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I’m Hosting a Giveaway!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 9, 2008 in Books I'm Reading, Local Community, Uncategorized

Yes, that’s right – FREE STUFF!!!

A while back I posted about a book that I read while on vacation, The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold, which has just been released in paperback.

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You can read my review here – it was a great read to which anyone who has had a less-than-ideal childhood can certainly relate (although we don’t all kill our crazy mothers, thank goodness!).

Well…I have been contacted by the publisher and have FREE COPIES of the book to give away – how great is that?!?!

So…if you are interested in a copy, email me at kathy@thetorrences.com to enter the giveaway.

Feel free to include a description of a moment in your own childhood that proved your own mother/father/sister/brother/aunt/grandmother was just a little bit ‘crazy’, as Helen describes her own mother.  Or if your own childhood was perfect (I’m sure there are some of you out there!), give me an example of someone else’s childhood moment.

I’ll post some of your responses here (anonymously, of course – and only if I have your permission) and will choose five winners at random on September 30th.

All winners must reside in the US or Canada – and no PO Boxes, please.

Good luck!

 
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One More Teeny-Tiny Political Word

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 2, 2008 in Local Community, Uncategorized

Again – this is not a political blog…

But I just can’t help but say something about the republican nominee for vice-president…

I think it’s fantastic that we are at a point in history where a woman can be nominated for vice-president without hesitation.  I also have a certain fondness in my heart for Alaska since I’m working so closely with those from that fine state.

That being said…

I can’t help but wonder about the republican strategy in the nomination of Gov. Sarah Palin for two main reasons.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard about her nomination is that she is currently involved in a scandal in her own home state.  While I was in Anchorage, the story was plastered all over the papers and the local news. I have to question the judgement of choosing a candidate that is involved in such a high-profile case right now…

The next thing that came to mind is that Sarah has not even been governor of Alaska for 2 years.  And before that, her only political experience was that on the city council and as a mayor of a tiny town (Wasilla) that is half the size of my own home town.  I hardly think that the mayor of Pitman would have the experience necessary to run the entire country (no offense to Mayor Batten).

I have great respect for Gov. Palin – and as a woman and a mom I admire her achievements.

However, with the republicans citing Barack Obama’s lack of experience, this just seems like an interesting choice…

 
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Blogging The Recession

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Aug 17, 2008 in Local Community

Is anyone else out there being hit hard by the recession?  Or am I the only one counting each and every penny we spend, hoping that this month we’re able to rob from Peter to pay Paul once again?

Kristen at Motherhood Uncensored (and I DO mean uncensored!) has decided to start a ‘blog the recession’ movement to help out those bloggers that get paid by their advertisers per hit.  I WISH I had advertisers…but I’d like to pass the word along anyway.

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I was just reading through Kristen’s blog and I have to say that I love it – she’s saying the things all moms feel but aren’t quite so comfortable saying out loud.  Or posting online.  But God bless you, Kristen, for doing it anyway…and making me laugh.

So back to the recession…

The Torrence family is – as of the beginning of August – now on a VERY strict and painfully-detailed budget with a plan to pay off all those nasty bills that keep coming (and coming, and coming…) in 5 years.  Gulp…that sounds like a long time, doesn’t it?  But if we had just used this plan 5 years ago, we wouldn’t be where we are now – gotta start somewhere.

Our credit cards are gone.  It’s only cash from here on out.  And there’s not much of it, I’m afraid.  So there’s not going to be much ‘back-to-school’ shopping going on over here.  Here’s hoping the kids fit into most of their clothes from last year.  Stop growing, darn you all! (Kristen would have said it MUCH better than that!)

So help out some fellow bloggers and click through some links from her site…every little bit helps…

 
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Shopping (and Stalking) at CKC Valley Forge

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Aug 3, 2008 in Crafts, Local Community, Scrapbooks, Soldered Art, Today's Photo

I had a great time at the Creating Keepsakes Convention in Valley Forge, PA this weekend!  My friends and I went at the same time last year and had so much fun shopping, we decided to do it again this year but stay overnight for the crop and some more classes this time too.

I took two great classes (I’ll finish up the projects and post them later, but here’s what one of them will look like when it’s done…but with photos of my own family, of course)

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and got to SHOP all afternoon!  And when I say shop…the vendor area in these conventions is incredible!  Lot of new paper crafting products, demos, make-and-takes…and I also did a little bit of celebrity ‘stalking’…

When I first started making soldering projects, I mentioned on my blog a website called Simply Swank that sold pink soldering irons and other supplies including a fabulous instructional DVD.

I may have also mentioned a book, Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories by Lisa Bluhm (one of the ‘swanky’ sisters), that I just loved for project ideas and instructions.

Well, Lisa Bluhm, her royal ‘swankiness’ herself was at the convention and I just had to stop and gush over how much I loved her book and products!  I was such a geek – but I honestly do love her stuff and didn’t hesitate to tell anyone who stopped by her booth (in fact, she asked if I could stick around for a little while and help sell some sets with my free advertising/testimonial).  I eventually pried myself from her booth and continued shopping, promising to send her some emails of some of my projects.

After shopping all afternoon (I got some GREAT bargains!), my friends and I grabbed a quick dinner then went to the crop Friday night.  I couldn’t believe how many women were there!

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Here we are at our table:

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There were lots of vendors inside the crop as well – and one of the people helping out was…Lisa Bluhm!  This time, I was even geekier and showed her a photo of one of my projects that I still had on my camera:

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I whipped this project up this week after one of my co-workers announced her retirement – THE NEXT DAY!  (Note:  If you are going to retire, please give your friends more than 24 hours notice in order to plan an appropriate gift)  I used a vintage postcard with some images of a rose garden, added some glitter and a rub-on that says, “Enjoy” – then I wrote on the back, “Take some time to stop and smell the roses.”  Hey – it was the best I could do in one evening with no advance warning!

Anyway, I showed Lisa this photo on my camera (at least, a tiny version of it on the little camera screen) and she said she loved it (I’m sure she was just humoring me, but I pretended that she meant it anyway).  Then I took even one more step toward being arrested for celebrity stalking, I asked to have my photo taken with her and she kindly obliged:

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How did she manage to look so good after all those hours at the vendor fair?

I noticed a man standing to the side laughing at us – Lisa said that he was jealous that no one ever recognized him and asked for his photo.  Turns out, his name is Brian and he’s a model who has done lots of work including underwear ads for Target…so I told him I’d like his photo too:

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Um…I didn’t ask him to see his work – or his abs.  That might have been going just a bit too far.  Right, Mike?

I also chatted with former Paper Crafts editor-in-chief Stacy Croninger (I had my photo taken with her last year, so I didn’t make the poor woman pose again) – but this time, she came up to OUR table (was she stalking me???).  Turns out that she just announced that she is leaving the magazine to take a position as the director of the Creating Keepsakes conventions.  We talked about that a little bit (I offered some feedback on the convention – she also humored me and made it seem like she was interested in my opinion) and I showed her the photos of Emily during the “princess incident” that I happened to have out on the table – she thought they were really cute and would make a great layout…I’ll work on that when I have time.

I also saw Mindy from Crop Classix – she also found me out in the crowd and came over to chat…I guess scrapbooking is really becoming a small community – you see the same people year after year at each event.

I didn’t get nearly as much done at the crop as I’d hoped (I was too busy chatting!), but I had a lot of fun and will definitely go back next year!

After a late night of cropping, we headed back to the vendor fair the next morning and picked up a few more bargains and did a few make-and-takes.  Most of the free make-and-takes were pretty lame, (mine were always MUCH better, if I do say so myself)…but what do you expect for free?

On my way out, I ran into Stacy Croninger again and she was with Stacy Julian, the founding editor of Simple Scrapbooks.  But poor Stacy J already had a list of other stalkers waiting for photos, so I just said hello and headed out.

I had JUST enough gas in the truck to get home…and then got stuck in a MAJOR traffic backup on the Schuylkill Expressway (known for its traffic backups) – it took me almost 1 1/2 hours to get home – twice as long as it would under normal conditions.  But I didn’t run out of gas (thank goodness) and to ease my stress, I took the time in the truck to admire my purchases…now let’s see what I can create with them!

 
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Camping In Hershey

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jul 28, 2008 in Family Stuff, Local Community, Scrapbooks

As you may have gathered from my previous post, we spent this weekend camping in Hershey, PA at the Hershey Highmeadow Campground, one of our favorites.

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We had a really nice time…with the exception of a few minor meltdowns due to the heat and the crowds – and half the time it was me melting down, not even the kids!  But after a break in the shade, a cold beverage and a chocolate-y snack, all was well.

We spent our first day (Saturday) hanging around at the campground – just enjoying the nice weather, swimming in the pool, playing some games – my parents even came up for a visit.

We purchased tickets for HersheyPark for Sunday, which meant that we could go on Saturday night for a few hours for a ‘free preview’ of the park.  Unfortunately, we were not the only ones on the park Saturday night – in fact, there was a record number of people at HersheyPark that night!  Between the Jonas Brothers and Brad Paisley concerts at the arena this weekend, the place was CRAZY!!!!

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Emily was very excited to see that she was a “Reese’s Cup” this year and was tall enough to go on most of the rides.  Andrew, of course, is now tall enough to go on anything he wants!

We fought our way through the crowds and managed to go on a few rides that first night, but that was about all we could take and left exhausted.

Sunday morning, we headed out bright and early – as guests of the campground, we got to enter the park an hour before it opened and enjoyed a few quick line-free rides.

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As soon as it opened, Emily, Matt and I headed over to the new “Boardwalk” – a huge waterpark filled with all kinds of fun things for the kids to do.  We changed into our swimsuits and played for about an hour…until it started to thunder.  At which point everything in the park shut down.

This was not such a bad thing – it was time for lunch and we needed to let the dogs out anyway, so we headed back to the camper on the shuttle bus and returned later in the afternoon after the skies had cleared.

Emily was proud to go on her first real roller coaster and Mike and Andrew went on a BUNCH of roller coasters including the new “Fahrenheit”– which to me looks just insane.  But no more insane than this one – the “Stormrunner” – which goes from a complete standstill to really-really fast at the very beginning of the ride.  Every time I saw the start of the ride and heard this creepy voice, I had my own personal little panic attack – and I wasn’t even on the ride!  I managed to take a video of Andrew’s car at the start of the ride – take a look at this (this voice still gives me nightmares):

Andrew on the StormRunner

And here he is by one of the loops:

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Matt doesn’t enjoy rides very much, but he waited very patiently at the ride exits for everyone to finish:

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We made reservations to stay at the campground again next year – between the campground, the amusement park, the water park and all the other activities, this is one of our favorite ‘one-gas-tank’ trips!

 
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Rescue Swimmers in Action!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jul 28, 2008 in Family Stuff, Local Community

Just a quick update – the same day that Emily and I toured the Coast Guard facility at the FAA Technical Center and visited with their rescue swimmers, there was a severe thunderstorm in the area later that afternoon.  The very helicopter that we sat in was called out to rescue passengers from a sinking boat just hours after we were in the helicopter – and the rescue swimmers had to jump in to the rough seas where they managed to save 2 of the 3 people on the boat!  When we saw it on the news, Emily was so excited to see ‘our’ helicopter involved in a rescue that very same day…

 
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Aviation Enrichment Mini-Symposium

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jul 24, 2008 in Family Stuff, Local Community, Today's Photo

What a strange name for a fun event that we attended at the FAA Technical Center yesterday! The Tech Center is not just the building where I work – it’s a 5000-plus acre facility containing the main building (for FAA system development and research) plus the Atlantic City Airport, US Coast Guard facility, 177th Fighter Wing Air National Guard facility, Federal Air Marshal facility, and other buildings where there is research done for bomb detection, airplane safety, weather phenomena…it’s a really interesting place to work.

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I took Andrew and Emily with me to work yesterday for a series of tours and workshops introducing kids to different aspects of aviation – labeled an “Aviation Enrichment Mini-Symposium”.  That was the title of the email that was sent out to all of the FAA employees a few weeks ago announcing this event – and I think many of them ignored it because they had no idea what it meant.  So many people stopped us and said that they had no idea the event was even taking place today!  If the email had been titled, “Fun Things For You and Your Kids To Do Together So You Don’t Have to Just Sit At Your Desk All Day”, more people might have opened it and read it.  But there were still lots of kids there today and they all seemed to be having a great time.

Unfortunately, my poor son Matthew has walking pneumonia and wasn’t able to come with us today – Mike had to stay home with him all day.  I hope Matt feels better soon.

During the day, Emily and I made some crafts (of course – any time crafts are offered, you know we’ll be there!), watched a K-9 demonstration by the Egg Harbor Township police department (we’re not sure who was policing Egg Harbor Township while most of the police force was at this event), tried a flight-simulator, made some paper airplanes and took a fantastic tour of the Coast Guard facility on base.

I had NO idea exactly what the aviation division of the Coast Guard did – and boy, was I impressed!  These are some extremely brave men and women – especially the rescue swimmers.  I had no idea of the intensity of their training or the extreme danger of their missions.  These are the guys that are dropped from helicopters to rescue boaters or others who fall victim to sinking boats and rough seas, often in shark-infested waters.  Their physical stamina is incredible – they have to be able to swim with no floatation devices in sometimes up to 20 foot swells for up to 30 minutes – almost impossible conditions that require the swimmers to remain in top physical condition.  We met several of the swimmers who were very candid about their experiences – and were also quite easy-on-the-eyes if I do say so myself!  But I digress…

While we were there, we were able to tour the Coast Guard facility and the children were allowed to climb aboard a $10 million helicopter while a pilot explained the controls to them individually.  They were so accommodating and so patient with the children – I’d like to thank them for a great experience.

Meanwhile, Andrew was able to tour the 177th Fighter Wing, NJ Air National Guard facility.  He got to see their F-16s and weapons too – a boy’s dream!  After that, he toured the Federal Air Marshal training facility (which was a little bit more secretive about their operations – these are the guys who are present on every airline flight and act as cops in the sky) and also toured some air traffic control labs in the main building.  He also got to participate in a ‘mini egg drop’ where the kids has to try to cushion an egg that would be dropped from the second and third floor of the atrium.  Unfortunately, Andrew’s egg cracked on the first drop, but we had fun watching all of the other egg contraptions fall while we cheered them on.

I wish I had taken more photos, but my camera seemed to stay on my desk for most of the day while we ran from event to event.  I didn’t realize that the facility gave so many tours – this would be an excellent place for class trips for elementary and middle schools.

I think this experience also gave the kids a glimpse into what it’s like to work at the FAA Technical Center – they saw that the work that takes place there is interesting and that we can sometimes have fun at work too (like when one of my co-workers gave Emily a toy moose that ‘poops’ out brown jelly beans – thanks a lot, Jeff).

By the way, Andrew found it difficult to believe that I might actually have some knowledge about something other than raising kids and housework.  He kept saying, “So people actually come to YOU with questions about this stuff?!?!”  He may have actually been impressed with his own mother – although I’m sure he’d never admit it…

 
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One of the Best Kept Secrets in Gloucester County – Lake Kandle

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jul 15, 2008 in Local Community

In my previous post, I shared that we held my son Matthew’s birthday party at Lake Kandle this weekend.  I am finding that more and more residents of Gloucester County have not only never been to Lake Kandle – many have never even heard of our own little hidden summer oasis!

Lake Kandle is located on Chapel Heights Road in Sewell behind behind Duffield’s Farm Market (which is a gem of Gloucester County in its own right).  There’s very little to hint to the tucked-away scenic spot behind the fields except for a small sign by the road announcing Lake Kandle Campground and Swim Club.

Turn down the road that leads between fields of peaches, pumpkins and other crops and you soon come upon a sparkling filtered lake complete with its own sandy beach and even a mini-water park for the little ones! 

Lake Kandle

There’s plenty for the big kids to do in the lake too – several diving boards (including a high dive), paddle boats, lakeside fishing, a Tarzan swing, and a twisting, turning tube slide that dumps you out into the clean, cool water.

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Fishing at Lake Kandle

The lake is surrounded by trees, completely blocking out the hectic world of Washington Township that surrounds the campground.  You feel as though you’re in your own little paradise just a few miles from home – and with the current price of gas, finding those special spots close to home is more important than ever!

We have found that since we’ve joined Lake Kandle, we no longer feel the need to drive to the shore for water fun.  While my children are busy building sand castles and splashing in the lake, I can relax knowing that not only are they completely surrounded by attentive lifeguards, but there are no large waves or rip tides to worry about either.  I have a much better chance to catch up on my summer reading at Lake Kandle then I ever did at the shore.

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Not only are there activities for the whole family at the lake, there is also a huge crystal-clear swimming pool to cool everyone down on a hot summer day.  There’s even a little kiddie pool for the toddlers with its own dedicated lifeguard.  My family has been to many campgrounds in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and we have yet to find a pool as large or as well-maintained as the one at Lake Kandle.

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One of the best parts of enjoying the water at Lake Kandle is the abundance of shady spots.  Unless you bring your own umbrella to the beach, you are hard-pressed to find a spot in the shade.  But with all the trees surrounding the lake and pool, you are sure to find a cool spot out of the harsh rays of the sun at Lake Kandle (and if you’re a die-hard sun worshipper – there’s plenty of sun to be had too!).

There’s a large picnic grove in the center of the campground as well as a playground, basketball court, ping-pong tables and a fabulous snack bar that serves everything from hamburgers and fries to ice cream and water ice.

Even if you’re not a camper, you can still purchase a swim club membership at the campground for a very reasonable fee.  All of the facilities are available for swim club members from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The cost of a membership is so low compared to owning and maintaining your own pool – and your children will have other children to play with all summer long.

Kids that made the canal

Lake Kandle is a family-friendly facility that does not allow alcoholic beverages or – unfortunately for us – pets either.  The pet restriction is my only complaint about the campground.  I would love to park our camper there for the season, but part of the reason that we enjoy camping is that we can bring our dogs along with us when we travel.

So for now, we’ll just enjoy our Lake Kandle swim club membership and continue to camp elsewhere.  Speaking of which…there are some other campgrounds in Gloucester Country that we have yet to visit – who knows what other gems are out there waiting to be discovered in our own backyard?

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