Friday, April 30, 2010

Kidzu Children's Museum

Updated 12/2011: Kidzu has moved to a new location in University Square off of Franklin Street, still in downtown Chapel Hill.  The entrance to the museum is on the back side of the building, so drive around back.  Parking here is much better!

Prices for admission have gone up, and that is represented and accurate below.

The pictures below are from the new location, and the address and contact information is up-to-date.

A quick note about the experience I, and many other parents I have chatted with, have had at the new location: it can get PACKED.  Word is out about how great this place is and with better parking and a new, breezier, lighter space, it is so much more convenient and fun.  However, we all wonder if at some point Kidzu is going to consider limiting the amount of guests in at one time.  The new spot isn't terribly larger than the old location - just nicer and more open - and the times I have been to the new location we've had a terrible time with overcrowding. It is GREAT that Kidzu is doing so well.  They are gearing up to build their dream space at Wallace Parking Deck, which we wholeheartedly support and encourage you to.  However, with success comes some growing pains, too. My advice would be to pick the times you go carefully (avoid rainy holidays, for example) and think about calling ahead to see how crowded it may be.

Keep checking in to their website, too (see below) to catch up on their events.  They are offering even more great special events and workshops these days.

I know. No blog about being a parent in Chapel Hill would be complete without information about Kidzu. So here it goes...

Love this place! Located in one of the store fronts on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, Kidzu has something for all the young kids. They advertise that they offer hands-on museum exhibits for children ages 0 - 8. And that is why we went. My mommies group has children of different ages and mobility, and this place was a perfect way to spend a playdate.

I do not look at this place and think "Museum" since it is incredibly interactive. No stuffy "don't touch" things here. But I did learn that they change out the themes and exhibits of the entire place a few times a year. Which now that I think about it, when I went years ago with my niece it was a castle theme...Which can keep Kidzu fresh. [MiCHill note: as far as we can tell, they no longer have rotating exhibits at the new location.]

There are all sorts of places and ways for play: light tables, art stations, gardens, balls, kitchens, workbench, blocks, dress up. They also have a babies & tots area. This is all cushioned and barricaded. There are stools and rockers for parents to sit in. And there is also a bin for "Tasted Toys" - if it goes in the mouth, then put it in the bin to be cleaned. This made Kidzu a great outing for a group of kids with all ranges of mobility. We only wish they had barricaded and blocked the doors in the front and the back of the building. We had a case of the Runaway Babies, and the front door seemed to be the goal.

Kidzu also does little things that make such a difference for parent enjoyment and ease. For example, in their bathrooms they offer diapers of all sizes. They ask that you use them in an emergency only, but still a great service. You can also get a change of clothes for your child should you be desperate. And they have plastic grocery bags for you to put dirty clothes in (C and I took advantage of that).
Kidzu offers adult-lead arts and crafts in a separate room from 11am - noon and 2pm - 3pm each day. The project is generally recommended for children ages 2&up. They also have Storytimes. Toddler time (1-4) is Tuesday 10:30 - 10:50 am and Preschool (3-6) is Friday 10:30 - 10:50 am.

Parking is a bear here. In downtown Chapel Hill, on Franklin Street, you could have a significant challenge finding a place to put your car. When we were there, the parking garages in the immediate vicinity were full. However, we drove down about a block to the pay lot on the corner of Church & Franklin and found ample parking. Just be prepared to walk a little ways (nothing too bad, but bring your stroller). Kidzu knows this, though, and knows their space is limited so is planning to grow and move into another building (with parking!) in a few years.

With it's creativity, it's cleanliness, it's myriad of diverse activities, Kidzu is a great place to visit.

$5 per person for adults and children over 24 months. Children 12- 24 months are $2, and kids under 12 months are free. Admission is valid all day (so you can leave, get your burgers, eat, then come back).
Sundays are free for all.
Closed Mondays.
Memberships available.

Kidzu Children's Museum
123- B Franklin Street
Chapel Hill(919) 933-1455

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fearrington Village

On a beautiful spring day, A.G. and I decided to take our boys to Fearrington Village for a walk. It was such a picturesque place, and I actually can't wait to go again soon to spend more time there.

We started at the village center. But we weren't in a shopping sort of mood (read as: the boys weren't letting us shop that particular day) so we took off on a stroll. We walked through the village, out the back, and through the park. The land was beautiful-- a combination of rolling hills and landscaped flower beds. We eventually found the goats in the back left of the park. The boys loved them! I had read in many places that these are fainting goats, meaning that they faint when scared. Alas, all of my attempts to scare them didn't work. These goats act as if they have seen some things.

We then backtracked, and went through the village again. We ended up out front where the cows (belted galloways I believe they are called) were lowing, along with the lone donkey. The boys laughed and giggled as the cows merely looked at us in bemusement.

I would love to come back to Fearrington Village on another beautiful day. There are many cute shops to visit, and in the center are some tables with umbrellas that you can sit at and have a beer and glass of wine (well, maybe not at the same time), and snacks at The Roost while the kids play. And that walk was great. It was scenic, entertaining, and easy.

Few things to know:
Farmer's Market is on Tuesdays at 4 pm. So it might get more crowded then. But at least you could enjoy the market as well.

Take your jogging stroller or a stroller that can handle gravel. The trails are easy and well-groomed, but they are gravel so be prepared. I have heard that the trails can get crowded, but we didn't have a problem.

The animals are all protected by an electrical fence. So keep curious hands far away.

Overall, this is a great, easy outing with many things to offer. Not too far from Chapel Hill down 15/501, it is an easy adventure to do around naptime(s).

Fearrington Village
2000 Fearrington Village Center

Pittsboro NC, 27312

Chatham Marketplace

C and I had business in downtown Pittsboro the other day, so decided to make a whole outing of it. And since mama was very, very hungry, we swung in to Chatham Marketplace off of 15/501.

This is a local co-op and very similar to Weaver Street Market. There are fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh made pastries next to the coffee bar. Yet you can also do some limited grocery shopping here so they have baby foods and items as well.

The major differences between the 2 co-ops I saw were as follows:
- The sandwiches here are to die for. They are so good! Instead of premade and shrink-wrapped, Chatham Marketplace makes their sandwiches fresh for you while you wait. They have diavolo sauces, brie, hams, turkeys, cheeses, and fresh breads. The sandwich I got was so good, I was so impressed and happy.

- There is very little indoor seating here (unless I am missing something?). Very little. And very little room in that seating area to maneuver a stroller. The dining-in here option is more for the outside. Chatham Marketplace has a beautiful spot outside to picnic. And, indeed, there were a few families there on our visit that had brought blankets and toys to sprawl out on the yard.

Chatham Marketplace has a big, covered front porch too that has a huge bin of toys, clearly labelled so.  C loves getting into this bin while there and has spent good times entertained by the train.  While it is outside so might not be the cleanest or the best quality toys, TOYS ARE TOYS.  We love that these are here.

Near the outdoor seating on the lawn is a huge sandpit, complete with sand toys as well!  It's wonderful.

And if your kids are horticulturally inclined, there is a pollination garden with herbs and wildflowers galore that is quite gorgeous to gaze at.

Chatham Marketplace also hosts some fun events that look very kid-friendly. This includes Sunday Brunch music series featuring local talent.

Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro Street, Ste 320,

Pittsboro, NC 27312
(919) 542-2643

Walnut Street Park - Cary

D is so lucky; Sarah C. is always taking him to such fun parks! Here's a report of a brand new one in Cary. Enjoy.

Cary’s newest park, Walnut Street Park, was dedicated in August 2009. On 11 acres, it features two play areas, an open field, a 1.4 mile paved trail encircling the park and a “Brick Pedestrian Promenade with Integrated Public Art” per the Town website.

The play areas are divided by age groups: 2-5 years and 5-12 years. Although many of the kids I witnessed in the older area looked past 12 and, really, who says that’s the cut off age for playing? The Nexus play equipment it features (possibly a first and only in the Triangle?) looks very futuristic and I’m tempted to give a try myself! Both play areas have swings and squishy rubber play surfaces. The younger playground also has a climber with slides, a sand box with digging toys and a grouping of low balance beams.

In the center of each play area is a small picnic shelter with tables so you can easily bring the family for a picnic and fun. Or kick back with a cool drink and relax while you watch your kids play (assuming older kids here).

Restroom facilities are located next the younger playground. Personally, I was a little disappointed. For a new park, the restrooms (well, I only peeked into the women’s room) were a bit run down looking and there was not a diaper changing station. I did have a chuckle when I noticed the water fountain outside. Not only did it have the accessibility code mandated high/low fountains, but also a fountain for the dogs. Definitely a positive for those with furry four footed children as well.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Children's Store

Updated 1/13/11: The Children's Store has moved out of University Mall and around the corner to a stand alone store on Elliott Road. Same great stuff, new spot! And, starting in March 2011, they are going to do storytimes every Wednesday 10:30 - 11:30. We'll bring you a review on that as soon as we can.

As you know, I love local children's shops (think Ali Cat). And luckily we have another absolutely fantastic one in Chapel Hill: The Children's Store. The Children's Store is a boutique gift shop. This is not a place to go to get essentials, but it is packed to the brim with arts and crafts, specialty items (such as pedipeds), books, and, well, toys! We love it here, and are so happy that they have moved to a new location. You can also spend time here playing with the train table.

I like to gift shop for kids' birthdays here. They always have creative and unique items. And I also manage to pick up little things for C every now and again, of course! Last visit I was so happy that they had the Sandra Boynton Rhinoceros Tap book & CD. Since we love Philadelphia Chickens, I am sure this will be a hit too.

The Children's Store is certainly worth a visit, especially on your next Locopops stop!

The Children's Store
243 South Elliott Road
Chapel Hill

Jean's Berry Patch

Fresh strawberries are like candy. That's why I love strawberry picking season. I don't mind getting the knees of my jeans stained pink if it means strawberries right off the vine.

So when Jean's Berry Patch announced that they were open and having a great season, C and I headed out there.

The berries were amazing: huge and abundant. I could not believe how beautiful and prolific they were, so asked the worker about fifteen times if he was sure they were organically farmed. And yes, he is sure. All organic.

Which is good since C was enjoying smashing the strawberries and picking at the vines. He clearly thought strawberry picking meant squeezing strawberries until they popped, but besides his messy hands, I was okay with that. And so were all the staff there. This is a locally owned farm and all the workers are volunteer church friends of the owner, so they were very kind and accommodating. They love kids and encourage their participation.

And turns out this is a great activity for the kids. To be outside directly harvesting fruits to eat from a local farmer is educational, not to mention fun! The only concern I had at all was that the place we were set to pick was fairly close to a road. But the strawberry patches are quite large and I am sure if I had asked to pick somewhere else they would have let me, I just didn't think of it at the time since we managed fine.

The prices are pretty good. Not grocery store prices, but these berries taste much better. It is $1.35 per pound for what you pick. (MiCHill note 2011: prices are up! It is now $1.50/lb for you pick.) If you want fresh strawberries, though, and simply don't have the time to pick your own, they do have strawberries available pre-picked at $4 per quart, just drive up. It is a good thing the prices are fairly decent, too, since I picked way more than I needed. I will next be trolling the Internet for good strawberry recipes...

I will say that this activity probably won't work for new babies or the really little ones. You do have to be bending over picking berries, so having a child in an Ergo or sling would most likely be difficult. And no strollers, of course.

By the way, there are a few pick-you-own strawberry patches in the area. I picked Jean's as it is one of the oldest (25th anniversary). But since strawberry picking is such a fun activity, I would go with whatever farm works for you.

Jean's opens for picking at 7 am and stays open until 7 pm or the vines have been picked over, whichever comes first. So you definitely want to call before you go to make sure that they have patches to be picked. Although this is such a good year for strawberries that they will most likely have berries waiting for you.

Happy pickin'!

Jean's Berry Patch 3003 Nc Highway 751
Apex, NC 27523-5561

(919) 362-5800

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chick-fil-A near Southpoint: It's for the kids

Fast food chains are an American institution, it seems. Yet it also seems that fast food restaurants with kids' play areas are a gift to parents.

C and I lunched at the Chick-fil-A near Renaissance Village. This is the standalone Chick-fil-A near Southpoint Mall, close to the SuperTarget as you come in off 751 from 40. It caters to parents and their kids, easily identifiable since when you drive by the restaurant you are going to see big, colorful tunnels in their front windows. So you know they have the play palace. It is full of tunnels, ladders, and steps. There are also mirrors and things that turn at toddler level. The rules are: kids 3 & under only, and no shoes (so you want to bring socks for the kids).

There are, of course, the usual problems with some very excited kids running at full steam. And I can imagine that, since it isn't a huge play space, it can get very crowded on weekends and rainy days so you'll want to watch for crowding. Yet overall it is a great thing to offer. Especially when mom gets to have some waffle fries while there. And, let's face it, odds are you need something at that SuperTarget.

Other things that are nice: there are so many highchairs you shouldn't have a problem getting one. The restaurant also provides self-adhesive disposable place mats for kids, so no need to bring your own this time. The fitness instructor in me has to point out that it can also provide a good learning opportunity to teach children how to order the healthier options at a fast food place! But, really, they have a play area.

Chick-fil-A's all over the nation are closed on Sundays.

Chick-fil-A at Renaissance Village

Note from Sarah C.: My experience with various Chick-fil-A locations in the Triangle and beyond is that you can get the Table Toppers free of charge.  They are typically included in a kid's meal if you order one.  However, if your little one is like mine and isn't quite ready for a kid's meal, just ask at the counter.  The employees have kindly provided me with one every time - including at the mall food courts!

Chapel Hill Community Center & Park

After a weekend of frenzied activity, C and I were alone to explore life at a slower pace. So we decided to enjoy the weather and get out to the playgrounds. We went to the Chapel Hill Community Center Park on Estes Road. Although apparently we were not the only ones with this thought. This place was buzzing with activity. However, it was so pleasant!
C and I actually decided to begin our playtime by stopping to smell the roses. Literally. The Community Center Park is home to the Gene Strowd Community Rose Garden. There are over 450 rose bushes and 130 different varieties. Surprisingly, though, with all that diversity the gardens aren't terribly large at all. But boy do they smell good. There is also a compost demonstration site that is quite active, with an instructor available to give hands-on lessons. We skipped that, I have to admit, and I am not sure if that smelled quite as good.

The part of the park for the kids is mostly well-shaded by trees. The playground equipment is large and has plenty for the wee ones and the big ones. And the kids were sharing quite well. The ground is part synthetic material and part mulch. There were picnic benches on the perimeter and many-a mommies group were parked on them.

So after some nice conversation with a few other mommies on the playground, and spending considerable time watching C throw dirt, I explored the facilities a little. The Community Center hosts an indoor pool, a climbing wall (which is the piece de resistance of this place and does have open climb hours), basketball court, bathrooms, and classes. There are fees to get in and use the facilities, but they vary depending on what you want to do, so you best check online here. Nothing seems too burdensome, though. Single visits are going to run you between $2 and $6.

and I also went for a little stroll. We were going to hit the Battle Branch Trail, which is behind the Community Center. It is a 1.5 mile trail that connects the Community Center to UNC. But, to be quite honest, it was gravel, I had our little umbrella stroller, and it didn't seem exciting enough to "battle" it out.

There are trails behind the Rose Garden and bocce courts that are paved and much more stroller friendly. I was told by some new mommy friends that that's the place to stroll. We'll do that next time.

Chapel Hill Community Center and Park
120 South Estes Road (near University Mall across from the Post Office)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Music Together with Suzanne

Updated 6/2011: We're not quite sure when they've stopped, but Music Together with Suzanne is no longer operating. Check out Jammin' Baby's Music Together or Kindermusik for other alternatives.

Today, while wandering University Mall and smelling the Chick-fil-A fries, I happened to see the Music Together with Suzanne class in motion at the Deep Dish Theater. What a fantastic idea! You know that C and I love Kindermusik, and this looks very similar. There was a good number of children and parents marching in beat to the music, and seemed to be enjoying it.

The pricing looks reasonable, and the class location and time might work better for you. It, of course, won't come with the Kindermusik brand (which equals years of research and experience), but it is a nationally distributed program as well. So if your child loves to sing, dance, and play instruments, and this spot and time works better for you, I wouldn't hesitate to try it out! It looks like they are in the middle of a session right now, but I imagine a new session would start soon.

Classes are also offered in Raleigh.

If you do try it, let me know how it goes.

Music Together with Suzanne

Farm Tour / Celebrity Dairy

As you may know by now, I am a sucker for local, organic food. So when the annual farm tour comes around in the spring, we go. Although I have been in the past, this was the first year that we went with baby in tow. We modified our approach, and had a great time.

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's Annual Farm Tour is 2 days long and encompasses 40 farms in the Piedmont area. The slogan is "For Families, Foodies and Farm Lovers." Obviously, there is no way you are going to get to all the farms in 2 days. The point of the tour is to pick 2-3 farms to visit each day, and hit those. The farms are all over the Piedmont region and can be quite far apart in mileage. CFSA is trying to encourage people to get on the farms and receive an insider's look at their operations and learn different philosophies on farming, not encourage people to fly between places to get to as many as they can. So pick a few and concentrate, especially with children. The farms range from wildflower farms, dairy farms, vegetable farms, to creameries and all things in between so there is something for everyone.

We used this as an excuse to get in to Celebrity Dairy. Celebrity Dairy Farm is one of my favorite places to go, but has limited openings to the public. We decided not to even bother trying to get in other farms with C's schedule.

So on Sunday, a bunch of us parents and kids met in the countryside of Chatham County to picnic and pet some goats. Celebrity Dairy is a great size for kids. It only has chickens, barn cats, goats, and llamas, and is very manageable in size for wandering. You can touch all the animals, provided that the llamas get close enough and you can catch a chicken. And word of caution: don't feed the cats. The Dairy does offer guided tours but we had fun just going on our own.

The Dairy has goats as young as 7 days old that we were free to feed, pet, and hold. And then douse in antibacterial soap afterwards.

After giggling at and enjoying the animals, we then spread out a picnic blanket in the shade, bought some fresh goat cheese from the premises, and watched the children run after the chickens until they were ready for naps.

I imagine that kids would also get a kick out of many of the other farms on the tour. Spence's Farm is one of the stops. Just make sure not to get too ambitious. Part of the fun for us was just enjoying the leisurely pace of the farm and the beautiful Sunday.

  • You pay per car and it is $25 for all access to all farms or $10 to drive up and just visit 1 farm.
  • Watch the weather since this is about being outdoors.
  • Don't plan to bring strollers to any of the farms. If you are going to tour (and some stops are tours only, no space for lounging and picnicking) you must use a carrier or carry your child if they can not walk on their own yet.
  • Bring plenty of sanitation and extra clothes and shoes. Many farms make you wipe your shoes and/or cover them so as not to spread bacteria between farms. And changes of clothes are always good when out for the day with kids running through pastures and fields.
  • No pets allowed.
  • And bring a cooler to bring goodies such as farm fresh steaks, wines, butters, cheeses, vegetables and more home with you.
Outside of the Farm Tour, CSFA sponsors other events across our area that may be fun to try with your kids so stay tuned to their website.

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Celebrity Dairy & Inn

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shakori Hills / GrassRoots Festival

It's been an exciting weekend here in the Triangle! All kinds of fun family events to go to, and great weather to top it all off. Were you like us and tried to do it all? Hopefully you were smarter than us, because I am now beat and my house is a mess. But even though not a lick of laundry was done, it was worth it. Especially that Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival.
I think the GrassRoots Festival is a classic Triangle area event. It is held twice a year, but the spring one seems to be The One to catch. Bands from all over come in to play at this 4-day outdoor music festival in Chatham County. People camp out, kids run around, and musicians jam all over the grounds.

So yes, the hippy factor is way high here. Way high. There is a peace park where you can spend some zen time making rock formations, a spirit mask tent, lots of lessons in hula hooping, batik tents, drum circles, and much more that takes me back to my college days. But the GrassRoots Festival does a fantastic job of making this an event that is good for the kids, too.

Our family packed up and headed out there on Saturday for a fabulous day. There is an entire tent dedicated to children's events. We started there at 10am for a Kindermusik presentation which lasted for an hour and amused kids of all ages. We then decided to wander the grounds with C. We watched the cloggers at the Dance Tent, got some organic bean burritos, took in great acoustic bluegrass, and sat in the shade while C watched his first drum circle. By then, we were ready for the puppet show featuring the Red Herring Puppets. This puppet show was art and beauty, but also very funny to watch as the children shouted and talked the puppets through the fairytales. After that, it was on to the Earth Day parade through the grounds, which was led by a drum line and the Paperhand Puppet Intervention.

And if the entertainment isn't enough for the kids, there is also a second tent dedicated solely to children's activities. There are crafts and games inside of the tent, and outside is a big sand pit with toys and huge hay bales to roll around in and on.

So the GrassRoots Festival isn't cheap. Tickets are $30 - $37 per adult who attends for a 1day pass, and they don't offer half day options (children 12 and under are free). And this is very weather dependent since it is all outside. But the grounds are clean, well maintained, and it is a small enough festival where it never feels crowded. You can also bring in a cooler and any beverages and food you want (alcoholic beverages are allowed on the grounds, but they demand you be discreet by drinking out of cups or coozies. Not sure what that legal arrangement is....but it works for me since I can bring in my can of PBR....).

I saw some parents pushing strollers around and they seemed to be managing quite well. Honestly, I thought the best idea was the wagon, and I think we'll do that next year. You can drag your kid AND your cooler of PBR and sandwiches around. This year we just did a combo of following a wandering toddler and the Ergo. It worked just fine.

This festival is really a good opportunity for the whole family. My advice is to take the kids during the day, come home, get some dinner, then maybe mom and dad get a sitter and head back out to take in the latenight bands and festivities. Some great talent comes through here (Rusted Root, Hackensaw Boys, Sam Bush), and it is worth enjoying, but that part isn't so kid friendly.

By the by, Shakori Hills is the land, GrassRoots is the festival. There isn't too much more to Shakori Hills right now outside of the festival (although you can rent the facilities if you want), but there is a movement afoot to buy the land outright from the current owners so that it can be used more. If you are curious about this, head to the website.

Overall, I would stay tuned to the website, put the festival dates on your Google calendar, and plan to head out there in the future. Very few events offer something of value for every age bracket in such a small, safe environment. Get in touch with the hippy in you, and go let the entire family be free to take in music and art all day. Or, if you are more adventurous than me, pitch your tent and let the kids have a whole weekend of peace and love.

Shakori Hills
Fall & Spring GrassRoots Festival (see website for details)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Red Hen Boutique

Updated 12/2011:  After dealing with the Weaver Street closing, The Red Hen decided to relocate.  No longer in downtown Carrboro, they have a beautiful, fancy new shop in Chapel Hill's University Mall.  The pictures below are from the new place, complete with a play area, and the address below is up-to-date.  All other information, such as what they sell, events, and our review, remain accurate!

The Red Hen is bursting with goodies for every parent-shopper out there. Consigned items for a steal? Check. Handmade items by local artisans? Check. Hard to find baby brands? Check.

A lot of people know The Red Hen for it's consignment aspect. They only take good, clean stuff, and they move a lot of merchandise. If you want to sell through them, you drop off your goods, give them a week, they tell you what they will sell and if you get store credit or cash. If you want, they will donate any merchandise they don't want to Welcome Baby in Durham (or you can have it back, of course). The Red Hen also keeps waiting lists so you can be called when a specific consigned piece comes in. Yours truly is waiting on a booster with tray that attaches to the chair.

But The Red Hen is also a great place to get [new] Ergos, slings, gift items for baby that are locally made and unique, Baby Legs (so cute!), FuzziBunz, locally made nursing covers, Beco's, nursing bras, and more. Since this is in an old house, you are constantly turning a corner into a new room full of goodies. The maternity section even has a "belly" you can wear while trying on clothes.

And all new in the University Mall location - a great little play area for the kids to enjoy while you shop.  The new space is so light and open so you can keep an eye on your tots while in the shop.  The experience is quite enjoyable!

The Red Hen hosts weekly events (such as a Breast Feeding cafe). You can also subscribe to their blog to get updated information on new arrivals, although it doesn't look like it has been used too recently.

Little known program they offer: the "Buy Back" program. This is perfect for out of town guests with baby. It isn't a rental program, perse, but you can buy some items and return them for 50% back within a certain amount of time. This is great if you have people coming into town and need a high chair for a week or two.

The Red Hen is definitely a unique place. So enjoy shopping!

The Red Hen
University Mall

201 South Estes Drive
Chapel Hill

Friday, April 23, 2010

Local Books, Local Authors

Continuing with our book theme, I wanted to share with you 3 books about our area that you should know about!

1. The Big Fun Guide to Tar Heel Country
by Erin Donoghue Baldwin

Is this a woman after my own heart or what? The subtitle is '135+ Activities for Families in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Pittsboro and points in between.' A friend of mine introduced it to me off of this blog, and I went and picked it up (at Flyleaf). Love it! Just in case this modest blog isn't enough for you (gasp!) it is worth checking out. I love this mom for doing this.
Available on Amazon and at Flyleaf Books.

2. A Weekend in the Paris of the Piedmont: A Carrboro Story
by Irma Tejada with illustrations by Chris Kanoy

This book is a storybook. And how cute it is! If you don't know, Carrboro is referred to as the "Paris of the Piedmont." This is the story of a little girl, Lizzie, who is jealous of a friend going to Paris on vacation. So she and her mom explore all the things here in their own backyard, Carrboro! Filled with local stops and shops, it is a great gift book.
Available at Weaver Street Market and other local shops.

3. Polly and the Forbidden House: A Hillsborough Story
by Irma Tejada with illustrations by Chris Kanoy

A book about Hillsborough. Not quite as name dropping as the Carrboro story, but still very cute. This tells the tale of Polly and the house down the street that she wants to paint (you have to read the whole thing to get the details on that). I want to know if there really is a house like that in Hillsborough!
Available at Weaver Street Market and other local shops.

Okay, I promise I can count. But this is your bonus tidbit for reading this blogpost:

written and illustrated by the Fifth grade students of Estes Hills Elementary in Chapel Hill, NC

This book won a contest by Scholastic back in 2004. This isn't about Chapel Hill, but I love that our local kids won such a prestigious contest.
Very few copies available on Amazon so act fast if you want it.

Flyleaf Books- Storytime

It is book day here on the blog. Earth Day and TV Turn Off Week got to me! Plus, C and I accidentally stumbled on the Flyleaf storytime while out and about running errands (guess someone should use her own blog more, huh?). It was so lovely and fantastic!

First, Flyleaf books is a Chapel Hill gem in general. New to the area, they took over the old ladies fitness gym space next door to Fosters on MLK Blvd. It is big, and very cute. There is a large room in the back for author events and readings, and Flyleaf is doing a great job of bringing notable authors into town to discuss their works.

Second, they really do well catering to kids. They have created a nice little "nook" dedicated to children, and where the storytime takes place. There are big, squishy chairs, as well as a kid-sized table and chairs. Blocks, toys, rugs, and many more things back there help kids realize that bookstores are fun, too!

Third, the woman that was reading the stories (all related to the Planet Earth and how precious it is) did such a good job. Her reading style was captivating, but she also did a good job of fielding the comments from the crowd ("I have three cats!! One of them killed a bird!") but not letting those enthusiastic responders diminish from the task at hand.

There were songs to sing and, after the reading and the singing, there was a craft for the kiddos.

This was well attended, and all of the kids (and parents, I might add) had a great time. It is geared towards preschool age but all ages are welcome. C doesn't quite have the attention span yet to sit through a full storytime, but what he did make it through he seemed to enjoy.

Thursdays, 10:30 am

Flyleaf Books
752 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
(919) 942-7373

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Your child finally gets hair. So you need to cut it! What's a parent to do? Here are some thoughts from this modest blogette.


This is where all the buzz is for us parents. Peek-a-Doo, located over by Southpoint Mall, is a fantastic business idea: a salon that caters to children. This means the seats and chairs are little airplanes or cars or boats. You can even have your child watch a movie while they get their haircut. (I know, seems a little lazy but I have to say that my dear friend and I discovered that the Muppets' Bohemian Rhapsody is a huge hit and, when put on repeat, can keep our little ones transfixed for a long time. This is nice when there are sharp cutting instruments near their ears.)

Peek-a-Doo is a cute atmosphere, and can keep the little ones entertained enough to make hair cutting feel like a fun adventure.

But, there are some negatives about this place you should be aware of.

First, it isn't cheap. They are unique, and they charge as such. Minimum of $20 for a cut regardless of age. They also offer rates and packages for pictures. Meaning that they shoot some film, and then at the end you can pay to purchase the pictures. If you forget your camera, or simply can't get a good shot, this is a great option. Again, though, you have to be prepared to pay.

Second, costumer service is hit or miss. Some of the stylists are great, some are not. Not giving any names here, but just pay attention when you go to who you like, and then request them by name in future appointments.

Third, and this is a safety issue, no straps in the children chairs. This means that if you have a toddler who can't sit still, they can easily fly right out of their little plane. One mommy I know had this happen to her son, and he has some battlewounds to show for it. They still give you the option, like many salons, to have your child sit in your lap. Or you can go for the cute seats and chairs, just be prepared for the squirming and wiggling.

Peek-a-Doo also sells toys in the store. Which, if bribery works best (and let's face it, sometimes bribes are the only thing that work!), you can have rewards right there. Of course, that adds to your total price. And, of course, kids can stand at the wall of toys for sale and scream "I want it" for awhile, possibly adding to your overall stress level. But that happens in Target, too, so I am sure you have found a way to deal with that issue!

Overall, it's a great idea. Unique, pricey, but worth it for the experience it offers. Be wary of the lack of straps in the seats if you go with a little one!

By the way, they do offer adult cuts too. Not sure you could fit in the little boat, but doesn't hurt to try! And if you do try please, please send me pictures (

Great Clips

With multiple locations in the immediate Chapel Hill and Carrboro area, this chain advertises that they do, indeed, offer haircuts for children under 1o. No appointment needed. Only $9 for a cut. These stylists are not "trained" in cutting kids' hair, but when I called over they said they would work with parents to get the trim done.

Syd's Hair Shop
One of the most popular places to go in Chapel Hill, I called over there to see what they can do for wee ones. They said it is the same price as an adult haircut ($35) and they "don't do screaming, crying kids." Don't blame them.

JJ's Kids Cuts
Too far afield for this Chapel Hill mom as it is out in North Ridge Shopping Center. But for those of you closer to the Raleigh end of life, I include the website. I haven't heard any reviews, but I know it's there and caters to kids.

Personal Cuts
Have a friend that cuts hair? Trust that friend (hope so!)? See if they will do your little one. Seems obvious, but I didn't think of it until someone recommended it to me. It ended up being a fantastic idea, and my friend, Dani (who cuts at Mitchell's in Southpoint Mall, plug plug), cut C in a pleasant, easy manner while he was in a high chair, eating the comb, and watching some Muppets.


Despite being the season of parks & playgrounds, sometimes there is a not-so-nice day. As that was yesterday, Sarah C. and I decided to take the boys (who sound like an alphabet song together -- "C & D") out to JumpZone in Cary.

JumpZone is a big play space in a strip mall next to the Harris Teeter on the corner of High House and 55. There are the most ginormous (not sure that's a word but it bests describes these things) inflatable moonbounces. Amazing. There are about 7 of them, too: a dinosaur obstacle course, a Disney Princess castle, a Scooby Doo bus, a Batman, a pirate ship being eaten by an octopus, a "regular old moonbounce," and a fire truck that is a very large inflatable slide. Who knows what else I am missing....Oh, there were also free air hockey tables available.

The facilities include 4 nice party rooms, too, if you decide to rent out a space and have a party there. Each room has a hand painted mural, is themed (princesses, dinosaurs, marine life, and jungle life), and they are very clean. JumpZone parties are complete with food, so give them a call if you think that would work for you.

There are concessions on the premises (with a huge sign that says "Play First, Eat Last" which I love). A la PlayNation, they just started offering free WiFi, too. So you can bring your laptop and surf the Web while the kids play.

I have really mixed feelings about this place. It is a fantastic idea, and the owner was so nice! The facilities are very clean, and very safe. Not only is everything in the main play area inflated and squishy, but there are staff members who are in the bounces to regulate and monitor all the children and ensure play is safe and as in-control as they can be whilst bouncing around crazily.

But this is definitely a place for older kids. Sarah C. and I guess that the 4year mark seems to be the perfect age to bring the kiddos in. The moonbounces were, of course, a little too large for toddlers who can't quite control their motor skills. I had fun since I am a little crazy and dragged C into a few bounces with me. He had a blast mostly just watching the other kids and bouncing around while I held him. But man, that was some serious work for mommy! Not to mention that the steps going up on the fire truck slide were not made for post-childbearing hips but more like 8-year old hips.

They do have a 2&under area, but this is really not great, to be blunt. There is a Kangaroo climber, some stuff on the walls (which is hung too high for the babies to see), and a really nice activity cube. But it isn't padded. Nor is it walled off. They tried by putting benches around it but, really, what baby or toddler can't crawl under a bench, and even enjoy that process. So we had a serious case of the Runaway Babies. The place is so big, though, that it didn't seem to matter too much. Just harder for the parent to constantly be chasing the child down.

I am really confused on pricing, I have to admit. Kids under 2 are free. But I believe you have to pay at least 1 full admission ($8) to get in. Sarah C. and I somehow managed to get in completely free....perhaps they know somehow that we blog....??? No, seriously, no idea how that happened. Like I said, the owner was really nice.

Open Play hours are limited so you have to check out their online calendar before you go. If there are birthday parties, for example, they can close up.

Overall, I would say take the older kids and think about a birthday party there. It is a great spot, but C and D were just a little too tiny.

JumpZone in Cary
(919) 249-7320
Apex-Cary-Holly Springs Area -
2723 NC HWY 55
Cary, NC 27519

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indian Creek Park & Greenway- Morrisville

More information from Sarah C. (our rockstar blog friend). 'Tis the Season for parks and playgrounds. So here is some more information you may like! This one has an educational component, too, with the Civil War markers. I, personally, never retain that information, but I know that it is a big hobby for a lot of smart(er) people. To the contrary, the thing that excites me the most are the words "Dairy Queen."

Indian Creek Greenway and Trailhead in Morrisville opened in the summer of 2009. The small park features a fenced enclosure with two play structures and rubber playground surfacing, an open grassy space (although I currently use the term “grassy” very loosely since it’s still mostly packed dirt), two picnic shelters, restrooms (including diaper changing stations – a real plus for those with little ones) and marker for the Civil War battlefield.

If you tire of the park area or just want to stretch your legs, load up the kid(s) into the stroller and take a walk along the 1.8 mile greenway. A small portion is along the sidewalk paralleling Town Hall Drive, but the rest is a wide paved walk. There are benches along the way if you want a break. And while parts of it are wooded, there is limited shade so consider sun protection.

For those feeling more adventuresome (or just craving a treat), take the greenway to the intersection at Downing Glen Drive. Turn left and continue until you reach the intersection at Lake Grove Blvd. Turn left again and follow the sidewalk around the curve and up the hill. Off to your left is Grace Park where you will find Starbucks (as mentioned in an earlier post about drive-thrus), Quiznos, Buffalo Wings & Rings, Dairy Queen and more. Enjoy a treat! You’ve earned it with your approximate 1.5 mile walk there (not to mention the return stroll).

Indian Creek Trailhead & Greenway
101 Town Hall
Morrisville, NC


NC Botanical Gardens

As I was laying in bed last night thinking of this blog (lame, I know, but true), I was trying to find a way to compare this to Duke Gardens. But you can't, really. Duke Gardens is all about pristine, groomed landscaping and big open places to lay in the grass. NC Botanical Gardens is all about seeing plants and trees in their natural environment. They have a very different feel, but each are fun in their own right.

The Botanical Gardens have come a long way since I first went there a few years ago (pre-Baby). They have built a very large and gorgeous visitor center, complete with classrooms, local art, and educational displays. All very nice. I can't wait to see how it is landscaped in the years to come as I read that they have future display gardens going in on the grounds.
We enjoyed walking the babies around the display gardens currently in existence on the premises. They aren't large, but they are crammed with all kinds of plants. It is divided into different sections and areas. We liked the carnivorous plants section (although my attempts to get the plants to "eat" something were in vain).

The paths in the display garden are kid friendly: you could push a stroller through these and let your toddler, well, toddle around. But they are narrow and also not paved. Which means opt for the jogging stroller or carrier. Have you kids wear closed-toed shoes, and enjoy the challenge of keeping the rocks out of the mouth!

If you do choose to go on the various nature paths (these are different from the display gardens) that are on the Botanical Gardens' ground, though, you are definitely going to need your Ergo. There are many paths that are not accessible via stroller, and a baby carrier would give you full access. By the way, these paths seemed to be more hiking paths versus stroll along paths; they are in the woods with more intense walking.

There seems to be a lot to discover here, but, again, it is more about getting in touch with nature as opposed to the landscaped garden.

We actually picnicked here (nothing more fun than feeding a baby who is on the run, I love the challenge). But the picnic facilities are a little lacking. It is pretty much just picnic tables out in the middle of the parking lot. They are shaded, and it is nice to be close to your car, but it isn't a retreat. I look forward to seeing how this is changed as they finish out the new construction and landscaping.

C still liked it because he got to be outdoors, his favorite place! And the display gardens were very lovely. All of it even better because it is free! So worth a stop to check it out. But if you don't enjoy hiking, probably not a full day of activities here. C and I love to hike together, so we'll certainly be going back.

North Carolina Botanical Garden
919-962-0522 (phone)
directions and location on website

Anderson Community Park - Carrboro

Updated 7/2/2010.
So in my original post, I included information from my friend, A.G.. I kept all her original comments, and added some of my own.
Anderson Community Park in Carrboro is a popular spot with parents, and the kids, too! A large playground area, as well as many other amenities (including a dog park, which is nice if your child is obsessed with dogs like C is), it is a great place to go on a nice day. When A.G. mentions the playground (see below), she mentions that there is a lot of musical instruments for play. And that is certainly true! The toddler park definitely gets points for most creative playground I have been to.

There is also a separate playground area for older kids. This one has a lot of slides. Not as much shade here.

Here are A.G.'s personal notes, which I find helpful.

"We visited the playground with our super active one-year-old on a Sunday afternoon [MiCH note: he is definitely active! She doesn't lie!]. It gets two thumbs up for being fairly shady, having a toddler-friendly play structure (in addition to a bigger one that attracted the older kids = reduced trample risk!), baby swings, and some musical instruments in the play area. Our little man had a blast playing the bongos and chimes with his dad."

The only downside to the couple of times that we have been here is that it is a popular place. So can get quite crowded.

In addition to some fun playgrounds, though, there are ballfields here. There is also a lake, and it has fish in it. You can actually fish here (provided that you have your licenses all in check). There is a lovely little trail that goes around the pond, too.

There is a big picnic shelter, as well as many other picnic tables throughout the park.

Full list of amenities:
  • baseball/softball fields (4 lighted)
  • multi-purpose fields
  • basketball courts (lighted)
  • tennis courts (2)
  • horseshoe pits
  • leash free area
  • picnic tables and grills
  • picnic shelter
  • rest rooms
Anderson Community Park
Highway 54 West,
Carrboro, NC 27510

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Postpartum Depression - More info.

Hey there blog-cadets. I actually got some really good feedback regarding the PPD post (mostly that you were very glad it was information available, and that it is an important topic).

My friend sent me some follow up items that I think are worth a follow up post-

A book:
Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression
by Shoshana Bennett
About $10 and in stock at Amazon.

Another support group:
This one comes with a personal recommendation from someone who used their services and found it very helpful. From Rex Health, it is a group called "Mom Supporting Moms."

Here is the information from the Rex Health website:
Moms Supporting Moms is a support group for women who are experiencing anxiety, depression and/or adjustment difficulties related to childbirth and new motherhood. All meetings are led by experienced counselors in postpartum depression. Encouragement, hope and support are shared in a safe, positive atmosphere and moms are encouraged to share their feelings and experiences. For more information, times and locations please contact us at (919) 454-6946.

As always, MominChapelHill thanks you so much for your ideas, tips, support, and emails. Please keep it coming.

Tomorrow I'll bring you some information on outdoor activities. But for now, we sleep.

Bond Park in Cary

Sarah C. sent this in today! Sounds lovely.

The Town of Cary describes Bond Park as "an oasis in the midst of the city." And I couldn’t agree more. It encompasses 310 acres and includes lush forested sections, Bond Lake, and open fields for play. There are plenty of activities for the entire family – boating, ropes course, trails, ball fields, etc.
Nestled in the midst of all of this is the Lazy Daze Playground.DH and I took D there on a recent weekend.

The playground basically has two sides - one side is geared at toddlers and smaller children while the other side has slightly larger equipment for school aged children. Both sides have swings (bucket style for the little ones), sand boxes and climbing equipment with slides. There are also some fun little rocking teeter-totters – D had a blast on one of the horse ones as we gently rocked him back and forth. Since he’s still a crawler, we were a little limited in what he could do. But the swings and tunnels (there is a free standing one as well as one attached to the small play structure) were a hit as well as watching the other children play – one of his favorite pastimes whenever we are out and about. One of my favorite things were all the trees surrounding this park which provided a bit of shade.
There were also about a dozen picnic tables and several benches so you can bring the family for a picnic lunch, let the kids play and sit back to relax. There are bathroom facilities (including baby changing stations) across the street next to the Kiwanis Shelter.

After our fun on the playground, we decided to take a stroll to check out some of the trails. We ended up on the White Oak Greenway which was a nice paved walk around the upper portion of Bond Lake heading west toward Cary Parkway.   From what we could tell, the greenways that connect to the park are all paved and the trails are packed mulch. We did manage okay on some of the trail areas with our travel system stroller, but I would definitely recommend a jogger stroller or baby carrier. 


Postpartum Depression

A more somber post today...Having a child is mostly fun and games. But it is also one of the hardest things you could ever do. I was asked to remind mommies out there that there are local area resources available to handle the emotionally trying times of being a mom. Our area has a lot of support, and you should never, ever shy from using it. Postpartum Depression is very real and can be very lonely. Don't be scared to ask for help.

First, talk with your doctor and/or pediatrician. Don't waste time, call them as soon as you feel you need to talk.

Second, ran an article not too long ago (picked up by CNN) where they interviewed people in our area. It helps to know you are not alone, and it also helps to know there are programs out there. UNC-Chapel Hill hospital has a ground breaking program to help postpartum moms.

Third, there are support networks out there, as well, run by professionals who can help you navigate the emotional stress of the hormones, the sleep deprivation, and the stress of being a mother.

We'll now resume your regular light-hearted posts. But know that there are all sort of wonderful resources here in your town.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Maple View Farm

This sounds so idyllic and wonderful: a Holstein dairy farm right in our town. They sell the most delicious ice cream out of the country store on the farmland. You can also get eggs, milk, beef, and more.
But if you are thinking that you will take the kids out there, sit and have ice cream, and then pet some cows and sheep, that's not totally accurate. Maple View farms is fantastic, and I love them. Yet you do not have access to the animals, the dairy operations, or the actual farming if you head out for a visit.

So just adjust your expectations. Maple View has their store that sells locally made, fresh ice cream that is really, really good. There are rocking chairs out front on a big porch, 1 or 2 picnic tables, and you look out over the rolling pastures. On a nice day, it is a beautiful place to relax and take in the countryside. So it can be fun, but you have to know before you go that you will not be petting animals. (By the way, you can also get the exact same ice cream in downtown Carrboro now at the Maple View Farm shop.)

The most popular use of Maple View Farms? To bike to.

There is a loop referred to as the "Dairyland loop" that takes you by Maple View so you can stop for a scoop. A relatively easy ride through the pastures, yet still close to town, it is very popular.
If you bike with your child, please note that this loop is not for kids to bike themselves. There are portions on major roads. You can pull a bike trailer if you wish but, again, it just depends on your comfort level and your expertise. Check out the map before making a decision. You do spend a section on some very busy roads.

Maple View Farms
Hours noon - 8pm
3111 Dairyland Road
Hillsborough, NC


We will be bringing you reviews of specific story hours in the future, but it is so helpful to have your options listed in one place.

So in honor of National TV Turnoff Week (April 19th - 25th) here are some options:

Borders in Chapel Hill
Wednesdays 10:00 am

Barnes & Noble at Southpoint
Tuesdays 10:30 am
Fridays 10:30 am

Barnes & Noble at New Hope Commons
Tuesdays 10:00 am
Saturdays 11:00 am

Pottery Barn Kids at Southpoint
Tuesdays 11:00 am

Flyleaf Books
Thursdays 10:30 am

Carrboro Public Library
Saturdays 10:30 am: Stories followed by discussions and craft-making for ages 1 - 6
Every 3rd Sunday at 3:00 pm family fun for all ages with programs featuring dancing, song, animals, and sometimes even magic
(By the way, Carrboro Public Library is located at a school so has very specific hours. Please look them up before visiting. I made that mistake once, and it was not enjoyable!)

Chapel Hill Public Library
6-18 months: every other Friday 10:15 am and 11:00 am
18-36 months: Wednesdays and Thursdays 10:15 am and 11:00 am
3-6 years: Tuesdays from 10:30-11:00 am and 3:30-4:00 pm

Durham County Library
Mondays 10:30 am: Lapsit storytime, infancy to 23 months
Tuesdays 10:30 am: Preschool storytime, ages 3-5 years
Wednesdays 10:30 am: Toddler storytime, ages 2+ years

Wake County Library
For the library and time closest to you visit:
Your key-
Mother Goose - For children birth to 18 months old. A 15-minute program of songs, fingerplays and rhymes.
Toddler Time - For children 18 months to 3-years old. A 20-minute program of songs, fingerplays, rhymes, flannel board stories and books.
Pre-school Pals - For children 3 to 5-years old. A 25-minute program of songs, fingerplays, rhymes, flannel board stories and books.

Green Pea Baby Store

With some help from Kim today! Thanks!

One of the most enjoyable parts of having a baby is the cute stuff you get to buy! Of course, babies require a lot of gear, but you do also get to buy fun stuff for them that makes you say "ooh" and "aaah."

There are lots of stores in our area to help you acquire it all: the cute and the necessary. But one boutique store in our area worth mentioning is called Green Pea Baby.

Located in Apex, Green Pea Baby carries strollers, car seats, and all the other necessities for baby. Yet they also carry a lot of the items you love but thought you could only get on When a place in town carries Jamie Rae headbands and WubbaNubs, you know that this is a place to shop.

Prices are comparable to prices (no shipping, though) for a lot of items, but it is probably going to be more expensive than Buy Buy Baby. The beauty is that Green Pea Baby carries things that Buy Buy Baby doesn't.

So buy local and get to shopping!

Green Pea Baby
106 North Salem Street
Apex, NC

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kaboom Website

We do try to focus on local things on this blog. We figure you have your outlets for finding cool things out there on the web. But sometimes something comes along that we feel is worth sharing. We gave you Now we give you

Not only can you search for playgrounds by location on a map, but they are rated. I am not sure how these ratings are assigned, but it is nice to have some guidance. I also generally agree with their ratings. But that's just this mom.

If you are feeling philanthropic, you can donate money to various playground projects in your area. If you are feeling even more ambitious, you can use Kaboom to help start a playground project from the ground up.

I would love to see someone get in touch with Kaboom and host a play day in our area. Thinking of which friends I can nominate for that...

Anyhow, as the weather is gorgeous, enjoy using Kaboom to find your nearest golden playground.