All posts by leahklein

As far back as I can remember, I would wake up from my nap time to the smell and sounds of something cooking in the kitchen. I would stumble out of my bed and slowly make my way to the kitchen. My mom would be there chopping, stirring, mixing, or washing. I would rub my eyes take a deep breath and eventually be awake enough to either taste something she was chopping or ask to help out.

Enter to Win a Pair of Tickets to Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is a story of battle, fantasy, sugary treats, Christmas gifts, wizardry, snowy scenes, and not only the magic of the holidays but also the magic of childhood.  It’s not just for dance lovers, it’s most definitely not just for girls or little dancers to enjoy.  Seeing a full snow flurry on stage indoors is like seeing the first snowfall of your life.  The dramatic battle between the soldiers and the mice is something has everyone on the edge of their seat.

Illustrations by Robert Perdziola courtesy of Boston Ballet
Illustrations by Robert Perdziola courtesy of Boston Ballet

This year, I have been give two tickets by the Boston Ballet to offer in a giveaway.  Enter below for your chance at joining hundreds at the Boston Opera House for a night that will have you humming Tchaikovsky’s waltz of the flowers, and dreaming about the magic you will see happen on stage. For a little look at what has been going on behind the scenes for the past weeks, here is a great article: Helping tiny feet learn their steps in Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker. Opening night is Friday, November 28th and the performance begins at 7:30.

Enter to win two tickets to Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker here.

The Nutcracker opens Friday, November 28th and will run through December 31st, 2014.For younger children, who might not quite be ready for a full performance of The Nutcracker, the Boston Ballet School will have story hours on the North Shore perfect for all the little ones. Join Boston Ballet School around the community for a festive and interactive Nutcracker story hour! Children of all ages will enjoy learning about the story, characters, and music of this beloved holiday tradition.

Tuesday, December 2  •  10:30-11:30 AM Hamilton-Wenham Public Library, 14 Union Street, South Hamilton

Wednesday, December 3  •  10:30 – 11:30 AM Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street, Salem

Friday, December 5  •  10:30-11:30 AM Peabody Institute Library, 82 Main Street, Peabody

Wednesday, December 10  •  10:30-11:30 AM Danvers Library, 15 Sylvan Street, Danvers

Friday, December 12  •  10:30-11:30 AM Wit and Whimsy, 60 Atlantic Avenue, Marblehead

Wednesday, December 17  •  10:30-11:30 AM Manchester by the Book, 27 Union Street, Manchester-by-the-Sea

Friday, December 19  •  10:30-11:30 AM Sawyer Free Public Library, 2 Dale Avenue, Gloucester

Congratulations to Erica of The Boston Rookie. You are the winner of the pair of tickets.

Hosting for The Holidays (Sponsored by ShoeBuy)

Over the years I’ve hosted cookie swaps, dinner parties, cocktail parties, and holiday brunches.  I enjoy hosting and I like to take the creativity and methodical ways of Martha Stewart, some recipes and the joie de vivre of Ina Garten, design and style from the world around me, my mother’s clever approach of making nothing too complicated and everything tasty, and tips, recipes and hints from all the fabulous blogs out there (DomestiKatedLife, A Thought for Food, The Garum Factory, We are not Martha, Style Me Pretty, Design Love Fest, Baked Bree, A Beautiful Bite, A Beautiful Mess,  The Kitchn, and Eat Boutique -just to name a few.)

One of our favourite parties was a cocktail party and class with Adam Lantheaume of The Boston Shaker. Here, Megin of Labels are for Jars is expertly muddling.
One of our favourite gatherings was a cocktail party and class with Adam Lantheaume of The Boston Shaker. Here, Megin of Labels are for Jars is expertly assembling ingredients in a Boston shaker..

I enjoy it because I don’t take it too seriously.  If I don’t have time to make one of the dishes there is always plenty of other food, so I don’t stress it.  I useIf my house isn’t pristine, it’s not ideal, but spending quality time with friends and family trumps a pile of papers and magazines on my desk…ok, ok, in every room.  Gatherings are about the people first, the food and drink next.  As for my image or keeping up with the Joneses, I don’t have time or energy for that.

There is one little thing that does stress me out, whether I’m hosting, going out to dinner, or gathering at a friend’s house for brunch: figuring out what to wear.  Even if I have the right outfit, I often won’t have the right shoes. I can think about cocktails and canapés from sunrise to sunset, but ask me to think about my wardrobe and I kind of freeze up.

One of these days I’ll have my own internal stylist voice, but for now I have to rely on others.  Here are a few tips from ShoeBuy style expert Courtney Barry on how to look your best when hosting OR attending a holiday gathering!


Hosting

Keep it simple! But simple doesn’t have to be boring – pair a solid colored dress with sparkly wedges or a bold patterned dress with metallic flats to feel collected, yet festive. A longer dress is more fitting for hosting, just in case you have to bend down to the oven or perch on the arm of a couch.

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Be specific! Make sure to let your guests know what the dress code is ahead of time. This will avoid anyone feeling over or under-dressed (including you!) and will help to set the mood of the event in advance. Specify if you’re planning to get formal or keep it casual.

Keep it comfortable! You don’t want to be pulling at your dress or tugging at your tights all night. Wearing looser fitting clothing and breathable fabrics like cotton, linen or silk will help make sure you stay cool and collected – even when things heat up from cooking in the kitchen!

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Attending

Stay warm! Let’s face it, not all of our holiday ensembles are weather-appropriate. Especially here in New England, it can be hard to dress the part without sacrificing comfort. Pairing your dress or skirt with a classic leather boot is a great way to keep warm all night long.

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Be Bold! Headed out for a night on the town? The holidays are the perfect time to break out the look you’ve been waiting to show off all year. Whether you prefer sequins, shimmer or glitter – use this time of year as an excuse to wear something you normally wouldn’t dare.

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Accessorize! No outfit is complete without an amazing accessory to go with it. From hats and scarves to shoes and jewels, there are unlimited chances to spice up your look with that little extra something. Be careful not to over-accessorize, however, one statement piece is really all you need!


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I received a pair of shoes from Shoebuy.com as compensation for this post.  As always, all opinions are my own (except for the sage advice from  ShoeBuy style expert Courtney Barry because she knows what she’s talking about.)

Weekend Guide: Winter Wonderlands & Whatnot

This is it…  the weekend before the most exciting day of the year (for food lovers) Thanksgiving.  The horn of plenty, the celebration of the harvest, clinking glasses with family, Macy’s Day parades, football and all such indulgences.  Take time to enjoy the weekend.  If you’ve planned well you don’t have to stress about coming week.  If you haven’t planned well, turn on the cartoons for the kids, grab a cup of coffee and a notepad and take a minute to plan. Then, get out and take advantage of some of the things going on this weekend.

Cookies from Hi Rise. A taste of the season.
Cookies from Hi Rise. A taste of the season.

Today, Saturday

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Citi Wang Theatre: Photos with Globe Santa, a live performance by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, DIY snow globes, LegoLand Discovery Center activities, The Gingerbread Construction Co. will be there for cookie decorating, Zoo New England will have an interactive reindeer exhibit, and so much more. (free)

The Faneuil Hall Tree Lighting

2:00 p.m.             Arrival of Globe Santa and the Christmas Revels
3:00 p.m.             The Love Dogs presented by Scullers Jazz Club
4:00 p.m.             Jilly Martin and Ryan Brooks Kelly presented by the Hard Rock Cafe
7:00p.m.              Pre-show entertainment with the Sugarbabies Band

Mayor Martin J. Walsh will join the festivities with a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and will help light the almost 90 foot tree. The event will also kick off the New England Patriots Annual Holiday Toy Drive for which Faneuil Hall Marketplace will be a drop off location for toy donations for needy children.

Bust (the magazine not the body part) Holiday Craftacular

Visit the Holiday Craftacular at the Cyclorama in the South End.  Get all your shopping done before Thanksgiving and then you can enjoy the entire holiday season with a hot toddy and a biscuit while everyone else is somewhere else much less pleasant buying ugly, or uninspired junk they’d rather not be buying anyway.

Sunday

Cultural Survival Bazaar at Cambridge College in Cambridge.  Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Shop the world and support artists and artisans.

Jingle Bell/Run Walk in Newton.  What better way to prepare for the Thanksgiving feast than by working up an appetite while getting into the spirit of things?  The race is at the Fessenden School in Newton.  There is a kids Santa dash as well as the run/walk.

Student Voice recitals at the New England Conservatory.  Listen to the future of music for free 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

MISHA and PUFF trunk show!! Sunday at Hatched in Boston 10-Noon. Come in wearing your #mishaandpuff to receive a discount off your purchase. Hope to see you there!!

If you haven’t been to Liz’s new store location, what a good excuse to come in and stock up on all things cozy and wool! @hatchedboston – 668 Centre street, Boston, MA http://ift.tt/1r0s9Cn

Come Winter…

Come winter, there is something other than a chill in the air.
Morning light has magic.  The invisible becomes visible.

We breathe like dragons, wisps and puffs of exhales dance before our faces.

Our frozen vehicle slowly begins to thaw beneath us just as we pull into school.  After drop off, I sit at the crosswalk the warm air finally wrapping itself around me.  I sit and I watch.

The winter air and morning light let me be a spectator for moment unlocked from the daily routine of task to task to task to task.

I sit and I watch an odd, fantastical parade.  There are big men and women attached to little monsters, a kitty cat here and there, some bears, and rabbits, and crowned royalty.  A monster looks absentmindedly down the street right back at me as his hand is held and he is guided across the street up the stairs to school.  A small herd of pandas, cats, and puppies cloaked in winter layers scurry along the sidewalk up the stairs to school.

I watch this impromptu parade of bundled characters in scarfs, mittens, coats, and can’t help but smile a little at all the fun hats.  The hats that (perhaps unbeknownst to the grownups that bought them) have transformed the children giving them the power to reveal the magical, fantastical, imaginative world that they live in and that we grown-ups should visit just a bit more often.

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In her Monster hat. Paired perfectly with a firefighter coat. The hat is from Treble Stitch Boutique.
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Max in his Reindeer Hat.

 

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Max’s mom Kim of KimWorld, found this fab hat at Magic Beans. It is from the San Diego Hat Company.

 

IMG_3408.JPGMira’s owl hat came from Cambridge Naturals and Audrey’s was purchased at the Shady Hill Fair, origin unknown.

Wally

Jonah in his fantastic Wally Hat. Go Red Sox! This hat is from The Head Said on Etsy.
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Our favourite reversible hats from when the kids were little. This is the Rich Frog reversible hat. 

Rich Frog Reversible Lion & Jungle Hat

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Prep: Pie Crusts & Cranberry Sauce

IMG_9900Cranberry sauce and pie crusts are the first things I make for Thanksgiving.

I always make the same cranberry sauce from my Classic Canadian Cooking book from Elizabeth Baird.  I carry this cookbook with me wherever I go.  When I was little I had my “pink Mickey”, which was my blanket that brought me comfort.  Ever since college I’ve had my Classic Canadian Cooking book that I carry with me like a security blanket.  I’m not home unless I have it with me.

Even though I love my traditional cranberry sauce, simply made, with Port, cloves, and a little orange zest, I’ve been hearing about so many good variations that I think I need to add a second sauce to the feast this year.

For example, Kathy Can Cook mentioned a cranberry sauce she was making with pear and ginger.  It sounded divine.  (Will you post the recipe soon Kathy?!)

As for the pie crust, I’m not a baker.  I have only recently come to terms with pie crust making in general.  Earlier this year, I made the much talked about Vodka pie crust ( Christopher Kimball’s Foolproof Pie Dough – NYTimes).  I like how rich and flaky it is, but I think it is too rich for a pumpkin pie, so I need to go back to either this one that I made this summer (Nectarine, Plum, Raspberry Pie – Bon Appétit 2014).  Then again, I might make this “perfect pie crust” from Ina Garten because I remember how easy the crust was to handle (Perfect Pie Crust – Ina Garten).

Do you have a favourite pie crust recipe?  I will also be making one pie crust with lard for our dairy-free diners.  I just have to make sure the vegetarian and non-pork eating diners know which are which.  Since this year will be a buffet rather than a sit down dinner, I will take a break from cooking and enjoy some time crafting.  I love this place cards from The Kitchn.  I would just do them as labels for the dishes.  I like to use little rubber stamps, a carrot, a pig, a cow, to highlight which dishes are vegetarian, which dishes have pork, and which dishes have dairy.

Roasted Pork.
Roasted Pork.

4 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving: Family, friends and avoiding the frenzy

We have hosted Thanksgiving for many years now.  We don’t have the largest space, we have family and friends who are all fabulous cooks, and our house is anything but pristinely decorated.  We host because I enjoy hosting, my husband tolerates it, and we’d much rather host than be stuck in traffic to NY both ways.

Here are my top 5 tips for hosting.

Thanksgiving table.
Thanksgiving table.

1) Lists, lists and more lists

Begin with your recipes.  If you are having family members bring part of the feast, check in with them about what dish they would like to contribute.  As for your recipes, take a moment to read them all once through.  It doesn’t take much time, and it will be your saving grace.  Some recipes can be prepared partially a week ahead, others, like cranberry sauce, can be made today and stored in the fridge until Thanksgiving.

Make a list of who is staying where, when everyone comes into town, where they need to be picked up and shuttled, and when each person is leaving.  That will help you see who is around when.  You can plan family outings, dinners, breakfast etc.  Feel free to offer a family breakfast buffet or lunch the day before Thanksgiving for out of town guests, but it’s also fine to let people know they are on their own to explore the city and go out for breakfast or lunch.  You can give them a few suggestions of your own, or give them some blog links to help them choose for themselves: Eater Boston, Hidden Boston, @bffoodie, KidNosh, MCSlim JB just to name a few.

2) Calendar

Once you have your lists, it is time to grab the calendar.  Today is Tuesday, November 18th.  You have 9 days until Thanksgiving.  If you plan carefully that will feel like 108 long hours to work with.  If you just play it by ear it will feel like 9 short days.  Write down what you will do each day.  You’ll notice that perhaps one evening is gone because you have meetings or a sports game one weekend day.  Figure out which mornings before or afternoons after work are free for shopping, sorting, cleaning, polishing.

3) Turn off Food Network, Close Martha Stewart Magazine, & Tap into your own world

The Food Network and Martha Stewart Magazine are great for inspiration, but if you spend too long with them you’ll start to get overwhelmed with what to do.  Take a little walk or sit in a comfy chair with a  cup of tea and think about what is important to you this year.  Do you want to make cute place tags?  Do you want to try a new stuffing recipe?  Simple is always better because if you are completely frazzled no one will enjoy Thanksgiving especially not you.  If you love DIY pick one thing to DIY.  If you decide on place tags find a blog you love like DomestiKatedLife and see which ones you love and feel comfortable making.

4) Outsource

There is no shame in buying a few dishes at some of the best local restaurants or shops to round out the Thanksgiving meal.  No one needs to be a domestic goddess here.  Sofra, Hi Rise, South End Buttery, Modern Rotisserie, Formaggio Kitchen, Savenor’s and so many more places have fabulous options for Thanksgiving.  Just order now so you do not miss the deadlines. If you find cute place tags at Paper Source or somewhere, just buy them.  You can make them next year.

The Weekend Guide: Harvard Art Museums, PoKémon & More

Here are a few things to keep you entertained this weekend.

Playing at the Discovery Museum, Acton.
Playing at the Discovery Museum, Acton.

Get inspired to cook for Thanksgiving and meet Wilson Farm‘s new executive chef Raymond Ost, former chef/owner of Sandrine’s Bistro in Harvard Square.  Chef Ost will be offering samples of his turkey roulade with sausage apple stuffing, butternut squash soufflés, croque madame sandwiches, and a tomato-rhubarb compote. Chef Ost will be out in the farm stand from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.  Stop by, and ask him all about how one becomes a Maître Cuisiniers de France.

Pokémon Brawl at the Watertown Public Library.  Bring your Pokémon cards and head over to the library at 10:15 to battle it out with other children in grades K to 3.  No registration required.

Make a MESS at the Discovery Museum in Acton. Experiment and create unique works of art using shaving cream and bubbles.    The Make a MESS (Math, Engineering, Science, & Stuff) program series introduces STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) concepts through exploration, imagination, and fun. Funded by The Ramsey McCluskey Family Foundation.

Head to Made by Me as a family and make a few ornaments for your tree or to give as gifts.  Or, call ahead and see if they still have some of their menorahs and dreidls to paint. There is still time to paint a nice baking dish to serve the Thanksgiving stuffing in too.

When you have to wait 6 years for the results, there has to be a lot of fanfare and expectations will be high.  The Harvard Art Museums are opening on Saturday for Cambridge Residents and Sunday to the general public.  Students got a preview at the Student Opening earlier this month.  Unfortunately, the tickets are all spoken for this weekend, but schedule in a visit some time soon.  Harvard Art Museums: Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum

Last chance to see Swan Lake is this weekend.  Annie is playing at The Wang Theatre through this weekend as well.  For those of you obsessed with the tv show Nashville, you can get your live country fix at The Wilbur Theatre with Trace Adkins’ Christmas show.

 

Home For the Holidays: Wayfair, SEO, and Gift Tags

I don’t tend to go to conferences or blog workshops for several reasons.  One is time, another is money, and the third is ROI on both time and money.  I am a researcher and a do-er but unless there is engagement and interaction, I don’t tend to learn enough for a talk or conference to be worth my money and time.  Add in the fact that I am extremely shy with strangers, and I don’t do small talk, the whole networking piece is lost on me.

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This doesn’t mean I don’t go to conferences or talks, it just means I choose carefully.  I force myself outside my comfort zone. As a mother, I see my children being challenged every day just by going to school and learning new things, so who am I to sit behind my computer and just do what I know. 

Most recently I attended Home for the Holidays Boston (#HFTHBoston ) put on by Wayfair.com.  This was my first event put on by one brand and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself, met a few new people, and learned a great deal.

A few things that Wayfair did particularly well were: the program, the keynote, and the schedule.

The Program

In the program, was everything you could possibly need.  From schedules to keynote bios and a directory of all the attendees with photos, social media links and blog links.  This might be “old school” but having a paper directory of everyone is so useful.  It allows me to keep it in my computer bag and pull out and interact with a few folks without having the connections online just fall down the social media black hole.

The Keynote

The keynote speakers were Heather Armstrong and Christiane Lemieux a perfect pairing.  Whether the attendees wrote primarily about design, fashion, cooking, home, lifestyle we could all connect with the speakers in some way.  We are all bloggers so @Dooce resonates with all of us.  Christiane Lemieux brought in the design element which connected us to the brand, Wayfair, and the world of design.  The format was also wonderful because rather than a speech or talk, this was done as an interview/discussion making the dialogue much more interesting.

The Schedule

At larger conferences, I often find myself hopping from session to session because I thought I wanted to learn about x, but then it turns out x was not that interesting because of the presenter so I wish I had gone to y.  For #HFTHBoston, attendees were split into four groups and each group had their own schedule so that everyone did everything.  There was “Mistletoe”, “Figgy Pudding”, “Polar Express”, and “Cindy Lou Who”. Even if you weren’t suited for each topic or activity, you could participate or watch, spend some time taking it all in, or check out your newest connection’s blog.

Tips from the day.

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Lunch at Menotomy Grill & Tavern

Long gone are the days of a video store in every neighbourhood and in this particular spot in Arlington, on the Cambridge line, an old video store has been replaced with a big, modern, metropolitan Tavern with touches of an old vibe but the comfort, food and style of a modern restaurant. Today, I sat fireside with group of bloggers to get a taste of lunch at the tavern. We were guests of the Menotomy Grill and Tavern, but all of our many opinions are our own- especially mine.

IMG_3259.JPG Fried pickles with a tangy, nicely spiced dipping sauce. It tasted like a spiked Caesar salad dressing.

IMG_3260.JPGUnlike the pickles, which we relished (pun intended) these had nice heat but lacked flavour and crispness.

IMG_3258.JPG The flatbread was nice and crisp. I loved the flavour of the mozzarella which reminded me of my favourite from The Mozzarella House.

IMG_3263.JPGThese meaty ribs were perfect for those who prefer a dry rub but lacked sauce for those who like sticky, lick your fingers ribs. Under the ribs was a tasty jalapeño slaw that really complemented the pork.

IMG_3265-0.JPG The food at Menotomy Grill & Tavern is not old fashioned, but on the menu are so many classics. The wedge salad had nice pieces of blue cheese and crispy bacon cubes. As you can see, the portions are quite huge.

IMG_3268.JPGThis side of potato and sausage stuffing had some instant fans. Similar to a sausage and vegetable hash, it was seasoned nicely and there was no skimping on sausage.

IMG_3270.JPGAnother crowd pleaser was the burger, which had a good bun to patty ratio and a slight sweetness from the tomato jam.

IMG_3269.JPGIt is so easy to over cook these little haricots vert but the roasted chicken was served with perfectly cooked green beans. The chicken had a nicely crisped skin and was juicy. The roasted chicken was served in top of that earthy sausage stuffing and the leftovers were packed up and will make a great dinner for my husband and I so all I need to do is make a salad.

I was impressed with the lunch crowd and love the space. There is also a fairly good beer selection with an entire German beer section.

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5 Reasons to Visit The Boston Christmas Festival

This weekend is the annual Boston Christmas Festival where over 300 hundred artisans and artists gather under one roof.  Part of the Boston Christmas Festival is the Gingerbread House Competition that my children and I have been lucky enough to participate in as judges.  Although the seeing what local chefs and gingerbread architects come up with each year is definitely my favourite part, here are all 5 reasons the festival is worth a visit whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

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1) Those Gingerbread Houses are such fun inspiration.  It’s great to see the children’s faces as they take it all in from the tiny details to the sheer amount of sugar and candy used in each house.

2) Shop local.  It is so easy to hop onto a website and order holiday gifts for Christmas.  The vendors are all happy to talk about how they make what they are selling.  The vendors I spoke with came from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  We bought some amazing soaps from Northwood Naturals who gets his goat’s milk, honey, and herbs from a few of his local farms.

3) One stop shopping. The number of vendors really allows you to do a huge amount of holiday shopping all in one place.  From soaps and lotions to birdhouses and clothing, you can shop from the newest baby in the family to the great great great uncle or aunt.

4) Get the children involved.  My son who would usually rather be at home playing Legos or Minecraft definitely was out of his element after we had finished judging the competition and went out to explore the booths.  After a few minutes and a few guidelines, he was helping us find a gift for grandpa’s new puppy, he stopped to look at some of Bob Brown’s glass ornaments and “crazy chicks”  and even chose some artwork for his room.

5) A great excuse to explore the Seaport.  From new little parks and restaurants, you don’t have to stay inside all day. Spend the weekend at the Seaport with the family. We went for a nice lunch together at Legal Test Kitchen after we could shop no longer.

The 28th Annual Boston Christmas Festival is held at  the Seaport World Trade Center:
November 7, 8, and 9, 2014.

Show Hours:
Friday: Noon-7pm
Saturday: 10am-6pm
Sunday: 10am-5pm

Admission: $15  •  Kids under 14: FREE