Mr. Zoom is a super fantastic father. I wanted to do something special for him this past Father’s Day and since we’re not much into big fancy gifts around here we thought it would be fun to spend a real family day together. Mr. Zoom and I both love a good road trip. We love to pack the car, plan the route, and get out of town. So we decided on a mini road trip to celebrate Dad’s Day.
When we’re on the road, we don’t like to waste time. This has become even more crucial with two kids. You parents out there will be able to attest to the “window” of time available when you’re doing anything with little ones. So we like to pack a picnic and stop at a rest area for lunch. We’ve been super lucky with rest areas in North Carolina. They’re usually beautifully manicured, have much cleaner restrooms than fast-food joints, and are always almost empty. Plus homemade sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies scream road trip to us.
The Lazy 5 Ranch is about 2 and a half hours from our house. After 2 hours in the car we decided to stop for lunch. Rest area rating: awesome. After lunch we exited the freeway and hopped on an old country road. It never ceases to amaze me how rural much of North Carolina is. It goes without saying that once off the freeway, one of us will turn to the other and say “can you even imagine living out here”? This state is the American Pickers dream come true.
We arrived at the ranch just as they opened. The website boasted a drive through park with over 600 animals willing to come right up to your window for a snack. It didn’t disappoint. Meet our tour guide.
This place was a total trip. I think Mr. Zoom and I laughed harder in the first 10 minutes than we did all last year. We were hysterical over the donkey-goat-deer animals poking their noses right into the windows of the car looking for snacks. At one point we had 6 animals swarming us. The lady at the feed stand warned that one animal could easily eat an entire bucket of food, and she wasn’t lying. About 5 minutes into the tour a gnarly Zebra yanked 1 of our 2 buckets from Mr. Zoom’s hand and ran off into the woods. Another literally blew snot all over me when I refused to give him bite.
We let Big Zoom sit on Dad’s lap and “help” steer as we drove 2mph through the park. I held Little Zoom and the boys both loved looking at the animals.
That thing above was quite awful. There were many of his kind with their beady little eyes in the park. I have a vivid memory of a turkey “beaking” a cousin of mine (Hey, Vic!) when I was a little girl. This thing resembled that turkey a little too much and I shrieked every time it came near us.
My favorite animals are giraffes, and this place had a whole lot of them. They’d swoop down with their long elegant necks and eat from our sunroof. I managed to get some neat shots of them from below.
A quick note about Lazy 5 Ranch. I get sort of sad when I visit zoos. I always want to go and see the animals, but then get a little upset that they have to be penned up. The Lazy 5 didn’t leave me with that feeling. The “safari ride” is 3.5 miles long and there seemed to be tons of land for all the animals to graze. They seem to be healthy and happy, and are certainly well-fed. We had a great time out there and would certainly recommend the place to anyone looking for a different zoo experience in North Carolina. It was truly a great Father’s Day.
Last week we headed out to Vollmer Farm with our cousin-friends for an afternoon of blueberry picking. As I mentioned, strawberry season was super early and short this year, and unfortunately the Zoom’s and I didn’t make it out in time to pick strawberries.
It was an iffy day, weather wise. The sky alternating between bright blue and blue gray meant an afternoon thunderstorm was highly likely. As we arrived at the farm, the sky opened up for a quick shower, but stopped almost as soon as it began. We got to picking right away.
We were so lucky to have hooked up with Mr. Zoom’s distant relatives when we arrived in North Carolina. We’ve been so warmly welcomed by their family and have had some great adventures with them. Big Zoom loves to follow his big boy cousin-friends around. As far as second and third cousins go, we like them a whole lot.
This place is great. They charge by the pound and though they seem expensive at $6.99 per, I’m quite certain our crew ate as many as we bought right off the plants in the fields. These blueberries are killer. Not a bit tangy, they taste like candy. I never had the chance to bake them into anything because they were eaten by the handful straight from the fridge.
This is my favorite picture of Little Zoom to date. That face captures his personality perfectly.
We never escape an afternoon of picking without a scoop or cone.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m so so so glad I’ve stuck with this hobby. These are some of my most favorite recent pictures and I know I’ll look back on these when I’m a hobbling old lady and smile.
I just love local small business. I love talking to shop owners, making friends with baristas, and supporting the hard work of my neighbors. Ireland, though rapidly changing, is still full of wonderful “mom and pop” shops bursting with character and coziness. I will admit that I was ready to return to the States three years ago. That first trip to Target was nothing short of incredible. I mean, all those things. Even better, all those things in one place. Efficient. Convenient. Easy. But once I got over the initial reintroduction to big box stores I started to discover some of the cool local places that my area has to offer. Turns out there are some really neat independently owned restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops around here.
We just so happen to have one such place in our neighborhood. Cafe Buongiorno’s is a little place tucked away in North Raleigh that serves authentic Italian coffee, pastries, gelato, panini’s and wine. Recently they’ve re-vamped their menu to include a delicious lamb and beef gyro, a New York style Philly cheesesteak sandwich, and a juicy burger; all perfect for summer.
I was so excited to be able to sit down with the owners and hear a little bit about their story before shooting these images for them. The guys are from Manhattan and make monthly trips to procure all the delicious Italian pastries they offer. After moving down to manage the store full-time, the owners decided to rethink the business. They revamped the menu, made serious upgrades to the kitchen, found newer and better suppliers, and hired an online media consultant. Their hard work has paid off. The gelato is known to be the best in town, and the coffee has had many locals hooked for years.
If you’re in the area and are looking for a new spot to check out, stop by Cafe Buongiorno’s. Be sure like/follow/check out their Facebook, Twitter, and new website. You’ll also find them at the Falls River Pool all summer where they’re serving their full menu poolside.
The week before last, my Big Zoom turned two. To celebrate Mr. Zoom, Little Zoom and I all trekked to the local fire station to visit with the fireman. Then we headed out for burgers and shakes as a family. It was a really nice little birthday celebration.
Before we had the boys, Mr. Zoom and I lived in a funky old tobacco loft in downtown Durham, NC. We really liked the area and especially loved all the neat shops and local restaurants within walking distance of our home. I’d walked past Ox and Rabbit several times while living there, but never made it inside. Now that we live much further away, I really wish I’d checked it out sooner.
The vibe in this place was great. It’s part old time milkshake and soda bar, part kitschy gift shop. The sell everything from t-shirts to throw pillows, coasters to art work, paper supplies, sweet sweet baby and kid items, and so much more. I honestly fell in love with the place and wanted to set up a little desk in the back to blog and take in all the inspiration.
We ordered the boys Egg Cream’s after asking the owner what they consisted of. I knew I’d seen a special on Food Network a while back and was happy to try one out. They are old fashioned “milkshakes” originating in Brooklyn which consist of a flavored syrup, milk and soda water. Cool.
They could barely fit their noses over bar, but really enjoyed watching their drinks be made.
One of my favorite things about the place was the totally local vibe. While I’d seen some of their wares for sale in other such shops, the way they were displayed at Ox and Rabbit using reclaimed and refurnished furniture was really neat. If Mr. Zoom would let me, I’d fill our house with this kind of stuff. Low VOC paint be darned. I’ll take character any day.
I loved their selection of cards and single sheet wrapping papers. I’ve yet to find a shop in our area that sells the kind of packaging products I look for when gifting. I think I’ll have to make a trip back here to stock up.
We really enjoyed our morning trip to Ox and Rabbit. Summed up: it was part antique shop, part gift shop, and part ice cream parlor. We will most definitely be back for more!