My family's summer travel schedule is pretty much already booked.
While I've left a lot of free time on the calendar, over the last 13 years we've accumulated a number of summer family travel traditions already slotted in and confirmed. I try to balance a bunch of family time with fun activities for each of us to enjoy separately.
Here are the Ehm Family Adventures that have become meaningful family traditions for us over the ten weeks of summer, in the hopes that it may inspire you to do the same.
This is the tenth year we will be kicking off our summer vacation at Clevelands House Family Resort. A decade of making memories! The first time we arrived at this Muskoka gem, my husband and I were shell-shocked and sleep-deprived parents with a three-year-old tantruming toddler and a six-month-old baby girl. The fact that they had the "Kids Club" for the toddler and a nursery for my baby allowed me and my husband to catch a few hours of downtime together (aka naps) while the kids were babysat by university-aged students. Their dining hall was casual. The food was yummy and kid-friendly. The scenery was breathtaking, and there were always a ton of activities to choose from. Over the years it's the place my kids learned to water ski, swim, and venture out on their own with a room key in their pocket and a whole lot of freedom.
But it was the bonding with other families with kids of a similar age that really connected with me and my husband. As has become tradition, each year at the same week at the end of June, we all still arrive "en famille" and marvel at how each other's kids have shot up like weeds. Within hours, we're all by the pool with beverages catching up on the year that has sped by while the kids are running wild around the Clevelands House property, almost like their second home. Clevelands House is definitely my family's Happy Place. A week flies by and there are often tears when we pack our bags and head to our next summer adventure.
Every year there are small changes to the property and dining room. Last year they opened a delicious bakery called Abby's Bake House on the property in an old Church, and a yoga studio beside the lake. A little bird told me the big news this year is that Clevelands House gift mugs will be waiting for all guests as well as coffee machines in each room! Woot!
Still on our bucket list...to stay in one of their family cottages. And take one of the Muskoka boat cruises. I can't believe I still haven't done that yet.
Actually, I love it at Clevelands House so much, I started a YMC weekend at Cleves for staff and friends of YMC to bring their families and hang out for a long weekend. You're welcome to join us between July 10 - 13th.
If you're looking for a great place for family bonding and relaxation, you should definitely book some time at Clevelands House this summer.
Described as "the Grande Dame of Folk Festivals," Mariposa Folk Festival is three day mini-Woodstock music love-in July 4th to the 6th. Launched in 1961, Mariposa is a great family-friendly weekend of music, crafts, activities, and food tucked away in Tudhope Park in Orillia, Ontario. My sister started going years ago and finally convinced me to bring the family. We had an amazing time! Sitting on lawn chairs sheltered from the sun under big old trees, or under the night time stars, we've seen non-stop musical acts as diverse as Jann Arden and Murray Mclauglin, spoken words artists like Robert Priest and Shane Koyzen, and a ton of lesser known bluegrass, blues, gospel, and folk acts. Last year my family lived in an RV on the Mariposa grounds — which was quite the experience.
You should come! An entire area of the park is dedicated to old-fashioned activities for the kids, and another area is filled with yummy food vendors. This year I'm excited to see Rosanne Cash and Hydra (Feist's supergroup), and also to laze around while the kids frolic around the festival like it was the '60s.
I grew up in Hudson, Quebec surrounded by horses and my dad still lives in the area. This means he doesn't get to see my kids enough. To solve this problem, we started sending my son to stay with his grandfather on his horse farm for a week of good, old-fashioned manual labour. Nothing like a little shit shoveling to help a grandson and Zaidie bond, right? A highlight of the trip for my son is flying on an airplane BY HIMSELF!! The highlight for my dad is being able to spend a week one-on-one getting to really know his his grandson. Then the rest of the family drives to pick up Josh and enjoy a long weekend at my dad's.
As you know, I love my kids. But I also love my husband and basically spend next to no alone time with him. So for the past two summers we started a new tradition in which we strategically send our kids to the camps of their choice for two weeks at the same time so mummy and daddy can play kid-free. If you have the disposable income to do this, but choose not to, I humbly suggest you're crazy. As my friend Elissa Freeman writes, Sleepover Camp Saves Parents.
A couple of years ago my hubby and I spent five romance drenched days in Portland, Oregon which was surprisingly awesome! Last year, we voted to be tourists in our own town and just chill. This year, we haven't decided where we're going. But we're itching to go somewhere new!
When the kids come home from camp there are loads of laundry to be done. But once the clothes are cleaned and we get reacquainted with our sun-kissed, untamed children, we like to end the summer with a family adventure with an educational bent. A couple of years ago we took the 11-day Castles and Kilts UK bus tour with Trafalgar Tours. We all had the opportunity to see amazing historic sights and absorb grand tales about famous historical events in the process. This year, we are heading to Canada's East Coast to introduce our kids to this part of our beautiful country, and in the process, bring some of Canada's history to life. I haven't finalized the itinerary yet, but the kids are already looking at Google Maps to get acquainted with our destination.
So there you have it — five of our Top Family Summer Traditions that have evolved over the years. Spending time as a family, as a couple, and as carefree kids are all priorities each summer. With careful planning, we can all try to create memory-rich experiences this summer.
I've been part of the evolving blogger landscape for the past seven years. I've watched the marketing and PR industry dismiss then embrace the influence of the "every day mom" with a blog. And like all trends, many jump on the bandwagon without research or realizing what the ground rules are. Truthfully, the blogger space is still the wild west. Although some standards are bandied about, there is no definitive approach, quality control, or manual for brands and marketers to follow.
There is a reason why so many digital marketing budgets are being allocated to bloggers. It works. That is, it works when you have the right blogger, telling the right story, and providing the right stats to their clients after the fact. The problem is that many on both sides of this equation are not doing it properly. However well-intentioned, some marketers are not reaching out to bloggers properly or using these influencers' skills in a meaningful way. And some bloggers are sacrificing their credibility by not being true to their voice and values, or are not providing accurate reporting. In either case, this is a dysfunctional relationship that needs to be and can be improved.
YMC's business model depends on building relationships with brands and bloggers to create powerful, relevant, and shareable content that, first and foremost, resonates with our readers. I've spent years honing the systems and thought processes to make sure this happens seamlessly within YMC. And it still isn't easy.
(Although this is directed at those on the marketing side, bloggers will get a lot from this as well)
1. You're not checking your facts or taking the time to know the bloggers. Too many misdirected pitches are being sent out to bloggers that aren't relevant. Get to know each of the bloggers you're pitching to and send them thoughtful pitches that fit their niche. The best example of this is when a large maternity brand's PR company sent my 70-year-old mom a pitch to see their designer collection, while my friends at Oh Baby weren't contacted.
2. You're choosing quantity over quality. Rather than sending random mass pitches to strangers, you will have much more success by knowing the strengths and weakness, interests and passions of the influencers in the social space. You don't want to work with a blogger who is inauthentic and not respected online. And I can assure you, influencers who are worth anything won't respond to a mass blast.
3. You want something for nothing. I get the strategy...blast the entire blogging community with a pitch and hope that a few pick it up. The problem with this strategy is that you always get what you pay for—which is little or no value. Those bloggers who will write about anything to get on your good side probably have very little influence in the social space. Wouldn't it make more sense to spend some money and engage with more valuable partners? Bloggers who put value in their work usually have experience and understand their worth.
4. You're not actively managing, so you're being played. If you aren't paying bloggers to work for you, then you can't ask them for reporting, now, can you? But if you don't have proper reporting, how can you value the campaign you're building? It's up to the marketers to be knowledgeable in the social space and be able to list the statistics required from the influencer (click-throughs, RTs, repins, impressions, etc.). Marketers need to create their internal requirements and share with influencers who participate in campaigns. Similarly, bloggers need to be able to create professional wrap up reports if they expect to be paid.
5. You're loving them and leaving them. Working with influencers is predicated on creating a relationship. Flipping them the occasional "ask" doesn't create a relationship. Taking the time to really connect with the bloggers is good business. And creating long term opportunities with your brand and a blogger works on so many levels. You create an actual working relationship with influencers who you've researched and you know are a good fit. And from a social point of view, their followers see consistent connection with your brand, which implies authenticity and true engagement with your brand, rather than a quickie.
Are you looking to work with bloggers? We've put together an entire section on our site with the #YMCCommunity—some of Canada's top influencers who we work with on an ongoing basis. Feel free to peruse this section and contact any of these bloggers directly. Tell them Erica sent you :)
This is such an important and timely topic for bloggers and brands. Feel free to download this powerpoint I created on The Five Things You're Probably Doing Wrong with Bloggers.
Want to talk more about this with me? Let me know. I'm happy to share my expertise and grow my relationship with you :)
There are seventy people working for YMC on a daily basis. #help!!
Translation #1: Ex-broadcaster Erica Ehm is responsible for leading 70 people to do the best work they can every day, while simultaneously engaging with potential partners to grow the YMC brand.
Translation #2: Entrepreneur Erica Ehm has traded in her career as a broadcaster to a become full-time executive problem solver.
Translation #3: YMC's Publisher Erica Ehm needs to walk the talk to ensure her business continues to grow in a manner that reflect her values.
Translation #4: I need help!
Going from self-employed broadcaster to full-time entrepreneur has forced me to learn how to be an effective leader QUICKLY! To me, leadership isn't just about getting people to do what you want; it's about giving people the power to do what they want that fits within the company's vision and values. That's how YMC has grown. I surround myself with people smarter than I and let them loose. I'm there to support them. That's my version of leadership.
I imagine if you're running a business as well, improving your leadership skills is at the top of your mind. And if you're like me, it's hard to find answers, especially from a woman's perspective. Let's face it, women haven't been socially groomed for leadership. Sheryl Sandberg's game-changing book Lean In addresses the lack of assertiveness and confidence women grapple with in the business world.
This is why I'm so excited to be attending the Art of Leadership for Women Conference on May 29th in Toronto. This day-long conference is tailor-made for women in business because it is bringing six highly acclaimed authors and thought leaders together who will hopefully inspire me (and you) to improve our skills and shift our strategies in the way we lead.
Martha Stewart is billed as the headliner of the conference. She will be discussing the importance of life long learning, work/life balance and reflect on her career trajectory.
Hailey Wickenheiser, four-time Gold medalist for Women's Olympic Hockey Team, will talk about playing with the big boys and speak to the importance of constant personal improvement and change in your life.
Katty Kay will talk about the Confidence Code. I agree with her concerns that many of us of the female persuasion aren't successful leaders because we lack confidence.
Erica Ariel Fox will provide strategies to be a better negotiator and how to take risks. I'm really looking forward to this!
Liane Davey wants us to unlearn our ladylike behaviour and embrace conflict to become better leaders.
Part of the YMC mandate is to empower and inspire women with kids to be "more than somebody's mom." Leadership definitely plays into this. Let me know if you buy a pass so we can hook up during the day since networking is a big part of the conference.
Buy passes or win passes, hopefully I'll see you on May 29th. I'll be wearing my power suit :)