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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.

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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. 

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Our view from the parking area.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Valentine’s Day DIY

How did Valentine’s Day sneak up on us so fast? Our family loves to make homemade gifts and cards for friends and loved ones. Here are a few favorites:

1. A healthier version of Peppermint Patties that is so easy to make.

2. Make your own decorative stamps for cards with this simple egg carton craft.

3. A DIY Book of Love is such a sweet keepsake.

4. Kids can make their own crayons for classmates (try a heart-shaped silicon mold).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In the past two weeks, winter has made itself known. We can’t remember a February with multiple snow days in a row! Thankfully our Maine towns keep us from going stir crazy by throwing some of the best winter festivals. This year, we are looking forward to the Maine Audubon Winter Carnival. MP’s friend and co-worker, Melissa Kim, will be celebrating her new board book, “A Snowy Owl Story,” with a reading, interactive owl display, and book signing. The book is a part of a new Islandport Press/Audubon series called “Wildlife on the Move,” which tell the true tales of wildlife in New England and the roles people play in their lives.

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In addition to the book launch, families can participate in a fun scavenger hunt and story walk, or check out a snow science station and giant show shelter. For those who want to explore the beautiful grounds, snowshoe rentals are also available. Plus the folks at the Maine Audubon promise there will be live music and delicious refreshments for all.

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The carnival takes place on Feb. 14 at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission is free for Maine Audubon members, and $7.00 general admission. Kids under two are free.

The Maine Audubon Winter Carnival is part of a larger, statewide event called The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend (Feb 13-15), which is well worth checking out. See the full listing of 100+ events here.

P.S. More winter festivals.

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Recently, our family had the opportunity to check out Moe’s Original Bar B Que in South Portland. Orono-native Dewey Hasbrouck first opened the popular franchise in Bangor in 2012, after he and his wife moved back to Maine from Alabama. Two years later, Bangor Metro Magazine named Moe’s the best barbecue in the region. We were intrigued by the promise of authentic, Alabama-style barbecue, which according to Dewey, features a signature, mayonnaise-based barbecue sauce. And unlike other franchises, everything on Moe’s menu is made from scratch every day.

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When we arrived at the Western Avenue restaurant, Dewey greeted us at the door. Since it was our first visit, he explained the menu. Adults choose from sandwiches or platters, featuring pulled pork, smoked chicken and turkey, fried catfish and ribs. Moe’s also offers a rotating selection of homemade sides daily. On the evening we arrived, smoked turkey gumbo, stew, skillet corn, macaroni and cheese, baked apples and pumpkin pie were the special sides. Vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free menu items are also available.

Moe’s focus is good food at a reasonable price. With that idea in mind, kids under 12 eat free every day (with an adult purchase). MP was pleased to see the kids’ menu mirrored the adults’ version, featuring pulled pork, chicken and ribs. Not surprisingly, there were standard kid options, too, including chicken tenders and grilled cheese.

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IMG_3710We ordered our food at the counter. MP went with Dewey’s suggestion and opted for the Alabama Slammer: pulled pork, traditional barbecue sauce, white sauce and slaw marinated in cider vinegar on a bun. DP chose the Fried Shrimp Moe Poe Boy, which features homemade tartar, coleslaw and pickles. CP#2, ordered ribs (his favorite) and his sister, who never waivers from her usual no matter where we visit, chose chicken tenders.

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CP#2 is a self-proclaimed BBQ fan.

The comfort food restaurant, which was formerly home to the Baja Grill, is a modestly sized, casual space with a few booths and a mixture of bar tables and traditional seating. Each table has a roll of paper towels, which is always welcome when eating messy barbecue! DP and MP were also pleased to see some local beers on tap, including Sebago and Allagash.

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Shrimp Moe Boy (photo courtesy of Moe’s).

Our food arrived within 30 minutes. The kids, who have hearty appetites, were disappointed by the size of their meals. CP#2 had 2-3 ribs on his plate, and CP#1 also only had a few chicken tenders. So while kids eat free, you may find yourself ordering another plate or two. MP and DP enjoyed their sandwiches, which were flavorful and satisfying. For sides, the specials, which could have used more spices (especially the smoked turkey gumbo), were not standouts. Instead, we all enjoyed Moe’s classic sides, like baked beans and cole slaw, and for dessert, the creamy banana pudding.

A sampling of classic sides (photo courtesy of Moe's)

A sampling of sides (photo courtesy of Moe’s)

Dewey is clearly passionate about his business, as he was everywhere during our visit—behind the counter and the bar, serving guests, and chatting with customers. With a few small changes, namely larger portions for the kids and bolder seasoning for the sides, his new venture could gain a loyal family following.

Moe’s Orginal Bar B Que
209 Western Avenue
South Portland
207.956.7623

Find them on Facebook

When the kids were toddlers and winter was at its worst, we’d clear the cars from our garage and let them ride around in circles. The activity didn’t seem like much, but CP#1 and #2 always had a blast. MP is certain her duo would have loved this award-winning Spherovelo ride-on toy. Designed for children ages 10-24 months, the Spherovelo can be stabilized for little ones who are just getting their footing, and later, once the stabilizers are removed, it helps children learn to balance while they ride.

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Our friends at Daytrip Jr. have generously offered a Spherovelo (valued at $105) to one lucky reader. All you need to do is comment below. Contest ends Friday, January 23 at midnight EST. Good luck!

Congratulations to lucky #4—Jeanne Meyers! Jeanne has won the Spherolvelo scooter from Daytrip Jr.

PS: Indoor go-carts for big kids.

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