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.


Get Lost for Some Fall Fun

October 9, 2008

It seems like just yesterday we were playing around in the pool in the hot sun.  But alas, the dog days of summer are behind us, school has started and fall is here.

But just because the days are getting shorter and temperatures are starting to drop doesn’t mean that the outdoor fun has to stop.

One great way to enjoy the autumn weather and expend some energy is to get lost.


I’m not suggesting you wander aimlessly.  Instead take in a maze.  You can find them everywhere if you know where to look.  They come in all shapes and sizes.

My twins taking on a hay maze.

My twins taking on a hay maze.

Hay Mazes


My kids started as toddlers playing in a hay maze the vegetable stand near our house puts up every fall.  You can also find hay mazes at festivals and neighborhood events.

I went through the maze with the twins the first couple of times.  But it wasn’t long before they were taking on the maze solo.

Hay mazes are great for younger kids for several reasons.  They are usually small enough that the children don’t get discouraged trying to find the exit.

The hay is also often stacked short enough that as a parent you can look over the top of it and feel comfortable letting your child go through alone, but still tall enough for it to be a challenge for the kids.

But what I like most about hay mazes is when the kids come to a crossroads in the path, watching them make a decision about which path to take.  Can’t you just hear Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” being recited in the background?

What’s even more interesting is watching their reaction when they come to a dead end.  How do they react?  Do they retrace their steps?  Can they find the right path?  I’m always amazed to watch their reasoning skills in action.

Corn Mazes

An aerial view of Cherry Crest Farm the year I went through it.

An aerial view of Cherry Crest Farm the year I went through it.

But if you and your family are looking for more of a challenger, I recommend trying a corn maze.

My first experience with a corn maze was at Cherry Crest Farm in Pennsylvania.  To truly appreciate this maze you have to see an aerial view.  But the real fun is when you try to manipulate your way through the stalks.

We also frequent the maze at the Chesterfield Berry Farm in Virginia.  Among the corn your challenge doubles.  You must not only find your way out, but you must also find certain checkpoints along the way (and they aren’t necessarily on the direct exit route) and get your ticket punched.  If you get your card punched at every station you get a prize at the end.

And for those of you more adventuresome, hit the maze after dark (where allowed) and try your luck among the stalks by flashlight.  My twins very first maze experience when they were still in carriers was at the West Nursery at night with only a flashlight to guide us.  At this maze, to help us along the way, at critical intersections were trivia questions about the area’s history.  It’s very help if you know your history.

Other Mazes

But the maze fun doesn’t have to end with Halloween.  A maze of lights is the perfect addition to your Christmas light tour.  Lewis Botanical Gardens in Virginia adds two light mazes (of varying levels) to their Garden of Lights.  And let me tell you that the lights add a degree of difficulty I didn’t expect.

But like the hay mazes, light mazes are usually low enough for parents to allow children to test out their skills solo.

You can find local corn mazes by going to www.cornmazedir.com, www.americanmaze.com or www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org.  Be on the lookout for hay and other mazes at local festivals and fairs.

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and get lost.

A Garden Fest of Lights to Delight Children of All Ages

December 23, 2007

This year we started a new tradition with the twins – a visit to Lewis Ginter’s Garden Fest of Light.  It was so beautiful; I wanted to share some of the sights with you.

A Christmas Peacock

The peacock was my favorite.  If you would like to see more pictures of the lights at Lewis Ginter, click here.

Once a hunting ground for the Powhatan Indians, the property now known as Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens was bought in 1884 by Lewis Ginter, an entrepreneur and philanthropist.  He built the Lakeside Wheel Club as a haven for Richmond Cyclists.  When he died, his niece Grace Arents inherited the property and turned the Wheel Club into a convalescent home for children.  Upon her death, she willed the property to a friend with the stipulation that it be turned into a botanical gardens honoring an uncle.

A hundred years after Ginter’s original purchase, Arents dream was realized when

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens was chartered in 1984.  Since then the gardens has grown leaps and bounds.

And each December it hosts, the Garden Fest of Lights – truly a delightful sight.  There are more than a half a million lights to delight.  But they are not just strings of lights; they are works of arts.  In beautiful sculptures, the lights build peacocks, flowers, fish, leaves, unicorns, frogs and more. 

The twins loved the Children’s Garden best.  Not only could they run through the maze of lights over and over again, but they also got to go into the treehouse where they could look at lights for as far as the eye could see. 

If you are ever in the Richmond, Virginia area in December, I encourage you to take the walking tour through the Garden Fest of Lights.

Home Sweet Home

June 21, 2007

We are finally back home after a long, emotionally draining week.  You never know how much you miss your own home until you are away for a long period of time.  I’m so glad to be home.

Music Abounds in Richmond this Summer

June 10, 2007

by Brookie Crawford 

What a better way to spend the summer than to kick back relax with a cool drink, great food and the sounds of your favorite band.  Here’s a list of where you can find some musical entertainment in the greater Richmond, Virginia area this summer.

Innsbrook Afterhours — Wednesdays (and other days), 6 p.m.
What started out as a simple Wednesday night concert series has grown.  Now offering additional concerts throughout the week, Innsbrook Afterhours brings in performers for all tastes.   Prices vary.

Wednesday, June 13 — Gin Blossoms
Wednesday, June 20 — Doobie Brothers/Little Feat
Friday, June 22 — Sugarland
Wednesday, June 27 — ASAI
Saturday, July 7 — Taylor Hicks
Wednesday, July 11 — Hootie and the Blowfish
Wednesday, July 18 — Los Lonely Boys/Pat Green
Wednesday, July 25 — TBA
Thursday, July 26 — Sara Evans
Saturday, July 28 — Chicago
Friday, August 3 — Nickel Creek with Fiona Apple
Saturday, August 4 — Black Crowes
Friday, August 10 — The Wailers

James Center Summer Series — Thursdays, noon
Stop by the James Center Plaza at 10th and Cary streets on your lunch hour this June for some tunes to jazz up your work week.  Free.

Thursdays, June 14 — Ban Caribe
Thursdays, June 21 — Copper Ridge
Thursdays, June 28 — The Takers

Groovin’ in the Garden — Thursdays in June, 5;30 p.m.
Enjoy the beautiful gardens of Lewis Ginter while enjoy tunes from your favorite band.  $15 in advance, $20 at gate.

Thursday, June 14 — Son Volt with Chuch
Thursday, June 21 — Cowboy Junkies with King Wilkie
Thursday, June 28 — 1964: The Tribute 

Friday Cheers — Fridays, 6-9:30 p.m.
Stop by Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond to enjoy tunes while relaxing on the banks of the James River.  Free.

Friday, June 15 — AAE with Crucial Elements
Friday, June 22 — Drive-By Truckers with patty Hurst Shifter
Friday, June 29 — The Slip with Bobby Bare Jr.

Short Pump Town Center’s Summer Concert Series — Fridays, 6-8 p.m.
Stop by the Main Plaza of Short Pump Town Center on Friday nights from June to August to enjoy the sounds of “the area’s hottest bands.”  Free.

Friday, June 15 — Marna & Macy
Friday, June 22 — First Impressions
Friday, June 29 — Ron Moody and The Centaurs
Friday, July 6 — Kings of Swing
Friday, July 13 — Cedar Creek
Friday, July 20 — Hotcakes
Friday, July 27 — Panyelo
Friday, August 3 — Jack Diamond & Friends
Friday, August 10 — Sweet Papa
Friday, August 17 — Kings of Swing
Friday, August 24 — Cyrus McCormick and The Reapers
Friday, August 31 — Souler Coaster 

Fridays at Sunset — Fridays, 6:30 p.m.
Bring your lawn chairs to the Kanawha Plaza in downtown Richmond for an evening of entertainment.  Tickets prices start at $20, children under 10 free.

Friday, June 15 — Ruben Studdard and Tenille Tellado
Friday, June 22 — Michael Franks and Ledisi
Friday, June 29 — Jean-Luc Ponty & His Band and Marcus Johnson
Friday, July 6 — Chuck Brown and Plunky & Oneness
Friday, July 13 — TBA
Friday, July 20 — Dave Koz and Kelly Sweet
Friday, July 27 — Natalie Cole and Art Sherrod
Friday, August 3 — Boney James and DJ Williams Projekt
Friday, August 10 — Lyfe Jennings and Emily King
Friday, August 17 — Erykah Badu and Eric Roberson

Feelin’ Groovy — Saturday, June 16 at 8 p.m., Sunday June 17 at 4 p.m.
Stop by the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen to hear all your favorite tunes from the ’60s as performed by the Richmond Men’s Chorus.  Tickets $15, $10 seniors/students

Third Thursdays — Third Thursdays 6-9 p.m.
Enjoy some music along with fine art and good food and drink at these themed events on the outdoor West Wing Terrace at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum.  $10

Thursday, June 21 — DJ Steve’s Latin Dance Party
Thursday, July 19 — DJ Charles Williams’ Caribbean Dance Party
Thursday, August 16 — DJ Steve’s Latin Dance Party
Thursday, September 20 — DJ Mr. G’s R&B Dance Party
Thursday, November 15 — DJ Steve’s Latin Dance Party

Fridays on the Patio at James River Cellars — Fridays, 6-9 p.m.
Enjoy Friday evenings this summer on the patio of James River Cellars with tunes from local bands and a glass of wine.  Light food, tour and wine tasting included.  $12 per person. 

Friday, June 22 — Rockfish Willie
Friday, July 13 — The Wildfire Band
Friday, July 27 — John Featerston Band
Friday, August 10 — John Moosa Band
Friday, August 24 — Clay Mottley
Friday, September 28 — Rockfish Willie
Friday, October 12 — John Moosa Band
Friday, October 26 — Monster Mash! (Costumes encouraged)

Henrico Concert Band Summer Concert Series — Last Sundays, 6 p.m.
Pull up your lawn chairs to the lake at Dorey Park and listen to to enjoyable music by the Henrico Concert Band on the last Sunday of each month in the summer.  Free.

Sunday, June 24
Sunday, July 29
Sunday, August 26

Henrico Community Band Summer Concert Series — Last Thursdays, 7 p.m.
Bring the family out to Nature Pavilion at Deep Run Park to enjoy the sounds of the Henrico Community Band on the last Thursday of each month in the summer.  Free.

Thursday, June 28
Thursday, July 26
Thursday, August 30

Pocahontas Premieres — various Saturdays, 6-9 p.m.
Visit the Heritage Amphitheater for an evening of music in the beautiful Pocah0ntas State Park.  Tickets:  $7 in advance, $10 at gate, children 12 and under free.  Parking $4.

Saturday, June 23 — Rockin’ Country featuring Last Train Home and Cedar Creek
Saturday, July 14 — Latin Sounds featuring Bio Ritmo and Beleza Brasil
Saturday, August 11 — A Night of Big Jaz featuring Aaron Noe Orchestra and Doc Branch and the Keynotes
Saturday, August 25 — Page Wilson’s Out o’ the Blue Stage Revue 

Blowin’ the Dust Off Concert — Saturday, June 30, 7-8:30 p.m.
Enjoy a special concert featuring the award-winning bluegrass band Michelle Nixon and Drive.  Also performing is Steve Bassett.  Stop by between 2-4 p.m. to hear the interesting tales behind a beautiful collection of restored instruments.  Concert is $4 adults, free for children 12 and under.

Kings Fest — July 5-7
King’s Dominion is hosting a three-day Christian Music festival.  Ticket prices vary.

Thursday, July 5 — Jackson Waters, Falling Up, David Cowder Band and Newsboys
Friday, July 6 — The Wedding, Disciple, Kutless, TobyMac, Speaker Brad Duncan, Casting Crowns
Saturday, July 7 — Dizmas, The Send, Thousand Foot Krutch, Hawk Nelson, Todd Agnew, Speaker Josh Finklea and Jeremy Camp

Jammin’— second Saturdays
Stop by the Children’s Garden at Lewis Ginter for some tunes.  Free with garden admission.

Saturday, July 14 — Music by Stephen Christoph
Saturday, August 11 — Drum Circle with Jo Ann Light
Saturday, September 8 — Drum Circle with Jo Ann Light
Saturday, October 13 — Music by Stephen Christoph

36th Annual Big Band Concert — Tuesday, July 17, 7-9 p.m.
Stop by Hermitage High School for the big band sounds of Bill Zickafoose and thee Continentals.  Free

Musical Mondays at Maymont — Mondays, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
For the 14th year, Maymont will be hosting “the area’s best community bands” on the lawn of the Carriage House every Monday from July 23 through August 27 for an evening of music and family activities.  Children’s entertainment starts at 5:30 p.m.  Don’t miss out on the carriage rides and the ice cream.  Free.  The schedule of bands has not been released, please check the Maymont website. 

Monday, July 23 — TBD
Monday, July, 30 — TBD
Monday, August 6 — TBD
Monday, August 13 — Hanover Community & Concert Bands
Monday, August 20 — TBD
Monday, August 27 — TBD

K95 Country Fest — August 11, 4-11 p.m.
Join the local country radio station at the Classic Amphitheater at the Richmond Raceway Complex for an afternoon of country music featuring Trace Adkins, Heartland and Carolina Rain.  Tickets start at $20.  Parking is $5.

Enjoy Family Fun at these Richmond Area June Events

June 6, 2007

by Brookie Crawford

Looking for some fun activities for the whole family this month?  Check out these family friendly June events in the greater Richmond, Virginia area for some summer fun.

Cinderella — Friday, June 8 at 9:30 a.m.
The Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen will present this unique children’s performance of the classic tale of Cinderella.  Mutley, Cinderella’s dog will narrate the story.  The performance will be followed by a workshop at 10:35 a.m.  Performance $5 all ages, Workshop $5 all ages.

Ashland Strawberry Faire — Saturday, June 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit the Randolph-Macon College campus to enjoy fresh picked strawberries, either by the quart or in one of the delicious recipes cooked up by the food vendors such as strawberry shortcake and strawberry brain freezes.  After enjoying the berries, visit one of the many craftsmen offering a variety of arts and crafts ranging from handmade jewelry to custom birdhouses to portraits and watercolors.  The selection is endless and no one leaves empty handed.  Children will enjoy the games and activities area by Hanover County Parks and Recreation Department.  Then relax in front of one of two stages of entertainment.  Free.

Air Fair — Saturday, June 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Celebrate flight at the Virginia Aviation Museum.   Children of all ages will enjoy a day full of planes of every size and shape.  Scheduled to be on display are a F-16, a UH-60L Black Hawk, a F-14 Tomcat, a C-206 and a C-182.  Don’t miss the air rocket workshops and the segway rides.  Radio-controlled aircraft and model builders will also be on hand.  Free with museum admission.

James River Adventure Games — Saturday, June 16, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, June 17, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Come out to downtown Richmond to cheer on your favorite athlete in one of nine sports and stay for all the fun activities.  Children will love the Kids Zone Challenge Stations on Brown’s Island on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  More adventurous children can enter the Kids Scramble Jr. at 10:30 Saturday on Belle Island, the Shimano Youth Series bike race at noon Saturday on Brown’s island or the free Kid’s Sprint at 2 p.m. Saturday on Brown’s Island.  Saturday evening enjoy the Pat McGee Band at 7 p.m. and stay for the fireworks at 9:15 p.m.  Free

Chinese Opera Extravaganza — Friday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m.
The Washington Chua Shan Chinese Opera Institute will perform a traditional Chinese Opera at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen.  The performance will be a combination of portions from several well-known Chinese plays including a famous warrior who uses his magic, fast-changing mask tactic to defeat the enemy on the battlefield and a beautiful goddess who brings her love and peace to the human world in dance.  Silk bamboo violins and ancient Eastern drums will provide music for the presentation.  Admission is $18 adults; $16 senior citizens/students.

Scooper Bowl XV — Saturday, June 23, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Visit the Science Museum of Virginia for a day of water fun and all the ice cream you can eat.  Then stay to explore the Savage Ancient Seas display.  Bring your swimsuit and towel.  Admission is $12, $4 for museum members.  Rain or Shine.

The Animal Playground Concert — Saturday, June 23 at Noon
The Children’s Museum of Richmond hosts Putumayo Kids for the last stop on Animal Playground Tour.  The concert, featuring Trinidad children’s artist Asheba, will be held in The Backyard, CMOR’s newest exhibit.  Free with museum admission.

11th Annual Civil War Weekend — June 23-24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg to watch a reenactment of the final meeting between Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.  Children will love watching camp life and a Civil War-era magician.  Don’t miss the artillery demonstration or performances by the 97th Regimental String Band the Federal City Brass Band.  Admission is $13.50 for adults, $7.50 for children 6-11, free for under six.

Family Weekend at Colonial Downs — Saturday June 30 and Sunday July 1
The first 1,000 children 12 and under each day will get a free Horseplay Allowed t-shirt.  In addition to watching horse racing from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m., children will enjoy a bounce house, climbing wall, pony rides and magician/juggler Jonathan Austin.  After the races, children can line up at the starting gate for a 100-yard dash on the track.  General admission is $2 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

What events will your family be checking out this month?

Come See Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Richmond, VA

May 1, 2007

Queen Elizabeth II will be here in Richmond Virginia on Thursday, May 3 and then she’ll head to Jamestown for the 400th anniversary.  Here’s the details about the Virginia’s Royal Welcome event in downtown Richmond on May 3.

Virginia’s Royal WelcomeInterest in Her Majesty’s visit to Virginia has been extremely high and we encourage all Virginians to join us as we welcome The Queen to Virginia at Virginia’s Royal Welcome, where everyone will get to see The Queen.

Capitol Square provides a public venue to accommodate a large number of Virginians and will provide the best chance for people to see her. Everyone can see The Queen from the Capitol hillside and everyone can watch her entire visit and historic address to the General Assembly on large video screens in the Square.

The Queen’s visit to Richmond will feature a musical festival celebrating the state’s diverse musical heritage with live performances of authentic bluegrass, gospel, jazz and blues. The music will be a mix of legendary performers and up and coming young artists. Capitol grounds will open at 11:00 a.m. with musical performances from 1:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. It is recommended that you arrive no later than 1 p.m. For a complete musical line-up and other event details, please visit our website at http://queensvisit.governor.virginia.gov/.

In celebration of the Queen’s Visit to Richmond, GRTC Transit System will be offering free shuttle service between the downtown area and two Park-N-Ride facilities. Buses will operate every 20 minutes from these Park-N-Ride locations.

Hours of Operation: 11:00am to 6:30pm

   – University of Richmond Stadium Parking Park-N-Ride: This shuttle will drop off and pick up downtown on Marshall Street between 8th & 9th Street view map
   – Cloverleaf Mall Park-N-Ride: This shuttle will drop off and pick up downtown on Broad Street between 10th & 11th Street. view map

For additional questions, please contact the GRTC Customer Service Center at (804) 358-GRTC (4782).

Royal Etiquette
Our website, http://queensvisit.governor.virginia.gov/main.asp?pg=about&sub=protocol, has information on royal protocol.

Permitted Items
Our website, http://queensvisit.governor.virginia.gov/main.asp?pg=event&sub=attend, has a list of permitted and prohibited items on the grounds.

We look forward to greeting you on May 3rd for Virginia’s Royal Welcome. For the most up to date information, please continue to check our website: http://queensvisit.governor.virginia.gov.