Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Like most of you, I've been reflecting on the past year now that 2012 is coming to a close. For our family, it's been a great year of adventure and exploration, especially as we welcomed Little Arrow (now one!) into the fold.

I can't thank you enough for reading, commenting, encouraging us, sending questions, etc. What started as a way to avoid cleaning my house while Big Arrow (then a baby, now three!) was napping, has turned into a community and even a part-time writing career. The friends I've made through this "space" on the web are such a treasure to me. I'm forever in your debt for all that and more.

We have a lot of exciting plans in 2013, so I hope you'll continue to follow us as we learn and grow.

I won't be blogging for the next couple of weeks as I enjoy time with my family. If you're looking for more info on some of our holiday traditions, you might like this video I made about our trip to Robert's Tree Farm. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, which I'll update with some of our fun plans during Christmas.

From our family to yours, make it a merry one!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Robert's Tree Farm (video)

One of my new year's resolutions is to take more video. Now that both the Arrows are mobile, it seems like the most realistic way to capture our life and our travels these days. Plus, I fully realize that in the blink of an eye they'll be cranky teenagers giving me the stink eye every time I take out my camera.

So when we returned to Robert's Tree Farm for our third annual Christmas tree selection, it seemed like a good time to practice being the official videographer of our family.

Besides spending time with our families, our visit to the tree farm is definitely my favorite holiday tradition. Just me, my boys and the great outdoors in the Indiana countryside. Here's a fun look back at our day there.

(I've decided that the best part about video is you can edit out some of the obnoxious, inappropriate behavior of your 3-year-old, plus you can cover up his whining with fun music!)

Crave more info about this place or the fun of picking your tree right from the field?

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Playground near Chicago's Michigan Avenue

'Tis the holiday shopping season, particularly if you're heading someplace fabulous to buy your presents. As a teenager, I very clearly remember the year my family headed to Chicago one December weekend to take in the ambiance of the Magnificent Mile along Chicago's famous Michigan Avenue. Talk about a shopper's haven!

My husband and I took advantage of not having an opinionated 3-year-old with no interest in shopping when we visited Chicago last April, and wandered this shopping area with Little Arrow happily tucked away snoozing in the stroller. As we neared Water Tower Place, I happened to notice what appeared to be a playground just a block off Michigan Avenue. Ever the diligent family travel blogger, I needed to get a closer look.

Families everywhere who flock to the Windy City for shopping? Have I ever got a kid-pleasing spot for your little ones to get the wiggles out. Seneca Playlot Park. It's on Chicago Avenue just one block toward the Lake off Michigan Avenue.

View Larger Map

We rarely do much shopping when we travel, mostly because neither my husband or I are interested in it. But some destinations just lend themselves to pounding the pavement and hitting the stores. So just be on the lookout for a playground or park to please the littles. As a mom to a rambunctious 1-year-old and 3-year-old, we are in a prime playground stage of parenting.

A few tips:
  • You can use Google Maps to explore where you'll be shopping in advance. The parks and playgrounds are usually easy to spot in green, especially in urban areas. If you can get a name from the map, you can then Google the park itself to determine what amenities it has. Most cities have at least a basic webpage for each of their parks.
  • If you find a nearby park without a playground, consider bringing a small blow-up ball or balloon for them to chase around the open area. (Or pick one up while shopping and let it double as a souvenir and toy!)
  • If you've got a baby, pack a thin blanket to spread on the ground during your park pitstop. I found that even when Little Arrow was a baby, he craved some time to get out of the stroller or carrier and wiggle around a bit once in a while.
  • More tips and reasons I love finding playgrounds when we travel here.
Happy shopping! Happy kids! Happy Holidays!

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Walking on Travels and Suitcases and Sippy Cups.

PS: Want to know more about what makes me tick as a traveling mom? Check out "Get to Know Arrows Sent Forth" at Walking on Travels.

Friday, December 7, 2012

1 Year of Travel: Little Arrow's 1st Birthday

Since he has a nearly empty baby book, I need to ease some mama guilt and write a post dedicated to Little Arrow. He celebrated his first birthday on Saturday and I love the idea of a post dedicated to each Arrow on their birthday. So indulge me a moment here...

Maybe this will change with age, but right now, Little Arrow is very much about the destination, not so much the journey. He's had a few rough patches on long car trips and has stretched his vocal chords on a couple of flights. He hates to be contained, and I can't say I blame him. There's a very big world out there for him to explore!

But once you arrive? Goodness, is he ever the best little travel companion. He'll go anywhere, do anything. Brave as can be. And typically with a big, nearly toothless grin spread across his face.

In fact, he unleashed his first giggle while in Florida at 3 months.

Traveled 103 stories up above Chicago at 4 months (slept right through it, actually).

Survived his first camping trip at 6 months.

And then went skinny dipping in Saginaw Bay, Michigan at 7 months. (Don't you just want to pinch those cheeks? I think I might have to delete this post when he's ready to ask a girl to prom, though.)

Got crazy at a children's museum in St. Joseph, Michigan a couple of weeks later.

First ride on dad's shoulders in Minneapolis at 9 months.

He sure does bring the cute along, doesn't he? But beyond the killer good looks, I love that he has taught me to be a more relaxed mom. I look back on Big Arrow's first year, and mostly I remember being a nervous wreck about napping schedules, eating habits, and whether he'd sleep away from home.

Little Arrow has never been one for schedules, and his food preferences change by the hour. I soon learned to let all those concerns go and (for the most part) just let it be. And it's been the best year of my life with this special boy.

So happy birthday, Little Arrow. I can't wait to see what adventures await you in your second year. I have a pretty good feeling they'll be even more spectacular!

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Planning a Visit to Trader's Point Creamery

There are so many little gems around Indiana to explore (some of my favorites are listed at my Indiana Adventures page). But I think that one of the most unique spots has to be Traders Point Creamery on the northwest side of Indianapolis. Despite organic food being all the rage these days, this is one of the nation's only all-organic dairy farms.

Tucked away on a twisty, curvy road, you'd never realize you're just about 15 minutes from the heart of downtown. A visit to Traders Point Creamery lets you teach your kids about farming, where their food comes from, and the beauty of how Mother Nature provides for us, all in an accessible and affordable way.

Here are my suggestions for a fun day at the farm:

1.) Take a self-guided walking tour. While more formal tours are offered, if you're bringing the kids, I suggest moving at your own pace. Upon arrival, just check in at the small store. Cost is $2 per person and they'll provide you with a marked map. It's essentially a 1.5 mile loop around the farm, although you can walk less if the little legs you're bringing with you aren't up to the task. You can walk the grounds anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Insider Tip: Bring your baby carrier (like this Ergobaby carrier I've donated to the Passports with Purpose fundraiser) and leave your stroller at home. The farm is much more manageable on foot than on wheels.

Insider Tip: Let the kids guide you with the map! (We had to steer these two in the right direction, but it was fun to let them think they were navigating...)

Insider Tip: Warn kids about the electric fences. The cows are free to roam the fields, but they are surrounded by a single electric wire fence. No one wants to end the trip early with a shock!

2.) Eat at The Loft. While you can find their products on the shelves of health food stores across the country (including many Whole Foods), in recent years the Creamery has expanded the operations to include a restaurant called The Loft.

The menu is full of options where most of the ingredients are either produced or grown on the farm.  And unlike some farm-to-table restaurants which can be a tad fancy, The Loft is very family-friendly and you'll feel comfortable dining there with kids of all ages. Their children's menu is healthy but fun.

The water comes in adorable mason jars.

3.) Pack a cooler. My friend who joined us was so smart to suggest we bring coolers to keep our purchases cold on the way home. Because this is a perfect time to stock up on their yogurt, cheeses and chocolate milk!

4.) End your visit with ice cream! Everyone's had a fun day already. But take it up a notch with some of their amazing ice cream. I'd share a photo, but I was too busy devouring it to stop and take a picture. (You understand, right?)

Insider tip: Order it in a cone. With a hint of cinnamon sugar, I thought the cone was just as delicious as the ice cream.

Suggested Itinerary:

Because they milk the cows at 4 p.m. daily (and you can watch!), visitors must clear off the paths around 3 p.m. So the staff at the Creamery suggested this as an ideal schedule for an afternoon at the Creamery:

2 p.m.: Arrive and spend an hour walking the grounds.
3 p.m.: Visit the Dairy Barn inside The Loft for ice cream.
4 p.m.: Watch the cows being milked.
Then you could either stay for an early dinner at The Loft or pick up some of their yummy products at the store and head home.

If you have little ones that typically nap in the afternoon like I do, then by all means visit in the morning. We missed out on the milking, but still had fun.

Christmas on the Farm:

Traders Point Creamery holds a lot of seasonal events (like an Oktoberfest in the fall and a weekly farmer's market in the summer). December 15 marks the 5th annual Christmas on the Farm. If you visit then, there will be sleigh rides, time with Old St. Nick, crafts, and hot chocolate made with the chocolate milk produced at the Creamery.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups / Walking on Travels and Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.