It’s strawberry picking time in Minnesota!
As it states on the “Minnesota Grown” website, most Minnesota berry patches are opening earlier than usual this year. Many Twin Cities area strawberry picking farms are open now. Go to the Minnesota Grown website to find one near you.
We went to Bauer Berry Farm in Champlin last Monday, June 4th. They had just opened from 4:30-6:30pm for the first berry pickers of the season. They have a great website with daily updates which I had been tracking so we’d be among the first. Plus we had gone there the past 2 years for strawberry picking and always came home with great berries. They also have blueberries and corn later in the season.
We picked a full tray of berries pretty quickly…within 20 minutes or so. Strawberries are $2.00 per pound – we had a total of about $11.00 worth. They were delicious and we used some to make homemade strawberry ice cream later in the day!
Overall, we had a great time and we’ll continue to go back every year.
Where do you like to go during strawberry picking time in Minnesota?
I took the kids to Kelley Farm in Elk River on Saturday, May 12th, the day before Mother’s Day, as moms could get in free (yay free!) with their kids that weekend. (See below – dads get in free on Father’s Day weekend, too!) We spent a couple hours there and the kids loved exploring the farm, the farmhouse, and riding along the trails in the horse-drawn wagon.
What is Kelley Farm?
Kelley Farm is a working 1860s farm located 2.5 miles southeast of downtown Elk River on Highway 10 (just look for the signs). There are costumed guides all over, demonstrating what life was really like on a farm that long ago. You and the kids can help with activities such as putting up hay or working in the garden.
What can we see at Kelley Farm in Elk River?
We observed cooking in the kitchen using food from the garden like rhubarb, plus we saw oxen pulling a plow, and were able to pump out fresh well water from the ground. The kids also enjoyed chasing the rooster around the farm (seen here by the well…sorry, rooster!).
The Kelley Farm is a National Historic Landmark (listed as Oliver Hudson Kelley Farmstead on the Minnesota Historical Society website). The volunteer tour guide driving the horse-drawn wagon gave us a lot of wonderful information about the family that owned the farm and how it came to be. I didn’t know that it was built here because this was where people thought the city of St. Paul would be built (it’s also right along the Mississippi river).
What did we think of Kelley Farm?
Overall, the Kelley Farm is a great hands-on, educational experience for kids, even the younger ones. For more historical information, you can tour the visitor’s center which has a nice walk-through museum. My kids were a bit young for that but enjoyed seeing the animals, playing in the hay, and just having so much to see.
If you’re looking for something to do Father’s Day weekend, Kelley Farm is having “Father’s Day Weekend at the Farm” where dads can get in FREE with their kids on Saturday, June 16 from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday, June 17 from Noon to 5pm. Otherwise, general admission is $9 adults, $7 seniors and college students, $6 kids ages 6-17, and 5 and under free. A fun experience for the whole family.
I took my kids to the “new” Elm Creek Park Reserve play area in Maple Grove last Monday for the first time, taking advantage of an unusually warm day (temps in the 70’s) in March. Elm Creek Park Reserve is located just north of highway 81 and highway 610 at the Elm Creek Blvd. exit. I had heard from friends they had a new play area that was big and popular, so I decided to try it out with the kids (especially since it’s free!).
My kids had a blast and I was very impressed with the play area. It was large, colorful, and had plenty for all age groups from toddler to teen.
There were several families there – mostly other moms with their little kids. (I’m sure on weekends it’s very busy in the summer!) The parking lots were huge, there were many picnic tables, and restrooms (nothing fancy – they were outhouses!).
The play structures were fun – there were huge green “frog”-themed climbing structures with long tunnel slides, tire swings that each held 3 kids, a smaller play area with slides that my 1-year-old enjoyed, and plenty of other activities including an area for kids to “dig up” dinosaur bones.
Elm Creek Park Reserve is part of the Three Rivers Park District, a park system in the west suburban Minneapolis/St. Paul area which includes parts of Anoka, Wright, Hennepin, Ramsey, Carver, Scott & Dakota counties and includes over 27,000 acres of parks, trails and facilities. The name “Three Rivers” comes from the three significant rivers to this region: the Mississippi, the Minnesota and the Crow.
The Three Rivers Park District has a great website at
http://www.threeriversparks.org/. I highly recommend exploring it as they have pictures, videos, interactive maps & directions, and much more. Check out their Activities page to get detailed information about everything from Archery to Geocaching to Swimming. Also, check out their Events page, as they have seasonal events including Easter egg hunts!
After our visit I talked to friends who know the area and they said there’s a swimming area near where we were that’s popular in the summer. Actually, after reading about the area, I learned there’s plenty to do in the summer AND winter – including skiing and sledding. People of all ages can easily find plenty to do to fill a day, weekend or more at any one park reserve within the Three Rivers District. Our family plans to go back again soon!
(Note: I was not asked, paid or compensated to write this “New” Old Chicago review – I just enjoy sharing my opinions as a mom! – Lisa)
The “New” Old Chicago
I took my kids (Heidi, 4 and Thor, 1) to the “New” Old Chicago in Eden Prairie for lunch on their grand re-opening day Monday. We didn’t get there in time for any of the festivities – free samples, $3,000 check given to PROP (People Reaching Out to Other People), and the whole “first 100 people in line receive a year’s worth of free pizza” promotion. (I found out people were waiting in line as early at 4:00am that morning! I definitely couldn’t have done that with 2 little kids! 🙂
BUT we did dine in just to be “among the first” to experience the new and improved Old Chicago, as their Eden Prairie restaurant is the FIRST in the nation to undergo various changes that are “meant to re-emphasize the restaurant’s commitment to quality food, great value and a welcoming atmosphere for a broad variety of customers and occasions,” according to Old Chicago’s Director of Brand Marketing, Will Powers.
I certainly saw a broad variety of customers there – moms like me with their kids, men and women in their 30s and 40s in casual work attire, young couples, retired couples. I noticed people were also at the bar (Old Chicago is known for great beer), and some were sitting outside on the patio as well (it sure has been beautiful & warm lately!).
And I thought it was a very welcoming atmosphere – SPACIOUS, too. The space between the tables was abundant for highchairs (which Thor used), wheelchairs and lots of “traffic.”
There were MANY big flat-screen TVs throughout the restaurant – wherever you sat you had a good view of one. Thor enjoyed frequently pointing at the one above us showing news and sports. I think it was one of the managers who came by and playfully interacted with him – I teased that he’s going to be a sports fan someday!
The new menu looked good – plenty of new salads, appetizers, pastas and more. Prices were reasonable. I just ordered a large, 14-inch pizza with their NEW tavern thin crust, topped with 1/2 pineapple (for me!) and 1/2 pepperoni (for Heidi). (Thankfully, Thor eats just about anything.)
New Equipment Cuts Wait Time
I know Old Chicago Eden Prairie purchased a new Thermal Oven that allows them to bake their pizzas in half the time as before — so now about 6-1/2 minutes. I noticed we did get our pizza pretty quick – and it was very hot. But it was good – Thor gobbled up all the cut-up pieces I gave him, and Heidi, enthralled & occupied with the crayons and children’s menu with coloring activities she got, FINALLY ate hers when we were almost ready to leave.
I brought leftover pizza home for my husband to eat. I was impressed with how the server handled our leftovers – she put them in a take-home box, labeled what was in it AND the date, and separated the pepperoni slices from the pineapple slices. My husband appreciated that as he ONLY eats pepperoni – and he did like it as he ate all that was left.
(EXPIRED: By the way, just a reminder that I’m doing a GIVEAWAY on my site through Friday, March 23rd. Just leave a comment telling me what food you like at Old Chicago OR would like to try! One person will win a $25 Old Chicago gift card and T-shirt!)
Overall, I can’t say we were disappointed with anything. Here’s what we enjoyed:
- Lots of friendly service – the hostess & server were cheerful and helpful, plus a total of 2 managers (I think that’s what they were) stopped by to ask how we were doing and talked to the kids
- Fast, good food for reasonable restaurant prices (our large pizza with 2 beverages came to about $18)
- Abundant space, comfortable seating, TVs everywhere
If you are looking for a good place to eat out with your kids, Old Chicago is worth the trip. -Lisa
What: Eagle’s Nest Indoor Playground
Where: New Brighton Community Center, 400 – 10th St. NW, New Brighton, MN 55112.
How much: $5.50 daily admission for children ages 12 months to 12 years. $3.00 after 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. No charge for parents or caregivers. Youth punch pass for $55.00 includes 12 passes for the price of 10.
Extras: Birthday parties are an affordable option here with packages as low as $9.00 per child. Check out website for hours and more information.
Mom Rating: Fun place to take the kids any time of year!
If you’re looking for a great place to take your kids for a couple of hours of fun on a cold or rainy day, one great, affordable place is the Eagle’s Nest Indoor Playground in New Brighton.
It’s a playland with tunnels, slides, a ball pit & a climbing wall, all created for kids under 12 years old. There’s a special area for toddlers (under 3 years old) with plenty of smaller structures to play in, a slide, a ball pit, and a reading corner with books (though it’s hard to sit kids down in this place!).
There are tables for adults and families to sit together and have a meal (there are 3 vending machines with snacks and ice cream). In addition, there are chairs right within the play areas so parents can be right there with their kids. You’ll find plenty of open cubbies to put shoes and jackets, and there are lockers you can use (locks are available to borrow).
I took my kids there twice recently and they had a blast. My 4-year-old enjoyed going through all the tunnels and down the slides, and my 1-year-old loved the toddler area and all the balls he could play with. We spent 2 hours here our first time, and over 1 hour here our second time. They burned off a lot of hanging-out-in-the-house-too-much-in-the-winter energy and had great fun.
The only thing I don’t like is that there is no simple, open way to access the slides. I once climbed up through the tunnels with my daughter to go down one of the slides and have to say, though I’m average-sized, it was not easy! Kids have to climb in narrow spaces and through tunnels with not-the-best air circulation to access anything above, including fun lookouts (one like a plane cockpit) and the various tunnel and wavy slides. Though adults can play with their kids here, I’m guessing it’s designed this way partially so not too many adults clutter up the space! (Hey – we like to have fun, too!)
But overall, it’s a great place to take your kids – whether as a mom home during the day with restless kiddos, or as a family for a “picnic” and playday.
Oh -and on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00am to Noon your child’s admission includes playtime in the gym nearby with a bouncy house and other activities. Have fun!
I’m very excited to be a member of Coupon Mom. Coupon Mom is a great resource for us busy moms. If you’ve never heard of it, all you have to do is register for a free account, then you’ll get regular emails with the latest grocery deals you can get at various stores such as Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Aldi, and more. There are lists for each store, updated weekly, with deals you can get with coupons.
How to use it
Many of the coupons you can print online – there are links as you go through the lists. If you can’t print them online, there’s a coding system (don’t worry, it’s simple and makes sense) that helps you find coupons from your local Sunday paper. Seriously, the Coupon Mom resource makes it super easy for us.
I myself do not have the time to do what I COULD do with this site – go through lists for stores in my area, marking off the deals that appeal to me and clipping all the coupons noted. But I do use some when I find really good ones, and it’s fun to see just how much you can really save if you put in enough effort.
What other stores are there?
NOW – I just found out today – there are lists of deals for three new stores – Whole Foods Market, Staples and OfficeMax. (I think more and more stores are catching onto how much using coupons is catching on among consumers!) I really like the Whole Foods Market list because it has many printable coupons (actually available at the store’s website coupon page http://wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons/). The page says “Whole Deal Coupons” and there are recipes and money-saving tips on the right side of the page.
My dream would be to buy 100% organic groceries for my family. With the high cost of organic food, this resource makes providing the best quality food and products for my family that much more affordable!
Great advice from my money-smart friend Marilyn on Unique Thrift Stores:
Bargains galore await the thrifty shopper at Unique Thrift Stores, located in New Hope, Burnsville, St. Paul and Columbia Heights. The huge inventory of new and gently used items will attract those who are willing to comb the many racks and shelves for the best buys. Every Tuesday is a 25% off day and selected holidays are 50% off days…watch the newspaper for sale notices, but be prepared for the crowds and long checkout lines.
Best buys: Baby clothing and equipment, women’s shoes and purses, books, jeans for the whole family, gag gifts/white elephants
Limited selections: Housewares, furniture, toys
Warnings: ALL SALES ARE FINAL, NO RETURNS ALLOWED, unpriced items cannot be purchased at the checkout, watch out for double charges, forget about trying to use the make-shift dressing rooms, customer service is limited (this is not Nordstrom’s, after all!)
Recently overheard: A dad telling his son he was looking for something to wear to an Ugly Sweater party. Boy, was he shopping in the right place for a big selection of ugly, as well as pretty darn nice sweaters!
Read my first impressions of Unique Thrift Stores here!