DPAC's Lord of the Dance

Dancing has never been my forte. For me, just being able to sway to the beat could be considered an accomplishment. So naturally, I’m amazed by anyone who can not only dance, but is so good they can entertain other people!

With that in mind, the Durham Performing Arts Center’s Lord of the Dance created by Michael Flatley is poised to blow everyone away, even if you’re not a good dancer yourself. Lord of the Dance brings together all of the Irish dance, music and folklore that made Flatley so famous for Riverdance — which we all know and love.

But don’t take my word for it, you can check out a clip for yourself:

As you can see, the LOTD performance is just as action packed and has the same non-stop energy you’d expect from a Flatley production. How can you not want to check that out? It’s a totally different experience in person! There’s an explosive vivacity you can’t simply can’t find through a TV screen. You have to see it and, of course, in person you can feel it.

You can find all the info you need on how to see the show at DPAC’s Website. And enjoy the show!


A Refresher Course on Freshening Up

Did you know that most of the dirt and germs we come in contact with on a daily basis get stuck under our fingernails and cuticles? This makes sense because we use our fingertips to touch objects all day long, including things others may have contaminated with the norovirus or other communicable diseases.

So, when you wash your hands, make sure to get any dirt out from under your fingernail area. You don’t have to use a nail brush like surgeons do (although you can). All you need to do is rub the fingertips on one hand on the palm of the other, as though you are scratching an itch.

Remember to use warm, soapy water and wash your hands for as long as it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Using this technique habitually will cut down on the germs most likely to make you sick.

You can follow Everybody Needs A Nurse on Twitter @ENANurse1

image by wiccked via flickr


Chopping Broccoli

The evenings and early mornings are beginning to feel crisp so my mind has turned to gardening in the fall. Upon the advice of my mother, I just planted broccoli, lettuce and cabbage. I also saw collards, cauliflower and kale for sale at my local garden center. Before planting them I mixed chicken droppings in with the top soil, which is another trick my mom swears by. Just be careful to not use too much as it will burn the plant.

Other than eating and chopping broccoli this fall, I will be enjoying my mums. Back in June I wrote a post called Gardening on the Cheap about trimming mums so they will bloom beautifully in the fall. In the photo above on the left you can see my mum trimmings right after they were planted the last week of June. On the right and in the photo below you can see how tall and full of buds they are now that we are in the second week of September!

I hope you fellow photo geeks are looking forward to taking tons of photos during the peak of the fall color like I am. If you ever have any suggestions for photo stories just contact me via email. Thanks for reading!


Valentine's Day – Appreciate Your Partner!

Ah, the holiday of love.  In my house Valentine’s Day is like a War of the Roses versus the Not Roses.  My husband can’t stand Valentine’s Day.  To him it is a Hallmark holiday made up to encourage consumerism.  After all, he can tell me any day and every day that he loves me.  I, of course, love it because I am a romantic gal and I look forward to my husband being forced to tell me all day on that day that he loves me.

That War has been ensuing since we’ve known each other and we’ve came to reconciliation on that front years ago.  However, now, as a parent, I have a newfound love and appreciation for Cupid’s holiday.  As parents it is so easy to forget about your spouse and partner.  Kids demand time and energy – requiring pretty much all you have to give.  So when it’s lights out and bedtime for the kiddos, who has energy to spend time focused on yet another person?  When the house is finally quiet you just want time to recharge your own battery.

So the partner gets put on the back burner, right?  Well, not this February!  Parents, let’s use Valentine’s Day as the excuse and the reason to remind your partner how much you love and appreciate them.  Sure, they might drive you batty because they can’t seem to hear the very loud buzzing of the dryer and you ended up folding all the clothes AGAIN, but, really, they have to be great, too.  Didn’t you start a family with them?  Your spouse has to be OK.

Tips and tricks for romancing as a busy parent?  You got me.  What do you guys do to make it work?  I am a big fan of a nice, beautiful, candlelight dinner at home, which we cook together while drinking wine.  TV stays off and we talk.  Alternatively, I’d be a fan of going out and being pampered to a nice meal with my husband, provided it’s not on Valentine’s Night itself.  Too many others out there are fighting for the same over-priced fixed menu meal.  (Although a lot of drop-In childcare centers are having extended holiday hours to accommodate romantic meals out, so there is that to consider if you can’t secure a sitter.)  But what about a Valentine’s night out the day after Valentine’s?

Get a card for your significant other.  Even if you think you tell them all the time how much you love them and how great they are, everyone deserves to hear it one more time.  Putting it in writing goes even further.  

Whatever you do, don’t forego the holiday entirely.  And don’t make it just about the kids’ and their heart crafts, Valentine’s for school, and pink cupcakes.  Remember that person you live with who is the other half of you and your kids.  Because when the kids leave home someday, that person is still going to be there.

Let me know how you and your partner make romance happen at home, too, because my husband and I are still trying to figure it out….


A New Puppy

I sit here at my desk, trying to focus on typing an intelligent and witty column.  Instead, I find myself distracted every few minutes by the little movements and noises of Poppy, the adorable 3-pound wonder fast asleep on my lap.  I ponder, as I often do, how it is that I got myself into this particular situation.It’s not like I needed another creature in the house.  I currently reign over seven cats, a rat, five chickens, a bunny rabbit, a Miniature Schnauzer, four children and a husband (note how I subtly confirmed my alpha dog status in the household).  I think I’ve more than done my part to assure that my children will know the joys of pet ownership while at the same time rescuing a good number of animals from cold, hungry and homeless status.  The last thing I needed was another dog.

No one can deny how successful I’ve been over the past year with resisting my children’s incessant pleas for more pets.  In fact, the only new pets acquired over the past year were Rocky and Bunnicula and arguably, they don’t really count because their assimilation into our household wasn’t my doing.  Rocky, a scrawny and very naughty stray cat showed up out of nowhere one day and refused to leave, and Bunnicula was only supposed to be at our house for two weeks.  Was it my fault that Rocky is stubborn and Bunnicula’s owner skipped town, never to be heard from again?  I think not.   

That’s a pretty good track record for me.  Over the past 12 months, I’ve resisted heartfelt, dramatic requests for a parrot, gerbils, more cats, hamsters, a ferret, a guinea pig, some kittens, a wombat (as if!), a penguin, a snake and, most recently, a Border Collie and sheep.  See, I can stand my ground when I need to.  No more pets!  

When my trainer’s dog had puppies back in December I was interested, of course, but my interest was that of a detached observer.  An observer who loves animals perhaps, but an observer nonetheless.  I loved hearing stories of the latest puppy shenanigans at my weekly strength training sessions and of course, I enjoyed looking at the pictures.  But it never once occurred to me that I might offer one of the puppies a home.  Well . . .  maybe it did occur to me once or twice.  But those moments quickly passed. 

One day, Trainer Rob had the puppies in the break room and suggested I go and take a peek. Well, who wouldn’t love to visit with a bunch of cute puppies and their momma?  Lots of people play with puppies every day.  That doesn’t mean they’re agreeing to take a puppy home.  No harm in one little visit.  Ahh, the slippery slope of rationalization.

The puppies began making regular appearances at the gym and so I began enjoying regular visits with the puppies.  They were all cute — little Aussie/Jack mixes; all brown except for one.  A little black and tan female.  That one was my favorite.  Not that I was going to keep her, of course.  But still, I can have a favorite.

One day the kids joined me at the gym and after my session and their stint in the child care room, I let them in on the little puppy secret in the break room.  The proverbial nail in the coffin.
Not another day went by that the kids didn’t beg and plead for one of Rob’s puppies.  Natalie even swore she would never again ask for a Border Collie.  If only I would let them have one of Rob’s puppies. 

I gave them my usual schpeel: “A puppy is a ton of work and you kids can’t even put your clothes in the hamper.  We already have a dog.  There’s no way we’re letting another animal live in this house.  I don’t have time to train a dog.  Having a puppy is like having an infant.  You kids can’t take care of an infant.  You can’t even take care of yourselves.  Forget it, kids.  No dog.  No more other pets either.”

I said those words over and over and over again.  And over and over and over again, the kids ignored me and kept begging and pleading, wearing me down little by little.  Still, I repeated my mantra.  But my heart just wasn’t in it.

The thing is, the puppies were really cute.  REALLY CUTE.  Plus, Pretzel loves other dogs and would probably really do well with a friend, especially a friend of his species.  The cats would probably enjoy a puppy too.  Look how much they love Pretzel!  The kids are at the age that they could really help out.  Six people sharing the responsibility of housetraining wouldn’t be so bad.  I also wouldn’t have to keep hearing Natalie beg for a Border Collie.  And sheep.  (The written contract I made her sign to that effect is virtually airtight.)  True, it’s not like we need another dog, but really, one more animal is not going to make much of a difference.  Right?

So the kids begged, and I rationalized.  Inevitably . . . I caved. 

We picked her up last Tuesday.  She confidently strode into the house, fearlessly made her presence known to Pretzel and the seven cats, and then promptly began to search for fun things to play with.  At three pounds, she’s not much bigger than the rat.  Like Pretzel, she follows me wherever I go, so now I have two shadows.  She messes up the papers near my desk in an effort to create a more comfortable sleeping spot than the nice dog bed I bought her.  She’s bitten more than one stack of legal documents.  She sounds like a dying alien when I put her in her crate at night and I’m anticipating that the Humane Society will soon show up at my doorstep requesting proof that I am not into dog torture.

But as I sit here typing my column with this cute little black and tan three-pound wonder passed out on my lap, I’m finding it hard to imagine life without her.


Eating While Parenting

So I had my baby! That’s right, about 1 month ago I took a hiatus from most of my writing to engage in the miracles of miracles and give birth. Things went great and we’re all settled in now with a newborn and a 2 ½ year old. And sure, we don’t sleep a lot. But we were prepared for that. You know what is really stinking right now? Not eating.

No, this isn’t some bizarre sort of weight-loss regimen (trust me). This is the Holy-Moly-I-Am-So-Busy-I-Can’t-Even-Remember-To-Brush-My-Hair-Let-Alone-Find-The-Frying-Pan type of not eating. But since I don’t want to starve, nor does my husband, I’ve gone back to my own blog and reacquainted myself with some of my posts. Turns out you can have good food with convenience! Here is what my research has yielded:

Your best bet as a parent to create healthy meals is to plan ahead. I am generally terrible at this, but I have found two things that help: Pinterest and Dinner Savvy. If you haven’t gotten on the Pinterest bandwagon yet let me throw in some more peer pressure. It is great. I won’t get in to details about this website here (just go try it) but I will say that there are fabulous freezer meal recipes as well as slow cooker recipes to be had. If you like a little more structure, Dinner Savvy in Apex is a spot that does the hard work for you. They have the recipes, the food all pre-diced and sliced. You show up, follow directions, put it all together in a plastic baggie, take it home and stick it in your freezer until you are ready to reheat it. Voila.

If that is too much preparation, don’t forget about Foster Market’s Family Meals. Call by Friday afternoon and the following Monday you can pick up a full week’s worth of delicious, prepared meals. Again, all you have to do is heat.

If you are still adamant about cooking (Lord bless you) but it’s the getting to the grocery store with kids in tow that’s the problem, Harris Teeter has online ordering with curbside pick up. Give them a few hours and they’ll pull your entire shopping list together for you then put it in your trunk when you show up.

Want to dash in and grab something? Two of my favorite places to get reasonably priced, hot, delicious meals to take home: Fresh Market and Southern Season.

Finally, if folks offer to cook for you: TAKE IT. Don’t be proud. TAKE IT. It has been a saving grace to us as we walk around our house bleary-eyed changing diaper after diaper.

So there are my tips for you. Got any more for me? What conveniences have you found for your kitchen? Please share! Honestly, it is not like I am wasting away over here, but I would love your tips!


How to Better Photograph Your Family- Tip Eight

This is the eighth in an eight-part series created for the amateur family photographer. These tips are simple, quick things you can do to vastly improve the photos you take.


As the self-designated family photographer you have been faithfully recording your family’s history for years. But are you in any of the photographs? I am quite sure the answer is no as you are most often behind the camera. Perhaps you took on this role because you hate to be photographed. Whatever your reason, you owe it to your family to include yourself. Your children will want to see photographs of you when they are adults looking back. And I think you will want to see yourself as well.


Most often folks get out the camera for only the big events- birthdays, holidays and vacations. But what about the every day, mundane things? I am fully aware that this part of my life is fleeting. My children are 10, 8 and 5 and in just a mere 10 years two of them will be off at college. I want to remember what a typical day was like at every stage. For instance, the other day I was braiding my daughter’s hair. This is something we have been doing since she was a toddler. It takes several hours to do and I know that at some point soon she will have had enough of my hairstyles and will want a professional to do it. So I documented it. I put my camera on a tripod in the far corner of the room and did a panorama. This means I shot the whole room from left to right taking four images to cover the whole length of the room taking extra care to not move the tripod from its position. Then I set the timer and popped into the shot as if I was on hour two of a big hairdo. I used the photomerge tool in Photoshop to “sew” these images together into a wide panorama. I know that when I am an old lady I will be fascinated by images like this- everything from little Leo in the foreground playing with legos to the absolute chaos in our playroom as Amira reads a book while I watch several episodes of The Deadliest Catch.


My camera is nearly always with me, usually hanging on my shoulder. I almost feel naked if I don’t have it with me. So it has been a challenge for me to pass the camera off to someone else. But if I ever want to be included in my own family history I have to relinquish control of it. In this photo I was visiting my relatives in Charlotte. I passed the camera off to my brother-in-law, Luka Lojk. He is not a documentary photographer thus we have a posed photo of all of us flashing peace signs as if we were at some imaginary peace rally in their foyer. But it is probably the only photo in existence of myself, my sister and my two nieces. That makes this photo priceless to me.

At the beach this past summer I started to pass the camera off to my daughter. The rule is that she has to wear the strap around her neck at all times lest she drop it. I set the camera on aperture priority and just let her rip. This image has a ton of white space at the top and mostly features a doorknob but it is the only photo from the whole vacation in which I was pictured. Oh! And it also features the fancy, yarn necklaces my niece Olivia made for me.


Although I take thousands of documentary photos of our life each year I still need a trained eye to create a great portrait of us. I tried many times to do a self-portrait of my family a la tripod but was only met with frustration. So I hire a professional photographer every year to do a family photo of us. This image was taken by my very good friend, Susie Post Rust. There is no way that I could have captured this sweet moment while running back and forth between the tripod. Thanks, Susie!

This concludes the eight-part series How to Better Photograph Your Family! If you missed any of the tips, here they are:

Tip One: Think Inside the Box.

Tip Two: Watch the Light.

Tip Three: Get up. Get Down. Get Moving!

Tip Four: Watch the Background.

Tip Five: Candid Camera.

Tip Six: Natural Light.

Tip Seven: Have a Plan.


Help! Help! I'm Being Depressed!

For those who love Monty Python’s and the Holy Grail as much as I do, you will notice that this is a modification on the famous dialogue between the King Arthur, ruler of the Britons, and Dennis, the peasant who did not vote for King Arthur. Dennis is not in favor of the dictatorship which the king represents, instead, he prefers an anarcho-syndicalist commune with lots of input and voting from the community. When the Dennis challenges King Arthur on his right to the throne, King Arthur has him dragged away and Dennis begins yelling “Help, Help, I’m being repressed!” (King Arthur obtained his position of King because he pulled a sword, Excalibur, out of a stone and The Lady of the Lake therefore declared him King. An obstinate Dennis declares “strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government”) The thing that makes Monty Python’s Holy Grail so great is the pure absurdity of it all.
So, where I am going with this? One of the things that bothers me the most in the world – yes, that much – is how people view themselves when they are not working for someone else. Many unemployed people are depressed and don’t feel good about themselves because they don’t feel like they have value. “After all,” they reason, “if I were valuable why would the company get rid of me? Or, why wouldn’t someone else want to hire me?”
Much like King Arthur’s line of thinking, it is completely absurd to puts one’s hands in the fate of another.
King Arthur: “If I pulled the sword out of the stone and The Lady of the Lake declared me King than I’m King. It must be true; I am King.”
Job seekers: “If the company no longer can afford to keep me, or I can’t find work, than I have little value to society. It must be true. I have little value to society.”
Both lines of reasoning are equally ridiculous. However, we are as we think and I know I’ve engaged in this line of thinking when unemployed. It is very real and very insidious; this destructive voice constantly finding your faults and short-comings.
In my opinion, the best way to overcome any type of job loss related absurd thinking (aka depression) is to think about what other people need and make yourself useful delivering it. After all, this “I am of value to someone else” line of thinking sits at the very core of the argument for being depressed. One time you were of value, delivering some product, or service to someone else and now you are not thus your value is diminished.

By making yourself useful I do not mean serving food to the homeless as much as finding something that really gets your juices following. For example, maybe you are a great role model for kids, understand how to do well in school, and have some time on your hands. Something like the Blue Ribbon Advocate Mentorship program needs you – you are very valuable to them. Maybe you are great at proofreading, baking cup cakes, pouring wine, or cutting down trees – it really does not matter – go out there and do it. To be blunt, I don’t care if it is for a non-profit or a for-profit organization. The world needs you and you need the world so go do it. 


No 2 Pencils, Fall, and Fun

Ah, my son started preschool for the first time this month.  It’s been an emotional time for me (not helped by the fact that I am also in my third trimester of pregnancy with my 2nd, and have some hormones to contend with, too).  But watching him run into his new classroom, with his new buddies, clearly a student in a “real school” now, makes me want to take all the time I can with him when he is home.  I want to continue to share with him all the things I remember as a kid and loved.

And since I love fall (I used to get so excited to shop for back to school supplies as a kid and that aisle in Target still makes me get a spring in my step…I am sure I can’t be the only dork out there…), I have this huge list of things I want to take him to to celebrate “the harvest.”

And, of course, hay rides top the list.  We’ve done hay rides at Ganyard Farm and Green Acres Farm and both have been a hit.  Although I am not sure what it is about the hay ride that is so much fun?  A loud tractor bouncing around at slow speeds, smelling diesel fumes, riding through farms that aren’t always that picturesque while sitting in a scratchy, allergy-causing hay hardly sounds like a winning combo.  But win it does.  But of course my son also loves when we put him in our wheelbarrow and push him around the backyard.  (Which my husband refuses to do for me, telling me I am too big, which don’t worry, I don’t take as a statement about my growing pregnancy belly and thighs).

If you really love hay, you can get all up in it at McKee’s Corn Maze.  That is some serious stuff there!

Fall hiking is always big on my list, too.  Some families like to get in the car and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to take in fall foliage and views.  But since my brood is notoriously bad in the car (ok, really, it’s me, I hate road trips), we like to hoof it.  There are lots of spots I like and you can see a list here, depending on how challenged you want to be.  But two particular spots come to mind.  Occoneechee Mountain is a hidden hiking gem you can get to in HIllsborough, even if you can’t spell it.  My husband and I explored the Lower Haw River trail this past weekend and that is going to be especially gorgeous in the fall, with the colors reflecting off of the mighty and large Haw River.

Know of any other great fall spots in the area?  Where else should I be taking my son to show him how wonderful and beautiful this time of year is?


Welcome from C.Hill Mom

Hello there Chapelboro folks.  I am so pleased to be writing to you over here.  You see, over at my other blog I have created a voice telling parents where to take their kids, restaurants great for children, and family friendly activities all over the Triangle.  And I love that blog.  First, who doesn’t love being bossy and opinionated?  Second, I feel like it is meeting a need by helping parents get real tools and information to appreciate the town they live in.

But it is great to let loose a little and wax philosophic on other aspects of parenting in the Triangle.  It’s not just nuts and bolts here (although some of that, too, I am sure), but a chance to dig a little deeper.

Something that has been on my mind for awhile is a question:  why parent in “Chapelboro” at all?  What’s your answer?  You see, I didn’t move here to be a “Mom in Chapel Hill.”  I came here in my late twenties, for love.  I had, and still have, no University ties.  (In fact, my husband and I usually cheer against the blues during ACC games.)  But my husband found Carrboro, and he was smitten.  So we established life here.

We had a great time being a young couple in this town: Weaver Street Market Thursday night music, Tyler’s Pint Night, Bolin Creek Trails, Maple View ice cream, Fridays on the Front Porch, and more.  The more we could bike places, the happier we were.

Then we had a child.  It was planned and we were ready.  But still, life changed.  We were parents now.  So we had to worry about things like schools, cost of living, the house size, did we want to raise kids here, lowering monthly expenses to accommodate losing my salary, and GEEZ, it was crazy overwhelming!

But we grappled with it.  And while we did, indeed, move to a different house, we stayed in Chapel Hill.  And we realized that our lives hadn’t changed that much.  Because Chapelboro is one great place to raise a kid.  Weaver Street Market Thursday night music?  Absolutely great with kids!  The Bolin Creek Trails?  I have spent many hours on those with my son.  Maple View ice cream?  (Do I even need to answer how this fits into a family life?)  And my son loves to dance with friends at Fridays on the Front Porch.   I suppose the only thing that isn’t such a swell fit anymore is Tyler’s Pint Night.  Although my husband still manages to get a night out there with buddies every now and again…

When I look back over my past 6 years in this area I love how well it has fit my family, even as it changed from 2 to 3.  And it still doesn’t feel as though we’ve conquered it yet.  This area continues to show me new places and highlights, as well as make me love and appreciate the old haunts even more.  It’s like an English Muffin:  all these nooks and crannies.  And it is pretty amazing.  Personally, this Mom in Chapel Hill looks forward to investing many more years, and parenting time, here.   I hope you feel the same way, too!   Now let’s explore parenting in Chapelboro together…