Monday, April 30, 2012

The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math Winner

It was so fun to be able to offer this giveaway for The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math and I do hope that you all took some time to enjoy the NC Science Fair.  Without further ado, our winner is: Signe Clayton.  

Signe writes:
"My favorite subject in school was probably English, but my husband is a math teacher and he has such a passion for math, it's slowly rubbing off on me. He currently works with some pretty tough kids at an alternative school and they are really hard to get interested in learning, so I would love to get this book for him. It seems like it would have some great inspiration!"

If you could email us at to collect your winnings we'd appreciate it.

Keep on multiplying you crazy kids...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Nantucket Cafe

I have long been a fan of family dining at the Nantucket Cafe over at Farrington/54/40 intersection.  But as you know we're pretty picky about what eating establishments we recommend to families and put on this site, so I hesitated posting about it.  Then Katie mentioned how much she loved dining there with  H and I thought "this must be shared!"  Please note, though, that while there are a few Nantucket Cafes in the area, the one we are specifically talking about is the Farrington location...they are not all created equal...especially when it comes to those bathrooms.:

Nantucket has long been one of my Chapel Hill favorites, from my college days when the only location was tucked in the corner of Rams Plaza and we went in the mornings to get muffin tops (the edible kind).  When I moved back to Chapel Hill almost two years ago, the location on Farrington became one of our go to spots:  good food, familiar spot, close to home.

Nantucket has a great kids’ menu (I'll talk more about that below), and a great bakery (think birthday cake).  There are a lot of high chairs around as well as a bunch of seating, including outdoor dining.  Service is fast.  I’ve long planned to post about Nantucket over on Southern Part of Heaven.  It wasn’t until I went into the bathroom that I realized that I just had to tell the Mom in Chapel Hill readers about it, too.  Yep, you read that right, the bathroom.

You’re probably wondering why a restaurant bathroom would impress me so much.  Sure, we’ve all been in bathrooms with our children and then warned our friends:  “oh, you won’t find a changing table there,” or maybe worse.  We all know that even if a place has a great kids menu, no changing table or lack of high chairs and booster seats can make you nix a place from your family dining list.  Well, have no fear at Nantucket (at least the one on Farrington)!  They even supply the changing extras, like baby lotion, etc! As in, they don’t just have a changing station, they have a stocked one!   I can’t even count how many times I have gotten into a public restroom with H and realized I left one key thing at home, or DH used the last of something on their last outing.  I was so surprised at the stocked changing station that I called to ask if they do it regularly, and yes, they do!  (seriously, it could have been some incredibly kind, or forgetful, diaper fairy who left all that stuff behind.)  Okay, don’t expect them to have everything—but isn’t it nice to know there is a restaurant out there anticipating a Mommy’s needs?

Now that you know all about the bathroom, I have to tell you that the kids’ menu is pretty darn good.  It’s really standard kids’ menu fare in terms of the entrees (hot dogs, cheeseburgers, fish fingers, chicken fingers, mac and cheese, grilled cheese, etc), but instead of just fries and applesauce as side choices they also offer steamed broccoli, fresh fruit, and grapes, which makes it a hit with my family.  If you haven’t been before, the Farrington location in Chapel Hill features their bakery items in a case by the front door.  As a Mom, I could potentially see the drawback to this (oh, please, don’t let my little one start asking for cupcakes), but we use it as bribery.  You know how it goes...if you are good through dinner, you can pick a cupcake.... I know, we probably shouldn’t be using food as a reward, but that’s another blog entirely....If you can't spring for a full cupcake or don't want to, they also offer free bakery samples by the front door that would work for bribery, too!

Happy Eating (and diaper changing)!

Nantucket Cafe & Grill

(please check website for additional locations)
5925 Farrington Road
Chapel Hill, NC


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Froot Loop Sand

This craft project for kids hits a variety of learning elements: sorting, fine motor skills, banging and crushing, pasting, and more.  Plus, it just tastes good.

I got this idea from the book The Toddler's Busy Book, which I love and have already mentioned here. We added our own little twist at my house and came up with a fun project.

  • Froot Loops (generic will do, of course!)
  • plastic baggies, if you want to contain the mess as much as possible
  • rolling pin or other implement to crush the cereal (you know at this point it is going to be a great craft)
  • paper
  • glue stick
We got all our supplies together, including our Harris Teeter brand of Froot Loops.  We dumped a bunch on to the counter and began sorting them by color, putting like colors together in to a plastic baggie.

We then picked up our rolling pin, the idea being to roll over the Froot Loops that were in the plastic baggie crushing them to dust/sand-like consistency.  The rolling pin was proving frustrating to my toddler so, in a moment of inspiration, we got out the plastic hammer to one of his "tool benches" and used that to pulverize the cereal in the baggies.  I have a loud little boy so you can only imagine his joy and mirth at this activity.  (Friendly tip: make sure the air is out of your baggies and they are well sealed before you allow your child to hammer away, or you end up with crumbs all over.)
After that task was gleefully completed, we got out the glue stick and paper.  C made long streaks with the glue across the page and sprinkled various colors of Froot Loop "sand" on the glue marks.  He liked this as he got to "crunch" pieces down to the glue and pat them in place and he was able to make different marks and shapes with glue.  

 Enjoy this craft!  Just try not to eat all the Froot Loops.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DAC Clay Studio at Northgate Mall

In early 2011 the Durham Arts Council moved their Clay Studio to Northgate Mall.  Primarily, this is a beautiful spot for adults to learn how to throw pottery and otherwise get creative with clay.  However, one Monday morning a month (and, as of the time of this publication, the next one is May 7th) the DAC offers a Parent/Child Workshop.  It was brave of me, I know, to venture out to this place full of breakables with a toddler.  But I have to say...TOTALLY worth it.
This was a lot of fun for C and me (I know nothing about clay).  The studio is located over near the movie theatre and Gamefrog at Northgate, with an outside storefront entrance that was easy to find and park next to.  It also means that a lot of natural light gets in.  The place was gorgeous and just oozes creativity (and clay).
The time for kids that they hold once a month is actually appropriate for kids of almost any age.  Each month there is a different theme but almost always projects geared towards different ages within that theme.  On the day we went the older kids were building 3-dimensional projects out of clay with various tools for cutting and shaping while the younger set was using items sort of like cookie cutters to create then paint small clay ornaments.
Since I know nothing about clay we were very dependent on the totally awesome teacher when we attended.  But when she wasn't available the kids who come to these sessions regularly (and there were quite a few!) were a big help.  C's favorite part was turning the huge wheel on the machine that flattens the clay.  They have pottery wheels available for "throwing" but they only open those up to children once every season at a special workshop class.

The cost is not cheap at $15 per child but it does include all supplies.  Registration in advance is suggested but not necessary (except for that class that involves the wheels I mentioned above since those are popular and limited).  Similar to Glazed Expectations and Paint Your Pot you need to leave your finished projects with the studio for awhile so they can fire them in the kiln for you.  Plan to head back to the Clay Studio to pick them up once you receive an email they are ready.  However, different from these studios, here you get to do the dirty work of making and creating the piece from the block of clay up.  Very fun. 

The DAC does offer sessions of classes for older kids, too, if that interests your brood.  I haven't seen a summer line up published yet, but stay tuned to the website (see below) as I am sure it will come out soon.  Parents, if you want to get creative and learn how to work with clay, they have plenty of options for you, too!

Durham Arts Council's Clay Studio
Parent/Child Workshops
Northgate Mall

Monday, April 23, 2012

Giveaway: The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math

Math is so important in life yet so often is associated with drudgery and boring equations.  As someone who has struggled with math her whole life, I know firsthand what it is like to need to practice it and how important it is for math to seem fun.  Plus, we usually do giveaways that tend to be geared towards younger kids.  AND on top of all of that we are in the midst of the NC Science Festival and this author is here, in town, tonight and tomorrow!  All of these things combine to make me so pleased to announce a totally spectacular giveaway today: The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math.

This book, by author Sean Connolly, shows that math can be fun with problems such as: "How many months would it take a single vampire to completely take over a town of 500,000 people?" and "How long can a barrel of fresh water last before 5 shipwrecked soldiers go mad from thirst?"  Sean Connolly sets out to prove you don't need to be a genius to use fractions, algebra, geometry and equations -- AND that you can actually have fun doing it. There are also 24 hands-on activities that bring math to life in the book.

The math is middle school level.  So not only is it great if you are one of our readers who has kids that age but if not your children can  "grow in" to this book.  And heck, I might need one for myself just to practice my own skills.

Plus, like I said, Sean Connolly is in town tonight and tomorrow night.  You can find him here:

Monday, April 23  7:00 - 9:00 pm
Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill

Tuesday, April 24  4:30 - 6:00 pm
Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

(Sean will give a demonstrations, lead a Q&A, and sign books for The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math.)

If you just can't make it to these events, though, or simply would rather try to snag a free copy if you can (hey, we don't blame you, parenting is expensive) we're gonna give one away! (U.S. only, please.)

All you have to do to enter is post a comment telling us your favorite subject in school.  Or, alternatively, you can tell us what you loved or hated about math.  Either writing prompt is appropriate for this class assignment.

You won't get this book in time for it to be signed at these events, so we'll give you all until Sunday night, April 29th, to enter.

Fresh Taste Yogurt & Ice Cream

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the decisions surrounding the old Maple View storefront in downtown Carrboro were made.  It closed, fairly suddenly, and the public was upset.  It was a fantastic location to get great, locally made, fresh ice cream.  Then the news reported that a new owner was taking the shop window and was considering selling Maple View ice cream in whatever went in.  Then Fresh Taste Yogurt opened.  With a big sign out front that says "Organic Frozen Yogurt" the place opened again in March.

Cracks me up!  Because despite the large words and new name (which is actually not so large) this is pretty much the same old ice cream shop!

There is 1 frozen yogurt flavor on tap at any time.  It changes, and there are still a limited amount of toppings you can get with it, and it is nice as it is organic and gluten free and Kosher.  But you only get one option (if having 1 of something counts as an 'option').

Yet there are gallons and various flavors of Maple View Ice Cream to be had by scoop and cone.  That's what we went for: Cookies & Cream.  Delicious.

The big rockers out front are gone, there are some chairs and tables, and the inside has been spruced up with some nice interior design changes.  But, really, same old ice cream in the same old place.  Which is completely OK with me.

Fresh Taste
100 Weaver Street

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 Fitness Challenge - We Did It!

#MiCHillFit2012 16 weeks of training under our belts in our 2012 Fitness Challenge. Here's how our final days and the 5k went. How did you do?

Allison, Sarah & Katie pre-race

From Allison:
Our good friend Stacey told us before the race, to help us with our pre-race jitters and nerves, that: "Based on [a] 10k experience, you'll hate the run while you're doing it, and forget all that and love it when it's over....kinda like childbirth."  Man, was she hilariously right!  I was so apprehensive before the race that you would have thought I was getting ready to do a marathon.  If you followed our tweets you were either rolling your eyes at us or you were nodding in agreement.  But I said it before and I'll say it again - doing new things is always scary.  Doing new things that challenge you physically are scarier.  It is so hard to get motivated to push your own boundaries.  Yet that is the only way to embrace this crazy journey called life and live it to the "fullest."  I will admit that if it weren't for committing to this 5k notion on this website and for my friends Sarah and Katie I probably would have backed out, thinking there was no way I could do it.

But I did do it.  And I learned some valuable lessons in the meantime.  Workout with friends, hold each other accountable.  Set goals, but don't be unrealistic.  Maybe Whoopi is on to something with these poise pads she advertises (hey, I am 4 months post-partum, I think about these things).  Be gentle with your body but trust it to carry you through, it can do more than you think.

Here I am, almost 4 months to the day, after having baby 2.  I was so so fortunate to have an easy labor & delivery and, hence, recovery. Yet I still have such a long way to go to reclaiming my body as mine and making it what I want again.  This race, and the training required, was a fabulous goal to help me feel in charge and in control of an otherwise wacky time for a mom.

I can't say this has made a "runner" out of me.  But I get why people do this now.  Sarah and I were all smiles after the race.  Thank you guys, you supported us and it was inspiring.  And I hope that we maybe kind of inspired you to set and meet your own personal challenges and goals.

'Til the next challenge...

From Katie:
I’m pretty bummed to tell you that I got sidelined, thanks to some contractions, for the Briar Chapel 5k. Okay, after seeing some of the hills Allison and Sarah conquered, maybe I’m not that bummed. Those two women are rock stars for not only finishing the 5k, but they were still running at the end! I was glad I got to put on my t-shirt, take photos, and tweet their progress!

Really, though, I am happy that this challenge got me moving and kept me accountable, and I am hoping you will join me as I continue to exercise through this pregnancy! And, once I have this baby - the next challenge is on!

From Sarah:
Last week, I took a good long walk on Tuesday and ran on Thursday. Both days while pushing D in the jogger. Wow does that intensify your workout so big kudos to all the racers I saw pushing jogging strollers on Saturday! So impressed!

As I prepared myself for the race, I took Friday off to just enjoy although I did stretch a little and use my foam roller on my legs. I broke out that foam roller again Saturday morning trying to loosen up before the race. I started my day earlier than usual - partly due to nerves waking me and partly because I wanted a few quiet moments to eat breakfast and relax. I was both nervous and excited when I donned our awesome Mom in Chapel Hill t-shirts from Big Frog and DH, D and I headed out the door. Strangely enough, once registered and Allison & I were lined up behind the starting line, my nerves vanished. We were just a couple of people in the midst of a sea of runners. The first few minutes were calm. Then the hills came and the sun peeked out from the clouds. Allison put it best later when she said that the hills weren't so much steep as LONG. The downside in my training was that while it was on a greenway, there were no comparable inclines to what I experienced during the race. It definitely slowed me down a bit. Nonetheless, I finished strong at 32:57 and was proud to have accomplished this challenge.

Now that our goal has been met, we're taking a little breather. Not to say we're done. Honestly, we briefly talked about "what's next?" just before the race! It's looking like we might try personal challenges, but no official decisions yet. There are still 8 months left in the year. Lots of time! If you have a suggestion, let us know by leaving a comment here or on Facebook.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ackland Art Museum Store

I was so glad when something moved in to that huge empty storefront on Franklin Street.  I was even more glad when Katie scoped it out recently and it turns out it is a great little spot for shopping for little ones!:
I like to shop.  Actually, more than I go out and buy things, I like to go out and check out stores.  Window shopping at its finest.  I like to know what shops have so that when I need something I know exactly where to find it.  One afternoon a few months ago, I found myself with a babysitter and a couple of hours away from work so I headed into Ackland Art Museum Store on Franklin Street.  I was really checking them out for future gifts for friends and family members, and I got quite the pleasant surprise when I wandered into their children's section! 

While they may not have a huge selection I love the toys and art kits for children that Ackland Art Museum Store carries!  You will not find loud noises and bright lights, but you will find a selection of solid, high quality, creative toys and children's items.  I happen to love the Jellycat line of stuffed animals they carry!  And love does not even begin to describe what I feel about Tubtrugs, colorful, flexible, light tubs with handles that I use to organize our playroom. I was thrilled to see that Ackland carries them! 

Prices run the gamut, from inexpensive to pricey, but the items there are well worth it.  You will not find the gazillion plastic trinkets that most of us "Toddler Moms" have already seen way too many of.  And for that, I am very thankful.   So next time you are on the market for a special child’s gift, make sure you stop in at Ackland.

Ackland Art Museum Store
100 East Franklin
Chapel Hill, NC


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Homemade Playdough

From Sarah C.:

My aunt shared this recipe for homemade playdough with me when D was younger. It's wonderful - easy to make and long lasting. We're still using the original batch we made over a year ago!

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon of baby oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • food coloring
  • airtight container(s) for storage

Start by mixing the flour, salt, cream of tarter, baby oil and water in a large pot. If you have a little helper like I did, try setting the pot and dry ingredients on a baking sheet on the floor. Gives them access and helps contain the mess.

This step should be done by adults or with adult supervision! Take the saucepan to the stove top and warm over moderate heat. Stir until mixture sticks together.

Allow to cool. Knead by hand into a smooth dough.

To make multiple colors, divide the dough into smaller sections. Then add food coloring to each section and knead in the coloring. Your hands will get colored from this process, but that's part of the fun (and it will wash off later - hint: using baking soda & water).

Now the real fun - play with your dough!

To keep it, store in airtight containers. If it begins to dry out, add a little baby oil.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Battle Park

I know it's a soggy morning, but that doesn't mean you can't dream about your weekend now.  How about an easy hike with the family through Battle Park on UNC's campus? (After the 5K, of course.)

Battle Park is on UNC's campus, behind the gorgeous Forest Theatre.  Run by the Botanical Gardens the forest is over 93-acres (yes, right in town, another reason to love Chapel Hill).  The forest isn't "pristine" as the website says but much of it has been around prior to 1740.

This was a fun little walk.  There is actually very little undergrowth so you can great lines of sight.  The hiking is easy and short.  The trails (view trail map here) are pretty short so it was easy for my toddler.  The trails also go by Battle Branch Creek, also fabulous for my toddler and his favorite pastime of throwing rocks in water.

I do have to say that there are some majestic sounding sights that, while cool, were not as awe-inspiring as such sweeping names lead you to believe: Monarch of the Forest, Lovers Leap.  It was, however, a nice hike.  We enjoyed seeing the old spring.

There is parking for Battle Park but, of course, parking is going to be much easier (with many lots open) on weekends.  During the summer, too, campus slows down so you can get going then.

No strollers.  Take a carrier.  Take a picnic- there are some picnics outside of Forest Theatre.  I didn't notice a bathroom but, quite honestly, wasn't looking too hard.

We drove on down Franklin Street for dinner at Milltown afterwards, a spot we love and has a kids menu with outdoor dining.  Just dine at Milltown early with kids since it can get packed.

Battle Park
Access off of Boundary Park by Forest Theatre

Monday, April 16, 2012

Preschool Playcraft at Bull City Crafts

Don't worry.  As Katie hangs out with us, gets more & more addicted to our Pinterest life, and heads to places like this, she'll be bringing us A&C Thursday posts soon!:
  I am not crafty.   Notice, I am not a contributor to our awesome Thursday Craft Segments (oh yes, I can call them awesome because I write none of them).   And now, I am leaving my job in less than three months to be a full time Mommy, which has me shaking in my shoes for a variety of reasons but partially because of my self-imposed pressure to do arts and crafts with H.    So, when I saw that Bull City Craft has Preschool Playcraft at 11:00 am most weekday mornings I almost tripped over myself getting to my calendar to write it down.

When we got to Preschool Playcraft we were greeted by Franklin, one of the owners.  H was feeling shy, so Franklin suggested that we play with the trains first.  H did just that, very happily, for quite some time.  Once he had played trains for awhile he was definitely feeling more at home in Bull City Craft, so we headed for the toddler sized table at the back that was stocked with paper, markers, colored pencils and more.  H had a fabulous time painting glue on to white paper and decorating it with small cut out pieces of colored tissue paper, and even more fun practicing his scissor skills with Franklin.

The website says that the Preschool Playcraft time isn’t a guided craft, but more of free craft play.  Yet do not take that to mean that they don’t have a plan.  Everything was so neat and organized that I finally asked if they planned the crafts (here’s where my lack of craftiness comes in—I would throw some crayons and paper out and call it craft time).  Franklin told me that they have a couple of crafts planned for each session with at least one paint craft; clearly, though, he was willing to let H’s creativity take the lead. 

The cost is $5 for the first child, and $4 for additional children.  It was worth every dime of the $5 I spent.  Especially since you don’t have to worry about supplies, set up or clean up (okay, I have H clean up when we go places, but you don’t have to).

Preschool Playcraft
Bull City Crafts
Most weekdays at 11:00 am (check website to confirm before going)
2501 University Drive
Durham, NC


Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Fitness Challenge - Week 15

FINAL WEEK!  We need you all! 
#MiCHillFit2012 Here's our wrap-up for week 15 of our 2012 Fitness Challenge. The 5k is THIS Saturday. Are you ready?

From Allison:
We need you all!  Can you give me words of encouragement and tell me this was not a crazy idea?  Can you please let me know if I can listen to my iPod while I run this 5k?  Can you promise me that I will finish?  Gack.  I am a bit nervous.  Do the rest of you feel like no matter what you do to prepare that it still isn't enough?  Are you ever really ready to run a 5K?  To those who run marathons: MAD PROPS.  I did work out this week and run (including a run with my new Nano iPod that wasn't calibrated properly: the new pedometer had me thinking I was running less than 2 miles so I had a minor meltdown then happily realized that the NikeFit just hadn't been set up).  I did my gym classes - shout out to those of you saying hey to me at the gym and for the kind words.  I am also already planning my carb load meal for Friday night.  Because that will be awesome.  As we round in to the final bend on this crazy Fitness Challenge I have to give so much love to Katie and Sarah for coming with me on this.  Honestly, if it weren't for them agreeing to my hare-brained scheme back in January I would have backed out long ago.  It just proves that working out with friends and with accountability is a great tool to accomplish goals.  Will we see you?

From Katie:
Wow! We are less than a week away from the Briar Chapel 5K. When we started this challenge, it seemed like the date would never arrive, yet here we are getting ready for our last week of preparation, and trying on our cool new t-shirts! I’m still walking, and planning to walk the 5K. I’m just hoping it isn’t terribly hot. I’ve started walking this week with water bottle in hand, since at this point in my pregnancy, I feel dehydrated all the time!

Will we see you Saturday morning? What are you doing this week to prepare?

From Sarah:
After being out of a commission at the beginning of the week week due to allergies, I literally began to "ease" back into things using Ease into 5k app. I backed up to a routine from week 6 as I started running again on Wednesday. It wasn't pretty, I was still a bit congested and down right exhausted afterward, but I was moving again. On Friday, I met the challenge full force and completed Week 8, Day 3. Yes, I officially completed the app (you know, the 8 week app that I've been working on for 15 weeks - I took the "ease" part very literally!) and managed to get the full 3.1 mile distance in. I got out again this morning running for 30 minutes and managed to cover a slightly further distance than Friday. I'm feeling pumped now! See you all at Briar Chapel in 6 days!

Interested in more up-to-date details on what we're doing or want to share with us how you are doing in the Fitness Challenge? Leave a comment, visit us on Facebook, or join along in the Challenge chatter on Twitter (use hashtag #MiCHillFit2012).

Friday, April 13, 2012

DJ's Berry Patch

We don't normally post 2 articles in one day (you all are busy parents, we know you don't have time to be reading multiple posts from us).  BUT since this is going to be a beautiful weekend to strawberry pick and gettings are good out there right now, I wanted to let you know about this spot before you firm up your weekend itinerary.

We have already mentioned Jean's, Waller Family Farm, Oakley, and Vollmer as PYO farms in the area that offer strawberries.  We love all of these, but this season decided to try out relative newcomer (3 years this season) DJ's Berry Patch in Apex.

This is a cute farm with very easy access off of Davis Drive and Salem Church in Apex.  There were a lot of strawberries here and picking was easy (and tasty!).  DJ's prices by the bucket, not by the pound.  You get one big plastic bucket, which you get to take home with you.  You fill the bucket to the top and it is $10.  You overflow the bucket and it is $12.  Bear in mind that overflowing versus filled is in the eye of the beholder, but for the $2 it didn't matter to me, personally.  We went to fill it as much as we could since I can't get enough fresh strawberries, nor can C.

There weren't a lot of rules here - no flags to move around and so forth - except to stay out of the strawberry beds way in the back.  That's where they grow their berries for the grocery stores.  But don't worry, there are plenty of other places to pick and lots of options here.

They sell Maple View Ice Cream on premises and you can also buy pre-picked strawberries as well as other spring vegetables.

There are a bunch of picnic tables (with sun umbrellas) on the property as well as a large yard for frolicking in, which our gang took advantage of.  Picnics are allowed and there are some very clean port-a-johns on the property.

Enjoy this season - I adore it!

DJ's Berry Patch
1223 Salem Church Road

Cary Creative Center

From Sarah C.:

A couple of weeks ago, a new art spot opened in Cary - the Cary Creative Center. It's modeled after the Scrap Exchange in Durham and sells donated art materials to the public. D & I stopped by to drop of a box full of items (Allison's spring cleaning has rubbed off on me!) and shop. The retail portion is contained in a single room but still had plenty to offer. You can buy per item or, for specially marked bins, you can fill a bag provided by the store for $5.

While there, we were given a tour of the space. The Creative Center is located in a small brick building in downtown Cary at the corner of Wilkinson Ave and East Durham Rd. The entrance takes you directly into the retail store. Through a window to your left, you can see into the workshop space. Just beyond it is the store room. For a new place, the store room was already loaded with lots of goodies waiting to make it to the front to be sold.

Given the small size of the retail space and fact D wanted to get into everything (as with the Scrap Exchange, there are some breakables so beware of little fingers), I am anxious to visit again on my own for a better look. But don't let that stop you from bringing your children. The staff was very warm and welcoming to both of us.

Be sure to check their website (link below) for a listing of items accepted for donation and for upcoming events. Classes are offered for ages 3 and up.

Before you visit, note that the store is only open 3 days a week and you will need cash or check as credit cards are not yet accepted.

Cary Creative Center
155 Wilkinson Avenue

Hours: Thursday 11a-6p; Friday 11a-8p; Saturday 10a-4p


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: String Painting

I have realized that we're all about paint in this house.  What can I say - we're not afraid to make a mess in the cause of art.  Also, Crayola makes a bunch of washable paints.  Hooray!  Here's the latest installment of paint magic here.  Again, it's really simple yet lots of fun.

  • paint
  • string
  • paper
  • scissors
That really is it.  I dumped various colors of paint on a plate for C and used the scissors to cut various lengths of string.  I did the cutting since C is still young, but I am sure older kids would love to cut pieces on their own.  Independence.
 He ran the various strings through various colors.  Sometimes he smeared the string in the paint, sometimes he dipped, sometimes he used his fingers to spread just a little bit...he had fun exploring.

He put the painted string on one side of a plain sheet of paper.  Now here is where it really gets fun.  We folded the sheet in half, enclosing the painted pieces of string, and patted it down nice and firm.  When we opened it up, voila!, mirror images of the shapes.  C thought that was really cool.

Hope your kids think it is just as neat!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Flash Giveaway: NC Symphony Family Four Pack

76 trombones are yours to sing about this weekend if you win our Flash Giveaway!  The NC Symphony is performing one of my all-time favorites, The Music Man.

We are so delighted to be giving away a Family Four Pack to the show on Sunday, April 15th (yes, this weekend), at 3 pm at Meymandi Concert Hall.  All you have to do to enter is post a comment telling us your favorite musical.  And hey, if you aren't into musicals all that much, we'll accept Glee and Smash as answers, too.

We'll announce the winner on Friday evening so make sure you check back in!

More information on the show:
The Music Man
Friday, April 13, 2012, 8:00pm | Saturday, April 14, 2012, 8:00pm | Sunday, April 15, 2012, 3:00pm
Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh

William Henry Curry, Resident Conductor
Directed by Peggy Taphorn.

For more than fifty years, The Music Man’s timeless story of love and devotion—as well as trouble with a capital T—has delighted audiences of all ages. Now we’re staging your favorite selections from Meredith Willson’s treasured Broadway score, and we don’t need all seventy-six trombones to make it a musical showcase you won’t soon forget.


The pregnant mama heads out to Wake Forest to tell you about a lesser-known but just a fun indoor play area for kids.:
We’ve already told you about Jumpin’ Beans at The Factory in Wake Forest, but there is another great playspace just across the hall called KidVenturez!  My husband first took H there solo and told me how much he loved it.  So a couple of weeks ago, H and I gave it a try!  DH was right: it is small, but fabulous!

So, here is the deal on this place...  KidVenturez is a storefront in The Factory and is smaller.  But it is packed with fun things for the toddler set.  From the small barn with a ladder leading up to an indoor slide, to an art station, to a play kitchen, to the huge feltboard, H had so much fun!  And the great thing about it being small is that I could see H from anywhere in the place.  Makes you wonder if I was practicing my cooking in the play kitchen, doesn’t it?  Actually, they have a few chairs with a rack of grown-up magazines for parents.  It isn’t elaborate, and it isn’t cushy, but oh my goodness, I read an entire magazine in one sitting for the first time since H was born, and he was happy the entire time.  Score for this Mommy!

Now let's talk logistics.  The cost is $6.00 per child, but the lady at the desk told me that children under 12 months are free.  They also list their hours as Monday-Friday 10:00 am-6:00 pm, but DH and I have both been on Saturdays.  I would just call to make sure they are open if you are headed there on the weekend.  Also, this is in Wake Forest, so for the Chapel Hill folks it is a bit of a hike, but a hike that is well worth it!

1839 South Main Street
Suite 320
Wake Forest


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Service Opportunities with Kids

This post is something I have been working on for a long time and I am so pleased to finally deliver it.  It is generated by a reader's question and also something we recently discussed in my Mothers of Preschoolers group.  How to get kids involved in service to the community and to others?  How can kids learn the importance and benefit of volunteering at an early age?  How can parents use local organizations and places as a way to jumpstart a lifetime habit of giving to others?

I was given a great article by WRAL's GoAskMom.  This article was written in December and specifically is holiday-focused.  But many ideas in that piece can be used year-round.  The list below, though, expands those initial ideas with some other ones that my mom friends and support groups have told me about.

Donate clothes, toys, and food.
Sure, we believe in the power of consignment in these blog parts.  But sometimes it might be nice to forgo the few dollars earned on an old shirt to donate it to kids in need.  This particular way of volunteering is also great for encouraging your kids to go around the house, collect items they don't need anymore, and help you drop them off.  Places you can donate to include:
Ronald McDonald House.  They have a toy & food donation program with locations in both Durham and Chapel Hill.  Check out this link here for details on what they will and will not accept.  (Ronald McDonald House does need volunteers for various projects that you can find specific details of on the website under How You Can Help but, generally, kids needs to be at least 13.)
- Goodwill.  You can find details on what they accept here but it is fairly open.  There are 5 GCF donation centers (places that accept what you have to give) in the Triangle area with 2 in Durham, 1 in Hillsborough, 1 in Mebane, and 1 in Morrisville.  Use the locator here.
- The Salvation Army.  They are still doing good things (outside ringing a bell around Christmas time outside your grocery store).  In fact, Salvation Army of Wake County has a women's shelter.  See the details about what they need and will accept here.
- The Women's Center of Wake County.  They are always asking for material goods and have a great list here.
- Harbor, Inc.  This shelter for women and children is in Johnston County but could be a more relevant experience for kids when it comes to collecting goods.  In addition to clothes, toys, etc., they also ask for art supplies for kids.  See the full list here.
- Genesis Home.  They also need items for kids and even request things like educational games.  See the full list here.

A quick note about donating to PTA Thrift Shops.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some PTA Thrift Shops around town.  But note that these are not items tagged to go to needy families.  These items are sold, with the money going back into local community schools.  Still cool, but certainly a different mission.

Donate money.
Of course, all of the organizations listed above as well as many, many other deserving non-profits accept and welcome cash donations.  A very popular idea I hear a lot from parents with older children is saving money for a charity.  They put a jar out, labelled, and as extra change comes in and as the kids earn their allowance and can elect to dump some in to the jar, they start collecting in a visual way.  Some other donation ideas that kids( of various ages) respond to that I like:
- UNICEF.  This organization does everything.  Well, maybe not everything, but a lot.  It focuses primarily on children but is very professionally run.  They accept donations and you can read more about them on their website.
- Heifer International.  This is a giving program that young children especially can really get.  You raise money to earn animals for poverty stricken families and areas.  There are a variety of animals you can "buy" that range from a flock of geese for $20 to a true heifer for $500.  (See the full gift catalog here.)  I have seen preschool programs tack up a big picture of a duck on a wall, for example, and shade in a bar as they get closer and closer to raising the money needed for that duck.  They even have great and wonderful ideas for how to get kids involved, complete with games and activities, and they offer camps and programs for youth.
- Send A Kid to Camp.  On a more local note, the Triangle Community Foundation raises money to help send children living in difficult circumstances to camp each year. In addition to being a great program in many ways, this seems very appropriate given the time of the year we are in now.

Get creative.
- A Million Thanks.  There is a beautiful campaign going on right now to encourage people to write and send inspirational messages to our troops serving.  If you head to you can see detailed and easy instructions as to how your family and children can make cards to send directly to the troops.
-Visit a local nursing home to share cards and art and stories.  There are nursing homes all over our area and they all welcome visitors.  You don't necessarily have to be with a group to go, either.  Just call ahead, make some cards, and go pass out sunshine.
- Coupons for Military Overseas.  Military personnel can use manufacturer's coupons 6 months past the expiration date, they just need to have them!  So instead of throwing your old coupons away, send them on.  Encourage your kids to take scissors to the newspapers on Sunday to send coupons to our troops.  Get the details and instructions here.

Food Banks.
In addition the organizations above that need toys, clothes, and food, here are variety of different food banks in the area, always collecting.

- Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
- Haven House.  For at-risk youth in NC.
- Urban Ministries of Wake County.

Alas, there isn't too terribly much young kids can do that's hands-on these days.  Minimum age requirements for volunteering tend to be in the teens (like Ronald McDonald House as I mentioned earlier).  Here are some things I did stumble on though:
- PORCH.  This is a food bank specific to Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  They need families and folks to be "porches" for drop off centers and then to sort the items.
- Habitat for Humanity.  This old stand-by still needs people to help.  Again, though, you are mostly looking at opportunities for older kids (16 and up) if you want to drop in to one of the builds they always have going on.  However, Habitat does have an entire section of their mission for kids ages 5 and up who want to serve.  Head to this link ( to get started.
Durham Habitat
Habitat Wake
Habitat of Orange County
Chatham Habitat

Note that donations to Habitat for their ReStore are, indeed, sold, not donated.  Of course, profits go to a good cause.

No, not literally (like you need another?).  I am referring to one of the organizations where you sponsor a child internationally.  I know that folks are nervous about these organizations given some of the scams we've heard about this in the past decade.  I have personally been sponsoring a child in the Dominican Republic for almost 10 years now through Compassion.  Our family gets pictures of her and we send letters back and forth.  It is very rewarding and, I feel, helps us stay connected to the world outside of our own.   There are many organizations like this out there so just find the one that works for you.

Check with your local Mothers Group.
I know, for example, that the Chapel Hill Carrboro Mothers Club ( provides a service opportunity once a month.  These range vastly from getting together and packing up backpacks to visiting a local nursing home to dining out to support a cause.  Odds are that your local Mothers Club does the same.  See a list and review of Mothers Clubs here.

This list is not, by any means, meant to be exhaustive.  But just my (exhausting) way of helping us all get a foot on the ladder when it comes to volunteering and giving back to the community.  I like the idea of building people who care about their community as much as we can.  If you have any others ways or places that people should know about and consider, I encourage you to post comments here and on our Facebook page to share.

All the best, parents!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 Fitness Challenge - Week 14

#MiCHillFit2012 Here's our wrap-up for week 14 of our 2012 Fitness Challenge. How's your training going?

From Allison:
Of course, our biggest news is that we have raceday tshirts.  This made this whole raceday thing seem so much more concrete than it has ever been before.  I mean, we're even in raceday month.  And how are you all faring?  I ran this week - hit the pavement and got close to 3 miles in.  I can tell I am getting stronger since I actually DID it.  I made it all 3 miles without stopping.  This is a far cry from how things were about, oh, 14 weeks ago.  But I realized that I still love getting into fitness classes.  I continue to push myself harder and harder through classes than I do when I train on my own.  For a social person, being with other people just makes it happen for me.  But I have been proud to learn what I have about fitness and running and anxiously anticipate a glorious, fun, Earth Day event where I get to finally check an item off my bucket list.

From Katie:
Oh wow!  The Briar Chapel 5k is less than 2 weeks away!  I did lots of walking this week, but I’m still very nervous about the hills in Briar Chapel.  Shaking in my shoes...speaking of, I have to tell you about one of my biggest mistakes during this fitness challenge, which came back to haunt me this week:  Shoes.  Yup. Shoes. Back in the beginning of this, a fellow blogger and I had a twitter conversation about shoes and how important it is to get the right shoes for your feet.  She had just been fitted for new shoes, and they made all the difference for her.  Recently, I made a huge mistake, and got new shoes without regard to my feet.  That would be my pregnant, somewhat pronating feet.  I didn’t really have much time so I ran into the shoe store, bought a pair in my size, and left.  This week, after a marathon cleaning session (oh, yes, the nesting urge has hit me early, with, perhaps, some organizational inspiration from Allison), and lots of walking, I noticed that my feet and legs seriously hurt.  If I’m already swelling that much from the Peanut growing in my belly, I’m in for a very long duration.  My husband noticed that the shoes I’ve been wearing aren’t my usual brand and suggested I try my normal brand.  I switched them out for an old pair I had (this Easter Bunny didn’t have time to shoe shop yesterday), and voila! So much better already!  I guess you will know what I will be doing tomorrow!  After all, I need some time to break in my brand new, usual selection!

I hope you had a gorgeous Holiday weekend, with lots of outside time with family and friends, and that you will tell us how you are doing in the fitness challenge these days!

From Sarah:
This past week goes down as the worst in my training. I ran one time. Then life (ie, Easter get togethers and regular toddler planned entertainment & errands) got in the way along with my allergies. Seems just the right thing started blooming over the last couple days and my head is fully congested. For the moment, I'm taking a cue from my body, taking it easy and letting this mess pass. My consolation - I've been pretty consistent up to this point and the race is still 13 days away. Thank goodness it wasn't this weekend! I would have been quite a sight running with a box of tissues in hand.

Interested in more up-to-date details on what we're doing or want to share with us how you are doing in the Fitness Challenge? Leave a comment, visit us on Facebook, or join along in the Challenge chatter on Twitter (use hashtag #MiCHillFit2012).

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sip...a wine store

Maybe it is being a SAHM, maybe it is reading this book about French-style parenting, but I have been noticing more and more that places where I can do adult things while the kids are simultaneously entertained have become intriguing to me.  We've already talked about a few places to do various tastings such as Fullsteam, Starrlight, and Rock of Ages.  Now we are sharing with you a wine store in Cary called Sip.

Sip specializes in environmentally friendly and eco-conscious wines and beers.  They have an entire retail selection with knowledgeable wine sellers and it turns out the inventory on beers and wines that have sustainable practices is much higher than you  might think.

Sip also offers free tastings, of both beer and wine.  The back of the store has chalkboards chalk-full (yuck yuck) of information, comfortable chairs, some tables, and a big serving bar.  Tastings are available whenever the store is open and the options for tasting are diverse.  They usually have some featured wines and while they won't let you just go opening any old bottle off the floor, we had quite a few wines offered to us to try.  In addition, the pourer let us know why the wines we were tasting were chosen to be in their store.  Once you settle on a glass you like you can order a full drink to enjoy and, well, sip.

But here's the cool part... Sarah C. and I tried this place out, and we were thinking it might be a good "For Mom" post.  Yet it turns out there is a little play area for kids in here and there were families at the tasting when we went!  Now let me be honest: Sarah and I have almost-3-year-olds and given their rowdiness and the sheer amount of breakable inventory in here, we still most likely would not take our boys.  But there is a bouncy chair for younger kids, toys for older kids, and quite a few entertaining features for non-climbing-non-destructive-3-year-old-boys.  It was great!

Another little tidbit: on weekend nights a food truck parks outside and you can have a glass of wine, order food from the food truck, and hang out in the shop.  There are obviously regulars of Sip and the owners are very personable, so this had a great community feel.  Cheers to the weekend!

Sip...a wine store
1059 Darrington Drive

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Coffee Filter Painting

From Sarah C.:

Trying to come up with a project to share this week, I had two things on my mind - Easter and indoors. The latter sadly because the forecast at the moment is looking a little wet and dreary. The good news is this project can be done any time, is very little mess and is full of bright, cheery colors.

  • coffee filters
  • tape
  • markers (washable is ok)
  • paint brush
  • small cup or bowl of water
  • scissors - optional (for adult helper)

Start by taping down one or more coffee filters to a water safe surface (think highchair tray, plastic kids picnic table, plastic tablecloth or even a plate). I used painting tape but any tape will do. This is simply to keep the filters from sliding around while doing the project.

Next, color the filter using as many colors as you like. Scribbling is great for this as the next step will blend together the inks.

After your coloring is complete (or your child bores of it like mine), take away the markers and hand him or her a paint brush and small container with water. Encourage your child to dip the brush in the water and then brush it across the colors. Watch as the colors blur together and blend.

If want to explore a different method, try using an eye dropper or even just dipping your fingers in the water and let the drops fall onto the colored filters.

After your artist is done adding water to the design (or the filter is sufficiently drenched), carefully pull up the filter and set aside to dry.

Once dry, you can enjoy as is or cut out shapes. To add a little Easter twist to this project, cut an egg or cross. Glue these to a blank card or folded piece of paper and you have an instant, one of a kind card (hint: grandparents love these!). Or add a bit of tape and hang in the window like we did.

Enjoy! And have a wonderful Easter holiday!