Archive - 2013

A Shark in Minnesota?
Family-Friendly Ideas for New Year’s Eve
Christmas Week Wish List
Archived: Children’s Theatre Company’s Celebrated Production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites
The Free List – Decemember 27 – 29, 2013
Archived – Wells Fargo WinterSkate at Rice Park through February 2, 2014
The Weekend-Prior-to-Christmas Wish List
Archived: Twas the Weekend Before Christmas Free List
Z Puppets Rosenschnoz at The Children’s Theatre (archived)
Wood From the Hood

A Shark in Minnesota?

Less than a mile from my house is the biggest snow scultpure I have ever seen.  It literally covers an entire front yard.

And it’s a shark.


A 16 foot high shark.

Built by 19 year old Austin, 15 year old Connor, and 18 year old Trevor the massive shark is their 2013 labor of snow love.  This isn’t their first endeavor.  In the winter of 2011, the Bartz boys (then 17, 13, and 16) debuted their first work of art — a giant puffer fish — in their front yard.  Last year, they built a 15 foot walrus. And this year their 16 foot shark.

They determined that creating this sculpture has taken them at least 95 hours, and they have been working on it for the past month hauling snow in their sleds from their neighbors’ yards.  Those 95 hours do not include the planning time.   They usually  look online for their inspiration.  The guys want something that takes a lot of creativity and is distinguished so as you drive past, you can easily see what it is.  And each year they get bigger.


Along with building the shark, the Bartz brothers have also created a viewing area for the public, and they welcome the public to come check it out.  They love to make people happy, and if there is one thing this shark does is make people happy.

Even my sister-in-law visiting from North Carolina ventured into the subzero temperatures, the shark luring her out of the van and into the elements to get a closer look.

They have been featured on the local news stations and even on the Today Show. 

photo 5

Plans are already in the works for next year.    These guys are proof that kids still like to play outside!

Thanks, Austin, Trevor, and Connor for the innocent, creative, and exciting family fun you bring to the Twin Cities

Just take a look at how their Snow Shark Progression Video.


If you want to check out the Bartz’s Giant Snow Shark in person, you can find it on the 2700 block of 16th Street NW in New Brighton, just west of Silver Lake Road.

If you want to see their past creations, you can check out these WCCO Interviews.

The Puffer Fish

The Walrus



Family-Friendly Ideas for New Year’s Eve

Seeking out a few places to celebrate New Year’s Eve before the little ones crash? Here are a few ideas of where to party before bedtime:

Re’ZOO’lution: Como Zoo’s Noon Year’s Celebration
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
December 31, 2013 & January 1, 2014
10am – 1pm; FREE!

Ring in the New Year with two kid-friendly celebration at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory Visitor Center. Radio Disney will provide live entertainment on 12/31; KidsDance performs 1/1. There will also be crafts, dancing, giveaways, animal talk and a special ball drop at noon!

Toddler Tuesdays: New Year’s Eve Toddler Bash
Mall of America
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
10am – noon; FREE!

The longtime Toddler Tuesdays program gears up for the New Year this week at their regular timeslot with treats, party favors and a toddler countdown at noon. For older partygoers, Nickelodeon Universe is hosting a Moonlight Circus from 6pm – midnight. It appears the ball drop, games and live entertainment are free; add an unlimited ride wristband for (significantly) more ($30.99).

Wells Fargo WinterSkate
Landmark Plaza, 75 5th St, St. Paul
Open New Year’s Eve until 1am
Free skating, skate rental $2 or free with
Wells Fargo bank card

Skate into the New Year in beautiful Rice Park, Downtown St. Paul.

New Year’s Eve ‘Ohana Lū’au
Minnesota Children’s Museum
Tuesday, December 31 • 5 – 9 p.m.
$10/member, $14/non-member

Celebrate this New Year’s Eve at the Minnesota Children’s Museum, Hawaiian style. Dance to live music from Will Hale and the Tadpole Parade, create your own lei, construct a one-of-a-kind sand castle, and countdown to our 8 p.m. beach ball drop. Dress up in Hawaiian attire if desired. Registration is recommended; space is limited. A party meal (sandwich, drink, carrots, fruit & cookie) is available for $4 plus tax  per person from 5 – 8.45pm.

Candlelight and Ice
Wood Lake Nature Center, 6710 Lake Shore Dr., Richfield
Tuesday, December 31, 6 – 9pm

Celebrate the New Year at Wood Lake! Follow hundreds of candle-lit luminaries on a walking trail through cattails and trees while on the lookout for deer, fox, and owls. Enjoy roast marshmallows and hot cocoa. Make a craft, play a game, or just sit back and relax.

Christmas Week Wish List

It’s the weekend between Christmas and New Years Day.  Things tend to be quiet this weekend, but there are a few things on my Wish List going on this weekend.

pippiPippi Longstocking Movie

American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Saturday, December 28, 2013 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Price included with Museum Admission
$9 / adults $7 / ages 62 and above $5 / ages 6-18 and full-time students with ID
Free/ ASI members and kids ages 5 and under

We are into all things Swedish this Christmas.  Pippi Longstocking is a 9 year old Swedish girl, so this is a perfect time to introduce her to my third-grade daughter.  The American Swedish Institute is showoing the Pippi Longstocking movie on Saturday.  Afterwards, children can make a “thing finder” to explore the museum with.  I thought this would pair nicely with a trip to the Red Balloon Bookshop or The Wild Rumpus to get a copy of Pippi Longstockings to read.  They both carry the paperback version (that looks like the picture to the left) for $6.99.

ChooChooBob_365x200Choo Choo Bob’s Great RiverCentre Train Show

Saint Paul RiverCentre – Exhibit Hall A, 175 West Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55102
Saturday and Sunday, December 28-29, 2013; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission is $8.00 and children ages 7 and under are free.

Everyone who is anyone will be going to the Choo Choo Bob Train Show at the RiverCentre this weekend. this weekend.  It’s so stock full of cool train activities, it’s got to be every little boys dream.  Tickets to this would have made a good stocking stuffer (doh!).  Some of the activities your family can enjoy are:

Model railroad displays in all gauges.

  •     Model train vendors.
  •     Three FREE inflatables…jump ’til you drop.
  •     FREE ride-on train for the kids.
  •     Multiple Thomas the Tank Engine play tables.
  •     Children’s activity area.
  •     Railroad museums and authors will have displays.
  •     The Choo Choo Bob Show will be performing live on stage. Meet the cast members, sing along to your favorite songs and enjoy the live show.

MCM_ExteriorCreativity Jam

Minnesota Children’s Museum, 10 West Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN 55102
Ends January 26, 2014
Admission: $9.50/pp

This exhibit is coming to and end soon.  There is one more Free Sunday before it’s done and January is not a bad month to attend the Target Free Third Sunday.  But since this is my Wish List.  I would like to visit the Minnesota Children’s Museum once when its not a free day.  This exhibit appeals to me more than the licensed character exhibits that have been popping up more and more often.  MCM wants our hlep in developing exciting, unique programs and exhibits. While you are there give them input and feedback on experiences while exercising your own critical thinking skills.  Some of the hands-on areas include:

  • “Change”: Over-sized art and construction projects encourage children to communicate, work together and to build off and add onto others’ work. Visitors can use stickers, paint, lights and other materials to transform a “big white room” into what they imagine or hunt through a clean and safe “junk yard” to find the perfect object take apart and put back together again.
  • “Make”: In a “maker space,” children design, engineer and build projects of their own choosing using authentic tools and materials. Adults and children can create something new with sewing machines or get an up-close look at how electricity works with circuits, batteries and conductors.
  • “Create”: A unique arts programming and exhibit hybrid will get minds and hands moving as families participate in recycled cardboard challenges or ramp play where children can use ramps of all sizes and objects to test how things roll, move, slide and fall.
  • “Collaborate”: Families can test out new exhibit concepts, provide real-time feedback and insights, both offline and online, and share their own experiences and ideas as they contribute, collaborate and co-create in a “Museum Lab.”

Joy Peters is a co-creator and writer for

Archived: Children’s Theatre Company’s Celebrated Production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites

VHCStrawberry2The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites (Hungry Caterpillar) is a sensation with families worldwide, having been enjoyed by almost two million fans. The award-winning author and illustrator Eric Carle sanctioned this production as an extraordinary stage representation of his beloved characters.

Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) will present this spectacular work on the UnitedHealth Group Stage (the BIG stage) — January 14 through February 23, 2014.  Hungry Caterpillar will bring to life Carle’s stories that have been cherished for gently imbedding lessons on cooperation, growing up and self-confidence.

The Mermaid Theatre’s magical use of black light and colorful puppets are unmistakably pulled straight from Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Little Cloud and The Mixed-up Chameleon. The Very Hungry Caterpillar follows the adventures of a very tiny and very hungry caterpillar as he eats his way through a variety of foods on his path to becoming a beautiful butterfly. High up in the sky, Little Cloud playfully transforms himself into various creatures, including a sheep, and an airplane and more. The Mixed-Up Chameleon is bored with his predictable life. Following an adventurous trip to the zoo, he attempts to emulate the beautiful animals he sees before coming to the conclusion that there is value in his own unique

Prominent Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent narrates the production under the direction of Mermaid Theatre Artistic Director Jim Morrow. Steven Naylor’s accompanying music blends folk tunes, classical, jazz and more. The Stage explained, “Every visual movement sits in the music as precisely as it would in a classical ballet.”

Throughout the tour audiences have been encouraged that Hungry Caterpillar is a “non-shushing show,” allowing audiences to respond vocally to the performance.

Jim Morrow observes, “When you’re a child you’re so free and uninhibited. As theatregoers we grow up and lose thatsense of freedom, inquisitiveness and desire for interaction, impulses that are ‘shushed’ out of us.” Morrow’s performers have a way of coaxing the active viewer out of its shell.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites runs on the UnitedHealth Group Stage January 14 through February 23, 2014. As part of CTC’s commitment to programming for ages two through eighteen, Hungry Caterpillar is recommended for preschool+. A three-show preschool package including Balloonacy and Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat is also available.

Grades Preschool +



mixed-up-cham-giraffeSpecialized Performances

ASL/AD Performance Friday January 31 at 7 p.m.

Sensory-friendly performance Saturday, February 8 at 11 a.m. (in partnership with Autism Society of Minnesota)

Spanish language performances Thursday, February 20 and Friday, February 21 at 7 p.m.

Ticket Information

Single tickets range from $10 – $57 (prices may increase)

Lap passes available for children three and under for $10

Group tickets up to 25% off regular tickets for groups of ten or more

$10 Tickets available every Sunday prior to performance

Preschool Package available at 15% off (includes Balloonacy and Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat)

Ticket Office Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 10-5 pm; Saturday, 9-2 pm; Sunday, Noon-5 pm
The Ticket Office is accessible by phone two hours prior to most performances. These posted hours are subject to change.
Email: (inquiries only, no ticket processing)
Phone: 612.874.0400



Taken from the press release by CTC

The Free List – Decemember 27 – 29, 2013

This is a good weekend to avoid shopping unless you are a power shopper.  We’re still eating Christmas leftovers, so we’re not even going to grocery shop this weekend.  There’s always cleaning and laundry, but who really wants to do that?  Here are a few fun things to do — even if you blew your budget on Christmas.


S’mores & More – Outreach –  Outdoor Fun!

Gro Tonka Park,  17003 Prospect Place, Minnetonka
Friday, December 27, 2013; 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
My family goal is to spend more time outdoors this winter.  So far, I’m not doing too well — although the kids are getting out there.  This looks like a great way to get outside this weekend.  The Hopkins-Minnetonka Recreation Service and Three Rivers Park District are teaming up to offer a night of  ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing and kick-sledding with hot chocolate and s’mores by the fire. Bring your own skates and a chair to sit by the bonfire. Registration is not required and it looks like the weather is going to cooperate.  If you are unsure, call 952.939.8355 to check on any weather cancellations.





State Capital LEGO® Model Display – History with a Playful Twist

Minnesota State Capital, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155
Saturday, December 28, 2013; 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Tours: 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Visiting the Minnesota State Capitol has been on my bucket list for some time now.  Seeing the LEGO® model is only part of my incentive.  This weekend is a good weekend to do this in my household as we have an overseas house guest.  However, just getting there for ourselves would be interesting.  Besides the LEGO® replica of the capitol, I would like to go on one of thef free guided tours of the building.  That part will probably be of most interest to the adults and maybe the grade schooler, but the little ones get to see hte LEGO® model, so hopefully it will go well.   😀  Image Credit:


Make Yourself A(t) Home

North side of University between Hamline and Syndicate on the former Midway Chevrolet site
Saturday, December 28, 2013; 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

This is a last-minute addition.  I just happened to see it in my Facebook feed.  The Facebook invite says “Invite only”, but I checked and it is a public event.  Stop by or, if you want an invite, go friend Leo’s Loft and ask for an invite.   This is the information from the invite:

“Free event to celebrate HOME! Make projects in a giant inflatable structure, Play Yard games in the snow and Create a cardboard replica of the 108 affordable Housing units that PPL will build on this very site this spring! Leonardo’s Basement in partnership with ARTIFY – Bringing the Arts to Hamline Station and Irrigate and Project for Pride in Living and Springboard for the Arts The fun will happen on the former University Avenue Midway Chevrolet site (Hamline and University Aves, across from Target).  Puppets ‘n’ People will be there as well doing a project called Seven Steps Around the House! Come help make a puppet show, take in some giant puppets, and do some fun projects.”

eastmanRecycled Bird Feeders – Something to do with Your Milk Cartons

Eastman Nature Center, 13351 Elm Creek Road,  Dayton, MN 55369
Sunday, December 29, 2013; 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Eastman Nature Center is hosting a drop-in event on Sunday. Bring a milk carton (or 3) and turn them into birdfeeders.  You can even learn which birdseed attracts which birds. This program is recommended for ages 5 and up, but I’m sure there is something for the younger crowd to do while the older ones make birdfeeders.  Image Credit: Three Rivers Parks.Org

I know I’ve shared this often, but it is cool.  Click the picture below to go to an Interactive Bird Song Poster courtesy of the Minnesota DNR.  This would be fun to have nearby while you watch the birds in your new bird feeder.

Birds variety all backyard



Archived – Wells Fargo WinterSkate at Rice Park through February 2, 2014

Wells Fargo WinterSkate
Landmark Plaza
75 5th St, Saint Paul
Now through February 2, 2014

Rice Park in downtown St. Paul is beautiful year-round, but looks especially lovely dressed up for the holidays and particularly magical at night. A backdrop of freshly fallen snow and Christmas lights is the idyllic setting for Wells Fargo’s annual WinterSkate now through February 2, 2014.

The refrigerated rink hosts regular daily hours (found here) and is completely free of charge – unless you require skate rental (a reasonable $2 fee). And even that fee is waived if you can present a Wells Fargo credit or check card. Youth, junior and adult-sized figure and hockey skates are available for lending (but, sorry, hockey fans, there’s no hockey allowed at the rink during open skate hours). All skaters must sign a waiver (available here) prior to hitting the ice; youth under 18 are not required to skate with an adult, but an adult must sign the waiver for them.

Skating downtown would be a wonderful holiday activity for out of town guests – keep in mind the rink is open Christmas Eve, but will be closed Christmas Day. Looking ahead into the new year, it would be fun to combine a skating outing with a stroll through the Rice Park ice sculptures during the St. Paul Winter Carnvial.

Wells Fargo WinterSkate Hours:
Monday – Wednesday: 11am – 5pm
Thursday – Saturday: 11am – 10pm
Sunday: 11am – 9pm

Closed Christmas Day & New Years Day



The Weekend-Prior-to-Christmas Wish List

Anticipation is in the air and you are probably trying to get your holiday traditions started or your presents wrapped.  I know for me, I went crazy baking today.  I was going nowhere but my kitchen.  However, this weekend hopefully all but wrapping will be finished (dare I say I will have my husband’s gifts purchased?), so the holiday festivities can begin.

And the weekend has some great ideas to start the celebrations off right!

giftstore christmas treeA Victorian Christmas at the Ramsey House
The Alexander Ramsey House
Friday, December 20, 2013 10:00 am-3:30 pm
Saturday, December 21, 2013  10:00 am-3:30 pm
Sunday, December 22, 2013 12:00-3:30 pm
Tour the Alexander Ramsey House , listen to the Steinway piano, taste cookies baked in the wood stove, examine original ornaments and gifts enjoyed by the Ramsey family.


1475887_10152064339954120_1408700883_nHide and Seek with Tomte
American Swedish Institute
Saturday, December 21, 2013 10:30 am and 1:00 pm
$10 (morning hunt for preschoolers and afternoon hunt for ages K-2)
Search for Tomte and learn about this Swedish tradition through stories, crafts, and activities.

Winter Solstice Celebration
American Swedish Institute
Saturday, December 21, 2013  3:00-8:00 pm
Included with museum admission $5-$9
Bonfires in the Enchanted Forest, tours of the mansion, and FIKA (read food) will be available for purchase during the extended hours for Winter Solstice.


Handel’s Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
St. Mary’s Basilica
Friday, December 20, 2013 8:00 pm
Go here to get more information about tickets.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Closing Weekend
Steppingstone Theatre
Friday, December 20, 2013 7:00 pm
Saturday, December 21, 2013  2:00 pm, 4:00 pm
Sunday, December 22, 2013 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm
Monday, December 23, 2013 7:00 pm
You aren’t going to want to miss this.

Merry Christmas!!!

Archived: Twas the Weekend Before Christmas Free List

Being that it’s the weekend before Christmas, we understand that you are probably very busy, but for those of you looking for something to do this weekend because you have out of town guests already or you are completely done getting ready for the holidays, we present the Free List full of Twin Cities Holiday favorites.

logoHolidazzle Parade
Nicollett Mall between 12 and 4th Streets
Friday, December 20 and Saturday, December 21, 2013
6:30 pm
This is the final weekend of our beloved winter tradition–FOREVER!  (Well, maybe not forever, but Minneapolis IS discontinuing this parade and we don’t want you to miss it).  Chances are the crowds will be insane so we recommend that you arrive by 5:30 at the latest to stake you spot on the sidewalk.  Bring a blanket to sit on and maybe an extra one to wrap up in!  Also, I recommend parking in the Crowne Plaza ramp (good location, can’t remember the price) or the City Center Ramp for $4–special Holidazzle price.


santaland displayMacy’s Santaland
Macy’s 8th Floor Auditorium, Downtown Minneapolis
Friday, December 20-Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Opens at 8:00 am-various closing times, check the website

Go on a tour of Santa’s workshop as you watch his elves collect mail, build toys, and bake goodies.  End your visit with a chance to share with Santa all your Christmas wishes.



albert the elfWho Crashed Santa’s Sleigh?
Bachman’s on Lyndale
Showtimes:  11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm
Enjoy Albert the Elf and Santa as they try to upgrade Santa’s Christmas Eve ride.  Anne tells us all about it here.



gingerbread houseRamsey County Library Events
Library LEGO Contest:  Mounds View, 10:30 am Creation Drop off, Voting from 1:00-2:00 pm, and 3:00 winners announced.  My family already has their creations designed if not built.  For ages 3-14
Build You Own Gingerbread House:  Shoreview,  11:00 am-2:00 pm, Supplies available while they last. For ages 4-10
Family Film Monsters University:  Maplewood, 1:30-4:30 pm, How the Grinch Stole Christmas will be a prelude at 1:30 and Monsters University will begin at 2:00.  Snacks available while supplies last.



image courtesy of Three Rivers Parks, used with permission

Another fantastic idea from our very own Joy was to go sledding this weekend!  With all the snow that has fallen (YEA!  If it’s going to be winter, let’s have the snow), we have perfect conditions for sledding and tubing.

Go here for a list of different options or check out what Three Rivers Park has to offer!



And there you have it!  Merry Christmas to you and your family from Family Fun Twin Cities!

Z Puppets Rosenschnoz at The Children’s Theatre (archived)

Wood From the Hood

woodfromthehoodcollageHere’s another unique idea for Christmas that you may want to consider.  While it’s doesn’t have many kid-friendly products, your family is not solely children and you would be hard-pressed to find something this unique.

Let me introduce you to Wood From the Hood.


Rick and Cindy Siewart began Wood From the Hood in 2008 with their partner Jon Buck when an Ash tree was taken down from their yard. They didn’t want to lose it to a landfill, so instead they chose to repurpose it.  They had 25 years in the commercial cabinetry business and had an idea to save the trees in the metro.  Save them in an unconventional way.

Trees from the neighborhood may need to be removed, but they can be reclaimed and used for high-quality wood products.

  • Custom-made tables,
  • flooring,
  • picture frames,
  • cribbage boards,
  • cutting boards,
  • growth charts,
  • Minnesota ornaments
  • and more.

growth chart2One of their best sellers is the growth chart.  Since they can use almost any type of wood, the growth charts are all unique, and the customer can choose the style they like best.  They measure from 18 inches to six feet, four inches.  They are  six inches wide at the base, made of natural wood, and are available finished and unfinished.  All the mounting hardware comes with your purchase.  These growth charts are a simple and yet beautiful addition to a bedroom or a family gathering room.

Cindy explains how they came up with the idea for the growth charts. “When we bought our house, the previous owners had measured their children on the door jam(like so many people do). We told them we where remodeling and they where welcome to take the door jam with all the memories of their children’s height. They didn’t remove it so we took it off and stuck it outside. It stuck up along the fence for awhile so we looked out at it often. Then one day our idea was born.”

It was difficult for Cindy to choose a favorite product, but after some hemming and hawing, she finally settled on their cutting boards. She chose them because they get used the most frequently and they are so unique and similar all at the same time.

The one thing that sets Wood From the Hood apart from other companies is that they take each of their products from the log all the way through manufacturing.  And their stuff is high-end quality.

You can purchase their products from Wood From the Hood’s website store or a variety of retailers around the twin cities including



images are courtesy of Wood From the Hood, used with permission


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