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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DelCarte Recreation Area - Franklin, MA

The kids and I are always in the market for a new playground and place to hang out. A couple of weeks ago we were driving from the new Norfolk playground to BJs and Siri sent us a way I had never been before. While driving we spied what looked like a super cool playground and I made note of the street we were on in Franklin. I then asked a few friends about it and no one seemed to know anything about it.

So this morning, the kids and I headed out to see if we had imagined this unique looking playground. We hadn't - it totally exists! It's actually the DelCarte Recreation and Conservation Area. Apparently it just received huge renovations (including the new playground) that were finished in June 2014. The playground has a rustic, woodsy feel to blend in with its surroundings plus swings and benches. The kids LOVED it!

The playground is more geared towards older kids (sign said ages 5+) although there were toddlers there enjoying themselves. There's not much shade on the playground though so pack that sunscreen and water. There are also no restrooms (and no porta potties while we were there) so don't go too crazy with the water intake :)

Also, just behind the (fenced in) playground is a pond that could entertain my kids for hours. We walked around just a short part of it and saw tons of fish. The people there right before us had also seen a turtle. There were also walking trails (both short and longer) that we definitely will head back some day to check out.
After we did the playground and checked out the pond we had a picnic lunch at one of the tables they have around the pond. After lunch we headed back for another round at the playground!

We were there for hours and definitely recommend it. It's located on Pleasant Street in Franklin, MA and there is a parking lot right next to the playground. Enjoy!

Summer Shape Up With Balance Bars

It's no secret that I try to live a healthy lifestyle. The key word there is TRY.  Most weeks I exercise regularly and eat somewhat healthy. Of course, I'm a sucker for ice cream and wine which always seem extra plentiful over the summer. Oh, and vacations are just a killer - so much yumminess all rolled up into one week. So I was really excited when I was asked to participate in the Summer Shape Up collaboration between Balance Bars and Walmart. I feel like I've definitely fallen off the wagon over the last couple of weeks and needed a push to get back on.

So I headed off to Walmart to pick up some Peanut Butter and Cookie Dough Balance Bars.

Oh, and yes, there are some Cheez Its in the cart, too. Those are a staple in our household! Now say what you will about Walmart but you can't beat their prices on most products. I was able to pick up the 6 pack box of Balance Bars for just $4.56 - a total steal.

I had actually never tried Balance Bars before even though I have tried a decent amount of bars in the past. They have over 20 vitamins and minerals, a low glycemic index, and are an excellemt source of antioxidants. But how do they taste, you ask? Well I'm happy to report that they are yummy - not chalky or just plain gross like some energy bars can be!

I love nutrition bars because they are so easy. You will often find me eating one while trying to dress an unruly preschooler or while driving around town running errands. I always seem to have time to feed the kids breakfast but never myself which is why bars are always in stock at my house. The Balance Bars also kept me full all morning which is a must. I find if I eat one in the morning it helps to prevent me from snacking. Snacks are a huge downfall for me so any way I can reduce them is a plus!

How about you? Would you like to try out Balance Bars? Well one lucky Dollops reader is going to receive a variety box of Balance Bars as well as a $10 Walmart gift card. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Disclosure: I was provided with a Walmart gift card as part of a sponsored collaboration with Balance Bar in order to purchase Balance Bars and other summer, fun items for my family. As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cape Cod Vacation

The week before last we headed to Cape Cod to enjoy a week's vacation. I've been meaning to write about all the fun and exciting things we did but we've been too busy having more fun. This summer is really shaping up to be an A+. We're having so much fun in the sun and the vacation was more of the same!

I actually was hesitant to go on vacation and by hesitant I mean I didn't want to book the vacation at all. In previous years we have done vacations with my husband's family which is always a blast. It didn't work out this year though that we could all do a joint vacation so it would just be me, Tim, and the kids. Although I (obviously) love spending time with them I just envisioned it basically being a lot of work for me. I mean I was going to pack up all our stuff here to move it to another house for a week where I would still need to cook, clean, and do laundry? How fun would that be? But it turns out it was a lot of fun!

We spent the week in Hyannis where we were we could walk to the beach. The beach had an ocean side and a bay side which was perfect so we could hunt for seashells and enjoy some waves and then the kids could enjoy some easy swimming on the calm side. We also spent a day in Harwich visiting my aunt and uncle, a day in Provincetown, a rainy day with friends bowling and going to the Cape Cod chip factory, and my brother and his wife came down for a beach day, too. There were smiles, games, ice cream, and booze. Fun, fun, and more fun!

I know I'll never get around to writing about it all so I figured I would share some of my favorite pictures from the week. So again, to recap the vacation, it was...FUN!

The bunk beds were a big hit
Checking out the seals in Chatham
Daniel loving the beach
We found Foxborough at the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown and...

We climbed to the top - twice!

It's a whale - AHHHHH!
Go Harbor Hawks!
Beach snuggles
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
So there you have it - a great vacation! I'm already thinking of what we can do next year!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Listen To Your Mother VIDEO!!!

It seems only fitting that the video for Listen To Your Mother would be released today on my mother's birthday. Watching the videos brings back a flood of amazing memories. Thanks again to everyone who supported me!

For those who were not able to make the show or just can't get enough of me, I've attached my video below.

Now that you've seen my reading be sure to check out the rest of the awesome cast HERE!

A Door of Memories

The first time I came home from college I was welcomed by a homemade sign my mother had put on my bedroom door. For whatever reason, neither my mom nor I took the sign down that day. That decision turned out to be a pretty important one since it started the unofficial tradition of my mother leaving a note on my door EVERY single time I came back home. They ranged from holidays, to doctor appointments, to weddings, to random events. Not a trip home went by that there wasn't a note or sign or decoration added to that bedroom door. The signs were creative, heartfelt, and funny - just like my mom.

I only moved back home for a short few months after college and it was a turbulent time in my life. My mother kept the signs up regardless. Just a couple short years after that, with my mother's ever declining health, it was necessary to do renovations to the house to make it handicapped accessible for her. The walls (and door) to my childhood bedroom would be removed to make a larger room for her. At that time it would have been easy for her to just throw away the notes but instead she carefully took down the signs, saved as many as she could, and packaged them up for me.

Now I occasionally lay out the notes and I like to think of my mom making them - of her sitting in her usual spot at the kitchen table, touching these papers, and writing. As she got more ill, her fine motor skills no longer worked and she lost the ability to write, and cut, and glue. But not on this door - on this door of memories she can write just fine. She is smart and witty and capable. I honestly struggle sometimes to remember her that way. For the last few years of her life, the muscle disorder that she had did such a number on her physically and mentally.  It's hard for me not to remember her that way. I cherish these notes because they so clearly remind me of the person she was before she was so very sick. They remind me of the mom who I grew up with and the mom who cared for me before our roles were reversed.

Today would have been my mom's 60th birthday. I can only imagine that there's a door up in heaven with the sign "Happy Birthday, Rose!" on it. She deserves all the celebrating in the world.
Some of the notes from my old door

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Family Trip to the Mystic Aquarium

Last year, Henry and I had a special one on one trip to the Mystic Aquarium and this year we decided to take the rest of the family along. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love the Mystic Aquarium and I was excited for the other kids to have their first experience there.

We lucked out and happened to go on a day that Spider Man and Iron Man were also at the Aquarium. They have all kinds of fun events and guest appearances each week that you can check out on their events calendar HERE. Henry was so excited to have his picture taken with Iron Man. We let him get a picture by himself and then we all jumped in for a pic!

Iron Fam
After our superhero fun, we continued on with the outside exhibits. Like last year, the beluga whales stole my heart again. They are so fun and playful you can't help but love them. I'm also a sucker for the penguins. The kids loved watching them swim under the water through the little side tunnels.

Love me some penguins
After spending a long time watching and counting frogs by the Marsh Trek, we headed to the new Birds of the Outback Exhibit. There is a $3 exhibit entry fee which gains you access to a 1,200 square foot aviary which houses hundreds of free flying birds. Now I was actually a little skeptical of the exhibit but I must admit that it was really cool. They give you a millet seed stick which allows you to feed the birds. Daniel spent most of his time aggressively chasing the birds with his stick but Isabelle and Henry were able to actually feed them. They both loved it!

After we finished up the outside portion, we headed inside to the Main Gallery. They have so many cool animals including fish (obviously!), sting rays, sharks, jelly fish, turtles, and more.

Piranhas lure you in with their sparkles and then eat you - or something like that
They could watch all day
Turtle Photo Bomb
The boys favorite part of the inside exhibit was the touch tanks. Daniel enjoys basically soaking his whole arm while not even touching an animal. Henry loves to hold and touch anything he can get his hands on!

After the Main Exhibit Hall we headed to the 4D theater to check out Rio 4D. It's an interactive 4D experience where you follow along with the blue macaws as Blu learns to fly. It's only a 5 minute film which is nice since Daniel wouldn't sit still for much longer than that even with the excitement of the movie. There is an additional charge to attend the 4D movie unless you purchase the value ticket so you might want to consider the value ticket if you plan on seeing the show.

Following the 4D experience, we headed to Titanic 12,5400 Feet Below. I enjoy this exhibit because it is educational for adults and older children but also has plenty of hands on exhibits to keep younger children occupied.

And of course, we stopped at the Penguins Cafe before heading out because a trip to the Aquarium is never complete without an ice cream treat! I also enjoyed a soft pretzel :)

So there you have it, another super awesome trip to the Mystic Aquarium in the books. The Aquarium is definitely chock full of fun stuff to do so plan on spending a full day there. Now like most great places, the Aquarium can be pricey. I mean those belugas gotta eat, right?! You can check out their prices HERE. So definitely do your research and check your local library for discounted passes. Also, think of spending a weekend in Mystic since if you have your ticket validated before you leave, you can return for two consecutive days for free. I also always look into memberships when checking out aquariums or zoos since they often pay for themselves with just a couple of visits throughout the year. 

Be sure to follow Mystic Aquarium on Facebook (HERE!) to keep up to date on all the latest events and activities!

*My family received complimentary admission to the Mystic Aquarium, including the Birds of the Outback and Rio 4D. As always, all opinions are my own*

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Martha Speaketh Weeketh!

Do you have a Martha Speaks fans in your house? If so, get excited because Martha is celebrating the start of summer with three all-new episodes starting June 16, 2014!

Never seen Martha Speaks? Well you are missing out! Martha Speaks works to help increase children's vocabulary with a fun and familiar talking dog. Want to hear your child using words like melody, digress, translate, punctuation, and inspiration? Well then Martha is your girl!

My family was able to preview the all-new episode that airs on Monday, June 16th. It includes the titles: 

"Though Callest Me a Dog" - A dog speaking Shakespeare? 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished and achieved when Martha swallows Hamlet. Never was a dog's desire for meat so artfully expressed.

"Martha's Paper Chase" - It's the Town Crier deadline and Carolina needs a headline. Hot on the trail for a story, and a biscuit, Martha stumbles into a scoop that screams front page: the whereabouts of Big Minnie. But is exposing Minnie's privacy worth the story?

The kids loved the episode! And if you want to see something funny you should listen to a three year old saying the word soliloquy! One of the reasons I like Martha Speaks is because they use some words that can easily be used in day to day conversation (like confirm and musician) and some more abstract words (like insignia and monologue). We are definitely looking forward to checking out the other two episodes next week!

We've also been enjoying fun online with the Martha Speaks Website including the new game Martha's Steaks. In this game, kids learn vocab words by helping Martha's friends hurdle, dash, soar, and tumble to catch treats through Martha's dream landscape of steaks, bacon, and drumsticks. Mmmm...bacon! On the Martha Speaks website parents can also access fun and educational resources, lesson plans, and activities to help their children learn new vocabulary in fun and exciting ways.

So check your local listings to find out what time PBS Kids will be airing Martha Speaks in your area starting June 16, 2014. I know we'll have our DVR set!

You can also follow Martha Speaks on Facebook HERE and Twitter HERE!

*I received a Martha Speaks Kit containing books, DVDs, and items from sponsors in order to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own.*

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