Finding Science in Snowflakes

Snow filled wood at Ft. Williams Park Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Portland, Maine –  This winter has brought some fantastic snowfall. And more is coming! But I must confess, we’ve gone sledding, snowman building, snow angel making, and even thought about building an igloo. But even with all of this snow, we never actually looked at it. I mean really looked at it.

But this book changed that. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson. And it deserves a spot on your shelf, too. This nonfiction children’s book is told with the wonder of your favorite picture books. And it’s packed with fascinating snow facts that I enjoyed learning just as much as my munchkins did.

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonders

After seeing the amazing photographs of snow crystals and after learning that six is a snowflake’s magic number, we held a cookie sheet (covered in black construction paper) outside to catch snowflakes for close inspection. (Note: following the author’s directions, we put our cookie sheet outside and under shelter for 10 minutes to make it cold enough for catching snow.)

We used a pocket microscope to examine our snowflakes.

We used a pocket microscope to examine our snowflakes. The author suggests a magnifying glass which is a great idea!

Judging by my 4-year-old’s reaction, he’ll never look at falling snow the same way. And neither will I!

Tips: The back of the book has instructions for catching and examining snow crystals. That said, suit up and do this science project outside as opposed to opening the window. You’ll have longer to examine the crystals before they melt.

Enjoy!

Anna

TODDLER TAKE AWAYS AND PRESCHOOL PERKS

  1. Science Investigation
  2. Math Concepts
  3. Familiarization with scientific tools
  4. Fun with nature
  5. Time with you!

Valentine Craft that’s Fun, Easy and (dare I say it) Even Pretty!

Tissue Paper Valentine

Time to dig through your recycling bin. This craft is easily made with bits of tissue paper, cardboard, ribbon, paint, and glue.

Grab your munchkins and you’ll have this Valentine decor ready to display in no time at all.

Paint your hearts. We cut ours out of cardboard boxes. Cereal boxes will work well, too.

Painted Cardboard Heart

Once the paint is dry, cover one side of the heart with glue.

Cardboard heart covered with glue

Now take tiny bits of tissue paper. Crunch them up (an activity your toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy) and mash them onto the heart. Repeat.

Apply Tissue Paper to Heart

Tissue Paper Heart DecorOnce they are dry, you’ll need a hole puncher to make one opening at top  of the heart and another at the bottom. Thread some ribbon through the holes and hang. BEAUTIFUL!

Wouldn’t it be fun to try this project with letter cut outs? Your preschoolers can arrange the letters to spell LOVE or CUPID or any of the other great Valentine’s Day words. We might just give that a try this week!

A note for parents working out of the home: This project can be broken down into three evening activities. Paint your hearts the first night. Glue and apply tissue paper the second night. String with ribbon and hang the third night. Short and simple!

Preschool Perks and Toddler Take Aways:

  1. Sensory activity
  2. Shape and color recognition
  3. Fine motor control
  4. Upcycle activity
  5. Time with you!

Enjoy!

Anna

Boredom Buster: Treasure Hunt

Pirateology-our inspirationPortland, Maine – I don’t know if you’ve been following our weather lately. But like a faithful metronome, we oscillate between windchill 28 below and 46 above. Either it’s unsafe to leave the house or it’s raining so hard that huge chunks of ice floating by also make it tricky to play outside with my munchkin men.

If you need a boredom buster for your house, too. Try this!

We stumbled upon an awesome find at the bookstore, PIRATEOLOGY. My four-year-old is convinced a pirate left it there by mistake. And once you open this book, you’ll wonder, too. It’s filled with letters written in pirate code, envelopes to be opened, a touch-and-feel bag of gold, pieces of treasure map and an encyclopedia’s worth of factoids and lore.

Burned edges of pirate map

And that inspired us to make a pirate map of our own, complete with burned edges. We cut out a panel of a grocery bag. I burned the edges over the sink. Grocery bags catch fire a little quicker than I anticipated. Needless to say, my kids do not get to help with the fire bit. They can only watch.

Next, we take a wet sponge and dampen the pirate letter to give it a weathered appearance.

Before we draw our map and mark it with the ‘x’, get your matey to hide the treasure. We used an old jewelry box filled with mostly foreign coins.

Coins as treasure

Now have your pirates draw the map and put the ‘x’ where the treasure is hidden.

Drawing the pirate map

Time to hunt for treasure!

Treasure Hunter

This was fun for all of us and a great boredom buster! This is an entertaining way to bring books to life. Want to add other pirate adventures to your day? Check out our blog on building a pirate ship out of cardboard boxes.

Enjoy,

Anna

Preschool Perks and Toddler Take Aways

  1. Imaginative Play
  2. Spatial Memory
  3. Cartography (the art of map making)
  4. Expressing spatial relationships
  5. Fine motor control
  6. Literacy

Upcycle: Be Mine, Holiday Cards!

Upcycled Valentine

Portland, Maine – I guess it’s a week after Christmas when I think of an old friend I’ll call Sally. Sally told me that every year, she takes everyone’s holiday cards and puts them in an album. What a respectful thing to do, especially when you consider the thought, time, and expense spent on holiday greetings. I look at the stack of wonderful well wishes we received, the family photographs, and then I face the facts–my children’s baby books are not finished yet. I’ll never get these put into an album. GUILT. GUILT. GUILT.

SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM? UPCYCLE!

With a nearly 5-year-old roaming these halls, our world is all about words. Read them, write them, repeat (for the foreseeable future).

So here’s a great way to support your preschooler in their quest to conquer the language and upcycle those beautiful holiday greetings into Valentine’s Cards!

Take your stack of cards. Grab a pair of scissors and cut out the words.

Holiday Cards in need of new life

Add construction paper, markers, ribbon, glue sticks and anything else you can find.

Holiday words for Valentines

Next let your word-smith-to-be put together the words to make Valentine wishes. And there is something sort of fun about taking well wishes and transforming them into Valentines.

Upcycled Valentine Cards

Enjoy!

Anna

PreSchool Perks

  1. Fine Motor Control
  2. Increase Vocabulary
  3. Sight Word Exposure and recognition
  4. Mixed Media Art
  5. A great primer in the art of showing love!

Reading Leaves

ImagePortland, Maine – Nothing like combining reading and writing with a great big adventure!  The falling leaves give us a great opportunity to find lots of words in the woods. Here’s what we are using to capture them!

A DECOMPOSITION BOOK –  I’m so glad we stumbled upon this decomposition book. It’s the perfect field journal for C to write down his observations and some of the new woodsy words we discover.

IN OUR BACKPACK, We also have a Tree Fandex. It’s the world’s coolest tree identification guide.

Tree Fandex

But the best part is, the sturdy pages are leaf-shaped for easy matching.

Identifying leaves

As soon as I pulled the guide out, the boys immediately started matching leaves on the ground to the leaves in the guide. I found this at an online Montessori store. You are going to love it.

Leaf lamination

We brought some of our adventure back home! Using the boys’  beautiful fall leaf collection along with a piece of birch bark, we matched the leafs to the correct label. Then we laminated them. If you don’t have a lamination machine (at lot less expensive then I ever imagined), you can press them between wax paper. Then, simply staple them into your journal.

Sentence Scramble for Preschoolers

No more leaves on your trees? Try this craft using crayons to recreate them.

TwoTeachingMommies offers free leaf themed printable activities. This pack includes an activity which teaches preschoolers the different parts of leaves.

We found another fun freebie at TeachersPayTeachers (I could go on and on about that website.)

It’s a sentence scramble. Perfect for preschoolers who are trying their hand at writing and recognizing sight words. The fall theme includes scarecrows, pumpkins, leaves, etc.

TeachersPayTeachers is full of creative resources developed by educators. And no one is paying me to say that.

Back in the woods, all of that leaf identification and running around can make you hungry. So while siting and eating our snack, we had a little story time. It was tremendous fun to bring our stories into the woods. It has a way of connecting the story to the environment around us. Two of our favorite fall books are Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein and  A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen.

Wherever your fall exploration takes you, Enjoy!

Anna

Toddler Take-Aways

  • Good ol’ fashioned exercise
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Problem Solving
  • Science and Nature Fun
  • Vocabulary building

In the leaf pile!

Can You Hear Us Now?

WARNING: To my southern aunts (the keepers of all that is proper and right as taught by my dear grandmother, Mamawa) Save yourself; Stop reading NOW!

Portland, Maine – “Woo! Woo! Woo!” yells my almost 2-year-old so loudly you wonder if you can still hear. Until–

“The fire truck, Deedah!” shouts his brother, “The FIRE TRUCK! We have to get it! We have to!” Desperate, my 4-year-old repeats himself ad infinitum. He stops only when the car is parked and he is safely strapped into the fire truck grocery cart at Whole Foods. Thank God, there are seats for two.

At the same time, another family pushes a police car grocery cart. Two parents and two children about the same ages as ours. But they are girls. They are quiet. They do not move. They just smile. They look around. The. Whole. Time.

My husband sheepishly pushes the boys right past them. Our cart is not quiet. No, it is a virtual rolling cacophony of fake fart noises, loud singing, and songs sung again using the forearm fart sound as an instrument. It’s punctuated with belly laughs and bigger efforts to make the next one louder and longer. All while Michael tries to remember our grocery list simultaneously apologizing to anyone within earshot of our cart.

And the timing is perfect because they meet those precious little angels in every aisle. It’s the fart cart verses the rolling example of how children should behave in public.  And when I hear all about it, I can’t talk because I’m crying from laughing so hard.

One day I’ll hear from other Moms how their Sally or Amelia could not believe how well-mannered my son was on their date. One day, my sons will impress college recruiters. One day, they will not need me to quiet them with whispered threats in a church service. One day, I will humiliate them at their rehearsal dinners with these stories (and somehow the audience will not be able to imagine them as true). One day, I will walk through the grocery store in peace–by myself. The whole time, I’ll wonder if my boys are eating well wherever their adult lives have taken them. And I could just about cry at the thought of it. Because this will be over.

Even when I am cutting my 4-year-old’s hair and he shouts, “The hair hurts me! It hurts me! Help!” And he says it over and over again until I hear a sucking noise that sends a chill up my spine. Because that sucking noise can only mean one thing. The baby that was playing with a towel on the floor… has dipped it in the toilet and is sucking it dry! Even then, I am charmed by the outrageousness of the journey. Outrageous… and funny.

I have never been so deeply moved as I have as a mother. And that part, Mamawa would be very proud of.

Enjoy!

Anna

Me:Mamma:Age2

Mamawa and my dad

Gain Five Pounds the Easy Way

Standard Baking Company

Portland, Maine – Want to gain five pounds? Want to enjoy every bite of that journey? Done! Eat here EVERY WEEK…One of the joys of living in Portland, Maine – Standard Baking Company.

croissants at Standard Baking Company

This French bakery is across the street from the ferry terminal on Commercial Street. There is something absolutely intoxicating about walking out of the cool morning air and into the sugary warmth of this bakery. INTOXICATING.

Fresh Baked Goods

You need to get there early on a Saturday morning or you’ll wait in a line that snakes out to parking lot.

ENJOYING Yummy Baked Goods

Best treat for little fingers? Vanilla Bean Madeline. The four-year-old’s favorite? Pain au Chocolat. I haven’t had a bad bite there yet.

WARNING: In the Maine, five pounds await you!

Enjoy!

Anna

P.S. Not coming to Maine? Still want warm sugary yumminess first thing in the morning? Grab your toddler and head to the kitchen! We made this super easy recipe together. Check it out!

The Education STOPS Right at the CAFETERIA Doors!…Except Here!

Washington, D.C. – My little explorers and I have hit the doorsteps of nearly two dozen museums. TWO DOZEN! Each one filled with fantastic experiences, knowledge, curiosities, and little tidbits that morph into invitations to explore even more. It’s the kind of journey that can make inquiring minds hungry… I mean hungry for LUNCH. And that’s when it happens. We are smacked in the face almost every time with a total BUZZ kill: The museum cafeteria. Some call themselves a cafe, a restaurant, a self-service food station, or a snack machine. But whatever it is and wherever it is… you can be sure that the education stops right at the door!

The museums’ exhibits are well thought through… fine details, displays and hours of installation all geared to engaging the mind.

The gift shops are beautifully curated with learning toys and souvenirs that ensure the intellectual engagement continues at home.

Fries with that? Hamburger? Pack of crackers?

No way! Not here! Almost every museum we’ve visited has something MAJOR to learn from the National Museum of the American Indian.

Observation Panel of Kitchen

The restaurant on the bottom floor of the museum is serving up education with your meal… because the meal itself is a lesson on the traditional foods of Native Americans.

Northern Woolands

You have chance to eat as the Cherokee did. You can sample foods from Native Peoples of the Southwest, the plains, from every pocket of the country. And the food is delicious! Healthy, too.

A Vegetable Trio of butternut squash, brown rice, quinoa with beets... YUMMY!

A Vegetable Trio of butternut squash, brown rice, quinoa with beets… YUMMY!

The restaurant doesn’t skimp on atmosphere either. The walls are covered with oversized photographs of tribal gathering and hunting.

Seating area National Museum of the American Indian

This is an amazing place to eat AND learn... at the same time. While your belly travels to a very happy place so will your mind. Is it too much to ask for nap cots?

I’m hoping Children’s Museums, science museums and aquariums will move in this inspiring direction. Thought out lunch areas that teach us about food would be a welcome adventure and not to mention a huge revenue opportunity. Bring it!

Anna

In the Kitchen: Granola Bar Recipe

I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home wife or mom. I’m a journalist. It’s all I knew. And never ever did I think I’d be the sort of wife who would send her husband to work with home-baked goods. In fact my career-driven inner 25-year-old is vomiting at the mere mention of such an eventuality. She would be particularly appalled to see I’m enjoying myself (when not sleep deprived.)

The fact of the matter is for the first EIGHT years of marriage, I would not put my husband’s laundry away. I would wash, dry, and fold it. But I would not put it away.That’s where I drew the line. Until two weeks ago. I’m so type-A that I can no longer stand seeing his t-shirts in their neatly folded pile sitting out for even a few hours. So I put them away. My housewife conversion is complete.

The organic granola was an accident. I made it for my husband (and my little ones). He took it to work. News was breaking. He didn’t eat it. His colleagues did. So I sent more. Inner 25-year-old, let’s have a glass of wine and go to bed. Those kids are gonna be up early.

photo

And for the rest of you, especially Liz Palka, Tanya Rivera and Lauren Melvin (who have repeatedly asked for this recipe,) here it is!

Yield 20 granola bars:

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup of raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 3 cups of oats (I prefer organic rolled oats)
  • 2/3 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups of trail mix (you can buy it or make your own)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of applesauce
  • 1 cup of almond butter
  • 1/2 cup of Maine maple syrup
  • 1 egg replacer (or 1 egg)

photo

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix Ingredients together (I use my kitchen aid mixer)
  • Your ingredients should become sticky enough that you could form a ball with them. The ball may not stay together if you launched it across the room, but it would leave your hand together. To make it sticker, add more almond butter or egg replacer or maple syrup. To make it cagier, add more flour.
  • Oil your pyrex dish so granola bars come out cleanly
  • Put in glass pyrex dish and mash down
  • Place in oven until edges are brown, typically about 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven
  • Let cool for 10 minutes
  • Cut into squares
  • Leave to cool completely

This is a super kid friendly activity. You can change the ingredients as much as you like (adding sunflower seeds, pistachio, or other nuts and berries). While my recipe features far less sugar than others, these granola bars taste very sweet. My hubs likes to break it up in a bowl with milk for breakfast.

This is a great recipe to customize to fit your family or the ingredients in your store. Enjoy!

3-buck Chuck, here we come!

Anna

Tonight’s the Night! (and tomorrow night too)

Stargazers UNITE!

Stargazers UNITE!

The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks tonight and tomorrow night (August 11-12). Tonight, I am going to repeat one of the most FUN things I’ve ever done as a mom. And you can too. Wake your munchkin  up in the middle of the night and take that shocked little pumpkin outside to watch meteors streak across the sky. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? I mean, I just said, ‘wake up your sleeping munchkin.’ But let me tell you, it’s worth it. Our date to watch the meteor show last year was so spectacular. And that’s why tonight, just a couple of hours after my little man’s been sleeping, I’ll wake him up to watch it again.

This meteor shower is easy to find. Just look for the Perseus constellation. We use the iPhone app SkyView to find it in seconds. NASA also offers tips on viewing here. Then cuddle your munchkin and watch the show. Check out my blog from last year for all the details. Trust me, this is an opportunity to create a moment that will last forever.

ENJOY!

Anna

Fall is Coming…Fire Up Your Sewing Machine!

It’s pumpkin time! Okay, not exactly… but back-to-school means one thing only: START your fall sewing RIGHT NOW! If you’ve been with me for a while, you know the temperatures barely need to dip to get my creative juices flowing. There are so many wonderful things to be sewn between now and the new year! One of my favorite patterns is the Johnny from Children’s Corner Patterns. You can create an entire wardrobe using this pattern alone. In this instance, I added a monogramed pocket to spice it up. I also added a button on tab to the sides.

Embroidered Horse Longall

But there is one project that I enjoy absolutely every minute of and that’s sewing this “School Days Jacket” from pattern maker Oliver + S.

Oliver and S School Days Jacket

The sewing goddess who designed this, Liesl Gibson, had me at toggle closure. TIP: I made C’s jacket one size too big so that he could wear it more than one season.

Toggle Closure detaill

The old world look of this is spectacular. This is made up in a thick brushed cotton. While it’s proved to be warm, I chose it because I was too chicken to use wool. I should not have been afraid. The directions in Liesl’s patterns are clear and complete. Nothing to be afraid of. The pattern even includes a button in quilted vest for insulation. LOVE IT!

Best Friends

This is not a difficult project at all. And it is one you will cherish.

Enjoy!

Anna

Maine Fairies Beckon our Little Architechts

Fairy, Are you in there?

Mackworth Island, Falmouth, Maine  – The children of Maine are working children. The girls and boys don’t work for money or food. They are an altruistic bunch and work for the joyful satisfaction of a putting a roof over the heads of Maine’s tiniest inhabitants… the Fairies.

When first light appears, the fairies wake. They take to the wind and attend to their magical duties. And while they are gone, the children flood the forest and build houses for the fairies to return to at night. For a fairy that gets no rest, is not a very helpful fairy at all.

The munchkin Mainers build the fairy houses out of sticks, sea weed, oyster shells, mud, and anything else they can find on Mackworth Island (a ten-minute drive from Portland that lands you a world away.)

Mackworth Island's running path

If you are visiting Maine, this is a must. Parking on the Island is free. There is a mile and a quarter path that circumnavigates the forested island with the kind of sweeping ocean views vacationers spend a fortune to get.

view from Mackworth

Thank heavens it’s all free on Mackworth.

Another view from Mackworth

Three quarters the way around the island walking path, you’ll hit a clearing in the pines and suddenly you see it! An entire community of fairy houses.

Mackworth Island Fairy Community Welcome

Those fairies have one incredible place to live and fantastic devotees who look after them.

Building fairy houses is a Maine tradition going all the way back to some of the first Mainers: european settlers and immigrants.

But here’s a little fairy secret. You, too can build your own Fairy house wherever you live. The sound of the little architects’ giggles carries on the breeze and that’s how fairies know how to find it. All your munchkin needs is to look for supplies on a nature walk, pick out a spot in your yard, porch and in the dirt of a potted plant. That night, after the building is complete, a fairy will flutter in, catch some z’s and be off again as those first sun rays light up the sky!

Get busy! The fairies are counting on you!

PRESCHOOL PERKS

  1. Fine motor skills
  2. Construction techniques
  3. Storytelling
  4. Science/Nature
  5. An invaluable spark to the imagination
  6. Excercise
  7. Sensory Play

ON A PRACTICAL NOTE:

  1. While PARKING IS FREE, spaces are limited. So grab your croissant and cafe and get there early.
  2. There is easy beach access – so bring your swim suit
  3. Ticks are abundant in Maine, insect repellant and tick check a must
  4. No Bathroom (that we found), prepare to be one with nature
  5. Our BOB jogging stroller easily handled the path. No BIKES allowed
  6. If you bring your children and build fairy houses, this will be a three-hour-mile so pack a lunch!

In the Maine, we see fairies!

Anna

‘B’ is for Boats. Really BIG BOATS

Portland Headlight

Portland, Maine – From the working fishing wharves of Old Port where lobster are sold fresh every day to the island ferry boat rides to the shipping channel for cargo and crude oil, our port is a busy one. It’s one HUGE adventure to small boys… and mom… and dad.

But the first time my four-year-old and I saw one of the huge oil tankers leaving port for the open Atlantic, we high-tailed it to Portland’s iconic lighthouse to watch it pass.

And as it approached just a couple hundred years from us, a tsunami of questions began building in the backseat.

And this App had the answers.

Marine Traffic App

It’s called “Marine Traffic.”

It tells you where almost every ship in every sea, river or ocean is at that very moment. And it tells you each ships’ length, last known port, next port of call, what the ship is carrying, etc., etc.

And it provides pictures of the ships in different ports and out at sea with huge waves crashing over the bow.

New England Tanker Stats

 

As we talk about the statistics and factoids regarding a paticular ship, ‘C’ is picking up math skills, engineering skills and starting to get the idea that this world is a really, really big place. This is also an opportunity to talk about the basics of the economy like how goods are moved around the world and why.

Flipping through New England tanker pics

Often we use a ship’s next port of call as a jumping off point for our exploration of other countries and cities.

And now we are starting to recognize the ‘regulars’ in our port as soon as we see them.

If you need a great view? You can always rely on a great submarine or a pirate ship! Check out the view from Portland’s Head Light by following this link to their web cam.

In the Maine, whether you are land locked or looking at the ocean, this app must find a place on your smart phone.

Anchors aweigh!

Anna

PRESCHOOL PERKS

  1. Math – length, width, speed, dead weight, etc.
  2. Science/Engineering – how can something so heavy float? Compare tidal charts to ships arrivals/departures
  3. Geography – where are the world’s boats/ships right now? And what about those places, anyway!
  4. Economics – shipping routes,types of goods transported, supply and demand, etc.
  5. Research – looking at a ship is one thing, but using your iphone/tablet/computer to find out more – now you are an investigator.
  6. Vocabulary – learning shipping/marine lingo is like learning a secret language. It’s a fun way to expand their vocabulary (and mine too)!

I lived in Italy. Best Pizza Joint on the Planet is in Maine

The View

If there’s a pizza joint in Heaven – it’s going to sit right on the water, serve up pizza made from organic ingredients, and employ a divine wait staff who flash charmed-motherly-smiles when my kids are loud (as if to say “Don’t worry. We know you need to leave the house. Let them roar. We think it’s cute. Can we offer a micro brew on tap for you, Mom?” Yes, PEOPLE, this is what eating out in Heaven is like.

Pizza Watching at Flatbread Pizza Company

And also in Portland, Main!.  And before I reveal the object of my foodie affection… let me be clear. They are not paying me or compensating me in any way at all (but free pizza every Friday night is a welcome token of appreciation). I preach it ‘cuz it’s gospel.

Order the Jay's Heart ( a cheese pizza with special herb blend) Their specials offer creative options as well!

Order the Jay’s Heart ( a cheese pizza with special herb blend) Their specials offer creative options as well!

I give you the ultra hip and casual-vibe-galore  Flatbread Company.

Flatbread Pizza Company

It’s right on the water, next to the Casco Bay Ferry Lines. You can watch ferries come and go, as well as all other marine traffic. This is an essential ingredient in keeping their oodles of tiny customers happy.

Fire is mesmerizing...

That said, our favorite perch is directly in front of Flatbread’s two large wood-fired pizza ovens. Think walk-in pizza oven. They are that big.

 

There is a huge bench across from them, a rough slab of granite, usually shoulder to shoulder with children watching the show. Long handled pizza paddles shuffling pizzas in and out until it’s time to eat.

And if that doesn’t occupy your kiddos, the ball of pizza dough and flour will.

Dough Ball

Flatbread is the perfect marriage of microbrew pub and neighborhood pizza place. In other words, it’s a great place to take your kids and enjoy yourself. And there is something delectable about a total lack of pretension even though you are the best pizza place on the planet.

Barside Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine

I have two favorite times to eat there: 1. Friday night – something special in the chaos of families celebrating the end of the week. You won’t feel like a newbie. You’ll feel like a neighbor, and 2. For lunch before catching a ferry to Peak’s Island (only 20 minute boat ride away). Just tell the staff what time your ferry leaves and they’ll be sure to feed you in time. While at Peak’s, stay long enough to have an ice cream cone at the top of the hill.

Seriously. Even their pizza box is cool.

Seriously. Even their pizza box is cool.

ON A PRACTICAL NOTE:

  1. The 4-1-1 – Flatbread Company, 72 Commercial Street, Portland, Maine 04101 Tel. 207-772-8777
  2. Call Ahead – Flatbread Company will not take reservations. BUT you can call ahead when you are on your way. This can cut a 40 minute wait in half!
  3. Due to popular demand – it’s crowded. Bring the stroller ONLY if you have to. I leave the BOB in the car and opt for my Ergobaby.
  4. Bathrooms are clean – and wait staff is understanding when 5 seconds after they seat you, your preschooler announces “I gotta pee! I gotta pee!” Your stuff will not be stolen while you take the whole group to the bathroom.
  5. Driving here? If street parking is taken, there is a safe and well-lit parking garage right next door.
  6. Also worth noting, loads of outdoor (on the wharf-over the water) seating in summer.

In the Maine, Flatbread Company gets it!

Enjoy!

Anna

Our Stuff Runneth Over…

SanfordandSon

If it seems like I fell off the face of the Earth, I did. Actually, I was living in a never ending episode of Sanford and Son. My home? A cluttered version of their salvage yard (And if you think that isn’t possible, it is). It’s like I’ve had an awful glimpse into a special kind of hell created just for the condemned type-A’s. They will live out eternity in a small space that is filled with stuff. Boxes of stuff. Loose stuff. All of it stacked in teetering unorganized piles that rise from the floor (not that you can see it) all the way to the ceiling (it must be up there somewhere). You can run. You can drive thousands of miles. But your stuff follows you. It happened to me. And after a few clutter free weeks of corporate housing… the stuff caught up to us. The movers skillfully filled every room of our new home with our stuff. It took hours. At the end of the day, they somehow managed to push in one more box (to their own astonishment)and another and another. Then someone shut the door and the truck drove away. Are my children in here somewhere?

And I knew it would happen!

Moving to a Northeastern city meant living in a smaller space. Good-bye elbow room. Hello charm and adventure. My husband and I were excitedly buying into a lifestyle where everything fun and interesting is just steps away (sidewalk cafes, parks, children’s museum, a working sea port, farmer’s market)… until it hit us.

At 3 AM… WHAT ABOUT ALL OF OUR STUFF?

I panicked. Where would we put our stuff? What about the kids’ stuff? What the about the stuff we’ve carried around year after year, move after move?

Then came the doubt. Maybe we should hit the suburbs or spend more, go bigger… so we have a place for all our stuff. You know, the furniture, photo albums, clothes (we don’t wear but might), five sets of dishes, deviled egg platter, blankets, curtains, eight plastic bins of sewing fabric, picture frames, knick-knacks, souvenirs, a box that contains hundreds of sea shells we collected, a set of linens for every conceivable occasion (that mostly never occur), enough vases to place four or five flower arrangements in every room, etc., etc., etc.

I had a terrible feeling. It sat heavy, deep in my belly like a nasty fast food binge.

Until I realized exactly what I was so upset about.

I was worried about a bunch of stuff. I was worried about how to put a roof over all of the stuff. I was worried about making room for the stuff. I was worried about how to keep the stuff happy. Where would I put the stuff? How would I arrange the stuff? How do I best show off the stuff? The stuff was running the show… and me.

My husband, Mike, felt the same way. And so we came to a decision: Show the stuff the door.

Box by box, pile by pile, loose thing by loose thing, we purged. With every item, we asked, “Do we need this? Could it better serve someone else?” And the truth is, we had enough extra stuff to outfit three other families. And that’s what we did. We gave most of it away.

And if this sounds crazy. You are not the only one who thinks so! Some of my friends make fun of me, saying, “at some point you are only going to have one outfit and a sleeping bag.” Other friends worried I would regret it.

The truth is I don’t regret it. I don’t miss ONE SINGLE thing. I certainly don’t miss hearing the Sanford and Son theme song play over and over again in my head. Life is simpler. Clearing out the stuff, cleared out my mind.

And that means I’m ready to get back to writing, adventuring, and sharing our journey with you! Now about this place called Vacationland

Enjoy!
Anna

P.S. We reduced our toy load by half. And the boys? They didn’t even notice. But we’ve noticed that they play with the toys they have a lot more!

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