Feeds:
Posts
Comments

CP#1’s Girl Scout troop is working towards their commerce badge. To make it fun, the troop leaders organized a trip to Wilbur’s Chocolates in Freeport, where the girls would spend the afternoon learning about chocolate and how it’s made. MP, who is never one to turn down an opportunity for chocolate samples, decided to tag along.

Wilbur’s, which is located in an orange farmhouse on Route 1 called “The Pumpkin House,” has been in business since 1983. According to our tour guide, Tom and Catherine Wilbur started out with a retail store. Soon after, Tom began experimenting with chocolate making. The pair eventually made the decision to make and sell their own confections. The first chocolate Tom Wilbur developed is the iconic Wilbur’s moose, which is still sold at their shops today.

guide

Our patient tour guide for the afternoon.

After learning about the business, our guide showed the girls a cacao bean and explained that it came from a tropical, evergreen tree that grows in South America. The seeds from the cacao bean are used to make cocoa butter, cocoa powder and chocolate.

pops

Cellophane-wrapped chocolate pops for Easter.

trays

Trays of fudge ready to be cut and packaged.

mold

The troop was interested in the lesson, but  were anxious to try making their own chocolate covered marshmallow and graham cracker treats. We followed our guide to the factory, which is filled with candy making supplies, old-fashioned chocolate molds, and a conveyor belt for chocolate making. All of us were asked to wash hands and put on hairnets. If ever there was an “I Love Lucy” moment, this was it.

hairnets

conveyor

Our guide turned on the conveyor and gave each of us a graham cracker and heart-shaped marshmallow. We painted the graham crackers with a bit of chocolate, placed the pairing on the belt and let the conveyor drip dark chocolate over the whole treat. Next, we took turns decorating our treats with colorful sprinkles.

chocolate

fun

paintinh

sprinkles

We all had to wait a little while for our chocolates to continue down the conveyor. Our guide explained that the chocolate had to cool and dry before the girls could package their treats to bring home.

finished

alldoneOur field trip to the chocolate shop and factory was such fun! We would definitely bring friends or family back to visit again. To tour the factory, visit Wilbur’s events page for dates and times. Just be prepared for lots of samples!

Wilbur’s Factory
174 Lower Main Street
Freeport, Maine
207-865-4071

Our family was looking forward to visiting friends in Providence for our first children’s film festival over February break, but the weather didn’t cooperate. While Maine escaped a blizzard, Rhode Island was hit with a big snowstorm and we cancelled the trip. MP was so disappointed. She figured the kids would have to wait until next year for the experience.

Then MP received a note from Portland-based mom, Lauri Boxer-Macomber, detailing the city’s upcoming children’s film festival. The event, now in its 4th year, benefits the East End Community School, a K-5 public school in Portland. According to Lauri, one the festival’s main goals is to create lasting connections within the community through films.

portland_childrens_film_festival_logo (2015)

The entirely volunteer-run festival, which begins Wednesday, March 25th and runs through Sunday, March 29th, features everything from animated short films for little ones to documentaries for teens. Each film focuses on a different part of the world in an effort to create a global awareness for young audiences. The films will be shown at several venues around Portland, including Space Gallery, The Portland Museum of Art, and The Portland Public Library, to name a few.

The festival will also feature original student films, which will be on view at the Nickelodeon. Lauri, who has volunteered for the festival since its inception, says this is often her favorite part. “The kids are so excited to see their work in the local movie theater. I love to watch their faces light up when their films are on the big screen.”

A scene from "On the Way to School."

A scene from “On the Way to School.”

MP previewed the films with the kids and we’re hoping to catch On the Way to School, a documentary that follows school children in four remote locations around the world—the Kenyan wilderness, the hills of Patagonia, the Atlas Mountains and the Bay of Bengal —as they travel to attend class in distant schoolhouses. The movie takes place at the Portland Public Library on Friday afternoon, and there is no charge for admission.

"Boy & The World" tells the story of a boy who is searching for his father.

“Boy & The World” tells the story of a boy who is searching for his father.

CP#2 is excited to see Horizon Beautiful, about a 12-year old street kid who hopes to get the attention of an influential soccer promoter, on Friday evening at SPACE. On Saturday morning, MP would like to take the kids to the Portland Museum of Art for the Brazilian film Boy & the World. After the movie, kids are encouraged to check out the Youth Art Month exhibition. Then at 1:00 p.m., side x side—a community arts organization based in Portland— will be leading an art project inspired by the film.

In addition to what we’ve selected here, there are so many more great films to see and interesting talks to attend (including a free chance for teens to watch “I Learn America” and meet the filmmaker at USM). For a full listing of events, visit here.

Hope to see you at the movies!

FMI: Visit the Portland Children’s Film Festival web site. March 25-29, 2015.

PS: For the Portland Museum of Art event, mention you are with the Portland Children’s Film Festival and you’ll receive half-price admission to the museum and art workshop.

“The more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is.” —Michael Pollan

In January, MP was browsing the new books at our library and came across a cookbook called 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake. The book caught MP’s interest for a few reasons. Like MP, Lisa is a blogger and mother of two, who enjoys cooking and baking. Lisa began her blog after watching a television interview with In Defense of Food author Michael Pollan. Pollan’s common sense thoughts on highly processed foods inspired Lisa to change her family’s eating habits for the better.

leake-family

Lisa Leake and her family. Photo courtesy of http://www.jsonline.com.

Much like MP, Lisa had been filling her daughter’s lunch boxes with what she considered healthy snacks—yogurt sticks, pretzels, fruit snacks and granola bars. Michael Pollan’s Food 101 discussion challenged her to consider the ingredients of the foods she was buying. Lisa was surprised by the amount of preservatives, sugars, and artificial flavors in the snacks she believed were healthy for her kids.

Cover photo courtesy of Harper Collins.

Cover photo courtesy of Harper Collins.

Right around the time MP discovered 100 Days of Real Food, she had begun looking at labels and trying to keep the kids’ lunchbox snacks and juices to 10 grams of sugar or less. It seemed like the logical next step to follow Lisa Leake’s rule of thumb: try to purchase real food with 5 ingredients or less, and whenever possible opt for 100% whole grains and no refined sugar.

MP chose a few recipes from 100 Days of Real Food to start, including homemade granola cereal, tostadas, whole chicken in the slow cooker, and cinnamon-raisin quick bread. She had fun figuring out the family’s meal plan for the week, but shopping posed a few challenges. Like Lisa, MP couldn’t believe how many artificial ingredients were packed into some of our staples. The oatmeal bread MP used to purchase for sandwiches was at least 20 ingredients long. Even the plain almond milk she used for the kids’ smoothies had some ingredients she couldn’t pronounce.

After learning quickly which foods made the cut, MP felt encouraged. Instead of yogurt sticks, CP#1 takes whole milk yogurt to school flavored with real maple syrup. And rather than goldfish crackers, CP#2 brings freshly popped popcorn. Each of them always has a fruit or vegetable in their lunch box, and something homemade from Mom (quick breads and muffins sweetened with honey are a favorite). Their sandwiches are made from whole wheat bread (we like Borealis and When Pigs Fly), which has probably been the biggest transition for two kids who prefer soft sandwich bread. They also go to school with bottled water rather than juice boxes.

Of course, if you read this blog, you also know that we are dessert people. We’ve revamped our weekday desserts to fresh fruit with cream, smoothies, and a simple homemade frozen yogurt (stay tuned for that recipe in an upcoming post). Whenever possible, we save our treats for the weekend. We’re far from perfect, but this new way of thinking about the foods we eat has certainly put us on a great path. MP is hoping the kids will learn a lot from our real food journey.

We have many favorite recipes from 100 Days of Real Food. All of them are so simple and only require a few ingredients. One crowd-pleaser is Lisa’s Mini Lunchbox Quiches. We have them for dinner with bacon or local sausage, potato hash, and fresh fruit. The leftover quiches are perfect for lunch the next day!

Photo courtesy 100 Days of Real Food.

Photo courtesy 100 Days of Real Food.

Mini Lunchbox Quiches
Recipe adapted from 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt (divided)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) of butter, melted
4 eggs
1 ½ cups of milk
1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup of your favorite grated cheese (we used cheddar)

  1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Line a muffin pan with 12 silicone muffin liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, blend the flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir in the melted butter until the flour is completely moistened. Set aside.
  3. In a large, glass measuring cup or spouted bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, and pepper.
  4. Put one tablespoon of the flour mixture in the bottom of each silicone muffin cup. Push the mixture down flat with your fingers so it covers the bottom evenly.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top of the crusts, then carefully pour the egg mixture on top, filling the cups approximately two-thirds full.
  6. Bake until the eggs are set and lightly browned on top. 18-20 minutes.

To learn more about 100 Days of Real Food, visit Lisa’s blog or shop for the book at your local bookstore.

PS: For more great food tips, see this post on how French kids eat.

CP#1 and #2 are growing up fast. We decided this year they would be ready to try cross-country skiing. Plus if there were ever a winter to embrace the outdoors, this one is it. DP grew up skiing at Carter’s in Oxford, but we decided to try some place closer to home for our first outing. On a bright, 20º Saturday afternoon, we bundled up and traveled to Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. The ski center features expansive trails, ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced.

We rented skis, boots and poles at the farm, and the friendly staff made us feel right at home. “You’ll have a blast!” said the young woman behind the counter once we were fully outfitted.

DP, who is the designated map expert at our house, decided on a nearly 3 mile trail to get us started. Once we all put on our skis, we traversed up our first hill. CP#2 lead the pack, followed by his Dad, CP#1 and MP, who admittedly is the slowest skier in our crew. The slippery hill was a tough way to start, but once we got past it, the remainder of the trail was fairly flat.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

trail

The trails at Pineland Farms are well groomed and signs point you in the right direction along the way. We took our first break just past the skating pond, where skiers will find a fire pit. CP#1 was also pleased to discover bags of marshmallows and sticks for roasting.

IMG_4601

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

After our break, we skied the Oak Hill Trail, which took us down some fun little slopes and through a gorgeous stretch of woods. It was at this point in the excursion that most of us found our skiing mojo. One skier in our troupe—who shall remain nameless—wanted to cut the trip short due to fatigue, but we pressed on, encouraging each other along the way.

feet

woods

By the end of the ski, all of us were tired, but in a good way. CP#1 asked if she could return the next day as soon as she took off her skis. MP worried about the cost of skiing twice in one weekend. Afternoon rentals and passes for our family totaled $60. Thankfully, she noticed a brochure for WinterKids, a non-profit that offers affordable outdoor programs for Maine families. MP knew WinterKids provided discounted passes for downhill skiing, but she learned the non-profit also offers a WinterKids FunPass for cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and tubing locations as well.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The FunPass is good for kids from preschool through fourth grade, and it allows them to try cross country skiing and snowshoeing for free! Downloading the pass on the WinterKids web site is quick and easy. The pass is good for three visits to 19 locations throughout the state! Thanks to this amazing program, our family can check out some more great places to cross-country ski.

FMI on Pineland Farms Ski Center, visit here.  To learn more about WinterKids, check out winterkids.org.

PS: For Maine 5th, 6th, and 7th graders, WinterKids also offers a special passport for discounted skiing and snowshoeing.

This is the time of year in Maine when we could all use a good dose of green. Thankfully, the first day of spring is just around the corner. We can’t wait to walk woodland trails, smell that welcome mix of evergreen and earth, and relish in temperatures above 40º.

In the spirit of feeling hopeful, we’re sharing pictures of one of our favorite new hiking spots—Rines Forest in Cumberland. We visited on a spring afternoon and had so much fun playing in the streams, throwing stones, and muddying our boots.

IMG_1528

IMG_1467

IMG_1489

IMG_1493

IMG_1523

IMG_1508

IMG_1465

To learn more about Rines Forest, visit the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust here, or check out Trail Finder.

If you read this blog, you know that Ice Castles NH is on our winter wish list of places to go. The Lincoln, New Hampshire venue, which is made up 20,000,000 pounds of ice to explore, was originally created by a Utah-based father named Brent Christensen for his children. The castles that Brent built in his backyard eventually grew to a winter venue, featuring Ice Castles locations in New Hampshire, Vermont, Utah and Minnesota. The castles themselves are something to behold during the day, but it’s at night when they really come alive with lights and music. There’s something magical about exploring caves, frozen waterfalls, caverns and tunnels in the cool evening glow.

Ice Castles is just a two-hour drive from our home in Maine, but we decided to make it a stop during a longer road trip. After visiting friends in Massachusetts, we stayed at a hotel in Tilton with a swimming pool for the kids and drove to Ice Castles at dusk. MP heard that it was best to buy tickets ahead of time to beat the lines, and she was so glad she did (visiting on a weekday didn’t hurt either). The temperature was about 20º outside, so we also made sure to bring plenty of warm layers. 

IMG_4515

Our view from the parking area.

IMG_4520

The short line for pre-paid ticket holders.

The short line for pre-paid ticket holders.

Once inside Ice Castles, we had so much fun exploring and marveling at the icy caverns and caves. We certainly weren’t alone in our enthusiasm— there was no shortage of people taking photos. Anyone who visits will agree Ice Castles is one big photo op!

IMG_4532 IMG_4535 IMG_4540

IMG_4555 IMG_4558 IMG_4569

The best treat was seeing the Ice Castles transform before our eyes as night fell. The lighting placed inside the ice sculptures changed from cool red to blue to violet as an instrumental version of “Let It Go” played in the background.

IMG_4568

IMG_4577 IMG_4587 IMG_4594

We loved our time at Ice Castles! It’s the ideal activity to tag on to a full day of fun, like skiing at Loon Mountain or taking a family sled ride. After our visit, we enjoyed a hearty dinner at the Tilt’n Diner — a classic, fifties style diner which features comfort food and over the top desserts.

As a treat for our readers, Ice Castles NH is offering 8 tickets to the venue! All you need to do is comment below. Giveaway ends Sunday, Feb. 22 at midnight EST. We’ll pick two lucky readers at random, and each winner will receive 4 tickets each. Good luck, everyone!

Thanks to everyone for your comments! Congrats goes to Anastasia Castro and Jen—each of their families have won 4 tickets to Ice Castles. Have fun, all!

FMI, visit Ice Castles online or find them on Facebook.

Ice Castles New Hampshire
64 Railroad Street
Lincoln, NH

During these long winter days, keeping our kids active and engaged can be a challenge. That’s why we were thrilled when we heard that Get Air, an indoor trampoline park for kids and adults, was opening in Portland. The park is situated inside a 25,000 square foot warehouse on industrial Riverside Street. Based on advice from friends who told us there were lines out the door on weekends, we chose to visit on a Wednesday afternoon. To save time, MP also filled out an online waiver for the family (the signed waiver is good for one year, so you only need to fill it out on the first visit).

IMG_4262MP was a little nervous after signing the waiver. The document made her well aware of all the possible injuries that could happen while jumping and climbing with lots of other people around. On the way to the park, MP reminded the kids to watch their bodies, and be aware of any other jumpers around them.

When we arrived at Get Air, there was a line about twenty people deep. The kids were concerned we’d have to wait a long time, but it took only 15 minutes to reach the register. We learned that children over 46-inches tall can play in the “Big Air” portion of the park, which includes trampolines, an obstacle course, a foam pit, a slackline, dodge ball, and ladders to climb. Younger children under 46-inches can play in the “Small Air” section. Small Air has trampolines, slides and a foam pit for little ones.

IMG_4217 IMG_4200Visitors to Get Air can jump for up to two hours. MP chose an hour for the kids’ first visit, which was more than enough time for her duo. As first time visitors, we also had to pay a small fee for special grip socks to wear in the park (the socks can be reused for future visits). CP#1 and #2 also received color-coded bracelets to indicate the length of time they’d be jumping.

IMG_4207

Once we were finished paying, the kids dropped off their coats and boots in cubbies, which were chock full of winter gear. If you’re going on a busy day, plan to leave what you can in the car. There are also a few tables nearby if you bring snacks or drinks for the kids. A water bottle is a must here. The kids get really thirsty while jumping! Get Air also has a water fountain and vending machines in case you forget to bring your own drinks.

Inside the park itself, the kids had a blast trying most everything. The only activity they stayed away from was dodge ball, which can be intimidating for some.

IMG_4198 IMG_4221 IMG_4256MP walked around and took photos while the kids played. Once she felt certain they were comfortable and safe, (there are Get Air referees throughout the park watching for any potential problems), MP sat in a comfy massage chair, which she later learned is only for paying customers. Parents watching their kiddos can sit on the floor or stand at the perimeter of the park, so bringing your own small, seat cushion is also a good idea.

IMG_4190

There’s a digital clock on the wall to let guests know exactly when they entered the park. An announcement also tells jumpers when their first hour is up. CP#1 and #2 were definitely tired by the end of the hour, but they both had so much fun. Since our first visit, the kids have returned to Get Air multiple times with friends.

IMG_4246

Does your family want to try Get Air? Get Air has generously offered 4 one hour passes to one lucky Cute Potato reader. Comment below and you’ll be entered to win. Contest ends Sunday, February 15, 2015 at midnight EST. Good luck and happy jumping!

Many congrats to Allison McBrierty! Allison and her family have won (4) one hour passes to Get Air in Portland! Thanks for all of your comments. As always, we’ll have another great giveaway coming up soon.

Get Air
921 Riverside Street
Portland
207.245.6443
Find them on Facebook
For admission prices visit here

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers

%d bloggers like this: