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As the mountains of snow start to melt, it is finally starting to feel more like spring. This is the time of year we get outside more and watch everything spring to life again. Including winged creatures. Some are beautiful and some are down right annoying when they go buzzing by. But I bet everyone can agree that spotting a butterfly is a magical experience.

Magic wings bfly collage

That’s why we love our trips to the Magic Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in South Deerfield, MA. No matter what the weather, there is a tropical greenhouse waiting just two and half hours away from Northern Ulster County. It is easily a fun day trip your family will enjoy. Magic Wings is a tranquil 8,000 square foot greenhouse filled with tropical plants, a Japanese Koi pond and water features and of course butterflies. In fact, hundreds of them. Once we paid our admission we were ready for our self guided tour of the green house.

magic wings collage

The exhibit and display area before entering the greenhouse offers educational videos, the history of the butterfly and a whole bunch of tropical creatures. Spoiler alert there are some of the biggest cockroaches you will ever see on display. But no worries, they are all behind glass. My kids loved the tree frogs, snakes and other reptilian beasts.

Upon entering the green house there are large fans blowing and little kids might find them noisy. This is simply to keep the butterflies from hitching a ride out on someone’s back. The rest of the tour is calm and pretty serene with classical music playing and the sounds of the waterfalls.

magic wings lizard

My kids were mesmerized by the packs of fluttering wings and spent hours trailing them and watching them. All the employees are well trained in the different types of animals living in the green house. They can easily rattle of details about the lizards, birds, fish and insects from what they eat, to what their usual habitat looks like.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

There is a community coat closet big enough to park a stroller (not permitted in the green house), or to leave bulky diaper bags and your family’s coats. The gift shop has a wide range of gift items and kids toys. Some are more expensive, but definitely some affordable fun things for family budgets. You enter through the gift shop before the tour begins, so we let the kids shop a little without purchasing so they would know what they wanted when we came back through.

Bring your camera because there are a few little fun photo op spots to take family photos. Not to mention you will really want to capture some beautiful shots of the lush greenery and colorful butterflies.

The cost for a family of four (two parents, two kids) is $52 and kids under 3 are free. You can save on meals by packing your own lunch instead of buying in the cafe, or restaurant. There is a covered out door picnic area available in the summer, and there are tables in the lobby near the fire place in the winter. Overall, you are going to pay less for this day trip filled with educational opportunities and hours of exploring than probably getting your family into a movie theater for two hours of entertainment. We love it so much we always leave planning our next trip back!

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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If you are looking for something fun to do during the kids spring break then check out Springfield Museums in Springfield, MA. Located approximately two hours from Northern Ulster County it is an easy day trip for families with little ones.

One admission price grants access to all four museums on campus. Each museum and discovery center celebrates art, history, science and discovery. Located in the center of it all is the Dr. Seuss National Memorial sculpture garden.  During our visit we were delighted by hands on learning experiences and opportunities to soak in some extraordinary art work. The grounds offer a large area for picnics and room for kids to run. Although you cannot climb, or play on the sculptures in the garden there are benches painted in fun themes and some interactive pieces in front of the museums.

There is so much to do and see here that we spent an entire day exploring and playing.  I’ll just share with you the highlights.

SPRINGFIELD SCIENCE MUSEUM

The science building has hands on exploration of rocks and minerals, space, live animals, the African Hall and Dinosaur Hall. There are three floors in this building alone and we spent over an hour investigating everything. We even doubled back around to the African Hall so we could push all the animal sound buttons again. There is a planetarium, but we arrived in between show times.

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GEORGE WALTER VINCENT SMITH ART MUSEUM

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We found the most wonderful exhibits for everyone in my family. My kids favorite by far is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit (until September 3, 2017). It includes original comic book art and incorporates replicas of the shields and weapons the TMNT used in their stories. My kids’ were super excited to play the original TMNT on Nintendo. Yep, I am so old I remember the original Nintendo which is now old enough to be an exhibit in a museum.  My husband enjoyed reliving his glory days by schooling the kids with his video game codes. The building houses a collection of Japanese arms & armor, Asian art, Islamic art, Tiffany windows and more.

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The children’s art discovery center is the most amazing kid’s area we’ve ever played in! The discovery center is decorated in colorful Buddhist, Asian and Chinese Zodiac art. There is a simple craft left out for kids to partake, a puppet theater, dress up area, a wishing tree, reading area and so much gorgeous art work to drink in. My kids stayed in this sunny bright spot for an hour exploring every nook and cranny.

MICHELE AND DONALD D’AMOUR MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

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There are several different galleries on both floors of this museum. Each gallery contains a comprehensive collection of art work from Impressionist art, French & Dutch art, and American art to the Currier and Ives collection. In the upstairs gallery there is a kid’s art area that is perfectly placed in location to the other gallery rooms. The Cat in the Hat exhibit (through April 30, 2017) includes fun dress up hats and cute little stuffed kittens kids can arrange to make their own exhibit. We found it easy for one parent to stay with the kids in the kids area while the other parent took their own guided tour of the galleries. I studied many of the works and painters in these collections, so it was a thrill to walk through alone and see some of my favorites up close.

LYMAN AND MERRIE WOOD MUSEUM OF SPRINGFIELD

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This building houses a great collection of Indian motorcycles and classic cars, local Springfield history and the Hasbro Game Land (our favorite). We spent the least amount of time in this museum since the staff was setting up for an event and some parts were closed off. But the larger than life sized game pieces were our favorites.

DR. SEUSS NATIONAL MEMORIAL SCULPTURE GARDEN

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During our picnic lunch on the quad we enjoyed the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. The grassy quad is big enough to let kids roam and there are plenty of benches to sit down to eat. Thankfully, the parking lot isn’t far so you can leave your cooler in the car while you check out the exhibits, and retrieve it for your lunch break. There is a cafe right  next to the museum main entrance if you’d prefer. It was hard to keep the kids from climbing on the sculpture, but it was really fun to see their faces light up at the life sized characters they love!

By purchasing a membership you get free admission to a host of other museums across the country (including the Mid Hudson Children’s Museum, the MiSi Museum in Schenectady and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum to name a few).  Imagine the trips you could plan! They also deduct the price you pay for your family admission from the membership price which makes it really affordable, and pays for future adventures.

Spending the day at the museums is a great getaway from the usual routine of things. It’s an easy day trip and if you plan it just right you can be there in time to see the newest addition of the Dr. Seuss museum coming in June! I know we can’t wait to go back!

Would you travel two hours to see works of art?

You might also enjoy some of our other adventures: Howe’s Caverns, Lake George, Mystic Aquarium and The Eric Carle Museum of Story Book Art.

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. 

Every March thousands of brave souls around the country come out to do something crazy. They shave their long locks of hair for money. That may sound a little weird to you if you haven’t heard of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation before.

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If you have not yet had the chance to be a part of a St. Baldrick’s event, you are in luck! St. Baldrick’s of Ulster County is returning with their super family friendly event on Sunday March 5th 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Saugerties Senior Center 207 Market St. Saugerites, NY. Nearly 150 people will shave their heads in solidarity with kids fighting cancer in our local community and around the world. The original event hosted in 2015, raised over $88,000.

THE HISTORY OF ST. BALDRICK’S

What began as a modest fundraising goal of $17,000 in 1999, has grown to a record breaking $27.2 actual dollars given to research grants in 2014. In 2015 research backed by St. Baldrick’s pushes the FDA to approve a new drug to treat kids with neuroblastoma. It is only the third drug approved specifically for pediatric cancer in twenty years.

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My family and I began raising money for St. Baldrick’s as a way to honor the battle my niece Ashley fought when she was just 3-years-old. Thankfully, she is a healthy teenager and high school graduate today, but in 2001 we didn’t know what her future would hold. Ashley has been a long time supporter of St. Badlrick’s and last year was the first time she braved the shave since losing her hair to cancer as a child.

Oh, and there is no actual St. Baldrick.

THE FUNDS

There are hundreds of different organizations raising money for kids with cancer, but what makes the St. Baldrick’s charity unique is that nearly every dollar is donated directly to research. There is no overhead cost of an executive team, a CEO salary, or administrative costs. The events are coordinated by volunteers in small towns and big cities. Most often it is a family affair honoring young heroes who have lost and won their battles.

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Since the government only spends less than 4% on pediatric cancer research, St. Baldrick’s helps fill the funding gap and is the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.

THE SAUGERTIES EVENT

So now that you have a little history about why people start their own team and ask for money to shave their heads, you should know what you can expect at this event. There is a little something for everyone to enjoy! The bake sale is provided courtesy of some serious local bakers like Banana Moon Baking Company, The Cup Takes The Cake, Sugar Me Sweet Bakers, Amy’s Sweet Tooth, Hudson Valley Dessert Company and many more! There will be face painting, dance performances, a DJ, raffles and a whole lot of energy! It will be a big party celebrating the shavees for their bravery, honoring local families who brave the fight and remembering the ones who will be forever young.

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The event is only 12 days away, but you can still register to brave the shave and raise donations, or you can make a donation to the Saugerties event, or you can show up and be a part of the action. I guarantee the first time you experience this amazing event your life will never be the same, and even the biggest heart will find enough room to grow three sizes!

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!

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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. 

When I was a kid New Year’s Eve was so exciting! My parents would let us stay up until Midnight to take us out to breakfast. We called it “First Breakfast” because it was literally the first breakfast of the New Year. One year we went to the diner with my parents and their friends, another year the local firehouse hosted a first breakfast event. I was just four years old when my parents started this tradition, but I still remember it today!

I knew I would make this a tradition for my little family one day. The only problem is, at age 6 my kids still “can’t hang.” If they do not go to bed at the same hour every night we have horrible, monstrous humans we can’t face the public with. So our solution is to celebrate a big first breakfast at our kitchen table every year. We make it special with colorful decorations and drink out of fancy glasses. It has become such a big hit at our house that I now keep a kit ready. I pull it out on New Year’s Eve after they fall asleep and set it up before I go to bed (hours before midnight).

The traditional colors for New Year celebrations are silver and gold, or black and white. However, we prefer the colors of Mardi Gras- green, gold and purple. These are all colors of royalty and represent prosperity and good fortune; all great things to hope for in the New Year and they make a pretty colorful back drop to our first breakfast.

Here is what I have in my first breakfast celebration kit:

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Champagne Flutes– We don’t actually serve champagne (to the children) for breakfast, but we do like feeling fancy. So we serve up their morning OJ (and our mimosas) in these colorful, reusable flutes. The kids really get a kick out of it!

Hats, Noise Makers and Beaded Necklaces – every year I set the table with these fun accessories for each person in the family. As soon as the kids come out in the morning we put on our fashions and march in a noisy parade through the house. Since mommy and daddy can no longer hang till midnight either, this noise isn’t so horrible after a full night’s sleep.

ny-kit-collage

Holiday Crackers- these are just fun! You pop them open and there is usually a paper crown inside along with some jokes and a little trinket. It keeps the kids busy while I am cooking up breakfast. They take turns cracking each other up and I get to enjoy hearing them laugh instead of argue for a minute. P.s. Holiday crackers usually go on sale for half price after the holiday season.

Tableware- I use disposable decorative paper plates with matching napkins. After cooking a big breakfast of omelets, bacon and fresh cinnamon buns, and drinking a few mimosas, I could use the break from washing dishes. P.p.s I hit up the dollar stores after the holiday and pick up festive prints for 50 cents each. I stock up to keep on hand for the next few years.

Masks- one of my kids wanted to start wearing masks for our parade one year and so the tradition has stuck around. We don’t wear them while eating breakfast because that would just be weird. Unless you are six then it’s just breakfast time. (I don’t even ask anymore).

ny-kit-masks

Clock– another kid created tradition. It makes a great centerpiece for our table.

Not included in the kit are colorful foiled chocolate coins I toss around the table to represent money and sweetness. I buy these every year because obviously chocolate is not going to survive more than a day in my house. And it could get pretty gross in storage for a year. I keep all our decorations in a reusable clear tote and put away until our next first breakfast.

Our version of First Breakfast may not have the same kind of thrill as when I was as a kid, but it is our own. Right now while the kids are still little and so dependent on routine, we are happy keeping the first breakfast tradition alive eight hours after the official start to the new year. It feels more manageable and sane for us. Maybe one day my children won’t turn into gremlins and we can move this tradition to a new location. Or, maybe we’ll return to this cozy tradition year after year. Either way I just hope they remember these first breakfasts as fondly as I remember mine.

What New Year traditions do you and your family celebrate?

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. 

 

Boo! It’s just about Halloween, the last finishing touches are getting put onto costumes, the neighborhoods are being scouted out and the kids are oozing with excitement of the big day. Staying up late has a whole new meaning when you get to go door to door collecting as much sweet treats as your arms can carry back. But after all that walking in the dark (and occasionally rain or snow) it is always nice to change into something comfortable and settle down for some family time. There is nothing better than ending a night of trick or treating snuggled up on the couch with a good Halloween movie. So, grab some cider and popcorn we have a great list of 10 movies your family will love.

Top 10 Halloween movies the whole family will love

For the littlest trick or treaters, these movies are rated G.

great pumpkin

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown- A family favorite since 1966 and a true Halloween classic! We have all watched as Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin, your kids will love it too.

2. The Worst Witch- Mildred is one of the young girls at a prestigious witch academy. She can’t seem to do anything right and is picked on by classmates and teachers. The headmistress of the school, Miss Cackle, has an evil twin sister (Agatha) who plans to destroy the school. Can Mildred foil the plan before the Grand Wizard (Tim Curry) comes to the Academy for the Halloween celebration you’ll never forget. (www.imbd.com)

3. Room on the Broom- This parent choice award winner is based on the popular Julia Donaldson book, The Gruffalo. The story is of a friendly witch who much to the frustration of her cat, invites a group of animals onto her broom.

For the preschoolers and elementary aged kids, these movies are rated PG.

4. Casper- We love a good Halloween movie starring Christina Ricci from the 90’s. From IMBD, a paranormal expert and casperhis daughter bunk in an abandoned house populated by 3 mischievous ghosts and one friendly one. (www.imbd.com)

5. The Witches- The special effects are amazing in this film about a 9 year- old boy who stumbles onto a witch convention and tries to stop them from their plan to turn children into mice.

halloweentown6. The Addams Family- From the popular sixties sitcome, the Addams family is a comedy filled with creepy and kooky characters who are sure to become a staple every Halloween.

7. Halloweentown-  This Disney made for TV film takes place on Halloween in a place called Halloweentown where a young family must battle evil as they discover family secrets and special magic powers.

For the little bit older crowd: These are also PG but maybe a little bit scarier

hocus pocus8. Beetlejuice- A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a “bio-exorcist” in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house. (www.imbd.com)

9. Hocus Pocus- We love the story line and bit of Halloween history that can be found in this great Halloween film. The three witch sisters that are resurrected on Halloween are both comical and spooky and it is up to two teen-agers, a young girl, and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches’ reign of terror once and for all.

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas- The Halloween list wouldn’t be complete without a Tim Burton film. Per imbd, Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn’t quite understand the concept.

What are your favorite Halloween movies?

The number one exercise program for new moms is Stroller Strides, and they’ve arrived in Dutchess County!  This unique exercise program is considered “specialty mom fitness”, and incorporates fun exercises with your baby and stroller.  Each class consists of power walking, with intervals of body toning, using resistance tubing and cardio.  The classes are designed for all fitness levels and they welcome babies as young as 6 weeks.  The instructors weave songs and activities into the class to keep the babies happy and entertained.

The program inspires moms to reach their optimal health and well-being, and is also tons of fun. Karen and Kristen are the instructors at the Poughkeepsie Galleria location, and they are dedicated to helping mom’s achieve their physical and emotional potential.

Stroller Strides is offering specials for new members so don’t delay.  If you are a new mom and you made a fitness resolution for 2011, Stroller Strides can help you reach your goal.  For more information call 914-406-5394 or visit them on the web.

For me, the holiday season is a special time that includes good food, fun, family and friends.  Like many, however, I am challenged each year with finding the balance between joy and happiness and guilt and stress.  As the founder of Time Savor Gourmet I help people just like you to make good food, fast and easy no matter how busy you are or how well you can cook.  As a result, I came up with some holiday survival strategies to help you eat well, entertain with less stress and not pack on the pounds, all while having a great time!  My next few blog posts will cover strategies for Entertaining, Cooking, Stress-Less Party Noshing and some general behavioral tips to help you get through the holidays with ease.

Entertaining

Tried and true, classic recipes that are low in fat and full in flavor are a tradition in my household.  At the start of the holiday season, I make sure to have my pantry & fridge armed with the items I’m going to need to whip up some of my favorite snacks when unexpected (or expected!) company arrives.  (I’ve listed a few of my favorites in the Holiday Appetizer 911 section on my website.)  By having good ingredients on hand and stocking your pantry, fridge and freezer with some basics (and NOT fat laden frozen appetizers!!!) you’ll be prepared and never caught off guard.


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