Top 10 reasons to shop local this holiday season

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In honor of Small Business Saturday this weekend I thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight some of the Hudson Valleys favorite local shops and give you 10 fabulous reasons you should shop local this holiday season. When you put your money into local business you are not only strengthening your local community economy but you helping to change supply and demand, production, help the environment and grow non-profits. Plus, there are no better people and products to support than those right here in the Hudson Valley!

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Check out this top list of Hudson Valley small businesses!

Top 10 reasons to shop local

1. It strengthens the local economy and puts your tax dollars to good use.

When you spend your money in local shops the money will multiply within the community. Local businesses usually shop other local business recycling the money within the community and ultimately strengthening the local economy.

2. Help create local jobs and growth.

In a nation that is struggling to create jobs you might feel like there isn’t anything as a consumer you can do, but there is! Local shops tend to create higher paying jobs than bigger chain stores. When you shop local you are helping to create those jobs for your local servicemen and neighbors.

3. You will feel good and support your community.

If any of the other reasons here can’t convince you to shop local this year I promise you, you will feel good about your choices when you do. You will become friendly with local employees and business owners, support friends, families and embrace the true meaning of community.

4. It’s better for the environment.

Help reduce the global footprint by supporting businesses close to home. Not only will you be minimizing shipping factors but local businesses tend to buy from other local businesses further reducing transportation pollution.

5. You will most likely receive better customer service.

There is no doubt that the woman in the store down the street is going to provide better customer service than someone you will probably never meet somewhere on the other side of the county. Local businesses survive by reputation and repeat customers so it is usually in their best interest to provide better service.

6. Your money goes to support non- profit and community organizations.

Local businesses are two times more likely to support non- profit and community organizations than large corporations. Spending your money in the places that support non- profits will certainly help improve your community.

7. Local shops are for everyone.

In many cases local shops are more easily accessible than the larger chain stores and malls. This is especially beneficial for elderly, the young and those without transportation.

8. Shop what you want and not what buyers choose for you.

The power of choice is still ours when we shop small. While national chains have buyers who choose products for us, small businesses choose products based on what their customers want. With more local shops, more people are deciding on product, distribution and production thus increasing our choices in products.

9. Support entrepreneurship and increase prosperity.

Inventors, creators and entrepreneurs are the forward thinkers of tomorrow. Those forward thinkers create small business shops that accompany a uniqueness that people want to settle around and tourists are more likely to visit which increases growth and economy.

10. There is nothing better than products made or purchased in the Hudson Valley!

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Top 10 Thanksgiving Day hacks and tricks

We are just about a week away from the big Thanksgiving Day feast! In my home, my children are diligently working on their centerpiece creations, place cards and anything else they can turn into a turkey. The menus are being printed and the shopping lists created. While food and crafting seems like the main focus around here these days, I am trying everything I can to instill a spirit of gratitude in my boys this year. (not so easy with a 4 & 2 year old!) We have been choosing books about sharing and thanksgiving, talking about what we are thankful for and this weekend we will make these adorable Thankful Turkeys! I am loving the gratitude posts from Discount Diva; Operation Grateful Child and The Whatever Mom; 7 ways to give back with little ones in tow and after talking about it last night, my boys are thrilled to head out this weekend and fill up their shoe boxes for children in need over seas.

This week’s top 10 is all about reducing the stress on the big day.I have rounded up 10 Thanksgiving Day hacks and tricks that might even let you get a quick nap in on Thanksgiving this year.

  1. menusMake a menu! It helps to visualize all of the dishes so you don’t over or under do it. Every year my dad lists every dish posts it right on the kitchen cabinet. The other thing my he does is make a simple schedule in excel that lists how long each dish needs to be cooked, the oven temps, times for prep, cooking, etc. Having it all laid out makes the cooking go much more smoothly and there is never a question of timing or juggling dishes and ovens.
  2. turkey craftLet the Kids play before the big day. Having everyone under foot and in the kitchen Thanksgiving Day can certainly add to the stress of getting everything done on schedule. Stock the kids up on Wednesday with lots of Thanksgiving themed crafts and activities like pumpkin play doh. Start a new tradition with this adorable handprint turkey table runner or let the kids make the decorations like these Thankful Turkeys that create the perfect centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table.
  3. chopped veggiesDid you know that chopped veggies will last days in the fridge? With a great big Thanksgiving feast comes a lot ofthe tedious prep work. Peeling, chopping it doesn’t seem to end on Thanksgiving. Break up some of that work by peeling and chopping the veggies ahead of time. If you put them into zip lock bags labeled with what dishes they go into you are sure to cut your Thanksgiving prep work at least in half! www.stilltasty.com
  4. Wash-Potatoes-in-the-DishwasherHere is another genius time saver! Save a lot of time scrubbing all those potatoes by putting them right in the dishwasher. Just make sure you leave out the soap and run it on a quick rinse only cycle. (another tip: boil the potatoes with the skin on, dunk them into an ice bath and gently rub and the skin will fall right off!) heavenlyhomemakers.com
  5. wine glassesMake perfect biscuits every time by using a wine glass to cut out the dough! Quick, easy and perfect circles. But the best part is, when you are done flip that glass over and fill it up. You deserve it! southbyse.com
  6. cornMaybe I’m the last person to know this, but I thought it was too good not to share here. Is corn on the cob onyour Thanksgiving menu? You can cook a ton of corn at a time by pouring boiling water over the corn in a cooler.www.bonappetit.com
  7. pieEven if you want to keep your pies easy and simple you can fool people into thinking you slaved over yourpiesbypretty-ing up your pie crust edges using a few things you have right in the kitchen. A fork pressed into the dough at an angel creates a neat criss-cross pattern, the edge of a spoon dents in a scalloped edge to the dough or use the edge of the tongs to create a pretty design along the edge. Look around your house and see what you have that will make a neat pattern pressed into the dough. Some cool ideas here! bakepedia.com
  8. stuffingDoes everyone in at your table fight over the crispy top of the stuffing? You can create perfectly crisp, individual servings of stuffing by baking it right in muffin tins. Everyone has their own proportioned serving! acozykitchen.com
  9. turkeyThere is nothing worse than serving a dry turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Don’t letit happen to you with this easy tip! Sticking an opened can of beer into the bird will steam the meat from the inside out creating the most delicious and moist turkey you have ever tried. Drink or pour out about half the beer, fill the can with herbs and garlic and stick it right into the bird! allrecipes.com
  10. leftoversOne of my favorite things about Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers but there are only so many turkey sandwiches I can eat. Thanks to the internet, it is easy to find a list of recipes to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers! My mouth was watering looking at these photos! chow.com

What are your best Thanksgiving Day time saving tips?

Top 10 free or cheap kids meals in the Hudson Valley

You are preparing for a big Thanksgiving feast while saving your pennies for holiday shopping this month. When your to-do list each day seems like it is growing before your eyes, dinner is sometimes the furthest thing from your mind. If you are anything like me, dinner is still frozen anyway since my capacity to remember the simple things seem to disappear this time of year. With a little weekly planning, your family can enjoy a fun dinner out without breaking the bank! For this weeks Top 10 Tuesday, I have rounded up the top 10 places that offer free or cheap kids meals in the Hudson Valley. Happy eating!

Click to see a full list of Great Kid- friendly restaurants with kid perks and pricing in the Hudson Valley!

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1. Double O Grill- $2 Tuesdays! Kids meals are only $2 on Tuesdays. Located in Wappingers Falls.

2. Billy Joe’s Ribworks in Newburgh is serving kids meals for only $1.99 on Sundays!

3. Amore Pizzeria- Kids eat Free on Sundays with purchase of adult entree. Pleasant Valley

4. Hurricane Grill and wings. kids eat free Tuesdays, located in Poughkeepsie

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5. Perkins. Cupcake the clown comes in to entertain the kids with balloons and face painting on Wednesday nights, from 5-8 kids also eat free. Wappingers Falls

6. Denny’s Restaurants. Kids eat free on Tuesdays from 4-10. Locations in Newburgh & Middletown

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7. Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse. Kids eat free Tuesdays in Poughkeepsie

8. IHop, kids eat free Tuesday nights from 4-8 with each paying adult. Locations in Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Middletown and Mohegan Lake

9. Uno’s Chicago Pizzaria and Grill in Central Valley, kids get a goodie bag full of fun and eat free on Tuesdays.

10. Fireside BBQ & Grill in Salt Point, Tuesdays after 4, kids 12 & under eat free with adult meal purchase

I have done my best to verify with each restaurant but please call ahead to confirm as the promotions may change.

Hudson Valley Parent Dining Out Reviews

Top 10 things to do in the Hudson Valley this November

Halloween has come and gone and as we turn the page of our calendars I cannot believe it is November already. Before we know it we will be full force into the Holiday season with Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas events and trying to fit as much holiday spirit into two months as we can. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the weather getting colder and the thoughts of being thankful for those close to us on our minds it is a great time of the year to spend time with family and friends exploring all the the Hudson Valley has to offer this November. Plan your month around some of these wonderful November activities with your kids.turkey2

1. Gear up for Thanksgiving. Instill a virtue of gratitude while raising thankful kids and begin to talk about the origin and true
meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday. Taste and experience a traditional 19th century Thanksgiving at Museum Village in Monroe where your family can experience the smells, tastes and displays of an old fashioned Thanksgiving cooked over an open hearth. Begin to work on Thanksgiving feast plans, trim your turkey day if you are on a budget this year and start decorating with holiday crafts you and the kids can do together. Two of my favorites; Gratitude Turkey and Thanksgiving pot holders There are a number of other Thanksgiving craft ideas that are sure to keep you busy this month.

2. November is Native American Heritage month. Join the community for a traditional Native American dream catcherThanksgiving including basket weaving, Native American Drumming and more at the Native American Thanksgiving festival in Pine Hill this month. Get a real feel for Native American culture with storytelling, kids crafts, vendors and drumming. Bring a dish to share for the feast! Celebrate Native American Heritage with books from the library, or making your own dream catchers, or rain sticks.

3. Hudson Valley restaurant week runs this year from November 3rd to the 16th and there are plenty of kid- friendly favorites on the list! Take a bite out of the Hudson Valley with over 200 participating restaurants offering 3- course dinners for $29.95 and lunches for $20.95. Skip on the cooking and cleaning and cross reference our featured guide on the Top Kid Friendly Restaurants in the Hudson Valley. You can enjoy a family- friendly meal that’s affordable too!

A few of the kid- friendly restaurants participating are; Babycakes Café in Poughkeepsie, Billy Joe’s Ribworks in Newburgh (most popular) and Cosimo’s Brick Oven in Middletown.

Full guide: Top Kid Friendly Restaurants in the Hudson Valley, your quick price guide for children’s meals

4. Enjoy a day with family or friends at Bear Mountain State Park this month. Bring or rent a pair of ice skates, the outdoor ice rink is open on November 1st for public skating. The Trailside Zoo is open weekends this month as is the carousel house which operates 10-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Pack a picnic lunch, take a hike around the lake and enjoy lunch by the water. If it’s too cold to eat outside, there are 3 indoor dining options serving brunch, lunch, dinner and more. www.bearmountainicerink.com

5. Shop local! One of the best things about living in the Hudson Valley is the ability to shop local and support local families. Get a jump start on your holiday shopping at the various holiday craft shows, bazaars and vendor fairs in your area. Check our calendar for local events and ask around, I can bet your friends know of a few in your area!

Here are a few to start: Holiday BazaarSemi-Annual Craft FairMerrie Olde Crafte Faire and British FestivalHudson Valley HullabalooHoliday Craft and Book Fair44th Annual Arts & Crafts FestivalHoliday Crafts Fair. See More.

6. November is National Model Railroad Month and the Mid- Hudson Civic center is holding an Annual Railroad Exhibition railroadwith more than 20,000 feet of models and exhibits. If your kids aren’t quite old enough or you aren’t brave enough for the crowds and large displays at the civic center you might want to take the short drive over to the Danbury Railway Museum to see the model train displays (http://www.danbury.org/drm). They have a Thomas train table for the kids and you can take a short train ride in the yard for a small fee. Up in Ulster County, and not quite a model train but still great fun for the kids The Catskill Mountain Railroad begins their Polar Express Train on November 21st (http://www.catskillmtrailroad.com). If getting out and about to see the model trains this month isn’t going to work for you, set up a train display in your living room with wooden tracks and trains, or get creative with cardboard boxes and some paint!

7. While December is really Santa’s month, he begins to arrive everywhere this November on helicopters and fire trucks, with music, crafts, festivals and more! Santa arrives at many local malls the first two weekends in November and is available for photos at many locations throughout the Hudson Valley. Our Calendar has a dates for Santa arrival events in the area.

Top 10 places to get your photo taken with Santa in the Hudson Valley 

8. And don’t forget about the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade at the end of the month! If you aren’t brave enough the make the trip into NYC with your family on Thanksgiving day, gather with family to see the magic and one of the most favorite parades in the country, a true November tradition.

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9. You won’t want to miss The Festival of the Trees November 15th and 16th in Leeds, NY. This wonderful event for the whole family displays beautifully decorated trees and wreaths, live entertainment, food, a vendor area for shopping, Santa and more!

10. Set an example and teach your kids the power of good deeds and giving this month. Clean out your pantry of things you may no longer need or want to make room for your Holiday meal prepping and donate to your local food pantry. This is a great way to de- clutter while helping your community. Let the kids join in on the fun and good deeds buy going through their toys to donate. You teach them a valuable lesson on giving and the toy room gets a good clean out before Christmas, win- win for everyone!

10 places to donate toys in the Hudson Valley

What are some of the things on your November bucket list this year?

Top 10 Tuesday: Family friendly leaf peeping in the Hudson Valley

Fall road

Photo by Brittany Morgan

Most of our region’s beautiful fall foliage is peaking this week and we in the Hudson Valley are lucky enough to live right in the middle of it all. A quick trip up Route 55, down the Taconic or even out our backyards in places like Montgomery, New Paltz and so many others have great opportunities to see the beautiful trees turn into brightly colored pieces of art. We asked around to local Hudson Valley Moms and compiled a list of favorite family friendly places for fall foliage sightings in our area!

Shirley Carrasco Town of Montgomery

Town of Montgomery shared by Shirley Carrasco

1. The walkway over the Hudson River is a great place to spend an afternoon taking in the beauty of the Hudson from above. Take a walk across the bridge and the new elevator down to the park or Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum to make a day out of it with the family.

Photo by Katie Angel of her daughter at Minnewaska

Photo by Katie Angel of her daughter at Minnewaska

2. Another Hudson Valley Parent favorite spot is Minnewaska State Park in Ulster County. Vistors can enjoy hiking, biking or simply just walking and taking in the views. The park features numerous beautiful waterfalls, 3 lakes, forest and many trails to explore.

Lake Minnewaska photo by Katy Weber

Lake Minnewaska photo by Katy Weber

3. If you are up for the trip, maybe with older kids in tow, take the hike which is a little over a mile up to the top of Mount Beacon, the views of the Valley below are breathtaking. Bring a picnic on a warmer fall day and enjoy the afternoon.

4. A popular spot for families year round in Dutchess County, Bowdoin Park is a 301 acre park on the banks of the Hudson River. With spectacular views of the river, the brightly colored trees in the fall set a beauitful scene for a fall picnic, day at the award winning playground or just a family stroll along the river. The park also has spaces for recreational sports and pavilions to rent for events.

The Lankard Family enjoying a fall day at Vanderbilt photo by Alonna Lankard

The Lankard Family enjoying a fall day at Vanderbilt photo by Alonna Lankard

5. Vanderbilt Mansion is another family favorite spot in Dutchess County for picnics and views and in the fall the mansion grounds come to life with beautiful colors. The mansion itself is open for tours only but the grounds are free and always open for some natural family fun. Plenty of space to let little ones run and gorgeous views of the rivers and trees!

Photo from Clermont State Historic Site

Photo from Clermont State Historic Site

6. As the season changes and the leaves turn, many families in the Hudson Valley region head to Clermont Estate in Columbia County to take in the true beauty of the season. Here you can enjoy the views from a short hike, leisurely walk, tour or a spot under a colorful tree on a picnic blanket. There is something for everyone at Clermont and a great place to check out the fall foliage this year.

Bear Mountain photo from Pamela Perry

Bear Mountain photo from Pamela Perry

6. From the zoo to the lake to the carousel, families love to take the trip to Bear Mountain in the fall. The beauty of the season can be enjoyed even before you arrive, the roads that lead to the state park are over flowing with fall colors and the bridge leads you to what seems like another time as you arrive at the beautiful Bear Mountain State Park. Here your family can enjoy the trailside museum and zoo, the old merry-go-round, a picnic by the lake, play fields, biking or a hike up the mountain. In late October, visitors can ice skate at the outdoor rink. There is so much for families to enjoy at Bear Mountain.

7. Discover all that Olana State Historic Site has to offer in the fall. The beautiful landscape offers rich colors and beauty of the Hudson Valley. Walk the carriage drives, the family farm and orchard, the lake, the meadow and forest. Learn about wildlife and nature as you experience a true Hudson Valley gem. Visitors can also enjoy guided house tours, picnics, history, culture and gorgeous views.

Stacy McGarry enjoys a trip to Fahnestock State Park with her daughter

Stacy McGarry enjoys a trip to Fahnestock State Park with her daughter

8. If you love the outdoors, you might want to take a short hike and enjoy the scene at Fahnestock State Park. The Beautiful mountains and colorful fall foliage that reflects off the lake is simply amazing. If you are a camping family, the park has more than 70 campsites for the overnight fall stay.

9. Another beautiful place for families to explore this season is Mills Mansion at Mills-Norrie State Park. The house is open for guided tours and the gift shop is rated top 10 of the Dutchess County. The grounds are history rich, beautiful for hiking, an afternoon stroll or picnic with family or friends.

Rail Trail photo from Nicole Dropkin

Dutchess Rail Trail photo from Nicole Dropkin

10. We are lucky here in the Hudson Valley to have an expansive rail trail that runs throughout most of our communities connecting the greater Hudson Valley area with paths, walkways, bridges and bike paths. Families can take in the beauty of our area along paved paths strictly for pedestrians away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. All of the trails including information and maps can be found on the New York Rail Trail Website. Some of our favorite trails are the Dutchess Rail Trail, Mohonk Preserve, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, The Heritage Trail and Catskill Scenic Trail.

The view of Joppenbergh Mountain from the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail trestle in Rosendale Shared by Katy Weber

The view of Joppenbergh Mountain from the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail trestle in Rosendale Shared by Katy Weber

Other favorite Hudson Valley leaf peeping spots are:

Millbrook Tribute Gardens, Millbrook

Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie,

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz

Storm King Art Center, New Windsor

top fall fests

Top 10 Tuesday: DIY Halloween Costumes

Looking for some Halloween costume inspiration this year for the kids? We have rounded up some of the best DIY costumes from Pinterest for this top 10 list of Halloween Costume DIY’s. Adorable, silly and down- right clever, many of them are easy to replicate and won’t break the bank!
Who doesn’t love sweet, cuddly Olaf from the popular movie Frozen. Desert Chica pulls together a costume that is easy to make and wont break the bank!
Check out this Toy Army Guy from Wild Ink complete with DIY instructions!
You won’t believe what this awesome astronaut costume is made of! Turn an old sweatshirt into something space- worthy with these easy DIY instructions from My Life of Travels and Adventures blog.
No-sew and nice and easy, this DIY Ninja Turtle costume is adorable from A Night Owl!
Super simple and you can’t get much cuter than this! A pair of glasses, balloons and some PVC pipe will have your little one looking like he just walked out of the movie Up!. Found on Auburn Soul Photography.
You don’t need sewing skills to make your little girl’s dream of being Elsa this year come true with these easy, no- sew directions from A Thrifty Mom.
This simple and so funny Baby Cow costume from Make It & Love It blog will be the hit of any party. Adorable!
Adorable and so perfect for little boys and girls who love their construction trucks! This Excavator Costume is so clever, thanks to B-Inspired Mama for the DIY instructions here!
No- Sew, under $5 and simply adorable! This Baby Chicken Costume is a perfect last minute Halloween costume for baby! Instructions and more photos on Fun at Home with Kids blog.
We can’t resist the cuteness of matching family costumes and this DIY set is simply adorable! Inexpensive, and a true classic these Willy Wonka and Oompa Loompa costumes with DIY instructions can be found on More Than Words Can Describe Blog.
So tell us… are you a Halloween Costume Do It Yourself-er or do you prefer the store bought kind? Let see your best DIY costumes!
Check out more money saving Halloween tips, tricks and more here on Pinterest.

Top 10 Tuesday: Pumpkin Decorating with kids!

One of the best things about pumpkin picking in October is decorating those carefully picked pumpkins! We have rounded up some of the coolest kid- friendly pumpkin decorating ideas on Pinterest for a little inspiration!
Adorable felt faces from makelyhome.com
Kids will love making a mess with these Glittery Pumpkins from HGTV
A simple and cute pumpkin for little fingers is this Mummy Pumpkin from Changing My Destiny
We can’t stand the cuteness of this pumpkin turned Cookie Monster found on Princesspinkygirl.com
Easy for toddlers, these tissue paper ‘stickers’ make for perfect pumpkin decorating from Young House Love.
A fun craft & science project all rolled into one with these melted crayon pumpkins from The Swell Designer.
Kids will need some help from a grown- up for this one, but too clever not to include. Maybe the kids can draw the pattern that adults can drill for these pumpkins carved with a drill from Crafty Nest.
No need for sharp tools and big messes for these Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head Pumkins from Frugal Life Project. Genius!
So cool! These Pumpkins Gone Batty from The Green Beagle are perfect to add to your Halloween decorations this year.
We couldn’t resist the cuteness of the family hand prints that decorated this beautiful Thankful Handprint Pumpkin from The NY Melrose Family.
All of these wonderful pumpkin ideas and more can be found on our Fall Pinterest Board