Introducing “Chick Clicks!” with a Cinco de Mayo Recipe


By Mary Ann Filler

Hello, Off The Merry-Go-Round readers! It’s been a while since I have contributed to the blog. I have been back on the Merry-Go-Round teaching 14 credit hours this semester. As a mom of three very active teenage sons, I have had to cut back on extra activities such as blogging. However, I have been brainstorming ways that I can still continue to contribute to the blog without it taking too much time. Fellow OTMGR writer Karen and I came up with a plan… and we are proud to introduce my first installment of “Chick Clicks!”

What are Chick Clicks?

In my new series, I’m going to share online “treasure” with you. Chick Clicks are links to wonderful articles, recipes, projects and more—all online and all (hopefully) helpful to you as a family-oriented mom and wife. I’m looking forward to shining a spotlight on other fabulous blogs and websites written by moms (chicks) just like us, with words of wisdom, helpful tips and tricks that I have personally found useful. Blogs form a great network of resources!

I was telling Karen about an amazing recipe for refried beans that I discovered, and she thought it would be the perfect first Chick Click to share in honor of Cinco de Mayo. So here goes!

Consider: Cutting Down on Processed Foods

Are you familiar with the 100 Days of Real Food website? I have found some really great recipes there.  Lisa Leake started the blog/website when she and her family pledged to go 100 days without eating any highly processed or refined foods including white flour or sugar. They made this decision to draw attention to our society’s dependency on processed food. So, the recipes are very healthy and use only real food ingredients.

Her refried bean recipe is one of my favorites because it’s inexpensive, easy and delicious. In addition, it also freezes well. Beans are super high in protein, iron and fiber, which make them the perfect option for “Meatless Mondays” if you follow that trend. Or serve them alongside your favorite taco recipe for the perfect side dish today, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Ole!

So without further ado… here is my first Chick Click!

Click here for Lisa Leake’s Easy Slow Cooker Refried Beans


The recipe uses dry beans that are normally soaked overnight prior to cooking. However, according to the recipe, this step may be eliminated. As a side note, I still like to soak dry beans for at least 24 hours and for nutritional reasons that you can read about here, in a bonus Chick Click from the Healthy Home Economist.  

I highly recommend soaking your pinto beans overnight, first.

I highly recommend soaking your pinto beans overnight, first.


Load all of your ingredients into your handy crock pot. It is a busy chick's best friend!

Load all of your ingredients into your handy crock pot. It is a busy chick’s best friend!


This is how the beans will look when softened and ready for mashing.

This is how the beans will look when softened and ready for mashing.


And presto... time for a fiesta!

And presto… time for a fiesta!

Enjoy the recipe!

P.S. Many thanks to Karen for these great pics! 🙂

See You at the Clothesline

Image courtesy of cjansuebsri /

Image courtesy of cjansuebsri /

By Karen Hendricks

Happy Earth Day!

Recycling, renovating, refurbishing, converting… all of these words remind me of DIY projects that help us find new uses for old items. Whether the idea is to save money, to be more conscious of the environment, or to be creative, I love hearing earth-friendly tips from other families.

So today in the spirit of Earth Day, I’m going to share one of my favorite earth-friendly, but very old-fashioned, DIY ideas: hanging laundry out to dry on a clothesline.

This might not sound all that exciting or revolutionary to you… but stay with me. I promise, there are many perks! I encourage you to rediscover this old technique… because it will renew your spirit.

Everything old is new again

Somewhere ingrained in me, is the old-fashioned poem about household chores that my great-grandmother used to follow:

Monday, Wash Day
Tuesday, Ironing Day
Wednesday, Sewing Day
Thursday, Market Day
Friday, Cleaning Day
Saturday, Baking Day
Sunday, Day of Rest

If your family is like mine, weekends are full of activities including sports, which means that Mondays are great candidates for laundry days. I do not like having stinky sports uniforms hanging out in the laundry room for very long. At some point over the weekend, I normally remind my kids to collect all of their laundry from the hidden recesses of their room, bring it to the laundry room and sort it out. (This also helps with the never-ending chore, “cleaning their room.”) I can’t say that I follow this old-fashioned poem’s advice on the remaining days of the week, although Fridays are definitely cleaning days at our house as well.


Image courtesy of artur84 /

Monday: A clean slate

Ok, so Monday morning rolls around and I honestly look forward to beginning my week with a “clean slate” and doing at least one, sometimes three or four, loads of laundry. Currently, I work from home, so it’s easy for me to incorporate this into my routine. But even when I worked full-time, outside the home, I looked forward to this Monday morning ritual and did a load of laundry before heading out the door.

If you don’t already have a clothesline, it’s a fairly simple DIY project to install one. I love the idea that a light breeze and sunshine can work magic on a load of laundry. It’s recycling at its best!

Benefits of “hang time”

So what are the benefits to hanging laundry outdoors?

  • Starting the day outside in the early morning sunshine
  • Time spent thinking about the day and week ahead
  • A peaceful start to the day
  • Light exercise
  • Saving money by not running the dryer
  • Freshly scented sheets and laundry
  • Time in the afternoon spent taking the laundry down is also a perfect time to “recharge” outdoors
  • Morning or afternoon–I often have a cup of coffee nearby!

A few additional tips:

  • I never hang towels outside—even if I use fabric softener, they get too stiff if hung outside.The dryer leaves them soft and fluffy and that’s the way we like them. Don’t mess with a good thing. The same goes for socks in my opinion. Besides, I don’t have the patience to hang the gazillion socks that go through our laundry every week. LOL
  • If the temperature isn’t forecasted to go above 60 degrees, then it’s too chilly, in my book, to either enjoy the time outdoors or to adequately dry the laundry.
  • How does the saying go? Don’t air your personal laundry in public? My family appreciates the fact that I do not hang any personal items on the washline. 🙂

It sounds simple, I know, but my Monday mornings at the clothesline have become a cherished routine. Now that spring is here, this is one chore that I’m ready to plug back into my schedule!

How about you? What are some of your favorite earth-friendly tips? Time or money-saving tricks? Ways to renew your spirit?

Monday morning in New York City, circa 1900, public domain. How incredible is this photo?!

Monday morning in New York City, circa 1900, public domain. How incredible is this photo?!


Recycle, Reuse and… Renovate!

A beautifully hand-crafted piece of furniture I had treasured for years now had to go ... What would become of such a meaningful part of my life?

A beautifully hand-crafted piece of furniture I had treasured for years now had to go …
What would become of such a meaningful part of my life?

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Well, I am officially “done” with all of this wintry weather and am ready for spring … springing forward, having an extra spring in my step, and that all-familiar pastime of spring cleaning!

My family and I have been slowly renovating the upper level of our rambler-style house for a couple of years now. It has taken a good deal of research and planning, yet we are nearly there – just the kitchen to go now!

Yes, renovating your house really CAN be this fun!

Yes, renovating your house really CAN be this fun!

In my blog, “Make Little Changes to Your Home to Create a Fab New Look!”  I took you on a tour of our dining/living room area and hallway, demonstrating how just a few small changes (yes, even inexpensive ones) can make a BIG difference in the overall appearance of your home.

As I read, research and learn more about renovating, I have also discovered that it is not only possible to make small, inexpensive changes to your house to create a whole new look, but that those changes can also involve using items and accessories you already have in your home in a completely different way to add to your home’s new “image” and décor.

In the past, when thinking about recycling, I pictured putting paper and cardboard, and plastics and aluminum, into containers to be reused and redistributed in another form. I thought about composting and conservation. What I didn’t consider is that when you take one item that you might otherwise sell, donate, or throw away – and find another use for it – that is recycling as well!

~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~

STOP! Don't throw those leftover pieces of wood away just yet!

STOP! Don’t throw those leftover pieces of wood away just yet!

In the early 2000’s, a couple of years before I met my husband, I was living in Clearwater, Florida. My beloved grandmother (who was actually our neighbor a few houses down the street before we brought her so closely into our lives) had recently passed away from a stroke and I wanted to raise funds for the American Stroke Association in her memory. So I signed up, and trained, for my first half marathon which would be in Negril, Jamaica.

When I returned from a successful run, I found that my boyfriend had moved a large, beautifully hand-crafted (by him!) home entertainment center into my apartment’s living room. It was absolutely beautiful, made from red oak and mahogany wood with adjustable shelving, and I treasured it for many years. Over time, I found that this storage unit was also quite versatile and could suit most any home storage need – as a home entertainment center (it’s original purpose and for which it was designed); a display and/or book case; a buffet table; or all of these!

When I got married, my husband even had a piece of glass cut for the top to protect it, and so that piece of furniture followed us around until we landed at our current home in Maryland in 2006.

~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~

Yes, the entertainment center was really THIS close when you opened our front door!

Yes, that “chunky” entertainment center was really THIS close when you opened our front door!

Our house is just 1,184 square feet – very small compared to what most people would consider livable square footage. None of the wall space in the living room, or my husband’s office space in our master suite, would “support” the 59 ½” l x 25” w x 32” h center once our other furniture was moved in. All of the bedrooms were too small as well. So, we put it along the wall just as you walk in our front door – in the small space we called our “foyer.” I put quotes around foyer because it was more like a few feet of floor space that you squeezed into from the front door before making your way to the living room; or around the corner to the dining room and then on to the kitchen.

In that space, the center appeared even larger than it already was – taking up a good portion of the entryway space. It was so big that one might even bump right into it when entering the house!

Although I had an emotional attachment to this piece and considered it a treasure, when it was time to renovate our foyer we knew it simply could not remain in this space. It was a tough decision, but in the end I decided to let it go. At first, we thought we might find someone special who would cherish the center. When we could not find a good home for it, we decided to sell it and use the money toward our renovations. We put an ad in local newspapers and other advertisement venues; as well as on Craig’s List and eBay – all to no avail.

My former entertainment center ... How could it possibly ever look as polished and lovely as it once did?

My former entertainment center … How could it possibly ever look as polished and lovely as it once did?

This piece simply could not stay, and my husband was about to chop it up for firewood, when our contractor took a second look. “You know…this comes apart.” That was my “ah-ha” moment, and then I knew just what I would do. Besides, if anyone could help me with my idea, it would be our contractor. He goes by “Dr. Dan,” and on his own completes his work intentionally and deliberately. The good doctor seems to be able to custom make just about anything. In my previous renovation blog, I also shared how he had “gutted” a really weird-looking closet in our hallway and created a gorgeous display shelving unit. Truly amazing!

So Dr. Dan dismantled the entire entertainment center – right there in the foyer area, piece by piece. The pieces were then stored so that he could add new tile flooring which we had chosen.

~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~

We decided to purchase more expensive tiles to make our entrance appear a little more “grand,” even though the style of the floor was actually quite simple. This was the only part of our renovation where we did not “recycle;” rather took on the expense to achieve a goal that may not have been workable otherwise. Besides, we knew that since we had purchased a high- quality flooring, it would last us many years – possibly even the remainder of our time in our house.

We spared no expense on our new tile flooring - the only part of our renovation where we did not "recycle."

We spared no expense on our new tile flooring – the only part of our renovation where we did not “recycle.”

By adding new flooring, this area was quickly transformed in three ways – functionally and aesthetically:

  • The entrance space was given an illusion of being bigger by extending the tile flooring toward the living and dining areas
  • A simple and neutral design kept the area from looking too pretentious for our quaint rambler-style home; and hid much of the dirt and mud that gets tracked into our house from the wooded acreage on which we live
  • The type of flooring we chose – color scheme and texture, made the area much easier to keep clean

Previously, there was a “strip” of plastic laminate flooring which was so cheaply made and sloppily installed that it looked very out of place with the genuine hardwood floors throughout the house. The illusion we hoped to create in this way was successful; and our completed entryway/foyer now has a “sweeping” effect as you enter our house.

~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~

OMG! What a mess! Is there any way this tiny foyer closet can be transformed inexpensively into something more...aesthetically pleasing???

OMG! What a mess! Is there any way this tiny foyer closet can be transformed inexpensively into something more…aesthetically pleasing???

Dan then set to work on our entryway coat closet. Prior to our renovation, the closet had been small, dark and, admittedly, smelly (once dirty old work boots began rotting away inside!). Soon, however, the old, plain, cheaply constructed outer door was removed and a lovely, dark wooden retro-style “accordion” door was installed in its place – eliminating a door that swings so far open that it takes up half the entryway when opened.

Simply changing the style of door on the front of the closet instantly served three renovation purposes – practical and decorative:

  • Added a dramatic, eye-catching detail to the space
  • Created more space with a trimmer door
  • Accented the overall style throughout the house ~ contemporary, with retro designs and accents that “give a nod” to the 1960’s

A beautiful new closet door!

A beautiful new closet door!

~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~

Next, Dan pulled out the makeshift wooden shelf up top and lined the entire inside of the closet with cedar wood (goodbye moth holes in jacket pockets!). The matching makeshift wooden “bar” on which to hang coats was kept in place, however. We figured why buy a new one when all our contractor needed to do to improve its appearance and make it match the rest of the closet is stain it? Plus, this was yet another “nod” – this time to all of the do-it-yourself owners who came before us! Though we have had to replace nearly everything you sloppily installed throughout the house, we do applaud your attempt at saving a few bucks.

Now, finally, here’s the part where I recycle! Once the entertainment center had been taken apart, our contractor worked hard to keep as much of the shelving and beveled wood intact. He then cut and smoothed all the separate pieces to create partitioned shelving in the closet, matching the design sketched by my husband.

Now, we had added pockets of storage in a wonderfully smelling closet – and one that even magically somehow looked larger inside than before! Just like our display shelves in the hallway, our closet had a custom-designed, unique look that when seen one would have a hard time believing it had once been an entertainment center that held a television set and stereo!

Ta-da! Our "new" closet!

Ta-da! Our “new” closet!

~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~

So if you are looking to change-up an area of your home such as an entryway; closet; or other space in your house, before you troll through Home Depot or Lowe’s, or search online for renovation ideas – simply take a walk around your own home. You just never know what you may find that can be turned into something else and recycled to meet your current renovation needs!

A beautiful, warm, and inviting (not to mention larger in appearance) entrance way awaits us when we arrive back home. And...I no longer need to use quotation marks around the word Foyer ~ I truly have one now!

A beautiful, warm, and inviting (not to mention larger in appearance) entryway awaits us when we arrive back home. And…I no longer need to use quotation marks around the word Foyer ~ I truly have one now!

Happy recycling! Have you found anything in your home that you have turned into something else? Have you embarked on any recent projects you would like to share, along with any interesting renovation techniques or discoveries you found along the way? We would love to hear your recycling and renovation ideas!

Atop the Big Apple

photo 4 (3)WEB

By Karen Hendricks

New York City is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to visit numerous times over the years, and we even enjoyed a family vacation there several years ago. Last week, as a small business owner, I was very thankful to receive a scholarship to attend a conference–which doesn’t sound all that exciting–but actually it was very enriching and energizing. I was in desperate need of a change of pace, due to this long, frigid winter. Thanks to my husband’s support at home, I enjoyed four days in the Big Apple, where it’s always fun to make new memories and discoveries.

One of those discoveries was The High Line, a former elevated train line that’s been converted into a pathway and park. It stretches for about a mile, running north/south, on the lower west side of Manhattan. It’s urban renewal at its best! Right in the heart of New York, it provided time “off the merry-go-round.” And I can’t wait to share it with you–our Off the Merry-Go-Round readers–and the rest of my family on a future trip.

photo 1 (3)WEB

Entrance to The High Line

photo 2 (2)WEB

Now, I should disclose that I absolutely LOVE walking in New York. I almost always travel there by train, as a car is really is hindrance–I don’t like to drive in the city especially during busy weekdays, and parking fees are astronomical during weekdays as well. If it’s raining more than a drizzle, I might hail a cab. But otherwise, I choose a hotel that’s central to the locations I’m planning to visit, and then I walk everywhere I need to go. Comfy shoes are a must.

The High Line aligned perfectly with my walking route, to and from my conference. So up I went every day, taking several flights of stairs to access The High Line, which gave me a fun, new perspective on the city. Looking out across rooftops, walking alongside towering buildings–both modern and old–with a bird’s eye view of city streets… it was incredible. Even though it was winter, and the path was lined with snow on either side, it was still beautiful. The park-like setting featured gorgeous trees and intriguing sculptures, with plenty of benches where you could relax and soak in the view. There were plenty of visitors during my walks to keep me company–it was a popular, happening place!

photo 1 (2)WEB

I’m anxious to return on a warm summer day, when trail-side gardens are in full bloom, for a visit with my family. I think kids would especially enjoy the awesome views and new perspective above the city streets. And one huge benefit to walking on The High Line–especially for families with young children? You can actually walk continuously for a mile, without stopping at crosswalks and traffic lights, as you normally do in the city. However, you should make frequent stops on The High Line, simply to admire the views… there are many just waiting to be discovered.

Enjoy a few bonus pics below… And tell us: What family-friendly and/or budget-friendly destinations have you discovered in New York? Please share your tips and ideas below! 🙂

photo 2WEB

I spy… the Empire State Building

photo 3 (1)WEB

photo 5 (2)WEB

View of the Hudson River

photo 4 (4)WEB

A light mist put a touch of gloss on the city streets below

photo 4 (2)WEB

A snowy, snarled street… with a peek at the Hudson

photo 4 (1)WEB

A little boy’s dream… bird’s eye view of a construction site

photo 3 (4)WEB

The former rail lines gleam within the walkways…

photo 3 (3)WEB

The High Line’s route

photo 3 (2)WEB

I was intrigued by the design, shape and shine of this building!

photo 2 (3)WEB

A former warehouse reminds visitors of a past life in the city…

photo 2 (1)WEB

Looking down 22nd Street…

photo 1 (4)WEB

Sculpture provides energizing color and shape against a building’s structured backdrop…

photo 1 (1)WEB

One last intriguing skyline view…

If you enjoyed this article… you might also like:

Up for Family Adventure? Try Biking on a Rail Trail

And click here for The High Line’s website

Answering the “What’s for Dinner?” Question

By Jen Ashenfelter

Mmmmm... spaghetti! (Photo credit:

Mmmmm… spaghetti! (Photo credit:

“What’s for dinner?”

When I was younger, this question was important to me, and waiting to hear the answer filled me with nervous anticipation. With dinner the most important meal (to me), I just needed to know which way my day would go. Spaghetti or meatloaf and mashed potatoes could make the day, and hot dogs or lima beans could break it. (There’s nothing worse than knowing the day was ending with a spoonful of evil.)

Apples don’t fall far from the tree: I have two boys and everything revolves around food. I totally understand their need to ask me what’s for dinner first thing in the morning (with apologies to my mother for constantly asking), but that doesn’t mean I have to actually answer them. And no, we never end the day with lima beans.

With that in mind, a little preparation every week goes a long way toward maintaining a lot of sanity—and it probably saves time and money too! I can’t remember exactly when I started planning meals for the week, but I can tell you it makes it big difference and whenever I fall out of the practice—chaos ensues.

There’s no silver bullet or divine secret to meal planning—just takes a little time and creativity. I’m happy to share what works for me, and I encourage discussion on what works for you. Regardless of your work/home balance, from grocery store to dinner table, we are usually responsible for feeding the family. Who really has the time; why not make it as easy on ourselves as possible?
• Collect recipes – Keep them in a notebook, envelope or box—doesn’t matter where, just as long as you can quickly scan through recipes of family favorites or easy one-pot dishes. Research the web and ask friends for great recipes.
• Find a planner – Go to AC Moore, Michaels, or your local arts-n-crafts or dollar store for a planner pad you can stick to the refrigerator. (My pink and black zebra print pad has seven columns so I can plug in the date.) You can use your computer or iPad, but I prefer old-fashioned paper because I can stick it on the frig where everyone has 24/7 access—which eliminates the “What’s for dinner?” Q&A…and, at times, the follow-up whining and complaining.
• Plan for the coming week – I start by noting which nights have soccer or karate or meetings—dinner should be quick and easy on these nights. Before I go grocery shopping, I look through my recipes and/or store flyers to help keep the menu interesting and inexpensive. Cook enough for two nights when you can—eat half now and freeze the other half for later, so next week’s menu is easy to create and the only requirement is reheating.
• Make the grocery list – Use the back of last week’s menu to write your shopping list. With recipes on hand, it’s easy to list everything you’ll need. Planning and shopping for the week saves time and money since I’m less likely to run to the store for a few items and return with a cart full…or resort to spending money on fast food. We definitely eat healthier when I take the time to plan for the week.

That’s it! I fell out of practice during the summer, and by Friday evenings I was so frustrated with the questions about what’s for dinner and last minute planning that I didn’t care if anyone got dinner. (Note the snippy tone.) Now that school is back in session and the activities and sports are in full swing, planning is essential. And I actually like Friday evening dinners again.

Here’s a delicious recipe for chicken that turns any dinner into a Sunday dinner without much effort. Add some rice or bread, microwave a bag of green beans and dinner is served. Please share your time/money-saving tips or a favorite recipe with everyone. Enjoy!

Orange chicken
Chicken A L’Orange
4-8 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise (quartered if large)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 3-3 ½-lb whole chicken (I use package of cut-up chicken w/extra package of thighs so there’s enough to create 2 dinners.)
½ cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1) Heat oven to 425. In a large shallow roasting pan, toss the shallots with 1 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper.

2) Cut the chicken into pieces. In a large bowl, whisk together the marmalade, vinegar, rosemary and remaining oil and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken; toss to coat.

3) Place the chicken mixture in the roasting pan, nestling the pieces among the shallots. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and browned and shallots are tender, 25 – 30 minutes.

August Days (Daze)

By Karen Hendricks

hiking trail

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I feel summer slipping away… August always seems like a frenzied rush of activity–preparing for school days and yet desperately trying to  savor a few more sweet summer days, and stashing a few more precious memories away for safe-keeping. It’s a balancing act for sure!

Deep breath… It may be August, but it’s early August, and there’s still time to enjoy a getaway (or two)!

One of my favorite getaways is also one of the easiest to plan: Taking a family hike in a state park or forest. Even if the trail is only a short distance from your home, being in the woods is an adventure that takes you worlds away. Our family has picked up a few tips through the years, but feel free to comment and leave your own tips as well!

Hiking How-To:

  • Pick a destination with appeal. Choose a mountaintop, a waterfall, vista or other similar feature as a goal to reach. It makes the trip worthwhile on many levels!
  • Plan your route. Most parks have trail maps available on their websites, so you can “study” your route ahead of time, and tailor your total mileage to your family’s fitness or age-appropriate level. Or, seek the advice of a park ranger and ask for his/her recommendation for a trail your family can tackle.
  • Just like the Boy Scouts, be prepared. Bring a backpack stashed with a small first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, and snacks such as granola bars and/or apples. Either include water bottles in the backpack for everyone (although this could be heavy to start!) or bring a second soft cooler-type bag for the water.
  • Be observant. Encourage your children to keep their eyes open for natural wonders: types of trees, interesting spiders and other insects, animal tracks (or even animals!), flowers, etc. You literally never know what you’ll encounter around each curve in the trail.
  • Be healthy. Exercising is a great side benefit for everyone, and the fact that you’re exercising together as a family is even better! Wear a pedometer or track your distance using an app on your phone, for your total mileage.
  • Record a few memories. If you still have a hand free, bring a camera!

Most admission to state parks or recreation areas is free, so you’ll also be planning a daytrip that’s easy on the family budget… another worthwhile benefit.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor: The colorful building in the center is the Baltimore Aquarium--an amazing place my family has loved visiting!

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor: The colorful building in the center is the Baltimore Aquarium–an amazing place my family has loved visiting! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Summer (Brain) Storms

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about day trips, and how much our family enjoys heading to our nation’s capital for getaways. (Click here for Daytrip: Washington, D.C.) I opened the discussion up on Facebook and asked friends to share their favorite daytrip destinations. Wow, did they respond with some fabulous ideas! Check out the results of their brainstorming:

  • Inner Harbor, Baltimore (Thanks, Julie!) and another friend suggested dinner at Baltimore’s City Cafe, followed by a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert (Thanks, Judy!)
  • “Lititz, PA is fun, especially Wilbur Chocolate Factory” (Thanks, Wendy!)
  • Strasburg Railroad, in Lancaster County (Thanks, Paulette!)
  • “I personally always loved going to the Catoctin Zoo (Thurmont, MD). Even after my oldest outgrew it and my youngest is on his way, I still love going. It is a wonderful, tranquil park-like environment with hands-on feeding opportunities. The saddest day was when “Griz” the grizzly bear passed away. I felt like I lost a good friend that day. Highly recommend!” (Check out local zoos and wildlife refuges in your area–Thanks, Jen!)
  • “For an indoor break when it’s rainy or just way too hot we go to the Summer Kids Free movies at the local theaters or use coupons for free bowling through” (Thanks, Melaney!)
  • “When it’s nice out we have been visiting different local parks and recreation areas using the “Roads To Freedom” program through the Adams County Library and the “Go Outdoors York” program through the York County Library. Their programs are like letterboxing where they give clues at a park to send you on a walk to find the pencil rubbing posts.” (Check your local libraries for similar summer programs and thanks to Melaney for this idea also!)
  • Another friend suggested area parks, especially ones with lakes for swimming and/or boat rentals. (Thanks, Christina!)
  • I will add one more… check out area sporting events. They will nurture your children’s love of the game, whether it’s baseball or soccer, or anything in between. Tickets to MLB games are often offered in family-friendly packages, or head to a minor league ballpark where tickets are even more affordable and include fun “extras” such as fireworks or t-shirts. Soccer games are also a lot of fun, whether at the MLS or USL level. Or take a drive to visit an NFL training camp. Or forget watching sports, and participate by enjoying a round of miniature golfing!

Take time to enjoy these fleeting summer days of August… and as always, feel free to share your ideas and thoughts. What are your traditions for these August days? Do you feel in a daze, wondering where summer went? Share your strategies for savoring every last drop of the summer, below. 🙂

For even more inspiration, check out some of our previous, related posts:

The Importance of Girlfriend Getaways

Vacation: Same Time, Same Place–Next Year!

Up for Family Adventure? Try Biking on a Rail Trail

Daytrip: Washington, D.C.

One of the main attractions at the National Zoo... panda bears!

One of the main attractions at the National Zoo… panda bears!

By Karen Hendricks

What does the word “daytrip” mean to you? I’d love to hear about your ideas, travels and adventures. Summer vacations are wonderful, especially when they provide a week’s worth of relaxation and travels, but to me, daytrips are expeditions to special places that are fairly close to home. I think of them as little “escapes” because there’s not much travel involved but they transport you “away” for the day. They’re the places you LONG to visit, just out of reach from your normal everyday travels, that require a little bit of planning, saving a date, or sometimes saving up the price of admission.

Washington, D.C. has been and still is an excellent daytrip destination for my family. Our nation’s capital has a seemingly unending variety of events and attractions. Two of the best reasons to visit DC? Many of the attractions are free AND top quality. Located about 80-90 miles from my home, it’s just far enough away that we can’t visit frequently, but it’s close enough that we can go for a day and take advantage of lots of spectacular events, world-class museums and much more.

We almost always travel to DC by way of their excellent Metro system. Radiating like spokes from the DC area, the Metro lines are easy to access from every direction. We park at one of the northernmost Metro stops, Shady Grove, Maryland, and take the red line into the city. Then there are no worries about driving and parking for the day. There are numerous Metro stops and we’ve never had a problem finding one within an easy walking distance of our destinations. When my children were very young, riding the Metro was sometimes the biggest highlight of their day!

Here are some of our favorite DC destinations:

  • The Smithsonian and its numerous museums including: The National Zoo, The Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Natural History and the American Indian Museum: The zoo is great fun for children of all ages, and the museums live up to the Smithsonian’s tagline: “Seriously amazing.” Start your visit at the Smithsonian’s Visitor Center, The Castle, for orientation and a taste of each museum.
  • The many memorials, including The Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, etc. If you have the chance to take one of the NPS tours, the rangers do an excellent job of presenting not only history lessons behind the memorials, but stories of the sculptors/creators and fascinating facts. Walking between the memorials is also great exercise! 
  • National Holocaust Memorial Museum – Bound to leave you with a moving, profoundly deeper understanding of the Holocaust, visits to this museum are recommended for children ages 11 and older. There is a special exhibit designed for children ages 7 and older as well. 
  • The Washington Monument – Currently being repaired due to damage from an earthquake in August of 2011, tours inside the building are not possible at this time. When we went several years ago, we made sure to book a date and reserved tickets at least a month or two in advance (tickets are free).
  • Cherry Blossom Festival – Time your visit to DC to coincide with this beautiful springtime event if possible! 

There are so many more awesome DC destinations – and you can easily spend a day exploring each one. Somehow, each museum, each monument, each park, explain a facet of American life and is bound to give you and your family a greater understanding of our country—our heritage, our history, our people and our culture. I think it would be fabulous to visit for the patriotic 4th of July festivities, but that’s still on our DC bucket list. Another reason to plan a daytrip…

Hey, there’s still time to plan for the next patriotic holiday, Labor Day! I found some inspiration on the official DC tourism website—10 Ways to Spend Labor Day Weekend in Washington, DC. Hmmmmm…

Click on any of the photos below to open a slide show–enjoy a few snapshots from DC:

For additional information:

Kid Friendly DC is a great resource for families! 

Click here for the Washington, D.C. tourism website.

Have you visited DC for a daytrip? Discovered other daytrip destinations? Tell us about your family faves!