10 ways to celebrate nature and earth

earth day imageHappy Earth Day! Not sure why Earth Day is so important? Let me give you a little history real quick. Back in 1970, we were in the height of the hippy movement and there were protests all over the country though not because of environmental issues. In fact most people drove gas guzzling sedans, and for most air pollution was a sign of prosperity. Environmental issues was the furthest from everyone’s minds, but what was at the forefront was the war in Vietnam and most students were opposing it. Gaylord Nelson, the U.S. Senetor from Wisconsin at the time thought if he re-channel so much of the energy students were putting into the anti- war movement he could capitalize on the emerging public concern for water and air pollution. Building a large staff, he set out to promote events across the country for what would later be known as the first National Earth Day.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and more as part of a massive rally across the country. Colleges and universities, environmental groups, rich, poor, doesn’t matter all came together for a common cause. And even more rare was the political alignment that occurred that day!

Since then, Senator Nelson has spearheaded 2 more major rallies for environmental awareness. Today, the Earth Day fight continues and so does the awareness campaigns across the country. Americans will gather this week to ensure we are channeling our energies for a more clean, healthy and diverse earth for each new generation. Here in the Hudson Valley we are no exception, communities, parks and more will open their spaces for family- fun days, educational workshops and park clean- ups this week. What can you do to help?

1. Earth Day Clean ups- A great way to celebrate Earth Day with the whole family and help save our planet, parks and more is to participate in one of the many clean- ups throughout the Hudson Valley this week and weekend. We have two on our calendar for Wednesday. Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, and at the Town of Esopus Library, Port Ewen. April 22.

2. Paper making workshop- Learn how to turn scraps of used construction paper into beautiful new paper as you learn all about the importance of recycling at the Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum’s special earth day program. If the rain holds out, take a stroll over the Hudson River on the walkway or stay and play at Waterfront Park. $2 a child. Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum, Poughkeepsie. April 22.

bowdoin tree

3. Eagles, streams and trees at Bowdoin park- There are quite a few Hudson Valley parks perfect to play outside this earth day. In fact, in addition to Earth Day on Wednesday, Thursday is National Picnic Day and Friday is National Arbor Day! We can use many of our parks to talk to our kids about our earth, the importance of our trees and enjoy a family picnic this week/ weekend! I want to highlight Bowdoin Park though because it is pretty exciting to see the bald eagles currently calling the park home. Look up just past the playground and you should be able to see a nest high in the trees and often the great bald eagles circling around. It’s a pretty cool sight! Then head to the fields just past the playground and let the kids splash in the little stream, I promise you, HOURS of fun. Just up the hill past the stream is the coolest old tree I have ever seen. My kids recently discovered the back is hollowed out too making for some great imaginative play outside.

[The best Hudson Valley spots for family picnics]

4. Celebrate the animals at the Trailside zoo- All day family- fun with an earth day focus on nature and animal enrichment at the zoo. Spring and nature related displays and activities for the whole family including treat making for the bears, and free tree seedlings for each family. Parking fee and suggested donation at the Bear Mountain Trailside Zoo, Bear Mountain. April 25.

5. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies- This environmental research center has a team of scientists that study topics of our earth including freshwater health, infectious disease, biochemistry, invasive species and climate change. The trails are open for exploring on over 2,000 acres of preserve land. On-going programs as well. Millbrook.

6. Earth Day activities- Kids will receive a free Planet Protector Passport at the Outdoor Discover Center and can then receive stamps at each booth in the “Green Zone” and “Going Local” activity areas. There will be live music, games and storytelling; food will be available for purchase. FREE admission and suggested parking donation. Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, Cornwall. April 25.

7. Earth Day Celebration– The Village of Monroe celebration will feature a science show for children, as well as a bouncy house, Girl Scouts and Interact club activities and seed plantings with local farms. Vendors will have eco-friendly items for sale. FREE. Lake Street, Monroe. April 25.

kids at the stream

8. Hudson River Earth Day Celebration- This family Earth Day celebration centers around the Hudson River, with a river cleanup, kayaking, international picnic buffet, bake sale, rowing demonstrations and more. All paid attendees are entered into a raffle. Proceeds help support the rowing and swimming programs of America Rows and Swims Newburgh. Newburgh Beach. April 25.

[The Importance of Outdoor Play]

9. Earth Day Fair- The 13th annual Earth Day Fair features activities for kids, music, healthy food, displays and suggestions for saving both energy and money. The reformed Church of New Paltz, New Paltz. April 26.

10. Hyde park walking trail- The Hyde Park trail is a 10- mile system of trails and walkways linking Town parks, nature preserves and National Park sites with local neighborhoods and the Town’s central business corridor. The cool part is, you can look for signs throughout the trails and nature sites, call 845-475-3819 from your cell phone, enter your stop number and hear all about the area and Hyde Park’s rich legacy. Also, walk at least 5 of the listed trails in a year, keep track on the free checklist and turn it in for a free reward! I hope more towns follow suite, how fun!

[Top Hudson Valley hiking trails even little legs can enjoy]

What are some of your favorite ways to spend time outside?

Earth Day history Source.

20 places children with special needs can play, learn and explore.

family photoIn honor of Autism Awareness Month and one of my favorite people on the planet I thought appropriate to round-up some of the great places in the Hudson Valley children with special needs and their families can play, learn and explore. The gorgeous man with me in the photo to the left is my uncle, he has Down Syndrome. When he was young there were so few opportunities for children with special needs. Actually at his age, it wasn’t uncommon for most children to be institutionalized. It wasn’t understood or accepted and it was always a struggle. Friends weren’t an option let alone ice skating, music classes, painting, sports, etc. He was picked on and spent a lot of time alone outside or inside with the television. Fast forward 50 years and while as a society we are still learning and adapting to those with special needs we are seeing many more resources, programs and inclusion for all kids. (Heck he has more of a social life now than I do!) When I started this post I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to even find 10 local places, let alone 20! I am so pleasantly surprised and humbled by the amount of opportunities in our own area. So here ya go… In honor of every family in the Hudson Valley waiting to be included, to learn a new talent or foster a passion, there is a place for you!

Read More: 10 tips for play dates with kids of all abilities.

1. Bounce Poughkeepsie– Children with special needs and their caregivers can jump for $10 for the first hour and $5 for the second hour on the first Monday of every month. Call ahead for reservations and immediate family members are welcome to bounce too! Poughkeepsie, 845-206-4555.

2. Sensory Friendly Films– This monthly program brings favorite films to families with kids who have Autism (and I would imagine other special needs are fine too). The theater keeps the lights on, the sound down and kids are encouraged to get up and dance, sing, shout and move throughout the theater. A very cool way the whole family can enjoy time at the movies! Check the site for upcoming movies and dates. Looks like they are play Mall Cop 2 on April 25th and Tomorrowland on May 30th. Middletown, 845-695-1724.

3. Miss Claire’s Musical Cupboard A musical paradise for special needs children. Miss Claire’s offers Zylofone Performing Arts, a program specially designed for special needs as well as Baby Signing Time, teaching basic sign language through music. If you aren’t familiar with baby signing time, check it out! My boys started signing around 6 months thanks to Signing Time and we have been hooked ever since! Other programs include, Kindermusik, Rhythmic Arts, Music, Movement and Drums and Yoga. Montgomery,845-522-9652.

4. Winslow Riding Academy– Therapeutic horseback riding helps children and adults with disabilities improve their physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. At Winslow Riding Academy, there are specific programs to help meet the needs of individuals whether they have a disability or not. A few of the programs offered include, Therapeutic Riding, Hippotheraphy, Horses for Heroes and group or private riding lessons. Warwick, 845-986-6686. Another popular therapeutic riding farm is Hidden Hollow Farms.

5. Camp Huntington– A special camp for special campers. Camp Huntington offers week-long and weekend camps that focus on building independence, team work and bring out hidden talents and abilities. Activities include swimming, music, sports, drama, crafts, cooking, gardening and much more! High Falls, 845-687-7840.

6. Kelder’s Farm– Most farms are wonderful for kids with special needs. The entire family can enjoy seasonal berry picking, farm animals and running free. Though not open year round, Kelder’s Farm is a wonderful place for children with special needs and their families. Activities include a giant air pillow, barnyard zoo, corn maze and seasonal berry and apple picking. Kerhonkson, 845-626-7137.

See More: U-pick orchards in the Hudson Valley

7. Bard Collage Pool– For children with Autism and other special needs, we know how important sensory input is for a balanced day. Many kids love swimming or the water. I found that for only $10 (drop-in) for the day you can use the pool during their open swim times at Bard Collage!

8. Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum– The museum has been making many improvements over the last year. We love the new two-story fire truck, and the new Wonder Dome, great for kids with special needs. This space is a great place for sensory and therapeutic play and exploration and used by both parents and therapists. The space includes a light waterfall, a tactile curtain, and exploration of light, color, shadows and depths. A wonderful sensory experience. Take a peek too at the events calendar, April 17th the museum is showcasing the Wonder Dome with a guided play experience teaching families new ways to play with a focus on sensory learning and color. Poughkeepsie, 845-471-0589.

9. Poets Walk– There are so many beautiful parks and landscapes in our area I am always struggling to pull out one or two to highlight in these round- up posts! I chose to highlight Poets Walk for a special needs post because of the different type of landscapes to explore, the quietness and overall atmosphere of this park. Red Hook.

10. Winslow Riding Academy– Therapeutic horseback riding helps children and adults with disabilities improve their physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. At Winslow Riding Academy, there are specific programs to help meet the needs of individual whether they have a disability or not. A few of the programs offered include, Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy, Horses for Heroes and group or private riding lessons. Warwick, 845-986-6686. Another popular therapeutic riding farm is Hidden Hollow Farms.

11. Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary– A place where animals roam free, plenty of education, cuddling and playing. The Animal Sanctuary is a wonderful place most kids with special needs (especially those who love animals) will love to spend their time. The staff are caring and warm and the place is always growing and changing. (In fact, when researching, it looks like they are moving to a bigger and better space! The photos on their site look wonderful for completion but unfortunately they are closed to the public right now).

12. Orange County Sports Club– A special Needs Adaptive Play (SNAP) class for kids interested in gymnastics and movement. The class is 45 minutes and there are many other classes from mommy and me up through pre-teen and more so the whole family can play at the same club! Florida, 845-651-1000.

13. Lagrange Challenger Bowling Club– Doing some research and I found quite a few towns that offer adaptive sports programs for children and adults with physical or developmental special needs. Lagrange bowling club was just one example that provides a fun, supportive, non judgmental environment that promotes self- esteem and socialization. Check and see if there is something similar near you.

14. Mid-Hudson Music Together– It’s tough parenting siblings when one has a disability and one doesn’t. Finding classes and things the kids can do at the same time can be a challenge so I love that Mid Hudson Music Together offers a Supportive Family class! The idea is that both children with and without developmental special needs can play and learn from each other. They also offer individual and group music therapy.

See More: 10 Hudson Valley places the whole family can enjoy.

15. Therapeutic Ice Skating at the Civic Center– What a great idea! Children with disabilities can truly accomplish anything with a little flexibility! The Mid Hudson Civic Center has designed a program that teaches children of all abilities how to ice skate. They also offer an open skating session for families of children with disabilities for $5 including skate rental! Open skate is on Sundays from 12:15-1pm. Poughkeepsie, 845-454-5800 x 1205.

16. Sensory Friendly Films– This monthly program brings favorite films to families with kids who have Autism (and I would imagine other special needs are fine too) The theater keeps the lights on, the sound down and kids are encouraged to get up and dance, sing, shout and move throughout the film. A very cool way the whole family can enjoy time at the movies! Check the site for upcoming movies and dates. Looks like they are play Mall Cop 2 on April 25th and Tomorrowland on May 30th. Middletown, 845-695-1724.

17. The Ashokan Center– Camp Whirligig is a music and dance camp especially for families living with Autism. Activities include dancing, music, swimming, games and more. Registration opens soon,check the site for more info. Olivebridge, 845-657-8333.

Read more: Are specialty camps the best option for kids with special needs.

18. Art Fun for Kids–  If art is more your child’s interest, Jerry from ARC is teaching kids of all ages how to draw, paint, cut and paste with special programs including art therapy, to special needs classes and art parties. These classes combine art education and learning the basics with a child centered art therapy approach. Kingston, 845-331-2662.

19. NatureAccess® program– This special outdoor program promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in outdoor nature programs. In order to make participation in these programs as smoothly as possible, call ahead to make arrangements and specially trained staff will be there to assist you. This program is open to class trips, summer camp, public programs, outreach visits and group visits.

20. WeeZee World– Not quite within the Hudson Valley Region but this place looks too awesome to not include. A sensory playground for children of all sensory needs. The various areas of the facility incorporate each of the senses including a cafe, a rain room, creation station, an oxygen bar, bubble station, half-pipe and so much more. You have to fill out a sensory survey and contact membership for admission information but this place looks seriously amazing, I will be calling first thing in the morning! Chappaqua (Westchester County), 914-752-2100. (Upon further research it doesn’t look like the type of place you can drop in and play but if you are interested give them a call anyway).

Read more: How to handle the stress and anxiety of a child with Autism.

Other resources:

10 Places the whole family can enjoy

Happy National Siblings Day to these crazy kids!

Happy National Siblings Day to these crazy kids!

Did you know that this Friday, April 10th is National Siblings Day? When I saw this I got to thinking about how wonderful my boys have each other to play with.. even though they don’t quite see it like that yet. I know despite the constant fighting they would be lost without each other. Being fairly close in age, usually no matter where we go both boys can enjoy the same or similar activities. Of course there are still some things, like roller coasters and batting cages that my youngest isn’t quite old enough for so we tend to stick to places our whole family can enjoy. Myself being the oldest of four children, I feel for those parents who have kids of very different ages and finding ways to entertain the whole family all summer can be a challenge.

So in honor of National Siblings Day and big families all around, here are my top 10 places the whole family can enjoy!

1. The Castle Fun Center: If you are looking for a great place the whole family can really play the Castle is your one- stop-
shop! Some of the attractions include go karts, laser tag, roller skating, mini golf, an arcade, bowling, batting cages and the list goes on! Chester. thecastlefuncenter.com

See More: Hudson Valley Top Indoor Play Spots

Enjoying a trip to the Museum of Firefighting

Enjoying a trip to the Museum of Firefighting

2. FASNY Museum of Firefighting: What is great about this museum is that each member of the family can appreciate firefighting history, culture and service on their own levels. Whether it be through the collections of gear, equipment and photographs or through the interactive kid- friendly opportunities throughout the museum. Children can complete the Jr. Firefighter Challenge Course, learn all about safety and prevention, pretend play on the trucks and so much more. They hold special programs and events throughout the year and are constantly changing so check the site for updated info before you go! Hudson. www.fasnyfiremuseum.com

3. The Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries: This evolving educational organization’s mission is stated “To expand understanding of waterways for the benefit of human health, ecosystem restoration, economic development and quality of life”. The programs and trails will interest most everyone and are spread throughout a few locations within the city. The visitors center at Dennings Point offers a variety of educational programs, beautiful trails along the river and connects to the train station. The exhibits and things to do here are ever changing so check out the website before planning your trip to see just what is going on. Beacon. www.beaconinstitute.org

See More: Hudson Valley Best Places to Teach your Little Ones About Science

4. Zipline Adventure Tours: For the adventurous family, the zipline adventure tour is the longest and highest zipline course in North America and is located right here at Hunter Mountain. The most daring can soar 60 feet above the valley on 4.6 miles on lines and reaching speeds up to 50 MPH. If the thought of those heights and speeds has your heart racing, you might want to try the mid mountain tour, the most family friendly experience including short zip lines, rope bridges, and wooden platforms to climb on. Afterwards, kids of every age can climb on the adventure tower at the base of the mountain filled with obstacles and climbs. Hunterwww.ziplinenewyork.com

Spending the afternoon with the animals at the Trevor Zoo

Spending the afternoon with the animals at the Trevor Zoo

5. Trevor Zoo: Host to more than 180 exotic animals, over 80 different species and a variety of endangered species this zoo, uniquely situated as part of a high school is a great place for kids of all ages to explore. Older kids can take their time to learn about each species and gain a better understanding of wildlife conservation and environmental protection. Younger kids have a blast getting up close and personal with so much wildlife. You can pack a picnic and eat right in the zoo or head to the nearby tribute gardens for some playtime at the park. Millbrook. www.millbrook.org

Read more: 7 FREE things to do this April with the family

6. Splash Down: A local family hot spot for those warm summer days. Exciting water slides, brand new this year, one of the biggest family raft rides in the northeast, a lazy river, pools and so much more for the entire family. 2 ‘kids only’ areas and a spinning water teacup ride make it a great day for families of all ages to enjoy this summer. Fishkill. www.splashdownbeach.com

7. Legoland Discovery Center: If you have a Lego fan in your family you might want to plan a day trip for this one! Even if the kids aren’t head over heels for Legos there still might be something they would enjoy. From a 4D theater to rides, a large play structure and a master builder area there is something for most ages to enjoy. If you need a break pull up a chair to the kid- friendly cafe too! Check the calender before you go, they have special days for toddlers, homeschoolers and even adults! Yonkers. www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com

See More: Top Family Date Night Spots

8. Catskill Mountain Railroad: Take a quick trip through the Catskill Mountains with a stop at the Empire State Railway Museum. Or tube down the Espous and take the train back up the river. The Catskill Mountain Railroad also holds many special events throughout the year including holiday and foliage rides. Kingston. www.catskillmtrailroad.com

Painting in the studio at Poughkidsie

Painting in the studio at Poughkidsie

9. Poughkidsie: An all-in-one creative destination for play for the whole family. Babies have a place to explore of their own, preschool aged children will love the imaginative play village and even pre-teens and teens have a chance to be creative in the studio with access to dozens of projects and hundreds of supplies open to them. They currently offer a free playgroup for babies on Friday mornings and a variety of programs weekly for ages 4-14. Poughkeepsie. www.poughkidsie.com

10. Bowdoin Park: The Hudson Valley is sprinkled with some wonderful parks so I am just going to pull out one of our favorites that stand out as great family parks. What we love about Bowdoin? In the summer the wonderful splash pad cools kids of all ages off under the hot sun. We can pack a picnic, take a walk through the trails, play in the mud, watch the trains, take in the beautiful views of the river and play on the swings or two wonderful playgrounds. Again, there are so many great family playgrounds and state parks, I could go on forever naming them.. (an idea for another post maybe 🙂 ).

See more: 2015 top playgrounds in the Hudson Valley

I can also go on forever on the great places for families to play in the Hudson Valley as we really are truly lucky to have so much culture, science, nature, places to explore and more right in our own backyards. So tell me? What would you add to your top 10 list of family places to play?

Here are a few more favorites that could have been on my list:

Catskill Animal SanctuaryFor the animal lovers of any age the animal sanctuary is a farm unlike the others (though there are many awesome family farm in our area!). The rescued animals here roam freely through the grounds so you really get a first hand, unique experience with each animal. Hear rescue stories, learn about care and what you can do to help the animals. Saugerties.

Hudson Highlands Nature MuseumEvery time I make a list of the great places to go in the Hudson Valley the HHNM comes up and I can’t help but list how wonderful and diverse the museum and center are. From a variety of nature programs to trails and the wonderful grasshopper grove, children’s nature playground there is truly something for the whole family to explore. Cornwall.

Bear MountainIt’s always so hard to choose just one park or playground to list so I try to choose ones that have the most things to do. At bear mountain, kids can take a ride on the carousel, families can walk the lake, paddle boat in the summer, enjoy the small playground, community pool or explore the trailside zoo.

Having a jumping good time at Bounce!

Having a jumping good time at Bounce!

Bounce Trampoline Sports: Toddlers through adults can release their energies and play at Bounce! There is a special section just for toddlers including trampolines and foam pit (and special toddler only hours during the week too!), a large area for bouncing, basketball and dodge ball courts and foam pits for the big kids and kids at heart. They also offer special events and programs for different age groups. Valley Cottage & Poughkeepsie.

Fun E FarmGeared towards kids ages 12 and younger, siblings of most ages can have fun playing together at the Fun E Farm, an indoor bounce house fun center complete with inflatables, obstacle courses, bubbles and more. If you are worried about your youngest being trampled by the older kids, they have a little piggy play area special designed for the under 5 kids. Kingston.

Storm King Art CenterVisitors of all ages are wowed by the enormous sculptures in Storm Kings permanent collection as well as travelling exhibits. With 500 acres of beautiful landscapes and more than 100 sculptures you wont be disappointed. The center also hosts numerous events, concerts and family friendly workshops throughout the season.

The Palisades CenterThere are so many great places for the family here you can easily spend a whole day. A few of my picks would be the IMAX theater, Billy Beez, Lucky Strike Lanes, a carousel, Ferris wheel and even an ice rink! Yonkers.

Read more: 5 inexpensive places to take the kids

A Seder to remember… 10 ways to have an awesome Passover

seder platePassover is more commonly recognized as a Jewish holiday however, more and more modern day Christians are celebrating their roots with a communal meal, Seder as well and teaching their families about the fulfillment of the scripture.

A brief history lesson: Before the Jewish people were set free from the Pharaoh of Egypt, God sent 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, the 10th being the killing of each first born. The Jews were told to take the blood of a Lamb and cover their door post to signal to the death angel to pass over them. The lamb was then roasted and served as cries of grief rose over Egyptian homes, and the Jewish families enjoyed their first Passover meal before escaping Egyptian Slavery.

Since the Israelites left Egypt in such a haste they couldn’t wait for the bread dough to rise so they ate what was the result of unleavened bread called Matzoh. The holiday begins with the Seder meal where the Passover story is read from a book called the Haggadah and continues for 8 days.  Today, thanks to the internet and Pinterest, Passover can take on a bit of a creative spin with delicious Matzoh recipes, crafts and activities for the kids. Here, I have rounded up 10 fun (and yummy) ways to make your Passover holiday a celebration!

From Matzoh Brei to toffee.

1. Meal prep. Since rising flour is out, and Matzoh is in this week take a few minutes to plan out your meals. The wonderful folks over at Real Simple.com have a great checklist to prepare for the Seder Meal you can print and prepare.

apple slices2. Kid friendly snacking. There are so many delicious recipes floating around for Passover meals from Matzoh ball soup to pizza, try some of these great ideas for snacking with the kids: Passover Snacks

3. Matzo Brei is one of the many recipes that is often passed down from generation to generation. Since my father is yet to pass this one on I went to the internet in search of a recipe that comes close! (We like to sprinkle cinnamon over the top toffee-matzah_1weband serve for breakfast but this dish can be served sweet, savory or for breakfast or lunch).

4. Breakfast and dessert, my 2 favorite meals of the day. Chocolate covered Matzo toffee is a staple in my house for sure! Takes only a few minutes to make and is always a crowd pleaser. Essentially all you do is lay the Matzoh flat on a cookie sheet, melt butter together with brown sugar and a bit of vanilla until hot a bubbly and pour over top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until hardened. Sprinkle a generous amount of chocolate chips over the top and spread until melted and evenly covered. I like to add a sprinkle of sea salt like in this recipe from Bakedbree.com but you can also add nuts, dried fruit, sprinkles or any toppings you’d like.

Setting the scene

Elijah cupTurn your home and table into a celebration with a festive centerpiece, place setting and activities for the kids. Here are a few ideas for setting the scene.

5. Elevate the Seder plate on a cake stand for all to see in the center of the table.

6. Add a Seder place mat to the kids places. They can make their own before the big meal like this adorable one here on http://www.InCultureParent.com or create one for play like the felt plates found on www.designmegillah.com

7. Add a cup for Elijah that the kids decorate before the meal. You can create one using recycled materials in your home or get creative with some yarn and stickers like this colorful one found here on Toriavey.com.

Fun and gamesMatzo house

8. Hide the Matzoh is traditionally enjoyed by children at Passover. Children are allowed 4 questions and search for the hidden Matzoh called afikomen. Help the kids make an Afikomen Bag for hiding the Matzoh before the meal. This easy to make felt bag is adorable from www.toriavey.com

9. Keeping kids entertained during any meal is difficult so start early and and use a children’s version of the haggadah such as Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah for a family friendly story the kids will understand and love.

10. Make a Matzoh house. As symbolic as the homes in the story of Passover, bring out the builder in you and help the kids build a home of their own. Don’t be surprised if half the decorations are gone before you finish! This Matzo house from Martha Stewart (with directions) has me drooling! Beautiful!

grandma

Personal note- My grandmother was amazing for sharing so many of her stories and our roots with me. We would spend hours talking about the special traditions and memories of her own childhood. While my Grandmother is no longer with us to critique this as I know she would have loved too, a special thanks goes out to my dad for clarifying many of the details and sharing so many special recipes of his father with me through the years. One of these days those will finally be in a recipe book for me!

50 day trips for spring break stay-cations!

  1. slidePlaygrounds: Weather is (cross your fingers) warming up and the Hudson Valley is sprinkled with wonderful playgrounds! Spring Break week is a great chance to stretch your legs from a long winter away from the monkey bars and jump back on a see-saw! Our favorite Hudson Valley Playgrounds.

Hop on over to these local Easter egg hunts 

  1. Outdoor Discovery Center– Cornwall, 845-534-5506: Offering a spring break camp for ages 6-9. Weekend programs for the entire family and mid- April, Grasshopper Grove, an all- natural playground for the children will re-open for the season.
  1. Locust Grove– Poughkeepsie, 845-454-4500: The grounds and gardens are open to the public from 8am until dusk. The views are spectacular and the grounds are beautiful all year round. If warm enough, pack a picnic lunch and visit locust grove for a wonderful afternoon.
  1. The Mid Hudson Children’s Museum– Poughkeepsie, 845-471-0589: Take the family to the Captain Bubble Science Show during spring break week and enjoy the day at the Children’s Museum. With many new and exciting exhibits kids will have a great day exploring at the museum. If the weather cooperates you can combine your trip with the walk over the Walkway over the Hudson and/ or a walk down the waterfront.

Need a bite to eat while you are spending the day out? Here is a list of kid friendly restaurants in the Hudson Valley. 

  1. The Hudson Valley Rail Trail: One of the Hudson Valley’s treasures is the many rail trails that wind through the woods, over rivers and through the mountains. We have the Walkway over the Hudson, The Dutchess Rail Trail, Harlem Valley Trail, The Catskill Scenic Trail, The Mohonk Preserve, Orange Pathways, and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.
  1. Shaupeneak Ridge– Esopus: Another of the Hudson Valley’s many treasures is the amazing family- friendly hiking spots throughout our region. From spots overlooking the Hudson River like the Shaupeneak Ridge to spots in the IMG_0886mountains or even just a quick trip around a lake like at Bear Mountain State Park. Other great hiking spots here.
  1. Trevor Zoo– Millbrook, (845) 677-3704: A wonderful little zoo open year round. You can spend a few hours visiting with the animals and exploring the zoo, pack a picnic lunch and eat near the llamas and then take a short drive over to Millbrook Tribute Gardens and playground.
  1. Bounce! Trampoline Sports– Valley Cottage, NY (845) 268-4000: There is always a chance for a rainy spring break so keep a list handy of some of the great indoor play spots in the area for little ones to get their energy out while having a great time with the whole family. Bounce is one of the many places that kids of all ages could have a great time at!

Rainy day? More top indoor family fun spots!

  1. 20140729_200607The Drive InHudson Valley & Capital Region– Grab some blankets and hop in the car this spring break. Many of your favorite drive- ins are open!
  1. Library– Check your local library or Hudson Valley Parent Calendar Page for inexpensive ways to spend spring break with the kids. Many of the libraries are offering special school’s out programs such as shows and arts, crafts and activities.

Can’t stop at just 10! There are so many great places within driving distance of the Hudson Valley to visit. What would you add to the list? Tell me in the comments!

New York

  1. Rocking Horse Ranch– Highland, (845) 691-2927
  1. Saugerties Lighthouse– Saugerties, (845) 247-0656
  1. Storm King Art Center– New Windsor, (845) 534-3115 (Opening April 1st)
  1. Poughkidsie– Poughkeepsie, (845) 243-3750
  1. Emerson Place- World’s Largest Kaleidoscope– Mt. Tremper, 845-688-5800
  1. Museum Village– Monroe, (845) 782-8248
  1. Castle Fun Center– Chester, (845) 469-2116
  1. Bronx Zoo– Bronx, NY (718) 367-1010
  1. Billy Beeze– West Nyack, NY (845) 535-9277
  1. Greenburgh Nature Center– Scarsdale, NY (914) 723-3470IMG_4668
  1. Bear Mountain Zoo– Bear Mountain, NY (845) 786-2701
  1. NYS Museum– Albany, NY (518) 474-5877
  1. Vanderbilt Mansion– Hyde Park, (845) 229-7770
  1. Air Rock Gym– Albany, (518) 459-7625
  1. Capital District Flower Show– Troy, 518-629-4822 (April 27-29)
  1. Sprout Creek Farm– Poughkeepsie, NY (845) 485-8438
  1. FASNY Museum of Firefighting– Hudson, NY (518) 822-1875
  1. Howe Caverns– Howes Cave, NY (518) 296-8900
  1. Lego Land– Yonkers, NY (866) 243-0770
  1. The National Museum of Play– Rochester, NY (585) 263-2700
  1. Museum of Natural History– New York, (212) 769-5100
  1. Central Park Zoo– New York, (212) 439-6500
  1. Hunter Mountain– Hunter,(800) 486-8376
  1. IMAX- Palisades– West Nyack, (845) 358-4629
  1. Great Escape Lodge & Water Park– Queensbury, (518) 824-6000

Connecticut

  1. Norwalk Aquarium– Norwalk, CT (203) 852-0700IMG_0262
  1. Stepping stones– Norwalk, CT (203) 899-0606
  1. Mystic Aquarium– Mystic, CT (860) 572-5955
  1. Monster Mini Golf– Danbury, CT (203) 744-4653
  1. Danbury Mall- Indoor play area and carousel– Danbury, CT
  1. Danbury Railway Museum– Danbury, CT (203) 778-8337
  1. CoCo Key Water Resort– Waterbury, CT (203) 706-1000

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New Jersey

  1. Liberty Science Center– Jersey City, NJ (201) 200-1000
  1. Adventure Aquarium– Camden, NJ (856) 365-3300
  1. Diggerland USA– West Berlin, NJ (856) 768-1110
  1. Sahara Sam’s Indoor Water Park– West Berlin, NJ (856) 767-7580

PennsylvaniaIMG_6758

  1. The Crayola Factory-Easton, PA (610) 515-8000
  1. Sesame Place– Langhorne, PA (215) 752-7070
  1. Please Touch Museum– Philadelphia, PA (215) 581-3181
  1. Great Wolf Lodge– Scotrun, PA (570) 688-9899

10 ways to celebrate the first day of spring

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Fun fact: Spring fever is not just a saying. Experts say the body’s makeup changes due to different diets, hormone production and temperature during the warmer months. As the snow continues to melt this week I can say for sure I am well into spring fever mode. The boys are itching to be outside (we actually shoveled a path to the backyard swings today) and hit the playgrounds and I cannot wait to open windows and air out the long winter germs and dust. Looking ahead to Friday’s equinox, I have rounded up 10 ways to celebrate the first day of spring.

1. Another fun fact & a science experiment. According to many, and maybe it’s urban legend that on the spring equinox you can in fact stand an egg up on it’s end. The science says that due to the earth’s position with the sun certain gravitational pulls come into effect. Experts say that if you have enough patients you can balance an egg any day of the year but it is certainly worth the try (and the science lesson)! More info here.

GREAT PLACES TO EXPERIENCE SCIENCE IN THE HUDSON VALLEY

2. No better way to celebrate than with a free scoop of ice cream at Rita’s Italian Ice!FREE RITAS

3. They don’t call it spring cleaning for nothing. The beginning of spring is one of the few days during the entire year I can actually stand the thought of cleaning. I love the cool air blowing through the house and the lemony smell of cleaning products on a beautiful spring day!

EVERYDAY CHORES MADE EASY & WAYS TO GET THE KIDS INVOLVED

4. It’s been a long winter, treat yourself! The first day of spring this year falls right at the tail end of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. Go out for lunch or dinner with a discounted, fixed menu at many favorite eateries and grab a fruity frozen drink… it’s officially spring!

pough bunny5. Visit the Easter Bunny! Another sure sign of spring is when the Easter Bunnies start hitting local malls and events. You can get photos taken of the kids at many locations throughout the Hudson Valley. Our favorite is Adams Fairacre Farms since it’s FREE and when my kids are screaming bloody murder at the giant over sized rabbit on two legs I don’t mind torturing photographing them for a funny photo for their senior yearbooks one day. 😉 Though my kids usually do enjoy waving to him from afar at the Poughkeepsie Galleria’s beautiful set up. We have a great list of bunny photo ops in the HV here.

Visit ME with Hudson Valley Parent magazine at the Poughkeepsie Galleria this weekend for the Annual Hannoush Hunt!

6. Celebrate spring by doing your part to fight against local hunger at the Empty Bowls Fundraiser in Warwick this Friday. The event is completely family friendly featuring live music, kids games, pottery activities, silent auction, delicious soups and desserts and bowls for purchase!

7. Forecast is showing a few flurries on the first day of spring this year but I am still a firm believer in spring being a sure sign of puddle jumping season! You can visit a park, take a walk down the street or find a puddle in your own driveway just get out there, get wet and dirty and  enjoy those first signs of spring! IMG_0944

GO JUMP IN A MUD PUDDLE or THROW YOUR OWN MESS FEST WITH THESE GREAT TIPS.

Another great idea to get in the mud is to bring your gardening indoors and start your spring seedlings! Here are some expert tips on curing winter gloom with spring blooms.

8. I get excited for the warmer months to hit the drive in with my boys. Luckily the wait is over in Orange County.. The Warwick Drive in is having their Grand re-opening on the first day of Spring! You can catch The SpongeBob Movie with the kids at 8pm. A great way to welcome the new season!

The next two events are actually happening on the second & third days of spring but both are family fun ways to welcome signs of spring walkspring that they are making the list too!

9. The Signs of spring walk at Esopus Nature Preserve gets families outside and closer to nature on 3/21. Whether the snow is on the ground or not you will probably still catch a glimpse of a variety of wildlife including birds, plants and more.

10. Poughkidsie is throwing a birthday party on the 22nd celebrating the arrival of spring. Kids can create a flower pot, enjoy pizza & juice, creative play in the village and face painting from 12-2pm.

Do you have any special 1st day traditions? Share in the comments!

Top 10 (…okay 15!) places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

May your blessings outnumberclover
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
Irish blessing
Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day and I have rounded up 15 great places for families or date nights in the Hudson Valley. Wear your green and hit the town because there is lots of fun to be had this weekend and all the way through St. Patrick’s Day!

1. Parades. I’m sure by now you know which parades you are hitting this weekend, but it wouldn’t be a St. Patrick’s Day event list without mentioning some of the best parades in the Hudson Valley. You can find a great list here.

2. St. Patrick’s Day Family Workshop. Children and their families are invited to the Harness Racing Museum in Goshen for the St. Patrick’s Day parade this weekend where kids can create a pot of gold noise maker to wave as the parade passes. Snacks and hot chocolate will also be available and the museum for everyone to enjoy and only $3 a child!shamrock run

3. Shamrock Run. Kingston holds one of the largest parades in Ulster County and is kicked-off with the great Shamrock Run, a 2 mile fun- run that supports the annual Kingston Parade. Wear your green and show your support!

4. St. Patrick’s Shindig. Get a baby sitter Saturday night for the Rhinecliff’s annual shindig with live music by Little Creek and an Irish themed 3- course dinner for only $23.95!

paddy on the river

5. Paddy on the River. WRRV is hosting a band new St. Paddy’s tradition this year down on the Beacon Waterfront! I’m not entirely sure it’s something you will want to bring the kids around since there will be plenty of beer. But with live music and traditional Irish food this event looks like lots of fun for mom & dad!

6. St. Patrick’s Day Kids Yoga. Grab your love for one of the great date nights from above and drop the kids off for a few hours of St. Patrick’s Day yoga fun! The kids will enjoy social time, yoga, crafts & snack. Kids ages 3-12 are welcome but you need to reserve your spot in advance.

7. St. Baldrick’s Day. Show your Irish spirit while supporting an amazing cause in Saugerties this Saturday. Are you brave enough to shave your head for childhood cancer? If not, you can still show your support at this family event with raffles, a bake sale, entertainment and face painting.

corned beef at woodstock firehouse7. Corned Beef Dinner Fundraiser. If you are craving an amazing corned beef and cabbage meal you can find one Saturday at the Zena Firehouse in Woodstock. Support your local firehouse while enjoying some delicious holiday food. You can eat in, take out and even request delivery!

8. St. Patrick’s Day will coincide with Hudson Valley Restaurant Week this year so you can enjoy a reduced price pre-fixed lunch or dinner at a participating restaurant on St. Patty’s Day! You can find a list here.

And here are a few favorite restaurants with special and/or entertainment for a good St. Patty’s Day meal:

9. Ramblers Rest (Poughquag or Monroe) elsies place corned beef

10 The Blarney Station (Warwick)

11. Bacchus Restaurant (New Paltz)

12. Elsie’s Place (Wallkill)

13. Dutch Ale House (Saugerties)

14. Hurley Mountain Inn (Hurley)

15. Hickory BBQ and Smokehouse (Kingston)

While I do my best to verify events, dates and times please check websites or call ahead when making plans.