Flower Mart at National Cathedral + Passport DC 2016

When: May 6th and 7th, 2016 (first week of May every year)
Where: 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC

Every May, Cultural Tourism DC launches its Passport DC program, which is a series of events designed to help you travel the world without ever leaving Washington DC. DC Passports are provided at various information spots throughout the city at key events and visiting the activities that are part of Passport DC will earn you a stamp at each spot, just like a real passport.

One of these events is Flower Mart, an annual spring festival held at the National Cathedral by All Hallows Guild every year since 1939. At Flower Mart, embassies from all over the world contribute a floral arrangement that represents their country, which is then displayed in the nave of the Cathedral for viewing. Outside, various vendors sell not only flowers and plants, but handmade crafts and goods (we saw soap, clothing, tote bags, and wind chimes) as well as food- we snacked on choreg from an Armenian pastry stand before grabbing a half smoke from the Ben’s Chili Bowl tent for lunch. There’s carnival rides and games for kids, puppet shows, and special tours that allow visitors to climb the Cathedral towers.

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Despite passing by National Cathedral many times (my sister used to live on Garfield St. and we’d cut through the Cathedral grounds on our way to Cactus Cantina, hey-o) our visit to Flower Mart was the first time we’d actually gone inside! Do I need to tell you it was incredible?

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Tucked in the nave were over 30 individual flower arrangements representing their home countries. These were all unique – some featured flowers indigenous to that country (such as an arrangement of Birds of Paradise from Indonesia) and some were arrangements that depicted something specific to that country, like this array of pink roses from Australia meant to represent Lake Hillier, a lake in Western Australia that is PINK due to the bacteria that thrive in its highly salinated waters:

 

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New Zealand’s contribution was a miniature Hobbit Shire!

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Many of the Asian countries’ displays featured tall, delicate orchids. The United States was represented with this lush arrangement of native flora:

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We made sure to get a stamp in our Passport DC passport before heading over to the famous Beauvoir playground on our way out:

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The Around the World Embassy tour was also going on that day, an event in which different embassies from around the world opened their doors to visitors for cultural displays and presentations. I SO BADLY wanted to do this but alas, my oldest was suffering pretty badly from allergies and just couldn’t hang, so in the name of being a decent mother, I had to admit defeat and skip it. But next weekend is the European embassies’ turn and we will be ready and waiting with our passport when those open at 10 am.

Flower Mart 2016 has come and gone, but I encourage you to make plans to visit next May- it was such an incredible event! We managed to find street parking along a neighborhood street and had a short walk over to the Cathedral grounds, but given the limited parking in NW DC, using public transportation is highly encouraged if you can swing it.

Be sure to check out the Passport DC 2016 calendar of events to plan your trip “around the world.”

Weekending: Lexington, VA + Natural Bridge Edition

All apologies to Purcellville, Charlottesville, and any other town my excitable brain previously declared to be my favorite small town in Virginia. There’s a new kid in town: Lexington. This one’s definitely my favorite small town in Virginia. I’m sure of it. Until I find the next one, but for right now, it’s the winner.

The timing for a weekend trip this past weekend initially did not seem so great- I had just wrapped up the last week of spring semester for my grad program and an auction I had chaired and spent 8 months working on took place Friday night, so my brain was essentially non-functioning and my zest for life was at nil. The forecast was also a weekend full of cool temps and rain. But we had months ago purchased a Certifikid voucher for a night at the Natural Bridge hotel with admission to the bridge and the caverns included, and the last day to use it was April 30, so the trip was on no matter what.

And wouldn’t you know it, I found it to be the perfect little two day getaway. Some friends of ours bought the same voucher and joined us down in Lexington and we had a blast. The drive couldn’t be easier- a relatively quick 3 hours down I-81 through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We decided to be leisurely about it since we weren’t in a huge rush and stopped in Staunton for some frozen custard from Kline’s Dairy Bar, which has been operating in Harrisonburg since 1943.

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Our voucher was good for a night at the Natural Bridge Hotel (right next to the Natural Bridge itself) with admission for four to the Natural Bridge AND the caverns right next door. We paid $109 for all that and so I was mentally prepared for a rundown, dark and dank hotel that had not been updated since the 1970s. NOT SO AT ALL, although I do think the road leading to the Natural Bridge hotel may be haunted. I base this completely on the fact that on one side suddenly loomed a giant baby head inside what was a graveyard of strange giant props. The sign indicated it was a place called Enchanted Castle Studios that offered “tours” though who gives them, I’m not sure, because it looked abandoned. Look, I’m not saying you’ll go into that place on a “tour” and never come out and that the Scooby Doo crew is going to have to come in and find you. I am not saying that. Just think about it is all.

The Natural Bridge Hotel was recently updated with nicely furnished rooms and a very pleasant staff. If you’re looking for proximity to the bridge, it’s great. If you would prefer to be closer to Lexington, you may want to stay elsewhere, but if this deal is ever offered by Certifikid again, snatch it up, because for two days of admission the attractions and a night in a perfectly pleasant hotel, it was a steal.

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After settling in and meeting up with our friends we grabbed dinner at Foothill Momma’s BBQ Juke Joint (recommend) and then headed back to the bridge for the nightly light show.

Now look.

I’m from Georgia, and down there, one thing that everyone does growing up is go to Stone Mountain to watch the laser show, which is extravaganza of the highest order. Lights and lasers shoots around the mountain and give the illusion the carved figures are riding their horses and Dixie is played as well as The Devil Went Down to Georgia. It is definitely one of those things that only when you grow up and move away from the Deep South do you go, “Huh, yeah, that is a bit weird.” BUT IT’S AWESOME. So you can perhaps see what I expected from the Natural Bridge light show. Maybe some Van Halen? Lots of zooming light rays and strobe lights.

That is decidedly not at all what the Natural Bridge light show is like.

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So here’s the story of the Natural Bridge, which is told to you by the recording at the Natural Bridge: it took 3-4 million years to evolve naturally through the gentle erosion process of the stream that flows beneath it. It was originally discovered by the Monocan Indians as they were evading an enemy and considered by them to be a sacred site, and later Thomas Jefferson “bought” it for his own pleasure because, well, aint that just the way history tends to go. (My husband and I quibbled all weekend over whether a person can truly own something like the Natural Bridge; call me Pocahontas, I just really don’t think so. I don’t even care if you’re Thomas Jefferson, you can’t own that stuff, dude, it’s for all mankind.)

Right after you are told that the Natural Bridge formed naturally, through the course of nature, over millions of years, the light show program begins, and it tells the story of Genesis and how God created the earth in 7 days. It was written and created by Calvin Coolidge back in the 1920s and has been used ever since. There were several times sitting there, somewhere in the middle of the third day of creation, when I realized that this passed for high entertainment in the 1920s. In 2016, well, it seems a bit… antiquated. A musical version of the Lord’s Prayer that my friend aptly described as “a dirge” played in the fifth day of creation. Hey, I got no dog in the hunt when it comes to how the bridge was formed. Maybe you think the stream did it, maybe you think God plopped it there somewhere in the six days he was decorating the earth. It’s just funny how the Natural Bridge show simultaneously suggests it somehow could be both.

The bridge sure is beautiful, though!

Sunday morning we had breakfast down at The Pink Cadillac (insert Springsteen lyrics):

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I’ve mentioned before the “bubble” that extends about 50 miles in any direction from DC and how different life is once you break out of that bubble. At the Pink Cadillac, a plate of three pancakes was $2. TWO DOLLARS. No crushed velvet seats, though, and I really think they missed the mark there.

The rain began to pour after breakfast so we took the opportunity to visit the Natural Bridge Caverns and hide out 340 feet underground and give it a chance to pass. Hey, aren’t caverns cool? At one place in the caverns our guide told us to look up at what appeared to be an opening and said it was called a Murder Hole. Way back when, when people drove around in buggies and such, they would sometimes roll right over one of these Murder Holes and fall ass over teakettle into the caverns. Whoopsie doops! Not a great day.

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Emerging from the Murder Hole we re-entered a world filled with sunshine! The rain had passed so we headed into the town of Lexington to see the sights.

Some things you should know about Lexington:

It’s home to two colleges: Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute (so-called West Point of the South). You can tell the student bodies apart as they mill around town because the Washington and Lee students are wearing clothes nicer than you, a grown adult, typically wear, and the VMI cadets are decked out in their finest military dress. Even to walk into a Sheetz gas station, yes I saw that.

It’s also pretty much Robert E Lee’s town. Everything there revolves around Lee in some way. There’s Lee Highway, the Robert E. Lee hotel, Lee Chapel, a different church named the Robert E Lee Memorial Episcopal church, which is about 200 yards in front of Lee Chapel. Lee died in Lexington after serving as president of (then) Washington University, renamed to include Lee after his time there. Stonewall Jackson also features prominently in Lexington, given the fact he lived there and taught at VMI in the 1850s. Some of his curriculum is still taught there today! He was not a very popular teacher though and students there called him “Tom Fool,” which luckily for him was later replaced by the everlasting nickname he earned on the battlefield at Manassas, and by which we still know him- Stonewall. (I am seriously just beyond tickled that one person, in the span of about fifteen years, can be the recipient of two such diametrically opposed nicknames, and also walk away forever bearing only the really good one.)

The house Stonewall Jackson owned and lived in during his time in Lexington still stands on Washington St., right down the road from Lee Chapel:

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The downtown Lexington area was funny like this- on one corner might be a new shop or popular restaurant, and then a few doors down, the home of a huge Civil War figure. Virginia is so cool.

We paid a visit to the  Robert E. Lee Hotel:

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Eventually we made our way down to the campus of Washington and Lee University to visit Lee Chapel. And WOW, what a campus! My own alma mater is beautifully landscaped and  frequently makes lists of Most Beautiful Campuses, but it must be said that a good chunk of the buildings are from the 1960s/70s and leave something to be desired, aesthetically speaking. Meanwhile, in Lexington, not only is the campus impeccably landscaped, look at this architecture!

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This is known as the Colonnade and faces Lee Chapel. When I mentioned at the beginning of this post I am in a grad program, it’s to receive my Master’s in Education. This means I’m spending chunks of time each semester student teaching in high school English classes. The last two semesters, my students have been seniors, and it’s been very exciting as they get accepted to colleges and decide where they’re going to go. Many of them are going to JMU, a couple to William and Mary, some to UVA, but I realized when I was on W&L campus that none of them had decided to go to Washington and Lee and I wondered why. It was such a nice looking school in such a pleasant little town not terribly far from Northern Virginia. I started thinking, I would encourage my own girls to consider this school when the time comes! When we were on the way home I looked up the university and discovered it is private and costs $47,000 a year to attend as an undergraduate, so that explained that. It also explained why all the students were dressed so nicely and the frat houses were giant antebellum homes on lush wide avenues.

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Tucked into this little glade right across from the Colonnade is Lee Chapel, where Robert E. Lee is buried and where his beloved horse, Traveller, was buried in 1971 after his bones were disinterred and placed here to be with his master.

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Would you just! Have you ever seen a more perfect little chapel? I got married in what I consider to be a very beautiful and picturesque southern chapel but it really doesn’t compare at all to Lee Chapel. Inside on the pulpit is a statue of Lee known as “Recumbent Lee” which depicts him lying in repose, and the stained-glass windows tell his life story. He and his family are buried in a crypt below the chapel and Traveller is buried just outside:

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Students at the university leave pennies (and sometimes apples) on Traveller’s marker in hopes it will bring them good luck in their studies. Awwww! Traveller is maybe one of the best-known horses of all time, certainly the best known Civil War horse, and the following is written about him in the poem Army of Northern Virginia by Stephen Vincent Benet:

Such horses are
The jewels of the horseman’s hands and thighs,
They go by the word and hardly need the rein.
They bred such horses in Virginia then,
Horses that were remembered after death
And buried not so far from Christian ground
That if their sleeping riders should arise
They could not witch them from the earth again
And ride a printless course along the grass
With the old manage and light ease of hand.

I can’t tell you what a good choice it was that we invited the friends we did, because the husband in that family is a high school history teacher and he and I were nerding out together the whole time.

Other small scenes around Lexington:

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I loved everything about Lexington and really can’t suggest strongly enough that you take a trip down for a night or a weekend and pay it a visit. They bred such horses in Virginia then- and they made such towns in Virginia then.

Next Level Craft at House of Sweden

Where: 2900 K St. NW, Washington DC
When: Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 pm, through April 24th, 2016. Admission is free!

Two things I like: Scandinavia and pop-up art installations. WORLDS COLLIDING! There’s something about the remoteness and austerity of Scandinavia that I find compelling. I went through a stage where I read a lot of books set in Scandinavia (Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Let the Right One In, etc.) and then I tried my hand at making real Swedish meatballs using Marcus Samuelsson’s recipe. We have very dear friends who from Sweden who lived here temporarily for work, and I’m constantly asking them what life is like in Sweden and eating the various treats they bring back when they come to visit (micro-thin chocolate wafers with tiny crispies inside, a more refined Nestle Crunch, if you will). I just think everything about that part of the world is fascinating.

The Next Level Craft exhibition currently on display at House of Sweden (the Swedish Embassy) is one of just a long line of really fantastic, whimsical installations DC has put on lately. Breezing into town after the now- legendary Wonder exhibit and the glowing bunnies at Light Yards, Next Level Craft holds its own and is charming and fun and that special kind of freaky-deaky that only Scandinavian things can manage to be (I mean this in the best way possible). Like- there’s fish on skateboards. Somehow it makes sense? Just go with it.

Next Level Craft is a collection curated by Swedish artist Aia Judes containing examples of traditional Swedish handicraft created by 40 artists. You’ve got your birch weaving, your jewelry making, your glass blowing, something to do with burls, a music video, lighting and sound that change the room from day to night and back again, a teeny tiny herd of wood-carved reindeer.

The Swedish embassy itself is located right on the Georgetown riverfront and is the perfect embodiment of Scandinavian minimalism- clean lines, open and airy, no fuss and muss. I deeply appreciate this aesthetic even though I do not personally share it. Our Swedish friends’ home was fascinating to me- even with a preschool-aged boy in the house it was always clean in that sparse, crisp way Swedes tend to have and things that were intended to be white actually stayed white. I still don’t know how that was possible. The building itself is a work of art, with elements incorporated into its design that are art pieces on their own. You enter the embassy through a glass paneled wall with water running down the insides- this is March 6 a.m. and was designed to evoke the feel of melting ice, a key feature of the Swedish landscape. There’s also a really well-done and thoughtful exhibit on the main level about gender equality which is absolutely worth taking a look at before heading into Next Level Craft.

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The Next Level Craft exhibit is located on the lower level of the House of Sweden and takes up just one room. But that one room is crammed with whimsy and delight:

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We showed up right around noon on Saturday and surprisingly, it was totally empty and we had the place to ourselves. I can’t lie, this always enhances the experience for me. I get very selfish around art; I’ll hear the clickwhirr of a DSLR camera nearby and get very possessive. “You can’t take a picture of that, I thought it was pretty first.”

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The exhibit has two modes: daytime and nighttime. We entered in daytime, with bright sunshiny light and sweet little bird chirping sounds. As we walked around, the lighting dimmed and shifted to nighttime and the corresponding music video Aia Judes created for the exhibit began playing on all the walls in the exhibition room. It features pulsing music and Swedish artists displaying a variety of Swedish handicraft, plus a pair of dancers vogueing. It is intense. I loved it!

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The kind people at the embassy had taken the time to set up a room with various craft stations for kids so that they could get some hands-on instruction in the art of crafting, which I appreciated because look, crafting is just not my thing. It makes a mess, it takes so much patience- it’s not for me one bit. Of course, somehow, crafting at the Swedish embassy was not at all messy and was a tidy little endeavor thanks to that very unique ability Swedes have to not be a disastrous mess like Americans.

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Don’t you agree kids who are growing up in this area are just the luckiest? They surely don’t appreciate this yet but they are so fortunate to just wake up on a Saturday morning and then go spend some time painting at the Swedish embassy. This is a blog about loving where you live and appreciating what makes this area so special, and I’m counting this experience as an example of that premise.

If you have little ones who get antsy or bored in the craft exhibit, the embassy has thoughtfully provided a small quiet room just for kids with books, games, and quiet little reading nooks where they are free to play and explore.

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Mine stayed awhile in here with dad to play while I explored the exhibit without distraction, but they did enjoy the exhibit a great deal and came back in for a second tour through when they were done in the rumpus room. While not kid-friendly in the sense that it is absolutely not interactive and visitors are prohibited from touching the crafts, Next Level Craft does appeal to kids and feel accessible to them because it’s so fantastical and creative- so ultimately, I’m calling it kid-friendly with the caveat that you watch them like hawks to make sure they don’t climb up on platforms or touch anything.

This exhibit is temporary, so today and then next weekend will be your last opportunities to visit, and I encourage you to do so!

Other sources: 

Follow House of Sweden on Instagram at @swedeninusa for updates and announcements on what they’ve got going on.

Make a day of it:

You’re already down on the Georgetown waterfront! Take a stroll and enjoy watching boats trundle up the Potomac. There were a ton of people out and about enjoying the sunshine when we were down there- it was a perfect spring day in DC.

Virginia Bluebells at Bull Run Park

Where: 7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville, VA
When: Early-mid April from 8 am-8 pm

So, it’s spring. Or should I say, it’s “spring.” Friends, it’s cold and windy- is that spring?  Is spring supposed to be chilly and duplicitous like this? I think I fight this same internal battle of expectations vs. reality every year, in that I expect spring to be warmth and sunshine and in reality it’s still pretty cool and wet. I’ll figure it one day I suppose. Just clinging to hope that one day we’ll all be warm again. Won’t that be nice?

Despite it all, the world is awakening and coming back to life. The cherry blossom trees bloomed! And then de-bloomed, making way for leaves. Everywhere there’s forsythia aglow, and whatever those pinkish-purple tree blossoms are. Tulips are coming to Haymarket any week now, and the daffodils are already on their way out. But we are extra lucky here because Virginia is home to one particularly special spring wildflower: Mertensia virginica– the Virginia bluebell, which grows in large, massive clumps in wooded areas. Bull Run Regional Park, which hosts one of our favorite winter traditions, the Festival of Lights, has roughly 150 acres of lush Virginia bluebells growing on the property. Though the bluebells typically peak in early-mid April, a nice shot of warm weather in March gave them a boost and they’re currently blooming now. LIKE RIGHT NOW, YOU NEED TO PLAN TO GO.

We were up early this Sunday morning and decided to head over and have the park to ourselves to scope out the bluebells. Though you’ll see patches of them growing along the side of the road inside the park, there is a designated Bluebell Trail, part of the Occoquan Trail, that provides access to a large swath of bluebells about a quarter mile into the woods. Parking for the Bluebell Trail is at Atlantis Waterpark (you can’t miss it, big dolphin out front) and walking across the street you’ll see:

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This means you are on the right track.

A nice little wooden boardwalk escorts you down to the bluebell patch and suddenly they just pop into view- first tiny little white and pink buds, and then an explosion of blue.

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Would you just look at them? How darling and delicate and precious does a flower get? You know when you see a particularly cute and fat, luscious baby and you don’t even know how to fully process the cuteness so you think to yourself, “I could eat you. I’m just going to eat you up”? That’s how I felt about the bluebells. I liked them so much. They were so pretty and made me so happy I didn’t even know what do with the excitement of it all and I thought, “I’m gonna eat one.”

In this little section of Bull Run Park, abutting Cub Run creek, the bluebells blanket the ground. Full on wall to wall bluebell carpeting. It’s magnificent. Virginia, how are you so damn pretty?

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In every description I can find of the Virginia bluebells, they are noted for being ephemeral. They’re here, and then rather quickly, they won’t be, and the forest floor will lose the rich azure carpeting it currently has when the bluebells go. Please don’t miss them! Though you may get lucky and stumble upon some bluebells while out walking, Bull Run is a wonderful place to guarantee a sighting. If you’re a resident of Northern Virginia, admission to the park is free. If you live in the District or Maryland and decide to pay a visit to see the bluebells, admission will still only be $7 per car. The cherry blossoms in DC get all the glory but these tiny blue trumpets lying quiet in the Virginia woods are just as lovely in their own special way.

SPRING!

Capital Weather Gang recently did us all a solid and declared winter OVER! Zero chance of snow on the horizon, a 10% chance of temperatures dipping back to freezing, and a very mild March signal the early arrival of spring this year. We had a stretch of glorious warmth this week, but the early spring does mean that National Park Service revised their Peak Bloom dates for the Cherry Blossoms to occur from March 18-23 instead of the original March 31-April 4. Unfortunately, that means they’ll likely be on their way out by the time the National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off. It also means they’ll be blooming the week we are out of town for spring break, which means as we head down to Georgia next week, we’ll be making a pit stop at the Tidal Basin to take a peek.

The arrival of warm weather and an extra hour of daylight means more and more outdoor adventures are on the horizon. If you’re looking from some ideas to carry you into spring, here’s some of my favorites:

The Bunny Train at Walkersville Southern Railroad
When: March 19, 20, 26 at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm
Where: 34 West Pennsylvania Ave., Walkersville, MD

Walkersville Southern Railroad provides visitors the chance to ride on a (beautifully) restored 1920s railroad coach car through Maryland countryside. The ride is about an hour long round trip, and in the spring, the Easter Bunny visits the kids during the train ride and passes out small surprises. If your kids are mildly terrified of mall Santas and Easter Bunnies like mine are, this is a great way to make that experience a bit more enjoyable- mine loved seeing the Easter Bunny enter the car and by the time s(he) made his way to our seat, they were well-acclimated and excited to see him. My oldest was in charge of our tickets and responsible for handing them to the conductor for validation and punching, a task she was very pleased to have.

Due to the popularity of the Bunny Train and the limited number of days the Bunny Train runs, reservations are required, so pick a weekend and purchase tickets in advance.

The Marshmallow Peep Harvest and Egg Hunt at Great Country Farms
When: April 2-3, egg hunt times vary based on age
Where: 18780 Foggy Bottom Rd., Bluemont, VA

I’ve waxed poetic about Great Country Farms in the past- it’s just one of my favorite places of all time. Though they officially open for the season on March 19th, if you’re planning a special trip, you may want to wait until April 2nd to catch their Easter egg hunt with nearly 20,000 eggs and trees “blooming” with Marshmallow Peeps. (They also have fire pits set up so you roast your Peeps, which is a very unique way to eat them that is also not at all terrible.) Stay for the day and play- there’s so much to do at Great Country Farms you could stay the whole day and still not see everything. This may be the year my family buys the season membership because we love it that much and go that often. We will be there for the Easter Egg hunt (to act as bodyguards for our children in the melee and Peep Roasters) and countless other festivals throughout the season, including my personal favorite, August’s Peach Fuzztival. The rest of Bluemont is a treat to visit while you’re out there as well, with Bluemont Vineyards and Dirt Farm Brewing being right across the street and the adorable Bluemont General store serving as a great place to pick up lunch.

National Cherry Blossom Festival
When:
March 20-April 17, 2016
Where:
Locations throughout DC

SO many events! Pick and choose which ones suit your whims or schedule and have at it- kite flying on the Mall is a mainstay of the festival (this is the 50th year!) as well as the Parade and fireworks on the waterfront. A celebration of Japanese culture (our Japanese friends gifted us with the cherry blossom trees in 1912) takes place this year on April 16

Holland in Haymarket, Burnside Farms
When: Dates announced soon- typically opens in mid-April but may be sooner this year thanks to early spring! Website says “Opening in 3-4 weeks” as of March 9th – check back often
Where: 2570 Logmill Rd., Haymarket, VA

This is the U-Pick Flower event to crush all other U-Pick flowers. In the summer, Burnside Farms runs their field of sunflowers and gladiola but the true star of their operation is the spring field which bursts forth with daffodils and then tulips in the spring. Coming down James Madison Highway you first see the field of tulips come into view- happy little heads bobbing in the breeze, an injection of color after a drab winter. The sheer expanse of them, covering an entire field, takes you by surprise. Walking among them is no less impressive. Burnside Farms provides baskets and scissors and you clip to heart’s content, paying $1 stem for tulips and .50 cents a stem for daffodils. This one is an absolute must. I’m actually going to be pretty mad at you guys if you don’t go. Decorate your whole house in fresh cut tulips! Give some to your teachers!

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Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival
When: April 16 and 17, 2016 10 am-6 pm
Where: Downtown Leesburg

Another floral feast for the eyes! The streets of downtown Leesburg are overrun with flowers, topiaries, heirloom vegetables and herbs, and craft and garden exhibits. Live music is playing on the steps of the Loudoun County courthouse and there’s kids activities spread throughout the festival boundaries. We had a great time last year, checking out the trophies these gardeners had brought to market, and relaxing in the sun listening to the band. Parking garages nearby make accessibility a breeze. If you’re interested in grabbing a meal nearby, local favorites Fireworks Pizza and MacDowell Brew Kitchen are right up the street. (MacDowell has a fenced in outdoor seating area covered in sand and stocked with sand toys and trucks, which means it is the most family-friendly restaurant I’ve ever been to that is not Chuck E. Cheese. In fact, it’s even more family friendly than The Chuck because it isn’t hell for parents. There’s even an outdoor bar!)

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Frying Pan Farm Park
When: Open daily, dawn to dusk
Where: 2739 West Ox Rd., Herndon, VA

Spring means BABY ANIMALS. On a nice warm day, my kids love to walk around the farm, check in at Kidwell Farm and see if any piglets or baby goats are running around, and play on the nearby playground. There’s also an antique carousel you can hitch a ride on if you’re there between 10 am and 4 pm. Pack a picnic lunch and spend a day on the farm.

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Little Lucketts

On a recent warm weekend we met up with friends at Tarara Winery, a few miles down the road from the (one) stoplight in Lucketts (just outside of Leesburg). Tarara has a huge deck to sit on and enjoy wine and snacks (their warm-baked ciabatta was delicious, as was the bottle of 2013 Charval my husband and I split). Local products made in Virginia are sold in the tasting room, including these craft sodas made by Mad Hollow (which recently rebranded from Gray Ghost Beverage, so it looks like I got one of the last craft sodas under the old label, one which I admit to preferring given its nod to John Mosby).

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On your way home from Tarara, stop in at the Lucketts Community Center playground and The Old Lucketts store, right across the street. One of my favorite IG accounts, @smalltownstripes, works at the store and is constantly posting treasures that pop up there -including many she takes and puts in her own home, a house which used to be the town Millinery- it’s all very aspirational and perfect. Actually, don’t even go look unless you want to feel pretty grim about your own house.

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If you go a bit deeper into spring, Brossman’s Farm Stand will be open, and you must stop in. There’s usually a BBQ truck smoking in the parking lot, and Farmer Rick very often takes kids out into the field with him to let them pick some produce and to show them the lay of the land. He once let my toddler unload a pallet of tomatoes onto the shelf; she was very slow and he was very patent and kind. We often stop in on a summer weekend to grab fresh fruits and veggies for the week.


 

We’ll be heading down to Georgia for Spring Break soon and I can’t wait to show you Savannah and the Lowcountry. Follow along on Instagram if you like! I’m excited to head into full-blown spring once we get home – nothing like spring in Virginia!

Light Yards at The Yards Park

Where: 355 Water St SE, Washington, DC
When: February 27-28 and March 5-6

Hi friends! Winter is so close to being over- we’ve got less than a month until we are at least, according to the calendar, if not strictly the weather, in the realm of spring. Daylight Saving Spring Forward is coming and basically, it’s only up from here. We’re in spitting distance of warm weather, evening light, and the opportunity to GET BACK OUTSIDE and break free of this mole-like existence we’ve been living the last little while.

This weekend we headed down to The Yards Park in southwest DC to take a peek at the current Light Yards pop-up art installation. Light Yards is a temporary display of light-up installations that will be at The Yards Park for just two weeks this month. Already up are Point Cloud and Cube, which are constructions made up of white illuminated cubes, but last night was the first night that artist Amanda Parer’s giant bunnies would be up and glowing. I offhandedly mentioned to my kids in the morning that that night we would go see some giant bunnies and then every 3.7 minutes for the rest of the day my 2 year old told me, “I’m going to see the giant bunnies. Where are the giant bunnies? I want to see the giant bunnies.”

We arrived just after dark and came upon what is going to be the next most-Instagrammed art installation in DC now that everybody’s been to the Renwick Gallery- a field full of glowing blow-up bunnies. There were many people there with real cameras hanging around their necks and one guy even had a mini tripod set up with a camera on the ground at the entrance to the bridge so there’s definitely going to be some highly curated shots going around, but because I’m me, you’re getting iPhone snaps edited in Afterlight on my phone. Lots of “IRL Instagram” shenanigans were going on- adults climbing on a glowing cube structure trying to look playful and artsy, striking just the right post for their silhouette shot, people jumping in front of giant bunnies 10x in a row for that perfect picture. Very entertaining. Got to see exactly how the sausage is made.

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The name of this installation is Intrude and the message behind the piece is an interesting one. Amanda Parer describes rabbits as “fairytale animals from our childhood- a furry innocence frolicking through idyllic fields.” Yet they also represent ecological destruction as they are pests who wreak havoc on natural habitats and environments in Parer’s native Australia. According to Parer, their size (5×7 m) represents the scale of the mess they create and the “elephant in the room” nature of their existence.

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But awwwwww. They’re so cute!

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And only from certain angles do they look like our new bunny overlords who promise a peaceful but firm domination of our world. “The time of man has come and gone. Now comes the age of Bunny.”

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My kids loved everything about Intrudeand the Light Yards set-up as a whole. The canal and bridge are lit up and there’s an artificial waterfall with a walkway behind it so you can stand behind the water and feel like you’re in a grotto.

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Light Yards also has a giant Lite-Brite display, and live music/DJs for entertainment. Many kids had glow-in-the-dark sticks and necklaces and combined with a wide riverside walkway and a DJ, they pretty much acted like they were at MTV Spring Break circa 1997. Mine were dancing their faces off. Today’s 65 degree weather will make for a perfect trip down to check it out. If you can’t make it on a Sunday night, don’t miss it next Saturday and Sunday because after that the bunnies move on to assert their new dominion over the people of Portugal and Hong Kong.

Handy tips:

The Yards Park is accessible by Metro; the closest stop is Navy Yards. There’s limited on-site parking at The Yards Park if you’re driving. Light Yards is free, but there is food for sale and several nearby restaurants if you get hungry while you’re down there.

Bonus:

Just a mile or so away is Blind Whino’s “graffiti church” – the former Friendship Baptist Church which now serves as a space for artist workshops and exhibitions. It’s fully painted (the work of artist Hense) and pretty glorious in daylight, but its darkened facade at nighttime lends it a completely different aspect- a little more sinister and foreboding. Scoot over to 700 Delaware Ave SW and check it out while you’re nearby:

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Winter Storm Jonas/ Blizzard 2016/ Snowzilla

What a weekend it’s been! Winter Storm Jonas moved in and deposited a hefty 36 inches where I live, giving us possibly the highest totals in the area. The drifts on my back deck are about neck height to me. The kids will probably be out of school until February. We officially snagged the #2 spot on the list of this area’s biggest storms on record, bumping out the Blizzard of 96 but falling short of 2010’s Snowmageddon. DCA somehow recorded over a foot less than the entire surrounding metro area which is causing quite the stir-up because seriously can’t you guys just get it together. What a time to be alive!

The storm was impeccably forecasted, with the first snowflakes falling around 12:45 pm on Friday, right in the window The Weatherman (a composite figure I’ve created made up of every single meteorologist, newscaster, and reporter in the area) said the storm would begin. Within a couple hours we already had several inches of fresh powder, perfect for sledding before heading in for the night while the show got started.

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We woke up Saturday morning to 22 inches or so on our street, a steady snowfall, and ferocious winds. All neighbors met in the street to exchange serious looks of “WTF?” and “This is a lot of snow, huh?” My husband shoveled and snow blew for approximately 8 hours.

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Snow crept up our back windows and doors all day long,  eventually cresting the rail on our back deck and completely burying everything out there.

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Snow was still falling when we went to bed and this morning we woke up to a massive blanket covering everything in sight. Right now the snow is still pristine and beautiful, truly something to see. Fairly soon it will turn into exhaust-blackened slush and muck but we won’t worry about that just yet.

 

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Our faithful public servant Wayde Byard has not yet called with the trumpeting sound of school closures, which is interesting and I like to think intentional on part of LCPS in order to keep people on their toes. What will they do? Close one day at a time? Cancel the whole week in a go?

By far the best thing to come out of Snowzilla was the video of Tian Tian the panda frolicking in the snow at National Zoo

Various disruptions and mild cabin fever aside, living through a historical storm was pretty fun. Spring can still come anytime, though.