Stopping to See America

With celebrating July 4th just a couple days ago, the day we set aside to honor the official birth of our country, today I’m thinking about things that families can do that celebrate that American spirit. Summer is a great time to really dive into all things American, but the ideas behind these activities can be applied to other countries as well, should you be doing some extensive traveling this summer as a family.

Visiting the national parks and monuments are a great way to get to know the country and experience some of the things that make it what it is. There’s so much diversity, both of places and people, that you can experience by adding into your travel plans some stops at national parks, and with over 500 places to check out, there’s something for everyone and just about everywhere.

Another great way to experience America is to stop and any of the flea markets that pop up during especially the summer months, but also into the early autumn months. Yes, most of them have the typical crafts and creations, but they also have people selling things that aren’t so ordinary like parts and pieces that show history and are examples of the incredible skill that people past and present have.

I also always love stopping in at local farmer’s markets and farm stands as we drive along. Yes, the crops are pretty much the same wherever you go, but you will find some regional differences and specialties, and the biggest reason to stop is the fact that you’re getting fresh food straight from the source. It also helps to reinforce to the kids where the food comes from and many markets also have pick-your-own opportunities that can extend your visit there as well and give the kids a chance to be hands on in ways they may never have before. (Local Harvest is one way to find farmer’s markets near you)

And of course the recommendation from any foodie you speak to is to ask the locals where to eat when you stop in a new location. Their restaurant and food recommendations give you a look at some regional specialties and things you may have never had before, as well as give you a much better chance of the food being fresh, tasty and well made than if you just pick any place to stop.

What are your favorite ways to experience the people and places of America?

A Summer of Victories

We’ve arrived at the weekend of the unofficial arrival of summer, Memorial Day weekend. As I was thinking about the next few months and what we could do with them and the hopefully great, warm weather we’re going to have, I thought I’d share a few ideas for what you can do with your family and your partner to make the most of these next few months.

One of my favorite things about the summer is all the fresh, local healthy food. Not only is it great to eat more of the fruits and vegetables that are so good for us, it’s also great to be able to support local farmers. It’s also a great opportunity to talk with the men and women who grow the food and get their recommendations on how to eat and prepare foods that you may have struggled with in the past.

It’s also a great opportunity with the better weather to be able to get out and go places. Everyone loves to travel during the summer, so why don’t you introduce the kids to some of the places and things you did when you were their age? You’ll be able to show them some of the places you’ve talked about and do different things than may be what you typically do for vacation.

Or, why don’t you finally conquer that to-do list? Get your finances from the first 5 months of the year in order for tax time next year. Move your investments to the other organization you’ve been wanting to switch to. Get signed up for that class you’ve wanted to take. Start working with that fitness trainer. Clean out and organize your basement, attic and closets. It may not be the most restful summer, but it will leave you satisfied at the end.

Finally, if you’re someone who’s always on the go, summer is an important opportunity to slow things down, take time for you, work on renewing and rejuvenating and rediscovering who you are and what you want to do with your future.  Don’t feel guilty with not being on the go all the time.

What will you do with this summer?

Ready to Relax

I don’t know about you, but my schedule changes over the summer, and I try to move my days off to those that are nice and sunny whenever possible so that I take advantage of all the wonderful fresh air and summer sunshine! I have always made a point of taking time each week to relax and not do work on my computer or meet with clients so that I can have time to regain my perspective and remember that all the work I’m doing is for the goal of being able to enjoy life more. After all, what’s the point of doing all the work if it isn’t to have time to enjoy the fruits of your labor?

I don’t believe that resting and days off are a waste of time. We aren’t machines built to run 365 days a year 24 hours a day (and even machines have down time because of issues, repairs or overheating concerns). We’re humans designed to sleep every night, but sleep is only a small part of the resting and recharging we need, we need showers and food and friendly conversations that have nothing to do with how we make money or how we’re making a difference in the world.

I’ve never felt that taking an afternoon off to enjoy nature or go on a hike, have a picnic, or read a book is a waste of time because I always feel better, more grounded and more productive after I’ve had that quiet time. There’s something special about nature that all too often we don’t take advantage of. So this summer I encourage you to make sure to take time with your family and by yourself to get out there and enjoy what’s all around us. Take a day to go out into the country and see what you don’t usually see when you’re riding the highways to and from work, go to a National Park and see what your taxes are caring for, and get some perspective on how much bigger life is than what you see in your daily journey.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.” John Lubbock

Shining Bright

One of the things I remember most about my childhood was all the traveling we did and the beautiful places I was fortunate enough to see.  While we never left US soil, what I saw opened my eyes to the people and places that live around the world.  It’s probably one reason I love learning about culture and helping families and businesses establish healthier cultures.

One part of life, culture and history that never ceases to amaze me are lighthouses.  They’re these beautiful works of art, creations of man in a time when technology wasn’t what we have today yet they knew they needed the presence, and so they made it happen.  They’re very symbolic and practical at the same time.   I’m so intrigued by them that I share one from around the world each week on Google+.

So what’s the point of talking about lighthouses and what do they have to do with families?

1-they’re an important part of history.  Many lives would have been lost if not for the light of lighthouses.  In history we do often just focus on the battles and the death, but history only exists because people lived and worked, not because they died.

2-they represent safety, something that it’s essential for a child to learn, a family to create, and a relationship to sustain.  Despite our immersion in change and fast things, we still seek safety.  It’s part of who we are and not something we should ever try to leave behind, even though we need change in our lives.

3-they symbolically shine a light in the dark places.  You probably don’t have to go far to uncover some darkness in the world, whether it’s child prostitution, murder, stealing or hate speech.  As parents you’re not responsible to shelter your kids from every bad thing in this world, but rather to help them understand what they’re seeing when the light shines on the darkness.

Just like the lighthouses we’ve got the ability to shine brightly into the lives and hearts of others.  We can share our perspective with them helping to open their perspective and expose them to the amazing things that happen in the past and present.  What parts of history and culture amaze you?

Magic Museums

It’s quite hot here in New Jersey today (yay!), which reminds me of those long summer days when kids don’t want to go outside but you’re tired of being stuck in the house for a week.  So I though I’d share a few museums around the USA that you could visit instead of being stuck inside.

Museums for everyone:

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland There’s nothing like some fabulous art to keep your kids entertained.  From Egypt to Rome, Eurpoe to the Americas, they’ve got a little bit of everything.

Smithsonian Museums, Washington, DC.  Here you’ve got 19 museums, including a zoo, for you to choose from!  With art, history, air/space travel, and animals to choose from, you’ll keep your kids busy for days!

Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington.  Not only do they have a great selection of art, you can also sign up for art classes there as well!

Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York This is a great way to share a little history and fun for your fashion fanatic kids.  With fashions from the 18th century through today, you’re sure to find something interesting.

National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee.  With exhibits and classes, you can share with your kids this pvitoal movement in the US’s history.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, Cleveland, Ohio Who doesn’t love music?!  This fabulous museum is a great way to entertain your kids and see some of the musical history you’ve grown up with.

Getty Centers, California.  Arts and ancient cultures abound here, there’s no shortage of things to see.  Also, with two locations, you can plan two trips!

Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.  This museum complete with lots of art and sculpture, includes works that hadn’t been seen to the public before 1962.

Just for kids:

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indiana This awesome 5 story museum has over 120,000 things to entertain your kids!  With fun earth, science, dinosaurs, and health exhibits, there’s lots to see!

Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas.  For an epic adventure visit this cool museum with lots of fun building, discovering, creating and exploring things!

EdVenture Children’s Museum, Columbia, South Carolina From butterflies to birthday parties, the human body and seasonal exhibits, there’s plenty to see and do.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix, ArizonaArts, crafts, books, building, deserts and lots more fun, this museum will entertain your kids for hours!

Where are you headed this summer?

Great Outdoors-Historic Places

Today we’re finishing up our look at some of the USA’s best national treasures and historic parks with a look at four of the most historical sites.  Each and every site that has been placed into the National Park Service has it’s own, very important history and has played an important role in the development of the USA.  You may have parks that stand out to you historically more than the group I’ll be mentioning today, and I’d love to hear your stories and memories about those parks.

New Orleans Jazz

We start our tour today off in Louisiana at the birthplace of Jazz.  Music is sacred and central to many cultures and countries, including the USA.  Jazz brought new life to many aspects of American culture, and helped transform some of the older cultural aspects into ones that embrace that America is a land of the free.  If you’d like to experience live concerts and step back in time to the late 1800’s, New Orleans is the place for you.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

These two American treasures are located right next to NYC and represent hope, friendship and a new life that many have found in the USA since it’s beginnings in the 1400’s.  I think there’s something about this location and all the people that came through here, lived here and even died here that has added to the interest and history of this place.  It isn’t just the location of a president or one individual, but rather millions of stories and lives.  You can check out the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and be part of the story too.


This location is known as the turning point of the Civil War, and a point that was the beginning of reuniting a country.  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is a location of soldiers, stories, death, war, sadness and hope.  It was pivotal in bringing back together the “United” States of America.  It’s a place that represents leaving the past behind and moving on to the future, something we’re doing as a world currently.  You can visit Gettysburg with it’s historical battlefields, ghost legends and discover for yourself why Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address.

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell

“All men created equal” this historic spot proclaims.   Visiting Independence and the Liberty Bell are a great reminder of the foundation of a country and the impressive ideals that men set up for her.  At times we’ve failed, as do people in their own lives, and we have much work to do if we’re to attain those goals.  But Philidephia, Pennsylvania is a reminder of the hopes and dreams that the Founding Fathers had for our country, and the example they hoped they, and we, could set for the rest of the world.  They should serve as a reminder and inspiration for us today as we chart our own course for the future.

We’ve been all across the USA this month, to places of beauty, romance, water and history.  Now it’s your turn, what are your favorite places across the US?

Great Outdoors-Ready for Romance

Last week we started our USA National Parks tour with some super scenic ideas.  This week we’re stopping at some of the most romantic national parks throughout the USA.

Rocky Mountain National Park:
If you’re looking for romance and fun, the beautiful vistas of the Colorado Rocky Mountain will certainly inspire some special moments. Take long walks, hike to quiet places, and take in the stars.  You can learn more at the national park website.

Virgin Islands National Park
What’s better than an island for romance?  This group of islands boasts beaches, hills and reefs, fun for all types!  Action, tranquility, seclusion, shopping and beaches, what more could you want?  Learn more about your next island getaway here.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
If you’re up for a little adventure, there are camping, horseback riding and other fun activities to do in the California Santa Monica Mountains.  There are also some great little historic spots and ranches you can tour.   It’s also recommended to watch the sunset here. Start to plan your trip here.

Oxon Cove Park, Maryland
It may not be your first thought, but try taking a scenic wagon ride.  It’s an opportunity to not just see the sights, and relax while seeing them, it’s also a chance for you to talk together.  You can also get the inside scoop on a farm or take a short walk through the woods.  Learn more about the romantic, and family fun, activities here.

Padre Island National Seashore
Try something new and go birding at Padre Island.  It’s a beautiful stretch of beach where you can see turtles, relax and take long romantic walks.  This Texas hotspot is definitely one I want to check out.  You can learn more here.

Haleakala National Park
Last but not least, our romantic tour takes us to one of the most romantic locations in the world-Hawaii.  Haleakala is slightly less well known than other Hawaiian spots, so you might be able to beat the crowds.  Here you can visit volcanoes or the 7 sacred pools with beautiful waterfalls.  A cabin to stay in completes the experience.

What are your favorite and most romantic USA park spots?  Share your memories below.

Great Outdoors-Looking Good!

This month we’re going to be spending most Fridays taking a tour of the USA and a couple of dream destinations and celebrating Great Outdoors Month.  Today, we’re going to take a look at some places those of you who enjoy taking tons of pictures would like.

Joshua Tree

This beautiful park nestled in California has 12 trails you can hike to get lots of great pictures, view the desert plants and get to know this Dr. Seuss like tree.  If you want more Joshua Tree, you can even camp overnight in the park.  You can learn more, and plan your trip, here.


This park on the coastal edge of Maine is filled with amazing plants, animals and scenery.  While you’re here taking pictures you can also do some hiking and biking along the trails.  Don’t forget to visit the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse while you’re there!  You can learn more, and see alerts about closed areas, here.


This wild and crazy park found throughout Florida  is home to mangrove trees, alligators and lots of birds. While you can do boating, there are plenty of trails for those who are suspicious of those living in the water.  You can learn more here.


Arches National Park is found in Utah, and is a crazy collection of rocks that has been created into arches by nature.  You can hike around the arches, see Wolfe cabin, and capture the sunset as it colors the arches.  You can learn more here.


This park is more like 3 parks in one.  There is an ocean coast, mountains and lush forest for you to explore and capture on video or film. Located in Washington, this park’s ancient forests, cool tidepools and wildflowers will have you busy for hours!  You can plan your trip here.


I think one of the most fascinating parks is Redwood simply for the size of nature here.  This park in California is the only place we can view these enormous trees.  Don’t worry, there are also streams, woodlands, prairies and animals to check out here too!   If you’d like to learn more, visit here.


Last but not least today we look at Yellowstone.  This park has parts in 3 states, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and is filled with geysers, animals, trees, and luscious landscapes. It’s rich heritage and history are evident throughout the park’s lodges and cabins as well as on the trails.  Start planning your trip here.

Have you visited any of these locations?  Which was your favorite?

Organize Your Summer

For most of you summer has arrived.  Maybe it’s arrived in the form of children being home with you, or maybe in the form of a shorter morning commute.  I know the big sign for me is the warm weather!  What are your plans for the summer?  Do you have big extravagant plans or are you planning on relaxing?  Whatever your plan is, it will work better with a little organization!  Get out your notebook, weekly planner, wall calendar or a sheet of paper and get ready to plan!

Plan the week ahead, whether it means making sure you’ve got enough watermelon to snack on and lettuce for salads or fish, beef or chicken for grilling.  Organize your trip to the food stores in one afternoon, freeing up the rest of your week.

Family time:
Summer is when you spend a ton of time with the family.  Schedule time that you will all be together, a weekly trip or activity to do and what will be required of each of you for that trip (share the responsibilities).

Absolutely!  You should definitely take a vacation.  Whether it’s a trip to the beach and you stay overnight with friends or a big trip to another part of the country or world.  It’s important to take time to get away, unplugging if you possibly can.

Don’t run away yet, learning can be fun!  Read books of all kinds, learn about all kinds of people, and visit museums or national parks.  It doesn’t have to be boring, there are tons of fun ways to learn and grow your mind, you just have to be smart and creative about where you go!

A lazy summer is not the best idea.  Get outside for at least an hour a day.  Maybe it’s an early morning/evening walk, a 30 minute lap-swim at the pool, or a hike each day.

Most kids and parents will freak out if I suggest that you shouldn’t watch TV.  TV, just like all the other activities we’re scheduling into our summer weeks here is fine in moderation.  As usual, the recommendation for not watching news and picking something to watch that actually engages your mind and emotions, stands.

Clean up:
Just because it’s summer it doesn’t mean we are letting go of our responsibilities.  Spend a little bit of time cleaning and organizing each day with the kids.  A great time would be before bed or before dinner, depending on what your schedule is like, so that the whole house is picked up before the kids even get in bed!

Relaxing/alone time:
You must take time to be alone this summer.  With all the family time, it’s important to be insist upon everyone having quiet and alone time each and every day.  Maybe it’s 30 minutes of quiet time reading before bed, or mid-afternoon with the option to either play quietly or read.  Don’t plan your schedule so full that you don’t have any time to take advantage of the slow summer days.

Time with friends:
Don’t neglect your friendships this summer!  It may be a bit harder because everyone’s schedule is different, but do what you can to talk and spend time with friends.  Maybe coordinate with a couple other families to do a rotating kid day where one family gets all the kids one afternoon or morning each week.

With all of these great ideas, make sure you have a schedule that the whole family can see and agree to.  Adding a little structure and organization to your summer will help you have lots of fun, and keep the “b” word from coming out of your kid’s mouths.  What are your thoughts and plans for your family each day this summer?

Apple Picking Family Style

What better activity to do in the fall as a family than go apple picking!   You can watch your kids run up and down the paths around the apple trees, drink some cider together and eat yummy fresh apples.  Going apple picking is great for all ages too.  Let’s take a look at 4 great reasons to go apple picking this fall with your family.

Apple picking is an easy way to get some exercise and be outside.  Whether you’re an outdoor family or not, apple picking is an easy way to get the whole family together for some outdoor exercise.  It’s not too much, though, that you wouldn’t be able to do it with some of the youngest and oldest members of your family.

By going to the orchard to pick your own apples, each family member has a choice of what apple they want to pick.  No fighting in the supermarket, instead you can all pick what you want!  It’s also a great opportunity to try new flavors of apples you haven’t had before.

Orchards are relatively close to most people, so we’re not talking about a big time commitment or big expense.  You can visit the orchard for part of a Saturday or Sunday and still have time leftover to do things like homework and housework later that afternoon, or earlier in the morning.  As far as cost goes, some PYO (pick your own) farms charge as little as $0.60 per pound.

Visiting the apple orchard is fun!  It’s not a traditional activity for most families, unless you’ve grown up on or very near a farm.  It’s a great opportunity to show kids where the apples really come from and to give them the experience of picking their own food.  The fun can continue once you get home (or in the car) eating what you’ve picked and baking lots of great snacks and desserts.

Two great resources for apple picking are the Pick Your Own website and Local Harvest website.

Share your apple picking memories with your family, and orchards you love to visit below!