Healthy granola bars

I’ve been searching and trying recipes for a couple months now for a healthy crunchy granola bar recipe that both me and the boys enjoy. I spend so much money at the store on a small box of granola bars and it’s very hard to find ones that aren’t loaded with unhealthy sugars and extra additives. I’ve found a few different store options, but they are expensive and last about a day in my house. I’m always bringing bars with us to the park and like to have them for school snacks too. After trying a few different recipes, I finally found one yesterday from Well Plated that was delicious, easy, healthy, and had that crunch I’d been looking for. They were a hit by all in the house and I anticipate making another batch this week. I’ll probably experiment with adding different seeds and nuts the next round and maybe even some dried fruit.

healthy granola bars

Tips

When I first took these out of the oven, I thought they were going to be a bust. The recipe tells you to cut them immediately out of the oven but leave them on the parchment paper until completely cooled. When I first made my cut, they started to crumble a bit and I thought, “Oh man, this is going to end up just being granola.” But after that I let them be. Once cooled off completely they firmed up and stuck together making them easy to pull apart into individual bars. I recommend using honey for all homemade granola bar recipes. I love to use maple syrup and agave as sweeteners in recipes, but honey is much more binding and helps the granola bars stay together.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used peanuts, but next time I think I will try almonds)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (I think for fall I’m going to try pumpkin seeds this week)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (unsweetened is key to keep these healthy!)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Mix together oats, nuts, seeds, and coconut flakes on a rimmed, ungreased pan and bake for about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat honey and peanut butter together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until smoothly combined. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Add oat mix to the honey peanut butter mix.
  4. You can add chocolate chips but let the mixture cool first or they will melt.
  5. Turn down oven to 300.
  6. Line a 8 or 9 inch baking dish with parchment paper so that two sides of the paper overhang the ends. You want to be able to lift up the entire sheet once cooked and cooled with the edges.
  7. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and press down with a spatula.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes. 20 minutes will make them crunchier, 15 more chewy. With the bars still on the pan use a knife to cut them into the desired size bars. Leave them alone afterwards until completely cooled. Once cooled lift up the entire thing with the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Cut them again on your lines and pull them apart.
  9. These will store for up to 1 week at room temperature or 2 weeks in the fridge. They get extra crunchy when you put them in the fridge!

Apple picking with my boys

Ever since we moved to New England this past April, I have been looking forward to doing all the fall things. It’s been so long since I’ve experienced a New England fall and have been so excited to introduce my boys to new traditions, ones that we didn’t have in Florida. In the entire 17 years of living in Florida, I think fall was what I missed most. And one of the traditions I’ve been most looking forward to establishing with my boys is apple picking! So, after a long week of being sick and quarantining, despite the iffy weather, my mom and I loaded them up and spent a lovely wet Sunday afternoon apple picking at Carlson Orchards.

carlson orchards

Oh, so many apples

The last time we visited Carlson Orchards was to go berry and peach picking and I quickly learned how huge this place was. So, this time, I was smart and remembered to bring the stroller as I anticipated doing a lot of walking to pick the various amounts of apples they had. Some of the apples were well known names I had heard of like the famous Honey Crisp along with well-known apple’s Macintosh, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Empire and Gala. But there were also a couple I had never heard of like Ida, and Northern Spy apples, wasn’t a huge fan of those. My boys had a great time tasting all the different varieties. My almost 2-year-old kept picking the fallen apples off the ground and putting them in our bag, lol. I did my best to keep an open mind about the different kinds of apples available, but I have to say, in my opinion none compare quite as much to the honey crisp. There’s a reason why they are so much more per pound in the store and the reason why they have the word “crisp” in its name. They were so good. They were the very last rows in the orchard, and they actually had a wagon being pulled by a tractor out to the sections that were a longer walk. We had to walk all the way to the end as they were pretty picked over, but if you’re patient and willing to walk a bit and look hard there are still plenty of honey crisp apples out there. They also had a ton of rows roped off that weren’t for picking yet, so I’m sure they’ll have plenty of apples for weeks to come.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away and brings the tooth fairy to visit!

We love apples in our house! My little guy goes around all day saying, “apple, apple”. He sounds so much like a broken record these days…toddler life. It’s the cutest little “apple” though and there could be worse foods that he could be asking for. I love that my boys love fruit. We had an unexpected tooth falling out while apple picking! My son lost his first front tooth a few weeks ago, and the second one has been loose since. It had been hanging on by a thread and he has been super picky about what he’s been eating for fear of it falling out. Don’t get me wrong, he has been excited about another visit from the tooth fairy (really amazes me how much she’s giving these days ;-), but he is not a fan of any blood, and he gets super anxious about it falling out. I was actually surprised he was eating so many apples while picking for that reason, as he hadn’t wanted to touch an apple in weeks. I think the excitement of apple picking made him forget all about his tooth hanging by a thread until…I heard a shriek in the orchard followed by, “Mom!!” I turned around and there he was freaking out because his tooth was literally dangling, not sure how the apple didn’t pull it all the way out. I gave it the smallest little tug and we went home with not only a big bag of apples, but also a tooth for the fairy.

We have a huge bag of apples that I’m looking forward to making an apple crisp with. My oldest has been taking an apple with him daily for his school snack, so at $30 a bag (yikes…) we are getting our money’s worth. I will say that with the number of apples we ate while picking we definitely got our $30 worth. I’m hoping to try one more orchard out for comparison before the season is over! Next time we’ll try to go on a beautiful fall day instead of a rainy one.

Super easy protein waffles

These waffles have been a go to of mine for years now. I love them, my boys love them, they are super healthy, super easy, and only involve 4 ingredients…all huge wins for this mom! I love to make a batch on a Sunday and have them for go to grab breakfasts for the week, perfect for school mornings. To reheat them I usually just pop them in the toaster for a minute and they taste like they did on day one coming off the waffle iron. My son goes back and forth between having maple syrup and whip cream on it for his topping. As you can see, he tends to go a little overboard when I give him the freedom to do it on his own ;-). Feel free to experiment with adding extras in, like cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice seasoning etc. to give them a little extra flavor.

Protein waffles

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Throw all ingredients in a blender, or a bowl if you only have an immersion blender.
  2. Blend till smoothed.
  3. Use 1/2 cup batter per waffle. Throw on waffle iron and enjoy!

Blender hack

I used to have a Vitamix which was my all-time favorite kitchen tool. But my ex amongst other things destroyed it. I miss it so much. I haven’t wanted to spend the money on another blender yet, will probably get something relatively inexpensive like a Ninja. If you don’t have a blender but have an immersion blender you can also blend it in a bowl. It’s not quite as simple as throwing it all in a blender, but it works!

Enjoy 🙂

Figuring out a career after being a stay-at-home mom for many years

As many of you know, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 8 years and have found myself in a position now at 39 needing to start completely over and build a new life for me and my two boys. The thought of going back to work after all this time, on top of everything else I have been dealing with, has been completely overwhelming. If I’m being completely honest, it’s terrifying and something I really don’t want to be forced to do. Not because I don’t want to work, I want more than anything to bring a steady income in and provide for my boys. For years I’ve been dependent on someone else financially that has treated me like a child. I can’t wait to be financially free from his grasp. But I LOVE being home with my babies. Raising my sons is extremely challenging, but I love being their person all day long. I love seeing them grow and help mold them into tiny, amazing humans. I fear all those moments I will be missing. I know so many moms are working moms, and I know that day will soon be mine, but change is scary. New beginnings, especially when it’s not what you had ever envisioned are not without a lot of doubt, fear, and anxiety. 

Give yourself grace

I turned down an opportunity this week for a short-term job, and I was really beating myself up about my decision. When this opportunity was presented to me and after not only interviewing for the first time in 10 years but also being offered the job, it seemed like a no brainer to say yes. I need the income desperately. The anxiety I have on a daily basis of starting over with no funds causes me great stress. So of course, I had to say yes to the first job opportunity I was offered. It’s called being a responsible parent, right? The day I accepted the job we all came down with covid and it hit us hard. First my 7-year-old was the sickest I’ve ever seen him and then on top of feeling like crap myself, my 22-month-old became very ill, so ill that I began to think something was seriously wrong with him. He became violent and distraught in pain and the thought of leaving him in a few days became extremely worrisome. I began having second doubts. 

It wasn’t until a highschool friend I’ve reconnected with had a heart to heart with me that I realized that I had to turn it down. She told me, “Now is your time to be selfish. You spent way too long making others happy. You are in charge of your life and all the paths have different pros and cons. It’s your time to thrive and show your boys what life is all about.” You see, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life chasing someone else’s dreams. I’ve spent the last 5 years making someone else, on top of the selflessness that comes with being a mom, my priority. When I graduated college, I was madly in love. I followed who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with across the country, because it was his dream, and I was wrapped up in the idea of finally finding what I thought was my forever person. The next 16 years became about him, his career, his timeline for our life, and eventually all the dreams I once had aside from being a mom slowly vanished. Which was ok, because being a Mom was my biggest dream of all, and bringing my two babies into the world was a very scary and difficult experience. Being with them made everything else feel right. With them was where I needed to be. But when he began to manipulate me and abuse me, I began to be left with the scary thought of what the hell will I do if I have to leave him. I suddenly began to question all the possible dreams I would have followed had I not met him so many years ago. 

I’m a firm believer that you can’t go back and question all the “what ifs” in life. Am I where I want to be in life right now? No, not one bit even close. Am I angry at all the time I wasted trying to help him get help? Yes. But do I entirely regret the last 18 years of my life? No. I got the two most amazing little boys out of that life. My boys are my whole heart and I’ve quickly realized that life gave me two little boys to challenge me with raising them into kindhearted men, men that know how to treat women right. I’ve grown so much over the past 18 years, the challenges I’ve overcome have made me into an incredibly strong mom. If I had chosen differently all those years ago, I wouldn’t be a mom to the most amazing boys I could have ever dreamed of. 

But after listening to my friend, I have been quickly reminded that now is my time to figure out what I want to do with my life. I don’t need to feel pressured by life into choosing a job that I know won’t bring me joy.  I’m smart, driven, determined, passionate, and I will have other opportunities. Opportunities that will bring me inspiration, opportunities that will make me want to work and will show my boys that mommy doesn’t settle. I’m allowed to give myself more time to figure it out, and I will figure it out in time. So, for now, I’m holding my youngest extra tight these days, and reminding myself that right now, cuddling him close, this is where I’m meant to be. 

hold your babies tight

Protein balls and healthy veggie dip

No Bake Protein Balls

These are an absolute favorite in my house. They are so delicious that I really have a hard time believing they are healthy because they taste so much like a treat. These are so easy to make, don’t involve using the oven and are full or nutrient dense ingredients. You can change these up a lot by adding in different things, like nuts, coconut, chocolate chips etc. I will say that if you are trying to lose weight or working on a big fitness goal, I would not recommend having these as an everyday snack. Although they are filled with feel good ingredients, due to the peanut butter, honey and chocolate chips these do tend to be a little higher in fat and sugar then some other healthy snacks. When I’m looking at adding “sweetness” into a recipe, I always try and use pure honey, maple syrup or agave. I always try to avoid white sugar. Natural sugars are always better for you, and a tiny drop of pure maple syrup goes a long way! My biggest struggle when making these, is limiting myself to only one. 😉 Enjoy!

healthy protein balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old fashion oats
  • 2/3 cup toasted shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter (be careful with your peanut butter selection. Look for one with no sugar and no salt. You also want a creamy one, if not these won’t stick together very well.)
  • 1/2 ground flaxseed (flaxseed is a great source of protein)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (omit if you are limiting sugar intake)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Stir all ingredients into a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. If it doesn’t look like its sticking together well, you can add in more peanut butter.
  2. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until chilled. This helps it stick together.
  3. Roll into small 1 inch or smaller balls.
  4. Enjoy immediately! These can be stored in a sealed container for up to one week in the fridge or in the freezer up to 3 months.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

Who doesn’t love a good ranch dip! But most ranch dips are made with sour cream and loaded with unhealthy fats. I love Greek yogurt! I use it for a healthy replacement in lots of recipes and it’s a perfect substitute for sour cream in dips. The mom I started meal prepping for this week was very interested in having a healthy dip and chopped veggies on hand for quick healthy snacking. I found this recipe from Well Plated. I was very excited to try this recipe out and very pleased with how it turned out! I will be experimenting with this one a bit and adding it to my weekly list. It was so easy, and I almost always have these items on hand. My oldest is not a dip person at all and I’m hoping that will change. His favorite veggie of choice is raw spinach with nothing on it. I find it a little boring, but I can’t complain that he wants to eat raw spinach! 😉

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish
  • sliced up veggies of choice for dipping

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients.
  2. Garnish with fresh chives and serve.
  3. Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Meal prep for the busy mom: Stay-at-Home Mom side hustle

Whoa, life has been BUSY these past couple weeks. With the start of school for my oldest, family visiting, birthday parties and more, it’s been a minute since I’ve found the time to sit down and write about all that’s going on in life. I’m feeling pretty stressed these days, trying to find some balance in my life with all that’s going on. I’m trying to make a new life for my little family, trying to find a job after 8 years at home, and it’s not easy. But, in the midst of all the chaos, I also have a new opportunity that I began this week that I’m pretty excited about! I’m looking forward to sharing this new journey with you as it grows, evolves and becomes whatever it may be ;-). I don’t have a name yet for this new side gig, but I’m thinking something on the line of, “Meal Prepping Momma for all you Busy Mommas.” I’m not so great with names, so by all means, if you have one, help this momma out ;-).

new beginnings

A couple weeks ago a friend I grew up with connected me with one of her mom friends who was looking for some childcare help. If you’ve been following my journey, you probably know that my ex has left me any boys with no financial means to stand on. I’m actively looking for employment opportunities, but with no money at all for childcare, and no car, well it’s been challenging. I’ve been extremely frustrated these past few weeks with the legal process. It’s been almost 6 months and I still have not been granted rights to the proceeds from our home, assets, accounts etc. The legal system is so maddening at times, but I’ll save more on that part of my life for another post.

Embracing new opportunities

Today I want to talk about something exciting, as I haven’t had a lot of that in recent months! As I was chatting with this mom, we began talking about health and wellness and how I love helping other moms get fit and healthy. She told me that having healthy family meals and prioritizing nutrition more for her family is a priority, but she finds herself having little time and motivation to cook. When she asked me if I would be interested in being paid to meal prep for her family one day a week I jumped at the opportunity. Not only do I love helping other families eat clean, but it also has forced me to explore and try out some new recipes for my family as well. It’s a work in progress and we’re still trying to figure out what will work best for both of us, but yesterday was my first day and I feel like it was a success. She sent me an email end of last week with her wish list for this week. I took what she was looking for, researched recipes, came up with a food list and sent it to her. She stopped and got any items that she didn’t have on my list before I got there yesterday.

Clean eating for the whole family

This week she was looking for a healthy breakfast to have on hand for the week, protein balls for the kids, a healthy veggie dip, chili, and a stuffed cabbage recipe. We discussed things like reducing sugar intake and staying away from processed foods. Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a lot of moms and families who find it challenging to find easy healthy meals that everyone in the house will eat. I love a challenge. I love trying to find recipes that will not only be good for you, but also be loved by both grownups and kids. Eating healthy, nutrient dense food doesn’t have to be extremely difficult. It doesn’t take hours in the kitchen each day, but if you put a little work in one day a week it can make a huge difference. Mornings with kids for me are difficult so I personally like to have a couple healthy breakfast items prepped for the week. I also find when my kids eat a nutritious breakfast it really sets their mood and energy for the day, so making sure they start their day off right is a priority for me. After my oldest got on the bus yesterday I headed over to her house and got to work. She has a beautiful kitchen which was fun to play around in. It took me a little while to figure out where everything was etc., so I think next week will go much more smoothly.

I’ll be sharing my recipes that I prep for this family each week under my fitness tab! If you’re looking for some yummy, healthy family recipes be sure to check in there weekly to see my latest finds. I’ll give you my honest feedback, which recipes were a keeper, and also ones that I would adjust and how!

Financial abuse: Getting out and resources available to victims of domestic abuse

So let me begin by saying, if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, and financial abuse is part of that equation, it is extremely hard to find your way out. I stayed far too long in my marriage for this reason. If you have a friend or loved one that is in a toxic marriage, and you often find yourself wondering why she/he is still there, I ask you to remind yourself that you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes unless you’ve walked in them yourself. Financial abuse is one of the most powerful methods of a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and makes it extremely difficult for she/he to financially survive after leaving an abusive relationship.

surviving domestic abuse

Signs of financial abuse

These are some of the tell-tale signs of financial abuse: Putting you on an allowance, not having your name on the bank accounts, getting angry at you for spending money on yourself, hiding money, spending tons of your marital money without consulting you, giving you only just enough money to buy what you needed (example grocery money for the week). If you feel like monetarily your spouse or significant other is treating you like a child you are most likely being abused. I tried for years, even brought it up in therapy, to get my names on our bank accounts, but he always had an excuse. He was self-employed. He didn’t want my name attached to the business in case something happened. He didn’t think I could handle the monthly cash flow. I never knew how much money we had in the bank, or where our money was being spent. We were living a very comfortable life, with lots of privileges so many don’t have, and then we had nothing. It was always so unsettling to me. It comes down to control. He/they, they want control.

Leaving

When I was forced to leave my home with my boys almost 6 months ago, I had nothing. My name wasn’t on the bank accounts, and even if they were, my ex had depleted most our funds during his downward spiral the last couple years. Furthermore, my ex tanked my credit the last time I tried to leave by telling his office manager to stop paying all bills in my name. Thankfully I had amazing friends who helped me sell personal belongings and furniture and gracious friends donated cash on hand for me and my boys to temporarily live on. It saddens me that it took a night with the police involved to finally find my way out. But my home, my neighbors, my friends, a life I built for 15 years, it’s so hard to leave all that behind. I won’t lie, it was extremely sad selling all my things. If you are forced to do this, I recommend asking a friend to help you. Have them just do it for you, it helps it sting a little less.

Resources for domestic violence victims

When I moved to MA, I was very fortunate to have my mom’s house to move into. Although not my first choice I know so many aren’t as fortunate as I to have a family member to turn to. If you have nowhere else to go, I recommend calling your local Hubbard house. If you are not sure where, who to talk to, call your local DV line. I did meet with the local Hubbard house, but after discussing my situation as a whole they agreed that relocating to another state since I had family to stay with was the best option for me and my boys. If you are in a situation where you have nowhere to go, call your local domestic violence hotline. They can tell you what your options are. Furthermore, if you are in a relationship where there is a history of violence, you can get an injunction against domestic violence and be granted full use of the home. You can have them legally kicked out. I have an injunction in place. This was the first thing I did after the incident. You can either file it online or go to your local courthouse and ask for the DV room. However, our home had been destroyed during his violent rages and it was no longer secure and safe for me and my boys, so staying there really wasn’t an option. You have options to stay if that is what you want. Document, document, document. Keep a log, nothing to little is not worthy of writing down. And lastly, and this is one that was incredibly hard for me to do at first, until it wasn’t, do not hesitate to call the police. You need to put your abuse on record. I know it’s hard; To call the police on someone you once loved, maybe still do, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Since being in MA, we have received zero support or access to assets, accounts in almost 6 months. I have a lawyer, and she is diligently working on this, but it is absolutely mind blowing that it takes this long legally for a woman and mom in my shoes to be granted rights to assets and funds. It’s been extremely frustrating, and I’ve been forced to take advantage of aid I never imagined having to use in my life. I still feel like there should be more resources for woman in my shoes. I want so badly to start over, to earn a living, to build a stable life for my children, but it’s so hard to even know where to begin without a car and money saved for childcare.

In MA they have what’s called DTA, Department of Transitional Assistance. And this is the place to qualify for food stamps, cash assistance, and daycare vouchers. I’m not sure what it’s referred to in each state, but if you call your local domestic violence hotline, they can give you the numbers to call for all of this. At first, I felt so ashamed, I was embarrassed to have to ask for help. But without a car (he stopped paying my bills so had to turn that in) and having been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years and have a little one not in school yet, and no money yet saved for childcare, finding a job has felt near impossible. Friends and family have reminded me that these resources are there for a reason, they are there for people that truly need help, to help people get out of a bad situation. So, if you are trying to find your way out, let me tell you, it’s not a time for pride, accept all the help you can. If a friend wants to give you money, take it. If a family member wants to take you in, go. If a family member wants to get you a lawyer, do not hesitate. People that love you want to help you. And if you aren’t as fortunate as I am, reach out to your local resources. If you are here in MA, feel free to send me an email and I can point you in the right direction. If you aren’t in MA, I can still help you know where to look. It’s not easy, it’s so hard, but there are resources available, don’t hesitate to use them.

Lastly, I’m going to be 100% honest. I was petrified to leave. I kept trying to create a plan. I kept telling myself I need to find a way to save money first, I need to leave when there is more money, I needed him to keep paying my bills to restore my credit. None of that happened. I told myself that I could just live my life with our friends and neighbors and ignore him. It was no way to live. I was living a lie and I was living a life walking on eggshells in my own home. My boys did not have a happy mom at home. I was petrified to leave, but I was even more petrified to stay. If you want out, just get out. You will figure it out, people will help you in your time of need. You deserve so much more. And when you leave, you will feel FREE.

Animals, trails, ice cream and more at Great Brook Farm

I’ve been writing a lot about our go to outdoor adventure spots, and this place has quickly become a favorite of ours. If you caught my stories this week you may have seen they have some pretty feisty chickens, so if you get an ice cream there, you may be safer eating inside ;-). Great Brook Farm State Park is a public, day-use recreation area featuring an active dairy farm in the town of Carlisle, Massachusetts. It has more than 20 miles of trails that you can walk and bike in the non-winter months and cross-country ski in the winter. There is so much to do and explore here and I’ll take you through a day here with the boys.

Active Dairy Farm

First stop is usually the dairy farm. Depending on the time of day we go we usually will start with visiting and feeding the animals and getting a yummy ice cream. The ice cream house opens at 11, so plan your visit accordingly. The animals have to be our absolute part. They are all incredibly active and friendly and they have a quarter machine with food, so be sure to bring lots of quarters! They have free range chickens, pigs, cows, goats, sheep and llamas. My favorites are the goats and llamas! The boys have so much fun petting and feeding them.

The ice-cream is delicious, and you can also get hot dogs and chips. They have a cute little store inside with lots of fun farm-based toys and books. My favorite ice cream flavor so far has to be the coconut almond bar…it’s delicious and my almost 2-year-old loves it too. The children’s size is perfect for my 7-year-old, and I usually share one with my toddler. I like that they have a “good size” children size here. So many ice cream stands go a bit overboard for the kiddy ice cream if you ask me. This week we took our ice cream outside and my 7-year-old made the mistake of giving one of the chickens a bite of his ice cream. Immediately afterwards the chicken jumped up and grabbed a bite himself and another one jumped up on the table and tried to take my toddlers! They are not shy, and they will go after your treats, so if you are at all skittish of wild chickens, I’d eat your treat inside!

Exploring the trails and pond

There are over 20 miles of trails at the park, but don’t let that intimidate you. We generally walk the trails right around the dairy farm and it’s the perfect little trail walk with little kids. I’m getting to that point with my almost 2-year-old where he no longer wants to be in a stroller, and when I put him down, he just takes off at lighting speed. So far wearing him on these trails has been the best option, but I do let him down to explore too. Most of the trails start off in the woods and have sections in open fields, we hardly ever pass anyone so it’s always a very peaceful and quiet walk. This week near the parking area they had signs of a guided story on one of the trails. I absolutely LOVED this idea. The had all the pages of the book printed out and staked throughout the trail. Sadly my 7-year-old was in a bit of a mood and wasn’t interested, but normally he would love that kind of thing.

One of the favorite spots for my 7-year-old is the pond down the hill from the dairy farm. It’s adjacent to a large field that habitats lots of geese. Watch your step, as there is lots of geese poop. It’s absolutely beautiful here, with lily pads and beautiful green grass and trees. My son loves to look for frogs, and we’ve seen a few snakes too.

If you decide to visit you do have to pay $3 for parking on a machine, so make sure you bring a card. If traveling with a little one, I recommend bringing either a carrier or a stroller if you plan to explore the trails. It’s a wonderful morning or afternoon out so I encourage you to get out there and meet the animals, explore the trails, and reward yourself with a scoop! Happy exploring, be sure to let me know your thoughts if you visit.

Free events at the town library

My boys and I recently moved back to the town I grew up in, and it’s been so strange being back in my hometown after 20 years. Man, just saying that out loud makes me feel old. We had quite the group of friends in Florida, for both me and my boys. It’s been challenging at times to find things to keep ourselves busy and we have become frequent visitors to the town’s library. 

It is the cutest little library, with such a tight knit small community feeling to it. Oddly, I don’t remember frequenting the library as much as when I was a kid as I am now. As I was signing my oldest up for the summer reading program, I noticed that the library had all these free events and classes that you could register for. Being on a very strict budget right now, the word FREE struck my mind. One night while enjoying a glass of wine I got clicker happy and signed up for just about every event they had for the summer, lol. We did not end up attending all the events we signed up for, but we did manage to participate in three of them and they were a hit.

Bug Day

First up, Bug Day! Let’s get real. I am not a fan of bugs. I really find it odd that anyone would want to study bugs as their profession. But, as a mom to two little boys, I’ve often been forced to go on bug hunts, and create an overnight habitat for my son’s most recent find. It’s definitely forced me to get out of my comfort zone when it comes to outside creatures. Isn’t it funny how being a mom can do that? It’s amazing how many new things I’ve been forced to try since becoming a mom.

My oldest was right in his element. He had a blast. I was very thankful that my mom decided to tag along, as what I had thought was going to be an entirely outside event, started with a 45 min presentation inside talking about the anatomy of bugs. Totally manageable for my 7-year-old, but my very active 21-month-old…well anyone that has a toddler knows how that ends up. Unfortunately (maybe?), I missed most of the inside presentation as I was chasing my toddler up and down the library stairs as we waited for the group to go outside for the bug hunt. 

Eventually a large group of happy, energetic kids scurried outside with tiny jars in their hands, ready to go hunt for the bugs they had learned about. It brought me so much joy to watch all the kids running around, digging through dirt, looking at the trees, underneath the rocks, working together to find in (their eyes) a bunch of miraculous insects. I was amazed to see how all of them were helping each other out when some kids were getting sad that they hadn’t caught one. Thankfully to all the moms and dads there, the teacher made them free their finds before returning home, so I didn’t end up coming home with 5 new insects. 

Pirates lost at sea with Talewise

Next up on the calendar was Pirates Lost at Sea with Talewise and my son and I absolutely loved this one! Out of the three events we attended this was my absolute favorite. I was extremely thankful that my mom agreed to watch my youngest which allowed me to be fully present and enjoy watching this extremely engaging event with the kids. Talewise is an interactive educational S.T.EA.M program for libraries, schools, scouts, camps, etc. It’s a program emphasized on story telling all while teaching kids that science can be fun. A woman from Talewise was there and she told an interactive story about two boys out at sea encountering pirates and throughout the story she incorporated science experiments for the children to participate in. It was nonstop engagement and interaction with the kids, and I found myself smiling and laughing throughout the entire presentation. My son LOVES science and stories, so it was perfect for him. From toilet paper blowing from the waves at sea, to eruptions and more, I can’t say enough positive things about this performance. I would definitely attend another event hosted by them!

Summer concert with the Toe Jam Puppet Band

The last event that we attended was a celebration of the completion of the summer reading program. The Toe Jam Puppet Band came to perform, and my son had an amazing time. The Toe Jam Puppet Band is a children’s entertainment group from New Bedford MA. Unfortunately for this one I did not get to participate as much, as my 20-month-old was with me and had an ear infection and I think the loudness of the band was a little too much for his ears. Him and I spent the majority of the time in and out of the room where the band was playing, running up and down the halls, and trying to persuade him back in the room. Normally this would be something he would LOVE, so it totally caught me off guard when he started crying. Although I didn’t get to see the whole performance, every chance I had to sneak back in the room was greeted with dancing, laughing and full-on fun for the kids. My son was smiling, jumping around, and having the time of his life. They ended the show with some hula hooping and I was very impressed at all kids’ hula skills!

Toe Jam Puppet Band

Berry picking, peach picking and more at Carlson Orchards

One of the things I’ve been most excited about since moving back to New England is being able have my boys experience all the exciting things each season has to offer. You can pick berries in Florida, but not without a drive, and the experience just doesn’t compare. A dear friend of mine who has been a huge support during this transitional time sent me a gift card last week and told me to use it to do something fun with the boys. So, when a mom friend I grew up with here recommended Carlson’s Orchards I immediately knew where to put the gift card to use.

Carlson Orchards, peach and berry picking

We had the best experience. Not only did they have blueberry, raspberry, peach and apple picking but they also have an amazing tap room with a huge variety of hard ciders, apple cider slushes for the kids, and delicious pizza. It is very kid friendly with an open-air barn style tap room, and an outdoor playing area where the little ones can run wild and play cornhole.

When we first arrived, we saw that we had a choice of picking blueberries, raspberries and peaches. If you plan to go, be sure to check their growing schedule on their website as it tells you what fruits they have available and when. This place is HUGE. The only thing I wish I had done differently was bring a wagon or another adult. With my 21-month-old, and the heat, it was a bit of walk in between the blueberry and the peach farm. Luckily my 7-year-old stepped up and carried the large carton of peaches that we harvested. My youngest ate more berries than we collected, and I don’t think he put a single one in the carton…He was in heaven.

After a good hour of picking and walking around I was looking forward to an adult beverage and the boys were excited to have some pizza. The service was excellent, the kids LOVED the apple cider slushies, and I decided to sample the Pioneers flight which was a lot of fun to drink.

We were told that they often have live music on the weekends as well as different food trucks on the farm too. We left with enough peaches to feed an army, a quart full of berries, happy bellies and full of smiles, minus me wrangling my toddler at the end! When it’s time to go, it’s time to go with an almost 2-year-old. All you mommas out there know what I mean.

We can’t wait to go back and pick apples in a month, and I’m hoping to find another mom friend to come with us!