it doesn’t have to be October

Here in Maryland the fiery glow of early fall is giving way to tobacco hued piles of fallen leaves. The color of autumn is starting to fade. Soon the pink of Breast Cancer Awareness month will start to pass into memory as well. 

There will be fewer pink-clad products on the shelves at stores and NFL teams will take back their home colors. Profiles of courageous warriors will get less airtime, the media move on to the next month’s story.  Breast cancer won’t be going anywhere though. It will still be stalking millions.  It doesn’t limit itself to October and neither should you.

Sharing my story, and Tami Scovitch’s, earlier this month was just the start of the journey. There are still many paths to be taken.

Unless you’ve been off the planet all October long, you’re pretty aware at this point that breast cancer is out there. The challenge now is to stay aware, keep ourselves educated, follow early detection recommendationsand fight for a cure!

I asked the folks at Saint Agnes Breast Center to give me some information to share that help us all take the awareness October has brought and turn it into action. Here is what they shared…

(click the image to enlarge the font)

Saint Agnes Facts

 Remember, it doesn’t have to be October for you to take care of yourself and those you love.

How to get your kids to take a good family photo

Good Family Photos

You spend hours searching for the clothes, the location, the theme and the perfect Photog (or camera if you’ve got those mad skills – which I lack in spades) only to spend even more trying to get everyone to, “smile for real”.. “sit still”… “say cheese!”

I’ve found the perfect time-saving-awesome-picture-resulting-easy-as-heck solution for you.

Are you ready?

Just snap a picture of them acting like weirdos and post it on your blog and every social media account you own! Trust me, nothing gets them to shape up and take a decent pic than you sharing a bad photo of them on the interwebs.

My. Work. Here. Is. Done.


Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: cursed (by my own offspring)

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream with Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Racing heartbeat. Rapid breathing. Unrestrained screams of sheer terror. Public mocking from those you gave birth to. It’s all just a day at the park, if you’re me and that park is Busch Gardens Williamsburg during Howl-O-Scream – Cursed.

Some people get totally into Turkey. Others bring the awesome to decking halls (um, lights synced to music and everything). Me? Well, Halloween is my thing.

I own no less than two full, instructional-grade skeletons. You won’t find a single cuddly black cat or smiling jack-o-lantern in my house. I’ve spent decades perfecting the art of scaring small children – even a handful of grown men. People drive from other cities to test their nerve at our doorstep on Samhain.

I do the scaring. Not the other way around… or is it?

I’m not even being ironic with that opening paragraph, people. I screamed. I was mocked. This weekend I suffered the revenge of countless trick-or-treating folk and new family tradition, (a-la-Rosemary’s-baby) was born.

It all started out rather slowly. The park we’d visited in the summer had gone through a creepy makeover. Gone were the Union Jacks that hung in London Square, replaced with posters of Jack The Ripper. Jack-O-Lanterns were strung amongst the trees and some scary spiders lurked. But other than the ghoulishly awesome upgrades, the park remained the same. 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Emily rode her favorite flying dragon. We enjoyed some Guinness in Ireland, the big kids waited forever to take on Verbolten. Then, with the sinking of the sun, came an eery sound track and time for the small ones to head back to the hotel with dad. 

I stayed behind with Ryan and Kaytie to check out the scares. Yeah, like some theme park is going to be “terrifying” – pfft!

We waited in line for our turn in, “Root of All Evil,” a greenhouse themed haunted house walk through. The wait was long, but there were vendors along the route peddling refreshments, and trinkets. note: the barbequed scallop skewers – worth the waiting in line. Time with my teen and Marine made the waiting fly by.

Walking into the maze I was keyed up to get new ideas for this year’s festivities – then the wall came alive and growled at me! I screamed like a 4 year old, and it was on. At every twist and turn another something, or someone popped out at me and nearly caused me to pee!

This isn’t your mall parking lot “haunted” attraction people. IT. IS. SCARY. I haven’t involuntarily cursed that much in the presence of mixed company since my days in the Navy. Chased through fog so dense that you can’t see two people ahead of you, actors lurk through the hanging vines emitting noises that are decidedly non-human. Emerging back  into the open air, you might think you were safe… until a guy with the chainsaw chases you!


At one point the adrenaline coursed so rapidly through me that I picked my 20 year old son – a muscular, solid US Marine- up off his feet and tossed him at .. whatever the hell that was that just tried to grab me!

Weak, shaken and down right terrified I turned to my kids for succor. Wrong answer. The two of them where breathless with hysterical laughter.. at me.. THEIR MOTHER!!

At least the small crowd that gathered to point and laugh, having been near me in the maze, weren’t related.

Busch Gardens Howl o scream

Naturally this meant we had to head over to, the “Catacombs” for more. But first, we had to get there. Through Canada where it seems there was some sort of biological disaster. I honestly don’t know because I was hiding behind my son – who pointed me out to nearly every actor roaming the scene all too happy to take part in a game of “Scare the Old Lady.”

Inside the Catacombs it was so bad that I needed to throw my son again – since he obviously wasn’t going to save me. It didn’t help that  his sister sold me out too. I turned around at one point to comfort her only to come nose to bone with a guy in the BEST skeleton makeup I’ve ever seen. Though that didn’t register as I tried to climb UP the wall.

Apparently I’m the best attraction at the park – or at least that’s what the guy ahead of us felt compelled to share.

So traumatized was I that while heading out of the park I felt a soft brush on my arm and took off with a hop. I thought something had come out of the trees after me. Turns out it was only the water bottle clipped to my backpack. Yes, the kids will be telling that story for years to come. 

There is only ONE weekend left in this year’s Howl-o-Scream event. 

When:  October 24-26th 2014 (but is an annual attraction)

Tickets: $75 (ages 10 and up) $65 (ages 3-9)

Parking: $15

Those tickets are pricy, so I did some math for ya. Here in Maryland Bennett’s Curse (a haunted walk through attraction) will set you back $30. Howl-o-Scream features SIX of these type of attractions, PLUS the full fun of the park before the sun goes down, so you do really get your money’s worth.

Not into scaring yourself (seriously, I had nightmares) for fun? Then give it a couple of weeks. On select days November 21st  through December 31st Busch Gardens turns on the charm for Christmas Town.  Sip hot cocoa, stroll through “Europe” enjoying seasonal traditions from all over,  and take in the lovely lights. You’ll love it as much as we do… but dress warm. We learned our lesson on that one last year when we almost became part of Frosty’s family!

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. I paid for my oldest son’s ticket, though the rest of family were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including, games on the mid-way, feeding the birds, food and drink (nothing like Guinness on tap), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!

Firelight Camps Gourmet Glamping

Gone Glamping

Primitive.  That’s the term that is used to describe the camping experiences of my youth. Dad sparking the fire with flint. Mom cooking over the open flames. Not an outlet in site – did they not understand the urgent necessity of blow drying?  Where was glamping when I needed it?

I harbor no delusions, camping in the traditional sense is not for me. Though I do love to be out in nature, sleeping on the ground just doesn’t appeal to me all that much. Give me a quality bed, a respectable thread count and an actual bathroom and I’m a happy non-camper.

When the trend of glamping (glamorous camping) started to pop up, I knew it was for me.  A romantic “Laurence of Arabia” style tent, real furniture and a proper powder room… what’s not to love?

Firelight Camps Glamping

All that and more can be found at Firelight Camps in Ithica, New York.  Reserve one of their six safari-style tents equipped with hardwood floors, a private balcony, a king or queen size bed, and hotel-quality linens, and you’ll know we aren’t in a Coleman anymore.

Set up on the grounds of the iconic La Tourelle Hotel, this gorgeous “tent city” is within hiking distance of the Finger Lake Trail system and Buttermilk Falls State Park.  Head out on a trek to a picturesque waterfall, then come back to relax in the spa. Top it all of with a glass of the famed local vintage and indulge in gourmet s’mores.

Firelight Camps Gourmet Glamping

Charging stations, a bathhouse that includes a sauna, gorgeous linens and lovely furnishing all make for a happy Glamper!

Firelight Camps also strive to maintain lodging with a lighter carbon footprint and elevating Eco-Tourism to a luxury level.

© Allison Usavage

The Details

Address: 1150 New York 96B, Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (406) 852-2476


Rates: Start at $170 nightly for a weekday reservation and range up to $230 nighty for weekends.

Reservations: Are open for through November 2, 2014 and will be opened up again in May 2015. (it gets a bit cold to camp after NovemBUR in upstate New York)

Notes: Though this experience is geared toward the grownup set (ah, kid-free travel) they are also a family-friendly property. Dogs are welcome as well. 



Breast Cancer Awareness is so much more than pink

saint agnes breast cancer awareness

The technician stepped behind the wall, checking my mammogram on the screen for a THIRD time. She paused, then smiled sympathetically and asked me to have a seat. The doctor would need to speak to me.

Before that moment, I thought I’d been aware of Breast Cancer. Who could miss the pink ribbons, designed to keep it in the forefront of our minds, right? From the Empire State building to the NFL gridiron, come October the nation seems to be awash in a whole new hue. Yet, with those ominous words – “The doctor will need to speak with you” – that awareness plunged into my gut and became so much more than “pink” for me. Now, as for countless others, those little pink ribbons mean fear.

With a good doctor, a thorough treatment plan and a whole lot of determination, the journey that started with fear is often replaced with a sense of empowerment.  But, initially – it packs a wallop!

Beyond the pink, we share one journey, with many paths.

I’ve been on many paths in this journey.

In 2006 my Aunt Paula lost her battle with breast cancer. She was the best combination of quick wit and dry humor. A globetrotting adventurer, who found her anchor sitting at the family table celebrating milestones, holidays and the random Tuesday night. Her smile was infectious, her sweet potato casserole – legendary.  Saying goodbye to her was a path I never wanted to take.

I’d reach a new road on the journey years later. During an annual exam a while back my doctor found an “odd area” in one of my breasts. Mammograms, sonograms, biopsies … OH MY!

My path was much different from Aunt Paula’s. I’m cancer free. But having a great team – like the one at Saint Agnes Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Center – made all the difference in my little detour. 

Vitamix Giveaway

The team at Saint Agnes would like to remind you to take care of yourself. Do regular self-breast exams, make and keep your annual appointment with your doctor! In that spirit they are sponsoring the giveaway of a Vitamix blender system so that you can whip up lots tasty and healthy treats – and enjoy the moments in your journey, whatever it may be.

The Prize

Vitamix 5200 Series (product info here) valued at $449.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I have four kids and an opinion.