Storytime Success!

Thanks to the dozens of you who joined us for Storytime at Sweethaus over the past four weeks! Gwen and Sara had so much fun reading fabulous books and seeing so many adults and kiddos enjoying the treats that Sweethaus has to offer. It was a special bonus to have the gigantic Sweethaus Christmas tree up for the last two weeks and we're excited about hosting more storytime someday. 

When the new year rolls around we hope to see you at other local storytimes including all the great offerings at Jefferson Madison Regional Library branches, New Dominion Bookshop and elsewhere. 

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Bluegrass Grill: Bright Spot #4

One of our family favorite’s is Bluegrass Grill, just a block off the Downtown Mall.  We seem to all get the craving at the same time.  Our five year old will wander into the bedroom and ask to head over there for breakfast.  Most of the time, we agree and probably find ourselves there once every couple weeks.  

We all love the kids’ play area and try to sit as close as possible.  My two year old makes phone calls and dumps out toys from the little red toy box.  My older son searches for dino toys and draws pictures.  Together, they cook up all sorts of delights in the little wooden kitchen, complete with stainless pots and pans, pancakes, and even pats of butter!  My husband and I REALLY appreciate that there are plenty of things for the littles to get into without being too disruptive.  

Although there is not a separate kids’ menu, there are lots of menu items suitable for your sweet wee ones.  For under $5, you could piece together a picky-eater breakfast from the a la carte menu or set them up with pancakes, granola, or oatmeal.  UNLESS, your too-smart-for-your-own-good five year old wises up to the fact that the Hungry Norman IS the most delicious breakfast possible and starts requesting the $12 parent pleaser in place of his usual short stack of honey-wheat pancakes.  Of course, adults can enjoy a solid variety of menu options, including vegan, vegetarian, and GF-friendly picks.  Currently, I’m totally stuck on P3-a mouth-watering mess of home fries, chorizo, peppers, and cheddar cheese...so, so good!  

We have found the BGG (our family name for our beloved fave breakfast spot) to be easy to get into most weekdays.  Weekends are a totally different story.  If you get there past the initial opening time   (and sometimes even then) plan to wait a while before a table becomes available.  There seems to be a bit of confusion around how waiting works.  I must say, we don’t do the waiting thing.  If there is a wait, we go straight to plan B.  However, I BELIEVE the wait list is on the wall and folks add their own names to the list and seat themselves when space becomes available.  

The BGG only takes cash or check, so be sure to prepare ahead of time, or you’ll be walking over to the mall to find an ATM to pay for your meal!

It isn’t always clear to me whether the staff is as happy to have us around as we are to be there.  I’ve decided to chalk it up to them being busy and the actual fact that kids in restaurants can be potentially disastrous for everyone involved.  Generally, the service is good enough, even if no one is smiling at us or gushing about how cute my kid’s drawings are.  

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My biggest complaint is the ginormous pile of seasonings, condiments, and decor in the middle of each table, no matter how tiny.  There is the small vase with a single flower, the libations menu (good to know in case your trip really goes down hill!), salt & pepper, a variety of sweeteners, three types of jellies, a dish of single-serve margarine cups, two types of hot sauces, and I don’t even know what else!  This is like a gold mine of mischief for my children and ends up getting scooted to every corner of the table multiple times before we leave.  Exhausting.  

I can’t recall if there is a changing table in the bathroom because i never actually go in there.  I don’t know why my husband and I haven’t actually started to plan for this phenomenon, but EVERY time we go pretty much, my two year old has a massive bowel movement AND we leave the diaper bag in the car.  So….the kid gets changed in the back of the car and I cannot report on the presence or absence of a changing table.  Maybe if you take your diaper bag in with you, you can find out and let us know!  

Overall, the BGG feels fun and easy for our crew!  We love the food, our kids are entertained, and we feel like the prices are reasonable.  It is a bright spot that we look forward to pretty often and love to share with visiting friends and family.  And they have chocolate covered bacon.  Bloody Mary’s, a play kitchen, and chocolate covered bacon.  Winning!

Splendora's: Bright Spot #3

My daughter was largely built of gelato. While I was pregnant and for her first few months out of the womb we were living on the downtown mall and during that time Splendora's became my favorite local business. It was where I went to celebrate by myself the day I legally changed my name. It was where Matilde received one of her first nicknames (thanks to GM Kelly), and when Splendy's owner PK announced their amazing Pint Club - an awesome, exclusive flavor creation every month - I was all about it. Next time she's enrolling you should definitely sign up. Each month we receive an email detailing the inspiration and process of flavor creation and when we pick up our pint there's a free scoop of any flavor or a coffee included.

I've been to Splendora's dozens of times for a caffeine fix, to use their changing table, to buy bananas, to speak to another adult... so many reasons. Now that my daughter is in love with gelato it is a pleasure to share tiny spoonfuls together as we people-watch. They have comic books, coloring books, crayons and colored pencils! I am constantly entertained by the social media presence they keep (follow them both on Instagram and Facebook for serious farmers' market love, PK's adorable dog Gypsy and the shop's resident grabber-dino!), I admire and appreciate how they support other local businesses, I resonate with their politics, I have fun with their holiday decorations and PK's creativity, I am always impressed by the staff and I have never met a flavor of their gelato I didn't dig... even the weird ones.  

Pro-tip: Members of the Virginia Discovery Museum get a free bambino cone with any purchase (i.e. latte for you).

Indoors at Ix: Bright Spot(s) #2

The Ix Art Park is basically my favorite place in Charlottesville. The fundraising for the art park coincided with my first year here and I remember looking at the plans and feeling so grateful that a community space like that could arise in this small town. Over the past five years I have only fallen deeper in love with the murals, sculptures, events and businesses that have blossomed there. My kiddo adores the free ranging she can do in the outdoor portion of Ix and our family made it to nearly all of the Free Fall concert series Saturday evenings this year, but this post is really about three excellent indoor spots to enjoy Ix during the cold months ahead.

Brazos Tacos recently celebrated the first anniversary of the changing table in one of their Either/Or bathrooms, deserving of kudos on several fronts. Other than the changing table, there’s a stack of kids’ books for borrowing, and wee toddler-sized table with chairs in primary colors. Their guac and creamy black beans were some of my daughter’s first solid foods and it just so happens - since we used to live within walking distance - that Brazos was the first place I nursed in public. Their kids’ menu is sweet, simple and to the point, but there are also endless delicious possibilities for adults including margaritas. Coming from California, “queso,” was not part of my Mexican food experience before this setting, but I can hardly go there without ordering it now, I love it that much. I’ve come around on Tex Mex. Pro tip: order ahead via their website or by calling the Taco Phone to avoid the lunch rush line!

Sweethaus is a bit controversial as its sugary goodness may not be everyone’s idea of a healthy snack, but they always have gluten-free options and I swear I order carrot cake there just because there’s a vegetable. For many months I got away with going there to play and have a coffee without even purchasing a cupcake, but my wee one is now in love with them and I can hardly blame her. A mini cupcake for around $1 and a decaf Americano for mama is totally worth it for their adorable play area, whether your kiddo is crawling or running around. We don’t have stairs in our apartment and Matilde enjoys practicing climbing up and down to the cute lofted sitting area, where I’ve also attended a lovely gathering of mamas who all peered down on our kiddos happily playing below. Head’s up: a dozen or two mixed mini cupcakes will impress folks at any gathering.

Three Notch’d is a recent addition to the Ix space and the build-out is remarkable. The night we were there for dinner there were several parties including balloons and lots of revelry - while the noise level was above my comfort zone, my kiddo had so much fun playing in their kids’ area where there were crayons, books, toys galore and lots of playmates. The children’s menu hummus platter served us as an appetizer (since Matilde was mainly into playing rather than eating) and they could stand to have smaller spoons if they’re going to serve apple sauce to toddlers, but we would happily go back...if friends invited us!