Saturday, December 13, 2008

Moonrise Friday December 12, 2008

The largest full moon of 2008 as seen Friday afternoon about 5:15. This is the closest its been to the Earth in 15 years and won't be as close again until 2016. The moon rise looked more like a sunrise.
When the moon is at its closest approach, or perigee, it appears much larger and brighter than usual.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Triple Conjunction of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter

We witnessed a triple conjunction of the moon, Venus and Jupiter best seen on Monday night December 1 and Tuesday December 2 here in Central Virginia. Photo courtesy of S. Duncan. It is most visible at dusk. You may still see it for the next few nights but they are gradually getting further apart.

Some people looked at it as a frown.

So if you were stargazing and wondering what those bright lights were near the crescent moon, there you have it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

O' Tannenbaum

O' Tannenbaum

We started a family tradition of cutting our own tree back in NJ at a farm in Griggstown / Princeton along the canal just north of the causeway. We've been hooked since. Courier and Ives we're not but it's still a fun tradition.

We've tried a few different farms here in Central VA and LaRon Christmas Tree farm is our favorite. They are very close to Goochland, in Powhatan, and always have a fine selection of trees and a very family friendly atmosphere. They were closed a year or two due to drought issues so we tried a few others that were just fine too.

Just a little further away are Hanover Pines in Beaverdam and Nuckols Christmas Tree Plantation in Cumberland. I've used a number of web sites to search for the local farms and have found these to be quite helpful:

Everyone had fun adding their own assortment of ornaments to the miss miss tree this year. We had some new paper chains made and added them to the older faded ones. We've gradually replaced most all lights with LEDs and add new vacation ornaments every year.

The kids decided that the Geo Trax belonged under the tree and then put the village up this year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Goochland Discount Card Now Available

Goochland High School All Night Graduation is running a fundraiser where they are selling a Fasttrack discount card for local area businesses. The card costs $10. I picked mine up at Java Jodi's.

It is valid until 12/31/2009.

If you frequent any of the local businesses named below, you can't lose! I highly recommend you pick up the card and support the local high school AND save yourself some money throughout the year!

The discounts are as follows:
  1. Burger King 4240 Pouncy Tract Rd, Glen Allen 10% off any sandwich combo
  2. White Hawk Music Cafe 1940 Sandy Hook Rd, Goochland Buy a meal, get a cookie free
  3. Shear Wildness Salon & Spa 2921 River Rd West, Goochland 10% off 1 hour massage, 10% off European Facial
  4. Seiberts Oilville BP 1420 Broad St, Oilville Buy 1 handdipped single scoop ice cream cone get 1 free
  5. Gray Bear Grille 1390 Broad St, Oilville Buy 2 entrees get 1 dessert free
  6. Hardees 1945 Sandy Hook Rd, Goochland 10% off any purchase
  7. Java Jodi's Coffee Cafe 2918 River Rd West, Goochland 10% off any purchase
  8. Fast Eddie's Jukebox Cafe 12859 Broad St Rd, Richmond 15% off purchase of $20 or more
  9. Mexico Restaurant 11621 W Broad St, Richmond 10% off any purchase
  10. Jersey Mikes Subs 11444 West Broad St, Glen Allen 10% off any purchase
  11. Goochland Flowers 2978 River Rd West, Goochland Buy corsage, get boutonniere 1/2 price
  12. Domino's Pizza 1390 Broad St, Oilville Buy any pizza get pizza of equal or lesser value free
  13. Butcher's Block Market 1390 Broad St Rd, Oilville 10% off any purchase
  14. Bogeys Sports Park Inc 1675 Ashland Rd, Richmond Buy Lg Bucket Balls or 10 Batting tokens, get either a small bucket or 5 batting tokens free
  15. Brother's Italian Restaurant 1299 Broad St, Oilville $5 off when you spend $30 or more
  16. Windy Hill Golf & Sports Complex 16500 Midlothian Tpk, Midlothian Buy Go Kart Ride or Mini Golf Game or Golf Course Round, get same free

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lewis Ginter GardenFest of Lights

Lewis Ginter GardenFest of Lights
opened Friday, November 28, 2008. It runs 5-10 through January 12. WOW! This is our first time to the display. It was us and a couple thousand other Richmonders.

This year's theme is Nature's Beautiful Web, inspired by the Children's Book: Cobweb Christmas by Shirley Climo.

The peacock light display seen best from the top of the treehouse in the Children's Garden was amazing. You are looking at it and its reflection.

I used the website to get some tips before going. I printed their map ahead of time to know where the 2 train displays and the doll house display were so we wouldn't miss them.

I also knew ahead of time that you can buy the makings for s'mores and then go toast them on a fire pit near the Treehouse. The mazes were great fun for the kids. They were in awe of so much of it. It helped that the temps were relatively mild. However, if it is colder and you're there, there are plenty of places to warm up at both indoors and out. The River City Burners were there giving performances in the Rose Garden. The kids loved that as well. Santa was seen a few times at various benches giving the opportunity for a photo with Santa.

We then had our late dinner at Skilligalee. It is only a mile or 2 from LG. Seafood Au Gratin for me and Salmon with Dill Sauce for him. Wonderful end to a wonderful evening!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

We had a picture perfect family of four Thanksgiving Day. I couldn't have wished for anything better.

Our tradition includes the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 9am - 12 noon with a little eggnog. This year we tried a pumpkin flavored with a bit o' rum. So so tasty! Sans alcohol for the kiddos.

We firmed up some plans for some new lower carb recipes like a Miracle Mashies that was recommended by Merrie that used more cauliflower than white potato. We also tried the dlife version of sweet potatoes with a little Splenda added. The fresh green beans stir fried in olive oil and garlic with a little breadcrumbs were tasty. Once the butterball was in the oven, the house was smelling great.

I also admit to a little on-line shopping. While Black Friday is the official kickoff to the holiday retail shopping season, I believe this coming Monday, aka Cyber Monday, is supposed to be the kickoff to the Internet holiday shopping season. I think it is quickly starting to become Thanksgiving Day itself. I just love Amazon. They have some of my money.

After dinner, we watched some fun movies from the Movie Gallery. We watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as a family and then Get Smart after kids in bed. I recommend both. But then again, I picked them both out! Get Smart was just as good as I had hoped if not better. There is no better actor than Steve Carell to play Maxwell Smart. Indy was as expected and that is very good.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Richmond Parents Monthly

The December Issue of Richmond Parents Monthly has an article of interest to come of you. Think Twice, Post Once - Parent Bloggers Proceed with Caution. Check it out:

The author of the article, Carolyn Jabs, is an award winning journalist with her own website:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Late November Garden Interest?

It's cold now. Our overnight temps are sitting right below freezing every night now. The daytime temps are lucky to get above 50. That's cold for me now being in Central VA. I know my NE friends are having a pity party right about now for me and I hear those tiny violins;-).

I went outside trying to find some late November garden interest. Not easy.
I have the overgrown nandina and its berries:

the frozen roses:

the cedar volunteer growing alongside my garage side door with the small hypetufa bowl of hens and chicks and my blue daze slowly dying. Note the garden hose is still attached. Maybe I need to remove that.

This columbine is looking okay:

There's always the view from the garage door with my red branched japanese acer maple that should only reach 10' and my blue birdbath from the Pottery.

There are still a few gourds on the vine:

The hypertufa container fill of vinca and succulents is doing just fine helping to hold the pool cover down.

The verbena is most surprising. It's not giving up yet:

This thinks it's spring:

There's always one of my 3 Christmas cactus' that is blooming inside:

and the bougainvillea waiting for Summer inside:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Veggie cornucopias

Kid friendly veggie cornucopias for a school Thanksgiving party. Idea found at Family Fun. They have the cutest ideas for fun food for kid parties. I've made quite a few now over the years.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Princeton / New Hope Autumn trip

We went back home the first weekend of November. This was the first time back since Grandpa McCormack died. That was when I started this blog. Happy 1 year anniversary of my blog!

The family was having a surprise 50th for my uncle on Sunday. We (I) needed a little escape, change of scenery.

We decided to stay in Princeton, New Jersey at the Homewood Suites by Hilton, a few miles from our old house in Monmouth Junction, South Brunswick Township. We've stayed there before and after researching all the places to stay in the area, it works best for us. The rates are reasonable for what we get. A 1 bedroom suite with 2 beds. We can close the door to the bedroom when the kiddos go to sleep and we can stay up in the living room for awhile. The kitchen makes it feel like a teeny apartment. It's actually bigger than what many people live in. I look for them anywhere we travel.

I made a list of all the restaurants we miss and we picked a few to eat at while we were up there. Saturday we had a great time at Joe's Crab Shack in Lawrenceville, a few minutes from the hotel. My mom joined us. The only other Joe's I've seen was in Hampton Roads and San Francisco, both a bit far for us to drive out to for a Friday night dinner out ;-)

Before the party, we made a quick stop in to visit Grandma Howard and Gary. I couldn't not let her see the kids.

Grandma Flo LOVES butterflies, always has.

I am so glad we got to visit with her, albeit so short.

After the party in Scotch Plains, we had plans to meet up with my sister for dinner. We decided on Charlie Brown's in Hillsborough. The location worked best for us all, we'd all had some fond memories of hanging out there with friends in the old days. Besides, it's only in the NY / NJ / PA area so it fit the bill. Our dinner was good and the company even better. My girl lost her first tooth on a piece of pumpernickel bread and the tooth fairy actually found us at the hotel. How cool is that?
Since her tooth has been loose for awhile now, I searched high and low for cool keepsake tooth fairy items and of course Buttons and Bows had just what I wanted. And Grandma Williams made the pillow and book.

Monday I planned for us to spend most of the day in New Hope, Pennsylvania. It was incredibly fun and such a delight. I do miss that town. It's so cute.

We found that one of our favorite brew pubs Triumph Brewing Company from Princeton now has 2 other locations. One in Philly and one in New Hope! So of course, we ate lunch there (delicious), sampled some of their latest IPA and brought home a growler of Bengal Gold IPA and a sweatshirt souvenir.

I browsed a few galleries, looking at things I may be able to display someday when there are not little urchins running around the house wink wink. The lamps at A Mano Galleries really caught my eye. I'll look again next time we are there. Or I can just look here on their site.

Strawberry Jam Gifts is such a great store too. We picked up some stickers and a beautiful Erte "Queen of the Night greeting card for me to frame.
My mother in law says its art deco, I am thinking Priscilla Queen of the Desert(1994)!

We went into a newer store named Magnet Mad-ness. They have a website store now too. I picked up a few cool magnets for gifts and for myself. Consider checking them out for some great gift ideas yourself. The center 6 are from this past trip.

I picked up a souvenir for myself at the Jonathan Rice Collection store. It is a Zero Gravity glass Signature Silverback pendant
Oddly enough, the company is Virginia based! I travelled to New Hope, PA to buy a VA item.
I thought I was buying to replace my favorite necklace that I thought I'd lost, turns out I recently found it.
That is an EquuStone necklace that I picked up at the Easy Rider store in Manakin-Sabot a few years back. I stopped in for riding gloves and walked out with a great necklace and travel bag. EquuStone makes jewelry from natural stone and pearl - Artwork in stone - made in the USA.

I also should mention the Christmas Past Village shop. I'm not really a big Christmas store nut as I know some people are. But it was an amazing store. Absolutely packed with very tasteful things, not junk, just as you would expect for a shop in New Hope. I did pick up 3 gorgeous Christmas ornament balls. Not sure if they are for the tree or some other decorating idea but I could not pass them up. They also had a wooden Christmas countdown / advent calendar with box like drawers that was about $200. It was gorgeous and I kept going back to look at it. I did leave it at the store ;-) I'll stick with the less expensive paper versions for now!

I really enjoyed browsing in Beyond the Wall but that was short lived because unfortunately, we were running short on time. Little ones can only take so much browsing in stores. Besides we had dinner plans an hour away.

I also picked up and thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the local free rags like Icon magazine and Bucks County Woman.

We did not walk over the bridge to Lambertville this time. 3 and 5 year old legs can only be pressed to walk so far you know. If we did, we would have certainly sat in The Boathouse for a bit. Awesome place from what I remember.

Monday night we had another great dinner at Arthur's Steakhouse and Pub formerly? Arthur's Tavern in North Brunswick. We have some fond memories of their delicious delmonico steaks on the menu as "Our Steak"and the pickles on the tables. My aunt Theresa and Uncle Nick joined us for that. They even gave us our own room. Real nice for us to catch up.

They now feature some items from Harold's NY Deli of Lyndhurst such as. Their cakes. OMG! If you're not familiar with their cakes and sandwiches, you would NOT believe their size. Check out the pastrami sandwich. We ordered a sugar free cheesecake slice in the end which was especially tasty to my DH whose fav dessert treat is cheesecake and he's been missing it since he's on the no sugar low carb diet.

Thank you Aunt Theresa for shipping us the 2 diabetic friendly, low glycemic index, Junior's low-carb sugar free cheesecakes from QVC. Someone in this house is going to be in pig heaven for sure! Junior's is a New York tradition, Brooklyn based since 1950.

Overall, it was a real nice trip and I did come back refreshed with a different perspective on some things. I have some very fond memories to think of now when I want to drift off.

There are a number of people I would have liked to have seen and hang out with for a little while when up there but you can't fit it all in! KB-sim qual-CS-2? Danny? CS-1? maless? clifford? carol jean? Maybe you guys can make the drive here???

Oh, and of course it was nice to see the family again!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Missing the New York Times and The Voice

Alright all you book bitten readers out there. I just placed an amazon and an ebay order for some books I've recently read reviews on that have piqued my interest.

Unlike most of you, I rarely escape into a book, I read books to learn something new. I know, boring. Fiction's just not my thing.

So let's go.... have any of you read or have interest in reading with me:

Mother on Fire: A True Motherf%#$@ Story About Parenting!
(2008) Sandra Tsing Loh

Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There
(2000) David Brooks

For the kids I got:
Big Words for Little People (2008) Jamie Lee Curtis

I also got yet one more 2009 calendar:
"Monet's Passion: The Garden at Giverny 2009 Engagement Calendar" which will look beautiful in the kitchen, especially through the dreary winter.

The Sandra Tsing Loh book intrigued me based on a few articles and excerpts I've read recently.
From an article on

"Many of us turn to public schools because we really don't have a choice. Everyone has been outpriced. Because the generation before us, those dreaded baby boomers, they swiped the Visa and left nothing behind. It was like strip mining. They took what they could and left nothing for the rest. Not that I blame the boomers, but why not? Let's blame them! They stopped the war, then they worked at corporations, and they were done -- and they still think they've saved the world. But in terms of public education, many of them left a blasted landscape behind.
Now you have these children in their 40s going, you know, it may be time to do this legacy a different way. I think it is.
It's like we've forgotten how to think communally.
And I think that goes back to the public school thing, where on one affluent block, in Los Angeles, every morning about 7 a.m. you see the four Lexuses and Range Rovers bolting out of the driveways and going to four different private schools in four different remote parts of the city. If they each just went to the corner public school and took one year of tuition -- $25,000 a year -- and put it into that school for one year, that would be $100,000. That school could buy a new gym, and everyone would save so much money -- you'd save gas, you'd save the planet -- if people just looked around and started thinking a little more communally rather than competitively. And we may have to do that in these apocalyptic times."
Another interesting reference was from The Atlantic magazine article:

describing "How a pushy, Type A mother stopped reading Jonathan Kozol and learned to love the public schools". Written by Sandra.

And then an article in the St. Petersburg times: 'Mother on Fire' wants best public school education for all kids

I'm not sure what my ideas will be after reading these slightly edgy books but I do hope they are worth it!

Then maybe I'll treat myself to John Berendt's newer book: The City of Falling Angels (2005) since I so loved Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1993) many many years ago.

Now that I don't have my gardens to play around in, I probably should bury my nose in a book. I have a feeling I'll wind up back with my gardening books and magazines as always!