Thursday, May 26, 2011

YoPop Frozen Yogurt

From Sarah C.:

For whatever reason, it seems that mix-in ice cream is losing popularity and stores are closing down. At the same time, the self-serve frozen yogurt is gaining popularity and those shops keep opening. D & I headed out on a recent hot afternoon to check out the new frozen yogurt shop in Morrisville - YoPop.

The shop is a fun, brightly colored space with modern furnishings similar to some of the other frozen yogurt spots we've told you about such as Tutti Fruitti. It also follows the same concept - get a bowl, select yogurt, select toppings, weigh and pay.

The soft serve machines along the wall opposite the entrance each offer two flavors as well as the choice of a twist of those two. Of course, you can get a little bit of any and all. Options range from vanilla and chocolate to a bit more exciting flavors like cheese cake and pomegranate.

The topping bar is my favorite. So many to choose from. There are healthy options (fruit) and not so healthy, but oh so tasty options (candies, cookie bits, etc). I added small spoonful of several different toppings to our bowl. I think D would have enjoyed handfuls of everything if he could reach them!

Our visit was after nap time which meant it also timed with a crowd of teenagers after school. There was an empty table but I didn't spy any highchairs and it was a bit noisy so we chose to sit outside instead. The shopping center has a few benches located near YoPop. It was the perfect shady spot to enjoy our treat and people watching.

If this particular location is not convenient to you, there are currently two other locations in the Triangle (see below) including what was once Orange Leaf in Timberlyne Shopping Center that is now also a YoPop.


Bethany Village Shopping Center
3605 Davis Dr, Suite 110

Crossroads Plaza
212 Crossroads Blvd

Timberlyne Shopping Center
1129 Weaver Dairy Rd.
Chapel Hill


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My NC Will

It's been awhile since we've done a 'resources' post so I thought it might be time to lay one on you. And it's a serious topic, sad, but you have to have a will. As a parent or guardian, it is absolutely necessary. I don't know if you are aware, but according to NC law if the parents/legal guardians of a child were to pass away all of the money and assets to care for the child would be deferred to the state. (Ok, as this is a legal thing there are a lot of nuances, but that's the gist.) I am sure the majority of you know someone else you would rather trust your child/ren's care and finances to.

But, of course, having a proper will drawn up is expensive and confusing. I started by trying to do this on the cheap. I had Quicken documents; I tried Yet I still had to fork out some money and it was still a little overwhelming. There are a lot of moving pieces and I had a lot of questions. Further, if you have kids around odds are it will be really difficult to take the time to complete this! Of course, if you already have a family attorney or someone you use, by all means, give them a ring.

However, Stacey S'Rich sent me over to years ago, and it was a great fit. So if you are looking for a reasonable pricetag and someone else to do all the work for you, might I suggest to you. This is so smart. A Cary law firm, Monaco & Roberts, PLLC, has streamlined the process and the costs of getting a will tailored to your family.

You begin by filling out an online questionnare. And it's not hard. After that, one of the attorneys will call you to ask any questions they may have and otherwise touchbase. And then they get to drafting. Once they have completed all 50 million (so maybe I exaggerate, but not by much) pieces of paper you need they call you to set up an appointment. You come in, look everything over, ask questions, and then sign away. You are allotted about 90 minutes for a couple, and all of the paperwork is to cover each if you in full. If there are any changes that need to be made the attorney can make them there on his computer and print off fresh copies. Notaries are on site, too, so you walk away with your original, legally binding wills to put in your firesafe box or wherever it is you keep valuables.

The entire package includes a standard will, a living will (what do you want if, heaven forbid, you are in a long term coma, for example), dealing with your life insurance policies, and naming power of attorneys. A lot of this stuff I missed when trying to do this via LegalZoom and Quicken on my own.

The wills are very flexible, too, so from what I gather you do not need to go in to update them unless something incredibly large changes (i.e., divorce, separation).

The best is that this entire process is reasonably priced (as far as legal services go). For 1 person it is $250. Total. Including the 90 minute office time. If you are a couple, there is a "mirror will" option which in lay-speak means that you both leave each other things and then together pick a provider should you both pass. That's only $400 total including the 90 minute office time. When DH and I used this service there weren't any tricks or hidden costs. I had priced out a bunch of attorneys before we got online here, too, and they were much more expensive and they couldn't they guarantee a ceiling price.

Another nice note is that we didn't complete this process until after C came along. We took him with us to our appointment. And the attorney didn't mind in the least.

Again, this isn't a happy topic. Nor is this going to be the cheapest thing you can do. But part of being a parent and guardian is being responsible and thinking about the longterm health and well being of your kid. Be smart. Be prepared. My NC Will makes it easy for you.

My NC Will

Monday, May 23, 2011

Giveaway: Boston Pops & Kenny Loggins Tickets

I am pretty excited about this giveaway. Now lest you look at the title of this giveaway and think "scratch that, that's for adults" think again. This concert is actually for the family.

On August 16th, the Boston Pops is kicking off their Summer Tour at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The "Hollywood Hits Tour" is all about celebrating American Pastimes: Baseball, Movies and Rock 'n' Roll. Some of the movie songs you'll hear include Star Wars, E.T., and Harry Potter. And the legendary Kenny Loggins is helping out, too, singing hits such as "Footloose." If you haven't been to a concert like this before you've got to check it out. These are fun, making classical and instrumental music accessible to even the youngest.

And like I said, this is for the family. So we're thrilled and honored to be giving away a family ticket package: 4 tickets for you and your family to see this concert.

To enter, all you have to do is comment here letting us know your family's favorite movie.

The winner will be chosen at random from all entries and posted here on the morning of Sunday, May 29 so get your entries in by Saturday night.

Of course, if you aren't our lucky winner you can always purchase tickets at the Durham Bulls' Box Office or online at

Good luck... and may the Force be with you (had to do it).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cameron Village Library

In the same trip I went to Gigi's Cupcakes (don't worry, I went swimming today so I am sure I burned it off by now), I also met Sarah C. and Lauren MM at the Cameron Village Library. We didn't go for a storytime. We just took the kids on a rainy day to find an indoor activity. And this was nice!

The kids area of the library is it's own walled-off section to the right immediately as you enter. It is full of whimsy, paper maiche animals, and lots and lots of books. Throughout the kids section are size-appropriate seats, tables, benches, stools, and some great little nooks to read in.While we were there some parents were using the storytime room, which was open, to entertain and contain their kids, a nice surprise benefit.

There are computers here for kids to use but they must be accompanied by an adult.

The kids section has its own family restroom, too, complete with changing table.

Overall, the Cameron Village Library is really nice. In fact, in the lobby is a coffee bar. Coffee bars in libraries started when I was in college, and I LOVE this trend. Very happy to support it. The Library also hosts music and other special events, which makes this feel more like a coffeehouse than a library. Which since I could have a coffee and enjoy it while C reads some Curious George, I am ok with that!

The Library does offer storytimes and other events, some very intriguing such as the "Anime Club," for all ages. But I honestly can't determine from the website if it is a standing time each week for each activity or if it varies each week. So head to the website, below, to check it out.

Cameron Village Library
Events schedule here:
1930 Clark Ave

Hours: Mon - Thurs 9 am to 9 pm; Fri 10 am to 6 pm; Sat 10 am to 5 pm; Sun 1 to 5 pm

Friday, May 20, 2011

Allen & Sons BBQ (or 'Barbecue')

I like to think of this post as an homage to Hillsborough Hog Days. I know, I know, we're pretty picky about what "family friendly" eateries we recommend. We just feel like it has to really have a "wow" factor to get a nod from us. And while there isn't a play space here, and there aren't any special kids-eat-free deals, Allen & Sons is an institution in our area. So if you are new to town, consider this an intro. Plus it is cheap, delicious, and down-home style dining. Plastic tablecloths on picnic benches? Yes, please!

There are two locations: one in Chapel Hill and one in Pittsboro. We tend to frequent the Pittsboro simply due to convenience. But they are both great, same fantastic food. You can also sit outside at picnic benches if you would like.

Seating is limited and the BBQ here is popular, so you may have to fight for a table. And don't go for the service...go to get some salty, tangy NC Q.

We get Allen & Sons a lot to go as well. You walk up to the counter, order vats of BBQ and sides, and you are on your way. This idea was a huge hit with our out of town guests when we got Allen & Sons to go and took it over to picnic while we watched some music at the Bynum General Store.

Allen & Sons is run by a family. So you really want to call ahead to get hours and ensure they are open. We were burned a few times when someone in the family (ahem, DH) had a BBQ craving only to find out that the shop was closed for the week because they went on vacation. Good on them!

Also, they are pretty strict about substitutions, which gets some people out there on the Internet pretty upset. But honestly, you can get sides a la carte, and you can get just a BBQ sandwich, or just some BBQ a la carte, which is my way of saying, calm down, because you really can get whatever you want here.

Allen & Sons Barbecue
Website with good information & menu:
6203 Millhouse Road (off of NC 86)

Chapel Hill


5650 US Hwy 15-501
Chapel Hill


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gigi's Cupcakes

I don't know why, but after a fantastic lunch with C and some friends at The Flying Biscuit the other week, I decided that I also needed a cupcake (what is wrong with me?). So we hit the road and went down the street a little ways to Gigi's Cupcakes.

Wow. I mean, wow. First, they look gorgeous. They are tall, artful, and enticing. The display cases show you everything you can have, and they all look good. I really was interested in the Sea Salt Caramel cupcake but, instead and for C's sake, ended up with the Birthday Cake and the Chocolate Chip.

Second, these are delicious. I generally do not like icing unless it is the cream cheese kind. But these were fantastic and I was licking the sugar frosting off the plate at the end. It was good without being too sweet, and the cupcakes themselves were moist and tasty. Plus, they look like art. I mean, look at it:

Some other thoughts I had about this place:
- Of course the cupcakes aren't cheap. But they are worth it.
- There is no way I would let my toddler eat an entire one of these on his own. Sugar rush!
- Heck, I can barely eat an entire one on my own. So share the sweetness.
- It makes me sad that Chapel Hill's cupcake shop, Bliss, had such a short life.

Although, some interesting gossip: the woman behind the counter told me that they are scoping out locations in both Chapel Hill and Durham right now and hope to open in at least one of the two towns very soon. So I might not have to be driving to Cary to get my cupcakes in the future!

They also do custom cupcakes, for special events such as birthday parties. And I thought about it for C's upcoming party.... but that would be a LOT of red Elmo frosting on the top....

Gigi's Cupcakes
The Shops of Oberlin Court
2038 Oberlin Road

Brier Creek
8521 Brier Creek Parkway, Suite 105

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bynum General Store & Music Series

A long time ago, our adventurous and fun-loving friends took us for the first time to a music series in the little town called Bynum. We were immediately hooked and loved the laidback feel of this place. We finally got to take C with us this year.

Bynum is a tiny town off of 15/501 between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro, located on the Haw River. It originally was established around a mill, which, unfortunately, is since long gone. Bynum itself fell into neglect and disrepair, but with the General Store still hanging around and given its proximity to Chapel Hill, it is seeing a gentrification of sorts. (If you want to read more about the history of Bynum, I like this website here: General Store opened in 1932 and I think some of the stuff was here when it opened. Really. It is small, musty, and completely wonderful. There are a bunch of kids games and toys, too, for use. Just treat them kindly and return them.

Every Friday night during the summer the nonprofit organization that oversees the General Store, with some help from the Chatham Arts Council, puts on a Front Porch music series. The music is free (although they do a pass the hat), a variety of styles but a lot of bluegrass and rockabilly, and starts at 7.

If the weather is nice, the music happens on the outside stage. If the music is questionable or crummy, the music happens inside the General Store. Also, if the concert is outside someone usually runs a craft time and story time inside the General Store from 7 -8 pm. The venue is small, but it is truly a family friendly event.

There is a hot dog vendor here, but you can bring your own food if you would like to picnic. Absolutely no alcohol allowed on the premises. There is a bathroom inside the General Store.

There are many other family friendly events that happen here throughout the year, so stay tuned to the website.

Bynum General Store and Front Porch Series
Friday nights May - September
950 Bynum Road
Bynum, NC

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chick-fil-A Mom Valet

I know that Chick-fil-A suffers from some controversy. And we're not making any statements about that here. In the name of reporting, we're just letting you know about this super-awesome new service they have started. See the full write up from Laura M. below:

A few weeks ago, like many Durham-Chapel Hill moms, I was forwarded an email about a new pilot program that the Chick-Fil-A down the road from Southpoint was testing out - Mom Valet. The premise sounded too good to be true. Go to the drive-thru. Tell them you wanted to do “Mom Valet”. Order your food. Give the number of people in your party, the number of high chairs and placemats you need. Pay at the window. And, by the time you park your car and unload your kids, a table is all set up for you, your order ready and waiting. Seriously?! I mean, seriously?! You have got to be kidding me! I must have received this same email from 4-5 different moms, but it totally sounded like a hoax. So, I picked up the phone, called Chick-Fil-A and spoke with the restaurant’s manager. And, sure enough, Mom Valet is no joke. It is very real and I was encouraged to get the word out to my mom friends and give it a try.

Fast forward to this past week - It was Monday, dinner time. I pulled into Chick-Fil-A’s parking lot and saw the bright purple Mom Valet sign beckoning me to the drive-thru. I figured, why not? “I was wondering if I could try the Mom Valet,” I said with a little embarrassed laugh. “Oh, of course! We would love to help you with that,” the peppy Chick-Fil-A drive-thru girl replied, actually sounding excited. I placed my order and answered some of their questions - my name, how many highchairs and placemats I needed, any condiment requests. And not only was my order sitting at a table, everything all set up - but as I approached the restaurant with B in my arms, holding S’s hand, the diaper bag slung over my shoulder, a kind Chick-Fil-A employee actually met me at the door, opened it and asked “Are you Laura? Your table is right this way.” Somebody please pinch me. I may have died and gone to fast food heaven.

Dining out with kids is hard, especially when you’ve got a precocious preschooler and a rambunctious toddler-in-training. Chick-Fil-A’s Mom Valet aims at making the dining out experience convenient for moms. And, boy, was it ever?! This mom is sold!

Chick-Fil-A at Renaissance Village
(just down the road from the Streets of Southpoint, behind SuperTarget)
7836 Leonardo Drive
(919) 206-4330


Sunday, May 15, 2011


A fantastic online resource to help you be super-parent in the kitchen, from Sarah C. today:

I confess, I am not super mom. One of my "failings" is in the department of meal planning. I did great for a while when D was small. Determined to eat more meals at home after our change from dual income without kids to single income with a child, I would print a blank calendar and layout our meal ideas for the next week to two weeks. I won't lie, I was pretty proud of myself. Then like all great new things, one day it stopped. However, I'm now off to a fresh start with a lot less work after taking a friend's suggestion and trying E-Mealz.

E-Mealz does the planning for you. You subscribe in 3 month increments for
Grilled Pizza Sandwiches
with pasta salad & cantaloupe
$15 and each week E-Mealz provides you with a printable meal plan and grocery list in PDF. There are multiple plan options to fit any user from store specific (Aldi, Kroger, Wal-mart, etc) to dietary needs (low carb, portion control, gluten free, etc). You can also select family or meals for 2 within these options. In our case, we selected "Meal Plan for 2 Any-Store."

Things to know ...
  • Family Meals offer 7 day plans while the Meals for 2 are only 5 day plans. We haven't found the latter to be a negative. The meals in the Meals for 2 plan are large enough to provide leftovers and, of course, there are days where you just want to fill in with one of your own tried & true recipes or eat out.
  • Meals include recipes for a main dish and a side dish.
  • You can change your meal plan option once per 3 month period.
  • The grocery list is organized by section of store and each ingredient has a number in the left hand column that corresponds to the meal plan. This is great if you want to skip a meal or two. Reference the numbers and you know which items to get or not get. There is also additional space for you to write your regular list on the sheet.
  • The meals are designed to be budget friendly.
  • You access your meals by logging into the E-Mealz website and downloading the week's PDF.
Quick Crab Quiche with tossed salad

Thoughts from my personal experience ...
  • I do like having a plan made and ready for me each week although I don't always follow it exactly. Some weeks one or two meals don't sound appealing to me (another confession: I can be a picky eater - insert my DH's laugh here) so we skip those. Others we've altered slightly like the Easy Cheddar Potato Chowder where we skipped the broccoli side dish and tossed fresh broccoli into the chowder instead (so good!).
  • I have liked each meal we've tried. Some I will definitely make again and have marked those so I can quickly reference them later.
  • A few of the recipes I've found frustrating in that they are worded funny or don't have prep & cooking times listed. With a reread, I can usually work out the confusing parts. I'm not always so good on the timing but that's a fault of mine even with recipes that do include times!
  • Our toddler actually eats a good number of these meals too! Ok, so he's not the pickiest eater like his mother (thank goodness!) but I am still surprised at the number he has not only tried a bite of but actually cleaned his plate. Those meals are definitely getting the "make again" mark.
  • I like the grocery list and the fact that the meals typically use all of the products you are buying. When I shop for our own recipes, I find we have a bit of this and a bit of that leftover. Those "bits" may or may not be used before expiring. With these plans, all the "bits" are used up which definitely equals money savings compared to the wasted, expired foods I used to end up with.

Finally, if you want to take this a step further, use an online ordering option like Harris Teeter's Express Lane and just pick-up your groceries when ready. (There's my final confession - I did that earlier this week.) We parents work hard enough. No shame in taking the easier route especially when it results in a healthy dinner time for the entire family.



Thursday, May 12, 2011

Blue Ribbon Diner - Mebane

Remember when we did the write-up on the Tanger Outlet Mall and I complained about lack of dining options? Our newest contributor, Laura M., found a solution! By the way, check out the URL of the restaurant at the end. So bold; I love it.

Now if there is one thing I love more than food, it is shopping! And, the new(ish) Tanger Outlets, just down the road in Mebane, make this bargain-shopping mama smile. JCrew, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Coach, Gymboree, Carters . . . Oh, I could go on and on. But, if there one thing the outlets are lacking in is food choices. And while there is a McDonalds and a Bojangles right outside the mall’s entrance, sometimes you aren’t really in the mood for fast food. But, on a recent outlet shopping trip, the fam and I discovered a fabulous lunch spot that I had to share with y’all -- the Blue Ribbon Diner.

Blue Ribbon Diner is, well, your quintessential diner -- checkered floors, neon lights, chrome bar stools, blue retro booths, even a jukebox. Its menu is simple, homestyle diner food - cheeseburgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers, apple jack chicken and onion rings, milkshakes and pecan pie. Every dish is served with a helping of “endless fries,” which Baby B enjoyed swiping off his daddy’s plate. There are plenty of choices for kids - burgers, corn dogs, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, pasta, fruit cups. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, just good home-cookin’ in a fun, kid-friendly atmosphere. With balloons, crayons, coloring placemats and plenty of high chairs, it’s a great post-outlet shopping lunch stop when you’ve got the brood in tow.

Blue Ribbon Diner
1004 Mebane Oaks Rd.
(Exit 154 off I-40, just down the road from Tanger Outlets)
Sun-Thurs: 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Orchard Park - Durham

On a wonderful, sunny Friday afternoon a few days back, Sarah C., Stacey and I took our kids (and our brood is growing!) over to Orchard Park in downtown Durham. This park doesn't have a lot in terms of playground equipment: 1 lonely slide and a few swings (including bucket swings). But where it really shines is at the sandbox. This big old box kept our kids, as well as some others, happily occupied for quite awhile. There is a lot of space in this box, but bring your own sand toys.

For the playground, there is very little shade in this area; the ground cover is synthetic material.

This park also packs a few other surprises. Originally owned by the Hill family (and the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties, located in the Hill House itself, is right across the street), Orchard Park has the remains of an old greenhouse which formerly served the Hill House. These remains have been converted into a play area. The old walls have been expanded on to create a perfect toddler- and kid-sized maze. Our boys had so much fun running through here. And this part is shaded! There are a few picnic benches in this "maze" as well.

Also, Orchard Park houses a community garden, well-tended and well-weeded right next to a large pavilion with picnic tables.

According to aerial maps we found online after our park visit (we are thorough in our research for you!) there is a big open play space if you pass the gardens, down the path.

Full list of amenities:
  • Grills(3)
  • Picnic Tables(5)
  • Playground
  • Picnic Shelter(SMALL)
  • Water Fountain
If you would like to read more about the history of this park, we recommend this site:

After fully enjoying this historic park (well, except for the open play space), we jotted over to Ninth Street to get some lunch. And while we loved the taste and pricetag of Chubby's Tacos, the Ninth Street location wasn't very kid-friendly (no high chairs, little dining area in general) so we're saving a Chubby's post for when we can scope out some of their other locations. We did, however, enjoy yet another visit to Ox & Rabbit.

Orchard Park
1000 South Duke Street

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Johnston Mill Nature Preserve

For Mother's Day I really wanted a family hike (how Modern Family is that?). And since I had heard so many rave reviews about the Johnston Mill trails in Chapel Hill, we went there in the late afternoon.

This was a great hike for us! We had C in a Kelty for most of it, then he did his own hiking for a little ways. There are some steps here, as well as roots and stones on the path, so jogging strollers won't work. But kids could easily hike this. In fact, many were while we were there.

The land is owned and well maintained by Triangle Land Conservancy. They obtained the property in 1999 to protect the area around New Hope Creek. There was a historic mill site (although we must of the missed the evidence of it) and therefore worth conserving.

There are 296 acres in the preserve, about 3 miles of hiking. The mileage is various trails strung together. There are 2 access points to the preserve and trails (see links below) that will both get you to the same paths.

The path is great. Like I said, it is well maintained but also the scenery changes a lot. You get everything from rock outcroppings, to creek, to big fields, to old woods. It was a beautiful hike, especially with the smell of honeysuckle in the air right now.

Overall, we thought it was fairly easy. There are some areas that gain a quick elevation, but they are really short. And all along the path are benches for sitting and gazing at the flora and fauna.

This hike is really popular with dog walkers. Which is fantastic, but we have read that they have problems here with people walking their dogs off-leash (in fact, there are huge signs at the trailhead reminding citizens to leash their dogs because of the issues). Therefore, we couldn't take our pooch, as she likes to eat other dogs if they are off leash, but would like to use this moment to say: folks, please leash your dogs when out on trails! And PSA done.

We didn't take our GPS this trip, but you should explore whether there are any geocaches here!

We really enjoyed this hike. Thanks to all for the recommendation!

Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
2881 Mt. Sinai Road
Chapel Hill

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Things We've Learned

In honor of Mother's Day and the fact that our 1 year blogiversary just passed (can you believe it?), MiCHill is sharing what we've learned so far about being mothers. Little lessons that have gotten us through the past year. We know there is still so much to learn as our kids continue to grow. And, of course, we always welcome your advice, too.

So Here's What We've Learned:

- While out, always get your food wrapped to go. You never know when you will have to make a quick getaway.

- Don’t be afraid to leave your full, loaded grocery cart inside, unpaid for, while you take your screaming child out of the store to have a tantrum over the fact that they could not eat the Oreos. Harris Teeter is used to it.

- When shopping alone, I will always let parents with kids check out in front of me.

- It is best to approach things with a sense of humor (thanks Rants from Mommyland).

- ALWAYS buy the big box of diapers. They are cheaper and you will use them.

- Get good headbands and ponytail holders. Odds are, you will spend most days with your hair pulled back.

- While breast feeding, or even while pregnant, if you decide to work out it is best to "double bag the cantaloupes" so to speak.

- Get good friends. Like really good ones. Ones that you can cry around for no reason, curse at for no reason, then hug it out for great reasons.

- Do not give a pregnant woman the advice to “sleep while you can.” First, it is useless advice. Second, they are already scared enough, so share something uplifting.

- You do not need to buy those shopping cart seat/cover things for your precious one. Really. By the time you figure out how to work it, get it properly situated, get it strapped to the cart, get your child strapped into the seat cover, you could have been in and out of the store already. Just use some wipes.

- Of course, some germs don’t hurt.

- Don’t be too afraid of the sun. Kids need to be outside.

- It’s okay to hire people to do things for you sometimes. Getting your house professionally cleaned on occasion does not make you an unethical person. It just gets your house clean already.

- Hug your kids. A lot.

Happy Mother's Day everyone.

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Friday - Raleigh

From Sarah C:

Looking for a family friendly event, date night or mom's night out idea? Consider First Friday in downtown Raleigh. Each month from 6-9pm on the first Friday, various art spots and museums stay open late. This is a chance to get out of the house, explore our Capitol City's downtown and get a little culture.

I've been a few times. Most recently DH and I got a sitter for D and headed to Raleigh City Museum for the opening of the "Painted Archives" exhibit by Raleigh artist Pete Sack. If you've never visited this museum, I highly recommend it. It's located inside the old Briggs Building on Fayetteville Street and covers the history of the city. As a transplant to the area myself who's seen quite a bit of growth since moving here, I find it very interesting to learn more about how the city has grown and evolved throughout the years.

Another personal favorite stop on First Friday is ArtSpace. Many (if not all) of the artists are in their studios on these nights giving you the opportunity to stop in and talk to them about their work. Sure it's nice to see a piece of art on display and read the commentary, but so much more can be gained from talking to the artist face-to-face. You can learn about their inspiration behind a piece, get details on why they love their particular artistic media and perhaps inspire a budding artist in yourself or child.

These locations barely touch on the fun though. There are plenty of other venues open from galleries to retail shops, live music to enjoy as well fabulous restaurants & bars to stop into for refreshment. Head downtown tonight and take a look around. First Friday locations are designated with First Friday Flags making them easy to spot (also see links below) and you can pick up a free map at any location to help you chart your course to your next stop. Enjoy!

First Friday - Raleigh | Parking | Venues
First Friday of each month, 6-9pm
Downtown Raleigh


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Waller Family Farm

This might be our last strawberry post for this year. DH is threatening to go on strawberry strike. Which given that I've picked at Jean's, Oakley's, and now Waller, I suppose I can understand. (Don't worry folks, the biodynamic and organic Whitted Bowers is on our to-do list, just not sure how soon we can get out there.)

Waller Family Farm is a real strawberry, vegetable, and cattle farm located in Durham. And this might win as my favorite spot to pick so far. It was just as organized as Jean's. And there were rows and rows of beautiful, huge, ripe berries. In the pavilion, simple concessions were being sold and bathrooms were available. (Special little thing Waller does: the first two rows are reserved for Seniors.)

This farm certainly had the best scenery of all the strawberry farms we've picked at. This is a year round working farm and full of stuff for C to look at when he wasn't smushing picking strawberries. There is a bee area (which we didn't get too close to) and cows out at pasture. A beautiful white farm house sits up on a hill. There are goats around somewhere, too, but we didn't see them while we were there.
You do pay more here than at the other stops we've scoped out for you: it is $1.45/lb for PYO here, $4.00/quart if they pick for you. Cash or check only. But given how great this stop was for kids and family, we were okay with it.

When it isn't strawberry time, Waller sells vegetables picked fresh daily at the farm and starting in October schools can book Educational Farm Tours.

Waller Family Farm is a close drive to both Chapel Hill and Durham, right down Erwin Road. The berries are good for the getting right now, with lots of green ones coming in, too. But make sure you call before you go. This is a popular spot and they will close up early if the berried are picked out for the day.

Waller Family Farm
5030 Kerley Road

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Parker & Otis

A post from Laura M. today that makes me really hungry....and desperately wanting a Bacon onesie...

I love food, and I love to eat out. And I am happy to share with y’all one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Downtown Durham -- Parker & Otis. I discovered this delicious cafe and specialty gift shop shortly after its opening a few years ago. I fell in love immediately. Its ambiance is bright and airy with high ceilings and exposed wooden beams. Its decor is rustic, old shutters and doors, brick walls. And that’s just the inside. Out back is a gorgeous wrap-around porch, perfect for enjoying lunch on a warm spring day. It is homey. The perfect place to just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee . . . which is what I do every Tuesday when S & B are at school.

Parker & Otis serves breakfast and lunch, 7 days a week. The restaurant prides itself on using local ingredients and has created a menu that is unique, eclectic and tasty -- from my beloved grilled pimento cheese sandwich and tuna salad with green goddess dressing to the shrimp BLT and peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwich. The sandwiches are a generous size and served with a side of the best cole slaw on the planet. The coffee and breakfast bar is stocked with all sorts of delicacies to accompany your cup of joe - pumpkin bread, chocolate croissants, blueberry scones and assorted muffins and pastries. The bakery display window tempts with carrot cake and zucchini cupcakes. And, oh my goodness, the chocolate sweet shoppe - homemade peanut butter cups, chocolate covered pretzels, truffles of all shapes and sizes . . . So much for that last 10 lbs. of baby weight to lose! ;)

And that’s not all, folks! After you enjoy your tasty sandwich, it’s time to shop. Parker and Otis has anything and everything you could possibly be looking for. Need a Mother’s Day gift? Check out the Le Crueset dinnerware collection, the ample cookbook selection, ceramic plates and bowls, the unique stationery and cards. How about a hostess gift? Head over to their amazing wine section or pick out a Stonewall Kitchen jam or Barefoot Contessa boxed mix. What about a baby gift? The main dining hall is stocked to the brim with JellyCat stuffed animals, Mudpie baby socks and onesies and Noodle & Boo baby products. For the kids birthday party - there are board games, vintage playing cards, books, Crocodile Creek water bottles, plates and placemats and, of course, you can’t miss the eye-catching candy bar. I personally stocked S & B’s Easter baskets with all sorts of fun goodies from this place!

And speaking of kids, while I typically go to Parker & Otis without my two in tow, it is extremely kid-friendly with plenty of high chairs for use. The kids’ menu is fairly simple - grilled cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. Sides of fresh fruit are also available. If you are traveling with a stroller, as my favorite mommy friends and I used to do with our “littles” every week while our “bigs” were in school, be sure to use the front door (the Duke Street entrance). There is no stroller-friendly ramp from the parking lot behind the building to the back porch.

Ok, can you tell how much I love this place yet?! Look for me there on Tuesday mornings. I’ll be the mom happily enjoy her soy mocha no whip, a slice of pumpkin bread and an hour and a half of peace and quiet! ;)

Parker & Otis
112 S. Duke Street

Mon-Thurs, Sat: 7:30am-7pm; Fri: 7:30am-8pm; Sun: 10am-3pm


Monday, May 2, 2011

Firehouse Subs

I love me some toasty sandwiches. And I love it even more when I can get them at a kid-friendly stop. And I love it even more when I get some toasty sandwiches free for my kid. Enter Firehouse Subs.

You have probably seen these popping up all over the Triangle. The ones I run into most frequently are in Meadowmont Village and New Hope Commons. I really enjoy what I get here. It is a mix between Quizno's and Subway: you can get a specialty sandwich nicely toasted, but the quality of the sandwich is going to be a little better than Quizno's (in my humble opinion). There is a decent kids menu, with sandwiches and combos. Kids even get fire hats to wear and take home (plastic of course). And the firehouse decor is a pleasure for those kids who might be obsessed. (Note that there are tvs, too, if you are trying to avoid those. We just like to provide all the information.) There are big fire jackets and other gear around, too. And the franchises generally honor, through their decorating, the local fire branch. For example, the one at New Hope Commons has a composite of the City of Durham firefighters as well as other memorabilia from this fearless group of heroes. Pretty neat.

But what I think you will really like: Wednesday evenings kids eat free. Times two. Yeah. You buy 1 adult combo, you get 2 kids combos for free. Awesome.

By the way, you can also order online at most locations. They don't deliver, but it allows you to skip the line and the wait. It seems like anything to make errands easier these days is welcome.

Firehouse Subs

Multiple locations throughout the Triangle (view website)

Popular locations:
603 Meadowmont Village
Chapel Hill , NC 27517

5319 New Hope Commons Extension Suite 104
Durham , NC 27707

2608 Erwin Rd, Suite 128
Durham , NC 27705

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rock of Ages Winery & Vineyard

From Sarah C:

A short drive north of Hillsborough sits beautiful countryside full of farms and Rock of Ages Winery & Vineyards. Our friend, Stacey "S'Rich", and husband had visited pre-children days and suggested it as a weekend family event. Altogether 4 couples, 5 toddlers and 1 infant made the trip.

Admittedly, the idea of vineyards and wine tasting sounds more like a date. This would definitely work - find a sitter or the grandparents and run away for a few hours just the two of you. But it is also a great family adventure.

Tastings are offered every half hour and cost $5 + tax per person. We arrived in between tastings which actually worked out perfectly as it gave the toddlers a chance to run around the grassy lawn surrounding the winery. We all needed a little leg stretching. Depending where you are in the Triangle, expect a half hour (from north Durham) or more to make the drive. For our family the trip took about an hour.

When we headed inside for our tasting, we strapped toddlers into their lightweight strollers and handed them snacks & sippy cups. This along with socializing with one another kept them pretty well occupied while the adults enjoyed the wine and kept safe the many breakables on display. The winery offers white, red, sweet and fruit wines. Our group split pretty well evenly with half trying whites and half trying reds.

At the end we were all served a specialty wine - Cork & Pork. This particular wine deserves it's own mention and, yes, that is the official name. This wine was designed for pairing with BBQ. During the tasting, you take a sip of the wine. Eat a cracker with a bit of the Winery's own special BBQ sauce on it. Then finish the wine. Definitely the most unique wine tasting experience I've had. I give our friend, Kim A., credit here as she defined the taste as baked beans and I think that sums it up perfectly. If you could bottle baked beans as a wine, this is it. Only in North Carolina, folks. Rock of Ages Winery hosts an annual Cork-N-Pork Festival featuring the wine & sauce. This year the event takes place on Sat, May 14th. Check the website (listed below) for details.

Following our tasting, we gathered up our youngsters and headed outdoors to picnic. Our group split between blankets spread in a grassy area to a table in the shade beneath the balcony at the front of the winery. The kids had a great time eating, running around and playing with toys we brought (balls & trucks mainly) while the adults relaxed and socialized. Absolutely wonderful way to spend a gorgeous sunny spring day. All the fun and sun tuckered out the little ones who enjoyed naps on the drive home.

Whether as a family adventure or a date, take a drive north and explore this special place and be sure to sample the Cork & Pork wine!

Rock of Ages Winery & Vineyard
1890 Charlie Long Road
Hurdle Mills, NC 27541