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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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
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.  


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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. 


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.  


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!  


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.


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!


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.  


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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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By Loretta Seto
Noodle Magic
By Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Eating Around the World in Boston-Indian Edition

My daughter's class was learning the countries in India so we went Mela in the South End.  Again, the staff was incredibly kind to my kids.  Really, is there anything better than when people are kind and respectful to your kids?  Not only that, but the food was delicious and we all licked our plates clean.

On our way out, my kids caught sight of this sculpture on the wall.  We took a second and played a quick game of eye spy.  


We'd love any recommendations for other Indian restaurants!

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Mayil Will Not Be Quiet
By Niveditha Subramaniam, Sowmya Rajendran
The Jungle book
By Rudyard Kipling
The Sacred Banana Leaf
By Nathan Kumar Scott
Excuse Me, is This India?
By Anushka Ravishankar

Eating Around the World in Boston-African Edition

The other day my daughter said to me "Mom, we should really try some other types of food to see what other people on earth eat."  On the one hand, I was so proud of her and so pumped to take on this project because I love eating out and I love trying new foods.  On the other hand, I was thinking to myself that my cooking must be really boring and she's sick of my recipes...hmmm.  Either way, I took on the challenge and have slowly started taking advantage of the many foods that Boston has to offer.

I think her challenge stemmed from school because she was asked to learn each country on each continent.  She started with Africa so I looked for a restaurant to compliment her studies.  On Tremont Street in the South End is the cutest little Ethiopian restaurant, Addis Red Sea.  They were incredibly kind to my children and were really helpful in finding things to order that my kids might enjoy.  The decor was fun for kids too-lots of mismatched comfy seating and low tables. And, we had a blast eating with our hands!

My son was too young, but my daughter and I watched "The Queen of Katwe" which is about a young girl in Africa.  We both loved the movie and recommend it!

Queen of Katwe (Plus Bonus Features)
Starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o, Madina Nalwanga, Martin Kabanza, Taryn "Kay" Kyaze
Beatrice's Goat
By Page McBrier

Favorite Family Games: Classics

On long cold nights or weekends, a time-honored game can go along way. These classics remind us of our own childhoods, some updated and even more fun (Clue, Jr!):