A 19th Century Autumn Harvest Festival

October 20, 2008

On Saturday, my family and I went to an Autumn Harvest Festival at Meadow Farm Park. Meadow Farm is a historical park centered around an 1860 living historical farm and museum in Richmond, Virginia.

The corn going into the sheller.

The corn going into the sheller.

Because of the historical nature of the park, a lot the activities during the festival are actual chores that would have been done on the farm during the 19th century and all new things to a 21st century family.

First my kids got to try out a corn shelling machine.  They each got to put in an ear of corn, then turn the wheel to shell the corn.  I’m not quite sure they understood what they were doing or why, but they sure had fun turning that wheel.  The man working the machine offered to let them keep their shelled ear of corn, but they just looked at it like what am I suppose to do with this.  I told them it was okay to throw it away.

The sorham press

The sorham press

Next door was the Sorghum Press.  With a little help the costumed interpreter, the twins pressed sorghum actually grown on the property. Normally their part is done by a horse, but today the kids turned the press.  They even got to try some molasses made from sorghum.  My son declined with a polite “no, thanks.”  However, my daughter was finally coaxed into sampling some.  But one taste and she was spitting out the cracker.  Daddy had to eat the rest of their sample.

We also got to see the Tobacco barn, sheep out to pasture, a blacksmithing demonstration and some woodworking before we found another hands out demonstration.

The Blacksmith

The Blacksmith

My daughter got to turn a piece of flax into a bracelet.  For some reason my son didn’t feel the need for a bracelet, so he watched.  First she had to break the flax.  It’s rough and looks a bit like straw.  Then she had to soften it on scutching board with a wooden knife.  Then she put the flax through the hackle to take off the rough parts before it was put on the flax wheel and spun into linen.  Then the lady there helped her tie into a bracelet.  Afterwards we saw where the ladies would take then linen and dye it.

We also got to see a bee keeper demonstration.  He didn’t have any real bees with him, but there were plenty out there visiting the festival.

The Flax Wheel.

The Flax Wheel.

Next the kids got to see samples of a cobbler’s shoe making skills.  Then they got to test out their own leathering skills by adding an imprint to a piece of leather and then stringing it into a necklace.  My daughter added a butterfly to her piece of leather.  My son enjoyed adding a worm to his leather piece, but didn’t care for a necklace.  So Mommy wore it.

After that, the kids moved on to rope making.  They each picked out a color of yarn – my daughter purple and my son yellow.  Then Daddy and the costumed interpreter helped them make it into a piece of rope.  My daughter used her piece of rope as a bracelet.  My son gave his to Mommy to use tie on my purse as a souvenir.

The apple press

The apple press

Then it was time for Apple Stringing.  What’s that, you ask? Exactly what it sounds like, you string pieces of apples. My daughter was stringing her applies faster than I could get them out of the bowl and my son and husband teamed up to make nice long apples string.  But what do you do with it now, I asked?  You hang them in the kitchen until they dry out and then it acts as potpourri.

The kids were starting to get a little hungry so we just watched the cornhusk doll and scarecrow making before heading over to the apple cider press for a sample.  Mmmmm, nothing better than fresh apple cider.  My only complaint, given the nip in the air that day, is that the cider wasn’t hot.

We stopped for Daddy’s favorite snack – kettle corn.  The whole family munched down on it while we waited in line for pony rides.  My daughter couldn’t wait to get on a horse again.  She’s been trying to coax us into riding lessons all summer – she’s three. She rode Oreo around like a champ while my husband and son cheered her on from the sidelines.

For anyone of you that think I’m brave running around with three-year-old twins, I had nothing on the lady in front of us in line.  She had one older daughter (12-14ish), triplet girls about three and infant boy/girl twins!

The Natural Dye Demonstration

The Natural Dye Demonstration

Anyway, next up for us was a little decorating.  First the kids decorated faces on mini pumpkins.  Then my daughter got her own face painted like a cat.  She had been asking since we got to the festival – before any of us even knew there was face painting – if she could get her face painted like a cat.

Later, we got to try something I’d never done – candle dipping.  Each of the kids got a stick with a piece of string on it.  Then we made a line.  We went up one side dipping our string in the big kettle full of wax over an open flame and then came back on the other side for another dip.  After about four dips, the twins had had enough.  So Daddy took them to see the sheep while Mommy finished the candles.

Finally, with our hands full of hand-made goodies, our bellies full of kettle corn and apple cider and two tired kids in tow, we headed back to the car.

I love festivals where we get to do lots of hands off crafts and I would say the twins did too.  And it doesn’t hurt that the festival and most of the activities were free.

They still aren’t quite old enough to understand why they were doing some of these activities, but that’s okay, we’ll be back next year.


A Letterboxing Adventure

October 17, 2008

Yesterday, the kids and I tried something new, an activities that I had never heard of before – letterboxing.

We had signed up for a Discovery Hunt, a free event offered for preschoolers by the local parks and recreation department at the historical Walkerton Tavern

First the kids got a little history about the tavern and a tour. 

“Built by John Walker between 1824 and 1825, Walkerton Tavern is located at 2892 Mountain Road in Glen Allen. In the course of its history, the structure has served as a tavern, store, post office, voting precinct, and possibly a field hospital for wounded Union Cavalrymen in 1864.”

Then they went on a scavenger hunt to find animals (like lion-head handles on a chest, horses painted on a plate and chicken on a piece of embroidery) and other objects in the tavern.

Each child was given their own clipboard and pencil with a piece of paper with pictures of objects (or parts of objects) hidden in plain sight around the tavern.  The tavern had two floors of room and each room had three or four objects.

My children had a ball.  They didn’t get what they were supposes to do at first and they had a little trouble finding the pictures that were portions of an object (like a spindle from the back of a chair).  So I would find the object, show it to them and they would have to find the picture that matched it on their sheet.  By the end, they had the hang of it.

Next our tour guide, Bob, talked to the kids about the different animals that live on or around the tavern grounds.  He showed them different evidence of the animals – a feather from a bird, a cocoon, a piece of wood a beaver had gnawed on, and a skull from a possum – and let the kids guess which animal it belong to.

Next we went outside for another type of scavenger hunt known as letterboxing.  I’d never done this type of hunt before but the kids really got into it the most.  And I had a good time too.

This is how it works:  The parents got a clue sheet.  We’d read the clue to our child and then the child would follow the clue to find a hidden stamp.

Since our theme was about the animals that lived at Walkertown Tavern, our clues led us to where they lived or were spotted.  At each location, the kids would search for a container that had a stamp for the animal for that clue and an ink pad.  The kids would add the stamp on the appropriate page in the little book that Tour Guide Bob gave them.

The twins absolutely loved it.  They were searching for the box before I even finished reading the clue.  They were finding the boxes with little or no help from me.  And they couldn’t wait to get their stamp!  They were even good about putting the box back in its hiding place for the next person.

This event was the first time I’d ever heard about letterboxing, but Bob explained that it was a hobby that a lot of adults participate in. 

I know the kids had a blast and so did I.  I’m going to have to look for more of these letterboxing activities.  I might even have to create a hunt of my own for the kids.

Have any of you every tried letterboxing?  What new activities have you tried lately?

What’s Your Favorite March activity?

March 14, 2008

March is one of those strange months that are more about transitions than about a particular event or season.  But that doesn’t mean the month should fly by without a little adventure.  What is your favorite activity to do in March?

When the twins were born, we started a new March tradition – the Henrico County Kite Festival.  We’ve done it every year, but this year – it was extremely cold and rain last weekend when the festival took place. 

It seemed like the festival came early this year, probably because Easter is early this year.  But I digress.

The festival is a great family affair.  You go to this park in the county and everyone is out there with their kites.  You can see all the kites in the sky as you approach the park.  Kites of every shape and size soaring through the air.  It’s beautiful.

We always pack a lunch, meet some other friends and make a day out of it.  We might fly our kites for a bit, sit and watch the other kites for a while, have a snack or play some ball.  We always bring a few other activities for the kids.  And the Parks and Rec Department always has a few activities for the kids too.

Last year, for the first time, the kids really got into the kites.  They helped daddy put them together.  Sure the process would have quicker without their help, but it was cool that they took such an interest.

Then they wanted to hold the reel that releases the string.  They didn’t quite understand what they were doing and often crashed the kite with their efforts.  Still it was fun to enjoy a “family” event in the fresh air.

I felt a little like the family at the end of Mary Poppins (I promise not to strut around with a sash chanting about women’s right to vote).  They had finally found time for each other and were truly enjoying each other’s company. “Let’s go fly a kite . . .”

Since we missed the festival this year, I think we will have to take the kids out another day later this month or early in April.  April would be good since it’s National Kite Flying Month

I’ve never really been good at flying a kite.  But I’ve never had so much fun trying as with my kids helping.  When was the last time you flew a kite?

Christmas in March

March 12, 2008

On Saturday, my children woke up and scurried downstairs to the living room like it was Christmas morning to find a pile of “new toys” much to their delight. What, you say.  It’s only March.

T-Rex MountainNo, the Easter bunny didn’t make an early stop at our house.  And no, I haven’t joined some weird religion that has moved Christmas to March.  But I am a member of a club (club, not cult) that made my children’s Saturday morning joy possible.

I am a member of a Moms of Multiples club, a club for parents who have had twins, triplets or more.  That fact alone did not bring Christmas to my house in March.  But the club’s bi-annual fundraiser did.

In an effort to raise funds for the club and put a little money back in the pockets of the members, the club started holding a Kid’s Stuff Only Yard Sale twice a year.

Members clean out their closets and attics, bringing out gently used kid’s clothes, toys, nursery items, books and videos to sell.  We each price our own items, but we put them out in like categories (i.e. all the girls clothes that are size 6 go together,  all the toys go together, all the books, etc.).

VanityThe club makes 15% of whatever we sell.  We take home the rest.  Sure it’s not a lot of money, but it’s enough to cover a few extras like a membership at the children’s museum or to cover the cost of the twins’ birthday party.  And when you have twins, every little bit helps.

But selling is only half the fun.  Members also get to pre-buy.  We set up everything on Friday night and the sale is Saturday morning from 8-11.  But after we setup, members get first crack at cruising through the isles to find deals.

I am able to find a lot of good deals on clothes this way – and trust me it’s important to get deals when you are buying for two at a time.  Most of the clothes are gently used, but some are brand new (kids outgrew them before they got a chance to wear them).

But for my kids, it’s what else I bring home that tickles their fancy.  By the time I get home Friday night, they are asleep.  But they know Saturday morning some new-to-them toys will be waiting for them.

Last fall I spent $3 and the twins thanked me for an hour.  I kid you not.  I know you are thinking what did she buy?  I bought a box a legos. 

But they were just so thrilled at having something new (at least to them) to play with that they would play with them for a few minutes then one of them would come by and thank me.  Then they’d go play again and then the other would come by to thank me again.  This routine went on for an hour – over a box of legos.

The yard sale lets us rotate toys so the kids don’t get bored with them.  They get to try out a lot more toys that if I had to buy them new.

This year when I was tagging things to sale the twins noticed for the first time I was taking some of their toys away.  I kept hearing “That’s mine Mommy.”  But I explained that they were too big for those toys any more. 

But any grumblings disappeared when they saw there bounty Saturday morning.  My son got T-Rex Mountain, the ImagiNext dinosaur set.  He has been roaring all week.  And my daughter is still primping in front of the Princess vanity she got.  I paid a fourth of what these items retail for and they are both in great condition.

And when the twins aren’t playing with these toys, they are toting around the Look and Find books I got them.  They love to “read” and the only way I can keep them in books (without going broke) is to buy them at the yard sale.  We even had to take the new books to dinner with us Saturday night.

VehicleAnd don’t tell the twins (luckily they are two young to read mommy’s articles), but I even picked them up a surprise for their third birthday – something their grandfather wanted to buy them but they were still too young for when he past away last year – a two-passenger motorized jeep.  We’ll be giving this gift to them in Grandpa’s memory.

So now you see Christmas doesn’t really come three times a year at our house.  We just celebrate one Christmas and two yard sales.

Photos courtesy of Toys R Us.

Richmond Carniball Offers A Safari Adventure

February 6, 2008

On Saturday night, we took the twins out for an adventure — a safari adventure.

The Children’s Museum of Richmond was holding its annual fundraiser — the Carniball. This year’s theme was African Safari.

I might never be able to take my children on an African Safari, but I think they had a great experience at the Carniball. In fact, we had such a good time I wanted to share the fun with you. And what better way to share than with pictures.

Carniball goers were greeted with this living statue of the witch doctor.


Local vendors donated a large spread of food, including a buffet of Ethiopian fare. This cake by Cakes by Graham was a hit with my kids.

Safari Cake

The children were amazed by the stilt walking safari adventurer.


Looks like the witch doctor caught up with this very tall safari hunter

The museum was filled with wild animals like this lion, tiger and zebra . . . oh my


The tiki hut was an oasis of beverages for weary parents.

Tiki hut

The arts room offered several safari crafts including beads, binoculars and masks.


There was also plenty of authentic entertainment.


These drummers kept a steady beat throughout the night.


A local African dance troupe provided entertainment.

Dancers 1

The children were so enthralled with the dancers that many were up on their feet imitating them.

Dancer 2

My children sat still for two minutes before they were up dancing themselves.

Dancer 3

To help raise money there was also a silent auction and a raffle. I didn’t win anything. 😦

All of the museum’s regular exhibits were open for the children to play at. At the end of the night, the kids each got a box with fliers from the sponsors, a souvenir cup and a animal hat.

It was definitely money well spent.

What Are Your Super Bowl Plans

January 31, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner.  Are you ready?I grew up in a household where Super Bowl Sunday passed by like any other weekend (Nascar weekends were another story).  My mother went to an all-girl’s Catholic school with 12 in her graduating class so you never developed a taste for the sport.  A childhood injury that left my father with severe knee problems prevented him from playing football as a child; thus, football was never a priority for him.  In fact, football was a sport I never even watched until I hit high school.  

Now I live with a man who plans for the Super Bowl like others plan for Christmas dinner.  He’s been mulling over the menu for weeks.  A menu for our family of four – we aren’t even having a party.  Sometime on Sunday he’ll rearrange the furniture for optimal viewing.  He might toss around the football with the kids for a little bit, but by 2 p.m. he’ll be settling in for pre-game, venturing from the TV only for the preparation of game snacks.

Me personally, I’m somewhere in between the two.  I enjoy a good game, can’t wait for the parade of Super Bowl commercials, loved the camaraderie of a party and will sit and watch the half time show.

What about you?  What are your Super Bowl plans?

What is your favorite part of the Super Bowl?  What is your favorite Super Bowl snack?

Is there Such a Thing as Too Much Chocolate?

November 10, 2007

After seeing me on one of my little chocolate binges (we won’t talk about how often these happen), my husband has asked me if there’s such a thing as too much chocolate.  I emphatically declared no one.  That’s before I read about Chocolate Show going on in New York this week.

A fashion from the 2004 showAisles and aisles of chocolate delight.  Mmmmmm.  But it more that chocolate you can eat or drink.  There’s chocolate you can wear!  And I’m not talking about the way my two years olds wear their chocolate pudding!  I’m talking about a chocolate jewelry and fashion show. 

Can you imagine combining my two of my favorite things — chocolate and jewelry? A better version of those candy necklaces we had as kids.  The thought is too confusing to me.  Do you eat it or wear it? 

I was thrilled earlier this year when scientists declared that chocolate was good for us.  It’s about time they finally declared something good for us.  But I still think I’d rather eat than wear it (unless you are talking about licking the spoon after making brownies).  However, the idea of rows and rows of chocolate intrigues me.  Anyone know how I can get the show to come to my town?

The CBS article on the show included a few chocolate drinks that you might want to add to your menu this holiday season.  I thought they sounded delicious, so I’ve included them below:

Crispy Mint Hot Chocolate
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup of water
2 tbs cup sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Heat milk with water and sugar. Add heated mixture to chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the splash of fresh milk and pour into cups. Top with whipped cream and crushed candy canes. Enjoy!  

Ponche Crema
5 yolks
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cups heavy cream
1 cup dark chocolate
2 vanilla beans
1 can condensed milk
1/4 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of Sarawak pepper
1/2 cup Ron Anejo “Anniversario” Pampero

Combine all milks and cream with the vanilla beans (split and scraped) and bring to a boil. Combine the eggs and spices, then temper by adding the hot cream a little at a time. Return to the stove and cook on low heat until thick and creamy. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted. Strain and chill rapidly. Add Ron, and serve. Keep very chilled.   Venezuela is one of the largest producers and manufacturers of high quality Rum. This is a national drink similar to egg-nog but with a bigger kick and a little chocolate. Salud!

Smoking Cool Chocolate
2 cups whole milk plus a splash
1 cup of water
2 tbs cup sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Heat milk with water and sugar. Add heated mixture to chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the splash of fresh milk and chill. Serve in a mug and drop a piece of dry ice in a small tea ball and sink it in. Serve with a straw.   For an adult version, try the Smoking Cool Chocolate Martini. Serve in a martini glass with a dash of bitters and 2 oz of chilled vodka. 

These all sound delicious to me.  I think I’ll try the hot chocolate one first, but instead of candy canes I’ll think I’ll add a shot of peppermint schnapps.  Happy chocolating!