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"Not all who wander are lost."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Here We Go Again!!!



It has been a long time since we have blogged as the "Belles" but we are refreshed, rejuvinated and revived! So HERE WE GO AGAIN!

The Belles are at it again -- hitting the road -- well actually the skies to attend the Sundance Film Festival. Excitement is in the air and our texting and facebook messaging is out of control! There is of course a lot to discuss -- whether or not to bring furs, how many movies can be seen, what is the weight limit for a checked bag, who is daring to be seen in a bathing suit, etc. We are of course first and foremost women and the important things must be addressed.

As we address the real "important" issues :) how do we, as belles, keep the details of the trip together?

Here are some tips that really help us.

1. Most all reservations can me made online these days and the belles certainly take advantage of this. This means that everything arrives through email for the most part with our confirmations. Keep a file in your email system labeled by trip and drop all of your emails that pertain to the trip into that virtual folder. This keeps everything in one place and you have quick access.

2. Desinate one person to be the "organizer or detail keeper". For the belles that's me, Leslie. Truthfully, I'm a bit of a control freak. I would keep copies of everything anyway if someone else was the detail person.

3. Have some sort of binder, notebook, or file folder with paper copies when you leave for your trip. I use a file portfolio and label the tabs: airlines, hotel, activities, meals, etc. I find that having a paper copy has saved me many times when my iphone can't access my email because of no wifi and such. I am the cental file keeper for everyone in our group!

4. When we travel we like to gather info -- cards of people we meet, a brochure of a great activity, a name of a fabulous restaurant or a website to a great store we found. Use a purse size journal to keep all of the info you gather together for the trip. I find that this journal becomes a memory book of such and when people ask us about trips we have great info at our fingertips to give out.

5. Photos can be hard to organize for a group trip. Our trick is to take a laptop with us and everyone hands over their memory card to download once or twice on the trip before we leave. This is very important if you want to share pictures! You will never get everyone's pictures if you don't make an effort to do it while on the trip. The great part about this is that we have access for everyone by loading to a share site, facebook or our blog. We also LOVE to make photo books of our trips and this makes it much easier.

So, the belles are so ready for some great time with each other, seeing some old friends, and of course seeing as many movies as possible. We are busy talking to each other about the loves of the travelling but thanks to our tricks we aren't burdened with the details!

Make sure and follow us on facebook at our bellehopping page, twitter (yes this is a new one for us :) and our blog -- best place to see some great pics! We want to share it all with you!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I am not lost , just crazy busy......

As all of us know, the summer is BUSY!!!!! I haven't posted anything for a long time and I have had some wonderful experiences. This has been an unbelievable year of travel for me. When I was in college I just knew I was going to be this great business women and travel the world! I explained some of this in my bio earlier. Well plans change and my career was and still is raising a family with some side jobs (the wellness and fitness director of the YMCA, church callings, etc..) But little did I realize how fast the time would go by. I still can not believe I have a 16 year old, 14 year old and an 11 year old almost 12!

This year started off with an amazing trip to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Festival. In March, my husband and I took our 16 year old Megan to New York City!! One of my oldest and dearest friends who is like a sister to me and who has been to New York hundreds of times, took off work and was our tour guide! Then this same friend, Jill, just moved to San Fransico 2 weeks ago. Megan, the 16 year old, drove from Washington, D.C. with Jill to San Fransico! I flew out 2 weeks ago and stayed 5 days and got to see some of CA!! Now, it wasn't with the belles, but being a part of the belles has given me this great desire to see the world and experience new things. I feel that part of being a belle is to share. Be it with your daughter, husband or friend. The belles want all to take time for themselves and hopefully take the time to enrich their lives.

More to come on what I saw and did.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

SO.... who do you think YOU are?"


Well, I guess that question has been asked of me a FEW times in my life, and usually, I have to answer with a smile... "well, that depends". You see, I kind of "morph" a bit, depending on the context and situation. Firstly, I am a believer, I am a mom, a wife, business person, filmmaker, artist, budding runner and most consistently.... a dreamer. None actually "claim" hold over me, but they all fight for first place in line. My first priority, however, is to my God and then my family.

I am the "big picture" belle of the group, love me or leave me, I have enough "quirks" to fill a dump truck, but love life and my friends even more!

I have just hit the "prime" of my life, turning 41 this February. It has brought about a lot of change in my thought processes that are probably a little bit different than the "younger" belles in our group. I find myself constantly asking myself, now..... " how is this going to effect my family, my friends.... the world". Now, I know that may sound a little "cheesey" and for those of you who know me well, a little un"blingy".... but I have come to a place, where I realize life is short..... VERY short, and what I leave behind, is ALL of me there will be when I am gone. What I leave my children with (dreams, beliefs, moral compasses) that is the only way to leave my thumbprint, if you will on the generations to come. I look at the world (USA) as it is now, and frequently have to apologize for what we will be leaving my kids to deal with.

I have a HUGE heart for Africa. I have a friend who is part of a ministry to street kids in Uganda, hopefully I will be able to take my oldest kid, Blake jr. next summer over there so he can see how "the rest of the world" lives, and have his heart pricked enough to do more for the helpless than I ever could.

I LOVE U2, and every lyric that has ever been scribbled down by the hand of Bono. ( I saw them twice last year - Barcelona, Raleigh.

I am a STAUNCH Constitutionalist in the most Jeffersonian use of the word. I believe in the idea of freedom for ALL people as a God given right. I believe in free enterprise and capitalism, I HATE SOCIALISM on any level. I believe in working HARD for what you have, and even HARDER to get what you don't. I don't believe in "handouts", but "hand-ups". I am a bootstrap girl who came from a family that had not much, according to American standards, and have worked hard everyday of my adult life to give my children more.... BUT also, to teach them the value of work and the dollar. Nothing good comes free.

I teach my children to ALWAYS stop, face the flag and put their hands over their hearts, EVERY TIME the National Anthem is played.... NO EXCEPTIONS. We frequently talk about what people have given up, even today, for that flag, and it WILL be respected. ( I tear up, even now, just writing these words :))

I love my friends. Not much more to say about that, but if you are one, you know I love you and would do ANYTHING to defend you..... I have offered to kick many a bottoms for my friends, whether they were right or wrong, I will always be on your side.

I love to travel. I hope when I am 90 I will still be out climbing up the Rock of Gilbraltar, or seeing a bullfight (I am sure they will by hijacked by the politically correct by then though), or attending a rally for members of a country that are not yet free (shout out to my Iranian friends in Athens). I hope I will always live life to the fullest.... as Bono (my only "idol" here on earth) says in the song KITE, "I'm not afraid to die.....I'm not afraid to live.....And when I'm flat on my back...I hope to feel like I did".

My kids are my life. I have 4. Blake, 12, Drew-Davis, 10, Stuart, 8, and Benson, 4. We are SUPER busy and have a hectic life, but I would not change a minute of it.... NOT ONE MINUTE. Two of my boys have AD/HD pretty intensely, and that is not easy....so if you have a kid who is "different" believe me, I can relate. BUT, I have found, these are the kids that God gave us for a REASON.... and it's not my job to question that, but to embrace it and cultivate it, the best I can.

My husband, Blake, is my stability. I knew when I shook his hand, he was the one..... He told me he loved me on day 2 and asked me to marry him on day 3..... 15 years later, I love him more than the first time I saw him, singing on stage in some smokey bar in Norfolk, VA. He lets me run, as far and fast as I can.... or until the money runs out!! :)) He is my soul-mate.

It has taken me a long time to realize that I am the LEAST perfect person in the world.... it is truly a wonder how the people around me love me and put up with me. I act before I think, I say what I should censor, and I spend more than I make..... but somehow, facing your imperfections help you to accept who you are, and work on being better, not believing you have it all figured out, and helps you to accept there is a plan.... you won't know what it is, till you are past it, but it IS a plan, and you just have to keep walking thru it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meet Elyse


Hello! I am excited to tell everyone a little about myself!

Name: Elyse Giles

Personal: I am the youngest, but married the longest to Doug Giles for 17 roller coaster years! We have 3 wonderful children, Megan 16, Douglas 14 and Madelyn 11. I know this is information about me, but my family is a large part of who I am and I am so grateful to have a supporting, loving husband and children.

Quote: "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves." I will explain why I love this quote later on.

I am not a Georgia native, but moved here to Athens at the worst possible time in a teenagers life, 16!!! I have now lived here 21 years (if you do the math you guys will know how old I am!) A short 4 years later I was happily married and on the way to starting our beautiful family!

My piece of the pie in this Belle group, is FITNESS!! When my husband was in chiropractic school we could not afford a gym membership. I was 50 pounds overweight after having 3 children in less than 5 years. When our youngest was one, I was on our bed and realized that I had just eaten an entire pan of magic bars and I knew I needed to change. I had been active before and I am a happy, love to talk to people, energetic and thought "Hey, I could be a fitness instructor." Get paid to workout! And that was the start of my love for exercise. I am seen almost always in my workout garb. Black. So I hope you recognize me in the Belle pictures. It is going on 11 years, and I have taught almost everything there is fitness wise to teach. I am living another dream right now and that is The YMCA's Wellness and Fitness Director. Another huge bonus to me teaching is I LOVE to cook, bake and eat! My favorite shows are Top Chef, The Next Food Network Star and Biggest Loser. Need I say more??

My connection to the rest of the Belles is of course Shannon! I am her friend and trainer. Leslie and Angela mentioned Las Vegas in their bio's. That was the starting race of this magical group. We have done 2 AWESOME trips! When I was in college, and before I was married I really thought I was going to be an International Business Woman! I had 4 years of French and just knew I would be traveling to France to do big deals! Well, that wasn't the plan then. But, dreams really do come true. You might not know when they will happen, but I guarantee if you set a goal, focus and are constantly positive you will be amazed at the opportunities that will come to you. That is why I love my quote "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves." Make your destiny and fulfill it BIG!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And who are YOU???


Welcome to Terrific Tuesday! On the theme of getting to know the Belles...today is my turn to tell you all about MOI! And in turn I am looking forward to reading about my fellow Belles and maybe learning a new thing or two about them!


Name: Angela Walters

Personal: Married to Keith for 16 years and proud Mommy of three children...Austin age 14, Reagan age 12 and Maison Belle age 6. My children are the joys of my life and my husband is a wonderful man who can do everything...and at fatherhood he is AMAZING!!

I am a Georgia native and a true Southern Belle who loves all things "Gone with the Wind", sweet tea, crossword puzzles, the beach and the GEORGIA BULLDOGS!!! I am usually seen wearing a pair of sunglasses, drinking a diet Coke through a straw and toting an US Weekly magazine. As everyone knows me will tell you, I love to remember the days of my youth and am always using the phrase "remember when??" I love singing, dancing, all genres of music, going to concerts and reality television. In fact I have been in love with broadcasting and a microphone since the age of five. My daddy worked for a radio station and from that age I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. My first job at the age of sixteen was working as the weekend disc jockey for the local radio station. After obtaining my Associate of Arts Degree from Young Harris College, I continued my education at the University of Georgia in which I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Broadcast Journalism.

Of course, it was hard finding a job in that field but finally I did...I began my career and got married all within 3 weeks of each other. I was the weather anchor for a television station in south Georgia and I loved it! Fast forward and here I am today...a stay at home mother of 14 years. I love what I do now but I will never forget the opportunity that I once had and getting to pursue my passion!

Being a part of the Belles has allowed me to find a new passion in my life...travel! I have always enjoyed going and doing and seeing new places...there is so much of the world out there and I love experiencing it! Life is so short and when opportunity presents itself you have to just take it and GO! I am the one in our group who loves to make people laugh. I love making people smile and being a good friend is so important to me! I also love all things pop culture and being aware of the latest fashion trends. I am super organized and tend to be a bit of a neat freak...and I really like to clean! I like to check into seeing all that might be going on where we are going and some of the fun things to do once we get there. I am the one who must have her lipstick on wherever we go and I love to accessorize. After all, a girl can never have too many pairs of shoes or purses! Shannon was the common thread that linked our group together but in doing so I have gotten to know and become friends with these four other awesome women. We have created memories that we will cherish forever. Getting the opportunity to go and see so many unique places has given me treasured experiences and when I return I am a much better person because I come back renewed and full of energy.

Life is such a short journey in the grand scheme of things. I think about that more and more when I look at my children and realize how quickly they are growing up. I never knew when I was holding my son as a baby that in the blink of an eye he would be a teenager. Which leads me to this...we need to ENJOY each and every day that is given to us. Traveling is enabling me to do just that, not only with the Belles but my own family as well. I am thankful my children have been able to go places more so than I ever did as a kid. Now as a grown-up, I am finally getting the chance to see places I always wanted to. You have to love to live and live to love...have fun and most of all, be the best YOU that YOU can be!

Monday, June 28, 2010


This week we have decided to re-introduce ourselves to our blog followers. Since many of you know maybe one or two of us but most don't know us all we thought it would be fun to give you a little background info. Enjoy getting to know each of us as we have enjoyed getting to know each of you!

Name: Leslie Maddox

Married: yes to Josh for 16 blissful years!

Age: not the oldest and not the youngest!!!

Children: Garrett(15), Paige (13) and Morgan (12)

Dream Belle Trip: Greek Isles if trip is abroad and California wine country stateside

Motto to live by: If you don't try you won't ever know!

I always hate those times when you are asked to describe yourself with one adjective! The reason being is that I can never do that! You know when you take those aptitude test that tell you what side of the brain you use most in order to decide if you are creative, analytical, calculating, etc? Well, I always score right down the middle!!! So I guess that makes me the organized creative one in the group! The girls often make fun of my compulsive desire to organize every detail but let it be said I am ALWAYS the one they go to for answers about what we are doing!

A native of Augusta, Georgia, I have always loved to travel. My husband, children and I love the idea of adventure and often take excursions instead of vacations so that we can explore the unknown! I have an undergraduate degree in history and have always dreamed of visiting all the places that I have studied! My idea of a perfect trip is one where I can find the off beaten path that only the locals know. If I can become a part of the town for the time I'm there and really get a flavor for how it is to live there I am happy. If I can make a friend to stay connected to the place forever -- even better!

How did I become a belle? As my children have grown out of the "playdate" mode I realized that I was missing the presence of girlfriends in my life. Enter the bellehopping group! As we all traveled to Las Vegas for Shannon's birthday it was obvious that we had found something that we all were craving! Friends and fellowship!!! I look forward to each outing, event or trip because it gives me the opportunity to spend time with these wonderful women who each add to my life and my enjoyment of the group!

Each of us brings something different to the group. All a part of a whole. I am the one who handles all the details, reads the fine print, makes the schedules, puts in the calls. I organize the trips! I most likely fell into this position because I'm a little bit of a control freak :) but honestly I LOVE being in the know. Good with surprises -- that's not me! I need to know that everything is worked out and the details are handled and then I can sit back and relax! I am also of a closet artist and love to use my creative side so if we have a party I handle the decorations and theme -- just cause it makes me happy and makes the belles happy!

Being a belle has given me the opportunity to make new friends, build on established friendships, step out of my box and take chances. I was always the rule follower and that's not a bad thing but I am learning that it's ok to take chances and try new things. I love seeing new places. I love that I can be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend because I am doing things that make me happy! I want to inspire my children to dance through life and enjoy the moment. For me it is part of what defines me -- gives me fresh air and just makes me smile!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cruising PART 3


Well, tonight, I will finish up with 5, 7 and 8. These all have to do with getting on and off the ship, and what you can expect to pay for.

Well, when we got ready to check in to board the ship we thought we were doing GREAT by getting there at 1:30pm (you could check in at 1:00pm)..... so we flashed our passports and entered this HUGE holding tank, where they gave us all numbers and told us to wait..... well, WAIT is what we did! We ended up being the LAST group to make it on the ship. WHY? you ask.... well, it seems, groups take longer AND we had not run off the copies of our online boarding passes, so we had to fill out ALL of the forms all over again..... Lesson learned : go on line, fill out your pre-boarding info and MAKE COPIES of the boarding passes. AND show up early and prepare to wait. I think we have talked about the advantage to leaving the night before and driving down and staying at a cheap hotel.... then boarding as early as possible..... I am researching this because I met a couple from Port Canaveral and they said several motels near the docks give you FREE PARKING if you stay one night with them..... it will be worth it in the money you save on parking!

Also, try to bring as few bags as you can. I suggest packing everything into a carry-on. You do NOT have to pay extra money for extra bags, but you will have to check them in and they attendants will bring them to your room, and you are expected to tip them $2-$3 per bag (each way). Also, your room is not very big, so consider the space they will take up. They will have bags delivered sometime on the day you depart, but do NOT guarantee to have them there by dinner (and you cannot wear shorts or jeans to dinner) so wear something appropriate for dinner when you embark... you can pack your swim suit and cover-up in your carry-on.

Now, for the extra $$$ you will pay on-board. That is pretty much up to you. It will be for drinks, gambling, or souvenirs.... other than that, you can keep your money in your pocket. Also, you will want to count on taxi fares etc for when you get to the island.

Now for dis-embarking, you will have to have your bags packed and outside your cabin by 12 midnight the night before, if you have checked bags. (If you have only a carry-on you do not have to do this) Then, they will assign you a number and a place to meet... you wait till they call your number then the WHOLE group leaves at the same time..... this is very time consuming and will take atleast 1-2 hours total. Then you will end up in a warehouse where you find your bags, go thru customs and then exit...... remember there are limits to how much you can bring back into the country, so read up if you are thinking of buying a watch!

Cruising is an AWESOME value and you will leave feeling like a queen!! I look forward to cruising with all of you!

Tip of the day :