Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Get Your Kids Dirty! In the Garden of Course.

Written by Cheri Pugatch

It is so exciting that Spring is finally here!!   If you’re looking for something fun to do with your kids- it’s always fun to get them involved in gardening!!  My 3 ½ year old has been looking forward to starting our vegetable and flower gardens over the last few weeks.  She has been talking about how she remembers planting, watering, and getting vegetables from our garden last year.  This year her 1 ½ year old sister was just as excited to join in the fun.  The girls helped my husband plant the seeds in the seed trays which will later be planted in our gardens.  Both girls were able to help prep the dirt, sprinkle the seeds, cover the seeds back up, and water them.  The seeds are kept moist and they sit by a window which lets in a bunch of sunlight.  Once the seeds sprout the lid of the seed tray needs to be taken off.  In another couple weeks (once we are safe from any frosts) we will plant the mini plants that have grown from seeds outside in our gardens.

If you’re interested in getting your children involved in your family garden all you need to do is pop into your local garden store or a bigger store like Home Depot or Lowes to get your supplies to get started! 

1.     Seeds: We have always had good luck with the following packets of seeds: cucumber, zucchini, basil, and jalapeno peppers.
2.     Seed Trays or Pots:  We have used empty trays in the past and added soil that we have bought.  We have also planted seeds in pots.  This year we bought the seed tray that you just add a little water to the soil pellet and this was really fun for the kids to see the soil rise up and much less messy than in the past.  All the options above have proven successful J

If you decide to start a family vegetable and/or flower garden I wish you lot of gardening fun with your little ones!  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Just 5 more days till the big SALE!

Mommies and Daddies, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles: it’s the weekend we’ve all been waiting for!  The amazing biannual extravaganza, The Parent Talk Sale!  I moved to Needham almost four and a half years ago.  I was very pregnant with my first child and I was strolling down Rosemary Street one Saturday morning when I came across an amazing sight-  strollers, changing tables, cradles, baby swings…. I wandered in, checked out some of the price tags, and felt a decidedly excited kick inside my stomach!

As all parents know, the miracle of every stage of development is only matched by how quickly our children move out of that stage and onto the next.  As a mommy/friend once told me, “an exersaucer is absolutely necessary for a very short period of time.”  That being said, I feel the need to give a shout out to the whole concept of the Parent Talk Sale.  In Needham and the surrounding Boston suburbs, what feels like the young child capitol of the world at times, there seem to be equal numbers of people dying to clean out their garages and attics by finding homes for outgrown clothes and equipment and parents looking to stock up for all stages of early childhood and not break the bank in the process.  It’s nothing short of brilliant in its simplicity.

Now that I’ve given my two cents on the whole idea of the Parent Talk Sale, I have breaking news: I have had a sneak peek into the Parent Talk Sale storage pod!  I know, I know- it’s exciting.  And I’m going to give you a sneak peek too.  The pod boasts incredible finds for all stages of development.  There is an almost new glider in there, several copies of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and some super cute maternity dresses.  There are changing tables, high chairs, boppys, and lots of adorable clothes.  Some of the outfits are new or barely used!  There is a mini-playground for toddlers with a small swing and slide.  There are Sesame Street toys, including a great Elmo guitar.  There are scooters, trucks, books, and puzzles.  There is a see-saw that would make an amazing addition to any home play area!  (I know- we have one and the kids use it all the time.) The donations will keep rolling in until Friday night, so there will be awesome finds that aren’t even on our radar yet.  If you are a parent, or a soon-to-be parent, and your child is growing at an unbelievable rate (that’s all of us!), this is the sale for you.  And- this is particularly juicy inside information for those of you new to the sale- if you volunteer, you get to shop a day early, and you get first dibs on all the amazing stuff. I know for a fact that the 1-3pm shift on Saturday still has some openings. So come to the Parent Talk Sale this Saturday, May 4th!  As Fancy Nancy would say, you will be absolutely ecstatic that you did.

Written by Kara Veley

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why we volunteer for the Sale

Written by Kathy Fritz

There are so many reasons that I volunteer at the Parent Talk Sale. I get to shop early, have some time away from my kids, master the tagging gun, but my favorite part of volunteering is meeting people. 
Whether I’m tagging toys or clothes, I love settling down into the shift, finding out the other volunteers’ names, and going through “the list.” You know the one I mean: how many kids do you have? How old are they? Where do you live? What do you do for work outside of the home? How much sleep are you getting these days? What are you doing about the terrible 2s (or 3s or 4s)? I’m always pleasantly surprised at the number of “Me too!” moments these simple questions produce. After tagging for two hours, the five of us are all friends on Facebook, planning on finding that great Pinterest pin Shelley raved about, and excited to go home to try that parenting technique Monique said worked great for her.
Most volunteers are mothers, but not all. I love chatting with the dads who are there for the heavy lifting. They are so earnest (and probably a little proud) about using their muscles to help. In between moving things, Sean chats about Skylar’s recent funny phrase, and I find out Dave is married to Sophie, and she and I were in Great Beginnings at Isis together. I enjoy making connections with someone’s other half.
If you’ve volunteered for the Sale before, you already know the neat connections you can make with other volunteers. If you’ve never taken the plunge, sign up for a shift, and ready yourself for a lovely two hours away from your children when you get to shop early, but most importantly, when you’ll make some wonderful and maybe lifelong connections. I hope to see you Sale weekend!

Want to get involved? Here are some shifts still opening for Sale weekend:

Friday, May 3rd: 3 pm to 5 pm (2 available shifts)

Saturday, May 4th: 9 am to 11 am (7 available shifts)
11 am to 1 pm (5 available shifts)
12 pm to 2 pm (8 available shifts)
1 pm to 3:30 pm (10 available shifts)

If you would like to register for a 2-hour shift, please check out the Volunteer Sign-Up Genius.

We look forward to volunteering, shopping, and seeing you at the Sale on Saturday, May 4th. Thank you!

Free Activities (Yes, really FREE!) Around Boston

Written by Sara Nechasek

Does it feel like every time you bring your family out for fun activities you spend a ton of money?  Here are some budget-friendly ideas including museums, crafts and play groups.  I’ve included a few of my family’s favorites along with a few that are on my “to do” list. 

·       Building Workshops at Home Depot and Lowes:  Both Home Depot and Lowes offer free monthly project workshops for kids at all the locations.  These are great opportunities for kids to learn how to pound a nail or glue some wood.  A few weekends ago we made a bird feeder at Home Depot with my son.  He’s had a blast watching the bird visit the feeder since we hung it in the yard.  Both stores provide a full kit with instructions, the necessary tools, and an apron and safety glasses for your child to complete the project.   Check out the store websites for the schedule and a list of what kit will be offered.  It’s best to register ahead of time: Lowes and Home Depot


·       DeCordovaMuseum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln MA:   A short drive from Needham, the DeCordova museum has a large outdoor sculpture park in addition to inside museum space.  On a nice day, you can pack a picnic and have the kids run around the sculptures or hit the exhibits inside on a rainy day.  There are tips for parents bringing kids on the website.    Admission is free for everyone the first Wednesday of the month.  

·       HarvardMuseum of Natural History, Cambridge MA:  This museum is free to Massachusetts residents (bring your ID) on Sunday mornings from 9:00-12:00. The permanent exhibits include dinosaur bones, mammal fossils, and mounted specimens of African wildlife. 

·       Instituteof Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston: The ICA is free for families (up to 2 adults accompanied by children 12 + under) on the last Saturday of each month (except December).   They offer kid-friendly activities on these Saturdays in addition to the regular exhibits.  The museum is located on the waterfront in Boston with a great deck for kids to hang out and watch the harbor activity.  

·       LakeshoreLearning Crafts, Needham Street in Newton:  Lakeshore Learning store offers free crafts each Saturday from 11:00-3:00 pm.    Check out the store website for a list of what craft they plan to offer.  No registration is necessary. 

·     Freedman Center for Children and Families, Newton, MA: The Playtime groups feature weekly themes, related parent tips, and fun for children up to age 4 and their caregivers.  The format is drop in and first come first serve until capacity is reached. The Freedman Center for Children and Families is located within the Massachusetts School for Professional Psychology on Wells Avenue in Newton and offers other free parenting and child offerings such as new mom support groups (similar to what Isis offers but free).  The spring 2013 playtime groups schedule is Thursdays 3:00-4:30PM and Fridays 3:00-4:30PM but check their website to verify the schedule.  More information and directions can be found on the Freedman Center website.

I’d love to hear what interesting free activities you’ve found to do with your family.  Please share them in the comments section.

About the Author
Sara Nechasek lives in Needham with her husband and four year old son.  She works at a non-profit health care company.

Image credit photo credit: Ruslіk via photopin cc

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Be a Good Neighbor at Our Local Parks

Written by Mary Celeste Brown

Hi, folks,
Parent Talk has received a request from Needham Parks and Recreation to get the word out about good neighbor policies at the town parks.  We didn’t get this message because Parent Talk members are a problem, but because our organization is recognized as a community leader.  SO, as spring is springing, let’s help spread the word of how to be good neighbors at our city parks.  Here’s a flyer that Needham Parks and Recreation has created as a reminder:


1.         Park only in designated areas. Do not block driveways or emergency access.
2.        Pick up trash before you leave. Recycle when possible.
3.        Respect the property of park neighbors.
4.       Do not arrive earlier than the permit states.
5.        Set up practices to avoid balls going into neighbors’ yards.
6.       Drop off children in safe areas – not on busy roads.
7.        Remember, sports are for fun…not for fights.

Parks that have recently had complaints about people parking in the wrong place include Perry Park and sometimes Mills Field.

Thanks Parent Talk members! See you around the parks!

~Mary Celeste 

Related post: Local Playgrounds in and around Needham

Mary Celeste Brown has raised three children in the Boston area, is the executive director of Parent Talk and can be reached at executivedirector@parenttalk.info.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding Strength Together

For us, Patriots Day started out as it did for most families around Boston - excitement about the marathon and full of plans to take the kids out to cheer on the runners.  We couldn’t have imagined that the same day would end with phone calls, emails and Facebook status updates to confirm family, friends, friends-of-friends and neighbors were safe. As the sun set last night, we found ourselves saying a prayer for the families of those who didn’t arrive home safe after their marathon adventures.

As parents we are struggling with how to make sense – both for ourselves and our children- of such a senseless act. Especially one that happened so close to home, in our town, our backyard, our Boston.   No matter how we appear, we have all been affected, and our sense of security shaken. We must work to rebuild it and to reassure our children. If like us, you are not sure what to say or how to comfort the little ones in your life, we found this advice incredibly helpful

Today, our hearts and thoughts are with all the runners and families affected by yesterday's tragedy. Our community and our city is strong and we will get through this together. We want everyone in the Parent Talk community to know that our love and support is yours.

Mary & Kate

photo credit: Werner Kunz via photopin cc

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gluten-Free Dining In the MetroWest

Written by Katie Alwart

In June 2011, following the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with celiac disease.  This falls into that rather long list of "things they didn't mention could happen to you following childbirth."  In short, celiac is an autoimmune disorder caused by an allergic reaction to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats.   The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. 

Fast forward two years and I'm now surprised how easy it was to go gluten-free.  While many people are diagnosed with the allergy, many others have a gluten intolerance or have chosen to give up gluten as a lifestyle choice; which I think accounts for the blossoming market for gluten-free products.  Despite the occasional mad craving for a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, my total avoidance of gluten has been able to become a part of our life in a pretty straightforward way. 

Below are some recommendations on local restaurants and grocery stores with gluten-free options.  I hope that it is helpful if any of you are considering going gluten-free or have family visiting who can't eat wheat.  This is definitely an incomplete list and is based only on my own experience - so please let me know (katie.alwart@gmail.com) other great places that I've missed - especially those that can serve me that elusive grilled cheese sandwich.

Twist Bakery Cupcake
*  I'll start with my all-time favorite - Twist Bakery & Café.  Yes, yes, it is true they are in Millis, but if you are gluten-free it is well worth the drive.  Very cute little restaurant and 100% gluten free.

*  New Leaf in Needham Center (http://www.anewleafvitamins.com) has a ton of gluten-free options, including a lot of sweets.  I remember feeling really frustrated about the cookie/cake issue (meaning not having them!) and they have ones that are delicious.

*  Locally, Blue on Highland, Not Your Average Joes, PF Chang's, Stone Hearth Pizza (side note - they have gluten-free pasta, but for some reason it takes forever to make, so order it early upon arrival), Rice Barn, The Cottage, Met Bar and Bertucci's all have GF menus.  With the mainstream awareness of how many people are currently off gluten (estimates have it at 1% of the population with celiac and up to 30% of people trying to avoid it), most places are very familiar with how to handle gluten-free orders.  A friend who has a daughter who is GF has had good success asking restaurants to bring something for her daughter when they bring out bread (or to not bring bread out at all), which helps mitigate the fact that everyone else is eating something you can't.

*  In addition to many reasons why you might want to avoid McDonald's, they are pretty bad with gluten-free options.  There is nothing (except for a salad with no meat) that doesn't have wheat.  French fries - which are often a safe bet if fried with no other breaded products - are so often comingled with wheat products that they are also a no-go.

*  If you are looking for a fast(er) food option, Chipotle is pretty impressive in their ability to handle gluten allergies.  Every single one that I have been to has taken the allergy seriously, changed gloves and stopped and wiped down the production line without making it seem like a pain for them to do it.  Another family restaurant option is Pizzeria Uno - they have GF pizza that is pretty good (ask for them to make it well done - weird, I know, but tastes much better).  Other fast food options I would recommend are Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Boloco.

*  Trader Joe's not only has a list of gluten-free products they carry, but also have a special symbol on their packaging to make it easy to identify.  Star Market (particularly the one on Route 9, less so the one in Dedham) has a good selection, as does Whole Foods.  The only place that I've found has fresh, unfrozen bread all the time is Trader Joe's and Volante Farms.

*   Treat (http://www.treatcupcakebar.com/) is great - they typically have many options for gluten-free cupcakes. 

*  Abbott's in Needham Center (http://www.abbottscustard.com) is willing to work with GF customers on cakes and pies.  They made a friend a GF pumpkin custard pie for Thanksgiving. 

*  Wicked (http://www.wickedrestaurant.com/) is a great option in Dedham.  Most places only offer gluten-free options on their cheese and pepperoni pizza - you can get any pizza at Wicked gluten-free.

*  Lastly, I've had good experiences at pretty much all restaurants we have gone to in Boston, including recent trips to Bondir, Toro, Hungry Mother, No 9 Park, 5 Napkin Burger, Legal Seafoods.  I just did afternoon tea at the Boston Harbor Hotel and they replicated all of their sweet and savory treats gluten-free for me. 

Happy (wheat-free) eating!

Katie Alwart grew up in California and moved to Needham with her husband in 2009. She serves as Parent Talk's fundraising co-chair and happily houses the POD for PT's Used Clothing, Toy & Equipment Sale. She works in the fundraising department at MIT as the director of the MIT Charter Society.  If she had her way, her kitchen would be the least used room of the house.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Our Adventure at Kidville in Wellesley

Written by Emily Roach

As the assortment of kid's activity places around Needham continues to change, I was excited to learn more about Kidville in Wellesley. They recently opened in the space formerly occupied by Rugged Bear in Wellesley Square. There is a mix of studio space for classes, a large gym, plus a small retail assortment. While your kids are in class, you can pick up a couple of birthday presents!

Our first stop was at the Rockin' Railroad. This is one of their signature classes and it's offered for a wide range of ages, up to age 5. I attended a class with a mix of ages, which is great for a parent looking for an option for siblings. My little guy enjoyed the variety of the class, including puppets, dancing, story time,  drums and bubbles. The music was a little loud to start, but seemed fine once everyone warmed up a little. I liked the space where the class was held, there is one well placed window that allows natural light in from the entryway. It made if feel less box-like than some other music classes I have attended. 

Next up was a test run at the open gym, along with 15 other families from my Parent Talk Playgroup. The gym is average size and we filled the room with all the littles and moms together. Thankfully no one ran into each other as there were enough activity stations to keep kids separate. The long trampoline was probably the biggest hit. 

You do need to be a member to use the open gym. However, there will be some "Shop and Play" events happening where if you spend $20 in the retail boutique, you can play for free. Follow the Kidville Wellesley Facebook page to get updates on when the events are available. 

Kidville offers a variety of classes including Rockin' Railroad, sports-oriented classes like baseball, dance, gymnastics and soccer, and art classes. The sessions are longer than most of the other area programs, 16 weeks. The summer session starts May 6th and runs until August 19th. On average, it's about $30/class session making it slightly more expensive than other local competitors. (Specifically Music Together across the street and LINX.) The class size however will be smaller, which may be better for some children. 

Overall I enjoyed our little adventure at Kidville. The space feels very fresh and fun and it's totally deceiving to see how far back the space goes. Kidville also offers birthday party packages that make it easy for family and friends to just show up and enjoy the event. A hair salon is coming soon, but I can't guarentee your child will want to get out of the adorable airplane chair after their hair cut is done!

Happy playing!

About the Author
Emily Roach is the writer/owner of Random Recycling, a blog focused on green living for modern families. She lives in Needham with her husband, two children, and is expecting baby number-three this summer. She loves to cook, garden and spend time at the beach. Kidville allowed complimentary access to their location to help facilitate this review. All opinions shared here are my own. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Calling All Writers!

Here at the Parent Talk blog, we recently celebrated our 1 year "blogiversary." Most blogs don't make it past the one year mark so we are thrilled that we are continuing to share local stories, parenting advice, craft projects and more with all of our members.

The recent Parent Talk survey provided us with additional information to help make the blog better. One thing many people ask is how they can stay connected with the blog. The easiest way is to sign up and get new posts delivered to your email. Click HERE to get started.

We have a lot of topics that come up and we are reaching out for writers, moms, bloggers and community members to help us pull together some articles to share with everyone. If you have never written for a blog before, have no fear. We make it easy for you by letting you pick a topic that you can share information about, then we help guide the format.

Not ready to write? We are also looking for a blog content coordinator to help us plan our editorial calendar. Or sign up to be a proofreader and get a sneak peek at what blog posts are coming up.

Here are some recent topics we are looking for writers for:

Needham bowling spotlight
local gymnastics
local ballet
local tae kwon doe/karate
dining list for allergies
gluten free locations
overnight/ day trips
couples getaway ideas
where to bring kids for dinner
best local birthday party locations
date night ideas: new restaurants, things to do

If you need more information or would like to volunteer for a topic, please email Blog@ParentTalk.info. Thanks for your help!

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's Playground Time!

We've all had a taste of cabin fever lately and it's time to get outside! The weather looks great for the weekend so we thought we would highlight some local playgrounds for you to visit. Last summer we wrote about all the Needham playgrounds to visit so check out that post as well.

It’s Playground Time!
In addition to the wonderful playgrounds in Needham, consider a visit to some of the top playground picks in surrounding towns.
Gregory M. Riley Playground (formerly Paul Park), Cedar Street
New park includes separate climbing structures for toddlers and older children, as well as swings and a sandbox. Partial sun and shade.
Caryl Park, Dedham Street
Two climbing structures. One geared to toddlers and one for older children. Includes sandbox with sand toys, small riding toys for use on paved path, play house and bus to climb. Also includes walking paths, port-a-potty, tennis courts and fields. Well Shaded.

Albee E Loker Park and Playground, off Baker Ave before the Walnut School
Newer playground with large colorful climbing structure for children 12 and under. Large slides, a rubber rock climbing wall and tunnels, swings, no sandbox.

Murphy Field Playground, North Main Street
Baby swings, a small sandbox, seesaw, sand diggers and playhouse. There are two large climbing structures, for older and younger children. Shaded.

Albermarle Playground, Albermarle Road
Large colorful playground with lots of new equipment for children of all ages. There are small and large climbing structures spread out on spongy soft play surfaces. Picnic tables, some shade.

Newton Center Playground, Centre St to Tyler Terrace
Set between playing fields, tennis courts, elementary school and gurgling brook. Wooden climbing structure with slides, swings, tubes and bridges. Also includes a newer structure and sand box. Partial shade and sun.

Perrin Park, Thomas Road
Small neighborhood playground with climbing structures, slides, infant swings and a sandbox. Includes a small field and paved path for walking or biking. Well shaded.

Warren Park, 90 Washington St (Route 16)
Large climbing structure geared toward 5-12 year olds, swings, metal caterpillar shaped climber. Smaller climber, sandbox with toys and infant swings. Partial sun and shade.

Visit www.parenttalk.info/members/community/playgrounds.php for a complete list of area playgrounds.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Yummy Red Sangria Recipe

Written by Joy Errico Seusing

Who doesn’t love sangria? I am usually a straight up wine drinker but when I have guests over or host a party, I like to do something more festive. This recipe hits the spot. I include all the fruits I like in my sangria, but feel free to switch out with what you like best. Other substitutes--- you can use any fruit juice that you like best in place of pomegranate and you can also change the kind of soda, as long as it is fruit-flavored, ginger ale or Sprite. I hope you love this!

  • 3 cups ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup lemon slices
  • 1/4 cup lime slices
  • 1/4 cup orange slices
  • 1/4 cup strawberries, cut in fourths
  • 1/4 cup seedless grapes, green or red
  • 2 cups red wine of your choice (I like Pinot Noir or Malbec)
  • 1/2 cup peach brandy
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup orange soda
This couldn’t be simpler. Put all the ingredients together in a pitcher or punch bowl. Stir and wait 1-2 hours before serving for best results. You can drink it right away if you don’t have time (or don’t want) to wait! Enjoy! 

About the Author
Joy Errico Seusing lives in Needham with her husband and two young children. She is the Vice President for External Relations at Jumpstart, a national early education organization headquartered in Boston. In addition to being a happily busy working mom, Joy loves traveling to new places, reading on her Kindle, interior design, power yoga, and of course, cooking!  Joy is a monthly contributor for the Parent Talk blog so be sure to check back for new recipe ideas each month.

photo credit: Peter Jan Haas via photopin cc

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