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Now that the long winter season is upon us, MP has been brainstorming ways to the keep the family outdoors and active. Here are some of the adventures she’s hoping to take:

Ice Fishing
Full disclosure: Grumpy Old Men with Walter Mathau, Jack Lemmon and Ann Margaret is one of MPs favorite winter films. In the movie, the men are particularly competitive when it comes to ice fishing. MP has always dreamed of visiting an ice fishing hut and catching a fish or two. She’s hoping the team will be up for experiencing a guided trip of our own.

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Sleigh Rides
When CP#1 was just a babe, we took her on a horse drawn sleigh ride in Vermont, where we rode through a beautiful open field with a short break to warm up by the campfire. MP would love to have the same experience in Maine. Thankfully there are several great options for sleigh rides throughout the state, including Rockin’ Horse Stables in Kennebunkport.

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Ice Castles
While not in Maine, we’ve heard a lot of good things about Ice Castles—destinations where families can explore man-made castles of ice much like in the popular film, Frozen. There are two locations in New England this year. One is in Stratton, VT and the other is in Lincoln, NH. By the looks of the photos, this experience is worth a road trip!

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Toboggan
Ever since she read this Boston Globe article, MP can’t wait to toboggan at the Camden Snow Bowl. The 400-foot, ice-covered chute is going to be scary, but in a fun roller-coaster kind of way (at least that’s what she’s hoping).

SundayFebruary17,2008014ACross-Country Skiing
MP believes that CP#1 and #2 are finally ready to try cross-country skiing this year. She can’t wait to take them to Carter’s in Oxford, where MP first learned how to ski. Wish us luck and lots of patience!
out.skiHow about you? What’s on your list of things to do this winter with family?

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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.

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MP recently met with Leah Deragon, the director of Birth Roots—a Portland-based program designed to assist parents before and after their child’s birth. Leah and her team offer supportive classes, facilitated discussion, and more valuable resources to moms and dads in their cozy space on State Street.

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Leah and a staffer discuss plans for the day.

Birth Roots is designed to be all-inclusive, meaning no matter the parenting style, everyone is welcome to participate in peer discussions. “There is a diversity of parenting philosophies,” Leah says, “and facilitated discussion helps moms and dads find what’s right for their own unique parenting experience.”

Most parents attend Birth Roots to prepare for the birth of their child. According to Leah, many come in having expectations of what their birth experience will be like, only to realize the end result can be wildly different. Sharing ideas about their expectations, and taking prenatal classes, can help put it all in perspective.

"The deeper the roots, the higher the reach."

“The deeper the roots, the higher the reach.”

And post-birth, most of us are surprised by all of the changes a new baby brings. The forum at Birth Roots creates a comfortable environment where new moms or dads can discuss anything that is on their minds. Leah calls it Community Supported Parenting®. She says young parents from Sanford, Portland, Brownfield, and Damariscotta come regularly to help each other through the early months of parenting.

Helpful books and journals for new parents.

Helpful books and journals for new parents.

Birth Roots also provides parents with the opportunity to connect with a doula, a person who works with families before, during, and after birth. And for those in need of financial support, Leah says Birth Roots can connect newly trained doulas with families (a new doula is required to do 3 free births after training).

Of course, a great non-profit like Birth Roots needs public support. In September, Leah and her team host one of our favorite family events—Sandsations—a sand-sculpting contest at Pine Point Beach in Scarborough that’s designed to raise money for the program. To help, you can form your own team and fundraise or take part in the People’s Choice award, which costs just $1 per vote.

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A sand sculpture from the 2011 Sandsations event.

The event is free and features a fun kids craft tent, a kid-powered Mermaid Bridgade, and yoga on the beach. This year, Crusher—the mascot from the Maine Red Claws—will also be there.

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CP#1 with a crown she made in the kids crafting tent.

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Two sweet girls join in the Mermaid Brigade.

Sandsations takes place on September 6, 2014 from noon-3 p.m. Trust us, this is a wonderful event you and your family will return to year after year!

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For more on Birth Roots, visit here. And to sign up or learn more about Sandsations, check out this site.

Birth Roots
101 State Street
Portland, Maine
772-4784

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After two back-to-back travel weekends, our family decided to start a new summer tradition: Saturday morning breakfasts at a local beach. DP packed hard-boiled eggs, coffee, juice, croissants, and homemade strawberry jam. By 9:00 a.m., all of us were in bathing suits and ready to go.

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We decided to visit one of our favorite spots: Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth. If you haven’t been, Kettle Cove is located at the smaller, quieter end of Crescent Beach. The parking lot is small, so getting there early is key. There is a rocky beach where children can explore the tide pools (CP#1 and #2 love to collect hermit crabs) plus an expansive grassy area that overlooks the cove. And what a view!

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We clearly weren’t the only ones who got out early to enjoy the beach. We watched a team of divers gear up and explore the cove. There was also a group learning how to paddle board and a kayaker preparing to set out for a day on the water. Plus lots and lots of families.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

After breakfast, our team decided to explore the other side of the cove which is connected by a wooden footbridge. The trail that leads to this area is lined with beach roses and is shaded by trees. If it weren’t for the promise of another great view, MP could have lingered for awhile.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

We watched the waves crash, climbed rocks (in search of more hermit crabs, of course), collected stones, and walked waist deep into the water to cool off. And then we returned back to our spot for more beach time. CP#1 tended to her hermit crab while MP read her book. DP and CP#2 played soccer on the grass.

The morning was one of those perfect, sunny Saturdays a family dreams about come January. And so, our new tradition—beach breakfasts—will continue as long as summer allows.

Kettle Cove
Kettle Cove Road (off Bowery Beach Rd)
Cape Elizabeth

Also nearby (and worth a visit), Kettle Cove Creamery and Cafe.

 

 

 

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Twenty-six-year-old LEGO Master Model Builder, Ian Coffey, was in Portland for the Old Port Festival in early June, sharing his incredible building talents with the masses. MP had the opportunity to chat with Ian, learn how he became a LEGO Master Model Builder, and what it’s like to work at the new LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston.

Ian in Portland during Old Port Fest.

Ian in Portland during Old Port Fest.

MP: When did you first start building with LEGOs?
IC: I started at 3-years old. My older brother played with LEGOs, and I wanted to be just like him. To this day, there’s a very large LEGO city in the basement of my childhood home.

MP: How did you become a LEGO Master Model Builder?
IC: My Dad’s friend saw an ad in the paper for LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Boston, announcing a competition for the chance to become a LEGO Master Model Builder. I didn’t do anything about it then. When a close friend of mine found out, she signed me up anyway. I’m so glad she did!

Ian at the Portland Sea Dogs stadium during Old Port fest.

Ian at the Portland Sea Dogs stadium during Old Port Fest.

MP: What was the competition like?
IC: There were over 100 contestants, and the build-off lasted two days. We could only use certain sizes and shapes for our creations. One of the first challenges was to create a character from a favorite story. I built Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. After that, we had to build something from a favorite vacation. I designed the Olympic ski jump from Lake Placid, New York.

MP: And the final challenge?
IC: We had to create a LEGO scene that meant something to us personally.  I made a “painted picture” of my Chocolate Lab at the park.

MP: What did you do before becoming a LEGO Master Model Builder?
IC:  I worked under the secretary of the New York State Senate for nearly every single senator. My days were very long.

MP: What’s a typical day at the Boston LEGOLAND® Discovery Center like?
IC: I build in my office, which is all glass. I call it my fishbowl [laughs] because visitors come and watch me while I work. I also teach school groups fun little facts about LEGOs. And at the LEGO Master Model Builder Academy, we’re designing dragons, which are really cool.

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MP: My family has been to the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in New York and LEGOLAND® in Florida. What’s the Boston Center like?
IC: The mini land features a miniature Boston—you’ll see Fenway Park (my personal favorite) and the Zakim Bridge. The Boston mini land is the biggest of any LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in the world.

Fenway Park -  made entirely of LEGOs.

Fenway Park – made entirely of LEGOs.

MP: What do you do when you’re not working with LEGOs?
IC: I always like to keep busy. In the past, I landscaped a 12-acre estate, and I built a pretty elaborate tree house with a shingled roof in my backyard. It even has cable!

MP: Besides coming to the Old Port Festival earlier this month, what’s your connection to Maine?
IC: I’ve been coming to Mother’s Beach in Kennebunk since I was 6-weeks old. When I visit, I love to build sandcastles on the beach and hang out with my dog. People say I should enter a sandcastle competition, but I like building on my own. Usually some kids will come by and offer ideas. It’s perfect—I’m really a kid at heart.

Thanks so much to Ian for taking the time to chat! And guess what? The kind folks at The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston are offering a Cute Potato reader a family 4-pack pass (2 adults, 2 children) to the new center! All you need to do is comment below. Contest ends on Monday, June 30 at midnight EST. Good luck LEGO lovers!

FMI on the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Boston, visit their website or Facebook page.

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Note: The East Ender has new owners (formerly from Small Axe Truck). You can read more about the change hereIMG_2190

Last Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day with brunch at the East Ender in Portland with good friends. Neither family had ever been to the bustling, two story restaurant, and all of us were excited to try the food. If you go, this is a place to indulge in pre-brunch sweets and savories. Our table of hungry kids and adults sampled crispy trout fritters, a homemade, chocolate and banana pop tart, decadent cheddar swirl buns with prosciutto and pepper jelly (MP’s favorite), and simple hushpuppies with maple sour cream.

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Both families were full before the main course was served. And truth be told, the starters and sides are the real standouts at the East Ender. The main courses, which vary between standard eggs and bacon to over-the-top fried chicken and waffles, needed the creativity and flavor the first course offered. Still, we’ll definitely be back for generous cups of coffee and delicious starters.

After stuffing ourselves silly, we decided to explore Bug Light Park in South Portland. The gorgeous, nearly 9-acre park overlooks the Casco Bay. On this windy day, the park was busy with serious kite flyers. We were all amazed by the number of colorful kites.

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MP was especially taken with the Bug Light lighthouse. Its Greek-inspired design make it one of the  most beautiful little lighthouses in recent memory. Apparently, it is called Bug Light because of its size, which makes the lighthouse even more endearing.

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The kids and Dad Potato played soccer, while MP snapped pictures of summer beauty all around. What a gorgeous Father’s Day!

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East Ender
47 Middle Street
Portland

Bug Light Park
South Portland Greenbelt Parkway
South Portland

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A friend recently invited us to Camp Ketcha, a non-profit in Scarborough that fosters environmental education, for their annual Fairy House Festival. The spacious campground is an ideal place for kids to roam and play. We brought along our own Fairy House Kit from from fairy house expert and writer Liza Gardner Walsh. The wooden kit contains everything a kid needs to build a house: feathers, sea glass, soft moss, and of course, glittery fairy dust! The wonderful staff at Camp Ketcha also had supplies on hand like Forsythia branches and pinecones. The CP kids were in fairy house heaven!

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We had a wonderful time at the festival. CP#1 and #2 used every last shell, pinecone, and feather in their kit. And the best part? The kids get to fill the box again with their favorite finds from our walks on the beach and in the woods. 

You can find Liza’s fairy house kits online, as well as in some of our favorite places to shop: Daytrip Jr., Sherman’s Books & Stationery, the Portland Museum of Art museum store, the Belfast Co-op, and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens store (to name a few).

Or, if your heart desires, you could enter our giveaway to win one of Liza’s fabulous fairy house making kits. All you need to do is tell us your family’s favorite place to build fairy houses. We’ll select a winner at random early next week. Contest ends Sunday, June 1 at midnight EST. 

And speaking of contests, we have a winner to announce for last week’s delicious giveaway from Watcharee Thai Sauces. Congrats to Sheila Bornstein! Hope you enjoy! 

 

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