Category Archives: Kids

Update #2 on Summer To-do List

Ringing Rocks We went here on our day off last Friday, each of us with a hammer, even little Hailey. I was impressed by her ability to scramble across the boulder field with very little help and she had a blast making the rocks ring and hiking through the woods. Here’s a demo:

Easton Farmer’s Market

Hailey and I went last Saturday because the Crayola Factory was celebrating their 15th Birthday. Hailey is usually interested, at least briefly, with shopping at the farmer’s markets, but not so much when the Crayola Factory is having a block party! I managed to buy some soap that looks and smells like a creamsicle, wine, and farmer’s cheese. Over at the party Hailey insisted on climbing the rock wall.


Blueberry Festival

After getting back from Easton Hailey and I hopped on my bike (I have a trailer she rides in) and rode over to the blueberry festival. I was bummed not to come back with a blueberry pie this year, there was a fire that day at the bakery in Easton that supplies the festival.

Still left on the list, although I don’t see much action coming up this weekend with the heat wave. I will be found either in the AC or at the pool!

  1. Peddler’s Village – ran this past the family when we went to Ringing Rocks…they voted for New Hope instead…which was a lot of fun. We’ll still see if we can fit it in.
  2. Philadelphia Zoo – might fit this in on the staycation during Musikfest. We’ll see.
  3. The beach. Booked a place in Cape May right on the beach. My original choice, Margate, has no hotels and house rentals require a week. So we opted for Cape May instead and let me tell you getting a room there with only three weeks notice was not an easy task either. Most hotels and B&Bs require a minimum stay of 2-4 nights and we just didn’t want to eat up that much of our Musikfest staycation. Also, many of the B&Bs hate children under 8, or even 11. That’s right, they do not allow children under those ages to stay. Very frustrating.
  4. Baltimore Inner Harbor, MD. We’ll see. Not seeing a whole lot of opportunity to get this off the list, may have to move to next year’s list, but we shall see.
  5. Hawk Mountain still see this happening in September
  6. Lancaster County if not the summer we should be able to do this in the fall. I started following a furniture place on twitter and I love their tiger maple pieces. Would love to visit.
  7. Martin on Main barring any unforeseen circumstances, I should be there.
  8. Lunch at Starter’s Clubhouse if it weren’t for the heat wave I could have snuck this one in this coming weekend. This should be doable over the staycation.
  9. Hershey Park not sure about this one either. Husband thinks there isn’t enough for Hailey to go on (I believe she’s still under 40 inches, maybe 39 inches). I haven’t been here since 6th grade so I don’t really remember what they have. I think she would enjoy the chocolate tour (chocolate is her favorite food). Admission is pretty steep so I don’t want to blow it if she’s too young to really enjoy it. Any comments?

Speaking of comments please share what you’ve been up to this summer or if you think my list is missing anything!

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Summer To-do List Update

Quick update on the Summer to-do list and two additions! With 5 days off over the holiday weekend I had a lot of time to cross off some of my to-do list:

  1. Knoebels we went the Friday before 4th of July for the second year in a row and it seems to be a great day to go, low crowds during the day, walk right onto kiddie rides and the big kid rides didn’t seem to have very long lines either. Later in the evening, right around the time we were getting tired anyway, it started to get more crowded. The same thing happened last year, probably the result of two things: 1) people leaving the pool/water park 2) cheaper evening all ride bracelets. Money saving tip: on weekdays you can buy ride bracelets, about $20 for little one’s like Hailey (under 48″ I believe) and then the ‘rents can use tickets to get on a few rides (we used $18 in tickets between the two of us). We didn’t make it over to the pool that day, next time. (On a sad note, there was a tragedy at the Crystal Pool on Wednesday, very sad).
  2. Lehigh Valley Zoo, Hailey and I visited on Sunday afternoon and I renewed our family membership while we were there. The otters were sleeping so we missed seeing them swimming around but the penguins were having a blast in their pool. Bad parenting move: I told Hailey to stand on the bench so she could reach the goats at the top of the fence and two goats almost knocked her off the bench…oops. And of course I snapped a picture first before catching her. She had a blast though!
  3. Kutztown Folk Festival Hailey, my mom and I went here on Tuesday, it still runs through July 10th. We had a good time, I spent too much money on who knows what, Hailey was just interested in the bouncy rides and the tractor train. The highlight of the trip was when my mom yelled at all the customers at the kite stand ” You realize they are all MADE IN CHINA…DON’T YOU?!?” It was pretty funny…I see where I get it from. She has a good point too. All of the other stands are pretty much handcrafted goods, then you have this huge sea of lawn flags and kites in the middle of it all, and everything is manufactured in China. It’s one thing if you go to a big box store, it is sadly expected, but at a craft show it is inappropriate, yet they are there every year. My best purchase was a (handmade in the USA) wooden spatula. I’ve been looking for a non-plastic, non-metal spatula for flipping eggs. This should work out well.

All this extra time on my hands over the weekend also gave me the chance to think of a couple of things I missed on my original list:

  1. Hershey Park, I haven’t been here since my 6th grade field trip. Someone just told me that it’s about $50 regular price to get in here so I’ll be looking for some good discount tickets. Hailey loves chocolate and I think she’ll not only enjoy some of the rides, but the chocolate tour.
  2. Ringing Rocks, Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County, this is a great free thing to check out. Bring a little hammer and you can bang on the rocks and they ring like bells. It’s a nice bonus to a day hike.

So that’s a total of 5 things off my list and 2 new things added…looks like it will be a busy summer.

Summer To-do List….before it’s gone…

I can’t believe it’s already the last day of June! I’ve been meaning to throw together a list of things I’d like to get done this summer, not really a bucket list because, with two exceptions, these are things I’ve done before. It’s more like a summer “to-do” list. Some I do just about every year, some have become more recent traditions, others I haven’t done in many years and want to head back. Some I have actually already crossed off my list because…well…I did them before I got around to putting this post together. I’ll knock those out first. Some of these are in the Lehigh Valley, other’s are road trips. They are all family friendly and are either primarily outdoors or at a minimum have an outdoor component.

  1. Longwood Gardens, Kennette Square PA. I did this one Father’s Day weekend (Saturday) and we sprang for the fireworks tickets. When I ordered them I thought they were a bit pricey but they were soooo worth it! It was a 40 minute display with fireworks, fountains and music (check the schedule for the themes). I plan on doing a full write up one of these days, including some of the pictures I took, but for now I will say we loved it, it wasn’t overly crowded even though it was a Saturday and we had beautiful weather. Also, be sure to check the website for the calendar that tells you when fountains are running. If there is a drought the fountains may also not be running. Trust me, you really want to see the fountains.
  2. Iron Pigs I love Coca-Cola Park, and the Iron Pigs organization does a great job at keeping you entertained. Even if you aren’t a huge baseball fan, just get general admission tickets and enjoy the great food, entertainment, good beer, and even the playground for the kids. Tip: If you have a smart phone they have bypass lanes at this park, super helpful when the lines are long. I actually already crossed this one off my list already too…but who knows maybe I’ll be back yet this summer.
  3. Knoebels, Elysburg PA. I love this amusement park. It’s about a 2 hour drive away, short enough for a day trip, or you can camp there. I’m headed here for a day over the holiday weekend, there were no camp sites available (I wasn’t really expecting any, I called a week before 4th of July weekend). The best way I can describe Knoebel’s is that it reminds me of Dorney Park before Cedar Fair ruined it. No admission fee, pay for the rides you go on, good mix of kiddie and grown-up rides, food isn’t too expensive and there is a water park too. Oh and a bonus…very few hoochie mama’s at this park, and most kids, even teenagers, have parents close by.
  4. Lehigh Valley Zoo, I love this zoo because you can choose to spend an hour or a whole day here. No travel, no traffic, no lines, no crowds, no fuss. My favorites are the penguins and the river otters. There are lots of opportunities to get up close to the animals too. Last year I was attacked by a lorikeet, which of course my husband and daughter got a huge kick out of. I recommend buying a membership, your admission for a year is included and you get 1/2 admission to participating partner zoos (including the Philadelphia Zoo).
  5. Kutztown Folk Festival PA Dutch food, all sorts of crafts, demonstrations, petting zoo’s and entertainment for kids. I don’t recommend bothering with the bounce house area, it is way too hot. Even if you aren’t a quilt person, check out the quilt barn. It’s air-conditioned, trust me. Also, after last year’s fiasco, I will be leaving Chris at home this year. He thought he would like it, I told him he wouldn’t, I was right, he complained the entire time. The festival runs July 2-10 this year.
  6. Peddler’s Village, Lahaska PA (Bucks County, near New Hope) I haven’t been here in about 10 years. I’d like to go back but this trip will be more for me than for the family. Lots of shopping and quaintness.
  7. Philadelphia Zoo This place brings back lots of childhood memories for both me and my husband. It’s been two years since we brought Hailey here, so I think its time again. This zoo does however have all the driving, traffic, and crowds that the Lehigh Valley Zoo does not. I’m sure I’ll be bitchy and crabby by the end of the day, but it will be worth it. The trade-off is the size and diversity of animals. Don’t forget Lehigh Valley Zoo members get 1/2 admission, bring your membership cards!
  8. The beach. Probably the Jersey Shore again, last year we went to see Lucy at Margate on a weekday. It was super quiet and no Snooki sightings. I’d like to do something similar again this year, Hailey loved the beach.
  9. Baltimore Inner Harbor, MD. I mostly want to go to the Aquarium, but that is indoors, so I’m saying all of Inner Harbor so it meets the “outside component” requirement for this list. I haven’t been here in over 10 years and I think Hailey is old enough now to appreciate it.
  10. Blueberry Festival, Burnside Plantation, Bethlehem PA. You kind of have to like crafts, history, or blueberries to enjoy yourself here. Lucky me I like all three!
  11. Hawk Mountain, Kempton PA. I haven’t been here since I was in college. I’ll probably check this out closer to the end of summer in September. The chances of seeing a bald eagle are better then.
  12. Lancaster County. I’d like to check out some of the furniture stores, or at least go back to Shady Maple. I haven’t been there since college either.
  13. Martin on Main, Nazareth. This is only one of two on this list that I have never been too. I understand there are crafts, music, food and such. It coincides with the first Saturday of Musikfest and I’m usually pretty busy that day. This year though I’m going to try to make it.
  14. Easton Farmer’s Market. I love farmer’s markets, especially ones that are in city center’s and not on parking lots. This is one of my favorites, lots of urban charm here.
  15. Lunch at Starter’s Clubhouse. The pictures on the deck look so nice, I need to check this out, this is the only other one on this list that will be a first for me. Maybe I’ll play a round on the executive course too…I’ll have to dust off my clubs.

Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas

I started this Mother’s Day brunch requirement…errr…. tradition early on. From the time I was pregnant with Hailey I knew that I wanted brunch at Hotel Bethlehem to be my Mother’s Day tradition. Unfortunately for me…my husband is not one for doing things like making reservations so for my first Mother’s Day the Hotel brunch was booked and we went to the Brew Works instead.  The following year, even after persistent nag…err reminders, my husband did not make reservations for the Hotel Bethlehem brunch in time so I made reservations at Bolete. The following year and from that point forward I took matters into my own hands and I make my own Mother’s Day brunch reservations at the Hotel Bethlehem each year. Sigh.

Each of the three places has something a bit different to offer, so here are my takes on each of them:

Bethlehem Brew Works. Keep in mind that it’s been 4 years since I’ve had my Mother’s Day brunch here so the offering could be a bit different today. They offered a Mother’s Day brunch with no reservation requirement. The food was standard brunch fare and they had good Bloody Mary’s. Also, the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission’s Art Sale is on Main Street on Monday’s so the location is perfect if you want to incorporate this into your Mother’s Day as I do every year. Pros: Location, no reservations-perfect for last-minute plans, good drinks, casual,  louder atmosphere so if you have real little ones they won’t stick out when they start crying, good price, very flexible Cons: Food is ok but standard-doesn’t stand out, lacks a special Mother’s Day ambiance

Bolete. I was able to get in here with a table for three calling a few weeks before Mother’s Day. I called about 1-2 weeks ago as research for this post and they said they had some openings for smaller parties but were not taking any more reservations for larger (6 or more) parties. Bolete’s food is amazing and Mother’s Day brunch is no exception. This is not a brunch, they offer a special menu with a mix of brunch options, some more breakfasty-others less breakfasty. When I was there it was served as three courses. I had the best blueberry pancake in my life here. On the menu: Blueberry Pancake……$10. Yes it was one pancake (not huge, normal size) for $10. And it was so worth every penny. The food here is farm fresh and cooked to order. I was not a fan of the Mimosas or the Bloody Mary. If you have impatient toddlers it may be challenging. Also, Bolete’s location is a short drive to Main St. for the Art Sale, but it’s not the same as walking out from Brunch into the middle of the sale. Pros: the food is amazing, small intimate experience, not buffet style, nice Mother’s Day ambiance, can generally get reservations weeks ahead rather than months ahead, perfect for families where kids are older. Cons: location (not walkable to other activities like Art Sale), drinks in my opinion were not great, slower service (because food is carefully prepared, cooked to order) may not be ideal for young children, less casual than other options (this can be good or bad depending on your preference), portions are smaller (you will not be stuffed-this can be good too)

Hailey at Mother’s Day Brunch, Hotel Bethlehem, 2009

Hotel Bethlehem. Call months ahead for this if you want to get in. Seriously. Months. A few days before Mother’s Day you will receive a call from them not only confirming your reservation but asking you to reconfirm the number in your party and to provide credit card information so they can charge you if you don’t show up. Because this brunch is in such high demand they want to make sure that not only you show up but that your entire party shows up. I haven’t had the experience of showing up without my entire party or not at all so I don’t know how well they enforce this but I’m thinking they are serious if they go through the trouble of calling everyone and requiring the credit card info in advance. I must admit this practice put me off a bit but once you are at the brunch it will all be worth it, trust me. If you have been to any Hotel Bethlehem brunch you know that they do a really nice job and they kick it up several notches for Mother’s Day. They also have an expanded children’s buffet area that included a make your own cupcake station last year. It was super cute. They have coloring activities for the kids to keep them busy too. Hailey loves the formality with the white table clothes and is pretty well-behaved here. She eventually gets over acting like a princess at a formal function and spends most of the remainder of the brunch under the table in her fortress. While the food is buffet style, which I usually find ho-hum, the quality is high.  They have the expected omelette and carving stations as well as some surprises, especially in the seafood selection. And when brunch is over you can step straight outside and browse the Art Sale. Pros: Best Mother’s Day ambiance of the bunch, cannot beat the location, food is very good, Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s are excellent, great for kids of all ages, beautiful views, moderate price, formal feel but you can still be pretty casual here Cons: have to make reservations in advance, not good for go with the flow types (changing number of guests, last-minute cancellations), confirmation process can be off-putting, buffet style (some people like my husband are not a fan of buffets)

If you have any Mother’s Day experiences or preferences please share in the comments!

Sales: Aardvark on Groupon, Hatley at Milk & Honey Kids

I haven’t written about sales in a while because, quite frankly, they have been pretty sucky lately. But I woke up to some good news this morning…Aardvark is on Groupon today! According to the counter their $30 for $60 worth of Aardvark Sports Shop stuff is good for two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and the Groupon expires 9/3/2011. If you aren’t familiar with Aardvark, it is a great place to buy running shoes. I will never buy them at a chain sporting goods or self-service store again. Even if you can find the same pair a few bucks cheaper, what if they are the wrong shoes for you? Now you just wasted your money on running shoes you aren’t happy with. At Aardvark they really take the time to match you up with something that fits your budget as well as the needs of your feet. In fact, usually they will bring me about 3 types of shoes in my range and when they told me which was the best fit for me…to date it has never been the most expensive pair. They aren’t there to rip you off, they want you to be a customer for life. They also have a lot of cool gadgets and clothing as well as information on races and running groups. Don’t feel this is a store just for marathon runners. If you are just starting out or even just thinking about it, stop by they’ll get you motivated and up and running….literally.

Another great store in the Lehigh Valley, this one much newer to our area, is Milk & Honey Kids. They carry great kids clothes brands like Tea and some really neat toys, they have a lot of Melissa & Doug which is one of my…I mean Hailey’s…favorites as well as a lot of fun things you won’t find at the big box stores. They are trying to fill the void that Toy Magic left behind, and while it is still primarily clothing, they are doing a great job with the toys. So far I’ve only been to the Bethlehem store (next to Panera bread on 512) but they also have a store on Hamilton Street in Allentown which is bigger.

Milk & Honey’s vendor of the week this week is one of my favorites, Hatley. They make the most adorable rain boots, rain coats, and umbrellas and the sale is perfect timing! Be sure to click the link for the coupon. A bit of warning…you are going to pay more for kids clothing than you will at Old Navy or Children’s Place, even more than Gymboree. I won’t get all of Hailey’s clothing or toys, here but I will get special gifts here. I’ll usually seek out things that are more unique that you can’t find elsewhere.

Sales and In-store Events

Quick update on some interesting sales and in-store events.

Chit Chat: This consignment clothing store is closing at the end of the month and they’ve been running a sale. They are also going to be selling off some of the fixtures (furniture) etc. This place is furnished quite nicely so that may actually be something interesting to check out. Haven’t heard if another tenant is lined up yet. Will keep you posted.

Potterybarn/Potterybarn Kids: I’m trying to figure out what to do with all these toys that my daughter has from Christmas and her Birthday, which is conveniently (not) just a week before Christmas. Potterybarn Kids has some nice storage stuff 20% off this month (great timing). I’ve been hoping to find something antique/vintage instead, but these are tempting because they are created specifically with toy storage in mind, yet are nice pieces of furniture on their own. Potterybarn has an extra 15% clearance (on-line and in-store) off through Monday, definitely worth checking out.

Milk and Honey Kids: I received an email that they are having a Valentine’s event in their Allentown store on February 5th from 1-4. There will be a fashion show with cupcakes and “mocktails” and manicures and updo’s from Studio Two for the girls. Click here for details and a $5 off coupon that appears to be good at either their Bethlehem or Allentown location. They have really cute clothes and toys, but be prepared for the prices. For me this is a great place to get special gifts but for everyday I don’t typically spend this kind of money on clothes that kids either ruin or grow out of too quickly.

Kohl’s: Speaking of great gifts, Kohl’s always has these great books and coordinated stuffed animals for $5 and the proceeds go to Kohl’s Cares children’s charities. Right now the theme is Eric Carle (The Hungry Caterpillar). The animals are beautiful, just like his books, and you can’t beat the price. One book, one animal, 10 bucks and it looks like easily a $30 gift. Especially great if your kid is in daycare and gets invited to a lot of Birthday parties.

It is also time for the 15%, 20%, or 30% sale for Kohl’s cardholders. I got my stinking 20% coupon last week. I hardly ever get the coveted 30% coupon. Just a FYI you can’t use these coupons on the Kohl’s Care’s products, one of the few exceptions on Kohl’s coupons, but it’s for charity and they are a great deal already so this is just fine by me.

Season’s Olive Oil & Vinegar Tap Room: This great shop on Main St. in Bethlehem has some special products and events inspired by Valentine’s Day. There is a yummy sounding Strawberry Balsamic that is only available for a limited time, a cooking class showing how to make sweet treats with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars (of course!), and a special Valentine’s Gift Pack with dark chocolate and strawberry balsamic vinegars and Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sounds yummy. Details here. My own tip: the dark chocolate balsamic is great with strawberries over vanilla ice cream (yum!).

Happy shopping and in-store eventing! If you have any you would like to share please add a comment!

As always, I try to represent sales and events accurately however please always check with the retailer for details. I am not responsible for anything!