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Hands on a globe

So, last week I was so excited to share with you all the wonderful free services I found just by reading the Hudson Valley Parent blogs, that I forgot to share my recycling fun for Earth Day! That’s OK because Earth Day is every day right?

Recycling has always been important to me. Growing up in a single parent household I learned to reuse or re-purpose things we already had; and recycling was as easy as tossing our paper, glass and cans into a bin. My mom even composted a small amount by used egg shells and coffee grounds for her plants. I remember her friends commenting, “you put garbage in your plants?”

Today there are a number of ways to reduce our carbon foot prints. But, one of the easiest and quickest ways to recycle (and keep your art supply budget low) is to find a new way to use things from around the house. My favorite things to recycle are jars and containers I have already purchased from the store. I made these adorable Disney savings jars from recycled spaghetti sauce jars. At Christmas I recycled several attractive glass jars into homemade gifts. Today I give you five different ways to re-use a plastic spice jar.

5  Fun Ways to Recycle Your Plastic Spice Jar:

1. Add a little color. My kids were around 9-12 months old when I recycled my first plastic spice jar into a fun activity for them. I filled our jar with colorful things like pom-poms and spiky rubber balls. I handed them the jars while they sat in the high chair and watched me make dinner. They loved banging, shaking and rolling the bottles to watch the colors.



2. Make a Little Music. Fill your jar with things like dried pasta, dried beans, beads, or small stones. Leave enough room for the pieces to roll around and make music like a maraca. This is fun for nearly any age.



3. Make a Whole In One. Allow your child to push strands of uncooked spaghetti noodles, or colorful fuzzy pipe cleaners through the holes in the lid of the jar. This helps with hand eye coordination and fine gross motor skills (hand writing skills).



4. Crayon Carrier. Fill the jar with crayons to safely transport along with your child’s favorite coloring books. Keep them stashed in a take along activity bag and you’ll always be ready for a trip to the grandparents, to a play date or out to dinner.




5. Create a Waterfall.  Add an empty jar to your child’s bathtub or water play. They can fill and refill with water and turn upside down to create a waterfall, or in our case, a shower for our dinosaurs.





What are some of your favorite ways to recycle items into crafts or art?


For your child’s safety, never leave them unattended with small parts that can easily be swallowed. Most babies are unable to open the lids on jars, but to be careful always play along side them. Read more from The Whatever Mom here.

The Kingston YMCA Farm Project helps community children connect with nature and food

By Kaycee Wimbish 

kayceewimbishI have been growing food for more than eight years now, yet the magic and wonder of seeds awes and amazes me over and over again. It is wonderful and miraculous: you put a tiny, seemingly lifeless object into the ground. I wait — sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently — until it germinates and sends a green shoot through the soil and exposes itself. Many times I almost give up hope. I think the seeds aren’t good; I did something wrong; the birds ate them. But then, it happens, they emerge. Every single time I rejoice, I marvel, and I celebrate. And then I watch that sprout grow and change and eventually I eat it. I think, “I grew this!” On top of being amazing, it is empowering! It is this joy, this wonder, this feeling of power that I hope every child is able to experience.

At the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, we get young people’s hands in the dirt, planting seeds, watering plants, harvesting fruits and vegetables and hopefully wondering at the magic at all.


Connecting young people to food

What I have seen with my work with children, is that there is so much that surprises them and makes them wonder because they know so little about where our food comes from and how it grows. I knew intellectually that most people are disconnected from real food and where it comes from, but what I repeatedly witnessed was very surprising. Teenagers saying “that’s what broccoli looks like” and not knowing that pickles are made from cucumbers. I did a garden scavenger hunt with a group of campers and they were unable to match names of vegetables to the growing plants (the counselors found this task just as challenging!) But despite their lack of knowledge, they love it; they want to know; they can’t believe it! The interest seems innate. The desire to pull that radish from the ground when you have never tasted a radish and have no idea what to do with it is very strong.   The joy that children feel when they can harvest something and take it home to their parents to prepare is so beautiful.   The smile that comes over a young person’s face when they are asked, “did you grow that?” is beyond compare.

Richard Louv says “The children and nature movement has perhaps even greater potential because it touches something even deeper within us, biologically and spiritually. An array of leaders from different religious backgrounds have stepped forward to support the reconciliation of children and nature. Such leaders understand that all spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that one of the first windows to wonder is the natural world.”

Plant seeds and watch them grow 

As parents, I invite you to share this wonder and magic and power with your children. Plant some seeds and watch them grow. You don’t need a lot of space or experience. You just need time and sun and a willingness. Nurture that plant, observe that plant, eat that plant. I guarantee you will never taste anything as delicious as the food you grow. Start small and build up. Growing food becomes addictive. The magic never wears off and it never stops being awesome.

Upcoming events at Kingston YMCA Farm Project

There are many ways to get your children’s hands in the soil at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project.  We host Second Saturday Community Work Days, May 9, June 13, July 11 and August 8.  From 10 am to 2 pm, we invite volunteers of all ages and sizes to do what seasonal work needs to get done in the garden. 

School age children attending the YMCA’s School’s Out after school program work in the garden on a weekly basis during the growing season.  Children attend the YMCA’s Camp Starfish have at least a weekly farm experience. 

For pre-school aged children we offer Little Farmers, a weekly drop in program for young children and their caregiver.  We read garden related books, do an age appropriate garden based activity and make a fresh from the garden snack.  This program runs on Wednesdays from 10-11:30 am from July 1-August 19.  There is a sliding scale drop in fee of $5-15 per family. 

For more information, visit our website or visit us on Facebook.

KayCee Wimbish is an educator and farmer and is thrilled to have this opportunity to combine her two passions at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project.  She has a Master’s in Education from Bank Street College of Education, and over 10 years of teaching experience.  She taught elementary schooI for five years before pursuing her interest in farming.  She currently teaches vocational English as a Second Language to adults who are studying to be Nursing Assistants.  She has been farming in the Hudson Valley for the past 9 years, working at Hearty Roots Community Farm, a vegetable farm that uses the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.  She also owned and operated the former Awesome Farm, a pasture based animal farm, raising cattle, sheep, turkeys and chickens.   


Archeological Dig Of A Woman’s Closet

Cleaning out a person’s closet is like going on an archeological dig. You can find out what that person valued, what they did, what they wore, and what they liked, but there is a reason why most of us rarely take the time to thoroughly clean out our closets. It’s simple. We just don’t want to deal with who we were. The things that make us who we are can usually be pointed to, used daily and found easily, but who we were, well that stuff we hide away because it’s somehow comforting to simultaneously hold onto and hide from sight.

The Deadliest Dust Bunnies

If you follow my posts, you know that I recently remodeled my basement, turning it into a master bedroom. While it took the help of two men and one day to move the entirety of the room, I’m on day four of cleaning out the closet of our old bedroom. It has been a frightening and weary experience. I have been attacked by dust bunnies and haunted by nostalgia. It seems every time a person in my family dies my husband and I inherit a box of memorabilia we don’t know what to do with so it goes into the closet. It’s a sad reality that we have held onto things that haven’t seen the light of day in years.

The Past Doesn’t Look Good On You

My husband has his an old book bag and graduation gown from high school. For me, as I imagine it is with most women, it’s those damn skinny jeans. You know the ones you were so proud you could once fit into, but have sadly sat in your closet for years. Sometimes “skinny jeans” is just synonymous with the clothes you used to fit into but don’t anymore.

The SAHM Uniform

For me it’s also the business suits that have collected dust for the last three years in favor of the SAHM uniform of sweatshirts and yoga pants. Some would call it sloppy, but hey you never see a painter show up to your house in a three piece suit for a reason. If I know I’m going to get baby food, spit up and other bodily fluids on me I’m not stepping into panty hose and a pencil skirt. I have no idea when I’m going back to the world of office work so there’s no sense holding onto clothes I don’t need.

Business Suits & Skinny Jeans

I know why we have such a hard time letting go of those skinny jeans. It’s because it was the time we felt best about ourselves. For me it was working my way down to a goal weight after two kids. The truth is we never seem to just be happy right where we’re at and I think I’ve figured out why. How in the hell can you be happy with where you’re at if you are constantly struck in the face by where you’re not. My closet was busting full of clothes and I can safely say after weeding out business suits, maternity clothes and the “skinny clothes” I’m left with a third of the wardrobe.

Some part of me worries that if left unchecked it would be so much easier to just let myself fall into complacency. It’s not hurting anyone to let those skinny jeans rot in my closet. We did build a pretty big one in our new room after all and they would fit. But I think in a way it is hurting me. Every time I can’t find clothes that fit it makes me feel defeated.

Starting A “Sayonara Skinny Jeans” Revolution

So though I’m on day four of the job from hell, cleaning out my closet is therapeutic. I have to confront who I was and who I am and the only way to move forward is without all the “what I’m not” items.

So fight off the dust bunnies and nostalgia ladies because they are keeping you from your destiny. Take a cue from me. Though I debated MANY times, ultimately I packed up all the suits and skinny jeans to donate. Maybe another woman will find her “what I am now” jeans at the Salvation Army. If it helps her get rid of her “what I’m not” clothes then I’m doing a public service.

Skinny Jeans

So sayonara skinny jeans. I’ll just learn to live without the idea of you. I’ll learn to trade the “ideal” for the “real.” I’ll slip on my larger size jeans and I’ll stop wondering if I’ll ever be the size I used to be. I’ll remember that my body created three amazing little people and show it a little bit of respect. My weight may fluctuate, but the way I feel about my body shouldn’t. It should never come down to looking at those damn skinny jeans. Without them in my closet, I’m finally free to just love me right where I’m at.

So ladies, who is with me? Who is FINALLY ready to donate those “skinny jeans” rotting away in the back of the closet?

Muffins that my little baker made by herself.  She was so proud when they came out as expected!

Muffins that my little baker made by herself. She was so proud when they came out as expected!

I’ve had my kids helping out in the kitchen since they were old enough to sit up. It goes without saying that cooking with kids will take longer in the beginning… sometimes much longer… and will be messier… much messier.  Yet, totally worth it. Beside the obvious (bonding with your child; kitchen chemistry; lessons in counting, measuring, and fractions; talks about nutrition) there are some awesome future payoffs.  Help in the kitchen!  My kids, now seven and 10, can help prepare part, sometimes all, of a meal.  I can ask them to make a salad with dinner, for example, while I pause to clean up a little. We can pack lunches and they can do some (or all) of it. My seven year old can make breakfast almost by herself, which both excites and scares me. And, confidence!  The other day my older daughter made muffins by herself, from start to finish.  When they came out of the oven, smelling amazing and looking even better, she marveled over the fact they came out as they were supposed to.  My little one frequently chooses recipes and handles a side dish by herself as I make a breakfast or dinner. Your kids can, too!

If your kids haven’t any kitchen experience yet, where should you begin?  First, start simple.  You measure, they pour.  Stir together.  Demonstrate kitchen safety and some guidelines (what not to try alone, for example), and then let them cut and chop using butter knives. Show them how to set the timer, turn on the oven, properly stir and mix. Next, brainstorm. What are your kids favorite snacks or dishes? Look through a cookbook together, and let your child pick out something he’d like to try making with you. Don’t get too ambitious initially, but definitely let your child take the lead in what he’d like to try so that you tap into some excitement and ownership.

After my daughter helped make pancakes, she arranged them into a funny face and took a picture.  I don't know where she got the idea to photograph her food!  ;)

After my daughter helped make pancakes, she arranged them into a funny face and took a picture. I don’t know where she got the idea to photograph her food! 😉

Where to begin? (Kids can…)

Smoothies (Measure ingredients, add to blender)
Oatmeal (Measure milk or water, stir, set microwave)
Waffles/pancakes (Measure, mix, help pour batter, flip pancakes)
Fruit salad (Slice, mix)
Scrambled eggs (Crack eggs, mix, cook on stove with supervision)
Green salad (Peel, slice, toss)
Make a sandwich (PB&J, meat and cheese, whatever your child likes)
Mashed potatoes (Peel, slice, add to pot, mash once cooked)
Mac and cheese (Help boil water, strain pasta, measure ingredients)
Grilled cheese (Toast bread, measure out cheese, flip sandwiches)
Lasagna (Layer ingredients)
Baked Ziti (Mix in ingredients, top with cheese)
Quesadillas (Assemble ingredients into wraps)
Taco night (Put out bowls of toppings)
Meatballs (Mix ingredients, form meatballs)
Burgers (Mix ingredients, form burgers)
Breaded cutlets (Measure ingredients, pound cutlets, dip into breading)
Special family/holiday dishes (Give kids a task of their own)
Muffins/cookies/bread (Measure and mix ingredients, pour into pan)
Brownies/cakes (Measure and mix, pour into pan, frost once baked)

This picture is almost three years old, but it shows how long we've been cooking together.  Here we were making a pie after a trip to the orchard.

This picture is almost three years old, but it shows how long we’ve been cooking together. Here we were making a pie after a trip to the orchard.

One thing that often gets forgotten… teach kids to clean up! Instill the good habit of cleaning as you go- stacking dishes, loading the dishwasher, wiping up spills, and putting ingredients back where they came from. I always tell my kids that by the time we’re done cooking, I shouldn’t be able to tell what we’ve made, or even that we’ve ever been there. Leave no trace (or as we say in Girl Scouts, leave the space better than you found it) is an excellent philosophy to build into your lifestyle. Your kid’s future roommate or spouse will thank you!

As your little sous chef works alongside you, her confidence will build and the possibilities are endless. At first, you’ll need to supervise closely, doing each task with your child, and remind him to clean up. Eventually you can cook in tandem, and later on, you will find your child cooking alone! The investment of time and effort will come back to you again and again. Not only can you have your kids help assemble tomorrow’s school lunch while you clean up dinner, or make himself a healthy snack while you occupied elsewhere, but ultimately you’ll have kids who can cook a meal! It’s hard to imagine your little one being on her own one day, but going into the world knowing one’s way around the kitchen is a lifelong skill that results in confidence, healthy meals, and independence. I look at teaching my kids to cook and bake as one more tool that will help them succeed in the future.

Share your favorite kid recipes below.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

So, last week I shared with you how I was able to get some free home organizing for my office make over. This week, let me share with you my amazing day of indulgence and mom time (for free of course!).

If you missed this months issue of Hudson Valley Parent you might have missed the article about my good friend Liz Westinghouse. I first met Liz at The Village Apothecary (more info below) and have since followed her to Thyme Retreat. Thyme Retreat offers a free first time appointment that includes 30 minutes to meet with Liz, a Registered Dietitian, to discuss a nutrition plan; a 20 minute one on one yoga instruction and a 40 minute back, shoulder and neck massage. You did see the word free, right? Follow up appointments are optional and cost around the same as your insurance co-pay for a doctors appointment.

thyme lavendar

I have met with Liz before, so I sort of knew what to expect during my nutritional consultation. We reviewed my concerns and she gave me a suggested eating plan (not a diet). Being a mom is stressful, and I often forget to eat enough to help my body handle the stress. (Why didn’t I know this already?).

After meeting with Liz I met with Allie a soft spoken Certified Yoga Instructor. My twenty minutes stretching and letting go of stress was so relaxing I felt like I was in there for more than 20 minutes. The movements are so easy and gentle and no yoga experience was required. My favorite part was the very end. While lying down and relaxing on the mat Allie used light touch on my neck and forehead. She used peppermint oil to help open up the sinus and it was just heavenly.

thyme yoga

I loved my time with Liz and Allie, but the next 40 minutes of my life was pure bliss. A serene, darkened room where I could be alone with my thoughts, letting go of all the tightness and stress in my body…well, if you’ve ever had a great massage then you know how life changing that is. If you haven’t, then you need to see Stephanie right away! I don’t remember my walk back to the car because I think I floated there on an organic lavender scented cloud. It was truly what this overworked mom needed!

thyme massage

Tips for your appointment: Massage and yoga appointments can be scheduled for a Monday or Friday, but you can meet with Liz at any time during the week. Mom’s and dads are welcome to book an appointment (up to you if you want to share this secret with hubby), parking is free in the garage next door, and no tipping is required for your massage therapist. (I checked).

What made this day truly indulgent was hubby was home with kids (so no cost for a baby sitter). After my luxurious meeting with this amazing team I scheduled a walk with another good friend. We took to the Walkway Over the Hudson on a beautiful sunny day and caught up on our lives. It was five spectacular hours of me time, a very, very rare treat indeed!

walkway hudson

If getting out of the house is a challenge, or the timing and distance doesn’t work for you here are a few other options I’ve used in the past. All free!

The Village Apothecary– located in Saugerties, Woodstock and now Lake Katrine. This isn’t your average pharmacy. You can schedule a free consultation to review and discuss your concerns for living a healthier lifestyle. If you follow the Facebook page, or sign up for the newsletter, you will get notifications of their lifestyle classes (free). There are often free samples at the hour and a half classes. As a mom I enjoy attending these nights as a way to learn more about taking care of myself and getting some adult conversation.

Shoprite– offers nutritional guidance from an in-store registered dietitian free of charge. If you are struggling with finding healthy snacks for yourself, or your picky eater this is a great place to go! Yes, it is a grocery store, so not a lot of alone time (or fancy massages), but you can get a tour of the grocery store, free recipes and get some help in taking charge of your own nutrition. Sometimes talking with an expert is enough to set you on a healthier path to self care. Call your local store for contact information for their in-store dietitian.

Great Expectings– is a health, nutrition and accountability coaching service for busy moms. Once a month owner Christine McCracken offers a 1-2 week accountability Facebook group to jump start a healthier lifestyle. Last year I worked with Christine to create an at home work out schedule, and devised a routine that worked around the demands of staying home with kids. You can contact her directly for more information at


No financial compensation was received for this review. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this post about any of the above businesses belong solely to The Whatever Mom. Read more from The Whatever Mom here.


By Eileen M Kenison

Just recently sauerkraut and other fermented foods seem to be all the hype in the clean eating world. But why? Remember when I said I cured myself with my organic diet? Remember how I was a skeptic at first? Well, I totally understand if you are too. When it came to fermented foods, not only was I a skeptic, I  also thought…. YUCK!  Over time I have grown to truly enjoy many fermented foods and I figured out what the hype is all about…….

I have learned that our gut holds the key to our health. I have also learned that most disease originates in our gut. Once you heal your gut and make your digestive system work properly, disease symptoms will resolve on their own.

You may be thinking the same thing I was thinking when I first heard that I needed to heal my gut. “I don’t have any gut or stomach issues.” And this may seem true to you. However, after doing my research, I have found that many diseases originate in the gut. For example, if you suffer from any of the following diseases you may want to start treatment with your gut first before resorting to medication: MS, Lupus, Kidney Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Thyroid Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, Depression, ADHD, ADD, OCD, Food Allergies, Gout, Asthma, IBS, Allergies, Yeast Infections, Eczema……..  I found this list to be endless.

This is where the fermented foods come into play. First, “What are fermented foods?” You may have heard of sauerkraut and kimchee.   These are just two examples of fermented foods.   Fermented foods are foods that have been  through a process of lacto fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid.  This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, vitamins, acids and probiotics.

People all over the world have been fermenting foods since ancient times. However fermented foods have begun to disappear from  American dinner plates. We are finding that in today’s world of antibiotics, chlorinated water and antibacterial soaps we are failing to replenish the good bacteria in our bodies. Therefore we are not effectively getting the much needed nutrients from our foods.

Fermented foods restore the proper balance of bacteria in our gut. Fermented foods are rich in enzymes. Our bodies need enzymes to digest, absorb and utilize the nutrients in our food. You can eat a great diet full of nutrients, but unless you actually absorb them, it’s useless. When you improve digestion, you improve absorption.

Now of course you’re ready to go shopping for some good fermented foods. Be sure to shop for raw foods that are kept in the cold food section of your super market. Start small. Try adding one or two servings a day. Some of my favorite fermented foods are Kombucha, Kefir, Kimchee, Sauerkraut & Miso.

Many of the local super markets have many varieties available. When I first started adding these foods to my daily diet I was afraid, as I imagine you are too.   This is where my motto ” See food differently” came from. Instead of sitting down to a bowl of sauerkraut I would eat a serving at the same time I took my daily vitamins. I didn’t see it as “food”  I saw it as something I needed to do to feel better. Kombucha (which is now one of my favorite beverages to enjoy) was something I had a hard time choking down. I would fill a shot glass a day and force myself to choke it down before my morning tea. Many of these foods have very strong bold flavors which you too will learn to enjoy! In the mean time, see it differently.  We have all taken prescriptions for our health that tasted awful.  We did it because it was going to make us better.  Well, this too will make you better!  You will feel better, brighter, and lighter as  your symptoms will resolve.

Earth Day PlanetHappy Earth Day! Not sure why Earth Day is so important? Let me give you a little history real quick. Back in 1970, we were in the height of the hippy movement and there were protests all over the country though not because of environmental issues. In fact most people drove gas guzzling sedans, and for most air pollution was a sign of prosperity. Environmental issues was the furthest from everyone’s minds, but what was at the forefront was the war in Vietnam and most students were opposing it. Gaylord Nelson, the U.S. Senetor from Wisconsin at the time thought if he re-channel so much of the energy students were putting into the anti- war movement he could capitalize on the emerging public concern for water and air pollution. Building a large staff, he set out to promote events across the country for what would later be known as the first National Earth Day.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and more as part of a massive rally across the country. Colleges and universities, environmental groups, rich, poor, doesn’t matter all came together for a common cause. And even more rare was the political alignment that occurred that day!

Since then, Senator Nelson has spearheaded 2 more major rallies for environmental awareness. Today, the Earth Day fight continues and so does the awareness campaigns across the country. Americans will gather this week to ensure we are channeling our energies for a more clean, healthy and diverse earth for each new generation. Here in the Hudson Valley we are no exception, communities, parks and more will open their spaces for family- fun days, educational workshops and park clean- ups this week. What can you do to help?

1. Earth Day Clean ups- A great way to celebrate Earth Day with the whole family and help save our planet, parks and more is to participate in one of the many clean- ups throughout the Hudson Valley this week and weekend. We have two on our calendar for Wednesday. Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, and at the Town of Esopus Library, Port Ewen. April 22.

2. Paper making workshop- Learn how to turn scraps of used construction paper into beautiful new paper as you learn all about the importance of recycling at the Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum’s special earth day program. If the rain holds out, take a stroll over the Hudson River on the walkway or stay and play at Waterfront Park. $2 a child. Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum, Poughkeepsie. April 22.

bowdoin tree

3. Eagles, streams and trees at Bowdoin park- There are quite a few Hudson Valley parks perfect to play outside this earth day. In fact, in addition to Earth Day on Wednesday, Thursday is National Picnic Day and Friday is National Arbor Day! We can use many of our parks to talk to our kids about our earth, the importance of our trees and enjoy a family picnic this week/ weekend! I want to highlight Bowdoin Park though because it is pretty exciting to see the bald eagles currently calling the park home. Look up just past the playground and you should be able to see a nest high in the trees and often the great bald eagles circling around. It’s a pretty cool sight! Then head to the fields just past the playground and let the kids splash in the little stream, I promise you, HOURS of fun. Just up the hill past the stream is the coolest old tree I have ever seen. My kids recently discovered the back is hollowed out too making for some great imaginative play outside.

[The best Hudson Valley spots for family picnics]

4. Celebrate the animals at the Trailside zoo- All day family- fun with an earth day focus on nature and animal enrichment at the zoo. Spring and nature related displays and activities for the whole family including treat making for the bears, and free tree seedlings for each family. Parking fee and suggested donation at the Bear Mountain Trailside Zoo, Bear Mountain. April 25.

5. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies- This environmental research center has a team of scientists that study topics of our earth including freshwater health, infectious disease, biochemistry, invasive species and climate change. The trails are open for exploring on over 2,000 acres of preserve land. On-going programs as well. Millbrook.

6. Earth Day activities- Kids will receive a free Planet Protector Passport at the Outdoor Discover Center and can then receive stamps at each booth in the “Green Zone” and “Going Local” activity areas. There will be live music, games and storytelling; food will be available for purchase. FREE admission and suggested parking donation. Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, Cornwall. April 25.

7. Earth Day Celebration– The Village of Monroe celebration will feature a science show for children, as well as a bouncy house, Girl Scouts and Interact club activities and seed plantings with local farms. Vendors will have eco-friendly items for sale. FREE. Lake Street, Monroe. April 25.

kids at the stream

8. Hudson River Earth Day Celebration- This family Earth Day celebration centers around the Hudson River, with a river cleanup, kayaking, international picnic buffet, bake sale, rowing demonstrations and more. All paid attendees are entered into a raffle. Proceeds help support the rowing and swimming programs of America Rows and Swims Newburgh. Newburgh Beach. April 25.

[The Importance of Outdoor Play]

9. Earth Day Fair- The 13th annual Earth Day Fair features activities for kids, music, healthy food, displays and suggestions for saving both energy and money. The reformed Church of New Paltz, New Paltz. April 26.

10. Hyde park walking trail- The Hyde Park trail is a 10- mile system of trails and walkways linking Town parks, nature preserves and National Park sites with local neighborhoods and the Town’s central business corridor. The cool part is, you can look for signs throughout the trails and nature sites, call 845-475-3819 from your cell phone, enter your stop number and hear all about the area and Hyde Park’s rich legacy. Also, walk at least 5 of the listed trails in a year, keep track on the free checklist and turn it in for a free reward! I hope more towns follow suite, how fun!

[Top Hudson Valley hiking trails even little legs can enjoy]

What are some of your favorite ways to spend time outside?

Earth Day history Source.

I know we’re living in a day and age where parents think they need to provide everything for their kids. Growing up, my parents couldn’t always afford to provide me with everything, but what I gained was a better appreciation for the things I worked for. Here are the top three things I’m thankful my parents didn’t pay for and why I won’t feel a lick of guilt if I don’t pay for them for my children.


1. Their First Car – I’m sure schlepping me back and forth to my first job was not so fun for my parents, but I worked and saved up for a few years to buy my first car. It was a beast of a vehicle that took on the likes of two deer and kept on going (with only minor repairs). Was it beautiful, shiny and new? Hell no. It was a tan Eagle Premier that I bought for $1,000 from an elderly couple in my Nana’s neighborhood. But that taste of freedom that a new car brings should come ONLY after you’ve worked hard and earned it in my opinion. I want my kids to have the satisfaction of something that is truly theirs, bought by their own sweat and hard work.

College Campus

2. A College Education – My husband and I both took out loans to pay for our educations. Let me tell you that nothing lights a fire under your butt like the repayment period of a student loan looming over your head. Sure, I know people think you should start saving for your child’s education the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive, but I think a college education is something that truly needs careful consideration more than mere financial preparation. I know adults whose parents foot the bill for their college degree only to have them not use it whatsoever.

While college was a great experience for my husband and I, I know it’s not the only option. I think trade and technical schools can be of great value, as well as community colleges, certificate programs and good old fashioned work experience. I want my kids to carefully consider what they want in life before shelling out thousands of dollars on a four year school to “figure it out.” I want them to desire a future for themselves, enough to spend hours filling out scholarship applications, or working in mail rooms, or taking an apprenticeship. While I owe it to my kids to provide the tools they need, I know they will be better people for having paid for college themselves if that is the path they choose.

Wedding Day

3. Their Wedding
– When my husband FINALLY proposed after 7 years of dating I knew neither of our families were in a position to pay for it. We saved and paid for things along and along. We decided what things we wanted to spend the money on – a nice venue and what things we could do without – a limo. It was a small ceremony and reception, but it was ours. We were under no obligations to invite friends of friends, acquaintances, or business associates. All decisions were ours alone and it was a day I’ll never forget.

I remember two weeks before the ceremony dissolving into tears and asking my future husband why on Earth we were going to all this trouble for other people. See, I wanted the marriage more than a big fancy ceremony. For most couples you fear it will rain on your wedding day, but the reality is that marriage is filled with storms and you better know without a shadow of a doubt who you want by your side to ride out life’s storms. That’s the happy ending, not a wedding, but a marriage that gets stronger despite life’s trials. I want for my kids a marriage like my own, one made the way they choose because they are choosing a life partner, not an amazing party.

It’s not always easy to know what to just flat out give your kids and what you want them to work for. For me, the greatest life lessons came from working for the things I wanted the most. Only then did I truly understand the responsibility and the gift it was. What things do you want your kids to work for?

I’m  not very creative when it comes to utilizing beans in our dinners. I can make a mean chili, chickpeas frequent our salads, black bean go into quesadillas with zucchini, and I sometimes use them to make a dip or hummus. I’ll also admit that I never quite understood dried beans. Having to soak beans overnight isn’t hard, but it does take advance planning. When I’m standing in the grocery store looking at dried beans, I can’t guarantee that I’ll always remember to soak them the night before I need to use them. Recently, I was gifted a number of vacuum-sealed packages of dried beans from my aunt and uncle’s farm in Iowa, and I was up for the challenge. I started with the easiest, black beans, and was delighted to find the quick soak method, which allowed me to use them the same day. I was even more surprised to see how robust they became… firm, plump, and much darker and richer tasting than canned beans. Next I moved on to pinto beans. I was pretty stumped with those guys… I found recipes for refried beans and baked beans, but I wanted to go a little healthier. Finally, I found something that was just whole foods and could happily cook by itself in the crockpot all day, so I gave it a go.

Slow Cooked Beans

Slow Cooked Pinto Beans

I’ll admit, the enticing picture posted with this recipe helped draw me to it. In fact, it inspired me to make skillet cornbread along with the meal (click the link, you’ll see). However, I decided to alter the recipe a little bit, adding some spices and other flavors. Here’s where we landed:

1 lb. dry pinto beans
6 c. water or broth
4 pieces of turkey bacon, thinly sliced (omit if vegetarian)
1½  sea salt (to taste)
freshly ground pepper (to taste)
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. italian seasoning
1 bay leaf

Soaked Beans

Soak beans overnight OR use quick soak method, as I did. Drain beans, place in crockpot with remaining ingredients. Cook for eight hours on low. Using a slotted spoon, serve beans (draining liquid), and season as desired. I never, ever salt my food, and I felt the beans needed it, but I used water when cooking them in the crockpot, not broth. Broth tends to be salty, so salting may not be necessary unless you cook them in water. To me, this screamed cornbread and a tossed salad, and it all went together nicely. My youngest daughter gobbled dinner up, which I thought was a good sign. My husband wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about it, but he ate the beans alongside leftover steak, so I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison. I plan to either freeze the leftovers to use in burritos another night, or mash, re-season, and use as a side dish.

Beans are healthy, affordable, and no fuss. Being gluten-free, they’re always a welcome addition to a meal, and they’re a great vegetarian option. Share your favorite bean dishes!  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

So, back in February I shared Part I of my office makeover story. I included some behind the scenes perspective on working with a professional organizer. Hope Stuart of Apple A Day Organizing came to my house and helped me make over my sad little office. Now, I am ready to show you the after pictures and tell you  bit more!

My office was somewhat organized before Hope came into my life, but I was seriously lacking systems to stay organized. I wear many  hats besides my Whatever Mom hat. I need to keep all my projects organized as well as my household.

Where The Whatever Mom was born!

I knew right away the first thing I wanted to create was a command center. It might sound crazy, but I could weep over how well it turned out! I have a wall calendar in the center so I can see what we have going on in a glance. This colorful calendar is situated right behind my computer so I can easily turn to add an appointment as it comes in.


I found this colorful calender project on Pinterest.

Flanking each side of the calendar are three clip boards. Each clip board is efficiently labeled for each of the committees and projects I currently have. This allows me to keep all my notes for each group organized together. It also helps me to focus on one project at a time. I think Martha (as in Stewart) herself might shed a little tear if she were to see this.

An A+ command center!

Next, I organized all the different aspects of my household into binders and made colorful matching labels. Now, when I am working on my meal plan for the week I simply pull out that binder and make our weekly menu. I have our favorite go-to recipes already filed inside. I have all our household business filed in one binder and I even have a binder to keep my blog organized (it’s true). The best part is all of these items are within arms reach. I literally do not need to leave my chair to get a binder, a post-it note or a print out. My former system was literally piles on top of my desk that I just kept shifting around…and picked up off the floor now and then. Yep, this is way more efficient.

Use binders to organize paper work, and home management.

Last, I organized my hanging file folders and labeled with each month. Inside each months folder is a color coded sub folder. This allows me to keep all my blog topics in one place to review when needed. I also store any of our seasonal and holiday themed print outs inside.

Use hanging file folders to store additional papers, or projects.

After we had systems set in place Hope helped me with frame placement on walls opposite the command center. I admittedly have a phobia about hanging things on the wall. I am terrible at artistically grouping frames and please don’t ask me to measure things. Hope’s system of laying out the grouping first, then measuring and THEN using paper to tack to the wall in the exact spot you want your frame to go made the process much less painful!

I love that we found a place to hang my very first printed articles, we made an area for my kids art work and a found a great spot to hang a faux window with inspirational quotes and pictures inside. This is great since my office doesn’t have any windows!

Grouping art or photos in frames of varying size, but same color make an interesting and clean focal point.

Working with a professional organizer made this experience less stressful than if I did it all on my own. Hope was a great hands on partner with every aspect of this make over. All the organizing and planning Hope did before she arrived at my home really paid off when we put the office together. Our time had a flow and an ease to it. It didn’t feel much like work at all.

This is where the magic happens!

After my office was completed, I hosted a party for my friends to see the result. Hope set up a beautiful display of her signature baskets and handed out some clip boards for people to take notes. We ate, we drank and some went home with prizes. Easy peasy! No hard sell. No push for product. She offered great advice, sensible tips and I think everyone walked away feeling inspired to organize.

You can see more of Hopes make over projects on her website, or visit the Facebook page to contact her for more details.


The Whatever Mom received free hours of home organization for hosting a make over party. No compensation was made for this blog post. All opinions and statements made about Apple A Day Organizing services are solely those of The Whatever Mom.

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