Our blogiversary really snuck up on me this year! In fact, I had a totally different post planned for this week until I did a double-take at the calendar and realized that August 16th marked the 6th anniversary of our very first post on Out and About Mom. And of course, we couldn’t let this occasion go by without at least a little bit of fanfare 🙂
Last year, on our 5th anniversary, we got a little sappy with a walk down memory lane and a look back at some of the big changes that happened with our site during that past year. Like Mandy moving to Florida! (I am still in denial about that; I like to drive by her old house in West Hartford and pretend like she’s still in there.)
But now, almost two years later, her family has settled in and is really enjoying their new home near Orlando– being BFFs with Mickey Mouse isn’t too shabby, I suppose 🙂
To be sure, even though you don’t hear from Mandy on the blog that often, she is still a crucial part of the Out and About Mom team. I was never the tech-savvy member of this partnership, so Mandy has literally enabled us to keep this site running. And she’s always there when I need ideas and inspiration. This year, she’s finally succeeded in getting me to post more photos on Instagram (though she’s usually the one doing the actual posting!). It’s been a great way to give readers a little glimpse into our everyday lives and activities, and I hope that you’ll follow us there (if you don’t already!).
I’m also happy to report the addition of our two new, wonderful bloggers: Tiffany Wentworth and Audrey Beatty (and yes, I have finally added them to our “About Us” page so it’s official!). Their posts have been such an important contribution to the blog this year, allowing us to cover more activities in more locations. And despite the fact that I bombarded Audrey with spring posts and sent Tiffany to Day Out With Thomas in the pouring rain (and more recently traumatized her with maniacal birds–more on that later), these two ladies have remained enthusiastic supporters of the site. Not to mention that BOTH of them are expecting new babies in about a month! (Babies on the OAAM team again?! I am so excited I can hardly contain myself!)
I am also this close to convincing Audrey’s husband that he should do some writing for us as well because, let’s face it, it’s about time we heard from an Out and About Dad, right?! (Sorry Shane, you’re on the hook now!)
Sadly though, the year hasn’t been completely without goodbyes. You may have noticed that we haven’t heard from our very first guest blogger, Ally Noel, in a while. That’s because Ally has been focusing on some other aspects of her life right now, and so she’s had to take a break from being a regular contributor to Out and About Mom. We’re really going to miss her! As our Fairfield County expert (and resident), Ally has been instrumental to growing our readership in that area. We cannot thank her enough for all the wonderful, entertaining, insightful posts she has contributed to this site. And surely, I’ll never hear the word “camping” again without thinking of Ally’s crazy night in a tipi braving high humidity, hot temps and thunderstorms (now that is dedication to your work, my friends!). For now, I’m leaving Ally on our “About Us” page too, with hopes that we might one day hear about her adventures again (denial is my preferred coping mechanism, if you couldn’t tell 🙂 ).
In more business-y type news, we continue to grow our sponsorship programs, and this year we’ve enjoyed some amazing partnerships with local businesses and organizations like the Mandell JCC, The Flash Lady Photography, Romp n’ Roll, Cumberland Farms, the New Britain Bees and most recently, Connecticut Children’s Medial Center. We can’t thank them (and all our other sponsors!) enough for helping us to sustain our site and enabling us to keep scouting your outings for another year. We love being able to introduce our readers to new places to explore with their families. And we love hearing all your kind words and stories about the tremendous impact this blog has had on your lives (which is so incredibly mind-blowing for us, by the way–to know that our little site is making a real difference in our community!). But as I say frequently, this site cannot run on love alone.
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Most importantly, of course, this year was filled with so many fantastic adventures! We sure did have a great time criss-crossing the state (and heading across the border!) in search of family fun. And today we’d like to share our TOP FIVE outings from our 6th year of blogging.
In chronological order…
We kicked off our 6th year with a visit to Edaville USA in Carver, MA, home of the new Thomas Land. This outing was a show-stopper for sure! The kids loved “meeting” all their beloved Thomas friends on the Island of Sodor, discovering the many pint-sized rides, enjoying a real train ride (pulled by Thomas, of course!) and exploring the life-like Dino Land. It’s a bit of a hike from CT, but it’s worth it just to see the look on your kiddo’s face. We promise!
Tiffany’s inaugural post took us to Holyoke, MA where she discovered this amazing indoor play place at the Holyoke Mall. The jungle-themed playscape with its slides, tunnels (plus tunnel slides!), climbing platforms, bridges, obstacles, separate toddler area and more could keep a kid busy for hours. Good thing there’s also a cafe there so a bad case of the hangry’s won’t spoil the fun.
Around the holidays, we’re always on the lookout for festive activities that engage our kiddos’ imaginations. And a sweet treat never hurts either 🙂 This year, we found the perfect combination of artistic and edible at Lyman Orchard’s Gingerbread House Workshop in Middlefield, CT. This popular event typically runs for four weekends in November/December and takes the guesswork (and the messwork!) out of a time-honored holiday tradition. Since the house is already constructed for you, even the littlest decorators can participate! Be sure to register in advance as spots fill up quickly.
This was our first year visiting a maple sugar house and it was truly a memorable outing. We had no idea this was such an important crop for Connecticut! The opportunity to observe the process in action, learn about maple sugaring today and gain insight into the industry’s long history, not to mention sample different grades of syrup and other maple-flavored products (lollipops for kids and coffee for grownups; a win-win!) was an eye-opening experience for the whole family. And did we mention that these tours at Lamothe’s Sugar House in Burlington, CT are completely FREE? But we bet you won’t be able to resist purchasing something maple and delicious from their adorable shop 🙂
It’s always amazing when we find activities that are as engaging for the kids as they are for their grownups. Bonus points when that activity takes place at a location as beautiful and historic as the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT. As Audrey and her crew recently learned, this surprisingly family-friendly fine art museum offers a number of kid-friendly events and programs throughout the year, including this summer’s Discovery Sundays. Stop in for a pint-sized painting lesson, tour the lovely grounds and settle on a spot for some multigenerational plein-air painting. All materials included! There’s still time to check out the program this year (the last one of the season is on September 24, 2017)…and ask the Flo Gris to bring it back again next year!
We have been on hundreds of outings, so when we say this is one that stands out among all the rest, you know it’s a really good one! A night at the Southington Drive-In is such a unique experience–the kind that makes you slow down, hang out and enjoy the people around you. There’s food and treats and games and good times to be had by all ages. The movie is really just a bonus 🙂 There’s still time to catch one this season. Or be sure to put it on your list for next year!
So that’s our list for year six! Now we’re looking forward to another year of amazing adventures. Stay tuned!
And as always, thank you for being an Out and About Mom reader. We could not have made it this far without YOU!
Shawna & Mandy
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