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In June, MP interviewed LEGO Master Model Builder, Ian Coffey. We discussed his visit to Portland and how he landed his incredibly fun job at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston.

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After chatting with Ian, our team was curious to check out LEGOLAND® Discovery Center for ourselves. We decided on the weekend before Halloween, so we could experience the new location’s Brick-or-Treat activities, which included a LEGO® pumpkin hunt and building some Halloween-themed creations.

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LEGOLAND® Discovery Center is located in a new, outdoor shopping center called Assembly Row in Somerville. Assembly Row is still under construction, but there are several shops and restaurants open if you choose to stay after your visit.

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We arrived at 10 a.m., when the center opens, to beat the crowds (note: you can also order tickets online to save time). And hurrah! We found a free parking garage conveniently located near the entrance to the attraction. The kids left the car with a few mini-figures from home, so they could trade with the staff throughout the morning.

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After checking in, we took an elevator to the second floor. The kids were given a golden brick that read, “Brick or Treat” as a welcome souvenir. Then we were all invited to create a virtual mini figure of our own on a big screen. Once our project was complete, we boarded the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride, where we targeted trolls and skeletons to rescue the LEGO kingdom.

The ride was fun, but all of us were really looking forward to checking out Miniland®, which features some of Boston’s best-known buildings and places to visit. MP especially loved the Miniland® version of Gilette Stadium, complete with crowd noise and a big screen.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile MP lingered to take photos, the rest of the team went to explore the main play area. CP#2 went right for the Earthquake Tables, where kids can build a tower from DUPLO® Bricks and then test their structure’s ability to stay standing. CP#1, who can’t sit still, found her way to the LEGO® City Play Zone, where she discovered giant, foam LEGO bricks and lots of cool climbing structures.

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DP noticed a 4D movie (3D plus wind, snow, and other cool effects) called “LEGO® Racers” was playing, so we all filed in to take a break from the action and watch the short film. Later we would return to see the “Clutch Powers” movie, too.

The highlight of the visit for all of us was building our own pumpkins, witches and crazy robots in the LEGO® Model Builder Academy. This room offers buckets of colorful bricks, plus shelves of cool creations made by Ian and friends. Free from the distractions of home, MP and DP had so much fun building with the kids.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile the boys kept building, CP#1 and MP hopped on Merlin’s Apprentice Ride, where riders pedal fast to keep their carts flying in the air. While we were soaring above the play area, MP finally spotted a mini pumpkin in the rafters.

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There are two locations for little ones, which includes a LEGO® Friends house and a LEGO® DUPLO® Farm. Truth be told, these attractions need a little more in the offering, but CP#1 did love the karaoke that’s tucked in a corner of the LEGO® Friends house. CP#2 and DP eventually joined us, and they had a great time singing karaoke, too.

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Like many families, we found our way to the store at the end of our visit, where the kids built their own mini-figures. They begged us for all variety of things, but DP and MP stood firm! We left with promises of an Indian lunch in Somerville, followed by a visit to the Boston Museum of Science. What a full day!

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If you have a LEGO® fan at home, a visit to LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston is worth the trip, especially on a rainy day. Of course, you could always host your own LEGO® building party at home, which is what we plan to do in the future.

To learn more about LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston, visit here.

MP received a great book a few months ago, called Eating in Maine by Malcom and Jillian Bedell. The book features seasonal recipes, reviews and food-inspired road trips from the Bedell’s popular blog, From Away.

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Our family tested a number of recipes from Eating in Maine including a crowd-pleasing coffee s’mores pie and a decadent bacon jam, which is great on everything from cheeseburgers to baked Brie. These are recipes we will turn to again—each was straightforward, simple to make, and turned out exactly as pictured.

One of our favorite family recipes for Halloween are the fun and super easy Bacon & Egg candies. On a Friday night, we invited Grandma and Grandpa Potato over for a pancake dinner and afterwards, we made these candies together.

What you’ll need:

White chocolate (we used a 10 oz. bag of Trader Joe’s white chocolate baking chips)
1 lb. bag of M&M candies
1 lb. bag pretzel sticks

To start, line two standard baking sheets with parchment paper. Fill a small saucepan half full of water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Next, place a heat-safe, metal bowl on top of the saucepan to act as a double boiler. Turn the heat down to simmer on your stove, and stir the chips until they melt.

While the chips are melting, have the kids prepare a bowl of pretzel sticks broken in half. Another family member (we volunteered Grandpa Nicky Potato) can gather the yellow M&M’s in another bowl.

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When the chocolate is melted, use a teaspoon to place a drop of chocolate on the prepared baking sheet. The kids can carefully place a yellow M&M at the center of each, and then put two halves of a pretzel stick next to it.

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When you’re finished, place the baking sheets in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens (approx. 10-15 minutes). Et voila, you have bacon & eggs!

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As Malcolm says in Eating in Maine, “Innat cunnin’?”

Our family had so much fun making these candies. They are cute, but they’re also delicious. MP, who is not typically a white chocolate fan, loved the sweet and salty mix of flavors. We can’t wait to bring them to a friend’s pumpkin carving party next week.

Interested in getting a copy of Eating in Maine for yourself? Find the book here for 20% off the cover price! And check out the Bedell’s super cool, new Kickstarter Campaign for a mobile sandwich truck in Rockland.

Happy Halloween, all!

We’ve reached a year living in our new hometown, and one of our favorite places in the ‘hood is Sweetser’s Apple Barrel and Orchard. The Sweetser family has operated their orchard since 1812, so they know a thing or two about apples!

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Sweetser’s is special because there is no other place we know that offers an instantaneous apple education. The minute you enter the charming roadside building, you’ll spot a cubby full of popular and heirloom apples. Just behind that cubby, is a sign describing each and every apple offered that day and the year of its origin.

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While you can’t pick directly from Sweetser’s orchard, you get to peruse all kinds of apples (to date, the family grows 50 varieties). Rommy Holman, the shop manager, recommends buying one of each variety to bring home. “If you like your choices, you can come back for more,” she says. During a recent visit, our family chose sweet Galas, tart Red Spies, giant Winesaps, and Macouns. Rommy gave us a marker and some paper bags so we could write the names of our selections.

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Selfishly, we wish Sweetser’s stayed open year-round. It’s our go-to spot on the drive home for delicious breads from Standard Baking Co., cheeses, local flowers and veggies. But for now, we’ll savor this special neighborhood market that celebrates all we adore about autumn!

IMG_3483 IMG_3501 IMG_3488Sweetser’s Apple Barrel & Orchards
19 Blanchard Road
Cumberland, Maine 04021
207.829.3074
Open August-December
Find them here or on Facebook

Our family needs a break from routine by the end of the week. Sometimes we make simple meals like breakfast for dinner and enjoy a movie at home. Other Fridays DP and MP will throw up our hands and say, “Let’s go out!” On this particular night, we had the new-to-us Otto Pizza in South Portland on the brain. The popular pizza place, which has two other locations in Portland, set up shop in an old gas station, and the location looked so cool, we wanted to experience it for ourselves.

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We arrived on a warm September evening, and Otto was packed with kids and grownups. The garage doors were open, and many families opted for outdoor seating (which faces busy Cottage Street). There were a also few people in line for take-out. Despite the crowd, not much time went by before we were lead to our table.

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After ordering drinks—Allagash White for the adults, and lemonades for the kids—the four of us took in the cool space. MP loved all the details that Otto maintained in the building, such as the large paned windows and the letters that spell out, “Volkswagen” above them. The square glass water bottles on each table, which had a vintage, industrial look, were also a clever nod to the filling station theme (MP didn’t take a photo, but you can see them here).

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If you’ve never been to Otto, the restaurant is best known for their unique and delicious toppings. MP and DP typically opt for the popular mashed potato, bacon and scallion pizza, but on this night, we decided to try something new, and ordered kalamata olive, red pepper, garlic and asiago pie. The kids kept to their standard: half cheese, half pepperoni.

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Our food and drinks arrived quickly. MP and DP appreciate a crispy crust and in that regard, Otto never disappoints. Unfortunately, on this night, our grownup pizza lacked the flavor we’ve come to expect from Otto. We found ourselves dipping into the kids’ pepperoni half of the pie, which had the savory kick we were craving.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESStill, the warm night and the great location had us all in good moods, and we left with a big box of leftovers. DP and MP will definitely take the family to the SoPo Otto again, but taking a cue from the kids, we’ll stick to our standard favorite.

Otto
159 Cottage Road
South Portland
207.773.7099

Fair Season

The leaves, the color, that crisp feeling in the air — it’s fall in Maine and it seems like the whole state is celebrating. We kicked off the season with an after school visit to the Cumberland Fair. Yes, there are crowds of people, expensive rides, and for better or worse, fair food, but the experience is something every family should share at least once a year. And no matter how old you are, visiting the farm animals is always a treat.

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IMG_9509Soak this gorgeous autumn weather up while you can! If you can’t make the Cumberland Fair this weekend, try anyone of these great events coming up in October: Punkinfiddle, Fryeburg Fair, Damariscotta Pumpkin Festival, Waterville Harvest Fest or Wolfe’s Neck Farm Fall Festival. For more fairs and festivals throughout the state, visit here.

Happy fall!

One of the things MP loves most about shopping fairs and festivals is the wonderful, creative people she meets. Over the summer, she had the chance to chat with two talented women—Molly Perry of Go Babe Slings and Lauren Watkinson, owner of Bird & Bear Boutique.

We love this print from Go Babe. So cute!

We love this print from Go Babe. So cute!

Molly and Lauren joined forces after meeting at church. Their use of bright, bold fabrics for teething rings (Lauren) and baby clothing (Molly), along with other beautiful items for babies, perfectly complement one another. The two decided to share a booth at the Yarmouth Clam Festival, and now do markets together whenever they can.

A burp cloth and teether set from Bird & Bear.

A burp cloth and teether set from Bird & Bear.

Molly, who started sewing as a child, started Go Babe Slings out of necessity—creating colorful and comfortable baby slings for her own children. Later, she began designing nursery décor and clothing.

Go Babe's bibsters are backed with soft, French terry.

Go Babe’s bibsters are backed with soft, French terry.

Similarly, Lauren, who co-owned a custom, wedding stationery company for 8 years, began Bird & Bear Boutique after her twins were born. In addition to teething rings, Lauren also creates stylish prints and mobiles for the nursery, and burp cloths for little ones.

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The two women have generously offered to give away a bandana-style bibster and a Bunny Ear teething ring to one lucky Cute Potato reader! All you need to do is comment below. We’ll choose one winner at random. Contest ends Friday, September 19 at midnight EST.

Want to see more? Shop Go Babe Slings and Bird & Bear Boutique on Etsy.

Upcoming shows:

Go Babe Slings will be at the Freeport Fall Festival (booth #3), 10/4
Go Babe Slings and Bird & Bear Boutique will be at The Festival of Crafts at Brunswick High School, 11/1

Now that school is back in full swing, MP is feeling ready for a little self-care. She’s been running to soccer, gymnastics, the grocery store, school events, meetings and birthday parties. All good things, of course, but adapting to a new schedule can tire a mama out.

Enter MP’s go-to, Portland-based massage therapist: Ellie Falby. Ellie has helped MP through two pregnancies, running injuries, and back pain. Plus, she is a mother of two energetic girls, so she knows first-hand that parents need some TLC now and then.

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Beginning last year, Ellie added facial massage to her repertoire. MP had the opportunity to try “the classic” massage for herself. The hour-plus session includes a facial, plus a massage and hot towels for hands and feet. The experience is blissful. First, you get to rest in Ellie’s cozy home studio. Gentle music plays in the background while you lie on a warm massage table. The next hour is devoted to total relaxation. Ellie uses botanically based, all natural products to cleanse and soften skin. There are no extractions in this facial—just steaming and a massage with gentle oils and a delicious smelling honey lotion. And before the facial is complete, Ellie massages your scalp, then warms and cleanses your back with another hot towel. 

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Ellie says the facial massage is designed for the health of your skin and is perfect after a summer of sun, swimming, and sunscreen. The hour-long session helps rejuvenate and tone the muscles and skin in the face (as well as your outlook). If there were ever a way to recover from a busy summer and an even busier back-to-school, this experience is it.

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Inside Ellie’s cozy massage studio.

And MP Isn’t the only one raving about Ellie. Susan Fekety, a nurse and regular client, has this to say about the facial massage:

I totally loved the experience, which was deeply relaxing and left me glowing for days. It was great for my skin and the muscles of my face; who knew I held so much tension there?

Other facials I’ve had have annoyed and blotched up my skin; this was different, more nourishing than aggressive. Ellie has taken the time to select lotions that are made of ingredients you could eat if you wanted to. Highly recommend this wonderful technique, either for yourself or as a gift to a loved one. 

Are you ready for a facial massage? Comment below and one lucky parent will win Ellie’s classic facial massage (an $85 value). This giveaway closes on Friday, September 12 at midnight EST. We’ll announce the winner next week. Good luck!

To learn more about Ellie Falby, LMT, visit her web site or contact her here.

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