Campus Martius Christmas

Campus Martius is right in the center of the hub of downtown Detroit. In winter the ice skating rink, majestic tree and small business mall (complete with beer tent parents) is a destination to build memories and traditions. During the holiday season when my far-stretched family comes to visit we always make it a point to spend some time there.

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We strolled around the rink, admiring the agile and the fallen in their glory and their agony respectively. The lights of the small business mall beckoned and we purchased some Detroit memorabilia. My sister a shirt, for mom a mug, a sweater and a set of coasters. The husbands marveled at the biker gear and beer accessories. I nibbled some Germack nut mix and coveted a Warhol- esque canvas that could be made from your own photo. Something for everyone! Then we all agreed the beer tent was a good idea.

Live music is always enjoyable to me, but it’s especially fun when you can watch your three year old jam out like nobody’s watching. I swear, we really should’ve thrown a tip jar down. He was entertainment for a while until his interest waned and we moved on.

Inside of the Compuware building Santa himself is available from noon-6pm for unlimited photos with your own camera for FREE! No one else was there so we had a blast. B was very apprehensive initially but warmed up when we all got in the picture together.

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The massive waterfall inside the lobby a few feet away allowed B to be amazed long enough for everyone to enjoy a hot cocoa from Tim Horton’s. The ATM helped us get more loot to head back out again and enjoy more winter traditions. Along our exploration we stumbled upon a sidewalk chess board in front of the DTE Energy building.

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What fun family memories are you creating with your family this season?

Faux Snow

It’s snowing!!!! Big beautiful fluffy flakes, look look!!!

5 minutes later

It stopped. Nooooo :(

We live in Michigan, so there is a certain amount of snow expected. However, for the past three winters we haven’t even gotten enough to build a snowman in Wayne County. We plan on heading to some snow hills this winter but my child is ever-increasingly interested in playing in the snow (I can’t blame him).

So, like all good parents, when presented with a challenge, I turn to the Internet :) Here’s what I found and what we did:

Make your own snow! Just mix equal parts baking soda with shaving cream.

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I added a few drops of peppermint essential oil and blue food coloring. Voila!

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It was bath time so I let B mix and explore while in an “arctic adventure” bath. The mixture is surprisingly cool and when mixed fully it really does feel like snow!

We will definitely be exploring this again. Next time I plan to do it in the kitchen sink and then add a few glugs of vinegar to get an “exploding” action.

Simple, easy, fun and really cool, my kind of activity!

What activities have you been doing with your little ones this winter?

Letters to Santa

Writing a letter to Santa has an entirely different meaning today than ever before. As a child it was a letter of hope and optimism. As a parent I am holding my breath, smiling through my teeth and hoping my child writes down what we bought him because if not, we’re screwed! Luckily, he did ask for the big gift we bought- whew!

Visiting The Henry Ford Museum is our family tradition to write our letters and visit with Santa. It’s also a fantastic place to explore for my little guy. Drive a huge combine machine, change the tires or muffler on a car in a Texaco shop or build Legos to your hearts content, there are hours of cold weather fun to be had! Older kids (a.k.a parents) can fold paper into a model airplane and launch it in a “test area” or power a light bulb with a crank. Literally hundreds of planes, trains and automobiles to touch, sit in, climb on and discover.

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Step 1: Write a letter to Santa

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Step 2: Check it twice

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Step 3: Send it to the North Pole

Seems simple.

I’m glad it worked out this year. I still feel like just a little bit of Christmas magic was in play. Tis’ the season!

What Christmas traditions do you have in your family?

3 Ingredient Hot Cocoa

Thanks to www.100daysofrealfood.com for posting this homemade hot cocoa recipe on their Facebook page. Tried it today and it was so yummy!! Plus I didn’t feel guilty about sharing it with my little guy!

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A few moments of warming the milk while stirring it on the stovetop and voila!

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There wasn’t a drop left! Just a teeny tiny puff of foamy goodness to spoon out.

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Rite of Passage

There are certain things you remember, big moments that, upon reflection were turning points in your life. Learning to tie your shoes, ride a bike, pour your own milk and using sharp objects to cut. Scissors were first, then butter knives, then real knives and now a pumpkin saw. You know you’ve arrived when you can be trusted with sharp objects.

First, you’ve got to choose the right pumpkin. B had three that he had chosen in early October and have been lying in wait on our front porch deflecting squirrels daily just to get the chance to be chosen as his FIRST carved pumpkin, quite an honor! We opened the fancy pumpkin carving kit, examined our tools and decided on a template. For obvious reasons, we went with “beginner” level for the carving.

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Daddy guiding B’s wee hand along the top cut.

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Okay, so we didn’t totally surrender cutting this massive squash to our (almost) three year old. We’re not totally crazy, but B got the V.I.P knife talk and he definitely sawed that gourd.
He did seem to enjoy the gutting part the most however.

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He cut, rolled and tapped his pumpkin head until the design was done. Then we set it out on the front porch with the others. I had purchased some “safety” battery operated flicker lights, much to B’s sadness. Knives were a lot for one day… be patient my son… one day we will teach you to command fire too. You have much to learn little one. For now, just smile at the camera so mommy can commemorate (sniff, sniffle) another milestone.

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What are your favorite family traditions on Halloween?

Detroit Time Machine

Greenfield Village is an authentic time machine that can transport you into Edison’s workshop and the very chair he used while inventing the incandescent light bulb or into the Wright brothers family kitchen. Take a horse and buggy ride, cruise in a model T Ford or chug along on a steam train.

The one hundred year old carousel is magical and the village green is the perfect spot for a family game of “tag”. You can bring your own picnic lunch or enjoy a healthy snack (most likely grown or made in the Village) from one of their shops. With all of that, they’ve gone and topped it!

Introducing (drum roll, please) the new playscape!

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A huge Firestone tire replica spins round and round in one corner and the two-story water tower shines in the weak October sun, highlighting three ways to go up and down! It’s fully fenced in with a staff member at the entrance/exit to guide young explorers. It has something for every age group, even the adults! Our first time there we spent two hours and only explored half of the playscape!

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Of course there’s a Ford flatbed truck! Climb in the drivers seat, turn on the engine and imagine yourself trolling along. Just in front of its bumper is the sandbox, of course it wouldn’t be complete without a life-size excavator, right? Then there is the ten foot high pumping station that spits out real water (even at the end of October) and the swing set that will delight infants and gymnasts alike.

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You can sing “row, row, row your boat” at the top of your lungs!

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Learn about the physics of water flow…

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Place different shaped wood pieces at different intervals to create a damn or a waterfall…

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Regardless of your intent, you won’t be able to stop the mystical time tunnel that is, Greenfield Village.

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Potty details:
Proper restrooms with changing tables, family restrooms with rockers for nursing and real soap and towels to dry are everywhere throughout the village.

Cost:
This place is not cheap. We do get a membership each year with ride passes and at nearly $370.00, it is triple the cost of our zoo or science center memberships, but completely worth it.

Parking:
Easy and free if you are a member. Easy, still, even if you’re not a member, they just add the cost onto your ticket,

As always, these are simply my own opinions and observations. I did not in ANY way get compensated for this review.

Do you have a favorite play area around town? Write it in the replies, or if you’ve already written about it, post your link :)

Family Fun at Farmer Charley’s

Farmer Charley’s off Nadeau Rd. and interstate 75 is our favorite place for family fun for two reasons… The HOPPER and the Pumpkin CANNON!

The Hopper is a HUGE bounce house floor (25 yards X 10 yards, maybe?) buried in what looks like a sandy beach volleyball court next to their corn maze. Our kid looooves a bounce house and this one is huge and more importantly, well-monitored by a staff member. Only a few kids of equal size allowed on for two minute intervals. You may not, but I have an unusual fear of a head injury being caused by this “kid-friendly” activity, but here, I feel SAFE(er), more than anywhere else at least.

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The pumpkin cannon is something we cannot find anywhere else and we talk about ALL YEAR! The crew welded their own metal pieces together, painted it army green and powered it with an air compressor (so no “kick back” like a real big gun/cannon, for those of you who may be familiar). For $20 we got about twenty minutes of punkin’ chunkin’ fun!

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The farm even has huge wooden “targets” cut out and painted for Halloween. There is something so satisfying about having those mini pumpkins SMACK and SPLATTER against the face of a jack-o-lantern.

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I’ll be honest, this is something we ALL look forward to!

They have a smorgasbord of activities at this family farm that are all kitschy and totally awesome. I couldn’t get pictures of everything and still enjoy my family because it’s a thrill a minute!

1) Pig races with an announcer and prizes.
2) Hayrides back to the pumpkin patch
3) A very challenging corn maze that was laser cut into their field to look like Spider-Man this year. They take a poll on their Facebook page every year.
4) Barrel train rides with a souped up riding mower as the engine driven by a descendent of Mario Andretti.
5) A huge firepit is lit every night that you can warm up to or buy s’mores kits at their bakery and roast ‘em up!
6) Their bakery has apple cider slushies, warm apple cider, hot cocoa, coffee and every type of fancy cookie and doughnut you may be craving.
7) A massive dirt/sand box with toys
8) A few tether ball poles (the only thing my kid likes more than jumping is hitting/throwing a ball)

We practiced roping cattle…

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Racing rubber duckies…

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There is a tent where they make fresh kettle corn right in front of you. Next door is a snack shack you can order any number of artery-clogging fried goodies, including corn dogs on a stick, quite a novelty! You may not bring your own food, so try to eat beforehand. There is a huge tent with lots of picnic tables however, if the mood strikes you to sit and nosh on some carnival-esque foods.

The fun was everywhere to be had, even in the most simple of things. They had tractors from a nearby dealership that we loved exploring, pushing buttons and honking the horn.

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We rolled around and around all over the great lawn in plastic drainage tubes. This idea was genius!

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Of course, no farm would be complete without farm animals. We enjoyed petting, feeding and talking to the goats, cow and sheep.

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Thursday nights are family night, so if you bring a can/box of non-perishable food you can get a discounted admission. It was also not as crowded (read, less lines) on a Thursday night versus a weekend afternoon. We purchased “bounce back” tickets at half price before we left to visit again.
I hope we get to use them again this week, my trigger finger is getting itchy ;)

Potty details:
Port-a-John use only, but they are not totally horrible. Plus, my kid looooves a urinal. Hey, anything to encourage potty-training, right?

What’s your favorite Fall Family Fun place to visit?