August 27, 2016

Take Me Away - August Recap

August seemed to fly by, didn't it?  I am looking forward to seeing where you have all been traveling this summer so be sure to link up your travel posts on Friday, September 2nd!  In the meantime, let's take a look back at the trip reports everyone linked up for the August - Take Me Away Party!

Please visit as many as you can and be sure to Pin from the original sources...

Vicki from Life in my Empty Nest took us away on a relaxing 6 day Florida vacation...
Florida Vacation - Life in My Empty Nest blog

Lounging on the beach, sitting by the pool sipping cocktails...that's the way to do a vacation!

Carolyn from Fennell Seeds took us away on a lovely tour of Napa...
Napa Trip Report - Fennell Seeds Blog

What a perfect place to spend her 10 year anniversary.  She also shared her experience using Uber to get around.

Carole from From my Carolina Home took us away to the lush mountain countryside...
Mountain Countryside - From My Carolina Home blog

Vintage cars, a country market and a drive through beautiful scenery...sounds like a great way to spend the day to me!

Tanya from The Other Side of the Road took us away to see the royal family...
The Queen - The Other Side of the Road blog

Who knew there were so many events where you would have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Queen!

Pam from Everyday Living was so inspired by Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence", that she took a trip to the southeastern region of France...
A Village in Provence - Everyday Living blog

And if her stunning photos don't convince you to book a trip as well...nothing will!  I suddenly have the urge to paint something...even though I have no artistic talent!

Pam knows how to choose some gorgeous places.  She also took us away with her to the picturesque, Napa Valley...
Three Days in the Valley - Everyday Living blog

Ahh, the bay area...what a beautiful section of the country and so many things to see!

Laurie from My Husband Has Too Many Hobbies took us away on an adventurous family road trip from St. Louis to the Pacific Northwest...
St. Louis to Pacific Northwest Trip - My Husband Has Too Many Hobbies Blog

Eight states, national parks, rain forests, mountains...this is a trip her family will always remember!

Wow, I need to get my act together and plan a trip somewhere interesting!  My weekends at the Jersey Shore seem like nothing compared to all these adventures!

Where have you traveled recently?

Remember to link up your travel posts
Friday, September 2nd 
at the next Take Me Away Party!

August 24, 2016

Response to My WordPress Questions and the End of Summer

Thank you to everyone who chimed in with comments and emails when I asked for your input on Blogger vs. WordPress.  I was actually very surprised at how many people still use Blogger...and how many people switched back!  I am still emailing a few of you with questions while I make my decision about how to proceed.  There certainly is a lot to take into consideration but I will eventually let you know what I decide.

Please note this post contains affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.
Summer at the Beach - Love the Jersey Shore

My other thoughts are focused on the end of summer.  I know many schools around the country have already started back but my kids don't return until after Labor Day.  We are trying to savor every last bit of summer that we can.  It's going fast though!

Jersey Shore Beach

We didn't take any major vacations this summer but have spent many long weekends lounging at the beach.  We have had one of the best summers for beach weather.  Even the ridiculously hot days were bearable when we had the ocean or pool to cool off in.

We caught a few gorgeous sunsets over the bay...
Sunset on the Bay - Jersey Shore

And some beautiful views of the moon over the ocean...
Moon over the Ocean - Summer 2016

The kids have enjoyed the boardwalk rides and attractions...
Seaside Heights Boardwalk rides

We made the annual visit to the waterpark...
Waterpark in Seaside Heights New Jersey

But I think just swimming in the ocean has been their favorite part of the summer!  They will literally spend hours in the water - boogie boarding and body surfing...
Body surfing at the Jersey Shore

Luckily, we always have several family members with us at the beach so there is always someone to swim with the kids when I am done....which helps me catch up on my summer reading!  I blew through so many books this spring and summer and just last night I began this one...
With over 900 pages, this may take awhile...But I am so excited to finally indulge myself in this classic piece of literature!  Every now and then I like to read a classic novel I somehow missed or even go back and reread a classic that I read years ago.

Earlier this summer, I read (and loved), Stars Over Sunset Boulevard which then influenced me to buy Gone with the Wind - the story that inspired it all!
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard - loved this and it inspired me to read Gone with the Wind!


The summer days are numbered so we are trying to squeeze in as much as we can.  As much as I love the leisurely mornings and lazy beach days, I will be excited for the new season and cooler weather.  What?  Did I just say that?  Well, I do love the change of seasons and am looking forward to all the new adventures fall will bring.  Until then, you will find me lounging on the beach.

How are you spending these last days of August?

Linking to:
Rattlebridge Farm - Foodie Friday and Everything Else
Pieced Pastimes - Saturday Sparks


August 16, 2016

Gathering Information - The Blogger to Wordpress Transition (Advice Appreciated!)

Although I learned a ton of useful information at last week's Haven Conference, one important tip continues to echo in my head...

I really should switch from Blogger to Wordpress.

Now, I kind of knew this was important but I am a bit stubborn and stuck in my ways.  I have been blogging for 5 years and don't always adapt well to change...especially when it involves technology.
Blue and White Home Office - Deciding between Blogger and Wordpress - share your thoughts and see what others had to say!

Since I am not sure where to begin (and even if I want to!), I thought I would ask you, my fellow bloggers about your experiences switching from Blogger to Wordpress.  (If you do not write a blog, I apologize for this extremely boring and technical post!)

Please feel free to answer any (or all) of the questions below:

  • Do you use Blogger or Wordpress.org?
  • If you are still on Blogger, do you plan to stay on Blogger?  Why or why not?
  • Did you pay someone to make the transition from Blogger to Wordpress or did you learn how to do it yourself?
  • Can you recommend someone to transfer my blog?  (If you want to keep the name private, please email me.)
  • Why does there seem to be huge price variations for this transfer service?
  • If you went through the transfer process, how long did it take and did it run smoothly?
  • Would you recommend waiting until after the winter holidays to make the change or is it better to do it right away?  (I am just thinking that January is kind of a slow-blogging time).
  • Any other comments or tips are appreciated!

Thanks for taking the time to share your advice!  Not only are you helping me, but I am sure you are helping all those other bloggers who share my same dilemma!

I will be sure to keep you updated with my decisions!


Linking to:
A Savory Feast - The Wednesday Showcase
Pieced Pastimes - Saturday Sparks



August 12, 2016

Haven Conference Recap - A Newbie's Perspective

This past weekend, I took a leap out of my comfort zone and headed down to Atlanta, GA for the Haven Conference.  If you are not familiar with Haven, it is a design and DIY blogging conference held every year.  This was their 5th year...but the 1st year for me!
Buckhead Hyatt in Atlanta, GA - the location for the Haven Conference for DIY and design bloggers

I had been wanting to attend Haven for the past few years but it never worked out with my schedule.  This year the timing seemed right and when my blogging friend, Sheila suggested that it might be fun to go, it was just the push I needed.  I spontaneously ordered a ticket.

For a few weeks (or months) before, I obsessed about flying because I am such a big baby about flying without my kids.  Apparently, all that worrying used up all my brain cells because with the conference less than a week away, I realized I hadn't ordered my business cards!  Needless to say, I ended up paying a huge shipping fee, which was fine because business cards ended up being very important!  I must have overestimated the importance of clothing though because I jam-packed two suitcases with enough clothes to last me a month!  I didn't need even half of the things I brought!

I arrived at the Newark, NJ airport on Thursday and immediately met some lovely New York/New Jersey bloggers -  Kelly from Eclectically Vintage, Kandice from Just the Woods and then Lory from Designthusiasm.  Since I don't normally tell many people that I write a blog, it was strange introducing myself as Shelley from Calypso in the Country.  We all chatted before the flight and then shared an Uber car to the hotel, the Hyatt in Buckhead.

Once we checked in, many of us mingled in the lounge area of the lobby.  Such a surreal experience seeing so many familiar faces, yet meeting them in person for the first time!
I felt like we were going non-stop from the second we arrived.  In the beginning, I remembered to take a few pictures but as the weekend went on, I took fewer and fewer.

I took this photo of my view when I stopped in my room to unpack...

And while unpacking, I found the sweetest note from my son in my suitcase.  He encouraged me to "have a great time and learn many new things" which was the perfect thing to read as I arrived feeling a little nervous.  It made me miss my boys even more but it also made me happy that they were excited for me!  When you are a stay-at-home-mom, sometimes you lose your identity in that role.  It's important to remember you have other talents.

The first night, I met up with Sheila from Maison de Cinq for dinner.  We had never met in person before but when we finally did, I felt like we were old friends.  We had the best time at a local restaurant, Holeman and Finch where the menu was very eclectic featuring various fresh ingredients and seasonal offerings.  A perfect choice for our first dinner...thanks for choosing that one, Sheila!  Afterwards, the hotel lobby was crowded again with familiar faces all excited to start this year's Haven adventure!

During the weekend, I was thrilled to meet bloggers who I have followed for years...Laura from Duke Manor Farm, Kris from Driven by Decor, Jenny from Evolution of Style, Yvonne from Stonegable, Jaime from So Much Better with Age, Diane from In My Own Style, Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick... to name just a handful...Plus many others and some who I have recently started following due to the Haven conference!  There were so many people at the conference that I sadly missed meeting a few I had wanted to run into.  I guess there is always next year!
  
Friday began with a Newbie meeting for all of us who were first timers.  For some reason, I already had lost most of my voice and was quite embarrassed meeting some bloggers for the first time.  A few people looked at me like I just underwent some kind of throat surgery so I felt like I had to keep explaining that I was losing my voice.

In the opening ceremony, Rhoda from Southern Hospitality and her crew kicked off the start of the conference with some motivating words of advice.

Throughout the weekend we immersed ourselves in as many sessions as we could.  I loved the photography ones...
Anita from Cedar Hill Farmhouse taught us so many valuable tips.  Not only did she provide expert advice, but when I ran into her later that day in the lobby, she took the time to get my feedback about her session.  She was sincerely interested in my opinions which made me like her even more!  It really showed me that those big bloggers are successful for a reason.

In the photo-styling session, we were dazzled by experts, Matthew Mead and Janet Coon from Shabbyfufu Blog...What a treat!  Janet was such a pleasure to talk with and such a talent!

I loved watching Matthew work his magic - I could just live inside his stunning photos!

And we spent a significant amount of time learning about the business side of blogging.  My head was spinning from the abundance of information!

This year, Haven offered mentor groups and I was lucky enough to be in Bre's group.  You might recognize her from her hugely successful blog, Rooms For Rent.  Our group met several times during the weekend which gave us a chance to introduce ourselves, share some ideas and plan to continue our dialogue in the future.  The mentor groups ended up being a valuable part of the experience and Bre's shining personality made it easy for us to feel at ease from the very first meet up.

Throughout the days, we also had time between sessions to visit vendors and watch demonstrations.
I haven't dabbled too much in furniture painting but I was so inspired by the Amy Howard display that I just might try something in the future!  I'll be sure to blog about it...

Another of my favorite vendors was Home Decorators Collection.  They had furniture displays all over the hotel with so many inspiring ideas...
A Pretty Vignette featuring pieces from Home Decorator's Collection displayed at the Haven blogger's conference.
I loved these rustic pieces and simple artwork.

And I loved this nook with the tufted sofa and industrial shelves.  It doesn't hurt having a shiplap wall in the background!  I mean, who doesn't love shiplap these days?!

We had some free time to explore and drop off our business cards on this huge wood carved map of the US built by the talented, Jaime from That's My Letter.
US Map at Haven Conference - A Recap of my first blogger's conference

So exciting to see where people traveled from to attend the Haven Conference!

Don't ask me why I am pointing to Kentucky because I live in New Jersey!  I must have been very tired at that point!

And then there were the parties!  Saturday we all headed over to the InterContinental Hotel across the street for the Saturday Soiree!  Southern food, dancing and a few cocktails...just what we needed to unwind after all the information packed sessions.

These are the girls I hung out with most of the evening - Annie from All Things Big and Small, Sheila from Maison de Cinq and Lory from Designthusiasm and yes that's me with the crooked head - I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to pose like that...

I finally straightened my head up and stood normally like everyone else.  I enjoyed talking with these girls so much.  Not only are they fun and full of personality but all three of them are Seinfeld fans!  I was definitely hanging out with the right group!

Sunday was a continuation of more sessions and mentor meetings.  The day was wrapped up with an appearance from John and Sherry from Young House Love .  They spoke during the closing ceremony giving us many laughs and inspiring words of wisdom.  After a weekend of information overload on what we should be doing, their lighthearted approach to blogging (and life) was so refreshing.

I left feeling encouraged and ready to move forward with the blog. Sometimes it's hard to remember why we are in this crazy blogging world but John and Sherry were perfect examples of why we need to stay authentic and original.  Love these guys.

So, I managed to fly home without having a heart attack through the turbulence and I arrived in Newark, NJ with a sigh of relief.  I couldn't wait to arrive in baggage claim to find a car service driver holding up a sign with my name.  Instead, I saw three smiling faces - my husband and two boys!  It was the nicest surprise ever and I hugged them with tears in my eyes like I hadn't seen them in  months...which I guess made sense since I packed my suitcase to stay away that long...

And to top things off, they baked me this while I was away...
Those boys.  A great reminder that no matter whether I am successful with my blog or any other career down the road, being a mom is the most rewarding job I could imagine!

Ahh, what an experience!

And here is a bit of advice for future Haven newbies:
  • Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to every person you encounter.  I tend to hold back a bit but realized that many of us were in the same situation. You just have to put yourself out there.  It can be overwhelming and sometimes you are not sure if someone looks familiar.  It is so worth it though, when you meet a blogger you have been following for years!
  • Order those business cards early to avoid paying a huge shipping fee like I did.  Every time you will meet someone, it's pretty much expected to exchange business cards.  Plus, this year everyone added their business cards to the big US map.  Those cards were then put into a drawing for awesome prizes on the last day.  I actually won a $500 worth of hardware from Liberty Hardware!
  • Stalk the Haven website, Instagram and Facebook pages to figure out who else is going ahead of time.  This way you can look for specific people you want to meet.  This will also help you make plans ahead of time for the first night's dinner.  Every person I spoke to in the lounge when we arrived had plans for dinner already so I was glad Sheila and I made plans to meet up that evening.  Otherwise I might have been tagging along with some group I just met or eating alone in my room!
  • If you see someone wearing a "Newbie" tag, introduce yourself.  It can be overwhelming for us first timers and it's always nice to feel welcome.
  • You will learn some of the best blogging advice from just talking to other bloggers.  We are all in this together so be open to new ideas.
  • You really don't need to over-pack.  Like I said, I didn't wear half the things I brought.  You basically need some casual outfits for daytime and then some out to dinner clothes.  For the big party night on Saturday, people dressed up in more cocktail party attire.  It was helpful though, to bring an extra suitcase because the sponsors gave away a ton of swag.  I took most things out of their packages and stuffed them into my suitcases, although I am surprised I didn't go over the luggage weight limit!
  • You might want to mix in some creative sessions with the more technical ones.  I focused more on the serious, technical side, thinking that I would learn how to really take my blog to the next level.  I found myself feeling a bit overloaded with information and stressed out about what I should be doing.  Luckily, I did take two photography classes which were inspiring and fun.  Even if I stopped blogging today, those photography tips were so helpful for taking photos in general.
  • Be ready to make some changes on your blog when you get home.  And by changes, I mean - if you are still on Blogger like me, you probably want to start planning for the merge to Wordpress.  I am not thrilled about this at all but supposedly Wordpress is the place to be so I foresee some serious work in my near future...ugh.
  • Be ready to push yourself to learn as much as possible and to meet as many people as you can.  The weekend goes fast and you want to get as much out of it as possible.  You can always catch up on your sleep when you get home...
  • If you are contemplating whether you are ready to go to Haven or not, just order that ticket and don't look back. To quote Mark Twain, "Don't wait.  The time will never be just right."

Have you been to Haven before?
What are your tips?

Linking to:
Haven Conference Link Up
Pieced Pastimes - Saturday Sparks Link Party
Inspiration for Moms - Inspiration Monday
Dwellings - Amaze Me Monday
A Stroll Thru Life - Inspire Me Tuesday
Homestories A to Z - Tutorials and Tips Party
House of Homemade - Wednesday Showcase


August 4, 2016

Take Me Away Link Party - August

How is it August already?!!  This summer is going way too fast and I am not happy about it!  Luckily, my kids don't go back to school until after Labor Day, but still.

Well, since tomorrow is the first Friday of the month, it's time for the Take Me Away Link Party!

Last month you linked up some amazing places and you can read all about them - HERE.

I can't wait to read about your latest adventures so let's get started!

As always:
  • Link up to 3 travel related posts (new or old) - just not from any previous Take Me Away parties.
  • Please include a link back to my blog.
  • Please do not link ads or giveaways.
  • By joining the party, you give me permission to feature your photo/post on any of my social media networks and this blog.
  • Please pin from the source of the photo - not from this page.
  • I would love it if you would follow my blog using any of the social media buttons above.  Please also visit as many links below as you can.

Let's go... Take Me Away!

July 30, 2016

Take Me Away - July Recap

As you may know, on the first of each month, I host a travel related link party called Take Me Away!   In July, we had another round of fantastic trip reports.  I have highlighted each one below with a link to the full post.

Please visit as many as you can and please remember to Pin from the original sources...

Life in My Empty Nest took us away with her daughters on a trip to the pretty river city of Pittsburgh...
Pittsburgh - travel report from Life in my Empty Nest

She showed us some lovely sights and recommended a few nice bars and restaurants.  Such a pleasant weekend spent with family!

Off we go to the south with From My Carolina Home...
Wilmington NC - trip report from - From My Carolina Home

Carole took us on a tour of Wilmington and the historic Bellamy House.  If you love architecture, be sure to stop by her blog to read the full post.

Carole also took us on a tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway...
Blue Ridge Parkway - Trip report from - From My Carolina Home

Such gorgeous scenery and I loved seeing all these tunnels through the mountains.

Tanya from The Other Side of the Road took us on a far away adventure to the other side of the world...
Dubai - trip report from The Other Side of the Road blog

She described Dubai as the "Las Vegas of the Middle East" and I can see why!  Over the top luxury yet fun for the kids!  

Her kids certainly had a blast when they headed up to the Pacific Northwest...
Pacific Northwest - travel report from The Other Side of the Road blog

If you think Seattle is only about the Space Needle and throwing fish, you need to check out her post which includes a visit to a pop culture museum - the EMP.  My kids would love to go there...and so would I!

And while in the area, Tanya also took us away with her to the Pacific Northwest - Olympic National Park Beaches...
Pacific Nw - Olympic Beaches - The Other Side of the Road blog

Not only are the beaches and the whole area beautiful, but you have to stop over to check out their family beach picture...priceless!

What a coincidence I mentioned the fish in Seattle above because Pam from Everyday Living took us away to Seattle's Pike Place Market...

Seattle - Pike Place Market - by Everyday Living blog

What a fun tour of the most visited place in Seattle! Not only were the seafood photos enticing but the flowers were stunning!  Like Pam said, Pike Place Market has something to satisfy all your senses!

From Seattle,  Pam from Everyday Living then took us down south to a small town in Alabama...
Small Town America - by Everyday Living blog

A canopy of oak trees and the sweet scent of magnolias - just what you would imagine for this charming area.  I almost felt like I should be swaying in a hammock with a glass of sweet tea as I read her post.  What an enchanting place!

Let's hop on a plane to Ireland with Pam from Everyday Living as she takes us on a tour of Dublin...
Dublin - by Everyday Living blog

Yes, the architecture is just as stunning as you would imagine!  Not only is it a beautiful place but the people were as friendly as you would imagine.  

And speaking of stunning...Sandy from You May Be Wandering gave us a glimpse of what luxurious vacations are all about as we  Celebrate the Re-Opening of the Ritz Paris...
Celebrating the Re-opening of the Ritz Paris - You May Be Wandering blog

Take a peak at this iconic hotel and I guarantee you will be saving your pennies for a dream trip to Paris!

To complete your dream trip while you are in Paris, why not hop over to the heart of Provence and stay at the La Bastide de Marie...
Provence - You May Be Wandering blog

Sandy shared some incredible photos of the region and took us around the charming hotel.  I dare you to not imagine yourself sipping wine at one of the outdoor tables on the property.  Seriously, if I could jump through my computer into those photos, I would!

And back to the U.S. where Julie from Julie's Creative Lifestyle spent the day at a get together in the Union Square section of New York City...
Union Square NYC - Julie's Creative Lifestyle blog

This area of the city is known for an abundance of shopping and restaurants.  How nice to be that close that she gets to enjoy it once a month with her group.  

Grantham Lynn from The Journey Back gave us a taste of her hometown, Fort Worth, Texas...
Forth Worth - The Journey Back blog
The Journey Back - Fort Worth Attractions

She captured some wonderful shots of the animals in the Fort Worth Zoo and her photos of her precious grandson will warm your heart.

Once again, thank you to all who joined in this month.  Your travels and stories are so inspiring and I am sure you motivate many readers to book their next vacations!

Remember to join us next Friday, August 5th 
for the next Take Me Away party!

July 26, 2016

Thinking Organization

We've been back and forth to the beach all summer so I haven't had the time to get any decorating projects done in my house.  I feel like the laundry is the only thing I have accomplished lately!

Well, that and maybe cleaning some closets and junk areas of the basement...hardly blog worthy!  The closet in my office is one area that has really gotten out of control.
Closet in Home Office
It's actually at the point where I fear for my life every time I slide open that door!

So, today I thought I would do a round-up of some organization projects of the past.  (Please click the title below each photo to take you to the full story.)  Who knows, maybe I will motivate myself to tackle that office closet before I get a head injury!

While we are on the subject of closets...
Master Closet Organization

One thing I learned from cleaning my master closet was how important it is to clear out everything first!  That's not what you wanted to hear, is it?  Believe me, it really makes a huge difference!

And although my master closet organization took forever, the small closet in the back hall wasn't too much of a challenge....
Simple Closet Organization

The garage was another quick project...
Garage Organization

Although, I don't think it still looks this neat.  Guess I have to add that one back on my list!

But my kitchen cabinets and pantry have stayed very organized since the day I arranged them!
Storage Bins in the Kitchen

I guess it helps that I am in the kitchen practically all day!

Sometimes just conquering one space at a time can motivate you to do more.  I hope this little round-up helped you to tackle an area you have been neglecting!

Okay, so that was enough stalling -  I better get back to my projects.  It's not like I will be spending much time outside with these sizzling temperatures anyway!  Not that I am complaining...I love summer!

What are you organizing these days?
Organizing One Space at a Time - Sometimes conquering a small project can get you motivated to do more!

Linking to: