12 Places/Instructors for Kids to Take Piano Lessons in Western MA

Recommend a place/instructor in Western MA for kids to take piano lessons:

  • Marya Kozik LaRoche recommends, “Kate Fitzroy Staebler in Pittsfield!”
  • Sarajane Daniels recommends, “Celia’s Voice Studio (Northampton, MA) gives voice and piano lessons. Wonderful!”
  • Emily Clarke Whitney recommends, “Leea Snape at Second Congregational Church in Greenfield. She is great!”
  • Christine Giampietro Bruhn recommends, “‎Northampton Community Music Center.”
  • Jillian Hanson recommends, “Sarah Elston in Haydenville!”
  • Doug Martin recommends, “Barbara Goodchild in Shelburne. She uses the Simply Music system which is great.”
  • Denise Bickford Banister recommends, “Sylvia Tardiff is in the business listings in the phone book. She is located at 140 Pine Street in Florence. Also – I think Bethany Ouimet – lives on River Road in Williamsburg.”
  • Amy Kane-Coyne recommends, “Margaret don Diego in Worthington, Lindsey Hill Road. She does lessons at her home.”
  • Marie Hackworth McCourt recommends, “Sharon Bail in Granby does lessons in her home – very reasonable!”
  • Jane Stephenson recommends, “Carrie Ferguson is an amazing piano instructor in Northampton.”
  • Mindi Palmer Fried recommends, “Jeff Olmsted in Northampton. He teaches Simply Music – very cool stuff.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) woodleywonderworks]

Q&A: 19 Children’s Books on Food Security/Scarcity


Do you have a favorite children’s book that touches on the topic of food security/scarcity you care to share? Hilltown Families is collaborating with The Food Bank of Western MA on compiling a list of kids books that have to do with fighting hunger, soup kitchens, food banks, etc. for their Youth Action Hunger program.


Publicly post any titles you’d like to recommend below, or submit it privately here:

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Where’s Your Favorite Place to PYO Blueberries in Western MA


Share your favorite place to PYO blueberries with your kids in Western MA! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Blueberries are out early this year! Where’s your favorite place to PYO with the kids?

  • Laura LeClair writes,Birdhaven Blueberry Farm in Southampton!”
  • Jessica Campagna Wehry writes, “Where is close to Pittsfield for PYO organic blueberries? I’ve been dying to bring my son!”
  • Sue Lowery writes, “Blueberry Hill on Washington Mountain Rd in Washington, MA (just outside Pittsfield) is amazing and wonderful. Roy and Marilyn Wiley are the owners, and are delightful folks.”
  • Amanda Gadd writes,Whitney Farms (Chester) off of Route 8 is lovely. They have a free petting zoo complete with a peacock.”
  • Jen Hartley writes, “Running Fox Farm is in Worthington.”
  • Sara Barry writes, “I love Running Fox Farm.”
  • Kathy McDonnell Elsea writes, “Maddie and I picked at Birdhaven Blueberry Farm in Southampton and I’m secretly planning to go back tomorrow. Only got 8 lbs!”
  • Megan McD Kenburn writes,Kenburn Orchards Bed & Breakfast on Rt 2 in Shelburne is great! $2.89/lbs or less if you pick more than 10 lbs. It’s not far from the Greenfield Rotary if you are driving towards Shelburne Falls. Great berries, nice people.”
  • Susan Loring-Wells writes, “Just picked blueberries with my daughter this afternoon on River Road just South of Route 116 and Sugarloaf Mtn. Not sure whether it’s located in Sunderland or Whately. It’s about 1/2 mile – mile down on the right from Rte 116. I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the place. The berries were delicious and abundant.”
  • Hilda Bailey ‎writes, “@Susan, Nourse Farms (Whately, MA)”
  • Kim Nestor-Carlino writes,Quonquont Farm in Whately has an unbelievable crop this year! Got one full quart off of one bush. Delicious and low spray.”
  • Vickie Riggs Selleck writes,Kenburn Orchards Bed & Breakfast in Shelburne.”
  • Dawn Klein writes,Whitney Farms in Cheshire, MA. Great nursery and deli too! With a huge playground area and petting zoo!”
  • Karen Lucas writes, “Dickinson Farm in Granby, MA. Love it there and tons of yummy big blueberries!”
  • Sienna Wildfield ‎writes, “Summit Farm in Plainfield has PYO organic berries and Benson Place in Heath has low bush blueberries. “
  • Philip Korman, Executive Director of CISA writes, “Contact info and location for all PYO found at the CISA website — you can also change the zip code at the end of the URL for your location!

Q&A: 30 Recommended Folk Remedies to Make in the Summer


With active kids running and play outdoors, many come across poison ivy (picture here) and end up with itchy red patches on their exposed legs, arms and bellies. Both Melissa Miller of Amherst and Jennifer Hartley of Florence suggest jewelweed as a folk remedy! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

We recently asked our readers to share a folk remedy they like to make in the summer months for their families using fresh herbs and plants.  Here are thirty remedies recommended by readers both far and near:

  1. “I like to make rhubarb and honey syrup and keep it in the back of the fridge for putting in hot water in January when I have a cold, or when I need to remember that spring will come.” – Dina Stander
  2. “My favorite folk remedy this year is lemon balm elixir. It’s so mellowing and calming!” – April Horton (Jacksonville, VT)
  3. “I am always making vinegars and honey’s and my favorite summertime recipe so far has been my Solstice Spice Honey which includes orange zest, lavender, cayenne, passion flower, fresh muddled strawberries & blueberries, lemon balm, English mint, and a spring of sage- mmm mmm good!” – Auron Aurelius
  4. “One of my favorite medicinals to make is a wild Atlantic seaweed apple cider vinegar. Of course harvesting seaweed is a lovely summer activity, but so is harvesting honey! Kava kava honey and ashwaganda honey are two of my most desired medicinal treats.” – Brianyn MacLeod (Leverett, MA)
  5. “I made violet syrup in the spring and will save my hot peppers and garlic to simmer in chicken broth come cold season.” – Sara Barry (Haydenville, MA)
  6. “I have a huge sage plant and have been meaning to make sage vinegar- good for your bones. Maybe sage honey too- good in tea for a sore throat.” – Judy Bennett (Greenfield, MA)
  7. “Arnica really helps with all the bumps and bruises of an enthusiastic child.” – Jessica Morris, Northampton MA
  8. “A jewelweed pulp on poison ivy blisters.” – Melissa Miller (Amherst, MA)
  9. “Vinegar infused with Holy Basil for mood party salads.” – Mauricio Abascal
  10. “One of my favorite summertime remedies to make is a tea from lemon balm, ginger (esp. the local ginger from Old Friends Farm) and local honey. It is best served cold and is a stimulating and refreshing digestive aid! My other favorite root remedy is raw onion for bruises and minor scrapes (though may sting). It works like a charm to prevent bruises from forming if used immediately after an injury. Just cut a fresh raw onion and put it on that bump and you will not get the bruise as it is a mild styptic.” – Heather Hall (Northampton, MA)
  11. “I make an elderberry syrup from the elderberry bushes in my yard. I simmer them down with honey and strain, then can the syrup and use it all winter to keep away illness. It really works! And it’s delicious (my husband is famous for elderberry cocktails!).” – Marissa Potter (Shelburne Falls, MA)
  12. “Plantain (any of the yard varieties) works wonders if someone gets a bite or sting from little winged creatures – it is even good for pets (neighbor had a dog that stepped on a bee).” – Katie Winston
  13. “Camomile tea for sunburn on your face.” – Marianne Beach
  14. “Rhubarb honey syrup with lemon balm and mint for upset tummy.” – Marianne Bullock (Greenfield, MA)
  15. “I love making rich and creamy little green pots of Malva cream from my old friend Common Mallow (Malva neglecta). She wants to be wanted and has amazing potential, healing capabilities and love to give.” – Jessica Morgan (Loveland, CO)
  16. “Our family collects elderberries to make into a winter time elixir.” – Heather Polson (Northampton, MA)
  17. “A favorite remedy to make in the summer is tincture of St John’s Wort flowers. These magic yellow flowers make a beautiful crimson remedy – antibacterial and antiviral.” – Anneliese Mordhorst (Chesterfield, MA)
  18. “My son loves to grow mint in our garden and uses it to make his special summer drink- 2 varieties of mint mixed with lemon, lime, and local honey. Mint aides one’s digestion so that is a nice added benefit. – As mom I have two favorite summer herbs: plantain leaf and parsley. I love the benefits of the plantain leaf- pick it, chew it, and place it on any insect bite to help take out the itch and speed up the healing process. In Western Massachusetts you can find plantain leaves in your backyard or growing in almost any patch of grass. Parsley is my other favorite summer herb and it is easy to grow in your garden, inside in a pot, or pick it up at your CSA or local farmers’ market. Parsley is very versatile and a powerhouse full of vitamins and iron . You can use parsley to make pesto, add finely chopped parsley in an omelete, mix it with salad greens, or serve a refreshing cup of parsley tea. So many tasty ways to serve parsley and a great way to increase everyone’s iron intake in your family.” – Paula Yolles (Florence, MA)
  19. “I float lavender in my birdbath to keep it from getting dirty and make sure the birds are well hydrated and have clean water during the hot summer months.” – Chris Curtis (South Hadley, MA)
  20. “In the summer, I’m a big fan of crushing up jewelweed and applying it to skin immediately after any exposure to poison ivy. I also gather jewelweed seeds to use in place of nuts in pesto (This takes a while.).” – Jennifer Hartley (Florence, MA) Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Tennis Lessons for Kids


Hilltown tennis lesson sign ups are happening this summer in Chesterfield on their newly restored courts!

Recommend a place for kids to take summer tennis lessons in and around the Pioneer Valley.

Share your recommendation too in the comment field below!

Are your kids interested physics too? Whether they are or not, this video on the physics of tennis is pretty cool:

[Photo credit: (ccl) Yung]

Q&A: 8 Recommended Parent Guidance Books


Are your kids pushing your buttons? Want to get them to cooperate more? Tired of yelling? … There are many parent guidance books on the market .. is there one that you really like and could recommend?

Q&A: Camping with Kids


When camping with kids, Judy Bennett of Greenfield, MA recommends glow sticks and sparklers for evening entertainment. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Does anyone have any suggestions or tips on camping with kids?

  • Susan K. Clark writes, “Bring rain gear so you can play in the rain if needed. Also, a fun thing to do after marshmallow’s are roasted is to sit around the campfire and tell a traveling story. One person starts the story and at some point calls another person’s name and they continue…it is very fun!”
  • Tamara Sharples Zayas writes, “Before dusk, before the mosquitoes come out, we get the kids all cleaned up and dressed in long pants, long sleeves, socks and sneakers. They tend to stay relatively clean after that and less likely to get bit up.”
  • Rebecca Trow Addison writes, “Lean-tos in VT rock, especially in rain… as far as what to bring- a ball of any size for throwing, kicking, bouncing etc… glue & scissors for making nature artwork.”
  • Tamara Sharples Zayas writes, “My kids mostly stay entertained with all the water, sand, dirt, hiking, etc., but I do bring board games and art supplies for times there is a lull or we need them to be more contained. Paints and finding rocks to paint is a favorite activity, and making God’s Eyes with yarn and Popsicle sticks or sticks the kids find is a good one also.”
  • Alisa Blanchard writes, “Songs, music, LOTS of wash cloths and hand towels (or baby wipes if prefer- we try to be low impact), rain gear for the kiddos AND yourself!, story book (or in your head), extra map for them to mark on hikes, travel journal – and ask for a little quiet time each day where everyone does something in theirs (we use a journal with blank pages with art paper in it); wool socks; small tote for special “treasures” to return home in…”
  • Laura LeClair writes, “Never was I more thankful for light-up sneakers than in the campground at night!”
  • Judy Bennett writes, “Glow sticks and sparklers are great at night too. -This board has some good links: Camping with Kids (Pinterest).”
  • Anne Kaplan writes, “Bring a good rope and tie it on a high tree branch for climbing and swinging fun!”
  • Debbie Myers writes, “I bring books with short stories (Grimm Fairy Tales were a hit) and we all sit around the fire taking turns reading. The kids have really enjoyed that over the years. -My husband makes veggie packs in the fire: take chopped up potatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli with oil and spices, wrap them in aluminum foil and set them in the fire. Yummy.”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “We do whole meals in foil on the coals and large coolers are the perfect size for toddler baths (a squirt of dish soap+some heated water, also a good photo op) after s’mores fireside!”
  • Brad Elwood Shean writes,KOA!!!!”
  • Maggie Burke Eckardt writes, “We do lots of food prep at home to save time and energy when we’re actually camping and have lots of easy, healthy snacks on hand (fruit & veggies cut up, trail mix, muffins etc.) but we do the classic s’mores too! Lots of extra clothes, more than you think you’d need (think old clothes and shoes you don’t care about getting wrecked and layers). We also bring a portable radio for the tent at bedtime to play soothing music or just static if need be–we’ve had a few rude (loud way past quiet time) neighbors and it helped everyone sleep better. We also lay a small tarp in front of the tent so kids can sit down and take off shoes and not track loads of dirt into the tent.”
  • Steven Savage writes, “Duct tape.”
  • Tracy Tirrell Griffith writes, “Bring their bikes.”

Q&A: 16 Swimming Holes in Western MA


Lake Norwich in Huntington, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

One of our readers asked about swimming holes in Western MA to take her family to this summer, and while many locals keep their best swimming holes a treasured secret, several of our readers shared some of their favorite, not-so-secret, swimming spots in the region.

  • Aimee Welch Champion recommends: Plainfield Pond in Plainfield, MA.
  • Roberta Fortini-Curran recommends: North Pond in Florida, MA; Windsor Lake in North Adams, MA; Windsor Jambs in Windsor, MA; Onota Lake in Pittsfield, MA; and Margaret Lindley Park in Williamstown, MA.
  • Peter Freisem recommends: Chapel Brook in Ashfield, MA.
  • Kristy Matusiewicz Dyer recommends: Westbrook in Whately, MA.
  • Mary Anne Antonellis recommends: Lake Wyola State Park in Shutesbury, MA.
  • Abbe Laine Schiowitz recommends: Fiske Pond in Wendell, MA; and the covered bridge in Greenfield, MA.
  • Fran Lofland recommends: Skeeterville in Belchertown, MA.
  • Marya Kozik LaRoche recommends: Waterfalls instead of swimming holes.
  • Rebecca Trow Addison recommends: Green River between Greenfield and Colrain, MA.
  • Cheryl Svoboda Asher recommends: DAR State Forest in Goshen, MA.
  • Sarah Tutun recommends: Tri-town Beach in Whately, MA.
  • Belchertown Family Center recommends: Puffers Pond in Amherst, MA.

Know of a publicly accessible swimming hole in Western MA to recommend to families? Share it below.

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Q&A: Dating


“Depends on the type of date,” writes Lauren Koblara Kostantin. “A group outing like to the movies or mall or someplace, maybe 14? One on one? I’d say 16. That being said, my son is only 3 so I guess things could change in 10 years.”

At what age do you think dating would be appropriate for your child(ren)?

  • Brianna Lamke writes, “35”
  • Ilyza Sarah Earle writes, “LOL, what a question! I second that, 35.”
  • Meg Lefkowitz writes, “Group dates at 14-15, depending in maturity of the kid. Single dates at 16-17, again depending on maturity.”
  • William Cortis writes, “I agree with Meg. Maturity and responsibility play a huge role in the factor.”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “Group dates or chaperones at 13; 16+ for single dates or in cars driving… But we’ll see in three years if we stick to that, lol! We have twin boys, don’t know if I would say the same w/girls…”
  • Karina B. Heart writes, “So many factors come into play when answering this question. Each scenario is different. I trust my daughter (15), but I also know that things can quickly move beyond her ability to navigate. I have to have met her date and his parents. At her age, “dates” are limited to short intervals in a public place (not movie theaters) where I’m within a few minutes drive and reachable by cell phone. “Hanging out” can happen at home in public areas of the house and never behind closed doors. She hasn’t seriously dated anyone yet. Holding my breath and trusting her good judgment!”
  • Carrie St John writes, “The group dates at 14. 16 for solo dates assuming you meet the other teen first.”
  • Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “I think that it depends a lot on the types of social interactions that a kid has as non-dates – I grew up in a rural area where the only thing I ever did was have.friends sleep over, and I didn’t start “dating” until my potential dates were old enough to drive me (17, in my home state’s case). However, I think that when I have kids, if we live someplace like Northampton where they can walk into town with friends, getting ice cream or coffee as a date would be acceptable at an earlier age (15-16) since it wouldn’t require letting them ride (or drive) with a new, young, and likely nervous driver.”
  • Kristen Handschuh ‎writes, “15/16”
  • Lauren Koblara Kostantin writes, “Depends on the type of date… a group outing like to the movies or mall or someplace, maybe 14? One on one? I’d say 16. That being said, my son is only 3 so I guess things could change in 10 years :)”
  • Karen Dearness writes,“16”
  • Suzanne Hall Howell writes, “I have told my children they are not allowed to date until they get married, and they are not allowed to get married until they are 35… every mother I tell that to, thinks its a great idea, the kids, not so much.”
  • Sonya MacPhail writes, “It depends on the maturity of the child.”
  • Kimberly Kelly writes, “Never! Lol, but 14 with supervision would be acceptable!”
  • Erica Wise writes, “They can date whenever they want, it’s just that what the date consists of and who goes on it with them will change with age. Mom drives until I trust them to drive themselves, I’m thinking maybe sometime after college. ;)”

[Photo credit: (ccl) dans le rêve]

Q&A: Where Do Babies Come From?


“I second/third Robie Harris’ books,” writes Susan Countryman. “We read It’s So Amazing together, and answer questions matter-of-factly as they come up.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Have your kids asked yet how babies are made, or where babies come from? What did you say? If they haven’t asked yet, how might you reply when they do?

  • Amanda Kingsley writes, “My five year old thinks that boy eggs are on one side and girl eggs are on the other… beyond that cuteness we’ve explained that the sperm meets the egg to make a baby.  She hasn’t asked how they meet, but we have a great book for that age group recommended by a client: It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends. We try to answer questions as simply and honestly as we can, never giving more info than they ask for (girls are 5 and 7).”
  • Barbara Dunn writes, “In our house, everyone knows where babies come from: The Social Worker! Seriously, though, we have answered just one question at a time rather than doing the full traditional explanation all at once. Also have left age appropriate library books just sitting around for them to pick up on their own as an ice breaker.”
  • Pauline Delton writes, “Love the “It’s Not the Stork” series. That’s pretty much the same info we’ve given to our 6 year old (he was 5 at the time). It’s enough to satisfy his curiosity and it’s honest/accurate ‎(He knew from whence they birth when he was much younger, though, and we’d seen some birth videos).
  • Laura Lucchesi writes, “Reading books to them from their age group! There are many wonderfully written and illustrated books about everything. I have a collection in my library I started when they where born. From potty training to the World Book Encyclopedias. They had the ability to read whenever they wanted. Explaining things helps when you read to your child.”
  • Heather Dunham Katsoulis writes, “Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex is a fantastic book dealing with each age appropriate response.”
  • Megan Rubiner Zinn writes, “I wrote a piece on this subject for Jezebel a few months ago, “The Moment When Your Son Asks About His Balls” – turned out to be one of the best conversations I’ve ever had with my son.”
  • Susan Countryman writes, “I second/third Robie Harris’ books. We read It’s So Amazing together, and answer questions matter-of-factly as they come up.”
  • Marissa Potter writes, “I am always honest, without over sharing. My kids have been more interested in how babies come out than how they come to grow in the first place, so far. My answer about conception, at this point, has been that is that when two grown ups have so much love between them that there is extra love, a baby grows.”
  • Jackie Amuso Dolby writes, “I think the answer is different at different ages. With four children ages 13-3, my answers have to be age appropriate. You can’t give them too much at 3 but you HAVE TO tell them the real truth at 13.”
  • Rebecca Trow Addison writes, “I agree that it depends on the age of the child. It is a lot more complicated now than it used to be too. It’s no longer ‘a man and a woman’…”
  • Annie Parker writes, “I was straight up with a blunt but simple explanation. The younger the child the less phased they are likely to be. Really penis, eggs, Santa and space ships are all the same amount crazy. Don’t make a big thing of it. They learn their attitudes from us.”
  • John L. Grossman writes, “When I explained it to my son 2 years ago the penis-sperm-uterus-egg thing didn’t faze him until he said, “Did you do that?” and I responded “twice!” (I have 2 kids), then he ran out of the room.”

Q&A: Family Summer Camps in New England


One of our readers is looking for family summer camp recommendations in New England. They are looking for an opportunity for the whole family to participate in together. Any suggestions?

  • Kate McCarthy Roy recommends:Camp Jewell YMCA family camp in CT…supposed to be great!”
  • Carolyn Toll Oppenheim recommends: “‎World Fellowship Center (NH) is one place. There is another newer one in Vermont.”
  • Jill Nowak Wheat recommends:Pinewoods Music & Dance Camp has a family week in Plymouth, MA.”
  • Laura Lucchesi recommends: “Thinking about this I have to say when my kids were young one of the best places we went to was Blue Water Manor on Lake George (NY)! It has one price to include your meals. Activities , history, Adirondack fresh air, and of course the lake. You can take their row boats out or rent a motor boat. They have great adult entertainment in their lake side stone tavern. And family camp fires. The list goes on. You can find them on their website. I promise you will love the whole area and it’s history. Shopping and fun in the sun! – Another thing we did was rent a trailer and went to a great campground in Rhode Island. Woke up everyday on the ocean. Cooked outdoors went fishing and our camp ground was loaded with family activities. We clammed and fished and cooked on an open fire!”
  • Katryna Nields recommends: “The Nields are running a family music camp week at Kripalu (Lenox, MA) the week of July 4th. It will be super fun. Lots of singing in harmony, a little making of our own instruments, a fabulous trip to Tanglewood to see and hear James Taylor on the 4th. Oh yes, and fireworks too!”
  • Tonya Lemos recommends: “Becket-‎Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket MA run several Family Camps and Family Weekends that are a blast!”
  • Swansea Benham Bleicher recommends:Maine Fiddle Camp if they are musical. Multi-generational, great food, all outdoors, many instruments, swimming in the afternoons.”

Check out the Hilltown Families Summer Camp & Program resource page for additional summer camp opportunities for kids in Western MA.

Q&A: Should GMO Food Be Labeled?


Studies show that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

What are your thoughts on genetically engineered food? Are you comfortable feeding food that has been genetically modified to your kids? Do you think it should be labeled?

  • Faye Adamsyes writes, “GM food is synthetic, gross and not nutritious. Label it please.”
  • Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “I don’t have kids, but if/when I do, I will definitely avoid it – I try not to feed it to myself, either. I know little about the science behind it (unfortunately), but common sense tells me that real food is better for you. Why mess with something that already works so well?!
  • Jennifer Lee Wildermuth writes, “We do our best to not feed it, but because we’re just learning everything that has been GM’d it should be labeled. It would save us a lot of time researching what is safe.”
  • Heather Fletcher writes, “It should definitely be labeled! I avoid it at all costs. Bodies know how to digest real food, not food altered in a lab. Pollen from GMO foods can infect natural crops, effects the soil, water, meat that is fed it. I wonder if this is partially the reason for an increase in food allergies. Get rid of GMO-mother nature is perfect lets not mess with it!  Avoid non-organic corn & soy ad those are 2 big crops that are genetically modified.”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “In truth, most of our foods have been modified at some point to bring out the best traits (taste, hardiness, etc..) going all the way back to Mendel and his pea gene experiments! Point being it is so hard to avoid… Grocery shopping has become a research project with conflicting data, poor funding, and high costs (to our pockets and our lives!). I know I spend much more time at the store now from reading almost every label in my cart!”
  • Carrie Cranston writes, “GMO. Fancy name for lab facilitated rapid selective breeding. No, don’t fear them. It took hundreds of years to get ears of corn with more than 20 Kernels. I’m glad to have eggs with higher Omega-3’s now instead of in another 100 years when selective breeding would have been able to bring it to fruition. GMO brought us insulin too. Ask any diabetic how they feel about that. Plus is had brought us and crops that are pest and disease resistant, reducing the use of pesticides and other crop treatments.”
  • Lilly Jeffs Lombard writes, “Wow, Carrie, what faith you place in profit-driven biotechnology and a government that is supposed to ensure food safety but that is massively controlled by agribusiness giants like Monsanto.”
  • Leah Nero Carrasquillo writes, “A lot of the pesticides and chemicals that GMO products are created to withstand are not so benign: How Chemicals Affect Us.
  • Jess Kuttner writes, “I want to find out more about GMO food. I am highly suspicious and think it definitely should be labeled.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Tomer Arazy]

Q&A: Community Recommended Documentaries for Parents


Is there a documentary that you think every parent should see?

  • Marissa Potter recommends,The Business of Being Born, just for starters.” [Trailer]
  • Audrey Jean Bromberg Hyvonen recommends,Consuming Kids was quite an eye opener for this mom.” [Trailer]
  • Kerrie McNay recommends,Mythic Journeys– it truly speaks to the soul and is an inspiring look at myth in our daily lives. Rites of passage, stories of family, ancestors, riddles, myth, culture, life questions, and more. (Oh, and it’s intertwined with a great riddling stop motion animation with the voices of Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, and Lance Henriksen.)” [Trailer]
  • Shannon Malone Kopacz recommends,Billy the Kid. Its a documentary about the life of a 15yo boy with Aspergers as he learns to navigate thru teenage love. Amazing stuff! So eye opening and hopeful. It gives great insight to outsiders about life with autism.” [Trailer]
  • Michelle Misha Crawford- Cranmore recommends,Food Inc., and Waiting for Superman.”
  • Anita Morehouse recommends, “Food Inc. was good, but also check out Maxed Out [Trailer] and The Lottery.”
  • Amanda Gadd recommends, “There is a docudrama I think every person should see- it’s called Part Time Fabulous. Amazing, factual, well done, important, and relevant to everyone.” [Trailer]
  • Kristy Matusiewicz Dyer recommends,Waiting for Superman!” [Trailer]
  • Shannon Malone Kopacz recommends, “Billy the Kid.”
  • Sara Karz Reid recommends,Nursery University.” [Trailer]
  • Christopher Overtree recommends,Race to Nowhere.” [Trailer]
  • Michele Lussier recommends,King Corn [Trailer]; Waiting for Superman.”
  • Jettie McCollough recommends,Forks Over Knives…so every parent can live to see their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren, or at least have the greatest possible chance at that beautiful opportunity.” [Trailer]
  • Anita Morehouse recommends, ‎”The Lottery.” [Trailer]
  • Craig Fear recommends, “Food Inc.” [Trailer]
  • Jason Turcotte recommends, “I couldn’t agree more with Craig!”
  • Annie Bob DeCoteau recommends,Raising Cain [Trailer] and Waiting For Superman.”
  • Kara Kitchen recommends, “Good for all but great for adolescent girls; Reviving Ophelia.” [Trailer]
  • Carrie St John recommends, “Definitely Waiting for Superman, especially if you have children in public school. It only takes a little time from each family to help in big ways.”
  • Robin Morgan Huntley recommends, “I actually have to respectfully disagree with Waiting for Superman… It’s captivating, but presents a very biased argument that is anti-teacher and pro-privatization (neither of which are good for students), and was not made by educators. Also, the film slyly avoids addressing issues of race and class, which are the biggest contributors to most of the issues the film addresses… Check out the movement Not Waiting for Superman, www.notwaitingforsuperman.org.”

Q&A: Where to Get New/Used Bikes for the Family in Western MA


Earth Day is being celebrated today and Summer time is on it’s way! So let’s talk BIKES… where’s a good place to get a new or used bike for the family in Western MA?

  • Amanda Saklad suggests, “Craigslist is good and good for the earth – REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE!!”
  • Kara Kitchen suggests,FJ Rogers in Florence.”
  • Susan Rees suggests, “Full Circle in Florence. Great tune-ups too.”
  • Abbe Laine Schiowitz suggests,Hampshire Bicycle Exchange on University Drive in Amherst and Valley Bike on Rte. 9 in Hadley has the sassiest bikes ever, but is quite pricey (then visit the new rock climbing gym next door which I heard is totally awesome).
  • Mark Pollard suggests, “I second the Hampshire Bike Exchange for cheap, used bikes. I also like Joe’s Garage in Haydenville for looking at hi-end bikes.”
  • Kim Tatro Kicza suggests,Highland Hardware & Bike Shop in Holyoke!”
  • John L. Grossman suggests, “Easthampton town auction.
  • Kate Paterson Parrott suggests, “We love Bob Perry, owner of Bicycles Unlimited in Greenfield. Not only does he have a great selection of new & used bikes, but the shop organizes group rides for ALL abilities. Plus while in G’field you can stop for a bite at Hope & Olive, Mesa Verde, or pop over the CT river and go to the Wagon Wheel or Holy Smokes. Great eats & exercise!”

Have a recommendation too? Share it here.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Joni]

Q&A: What Do You Love About Western MA Libraries?


This past week was National Library Week, and if there’s anything that can be said about Hilltown Families readers it’s that they LOVE their local libraries! We invited readers to tell us about their favorite Western MA library.  Take a peek at what they had to say, and share your own love for your favorite library too!

  • Phoebe Shaw writes, “Needless to say it’s Meekins Library in Williamsburg, hands down!”
  • Shannon Kopacz writes, “Porter in Blandford.”
  • Emily Bloch writes, “In Shutesbury we’re collecting responses to the question: Where would you be without your library? Chime in!
  • Tina M Schall writes, “Forbes Library in Northampton!”
  • Heather Dunham Katsoulis writes, “I like ’em all now that they’re all so connected.”
  • Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “I generally stick to my college library, but the kiddos I babysit love Forbes Library (Northampton)! The children’s department staff are super friendly and helpful – they know the kids by name and always have new book and movie suggestions for them.”
  • Anne Dempsey writes, “West Springfield Public Library is the best! Wonderful collection of children’s books, great service, an active Friends group. Working on a wonderful expansion – the result of a generous construction grant from the state Board of Library Commissioners. Come check us out!”
  • Abbe Laine Schiowitz writes, “The Wendell Free Library of course! I hear the teen program is out of this world…wink wink.”
  • Meagheanne Donahue writes, “The Adams Free Library! It’s our favourite place to go! Just got back from an art opening there tonight!”
  • Barbara Dunn writes, “It doesn’t get better than the Meekins Library in Williamsburg… Literary- media bliss, amazing staff & volunteers and a welcoming gathering place for the community.”
  • Melissa Wells Flynn writes, “For the children’s room, our favorite is the Palmer Public Library. It’s absolutely beautiful with space, luxurious space! The “Imagination Station” play room, a beautiful children’s book and materials collection, a lovely fish tank, other amenities for little kids through teens, and the ultimate: a working model train suspended near the ceiling.”
  • Zoe Wright Johnson writes, “We LOVE Meekins Library in Williamsburg!”

Q&A: Share Your Love for Your Local CSA


(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Have you signed up for your local CSA yet? CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) are great ways to get fresh local fruits, vegetables and other farm products while supporting local farming. Tell us about your favorite CSA here in Western MA, and what you love about your local farm share.

  • Tinky Weisblat writes, “We go to Wilder Brook Farm in Charlemont. It feels like family—and you can pick your own food out so if you don’t really need four heads of lettuce that week you don’t take them!”
  • Jennifer Shiao Page writes, “We love Brookfield Farmin South Amherst. We love biking to pick up our share every week in the summer. We love seeing friends and neighbors there. We love the all-natural, no-sugar-added popsicles that they sell at the farm store. We love buying local milk and yogurt there too. We love pick-your-own strawberries, herbs, edamame, and more. We love visiting with the chickens and pigs. When my parents come visit, and we take them to Brookfield, they tell us that it feels like they are on vacation!”
  • Dan Finn writes, “If you are a member of UMass Five College Federal Credit Union they will give you a 0% loan for six months to help pay for a CSA. Pretty cool!”
  • Kathie Crivelli writes, “Riverland Farm in Sunderland, Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, Next Barn Over in Hadley, Simple Giftsin North Amherst, Brookfield Farm in South Amherst, on and on and on it goes… Sign up!”
  • Melissa Adams writes, “We’re a member at Crabapple Farm (Chesterfield) for a veggie/produce share & will be getting a cheese share there from Cricket Creek Farm in the Berkshires (Williamstown)!”
  • Kara Kitchen writes,Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton!”

Q&A: What Can’t You Let Go Of?


Can't bring yourself to get rid of your children's growing collection of 3D arts & crafts? Take a photo to preserve the memory! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

It’s time for spring cleaning! As your kids grow up & outgrow, what are you finding you just can’t bring yourself to let go of?

  • Laura LeClair writes, “The slings. At this point (my son is 12), I know I am keeping them forever.”
  • Diane Hinze Kanzler writes, “The Ergo carrier. I’m keeping it. I figure if a baby ever falls out of the sky and lands in my lap, I’m prepared.”
  • Pauline Renee writes, “We finally sold our Toddlerhawk when my son was about 4, and I have to tell you that not more than a few months ago I was thinking I would have used it if I’d had it. He’ll be 5 in April. LOL. I love how all 3 responses have been about carriers!”
  • Sienna Wildfield writes, “Art work is a hard one for us to let go of! We have a hefty collection of art work from the past 9 years; from simple scribbles on scrap paper to pinched pots from camp. One bit of advice I was given to manage 3D art was to take a photo of all those abstract clay sculptures and paper towel critters to place in a scrap book. Easier to manage!”
  • Pauline Renee writes, “Oh goodness yes! Artwork. Ack!”

Q&A: Where to Find Maternity Clothes in Western MA


Baby and Daisy

One of our readers, an expecting mother, is looking for places in Western MA to find maternity clothes. Any recommendations?

  • Ilyza Sarah Earle recommends:Hens & Chicks in Greenfield of course!”
  • Nancyjo Craig Rongner recommends: “Savers in West Springfield.”
  • Judy Bennett recommends: “Hens & Chicks in Greenfield carries consignment clothes for women and kids, including maternity.”
  • Jennifer Shiao Page recommends: “Salvation Army in Hadley. Second Chances in Amherst. Kids Kloset in Northampton. Many of my favorite maternity items were in fact *not* maternity clothes. I had two turtlenecks made of stretchy fabric, and with gathers along the side seams. Long blowy cardigan-style sweaters that you don’t have to close in front. TJ Maxx and Marshalls!”
  • Amber Shutt recommends:Kidstuff in Florence also has maternity clothes!!”
  • Mary Mayshark-Stavely recommends: “There is a consignment shop in Northfield that has a lot of things.”
  • Kaci Ruh recommends: “They carry some gently used maternity clothes at Kidstuff in Florence.”
  • Meg Lefkowitz recommends: “There is Motherhood in the Holyoke Mall. Burlington Coat Factory in that mall also has a selection.”
  • Deanne Forgea-Calvert recommends: “Gently used at Hens & Chicks in Greenfield.”
  • Marianne Bullock recommends: “Hens & Chicks.”
  • Marissa Tenenbaum Potter recommends: “And in Northampton Kids Kloset.”
  • Jaime Mailloux recommends: “Another place for gently used maternity clothes is the Kids Kloset in downtown Northampton. For new clothes, there is Motherhood Maternity (Holyoke Mall) and there are small sections in most stores (sometimes hard to find) such as JCPenny and Kohls.”
  • Karen Jaiclin recommends: “Old Navy had some affordable stuff (simple basics), but I think the Holyoke Mall one stopped carrying maternity- grr. Call to check, there may be maternity in Enfield? Or order online- I had good luck with that. Including swimsuits!”
  • Alyssa Pratt-Miranda recommends: “H&M has a small selection. There’s also The Gap and Target. If she’s open to used clothes, try Craigslist or Easthampton Mamas and post there. I had a lot of luck finding hand-me-downs!”
  • Melanie Courtemanche recommends: “The only Old Navy that carries maternity near here is South Windsor, CT.”
  • Sandra Dias recommends: “The Kid’s Kloset in the Maplewood Shops in Northampton has maternity clothes on consignment.”
  • Vicky George-Weimer recommends: “Motherhood at the Holyoke Mall, if it’s still there. Burlington Coat Factory has some decent stuff.”
  • Sandy Bailey recommends: “Hens & Chicks in Greenfield.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Amber McNamara]

Q&A: Dining Together as a Family


Studies have shown that the more frequently kids eat with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs and they are more likely to do well in school. Sharing a meal helps kids feel connected to their parents and families and creates a part of the day during which kids can decompress and build connections.

How often is your family able to share a meal (any meal) together? What are some of the challenges your family faces finding the time to dine together?

  • Meagheanne Donahue writes: “My son & I eat breakfast and dinner together during the school week, every meal together on the weekends, and Sunday is our family brunch with his grandparents, aunt, uncles & cousins. Granted, he’s only 8 and it’s just the two of us, but we make a big deal out of family dinner and that will be the rule when he’s older.”
  • Jennifer R Payson-Taylor writes: “My husband & I and our 4 children ages 5, 7, 12, & 14 eat dinner every night together!!! Exceptions are if either of the older two are at a friends or it’s a date night for me & hubby! It’s how our parents did it too!”
  • Angelique Phoenix writes: “Every day; it is non-negotiable.”
  • Julie Gouldman Russell writes: “Usually nightly. busy schedules are a challenge – sometimes we eat later than I would like, but worth the trade-off of eating together.”
  • Diane Kanzler writes: “I’m with Angelique. This may change slightly as the child ages, but even then, it will be the rare exception that meals are not eaten together rather than the rule.”
  • Marissa Tenenbaum Potter writes: “We eat dinner together every night, no matter how loud messy or crazy it gets.”
  • Jennifer Shiao Page writes: “I have a traditional 9 – 5 schedule, and my husband does not. He’s a musician and music teacher, so he’s often performing or teaching in the evenings. But, I’d say around three times a week we all eat dinner together. And we make sure to sit facing each other with the TV off!”
  • Sienna Wildfield writes: “We share dinner together every night… it’s scheduled in as part of our daily routine.  Meals are prepared fresh (most of the time) or we dine out at one of our favorite locally owned restaurants. Our challenge is preparing meals that accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences.  But somehow we manage… just have a lot of dishes to clean up at the end of the meal. – We also shop locally together.  Knowing where our food comes from and interacting with local farmers at the markets make for great conversation starters at dinner time.”
  • Jess Kuttner writes: “I grew up in a family that had breakfast and dinner together every day so that is what I strive for.  Breakfast is usually easy – but sometimes the late evenings at work get in the way of family dinner.  I know how important it is and I agree with Sienna on trying to do as many homemade and locally sourced meals as possible.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Kate Hiscock]

Q&A: Kids Got Lice? What to Do!


“Nothing convinces kids to wash / treat their hair regularly and not share hair brushes etc. than the threat of being shaved bald,” writes Joshua Diamond.

One of our readers recently wrote about her concerns around LICE. Any ideas on how to prevent lice and/or how to treat it? Share your experiences, suggestions and resources!

  • Ann Dawson Saalfrank writes, “Hair spray.  Spray under the hair and on the sides. Lice like it warm so that is where they go and they can not stick to the hair spray.”
  • Shannon Madden writes,Fairy Tales Shampoo and Leave-In Conditioning Spray. Knock on wood my kids have never had them and I think Fairy Tales is why.”
  • Amy Meltzer writes, “My takeaway from the whole lice sage is the Nix Lice Treatment and RID Lice don’t work. If we had an expensive “lice lady” in town, I would hire her in a heartbeat next time we get lice, even if I had to take a second mortgage on the house….”
  • Maxwell Alexander writes, “Ditto on the Fairy Tales!”
  • Crissy Halloran writes, “Prevention = tea tree oil along the hairline.”
  • Joshua Diamond writes, “Nothing convinces kids to wash / treat their hair regularly and not share hair brushes etc. than the threat of being shaved bald. All it takes is one kid in the school every couple of years, and the story spreads…”
  • Amanda Kingsley writes, “I condition my kids hair with tea tree conditioner when I know it’s around and I try to keep long hair back. We’ve been lucky, so far.”
  • Susan Lillie Robert writes, “Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo as this prevents head lice.”
  • Li Dolan writes, “Other strong scented essential oils such as rosemary or eucalyptus will work just as well as tea tree with out the toxicity. It is the scent that repels them. As for treatment, I have had good results with the cetaphil treatments and The Lice Program combing regimen.  My favorite comb for doing my daughter’s hair is the Terminator Comb. I have to do my own hair though and find that any metal toothed comb works well.

For more resources on the topic of lice, here’s a Pintrest board with pictures and videos.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Gilles San Martin]

Q&A: Where to Dine in Western MA for Valentine’s Day with Your Family


Erin Burke Murphy writes, “Can anyone recommend some restaurants my Husband and I could go to with our 20 month old for an early delicious Valentine’s Day dinner?”

  • Matt Grillo recommends:Bertucci’s (Amherst, Longmeadow & West Springfield) is very family-friendly, inexpensive and tasty. ♥”
  • Lori Shine recommends: “The Apollo Grill in Easthampton! Especially on the early side (5:30pm) they are usually not that busy, staff is super kid-friendly, their menu has a luxurious side and less expensive options too. Not to mention if the 20-month-old needs a break from her seat, one of the parents can let her run in Eastworks‘ long hallways for a few minutes! Hands down our favorite restaurant for family dining! p.s. the food is fantastic.”
  • Ron Frost Wright recommends: “There’s always Four Main Street Bar and Grill in Huntington if your looking for a quiet atmosphere or the Russell Inn in Russell, MA.”
  • Kathy McDonnell Elsea recommends: “I’m with Lori… Apollo Grill… Roberto’s Restaurant (Northampton) is yummy too.”
  • Kara Kitchen recommends:Pizzeria Paradisio in Northampton, The Brewmaster’s Tavern in Williamsburg, Hope and Olive in Greenfield… I heard Chandler’s Restaurant (South Deerfield) is very nice for Valentine’s Day…and the little one would love a trip through Yankee Candle. Maybe Magic Wings before hand to really make it special-butterflies+flowers are a perfect celebration of love!”
  • Judy Bennett recommends:People’s Pint in Greenfield is kid friendly with great food & beer.”
  • Sandra Dias recommends: “Roberto’s Restaurant in Northampton is very family-friendly.”
  • Melanie Courtemanche recommends:Judie’s Restaurant in Amherst.”
  • Rebecca Trow Addison recommends: “I will add that while it’s not romantic at all .. the Route 9 Diner in Hadley is family friendly and on Tuesdays kids eat free. Valentines’ Day happens to fall on a Tuesday so… if kids ask nicely the cashier will let them pick a toy out from a bin tucked under the cashier’s desk when the family leaves. Plus of course the kids menus are made for coloring and doing activities etc… On nights other than Tuesdays the prices are reasonable. Kid’s pancake is about $2, burgers and other items a few bucks more. Great place!”
  • Erin Burke Murphy writes, “Great suggestions! Thanks everyone, I’ll let you know where we end up.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: 10 Western MA Museums & Attractions


Peace Pagoda in Leverett, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Is there a museum/attraction in Western MA that you still haven’t got around to visiting that you’ve been meaning to?

  • Mark Grodzicki writes,Wistariahurst in Holyoke.”
  • Sarah Lewis writes, “The Peace Pagoda (Leverett).”
  • Abbe Laine Schiowitz writes, “The Children’s Museum in Holyoke.”
  • Jennifer Shiao Page writes,Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield.”
  • Kelly Jabour Pramberger writes,Eric Carle Museum in Amherst.”
  • Shelly Bathe Lenn writes, “ALL of those are WONDERFUL. Must make a point to check them out. I want to see more of Wisteriahurst, and take a boat tour/ride on the CT river (Quinnetukut II Riverboat in Northfield).”
  • Susan Lillie Robert writes, “Tons of things, need to start making a list.”
  • Melissa Adams writes, “Tregellys Fiber Farm (Hawley).”
  • Meagheanne Donahue writes, “The Titanic Museum, 208 Main Street, Indian Orchard.  My son is all about the old ships & liners. I’m taking him & a friend there over February break.”
  • Cassandra Van Wagner writes, “Haven’t been to the Springfield Museums in a long while. Would love to go back.”
  • Rachel Cassia Trigere Besserman writes, “Dinos at Amherst! (Beneski Museum of Natural History, Amherst College)”

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


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]

Q&A: 14 Recommended Websites by Western MA Parents


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]

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


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?

Q&A: 25 Recommendations for Western MA Pediatricians


"Dr. Steele is the BEST!! Both of my kids actually look forward to going to the doctor's to see him! They always try to guess which cool tie he is going to be wearing and who knew someone could make a tongue depressor be so fun," writes Kristy Matusiewicz Dyer

Love your pediatrician? Share the love and let us know. Recommend a pediatrician to families in Western Massachusetts looking for a doctor for their children.

  • Rakhee Price writes: “Northampton Area Pediatrics are FANTASTIC! We LOVE Dr Steele. He makes every visit fun. All the other doctors and staff are all very welcoming.”
  • Oona Coy writes: “Dr. Feinland and Dr. Perry at Valley Medical in Easthampton — they are family doctors. Great with kids, open-minded.”
  • Eileen Hamel writes: “Dr. David Steele at Noho Peds is a former pediatric oncologist from Baystate and has been an incredible doctor to my three young daughters for six years. His “bedside manner” is unmatched and he NEVER makes you feel like a paranoid parent!”
  • Kristy Matusiewicz Dyer writes: “Dr. Steele is the BEST!! Both of my kids actually look forward to going to the doctor’s to see him! They always try to guess which cool tie he is going to be wearing and who knew someone could make a tongue depressor be so fun!”
  • Angela Golembeski writes: “Absolutely love Northampton Area Pediatrics. I’m mom to three kids with significant medical concerns. They have literally saved my children’s lives time and time again. I’m viewed as part of the team. It’s great to know someone is listening.”
  • Gillian Kyle Budine writes: “Noho Peds has my vote too. I have been going there with my three kids for the past 14+ years.”
  • Nancyjo Craig Rongner writes: “We also go to NAP. We absolutely LOVE Dr. Lyons.”
  • Beth Caissie writes: “We love Amherst Peds–Dr. Roche is our pediatrician and we have nothing but nice things to say about her. Everyone else we’ve seen there has also been great.”
  • Alisa Blanchard writes: “Dr Dallenbach in Pittsfield! ♥ him and he will do a home visit if you have a home birth!”
  • Sheila Gallagher Roberts writes: “Dr David Gotseggan and Dr Patrica Petrowsky… Holyoke pediatrics. My favs.”
  • Myssie Casintagna writes: “Dr Feinland and Dr Slack in Easthampton are great. They will make a house call for newborn check at a home birth. Both have wonderful bedside manners, are open to and will suggest alternatives to traditional medicine.”
  • Jessica Day writes: “Dr. Zinn in Greenfield! He was my husband’s pediatrician, and now he’s our girls’!”
  • Heather Richardson writes: “Love Amherst Peds-Dr. Hickman is our doctor and he is wonderful with my kids and very supportive of MY decisions! I do also like Dr. Stephen Anderson in Belchertown, he’s a family doctor.”
  • Ellen Ginsburg writes: “Another vote for NAP in Northampton!”
  • Michelle Huddy writes: “NAP! Love Dr. Steele and Dr. Kenny!”
  • Kimberly French writes: “I have to say Dr. Steele is an exceptional doctor!”
  • Susan Rees writes: “Love Dr Schwab!”
  • Lynette McKinney Knapp writes: “We love Dr. Susan Wang at Amherst Peds. She’s wonderful with our kids and us parents, too!”
  • Katie Flanders writes: “We go to Hampshire Ped. in Easthampton. Dr. Jennifer and Dr. Ray Lamond are wonderful. I don’t think I would have kept my sanity the first year without Dr. Ray Lamond. She is very calming and does listen to my concerns.”
  • Gayle White writes: “In Springfield area, Dr. Judith Tapper at PV Pediatrics. When we lived in Whately she went to Dr. Lyons, LOVE them both!!”
  • Myanna Carbin-O’Brien writes: “Dr Steele is my oldest son’s doctor and has been AMAZING as we deal with a myriad of mental/physical health issues. Dr. Jane Cross at Holyoke Peds is my younger two sons doctor and LOVE LOVE LOVE her. Embraces wholistic health like no other mainstream doctor I’ve ever known.”
  • Shoshona King writes: “Dr. Hickman.”
  • Sandy Soderberg writes: “Dr. Schwab and all of them at Northampton Area Pediatrics. I used to live there when my twins were little – and one of them was a head banger – so I need the support too!”
  • Angelique Challan-Walls writes: “Dr. Dallenbach in Pittsfield is awesome. Positive, supportive, caring, he’s so great.”
  • Jennifer Carriere writes: “Ludlow Ped’s – Dr. Willis… great mannerisms and will be very patient and answer all questions you have. There are also 2 other female doctors at the practice: Dr. Rounds and Dr. Kates. They are excellent, friendly. They all are very patient with answers and questions, and the nurses are great too, especially when it’s shot time… we all know how kids get then!!”

[Photo credit: (ccl) SFDenverLV]

A Look Back: Images and Memories of Community Life in Western MA in 2011


Reflect back over 2011… What was your favorite memory of community life in Western MA?

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  • Kerri Simonelli of Haydenville, MA remembers, “So many great things happening in the Valley but one that stands out is recently participating in the Hot Chocolate Run. Being a small part of something so big, such an important fund raiser, running with friends and SO MANY other people, having my family (and everyone else in town!!!) cheering for all of us and running through and around Northampton on a beautiful day for a good cause, such a great, great experience!!!!”
  • Eric Coffman of Putney, VT remembers,“Any show at Shelburne Falls Memorial Hall. I never know who is going to show up but I know that there will be many friendly familiar faces.”
  • Denise Banister of Williamsburg, MA remembers, “The October snowstorm sticks out as an event which brought our community together. I had cooked a turkey supper at the Williamsburg Congregational Church. Twenty-four brave souls came for dinner that night. As I left the church to go home, I could see the candles glowing in the dining room window and knew there were folks in there enjoying the food and companionship. The leftovers went to nourish the fire department members who worked diligently throughout the night… community? That’s what small towns are all about.”
  • Anne Schlereth of Northampton, MA remembers, “I continue to be impressed with how the community comes together for the Safe Passage Hot Chocolate Run. About 5,500 local residents coming out for such a good cause and a fabulously fun morning! It always makes me proud to be from the valley; the 2011 event was no exception!”
  • Tina Howard of Williamsburg, MA remembers, “Community life? Any afternoon or evening at the Meekins Library (Williamsburg, MA).”
  • Christa Pylant of Amherst, MA remembers, “During the Halloween snowstorm this year, our “pocket neighborhood” in North Amherst came together around an open fire to cook, eat, and keep warm for every meal during the six days we were without power. Everyone shared resources during this time in order to make the experience more tolerable for young and old alike. It was a great example of the importance of community.”
  • Candy Laflam of Goshen, MA remembers, “When I reflect on 2011, I am thankful for our adopted son Kaleb who we were blessed with in February. The community support was wonderful. When thinking of the community, I think of Hurricane Irene and how it brought not only our state and towns together as one, but of my neighbors in Goshen and Cummington who helped me, personally out in our time of need. Family and friends are the essence of life.”
  • Gina Wyman of Easthampton, MA remembers, “I loved going to the Easthampton Holiday Stroll. It always gets me in the holiday spirit.”
  • Megan McDonough of Colrain, MA remembers, “Walking the neighborhood after Hurricane Irene and talking with neighbors.”
  • Caitlin Loverin of Pittsfield, MA remembers, “Two of my children are members of the Blanfield Children’s Chorus, which is a Berkshire County community organization (Berkshire Lyric). Their recent holiday concerts have been at several locations across the county, and my children and I have enjoyed hearing the amazing talent from members of all ages.”
  • Andrea Gray of Deerfield, MA remembers, “My husband took an evening Hoote Nanny class for parents. It was a great way to learn to play guitar for the family to enjoy and make friends.”

Share your memories: Share your memory of community life in Western MA in 2011 in the comment field.

Share your images: Have a photo to share? Post it to the Hilltown Families Hilltowns of Western MA Flickr Group.

Q&A: Getting Kids to Write Thank You Cards


Does anyone have any age appropriate recommendations on how to get children to write thank-you notes for gifts received this holiday season?

  • Pauline Delton suggests, “I had my (5yo) son just say something to me about his gifts for his birthday (I gave him ideas of what thank you cards might say), and I wrote his words down in a card without changing them much, and then he signed his name. So, for one thing he said something like, “I want to see what bones there are!” and I added “(he means in the excavation kit)”. And then I just let people know ahead of time how we did it so they wouldn’t be confused. –  Another thing would be to call people and thank them, thank them individually at the party if there is one (some cultures don’t send thank you notes; they consider the at-party thank you to be appropriate), or take a pic when the item is worn/used and send that.”
  • Audrey Nystrom Anderson suggests, “For my 3 year old- I have him color in the cards and I write a quick note of thanks (not everyone can decipher scribble ).”
  • Michael Rongner suggests, “Stickers.”
  • Sara Barry suggests, “My daughter is 3 and has recently started to like using the phone. She’s asked to call people and tell them that she likes or was using something they gave her, so that’s mostly what we are doing now. I’ll probably work on thank you notes with her in the future, but for this year, we’ll stick with calls and thank you in person.”
  • Susan Lillie Robert suggests, “I think if parents sit down and lead by example…set a night that is to write thank you notes and everyone joins in.”
  • Rebecca Dejnak suggests, “My oldest is 5 so I have her write at least her name on the thank you I wrote, often it’s what she tells me. When she was younger and for my 2 yr old, coloring on the non-written side of the card included them in the process.”
  • Lisa Osman suggests, “My child is to young (19 months old) to write, but I am thinking when she is old enough perhaps she can make her own thank you cards and it can be a drawing and I could give it to the person who gave the gift. It may not be in the words “thank you,” but its from their heart!”
  • Amanda Saklad suggests, “As soon as my kids knew how to make their letters, I had them copy a simple THANK YOU letter (one sentence). Before that, I had them dictate a letter while I wrote it and they drew a ‘thank you’ picture. The older ones (9 and 12) write their own and it has to have at least three sentences and be specific about WHAT they are thanking.”
  • Barbara Dunn suggests, “Take a photo of the child with the gift or take a photo of the child holding a hand colored THANK YOU poster. Depending on age and skill set, have them sign their name, copy “Thank you”, then work on sentences.”
  • Sally Yates suggests, “Tell them to. Whose the parent?”
  • Rhonda Anderson suggests, “I have my child make the Thank You card, from which I make copies to send out. Up to now I have been the stenographer taking dictation- she is able to do her own this year. It is important that YOU the parent are also doing Thank You cards- as a parent you are setting the example- and showing how important it is to take the time to Thank- Not to mention spending time with your child. – It should be a fun activity, not a chore…”
  • Rebecca Racz suggests, “Exactly, just make it a fun activity. Depending on the skills level… just a drawing with a little “thank you for the gift!” written by a parent, or a simple sentence and signature by the child is enough. Creating the “card” or other artwork is key, (and the fun part) I think. I have received plenty of cute little scribbles from kids that get the point across just fine!”
  • Megan Banta suggests, “My mom wouldn’t let me play with the toy, wear the clothes, or deposit or spend the money until after the thank you was written – made me write those notes fast!!”
  • Amita Guha suggests, “My mom used to sort of hover over me in the kitchen while I did them in the dining room. Sadly, this made them a hated chore, but I did get them done, and I still do them to this day.”
  • Karen Palmer suggests, “I’ve taught my daughter to truly appreciate any gift she receives and though she may not care for it she understands the importance of being thankful for what she has … and has given.”

[Image credit: (ccl) woodleywonderworks]

Q&A: Holiday Gifts to Teachers


 A personalized note or a small gift card to a bookstore make nice holiday/end of the year gifts for teachers/school staff, as do classroom supplies. – Check out what our readers have to say about holiday gift giving, and add your 2-cents to the conversation too.

Diane Hinze Kanzler writes, “So, last year I was considered a huge dork because, apparently, one is expected to give Christmas gifts to our child’s teacher/teacher’s aide. And I didn’t know this, being of a much older generation where those things didn’t happen. What’s the skinny? Is this now mandatory? And what does one do if the teacher in question is Jewish?”

Claire Lobdell responds, “My mother-in-law, an elementary school teacher, has said that she much prefers a heartfelt thank you note to a tchotchke. If giving “something” seems mandatory in your school around the holidays, maybe a small gift card to a bookstore (my MIL also really appreciates those, especially since she, like many teachers, has to buy the books she uses in her classroom herself).”

Meagheanne Donahue responds, “We make donations to Heifer International or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital  in the teacher’s name and just tuck the donation card in with the Holiday cards we send out. We do the same for the Principal and teacher’s aide (TA is Jewish).”

Swansea Benham Bleicher responds, “I’m all in favor of end of the school year gifts for teachers. Holidays are celebrated so differently from family to family.  If it’s part of your culture to give to the teacher at holiday time, then fine, but it shouldn’t be a stress or pressure…”

Carrie St John responds, “Our school suggests giving the teacher things she needs for the classroom—they generally all have a wish list posted or offering some volunteer time in class or with prep work. This comes in very handy in Public Schools where the budgets are tight. They prefer that you don’t give personal gifts because this can lead to some families feeling left out if it is not in the family budget or any sense of favorites, etc…”

Sienna Wildfield responds, “Some schools have traditions or may offer suggestions when it comes to expressing gratitude to their teachers/staff. For example, my daughter’s school has a tradition that happens at the end of the year rather than during the holiday season. — During the holiday season, the Amherst Regional High School suggests making a gift to the Amherst Education Foundation in honor of a teacher or school staff member… I would recommend checking in with a school administer to see what the school’s tradition/suggestion is on gift giving.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) sweetjessie]

Q&A: Consumerism and Commercialization During the Holidays


Many families make their own gifts as a way to beat excessive consumerism and commercialization during the holidays. One DIY gift is a personalized clipboard (click on image to enlarge). Partner it with a ream of copy paper and a box of 8 colored pencils and give to the young artists in your life! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

How does YOUR family handle excessive consumerism and commercialization during the holidays?

  • Amanda Saklad writes, “We don’t visit any malls from October until February. Crazy out there!”
  • Meagheanne Donahue writes, “My son gets “ten and a goat”. Santa brings him ten Christmas presents (not big ticket items, usually just movies, Legos, board games, etc.) and a donation in his name to Heifer International. Santa even leaves a Heifer International card under the tree with a note about how it makes such a difference. My son is 8 year old, this is our 5th year doing “ten & a goat” and he LOVES it! Plus, it keeps him from going crazy with the “I wants” this time of year.”
  • Angelique Phoenix writes, “Just say no!”
  • Pauline Delton writes, “We don’t celebrate Christmas, and we were very clear when our son was a baby that we wanted him to love relatives/friends for who they are and not for what they buy (for birthdays, random gifts, for Christmas–which the relatives celebrate). We discussed our love for and the benefits of secondhand items, visits/passes/experiences instead of “things” that would break/take up space/etc. Despite this, we had a set of grandparents who would bring a new thing on a WEEKLY basis, and we talked with them once about it and then even more firmly a second time, and thankfully it stopped. I know some people say it’s rude to reject gifts, but once someone has dismissed your boundaries and has made the choice to do something you clearly didn’t want done, it’s not you who’s being rude. *shrug*”
  • Susan Countryman writes, “We focus on giving instead of getting–and incorporate handmade gifts.”
  • Phoebe Shaw writes, “We hide. Then we just buy them everything they want at the last possible minute.”
  • Dawn Klein writes, “I’m making some of my gifts and my one-year-old doesn’t watch the tube, so no Disney, Elmo, etc. I want her to use her imagination. I purchased some musical toys. Any other suggestions for her? Thanks.”
  • Desiree DuBois writes, “We make a lot of our gifts- jams, flavored vinegars, cordials, cookies or festive breads make nice gifts, or we buy locally made maple syrup or other products by local farmers & artists & value- added producers to keep as much money as possible in our local community.”
  • Tracy Tirrell Griffith writes, This year we are focusing on helping others and keeping things very simple and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.”

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