Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winner of Photo Giveaway

It's time to announce the lucky winner of the Choose Your Own Photo Session.  There were some really great comments on here and some made me laugh pretty hard.

The winner is Alyssa H. who writes about the very cool firetruck party they had:
"We had a fire-truck themed party for our 3 year-old this year, complete with a visit from a fire engine. All the kids had the opportunity to knock down cones with a hose from the engine; my son enjoyed cheering on his friends even more than working the hose itself! Seeing the love he had for his friends was amazing!" 
I just might steal this for C's next birthday.

All of the comments were fabulous reminders at how wonderful and unpredictable children are.  Caron avoided near-drama after her son's friend blew out the birthday candles; Kim's daughter had on a fabulously mismatched outfit to keep her warm against the unexpected cool, dreary weather (it was pretty cute, I have to say); Lauren's daughter decided to wear a Santa hat at her birthday celebration... in March.

The comments were also good reminders that you don't have to blow the bank to throw a memorable party.  Bubbles, bounces (MiCHill blog readers can get discounts on those), and homemade treasure hunts seemed to be the big winners all around.  And hearts out to Cynthia who had adult drama surrounding her kids' birthday party.  Why does that always seem to happen!?  I was kind of pulling for you, Cynthia, in the hopes that next birthday your relatives are there in abundance, smiling and you can get it all on camera.

Thanks to all for entering.  Birthdays really are such a special time I wish that we could give this session to everyone who entered.

If Alyssa could email us at we'd be delighted!

Thanks, all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


With possible temps in the 100s coming later this week, Sarah C. has an energy burning indoor idea that is fun for the entire family:

A few months ago, we shared on Facebook that TK's Jungle was closing. When I got wind of what was coming to replace it, I was pretty excited. DH & I had seen a clip on UNC-TV about a trampoline spot near Charlotte that looked like a lot of fun. We commented to each other how cool it would be to have a place like that in the Triangle. Looks like the smart folks behind TK's were thinking the same thing because that's exactly what DefyGravity is!

Step into the doors, pass through the lobby and you will find approximately 7,000 square feet of trampoline fun. You can jump up and down. You can jump into a foam pit. You can shoot basketballs into a hoop mounted high on the wall. You can jump as high as possible and try to hit hanging balls & punching bags. You can play dodgeball in a designated section.

Hands down this place is fun! Stacey and I took our 3 boys ages 16 months to 3 years to a KidJump. It's offered for ages 6 and under weekdays from 9am to noon. Parents accompanying their kids can jump free during this time. Note: what we missed was that you are paying for an hour time slot only during this time. Not the full 3 hours. Also, a few camp groups came in with older kids so it wasn't an age restricted time as we thought. [Update: 9-10a is now restricted to ages 6 and under plus parents/guardians.] The staff did a good job of monitoring the space to ensure the older kids weren't too wild around the little ones. All 5 of us had a great time and we're already talking about when to return.

All ages are welcome to play and there are other special jump times including a workout option called GravityFit starting in July. See the website listed below to find all the details.

Other good things to know ... there is a ramp up to the trampoline area so you can wheel your stroller up there. A few stools/benches are scattered around for parents that want to sit and watch (or just need a moment to catch your breath!) as well as a couch in the lobby. Cubbies are provided for shoes in the lobby as well as lockers, if desired. You can wear socks, but bare feet are recommended to get the best grip.

4300 Emperor Blvd, #250

Monday - Thursday 9am - 9pm
Friday - Saturday 9am - 11pm
Sunday 1pm - 5pm


Friday, June 22, 2012

NCSU Main Campus

From Sarah C.:

On a quiet Saturday morning, D & I stopped by NC State's main campus to walk around (to me, "main campus" is north, central & south). It was just the two of us and we had time to enjoy. Being the weekend, parking was very easy and I headed to the center of the campus not far from DH Hill Library. For weekday visits, find details on the NCSU Transportation website regarding visitor parking fees and paylots:

WolfWalk screenshot
If you aren't familiar with NC State's campuses, consider printing a map ahead of time or downloading the free Wolfwalk app (see details at bottom of post). Wolfwalk is a great option to locate exactly where you are and find out details about that particular area of campus.

I had a few things in mind to show D so we headed off toward the library before looping to the bell tower, through the College of Design and back to our car. Your own journey could take you anywhere. Here are a few suggestions I have:

The Bell Tower - located at the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Pullen Road is the iconic NCSU Bell Tower. You'll catch the "bells" ringing at each half hour. A group has formed recently to finally complete the Bell Tower by adding real bells. The first 3 were unveiled in April and are currently on display at DH Hill Library.

Court of North Carolina - let the kids burn some energy running up and down the big grassy hill!

The Egg
Explore the art installations around the College of Design. Kids might get a kick out of their reflection in "Ellipsoid Construction" (better known as "The Egg") located in the courtyard between Brooks and Kamphoefner.

The Strolling Professor - a quick hello to this statue was on our list. Find him on the north side of Burlington Nuclear Labs.

The Wolf Ears - hop in one & your child in the other, then have a "secret" conversation (well, not too secret since it can be caught by others hanging out in between).

Wolf Ears just outside of DH Hill Library

Pick up a souvenir at the NCSU Bookstore currently located in the bottom of Harrelson Hall across the brickyard from DH Hill Library.

The Free Expression Tunnel - bring a can of spray paint and let your inner artist loose. Just no heels or devils, please.

Visit the 3 bronze wolves at "Wolf Plaza" just west of the Free Expression Tunnel and Talley Student Center.
Talley Student Center Construction - got a little Bob the Builder at home? Here's a chance to watch some construction up close. Catch a glimpse or two of the expansion process from behind the safety fence, step into Talley and watch a bit on one of the TVs or pull up the live feed online (

Have you enjoyed NC State's ice cream at the NC State Fair or perhaps Farm Animal Days? Well, you can enjoy that cold delicious treat this summer too. Get a scoop or two of Howling Cow ice cream at either Talley Student Center or the Creamery located in DH Hill Library. For other locations to pick up a pint or more, see

Watch a movie at the Campus Cinema - $3.00 for non-students. Find current showings and further information:

Ride the WolfLine. As we've mentioned in the past, a simple free bus ride is quite the adventure for the smaller set. This is also quite helpful if you want to explore sights on two different ends of Main Campus (or perhaps head to one of the other campuses). Check the current schedule here:

Visit Hillsborough Street - there are plenty of restaurants and shops. See Live It Up On Hillsborough Street website for listings and upcoming events:

NC State University

Find a campus map here There is a link about halfway down on the lefthand side with printable map options.

Wolfwalk provides a historical walking tour of the campus. It is available online at or from Apple app store (free).


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Giveaway: Photo Session (Choose Your Own)

I love giving photo sessions away and you love getting them!  That is why I am very excited to announce that we are giving away some goods by local photographer Mark Terry.  Mark has two very special and unique businesses and you get to pick which service you want.

Option 1: A gift certificate to First Moments Online.  Having a baby, while a joyous occasion, is also overwhelming.  Stuck in the hospital, wanting to share pictures and movies of your new bundle of joy with your family and friends (it's like a rush now to get it out on Facebook as soon as you can)... yet also needing time to be in the moment and focused on the task at hand which is healing, recovering, and meeting your newborn.  It can be hard to find the energy to take all those pictures and videos, much less figure out how to easily share them with your family and friends.

First Moments Online to the rescue!  They come to you at the hospital (with warning, of course, so plenty of time to pretty up that hairdo), take in-maternity room photos and video, then create an instant online photo album to share with friend and family (grandparents in particular will be thrilled that they can share this with their friends instantly).  This includes a music video and slideshow to watch over and over. Guaranteed to make you cry! Well, not guaranteed, but it probably will…(I get weepy just looking at these photos and I don't even know the families.)
Option 2: A gift certificate to Birthday Party Memories.  Birthday parties seem to come faster and faster as your children grow up.  And if you are anything like me I usually spend birthday parties picking up cupcake crumbs from the floor, telling C not to stand on his chair, and removing the inflatable toys from kids' hands so they don't smack each other with them.  I wouldn't change it yet I don't get it on camera and I wish I did.  I want to cherish every single crazy moment of those birthdays.  They only come once.  Don’t let your memories of these special occasions fade!  Preserve those happy celebrations with professional photography and videos. Enjoy video highlights, full-resolution pictures, and a music video of the event, all in high definition.
Fun, right?!  So one lucky MiCHill winner will get to pick which service they want!  Value and pricing varies depending on what option you choose so once you win you can work with Mark to figure out what works best.  But he is anxious to help you get what you want: beautiful, keepsake photos of key events in your child's life.  Because a picture really is worth a thousand words.

How do you enter?  Easy!  Tell me your favorite kid's birthday party memory in the comments below.  Short, sweet, funny, bad, messy, chaotic, I want to know.  Hopefully it doesn't leave you shaking on the floor, rocking, and moaning softly.  The winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, June 27.

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Surprise Bags

I am very pleased to be bringing you another fabulous A.C.T. idea from our friends at My SweetArts. This is another easy activity to do with stuff you probably already own at home!:
Too hot and humid to play outside?  Make Surprise Sensory Bags!
Wow, summer has arrived this week with a vengeance. MySweetArts has just the cure – Surprise Sensory Bags!

These Sensory Bags are easy to make, can last for weeks, and are cheap! Best of all, it is a great activity for all age ranges from babies to preschoolers! Babies can squeeze the bags and your preschoolers can draw or write and then wipe their canvas clean to start over again.

There are many ways to display the bags:
• Attach to a large window or sliding door
• Attach to play/art table
• Attach to high chair while you are cooking dinner
• Mount on cardboard or mat board and take it on the go (a great solution while you are out to dinner with your little ones).
• Tape to the floor for babies to explore

If you are looking to extend your window playing time, add water and foam shapes/letters! Water + Foam + Windows allows your toddler/preschoolers to “paint” windows with water (use a paintbrush or a sponge) and stick foam letters or shapes in any pattern they choose (our you can do as we did here). And bonus, your toddler is helping you clean the windows at the same time. You can use bathtub foam toys as pictured here or make custom pieces out of foam sheets.

Sensory Bag Ingredients
• Freezer Bag (*hint* use rubbing alcohol to remove company name). If the Freezer Bag is thin and you have an excited toddler or preschooler, consider using two bags to prevent leaks.
• Duct or Packing tape (to securely close the bags)
• Hair gel, paint, shampoo, shaving foam or gel, oil

There are so many ways to customize this project: add small toys, confetti, glitter, or other small objects that excite your little ones. 

Some ideas:
• Dollar store hair gel + food coloring + glitter or confetti
• 2 colors of tempura/finger paint to explore color mixing
• Shaving foam + food coloring
• Baby oil or cooking oil + food coloring. Being water-based, the food coloring does not mix with the oil, which will create fun shapes and patterns.
• Add laminated photos of family or objects to your bags as a special surprise.
• For another fun sensory element, you can put the gel Sensory Bags into the freezer for a half hour. The gel freezes quickly and will thaw with exploring hands. This can be another way to keep your kids cool while it’s so hot outside.

Here’s is a little ditty you and your little ones can sing as you make your special sensory bag:

Mix It Up (sung to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean")
By Michelle Schooff

First put in some gel and some glitter,
Food coloring and confetti,
Now watch as it mixes together,
And then we will sing this song
Mix it up, mix it up
Oh, mix it all up for me, for me
Mix it up, mix it up
Oh, mix it all up for me
My SweetArts is a new kind of enrichment class that uniquely combines music and art/sensory exploration for infants, toddlers, and families. All classes are conveniently held at University Mall, Chapel Hill.
Want to beat the heat this August?

Come explore art and music and meet new friends with MySweetArts! Special Summer Camp for infants, tots, and caregivers, very limited spots:
August 6, 10, 13, 17
4 hour-long classes over 2-week period (Mondays & Fridays)
Two class times to choose from: 9:20 AM or 10:45 AM
$60/ single-child families + $5 supply fee
$99/2+ children families + $5 supply fee for each child
Find out more:
Email us at:


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Apple Store

This is something that most of you parents know about but to be journalistically thorough (I made that term up but I think it works) I have to share.  A few weeks ago we had to kill some time at Southpoint Mall.  We'd exhausted the Barnes & Noble train and LEGO table and some of the other hidden gems in the area.  Usually I steer way clear of the Apple store since it is nearly always crowded and has a lot of visual stimulization for both C and me.  But we decided to try it out during our time to explore and I wanted to see the new iPod selection.

Now bear in mind that we don't have an iPad at home or any sort of tablet (we're not technology adverse by any means, just working with an old-school Kindle and an iPod that is Mommy's Only), so C is completely new to this technology.  Yet even if your child is very comfortable with an iPad and thinks it is old news I am sure they can spend some significant time here. 

Make your way through the stations and people and Apple employees to the back near the check out desks.  There is a table dedicated to kids and is even kid height.  At this table is a bunch of iPads limited to safe children's games. 
C had a very good time seeing the Rocket Learns to Read game since we love that book at home.  He was fascinated with it.  In the meantime, it gave me a chance to sit down and find all the pieces of The Bug's diaper bag again.  C was completely occupied and stationary, the technology is (of course) gorgeous and user friendly enough that my 3 year old can navigate it, and having it limited to safe and content-appropriate activities was great for this mommy.

If you can stand the crowds and noise, this is a great little break!

Apple Store at Southpoint
8030 Renaissance Parkway

Monday, June 18, 2012

Free Summer Movies at Northgate Mall

That's right: free.  I mean, sure, you want to spend as much time outside with your kids as you can hitting up places like pools and lakes this summer.  But you need a break sometimes.  Northgate Mall offers free movies throughout the summer.  Meaning you just breeze in, walk right by the ticket-taker with a nod hello, and sit yourself down in those big stadium seats.  Beautiful.

Movies are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays throughout the summer starting at 9:30 am.  The movies are ones currently out on DVD but still newer releases and kid-friendly (by the way, in case you missed it over on our Facebook page I check out Common Sense Media for information about movies before going since they give me details on why things are rated how they are and specifics on content). 

These movies can get crowded so arrive early(ish). {I mean, don't go crazy and get there 20 minutes in advance but don't come running in last minute and think you'll have your pick of seats... Oh, and definitely don't be late since there aren't any previews!}  Also, the quality on the screen wasn't fabulous when we went - it was a little dark since I am pretty sure they really had just popped the DVD in.  However, for a kid who really is just thrilled about the entire experience (stadium seating, a big screen, lots of other kids) this did not matter.

This is a free kids morning movie, therefore, there are lots of kids in attendance, therefore, there is a lot of noise in the theatre.  The noise in no way interrupted our enjoyment of the flick but then I am a parent used to a lot of noise and I have a 3 year old boy... we live in constant noise....People were very polite, though.
Northgate offers a "Kids Survival Pack" (SURVIVAL, parents!) of popcorn, a small drink, and some other snacky item (like fruit bites) for $4.50. {Check out C's first bandaged skinned knee in the photo, too!  Aww.  It is definitely summer!}  This was a big part of the fun for a lot of kids in the theatre.  But you can bring in whatever you want.  No bag checks or restrictions on outside food and drink that I could tell.  Lots of kids were carrying homemade popcorn and juiceboxes.

This is a great summer alternative for when you need to beat the heat but want to think outside the water.


Free Summer Movies at Northgate Mall
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday mornings, 9:30 am
June - August

Stadium 10 at Northgate Mall
1058 West Club Boulevard


Friday, June 15, 2012

Bien Amie Consignment

I always love Laura's contributions and posts so am thrilled she's giving us this gem about a new (and different) consignment spot in Durham.:
Hi everyone!  I’m Laura, mom to 4.5 year old, sweet as sugar, S, and her 2 year old, wild and crazy little brother, B.  I’m here today to spread the word about a brand new consignment store in the heart of the Brightleaf District in Downtown Durham - Bien Amie.

Through the powers of Facebook, I discovered this gem of a consignment store last week and made it first on my list of errands to run while B was at his weekly Parents’ Morning Out program.  My favorite shopping buddy, S, accompanied me.  The shop is open and airy, complete with high ceilings and exposed brick walls, and conveniently located in the same storefront as Fifi’s Fine ReSale Apparel and Uniquities ReMix right on Main Street.  Upon walking into the store, we were immediately welcomed with smiles from the owner, Amy.  New(ish) to Durham and a mom herself, Amy saw a need for a different kind of children’s consignment store in the area, particularly an “upscale” consignment store.  As she says, “The thrill of consignment shopping is not to get that Wal-Mart shirt for $2.50 rather than $5, but to buy that boutique dress or Ralph Lauren top for 50%-75% off the original retail price.”  As a mom who has been a little bit disappointed with the overall quality of clothes in kids’ consignment stores in our area, I couldn’t agree with her more!

Bien Amie will be specializing consigning children’s clothes from popular retail brands (think Baby Gap, Gymboree, Janie and Jack), high-end department stores (Ralph Lauren, Kissy Kissy, Mini Boden, Lands End) and other upscale retail and boutique brands (Lilly Pulitzer, Petit Ami, Oilily, Kelly’s Kids, Patsy Aiken).  Bien Amie accepts everything from childrens’ tops and bottoms to infant essentials, outerwear to sleepwear, swimwear to footwear.  A long, detailed list of brands accepted is available for pick-up in the store or on Bien Amie’s website.  They will also be offering locally crafted artisan gifts.  At this time, Bien Amie will not be selling baby gear or toys.

For consignors, the process for clothing submission seems fairly simple.  All items must be freshly laundered, pressed if necessary, and carefully reviewed for stains, tears, broken zippers, etc. prior to submission.  If you wouldn’t buy it on consignment, chances are no one else will either.  Items must then be packed in a sealed bag or box with your name, phone number and email address.  Conveniently, Bien Amie is offering a “Drop-and-Go” submission Monday thru Saturday from 10am-6pm.  No appointments or waits necessary!  And that’s it.  No tagging, no hangers, no coding, like some of the big consignment fairs in our area.  Bien Amie does the rest and will let you know which of your items have met their selling criteria.  You can then pick up the rest of your clothing at your convenience.

Bien Amie sets the price of all clothes and keeps 60% of the final sale, giving consignors 40%, less sales tax, paid by check monthly.  Store credits are also available.  Items are consigned for 60 days.  After that, any unsold items will be donated to local charities, or returned to consignors as per their request.
S and I had such a fun morning at Bien Amie, perusing the racks and chatting with Amy.  Of course, we couldn’t leave empty handed.  Check out our score -- a Hartstrings ladybug jumper and NWT Lilly-esque capri pants for S, and Viva La Fete gingham shorts for B.  All for under $20!  This is one happy mama who will be back . . .

Special Note:  As Bien Amie is gearing up for its big Grand Opening later this summer, it still needs inventory and is currently making exceptions to its “upscale” criteria.  So, if you have non-upscale brands (think Carters, Children’s Place), that meet the “cute-enough, new-enough, stylish-enough” appeal similar to high-name brands (has anyone else been super impressed with Target’s summer girls’ line this year?!), bring it in!  Let’s help Amy and Bien Amie stock its shelves and support a new local business in the process!  I, for one, am planning on bringing in a huge bin of S and B’s clothes later this week!  I’ll be sure to let y’all know how my consigning experience goes!

Bien Amie
1000 W Main St
Durham, NC 27701
Hours: Mon - Sat: 10AM - 6PM; Sun: Closed
Major credit cards accepted.
Reserved customer parking available behind the store.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Fizzy "Painting"

I know that the level on these A.C.T.s posts has been elevated...what with My SweetArts now helping us and Sarah's fancy Hungry Caterpillar post.  But you all know that I am the sort of kid-crafting mom who looks in my cabinet, says "what do I have what do I have," then does a quick Pinterest search to see what we can do.  Hence why you are getting this easy one today that also happened to entertain my son for quite a long time.  We call it Fizzy Painting but we made that up.  Feel free to call this whatever you like.

  • vinegar, regular old white distilled
  • food coloring
  • cups
  • dropper
  • baking soda
  • tray or plate

Place baking soda in the tray/plate that you have.  Doesn't really matter how much.  I put a lot in and also gave C a tray with edges so that he could be as unsupervised as possible.

Pour some vinegar in to a couple of cups and put a few drops of different food coloring in to each one.  It doesn't matter how much.  The more food coloring the more vibrant.

Show your child how to use the dropper to syringe some of the vinegar from one of the cups on to the baking soda.

Then sit back and enjoy.  Of course, this is old school science experiment stuff so the baking soda/vinegar will fizz and the colors add another wonderful dimension.

Another good thing?  If your child tries to eat this particular project they won't die.  Sure, they won't like it, but they won't fall over as they would, say, if they ate a Sharpie.

Want to know the scientific reaction behind this and make it a learning experience?  I like this link here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours

I did this activity a long time ago.... like when it was still cold and the elections hadn't happened yet.  Yeah, eons ago, right?  (Where do the days go as a parent?)  But we always have so much content to share with you that I was waiting for the right moment to let this one out of the bag.  And it's here!  Why is it time?  Because Father's Day is coming up and if you haven't had your kids get a gift yet (it's ok, here neither) this is a great idea.  Keep reading to get deets on that below.

Taste Carolina is a company that takes folks around to try out different restaurants.  You can pick a tour in one of of the following cities: Durham, Chapel Hill (which includes Carrboro places), Hillsborough, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh.  Pick one.  I know, just one.  It's tough.  You then meet up with your group and your guide at a set time and you start walking.
I know that anyone can walk from restaurant to restaurant and bar to bar.  Here is why Taste Carolina is the best: you get the insider's scoop at the restaurants AND you get some history on your tour while you walk.

Taste Carolina expertly manages the group and the restaurants so that every place you go they are expecting you and the tasting menu is prepared.  At most places the chef and/or restaurant owner comes out, addresses the group, discusses what made their place unique, fields any questions, then lets you taste what was prepared.

While we would walk from place to place the guide would stop and point out interesting things, share facts and anecdotes about where we were and what we were seeing, and talk about the history of the city we were in.  It was really well done.

My friends and I did the Durham food tour.  Our tour included: Bull City Burger & Brewery, Toast, Daisycakes, The Piedmont, L'Uva, and Tyler's.  Honestly, I had been to every spot except L'Uva before.  Yet I was still enthralled and in love with this tour.  It is one thing to sit at a restaurant and pick menu items.  It is quite another when a chef/owner wants to impress you so whips up tastings of their signature dishes.  YumO (high five Rachael Ray).  Oh, and the guide gave me the skinny on which restaurants and places are on the other tours and I approve of those, too (you will be happy to know).

Each place gave us just a little bit of food; Bull City gave us a taste of beer; Tyler's had a full out beer tasting.  But at the end you are stuffed, even if it was just a morsel here and there and you walk about 3 miles throughout the tour.  You aren't lingering at each place, either.  Taste Carolina runs a tight ship and sticks to their schedule so as not to annoy the restaurants being so accommodating.  However, they usually build in one longer stop on each city's tour where you can buy an alcoholic beverage to sip on if you wish.  For Durham this was The Piedmont.  Then we moved on.  We ended at Tyler's, a natural spot to stay and sip a brewski if you want.

Some details to know: you must register in advance, they must know you are coming.  This isn't cheap when you first see that pricetag but given everything you get with it it isn't terrible.  Dress comfortably and it's rain or shine.

Taste Carolina also puts together special and private tours.  Have a special interest?  Got some folks who are interested, too?  Call them up!  You can do a Girls Night Out Tour, a Taqueria Tour (yes, someone invite me to that PLEASE), a Food Truck Tour, a Barbecue Tour, a Chocolate Tour....whatever you want they can put it together.

Speaking of, for Father's Day this year (2012) they are offering a Durham Brews Walking Cruise that includes food trucks and beer, in Raleigh they are offering dinner and drinks for Dad, and in Winston-Salem you get beer, brunch, and barbecue (score).  See this link here for 2012 Father's Day detailsIf we were going to be in town we would so be there.  DH would love it.

One other thing you might want to know is that if you do a repeat Taste Carolina tour you will be going to mostly the same places, with perhaps 1-2 differences.  Taste Carolina works hard to cultivate relationships with the most popular and well-respected restaurants so they take groups to them again and again.  It works.  You can, however, make requests when you reserve and Taste Carolina will try to honor them.

Oh, and leave the kids at home for this one.  While you may have little gourmands this is for folks who want to hear all about the inner workings of a kitchen, how a chef's mind works, and then make slightly inappropriate noises when delicious food hits their palette.  This is meant to be savored.

Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours
Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Durham, Greensboro, Hillsborough, Raleigh, Winston-Salem

Monday, June 11, 2012


I took Spanish in high school and in college.  I loved it, found it challenging, and was convinced it would be useful to me.  Now, fast forward I-won't-say-how-many-years-later and I retained very, very little.  Too bad.  Because it would be useful to me.  This is why foreign language immersion programs for children are such a fantastic idea and so intriguing to me.

Carrboro and Chapel Hill schools have worked hard to create immersion programs as an option for public school kids should parents elect to use them.  But if that isn't for you or you couldn't get the access to those programs, there is another option for your children.  Flip4Kids has started up in Chapel Hill.

Held at Rashkis Elementary, this program is for children to become completely immersed in either Chinese or Spanish for a certain period a day.  This program is national and comes with a lot of research behind it.  Utilizing a technique called the Thibaut Technique the classes are meant to engage all sides of a child's brain.  Science aside, I was amazed at this class.

I took C, just newly 3, to a Spanish playdate (note that I didn't remember much of my college Spanish).  The kids attending were a diverse group: some of the children were bilingual already in Spanish and English and attended the playgroup for "practice," some of the children were younger than C (6 months is the age requirement), some of the kids had already been exposed to Spanish while others had not.

This was a pretty typical lesson for tots.  They did interactive time with the teacher involving fruits (frutas) in a shopping bag (bolsa) (see, I retained some from the class, too!),  they had music, they played with a parachute, they had storytime, and they had a craft.  The entire class was centered around the same theme so was clearly well planned.  And, of course, the entire 45 minutes was in Spanish. 

That is what makes Flip4Kids unique.  This is an immersion program.  No one stands in front and says "'sandia' is 'watermelon.'"  They just start talking in Spanish.  They point to pictures, use motion, and the kids GET it.  They just get it.

I was concerned that C would be put off by being at a playgroup with new people at all, let alone in a foreign language he hadn't been exposed to.  But he loved it.  Of course, it helped that the young teacher was absolutely fantastic.

Flip4Kids has many options for your family and schedule.  They are running summer camps, playgroups, and will continue offerings in the fall.  There is a lot of flexibility within those options, too.  Of course, attending regularly is what will really make a difference to your child. 

C also liked that this was at Rashkis Elementary in Meadowmont and happens to have an awesome playground we took advantage of afterwards.

Foreign Language Immersion Program for kids

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Hand Mould

We are so excited to announce a new partnership today.  We've teamed up with the crafty ladies of My SweetArts and every other week they will be bringing you our A.C.T.  We are thrilled.  We met them in our trial class, were impressed with their creativity, and I think our new feature is going to sparkle because of them.  Here is their first contribution:

Find out more:
Twitter - @mysweetarts

Looking for a gift for a special dad this year?
Salt Dough Footprint/Handprint Moulds
Thinking of the hectic lives of mums and dads, My SweetArts looks for easy and fun crafts for the entire family to enjoy both in class and at home. To commemorate Father’s Day, we created footprint and handprint moulds. We loved it so much that we brought it back for our kids to do too!

As a bonus, this craft is a great sensory activity that encourages gross and fine motor skills and reinforces mathematical concepts all with simple household ingredients. Toddlers and preschoolers will love it! And for new mums and dads with little babies, it is a great keepsake that will keep you oohing and ahhhing for years to come.


  • 1 tablespoon of oil (vegetable or mineral is fine; optional: oil makes the dough easier to knead)

    • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising flour)
    • 1 cup of salt
    • 1 cup of water
    • 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar (optional: cream of tartar makes dough more flexible)

    Mix ingredients well, kneading the dough for 10 minutes. If the mixture is too sticky, add flour. If the mixture is too dry add a bit of water. Please note that the dough should be stiff (not runny or soft; otherwise air bubbles will form during baking).
    Roll out dough on a flat, smooth surface and form desired shape about 1/2 inch thick. *Hint* You can use a shallow bowl to shape into a circle.

    Once desired shape achieved, place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Press child’s clean foot or hand into dough. Press hard enough to make a deep impression without going through to the bottom of the dough. *Hint* If an infant bears weight on legs, have child bear weight on one leg in dough to create a good impression.
    Place dough foot/hand impression into 200F oven for 3 hours (check on to ensure it doesn’t burn and turn around half-way through baking). If dough is not completely dry, set out to air dry. Please note that you do not have to use the oven and can have your salt dough air dry over several days. If you want to speed up the drying process without the hassel, just leave the mould to dry in a hot car.

    You can customize the design in many ways:
    •    Use straws to make symmetrical holes for hanging
    •    Pre-color dough by adding food coloring to water
    •    Paint after dough is fully dried (a nice toddler/pre-schooler art activity)
    •    Write child’s name and date with a sharpie after baking process
    •    Make a tarheel for a local sports fan

    The footprint/handprint plaque can be displayed in many different ways:
    •    hang on a nursery wall
    •    set it inside a deep/shadowbox frame
    •    display as a decorative plaque for everyone in the family to enjoy.
    Depending on how large you would like your canvas (or the size of your child’s foot), this recipe can make at least two plaques, plus enough dough for your toddler to play with for the rest of the afternoon.
    Add another special touch when presenting the footprint/handprint mould: sing a special father’s day song in person, record on video or present via Skype/Facetime for dads away from home.

    Daddy's Special Day
    sung to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”

    Daddy, it's your special day
    You're the best in every way
    Thank you for the things you do
    You love me and I love you
    Daddy, it's your special day
    You're the best in every way

    Once you and your little one(s) have finished your masterpiece, please post on to (with daddy) so we can all see your piece of art. There may even be a special prize for the most creative piece of work!!

    My SweetArts is a new kind of enrichment class that uniquely combines music and art/sensory exploration for infants, toddlers, and families. All classes are conveniently held at University Mall, Chapel Hill.

    Summer 2012 Term starts the week of June 4. Spaces are still available for Sweet Peas (4-14 months) and Sweet Family (all ages). Please contact today to sign up. Spaces are going fast!

    Sweet Peas (4 – 14 months): Fridays at 10:45 AM
    Sweet Berries (14 – 24 months): Mondays at 10:45 AM
    Sweet Potatoes (2 – 3 years): Mondays at 9:20 AM
    Sweet Family (all ages): Fridays at 9:20 AM

    Find out more:


    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    For Mom: Vertical Tease Classes (Durham)

    Because you KNOW you want to know...and I know you want to know....I am sharing this with you here.  Please do not laugh at me.  And do know that yes, this is a "For Mom" fitness post (a la Pure Barre).

    Here's how it starts: I am still trying to recover my body post-baby and am interested in trying all forms of fitness, the more fun the better.  So when these "pole dancing" fitness classes kept coming up and people kept talking about them I thought, "why not."  I tried out a Pole Fit class one random evening.

    I was supposed to meet a friend there but at the last minute she had a crisis come up so I was all alone amongst strangers in this class.  And I am SO GLAD.  Because, folks, while you think that "pole dancing fitness" would be sexy and you would be whipping your hair all around and being all Demi Moore let me assure you that there was NOTHING sexy about this mess.  Let me back up.

    I think a lot of what you experience at Vertical Tease depends on the particular class you decide to take.  The class prior to mine that I was able to watch (since the studio at Vertical Tease, once you find it because it is hidden, is small small small and you literally walk in the door to the business and on to the workout floor, even if there is a class in session) was much different than the class I took.  The one before mine was packed with ladies, they shared poles and took turns, and was much more about learning the basic moves.

    My class was more advance.  When we began the instructor, Honey, kicked off her purple leopard platform shoes and had us get right to the business of warming up and doing some strength work with no introductions.  Then, as ours was a smaller class, we each got our own pole and Honey walked us through drills and swings and kicks and lifts. 

    At one point we were all on our hands with our legs wrapped around the pole.  Seriously.

    Honey was a great instructor.  She made it a challenge, since it is hard and it is workout afterall, but also allowed you to laugh at yourself, which you kind of have to to make it through.  Let me add that Honey was very fit, trim, and strong.

    I was sore the next day, friends.  It was nuts.  Alas, I didn't learn any pole dancing moves that made me reclaim my sexy factor and I have newfound respect for people who can do those pole tricks.  But it was really hysterical and fun to mix up my routine.

    Vertical Tease primarily focuses on pole dancing fitness classes but they are a fitness boutique that also is pleased to provide Bootcamp, Zumba, and more.  The facilities are tiny, a little dark, and oddly laid out, but it feels like a family and is certainly not an intimidating place to be if you want to get fit.

    Do sign up in advance if you can via their online site.  Since the studio is small space is limited and spots go quick.

    Above all, have fun you sexy divas!

    Vertical Tease Durham
    3326 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd
    Suite A120

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Southern Village Movies on the Green

    Ah, summer.  It's here.  And the wonderful summer things like pools, beaches, vacations, ice cream, and outdoor movies are also here.  A long time ago now we compiled a list of outdoor movies in the area.  But we hadn't had a chance to really get out there and try a lot of them for ourselves.  This past weekend DH and I jetted over to Southern Village (without C and the Bug, honestly, since bedtime is early) to take advantage of their Movies on the Green series.  Love it!

    This series is operated by The Lumina, which we already love because of their kids summer movie series.  It is so cute and wonderful.  Folks gather on the lawn early, sometimes live music precedes the movies sometimes they pipe music in, but kiddos are always dancing.  If there is live music it is free to enjoy but the movies cost $4 for everyone over 3 years old.  By the by, if you come in for the music and stay for the movies it's pretty much an honor system to go back to the front and buy a ticket.

    Picnics and alcohol are allowed but no glass bottles.  There were some great picnic spreads about us but we lived it up by getting pizza at Pazzo! and eating that while we waited and watched (by the way, the Tutti Frutti in Southern Village is now open).

    The Lumina sells limited concessions outside on the green like popcorn, cotton candy, and some sodas.

    There are some details you need to know about this fabulous series:
    - Movies start late (since they have to wait til dark) at 9 pm
    - All movies are considered family-friendly but it all depends on your kids.  The Lumina picks up films that aren't currently in the theatres but are just out and very current.  For example, weekend 1 was The Lorax and weekend 2 was Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
    - You are watching a movie outside which is kind of magical but you will get ambient noise from the people and traffic around (good news is that the church stops tolling at 9 pm)
     - If you worry about things like where the restrooms are (I can BARELY make it through a full movie) you can use the restrooms in The Lumina
    - The Lumina sells concessions inside, including beer and wine, as well.

    There were projection and aspect ratio issues when we attended.  It was pretty funny, though, how 'helpful' the audience was and how enthusiastically everyone applauded when it worked out.  No one seemed to be upset and it was fixed quickly.

    But all of this seems to add to everything that I loved about this event.  It was a wonderful summer event that I look forward to doing again!

    The Lumina Summer Outdoor Movies Series
    Southern Village Green
    620 Market Street
    Chapel Hill

    919- 969-8049

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    The Erin Condren Planner

    You know you want to be more organized next school year... start practicing NOW!  Get yourself a new planner.  A review today from Katie: 

    I love to be organized.  If you took a look in my house right now, you would probably say, I would love to be organized, since I’m just not sure somewhat organized chaos counts.  But, with baby #2’s arrival around the corner, a toddler who suddenly has a bigger social life than I think I did in college, and some other big changes coming up, I’ve got to seriously get things together, fast.   I also admit that I have a thing for organizational tools.

    That’s where the Erin Condren organizer comes in.  I read about it in a review on The McKeown Family blog (I love her tips) and decided I had to give it a try.  And honestly, I like the idea of a spiral bound planner.  Especially one that can be personalized!

    Simply said: I love this thing!  It just works for me.  We have to tell you, too, that clearly lots of folks love it since the 2012/2013 planner sold out recently!  No fear, though, since they will have more in stock to sell mid-June.

    Why do folks love it!?  Here are my thoughts.

    It can be laid flat, it has tabs for every month, and within every month’s tab there is a monthly planner followed by weekly planners with days broken into morning, day and evening. And the best is that even weekends are broken into separate days.  No combos or shortened versions.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes, weekends are our busiest.  I also like that it isn’t pre-labeled with “me,” “kids,” etc.  Don’t get me wrong since that can work, and I’ve used and loved planners that work that way in the past.  I just feel that I can adapt this one to different situations a little better.

    Some extras: It comes with color coded stickers; some already completed with items such as “hair appointment” or “no school” and some blank that you can fill in yourself.  Did I mention that they are color-coded.  It also has a couple of pockets and a zippered pouch for things like stamps, etc, that always seem to get lost in my purse.
    About the ordering process: I ordered mine online at  It was not what I would call cheap, but I have found the price worth it.  The turnaround is not super fast; I think it took about 2 weeks for mine to arrive, but I did have it personalized, and chose the colors for my pattern.  Again, worth it for me.

    If you are on the market for a new planner, it is certainly worth a try!  By the way, Erin Condren website also sells lots of other beautiful products to make life easier so go check it out.

    Erin Condren Life Planners


    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Angelz Funtime - Morrisville

    From Sarah C.: 

    My son & a friend spotted Angelz Funtime one evening after dinner out at a neighboring restaurant. The colorful toys and climbers inside beckoned them. Much to their disappointment, we couldn't visit then as it was closed for the day. Fast forward to recent weeks and we were thrilled to receive an invite to attend a birthday party there!

    Angelz Funtime offers birthday party packages as well as drop-in child care, preschool, track-out camps and tutoring. Just inside the entrance is a space to store shoes (socks required!), check-in/monitoring desk and a half-door to prevent little ones from exiting on their own. Beyond this is where the fun begins! There are toys galore for all ages, playhouses, climbers, riding toys and 2 wooden playsets. A small room in the back contains a musical instruments, a computer and a TV with a video game system connected.

    Parties are 3 hours which is about an hour longer than the average indoor play area options locally. The one we attended started with a good bit of free play time. The kids all loved exploring the various options and burned a lot of energy before cake time. The party was on the larger side per number of guests (approximately 24 kids) and while it felt busy, the space wasn't too crowded.

    The same friend who hosted the party has used the drop-in child care several times and consistently said good things. I have not personally tried it yet, but did appreciate the attentive staff and clean, colorful facilities during our visit. If you are planning on drop-in child care, call ahead to verify hours.

    Angelz Funtime
    101 Keybridge Drive #300