Welcome ROCmommas, ROCpoppas, and Friends!

Have fun with your kids - that's what it's all about. If you're looking for fun places to go in Rochester, NY (ROC), awesome
crafts to make, and yummy treats to bake with your kids - as well as some ideas for Date Nights - then you've come to the
right place. Welcome to ROCmomma. Happy reading, and please share your comments. Thank you!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

#26Acts of Kindness

Every time I think about what happened in Newtown, CT last week I start tearing up. It just breaks my heart. And I don't even know any of the families there.

I can't even begin to imagine what the families, friends, and neighbors are going through right now...or even how they will restore a sense of normalcy to their lives. Of course, our hearts go out to them, and many of us will help with donations. But I can't help feeling that I want to do more, and I know others feel the same. Tragedies have a habit of leaving the survivors with a need to fight back.

That's where #26Acts of Kindness comes in. Ann Curry of NBC News had posted on Twitter, "Imagine if everyone could commit to doing one act of kindness for every one of those children killed in Newtown." The response was overwhelming, and participants upped the ante to 26 acts of kindness: one in memory of every child and adult lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Others are opting for 27 acts, to include the killer's mother, who was also a victim. And still others are carrying out 28 acts of kindness, to also include the killer as he was struggling and in pain, too.

The number is irrelevant; the point is to do something nice for someone else and to let them know that you are doing it in memory of those victims in Newtown, CT. And to ask that person to pass it along. You can do 1 thing, 28 things, or 200 things. The point is to do something, and to inspire others to join in.

Here is a printable sheet of cards to leave behind with each of your acts of kindness, to help you  encourage others to pass it along. Or just keep a Post-It notepad with you. Or even scrap paper will do.

Should you choose to be a part of this movement, try this for your first act of kindness: make paper snowflakes for the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Those students will be relocated to another school and the PTSA is trying to organize a Winter Wonderland to welcome them. Get the kids involved and start cutting! Please send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to:

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

Your second, third, and fourth acts of kindness could be to send holiday cards to thank the first responders in Connecticut:

Monroe Police Department
7 Fan Hill Road
Monroe, CT 06468

Newtown Police Department
3 Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470

Connecticut State Police
Public Information Office
1111 Country Club Road
Middletown, CT 06457

Thanks to Mamatoga for posting those CT addresses.

Need more inspiration? Here are more ideas; just be sure to leave a note about #26Acts and encourage people to pass it along!

  • Donate to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fun, which will provide counseling and help pay for funeral services
  • Buy Newtown breakfast. You can reach out to local businesses, like the Newtown General Store (203-426-9901), help people in town. One person in CA donated 100 cups of coffee! Another paid for breakfast for first responders in Newtown. 
  • Pay for the person behind you at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Be sure to leave behind a card to let them know about #26Acts, and to pass it along.
  • Send a holiday card to your children's teacher(s) or a favorite teacher from when you were a student. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them.
  • Leave bakery treats for the mail carrier or garbage collectors.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  • Take dog food, treats, and toys to an animal rescue shelter.
  • Leave a big tip at a restaurant.
  • Donate clothes.
  • Donate toys.
  • Put a $20 in a Salvation Army red kettle.
  • Leave change in a vending machine or laundromat.
  • Bring lunch to a homeless person.
  • Leave an already-read book in a waiting room for someone else to enjoy.
  • Leave a happy note and a flower on someone's windshield in a parking lot.
  • Put change in an expired, or nearly expired, parking meter.
  • Offer to watch a friend's kids for a few hours to give mom or dad a break.
  • Make Christmas cookies for your neighbors.
  • Make a donation to your favorite charity.
  • Make Christmas cookies or other treats for your pediatrician's office.
  • Bring a Starbucks gift card to give Santa after your kids pose for their picture.
  • Bring bakery treats to your local fire department, and let them know how much you appreciate them. 
  • Donate toys to the children's ward at a local hospital.
  • Visit someone who is sick, just to cheer them up.
  • Find a local blood drive and give blood.
  • Donate an old winter coat to One Warm Coat or Coats for Kids
  • Continue helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy
  • Check out volunteer opportunities in your area by visiting DoSomething.org
Check out what others have done and posted on BuzzFeed. There are more ideas here. Learn more on Facebook. And check out #26Acts on Twitter.

Be sure to Post a Comment and share your one random act of kindness, or - better yet - your #26 Acts. As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Lights You Don't Want To Miss

When the kids are a bit older, I have the best idea pinned on Pinterest. Here's what will happen: I'll take the boys upstairs to get ready for bed while my ROCpoppa will be downstairs making bags of popcorn and travel mugs of hot chocolate, and warming up the car with Barenaked for the Holidays loaded in the CD player. When the kids climb into their beds, they will each find a ticket on their pillow to ride the Minivan Express for a tour of holiday lights.

Someday. At these ages (3 and 5), if they stay up late, there's hell to pay. And neither of them will drink hot chocolate. Oh well.

So on Sunday we had an early dinner, bundled up, and headed out to see some Christmas lights. Our boys like to call out "Christmas lights!" every time we pass some on their side of the car. They keep track of points based on how many lights were passed on their side. Their enthusiasm began to wind down after about five minutes...until we came to the first "jackpot. A jackpot is a house with spectacular, unbelievable lights that make you, "Ooh!," and, "Aah!" There were three jackpots on our list:

1. 16 Beauclaire Lane, Fairport, NY - Beaumont Estates, off Turk Hill Road, just north of Route 96 (Neuchatel is the nearest crossroad with Beauclaire). This display is pretty amazing; there is so much to see! Our boys love the helicopter the best. Beauclaire is a circle, so you can drive by the extravaganza, loop around the circle and drive by a second time.
2. Colony Lane, Henrietta, NY - near Lehigh Station Road & Masthead. All of the houses on this circle have created wonderful displays with over 10,000 lights and dozens of inflatables. You may drive around the circle on Colony Lane to view the lights, or park on Cape Cod and walk around to see the lights. Please do not park in the circle. The residents of Colony Lane are collecting non-perishable items for the Rush-Henrietta Area Food Terminal; please leave your items in the designated bin in the center of the circle. While the lights may be enjoyed any night from 5-10 p.m., all visitors on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 - 8:30 p.m. will have a chance to take a photo with Santa, Mrs. Claus, Elmo, and the Grinch.
3. Preston Circle, Pittsford, NY - off Park Ridge, close to Park Road Elementary School and Camp Arrowhead. This "jackpot" was a hidden treasure for us; we didn't hear about it ahead of time and had simply been driving by. There are tons of characters on display here, plus a Christmas countdown, and holiday music.
There are, of course, tons of other holiday-lights hot-spots in the Rochester area. Check out this list for "jackpot" destinations in Gates, Chili, Farmington, Victor, Irondequoit, Pittsford, East Rochester, Ontario, Penfield, Webster, and Walworth. However, we haven't visited those yet so I can't vouch for their jackpot-ness.

Do you know of any other "jackpot" holiday lights displays in the Rochester area? Be sure to Post a Comment and let us know.

Enjoy the holiday lights, and, as always, thanks for reading.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend

The countdown continues to the holly jolly festivities! 'Tis the season to bundle up and celebrate winter. Take the kids for a night drive to see holiday lights, check out some holiday trains, or get your picture taken with LEGO Santa. It's gonna be a fun weekend...


ONGOING

Colony Lane Circle of Lights
Friday, December 7 - Saturday, December 22 from 5-10:00 p.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays only)
Colony Lane Circle of Lights, 239 Colony Lane, Henrietta, NY
Enjoy over 50,000 lights and 30 inflatables! Tune in to 91.9 FM in your car to hear the music for the computerized light show. Visit on Fridays and Saturdays from 6-8 p.m. to visit with Santa Claus, The Grinch, and Elmo (bring your camera)! This event is free; visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable goods for a food drive to support Rush-Henrietta Area Food Terminal. Non-periashable food items, paper items, and pet supplies are needed this year. Please do not park on the circle; parking is permitted in the driveways or on Cape Cod Way.

Yuletide in the Country
Friday, December 7 - Sunday, December 16 from 1:30 - 8:30 p.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays only)
Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, NY
Enjoy festively decorated homes, reenactments of Yuletides past, joyful songs, merry instrumental music, and more Christmas customs of the 19th Century. Tours last approximately 1 1/2 hours and depart every 15 minutes; tours are $22 per person. A dinner buffet is available from 4-8:30 p.m. for $30 per adult, $16 per child (ages 4-10); children 3 and under are free. Dinner reservations are required: (585) 294-8218.

Christmas Fun
Friday, December 7 - Sunday December 16, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays only)
Stokoe Farms, 656 South Road, Scottsville, NY
Take a wagon ride into the fields, stroll through the trees and choose just the right one. Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and tree baling, a bonfire, live manger scene, straw fort for the kids, and you may even see Santa Claus. The gift shop, indoor restaurant, and restrooms are all open.

Sweet Creations Gingerbread House Display
Now through Wednesday, December 12 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tues-Sun and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday (closed Mondays and Christmas Day)
George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
See more than 60 cleverly designed gingerbread houses from professional bakers, families, and community groups. Included with museum admission: adults, $12; children 12 and under are free.

A T. Rex Named Sue
Daily through January 6, 2013; Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
See the largest, most complete, and best-preserved T. Rex! Touch casts of Sue's bones, complete a 3-D puzzle with bones, move models of Sue's jaws, and more. Included with general admission.
Dora & Diego: Let's Explore
Daily through January 6, 2013: Mon-Thurs 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Fri-Sat 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sun 12 - 5 p.m.
Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
This fun, interactive exhibit includes a pirate ship, animal rescue center, rainforest maze, flower garden, rocket ship, car, and Purple Planet slide.
FRIDAY


Pictures with Santa
Saturday, December 7 from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
The Apple Shed, 3391 Fairville Maple Ridge Road, Newark, NY
Have your picture taken with Santa, plus enjoy fun activities for the kids including crafts, cookie decorating, and games.


Game Night
Friday, December 7 from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. (repeats on Fridays through December 21, 2012)
ArtsROC, 3462 Monroe Avenue, Pittsford, NY
Kids ages 5-12 can enjoy movies, Wii, Xbox, Minecraft, tons of LEGOs, and a pizza party for $25 at ArtsROC. Call (585) 218-9125 or email info@artsroc.net for more information. Or click here to register.

Family Night
Friday, December 7 from 4:30 - 10:00 p.m.
YMCA- Southeast, 111 East Jefferson Road, Pittsford, NY
The Adventure Center is open from 4:30-9 p.m. (remember your socks!), make a holiday craft in the Lobby at 5:30 p.m., enjoy pizza in the Lobby at 5:45 p.m until it runs out ($1/slice), roller skate in the Gym from 6-8 p.m. ($4/person for skate rental), and swim in the pool from 7-10 p.m. Open to the community.

Fun Fridays
Friday, December 7 from 6 - 8 p.m.
YMCA-Westside, 920 Elmgrove Road, Rochester, NY
Family gym games, inflatables, obstacle course, crafts, and family swimming. There is no fee for members; $10 per family for the community.

SATURDAY

Pittsford CAN Day
Saturday, December 8 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
ArtsROC, 3462 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY
Support arts in education by participating in Pittsford's CAN Day. Drop off your 5-cent cans and bottles and get your picture taken with LEGO Santa. LEGO Batman and LEGO Robin will also be there.

Edgerton Model Railroad Club Holiday Open House
Saturday, December 8 from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Edgerton Recreation Center, 41 Backus Street, Rochester, NY
Visit four historic model railroad layouts depicting the Rochester area during each of the four seasons. Be on the lookout for the Polar Express train and Thomas the Tank Engine & his friends. Plus be sure to press the operating buttons along the edge of the layout (fun for young visitors). Parking and admission are free, but donations are welcome.

SATURDAY-SUNDAY 

Dino Days
Saturday, December 8 - Sunday, December 9 from 12 - 4:00 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Explore three geologic periods of the Mesozoic Era with programs designed for younger children. Check out A T. rex Named Sue, and make paper dinosaurs and fossil rubbings to take home.


Holiday Family Fun
Saturday, December 8 - Sunday, December 9 (weekends only, continues through December 23)
The Garden Factory, 2126 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY
Enjoy an indoor winter carnival in the greenhouse! The model train display opens at 10 a.m. along with the Hilton Sno-Flyers Snow Show. Rides, crafts, games, and the light show will run from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., and photos with Santa will be available from 12 - 4 p.m. Admission is free and includes the model trains; rides are $0.50-1.50 each, crafts are $1-2.50, games are $2.50, and the light show is $2 per person (ages 3 and under are free for the light show). While the activities are indoors, it is still chilly in the greenhouse - coats and hats are a good idea.
Holly Trolley Rides
Weekends only; Saturday, December 8 - Sunday, December 16 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East River Road, Rochester, NY
Catch the holiday spirit with an old-fashioned trolley ride. Plus, visit the train cars, model trains, and antique car and trucks inside the museum. Admission plus trolley ride is $5 per adult and $4 per child under 12; children under 3 are free.

I hope you find some fun things to do this weekend! As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kids Birthday Party Idea: Harry Potter

Sure, the book series has been over for some time. Even the movies are officially done. But kids still love Harry, Hermione, and Ron. This summer my niece fell in love with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter while she was on a family vacation in Disney World. Afterward, she wanted a Harry Potter birthday party. We had such a good time at the party, I had to share it. My brother-in-law and soon-to-be sister-in-law did an amazing job with the party details! So, if your kids like Harry Potter, consider these ideas for their next birthday party.

Invitations
  • There are quite a few blogs and websites that graciously offer free printables for Harry Potter invitations; here is a good one.
  • Or, check out this letter from Hogwarts
  • For the "where" on the invitation, invite your friends to come to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, with your home address of course.
  • Let guests know they are encouraged to dress like their favorite character.
Decorations
  • Place a "9 3/4" sign over the front doorway; paint a brick wall design (use a large sponge to stamp the brick pattern) on an old bed sheet & cut a slit up the middle; hang the bed sheet in the doorway so guests must walk "through" the brick wall to enter the party (just like Platform 9 3/4 to the Hogwarts Express!) Thanks to My Harry Potter Party for this idea.
  • Plastic cauldrons, brooms, and toy owls are all good decorations.
  • Consider using house colors for balloons, streamers, and table cloths: red and gold for Gryffindor, yellow and black for Hufflepuff, blue and bronze for Ravenclaw (blue and gray in the films), and/or green and silver for Slytherin.
  • Potion Jar Centerpieces: Gather jars from the recycling bin, clean them and remove labels. Make your own labels and fill accordingly: Dried Beetles (prunes), Gillyweed (weeds in water), Veritaserum (molasses), Bat Eyes (black lentils), Blind Cat Eyes (cocktail onions), Blood Worms (spaghetti in tomato sauce), Felix Felicis - liquid luck (maple syrup), Amortentia - love potion (cranberry juice), etc.
  • Attach paper wings to old keys; hang the keys from the ceiling - just like in The Sorcerer's Stone.
  • Encourage costumes! They're not decorations, but they add to the festivities! Just check out Severus Snape at my niece's party:
Goodie Bags

Broomstick goodie bags! Use two brown paper bags per child; place one bag inside the other. Fringe the top few inches by cutting straight lines through both layers, about halfway down the length of the bag. Fill each bag with goodies of your choice, then place a large pretzel rod in each bag. Gather the fringe around the pretzel and use a length of gold ribbon to secure it in place. Tie the ribbon and curl the ends. Voila!

For the goodies, you could include some jelly beans in a bag with a label that reads "Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans." A few other candies from the books and movies are "Licorice Wands" (Twizzlers), "Drooble's Best Blowing Gum" (any bubble gum), lemon drops (Dumbledore likes them), and "Fizzing Whizbees" (Pop Rocks).

You could also make a magic wand for each guest out of chopsticks, beads, paint, and glue. Check out the step by step instructions here.
Food

Butterbeer
What Harry Potter party would be complete without Butterbeer?!? You can easily make a larger batch of this recipe by multiplying the ingredients by the number of guests; melt the butter and syrup on the stovetop; remove from heat and stir in the soda just before serving.
Wizard Hat Cupcakes
Ingredients needed: cupcakes(favorite flavor; made from scratch or from a box mix), silver cupcake liners, frosting (favorite flavor; could be dyed with food coloring to match house colors), sprinkles (again, could go with house colors), ice cream cones, tube of yellow decorator icing.

Prepare cupcakes in silver liners, according to package directions. When cool, frost the cupcakes and add sprinkles. Place one ice cream cone on top of each cupcake (if desired, you could roll the cones in melted chocolate first, to get darker wizard hats). Use the yellow decorator icing to draw lightning bolts on each cone.

To save on time, purchase frosted cupcakes and simply add sprinkles and ice cream cones.
For the Grown-Ups
For an adult Harry Potter party, consider serving some of these Harry Potter Cocktail Concoctions, including The Fred & George Weasley, The Luna Lovegood, The Neville Longbottom, The Draco Malfoy. Or one of the Goblet of Fire Concoctions, including The Goblet of Fire, The Fleur Delacour, The Viktor Krum, or The Cedric Diggory. Or one of the Death Eaters Cocktail Concoctions, including The Death Eaters, The Bellatrix Lestrange, The Lucius Malfoy, or The Peter Pettigrew. Or one of the Pureblood and Mudblood Concoctions, including Butterbeer, Firewhiskey, Pureblood, or Mudblood. Or one of the Hogwarts House Concoctions, including Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin. There are also The Albus Dumbledore, The Remus Lupin, The Minerva McGonagall, or The Severus Snape. Then there are The Rubeus Hagrid, The Hermione Granger, The Ronald Weasley,   or The Sirius Black. Or, finally, The Lord Voldemort, The Horcrux, The Harry Potter, or The Golden Snitch. So many choices...yum!

For more food ideas, check out the Top 10 Harry Potter Related Recipes or these Harry Potter Recipes.


Activities

Sorting
Supplies Needed: a large witch-like hat, one house badge per child (optional: two walkie talkies; attach one to the inside of the hat); a bag or container for the house badges. To make the house badges, search the internet for "hogwarts house crests printable"and print the crests; attach to name tags, or use a button maker (if you have one) to turn them into buttons.

Each guest is sorted into a house, just as the students at Hogwarts are sorted. Have each child take a turn sitting in a special chair, and place the Sorting Hat on his or her head. The child reaches into the container, without looking, to choose a house badge.

OR, if you are able to use walkie talkies, the one inside the hat should be turned on. When the sorting begins, one adult should leave the room with the other walkie talkie. When each child puts on the Sorting Hat, the person working the other walkie talkie can pretend to be the voice of the Sorting Hat and call out a house name. Then, the child takes the corresponding house badge.
Supplies needed: toy or candy creatures (rats, frogs, snakes, owls, dragons, insects)

Before the party, hide the creatures around the house.

Children split up into their house teams, based on the sorting. Assign each house a different room or area for the hunt; each house tries to find and collect as many magical creatures as possible. Each person adds up the number of creatures they caught; the person with the most gets to choose a prize first, and so on. Fun prizes could be a magic-trick kit, magic wand, Harry Potter-ish glasses, etc.


Divination
Before the party, place 2-3 drops of food coloring at the bottom of each party cup and let dry; use a variety of colors. Just before serving drinks, fill each cup with ice to hide the food coloring. Hand out the cups. As each child watches, pour water or lemon-lime soda over the ice and it will magically turn to a colored beverage.

Since this is Divination Class, assign a meaning to each color and predict each child's future. Yellow means they are going to have a happy day, green means a lucky day, red means they will fall in love, blue means they are going to be surprised, etc.


Quidditch
Supplies needed: 3 Hula Hoops spray-painted gold, 3 stakes of varying heights to attach to the hoops, a ball. Variation: if you can't play outside, consider transforming an indoor ball-toss game, and use a beanbag or soft ball.

Teams take turns throwing the ball through the hoops; assign different point values for each hoop.

Crafts


I hope your little muggles enjoy these ideas for a Harry Potter party! As always, thanks for reading.




Friday, November 30, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend

Ah, the holiday season is upon us. Shopping lines are ridiculously long...you want to make a dozen types of cookies because they all look so good on Pinterest...the pressure is on because your neighbors already have their lights up... On the other hand, driving at night is sort of magical as you pass by glimmering lights...you get a warm and fuzzy feeling each time you drop some change into a Salvation Army bucket or (better yet) a new toy in a Toys for Tots box...there are holiday festivities going on all over the Rochester area to keep the little ones entertained... So pick your favorites and get out for some holiday fun this weekend.


ONGOING

Colony Lane Circle of Lights
Friday, November 30 - Saturday, December 22 from 5-10:00 p.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays only)
Colony Lane Circle of Lights, 239 Colony Lane, Henrietta, NY
Enjoy over 50,000 lights and 30 inflatables! Tune in to 91.9 FM in your car to hear the music for the computerized light show. Visit on Fridays and Saturdays from 6-8 p.m. to visit with Santa Claus, The Grinch, and Elmo (bring your camera)! This event is free; visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable goods for a food drive to support Rush-Henrietta Area Food Terminal. Non-periashable food items, paper items, and pet supplies are needed this year. Please do not park on the circle; parking is permitted in the driveways or on Cape Cod Way.

Yuletide in the Country
Friday, November 30 - Sunday, December 16 from 1:30 - 8:30 p.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays only)
Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, NY
Enjoy festively decorated homes, reenactments of Yuletides past, joyful songs, merry instrumental music, and more Christmas customs of the 19th Century. Tours last approximately 1 1/2 hours and depart every 15 minutes; tours are $22 per person. A dinner buffet is available from 4-8:30 p.m. for $30 per adult, $16 per child (ages 4-10); children 3 and under are free. Dinner reservations are required: (585) 294-8218.

Christmas Fun
Friday, November 30 - Sunday December 16, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays only)
Stokoe Farms, 656 South Road, Scottsville, NY
Take a wagon ride into the fields, stroll through the trees and choose just the right one. Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and tree baling, a bonfire, live manger scene, straw fort for the kids, and you may even see Santa Claus. The gift shop, indoor restaurant, and restrooms are all open.

Sweet Creations Gingerbread House Display
Now through Wednesday, December 12 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tues-Sun and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday (closed Mondays and Christmas Day)
George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
See more than 60 cleverly designed gingerbread houses from professional bakers, families, and community groups. Included with museum admission: adults, $12; children 12 and under are free.

A T. Rex Named Sue
Daily through January 6, 2013; Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
See the largest, most complete, and best-preserved T. Rex! Touch casts of Sue's bones, complete a 3-D puzzle with bones, move models of Sue's jaws, and more. Included with general admission.
Dora & Diego: Let's Explore
Daily through January 6, 2013: Mon-Thurs 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Fri-Sat 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sun 12 - 5 p.m.
Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
This fun, interactive exhibit includes a pirate ship, animal rescue center, rainforest maze, flower garden, rocket ship, car, and Purple Planet slide.
FRIDAY

Meet Clifford
Friday, November 30 at 5 p.m.
Kango Play Center, 1565 Jefferson Road #180, Rochester, NY
Meet the Big Red Dog. Admission is $11 per child and includes a visit and autograph with Clifford, 200 game points, 1 slice of pizza, and 1 small fountain drink.

Game Night
Friday, November 30 from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. (repeats on Fridays through December 21, 2012)
ArtsROC, 3462 Monroe Avenue, Pittsford, NY
Kids ages 5-12 can enjoy movies, Wii, Xbox, Minecraft, tons of LEGOs, and a pizza party for $25 at ArtsROC. Call (585) 218-9125 or email info@artsroc.net for more information. Or click here to register.

Family Night
Friday, November 30 from 4:30 - 10:00 p.m.
YMCA- Southeast, 111 East Jefferson Road, Pittsford, NY
The Adventure Center is open from 4:30-9 p.m. (remember your socks!), make a craft in the Lobby at 5:30 p.m., enjoy pizza in the Lobby at 5:45 p.m until it runs out ($1/slice), play in the Gym from 6-8 p.m., and play with inflatables in the pool from 7-10 p.m. Open to the community.

Fun Fridays
Friday, November 30 from 6 - 8 p.m.
YMCA-Westside, 920 Elmgrove Road, Rochester, NY
Family gym games, inflatables, obstacle course, crafts, and family swimming. There is no fee for members; $10 per family for the community.

SATURDAY

Breakfast with Santa (to Support Military Personnel)
Saturday, December 1 at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m.
Stokoe Farms, 656 South Road, Scottsville, NY
Enjoy an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Don't forget your camera. Breakfast is $10 per person, with a portion of proceeds going to support our military.

Pictures with Santa
Saturday, December 1 from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
The Apple Shed, 3391 Fairville Maple Ridge Road, Newark, NY
Have your picture taken with Santa, plus enjoy fun activities for the kids including crafts, cookie decorating, and games.

Edgerton Model Railroad Club Holiday Open House
Saturday, December 1 from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Edgerton Recreation Center, 41 Backus Street, Rochester, NY
Visit four historic model railroad layouts depicting the Rochester area during each of the four seasons. Be on the lookout for the Polar Express train and Thomas the Tank Engine & his friends. Plus be sure to press the operating buttons along the edge of the layout (fun for young visitors). Parking and admission are free, but donations are welcome.

Liberty Pole Lighting Ceremony
Saturday, December 1 at 4:30 p.m.
The Liberty Pole, at the corner of East Main Street and Franklin Street in downtown Rochester, NY
Join Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, and other pals for some holiday songs by the Liberty Pole at 4:30 o.m. At 5 p.m., Mayor Richards will light the Liberty Pole. Then join the family parade to Manhattan Square Park for fireworks at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy a free open skate and family-friendly DJ from 5:30 -8:30 p.m. (Limited skate rentals available for $3) There will also be horse-drawn carriage rides around the park. At the end of the night, take the old-time trolley back to area parking garages.

SATURDAY-SUNDAY 

Dino Days
Saturday, December 1 - Sunday, December 2 from 12 - 4:00 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Explore three geologic periods of the Mesozoic Era with programs designed for younger children. Check out A T. rex Named Sue, and make paper dinosaurs and fossil rubbings to take home.


Holiday Family Fun
Saturday, November 30 - Sunday, December 1 (weekends only, continues through December 23)
The Garden Factory, 2126 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY
Enjoy an indoor winter carnival in the greenhouse! The model train display opens at 10 a.m. along with the Hilton Sno-Flyers Snow Show. Rides, crafts, games, and the light show will run from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., and photos with Santa will be available from 12 - 4 p.m. Admission is free and includes the model trains; rides are $0.50-1.50 each, crafts are $1-2.50, games are $2.50, and the light show is $2 per person (ages 3 and under are free for the light show). While the activities are indoors, it is still chilly in the greenhouse - coats and hats are a good idea.
Holly Trolley Rides
Weekends only; Saturday, December 1 - Sunday, December 16 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East River Road, Rochester, NY
Catch the holiday spirit with an old-fashioned trolley ride. Plus, visit the train cars, model trains, and antique car and trucks inside the museum. Admission plus trolley ride is $5 per adult and $4 per child under 12; children under 3 are free.

I hope you find some fun things to do this weekend! As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dora & Diego: Let's Explore!

If you live anywhere near Rochester, NY and you have young kids, you must visit the Dora & Diego Let's Explore! exhibit at Strong National Museum of Play. Dora and Diego will be there through January 6, 2013, so there's plenty of time to schedule a visit.

Fun Fact #1: The inspiration for the name Dora Marquez was exploradora, the Spanish feminine word for explorer, and the acclaimed writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Fun Fact #2: Dora was the first-ever Latina character to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. She made her debut in 2005.

Fun Fact #3: Dora the Explorer airs in 141 countries around the world.

Be sure to check out this worldly girl and her friends. There is so much to do in this exhibit! Kids can pilot the Rocket Ship, play with some puzzles, and even put on a spacesuit.
In the Rainforest Maze, we like to jump from rock to rock to cross the river. Be careful; there are crocodiles in the water!
The Rainforest Maze also has a fun tree to crawl through...
...plus a rock wall and monkey bars.
In the Animal Rescue Center, kids can diagnose and take care of toy animals.
The Purple Planet is a fun slide!
In Isa's Flowery Garden, kids can plant and "water" a garden, or play with bird, butterfly, and insect puppets.
 Join the Pirate Piggies' crew, dress like a pirate, sail the ship, and share the treasure on the Pirate Ship.
And on the way out, my youngest needs to hug all of his friends to say goodbye. Goodbye, Diego.
See you soon, Boots.
Goodbye, Dora.
Strong National Museum of Play is located at One Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY. They are open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 - 5 p.m. General admission is $13; children under age 2 are free. Dora & Diego: Let's Explore is included with general admission. The museum is stroller-friendly, diaper-changing tables are available in the restrooms, plus there are two Guest Rest rooms which are perfect for breastfeeding (there are even toys to keep the older kids occupied). Food and beverages are not allowed near the exhibits, and outside food is discouraged. But there is a food court that includes some fast food options, as well as vending machines with fresh fruit and vegetable choices.

I hope you and your family enjoy Dora & Diego: Let's Explore as much as we do! As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Like Chipotle Take-Out? You'll Love This Fake-Out Recipe!

Want to see one of my favorite sights during the weekend? Here it is:
That plain, neutral bag is deceiving. It looks rather dull but inside is a fiesta of flavors that makes me do a happy dance. I could eat their burrito bowls daily and never tire of them. The tangy cilantro-lime rice, the peppers and onions roasted to slightly-charred perfection, black beans, crunchy shredded lettuce, all highlighted by a bright pico de gallo (their "mild salsa") with fresh tomatoes and cilantro. YUM!

My sister and I love their burrito bowls so much we have attempted to recreate them many times before for parties. It's always a hit! But something has been slightly off. Until now.

Thanks to Pinterest (ah, Pinterest), I have pinpointed the missing element: the cilantro-lime rice! We were close, but not spot-on. I recently came across a recipe on the Fearless Homemaker blog and tried it last night. I'm happy to report: the mission is now complete!

Did I take pictures? Of course not. Worst blogger ever. But, do you trust me? You should. Take a chance and make your own Burrito Bowls (a.k.a. Naked Burritos). Yes, it's easier to stop by Chipotle or Qdoba or Baja Fresh to pick up food made by someone else. Yes, I love the lack of clean up that comes along with take-out. But sometimes I just don't want to get out of my PJs or leave the house. I'd rather just make it myself. Plus the little voice in your head knows you get the benefit of knowing exactly what goes into your food.

Burrito Bowls (a.k.a. Naked Burritos)

Phase One: Roast Some Veggies
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
2 green bell peppers, cut into strips
1 red onion, cut into strips
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
Extra virgin olive oil OR Olive Oil Cooking Spray (or Wegman's Basting Oil)
1/2 c. frozen corn

Preheat oven to 425 F. Spritz a large baking pan with cooking spray. Add peppers, onions, spices, and a little more oil; toss well. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through (if you remember). Add corn, stir, and roast for 10 more minutes. Finally, set broiler to high and broil 3-4 minutes to lightly char your veggies.

Phase Two: While Veggies are Roasting, Get the Rice Cooking
1 c. basmati rice
2 c. water
1 tsp. salt or Herbamare
2 tsp. vegetable oil, divided
lime, juiced & zested
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped

In a small pot, combine rice, water, salt, and 1 teaspoon oil; bring to boil and continue to boil 5 minutes. Stir once, cover, and lower heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave it covered for 5 more minutes. Add remaining oil, lime juice and zest, and cilantro to the rice; fluff with a fork.

Phase Three: While Rice is Simmering, Grab the Beans
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. your favorite salsa

Combine beans and salsa in a small pot. Heat over medium until heated through, about 5 minutes. Cover and turn the heat to low until ready to use.

Phase Four: Time to Eat!
Grab your favorite bowl and scoop in some rice. Add some black beans and top with some veggies. But you don't have to stop there...

Optional Toppings
What do you like on your burritos? How about shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese (extra sharp cheddar or pepper jack are good options), guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, jalapeƱos, or anything else you'd like.

For a Party
Double the quantities in each phase of the recipe. Once each phase is complete, layer in a lasagna pan, cover with foil and keep in the fridge (overnight is okay). When you're ready, bake, covered, for 35 minutes at 350 F. Serve with small bowls of toppings.

Phase One Variation: Sweet Potatoes!!!
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 red onion, cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
Extra virgin olive oil OR Olive Oil Cooking Spray (or Wegman's Basting Oil)
1/2 c. frozen corn

Preheat oven to 425 F. Spritz a large baking pan with cooking spray. Add sweet potatoes, onions, spices, and a little more oil; toss well. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Make sure the sweet potatoes are tender (if not, roast 5 minutes longer before proceeding). Add corn, stir, and roast for 10 more minutes. Finally, set broiler to high and broil 3-4 minutes to lightly char your veggies.



As I mentioned, I forgot to take pictures. My ROCpoppa and I happily devoured the majority of it. Even my two-year-old ate a decent amount (we just had to separate the elements rather than pile them up). The next day, ROCpoppa took a burrito bowl to work for lunch and this is all that was left of the whole food fiesta:

I hope your family enjoys this dinner as much as we did. Be sure to Post a Comment to share your favorite toppings or your favorite veggie combinations. As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend


We hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, friends, and of course good food!  If you're looking for more to do this weekend with the family, here are some fun ideas. Jump-start the holiday season at Stokoe Farms, Eastman House, Genesee Country Village, or The Garden Factory. See some trains - and possibly take a train ride - at the Edgerton Recreation Center, NY Museum of Transportation, or Victor Village Hall. Plus check out Brother Bear from Berenstain Bears, a giant T. rex, or Dora & Diego. Whew! So many options, so little time...


ONGOING

Christmas Fun
Friday, November 23 - Sunday December 16, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays only)
Stokoe Farms, 656 South Road, Scottsville, NY
Take a wagon ride into the fields, stroll through the trees and choose just the right one. Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and tree baling, a bonfire, live manger scene, straw fort for the kids, and you may even see Santa Claus. The gift shop, indoor restaurant, and restrooms are all open.

Sweet Creations Gingerbread House Display
Now through Wednesday, December 12 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tues-Sun and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday (closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day)
George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
See more than 60 cleverly designed gingerbread houses from professional bakers, families, and community groups. Included with museum admission: adults, $12; children 12 and under are free.

A T. Rex Named Sue
Daily through January 6, 2013; Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
See the largest, most complete, and best-preserved T. Rex! Touch casts of Sue's bones, complete a 3-D puzzle with bones, move models of Sue's jaws, and more. Included with general admission.
Dora & Diego: Let's Explore
Daily through January 6, 2013: Mon-Thurs 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Fri-Sat 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sun 12 - 5 p.m.
Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
This fun, interactive exhibit includes a pirate ship, animal rescue center, rainforest maze, flower garden, rocket ship, car, and Purple Planet slide.
FRIDAY

Fun Fridays
Friday, November 23 from 6 - 8 p.m.
YMCA-Westside, 920 Elmgrove Road, Rochester, NY
Family gym games, inflatables, obstacle course, crafts, and family swimming. There is no fee for members; $10 per family for the community.

SATURDAY

Breakfast with Saint Nick
Saturday, November 24 at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., or 12:30 p.m.
Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, NY
Enjoy a pancake breakfast, visit with the 19th-century style Santa Claus (great photo pop!), kids receive a 19th-century treat from Santa. Reservations are required; tickets are $12; please call (585) 294-8218. NOTE: Breakfast with Saint Nick does not include general admission into the Genesee Country Village for the "Preparing for the Holidays" event.

Preparing for the Holidays: the 19th Century Way
Saturday, November 24 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, NY
See how families prepared for the holidays in the 19th century. Enjoy tastings, plus demonstrations of making soap, preserving meat, spinning wool, making clothes, making chocolate, preparing blackpowder, and more. The heated Freight House will feature 5 different holiday crafts ($4 each or make all 5 for $15). General admission is $8.50 per adult, $6.50 per child (16 and under), and children ages 3 and under are free. NOTE: General admission does not include Breakfast with Saint Nick, and does not include the crafts in the Freight House.


Edgerton Model Railroad Club Holiday Open House
Saturday, November 24 from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Edgerton Recreation Center, 41 Backus Street, Rochester, NY
Visit four historic model railroad layouts depicting the Rochester area during each of the four seasons. Be on the lookout for the Polar Express train and Thomas the Tank Engine & his friends. Plus be sure to press the operating buttons along the edge of the layout (fun for young visitors). Parking and admission are free, but donations are welcome.


SATURDAY-SUNDAY 

Literature Live: Brother Bear
Saturday, November 24 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Sunday, November 25 from 1 p.m - 4 p.m.
National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
Meet Brother Bear from the Berenstain Bears! Be sure to bring your camera. Included with general admission.

Holiday Family Fun
Saturday, November 24 - Sunday, November 25 (weekends only, continues through December 23)
The Garden Factory, 2126 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY
Enjoy an indoor winter carnival in the greenhouse! The model train display opens at 10 a.m. along with the Hilton Sno-Flyers Snow Show. Rides, crafts, games, and the light show will run from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., and photos with Santa will be available from 12 - 4 p.m. Admission is free and includes the model trains; rides are $0.50-1.50 each, crafts are $1-2.50, games are $2.50, and the light show is $2 per person (ages 3 and under are free for the light show). While the activities are indoors, it is still chilly in the greenhouse - coats and hats are a good idea.
Holly Trolley Rides
Weekends only; Saturday, November 24 - Sunday, December 16 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East River Road, Rochester, NY
Catch the holiday spirit with an old-fashioned trolley ride. Plus, visit the train cars, model trains, and antique car and trucks inside the museum. Admission plus trolley ride is $5 per adult and $4 per child under 12; children under 3 are free.
SUNDAY

Santa Train Rides
Sunday, November 25 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. (as of 11/23, the 11 a.m. ride is sold out)
Railroad Tracks by the Victor Village Hall, 60 East Main Street, Victor, NY
Santa Train Rides with Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday music, games & prizes, children visit with Santa and receive a gift bag. Sponsored by Victor Friends of the Railroad with Finger Lakes Railway. Tickets are $15 each (free for children age 2 and younger who will sit on an adult's lap) and may be ordered from the FORR website. Trains will board 15 minutes prior to departure time. There is a public parking lot located at 60 East Main Street, Victor, NY.

Stay warm and have fun this weekend! As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Vanilla & Pumpkin Pie Spiced Nuts

Once the fall rolls around, it seems like recipes for spiced nuts pop up everywhere. When it comes to food, I always seem to succumb to the power of suggestion. In other words, I needed to have some spiced nuts. ASAP. We celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-laws this past weekend...which served as the perfect excuse to make a batch!

First step is to toast your nuts of choice. I used a mixture of almonds, pecans, and cashews. Don't let them toast too long; you want to bring out their flavor, and "burnt" is not the flavor you're going for.
Then you mix the nuts into a bubbling potion of vanilla, sugar, and spice. Mmmm...too bad we don't have Wonka's smell-o-vision. Or scratch-n-sniff computer screens.
Once they're perfectly coated and cooled, they're ready to devour. You could step it up a bit with the addition of some dried fruit; cranberries would be wonderful. Or you can release your inner fat-kid. That's what I did with the addition of Caramel Bits. Those things below that look like chick peas? They're soft, chewy bites of caramelly-goodness. I found these in the baking aisle, near the chocolate chips, and I couldn't resist!
The following recipe is based on the one I found on the blog Alice and the Mock Turtle, with a few alterations. This recipe is also easily doubled.

Vanilla & Pumpkin Pie Spiced Nuts
Makes 2 cups.

2 c. raw, untoasted nuts (any kind you like)
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. dried fruit or Caramel Bits (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Carefully stir the nuts and check for any burning; if the nuts still look raw, toast for up to 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and set aside once toasted.
HOW KIDS CAN HELP: measure nuts, spread them on the baking sheets

2. In a large pot, combine the sugar, water, vanilla, and spices and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the nuts and lower to medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar mixture crystallizes and looks dry*, then immediately remove from heat. This can take anywhere from 7 - 15 minutes, depending on the heat of your stove. 
HOW KIDS CAN HELP: at a table or counter (NOT the stove!) kids can measure and pour the sugar, water, vanilla, and spices into the pot; stir to combine everything

3. Spread the nuts onto parchment paper** to cool. Once cooled, transfer to a storage container and add any dried fruit or candy bits as desired. Enjoy!
HOW KIDS CAN HELP: they can spread the parchment paper on the counter for you; give them 4 plastic cups to place on each corner of the parchment paper so it doesn't curl up; once cool, kids can scoop the nuts into a storage container; kids can measure and pour the dried fruit and/or candy bits, if using

* NOTE: The original recipe stated that you should stir until the nuts are coated in a sticky syrup, and the water has evaporated - which would take 10-15 minutes or more. I ended up throwing away the first batch because the syrup crystallized after 7 minutes, and I kept stirring waiting for the "sticky syrup" to cover the nuts and thinking it hadn't cooked long enough. The whole thing ended up burning. The second batch was perfect - - I realized that as soon as the nuts looked dry and coated in "sugar" rather than "syrup" that they were done. Both of my batches crystallized at 7 minutes; they didn't take very long at all. As soon as the nuts look like the ones in the third picture above, remove them from the heat and pour them out; they're done. 

**ANOTHER NOTE: The original recipe stated that the nuts should be spread out on wax paper to cool. I did this and ended up with wax all over my baking sheets. The nuts were so hot that they melted the wax; as the nuts cooled, the wax hardened on my baking sheets. I ended up using a ton of baking soda and lemon juice to get it all off. If you don't have parchment paper, please don't use wax paper. I haven't tried it, but I would think some aluminum foil lightly spritzed with cooking spray would be a good alternative.

The only down-side about these treats is cleaning the pot you used to coat the nuts. Soak it in water for at least an hour before even attempting to clean it. If regular dish detergent isn't working, try sprinkling some baking soda directly into the pot and pouring lemon juice on your sponge. As you scrub, it will fizz and go to work on the sticky mess. If all that doesn't work, my go-to is Shaklee Scour-Off Heavy Duty Paste. Truly a miracle worker!

If you're craving spiced nuts, you must make these! In less than thirty minutes, you'll have a protein-packed, sugary, vanilla-y, spicy, delicious treat. Enjoy. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Trains & Winter Fun for Kids

Four years ago when my oldest son was in day care, their November newsletter included some winter activities for kids. One was the holiday model train display at The Garden Factory. Since "train" was one of the most frequently used words in our one-year-old's vocabulary, we decided to check it out. And we've been back every winter since then.

The Garden Factory is located at 2126 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY 14624. Sure, they have plants, shrubbery, garden accessories, holiday decorations, and Christmas trees. But from late November through late December, it's a train mecca for kids.

Just walk in through the main entrance and keep going straight to the back of the store. Go through the doors and into the greenhouse, and step into the winter wonderland. The model trains run from 12 - 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There is no admission fee to see the trains. Yes, it's free. Yay!
The model train display is huge, and there are several platforms around the display so that kids can get a better view. Of course, they will want to try each platform to see the trains from every side.
On weekends from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. there are rides ($0.50-1.50 each), crafts ($1-2.50 each), games ($2.50 each), a holiday light show ($2 per person; ages 3 and under are free), and pictures with Santa (prices vary). Be sure to check the schedule for other activities which may include reindeer, alpacas, or other animals, as well as food vendors, and Thousand Islands Winery. A link for the schedule can be found by clicking on "Seasonal Events" on the home page, and then on "Holiday Family Fun."

Weekends only, kids can ride a train...
...or a spinny-ride...
...or feed some animals...
...or climb through a fun house...
...or ride down a giant slide.
You can also get a great holiday family photo for your Christmas cards at The Garden Factory. There are pre-lit Christmas trees on display, plus tons of holiday decorations around - - you're sure to find a perfect backdrop for your photo.
The Garden Factory is stroller-friendly and there are indoor restrooms. While the trains and the activities are all indoors, the greenhouse is not heated. We usually keep our coats, hats, and gloves on while inside. There are food vendors available on weekends; during the week I would recommend bringing your own light snacks.

I hope you and your family have fun at The Garden Factory! As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 19, 2012

25 Days of SIMPLE Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Do you know about Elf on the Shelf? Chances are that if you are on Pinterest, read any blogs, or just talk with other parents, you do.

Elf on the Shelf is an elf doll plus a book to explain it all: the elf watches and listens during the day but does not speak or move; at night while we sleep the elf flies to the North Pole to report to Santa Claus whether the kids have been naughty or nice; then he flies back to the home and chooses a new spot to perch for the next day. The kids have fun trying to find the elf each morning! This repeats from December 1 through Christmas Eve. When Santa delivers the goods on Christmas Eve, the elf goes back to the North Pole with him until next December 1st.

An extra incentive for kids to behave? Sounds beautiful to me.

You can even choose your elf's gender, eye color, and skin color. If you really want to go all out, there is a DVD and a plush doll, plus other goodies to get your kids super-pumped about your Elf on the Shelf.

Last year was our first time with Alvin in our home. Each family gets to name their elf, and yes, ours is Alvin. I was not on Pinterest last year, so I didn't know how crazy people were getting with their elves! Ours perched in the fruit basket, in the tree, on the mantle, on the bookshelf, blah, blah, blah. Boring. But now I KNOW! And this year, Alvin will do amazing things.

Well, Alvin will do amazing things that can be set up quickly, without much preparation. Alvin will also do amazing things that allow him to remain out of reach of the kiddos - for the most part. If the kids touch the elf, he or she loses all magic. What will you do if this catastrophe happens? You can find that solution on Southern Disposition. Have Santa Claus send some Magic Elf Dust (a.k.a. glitter) to sprinkle on your elf and restore his or her magical powers. Brilliant! You can even download "From the Desk of Santa Claus" stationery to make it more authentic.

After scouring countless blogs and photo sites, I have devised my quick-and-easy plan for the 25 Days of Alvin the Elf!

WEEK ONE
Supplies needed:

  • double-sided tape
  • toy truck
December 1: hanging from a ceiling fan blade in one child's room; the Elf on the Shelf book will be in the book basket where we read bedtime stories

December 2: driving a toy truck on the dresser of other child's room

WEEK TWO
Supplies needed:

  • marshmallows
  • string
  • thumbtacks
  • candy jar filled with candy
  • goldfish crackers in a bowl
  • fishing pole from "Go Fishing" game
  • toy chair (from a dollhouse, or in our case a fire house/police station)
  • string
  • LEGO mini-figures
  • juice box
December 3: on the picture shelf in our hallway

December 4: building a marshmallow snowman, in the kitchen

December 5: zipline across the toy room (tied on a string, secured with thumbtacks)

December 6: reaching in to the candy jar (dining room table)

December 7: sitting on a toy chair, holding a fishing pole, fishing for goldfish crackers (in the pantry closet, where we keep the crackers)

December 8: "tied up" and surrounded by LEGO guys (on the mantle)

December 9: in the fridge, drinking a juice box

WEEK THREE
Supplies needed:

  • toilet paper roll, mostly gone
  • coffee mug
  • coloring book
  • crayons
  • safety scissors
  • white paper
  • toy toilet (from from a dollhouse, or in our case a fire house/police station)
  • clean pair of underpants from each member of the house
  • tissue box
December 10: rolling downstairs inside the toilet paper tube (unravel the toilet paper so it goes down the stairs)

December 11: in a coffee mug (next to the coffee maker, in the kitchen)

December 12: coloring in a coloring book (on a table)

December 13: cutting paper snowflakes (dining room table)

December 14: sitting on the toy toilet (place on top of the real toilet)

December 15: sitting on the mantle with underpants hanging from the stocking-hooks instead of the stockings (that sneaky little elf!)

December 16: sleeping in a tissue box

WEEK FOUR
Supplies needed:

  • powdered sugar
  • a puzzle
  • remote control
  • small bowl of popcorn (popped)
  • blocks, any kind
  • Christmas stocking
  • deck of cards
  • stuffed animals
  • slinky
  • thumbtacks
  • small envelope labeled "Magic Elf Seeds"
  • white or green Tic Tacs, or Christmas-themed decorative sprinkles 
  • a note from the Elf about Magic Elf Seeds
December 17: making "snow angels" in the powdered sugar (kitchen counter)

December 18: doing a puzzle (in the play room)

December 19: sitting in the living room, with the remote control and a bowl of popcorn

December 20: sitting on a tower of blocks (under the tree)

December 21: hanging in a Christmas stocking

December 22: playing cards with stuffed animals (on the dining room table)

December 23: hanging from a Slinky (tacked to the ceiling), holding the packet of Magic Elf Seeds and the note - click the link to see an example of a note that instructs the kids to "plant" the magic seeds in a bowl of sugar to see what will grow

WEEK FIVE
Supplies needed:

  • mixing bowl that the kids filled with sugar, in which they planted the Magic Elf Seeds
  • Christmas cookies (homemade or store-bought; either way, DON'T LET THE KIDS SEE THE COOKIES AHEAD OF TIME!!! Or the packaging afterward.)
  • lollipop sticks
  • goodbye-letter from the Elf (click the link to see a great example)
December 24: sitting next to the sugar bowl, which has now sprouted Christmas cookies on lollipop sticks

December 25: the Elf is gone, but s/he left a note to say goodbye


I hope these ideas help you - or inspire you! - to do some creative, easy things with your Elf on the Shelf this year. Have fun and as always, thanks for reading.
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