Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Swell Doll Shop

Sometimes I get these crazy thoughts that I need to get on the Kid 2 thing ASAP and it HAS to be a girl. These thoughts usually happen in places like The Swell Doll Shop.

This place is hidden in the building that houses Whole Foods in Chapel Hill. You have to go through a doorway into a mall-like area, and The Swell Doll Shop is there. This shop is crazy fun!Remember playing Barbies as a kid? Well, in here you can find those original Barbies and carrying cases and accessories as well as other dolls and dress up clothes and so many wonderful things! (They also carry some American Girl items, for those out there that are searching for such things.)

The Swell Doll Shop specializes in antique and vintage dolls. And you would think that that would be a really small, niche market but truly this place is packed to the gills. I wish I had better pictures, but you can see more on their website.

So what about all this made me get all crazy about having a little girl? They offer kid's birthday parties!!! I totally Facebook-stalked them and saw the pictures, too, of a birthday they held and it is so cute! Unfortunately, C is the type of boy who is all about banging and smashing. But this little party looked divine. In fact, my birthday is coming up....who needs to wait 9 months....


The Swell Doll Shop
http://www.swelldollshop.com/
Facebook page
9 S. Elliott Road #7
Chapel Hill
919-967-2040

Saturday, October 30, 2010

PTA Thrift Shops

As I was shopping for our Halloween costumes (very last minute, I know), I darted in to our lovely thrift stores. And I thought, 'My Goodness, our readers should have our PTA Thrift Shops on their radar screens!'

Both Orange and Chatham Counties have PTA Thrift Shops. As a person (who watches a lot of HGTV where they turn junk to beautiful pieces with just a can of spraypaint) I love thrift stores -- bargains! But as a parent I love the PTA Thrift Shops even more. And here's why:

These consignment shops take their proceeds and put some directly back into our local schools. They divide revenues based on a formula that factors in population as well as volunteer hours. So if you volunteer, you are directly impacting the amount of funding your school gets back! Thank you! The money is sent to the school's PTA for their use. Chatham started their Thrift Shop in 1983 and since then, they say they have given over $4 million back to the schools. The Orange County PTA shop started in 1952. Can you imagine how many millions they must have given back?

So I love that this is for a good cause. And I love that they have some really good stuff in here! I have been to both Chapel Hill locations and the Cole Park Plaza location and I am always amazed at how many great things are in there. Yeah, you have to dig, but it is worth it. (By the way, C has fun in here, too, and I have seen many other kids running around having a blast.) They sell maternity clothes and I have seen pack n plays and exersaucers and more up for sale at these thrift shops.

If you are looking to donate, your goods are tax-deductible. I have to say that we have donated a bunch of stuff in our past (moving will make you purge). And the PTA Thrift Shops are the least picky we have ever seen. Not saying you should dump your garbage on them, but they are certainly more willing to take and consider whatever you have to donate than some of the other big-chain donation shops in the area. If you are donating, check online or call before you go as the hours for donating are different than store hours. In Chatham County, you take your wares in to the store. Orange County has an area around the back of the Jones Ferry location that will accept donations as well as a completely separate donatio

PTA Thrift Shops
Orange County:
http://ptathriftshop.com/
Two locations
Jones Ferry Road, Carrboro, 967-1272
Village Plaza Shopping Center, Chapel Hill, 942-6101
Donation Center, 942-9412

Chatham County: http://www.chathamwebbuilders.net/chathamptathriftshopsinc/
Three locations
Cole Park Plaza, Chapel Hill, 969-9457
Piggly Wiggly Shopping Center, Pittsboro, 542-4070
Bestfoods Plaza, Siler City, 663-2395

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NC Launches New Initiative

As we mentioned, October is National Childhoood Obesity Awareness Month. And just before October ends, North Carolina announced a huge deal: a $3 million dollar initiative to fight childhood obesity in our own state. Which is good news since North Carolina ranks 5th overall in childhood obesity rate in the country. We need help!

The program is being called "Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children"and will focus on young children from birth through age 5.

You can read more about this by clicking here. Right now this money is primarily slated to go into programs already in existence, but that could change. You will see this money funneled into your community through programs such as :
  • Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (NAPSACC) developed by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention,
  • Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) developed by North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative, and
  • Be Active Kids®, a signature program of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation focused on early childhood physical activity
MiCHill just wants to take a moment to thank Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. for partnering together and bringing this great investment into our nation's best resource.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Green Acres Farm

Another day another maize....Green Acres is the life for me....oh, so many great ways to start this post.

Whatever way it starts, this is a post about a great little outing right in Cary (really close to Apex). Sarah C. and I were invited to this farm during special hours because of our fantastic blog readers. Technically Green Acres is only open on Friday afternoons and weekends. But one of you out there set up a special tour and invited us. And we have to say a big thank you! We had a great time.

Although I will point out that there were many other groups and families there when we went. And the blogette who set this tour up was not required to promise a minimum. So I would say that if you want to go at any point during the week, just call them. Ok, that said--

Our day on the farm started with a hay ride. Not much hay on the ride, but it was a lot of fun to see the kids feed the cows corn right off the trailer. The cows came up, we were given corn cobs, and we got really close to the big animals.

After the hay ride, we went through the corn maze. I had just been to McKee's corn maze, so was a little biased. But it was pretty contrasting to see McKee's artsy maze one day and then the Green Acres "advertisement" maze the next-- the entire corn maze was drawn out by a construction & development company complete with their name in it. Of course, not that you can tell that while going through. It was nice that they gave us little flags to carry and wave. And they do offer the same checkpoints game as McKee's, which is nice. You could run jogging strollers through the maze if you wanted, the paths are well-trampled. If you go for the night maze, bring a flashlight.

The part of Green Acres that I really appreciated was all the extracurricular activities. There was a bounce for kids, a large sand pit with some very nice Tonka trucks, a station where you could "milk a cow," and a large hay stack with tunnels going through it. On the weekends, they also offer face painting, pony rides and even mechanical bull rides. These cost extra, are not available during the weekdays, and probably are nothing like a Sex in the City scene folks. I was amused to see that they even offer corn hole games.

Green Acres is a working farm, and only opens to the public during certain seasons (note that they also sell Christmas Trees). And this working farm has some serious equipment: there were a lot of large tractors for C to climb on

They offer concessions for purchase, as well as some other fun toys (mini John Deers tractors), pumpkins, and mums.

A lot of picnic benches as well as a covered area for picnicking.

The cost to get in is $8 for ages 4 to adult. Three and under is free. We have covered other spots on this blog that cost the same amount, but I felt like we got much more activity and adventure here.

Even though this is off of Morrisville Carpenter Road, with townhouses right next door, this farm was beautiful. It has been a family farm since the 1900s, and I personally hope that they remain so. It was a gem in the middle of a burgeoning suburbia. I also like that Green Acres farm always gives a portion of their proceeds to some great charity. I look forward to heading here again in the future.

Green Acres Farm

http://www.greenacrescary.com/
1132 Morrisville Carpenter Road

Cary

919-481-2435

Fall hours:
Fridays 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm (night maze offered during the month of October)

Saturdays 9:00 am - 9:00 pm (night maze offered during the month of October)

Sundays 11:00 am - dark

Open other times by appointment only
Stay tuned to the website for openings and availabilities outside of the Fall festivities

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

North Wake Landfill Park

Proof that trash can indeed become treasure - Sarah C. explores Wake County's newest park built on the site of a former landfill:

In 2008, Wake County closed the landfill off Durant Road in North Raleigh.  When they reopened the gates this past summer, they did so inviting all ages to come play.  Driving into the park, the road winds around a large grassy hill that covers the nearly 5 million tons of trash the landfill received while operational (makes you think twice about throwing something away, doesn't it?).

Tucked behind the hill is a new playground, picnic areas, restrooms and access to walking trails & mountain biking paths.  The playground features mulch surface and two main play areas (split into the typical 2-5 and 5-12 range).  The equipment has a variety of climbing options and slides.  Each piece has a small awning providing a bit of shade, but overall everything is out in the open so keep this in mind when planning your visit.  The neatest part to me was a musical board near the 2-5 equipment.  A slight swing of a music note into the cylindrical bells and they would chime.  D was fascinated by this and practically had to be pried away. 

Picnickers can enjoy their meal at a table by the playground, in the shelter, or in a grassy spot on the lawn.  An important detail to note: no grills are available and smoking in the park is prohibited due to the landfill gas collection system.

Want to stretch your legs a bit?  Just past the playground are paved paths and access to mountain biking trails.  Or drive back to the park entrance on the opposite side of the hill, park in the gravel lot and follow the trail to the top.  Per Wake County's website (see link below), you can see the downtown Raleigh skyline on a clear day.  I'm adding this little hike to my future to-do list as we didn't try it during our visit.

One final detail, be aware that this park can be a little tricky to find.  See http://www.wakegov.com/parks/northwake/directions/default.htm for directions.

North Wake Landfill District Park
http://www.wakegov.com/parks/northwake/default.htm
9300 Deponie Drive
Raleigh

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Pittsboro Toys

Pittsboro Toys just expanded, and they are well worth the extra space.

This toy shop specializes in organic, eco-friendly, and handmade toys. That being said, this isn't a tiny little shop. You can get pretty much any toy you want here (they are a slew of Melissa & Doug, Gund, PlanToys, and LEGO options, too).

When we were in they were still unpacking inventory, and there was already a lot in here. Prices were reasonable. Not discount, but not over the moon either. C had a great time as they have not 1, not 2, but 3 activity & train tables up front for play.

The hardest thing about this shop is the parking. We went during a weekday and getting a spot was fine, but Hillsboro (15/501) gets pretty busy so getting out was a very exciting experience. Just drive safe.

There are many other things in Pittsboro that are worth a visit, so include this toy shop in your next excursion!

Pittsboro Toys
http://www.pittsborotoys.com/
44 Hillsboro Street

Suite B

Pittsboro

919-541-4885

Saturday, October 23, 2010

McKee's Corn Maze

I have to admit I am scared of mazes (hello, Harry Potter anyone?), but when I read that McKee's Cedar Creek Farm has one of the largest corn mazes in NC, I was intrigued. Then I also read that they have a "mini maze" for kids, and I knew we would be going.

McKee's is located about 10 miles outside of Hillsborough, and is a gorgeous drive through North Carolina countryside. The fall colors make this so scenic right now. This is a private farm, but every fall Vicki McKee takes her love of art and channels it into a massive 14-acre corn maze. 12-acres is an adult maze, 2-acres a kids' maze. The design changes every year.

At the start of the maze a farm hand gives you some tips and pointers for navigating. They also up the ante by sticking "check points" in each of the mazes. These are stops (at dead ends, forcing you into areas of the maze you might not otherwise hit) throughout the maze that have hole punches on them, and you punch your card. Each hole punch is a different shape, too, so you can't cheat.

The kids' maze has a lot of funny items in addition to the checkpoints. There are letter cards, fun facts, and pictures of animals sprinkled about.

It was a bad year for corn (as we mentioned in our Green Level Gourd Farm post). And it is getting late in the season. So it isn't a green, lush cornfield, but the corn is as high as an elephant's eye. The kids' maze was pretty easy (thankfully), but we got turned around in the big maze. Make sure you are committed to walking and spending some time here.

There are other activities at McKee's. There are two playgyms (one for older kids, one for younger kids). There is a very large sandbox as well as a rope swing that was a huge hit with the tweens and adults. A lot of very nice picnic benches, too.

As this is a farm, there are some animals on site. There are goats, bunnies, hens, and a donkey. The animals are in cages in one select area. So it was hard to get up close to them, although one farmhand was taking some older kids into the donkey's stall to feed it.

There are port-a-johns on site. Plus, it turns out that the maze trails are well-groomed enough for strollers! Added plus!

It costs $8 for adults to get in, kids 0-2 are free; the haunted maze is $10 (and they don't recommend bringing the kiddos). DH and I thought this was a little pricey, especially since with little kids you can't spend too terribly long here. We did have a great time though. There are concessions available to buy as well as pumpkins and mums.

We went on a beautiful weekend day and while there were a lot of families here, it didn't feel crowded or oversold.

McKee's Cedar Creek Farm Corn Maze
http://www.mckeemaze.com/

5011 Kiger Road Rougemont
919-732-8065

Opens end of September, ends October 31st.
Fridays 3 am - 8 pm, Saturdays 10 am - 8 pm, Sundays 1 pm - 7 pm (note that closing hours can change dependent on the Haunted Maze schedule, so call ahead).
Haunted Maze open some Friday and Saturday nights, see website for schedule.

For Mom: Southern Season (Classes, Tastings, Prepared Meals)

To be totally blunt - if you haven't been to A Southern Season yet you are really missing out. This huge gourmet food mecca anchors one end of University Mall. In a space that used to be a department store, A Southern Season has a lot to offer for everyone. And now that it is the North Carolina Food & Wine Festival, it is a great time to focus some blog-love on them! As a mom I particularly love: the prepared foods section, the cooking classes, and the wine tastings (think GNO or a datenight for this one).

At A Southern Season, the prepared foods section has lot of different options for you. You can get cheeses, deli meats, or hit the salad bar. You can also get hot prepared sandwiches for a picnic lunch. But they even offer full entrees to bring home for your family to eat tonight. The selections can vary day to day. And while not the cheapest takeout fare on the block, it is usually a hit and something different than I might make at home (I know it doesn't hurt to branch away from mac n cheese).

One of the fun activities out there for mom and friends is the cooking class. A Southern Season offers a variety of types of classes (which are going to range in price depending on the cook). In their state of the art, very large classroom, you can see professional chefs demonstrate and discuss their techniques. Or you can attend a class that is hands-on. There are also local chefs delivering the recipes that make Chapel Hill one of the most popular destinations for foodies. Check out the schedule and details online (website below).
Another offering at A Southern Season that DH and I love as a datenight is the Fridays Uncorked. Every Friday night starting at 5 pm and ending at 8 pm, in the same gourmet kitchen classroom, they pop open five wines as well as provide cheeses to match. You get to taste each wine and you are given a pamphlet describing each bottle. This is as educational as you want it to be; the more questions you ask of the pourers, the more information you get. Or you can go it relaxed. Each Friday is a different theme. You can show up at any time in the window and leave whenever you like. Prices vary depending on what is being opened, but anywhere from $12 - $18 per person. These don't generally sell out so you can probably just walk up last minute to get in. Although keep an eye out for the chocolate and wine tasting event. Very fun (but popular, so get your tickets in advance on this one). The wines for tasting the night you go will be up for sale by the bottle at a reasonable discount.

Whatever you are looking for in the food and fun department, this Chapel Hill institution has it. As a mom, I am appreciating it even more these days.

A Southern Season
http://www.southernseason.com/
University Mall
15/501 at Estes
Chapel Hill
919-929-7133

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Car Wash/Dog Wash/Ice Cream Shop/Espresso Bar

As a busy mom, I love multitasking. Especially when it comes to errands. This is why I love the quirky and totally different Splash & Wash in Pittsboro.

I stopped here because it has to be one of the oddest businesses I have seen. In the back is a full-on drive thru car wash. And a dog wash where you can drop your pooch off and they will take care of the cleaning and trimming. In the front is an ice cream shop that sells cones, sundaes, and milkshakes. Then on top of that there is an espresso bar where you can get bagels, lattes, coffees, and more. AND the ice cream and espresso is all available via drive thru. You just have to be careful you maneuver the vacuums from the car wash portion well.

C and I stopped here on our way back from the Chatham Community Library the other day and picked up a milkshake. It was quite tasty, cost us $3, and the woman working the food and beverage portion was quite nice. Turns out buildings and businesses like these are all the rage in New Jersey, where the owners are from. So yes, they own the whole thing and yes, it is planned.

The only problem is that while you can walk up to the ice cream and espresso bar as well as drive up (there are 2 separate windows) parking is a little tough. I couldn't figure out where to put my car so it wouldn't be in the way of the washers and drive thru-ers. And there are 2 benches and tables (concrete, with umbrellas), but it isn't scenic. It is in the parking lot on the side of a rather busy intersection. I held on tight to C to prevent Runaway Babies. But it wasn't hard to convince him to stay close with the possibility of a sip of the milkshake in my hand.

Splash and Wash Car and Dog Wash
Espresso Bar
Ice Cream Bar
Corner of Hwy 64 Business (West Street) and Hwy 87
Pittsboro

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Puddle Baby Boutique

Does anyone else read the Shopaholic series? Because I swear sometimes I am channeling Becky Bloomwood. Like when I was in the brand new Puddle Baby Boutique in Chapel Hill. Let's face it, C does not really need new clothes. But oh my word, if there weren't some fabulous children's clothes in here.

Puddle Baby is one half of the Purple Puddle gift shop. Purple Puddle has been there for awhile and focuses on stationary, floral, and other specialty gifts. But they recently expanded to bring us baby-wear. There are some great accessories in here, such as Baby Legs, but I really felt like this shop was all about the clothes.

These clothes are not cheap. This is a boutique and the clothes are "designer" clothes (can you use that phrase with baby clothes?). Think Tea, Catimini, Persnickety. There was a clearance rack that had some very cute options, but if you go in to buy an outfit be prepared to pay. You get really great quality, though. And really truly cute stuff (why don't they make some of these outfits in adult sizes!?).

Clothes are up to size 5 for kids. Puddle Baby also advertises that they do custom furniture and bedding. They have monogramming available. And since you are also at Purple Puddle, you can pick up some cute stationary for mom while there. No, you don't need it, but Becky Bloomwood could justify it....

Puddle Baby Boutique
http://www.puddlebaby.com/
Facebook Page
400-H S. Elliot Road

Chapel Hill

967-2919

Mon- Fri 10 am to 5:30 pm

Sat 10 am to 5 pm

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chatham Community Library

Yesterday C and I went to check out the brand new Chatham Community Library located in Pittsboro. And Holy Library, this place is definitely the nicest book-digs in the Triangle! And not necessarily in offerings (they moved their collection from the small Pittsboro Memorial Library where not much fit, so they are working on expanding and purchasing more now). But in space: wowza!

This library is way more modern and open than anything else in Pittsboro. The building is impressive and makes me want to spend time here. It is bright, light, airy yet also quiet and calming.

The kids' story room is the most beautiful I have seen. There are colored glass lights dangling from the ceiling and the walls are painted with a fantasy mural that whisks you away. I have not yet been to story time. They are offered on Tuesdays: 9:30 am for 3 & under crowd; and 10:00 am for 3 & over crowd. But a blog reader tells me it is great.

In the kids' area of the library, there is ample seating in perfect kid sizes. There are tables, chairs, red tuffets, computer tables (and those computers are way nicer than my humble little PC), and, again, lots of light.

Note that the website for the library is not very helpful, but the staff is very nice. So your best bet to get information is to call.

I am truly impressed with this library and can't wait to spend more time here.

Chatham Community Library
http://www.chathamnc.org/
197 NC Hwy 87 N

Pittsboro
919-545-8084

Mon- Thur 9 am - 8 pm

Fri 9 am - 6 pm

Sat 9 am - 1 pm

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fearrington Village Playground

Driving down 15/501 headed towards Pittsboro, I can see a cute little park from the road. Located near the Fearrington Tennis Courts, once we found this park with the help of a Fearrington Village friend, we really enjoyed it!

This playground has a toddler-sized climbing structure, a tire swing, traditional swings (including toddler swings that were more modern than the ones I usually see on playgrounds), a great sandbox with a plethora of toys, and a jungle gym with slide and tunnel. The jungle gym worried me. I am pretty laidback as to what I will let C attempt but this structure is definitely meant for older kids. It is an older playgym, so the railings are higher and wee ones could easily misstep their way off this. But C loved the sandbox and the wide open space to run. For even though you can see this park from 15/501, it is quite far from it.

I loved that I was able to get a very tasty fall latte from the Belted Goat in the Village, then drive on over to this place. It was a great way to spend a fall afternoon.

This was such a cute little park and playground, but I should warn you that it is technically only open to Fearrington community and village residents. So head there with your Fearrington friends! Although there aren't any fences or barriers or checkpoints or ID scans required...

Fearrington Village Playground
From 15/501, take a left on Village Way, left on Creekwood, and then a left on Benchmark. Follow Benchmark to the end.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Special Needs Resources

If you haven't noticed, we're not just about activities here at MiCHill. We're also about resources. And following our current, and well-received, trend to give you research articles on Sunday nights, I thought of an area that definitely needs to be supported and addressed on this blog: special needs children.

I am thankful every day that my child is as easy as he is. But I also know that every single child out there is special, innocent, and a completely wonderful child, all of whom deserve all the love we can give as a society. Not to mention that all parents need support and guidance. If you have a special needs child, or have someone in your family that is special needs, there are specific resources tailored for you. And we would be remiss at MiCHill if we didn't provide this information for you.

Although someone else beat us to it. The very professional and thoughtful Carolina Parent has put together a fantastic brochure, totally free, that seems to be the best stop. The 2010-2011 Carolina Parent Special Edition has been on "newsstands" throughout the Triangle for about a month now. This nifty printed booklet of over 40 pages includes wonderful resources such as articles on identifying red flags, navigating the education system, and recommended reading to help you and your family address the situation. There is also a very long directory in the back with things like Speech Therapy Centers, Special Education Eligibility, OT, Enrichment and so much more. But you have to track this down. It is at kiosks randomly sprinkled throughout the Triangle area.

Unfortunately, this information isn't yet online either. It is slated to live here: http://carolinaparent.com/Guides/SpecialNeedsGuide.aspx. There is a smaller list of businesses here: http://carolinaparent.com/Resources/SpecialNeeds/default.aspx . But the second link is certainly not as comprehensive as the print edition, and may be supplanted by the digital guide anyhow.

Education.com
provides a nice, "governmenty" list of resources for our state. I personally find it a little hard to navigate and understand, but there is certainly a lot there.

Triangle Mom2Mom has a list of resources they have compiled here: http://www.trianglemom2mom.com/special-needs-support. It is a good site, but doesn't seem terribly comprehensive. It will still get you started, though.

By the way, for babysitting resources, Care.com provides a special section on finding caregivers with special needs experience.

If you know of any other resources that would be good for parents and caregivers to have, please share them with us. We at MiCHill strive to be a source of information and resources for all of our wonderful parents in the Triangle area.

Above all this advice, just remember to hug your kids tonight everyone!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Southpoint Mall: Beyond the Play Area

So we're already mentioned the great playarea at Southpoint Mall, and we've reviewed the Pottery Barn Kids' Storytime, Toyland, and the walking "trail" at this mall. But there are even more things here! (And I know I will be here a lot more once the Crate & Barrel goes in, so we need to know these things!)

I have to say the surprise find that I love most are the small toddler-sized tables at the Food Court. Not that I love feeding C from a food court, but nothing says that you have to buy food here to use what they have! Besides, Chick-Fil-A has some great options. And I do love the hoards of small tables. There are certainly a lot of these, so use them! Although you can't use them - they have signs on each chair saying the weight limit is 100 pounds (if you are a parent under 100 pounds please don't tell me!). These are sprinkled throughout the "big kid" tables all around the food court, so go hunting for them.

I thought that the water fountains in the walking area would be good fun for us, but not so much. It turns out that some toddlers (like mine) like to get IN the water. And there are clear signs posted that say these fountains aren't for playing (unlike those cool Northgate Mall ones). And sometimes toddlers don't understand that. Ooops. But the statues and the water in general are a great point of interest. Don't forget all the statues inside, too.

By the by, we have talked about the Nordstrom Lounge as a great place to nurse, but Southpoint Mall provides nursing lounges at the Women's Restrooms. They aren't as fancy as Nordstrom or Babies R Us, but a fantastic resource we are happy to report are available to you. They also have great family restrooms at this mall that we hear are great for potty-trainers. Check the mall map to really pinpoint them.

The Streets at Southpoint & Main Street
http://www.streetsatsouthpoint.com/
6910 Fayetteville Road
Durham

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fred Fletcher Park

From Sarah C. We are all about the parks right now since it is the season (well, one of them, spring gets us pretty excited, too!):

Fall and spring are by far my favorite seasons for getting out and about here in North Carolina. Usually not too hot or too cold. While running errands in Raleigh, D & I took advantage of some of that beautiful weather to visit Fletcher Park.


The park is nestled between St. Mary's Street and Glenwood Avenue a few blocks northwest of the ComedyWorx building where you can see Kazoom Puppets. It would make a great follow to the show for a picnic lunch and leg stretching/energy burning.

The playground is a bit small featuring only swings and sandbox with digging toys and teeter totters. There are basketball and tennis courts as well as a ballfield. The true attraction here is the vast amount of green space (plenty of areas for the kids to run) including the amphitheater and the water garden.

The water garden was completed in 2008 and, depending upon the age of your child, could be a great educational experience. The garden naturally cleans polluted stormwater helping to improve our water quality. There is a marker on the deck overlook near the Redbird sculpture that explains the process and you can walk along the paths for a closer view. Of course, keep younger children strapped securely in their strollers or have a solid hold on their hands to be sure they don't try to explore the pools of water too closely.

A fun tidbit - if you time your visit right you might catch Broughton High School's band practicing. From personal experience hearing them, they are quite good and they should be - they'll be performing in the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade (the 2nd time in 4 years which is a huge honor). Younger kids might really enjoy the closeness of seeing and hearing them especially outside of the traditional crowded parade setting.

Fred Fletcher Park
Water Garden & Wetland Information
802 Clay St
Raleigh

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Frankie's Fun Park

From Sarah C.

Frankie's Fun Park is located in Raleigh near Brier Creek.  It has a vast amount of activities to entertain just about all ages.  I had been aware of it for a while, but never made it there until recently when DH & I went for a date night.  Reviewing the website ahead of time (listed below), it appeared that D was too young at 14 months (a definite now that I've been there but maybe next year we'll consider it) so we left him with a friend and went off to explore it on our own.


When we arrived, we literally just walked around to get a feel of the place and our options.  There were a LOT of options - arcade, mini golf, go karts, bumper boats, laser tag, batting cage, fun house, etc.  A few were limited to certain age groups and/or heights/weights.  Admittedly, this can get expensive if you aren't careful.  Each attraction has a set price and limit.  The best deal was the fun house which, for one price, your child (ages 2-12) has unlimited access during your visit.

No outside food or drink are permitted.  There are 2 food options on site - a snack bar featuring your typical hot dogs, nachos, sodas, etc. and a sit down restaurant with everything from salads and burgers to wraps and pizzas (see menus on website). 

Frankie's offers birthday party packages and group pricing discounts.  See the website for details.


Frankie's Fun Park
http://www.frankiesfunpark.com/raleigh/ | Pricing
11190 Fun Park Dr

(919) 433-7888

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Cedar Falls Park- Chapel Hill

These days are just gorgeous, aren't they?! To enjoy it, C and I hit Cedar Falls Park. This was a great park that more parents should be using.
The playground has two climbing structures (as is pretty common). One for younger kids and one for older kids. But what I really liked was the fact that this playground gets more shade than some of the other ones we have been to. The ground cover is mulch, and there are some picnic benches as well as swings and bucket swings.

The unique thing about Cedar Falls Park, though, is the walking trail -- the Jo Peeler Nature Trail. It is a very gentle trail that makes a 0.6 mile loop through the park. And, while no Talking Trees Trail, my family really liked it as at the beginning of the trail you can pick up a laminated trail map and walking guide.

The path is marked with points of interest. You see the number, find the corresponding number on the guide, and you learn a little about the flora, fauna, and history (including the regeneration of the growth after Hurricane Fran). There were some great little things along this path!

Umbrella strollers won't work, but jogging strollers could probably hack it. Note that there are two other trails in the park, but for kids I really liked this Nature Trail. Please be sure to return the guide to the kiosk for others to use.

There is a creek that goes through the park that you should seek out. It's great for wading, albeit it could be getting a little chilly.

There are also ballparks here, fenced in if you want to take your toddler to run freely yet safely. Restrooms are available.

Cedar Falls Park
Weaver Dairy Road (across from East Chapel Hill High School)
Chapel Hill

Rock Star Tee Winner

I know you are all anxiously awaiting the Stay At Home Rock Star tee winner & wondered why I didn't announce it Friday night as promised. No vast conspiracy I assure you. Just me moving.

Anyhow, the winner of this totally rad tshirt is (picked by Random.org): Jennifer Johnson who posted on our Facebook page that her favorite website for parents is The Budget Mommy. We love it, too.

Jennifer, please email mominchapelhill@gmail.com to claim your winnings!

Thanks, all, for the great tips and for supporting us. You are all rock stars in our book (blog?)!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Green Level Gourd Farm (October Festival + more)

Green Level Gourd Farm had been on our to do list for awhile. But it was too hot for a very long time and we wanted to wait until the pumpkin, the ultimate gourd, was ready to be celebrated. So this past week Sarah C. and I took the boys to Green Level Gourd Farm. They are having their October Festival, so now is a great time to go!

Once we found this place we had a blast (use the directions off their website, I used Mapquest and it was awful. So many streets in the area have similar if not the same name and it is confuses these fancy computer programs and GPSs).

Green Level Gourd Farm caters to toddlers. Older children are certainly welcome, but this family farm located in Apex really makes this toddler heaven.

During the October Festival the farm itself is free to get into. They do charge for certain activities, but the prices are cheap and you can pick what you want to pay for. April - September there is a fee for admission that is around $4-6 dollars per person, but this includes some activities.

The farm isn't huge. But they have a very large, creative, and different playground. I say different since it has things like large black tubes decorated to look like spiders, tire swings that look like horses, a sandbox with fake flowers for planting, ceramic animals, bean bag tosses, and much more.

There are some animals on this farm: chickens, horses, a whole lotta rabbits (the owner said that was an oops as they thought they had started with 2 male rabbits), and some goats. You can't touch any of these animals, but they make for good watching. The best watching, though, were the little Hallmark light up and dance Halloween characters that the very sweet owner of the farm kept engaging to entertain our boys. There are so many hidden surprises here.

There are donkey rides available. In October, donkey rides cost $3 per ride. There is one small donkey and one very tall donkey, so you can pick which one your child will ride. The donkey is lead on a leash around a very small circle. This was a lot of fun for C. And when we went, there wasn't a line at all to ride.

You can buy a pumpkin here. Once you buy it, they have a little tent set up where you can decorate your pumpkin with paints and other supplies for free. You can also buy other sorts of gourd crafts.

There is a small, toddler sized corn maze. It was a bad year for corn (way too dry) so it doesn't look great, but they still managed to get a maze out of it. Our boys had fun through here as there were little Halloween decorations planted in hidden spots for them to discover. As mommies, we loved that they could roam yet be contained (can I build one of these in my backyard?).

Hayrides are available. Right now they say that they are only on the weekends, but this family seems so flexible that I bet you could cajole them into taking you if they have enough hands on deck. Hayrides cost $4 per person.

Face painting is also available at "$2 per cheek"(I love that phrase!).

Lots of picnic benches here if you want to pack a lunch. They do sell some concessions, but mostly candy. Restroom facilities are port-a-johns, which means no changing table, but they are the Ultimate Port-a-Johns in that they actually flush! You have to see it to believe it.

Green Level Gourd Farm is a great little stop for your kids any time of year, but we loved the homey feel of their fall festivities. Extended hours in October, limited hours the rest of the year. Since this is a rather small farm, I can't say how crowded it might get on the weekends, but given the reasonable price point, I would say it is still worth a stop.

Happy Gourding!

Green Level Gourd Farm
www.greenlevelgourdfarm.com

In October: Wednesdays through Sundays 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

In April to September: Thursdays and Fridays 10:00 am - 1:00 pm (may also include a puppet show or storytime)
3800 Green Level Road West
Apex
919-387-7352

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fighting Childhood Obesity: A Month for Awareness, A Fight for a Lifetime

October is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As a group fitness instructor and a bit of a gym rat, I am constantly aware of and fighting the global obesity epidemic. And we all know that healthy kids equals a healthy future (was any else very alarmed by yet also not surprised by Wall-E's plot?).

Some alarming statistics:
Nearly 20 percent (19.6) of the nation's kids ages 6-11 were considered obese in 2008 (up from 6.5 percent in 1980), while 18.1 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds were obese in 2008, up from just 5 percent in 1980. In our own state more than a third of our kids are either obese or overweight. And these statistics don't account for the fact that many parents under-report their child's weight, which skews the statistics to the low-end of the spectrum.

Now that we've scared you, let's talk brass-tacks. Afterall, this is the First Lady's cause. There have to be resources out there.

I recently learned of the iPhone applications from Michelle Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity (yeah, there's an app for that). To see them all, click here. These applications are diverse. Some of them help you plan healthy meals and snacks, and some of them are games to teach your kids healthy lifestyles through fun. Your kids probably already love your iPhone. Give them "healthy games" to play!

If you need help getting going, there really aren't any excuses. Two of my favorite ideas help you get on bikes -- The Durham Bike Co-Op and the Recyclery. These two places serve a mission to get families moving and I love it! Biking is a great family activity (especially with the American Tobacco Trail in our backyard).

There is also a blog based here in the Triangle that I have been enjoying, GetGoingNC. While not geared towards families, and with a lot of information on adventure sports that I couldn't imagine taking C on, I still feel inspired when I read this blog. And I also appreciate the posts on kids he does provide (this is the source of our TACO re-post).

Let's talk other general online resources we like that will help and encourage you and your kids to get active. We have already mentioned the websites Kaboom and Goby. But the place to stop to learn about and fight Childhood Obesity is http://www.letsmove.gov/. I like the Action Plans page, where you can navigate to the section and the action items that fit you.

We at MiCHill also appreciate and understand the need to feed kids healthy, too. But we'll focus on that later in the month. Right now, we're encouraging you to use this fall weather and get your kids active!

Our own humble blog also tries to help you with ideas to get out and about. We continue to cover playgrounds and also indoor playgyms. There are fitness classes for you, too, so parents, let's make sure we don't use the fact that we have children as an excuse to neglect our own health. Let's all lead by example. Use this month, the fall weather that really rejuvenates us all, and get out and moving with that family of yours!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

HYHA Family Yoga

I miss yoga. Something about having 15 minutes of laying there quietly in the dark with soothing music sounds sooooo good right about now. But if you are anything like me, getting out to work out is tough to do with a child. Enter Hillsborough Yoga & Healing Arts (HYHA).

I mentioned Paula Huffman blog-eons ago in the post about Yoga in the area. HYHA is her place, and she continues to cater to parents and families. (They even have a whole page dedicated to babies & families on their website that includes breastfeeding circles, prenatal yoga, child birthing classes, and more.) I missed out on newborn yoga, unfortunately. But since I have some friends who take it and love it, I was excited to try out the new Family Yoga. The Tuesday 1:30 time slot works so well for our schedule.

Well, the slot might be good but the class wasn't a good fit for me and C. The recommended ages for this are 2 - 5, but they are pretty flexible on that. Although I would actually strongly suggest your child be on the higher end of the age spectrum. The instructor was fantastic, and fun, but this is about teaching your child to do yoga. Which means that they have to be able to understand things, control their bodies, and, oh, SIT STILL. C was more obsessed with the beautiful iPod docking system that was sitting on the floor than anything else. So lest he should destroy a very expensive piece of machinery, and to help the others in the class find their zen, we left early.

This is a really great service and a really fantastic class, though. Just make sure your child is ready to learn movement. They must be able to stay on a mat and follow directions. Every child is going to be ready for this at different ages (and I am wondering if C will ever be ready....hmmm....).

In the meantime, I am considering trying a Mom & Tots class (which they said is more like controlled chaos, and that sounds like us), but really think that I should just take advantage of the fact that they have childcare (yes, a yoga studio with childcare!), and go savasna on my own.

I love HYHA (and it isn't far from Chapel Hill, I-85, or Carrboro) and can't wait to try out their other offerings. It is a beautiful space with such a diverse schedule.

Hillsborough Yoga & Healing Arts
http://www.hillsboroughyoga.com/
1812 Becketts Ridge Drive
Hillsborough
919-732-3051

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Lollipop Shop

A note from Sarah C. (and this girl does have a sweet tooth, so I trust her judgment on these things!):

While at North Hills not too long ago for Open Play, D and I wandered around a bit and a very colorful sign caught my eye - The Lollipop Shop. My friends will tell you that I have a huge sweet tooth so, naturally, I had to peek inside. It did not disappoint - the store is full of delicious treats! Kids of all ages will enjoy a visit for a bit of sweetness, but there is more. The store also carries a small selection of toys including classic pedal cars (love those!) and teddy bears you can stuff. The latter can even be stuffed with candy. How fun is that?


Looking for a place to hold your child's birthday party? The Lollipop Shop has a party room in the back. And they host a weekly storytime on Wednesday mornings at 10:15. If you're in the North Hills area, drop in for a visit.

The Lollipop Shop
http://www.thelollipopshop.net
North Hills

4120 Main at North Hills Street

Raleigh
(919) 782-7788

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Southern Village Playground: Hillspring Street

I love this weather. It is perfect for getting out and getting going!

MiCHill has mentioned Southern Village a few times. This little place has all sorts of playgrounds and parks tucked away. The other day C and I found one on the corner of Hillspring and Highgrove.

It is on the smaller side, but had plenty of shade (nice!), bucket swings, and standard swings. There are picnic benches for the adults. Ground cover is mulch. And because this is a relatively unknown community park, we had the whole thing to ourselves.

This is not too far from Southern Village's main area. So if you decide you want to stroll you can take the community paths to get gelato.

Enjoy it!

Southern Village Hillspring Street Playground
Corner of Hillspring and Highgrove Streets
Chapel Hill

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stay at Home Rock Star Tee Giveaway

Few things:
1- This picture of me cracks me up! Am I posing or what? But I had to show you how proud I was to wear this shirt.

2- We are so excited to bring you this t-shirt. Cary is the designer and a local powermom who has worked her magic around the Triangle. Not only does she have good taste, but she is smart and in-touch. Ever visited www.SocialButterfliesNC.com? That's her brainchild as well.

3- This tshirt is so comfortable. As a Stay at Home Mom, I love me some tshirts. But I also like to look a little bit like I thought about and care about what I wear. This tshirt fits nicely, is incredibly comfortable (and is the right length in the torso if you worry about that sort of thing as you sit on the floor to play with your child), and makes a statement. I have had so many compliments on this shirt already.

4- All moms stay at home. Even if you work fulltime, aren't you at home at nights and on the weekends? If so, you are a rockstar in my book! So sign up to get you one of these.

5- Dads, you are more than welcome to wear these. It is just about being a stay at home rockstar, I don't see anything about gender on here!

Here is how the giveaway works:

1- Post here or on our Facebook page about your favorite website for parents (and mominchapelhill is not a legitimate response here, team).

2- Extra entries if you like Mom in Chapel Hill on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google Friend Connect (1 extra entry for each social networking medium).

3- Extra entry if you like Stay at Home Rockstar on Facebook.

We will pick 1 winner from Random.org. Contest ends Friday, October 9th at noon. Winner announced Friday evening.

So give us your recommended websites, and good luck!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Duke Homestead & Tobacco Museum

In one of the breaks in the rain, and after the fun I had at Burwell School Historic Site, Sarah C. and I took the boys to the Duke Homestead. We had driven by the signs for it so many times, we finally decided to stop.

So I am just throwing this thought out there: we had a great time at this site, but it also felt a little odd taking my child to a place that glorifies tobacco products. I appreciate and totally understand that tobacco farming is a huge part of our history here in NC, and the Duke Family made their fortunes through it. Still a little weird though to walk your child through a museum showing all the different kinds of tobacco products (seriously) and a display of over 30 spittoons.

But I quickly got over my momentary "am I a good parent?" guilt as our boys had a really good time here and it was a great outing for us.

The museum is older, but has a lot. There are all sorts of exhibits showing life both on a tobacco farm and during a bygone era. A huge reason we went was that I had read online about the large, mechanical talking farmer. This thing is huge, and talks with jerky movements about farming. I was wondering if the boys would be scared by it, but they were totally fine.

One thing about the museum: the exhibits are cordoned off only by a bar, no rails. Which means the little ones would pop right under the bar into the exhibits. A Runaway Babies Case strikes again.

Outside is the old homestead grounds and tobacco farms. There is even a field of living, growing tobacco to see. The house (built in 1852) has actually been moved from its original location. I have read that it is open to the public, but we honestly didn't try to go in. Roaming toddlers and pieces of antiquity don't seem to mesh well.

The boys did greatly enjoy wandering around the huge homestead grounds. Runaway Babies was fantastic. They looked at old farm equipment, found joy in being outside, and it was great for a parent as you have a long line of sight.

As tobacco still is the number one export of North Carolina, the Duke Homestead offers events throughout the year (not too often, though, so stay tuned) not only demonstrating farming techniques in a hands-on way for kids, but also celebrating many old customs and lifestyles. Check out their website for events. MiCHill hasn't personally been to any events, but we hear great things about them. The candlelight Christmas event sounds great to me with caroling and hot cider!

Guided tours are offered every 15 minutes after the hour for those families with older kids. Otherwise, you are provided a pamphlet detailing each building's history and purpose.

Everything is free. There are picnic benches, too, so pack a lunch.

Srollers will certainly work in the museum. Paths around the homestead are gravel, so jogging strollers would be best.

Honestly, this is a really pretty piece of land, with national historic sites, all about a family that has meant so much to and truly enriched our area. Check it out someday.

Duke Homestead & Tobacco Museum
http://www.nchistoricsites.org/duke/duke.htm
2828 Duke Homestead Road
Durham
919-477-5498