Things to Do - A Meadow Full of Dandelions


As I wrote about on Wednesday, last week a friend and I took our kids to the National Arboretum. All four girls spent most of the morning running through a meadow of dandelions. In some spots the grass was high enough that we would lose track of the kids when they sat down. After popping up the kids would bring us bouquets full of flowers. A beautiful way to spend a morning.



*If you have a kid that loves trucks, this local event looks like a blast.

*8 Ideas to Spruce Up Your Space (now, I just need to take the time and actually follow the advice)

*Lovely photos of evening. Just lovely.

*A cardboard box birthday party, much more impressive than it sounds. Check out the awesome car and airplane (link via a subtle revelry).

*Top 5 Sites for Crafters

*I really want these jeans.

*There's something so happy about a beautiful yellow kitchen.



Things to Make - Bare Books


Kid art - what to do? On one hand, some of it is so precious. On the other hand, we always seem to have so MUCH of it. The internet is full of lots of great ideas for preserving kid art (click here for some ideas), but I personally always seem to fall flat - the recycling bin's near proximity to the art table makes it rather easy to . . . (well, you know how the story ends). Thus, I loved Sleepytime Gal's Bare Books idea. Books full of kid art are so much more manageable than looseleaf everywhere. I ordered a bunch of blank books from here (they're less than $2 each and wonderfully made) and let the kids do their own thing. Here's what they made:

For her first book, F created a simple story about one of her friends. One one page she wrote statments such as "once upon a time" and on the corresponding page she drew pictures. All together it tells the story of a girl who finds a rainbow and meets a new friend. For her second book, F drew and described things she loves, these included: her sister (a lot of stuff for her sister), her brother, hearts, and flowers. When I suggested she press her favorite flower into the pages she chose a dandelion (if you're wondering, dandelions DO NOT press well).

For P's first book, she made a book for her best friend, L ,and drew several pics of them together. She also drew pics of their other friends. She narrated the story for me to write, which was all about dancing in rain and loving each other.

And T, well, he ended up drawing on the table. But 2 out of 3 isn't bad. And now we have a special shelf for the books the children make. So much easier than looseleaf.



Places to Go - The National Arboretum (Koi Pond, Azalea Gardens, & Bonsai))


Last week we met some friends at the National Arb to check out the azalea gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived a few weeks early, as most of the blossoms were just beginning to form. But luckily the kids had a fantastic time running through the gardens, checking out the koi, and playing in the meadow (more pictures of this on Friday). They especially loved the small pond that's surrounded by azaleas, and I love the benches and great views next to the pond.

As you may have heard, due to funding shortages the arb has considered limiting the size of its extensive azalea collection. For now, the arb has put the decision on hold, but it is requesting donations and commentary - click here to share your views and here to share your money. If you've never been, the azalea gardens are truly breathtaking, especially at peak bloom times (though NOT stroller-friendly, despite the fact that many of the other gardens do accommodate strollers). We love the arb and go there often (click here for a past post on the Capitol Columns and Fern Valley).


(The girls have started choosing their own outfits. The results have been, well, interesting. I'm trying to hang back and not say anything. "Trying" is the key word in that sentence).


Things to Make - Tissue Paper Tie-Dye


For the last few months I've been saving the tissue-paper wrapping that comes in boxes (Amazon uses it frequently), I didn't really have a plan for what to do with it, it just seemed worthy of keeping. Well, I finally found the perfect rainy day project for using it on this site - tissue paper tie-dye. The results of this project were quite beautiful, as evidenced by the fact that the girls hung their creations all over the walls of their room.

Here's the scoop:

You'll need - tissue paper, rubber bands, and liquid watercolors or food coloring

1. Cut the tissue paper into large rectangles (about 16x20 inches).

2. Accordion fold the paper back and forth into one long rectangle.

3. Then fold the bottom right corner to the left edge to make a triangle. Continue turning and pressing until you have one large triangle.

4. Place rubber bands on the paper triangle.

5. Dip in different colors of food coloring or liquid watercolors

6. We then patted the triangle-paper down with paper towels to get rid of some of the excess liquid.

7. CAREFULLY unwrap. This would probably work best if you waited until the paper was dry, but we were too impatient.


*I love this over the door organizer for art supplies (why didn't I think of it??)

*Spoonflower (the design and print your own fabric company) seems to be all over the internet. Seems like a fun idea. Click here to read Mommycoddle's story about her experience. (Note - Spoonflower is also a great place to shop for fabric).

*A homemade "lava lamp" (it's much easier than it sounds)

*I just discovered this Toys from Trash website through Mini-Eco, WOW, it's amazing. I could spend days going through it all.

*I love these beautiful houses made from old cereal boxes.

*If I could sew, I would own several of these and wear them all year long.

*Milk + food coloring + dish soap = awesomeness, click here for the scoop.

*DIY shredded paper seed starters

*ReadyMade's Top 20 Projects of 2010 - wow, there are a lot of creative people out there. I really like the kid-tent and the "book wall".

*DIY fabric wall stickers (so so cool).



Things to Do - Eastering Round II


As I mentioned last week (click here for the post), Easter has become quite a big deal around here. For Easter Sunday we had my husband's family over for brunch. I made baked granola (so yummy) using this recipe and tomato-onion-cheese-bacon strata using this Weight Watchers recipe. I love brunch, there's something so decadent yet wonderful about eating a big meal early in the day.

We also had an Easter egg hunt in the backyard. I'm sick of all the candy, so I (oops, I mean the Easter Bunny) bought eggs filled with silly putty and small toys from Oriental Trading Company, which the kids loved. F even said "these are way more fun than candy eggs." My sister-in-law brought over an egg dye kit and I must say it felt wonderful to watch my children do a craft project without having to do it with them (thank you, A!). And, of course, all three kids woke up to chocolate bunnies and wonderful forest friends courtesy of the Easter Bunny (bought from Hazel Village ). I often plan on paying a little extra and buying hand-made toys for the kids, but then they want something plastic and it's so cheap I just cave. Anyways, this year I splurged and it was well worth it, the dolls are beautifully made, aesthetically gorgeous and the kids all love them. I hope all of you had a great weekend!!


*These children's jackets are adorable. I sort of want one for me.

*50 Ways to Explore Nature In Your Own Backyard


*Cross-writing, sort of a cool idea.

*Books that Changed the Way We Think About the Earth - a great list.

*This home is just dreamy. I want it. I really do.

*I've been following Olivia Bee for a long time now through flickr and now she has a blog and she really is just great at what she does.

eggs copy
(I bought myself new shoes, the left foot seems happy enough but the right foot is a little confused. And I bought T an adorably cute Easter outfit, so I'm not quite sure how he ended up shirtless all day, but so it goes.)


Things to Do - Make a Grateful List (March 2011)


1.First Aid Kit's Big Black & the Blue

2. Blackened tilipia fish tacos (Cooking Light)
3. Pork Posole (Cooking Light)
4. Wasabi almonds (thank you Alison)
5. Weight Watchers's baked chicken
6. Dinner with Meredith and Daryll at Liberty Tavern
7. MNO at Twisted Vines

8. F saying "today was a good day, P" (my dad used to always say this)
9. P and F memorizing the student creed in tae kwan do and earning their patch (at first, P acted as if the memorization was too "tricky" for her, but as soon as F got her patch P memorized the creed and got her own patch) and T punching and yelling "Ahya" whenever we go to tae kwan do
10. F's photos of my dad, "see mom, i have grandpa's photos right here, so if you start to feel sad you can look at my photos and remembering him will make you feel better."
11. F and P VOLUNTARILY donating half of their princess wardrobe (but don't worry, we still have A LOT of princess clothes)
12. Friday 10:30 Bodysculpt with Wendy (so hard, yet so so fun)
13. P's marathon phone conversations with Grandma T
14. MY NEW LENS - Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - wow, truly amazing. just amazing.
15. F (who keeps working on learning to read) telling me "Mom, reading stories to you is going to be on of my favorite things to do."
16. T's favorite words - apple, mama, dada, bubba [bubbles], baba [bottle], did ewe [thank you], ome [as in "dada home?"], ack [his friend Jack], isters [sisters], sit, up, ball, wa wa [water], ead [head], at [hat], oes [shoes]
17. T recognizing and pointing to key body parts
18. Family games of Memory
19. Being listed as one of Circle of Moms Top 10 Creative Moms
20. Apples to Apples Party Box - The Game of Hilarious Comparisons at Alison's house
21. The people who helped me change my flat tire (nicest strangers ever, so so kind).
22. The Shirlington library librarians (nicest people ever)
23. The craft fair at the neighborhood elementary school
24. My shiatsu massage at Spaworld (wow it hurt, but afterwards my back felt the best it has felt in years)
25. Dan working over 300 hours in March and still making us Sunday dinner and breakfast (baked chicken for dinner and crepes for breakfast, so good)

The Girls' Lists:

F - fashion shows (homemade), constellations, art class, backrubs, planning our upcoming Disneyworld vacation

P - my family, art projects, my monster doll, flashlights, playing with my friends



Things to Do - Eastering


Until I had children, I didn't think much about Easter (or spring in general). In college, Easter always seemed to fall around midterms and I remember it as a call to study more (yes, I was and am that dorky). But then I had children and Easter has become quite the event in our house. I love the simplicity of it - unlike Santa, the Easter Bunny only brings a few small presents. And nothing emphasizes the joys of spring like hunting for eggs outside.

F's become so enthralled with Easter that she asked me to buy bunny snacks to give to all her friends at school. What I didn't realize was that she expected them to be wrapped and "pretty." So the other night we got out the tissue paper, the bird stamp (available here), and some silver ribbon. I think they turned out rather nice, don't you?


It's amazing what you can buy from the $1 aisle at Target. I originally bought the ears for the girls until my mother-in-law questioned the appropriateness of such attire. I didn't even think of all the awful associations between bunnies and the objectification of women until my MIL mentioned it. Does my ignorance symbolize progress or regression? I wish I knew. In the meantime, the ears have been passed on to T and he wears them well.

Postcript - According to Wikipedia, the Palms in Vegas has brought back the Playboy bunny. Hence answering my own question: regression.


*So pretty.

*Loving these 1920s photos.

*After the Fall. Wonderfulness.

*I find this somewhat disturbing, yet so impressive.



(Pictured above: azaleas and koi at the National Arb)

Since my winter post on inside spaces with kids was such a hit, I figured I'd make a new list for the warmer months. Cause we're ready to go outside, aren't you? As always, since we live in Arlington this part of the list is more inclusive, whereas MD is the least inclusive. I obviously couldn't include everything so I tried to limit this post to the best of the best and I've excluded pools and waterparks, as they're a whole post in themselves. Please let me know what I've left out. And, as always, for the latest scoop on weekend events, festivals, and more places to go make sure to check out Kidfriendly DC and Go Out and Play!


1. Long Branch Nature Center - I've posted on Long Branch previously (click here). The nature center itself is wonderful (for warm or cool days) with a toddler-friendly kid-room and lots of toys, but on a nice day we love walking on the trail outside the center as it meanders past a stream and ends in small playground off four mile run, the perfect place for a picnic lunch. FREE!

2. Hayes Park - Arlington has tons of wonderful parks and three sprayparks (click here for a full list), but Hayes is our favorite. The spraypark is shaded, making it a perfect place on hot sunny days. Plus the park contains tons of great playground equipment and a nice sandbox (only partially shaded). The park's large size makes it a fun destination even when crowded. [Update 6/11- I recently visited Hayes on a weekday morning and it was crowded, crazy crowded. This summer Arlington often only has one spraypark open at a time (so make sure to check the schedule), which leads to overcrowding. Be weary.]FREE!

3. Potomac Overlook Park - A playground next to the parking lot, a great nature center, tons of trails (some of which actually lead to the Potomac), a large meadow with a stage (perfect for frisbee and/or "performances" of one sort or another), beautiful sculptures throughout the property. A lovely place, though only borderline stroller-friendly (most of the trails are narrow and hilly on dirt paths). For more information, click here. FREE!

4. Gulf Branch Nature Center - I've posted about Gulf Branch previously (click here for the post). A great nature center (with a fun canoe that my children can play in for hours) surrounded by trails and a small pond. On weekends they often host campfires, sign-up is required so check the website for more information. FREE!

5. Gravelly Point Park - Previously posted here. A great place to bring a frisbee or a ball and watch the planes fly into Regan airport (the runway is only 400 feet from the park). There's also a paved walking path along the river (suitable for fishing). Check out the Yelp reviews here. FREE!


6. Mt Vernon - Previously posted here. George Washington's estate is a surprisingly kid-friendly destination. Lots of room for kids to run (the grounds are HUGE) plus farm animals to observe and windows to peak in. Skip the tour and play duck-duck-goose on the lawn instead, surrounded by beautiful vistas of the Potomac. A child-friendly cafeteria is on site.

7. The Water Taxi from Alexandria to National Harbor - Previously posted here. The boat leaves approximately every 1.5 hours from the Alexandria docks and the ride to National Harbor takes about thirty minutes. At National Harbor my kids love to eat ice cream from Ben & Jerry's and play on the Awakening statue. A great way to spend an afternoon. The water taxi company also offers pirate cruises on weekends, click here for information.

8. The Old-Town Waterfront - Previously posted here. Walk around, check out the boats, feed the ducks, climb on the "giant" anchor, lust after the art in the Torpedo Factory. Run through the field or bring a frisbee. If you're feeling ambitious, combine your trip with a ride on the water taxi to National Harbor. FREE!

9. River Farm - Previously posted here. A beautiful meadow and a great children's garden make this a wonderful place for an afternoon outside. Unfortunately, it's only open to the public on weekdays and Saturday mornings. Click here for more info. FREE!

10. Green Spring Gardens - Flowers everywhere. A gazebo and pond. A library (with a children's section). Plus the garden hosts several children's programs and camps, so check the website. For more information, click here. FREE!

11. Huntley Meadows - Previously posted here (for fall) and here (for spring). A stroller-friendly walk in the woods that ends at a boardwalk through wetlands. Look for birds, frogs, turtles, muskrats, ducks, geese, heron and more. One of our favorite places in the area. Great for kids, adults, birders, photographers, and all lovers of nature. FREE!

12. Winkler Botanical Preserve - We've never been here, but Go Out and Play! gave it an incredible review, so hopefully we'll get there soon. According to Go Out and Play! the preserve has a trail that includes a "small lake with several streams, waterfall, covered bridge mountain lodge, and even a Hobbit house." Click here to read the rest of the review and get the info. FREE!

13. Lee District's Harbor Spray Park - Alexandria just opened the Disneyworld of sprayparks - seriously, this is HUGE with a dragon fountain, water maze, water dumping crab basket, and custom crab boat, all of which are accessible for children of all abilities (i.e. handicap accessible). We haven't been yet, but Keeping Up with Cardin has some great pics. Admission is free but water shoes are required. The park is open from 11-7 on all days but Wednesday (Wednesday is 11-5). Click here for more info. FREE!

14. Jones Point Park - Previously posted here. Two small playgrounds, basketball hoops, and trails on the Potomac to fishing piers and an old lighthouse. A wonderful place to take a walk and play for awhile. FREE!


15. The National Arboretum - Previously posted here. The arb is truly Washington's hidden treasure, bigger than NYC's Central Park you can spend a whole day here and not see everything. We're still exploring all the nooks and crannies. Grab a map and look around, you'll have a blast. I especially recommend a trip to the Capitol Columns and the nature play space (part of the Washington Youth Garden, previously posted here). FREE!

16. The US Botanical Gardens - Previously posted here. We love it here, especially in the summer when the children's garden opens, which includes: a "fish" fountain with a pump, lots of watering cans, a child-sized house, and a canopied forest-walk. The fountains alone can entertain my children for hours. Outside are beautiful rose gardens and plenty of room to run. Make a day of it by eating lunch at the American Indian Museum across the street and playing in their new ImagiNATIONS playspace. FREE!

17. The National Zoo - Previously posted here and here. Kids love zoos and adults love free zoos - you can't go wrong, especially when the lion cubs and baby gorilla are out (so cute)! Make sure to watch the orangutans overhead on the O-line. FREE! (though parking is not free)

18. Yards Park - We haven't visited yet, but KidFriendly DC gave this park a glowing review (click here to read it). Apparently the park is both beautiful to look at and kid-friendly as it has water sprays for kids to play in, which sounds perfect for beating the summer heat. FREE!

19. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens - Previously posted here. If you go in the morning this place is stunning, thousands (if not millions) of water flowers everywhere. Plus the property includes a boardwalk through wetlands and a decently-fun visitor's center. Though not in DC's best neighborhood, the gardens themselves are safe, just make sure to bring a GPS for the drive, not a fun place to be lost (trust me on this one). For more information, click here. FREE!

20. Theodore Roosevelt Island - Previously posted here. When you crave some nature in the city this park is truly a blessing. Dance by the statue, run on the boardwalk, collect rocks on the trails, feed the ducks. And don't forget to look up at the incredible tree canopy surrounding you. FREE!

21. The Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin - Previously posted here. We like to play on the lawns of the Memorial after dinner, beautiful city views make this the perfect location for duck-duck-goose and watching the sun set over the city. FREE!

22. The National Mall Carousel - Previously posted here. My kids love the carousel. I love the sculpture gardens (both the Hirshhorn's and the National Gallery's). The park service has a (mediocre) cafe next to the carousel which serves hot dogs and fries and that sort of stuff. Lots of room to run and museums to see.

23. The National Mall (Constitution Gardens & the Lincoln Memorial) - A nice place to take a stroll and feed the ducks. The kids enjoy walking across the bridge to Independence Island (though watch out for goose droppings) and I like the sculpture garden and Einstein statue across the street. Anywhere you look, the views are spectacular. Plus, the abundance of trees means plenty of great picnic spots, even on hot days. For more information, click here. FREE!

24. Georgetown to Alexandria Boat Rides through Potomac Riverboat Company - See the monuments by water. So relaxing. My kids love these boat rides - airplanes, trains, other boats and lots of trees and monuments. Potomac River Company sells popcorn on the boat, an extra bonus. The ticket price is somewhat steep ($26 for adults, $14 for kids)- so save for a splurge day. On weekends, the boats depart every two hours. Click here for more information.

25. Turtle Park - We've never been here but a reader asked me to add it to the list, so it must be a pretty fun place. The park has a sprayground and LARGE play area with five different play structures. Click here for more info. FREE!!

26. Dumbarton Oaks - Previously posted here. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous - with tons of nooks and crannies to play around. Plus lots of big trees. My kids couldn't stop exploring. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for kids 2-12. The gardens are open daily from 2-6 (except Monday). Click here for more info.


27. Claude Moore Colonial Farm (McLean, VA) - Travel back in time to 1771 and see the world a different way. I especially recommend going on the weekend of a Market Fair (previously posted here) where you'll encounter puppet shows, three-legged races, wonderful bbque, tight-rope walkers, cheap beer, and crafts galore. So much fun.

28. Clemyjontri Park (McLean, VA) - This "superpark" was created so that children with disabilities could play alongside other children. The huge park includes a carousel and bathrooms and TONS of playground equipment (mazes, airplanes, cars, a "race track", the list goes on and on). On the downside, parking can be hit or miss as the park is almost always crowded and most of the equipment is in full sun, so go early in the day. For more information, click here. FREE!

29. Great Falls Park (McLean, VA) - I previously posted about the MD side of the falls (click here), but the VA side is also quite beautiful. Lots of easily-accessible viewing areas, concession stands, picnic tables, room to run, and a kid-friendly visitors' center. For more information, click here.

30. Riverbend Park (Great Falls, VA) - Previously posted here. This free park, which borders the Potomac, is a great spot for fishing, picnics, and playing by the water. Lots of wonderful trails, but they're somewhat sandy, so not the best with strollers. FREE!

31. Hidden Pond Park & Nature Center (Springfield, VA) - Previously posted here. Take a walk around the pond. Borrow nets and fish for awhile. Play in the playground. Stop in the nature center. The perfect place for both older kids and toddlers, very stroller-friendly. FREE!

32. Burke Lake Park (Fairfax Staion, VA) - This place has it all - a carousel, a "miniature" train (suitable for adult riders), a playground, frisbee golf, miniature golf, a HUGE lake where you can fish or boat, and an ice cream parlor. For more info, click here.

33. Meadowlark Gardens (Vienna, VA) - Previously posted here. A beautiful gazebo overlooks the lake and a wonderful children's garden includes a life-size tea set and sandbox. Stroller-friendly trails and sculptures surround the property. Walk through a forest. Check out the geese. Feed the fish. Smell the flowers. Gorgeous. Though be warned - the property resides on a large hill with the visitors center at top, so the walk back to the car can be a haul for small children. For more information, click here.

34. Frying Pan Farm & Park (Herndon, VA) - Previously posted here. This working farm recreates a local farm from the 1920s to the 1950s. Lots of animals - pigs, horses, cows, goats, peacocks, chickens, etc - make it a great place for kids. Plus, the mini-tractors (great for photo opps) and the two playgrounds make for a wonderful day or afternoon. A trail around the park includes a short walk in the woods. Wagon rides and a country-store are on site (be careful in the store, as your kids are sure to want the toys they sell). FREE!

35. Reston Zoo (Reston, VA) - A 30 acre-wide family-friendly zoo that is home to a variety of exotic animals. Feed the animals in the petting barn. Take a ride on the zoofari wagon. Watch all the animals play. I find this whole zoo sort of an odd mish-mash of animals and stuff (I especially hate the mall-type rides that are scattered throughout the property, bring quarters), but plenty of people love it. Admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children over 2 (children under 2 are free). Pony rides, animal feed, and lamb bottles cost extra. For more information click here.

36. Manassas National Battlefield Park (Manassas, VA) - Beautiful trails, plus a history lesson or two. A great place to take the kids to run and run and run (and explore), though wear long pants as ticks are abundant. We managed to take a stroller on the trails, but the ride was bumpy. On weekends the park often stages battle reenactments and demonstrations. For more information, click here. FREE!

37. Wolf Trap Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods (Vienna, VA) - Family shows at 10 am and 11:15 Tuesday through Saturday in a beautiful forest setting. Tickets are only $8 for both shows. Click here for more information.

38. Mason Neck State Park(Lorton, VA) - Beautiful lake views. A playground. Several trails (short and long), including a short trial to a small "beach" (just don't go in the water). For more information, click here.

39. Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA) - Previously posted here. Of everywhere on this list I think Great Country Farms is my favorite place. The farm always has something available for you-pick (from potatoes to strawberries to blackberries, check the website for information) and the grounds are full of wonderful kid-friendly activities - a HUGE bouncing pillow (sort of like a moon-bounce but better), slides, a petting zoo, rope swings, tire mountains, a corn crib, mini-tractors, sandboxes, a giant outdoor chess set, etc. So much fun. So much!!

40. Barrel Oak Winery (Delaplane, VA) - We've never been here, but Wine Enthusiast Magazine just named this the top family-friendly winery in the world (yay!!) beating out wineries in CA and France. According to the article, "Little ones are greeted with juice boxes, and fun photographs of dogs adorn the tasting room walls. Parents can sip the 2010 Bowhaus White, a gold medal winner of the 2010 Indy International Wine Competition, on one of their picnic tables as kids roam the hilly landscape." Sounds too good to be true. Click here to read the Washington Post article. And click here to go to the winery's website.


41. Brookside Gardens (Wheaton, MD) - This place is huge, I don't think we've ever managed to see the whole thing in one day. Lots of gazebos and ponds and room to run. And a wonderful children's garden with a treehouse. In the summer the garden usually hosts an indoor butterfly exhibit (additional cost) which is quite spectacular (P is scared of butterflies, so we can never stay long). For more information, click here. FREE!

42. Fort Washington National Park (Fort Washington, MD) - This is one of the area's best hidden treasures. From the grounds one can take in long sweeping views of the Potomac, plus it's nice for kids to learn a history lesson or two. A playground is on property. Everything is more or less stroller friendly but plan on lots of walking. Also a wonderful place to fly a kite on a windy day. For more information, click here. The park charges a $5 fee. Makes a nice combined trip with National Harbor for lunch.

43. Clark Eliok's Farm (Ellicott City, MD) -Previously posted here. Clark Eliok's exists as a wonderland for children, part Disney-world, part miniature-golf-type tackiness, it's truly a sight to behold.

44. Oxon Hill Farm (Oxon Hill, MD) - Previously posted here. A great working farm, full of various farm animals. Lots of places to run. A barn full of old farm equipment that kids can sit and play on. The farm hosts several daily activities, but they're often canceled, so call ahead. The property is a very short drive from National Harbor, which has many good lunch places. FREE!

45. Patuxent Research Area (Laurel, MD) - Previously posted here. Gorgeous trails, fields of waterflowers, lovely lakes, and a HUGE nature center. FREE!

46. Cabin John Regional Park (Rockville, MD) - Previously posted here. If you ask me Cabin John Park has the best playground in the metropolitan area. Tons of unique equipment, clustered into separate little "stations" (for lack of a better word) - with slides of ALL different sizes. Plus, the whole thing is shaded, making it a perfect destination even on hot, sunny days. An onsite miniature train (adults can ride too) for an extra fee completes the trip. And don't forget to throw your trash in the talking pig trash can. Click here for additional information. FREE!

47. The Maryland Side of Great Falls (Potomac, MD) - Previously posted here. A walking path next to the C&O canal leads to a boardwalk over smaller falls until you arrive at the Great Falls viewing platform. The walk is stroller friendly (though some of the trail is dirt, so be careful after rain). In the summer, for an extra fee the National Park service offers mule-drawn boat rides down the canal (be warned, the boat moves VERY slowly). A visitors center and concession stand are on site.

48. Watkins Regional Park (Upper Marlboro, MD) - We've never visited, but this place sounds awesome - trains, carousels, a small farm, pony rides, a nature center, and a large playground. Click here for more information (info via KidFriendly DC).

49. Glen Echo Carousel & Discovery Creek Children's Museum (Glen Echo, MD)- The carousel at Glen Echo is truly a sight to behold, so so beautiful. The Puppet Co Theatre and Adventure Theater reside in the park and both are great places to see shows with your children. The park also has a small playground (SMALL!) and concessions on weekends. Further, on weekends, Discovery Creek Living Classrooms hosts drop-in programs on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-3. Admission is $5 for nonmembers.

50. Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake (Annapolis, MD) - Previously posted here. Even my pirate-weary girls loved this boat ride - search for "hidden treasure", use your water cannon to knock "Pirate Pete" out of his boat, listen to various stories of pirate lore. Call ahead for reservations at least a month in advance, it's a busy boat.

51. The National Colonial Farm (Accokeek, MD) - We've never been here, but I really want to go. The farm is a living history museum that depicts life for an ordinary tobacco planting family in the 1770s. On weekends visitors may come across people spinning, dyeing, woodworking and playing colonial games. For more information, click here. FREE!

52. Germantown Splash Playground and Miniature Golf (Boyds, MD) - We've never been here but a reader asked me to include it on the list, so it must be pretty fun. The splashpark sounds amazing, according to the website it includes "a one-of-a-kind 280-jet water maze, waterfall with a cave, water bucket drops, and spraying animals." Click here for more information.

53. Locust Grove Nature Center (Bethesda, MD) - We've never been here but Not-So-SAHM has a great review of it (click here to read) - apparently there's a lovely walk and a great stream for kids to explore. For more information, click here. FREE!

54. Dinosaur Park (Laurel, MD) - We've never been here, but I hope to go soon (it looks amazing). According to the website "[d]inosaur Park presents visitors a unique opportunity to experience the prehistoric past. The park features a small garden/entry area with interpretive signage about the Muirkirk Deposit, a unique geological formation with 110 million year old fossils, some of which are the remains of dinosaurs. The park also includes an intact portion of the Muirkirk Deposit surrounded by a fence. Access to the Muirkirk deposit is only allowed on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 12 noon to 4 pm, during this time kids can HELP ASSIST PALEONTOLOGISTS SEARCHING FOR FOSSILS (how cool is that?). School programs and group tours are offered weekdays by appointment. Click here for more info. FREE!

55. Bladensburg Waterfront Park (Bladensburg, MD) - Has anyone been here yet? We've never gone, but the description looks promising - "The park features a public boat ramp, fishing pier, picnic pavilion, playground, a B & O Railroad caboose, community boathouse (storage facility) and signage interpreting the rich history of the area. Canoe, kayak, and rowboat rentals are available on weekends from late May to the end of October. FREE PONTOON BOAT TOURS allow visitors to explore this surprisingly scenic river with the guidance of a naturalist. Canoeing and kayaking lessons are offered, as well as many other interesting nature and history programs." According to one yelp reviewer the park sounds like a good place to spend an afternoon. Also, this blog recommends coupling a trip to the park with a visit to Franklins' brewery (great pulled pork, a general store with toys, and a great beer selection). Click here for more information. FREE!

56. Cantler's Riverside Inn (Annapolis, MD) - We've never been here, but Not-SO-SAHM rates it as her number 1 place to take kids. According to her review, "OK, so the first up on our list is technically a restaurant. But it really is one of favorite outdoor destinations (located in Annapolis, MD, it's the least "local" spot on our list) -- sitting outside is a must. We've been coming here since we were babies and love to check out the boats docking, live crabs, and we've learned to wield a mean crab mallet. Butter, Old Bay, and a bucket of brew dogs. Something for everyone to love." Click here for more info.


So what did I miss? Please let me know and I'll add it to the list!!

(The picture above was taken during a Georgetown boat ride.)


Things to Do - Couchpotatos


For the last few months, in the afternoons the girls have played together in their room while T and I chilled together in the family room. I've worried on and off about the fact that T is often left out, but friends have advised me that sibling relationships have a tendency to change. Well, change has arrived. Lately, F's become obsessed with learning to read, so while F sits with her face in a book P's taken on the roll of T's mentor and friend. And some days it really is the cutest thing ever. Though wow, when the youngest two get together they tend to wreck some havoc.



*So true. And perfectly stated. A must-read.

*Best Ikea-hack ever.

*Roasted strawberries = yum. Recipe here.

*Covet garden is a great online interior design magazine, very artsy. Check it out here.

*Wow, these are all so cute, especially the squirrel lamp.


*My favorite song ever LIVE. and perfect.

*This collection of "beautiful decay" photos is just gorgeous. Kelley's pinterest files are so beautiful, I could get lost in them for days (seriously).

*Everything about this site is wrong and awful but I can't stop looking at it. It's the internet equivelant of Jagermeister shots (tastes icky, feels bad, but yet, when I was 20, I did them anyways). But then again, it's nice to realize that celebrity parents have issues too. Thank god my kids' tantrums aren't recorded by paparazzi.

*If you live in the DC area and love baseball - this looks like an awesome deal.

*Beautiful spring photos.



Things to Read - Earth Day Reading for Kids

(As you can tell by the picture, T's an environmentalist (who happens to like Tom Waits).)

Since Earth Day is next Friday (April 22nd) I decided to get the kids some books about planet friendliness. Here's what we've been reading (and for more suggestions re: teaching kids about nature and the environment - check out this past post):

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest
This book has triggered some controversy in our house. The plot is simple enough - lumberjacks come to the rainforest to chop down the great Kapok tree, while one of the lumberjacks sleeps the animals explain to him the importance of the tree. After we read the book the girls made me research if anything we owned came from Kapok trees, I couldn't find much information (does anyone have suggestions?). Then F asked if any other "really big trees" have been cut down for lumber or products. So we ended up watching this youtube video on the destruction of giant redwoods. F cried. Needless to say, we've been talking non-stop about forest destruction since then (I wish these books came with parents' guides, as I know nothing about the kapok tree).

We Planted a Tree
A really simple book with beautiful illustrations that emphasizes the importance of trees in our world. P loves it. Luckily, we planted three new trees in our yard two years ago, otherwise P would be planting more right now.

The Adventures of an Aluminum Can: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books)

We've been reading this book and its companion - The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books) - over and over lately. I highly suggest both books, both because I actually learned a lot from reading them AND because they really emphasize the miracles of recycling. My only gripe is that the books do not address what happens when recycling does not occur, so kids only see the best case scenario and not the ocean's plastic soup.

The Lorax (Classic Seuss)

One of the best children's books ever written as well as the best environmental story every told. Despite the fact that we've read this over and over again (since the girls were small), it always makes me cry. A short movie also exists - Dr. Seuss - The Lorax/Pontoffel Pock & His Magic Piano, which follows the book exactly.

Our Big Home

This book consists of a long poem that discusses all the things we share in "our big blue home." I find it a little cheesy, but the kids seem to like it, especially P (our 4 year old). Its short length makes it a good bedtime story.

The Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle (What Do You Know About? Books)
This simple story introduces the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle to children. I like it because it caused my kids to ask lots of questions about the environment and where trash goes. So we've spent some time together googling the answers (got to love google).

What about everyone else? Any good book suggestions?


Places to Go - Frying Pan Farm Park (Herndon, VA)


(The girls loved the space to run and T loved the mud).

Frying Pan Park "preserves and interprets" a 1920s through 1950s local farm. In the spring, the farm has several baby animals, when we went three weeks ago we saw two litters of piglets (so cute). (Click here for the entire 2011 birthing schedule). We also saw cows, goats, peacocks, chickens, bunnies, horses, etc. - T especially loves to check out all the animals. And all three kids love the farm's play tractors, which they can "drive" for long periods of time. A lovely, stroller-friendly loop-trail goes around the farm and through the woods, which makes for a nice walk. And the farm has a general store (with lots of toys for sale, so be careful when you enter with kids) and two playgrounds. Really, a great place to visit.


If you're interested in other Washington DC area farms click here for more posts on our favorite local farms.


Things to Make - Tissue Paper Vases & Tissue Paper Collages



A few weeks ago, we made tissue paper vases while some friends were over. The whole project seemed easy enough - we still had tissue paper left over from the flowers we made (click here for post) and the recycling bin was full of glass bottles. So after I found some Mod Podge CS11202 Original 16-Ounce Glue, Gloss Finish (which is only about $3 at AC Moore) our art project began. On the downside, this project proved messier than I expected (glue got everywhere). On the upside, the girls LOVED placing different colored tissue papers ontop of each other and watching the colors merge, we kept hearing "look, blue and yellow really do make green." Once completed, the undried vases were sort of lumpy/sticky/glue-y looking, but 12 or so hours later the resulting vessels were quite pretty. We keep our vases in the kitchen and use them to hold all the spring flowers accumulated on walks.

Here's the scoop:
1. Cut the tissue paper into squares or other small pieces.

2. "Paint" Mod Podge or glue onto the vase then start sticking the tissue paper to it. Unfortunately, the kids had so much fun with the paintbrushes that Mod Podge was soon EVERYWHERE. In retrospect, I would recommend diluting the glue with water.

3. Continue to layer the jar by alternating between "painting" and sticking the tissue paper to the paint. If the tissue paper gets bumpy just try to pat it down - no need to make it perfect, remember it's the process that's fun.

4. Once all the tissue paper is on the vase coat over it with the Mod Podge.

Toddler version:
I didn't want to deal with T and glue so I gave him a paintbrush and water and let him water-paint the tissue onto plain white paper. He also seemed to enjoy watching the colors mix.


*I love these real easter eggs with a secret message inside ("fortune eggs") - click here for the tutorial.

*Tie-Dye tissue paper, so pretty.

*For adults - make a cyanotype scarf and/or gorgeous metal/thread bracelets.

*DIY marbleized easter eggs.

*These balloon vases (much classier than they sound) are adorable and easy to make. I love it.

*Rainbow cake in a jar - I want to eat this. NOW.

*Jersey knit bracelets = pretty cool.



Things to Do - Blankets in the Yard


This year we finally sucked it up and hired a lawn service and the pleasure caused has been well worth the money spent. I used to dread hanging out in our yard during the spring, all around me were: bushes in need of pruning, lawn furniture in need of cleaning, dead grass, old mulch, and lots to do. But lately, while T (and sometimes P) naps, F and I like to throw a blanket on the grass and spend some time playing board games, reading books, and drawing pictures. I'm not much of an artist, but watching the kids create has inspired me to try sketching with them. So thank you, spring, I'm so glad you're here.


*Send a box and help Japan. Click here for the link. We sent our box out last Wednesday (the girls loved going through their old toys and hand me downs for what was needed).

*This video made my cry, in a good way.

*These might be the most beautiful handmade stuffed animals I've ever seen (and reasonably priced). I ordered a bunch for the kids for Easter and they're even more gorgeous in person.

*These online magazines celebrate local foods (season by season) for several regions across the US - how wonderful is that? (link via The Slow Life)

*These make me want to go camping. Now.

*I love this woman's hair. You have to see it. Really. How does one do this? Please let me know, I'm willing to work on it.

*So we're an Odyssey family, but I have to give Siennas their due - this Swagger wagon video is awesome!!

*This holi festival in the Bay Area looks like so much fun. I wonder if anywhere in DC hosts something similar?

*Tulips from the sky, gorgeous.

*50 Best Opening Lines in Music - They got me with the Kinks, Stone Roses, Leonard Cohen, LCD Soundsystem, and LL Cool J (wow, I'm old)

*In case anyone is wondering, this is how I would dress if I was rich. Maybe one day??



Things to Do - An Anniversary of Sorts


My first day as a SAHM was three years ago today, so today marks an anniversary of sorts. Before I had children I met women who dreamed of staying at home with kids, and I appreciated their goals as well as their certainty. I, however, was not one of those moms. I dreamed of careers and offices, business meetings and shopping at Ann Taylor (which is SO overrated once your job actually requires you to shop there or somewhere similar). I wasn't a frequent babysitter or a big sister, I didn't picture myself as a "kid person". But then, like so many other moms, I eventually had kids. The first year or so wasn't bad (I'm not much of a baby person) but then F started talking - thoughts and ideas and stories flowed out at rapid speed - often about people who weren't me. And maybe that wouldn't have been so bad either, but my job wasn't going that well. I was at a career point where I either needed to start working A LOT harder or start looking for a new job and neither option appealed to me (turns out that offices and business meetings were not nearly as exciting as I had envisioned, in fact when I look back at childhood me I just want to tell her "these aren't the right dreams for you"). So I jumped off the boat, so to speak.

I could go on a long rant about how this choice was the best decision I've ever made (which would be true, but also cliched) - we've heard that story a million times. And the thing is - I admire working moms, it's not easy to divide yourself in two - to go from using every molecule of brain power to sitting on the floor for hours making block towers, when I tried to do both I found I was making grocery lists in meetings and drafting legal briefs while coloring pictures. It was exhausting. But so is this life. Staying up all night with a newborn and then hearing your 3 year old say "but I want to go somewhere fun today!!" is trying (in case you're wondering, we went somewhere fun). So is taking care of three healthy kids when YOU have the flu ("what do you mean mommy has a fever? but I want to play NOW!"). And I do find it incredible that I've been in LONG conversations with people about how FABULOUS their daycare is, but these same people seem to think I do nothing with my time (sometimes I think this blog should be called "look, I actually DO SOMETHING"). Nobody says to daycare workers or nannies "wow, I can't believe people actually pay you, your life must be so easy - just sitting around playing with kids all day." Because the thing is - nobody in their right mind leaves a kid by themselves all day, so if you work, then someone else is taking care of your child. And they have a job. Just like me.

I'm not saying my choices should be yours. If I had loved being a lawyer, I would have stayed in my career (though not at my job) and I still would have been a good mom. Obviously being a good parent is NOT about being there all the time, it's about being there when you're there. My husband billed over 300 hours last month (yes, that means he averaged 10 hours a day of BILLABLE time, seven days a week) yet he still came home and read stories and played Memory and made us baked chicken and crepes and watered the lawn. He's an amazing dad (though an incredibly stressed and tired dad as well).

All in all, life is just about being happy and appreciating the choices you made (and I honestly, truly, love the choices I've made) so I'm not sure why all the judgement gets me down, but wow, sometimes it really does get me down.


On my first day as a SAHM I spent the day the morning at Theodore Roosevelt Island with the girls. As cheesy as it sounds, I remember it as one of the best days of my life.


Things to Read - 10 New-to-Me Blogs Worth Checking Out

february10 (1 of 1)

So here are some new-to-me blogs I've been digging lately. Yes, I just said digging. And I'm 35, how sad is that? Anyways, back to the topic at hand, drum roll please . . .

1. Folkloric - some photos, some artwork, always beautiful.

2. The Slow Life - Lots of great links to all different sorts of (southern) art.

3. Bluebirdbaby - This blogger threw a Mad Men party, if that isn't reason enough to read it then check out her wonderful links and gorgeous photos.

4. Go Fug Yourself - Because sometimes (especially when I have gross child-related stains on my clothing) I enjoy seeing celebrities look like crap.

5. Little Red Workshop - A 365 blog with great photos and stories.

6. Trula Kids - Lovely photos. Lovely projects. I wish I could sew . . .

7. Under the Pecan Tree - One of the great things about blogs is the access it gives you to so many different cultures and perspectives. This blog about life in a Kibbutz is full of wonderful stories and artful links.

8. Tales of an Unlikely Mother - If you want to read a wonderfully written mom blog about day to day life with kids, this is the blog. Sort of a "down in the trenches" account of parenting. Oh, and its author gave me an award (YAY!!!), which made my week!!

9. Paper tiaras - Kid stuff. Lots of really great kid stuff.

10. The Chocolate Muffin Tree - This new(ish) children's craft blogs has lots of simple (cheap) projects.


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