A Very Christmas Weekend

This past weekend we filled up on the local Christmas events. The weather was warmer than usual, hitting 50, so it was perfect for the whole family to be outside for an extended time. A couple of the events came from my list of Holiday Events in New England, which you can check back to look for more ideas. Friday night we went to Light From Afar at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette. Sunday we went over to Oakholm Farm to indulge in festivities and go to Oakholm Brewing Company. Lastly, that evening we did our traditional visit to Old Sturbidge Village for Christmas by Candlelight.

Light from Afar at La Sallette in Attleboro, MA was an amazing sight. This was our first time going so we did not know what to expect, but it blew me away. This display of lights, which deserves a much bigger word because ‘display’ is an understatement, was stunning. Over 400,000 lights to observe and truly brighten your spirit. The experience was beautiful, peaceful, and amazing all at once. Among the lights you can find the nativity scene with a real donkey, the story of the birth of Jesus on large wooden plaques, and the tale of Saint Nicholas and his transformation to Santa Claus. Continuing on we found more amazing lights, a hot chocolate stand, and a merry go round. To each their own, but we didn’t feel comfortable taking part on the merry-go-round given the crowd and current health crisis. Luckily we were able to avoid a meltdown and made our way to some more dazzling lights by the pond.

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The Christmas celebration of lights is FREE, no reservation required, and open every night 5:00-9:00pm. I recommend going during the week if you can. You could spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours there, depending on how fast or slow you’d like to view it all. We were there for two hours and it was just right for our 4 year old and having a baby in tow. For the most part, it is stroller friendly but there is one area only accessible by stairs. I wore Theo in our LilleBaby carrier because its just so much easier to get around.

After a slow Sunday morning, enjoying “snowman pancakes”, we met our family over at Christmas at Oakholm Farm, located in Brookfield, MA. They had all sorts of holiday fun going on, including ‘pick your own’ Christmas tree, horse-drawn wagon rides, Christmas Carolers, various venders, a food truck, and good ol’ Mr. Santa Claus! This rustic farm sits on a quiet back road so it’s perfect for the whole family, with plenty of space to let the kids run around. We sat by the fire, roasted marshmallows, and made our way back and forth to the Oakholm Brewing Company, located just next to all the festivities.

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Let me tell you, this was the perfect way to meet Santa! He was so interactive with the kids, took his time, and made it so fun. Don’t be fooled by the picture with Theo, he just didn’t want me to put him down. I don’t think he even saw Santa. Santa Claus on the other hand, was extremely jolly and enjoyable. He actually came over to the kids by the firepit and talked to them for a while. They practiced their “Ho, Ho, Ho” with him and talked about what his favorite kind of cookie is so we know what to leave for him on Christmas Eve night. It’s Chocolate Chip, if anyone needs that info.

You can occasionally find different vendors at the farm, a great place for other small businesses to gain some ground. This weekend they had Swift River Wood Shop, from Western Massachusetts. This man handcrafts each piece, from coasters to cheese boards, and even butcher blocks. Each piece unique in it’s own grain, from locally sourced wood…so you know its good. You can take a look at their website for past and present projects, and simply contact them for requests! It’s amazing to see the work that comes straight from a craftsman, no funny business there.

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And onto our final event, closing our big weekend filled with Christmas, we went over to Old Sturbridge Village for Christmas by Candlelight. Tickets and Reservations required in advance. We’ve done this for the past few years, so I love that we can carry out this tradition. Understandably, the experience was limited due to the pandemic. A lot of their unique character interactions and building displays were unavailable due to obvious safety concerns. You can still walk around and observe live demonstrations from windows or enjoy a horse-drawn carryall ride. The Christmas Tree Trail and Christmas Wish Bridge were something we missed last year, so it was nice to peacefully stroll through this year. We enjoyed some time by a bonfire and listened to a musician in the shoe shop. We truly love going to the live museum, and wish for next year to be closer to normal!

Hope you are finding ways to fit some Christmas magic in during this weird time. We don’t have much of 2020 left, so make the most of it. Fill the rest of your year with all good things. Stay safe. Merry Christmas.

>> Erin

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Holiday Events in New England

This year has brought on a lot of change and challenges for all.  You may be starting to find that some of your usual traditions are out of the question. Sadly, going to see good Ol’ Santa Clause will be very different. But we can’t let that ruin our Christmas spirit. So, I’ve done some searching and compiled a list of various holiday attractions and events in the New England area. I hope this list can help brighten your spirits and bring the festive cheer you need. Maybe this year will be the start of a new holiday tradition with your family.

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  1. Boston Virtual Tree & Light Celebrations – Broadcasting on TV over various dates due to Covid-19. View from your cozy warm couch!
  2. Zoo Lights @ Stone Zoo – Stoneham, MA. Stroll thru a winter wonderland, open Nov 7th– Jan 3rd.
  3. Magic of Lights – Foxboro, MA. Drive through a large light display in Gillette Stadium parking lot. Nov 13th– Jan 2nd.
  4. La Salette Light from Afar – Attleboro, MA.  Walk through a beautiful light display, free to the public. Nov 26th– Jan 3rd.
  5. Christmas by Candlelight – Sturbridge, MA. Walk through the historic live museum and observe old traditions & stories. Select dates Dec 4th- 30th.
  6. Bright Nights @ Forest Park – Springfield, MA. Drive through the park to see a large light display.  Nov. 25th– Jan 6th .
  7. Search for Santa – Central Falls, RI. Enjoy a 20 min river boat ride, with storytime & treat, looking for Santa on the riverbank. select dates Nov 27th – Dec 20th
  8. Holiday Lights Fantasia – Hartford, CT. Drive through Goodwin Park, view a collection of over 1 million lights. Nov  26th – Jan 3rd.
  9. Trolley of Lights & Storytime with Santa and Elf – East Windsor, CT. Take a trolley ride or “electric sleigh” and view lights. Select dates Nov.27th– Dec 20th   
  10. Luminaria – Mystic, CT. Stroll through Olde Mystick Village to see the lit luminaria’s, dabble in some shopping, and enjoy sweet treats on Dec 11th.
  11. Gift of Lights @ New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Loudon, NH. Drive 2.5 miles viewing 3 million lights. Nov 26th – Jan 3rd.
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There are plenty of ways to spark your inner elf, I only shared a glimpse of it! This short list shows you how much New England has to offer, even at a time like this. Most events are outdoors or can be enjoyed right from the seat of your car. Check online for tickets and availability in advance, as well as state public health guidelines. Feel free to comment below with more ideas to share!

Happy Holiday Season to you all!

>> Erin

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  1. God bless you and your family. I love you all!

Our Road Trip to the Berkshires

While the dogs are away, the cats will play! My husband, dad, and brothers went off on a birthday weekend getaway, so of course I couldn’t just sit back and have a quiet weekend home alone. I asked my mom if she would go out on a little adventure for leaf peeping and hiking.  Due to covid (ugh), we decided to stay within the state.  We headed North West, up to the Berkshires. On our way, we made a couple of fun pit stops.

First, the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. This was such a beautiful environment, filled with wonder. And turned out to be a great learning experience in more ways than one. They had exotic frogs and lizard exhibits when you first entered. Then we walked into the butterfly gardens. The amount of butterflies was AMAZING!  The staff was very friendly and informative. So as we learned a lot about butterflies, we also were given a big lesson in patience and being present! It was so nice to sit down, slow down, and take it all in.

This was a true test of patience for my almost 4 year old. She was adamant about holding a butterfly. We had to tell her many times not to touch them because it would harm them. Her “angry eyebrows”, as we call them, were starting to come out. Several times over and over she would put her finger in front of a butterfly that was just sitting on a leaf in hopes it would just walk onto her hand. Of course they never willingly walked onto her finger…she pushed that little finger right under their tiny legs. If you knew my Aria, you would understand how strong-headed she is and she wasn’t leaving until she held a butterfly.

Theo however, calm as can be…thoroughly enjoyed watching all the butterflies and looking around at all the plants. Twice a butterfly landed on his leg while I was holding him. Go figure. They most have known he was a safe one.

We hand our packed lunch in the parking lot before taking off to our next stop, Shelburne Falls! I’ve heard about this quaint town but had never spent time there. They have a cute town center to check out with shops and dining. Two of the more well-known attractions are the Bridge of Flowers and the Glacial Potholes.  They were both very close to the town center and an easy walk to make. Unfortunately the Bridge of Flowers was closed due to the pandemic and lack of space to maintain social distancing. Looks like it would be a lovely experience in the spring time though. The Glacial Potholes were pretty neat to see, nature at its finest! The shapes and patterns on the rocks were incredible.

Walking back to the car we saw this beautiful building wall covered in the best fall foliage you could ask for.

Back on the road again… we headed to our final destination, North Adams. It was starting to get a little late to begin a decent hike so we opted for a very short one. After pulling over for a quick birds eye view at Wigwams Summit or “America’s Switzerland” (worth the quick stop ), we drove to Natural Bridge State Park. If you ever plan to visit, be sure to park in the actual Visitors Parking lot (off of McAuley Rd). We were on the opposite side where one of the trails ended and felt as if we were trespassing even though there was no signs stating no parking. Anyways, this was a very brief and easy hike to view the natural bridge and marble quarry. There are stairs, so don’t bring a stroller.  Very pretty views, more water and rock formations!

Dinner in North Adams. There were a few restaurants to choose from but we went with the Freight Yard Pub. It had a funky location under a bridge and nice lively atmosphere. There was a live band outside we would have loved to enjoy but it was getting late so we didn’t wait for an outside table. Our meals were great! Aria devoured the fried fish bites and fries. Mom and I split steak tips and a sesame chicken wrap. Theo loved the mashed potatoes. Drinks were lovely! Everything was reasonably priced. I would definitely recommend and even return some day.

The next morning we waited for it to warm up a bit. It was barely 40 degrees when we first woke up. So we utilized the hotel pool and took our time packing up, in our spacious room. I brought my favorite portable crib by BabyDelightInc. Hotel rooms are obviously not baby proof, so it’s nice to be able to put Theo in there while getting ready and know he is safe.

Off to fuel up, we decided on a late breakfast/early lunch at Renee’s Diner. They offered outdoor seating with an outdoor heater. The Pumpkin Bread French Toast was AMAZING!

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OK tummy’s full all around, now on to our hike… As usual, I used AllTrails to find a suitable trail for all of us …with a waterfall! I love trying to find waterfalls anywhere we go. The Cascades Trail in North Adams was beautiful. You start at the parking lot of their Elementary School/YMCA. It leads you through a gorgeous little neighborhood then onto the trailhead. Following the river pretty much the whole way up, with a rewarding waterfall at the end! This 2.2 mile trail was kid friendly with just a few challenging spots and is open to dogs on leash, however some were not. The water was so clear and the fall foliage was just perfect. We got exactly what we came for.

Heading home is always tough when you make quick road trips. We’re grateful to be able to have such a beautiful place within the same state. Now…time to plan our next adventure! Where to go?! Are you headed anywhere?

>> The New England Momma

Apple Picking in New England

Sunny smiles in the apple orchard.

Nothing says fall better than a September day spent picking apples in New England. Up here, September is such a great month for it’s cool mornings, warm afternoons, and comfortable evenings. This gives you ample time to fill your day with outdoors activities before the weather shifts again. One of my favorite fall activities is popping over to the local orchards to pick our own apples. It’s fun for the whole family, an outdoor physical activity, and there’s usually baked goods involved. Plus you’re enjoying yourself while supporting a local, small business. What could be better?! If you find yourself in New England in September, you’ll want to save a day for apple picking.

This year we decided to try an apple orchard new to me. Though you certainly can’t call this orchard new, as it was started in 1981. The Tougas Family Farm is a family owned and operated fruit farm with so much to offer. From varieties of apples, to pumpkins, to strawberries and blueberries, you could visit all summer long. They were recently named #6 in the USA TODAY 10 Best Reader’s Choice of 2020 for Best Apple Orchard in the country! How exciting for them and how lucky for us being so close by!

Aria helping her baby brother with the apples.

We started our visit in the afternoon, it just worked best for us with the kids’ nap times. I was worried we wouldn’t have much time but it actually worked out well because the crowd was dying down. Being a weekend, you have to expect it to be busy. So we kicked off our visit with a wagon ride to the apple orchard. Due to the current health crisis, masks were required. The farm did an excellent job of providing organized lines with space for distancing and several sinks set up with soap and water. They offered plenty of room on the wagon rides too! Not like the good old days when you had to squish in and rub legs with a stranger.

Tougas Family Farm has several varieties of apples. Just to name a few starting with our favorites; Honeycrisp, Cortland, MacIntosh, Gala, Fuji, Ginger Gold, Blondee, and more. Our daughter, almost 4, had a blast picking her own apples and reaching up from daddy’s shoulders. Such a good activity to give her a sense of independence and accomplishment.

Aria picking Honeycrisp apples.

After returning from the orchard by our wagon ride back, we headed over to the play area. Let me tell you, this place can offer hours of entertainment. There were so many options in the playground, a barnyard to see some animals, and a few stands to choose from.

Feeding goats
Making a new friend.

Picnic tables are available to sit back and relax while enjoying some of their own homemade treats. The farm store and kitchen has so much to choose from. You can find ice cream, slushies, homemade pies, scones, jams, applesauce and my personal favorite… cider donuts!! We indulged on some FRESH hot apple cider and donuts before ending this fun family day at the farm. I’d highly recommend venturing over for some fall fun.

Aria sipping that delicious fresh hot apple cider.
We bought a bag of cider donuts (okay, two)