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Little Rock Family Blog

Events, activities, news, insight and opinion from the trenches of parenthood by Little Rock Family Magazine Editor Heather Bennett and her editorial staff. Share tips, news and feedback with Heather here.
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Girl Scout Cookie Restaurant Week Sweetens Little Rock with Inspired Desserts

We didn't think we could love Girl Scout cookie season any more than we already do. But, boy, were we wrong! Girl Scouts - Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas have partnered with some of our favorite local restaurants to create Girl Scout cookie-inspired desserts for Girl Scout Cookie Restaurant Week, Feb. 23-March 1.

Each night of the week, a different restaurant will feature a special dessert inspired by the popular cookies. Here's the lineup:

Feb. 23-March 1: Elliott Jones of YaYa's Euro Bistro will offer a Tagalongs-inspired dessert

Feb. 24: Matt Lowman of South on Main will offer a Do-Si-Do-inspired dessert

Feb. 24-28: Brian Deloney of Maddie's Place will offer a Toffee-Tastic-inspired dessert

Feb. 25-28: Alexis Jones of Natchez will offer a Trefoil-inspired dessert

Feb. 25-March 1: Autumn Hall of Big Orange will offer a Samoas-inspired milkshake

Feb. 26-28: Jeff Owen of Ciao Baci will offer a Savannah Smiles-inspired dessert

Feb. 27: Anne Woodson of Forty-Two will offer a Thin Mint-inspired dessert

Check out the Girl Scouts - Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas Facebook page for chef features and updates throughout the week.

And, if you haven't ordered your supply of Girl Scout cookies this year, there's still time! Order your favorites through March 15; for more info, click here.

Sneak Peek: New Whole Foods Market Little Rock Opens Feb. 18

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Little Rock gourmands, get excited! The new location of Whole Foods Market opens its doors at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18.

The spacious, 34,000 square-foot store is located at 501 Bowman Road next to Best Buy. Stroll through the brightly-colored shipping container entrance and enjoy free pastries and coffee as you watch the bread-breaking ceremony (Whole Foods' version of a ribbon-cutting) at 7:30 a.m. Feb. 18. The official grand opening will be at 8 a.m., and the first 500 shoppers will receive a re-usable shopping bag. You can also enjoy tastings, sales, music and activities throughout the day.

During the opening week, a local nonprofit will receive 1 percent of the store's sales each day. Support the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (Feb. 18), Arkansas Local Food Network (Feb. 19), The One (Feb. 20), Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals or C.A.R.E. (Feb. 21), and Wildwood Park for the Arts (Feb. 22).

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As you roam the new store, you'll notice lots of eco-features, from the overhead skylights to reclaimed barnwood decor. Keep an eye out in many sections of the store (produce, meat and fish, etc.) for signs explaining the store's product ratings, which take into account environmental impact, as well as GMO considerations, fair treatment of farmers and employees, and more.

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Many of customers' favorite features have been enhanced, including an expanded seafood department, which will cut, fillet, season and de-bone purchases for free; a barbecue bar stocked with in-house smoked ribs, chopped beef and more; and a much larger selection of prepared foods in the salad and hot food bar area.

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Choose from over 300 hand-cut cheeses.

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In the "bulk" aisle, you'll find about 250 items.

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Brand-new to the Little Rock store is a pizzeria. Grab a piece from the slice bar or order a whole pie, and don't forget to ask about the 3-topping special on Thursdays. A custom sandwich menu includes items named just for Little Rock (we'll take the Clinton Classic, please--a combination of turkey, apple, brie and fig spread.).

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Parents, you may appreciate the 12-tap beer and wine bar when you need a minute of post-grocery shopping relaxation. The camping-themed spot includes indoor seating and an outdoor patio. They also boast pub food on the menu and a take-home growler program. If you're more of a caffeine junkie, you can get your fix at the coffee, smoothie and fresh-squeezed juice bar; the espresso machine is a beauty that was built in Italy. It's a manual, so the barista can customize your java just the way you like it.

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Last, but certainly not least for busy moms and dads is the new personal shopping service. Send your list to the store in advance, and an employee will gather your groceries for you. The best part: The personal shoppers are said to be very discerning about product choices (you can also request your preferences) and they're super quick because they know every inch of the store! Stop by the customer service desk to see how you can participate for a minimal fee.

Whole Foods Market Little Rock will be open daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m. For more information, visit WholeFoodsMarket.com/Stores/Bowman.

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100 Girls of Code to Offer Free Workshops to Central Arkansas Girls

Image by 100 Girls of Code

Great news for girls: The North Little Rock-based Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub recently announced the launch of free coding workshops for girls ages 12-18. The workshops will be offered through a partnership with 100 Girls of Code, an initiative that hopes to interest young women in computer science and close the wide gender gap in STEM careers.

According to the 100 Girls of Code website, the statistics are stark: "Of the STEM fields, computer science and computer engineering have the highest median earnings for recent college graduates without advanced degrees, and only around 12 percent are women." Plus, "The U.S. Labor Department has estimated that there will be 1.4 million jobs openings for computer-related occupations this decade, and the median job for people with a computer-science degree pays around $80,000 to $100,000"

Beginning in the summer of 2014 with nine workshops in Tennessee, the program has now spread to 10 other states. During the free workshops, participants learn computer programming basics by building websites and video games.

"We are very pleased to bring 100 Girls of Code to Arkansas," Warwick Sabin, executive director of the Hub, stated in a press release about the launch. "This programming fits perfectly with our ongoing efforts to bring more engaging STEM education to our region, and we are especially interested in increasing access and outreach to underserved communities."

The central Arkansas chapter hopes to kick off its first workshop in April. In the meantime, interested girls can sign up to get more information at 100GirlsOfCode.com/Central-Arkansas

Read more about the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub's recent efforts in the full Arkansas Business article. To learn more about 100 Girls of Code, visit 100GirlsOfCode.com.

Year of the Goat/Sheep: Chinese New Year Begins Feb. 19

Image by Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

A dragon dance at San Francisco's annual Chinese New Year Parade.

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Chinese New Year, China's largest national holiday, begins this Thursday, Feb. 19! The holiday marks the Lunar New Year with feasts, fireworks, parades and many celebrations. This year is the Year of the Goat or Sheep, and many Chinese festivals are already under way.

While Little Rock doesn't have its own Chinese New Year parade like many larger North American cities, here are three alternative ways you can celebrate the holiday and learn about Chinese traditions!

1. Go to the Library

Visit your local library and ask the librarian or children's librarian for a book recommendation--then, read the Chinese New Year-themed storybooks with your child! You can also ask if regular storytimes or art workshops will be themed for the holiday. At CALS Main Library, teens ages 12-19 can ring in the Lunar New Year by learning how to write new year's greetings in Chinese characters (4:30 p.m. Feb. 19). For more info, visit CALS.org. For information on Laman Library's upcoming events, visit LamanLibrary.org.

2. Get Crafty

You may not have a festive dragon parade to attend, but your family can craft up some fun at home. The Shopping Mama blog explains the basics of the holiday and outlines four easy crafts that youngsters can make, including paper lanterns made from construction paper, Chinese drums from paper plates and a dragon puppet, too. Click here to see the full blog post.

3. Cook the Cuisine

Of course, food is a major part of the celebration, as well. If your family enjoys trying new recipes, browse these 16 Lunar and Chinese New Year recipes compiled by Jeanette's Healthy Living. You'll learn what certain foods symbolize and why they are eaten during the holiday. Plus, find the recipes for delicious dishes like Stir-Fry Noodles with Chicken, Mushrooms and Chinese Veggies; Spicy Kung-Pao Chicken; and Shrimp Fried Rice. And for dessert, don't miss out on the Coconut Sticky Rice Cake, which is considered good luck for Chinese New Year and symbolic of family cohesiveness.

Or, stop by Three Fold Noodles & Dumpling Co. in downtown Little Rock to nosh on traditional Chinese dumplings, noodle dishes and steamed buns. The family-owned restaurant will be celebrating the holiday as well as their official Grand Opening! Three Fold had its soft opening back in December--read our mini review here.

Happy New Year!

3 Ways To Avoid Birthday Party Breakdowns (Without Ditching Your DIY Dreams)

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If you are a parent of anyone under 12, you’ve been to one, probably several: The Pinterest Party. The Pinterest Party has taken some children’s birthday parties from a simple cake-and-balloon affair to an extravaganza of epic proportions, where homes are all but remodeled to accommodate a 6-year-old’s current obsession with super heroes. The trend has taken moms’ anxiety levels exploding along with it.

To be fair, it’s easy to get sucked into the social media bookmarking site. It has more than 70 million users in the US. Eighty percent of those are women.

I currently have 13 Pinterest boards dedicated to parties I’m planning, have planned or wish I could plan. In my mind, these affairs begin as Gatsby-esque in scope. In reality, I’m a middle-class mom with limited time and money. And it’s in this brutal intersection of day dreams and reality where unnecessary money is spent, oceans of tears are shed and lots of wine is consumed.

You don’t have to look hard to find articles on whether children actually need or want some of these elaborate parties. Any child rearing expert worth their salt will tell you that simple celebrations of a child’s life each year can be quite memorable and meaningful without a high price tag or a nervous breakdown. They would be entirely right.

However, the extraordinary popularity of Pinterest, along with DIY party blogs, points to a desire on some level for modern moms to create a little homespun happiness. So we’ve consulted some of our favorite party people to help avoid some of the most common Pinterest party pitfalls and create happier birthday parties with a personal touch.

Pitfall: All the Things

The thing about Pinterest is that there really is no end to it. You want to have a Lego party? Pinterest can suggest thousands of ideas in hundreds of suggested categories from food to games to décor. Suddenly, EVERYTHING is possible. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Smart Planning: Pick One (maybe two)

Christen Byrd, Director of Camp Lovely, a crafting community based in Central Arkansas, says: “Instead of decorating my entire house in ‘princess rainbow pony cotton candy,’ I focus on one party table or display. Narrow down the theme (princess OR rainbow OR pony OR cotton candy) and 2-3 main colors. Decorate that table up and have your focus and photos there.”

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Kelli Marks, owner of Sweet Love bakery, says: “Pick a few elements and ditch the rest. If your kid really likes cake and sweets, spend the time and money on a dessert table. If he or she really likes to play elaborate games, then turn the back yard into a Nerf gun war playground. Pick the thing that your child will enjoy the most.”

Pitfall: Martha Stewart Syndrome

The perfect craft or cake you dream of probably doesn’t exist in real life. Just like Martha Stewart is actually a whole team of people, not just a crafty lady from Connecticut, photos for pins are often staged. The fake children have been drugged or bribed to sit still and look beautiful for the camera. Adjusting real life expectations accordingly avoids so much disappointment.

Kelli says, “Most people have no idea what the background is on the photo they pin. It could be a cake dummy (made of Styrofoam), a cake that has never traveled farther than from the kitchen to the living room, or it could have been worked on for months. A photo of a cake I made went viral on Pinterest. I designed it with a friend who happens to be a professional photographer. The birthday party was basically a photo shoot. They had a blast styling and plating the cake and then provided me with a professional photo.”

Smart Planning: No party exists in a vacuum. Borrow and reuse.

Christen: Make and keep things that are easily reusable. I have a collection of big tissue paper poms I keep on a hanger in a closet. Just keep using them until they fall apart. They are easy to make, good space fillers and are super cheap. Last summer I used the same ones for a family reunion, a superhero party and a little girl outdoor picnic party. I made it work. I do the same thing with banners and buntings.”

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Pitfall: Unqualified Labor

Everyone is not a baker, crafter and graphic designer. It doesn’t matter what the well-intentioned bloggers say. Pinterest Fail websites would not be overflowing with hilarious photos if everyone could do everything.

Smart Planning: Know your strengths. Outsource the rest.

Christen: “I know I’m good at decorating. I hate dealing with the food, but my sister loves it. She likes coming up with fun little food for the kids. And they are not going to eat a full meal at a birthday party. Don’t waste your money. Keep it simple.”

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Kelli: “Pinterest is a great place for inspiration, but just like anything in life: you are not a model; you are not a celebrity; don’t try to hold yourself to an impossible standard.”

Registration Open for Clinton McDonald Youth Cheer and Football Camp

Image by Shutterstock

This children's cheer and football camp featuring Arkansas' own Super Bowl Champion Clinton McDonald returns for its third year on April 4. Held in Jacksonville, the Arkansas Iron Sharpen Iron Youth Cheer and Football Camp teaches the value of community, family, self-discipline and teamwork to athletes ages 6-17.

According to the website for McDonald And Associates Collective Collaborations – Light Into Darkness (MACC-LID), the athletic organization is "based on serving and assisting the betterment and uplifting the underprivileged communities and communities across the country by using the spirit of the Lord to be a light unto our darken paths. By using the fundamentals in sports and real life testimonies, we aid in introducing principles that will impact and remain with individuals within the community for a lifetime!"

Players will be split into two age groups: ages 6-13 and ages 14-17. The older age group will participate in a college seminar in addition to the athletic camp. Both camps will be held at the Jacksonville High School (2400 Linda Lane, Jacksonville), and lunch will be provided for campers.

Early sign-up is $40 for the football camp and $30 for cheer/dance; late registration is $45 football and $35 cheer. Early registration is recommended, and sign-ups are limited to a first-come, first-serve basis. Online registration is now open at macclid.org.

Contest: Win Four Tickets to Mary Poppins at The Rep

Happy snow day! We're celebrating with a "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" giveaway--that's right, we're giving away a family four pack to see "Mary Poppins" at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre!

The stage musical, adapted from the classic 1964 Disney film, will hit The Rep's stage March 4-April 12. Just like the movie, the stage version is about a whimsical nanny who breezes into 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, to bring some order (and fun) to the chaotic Banks family household. The musical features the same popular songs: "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Step in Time," "Chim-Chim Cher-ee," "Jolly Holiday" and more.

To enter Little Rock Family's giveaway, simply visit Facebook.com/LittleRockFamily and follow the instructions. The deadline to enter is 3 p.m. TODAY (February 16). The winner will be announced at 4 p.m. on our Facebook page.

Don't forget to pop by The Rep's Facebook page today, too. They've named the five finalists in their "Mary Poppins"-inspired ice cream naming contest, and voting is now open to the public. The special ice cream flavor, crafted by Loblolly Creamery, is sweet cream with brownie pieces. For more info, click here.

"Mary Poppins" will play at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre March 4-April 12. Plus, Little Rock Family will host a free party before the special matinee performance on March 7! Join us in the lobby one hour before the show and you can pose for a photo, sign up for giveaways and make kite crafts inspired by the show. All activities are free with a ticket to the March 7 matinee performance. To purchase tickets to see Mary Poppins, visit TheRep.org.

Snow Day! Where To Go Sledding in Little Rock

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Snow day? Go sledding! The family fun activity is a great cardio workout: climbing hills, pushing or propelling sleds, jumping for joy—you get the picture. If you are able to venture outside of your neighborhood, here are two perfect slopes in public parks.

The Clinton Presidential Center: You don’t even need a snow day to sled the hills on Clinton Presidential Center Park grounds. The soft, green inclines are popular for box-sledding on warm, sunny days—and they’re perfect for wintry weather, too.

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North Shore Riverwalk Park: In downtown North Little Rock, this riverside park offers beautiful views of the Arkansas River and downtown Little Rock. Enter the park at Riverfront Drive and N. Willow St. (across from Dickey-Stephens Park). There you’ll find a large green space with a gentle slope that will thrill young sledders.

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Here are some suggestions made by Little Rock Family readers:

“Front yards and driveways here in Chenal Valley (especially Challain Place) in Little Rock are GREAT for sledding! Here is the view from my front door last winter.” —Amber Hamilton Henson

“The hills of Magness Creek Village.” —April L. Kiser

“Snake Hill in North Little Rock.” —Amanda Webb (Editor's Note: Amanda is much braver than we are!)

Now, you tell us--where does your family go sledding in central Arkansas?

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About The Author
Jennifer Pyron is the Associate Publisher and Editor of Little Rock Family magazine. She is the go-to gal for family events, activities, news and opinion. She and husband Charles are the proud, exhausted, penniless parents of Charles Jr. and Emily. Plus, should you need a pop culture lifeline on "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," you may call her.
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