10 Valentine’s Day Traditions for Hudson Valley families.

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


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 😉

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!


Top 10 ways to celebrate Hanukkah: Hudson Valley

menorahDecember is my favorite time of year and the month of sparkling lights. From Christmas decorations to the Hanukkah menorah candles the spirit of the season is evident no matter what you celebrate. The lights of the season become a symbol of hope. Many families are gathering the next 8 days with songs, prayer, good food, games and candle lighting. Here is a round up of some of the best ways to celebrate Hanukkah with family and friends throughout the Hudson Valley.

Tell us in the comments: How are you celebrating?

1. Many communities are gathering this week with songs, latkes, games, lighting the menorah and more. Join neighbors and friends for the fun festivities, most events are open to everyone.There are many Hanukkah celebrations on the calendar. If you don’t see one near your check your town or library websites too:

12/16- Goshen, Greenwood Lake & Millbrook

12/17- Wappingers Falls

12/18- New Windsor, Wappingers, Hyde Park

12/19- Poughkeepsie

12/20- Kingston

12/21- Poughkeepsie & Walkway over the Hudsonice menorah

2. Visit the 6′ ice menorah sculpture at the Galleria at Crystal Run on Sunday when the County Legislator and Mayor join the community to light the ice sculpture in a unique fire and ice celebration. The Fire & Ice Chanukkah Orange Celebration is open to everyone and fun for the entire family! Play games, make crafts, partake in activities for the kids. Satisfy your hunger at a potato latke bar with all the fixings, an ice slush stand and more!

GLOW CHANUKKAH GLOW3. Experience the tallest menorah in the Hudson Valley! Each night the candles are lit at the civic center plaza in Poughkeepsie. All are welcome to enjoy the celebration and enjoy songs, hot latkes, doughnuts, hot cider and chocolate gelt!

4. A unique Hanukkah festival for the entire family! Visit the Poughkeepsie Galleria on Sunday 12/21 for Glow Chanukkah Glow. Experience the menorah lights glowing in the dark with crafts, activities for the kids and performances. Enjoy an electric light up comedy and juggling show, live music and dancing, hot latkes, dreidel games andpaper plate menorah more!

5. Create with the kids! From homemade menorahs to dreidel spin art, the internet is filled with ideas the kids can make to celebrate. I love this easy paper plate menorah idea from pleasantestthing.com

6. Hanukkah is a time to celebrate the symbolic meaning of the victory of light over darkness. Yes, we light candles on the Menorah for 8 days to celebrate this enormous victory but you can get a little creative here too. Pack the family into the car and take a look at the beautiful light displays throughout the Hudson Valley. While decorating homes and trees with lights is more of a Christmas tradition here in America it dates all the way back to Thomas Edison’s and one of his many publicity stunts and is used throughout many parts of the world for different types of festivals. However, not only does the twinkle of the Christmas light date back to Thomas Edison’s era but before him miniature candles were used to light up Christmas trees and even before that in the dark cold winters of the 12th century people were recorded as the first to light a burning yule log as a symbol of the sun’s promise to return (Source).

Top 5 Light Displays in the Hudson Valley

7. Give and support. Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom. The 8 days of Hanukkah remember a time when people stood up to “bullies” and fought for that they wanted and believed in, they fought for themselves. A great way to celebrate is to give back. You can support Israel and Israelis through The Good People Fund, an organization that provides resources on charities in Israel. You don’t have to give money to support Israel, have your kids send cards and pictures to soldiers, or start a pen pal with another child there. I know this is stretching it a bit here, but you can take the idea of fighting for freedoms closer to home and more relevent to today’s culture by showing your support to organizations like Stomp Out Bullying which raise awareness of bullying prevention.

8. Celebrate your own history and culture. Hanukkah is a holiday that Accordion-Bookshows the importance of history. You don’t need to celebrate Hanukkah or be Jewish. Talk to relatives, do a little digging and create a family tree, family history album or just talk to your kids about your heritage and culture. I love these interview questions for Grandparents found on The House of Hendrix Blog or these Family Timeline Accordian Books from Imagination Soup the kids can make. The holiday time no matter what you celebrate is a wonderful time for taking a little look back into history with our kids.

9. One of my favorite things about the Hanukkah celebrations is the food! For me a wonderful potato latke this time of the year truly hits the spot. Whip up a batch for dinner tonight! If cooking isn’t quite your thing you might have to do a little searching for a true Kosher Deli or good potato Latke in the area but it isn’t impossible. New City Kosher Deli & Restaurant  looks to be one of the few remaining in our area but with high ratings and great reviews it just might be worth the drive to Rockland County this week. If you are up for a cooking treat, here is a delicious Potato Latke recipe from FoodandWine.com.latkes

  1. 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  2. Sea salt
  3. 2 pounds baking potatoes
  4. 1 large onion, finely diced
  5. 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  6. 1 cup matzo meal
  7. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  8. Vegetable oil, for frying
  9. Applesauce, crème fraîche, smoked salmon, salmon roe and dill sprigs, for serving
  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the Yukon Gold potatoes with cool water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and immediately pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl.
  2. Working quickly, peel and grate the baking potatoes on the large holes of a box grater into a medium bowl. Press with a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture. Add half of the grated potatoes to the riced potatoes.
  3. Transfer the remaining grated potatoes to the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion and pulse until the potatoes and onions are very finely chopped. Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and press with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the potato-onion mixture to the large bowl. Stir in the eggs, matzo meal, white pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt.
  4. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Working in 3 batches, spoon 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the oil for each latke; press slightly to flatten. Fry over moderate heat, turning once, until the latkes are golden and crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Drain the latkes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with applesauce, crème fraîche, smoked salmon, salmon roe and dill.

10. Spend time together. Whether you go out and celebrate, give gifts or cook, the true spirit of the season is about celebrating with your loved ones and making memories together. Don’t let the commercialization of the season let you loose sight of the the most important thing we can give our children this month, our time and love.

A very Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating tonight. May the festival of lights bring you much joy, compassion, hope and love.

Top 10 non- toy gifts for Hudson Valley Kids!

giftIf your playroom, err, entire house looks anything like mine… slowly being overtaken by the amount of toys the children have accumulated you might find yourself saying a time or two this month “No more toys!”. There are lots of ways we can skimp in the toy department and still give our kids an amazing Christmas filled with many of the things they will love. Giving the gift of time together, memories and special moments will be just as important to the kids as a pile of plastic toys under the tree. Kids love together time and special moments just as much as they love that train set they “really, really, really want”. So go ahead and fill up the tree with gifts that give much longer than Christmas day, create memories together that will last a lifetime. I have rounded up 10 awesome ideas for non- toy gifts with a twist… Each are perfect for families right here in the Hudson Valley!

1. Classes or lessons

You can’t go wrong with a gift that lets children explore their passions. We are lucky to have so many music togetherwonderful classes, activities and groups here in the Hudson Valley. Give a gift your kids will really enjoy with music classes at places like Catskill Mountain Music TogetherJuliana’s Music BoxMid Hudson Music Together or one of the dozen other great music studios. You can sign your little athlete up for one of the many sports programs at Gold’s Gym (Lagrange), your local town league or little gym classes or your kids might enjoy art, dance or theater. You can also add uniforms and equipment your children might need for the lessons such as a new leotard and ballet shows or cleats. An easy way to give gifts they will love to use!

Check out Hudson Valley Parent’s great big list of activities for kids in the Enrichment Guide

2. Restaurant gift card

Just like adults, most kids love to be spoiled with their favorite foods in their favorite restaurants! The Hudson Valley is filled with wonderful kid friendly places to eat. Give the kids a night (or afternoon) out with money to spend at their favorite local eateries. You can include a “date night” coupon book for special time with each parent or pair it with snacks and special treats your children enjoy.

Top Kid Friendly Restaurants in the Hudson Valley

3. Memberships or season passes

childrens museumA great way to get more use out of holiday gifts is through season passes or memberships! Last year we got our boys a family membership to the Mid Hudson Children’s Museum. This year we are travelling a little outside of the Hudson Valley and getting season passes to Quassy Amusement Park! We also know lots of families that give season passes to SplashDown Beach or Zoom Floom! Memberships to kid- fun places like Poughkidsie or All Sport are also great ideas. With so many families members asking for gift ideas, a great way to cut down on toy gifts is to ask a group of people to contribute to memberships or season passes.

4. Tickets

Movie tickets, shows, games, plays and concerts. There are so many venues close to home that offer some of the best in theater and music for kids of all ages. Movie tickets are a great gift paired with a box of candy or treat, tickets to The Hudson Valley Renegades would be awesome with a tee shirt, baseball hat or glove and I know quite a few teens/ preteens who would love to open a pair of tickets to a concert at the Mid Hudson Civic Center and a new tee shirt. Think about different venues near you your kids or family might enjoy visiting and also check out Hudson Valley Parent’s calendar for the latest events and shows near you.

5. Activities

Thinking outside the box of traditional gifts you can always get the kids gift certificates to some of their favorite places in the Hudson Valley! If giving gift cards doesn’t appeal to you how about filling a gift bag up with coins and tickets to Chuck E. Cheese, a winter hat with money or tickets attached to Tuxedo Ridge, a few bouncy balls and a note about a trip to Bounce! Trampoline Sports or a pair of ice skates for a trip to one of the many indoor/ outdoor skating rinks in the area. You could even attach some plastic farm animals to a gift certificate to The Fun-E Farm and make it fun! Other activities you can give as gifts this Christmas are a craft and playtime at Poughkidsie, roller skating at Wood’n Wheel or Roller Magic, a trip to The Party Zone indoor amusement park and more. There are so many local options and truly something the kids will enjoy.

6. Books

What better gift to give your kids then the power of books. Are your boys into trains or dinosaurs? 8bd5e67ff9b1e879e75401fa6155ee38Choose books based on interests. Has your daughter recently learned how to read? Purchase a young readers book collection to encourage her new found talent! If you aren’t sure where to start, there are so many wonderful kid- friendly book stores here in the Hudson Valley. Give a book with a gift card and visit during a story hour. You can create an experience this Christmas that makes reading so much fun!

Check out: Cozy retreats for little readers

7. Outdoor Supplies

Kids love to be outside. Skip the toys this year and give kids practical things they can use outdoors. This winter, give sleds and snow tubes, even hats and gloves would work! Do your kids ski? You can give lift tickets and a new pair of gloves. Do your kids like to play in the snow? How about a snowman kit or snow paint. You could always stock up on warmer whether gear now too. Gardening supplies, bubbles, fishing gear, hiking boots, all make great gifts. Giving kids things they can use outdoors will keep them from boredom during those long days off from school!

8. Arts and Craft Supplies20140613_114855

Simple, and something kids always seem to run out of. Give the kids freedom to use their imagination with crayons, markers, paper and more! If you are feeling especially creative this year you can make your own supplies! How excited would your kids be to open a jar of sparkly homemade Frozen themed play dough! Pinterest is filled with so many creative arts and crafts ideas, homemade paints, dough recipes and more.

9. Mini- Vacation

A little more costly but a gift for the whole family. As a kid my parents used to take us up to a small cabin in the mountains for the weekend. Nothing but a fire, a pile of board games and family time. If seclusion isn’t for your family, you don’t have to travel far for a more action packed mini family vacation. Great Escape Lodge, Rocking Horse Ranch, Great Wolf Lodge or Coco Key Water Resort are all within driving distance to the Hudson Valley region. A few other popular options from HV Families are Sesame Place, Hershey Park and Mystic, CT.

10. Things they need

One of my favorite gifts for my kids is stocking up on things they need! So practical, yet so fun! I love to splurge a little a pick out character toothbrushes and fun socks instead of the boring cheap stuff I usually buy. We usually fill stockings with toothbrushes, soap, socks and undies but you can put these things under the tree too! With a little creativity and careful choices kids will love their new toothbrushes and socks under the tree too!

What are some of your favorite non- toy gifts to give or receive?

Top 10 things to do this holiday season in the Hudson Valley


1. Cut down your Christmas tree. It’s easy to make a day or afternoon out of finding the perfect tree, cutting it down and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa at one of the many great local tree farms. Many of the tree farms in addition to a selection of pine trees, offer an array of family fun activities from sleigh rides to campfires!

Check out our list of Christmas tree farms in the Hudson Valley

We are looking forward to our trip to Hurd’s Family Farm this weekend to cut down our tree, take a ride on the cow train and roast a s’more around the campfire! Along with Able’s Trees (Verbank) and Manza’s Family Farm (Montgomery), Hurd’s Family Farm (Modena) is one of Hudson Valley Parents top three tree farm picks! 


2. Take a picture with Santa! There is something about a child climbing up onto the lap of Santa to talk about Christmas wishes that brings me right into teh nostalgic feeling of a classic Christmas movie. Visiting Santa is always right at the top of our December bucket list. This year some local displays have even transformed with to include virtual experience filled with interactive displays, body scanner naughty or nice lists and DIY sleigh designs! Malls, stores, restaurants and even tree farms in the Hudson Valley are all offering photos and visits with Santa.

Top 10 places to get your photos taken with Santa

Share your photos with us! Santa photo gallery.

3. Go on a Christmas Lights drive. Make it a special family date night. After dinner, bundle the kids in their pajamas, pack up some hot cocoa and cookies and pile into the car for a drive. There are probably many beautifully decorated erdajthomes right in your town but if you are up for a bit of an adventure you might want to add some of the local hot spots to your route. My favorite is ERDAJT’s holiday light display located at 8 Patrick  Drive in Lagrangeville. They hold 2 Guinness Book of  World Records for most Christmas lights on a home and collect donations throughout the season for awesome local charities! Last year they raised $33,809! www.erdajt.com


For more great Christmas light displays check out: Top 5 Light Displays in the Hudson Valley.

4. Don’t miss A Frosty Fest. Take a stroll down Candy Cane Lane and enjoy the lights, gift shop a frosty festbite to eat and a cup of hot cocoa. Visitors can take a ride on Frosty’s hayride or drive their own car through the wonderful animated light displays complete with live actors and computer animations. Park and take a walk through Glistening Gardens and the Magical Mansion and finally complete your trip with a visit to the North Pole for a photo with Santa! Frosty Fest is located in Ulster Park. www.afrostyfest.com. If you are closer to Dutchess County, you should also visit Kevin McCurdy’s Spirit Festival for a similar experience.

This week Enter to WIN tickets to A Frosty Fest! (12/1- 12/7)

5. Community tree/ menorah lighting celebrations are a must do for sure! A great way to get together with friends and neighbors and enjoy the magic of the season in your own neighborhoods. Some towns have more elaborate celebrations with light parades, music and even fireworks (Poughkeepsie)! Other towns have a nice gathering of Christmas lights and hot chocolate. If your town isn’t listed below check local websites and Facebook pages to see if your town is hosting anything similar.

Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremonies in the Hudson Valley

operation cheer6. Start a new holiday tradition. Last year we baked dozens of cookies, packed them up and brought them to our local firehouse. It was fun to bake together and even more fun to give cookies away making someone else’s day a little brighter. We make cards for Operation Christmas Cheer and pack up the kids for a Christmas Light date night. Starting family traditions are wonderful ways to create memories and re-live special moments each year.

40 ways to start your own family holiday traditions.

7. Celebrate children, art and the light of the winter season at Sinterklaas! The village of Rhinebeck transforms into a magical place of art, theater, music and dance during Sinterklaas on December 6th. Musicians, jugglers, fire walkers, tight rope walkers and a variety of colorful characters wander the streets of the village engaging children with stories and treats. Children are the focus as they become kings and queens for the day! Crafts, shopping, performances and a children’s starlight parade featuring two- story animated puppets carried by over a hundred volunteers is just an idea of what Sinterklaas is all about! www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.comsinterklaas2

8. Enjoy the Outdoors! Just because the weather is getting colder doesn’t mean families need to beIMG_6505 confined to the indoors. From ice skating to sledding to hiking, the Hudson Valley offers so much for families year round. One of our favorite spots in the winter is Bear Mountain State Park where we can enjoy ice skating, a warm up and ride on the carousel and lunch (or Sunday brunch, yumm!) inside the Inn.

Hudson Valley Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks

The best cold- weather hiking spots in the Hudson Valley

9. Take a ride on the Polar Express! Children and families can take a round trip ride to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express Train this month. It’s as if you are stepping right into a scene from the hit Warner Bros. film with music from the motion picture soundtrack, pajama clad passengers and favorite characters from the film coming to life right in front of your eyes! The conductor punches tickets, the chefs serve hot chocolate and families participate in a sing a long and reading of the book along the way. When you arrive at the North Pole Santa himself will board the train and gift each child a special bell to all those who believe. Catskill Mountain Railroad

polar express bell

10. Give back, donate time or gifts. I am finding this year as my boys get older and more into “things” I am scouting out ways to re-direct the idea that Christmas is all about what Santa will bring me onto something a bit more meaningful. Yes, I want my kids to be excited Christmas morning, I want them to experience the magic as I did of opening gifts they “really, really wanted” but I also want them to appreciate those gifts. I feel there should be a better balance in our home of wanting to get but wanting to give too. Last month we chose toys we no longer play with to pass on to the local children’s home.

10 places in the Hudson Valley to donate toys.

We plan to spend an afternoon baking cookies to bring to our local fire department and we have starting making and sending cards, positive notes and artwork for local children battling cancer through fellow blogger The Whatever Mom and her Operation Christmas Cheer initiative. There are so many other ways that your family can give back, from adopting a child/family to purchase gifts for, packing up shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child as Discount Diva shared with us recently in her post Operation Grateful Child or working in a soup kitchen.

Other ways to make an impact this holiday.


So, what are you doing to make this month special for your family?