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basten-house

Did you know about this adorable, family friendly Teddy Bear museum in Marbletown? During a fall open house, my family and I visited the Den which is set back from the road on 209. The Den of Marbletown is simply adorable and perfect for any teddy bear fanatic! There are a ton of different bears displayed and opportunities to learn the history of the teddy bear, the Steiff Company and the museum location.

The Basten family farm house was converted to a bed and breakfast and has expanded to include a teddy bear collection museum. The original collection belongs to the owner’s mother and many of the temporary exhibits include her personal favorites.

The Steiff Company has been around since 1880 and has been delighting children and adults of all ages and stages with stuffed animals. From plush baby safe cuddle blankets to luxurious fiber collectible bears for adults.

When we arrived my girls could hardly contain their excitement. They were surrounded by thousands of stuffed loves all in need of a good hug (according to the six year olds, not the store staff). After touring the gift shop we took the self-guided tour to learn more about the history of the museum and the teddy bear. We wound our way through each room filled with displays of adorably staged stuffed animals.  And just when we thought we were at the end we found the upstairs portion of this old Farm House was also converted to hold exhibits. Each room in The Den has a theme and is filled with adorable dioramas of teddy bear hijinks.

diorama-bears

There is an overload of teddy bears and stuffed animals throughout the museum, but in a small converted closet in one upstairs room there are plenty of old school Barbie Dolls and Madame Alexander Dolls. Across the hall from that exhibit, there is a special room called the, “Mama Bear Lounge.” This room was designed with working moms in mind. Moms are encourage to grab a coffee and their lap top and let the little ones play. Or, meet up with other moms for play dates. There is a toy box filled with blocks and other toys and a soft carpeted area for kids to play. There is free Wi-Fi where moms can get a little work done, or take a break and scroll through Facebook. The small room behind the mama bear lounge is the “kids cub cave.” It’s a small room where the kids can climb in and out of a faux cave, or grab a game or coloring page from the shelves to play at the table.

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mama-bear-den

One unique feature we did not experience is renting a guest room to spend a night at the museum. This would be an incredible birthday experience for any kid age 6 or older to sleep that close to so many squeezable bears. There is also a café and snack area inside, as well as picnic area just outside. The website boasts a picnics to go service, local fresh baked goods and a marvelous closet filled with extra amenities.

You can tell the folks in charge really put a lot of thought into the details. This museum is perfect for your teddy bear enthusiast age six and older. There are many exhibits behind glass, or under display boxes, but still many places they can hold a stuffed animal.  More active kids will love the mama bear lounge area.

Keep an eye on the Den News section on the website to check out some of the fun events planned at the house. Some previous events include a teddy bear tea, cookie decorating, jewelry making and art workshops.  The admission price to the museum is really affordable at $2.00 per adult, and $1.00 for kids to age 17 (under 1 are free) and a family rate of just $5.00. Pack a lunch and make this an affordable fun day out learning a little history and enjoying the bears!

Photo credit: The Den of Marbletown website.

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. 

visit-eric-carle

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.

ecarle-library-collage

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. 

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.

carousel-lake-george

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. 

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!”

playing-in-central-park

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.

Tucked away on a tiny lot which you probably pass every time you make your way through the village of Catskill, is the Catamount. This kooky little people’s museum is fun for all ages. It is quite unique and if you pass by too quickly you will miss it. It sits just above street level and blends right into the greenery and the remains of an old brick foundation. The Catamount is completely hand built and the brain child of local artist Matt Bua. You can read Matt’s blog to see conceptual sketches, ideas and events held at the museum.

Catamount

What makes this museum truly unique is that it is a “people’s museum.” All the exhibits inside the belly of the bobcat are donated by members of the community, strangers stopping by and local historical organizations. You will find maps, water color paintings, a carved wooden cat puppet, newspaper articles and much more. Even you are welcome to leave behind a little work of art, a map, or a note. Have fun signing the guest book and looking through to see how far people travel to visit.

Catamount 1

Catamount 2

Catamount 3

The bobcat was installed in 2010 and it was only supposed to stay for one year. But this heart warming feline has grown on the city of cats and folks here have let it stay. Would you believe I drove passed this spot for a year to schlep my kids to preschool and I never noticed the 15 foot cat?!

We found out about this amazing little place through the Follow That Book program at the Catskill Public Library. Librarians Miss Jennifer and Miss Crystal put together a wonderful tour and story time. My girls even enjoyed a game of ping pong using a wooden plank for a paddle. Why not? The entire Catamount is made out of recycled and found objects. Even the eyes are made from old plates and light bulbs. At night you can see them glowing. So it is only fitting we used planks of wood we foud lying around to create our paddles.

Between ping pong and story time we enjoyed a lovely picnic inside the bobcat. Then it was time to chat with the artist himself. He was really great with helping the kids build their own sculpture from found objects. He let the kids take total control of the project and simply guided them with, “where do you feel that piece belongs?” It was educational, interesting and different than your usual story time.

Tips if you plan to visit: Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the table inside the museum, or spread out a blanket on the grass nearby.

Bring plenty of bug spray. Even though it is a small lot it is quite lush with greenery.

Be sure to stop by Coney Island just up the street (walking distance) for ice cream and fun kiddie rides. Take your picture with the tiny Statue of Liberty.

Bring a camera!

Bring a small piece of history or your own hand crafted artwork to leave behind.

If you just can’t get enough cats in your visit, be sure to find parking on Main Street and take the walking tour of painted cats. You can find a map at the Greene County Arts Council, or just walk on your own. If you stop by the arts council check out the latest exhibits!

Check out the secret gardens planted between buildings on Main St.

Cool off at the library in the kids books section and pick up your calendar for Follow That Book.

Stop for lunch at Village Pizza or the Garden Gate Deli. Both places are kid friendly, affordable and really yummy!

For a really small village there sure is a lot of free art to see and fun things to find! The girls and I truly enjoyed the day. We can’t wait to make a trip back to leave behind our own piece of history.

 painted catsPainted cat 2painted cat 3

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. 

 

 

Blueberries at Mead Orchard (1)

It seems the new parenting trend this summer is to give our kids a “70’s summer.” As in the 1970’s. The decade mostly known for crazy fashions, zero child safety laws and an abundance of TAB cola. Back then, parents just didn’t hover in the same way we do today. Kids were left to figure things out on their own. Things like how many rocks will fill that tree stump, or how to cover up a scratch you got after mom told you three times not to climb that fence. All really important stuff.

As I thought about all the near death experiences that taught me survival skills, I wondered how I could give my kids some of the fun experiences I had growing up. I sifted through memories of the crazy things we did while unsupervised when I remembered one of my favorite things to do was pick berries. Especially blue berries.

With that, I woke my little family up one sunny morning and announced we need to find a place to pick our own blueberries. As we made the 30-minute drive to Mead Orchard, I regaled the children with stories of growing up in the country where the kids ran as wild as the blueberries. My cousins and I would be outside in the summer sun for hours, eating more berries than our bellies could hold, and returning home with buckets full of treasure.

There was absolutely no structure to our hauling berries. So it felt odd to me to find a neat parking spot in the middle of a huge orchard, and receive instructions as to where to find the best berries. It isn’t the same as being let loose to fend for ourselves, but picking berries in any fashion is still a valid way for my kids to connect with a food source.

farmer hands

At Mead’s the neatly lined berry bushes are surrounded by a netted canopy to keep the berries safe from hungry animals. My kids did not seem to be bothered by it at all, but it is completely different than my childhood berry experiences.

In my memory there are haphazard bushes lining the far back end of a field and we all race to be the first ones to get our hands on those precious orbs. Our parents were more than willing to let us go. They planted themselves in a circle with all the other parents,  summer beverages in hand as they caught up on life. No one directed us to the best berries. No one outlined the rules on where not to climb or to where watch out for bees. The older ones were coached how to watch out for the younger ones and we were off.

blueberries

At the end of our day at Mead’s we picked a total of 4 lbs. of blueberries and 2 lbs. of tart cherries (which are now out of season). Blueberries are still available until the end of August. For less than $20.00 we had fresh fruits to show for our labor, and my kids were wonderfully worn out and full of summer sun and fresh air. It wasn’t the rollicking rumpus of my childhood, but it was definitely a satisfying way to connect my kids to where the blueberries in their pancakes come from.

Mead Orchard is located in Red Hook, NY and the staff there are very knowledgeable about all their products. Not only can you pick your own fruits and berries, but you can purchase their honey and jam. Don’t worry if you buy a jar of honey with the honey comb still in it, one of the cashiers can give you a recipe or two on how to use it.

Tips: If you bring a lunch you can tail gate where you parked, or grab lunch at Papa’s Best Batch road stand on your way out. Either place provides plenty of room for little ones to play. Bring some bubbles or story books to make it entertaining. Be sure to bring cash! There are no ATM’s out in the field.

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. 

 Related: Hudson Valley Parent List of U-Pick Farms

the story from the lens

At the beginning of every summer I try to round up a few new places to visit with the kids. Now that my kids are getting older they are outgrowing some of the play spaces  we used to visit. One thing that hasn’t changed is their desire to explore.

Last month our family signed up for a free Healthy Ulster Membership at the Mohonk Preserve. The Visitor Center Trailhead is located at 3197 State Route 55, Gardiner, NY. While we were there we were encouraged to explore the visitor center which includes an interactive children’s corner. And by corner I mean an area too small for a crowd, or big group. But it is perfect for a handful of friends to gather for play.

Here is what we found during our exploration:

Interactive Exhibits

When you enter the center you are on the upper level. There are interactive exhibits where kids can learn about the land within the Mohonk preserve, the animals they can find and the Geoexchange system running the center. Your toddler won’t understand a whole lot of this information, but they will love getting to push the buttons and using the swipe screen to get to the next slide of information while your older child interacts on their own.

There are amazing views all around so be sure to simply take a moment to enjoy looking out the large windows at the surrounding landscape.

Children’s Corner

After you make your way through the upper level take the stairs down to the children’s corner. There is something there for kids of any young age. There are books, games and puzzles about nature. There are a few live animals to see and kids can unearth animal bones. You can even borrow a nature exploration kit and wander through the Children’s Forest right outside the center.

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HVP kids corner

Sensory Trail

This is a paved trail that is perfect for strollers and for toddlers learning to walk. Simply follow the path and allow your little ones to explore the artwork, butterfly gardens and views along the way. The paved path leads into the Children’s Forest where there are fun things to play with. We found a tee pee style hut made with sticks and a whole lot of natural things to keep our exploration thinking caps busy. Allow your kid to be your guide and follow along at their pace. You will be amazed by the amount of questions they begin asking.

HVP childrens forest

What got my kids the MOST excited? The little animal nook tucked away under the stairs in the children’s corner. Beyond these doors is a hidden little room where kids can sit with the many stuffed creatures and use their playtime imaginations. Moms can sit quietly on a bench and feed babies, or chat with another mom.

HVP animal nook

HVP kid corner 2

The visitor center is open 9 am – 5 pm daily (except holidays) all year. It is free to explore the children’s corner and the sensory trail just outside which leads to the children’s forest. Pack a snack and invite a friend for an easy morning of play, or bring your lunch for an afternoon of pint sized fun! For more information click here.

Even though my kids are no longer toddlers we enjoyed this day out together. I wish I knew about it when my kids were little and we needed a safe place to explore. It’s a great place to wear out little ones with play time adventures before nap. Older kids (I’d say up to age 8) can enjoy the activities here as well. A great little stop for moms of kids with toddlers or mixed ages.

 

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.

Oh you haven’t heard of Micheal’s farm yet? Maybe that’s because it is nestled in a quiet little nook just between Saugerties and Woodstock. It is a private farm owned and operated by Tammy Drost, a woman with a big heart and a true love of animals and kids.

Michael’s Farm isn’t open to the public and visits are only available per request. Tammy typically responds to requests through the farm’s Facebook page. For a very small fee Tammy gives kids a tour of the farm pulling them along on a hay wagon ride and making stops to feed each group of animals.

Feeding animals at Michael's Farm

My girls and I have made several visits to the farm touring the menagerie of animals there. From Llamas to turkeys, donkeys and foxes, ponies and emu there is plenty to see (and feed). Almost every kid falls in love with the tiny poodle named Daisy. Daisy serves as the unofficial Mayor for the animals on the farm. She either rides along on the hay wagon or runs alongside amusing the kids watching her trying to keep up.

Every visit we make the girls ask, “are there any baby chicks?” And so far  there has been new baby animals to snuggle. This last visit we cuddled baby Arctic foxes AND chicks.

chicks on michaels farm

I have lost count of the number of visits we’ve made to the farm for birthday parties, meet ups with local moms and tours with our preschool. I have friends running local home school groups who meet at the farm a few times a year. It is truly a local gem and a family friendly place to spend time watching your kids bond with animals. All the animals are very social and ready to enjoy your company too.

If you come for a birthday party you are in for a real treat! Birthdays not only include a day of fun on the farm, they also include ice cream cupcakes made fresh on site. (These are more like little mini ice cream cakes). Tammy makes them herself along with individual pints of different flavors of ice cream.

cupcakes michaels farm

ice cream pints michael's farm

As if private tours, group gatherings, birthday parties and making ice cream isn’t enough to keep Tammy and her animals busy; she also runs Farm Camp in the summer and during school breaks. Kids spend five hours per day at the farm learning to care for the animals, make crafts and swim in the pool, or play in the creek. A great way for kids to spend their time outdoors in a safe, caring environment that will completely wear them out by bedtime.

Occasionally you can also find Tammy out with her mini pony and small petting zoo at local farmer’s markets and outdoor events. That’s where we first met Tammy and her pack. Now we look forward to visiting all of them on the farm as often as we can!!

If you want to know where to find this hyperlocal ice cream you can find pints for $4 each at Mountain View Market 322 Blue Mountain Rd. Saugerties and Vinnie’s Farm Market on Rt. 32 in Saugerties. Get flavors like chocolate caramel, vanilla fudge, raspberry, coconut, cherry, strawberry, chocolate chip and too many more to list!

 

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.

 

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I want to share with you one of my family’s favorite events to attend every year: The Autism Walk & Expo of the Hudson Valley. We look forward to heading to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds every April for this event! This walk event is super family friendly and it is the biggest annual fundraising event for our local chapter of the Autism Society of America.

I confess this event was one of my favorites before I had kids. I was a board member and the marketing chair for Autism Society Hudson Valley for nearly seven years. I left when I was pregnant with my twins (five years ago, yikes!). But, my heart never let go!

set up

For seven years in a row I helped with all the behind the scenes support to make this event happen. I handled print media, gathered donations, procured the entertainment, stuffed goody bags and set up signs the night before. I loved every second of it. But, you know one thing I didn’t get to do each of those years? Actually participate in the awesome activities happening at the event!

My kids weren’t even a year old when we took them to their first walk event. I remember pushing our giant red, double stroller through the grass and taking everything in for the first time. It is truly an amazing event where families with children living with autism can find support. No one is judging you if your kid can’t be near the loud DJ, or they are having a meltdown because they are over stimulated. In fact, almost every parent attending understands “over stimulated.”

Drums at walk

I may be a tad biased with my past experience, but let me tell you why this is my families favorite event of the year. Not only do my kids have a great time banging on drums, petting the Llamas and jumping in the big bouncy houses, but we get to help a lot of local families who are in need of services and advocacy.

Ribbon cutting

The walk portion of this event is the most important part. Most of the funds raised by registration fees stay right here in the Hudson valley serving our local families. (A small portion goes toward autism research). To register as a team, or as an individual you can download registration form below, or stop by the registration tent upon entering the fairgrounds.

2.29.16 Walk Reg

Autism Society Hudson Valley provides grants for persons with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or a parent, a professional or caregiver working with a person with ASD. Grants can be used for a variety of reasons; including but not limited to, health & safety concerns, therapies, social skills classes or recreational activities. (These grants WILL NOT cover daily living expenses or household bills). For more details you can download the grant application form below. The Autism Society Hudson Valley also brings guest speakers and conferences locally for parents and educators.

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The Expo portion gathers local service agencies under one big info tent. This makes it convenient for parents to walk through and pick up information about an agency, or talk with an employee representative. To keep the kiddos entertained there is usually a bouncy house, sand art, drum time, karate demonstrations and a little fair with activities. Specific activities may change each year, but there is usually plenty of fun for everyone!

This event takes place rain or shine, so be prepared to bring appropriate gear. You can always duck into the grand stands if necessary. The walk happens along the track and strollers are allowed, but no skate boards, bikes or scooters. Food for purchase is available, but breakfast is typically served in the morning at no charge and a few snacks and bottled water is available too. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. You won’t want to miss the traditional ribbon cutting ceremony and countdown to walk start! Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. It is a 1-2 mile walk around the track.

As you take your lap around the track, be sure to take a moment and look behind you. Experiencing that sea of compassionate walkers and volunteers moving together to make a positive change for families living with autism is breath taking. I guarantee you will need a Kleenex!

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.

 

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I am so thrilled that we can officially cross Trevor Zoo off of our Summer Bucket List!! After hearing so many moms talk about taking their kids we decided to find out what all the buzz is about.

Trevor Zoo is located in Millbrook, NY. A fun fact about the zoo is it is actually part of a high school. We saw many of the students working the grounds today. But, we were more distracted by the giant, noisy wood chippers and tree trimming equipment being used. Sadly, so were many of the animals we came to see. Several of them stayed inside their little shelters and did not come out. Despite the distraction we had a pretty good time!

This little zoo is home to 180 animals and 80 different species. We did not know what to expect when we arrived, but were so thrilled to see Lemurs, a Tamerine, a Raven, Emu, Kangaroos, Otters, Cranes and several varieties of reptiles. Once you pay the admission ($5/per adult and $3/per child) you are free to roam six full acres of well maintained zoo life.

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I discovered immediately the secret to the charm of this little zoo. It isn’t the exotic animals. It isn’t getting to see Archer fish up close. It’s that you can take your oldest kid and your youngest kid and still have a great time. My 19 year old nephew came with us and had just as much fun seeing the red panda as my four year olds. It was heart warming for me to see them all having fun together. One other important detail I noticed is the walkways are all paved. You can push your stroller (or even a wheel chair)through with no problems!

This was a really fun and inexpensive outing for us. We will definitely go back! Next time I may stop off at one of the many farm stands along the way!

TIPS:

The parking lot is a short walk from the zoo. But, the path is clearly marked and leads you directly to the zoo gate.

Food is not allowed in the zoo. But, feel free to bring your lunch and tailgate in the parking lot.

Feeding times are posted outside of the lemur building (the first building you pass as you get to the main zoo area). If you gather during those times you will get to see staff feeding the animals and they share fun info about the animals.

If the kids get a little antsy from being in the stroller, there is a tiny park they can safely and easily stretch their legs in.

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Even though most of the area is shaded by trees don’t forget to bring your sunscreen!

Be sure to bring your camera! How often will you be this close to a baby kangaroo?

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Don’t forget to check out the Hudson Valley Parent field guide before heading to the Trevor Zoo! Find other insider tips on local family outings in this guide! Enjoy!

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

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