Get Here Quick! North Carolina Botanical Garden

School’s out for the summer! Translation: I’m making a long list of fun activities, projects and field trips to keep Gemma and I busy when we’re not traveling or running to local camps over the next few months. With Kindergarten starting in late August, I’m hoping to make the most of these last few months of freedom.

We kicked off the first day of summer break last Friday with a trip to the NC Botanical Garden. We’re so lucky it’s just a few miles down the road and offers up an afternoon of fun and exploration for kids and adults.

NC botanical garden sign

We’ve been to the Garden before but this time I challenged Gemma to a scavenger hunt!  After finding our shady parking spot, we set off through the mountain terrain, on the lookout for the “not so obvious”. She had to find two butterflies (each of a different color/family), one dragonfly, one bee, a tadpole and a turtle. Within the first 5 minutes she’d spotted all but the tadpole and turtle; these two beings proved a bit harder to spot.

g leading the way  g and a pond

g kissing the man in stone  selfie at gardens

turtle

The Garden is alive with blooming flowers, including pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants. This particular collection is one of the best in the Southeast, so we spent quite a while checking out the Venus flytrap, orchids and other rare species. These flowers are STUNNING and well worth the trip!

pitcher plants red  g at gardens

pitcher plants in bloom  pitcher plant bloom sihouette

pitcher plant blooms

There are several different gardens and habitats to explore including a garden, mountain and Piedmont terrains, display gardens, fern collection and water plant exhibits. You can easily spend a few hours wandering through and sighting various plants, insects and water features. And aside from the main Garden property, there are kid-friendly trails, part of the Piedmont Natural Trails system, you can access through back gates located behind the Education Center. The Botanical Garden also manages Battle Park Pedestrian Trails, Coker Arboretum and Forest Theater, all on or near the UNC Chapel Hill campus.

Here are a few more findings from our afternoon adventures:

pink flowers  red flower

red and yellow bloom  lily pad with drops  white speckled flowers  purple flower

creamy roses  herb gardenlotus and water lily pads  irisespretty pink blooms

g and big leaves

Special Notes:

  • Visit the NC Botanical Garden website to learn more about what’s in bloom seasonally, and plan your visit. The center also offers a variety of adult and youth classes, demonstrations and storytime, as well as summer camps (which unfortunately are on a wait list at this point).
  • There is no admission fee, however the foundation gladly accepts donations to further their mission and maintain the grounds.
  • The main building also houses a very nice Garden Shop. Be sure to stop in if you’re on the hunt for a unique gift item, including live plants, botanical prints, gardner’s books and outdoor embellishments.

 

 

 

Pickin’ Berries

As promised, I took Gemma to pick strawberries Friday morning. It was shaping up to be a lovely day…72 degrees with blue skies, perfectly fluffy clouds and almost no humidity.

We set off mid-morning to Phillips Farms in Cary, NC (about 12 miles from our house). We had hoped to hit up Jean’s Berry Patch, where we grabbed our flat of berries earlier this week for our strawberry pies; however, we learned their fields were hit by a gang of rogue deer, and they suspended self-picking for the season! Bummer!

phillips farms strawberry sign cary, nc

When we arrived and began searching for the best row for pickin’, we noticed the fields were full of plump, red strawberries! To our disappointment, we learned Thursday night’s storms and heavy rains left at least half of their ripe berries in a state of mush. Luckily, we were able to weed out a full basket of their best fruits and look forward to bingeing on strawberries all weekend!!

picking berries

sneaking a bite of strawberry

basket of strawberries

For the love of Jared Leto

On the heels of his recent Oscar win, I’m sharing a few snippets from my personal archives for my “fans of Jared Leto” friends…

30 seconds to mars marquee

Ben and I were lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve (2010) with 30 Seconds to Mars at their show at The Palms, Las Vegas. At the time, I was only familiar with a few of their songs, however I quickly became a fan of Leto’s intense musical skills. He is immensely talented – both on the screen and on the stage. And he’s just, ahem, pretty.

The concert was the crazy! Aside from the musical enchantment, the fans were incredibly…how do I put it?…dedicated to the band. Fans sported temporary tattoos to mimic Leto’s own ink and crazy get-ups including vinyl catsuits and lots of mesh (not us, of course). So. Much. Fun!

I’ll apologize up front…the videos are dark, light is bad but the sound is okay. Hope you enjoy these quick clips of the live show!

30 Seconds to Mars, “Kings and Queens” (excerpt; right after midnight so the stage is packed with revelers the band invited to join them for the countdown)

30 Seconds to Mars, “Hurricane” (excerpt). Admittedly one of my all-time favorite anthemic songs…he hits a super-smooth, haunting note at the end of this clip. Crush!

30 Seconds to Mars, covers “Bad Romance” (excerpt)

Escape to Topsail

We love, love, love the beach! It’s such a treat to have a special place to enjoy the sand and surf, and absorb the therapeutic benefits of nature.

Last weekend we escaped to Topsail Island to help our friend, Lisa, celebrate her birthday. All us kids (wee ones and big kids-at-heart) enjoyed fresh shrimp and soft shell crabs from the Surf City Seafood Market, afternoons full of building sand castles and walking in the surf, and fun nights relaxing and playing games.

The beach is just the perfect place to let your stresses melt away, sport awesomely wind-blown hair and give your feet a natural buffing!

sea oats  sparkle water

surfer surf  fishermen on pier

fishermen  football or ballet?

active jack 2  gemma sand turtle love

kelly calyn and ben castle building  emily and david love

active jack 1  gemma sand turtle love topsail wear  under the piercalyn sand play  calyn and kelly

gemma seashell  lisa and jack beach

Happy Birthday, Lisa! So happy we could all celebrate your youth, our health (aside from your broken foot!) and the glory of life at the beach!!!

Special Note:

Rainy Day Photojournal

The rain this week has me completely uninspired. At least that’s my excuse for taking the lazy way out with today’s post. Here are some pics from our Sunday fun-day at the museum and a sweet birthday party for our neighbor, Ella.

What’s more fun than a double-date? A family double-date! Loved our afternoon with the Bishop fam at the Pumpkin Patch at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The girls had a great time riding the train, decorating pumpkins and playing around the museum’s dinosaur trail. As predicted, the dads enjoyed the pumpkin sling shot!

pumpkintrain

fampumpkinpatch

baileyphotogemma

pumpkinslingshot

pumpkindecorating

decoratedpumpkin

ourpicpumpkinpatch

bishoppicpumpkinpatch

braceletexchange

piggyback

gemmaslidedinosaur

dinosaurdig

Later in the afternoon, we helped celebrate Ella’s 2nd birthday. Her parents, our dear friends and next door neighbors, hosted the sweetest party complete with a ladybug release (3,000 of them!) and the best face painter (who was so good, we’ve booked her to adorn our kids’ faces for Halloween night). The kids had a blast releasing (and catching) the ladybugs…and letting them crawl all over their arms and legs. The parents got quite a kick out of the whole spectacle!

ellaparty

ladybugrelease

ladybugandeyelashes

ladybugscrawlingonarm

facepainter

facepaint1

facepaint3

facepaint2

facepaintermollygemma

Saturday at the Farmer’s Market

Is it Tuesday already? What a fun weekend we had…so much so I’m still recovering! I love those days when we sleep in (well, as much as a 4-year old will let us) and don’t really have a plan. It can lead to the most memorable events…and this past Saturday was just that sort of day.

Perusing the local event calendar over breakfast Saturday morning, I noticed our favorite local chef, Katie Coleman, was competing in the Durham Farmer’s Market Chef Challenge. So we packed up and headed downtown to cheer her on! The chefs were given a mystery ingredient, in this case eggplant, and the opportunity to shop the farmer’s market for the remaining ingredients they would use to make their dishes.

dfmchefchallengeeggplant

Katie made an eggplant burger topped with goat cheese and veggie caponata on a homemade biscuit accompanied with fried eggplant chips and an eggplant pickle.

katieeggplantdish

Her dishes were the best, in our opinion, however the chef from The Salted Pig, with his eggplant soup dish, was crowned victor by the panel of judges, and the chef from Pie Pushers won People’s Choice (for the life of me I can’t recall his dish…oh well).

We first met Katie, proprietor of Durham Spirits Co., last Valentine’s Day when a group of husband’s surprised their wives by cooking us dinner at Katie’s historic home/business. We had so much fun, we booked Katie again last month, and she came to one of our homes for a cooking class and dinner. Katie offers cooking and mixology classes and also teaches classes at A Southern Season. Come to think of it, Ben also hosted a team-building cooking event for his leadership team at Katie’s place earlier this year, as well. Yes, we love her dearly, can you tell??! Here are some shots from our couples cooking nights…

February 2013

mattchopping

catjill

boyscooking

cbfrying

catscrepes

August 2013

donnabencbchopping

bencbchopping

benmichellechopping

Anyhow, I digress…back to the farmer’s market. Once the cooking competition came to an end, we ventured over to the line of food trucks adjacent to the farmer’s market and grabbed a slice of pizza from the Pie Pushers truck.

bengfoodtrucks

foodtruckrodeo

We needed fuel for a challenge of our own which was brewing for later in the day. Tune in tomorrow to find out how Gemma and I fared in our own Chef Challenge!