This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Shell in which I was compensated. The opinions and text are all mine.

Around the time of the 17th century, villages and towns in Europe were typically based around a central hub. Many times this would be around the town fountain (fed by a local spring). A place where people could go and meet to either catch up on the happenings, buy local goods, have a shindig, or just wash their laundry. In some cases, they'd take part in impromptu musicals about strangely independent and educated girls who people don’t quite understand, far-off enchanted castles, beastly boyfriends and jealous village jocks.

Fueling up with the kids at the local gas station Over centuries of advances, we have evolved and personalized these types of necessities. We’ve brought plumbing into the home and now you can order just about everything to your door. Catching up and following friends means something completely different now as well. Getting out is less about meeting people and more about spending time together.

Strange, I know.

Toddler hanging out in the van

Chelsea likes to visit our own version of a town hub at least once a week. Usually on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, we're both creeping over the hump and our schedules converge. She's wrapping up client reports or emails or whatever she does behind the computer and I'm getting done with a photoshoot or shift work. She picks the boys up from school and we meet – usually each taking our separate cars – at the local Shell station. This is where she loads up on last-minute supplies for the week and where we do our obligatory fuel-up in adjacent spots while our eager kids look on. I never let the vehicles get low on gas (prepper mentality, folks) and we wash them at the car wash here at least every week or two lest the Cheerios take over our floorboards. This quick gathering is a chance to catch up, reset, and take stock so that we can make it to the weekend without a ton of errands on the docket.

Picking up milk at Shell

As an added bonus to all this one-stop shopping, we've registered our credit card with the Fuel Rewards® app (sign up here!) so we earn savings on gas as our purchases add up. When you sign up you will receive Instant Gold Status, saving you 5 cents off per gallon, up to 20 gallons per fill for at least six months. You can even send your referral link out to invite friends to join, and earn an additional 25¢/gal (up to 20 gal) when they use the program after registering with your link.

The taco stand at Shell

Of course, we have the same ‘always stay stocked up' approach to food. That’s another reason Chelsea loves our local Shell gas station. It has a great little Mexican food place inside it that's perpetually packed. It also has the best car wash around and a selection of local ‘late night movie drinks' for Chelsea to enjoy.

Chelsea's pretty picky about…well…anything she puts in her body, but alcohol in particular. This is where she grabs her favorite picks from Stone Brewing when we have guests in town. She could easily drive down the road and pick it up at the local brewery, but she gets some strange thrill out of seeing our infamous craft beer at the national gas chain just down the street. They also have a BIG buy-one-get-one-for-5-cents wine sale that includes a ton of wineries we've actually visited here in the state.

Californians like their alcohol.

Grabbing a bite to eat from the taco shop at Shell

Back to the more kid-friendly aspects, our hangout coincidentally has a large fountain outside that the boys love to play around when we enjoy a small bit of down time either fueling up the car or our bodies. The boys seem to think orange soda makes them run faster.

Run on, little boy, run on.

Kids neon sunglasses

And people often ask where we get the boys' rad neon sunglasses. Here's your answer. The gas station!

This baby's ready to drive

I enjoy the clean yet laid-back community atmosphere of our Shell and its close proximity to the adventureway (aka the freeway). I like being able to fuel up, load up and clean up all in one stop. I like knowing that there's a spot that we can go to get everything back on the right foot. Our own little adventure center…even when we're just looking for some adventurous conversation together.

The small pieces make up the big picture...quote

Where does your family gather for some catch-up and stock-up time?

*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period”. If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period”. The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period”. You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period”. During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473

The small pieces make up the big picture...quote