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Review:  The Secret Subway – New York with Children

Review: The Secret Subway – New York with Children

Did you know that the first attempt to build a New York subway system occurred in 1866?  Traffic was already a nightmare, a combination of pushcarts, wagons, stagecoaches and buggies.  Lots of ideas were proposed: moving sidewalks, double-decker roads, a railway on stilts, but nothing was ever accomplished.  Ely Beach had another idea.  A pneumatic train, just like the way mail was sent through old buildings.  He knew that permission to build an underground train would be difficult to get approved, so he proposed building an underground mail tube.  “It wouldn’t be that big, it wouldn’t be that messy.  It wouldn’t be that complicated.” He rented the basement of Devlin’s Clothing store.  For 58 days, under cover of darkness, he loaded wagons with dirt and rocks and hauled them out.  He built a tunnel 8 feet across and 294 feet long and February 26, he opened the tunnel for rides, making the train depot warm and inviting.   “Gaslights glowed, illuminating paintings and flowers and a fountain that glittered with goldfish.”  The opening went perfectly and throngs of visitors climbed aboard to ride the pneumatic train.  But when he asked for permission to expand, he was stopped; and by 1874, the train that went nowhere was abandoned and was forgotten. Construction on the current New York subway system started in 1904.  Lots of things were found as they dug: sunken ships, fossilized bones, subterranean streams, and in February 1912, a brick wall.  When they broke through the wall, they found the forgotten subway including a pneumatic railway car.  The Secret Subway was once again, no longer a secret. If you’re visitng New York with children, The Secret Subway is a great lesson in the history of the city, especially if you’re planning on taking the modern subway. If you’re interested in adding The Secret Subway to your child’s collection, click here :  The Secret...

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Exercise with kids aka Hiking

Exercise with kids aka Hiking

As always, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to increase the amount of exercise I’m getting. All was going well until my husband started traveling more for work. I obviously can’t take an exercise class at 6:00 am when he’s gone and try as I might I haven’t managed to make going to the gym at other times of day work. Same thing with videos, webcasts, apps, printouts, whatever, I don’t stick with them once the novelty wears off. So after six months, I’ve decided the kids need to help me out. (Work with me on this). First problem-buy in. Calling it exercise isn’t going to get the kids interested in doing pretty much anything.  So I bought three books on hiking locally:  and   and and I’ve added them to our bed time reading.  Of course, they’ve picked the first five hikes as the ones they want to try… Second problem-finding time (and continuing that whole buy in thing).  Hiking with children can be time consuming.  Depending on their mood, they will either race ahead of me or need to be coaxed every…single….step (more on that later).  We sat down with the calendar and they picked a day to try.  They have 11 weeks of summer vacation, so my goal is one hike a weekend.  So far we’ve managed three so fingers crossed! Tips for Hiking with Children Plan shorter trips. Assume you won’t make it to the end. Remember that most hikes are out and back.  If you’re pushing to reach the end, the hike back is going to be really, really painful. Pack lots (and lots) of snacks. Don’t forget to bring water. A good rule of thumb is that a child can hike about 1/2 of a mile to a mile per year of age.  You know your child, you’re the best judge (of course we’re going to try 8 miles next weekend which may be interesting). The other thing I looked at before we went hiking was if there were any geocaches or letterboxes along the trail.  Hidden objects make everything more entertaining.  We’ve also enjoyed scavenger hunts like this one from Makes and Takes or this one from How to Nest for Less....

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Monhegan Island-Maine with Children

Monhegan Island-Maine with Children

Trying to get away from it all? Visit Monhegan Island, Maine! A square mile in area, the island is only accessible by boat.  Commercial boats leave from Port Clyde, Boothbay or New Harbor and if you have access to your own boat, there are a few private mooring spots as well. Once your step off the boat, you quickly realize there are very few cars.  This makes for beautiful scenery to explore and undisturbed views, but also means that cell phone reception and places to stay are limited.  If you’re planning on staying overnight, make sure to make reservations in advance! There are seventeen miles of hiking trails that criss-cross the island.  The hike around the outside of the island can be a bit strenuous so make sure your children are wearing sturdy shoes and are up for a climb over the rocks.  You also need to keep an eye on the clock if you’re just making a day trip. The Monhegan associates rate them for difficulty and length of time to complete; we found their estimates to be pretty accurate.  You can plan your trip using their online map, but it’s worth buying a map from one of the island stores once you arrive. The Monhegan Museum of Art and History is housed in the former keeper’s house on the Lighthouse grounds, recently added to the Registry of American Historic Sites. The first floor is devoted to the Island’s long and colorful history. The second floor has bird and wildflower pictures to help you identify that specimen you just saw. You can also see the equipment that was used to harvest ice from the ice pond as recently as 1974.  The old equipment is displayed in a shed behind the Museum at the Lighthouse.  While ice is no longer harvested, there’s still good ice skating on the ice pond in the winter! Keeping an eye the ferry departure time, We decided to hike through Cathedral woods, home of the fairy houses. There were fairy houses everywhere! People had built them on fungi, out of sticks, leaves, skulls, and flowers, frequently leaving water and food for the fairies.  Everywhere we looked in the Cathedral woods we found them, in the trees, at the base of the trees, in branches,...

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Why yes, this was our first rodeo!

Why yes, this was our first rodeo!

Rodeos conjure up images of the Wild West and a bygone era, though there are still big cattle ranches and cowboys who ride out with the herds. For those of us who live in the city, there are guest ranches where you can try your hand at driving cattle and after watching this, we’re tempted to try out the barrel racing! While not exactly on our bucket list, a rodeo was still something we wanted to see at least once, especially with our family’s Texan heritage! We went to the 64th annual rodeo in Coulee city, Washington, a stop on the professional rodeo circuit and a town with a population of 600 people.  Even for such a small town, the winnings reached $32,000 with the annual rodeo including traditional events like tie down roping, team roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. I must admit I was a little concerned about the treatment of the animals, until during the bull riding competition, two of the bulls decided they didn’t want to play today and they just sat there and were allowed to sit until time ran out.  Those Cowboys weren’t going to be winning any prizes that day! Each rodeo starts off with a parade, with rodeo queens galloping their horses around the arena carrying flags from their various states and towns.  In our case, two of the riders lost their seats and ended up in the dirt, but they got right back up.  I guess coming off your horse isn’t all that unusual! The bucking Broncs stopped as soon as their riders came off with many riders not lasting the 8 seconds required for a qualifying ride, even to us it felt like a long 8 seconds!  Points are awarded for both how the horse bucks (Broncs buck differently than riding horses) and how the rider holds on.  We tried to figure out what the judges were looking for, but most of the time, the ones we thought did really well got fewer points than the ones we found less impressive. Our favorite event was barrel racing, where a horse and rider attempt to complete a standard cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time, with...

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Chinese New Year-Welcome to the year of the monkey!

Chinese New Year-Welcome to the year of the monkey!

Chinese New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February and the Year of the Monkey began February 8, 2016! The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, which is perfectly timed in Portland as everything, like this Chinese Paper Bush, is coming into bloom. People born in a year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, or 2016) are witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality but personality traits, like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness, make them very naughty! (I can think of a few people who fall into that category!) We enjoyed the New Year celebrations at Lan Su Chinese Garden, an unexpected and lovely walled oasis in the middle of the city.  Covering a full city block, Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from Suzhou in the Jiangsu province and is modeled after Ming Dynasty gardens  designed as spiritual uptopias.  Even with the crowds for Chinese New Year, it was still remarkably peaceful and if I worked downtown, it’s somewhere I’d love to escape to in the middle of the day! There are events at the garden nearly every day from walking tours, music in the teahouse, folk art demonstrations, traditional floral arranging, craft making, Tai chi classes, discussions about the plants in the garden, performances from local cultural organizations, Chinese calligraphy classes, Chinese conversation classes, and even children’s Mandarin lessons! The garden definitely made the most of the year of the Monkey celebrations.  As soon as we walked in the main entrance, there were monkeys to find, with ten monkeys hidden throughout the garden, including a spider monkey visiting from South America and shadow puppets of the Monkey King.  There were also lantern riddles to solve like this one-“It’s been around for millions of years, but it’s no more than a month old. What is it?”, a wishing tree where you could toss a red ribbon to wish for prosperity, happiness and longevity and monkey themed puppet shows by Tears of Joy Theater to watch. Of course a Chinese New Year celebration wouldn’t be complete without traditional Lion dances.  The Lee On Dong Association lions regaled us with danced stories about the origins of the lion, how the lion overcame its fears to...

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Portland Winter Light Festival -Travel with Children

Portland Winter Light Festival -Travel with Children

Overcast skies are perfect for viewing light sculptures early enough for children to enjoy them, though a quarter of an inch of rain in the hour and half we were at the Portland Winter Light Festival was a bit more than we anticipated! Along the banks of the Wilamette river, the Portland Winter Light Festival was designed to celebrate the spirit of winter and warmth of community.  There was everything from sculptures made completely of light, to sculptures of fire, glass and metal.   Lights played across Fleeting by Jen Fuller and the rain, making the 100 glass “paper” planes really look as if they were about to take off over the river.       Hypnotron by Axiom Custom Products lived up to its name with a series of light sculptures representative of Portland with spinning colors behind.  It was all I could do to pull the children onto the next exhibit!       One of the great things about the Festival was that the sculptures kept changing.  We wandered back and forth along the river watching how the carefully chosen plays of light made everything look so different. [gallery_bank type=”images” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”sort_order” animation_effect=”” album_title=”true” album_id=”2″] Many of the artists chose the spot where their pieces were shown and incorporated the surrounding architecture into their works.  The artists were available to chat and were great at describing what had inspired them and how they had made their pieces.  It was fascinating. This was definitely a whatever the weather type of adventure though the pouring rain certainly didn’t keep the crowds away! Even completely soaked, the Portland Winter Light Festival is already on our schedule for next year. Find out what's going on in the places you're planning on visiting Many cities/states have a monthly/weekly magazine listing upcoming events. You can frequently find their event calendars online.  They’re great places to start your search. Look at the Facebook pages of places you’re planning on visiting. Often the Facebook page will highlight upcoming events and may be easier to navigate then some websites. Set up a Twitter list following the places you’d like to visit while you’re in town. Most places start talking about upcoming events they’re having a few weeks out...

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