Local Guide: Top 5 Events to Visit in Cleveland with Kids this Holiday Season

Kid tested…mother approved!

1. Crocker Park Christmas Tree Lighting- Westlake, Ohio

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Enjoy decked out holiday shopping in this open air shopping center. Each year Crocker Park comes alive with their annual Christmas tree and lighting countdown. Eat at popular restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory and the Yard House. You can walk the plaza while the kids drink warm hot cocoa cooled with vanilla ice-cream from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Invite family and friends to experience their new outdoor ice-skating rink that opens on November 18th. Top the tiresome evening off with a movie and a stay at the beautiful Hyatt Regency within the center.

 

2. Snow Tubing – Boston Mills Brandywine, Boston Heights, Ohio

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This wintertime activity is safe and enjoyable for family members 3 and up! For only $25 per person, grab a snow-tube (no worries, you get a nice lift up the hill) and slide down the best hills ever! If your family is feeling extra adventurous, enjoy sliding down the hills at night too. Afterwards, enjoy a small snack bar which does carry hot cocoa.

3. Coventry Village Holiday Festival – Cleveland Heights, Ohio

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This eclectic, hippie, earthy street is known for its love of nostalgia. A trip to Coventry Village is great anytime of year, and the Christmas theme just adds to the fun. Among shopping at the cool unique shops such as Big Fun, and City Buddha, Coventry sets out a money machine (fake money can be used at stores on Coventry only)!

The B-Side Liquor Lounge turns into a kids only club for the afternoon. Kids can dance with a DJ and sing to Frozen (among other kid favorites) on the Karaoke machine. Other activities include photos with Santa at Piccadilly Vegan Ice Cream, and a throwback movie. Grab a selfie with Rudolph, The Grinch, and Frosty!

Enjoy great eating at Tommy’s Restaurant who is know for their great handmade milkshakes, handmade french fries, and huge vegetarian selections.

4. Winter Lights Lantern Holiday Circlefest and GLOW – Cleveland Museum of Art & Botanical Gardens

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Known as one of the top art museums in the country, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens creates a beautiful “Glow” theme on its lawn during the Christmas holiday. Admire beautifully glowing art pieces on the lawn. Throw on those ice skates and don’t fall eating freshly made kettle corn from the local vendors. Come early before the Museum’s annual artsy night parade to enjoy a craft. Watch chefs prepare you an exquisite dish in the cafe, or snack on fresh baked cookies along with a glass of wine or champagne. Of course, there will be plenty of hot chocolate. Best of all – entry into the art museum is FREE!

5. Light Up Lakewood! Lakewood, Ohio

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Usually happening on the first weekend in December, this outdoor walk around festival caters to both the very young and old at heart. This annual event is full of plenty of activities for the kids such as Santa pictures and crafts in the library (come early enough to grab a number to meet him!). Eat at the nationally known, Cleveland born restaurant Melt Bar and Grilled for fantastic grilled cheese and beer. Grab glow sticks and free hot cocoa while you pass people dressed as Star Wars and other characters on the street (was that just a black Santa Claus? YEP!). Don’t forget to stay for the night parade and tree lightning. Did I happen to say that a DJ spins the tunes while you’re taking this all in?

 

Have a Healthy Halloween

Lets face it. Times have changed. What used to be the old age tradition of dressing your kids in costumes and venturing out into the dark night with bags (or pillowcases) for long walks around your city are coming to an end.

Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s being more conscious of what we are putting into our kids system, or it could be a combination of the two.

These realities do not put a damper on this time of year, but they do allow for some creative, fun, healthy changes for your children and future generations.

As we know, change is always inevitable. Nothing stays the same. When you know better you can’t help but to do better. This new set of parents known, as Generation X and Millennia’s, are raising ourselves and our children healthier and wiser than our parents did.

And for good reason. Candy is filled with even more sugar and artificial dyes. Yellow #5, Blue #1, and Red #40 sound more like a cool dye to color shirts with, but instead it’s dyeing our insides.  Venturing into the darkness with your children is still popular for some, but many view the world a little differently than they used to.

You might be wondering – just how might one Mom or Dad get past Halloween without allowing our children to collect the Hershey, Twix, and M&M bars at costume festivals or household Halloween parties?

For starters, we always prepare the kids for what’s about to happen – the “good” and the “bad”.  For the “bad”- We let them know that when they graciously collect their goodies, they get to pick one, eat it for about a minute and after the minute is up it goes in the trash.  When we get home a few (and I do mean VERY few) go in the freezer and the rest in the trash.

Never feel bad about throwing away candy. Anything that does not serve as nutrition for my families insides has no place in our home.

Call it cruel and unusual, but my children have come to look forward to the small indulgence of unhealthy sugar. And believe it or not they don’t bother to ask about what happened to their other candy.

The “good” – we offset the artificial stuff with some healthy sweets. There is an overabundance of healthy sweet alternatives that you can swap.

As your families ideals change during Halloween, there are still many cool, healthy alternatives that can be created within your own family tradition. And yes, Halloween can be enjoyed with minimal amounts of sugar!

Keep in mind – if you decide not to buy organic or raw it’s okay. You are still making a healthy decision to stay away from the commercial “shelf life” candy choices!

Baked Pumpkin Seeds with Cinnamon and Organic Coconut Sugar

Slice open a pumpkin, take out the seeds. Let the seeds dry overnight. Place pumpkin seeds on a baking dish. Sprinkle cinnamon and organic coconut sugar on top. Place in the oven on 425* for 25 minutes. Let cool or use as a topping over Tofutti Vanilla Ice Cream. Enjoy!

Candied Apples with Organic Raw Honey dipped in nuts

Grab a Green (Tart) or Red (Sweet) Apple. Dip or drizzle Organic Raw Honey then dip into nuts. Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes and Enjoy!

Organic Raw Fruit Fondue w/ Dark Organic Chocolate

Grab your favorite fruits – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas, cherries. Grab your favorite organic dark chocolate bar (most can be found at your favorite non-commercial grocery or health food store – the health benefits of dark chocolate are endless!).

Kids House Party w/ fruit infused water ice cubes

Once again grab your favorite fruits (limes, lemons and ginger go great here too!). Add cubes to fresh water (or parents, add to your favorite mixed drink). After all, they will already by amped up from those healthy candied apples and pumpkin seeds. Balance their nutritional benefits with water. Enjoy!

Homemade Pita Pizza Party

Split open a wheat pita. Smooth on the organic tomato sauce or marinara. Choose your favorite toppings such as red, green, and yellow peppers. Sprinkle with fresh mozzarella cheese – or if you are dairy free, Daiya cheese has a wide assortment of delicious dairy-free cheese to choose from. Place in the oven on 425* until brown. Enjoy!

Movie Night with Brown bag popcorn and Pink Himalayan Salt

Grab organic whole kernels and place into a brown bag. Pop in the microwave according to your settings. Sprinkle with Pink Himalayan Salt and Enjoy!

 

From my Family to yours – Have a Healthy Halloween!

PUMPKIN

 

 

 

NYC with Kids

Kids. From the moment they come into our lives they bring new situations and adventures.

I can honestly say that I have delightfully experienced many things and met many new people in my life thanks to my girls.

This past weekend’s trip to New York City was no different.

My oldest daughter, who is 15, was invited to play string bass at the world famous Lincoln Center in NYC with her schools Chamber Orchestra.

What an honor and what an opportunity for all of us to finally take a bite out of the Big Apple…..with KIDS!

As a mom, the thought of traveling to NYC with little ones (4 and 7) makes me a little uneasy. We have only traveled through Manhattan by car a few times a year to drop off my step-children who live in Queens. I was overwhelmed just watching the hustle and bustle from the car.

I would stare out the window thankful that my kids were safely strapped into their car seats – peering their eyes above the brim of the window. And my husband taking on the honking and numerous fender benders that we nearly missed inch by inch as we made our way through the city.

However, we survived New York City! Not only did my daughter’s school place in the competition, but we all grew from the experience.

Here are some cool pics and tricks to help you out if you are considering heading out to the city that truly never sleeps.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Newark, New Jersey to save money before heading into the big city for the weekend. You can save big and it’s only a 20 minute drive away. Great cocktails, ambiance, and kids eat free!

The food trucks making their way through traffic in true New York fashion.

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We choose The Watson Hotel on 57th St. so we wouldn’t have to walk too far with the little ones. It was about an 8 minute walk to our event at Lincoln Center. It had some of the least expensive parking at $37 a day, and the rooms were clean and decent. The prices for rooms were fairly inexpensive as compared to other hotels in the city.

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The premise of our trip! My daughter playing string bass (far left standing) at Lincoln Center. Her schools Chamber Orchestra placed second runner up (third in the nation) and received the honorable Forte Award for most distinguished group. Good news parents: there is an upscale snack bar in the lobby that serves sandwiches, chips, fruits, and cocktails. Perfect breather that your kids will definitely need in between performances.

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We made reservations at The Colesium Bar and Grill. We choose this restaurant based on location (an 8 minute walk from Lincoln Center), a diverse menu that both adults and children could find something they would like, and they were okay with kids eating there. The prices were a little high for bar priced food, but the food was very good.

Next, we headed underground in a glass elevator which was located in the middle of a sidewalk. The elevator took us to an underground mall and food eatery called TurnStyle. The kids went to the well know Dillon’s Candy Store full of a candy emporium!

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We were anxious to hit up Times Square, but getting there was a 20 minute walk. Not good for the little one’s unless you have a stroller. It was also freezing so Uber and Lyft was a MUST! The cost was inexpensive $8 to $12 for a 7 seater vehicle to fit my entire family. We waited less than 10 minutes going and coming back.

Stepping out into Times Square was like stepping into a fish bowl. Wall to wall people. Hang on to your kids and enjoy the lights, sights and people watching.

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The Statue of Liberty and other characters were dressed to take photos with eager tourists, but BE AWARE! They want your money. $20 to be exact for snapping a photo with you.

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Hold on tight to your children! My daughter and I got caught in the middle of another NY traffic jam!

 

Inside the NYC subway near Times Square.

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I had no idea that it was similar to an airport. There were places to eat, small shops and loads of people hanging out. There was live music to watch and people dancing. You buy your tickets ($2 to $4 range) and wait to hear what gate you need to to be at to jump on the train.

If you enjoy a nice beer/cider you are in luck! They have beer/cider on tap in the subway. A small to large costs $6 to $8. You get a cup to go and are free to walk around with it.

I felt more comfortable than I thought I would be waiting at the Subway Station with kids in tow.

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Call it cliche but we wanted to experience all the “New York” like things. On a short walk from our hotel we found Morningstar Restaurant for breakfast. They served lunch and dinner . A cute typical neighborhood New York diner. The food was great, the staff was super nice, fast and accomadating.

A Yummy New York bagel sandwich with turkey bacon, scrambled egg and cheese. This won my kids heart. I enjoyed a coffee with many selections of Brandy to go inside! Morningstar Restaurant.

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Key points to consider when traveling with kids:

1) Google the address and area of your stomping grounds. I always investigate the area with Google Earth when planning where we will stay and where we will go. It helps to familiarize yourself with the area. Many things look better on a website than they do in person.

2) Map the distance between certain attractions you plan to visit. Everything can seem appealing to visit, but may be further away from where you thought. Mapping out the distance between each location will save you so much frustration!

3) Visit the websites of each city, attraction and hotel. Websites are a wealth of information. You can find reviews from recent visitors and events that are going on during your visit. That gives you a step up on visiting as a well informed tourist.

Enjoy your Family Time!

 

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7 years without Cable! Here’s what happened.

Yes indeed. We are one of few households that have survived more than five years without the daily media blitz of reality television, sports games, breaking news, and celebrity gossip.

It all started when our “hook-up” finally came to an end and we were met with the decision to join the millions of other households paying high cable premiums.

I protested with my husband (he has never been a fan of television) to fit this bill into our already expanding budget.

I MUST watch my evening and morning news!

I MUST watch reality T.V!

I MUST have my daily dose of channel surfing – where I might stumble upon an intriguing documentary on Ancient Aliens!

My older children protested, as their bedrooms (what was once the place to get away from it all) became lifeless, quiet room caves of boredom. Thank goodness the youngest children were to little to understand that this was a major problem. What in the world were we all supposed to do now?

It forced me to have to be logical with myself for a moment. Let’s just stop going through the motions and actually really think about what is the “problem” here.

“Problem #1″

No morning News

Faithfully for many years started my morning with the latest news. I mean, how could you not? There is so much that might have happened overnight, or that morning. For goodness sake, a major Apocalypse could be happening! Or, a storm brewing. We must have cable so that I can prepare my family for such events before we head out into the world. Right?

My solution

Believe it or not, the days without the  morning news turned from 1 week to 100+ weeks. Without my daily dose of “panic stories,” I found a sense of peace. Yes, I knew that there was a chance that someone was killed overnight, or a major traffic jam should be avoided, but I chose to not allow that to be my experience. I truly believe that no news is good news.

Instead, I engage more with my children by turning on music and dancing in the hallways before school. They get a kick out of choosing a book to read and sharing it. When we do get a media itch, we select positive content for the kids to watch via our phones or tablet. We like to show them our favorite programming. Not what the major channels think our children should see.

Problem #2

Sports or Championship Games

Yes, we have been salty a few times not being able to watch major sport situations that have occurred over the last year.

My solution

On a few occasions it forced us to venture out to spend time with family or at a new restaurant to watch . A majority of the time though we just check the score on our phone and find something better to do. Yes, there are better things we can do with our time than watching sports. But, I get it. Many people love watching sports as a way to relax. But, only you know if that time could be better spent.

Problem #3

Missing New Programming

It can still be a hard pill for me to swallow when I hear of new season of my favorite show coming out (Give me that $150+ cable bill right now damnit, lol). For several years I would have family record the episodes for me so I could catch up when I visited. However, to my surprise as time went on, my demand for those recordings dwindled. I realized that many of those shows were better off being missed anyway.

 

My Solution

I would often browse the internet and see the people on these programs not “growing” anywhere. I saw them just getting worse with their fighting and accusations. What we watch greatly impacts our minds unconsciously. Rushing over to watch who fought who, or who slept with someone’s man started to feel foolish. How were these people in anyway impacting my life for the better? Now I spend my time reading more. Reading is the key to your ongoing success.

Problem #3

The Kids

Almost everyday at least one of the kids ask if we can get cable. I understand how they feel. Their friends ask if they saw the latest episode of a show, or everyone around them sings the jingle to that commercial that’s played only in cable land. I would have cried if I wouldn’t have had my MTV or Disney Channel to show me the way of the world.

My Solution

We agreed on having Netflix in the living room. Now believe me, this was not met with immediate cheers. For one, it meant sharing the television. Also, Netflix doesn’t necessarily have all our favorite shows and limited programming. But, we have survived with it. The kids are at a point where they are like “just give me some piece of normalcy.”

Although, due to this limitation they are not quick to just plop in front of the T.V. I have noticed an increase of art projects and imagination. I will take that any day over couch potatoes. : )

 So, there you have it. Our family has survived without headlining news and commercials. Another plus that I meant to mention is where that extra cable money can go to: activities, shopping, investments and more. Looking back I see how cable really had control on my perception of how I felt and saw the world. Cable has evolved into something where a vast majority of us feel like it’s a necessity. Don’t believe the hype!

I am beginning to understand that there are many things we all do just “because” it has been the norm for so long. What other things can we change within ourselves and for our households? Take a moment in your day today to ponder that question…

 

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Kids’ Corner: Breakfast Popsicles

After school the other day, my girls ages 5 and 7 asked when we were finally going to use the popsicle molds that had been sitting in the cabinet. After a long day at work and envisioning their excitement in the morning, I gladly said “Sure, why not?”

And so, my girls and I grabbed a few fresh fruits (I snuck in a few vegetables), pulled out the blender and began our healthy creation. This idea not only was quick and fun to make, but they were healthy enough for the girls to eat in the morning for breakfast!

Imagine telling your kids to go grab a Popsicle with breakfast! You can! Here is what we used, but honestly the possibilities are endless. Most importantly the containers are recyclable. This makes the healthy Popsicle’s become a normal healthy staple in the freezer. You never really need to buy boxed popsicles again. What’s really in those “healthy” popsicles anyway?

The following recipes are clear of artificial dyes and additives. What these popsicles are full of is loads of vitamin C and healthy sugars.

 

Breakfast Popsicles (version 1)

1 banana

1 mandarin orange

Half cup of blueberries

1 small carrot

1 cup of Almond Milk

 

Throw all fruits and almond milk into blender. Blend for approximately 10 seconds or less for more fruit chunks. Pour into popsicle molds and let freeze overnight.

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(makes approx.. 4 popsicles)

 

Breakfast Popsicles (version 2)

6 chunks of watermelon

2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon

Half cup of cherries

A few kale leaves

1 cup of freshly squeezed organic raw orange juice

Throw all fruits and orange juice into blender. Blend for approximately 10 seconds or less for more fruit chunks. Pour into popsicle molds and let freeze overnight.

(makes approx.. 4 popsicles)

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude Exercises for Kids

As another school year comes to a close parents everywhere are left scrambling with ideas on what to do with their children for the summer.

Summer camps are commonplace and have become a leading choice amongst parents for getting the children out of the house and active. According to acacamps.org, summer camps are a $18 billion industry!

Additionally, summer is a great time for creating structure with daily chores and reading. But, if you are a seasoned parent like me, you may have concluded there is that special something missing from your child’s personal development over the summer. That special something is appreciation and gratitude.

The rush of the school year and schedules can make it easy for one to forget to say thank you for the small things in life. We are all guilty of this – not just our children.

Summer to children (and parents) represent one thing: FREEDOM! A stray from structure and a welcome to long summer nights. Children get their

way a little more often than they did during the school year and parents just might be able to get up in the morning a little bit later. Not saying that children don’t deserve a little freedom. We all do! It is healthy and perfectly okay to want to yearn for change in a different direction than what you are used to.

However, none of us are perfect.  I began to notice with my own kids as the summer progressed a certain attitude tends to develop the deeper into summer we journey: THANKLESSNESS and ENTITLEMENT.

Upon the onset of summer, some familiar sayings my husband and I start to hear around the house from the kids:

 

“Can’t we go out for ice-cream during the week” (it’s summer)

 

“We should go get that new swim suit” (It’s summer)

 

“We should splurge on all the vendors and restaurants we want when on vacation (It’s summer)

 

Asking over and over and over again soon turns into entitlement. We can all say thanks to that summertime freedom that we might be feeling (yes, parents are included in that too).

To help balance the transition of my enthusiastic summertime clan, my husband and I came up with a simple summertime gratitude activity for our family. Here are some simple examples that you can make into your own. Be Creative! No matter the variation you and your family decide, the goal is incorporating more GRATITUDE and less ATTITUDE into your summer.

 #1 Each day do something for someone other than yourself. Example: Each child must approach a sibling, friend, parent, relative and help with anything. Or, simply do something for someone else without asking. For the younger kids we help guide them until it becomes a habit. My older children kept on task by texting me what they did. Eventually this will become habit and following up will become easier for everyone.

 

#2 Every night before bed or at the dinner table everyone must verbally say something they were thankful for in their day. Example: This is similar to incorporating prayer and can even be prayer at the dinner table. Instead of one person leading everyone becomes inclusive by going around the table one by one expressing the gratitude of their day.

#3 Write down a minimum of one thing positive they expect for the future and place it in a jar. Example: I will get along all day with my sister. This activity will encourage your child to want to act upon that challenge the next day. Thus, creating the positive result they wanted to happen.

#4 At the end of the week read the expectations that were put into the jar to see which may have came true that week (helps invite The Power of Positive Thinking)

To take it one step further, speaking and living in appreciation daily to where it becomes a habit (that would last way past summer) is the ultimate goal.

Most things that we do past 20 days or more become a habit. This activity has not only proven to work great for my family, but also has changed their mindset and ours for the better overall.

Blessings to you and your family! I would love to read what positive outcomes you have had incorporating your gratitude exercises into your daily schedule.