Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Great Handmade Valentines

I thought I would post some great Valentine printables nice and early. I found a lot of super cute Valentines for children and adults- unfortunately, Ariana's school does not let the kids give out Valentines (grrrr- please take every bit of fun out of school dear public school system), but I will give her a few for her close friends and neighbors.

Tip Junkie created an adorable Valentine to hold Smarties...

Motherhood Your Way has some great treat bag Valentines.

Thirty Handmade Days has some adorable handmade book markers:

I love these owl cards by Smitten Blogs Designs:

The Rubber Punkin has some very simple mini cards that might even be used in your honey buns lunchbox for a few days.
I love the simplicity of this card from The Long Thread:
If you like vintage, the RuffledBlog has a sweet Valentine:
Bunny Cakes has a great classroom Valentine that you can download for free or pay $3.50 to have her send you a personalized PDF:
She also has the greatest 'Love is All You Need' cards:
Ambrosia girl has some great Moulin Rouge-inspired cards:
Skip to My Lou has a great lollipop holder (do any schools allow that anymore?):
The NewNew Blog has a great printable for your own love-inspired Mad Libs book:
Secret Agent Josephine has some very simple cards for the youngest loves: I love these seed packets and tea gift packs from Tricia Rennea (I was in Lowes today and they already have their spring seeds out, so this is perfect!): Printing your own Valentines is a great way to keep things simple and reduce waste- simply print only what you need. It also gives your children the option to customize different sentiments for different friends.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fun Friday Roundup

First up, activities for this weekend around the state:
Zumba with Cheryl, in Portsmouth Saturday and Sunday at 10:15

Sunday, Check out D Acres in Dorchester, NH for a Farm Feast Breakfast and then cross country ski or snowshoe their open trains.

Candlelight snowshoeing every Saturday night at America's Stonehenge.

Today from 11-1pm in Salem- take your kids to the Kidgits Carnival.

Sunday from 10-4 in Manchester, go see the Reptile Expo!

See a performance of The Wild Swans in Plymouth all weekend. A wonderful show for young children.

Amazing deals for families:
A fantastic Playtime program for children ages 3 and under on the seacoast. SO affordable.

Did you know that you can bring report cards into Smitty's and children will get a $5 gift card for good grades!

Play has begun a family fitness membership which includes fitness classes for the parents with FREE babysitting!

$25 for a $50 gift card for Leda Lanes in Nashua.

5 visits to PLAY in Lee for $19.

In the North Country, you have until February 3rd to enter for this great giveaway from Mallory Party Photography.

And the rest:
Mark your family calendar - popular children's musician Steve Blunt returns to the Concord Public Library on Fri. 3/2, 2pm for a free family show.

Tuesday, January 31, The Stinky Cheese Man is performed at the Capitol Center for the Arts.

Some great fun for the kids pinned on my Pinterest.

Time to start planning for February break! Villaris Martial Arts has some great camps around the state.

Thursday, February 9, Girls Night Out in Concord.

Did you know that You're Fired in Bedford, Concord, Nashua and Salem offer ladies nights from 5-9 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Bring your wine and paint some nice pottery (make something nice for Valentines Day) and take a breather from the children.

PLAY! is offering our first family movie night on February 17th from 5pm to 7:30pm. Theme and movie to be announced...it will be a fun event for everyone, including, pizza, movie themed snacks and decorations, and a great movie! Reservations will be required for this event and will be taken starting February 1st!

February 10, Family Fun Friday at the YMCA in Concord. Swimming, rock wall climbing... games and activities! A whole family for $15 (Including dinner!!!! What a great way to spend time with the family!

Thomas the Train train ride tickets are already on sale for this summer!

Check out this children museum in Conway.

Nashua, February 25, Lil' Iguana's Family Fun Day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Very Best Experience Gift.... EVER! (Part Deux)

Yesterday, I gave you the best experience gift idea ever. After sharing my cheap dates, I promised to give you some ideas for more expensive options. They might include (but are not limited to)...

Standard date options:
• Get a regular old Regal movie theater gift card, or step it up a notch to a nice local theater (in Concord we have the Red River Theatre that show great independent films.)
• A gift card to you favorite restaurant for dinner (or breakfast or lunch)
• Gift card to a local performance arts center (This is where I got tickets to see a comedian at the Capital Center for the Arts... the performances can vary widely.)
• Gift certificate to a local paint your own pottery studio.

A little more adventurous:
• Snow tubing.
• Gift certificate to get a nice photo together. Most of us get pro photos of our children but neglect to get great photos of us with our significant others.
• Sign up to take an art class together.
Train ride to highest peak in New England.

Honestly, I could go on forever... there is so much fun stuff to discover here in NH. I have linked to things close to me in Concord, but you should use Google to find venues closer to your own area.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Very Best Experience Gift.... EVER!

You really should bookmark this post (or Pin it, Or Stumble it...just make sure you can get back to it) because it is one of the best ideas I have ever had (and one of the best gifts I have ever given... you, know, besides life.)

What does the best gift in the world look like?

"That's it?"- you say. Yup. all wrapped up in a cute little book.... One Year of Dates.

I thought of this present for Christmas for my husband and started putting it together in October. Some dates are free:

Some were dates I actually purchased gift cards or gift certificates for:

It was fairly simple to put together. I grabbed a business card folio from Staples, as it would hold gift cards very nicely. I then joined every deal site in NH so that I could get some nice dates for cheap. This deal sites very often have restaurants, spas and adventures activities offered for at least 50% off for gift cards. With starting in October, I was able to take time to find some great dates at great prices. Some of my ideas were:

An indoor rock climbing adventure
A night out for sushi
A night at a local restaurant for dinner
Movie night
A night at a local theater to see a comedian.

...and many more free dates like a camping trip, a hiking trip, and an afternoon of snowshoeing.

I bring this idea up now because it was be sooo great for Valentines Day. Seriously. The recipient will think you are the best! It also makes a great birthday gift. You can even alter it for children. My daughters would love to get a year of dates with Mommy and Daddy. You can also make it a month of dates (one a week) a week of dates (one every night!) Really, you can be very creative and alter to suit the recipient.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

Cheap or free dates:
• A free outdoor concert or festival.
• Picnic under the stars.
• The great cookie hunt. (Go from bakery to bakery in town trying 1 cookie per stop and finding the very best cookie in town.)
• Walk down Main Street. Stop on each bench and sit for a few minutes and people watch. This is always good for a belly laugh.
• Camping trip or hiking trip.
• Photo adventure. Each person takes a camera and go some where you've never been. It can be urban, rural... anywhere. Model for eachother (that's always funny) try to take a lot of photos all from different vantage points.
• Act like art critics. Go to a local gallery or open house and critique the art together.
• Window shop... but make it interesting like heading down Route #4 (Antique Alley) and visit all of the amazing antique shops. You never know, you might find a treasure for near pennies and will really have a fun imaging where all those antiques have come from.)
• Camp in your backyard. Pitch the tent, start a fire, bring the marshmallows and cuddle under the starts
• Spend a day at the beach. Nothing says romance like a day of relaxation.
• After the kids go to bed, create a dinner on your back deck with candle light and all. (Feel free to even get late night dinner delivered so you can really relax and enjoy eachothers company.)
• Sing along. Either go to karaoke or play some Rock Band right in your won house. Letting loose and watching eachother belt out cheesey tunes is always good for a laugh.
• Cross country ski, snowshoe or ice skate together. If you don't have equipment, places like EMS typically rent these type of supplies... as well as your local Park and Rec department.
• Grab a coffee and go for a long drive. Pick out your favorite neighborhoods or houses. Or visit your hometown and recount stories as you pass by places remembered.

That is just a very small list... your imagination is the limit. But, your loved one will be so touched if you take the time to put the thought and effort in to create this wonderful gift.

Tomorrow, I will help you with some of the tad more expensive date ideas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Use Your Google Reader to Read Your Favorite Blogs

(This is a tutorial from my personal blog as I thought my new readers here could use this useful information as well.)

Ok, I know that 95% of people who read this are quite adept at the internet and savvy using a reader or iGoogle. But this is a tutorial for my mom the other 5%. I realized when I inadvertently removed a friend from my blogroll and my mom someone said "I can't read XYZ blog anymore since you took the link off your blog" that there might still be people out there who don't use a reader. Maybe my mom people don't even know they exist.

Let me enlighten you. There is a way to gather all of the blogs that you like to read in one place so that you can read them all at once without navigating tons of blog pages... similar to reading a magazine. I use Google Reader. I also use iGoogle, which puts my Google Reader, Gmail inbox, calendar and other gadgets all on one page. This saves me clicking link after link every morning to read all my fave blogs, email and agenda for the day. The following is my first attempt at a tutorial. It will walk you through the steps to set up an iGoogle page complete with a Google reader.

Go to iGoogle. You should see a page something like this: Click on the 'Get Started' which should bring you here:
Choose your appropriate town, theme or interest and then click the "See your page" button.

You should get something that looks like this:

If you have a Gmail account, take this opportunity to sign in by clicking where I have put the red arrow. This will enable you to have your Gmail viewable every time you open your iGoogle. And then move on to the 'Add Stuff' button where I have the purple arrow.

This is where you will be able to add a Google Reader gadget. Type 'reader' into the search bar here where I have put the red arrow:

Your search will bring this up: Click on the Google Reader where I have put the red arrow.

That will add a Google Reader gadget to your iGoogle homepage. Here is what mine looks like:

It is slightly different than yours since I have used the drag and drop feature to move my Google Reader and Gmail gadgets to the top of my page. If you then click on the 'Google Reader' tab, it will open Google Reader for you, which looks like this:

It will open up with a truncated version of all the articles/posts. If you click on the 'All Items' bold header, it will give you the full posts (if the writer provides full posts in the reader.) Like this: You are now able to just scroll down and read the newest posts from all your favorite blogs in one place, similar to reading a newspaper. If you want to go to the blog, just click on the bold name of the blog in the reader.

But wait. How the heck do I get blogs into my reader in the first place??? Well, when you are reading a blog that you like, look for a symbol like this: Click on it and it will bring up a choice of readers for you to add it to. In this case, you would want to choose the Google Reader. Most Blogger (or Blogspot) blogs have a subscribe button near the very bottom of the blog. Scroll down and you will see this:

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

There is no icon, just the text. Click on the text and it will again bring you to the subscribe option.

There you have it. If anyone does try this, please let me know if I got all the steps right or if I missed anything.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fun Friday Roundup

Let's just run a recap of this weeks Facebook updates... I will include links of things to do PLUS some great deals that I have come across...

First up, activities for this weekend around the state:
Check out White Park in Concord on Saturday for their winter carnival from 1pm-4pm.
Meet Mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at the Children's Museum in Dover.
Winter Farmers Markets around the state.

Amazing deals for families:
1/2 off Granite State Gymnastics open gym in Bow and Hooksett.
Great Glen Trails in Gorham has 2 for 1 Fridays! (Snow tubing, snowshoeing and so much more!)

And the rest:
Some great Zumba and Yoga classes in Belmont.
Great free downloadable printables of winter activities to do with your kids.

Experience Gifts in NH

Although Christmas has come and gone, Experience gifts still work for birthday, anniversaries, Easter baskets...

As you know, I am a fan of experience gifts or something unique that is not plastic and in the trash in 2 days. I tried to find a list of great ideas for season tickets or cool memberships in New England, but there was not a comprehensive list anywhere. So, I had to come up with one... why do I have to do all the work around here???

The first on my list is a season pass to Water Country here in New Hampshire. My Mom has already gotten Ariana and Annika each one for Christmas. Do you know how excited they will be each time we get to go to Water Country this year courtesy of Grammy & Grampy??? It is way better than some plastic toy that they will play with for 2 days and then forget about. And for only $59 per pass, it actually makes trips to the Water park affordable for the year. Check your local water park to see if they have season passes (most do). Another water park here in NH is Liquid Planet that sells their season pass for $60.

You can also get season passes to many other family attractions around New Hampshire, like Santa's Village. (at $67, it's a great deal, although it does not appear to be available to order online yet.)

A pass to the state park system is a perfect gift for a family like us who enjoys the outdoors. It covers admission to the beaches, hiking, playgrounds and all of the other amenities that the state park system offers. The NH State Park pass is only $120 for the whole family for the year.

A lot of communities have indoor play gyms or activity centers that us stay at home moms love to utilize in the colder months in New England. Locally, we have the places like Cowabungas that offer gift cards that make great experience gifts.

A universal great experience gift would be to get movie theater gift cards. What family doesn't love a good trip to the movies... but who can afford it these days? My parents gave us one for Christmas one year and Ariana was so excited to have it, she begged to use it every day until we finally went. Check out Fandango for gift cards for $10-$100.

So, in researching these ideas, probably the best value I have found was the Association of Children's Museums Reciprocal Program for memberships. You buy a membership at your local children's museum and it is good at hundreds around the country! At around $125 dollars that is a great value for someone like me who doesn't mind taking the kids on day trips to get out of the house. There is a caveat where the membership might not reciprocate for a museum within 90 miles of your home museum, you'd have to call and check first, but there are literally dozens around New England:

The Children's Museum of New Hampshire (Dover, NH)
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (Concord, NH)
Mount Washington Observatory and Weather Discovery Center (NH)
SEE Science Center (Manchester, NH)
Boston Children's Museum (Boston)
Cape Cod Children's Museum (Mashpee, MA)
Children's Museum in Easton (North Easton, MA)
World, Children's Global Discovery Museum (Cohasset, MA)
Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield, MA)
EcoTarium (Worcester, MA)
Museum of Science (Boston, MA)
Springfield Museums/Springfield Science Museum (Springfield, MA)
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Woods Hole, MA)

Children's Discovery Museum(Augusta, ME)
Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine (Portland, ME)
Coastal Children's Museum (Rockland, ME)
Discovery Museum(Bangor, ME)

Providence Children's Museum (Providence, RI)
Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University (Providence, RI)

ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center (Burlington, VT)
Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium (St Johnsbury, VT)

The Children's Museum (West Hartford, CT)
Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut (Niantic, CT)
Imagine Nation Children's Museum (Bristol, CT)
Kidcity Children's Museum (Middletown, CT)
Lutz Children's Museum (Manchester, CT)
Stepping Stones Museum for Children (Norwalk, CT)
Bruce Museum (Greenwich, CT)
The Children's Museum (West Hartford, CT)
Discovery Museum, Inc. (Bridgeport, CT)
DNA EpiCenter (New London, CT)
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (New Haven, CT)

• Check out my gift ideas for last year with everything from murder mystery cruises to spa gift certificates.

Check out NH.com for 50% off ski gift cards, restaurants, salons and more in NH and MA!

• If you are in New England and have a suggestion for a membership or season pass, please let me know.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Beauty of NH in Photos

This was originally featured on Blogtrotting- A Virtual Travel Blog in 2010. So welcome to anyone who is coming here to find out about central New Hampshire. I live in Penacook, New Hampshire, but sometimes you won't even find it on a map because it is an itty-bitty suburb of Concord, our state capital.

I can not say enough about my home. I mean, when this is your view when you take a walk... ...how could I ever complain?

We live in 4 distinct seasons here.
Our springs are quite wet and, in recent years, have been marked by floods.

Summer either brings you to the ocean (which is about half an hour from us): But, since our ocean temps only average in the upper 50's for the summer, we are more likely going to swim in the abundant lakes, which offer water sports, hiking, fishing, boating...

Our autumn offers the most spectacular foliage colors that it brings thousands of people to the state every October.

Our winters are quite snowy, which is wonderful for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice skating, ice fishing, ice climbing... and, of course, building snowmen.

Any person who does not love New Hampshire, can not possible love the great outdoors. We have so many gorgeous places to hike... We have 48 4000' mountains to explore, not to mention all of the other other gorgeous adventures.

One of my favorite things I have discovered since living here are the farms. We can do anything from pick strawberries... to apples... to pumpkins... to see farm petting zoos to hayrides or sleigh rides... You have never seen simple joy and fun until you have taken your children to a farm.

Although, NH does offer a metropolitan life, filled with concerts, sporting events, theaters, museums, etc... the part I enjoy most is floating down the river in a canoe... jumping from a rope swing... hiking to the dozens of waterfalls... running through a corn maze... attending a local fair or festival...

or just sitting and watching the sun set...

Wanna come for a visit????

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recipe: Kid Friendly Fish Sticks

from: Cheryl Mosley

Kid Friendly Fish Sticks: 

Eating healthy as an adult is one thing, but preparing healthy meals for our children is something totally different. I often fall into a rut of chicken and veggies and struggle to find something we all want and like to eat. Since moving to New Hampshire (just 7 weeks ago), I have been blown away by the incredible local seafood. Big trick for me? Get my kiddos to eat it! Here is a quick and easy recipe that the whole family will enjoy:

A fresh white fish: cod, haddock (my favorite) or whatever is your favorite 
Flour(whole wheat) 
Corn meal 
Olive oil or coconut oil 
Vegetable of choice for side 

• Cut fish into strips
• Soak in milk for 10-15 minutes
• Dredge in mixture of flour and corn meal (equal parts)
• In medium skillet, heat olive oil (just enough to coat bottom of pan) to medium heat
• Place fish sticks in oil
• Cook until brown, and flip
• Continue and cook until fish flakes easy with fork
• Place on plate with paper towel to absorb any leftover oil
• Serve with a green veggie or side of choice. We served broccoli the other night.

 I got a high five from each kid and hope you will too!

(Also check out Cheryl's recent recipe of healthy blueberry muffins..... YUM!)