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I have been counting down the weeks to write this blog post! 2 more weeks until “Spring”! While I really don’t mind the snow at the beginning of the season, by March I am daydreaming of flowers and green grass, heck, I would just be happy with the 10 minutes less time it will take to get out of the house when we can finally pack away these boots and coats! Winter with toddlers is exhausting. But I digress, dreaming of spring today and I am happy to share with you my Top 10 Picks for spring- like events coming up in the Hudson Valley. Think warm thoughts and enjoy ūüôā

1.¬†St. Patrick’s day parades– Okay, not spring per se but it is out doors, floats are involved and it means spring is near! We are really excited to dig through the snow to find a spot at the Dutchess County St. Patrick’s Day parade this Saturday but there are many others throughout the Hudson Valley and this month you might want to check out.

2.¬†Maple Syrup Weekend– Again maple weekendit’s at the top of my list because it doesn’t necessarily¬†have to do with spring exactly but I wanted to share anyway. Other than St. Patrick’s Day parades, another sure- fire way to know spring it coming is the start of Maple Sugar Season. I can smell the pancakes now! One of our favorite farms and a new Sugar Bush to our area is the one at Madava Farm. We are really looking forward to their Maple Weekend March 21-22 & 28-29. The grounds are just gorgeous. Other Maple events can be found on this nifty list:¬†hvparent.com/maple-sugar

signs of spring walk3. Signs of spring walkР Welcome the start of spring with a stroll through the forest. This family friendly walk with nature expert is a fun way to get outside after a long winter. You are sure to see plenty of wildlife including birds returning home, toads, salamanders and maybe spot a spring bud or 2! The Walk takes place in Saugerties on March 21st.

4.¬†A visit with the Easter Bunny & Hunt-¬†There is no doubt that for many people the highlight event of the spring is Easter. From visits with the Easter bunny to Easter egg hunts throughout our area our calenders fill up fast this month. The Poughkeepsie Galleria is hosting once again the Hannoush Hunt. We did it last year and it was a lot of fun, though I think that parents were into it more than the kids ūüėČ It is essentially a scavenger hunt throughout the mall. There are also crafts and activities for the kids at center count, and the best part… I will be be there with Hudson Valley Parent so make sure you say hello!

5. Spring Extravaganza- Kids can participate in a egg hunt inside the mall, create an egg theme craft, color a page for the coloring contest and visit with the town of Poughkeepsie police for a Child ID card at the Poughkeepsie Plaza this March! The Easter bunny will be available for a visit and photo and new this year, two by two petting zoo will be there too!funny bunny

6. Funny Bunnies–¬†Families can learn all about the native eastern cottontail and go on a hunt in search of finding wild rabbits! You can meet live rabbits at the center followed by bunny crafts for the kids!

7. Spring Festival and egg hunt– The Beekman rec. holds a very night spring festival and egg hunt each year. They separate the kids by age in the tennis court and offer a large variety of free activities including photos with the Easter Bunny! Families can enjoy the bounce house, petting zoo, a game of Frisbee golf and many different craft projects.

8. Easter bonnet parade & Egg Hunt– Join in the Easter bonnet parade for kids of all ages. Raffles, guess the jelly bean jar contest, egg hunt and a special appearance from the Easter Bunny!

fishkill farms egg hunt9. Annual Spring Egg-StravaganzaРNot your average egg hunt, Kids can learn about dying eggs with fruits and plants, participate in a spring planting workshop with seeds they can take home and go on a hayride. Of course the star of the event is hunting for eggs. There are special surprises along the way including a visit from Mr. Easter Bunny himself for photos and fun.

10. Easter Egg hunts- Most towns have their own Easter Egg hunts. Hudson Valley Parent is working on a full list of the events as the towns are still releasing information. There are a number on the calender right now and I will add the list when it is available. Walden Egg Hunt, Easter Egg Hunt (Wappingers)

If you are up for a little trip, the Capital District Garden and Flower Show is worth checking out too.

Did I miss any of your favorite events? Let me know in the comments!

Flowers and chocolate were so last year! With the craze of Pinterest for endless inspiration at our fingertips it is easy to get lost in¬†find many things you and the kids can do together. If you aren’t up for it, you don’t need to be the next Pinterest Queen or Betty Crocker. Valentine’s Day is all about love, family and showing each other how much you care. With the 10 ideas below, you can keep it as simple or get as elaborate as you want. And in the comments, tell us what special Valentine’s Day traditions¬†you have with your family.

Getting out for some adult time this weekend? Check out my last list: 10 Date Night ideas in the Hudson Valley

1. Homemade gifts. Coupon books, love letters or heart shaped gifts loveare usually pretty popular with most parents I know. But great handmade gifts don’t have to be just for mom and dad. With a little creativity you can come up with some great gifts the kids will love. A “certificate” for a mommy and me date night, or a coupon book filled with “get out of chores for a night” or “ice cream for dinner”, etc. coupons or a thoughtful handwritten letter could go a long way too. And don’t forget about the adults. In most cases, a thoughtful handmade gift goes a lot way over a store bought one. HVParent’s Pinterest Page has lots of great ideas too!

2. Decorate.¬†I have a box of saved holiday art work from the kids, mostly Christmas pictures and crafts that I like to hang back up around the holiday. My mom did the same with our art and I love to see how my kids’ art changes over the years. So dig out love notes, those handmade cards from past years and construction paper hearts from the pre-k days and use them to decorate your home for Valentine’s Day.Bacon-Hearts

3.¬†Start the day off with love.¬†Luckily, Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year- so no need to get up extra early for¬†this one. We make birthday pancakes for birthdays, snowman pancakes for Christmas and our little Leprechaun friend turns our pancakes green on St. Patrick’s Day so it’s only natural our valentine’s day starts off with pink and red heart shaped pancakes and bacon. You can twist bacon into the shapes of hearts, use (metal) cookie cutters to make eggs or pancakes into fun shapes and even cut your fruit into little bite size hearts! (20 breakfast ideas found¬†here¬†on popsugar.com)

4. Share the love.¬†Chances are you are making or filling out your share of school Valentines anyway, so make a few extra to spread a little love this Valentine’s Day! Have the kids decorate paper hearts to make and take to the local nursing home, or fill out boxed cards to deliver to the local fire house or hospital. The kids will get a kick out of carrying a few for unsuspecting strangers during the day, like a waitress, cashier or neighbor. This¬†sweet gesture will go a long way to spread a little love.

babw5. Family time. A mom- friend posted recently looking for suggestions on ways to spend V-Day with the family. I was surprised how many moms had the same plans this year. Seems like many are heading to Build-a-Bear Workshop to¬†let the kids create their special Valentine’s Day gift. A great idea! If Build-a-Bear isn’t in the budget (they start with stuffed animals at $10) find something you can all enjoy doing together. A fun family outing is a great way to spend the “holiday” together.

Here are a few more ideas:

Family Date Night Spots

Ice Skating

Sledding

Indoor Play Spots

And check HVParent.com for a calendar filled with local fun! 

6.¬†Dinner with your loves.¬†You can stay in and cook, but since we moms like to be spoiled too on Valentine’s Day it might be a good night to hit the town. Nights like these I like to choose an early dinner reservation, get the kids fed, bathed and in bed early enough¬†for some adult alone time ūüėČ

Find a family- friendly restaurant here or here.

7. Dance Party.¬†Any excuse is a good one for a family dance party! After dinner clear the furniture, kick up the music and put on some of your favorite love jams. Don’t forget to save some slow dancing for your¬†significant other!cookie

8. Baking cookies. My kids love to visit the Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum to get their energy out in the winter. They¬†love the new fire truck, and pretending to bake the tallest cakes they can.¬†For the last two years, they have loved to come to the museum near Valentine’s Day to decorate their own heart shaped sugar cookies (event info here). I love that the mess stays outside of my house and we can pack a lunch and make a day¬†of it. But you don’t need to head out to make pink- frosting covered memories with the kids. Whip up a batch of your favorite cookie recipe (this is mine¬†from iheartnaptime.com) and get to work.

notes9. Exchange valentines.¬†I saw this adorable felt envelop last year and was dying to make¬†them for my kids¬†(…of course I never did) but I still love the idea. The blogger who created the one shown here filled out little notes to leave each night for her kids leading up to Valentine’s Day. If you are like me and pin a bunch of things you never do on Pinterest you can always use a decorated shoe box, manila envelope or store bought little mailbox (Michaels sells cute ones!) for each member of the family. Then every night before bed, everyone can write a sentence or 2 for each person to be opened at breakfast! (Image and idea from Blonde Designs Blog).

10. Surround yourself with love.¬†Whether you choose to stay home, go out, craft or just relax, remember to surround yourself with love this Valentine’s Day. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the best gifts, make the best crafts or turn our breakfast into the best heart shaped bacon our kids have ever seen. While it’s sometimes fun to go over the top, it isn’t necessary. A simple “I love you” from the heart can mean more than heart shaped pancakes and fancy gifts. Keep it in perspective, don’t stress over details and above all else surround yourself with love, after all that’s what it’s really about.

Does your family have any special Valentine’s Day traditions? Share in the comments!

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Christmas vacation is two weeks long. ¬†As a teacher I would have rejoiced. ¬†As a mom, I cringe- just a little. ¬†What are we going to do for two weeks?! It seems like it should be so easy with all those new toys in the house, but we all know that will only get you so far before everyone is crying about how bored they are. ¬†Infuriating isn’t it? ¬†Luckily, there happens to be a lot going on in our area to get us through the break and enjoy our time together.

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1.¬†The Hudson Highlands Museum¬†will be open on Thursday the 26th and Friday the 27th from 12-4 in addition to their normal weekend hours. ¬†At $3 a person with live animals, presentations, and crafts, it’s a nice way to spend a few hours. ¬†If dropping off your kids while making those returns to the mall or enjoying a few hours of post-holiday peace alone is more your thing, they are also offering a¬†mini camp¬†on Monday, Dec. 30-Friday, January 3rd (excluding 1/1) from 9-11:30 for $22 a day for non-members. ¬†Pre-registration required

2. Bear Mountain Ice Rink ($5 per person plus the cost of rentals if needed) is open everyday except for Christmas Day.  The carousel ($1 per person) is also open on the weekends.

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3. Luckily (or not) we have snow. ¬†This opens up a few more opportunities such as the obvious sleigh riding, snow ball fights, and snowman building. ¬†However, if you’re looking for a little more speed and a little less work of dragging yourself, your kid, and your sled back up the hill over and over and over, then¬†Orange County Park tubing¬†is for you. ¬†You get to slide down manicured snow tracks at great speed to then be pulled back up by a rope just so you can do it all over again. ¬†This is the first year Madison will be big enough to go. ¬†I’m secretly dreading it which is how I know she will love it. ¬†$13 for OC residents, $17 for non-residents

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4. The¬†Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum¬†is always a great option for kids. ¬†In addition to their regular hours and exhibits, they have a few¬†special events¬†going on during the break. ¬†Reservations required for all special events

-December 23rd at 10: Wild World of Animals,

-December 30th, the inflatable Planetarium will have showings of A Day of Winter Stars

-December 31, New Years @ Noon party with music, activities, refreshments and every parents favorite: noisemakers!

5. Have a sports fan? ¬†Army Hockey has a home game on January 4th at 7:05. ¬†Tickets are $13-17 per person. ¬†Madison’s grandma took her last year, and she loved it. ¬†Her favorite part? ¬†The cheering. ¬†I was the designated cheerer for her driveway games everyday for over a week last year.

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6. ¬†Bowling, for us, is a family event that we all enjoy. ¬†Many bowling allies offer specials for the long holiday vacation. ¬†Our nearest alley,¬†Colonial Lanes in Chester, is offering a weekday special of a half hour free with the purchase of an hour. ¬†They are also hosting a family friendly¬†New Year’s Eve Party¬†with bowling, music, and food.

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7. ¬†Don’t forget to relax. ¬†It is a vacation, ¬†and a well deserved one after all the hustle and bustle of prepping for the holidays.

Going on weekends through September 22nd, the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo Park, NY is a fun family day trip.¬† My husband and I thought our kids would enjoy the history and spectacle of the Faire, ¬†so when it opened this season, we decided to check it out. ¬†Not having been to the Faire since I was a teenager, I was a little skeptical.¬† For the most part, many festivals and fairs seem like little more than paying admission to a glorified flea market, and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trip.

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Arriving at the Faire was spectacle in and of itself.  After parking in a designated lot, we were directed onto a bus which drove us a few miles down the street to the Faire entrance.  Immediately upon entering, my kids were mesmerized by the costumes.  Everyone from Faire staff to guests were decked out in makeup and period costumes.  After paying $1 for a program, we scouted out the stages and shows, planning our afternoon.  We began with a belly dancing show, which captivated our attention.  More campy than skill, the women enticed the audience to clap and sway along.

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After stopping for a gigantic pickle (I didn’t see the appeal, but my older daughter begged for one!), we were off to the next show.

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This daredevil act involved a scrappy looking guy who joked about his need for attention as he rode a unicycle over a tightrope and juggled fire and a chainsaw.  Definitely not something to try at home.

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Since we’re gluten-free we brought our own lunch, but as we ate we eyed turkey legs bigger than my younger daughter’s head, and ended our meal with neon cotton candy. ¬†We wandered around the Faire grounds, dodging booths selling eye patches, lizards, and wooden shields (ah, the glorified flea market, aka my least favorite part; I knew it’d be there). ¬†My girls were taken by the hair braiding booth, but at $30 per person, we passed. ¬†The grounds were pretty, albeit a little run down, but we stopped to take in the sights over a cute bridge featuring a mechanical alligator in the water, and some maypole dancers.¬† One of them grabbed my older daughter and she got to participate in their dance.

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Next up was a magic show, which was funny enough but little more than you could find at a birthday party. ¬†Although it was getting hot and we were fading a bit, we heard through the Renaissance grapevine that the kids’ shows were not to be missed. ¬†We watched Storybook Theater, which was cute for kids, and told the tale of an ogre and a witch with magical hugs. ¬†As this was ending, the actor playing the tree shouted out, “Come to our Pirate show, down the way!” ¬†Fortunately for us, we had saved the best for last. ¬†“The Greatest Pirate Story (N)ever Told” was an improv show with a skeleton of plot filled in with audience participation. ¬†The actors sang, danced, kissed, and fell down laughing. So did we. ¬†My husband is an actor, and throughout the show we kept looking at one another in surprise over the quality of their work. This show was professional, and afterwards we found out that they’re on their way back to Broadway. No surprise!

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Finally, it was time to leave, and also to make good on our promise for souvenirs.  After perusing the booths once more, my daughters each chose a belly dancing wrap to take home.  We have fond memories of our trip back to the Renaissance era, and recommend it for anyone interested in traveling back in history or seeing some cute, campy shows and costumes.  Discount tickets are available on the Faire site through Walgreens.  Happy time travel!

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In our latest April issue, we did a few stories on family activities for Earth Day. This day is great for teaching your children long-lasting life lessons. You can teach them that it is important to respect the earth not on this day, but everyday. Check out our article here, but I also found another way to enjoy nature. Hiking! It’s one of my favorite activities and something that I used to do with my dad all the time.¬†

On April 24, 2010 Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall will be hosting the 4th Annual Hike-A-Thon in support of the museum’s mission to create responsible caretakers of the environment. Those attending can make a $20 donation to Team Grant to join the executive director’s team or sign up and start a team of your own. The money raised by Hike-a-Thon participants goes directly toward funding nature education programs. Afterwards, the Museum is holding an Earth Day Celebration which includes a Family Fun Fair and Community Yard Sale. It’s going to be a great day for hikers, nature lovers, and everyone who cares about the future of the planet. Find out more information here.

Get out and start a family adventure.

One of our Hudson Valley Parent readers provided us with some more great Valentine craft ideas after reading our post this week. Jo Brielyn wrote to us via Facebook with this feedback:

“Instead of simply making a traditional Valentine‚Äôs Day card, why not switch things up and help them make a creative and unique project sure to please any lucky valentine? Check out two of our favorite Valentine‚Äôs Day craft ideas. http://bit.ly/djalF8.”

Thanks for the ideas Jo! If you have any other ideas for fun Valentine’s Day crafts leave a comment below.

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