Halloween: treats, a parade and a brass band

Our first year at the Brown Street Park Halloween Parade.

Our first year at the Brown Street Park Halloween Parade.

I grew up in New York City, which meant that on Halloween, I put on a costume and trick-or-treated in my apartment building, which as I recall was a quick run through a few neighbors in brightly lit and well-heated hallways.

But in the third grade, I went to a friend’s new house on Long Island for Halloween. And that has always felt like my first real Halloween–crunching on autumn leaves in the dark, shivering in costume, and skipping from house to house to gather more candy than even I can eat.

The first year that we moved to Providence, our neighbors mentioned that there was a Halloween event at Brown Street Park, so we decided to go. Of course, we had no idea that it included free games and treats for the kids and a costume parade throughout the East Side led by Providence’s own What Cheer? Brigade. Needless to say, it was a hit, and we’ve been back every year.

This year will mark the 8th Annual Halloween Celebration and Parade at Brown Street Park, which will take place on Friday, October 31 from 4 pm-5:30 pm. For more information, visit www.friendsofbrownstreetpark.org.

Roger Williams Duck Boat Tours

It starts out as a bus...

It starts out as a bus…

...and turns into a boat.

…and turns into a boat.

For a year, I lived directly across the street from one of the boarding locations for the Boston Duck Tours. I lost count of how many times tourists waved and quacked at me.

But that fact made me no less excited when we discovered one of the amphibious WWII vehicles boarding passengers at the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

The vehicle tours around the scenic drive of the park, then dives into Cunliff Lake for a boat ride. And they let both my daughters take turns driving the boat, which most certainly never happened in Boston.

Roger Williams Duck Boat Tours
https://www.providenceri.com/parks-and-rec/boating

 

Flatbread Company in Providence

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We haven’t been as excited about a new neighborhood offering since Gourmet Heaven opened last year. A few weeks ago, Flatbread Company, which has restaurants in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, opened its first location in Providence on Cushing Street.

Flatbread offers a simple menu of organic salads and a variety of ‘flatbreads’ which, back in New York, we call pizzas. Theirs are made with their own organic tomato sauce (which you can actually see brewing in their giant cauldron) and cooked in their wood-fired clay oven.

Part of Flatbread’s mission is to integrate with the region’s farms and producers which begets great results, both in community-building and in the quality of the food. Plus, the restaurant space is enormous, which makes it ideal for families, parties, and events. They offer kids both crayons and paper (which turn into their menu covers), and they’ll even give them a bit of dough to work themselves. If anyone gets antsy, they can also head over to their library which now has several couches and shelves of books for all ages, or, of course, to their bar.

We’ve been here four times since they opened a few weeks ago, and nearly every time, we ran into friends (with kids in tow). And next Thursday February 6 from 5-9 pm, they’re hosting a fundraiser for the Providence Children’s Film Festival (see details). What’s not to love?

Flatbread Company
161 Cushing Street
Providence, RI
www.flatbreadcompany.com

10 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Rhode Island (with the kids)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Geoff and I both grew up with the tradition of Christmas and have continued it with our girls despite the fact that we are not religious. Although our daughters know that Santa Claus isn’t real, we all love pretending during the holiday season. Here are some ways we’ve celebrated Christmas in Rhode Island…

1. Pick Your Own Christmas Tree

It’s the ultimate ‘paper versus plastic’ debate — we’ve chosen a real tree because ultimately it’s more sustainable (another tree can be grown) and so much more festive to have the smell of pine in the air. This year, we once again got our tree from Lockwood Tree Farm. Trees get collected after the holidays in Providence — don’t make the mistake of one over-eager dad who tried to burn his tree in the fireplace and nearly set his house on fire.

2. ‘Christmas’ Waterfire

Tonight (December 13), there will be a special (and as always, free) WaterFire lighting to enjoy. It really is much warmer by the glowing fires, although you’ll still need a coat, and a hat, and gloves, and a scarf.

3. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Providence Ballet also will put on a performance tonight (December 13) at Rhode Island College of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

4. Christmas at a Mansion

Somehow seeing someone else’s house decked out in holiday spirit can be as satisfying (and a lot easier) than your own. Christmas at The Newport Mansions continues through January 5. I personally love to visit Blithewold, a 45-room English style manor house adorned with holiday decorations. Don’t forget to stop in the Carriage House where the “Gingerbread Wonderland” features mini-gingerbread houses of all styles made by area children. And right in Providence, you can visit the John Brown House Museum‘s Home for the Holidays.

5. A Christmas Carol

The Trinity Repertory Theater has certainly perfected its performance of the classic Dickens tale. The show has moments that can be scarier for children, although of course we were brave (or stupid) enough to bring our two-year-old one year. Let’s just say, it was a good thing we packed plenty of lollipops. Anyway, the show kept all of us mesmerized. I also recently discovered there’s another production of A Christmas Carol featuring Big Nazo puppets, which is definitely on my list to check out.

6. The Nutcracker

Festival Ballet's Nutcracker

Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker

Festival Ballet puts on a stellar performance of The Nutcracker at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For next year, you might also consider the Island Moving Co.‘s performance at one of the Newport Mansions, Rosecliff.

7. Gingerbread Houses and Holiday Cookies

Of course, a great way to celebrate is to make your own or build a gingerbread house (or village as the girls did this year) at home. There are also several decorating events and contests (everything’s a contest apparently) throughout the state. Check out the Decorate Your Own Gingerbread Man event on December 21, 2013 at the Smith-Abbleby House Museum in Smithfield, RI. The Ocean House in Westerly also hosts a Gingerbread Village Competition and Reception on December 16, 2013.

8. Ski, Skate and Sled

There are plenty of indoor and outdoor skating options throughout the state, including the Kennedy Plaza rink in Providence. If we actually get enough snow, you’ll probably find us sledding on the East Side. We still haven’t been, but there’s kid-friendly skiing in Yawgoo Valley Ski and Sports Area in Exeter, RI.

9. Shop Local

Two years ago, I came up with a list of great places to shop locally for children’s gifts. There are also guides to Shop Downcity and the Shops at Hope Street, which includes stores like Kreatelier which has wonderful hand-made items for adults and children.

While you’re shopping, get into the spirit by donating gifts at any one of the local toy drives: Children’s Friend or Toys for Tots (Whisky Republic in Providence is accepting gift donations today December 13), for instance.

10. Holiday Pops

Last but not least, tonight the Boston Pops comes down to Providence Performing Arts Center for a special local performance. We went years ago without children when we were living in Boston. I think older children (especially aspiring musicians) certainly would appreciate the performance.

Providence, RI: A Day in the Life

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’ve now lived in Providence for over four years, and it would be hard to fit in one blog post all my thoughts about that. So instead, I thought I’d describe an eventful, but fairly typical Saturday, which as it turns out, might be a perfect way to highlight our life in Providence.

8:28 am – We woke up “late” for us, which meant we had to rush to get the girls ready for gymnastics and ballet at Aim High Academy, where dozens of gymnasts were already hard at work.

10:00 am – We head to Allie’s Donuts–an institution for good reason. A donut cake (exactly what it sounds like) has been ordered for one of our daughter’s birthday this month.

11:15 am – We make our way to the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market opening day. This year’s market has more than doubled, and it is every bit better. We all sit in the courtyard and have Tallulah’s Tacos for lunch. The girls make a basket at ACKpack Basket Studio. Michele buys a giant stalk of brussels sprouts, freshly dug potatoes, onions, and parsnips from the market, along with apples from Barden Family Orchard. Our daughter insists we buy more pickles from Harmony Hill Farm. We get dessert–an almond croissant and an apricot financier–from the French Tarte. On our way out, we discover a new store, Sassy Mama Cuisine, that has rows upon rows of hot sauces. I’m looking for one made with Bhut jolokia, and pick from more than a dozen.

2:00 pm – I nap.

3:30 pm – I take my six-year-old daughter to Cirque Éloize, one of the first shows in this year’s FirstWorks Festival at the Providence Performing Arts Center, while Michele takes our two-year old to the Providence Children’s Museum.

6:00 pm – At home,  I make the kids a pizza with dough from Olga’s and cheese from Narragansett Creamery.

7:30 pm – Michele and I walk downtown to the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Theatre, to see a production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Since we didn’t buy tickets in advance, we wait standby and luckily get seats from a few no-shows. Even after four years of shows, it’s my first time in the Pell Chafee Performance Center.

9:30 pm – We get drinks and appetizers at Gracie’s, which turned out to be a meal that would rival the best in recent memory: a sherry-roasted beet salad with Cloumage cheese, pistachio nougatine, wild rice crispies, sour apple, and Aquidneck honey; Hudson Valley foie gras with fennel dusted brioche donuts, roasted peach, pistachio, raspberry gelee; russet potato gnocchi with house cured ham, broccoli, cauliflower, cheddar, buttery herb crumb; and crispy veal sweetbreads with sunny side quail’s egg, parmesan spinach, potato fondue, pickled ramps (this one was a standout).

10:30 pm – Our babysitter needs to leave early tonight, so Michele grabs a cab home. I stay on, for a show at AS220.

12:00 am – The band Melt Banana plays in AS220’s tiny venue, where you can get up close and mingle with the bands.

1:00 am – I take an UberX ride home! Just 2 minutes after calling…

I’ve always thought that a perfect city is one that you can “use” to its fullest regularly. And with that as my definition, I’m in the right place for now…

For more information:

Aim High Academy
3355 S County Trail
East Greenwich, RI
http://www.aimhighacademy.com/

Allie’s Donuts
3661 Quaker Lane
North Kingstown, RI
https://www.facebook.com/AlliesDonuts

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market (Saturdays 9 am-1pm and Wednesdays 4-7pm through May 17, 2014)
at Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket, RI
http://www.farmfresh.org/winter

Tallulah on Thames
464 Thames Street
Newport, RI
http://www.tallulahonthames.com/

Sassy Mama Cuisine
at Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket, RI

The French Tarte
at Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket, RI
http://www.frenchtarte.com/

ACKpack Basket Studio
at Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket, RI
https://www.facebook.com/pages/ACKpack-Basket-Studio/467747816608744

Barden Family Orchard
56 Elmdale Rd
North Scituate, RI
http://www.bardenfamilyorchard.com/

Harmony Hill Farm
Barrington, RI
http://harmonyhill-farm.com/

Providence Performing Arts Center
220 Weybosset Street
Providence, RI
http://www.ppacri.org/

FirstWorks
http://first-works.org/

Providence Children’s Museum
100 South Street
Providence, RI
www.childrenmuseum.org

Olga’s Cup & Saucer
103 Point Street
Providence, RI
www.olgascupandsaucer.com

Narragansett Creamery
www.richeeses.com

Brown University/Trinity Repertory Theatre
www.browntrinity.com

Gracie’s
194 Washington Street
Providence, RI
graciesprovidence.com

AS220
115 Empire Street
Providence, RI
www.as220.org

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular

A photo from the 2012 Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.

A photo from the 2012 Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.

There are only a handful of events that we have made annual traditions since we moved here four years ago, and one of those is the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Zoo. How can you not be impressed with 5,000 intricately carved and painted pumpkins lit from within nestled within the woodsy paths of the zoo?

This year, they’ve upgraded their snacks so now I can eat some Gerbs spicy pumpkin seeds and sip a Union Station pumpkin ale during my walk. And for the kids, there’s still plenty of cotton candy, soft pretzels and hot cider to be found.

The theme this year, Pumpkinville, USA showcases regions of the country–our older daughter’s favorite was a showcase of jack-o-lanterns staged around a Wild West façade that featured a general store, sheriff and county jail. I always love the finalé, which features hundreds of mini jack-o-lanterns strung on every tree and branch with Winx’s Don’t Laugh playing.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular
at Roger Williams Park Zoo
http://rwpzoo.org/178/jack-o-lantern-spectacular

October 3 – November 3, 6pm – 11pm, with the last admission at 10pm. On Saturdays, admission will be extended an hour, with the last admission at 11pm, and the trail closing at 12am.

Gerbs Gourmet Seeds
www.mygerbs.com

Union Station Brewery
36 Exchange Terrace
Providence, RI
=www.johnharvards.com/locations/providence-ri

See also write-up of the 2009 Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.

Surfing at Narragansett Town Beach

The waves at Narragansett Town Beach.

The waves at Narragansett Town Beach.

I have been surfing for eight years. I’ve surfed in Miami, Hawaii, Cape Code and Rhode Island. Yet if I counted up the hours I’ve spent surfing, it wouldn’t match even one summer for a dedicated surfer. That’s what happens when you learn to surf while going to graduate school, raising two children, and running a business (not to mention, writing this blog). Consequently, there seems to be no end to the amount of surfing lessons that I need.

Plus, the truth is that I’m terrified of surfing. And I am absolutely addicted to it.

So, yesterday, I joined a group lesson with Narragansett Surf & Skate instructor Mike. I had been watching the water for the previous two hours so I had seen surfers of every age, gender, shape and size paddle out and catch some waves, with or without an instructor.  I met a family visiting from Quebec, and all three daughters (the youngest of which was only six-years-old) started with a group lesson, but afterwards stayed in the water with their rented boards catching their own waves. Their father even wound up renting a board to get in on the action.

At Narragansett Town Beach, the waves are clean, modest (1-4 feet) and consistent for beginners. And even though I’ve been surfing for years, I still consider myself  a beginner. Mike pushed me into a few waves, but I also caught some on my own (and missed some on my own). And next time maybe, I’ll even venture out without an instructor — maybe.

Narragansett Surf & Skate
74 Narragansett Ave
Narragansett, RI
(401) 789-7890
www.narragansettsurfandskate.com

Warm Winds Surf Shop
26 Kingstown Rd
Narragansett, RI
(401) 789-9040
www.warmwinds.com

Peter Pan Surfing and SUP Academy
(401) 575-0003
http://peterpansurfingacademy.vpweb.com/

Slater Memorial Park: Fishing, Swan Boats, Carousel, Playground

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our six-year-old has been asking to go fishing since last summer, and this weekend we finally got around to it. As it turns out, Rhode Island has several waters stocked with trout exclusively for children ages 14 and under.  However, for this trip, we headed out to Slater Memorial Park in Pawtucket.

The trip began with a stop at Benny’s — Rhode Island’s answer to Wal-Mart, Benny’s is a small store that often has exactly what you’re looking for (fishing poles, kid’s bikes, school supplies, large storage bins, automotive supplies, gardening equipment and seeds, etc.) There, Geoff bought two fishing poles and some fake bait. The next stop was the R.I. Aquarium and Pet Center for some lively worms.

The reaction shot after catching the fish.

The reaction shot after catching the fish.

We then staked out our spot along the pond at Slater Memorial Park. The first few hours involved our repeatedly twisting the fishing line, twice catching our hook in some tree branches, and reeling in our line repeatedly to discover the fish had once again taken the bait and escaped unhooked. Our two-year-old seemed to think we were simply feeding the fish and exclaimed excitedly each time the hook came back from the pond emptied. Perhaps that’s what made it so surprising when we got pull on her rod and reeled in an actual bass. You can see by the photo how enthusiastically she posed with her fish.

Even without such success, it would have been a great day at the park — we also took a swan boat ride (a bit pricey at $5/person), several carousel rides (only 25 cents each), and found a large playground. The park also contains a children’s zoo at Daggett Farm, a gallery within the Rhode Island Watercolor Society, and a seafood restaurant, not to mention tennis courts, baseball fields and a bike trail. Apparently, we’ll need more than a day to complete our exploration.

Slater Memorial Park
Pawtucket, RI
www.experiencepawtucket.org/bVisitbPawtucket/Recreation/SlaterMemorialPark/tabid/216/Default.aspx

RI Trout-Stocked Waters for Children 14 and under:

  • Frosty Hollow Pond in Exeter
  • Geneva Brook & Pond in North Providence
  • Lapham Pond in Burrillville
  • Lloyd Kenney Pond in Hopkinton
  • Seidel’s Pond in Cranston
  • Silvy’s Pond in Cumberland

More information at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/troutwaters.htm

Benny’s 
www.hellobennys.com

RI Aquarium & Pet Center
905 North Main Street
Providence, RI
(401) 415-0455
www.riaquariumpet.com‎

RI Fishing Licenses (Note: children do not need licenses)

Rhode Island Frozen Lemonade

Del's Lemonade

The girls usually chose watermelon, although I prefer the 'real' frozen lemonade.

The girls usually choose watermelon, although I prefer the ‘real’ frozen lemonade.

There is little argument that Rhode Island has mastered the art of the frozen lemonade: New Yorkers have imported it, and Martha Stewart has copied it.

You usually don’t have to hunt for one of these sweet and sour frozen treats. In addition to physical locations throughout the state, you’ll find either a Del’s Lemonade or New England Frozen Lemonade truck or stand set up near most beaches, farmers’ markets and summer events. They even sell mixes so you can make your own at home (I’ll bet they’re good spiked).

I can’t say I have a preference between the two, although at either I choose the lemonade flavor as opposed to my daughters who always pick watermelon because it’s (sigh) pink.

Del’s Lemonade
locations in North Providence, Cranston, Johnston and East Providence
www.dels.com

New England Frozen Lemonade
locations in Providence, Cranston, Warwick
on Facebook

East Side Music Together

The instrument free-for-all

During each class, there’s an instrument free-for-all where the children can try out different sounds.

Since she was only a few months old, I’ve taken my two-year-old daughter to Music Together — first in East Providence and now on the East Side of Providence. Classes are broken into nine-week intervals with a different theme (and CD to go with it) — Triangle, Bongo, Drum, etc.. The songs include simple sound combinations like Biddy Biddy to favorites like Palo Palo and John the Rabbit, so that children can start singing along as soon as they can make sounds.

Local mom and musician Jen Romanat runs our East Side Music Together class — in our most recent class, Jen led songs on both her guitar and ukulele, and the children sang, dance, spun with the parachute, and tried out a variety of instruments including drums, maracas, and tamborines.

Who wouldn't love parachute play?

Who wouldn’t love parachute play?

The Music Together philosophy suggests that children learn music through adults who model it for them so the class encourages adult participation. And although the children may be quiet during the class, don’t think that they aren’t listening, absorbing and learning. My daughter who sat pensively throughout many of the songs during the last class came home singing them and making the clicking horse noise she learned that day.

Note: Jen Romanat will also be performing at the Hope Street Market on July 3, July 24, August 7, August 21; the Armory Market on July 11, July 18 and August 15; and Gladys Potter Park (Humboldt) throughout the summer.

East Side Music Together
www.eastsidemusictogether.com

Music Together
http://musictogether.com

Just Pickin’ Flowers (Jen’s Music)
www.justpickinflowers.org