Hilltown Families Handmade Valentine Swap 

Behold, the spoils of the Hilltown Families Handmade Valentine Swap!

I signed up for this annual community tradition for the second time this year, and for the first time as a mom. This time around, the whole process was even more fun, and the entire family got involved.

Created by Hilltown Families, the handmade valentine swap charges participants with creating and mailing handmade valentines to ten assigned addresses, receiving handmade valentines from other families in return.

After signing up, we received a list of addresses of families across Western Mass., and set to work getting our craft on. We started with art supplies in ‘Valentine colors,’ including red finger paint, and several sheets of card stock …

…some of the paint made it onto the paper, along with crayon scribbles and stickers.

Those were set aside to dry, and after bedtime, I added some scrapbook embellishments.

I also threw a few stickers into each of the envelopes — Ben’s job was to create equal piles of stickers for each child — before addressing them and sending them off.

In a few days, we started receiving handmade valentines from other families in return. Some people save them to open all at once on Valentine’s Day, others open them as they come in and display them like Christmas cards. We chose the latter this year, opening them together before bedtime and decorating the mantel. They’re all so creative… we received a heart ornament made out of pipe cleaners and Cheerios, thumb-print love birds, a hand-print fish, a heart made of tiny feet, and two handmade paper hearts in the coolest colors. I definitely noticed a purple trend.


From start to finish, the swap is so much fun! Can’t wait to do it again next year.

Go Speed Blogger, GO!

Today I embark on an exciting blogging adventure, as a ‘Guest Driver’ for Haddad Toyota! I’ll be testing out the 2014 Toyota Corolla for a week and sharing my adventures here and via my social networks Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Vine.

This is a special promotion I’ve just entered into with the dealership to use the power of social media to spread the word about a new product…I’m doubly excited, though, because Haddad did their homework with me. Not only am I a complete and total social media nerd and obvious blog enthusiast, I’ve also driven Toyota-manufactured cars for more than 15 years. I had a Toyota Tercel for 11 years until I finally traded it in — as JaxDad says, by that time, I essentially owed the car money.

After bidding farewell to the Tercel, I bought a new Scion, which will be paid off in a matter of weeks (squeal). What can I say; they’re good cars. They last. They’re good on gas. It’ll be interesting to see what Toyota has in store for 2014, and car manufacturers in general, for that matter.

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a great excuse to get out and see some great stuff as fall commences, documenting along the way! This blogtastic project also coincides with Blogtoberfest, my annual blog celebration of all things October, so I’ll be dragging some of my compadres along on my mini road-trips to keep things interesting and get some other people’s opinions about the ride. Let me know if there are any specific Berkshire destinations you’d like us to zoom over to, and we’ll do our best! Leave suggestions in the comments.

A couple of housekeeping notes: This a straight test-drive in exchange for blogging and social media coverage – the dealership is providing the car for an extended test drive (7 days) and a gas card for fuel. There’s no other compensation involved. No, I won’t text and drive, I promise. The same goes for vining, tweeting, facebooking, pinning, and instagramming. This is a Haddad Dealerships/WriterJax endeavor. Read the  FTC Blogger Guidelines here.

From the Archives: Potent Quotables

This month, I was able to tackle some very cool articlesfor The Women’s Times, profiling speakers slated to appear at the 15th annual BayPath Women’s Leadership Conference. It’s an assignment I’ve taken on in years past, and I’ve been able to meet, interview, or photograph some amazing people, including Maya Angelou, Madeleine Albright, and Mia Farrow as a result.

It’s a event that always leaves good thoughts and ideas rattling in the brain. This year, for whatever reason – be it the sunny weather, the theme ‘Community Matters,’ or the fact that I not only wrote stories but Tweeted throughout the day to add a social media wrinkle to the media mix – the info-sharing seemed to border on staggering in its breadth.

Here are a few digestible glimpses at the day, and some of the pearls of wisdom speakers left behind. A full Twitterstream of the event is available here , and more photos are here.

Collins Tuohy

Collins Tuohy

“It’s not seize the day; it’s seize this day.” – Collins Tuohy

Leigh Anne Tuohy

Leigh Anne Tuohy black & white

“You can change a life, and one is a powerful number.” – Leigh Anne Tuohy

Soledad O’brien

BayPath Women's Leadership Conference

“If people put obstacles around you, it is your duty to walk around them.” – Soledad O’brien

Nick Kristof and Somaly Mam

Nick Kristof and Somaly Mam

“Try to make it easier; accept everything that you are.” – Somaly Mam

“The fact that we’re sitting in this room means we’ve won the lottery of life. With that comes responsibility.” – Nick Kristof

Published: Friday, 30 April 2010


Allie‘ left this comment on 4 May 10
Wow! What an amazing experience that must have been! So cool!