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!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend


Can you believe it's already Labor Day Weekend?!? Whether you're having a backyard BBQ, going camping, or just relaxing with the family, make time for a little adventure at one of these fun events.

Story Time & Animal Friends
Friday, August 24 at 11 a.m.
1. Lollypop Farm, 99 Victor Road, Fairport, NY - come for the story, stay for the farm animal fun!
2. Wickham Farms, 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Line Road, Penfield, NY - story time, sandbox, farm animals, and playground are free; jumping pillow, batting cages, and mini golf fees apply.

Labor Day Weekend Specials
Friday, August 31 - Monday, September 3
Adventure Landing, 3340 West Ridge Road, Greece, NY
Arcade token specials (60 for $10, 100 for $15, or 300 for $40) available Friday through Monday (Fri & Sat 9 a.m. - 1 a.m.; Sun 10 a.m. - 12 a.m.; Mon 9 a.m. - 12 a.m.). "All U Can Play Special" on Monday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.: $8 per person for unlimited mini golf, unlimited Wow! Factory, plus 10 arcade tokens. Purchase specials at front counter; no coupon necessary.

Fri., Aug. 31 - Mon., Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. (gates open at 8 a.m.; midway open until midnight)
New York State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse, NY
Food, rides, games, arts & crafts, antique tractors, entertainment, stunt shows, petting zoo, daily parade, Kiddieland (rides & games), Kids Celebration (interactive entertainment), music, butterfly garden, cheese & butter sculptures, and so much more! It's all at the Fair. Be sure to check the schedule before your visit.

The Fresh Beat Band Live in Concert
Sunday, September 2 at 4 p.m. (doors open at 3 p.m.)
CMAC, 3355 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua, NY
Get the beat...The Fresh Beat Band! See Kiki, Marina, Twist, and Shout live in concert.  Tickets required (still available in the rear sections).

Trolley Rides
Sunday, August 26 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East River Road, West Henrietta, NY
Purchase your tickets, then explore the train cars, antique cars, fire truck, and the model trains in the museum. At your departure time, board the trolley and enjoy the 1-mile ride to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Explore the second museum before boarding for a ride back to the Museum of Transportation.

Exhibit Closing: Design Zone
Monday, September 3 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Strong National Museum of Play, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
This is your last chance to check out the hands-on Design Zone. Learn how video game developers, music producers, roller coaster designers, and DJs use math skills in a fun and interactive way. Included with general admission.

Rochester Labor Day Parade
Monday, September 3 at 11 a.m.
East Avenue to the Liberty Pole, to Main Street, to Plymouth Avenue; Rochester, NY
Cheer for the live bands, vehicles, community groups, and unions in the parade, all celebrating Labor Day.

Enjoy the long weekend, and have a wonderful Back to School week! As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Time for a Scavenger Hunt

There are days when I feel like the worst mom in the world (or perhaps just the laziest), and then there are days when I feel like a Mom Genius. This was one of the genius days. It's getting toward the end of summer, and most of my good ideas had already been used up, until I started thinking about birthday parties. One of the things my kids love to do at parties is have a scavenger hunt.

Step One
I grabbed two brown paper bags and decorated them with some stickers, and each of my boys' names. This took about 45 seconds. If you don't have brown paper bags, you could use:

  • pails from the sandbox
  • used gift bags
  • plastic grocery bags
  • shoeboxes
  • trick-or-treat buckets
  • plastic food storage container
  • anything!
If you want to prolong the time this activity takes, give the kids the bags/boxes/containers and some sheets of stickers and have them do the decorating.
Step Two
Make a list for the scavenger hunt. Will your hunt be indoors or out? This will help shape your list. Indoor items could include:

  • Something you use to eat your food
  • A shoe
  • A toy block
  • A piece of paper
  • A magnet
  • Something hard
  • Something soft
  • Something with wheels
  • Something round
  • 2 things that are red
  • Something that moves
  • Something you like

Outdoor items could include:

  • Something fuzzy
  • A seed or nut
  • Something straight
  • Something round
  • Something smooth
  • Something rough
  • 2 types of leaves
  • Something that makes noise
  • A rock
  • A pinecone
  • Something green
  • Something that you like

Step Three
Explain that we are going on a scavenger hunt to find the items on our list. When we find something that is on the list, we will put it inside our bag/box/container. Then we will keep going until we have everything on our list.

We used an outdoor list, so we headed to a playground. My older son rode his bike while my younger son got a ride in his covered wagon. We brought the list and our bags, and we got down to business as soon as we reached the playground.

Something rough: wood chips!
Something round: the bicycle wheel! (not quite something that would fit in the bag, but they were so excited, I didn't want to ruin their fun)
They had a great time finding everything on their list, and then we played at the playground for a while. Once all the objects are found, there are a endless possibilities for the activities the kids could do with them.

One option is to do a rubbing of the objects, if possible. To do this, place the object under a piece of light-colored paper. Next, remove the wrapper from a dark crayon - dark blue, purple, black, or brown work best - and use the long side to rub the paper (where the object is underneath). The texture of the object will be transferred to the paper. This works best with relatively flat objects, such as leaves, coins, hair combs, or small toy figures. Use different areas of the paper for each object until you have a collage of scavenger hunt items.

Another option is to take a digital photo of each object, print the photos, and help your child make a simple photo book or scrapbook with them. This would be great for an alphabet scavenger hunt (finding something that starts with each letter), a numbers scavenger hunt (find one leaf, two rocks, three sticks, etc.), or a colors scavenger hunt (find one thing that is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, and white). Then the photo book becomes your child's own learning tool.

You could also have your child pose for a photo with all of the found objects. Have them decorate a paper plate, then attach the photo to the center and hang it up as a "trophy" from the scavenger hunt.

I hope these ideas inspire you to have a scavenger hunt with your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or the kids you babysit. They'll have a blast, and you won't hear "I'm bored." At least for ten minutes out of the day.

Be sure to Post A Comment and tell us about your scavenger hunt. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mendon Ponds Park

Mendon Ponds Park is one of those places you can go back to and visit a different spot each time. There are hiking trails, recreational areas, ponds, wetlands, playgrounds, as well as special features such as Sharon's Sensory Garden and Wild Wings. Mendon Ponds Park has glacial features that make it a Natural Historic Landmark.

The park is approximately 10 miles southeast of Rochester, located south of the NYS Thruway I-90 in the Towns of Pittsford and Mendon. It is bordered by Clover Street on the west and Pittsford-Mendon Center Road on the east. Click these links for directions or a park map.

During our last visit, we used the Canfield Road entrance from Clover Street, turned right on Douglas Road, and followed the sign for beach area parking, on the right side. First we had to try out everything at the playground. My boys love the train and they will sit on it for the majority of our visit, each time. The train does not actually move, but they have fun pretending to be the engineer and driving to different locations. We stop at the Grand Canyon, New Jersey, and California. How's that for living large?!

The playground has smaller structures with slides and tunnels...
...as well as a larger structure with plenty to climb on and slide down. There are also swings (baby swings and regular swings), picnic tables, and restrooms. This area is stroller friendly, but the restrooms do not include baby changing tables.
After the playground, we walked to the pond to collect rocks. That's the Hundred Acre Pond in the background.
When we were finished in the beach area, we hopped back in the car to continue down Douglas Road, and kept to the right onto Pond Road until we reached the Nature Center, on the left. Sometimes you can see horses in the training area, adjacent to the parking lot. However, the horses were not out during our last visit. So we walked past the restrooms and Cottage Store, and into Sharon's Sensory Garden.
This garden is designed for people with visual or physical disabilities, and has features that highlight all of the senses. The plant labels are even in Braille. There are whimsical bells that jingle in the wind, or when a two-year-old is nearby.
There are wooden chimes that can become a symphony in the hands of a five-year-old.
The waterfall was not working during our visit, but the boys usually like to watch it and try to touch the water. Oh well.
When we exited the garden, they wanted to go exploring. There is a great path nearby through the woods that is fairly level (no climbing required) and goes in a big square, so you really can't get lost. Plus there are a few small shelters along the trail with interactive exhibits, designed to teach about the soil, animals, and plants found in the area. The exhibits have not been maintained well, but my kids still like to explore them.
The sensory garden is stroller-friendly, but the walking trail is not. While the path is level, there are still the obstacles of tree roots and rocks that would make it difficult to push a stroller. While there are restrooms by the Cottage Store, they do not offer baby changing tables.

Behind the Cottage Store and Sharon's Sensory Garden, you'll find Wild Wings, a not-for-profit educational organization that houses and cares for permanently injured birds of prey. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day except Wednesday and Thursday. We didn't have time to stop by, but right now you can visit 21 birds of prey and a bobcat named Tara.

These are just a few highlights within Mendon Ponds Park; there are so many more. In the summer you can hike a trail, utilize their boat launch, or go fishing. In the winter you can go sledding, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing. There is even a Mendon Ponds Winterfest in January.

If you haven't already visited, pack up a lunch, print out the map, and go explore. Be sure to Post A Comment and let us know about your experience. As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend

YIKES! Only two more weekends until it's Back To School. That's right! Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to school they go. Don't let these fun opportunities to soak up the last bits of summer pass you by.


Story Time & Animal Friends
Friday, August 24 at 11 a.m.
1. Lollypop Farm, 99 Victor Road, Fairport, NY - come for the story, stay for the farm animal fun!
2. Wickham Farms, 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Line Road, Penfield, NY - story time, sandbox, farm animals, and playground are free; jumping pillow, batting cages, and mini golf fees apply.


3-D Technology Expo
Friday, August 24 - Sunday, August 26, 12 - 4 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Have fun exploring your creative side and learn about the latest 3-D imaging technologies. Use their new 3-D printer!

Fri., Aug. 24 - Mon., Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. (gates open at 8 a.m.; midway open until midnight)
New York State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse, NY
Food, rides, games, arts & crafts, antique tractors, entertainment, stunt shows, petting zoo, daily parade, Kiddieland (rides & games), Kids Celebration (interactive entertainment), music, butterfly garden, cheese & butter sculptures, and so much more! It's all at the Fair. Be sure to check the schedule before your visit.


Kids Day at the Buffalo Bills
Saturday, August 25 - Kids activities at 3:30 p.m.; game at 7 p.m.
Ralph Wilson Stadium, 1 Bills Drive, Orchard Park, NY
The Kids Day Game will feature youth-themed tailgating, an exclusive game-day giveaway, interactive games, face painting, Buffalo Jills Cheerleaders, Billy Buffalo, stage performances, and post-game fireworks. Tickets are $15 for ages 14 and under; $43 family section for ages 15+. See web site for parking information.

Fairport Music and Food Festival
Saturday, August 25 from 12 - 10 p.m.
Main Street & Lift Bridge Lane, Fairport, NY
Three stages of live music, tons of food, children's activities, crafts and more.  Tickets are $15; children 12 and under are free; proceeds benefit the Golisano Children's Hospital.

Trolley Rides
Sunday, August 26 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East Henrietta Road, West Henrietta, NY
Purchase your tickets, then explore the train cars, antique cars, fire truck, and the model trains in the museum. At your departure time, board the trolley and enjoy the 1-mile ride to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Explore the second museum before boarding for a ride back to the Museum of Transportation.


Whatever adventure this weekend holds for you and your family, I hope it's a great and memorable one. Enjoy! And as always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Rainbow of Recipes for Late-Summer Veggies

If you've read my blog before, you probably know how I feel about CSAs - Community Supported Agriculture (see here, here, here, and here). Every week it's like winning a lottery, a vegetable lottery. I never know what goodies are going home with me until my boys and I walk up to the sign-in table, canvas totes in hand, and get a first glimpse at the huge board listing the week's treasures.

This time around, it's all about the late-summer harvest. The time is quickly passing for leafy greens - so long, Swiss chard - and has made way for a whole rainbow of delicious vegetables. Check out our loot:

  • red peppers
  • tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • carrots
  • summer squash
  • leeks
  • tomatillos
  • green beans
  • scallions
  • okra
  • jalapeños
  • basil
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • zucchini
  • eggplant
  • purple basil
  • onions
So, what can we make? Let's see, let's see. I love the challenge of combining the veggies in my share with items I have on hand, mixing it up, creating new dishes. For this round, how about:

  • Frittata with red peppers, summer squash, leeks
  • Pizza Margherita (tomatoes, basil or purple basil) and tossed salad (cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, lettuce)
  • Tortellini with roasted cherry tomatoes and pesto sauce* (basil or purple basil)
  • Enchiladas with salsa verde (tomatillos) and guacamole (tomatoes, jalapeños, onions)
  • Eggplant Parmesan
  • Grilled peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and onions over quinoa
  • Carrot-Apple-Coconut Muffins
  • Green Beans Amandine as a side dish
  • Stir Fry (red peppers, carrots, summer squash, scallions)
There are links in the list above to recipes for the frittata, pizza, roasted tomatoes, pesto, salsa verde, guacamole, eggplant parm, grilled veggies, muffins, amandine, and the stir fry. Just click around to embark on deliciousness.

* If you make a big batch of pesto, pour the leftovers into an ice cube tray and freeze overnight. The next day, pop the cubes out into a freezer-safe ziptop bag or container and store in the freezer. You can add a cube or two to sauces or soups (excellent addition to minestrone!), or heat up a bunch over pasta one night for a quick dinner.

The one item I don't really care for is okra. I've tried it and I just don't like it. I decided to pick up a few anyway to try out a craft idea with the kids that I had seen in Kiwi magazine. Here is a link to a similar idea. By all means, feel free to make some Jambalaya with your okra, but I'll stick to painting with it.

Whether you belong to a CSA, frequent a farmers' market, or just want to stock up on in-season goodies at the grocery store, I hope these ideas inspire your culinary curiosity. Bon appetit! And as always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Messy Backyard Fun Day: Slime!

Do you feel as though you've taken your kids to the same places over and over this summer, and you're just itching for something new to break the monotony? Well maybe it's not that bad, but still new ideas are always welcome, right?

These past two weeks, we've actually gone to some ideas that have been around for ages, but they are new to my kids. The volcanoes and the shaving cream ideas have been done a million times before, and so has slime. But these activities were still novel to my boys.

To make Homemade Slime you'll need:

  • 1 tsp. Borax (found in the laundry aisle)
  • 1 1/4 c. water, divided
  • 4 oz. white or clear glue
  • food coloring
It took four stores before we found Borax. Two of the stores had a shelf tag for Borax, but were out of stock, one store just didn't carry it, and finally we found some at the Target in Penfield.
First, mix one teaspoon of Borax into 3/4 cup of water. Stir until dissolved and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the glue and 1/2 cup of water. Mix in a few drops of food coloring; my boys chose their favorite color: green.
Pour the Borax solution into the glue mixture and stir until it starts to solidify.
Keep stirring until you can scoop out the solids with your hands. There will be a lot of water leftover in the bowl, and it's time to get a little messy!
Start kneading the solids in your hands. It will start to become smooth and less watery...until it becomes slime!
Your slime is ready to go. Bounce it, shape it, stretch it, and have fun.
Why are you still reading? Go find some Borax and make slime! As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wickham Farms

In the fall of 2008, we had been in the Rochester, NY area for a little over a year and we wanted to take our son (then, not quite a year and a half) pumpkin picking. My ROCpoppa's co-worker recommended a place in Penfield called Wickham Farms, so we decided to check it out. Four years later, and we are now taking both of our sons there, year round.
Wickham Farms has become part of our regular rotation of family field trips. We can play a round of miniature golf, visit some farm animals, sit on a tractor, dig in a huge sandbox, bounce on the jumping pillow, climb on the playground, and get some ice cream. There are even batting cages, but I'm holding out a bit longer before they can try those out.

Tuesday is a great day to visit since miniature golf is $2 per player ($2 for TWO-sday; normally $5 per person), plus you get double punches on both the ice cream and the golf/jumping pillow frequent buyer cards. Not bad. There are other specials available too.
There are 18 holes on the mini golf course, and each one has a little obstacle to it. But they are all easy enough that the kids won't get frustrated. Along the way, you'll also pass the chickens and goats, which always provides some entertainment. Then the final hole looks like a chicken coop, which is kind of fun in itself.

After our 18 holes, the kids usually want to bounce on the jumping pillow for a bit ($5 each; if your child is under 5, you pay their age). Shoes must be removed, and I strongly recommend socks. The jumping pillow can get hot in the sun, and burn those little tootsies*. The nice thing about the jumping pillow is that you get a bracelet after paying, so the kids can go on and off as often as they'd like during your visit.

*UPDATE: If your kids are not wearing socks when you visit, and they'd like to try out the jumping pillow, you can purchase socks in a variety of sizes in the barn.

If you wander around a bit, you'll notice a cow that the kids can "milk" (it's just water, but it's still fun), a tractor to sit on, some photo-opp stands, and a bunny garden. There is also a playground with two climbing walls, two slides, a bridge, and more. The playground is available free of charge. Another freebie is the huge sandbox. We usually bring some pails, shovels, and trucks with us, or you can rent a tractor there for $2 each.
Inside is a cute shop where you can buy honey, cheese, pancake mix, syrup, salad dressing, salsa, spices, and random trinkets. Seasonally, they also sell plants and flowers. If you're hungry, their menu includes pizza, sandwiches, sweet potato fries, and ice cream.

During the fall, Wickham Farms also features a kiddie train ride, a corn maze, tractor ride, an "apple orchard" just for kids to pick, and a carved pumpkin display.

Wickham Farms is located at 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Point Road, Penfield, NY (right next to the Eastside YMCA). The entire farm is stroller-friendly, and the restroom inside the barn has a diaper changing table. There are two outhouses by the miniature golf course (with running water!), but they do not have diaper changing tables in either one. While there are lots of options on the menu, you may also bring your own food as long as you enjoy it outside the barn.

Next time you're looking for something to do with the kids, make your way to Penfield and give Wickham Farms a try. Don't forget to Post a Comment and let us know about your experience.

As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend

It's beginning to look a lot like back to school, but there's still time to squeeze the last drops out of summer! Ignore the school supplies in stores. Pin the school orientation flyer to your bulletin board and forget it for now. Pin the "out of the box" lunch ideas to your Pinterest board and focus on the fresh corn and watermelon that you want to eat right now. Get out to some fairs and festivals this weekend and enjoy the gorgeous weather...and the fact that it's still summer.


Story Time & Animal Friends
Friday, August 17 at 11 a.m.
1. Lollypop Farm, 99 Victor Road, Fairport, NY - come for the story, stay for the farm animal fun!
2. Wickham Farms, 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Line Road, Penfield, NY - story time, sandbox, farm animals, and playground are free; jumping pillow, batting cages, and mini golf fees apply.

Wayne County Fair 
Friday, August 17 - Saturday, August 18, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Wayne County Fairgrounds, 250 W. Jackson Street, Palmyra, NY
Free daily activities include horse wagon rides (parking lot), model train exhibit (Commercial Building), Home Arts Department exhibits, Wayne County Sheriff Operation Safe Child (child IDs), Hot Dog Pig Racing, and animal, flower, fruit, and vegetable exhibits. Check the schedule for other fun activities and entertainment. Tickets are $3-5; kids 5 and under are free.

Maze Preview Weekend
Friday, August 17 - Sunday, August 19 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Long Acre Farms, 1342 Eddy Road, Macedon, NY
Get a sneak peek at their corn maze before the grand opening on September 8th, and for every ticket purchased this weekend, receive a return pass for the fall. Barnbuster Tickets for the Maze & Back 40 are $10.50 for ages 5+ and $6.50 for ages 2-4. August 19 is also Sweet Corn Festival; free roasted sweet corn from 12 - 5 p.m.

Old-Time Fiddlers' Fair
Saturday, August 18 - Sunday, August 19, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, NY
This fair features continuous music with performances from more than 100 musicians on four stages. Enjoy the regular exhibits in this 19th Century country village as well. Regular admission rates apply; children 3 and under are free; free parking.

Renaissance Festival
Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19; 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
15385 Farden Road, Sterling, NY
Huzzah! This is the final weekend for food, entertainment, games, rides, and more in Merry Olde England (passports and time machine not required). Tickets required; children 5 and under are free. Parking is free; additional fees for rides and games ($1-3 each), as well as purchase of food and beverages.

3-D Technology Expo
Saturday, August 18 - Sunday, August 26, 12 - 4 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Have fun exploring your creative side and learn about the latest 3-D imaging technologies. Use their new 3-D printer!

Sunday, August 19 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East Henrietta Road, West Henrietta, NY
Featuring six operating diesels. Purchase your tickets, then explore the train cars, antique cars, fire truck, and the model trains in the museum. At your departure time, board the trolley and enjoy the 1-mile ride to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Explore the second museum before boarding for a ride back to the Museum of Transportation.


Enjoy your weekend, everyone! As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Messy Backyard Fun Day: Goop and Volcanoes

As summer pushes on, I continue to struggle with getting the kids outside to play since they would rather be inside building with Legos. My solution? Messy Backyard Fun Day (Or two. Or three.) If you read yesterday's post, you know that we had fun using shaving cream with cars and made a Toy Car Wash and then some Marbled Paper.

We also had fun making Goop and making Volcanoes...

To make Goop, you'll need:

  • cornstarch
  • water
  • food coloring
  • mixing bowl
  • plastic spoon
  • tablecloth for your work area

We poured half the box of cornstarch into the bowl, and added a little water at a time. The ratio is about two parts cornstarch to one part water. We also added a few drops of green food coloring (both of my boys' favorite color) and started stirring.
At first I thought we added too much water since it still looked very liquid. But then I scooped some up with a spoon and found that it would break into chunks with solid edges. And then ooze right back down into itself, just like a liquid.
See? Right back into a liquid.
Goop is definitely a bizarre substance. You can push your finger into it and it feels solid, until your finger starts sinking into it. It drips like a liquid, but pools into a solid. It's crazy stuff!!! The kids had fun testing which objects would sink into it. You can try a coin, flower, crayon, leaf, and anything else you can find that's age appropriate. Please just be sure that your kids don't eat the Goop; this is NOT a food recipe.

Once the novelty of the Goop wore off, we moved on to Volcanoes. You'll need:
  • vinegar (we used almost a whole gallon)
  • baking soda (we used 1 1/2 pounds)
  • food coloring
  • tall clear containers, such as the ones used for deli-counter salads
  • small cups (we had some styrofoam cups leftover from a party)

First we sprinkled some baking soda in each tall container. We poured vinegar and a few drops of food coloring into the cups.
Then the fun begins. Let your little mad scientist pour the colored vinegar into the tall container and watch it erupt!
After one round on the table, we quickly moved this activity to the grass because this one is MESSY! Once the reaction stops, you can pour out the liquid; some baking soda will remain at the bottom and can be used again. Simply pour more vinegar and food coloring into the smaller cup, and pour it into the tall container again.
When the baking soda is gone, just add more to the tall container, and keep going with the colored vinegar. The kids had so much fun mixing different colors to see what they would get (yes, you can teach art and science at the same time!), that we ended up erupting volcanoes until we had used up the entire gallon of vinegar!

Even though this was Messy Backyard Fun Day, the mess really wasn't bad at all. Some paper towels and baby wipes helped with the first round of volcanoes, but the rest of the mess stayed in the grass. We ended up keeping the Goop in an airtight container and the bowl washed clean very easily. A quick wipe of the tablecloth, and we were good to go. Clean up really was a snap.

I hope you and your kids have some messy fun this week! Stay tuned for one final Messy Backyard Fun Day adventure with homemade Slime and Fluffy Dough. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Messy Backyard Fun Day: Toy Car Wash & Marbled Paper

It seems that whenever my ROCpoppa travels for work, I end up wasting precious sleep-hours on the laptop. Last night, my focus was to fill up my Pinterest board "For the Kids." I found tons of inspiration and promptly took inventory of the supplies I had on hand to create Messy Backyard Fun Day - Part 1:

  • 1 gallon of vinegar
  • 1 box of assorted food coloring
  • plastic trays (I used the tops that sometimes come with foil lasagna pans)
  • large mixing bowl
  • plastic spoons and a plastic knife
  • plastic tablecloth
  • tall, clear containers (I used deli-salad containers)
  • disposable cups
  • plastic storage containers, various sizes (shoebox-size and larger)

And I made a grocery list of the other supplies we would need:

  • 2 pounds of baking soda
  • 2 pounds of cornstarch
  • 1 box of Borax (laundry aisle)
  • 3 cans of shaving cream (NOT gel)
  • 4 oz. Elmer's school glue
  •  white card stock or "paint and marker paper"
This morning we stopped at Target to pick up our supplies. We were successful, except for the Borax- which my kids now refer to as "Lorax." I found the shelf tag, but they were out. Afterward we went to Kmart and they were also out. We'll try Wegmans tomorrow and save the homemade slime for then.

Our first messy adventure was Cars in the Snow/Car Wash.
We grabbed a bunch of cars and filled two plastic trays with shaving cream. The boys had fun pushing the cars through "the snow"and just getting messy, in general.
Next it was time for the Car Wash! I filled up our water table and the boys cleaned the cars. Yes, I tricked them into cleaning up their mess and they had fun doing it.
Once the cars had all gone through the car wash, the boys were eager to start the next project. It started to rain, so we moved our project inside. Next up: Marbled Paper. 
We used the trays of "snow" from the cars and just refilled them. Then the boys took food coloring and dropped dots of color all over.
They used plastic spoons to swirl the colors and make patterns. When they were done swirling, I helped them place a piece of heavy white paper on top. The boys tapped it down and then I lifted it off and set it aside. You can actually get quite a few prints from each tray.
After the prints have been sitting for a minute or two, use the straight edge of the plastic knife (or a wooden craft stick, or anything similar you have handy) to scrape the shaving cream off. I scraped into a plastic bin, which I later cleaned; you could also scrape right into the sink. With all the foam gone, you're left with really beautiful marbled paper!
What to do with all that gorgeous paper? You could hang it up as is, frame a few for a cool art installment, use them as wrapping paper, make an awesome paper airplane, or even make some cards. If you have trouble getting the kids to make a birthday or thank you card when you actually need one, try stockpiling some when the opportunity arises (as in: right now). You'll need:

  • your new marbled paper
  • construction paper or card stock
  • paper trimmer or scissors
  • tape runner or glue stick

Simply cut the construction paper in half and then fold each half, so now the faces are one-quarter of the original size of the paper. Measure your card, then cut the marbled paper 1/4" shorter than each measurement. For example, the card measures 4.5"x6", so we cut the marbled paper to be 4.25"x5.75". I did the measuring and my five-year-old cut the paper with the paper trimmer. Then use a tape runner or glue stick to adhere the marbled paper to the solid paper. Voila! Your card is ready, or you can have the kids add stickers, craft feathers, buttons, pom poms, words cut from magazines, et cetera, to personalize the card.
If you're worried about clean up, don't be. I kept some paper towels and baby wipes handy, and as I mentioned, we used a plastic tablecloth to cover our work area. Shaving cream wipes and/or rinses so easily, that it was not a problem anywhere. I was sure the food coloring had stained all of our fingers, but one hand-washing left the kids with very light, faded colors. After doing the dishes once, all of the color is gone from my fingers. The containers all rinsed clean, and I wiped the tablecloth with a damp sponge. Done and done.

Enjoy these fun and messy ideas with your kids! Or grandkids. Or nieces and nephews. Stay tuned for our continuation of Messy Backyard Fun as we embark on adventures with Goop, Fluffy Dough, Slime, and Volcanoes! As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend

Whether your kids like animals, pirates, knights, music and art, Little House on the Prairie, or trains, there is something for everyone this weekend.


Story Time & Animal Friends
Friday, August 10 at 11 a.m.
1. Lollypop Farm, 99 Victor Road, Fairport, NY - come for the story, stay for the farm animal fun!
2. Wickham Farms, 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Line Road, Penfield, NY - story time, sandbox, farm animals, and playground are free; jumping pillow, batting cages, and mini golf fees apply.

Zoe's Birthday Party
Friday, August 10 from 5 - 8:30 p.m.
Long Acre Farms, 1342 Eddy Road, Macedon, NY
Zoe, the Chocolate Lab, is turning 5 and she wants you and your leashed dog(s) to come celebrate at her birthday party. No gifts please; instead make a donation to the Wayne County Humane Society. The party will feature extended Tasting Room hours until 8:30 p.m. with Waggin' Tail Red specials, release of 3 new wines, music from 6 - 8:30 p.m., free doggie cone with any ice cream shop purchase, free balloon for the kids, and the Mini Back 40 (jumping pillow, spider web, giant sandbox, mini maze, and climbing wall) is open until dark for $3 per person.

Palmyra Pirate Weekend
Friday, August 10 at dusk and Saturday, August 11 from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Palmyra Village Hall, 144 East Main Street, Palmyra, NY
Friday at dusk there will be free music and movie in Palmyra Village Park: The Goonies (PG). Saturday will feature a window painting contest on Main Street, canal boat tours, food, music, crafters, museum tours & pirate tales with Bloody Mary at Pirate's Cove, and the Pirate Kazoo Band & Pillage 'N the Village Bed Race Regatta (11 a.m., starting line near Village Park). Admission is free.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Days
Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 12, from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Genesee Country Village & Museum, 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, NY
Celebrate the pioneer days and learn about Laura's ties to Western NY. See a Victorian Ladies' Fashion Show, create a corn husk doll ($1), knead bread, churn butter, run sack races, and learn about the activities that a young Laura would have experienced. Two actresses from Little House on the Prairie will be signing autographs ; tickets myst be purchased in advance and include autographs from both actresses ($5 for autographs on an item purchased at the museum, $10 for autographs on an item brought from home). Regular admission rates apply.

Brockport Arts Festival
Saturday, August 11 from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Sunday, August 12 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Main Street, Brockport, NY
Kids activities include Happy the Clown, the Balloon Lady, Tae Kwon Do demonstration, toy top demonstration, music, jugglers, and a Pole-Bee demo (a crazy frisbee game). There will be a bake sale, wine garden, vintage car cruise-in, radio-controlled boat demo, sidewalk chalk art, farmers' market, duck derby, beard contest, and book signing with local authors. Check the web site for schedule, directions, and more.


Renaissance Festival
Saturdays and Sundays, now through August 19, 2012; 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
15385 Farden Road, Sterling, NY
Huzzah! Food, entertainment, games, rides, and more await in Merry Olde England (passports and time machine not required). Tickets required; children 5 and under are free. Parking is free; additional fees for rides and games ($1-3 each), as well as purchase of food and beverages.

Trolley Rides
Sunday, August 11 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East Henrietta Road, West Henrietta, NY
Purchase your tickets, then explore the train cars, antique cars, fire truck, and the model trains in the museum. At your departure time, board the trolley and enjoy the 1-mile ride to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Explore the second museum before boarding for a ride back to the Museum of Transportation.


Enjoy your weekend, everyone! As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

LEGO DUPLO Read & Build Party

Yesterday was non-stop fun at our house; we hosted a LEGO DUPLO Read & Build House Party. We had 12 kids and four adults over for some games, snacks, and an opportunity to enjoy a new LEGO DUPLO set.

About a year ago, I signed up for House Party. After registering (for free), you can apply for all sorts of parties: beauty products, food, beverages, crafts, toys, household products, video games, and more. They pick a certain number of applicants per party, and I happened to be selected for the LEGO DUPLO Read & Build Party. Yay!

Once selected, the party host uses the House Party web site to invite at least ten people. There is usually a pre-survey and a post-survey about the product, plus hosts need to post photos from the party afterward. And the best part is the free party pack.

This party pack contained:

  • Four LEGO DUPLO Read & Build - Busy Farm sets
  • LEGO DUPLO stickers and photo-frame magnets for all the kids
  • LEGO DUPLO brochures for the parents
  • LEGO DUPLO napkins and paper plates
  • A Busy Farm poster
Our party had a farm theme to go along with the Busy Farm set, and we began the festivities with a Chicken Egg Hunt. Some crazy chickens laid eggs all over the front yard, with bonus Hershey's Kisses inside! The kids had fun finding them all.
Next, we had a Horse Trot. We used two lacrosse sticks as the horses, formed two teams and galloped around for a while. The kids didn't really embrace the competition aspect - which is absolutely fine by me, and they had a blast just trotting and cheering for each other.
We kept the fun rolling with Pin the Hat on Farmer Ted. I turned the Busy Farm poster from the party pack into the game by tracing Farmer Ted's hat and cutting it out of construction paper. The younger kids were not fans of the blindfold, so they just closed their eyes instead.
Then we had the kids sit down for the unveiling of the LEGO DUPLO Read & Build Busy Farm set. We gave each child the pieces needed to complete one animal and then I read the book to them. The kids built their animal when we reached the appropriate page in the book. When it wasn't their turn to build, the kids had fun making animal noises; it was very cute. Moo!
The Busy Farm set includes blocks to build a rooster, pig, sheep, and a cow. I think the rooster was the popular favorite, but they really liked them all.
At lunchtime, the kids had Annie's Homegrown Bunny Pasta mac and cheese (in bunny and carrot shapes - perfect for the farm theme!), PB&J sandwiches cut into Lego shapes (I got the idea from another blog and used a small cookie scoop to press circles out of a piece of bread, and attached them with a dab of peanut butter), and watermelon slices. The grown-ups had strawberry salad (baby spinach, Romaine, sliced strawberries, and toasted cashews with balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette, or poppyseed dressing), toasted baguette slices with Brie, and zucchini squares. And of course, there was a LEGO DUPLO block for dessert:
I just used a boxed cake mix and poured four muffin cups two-thirds full of batter, then poured the rest into a 9x9 square pan. I frosted the square first, cut the tops off the cupcakes to make them flat before frosting, and setting on top of the square. It was yummy.

We had a range of ages (2-5, plus some older siblings), and everyone did well with their animals. These sets would make a great gift for a two-, three-, or four-year old boy or girl. Besides the Busy Farm, there is a Let's Go! Vroom! set and a Grow Caterpillar! Grow! set.

The LEGO DUPLO Read & Build web site has a fun Activity Guide for parents with additional ideas for playing with the sets, plus coloring pages for the kids. The site also has a link to download nine free kid-friendly songs that go along with the sets, called the "Duplo Jams."You can also visit the LEGO DUPLO Jams channel on iTunes.

While I was collecting ideas for this party, I started a Pinterest board with tons and tons of LEGO party ideas. My five-year-old has already requested a LEGO birthday party for next June, so they should come in handy next summer. Feel free to steal as many as you'd like!

Whether your kids like the bigger DUPLO blocks, or they have graduated to the LEGO bricks, I hope you found some fun ideas here. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Powder Mills Park Fish Hatchery

The first time we drove past Powder Mills Park, I was more interested in the "mushroom house" next to it. I took my son there specifically so I could get a better view of a home that looks like something straight out of the Ewok Village - Bright Tree Village on the Forest Moon of Endor, to be exact, for all you fanboys and fangirls out there. I love driving by and imagining what it would be like to actually live there.

Turns out the park is fun, too.
There are six pools holding tons and tons of trout at different ages. They are certainly not the prettiest fish, but they are still fun to watch. Bring quarters and a plastic cup or bag so you can buy fish food pellets from the dispensers at the park. When your kids throw the food into the water, the trout make a mad dash to get some. Caution: they splash, especially the big ones.
After we feed the fish, we usually stop by the two ponds. The first is next to the fish pools; there are usually some more trout in there as well as ducks and geese. (beware of goose feces as you walk around)
The second pond is across the park road. There are benches in the shade to enjoy the pond view, as well as a little dock for fishing or checking out the pond. My boys love to scare me by hanging over the railing on the dock. I hate being "that mom," you know, overly cautious. But at the same time, I do not want to have to jump into that pond. Ever. Gross.

Powder Mills Park Fish Hatchery is located at 115 Park Road in Pittsford, NY. There is a gazebo with picnic tables by the fish pools, so you can bring lunch or snacks. However, I have yet to find a restroom there. Thanks to my fellow ROCmomma Kim for providing the following information about the restrooms: They are located in the park office building adjacent to the six fish pools. Hours are limited to when the office is open.

Parking is free, and the park is stroller-friendly. If you have older children, there are some trails through the woods that can be fun. We started out on them once, but I quickly decided that we needed one adult per child at this stage, with a 2 1/2 and a 5 year old. When you walk back toward the parking lot, before crossing the bridge over the creek, follow the creek to the right into the woods and you'll see the worn trails. That part is definitely not stroller-friendly.

If you are looking for a low-key place to take the kids and get some fresh air, Powder Mills Park is a great place. If everyone still has energy to burn after visiting the Fish Hatchery, there are some other areas to stop along Park Road and visit more of Powder Mills Park.

Enjoy, and as always, thanks for reading.

Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Make Summer's Bounty Last Through Winter

Whether you pick up a CSA (community supported agriculture) share, frequent the farmers' market, or buy your produce at a grocery store, you may have wondered if it is possible to save and savor the harvest through the winter. Can I have fresh-picked shelling peas on Thanksgiving? Farm-fresh Swiss chard in December? Fresh green bean amandine in the new year?

The answer, for the most part, is: Yes.

After my last CSA pick-up, I came home with two sacks brimming with farm-fresh wonders only to realize that I couldn't possibly eat it all myself. My husband was away on a business trip that entire week, my fellow ROCmomma Julie - who splits my share - was away with her family for a week and a half, and my family was leaving that weekend to visit family for 10 days. Plus, I had taken my kids blueberry picking and, without any foresight, had come home with two giant buckets' worth of plump, juicy berries.

What in the world would I do with all this food?

After some quick searches on the Internet, I decided to freeze just about all of it. Of course, I had to make some blueberry crisp immediately.

Freezing does not require much equipment; it just requires some time. After the kids were asleep, I set up an assembly line in the kitchen:

  • On the stove: boil a large pot of water with a pasta insert 
  • In the sink: a large bowl filled with ice water, with a slightly smaller colander on top of the ice
  • On the counter: salad spinner (optional) or clean kitchen towels or paper towels; zip-top freezer storage bags and/or freezer-safe bowls; plus a Sharpie marker to label everything
  • In the freezer: more ice cubes, already popped out of the trays and into a bowl (for easy access)
GREEN AND/OR LEAFY VEGGIES
Most green and leafy vegetables require a little preparation. First, clean everything thoroughly, then trim and chop. Broccoli is one exception.

To prepare broccoli before freezing, first soak in a large pot filled with 1 gallon of water and 5 teaspoons of salt. Let the broccoli soak for 30 minutes, and then rinse well. This will eliminate any bugs that might have been hiding in the florets. (Yuck!)

Once your veggies are clean, trimmed, and chopped, you're ready to blanch them.

  1. Drop one type of vegetable into the boiling water. Leafy greens and smaller-cut veggies should boil for 2 minutes; green beans, broccoli, and larger-cut veggies for 3 minutes.
  2. When time is up, use the pasta insert to lift the veggies out of the boiling water, and pour into the colander that is in your sink. The ice water will stop the cooking process.
  3. Return the pasta insert to the pot on the stove. Once water returns to a boil, add the next veggie.
  4. Meanwhile, drain the first veggie by removing the colander from the ice bath. Shake out excess water and pat dry with clean kitchen towels or paper towels, or dry in a salad spinner (if you have one). 
  5. Pour the blanched and dried veggies into a freezer-safe bag or container and label with the marker. Note what it is and the date you are freezing it; most vegetables will keep for one year. If using zip-top bags, try to lay them as flat as possible, and stack them to save room in the freezer.
  6. Add more cubes to the ice bath, in preparation for the next veggie. Repeat the process until you've gone through all leafy and green vegetables.
OTHER VEGGIES
Vegetables such as onions, scallions, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, zucchini and summer squash can be cleaned, trimmed, chopped, and frozen while raw. However, they become soft once thawed. They are perfect in sautés, stir fries, stews, and casseroles...but not-so-great in salads or raw dishes. If you have extra time, I recommend sautéing or roasting them first, then cooling and freezing. This is by no means necessary, but it imparts a little extra flavor, and saves you time when you are ready to use them.

FRESH HERBS
Right now, our CSA farm's pick-your-own garden is overflowing with basil, purple basil, thyme, oregano, savory, cilantro, parsley, sage, marjoram, and lots of other herbs that I hadn't even heard of. I probably won't use thyme or sage until the fall (mmm...Pumpkin & Sage Balls!), but why not stock up now?

To prepare fresh herbs for their time in the freezer, first wash and dry (a salad spinner works well), then trim and chop. Fill the wells of an ice cube tray with the chopped herbs, then carefully add water to fill the tray. Cover with plastic wrap - unless you have trays with covers - and label with masking tape and a permanent marker. Once the cubes are frozen, they can be transferred to a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag.

When you're ready to use your herb-cubes, simply drop into your sauce, soup, skillet, et cetera. The flavor isn't quite the same as fresh, but it's way better than dried.

You can also make a batch of pesto, freeze it in ice cube trays, and store the cubes for up to a year.

BERRIES

Twenty cups of blueberries. That is the amount from one bucket of berries. And we picked two. (what was I thinking?!?)

For any fresh berries, you'll want a salad spinner (or a colander inside a larger bowl) in the sink, a bowl for the clean berries, a measuring cup, freezer-safe bowls or bags, and a permanent marker.

First, soak the berries in cold water using a salad spinner or a colander and large bowl. Then remove a handful at a time: for smaller berries such as blueberries, pick off the stems; for larger berries such as strawberries, hull them. Place them in the bowl for clean berries, and continue with the process until the salad spinner is empty.

Rinse the salad spinner or colander, and then use it to dry the cleaned berries. Next, use the measuring cup to keep track of the quantity of berries as you fill the container or bag. Label with the type of berry, quantity, and date. Noting the quantity will make it easier when you want to use them in a recipe later on. Frozen berries will keep for at least one year.


Hopefully, these tips and instructions have helped you. I know I'm looking forward to making the most out of this season's berries, herbs, and vegetables for months to come. As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Family Fun This Weekend

Watermelon, peaches, and organic treats...bowling, football, and jousting...animals...art...trains...so much to do, so little time. Here are just a few things to do this weekend.

National Watermelon Day
Friday, August 3 - all day
While there aren't any actual festivities to celebrate National Watermelon Day, mark the occasion at home by carving a Watermelon Shark! All you need is a watermelon, a sharp knife, a few blueberries, and some toothpicks. This link provides step by step instructions with photos to guide you. Impress your kids and enjoy a healthy snack.


Story Time & Animal Friends
Friday, August 3 at 11 a.m.
1. Lollypop Farm, 99 Victor Road, Fairport, NY - come for the story, stay for the farm animal fun!
2. Wickham Farms, 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Line Road, Penfield, NY - story time, sandbox, farm animals, and playground are free; jumping pillow, batting cages, and mini golf fees apply.


Free Summer Bowling for Kids
Now through September 3, 2012 - M-Th 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m. - 1 a.m., Sat. 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. - midnight
AMF Bowling Centers - 3 locations in Rochester, NY, plus Webster and Fairport
All kids under 16 can enjoy free bowling when parents get weekly coupons delivered to their email inbox. Visit http://freebowling.amf.com to register.

Celebrate Organic
Saturday, August 4 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Wegmans - all locations
Stop by stations throughout the store to sample Wegmans brand organic items. There will be coloring sheets and temporary tattoos for the kids, plus a coupon book for your family and a chance to win $50 worth of organic foods.

Kids Day at Bills Training Camp
Saturday, August 4 from 2 - 6 p.m.
St. John Fisher College, 3690 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Are you ready for some football?!? Kids Day will feature face painting, photo souvenir opportunities, games, and visits by Billy Buffalo and the Buffalo Jills. Team practice is from 3 - 5:30 p.m. Players will be signing autographs along the fence after practice, plus there will be a Kids Autograph Tent featuring Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Chris Kelsay. Admission is free; no tickets are required.

Park Ave Summer Arts Fest
Saturday, August 4 from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Sunday, August 5 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Park Avenue - from Alexander Street to Culver Road, Rochester, NY
Arts, crafts, music, food, and fun. Check the web site for directions, parking/shuttle information, and more.

Peach Celebration
Saturday, August 4 - Sunday, August 5 from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Brown's Berry Patch, 14264 Roosevelt Highway, Waterport, NY
It's peak season for peaches. Their country marketplace has freshly-picked peaches plus samples of peach products. Unfortunately, "pick your own" is not available for peaches. However, there is still plenty to do at Brown's Berry Patch.

Renaissance Festival
Saturdays and Sundays, now through August 19, 2012; 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
15385 Farden Road, Sterling, NY
Huzzah! Food, entertainment, games, rides, and more await in Merry Olde England (passports and time machine not required). Tickets required; children 5 and under are free. Parking is free; additional fees for rides and games ($1-3 each), as well as purchase of food and beverages.


Trolley Rides
Sunday, August 5 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East Henrietta Road, West Henrietta, NY
Purchase your tickets, then explore the train cars, antique cars, fire truck, and the model trains in the museum. At your departure time, board the trolley and enjoy the 1-mile ride to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Explore the second museum before boarding for a ride back to the Museum of Transportation. 

Have a great weekend!
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