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Thursday, 10 November 2011 22:25

Outside Every Day November 10th, 2011 - Let It Rain

Written by Courtney
Nov10-B
It must be a week for 70's songs.  Today's Soundtrack?  Eric Clapton's "Let It Rain".  Yes, the song is a metaphor for love and we're talking literal rain here today, but a good song nonetheless.  I usually gravitate toward natural habitats when we go out and play in the rain, but today we stopped by a new (to us) playground that is covered in ride on toys and the boys loved it.  We also happened to have sidewalk chalk in the car, so we did some drawing and played a game where I wrote a word and my son would read it and then do what I wrote.  For example: dig, jump, hop, ride, pedal, etc.  The best games are the ones you make up on the fly!
Nov10-A
Nov10-C
Nov9-1

It was a glorious day in Boston, where I found myself downtown and without kids.  So I decided to take the long way home.  I literally had Supertramp's "Take the Long Way Home" playing in my head the whole time as I wandered along, passing some of my favorite spots in the city.  It's important to get the kids outside, but it's just as important for us.  Strolling through the city, especially on a day like today, is just as invigorating and mind clearing for me as a hike.  If you're not on a schedule I really see no downside to taking the long way!
As for the kids...we met up with outdoor playgroup after school today for a walk and and some boulder climbing.  We're losing our light early now, so that's the current battle for us.  We had a great turnout- it was fun to meet some new friends!
Nov9-2
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 19:10

Outside Every Day

Written by Courtney

Nov8-3

As we were gearing up for the school year I made a very official looking Excel spreadsheet weekly schedule for us to have as a touchstone.  We don't follow it to the letter, but it's good to have for those days when you feel like you need a little structure.  On the calendar I blocked off two hours every day for outdoor play.  Now, we don't meet this quota every day because things do come up- sickness, extreme weather, needing to cook or bake for some event or other, and we have other commitments- preschool, swim lessons, excercise time for mom!  However, most days we get outside for a nice chunk of outside play.  As motivation for me (and hopefully for you, too) I am going to post our every day outdoor excursions.  This is an interesting time of year in New England for weather and we've yet to see what the winter has in store, but we'll try our best to get out!

Today we went to a local park for a bike/scooter ride.  It's beautiful today.  The leaves have changed color and it is so warm you can go out in a t-shirt.  We rode the loop all the way around the pond and then had a picnic lunch before school.

 

Balaclava

This time of year we're pulling out all of our cold weather gear and sorting through.  What still fits?  What do we hand down to little brother?  What do we need to buy?  As we headed outside this morning I had to dig out one of our essential pieces of cold weather clothing- balaclavas.  What is a balaclava??  It's a fancy name for something you've probably seen before.  It's a hat that covers your head and neck, which is especially great for little kids.  When our kids wear theirs we are often asked about them.  Here are some varations on the balaclava and where to buy them:

Polarn O. Pyret fleece balaclava:

http://www.polarnopyretusa.com/index/page/product/product_id/2925/category_id/531/product_name/FLEECE+BALACLAVA+%28CHILD%29

66 North Iceland fleece balaclava:

http://www.66north.com/us/shop/pc-504-456-odinn-childrens-balaclava-wreflect.aspx

Janus wool balaclava:

These are very thin so they're great under bike or ski helmets.  They are a Norwegian company but some of their merchandise is available in the US through Skandikids (unless you have awesome relatives from Iceland who will bring them to you like I do!):

http://skandikids.com/janus-hood-hat

Buff:

Another great thing to have on hand is a Buff.  These can be turned into a balaclava or other types of hats if needed.  Adult and child sizes are available- I have three of them and am wearing one as I type right now because it made a great covering for my ears under my bike helme this morning!

http://www.buffusa.com/

 

Have fun getting your winter stash prepared.

 

 

Friday, 04 November 2011 04:24

Every Day a Play Day Challenge

Written by Courtney

We have planned an outdoor playgroup meetup for every day of the week during Nov. 14-18th in honor of the Active Kids Club "Every Day a Play Day Week".  The challenge goes through November 19th, so plan another outdoor adventure with your family for that Saturday and let us know what you did.  As always, we will meet no matter what the weather, except in extreme cases: blizzard, heavy rain and if the temperature on weather.com "feels like" lower than 20 degrees in the area where the meetup is taking place.

As the weather gets colder it can be hard to stay motivated to get outside.  Pull out those winter clothes and get ready!

Monday: Hollis Playground at 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Hingham Playground at 10:00 a.m.

Wednesday: Webb State Park at 3:30

Thursday: My backyard! at 3:30

Friday: Esker Park Playground at 10:00 a.m.

RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/south-shore-playgroup-massachusetts/

Thursday, 22 September 2011 02:09

Boston Area Rainy Day Challenge!

Written by Courtney

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RAINY DAY CHALLENGE:

Everyone on the South Shore is talking about the rainy streak that we're in for during the next week.  The forecast says that six out of the next seven days will have rain.  So, I challenge you to play in the rain with your children at least one day this week- then leave a comment here and let us know what you did.  Temperatures are supposed to be fairly mild, so get that rain gear on and get out there- or just get wet if it's warm enough!

On another note, outdoor playgroup is off to a great start this fall.  It was nice to see everybody at the park today- we had a total of 20 people attend.  What a beautiful day to be outside.  Meet us next Wednesday at the Norris Reservation in Norwell:

 

http://www.meetup.com/south-shore-playgroup-massachusetts/events/34241912/

Friday, 16 September 2011 05:28

Not allowed to ride bikes to school?

Written by Courtney
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Two of my friends have children who have just entered kindergarten at our local elementary school.  I learned from them today that the school has a policy disallowing children to ride bikes, scooters, skateboards or the like to school, even when accompanied by a parent.  I was shocked that such a policy could exist.  At the last school where I worked (private, not in our town) kids would ride their bikes and scooters or walk with their parents to school and then they'd leave their bikes, etc., at school and ride them home at the end of the day.  I did some research and apparently our town isn't too bad off because some towns don't even let you walk to school.
Our town only provides free transportation to children who live within a two mile radius of their school, so if you live within the two mile radius you need to pay for the bus or your parents need to get you to school somehow and the overwhelming majority of children live within two miles of their elementary school in this area.  I don't believe that the middle schools and high school are covered by such a policy, but haven't looked into it yet.
Here is an article about a boy and his mom who shunned his school's policy by riding to school:
One of my friends is getting around it by biking to school and the parking bikes in the park across the street from the school.  Why should parents have to "sneak around" to bike their kids to school?  We live within a mile of the school and I would want to be able to ride my son to school at least some of the time.
What is your school's policy?

Isthmus

We love to travel.  By age two our oldest son had been to Norway once, Iceland twice and to Virginia, Washington D.C., Florida, Vermont, Seattle and Portland amongst other trips.Naturally, while we are on vacation we love to take advantage of the outdoors- hiking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, going to the beach and scenic car rides.The fact that we are now toting two little ones (two and four years old) with us has not really slowed us down, but it has just changed the focus of our trips.

Austin-Lehman Adventures is a tour operator that specializes in adult and family outdoor, active vacations.  Take a look at the locations and itineraries that they offer- amazing!

Family adventures: http://www.austinlehman.com/family-adventures-pages-190.php

Active vacations: http://www.austinlehman.com/active-vacations-pages-516.php

Europe bike tours: http://www.austinlehman.com/europe-bike-tours-trips-75.php

We were invited by them to take the Austin-Lehman Family challenge- which means they sponsored us to have an active day with our family- what could be better?

Our original plan was to go kayaking to a nearby island to explore and place a letterbox (see my last post: http://www.activekidsclub.com/blog/letterboxing-101.html).  However, our plans were thwarted by predicted thunderstorms preceding hurricane Irene. It would have been the first time out on the water with all four of us together and we didn’t want to take a chance- always make sure to check the tides and weather before you go out on the water for safety reasons.

Forest

So we headed out early to World’s End which is a beautiful park run by the Trustees of Reservations.  Admission is $5 for adults and children are free.  It's a peninsula that juts out into Boston Harbor.  In the 1880’s it was slated to be a large subdivision, so four miles of carriage roads were made which are lined by beautiful large trees. The houses were never built (I would have loved to live there!), but now it remains as a park to be enjoyed by the public.

We set off into the park, crossing the newly rebuilt bridge and heading up the first drumlin.  This is a great place to go with little ones because the trails are so wide- just watch out for the poison ivy because it’s everywhere.We usually end up spending a lot of time here because we enjoy it so much we hike a long way in and then it’s an even longer way out with a 2 and 4 year old, but our kids can handle it.  Sometimes they hitch a ride…

Backpack

Along the way my son can’t resist making his usual nature art projects- this one being a sword made out of sticks and grass.

Sword

World’s End has a truly unique shape.  It is four drumlins (hills) that are connected by a tiny isthmus called “The Bar”.  My husband likes to kayak to The Bar from a local beach and then carry his kayak over land and continue on the other side!  You can kind of see this in the picture at the very top of this post, but it's hard to get a good view of it in spring and summer when there are leaves on the trees.  After the first two drumlins we arrived at The Bar.The kids wanted to play amongst the rocks and water- one of their favorite things to do- and do a bit of swimming.  It was a hazy day due to the weather, but if you look closely in the first picture you can see the Boston skyline.

Swim Rock

Another art project- rock snake!

Snake

In preparation for the trip we bought letterboxing supplies and created this box:

Letterbox

 

We also found clues for a letterbox hidden on World’s End in a tree on some sandy cliffs.  I think it was hidden several years ago and unfortunately the land had eroded so much that there was no way we could reach it with the kids, so we sent dad to go find it!  He made the treacherous climb and looked into the hollow tree, but, alas, no letterbox was to be found.  I didn’t get a picture of him out there- I think I was too nervous at the time!  That’s okay- we’ll hide our own.And we’ll find a better tree for it.

Letterbox_Tree HiddenLetterbox

 

We hid our box in a tree along the carriage path that leads up from The Bar.  It had a nice, big hole in it that was begging for a letterbox to be put inside.  I had to put it in because the area was covered in poison ivy and I didn’t want two itching little boys.

After we planted the letterbox it was time to get these tired, hungry boys back for some lunch.  The little guy fell asleep before we could get to our destination, so we just picked up lunch and had it at home…it’s all about flexibility with these guys! A 2.5 mile hike will tire them out in no time.  The rain started shortly thereafter so we had to batten down the hatches for Irene.

Spikey

As they get older I dream of taking them on more challenging adventures (white water rafting, anyone?).  Looking at the Austin-Lehman website I would love to go on every one of their trips!  However, my husband and I have always talked about going to Yellowstone.  We’ve never been there and we’d love for the kids to experience it as well.  After our experiences with geothermal activity in Iceland I’m especially curious about it.  When we do go, we want to try everything the park has to offer and an Austin Lehman trip would definitely do that for us.  I like the idea of having everything planned and having a guide to help along the way- I’d want to make the most of our time out there!

We will make it there, and when we do I will tell you all about it!

Check out Austin-Lehman Adventures at http://www.austinlehman.com/

And World’s End at http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/greater-boston/worlds-end.html

And if you'd like to find our letterbox, I will be posting clues on www.letterboxing.org.

 

Friday, 17 June 2011 02:49

Outdoor Playgroup Time Change

Written by Courtney

Hi everyone,

 

I just wanted to let you know that the time of our "regular" outdoor playgroup meetings have changed.  We will be meeting at the Hollis playground in Braintree on Fridays at 10 a.m. through July 29th.  Pam will be the contact person there and she has two daughters and a Joovy sit and stand stroller so you can spot her.  We will also have many other outdoor adventures going this summer, including an upcoming trip to Davis Farmland in Sterling on Wednesday, July 6th to visit the animals and play in their splash pad water area!

 

https://www.davisfarmland.com/farmland/index.html

 

Join our meetup group to find out the details about every event:

 

http://www.meetup.com/south-shore-playgroup-massachusetts/

 

Hope to see you there!

 

 

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 01:47

Thermos Lunch - "Healthier" Macaroni and Cheese

Written by Courtney
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As we sit here and gorge ourselves on macaroni and cheese,  I thought I would share my recipe.  This is one of our favorite things to pack in a thermos for an outdoor lunch when it's cold out, and though the warmer weather has begun- who doesn't like macaroni and cheese at any time of year?  It's been a long and winding road to my "perfect" recipe.  My requirements for the perfect recipe?  Using lower fat ingredients- i.e. no heavy cream, but still keeping the integrity of a homemade macaroni and cheese- whole grains, and vegetables.  I tweaked a recipe I liked and here is the result.

My usual "quick" way:

Ingredients

  1. 3/4 cup dry panko bread crumbs
  2. 2 tablespoons melted butter
  3. 8-10 ounces whole wheat or multigrain macaroni (depending on how cheesy you want it) - I prefer rotini because the kids can spear it with a fork
  4. 2 tablespoons butter
  5. 1-2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  8. 1 1/2 cups milk (I use 1%)
  9. 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  10. 1/2 cup carrots (or more)
  11.  

     

    Directions

    1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 glass baking dish or 2 quart casserole- depending on baking method (see step number 8). Place the breadcrumbs into a small bowl and mix well with the melted butter; set aside.

    2.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain, then place into a large bowl.

    3.  While the pasta is cooking, steam the carrots in a small pot.

    4.  In another saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, pepper, salt, and dry mustard until incorporated, then pour in the milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring constantly until the milk has thickened.

    5.  Take the milk off of the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese until melted.

    6.  Put steamed carrots and about a cup of the cheese sauce into a food processor (I use my “Magic Bullet”) and puree until totally smooth.

    7.  Add the carrot cheese mix back to the rest of the cheese sauce and stir until incorporated.  Pour over the macaroni and stir until evenly coated.

    8.  Pour macaroni and cheese into the baking dish, then sprinkle evenly with buttered breadcrumbs.  Switch oven to broil and broil until the top is golden.  If you have more time, put it in a 2 quart casserole, leave the oven on bake and then bake until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

     

    Variations:

    Quick, quick, quick version- omit breadcrumbs and carrots and don't bake at all

    Omit carrots

    Use even more carrots (if you can get away with it!)

    If your kids don't mind vegetables they can see, add peas to the cheese sauce, or chopped fresh spinach

    Cook ½ cup of onion in the butter before adding flour, etc.

    Substitute some of the cheddar with another type of cheese

     

    Enjoy!

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