Friday, September 28, 2012

Millstone Creek Orchards (Apple Picking)

Who associates fall with apple picking?  Me, too!  Accordingly, you can imagine my confusion when I took my family to Millstone Creek Orchards this week only to find out that apple season here in North Cackalacky peeks in mid-August.  Say what!?  However, read on, because if you are catching this on Friday you have one last chance to get some apple-picking in at a local favorite: Millstone Creek Orchards.

Millstone Creek is a huge orchard outside of Siler City.  From downtown Pittsboro it takes about 20 minutes to get there, straight down 64.

The orchard itself is relatively large with many different types of apples: Fiji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Corland and Rome included.  Of course, like I said, most of these are done fruiting (is that a word?) this season.  See their website (below) for a full harvest schedule.

Millstone Creek is having one last varietal, though, this season and they open that orchard THIS Saturday morning (9/29/2012) for picking: Pink Ladies.  The orchard opens at 9 am these days (except for Sundays which is a 1 pm open time, and off-season the hours are different so check before you go).  Starting at 9 am this Saturday Pink Ladies will be yours for the picking.  Although GO EARLY.  One of the owners informed me that last year the Pink Ladies were picked out in 6 hours.  If you have any questions or doubts, call before you go (the number is below).  The staff here is so nice and honest - they'll tell you like it is.

Ok, so the immediate know-before-you-go out of the way, Millstone Creek is a great place to visit.  There is a large storefront open year round with all kinds of wonderful goodies for sale: fresh-pressed apple cider (YUM! although note that they do run out of this, too, so call ahead if you want to make sure you come home with a gallon), apple butter (again, this is also very popular so call ahead), apple jam, apple salsa, apple pie, apple bread, apple slushies, and all kinds of treats.

When I took C and The Bug to the orchard we knew they were picked out but we were told we could go "apple hunting."  They gave us a bag and let us wander around to see if there are any stray apples.  We had no luck finding strays that were good to eat, and to be honest there were quite a few bugs chomping down on rotting apples on the ground (I know that pests and tall grass were concerns for some of you at the peach picking).  However, we did buy some fresh-picked apples that they sell in the store front (although they were not cheap, they are delicious) and some apple jelly.  C was given a free little apple slushie.

During select weekends Millstone Creek also offers hayrides and there are some pumpkins for sale right now, too.  There are a slew of picnic tables, some even with umbrellas, great for a picnic.  Occasional fieldtrips will visit Millstone, too, so you may have to share.

Millstone will offer private tours so consider calling ahead to arrange a visit for your playgroup, but a 15 person minimum is required. A private tour can have many other activities outside of apple picking, depending on what you pick (see their website for package options).

Millstone Creek does a fabulous job of updating their Facebook page, too (see below) with picking information and status.

Millstone Creek is so much more than just apples, too.  They also offer peach, blueberry, blackberry, and grapes.

In short: Millstone Creek Orchards is a fun spot!  The staff are friendly, there is a lot on site, and it's not too far from the fun things to do in Pittsboro.  Just call before you go and know that apples come earlier in these parts than you might think.

Oh, and if you head out on Saturday morning, let me know how it goes!

Millstone Creek Orchards
Facebook Page
506 Parks Crossroads Church Road
Ramseur, NC

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Silly Slime

Another A.C.T. from the talented ladies at My SweetArts.  I am excited to do this for our playgroup soon and it turns out that I will be doing something developmentally useful for the kids, too!
To shake things up for our students, we like to do some activities to really surprise and excite the little ones. Texture exploration is important for growing minds. Our little ones learn so much about the world around them via sensory input. Providing them with dynamic and fun activities, we provide our children opportunities to develop fine-motor dexterity, discover properties of different objects, and build language skills by encouraging young explorers to put words to the sensations they experience.

Slime is a crowd pleaser for kids of all ages (including the big people –“grownups”). The slime has a wet, cool, oozing texture, but leaves your hands clean. 
  • 1 1/2 Cup of warm water, divided into 2 cups
  • 1 Teaspoon of Borax (found in the laundry aisle in your local grocery store)
  • 1 4 oz Glue (Elmer’s or other school-type brand)
  • Whisk
  • Food coloring (try two batches of different colors to explore color mixing)

Please note that the key to success for this recipe is to measure precisely and mix well!

1.    Mix 1/2 cup of the warm water and 1 Teaspoon of Borax to fully dissolve the Borax.

2.    In a separate bowl, mix the 1 Cup of warm water, food coloring, and 4oz. of Glue. Mix very well so that glue is completely dissolved in the water.

3.    Add the dissolved Borax/Water mixture to the Glue/Water mixture in the bowl. Mix well with your whisk to fully combine the two mixtures. You will see the chemical reaction immediately.

4.    Take out the whisk and combine with your hands (the more you knead and mix, the firmer the slime will get)
5.    Play in a hard surface for easy clean up. Slime does stick to clothes and carpet. Be sure to have your kids play in something you don't mind getting messy.
*Since this recipe calls for manufactured glue, please be sure to keep an eye out for infants and young toddlers who put everything in their mouths.*

For some musical fun, try this fun, catchy original song from Michelle Schooff.

Slimy Slug
(sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)

Slimy slug, slimy slug, little slimy slug
See me slide, up and down
All around the town

Slimy slug, slimy slug, little slimy slug
Don't be scared, if I slide by
Or you will make me cry


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.

This Fall, My SweetArts has 8 classes to choose from!
You can choose an age-specific class or classes open to all ages.
• Sweet Potatoes (2-3 year olds) @ 9:20 AM
• Sweet Berries (14 – 24 month olds) @ 10:45 AM
• Sweet Mix (open to all ages, great for families) @ 9:20 AM
• Sweet Mix (open to all ages, great for families) @ 10:45 AM
• Sweet Mix (open to all ages, great for families) @ 9:20 AM
• Sweet Peas (4 – 14 month olds) @ 10:45 AM - FULL
• Sweet Mix (open to all ages, great for families) @ 9:20 AM
• Sweet Mix (open to all ages, great for families) @ 10:45 AM

Sign up today and all registration fees will waived, plus you will get a lower price per class – a 25% discount!  Fall 2012 Enrollment form:

Find out more:
Twitter- @mysweetarts
Email us at:


Monday, September 24, 2012

Jordan Dam & Tailrace Playground

I have lived in Chapel Hill now for close to 7 years.  Yet there are still great places I haven't yet discovered and I wonder how I could have missed them for so long.  Case in point: Jordan Dam.  Jordan Dam is what makes Jordan Lake, such an integral, definitive, and beautiful part of this area.  Yet this weekend was my first visit there.  We'll be going back!

The dam itself is fun to look at.  All things considered, it's a relatively small dam and it's earthen - made of rocks and dirt.  Although small the Jordan Dam makes a big impact, creating 13,900 acres of lake for recreational use.

When you visit the dam head first to the Visitor's Information Center at the top of the hill.  Here there is a nice overlook complete with free binoculars.  The vistas are great and we loved looking for boats off to the left and looking at the dam to the right.  There are a bunch of picnic tables up here, too, for you to enjoy.

After you get in your view walk to the right towards the dam, down the steps and hill, and there is a recreational oasis for you on the other side.  There is a fishing pier here (don't fish elsewhere at the dam and appropriate licensing required) as well as restrooms, picnic tables, and a wonderful playground.

There are two play structures here - one for the littler ones and one for the older ones.  They are both in nice condition, fun to play on, and worth exploring for sure.   No shade on either of these but with beautiful fall days coming up you may not need them.  Ground cover is mulch and there are a few swings (including a bucket).

Other things to discover while you are here: The Visitor's Information Center.  It has limited hours (8:30 am - 4 pm on Mon- Fri) so we weren't able to get in.  We did peek in the windows though and there appears to be some nice small exhibits.  We'll go back another time and get the full scoop for you.  Also, the Rangers will gladly put together educational visits for you and your group if you just contact them ahead of time.  On their website here they state that no group is too small or too big and you can get a list of suggested topics to help you decide.  Sounds like a fun playdate to me!

There are also a slew of hiking paths all around this area: the Poe's Ridge Trail System.  No trail maps online for this one but they are readily available at the trailheads and the Visitor's Information Center.  Kind of wish we had done one of these hiking paths instead of the one we did do (more on that later this week...) but just another great excuse to head back to the Dam.  I think this will be particularly stunning when the fall colors peak.  Join me there?

PS- I know the address below says Moncure but this is close to Pittsboro.  Think about heading to Chatham Marketplace, S&T's Soda Shoppe, Sweet Oven Bakery, or any of our lovely Pittsboro places in conjunction with your trip.

Jordan Dam & Tailrace Playground
2080 Jordan Dam Road

Friday, September 21, 2012

GO NC! Project

One of the things about this little website that I love is how we now get really wonderful information about new and exciting developments around the Triangle and even the state sent to us.  I was recently contacted about a new initiative Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has launched and it is pretty awesome (my 3 year old loves that word now so we use it a lot).

Those of you who know my "real" identity know that I have a thing for fitness and being outdoors.  A thing may equal obsession, but I am what I am.  So when a major company announces investments to the tune of $4 million over 4 years to encourage folks all over North Carolina to get outside, get healthy, and get active, I want to give them a big blog-hug.  That's right, BCBSNC is investing $4 million to Get Outside North Carolina! ("GO NC!").

In the Triangle BCBSNC has paired up the North Carolina Museum of Art and the first order of business is to build the Blue Loop in Raleigh.  The Blue Loop will be a paved 2 mile trail, scheduled for completion in Spring 2013, that intersects with the Museum's currently existing trail (we wrote about that in our article here).

More places to get outside with your kids means more for me to love!

GO NC! will also have an impact in Wilmington where the funds will be focused on the completion of the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail (see more about Wilmington in our article here).

And since our friend the Queen City is so close us, I have to tell you all about the great project GO NC! has launched in Charlotte.  This is the project that gets me swooning the most and I hope when you head to Charlotte to visit one of the many wonderful spots we've told you about you use this program!  It's called Charlotte B-Cycle.  It's a city bike share program.  BCBSNC put 200 bikes at 20 rental stations all over Uptown Charlotte.  For $8 you can rent a bike for 24 hours, although you do then have to pay $4 for every 30 minute increment you use the bike (ex:30 minutes on a bike is $12).  Just head to the bike station, pay, get your bike out, then return your bike to any one of the various stations around Charlotte.  This is great, especially on the day of a Carolina Panthers game!

Pretty neat, huh?  Maybe one day the Triangle area will get another GO NC! grant to have our own B-Cycle.  Any one with me on that?

Blue Loop in Raleigh
Charlotte B-Cycle Program

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: MYO Monster

We're getting a head start on Halloween with today's craft.  I had pinned this craft a few times on my personal Pinterest site (by the way, are you following MiCHill on Pinterest yet? we post all of these tutorials on there for re-pinning), then when the new Highlights High Five magazine (which I have raved about on Twitter) arrived in our mailbox this craft was in there.  C was excited to give it a go so we did.

Here's how to make your own monster.

  • cardboard tube (Any length or size will do, we used one from a toilet paper roll.  If you use one from a paper towel roll it is recommended to cut it so that it stands easier.)
  • paint
  • paintbrush
  • glue
  • accessories such as googly eyes, pipe cleaners, sequins, paper to create shapes and teeth, whatever you want

Start by painting the cardboard tube.  Any colors or any way will work.  Allow your child to be creative since this is, afterall, a monster from their own imagination.

Allow the paint to dry.  Once dry, fold down the tops of the tube gently to create "horns."

Decorate the outside of the monster.  Again, any way will do.  I had out googly eyes and teeth made out of paper but C was much more in to the sequins.  We also added pipe cleaner arms by sticking them through the sides of the tube gently.

I know that fall has pretty much just started but this little, easy craft got me so excited for Halloween.  Enjoy your little monsters!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mommy Time: Mindful Yoga

Over the years we've been bringing you the occasional "For Mom" article.  But resources and time for "Mom" (or "Caregiver" or "Dad" or anyone who is engaging in this fabulous journey of raising a child) is so very, very important.  By keeping your cup full, remembering who you are as a person - all the joy and uniqueness you give to the world as well as the amazing person you are outside of children - you can raise happy, healthy kids.  Your kids are happier when you are happier.  Period.  Accordingly I am thrilled to welcome Teresa, an amazing parent in her own right, to our folds at MiCHill as a contributor.  Each month Teresa will give us a monthly column called "Mommy Time."  That's right, words devoted to YOU and what YOU might want to do for yourself in the Triangle.  I know you'll help me in welcoming her and telling her how great this column is.:

While I enjoy seeking out new adventures in new places with my littles, sometimes I just need a little “mommy time.” And, if you are like me, sometimes it’s hard to carve out that time. But, have you ever had an occasion when you were given a few hours to yourself (yay!), but then suddenly panic and think, “Oh no, what will I do with this precious time? I don’t want to squander it!”  This is where I hope to help with some great ideas.

I am going to share my current most favorite “mommy time” activity. At Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts (which MiCHill has introduced you to before in a family-friendly way), they offer a Mindful Yoga class. Now, I have only been an occasional user of yoga, and I like other yoga classes just fine. But, I love the Mindful Yoga class.

This is a great class for moms because the emphasis is on mindfulness, mediation and relaxation. Something I’ll bet most of us could use more of. It offers a space free of judgment and reminds you to let go of judging yourself and just be in the moment. On the website (see below), they state that “participants will explore where they hold tension in their bodies and learn tools for how to release it. The class will be a mix of asanas (poses), breathwork, relaxation, and meditation.”

Now, if you have never done yoga, don’t worry, it is appropriate for all levels. And since this is mindful yoga, you don’t have to worry about anyone judging your downward dog.

Sound good yet? Here is more to love… the last part of class is a nice long period of the Shavasana pose. If you don’t know what that is, it is where you lie on your back, relaxed, still and quiet. And p.s., there will not be one person there that asks you for a snack or to take them to the bathroom. 

The class is currently offered on Sunday mornings at 10:00am, which I find is a great way to help hit the restart button on the week ahead.  I always leave there feeling peaceful and rejuvenated, and ready for the return to mommy land.

Mindful Yoga
Hillsborough Yoga & Healing Arts
1812 Becketts Ridge Drive


Friday, September 14, 2012

CowParade NC 2012

In case you don't follow us Facebook (which you totally should, we're fun there), we suggested a "cow hunt" around the Triangle.  Yet another reason for you all to love Sarah C. is that she gives you great information as to how, as well as a place to share your photos:

In case you haven't seen or "herd" by now - there are a lot of cows running loose around the Triangle. Ok, running might be a stretch considering they are sculptures mounted to concrete bases. But you will find them in a number of "pastures" in the area. A few have even roamed off to locations beyond (PeeDee made his way to Greenville and Paratrooper Cow is in Fayetteville).

With such perfect weather for being outdoors this week, now is a great time to take the family out in search of the cows. They will be on display until December. Maps can be found on the official website (listed below). Many are clustered in popular spots.

I stumbled across my first cow spotting by accident when visiting Wells Fargo in RTP a couple weeks ago and found Wi-Fi Cowspot. Since then, D & I have been searching them out in Apex, Raleigh and Durham. We both have enjoyed seeing and taking photos of the cows.

Join us in sharing your photos!  We think that if we all pool our pictures we'll be able to create an album with snaps of every single one.  Help us out - add them to our MiCH - CowParade NC 2012 flickr group.

Besides being a very cool public art project, the CowParade is also a fundraiser for the NC Children's Hospital. In February, a gala and auction will be held. Money raised will benefit the hospital.

In the meantime, get "moo-ving" and go check out those cows! (And, I promise - next post will be free of silly puns!)

CowParade North Carolina 2012
The cows are on parade until December 7, 2012. 
Find a printable map and links to the Apple & Android apps on the website.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: No-Iron Suncatchers

A long time ago now I shared a little tutorial on how to make the melted crayons suncatchers that I grew up loving.  However, that can get a little hot, messy, and touchy what with that hot iron around kids and all.  I was pleasantly surprised to read about a no-iron suncatcher project in The Toddler's Busy Book (which I loved on here).  This actually worked out so well for us!

  • Leaves, flowers, or any other flat object you want to "catch" - I let C go out in the yard and pick what he wanted to use
  • Paint - we used tempera on recommendation but not necessary
  • Glue
  • Water
  • Wax Paper
  • Paint Brush
  • Bowl

Start by squeezing some glue into the bowl, watering it down slightly, and adding just a little of your paint color to the concoction.  A little goes a long way here.  Eventually you want it to be thin enough to spread but still stick, and with enough color to give it some tint.

Cut 2 pieces of wax paper to the same size.

"Paint" both pieces of wax paper with the glue/paint mixture.  Couple of notes: 1- It will start to bead up a little bit since you are, after all, putting wet stuff on to wax paper but it doesn't matter that much; and 2- Since it is a glue you are spreading around it can get a little sticky.  I had to help my toddler by holding the edges of the wax paper down so he could paint, but you could also tape the edges to the table if you want.  (Just trying to help you be successful and avoid potential toddler-frustrated-tantrums.)

Take your leaf (or whatever you are using), place it on one of the pieces of painted wax paper.

Place the other piece of wax paper, paint side down, right on top, creating a sandwich to capture the item you want.

Smash it all together nice and tight, and wait for it to dry.  As it dries the glue/paint mixture will be less opaque and more transparent than it is right after creation, so be patient and hang in there!

Trim the edges.  When done, you have a great little window ornament.  You can punch holes in the top and use string to dangle these in front of your window.  Of course, you know that I am all about the less-classy but also most-efficient crafting possible so we stuck those suckers on the window with good ole Scotch tape.

We all love them, and they certainly add an element of fall to our home now.  With no singed fingertips or smells of melted wax.  Win!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Duke Gardens Family Backpack

The other week when my boys and I were exploring the new Charlotte Brody Discovery Gardens over at Duke Gardens we also made another "discovery": the family backpack.

This was a nice little addition to our trip.  There are a few things to know, though, before I dive in: 1- the volunteer working the information center's desk had no idea what I was referring to when I asked for one of these, I had to push a little and 2- the head of education at the Gardens is in the process of changing the backpack a little bit, still to be determined but generally the same idea.

All of the literature we saw states that you leave a $5 refundable deposit to use one of the backpacks but we were not asked to.  Either way, if you leave $5 you get it back when the backpack is returned.

Inside the backpack were all kinds of goodies to enhance a child's visit to the gardens: crayons and flower stencils, bird watching and spotting information, a magnifying glass, kid binoculars (C absolutely loved these), plant identification cards, colored pencils, a garden scavenger hunt with pictures of all the wonderful things you could see.  We were even given some duck food with which to feed the ducks (the gardens ask that you only feed the ducks the specific food provided).

As I said, this backpack really got C more engaged in the Gardens so I hope that more families use this.  I will be curious to see how they change with any updates made but we were fans.

Family Backpack at Duke Gardens
Duke Gardens
Education & Events Sarah P Duke Gardens 420 Anderson Street (on Duke campus)


Friday, September 7, 2012

Cafe Carolina

It's been awhile since we've posted about food and places to eat with the kiddos (see our full list here).  And given that we go to Cafe Carolina all the time with our brood, I am going to share.

We frequent Cafe Carolina in Meadowmont Village but there are also locations in Cameron Village, on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, and on The Arboreteum in Cary.  Here's what us parents love about it: good food, good options, but fast and casual.  We can get healthy, fresh, child-approved items quickly.  There is a lot of seating (including some outdoor tables with umbrellas at Meadowmont) as well as a lot of high chairs.  The bathrooms have changing tables.  The prices are completely reasonable and they usually offer a $5.99 lunch special.
Here is what my son loves about it: cupcakes.  There are many delicious baked goods but C always gravitates towards the Tarheel Blue Cupcakes.  For those concerned, my husband is coping with this well.

By the way, we tried this out for a brunch/breakfast spot last Sunday morning on a whim and we were pretty impressed.  The cinnamon french toast was a nice treat for C (although he was disappointed to learn that that meant no cupcake afterwards).

Enjoy this local, family-friendly dining spot.

Cafe Carolina & Bakery

Cameron Village 401 Daniels St.
Raleigh, NC 27605
(919) 821-7117
(919) 821-1331 – FAX
Monday – Saturday 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Wells Fargo Center
150 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 834-9117
(919) 834-3045 – FAX
Monday – Friday 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.

The Arboretum on Weston
137 Weston Parkway
Cary, NC 27513
(919) 678-8855
(919) 678-8711- FAX
Monday – Saturday 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Meadowmont Village
601 Meadowmont Village Circle
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
(919) 945-8811
(919) 945-8812 – FAX
Monday – Saturday 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stevens Nature Center: Wee Walkers

From Sarah C.:

Last spring, I signed D up for the Wee Walkers class at the Stevens Nature Center in Cary. I had been curious about the Center and Hemlock Bluffs since Allison's & my visit last summer that was cut short when we realized the trails weren't so stroller friendly (maybe jogger style but not so much for a large double stroller).

The class was similar to one we enjoyed at Piedmont Wildlife Center in Chapel Hill. The group met in the garden area just behind the Stevens Nature Center building and started with a small discussion about our topic of the day - things that hop (ie, frogs, toads, bunnies, etc). Then we took a walk around the garden and down part of the Chestnut Oak Loop trail in search of hopping creatures. We spotted a variety of creatures - birds, squirrels, skinks, pill bugs, ants and worms - and talked about the different movements of each. Since we didn't find any real frogs, the instructor pulled out a plush one from her bag and used it to illustrate how they move. Of course, the kids were all happy to pretend to be frogs and bunnies and hop around themselves.

At the end of the class, we gathered together in the garden again where the instructor gave each child a small booklet. We read through it and then brought it home to discuss further and color the pictures.

This class was timed well for younger children at only an hour long and, having young children herself, the instructor knew how to move through the different parts of the class lesson at a good speed to keep their interest.

The Wee Walkers class was not offered during the summer but starts again on September 12th. To view schedules and/or register for classes at the Stevens Nature Center or other locations offered by the Town of Cary, see the Town's Programs and Classes page:

Stevens Nature Center at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
2616 Kildaire Farm Road Cary