Monday, February 28, 2011

World's Largest Gummy Bears

From Sarah C.:

One of the things I love about the Triangle? The unique little tidbits like being home to the World's Largest Gummy Bear. Since we both have a rather large sweet tooth, Allison and I felt it was only proper that we seek out this larger than life, colorful bear and see it for ourselves.

We took the boys to Crabtree Valley Mall and stopped by Popalop's Candy Shop next to the food court. The window display housed a little homage to the bear and just inside the shop were plenty of signs stating "Home of the World's Largest Gummi Bears" that assured we were in the right place. There were a few smaller gummy bears on sticks placed along the top of the candy displays. Those looked good and pretty big, but were nothing compared to the real thing. The "World's Largest" were in a display case by the register. To give you a reference point - they are larger than a football! And they looked quite tasty (no, we didn't buy one but we did get some of the smaller gummies they make and those were delicious!).

A few fun facts about the World's Largest Gummy Bears ...
  • They are made in Raleigh at a plant that is about the size of a football field.
  • They weigh about 5 pounds (that's a lot of gummy!).
  • They are best eaten in slices - I see a future birthday idea there.
  • The owners came up with the idea as children watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  • You can buy one for $29.95 plus tax.
The bears also come in smaller sizes from half pound down to the tiny gummy size you are probably more accustomed too. If bears aren't your thing, they have a variety of other gummies from snakes and frogs to brains and tongues all made by GGB of Raleigh.

Popalop's Candy Shop sells the gummies along with a vast selection of other sugary goodness.

GGB of Raleigh, LLC

Popalop's Candy Shop
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where Are We? #4

It's the weekly photo time! Let us know your guess...

Where Are We?

Friday, February 25, 2011

North Cary Park

From Sarah C.:

When searching for new park opportunities, I was excited to stumble across North Cary Park and wondered how did I not know this was there?  I've driven past on Cary Parkway more times than I can count, but hardly ever down Norwell Boulevard which the entrance is off.  Thus, I've been missing out on this wonderful treat!  D and I spent a good bit of time on a recent warm day playing there and it seemed to be a very popular place!

This is a good size park with lots of trees.  The playground is next to the parking lot, but fenced off.  There is a play structure, swings (including bucket ones for the smaller kids), a sandbox, teeter totters and small rocks to climb on as well as two freestanding slides that are built into the hills.  I recommend to not use those particular slides with smaller children though as my fearless son literally flew off the bottom of one causing panic for me and a breakdown for him. Otherwise, we found the playground to be a lot of fun and spent the majority of our visit there.

Restrooms are conveniently located next to the playground and include changing tables.

If you have older children who are climbing your walls (or is that just a toddler phase?), this park has the perfect solution - two 8 foot climbing boulders!  We had fun just walking over to look at them.  The nice rubberized surface and surrounding smaller boulders made for a good climbing area for my own little monkey without getting as far off the ground.  Thankfully, the idea did not come to him that the larger rocks could be climbed too.

I really look forward to returning again soon to enjoy the playground again and explore the trails.  There are several that wind through the woods in the back of the park and connect to the Black Creek Greenway.

Full list of amenities the park offers:
  • 1 Soccer Field
  • 2 Basketball Slabs
  • 4 Sand Volleyball Courts
  • Playground
  • Picnic Shelter
  • Picnic Tables
  • Restrooms
  • Climbing Boulders
  • Trails

North Cary Park  
Town of Cary - North Cary Park  
1100 Norwell Blvd  


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kilwin's Chocolate, Fudge & Ice Cream

Growing up we went to Michigan a lot to visit family. And I remember the fudge there being magical. Well it turns out that same fudge is now in Cary at Kilwin's. The very popular Michigan-based chain has one location open in our area.

Located right down the street from Morrisville Aquatic Center, Sarah C. and I took the boys here for a treat after a morning of swim "practice."

There are various types of delicious fudge, chocolates galore, other candies, and ice cream! It was quite tasty, and a big hit.

The store has a classic, old-timey feel to it with fudge-making facilities in house and up front. They don't have a set fudge-making schedule, but they told us that the best bet to see the fudge being made is to get in on the weekends. If you haven't seen someone make fudge before, it is quite fun! See if you can catch it in action.

Also right next door is Brilliant Sky Toys & Books.

2004 Boulderstone Way


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fleming Clothing

There is a children's clothing designer who has set up shop in our area, and we are delighted to tell you about her.

Fleming Samuels has opened and runs Fleming Clothing out of her place in Knightdale. The entire shop is online, and all of the clothes are handmade. So here's how it works:

You head to the website and pick the article of clothing you want. The selection of articles to start with are not huge, but these are clothes that are made by hand so that makes sense. You will certainly find enough to get something to tickle your fancy. There are the cutest little jumpers and dresses for girls; for boys there are overalls and jackets and collared shirts.

Once you select the piece of clothing you want, and the size, you then get to design it all on your own!

Through the very impressive online system, you get an image of the piece of clothing. Then you pick swatches for each side of the piece and the image changes to show you how it looks.

Here is a snapshot of the process:

There are quite a few fabric options, and each time I went on more were added, so it can be hard to choose!

Fleming Clothing offers exceptional customer service, too. Turns out, I did a bad job picking my own fabrics (it's ok, that's why I did a blog and not an online clothing shop). Fleming herself got in touch with me to go over the choices and make other recommendations she thought I would be happier with.

No, the clothes are not cheap. But with Easter Sunday around the corner or whatever other special occasions you may have on the horizon, this is a great place to get custom, locally-made, one-of-a-kind cute clothes.

Fleming will also come to houses to do shows for groups (and hosts earn discounts).

I can't wait to get the little jacket I ordered for C. I will be sure to share when it arrives!

Fleming Clothing
Facebook Page

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Piney Woods Park - Durham

Maybe I am a softie, but I love being able to throw in a fun little thing for C while we are out running errands. And after our post about Herndon Park in Durham (great because of its location to Southpoint) one of you fantastic blog readers reminded us of Piney Woods Park in Durham, also very close to Southpoint. So when I was at Target again (it's an addiction, I know) we made a quick stop to check it out.

Head down Fayetteville and go right on Woodcroft Parkway. It's right there!

There are 2 different play structures: one for older kids and one for kids 5 & under. Of course, the younger kids were mostly interested in the bigger structure since there were a lot of things to climb, twirl, and play on here.
The ground cover was mulch. This is in a wooded area so some shade is offered, but nothing too consistent. There were some swings, 2 buckets and 2 regular. Which didn't seem like enough for the amount of kids and other play things here. As this is right off of Fayetteville Road and accessible from Woodcroft Parkway it is a popular little place.

Benches and picnic tables around the playground for parents to sit on. Quite a few families brought picnic lunches with them, too. There are dog parks all around if your child loves to watch four-legged friends frolic.

You can not see the playground when you enter Piney Woods Park since it is hidden in the woods, but head to the parking lot and it's there.

Piney Woods isn't huge, but it has the basic needs and was very convenient to Sutton Station and Southpoint Mall.

Full list of amenities:
  • Athletic Field
  • Dog Park
  • Grills (7)
  • Lights
  • Picnic Facilities (35)
  • Play Grounds
  • Shelters(large)
  • Soccer Fields
  • Water Fountains
  • Youth Baseball Field

Piney Woods Park
400 East Woodcroft Parkway


Monday, February 21, 2011

Morrisville Aquatics & Fitness Center

Sarah C. took me with her to this fun (and cheap!) pool in Morrisville. Like Triangle SportsPlex, there is an indoor wading pool, which is a rare find. Here is her write up:

There's an amazing little gem hiding in Morrisville. The Town's Parks & Recs department runs an aquatic and fitness center that anyone is welcome to use. It offers fitness facilities (cardio equipment, weights); an aerobics studio where you can enjoy instructional classes; basketball, tennis & racquetball courts; sauna and year round lap and wading pools.

Allison and I took the boys there recently for a swim. The pools are indoors with the help of a dome during the colder months and outdoors during the warmer months. We weren't quite sure what to expect temperature wise, but were pleasantly surprised. A thermometer in the room showed the air temp at 81 and the water in both pools was very warm and comfortable.

We absolutely loved the wading pool. It was larger than we expected. Each end is 1 foot deep with the center lowering to 2 feet so our boys could easily walk around and play. The entire area is separated from the lap pool with a fence and gate. We lucked out and had the wading pool to ourselves for our visit giving the boys plenty of room to splash to their heart's content.

D kept eyeing (okay even trying to escape to - yay for the fence!) the lap pool so he and I went to explore it a bit. There are 4 lanes and the pool varies in depth from 3 feet to 5 feet. There is a life guard on duty for this pool (note: there is no lifeguard for the wading pool).

There are nice locker room facilities featuring lockers and showers, even if they are not directly attached to the pool. You will have to suit up in the locker room then walk back through the lobby to enter the pool (so bring a nice cover up). Located across the hall is a family locker room. It is a single room with bench, sink, toilet and shower.  The locker rooms had changing tables.

Pay per visit or buy a membership. Children under age 3 are free with a paying adult. Adults and children 13+ are $4 each for residents and $6 each for nonresidents. Seniors and children under 12 are $2 each for residents and $3 each for nonresidents. See website (links below) for details.

Note: the pool is closed twice yearly for set up and removal of the dome. Typically the closings occur in April and October. Check the pool schedule (see contact info below) to ensure it is open when you want to visit. The spring 2011 closing dates are tentatively set for April 4 - 15.

Morrisville Aquatics & Fitness Center | Fees (PDF)
1301 Morrisville Parkway


Sunday, February 20, 2011

NetSports: Lil' Kickers

Let's clear the air. I am totally down with being a "soccer mom." I want to be the mom who brings the orange slices for halftime, drives muddy kids around, and cheers on the sideline. So when I found out about soccer classes that run year-round for kids ages 18 months to 8 years of age, I took C out to give it a try.

We took part in the Bunnies program (18-24 months). I will honestly admit that C isn't going to be making any national tours with US Soccer soon. He finds it way more fun to throw the ball than kick it. But that is what the national program Lil'Kickers is all about: learning what soccer is while having fun.

NetSports is a huge indoor sporting complex off of Davis Drive in Morrisville. Its unassuming outside doesn't hint at how much is indoors. There are indoor soccer games for kids to adult leagues on multiple fields. Simultaneously there are children's soccer clinics and lessons going on on 3 different fields all next to each other (which this would be great if you have 2 kids, different ages, who are both interested in lessons). Then another half of the arena is dedicated to other net sports: volleyball and basketball. In fact, NetSports also offers a program called Lil'Hoopstars in addition to Lil'Kickers if your child just can't get into the kicking (perhaps a future blog post?). NetSports also offers competitive leagues for kids and Track Out programs.

We have tried our fair share of classes lately. And soccer was a great time. Coach Katie was so great with the children and had a gentle way of organizing the chaos. Classes for kids ages 18 months - 35 months are parent/child classes. Which means at least 1 adult is on the field with the child helping them through the drills. We did running drills, red light/green light, kicking practice, stacking cones and kicking them, blowing bubbles and using feet to stomp on them, keeping the parachute up off the ground with our feet, and many more creative exercises to get kids to use their feet and not their hands. So far no dire repercussions at home after all the kicking practice.

The ground was AstroTurf so no need for special shoes or equipment. The field was completely closed off and contained by walls on 2 ends and then large bumpers on the other 2 sides. This kept the kids from running onto adjacent fields. Although it did still allow them to see the adjacent fields where the bigger kids had their lessons, which was mildly but not harmfully distracting. The older kids were doing more classic soccer drills such as dribbling, skipping, heading, and shots on goal.

You have to pay for a session to attend any of the Lil'Kickers programs at NetSports. There is no drop in rate. The next session starts March 8th and runs through mid-May. Classes are $13 a class, 10 classes in a session. There is an annual registration fee of $10 as well. Not too expensive at all, and they do offer make-ups for any missed classes.

There are concessions available for sale at NetSports.

All in all, there is a lot to offer here. And who knows, maybe one day you'll run into me here as I hand you and your kid an orange slice during halftime.

3717 Davis Drive



Friday, February 18, 2011

Lollipop Series at Carrboro Century Center

Carrboro is such a great little town. And the Century Center makes it that much better. The Century Center is the tall building across the street from Tyler's on one side and Weaver Street Market on the other. Inside the Carrboro Parks & Rec Department runs all kinds of programs for all ages. We have reviewed (and recommend) the Toddler and Preschool Playtime here. I have also taken adult classes here and loved them. They were very affordable and high quality.

And once a month, on a Wednesday morning, the Century Center holds a new installment in their Lollipop Series. This past Wednesday was a visit by the NC Museum of Life + Science. They were bringing animals. So Sarah C. and I were there with our boys in a NY Minute.

But, alas, I think we are confused as to the target audience for this. Given that it was 10:30 on a Wednesday morning we thought our toddlers would be a great fit for this, and it seems geared towards younger children. But while the animals were fascinating and the woman presenting was great, the room was lined with rows of seats for the kids to sit in for the whole hour.

Which in and of itself would not be a problem except that: 1. the presenter spent considerable amounts of time walking up and down each row (and there were a lot of kids here) so that each child could touch the animal (cool!), which meant a lot of "down" time for the audience.

And even that would not be a problem except that: 2. one of the Century Center workers was distraught that the children were getting loud and rowdy and kept interrupting to ask that the kids be quiet, even when there wasn't an active presentation as the animals were being walked around the room.

Each installment in the Lollipop Series is a different presentation. So this could have just been the dynamic of the day we went. But asking 2, 3, and even some 4 year olds to sit quietly in a seat without active entertainment in front of them is a little unfair. They try, but it's tough to sit still! A lot of the children were getting rowdy as the audience was predominantly in the 2, 3, and 4 year old range. And it occurs to me that one of the things that works so well about the shows like Kazoom and ArtsCenter SuperFun Shows is that they do not demand or expect the children to be silent and still the entire time. Us parents try to get our children to be respectful, but sitting quietly through an entire show is a learned process, too, and kids need learning opportunities. Ok, so, enough soapboxing....

Back to information you really want.

I want to reiterate that each presentation is different. So depending on the month it could be music, puppets, dancing, or so on.

Given that this is is so affordable ($3 per person, regardless of age) and such a community gem, we really do encourage you to try one out. If you have kids that do well sitting still or kids on the older side (homeschoolers: this is a particularly great resource for you, I believe), then you will be very happy here and have a blast.

And I will go back, but will be a little more wary (maybe even call ahead) as to how the performance is set up. Because the frustrations aside, this particular presentation was good given how close the kids could get to the animals and the presenter was fun.

Plus I want to give C learning opportunities for how to behave in an audience. I think this Lollipop Series could afford that opportunity so we'll give it another go in the future. For example, some gems later this spring are Rags to Riches Theatre and Trish Miller with her guitar.

Lollipop Series
Town of Carrboro, Recreation & Parks Department
select Wednesdays
10:30 - 11:30 am

Carrboro Century Center

100 North Greensboro Street

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Davis Drive Park - Cary

The return of beautiful weather means the return of park explorations by Sarah C.: 

I've driven by Davis Drive Park numerous times, but never actually stopped until recently.  It was one of those unplanned afternoons that took D and me down Davis Drive for a treat at Goodberry's (ie, save us from the darkness of teething).  Realizing we weren't too far, I got our frozen custard to go and we headed to the park to enjoy it and spend some time playing. 

There are two parking lots.  We chose the one at the main entrance which is accessed at the stoplight at Davis Drive and Park Village Drive.  The parking lot here sits between soccer field 1 and the shelter/playground area.

Our first stop, naturally, was the playground.  We found a bench there to enjoy our treat and watch the other children playing.  Of course, it didn't take long before D was running over to explore the play structure even with the temptation of the frozen custard (he did come back for a few more bites).

The structure has two sections - one clearly for the younger age group which he easily climbed and managed the slide on his own.  He tried to climb up a tunnel (not sure it's meant for heading up or a slide to come down) that connects the two sections of the structure.  Honestly, I was glad he wasn't able to make it as his daredevil instinct and my protective mommy don't always agree - this kept him from getting too high off the ground.  There were swings (regular and bucket) and the mecca of all to him - a metal train climbing structure in a sand box.  This is where we spent most of our time tossing handfuls of sand into the air.

Then we decided to do a bit of exploring.  We wandered around checking out the basketball court and walking the loop around the soccer fields past the second parking lot.  It had excitement enough for a toddler in that he could watch older kids kicking a ball on one of the fields while we walked.  But then the best thing happened.  A train came past.  There are tracks just a few feet from the path on the back side of the park so we stopped and just watched.  I don't think D moved - just stared and pointed.  I can't guarantee one every visit, but it certainly is unexpected fun if your visit times right.

The soccer fields are available for use when not scheduled for activities.  Be aware that there are soccer games many weekends as these fields are used by the Capital Area Soccer League which can mean full parking lots so plan accordingly.  There is only one basketball court.  The shelter by the main entrance has a covered area with picnic tables as well as restrooms (no changing tables) and a water fountain.  For those who really want to stretch their legs a bit more, there is an access to White Oak Creek Greenway directly across Davis Drive.

Davis Drive Park
Town of Cary - Davis Drive Park
1610 Davis Drive


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Madagascar Live! Tickets Winner

And the winner of our super fantastic giveaway for a pack of 4 tickets to see Madagascar Live! at DPAC is....selected by first entry of the giveaway: Rebekah!

Rebekah said she loves the NC Zoo (so do we!).

If Rebekah could email us at to claim the tickets, we would appreciate it.

Some of our favorite entries:
Katherine who said that her family enjoys bird watching in their backyard (fantastic idea!) and Jodi who likes to Move It Move It.

Congratulations and thank you to all 22 entries for the support.

Pittsboro Kiwanis Playground

I found it: the perfect playground for kids 5 & under. And it's in Pittsboro.

This playground was renovated in 2009 and has everything. There are huge sails to create great shade. It is entirely fenced in. The ground cover is a spongy material, which dries fast, keeps things clean, and it doesn't seem to get too hot. But this playground is really great because of the surprises it offers. In addition to the tot-sized play gym that is completely safe for young ones, there are other things here to delight. There are musical instruments to play; a toy house; swings, including bucket swings; and a couple of ride on toys, 2 of which are carved out of wood.

Something completely unexpected is the space for the really little ones. Yes, there is a spot for crawlers or new walkers. It is fenced in (separately from the rest of the playground). It also has soft synthetic ground cover. It is completely covered in a shade sail, and has instruments and tactile toys close to the ground.

And whoever designed this playground was very creative. There is a lot of nature to this park, and it is beautiful. The sandboxes (2 of them) are large, sandy areas integrated into the landscape. There are huge tree stumps artfully arranged to create a different kind of jungle gym. There is even a boulder garden for climbing on. Apparently this work was done in the renovations by local tradesmen.

Again, this is mostly geared towards kids 5 and under. But it is the perfect park for kids that age. It has even gained national recognition for its design.

This is close to General Store Cafe, Chatham Marketplace, and Pittsboro Toys. So you can make a great spring day outing to Pittsboro and this little park.

Pittsboro Kiwanis Playground
309 Credle Street

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

General Store Cafe

**Update 1/27/12 the General Store Cafe has closed.**

Sarah C. got her family dining out this past weekend, and I did, too! But this set of Whos went to Pittsboro and had a fantastic time at the General Store Cafe.

DH and I had been here before on dates (it pairs quite nicely with a stop at the Pittsboro Lowe's should you be shopping for sinks for your house renovations). But this past weekend we gave brunch a go with C in tow. C is a notoriously bad diner-out-er. He hates to sit still. So when we can enjoy a meal at a restaurant as a family you can know it has been put through some serious tests. And this place passed!

General Store Cafe is huge. It occupies what used to be a car dealership, so the space is completely unique and large! In the front is a small cafe area under large windows and floursecent lights that radiate out from a central point on the ceiling. Behind that is a take-out counter. Then behind that the space opens up into a back bar, a music stage, a dance floor, and more and more seating. This is where we dined as there was live music for Sunday brunch. (Note that the music schedule is posted online, see below, and if you want to ensure you see live acts when you go, check beforehand. Music on Sunday mornings is not a given, but does happen when acts are available.)

The music was easy-going and light, which complimented our meals. There were a lot of other families dining here which meant lots of kids. There was also a dance floor and lots of space so C could wander and dance and no one minded. And some of our very smart blog-cadets might notice that those are Paperhand Puppets hanging in the back corner of the stage.

General Store Cafe has fantastic food. It prides itself on local and farm fresh food. And it is absolutely tasty and delicious. I mean, their burritos still don't have us addicted as much as Carrburito's, but you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu here. I had huevos rancheros and it was perfect. There is a kids menu and the fresh seasonal fruit is actually fresh (no peaches in juice here).

Inside the decor is eclectic and jam packed with candy for the eye. The General Store Cafe stocks art by local artists, most of it for sale, and the wares are packed in every nook and cranny. It is beautiful. It also gives kids a lot to look at.

We love The General Store Cafe, especially during live music. This place is truly unique.

The General Store Cafe
39 West Street

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where Are We? #3

It's time for another "Where Are We?" shot! Can you guess!? Remember, these pictures are from places we have been to within the past couple of weeks and reviewed for our blog. So:

Where Are We?


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bear Rock Cafe - Morrisville

** Update October 2012: Bear Rock Cafe in Morrisville has closed. **

From Sarah C. We miss Bear Rock in UMall, but luckily you still have the opportunity to hit this family-friendly restaurant (where kids sometimes dine free!) elsewhere in the Triangle. Check it out:

As the mom of a toddler, I confess, I prefer quick eat options when we dine out. D isn't going to handle a wait or sitting still for very long. He's also in that picky selective eating stage. For whatever reason, my kid will not eat chicken nuggets so we need other choices.

A restaurant I loved even pre-parenthood is Bear Rock Cafe in Morrisville. All food is made-to-order. You order & pay at the counter, find a seat and then wait for your name to be called. Our most recent visit was on a Saturday night. There were a few diners and one couple ahead of us ordering. The only slow factor in our food arriving was the fact DH ordered a burger (which I might add he said was delicious). D was quite content waiting as there is plenty to see from the decor to a fire going in the fireplace. Oh, yes, and there is one tv which we chose to sit near, but you could easily position your family so it is out of view.

Their kid's meals have always been a success for us - D digs right in. Honestly, I think the kids get it good. Those meals are packed! He had a big helping of mac 'n cheese, bag of chips, bowl of fresh fruit, child size cookie and a drink. We brought the chips and leftover mac 'n cheese home for later. The best part of all of this food (besides him eating so well), the price - free. That's right, on Saturday & Sunday, kid's eat free (limit 2). On weekdays after 4pm, kid's meals are just 99 cents each.

Other good things to know - there are fun nights such as live music and kid's night. Check their Facebook page (see link below) for announcements. The bathrooms have changing tables. And they offer free WiFi for all those as addicted to their smart phones as I am. ;)

Bear Rock Cafe | Bear Rock Morrisville on FB
Park Place Shopping Center
9575 Chapel Hill Rd

(919) 462-1587


Friday, February 11, 2011

PB&J Fun Factory

Update 2/2011: PB&J Fun Factory has announced that they will be closing end of March 2011. Right after we discovered it, too, darn! They are, however, running a huge sale on remaining merchandise so still worth going.

Free is nice. Indoor is nice, too, these days. When the two combine? You have PB&J Fun Factory, located off of Fayetteville Road in Raleigh.

This is a great little place to spend some time, and our kids certainly enjoyed it. PB&J Fun Factory is predominantly a toy store. But this is unlike other toy stores since they put out a lot of toys for kids to test and try out before making any commitments. Every corner wields something different. There are train tables; play kitchens; cars; motorcycles; puzzles; books; musical toys; push toys; and who knows what else that we just didn't discover, all out for the playing.

The owner of the store also does special events that are very creative. You should check out their calendar at their Facebook page (see link below). While we were there it was craft time. The kids made a simple magnetic Valentine's Day picture frame, all they had to do was stick a bunch of foam hearts to it. It was a hit and looks cute.

PB&J used to have an entire back room with Step 2 play sets. That area has been closed, however, and all the swing sets and outdoor gear are now in their natural habitat: outside. Which means that if you want to play with those, you have to wait until a warmer day.

PB&J split the building in half and while one half is the toy store we spent considerable time in, the other half is an area dedicated to selling adult toys. Ok, that came out wrong. Nothing seedy or sultry here. Think Brunswick pool tables, pinball machines, arcade games, Hollywood paraphernalia, and so on. They do have 1 or 2 of these massive arcade games available for free play, and our boys enjoyed testing those out.

Like I said, free is the name of the game here. No entry fee at all. Odds are, though, that you are going to be so impressed by the inventory and the selection that you end up taking something you bought home with you!

PB&J Fun Factory
Facebook Page
Game Showroom:
5901 Fayetteville Rd

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Giveaway: Tickets to Madagascar Live!

We're excited about our latest giveaway: tickets to see Madagascar Live! at the Durham Performing Arts Center. That's right, you can win a pack of 4 tickets to take your family to see this fun new show on Saturday, February 19th at 5 pm.

Madagascar Live! stars the cast of popular characters from the beloved 'Madagascar' film series, including Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo and members of the madcap Madagascar crew, King Julien and the crafty Penguins (you even get to see the hit song "Move It Move It" performed!).

How to enter? Just leave a comment telling us your favorite place to see animals in NC (that's right, we're using you all for good ideas once again).

The winner will be chosen at random from all entries and posted here on the morning of Wednesday, Feb 16 so get your entries in by Tuesday night.

Good luck!

Wine and Design

Update 3/2012:  Wine & Design has been so successful they have opened a second location in Carrboro, known as Wine & Design Chapel Hill.  See address below.
Update 1/2012: Wine & Design moved a few doors down into 219 Bickett Blvd (information reflected in address below).
I am no Picasso, I know, but boy do I love trying. Luckily, Wine and Design in Raleigh gives you the tools and creates the space for you to get your art on. And for 2 hours I felt like an artist.

The concept of Wine and Design is great: you pick your class online (picking based on which painting you like- the entire class does the same painting), you pay a fee and join in an art class. For your fee you are given all the supplies and a great teacher who walks you step by step through the creation of the painting.

You are then given the option to bring your own wine and hors d'oeuvres. Wine and Design makes it easy for you as they provide corkscrews, wine chillers, napkins, and plastic cups for your wine. They encourage you to bring some juice to fuel your creativity.

This was a ton of fun for us. Wine and Design focuses on making art accessible and fun. In fact, they only have 3 rules, and they are "there are no mistakes," "don't put your paint brush in your wine" and "have fun." A place like that is going to be great!

The class was packed, and a lot of groups had brought quite impressive spreads of food with them. It was nice that the instructor was so helpful. She came to everyone's canvas multiple times to help, and answered any and all questions. She and her assistant were also very encouraging, making us feel like we were totally rocking out our tree leaves.

Everyone left with a completed painting. I was amazed at how different the variations were on the same image (check out their Facebook page and the end-of-class group shots to see what I mean).

I was going to tag this "For Mom" as this makes a fantastic Girls' Night Out, but they also offer classes and parties for kids. The focus at these is not so much the wine, of course. And you can have a kids' birthday party here. We saw some of the art from those parties displayed and it was great.

Also, Wine and Design does a couples night, and the themes here run the gambit. The one I found funny was the one where you sit across from each other and paint each other Picasso-style. Ha, I can totally see that fueling some arguments ('you think my eyes are that uneven?').

One very sweet thing you can sign up to do is portraiture. You send in ahead of time a picture of your child or other loved one and then you paint that.

Overall, Sarah C. and I had a blast. This made for such a great night out, and we highly recommend it. And we're proud of our final pieces:

Wine and Design
219 Bickett Blvd

200 North Greensboro Street

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Home Activities

Ok, the weather is getting chiiiiilly again. And while we love bringing you ideas of things you can do to get out; what about things you can do inside your house, hunkered down, without having to put on 5 layers of clothing to leave?

My mommies group and I have, over the years, been compiling our go-to list of places to get at-home activities and crafts for kids. And while this isn't a "local" post, we thought you might find it useful. (Bear in mind that our kids are still on the younger end of the spectrum, so if you have anything for older ones you want to share, please pass along.)

Get Artsy-
First Art: Art for Toddlers and Twos.
by Mary Ann Kohl.
This book is great! With various ways to get your kids involved in art activities of all sorts, it is easy to follow. You may have to do some stocking up of your craft wares in order to take advantage of these, but there are all sorts of ideas.

Mary Ann Kohl has 13 award-winning books encouraging kids to get artsy and providing parents tools to help them. If you have kids older than tots or twos, check out some of her others like Scribble Art or even Science Arts (which pairs science and art together).

The Artful Parent.
This woman is so creative it constantly amazes me. She offers art ideas and projects for kids from tot to elementary school. She kind of drives me nuts since her toddler art groups always look so sanguine and successful, while we usually have total chaos, but there are some great ideas here.


The Busy Book series
by Trish Kuffner.
The Toddler's Busy Book I have this one out on our end table in the living room. A fabulous reference with 365 activities that range in style and level. We can always find something around the house to integrate into one of these genius time-wasting moments.

Here are her other books:
The Wiggle & Giggle Busy Book 365 activities for preschoolers and toddlers
The Arts & Crafts Busy Book 365 art activities for preschoolers and toddlers
The Preschooler's Busy Book 365 activities for 3-6 year olds

My Delicious Ambiguity.
There is so much information on here it is almost overwhelming. But the good news is that there is so much information on here! With free printables, "busy bag" ideas, and a compilation of great crafts from around the Internet, this site is bursting with activities for your kids.

Disney's Family Fun.
Both the magazine and the website ( have great articles on how to keep kids occupied. These actually skew more towards the older kids. I like the magazine a little better just as an ease-of-reference point, but the website has a lot of information. Be wary: this is a Disney product and they are no fools so will try to market you towards Disney products and videos (not that I don't love those).

Whatever place you find or resource you use, remember that while we love for you to get out and explore the Triangle, home can be fun, too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Herndon Park - Durham

Wasn't this weekend nice!? Did you get outside? I find now that when it hits in the low 50s we still head outside to play -- C and I need it. This led us to discover Herndon Park in Durham. Herndon Park isn't the biggest, but what I love about it is its location. It is 3.5 miles from Southpoint straight down Fayetteville Road. This means that we can get some outside play time in for C while we do our errands! It's great.

There are 2 play structures: 1 for older kids and 1 for younger. Both are new and in great shape.
The ground cover is mulch. Not a lot of natural shade over the play structures, but they do have roofs built in.

Herndon Park also has a lot of youth baseball fields (which can be closed for play if the conditions are wet) and soccer fields. In fact, this looks as though it is quite popular with league play as there is a concessions shelter (not open unless there is a special event). And even though we didn't get on the fields, C had a great time playing with the baseball statues out front.

It was nice that he was able to burn off some energy before we went (back) to Target.

Park amenities:
  • grills
  • picnic shelters (one right near the playground)
  • playground
  • soccer fields
  • baseball fields
CM Herndon Park
511 Scott King Road


Monday, February 7, 2011

The Big Fun Guide to Tar Heel Country Giveaway: Winner

It is time to announce the winner of our giveaway, a free copy of the essential book "The Big Fun Guide to Tar Heel Country." You all submitted such great comments of things you love to do with your families in the area. It reminded us how great the Triangle is for families (and also yielded some more blogpost ideas-- score!).

Our winner, selected by, is Margot Johnson.

If Margot could email us at we'll get you your winnings.

Congrats and thanks for the support you all.

Mardi Gras Bowling

On a wet, rainy day, my friend and I were trying to think outside the box as to how to entertain the kids. We knew Kidzu would be packed (oh when oh when do they move into the larger space?), and didn't feel like hitting the road out to the indoor playgyms. So we decided to take them bowling!

If you want to family bowl, Mardi Gras Bowling is your place. This is a locally owned place on the corner of 54 and 40. (By the way, if this location isn't convenient, the same folks own Village Lanes on North Hardee Street in Durham).

It is very clean here, and there is a lot of entertainment for the whole family. (This assumes that mom & dad are okay bowling without a pitcher of beer, this is a dry establishment. Turns out I am actually better at bowling with beer. Hm.)

For toddlers, they have bumpers on the lanes and ramps to support the balls. So the kids, with help, place the balls on the ramps, push them down, and watch them go. For older kids, you can have birthday parties that include glow in the dark bowling with music videos of stars like Justin Bieber playing (sorry parents if you are looking to get a Bieber break). You can also do laser/disco light bowling every Wednesday night for Family Fun night. On weekends and weeknights Mardi Gras has a live DJ.

My little guy had a some sensory overload when we first arrived: lights, music, noise, a lot of kids. But he calmed down eventually and managed to bowl a fairly decent game. Go C!

There is a very nice arcade area here that is popular with kids. Quarters required to play, you get tickets to cash in for toys at the end.

There is a cafe with standard concessions such as pizza, popcorn, candy, soda, nachos, fries, etc.

Weekdays are $1 cheaper to play than weekends. Weekdays until 5pm are $3.99 per game for adults and $3.69 for kids. Weeknights and weekends it is $4.99 per game regardless of age. Shoes are always $3.79 to rent (the smallest size they have is kids 7) and we were all required to rent shoes. Always check online (see below) before you go as they are frequently offering coupons.

By the by, we opted not to do concessions at Mardi Gras Bowl but stopped by Lickity Split on the way home. Highly recommend that!

Mardi Gras Bowling Center
6118 Farrington Road
Chapel Hill

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tomato Jake's Pizzeria

We are pretty picky about what restaurants we include here on MiCHill. But even though Tomato Jake's doesn't include a specific kid's spot or area, many of you have mentioned how great it is for kid-dining. And Stacey "S'Rich" and I tested it out. We're happy to say we had a great time here.

Tomato Jake's is a pizzeria. We caught a lunch special very similar to Pop's: a very large slice of pizza, a fountain drink, and a salad for $8. It's a walk-up counter sort of place. They do, of course, have a kids menu, booster seats, and high chairs. Changing table in the restroom.

Tomato Jake's has such a laidback, fun atmosphere that our boys really enjoyed it. There was even a little stage for them to test their performance skills. The particular day we went for lunch it wasn't crowded so our boys got to explore the restaurant. And the staff was very friendly and relaxed about it. Obviously, not so sure how that would have worked had it been a crowded day!

There are a lot of tvs on the walls here, so be wary if you are anti-dining-with-tv-on (is there a better phrase for that?). But Tomato Jake's hosts sport-watching events and has a nice bar area, so it comes with the territory. That said, this place does not scream "sports bar." It does scream casual, laidback dining that kids enjoy.

Monday nights are Kid's nights: cheap pizza slices for kids, balloon animals and other occasional entertainment.

Wednesday nights, starting at 8 pm, is Trivia Night. I have read that it can get quite crowded. Not sure how that would shake out for family dining (it could be great fun or irritatingly crowded) but I give you the heads up!

Tomato Jake's delivers within a certain radius of their store (and includes Woodcroft Parkway).

Let me say that no, the pizza isn't the best slice you can get in the Triangle. But given the location and how family-friendly it is, I feel it is worth checking out on your next Target stop, at least!

Tomato Jake's Pizzeria
8202 Renaissance Parkway

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Miel Bon Bons

It would be wrong of us to mention so many great chocolate shops in the area (Stam, Chocolate Door, Matthew's) without bringing to your attention Miel Bon Bons in Carr Mill Mall.

This shop makes the most gorgeous cakes. They have won awards for their style and taste. And, in my opinion, this is how Miel Bon Bons has made their mark (afterall, they do call themselves a Patisserie and brand themselves as "Bakery & Cafe" foremost). They, of course, have gourmet chocolates that are quite delicious, and their location is fantastic. But not much here for kiddos outside of beverages, and their chocolate selection isn't nearly as diverse as some of the other places we've scoured for you.

That said, I love the atmosphere of the place; it is the epitome of decadence with jeweled light fixtures and velvet. There are nice bistro tables outside their storefront in the mall, the eye candy is fantastic, and the chocolates that you do get are scrumptious.

My suggestion? Get the kids some Rita's down the hall and while they chow on that, treat yourself to the delights of Miel Bon Bons. If you feel really guilty about getting something so rewarding for yourself and not including the kids in it, you can pick them up a consolation toy at Ali Cat. But, really, we don't think you need to feel guilty AT ALL.

Miel Bon Bons
Carr Mill Mall
200 N Greensboro Road

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NC Craft Gallery

I love shopping for kids stuff. It is all so cute, and also brings back so many memories of my childhood (which was good!). So when I find a local store that sells beautiful toys, blankets, and clothes made by NC artisans, I am a happy camper.

NC Craft Gallery is located in downtown Carrboro. They have a rotating exhibit section of the gallery that features the works of NC artist. But beyond that, they also have handcrafted toys to sell. The wares differ depending on what they are able to stock, but I have bought a beautiful blanket here, clothing for a little girl, and C received a treasured wood train as a gift from the NC Craft Gallery.

Items here range anywhere from twenty dollars to hundreds of dollars. There is something for every style and budget.

Of course, you might not want to shop here with your child if they are like a bull in a china shop...there are some very unique, breakable things in this store.

But don't overlook this little gem when you are out shopping! You might be surprised.

NC Craft Gallery
212 W. Main Street