One of my goals when I stopped teaching full-time was to make sure I contributed more to society. I have volunteered for several places (Read Aloud Delaware, Creative Mentoring, Wesley UMC, Smyrna Elementary, Food Bank of Delaware) and adopted 4 kids for the Christmas season -- but I always want to do a little bit more. I believe that "to whom much is given, much is expected". I have been blessed with a lot and it's my responsibility to give back however I can.
When I learned that we could partner our Girls Night Out event with a charity, I was sold. Since taking over on December 1st, I am in the process of planning our first GNO event (scheduled for January 30 at The Greene Turtle - hint, hint). When choosing a charity to represent this month, I decided we would start with Code Purple - Kent County because they are in need now (the coldest months) and the staff is full of great people who are trying to help those in our own neighborhoods.
I will have a full list of items to be donated, but start looking to load up on socks, scarves, mittens, gloves, and hats when you are out shopping. You can bring them to our event to be donated to the Code Purple rep who will be attending.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. It's been a week (month) of stress, fun, excitement, and smiles. But seriously, massive amounts of stress. It takes a lot to make magic for your kids. Santa and the elves can't do it alone. This year, the hubby decided to book a little getaway during the winter break so we could all decompress from the lead-up to Christmas.
BACKSTORY: I've been going to Maine almost every summer for 43 years. My grandparents honeymooned in a little town called Naples back in the early 1940s. I cannot even imagine that ride up here from Delaware back then -- but they loved it so much they continued to bring their 3 daughters (my mom being one of them) up every year to the same town. When my mom and my aunts had their own families, they brought us up too. Every August we would all be hanging out on Long Lake and eating lobster dinners. Some of my best memories include that place. Now my husband and I come up each summer with our kids. Give or take a few years when I was in my 20s, and I have been coming up here for 4 decades.
Every year I say, "I wish I could see New England in winter. One day we'll get up there." This year, my husband made it happen. He secretly booked us a few days at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway, NH. North Conway is one of my favorite day-trips from our cabin in Naples. Over the years I discovered that I like the mountains and lakes more than the ocean. Instead of always going east for the day to Kennebunkport or Camden or Portland, we started going more into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Heading up there in the winter was a magical idea. Even though we aren't skiiers, this was the perfect winter getaway for us. Even more perfect? The resort is totally kid-oriented, with an indoor water park and lots of family-friendly activities. They also have several bars right down the hall from us. Winner, winner!
It takes a while to get up here to this area from Dover. We decided to do the ride up in 2 days. We left around 9am and got to Mystic, CT at 3:30pm. The traffic from the George Washington Bridge to New Haven, CT was horrendous. Horrendous. I hate to say it, but my kids probably heard a few more curse words than they should have. We finally got there, checked into our hotel, and headed out to dinner. Since most places don't open until 5pm, we took a little detour to see the town of Stonington. Oh. My. Gosh.
I always refer to places as "Hallmark-worthy". This town was definitely Hallmark-worthy. It had the houses built in the mid-1800s. It had the cute shops. It had an old library. It had the pretty white church. It had hidden-away restaurants. At the end of Main Street was a place to park and look out over the water. Stonington, Connecticut was adorable.
After spending the night in Mystic, we got up the next day and made it to North Conway in about 4 hours. We did stop in Naples to check out the frozen lake. It was solid ice except for a few areas where the water was still swirling around. There were skaters out in the middle of the lake...not something I felt brave enough to try.
We then drove another 45 minutes west to North Conway. Our hotel was on the main street, but up on a hill overlooking the town. Our third floor room was perfect. The view? Like nothing we have in Delaware, that's for sure.
We immediately went to the indoor water park. It was time to let off some steam. Besides being 100 degrees in there, it was really cool (get what I did there???). There were 4 slides, a wave pool, a water basketball area, splash pads, and areas for little ones. I decided to let go of my normally self-conscious ways and go down the slides. I had way too much fun. It was nice to just enjoy life and be a kid again.
The hubby also booked me a two-hour massage with a local masseuse. I went down the street and had the MOST. AMAZING. TWO. HOURS. EVER. It was also cool because it was snowing....so it was cold and snowy outside while I was enjoying a deep tissue rub with hot stones inside of an old Victorian house. The massage place was upstairs while the cutest bakery ever was downstairs. Can I say, Hallmark-worthy?????
Definitely check out some of these New England towns. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.
One of my "jobs" as the Social Media and Event Coordinator for Delaware HITC is to host monthly networking socials. Since a lot of our new ladies haven't (yet) attended a GNO, I thought maybe it was a good idea to share what will be happening at our January 30th event.
This month we will be meeting at The Greene Turtle in Dover from 5:30-8:30. Tickets are free, but we ask that you sign up through Eventbrite on Facebook so we have a head-count. While I would love to pay for everyone's food and drinks, that part is on you. The Greene Turtle has a great menu that everyone can find something to enjoy. Since the HITC organization is focused on helping women connect with others, both socially and professionally, we'll have name tags and a few fun ways to get to know each other. Bring business cards if you have them! If not, just bring yourself!
I have also been in touch with a local charity - to officially be named soon - who will collect donations that evening. Stay tuned to find out how you can help.
My hope is that this re-launch/kickoff brings together a group of women who will continuously support each other, our community, and our local businesses. The GNO event is monthly -- meaning we can plan once a month to get together and enjoy each other's company.
So come join us and meet all of the wonderful people (men are invited too) who make up this great area. And trust me....I am not going to allow you to be bored!!!!
A few years ago, we started another tradition. I finally made my dream come true of attending a service at the Washington National Cathedral in DC. Ever since I first visited back when I was in middle school, I have loved that place. The gargoyles, the hidden-away chapels, the stone walls, the haunting quietness, the stained glass....it was all so peaceful. I dreamed of getting married there. Of course, that didn't happen. But I can go to church services there -- and that's exactly what we do. For the past few years, we have attended the Christmas service on December 23.
The hubby and I first went a few years ago without the kids. We weren't sure what to expect, so we decided to leave P and T with Mom Mom Brenda while we checked it out. A few minutes into the service we said, "We're bringing the kids next year." It was something everyone can enjoy and appreciate.
Tickets for the service go on sale in early November. The price is nominal ($5 each, I think), but they need to know how many people are attending so there are enough seats. This scared me at first, because I am not a huge fan of crowds. However, it is pretty easy once you get there.
Before the 6pm service, we go to a Mexican restaurant, Cactus Cantina, a few blocks away because it is really the only place nearby to eat that we all like. It's probably taboo to admit it, but I do have a margarita there. It's always packed and is a great place to people-watch. There are always families and couples and city people celebrating the season.
Around 5:15pm we head over to the church. Rain, snow, or 50mph winds, we have to line up outside and wait until the doors open at 6pm. This is usually the hardest part of the day because it can be very cold out there. Plus, you have to make sure you aren't too far back in the line so you can choose your seat. The first year, the hubby and I sat in the main part of the church. After that, we tried the balcony -- and we've never looked back,
The balcony is THE most beautiful place to sit and watch the entire service (sssshhhhh, don't tell anyone).
Not only can you see everything that is happening, it also makes for a beautiful scene when everyone sings "Silent Night" while holding candles. It truly is a moment when you feel at peace and blessed.
People always ask, "Why do you have to go to DC for a church service?" Honestly, I think it is all part of the experience. Yes, we do the Christmas Eve service at our own church but there is something about being in this amazing Gothic cathedral where the most influential people of the world have attended. Just a few weeks ago, every living president and vice president sat in the front rows for George H.W. Bush's funeral. The fact that my family and I can actually attend a service there, too? Priceless.
Life is about making memories. These two experiences, while vastly different, are two traditions my children will remember for a lifetime.
Yes, it is really true....Christmas Day is only 10 days away. I still love the magic of the season, but now that I am a parent, it's a tad more stressful -- because now I am the one who is MAKING the magic in our home. But it's worth it when you see your kids loving it all.
We have created some traditions with our little family that P and T look forward to every year. Sometimes we can do all of them, and sometimes we have to leave a few out depending on our schedule.
Part I - CHRISTMAS IN PHILLY
Since we're only an hour from the City of Brotherly Love, we often make the trek up for different events. We usually go to the Thanksgiving Day Parade (unless it's 18 degrees out, like it was this year). We love Phillies games. Sometimes the hubby and I do Date Night up there. But we always pick an evening right before Christmas to go up and see the "real" Santa with the kids.
You know how you suddenly get that FEELING of Christmas? It seeps into your soul and (almost) every moment you just emanate Christmas Spirit? I usually get that about a week before the big day and I get it because of our evening in Philly. We go during the week so that it is A LOT less crowded.
Armed with a car-friendly snack, we pick the kids up from school and start the drive up to Philly. Sometimes the traffic is a bit hairy, but often we can make it by 4:45. If we are lucky, we will park in a lot directly in front of Macy's on Market Street. We then walk a few blocks down to the Hard Rock Cafe for an early dinner. Although it's not my favorite place, we chose it back when P was little because it was loud enough to mask her screams/whining if she got fussy. Now it is a tradition. Besides, their mac n cheese is top-notch -- and I don't even like mac n cheese.
Once dinner is over, we head to Macy's for the Light Show and Dickens' Village. On the weekends, the attraction is packed (I've seen the pictures). So far we've been really lucky. Some years are more crowded than others, but we have NEVER had to wait in a line until we get to Santa -- and even that line is only 3-5 minutes.
The Dickens Village is amazing. It depicts the classic story of Scrooge with a 6,000 square foot vintage animatronic display. You can leisurely stroll through looking at scenes of Ebeneezer, Tiny Tim's family, and the three ghosts. The details are impressive.
Once Scrooge becomes a changed man, visitors come face-to-face with Santa's helpers. Those who wish to speak to the big man get in line; others can proceed through to the - surprise, surprise - gift shop. Every year they hand out a pin to commemorate your visit. We now have 12 pins (somewhere).
My kids always believed that this is the only "real" Santa. The others in the malls are just his helpers.
As you can see, P is thrilled. HOWEVER, she won't take a chance and NOT sit with him. Let's see how it goes this year now that she is 12. T, who we call "Buddy the Elf", will probably still visit Santa when he's in his 60s. He loves Christmas.
Once we leave Santa, we find a spot on the main floor to watch the light show. Narrated by Julie Andrews, this is when I am completely into Christmas. At the end of the show, the organ plays and the entire wall of lights (more than 100,000 of them) light up to show all of the Christmas stories.
It is THAT MOMENT when I am ready for Christmas.
Part II - A CATHEDRAL CHRISTMAS (coming tomorrow)
I am excited to be the new Social Media and Event Coordinator for the Delaware chapter of HITC. Everything about this position excites me: blogging, social media, connecting with women, visiting local businesses, and helping charities. As a lifelong Delaware resident, this small state has a very special place in my heart. While traveling to new places is one of my passions, I am always happy to come back home to the charm and peacefulness of Delaware.
Because I am terrible at talking about myself, I decided to answer a few questions that will hopefully help you know me better....and feel free to ask anything you want! I am an open book.
1. What was the best vacation you ever took? My daughter and I just took a trip to London and Paris in June, thanks to the hubby. We had an AMAZING time. I'll admit, I was scared to death to travel to two different countries with just the two of us -- but we did it! Now I am looking to go to Ireland and Switzerland. Bucket list items!!!
2. What are your hobbies? I have played tennis since I was 13. I don't get to play as much as I want to, but it's one of my absolutely favorite things to do. I was rated pretty highly once upon a time. I took a break to have kids and am now only one level lower than I was before. My goal for 2019 is to move back up...and to not tear another achilles! I also read a lot. My "dream" is to write a novel, but that hasn't happened. Instead, I read tons of chick-lit. It allows me to escape everyday life.
3. Would you say you’re more of an extrovert or an introvert? A few years ago I would've said an introvert. Now, I would say I am a mix. Apparently that is called an "ambivert". I definitely prefer quieter settings, but I can acclimate pretty well to anything.
4. What is your definition of success? I have learned over the years that success is defined differently by everyone. I used to think it just meant you made a lot of money. To me, success is: having a healthy, happy family; a life that makes me excited to get up each day; and knowing that I gave back to others in some way.
5. If you could do anything, besides what you're doing now, what would you do? I would most definitely want to be a successful writer (think Elin Hilderbrand). I'd write chick-lit books that make women laugh and escape life for a while. I also think it would be very cool to do book tours and sign autographs. Silly? Yes. True? Totally.
6. If you could go back to anytime in history, where would you go? I love, love, love the Colonial Period. Williamsburg is one of my favorite places to visit because I can pretend I am actually living in the 1700s. Our state is steeped in colonial history, which probably sparked my interest in the era. My favorite movie is (don't laugh) "1776". Yes, the musical. I always make my family watch it on July 4th. Let's just say that they don't share my passion for the movie.
7. How can someone win a gold star with you? I am huge on punctuality, manners, and being "real". Don't be late, don't be rude, and don't tell me what you think I want to hear. That's it. Oh, and be grammatically correct. I was an English teacher, after all.
8. What’s your guilty pleasure? Bravo TV, without a doubt. I watch every episode of "Housewives", with NYC and Beverly Hills being my favorites. I also love "Vanderpump Rules", "Southern Charm", and "Flipping Out". And you will probably learn that I have a slightly unhealthy love for anything Bradley Cooper. My husband knows. It's ok.
9. Where is your happy place? Ever since I was born, I have gone to Maine for 1-2 weeks in the summer. It is where my grandparents honeymooned and then vacationed with their family, my mom and her two sisters. I continue that tradition with my own husband and kids now. We usually get a place on a lake and then take day trips to the ocean and the mountains. It is the one place where I feel completely at peace and content. The air is cleaner, cooler, and fresher. The accents are great. The lobster is cheap(er). And we are ALL TOGETHER AS A FAMILY with very few everyday distractions. I love it.
10. If you could invite 3 people, dead or alive, to a dinner party, who would they be, and why? Bradley Cooper, Adam Levine, and Chase Utley. I mean, come on. Just me and three gorgeous guys at a dinner party??? What's there to explain? I know I should say something like Ghandi and Mother Teresa....but I didn't.
Hi. My name is Kelley Cole and I am the new Social Media and Event Coordinator for Delaware Housewives in the City. I am a mom to two amazing kids. My daughter (P) is 12 and my son (T) is 8. My husband works for a local education association and also serves on Dover's City Council. I was a high school English teacher for 16 years before leaving the classroom to work part-time as a trainer for an educational software company. I make sure I reserve time to play tennis, read chick lit, travel, and enjoy the small things in life (like wine and chocolate).