Category Archives: Local Love

Silent Sunday: the last Sunday in July…

Silent Sunday: July 27, 2014

Silent Sunday is a photography series I created on my personal blog to capture the small, ordinary moments of a Sunday. The intention of the series was to instill a growing appreciation and gratitude for these moments and all the ones like them to follow…
 morning coffee: silent sunday
 garden walk
garden bounty
 morning nap
preparing dinner

This Sunday started over coffee. We then spent a little time in the garden picking and then moved to the grill/kitchen to cook the harvest. And in between, it was spent marveling at the serenity found while peeking in on the little one’s naps.

How did you spend your Sunday?

It’s a date: downtown Raleigh

It’s a date is a series that will explore date night ideas for couples, play dates for kids, as well as family dates throughout the Triangle. The first stop in the series features downtown Raleigh, a place I have spent too much time exploring and loving over the past eight years…

downtown raleigh

It was supposed to be a date, like a date date. But, those are a bit more difficult to come by with our adorable nine month old addition. So, date nights look different. But, you know, its just right for us and this season of life.

it's a date

it's a date

This summer, downtown Raleigh offered a free movie each Friday night in May and June complete with live music and food trucks. We finally made it this past Friday after a few weeks of talking about going.

it's a date

It was, unfortunately, the last one of the summer.  If you missed out on the free movie nights there are plenty of other free, outside events you could try in the downtown area.  First Friday has been a long time favorite of mine: walking, art, music, what’s not to love? They also offer a food truck rodeo throughout the summer on Sundays and on Thursday nights there is a free music series with food trucks as well. So if you’re looking for a fun, usually free or cheap date night idea check out Downtown Raleigh events.

it's a date

But the night, our date, was great. We walked, we talked, and just sat down and enjoyed being a part of the energy and life of the city for a bit.  Since we had J with us we just stayed for the food and music part. The movie didn’t start till after dark, so we didn’t even try. You guys understand right?

it's a date

So, our date ended on our front steps talking and dreaming about the days and years ahead as the day turned to night.

Anyone make it to the movie series this summer? Anyone get a date night recently? Or have other great date night ideas? We’d love to hear about them!


Kidzu Museum in Chapel Hill

A couple of months ago, we discovered Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill and are so happy that we’ve gotten to spend many of these hot afternoons playing inside this innovative space!

kidzu museum - plant sprout climb

Since we live on the south side of Durham it’s a quick drive over to Chapel Hill’s University Mall. The location is convenient. There’s easy parking and other things to do in the small mall or outside. There are several restaurants nearby or there’s a space to eat a packed lunch inside the museum.

My 3.5 year-old son and nearly 1 year-old daughter are both engaged for hours when we go. It’s just the right speed for younger school-age and preschool children. We usually get to mall and eat first (Village Burger is delicious!). We play at Kidzu for a few hours and then wander around for a special treat Southern Seasons before heading home.

kidzu museum - kitchen

Kidzu recently opened their newest exhibit: Plant, Sprout, Climb. It focus is on plant life and it’s relationship to our food and the ‘growth’ of the museum itself. Included in the main exhibit room is a wall dedicated to plans for a new space. Visitors are encouraged to dream, design, and build! I love the spirit of tinkering that in present throughout the museum. From building greenhouse out of recycled materials to launching balls down the Gravitron, activities at Kidzu have been designed to cultivate creativity in young explorers.

kidzu museum - kidzu growing

Currently in it’s temporary “Launch Pad” location inside University Mall, Kidzu Museum serves as a local children’s museum in Chapel Hill, NC. The museum has been operating since 2006 and has steadily grown into larger locations for the past 8 years. They are currently working toward building a permanent home in downtown Chapel Hill. If you are familiar with the area, it will be on Rosemary St. (behind Franklin St.)–just off the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In it’s current location, Kidzu still offers many special programs, including story time, camps, demos and more. There are special events with a strong focus on the arts and science learning. You can see the upcoming list of events here. Please also double check current museum hours as they are somewhat varied this summer due to construction at University Mall.

My favorite room is the Makery. I could spend hours in there! It’s set up as an art studio and designed so kids can participate in hands-on learning that fuses art and science. Staff members are there to guide young learners through different stations. There’s plenty of room for creativity and exploration.

kidzu museum - makery

We also love spending time in the Book Nook. This cozy room is a nice spot to curl up with a book and have a little fun with the puppet theatre.

kidzu museum - reading room

Another room dedicated to building. It’s stocked with all sorts of blocks and building materials. My son had a great time building this ‘highway.’

kidzu museum - building

There’s also a light table. Confession: if there’s no kids using it, I sit and play on this thing like I’m a five year-old. It’s the best!

kidzu museum - light table

Kidzu is such a great outing for young children. The space is not overwhelming and all of the activities are tailored for play-based learning. I also love that Kidzu has a strong focus on environmental responsibility and creative thinking. It truly is a children’s museum for our future.

kidzu museum - plants

Have you been to Kidzu? 

Got to Be NC Festival 2014

Got to Be NC Festival - Antique Tractor

This weekend was nothing short of gorgeous here in Raleigh and we chose to spend our Saturday at the Got to be NC Festival. This annual spring festival is hosted by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It includes carnival rides, local vendors, live entertainment, and of course farm animals and equipment. We got to watch baby chicks hatch and ate ice cream churned by a John Deere tractor– not a bad Saturday for city-dwellers!

Got to Be NC Festival - Tractor Ice Cream

This is nice event for families and there really is something for everyone. Parking and entry are free, but carnival games and rides cost a few dollars each. There are also special events like lumberjack shows, pig races, music, and evening fireworks. We spent most of our time in the “Kidz Corral” with the animals and small play area. Kids enjoyed farm play while parents relaxed in the shade. It gave me an idea for a magnetic “fishing” game.

Got to Be NC Festival - Baby Donkey

If you’re thinking of going next year, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Be prepared:

Only small sections of the festival are shaded, so bring a hat and your sunscreen for sure. Of course, there’s a lot of walking. We didn’t have too hard of a time with the stroller, but babywearing is perfect for a place like this. There is a schedule and map, but I didn’t see one until we went into one of the buildings for the bathroom. However, you can find it on their website.

Got to Be NC Festival - Carnival


The majority of food vendors have the typical, fried fair foods (Fried Nutella, anyone?), but if you look carefully, there are a few healthier options. Local restaurant La Farm had a truck and there was even gourmet cotton candy. Bonafide foodies can also attend the Food, Wine & Beer Expo. There was also a charity BBQ event on Saturday morning.


There is a wide range of items for sale by vendors– some local and others not so much. A few of my favorites included: goat’s milk soap (they brought a goat and milked it!), locally-printed NC-themed slogans on t-shirts and other apparel, and a DIY cheese kit by Made in House. We bought a cheese kit– homemade mozzarella here I come!

Got to Be NC Festival - Ducks

If you live in the area, I’d recommend you consider going! We had a lot of fun and my son, who’s 3, really enjoyed it. He is still talking about the baby ducks, longhorns, donkey family and tractors. My little girl liked “test driving” the tractors.

If you’ve been to the State Fair, this festival felt a bit less overwhelming for me than the Fair did. My son is pretty cautious and he’s probably not quite ready for the fair, but this festival felt just right.

Got to Be NC Festival - Tractor Pose

Did you go this year? What did you think?

10 on 10 May

Last month, I introduced you all to the 10 on 10 project, click here for a refresher. It’s a little exercise that bloggers (and anyone) can do on the 10th of each month– taking a photo each hour for ten hours. The point is to help us appreciate the beauty in our everyday life. A Bit of Sunshine blogger Rebekah Gough started it and it’s blossomed into a wonderful ritual!

ten on ten button

This week was pretty hectic with lots of running around in the first half and working at home the second half. It was a wonderful Saturday to get out and enjoy the outdoors a little. We spent most of the day at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science here in Durham. We’ve been going since my son was small and I get so nostalgic watching my daughter play in the little baby room where he used to play. We discovered a new video-making exhibit and some neat robotics. But of course the animals were the highlight for my budding zoologist. The cooling Into the Mist exhibit is open for the season. It was… refreshing! If you live nearby and haven’t been, it’s well worth the visit.

Here’s a little glimpse into our day. I hope you had a beautiful one!



robot ape
wall toy
purple flowers



paper flowers

let go

The Great Cloth Diaper Change 2014

Today was the Great Cloth Diaper Change and it was filled with babies, live music, great deals and discovering new products! I came home and got straight into my pajamas I was so exhausted! Hope you all had as much fun as we did.

Great Cloth Diaper Change Diapers Up

Great Cloth Diaper Change More Diapers

After the Change, we had a Family Expo with local vendors and entertainment. Of course, it was also a great day to shop with several deals from national brands still going on from Earth Day. We also had a ton of raffles from our sponsors. But I think my favorite part was Rissi Palmer’s set. Her voice was amazing!

Great Cloth Diaper Change Rissi Palmer

It was a gorgeous day to get a little bit of Vitamin D.

Great Cloth Diaper Change Family Expo

Um, lactation cookies are delicious. As if I need an excuse to eat cookies.

Great Cloth Diaper Change Milk Boy Cookies

Mama learned how to make Real Smart Baby Food (while little bub caught a nap, of course).

Great Cloth Diaper Change Baby Food

face painting

We also had demo classes from Baby Sign Language and more. (Here’s our calender if you’re interested in more classes!)

Great Cloth Diaper Change Baby Sign

Great Cloth Diaper Change

New Hope Valley Train

If you follow us on Instagram, you might have seen a snap from the New Hope Valley Train ride we took last Saturday. It was a neat little excursion that’s a must-do for anyone who’s got a little train enthusiast on their hands. My son really enjoyed it.

The train takes an hour-long jaunt through the wooded North Carolina countryside. There’s also a small Railway Museum and gift shop that’s located in several out-of-service cars at the station. There are several special events and demonstrations throughout the April – December season. You can see their calender here and buy tickets online or at the gate. (A couple of logistical notes: there is usually a good food truck there on ride days, but the bathrooms are only of the portable variety, so be prepared.)


It was interesting to see how they brought the engine to pull the train into the “station.” I’ve never had much experience with trains. I’ve ridden one in Canada and a few in Europe, but I never really thought about how complicated it is. Did you know that back in the day crew members would ride in the Caboose so they could visually check to make sure the train wasn’t on fire? Um, yikes.

pulling train

As you can see, the cars are covered on top and open on the sides. It was pretty warm that day, but while the train was moving there was a nice breeze. Seating is simple, padded bench seats and it’s fine to stand up and walk around the car during the ride. Several volunteers were in our car and they were super-friendly and available to answer any questions about the train.

curve track

There’s a small garden train with a cute little lighthouse, bridge, waterfall, and miniature buildings. It’s built and run by volunteers. The electric trains race around the tracks to the delight of all who see. My little boy really wanted to go inside the fence and play with it. Maybe it’s time to upgrade his little wooden set!

mini track

And there’s a Thomas!


Of course I loved the sprinkling of delicate, white flowers of the Dogwoods that line the tracks. Gosh, Spring is gorgeous in North Carolina.


Have you been getting out more now that Spring is in full force? We are planning a trip to the coast next weekend and of course The Great Cloth Diaper Change and Family Expo is the weekend after that on April 26. Will you be there?

Share the Love

Share the Love-donation-box

If you haven’t heard about it yet, Share the Love is a nation-wide cloth diaper bank for families in need. It’s sponsored by Cottonbabies, makers of bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum. Local volunteer hosts help facilitate the process– from collecting diaper donations to educating recipient families about how to use them.

I first found out about Share the Love when this big basket appeared at Sweetbottoms last fall. It was quickly overflowing with donations from our generous customers!

Melanie is the local host for our area, so I asked her to write a guest post so we could learn more about the program and how to get involved. If you’re local, make sure to stop by and see her at the Great Cloth Diaper Change. She will be taking donations and all who give will be entered to win a special raffle.


Share the Love:

Cloth diaper bank run by volunteer moms provides diapers for families in need

Did you know that one in three families is choosing between disposable diapers and essentials like food, utilities, or childcare? Share the Love is a cloth diaper bank that helps families in need by loaning them cloth diapers.


What kind of donations do you accept?

Share the Love accepts all cloth diapers, plus diapering supplies and materials that can be turned into diapers:

  • Cloth diapers (in need of repairs is okay as long as the PUL is intact)
  • Wet bags
  • Cloth wipes
  • Snappi or safety pins
  • Supplies for making diapers (PUL, elastic, hook & loop, etc)
  • Receiving blankets, baby washcloths, flannel sheets/shirts (these get turned into wipes)
  • Sewing supplies: polyester thread, machine needles, snap pliers
  • Wool sweaters (at least 95% wool), which can be turned into awesome covers

If you have diapers to loan but aren’t sure if they are acceptable, please go ahead and donate them and let the host decide. The hosts in this program are very creative, and have managed to revive diapers that seemed beyond repair.

What kind of repairs do you do?

When I first became a host I spent a lot of time repairing diapers. Most of the diapers I receive are well loved (and that’s okay!), so I replaced shot elastic, fixed broken snaps, and sewed on new hook & loop. It’s really important to me that families have a positive experience with cloth diapering, and that means rehabilitating many of the diapers.

These repairs quickly became more than I could handle, especially with my second child due to arrive soon. I finally found some wonderful volunteers to help me with the repairs. These fine ladies have taken a great burden off my shoulders and put dozens of diapers back where they belong – on the bum!


What is it like to be a host?

I am the host for the Raleigh, NC area, and I help families who live within a 40 mile radius. I collect diaper donations, loan them to qualified families, and provide education on how to use and care for the diapers. I also sanitize the diapers, repair them if needed, and spread the word about the program.

Here’s how a normal application proceeds: A mom applies through our website. If she meets our criteria and I have diapers to loan, I approve her. I learn more about her needs and try to pick diapers that will best suit her situation. Then, we arrange a meeting at a public location. I like to meet at Sweetbottoms since it is the Cloth Diaper Holy Land 😉  We go over all of the items I’m loaning and how to use and care for them. Meeting at Sweetbottoms is great because I can show the mom other things that may help her, like flushable liners and cloth-safe diaper cream. Once baby potty trains, the family returns the diapers and they are loaned to a new family.

How did you become a host? What do you like about it?
When I was pregnant with my first child I became a little obsessed with cloth diapers. My husband actually made a “diaper timeout” rule, in which I wasn’t allowed to talk about all of the research I had done that day. (I’m surprised he didn’t have an intervention.) After my son was born and life became less crazy, I wanted to devote some time to community service. I learned about this program and it instantly resonated with me. I have been a host for 9 months and have enjoyed every minute of it. (Well…doing extra laundry isn’t always fun, but that’s okay.) I love meeting the applicants and being able to help them. Each family has a unique story and situation. Some families just need help making ends meet, but others are seriously struggling. For them, receiving diapers means more food on the table or running their heater during this horrible winter.
Being a host has also restored my faith in community. Sounds corny, but it’s true. Every time I’ve needed something, I have received help as soon as I reached out. I have been astonished by the generosity and tenacity of some of the ladies who help me find donations and repair them. Their efforts have allowed me to help at least two times as many families as I could have on my own.


How can I help?

Thanks for asking! First, check Share the Love’s website to see if there is a host site near you. Even if you don’t have diapers to donate, hosts may need help repairing diapers, making them, laundering donations, and a variety of other needs. If you don’t live near a host site, would you consider mailing a donation? Or would you be interested in becoming a host? To get in touch with us about any of these options, please click the Give Diapers link on our website.

STL-SBB-donationDonate to enter our raffle!

Sweetbottoms has generously donated a Bumgenius 4.0 diaper in the beautiful new Hummingbird color for our raffle. Thank you, Sweetbottoms!

To enter the raffle, donate at Sweetbottoms’ Great Cloth Diaper Change event. I’ll have a table set up with a Share the Love sign. Comes see me! Everyone who donates will automatically be entered in the raffle (one entry per person). You can donate diapers or any of the supplies mentioned above. I will randomly select a winner on April 26, 2014.

You can also donate by buying a diaper on and listing which item(s) to donate in the checkout notes (please state that the items are for Share the Love).


I need diapers. How do I apply?

Applicants must live within 40 miles of a host site and be enrolled in WIC. Check out Share the Love’s website to see if there is a site near you. If there is, click the link on the page to apply. You’ll fill out a short questionnaire telling us about your situation and write a two paragraph essay explaining how the program would impact your family. (You can apply if you are pregnant.) If you are approved, you will need to provide a photo ID and proof of WIC when you meet the host to receive the diapers. We cannot ship diapers.


 Thanks so much for all your hard work, Melanie! This is such a great opportunity to get involved in the community! It’s so wonderful to see cloth diapers and materials being to expertly reused and recycled. Disposables don’t stand a chance!
Share the Love

Pullen Park

Pullen Park

 My son has been called a “kinetic little boy.” He started walking at 9 months and the climbing, running, and jumping that quickly followed meant that I became an expert in outdoor attractions. Lucky me, I live in an area with many great park and recreation opportunities. Pullen Park in Raleigh re-opened about two years ago and it’s such an amazing place– I always vow to go more often each time I make the drive into Raleigh.

Pullen Park

This photo right here says it all. Look closely.

1. Age-appropriate and segregated play structures.

2. Fences to keep the little ones in said play area. In case you are, um, distracted for a moment.

3. Shade and benches for people who appreciate things like comfort and relaxation.

4. Aforementioned seating is actually in close proximity to play areas so kids can be supervised without hovering.

5. Rubber-ish play surface. No twigs, no loose gravel, no loose soil that’s going to get muddy, not to mention thrown. You can get a better view in the photo below. (Plus I got a shot of my new Dansko shoes for outdoor play, holla!) Point is that if the kid falls on this surface from a reasonable height they don’t get hurt. Less tears = happy Mama.

Oh and there’s also play areas with sand and water (in the warm months) so BYOB. That’s B for Bucket. Ha.

Pullen Park

Pullen Park

So my son is at the age now where he is starting to make “friends” on the play ground. It’s really cute. He starts playing with someone and if they leave he looks around for them and says, “Friend? Where’d ya go?” Of course for him play means following and more importantly chasing. I’m wondering if this might be a good time to sign him up for a little soccer league or something so he can make friends in a semi-structured environment. Big kid stuff!

Pullen Park

Pullen Park

In addition to the excellent play area, there’s a gorgeous indoor carousel. It was purchased in 1920. Yeah. So Pullen Park isn’t just a great park for play, it’s also a piece of history. It’s the oldest public park in the state and the 5th oldest in the country. Everything is extremely well cared for and the antique carousel has been painstakingly restored to sparkling condition. Want to take a ride? Tickets are $1.

Rides around the park and over the bridge on the darling little train are also $1. My son was thrilled by the experience. The whistle. The sights. My little lady sat in my lap. She enjoyed it as well. It was her first train ride!
Pullen Park

Out by the lake are some nice picnic pavilions. You can bring food, but there’s also a food vendor called Pullen Place that sells reasonably healthy snacks and a reasonable cost. They have fresh and local items like Loco Pops, Organic Popcorn, Grilled Sandwiches and more. They sell coffee too. I always remember where coffee is available.

Pullen Park

And paddle boats for the warmer months! Pullen Park

And a nice little monument to North Carolina’s biggest star: The Andy Griffith Show. Seeing this show always reminds me of my dad. We would watch this show together on weekends. I was impressed he could whistle the theme song.

Pullen Park

Pullen Park
So there’s Pullen Park: my hands-down favorite park in the area. It’s a great value. There’s no fee to park and the rides are oh-so-reasonably priced at $1. The only drawback for me is the distance from my house, which is about a 30 minute drive. Have you been? What’s your favorite local park?

North Carolina Zoo

NC Zoo

We’ve lived in North Carolina for about 8 years but have never been to the zoo. I’ll be honest: sometimes zoos give me the creeps. I feel really sad to see animals all caged up and without enough space to roam free. My husband points out that many zoo animals were rescued or born in captivity and that they couldn’t exactly survive in the wild. He says that by teaching our kids to adore these animals–from up close and personal views–zoos are helping further conservation and preservation causes. I finally gave in when I heard that the North Carolina Zoo actually did give most of its wildlife lots of space. The zoo is huge and has the animals divided up between their North American and African home continents.

NC Zoo

{click here for larger view}

As you can see, we went in the off-season. It was actually a wonderful time to go. The foliage I rave about so much was just at it’s peak, but the temperature wasn’t so chilly to require heavy jackets. There were a few sections that were closed for the season and the new polar bear hadn’t arrived yet, but realistically it was just the right amount of stuff for us to see with a small child and baby. We actually missed a couple of things because we were too tired to walk around to see them (Lion! Chimp! How did we skip you?)

Be aware that if you do visit in the off season, the African side parking lot is closed so you will have to start in North America. There are little shuttle buses that you can ride when exhaustion sets in. (No joke: It’s a lot of walking.) We have plans to go back in the Spring and we will most likely just stay on the African side the whole time since those animals are the most interesting to our budding zoologist. Also be warned that the cues for the shuttles can get pretty long once closing time nears. Lines were also lengthy in the restaurants at lunchtime and there weren’t a ton of healthier options (at least at the Junctions Springs Cafe where we ate), so plan ahead for that.

NC Zoo

We survived the long trip with many thanks to my new Ergobaby carrier. I’ve been adoring this Every Mother Counts print since I was newly pregnant. I was able to carry her for nearly all of the visit while my son hopped in and out of his stroller. I knew she was warm and happy snuggled next to me and we didn’t have to break for breastfeeding. She’s also rocking a pair of Baby Legs over her pants. And, yes, that’s an Amber Necklace peeking out. I just noticed it. Geez, we are hooked on SBB!

Now for some animals:

NC Zoo

These Mother and baby gorillas were flat-out awesome. There was one sitting close to us and cradling her small babe while these folks munched on grass at the edge of their enclosure. The two baby boy gorillas were born at the zoo in August of 2012. I could have watched them all day.

NC Zoo

The Baboons were a riot. Apparently the female picks the bugs out of her guy’s hair. That’s love.

NC Zoo

NC Zoo

If you want to show an elephant his reflexion, you’ll have to put him by a pond! The way these stoic creatures showed in their pool of water was so beautiful. They walked slowly and carefully sipped water through their long trunks. They made a huge impression on my son.

NC Zoo
NC Zoo

It’s been a really long time since I saw a giraffe or zebra in real life. The giraffe’s spots are more exquisite that I remembered. And those little antenna-like horns! Are they called horns? Why do they have them?

These painted horses are beautiful too. Even their tails are striped!

NC Zoo

NC Zoo

The North American side has a few animals we see more commonly. These Alligators sit like stones in the swampy water.

The bears with their fur coats snacked on treats in the sunshine.

NC Zoo

NC Zoo

I was happy to see the seals torpedoing around in the shimmering light. There was also an underwater viewing area to really see them swim.

The elk share a huge field with bison (thought we didn’t see any) and were lazing around it like a heard of cow-deer hybrids.

NC Zoo

NC Zoo

Have you been to the NC Zoo? What is your child’s favorite animal?