove Park, Chesapeake Arboretum, Broad Bay Beach, Little Island Park in Sandbridge, Wildlife refuge in Sandbridge, and Bells Mill Park.

The Best thing to do is research and look up each of these locations and decide from there.

3. How do you capture your client’s natural smile? Contrary to popular belief, the word cheese is not the best word to say when trying to capture a genuine smile. When smiling for a photo, avoid the urge to say “cheese.” The word actually stretches your mouth into an unnatural, unflattering smile. If you have a hard time giving your natural smile try saying words that end in “uh” like “mocha” or “yoga” to bring the corners of your mouth up naturally.

4. What is the best time to take photos outside? The best time to take photos outdoors is what photographers call the infamous golden hour. The golden hour sometimes called the “magic hour” is roughly the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset. The exact duration varies between seasons so it’s important to listen to time suggestions from your photographer. During these times the sun is low in the sky and produces a soft diffused light which is much more flattering than harsh midday sun. If you cannot meet during these “golden hours” it is important to choose a location where there is shade so that the sun isn’t blinding or making you squint.

5. Can you give some tips for those that can’t get professional photos? Not everyone can afford to hire a professional photographer but you can still capture your own family portraits with all the tips I have shared with you so far. If you cannot afford an introductory DSLR camera it’s wise to invest in a high megapixel point and shoot camera and a tripod as well. Point and shoot cameras only run around $200 and can provide a good quality image. Remember to read over your camera manual and learn how to use a tripod so that you can get in the picture with your family.

6. What tips would you give for doing a portrait inside? As far as indoor portraits go, they tend to be on the formal side. However, your photographer may have many different background options to choose from. Time of day shouldn’t matter if you are shooting in a studio setting as your photographer should have adequate artificial lighting available.

7. What is the most important tip to remember when sending a holiday card? The annual holiday card: the chance for you to send warm season’s greetings to your nearest and dearest. When selecting your grandma’s-fridge-worthy photo it’s best to choose one with a high-resolution. The larger the photo file is, the better it will print. You can upload your original photo to a photo-editing app to enhance and give it extra character.

8. What would you like your clients to know? Holiday sessions should be scheduled well in advance with your photographer as September-November are the busiest times of year. Contact your photographer as early as July to schedule your fall family holiday portrait.

9. What type of photography do you specialize in?  I specialize in family, maternity and newborn photography and have been in business for four years. You can reach me via my Facebook page Lori Woodhouse Photography LLC or via website http://www.loriwoodhousephotography.com

Hopefully these tips will give you some great ideas for your holiday card this year.  I want to thank Lori Woodhouse for taking the time to answer our questions and sharing her talents with us.  I can’t wait to start receiving Christmas cards in the mail from friends and family.

Yours Truly,

Jenn

 

Thanksgiving Day- Celebrate you and your Family

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! It’s time to be thankful for the many blessings you have and to celebrate your family.  What a wonderful time of year.  I think today is a perfect day to not only think about what you’re thankful for, but to think about this past year as well.  Look back on the year and see how well you did.  Almost like a year in review.  Most people do this at the very end of the year, but I think today is a great day to get started.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!! I hope you are enjoying your family and friends today.

Looking back and reflecting can be a fun trip down memory lane. if you have had a good year you have a lot to be thankful for. I’m sure there have also been some hardships and that is just part of life that we have to live with and try to manage the best we can. On Thanksgiving Day, I want you to really celebrate the positive sides of you and your life. The real you.  What did you accomplish this year?  What goals did you set in January and how did you accomplish those goals?  Answering these questions and reflecting back on your year can really help you see what you are thankful for.  Then you can start to appreciate your life and your family.

A lot of families go around the table and say what they are thankful for during dinner.  If you have done this process you can really dig down deep and have your list ready for what you’re thankful for this past year.  Your answer won’t just be something on the surface.  It will be a true answer that you’ve reflected upon. Reflecting also gives you a clear picture of what you still need to accomplish before the end of the year.  You still have time to work hard and be the best version of you, you can be.  Don’t give up now.  You only have a month left before you make new resolutions and set new goals for yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving from

Yours Truly,

Jenn

Thanksgiving Family Traditions

Thanksgiving is coming up and boy I’m looking forward to eating some great food and seeing family.  I know everyone has traditions they enjoy with family on special holidays.  What are some of your family traditions?

We travel to my in-laws house every year and spend Thanksgiving with them.  When my kids got a little older, we decided we would stay home and celebrate Christmas in our own house.  This was important to us, but we also wanted to see my in-laws during this time of year. I really like how everything has worked out.  My in-laws visit us over the Christmas break so we actually get to see them twice.

Pumpkin Pie dessert

Pumpkin Pie is the perfect dessert to eat after an amazing dinner.

Thanksgiving Timeline

We usually eat at my sister- In- laws house and we have about 12 people.  I enjoy getting to see my niece who is three.  They live seven and half hours away so we really enjoy spending time with her when we are in town.  We have tons of appetizers and watch football while we wait to eat lunch. My mother- in- law makes the best chipped beef dip.  I only get to eat it around the holidays when she makes it for us.  I am really into salty food right now so this appetizer is amazing. We usually eat around 2:00 and then watch football again. My kids are obsessed with the mac and cheese my sister-in-law makes.  It is fabulous and they crave it all year.  We always go around and tell what things we are thankful for.  Of course we have left overs around 7:00.  I am thankful for leftovers!!!! That is one of the best parts of Thanksgiving.  I’m sure most families do this.  Then we head back to my mother-in-laws.  I have not gone Black Friday shopping the last couple of years (since they have started it on Thursday).  I have just shopped online and avoided the crowds.  If my daughter wants to go then I’m up for it this year.

Thanksgiving place setting

Gorgeous table settings make for a lovely evening.

Turkey dinner

Turkey and some of my other favorites for Thanksgiving dinner.

I would love to hear your timeline for Thanksgiving Day.  What are your traditions?  Do you have any new things you are doing this year?  Check me out on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter to see my holiday happenings.  I’ve started decorating early this year for Christmas.  Last year, I was a little stressed so this year I’m going to take it at a slower pace and get things done early.  This is my favorite time of year and I want to enjoy it as much as I can.  I’m going to get things done, but take time to be in the moment.

Yours Truly,

Jenn

Fall college care package

A lot of my friends have sent their kids back to college.  They’ve been away from home for about a month now.  Luckily, I have two more years before I have to think about that,  I can tell you right now that I won’t do well when that time comes.  I get teary eyed when I hear the graduation song now.  My daughter turned 16 tonight and I’m already having trouble with this milestone.  In honor of all my friends going through this time in their lives, I thought it would be great to show ideas for college care packages.

What do college kids love more than a day off from school???? CARE PACKAGES!!!! I loved receiving any kind of mail when I was in college. When you had a slip of paper in your box indicating that you had a package, it was like you had hit the lottery.  Everyone on campus was always jealous of the person walking back to their dorm with the huge care package.

Today I’m going to help you with some great ideas for a fall care package for your college student or someone who just needs a little pick me up.  All of these things you can easily gather or make yourself.  You know your child better than anyone so you would know what they would like in their package. The items are universal to most kids.

IMG_2832

College care packages

Great items to put in a college care package.

Halloween Peeps

Halloween Peeps are great for this time of year.

 

1. Money-I didn’t have this in the picture, but one of the best things to send college students is quarters.  They need tons of quarters to do their laundry.  I can guarantee this gift will go over well with any student still in a dorm.

2. Food-  Send your child the foods they love and maybe even something for their roommate.  Homemade items are always a winner if you have time to make them and package them properly.  You can’t forget Ramen Noodles.  That is a college must have because it is cheap and easy to make.  A win-win for college students.  You can see in this package, I sent lots of fall treats like Peeps, Oreos, and Brownie Pumpkins.  Your child doesn’t have the luxury of just going to the pantry and grabbing a snack anymore.  If you send the things they are missing, I’m sure they will be very happy.

3. Non food items-  For girls you could send magazines, SD cards, make up remover wipes, razors, nail polish, etc… For guys you could send magazines, razors, socks, deodorant, etc…..

4. Theme Items- Your care package could have a certain theme or seasonal motif. Those are a lot easier to find items to prepare for the box.

5. School colors-  Kids like to wear their school colors or tee shirts sporting their college’s name or mascot.  This is a great gift to get them.

boxed care package

This is what your box may look like when ready to mail.

college student's care package

What college student wouldn’t want this?

I hope this list helped give you some inspiration for your own care package.  The holidays are coming up and you could also send a care package to someone in the military.  They have specific things they need and also things that you can’t send them (depending on the place you’re mailing it to). Please make sure you google a list of items depending on where you’re sending the package before you put their box together.  My daughter’s cheer team did this one year as our community project and it was very rewarding. Good luck with your package and please let me know if you have any good ideas that could help me with my future packages.

Yours Truly,

Jenn

Summer Bucket List 2015

Today is my kid’s last day of school and I am looking forward to a great summer with them.  Every year, we make a list of the activities we want to accomplish in the summer. That way when we can’t think of something off the top of our head, we look on our list and find something that we can do as a family.  I am really looking forward to sleeping in and just being able to do things without having a set schedule.  I love being with my kids and here is a list of a couple things we want to do this summer.

beach

Summer is here!

Summer Bucket List

1. Celebrate 20th wedding anniversary

2. Try 5 new restaurants

3. Paddle board in OBX

4. Visit my niece and nephew in Raleigh

5. Teach my daughter to drive on the interstate (she has her driver’s permit)

6. Workout 5 days a week with the kids

7. play tennis with the kids and my mom

8.  Go to the beach couple times a month

9. Get season passes to Busch Gardens

10. Go to Abingdon and visit my in-laws

11. Do 2 makeover projects

12. Go shopping at the outlet malls

13. Go Kayaking

14. Go to Hilton Head and celebrate my in-laws 50th anniversary (Hip Hip Hooray)

15. Start looking at colleges with my daughter

There are several other traditions we do to kick off the summer, but one of our favorites is making our bucket list.  I hope my list has given you a couple ideas to create your own list.  This summer will be about spending quality time with my kids and building lasting relationships with our extended family.  Life is too short to not live it to the fullest.  My daughter will be heading off to college soon and I really want to make some awesome memories this summer!

Yours Truly,

Jenn

What about a “Stay”cation?

You may not have the time or money to take a vacation right now, but you can plan a “stay”cation.  If you don’t know what that is; a “stay”cation is where you stay home and enjoy the the special attractions near your home town.  We have done this with our family before and it was so much fun.  There are tons of places in my home town that we just took for granted. We never really took the time to visit these places.  We took the “stay”cation time to finally do the things we hadn’t done in our town. It made me laugh when my daughter asked me why people visited VA Beach for a vacation and I told her there are tons of things to do in our area and it’s a great place to vacation.

VA Beach is a tourist area with lots of things to do including the beach, museums and tons of other activities such as shopping.  Only an hour away you have Busch Gardens amusement park, Colonial Williamsburg or Outer Banks, NC.

staycation

Family “Stay”cations can be amazing experiences if done right.

“Stay”cation Hurdles to avoid

*  I think the biggest hurdle to avoid is staying away from house and yard work while you are on your “stay”cation.  It would be super easy to find things to do around the house while on your vacation.  Allow your office to know you are on vacation so hopefully they won’t disturb you unless it is an emergency. We told people we were on vacation, but didn’t specify we were staying home. Then hold off on yard work, laundry and other chores until you are off of your break.  Really take the time off and act as if you are gone from the home.  Enjoy ordering take out every night and the laundry will still be there in a couple of days.

*  Stay organized.  Have a plan, but be able to veer from that plan if the weather should change.  Having a loose schedule helps you get in all the things you want to do while you are on your “stay”cation.  Talk to all the family members and see what the high priority activities are.  I was way off sometimes thinking everyone wanted to do a certain activity and come to find out no one wanted to do that.  Communication is key and will make things go smoother.

*  Start looking ahead as soon as your “stay”cation is planned.  You may be able to find discounts or special deals if you look early enough.  Some movie theaters show free movies on a specific day and you only have to pay for your refreshments.  You can also find coupons for amusements parks at local grocery stores and on line.  You can get a certain percentage off of your total.  Look at purchasing season passes.  This might be your cheapest bet.  Doing your research really can save you money in the long run.

“Stay”Cations can make for an incredible vacation with lasting memories. Everyone just needs to be in the right frame of mind and have a good attitude about the experience. Prep your kids prior to doing any activities about what they will encounter and why you have chosen this type of vacation.  I’m sure once they hear your reasoning they will be very excited to spend quality time with their family.

Yours truly,

jenn

Best Ways to Use your Phone Internationally

Spring break is coming up for many families and lots of you may be taking a trip out of the country.  Of course you think to take your passport and clothes, but do you think ahead to how you will stay in touch with the people back home? You’re on vacation enjoying yourself, but you want to talk to your family and send them that picture of you zip lining through the rain forest.  What is the best way to do this without costing you an arm and leg?

The first thing to do is check with your provider as to what your plan offers in terms of international status.  DO THIS BEFORE YOU LEAVE ON YOUR TRIP. You may have more than you think (or less).  Once you know what you have on your plan, then you can start searching for the best ways to use your phone to contact people back home.

cell phone use

What is the the best way to contact people back home?

If you don’t have an international plan here are some Apps you can keep in mind to use when you’re out of the country. This is just an Overview so always check on them in depth before using them and make sure you have spoken with your provider prior to leaving the country.

  • VIBER- Send free messages, free calls, and video calls on any device and network in any country. Finds friends. However Viber crunches through your data plan.
  • FRING-This one is for iPhone and android. This is used for buddy messaging and video chatting up to 4 people.
  • WHAT’s UP-Free for the first year and $0.99 after that. Works on iPhone, android, blackberry, Nokia etc… This is for texting, attaching pictures, audio clips, emojis, Can only text people who have this app- Glorified chat option that uses the data plan.
  • REBTEL 2.0-International texting App  for iphone . Save 60% when used on international texting.  Creates a local # to route text through. You’re charged by your local carrier for a local text depending on your plan.

Some other things you may want to look into are local SIMS cards and google voice.  These just give you a starting point to research prior to you leaving the country.  Always know how you’re going to stay in to with your family back home before you leave.

If you are going on vacation soon, I hope you have safe travels and an amazing, relaxing time with your family or friends.  Hopefully this post will give you something to think about when you’re looking for phone options.

Yours Truly,

Jenn

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