Vacation & Travel

Camp Mighty Pictures: Space Party! by Leslie Fandrich

The Space Party, where chic meets geek. I LOVED how many pink and blue wigs there were and amazingly, once I found the Higgs Boson girl I started seeing Dark Matter Sarah everywhere. It was so weird. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of the best costume of the night. Pluto showed up with her therapist and she was a crying mess all night. Poor thing, it sucks to get demoted. This year was so fun, check out all these amazing sparkly outfits and costumes!


Be sure to check out the rest of my fun pictures starting here on Flickr and there are some super awesome shots at Smilebooth too. 


Camp Mighty Pictures: Friday Afternoon by Leslie Fandrich

Last week I showed you Friday morning at Camp Mighty. The rest of Friday was filled with more creative inspiration and practical advice. Margaret Stewart was up next, illuminating us on the reasons why we create. 

Margaret Stewart, Director of Product Design at Facebook

Margaret Stewart, Director of Product Design at Facebook

Margaret's talk was titled, "How I Hurt Myself Knitting." On a flight home from London, she stayed up the entire flight knitting and developed a serious injury in her arm. Her doctor told her knitting injuries are common. Who knew knitting was dangerous? She began to wonder why she was compelled to knit tiny sweaters for her friends with new babies when she could have easily bought something. So she asked twitter, "Why do you make things?" She got a lot of great answers but very simply, we create things for ourselves and we create things for others. We create to hold in our hands the things that we dream. We create because it's fun. Creating gives us a sense of purpose. We create to please others and to show that we care. 

She segued into creating successful platforms on the internet to enable other people's creativity and invite participation like YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook. These sites are open ended and have no story or script. The user gets to decide and tell their own story. These are designs that empower people and amplify other's voices. It's about the people who use it and the power is in the aggrigate view. Margaret played the trailer for the YouTube, crowd-sourced movie Life in A Day, have you seen it? I watched on the plane home from last year's Camp Mighty and it was awe inspiring. It re-enforces the concept that the individual matters, YOU matter, you will be heard and all together we can create a compelling picture.

So, Margaret would like to know, what are you going to make? She told us to find and defend our time to make things. Makers Gonna Make and we ARE what we make.

Jordan Ferney's mother has this great quote on her fridge, "The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want in the moment."

Jordan Ferney's mother has this great quote on her fridge, "The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want in the moment."

Jordan FerneyJihan Zencirli and Philippa Hughes took the stage together to give brief talks about how they made their creative businesses happen. I regret not getting any pictures of Philippa from the Pink Line Project, I was too mesmerized by her story about transforming Washington, DC with art events to pick up my camera. The biggest message I got here is that there is no formula, each person's path to creative entrepreneurship is unique. However, two things these ladies have in common is PASSION and doing BIG things. Figure out what you love and just go for it. Find a need and fill it. Be Bold. Be Focused. Keep your eye on the big picture.

Jihan Zencirli is full of creative energy and enthusiasm, even while walking her dog.

Jihan Zencirli is full of creative energy and enthusiasm, even while walking her dog.

Brittany Gibbons is hilarious. I think she is giving the hand to that voice in your head that says you are not pretty, or worthy of pretty clothes.

Brittany Gibbons is hilarious. I think she is giving the hand to that voice in your head that says you are not pretty, or worthy of pretty clothes.

Brittany Gibbons in partnership with Lands' End talked about positive body imaging and dressing well for your figure no matter what size you are, Natalie Bowman from Bing talked about growing brands with social media and Susan Peterson and Alison Faulkner lead the group in a craft project from their new digital book, A Hip Handmade Holiday.

I love these ladies! They are seriously awesome. Plus, Alison told me I looked famous, so I will love her forever and ever.

I love these ladies! They are seriously awesome. Plus, Alison told me I looked famous, so I will love her forever and ever.

That's  Nathan ,  Holly ,  Heather ,  Brittany  and  Heather  lounging by the pool.

That's Nathan, Holly, Heather, Brittany and Heather lounging by the pool.

The day ended with a beautiful sunset and relaxing by the pool. Some of the best moments at Camp happen in between all the things we are learning and doing. The spontaneous conversations and friendly talks are what make Camp so special. It's a small, intimate group and so you usually have time to really get to know people.


Check out Flickr to see the complete set of pictures. Tomorrow I'm going to show you pictures from the Space party! There were some super amazing costumes, dancing all night and of course, Smilebooth!

Camp Mighty Pictures: Friday Morning by Leslie Fandrich

I took a lot of pictures and I've edited only a quarter of them! Here's the first set from Friday morning. We had breakfast, heard speakers Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl and Derreck Kayongo of the Global Soap Project and got a personalized gift from Bing and Wantist. It was a kick-ass, inspiring morning.

Jordan Ferney , mystery women and  Jihan Zencirli  walking to breakfast by the  Ace Hotel  Pool.

Jordan Ferney, mystery women and Jihan Zencirli walking to breakfast by the Ace Hotel Pool.

Melanie  and  Sheri  looking fabulous.

Melanie and Sheri looking fabulous.

Amber  and  Lindsay  are super fine.

Amber and Lindsay are super fine.

The beautiful  Daffodil .

The beautiful Daffodil.

An awesome collaged sign at the Ace.

An awesome collaged sign at the Ace.

Nicole Balch from  Making it Lovely .

Nicole Balch from Making it Lovely.

Maggie sharing her tips on achieving Life List goals.

Maggie sharing her tips on achieving Life List goals.

Maggie gave a talk on things she has learned over the years as she has been crossing things off her life list. It was the first time she spoke about it and much of what she said resonated with many of us. Sheri felt like Maggie was talking directly to her, and I'm sure many others did as well, me included. These were her lessons:

  1. Your Words Determine Your Happiness
  2. Action is Transformative
  3. Check Marks Don't Equal Happiness
  4. Our Opinions of Ourselves are NOT Fact
  5. Be Rigid Only if You Want to Snap
  6. My Body is a Compass
  7. It's About Who You Love and Who Loves You
  8. You Can Predict the Future

Next up was Derreck Kayongo. I noticed him at breakfast, before I knew who he was, and almost told him how much I loved his "look" but I got shy and didn't say a word. I wish I had.

Derreck Kayongo wowing us with an intense story from Uganda about his family witnessing the murder of nine men and his later success recycling soap from hotels with his  Global Soap Project .

Derreck Kayongo wowing us with an intense story from Uganda about his family witnessing the murder of nine men and his later success recycling soap from hotels with his Global Soap Project.

Derreck is an inspiration. He made us laugh, he made us cry and at the end of his talk he led us in singing an African song about peace. I hugged him afterward, to say thank you, with tears in my eyes. Here were some of his thoughts about how he achieved what he has:

  1. Pay attention to everything around you and connect the dots. You are here for a reason.
  2. The most beautiful thing in life is failure. Learn from it. Fail towards success.
  3. Never underestimate the power of ingenuity.
  4. Allow critique.
  5. Don't define yourself by your situation.
  6. Let your product be a symbol of hope, but make sure people use it!

The  Go Mighty  girls.

The Go Mighty girls.

Personalize presents for everyone selected from our Life Lists from  Bing  and  Wantist .

Personalize presents for everyone selected from our Life Lists from Bing and Wantist.

My gift.

My gift.

Holly Burns from  Nothing But Bonfires  opening a gift from Bing and Wantist.

Holly Burns from Nothing But Bonfires opening a gift from Bing and Wantist.

So many beautiful things.

So many beautiful things.

The Commune, where almost all of the events were held.

The Commune, where almost all of the events were held.

By noon on Friday I could have gone home and felt like what I had experienced was already enough, but there was more!! I was not even half way through the weekend. If you would like to see a few more pictures, check out my Flickr set. More to come.

For now, I am so thankful that I was able to go again this year, I am so thankful for inspiring, creative and amazing friends and I am so thankful for all the amazing things that people make and do. What an incredible world we live in. Have an excellent Thanksgiving. xo

Head Exploding in a Mighty Way by Leslie Fandrich

I'm back from Palm Springs and my second visit to Camp Mighty. (Here's the first) I decided to go back to keep up the momentum, continue my personal and creative growth and to see people who I know and love online but don't see in person very often. You just can't beat those face to face interactions and hugs. I also wanted to meet more amazing people and boy, did I. There is no shortage of amazing, fun, colorful and awesome people at this event.

Rocking the ACE sign, in the classic Camp Mighty portrait.

Rocking the ACE sign, in the classic Camp Mighty portrait.

This year had some significant changes that I thought made it more fun and informative. The afternoon sessions were more business oriented, focusing on creative projects, and the final dinner was family style, with everyone together in the same room at huge tables. There was the same amount of inspiration, teary moments and crazy space party shenanigans. The people that were presenting and attending were equally as amazing as last year, but this time I knew more of them before I arrived.

There were WAY less nerves and social anxiety for me and I felt so much more confident and relaxed. I also spent more time in the hot tub. It's really my favorite place at the Ace Hotel. It's always so good, warm and happy. On the final night, way past my bedtime, we saw shooting stars. It was a perfect way to end the weekend.

Smile Booth friends! Me with  Melanie ,  Jill , Elizabeth,  Sandra  and  Sheri . Here's  another one I love  .  (Also - Elizabeth? You need a blog! Your name is all naked and unlinked!)

Smile Booth friends! Me with Melanie, Jill, Elizabeth, Sandra and Sheri. Here's another one I love. (Also - Elizabeth? You need a blog! Your name is all naked and unlinked!)

I've got so much to share and I'm pretty sure I can't do it all at once or even all this week, but I promise to share the things that I learned and experienced with you soon. My first thing to tackle will be my pictures. I shot some good ones you guys. I'll be editing those and posting them on Flickr as soon as I can. And the learning, wow, we heard some good stuff. I'm going to figure out a cool way to share that too. 

Until then, have you started your life list yet? It's really time for you to do that. I'm telling you, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

If you were there, leave a comment below and tell me what you thought of the event! (Link to your blog if you've posted about it already.)

More soon. xo

Beach Vacation by Leslie

Our beach vacation in Cape Cod was a perfect end to the summer. My husband's family rented a house in the New Seabury area, between Falmouth and Hyannis. This is our second visit to the house, we were there three years ago, and our sixth Cape Cod vacation. I wouldn't have said I was beachy kind of person ten years ago, having grown up on the prairies. Vacations with my family were usually spent camping in the mountains. However, after visiting just a handful of times now, the ocean has engrained itself in my spirit. I really didn't want to leave this time. The kids loved it too. We visited the beach everyday and built sand castles, walked on the beach in the early morning and after dark, found shells and rocks, swam in the surf and dug holes. Every single part of being there was awesome.

I'm trying to figure out what the draw to the ocean is for me, how and why a prairie girl could come to love it so much. Is it the sound of the waves, the reflections of the sun and moon on the water or the massive power of all that water? It is those things, but there is something more, something almost primal about the draw of the ocean. Being near the ocean is soothing and calming as well as awe-inspiring and invigorating. It makes me want to lay still, listen and just breath and it also makes me want to jump in and swim in the waves.

At home today, with Milo off at his first day of school, Quinn and I were cuddling on the couch watching a show about the origins of life. Life began in the ocean and the blueprints for humanity were started there. We all came from the sea. I started thinking about how the ocean was like a giant womb for life and what if our wombs, that each of us grows in, are like little oceans. It's kind of amazing to me when nature echoes itself in this way. It's like close-up pictures of our eyes that resemble a massive nebula in the depths of space or patterns in nature like the ubiquitous fractal that can be seen in many different natural objects of all sizes. Each person emerges from a watery womb, just as life did originally. I wonder if the ocean pulls us to it because it's where life came from and it echoes where each person comes from. It's something to think about.

However, whatever the reason is that has caused me to fall in love with the ocean, I realized that I do love it. It's surprising and odd to me, I don't like laying out in the sun, I'm not fond of putting on sunscreen, I'm kind of freaked out by seaweed and sharks, but despite all that, I love the ocean. I love how it makes me feel.

On our last day in Cape Cod, we went down late in the afternoon, built an epic sand city, ate some watermelon and then the kids were ready to go up. I stayed alone to enjoy my last moments at the beach. I was thinking about how good it felt to not be doing anything at all. I was just laying there, listening to the waves and feeling soothed and calm. For a moment I felt bad, it occurred to me that I might be just wasting time, but I reminded myself that when we take the time to notice that we have the freedom and privilege to simply be in awe of nature, we can be truly grateful for being alive. That is not wasting time. That might be the best time I spent this whole year.

Travelling to Canada by Leslie

Yesterday was a travel day to Canada. We were up at 3 am for an 8 am flight to Calgary. The airport and flight went off without a hitch, we did long term parking and were at the airport early enough to miss the lines. The kids were great on the flight, Quinn slept for a few hours and Milo was watching the TV quietly and contentedly the whole flight. We arrived in Calgary and my sister Jill picked us up, drove us to get our rental car and then we had lunch at the Farmer's Market with her. We drove down to the historic town of Nanton, and visited the Museum of Miniatures, the Bomber Museum and an epic candy store. More on those later.

We stayed at my sister Tracy's place for the night and were the first guests in her new guest room! What an honor. The Alberta landscape is again calming my soul with wide open fields, big skies and beautiful canola crops in bloom. The header picture of my blog, with that beautiful yellow color, is a canola field. I hope to be able to capture a few new pictures today on our drive to my parent's place.

I feel like I am now a fairly good traveller with the kids, we packed light this time and each of them are big enough to carry their own backpacks. We bring a few toys, some cuddly animals, snacks and earphones that fit over their ears for the plane. Did you know that you are not allowed to wear the big earphones over your ears during take off and landing? Only the earbud style are allowed. 

We debated about bringing the stroller, as Quinn is almost old enough not to need it, but I'm glad that we had it in the airport. If he decides he doesn't want to walk, it's a nightmare if we have to carry him because he is so big. I do look forward to the day when we can bring even less! I remember the first time we packed for a trip and I swear I brought every single thing that we might possibly need. Diapers alone would take up half the suitcase. I love that things like travelling get so much easier as they get older.

Ready for Adventure by Leslie

I love everything about this image of a stamp you can buy from Ann Marie Loves Paper on Etsy (via Swiss Miss), but what spoke to me the most was the sentiment. Ready for Adventure.

A confession: I'm bored. (I feel like 10 year old me on summer vacation.) You might be surprised by this statement. Truthfully I am a little too. But after all the adventures I have been having, I just want more. I remember a time in my life when it was ALL adventures and I miss that. 

A couple of months ago I got really excited about moving again, and a lot of that excitement came from the idea of shaking up our lives a bit and embarking on a new adventure. I am not really a creature of habit, I tend to run from tradition and I dislike doing things twice. Generally, my feeling is if we can do it differently and learn something new, let's do that! Keep it interesting, fresh and fun. Find new ways to do things and different ways to live.

The problem is that this tendency can also be destructive, for people who love and find comfort in stability and the same things, for situations that you have spent time building up, for children. Adventures can be expensive; travelling, staying in new places, signing up for classes and conferences. And finally, adventures can be stressful and exhausting.

I guess the key is to find smaller adventures within the framework of an established domestic life, which I am totally doing. But I have to say that I long for a big move again, I am slightly envious of people who seem to have a freer life and who are untied to family or work responsibilities and can change things quickly. And man, do I wish I had unlimited resources to fund all my adventures.

I think I also want more adventures to happen to me without me having to plan them. Am I whining now? Sorry about that. Part of the reason that I loved living in the city was that all I had to do was walk down the street and there were surprises everywhere. There were amazing things and people to see that I had no idea I would come across. Here, upstate, the trees are beautiful but the landscape is kind of the same every single day. You have to make your own adventures, and just like how it's not as ticklish when you tickle yourself, making your own adventures sometimes isn't as fun as when they just kind of happen to you.

I really feel silly saying this at all, it's so full of privilege and ridiculousness. Again, I feel like a child whining about being bored when there are hundred toys around me to play with. But it's a real feeling and it can become a real problem if I don't say it out loud and try to solve it. 

Obviously I have to keep pushing myself creatively, I think I need to find a few new fun things to do with the kids this summer and I hope that Chris and I can find a few adventures just for ourselves as well. We have a mini vacation planned for the end of June, to stay in Brooklyn for two nights and check out Amanda Palmer's fantastic New York Kickstarter events for her new album. We also have two vacations planned with family, one with my family in Canada and one with Chris's family in Cape Cod. And while we are sort of doing the same thing for each vacation that we have done on past vacations with our respective families, I hope within each of those we can find adventures that we haven't done before. Like comfort camping in Dinosaur Park or Whale Watching in Hyannis.

I also find that just getting together with good people increases the likelihood of adventures happening. I think I should host a few get-togethers this summer. I generally shy away from hosting because it can be so much work to cook and clean, but I think if I can find a few easy ways to host a get-together, it might help. Here are some ideas for a porch party from Helen Jane. I don't need to cook a four course meal, but maybe just invite people over for snacks and drinks in the afternoon.

How do you feel about adventures? Surprises? Any tips for how I can increase my adventures without jumping on a plane to an exotic locale? 

Life List: Spa Day with my Sister by Leslie

When I set my five goals for the year at Camp Mighty, I choose an item off my life list that I hadn't intended to pursue this year. Before our big life listing lunch I had highlighted ten items that I thought I could achieve this year and I was going to select five from that list during lunch. For some reason, "Spa Weekend with my Sister" jump out at me during lunch even though it wasn't highlighted and I added it to my list of five on a whim. When I stood up to read my five items in front of the group, I started to cry as I read this item. And dammit! I didn't want to cry. I was already nervous, and now here I was sobbing in front of the group about how I missed my sister and I just wanted to spend some time alone with her, without my kids around.

It surprised me, the intensity of my emotion about it. Lisa Congdon patted me on the shoulder and Laurie White was nodding her head. People understood that feeling, of missing a sister, and I knew it was time to make an effort to spend some time with Jill. When I called her after Camp Mighty I told her that I wanted to go to Iceland with her. She says I said Japan. She's probably right. To spend a week alone with her exploring a foreign country would be awesome! But also totally unrealistic. I knew that, but I wanted her to know that if we had all the money and time in the world, that is what we would be doing.

We talked and decided that it would be more realistic to plan a day at a spa, either here in New York when she visited us, or there, in Calgary when we visited them. When my parent's decided to move, it became the perfect opportunity to plan a trip just for me, to spend time with her and to help my parent's move.

So, that's the back story. 

We got up early and drove to Banff, a beautiful resort town in the Rocky Mountains just an hour and a half from Calgary, to make it feel a little more like a vacation. The morning was cold and a little rainy, but the mountains were as beautiful as ever. We walked around a little (I'm planning to do a Photo Walk Friday about Banff), we had lunch and a glass of wine together and then we checked in at the spa for a 3.5 hour treatment package.

I've never been at the spa that long, and I spent more money than I'm usually comfortable with, but it was totally worth it to open my eyes during our dual massage and look over and see my sister laying there too. A big grin spread across my face and I just felt so content knowing we were there together. We sipped a delicious caramel tea while getting a pedicure and took mini naps during our facials. It was lovely and relaxing and it made a little happy place in my brain that I can visit again when I miss her.

The day was filled with stories, laughing, hand holding and hugs. We sat on the same side of the table at lunch like we were on a date, because we were. Sisters are great. We didn't really have a deep emotional break through or anything, it was just nice to be with her and talk about things without being interrupted. I wish she could come to all the conferences and retreats that I've been going to. I wish we lived in the same city. There is nothing like a sister, but I will have to be content with visits and time together once or twice a year. Maybe one day we can take an epic trip together, that would be really amazing. Or maybe I can convince her to join me on a retreat sometime. But whatever happens, I know I've got her in my life and I am grateful for her love and positive attitude.

I should also add that I have another sister, my new sister Tracy, and I have a life list item for her too. She has never been to New York and I hope she visits me sometime so that I can show her around the city. She says that she doesn't want me to take her to the top of anything, but I'm sure she would enjoy a little window shopping on Madison Avenue or a nice dinner out somewhere. I'll figure something out. When I was in Canada, Jill and I also visited with her and her adorable kids in their new home. It was so great to see her again. This was only my second time visiting with her, but it's just so comfortable. We made lunch together in the kitchen and I'm so happy that I now have TWO sisters. More love for me.

Do you have sisters? Do you spend quality time with them?

Mom 2.0 Summit is Here by Leslie

Thursday morning I am heading to the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida for the Mom 2.0 Summit. This will be my third social media event and I am pretty sure I am addicted to them. Happily, this time I have been asked to live blog the conference, and I am so excited to be part of the team and officially involved in communicating the messages and happenings during the week. Big thanks to the Mom 2.0 team for this opportunity!

My first post is already up, Get Over the Nerves and Shine at Mom 2.0, which is a re-write of a post I wrote here before attending ALT Summit in January. My fellow live blogger Katherine Stone has also written Anybody Up For Cake in the Social Media Conference Room? which helps to explain why bloggers/social media people love to attend conferences so much. There is more to come from our other two live bloggers, Morgan Shanahan and Nicole Morgan. Stay tuned to the 2012 Live Blog feed for all of our posts about Mom 2.0 or you can also see just what I am contributing. Don't forget to check out the twitter hashtag #mom2summit to listen in on what everyone is saying. Right now it's mostly about what to wear, packing and traveling, but soon it will be filled with smart, engaging messages that will inspire you.

** HINT: There will be a message of goodness we will be sending out on Friday night (6-7pm EST) that we need you to amplify on your own networks. We are going to attempt to break a social media World Record (currently held by Justin Bieber fans) by sending out, sharing, or retweeting 11,000 messages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in 1 hour. We can totally do that, right? If we break the record, Dove will donate some serious cash to help some very cool kids. All will be revealed soon, so please stay tuned and plan to help us spread a positive message on Friday. **

The White Party will be at this fantastic spot. Picture me sitting with my toes in the sand, chatting about Moms in Social Media.

To learn about what Mom 2.0 is all about, read the About page and the Schedule. It will give you a sense of what the intentions are for the conference and what the conversations are going to focus on. Mom 2.0 was created to be a conversation between moms, marketers and media. Mothers have a huge voice online and in social media, they have a lot to say about the world and how we live in it, and motherhood is being redefined by online communities and huge opportunities for women to enjoy mothering at the same time that they feed their own souls. Mothers and women are taking control of the messages that we want to see, the ideas that we want to spread, and the important conversations we want to have. It's such an exciting time.

• What's Next? • Setting Intentions • Being Vulnerable • 

• Connection • Inspiration • Information •

These are just some of the themes and messages you will see over the next few weeks. It's all about living our happiest, most fulfilled lives and by doing that, ensuring that others around us, especially our families, are doing the same. 

Photo Walk Fridays: Cleveland, Ohio by Leslie

I loved everything about our short trip to Cleveland for an event celebrating an exhibit of photographs from Chris's book at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Our hotel was in the incredible Arcade building and I felt like I had gone back in time. These first eight pictures are from there. It was gorgeous. Right outside the building was East 4th Street which is filled with outdoor patios and Xmas lights strung up everywhere. It was lunchtime and full of people and energy.

Read More

Photographed at ALT Summit & Roundup of Links by Leslie

Jill and I at the "Dinner en Blanc" party. It was magical to see a sea of light colors floating around the room. © Moss & Isaac

My trip to Salt Lake City to attend ALT Summit was amazing and overwhelming. There were lots of wonderful people, lots of fantastic information and I'll be posting over the next few weeks about what I learned, what I saw and most importantly what I experienced as a first time attendee. If you are a creative person, you HAVE to come with me next year. I am certainly going back. The conference is not just for bloggers, although that is the primary focus, anyone who is involved in a creative field can find something to learn.

Very briefly, one of my top moments was being photographed by Karen of Chookooloonks. I have more to say about it, but it really was a magical moment for me. I also loved the photo walk that I took with Tracey Clark from Shutter Sisters, I met some wonderful people and really enjoyed hearing about Tracey's approach to shooting and teaching photography. More about that too, including the pictures that I shot on the walk. It's no surprise that the photography moments resonated with me the most and I had my eye on the event photographers the entire time. I enjoyed meeting William and Susan Brinson and I scored a beta test invitation for Squarespace 6. Sweet! I also collected 80 business cards and I can't wait to show you the trends that I saw. Almost every card at ALT is amazing.

My top priority over the last few days has been my family, who missed me very much, especially my three year old. It's been three days of emotional turmoil from him and I hope tomorrow will bring calmer seas and more time for me to write and process photographs. In the meantime, these are the event photographs that I appeared in and down at the bottom of the post you will find links to a few recaps that have already been posted. Stayed tuned for more!

Dinner at J. Wongs with Juli Alderson (Inspiration Bug), me, Jill Vaughn (Terra Savvy), Jordan Ferney (Oh Happy Day), Alix Bannon (Cute and Delicious), Lisa Congdon (Lisa Congdon Art & Illustration), Dottie van Every and Alix Tyler (Modern Kiddo). © Brooke Ashley Dennis

Jenny Mitchell (Frecklewonder), Danielle Krysa (The Jealous Curator), Tracy Benjamin (Shutterbean), Dottie and Alix (Modern Kiddo), Victoria Smith (SF Girl by Bay), Rena Tom (Rena Tom), Kelly Beall (DesignCrush). Juli and I are peeking out from behind Jenny on the left. © Brooke Ashley Dennis

The keynote talk from Ben Silbermann, the creator of Pinterest was inspiring, moving and excellent. Game changing inventions are still happening on the internet. Success and innovation are possible. He got a standing ovation from a room full of people who adore him and what he stands for. (I'm sitting directly to the left of him.) © Justin Hackworth
Sitting in on Melisa Russo's (Lil Bee) roundtable discussion about how to "Bridge the Design/Lifestyle/Mommy Blogger Gap." © Justin Hackworth

Cutting paper in Allison Chapman's class about bookbinding. She's a fabulous teacher and runs Igloo Press in Ohio. © Brooke Ashley Dennis

Jill and I posing for photographer Justin Hackworth at the Ru La La Friday night Mini party. © Justin Hackworth

At the Ru La La photo booth with Melanie Biehle (Inward Facing Girl), Jill Vaughn (Terra Savvy), Megan Reardon (Not Martha) and Brianne (The Ravenna Girls).

Photographers: Moss & Isaac, Justin Hackworth Photography and B.A.D. Photography.

Sarah Bryden Brown at BlogStar: 38 Things I learnt at ALT Summit 2012

Amy Ferguson at Old Sweet Song: Eight (More) Steps to Get Over Post-Alt Summit Depression

The Secret Society of Enterprise: Top Tips from Alt Summit

A Blog About Love: Highlights of Alt Summit

Growing a Readership panel, Storified by Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely.

From Blog to Book, Storified by Kate Woodrow of Chronicle Books

Illustrator Tammie Bennett: Alt Summit and Me

Laurie Smithwick at Kirtsy: The Business Cards of ALT

Chrysula Winegar: Finding Work Life Balance When the Muse Calls

Melanie of Inward Facing Girl is rounding up her favs on Pinterest.

Victoria at SF Girl by Bay: So... What's ALT Summit Really Like?

Danielle from The Jealous Curator: Alt Summit 2012

Anne Sage at The City Sage: The Rundown: Alt Summit 2012

Bri at Design Love Fest: Alt Summit Highlights

Alix and Dottie at Modern Kiddo: Alt Summit // You Should Read These Blogs

Rena Tom: Weeknotes 2012/4

Susan at The Working Closet: It Must Be the Altitude

Additional links can be found on the Alt Summit Blog: Recaps Galore, More Alt Love

And ALL the photos can be found on the ALT Summit Flickr stream.

(I'll be adding to list as I find more posts!)

Get Over the Nerves and Shine at Alt Summit by Leslie


Tomorrow morning I board a 7am plane with my traveling/blogging pal Jill and fly to Salt Lake City, Utah for our second networking/learning/inspiration event, the Altitude Design Summit. (Our first was Camp Mighty last November.) You would think that I would be jumping off the walls, all smiles and giggles at the fact that after deciding last year to attend Alt Summit, I am ACTUALLY attending Alt Summit. (10 points for setting AND accomplishing goals.) Instead, I am a ball of nerves, feeling full of self doubt and wondering what the heck I am going to say about myself to hundreds of stylish, awesome and smart designers, photographers, bloggers and various other amazing people.

Where is that self-assuredness that people seem to have? Why is it that I sometimes forget that I am awesome? My husband gave me a pep talk last night and I decided today to do the same for myself. Here's how I am going to get over my nerves and shine at Alt Summit. 

  1. Be Enthusiastic. There is such a thing as too much enthusiasm, however it is so ridiculously over the top, you will know way before you even get close to it. Enthusiasm is your greatest asset at an event like this. Get into it! Know your stuff. Do your homework. Put yourself out there! You will not regret it. You will get out of it what you put into it.
  2. Say Hi to Strangers. Take a deep breath and just go say hi to those people who you know and admire. Before you know it you will be chatting like old friends. And if you aren't? Move on. Not every single person you meet is going to be your best friend, but at least you tried. If you are standing next to someone you don't know, say hi! They are probably nervous too. They might need a hug.
  3. Assume Everyone is Nervous. I would guess that even the veterans who are speaking or organizing are nervous about something too. Those people are putting themselves out there the most and it takes a lot of guts to be a leader. Tell them you appreciate their hard work. And for all the other new people like you and me? Give them a high five, tell them you are nervous too, laugh about a stupid thing that happened. It's all going to be ok.
  4. Ask For Cards. People will appreciate not having to offer it and you will get to give them yours. Also, don't be afraid to just hand out your card first! You worked hard on those puppies, show them off!
  5. Take Notes. Write down everything, including people's names, and try to process everything and store it in memory as it happens. It will go by too fast and before you know it you've forgotten that person's name and the important bit of advice they told you. Listen as much as you can and ask people questions. 
  6. Take a Break. If you feel overwhelmed, tired or nervous, take a step back. Go to the bathroom for some deep breathing, take an hour nap in your room or go for a walk. Keep something that grounds you in your pocket and let it remind you to take care of yourself first.
  7. Be Confident! You've totally got this. Remember why you came here and what it is that you do best. The best way to stay confident is to avoid comparing yourself to others. The only person you can compare yourself to is yourself. Remember where you were a year ago? Five years ago? Yeah - so much better now. Right? You rock, and don't you forget it.
  8. Just be yourself. Relax. Take a deep breath and just be the person you are with your best friends and family. That is the person that everyone wants to meet and hang out with.
  9. Have fun! Do something you've never done before. Dance in the snow. Ask to take someone's portrait. Draw someone a picture. Sing at the piano. Be bold. But... don't drink too much. The last thing you want is a wicked hangover in the morning for the first panel. Space out the drinks, make sure to drink lots of water and take some Advil before you go to bed. 

I'm really looking forward to meeting so many new people starting tomorrow! And after writing this post, I think I am finally more excited than nervous. Check out my About page for a picture of me and who I am. Be sure to come find me and say hello, I'll probably give you a hug and a high five, and my card. Safe travels!

Pictures from Camp Mighty by Leslie

Jill and I rented a Ford Mustang for the drive from LA to Palm Springs. What a fun car.

Anna and Amber. Such fun loving, awesome ladies.

Jen, Chris, Erica, Anne, Elaina, Robbie, Rebecca and Kate on a break from the speakers on Day Two.

My travelling buddy, roommate and friend in real life, Jill.

Kenna and Maggie discussing Summit on the Summit and doing good things that come from a personal place.

Our room was cozy and comfortable.

Beautiful Ellie.

We were in the hot tub for hours way past dark, while it was raining. I've never had a better time in the rain.

Both Kellianne and her son Niko were ADORABLE.

Well dressed ladies: Sarah, Susan and Evany.

Daytime hot tub in the rain. Lisa, Rebecca and Evany.

I did not spend enough time talking to these two lovely ladies, Heather and Amy.

Lisa gave us some great advice: Be a Nerd, Day Dream, Take Risks, Embrace the Suck, Show Up and Be True.

The Ace Hotel was amazing. I loved every detail.

Me with one of the event organizers, Laura. She rocks, in so many ways.

Megan and Mai doing a jump picture in front the ACE Hotel sign.

The fantastic wind farm outside of Palm Springs.

View all my images from the weekend in my CAMP MIGHTY PHOTO SET.

Note: I didn't photograph the weekend as thoroughly as I would have liked. Sometimes it's difficult for me to be totally in the moment and to also photograph it. However, I knew that there would be other people taking pictures and so what I am lacking (like a picture of me in my authentic Space Camp flight suit! Here's another great one by Rebecca.) you can find in other places. For photographs of the Thursday night welcome party, first log into Facebook and then visit the Ecco Domani Facebook album, and for photographs of the first day's speakers and the Space Camp party visit Maggie's Camp Mighty Flickr stream.

I've got one more post coming up, about what I learned while I was there. Stay tuned.

Camp Mighty: Spreading the Love by Leslie

Camp Mighty will be held at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs this weekend.I am counting down the days to Camp Mighty! Today I have last minute errands to run for the trip and tomorrow I am getting my nails done and doing final packing. It's always amazing when you have been planning something for a while and it's finally time to get ready to go. In a way I feel like I have been waiting for this for a year, since I first heard about the invitation-only Mighty Summit. I didn't know how I was going to get myself invited, but they made it easy for me by creating a similar event that I could buy a ticket to. 

If you have looked at the website, you'll know that Camp Mighty is focused primarily around Life Lists. Before the event we were supposed to write our own, HERE'S MINE, and then while we are there, we select five items that we plan to accomplish in the next year, and ask for help with one item. But Camp Mighty can be far more than simply Life Listing our personal goals. We are also supposed to read other people's lists and see if there is anything that we can help them with. At it's heart it is a networking event, where the goal is to meet people and work together to accomplish our collective goals.

Our first collective goal, before we even got to Camp Mighty, was to raise $20,000 for Charity: Water. Each camper is responsible for $200 and we either donated the money out of own pocket or asked for donations. Some of us raised more than our individual goals so we will certainly exceed the $20,000 mark. I raised $550 with my own donation and the help of my generous family and friends! Thank-you Maddy & Jerry, Pauline, Jill B., Keith & Sue, Robin and Kathleen! My team has almost raised it's $5000 share. Do you want to help put us past our goal? Just donate here and put my name in the comment. The money goes toward buying a drilling rig in Ethiopia to bring clean water to villages that are far from their only water source. This is a new type of charity that is focused on a very specific task, and it's run in a way that takes 100% of the donations and puts them to use in the field. It's this kind of new thinking, about how we can help those in need, that the world needs more of and that Camp Mighty is promoting. 

Camp Mighty is new thinking too. It's unlike any other retreat or conference out there. It's community building, selfless and philanthropic. It's the best of what's good about blogging and social media. It's helping others reach their goals, it's teamwork, it's idealistic and non-judgmental. It's about passion and what makes our hearts beat faster. It's about inspiration, living by example and helping those around us. I've come to realize in the last year or so and maybe while becoming a mother and a blogger, that sometimes a really good way to help yourself is to help other people. Through giving, we build ourselves up, we can often accomplish our own goals and we receive help in return. Camp Mighty is at it's best when it's connecting people together to do good things for other people. Sometimes it's as simple as just inspiring someone, but it's also about teaching, giving and sharing. It's about spreading the love, sharing the wealth and building not only better lives for each other, but a better world together.

Of course, it could also just be about renting a Mustang convertible with your best friend and sipping cocktails pool side, right? That in itself is an admirable goal for a stay-at-home Mom like me who hasn't taken a vacation without my family EVER. Just getting together with a few friends and hanging out for the weekend without a care in the world is going to do me so much good that when I return, I'm sure my family will find me more refreshed and energized than I've been in a long time. Obviously we must take care of ourselves first, and sometimes that's all we can manage. But once we get settled with ourselves and happy with our life, it's important to turn towards the world and ask what can we do to make it a better place. Sometimes that means grand gestures, like raising money for a charity but it could also mean small bits of unexpected joy.

You probably won't see a blog post from me until next week while I am off on this adventure, but that doesn't mean that I won't be sharing. Tune in to my Twitter stream or the #campmighty hashtag on Twitter to see what's going on over the weekend. Expect to see lots of exclamation points! And I will be frequently using words like "Awesome!" and "Great job!" and "Amazing!" I will be meeting some of my favorite bloggers and listening to some very inspiring people. If you have contributions, comments or questions for me or anyone at camp over the weekend, please let me know via email (leslie at lightsandletters dot com) or twitter and I'll do what I can to respond.

Have a great week and if you find yourself wishing that could stow away in my suitcase and come with me, see what you can do in your own life to live in some of these principles. Write your own life list. Offer to help a friend. Do a good thing today. Smile. Take a break. And then plan to come with me next year.

Canada Vacation Photos by Leslie

After our trip to Canada this summer I managed to post a couple of things, Meeting My Sister and The Sandhills, but the rest of the trip and the photographs I took while we were there were sidelined as I dealt with my Mom's health and then trying to hang onto the last weeks of summer. We had an incredible trip though and I hope I can share a few more things with you in the next month or so. I took a ton of pictures, we did so many wonderful things and each day was a different adventure. Today I'd like to share two albums of photos. The first is most of the shots I took with my iPhone and processed with Instagram and the other album is a selection of some of my best shots from the trip. Hope you enjoy!

Jumping and Running at the Great Sand Hills in Canada by Leslie

After visiting the Sand Hills last November in the cold weather, we vowed to return in the summer. Our visit this time was certainly warmer, but the sand was packed firm and very wet from weeks of rain. It was still missing that very dry, sifting sand quality of a true desert. Don't get me wrong though, it was gorgeous and we had a lot of fun doing "jump" pictures. A "jump shot" is a trendy thing to do in wedding and family portraits, and it was so fun that I recommend to anyone getting pictures done to try it. It was awesome. The photographer Philippe Halsman started it all in the 1950s with portraits of celebrities like Salvador Dali and Marilyn Monroe jumping. He claims that "When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears."

My sister was really good at it, and should have been a dancer! In the out-takes though, it's pretty clear I am utterly without grace. The real person that appears when I jump is awkward and flailing!! My Dad was especially proud of his ability to even get off the ground. After his back surgery many years ago he lost a lot of mobility, but here he is jumping with the rest of us! Chris's rock star stage antics are in evidence, though his face gives away the fact that he never takes himself very seriously. Of course the kids are naturals at it and look absolutely joyous doing it. The sand hills are a perfect backdrop for pictures, the sky and the sand make such a simple canvas.

It was a beautiful day and we drove in late in the afternoon after a trip to the old farm. (Stay tuned for photos from there!) The kids rode in the back of my Dad's truck and were so excited to return to the sand hills. They ran and dug holes and got their pants dirty sliding down the steep side of the hill. Each trip here is different, the weather affects the dunes so much and each time you see something different and new.

Now that you have seen the photos, here's a short video! As you can see, it's fun to run in sand too.

The song is Have a Good Time by the Brand New Heavies. It's from their 1994 record Brother Sister.


By the way, speaking of sand, have you seen these incredible close up photographs of grains of sand?


For more information about this wondrous place, check out the following:

The Great Sand Hills and Quick Facts (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Saskatchewan)

The Great Sand Hills Museum in Sceptre, Saskatchewan.

The Great Sand Hills & River Routes PDF Guide (from the Great Sand Hill and River Routes Website.) Some of the same information is also listed on the web page's map organized by categories helpful to the tourist.

Driving Directions:

From Medicine Hat, take the 41 north to 545 and turn right (east) towards Burstall/Leader. 545 changes to the 321, continue east past Leibenthal until you see the sign post and Cattle T-Ranch gate in the photos above. Turn left and drive over a cattle gate to enter the area. Continue driving until you see a parking area on the left. An alternate route is to take the #1 Highway into Saskatchewan to the 21, turn left (north) and drive to Leibenthal, then turn right onto the 321.

From Calgary, drive to Medicine Hat and then follow the directions above. I don't think there is a quicker way. Alternate route is to drive north towards Drumheller, get onto the 9 heading to Saskatchewan and then follow the directions below for Red Deer.

From Red Deer, drive towards Drumheller, take the 9 heading east into Saskatchewan, turn right onto the 44 (signs for Alsask/Eatonia), continue following the 44 until just before Eatonia and then head south on the 21 towards Leader. Then left on the 32 towards Swift Current. Continue on the 32 for 40 km, turn right onto Allowance Rd (signs for Prelate). At the t-intersection, turn right until you see the sign post and Cattle T-Ranch gate in the photos above. Turn left and drive over a cattle gate to enter the area. Continue driving until you see a parking area on the left. (You can also continue on the 32 to Scepter, visit the museum there and then drive straight south I think. They have directions at the museum)


Motels/Inns/B&Bs (look for Burstall, Leader, Scepter)


Prelate: AC Campground (full service) 1-306-673-2656

Burstall: Lions Park 1-306-679-2000

Leader: Lions Park Campground 1-306-628-3868

Sandy Point Park: (no power) 1-403-379-2143 (Cypress County 1-403-526-2888)

The National Aquarium in Baltimore by Leslie

In Baltimore last week, we took the kids to the National Aquarium. We all had a blast seeing the sharks, fish and dolphins. There are two massive buildings, connected by a walkway, right on the Harbor. It was interesting how you walked through the building, at times seeing glimpses of all the levels at once, and there were opportunities to view some of the tanks from multiple places. When you first walk in, the manta ray tank is viewable from above and then later, you can watch them from windows below the water level. It's a neat place to visit, though I will complain that it was very crowded and hot when we were there on the Saturday of Easter weekend.

The second building is the dolphin area and it was the first time that I got to see a dolphin show. This one was very subdued though, because a baby had just been born and they wanted to keep the volume low while she got used to her new home. I just checked the site and it looks like the dolphin shows are canceled today as there is another baby dolphin on it's way! I'm not surprise because after the show, while I was watching the dolphins playing in the tank right next to me, I saw a little x-rated action! There is a randy male dolphin in that tank!!

The two photos above are courtesy of Chris's sister Gloria. Quinn fell asleep at the end of the show and I had to carry that sack of potatoes outside to a bench. He had done that the day before too. We didn't bring our stroller because we did not have room in the car and most of the time Quinn likes to walk anyway, but it really could have come in handy then. Chris couldn't carry him because his back is still sore from the bone marrow donation. The two photos below are from outside the Aquarium and show the Australian exhibit on the left, which we didn't make it to, and the Chesapeake boat on the right.

The Great Canadian Sand Hills by Leslie

The Great Sand Hills in Saskatchewan are an anomaly in the prairies. Much like other unique spots nearby (Dinosaur Park, Writing on Stone and Red Rock Coulee) when you are there you feel transported to another place. In this case, the Sahara Desert. Of course the effect is more complete if you visit in the middle of the summer when it's hot. We happened to be there when it was terribly cold but it was still beautiful. It might have been even more otherworldly in the cold, it's such a strange juxtaposition to have a landscape like a desert but freezing temperatures.


After parking, before we headed over to the dunes, we climbed up the closest hill to check out the boots. I don't know who started it, but someone began nailing old boots to a wooden frame. The tradition has continued and now the frame is completely full of boots. There are lots of ranchers and farmers in the area and I suppose it's a tribute to them.





For me, it's a thought provoking place. The sky is so big and it's so unlikely to have all this sand piled up in the middle of the prairies. I feel close to the earth in this spot and I marvel at how nature and wind and glaciers have worked together to make this. The sand hills are dynamic, they are constantly shifting and moving and it's hard not to think of them as having their own life. They are these big blobs of sand moving and dancing around on the prairies and occasionally covering up a tree. 


The sand was left behind during the ice age, when glaciers covered Canada. From Wikipedia: "between 2 to 3 million years ago, the prairies were covered by a glacier, the Laurentide ice sheet." and "The melting glaciers left behind sand and, silt outwash plains. The Great Sand Hills of Saskatchewan are evidence of winds and sand storms which have accumulated the sands left behind."



The kids loved it. They did not want to leave. They ran and jumped and played, completely fascinated by all this soft, fine sand that was miles and miles from any kind of beach. They loved putting their hands into it and making prints and marks. The sand on this day was cold, it was dense, and whatever moisture in it was a bit frozen. But they didn't mind. Cold or not, they were not leaving until they had their fill of this strange place.



If you want to visit, there is a museum in Sceptre, SK and you can get directions from there. There are no campgrounds, as it's a protected area but there is a campsite nearby in Leader, SK. If you are coming from southern Alberta, take the 21 north to Liebenthal and then east on the 321. The road will end at a ranch, take a left over the cattle gate and into the area. Keep driving on the sandy road until you get to the parking area. You can't miss the dunes!

I've had friends who have taken snowboards and sleds there. On the east side of the dunes there are some really steep drop offs that are fun to run or slide down. And I bet it would be incredible out there with a full moon. Beware of the animals though! We saw prints in the sand that might have been from a large cat like a cougar or a bobcat.

Below is a Google Map of what the area looks like from space. We visited just one sand dune, the most southern one, but there are quite a few and the area is quite large.

If you have never been there, and you are in Alberta or Saskatchewan, you should certainly go check it out. If you HAVE been there, leave me a comment and tell me about your visit. Did you ever get the sand out of your pockets? No? Neither have I.

View Larger Map

Here are some excerpts from Dave Yanko's visit to the Dunes:

Over the course of a year, these active "morphing" dunes can creep as much as four metres (13 feet), and they even leave "dune tracks" that can be measured. The overall shape of active dunes appears arbitrary to the untrained eye, but each falls into a category based on its features. One geologist found examples of 19 "dune types" in The Great Sand Hills, including "compound blowout dunes", "composite windrift dunes" and "twin parabolic dunes".

Judging by all the rills, dales and blustery activity on the top of the dune, the active ones are dynamic in ways more complex than sand simply blowing from the windward to the leeward side. Time-lapse photography, perhaps over the course of years rather than hours, would illustrate a surprising degree of animation in these dunes, which occasionally recede as well as advance.

The Great Sand Hills have long been a favorite spot for artifact collectors. Once rich in buffalo as well as mule deer and antelope, the area attracted Indian hunters 11,000 years ago. Archaeological "habitation sites" are much more common in the hills than on the surrounding plains because the hills provided all the necessities for life, and one important convenience, as well. Game could be trapped in "killing grounds" instead of stalked and chased on the open plains.

The hills are a treasure-trove of wildlife. Sharp-tailed grouse are more abundant here than anywhere else in Canada, and the mule deer population is the densest in the province. Antelope, white pelican, merlin, peregrine falcon, coyote, white-tailed deer, golden eagle, badger, weasel, burrowing owl, mourning dove, porcupine, sand hill crane and fox are just a few of the walking and winged creatures who make the hills their home. The desert-adapted Ord's Kangaroo Rat is found nowhere else in the province.

At The Beach by Leslie

At_the_beach2We got home from Cape Cod last Friday night at 2am after driving all night. We planned most of the five and a half hour drive to occur at night so that Milo slept through most of it. It worked out pretty well, we left for the trip at 4:30 am and made it 3 hours before having to stop at a Cracker Barrel to have breakfast and get Milo changed out of pajamas. After the hour and half pit stop we got back on the road and after 45 minutes of needing to be entertained, he fell asleep for his morning nap and slept the rest of the way to the Cape. We arrived at the Wequassett Resort around noon and hung out at our pool cabana until we could check into our room at 3:30 pm.

Nauset Beach was fun the two times that we went with intense waves and beautiful sand. Milo loved chasing the waves with me and was happily shocked when they would wash over his legs while standing next to me. He loved playing with all the older boys, even though he often got in their way and sometimes destroyed their sand castles. We saw fighter jets flying over the ocean from Otis Air Force Base and wished we could stay another day to go to the air show.

We ate great food at the resort and even got a home cooked meal at Gloria's rental house. Shopping in Chatham was fun in the mornings and during the occasional cloudy afternoon. Maddy spoiled me with some wonderful fall clothes and I could finally fit into size 30 jeans! We also toured a 5 bedroom, 3.5 million dollar house for sale with incredible water views and pretended that we could all buy it as a second home for the family to vacation at.

Milo charmed people at the hotel so much that when we walked around people would say, "Hi Milo!" to him and just smile at us. He had a few leaps of understanding while there, one morning he lifted up his breakfast plate with both hands, passed it to me and said "Ahhh Duuun". Chris and I were shocked, he seemed so grown up! He's also getting very good at understanding directions and would take rocks and shells to particular people if we asked him. He also had a low point when he violently threw up all over me (and my new outfit) in the car on the way to a nice dinner. We were worried he had food poisoning after a second episode when we got back to the room, so we called our pediatrician and located a 24 hour pharmacy just in case. He slept well that night though and woke up feeling fine. 

It was a great week spending time with Chris's family and introducing Milo to the beach.