Monday, March 30, 2015

A Review of Lost River Caverns, PA

The Lost River Caverns in Hellertown, Pennsylvania has always been a point of interest for me.  I would drive by the billboards on Rt. 78 and wonder, 'What is that place like?'  I asked friends for advice, searched online for reviews, and got such a mish-mosh of responses (from, 'It's cheesy and old!' to, 'It's cool!') that I figured I had to see for myself.

The lobby is very 'Land of the Lost!'

Where is Lost River Caverns?

The caverns are located in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, not far off of Rt. 78.  When we went (around lunch time on a Tuesday in the summer), there was construction off of the exit onto rt. 412, but nothing that caused us any trouble.  We were coming from Hunterdon county, New Jersey, so the trip was only about 30 minutes for us.

The Jersey Cave Momma's Boy and The Jersey Cave Momma! Where is Mr. Jersey Momma?

What Will I See There?

Friends told us it was 'cheesy and old' and 'small and cool.' I found that it was all of these things.  Much like Roadside America and Northlandz, this is an attraction that has been around for decades.  And it shows.  The main lobby is dusty and the bathrooms are ancient.  It smells like a basement.  I don't know what it is about these old landmarks, but no one ever wants to maintain them.  How hard is it, guys, to dust your displays every once in a while, or to fix that toilet in the bathroom with the giant garbage bag over it?  I fear that someday these historic attractions will be no more, simply because no one bothered to maintain them over the years.  And maybe I'm naive here, and it is a challenge to maintain these places.  If that is the case, then I stand corrected.  But it seems like just some simple upkeep (DUSTING, painting dingy walls, etc.) would make a big difference.

Inside the lobby of the Lost Caverns.

When you enter the lobby of The Lost River Caverns (a tiny little building stuck in the mountain), you check in at the front desk and they inform you when the next tour is.  You don't have to pay anything until the tour is over, and as of the publication of this entry, fees were $12.50 for adults and $7.75 for kids 3-12 (always check their website for pricing info).  The Jersey Grandpa was with us, and he was smart enough to ask for discounts (no senior discounts but they did offer a discount for AAA members, so be sure to bring your AAA card if you're a member!!).

This is my kind of place!

We didn't have to wait long for the tour (maybe 10 minutes?), so we were able to explore and take some photos.  There was a huge dinosaur/waterfall display and a gift shop to wander around in before the tour.

Lobby of the Lost River Caverns

The Lost River Caverns Tour

Our tour guide was named Andy and he was very knowledgeable and friendly.  The Jersey Momma's boy was so excited to go down into a real cave that I thought he was going to burst!  Standing in front of the cave entrance is a thrill as you stare down the path.  I mean, look at it!  How cool is that?  I actually think the anticipation at the entrance was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Cave entrance- cool, right?

We were fortunate to be in a small group of about 15 people, but we did pass very large groups of at least 20-25 people.  Andy lead us through the cave and told us about its history and beauty.  There were so many neat facts to learn about the cave and the 'lost river,' which you actually get to see (it's so crystal clear, it looks like a mirror).  I don't want to give everything away, so you'll just have to take the tour and learn for yourself.

Inside the cave- wowee!!

Things To Know

It's chilly down there!  So bring a sweatshirt or wear something warm.  The cave maintains a constant 52 degrees, but it is damp and being down there for 30 minutes gives you kind of a 'cave chill' after a while.  The floor is wet (I was told it is always wet) so wear good walking shoes with socks.  The walk is not dangerous or treacherous, but there are a few places where you have to watch your head or face as you're walking.  There are handrails to hold onto if you need them, but you can't touch the rocks.

I'm in a cave and my legs look fabulous!

It might help to bring a little flashlight.  The path is lit well enough, but the boy next to me had a little flashlight on a string around his neck and he was shining that on the rock walls to see them better.  I thought that was a cool idea (he also had a flip phone which he was using to take pictures.  This has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was cute that he had a flip phone).  I was using the flashlight on my smartphone, which worked well, too.

The cave ceiling at Lost River Caverns

At one point a huge drop of water dripped onto my forehead and splashed right in my eyes (figures!).  They say this is good luck and called a 'cave kiss.' It won't cause you any harm, but if you get freaked out about stuff like that, then wear a hat or a hoodie.

The tour was only about 30 minutes. Some reviewers online complained that the tour was too short and that Lost River did not have as much to offer as other caves in Pennsylvania.  But for a Jersey Momma and her 6 year old boy (and his grandparents!) this was the perfect amount of time.  It was hard enough for a little boy to stand and listen intently to a tour guide for that amount of time anyway.

At the end of the tour, I noticed some people tipping our tour guide.  I didn't even realize that you're supposed to tip a tour guide and I had no singles on me anyway.  So Andy, I'm sorry if I gipped you, dude.

The Gift Shop

The Jersey Momma's boy usually despises gift shops, much to my dismay (and delight, I guess, as I don't have to worry about him begging for souvenirs).  But he liked this one.  There were a lot of funky things (and cheesy things, too, but that's sometimes the fun of it).  He really enjoyed rifling through their barrel of polished stones that were 4 for $1.00.  I liked their chocolate candy rocks and their rock collection pencil.  We also got a cave coloring book and a mini rocks/minerals identification book.

Lost River Caverns Souvenir Shop

Is It Worth the Trip?

This is another moment when we must ask ourselves, 'Will my child like this?' Because even though you might see it as cheesy, old and small, your kid sees it as...a cave!!  Which is...just plain cool!!!  

We didn't have to travel far so this was a fun, interesting trip for us.  If you are coming a greater distance, then I suggest you make a whole day out of it.  There is a nature trail outside the caverns to explore, and some rock panning you can do for an extra fee.  We skipped both of these because it was wet and rainy when we went, and the Jersey Momma's boy had reached the end of his rope anyway (that's a phrase we use often, including, 'he's out of rope.'  Ha!).  We plan on going back again with Mr. Jersey Momma, since he was working the day we went.

More cool cave pics

More Jersey Momma Tips

*Parking is free.  Their main lot is small but there is a larger parking lot across the street that you can also use.

*There are areas across the street where you can sit and eat or picnic, if you like.

*There are towns nearby so you can visit the local Rita's or drive a little further to find the local McDonald's.

*They are open year round except for major holidays, and the temperature in the cave is always a balmy 52 degrees, no matter what.

*The Jersey Momma is NOT compensated for any trips, unless otherwise specified.  In fact, The Jersey Momma was very grateful that the Jersey Grandpa paid our admission fee.  :)

One thing I have to add about the Lost River Caverns is that everyone working there was super friendly, respectful and just plain nice.  The front desk greeter, our tour guide, the cashier at the souvenir shop- everyone was so polite.  I really appreciate that in any establishment, so kudos to the Lost River Caverns for having such a friendly staff, and thank you for a fun day trip.  Now go and plan your trip at  Have fun!

Disclaimer:  As previously stated, I was not compensated by Lost River Caverns but I did add some fun affiliate links below from Amazon if you want to shop for some cool rock collecting books or kits. I highly recommend the National Geographic Kids book of Rocks and Minerals.  It's one of our favorites.  Go for it!

Friday, March 27, 2015

How to Make Peeps Popcorn: More Fun with Peeps

If you've read my last two posts about Peeps Jousting and Make Your Own Peeps Houses, then you know I love the look of Peeps but not so much the flavor.  I mostly like decorating with them and using them for projects.  But this recipe for Peeps Popcorn is actually pretty yummy.  And if you need any Peeps supplies, you can check out my handy affiliate link at the bottom of this post.

What You Will Need:

-about 5 Peeps, any color or flavor
-2 Tbsp butter
-3 cups of popcorn (I used a standard microwave popcorn, PopSecret, I think)

Stovetop Method

First, let me just give credit where credit is due.  I read a lot of Pinterest posts about Peeps Popcorn and they weren't all good.  Somewhere out there in internet land, it said to use teaspoons of butter. This was just impossible for me and totally didn't work.  I don't know if it was a typo or a mistake, but trying to mix melted Peeps with teaspoons of butter just didn't work for me.  So thank you to CupKate's Event Design for publishing a recipe that called for a decent amount of butter.  Your rock, Kate!

Step 1.  Pop your popcorn, remove any unpopped kernels and set aside.

Step 2.  Melt the butter over low heat.  Add your Peeps and keep stirring, don't let those babies burn!  Take them off the heat if need be until they melt smoothly without burning.  This was a challenge for me and I started to get irritated when they weren't melting right (there's nothing worse than a faulty recipe!).  But I told you I was originally following a recipe that called for teaspoons of butter.

Step 3.  Then pour the mixture over the popcorn and stir as best you can.  It won't cover the popcorn totally, but try to get a nice, even color consistency.  Spread it out on wax paper to dry.  We just broke off chunks to eat it as it dried.  The more it dried, the more "dried out" it seemed to get, so my suggestion is to eat it right after you make it.

CupKate's Events suggested to chop up some extra Peeps and sprinkle them over the popcorn.  That might be kind of neat, too.

Yummy Peeps Popcorn!  Eat it fresh!

Microwave Method

Okay, so my second attempt was in the microwave.  I put 5 Peeps in a microwave safe bowl with 2 Tbsp (yes, tablespoons) of butter.  I microwaved them on high for one minute (stopping halfway through) to stir them.  Once they were melted smoothly, I dumped the popcorn right into the bowl with the melted Peeps. This seemed to make a gooier Peeps popcorn, but it was the family favorite, so I can't complain.  Then I spread it out on waxed paper to dry.

The blue (done on stovetop) was drier and a little more difficult to make.  The purple (from the microwave, with more butter added), came out gooier and dried a little soggier, but The Jersey Momma's Boy seemed to like that one best.  So you can decide which one you think you'd like better.

Disclaimer:  I was NOT compensated by the Peeps company in any way to write this post.  I just felt like sharing because I like to spread joy.  I did, however, include an Amazon affiliate link for your Peeps pleasure.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Make Your Own Peeps Houses : More Fun with Peeps

There's nothing worse than a Pinterest Fail.  Okay, so maybe there are worse things.  But there's no arguing that they are a waste of time, energy and sanity, especially when you're trying to work with children.

I have seen Pinterest posts floating around for adorable little Peeps houses- essentially a gingerbread house for Peeps.  The posts I read about them made it seem like a piece of cake:  Put graham crackers together with frosting, pop Peep inside, photograph in the grass next to jellybeans on a sunny day and you've got a Pinterest hit!  That's always the way.  But then when you actually go to make your own Peeps house, you find that there were some directions missing, or some tips left out, and before you know it, there's frosting everywhere and you're yelling at both your dog and your child simultaneously.  SO, that being said, I promise you that Peeps Houses ARE super cute and totally NOT that hard if you follow my tips.  I also included some affiliate Amazon links at the end of this post if you need some help shopping.

You Will Need:

-graham crackers
-decorator frosting (I used canned Betty Crocker decorator frosting)
-Peeps (any kind, any color- bunnies work, too!)
-jellybeans or Robin's Eggs candies (for Peep eggs)
-Easter grass
-hot glue gun (this, technically, is optional, but read on to see why it's better to have it)

Peeps come in so many colors and flavors!

Step 1.  Split your graham crackers into squares.  Do you know I had a problem with this right off the bat?  For whatever reason, my crackers wouldn't split evenly.  So if you have the same problem, use a knife and 'score' the cookies first, then crack them along the score line to get a straighter edge on your cracker.

You can score your graham cracker for more precise splitting.

Step 2.  Place one cracker down for your floor.  You're going to form an "open" house, so you're going to want to glue two sides to the floor for walls, and one cracker to the back for the back of the house.  (*note:  we originally tried using the frosting as our glue, but it just never set correctly.  We waited over an hour and the crackers actually started to get mushy under the frosting.  The Jersey Momma's Boy got tired of waiting and ran off with the dog, jumping on the sofas and causing a general ruckus, to which I actually LOST IT and started YELLING as I was trying to prop up a stupid failing Peep house! Guilt about yelling then followed...)

You can use frosting as your 'glue,' but it is not as easy as a hot glue gun!  
Constructing the Peeps house with a glue gun.

Step 3.  Prop two crackers together for the roof and hot glue gun them, right down the middle.  When the roof is dry (usually just a few seconds!  Woot!), glue the roof to the Peeps house.

Completed glue-gunned Peep house!  Don't worry, you can cover the glue with decorator frosting.

Step 4.  From here on in, it's smooth sailing!  Put a little dab of glue inside the house to hold your Easter grass down.  Trim your Easter grass and plop it inside the house.  Add a few jellybeans or Robins Egg candies to the next, then put the Peep on top.

Peeps House complete with The Jersey Momma Boy's driveway decorations.

Step 5.  You can follow up by decorating the house.  I used Betty Crocker canned decorator frosting to decorate over the hot glue.  The Jersey Momma's Boy preferred to leave his house plain, but wanted to make a floor and pathway for the houses out of cardboard.

I actually don't like using this stuff as a substitution for frosting.  But I don't mind it for accent decorations.

*Obviously, if you want to eat your Peeps houses, then don't use a hot glue gun on them!

For more Peeps fun, check out my post on Peeps Jousting, which is a lot easier than Peeps houses.

Disclaimer:  I was NOT compensated in any way by the makers of Peeps, Robins Eggs or Betty Crocker.  Or the graham cracker people.  I just wanted to set the universe right by giving you an honest and helpful tutorial of a cute project.  However, I included some cute affiliate links below from Amazon to help you out on your path of Peeps righteousness.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fun with Peeps: Peeps Jousting!

I love when Spring rolls around and all of those colorful Peeps start hitting the market. The only thing is, I don't like the taste of them.  But they're just so cute and colorful, I am always looking for fun things to do with them!  So I was so excited to hear about Peeps Jousting, and so was The Jersey Momma's Boy!  This is a fun activity that doesn't require much time or mess.  Give it a try, you're sure to wind up laughing!

What You'll Need:

-PEEPS! (any color or size, chicks work better than bunnies)
-paper plates or paper towels
-a microwave

TWO PEEPS ENTER, ONE PEEP LEAVES!  Prepare for battle, Peeps!  The Jersey Momma's Boy and I watched this funny video on You Tube, first, just to prepare for our battle.  The music got us pumped.

We decorated a 'ring' for our Peeps, but this wasn't really necessary because it can only be used once (the marshmallow melts to it, so if you want to do more than one round of jousting, the plate can't really be used again).  Our next rounds were all on paper towels.

The Jersey Momma's Boy also wanted to prepare all Peeps in advance for battle by giving each one a weapon (a toothpick) and lining them up in 'the stands.'

The Peeps are almost ready for action.
Peeps!  Prepare for battle!

You'll start your battle with two Peeps.  They need to face each other on your paper plate or napkin, with their lances (toothpicks) pointed at each other.

Place them in the microwave for about 40 seconds.  Do NOT walk away!!  The idea is to watch them. They will swell up, and the Peep whose toothpick pokes the other one first is the winner.  It's fun to watch them and see who is the victor.

Go Yellow Peep, go!
Yellow was our first round winner!  Now remember, I said don't walk away, right?  Because this can be super messy if you don't watch. I don't know if the Peeps would actually swell to the point where they pop.I didn't want to find out.  As soon as the toothpick lanced the other Peep, we opened that microwave door!
They look like Jabba the Hutts after they swell up!  (Don't mind my dirty microwave!)
Don't worry Blue Peep, no one's a loser here, because The Jersey Momma's Boy decided that the winner should be eaten!

Yummy!  Melted Peeps!
Ahhh, the winner is the loser!!  lol
We did this a few more times, and The Jersey Momma's Boy even wanted to keep track of the winners (or the 'winers,' as he wrote!) each time.

Who will be the 'winer?'
Go Purple Peep, go!

Even if you're not a fan of Peeps, this is a fun activity.  It's so funny to see them puff up, and they do actually smell good, too.

And even Spot, The Jersey Doggy, wanted to get in on the action!  Don't worry, he just  got a lick before battle.

Is it REAL, Momma?
Hmm, it smells good...
I DO like Peeps!


Don't walk away from the microwave.  I said that already, right?  Just wanted to be sure!  Because everyone's microwave power is different.  Keep an eye on those Peeps, and as soon as the battle is done, take them out!  If you leave them in there the full 40 seconds, THEY CAN BURN!  And then they don't smell very good at all.  You also don't want them melting all over your microwave.  And I think this goes without saying, but if you're doing this activity with little ones, be sure to keep an eye on them, too.  These Peeps are warm when they come out and you don't want anyone burning their little hands or tongues or piercing themselves with toothpicks.  So please use discretion.  I am not assuming any responsibility for Peeps related injuries!  So just keep an eye on these suckers. Have fun!

And if you feel like shopping for Peeps stuff (no, I'm not sponsoring Peeps or anything, but these are my Amazon affiliate links!), follow the links below!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why Professional Family Photos are Worth It: A Visit with Sunny Bunnies Portraits

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I hate being photographed.  Can you tell?  It's hard to find a shot of me, the real Jersey Momma, anywhere on this site.  I like candid shots- ones where I am laughing or not looking at the camera.  I am hard on myself.  I am my own worst critic.  So I think this is the reason why I never bothered to have professional photos taken of The Jersey Momma's Boy or our family.  I thought, I can take my own photos!  I don't need a professional photographer!  But you know what?  I regret that decision and I'm going to tell you why.  I was recently contacted by Nadia of Sunny Bunnies Portraits in Washington, New Jersey.  She asked if I'd like to come in for a mini photo shoot, to see what her studio was all about. So I thought, why not?

Where is Sunny Bunnies Portraits?

Nadia's studio is based in a cozy little room of her mountain top home in Washington, NJ.  But she can meet you on location somewhere if you work out the details with her.  She takes photos of newborns, babies, and children (but she will take family photos, too!).  Nadia is sweet and friendly, and even The Jersey Momma's Boy, who can be very shy, seemed to feel comfortable in Nadia's home.

Sunny Bunnies Portraits Studio - photo courtesy of Sunny Bunnies Portraits

What is a Professional Photo Shoot Like?

I can't speak for all photographers, but Nadia was warm and welcoming.  She was kind to The Jersey Momma's Boy and talked to him in a soft voice during the photo shoot.  Although she specializes in babies and newborns, she also enjoys photographing children, families and siblings.  She had a slew of adorable props for us to choose from, and she put care and thought into picking out the right props and how to set up the photos.

It was a challenge to keep The Jersey Momma's Boy from slouching during his session!

Nadia also had some adorable outfits that her clients could dress up in if they desired (The Jersey Momma's Boy wanted nothing to do with hats or suspenders or anything of the sort, and that was okay, too).  But the little girls' dresses?  Oh, my!  Precious!!

The Jersey Momma's Boy didn't mind holding some fake Spring flowers for his photo shoot

What Are My Options for Professional Family Photos?

I remember going to Sears when we were kids and awkwardly posing with my sister (The Pirate Cupcake lady!), but we've come a long way since then!  If you're not comfortable going to a photographer's home, you can also go on location somewhere, like local parks or lakes, to get some beautiful natural shots.

Nadia also took the time to make a Pinterest board for me of ideas, so I could look through them before the shoot and decide what kinds of images we hoped to capture.  There were so many cute ideas!  Posing with toys, seasonal props, black and white, close-ups!  So much to choose from!  Here are some of the sweet poses that Nadia came up with for The Jersey Momma's Boy:

When The Jersey Momma's Boy saw these, he said, "I look so handsome!"

Can I Afford a Professional Photographer?

Nadia occasionally offers specials at her studio, so check her website or Facebook page for options.  At times, some photographers (including Nadia at Sunny Bunnies) will offer mini sessions around the holidays, so be sure to ask what package options and prices are available.

How Do I Get My Photos?

Sunny Bunnies sent us all of our images via Drop Box.  The images are ours to keep and we can take them anywhere we want to print them.  Each photographer is different, but Nadia usually sets up online galleries for her clients (not always DropBox, but some method of online file sharing).  She can also provide a CD of images if you prefer.

Are Professional Family Photos Worth It?

So this is the initial question I started with, and here I am to tell you why these photos are so important.  I have said before, especially in the About Me section of this blog, how much I cherish time and every moment we have.  As the momma, I am the one who takes most of the photos in this family (and with my cell phone, no less, so the image quality is not always great!).  But that means I am also not in a lot of the photos.  I know a lot of moms out there will agree, you have a million pictures of your children, but not many of you, or you with your children.  Am I right?  And since I am always avoiding the camera, the memories of me with The Jersey Momma's Boy are not being documented very well!  So remember that.  You deserve to be in the pictures, too.  You, momma, are beautiful.  And these moments?  These days of baby cheeks and pudgy legs- they go by in a flash, in a heartbeat.  You look back and think, where did the time go?  Having a professional image of such a special time is a true treasure.

Disclaimer:  You can find Nadia at Sunny Bunnies Studios on her website or Facebook page. Sunny Bunnies provided us with a complimentary photo shoot in exchange for documentation of our experience with her.