Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Couponing - This is Pretty Helpful Site For Those Who Don't Coupon Well

So I just saw this blog about my recommendation to go to Jordan Lake's Ebenezer Church public beach area.

These women do the research for you and tell you how to get the best deals and where. The below link is a direct review of her own trip to Jordan Lake, but takes you to her blog where you can find those great deals.

It's called Triangle Money Saving Mommas. I spoke with their writers and they said they would be posting deals to get into some of the areas kid-friendly places in the future and sharing them with me. In turn, I will be sharing those with you when they do! And hopefully it will take some of the cost out of the picture - especially for those of us on a limited income.  This does deviate a little from my normal blogging topics, but does the same thing - reduces the road blocks that keep us from having fun with our kids!

Sick again ...

Trying to come up with fun ways to play with my kids indoors. We are burnt out on coloring and play dough.

This not-so stay-at-home-mommy has forgotten how to stay at home.

I'd love to bake cookies, but we are watching our weight in this house and my husband cannot say "no" to cookies, brownies, or any baked goods.

Suggestions needed!!! Can you help?

Monday, April 15, 2013

CC Jones Memorial Park - A Great Little Find

A mommy friend told me she accidentally found this park at the end of Jones Street in Apex, not far from downtown. After one of my not-so-successful outings, I drove through Jones Street and sure enough there was this great little park down the hill.

Before I forget, the one thing about this area that I always found a bit strange was there aren't public pools, that everybody knows about, anyway. So this place, CC Jones Park, also has a swimming pool adjacent to it. It requires a membership, but it's a pool that doesn't require you to live in a specific neighborhood to use it (paying or not). I am going to research more about it in the future, but I was so excited to find one!

Anyway, this park was really nice in the classic park sense. It is surrounded by mature trees and it just feels like a park I would have played at as a kid. The equipment is surprisingly updated and well maintained, although not in perfect condition. My kids loved it and flipped out when I said it was time to leave. So I promised we would go again soon. I noticed they had a grill and think we might try a cookout.

309 Holleman Street (Corner of Jones & Holleman)
Apex, NC
HIGHLIGHTS: This is a classic version of a park, tall trees and lots of shade, lots of swings and a grill and shelter for a picnic - and it's right next to a swimming pool (public, I believe - may require membership).
LOW LIGHTS: It needs a bit of TLC and it's at the bottom of a big hill, so if you have to leave mid temper tantrum, it could be physically taxing.
COST: Free.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hunter Street Park - We had a rough day and I'm struggling to remain objective!

All in all, I should have only good things to say about this park, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the Hunter Street Park in Apex. But it was more my experience than the park, so take this with a grain of salt.

With the dog park right there, I had pretty high expectations. But it was pretty separate from where we were playing, so the girls, who love dogs, didn't even know it was there.

The fields are in great shape, it was clean, well maintained and all the equipment was great. But there was something missing. I noticed the train tracks were right next to the park, so I hoped we'd hear and then see a train come through. We heard it, but it went the other route. So I think that disappointed me and the kids a bit.
We first kicked the soccer ball around one of their fields, and that was fun. But it didn't really impress the kids. Then we walked over to the playground, which was really nice. It had a climbing wall, four different slides and a cute little bench underneath for the kids to sit down and take a break. As I type, I realize there was nothing wrong with the park, just kids in bad moods. Jordan told a little girl "you're a nasty girl" for some odd reason, which she later explained the girl was being bossy. I didn't see that part, but who knows? 

And Dani opened up the street light box that encased the base of the street light and pulled out a gold fish and ate it. While I tried to pry her mouth open to make sure it wasn't something else, she bit down on my finger and made an instant blister. And that was about 5 minutes into the trip. So, alas I think my expectations were met, my kids just didn't cooperate.

The dog park was pretty cool, actually. It had a separate entrance for big and small dogs and looked like a wonderful place for dog owners, which I am not. So in the end, it was a pretty nice park. Maybe I'll visit again and get rid of the bad ju ju. 

1250 Ambergate Station
(across from Apex Town Hall)
Apex, NC
HIGHLIGHTS: Gorgeously maintained, there was hardly a piece of trash on the ground, the dog park is right there and a wonderful place for pet owners, the train tracks run right along the borders (on two sides I believe) and would provide a fun "aw" moment for the kids if it came through, shelter is close to the playground, which is updated, safe and had a climbing wall.
LOW LIGHTS: My own personal ju ju aside, there was only one issue I found and it was the door to the fence around the playground stuck when trying to open it and wouldn't close properly, which one of the moms said she'd already call the parks and recreation department about and it was "fixed" but it wasn't quite right. Oh, and no swings, which my kids love.
COST: Free. Although, I think the dog park has associated fees?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sweet Creations Is Jumping for Joy! Happy Anniversary!!!

Celebration went great, and there was a steady stream of Frozen Yogurt and fun all day!

Sweet Creations (frozen yogurt bar) in Fuquay-Varina is celebrating its first anniversary with a bouncy house, face painting and drawings for free frozen yogurt on Sunday from 2-6 p.m. In addition, it's buy 1-get 1 free all day. I love this wonderful, kid-friendly place that happens to be owned by a very dear friend. This business is warm, clean and wonderful - just like the family that owns it.

Am I biased? Heck yeah. But is it darn good fro-yo and kid friendly, too? Absolutely. (Just because I think my kids are adorable, and I am biased, doesn't mean my kids aren't adorable.) See you Sunday, April 7 at Sweet Creations!

400 Broad Street
Fuquay-Varina, NC

Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro - YES, PITTSBORO!!! (Man I wish My Kids Were A Little Older)

"Meowse, meeeee-owse!" That's what I woke up to this morning over the monitor. Dani, my 2-year-old, remembered we were going to see tigers today. Then she looked at her stuffed animal (a cheetah) and said, "Awwwww, cute!" That was as well behaved with a cat as she was today in one of the best adventures we've had in the Triangle area.

Let me just start by saying, the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro was spectacular, phenomenal, wonderful, amazing and aw inspiring. We stood just feet away from Tigers, Lions, Cougars and more and watched them eat, communicate and even stalk. There was just a rope and a chain-link fence between my kids and the wild cats, and I never felt unsafe.

Unfortunately, my kids were just too young to appreciate and participate in the tour. As evident in the name, this is where wild cats go when their former owners can no longer care for them (sometimes for legal reasons, other times because a legitimate business like a zoo or sanctuary can no longer function) for the rest of their lives. It is a rescue facility. So the conversation about the cats and why they were politically loaded (and rightfully so) and lengthy (for a toddler/preschooler). There is no law against owning a Tiger in the US. But you cannot keep a squirrel for a pet. Huh?

My kids loved seeing the cats but didn't tolerate the educational part of the tour. I was locked in to the information and very interested, but had to focus on making sure Dani (2) didn't run up to the fence and try to pet the "meowse" (aka cat).

After seeing three lions guffaw and communicate with other lions in the park (see video at the top of the page, it was incredible), my 3-year-old asked to go home. WHAT ON EARTH? I thought, "this child cannot be pleased!" 

This was the third stop in a 1 1/2-hour tour. I bribed her with a treat at the end of the tour if she could just hold on a little longer, and it worked for about 10 minutes. Once she saw the tigers, she was appeased for a few minutes more, but that was about it. We actually had to leave the tour early, along with another family who had a rapidly tiring toddler.

I cannot say I've ever seen anything as majestic as the tiger that close up. Kayla, I think her name was Kayla, was absolutely gorgeous. And Jelly Bean, the white tiger, was a sad story (inbreeding). Even if my kids won't remember it, I will not soon forget this mornings activity. This, easily, makes my top 3 things to do in the area - shortened tour and all!

I'm going to let the photos I took on my phone, NO ZOOM, tell the story. And if you have a 6-year-old or older, go now to their website and sign up and visit this place. You will not regret it. I think I would have enjoyed it 10 degrees colder and pouring rain. For those of you with younger kids, you might want to wait a few years.

They limit the number of tours for the well being of the animals, so visit their website for event dates and tickets. 

1940 Hanks Chapel Road
Pittsboro, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Up close and personal with the cats, from tigers to lions and cougars and more - 70 animals live in the facility, wonderful/educational guided tour, small facility so you don't have to walk forever to see another animal.
LOW LIGHTS: There are no sidewalks or paved walkways, so it's a little muddy/dirty, the tours include a lot of information about animals and even laws regarding big cats so there is a lot of talking for small children, it's a bit of a hike to get there (but far closer to the Triangle area than the NC Zoo).
COST: $17 per adult (for public tours), $10 for kids 4-10 and free for 3 and under. Twilight tours are $26.50 for adults. Children 10 and under are not allowed on twilight tours. Group rates for schools/education programs may vary. They also have a membership option.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Streets at Southpoint - Lots of Options for a day inside or out!

Brace yourself, this may be a big one! It's an indoor activity and an outdoor activity - there were great spots and not so great spots - but at the end of the day, Streets at Southpoint in Durham is super kid friendly and has a lot to offer. I cannot wait to visit again and see what else we can find.

First, there is a clean, fun little play area (if you enter near Panera Bread and Belk) just inside the doors and about 50 yards down. It's creative, fun and has a play helicopter, lighthouse, boat raft and more - my kids would have played there for hours. But I wanted to check this place out, as it was my first real visit in my six years as a resident of North Carolina. (I hate shopping). The biggest drawback to this place was the nearest bathroom, which was located in the Panera Bread restaurant. It wasn't too bad, but could have been more convenient. Otherwise, we loved it.


From Pottery Bard Kids store.

Next, we went to Pottery Barn Kids for their "story hour" ... YIKES! No thank you. First of all, I was afraid my kids would break something and we'd have to take out a second mortgage on our home to pay for it. But it was a no frills story hour, with a young girl and a not-so colorful book. After 5 minutes in the store, Ella (2) stood up and gave the sign for all done. My 2-year-old jumped up with her and the crew led us directly out of the store. Best part of the visit was a VERY cool idea for a kids room. We will not go back to that store any time soon.

Then we cruised on over and outside to Barnes & Noble to check out the train table. My kids looooove choo trains (grandpop would be so proud). Jordan (3) played at the train table the whole time while Dani (2) marched around, looking at books and throwing them on the floor. They have a very cool stage set up (I'm told it's much like the one at Barnes & Noble in Cary) where they have their own story hour on Friday mornings. I'll have to check that out one day. They had a fantastic selection of pop-up books, science books and learning kits. My kids are a bit too young to fully appreciate them, but it's good to know it's there.

In addition to the kid-friendly stores and play areas, there are these great statues placed throughout the mall of kids climbing, playing and walking dogs. It's fantastic! I missed the photo opportunity but caught my 2-year-old holding the hand of a little girl statue that was walking a dog. It was adorable, and the kids had to stop at every one to check them out. The fountains were equally impressive. We made our fare share of wishes in those fountains. I wished for my 3-year-old to nap today. Guess I should have thrown in a nickle or a dime instead of that penny.

The food court was great - plenty of kid-friendly foods such as pizza or Chick Fil-A. And they had a set of little tables and chairs for the little kids to sit at in the middle of the food court. Unfortunately, they were flanked by a kiosk selling candy and another selling Haagen Daas Ice Cream treats. So my 2-year-old refused to eat anything and screamed candy and ice cream for a good portion of the lunch break.

The mall is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon-7 p.m. Check out their website for current adult events at

6910 Fayetteville Road
Durham, North Carolina 27713

HIGHLIGHTS: Lots and lots to do! Very nice mall, clean bathrooms, and very kid friendly from the kid statues and fountains to the kid tables in the food court and lots of story hours, in addition to the play place.
LOW LIGHTS: This is a VERY big, spread out mall and you're not always close to a bathroom, plus kid friendly doesn't always go hand-in-hand with a malls' desire to sell toys, food and candy, so they put the kid-friendly places next to the not-so-mom friendly kid-desired stuff.
COST: It's free, unless you eat at the food court or buy the products sold near the kid activities.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jordan Lake - A Beach Visit That's Not 3 Hours Away!

My husband teases me, as I am from Minnesota originally, that I call any area with sand by a body of water a beach., by the way, defines a beach as "the part of the shore of an ocean, sea, large river, lake, etc., washed by the tide or waves." So I was right! (Na na-nah boo-boo!)

 "Let's go to the beach, mom!" my little one woke and immediately demanded a trip to the ocean on the nicest day so far this spring. While it was supposed to be gorgeous here in the Triangle, it was pouring rain on the coast.

So we skipped the 3-hour drive and drove the 20 minutes to Jordan Lake's Ebenezer Church swimming area. The beach was nearly empty. It was clean, close to the bathrooms, very near a playground (which my kids totally ignored because they were having so much fun) and not far from a volleyball court.

Of course, the water was frigid. But that didn't stop my kids or any other kids that were there that day. We played in the sand and were up to knee deep in the water for the better part of 3 hours. It was a fantastic day, and the one cost I thought we would incur was the parking permit (which I believe is $6) but nobody was there to take our money. So it was free on Monday. Maybe it's just a weekend charge?

Anyway, we will certainly be back. My only regret is that I didn't check to see if there was a grill at the shelter, because I totally want to go back and grill out next week when it's supposed to be in the 70s!

Also, there are 3 other swimming areas open to the public (non-campers) - Seaforth, Parker's Creek and White Oak Recreation areas. I plan to visit all of those and report back. Hopefully this spring will be perfect for it!

Ebenezer Road
Apex, NC

HIGHLIGHTS: Clean water, nice sand, close to restrooms and shelter, "beach" is close to playground, lots of parking very shallow swimming area, inside the "ropes" was 5 feet deep or less.
LOW LIGHTS: No changing table in the bathroom, which was a little stinky but not terrible. their website is not particularly user friendly, the link for entrance fees is not working, and in my experience the NC Division of Parks and Recreation staff that answers the phones is somewhat unfriendly.
COST: Free plus parking charge on weekends is $6 for cars (I believe. The site was not working when I checked).