Monday, July 30, 2012

A Southern Season: Ice Cream Parlour

If you haven't been lately, A Southern Season (which we have already confessed our love for) has had a bit of a face lift.  It's great - more open, easier to shop, better lines of sight.  I am a fan.  They added a coffee bar complete with Espresso drinks and free Wifi as well as an old fashioned ice cream parlour.

Although this spot has only been open about a month we were there right away.  We went when my mom was in town awhile ago (and before A Southern Season became one of our awesome sponsors).  You see, while all these new fangled FroYo places rock, nothing says "family" like an old school ice cream counter (that's why we love places like S&Ts).  In A Southern Season, head towards the wine and candy section and there is a bar with counter seating as well as a few tables.  Here you can get beautiful ice cream concotions - FULL FAT.  Score.

The ice cream is Lumpy's Ice Cream from Wake Forest that is made with Maple View Farms cream and other all natural ingredients.  You can choose from a variety of ice cream flavors (including seasonal ones) with toppings in either cones or cups.  There are gourmet selections done as only A Southern Season can such as Caramel Mocha milkshakes, Balsamic Strawberry milkshakes, Cornbread Peach sundaes, and more.

C got a single scoop ice cream with one topping and, unlike other places we've been like Pelicans (love it, though!), this serving size actually seemed appropriate for a tot.  But my mom and I branched out.  She was so excited to see malts on the menu and ordered a chocolate malt right away.  I got a root beer float made with Boylan's.  D.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s.
Everything is made fresh while you wait.  Prices are going to be around $2.50 for a single scoop of ice cream up to $6.95 for a banana split.

Things are served in glass but you can get cones or paper if you ask.

Even though this is in a large upscale grocery store this had a great vibe.  There were a few seniors sitting at the counter when we showed up telling tales of yore (so not making this up) and reminscing about their kids.  A few other families rolled in when we did, too, and there was plenty of space for all of us.

I also like that this is in University Mall - throw in a visit to the library's current spot, some shopping at Katie Beth's Learning Garden, a Traveling Teacher show, a class at My SweetArts, shop at The Red Hen, check out the secret room at Cameron's - it's a great visit.

A Southern Season Ice Cream Parlour
A Southern Season in University Mall
201 S Estes Drive
Chapel Hill
Opens 11 am daily

Friday, July 27, 2012

NC State's JC Raulston Arboretum

Sarah C. scopes out a place that has been on my "to take C to list" for years:

The JC Raulston Arboretum sits on 10 acres in west Raleigh near the NC State Fairgrounds and NCSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. It features a number of gardens as well as wide open green spaces, sculptures, and Visitor and Education centers.

It might not be the first place to come to mind with all the recent hot weather. If you're willing to venture out in the morning with the kids before the heat really kicks in, it could be a great spot to burn some energy. There are numerous paths throughout to explore - some even take you into shaded spots and to water features. For the most part, you can push a stroller through.

During our visit, DH, D & I had fun wandering, looking at the flowers and sculptures. We also managed to spot a few bees collecting pollen from flowers (amazing how long watching them kept my toddler occupied!):

And I had fun playing with my DSLR taking photos. Of course, my shots were purely amateur but JC Raulston Arboretum does allow professional photography on the property. More information as well as visitor guidelines (ie, this is a research facility so no picking of flowers or other vegetation is allowed) can be found here.

Parking is available in the Arboretum's parking lot or along the Beryl Road. Follow signage guidelines.

A number of programs are offered year round. Some free, some for a small fee. Check out the website for further details. Also, note that JC Raulston Arboretum and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens have a reciprocating agreement for educational programs which allows members of either to attend programs at the member rate at both facilities. There are also benefits for members of the American Horticulral Society. Be sure to mention your membership(s) when registering for programs.

JC Raulston Arboretum | Children's Programs
4415 Beryl Road
(919) 515-3132

8:00am - 8:00pm April - October
8:00am - 5:00pm November - March


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Squeeze Painting

Another Thursday, another Arts & Crafts project from the lovely ladies at My SweetArts:
Squeeze Painting
At My SweetArts, we love trying out new painting mediums. This week we tried Squeeze Paint. Squeeze paint incorporates many factors that are important to our art philosophy.
Squeeze Paint:
• Is made with materials easily found at home (flour, water, salt, food coloring)
• Encourages gross motor skills and fine motor skills
• Incorporates recycled materials
• Is made out of ok-to-taste materials for our youngest artists
• Looks amazing as a final product. The salt crystals create a pretty, shiny finish and the flour gives the final art a little texture and depth.

As with every craft, we test it out on our My SweetArts product development expert. She loved everything about the project. Measuring the ingredients, adding the food coloring, mixing, and then working with the paint. The paint was squeezed, used to make finger paint, scraped with a plastic knife and then took on a new life as we tested out color mixing in our bowl. This activity kept our tester busy for a good hour!

• Squeeze bottles. You can use old condiment containers (*tip* if you are having issues removing the adhesive label off your condiment bottle, try rubbing it with cooking oil). If you want to buy new, try Wilton icing bottles found at your local Michaels (we have tested both methods)
• Flour
• Water
• Salt
• Food Coloring
• Large bowl with spout (or funnel if you have on hand)
• Heavy paper stock, mat board, cardboard, thick paper plates

In your spouted bowl, mix equal parts: flour, water & salt. A half-cup of each item should be sufficient for each color you make. Mix these ingredients really well so that they are well incorporated and have no lumps (lumps will pose an issue with the bottle opening).

Once your mixture is blended well, add some food coloring. Add the coloring a little at a time to get your desired color. The more coloring you add, the more vibrant your paints will be. Once your paint has achieved your desired color, pour into your squeeze bottles (use a funnel if you have on hand).
Prep a large area to paint with heavy card stock, mat board, or cardboard and let your little artist have fun! Kids can use the paint to make shapes, lines, letters, or just create cool patterns.

Please note that unused paint should be refrigerated. It is great to bring out a couple days later for more fun!

For some musical fun, try adding a new song into your repertoire:

Squeeze Your Tube of Paint
(Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)
By Michelle Schooff

Squeeze your tube
Squeeze your tube
Squeeze your tube of paint
Lots of colors on the page
To dry, just sit and wait
Squeeze your tube
Squeeze your tube
Squeeze it really hard
Turn it upside down and squeeze
Then maybe make a card
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. Only a few spots left!

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

Sign up today and all registration fees will be waived.
Go to My SweetArts Summer Camp enrollment form:

Go to My SweetArts Fall 2012 registration form:

Find out more:
Email us at:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Giveaway: Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet

The more astute of you might know that The Bug is 7 months old now.  That means that we have handily entered the world of solids, feeding, and general messes that come along with that.

Awhile ago now we reviewed The Happy Baby book and one lucky reader won a copy.  With this baby I am so pleased to giveaway The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet.  Happy Baby was great, but as you might know that is a whole-approach book.  It talks about cleaners, clothing, detergents, etc.  The Best Homemade Baby Food  book is all about what it says: food.  Period.

Here's what I love about this book: it is so approachable and easy to follow.  The chapters are "months."  So, for example, in month 7 all of these great recipes are listed that are appropriate and suggested for the baby.  It makes it really easy to go to in a jiffy.  Also, the recipes are make-sense recipes.  Now I have that Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Baby.  Love it....I rarely use it.  Because with a toddler running around I am not spending money on lamb, stocking amaranth, or making The Bug parfait.  In an ideal world I would be one of those moms but, alas, we are not perfect here at our house.  All of the recipes in this book can be done with regular old refrigerator and pantry items.

Ok, that said, there are certainly some recipes in this book that are pretty evident.  Like bananas...mash them and serve them.  Not sure you need a recipe for that.  But I think these are no brainers because I am on number 2 and remember what I fed number 1.  I do appreciate the reminder that such foods are suggested and appropriate for babies of a certain age.

Other great things about the book are the layout (I love the spreads, photos, and indexes!), the features on how to read your baby's hunger signs, mealtime successes, tips and tools, nutrition information and more.  Of course, this is written by a nurse so it figures it will be informative.

One lucky winner can win a copy of this book: FOR FREE.  We're making this giveaway about me.  (My blog, I can do that it appears!)  Tell me your child's favorite food.  I need ideas on what to feed The Bug.  So, you have 1 week to post a comment telling me what your child loves to eat.  If you have a newborn, tell me what you loved to eat as a kid.  Winner will be selected at random from all entries on Tuesday, July 31st.  Happy eating and messes!

Monday, July 23, 2012

AMF: Free Summer Bowling

I have to be honest, I was really scared to try this activity out.  A few years ago I took C to Mardi Gras bowl and the over stimulation combined with his young age (read as: lack of patience) made for a loudly frustrated toddler.  However, free bowling is free bowling.  So we went.

See throughout the summer AMF offers free kids bowling.  And I don't know about you but these days, the cheaper the better!  Kids 15 & under get 2 free games per week.  Parents, head to the website (see below) to sign up.  At the beginning of each week AMF emails you a reminder to go online to redeem and print your free vouchers.  You take them in to the counter at your local AMF and voila - free games for the kiddos.  And yes, that is 2 free games per kid.  Do make sure you register in advance.

Excepting that it's not totally free.  You have to pay for shoe rentals and for any games adults might want to pay.  But still, stuff is stuff and any free game is awesome.  This is a great way to beat the heat.

Also, all kids meals for AMF throughout the summer are discounted $1 automatically.

I, personally, found that the AMF lanes in Durham were cleaner, more updated, and less overwhelming for our family and friends (of course, no spot is as cool and impressive as the "boutique" Sparians).  There was still an arcade to be had but it was more removed and had more space.  The huge windows along the front of the building allowed natural light to come a bowling alley...gasp!  That never happens!  And, again, things just felt newer and cleaner.  Of course, Mardi Gras bowl has a different location and is family owned, so pick what matters most to you.  Oh, and since lots of folks have asked - Mardi Gras is dry, AMF sells pitchers of beer.  Just letting you have all the information.

Free kids bowl ends September 3, 2012 this summer.

By the way, C did great.  No frustration and he had a blast - every pin down was a celebration. Thanks so much for asking!

AMF Bowling
Summer Unplugged: Kids Bowl Free

4508 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.
Durham, NC 27707 

5501 Commercial Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27612  

301 Nottingham Drive
Cary, NC 27511

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Shaving Cream Painting

This is like a little piece of cloud in your kitchen.  We love this activity and, again, it is so easy...even if sharing this means you can all giggle at my lady-pink Skintimates lotion.

  • Shaving cream
  • Food coloring or paint
  • Plastic mat or cookie sheet
  • Bowls or cups to hold shaving cream
After setting up a work station you know will get disastrously messy, squirt shaving cream in to various containers.  C had a good time squeezing the shaving cream himself.  He got a good laugh out of that.  Sigh, boy toddlers and things that "toot."

We used food coloring to dye each bowl of shaving cream a different color but you can also use paint.  Just remember that this will get on your children's hands so think nontoxic and certainly nothing permanent.

Once you have your colors encourage your child to get their hands in there and smear it around on the plastic mat (I used one of C's place mats).
C was hesitant at first but once he got started he was a huge fan.  This was one of our most successful art ventures and was one of the easiest to set up.  We did go straight to the bath afterwards.

This craft is NOT recommended for kids who still have the tendency to put things in their mouths and also use caution when doing this activity with children who have sensitive skin.

PS- Skintimates did not give me any compensation for this post.  I just love the way their product leaves my legs feeling silky smooth after a summertime shave.  Turns out it smells delicious for crafty projects, too!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

US National Whitewater Center

A few weeks ago DH and I had an anniversary to celebrate.  We ended up being fortunate enough to leave the boys with their grandparents and take some time in Charlotte.  I have loved Charlotte in many ways already including Discovery Place, explored IKEA, and taken in a Carolina Panthers game.  This time we were kidless so decided to try out the US National Whitewater Center, on my to do list for over 3 years.

The US National Whitewater Center is gorgeous, big, high on adventure, and great for kids.  Provided that your kids are about 8 or older.  Eight is the minimum age for a lot of the activities at the Center and a lot of the adventures require independence and coordination, as well as an adventurous spirit.

So here is what it is: a huge recreation center that focuses on whitewater fun.  The place was originally constructed for Olympic trials and training.  You have a couple of different options for whitewater experience.  You can rent, or bring in your own, kayaks or you can go on three different types of rafting adventures (one is a family version).  All vessels use the same river and the same course.  You do loops of the course.  What makes your experience more or less intense is the guide.  The guide will run you through and hit the water in a way that can be full of mayhem or that can be gentler.  Our guide asked us before we started what we wanted.

There is also flatwater activity.  The USNWC is on a river and as part of your activities for the day you can kayak, canoe, and paddleboard.

There is high flying adventure: mega jumps, ropes courses, zip lines, obstacle courses, rock climbing walls, and more.

There are wooded trails for mountain biking and hiking.

There is a restaurant with a bar as well as a small snack shack that sells beer and wine.

Like I said at the beginning, the older kids are going to get the most out of this and have a lot of fun.  However, there is no fee to enter the Whitewater Center.  So there were many families camped out with pack n plays and picnics while various family members would take off and do activities.  Just know that it can get a little crowded and hard to find shade if you pick this option.

The USNWC is very popular, especially during a hot summer.  There is oodles to do and try here and the vibe is so laid back and wonderful that people like to go.  That means that on a summer weekend you can wait in line for activities and in general just feel crowded.  The good news is that for rafting you can make reservations online before you go (for an additional fee; trust me, worth it).  Beyond that, just plan to spend all day to revel and enjoy.  By the way, they are open very late in the season, all the way in to late September/early October.
Although entry in to the Center is free you do have to pay to play.  There are a few different options for tickets, depending on what activities you want to do.  A full access pass to everything, including the whitewater rafting (which is the main draw afterall) is $54 for 10 and up and $44 for 9 and under.  There are other options for passes depending on what activities you think you might do.  Not cheap.  But, again, you get everything there.  Anything your adventurous heart can desire.  It is amazing.  And our whitewater ride was awesome.  Our guide did a fantastic job taking us on a ride that made us laugh hysterically.  Our only regret was not allowing ourselves more time here.

There is a pretty awesome looking Canopy Tour that is new to the USNWC but you have to pay extra for that and make separate reservations.

You have to pay to park (they say it's their way of keeping the amount of cars down).  You can bring your own equipment or rent for things such as mountain biking.

Bring good closed-toed water shoes.  They are available to rent at the Center if you would rather.  The rental equipment is great quality and in good shape.  Also don't forget the sunscreen, towels, and a change of clothes.  You can bring in food if you would like (not alcohol) and they have lockers and bins available for rent.

The USNWC offers a lot of special events throughout the year as well as various schools and kids camps.

We had a great time here, experiencing trouble we don't often get to, and were so glad we went.

US National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Parkway

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pelican's Sno Balls

Yesterday (Sunday) was the National Ice Cream Day.  Sigh.  A day after our own heart.  If you follow us regularly you know that we LOVE our sweet treats (especially Laura M and her fabulous FroYo addiction).

Another great spot to celebrate your sweet tooth, to embrace it, and to love it is Pelican's Sno Balls.  Pelican's has 3 locations in the Triangle: Apex, Cary and Durham.  My boys and I tried out the Apex spot and loved it.  There was a drive thru (score!) as well as some tables outside to sit.  No inside seating.  But best of all there were a lot of opportunities to satisfy whatever craving you have.

Pelican's specializes in sno balls, as the name screams.  They sell dozens and dozens of flavors of sno cones, some sugar free.  In fact there are so many flavors that the hardest part is deciding what flavor to get.  Some are exotic (they even have the same Tiger's Blood flavor I pondered about in this post here) and some are pretty classic.  It just takes forever to decide: sweet, sour, colorful?!  Luckily Pelican's menu will list for you the most popular flavors just so you can start somewhere.  We also found the staff very helpful.

Pelican's sells New Orleans style sno balls (not sno cones).  From what I can tell from my extensive 2 minute Wikipedia research, New Orleans style means that it is finally shaved ice, like snow.  It is about the quality of the ice and I can attest that it was melt in your mouth thin.

Pelican's also has soft serve cones and cups as well as ice cream with various toppings.  The prices are good (around $2.00 - $4.00 for sno balls).  The kids size is big, by the way.  In fact all servings are generous so be careful what you order.  We ended up having to confiscate C's before there was a major sugar OD.

And be sure to share.  Most of the fun is about getting different flavors so share the love!

Pelican's Sno Balls
Apex: On Highway 55 just south of downtown and Apex Middle School

(919) 422-5954
Cary: In the Swift Creek shopping center at the Pelican's Mini-Golf

(919) 671-7220
Durham: On N Roxboro St. right by Biscuitville, look for the big pink sign
(919) 830-7487

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Colored Ice Painting

Another creative way to beat the heat via crafting!  The lovely ladies from My SweetArts have it all for you today.:

At My SweetArts we try to make art fun and accessible for all ages. This week we painted with colored ice cube pops. This activity is great for all ages. For the preschoolers, you can focus on color mixing and create fun drawings with a cool watercolor effect. Teething toddlers love to taste and experiment with the melting drips and the babies love the color and feeling of the cold ice cubes in their hands.  

Best of all, for us big people the craft is easy to put together, entertains the kids, and produces some beautiful and vibrant paintings. In the summer time heat, this is a great activity to do outdoors.

*Please note that food coloring temporarily stains hand and clothes. If you want to minimize some of the stains on little hands, try putting on lotion before the activity. It will be easier to wipe off the dye. If already stained, try using vinegar to clean hands. Some websites mentioned toothpaste as a good cleanser (we will try that in our next class). The food coloring will come off (all children photographed for this article were back to their normal colors after bath time).
  • Ice Cube Trays
  • Food coloring (use whatever you have on hand or make your own with natural food dyes like beets, strawberries, blueberries)
  • Popsicle sticks. If you do not have any on hand, try baby spoons, plastic spoons, clothespins, disposable wooden ice cream spoons
  • Heavy paper stock, mat board, cardboard, cloth, thick paper plates
  • Egg carton (optional)

First fill up your ice cube tray with water to the halfway point. Then add some drops of food coloring or whatever edible dyes you may have. In addition to food coloring, we had a few jars of icing color. The more color you add, the more vibrant the ice cubes. But watch out, that comes with a price and will be more apt to stain little hands (and yours). Stir the colored water gently with a baby spoon or toothpick.

Then add in your holder/brush. This really can be anything: popsicle sticks, clothespins, baby spoons, plastic cutlery, wooden ice cream spoons - anything that would be safe for your kids to handle. We used different materials to add another element of discussion for our activity. We also wrote the colors on the stick and pre-dyed a few popsicle stick, corresponding to the color of the ice cube.

Since the My SweetArts prep kitchen has a shallow, drawer freezer, we also opted to make a top to ensure our holders/brushes remained upright during the freezing process. This also eliminates a step of having to remember to insert holders when water is half-way frozen (usually 15-30 minutes). We used the top of an egg carton. With a few cuts and some tape, we were able to make all the holders stand upright. For our classes we utilize a long handle to minimize mess and allow for more flexibility so this step was key. You can choose whichever method works for you and your kids or do without a handle all together.

Next is on to painting or playing. Remove the ice cubes from the freezer and set out for 5 minutes to ease ice cube removal. You can set out cardboard boxes, thick paper plates, mat board, or cloth. It really can be anything that will absorb the colored water. You can add some colored cubes to your child’s cup for a colorful glass of water or just put colored ice cubes in a bowl for the kids to play with. There are so many fun possibilities. 

Here’s is a little ditty you and your little ones can sing during this fun activity:

Ice Man (sung to the tune of "the hokey pokey")
By Michelle Schooff
Draw a line to the left
A line to the right
Now draw a nice big circle
And insert 2 eyes
Squiggle on a nose now
And a smiley mouth
2 ears and some wavy hair
Oh, look at my ice man
Oh, look at my ice man
Oh, look at my ice man
That I drew today
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. Only a few spots left!

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

Like My SweetArts on Facebook & receive an automatic 5% reduction for our mini-Summer term!

Find out
Email us at:


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Northgate Park - Durham

If this rain clears out we're looking at potentially lower temperatures for a few days.  Anyone else happy about that?  Let's hit a park!

After our movie adventure a few weeks ago I decided to assuage my Mom-guilt about sitting inside at a brain-drying movie (TOTALLY WORTH IT for the adventure and experience, by the way) by getting in some good outdoors time.  So we hopped on over to Northgate park.  This park was cute!

The playground for olders kids was fairly new and creative.  It reminded me some of Old Chapel Hill Road Park - spiderwebs and interesting tactile exercises for the kids.  This is definitely for the older crowd, though.  You can climb quite high and there are no handrails, guards, etc.  It also requires a fair amount of dexterity.

For the younger group there is a toddler playground nearby.  These 2 sites have good line of vision to and from each other but they aren't really close enough for a parent to navigate both easily.  The toddler playground has a little slide and some climbing equipment, very cute and in good condition.

Surprisingly, there was shade around this playground.  There are a lot of old trees around that provide good, although not necessarily solid, shade around the area.  Ground cover is mulch.  I thought this park was, really, just pretty all around.

This park is one of the major stops for the Ellerbe Creek Trail.  From an area near the toddler playground there is a little bridge that goes over the Creek and to a paved walking path. 

Ellerbe Creek Trail is a total of 4 miles but I hear there is a hidden dinosaur somewhere along the path.  We didn't find it because little feet couldn't last that long but it is an easy walk - also stroller and bike friendly.  For more information on Ellerbe Creek Trail I am going to punt you over to Wikipedia, believe it or not.

Full list of amenities:
  • Dog Park
  • Greenway Access
  • Grills(2)
  • Soccer Fiels & Field Lights
  • Picnic Tables(4)
  • Playground
  • Picnic Shelter(LARGE)
  • Tennis Courts(2)
  • Water Fountain

Northgate Park
300 West Club Blvd

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lilly's Pizza

Laura tells us about the new, and much talked about, Lilly's Pizza location in Durham.  Makes me crave a 'pie.'

Being the Tuesday and Friday morning regular at Parker & Otis that I am, for months, I’ve watched the construction of Lilly’s Pizza.  A Raleigh pizzeria branching out to Downtown Durham with its second location, Lilly’s Pizza prides itself on organic, all-natural, fresh, local fare.  Tucked away behind Brightleaf Square, sharing parking spaces with Morgan Imports and Parker & Otis, with outdoor tables overlooking the train tracks, Lilly’s Pizza serves everything from appetizers to gourmet pizzas, calzones and strombolis to desserts.  Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free pizza options are also available.

A few weeks after its opening, despite reading lukewarm reviews online, our family of 4 decided to check it out.  Despite arriving at the early bird, kid-friendly, hour of 5:30pm on a Saturday night, Lilly’s Pizza was already getting crowded.  With the temperatures hovering around 105 degrees outside, the quaint tables next to the train tracks were empty.  We were seated in the backroom, which was open, airy and very loud; its walls decorated with art for sale by local artists.  There was a mix of families, college kids and adults-only seated near us.  I was surprised to see they did not have a kids menu.  However, a 10 inch cheese pizza was the perfect size for S & B to split.  And they made it half with/half without sauce since S suddenly decided to forsake her Italian heritage and shun tomato sauce.  The hostess even brought around construction paper and crayons to entertain the kids in our room, which was a nice touch.

The hubs and I split the Big Star pizza -- homemade cream of pesto, mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, fontina, roasted red peppers & pistachios.  It was kind of amazing.  Everyone talks about Lilly’s Pizza’s crust . . . and they are right.  It is just that good!  The problem . . . the service was definitely off.  It was painfully slow.  It took almost an hour for us to get our meal.  We even ordered an appetizer to tide the kids over, just in case, but the breadsticks actually arrived after our pies did . . . and they were burned.  The waitstaff appeared a bit overwhelmed but to be fair the restaurant did just open a month ago.  They definitely have a few kinks to work out, but based on how delicious our Big Star pizza leftovers were on Sunday morning, we’ll definitely give them another chance!

Lilly’s Pizza

810 W. Peabody St.
Durham, 27701
(919) 797 2554
Hours:  Sun–Thurs 11am – 10pm; Fri–Sat 11am – 12am

1813 Glenwood Ave

(919) 833-0226


Friday, July 6, 2012

Cedar Grove Blueberries

I know you have all been itchin' to pick blueberries.  Maybe you already have.  Peak blueberry season hits next week so get on out there (or get on out there again). 

We, of course, have sampled the delights and pickings at Faircloth, Herndon Hills, and Patchwork farms in the past.  But an old established farm called our name this time.  Earlier this week C, The Bug and I met some friends for picking at Cedar Grove blueberry farm.

Cedar Grove is all organically farmed even though they no longer have official USDA Organic certifications. The process became too expensive for their small-family-farm budget.  Yet they inform me that they have not changed their farming practices over the years.  For example, if they find a yellow jackets nest they cover it and use oil to flush the stingers out.  They really aim to be organic and envirnomentally friendly.
All I know is that they are delicious.  Cedar Grove is located about 10 minutes north of Hillsborough on 86.  It's a quick and easy drive (while you go why not take advantage of some of the delights Hillsborough has to offer or pair it up with a trip to Shangri-La!).
Just a note that the set up is a little odd when you pull in.  To the left of the driveway is Cedar Grove farm.  This farm has been around for over 20 years and has enormous, mature blueberry bushes.  To the right of the same driveway is Nice Berries farm.  Same old bushes, the acreage was just divided some years ago and now two separate and completely independent farms operate the land.  Nice Berries also practices organic farming and charges the same price.  The owner was quite friendly there, too.  But Cedar Grove had us a "playground."

Cedar Grove has a swingset as well as some picnic benches in the shade.  They also offer cold water from a container for pickers.  Very friendly for a visit.

There were some other pickers while we were there and an attendant manning the booth.  Yet this is set up to be an honor system as well so you don't need to fret about whether or not a human is there to greet you (hours are: "Always Open").  There are buckets, directions, ropes to tie the bucket to you, bags to take your berries home, and it is all pretty easy to follow.  Cheap, too.  It is $2 for a pound.

There were still a lot of green blueberries on the bushes when we went but still plenty to be had.  In a few days or so you will be able to just stand at one bush and fill up your entire bucket.  Pretty great if you ask me.

Enjoy the season!

Cedar Grove Blueberry PYO Farm
Facebook Page
8411 N Hwy 86
Cedar Grove

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Graffiti Frozen Yogurt

It's hot so when a new FroYo spot popped up AND offered a Living Social deal (see the link here, still available!) the MiCHill team was there.  Laura gives you the scoop (get it? get it?) on this new place.:

Friends, I have a problem.  There is no hiding from it.  I just accept it . . . and sprinkle a few more fresh berries on top.  I am a frozen yogurt-a-holic.  I blame Tutti Frutti.  Their fresh, delicious flavors combined with healthy toppings and their absurdly close proximity to everything in my life makes it easy to swing by for a quick pick-me-up . . . at least 4x/week!  A little bit of peach and blueberry frozen deliciousness mixed with fresh strawberries equals the key to happiness in my book.  And while they are (and will probably always be) our favorite of the frozen yogurt shoppes, S, B and I are happy to test out the competition . . . because, really, it’s frozen yogurt . . . what’s not to like?!

We were pretty excited to see the newest of the fro-yo franchises, Graffiti, opening up near our Harris Teeter on the corner of NC 751 and Hwy 54 in Durham.  Located in one of the side buildings of the Hope Valley Commons shopping center (behind Char-Grill and Rita’s), the concept of Graffiti is similar to other frozen yogurt chains in the area where the patron is in control of their fro-yo experience.  All flavors (at least 10, maybe more, I forgot to count!) are self-serve and the toppings bar is stocked with everything from fresh fruit and candies to nuts and dessert sauces.  Where Graffiti differs is in its atmosphere.  The chain’s tagline is “Be the Artist” and that’s exactly what you are encouraged to do at Graffiti.  Dry erase markers are readily available and customers are invited to leave their mark on the “graffiti-friendly” walls . . . at least customers who don’t need their 2 year old seeing people writing on walls and not getting in trouble for it! In addition to the regular seating, there is a backroom with arcade games, a juke box, couches and televisions, perfect for birthday gatherings or just hanging out with friends.  I can see this place being extremely popular with the middle and high school crowd . . . or, again, anyone who knows the difference between when it is ok and not ok to write on walls . . . which means B will never be coming back here.  ;)

Another Graffiti stand-out is the Graffiti Gives Back program where 10% of sales are given to local charities and organizations.  When my family dined there, one of the charities happened to be one that is nearest and dearest to my heart, my former employer pre-S&B, the Ronald McDonald House of Durham.  It’s hard to feel bad about indulging in some frozen yogurt deliciousness when you are giving back to deserving members of community at the same time!

Overall, Graffiti gets two spoons up from this frozen yogurt-a-holic.  The yogurt was tasty, thicker and more custard-like than some of the other chains in the area.  And a trip to Graffiti can easily be used as bribery to keep your kids happy during your weekly Harris Teeter run!  And, as if this glowing review wasn’t enough to get you over to Hope Valley Commons, Living Social is currently running a deal on Graffiti right now!  Spent $7 and get $15 worth of fro-yo!

Happy Chocolate Sprinkes, friends!

Graffiti Frozen Yogurt  (site under construction)
Hope Valley Commons Shopping Center
1125 West Highway 54, Suite 804
(corner of NC 751 and Hwy 54)
Durham, 27707


Monday, July 2, 2012

Pick Your Own Peaches

Note that since we went the bugs have come out in force to this farm.  Still lots of peaches to be had but definitely bundle up against ants!

We love to do Pick Your Own farms here.  Something about teaching your children where food comes from means a lot to me.  Plus food fresh from the source is incomparable.  C eats a lot of peaches and loves them.  But a lot of times they are those peaches in their own fruit a jar... So when I found out about a brand new pick your own peach farm through some Chatham Co. mamas I was In Like Flynn (which, by the way, in the course of researching for this article I checked on that phrase and learned quite a lot about it from good ole Wikipedia).  Anyhow, I digress....I am just so happy to be back from vacation chatting with you all...

This is a local family farm with a TON of peaches ripe for the picking.  I mean, a TON.  This farm doesn't have a name or even a phone number.  But they are open every day from dawn to dusk.  Peach season starts mid to late-June and ends early August.  There are so many good peaches out now that you all should get there!  Since you can't call ahead, just trust that there will be plenty of peaches for at least 2 more weeks.

The entire operation is a matter of trust, come to think of it.  Since this is a family farm with a lot of hours of availability for families to come pick it is based on the honor system.  There might not be anyone there when you arrive.  But this farm is very well run and friendly to visitors.  That means the directions are clear even if a person isn't there to talk to you.  You grab a bag from the deck (which is a peck), leave $10 in cash, and then look at the board for where to pick that day.  There are rows and rows and rows of peach trees so knowing where to go isn't too terribly important since you will find peaches.  It is also nice that there are different varieties.

If you can, though, honk and meet the owners because they are SO sweet.  I loved them.

They do not spray anything on their peaches.  Which is great because it means you will be able to try some out in the field (the owners encourage it) but it also means that you will see some Japanese beetles loving on some of those peaches, too.  Plenty of peaches to go around for all species, just watch where you stick your hand.

Note on navigation: my car GPS had a hard time finding this.  From 64 headed out towards Siler City turn on to Buckner Clark Road, then on to Hillside Dairy, then on to Clark Self Rd.  This is way faster and easier than my GPS's route.

Again, no phone number or formal name but, trust me, you are welcome to pick there, they are expecting you, and there is a bounty of fresh peaches out there in Pittsboro waiting for you.

Pick Your Own Peaches
91 Clark Self Rd