Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Local Yogurt

Alright, I am just starting a separate label for ice cream. I love it, I have been eating a lot of it on these hot summer days, and that has been making C very happy.

So when we were out and about the other day, the ladies and I decided to take our kids to Local Yogurt off of University Drive in Durham. I hadn't ever been before, but Stacey led us right there. And it was great.

Ok, well this wasn't technically ice cream but frozen yogurt. Yet you would never know the difference. Local Yogurt reminded me of the new Orange Leaf in Chapel Hill. Local Yogurt does not have the same insane selection, and is not a make your own place. But it is the same idea: creative yogurt creations you put together with fresh (and if possible local) toppings. There are four basic yogurts to choose from, including original and peanut butter. Then you pick your toppings. C and I enjoyed original yogurt with fresh strawberries on it, then I threw in some dark chocolate shavings for mama.

This was delicious and very fun.

A nice little added touch: Local Yogurt is one of the few "ice cream shops" I have been to that has high chairs.

Local Yogurt is gluten free and kosher.

They also offer birthday party packages.


Local Yogurt
www.localyogurt.com
2501 University Drive
Durham
919-489-5900

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Forest Hills Park Sprayground

I hadn't ever heard of a "sprayground" before. But in a moment of brilliance, Sarah C. found out about these on the Internet. So on a hot day Sarah C., Stacey ("S'Rich"), and I decided to take our boys to a sprayground.

We know of 8 different spraygrounds in the area (see list below). If you are wondering what a sprayground is, it is a playground area that has water features. There are sprinklers, sprays, showers, and other water fountains for kids to play in.

It turns out there isn't a ton of information out there about specifics for the different spraygrounds. So picking blindly, we chose Forest Hills park.

We were expecting the sprayground area to be bigger. Instead we found a very large playground with a small area (3 rings) dedicated as the sprayground. But since it was hot, and our kids were all ready to go in their swimsuits, we went for it. Turns out, this is a lot of fun for kids, regardless of our adult expectations.

The water starts when someone places their hand on the post in the proper spot (very Harry Potter -esque). When the water goes, it works in a random pattern, shooting up in the air through sprinklers and shooting out of the rings.

There are some problems with water parks anywhere you go, and on whatever scale. For example, even though this sprayground is only a couple of years old, there is mold around. The ground is covered with a special waterproof material, but it looks like there are drainage issues. So the kids managed to find areas of standing water where mold was growing. My husband, the environmental engineer, was also worried about the water conservancy issue when I told him about our day, which makes me wonder too.

And since this is a very popular and free feature, there can be a lot of kids there. We had good luck since we went during a weekday afternoon, but I imagine that weekends can get crazy. And no shade over the sprayground.

But honestly, for a hot day, this was great. It was especially good for our toddlers. They can do their thing and walk around exploring the water, without the stress of a big pool and flotation device. Of course, some toddlers might be a little put off by the water spurting suddenly, such as C, but you never know til you go! Beyond the toddler age, as we were leaving a group of older boys showed up and they seemed to have just as much fun. So it seems to work for all ages.

We didn't find or use any indoor changing facilities or restrooms. We came ready to play and left a little wet.

Outside of this sprayground, the Forest Hills park was good. There is a pool there, not large, but we didn't check it out. The playground itself is large with some good equipment. No shade, and the ground cover is a combination of mulch and synthetic material. They do have bucket swings for toddlers.

This could make a great outing, especially when paired with a hot day stop at Local Yogurt down the street.

Forest Hills Park & Sprayground
http://www.durhamnc.gov/departments/parks/
1639 University Drive
Durham, NC


A list of spraygrounds in the area: Note that some of these, especially Raleigh locations, may require an entry fee.
Durham
1) East End Park, 1200 N. Alston Ave
2) Forest Hills Park, 1639 University Drive
3) Hillside Park, 1301 S. Roxboro St
4) E. Johnson Rec Center, 600 W. Murray Ave

Raleigh
5) Millbrook Exchange Park, 1905 Spring Forest Rd
6) Chavis Park, 720 Chavis Way
7) Lake Johnson, 1416 Athens Drive
8) Ridge Road, 1709 Ridge Road

Triangle Town Center: Play Area

From Sarah C. today:

Similar to its sister mall, Cary Towne Center, the play area at Triangle Town Center is located outside of Sears. It also features a walled play area with one entrance and a padded floor but is larger and has more play equipment.

During our visit, D only got to watch the other kids play. Unfortunately between locating the play area from above and making our way down in the elevator to the lower level, it was swarmed with lots of bigger kids who were having a blast climbing up and jumping off of everything. He would have been run over. This seems a theme in all the mall play areas so keep that in mind when you take any smaller kids particularly on busier shopping days.

Just outside of the play area are vehicles kids can “ride” with a few quarters (or, again, a bit of imagination). Also, though not officially a ride, the closest elevator is in Sears and is glassed in. It provided lots of excitement for our little guy and, of course, it’s free.


Triangle Town Center Play Area – Raleigh
http://www.triangletowncenter.com

5959 Triangle Town Blvd
(919) 792-2222

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Monday, June 28, 2010

The YMCA at Meadowmont (Pool)

Well, it was a summer weekend and I didn't have anyone to get me into a private pool (such a hard life, I know). Luckily there is another great family pool open to the public. So C and I decided to try out the Meadowmont pool. This pool, formerly known as the Meadowmont Swim Club, is in the Meadowmont community but open to the public. Just recently the YMCA of Chapel Hill took over and now operates this community pool.

This pool is great! It is much larger than I had anticipated. There are 2 separate pools: 1 is a lap pool (yet also has an area just for play) and the other is a play pool. The play pool has a large slide for kids of all ages, a water fountain feature, is 4 feet deep at it's deepest, and has a large zero entry area. Lots of space for toddlers to splash and for parents to put chairs in the water and sit.

In addition, all around the pool deck there are a lot of chairs, tables, and shaded areas. It is certainly the sort of pool where you could come and spend the whole day.

There is a clubhouse with a few games inside, but not much. Additionally, there is a snack bar that sells concessions. But the concessions aren't much: freezer pops, candy bars, pizza slices, and sodas. They do have Dipping Dots though that seemed to be popular. This is a Y so no alcoholic beverages or tobacco allowed on the premises. You can bring in outside coolers and food.

The place also has a playground, but you have to leave the pool area and go around to the outside to access it. It is mulch and doesn't have shade, but it is a great option to have. The Y doe
s allow reentry into the pool, even with a day pass.

As I mentioned, this pool is open to the public. You can buy a membership, which is basically a membership to the Y, at varying levels. They have an annual pass ($500 per family), a seasonal pass ($250 per family), and a 10-visit card ($40 for youth, $75 for adults).

If you have commitment issues, though, you can pay for a day pass. Adults are $10, youth ages 3-17 are $5, kids under 3 are free. I personally think this is a lot for a day pass, but it also just depends on how long you can stay, I suppose. Get your money's worth.

By the way, they have these things called "pool breaks." Every 10 minutes before the hour everyone has to get out of the play pool for a few minutes. No one could explain why these happened, and the staff didn't do anything during this time. The lap pool stays open so everyone heads over there. These breaks only last a few minutes.


Parking is easy. They have changing facilities here that are decent (with a changing table for infants), but they are small so can be cramped. Only 1 shower that I saw.

Meadomont pool also has a pavilion area that looks great for parties. And they do rent out the pavilion, clubhouse, and pool for private events.

Many lifeguards are on duty here.

The YMCA at Meadowmont
http://www.chcymca.org/
Call for hours due to swim meets and lessons, but in general the play pool is open Mondays - Saturdays 10 am - 8 pm and Sundays 1 pm - 8pm.


301 Old Barn Lane
Chapel Hill, NC
919-945-0640

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Marbles Kids Museum & IMAX

As a mom in Chapel Hill, I don't generally make it to Raleigh. It isn't too terribly far, but it just feels like it with a child in a car seat. But I can say that Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh is completely worth it. This place is crazy fun!
Sarah C. and I decided to take the boys there during one of these super hot summer days. Our toddlers needed space to roam, explore, be entertained, try something new, and generally see someone besides their mommies. And Marbles delivered.

As with Kidzu (which is a smaller version of this idea in downtown Chapel Hill), I am not sure what is "museum" ish about this place. There are opportunities to learn through the exhibits, but really most kids are running around frantically playing with the toys, not necessarily stopping to read about aquatic life. That said, I really didn't care much since we had so much fun.

There are a few different areas to Marbles: Around Town, Splash!, Storybook Forest, Moneypalooza, IdeaWorks, Art Loft, and Power2Play. There are also two outdoor areas, one of which is a garden, the other focuses on water. We didn't check out the outdoor spots since we were specifically trying to avoid the 100+ heat.

Each area is theme based. If you child is younger (3 and under), Splash! and the Around Town exhibits are going to the best, as recommended by staff. These exhibits have the best hands-on activities for toddlers. In the other exhibits toddlers seem to get a little under foot (as in the Moneypalooza, which is fabulous for wee ones, just frenetic as tons of older kids are in there) and/or there are serious choking hazards (especially in the Art Loft and the IdeaWorks areas).

In Around Town, they have a Baby Marbles play space. It is walled with soft, age-appropriate toys for about the 1 year and younger mark, and a "tasted toys" bin for toys that go in the mouth (note that this does not exist for the rest of the museum).

Marbles thinks of everything. For example, in Splash, they had waterproof aprons for the kids to wear as they got wet.

The museum shop here (called The Corner Store) is pretty fun, too! There is a spot to snack, with tables and chairs. And, for the parents, there is a Larry's Beans espresso bar. Hallelujah! The shop sells a lot of great toys and snack items. If you want to dine, there is a Roly Poly sandwiches joint over by the IMAX theatre outside the museum in the courtyard. They are quite good, as well.

By the way, did you notice what I said there? IMAX. Yes, downtown Raleigh has a beautiful, fantastic, fun IMAX theatre. The IMAX shows flicks that are in the very popular 3D genre (such as "Twilight: Eclipse" and "Toy Story 3D") and also more standard education fare such as "Hubble 3D." If you definitely want to see IMAX while you are on a daytrip to Marbles, you will do best to check the showtimes (see link below) beforehand. Sometimes even the daytime shows are for more mature audiences. Or sold out (such as said "Twilight: Eclipse" film).

Marbles is very easy to navigate. We took our strollers in and, honestly, it seemed more of a pain than a help. The boys kept moving around, and we kept having to keep track of the strollers, moving them, and finding some place that was out of the way for them. There are lockers to rent for valuables.

I have to say I feel bad for the people who have to clean Marbles at the end of each day. I am one of those moms who puts every single toy away every night, and feel like I have to find every nesting cup and stacking ring before the job is done. Well, I hope that whoever cleans Marbles doesn't feel that way. Because there are toys everywhere. Around Town toys end up upstairs in Moneypalooza, and Splash toys were laying in the hallway. This place is all about free play. So no worries about toys going everywhere or your child running.

One cool little tip: near the front desk, there is a kiosk that holds a bunch of round pieces of paper. These pieces of paper are changed weekly, have a number, and are collectibles for kids. What I like about them is that they are fun yet also educational. One disc we picked up, which is #7, is called "Backyard Obstacle Course" and challenges kids at home to set up a course, complete with activity ideas such as Wiggle Worm and Hop To It.

Admission is free for kids under 1, and $5 for everyone else (including parents). They do have discounted days and specials. Right now you get $1 off on Wednesdays if you show your Food Lion MVP card, and on Tuesday nights the whole family can play for $2 per person, with the place open until 8pm. Every first Friday the museum is open until 8pm for Family Date Night (no, you don't leave your kids and get a parent date, this is an arranged activity for the whole family).

Marbles can get crowded, but it can also hold a lot of kids. Weekends are going to be the most packed. We went lunch time on a weekday and felt as though we had plenty of space.

Marbles does offer membership packages. There are different levels, from $80-$150 a year, with different benefits and add-on options for other family members. In general, membership gets you in early on Wednesdays, discounts, free admission, advance IMAX ticket sales, advanced IMAX seating, and more.

Marbles is geared towards kids 10 & under

There are summer camps offered for kids 3-13.

They do birthday parties at both the IMAX and at the museum.

Parking is downtown Raleigh parking. There are lots nearby, but you will have to pay.

Basically, Sarah C. and I agreed that this place is great for a day of indoor play. Definitely worth the trip.

Marbles Kids Museum
www.marbleskidsmuseum.org
201 East Hargett Street (downtown Raleigh)
Raleigh 27601
919-834-4040

Open Tuesdays - Saturdays, 9 am to 5 pm; Sundays, noon to 5 pm (closed Mondays)

IMAX
http://www.imaxraleigh.org/
(919)882-IMAX

Saturday, June 26, 2010

City Park - Burlington

A post from Sarah C. today about a great place in Burlington. I know it sounds far, but Mapquest says only 39 minutes from Chapel Hill to Burlington. Seems worth it for this place!

Looking for a getaway that’s a short drive and lots of fun? Head to Burlington and explore City Park. City Park features a lot of the classic park amenities (athletic fields, tennis courts, greenway, playground, etc) as well as an amusement area and year round indoor swimming facility.

DH suggested we visit after a conversation he and I had about Pullen Park in Raleigh. I had thought it would be fun to take D to ride the train and carousel, but with that park currently closed for renovations, we would have to wait until next year. That’s when DH remembered a similar park in Burlington that he enjoyed as a child. I confess, I questioned if it even still existed. It had been awhile since childhood, afterall!


So one weekend we were in Burlington visiting family and decided to stop by City Park to explore. What a fabulous idea it was! Not only does the park still feature the train and carousel my DH remembers (yes, the exact ones!), but now has a nice play structure and other rides – boats, planes/helicopters, and vehicles. The vehicles ride includes a John Deere tractor which I know one of D’s buddies would love. You will need to purchase a ticket to ride. Tickets are 75 cents each (except on Thursdays when they are 50 cents) or $6.00 for 10. Leftover tickets can be used on future visits so we chose the latter option and have stashed our extra tickets in the car for our next trip.


Tip before you go – the amusement area is located near the intersection of South Church and South Main streets. Just west of the YMCA of Alamance County. Take exit 143 from I-40/85 and head north on Hwy 62 (Alamance Rd). Follow Hwy 62 as it turns right and merges with Hwy 70 (S Church Street). Continue a few blocks to S Main Street. The park is on your right.


City Park
1333 Overbrook Road
Burlington, NC 27215
(336) 222-5030
http://www.ci.burlington.nc.us/index.aspx?NID=233

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Music in Duke Gardens

One balmy summer night, I went with some friends to hear the Bowerbirds play as part of Duke's Music in the Gardens series. Ok, I'll admit, I did not take C to this event because of bedtimes and schedules. But there were a lot of kids here, so I decided it was worth sharing with you all.

The concerts are on Wednesday nights (with a few exceptions, see the online calendar linked below) behind the visitor's center. It cost us $10 to get in (kids 12 and under are free), but you can bring in your own cooler with food and any beverages (including adult beverages). They do sell wine and beer for cash, which is a nice addition.

The concert we attended was fairly crowded, so it is best to get there early to set up. Also, we noticed that the ground slopes away from stage, so chairs would be great if you are really keen on seeing the act. We were there to chat and enjoy the music, so it didn't bother us.

The Duke Gardens are just a beautiful setting all the time. It is an even better place to take in a live show. The lily pond next to the stage is picturesque and calm, and the crepe myrtles bend over the audience in splendor and color.

The one thing we did notice about this event, which is something to keep in mind when bringing kids, is that this is very much about the music and the performance. Some people came for the band, not the experience. Which means that not everyone appreciated chatty-cathys behind them, and kids were either fairly well contained to their blanket, or further from the event entirely. There wasn't the gaggle of kids running around the event you see at, say, a Weaver Street music concert or Carolina Inn's summer music series. Which is why this seems better for older children, who have the attention span for a music concert and/or can meander on their own independently for a short time.

Strollers are welcome, but you might have difficulty maneuvering it amongst the crowd and the grass, so probably best to leave it in the car altogether.

Duke does a great job of providing adequate, free parking for this event (it helps that students are gone). And given that the Gardens are one of the highlights of our area, seeing a live show in them could be a highlight of your summer. My friends and I had a great time.

Music in the Gardens
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
http://dukeperformances.duke.edu/series/music-in-the-gardens
Wednesdays and select Thursdays in the summer, 7 pm
Rain or shine


The Sarah P. Duke Gardens are located off of Anderson Street between Campus Drive and Erwin Road. Performances are held in Kirby Horton Hall and Angle Amphitheater. Kirby Horton Hall is located inside of the Doris Duke Center at Duke Gardens, and Angle Amphitheater is located directly behind the Doris Duke Center.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Baby Bear Consignment

I know as parents, we all want a bargain on gear. Baby gear can make our lives easier, it is sometimes necessary, but it nearly is always more money than we want to spend. Kids are expensive! That's why I was happy to learn about Baby Bear Consignment in Durham.

Located off of University Drive, Baby Bear is actually not a true consignment shop. The owner tells me that she buys used items outright from parents. Meaning that you bring your stuff in, she goes through it, takes what she thinks she can sell, and just pays you for it right then and there (for clothes you get 30% and big items you get 50% of what she estimates she can sell it for). So you don't have to worry about what happens if things don't sell, do you have to come pick them up again, if she slashes prices without you knowing, etc. etc.

There is a lot in the Baby Bear store, but we had the most success with clothing. I bought some really great tshirts and shorts (hello hot weather) for C, including a wonderful little Tea tshirt which I love. The clothes were $2-$2.50 an item. Not too bad at all.

There are also toys and shoes and books and DVDs and maternity clothes galore in here. You will also find "gear" such as slings, carriers, strollers, high chairs, and more. Baby Bear sells some brand new Melissa & Doug toys, but everything else was gently used.

We had a great time in here. The owner was absolutely fabulous and so nice (even if she did open 30 minutes late that day). Kids clothing is mostly 2T and under.

Baby Bear Consignment
http://www.babybearnc.com/
3409 University Drive
Durham, NC

(919) 493-0854

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cary Towne Center : The Play Area

** Updated 4/4/12 - the play area has been removed. The carousel and 'quarter' (really 75 cents to $1) rides are still there. Carousel price has increased to $2. **

Some information today from Sarah C. It is great to have play areas where I can shop, too!

Cary Towne Center has a play area for kids located just outside of Sears. It is nicely walled in with only one entrance and a padded floor. There are cushy benches throughout so mom and dad can relax while the kids burn energy. It is smaller than those at other area malls. Inside are a slide/tunnel designed to look like a beehive (note: the slide is very steep-- not good for younger children), a news desk complete with a TV and mounted camera so children can see themselves giving the news, and a tower of stacked blocks to spin.

Just outside of the play area are vehicle kids can "ride" with a few quarters (or a bit of imagination) and the highlight of it all: a carousel. Tickets for the carousel are $2.00 each. Parents can accompany a child under 44 inches for free.

Cary Towne Center
http://www.shopcarytownecentermall.com
1105 Walnut Street
Cary

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Turnip Patch Park- Hillsborough

I would like to thank my friend Erica. A few years ago she ran in a fun run to raise money for the Turnip Patch Park. And it has made my life so much fun! Turnip Patch Park is a "surprise park." It is tucked away in a residential area but is blocks away from downtown Hillsborough, on King Street.
The playground is new, and very nice. It is a wooden set, which is very classic to me. No bright baubles and colors. Just imagination here. It has a double slide and some things to climb on. There is a sandbox as well, which C finds thrilling.

The park itself is an acre. It has benches and water fountains for you, the kids, and the pets. It is owned and maintained by the Town, but was built primarily with volunteer donations. And I don't think a lot of people know it's there since every time we have been, it's been empty.

By the way, I am curious as to how it got its name...Turnip Patch? Anyone know?

The ground covering is mulch, and there isn't a lot of shade. But somehow the sand in the box stays cool.

This playground isn't necessarily worth taking an independent trip to Hillsborough for, but if you happen to be downtown, say for Hog Days next year, this is a great place to stop.

Turnip Patch Park
http://www.visithillsboroughnc.org/content/turnip-patch-park

333 W. King Street (corner of King &
Occoneechee)
Hillsborough, NC

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paint Your Pot

When my mommies group and I were talking about Father's Day awhile ago, we wanted to go the arts and crafts route. But what to give daddies that they would appreciate, keep forever, and actually use? We chose to do paint your own ceramics, and loved it!

There are a few places in the Triangle area (including Glazed Expectations in Carrboro). We decided on Paint Your Pot. Paint Your Pot is off of Highway 55 in Cary, actually in the same shopping center as JumpZone if you want to make a full day of it.

At Paint Your Pot, you begin by picking the piece you want to paint. They have pieces anywhere from $3.50 to $50, depending on what you pick. There are cups, mugs, plaques, piggy banks, ceramic animals, lawn ornaments, all kinds of things! In addition to paying for the piece of ceramic, you also pay a studio fee, which is half the cost of your ceramic piece (i.e., a $10 piece will be a $5 studio fee, a $20 piece will be a $10 studio fee, and so on). The studio fee covers paint materials, other supplies, glaze, and the firing process. You do not pay based on time, which means take all the time you want. You can even leave it and come back another day to finish it.

After you finish painting, you leave your ceramics piece with Paint Your Pot. You give them a few days to glaze it and fire it, and it is ready, finished, for your pick up anywhere between 3 and 7 days.

Our kids weren't old enough to do these projects on their own yet. So we did mommy-assisted hand-stamping. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Paint Your Pot had a few non-toxic paints (in varying colors) specifically for this purpose. Much safer for all involved when it comes to putting paint on a body.

The chairs and tables are project tables, and not necessarily designed to hold toddlers. A few of us had travel booster seats in our cars, and those proved to be a fantastic addition to the day. Also, there are a lot of breakable things in this store, of course, so keep a close eye on the kiddos.

There were some older children in there having a great time, very intently creating masterpieces. I can imagine age 5 and up is a great age for this activity.

Paint Your Pot has a private room in the back, too, for things like birthday parties, wedding showers, baby showers, and ladies night out (and yes, you can bring in wine and food).

It was fun for us but, most of all, this made for some very precious and much-appreciated Father's Day gifts.

Paint Your Pot
www.paintyourpot.com


2755 NC Hwy 55
Cary, NC 27519

(919)363-9333

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hillsborough Hog Days

Updated 2/2011: Thanks to notice from you awesome blog readers, we have confirmed and received a press announcement that Hog Days will be the 3rd Saturday in May from here on out! Makes sense to me since North Cackalacky summers can be hoooot.

What do us North Carolinians like better than college basketball? Good ole pork barbecue. That's why my family was so excited about the Hillsborough Hog Days this weekend.

Hillsborough Hog Days is good old fashioned family fun. Held in downtown Hillsborough at River Park, the main feature of the festival is a barbecue cook-off. Celebrity judges taste and decide on the best pork barbecue in town. (By the way, one of the judges was Matthew of Matthew's Chocolates and dang if I don't trust him!)

But beyond the main event, there are a lot of other things here.

Near the pork-tastin', there is a large pavilion with fans and acoustic accompaniment during part of the day. If pork isn't your thing, there are other vendors (cash only) that sell gyros, pitas, falafel (very Greek for a southern shin-dig), and other carnival-type foods. Outside of these vendors, all barbecue and beverages are purchased via tickets only. Tickets are sold at select tents. $1 per ticket, 1 ticket for beverages (no adult beverages sold) and 4 tickets for barbecue.

There is a main stage with bands of all styles rotating in. There is everything from beach music to bluegrass, with some shade to sit in or room to dance. It is predominantly local talent, so it is always fun.

For kids, there is an entire area of bounces and inflatable slides. Alas, these cost to get in. It is a ticket system again. $1 for 1 ticket for 1 activity (time limited), but $10 gets you an unlimited play wristband. Kids have to wait in line to play, and there were some long lines forming, so it isn't for the most impatient of children, but all the kids seemed to be having a great time.

While you wait, pony rides are available! Again, it costs you, but the line there seemed shorter. And there are 4 ponies scooting around, ready to go, so the line moves fast.

There are also contests such as pig calling, guess the weight of the pig, corntoss games, and so on. We had a hard time figuring out when these were held, but you might do better than us at that.

If shopping is your thing, Hillsborough Hog Days offers many, many booths with vendors selling various wares. There are tons of Silly Bands/z to be had, jewelry, tutus, and other crafts.

Triangle Thunder Cruisers also hosts the area's largest antique and classic car show at Hillsborough Hog Days. I, personally, am not all that into cars and engines, but it seems like a perfect fit for a Father's Day weekend. I couldn't believe how many cars were there, and how different they all were.

So yes, lots to be had at Hillsborough Hog Days. I do have to say that the barbecue portion was a little confusing and disappointing, to be honest. There was 1 large tent, and some smaller tents, all serving sandwiches. When it came time to eat, DH wanted to try out the winning 'que. But it was not possible. From what we learned, the smaller tents were all private vendors. The big tent held the contest entries, but when we went to try it, it turns out that they had mixed together all of the barbecue, so it was a hodge-podge.

Jogging strollers work here, and you might be able to make your umbrella stroller work if it has big wheels. Lots of this takes place in a grassy field.

Parking in Hillsborough for Hog Days can get cramped, but everyone was able to find a spot (you may have to pay). In the past Hillsborough has run a shuttle service to Hog Days, but I believe that this year, given the downtown location of the event, they decided not to.

Entry to the event is free but, as you may have noticed from the information above, you end up paying for a lot of activities and all the food. Bring blankets or chairs. And prepare for the sun and heat.

No pets (although we did see a woman walking a pet pig on a leash). We could not find rules about coolers, but didn't see anyone bringing them in and there are plenty of concessions available. No alcohol.


Hillsborough Hog Days
held annually the third Saturday in June
hogdays.com

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chapel Hill Tennis Club (pool)

And once again, I managed to get myself into a very nice pool for a day! Thanks to a friend, I can tell you what I know about the Chapel Hill Tennis Club.

I really liked this place because of its baby pool. Sure, there is a monstrous blue water slide for the older kids that looks like fun. And there are big, huge umbrellas in the main pool area for lots of shade. The main pool is big, with plenty of room for lap swimmers, kids doing handstands, and all kinds of pool-goers. There are also plenty of chairs and places to sit around the deck of the main pool, which is lovely. But I was all about the baby pool here.

The baby pool is in an area that is fenced off, of course, from the main pool. But it is fenced off with benches (permanent, unmovable benches that babies can't crawl under or over). So it looks more integrated, and it also provides seating. There are also plastic tables and chairs, and lots of them, under shade right near the baby pool. Chapel Hill Tennis Club even had a tent up in the pool for shade while your child splashes. How great is that!?

So beyond a fantastic baby pool and a large main pool, Chapel Hill Tennis Club also offers other amenities for kids: a sand volleyball court, tennis courts (of course), a basketball court, a covered picnic shelter, and a big playground with swings. There is a concessions stand, called Slice, which sells pizzas, hot dogs, burgers and sandwiches. The food is pretty standard concessions quality, but Chapel Hill Tennis Club allows you to bring your food into the pool area.

For parents, Chapel Hill Tennis Club has a fitness room and a massage therapist on site (although massage sessions are extra money). You can also rent the facilities for parties or events.

Alas, like the Southern Village Pool, the Tennis Club is for members-only. For a family pass year-round (and they have indoor tennis courts as well) it is a $600 one-time initiation fee and then an additional $343 per quarter. But they do offer a summer only membership option, which is a one-time fee of $850 for a family. They have some other flexible plan options, though, so check out their website (see below) for information. And if you catch them at the right time, they run specials. Camps and lessons will cost you extra, but you get a discount if you have a membership.

The Tennis Club has a very active swim team, and also offers swim lessons. This can sometimes restrict public pool hours, so you might want to check the website beforehand if you are thinking of heading over there.

I also learned that the Chapel Hill Tennis Club is a non-profit membership-owned recreational facility. It has been around for 43 years, and is in a fabulous location right off of 54 or Old Fayetteville (depending which way you go) in Carrboro.

You are probably a prepared family and already have your pool pass for the summer, but may you consider Chapel Hill Tennis Club in the future as this place has a lot of recreation to offer beyond the pool. And, if you are lucky like me, may you have wonderful friends who offer to take you this summer!

Chapel Hill Tennis Club
http://www.chapelhilltennisclub.com

403 Westbrook Drive
Carrboro, NC
919-929-5248

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Poet's Walk at Ayr Mount

When a friend of mine found out that I was living in Hillsborough temporarily, she immediately recommended Poet's Walk. And since I trust my friends, I went to try it out. It was a great recommendation; Poet's Walk is beautiful.
Ayr Mount itself is a large old house in Hillsborough. Now if you know anything about Hillsborough, you know that this town loves it some historical markers and historical homes. So Ayr Mount fits right in. This house was built in 1815 and was home to generations of Kirklands. The house is fully restored and offers tours. Admission is $10, which gets you a guided tour. Check out their website (see below) for hours and other special information.

To be honest, I didn't think that C could handle a tour through a preserved home with many breakable objects of antiquity. So we skipped that. And instead we hit the Poet's Walk trail which circles the grounds of Ayr Mount. (Still not sure why it is named Poet's Walk. My best guesses are: a) they want you to feel inspired to write poetry or b) Ayr Mount has Scottish ties through the Kirklands, and Burns is quoted on a sign at the beginning of the walk, therefore it is Poet's Walk??)

Poet's Walk is a very easy walk. It is a 1 mile loop, and the trail is mulch or flattened dirt. In general this is not a tough trail in the least. Kids could do this if they wanted. I took the jogging stroller which worked well since I would just plow right over the tree roots and through the mulch no problems at all. There is one area towards the middle of the loop that has a steep incline with a bunch of tree roots. That was stroller-dicey for me, but it was such a short section (took me 5 minutes and I went very slow), that it didn't matter too much. And at the top of that section there is a bench to rest and a water cooler with cups.

This walk is very scenic, too. You see meadows, woods, the Eno River, old tavern ruins, and the big brick house at different points of the trail. Rest easy, too, since you would actually have to work very hard to get lost as the trail is very well marked. There are plenty of benches and resting spots along Poet's Walk, where you can sit and write your poetry (or if you are like me, watch your toddler throw mulch around).

There is one other thing about my trip that got me excited. As I mentioned in my Gold Park blogpost, Hillsborough is trying to make a riverwalk trail that goes along the Eno and through town. I read that the hope is to connect all the way to Ayr Mount and Poet's Walk. How great would that be?! Of course, I probably won't be living in Hillsborough when that happens, but I will gladly come visit to take advantage of that beautiful walk!

Ayr Mount has a lot of picnic benches with shade next to open fields. This would be a great place to picnic (provided you can stand the mid-day summer heat).

Poet's Walk is free and open daily to the public at 9 am.

Another thing: Ayr Mount is located very close to downtown Hillsborough. Might be worth a stop at Matthew's Chocolates for some Locopops after that stroll!

All parking at Ayr Mount is free.

Ayr Mount
http://www.classicalamerican.org/html/ayrmount_history.html
376 St. Mary's Road

Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278

(919)732-6886
email: ayrmount@classicalamericanhomes.org

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Sea of Learning

** Update again 7/7/11: The Northgate Mall location is now closed, too. A Sea of Learning is officially out of business.

**Update 1/7/10: Note the location near Southpoint has closed. A Sea of Learning is still open at Northgate Mall and soon expanding into a larger space there. Storytime will resume once they have moved into the new space. MiCHill recommends calling first to verify before planning to attend storytime. ^sc**


As much as I felt the Learning Express was not truly education-related (even if it is fun!), A Sea of Learning actually provides the shopping for educational games and toys for your child it's name implies.

This is a store that is deceptively small appearing on the outside, but big inside with a lot to offer. It is in the Renaissance Center of Southpoint, near the Old Navy and Babies R Us. It sells itself as "a Parent-Teacher store with thousands of options." And, while I didn't count all the options out, I thought this was a fair assessment.

One half of the store is dedicated entirely to curriculum and educational materials that are most likely to be used in a classroom. That doesn't mean that parents can't shop there, though!

The other half of the store has more traditional toy items, but also many creative things for children to enjoy, with educational toys too of course.

C could leave all of that, to be honest. He loved this store because of the large train table they had for play. In fact, he most decidedly did not want to leave and let that be known.

I also love a store where the clerks and retailers are knowledgeable. I walk in and say "I need a gift for a 2 year old boy who is all boy and likes to throw things" and the woman tending the cash register immediately points me to a huge foam dart with a football on the end. (That gift has since been reported to be a hit with the little boy.)

A Sea of Learning also hosts a storytime. Every Tuesday at 10:30 am, it is called "Fish Tales" (get it, from the sea??). It includes singing, a book reading and a small free craft. They even occasionally have the characters show up. If you join A Sea of Learning's Facebook page (click here or search through Facebook for "A Sea of Learning"), you can get good updates about the storytimes coming up (such as themes, book titles, crafts), and also information about sales. They even let you know through their Facebook site when they get new shipments of Silly Bands. And I also just learned through them that there are now scented Silly Bands.

By the way, I can see from the store's website that you can create and look up someone's wishlist. Could this be another form of a gift registry for kids? Intriguing. Honestly, I am not sure from the Internet information I see, and did not ask in the store. If you happen to know, shoot me a line!


A Sea of Learning
http://www.aseaoflearning.com/

1058 West Club Boulevard
Northgate Mall
Durham
919-286-2522

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jason's Deli

From Sarah C. today. A dining option that sounds like fast food that is guilt-free for mom & dad:

Looking for a healthy eating option for your family that won’t break the budget? Jason’s Deli might just be the solution. With a wide variety of foods from sandwiches and pastas to a fresh salad bar, there are delicious choices for everyone and Jason’s Deli prides itself on making those healthy choices as well. Their foods contain no artificial trans fats, no processed MSG, no artificial colors or dyes, and no high fructose corn syrup (minus the soda fountain). And the menu is coded to help you locate organic, vegetarian and gluten free options.

The kids menu features healthy choices in smaller portions. Kids will love the taste. Parents will love the fresh ingredients and seeing the nutritional information listed on the menu so they know they are giving their kids a quality meal.
The restaurants are a nice casual atmosphere. Hop in line to order and pay. Fix your beverage and grab a seat. One of the friendly employees will bring your food to you when it is ready and will clear away your dishes after you have finished eating. While nice anytime, this is especially convenient when you are juggling a toddler or small child.

One more perk- the free ice cream. Yes, you read correctly - free ice cream. Remember to take a stop at the self-serve machine for a small bowl or cone before you leave. What better way to end a meal out, especially on a hot summer's day?

Jason’s Deli
http://www.jasonsdeli.com/


Brier Creek -
Raleigh
8421 Brier Creek Pkwy.
#101
919-572-9996

Spring ForestRaleigh
909 Spring Forest Rd. Suite 100

919-855-9898


New Hope Commons - Durham
5408 New Hope Commons Dr. #123A

919-493-3350


Crossroads - Cary
212 Crossroads Blvd
[Opening Oct 2010]

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hargraves Community Center, Park, & A.D. Clark Pool

It's pool time North Carolina. Hot 90 degree days, evening thunderstorms, lots of mosquito bites...it feels like summer. I've blogged about the members-only Southern Village Pool, but no fear, there is a free pool in Chapel Hill for you!

The Hargraves Community Center is a place in Chapel Hill that many people surprisingly do not know about! Located blocks from Franklin Street off of Roberson Street (over by Carrburrito), there is a lot here to enjoy with your child.

Inside, the Community Center hosts events, holds the Northside Gym, and offers a meeting room. More information about the Hargraves Community Center and events can be found online at: http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/, or head to the Center, the library, or the Parks & Rec department to get information.

Outside, the Hargraves Center makes for a fun day!

There are two fantastic playgrounds. One is for kids 2-5, the other is for ages 5 and up.

At the playground for the smaller kids, there is very little shade, and the ground cover is mulch, but the equipment itself is great! Very age appropriate, and clean. There are things to spin, and a giant, green plane to "fly" in. There is even a puppet theater.

The playground for the older kids has more shade and a synthetic ground cover. There are some great slides, too (3 if I counted right).

No bucket swings for little ones, and just a few swings for older kids.

When you tire of playing in the hot sun on these playgrounds, you can head in to the pool. A.D. Clark pool isn't huge, it isn't new, it doesn't offer a lot of amenities, but, did you catch earlier how I said it is free?! That's right. Free. The A.D. Clark Pool is free and open to the public from Memorial Day until Labor Day.

There are lifeguards, changing facilities that include a family changing room (but they aren't the cleanest or the most private, so we generally change before we go and drip dry before getting in the car to leave), and chairs and tables around. There is also a great baby pool, fenced off from the main pool.

The main pool is zero-depth entry, meaning walk in. No food or drink allowed in the pool area. But there is a picnic shelter with tables outside the pool fence near the playgrounds.

Because this pool is free, it can potentially get really crowded. But, to be honest, I have been here a bunch of times and have never found it uncomfortably so. Even if chairs are hard to come by, you can always find a spot for a towel and chairs open up eventually. There are, of course, always a lot of ecstatic kids screaming, jumping, and splashing. Yet they always seems to make room in the water.

Again, this pool is not for the swankier folks out there. It is basic. But it is wet and free. So enjoy this Chapel Hill gem!

Hargraves Community Center
http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/
216 North Roberson Street
Chapel Hill, NC
Hours: Hargraves Center -Monday - Friday 2-9pm
Hours: Northside Gym - Monday - Friday 10am-9pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, & Sunday 1-8pm
Telephone:
(919) 968-2794; recorded info (919) 685-1535

Amenities:
  • playground
  • picnic shelter with grills
  • tennis courts
  • volleyball courts
  • basketball courts
  • softball field

A.D. Clark Pool
216 North Roberson Street
Chapel Hill, NC
http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/
phone (919) 968-2784; recorded info (919) 968-2794
Call for hours but, generally, as follows:

  • Noon to 7 p.m. daily except during special programs.
  • Closed to the public beginning June 14 for Hargraves Day Camp from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday; Special Olympics from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and Adaptive Aquatics classes beginning June 30 from 6:30 to 7:30 Wednesday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Matthew's Chocolate in Hillsborough

DH, C, and I are "summering" in Hillsborough (meaning we have a short term rental in Hillsborough right now). And I am so happy to explore this wonderful little town a little more. I have to say that my happiness was increased exponentially when realizing that I was in walking distance to Matthew's Chocolates.

You know that I love ice cream, but handmade truffles and chocolates come in a close second. And Matthew's makes some of the finest around. I have to say I think they are better than a few of the other (let them go unnamed) places in the Chapel Hill area. They are beautiful to look at, and just as divine to eat.

Ok, so beyond being something "for mom," why is this blogpost on here? Because I always see kids hanging out here. They sell Locopops. Not the same selection as if you were to go to a Locopops store, and they can run out of certain flavors, but you can always get one popsicle or another from Matthew's when you are in downtown Hillsborough on a summery day.

Matthew's also makes personalized party favors, and sells other good things.

And you might be lucky enough to catch a mid-day wine & chocolate tasting while you stop in to get junior a popsicle.

Matthew's Chocolates
107 North Churton Street
Hillsborough, NC

919-732-0900

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Southern Village Pool

We were fortunate enough to be invited to a pool party by some of our friends the other day, and got to enjoy the Southern Village pool. I've blogged about Southern Village before, and you all know I really love it. So I was more than happy to spend time with C and DH ("Darling Husband") at their pool.

It was a gorgeous pool day, and the water at Southern Village Pool was perfect. But boy this felt crowded. I know I haven't done too many turns at public pools lately, and this was one of the first pool-worthy Sunday afternoons we have had in 2010, but there were a lot of folks out at a 4:30 on a Sunday.

That said, it was a lot of fun. Southern Village Pool was very clean, the water the perfect temperature, the lifeguards "on," and the clubhouse facilities were large and sparkling. There is a 2-feet-depth area roped off on one side of the pool. Steps access the water with hand rails.

Unfortunately, you have to have an 'in' to get into this pool. You either have to buy a membership, or come accompanied by a member (which is only $6 for a day pass). Membership is assessed on an annual basis and is $750 for a family, $625 for a couple, and $525 for a single membership. You do not have to be a resident of Southern Village community to join the club. Membership not only gets you access to the pool, but also access to the tennis courts and various events. Unfortunately, clubhouse rentals, camps, and special programs cost extra, but you do get a discount if you are a member.

The location of this pool is very convenient to many Chapel Hill families, and, again, very clean. I felt very fortunate to have such friends invite us in! We had a really good time.

Southern Village Club Pool
http://southernvillageclub.com/pool/
601 Brookgreen Drive

Chapel Hill, NC

910-969-8442

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Since yours truly is out conquering the wild on a hike through Tennessee (no C is not strapped to my back for this walk), Sarah C. is bringing you another fantastic blogpost:

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is located in downtown Raleigh a block north of the State Capitol Building. It houses a variety of permanent exhibits that explore natural science in our state. Admission to the museum is free with the exception of the occasional special exhibits which require a ticket (check the museum website, below, for information and pricing). My husband and I have visited several times in the past and recently took D for his first trip. The day itself was a hot one so we were happy to have an indoor (read a/c and comfortable!) place to walk around.
The museum has 4 floors. Maps are available on the museum website if you want to preplan your trip. Since we visited on a Friday and there were a lot of students on school field trips, we decided to start at the top and work our way down. We had arrived during lunch time so this seemed to work out pretty well at helping us space ourselves away from the crowd coming in and starting on the first floor.

Overall, this museum is best for pre-school and school aged children. We were well aware from our previous visits, but knowing our son we also felt there were some parts he would enjoy and we were right. He had a great time watching turtles and fish in some of the aquariums, gazing upward at the pterosaurs “flying” overhead in the Terror of the South dinosaur exhibit, and, of course, people watching.

One spot we skipped due to the crowd was the Living Conservatory on the fourth floor. It houses butterflies, turtles, snakes and a two-toed sloth. Having been to the Butterfly House at the Museum of Life + Science, I know D would have loved it but I also know when he’s not in the mood to stand in a line so I think we made the right call. Sometimes it’s best just to keep the stroller in motion.

The Discovery Room on the second floor was the perfect opportunity to let D out of the stroller to explore and get in a little hands-on learning. One section is designated for toddlers so we headed there first. It was filled with books, wooden puzzles, a basket of dinosaur toys as well as instructive play tucked into plastic storage boxes. One box was labeled “The Hungry Caterpillar” and, being one of D’s favorite books, I had to take a peek. Inside were a variety of fun soft objects (including a caterpillar and butterflies, of course) to act out the story. Taped to the lid were prompts to aid parents in teaching their child(ren) more about these insects.

After a few minutes of play, D discovered he could crawl elsewhere in the room so we wandered to see what other fun adventures there were. We peeked at some tadpoles living in an aquarium, played with puppets in a section designed to look like we were underwater, and watched as honeybees worked in their hive. The hive is nested between glass on each side and there is a plexiglass connector between the hive and the window – visitors can literally watch the bees come and go as well as work on their hive. This was definitely one of the highlights for D as there was plenty of movement. I just hope he doesn’t think he can bat at bees in our backyard as he happily did in their safe environment here!

A few tips for planning your trip: Public parking can be found a block away at the corner of E Jones and N Wilmington Streets. It’s inexpensive on weekdays ($1/hour) and free on the weekends. If you decide to visit and have lunch, the museum offers a café on the fourth floor. There are also various street vendors (think hot dogs, gyros and sno-cones) on weekdays located along the streets at each end of the alleyway between the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and the NC Museum History.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
http://naturalsciences.org
11 West Jones Street
Raleigh, NC
919-733-7450

Mon- Sat 9 am - 5pm
Sun noon - 5pm
First Fridays: on the first Friday of every month (except as noted) the Museum stays open until 9 pm

Directions & Parking Info -
http://naturalsciences.org/visitor-info/directions-parking

Family Programs - http://naturalsciences.org/programs-events/family-programs

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