The mama: Fairmounter Ceili (pronounced KAY-leigh) Cascarano is a senior manager in external innovation by trade (she works for a consumer healthcare company), and a Southerner by birth (she grew up in Atlanta). She came to Philly a few years back by way of Hoboken, where they lived for five years before “we decided that living in 600 square feet and having a crib in a closet wasn’t sustainable with two kids.” (About those kids: Braeden is 4, and Marion is 2 … and now they’re expecting a third.) Still wanting a city life, she and her husband decamped for Philly — the “best decision we’ve made in the last few years,” she says. “We’ve fallen in love with the energy, passion and endless activities this city offers.”
Your job description: Senior Manager, External Innovation. I LOVE my job (most days!) and find it incredibly fulfilling. I work for a consumer healthcare company and spent my first six years there doing marketing and running businesses for some amazing brands. I’ve spent the last two years working with external companies across the world (mainly entrepreneurs and start-ups in the consumer healthcare and health tech spaces) that my company is actively partnering with/investing in. I’m inspired by entrepreneurs every day — they see a need and have the passion and ability to create a product, or to offer to do something about it. It’s certainly a life lesson that goes well beyond the walls of any business.
Favorite kids’ classes: Soccer Shots and t-ball. Gotta get that energy out somehow!
Best way to spend a Saturday afternoon as a family: We try to get the kids out of the house as much as we can and take advantage of all this city offers. During the summer, my absolute favorite activity is Parks on Tap at one of the local parks. Parents can “relax” with a cold beer, and there’s plenty of space for the kids to run around. A few of the events (like one at Lemon Hill) even offer children’s place spaces and activities.
Parents’ class: I took the Beginner’s Yoga class at Wake Up Yoga, and it’s one of the best fitness classes I’ve taken. Laura Edoff teaches the class, and she is patient and clear.
Date night: We love trying new restaurants, but our two go-tos right now are Bar Hygge in Fairmount and Wm. Mulherin’s Sons in Fishtown. The food and ambiance of both are spot on. And if we do the latter, I make sure to save room for dessert and swing by Franklin Fountain for a Mount Vesuvius Sundae. I dream about that sundae.
Favorite spring break camp or summer camp: During the school year, we send Braeden to Philly Art Center after school a few days a week, and we’re trying summer camp for the first time this year. He’ll be going to Miquon for a few weeks, and I’m thrilled for him to get the “classic” summer camp experience, complete with lots of swimming and outdoor time.
Special find for families: Sunday night picnics at Azalea Garden at the Art Museum. It’s right off Boathouse Row, but it’s an open green space that feels private and contained, so the kids can play freely. It’s also right near Fairmount Water Works — the kids love watching the waterfalls and looking at the boathouses before we head home.
Rainy day go-to: Museums galore. Lately it’s been The Please Touch Museum or The Franklin Institute, and we often throw in a trip to the Free Library, which has a great children’s section, complete with activities like yoga and storytelling.
Holiday tradition (any holiday): We love the holiday markets at Dilworth Park and Love Park. There’s diverse vendors, and Santa is there for pictures (though my children have boycotted him for the last two years….). We also did the holiday light show at Franklin Square this year, and they have several special events throughout December. My daughter still talks about meeting Elsa there.
Outing you love: Concerts at the Mann. It almost doesn’t matter who’s playing: Just grab lawn seat tickets, a blanket, and enjoy a cold beer and live music.
Family-friendly restaurant: Pizzeria Vetri has food my kids will actually eat and some great beers and wines on tap. I love their Maurizio Pizza and their quick service, which is great if one of the kids is over it. And the Nutella Pizza is worth indulging in at least once.
Gear you can’t live without: Anything that helps us take advantage of the walkability of Philly and avoid the car. Right now, it’s the Micro Mini Original Kick Scooter for our 4-year old and the Step2 Whisper Ride II Ride On Push Car for our youngest.
Person/professional you can’t live without: My kids’ teachers, who enable me to go to a job every day, without hesitation or worry, and a cleaning service, which allows me to spend weekends with my kids instead of cleaning toilets (or at least not having to clean them every weekend….).
Indulgence you can’t live without: Mani/pedi from Nail Spa Bar. They have so many colors; they’re always packed but never have a wait; and they offer a loyalty card that gives you a $5 discount every 6th trip.
Place for baby/children’s gifts: Philadelphia Independents in Old City- great stuff for kids and adults, all from local artists.
Favorite children’s book right now: The Llama Llama books, because the rhymes are catchy and there’s one for every holiday. The author passed away recently, so I’m feeling a bit nostalgic.
Favorite outdoorsy thing to do with kids: We try to go to the driving range at Strawberry Green when it’s warm. We go early so the kids can hit balls too, without fear of walking in front of someone’s drive. We also love Spruce Street Harbor on the Delaware River — so many activities to explore (our kids will both be old enough to ride a Swan Boats at Paddle Penn’s Landing this summer, and I’m so excited), great food, and beautiful views.
Best neighborhood activity: When it’s warm outside, Tuesday nights turn into pizza night at the playground outside Bache-Martin school. Pitruco Pizza parks its pizza truck on the corner, and you can even call an order in ahead of time. I love the spicy garlic pizza.
Fun kids’ party spot: Smith Playground rents out its side porches, and you can bring in food, decorations and entertainment. Plus, the kids get to play at one of the best playgrounds in the city, with that awesome wooden slide.
Best piece of advice you’ve gotten about parenting: To not take anyone’s advice…. Seriously though, I’m a big believer in you doing you. Every kid and every situation is different, and what works for one parent and kid won’t work for the other.
Any moms’ groups you love? We try to do impromptu play dates and pizza on Sunday afternoons, and it makes the transition back to the work week much more tolerable. I so appreciate the moms in my life, both in Philly and in other cities — we keep each other sane, grounded and laughing.
Favorite Philly hack: Meatless Mondays at Whole Foods. You can fill up on all sorts of delicious foods for $8.
Favorite toy or kid entertainment in your house right now: Dress-up. My daughter walks around in Elsa gloves, singing “Let it Go”, and my son would wear his hand-me down SWAT team Halloween costume to school if he his school uniform wasn’t mandatory.
Toy or book you’d like to lose forever: Anything that makes repetitive noise and can’t be shut off easily. My daughter received a “Tickle Me Elmo” for Christmas, and it was conveniently left at the grandparent’s house.
One thing you wish Philly/burbs had that it doesn’t: Hibachi. I can’t explain it (and maybe it’s a pregnancy craving?), but all I want in life these days is to go to Benihana and have the chef make the “train” out of a mountain of rice.
Hardest part of raising kids here: After-school programming options. I feel like a cruise coordinator trying to find afternoon activities once my oldest goes to kindergarten!
Best part of raising kids here: The people and the endless available activities. The number of playgrounds and parks alone makes Philly a wonderful place to raise kids.