My Last Little Baby Boy Turned Five – And Off He Goes Into The World…

Somehow, without permission, my little baby boy – my youngest – my snuggly lapdog – my bonus suburb baby – my last little baby boy – turned five. I’m not quite sure how we got here. Especially because I’m still trying to come to terms with my oldest – who is now eleven – turning five. But somehow, some way, my youngest baby just became a whole hand old.

A little boy pointing to a five off of 5th Avenue in Manhattan

The Happiest Little Boy

This little boy came into the world totally chill and has been that way ever since. He is a big bag of smiles with a face that radiates sunshine. He is the youngest – adored by everyone – and totally knows it. He is the epitome of a “third kid”. He is my last little baby boy – and he turned five.

A little boy holding a firefly he caught at dusk on the 4th of July

Why is five such a big one? Because that means he has arrived. He is ready to go into the system. No passing go, no collecting $200. The next stop is kindergarten. Then – before we know it – he will be in middle school (and double digits) like the big one, getting big without permission.

3 kids in front of sunflowers at Meyer Farm

Mommy Preschool

I have been very lucky for the last year. Due to the pandemic, we kept him home instead of sending him to preschool. It has been one of the silver linings of COVID. Since he is the third kid I’ve been there and done that, so teaching letters and numbers has been easy. I don’t feel the pressure one feels with their first and knew that as long as he could write his name, he would be ready to go.

A little boy making bird feeders from recycled objects

He has been by my side for fifteen months and my little sidekick. He has been my super star student, my gardening buddy, my curious comrade, and my adventure partner. He is so much fun to be with in every situation. He is the child who finds everything interesting and asks fantastic questions. He is just simply delicious.

Two little boys dressed up as Iron Man & Captain America

He Loves Everything… Except String Beans

He loves pockets, worms, Captain America, action figures, history, trains, hugging trees, birds, playing baseball and spinning on swings. He does not like string beans. He is well aware that the biggest change from age four to five will be eating five string beans instead of four – our rule for a vegetable if he doesn’t like it. He is not looking forward to this.

A happy little birthday boy in his birthday fort

He likes to tell me he can’t read, but then sometimes he likes to figure out what a word says by looking at the letters and sounding out their sounds, which he reassures me is not reading.

A little boy with arms up sliding down a backyard rollercoaster.

He Sympathizes With Elephants & Likes 80s Music

He likes to giggle and take luxurious bubble baths, build forts, play with construction toys, wear mismatched socks and mismatched pajamas (at the same – or different – times), and puts on his brother’s shirts backwards without realizing any of the above. He likes to do puzzles and watch movies. Firepit s’mores are the best bribe we can offer him.

A little boy feeding a goat at The Bronx Zoo

He loves the zoo and hopes the elephants don’t feel bad that the tigers are now his favorite. He likes 80s pop music and playing with superhero figures. He’s a whiz at making pancakes and baking cakes. Somehow, he wins every game we play – without us letting him win. Really. Especially “Sequence.”

A little boy On a Ride on motorcycle

He likes the snow and to play at the beach and go down slides – both water and regular. He loves going on hikes and finding hidden flowers. He loves Taco Tuesday and fancy napkins. He requires ice in his water (no matter what the hour) and fresh water – with ice – the second we say it’s time to go to sleep.

3 kids around a kitchen table eating Tacos on Taco Tuesday with Hudsonest napkins

He likes to talk to our friends and often wonders how – and what – Joe Biden is doing at that very moment. He wants to go back to Boston for vacation and thinks lox is delicious.

A little boy crinkling his nose at a sunflower at Manor Farm in Huntington, Long Island

He is a little old man in a little young body. He likes newsboy hats. Sometimes he makes borscht belt jokes and motions. It is very, very funny. He is very, very funny.

A little boy holding up a 5 in a lawn “happy birthday” sign

Birthdays Always Hit Hard

I think the week of my kid’s birthdays always hits me hard. It is a representation of the knowledge that they are about to turn a year older. That they are growing up. But this one is my last. He just turned four. These little hands are getting bigger and there aren’t smaller ones on deck. When he grows out of his clothes, they leave the house. They don’t go in the attic for the next one. He is the last. He is the little. He is NOT allowed to get big.

A little boy at Wild Play at Jones Beach

Since his birthday was over Memorial Day weekend (and the same day as my Dad’s!) we planned a long weekend of celebrations. Sadly, the rain canceled most of it, but luckily, we got in his number one wish – to go climbing at Wild Play, Jones Beach.

A little boy in front of St. John’s Pond in Cold Spring Harbor

The day was also filled everything he loves – macaroni and cheese from Panera for lunch with my parents, visiting the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, and his favorite “sushi” dinner of noodles and chicken.

A little boy behind He-Man figures and the 2021 new Castle Grayskull

His love of water play toys and action figures make gift giving easy. Somehow, someway he fell in love with He-Man, which made my husband very happy. I surprised them both with the Castle Grayskull reboot as well as an army of Masters of the Universe action figures. I’m not sure who is more excited.

A little boy hugging a tree in Central Park

My Last Little Baby Boy Turned Five

Somehow he is getting bigger every day. Including waking up looking older on his birthday. I swear. He turned five. My last little baby boy turned five.

Family photo by the water in Port Washington, Long Island

Somehow in September I’m going to put him on a bus, wave goodbye and return to an empty house. I’m not ready for that yet or at all. But then again, I’m also not ready for my daughter – who used to look like a preemie boy, or my middle son – who used to look like a marshmallow – to go to 6th and 3rd grades either. Please.Time.Slow.Down.

A little boy hopping on a playhouse porch at Centennial Park

I’m glad he had an amazing birthday. I’m glad he is as excited about his gifts as I was to give them to him. Most of all, I’m excited he still wants to curl into a little ball and snuggle in my lap.

A little boy standing in a cardboard box

Make Your Own Custom Graffiti Street Art – In Bushwick!

Graffiti has become a new obsession for us over the pandemic. Since we have spent so much time out in the woods hiking around Long Island – one of our favorite finds has been the colorful art of graffiti. I was so excited to learn about Brooklyn Unplugged’s Graffiti Street Art Workshop in Bushwick. Not only did we get to tour this amazing area – we got to make our own graffiti art in a private workshop with a graffiti artist. But since we had permission to make it – I should call it “street art”. Now that I know the lingo…

While we learned about the Bushwick Collective and Brooklyn Unplugged Tours in the winter – we waited for nice weather (and my birthday!) to venture into Brooklyn since the entire experience is outside. The whole area is amazing and filled with graffiti and street art. Started just a decade ago by Joe Ficalora (to help overcome personal tragedy) – the Bushwick Collective is a living testament to how art can transform a neighborhood. It quickly became a launch pad for artists and a transformative vehicle for the area.

Brooklyn Unplugged Graffiti Street Art Tour

It was like our eyes were in a candy store as we drove up to the muster point at Bushwick Market for our walking tour (street parking is available). Every building and every surface was covered in brightly colored art – including some cars! We met our guide and walked around the area learning about the history of graffiti (made popular by the subway cars chugging through the boroughs), types of graffiti (stickers count!), styles, and famous artists. My favorite fact was learning the difference between graffiti and street art – quite simply – permission.

The vibe of the area was amazing and we immediately swore this would be the first of many trips there. Another fact we learned – the art changes regularly! What we saw was different from what friends saw only weeks before, including some murals drying as we walked past!

After our eyes studied all the different techniques and colors it was time for us to become the artists. Since we are not hoodlum vandals, this was the first time any of us held a can of spray paint in our hands. But again – we had permission – so it was ok! It is funny how one thinks graffiti is dangerous and illegal – but in fact – elevated to street art it is as much of an addition to beautify an area as a park, statue, or fountain.

Time to Make Our Art! The Graffiti Street Art Workshop Begins

We met our artist partner – Caty Wooley – back at Bushwick Market and discussed our vision. Given our last name is so long that wasn’t going to happen… there wasn’t a word that jumped out to us… so we thought of a “W” with a city skyline. For the background we thought a rainbow would be nice because it’s been a rainbow kind of year. This piece could become our time capsule.

We began gearing up with protective gloves and glasses for the kids. Then we picked a color scheme. Next, we learned all different techniques with the spray cans and how holding it at different distances produces different effects. We never realized how hard it was and how much was involved to make even a simple line! It also gave us new appreciation for the murals we had just seen.

We practiced making different direction lines and letters. Like a sloppy copy or rough draft. It was a big mish mash. I was worried this would be seen in the final product – but luckily it was not.

Happily, we started covering the crazy with our rainbow color blocks, learning how to blend them together, and seeing our vision emerge. It was interesting to see how quickly each layer dried and how easy it was to touch up if needed.

The moment had come, it was time for the big “W” and skyline. Like a pro and with one flick of the wrist our artist in residence picked up a black can of spray paint and nailed it. She then suggested where and how to color everything in and to make “windows” (my favorite part).

Finally, once the amateurs finished, Caty took back in the reigns and cleaned it all up. She outlined and highlighted and made it look amazing. I didn’t want to stop making windows…

One of a Kind Collaborative Family Art

This hour-long workshop was so much fun. Not only did we create an original work of art with a street artist, but we did it together. All of us – from ages 4 to 43. I loved that we each had a role in creating it and somehow it all came together in the end. It was definitely not your average family activity – which is why it was so much more enjoyable and unique, and the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.

Since it was layers and layers of paint the canvas was very wet. We left our W with them and opted to have it shipped to us for an additional charge. When it arrived a week later my kids were so excited. We took Caty’s advice and hung it from simple thumbtacks on the wall to show off the rough edges. It’s a great reminder of a beautiful day where we made something together.

How Can You Do It?

The Graffiti Street Art Workshop is available 7 days a week in Bushwick. They can also bring the workshop to you or to events like a birthday party or large-scale celebration. This would be an amazing addition to your summer plans – especially if you want to make a wicked cool backyard cocoon event or looking for a fun activity to do before an old school 80s or 90s movie night! For more info click on Brooklyn Unplugged Tours  or their Instagram page.

The Easy Way to Start a Free Garden From Seeds!

Have you always wanted to start a free garden from seeds but didn’t know how to do it? I can help! Building on my post from last year – a garden will make your backyard an even wicked-er cool oasis!

Spring is one of the most fun seasons. Every year I look forward to planting my garden and the taste of the first tomato I pick off on the vine. Over the years I’ve started to harvest seeds as we eat fruits and vegetables throughout the year. If you’re the type of person who likes lists or enjoyed sorting sprinkles during hell week, this is for you. This is an easy and fun activity you can do with your kids to teach them the lifecycle of food (or alone for some relaxing “me time”). I will teach you exactly how to do it and it will cost you nothing!

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! a red pepper core with the seeds in focus to show they are clean and easy to remove

OK, Let’s Start A Free Garden From Seeds! Harvesting Seeds From Your Favorite Fruits & Vegetables

Harvesting seeds from fruits and vegetables is easy. You literally just take the seeds out of what you’re eating and dry them out. Peppers are my favorite because they are clean and pop out easily. Plus, one pepper will yield you so many seeds you can give them out to everyone you know (not that I do that… ok I do that).

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! pepper seeds drying on a plate next to the core of a red pepper

Other seeds – like tomatoes, cucumbers or cantaloupe are a little more involved but relatively easy as well. You just have to wash off the gunk (pulp) which adds time and effort.

tomato seeds drying out on a paper towel on a green plate

Start A Free Garden From Seeds: Drying the Seeds

Once you pull the seeds out you simply lay them out to dry for a few days. I spread them on a plate in a single layer on my table where they can get some sun. If it’s a very pulpy seed, I will add a paper towel under them to help remove the excess pulp. Every night I shuffle them around a bit to make sure they’re not sticking to the plate. I usually know they are ready when my husband asks, “how much longer do you plan to keep this plate of seeds on the table?”. Which in patient-mom-language translates to about 5 days.

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! Recycled vitamin containers labeled with heirloom tomato, pepper, beefsteak tomato and cantaloupe seeds

Once the seeds are dried out, I put them in an airtight container. I like to use old vitamin bottles for this since they’re skinny (like me). Don’t forget to label them. Extra points if you spell “cantaloupe” correctly.

Start A Free Garden From Seeds: Planting Time

Every season I play around with when I begin planting. As a rule, I usually put things in my garden on Mother’s Day weekend. If you’re growing plants from seeds you need to start working backwards. Last year I began my seedlings in April and when it was time to plant them outside, they weren’t big enough, so this year I began in February and March.

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! Plastic egg container with dirt and seeds for growing seedings

It Worked! You Started A Free Garden From Seeds! Now Plant Those Seeds

In addition to saving seeds I save little yogurt cups, individual cereal cups, egg cartons (Costco has great plastic ones), and more throughout the year. I use these cups to plant the seeds. If you’re looking for an additional activity, you and/or your kids can decorate them before you plant in them. Sharpies are a great option for this and will stay on the plastic. Stickers work great for younger kids.

Fill your container 2/3 full of dirt (you can use any old dirt from outside or “upgrade” to potting soil), stick a few seeds in the cup (making sure to spread them out and not over crowd them), cover them with a little more dirt, give it a good watering, and place them on a sunny windowsill.

a recycled yogurt cup on my kitchen windowsill with dirt and little seedlings with a plastic cover on top to create a greenhouse

If you plant them in a yogurt cup with a lid, you can loosely put the lid on top to create a greenhouse. This will speed up the growing!

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! two recycled yogurt cups with seedings growing in them on my windowsill

Watering Your Seedlings

I try not to water the seedlings too much so I don’t saturate them. This translates to when I’m cleaning off the dinner table, I spread out the water that’s left in my kids cups to my little plants. I also throw an ice cube in the pots if my ice machine shoots one out by accident.

*Side note* Ice is a great way to water plants – especially on a really hot day.

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! A recycled yogurt cup with pepper seedlings beginning to sprout. There are labeled, wooden stick markers in them

Oh My GOSH, I SEE A SPROUT!

Pepper seeds are not only easy to collect but they sprout fast. This is great for kids (and you) because it’s close to instant gratification.

This means it worked! Continue what you’re doing until May when it’s time to plant them outside.

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! many seedlings each in recycled yogurt cups in a big plastic big (the cover of a Costco cake) all with labeled wooden stick markers

Time For Your Outdoor Garden

Once my plants are sprouted, it’s May, and it is consistently warm out, they are ready to go outside!

Containers with lots of recycled yogurt cups each with dirt and plant seedlings

So… I Need An Outdoor Garden? That Sounds Hard.

There are many options depending on how involved you want to get and how much space you have. For the least amount – you can put your plants in a bigger pot and have a beautiful potted garden. This is easy and minimal effort. You just need big pots and a lot of dirt. At this point I would suggest upgrading to potting soil.

If you have the space, time, and interest, you can plant them directly into the ground in either a raised or non-raised garden.

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! my backyard garden build with bricks and closed in by a wire fence. it is filled with the seedlings I grew in my kitchen in the winter. each crop is separated by decorated recycled drinkable yogurt bottles. each plant is under a toilet paper roll to protect it like a collar.

If you have a lot of animal visitors (we border a water basin, and our yard looks like Snow White’s Enchanted Forrest) you may also want to put up a wire fence around your garden.

A great tip for either option is throwing your coffee grinds and eggshells into the soil every so often for additional nutrients.

My boys - age 6 and 3 - sitting at a picnic table decorating the bottom, of recycled drinkable yogurt containers with Sharpies as markers for our garden

In They Go!

Planting your outdoor garden is both a happy and sad day if you started your plants from scratch. It’s like sending your kid off to Kindergarten. You have become so used to them being around and cared for them every day since they were a little seed. You know in your heart they’re big enough now to go out and be on their own. But you will miss them.

In addition to saving seeds and containers, I also save toilet paper rolls. When the big day comes and I’m ready to plant outside – I take the plant, put its roots through the toilet paper roll, and they both go in to the ground. The toilet paper roll makes a little collar protecting the plant and tells animals to stay the heck back. Because it is paper it will open as it gets wet and eventually decompose (look! You’re composting too!).

You can have your kids decorate other recyclables as plant markers, so you remember what you planted.

my sunny kitchen with all the little recycled yogurt cups on the windowsill after I planted seeds in them.

Watering Your Crops

How often you water your pants will be based on how often it rains. I think I over watered my plants last year, but its hard not to water them. It’s fun to visit your little friends!

The Mint Chip Mama (Me) next to my zucchini plant in my garden last year

Success! You Started A Free Garden From Seeds! Salad City Here You Come!

One day you will go out for a visit and – bam! – you see a little baby fruit or vegetable growing! This is big fat mama pride. Be sure to compliment yourself for being the smartest farmer alive. Next is watching your little harvest grow. Then one day they will be ready! As you pull them off the vine (and relish in the fact that you did this all by yourself and for free) you can taste the pure farm to table fruit of your labor with unabashed pride.

Or – you get absolutely nothing – curse a rabbit, say it cost you nada, (except the hours of gardening that was both relaxing and cheaper than a therapist’s co-pay), and try again next year. Hakuna Matata.

Either way, you did well. Be proud. You’ve earned a pair of overalls and a big straw hat.

two month old pepper seedlings

I want to hear what happens with your gardens!

Did you find any tricks that work?

Comment below!

Start A Free Garden From Seeds! - little ziploc bags of "seeds of happiness" that I gave out containing a yogurt cup to decorate and pepper seeds

Fun 90’s Movies To Watch With Your Family Today!

As a sister post to my “Fun 80’s Movies to Watch with Your Family Today” post, I present the continuation, cleverly called – Fun 90’s Movies to Watch with Your Family Today!

The 90’s was a decade that brought us Clueless, and a time when I started going to the movies alone with my friends. It’s a decade that people my age (in their 40’s) started coming into their own. I have such warm memories of sitting in (now defunct) movie theaters and feeling like a big shot. I think part of the fun of re-watching these movies with my kids is bringing back those particular memories.

A Note On Ratings

Again, keep in mind a PG rating in the 90’s may not be up to your standards of a PG movie today, so get your coughing and distraction techniques ready in case you need them.

Also, don’t forget the fun of a backyard screening! If you bought a projector to make your backyard a wicked cool cocoon, and it’s too cold where you live to continue watching movies outside, bring that Mini Movie Projector inside! You can convert one of your rooms (preferably with a big comfy couch) into a screening room, you just need a big wall. Your kids will love it.

90's movies to watch with your family

As usual, with all of my posts, I have tried to find the obscure and less known. Some movies you defiantly showed your family already. Some you will say “OMG! I forgot about that movie”. Many of these can be found on tv or streaming (I will include the Amazon Video links below), but most I’ve ordered on DVD from the library. Because just like these characters in 90’s movies, I’m old school. Oh… what age can I show them Old School?

The only thing I love more than 90’s movies is 80’s movies! Don’t forget to check out my huge list of Fun 80’s Movies to Watch with Your Family Today!

90's movies to watch with your family

Fun 90’s Movies To Watch With Your Family Today: PG Movies

Problem Child – 1 h 21 min, 1990, PG

Home Alone – 1 h 42 min, 1990, PG

Hook – 2 h 21 min, 1991, PG

The Rocketeer – 1 h 48 min, 1991, PG

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – 2h, 1992, PG

A League of Their Own – 2 h 7 min, 1992, PG

Newsies – 2 h 1 min, 1992, PG

The Sandlot – 1 h 41 min, 1993, PG

Baby’s Day Out – 1 h 38 min, 1994, PG

Heavyweights – 1 h 37 min, 1995, PG

Dunston Checks In – 1 h 28 min, 1996, PG

Air Bud – 1 h 37 min, 1997, PG

The Truman Show – 1 h 42 min, 1998, PG

Fun 90's Movies to Watch with Your Family Today!

Fun 90’s Movies To Watch With Your Family Today: PG-13 Movies

Kindergarten Cop – 1 h 51 min, 1990, PG-13

City Slickers – 1 h 53 min, 1991, PG-13

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead – 1 h 45 min, 1991, PG-13

Ladybugs – 1 h 29 min1992, PG-13

Mrs. Doubtfire – 2 h 5 min, 1993, PG-13

Billy Madison – 1 h 30 min, 1995, PG-13

Clueless – 1 h 37 min, 1995, PG-13 (I would be remiss if I neglected to mention — showing this to my ten year old daughter was a highlight of my year. I think now she understand me better. This is my FAVORITE movie.)

90's movies to watch with your family

Next On Our 90’s Watch List

Edward Scissorhands – 1 h 45 min, 1990, PG-13

The Freshman – 1 h 42 min, 1990, PG

Mermaids 1 h 50 min, 1990, PG-13

Ski Patrol – 1 h 32 min, 1990, PG

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael – 1 h 35 min, 1990, PG-13

Career Opportunities – 1 h 23 min, 1991, PG-13

3 Ninjas – 1 h 35 min, 1992, PG

Encino Man – 1 h 28 min, 1992, PG

Father of the Bride – 1 h 45 min, 1991, PG

Brain Donors – 1 h 19 min, 1992, PG

Wayne’s World – 1 h 34 min, 1992, PG-13

Airborne – 1 h 30 min, 1993, PG

Junior – 1 h 50 min, 1994, PG-13

Now and Then – 1 h 42 min, 1995, PG-13

The Cable Guy – 1 h 35 min, 1996, PG-13

Multiplicity – 1 h 57 min, 1996, PG-13

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery1 h 29 min, 1997, PG-13

Pleasantville– 2 h 4 min, 1998, PG-13

Fun 80’s Movies To Watch With Your Family Today!

As December break looms over us, a warm and cuddly 80’s movie night is just what the doctor ordered. We have been watching these fun 80’s movies to watch with your family – with our family – for years. It’s nice to show them a simpler time. WHAT? No cell phones? ET couldn’t text home? These nostalgic movies are both fun for us and fun for them. Much like with games, if I have to participate, I may as well enjoy it.

A Note On Ratings

As I complied this list, I realized just how many movies from the 80’s we have watched. It’s a lot, and the list is forever expanding. What have I’ve learned? PG in the 80’s may not be what you expect PG to be in 2020.

We brought Innerspace to a friend’s house over the summer (for a backyard screening) and the curses and sexy time surprised us with their PG rating. Oops! Luckily, something else I’ve learned is you can easily distract a kid by asking what they want for dessert tomorrow.

Speaking of a backyard screening, if you bought a projector to make your backyard a wicked cool cocoon (and yes, Cocoon is on my list below), bring that Mini Movie Projector inside! You can convert one of your rooms (preferably with a big comfy couch) into a screening room – you just need a big empty wall. Your kids will go bananas.

Rich results on Google's SERP when searching for '80's movies'

As usual, with all of my posts, I have tried to find the obscure and less known. Some movies you defiantly showed your family already. Some you will say “OMG! I forgot about that movie”. Many of these can be found on tv or streaming (I will include the Amazon Video links below), but most I’ve ordered on DVD from the library. Because just like the characters in 80’s movies, I’m old school. Oh… at what age can I show them Old School?

Finally, be sure to check out my sister post – Fun 90’s Movies to Watch with Your Family – coming out soon!

Rich results on Google's SERP when searching for '80's movies'

Fun 80’s Movies To Watch With Your Family Today: PG Movies

Annie – 2 h 7 min, 1982, PG

ET – 1 h 54 min, 1982, PG

Ghostbusters – 1 h 45 min, 1984, PG

The Karate Kid – 2 h 6 min, 1984, PG / The Karate Kid 2 – 1 h 53 min, 1986, PG

The Muppets Take Manhattan – 1 h 34 min, 1984, G

Back to the Future – 1 h 56 min, 1985, PG

Better Off Dead – 1 h 37 min, PG, 1985

Girl’s Just Want to Have Fun – 1 h 27 min, 1985, PG

Goonies – 1 h 53 min, 1985, PG (For the record – I think this movie is scary)

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – 1 h 31 min, 1985, PG

Howard the Duck – 1 h 51 min, 1986, PG

The Boy Who Could Fly – 1 h 49 min, 1986, PG

Flight of the Navigator – 1 h 29 min, 1986, PG

Short Circuit – 1 h 38 min, 1986, PG

Space Camp – 1 h 47 min, 1986, PG

Top Gun – 1 h 49 min, 1986, PG

Innerspace – 1 h 59 min, 1987, PG

Overboard – 1 h 52 min, 1987, PG (“OH! That’s why you sit in the chair saying ba-ba-ba-ba-ba”-my 7 year old)

Harry & the Hendersons – 1 h 51 min, 1987, PG

Hello Again – 1 h 36 min, 1987, PG

Mannequin – 1 h 30 min, 1987, PG

The Princess Bride – 1 h 38 min, 1987, PG

Three Men and a Baby – 1 h 42 min, 1987, PG

Big – 1 h 44 min, 1988, PG

Big Business – 1 h 37 min, 1988, PG

Funny Farm – 1 h 41 min, 1988, PG

The Great Outdoors – 1 h 30 min, 1988, PG

Vice Versa – 1 h 38 min, 1988, PG

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – 1 h 29 min, 1989, PG

Field of Dreams – 1 h 46 min, 1989, PG

Honey I Shrunk the Kids – 1 h 33 min, 1989, PG

Look Who’s Talking – 1 h 35 min, 1989, PG-13

Troop Beverly Hills – 1 h 45 min, 1989, PG (a HUGE fan favorite, especially if your daughter is a Girl Scout)

Uncle Buck – 1 h 40 min, 1989, PG

The Wizard – 1 h 40 min, 1989, PG

Rich results on Google's SERP when searching for '80's movies'

Fun 80’s Movies To Watch With Your Family Today: PG-13 Movies

Cocoon – 1 h 57 min, 1985, PG-13

Weird Science – 1 h 34 min, 1985, PG-13

Ferris Bueller – 1 h 42 min, 1986, PG-13

Adventures In Babysitting – 1 h 42 min, 1987, PG-13

Can’t Buy Me Love – 1 h 34 min, 1987, PG-13

Like Father Like Son – 1 h 39 min, 1987, PG-13

License to Drive – 1 h 29 min, 1988, PG-13

Teen Witch – 1 h 33 min, 1989, PG-13

Rich results on Google's SERP when searching for '80's movies'

Next On Our List To Watch

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1 h 55 min, 1981, PG

The Secret of Nihm – 1 h 22 min, 1982, G

Mr. Mom – 1 h 31 min1983, PG

WarGames -1 h 52 min1983, PG

Footloose – 1 h 47 min, 1984, PG

Irreconcilable Differences – 1 h 53 min, 1984, PG

The Neverending Story – 1 h 34 min, 1984, PG

Splash – 1 h 49 min, 1984, PG

Heavenly Kid – 1 h 31 min, 1985, PG-13

Teen Wolf – 1 h 32 min, 1985, PG

An American Tail – 1 h 21 min, 1986, G

Peggy Sue Got Married – 1 h 43 min, 1986, PG-13

Summer School – 1 h 37 min, 1986, PG-13

Dirty Dancing – 1 h 40 min, 1987, PG-13

Dragnet – 1 h 46 mim, 1987, PG-13

The Secret of My Success – 1 h 51 min, 1987, PG-13

18 Again! – 1 h 40 min, 1988, PG-13

Twins – 1 h 47 min, 1988, PG

Dream A Little Dream – 1 h 55 min, 1989, PG-13

Chances Are – 1 h 48 min, 1989, PG

Rich results on Google's SERP when searching for '80's movies'

Meh, Pass.. (We Watched & Didn’t Love)

Karate Kid 3, 1989, PG

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – 1 h 43 min, 1988, PG

The Mint Chip Mama’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide!

Welcome to The Mint Chip Mama‘s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide!

Well – it has been one heck of a year to say the least. The holiday season is quickly approaching, and we need to give ourselves gifts this year. We cannot forget ourselves. It has been hard. It has been REALLY hard. So, what does that mean for a Holiday Gift Guide? Sorry – it is a little deeper than usual. But we are not living in a world of light and fluffy right now. It means be generous with YOU. In time, kindness, and physical presence and presents.

Does it mean buying whatever is on sale (that you do not need) on Amazon at midnight – in your underpants – on your couch – because it makes you feel good? DO IT. Does it mean splurging on a gift for someone who has had a tough year? DO IT. Does it mean upping your kid’s teachers holiday gifts A LOT – OH BOY, YES!

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Spread the Good – It’s Free!

Spread the good. Give the gift. Remember to make someone smile this holiday season. Have no budget? Print out this Holiday Gift Guide, flip it over, fold it into a card, and write a personal note to a front line worker thanking them for giving 4500% this year.

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Get Bricky

With that said, it is my annual joy to bring you The Mint Chip Mama’s Holiday Gift Guide. I love finding the best gifts and toys – also the weird and quirky – and bringing them to you. I love finding things off the beaten path that will make you laugh. P.S. Your gift to me can be to follow me on my Blog, FacebookPinterest &  Instagram pages (mwah).  

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorites from this year, some repeat items (indicated with an “*”), and some unique ones to give to the adult who has everything.

I will be updating often, so please save and visit regularly!

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Thames & Kosmos Telescope

Unisex Gifts for Kids

National Geographic LED Stomp Rockets

Thames & Kosmos My Discovery Telescope

Thames & Kosmos Ooze Labs Colorful Crystal Lab

Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen Set

Chocolate Pen

Binoculars for Kids

Vintage Casio Calculator Watch

LED Headlamp Flashlight

Learn to Read with Bob Books and VersaTiles*

VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch DX2*

Speak & Spell*

Mabels Labels* (Use coupon code MINTCHIP for 10% off sitewide* (excluding masks, stamps and sale items))

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Amigo Games Ring-A-Ding-Ding

For the Discerning Preschooler

Clack! Game

Ring-A-Ding-Ding Game

Rhyme to Read Program

Brain Quest Workbook & Summer Brain Quest: Between Grades Pre-K & K

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Think Fun Chicken Wars

Family Games

Chicken War

Scholastic Race Across the USA Game

Briarpatch Automobile Alphabet Travel Card Game

Scholastic Math Match Game

Miss Bernard is a Wild Card – The My Weird School Game

PlayMonster Relative Insanity: See What I Mean?!

Exploding Kittens Card Game

Sleeping Queens or another strategy game from The Zesty Orange (use discount code “mint20” to save 20%)

Mancala*

Telestrations*

Sequence*

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - CreateOne Magna-Tiles

For the Child Who Likes to Build

Get Bricky – Turn Yourself into a Brick Minifigure (use coupon code TMCM15 to save 15%!)

CreateOn Magna-Tiles – Letters, Numbers, Colors, Shapes, etc (use coupon code TMCM10 to save 10%)

Smartivity Kaleidoscope STEM Building Toy (use coupon code HOLIDAY643 to save 5% & get free shipping)

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Glowing Marble Run

Tubelox Lifesize Building Set (use coupon code get20 to save $20)

Avengers Hero Inventor Kit*

PLUS PLUS – Construction Building Toy*

ZOOM TUBES Car Trax*

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Big Joe Fuf

For Your Tween

Big Joe Fuf

Kore Wobble Stools

Aerial Yoga Flying Yoga Swing

Tie Dye Masks (Individually Wrapped, Disposable, 3 Ply)

Velvet Hair Scrunchies

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Harry Potter Room Decor

For the Harry Potter Obsessed Fan

Magic Castle of Wizards – Peel & stick wallpaper

Warner Bros. Boys’ Harry Potter Boxer Briefs

Harry Potter Comfy Throw Blanket with Sleeves

Harry Potter UNO

Invisibility Cloak*

Harry Potter Uno*

Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set*

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Adventure Park LI

Experiential Gifts

The Adventure Park of Long Island

Social Play Haus Family Trivia Nights

A private party of virtual trivia with The Big Quiz Thing

Wildlife Conservation Society Membership in New York City*

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Fire Pit

Making Your Property an Oasis

Fire Sense Stainless Steel Commercial Patio Heater

Mystical Fire Flame Color Changer

Solar String Lights

Collapsible/Foldable Folding Hammock

Solar Powered Star String Lights

Fun Stuff to Play with Outside

Boulder Sports Adjustable Net & Amazin’ Aces Pickleball Paddles

JOOLA Midsize Compact Table Tennis Table & Hit Set Bundle

Champion Sports Deluxe Batting Tee

Baseball & Softball Practice Hitting & Pitching Net

EzyRoller New Pro-X

Walkie Chalk Stand-Up Sidewalk Chalk Holder

Stomp Rocket Dueling Rockets

PlayMonster Super Duper Spinner*

Razor Spark Ultra Kick Scooter*

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Franklin Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker

For the Adult Who Has It All

A fun 80s/90s mask lanyard/chain from RSDUbs Ribbons

A portrait of you as royalty with Masterpiece Me (use coupon code Stacey15 to save 15%)

ApothePure Votive Candle, Irish Linen and Green Pear, Potion No. 07

Franklin’s Original Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Machine Popper

Cleer Sound Ally Plus Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds (use coupon code STACEYW10OFF to save 10% off)

Quevos Egg White Chips

Kitsch Derma Roller

 Vera Bradley Recycled Tote Bag

The Hair Edit – Finish & Shine – Lightweight, Boar Bristle Finishing Brush

AvoSeedo Bowl Set Grow Your Own Avocado Tree

Noodle & Boo Instant Hand Sanitizer

Flexible Tripod

I Love Tacos! Taco Holders

Solar Powered LED Camping Lantern with AM/FM NOAA Weather Radio & Cell Phone Charger

Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream Maker

Mini Movie Projector

Umbra Space-Saving Hanger with 5 Flip-Down Hooks in Sticks or Skyline (for your masks)

Intex Excursion 5 Person Inflatable Boat Set & obviously matching Captain Hats

Tie Dye Hoodie Sweatshirt Dress with Pockets (those are all the best words)

Stonewall Kitchen Double Chocolate Pancake & Waffle Mix

Just Love Spaghetti Strap Nightgown & Tie Dye Thermal Pajama Set

Little House on the Prairie: The Complete Series on DVD

Scrubz Body Oilz+ Shea Butter & Botanical Oil Lotion

Light Up Electronic Word Clock

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Stainless Steel Drinking Straws*

Shinesty‘s absolutely amazing Chanukah & Christmas outfits*

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide - Mabels Labels

Still need more ideas? Check out Amazon’s Gift Hub, Small Business Gift Guide, & Handmade Holiday Guide with even more categories. Or my Holiday Gift Guides from 2019, 2018, & 2017.

Happy shopping and as always – let me know what you think!

The Mint Chip Mama - 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Many of these items above contain Amazon Associate links for your convenience. Some items were also received in exchange for an honest review. All items listed above on The Mint Chip Mama’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide are items I genuinely think are cool and are things that I think you will like too. Happy holidays!

Family Hikes on Long Island (for All Skill Levels)





Family hikes on Long Island (for all skill levels) have saved us since the world closed down due to Covid-19. These family hikes on Long Island – and spending time outside in nature – have been spectacular for us. Not only do we get some exercise, but we get to see some beautiful scenery far away from other humans.

As our family hikes on Long Island evolved, we started to hunt for things like the biggest tree, the most random artifact, or something that does not belong. If you saw a deer, you won immediately.

When I say family hikes on Long Island for all skill levels, I probably mean nature walks. But you can decide. We are a family of five – with kids ages four, six and ten. This means none of the trails were very strenuous or with dramatic terrain.

While we enjoyed nature walks pre-Covid we never went regularly.  Now we are addicts (after a summer hiatus because we do not like heat or bugs). We are so lucky to live in a place with so many trails and parks and so much natural beauty. I have enjoyed being a resource for others who want to spend some quality time outside. I hope with this guide of family hikes on Long Island, I can reach even more people.

Once you see the addiction is real, you may want to consider getting a small tripod. Selfies only go so far, and with a tripod you can hook it around anything and use your timer.

Easy Family Hikes with Water Views

Our most favorite attraction – whether it be a lake, river, or ocean. My personal preference is to walk in a loop around a lake, but you cannot beat a beachside stroll.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Jones Beach Field 10

Jones Beach – Field 10

Field 10 is a beautiful place to take in the sunset on one of the boardwalks. During the winter, hiking down the beach and searching for seals is one of our favorite activities.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Massapequa Preserve

Massapequa Preserve

This is a great big place to walk. There are swans and lots of pretty stuff to look at for hours. We went in the winter and one of the pockets of sunken trees was covered in ice. It looked like a scene right out of Frozen 2.   

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama

Sagamore Hill

The summer home of the 26th President of the United States – Teddy Roosevelt. A beautiful, easy loop trail that has a pretty bridge to cross and ends at a beautiful beach. Tours and programs are available inside the house and on the property as well, including a Jr. Ranger scavenger hunt that my son loved.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Terrell River County Nature Preserve

Terrell River County Nature Preserve

Wow! This place was amazing. It hit all of the exciting hike points – a slight elevation, logs bridges over streams, deer, swings on random tree limbs, and tons of places to stop and rest. The highlight was at the end – a GORGEOUS beach with a sandbar. You can walk across it and I guarantee you will feel like you’re on vacation. This may be my favorite hike on this list. Also, it is one where we got some of the best pictures.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama- Kings Park Bluff

Kings Park Bluff

This was one of the prettiest and most challenging hikes. By challenging, I mean there were narrow paths and some altitude. Funny enough, we went up the bluff to the trail, while our friends returned and went along the beach. Two completely different experiences observing this beautiful stretch of land. Definitely a place I would like to return to get a different perspective.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Short Beach Town Park

Short Beach Town Park

One of the most interesting combinations – cacti as you walked up to sand dunes sloping down to a beautiful beach. I felt like I was out West when we arrived. It was amazing, until my kids started screaming as they barreled down the sand cliffs – with screams of joy.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - West Neck Beach

West Neck Beach

While this was not necessarily a hike, we went here on my birthday and it was really pretty. There were plenty of places to walk around and rocks to climb on at the water’s edge. Worth mentioning if you want to visit a pretty place, but not get too involved on a hike. Plus, this shirt is amazing so I kind of had to share this picture. Also, I’m a sucker for a picture where a kid has no front teeth.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Twin Lakes Preserve

Twin Lakes Preserve

This place was fantastic. Plus, it finally answered the question “what is that?” when we drive down to Jones Beach and see a pretty lake with lily pads . Know what I mean? Off the Wantagh Expressway. Lots of little spots to stop and fish or sit down and take a break.

Super Cool Long Island Graffiti Hikes

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Muttontown Preserve

Muttontown Preserve

The ruined remains of a mansion once owned – but never occupied – by King Zod of Albania, is one of Long Island’s more beautiful places to search for nature and graffiti. While we got completely lost and never found the remains, it was a fun day. Plus, now a good excuse to go back and look again. The closest we got was the graffiti wall of the garden. I think we will return here once our Fall hikes resume. I want to find those darn ruins. *11/7/20 update. We went back & found them. Ahhh I feel so much better!*

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Lakeland County Park

Lakeland County Park

Another one of my favorites. A completely unique hike – all on intertwining boardwalks – that end at a stunning lake (with giant turtles in it!). Around the lake were a few paths in different directions including one under a train trellis with some awesome graffiti. *10/23/20 update: sadly, the graffiti above has been painted over, but this is still my favorite “starter hike” park to send people.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Welwyn Preserve County Park

Welwyn Preserve County Park

The mother ship of graffiti hikes on Long Island. Not only an amazing place to see nature and/or water (which we did not see because the trail was too muddy), but it offers all kinds of interesting objects to enjoy. Most are covered in graffiti. If you are looking for a decent hike – again meaning like beginner 2 – and lots of great photo opportunities, this is the place for you. The graffiti was awesome.

Trees, Trees, and More Trees

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Nassau County Museum of Art

Nassau County Museum of Art

A beautiful property where you will find trails as well as big open fields with sculptures and climbable trees. If you like art, they have very cool exhibits as well inside the museum and great family programs.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Prosser Pines Nature Preserve

Prosser Pines Nature Preserve

This was the first hike we took after the world closed in March. I do not know if it was because we were stir crazy or the sheer beauty of the 200+ year old 100+ feet pine trees, but I fell in love. A very short, easy loop trail with hidden teepees, fallen logs, and absolute perfection.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Greenbelt Trail

Long Island Greenbelt Trail

A huge, paved trail (with more rustic unpaved options) spanning from the north shore of Long Island all the way south to Jones Beach (via the Massapequa Preserve). Many stretches have parking lots so you can choose your own adventure for distance and terrain. Added bonus: I found tie dye berries!

Family Scavenger Hunt for Extra Credit Stuff

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - St. John’s Pond Preserve

St. John’s Pond Preserve

One of my favorite spots on Long Island. Also where we’ve enjoyed a “First Day Hike” for the last few years. Here they have a tree claiming to be the oldest on Long Island. They also have an old cemetery tucked in with some famous names – like Jones (of the beach fame).

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama

Paul T Given Park

While this hike was not so great, it had a few elements worth including on this list. There was some graffiti, including a tree that said “hell” with an arrow (that cracked me up). There was an abandoned, dilapidated, disintegrating car (which was huge with my boys). It is also has a small boat launch for the Nissequogue River. In fact, the river looked so great, it inspired us to buy an inflatable boat. The moment it arrived we returned. It was beautiful, we saw deer, but as new boaters we did not really understand about the tide. Fun fact for clueless boaters like us – it is a lot easier to go down this river than to come back.  So make sure you check the tide charts first on a site like the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Blydenburgh County Park

Blydenburgh County Park

This huge park offers trails near and far from the water and all kinds of huge trees. You could probably spend a week here just walking around aimlessly. It also offers a small boat launch close to one of the parking lots. This was a much better place to take our boat. Unlike the tide situation above, this was more of a big, beautiful bathtub. Otherwise known as: exactly our speed.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Norman J. Levy Park & Preserve

Norman J Levy Park & Preserve

We ended up here after a failed attempt to go to the beach (it was at capacity). While sprawling, beautiful looking hiking trails were in front of us, our beach attire kept us from exploring. What we did see were animals including goats (we love goats) and an osprey nest. We look forward to returning this fall for a proper hike.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve

Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve

While sadly there are no longer cranberries here, you will find an easy lake loop to walk around with a very pretty bridge.

Family Hikes on Long Island - The Mint Chip Mama - Southards Pond Park

Southards Pond Park

This beautiful park has a huge lake and an easy, wide trail to follow. You will find some graffiti here and a big tunnel over pass where your kids can yell “echo”.

Family Hikes on Long Island: To Be Continued…

I hope this list has been helpful and that you save it for future use. I will update as we venture out more. The most important thing is – just GO! Get outside, walk around, enjoy the fresh air, and take some great family pictures. Don’t forget to bring water and 4,000 granola bars because your kids will be hungry every five minutes. Until we can go on a proper vacation, nature is all we have to keep us sane!

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School!





Tweens want cool rooms. Often it is so they can sit and brood, but mostly it is just because who doesn’t want a cool tween room!? When it was time to evolve our bedroom situation, getting our cool tween ready for middle school, there was no question what the décor would be – Harry Potter all the way!

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

My daughter has been a good sport the last four years. When we had her baby brother, she and my middle son began sharing a room. They had the coolest bunk beds in town and a pretty sweet set up that was the perfect brother/sister hang out. But then she began to feel she needed her own space. We agreed that when elementary school ended, we would switch her out of their room and into her four-year-old brother’s room. The excitement of my boys to create a “bro-cave” was reason enough! This was the perfect summer project with plenty of time to get ready to go back to school.

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

Where Do You Begin?

As a girl going into 5th grade, she was ready for a sophisticated room. She loves turquoise and blue, so we started with that color scheme. Luckily, the room was already painted a shade of blue that she loved! We took some furniture measurements and when the day came – July 31st (Harry Potter’s birthday, of course) – we were ready to go!

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

Cool Tween Room Wall Art

The most exciting part – and the entire focus of the room – is this spectacular removable wall mural from Recall Art that I found on Etsy. Igor – the owner – was amazing to work with and helped me pick out the perfect size to fit the wall. It honestly is the coolest thing I have ever seen and what I stare at when I sit in her room. I don’t think I could have found anything cooler. It was easy enough to put up and just makes the room amazing. It’s simply the coolest accent wall I have ever seen.

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

Cool Tween Room Seating Options

Next, we thought about the ideal lounge chair for a cool tween room. We quickly decided it had to be a bean bag chair! We wanted a really good one and in the perfect shade of blue. Our search led us to Big Joe’s Kid’s Fuf in cobalt. The foam in this chair is so comfortable and just mushes around you. It’s a given that at any moment you can find her curled up with a book sitting on her Fuf. It is so perfect. Plus, now that she will be doing remote learning for school, it is a great flexible seating option!

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

A Great Place to Do Homework

Speaking of flexible seating options, what would a cool tween room be without a proper desk to do homework? We were lucky to get this beautiful drop-down secretary – a family heirloom – for her room. It has a huge space where we can put all kinds of fun desk organizers. But even better, at the end of the day we just pop the drop lid up so we cannot see the mess!

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

Along with a good desk, a cool tween room needs a good desk seat. But not just any old seat. What she doesn’t know yet is we got her a Kore Pre-Teen Wobble Stool (in dark blue). This is going to be her first-day-of-school present. She first met this stool in her 4th grade classroom, and it was love at first site. This flexible seating option was her absolute favorite and she is going to flip out when she sees it, I cannot wait! Again, with her doing remote learning, this will be the perfect addition to her room. The fact that she wanted it makes it even better!

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

Cool Tween Room Storage

Storage was the next area for us to tackle. Cool tween rooms have a lot of clothes, and a lot of stuff. We were lucky to have more family heirloom furniture (again in blue!) that fit perfectly. Because the room is on the smaller side, and she has very little clothing that hangs, we decided to put the dresser in the closet to save some real estate. We then added in a three by three cube organizer that brought everything together. This was the perfect option to neatly store her books, but also big enough that she could store her jewelry boxes and put in some fun Harry Potter décor.

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

The Perfect Bed

Bedding was the next area we tackled. When we went to family camp last summer I bought her a white duvet cover to batik. The turquoise color came out great and it worked with the room so well. We also found the most perfect denim colored sheets. All of this on top of her trundle bed, with a few accent pillows and she was good to go!

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

Cool Tween Room Decor

Last, we needed to spiff up this cool tween room with some decorations. She is an avid artist, so this was not hard. We did a girl scout event at Casa de Spin – a spin art studio by our home – earlier in the year. With her new room in mind, she made a painting in multiple shades of blue. The painting matched perfectly and really brought everything together. On the other walls she was excited to hang up paintings I did that made her happy (cool tweens still love their Mommy!). The last step was putting together her new lava lamp, which turned out to be the perfect night light.

Designing an Easy & Cool Tween Room for Middle School! - The Mint Chip Mama

It is All About the Blues…

She is so happy with how her room turned out. It is amazing how all the colors and furniture came together to make a really beautiful room. It is the perfect place for her to relax, do art, do her schoolwork, chat with her friends, and of course – the most important thing for a cool tween – make TikTok videos.

Vision Boards – A Great Camp Mom Project!





Like many families right now, we are still hunkering down at home following the rules to avoid contracting Covid-19. Every day I am looking for new activities to keep my three kids – ages 4, 6 and 10 busy and engaged. I read about making Vision Boards and thought my kids and I (because let’s face it – it’s a hell of a lot more fun if it’s actually fun) would enjoy making them. Spoiler – I was right.

What is a Vision Board?

I wasn’t really sure what a vision board was, so like any good person living in 2020, I started googling around. I found out there is a local store called Vision Works NY – whose main mission is to teach people how to make vision boards! I immediately reached out to the owners for some advice.

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Board

What supplies do I need to make a Vision Board?

Unlike many people who have jumped into the 21st century, I still get several paper magazine subscriptions. Lucky for me, that was pretty much all I needed to get us started. I began saving them and truth be told – I ended up not needing as many as I expected. Surprisingly, even with making four vision boards, we only used a handful of magazines. In short – this means you can probably make a great vision board with only one or two old issues. I also tried to think outside of the box with the types of magazines I saved. I had great luck finding images and words from my alumni magazine, US Weekly, InStyle, and even the Cambridge Pavers insert from The New York Times (it had awesome background pictures – especially if you like fire pits, pool scenes and sunsets. It was THE perfect vision board magazine for me! Who knew?)!

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Board

Once I had my magazines ready, we sat around the table and wrote out a list of things that makes us happy – to create some inspiration. We also included things we wanted to see/do/accomplish this summer.

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Board

Next, I told my kids to close their eyes and I read them the notes from Liz at Vision Works NY. My goal was to set their mood for finding the right images and words for their vision boards. This was a great step and really resonated with them.

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Board

Time to start cutting!

Now it was time to get to work. We each took a magazine and started cutting out pictures and words. We cut out big things and we cut out small things. We cut out background images and we cut out random things we liked. My kids were SO into this I could not believe it. I knew my 10-year-old art obsessed daughter would love this, but my six-year-old son went to town! Even my four-year-old was engaged and loving it. Because all three of my kids were into it, I could get into it too! Since that doesn’t happen very often, it truly was a gift!

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Boards

What is the best background to use?

The next step was figuring out the heavy duty background for our vision boards. My initial thought was to recycle canvases from painting birthday parties, but I soon realized we needed a bigger space. I ended up flattening out the cardboard from cereal boxes and making a custom size for each of us.

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Boards

Covering your vision board background

I took a few pages of “background” and glued them to the cardboard using a regular glue stick. School glue would also work – especially if you use a paint brush. I would just be careful of the amount of school glue you use so the magazine doesn’t pucker. Next, I covered up the words on my background pages with color blocks and images.

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Boards

Let the collaging begin!

I took out all the words and images I cut out and placed them on my vision board. Finally, my last step was to glue them all down one by one. If you’re the kind of person who likes to throw caution to the wind, you can glue as you go. However, I wanted to make sure everything fit first before committing to a location.

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Boards

OMG! A collage of all the things I love makes me happy! #Duh

For me, when I am in the inertia of an art project, I get into the zone and don’t really see it as a whole until I am done and take a step back. This is one of my favorite things about creating art. Once I finished my vision board I took a step back, looked, and I just felt so happy. Now, the funny part is – OF COURSE I’m going to feel happy – I literally just made a board of everything that makes me happy! It SHOULD make me happy! Since I completed my vision board, I can’t stop looking at it and smiling. I don’t know if I made a text book “vision board” or simply a really pretty happiness collage, but I love it either way. I can’t stop looking at it and sending it to my friends!

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Boards

One day or multi day project

Another thing I loved about this project is it took us a few days to complete. We worked on it for an hour a day over three days. You can absolutely do it in one day for instant gratification, but I wanted something that would take longer. I also didn’t want my kids to get bored and lose interest in the project, so I fed it to them in pieces.

The Mint Chip Mama - Vision Boards

It all comes back to the unsung hero of self-isolation – toilet paper

My kids had so much fun cutting out the most random pictures – including the Geico gecko, Lin-Manuel Miranda, elephants, rainbows, and many, many others. Funny enough – we all cut out the Charmin Ultra Soft bear – without even realizing it. So, in conclusion, no matter what we are doing, five months later, we are still thinking about toilet paper (and clearly very loyal to Charmin!)!

This is a great project to do with kids (or adults!) of any age, it helps recycle things around your house, and it costs nothing! I hope you enjoy making your vision boards as much as we enjoyed making ours. I would love to see them when they are done and share in your vision board happiness!

Convert Your Driveway Into a Roller Skating Rink!





I love raising my family in the same town as where I grew up. One of the benefits is sharing places that hold a special place in my heart from my youth. With that said, I don’t think there is another place in the area that bring more childhood memories than roller skating at United Skates of America in Seaford.

Roller Skating Rink Nostalgia

From the yellow postcard inviting me to a roller skating birthday party in the 90’s to the “Skateasaurus” to the square piece of pizza and skating around the rink to a favorite request (“Shout” by Tears for Fears) there are so many memories that pop into my head.

Second Generation Roller Skating Obsession

When my daughter attended her first birthday party at the skating rink, four years ago, I could not believe that the place was exactly the same! I felt like I walked into a time warp from my youth. The skating bug officially bit my daughter – and she never looked back. She got roller skates for the holidays that year, followed by in-line skates for her birthday a few months later. Then, we started giving out skates to her friends as birthday presents. Living in a cul-de-sac helped her hone her skills. On most days you can find her outside skating in circles.

When it was time to plan her birthday party that year, there was no question where she wanted to have it. Luckily, she has an equally skating obsessed best friend. Together, we rented out the rink for a private birthday party and had the whole place to ourselves! It was ah-maaaazing!

The Mint Chip Mama - Convert Your Driveway Into a Roller Skating Rink!

This little sk8r grl is now in 4th grade, the last grade of elementary school in our district. The end of this year culminates with celebrations discussed for all of elementary school. As you can imagine, with Covid-19 halting all of these school functions, she was pretty bummed. Enter United Skates of America.

Community Involvement and Bringing the Roller Skating Rink to You!

As a fan, I have been on its email list for years. It has been my pleasure to share United Skates’ community-oriented programs on my Facebook page, helping spread its tremendously generous programs – including free passes for teacher and first-responders. Then, I got the email of all emails —since you can not go to them right now, they will come to you. Yep! You can now rent a skating floor (and all the accouterments) for your home – right on your very own driveway or patio.

The moment I read this I knew a private, home skating party, would blow any sadness out of her mind from missing her 4th grade festivities. Luckily, I was 10,000,000% correct!

It was a breeze working with United Skates of America to set this up. They arrived with all the items needed and set up the custom skating rink in about an hour. Since they have interlocking floor pieces they were able to customize it to fit my driveway exactly. Then they set up all of the skates (including the Fisher Price over the shoe ones for my four-year-old), the Skate Mates, and a WiFi enabled sound system with a pre-loaded three hour playlist. All of this is yours for five full hours!

The Mint Chip Mama - Convert Your Driveway Into a Roller Skating Rink!

The miracle of the day was that my kids played in the basement the entire time they were setting up the floor. They had no idea what has coming! With bubbling excitement, I called them outside. Their faces were priceless when they saw it. My daughter announced it was “the coolest thing they have ever seen”.

The Mint Chip Mama - Convert Your Driveway Into a Roller Skating Rink!

It Was “The Best Day Ever”

It was an absolutely fantastic day. The kids skated, and skated, and skated. Broke for dinner, and skated a little more as the sun set. As I watched I thought how cool it would be for an “after dark” rink set up with glow sticks – thank goodness they have that on the horizon (no pun intended).

As they came to collect the floor, my daughter skated to “The Last Dance” by Donna Summer (because I’m hilarious). I thanked the United Skates staff profusely for thinking outside of the box, for helping parents properly celebrate milestones right now, and for being creative.

Breaking down the floor took much less time and my kids looked forlornly as the workers drove away. My daughter turned to me and said “I don’t think there is anything you could have done for me that would have been cooler than that. Thank you SO SO SO much.” Above all, as a parent, that is the best thing to hear. I was so happy. Not to mention it was an ENTIRE day of an activity for all three of them that kept them interested for five hours straight! Roller skating to the rescue!

A Whole Menu of “At Home” Roller Skate Experiences!

Luckily, the party continued a week later for her as two elementary schools in our district came together to offer the graduating 4th graders an end of year Virtual Glow Dance Party. For this zoom dance party – United Skates of America had an MC and DJ and song dedications from the teachers. Plus, all kind of things that light up and flash! I am so grateful to them for putting this together and once again thinking of a creative way to celebrate these kids. The whole family had a blast dancing on the driveway as we projected it onto the fence. If you ask my children, they would say I had the most fun.

Likewise, United Skates of America stepped up and created several at-home options. These include Curbside Pick-up with LOL Dolls and Minions, 4th of July Glow to Go, and their Glow Dance Party.

For more information on any of the things above, please reach out to Jen at jsimonettiskate@gmail.com and be sure to tell her The Mint Chip Mama sent you!

The Mint Chip Mama - Convert Your Driveway Into a Roller Skating Rink!

**Giveaway**

Win a Family 4-Pack of FREE Admission Passes to United Skates of America!

To win, please comment below with your favorite rollerskating memory!

Winner will be chosen Friday, July 3rd at 1pm.

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