A New Look And Heartfelt News for this MLK Monday

Yes, You have Reached what used to be A Traveling Thought. 

And even now the way to find me is by www.travelingthought.com until I can actually figure out how to fix the domain name and redirect all my traffic here.  Google and Blogger are not helping me very much and I am extremely confused.  So if someone wants to figure it out for me, I would be more than happy to let you have at it. 
With that said, you are still going to find everything you found at A Traveling Thought here but with a more appropriate name.  A website for the family around the Twin Cities:  thus Twin Cities Family. 
So here we are.  
Bear with me as I make changes. 
With all that taken care of, I wanted to remind you that Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  To pay tribute to that day, one of my favorite shops of all time will be open:  Heartfelt
Normally on Mondays, Lisa closes her store, but for this particular Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she will be open with activities to celebrate a man whose life made a huge difference in our country.
Lisa is making January 21, 2013 MLK Monday at Heartfelt
For $15, she is offering
  • Two craft options:  a wool peace dove and/or a yarn “God’s Eye”  anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. 
  •  Storytelling at 10:30 am or 1:00 pm with storyteller Sara Logan. 
Posted in crafts, heartfelt, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Twin Cities Family | 1 Comment

Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum

Between Lexington Ave. and Snelling Ave. on Energy Park Drive there is a historical-looking building called Bandana Square.   Located in Bandana Square is a fascinating museum…At least for history lovers, train lovers, toy lovers, and nostalgia lovers.

The Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum is located on the 2nd floor of Bandana Square. It is open Tuesday through Sunday. Tuesday-Friday from 10:00 am-3:00 pm, Saturdays, 10:00 am-5:00 pm, and Sundays 12:00 pm-5:00 pm. Admission is $6.00 for anyone over 5. All those under 5 are FREE.

The Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum began as the St. Paul Craftsmen Cluband  has been around since 1934.  Originally, their tracks were laid at the Union Depot in St. Paul, but when that closed, the club moved to various locations eventually ending up in Bandana Square in St. Paul. Meticulously building displays, they showed the history of the railways in the Twin Cities both of the steam locomotive and diesel engines in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s using O Scale models.

Let me tell you something that I learned while visiting–even if you don’t think you need to know anything about model trains. This is fun to know.

They have different size scales. O is the original size for a model train.  Thus O is for Original.  They made a size that was half the size of O and they called it HO–Half Original.  The G Scale is named because they are much bigger and are for outdoors in your garden.  G is for Garden.  The other sizes I have no idea, but the smallest is Z and I believe that is completely appropriate!

Back to the Twin Cities Model RailRoad Museum–TCMRM.

So the TCMRM was built as a type of historical (even artistic) museum to appreciate the history of the Twin Cities and the railways.  It is a display to admire.  Not touch.

The museum is operated solely by volunteers.

 In 2002, the Toy Train Division opened alluring even more train lovers–younger and older.

On Saturdays and Sundays The Toy Train Division is open located in the Chimney’s Building.  It’s a separate building just across a the road (I don’t even want to call it a road because it is in the middle of the parking lot, but I don’t know what else to call it.)

The Toy Train Division is where we spent our afternoon.  Chad Kono, the museum’s vice president of public relations,  met me there and showed me and my train-giddy children around.  He explained that this was the place to come as a little person because you get to interact with the trains.  He stated that it is also a great place for older generations to come and relive the nostalgia of their train sets as kids with brands like Lionel. It is a great multi-generational facility.

Word of caution:  While it is perfect for children, you must keep your eyes on them at all time.  Chad and I were chatting when one of my dudes decided he needed to rearrange a display.

Here are some of the fun things you can enjoy:

  • Manning the Throttle on your own train

  • The most popular line.  Everything on this display has something you can operate.

  • Brio tracks for the youngest enthusiasts.

  • Different models of varying scales.

And just before we left, there was this model


  • The different sizes of trains, the number of trains, trains EVERYWHERE! 
  • Three layouts of varying tracks available on which to operate your own train.  Two of the layouts were Thomas.  
  • The volunteers were very enthusiastic and eager to help out. You can tell they love to be there. 
There are two different types of membership to TCMRM.  You can be a participating member or a visiting member.  A participating member works on the models and is a part of building the museum.  A visiting member is like a typical membership to a museum.  You pay a yearly rate and get unlimited passes for museum admission.  
During the months of November through February, they have a special engagement on Saturday nights from 6:00-9:00 pm.  It is $8 for anyone over 5, but they have special pricing.
Night Trains is an annual tradition both in the original museum wing and the Toy Train Division.  By turning all the overhead lighting off and turning on the display lights on the models, Night Trains is truly special (at least that’s in the words of Chad Kono).  I didn’t get to stay and see them.  Before I visited the TCMRM for myself, I thought how can turning the lights off be that special?  And even though I didn’t get to see them myself, by experiencing the museum lit up, I could envision it lit only by the light of the trains and I was eager to come back to see them. For many families it has become a holiday tradition.
You will become a child again and be as excited as your children at the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum.  I urge you to check it out.  It’s open all year long!
Posted in educational museums, Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum | Leave a comment

This Week’s Preschool Activities

Last year, we didn’t have much of a winter, so this fall, I started praying for a cold winter with snow.  I know I am crazy, but as much as I enjoyed last winter (which believe I totally did), I was ready for some Minnesnowta fun.  And our family has taken advantage of the cold and the snow. 

Even though I was looking forward to a real MN winter doesn’t mean you were.  Some of you may be cursing me right now!  And because of that, I would like to give you some great indoor activities you can take your energetic little ones to because believe me, even though I wanted winter, I also have crazy little ones who run around the house playing monster and “FIGHT!”  (whatever that might entail!) 

Toddler Tuesday Dora Rocks 
Mall of America Rotunda 
Tuesday, January 14, 2013  10:00-10:30 or 11:00-11:30 with activities after, during, and before the concerts
Sing and dance with Dora, play air guitar, and participate in musical crafts.  Sure to be a winner with your Dora-lover. 

Rainbow Play Systems 
Rainbow Play Systems Show Room (Bloomington) 
Wednesday, January 15, 2013 and Thursday, January 16, 2013 
Lollipopolis did a whole review of this opportunity.  If you want to go on a non free day or get more information, you can visit Bloomington’s direct website.

Woolly Bears: From Wheat to Bread 
Dodge Nature Center 
Thursday, January 17, 2013 1:00-2:30 pm 
Friday, January 18, 2013 10:00-11:30 am 
Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:00-11:30 am
(for ages 3-5 plus adult)
By using storytelling, puppets, hands-on activities,and music, parent and child teams are invited to explore the world around them.  This is not a drop off event AND you must pre-register and pre-pay. Call 651-455-4531.

Lil’ Explore Thursdays
Como Zoo and Conservatory 
Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:00 am-12:00 pm 
I have no idea what this is like, but there is storytime, games, and fun activities, plus you get to meet animals and learn about plants.  All I can say is that it’s Como, if you were planning on going anyway, why not check it out in the Visitor’s Center? 

Open Studio 2 
Open Monday-Saturdays 
10:00 am-4:30 pm 
$8/child for one hour of creative art mania. 
(check out my review to learn more!)They have weekly art projects to choose from or your child can create whatever they wish.  Personally, I believe it is a perfect place to let arts and crafts rule since you don’t have to worry about the mess in your own home!   Amy and her staff are a lot of fun and are willing to make your experience enjoyable for everyone! Call 952-926-7871 to reserve a spot in the studio or just drop in. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Twin Cities Family

For the weekend of Thursday, January 17-Monday, January 21

This weekend, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.  For many kids (and parents) that means no school!   With the long weekend ahead of us, there is plenty to do.  Keep in mind that the public libraries will not be open on Monday in honor of the holiday, but there are plenty of other activities to enjoy.

I Have highlighted a few things to do this weekend, but if you need more ideas, you can check out The Red Balloon Bookshop, Heartfelt (drop in crafts and by appointment), Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store (storytime on Saturday), or Smart Play at the Ramsey County Library in Maplewood (of course, not on Monday). 


Yup’ik Masks 
St. Paul Public Library, Sun Ray 
Thursday, January 17, 2013 5:00-7:00 pm (for children grades 3-6)
The culture of the people of western Alaska–the Yup’ik people– comes to life in this hands on mask-building workshop.  The Yup’ik people create masks to represent the spirits of the earth.  Under the guidance of  Julie Kastigar Boada create your own mask to bring home.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Party 
Ramsey County Library, White Bear Lake 
Friday, January 18, 2013 1:00-3:00 pm (for children grades 2-6) 
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a great book that comes to life on screen.  Hang out with your friends on a day off from school (4 day weekend apparently) watching the movie and participating in other fun Wimpy Kid activities.

Mary Logue, Sleep Like A Tiger 
Wild Rumpus  (wanna know more about this bookshop?)
Saturday, January 19, 2013 11:00 am
If you missed this local author last Saturday at the Red Balloon, come meet her at another gem of a bookshop–Wild Rumpus.  She will be reading and signing for your enjoyment!

Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social 
Mulberry Point Downtown Stillwater 
Saturday, January 19, 2013, 12:00-4:00 pm 
Come dressed from a person out of the history books and enjoy a tradition that began in the 1950’s because  Minnesotans have always been known for embracing the cold winter days of January.  Go ice skating, warm up by the bonfire, enjoy free coffee and ice cream from   Moon River Cafe and Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop.  Chili is also available for a small fee.

Artic Blast 
Como Zoo and Conservatory 
Saturday, January 19-Monday, January 21, 2013 10:00 am-4:00 pm 
On this 3 day (for 4 day) weekend, Como Zoo is highlighting animals who enjoy the cold climates:  reindeer, arctic foxes, and polar bears.  Come celebrate the icy cold weather with the animals:  animal enrichments, zookeeper talks storytimes, and other fun activities.

image credit

Urban Expedition: Tibet 
Landmark Center 
Sunday, January 20, 2013 1:00-3:00 pm
In the center of downtown St. Paul sits the Landmark Center.  It is an amazingly beautiful building on the inside and the outside.  And back for another season of world class traveling is Urban Expedition.  This Sunday, experience Tibet by watching performances, creating crafts, nibbling on Tibetan cuisine. Maybe you will get to touch a yak!  Last week we got to try to touch a llama (animals native to Argetina–but as this will be Tibet, I am just guessing that maybe yaks are native there).  For two hours you are welcome to experience another world right here in the Twin Cities.  Bring a food item to donate to the food shelf!

Let’s get stARTed!  Winter Wonderlands 
Silverwood Park 
Sunday, January 20, 2013 1:00-3:00 pm
Enjoy a day at Silverwood Park, roam through their gallery, try your hand at a free new art project, and warm up with a hot drink from the coffee shop after you bundle up for a romp in the park.

Raptors in the Yard 
Lowry Nature Center, Carver Park Reserve 
Sunday, January 20, 2013  2:00-4:00 pm 
Not only will you get to meet a captive barred owl, you will get to learn all about birds of prey.  Bring your camera and your curiosity!  Drop in anytime.

KTIS Concert Series:  Jason Gray 
Mall of America Rotunda
Monday, January 21, 2013 12:00 pm
There is a whole bunch of rules with getting a wristband for autographs, yada yada, but if you want to listen to a good concert and not worry about autographs, I believe you can just slide into a seat and enjoy the show.  By the way, Jason Gray is a MN native!  It’s always fun to see a fellow MN native succeed.  

Snowman Making Contest 
Silverwood Park 
Monday, January 21, 2013 1:00-3:30 pm 
Enter as a team or as an individual and bring natural materials and have at it.  Luckily, we have cold, and I do believe there is enough snow!  There will be Marshmallow roasting and the Roe Family Singers will perform inside the Great Hall when the contest is complete!  I was planning on taking my daughter out of school for this until I realized that it’s on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  But alas, we have an appointment and cannot attend, so PLEASE go and have fun!  Silverwood does great things for kids! 

$5 or Less
Presented by the Leierwood Family Players

In the Heart of the Beast Theatre 
Saturday, January 19, 2013  10:00 am or 12:00 pm
I plan to check this out in February or March.  It’s on my schedule!  Each Saturday they hold a theme-related Take ‘n Make Workshop following the show for $5.  You can call to register or you can register before the puppet show starts.

image credit

A Diary of A Worm, A Spider, & A Fly Stages TheatreSunday, January 20, 2013  2:00 pm  (for all ages)Pay What You Can Performance 
Based on the book by Doreen Cronin (of Click, Clack, Moo fame), the production explores the dreams and aspirations of the bugs of the world.

More Than $5

Children’s Theatre Company 
Opening Night Tuesday, January 15, 2013 runs to Sunday, February 24, 2013
Various Times and ticket prices
for children in Kindergarten and older
The original story of a puppet maker who creates a magical puppet who wants to be a real boy. Adapted by Greg Banks as a fast paced production consisting of only four actors, be swept away by the imagery of Pinocchio as you have never seen!

A Diary of A Worm, A Spider, & A Fly Stages TheatreOpening Night Friday, January 18, 2013 runs to Sunday, February 17, 2013  
Various times
Based on the book by Doreen Cronin (of Click, Clack, Moo fame), the production explores the dreams and aspirations of the bugs of the world.

Printing! Printing! Printing! 
MN Center for Book Arts 
Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:00 am-12:00 (for ages 2 and up, make sure your register!)
$30 for the first adult/child pair, $15 for each additional participant
I have yet to make it to this place, too, but I plan on going in February and can’t wait to tell you all about it.  This is a family workshop designed for adults and children to create  and interact together.  What a wonderful combination of art and relationships!

image credit

ABC Weekend:  Animals, Books, & Children 
Minnesota Zoo 
Saturday, January 19, 2013-Monday, January 21, 2013  9:00 am-4:00 pm 
Can learning be fun?  Of course, especially if you combine all the best learning tools in one: The ABC’s of learning.  Make your own animal pop-up book, participate in a drawing activity, enjoy animal storytimes and keeper talks with animal enrichments, and take a ride on the monorail to listen to The Little Red Fox Story.  They are also asking you to bring in your old cell phones to Recycle for the Rainforests.  It is sure to be a lot of fun! 

Small Hands, Big Hearts: Sparking the Spirit of Giving 
Minnesota Children’s Museum 
Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:00 am-3:00 pm, 5:30 pm-7:30 pm 
Sunday, January 20, 2013 10:00 am-4:00 pm 
Monday, January 21, 2013 10:00 am-3:00 pm
While exploring and discovering at the Children’s Museum, there will be special activities centered around helping others:  bring in coins that each child has saved to choose from 3 different charity boxes to put them into and then create a new giving box to begin saving again,  decorate lunch bags for meals on wheels recipients, create cards for children with serious illnesses.

Have a Family Filled Weekend!

Posted in Children's Theatre, Minneapolis theatre, MN activities, MN art, Twin Cities family fun | Leave a comment

Couponing Confession: Who I Really Am

The following is a sponsored post by  Coupon Chief . However, the entire article was researched and  written by me.  All opinions are completely my own:  the interesting and the amazing. 

I think I’ve explained to you that I’ve been trying my hand at extreme couponing. Right?
It’s time to come clean.
I think I may be done trying to be extreme.
I think?  No, let me rephrase.
 I am.  I totally am.  I am thrilled if you pay $7.97 for $70 worth of stuff, but for me saving anything over 50% is a success.

 Basically, I have given up the 7-store runs and picked 3.  I decided to just stick with them.   I can say that I’m happier making my grocery lists, and the actual drive time has been cut by more than half.  I might actually get home before my kindergartener does (racing the school bus is not fun!).

So please know where I am at with couponing.  I have decided I can’t pay full price, but if I need to get something, I can send my dear husband to get it full price.  Then, I don’t have to look at the money going down the drain.

I know.  I’m ingenious!

I like to think that if I can’t see the money being spent, it must not be being spent.

I think that seems logical, right?

 I’ve started this journey and since ended the extreme part,  but I have tried many different “clubs” and websites you must join to get a deal everyday.  Because even though I’m not down with extreme, I can’t really justify buying full price.  Apparently, I don’t understand how to make those sites work or care to.  I tried, I really did.  I almost bought some things and then decided in the end it wasn’t the right thing.

So even though I thought that was how we would get Christmas presents this year, I quite honestly didn’t remember to do that.

How easy would this be to just before we go to the store or place an online order to check here for a code to use for a percentage off your total or free shipping or something? For me the coupon non-extremist and yet  the Don’t Want to Pay Full Price Soldier.

I am impressed with Coupon Chief especially because you don’t need a log in or a membership or anything.  You just pop in, type in the name of the store and see if they have any coupons for you to use.  Then, you get the code or print the coupon and voila!  You don’t have to pay full price!  For places like Shutterfly (one of my favorites) and Staples and Diapers.com.

As of right now,  my daughter is trying everything she can to buy an American Girl doll, and has been saving like crazy to try to make that happen.  I am so proud of her.  She is very close and would like to get it in 3 months for her birthday.  Even though she will have enough for a full-priced doll, won’t it be nice for her to use Coupon Chief have a little money left over? I am eager to try!

Posted in Coupon Chief, coupons | Leave a comment

Meeting An Author At the Red Balloon Bookshop

image credit

The Red Balloon Bookshop was hosting an author this past weekend.  Knowing that I love the Red Balloon  (you can read how much I love it) and personally knowing the author–well, alright, I didn’t know the author so much as her little sister in elementary school–I thought it would be a perfect thing to bring my children to.


Lia Kvatum was in town from Washington, D.C.  She works with National Geographic for Kids and wrote a book called Saving Yasha:  The Incredible True Story of Saving an Adopted Moon Bear.  We learned all about moon bears which are actually Asiatic Black Bears and are the most closely related cousins to the American Black Bear. The reason they are called moon bears is because of the white crescent moon shape on their chests. They also have adorably big ears.  These bears are picture perfect teddy bears. 

I would like to take this time to admit that I thought I had seen Moon Bears when I was in China (at the Great Wall), but I misspoke.  Those must have been Sun Bears.  Moon Bears are are decreasing in population and do not exist near Beijing.  My humblest apologies. 

In the book Lia Kvatum takes you through the 2 year journey it took to save Yasha and 2 other bear cubs after their mama was taken by hunters when they were less than 3 months.

It was a very interactive presentation and thanks to a precocious 4 or 5 year old who asked a lot of probing questions, we were able to learn a lot about these bears (and about the young man asking the questions!).  

Photobucket Also, thanks to Lia’s younger sister–and my friend–we were able to learn some definitions of hard words like conserve.

Seeing Lia’s presentation at the Red Balloon confirmed that this store is very suited for children.  They understand kids and not only provide products for children, they appreciate children.


The store isn’t very big, but they have a small raised “stage” in the back of the store that was perfect to host an event to be able to see the speaker and to hear them without a microphone.  They set up as many chairs as they could to provide seating but encouraged everyone to find a seat somewhere.  They even invited the children up close if they wanted to see.

The Red Balloon is very personable and the staff is very approachable.  They all had a smile on their faces even in the midst of a very busy event and were nothing but kind.

And of course while you are waiting for the show to begin what better thing to do than to read books?  

It was a busy event full of people from my home town, but even if you aren’t having a mini reunion like I was,  the Red Balloon is a fantastic place to host authors.  Even though it is small, the store is cheery, well-lit, and welcoming.  

They are having another event this weekend.  Mary Logue, a local author, will be reading from her book Sleep Like a Tiger on Saturday, January 12 at 10:30.  Go and enjoy a morning with your children.  You won’t regret it.  In fact, you may leave grinning widely because you and your children enjoy yourselves so much!  

Posted in Author, books, Saving Yasha, The Red Balloon Bookshop | Leave a comment

Twin Cities Preschool Activities

Toddler Tuesday:  Yo Gabba Gabba 
Mall of America, The Patio, January 8, 2013 
10:00 am-12:00 pm 
  Enjoy a morning of musical fun, dancing,and hopping for joy.  And the crafter lovers won’t be disappointed either!  Have a chance to meet Brobee, the green dude.  Showtimes are 10:00-10:30 am or 11:00-11:30 am.  I haven’t been there yet myself, but keep in mind that kids eat free at a bunch of the mall restaurants with the purchase of an adult meal.  

Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store
FREE  Playtime during store hours: 
Monday – Friday:10 a.m. – 8 pmSaturday: 9 am – 7 pmSunday: 10 am – 6 pm
Storytime with Engineer Paul at 10:00 am on January 8, 2013.  Check out my review of Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store to see what you can expect.  Love this place!

Ballet Tuesday 
Landmark Center’s Musser Cortile, Tuesday, January 8, 2013
12:00 pm 
I honestly don’t know much about this except that it happens on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, it’s free, and it’s in the Landmark Center.  That’s all I know. But if you have a dancer, ballet lover, fairytale loving family like I do, you may want to check this out!

Feed the Birds & Squirrels 
Heartfelt, Wednesday, January 9, 2013 and Thursday, January 10, 2013
10:30-11:30 am 
For ages 2 1/2 to age 5, $15 for first child, $5 for each child after.
Make some treats for the furry and feathered friends in your backyard.  Personally, I am all for the birds, but if I don’t see another squirrel for the rest of my life, it will be too soon.  However, Lisa is so warm and welcoming and perfect for preschoolers!  While I haven’t been to Heartfelt for the preschool program, you can learn more about the store here.

Tots & Trains 
Jackson Street Roundhouse, Wednesday, January 9, 2013 
10:00 am-12:00 pm 
$7 for adults, $6 for children over 5, $5 for ages 2-5, free for under 2 
Enjoy the magic of the Jackson Street Roundhouse with an extra fun craft and train themed storytime.  Also, enjoy treats!  Always a bonus.  Wanna know what I think about Jackson Street Roundhouse?  Head over to my review to see what I think.

Posted in preschool activities | Leave a comment