When Summer Comes to an End: How to Dill with It. (All About Pickles!)

My children adore pickles. This time of year, we have veggies in our garden growing faster than we can eat them, and we thought it was time to give pickling a try ourselves! We knew you could pickle more than cucumbers, but we didn't realize the range of foods that can be pickled. We signed up for a class at Drumlin Farm to learn more about the recipe and process. 

EASY REFRIGERATOR PICKLES in 6 Steps: 

PICK a variety of veggies and herbs. 

PICK a variety of veggies and herbs. 

WASH and SORT to take a good look at what you've gathered. 

WASH and SORT to take a good look at what you've gathered. 

CUT... big, small, long, short - it doesn't matter!

CUT... big, small, long, short - it doesn't matter!

MIX the brine - (boiling water, vinegar, salt, sugar) - see recipe suggestions below.

MIX the brine - (boiling water, vinegar, salt, sugar) - see recipe suggestions below.

POUR brine into ziplock bag or mason jar. 

POUR brine into ziplock bag or mason jar. 

SEAL, SHAKE, and WAIT... an hour or longer!

SEAL, SHAKE, and WAIT... an hour or longer!

We added lots of dill that we picked, garlic, and a few mustard seeds to some bags. We are so thrilled with the outcome - they are delicious! 

You can find lots of recipes online - this one is very simple, or this one is great but what we learned is - it's hard to go wrong. Don't limit yourself to just cucumbers! We will try again using apple cider vinegar for fun... it is not an exact science, but more of an art to experiment with your own personal taste. 

We learned a lot about the history of pickling and preserving foods - this is a great article on PBS The History Kitchen we all enjoyed. 

As easy as it is, you can make it even simpler by buying a mix of spices - just add the vinegar, water, and cucumbers for  - these were also delicious. But we feel confident now to make our own concoctions and continuing to see what we like best!

Next up... we've got our minds on preserving foods! All about jellies and jams coming soon:) 


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Donate to the Strong Starts Book Drive

Hopefully, most of you reading this have stacks of books piled high next to your nightstand and your children have shelves stocked full of wonderful reading material.  As much as we love and take advantage of the library, it's so important to have a collection at home to visit and revisit. When our children were little, we had board books all over the house and they would drool on them, play with them and sometimes even chew on them!  Not everyone is lucky enough to own piles of books for their little ones though.  That's where Room to Grow enters the picture.  

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Their mission is to provide their clients, who are families with children up to age three, with 10 books each time they visit so that by the time these families graduate from the program they have at least 130 books in their home.  The staff at Room to Grow encourages families reading together and helps to instruct them to incorporate books into their daily lives which in turn helps these kids start school on par with their peers with an end goal of breaking out of poverty.

Room to Grow is partnering with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to present the Strong Starts Book Drive going on now through September 30.  Every book that is donated by the Boston community will be matched by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, thereby doubling our impact!  My kids have decided to use the money in their Give Jars, an idea we got from Three Little Monkeys Studio, to use to purchase bilingual board books from Room to Grow's wishlist.  And, I suggested that we go through their own collection to find titles to donate as well.  My son commented on how lucky they are to have a Spend Jar to buy new books to replace the old.  So true.  If you decide to do the same, you can find drop off information here

Spread the word to friends and family.  Let's help Room to Grow make the Strong Starts Book Drive a huge success!

Knot as Hard as we Thought!

My daughter started sailing last summer, and came home each day to show us a new knot she learned. She had so much fun experimenting with different types of knots: cleats, figure 8, the bowline. Fortunately, I found a free knot tying workshop at the local library, run by the Cape Cod Maritime Museum

She and her brother had so much fun exploring those knots and learning more. We even learned the monkey's fist knot!

I bought scraps of rope at our local hardware, and we keep it in the car - this is a great activity for travel! 


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Getaway to Manchester-by-the-Sea

Manchester is a great place to spend a summer day.  It has a beautiful beach as well as an adorable little town.  We got up early, grabbed iced coffees, milk and muffins and were at the beach in no time.  If you don't feel like packing lunch, there is a cute little snack bar to purchase food. And, they have a bathhouse to rinse all that sand off when you are ready to explore the town.

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My kids spend hours digging and playing.  The beach never seems to get too crowded, even during high tide, so there's always room to toss a ball or dig a moat.

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We ran into so many people we knew while we were at the beach.  It seems to be the beach of choice for many Bostonians.

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The ice cream shop is between the beach and the town and it's hard not to stop.  We all got kiddie sized cones which were much larger than we had anticipated!  There is a playground across the street to burn energy after a sweet treat.

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I have a soft spot for old bookstores.  There are always fun finds for myself and my kids and the prices are great.  We walk away with a stack of books for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them new.  After we read them, we give them away to friends or donate them to our local library.

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After a hot day on the beach, it's great to be indoors looking at books for awhile.

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While we were wandering around town we passed the Manchester Historical Museum .  A docent was outside and invited us in for a quick tour.  It was the cutest little place and we learned a lot about the town and the beach.  There is even an old bath house in the backyard of the museum that they have preserved.

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And, if you go, listen for the sand to sing while you walk on it!

Looking for books about the beach?  No Time For Flash Cards, one of our favorite blogs, has put together a great list that we just had to share. 


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Waiting for High Tide
By Nikki McClure
Wave
By Suzy Lee
Beach House
By Deanna Caswell

Getaway to Shelburne Farms

Since my kids were little, they've adored farms.  My daughter read Charlotte's Web a few years ago and my son read it earlier this summer.  He hasn't stopped talking about it so, following his lead, we took a summer weekend and spent part of it at Shelburne Farms in Vermont.  After parking at the farm store, we choose to walk to the farm, but there is also a tractor pulled wagon to ride.  The walk was so picturesque and the farm is gorgeous.  

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Each day the farm posts a list of activities that kids can do in the children's farmyard.  We were there for a couple of hours and were able to do three of them as well as wander and check out a few animals on our own.

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We arrived just in time to learn about and milk the cow.  The staff at the farm were all so patient and helpful.  There is always something new learn on a farm.

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After a quick lesson on how to milk a cow, each child got to take a turn doing it.  The farmer told us that the milk would go to the baby cows (who were next to this bigger cow) and the leftovers would go to the pigs who we visited later.

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There were goats all over the farm and they were so loud!  We couldn't resist petting one.

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There were also chickens all over the farm and they sometimes laid an egg in a random spot in the grass.  It was fun to hunt around for the eggs and weigh each one.

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The kids also were able to pick eggs from the hen house.  After collecting two buckets, they washed, dried and packaged them for the farm store.  Eggs that accidentally broke were given to the pigs.

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We learned that when a hen lays an egg, it has a protective coating around it that keeps it fresh without refrigeration for two weeks.  Once the egg is washed, which removes the coating, it needs to be refrigerated or it spoils quickly.

The kids that were visiting the farm that day all worked as a team to get the egg washing done.

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After collecting eggs, we had to round up the chickens.  They are so quick and hard to catch, but once you get one, they relax in your arms and let you pet them. 

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There were so many other animals on the farm including a draft horse, pigs and lots of sheep.

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We couldn't resist getting a snack at the lovely little farm cart.  Their food was delicious.  We tried the sunbutter and wild berry sandwich, the hummus and veggie sandwich and the veggie and bean chili.

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The ingredients were so fresh which made the food so tasty that we highly recommend going to the farm hungry.

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Shelburne Farms is a beautiful place to spend a few hours!

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Allandale Farm Stand

My children love to get dirty, they climb trees every chance they get, they adore animals and they crave places to explore.  When I heard about Allandale Farm a few years ago and found out that they run a day camp in the summer (staffed by local teachers), I knew it was the perfect place to send my kids.

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The farm is amazing and the farm store is especially sweet.  They stock fruits and veggies from the farm as well as many local products.

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After camp, we usually head into the store to pick up a few items for dinner or a snack on the way home.  I love coming to this farm store and visit it every time I'm anywhere nearby.

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They sell so many plants, flowers and herbs as well.  And, we just noticed this summer the farm is hosting a story time on Wednesdays and Sundays at 10:30am.

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If you are looking to plant a garden, fill window boxes or planters, the farm stand has everything you could possibly need. 

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The chicken coop is a favorite spot of my children.  The kids in the camp get to pick eggs and hold the chickens as part of their day.

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Whether you sign up for the camp, pop in for a story time, join their CSA or simply pick up some groceries, the Allandale Farm Stand has a lot to offer.


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Mucky Kids Art Studio

Every summer my kids like to make a list of some of the things they would like to do during their vacation.  They write everything from "Make and eat popsicles" to "Go camping in an RV" (which we are actually doing later this summer-stay tuned!).  One thing on their list was Mucky Kids Art Studio, so we piled in the car and drove over the river to Cambridge.  We chose a day when the drop-in studio was open and dove right into the many different activities that were set up.  It's $15/hour for each child and you pay when you are ready to leave.  We were feeling very inspired that morning and ended up spending two hours exploring and creating masterpieces.

Mucky Kids is a small space packed with so many great choices for the kids.  Mine choose to work together at one point but then moved onto different activities where they were working independently.  I can keep my eye on both of them and move back and forth with ease.

My daughter enjoyed one project in particular: cornstarch mixed with water.  She loved transferring it from one container to another as well as mixing and adding small toys to her play.  This is a project I used to do with her when she was a toddler and it didn't occur to me that she might still enjoy it.  A few days later I bought a couple of boxes of cornstarch and let her mix in the water to her desired consistency. 

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She played with the goop she made for the entire weekend.  Her older cousin came over to try it and was just as engaged.  I even enjoyed playing for awhile with them!

Let us know if you have a chance to visit Mucky Kids!


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Art & Max
By David Wiesner
Let's Paint!
By Gabriel Alborozo

Matisse at the MFA

We have read "When Pigasso met Mootise" so many times that when the MFA decided to feature Matisse, we had to check it out.  We popped into the museum after camp this week and were so glad we did.  The exhibit is really interesting for kids because it highlights a lot of particular objects that he loved to paint.  The cool part is that the museum has a lot of these objects on display right near the paintings.  

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The figure displayed in the case is also in the painting right next to it.  This figure is from the Congo and almost looks like a toy.  We loved it's expression and it's intricately carved little toes!  

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The tapestry from Egypt is used in the painting next to it.  A lot of tapestries are hanging around the exhibit and it's fun to see which painting features which tapestry.  Sometimes he changed the color and sometimes he only used a small portion of the tapestry or changed the size of it.  It was a bit like a scavenger hunt to find the corresponding paintings.

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Matisse used this piece with calligraphy as an inspiration for many of his drawings.  It seemed that around every corner we turned in the exhibition he took us to different a country.  We had rented headphones and so were listening to the curators speak about a few of the pieces.  At the end of the audio tour one of the curators said that although Matisse was a French painter, he was a citizen of the world.  What a refreshing concept that is so very relevant today.  I wish I could thank him for setting such a wonderful example for my children!

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Matisse's cutouts are always a favorite of ours we admired them for a bit at the end.  The exhibit ends on July 9th and we highly recommend it!


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Henri's Scissors
By Jeanette Winter
Matisse's Garden
By Samantha Friedman, Henri Matisse

Summer Outings: Circus Smirkus

We love an afternoon at the circus! This one features very talented young people, and no animals -- so it is the ideal fit for us! Every year we've loved their unique theme, and we are inspired by their creativity and performance skills. Tickets are on sale now for the Big Top Tour; they travel all over New England with shows in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. 


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Gearing up for a New Bike

She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.
— Susan B. Anthony

Both of my kids were eager for new bikes. After watching their older friends ride "gear bikes," they began mentioning frequently that their current bikes felt too small. They are very curious how the gears work, and how it can be advantageous to shift gears. 

We've found a few opportunities to explore and play with gears, which were helpful in talking about bicycle parts and how they work.  

Yes, they got new bikes for their birthdays. We appreciated this article on tips for teaching children how to use gears; they quickly caught on. Now, they often bike to school. For ideas on biking spots in Boston, check our post here... and please share your favorite biking areas, too!

Wooden gears at the Discovery Museum in Acton   

Wooden gears at the Discovery Museum in Acton 

 


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A Hike on the Parker River

Last spring we wrote a post about Newburyport, Getaway to Newburyport, and in it we mentioned heading back to that area to try the hike on the Parker River.  

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We tried both trails, which are very different, and loved both of them!

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The boardwalks were a huge hit with my kids.  They loved following the winding path the planks created and exploring every twist and turn.

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The marsh loop had so much vegetation on both sides of the path, some of it way over our heads, including huge cattails.

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There were numbered stops along the way on both the marsh and the dune loop.  We didn't stop and read all of them, but it was fun to take a break every once in awhile and learn something about a specific spot.

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The views of the ocean from the dune loop are gorgeous.  We couldn't wait to head back down the path to play on the beach.

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The beach was our last stop and it was gorgeous.  We brought a few things to do, but it was a lovely place to rest after our hike!


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A Person's a Person No Matter How Small (2)

In our first part of this post, A Person's a Person No Matter How Small, we shared lists of books to help foster kindness and empathy as well as to explain some of the current events happening around us.  The first 100 days is over and so we are looking for new ways to show our kids that they aren't powerless, but in fact very capable of creating change.  Last week we attended a youth rally at the steps of the State House.  We received an email from a friend about a group of kids organizing a rally to pass the Safe Communities Act.  We had to go and show our support as well as to witness this wonderful example of kids in action working together for the greater good.  We brought poster board and markers to the playground after school and made some signs to hold at the rally.

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The kids held the signs as we walked up Beacon Street.  A few people passing by as well as a couple of cars gave us positive feedback which made the kids feel great.  

Once we got to the State House, we were greeted by other families who were so happy we were there.  They had petitions and had practiced chants that we all did together.  A few of the kids who had organized the event went into the State House to speak with our representatives.  

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One of the children who organized the rally created a symbol that some of the parents were stamping on fabric.  What could be more perfect than the Statue of Liberty saying "Yay!"? Each child was given a piece of the fabric to remind him/her of the task at hand as well as the fact that kids can change the world one sweet drawing at a time.

The list of Books about Young Activists from our earlier post was particularly relevant and helpful to us this week, especially these two books:

A Hike at World's End

In the sweet little town of Hingham, World's End is the perfect place for an adventure.  We've written about it before in our post Getaway to Hingham because we love to visit.  It's located on an enormous peninsula so there are plenty of chances to enjoy water views.

From the Atlantic on the outer edges to the tidal marsh in the interior, it's a fascinating place to watch for wildlife.  The maze of trails that snake through the peninsula take you through trees, by the ocean and even through wetlands .  You can take a map with you or just wander whichever way the wind takes you.

World's end is surprising close to Boston being about 15 miles away.  There is a parking lot and then a small entrance fee unless you are a Trustees member. We highly recommend you check it out!


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A Hike at Blue Hills

My city kids are always asking to go on a hike.  They love following trails and finding their way through the trees.  Blue Hills has a great hike for kids that feels like a scavenger hunt.  Different trees along the path have red dots on them and when you find one, you know you are going the correct way.  There are harder trails marked by different colored dots, but we thought we'd start with the simplest trail and work our way up.

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It's possible to spend hours here walking on every board and log then lifting them up to see what is living underneath them.  We found all kinds of bugs and worms!

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The rocks are also really fun for the kids to hop around on.  Some are so big that they need to climb up them.  I find the bigger rocks are the perfect place to sit down for a minute while they climb.  If only I had as much energy as they do....

At the top of the climb are picnic tables and a beautiful old building to explore. Make sure you don't miss climbing the stairs inside to check out the view.

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The view from the top is spectacular.  My kids were amazed at how small Boston actually is when compared to the land around it.  They both had comments about how it feels so big when you are in the center of it.

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And, if you stop by Blue Hills on a whim, like we did, there is a tasty food truck right near the parking lot to grab a bite to eat.

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There is also a great little museum, Blue Hills Trailside Museum, with a few natural history exhibits as well as live animals.


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Eating Around the World in Boston-Puerto Rican Edition

For a couple of years now, I have heard through the grapevine that Vejigantes in the South End is tasty and worth a try.  We went and have nothing but great things to say.  The food is fantastic and so are the prices!  The staff is friendly (again, so important when eating out with kids!) and it's a colorful and cheerful place.

We went for lunch on a rainy day and had such a great time.  We were the only ones in the place and decided to feast on appetizers so that we could try lots of different dishes.  

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The rice with beans was a hit with my kids as were the chicken empanadas.  I went back shortly after with some friends and my daughter asked if I'd bring each of those dishes home so that she could have them in her lunch the next day.  So there you have it, the food has officially been endorsed by a nine year old.

We would love to continue our series with suggestions from you.  Let us know what we should try next!


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Make Way for Ducklings

If you live in Boston with kids, you've read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. This beautiful story is a great celebration of wildlife in the city, the Boston Public Garden, and the infamous swan boats. If you haven't taken a ride -- put it on your to-do list!

Everyone loves the duck statues, and even as by kids get bigger they love to stop and climb on them for a few minutes!

We also listed to an amazing CD of an orchestra and reading of "Make Way for Ducklings," narrated by Ted Kennedy, now available on amazon

One spring, we went to the Public Garden and noticed a duck on a large nest, sitting on eggs! The city had fenced off the area, to allow for privacy and protection. While observing the duck on the nest, my son said, "Ducks are not mammals." My daughter replied, "Nope! They don't give live birth!"

When we got home, we wrote down his comment and made lists, classifying animals into "mammals" and "not mammals."

Later in the week, we pulled out our mural paper and a beautiful sticker book my son received as a birthday gift. We used the images to categorize and then graph animals, expanding with reptiles, birds, fish...: 

Meanwhile, we looked for ducks and swans all over the city!

At the Museum of Science - models of ducks

At the Museum of Science - models of ducks

Now at the MFA -- until June 18 - there's a lovely gallery about Robert McCloskey and his artwork. We are such fans of his books - Make Way for Ducklings, obviously, and Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine have found permanent spots in our reading rotation. 

 

And we can't wait until those eggs hatch in the Public Garden this year!

Eating Around the World in Boston-Chinese Edition

I can't take an ounce of credit for this fun find because good friends have been going here since it opened and we just followed their good advice.  Shojo is in the heart of Chinatown and is just awesome.  The food is so good and fun (their burger is called The Shojonator) and the atmosphere feels like you walked into a comic book.

My son loves all things Ninja and they play chinese martial arts movies while you eat.  I'm way too lazy to bring my iPad to dinner so my kids aren't used to getting to watch TV while they eat.  They were in heaven to have a movie on and my husband and I actually had a chance to chat for bit (crazy, I know!).

What's your favorite Chinatown spot??


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Mooncakes
By Loretta Seto
Noodle Magic
By Roseanne Greenfield Thong