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A few months ago we decided not to throw our kids a birthday party. I know, how horrible. Instead we took a week-long vacation in the Berkshires. I get that sounds all pretentious but I swear we are average folks. I smuggle my peanut butter jelly sandwiches into places just like every other mom. But we decided for the cost of a two hour party we could give our kids some really fun experiences they will always remember.

We visited a lot of great places and enjoyed trips to several museums where we found science, art and history exhibits. We even saw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit which made me and hubby feel a little old. Not only do we remember the first time we watched the original movie (which was playing on a continuous loop), but we remember playing a Nintendo game unit like the one now old enough to be on display as a “classic.”

I digress.

One of our favorite stops was the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My kids loved making art in the art studio, reading and relaxing in the library and seeing art work from their favorite authors on display.

Here is what we enjoyed!

ecarle-collage

The art studio is a large sunlit room bursting with creativity. The resident artists select a craft project each day to share with visitors to the studio. All the materials and instruction are free. There are convenient drying wracks just outside the studio entrance where you can leave your creations while you tour the rest of the building. If you have kids of different ages and stages there are fun hands on play stations for your little ones to enjoy.

The galleries offer a look at original art work created by Eric Carle and other renowned picture book artists. Our favorite by far was the Brown Bear 50th Anniversary exhibit. We could see different versions of the way the animals were drawn. We immediately found the reading area which provided books and comfy brown bear cushions to cozy up to while reading. There are a variety of ways kids can interact with the art and games to help them talk about what they see. Each of the gallery rooms is minimal with plenty of room to navigate a stroller or wheel chair through. But no pictures are allowed for this exhibit.

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The library was the big hit for my kids. Not only did they have access to kids’ books, but they were obsessed with the giant stuffed versions of the book characters they love. Brown Bear was carried around by just about every kid that came in. There are also lots of learning toys like latch puzzles, magnet puzzles and coloring pages. Hubby and I enjoyed getting to sit down and relax a bit while our kids had a safe place to roam. There are kids story times and other events taking place so be sure to check the schedule before you travel!

The Auditorium offers concerts and educational films. We arrived between movie viewings so we did not get to check out the auditorium. But you can check online to see what film or concert is being offered on the day you visit.

The Bookshop is filled with a lot of fun games, stuffed animals and unique gift ideas. We found some great post cards featuring art from our favorite Eric Carle books. I bought extras to frame when we return home.

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Everything about this museum is designed with families in mind. You can request extra diapering supplies from the front desk, borrow a stroller or wheel chair and the coat room has individual lockers with a key to stash your diaper bag and extra stuff you don’t want to carry. There are activity kits to borrow to help your kids have a more interactive experience (I didn’t see those until we were on our way out). The museum admission price is also family friendly $22.50 covers a family of two adults and two kids.

Since our visit was in November it was a little too chilly to check out the art sprinkled along the walking trails and museum grounds. You can also find picnic tables outside to enjoy that homemade peanut butter sandwich right out in the open.  Or you can stay inside and enjoy a non-smuggled lunch right in The Carle Café where they offer free coffee and organic/natural vending machine fare.

The museum is located in Amherst, MA which is approximately 2 hours from where we are in Ulster County. This is a great place to take your young art lover and little reader. It is a perfect day trip for families and especially accommodating for every age group. Older kids can read and learn details about the art exhibits, create art and there is plenty to keep their younger siblings busy and engaged.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

If your back aches after standing, you are among many who turn to pain relievers, muscles relaxers and other means to soothe tired muscles. Many back conditions require medical attention, but if your back just hurts, you can definitely ease that pain with stretches and exercise. Standing pelvic tilts not only stretch tight back muscles, they engage your core and develop abdominal strength at the same time. If you incorporate this one move into your daily home life, you will find relief from backaches. And you’ll look taller and slimmer in the process! Stand up and give this a try.

7-locations-you-can-plan-on-for-fun-in-2017

Last week I shared the Top 5 Fun Activities my kids enjoyed in 2016. This week I am sharing with you our most favorite places to visit. We did a lot more traveling this year than what I’ve shared on the blog. I just haven’t had time to update you all on the details yet. We tend to stick to local places of interest and make a few day trips through the year. But in 2016 we took a bonafide vacation and squeezed in some amazing museums and art! Keep an eye out for those future posts.

As I was digging through my posts to share with you today, I was reminded of my life with two very energetic toddlers who had two speeds: nap and full throttle. I spent a lot of time scouting safe places we could go and let them roam. Of course it also had to be educational, fun, and help them burn off some energy.  So, I’ll start by sharing our favorite fun local places to go with little ones. We often look for free things to do, but sometimes fun comes with a price tag. With any luck it’s a small price tag. If you click on the name of the place it will take you to my original post about our experience at each location and you can find additional info links there.

LOCAL PLACES

Storm King– has to be our most favorite local place for sculptural art. Not only are the sculptures larger than life, but there is plenty of room for the kids to roam and run free. The paved walk ways make it easy to get strollers and wagons through. There are bathrooms and a café. It is very family friendly for all age groups and mobility. During the summer months they have one free admission day per month!

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Trevor Zoo– this little local zoo is the perfect size for little people to enjoy. The paved path lends plenty of space and traction for little feet, and the exhibits are interesting. There are animals beyond our usual backyard habitats. Plenty of photo ops and room to burn off some energy!

trevor-zoo

Mohonk Visitor Center– this adorable area is perfect for moms who need a break from chasing kids. If your kids really need to stretch their legs, you can take them outside to the paved trail. Open all year and free to explore. If you want to check out other trails you can get a free one week pass offered once a year to Ulster County Residents. Or, you can sign up for the annual park membership and use any trail at any time.

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Michael’s Farm– this private little farm located in Saugerties has a nice array of animals. There are farm animals, lamas, deer, ponies, emus and chickens. There are a lot of experiences to have in just one visit. They also offer camp sessions during the summer and school breaks. It is located off the beaten path and is very family friendly. We’ve enjoyed many visits and it is always a lot of fun!

chicks-on-michaels-farm

DAY TRIPS

Animal Land– this one is our absolute favorite! The park is so clean, the animals are well taken care of and there are so many play areas for kids to enjoy. It is very stroller friendly, and is mostly covered by trees making it cooler on really sunny days. We traveled just over an hour from home, but spent half a day there playing and interacting with the animals.

animal-land

Lake George – before this summer I had only ever spent an hour or two in Lake George. I was stopping through on my way home from another trip so, I had absolutely no idea how much this area has to offer. Returning with my little family was wonderful experience! We enjoyed local beaches, games on the main strip and found a little hideaway park that is perfect for little ones to burn off some energy.

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Howe’s Caverns– this is a special place for me. I grew up visiting the caves during school trips and just for fun with friends. Before you go you have to read this guide for the inside scoop. There is a lot you should know before going down below. I was excited to see how many new activities they have besides the caves. Plenty for us to go back to experience!

howes-cave

I hope this helps with planning out some fun trips in the new year, or maybe ideas for when you are feeling spontaneous. These are tried and true family favorites. We hope you enjoy them too!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Do you find it hard to carve out time to get to the gym or take a class? You’re like many of us juggling work, home responsibilities, parenting and a myriad of other tasks. Fortunately, you do not need to leave your home to get a good workout. Body-weight only exercises are the rage. Not only are they challenging and effective, they can be done anywhere in the house. Even if you only have 5 minutes to spare while you’re cleaning, you can make it work with an intense, focused move like this Dip & Lift that targets your chest, arms, butt and hamstrings. Start off with a few, work your way up to 3 sets of 10 reps, and come summertime sleeveless weather, you’ll be glad you did.

Somehow, we always end up with too many over-ripe bananas. In the summer, they’re easy to toss into smoothies, yet this time of year, they pile up. Eventually, I peel and store them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, but who needs 100 bananas in the freezer?

I’m a recent Instagram convert (don’t ask what took me so long, but now I love it) and discovered the videos on there.  The time lapse videos, to be exact.  In one minute or less, you can learn how to glam up your eyeshadow, upcycle random household stuff into crafts, and cook.  I scrolled across a video that started with two bananas, and had to learn more. Forty-three seconds later, I was copying down the recipe and excited to try it out.

Banana Oat Muffins

Banana Oat Muffins

These muffins came together so quickly (my daughter did most of it herself) and we had fun deciding what toppings to try out.  We settled on blueberries, chocolate chips, and diced apple.  The recipe yielded 18 muffins rather than the dozen shown in the video, so we made six of each kind.  Since oats are used instead of flour, these muffins can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free oats.  With a short ingredient list and no need for even a butter knife, this recipe can be made entirely by kids.  Leftovers warmed up nicely in the toaster oven, making them perfect for a busy school morning.

Now that I’ve discovered the wonder that is time-lapse cooking, I’m excited to see what is out there.  It’s fascinating to watch new dishes come together right before your eyes, and copying down the ingredients as they flash across the screen offers a fun challenge.  What are your favorite video recipes?  Share with our readers, below.

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Happy 2017 Everybody!

As the new year begins I like to take a look back at what worked for us during the previous year. I always wonder if there are any traditions, or fun activities we’d do again. I like to look over the photos we took on our adventures through the year and relive the fun. I also take a look over my blog posts to see where in the Hudson Valley we’ve been and what activities we’ve enjoyed the most.

My kids and I have really enjoyed our travels in the Hudson Valley and beyond. There are so many great places to see and fun things to do in our gorgeous valley. But it can been a challenge to find fun things to do when the weather keeps us inside. Somehow we always find something fun! So I gathered up my top five posts for indoor activities we enjoyed in 2016.

TOP 5 INDOOR ACTIVITIES

SENSORY PLAY– Sensory activities are always a hit for us. We discovered water beads in 2015, but have been playing with them ever since. We keep them stored in a mason jar and the kids have to wash their hands before use. We get quite a few uses out of them before we throw them away and start with a fresh set.
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COOKINGDIY Play Dough kind of counts as a cooking activity. There is no stove required, but there is measuring, mixing and pouring involved. All necessary skills for life and in the end the quiet time is so worth the mayhem of cooking with kids.play-dough-boxes2

 

BAKING– this can be stressful with kids because it can get messy and chaotic. Take a little help from the store and buy already made dough. Then the rest of the time the kids can play with the dough and make some fun DIY fossil cookiesdino-prints

 

FAMILY FUN– starting a weekly family game night is a fun way to connect with each other and unwind with some laughs. In February we decided to  Start A Family Game Night. It has been a great way to forget about the stress of the week and a makes a great kick off to the weekend!

family-game-night

 

CRAFTS– of course we always include craft projects. The biggest hit this year was our Paper Hand Puppets. It was such a creative, fun way for the kids to use their imagination. Not only did they create each puppet on their own, but those puppets became characters in their play time.

puppet-friends

These are just a handful of the fun activities we do each week at home. Now that my kids are a little older I am hoping to do some more art themed projects. I hope 2017 brings all of us some new creativity and inspiration.

If you are like me you might like to plan fun visits ahead of time. So, next week I am sharing a review of our top favorite things to do and places to go in the Hudson Valley.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

This week my husband decided that we should do an impromptu trip to New York City to see the Christmas lights and the tree at Rockefeller Center before they are taken down for the season. Since we didn’t get a chance to see any lights this year and because a trip to the big city is always an adventure, I said, “Let’s do it!”

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Hannah and Jayden playing at the playground in Central Park in                     New York City.

New Yorkers Get A Bad Rap

First, let me start by saying that New Yorkers in general get a bad rap. It’s not that we’re rude; we’re just busy and the city is the prime example. I think the term “hustle and bustle” must have been coined by someone living in NYC. I’ve never seen little old ladies with walkers move faster than me before.

We met some pretty nice people too. Not one, but two people offered up their seats on a crowded subway for me and my toddler who was cranky from being confined to her stroller most of the day. One lady overheard my remark about “looking like we just walked in a big circle” and immediately offered to give us directions.

It was super crowded the day before New Year’s Eve. At one point while walking past some of the amazing light displays my family was caught in a human traffic jam.

Personal Space Panic Attack

I had to do breathing exercises to keep from panicking at all the people who were in my personal space. Then someone in a Mickey Mouse costume appeared in the crowd and I had to laugh, because this type of thing never happens in the Hudson Valley.

Our trips to NYC are always full of surprises and it is fun because you never know what will happen next, but here are five times I was reminded just how glad I am to be living in the Hudson Valley.

1. The Food Prices – Okay so we were in Manhattan and I get that it’s going to be expensive, but I almost choked when the lunch we got at a hot dog cart by Bryant Park almost required that we take out a second mortgage. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. Four hotdogs and what passes for chicken on a stick for $27, without drinks, was so crazy I almost left running for Grand Central.

hot-chocolate

The most expensive hot chocolate I’ve ever had at $4.50 a cup.

Other highlights include the $4.50 a piece cups of hot cocoa that left a lot of chocolate to be desired. We did luck out for dinner and found a $1 a slice pizza joint, which almost made up for our pricey lunch. But my aching feet would have killed for just a place to sit down and eat. Not only is NYC the city that never sleeps, it’s also the city that never sits.
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2. The Fresh Air – There were quite a few moments I had to literally hold my breath. I’m not sure if it was sewer, garbage or just the sheer volume of people, but I was gasping for fresh air. It was definitely a little shocking to this country girl. Unless you’re driving past a farm, you never have to think twice about breathing deep the fresh sweet air in the Hudson Valley.

3. Space – The buildings in Manhattan are positively breathtaking. They are works of art just sitting there disguised at normal buildings. Even without the beautiful light displays, I could spend an entire day just staring at these amazing feats of architecture.

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That being said, it was an adjustment for this country girl to get used to not having space. Space is something we have in spades in the Hudson Valley. We have our own yards and we always have plenty of space to pass someone on the street without feeling like a piece of cattle being herded through a stockyard.

4. The Heartbreaking Homeless Population – I’m sure it’s different in the boroughs, but in Manhattan we were surrounded by either the rich or the homeless. I saw people literally freezing in the name of fashion wearing little more than thin leggings and fur coats or vests or people freezing because they were living on the streets.

One lady had a baby with her and was asking for diapers so we took out all but one of Sydney’s diapers from our bag and gave them to her. I’ve encountered so many amazing non-profits while working in the Hudson Valley. It’s a tough pill to swallow that people are living on the streets. It’s not something we see every day up here.Most people I know in the Hudson Valley are super heroes who want to help everyone. We know our neighbors. We work for non-profits, volunteer in our communities and care for each other. It creates a feeling of hopelessness to be surrounded by so much wealth and poverty at the same time. It makes me want to go back with care packages for as many people as we can carry.

5. The Commute – We drove down to Tarrytown and took the train from there into Grand Central Station. It took just a little over two hours, which isn’t bad considering I live up here in Sullivan County and we drive 45 minutes just to go to the mall in Middletown. I can understand how people in Orange, Westchester and Rockland Counties commute regularly to the city. I don’t think I’d want to do it every day, but it definitely wasn’t bad.

New York City is truly spectacular. There are so many museums, restaurants, shops and sights to see. People travel from all over the world to visit. Everywhere we went there were tons of people snapping photos.

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This country girl did have a good chuckle when I saw people taking pictures of squirrels in Central Park. I wondered what they’d do at the sight of our wild life, say wild turkeys just randomly crossing the road or a bear that tips over your garbage at least twice a year or deer who nonchalantly walk through your yard like they own the place.

We are indeed lucky to live in the Hudson Valley because we have so many amazing things and people here, but we can also easily hop on a train and visit one of the most intriguing cities in the world. We can have the best of both worlds and not everyone can say that.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Vacations are also notorious for packing on a few extra pounds. Head off the vacation weight gain in just minutes a day. Do these five hotel pool moves for three minutes or more to burn calories and work your total body:

  • Shoulders, biceps & triceps: while jogging in place, keep your arms straight and move them forward and backward as rapidly as possible
  • Shoulders & chest: Jog in place and cross and extend your straight arms.
  • Abs & thighs: alternate lifting one knee at a time to your chest as quickly as possible. Stay nice and tall during this movement.
  • Hips & inner thighs: stand with your feet together, jump up while extending your straight legs out, then bring your feet together before landing.
  • Back, butt & hamstrings: hold on the edge of the pool and flutter-kick straight legs behind you.Be sure to engage your abs and keep you back from arching.

You can increase the difficulty of these moves by performing them more quickly or in deeper water. This will result in even more total calories burned. Even your kids will have fun doing this workout with you.

 

 

 

 

My girls had a friend sleepover the other day, and they woke up hungry and wanting a breakfast that was “not cereal.”  Fortunately we’re on holiday break, so I could indulge their wishes and save cold cereal for a busy school morning.  I had some other tasks on the agenda, so I looked for something that would come together quickly.  I found potatoes that looked great and would go well with eggs and fruit, so I decided to give the recipe a try.

Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

The most time consuming part of preparing this recipe was dicing the potatoes. They didn’t need to be peeled, which was awesome.  I always skip peeling unless absolutely necessary.  There are great nutrients in the skin, plus, who wants to peel potatoes?  I expected the recipe to call for browning in a frying pan, but they were able to go in the oven, which saved me the time of standing in front of the stove.  The recipe indicated that they may stick to the pan, and recommended lining the pan with parchment paper.  I think this was key to the success of the recipe, so I definitely recommend following this tip.  The only two changes I made  (of course) were to use fresh rosemary instead of parsley, and I browned them under twice under the broiler instead of once, stirring halfway through.

Breakfast with Potatoes

They were quickly gobbled, with many compliments about their crunchy outside, fluffy inside, and flavor. Definitely kid friendly.  They were simple enough to go with any kind of main dish.  The recipe has been pinned on my Pinterest Breakfast board, and will definitely have a recurring role in our repertoire. Share your favorite breakfast recipes with out readers, below.  Happy New  Year!

5-ways-to

So this was a crazy week at my house. I had a lovely stomach bug that set me back an entire weekend and made for a crazy week of catching up. As a result I was busy rushing around, maybe a little too fast, and smashed my hand. I thought I broke my thumb, but thankfully it is just a wicked sprain. Five days later and it is still swollen and really hurts. As a crafty blogger that kind of limits what I can do with one hand. I thought about sharing five different ways to splint an injury using only a Popsicle stick, but realize that doesn’t really qualify as a craft.

I shared with you last week 7 fun things to do with bubble wrap, so I thought I’d share what to do with all those left over shipping boxes!

7-fun-things-todo-with-bubble-wrap

We didn’t make anything this week due to the aforementioned hand injury. But, we did do a little research!

My kids and I are hooked on watching videos on Box Yourself YouTube channel. What this guy can make from a box or cardboard tube is amazing! You need extra supplies like paint and a box cutter, but if you are in a serious project mode, or have an older kid, these could be fun!

box-yourself-ostein

If you have really little kids you could literally give them a box to play with and they’ll magically turn it into something fun simply using their imagination. If you want to add some color without making a mess, just give them a box of crayons or washable markers and some stickers. Prepare for some quiet entertainment.

Here are 5 ways we’ve used left over shipping boxes:

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BOX TUNNEL – every kid loves to climb into a cardboard box. It feels like a little space just for them. Tape together several large boxes end to end and allow your kid to crawl through. If you are feeling really ambitious you can poke holes in the top and push through Christmas lights. This makes a fun starry effect inside the tunnel.

AUTOMOBILES– help your kiddo transform a plain box into a car or truck. Use paper plates for the wheels, duct tape to make lines for windows and doors (if you don’t want to deal with paint). You can make a steering wheel from a paper towel tube and another paper plate, or cardboard circle. Your kid will spend hours driving this car through their imagination. Throw in a pillow and blanket, park the car in front of the TV and you have an instant indoor drive in.

DIARAMA– building small scenes inside of a box can help kids really use their preplanning skills to imagine a small world inside an ordinary box. Once your child selects a theme they can draw a scene inside the box, or glue items inside to create a 3-D effect.

CITY SCAPES– set up a row of boxes and let your child paint a different store front on each. Again, if you don’t like paint hand them markers instead. Attach signs for Bakery, Grocery, and Barber etc. Your kid can pretend to run errands with their stuffed animals in tow.

TREASURE CHEST– let the kids decorate any way they like and use to store their favorite treasures in. My kids like to pretend they are pirates discovering hidden treasure. Super easy and super fun!

Hope you are enjoying the Christmas break with the kids and remember boxes are better than any toy at any age! But if your household has outgrown the magic of finding a good box, you can always use them to pack up donations in and send off to your local Good Will, OR other favorite charity. Here’s how.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! Here’s to much healthy and happiness in 2017!! As always thanks for reading each week!!

Oh and p.s. if you are looking for a fun way to use those paper towel tubes, check out my post from last year, Pom-Poms and Cardboard, Expensive Toys Are Overrated.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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