Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cary's Spring Daze

I achieved the nearly impossible: I got lost at Bond Park during a festival. Ok, though, to my credit I wasn't the only one. I heard a LOT of other families talking about where they parked, scratching their heads, and looking at a map. You see, the Cary Spring Daze festival is that big.

Primarily an arts & crafts festival, there are a slew of artists' booths here. The number is just shy of 200 indvidual artists in all kinds of media and formats including jewelry, clothing, furniture, wood turning, photography and more. Luckily you can find what you might want as the program breaks everything down in an index by type of art and tells you where you to find them (unfortunately no "You Are Here" feature on that). And, of course, there are non-artist tents too for things such as cultural arts, health & fitness, and even a spa tub company.

Carolina Parent provided a very fun Lazy Daze Children's Village. Using the existing playground (which you can read all about in our blog post), they created a place for kids to be. Surrounding the playground were arts & crafts tents for kids to get hands on as well as get some giveaways. The bee antennae giveaways, the Chick-fil-A tent which had some coloring, and the Triangle Mommies tent which had some great art projects as well as a lotto for a very neat ride-on truck.

There are 4 main entertainment stages, including a Storyteller Pavilion. When we went there was a standing drum circle (that claimed went all day, which seems incredible given the energy require) and other "roving entertainers" in costumes throughout the event. C liked the silver drummer girl and the balloon animal guy.

And, speaking of things for kids, there were other things for the kids beyond the Children's Village. There was face painting, temporary tattoos, and a Sports Zone that had inflatables and sports challenges (are you beginning to see why I got lost?).

Lots of food options here, too. Z pizza was even represented, yum! But the biggest hit with my entourage was the Carolina Kettle Corn. Not only was it super fun to see made, but it was so delicious.

This is a pretty popular event, so it can feel kind of crowded in areas, and traffic to get in and out of the park can be a bit of a beast (especially on a nice day before lunch). The good news is that there is a lot of space so other areas you feel like no one else is there, and the parking and traffic is very well-led and organized so it moved quickly.

Bring a stroller for your child. Although there is plenty of space to walk and it is completely kid-friendly, the odds are they'll get tired and want a lift since there is a lot of ground to cover.

Entry and parking was completely free. So it's up to you after that to decide how much you want to spend. We only spent $2 on some kettle corn. Not a bad pricetag at all for such a fantastic day.

This is an annual event, but well worth checking out next year! And given that it has been going 18 years strong already, I am sure it has many more years left in it. And by the way, Cary's Lazy Daze Festival is similar and happens in late August.

Cary Spring Daze
annual arts & crafts event April or May in Cary

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oakley Farm: Strawberries!

Strawberries on the mind? Yeah, here, too. Last year we went to Jean's Berry Patch, which is popular and great. But I wanted to branch out a little - dip my paws in a different berry patch. Thus a quick trip to the very convenient (for me) Oakley's Berry Patch.

This is a farm off of Whipporwill Road, off of Old Fearrington, off of... ok just view the map on their website.... in Chapel Hill. Now this is a smaller shop than Jean's. Smaller patch itself, less organized, and definitely less employees milling about helping and overseeing. However, the berries are just as gorgeous. And part of the joy of picking is feeling like you are walking on to someone's yard, and they might be a friend and HEY, they might just might have some extra good-looking strawberries they won't be able to eat, so HEY, why don't you grab some? And that's the vibe of Oakley's.

Of course, you do have to pay, because they aren't really your friend. It is $1.50/lb for you pick, $3/lb if they pick for you. Which if you compare this to last year's post, note that Jean's has gone up in price and the prices are the same for you pick, a little cheaper at Oakley's for getting berries picked for you. But, really, isn't the point to do your own picking? Come on, get dirty.

So one thing I couldn't quite figure out is if the electric fence that borders the entire strawberry patch was on. I didn't test it out, of course, so just use caution.

Bring your own containers to tote your berries home in. They'll give you plastic buckets for the picking time, but you need to bring something to take them home.

Oakley's is open Monday through Friday 8:30 am - 6 pm (unless otherwise noted on their website), Saturdays 7 am - 6 pm, and Sundays 9 am - 6 pm. Yet only while the berries are there.

So get out there and enjoy! I love strawberry time...

Oakley Farm
383 Oakley Farm Road
Chapel Hill

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


On trip to Raleigh a few weeks ago, I decided to swing in to SmartMomma on Glenwood Avenue. The brick, strip mall exterior belies how great and creative this place is inside!

This shop is full of all kinds of things baby and nursing related. I was pleasantly surprised with how much inventory was here: toys, strollers, cribs, changing tables, books, clothes, lotions, nursing bras, and so much more.

Now this is not a Babies R us or Buy Buy Baby. This is a small, locally owned shop. So you might not have the ultimate selection, but you are going to see things not at the bigger shops and you will probably get great service. The owner was working the cash register when I dropped by. Not only was she providing great advice to some parents expecting their first and trying to figure out their registry, she also gave me great advice.

Speaking of registries, SmartMomma offers a registry service that friends and family can shop off of in-store or online. And you can manage your registry online, too. If you choose a registry here, make sure you sign up for the Rewards Program and apply the points! After $500 of in-store or registry purchases (online non-registry purchases don't count), you get a $40 gift card. And, since most of you have kids, you know that $500 can go quick.

SmartMomma is unique as it also offers classes. These are diverse and run from Prenatal Yoga, to Meet the Doulas, to Breastfeeding Basics, to Playgroups for toddlers, to Mom & Baby Yoga, to Baby Sign Language, to Support Groups. All classes happen in a special classroom in the back of the store. Some of these classes are free (hooray!). Yet other classes you pay for a session or they are a drop in fee. It really varies depending on the class.

In addition to these regular classes, which you can find a full schedule online (see below), they also offer special events that are worth checking out.

And, like all great children's stores, there is a play area in front with a train table and other toys. It is close to the front door, but still a great little addition.

I had a really enjoyable experience at SmartMomma and was impressed. I encourage you to consider them as an alternative to some of the big box shops!

8701 Glenwood Ave
(919) 847-0024

Monday, April 25, 2011

Morreene Road Park - Durham

I have fallen into a method of madness lately. When C and I are out doing errands, and he starts to get restless, I plug in my handy GPS and head to the closest park. Really, this method is not recommended. We've hit some major busts. You should definitely use some sort of local blog to help you out (wink wink). But this mad method did cause us to stumble over to Morreene Road Park in Durham last week.

This park was really enjoyable for us! The play gym itself is great for all ages. It is very toddler safe with ramps and tunnels and nice safety bars, yet also full of zip bars and monkey bars for older kids, too. There are all kinds of tactile boards for play for kids of all ages (one board even had a Learning Braille lesson). The piece d'resistance of the playground is the Sway Fun. It is a large thing that looks like a boat, can hold a group of kids, and sways back and forth.
There are swings here, including fancy seat-like swings, a bucket swing, and a traditional swing for older kids.

There is a pavilion with one picnic table under it.

The ground is synthetic cover, and nearly the entire area is fenced in.

A couple of negatives: no natural shade here so the playground could get very, very hot midday. Also, there was so much litter on the playground when we were there. It really was a shame. There were old plastic bottles, lids, discarded CapriSun packs....I am not sure how often this place is cleaned by Durham Parks & Rec. But it is also a good reminder to pick up after ourselves and our kids when we leave playgrounds to leave them nice for the next families.

There are permanent bathroom facilities on site, but these are generally locked and you should not expect them to be available when you visit. A port-a-john is provided near the playground.

A couple of nice benches flank the play area for parents to enjoy. Many of these are even in the shade!

Full list of amenities:
  • Basketball Courts(2)
  • Picnic Tables(2)
  • Playground
  • Recreation Center(Neighborhood Center)
  • Picnic Shelter(SMALL)
  • Tennis Courts(5)
  • Water Fountain
  • Youth Baseball Field

Morreene Road Park
1102 Moreene Road


Friday, April 22, 2011

Harris Teeter Online Shopping

At my mommy's group on Thursday we had a chat about shopping with kids. And given our conversation, it occurs to me that if you don't know about the Harris Teeter Online Shopping option, then I am not being useful to you.

Now you may know from reading our little blog that I was very anti-drive thru. Until I had a child. And he would do stuff like fall asleep in the car, or get sick, or need to go down for a nap, or be screaming, and so on. So I still love the environment. But I also love ease. (see our list of coffee drive thrus)

On that note, I gave the Harris Teeter Online Shopping a trial run recently. And I loved it.

To get started, head to You need to log on, create an account (be sure to link your VIC account to it), and then you can get to clicking. Everything you need is on here, just as it is in your store. And yes, you can even pick your diapers. By clicking drop-down menus or by searching by key word, you get pictures and a lists of things you are looking for. The process looks something like this:
Now, of course, this is online shopping. There can be a lot of options that pop up if you search, so it can be overwhelming. And you can't touch things or see things so picking your produce might worry you. Also, you can make mistakes and won't know it until you get home. And then minor details that you never noticed before (was that 'Jello instant pudding and pie mix' or just 'Jello instant pudding mix') suddenly become important. You can't browse. That can be good or bad. Good if you are prone to buying things that you don't really need (like those super-cute Easter decorations) and bad if you aren't list-oriented and focused.

After you complete your order, you get offered a time slot for pick up. Here's the catch: you must give them about a 4 hour lead time. So don't go expecting to put in your order during nap time at 1 and pick it up when your child wakes up (assuming yours doesn't nap for 4 hours! if so, count your blessings).

You get a call when it is done, and you can go pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised when they called to tell me they finished my order before my window, and I could go early.

You show up, head to the Express Lane, and hit the call button. Then they bring you your groceries. All you have to do is pop your trunk, and hand them your credit card or check. They swipe your credit card right there at your car, and zoom, off you go.

If there are items that you have purchased and they aren't available, Harris Teeter will try to make a reasonable substitution. I was all worried about that (I have control issues), until I realized that the issue was the said Jello I mentioned above. And they called me to confirm before substituting.

Again, since it gets packed in your car and you head out you can't really look it over before you leave. You kind of paid for it the minute you put it in your online shopping cart.

If you are a coupon user, they will take your coupons and apply your savings amount to your next online order (so it works more like a credit).

Your online orders are saved in your account, thus you can repeat items and entire carts if you wish.

This service costs a fee: $4.95 per order or $16.95 unlimited online shopping for the month. I paid to do this once so far and, especially with a sick child, it seems worth it. This service is not available at all Harris Teeter locations, but many do have this option now. You can check online (of course).

Despite my guilt over feeling like I 'gave in,' it made life so lovely for the day, so much easier. And I did turn my car off completely while I waited, got my groceries loaded, and paid. So I'd like to think my environmental footprint was the same as a regular ole grocery store trip. I just didn't have to get out and push a cranky toddler around!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Touch a Truck

How often to we say to our toddlers and kids "no! don't touch that!" or "stay away from that!" Well, thanks to the yearly event at University Mall called Touch a Truck, for one afternoon we can say "go ahead, touch that, go in there!"

By request, we're sharing this information on our blog for you to use for next year's event.

And I have to say, this event is great. In it's third year, it is hosted by a local boy scout troop, supported by University United Methodist Church. Admission stays pretty cheap, and proceeds go to a charity (this year it was the North Carolina Children's Hospital).

But don't let the charity aspect of this persuade you. Let the fact that your child will get to sit in big rigs, firetrucks, bulldozers, army trucks, police cars, and more. The locally popular "Heel Raiser" even made an appearance this year. There were helicopters that, if you timed it right, you could see land and take off.

Beyond the trucks to touch, there was a kids fun zone (as if the whole place wasn't) that had bouncy houses. There was a Jelly Belly truck and, for something totally different but amazing, CLAWS came out with birds of prey to see.

This place can be crowded, as it is so great. There is plenty of space to accommodate folks but it affects lines. See, each truck you want to touch, you have to wait in line. The lines go fast, and they are fairly well regulated. But it can be hard for little minds to be patient when the ambulance is calling their name.

Also, this is LOUD. When the kids get to sit in the trucks, they can also honk the HORNS of the trucks. I saw some kids there a little overwhelmed by the noise.

Yet, especially if the weather is gorgeous, head out to University Mall some time in late April or early May to attend this locally-lauded event.

Touch a Truck
University Mall
annually in April or May

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Helping Tornado Victims

There were many of us who were fortunate to come out of the round of tornadoes (up to 25 across the state) unscathed. But there were some who were severely affected and damaged by this natural disaster. We at MiCHill believe that the Triangle is one big community, and we should help our neighbors. Let's start helping those close to home.

Our friend, Katie, at Discovering the Southern Piece of Heaven blog forwarded us the following information for how you can help. And we are pleased to pass this along and encourage you to do what you can.

Are you looking for a way to help out with tornado relief, but you aren't certain how? While the immediate needs are, of course, food and shelter, can you imagine being a child and not only not understanding why you cannot go home, but not having toys, books and stuffed animals? The youngest tornado victims need our help!!!

A mom living in Durham started an email request for children in need that has grown into an even larger effort. We will be collecting gently used toys, books and other children's items, as well as diapers, sealed containers of formula and other unused baby hygiene items for children impacted by the storm. These will be distributed to shelters and other agencies who will make sure those who are in need receive them.

There are various drop-off points listed below.

Additionally, if you are willing to volunteer to help with this effort, whether to help pick up and sort items, deliver them to the agencies that need them, or act as a neighborhood drop-off location, please contact us at

Please help spread the word!

Current drop-off points:

Chapel Hill:
Strays (formerly known as Ship and Shop)
Southern Village (between Bloom and Weaver Street)
300 Market Street, ste 130
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

4809 Marvin Drive
Durham, NC 27707

Diapering Doula
4109 Grace Park Drive
Morrisville, NC 27506

Brooks Avenue Church of Christ
700 Brooks Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27607-4132

Playdate of Wilson
2801 Ward Blvd # 3T
Wilson, NC 27893-1733
(in the Brentwood shopping center)

Chapman's Chiropractic Center (Dr. Chad Cato)
2231 Nash Street NW
Suite A
Wilson, NC 27896

"Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." --John Wesley

Carolina Rollergirls

"Girl power!!" Funny, that is my overwhelming feeling after watching ladies slam into each other in the name of competitive sports. But Sarah C and I felt proud of those rough-and-tumble women known as the Carolina Rollergirls when we watched them play the other night.

If you aren't familiar with flat track roller derby, well, I am not the one to explain it. Basically, the women work in teams to get one of their teammates (the Jammer) into scoring position. There are a lot of nuances, but that's the general idea.And flat track roller derby is brutal, tough, and fascinating to watch. The girls, dressed in uniforms that afford them a lot of individual personality and with game names like "Deviled Legs" and "Holly Wanna Crackya," bang into each other, throw elbows, roll across the track, and more trying to get their Jammer to score.

Home games are held in the Dorton Arena at NC State Fairgrounds. Games aren't all that often, but when they do happen you should think about this for a unique family adventure. This is a smaller venue, so seating and parking will be easy. You can sit fairly close to the action, too. There are mid-game shows featuring audience participants (such as rolling around the rink laying on your stomach on a skateboard) and tshirts flying out to the crowd frequently.

Of course, this is a sporting event so the idea is to sit and watch the game. Probably not the best bet for toddlers with attention-span issues. But there were a slew of 5-13 year olds at the game we were at who were getting a kick out of it. And it is fun to see a sporting event that isn't so wildly 'produced.'

On that note, the acoustics here are awful. Sarah C. and I had a tough time understanding the announcers. But, turns out, roller derby is such a great time, and the program explains the game so well, that you don't really have to hear.

Concessions food available here. There were quite a few strollers, but it is stadium-style seating.

Entry is cheap (it was $8 per ticket for adults on the night we went), and parking was free.

Raleigh is proud to have the Rollergirls. They are a winning team (they kicked some serious booty the night we went!) and people are noticing them. In fact, these powerful women inspired the men in our town to start their own flat track roller derby team, coming to the Triangle soon!

Carolina Rollergirls
Dorton Arena, NC State Fairgrounds

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hope Valley Baptist Church Playground - Durham

From Laura today. We are getting all over the Triangle nowadays just for you!:

Let’s talk playgrounds! I’m so excited to introduce y’all to one of our favorite spots in Southwest Durham - The Hope Valley Baptist Church Playground. I know what you’re thinking . . . I thought the same thing when my friends and I first discovered this fabulous find back when S was 18 months old . . . there’s a playground back there?! Why, yes, friends! There is. Tucked away in the trees, behind the church, you will find a fantastic playground, open to the public and fun for kids of all ages.

There are two play structures - one for “little” kids (the sign says ages 2-5) and the other for “big” kids (ages 5-12). There are slides of all shapes and sizes, tunnels, climbing ladders and walls on both structures. The “big kid” playground also has a balance beam, climbing mushrooms and (eek!) monkey bars. After two summers of hanging out on the smaller playset, S, at age 3.5, has ventured over to the “big kid” playground and is having a blast . . . and giving her momma a heart attack. ;) Both playsets have their own set of swings, bucket and sling, and the “little kid” playground sits near a covered sandbox. There are a few benches, small picnic tables and a garbage can, making HVBC great for a picnic lunch.

The “little kid” and “big kid” playsets are separated by a chain-link fence within a larger fence surrounding the entire playground, making it easy to keep adventurous 3.5 year olds from running off. I love being able to keep an eye on S, happily climbing and playing on the “big kid” playground, while pushing B on the baby swings. There is plenty of shade, although it can get a bit buggy in the afternoons, and the ground cover is mulch. And, an added perk, the HVBC playground overlooks one of Jordan High’s practice fields. If you are playing around lunchtime, you are treated to a concert from the marching band. Lately, we’ve been able to watch the lacrosse team practice in the afternoons.

But, perhaps, the best part of the HVBC Playground is its proximity to everything. A stone’s throw away from the Hope Valley Commons and Woodcroft Shopping Centers, the HVBC Playground is a perfect bribe pit stop after a morning of errands. Try pairing this excursion with lunch at the nearby City Beverage, Bandido’s or Alfredo’s Villa Pizzeria, dessert at Rita’s and, while you’re at it, pick-up your online grocery order from Harris Teeter!

Hope Valley Baptist Church Playground
6900 Garrett Road
(corner of Hope Valley Road and Garrett Road)


Sunday, April 17, 2011


There is a hidden place at University Mall I would like to share with you.  It is inside a store, called Cameron's.  The store itself is very cute.  A boutique shop, it is full of neat, artsy, unique and stylish baubles for all tastes and ages.  I had so much fun browsing the things for sale here.  Locally made bags and purses, beautiful clothing, and fun items for kids and babies.  The place is worth checking out.

But, the surprise came when I went upstairs (past the Elvis paraphernalia) to check out the cards.  There, inside the area which houses all the stationery, is a door, draped with beads, to a small dark room.  It was kind of scary to enter, I am  not going to lie.  Yet this room is crazy fun!  It is called the Shrine Room. 

It is a shrine to anything and everything.  People come in, share something creative, and leave.  There are bright things, drawings, pictures, lights, colors, and phrases all around.  Very interesting and completely unexpected.  There is certainly a lot to look at here.  Nothing to buy in here, though.

And I love a place with a sense of humor.  As you walk out of the Shrine Room, there is a tiny store display of "do it yourself" shrine kits.

Go for the Shrine Room, stay for the shopping.

University Mall
201 S. Estes Drive
Chapel Hill
(919) 942-5554

Friday, April 15, 2011

WRAL-TV Azalea Gardens

You may have caught the fact that Sarah C. went to NC State. She tends to be in the know about hidden and surprising places in Raleigh. And I was thrilled that she introduced me to the WRAL-TV Azalea Gardens.

Azaleas are in bloom right now, folks! And this place was full out gorgeous, breathtaking, and amazing. I had no idea it was even here. It sits adjacent to the WRAL-TV building in Raleigh, right next to NC State University. It is free to get in to and WRAL-TV encourages the public to enjoy it.

In fact, WRAL opened the Azalea Gardens in 1959 as a service to the community. And the founder, A.J Fletcher, worked hard to get it started, even running warm water from a janitor's closet to the new plants in the face of surprise cold weather that first year.

The garden actually boasts a variety of Southern plants, but, really, azaleas make this place.

We took our boys here for a quick outdoor jaunt. Our toddlers had a blast running along the paths among azaleas larger than them. There were benches to play on in the shade, bird feeders, and a huge water fountain (which neither C nor D tried to get in, surprisingly). There is also a huge lawn that is a great place to picnic.

Parking is easy and free. There are nice, upscale port-a-johns (the kind that are in trailers) for the public to use.

Jogging strollers would work through here.

The gardens are also available for special events, and are a popular spot for weddings.

This isn't a huge place so you might not linger all day as you possibly could at, say, Duke Gardens. But it is still stunning this time of year, with shades of azaleas you never even knew existed peppering the landscape. Go see it for yourself!

WRAL-TV Azalea Gardens
open year-round, dawn to dusk
2619 Western Boulevard

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mamarazzi Photo Class

Sarah C. and I had the good forturne of doing one of the neatest classes recently: the Mamarazzi class.

See, we both bought fancy-pants SLR cameras when our cutie-pies arrived to take better photos of them to share with family and friends. We promptly put the settings on to the auto function and never moved them. Lately, though, we just felt like we could do better. If only someone could navigate us through all the buttons, numbers, f-whatevers, and ISOies on our cameras. Enter Annie Harrison.

Annie Harrison (of Annie Harrison Photography) offers a Mamarazzi class. This is for parents to learn how to shoot better pictures of their kids. You have the option to attend this class either solo or with your child in tow. Given that Sarah and I are both SAHMs, C and D were coming along.

Annie will meet anywhere where play is good and kids will be entertained if you opt for private or semi-private lessons (group lessons are at her house). So Annie and her business partner, Rebecca, met us at American Village Playground. And even though there were already a bunch of toys there, Annie brought some new toys to play with, too, to make doubly sure our boys were occupied.

Both Sarah and I received a very professional book about photography, produced by Annie. This talked us not only through buttons, definitions, and tips and tricks, but it also provided recommendations for composing shots.

We spent one hour sitting and talking cameras and shots. Annie was so friendly and personable. This was a class where we had our kids, so as you can imagine we could only partially pay attention -- we had sons to tend to. But Annie was very understanding (a mom herself) and helped us out and kept talking.

Then we spent another hour taking shots of the boys, with Annie and Rebecca helping us and giving us advice. Again, because Annie is a mom, has a lot of experiencing snapping kids, and possesses a great sense of humor (her tagline for the Mamarazzi class is "Go Ahead, Shoot Your Kids"), Sarah and I got some fabulous shots!

Since they are precious shots of our kiddos, we're not posting here, but we have shared a photo of class and our classroom. You can see how fantastically casual it was. Perfect.

Sarah and I keep raving about how enjoyable this was, and I keep opening the pictures to gaze at them.

This class isn't the cheapest (anywhere from $75 per person to $175 per person depending which option you choose), but it isn't outrageous either. We found Annie through LivingSocial, too, so there may be some deals floating around out there. Plus, think of it as an investment. You are taking beautiful photos to capture these fleeting moments of childhood.

By the way, Annie will also shoot your kids for you, if you simply can't bring yourself to do it. Contact her through her website for session rates and more information.

Mamarazzi Photo Class
Annie Harrison Photography

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

American Village Park - Durham

We're posting about this park primarily because you need to know about it for tomorrow's post. Ooo, intrigue. But, really, could this playground be any cuter?

First, the name screams Americana, white picket fences, and large front porches. Second, this park maintained by the city is tucked away in a community. And then, third, it looks like your entire neighborhood and all of your best friends dropped their toys off here and left them for your kids to play with.
The playground has shovels, dump trucks, cars, motorcycles, small basketball hoops, and so much more. All in addition to the playground equipment. This reminded me a lot of the meant-to-be-private Fearrington Village Playground.

The equipment itself is nice. Fairly new, and meant primarily for toddlers as it is small in height and scale. There are swings, including buckets.

Ground cover is sand (which you all know drives me nuts) but it is worth the nuisance for how toddler friendly this park is.

  • Grills(1)
  • Picnic Tables(6)
  • Playground
  • Picnic Shelter(SMALL)
  • Water Fountain
American Village Park

4703 American Drive


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Henry's Gelato

From Sarah C.:

Hot days always have me thinking of cool, sweet treats. Ok, who am I kidding? I always love a good sweet treat, but this recent warmth has me thinking the colder variety which meant I had (for the blog's sake, of course) to taste test Henry's Gelato.

and I dropped in for a little mommy/son date night. I let him pick the table and his seat which meant he lined himself up square with the flat panel tv on the wall. Seeing as we were out on a weeknight having a treat, we might as well live it up. It was perfect kids' entertainment - the movie An American Tail was playing (any other readers recall that one?).

The two of us split a kid's size gelato which is the smallest of the 3 sizes offered. It was a good sized scoop of gelato topped with a waffle cone triangle. Probably the hardest part was deciding on a flavor. They all looked delicious! I finally settled on Fudge Brownie as I knew it was one we would both enjoy. It was the perfect evening treat and not too hard on my middle as gelato is lower in calories & fat than ice cream. Now that's something I can definitely love.

And here's an extra fun tidbit for those with the four legged kids as well - Henry's Gelato now serves a special dairy-free peanut butter gelato for dogs called K-9 Krunch. No kidding. Your dog does need to enjoy his/her treat outdoors but they have a nice seating area complete with a water bowl.

Henry's Gelato
Preston Walk
1063 Darrington Drive
See website for additional locations.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Sparian's Bowling Boutique

Bowling has just been taken to a whole new level. Sparians in North Hills recently opened, and this bowling "boutique and bistro," as it calls itself, will make you reassess how you view bowling. No more 70s era carpets, frozen pizzas, and Miller Lite (not that there's anything wrong with that!). This place is all about the posh and trendy.

I only snapped one shot of the outside when I was there, since I was too busy inside enjoying myself. But tour around their photo gallery (online). I was impressed with the interior. This place has a full service bar that as a stand alone would be nice. There are actual bartenders waiting to mix for you. The bistro has tasty foods with lots of options.

The bowling lanes are nice and all equipment is state of the art.

All around the place are large tvs and lounge style furniture such as elegant couches and leather chairs.

Outside is a terrace where you can wine and dine (or Sprite and dine). I mean it, folks, this place redefines the bowling experience.

Since this is a bowling boutique, they are definitely open to families and kids, but this isn't going to have the same down-home family feel as a Mardi Gras Bowl, for example. But the pricing here didn't seem that much more than other bowling alleys (one game with shoes is $8.00, as opposed to Mardi Gras' $5 a game plus shoes-- neither place offers discounts for kids).

Sparians offers a few huge private lounges that have their own bowling alleys in them, great for birthday parties. You can get private events catered by the bistro.

Also, Sparians pairs with North Hills Kids (our review here) to bring the open play to the bowling alley. It is from 9 am - 11 am on Monday mornings (check before you go). These are pre-bowling hours, which start at 11, so you can't bowl. But North Hills provides equipment for play and you and other parents can sit on the swank leather chairs while your children play. The tvs stream child-appropriate movies (like Toy Story).

Think of Sparians for a date night or a Moms Night Out, too!

Sparians Bowling Boutique and Bistro
141 Park St at North Hills


Friday, April 8, 2011

SuperFun Show Tickets Winner

It is time to announce the winner of a family pack of 4 tickets to see Fiesta Mexicana at the ArtsCenter this Saturday (tomorrow!). Wendy is our lucky winner (and one of my favorite moms ever for dancing around to Green Day with her kids).

Wendy, please email to collect your winnings. Tickets will be at will call; enjoy the show!

For Garden's Sake

When Sarah C. posted about the Garden Supply Company, it reminded me of a great nursery near Southpoint that I used to hit up. I hadn't been in awhile (what with that temporary housing situation in Hillsborough this past summer). But now I am landscaping again (or pretending to), and I took C here.

This place is great for kids. It's a two-for-one: you get errands done and your kids think it's a great adventure!

The garden center has a great variety and fantastic, wonderful staff. Prices are comparable and selection is good. But even better are the animals for kids to look at.

There are goats to there to view and feed. When we checked out, we were given some animal crackers to feed the goats, and this was hysterical. The goats were pretty excited to see us. Be prepared to be stared at by these guys.

Then we went down to the pond to check out the ducks, Canadian geese, and the swan. If you didn't know this already, swans are MEAN. So stay away. And this guy is huge, too. Luckily we were forewarned of his temperament.

After we got our fill of waterfowl, we walked over to where the alpacas are. I kept thinking of Llama Llama Red Pajama when I saw them. "Please stop all this llama drama!" Yeah, I know, not the same animal, but still...

For Garden's Sake also does landscape design, irrigation systems, and more.

You are free to roam the grounds here, and I encourage you to check it out while searching for landscaping needs. Think outside the Lowe's box!

For Garden's Sake
9197 NC Hwy 751


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ultimate Comics

I have driven by this place countless times. Ultimate Comics sits right near I40 on 54. Yet heading into comic book shops is not something I normally think to do. Then on a whim, and because I am generally a curious person, I swung in one morning to see what it was all about.

And what a shop! Ultimate Comics has a location on Ninth Street in Durham (which also has an entire area devoted to children's comics, as well as a large Silver Surfer) but the Farrington Road spot is their "largest and best location ever." Browsing the shop will fascinate even the most ignorant of comic book gazers (like me).

In display cases and in the back room are very expensive collectibles, as in some old DC Comics of superheros you grew up with and Hollywood keeps making into blockbusters. Then there are racks and racks (and racks) of new comic books and releases. Parents: note that comic books now generally come with ratings, to help you determine appropriateness. Helpful since you can not look at the inside of comic books before purchasing. They are all wrapped for protection should you decide to keep to collect.

Ultimate Comics has something for every age, too, surprisingly! Near the front of the store is an entire section devoted entirely to kids. In fact, they even had a Yo Gabba Gabba comic book (who knew?) and Disney makes a slew of comic books. It's not all testosterone driven in here either with some fairy and Jane Austen comic books around.

There are action figures and other collectibles for sale throughout the store.

Ultimate Comics hosts special events, such as Free Comic Book Day, so it is worth checking in to their website occasionally for a look.

This is definitely a unique contribution to the Triangle, and a place to go for a unique gift.

Ultimate Comics

756 Ninth Street

6120-A Farrington Road


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Giveaway: ArtsCenter SuperFun Show Tickets

In a stroke of good luck, we have a family pack of 4 tickets for one lucky blog reader to see an ArtsCenter show this Saturday (April 9) at 11 am. The show is Fiesta Mexicana and promises to be a real treat! Sones de Mexico performs and leads the fiesta. This group is Grammy-nominated, has been featured on NPR, and focuses on Mexican culture as well as animals and music in general. This show is part of the ArtsCenter's SuperFun Show series, which we love.

By the way, the Saturday matinee show is for family and kids, but if you want to head out at night with your significant other, the evening show would make for a great date night.

To enter, just leave us a comment telling us your favorite kid music. Winner picked Friday at noon.

Good luck!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bull City Craft

A great post from our newest contributor, Laura M. The Grand Opening Celebration for Bull City Craft is this coming Saturday (the 9th) so read up about what to expect before you go:

Hi everybody! Laura here. I’m mom to a sweet as sugar 3.5 year old girl, S, and one wild and crazy baby boy, B. We love living in Durham and are thrilled to be helping Allison and Sarah C. explore this great area of long as it doesn’t interfere with naptime!

I’m excited to talk to y'all about a new opening in Durham: Bull City Craft. Occupying the storefront next to the ever-popular Local Yogurt and the Little Gym, I had read that Bull City Craft was an “arts boutique and craft lounge with a local, eco-friendly focus.” It sounded right up craft-loving S’s alley. So we headed on over with some friends. And, wow. Talk about a fun morning!

Bull City Craft is an arts store with a crafty twist. Walking in, you are greeted by displays of paints, brushes, sketchpads notebooks and other art supplies, all for sale. There are also Crocodile Creek branded items, Ugly Dolls and other gifts.

The back of the store is where the fun happens. This is where patrons are invited to get their craft on. There is an array of drop-in crafts for sale ranging from birdhouses ($15) to shadow boxes ($18), tote bags ($28) to beaded jewelry ($15-$20). We chose a wooden lidded box ($18), which S dubbed her jewelry box. We were then given large adult-size aprons (the kid-size ones are on order) and set up at a small, kid-size table with a variety of brightly-colored paints, multiple brushes, a tray for mixing colors, a brush-washing bucket, glue and jeweled baubles for decoration and bedazzling. S and her buddy, K, went to town.

At 3.5 years old, I found S to be the perfect starting age for Bull City Craft. I’m not so sure she would have had as much fun, or been able to do as much hands-on, if she was younger. This is definitely not the place to bring my one-year old wild man, that’s for sure. Also, I had a mini heart attack when I noticed the paints we were given said “permanent” on them, but we had no problem washing them off our hands and clothes (and my Nikon camera strap - Whoops!).

The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. And, the best part - together, we created a fun little craft, made a huge mess...and didn’t have to clean up! We will so be back!

In addition to standing weekly activities such as drop in crafts and Preschool Playtime, Bull City Craft will also host Birthday Parties and other social gatherings (think baby and bridal showers, or team meetings!).

To make a morning out of it, try pairing Bull City Craft with some morning playtime at nearby Rockwood Park or Forest Hill Park; grab lunch at Foster’s Market or Q-Shack across the street. And, of course, top it off with some dessert at Local Yogurt.

Bull City Craft
11am-6pm Tuesday-Friday; 11am-8pm Saturday
Drop in Crafts any time
$5 Preschool Playtime: 11 am Tuesdays and Thursdays

2501 University Drive




Sunday, April 3, 2011

Garden Supply Company

From Sarah C.:

Finally spring weather has returned!  Taking advantage of the warmth and sun plus the need/want/desire for a few new plants, my family headed yesterday afternoon to Garden Supply Company in Cary.  It's a wonderful place to visit year round even if just to wander and window shop.

The plants and garden decor (think fun rustic rails, water displays, statues and more) are spread across the property.  Gravel paths wind throughout making for a great spot to walk with a curious toddler.  D enjoyed roaming and was especially excited when he caught sight of one of the cats.  The cat clearly knows his territory though as he disappeared into some shrubs in a flash.

As we made our way along, we came upon a small play area featuring a play set and two metal structures.  Love this detail and I'm sure many children are also grateful to have a spot set aside specifically for them. We spent a few minutes here exploring before moving on in search of plants for our yard.

One of the things I love about Garden Supply Co is the helpful employees.  We found a lady who listened to our needs and walked with us to the right area.  She showed us several plants that fit the bill then gave us time alone to discuss and choose.

Once our decision was made, we carried our selection inside the store to pay.  Truthfully, this is the one area where a watchful eye on a smaller child is necessary as there are quite a few breakables.  I need to take an afternoon to myself to revisit and explore the store more.  Beyond the indoor plants and gardening necessities are a plethora of fun decor items for your garden and home.

Garden Supply Co is worth a visit no matter the time of year - spring plants, fall pumpkins, Christmas trees plus the decorations to go with it all - there is plenty to see.  They also host events throughout the year that are fun for the entire family.  Check their website (listed below) for more information.

Garden Supply Company
1421 Old Apex Road


Friday, April 1, 2011

Bull City Burger & Brewery

A brand new brewery that has good food and a kids' activity center!?! Thank you Bull City!

We love Fullsteam as a family outing (really) so were excited when Bull City opened - we read about how they were catering to families. But we weren't the only ones excited. Their opening was highly anticipated. So much so, in fact, that they had over 1,000 visitors and ran out of food opening weekend. But once they reopened, we were there.

All the food is as organic and natural as it gets. The beef is 100% grass-fed beef. And the food is good! The burgers have a lot of fantastic options, the pickles were especially impressive, and the "dirty fries" are just like I like them: dirty with grease and salt. The interior is made out of a lot of recycled and reclaimed materials. This place celebrates Durham, too. Your order number is a year with a tidbit about something historic that happened in Durham.

Bull City brews aren't available for sample (they aren't releasing their beers just yet, although all the tanks and the brewery are in action). But they do have some other stuff on tap for you. Broylans at the soda fountain; and a really awesome single-dispense wine machine on the wall. (You fill up your card with money, swipe, and then pick the button for the wine you want.)

The kids menu was great, too, and standard burger-place fare. But where Bull City really shines for families is how friendly and welcoming they are. The place is casual, the staff was jovial and happy to help us, and in one corner of the restaurant there is a play area with kid kitchen, puzzles, coloring, and more. Our boys really enjoyed it.

Definitely get yourself over to the all-new Bull City. Quickly. Because there were a lot of people there when we were there and I am already looking forward to going again....we might eat them out of food again...

Bull City Burger and Brewery
Hours: Mon- Thurs
11:11 am - 10 pm (later on DPAC show nights); Fri & Sat 11:11 am - midnight; Sun closed, but brunch coming soon
107 E. Parrish Street