Monday, October 31, 2016


For the last four years I have been serving as a volunteer on the SMRP Conference Committee. It's been a very fun experience throughout the years as we've put on conferences in Indianapolis, Orlando, Cincinnati and now Jacksonville. This year I was the chair of the conference committee which meant for the last year I've been running all the committee calls and leading our volunteers and staff along the way as we planned and organized everything from start to finish. 

Being Chair has its perks - including being picked up at the airport and getting one of the nicer suites in the hotel. My room was crazy big with a great view and three different beds and showers to choose from - haha - kind of ridiculous. Though the extra living space did allow for hosting a pizza party one night in my room and a cocktail reception another night as a thank you to the staff and volunteers for a job well done. Ever the hostess, even while on the road! :) 

Being Chair also means you are the Emcee for the opening and closing general sessions. I was anxiously awaiting that part of the job - both excited for the opportunity but slightly nervous about being up in front of 1000+ of my peers and colleagues from around the globe. Happily it all went really well and once I was up there all my nerves went away and I found myself to be very comfortable in front of the crowd - suppose that won't come as a surprise to some of you. :) 

Another perk was getting to have breakfast with our Keynote speaker - Jim Morris - his life story was portrayed in the move "The Rookie" starring Dennis Quaid. He and his wife were so kind and fun to chat with. He gave a great keynote and I had grown men coming up to me afterwards saying how much they enjoyed it and that they'd even had to wipe some tears - wow!

Our closing Keynote, Bob DiStefano, was my selection and he's a guy who I've known since I started in this industry 10 years ago. He's been a great mentor and just a cool guy to be around. I'm sad to say he is retiring but I know we'll keep in touch and I've got my fingers crossed that when he finally buys a villa in Tuscany that he'll invite us to come visit - as he's promised. 

It really was a great conference - I missed last year's because of Harper - so it was awesome to see friends and colleagues again - all of whom inquired about how he was doing. It's just a great industry and while it's a big one - it really does tend to feel like a family reunion every October and I was proud to serve as the "Matriarch" this year. ;) 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wine Making...

A few weeks ago I was up at my offices in NY and got the opportunity to participate in their wine making night. It's such a cool experience - legal? maybe, maybe not - but what's life without a little thrill now and again. 

We meet up at this warehouse in Yorktown, NY - such a beautiful area. If you think driving Georgetown Pike has your head on a swivel looking at the amazing houses then wait until you drive through this Westchester County gem! 

Frank Sinatra plays in the background, wine is flowing, and you truly feel like you've been transported back in time. I was happy to be there for the first step in the process (they do two batches of wine a year) and was an active participant helping to dump the grapes into the crusher. Once our work was done it was time for some delicious pizza and more vino. 

The next step in the process was for the guys to go back up the next week to get the wine into the actual barrel. Then the wine will age until about June/July and we'll head back up to actually get the wine into bottles. I'll definitely plan to work in a trip to the office for that part of the process - that way I can also pick up the case I purchased. How cool to be able to enjoy wine I helped to make?! 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Camping in the Shenandoah...

One of our favorite parts of camping has been getting to spend a fall weekend apple and pumpkin picking. Sadly last year we had to skip our fall trip while Harper was in the NICU so this year we planned early so we could get a site at the Shenandoah State Park and make up for lost time. 

We hadn't been to this campground in several years and had honestly forgotten that the cell service was non-existent. It's amazing how reliant we are on our phones and connectivity - but actually, being "off the grid" turned out to be just what we needed. 

The weather was cool and a little bit rainy, but we didn't let that hold us back from our apple and pumpkin picking. We started our morning with a big breakfast at a local diner. Harper pounded scrambled eggs and a big pancake and Adam of course took care of some chocolate chip pancakes - man those boys can eat! After that it was off to the apple orchard. We picked lots of golden delicious and fuji apples until our bag was full. Even Harper got in on the action. 

Then it was on to the pumpkin patch where Adam picked out his pumpkin and also enjoyed a cup of fresh apple cider. 

We then spent the rest of the day at the campground. We went for a few hikes to see the river and while Harper napped I finally read the latest "Harry Potter" book - see, being "off the grid" has it's advantages! We played lots of football, Adam practiced his Ninja Warrior skills by climbing the walls, and Harper enjoyed playing outdoors with his toys as well. We even met another labradoodle who just happened to be Sadie's sister - she came from the same parents just one liter later. Small world! 

We cooked all of our meals over the campfire which was a new experience for us and let me tell you, it was some delicious food. Lots of time was spent chatting fireside and just like that the weekend was over but at least we were left with some great memories - and a ton of apples! 

Tai Kwon Do

A few weeks back we finally got Adam enrolled in Tai Kwon Do. He'd been asking for awhile to do it and it really is going to be a perfect activity for him. From the start I was already impressed with the instructors and how they focus so much on respect, discipline, and of course the fun of accomplishing new forms and techniques. The first belt that Adam earned was his white belt. In order to earn that he had to keep a log for a week showing that everyday he did his chores around the house, did well in school, completed homework, and best of all that he was a respectful participant in school and with the family. I love that! They presented him his belt in front of the whole class who all bowed to him and cheered for him - he was quite pleased with himself. After class that day another student came up to congratulate him on earning his belt and told him he'd be getting his official uniform soon - it was a pretty great moment. Fast forward a few weeks and Adam was in class when another boy earned his white belt - even though he doesn't even know the kid he made it a point to find him after class so that he could congratulate him and let him know that he too would be getting his uniform soon. Wow - I think we're all going to really like this new sport for Adam. 

Can't wait to watch him continue to work hard and hopefully earn his yellow belt in December! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Family Camping at Bull Run...

We picked the perfect weekend to meet up with Andy's family for camping. Heidi and Shawn recently purchased a camper so it was fun to get to camp side by side. We also got to get a majority of the family together for a cook-out around the camp fire. 

The cousins had so much fun playing together - I don't think they ever stopped moving, except when they would take turns playing with Harper. Harps was loving being outdoors and I think he also fancied all the extra attention from cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course Ommy and Poppy. 

Dinner was great and the conversation around the camp fire was even better. Love family time - especially when combined with camping and fall weather! :)