Celebrating the Year of the Red Fire Pig
By Sienna Wildfield

February 18, 2007 is the first day of the Lunar and Chinese New Year, the year of the Red Fire Pig. In years past hilltown families have gathered to share and discover the customs of celebration for this yearly holiday. It proved to be a great opportunity to educate our children and community of families about a holiday with which many were unfamiliar.

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(c) Hilltown Families - Conway Grammer School“What a great service provided for us here. I find myself checking back regularly to find out what is going on in this culturally rich community of ours. Isn’t it great?Don’t you all just *heart* living in the hilltowns! Never a dull moment. Thanks for making it so easy for us to chose family activities.”

Tony(a) Lemos
Shelburne Falls, MA

School’s out next week for many kids on winter vacation. The opportunities to celebrate our “culturally rich community” are expanded this week as many of our cultural institutions and organizations plan extra special programming, including the KidsBestFest happening in Northampton, MA, all week.  

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Dental Outreach Taskforce Launched  
Did you know that approximately 400 children in the Hilltown Community Health Centers’ service area have never received any dental services?  Additionally, about 40% of area residents have gone without dental treatment in the last twelve months.  Hilltown Community Health Centers’ dental departments treat many children with gum disease and oral problems.  Many of these serious dental problems could be avoided with regular preventive dental care.  But what is the best way for all children to receive good dental care? 

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(c) Hilltown Families - Valentine Contra Dance

A Heart-felt Dance Party

by Victoria Worth
for Hilltown Families

The songs are still humming in my head, and when I look down, my feet are still moving to a recent rhythm. Long after Saturday night’s Valentine’s Family Contra Dance has ended, the joyous gathering lingers on in my mind. At the Town Hall, good food filled our tummies downstairs, and when dinner was over, we joined a crowd of children and adults already moving to the beat of the music.

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Terri Hendrix - Fids & Kamily Award WinnerThe Fids & Kamily Awards
by Bill Childs

Late last year, two family music bloggers (Stefan Shepard of and Amy Davis of ) and myself organized the “Fids and Kamily Awards.” Inspired by the Village Voice’s annual “Pazz and Jop” awards, F&K is a compilation of year-end kids and family music “best of” lists from critics, writers, radio programmers, and others involved in the music industry. You can check out the full list of nominees and winners at

Read on to discover the top vote-getters …

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(c) Hilltown Families - JunkjamWe’ve all met them, and, silently, some of us are them … modern day treasure hunters who find all sorts of unique loot at flea markets, transfer stations and curbside on trash day. Donald Knaack, affectionately known as The Junkman, has made an art form out of this pastime, and has been able to contribute amazing music while promoting eco-friendly habits by creating Junk Music.

On Friday night, as part of the free opening events for the Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art exhibit at Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA, one of the goals of this exhibit is to help transform the ways we make use of things in everyday life. The Junkman showed how recycled items can be used to make “music people want to hear performed on objects they don’t want.”

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As part of a fundraiser for the Williamsburg, MA, public elementary schools, Radio Free Earth performed a famly concert this past Friday at the Williamsburg Grange.

378529587_93c03083eb_o.jpgNever a shortage of activities for our hilltown families.  This week’s suggested events include dances, music, crafts, chocolate and more!  While a chock-full weekend of activities sure makes it hard to choose, the family Valentine Contra Dance in Ashfield is not to be missed.  Sure to be a swinging time! 

Certainly we’ve missed a Valentine event or two, so please share your special event in the comment box.

During the week are two parent a.m. socials suggested by Hilltown Families.  The first is at Elmer’s where they serve up a delicious breakfast made with many local ingredients!  The other is a new gathering suggestion at Bread Euphoria where you can treat yourself to organic pastries and the best fair trade coffee around.

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00211_cd.jpgYesterday would have been Bob Marley’s 62nd birthday. Many of Marley’s songs have a very positive message that young and old enjoy, including songs like “One Love/People Get Ready,” and “Get Up, Stand Up” to name a couple. The political message may be missed by the little ones but the simple ones (like love and understanding) won’t be.  With the lively rhythms of Reggae music, many of Bob Marley’s tunes make a wonderful musical selection for kids. Putumayo puts out a CD titled Putumayo Kids Presents: Reggae Playground that has many additional favorite reggae artists.

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The Homeschool Option

Homeschooling: Key Facts and Resources

Have you ever thought of teaching your children at home? More American families are choosing to homeschool their children every year.

There are some surprising facts about the typical homeschool parents and reasons why they homeschool their children … it’s a mixed bag! Read More

Gusterfer Yellowgold comes to the Pioneer Valley with a performance at the Flywheel in Easthampton, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Saturday morning Gustafer Yellowgold performed Gustafer Yellowgold Wild Wide World at Flywheel in Easthampton, MA, a family concert much supported and organized by Bill Childs of Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. A fun weekend performance for families with kids preK-3rd grade and early enough to get out afterwards to enjoy the first significant snow fall!

Preceeding the performance, families were served pancakes and the Pink Panther played on the big screen … all this before the invasion of a melancholic yellow alien from the sun – Gustafer Yellowgold – in a weekend morning music show!

The New York Times described Gustafer Yellowgold Wild Wide World as a cross between “Yellow Submarine” and Dr. Seuss, filtered through the lens of the Lower East Side, and after seeing this performance you may just find yourself concurring with this analogy.

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Happenings in the hilltowns and beyond for Valentine’s Day. Discover upcoming events and links for your family that are Valentine-ish, including dances, crafts, chocolate and more…

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Tips for Dads & Daughters Watching the Super Bowl Together

Dads & Daughters watching TV sports together–one of life’s pleasures. But what about those moments (like during some commercials) when you want to cover her eyes with your hands?

Here are a few simple tips from the national nonprofit Dads & Daughters for fathers and stepfathers watching the Super Bowl (and other TV sporting events) with their daughters.

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(c) Hilltown Families - Chesterfield at sunrise

Happy February! Friday marks the halfway point between Winter & Spring. In the States we acknowledge this point with Groundhog Day. No matter if you see your shadow or not, we’re halfway to spring!

On Thursday, if you’re traveling down from the hills to the valley in the morning, stop by Bread Euphoria in Haydenville for a coffee break with other hilltown parents. Wednesday is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. There are a couple of events taking place over this weekend for school aged girls to participate in. Check out the suggested events to follow …

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(c) 2007 Steve Harwood - All Rights Reserved.This year’s slogan for the National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is “Throw like a girl – Lead like a champion!” NGWSD is a day that acknowledges the positive influence participation in sports can have in a young girl’s life. It is also a day to honor sports achievements while working towards equality and accessability for women in sports.

In honor of this national day there are several free clinics being sponsored by area colleges for young girls to participate in and learn more about sports, including Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Smith College.

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(c) 2007 Hilltown Families - Day in Deerfield

Families feeling adventurous to take a day trip up to North Adams can enjoy a free family day at MASS MoCA, or journey over to Amherst to the Eric Carle Museum for music and art this weekend. The Meekins Library in Williamsburg and the Forbes Library in Northampton both offer free museum passes to check out for the whole family, just don’t wait until the last minute to check one out.

A couple of activities hosted by hilltown parents this weekend include a French rendezvous in Ashfield and a Mom’s self defense class in Cummington. If you are a Hilltown Families parent and wish to host, sponsor or suggest an event for other area families with grade school children, email or post your suggestion in the comment field on the Suggest a group/activity event page.

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Greenfield Center School
Family Contra Dance 2007

Wild Asparagus whoops it up at the Greenfield Center School Family Contra Dance. (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Sunday afternoon, Wild Asparagus whooped it up at the Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, MA. The Greenfield Center School held their annual Family Contra Benefit Dance and the dance hall was filled with families from all over Western Mass. This festive social dance was for families with kids of all ages.

Families learned easy contras, square dancing, and movements to Jump-Jim Joe, Ride Sally Ride and Sasha. Ann Percival of Wild Asparagus lead the crowd along with her five-person band. The band uses a unique blend of talents to pack a punch of a performance, presenting traditional dances and music of New England folk heritage.

The proceeds went to benefit the Greenfield Center School, an independent day school for students K-8th grade. GSC is known for integrating social and academic learning in every aspect of the school day, while emphasizing the building of community and celebration of the individual. This benefit dance let that spirit of the GSC really shine through by warmly welcoming the larger community to celebrate with them, and empowering the older students who ran the bake sale and silent auction during the dance.

Old students from the GCS ran a bake sale and silent auction downstairs while families jumps and swung around upstairs. (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

If you’ve been to a contra dance you know how much fun they can be for the whole family. If you’ve been missing out, not to worry, there are a plethora of contra dances to fill your calendar, including:

A good way to keep up with contra dances happening in our area is the Pioneer Valley Contra Dance e-mail group.

Other interesting links to visit on Contra Dances:


Hilltown parents, learn how and why we crave sweets, how to reduce these cravings without feeling deprived and much more. The more we know about nutrition and wellness, the better we can serve our families. There will be a free lecture in Northampton, MA.

WHAT: Sugar Blues
WHERE: Forbes Library, Noho, MA
WHEN: 01/29/07, 6:30pm-7:30pm

About the presenter: Sandra Guarrera is a certified personal trainer & holistic health counselor. Sandra is certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and graduate of the Integrative Institute of Nutrition, where she studies all of the dietary theories in the world.

This event is free and open to all. For more information, please call (413) 587-1011. Programming at Forbes Library in Northampton, MA, is supported by the Friends of Forbes.

Discovering Colonial America in Deerfield

Faith Deering demonstrating a variety of natural fibers used in Colonial America. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Saturday, Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, MA, hosted A Cozy Winter Day at their Hall Tavern. Many Hilltown families gathered together to experience some of the rich history of early New England. The day’s presentations included a hands-on approach to illustrate the homestead activities in which early settlers may have participated, such as sewing, cooking, storytelling or singing songs. Families passed the blustery winter afternoon as early New Englanders did.

Weaving on a loom. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Faith Deering did a wonderful sewing demonstration for small groups of families. She present a variety of natural fibers that were used to sew with, including wool, cotton and flax. Children were shown how to card wool, got to see how cotton was grown and view flax before it was processed into fiber.

Families also had the opportunity to see how wool was spun on a spinning wheel. The process of shearing sheep and explanations on why some wools were different colors was shared, and many questions answered. Once the steps from wool to yarn were completed, children got the chance to weave finished threads on a real loom. Samples to take home were passed out.

Cooking demo over an open heart fire. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Participants also had the opportunity to learn about quilting and make their own small quilt to take home. Fabric was available to paint followed by a demonstration on assembly and sewing. Kids loved making their own special quilts for their dolls or stuffed bears at home.

Around lunchtime a cooking demonstration over an open-hearth was offered. Kids watched how cooks made gingerbread, pies and soups over an open fire. Everyone had a chance to make their own gingerbread cookies to cook in the fire.

Musician Tim Van Egmond performed winter-themed songs and told stories. Encouraging audience participation, Tim sang folk songs, played a variety of instruments, including the hammered dulcimer, and told engaging tales.

The day was well spent in Historic Deerfield. Families were engaged the whole day through and children were afforded a wonderful opportunity to look at the ways of life for early New Englanders. The next family activity that will be offered at Historic Deerfield is All About Maps on March 31st, 2007. This will be a workshop for families, offering map-related activities, including how to make your own map.

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Spelling instruction at your child’s school may look different from what you remember of your school days. Click here for a guide to what you might see and why things have changed.

“What a wonderful resource this website is for local families as well as for visitors like myself. This site expresses the warmth and sense of community that I had experienced while visiting the area and has also served as an extensive guide. Thanks!” – Elizabeth Street

Share your comments with us on Hilltown Families! Don’t be shy. Make suggestions, post announcement, organize yourselves … Hilltown Families is a resource for you. Use it well! And be sure to subscribe to our email news feed and to our private email discussion group too.

For a week of suggested events for hilltown families, read on … Read More

African-American Soul Food for Martin Luther Kig, Jr. birthday at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hilltown families enjoyed African-American soul food during the “I Have a Dream” community celebration at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, on Monday, January 16th, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

The “I Have A Dream” celebration was kicked off at 1 p.m. with a reading from King’s famous speech, followed by a performance by the popular Pittsfield step dance troupe, Youth Alive. Youth Alive is a troupe of young dancers from Pittsfield, who perform Hip-Hop, African, and Modern dances using their bodies as musical instruments to create a mix of sounds through feet stomping, hand clapping, and body movement.

Making "I Have a Dream" posters. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

A sampling of African-American soul food was offered to visitors following the performance. Children and parents enjoyed free samples of cornbread, collard greens seasoned with pork, and sweet potato pie.

Children sat around tables and on the floors in the upstairs gallery to make “I Have A Dream” posters to be displayed around the gallery for the day or to take and hang at home. Statements like “Use your own mind and listen to yourself,” and “Speak up when you know you should,” were written along with illustrations. Wise words for such young minds!


Kids marvel at the Savage Ancient Seas exhibit. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Currently on view at the museum is the exhibit Savage Ancient Seas, which presents the many gigantic forms of life that populated the prehistoric waters at the same time dinosaurs roamed the earth. The gallery is lit in hues of blue and green, creating an underwater ambience.

Exploring undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period at Berkshire Museum. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The exhibition explores the undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period, filled with huge carnivorous marine reptiles with double-hinged jaws and teeth in the middle of their palates, gigantic flesh-eating fish big enough to swallow an adult human whole, and more. With voracious appetites, incredible teeth, and gaping jaws, these creatures are unlike anything known in today’s world. Highlights include an Elasmosaur with a 30-foot long neck, the toothy scowl of a giant carnivorous fish (Xiphactinus), and the jaws of a Megalodon, or giant shark, along with other skeletons, fossils, and life replicas.



Several hilltown families have begun to gather for an informal French language learning group with their children. Families from Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington and Shelburne Falls participated in the first group gathering this past Saturday. A recent French studies major from Cornell University and local Conway resident lead the group in French songs and conversation.

I feel it’s important to expose my child to different languages and cultures as a supplement to her education,” commented one parent participant. “I wish our public schools offered exposure to different languages at a much younger age.Read More

Elizabeth Street did a live family concert this Saturday morning in Florence, performing music from their debut album, Different.

“Sometimes my initial response to new music is, “Wow, that’s really, um, different.” And by different, I mean bad. But sometimes different is good, as in the case of Different, the debut album from Elizabeth Street,” says

“In kids’ and family music, there are many albums with decent music but with lyrics that are just too… obvious. It is possible, however, to write lyrics that are direct enough for kids that aren’t so obvious as to make the parental eyes roll, and it’s that fine line that [Elizabeth Street] walks on [their] album,” writes Stefan Shepherd on Read More


Elmer’s in Ashfield, MA, is the most recent culinary gem to shine in the hills. Every Friday evening they open their doors and invite families and friends in to enjoy a simple and delicious menu.

It’s a treasure to have a place to enjoy a sit-down dinner of free-range chicken, local beef or goat cheese, organic greens from area farms, or fresh organic bread baked down the road?

“I really enjoy bringing my family here for dinner and seeing my community,” commented one of Elmer’s guests. “The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and I love seeing the art of local artists while sharing dinner made with locally grown, clean food.”

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Finally … it snowed! Not enough for all those fun outdoor sports, but just enough to give us hope for a possible New England winter performance. Speaking of performance, Elizabeth Street will be a Cup & Top on Saturday. Not to be missed.

Monday is a holiday in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Fortunately the Berkshire Museum has a family event for the afternoon to bring the kids too. There are a lot of good books available to read up and share stories on MLK with the family. Check them out from your local library for a good read. If you have plans on attending the Sushi Making with Kids class, the library also has many good books on sushi and rice to review before going.

For a week of suggested events for hilltown families, read on … Read More

When my daughter first saw this photo she said, “Oooohhhh mommy … I like that one.” What’s not to like? The bright red is eye catching. It makes a vibrant photo, or a pretty still life drawing. But if my daughter were offered such a cupcake in her class to eat, my reaction would not be so pretty. I can only hope that I have taught her what she needs to know to make good choices.

Maybe you wonder why someone would object to the consumption of such a pretty confection? Sugar, trans fats, red dye no. 9, to name a few. I’m open enough to entertain the argument that one cupcake every once in a while won’t kill her. But what about those kids in her class that have allergies to wheat, dairy or artificial coloring?

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(c) Chad Nicholson - CCLWhat’s New In Physical Education?
By Linda Strean, GreatSchools Managing Editor

Elementary school physical education used to be made up of dodge ball and annual fitness tests. At a number of schools today, it’s being reinvented. Read More

After dropping the kids off at school or their homeschool progam, drop on over to Elmer’s and enjoy an informal breakfast, tea or just coffee in the company of other hilltown parents. A good opportunity to meet other parents with grade school children and to discuss the issues around their education and development.

Elmer’s Store is located at 396 Main Street in Ashfield, MA. A warm and inviting place to get together for breakfast and/or conversation.

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Northampton Survival CenterNext week there will be a great opprotunity for families to support their community while paying their overdue fines at the library. The Forbes Library in Northampton, MA, will be holding a Food for Fines week from Sunday, January 7th to Saturday, January 13th, 2007. During this week, families may pay any overdue fines on their account with a donation of canned goods (please check your expiration dates) or healthy non-perishable food items. All food collected will be given to The Northampton Survival Center for distribution.

The Northampton Survival Center is an emergency food pantry which provides low-income individuals and families in 16 communities in Hampshire County with free food, clothing, household goods, and referrals for emergency assistance. The center serves 16 communities, including Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield, and Worthington. Read More

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