Fall Festivities in New England

The Fall season in New England brings about a slew of requisite fun family activities.  Below are  my top five favorites not to be missed.

1. Apple Picking! To be honest my older kids kind of roll their eyes at this one, yet I drag them every year, and every year they love it once I get them there.  There a many places to apple pick in Rhode Island, my favorite is Narrow Lane Orchard in North Kingstown because they also have peaches when in season, and a beautiful (but short enough for the kids) nature trail around the orchard.   There is something about picking your own apples and then taking them home to make an apple pie.  I love giving my kids that farm to table experience whenever possible.  My pie recipe is super easy, and the kids love to help.  I buy ready- made Pillsbury pie Crusts, frankly, because I haven’t mastered the pie crust, and mine  have just never come out as good as the ready- made! For the filling:

8 apples cut up into chunks or slices

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 T cornstarch

3/4 t. cinnamon

1 t. vanilla

Mix it all together and bake at 350 until top is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hr.

2. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular! This takes place every October in R.I., this year it will run October 6th through 31st from 6pm to 10pm at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Similar events are spread throughout the area. In fact  Women’s Day magazine had a great article last year listing these displays around the country.  Thousands of pumpkins are carved, lit and lined up on a trail with music setting the mood to create an enchanting evening experience not to be missed. It is truly unique, and my whole family enjoys it.  I recommend going either on the early or late side to avoid a long wait in line, since this event is so popular.

 

 

3. The RISD sale. Don’t miss the fall student & alumni RISD sale held outdoors on Benefit street between Waterman and Hopkins streets in Providence. October 15th from 10am to 4pm. Be inspired by amazing creativity, meet the artists, and pick up distinctive art at affordable prices.  Also a great place to find gifts of Jewelry, textiles, ceramics, paintings or paper goods, for yourself or others.

4. Pumpkin Picking.  Yes, there is still a place where, like Charlie Brown, you can go to a real pumpkin patch and pick your own pumpkin off the vine. You don’t have to just buy it at the supermarket. (although admittedly, in this area with plentiful pumpkin crops, they can be much less expensive at supermarkets) For the experience, Spring Hill Sugar House is located at 522 Gardner Rd.in Richmond, RI, and is an 8 acre farm that produces it’s own maple syrup and apple cider . It also has a fantastic corn maze and pumkin patch that makes it the perfect fall day family outing. Be sure to bring your camera to capture all the great photo opportunities.

5. Leaf Collecting.  Remember as a kid picking out colorful leaves and bringing them home to iron between wax paper?  I had somehow forgotten to do this for a while, but the beauty of having children is rediscovering some of the simple pleasures we sometimes forget as adults.  Now we go on a leaf hunt, in our yard, the neighborhood, or on a trail, and bring home beautiful leaves.  I iron them between wax paper, punch two holes in the top, tie on a string, and hang them in the windows for pretty (and for me, nostalgic) home-made fall decorations.

 

The air is crisp, time to get cozy and enjoy the beauty of the Fall! What are some of your favorite fall activities?

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Preparing for Hurricane Irene

I think by now everyone is fully aware a hurricane is coming right up the Eastern Seaboard.  The 95 corridor could be in some trouble.  Things are still unclear as to what the impact will be with power outages predicted, flooding, damage to houses and roads, and issues with oil refineries.  As a precaution, I prepared tonight the best I could.

First of all, my family had plans to see our friends from Peoria, IL that we had not seen in three years!  Our kids are the same ages and same genders.  Our families just seem to line up perfectly.  We had been excited for the past few weeks to meet up with them in Long Island where they are vacationing.  We ended up being very lucky that we had booked the Long Island ferry out of New London, CT on Friday instead of on Saturday or Sunday.  We were JUST able to make our trip in to meet with them.  It was a great day of catching up, and we almost forgot about the looming storm.  Then reality hit once again as the streets of the small quaint town of Greenport, Long Island began to become more vacant, and t-shirts saying “Hurricane Irene Go Away” were hanging in the windows.  We tried to take the kids to the Maritime Museum, but no such luck.  It was closed for Hurricane Irene.  We also learned parking bans and possibly evacuations were taking place just hours after we were planning on leaving.  Luckily, we were able to get our ferry ride back to RI with moderate tides in time to plan for ourselves here in Rhode Island.  Ferry schedules are already being cancelled for this weekend.

So, home and preparing…….  I found Stop-N-Shop to be out of water completely, and I got the last decent loaf of bread.  I also went to Shell to fill up just to find signs on the pumps saying “OUT OF GAS!”  I guess people were here getting ready as we were having fun in Long Island.  We are prepared enough though.  We have food, water, and hopefully I can dig up a flashlight or two.  Two good things to remember: Fill up your tub with water (you can use it for the toilet for flushing if need be and cleaning things), and turn your refrigerator up to the highest level to help keep food longer when the power goes out.

Be safe everyone!  Prepare!  Evacuate if need be!  Take things seriously.

 

Kristin Wheeler

Dreaming of Nantucket

Thirteen years ago in a farmhouse in Madaket, Nantucket that coruscated with magical candlelight, we celebrated the wedding of our close friends Jeff and Lisa.    Between moves and babies, and budget, we had not been back to the enchanted island since.  This summer, when my husband and I convinced his Northern Virginia residing, Outer Banks loving,  family to vacation in New England, I knew we needed a plan.    Another friend, Linda, has been to Nantucket every year with her family, and gave me a list of her favorite things to do.  Each suggestion turned out to be better than the last, and her list quickly became our guidebook.

We rented a house in the Tom Nevers area that did not allow dogs.  But Nantucket is such a dog friendly island that we decided to board our dog there so that we could take him out to play during the week.  The Nantucket MSPCA where he stayed, is located just across from the gorgeous Tupancy  Links dog park, and close to dog friendly beaches where he could swim.  This worked out perfectly. Surprisingly, the cost would have been comparable had we boarded him back home.

Vacation began when we stepped on to the ferry,  since we brought our car we made reservations months in advance to secure a spot.  Our week was filled with incredible experiences, not the least of which was just relaxing in adirondack chairs with family,  but here are some recommendations to get you started if you go.

1. Our first night we celebrated my husband’s birthday at The Jetties restaurant, situated at the edge of Jetties Beach.  Live music complemented the delicious food, and my toes were dug in the powdery sand. Heaven. We washed dinner down with sangria full of fruit, which we took over to beach chairs when we were done with our meal.  The children played at the adjacent playground while we soaked in the fabulous setting.

2. ‘Sconsett is an idyllic village by the sea with cottages covered in flowering vines.   We spent the day at the beach, visited the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, and had an excellent dinner at the ‘Sconsett Café.

3. On your way to the beautiful beaches in Madaket, on the far west end of the island, you must stop at the dock near Second bridge, and spend some time catching snapping turtles with your kids. You will need to bring string and some chicken legs from the supermarket. To watch your kids dangle a chicken leg over the dock and pull up a big turtle is extraordinary!

4. On your way back into town stop and have lunch at Something Natural, for yummy sandwiches to be eaten outside at picnic benches in a park like setting. Tucked away at 50 Cliff Rd.

5. The Whaling Museum gives a great overview of the fascinating history of the island, and a few of us early risers took a walking tour around town that further detailed its rich historic past.

6. I think the highlight for us all was chartering a sailboat (the Endeavor) for an evening cruise. It was a spectacular setting, and a great way to view the harbor and the sound.

There were things we had wanted to do, but never got around to, like biking along the extensive paths that criss-crossed the island.  Of course we did manage to squeeze in some shopping at the fabulous boutiques, and have an exquisite grown up meal at The Pearl in town. We love having the opportunity to be all together as a family for a vacation every year, and cherish our time together. If anyone has recommendations for our next visit to Nantucket, please let me know, because after our fantastic experience there, I think we will be able to convince our mid-Atlantic family members to come back.

 

 

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(Video) Teaching Toddlers How to Swim

My daughter has gotten to the point where she loves the water; it took several days of taking her to the pool and getting her wet before she would actually jump in, but, now, she’s a pro!  Does anyone have any ideas on how to actually teach her how to swim, beyond having her take lessons?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rMeGnP3fFg

 

Decisions While Traveling…..Choose Your Path

I’ve been traveling throughout Ireland for the past week, and as a result of not going with a tour group I needed to make many decisions along the way.  The hardest thing for me was to decide which sites to see and what places to visit, since I was only visiting the country for a week.  It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the idea of what you “HAVE” to do versus what you feel like doing at the moment.  I spoke with friends who had traveled to Ireland, and I also read multiple guide books before the trip. Prior to the vacation, we decided where we would stay.  I had hotels booked and the flight, but that was the extent of it.  We had no idea how to get  anywhere after we got off the plane.  I was a bit nervous about that (since I usually like having a plan in place), but things worked out fine. We found our way around easy enough, and we ended up traveling by bus, taxi, plane, train, and automobile by the end of the trip.  People in Ireland are probably about the nicest, friendliest, and most helpful of any people I’ve come across in the world so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Buses around Dublin, Ireland)                          (Our AWESOME bus driver in Dublin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(My husband waiting for the train)                 (Our nice train-mates that walked us to our hotel)

Here are the two times during my trip that indecision had me the most flustered:

1.  The first was when we got to Cork, Ireland (about 1/3 of the way through our trip), and the receptionist told me it would be easier to rent a car than to take the train around like we had decided to do the night before.  Basically, I had it in my mind that we would not rent a car as a way to get around (due to traffic, driving on the wrong side, wheel on the wrong side, gas prices, getting lost, having to park, having to pay to park, and just the responsibility of having the car and having to return it at a certain time).  When the receptionist brought it up my first response was, “No, we are not driving here,” but then she persisted to state all the positives of renting a car.  My husband thought it might not be such a bad idea, but I was REALLY nervous about it.  We ended up getting it, which actually turned out to be a good idea.  We were not bound by bus and train schedules anymore, we could do things “off the beaten path,” and it made driving through the country somewhat of an adventure.  It did take me a good hour or so to be okay with the idea, but I bounced back.  We even made it to Kinsale and Blarney (to kiss the Blarney Stone).  Had we not rented a car, we would have chosen one or the other, as we wouldn’t have been able to do both.  It also made it possible for us to go in areas where the buses did not go (like places we stopped at along the Dingle Peninsula).

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Our rental car, a Nissan Micra)                                (The boats in Kinsale, Ireland)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The Blarney Castle)                                                    (Me kissing the Blarney Stone)

2.  The other situation where I struggled, was when I found out I couldn’t do everything there was to do in Killarney, Ireland in the allotted amount of time we were there.  I had heard and read that we NEEDED to do the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Dingle Peninsula.  After hearing how long it would take to get to each place, there was no way we could do all three (in fact, we could only choose one).  Everything you read from tourist information sites tells you the number one thing to do is the Ring of Kerry.  I felt like I should do it because of this, but I really didn’t want to spend my entire day on a bus with a group of people for an eight hour tour on narrow, windy roads.  I was conflicted about doing what I felt I “had” to do versus what I wanted to do.  Could I really come to Killarney and NOT do the Ring of Kerry?  After going back and forth about what to do, I finally decided not to do what everyone else at our B&B was doing, and we took our rental car and drove ourselves out to the Dingle Peninsula (the rental car came in handy).  It was beautiful, relaxing, and in the end an overall great decision.  I have had to come to grips with the fact that I didn’t do everything that I was “supposed” to do here, but glad with what we did decide to do.  Some things we did were the “touristy thing,” but others were not.  In the end, I’m glad we experienced a balance of both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Downtown Dingle, Ireland)                                     (Inch Strand, Dingle Peninsula)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula)                                  (My Hubby & Me at Slea Head)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Driving back – Irish Famine Houses)                    (Sheep on the hills on Dingle Peninsula)

(View from the roadways leading to Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula)

Overall, our 10-year anniversary trip to Ireland was a success.  We did many things that were suggested to us (museums, tours, pub crawls, etc.), but we were spontaneous and created an adventure for ourselves as well.  I wouldn’t change a thing from our trip, but we will definitely be coming back to Ireland in the future.  It’s such a beautiful place to visit, and there are many wonderful people here!!!  There are so many more towns to visit and sites to see!  I can’t wait until we return (with the kids next time!).  So whether you choose the path that most people take, or do something that others don’t usually do, just choose the path that’s right for you!

(Slainte!  Cheers to Ireland!)

*  What do you like to do when you travel?  Do you feel obligated to visit the touristy sites?

Kristin Wheeler

Touring New England With a Toddler

Mystic PizzaI don’t know about you, but I feel like the cost of everything lately is outrageously expensive.  Plane tickets? Forget it. Gas? It costs almost 100 bucks to fill up my Tahoe (which is, in part, is why we’ve become a one car family, at least for the time being). Date night (what’s that?) At least 100 dollars a pop. That’s why I was thrilled to find out Mystic Country, CT had so much to offer the entire family…and it’s just a short 45 minutes from our home in Rhode Island.  You could truly have a week’s staycation in the area and not run out of fun things to do.  Unfortunately, as I indicated here, we were in the process of moving, so I guess you can’t really call what we did a staycation.  We had been to Mystic once before, pre-baby, and I’m so glad we went back with Paige this time around,  before leaving New England.  However, because of our time constraints, and some meetings I had in Washington DC, we could only stay for a night.

On our way into town, we stopped in charming Mystic, CT and picked up a pizza to go at the famous Mystic Pizza. It’s a lovely spot, surrounded by quaint shops and friendly people.  We drove about another 10 minutes into Waterford, Ct, where our hotel was located.  On the agenda for our trip was The Dinosaur Place & Ocean Beach Park.   SpringHill Suites by Mariott was conveniently located near both, and was a great place for us to stay.  Bonus that the hotel had free wi-fi, a hearty breakfast, two plasma TVs AND an indoor pool and gym. They were kind enough to give us an early check in, so we could unload and head out to Ocean Beach Park.Fountain

 

Father & Daughter on beach

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Ocean Beach Park, was the white sandy beach.  Beautiful!  That, coupled with the long, winding boardwalk reminded me of the vacations I used to take to Florida as a kid. My daughter loved running up and down the boardwalk and squishing her toes in the sand.  Next, she made a beeline for the spray park.  We spent two hours getting soaked before heading to the snack bar.

baby at pool

 

There’s also nightly entertainment at the park, shops, a massive waterslide, olympic sized pool, and so much more!  It was roasting hot on this particular day and we were exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel early, grabbed our leftover pizza and salad out of our hotel fridge and called it a night!

The next morning, we had a hot breakfast (included in hotel stay) in the lobby, then headed for the dinosaur place.  I’ve gotta say dino place FAR EXCEEDED my expectations.  In my opinion, the prices are reasonable, especially considering you could literally spend all day here.  I think any child under 14 would enjoy this, with the ideal age probably being 3-10 year olds.  My daughter (17 mos.)  had an absolute blast and she’s not yet two.

Dino

Dino PlaceOutside, kids can explore prehistoric nature trails and encounter life-sized dinosaurs, navigate their way through a huge maze, or have some fun in New England’s largest Splashpad. Dino Place SplashpadBaby at Splashpad Inside, they can take part in a fossil dig, select a geode and be the first to see the inside of something millions of years old, or pan for gold in an indoor stream.  There’s also a large toy shop, bead shop, jewelry shop & mineral & fossil shop!

We were so sad we had to leave and couldn’t spend the entire day there (which you could easily do), but we are doing a huge road trip and we didn’t want to leave all our belongings in the hitch basket attached to our car.  The hotel was already kind enough to extend our checkout; I knew it had a busy week and I wanted to give the cleaning crew ample time to get the room situated for the next guests.

If you live in New England, and you are itching to get away, but want to stay close to home, you should definitely check out all that Mystic Country has to offer.

 

Disclosure: In order to facilitate this review, portions of my trip were comped.

VIDEO Diary Day 5: Bloopers & Reuniting With Old Friends

I have been so excited for this day.  We drove from DC to Richmond, where  we are staying  for a bit with a very good friend of mine that I met at my first television station in Sherman, TX.  Back then, it was the only station in the country to be three affiliates; ABC, NBC & FOX.  I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but that was the case.  Now, it’s simply the NBC affiliate.  Tracy and I had so many good times together.  I saw her through several boyfriends, was in her wedding  five years land several moves later, and now we both have families.  In 1998, when Tracy and I met, I was the only one of my friends married, so my husband and I would often “host” the holidays at our house. Rather, it was an apartment that my husband and I shared with a roommate because we were so broke.  She, too, has become a life-long friend and the memories of those days in the sweltering Texas heat, I will forever cherish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOj21ulLPo8

VIDEO Diary Day 4 (Relaxing DC Style)

Today was a wonderful day.  Relaxing…and just what the doctor ordered!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZONGXOMwbQ8

VIDEO Diary Day 3: My Baby Locked Herself in the Running Car!

DRAMA.  What would a road trip be without a screaming toddler locking herself in your running car?  That’s right, I get the mom of the year award for this one.  As if tensions weren’t already at an all time high, this pretty much sealed it and truly made for a lovely NINE hour car ride to DC. ; )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVCaKhBvSg8

Video Diary Day 1 (Leaving Rhode Island)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZS6Oo8SZ30

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