Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I live in a city that forces us to drive. Based on recent real estate
developments you would think that the auto and gas industries are
bankrolling city projects. Not only is walking not possible in most
areas, it is down right discouraged. Take for example, the place I
frequent for shopping and errands. The place I go to load up on
groceries, take the kids to the library, grab lunch with my son, order
monogrammed stationery, treat my boys to an ice cream cone, pick up
adult beverages for my weekly 5:00 Fridays
post, buy birthday presents, rent Wii games, browse antique store
aisles, sip coffee and nosh sweet potato biscuits with my family,
splurge on a pedicure, ship returns, enjoy bloody marys
while watching ACC basketball, and window shop at the amazing
boutiques. Cameron Village .

get me wrong, I love Cameron Village. I go there about five times a
week. But there is nothing village-like about it. The developers claim
that Cameron Village takes its patrons back to a simpler time of
tree-lined walks and village treasures. Sure, it's loaded with unique
stores and tasty culinary treats. It's also home to a couple grocery
stores, a great brand new public library, toy store, pharmacy, coffee
shops, and a diverse array of shops. In short, it is a hub of shopping,
dining, browsing, and living. It's a fine place to hang out with my
kids and husband on the rare day we have time to graze. The village is
split up into four quadrants with parking lots and busy streets cutting
through the middle of it all, making it completely un-walkable. It
would be a traffic nuisance and a dangerous stroll to even attempt
walking around Cameron Village with my sons, ages five and three. Being
loaded down with shopping bags would make the situation all the worse.
Call me crazy, but I'm not that keen on subjecting my kids to danger
just to try to force walkability into a place that clearly discourages
it; their little frames would be even more difficult for drivers to see
than my own five foot stature. In theory Cameron Village should be a
pedestrian paradise. A place to take visitors to wile away an
afternoon, stroll with your family on a spring evening, or splurge on a
girls night out. Instead it is a veritable game of Frogger
, discouraging walking, dawdling, browsing. In essence, all the driving
ridiculously short distances to and fro makes consumers miss the little
things, the treasures of happenstance and serendipity that pepper a
true village.

And let's consider where I live
. An old neighborhood of bungalows and front porched homes with
tree-canpoied streets, sidewalks, and a neighborhood elementary school.
We can walk to a fantastic indie movie theater, a family-owned
pharmacy, local restaurants, galleries, antique stores, boutiques,
coffee shop, restaurants, post office, parks, and biking trails. We
have to cross a very busy road to get to the goods, and the crossing
signal is not long enough for a family with a leashed dog, stroller, or
toddler to make it across on time. Nevermind those in a wheelchair or
using a walker or crutches for help. Nevermind the elderly or ladies in
heels. Pretty much just the joggers make it across before the red Don't
Walk signal blinks. Walking is hazardous, while driving is not
necessary or convenient. It's nonetheless a wonderful community that
has grown organically. No cul de sacs or faux neighborhood facades. It
is a sense of community rather than an artificial community center
replete with resort-like fountains and clubhouse. It seems that such
organic neighborhoods are teetering on the verge of extinction where I

Grand homes on streets with saplings and no sidewalks
crop up at every turn. Independent shops and restaurants make way for
big box strip malls and apostrophe restaurants (you know, Chili's,
TGIFriday's, and others in their ilk). It's endemic everywhere I
imagine. In this day of increased childhood obesity, heart disease,
diabetes and the like, shouldn't we be taking a closer look at how and
where we live? Shouldn't we consider the simple benefits of taking a
few steps and enjoying our community? Perhaps Nancy Sinatra's ditty
needs to be blasted from loud speakers across town: These boots were
made for walking!

Reposted from an original Deep South Moms Blog post.

Ilina walks, but refuses to run. You can find her walking to her favorite coffee shop, where she writes at Dirt & Noise and Foodie Mama when she's not busy being the voice of the consumer for clients of her marketing consulting business.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Say Cheese

Let me tell you about the first time we took our daughter in to have portraits taken.  Perhaps the story will sound familiar to you.  I called JC Penney and made the appointment, and on the day of the session we bathed Abigail, picked out two of her cutest outfits, and packed her off to the mall across town for her first professional portraits.  Of course I figured it would be a bit challenging, trying to take a picture of a tiny squirmy six-week-old baby, but after all, we only needed one good shot.  A single picture for posterity.  How hard could it be, I asked my husband.  

Oh, how naive I was.

Abigail had her own ideas about how the session should go. Well, to be exact, what she had were two poopy diapers in quick succession, followed by a full-scale freakout thanks to the pushy photographer, the bright lights, and the camera that was approximately the size of a compact car.  The photographer kept trying to "position" her, and really, what strong-willed baby likes being handled?  Abby made her displeasure known, of course.  There was no consoling her, and the pictures were all terrible, generic and impersonal, utterly lacking in spark or creativity.  So much for my grand portrait scheme.

One day not long after that, I came across a flyer for Nan Friedman with PS Studio.  I didn't know if Abigail would do better with another photographer, outside the dark, overheated, slightly claustrophobic JC Penney studio setting, but I figured it was worth a shot.  

Nan, who has been photographing children for over fifteen years, was great with Abby, warm and friendly and patient.  She just let her be herself, and as a result, the pictures actually looked like our three-month-old daughter, not some vague expressionless cyborg baby.  After just half an hour or so, we ended up with literally dozens of wonderful shots to choose from, Abby's personality shining through in every picture.  

We've been back to see Nan for Abby's six-month, nine-month, and one-year portraits, and have been absolutely thrilled every time.  As your typical photo-happy mom, it's so nice to know that when I make an appointment with Nan, dress Abigail up, and drive all the way there for the appointment, it's pretty much a sure thing.  I can't recommend her highly enough - and it's safe to say that we will never go back to JC Penney again.  3340887557_bc00c8e4c5

Nan's prices are very reasonable, and she works out of a brand-new, beautiful studio in Chapel Hill (on Stancell Drive, parallel to Highway 54 - also very convenient for Durham dwellers).  Next time portrait time rolls around, give her a call and tell her Abigail sent you.

P.S.  Expecting mamas, her maternity portraits are stunning, too!

Nikki is a crappy photographer and slightly better writer who also blogs at A Small Song.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Just Desserts

Linus 002
Warning: If you are on a diet and hoping to stay that way do NOT read this post. It will ruin your diet.


Lately, my family has been in a bit of a food rut. I shouldn't say a food rut instead more of a restaurant rut. Here's an example of a common conversation at our house.

Hubby: What's for dinner?
Me: I don't know I forgot to thaw the chicken. What are YOU making? (said with undeserved snark)
Hubby: Well, we can just go out.
Me: (still irritated) Fine. Where?
Hubby: I don't know. Where do you want to go?
Me: (Huge dramatic sigh.) Why do I always have to decide everything? I'm sick of being the one who has to make all the decisions. You decide.
Hubby: (Now losing patience.) Fine, let's just go to Elmo's.
Me: Fine.

If that sounds about right for your family as well, I have a little something you might like.

It's a local blog called Carpe Durham. From what I can tell, it's written by a bunch of Duke Law students who have made it their goal to eat at a bunch of random Durham restaurants and then review them.

How's this great for you? It's going to help you mix it up a bit on those nights you just don't want to cook. Elmo's is great, but it can get old quickly.

Carpe Durham is a great resource for finding restaurants that aren't so mainstream. (These guys aren't visiting the apostrophes: Applebee's, Chili's, etc.)

My family has already tried out a few and I've got to say, I loved them.

Last Friday night, we hit up the top of our list for Carpe Durham recommendations, The Mad Popper,
to get a yummy treat for our movie night-in. The Mad Popper is a definite two thumbs up for a popcorn lover like me and pretty much anyone who likes sweet treats. With so many different flavors, it's hard to go wrong. We chose to fill our bucket with strawberry, Mad Popper mix, and the Mardi Gras mix (lemon, grape, and green apple). I'm thinking the Mad Popper may be my go-to place for hostess gifts from now on.

The next Carpe Durham recommendation we tried out was also amazing. It's one of those things where we are smacking ourselves for not trying earlier since it's only a few blocks from our house.  On Saturday mornings, about one block north of the Durham Farmer's Market at the corner of Foster and Geer streets sits an Airstream.  It is in this Airstream that you will find Daisycakes maker of the most delectable desserts and breakfast treats known to mankind. Their Hazelnut and Cherry Pop't-Arts are divine.  Linus, currently on the under 3 nut ban, sampled a scone and though he can't actually tell us he enjoyed it, there were only mere crumbs remaining when he was finished. Also sampled were a pair of cupcakes (one red velvet and another passion fruit-chocolate) which were not only visually stunning, but tasted great too.

So, here's my suggestion for the upcoming warm weather weekend- visit one if not both of these fine establishments or any of the others recommended by Carpe Durham. Spoil yourself with some treats and work off the calories during a stroll through Duke Gardens. You might even run into us doing the same thing.

An original Triangle Mamas post.  Abby, like her son Linus, loves good food. When she's not eating her way around Durham, she can be found blogging at My Sweet Babboo.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

one year.

Written on the evening of Feb. 22, 2009.

Dear Abigail,

Tomorrow is your first birthday. 

Your birthday may be Feb. 23, but it's the entirety of the 22nd I spent in labor. This is the day and night we spent trying to bring you into the world, before you were finally born, an hour and four minutes into the new day. 

A year ago yesterday, I was 38 weeks pregnant, still two weeks from my due date but technically full term. Our new glider rocker had just been delivered, and your dad announced, �Okay, NOW the baby can come.� He brought home Chinese food for dinner that night. The little scrap of paper in my fortune cookie promised All your hard work is about to pay off. When I read those words, of course I had to laugh and joke, �I guess that means I�m going into labor soon.� 

Around one in the morning, I woke with my first tiny labor pain.

Exactly a day later, a few minutes after one on the morning of February 23 - I held you for the first time. 

Your birth was hard on both of us. But while you slept peacefully, I just couldn�t. All I wanted to do was look at you, so tiny and real and finally in my arms, in your cute little hat with the pink ribbon.

You are the first real, true blood relation I have ever had. I remember thinking how strange that was when I was pregnant with you - my whole entire biological family was self-contained within my own body. You kept me company in a way no one else ever had before, and because of you, I knew that I would never be alone again. I felt as if a torn thread that had been left hanging inside of me was finally, finally picked up and tied to something else, the first stitch in a new tapestry.

Just as I expected, you changed my heart forever; you moved in, you knocked down walls, added extra rooms, made yourself so at home I don�t remember the place without you. I may be the one raising you, but you have raised me up every single day of your life. Sometimes it�s hard for me to recall exactly how I felt the first time I held you - those moments are often hazy, impossible to recapture. But I�m flooded with feelings of wonder and joy every time you laugh, and so my days are filled with hints and small reminders of that first meeting, the first moment we shared a year ago tonight.

Looking at you now, it�s almost impossible to connect you with the tiny being who did jumping jacks on my bladder, who was born so small and helpless, who relied on us for everything in those exhausting early days. Now, a year later, you can walk, and sign, and chatter, and feed yourself, and dance, and say a few words, and climb the stairs, and chase the kitty, and sometimes catch her. You may not be my tiny baby anymore, but my love for you feels new every day. Your smile is right there waiting, all the time, and every time I see it, it still tugs at my heartstrings, makes me smile back. 

For years I tried to picture myself as a mother, to imagine what it would be like, in a laughable attempt to prepare myself, I suppose. But nothing I ever envisioned came close to the strange, difficult, beautiful adventure of this first year with you. You have taught me so much. You taught me how to be a mother, your mother, and I will always be grateful to you for that. 

I love you so much. I thank God for you every day, and I wish for you a blessed and happy life, a life as beautiful as you are. 

love always,

Nikki, who is working on believing that she actually has a toddler now, also gets her sap on at A Small Song.

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