The Ritz-Carlton: Teddy Bear Tea

Where: 1250 South Hayes St., Arlington, VA
When: Saturdays and Sundays from 2:30-4:30 pm; price varies depending on service chosen

One of the best parts about having kids is the ability to create new beloved traditions with them. As soon as I found out our first child was a girl, I began daydreaming about all the fun things we would one day do, one of those being a traditional afternoon tea. This year was the year- she became obsessed with the whole notion and concept and ritual of tea parties, and I decided it was time to visit The Ritz-Carlton for their afternoon tea. 

This event was approached with nothing short of serious planning and preparation. We waited until my sister would be in town so she could come along, and invited a friend from school- whose mother accepted the invitation on her behalf and said, “I’ve been waiting to take her to tea at the Ritz since she was born!” proving that some things are just universal among mothers of girls. (She graciously allowed us to have the honor of taking her to first tea knowing how much her daughter would enjoy going with a friend.) We wore fancy dresses. We practiced our perfect table manners. In short, I wanted the girls to feel this event was Special.

The Fyve Restaurant and Lounge at The Ritz in Pentagon City does a fabulous job of putting on an elegant and beautiful afternoon tea service that caters to adults and children. My sister and I ordered the traditional afternoon sea service which came with a pot of tea for each of us, and a tray stacked with treats- scones, tea sandwiches, pastries, clotted cream and jam. My sister said she felt like she was in Harry Potter and then we started doing boneheaded things like saying “Accio, scone” just to further the illusion we were at Hogwarts. Very mature.

c721d96f-eafb-42a2-8c05-72d0d37b9de2_zpsl1xqjnlt(Obviously the girls are cuter, but I can be funny about showing the faces of children, so you’re just getting the consenting adults instead.)


The girls got the children’s Teddy Bear Tea, which comes with a pot of hot chocolate and a separate serving caddy with teddy bear-shaped treats- edible-gold dusted chocolate bears, sandwiches cut in the shape of teddy bears, and teddy bear chocolate chip cookies. It was perfectly precious- so cute you could hardly stand to eat it. (But of course we did, and it was all delicious.)



We attended our tea in the spring, just before Easter, but I am posting about it now because the Christmas season is about magic-in whatever shape or form you believe it is found. For some it is found in a manger, in the story of a birth that changed humanity. For some it is found simply in the cozy togetherness that the season encourages; of huddling by a fire, of decorating a tree, of finding that perfect present. And for many, the magic can be found in traditions- the reassuring promise that this event will happen over and over again many times, each time unique, but as special as the others.

That first “grown up” afternoon tea holds the magic that I think Christmas represents. I will always remember the proud smiles the girls wore as they walked through the mall to reach the entrance to The Ritz and people complimented them on their “going to tea” outfits, and the careful, gentle way they held their teacups to sip at tea like they’d always pretended with their plastic tea sets. If you’re looking for a new tradition to start with your kids at Christmastime, I can think of nothing better than afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton.

Haymarket: Burnside Farms + Pickle Bob’s

Where: 2570 Logmill Rd., Haymarket, VA
When: Monday-Friday, 10 am- 6 pm, Saturday 9 am- 6 pm, Sunday 10 am- 6 pm.

My husband tried to get me to agree to move to Haymarket awhile back. I balked, because I’m no country mouse. I like to visit the country, but I don’t want to live there. Nor do I wish to live in a city. Suburbia is the place for me, as uncool as that is to admit these days. I like order, and convenience, and Wegmans.

“But you love that flower place out in Haymarket,” my husband said, which is absolutely true but also not a standalone argument for picking up and moving to a whole new city. “Whydja move to Haymarket?” they’d ask. “Sure do like that flower farm over there” we’d have to say.

Although it (probably) won’t convince you to move to Haymarket, I think Burnside Farms can at least convince you to visit Haymarket. Each year Burnside Farms holds their Festival of Spring, when different spring flowers bloom and are available for picking. In March come the daffodils, followed by tulips and Dutch iris in April and May. I took my girls one warm day in late April during the 10-day period when Burnside Farms said the tulips would be at their peak and the sight of those tulips was something to behold. A whole field of tulips in the middle of Virginia farmland! Burnside Farms calls this part of the season Holland in Haymarket, and they even have a giant set of wooden clogs that kids can pose in for the full effect.

I spent a full $25 on tulips the day we went because I just couldn’t stop cutting them and adding them to my basket. If you went after April 28 it’s possible there were none left after I scavenged the fields. Sorry about that.

A wet winter decimated the Dutch iris harvest in May, but I made sure to keep an eye on Burnside Farms’ Facebook page all summer for updates on when their Summer of Sunflowers would begin. A rainy start to summer led to a later bloom date than usual, but the sunflowers were finally ready to be cut starting in early August and I immediately planned a trip out. “Didn’t you JUST go pick flowers like, last week?” you might be asking. Yes I did. But there’s a few things in life you can never have too much of:


And you can take that to the bank.

Admission to Summer of Sunflowers is $4/person for one day passes but after that, how much you spend is up to you. Flowers are priced on a per-stem basis so it’s your discretion how many flowers you pick and how much you’ll spend accordingly.

Along with the sunflowers, Burnside Farms has planted gladiolus because they are tall like sunflowers and the two flowers look particularly nice arranged in a vase together.

They’re great. But let’s be honest…

The sunflowers are the stars of the show. How can you even resist them!?

Though rain was promised by good old Capital Weather Gang, the day ended up being blisteringly hot, especially out there in the shade-less flower fields. I kept my flower cutting to a minimum to appease my hot children who were ready to get up under the shady trees and eat some lunch. Nonetheless, the six stems I did grab look mighty tall and beautiful on my dining room table:

In addition to the flowers, the kind folks at Burnside Farms set up a fun bubble stand for kids to play with, consisting of a bird bath filled with bubble solution and handmade bubble wands in different shapes:

My kids spent a good chunk of time swarming around this bird bath, blowing bubbles with the bubble wands and then chasing the bubbles into the flowers.

A cute chalkboard table was set up with a note to get creative and make a fun chalkboard sign for your pictures:

I stood here for quite awhile trying to come up with something good. I… completely failed myself. I couldn’t think of one good thing to write on these chalkboards. Well, I take that back; I did try to write NOVADVENTURING on one but I suffered from a lack of foresight when choosing my blog name and it turns out Novadventuring is a pretty long word to try to cram onto a tiny chalkboard. So it looked like this: NOVADVENTU. And then I was out of room. I eventually just gave up.

I again brought a vase along to stick my flowers into for the trip home, but if you forget a vase or just want to buy a new one for your pretty flowers (valid), Burnside Farms sells a variety of colored glass bud vases and glass and painted Mason jars:

Helpful tips:

-Burnside operates two different fields- their regular field where the spring flowers are planted is across the highway from the summer flower field. If you’ve been to Burnside Farms in the spring this might initially be confusing. The address at the top of this post is the address for the summer fields where the sunflower operation is.

-Burnside Farms does accept cash AND cards for all purchases and admission.

-Outside food is allowed and picnic tables are thoughtfully placed under a small copse of trees to provide shade while you sit and eat lunch.

Because this is the way I like to do things, after we were done at Burnside Farms we headed five miles down the highway into Haymarket to try the local ice cream shop, Pickle Bob’s.

Everyone, this is Pickle Bob. Can we all give a nice warm Novadventuring welcome to Pickle Bob?

Hi Pickle Bob.

Why is a pickle in a cup of ice cream? I have no answers. I’m asking in case you know.

Pickle Bob’s is a small ice cream stand located on a teeny side street in Haymarket. There’s no indoor seating but there are picnic tables set up outside for you to sit and enjoy your soft serve.

If you have a dog, bring the dog with you- Pickle Bob’s serves “pup cups” of ice cream for dogs!

Pickle Bob’s serves vanilla, chocolate, and swirled soft serve but they offer all manner of toppings as well as concoctions called “tornadoes” and “flavor bursts” and other vaguely meteorological sounding ice cream treats. There’s recently been chatter on their Facebook page about adding cereal as a menu topping but I didn’t see any evidence of that so … what do we need to do to get Fruity Pebbles on tap at Pickle Bob’s? I will also settle for Cocoa Pebbles.

If you can’t make it out to Haymarket for the Summer of Sunflowers, be sure to set aside a weekend in the fall to visit Burnside Farms’ fall market, which features barnyard animals, pumpkins and gourds, mums, and freshly picked apples. And definitely mark your calendars to attend Holland in Haymarket next spring- ideally before I am able to get there so there will still be tulips left standing in the fields.

Colvin Run Mill Park + Great Falls

Where: 10017 Colvin Run Rd., Great Falls, VA
When: Open daily except for Tuesday, 11 am- 4pm. Admission to the park is FREE; however, if you’d like a tour (which are offered hourly), adult rates are $7 and kids are $5.

The other morning on his way out the door my husband asked me what we were going to get up to today. I told him I thought we’d hang around the house, take it easy, maybe I’d get some housework done. And I meant it!

But then…it just looked so nice outside. And I remembered that staying at home to get stuff done means you’re in the house getting stuff done. I do enough of that the 9 months of the year our lives, like everybody’s lives, are dominated by the almighty Schedule. Exactly one month from today, school is back in, and The Schedule rules us once more. We have to seize our freedom while we still can. (Another plus of getting out each day for a nice long excursion: my toddler takes a 3 hour nap afterward, which is how I’m able to sit down and write these blog posts.)

As you can guess, the dishes aren’t done, the laundry isn’t folded, and our weekend trip bags aren’t packed, but we did have ourselves a nice time outdoors. And this bird you cannot change!

I saw a sign for Colvin Run Mill Park the other day while driving home along Rt. 7 and made a mental note to check it out once I was home. It’s a lovely little park run by Fairfax County Park Authority, featuring a restored water-powered mill and a General Store that sells flour and meal ground by the mill!

We stopped in at the General Store near the entrance, which is not strictly necessary, especially if you aren’t buying tour tickets, but I highly recommend popping in before you do anything else. We went in and a sweet old lady named Marge who was running the store gave us a scavenger hunt to complete. What is it about kids and scavenger hunts? They LIVE for scavenger hunts. I’m not sure my 5 year old would have enjoyed our visit nearly as much had she not had Marge’s scavenger hunt to motivate her to fully explore everything there was to see.

There’s also penny candy!

Actual price of purchase: Twenty pennies. PLUS TAX.

The General Store was quite the popping place back when it was in business. It served those who came to Colvin Run Mill as a store, provisions outpost, post office, and meeting place. One woman said of the store that twice a week her husband would “have to go up to the store and stay for awhile.” Isn’t that a nice idea? Hanging out with your fellow store patrons and shooting the breeze rather than elbowing past them to get a spot in line or reach the bell peppers? Sorry, I foolishly attempted the brand new Whole Foods in Ashburn on its opening day, and now I’m a bit jaded. That place was Thunderdome. A beautiful, shiny, perfectly organized Thunderdome.

Walking from the General Store down through the park you come across a large shed filled with blacksmith tools, and then the miller’s house, built in 1809, where Addison and Emma Millard and their 20 children lived. Let that sink in a minute. TWENTY CHILDREN. Hat’s off to you, Emma Millard. You’re a better woman than I am.

The Mill itself is just a short distance away from the Miller’s house (nice commute) down a shady gravel path:

This decorative bordering is made up of millstones, which are used to grind the grain into flour:

And finally around the back of the mill you see the waterwheel in all its splendor:

My girls once again enjoyed standing on the bridge and throwing leaves into the stream of water blow.

There are many picnic tables available at the entrance of the park if you choose to pack a lunch and eat it there like we did, but the park was nearly empty and we had the place to ourselves so we decided instead to sit in the nice red rocking chairs on the porch of the General Store and eat our lunch.

We ended our visit by stopping back inside the General Store to return the scavenger hunt to Marge and buy some penny candy for the road- old fashioned stick lollipops, and flavored honey tubes. .

Be sure to do this:

-Outside the General Store is a wooden container with several brochures for local places of interest tucked inside. We grabbed a very well done brochure on Historical Places of Interest in Fairfax County. There was also a pamphlet called the Discovery Trail Map which listed the Fairfax County Park Foundation’s parks. Colvin Run Mill is included in this list as well as Frying Pan Farm Park, Sully Historic Site, and Green Spring Gardens. If you visit 8 of these parks and get your Discovery pamphlet stamped at each location (the ones at Colvin Run Mill come already stamped!) you can send it into Fairfax County Park Authority and be registered to win a prize package. Like I said, kids love scavenger hunts, so most would love the opportunity to go around “collecting” stamps from local parks they visit.

Make a day of it:

Colvin Run Mill was not far from where we live and was a perfect 90- minute outing  to get us active and out of the house before heading home for my toddler’s nap.If you complete the mill tour, which takes about 45 minutes, your visit will take a little longer. If you’re looking for more to do in the area, Great Falls is a great little place to explore. Just three miles away from Colvin Run Mill at 9818 Georgetown Pike is a fantastic playground that my kids just love- Grange Park.

There are numerous different play structures which are well-connected to make for a playground that’s easy for kids to play on. There’s even one of those old metal merry-go-rounds that used to be on playgrounds everywhere when we were kids, before people realized their kids were breaking arms and legs on them left and right. Here in the village of Great Falls children can still play on potentially dangerous metal playground equipment just like we did in the 80s and 90s!

One last stop for your day in Great Falls- ice cream just across the street from Grange Park at Great Falls Creamery. I don’t know why, but I’m a sucker for fresh ice cream in the summer. The other 9 months of the year I have very little interest in it and almost never eat it, but something about summer just makes me want ice cream. We’ve eaten far too much of it this summer. Again- we will get back on track in a month when school resumes. For now, it’s all ice cream, all the time. (DOWN WITH FROZEN YOGURT, IT’S AN IMPOSTOR.)

Great Falls Creamery is located at 766 Walker Rd. in Great Falls, tucked into Village Center right across Georgetown Pike from the Grange Park playground. They serve an ever-changing variety of homemade flavors as well as treats from famous local Northern Virginia bakery, Heidelberg Bakery. The day we went my girls split a cup of strawberry ice cream and I got a fresh ice cream sandwich made with white chocolate raspberry ice cream smashed between two soft Heidelberg Bakery chocolate chip cookies. There’s tables outside as well as the rolling green lawn that sprawls across the width of Village Center, where free outdoor concerts are held each Sunday evening in summer.

We hope you’ll find lots on this site to give you ideas for how to fill the last few weeks of summer. Don’t forget, the Loudoun County Fair is still in town through tomorrow evening (August 1) and is one of the highlights of the year. Petting zoo, 4H animals, FRIED OREOS, midway rides- you don’t want to miss it. We’ve gone every year since we moved here and it’s family tradition now.

The Peach Fuzztival kicks off this morning at Great Country Farms and before the NOVAd family hits the road for a weekend trip, we’ll be stopping by with friends to enjoy peach pancakes. (Certifikid is currently still offering the reduced $5 admission to GCF and that voucher IS GOOD for the weekend of the Peach Fuzztival- a very generous offer on behalf of GCF considering all the extra activities available during the Peach Fuzztival weekend and the fact peach pancakes are included in your price of admission even with the Certifikid voucher. You have no reason not to go!)