Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Geer St Garden

When a gaggle of friends, with kids, were all headed to Fullsteam Brewery (which we still love for families) for a Saturday of fun we needed a place to get some food first.  My friend, "S'Rich" Stacey, is our guru on all things Durham and she clued me in to the new Geer St Garden, right around the corner.

What makes Geer St Garden great for family dining is how casual it is.  Outside (part of it heated for the winter) are large, long picnic tables.  The kids can wander around the garden area.  There is even cornhole on the premises to play.  There is a low brick wall that surrounds most of the area; however, there are breaks in the wall and the restaurant is right on the corner of Geer Street and Foster Street.  We enjoyed the supremely casual atmosphere here as well as the fact that our tots could wander freely (and look at the dogs also dining at the restaurant), but we kept eagle-eyes on them for safety sake.

There isn't much seating inside, but what seating there is is really cool: the place is an old reclaimed gas station/garage and well done in restoration.

There are high chairs and makeshift changing tables in the restrooms.  Surprisingly, no separate kids menu, but not sure you really need one.  We just asked for some modifications and the food is upscale pub food, so our kids were happy.  And we were very happy since the food was good.  Certainly be sure to get The Pile: fried chicken, french fries, japalenos and gravy all piled on top of each other, served with some sauces on the side for dipping.  Heart attack on a plate....so delicious....

They have a nice selection of adult beverages, too.  Although I couldn't partake, of course.  Less than three weeks to go!

Geer St Garden
644 Foster Street

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pullen Park & Amusements

If you have been tuned in to any of the parent websites in this area, then you know that Pullen Park reopening is THE big news.  And since we are just excited as you all, some of our Mommy's Group gang gave this place a trial run before the Thanksgiving holiday for you and I am here to report: it really is great.

-->First, let's chat playground facilities.  The playground area is huge, and it is divided into various sections.  There is a section devoted entirely to swings (including special needs swings, toddler swings, tire swings, and regular swings).  There is a playground for older kids that includes some pretty amazing climbing apparatus.  In a wonderful stroke of genius, there is also a toddler playground that is located on the other side of the area from the older kids playground, so it stays pretty restricted to tots.  That toddler playground includes ride-on toys, slides, and a mini sandbox.  There is even a water and sand play area for kids.  For the most part, the areas are fenced off to keep kids fairly contained.  The ground cover is a mixture of sand and synthetic material.  There are some shade structures provided and nice benches around the area.

-->Second, let's talk rides.  These are, afterall, what makes Pullen Park so unique.  Here's what they've got:
- a beautiful old 1920s carousel, located inside a pavilion
- kiddie boats
- a kiddie train
- paddle boats

All rides cost money, but they are cheap. You get tickets in advance at the booth.  1 ticket = $1.  Everything but the paddle boats (which is 6 tickets) is 1 ticket to ride.  Parents have to pay to ride, too, unless your child is under 12 mos.

The rides don't open and start running until 10 am (which is also the first time you can buy tickets), although the park opens at dawn.  Rides stop at 6 pm, the playground is open until dusk.

Note that while all the rides are totally fun and safe (and newly renovated) none of them have safety belts or harnesses.  Which meant that the kiddie boat ended up being mass chaos when 1 boat of toddlers stood up mid-ride and the ride had to stop and also that us mommies ended up making sure we were riding with our kids on the other rides.

-->Third, let's talk cafe.  Katie over at Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven goes into great detail about this spot here.  But for our purposes now know that this is different dining than you usually see at a park.  It is seasonal, local, and a good variety.  Granted, the veggie burger I got was bright pink (hmm) C loved his hummus and carrots.

Keep in mind, too, that this is a park with picnic benches and such so you can always pack your food and picnic out.

-->Fourth, let's talk facilities.  This park can get PACKED.  We are all excited it's open and this is fantastically, surprisingly good weather right now.  Some folks I know had issues parking and lines for tickets and rides can get long.  My advice is to go early or go late.  Or go on a weekday.  The playground and facilities certainly have enough space to hold everyone who wants to be there, but if you want to make it easiest on yourself, go early.  And get your tickets as soon as you can, too, so you don't have to wait in a long line.

The restrooms (of which there are TWO) are brand new, heated, and well-kept with, of course, changing tables.

Pullen Park really is a wonderful place for a family outing.  I see why GoAskMom was so excited it was reopening and all of us bloggers had to get there, too.  Downtown Raleigh is much benefited by this gorgeous park.  (PS, this is right down the street from the WRAL Azalea Gardens, too.)

By the way, Pullen Park is having a Holiday Express event integrating it's kiddie train and some Santa visits.  It runs Dec 8 - 11, 2011 and you can see that information here: http://www.raleighnc.gov/arts/content/PRecRecreation/Articles/HolidayExpress.html.  It is easier to get on board here than at the Life + Sciences' popular Santa train and is cheaper, too.  Nice little option.


Pullen Park
Playground open dawn to dusk; rides open 10 am - 6 pm (check website for any holiday changes)
520 Ashe Ave


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wonderland Express (Nov 2011-Jan 2012)

Now that your Thanksgiving and Black Friday holidays are over, it's time to turn to Christmas!  Everyone has been excited about the new train-based exhibit for the season over at Durham's Museum of Life + Science, and Katie gives us the full scoop.:

H is very into trains.  He is into trains that if given the choice between visiting a bounce house and sitting in a car watching trains, he’d choose the latter.  So, last week, we visited the inaugural Wonderland Express exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science.  We had an even better time than I expected.

The exhibit is located in a space adjacent to what used to be the sound and music room (which is currently a snack bar, and while it is fabulous we sure hope that sound and music room comes back).  You walk past lit Christmas trees into what I have to say is appropriately named Wonderland Express.  It really is a train-loving child’s wonderland! 

The exhibit fills the room, and while it isn’t the largest train exhibit I’ve seen in terms of square footage, it is absolutely the most elaborate, and worth the trip.   H was in love the minute we walked in, pointing and saying “train, Mommy, train!”  It didn’t take long for him to start running from one spot to another to check out some of the North Carolina landmarks (which H was too young to understand, of course).  That’s right, it isn’t just a train exhibit—Wonderland Express is representative of North Carolina from the mountains to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  So, while H was thoroughly entertained for far longer than I expected,  I had a great time picking out all of the landmarks. (Along those lines, I’m thinking about going back with my eight year old niece as it is a fun educational opportunity.)  The best part for H, hands down, though, was finding Thomas, not far below his eye level, in the very back corner—with a button he could push to make Thomas go!  See, I told you, Wonderland!

Now, let’s talk about the price.  I know that lots of folks are disappointed that the exhibit costs extra.  I have to admit that I was pretty bummed about it, too.  It costs $4 per person above and beyond the museum entrance fee.  I went all prepared to pay $8 ($4 each) to get into the exhibit (we’re members, so we don’t have to pay the museum entrance fee).  I honestly thought the cashier was wrong when she told me I only owed $2.  Here’s the scoop—if you are a member, the cost is $2 per person.  And, no matter what, the museum entrance rule of free admission for children 3 & under applies to the Wonderland Express exhibit as well!

To top off our day, we made a stop at Daisycakes for a sweet treat.   My husband stated it best when he called our day “Two year old Shangri-La!”

Wonderland Express
North Carolina Museum of Life and Science


November 5, 2011 - January 15, 2012

433 West Murray Avenue Durham, NC 27704
Phone: (919) 220-5429
Tuesday-Saturday:    10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday:    Noon - 5:00 p.m.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Drum Lessons (psst- Discount!)

C loves music, as do I, so I was thrilled when Russell Lacy got in touch asking if we wanted a sample drum lesson to see what he was about.  Russell is a talented actively performing musician, with a Masters in Jazz Performance, who recently came back to Durham after some time living in the Big Apple.  Brooklyn's loss is our gain: this man was great with my child.  And he has dedicated his life to teaching.

Let's be honest, the youngest age that can handle a true "lesson" is a 4 year old.  Even though C is not yet there, Russell was still fantastic with him.  They put on music, banged away, worked on rhythms, and explored all the different drum sounds (and drumsticks).  C was simply in love and keeps talking about it.

Russell himself works out of a Durham studio to offer lessons to folks of all ages (quick note that Russell did have a Carrboro location for a time but is consolidating all his lessons to his Durham studio).  Yes, parents, that includes YOU.  You can sign yourself up for lessons with this talented musician.  Or, of course, Russell would love to teach your little Alex Van Halen.

The outside of the studio
Classes are $50 for 1 hour.  But most kids do not need an hour so back out your price accordingly: a 30 minute lesson will be $25.  Here's the cool part - as a Mom in Chapel Hill reader you are eligible for 1 free trial class and a 10% discount off your purchase of the first 2 months of lessons.  Thinking of a Christmas gift for some kids in your life?  Considering a New Year's Resolution to broaden your own horizons?  Look no further!  Just mention that you saw this article when you talk to Russell.  Act fast since this deal will expire.

Here is some information about the lessons, so you know what you are getting.  Everyone starts on the drum pads, learning technique and rhythms, until ready to upgrade to a full set of drums.  Russell helps all students learn to sight read music, teaching what the various time signatures are (a gift that will last them the rest of their lives!).  He will work with his students in the genre of music they love to encourage their passion (i.e., if your kid loves pop, there may be some Justin Beiber-like music available to learn) but he also encourages folks to explore all genres of music through their lessons.

The studio is located in downtown Durham, close to the corner of Markham and Broad Streets (parking provided at the building where the lessons are offered).

And, since it's the holidays, I have to find some way to work in a quick remark about your Little Drummer Boy waiting at home for just the right drum teacher to come along...the star shines bright over a studio in Durham.  Check it out.

Drum Lessons with Russell Lacy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Purple Polka Dot

They might not have a Black Friday mega sale, but doing your Christmas shopping local just feels good (and less mob-scene).  So keep this place Katie found in your mind as you cross folks off your list:

I love to shop, and when H came along I began my quest for cute baby clothes, specifically cute baby clothes for boys—which are much harder to find than I expected!   I also think I have held on tight to the nesting urge (despite H's age) since I still love checking out furniture and accessories (and fabric and linens….).  One might wonder how the two would fit together, but they do, rather nicely, in Cary’s The Purple Polka Dot. 

I first ventured into The Purple Polka Dot to check out furniture, but I went around a corner and found adorable nursery accessories and even cuter baby and toddler clothes.  While they aren’t a baby emporium what they have is fun and reasonably priced.  I love my son’s t-shirt with a fun blue gingham whale embroidered appliqué and matching pants that I got there—and the shirt is his favorite, too!   And while I may be focused on clothing for little boys, they definitely have some adorable items for little girls (hair bows and tutus, anyone?)!   They even have the occasional trunk show!  

Of course, while you are in there you will see they have plenty of fun painted furniture and home accessories as well as handmade jewelry for Mommy to check out!   As if that isn’t enough, I’ve been checking out their photos of Christmas décor lately, and I cannot wait to go in again.  From ornaments to picture frames to cute hand towels, I’m thinking I can get a lot of shopping done in one spot! 

Also, it is conveniently located in Ashworth Square so you can always stop in at Serendipity for lunch or swing by after a trip to Kids Together Park.

The Purple Polka Dot

114 S Academy St
Cary, NC 27511



Monday, November 21, 2011


Is there anyone who isn't a fan of the foodtruck craze that has gripped the Triangle?  It is so great, giving us the opportunity to try new foods because they come to us.  The most popular trucks eventually branch out into free-standing restaurants and storefronts, such as Daisycakes.

Daisycakes is the newest addition to downtown Durham, right next to the Piedmont and across the street from the Downtown Durham Y.  Daisycakes started out as a food truck that people would pursue around town and is now a bona fide establishment.  Although never fear, the truck still exists and is serving folks around town.

C and I visited the storefront the other day.  You all know me, any excuse to try out a cupcake.  The store is tiny, with only about 4 tables to sit at and no high chairs.  But it is very clean, cute, and hip.  And be warned that since Daisycakes is very popular (it's even been covered by the super-cool Garden & Gun Magazine), it can be quite crowded inside.   It all depends on the day and time you visit. 

However, the real reason to go here is to get food.  If you stay and linger, great.  If you get it to go, fine.  But you do have to stop in.

Daisycakes has fabulous baked goods, all the braindchild of the owner who has always loved to bake and dreamed of opening her own place.  There were a couple varieties of cupcakes, scones (both sweet and savory), cookies, bread pudding (delicious!!), whoopie pies, cakes, and more.  Breakfast looks especially delicious here with a full service coffee bar, breakfast sandwiches, and homemade granola.

In addition to all of this, you can get sandwiches at the store that we didn't try but look phenomenal: soprasetta with braised greens and jack cheese; turkey, avocado, bacon & onion jam; oh, and PB+J and grilled cheese, too.

Prices are reasonable for an upscale, fun, local bakery: $2-$5 for your sweets and around $7 for your sandwiches.

Although I love the cupcakes at Gigi's, I have to say both C and I really loved Daisycakes food, too! Plus, the variety of items to buy here was so great.  

Also good to know: you can use Daisycakes and its space for birthday party and cooking classes.  And Daisycakes caters, so check them out for birthday parties, too!  Just contact them (see below) for more information.

Oh, and don't worry....if you still love the thrill of the food truck chase, Discovering the Southern Park of Heaven can help you out with that.  Go check it out!

401 Foster Street
(closed on Sundays & Mondays)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rhymetime at South Regional Library - Durham

Our friends over at Stir Crazy Moms' Guide to Durham absolutely love this event and, happily, Sarah C. did, too!:

With two toddlers in tow, I crossed the county line again to experience a program at one of the Durham Libraries. South Regional Library offers Rhymetime on Monday mornings at 9:30 and 10:30 aimed at walkers through 3 years.  It was a fun, interactive half hour. Both D at 27 months and my niece L at 13 months enjoyed it.

We sang songs, danced, repeated a few cute poems with motions and listened to two stories. One feature I loved were the handout sheets to help parents follow along and keep up with the poems. The very end featured bubbles and the song Skinamarink - which left all the kids running, dancing and laughing. We'll definitely be back for another visit!

If you're interested in checking out Rhymetime note that the current session runs through Monday, November 28th. Check the library calendar of events on their website (link below) to check for the program's return as well as information on additional programs and times.

South Regional Library
4505 S. Alston Ave


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mary Holmes Park - Pittsboro

It's been awhile since we've been in Pittsboro for you.  Let me start by saying that whoever is designing these new parks in Pittsboro deserves a huge award.  I have already professed my love of the Pittsboro Kiwanis Playground for toddlers (fenced in, natrual elements, toddler-appropriate equipment, lots to do, infant area with shade).  Well Pittsboro now has another beautiful park with natural elements: Mary (Hayes Barber) Holmes Park.

Mary Holmes Park is not new, it just has new things added to it.  Around for a few years the park had a huge climbing structure with a sandbox.  This thing is gorgeous: it looks like old, twisted gnarled trees that have been there forever yet are designed to encourage kids to play.  But parents (understandably) had been asking for some more traditional elements, too, and this past fall the Town added traditional swings, bucket swings, benches, and a huge seesaw.  Even these were done with nature and art in mind.  Just look at these pictures!

Mary Holmes Park also has a little trail around it, paved, therefore stroller friendly.  A sign at the front kindly informs you that  you have to do 3 loops of the trail to get 1 mile.

There are places to picnic here, with shade, and a nice soccer field.  Bathrooms are port-a-johns.

This park isn't big, but it is really unique.  Oh, I should warn you that as much as I absolutely loved this playground and the creative piece it is, my toddler was incredibly confused.  He wanted to know where the slide was.  We go to Southern Community Park so much that I think I have created a monster - he associates playground and outdoor play with large, bright, metallic objects that reach into the sky.  (sigh)  All the more reason we'll be going back to Mary Holmes: to learn that imagination and nature is really all you need.

Mary Holmes Park
304 Old Rock Springs Cemetery Road

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Science Safari

From Sarah C. this morning. Christmas shopping anyone?:

Tucked away in a small shopping center in Cary is a fabulous science store filled with wonderful surprises. Just 4 doors down from Pattywacks, Science Safari is anything but just a science store. Yes, you will find a few items you might think define science such as microscopes and test tubes, but there is a lot more and it's worth exploring!

D & I dropped in to visit one Saturday afternoon and I mistakenly thought we might do a quick browse, pick out a small item, and head on to our next adventure. Nope. One of many interactive opportunities grabbed his attention.This particular one was robot related and featured a remote control (who's kid doesn't love remote controls?). Then we moved on to other fun such as a game by the front counter and a small train table with Thomas the Engine cars to play with. We spent a lot of time with both and a little aquatic fun in between - ie, Myrtle the Turtle and a few small fish. My 2 year old couldn't seem to get enough time watching her wander her habitat.

When you can peel your kids away from the fun at the front, take them to the back room to see a few more creatures that you won't want to miss. Ok, maybe you won't mind missing the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (I confess, I find them pretty creepy) but there are also snakes, a frog, and an 18 year old iguana named Ozzy. The latter might be found on the very top of the unit housing the terrariums (spot him in there in the photo below), but don't mistake him for a plastic figurine. He's very real and can be gently petted.

Moving back to the retail aspect of the store, you'll find something for just about anyone. There are toys, bug boxes, robots, rockets, building kits, microscopes, stuffed animals, plastic animals, gemstones, posters, puppets, etc. Visit their website (link below) or the store itself for the full selection.

Science Safari also offers classes for children 3 years old to 5th grade. Check their Facebook page (link below) for details on upcoming classes and special events.

Science Safari
http://www.scisafari.com/ | Facebook
Saltbox Village
1255 Kildaire Farm Road


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Great Harvest Bread Co.

Happy to get the scoop today on the place that tantalizes me when I visit The Children's Store.  Plus, this is a great place to add to spots that make Errands Easier!  Thanks, Katie, for making me crave a big slice of hot bread right now.:
Let’s face it, whether you have toddlers or teenagers life as a Mom is hectic.  I am always looking for ways to make running errands easier, and Great Harvest Bread Company does just that.  I know, they are a bakery and they don’t deliver (a girl can dream), so how could they possibly make my life any easier?  Three things: convenience, sandwiches and salads to pick up, and entertainment for my two year old, H!

I will admit, my family is addicted to their bread.  (So much so that I don’t buy bread in the grocery store anymore).  To say that I occasionally stop in would be an understatement as I’m there at least once a week, often with a H in tow.  Here is where convenience comes in.  They are located close to Whole Foods so I can swing by after grocery shopping.  But even if I cannot make it there, they are also at Farmers’ Markets in the area (I’ve seen them at both Fearrington and Eno River). 

Now, on to those sandwiches and salads.  It’s definitely not a full-service restaurant.  In fact, their only tables are out front.  However, it is awfully nice to be able to pick up a quick and delicious sandwich without making an extra stop.  (They have PB&J for the little guys, too!)   I also love that we are always offered a free slice when we walk in, so H has something to munch on while we wait. 

For Moms with toddlers here is the best part: they have a long, cushioned window seat and a basket full of fun children’s books!  It really is a very simple thing—but it makes the 15 minutes we are in there very pleasant.   H loves to go in, climb up on the window seat and go through the books.  We hang out and read stories while we wait for our order.  If only all stores had that setup...

If you want to know exactly why I can’t buy bread in the grocery store anymore, check out our review of Great Harvest Bread on Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven.

Great Harvest Bread Company

Open Tuesday-Saturday
229 S. Elliott Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514


Friday, November 11, 2011

i9 Sports

Winter is coming, don't let your geese get fat!  Even though the cold weather is hitting, i9 Sports, a recreational sports league for kids ages 3 to 14 in Durham, is not only going to keep offering great programs but is also expanding in to Chapel Hill!

I know that a lot of you parents use the Y and your local parks & rec to get some sports in for your children.  We've also covered NetSports in Morrisville as an indoor sports spot. But i9 is something different.

i9 is actually a national program, established some time ago in both North and South Wake County.  Yet when local mom and entrepeneur Kathleen Seifert discovered the program she and her son were so in love with it they just had to open up some spots for Durham and Chapel Hill parents to experience this, too.

So why is it different?  i9 Sports puts your practice and your game into one trip.  That's right, 1 trip.  If your kids are older they start out with 1 hour of practice immediately followed by a game lasting approximately 1 hour.  (For younger kids, the times are shorter, of course.)  Parents, it's a dream: 1 day of the week committed and you get both the practice and the game.

i9 offers a variety of sports, too: co-ed flag football, soccer, basketball, and even cheerleading.  Who knows what else might be added as they continue to expand?

Right now, i9 is the only spot to offer flag football for younger kids.  And while Seifert acknowledges that they have yet to really tap into the market for middle school kids, she emphasizes that not all middle schoolers have the option to play a sport they love once they hit schools with JV and Varsity teams so she encourages them to stay engaged and give i9 a try.

This particular league also places a lot of emphasis on sportsmanship.  Seifert has a degree in Elementary Education and has spent years devoted to children's education in a variety of ways.  Making sure i9 is a well-rounded, relaxed, positive experience is a passion of hers.  Kids are divided into teams, of course, for the session based first on whether or not they have preferences as to teammates and coaches followed by a complex formula based on age, weight, and height.  Each game does have a "winner" and a "loser" as this is a sports league, afterall, and Seifert says it is critical to teach kids to learn how to manage and deal with disappointment (which is part of life!).  Beyond that, each week sportsmanship awards are given out.  A different aspect of sportsmanship is taught and focused on each week and kids exemplifying that trait get an award (and new: kids who are selected to win that week also get free kids meals at a local pizzeria!).

Something else unique: there is always an i9 employee at the site of games and practices.  That means that if a parent has questions or a situation ever arises that needs addressed it can be tended to immediately.

The coaches of the teams are diverse, as well.  Some are parent coaches, some are college students.  In fact, for some of the practices there has been a Duke player or two known to show up to run some drills.

Since this is a recreational sports league you do have to register your child for an 8-week session.  Right now the cost for next session (starting in January) is $140 but you get a discount if you register early, so head to their website (see below) to check it out.  The session fee includes a team jersey, participation medal, and access to fun and games!

Currently sessions are offered at Emily Krzyzewski Center and Lowe's Grove Middle School in Durham.  A Chapel Hill location will be announced soon, Seifert is just trying to finalize details.  Stay tuned to their website.

i9 Sports
Sports Recreation League for kids ages 3 - 14
For Durham & Orange Counties, click here.  phone: 919-425-2105
For Southern Wake County, click here.
For Northern Wake County, click here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Moonberries Frozen Yogurt

I have had this information to share with you all for awhile, but it kept getting pushed to the back burner.  I mean, there are so many frozen yogurt places already (check out our complete listing of "Sweet Treats").  But when I was at Target at Southpoint yesterday I realized it was time to share with you all the best part of Moonberries: bribery.

You see, this place is so close to Target, PetCo, Michael's, and Southpoint Mall that it is fantastic for using for bribery with your child: "If you behave in Target, we'll go get some ice cream later."  Pretty sure Dr. Phil would be ok with that, right?

Moonberries is really cute inside.  There are cute paintings on the wall and it is bright.  Like most of these FroYo places, it is a make your own, pay by weight sort of place.  The selections of yogurts were great (they even had my favorite, cake batter) and the toppings bar diverse and delicious.  The fruits looked really fresh, everything was very clean especially considering it was pretty busy when we were in there, and there were some fun new things in their toppings that I hadn't seen before (go see!).

Moonberries also does some seasonal selections, as well.  For example, during these holidays they have some of the following, fun yogurts out in rotation: eggnog, pumpkin spice, ginger bread, apple pie, and white chocolate creamy mousse.  Most of the yogurts are gluten free and they don't use high fructose corn syrups in the yogurts (that comes with the toppings).

Other perks: there are tables outside to sit in and they have one of those Keurig single cup coffee makers so you can buy tasty coffee if you want instead of going for the cold yogurt.

As far as price, this place is slightly more expensive (by a few cents) than other spots but worth it, in my opinion.  Make sure you get your frequent-buyer card started, too.

No changing tables.  They said they are working on it.

Stay tuned to Moonberries' Facebook page (see link below) since the Durham location will frequently offer discounts.

Moonberries Frozen Yogurt
8200 Renaissance Parkway, Suite 1002
Durham, NC 27713

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

High Tea at Carolina Inn

For all the princesses out there here is a post from Katie of a must-do.:

Recently, I joined a friend and her three year old daughter, G, at the Carolina Inn for high tea to celebrate G’s potty-training victory.  G loves tea parties and the idea of being a princess. I had promised for months that as soon as she finished potty training, we would all get dressed up and I would treat her to a very fancy high tea, because isn’t that what  princesses would do?

So, when G called to give me the news, we made reservations and a couple of weeks later, they came to Chapel Hill for tea.   I have to say, it was quite a treat and G wasn’t the only one feeling like a princess that day!  Seating for high tea is in the gorgeous lobby of the Carolina Inn.  With such beautiful surroundings, who wouldn’t feel like royalty?     

Once you are seated, you select your tea—each person chooses one, but there is plenty of each to share.  For the little ones you can also choose pink lemonade, which is what we did for G, because we found that while she likes the idea of high tea, it is really for the beautiful surroundings, perfect place settings, and the promise of sweets.  Not so much the "hot tea" part.  And the sweets were incredible—with fresh scones, chocolate dipped strawberries and savory sandwiches, along with lemon curd, delicious preserves and Devonshire Cream.  G was giddy with excitement! 

We were a little worried that some of the food might be too sophisticated for G or that she might, well, not behave (after all, she is only three).  She was so excited that she tried everything and loved most of it—and behaved like a perfect princess.  

If you are at all concerned that your little one might not love the food, the Carolina Inn actually offers a Little Prince and Little Princess Tea menu during the high tea time.  The Little Prince and Princess Tea is a bit less expensive at $17 for 8-12 year olds, and $12 for 4-7 year olds (the adult price for classic tea is $20).   For more information on High Tea for adults, check out our review on Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven.

There is a dress code for this event, by the way, with "resort or business casual" requested.  Either way, princesses always travel in style anyhow!

If you are planning a special celebration it is a perfect place to go to introduce your little ones to this wonderful, long-standing tradition. 

Afternoon High Tea at the Carolina Inn
(reservations required at least 24 hours in advance):  919.918.2735
211 Pittsboro Street
Chapel Hill, NC  27516


Monday, November 7, 2011

Box Tops for Education

If you didn't catch it, my first little bundle of joy is now in school (second bundle of joy is still in utereo kicking my bladder).  With school comes a whole new world for parents, of course.  New things to know.  But whether or not your child is in school yet, there is a wonderfully easy way to contribute to your community's schools.  All you have to do is keep shopping for all the stuff you were going to shop for anyhow.  Yup, that's it.

What piqued my interest in all of this was all those labels on the food in my pantry saying that it was a Box Top for Education.  Being a responsible parent now, I am very interested in Education with a capital "E" and what I can do to help.

General Mills launched "Box Tops for Education" (a.k.a. BTFE) back in 1996.  Since then they have given over $400 million towards schools in the country.  Schools can get up to $60,000 towards educational materials just from you shopping.  (There are 3 distinct programs to help your school earn points and from each program a school is eligible for up to $20,000.)  The money can be used by the school how they wish provided it go towards educational materials.  The catch: the amount of money each school gets depends on US.  As in YOU and ME.

All you have to do is shop.

So here's how it works, and it's simpler than you think: 

Step One: Head online to create a free account for yourself. You start the entire process by determining which school you will contribute to.  Only schools registered with BTFE will show up, and you can only select a school already registered.  Most elementary, middle, and high schools (public and private) are on there, though.  If your child is in a preschool program, you will most likely not have the option to pick it.  In which case, you can either work with your school to help them get registered (be a leader!) or you can pick the elementary school your child will go to eventually (invest in the future) and contribute to the preschool by....

Step Two: Shop and earn.  You have 3 different ways to do this:

1. Clip all those Box Tops for Education labels you see on your cereal boxes and bread flour and giving them to your school.  Pretty much every school has a system in place to collect them.  Some schools have coordinators that the box tops are sent to, some schools have "drives" where students are asked to save them all at home and bring them in on one big collection day, some schools even have rewards for students collecting the most box tops, some schools hand out cute fliers for you to post your box tops to that month.  Ask your school for details.

Note that simply purchasing a box top product at the grocery store does nothing for your school of choice.  If that pretty box top ends up in your recycling bin (oh yeah, we're PC), then it is lost points for your school.  You do have to clip them, save them, and send them in.

2. Shop online through the BTFE marketplace and your online account will automatically credit the school you have chosen: http://www.boxtops4education.com/earn/marketplace/ (shops include Best Buy, Disney Store, Gap & Baby Gap, KMart, LEGO, LeapFrog, Macy's, Nordstrom's, Old Navy, Target, Sears, Land of Nod, Walmart, and so many more).  The school you selected when you set up your account will automatically get eBoxTops.  Come one, you were about to do some Christmas shopping at some of those places anyways, right?

3. Buy books from Barnes & Noble online: http://www.boxtops4education.com/earn/readingroom.  This is their entire online selection and also includes items for the Nook. Again, the school you selected when you set up your account will automatically get eBoxTops.

The amount of money that comes to the schools per each box top isn't huge.  In fact, it ends up only being 6 - 10 cents per box top you send in.  However, do not knock it folks!  Do you know how quickly it can add up?  Do you know how many boxes of Chex we go through in my house per month?  Already this school year some of the schools near me have racked up $1,500 - $2,000.  That's not a shabby contribution to a school for doing nothing but shopping for stuff you were going to buy anyways.

By the way, if you needed more incentive, when you create your account you also will get access to coupons for popular products (like Honey Nut Cheerios, Chex, Bisquick, cake mixes (tis the season!), and refrigerated doughs) to use on your next grocery store run.  Which, of course, you can then clip the box tops on to send on to your schoo.  http://www.boxtops4education.com/earn/clip/coupons.aspx

General Mills' Box Tops for Education Program

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oakwood Park - Chapel Hill

I know it's a dreary, dreary day to be telling you about a great new playground in Chapel Hill.  But tomorrow (Saturday, Nov 5, 2011) this little park has it's grand reopening celebration and you should know about it! Read about the plans for that here.

Oakwood Park is located in the Glen Lennox neighborhood, on the corners of Berkley & Oakwood Drives.  It was recently closed and overhauled for major renovations.  The new spot is fantastically done, and I am a fan.  I took some photos on my own which my computer promptly ate (blargh, technology) so here is a great shot from the Town of Chapel Hill.  You can find many more photos of this playground on their website (see link below):
2011 10 4 002
Photo from Town of Chapel Hill. For more, go to http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/

Oakwood Park is completely fenced in, which is the best thing about it.  There are two play structures as well, both brand new.  One is for older kids (pictured) and one is for younger children.  Of course, our kids were meant for the younger but were obsessed with the older.  And they could handle it just fine, except for the monkey-bar like things.

There are 2 bucket swings and 2 regular swings here as well as a little water feature (not operational while we were there) to look at.

The playground had some really different features such as a very interesting sculpture-looking seesaw and some big rings for kids to climb through.

The part of the playground that the town has been most proud of is the children's art incorporated into the gate.  When you go, check it out.  It really is cool!

The ground cover is primarily mulch.  There is little shade but some on the perimeters.  And there are some nice benches for parents to rest on that are smack in the middle (a great spot for a quick jump up and grab your kid).

Tennis courts are nearby.  Parking is on the street but there is plenty of it.

Enjoy this new little park all!  Glen Lennox (and Fresh Market, picnic anyone?!!) are right down the street.

Oakwood Playground
20 Oakwood Drive
Chapel Hill

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chapel Hill Gymnastics

There's a new gym in town. That's not me trying to be cute, it really is brand new. It opened 5 weeks ago. And I took C to try it out (and coincidentally ran into our Allstar blog reader and friend Laura R. there! What a great time and another reason why we love doing this blog so much.)

Anyhow, the two of us were taking our boys to a trial of the Parent & Tot gymnastics class. At Chapel Hill Gymnastics, much like other places, up until the age of 3 the gym classes include parent involvement and really are about exploration. The very cute and wonderful young lady who ran the class we attended, Chelsey, would show the boys what they could do at various stations. But there was no pressure for them to achieve. Which was good considering they had rather short attention spans given the plethora of things to run into and jump into and roll over. Chelsey was also very hands-on with the boys, encouraging them to try things they hadn't and certainly wouldn't think to do on their own (note to self: watch for log rolls down the hallway tomorrow). She had such an easy and effortless way with the kids, it was fun to watch.

It was also refreshing to see the instructor respond to what the kids were interested in. We tried some structured time in the beginning consisting of led activities to music. But when those weren't holding the kids' attention too well, the instructor simply changed what we were doing.

So let's run the list of what other gymnastics places we've reviewed on this blog for you for a moment: Tumble Gym in Southern Village, Bull City Gymnastics in Durham, Sport Art Gymnastics in Chapel Hill, The Little Gym in Durham, and if you count it as gymnastics the Gymboree Play & Learn in Durham. We've been around. Chapel Hill Gymnastics wins hands down on facilities. Of course, it is brand new so I suppose it should. But it was beautiful and big and oh so sparkling clean. There is, of course, a huge foam pit as well as a trampoline. Which are the best parts to most kids.

Chapel Hill Gymnastics also does a great job of offering a LOT of classes and opportunities for you to get your child to a class. Note that this might change as they figure out what the demand is and what times people attend.

Prices are consistent with other places we've tried out for you. Chapel Hill Gymnastics is $118-$150 for an 8-week term (or $15-$19 per class), depending on the age and skill level of your child. There are sibling discounts and you can try out a class for free before committing. If you register for a session mid-term you get a prorated bill. (Note that these prices are identical as of date of this publication to Bull City Gymnastics. Sport Art Gymnastics still remains the cheapest spot we've seen to date but the facilities are considerably older. Just trying to lay it all out there for you parents!)

Chapel Hill Gymnastics also has a lot of special events. Check out their website (below) for details.

Overall, we're happy about this addition to our community. In fact, I am thinking C's birthday party next year....looks like a great place to go for a bunch of 3 year olds to expend energy and it is available for parties!

Chapel Hill Gymnastics

7405 Rex Road (the corner of Millbrook and Eubanks)

Chapel Hill


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Serendipity Gourmet Deli

A post today from Katie about a kid-friendly, casual eatery in Cary. If we get any more outdoor dining kind of weather days, make sure you take advantage! And don't forget that you can also find Katie on a regular basis over at Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven.:

The first time I came across Serendipity it was serendipitous, indeed (okay, forgive me, I couldn’t help myself). We had spent the morning at Kids Together Park in Cary with friends and H and I both needed lunch in a hurry. By this point, I had learned that remotely fancy with H would be a bad idea. A really bad idea. I just needed a good sandwich shop with a kids menu. Preferably someplace where spills wouldn’t end the world and where things came in baskets (read as: no plates to break).

I was thrilled to come across Serendipity, a deli in Ashworth Square in Cary. They were just what we needed—no frills in décor, but really good food. They had plenty of high chairs and were more than willing to help my friend and I get both our children (and all of our gear) situated. I also loved that they have plenty of outdoor seating, which in the end-of-fall weather would be perfect. Although when we went, all we could think about was food and air conditioning!

The kids menu is limited, but tasty. (Also be forewarned, it is hard to find the kids portion on the menu.) It includes mac and cheese, pb&j, grilled cheese, or half a turkey, ham, or bologna sandwich. The sides for kiddos are pretty much limited to chips, but for an after-park lunch at a very kid-friendly deli that just so happens to have great food for the grown-ups, too, that isn’t bad. Besides, H felt like he was getting on incredible treat when he got to eat potato chips!

Prices are very reasonable with most salads and sandwiches between $4.00 and $8.00. I think I have spent more at a fast food restaurant.

My friend and I decided the only thing we would change is the bathroom—there was no changing station. That hasn’t stopped us from going back, though. This was a great stop for our post-park lunch!!

For more information on what we thought about the menu for adults, check out our review on Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven.

Serendipity Gourmet Deli

118 South Academy Street

Cary, NC 27511

(919) 469-1655