PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: Ruth Moody at Iron Horse on Valentine’s Day

Ruth Moody Band
Iron Horse Music Hall ♦ Northampton
Wednesday, Feb 14th, 2012 @ 7pm

Parents' Night Out ticket giveaway for Valentine's Day to see Ruth Moody at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA! Deadline to enter to win: 02/10/12 by 7pm (EST)

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets!

For Valentine’s Day we are pleased to offer a chance to win a pairs of tickets to see Ruth Moody Band on Valentine’s Day, Wed., February 14th, 7pm at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA.

Win the tickets and take your sweetheart or BFF out for Valentine’s Day. Deadline to enter to win is Friday, 02/10/12 @ 7pm (EST). More details below.

ABOUT RUTH MOODY BAND

Although best known for her work with The Wailin’ Jennys, Ruth Moody is a Juno Award winning songwriter who’s made numerous critically-acclaimed albums and appeared more than a dozen times on A Prairie Home Companion. She’s also the former lead singer of The Duhks. She plays guitar, banjo, accordion, piano, and bodhrán and is a gifted songwriter. Writing with a maturity and wisdom that belies her age, her songs are timeless, universal, and exceptionally well-crafted, all sung with an intimacy and honesty that is unmistakably hers. Ruth released her highly-anticipated solo album The Garden in Spring 2010 features with an all-star cast including Crooked Still, Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, k.d. lang), Luke Doucet, and a guest appearance by The Wailin’ Jennys. The Ruth Moody Band, is Adam Dobres (electric guitar), Adrian Dolan (strings, mandolin, accordion) and Sam Howard (bass, vocals). www.ruthmoody.com

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win a pair of tickets to see Ruth Moody Band on Valentine’s Day, Wed., February 14th, 7pm at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. is easy & simple!  To enter to win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting “Like” below
  • TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES KEEPS YOU CONNECTED WITH DATE NIGHT OPPORTUNITIES  below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Tuesday, 02/10/12 @ 7pm (EST)

If you don’t win you should still go. Tickets are available at the Northampton Box office, online at IHEG.com, or by calling 413-586-8686.

Ticket Giveaway: Family Dance Party with Joan Holliday

Win a Family 4-Pack of Free Tickets…

Family Dance Party with Joan Holliday
Saturday, February 11th, 2012 @ 10am-12Noon
at Northampton Center for the Arts

On Saturday, February 11th, Northampton Center for the Arts (17 New South Street, 3rd Floor) will host a FAMILY DANCE PARTY from 10am-12Noon with DJ Joan Holliday from 93.9 FM The River, co-sponsored by Hilltown Families… and we have a family 4-pack of tickets to giveaway to one lucky family! Deadline to enter to win is 02/08/12. Find out how to enter to win below.

Families from throughout the Pioneer Valley will don their dancing shoes at this benefit for Nonotuck Community School. Come join kids of all ages under the disco ball and groove to a mix of classics, new tunes, and kids favorites at this all-for-the-family dance party! 

“I’ve loved music since I was an infant (a peace and love British invasion child of the 60s!),” says Joan Holliday. “As a radio DJ at 93.9 WRSI The River, and an events DJ for almost ten years, I am especially excited to get the kids dancing to benefit Nonotuck!  It’s fun for a great cause, and we’re gonna fill that dance floor!

ABOUT THE NCS 2012 WINTER FAMILY CONCERT SERIES

Hilltown Families is a proud sponsor of the NCS Winter Family Concert Series, an annual three-part Winter Family Concert Series hosted by Nonotuck Community School. The 2012 season started off with The Nields in January, followed by A Family Dance Party with DJ Joan Holliday this month, and Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem will conclude the series in March.  Proceeds from this concert series will go to benefit Nonotuck Community School, a nonprofit parent cooperative that provides early education and care for children aged 15 months to 5 years old, and is located in Florence, Massachusetts (221 Riverside Drive, 586-5996). For more information visit: www.nonotuck.org or call 413-586-5996.

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win a family 4-pack of tickets to Joan Holliday’s Family Dance Party at Northampton Center for the Arts on Saturday, February 11th, 2012 from 10am-12Noon, is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting “Like” below
  • TELL US YOUR FAMILY’S FAVORITE SONG (NAME OF SONG/ARTIST) FOR SHAKING AWAY THE WINTER BLUES FOR OUR COMMUNITY PLAYLIST  below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 02/08/12 @ 7pm (EST).

Q&A: Getting the Family to Enjoy One Meal Together

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Having kids help in the preparation of dinner is a great way to share with them the stories behind family recipes, the science of cooking and the nutritional goodness of whole foods... and in the end, maybe even be more inclined to enjoy one meal cooked together.

No one in my family eats the same thing come dinner time! Any advice?

  • Anita Morehouse writes, “LOL! We can’t even agree on a time to eat, never mind what to eat!”
  • Michael Muller writes, “Pizza?”
  • Brooksley Williams writes, “If my kids (ages 5 and 3) balk at what I’m serving for dinner, I express my confidence and excitement at how hungry they will be for breakfast. Eventually, they come around.”
  • Heather Richardson writes, “Everything my husband and I eat is offered to the kids…if they don’t eat it, then well they don’t eat! They won’t starve!”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “Same here-and they’re identical twins! There are only a handful of meals that everyone will eat and we still usually have to provide different veggies! We are desperately trying to diversify but so far have only succeeded in creating more choices!”
  • Belchertown Mass writes, “When I make a meal, everyone must eat some of it, no matter how small of a portion. If they’re still hungry after that, they can make themselves something else…like a bowl of cereal.”
  • Mindi Palmer Fried writes, “No advice, but we’ve got the same issue here so I’m taking notes!”
  • Michelle Huddy writes, “When we had this issue a couple of years ago, I would make the meal and then have whole wheat bread and butter on the table. They needed to try what the parents were having, and if they didn’t like it, they could have the bread. I especially liked this because then my husband and I didn’t have to get up for different foods during the meal!”
  • Kate McCarthy Roy writes, “I agree with Brooksley…one meal made, eat it or don’t…your choice!!”
  • Pauline Delton writes, “I have a kid who it turns out had a lot of food sensitivities. Keep in mind that kids also reject foods if the foods bother them, even if they can’t verbalize it. We’ve been serving foods that I know he is clear to eat and has willingly eaten recently, keeping it simple because I know he doesn’t like mixed up meals. There are a few items to eat, and that’s it. But, if he’s not hungry at dinnertime, he can have leftovers before brushing his teeth. Not everyone is hungry at the same time…”
  • Amy Meltzer writes, “I insist they try everything, but don’t insist they eat something they don’t like. I don’t want to eat things I don’t like. I usually have a backup for the picky eater (whole wheat bagel or tortilla along with a fruit or vegetable).”
  • Jennifer Friedman writes, “We have a rule …. what is on the table is what is for dinner. If you don’t like it, you’ll be super hungry for breakfast! Nobody is forced to eat anything, and I try to always serve some of what I know people will eat, but the rule cuts down on the fussing. It only takes one night of not eating dinner to come around to eating what is served!”
  • Annie Bob DeCoteau writes, “We do the same as Jennifer and now my kids will eat just about anything. We do have the “try it once” rule and they are pretty willing to at least try something.”
  • Arianna Alexsandra Grindrod writes, “I know I am an excellent cook as I receive that feedback from my husband and friends so I really appreciate that I am not the only one saying – this is what is for dinner, take it or leave it.”
  • Julie Jones writes, “We ate in our ski gear last spring-boots, skis, goggles, etc.”
  • Jennifer Leveille LaValley writes, “We make our Sunday dinner a sit down family meal- we all help cook and we all help clean up ….it’s something we look forward to since our hectic schedules do not allow us to all eat together any other day.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Mish Mish]

Suggested Events for Jan 28th-Feb 3rd, 2012

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Even in mid-winter Western MA families can enjoy fresh local food from nearby farms and weekly winter farmers' markets. This Saturday at Forest Park is the Springfield Winter Fare. From 10am-2pm families can enjoy a lively and diverse farmers' market, free workshops, cooking demos, bartering of canned goods and fun! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout Western Massachusetts while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.

BEST BETS

As Hilltown Families enters its seventh year, celebrate the past six by voting for Hilltown Families as Best Local Blog in the Valley Advocate's Best of the Valley Readers' Poll for 2011! Best Local Blog is listed under the "Media Mavens" category. Deadline to vote is Noon, Feb 8th. Click on the banner to cast your vote! Must vote for at least 10 of your local favorites... how about some of our sponsor?

Saturday, Jan 28th at 1pm in Hampshire Co. – KIDS’ CONCERT: The Four Story players present, “Peter and the Wolf and Other Stories” at the Eric Carle Museum today! The event is part of the Northampton Community Music Center’s Family Concert Series. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. ($)

Later in the day on Saturday, Jan 28th from 5-7pm also in Hampshire Co. – ANIMAL ADVENTURES: Visit Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary for a puppet show presentation of the story Owl Moon and learn about the owls that live locally. After the show, head outside to look and listen for owls. Call to register. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road. Easthampton, MA. (<$)

On both Saturday & Sunday, Jan 28th & 29th from 10am-5pm in Hampden Co. – TRAINS: The Amherst Railroad Hobby Show will take place at the Better Living Center at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds (1305 Memorial Ave.). Over 50 model railroad displays in varying scales, vendors, crafts, clinics, and more. If you have kids crazy over trains, here’s 7 acres of railroad mania! 267-4555. West Springfield, MA (>$)

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Push back against the commercialization of Valentine's Day while getting creative with your kids and connecting with your community... sign up to participate in the Hilltown Families 4th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap! Click on the banner to find out more and to sign up! It’s free and open to all families in Western MA.

Saturday, February 4th in Hampshire Co. from 9:30-11am – VALENTINES: Make your own valentines at the Eric Carle Museum’s valentine-making party!  Kids will get to choose of different materials, and if you visit the galleries, they may be inspired by an art style.  413-625-1138.  125 West Bay Road.  Amherst, MA.  (<$)

Saturday, February 4th in Berkshire Co. from 10:30-11:45am - CHINESE NEW YEAR: Learn about Chinese culture and the celebration of Chinese New Year at the Mason Library by doing some themed crafts and activities from 10:30-11:45am!  There will be a variety of  age-appropriate activities for kids ages 12yo and youner.  Then from 11:45am-12:30pm, the library hosts a lunch buffet of good luck noodles and fried rice.  Talk with your children about why different cultures eat different foods and how they incorporate these foods into their holiday celebrations.  RSVP required. 413-528-2403.  231 Main Street.  Great Barrington, MA.  (FREE)

BULLETIN BOARD

Hilltown Families will host a free informal roundtable discussion for parents, educators and community members interested in a dialogue about creative free play in a commercialized world on Tuesday, February 7th from 6-7:30pm at Cup & Top Cafe in Florence, MA, sponsored by Hilltown Families and the Northampton Public Schools. Click on the banner to find out more!

OPEN HOUSE: Amherst Montessori School will hold an Admissions Open House for Parents, Saturday, February 4, 10AM-12noon. Learn what a Montessori education is all about, and if it is the right choice for your child. By following true Montessori principles, Amherst Montessori School nurtures each child’s spirit by demonstrating respect for others and a celebration of diversity, while offering a competitive academic curriculum. To register for the Open House, please call 413-253-3101. Amherst Montessori School, 27 Pomeroy Lane, Amherst. www.amherstmontessori.org.

OPEN HOUSE: On Sunday, Feb 5th Greenfield Center School will host a Birds of Prey Open House from 1-4pm. Come from 1-2pm to hear Tom Ricardi, Raptor Rehabilitator, talk about his work. See several majestic live birds of prey. From 2-4pm enjoy light snacks and bird-related activities and projects. Dissect an owl pellet, make masks and more. Kindergarten through 5th grade classes will be open for touring. All activities are free. www.centerschool.net. Birds of Prey Open House, K-5th, Sun. Feb. 5, 1-4pm.

KIDS MUSIC CAMP: WinklePicker Mardi Gras Kids Music Camp (for kids age 10-15), Sat. Feb. 18 from 10:30am-2:30 pm at Ashfield Preschool, Ashfield.  Fiddle players, accordion aces & guitar players – learn Cajun technique from Stuart Kenney (Dewey Balfa’s band) and friends. Intermediate-level players, bring your fiddle, accordion or guitar, attend the workshops, then rehearse as “The WinklePickers” and perform at the Mardi Gras Ball with Buckwheat Zydeco (7:00 PM, Ashfield Town Hall)! Pack a bag lunch, WinklePicker will supply beverages. Fee is $25/Student and includes 1 adult ticket admission to the Chris Smither concert and the Buckwheat Zydeco concert and after-party.  Tickets at Elmer’s Store & www.WinklePickerFest.com or call 413-230-0237 to register.

COOKING WORKSHOPS: Three WinklePicker Cajun & Creole Cooking Workshops  Feb. 17, 18, 19 at Elmer’s Store, Ashfield.  New Orleans chef and Food Director at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Michelle Nugent will demonstrate Cajun & Creole cuisine in 3 demo & tasting classes over 3 days.  Learn to make Duck Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffée & Gateau de Sirop; Oysters Rockefeller, Seafood Gumbo, Pecan Fish Muniere & Bananas Foster; or Crabmeat Ravigote, Shrimp Creole, Grillades & Grits & Brandy Milk Punch.  Classes/tastings run 3 hours per session; see website for daily schedule & menu. Capacity is limited; advance registration is strongly recommended.  $65/class; $175 3-classes advance price only. Tickets at Elmer’s Store and www.WinklePickerFest.com.

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. See your event, camp, workshop, business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter! Find out more about our Enhanced Publicity options and how we can help with your marketing.

DINNER ON US: UMass Amherst and the Amherst Family Center are presenting Dinner On Us, a dinner-and-discussion series for families on Monday, February 6th from 5:30-7:30pm.  The event begins with dinner from 5:30-6, and children’s activities will take place from 5:45-7:30.  Parent discussion will be from 6-7:30.  This week’s topic is building vocabulary and encouraging language development in young learners, and is hosted by Claire Hamilton, a member of the education faculty at UMass.  Takes place in the Student Union Building, Room 428.  413-545-0865.  280 Hicks Way.  Amherst, MA.  (FREE) [CANCELED]

HISTORY: The Berkshire County Homeschool Community hosts a presentation titled, “Cotton and Race in the Making of America” on Thursday, February 9th at 7pm.  The talk, which is best for older students who have some background in American history, will address the connections between the economic growth the the United States saw as a result of the cotton industry and issues of race and the American experience.  Students can learn about topics that are often not addressed in typical studies of American history and the textile industry, and they will learn to make connections between issues of race in modern culture and the issues present during the 19th century.  This event can be paired with a visit to the American Textile History Museum, too, for an even broader study of the importance of the textile industry.  Takes place at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire.  413-528-6378.  270 State Road.  Great Barrington, MA.  (FREE)


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS:
Jan 28th—Feb 3rd, 2012

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Read the rest of this entry »

Students Invited to Create Wind Turbines & Sustainable Dollhouses for Expo

KidWind & Green Dollhouse Challenge at the
Western MA Science & Sustainability Expo

This May, Greenfield Community College will be hosting the first annual Western Massachusetts Science and Sustainability Exposition. The expo is an opportunity for educators and students to share and showcase their projects, initiatives, services, and resources surrounding the topic of sustainability.

The exposition also includes two exciting learning opportunities for students- the KidWind Challenge and the Green Dollhouse Challenge. Each of the challenges calls for students to design and build a realistic, working model.  KidWind calls for a wind turbine, and Green Dollhouse requires students to create a dollhouse that uses renewable energy sources and features sustainable materials and design.

KIDWIND ♦ For KidWind, the turbines will be judged based on a few different criteria, including energy harnessing efficiency and cost to create. More information is available at www.kidwind.org.

GREEN DOLLHOUSE ♦ In the Green DollHouse challenge, students will have to get creative to come up with as many different sustainable aspects as they can to incorporate into their house! From each challenge, students will learn about sustainably building, renewable energy, and architecture/design. Both projects can be tied in with studies of physics, environmental science, and/or architecture.

For more information about the expo or either of the challenges, contact Susan Reyes at 413-259-1658.

5 Winter Carnivals & Festivals in Western MA

Five Winter Carnivals & Festivals Happening in the Four Counties of Western MA

Winter Carnival in Holyoke, MA

Jan. 29th – Feb 4th, 2012

January 29th-February 4th, 2012 ♦ A weeklong winter celebration happens with the Holyoke Winter Carnival!  Between January 29th and February 4th, there will be over 25 different events taking place all over the city.  This year is the first year that Holyoke has hosted a winter carnival- the idea behind the event (besides fun!) is to bring together the city’s diverse community through winter-themed events.  There are events taking place every single day- the highlights of which include a domino tournament (if your kids don’t know how to play, they can learn), a dog show full of local pups, an intergenerational music show, community dinners, a hot chocolate social at the Holyoke merry-go-round, sledding and accessible outdoor winter activities, and many of other events centered around art and music.  Attending winter carnival events is a way to be a part of and to learn more about the city’s unique culture and community… plus it’s fun!  For more information on the celebration and a complete schedule of events and locations, visit www.holyokewintercarnival.org.

Winter Carnival in Greenfield, MA

Feb. 3rd-5th, 2012

February 3rd-5th, 2012  ♦ Following Holyoke’s inaugural weeklong Winter Carnival is Greenfield’s 90th Annual Winter Carnival happening February 3rd-5th!  Greenfield Winter Carnival begins with a community bonfire, at which there will be fire dancers and exciting fireworks.  Other events for the weekend include a hockey game featuring Greenfield players, a guided showshoe trek through the Rocky Mountain trails, a cardboard sled race, the annual cribbage tournament, a cookie bake-off and chili cook-off, the 4 mile Sleigh Bell Run, and a Family Fun Day at the Greenfield Youth Center with art activities, face painting, games, and a movie.  Activities that take place throughout the weekend include sledding, ice skating, pony rides, and more!  Winter Carnival is a way to get your family outdoors and is a way to appreciate and celebrate the local community and culture.  Just because winter in Western MA is cold doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it!  For more information, visit www.greenfield-ma.gov.

Winterfest in Amherst, MA

Feb. 11th, 2012

February 11th, 2012 ♦  The town of Amherst’s annual Winterfest will be at  Cherry Hill Golf Course on February 11th from 12noon-6pm.  Winterfest is a community celebration of winter and the unique activities that can only take place during the coldest, iciest, crispiest time of year!  The event includes, of course, traditional winter activities like (weather dependent) sledding, snow tubing, and cross country skiing (lessons will be available!), as well as activities unique to Winterfest, like the Frisbee long toss contest, the Cardboard Classic (which involves cardboard boxes and sledding), and sled dogs!  Along with all of the fun, there will be bird watching treks where visitors can learn about the birds who stay in the area for the winter and how to identify them.  If you get hungry during the day, you can snack on chili from the chili cook-off, and parents can test beverages at the wine tasting.  The event is made up of such a unique array of activities that any family can be kept entertained!  For more information, visit www.winterfestamherst.com.

10×10 Festival in Pittsfield, MA

Feb. 16th-26th, 2012

February 16th-26th, 2012  ♦ This year, Pittsfield is hosting the Berkshires’ first ever winter contemporary arts event- the 10×10 Festival!  From February 16th-26th, the city will come alive with events, exhibits, and performances featuring contemporary art, dance, music, theater, and more!  The festival’s name comes from the amount of work shown: Barrington Stage Company will include ten 10-minute plays from Barrington Stage Company; Beacon Cinema will present ten short films shot using cell phones; Mission Bar and Tapas will host ten songwriters; YBar will present ten poets; and New Stage will host ten comedy acts!  Other locations in town will showcase artwork.  Going to some of the festival’s events or looking at artwork is a way to discover art with your family, and to art taking place in the community.  For more information, visit www.discoverpittsfield.com.

WinklePicker in Ashfield, MA

WinklePicker Festival in Ashfield, MA

Feb. 17th-19th, 2012

February 17th-19th, 2012 ♦  WinklePicker festival is coming to the Hilltowns!  The festival’s tag line is, “When New Englanders Go Barnyard Crazy!” and there will be a number of opportunities for family fun through out the weekend in Ashfield, MA.  This Mardi Gras-themed festival will include several live concerts (including Buckwheat Zydeco, the Primate Fiasco, and Chris Smither), a Cajun music camp for kids (the end result of which will be a kids’ group opening for Buckwheat Zydeco!), and Cajun & Creole cuisine cooking classes with chef Michelle Nugent.  There will also be, in the spirit of Mardi Gras, an exhibit of costumes from which kids can learn about the art of costuming and costume design.  WinklePicker will be full of opportunities to learn and experience Cajun culture and traditions!  For more information, visit www.WinklePickerFest.com.

Fire & Ice: Early New England Culture, Industry and Ice at OSV

Fire and Ice Days at Old Sturbridge Village
January 28th & 29th, 2012

Ice harvesting on the OSV Mill Pond (Courtesy Photo)

If your family was without power during the Halloween blizzard, what did you do to keep your refrigerated goods cold?  It’s likely that you, like many families, buried them in the snow.  Before we had electric refrigeration, that used to be the only way to keep foods cold!  Ice was once an important “cash crop” in New England, and you can learn about the history and science behind ice harvesting at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend!

On January 28th and 29th, OSV hosts Fire and Ice Days, an event that includes ice harvesting, ice skating, sledding (on vintage 1830’s sleds!), and horse-drawn sleigh rides.  Visitors can join historians from OSV, as well as Storrowton Village’s own ice harvesting expert Dennis Picard, for demonstrations of ice harvesting at the village’s Mill Pond.  Visitors can even try out the saws and augers used by ice harvesters during the 1830’s.  Later in the day, there will be a bonfire where visitors can warm up and enjoy cider, songs, and stories!

Fire and Ice Days are both fun and educational- there are many hands-on activities for families to enjoy for a seasonal learning experience.  Learning about the importance of ice harvesting is a great way to supplement kids’ studies of early New England industries and culture, or maybe even food history!  

Old Sturbridge Village is open from 9:30-4pm each day with free entrance for kids during the month of January.  Ice harvesting, as well as other snow and ice related activities, is dependent on weather and proper conditions.  If conditions do not allow a harvest, the event will still take place but ice won’t be harvested.  For more information, call 800-733-1830 or visit www.osv.org.

Did you know?

  • If insulated, ice could survive the 16,000-mile, 130-day trip from Boston to Bombay.
  • Chicagoans saw their first lobster in 1842, shipped from the East Coast.
  • The first shipment of ice to England melted because customs officials couldn’t decide how to classify the 300-ton cargo of ice.
  • Ship owners were at first reluctant to carry ice for fear it would melt in the holds of the ships and endanger them.
  • Sawdust, previously a worthless byproduct of sawmills, proved to be an excellent insulator for ice, and provided extra income for lumber mills.
  • Before ice:
    • In the heat of summer, milk would keep for only an hour or two before it began to spoil, and fresh meat wouldn’t keep much longer than a day
    • A chicken had to be cooked the day it was plucked
  • The story of Frederic Tudor, Boston’s “Ice King” who created the ice industry, was presented at the Harvard Business School in the 1930s as a model of the classic entrepreneur; someone who is determined, takes risk, fails, tries again and succeeds.

Excerpted from At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

Pioneer Valley History Network Welcome Stories from Pioneer Valley History

Pioneer Valley History Network
“Disasters in the Pioneer Valley” Project

Pioneer Valley History Network: Celebrating Local History in Western MA

Last year, the Pioneer Valley History Network’s website featured the history of remarkable women throughout the Pioneer Valley.  The topic was incredibly popular, and even lead to museum exhibits, talks, and other events featuring information from the site!

This year, the group’s topic will be disasters in the Pioneer Valley.  Either natural  or man-made, disasters have a way of drawing communities together.  Disasters range in severity from a massive flood affecting numerous towns (such as the Mill River flood in 1874, which received worldwide news coverage- quite uncommon at that point in history) to a house fire that displaces a family.  Disasters call for a cohesive and directed initial response, and can shape a community and its culture for years to come.

There have certainly been numerous disasters throughout Pioneer Valley history, and while they’re nothing to celebrate, they are significant events that shaped what the community is today.  If your family has a story about a local disaster, create a write-up and submit it to the website!  This could also be turned into a learning activity- visit your local library or historical society and do some research!  If there’s a notable event, find out all you can.  Then, have your kids piece together the story- maybe even scan some old pictures! Students will learn about local history and will learn how to do advanced research.  To submit an event, e-mail a description to camcca@charter.net.  To visit the group’s website and learn more about the project, visit pvhn3.wordpress.com.

“Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit” Featured on Connecting Point

Connecting Point Features “Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit”

Thank you to Dave Fraser from WGBY Public Television’s Connecting Point for traveling to Worthington, MA for a feature on Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit which aired on Jan 17th, 2012:

In 2011 the exhibit was on display in seven different locations through out the region.

In 2012 the show started out the year in Worthington for the first two months, will be moving the Treehouse in Pittsfield for the month of June, will be inviting local artists to join the show in Cummington in July, the Westhampton Library will host in August, and the Quarry Cafe gallery at River Valley Market Co-Op will host in November. All are great opportunities to showcase photographs from the region in community gathering spaces.

All  images in the exhibit are for sale and are a fundraiser for Hilltown Families. All net proceeds from the sale of images will benefit the organization. Contact us to inquire about hosting this fundraising exhibit for Hilltown Families in your town/venue.


“Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit” is supported in part by grants from local Cultural Councils in Ashfield, Buckland, Chesterfield, Cummington, Westhampton and Worthington — all local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

4 Western MA College’s Host National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Four Western MA College’s Host
National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Girls try out lacrosse, squash, softball, golf and many other sports during National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Title IX, the law that made sex-based discrimination in school sports illegal, turns 40 this year!  Young women can celebrate their equality by participating in National Girls and Women in Sports Day at a local Western MA college campus!  The national event takes place on February 1st, but local colleges are hosting their own special days in the weeks before and after the day.

Smith College’s event will take place on Sunday, January 29th from 12:30-4pm in Northampton, MA.  Girls in grades 3-5 are invited to the campus to take part in workshops on sports like rowing, tennis, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, and rock climbing.  Girls will get to choose which sports they learn about- it’s a great opportunity to try out something new, or to learn about a sport that has not traditionally been a women’s sport.  To register, visit www.smithpioneers.com.

Williams College will host their National Girls and Women in Sports celebration on Saturday, February 4th in Williamstown, MA.  Taking place from 10:30am-1:30pm, the event is similar to Smith’s in that it features workshops with student athletes on a variety of sports!  Girls who take part in the event can also take a yoga class or try out rowing!  The event is followed by a women’s basketball game against Bowdoin College, and girls who participated in the event can attend for free.  Girls in grades K-6 can attend.  To register, e-mail erd1@williams.edu.

Springfield College celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Saturday, February 11th from 9am-2pm.  Girls in grades K-6 can visit the school and take part in sports and exercise workshops, and they’ll get to meet the Springfield College women’s basketball team, too (There’s an opportunity to see a game after the event as well.)!  National Girls and Women in Sports Day is not only a way for girls to learn more about sports, it’s a way for kids to learn new and exciting ways to get active and an opportunity for them to see real life examples of successful female athletes.  Registration requested by calling 413-748-3756.

UMass’ celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day takes place on Sunday, February 19th from 12noon-1:15pm in Amherst, MA.  Girls can learn about and try out sports like lacrosse, field hockey, cheer leading, rowing, soccer, and more!  The event also includes a ticket to a women’s basketball game at the Mullins Center at 2pm.  Registration required by calling 413-577-7252.

Taking part in one of the events or just learning about the day can be an empowering experience for young female athletes.  Learning from women who have mastered a sport will show girls an attainable level of skill in a sport, and will provide a realistic picture of where playing a sport can get them in life.

12 Picture Books to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Dozen By Demi: Books to Celebrate Chinese New Year

A recurring subject Demi's large body of work is that of ancient China. Many of her books are steeped in Chinese art, history, folklore, and tradition. Here are a dozen titles written and illustrated by Demi that celebrate Chinese culture.

With over 140 children’s books published to her name, the author/illustrator known simply as Demi has given readers dozens of stories to savor over the years. From the many picture book biographies she has created to the retellings of different cultural folktales, Demi provides a visual feast every time. Her authentic and original work shows a reverence toward her material and strives to uncover universal truths in both stories and pictures. Her books are not only good reads but also leave you with something to ponder.

Demi has a distinct artistic style, characterized by vivid color, exquisite detail, and the use of gold leaf, which makes the illustrations glitter and shine and imbibes them with a kind of magic. Tiny, lively figures populate her books, and intricate patterns, often resembling rich brocade, adorn clothing, furniture, buildings, even the end papers.

She is said to use the “four Chinese treasures” in every book: Chinese paintbrush, ink, ink-stone, and paper. Her commitment to traditional methods and materials is evident in The Dragon’s Tale. On the copyright page she wrote about the colors used in mixing her paints, and how “To all, powdered jade was added for good fortune!” She also noted, “The brushes were made of sheep, rabbit, goat, weasel, and wolf hairs picked in autumn for pliancy. A brush of one mouse whisker was used for extremely delicate work. Changes were made by applying the juice of the apricot seed.”

A recurring subject in her large body of work is that of ancient China. Many of her books are steeped in Chinese art, history, folklore, and tradition. Here are a dozen titles written and illustrated by Demi that celebrate Chinese culture. Happy New Year! Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai!

The Dragon’s Tale and Other Animal Fables of the Chinese Zodiac   — Twelve fables rendered within circular motifs tell stories about the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each fable leaves the reader with a morsel of wisdom to chew on. (Published by Henry Holt & Co., 1996.)

Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!  —  A simple, but charming introduction to the rituals and ideas behind Chinese New Year, from the last fifteen days of the old year spent cleaning and preparing to the first fifteen days of the new year spent celebrating. (Published by Crown Books for Young Readers, 2003.)

Happy New Year! Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai!  —  A look at the traditions, zodiac, symbols, and foods associated with Chinese New Year, and illustrated with vibrant double page spreads. More information than her other new year book, but this edition is harder to find. (Published by Dragonfly Books, 1999.)

The Boy Who Painted Dragons  —  Ping paints dragons all over his house, not because he loves them, but because he is scared of them. The Heavenly Dragon gives Ping three pearls of wisdom. But in order to gain the wisdom of dragons, Ping must confront his greatest fears. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.)

The Girl Who Drew a Phoenix —  When Feng Huang  attempts to draw a phoenix to attain its magical powers, she is met with ridicule. The Queen Phoenix intervenes, however, and sends Feng Huang on a journey to discover powers that enable her to draw a phoenix that comes to life off the page. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008.)

The Empty Pot  —  In order to choose his successor, an emperor challenges every child to grow the most beautiful flower from the seed he gives to them. Not one flower impresses the emperor. It is Ping’s empty pot which holds the truth. (Published by Henry Holt & Co., 1990.)

The Greatest Power  —  Young emperor Ping sends the children of his kingdom on a year-long quest to find the greatest power in the world. At the end of the year, children present Ping with money, weapons, beauty, and technology, but none are as great as the tiny gift a young girl gives to the emperor. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004.)

The Legend of Lao Tzu and The Tao Te Ching  —  An artistically stunning introduction to the legendary Chinese figure, Lao Tzu, accompanied by twenty verses from the Tao Te Ching. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.)

Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius —  With rich and elaborate illustrations, Demi tells the story of the 11th century Chinese genius, Su Dongpo, whose many talents include being a great statesman, poet, philosopher, painter, architect, engineer, and humanitarian.Lee & Low Books, 2006. (Published by Lee & Low Books, 2006.)

The Magic Pillow  —  Based on a Chinese folktale about a boy who is given a magic pillow able to grant his wishes for fame, power, and wealth. But after a night of sleeping on the magic pillow, the boy is grateful for his humble life. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008.)

The Emperor’s New Clothes  —  A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, set in old, provincial China. An emperor who loves to dress in new clothes is shown who is clever and who is a fool when he walks into the province wearing what he believes are magical robes. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2000.)

Liang and The Magic Paintbrush  —  Liang, who longs to paint, finds a magic paintbrush which can bring his subjects to life. When the greedy emperor tries to use the brush to paint treasures for himself, the magic fails, giving Liang a chance to free himself and oust the emperor forever. (Published by Henry Holt & Co., 1980.)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

Video: Solar Power

Robert Krampf’s Experiment of the Week:
SOLAR POWER

Visiting the world’s largest solar power plants to explore reflection and refraction.

Video:  Solar Power

The Ripple: Naming the Connecticut River

The Heart of Our River

The Connecticut River is ours, right?

It doesn’t really matter if you live in the Pioneer Valley or the Hilltowns of Western MA: when you drive I-91 to invade, or retreat from, the DC-to-Boston sprawl it roils conspicuously beneath bridges or courses by your side—the broad, slow, murmuring River. As you’re chased over the Cooli Bridge by a wolfpack of Volvos, it flashes in the sun like a black snake: unruffled, unhurried and calm. In that instant you know it’s serene and powerful, like great people are.

Connecticut is the name of a state, yes, but also a word that describes our river: “Mohican (Algonquian) quinnitukqut ‘at the long tidal river.’” Our river is tidal for only about sixty-miles, from Long Island Sound to Windsor Locks, home of Bradley Airport; so the Mohican word doesn’t describe our part.

It’s up to us to name it!

Nonotuck is a word the Native Americans who lived in Northampton, Hatfield and Hadley used to describe their home. Nonotuck has a nice sound to it, but is both too literal and not littoral enough.

For our river, we need a name that jumps from its center like a salmon, that wends and purls like a lazy king snake: a name that pronounces its ungraspable yet saturating heart. Because that’s what the middle of the Connecticut River is: the heart + tuc. The Heartuck River. Hmmm…sounds too much like heartache or heart attack. Or hiccup. No, we can’t name it; we must listen.

Draining Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and its namesake Connecticut, our river watershed is the home of the Connecticut River, and its waters, falling from peaks through wetlands to main-body, make up 65% +- of our own bodies. In no metaphorical way are our hearts connected to our Connecticut; our own heart’s blood is its. Western New Englander’s hearts beat with its flowings. Imagine, as I am trying to get you to, your body’s connection to our river. The one we drive by, barely know and want to meet (Meet it; use this map to head to the green spot off of Bashin Rd in Hatfield. It’ll take some doing, and be an adventure: so worth it.).

Last month in my inaugural post to this new column, I linked you to a story the Pocumtuck told of how Mt. Sugarloaf was once a giant beaver.  Now we discover a story from the Anglo-American colonial era, told just as the Industrial Revolution is beginning, by Jonathan Edwards’ grandson & Northampton native, Theodore Dwight. When the first dam spanning our river was built atop the upthrust-granite waterfalls in South Hadley in 1794, the fish population plummeted. And a way of life + a vast free source of protein vanished. Dwight had known, from his youth, the kinds of salmon runs we associate with Alaska.

Before you read his story, think about that. Our river was once as fecund and mighty a source of life, and livelihood, as the Copper or the Kanai.  In 1829, Dwight remembered what happened after the Holyoke Dam.

Let these images ripple through…. Go, look back. Read the old words again, see what he saw. Taste what he tasted. Loved what he loved.

Most, or many, of the fish species he loved live in the Connecticut River, a subject I’ll write about in May when stoneflies fly & maples full leaf.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kurt Heidinger, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Biocitizen, non-profit school of field environmental philosophy, based in the Western MA Hilltown of Westhampton, MA where he lives with his family.  Biocitizen gives participants an opportunity to “think outside” and cultivate a joyous and empowering biocultural awareness of where we live and who we are. Check out Kurt’s monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Bob Gaffney]

Q&A: 14 Recommended Websites by Western MA Parents

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Share your favorite website that helps you best as a Western MA parent!

As a parent, what are your top websites you wouldn’t want to live without?

  • Harmony Niedzwiecki writes: “AllRecipes.com
  • Amanda Kingsley writes: “Am I allowed to say Facebook? It keeps me connected both to friends who can relate to my life with a family, and friends who I would otherwise hardly have time to communicate with. It’ s great way to stay informed and connect with other adults during days that could otherwise be consumed with the constant demands of children’s needs.”
  • Tara J. Bernier writes: “Pinterest is my new addiction.”
  • Danielle Currie writes: “‎#1- Facebook. It’s the only place I don’t have to be in “mom” mode. #2- BerkshireCountyReuseIt. Best place for hand-me-downs and trade-ins! #3- Snapfish. The cheapest place to buy all my photos! #4- Netflix. Family movie nights! #5- ehow.com.  Great place to learn anything!”
  • Deb Fiori writes: “My favorite would be HilltownFamilies.org!”
  • Kara Kitchen ‎writes: “1.) HilltownFamilies.org, for things to do, people to see, places to go WITH our kids. 2). Google, for all those questions kid ask and the homework we parents don’t understand. 3). Facebook, for staying connected to far away family, networking with other parents, sharing a good laugh and having at least one “adult” (albeit probably juvenile in nature ) conversation a day. 4.) Some sort of photo service, for documenting those little milestones. 5.) Favorite travel reservation website, to get away with and without the kids.”
  • Jennifer Shiao writes:Facebook, AllRecipes, HilltownFamilies, KellyMom, and Picasa.”
  • Judy Bennett writes:AskMoxie, BabyCheapskate, Google, Flickr and Hilltown Families.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Kannan Kartha]

Suggested Events for Jan 21st-27th, 2012

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Nordic Skiing at Notchview

Notchview in Windsor, MA offers nordic ski lessons for all ages and skill levels every weekend at 1pm. Beginner lessons happen on Saturdays and intermediate lessons on Sundays.

Suggest EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout Western Massachusetts while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.

BEST BETS

As Hilltown Families enters its seventh year, celebrate the past six by voting for Hilltown Families as Best Local Blog in the Valley Advocate's Best of the Valley Readers' Poll for 2011! Best Local Blog is listed under the "Media Mavens" category. Deadline to vote is Noon, Feb 8th. Click on the banner to cast your vote! Must vote for at least 10 of your local favorites... how about some of our sponsor?

On Saturday, January 21st at 10:30am in Hampshire Co. – FAMILY CONCERT: See local musicians The Nields perform this morning at the First Churches!  The Nields play folk-influenced family-friendly music that both kids and adults will enjoy!  The show is part of Nonotuck Community School’s winter concert series and is sponsored in part by Hilltown Families. Proceeds benefit this non-profit school. 129 Main Street.  Northampton, MA.  ($)

And all day on Saturday, January 21st from 10am-5pm in Hampden Co.- MUSEUM ADVENTURE/ANIMAL STUDIES: “Frogs: a Chorus of Colors” is opening today at the Springfield Museums!  The exhibit features live frogs from all around the world.  Visitors can learn about the habitat that certain types of frogs require, what their coloring looks like, and the unique sound of each frog’s call.  The exhibit is open through May 13th, but today there are special opening day activities including arts and crafts, a scavenger hunt, and more!  800-625-7738.  21 Edwards Street.  Springfield, MA.  ($)

In Franklin Co. this Saturday, January 21st at 10:30am – FAMILY CONCERT: The Carnegie Library hosts a concert with Roger Ticknell!  Ticknell plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, and other stringed instruments from around the world.  He plays a blend of styles, everything from folk to swing!  Kids can enjoy a great show and learn about new instruments and styles of music.  413-863-3214.  201 Avenue A.  Turners Falls, MA.  (FREE) [Postponed to Jan 28th due to weather]

And in Berkshire Co on Sunday, January 22nd at 3pm – CONCERT/MUSIC STUDIES: Spectrum Playhouse hosts a concert for music lovers entitled, “The Violincello in Baroque Italy.”  The concert explores the origins of virtuoso music for the cello, and is a learning opportunity for music students!  Kids can learn about the history of the cello’s role in classical music and the history of Baroque music.  413-394-5023.  20 Franklin Street.  Lee, MA.  ($)

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

It’s that time of the year again! For the past several years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Click on the banner to find out more and to sign up! It’s free and open to all families in Western MA.

Saturday & Sunday, Jan 28th-29th from 10am-5pm – TRAINS: The Amherst Railroad Hobby Show will take place at the Better Living Center at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds (1305 Memorial Ave.). Over 50 model railroad displays in varying scales, vendors, crafts, clinics, and more. If you have kids crazy over trains, here’s 7 acres of railroad mania! 413-267-4555. West Springfield, MA (>$)

Saturday & Sunday, Jan 28th-29th from 9am-4pm – NEW ENGLAND HISTORY: This weekend is Fire and Ice Days at Old Sturbridge Village!  Visit the historic village to learn about ice harvesting, once a very profitable and necessary New England industry.  Weather permitting, there will be ice harvesting demonstrations and visitors will learn about harvesting techniques, as well as the many uses for the cut ice!  Other activities include sleigh rides, sledding, and skating (BYO skates).  800-733-1830.  1 Old Sturbridge Village Road.  Sturbridge, MA.  ($)

BULLETIN BOARD

OPEN HOUSE: Open House at Cloverdale Cooperative Preschool – Jan 22nd, from 2-4pm in back of the First Congregational Church at 130 Pine St. in Florence. See the new layout and learning centers – Meet great teachers and parents who can answer all of your preschool questions. Cloverdale, a half-day parent cooperative preschool, with an option for extended days, has been in existence since 1954. Its philosophy has remained unchanged throughout the years. In the true sense of the word, cooperative teachers and parents work closely together to provide children a meaningful blend of experiences to peak their innate curiosity, therefore imparting a lifetime love of learning. For more info visit www.cloverdalepreschool.com or call 413-586-1106 after 12:30pm.

Hilltown Families will host a free informal roundtable discussion for parents, educators and community members interested in a dialogue about creative free play in a commercialized world on Tuesday, February 7th from 6-7:30pm at Cup & Top Cafe in Florence, MA, sponsored by Hilltown Families and the Northampton Public Schools. Click on the banner to find out more!

OPEN HOUSE: The Academy at Charlemont will be hosting their Open House on January 22nd from 1 to 3 PM.  The Academy is a co-ed college preparatory day school on the Deerfield River serving students in grades 7 to 12 and post graduate. The Academy seeks students that are well rounded and demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a sense of humor, a desire to learn and a genuine concern for others and the community.  Come to the Open House, tour the campus, meet current students and discuss courses with the faculty.  For directions and more information visit www.Charlemont.org.  The Academy at Charlemont: Find your voice. Speak your mind.

Susan Voss of the First Church Nursery School writes: The First Church Nursery School is holding an Open House at 43 Silver Street in Greenfield on Saturday, January 21, 2012 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. We are a fully accredited Nursery School with multi-aged classrooms and flexible scheduling, and our children range from ages 2.9 to 5+. Join us to meet our teachers and parents of our students, and do activities with the kids. Our philosophy is to provide an opportunity for children to explore themselves as individuals and as social beings in a place where they can express themselves creatively and begin to expand their awareness of themselves and the world around them in a supportive environment. Bring the kids and check out our program! For more information call: 413-773-3068

PARENT WORKSHOP: Do you struggle with your child’s behaviors? The Center of Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning will be hosting a free 4-part parent workshop, “Why Do Kids Do What They Do?,” at the Northampton Public School Preschool at Bridge Street School on Wednesday mornings from 9-10:30am on Jan 25, Feb 1, 8 & 29.  Come to this free workshop series to learn strategies in dealing with the challenges of parenting young children. To register and to sign up for child care, contact Barbara Black in the Early Childhood office at 413-587-1471 or bblack@northampton-k12.us. (FREE)

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. See your event, camp, workshop, business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter! Find out more about our Enhanced Publicity options and how we can help with your marketing.

PARENTS' NIGHT OUT: Enter to win a pair of tickets to see the Carolina Chocolate Drops with opening act, Joy Kills Sorrow, at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Sat., Jan 28th. Deadline to enter to win: 1/25.

Lee MacKinnon, Director, Family Education and Support Hilltown Community Health Centers, writes: “With funding from the Mass. Department of Housing and Community  Development, the Hilltown Community Health Centers and the Cummington Family Center will be offering a free “CPR for Family and Friends” class on  Saturday, Jan 28 from 9:30-11:30am at the Cummington Community House. Led by Ed Vivier, Middletown EMT, the class will cover: CPR for  infants, children, and adults; how to protect your family from accidents; and  how to respond in emergencies. This course is designed by the American  Heart Association for people with no CPR experience. It does not include a test or certification, but rather focuses on preparing you to help your family and  friends in an emergency. Call 413-238-5511 X155 to register as enrollment is limited.” (FREE)


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS:
Jan 21st-27th, 2012

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Read the rest of this entry »

Roundtable Discussion: Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World

A Community Conversation with Hilltown Families…

Roundtable Discussion: Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World
Tuesday, Feb 7th from 6-7:30pm in Florence, MA

Come together as a community on Tuesday, February 7th at 6pm in Florence, MA to casually discuss some of the challenges families and educators face in an age of rampant commercialism and ubiquitous technology, while brainstorming together on ideas and strategies for preserving non-commercialized creative free play for our children.

Hilltown Families will host a free informal roundtable discussion for parents, educators and community members interested in a dialogue about creative free play in a commercialized world on Tuesday, February 7th from 6-7:30pm at Cup & Top Cafe in Florence, MA, sponsored by Hilltown Families and the Northampton Public Schools.

  • WHAT: Roundtable Discussion on Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World: A Community Conversation with Hilltown Families
  • WHERE: Cup & Top Cafe, 1 North Main Street, Florence, MA
  • WHEN: Tuesday, Feb 7th, 2012, 6-7:30pm (Snow date: Feb. 21st)
  • COST: Discussion is Free. Dinner from Cup & Top is available through 6:30pm ($).
  • CONTACT: Hilltown Families, hilltownfamilies@gmail.com

On the heels of the holiday season, with another commercialized holiday approaching on Feb 14th (Valentine’s Day), Hilltown Families invites parents, educators and community members to come together to informally discuss some of the challenges we face in an age of rampant commercialism and ubiquitous technology, while brainstorming together on ideas and strategies for preserving non-commercialized creative free play for our children.  

This free roundtable discussion will take place at Cup & Top Cafe in Florence, MA. Participants are warmly welcomed to purchase dinner from the cafe through 6:30pm (gluten-free & nut-free options available).  Free childcare is available in the cafe’s playspace. To sign up for childcare, email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

Hilltown Families roundtable discussions are part of a series of Community Conversations presented by Hilltown Families that invites the community to engage in conversations about raising healthy children including helping children develop a positive sense of self and empathy for others and the world around them.  This evenings roundtable discussion is a continuation of the presentation Hilltown Families hosted before the holidays with with Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe and Consuming Kids, and is co-sponsored by  the Northampton Public Schools/CFCE through a grant from the MA Department of Early Education and Care.

[Image credit: (ccl) Monette Enriquez]

Textile Material Swap in the Hilltowns

Ashfield Needles and Threads Material Swap
Sunday, January 22nd at 1pm

Ashfield Needles and Threads (ANTS) is hosting a free materials swap on Sunday, Jan. 22nd at 1pm. The swap is an opportunity for families to recycle and be inspired!

Do you have bits and pieces of textiles left over from holiday craft projects that you’ll likely not use anytime soon, or tattered and torn clothes your kids have outgrown and you don’t want to see them thrown out?  Or are you a crafter in search of inspiration (or perhaps some new yarn or fabric) for your next project?  Ashfield Needles and Threads (ANTS) is hosting a free materials swap!

On Sunday, January 22nd at 1pm, ANTS’ swap will take place at the Ashfield Congregational Church.  Sewers, knitters, and crafters of all sorts can bring their yarn, patterns, needles, fabric, buttons, thread, and all other bits and pieces (including great ideas to share!) to the swap in order to thin out your collection or bulk up your supplies (or perhaps do a little of both).

Sharing supplies is a totally green way to start a new project- you’ll be preventing waste and will preserve resources by not buying something new!  Kids who are just beginning to venture into the world of knitting or sewing can especially benefit from the swap- they’ll get to peruse the collections of other more experienced crafters and will gain both great materials and project ideas!

All items leftover after the swap will be either taken home by their contributors or will be donated to ANTS for future projects.  The Ashfield Congregational Church is located on Main Street in Ashfield, across from the town green.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Laura Bell]

Recognition of an Unbalanced Mother

Next to Normal

The piano started--a ballad--and I sat up a bit straighter, leaning in, in order to hear the lyrics clearly. “So Anyway” was the title. It was a song written for the lead, a mother…an unbalanced mother…I leaned in even closer identifying immediately with the sentiment of the song, with the sadness and regret, and it happened…

Last night I attended a benefit for our local professional theater. I smiled and laughed at dinner with my sister, her husband and friends. I rocked back and forth, even danced a little in my chair to the INCREDIBLE live music coming from the talented Cabin 3 at the front of the bar. (Okay…a shameless plug for a talented friend.) But if truth be told in the very center of my solar plexus there was an all too common sphere of sadness, dread, rage, anxiety–perhaps it’s a psychotic being–as it seems to be living and breathing. You see, life with the teens, with the hubby, heck—life with the family has not been a picnic lately and the weight of all that disappointment, frustration…resignation pulled upon my limbs as I crossed the street to the theatre making my legs feel like they were wading through thigh-deep mud.

I continued wading through the wine and cheese and small talk of the local elite. I pressed on with my persona of the dutiful mother and happy wife. I rallied hard to ignore the sadness that engulfed me, and refused to listen to the continuous worry reel that was rolling through my mind. Like a Chinese acrobat, I kept spinning those plates high above me and hoped that they wouldn’t come crashing down on some unsuspecting head—forging forward in my familial fog feeling utterly and completely alone with my thoughts.

A writing acquaintance of mine, Katrina Anne Willis (okay okay another shameless plug) recently wrote a blog post in which she stated,

“My marriage, my children — those are the relationships I’ve vowed to hold onto forever. Those are the people, no matter how much they change, to whom I’ll always hold fiercely, always fight for. Those core family relationships are different — at least to me.”

I adore this woman and her incredible writing, but I gotta tell you that sometimes lines like the ones above make me feel utterly inadequate as a mom and as a wife because if I was being truthful, there are days that the changes and challenges brought upon by my marriage and my children seem to me to be a continuous barrage. And that barrage has exhausted me to the point where “holding fiercely” and “fighting for” are the last things I want to do. Maybe it is because I am tired of fighting; fighting to keep those sometimes wayward boys of mine on the straight and narrow, fighting against my selfish nature, fighting to be a better mother, fighting for honesty, fighting against disappointment, fighting to be heard, seen, appreciated just a little and of course the never ending battle for good old fashioned respect and understanding. And while I am at it, I am tired of fighting the incredulous feeling that all of those sacrifices, all of that thinking, all of that effort…was for what—for what? Where I am—where my family is—is exactly where I didn’t ever want it to be, and it’s there despite all the fighting, despite all the thinking and despite all the effort. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Tips on Setting Technology Limits for Your Family

My Top 10 Tips on Setting Technology Limit

One of the best things you can do is to ensure the technology is being used for educating and creating, not just consumption.

Many parents are unsure of how and when to set limits on technology use for their children (and themselves).  I believe this is something we all need to think about, adults as well as kids. Setting technology limits is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is not one policy that will fit every family.  As a parent and educator who encourages students to use technology in a positive and creative way, but is also aware of some of the downsides to certain types of technology use, I have compiled the following guidelines. With technology more and more ubiquitous in our lives, it’s a good time to think through this issue for our children and ourselves: Read the rest of this entry »

Tracking Sunlight: Global Citizen Scientist Activity for Kids

Mystery Class: Tracking Sunlight to Solve a Mystery
Begins January 30th, 2012

Mystery Class, a free global game of hide-and-seek where children study seasonal changes in sunlight, begins January 30th, 2012. Follow photoperiod clues to search for ten secret sites around the world. Track sunlight to solve a mystery! Discover the reasons for seasons along the way.

Seasonal changes take place around the globe alongside changes in the amount of sunlight that a location receives during the day.  Locally, we experience an influx of light as summer approaches, then experience dark in greater quantities as winter begins.

Every place in the world has its own unique times for sunrise and sunset, and thus has its own unique seasonal patterns.  By paying attention to the changes in light around us, we can begin to better understand seasonal changes.

Journey North’s Mystery Class, a free online citizen scientist activity for students, asks kids to do exactly that!  Starting January 30th, students  can record the times of sunrise and sunset at their location and report them to other students around the globe, and then receive the same information from ten groups of students in other locations around the world.  Students then use the information reported to them to determine where on the globe the groups reporting to them must be!

By participating, kids will learn about the seasonal changes in the locations where their mystery groups are, and they’ll also learn about their own location by comparing and contrasting the amounts of daylight, climate, and season of the two places.  Students can share information about their location with the other groups, too!  Mystery Class is an opportunity to learn about the seasons on both a local and global scale!  For more information, visit www.learner.org.

Q&A: Where to Enjoy Hot Chocolate in Western MA

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Hilltown Families readers share their favorite places to enjoy a delicious mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day in Western MA. Share your favorite place too!

Where can a family enjoy a delicious mug of HOT CHOCOLATE following winter adventures ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding or just traveling around town? Share your favorite Western MA spot to stop with the kids for a warm mug of cocoa!

  • Craig Fear recommends: “Cup & Top Cafe in Florence is a great family oriented place.”
  • Sara Barry recommends: “Well, if we have snow, sometimes we like to bring the camp stove and melt snow to make cocoa. Not necessarily the best cocoa, but fun.”
  • Jeff Winston recommends:Haymarket (Northampton) is D-lish.”
  • Meagheanne Donahue recommends: “Not sure if they still do it, but the Old Creamery (Cummington) used to make french hot chocolate that was to die for!!! Chocolate Springs in Lenox is great, too.”
  • Stacy Calabretta recommends: “Yes! The Creamery does, indeed, still have the amazing hot chocolate! That and Woodstar (Northampton) are probably my top two. Chocolate Springs (Lenox) is so yummy too… Ok that’s my top three.”
  • Cultural Pittsfield recommends: “Pancho’s in downtown Pittsfield serves MEXICAN hot chocolate. Delish!”
  • Dawn Klein recommends:Chocolate Springs in Lenox.”
  • Kathleen Theoharides recommends: “The hot chocolate from Elmer’s in Ashfield is to die for.”
  • Sabine N Merz recommends: ‎”Sip Coffee & Tea Bar (Northampton) has very good hot chocolate as well.”
  • Carrie St John recommends: “Woodstar in Northampton.”
  • Suzanne Crerar recommends: “Chocolate Springs in Lenox has hot chocolate to knock your socks off – just off the trails at Kennedy Park.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Sebastian Mary]

Looking for great cup of coffee too? Read our post: Q&A: Best Cup of Joe in Western MA?

Show Your Support for Hilltown Families: Vote for Us!

Hilltown Families: Best Local Blog
Vote for Us by Feb. 8th!

Advocate for Hilltown Families! Invite your family, friends and neighbors to Vote for Us: Best Local Blog (under the "Media Mavens" category)! - Deadline: Feb. 8th by 12Noon.

As Hilltown Families enters its seventh year, celebrate the past 6 with us by voting for Hilltown Families as Best Local Blog in the Valley Advocate’s Best of the Valley Readers’ Poll for 2012! Best Local Blog is listed under the “Media Mavens” category.

Deadline to cast your votes is Noon, Feb 8th.

Participants must vote for a total of 10 local favorites… how about some of our sponsors (listed in the left-hand column)?

Spread the word & share the love!

Click here to cast your votes: www.valleyadvocate.com/ballot

ABOUT HILLTOWN FAMILIES

The Hiltown Families blog is part of a online grassroots communication network for families living in Western MA.  Founded in late 2005 by long time activist, artist and mother, Sienna Wildfield, Hilltown Families serves thousands of families in Western Massachusetts, including the Hilltowns, Pioneer Valley and parts of the Berkshires.

Through a dynamic web site/blog, social networking, listserv, podcast, online bulletin boards, and collaborations with civic and nonprofit groups, Hilltown Families connects people and organizations in the widespread communities of Western MA by helping area residents share ideas, organize activities, support their children’s education and increase participation in community life.

Dean J. Fusto, Head of Upper School and Assistant Head of The Bement School, Deerfield writes:“Sienna is an extraordinarily talented individual. The genesis of the Hilltown Families concept and website grew directly out of her vision. She has overseen its evolution from its modest infancy to a web presence of major scope. Hilltown Families is an internet destination for so many families living in the Pioneer Valley region and beyond. In addition, vis-a-vis RSS feeds, a Facebook presence, and so many other features … it is by far one of my top destinations to visit as a parent and aficionado of Hilltown culture and life.”

Become a Contributing Writer

Take a look at all the fabulous writers who contribute to the Hilltown Families blog!

Hilltown Families aim is to reflect the positive work and educational efforts activists, families, teachers, artists and civic leaders work towards and accomplish in our region, and how that affects, supports and empowers our families/community.  Voices of parent’s surviving the struggles and challenges of parenthood and explorations of the region are shared too, along with photography of life and landscapes in western Massachusetts.

Seth Isman, Economic Developer, Hilltown CDC writes: “Hilltown Families is a model resource for the community. When we want to know what’s happening in the hilltowns, we turn to Hilltown Families first.”

Hilltown Families is dedicated to identifying and creating community based educational opportunities for children and families in the Western MA.  Our list of Weekly Suggested Events in one of the of the blogs anchor posts.  This weekly list helps to build and strengthen our local community by sharing family-friendly events and educational opportunities throughout region.

Jenn Therrien  of Westhampton, MA writes: “Hilltown Families supports all of us in whatever our needs are. From informative resources to community activities, Hilltown Families gives us the knowledge! Knowledge is truly power! Hilltown Families is the epicenter of knowledge. With all the information out there, I can always count on Hilltown’s to be accurate, environmentally aware and the articles have our best interests at heart. As Hilltown Familes grow, quality is never compromised! Refreshing at a time when everyone is cutting corners to save money. We don’t need to worry about that here! Hilltown Families also helps us to connect with local businesses that fit our needs and this helps us have a greater sense of community responsibility. Thank you Hilltown Families!”

In 2011 there were several events Hilltown Families presented, including The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World, I Am Not a Billboard! Do I Have To?: How Chores Empower Families, and Citizen Scientist Volunteer Event on the Westfield River.  There were also several swaps, including Handmade Valentine’s, Winter Wear and a Board Game Swap, and several family concerts, including performances by Mister G, The Deedle Deedle Dees, The Expandable Brass Band and Grammy Award winning storyteller, Bill Harley.

Kyra Anderson of Northampton, MA writes: “I check the site every week for family events, concerts, festivals, and classes! I have found out about countless things I would never have known about (I just don’t read the paper). Thanks so much for all that you do to connect us to community!!”

Click here to cast your votes: www.valleyadvocate.com/ballot

SUPPORT HILLTOWN FAMILIES SPONSORS

To take part in the Valley Advocate’s Best of the Valley Readers’ Poll for 2012, you must vote in 10 or more categories.  Over the years Hilltown Families has had many wonderful sponsors proudly displayed in the left-hand colum.  Consider voting for one of these local businesses, showing your appreciated of their support of Hilltown Families!

Suggested Events for Jan 14th-20th, 2012

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

The first snow fall of the year brings a welcomed white blanket to the grey Western MA landscape... and a call to families to get out and play! Several snowshoe hikes and lessons in nordic skiing happening this weekend! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout Western Massachusetts while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.

BEST BETS

In the morning on Saturday, Jan 14th at 10:30 and 11:30am – MARIONETTES: The Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School puppets will perform a children’s show this morning at Matrushka Toys and Gifts!  The show is captivating and fun for young children.  413-528-4015.  309 Main Street.  Great Barrington, MA.  (FREE)

In the afternoon on Saturday, Jan 14th at 1pm – NORDIC SKIING/OUTDOOR ADVENTURE: Take a Nordic skiing lesson this afternoon at Notchview!  Today’s class is for beginners, so if you’re new to cross-country skiing or you’d like to learn more about the sport, this class is perfect!  It’s ideal for kids who are learning to ski- they’ll be in a group with others with similar amounts of experience.  413-684-0148.  Old Route 9.  Windsor, MA.  ($)

And in the evening on Saturday, Jan 14th at 7:30pm – FAMILY THEATER: Amherst Leisure Services Community Theater presents, “Annie” at UMass’ Bowker Auditorium.  The show features local actors to tell the classic story of orphan Annie!  413-259-3065.  80 Campus Center Way.  Amherst, MA.  ($)

On Sunday, Jan 15th from 11am-4pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURES: The KidSpace at Mass MoCA is open today- explore an exhibit designed just for young people and make some art of your own!  413-664-4481.  1040 Mass MoCA Way.  North Adams, MA.  (<$)

And on Monday, Jan 16th from 1-3pm – FOLK ARTS: Wistariahurst Museum hosts a program on folk art and the art of storytelling via images.  Designed for Girl Scouts but open to all, the program will teach children about the ways in which artists told stories within their pictures.  They’ll also learn how to decipher the story behind a picture and create their own story-telling portrait of their own family.  This event will get kids thinking about more complex expression within art, as well as the importance of their family history.  Registration required by 5pm on Friday.  413-322-5660.  238 Cabot Street.  Holyoke, MA.  (<$)

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

It’s that time of the year again! For the past several years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Click on the banner to find out more and to sign up! It’s free and open to all families in Western MA.

Saturday, January 21st from 10am-5pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURE/ORNITHOLOGY: The Berkshire Museum is opening a new exhibit, “Taking Flight: Audubon and the World of Birds.” The exhibit teaches visitors about John James Audubon and his work, particularly, “The Birds of America,” a book filled with beautiful illustrations and information on the birds that populate our country.  The exhibit showcases artwork from the book along with specimens of each type of bird!  Today, visitors can take part in special opening day activities, including arts and crafts projects (you can make a bird house!), presentations on Audubon’s work, and more!  413-443-7171.  39 South Street.  Pittsfield, MA.  ($)

Sunday, January 22nd from 9:30am-4pm - LIVING MUSEUM/HISTORY: Old Sturbridge Village is offering free admission for kids throughout the month of January!  Families can visit the village to learn about what life and culture was like for early Americans (the village is set in 1830).  If weather permits, you can even add a sledding or skating adventure to your history-filled day.  800-733-1830.  1 Old Sturbridge Village Road.  Sturbridge, MA.  ($)

BULLETIN BOARD

OPEN HOUSE: The Academy at Charlemont will be hosting their Open House on January 22nd from 1 to 3 PM.  The Academy is a co-ed college preparatory day school on the Deerfield River serving students in grades 7 to 12 and post graduate. The Academy seeks students that are well rounded and demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a sense of humor, a desire to learn and a genuine concern for others and the community.  Come to the Open House, tour the campus, meet current students and discuss courses with the faculty.  For directions and more information visit www.Charlemont.org.  The Academy at Charlemont: Find your voice. Speak your mind.

FAMILY CONCERT: Enter to win a family 4-pack of tickets to see The Nields in Northampton on Saturday, Jan 21st. Deadline to enter to win: 1/18.

Susan Voss of the First Church Nursery School writes: The First Church Nursery School is holding an Open House at 43 Silver Street in Greenfield on Saturday, January 21, 2012 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. We are a fully accredited Nursery School with multi-aged classrooms and flexible scheduling, and our children range from ages 2.9 to 5+. Join us to meet our teachers and parents of our students, and do activities with the kids. Our philosophy is to provide an opportunity for children to explore themselves as individuals and as social beings in a place where they can express themselves creatively and begin to expand their awareness of themselves and the world around them in a supportive environment. Bring the kids and check out our program! For more information call: 413-773-3068

CIRCUS ARTS CLASSES: A new session of week day kids’ circus classes  are beginning at SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, MA. Children will work on trapeze, fabric, juggling, tumbling, human pyramids, tight wire, rolla bolla, globe & more. Circus Arts is a great way to increase self esteem, have fun, get in shape, & improve focus.  Classes are available for age groups 5-7, 8-11 & 12-16. Every session will focus on 2 aerials/ground acts & will end with a final presentation for friends & families. With three levels of classes, there is always room to grow & improve! Call 413-527-6901 for more information. Registration is available online at www.showcircusstudio.com 

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. See your event, camp, workshop, business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter! Find out more about our Enhanced Publicity options and how we can help with your marketing.

PARENT WORKSHOP: The Gateway Family Center will be hosting a five-week workshop series on children’s social and emotional development and ways to encourage positive growth.  Beginning on Tuesday, January 17th, the free series will offer parents information on and strategies for teaching children to handle disappointing situations, regulate their emotions, and practice self control and discipline.  Titled, “Positive Solutions For Families,” the series is led by Marcella Simpson and will take place from 9:30-11:30am.  Registration is required, and childcare is available.  To register, call 413-667-2203.  (FREE)

PARENT WORKSHOP: Do you struggle with your child’s behaviors? The Center of Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning will be hosting a free 4-part parent workshop, “Why Do Kids Do What They Do?,” at the Northampton Public School Preschool at Bridge Street School on Wednesday mornings from 9-10:30am on Jan 25, Feb 1, 8 & 29.  Come to this free workshop series to learn strategies in dealing with the challenges of parenting young children. To register and to sign up for child care, contact Barbara Black in the Early Childhood office at 413-587-1471 or bblack@northampton-k12.us. (FREE)

PARENTS' NIGHT OUT: Enter to win a pair of tickets to see the Carolina Chocolate Drops with opening act, Joy Kills Sorrow, at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Sat., Jan 28th. Deadline to enter to win: 1/25.

Lee MacKinnon, Director, Family Education and Support Hilltown Community Health Centers, writes: “With funding from the Mass. Department of Housing and Community  Development, the Hilltown Community Health Centers and the Cummington Family Center will be offering a free “CPR for Family and Friends” class on  Saturday, Jan 28 from 9:30-11:30am at the Cummington Community House. Led by Ed Vivier, Middletown EMT, the class will cover: CPR for  infants, children, and adults; how to protect your family from accidents; and  how to respond in emergencies. This course is designed by the American  Heart Association for people with no CPR experience. It does not include a test or certification, but rather focuses on preparing you to help your family and  friends in an emergency. Call 413-238-5511 X155 to register as enrollment is limited.” (FREE)


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS:
Jan 14th-20th, 2012

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Read the rest of this entry »

Berkshire Family Fun: A New Year in the Berkshires

Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Berkshire County

Packing away the holiday leftovers and looking towards the new year!

After digging my way through piles of holiday leftovers — random boxes, misplaced electronics, stray decorations, miscellaneous family members, and long-forgotten party food — I emerged with the sudden urge to purge, declutter and organize my life. Call it New Years inspiration, procrastination (there’s lots of writing that should have been getting done in that time), or simply a desire to start 2012 off feeling lighter and more energized. Regardless of the hidden causes behind my massive reorganization project, it has resulted in the ability to find things easier. “Where’s my coat?” one child asked. “I believe you’ll find it in the COAT closet hanging on a COAT hook. Novel idea I know, but take a look,” I replied. We have discovered “missing” objects such as my daughters lost Halia bracelet, and the cord to a laptop computer (the cost to replace, had I done that, approximately $90) that the kids had “looked everywhere for.” The piles of mail and paperwork that had begun to take over my island have been sorted and relegated to a small basket in the front entryway, and I feel fantastic! Now if I can just organize my calendars so I will remember deadlines, I’ll be all set.

SPEAKING OF NEW YEAR’S CHANGES

Besides organizing my home, I have also made a few other changes in my life to kick off the new year. One of the most influential changes is my gratitude journal. Each day on Facebook at Renaissance Mom I post at least five things that I am grateful for. From coffee, to family members, to pellet stoves on cold winter days, it’s amazing how much there is to be thankful and it’s amazing how one’s daily perspective changes once you have taken stock of these things. In fact, I was so inspired by the feelings elicited from writing the journal that I took 30 minutes to write each of my three children a letter telling them five things about their character that I was grateful for. From one’s great big heart to another’s incredible sense of humor, and a daughter who has this amazing ability and courage to always try new things, I let them know, that although they don’t always hear it from me (sad I know), there are far more positives to say about them than negatives.

Each child responded in their own way, a hug here, a question there, and then they each tucked the note away in a secret hiding place where they could find it in the future when a little pick-me-up is needed. I also promised to write them more letters throughout the year full of more gratitude. I’m aiming for once a month, but if I only get to it quarterly, I’ll be fine with that.

ANOTHER NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION OF SORTS

I recently bought a new printer and I was browsing through my husband’s iPhone to show him how to print from it wirelessly. I happened upon a list with three brief phrases or thoughts written on it, one of which was “Food pantry/service.” Upon inquiring about the random list, Mark informed me that they were his thoughts for the new year that he had written down while visiting his father in the hospital in Alabama.

Service has always been something we have tried to ingrain in our children, and made a way of life for our family, but we have always wanted to do more, and do more together. We’ve discussed volunteering at a soup kitchen or participating in the construction of a house through Habitat for Humanity, and this year Mark and I have both put it at the top of the list to find the right cause or organization for our family.

Community members in Northern Berkshire are devoting an entire day to community service on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 16, to celebrate the “life, principles, and ideals of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.”

The day begins at 9 a.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Parish Hall in North Adams (located between Big Y and Mass MOCA) with coffee and pastries. Families are invited to help partake in community service projects for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Louison House, Salvation Army, COTY Youth Center, and Northern Berkshire Community Coalitions new Family Place, as well as help weatherize Berkshire Community Action Council homes, man can and food collection sites, and assembling personal kits, meals, or making mitten and scarfs for those in need.

Participants will return to St. Elizabeth’s at 12:30 p.m. for a free luncheon and community celebration of the Day of Service in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At that time there also will be entertainment, uplifting words and the presentation of the annual Peacemaker Award to Mark Lincourt for his dedicated volunteer work in the Berkshires.

For more information, contact Kathy Keeser at Kathykeeser@gmail.com or at 413-346-7196 or Liz Boland at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition at 413-663-7588.

OTHER FAMILY FUN HAPPENINGS WEEK

Saturday, Jan. 14, from 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Matrushka Toys and Gifts in Great Barrington will present “The Gingerbread Man,” a puppet play with puppeteer Christine Pierce Inglis, as part of the preschool “Mornings at Matrushka” series. According to the press release, “watching puppet plays, hearing stories and learning songs cultivates the child’s imagination, strengthens the ability to concentrate and inspires a love of language.” Matrushka Toys is located at 309 Main Street. For more information call 413-528-6911.

Also on Saturday there will be a Wee Reads “Celebrate Winter” event at the Berkshire Anthenaeum on Wendell Avenue from 10:30 a.m. to noon, where Jan Brett’s “The Mitten” will be read followed by a movie and craft. For more information call 413-499-9480, ext. 5.

Stay tuned for more family-friendly happenings in the Berkshires in next weeks column.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly Bevan McIlquham writes our bi-monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, sharing update, events and activities for families in the Berkshires.  Kelly is a freelance writer living in Hinsdale with her husband, Mark, and three children — 12-year-old twins, Max and McKenna, and almost-10-year-old, Shea. She has had her work published in The Advocate, The Family Beat and Berkshires Week out of Berkshire County, and the former Wee Ones E-magazine. She also authors a new blog and Facebook page titled “Renaissance Mom.”  kwbevan@gmail.com — Check out Berkshire Family Fun every other Thursday.

[Photo credit: (ccl) LennyBaker]

Intergenerational History Project in the Berkshires

Southern Berkshire Community Coalition
Senior Life History Project for Teens

The Southern Berkshire Community Coalition is sponsoring a unique intergenerational history project!  The Senior Life History Project pairs teens (ages 12-18) with seniors, and the pair will together create a life history project.  Together, the senior and their teen will use writing, photography, and video to tell the story of the senior’s life- the end result of which will be a scrapbook (including mixed media, if the pair chooses).  Teens who participate in the project will get to hear a firsthand account of what it was like to live in their community during the past 60+ years- they will learn how local culture has changed over time, and what it was like to live in the Berkshires during important eras in history (During the Civil Rights movement, for instance.).

There are two different meeting locations for the project, and those participating will be expected to meet weekly at either Monument Valley Middle School or the Sheffield Senior Center.  The program begins on January 12th in Sheffield, from 3-4pm, and on January 17th at the middle school from 12:15-1:10pm.  For more information or to sign up, call 413-528-1919.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Old Sturbridge Village

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebrated
at Old Sturbridge Village

Historian and storyteller Tammy Denease portrays Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, telling her story for her fight for freedom at the Old Sturdbridge Village on MLK Jr. Day, Jan 16th, 2012.

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, Old Sturbridge Village is offering a program on Monday, Jan 16th for families that highlights the story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, a former slave (from Sheffield, MA) who successfully gained her freedom in court- a case that eventually lead to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.  Freeman is played by historian and storyteller Tammy Denease, who will tell the story of Freeman’s fight for freedom as well as explain her role in the fight to abolish slavery for good.  Freeman’s story is important not only because it is unique (most slaves couldn’t even try to fight for freedom, let alone succeed at doing so), but because she was a woman and women’s rights were practically unheard of during the 1700’s.

Children can learn a lot from the presentation- it fits into studies of civil and human rights, culture, and American history, and hearing Freeman’s story within a re-creation of its historical context can help kids to contextualize the story.

Other activities taking place throughout the day include ice skating (BYO skates), hands-on art activities, and history-based free play at the village’s KidStory area.  For more information, call the museum at 800-733-1830 or visit www.osv.org.

“Frogs: A Chorus of Colors” Exhibit Comes to Springfield

Frogs: A Chorus of Colors
Springfield Museums
January 21st – May 13th, 2012

Borneo Eared Frog featured in "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors." (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Springfield Museums will be hosting the exhibit, “Frogs: A Chorus of Colors,” January 21st through May 13th, 2012.  This is a new exhibit of live frogs that teaches visitors about the many different types of frogs found around the world and the habitats in which they can be found.  The exhibit holds fifteen different habitats filled with plants, waterfalls, rocks, ledges, etc., each of which is filled with frogs and toads.  Museum visitors can learn to identify frogs by reading about specimens, watching videos of frogs, and listening to recordings of frog calls.  Kids can even learn why each frog looks the way that it does by comparing the frog’s size and coloring to the habitat in which it can be found.

Opening Day: Saturday, January 21st from 10am-5pm. The exhibit’s opening day features exciting events including live animal demonstrations from 11am-12:45pm and a puppet performance of “The Frog Prince” at 1pm.

A visit to the new exhibit is a great opportunity to learn about amphibians that live outside of your backyard!  To learn more, call the Springfield Museums at 800-625-7738 or visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

To find out more about this exhibit, read our review from the summer of 2009 when it came to the Berkshire Museum: Frogs Educate and Fascinate Museum Goers in Pittsfield, MA.

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton

Enter to win a pair of tickets to see…

Carolina Chocolate Drops
with opening act, Joy Kills Sorrow
Calvin Theatre in Northampton
Saturday, January 28th at 8pm

Enter to win a pair of tickets for a Parents' Night Out to see the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Saturday, Jan 28th at 8pm. We have TWO pair of tickets to giveaway! Deadline to enter to win: 01/25/12.

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets!

To start off 2012, we have two a pair of tickets to giveaway to see Carolina Chocolate Drops, with opening act Joy Kills Sorrow, at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, MA on Saturday, Jan 28th at 8pm to two lucky winners! Win the tickets and take your spouse, partner or good friend for a night out. Deadline to enter to win is 01/25/12 @ 7pm (EST). Details below.

ABOUT THE CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a group of young African-American string band musicians that have come to together to play the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music in Carolina’s Piedmont.  Although they have diverse musical backgrounds, the band draws its musical heritage from the foothills of the North and South Carolina. Under the tutelage of Joe Thompson, said to be the last black traditional string band player, of Mebane NC, they strive to carry on the long standing traditional music of the black and white communities. - www.carolinachocolatedrops.com

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win one of two pairs of tickets to see the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, MA on Saturday, Jan 28th at 8pm , is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!

To enter to win simply:

  1. CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below;
  2. TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES AS CONNECTED  YOU WITH YOUR COMMUNITY OVER THE YEARS  below (one entry per household); and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE), Must include your town to be eligible.
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL IN THE EMAIL FIELD BELOW (we never share your email address with a third party).
  6. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 01/25/12 @ 7pm (EST).

If you don’t win, tickets can be purchased at the Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, by phone at 413-586-8686 and online at IHEG.com.

Ticket Giveaway: The Nields Family Concert in Northampton

Win a Family 4-Pack of Free Tickets…

Family Concert with The Nields
Saturday, January 21st, 2012 @ 10:30am
at The First Churches of Northampton

Enter to win a family 4-pack of tickets to see The Nields in Northampton on Saturday, Jan. 21st at 10:30am. Deadline to enter to win: 01/18/12 by 7pm (EST). Details below.

For the third year in a row, Hilltown Families is a proud sponsor of the Nonotuck Community School Winter Family Concert Series.  This year the school is kicking off their concert series with The Nields, and we have a family 4-pack of free tickets to giveaway to one lucky family! Proceeds from the performance go to benefit Nonotuck Community School, a local non-profit preschool! Deadline to enter to win is 01/18/12. Find out how to enter to win below.

ABOUT THE NIELDS

Nerissa and Katryna Nields grew up singing folk songs in the kitchen and in the back seat of the family car. Katryna learned to sing melody with their father, eventually making her an ideal front person for the band. Nerissa, on the other hand, tackled the harmonies; with that skill, she provided a natural counterpoint to her sister’s vibrant lead. As a duo, the sisters have toured nationally for years and been the darlings of the coffeehouse/festival scene, with tunes ranging from off-the-hook idiosyncratic to kicking to heartbreaking. They were a part of Lillith Fair, and have shared the stage with Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega, Sarah McLaughlin, Dar Williams, The Indigo Girls, James Taylor, Joan Baez, the Band, 10,000 Maniacs, Billy Bragg, Dan Zanes and countless others, all of whom informed and enhanced their musical repertoire.

A most recent influence on their music is children. “Having children has brought us back to our roots in a powerful way,” says Nerissa. “I’m much more drawn to the honesty of folk music, the simplicity of it. My kids love singing songs from Sister Holler. And I love how, when we sing these ‘Nerissa’ songs in concerts, everybody sings along, even though it’s the first time they’ve heard them. They’re songs that really invite the listener into the music making process.” Find more information about the band at www.nields.com.

ABOUT THE NCS 2012 WINTER FAMILY CONCERT SERIES

The NCS Winter Family Concert Series is an annual three-part Winter Family Concert Series hosted by Nonotuck Community School. The 2012 season starts off with The Nields in January, followed by A Family Dance Party with DJ Joan Holliday in February and Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem in March.  The family concerts take place at The First Churches of Northampton (129 Main Street) and the Dance party will be hosted at the Northampton Center for the Arts. Proceeds from this concert series will go to benefit Nonotuck Community School, a nonprofit parent cooperative that provides early education and care for children aged 15 months to 5 years old, and is located in Florence, Massachusetts (221 Riverside Drive, 586-5996). For more information visit: www.nonotuck.org or call 413-586-5996.

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win a family 4-pack of tickets to see The Nields in concert at The First Churches of Northampton on Saturday, January 21st, 2012 @ 10:30am , is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting “Like” below
  • TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES CONNECTS YOUR FAMILY WITH LOCAL EVENTS  below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 01/18/12 @ 7pm (EST).

Music Trekking: The Chinese New Year

Happy New Year and Happy Chinese New Year!

Along with the January 1st ringing in of the new year, there are several other types of new year celebrations that are marked by different cultures, countries and other religions. For instance, on January 23rd, Chinese New Year celebrates the arrival of a new year – the year of the Dragon!

What’s a Chinese New Year celebration like? Great fun and lots of festivities. I’ve chosen this video from Sydney, Australia’s Chinese New Year celebration because they’ve boiled a huge amount of the city’s activities into a short video. Take a look and you’ll see awesome parades, music, martial arts, dragon boat races, and much more — plus they’ve even added some of their own Australian Aboriginal music. In this video, you can see a short segment of people playing the didgeridoo and the bilma (Australian clapsticks) making it a truly multicultural celebration:

What is Chinese music like when a big celebration is not in full swing? Check out this video of a popular group of traditional musicians from China called the 12 Girls Band (女子十二乐坊). In this video you can see them playing some really unique instruments such as a Chinese fiddle called an erhu, a pear shaped lute called a pipa, a hammered dulcimer as well as several types of flutes and zithers. Although this group was formed to play Chinese folk music, they also do some amazing versions of folksongs from other cultures such as “El Condor Pasa” and even versions of songs written by modern artists such as Coldplay and Enya. I chose this video because it allows you to get a close look at the 12 girls in the band and the instruments that they play:

Until next month … Happy New Year(s) to you!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

If you’d like to check out more about instruments from this region of the world, Daria will be sharing Chinese New Year customs, the Tibetan Singing Bowl and a “Make-Your-Own” Chinese Gong craft this month at Making Multicultural.

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