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Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a hot second, I love taking my kids to pick-your-own farms.  Apple-picking and berry-picking was something I did with my grandparents when I was a kid, and I cherish those memories – of hours spent in the strawberry fields, filling up flats with my grandmother, and then taking my fruit home to bake something special with her.  I have always known that I would carry the tradition on with my kids, and at two and four, they’re old hands in the orchards and fruit fields.

There are so many picking options in the summer – it’s hard to know where to start!  Pick-your-own flowers are a thing here, and there’s a place to pick any kind of fruit or vegetable that interests you.  We missed strawberry season again (every year) but blueberries were still an option, so I declared last Saturday blueberry picking day.  I love picking blueberries with the kiddos – they’re not ready for the blackberry and raspberry brambles, but blueberries are a perfect choice.  No thorns, growing in thick clusters on high bushes – it’s as if someone designed blueberries to be harvested by toddlers.

Longtime readers may recall that I loved picking blueberries at Awald Farms when we lived in New York.  For our first blueberry season in the D.C. area, I hoped to find something just as good.  I considered a few options in Loudoun County, but we always seem to go out there and I was in the mood for something different, so I was definitely interested when I found Butler’s Orchard, a family-owned farm in Germantown, Maryland.  I tossed out the idea of blueberry picking at Butler’s while discussing a playdate with one of the other moms from Peanut’s school, and she was into the idea.  So on Saturday, we met up with C and her mom for some pick-your-own fun.

There was a big, beautiful farm stand right at the entrance to the farms.  We stopped inside to pick up our buckets (they had other places to pick up picking containers as well, but we wanted to get the lowdown and check out the market too).  There were plenty of other fruits and vegetables for sale, plus a kids’ area with toys and books, some berry-themed home décor items, and prepared foods and pantry goodies.  Plus…

PIE!  Heck yeah!

After picking up our buckets, we hopped back in the cars and drove to the fields.  After only one wrong turn, we found the blueberry fields.  Although the sign warned that the picking was “scattered” because it was the end of the season (note: why can I never seem to keep track of when the picking season is, for anything?) we found that there were still plenty of blueberries and we had no trouble finding lots of fruit left on the bushes.

Is there anything prettier than blueberries on the bush?  I don’t think so!

The crew got right down to business.  Daddy and Nugget started picking and Peanut tested the merchandise.  Nugget needed a bit of explanation but he seemed to grasp the berry-picking concept pretty readily.  (It’s not his first rodeo…)  And there was only one berry-flinging incident.

Rows and rows of beautiful berries!

I loved Butler’s Orchard!  I don’t think I’d ever been to this corner of Maryland before – it was so beautiful.  Lovely rolling hills and lush greenery – reminded me of the Hudson Valley, near where I grew up.

Peanut and her little pal had a great time picking berries and chattering away, and I had a similarly great time picking berries and catching up with the other mom.  We vented about work, talked about plans for the next school year, and traded ideas about Christmas traditions.  (Never too early.)

I’m not sure where the boys were – probably in the parking lot, greeting the trucks – but the girls had a grand time.

Eventually, we all agreed that the sun was baking and it was time to find shade and call it a day on the picking.  We both ended up with slightly less than half of our buckets filled.  But considering the sad little handful of berries I got last year (when I spent the entire time chasing Nugget away from the cars) we did very well indeed.  Our haul:

Blueberries all freshly picked by Peanut and me!  (The peaches were from the farmstand.  And unpictured – I obviously also bought the kids books: a berry counting book for Nugget and a garden science book for Peanut.)

So, what to do with all of these berries?  My plan was to shove them in our mouths by the handful, but Peanut had a better idea.

PIE!  We pulled up a recipe online (actually cobbled it together between Martha Stewart and Ina Garten) and got to work.  Peanut helped out with pretty much every stage of the baking!  (Nugget was a liability.)

She was so excited to be baking like a big kid.  I had to drive the ship, of course, but she surprised me by doing a great job following my directions.  Now I want to make baking with her a regular activity!

The final product looked pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself.  And it tasted fabulous, too…

We’ve definitely redeemed ourselves after The Great Gingerbread Fail of 2016.  Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk, my friends!

Do you like to go berry-picking?

 

 

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As I mentioned last week, in addition to our sunny two days spent on the lake, we also squeezed in a couple of hikes.  We had a major adventure planned for Sunday, but as a warm-up and for some good friend time, we also made plans to hit the trails on Saturday.  My friend Christine is moving to Denver soon, so I knew that this trip was probably going to be the last (easy) opportunity to hang out.  Of course, maybe I’ll touch base with her on a future visit to my Colorado-dwelling brother and SIL, but we’re in Albany more often than we’re in the Boulder/Denver area.  So I suggested that we meet for a hike before she rolls out and told her to pick the spot – since she’s moving.  After some discussion, she settled on Grafton Lakes State Park.

I have fond childhood memories of the beach at Grafton, and the kiddos were chomping at the bit to go swimming.  (We dressed them in their bathing suits before leaving the house, which really ratcheted up the hype.)  But first thing’s first – a hike was in order.

We headed for the trail around the lake.  It started out fairly easy, and we trotted along comfortably, chatting about Chris’s upcoming move, her job search in Denver, and our Adirondack plans for the next day.  (Chris is a 46r – a hiker who has summited all 46 Adirondack high peaks – and she offered great advice for our trip into the peaks region the next morning.)

The trail started out very easy and pleasant, albeit a little bit muddy (which boded ill for the next day’s hiking, but we didn’t really give it much thought – not that we would have changed our plans anyway).

Spotted a cute little canoe!

Then the trail started to get a bit more challenging – with a lot of rocks, roots and massive mud puddles.  I put the iPhone away for most of it, not wanting to drop it into six inches of mud or onto a big rock.  But Nugget gave me a lovely head massage (at least until it turned into aggressive hair-pulling).

The lake was about 2.5 miles around.  About halfway through, we stopped at a little beach to regroup and sip on our water bottles.

Hi Steve!

And obviously, any stop is an opportunity for selfies.  Hi, Chris!

Eventually we made it around the entire circumference of the lake, and everyone fancied a nice refreshing swim.  Steve and Chris stood around talking while I chased after Nugget.  Hmmmmm…

Each of the lifeguard chairs had a pile of sand in front of it, that was clearly put there just for Nugget’s enjoyment.  Obviously.

As was the lifesaving dinghy.

And the rescue kayak.  Moana songs were sung.

We finally made our way back to Dad and the little mermaid.

What a fun day!  The hike was a great warm-up for the Adirondacks, and the kids had a blast splashing in the lake (which was cool but surprisingly not cold).  And of course, I was getting all kinds of chills watching my kids play in the same state park lake that I splashed in on school trips as a kid.  Full circle, you guys.  Full circle.

Thanks for a great hike, Grafton!  And best of luck in Denver, Chris – hopefully we’ll see you out there one of these days!

What’s your favorite childhood state park memory?

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I sit typing this post early in the morning, while the kids are asleep, the sky is dark and rain is pouring down outside – it’s definitely back to reality for me.  But as I ease back into schedules, routines and to-do lists, I’ll be hanging onto the memories of a sun-drenched weekend with family and friends, up in upstate New York.

We arrived at my parents’ house outside of Albany on the Thursday before the Fourth.  The original plan had been to travel on Friday, but Steve had a work deadline that meant he would need to be at his computer all day on Friday and couldn’t spend seven hours driving.  So rather than miss out on plans we had already made, we pushed our travel day up and extended our trip.  Steve and I both fired up our computers and got to work on Thursday, while the kids settled right down to the business of vacation.

 

They discovered Nana’s garden hose and shenanigans obviously happened as a result.

Someone was still loving on his belly button…

Friday was more of the same – work for the parents; fun for the kids.  The grandparents took them to a small local amusement park and playground for the morning while Steve and I typed away at our computers.  Our weekend started in earnest at 5:00 on Friday afternoon, when we all headed over to the home of some family friends for a cookout.  It was my favorite group of “framily” – friends who are like family to us – my parents’ closest friends, who hosted, and my high school best friend and her family.  Love them all so much!  All the kids had a blast playing (in the super-not-babyproofed house!) and the adults ate delicious food, drank rosé, and got all caught up.  We heard all the details about upcoming weddings and trips to Disney, and shared what we’ve been up to in D.C.  I took plenty of pictures (of course!) but won’t share them here – they’re destined for my private family album.

Saturday and Sunday were set aside for hiking and we had fun and exciting hikes both days.  Both hikes deserve their own posts, so I’ll save those details for later this month and skip right to Monday.  For the Fourth of July, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than the lake!

I tell Steve I have one requirement, and only one requirement, for the Fourth – spend it near water.  I don’t need a cookout, fireworks, funny sunglasses or anything else, as long as there’s water.  In Buffalo we usually went to Canalside, which was fun, but never quite satisfying because we never actually got on the water – just stood and looked longingly at Buffalo Harbor Kayak.  The lake is a different story.

For those who don’t know, my parents, aunt and uncle all have adjoining lakefront properties on one of the Adirondack lakes.  I’ve been coming here since before I can remember, and it’s like a second home.  These days I try to make the trip at least once a year – it’s not easy to get here, living so far away as D.C. (or Buffalo, for that matter).  Last weekend was probably our only trip to the lake for the year.  Happy to be here!

My cousin Jocelyn came, too, and brought her dog Max – much to Peanut’s delight and Nugget’s concern.  My grandmother was there as well, and our family friends – what a reunion!

Peanut did some fishing for landsharks with her new fishing rod (note: she is wearing my hat).  Nugget has one too, which will be important later.

Obviously, if it’s at all possible to sail, we sail!  My dad made sure the boat was in the water in time for our visit, and we had a fabulously windy day on Monday, so a sail was clearly in order.  The crew included our friend Michael, my cousin Jocelyn, my dad, Steve and me and the kids.  Don’t worry – we’ve fit more than that on the boat.

Family boat selfie!  Only half of Mom’s face, but Peanut is actually looking at the camera and smiling.  IT’S AN INDEPENDENCE DAY MIRACLE.

The kids settled in and enjoyed a boat snack, which clearly had to be Pirate’s Booty.

Jocelyn sat in my favorite spot.

And the wind really picked up!  We sailed on the jib for a little while because it was actually a very breezy day and we didn’t want to keel too much with the littles on board.  Eventually we decided to raise the main, too, and we really started moving then.

I think certain people really enjoyed their first sail.  Of course, neither one of them can quite hang.  So this inevitably happened:

 

What a great sail, though.  I was so glad that I got out on the boat at least once this season.  When I was growing up, we sailed almost every weekend – summer doesn’t feel quite the same without that wind and water.

 

Back on shore, Nugget woke up (grouchy) and after he recovered from the shock of his boat nap ending, he had some fun waving a mini American flag around.

And we enjoyed drinks and happy hour, courtesy of our family friend Denise (who is an incredible cook).  I think I may have single-handedly eaten a third of the shrimp salad on endive leaves.  Oh, yeah, and Peanut took credit for the food.  She flung her arms wide and declared, “ENJOY this FEAST I have prepared!  I gardened the green parts myself!”  Ha!  A cookout followed, but I was too busy eating to snap pictures.

End of a beautiful day on the water.  What more could you ask for?

On the Fourth itself, we were obviously back at the lake.  I was trying to herd everyone out the door immediately after breakfast, but it actually ended up being closer to lunch.  Oh, well!  We got there eventually and immediately got down to the business of having fun.  Nugget stuck his feet in the lake.

 

And then he did some fishing of his own.  And by fishing, I mean attacking bubbles with his BB-8 fishing rod.  No shame, you guys.

The lake is still pretty chilly, so we inflated a baby pool and my mom and I took turns hauling buckets of water up from the lake to fill it.  Nugget was READY to go in that empty pool.

I made the kids promise to give me my annual Fourth of July gift: a cute picture of them looking at the camera and smiling.  They did promise, but then they tried to flake on me.  Oh, no…

Nugget, look over here.

Getting closer…

Called it good.  They both look kind of insane, but what can you do?  They are insane.

We had a much calmer day on the Fourth, so instead of sailing, I checked off the last thing on my Fourth of July to-do list: kayaking.

I am an avid kayaker, and I used to be out on the water paddling my little red kayak all the time.  Like with many other things, kids changed that for me and I haven’t been able to get out much recently.  My parents have had custody of my kayak for years and I am glad they’ve been enjoying it, but I sure do miss it.  When I saw how calm the water was, I immediately asked my dad to launch my kayak.

That’s what I’m talking about.

I paddled down to the end of our bay and then circled back to see about picking up a passenger.  Nugget had burst into tears when he saw me drifting off, so I thought he may like to join me for a little while.

(Note: I think that before taking young kids out in any boat, including a kayak, you need to know the kid and know yourself.  I am an experienced kayaker and Nugget is a good listener, and I felt comfortable with the idea of having him out on the water with me.  So did Steve, obviously.  I wouldn’t take either of the kids out in a canoe, where they’d have more room to roam and stand up, but with twenty years of paddling experience I felt that Nugget was perfectly safe on my lap.  But I actually did a ton of research about the appropriate age to introduce a kid to a kayak before letting him in there with me!)

Someone else wanted a turn, too!  Funnily enough, I was more nervous about having Peanut on the kayak than I was about Nugget.  Nugget at two is actually a better listener than Peanut at almost-five, and while I trust my own abilities, I wasn’t entirely sure I trusted her to follow my directions and not goof off.  We did have a talk about not leaning over the side (I don’t care if Moana does it) but after that, she was really good.  I ended up giving both kids two rides, and I’m so glad to know that they can go paddling with me now!  I don’t know if it will be an option in D.C. (the water on the Potomac can be a little rough, and I don’t know if I can take them out in a rental) but at least we’ve done it once and established that it’s possible.

Back on shore, Nugget wanted to play “Maui.”

He also asked to go SUPing.  (He was very particular about the paddles – only wanted to use the SUP paddle on the SUP, and insisted on holding the kayak paddle while sitting in the kayak.)

We finished the day with an early cookout and drove back to my parents’ house as the sun was setting, knowing we had an early day the next day – and by 4:30 the following morning, we were on the road back to D.C.  It was a warm, sunny, happy weekend and I know we’re all going to cherish the memories we made for a long time.

Happy (belated) Independence Day!  How did you spend your Fourth?

 

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Last weekend we kicked off our summer 2017 travel with a short (too short!) weekend on Virginia Beach.  Longtime readers may recall that my best friend, Rebecca, lives in VB (although it looks like she may be moving soon – sniff).  We visited her and her fiancé, Eric, for a week last summer, but hadn’t been back since.  So a visit was long overdue.  (I hope we make it there at least one more time before they move.)

We arrived on Friday around 5:00 p.m., and the first order of business was dinner.  After dinner, clearly, we had to hit the beach.  That first toes-in-the-sand moment was totally worth the four-and-a-half hour drive from D.C.

Since it was basically sunset, I took a walk on the wild side and let Nugget go without his rash guard.  He was delighted.  He’s recently obsessed with his belly button, and all he wants to do is stick his finger in it.  So strange.

 

The sun was already starting to go down, but the water felt perfect and obviously we were going to take full advantage of every sandy and salty moment we could get.  Nugget is a total fish (Pisces!) and all he wanted to do was splash.

Aunt Rebecca taught Peanut to play “Baywatch.”  Um, you’re going the wrong way, Yasmin.

That’s better.

Riddle me this: how many Virginians does it take to keep a toddler afloat?  Answer: at least two.  He’s a slippery little fella.

After the sun dipped below the horizon, we packed up and headed home.  The boys took the wagon…

While the girls went screaming down the road in the golf cart.  We blew past the boys – yesssssss!  Steve said that after we passed them, Nugget kept up a steady stream of “Mommy?  Mommy?  Come back, Mommy!  Can I ride the golf cart?  Can I ride the golf cart?  Mommy, where are you?  Come back, Mommy!” until we all reunited back at the house.  Awwwww.  Break my heart.

On Saturday, we were out the door early and headed for the beach again.  Nugget had to wear his rash guard this time!  Rebecca walked Brandy the dog to the beach, while our family took the golf cart.  Nugget got to drive, and his little baby brain almost couldn’t handle the excitement.

Loaded him up with floaties, because it was a windy day and the waves were rolling.  Not as bad as the Outer Banks, but still – not quite the peaceful cove it had been just the night before.

That kid – I’ll tell you.  I just can’t get enough of him.  He’s my joy.

Back at the house, the golf cart continued to be the hit attraction.  I’m pleased to report that no one was injured in the arguments over whose turn it was to “drive” the (parked) cart.

On Saturday afternoon, Rebecca and Brandy and I treated ourselves to a gorgeous hike in First Landing State Park – but I already told you all about it, so we’ll go straight to our evening plans.  First up, Steve and I took the kids for a too-brief trip over to our friend Elissa’s house to celebrate her son’s second birthday party.  We weren’t able to stay long, because we’d promised to attend another party…

Eric entered the annual Virginia Beach Tuna Tournament for the first time this year, and he, a friend, and his son brought home a 40-pound tuna as their catch.  The tournament is a multi-day extravaganza, with multiple fishing days and multiple parties.  Saturday night was the closing party, at which the tournament winners would be announced.  We all knew that 40 pounds wasn’t going to win the tournament, but you simply don’t miss the last night of the VBTT.  So we cleaned up and headed to the marina for the fun.

Nugget was excited to check out the boats.  He picked out all of the ones he wanted me to get for him.

This one, too, Mommy!

Peanut enjoyed checking out the local artists’ work for sale.  She and Aunt Rebecca found a surfboard painted with a mermaid skeleton and I narrowly avoided bringing it home – I won “mean mom” credentials for life by refusing to buy it for Peanut’s room.  (I also learned that after we left, Rebecca had a couple more drinks and almost bought it for Peanut; it seems that had she gotten any encouragement at all – or even neutrality – she would have come home with a gift for my precious weird little girl.  Thanks very much to Eric for staying strong, even after a few drinks himself, and insisting that buying the mermaid skeleton surfboard for my four-year-old was A Very Bad Idea.)

Nugget got loopier and loopier over the course of the evening.  After a skinned knee and a massive tantrum because I wouldn’t buy him a $400 tuna statue (are you sensing a theme here?) we called it quits for the evening and headed back to put the kids in bed while Eric and Rebecca enjoyed being unencumbered grownups.

Early Sunday morning, we were up and at the beach again!

Nugget and I spent some time looking for “treasures” on both Saturday and Sunday.  We brought home a handful of pretty shells; now I have to find a way to show them off.

Everyone relaxed in their own ways…

And the floatie giraffe came out to play!  I don’t think he actually made it into the water, though.

This kid is a total beach bum.  I know that pretty much every kid loves the beach – but seriously, I’ve never seen a kid come alive the way Nugget does when he’s around water.  He’s a Pisces through and through.

I’m so grateful to have had a weekend to escape the city with my crew, and to spend time with people we love in a place that is already so dear to us.  I do hope we make it here at least one more time before Rebecca and Eric move away.

After the beach, we cleaned up and headed out for one last weekend treat – brunch at Commune, a restaurant Rebecca had been dying to try.  I started with the lavender latte.

My breakfast – a skillet bowl with vegetables, tomato jam, and a sunny-side-up egg, and a side of cheddar grits that I shared with Nugget (he also had scrambled eggs).  The food was amazing but we were really frustrated by the slow service.  Normally, we don’t mind waiting awhile for our food – but when we have two little ones (a.k.a. ticking time-bombs in any restaurant) and are staring down the barrel of a long and stressful drive back to reality, waiting an hour for our food was not the best.  Good thing it was so delicious!

(Wait notwithstanding, we had to get dessert.  “Milk and honey” buckwheat crepe with pastry cream, local honey drizzle, peaches and edible flowers – WUT.)

Goodbye, and thanks for another wonderful weekend of salty air, sandy toes and good company, Virginia Beach!  Hopefully we won’t wait ten months before coming back for our next visit.

Did you squeeze in a weekend getaway recently, too?

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Happy summer!  As my friends who’ve been reading for awhile know, summer and fall are pretty much tied for my favorite season.  Fall might have a slight edge, but there’s just something to be said for that magical perfect summer of long warm nights, campfires, lightning bugs, mountaintops, cookouts, and messing about in boats.  Because those are the ingredients for the perfect season, right?  I could go on and on forever about all of the things I love about summer, and all of the fun stuff I hope to do – but let’s just get to the list.

  • The BIG one!  Take a family vacation to C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A.  (Tickets are booked, but the rest of the planning looms.)
  • Go adventuring on the water.  I’ve got some ideas: whale-watching for one, and a kayak tour of the sea caves at Channel Islands National Park for another.
  • Make a homemade tomato tart using tomatoes and herbs that I grow in my garden.  (I’ve planted eight tomato plants.  Something has got to grow.)
  • Visit my parents and get in some quality time with family friends, and spend a day at the lake.
  • Same trip: bag another Adirondack high peak (or two?).
  • Re-read Jane of Lantern Hill, which will always be a summer book for me.
  • Take another trip to Little Washington and eat at the Inn, thanks to an incredibly generous gift certificate from the world’s sweetest mother-in-law.
  • Take the kids for bike rides on the Mount Vernon Trail.  (There are a few things that have to happen for me to do this – a tune-up for Blue and Steve’s bike, locating the bike rack – maybe – and helmets for the kids.)
  • Buy a GoPro.  I’ve been wanting one for ages and it’s time to take the plunge – plus we’ll need it for all these adventures.
  • Spend a weekend on Virginia Beach with my dear friend Rebecca and her family.
  • Keep up the Saturday walks to the farmers’ market and do some baking with seasonal fruit.

I could continue, but that’s eleven things and I usually cap it at ten.  I hope that I manage to check all of these items off the list this season!  Summer always brings out the ambitious maximizer in me, but I really want this one to be epic.  I’ve been working insanely hard and dealing with a lot of stress, and I’m craving fresh air and adventures.

What’s on your summer agenda?

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Ready or not, it’s summer!  Longtime readers may recall that summer and fall are pretty much neck-and-neck for my favorite season, so while I’m never jumping with joy at the passage of time, I’m usually at my most chipper when the calendar changes from spring to summer.  Let’s get the fun underway!  With Memorial Day Weekend behind us, summer is officially upon us and it’s time to take one last look at the old spring list before turning attention to sunshine and sand and messing about in boats.  Here’s how the spring shook out.

  • Take the kids to see the cherry blossoms in bloom by the Potomac.  We didn’t actually do this, but I’m going to call it done, because we made it out for several other local flower events – including tulip picking on Easter Sunday and a hike through the Virginia Bluebells on another weekend.  I’d have loved to get them to the cherry blossoms too, but they definitely experienced the glory of spring flowers in northern Virginia.

  • Plant a container garden with Peanut.  (I want to grow tomatoes, herbs and salad greens.  She wants to grow roses.  We’ll probably grow both.)  Check!  Patio garden is underway, things are actually growing, and I’ve only snorted cayenne pepper once.  (#blackthumb #teachablemoment)

  • Get our back patio set up and start grilling and eating outdoors regularly.  This is half done.  The back patio is set up – complete with container garden, sand box, grill and dining table – and we’ve been hanging out and enjoying it plenty.  But we haven’t gotten the grill cleaned up just yet.  It’s on the agenda, and soon, because I refuse to go another warm season without regular al fresco dinners.

  • Re-read Anne of Green Gables (my beautiful new Folio Society edition!).  Done!  This one’s not difficult – I’m always glad to visit with Anne, and especially when I get to do so through the vehicle of a beautiful new clothbound hardcover from Folio Society.  Yes, please!
  • Take at least one adults-only hike – either the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland, or possibly an Adirondack hike?  Didn’t happen, but I have high hopes for the summer!
  • Spring cleaning!  Get the house in order and feeling fresh.  Well, this was never going to get completely done, but I’m crossing it off because we did get the house in order.  The living spaces are all unpacked – finally! – and I’ve deep-cleaned the front porch and done a ton of airing out the house and dusting away the winter.
  • Do another Whole 30 (I’ve already started this).  Done!  I wasn’t as disciplined as I usually am, but it was still a good thing to do.  I’d love to squeeze one more round in before summer wedding season – we’ll see.

  • Go rock-climbing.  Done!  I took a belay certification course at Earth Treks Crystal City in March and had a wonderful time.  I’ve decided to push off the actual test until I have more time to practice the knots, but I’m hoping to get back to the gym for some bouldering in the meantime.  It’s hard to make the time, but I’m always happy when I go.

  • Finally unpack and organize my books.  Done!  Reunited and it feels so GOOD!  It was a family effort, but Steve got my books out from the dusty corner of the basement where the movers inexplicably decided they belonged (grrrrr) and I spent a weekend sorting through them, making a huge pile for donation to the library (since completed) and organizing and shelving the keepers.  I am like that hearts-for-eyes emoji every time I look at my shelves now.
  • Take a weekend getaway somewhere – Chincoteague, maybe?  Or Annapolis?  Or Little Washington again?  Didn’t happen.  A busy spring at work, coupled with a lot of travel on the agenda for summer and fall, had us sticking closer to home.  We’ll make up for it the rest of the year!

All-in-all, I’m really pleased with the way the spring went.  Considering how busy things were at work, and how stressed out we were about some outside-work situations, I’m impressed that we were able to do anything.  We stuck close to home for the most part – the travel that I was hoping for didn’t happen – but around the house and our home base in NoVA, we got a lot done and had a delightful time with all of it.  Spring is usually one of our crazier seasons, between heavy workloads and – in recent years – wrapping up the school year.  So I’m looking forward to a nice long summer full of fun and adventure.

How was your spring?

 

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Switching up the order of posts just a bit – I know that on Monday I told you that I’d have my May reading round-up for you today, and Memorial Day recap on Friday, but there’s one more day in May and I think I’m going to finish a book this evening.  So we’ll do the books on Friday, and instead talk long weekend fun today.  Prepare for a photo bomb!

We had a really nice one!  Unlike last year, we didn’t travel anywhere.  Instead, we opted to stick close to home and find ourselves some local fun.  Saturday morning found us heading out bright and early for Exploration Days, a toddler event at a lavender farm out in Loudoun County.

Exploration Days is an event led by April Schmidt of Nurturing Growth, a family health and wellness organization.  The event welcomed kids ages two to five (with their parents in tow!) to explore Seven Oaks Lavender Farm and learn about some of the plants and insects the call the farm home.

April handed out magnifying glasses to each of the kids and began the tour with the herb garden (which smelled incredible).

Nugget didn’t totally get the magnifying glass concept, but Peanut was way into it.  She spent several minutes looking through her “gold” magnifying class at a swallowtail caterpillar.

April also encouraged the kids to smell some of the herbs – including lemon balm and mint – growing in the raised beds.  Nugget enjoys smelling things, so he liked that part.  Then she led the group (it was just us and one other little girl with her mom) over to a blanket and taught everyone a song about the five senses.

Next, we headed out into the farm, while April continued to point out more interesting plants and insects!  Most of the lavender wasn’t in bloom yet – just one varietal was starting to purple – but the farm is opening officially for the season this weekend, so I think we may give it a week and then head back out there to do some lavender picking.

Even without lavender, the kids enjoyed exploring and running around the fields.  And there were other flowers in bloom!  How gorgeous are these red flowers?  #frontyardgoals.

Next, we sat down at long tables and the kids got the chance to decorate popsicle sticks to use as markers for their own little seeds, which they got to pot and take home.  Nugget had fun decorating the marker (while I hovered over him and repeatedly shouted “Not on the table!”) but he was sort of done with it once it came time to actually plant the seeds.

He dug in the potting mix while Steve helped Peanut fill up her little purple pot, and then April ended up planting a bean for him.

April even kindly added a trip to see the “tractor” (it was a lawn mower, I think?) on to the program, since Nugget talked about tractors the entire time.  He liked the tractor.  He liked the sand box even more, with its fleet of trucks.

They even had activities for Steve!  While Nugget dug in the sand box and Peanut played in the play house with the other little girl, Dad – okay, and Mom – fed the bunnies in the bunny pen.

GAHHHHHH THEY WERE SO CUTE.

(Don’t worry about these bunnies, by the way.  They’re just there for entertainment purposes, and at the end of the season they’ll go home with various farm visitors as pets.  Not food.)

Such a fun morning on the farm!  Thanks to April and Nurturing Growth for the event – we had a great time.  It’s actually rare to see an event that not only welcomes toddlers and preschoolers, but is actually designed for them.  April was fun and engaging with the little ones, didn’t bat an eye when someone (Nugget!) wandered off in the middle of her song, and knew when to cut it off and move on to the next activity before attention spans ran out.  Clearly, she’s got lots of experience with this demographic!  As parents who like to get our kids out and teach them about the world, but find it hard to find weekend events for little ones as young as ours are, we really appreciated April and everything that she arranged for the kids through Exploration Days.

Moving right along!  No weekend is complete without a trip to our favorite playground.  Sunday morning found us on the swings.

And the slide.

And the… steering wheel.

Then Daddy and Peanut joined us, and we made our way down to the river to check out Jones Point, a small NPS-managed park in Old Town (nestled right under the I-395 overpass).

When we moved away, Jones Point was just starting to come back into popularity.  The government did a big refurbishing effort and it’s now beautiful, but even though we live so close, it hadn’t occurred to us to check it out until one of the other dads at Peanut’s school mentioned to Steve that their family had been hanging out at Jones Point a lot recently.

The park occupies a green space down by the river, and there is also a big open area under the 395 overpasses.  It’s quieter than you would expect, and actually really cool to see the big bridges from underneath.  I was sort of skeptical about whether it would seem nice or not, but it did.

Although the overpass area was cool (and would be a great – safe – place to teach a kid to ride a bike, as several families were doing) we didn’t linger there.  Instead, we checked out the map and made our way to our first destination – the playground.  (Yep, second playground of the day.)

Peanut enjoyed it – she’s starting to get really good at climbing, thanks to the playground at school. Not that long ago, Steve or I would have been hovering underneath her, ready to catch her if she got tired and slipped off.  Not anymore!  She totally had it covered.  But this particular playground didn’t really have any equipment that was appropriate for Nugget, or that he could use.  He wandered around looking for something to do, made a run for it a couple of times, and then we left to look for something the whole family could enjoy together.

Like the Jones Point lighthouse.  When Steve suggested visiting Jones Point, I said, “That’s where the lighthouse is, right?”  He didn’t know what I was talking about, but – I was right!

The historic lighthouse is down by the river – and I think it would be really cool to see it from the water, and all lit up.  But seeing it from land, by day, was nice too.

We wandered down to get a closer look and check out the views of National Harbor.

So pretty!  From there, we headed off on a very short hike through the wooded area of Jones Point, and checked out the historic D.C., Maryland and Virginia boundary markers.  Jones Point was such a pretty park, with lots of fun different areas to enjoy.  I predict we’ll be spending a fair amount of time there this summer.

Not many pictures from Memorial Day itself, but – look who we spent it with!  Zan and Paul were in town.  Yay!  Zan joined us late morning, and Paul for lunch.  While we waited for Paul, the kids dragged Zan to their favorite playground and insisted she accompany them onto all the equipment.  She was a good sport!  From there we headed off to check out a Mexican restaurant for lunch, which was good, but not anything really special.  The company was really special, though!  We walked home, put the kids down for nap, and then spent a couple more hours chatting with Zan and Paul out on our back patio while the babies were asleep.  It was such a fun lunch/afternoon with friends that we don’t see nearly enough!

Zan and Paul left to go to a cookout with other friends just as our kids were waking up, so we headed out for more fun, since the weather was so gorgeous.  We tried the playground again, but there was a toy-snatching incident (Nugget’s favorite school bus was grabbed by another kid and I had to chase the kid all over the playground to get it back – his adult didn’t lift a finger to solve the problem, which annoyed me) so I took Nugget home early.  We met up with Dad and Peanut and headed down to the waterfront for some art appreciation (dinosaur and kitty paintings!) and dinner.

All in all, a fun and relaxing Memorial Day weekend with a good mix of kid activities and grown-up friend time.  Can’t beat that!

How was your Memorial Day weekend?

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