Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights

During the day, at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, in Vienna, VA, you can explore 95 acres of ornamental display gardens and unique native plant collections.

As you meander along the walking trails, you can discover local flora and fauna among lakes, meadows, and forests.

Take in majestic views of the Piedmont hills, explore the Korean Bell Garden or pay a visit to the restored 18th Century log cabin.

There's a fun mix of traditional holiday lights and more whimsical, fantastical creations.

But come late November... this wonderful place transforms itself into a magical wonderland, for kids and adults. (I know I keep saying that in various articles, but it's true in so many ways -- watching kids enjoy an experience enhances the adult experience.)

Fairy houses are sure to excite your kids!

Every year from mid-November until just after New Year’s Day, the garden is transformed into a half-mile, walk of lights.

The Winter Walk of Lights is a little less than a half mile long. You should wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.

 The Winter Walk remains open during rain and snow, and is only closed during severe weather. Strollers and wheelchairs are welcome.

A river runs through it! 

Revisit perennial favorites such as the animated Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk - and look for new displays each year.

My favorite display! It looked like something from outer space!

Visit the S'more Snack Shop for hot (coffee, cider, and hot chocolate) and cold beverages, s’mores kits, marshmallows, and popcorn. The Garden Gift Shop also offers water, soda, and snacks.

Know before you go: Buy your tickets in advance online. Ticket prices are lower online and they ensure that you will be admitted to the Winter Walk of Lights. The availability of onsite tickets and admittance into the Winter Walk of Lights is not guaranteed. Tickets can sell out online and on site at Meadowlark—buy your tickets early.

I loved watching this kid dance in the light of the butterflies! He absolutely reveled in the lights!

Getting there: 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct, Vienna, VA 22182

Hours: Open every evening beginning Friday, November 9, 2018, through Sunday, January 6, 2019, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s too! The Walk of Lights runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

Website: https://www.novaparks.com/parks/meadowlark-botanical-gardens and https://www.novaparks.com/events/winter-walk-of-lights

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Color on Carroll Creek on Frederick's Frosty Friday

Every year, a wintery flotilla sails through the solstice on Frederick's Carroll Creek. This year, nine boats, ranging from a viking boat to other brightly lit ketches, yawls, and even a three mast schooner silent sail along the creek, raising money for five charities through your votes!

Whether by daylight or at night, the boats are enjoyable. Located in the Carroll Creek Linear Park, just off of Market Street, it's easy to walk along the boats and then head over to nearby Market and Patrick Streets for some holiday shopping or to visit one of the many restaurants.

Carroll Creek Linear Park began as a flood control project in late 1970s, an effort to remove downtown Frederick from the 100-year floodplain and restore economic vitality to the historic commercial district. Recent heavy rains have proven the concept and success of the plan.

Downtown Frederick was devastated by Carroll Creek flooding in both 1972 and the historic flood of 1976. With millions in property losses, several dozen buildings were left vacant or underused.

Now, the Carroll Creek Linear Park helps anchor the historic district, providing a venue for outdoor entertainment and festivals throughout the year. The area that used to be blighted and abandoned has been replaced by restaurants and shopping, apartments and condos, and office space. In fact, downtown Frederick boasts a walkable retail area filled with independently owned shops, many housed in historic buildings.

We were lucky enough to visit Frederick on its Frosty Friday celebration on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which encourages holiday shoppers to shop local and shop small businesses. Frederick has many cool boutiques and restaurants, within a few blocks of each other.  Stores stayed open until 9 p.m., parking was free, and in several places, fire pits were roaring where you could make s'mores!

Know before you go: Parking in Frederick doesn't have to be challenging -- there are several parking garages adjacent to the historic district. Check out https://www.parkfrederick.org/ for more information.

Getting there: Carroll Creek Linear Park (if you punch that into googlemaps, it'll get you there).

Hours: Whenever!!

Websites: http://www.coloronthecreek.com/ and https://downtownfrederick.org/event-pro/frosty-friday/

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Martin's Potato Chips Factory Tour

Have you ever wondered how the food you eat -- a potato chip, for example -- goes from being a potato to a chip?

You can find out on the Martin's Snacks Factory Tour.

For children and adults alike, factory tours demystifies the manufacturing process. During the tour, you get to see the start-to-finish process of making potato chips.

Martin's got started in 1941 when Fairy Martin was astonished when she saw her son purchasing potato chips one day -- she knew she could make it herself, for cheaper and better. She fried up some chips, except there were a lot, so she bagged them in brown paper bags and brought them to market that weekend. They sold out, and she thought, "that was that." The following weekend, however, her customers looked for the potato chips again. Wanting to please her loyal customers, the following weekend, she brought plenty to sell. Martin's Potato Chips was born.

Their business soon outgrew the kitchen, eventually becoming renamed as Martin's Snacks. Martin's built a small factory and expanded its distribution from delivering fresh daily to market stands, to also selling to mom and pop grocery stores. By 1964, Martin's had installed its first automated potato chip fryer and automatic bagging machine.

Today, the factory tour starts outside, not far away from the original factory. Standing by the truck unloading area, we learned the history of Martin's and enjoyed seeing a truck unloading potatoes to enter the factory. And by enjoy, I truly mean enjoy. It's fascinating, listening to the potatoes rumble down from inside the truck into the conveyor belt, which shakes off excess dirt and conducts the first sort of the potatoes, by size. Smaller potatoes slip down, landing on the ground below the conveyor belt. This eventually gets scooped up and sent to a local farm as animal feed. The factory receives about four truckloads of potatoes a day.

We were then taken inside and watched how an employee sorts the good from the bad potatoes, saw the chips being fried...,

.... and put into a conveyor belt and taken up for packaging. It happens pretty quickly.

We then toured the warehouse and learned how items are packed and shipped.

A series of cameras offer a bird's eye view of the packaging operation in real time.

Unlike a lot of other tours, you really were in the guts of the operation.

The best part is they bring you fresh chips and popcorn to try right off the production line.

In 1971 the business was sold to Ken and Sandy Potter with the Martin family remaining as employees. Ken Potter had learned the potato chips business by working at El-Ge Potato Chip Company for 16 years. One route truck handled all deliveries. Bar-B-Que Waffle chips were the #1 selling item. By 1990, Martin's growth had exceeded its factory’s capacity. A new 40,000 square-foot factory was constructed on the same property. The old factory was re-purposed for office space, box storage and vehicle maintenance.

In 1994, Martin's added popcorn production to the facility. Since then, its butter popcorn has become the most popular ready-to-eat butter popcorn in central PA.

You can find Martin's potato chips and snacks in stores between New York and North Carolina.

Most of the waste generated by Martin's is used by local farms for feed (if edible), for soil amendment (dirt and mud) and for fertilizer (wash water). Cooking oil waste is used by a rendering plant for use in many other products. Metal scraps and used motor oil from maintenance operations are recycled.

Know before you go: Martin's only provides factory tours on Tuesdays. Call well ahead to arrange the tour, as during popular periods, they fill up.

Getting there: 5847 W Lincoln Hwy, Thomasville, PA 17364

Hours: To inquire about our company tours, please call our main office Monday-Friday between 9 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.; 717-792-3565

Website: https://martinssnacks.com/

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Boutique Winery at Halbrendt Vineyard and Winery

Halbrendt's Vineyard and Winery is a small family owned winery in Orrtanna, PA (west of Gettysburg) specializing in artisan wines from estate and locally grown fruit. The winery offers varietal wines and blends made from Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Cayuga White, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and local fruit. Sometimes the winery hosts plein air painting in its vineyards.

I got a chance to chat with co-owner Noemi O Halbrendt about the winery.
The winery is their retirement plan! "We planted the vineyard while we had our full time job and open the winery when we retired from from our day job," Halbrendt said. "We are passionate about sustainably grown grapes and we love good wines, thus made us decide to have a small retirement winery gig."

The Halbrendts' wine journey began in 1999 when a property located in the foothills north of Gettysburg was acquired. Over the next 10 years, the vineyard was established while both held full time jobs at the Penn State University Fruit Research & Extension Center.

Halbrendt is a plant pathologist, and thus was able to develop a sustainable vineyard pest management program that results in high quality fruit that had been sold to local wineries and are made into fine wines.

Sustainably grown means the grapes are planted with minimum tillage, and insect and diseases  are managed through scouting, knowledge of the biology of pest and diseases and by knowing critical periods to spray insecticides and fungicides. "We do not do calendar spray in our vineyard," Halbrendt said. "We only spray when needed. We manage the pesticides that are used in the vineyard to avoid development of insect or disease resistance to insecticides and fungicides, respectively."

When you check out Halbrendt Winery, you can expect to find white wines with fruit tones, such as Sweet Dreams, a semi-sweet white that's a blend of Traminette, Cayuga, Vidal Blanc, and offers hints of pear and smooth citrus finish; and the semi-dry Philosophy, a blend made from Vidal Blanc, Cayuga White and Traminette that offers aromas of white stone fruits, and citrus complemented by light floral notes. On the red side, the winery offers Fireside Red, a semi sweet blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin that provides a jammy fruit flavor with a smooth plum and black cherry sparkly finish.

Getting there: 1150 Evergreen Way, Orrtanna, PA 17353

Hours: open for wine tasting and sales Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Website: http://halbrendtwinery.com/

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Historic Annapolis by Candlelight

Have you ever wondered what those historic homes look like inside? I do! Thus, when I hear of a tour of private residences in a historic city, I leap at the chance to tour them!

A home on a previous year's tour. Photo courtesy VisitAnnapolis.org.

Once a year, you get to find out how a selection of historic homes in historic Annapolis have decorated the historic interiors. Please note, other cities, including Frederick, also offer similar tours, when homeowners graciously open up their historic homes to the general public.

A home on a previous year's tour; photo courtesy VisitAnnapolis.org.

The Sign of the Hogshead is now a museum in historic Annapolis; its wood-frame
structure poses an architectural mystery, as the property shows up in records, but
with a different structure identified. It is suspected that the structure, which dates
to the 1700s, was moved to the location and placed atop a foundation
that dates to the early 1800s at some point.

What's really fun is seeing how the homeowners have created comfortable, functional and in some cases, very contemporary and modern spaces in homes dating back two hundred or more years. You get to see where walls were, see where doors used to be, enjoy seeing some gorgeous antiques as well as very contemporary touches, and in touring, you get a glimpse of how families have lived in the homes and adapted them (and to them) over the many decades. In some cases, the old is preserved right along with the new marble counters and original floors (you hear a lot about the original floors).

A home on a previous year's tour; photo courtesy VisitAnnapolis.org.

Annapolis by Candlelight, marking its 27th year, takes place the first full weekend in November (the first weekend that contains both a Friday and a Saturday). Historic Annapolis, Inc., which organizes the annual event, also puts on a number of other events each year, but Annapolis by Candlelight is a one of a kind.

The houses on the tour, such as the circa 1903 residence a few doors down from the
Paca Mansion, are easily identified by the luminaries in front and leading up to the entrance.

There are also holiday candle light tours, offered by the Watermark tour company, that also bring you through the historic district. It's also worth noting that the Hammond-Harwood House offers a Secret Garden Tour each year. If you're a fan of the area, then also look for Eastport's home and garden tour, offered annually at a different time of year.

The Cassaway-Feldmeyer House. With its 3-story pressed brick facade with
narrow mortar joints, wide eaves an elaborate cornices, the Cassaway-
Feldmeyer house is an outstanding example of the Italianate style. Now a
private residence, it used to be the headquarters of Historic Annapolis.

The wreath on one of the front doors of a house on the Annapolis by Candlelight Tour.

Historic Annapolis began its Historic Marker program in the late 1960s to encourage preservation efforts and to educate residents and visitors alike about the city's rich architectural heritage. Eleven of the buildings on this year's Annapolis by Candlelight tour display the octagonal markers, which are color-coded according to different eras and styles.

The Waterwitch Hook & Ladder Fire Station #1 is now a private residence. After
the fire company vacated the building in 1987, it was purchased for use as office by the
Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Later, the property was converted into two separate residences,
an excellent example of "adaptive resuse." The current owners purchased the property about a
year ago, renovating the interior extensively before moving in. Photo courtesy VisitAnnapolis.org.

Know before you go #1: Wear flat-soled walking shoes. You're walking up and down (often steep and narrow) stairways and over cobble-stoned and brick sidewalks.

Inside detail of the Sign of the Hogshead, which is run as a house museum.

Know before you go #2: The homes on the tour are NOT wheel-chair accessible, as these are private homes. Photography inside the homes is not permitted. Bathrooms are not for public use.

I really enjoyed getting to experience Annapolis in a completely
different way than I normally would while exploring by daylight!

Know before you go #3: Be ready to walk. We climbed a total of 16 flights (according to my Fitbit) and walked almost 3 miles. This varies from year to year, depending on the homes included on the tour and their locations. Parking is street parking only.

This house wasn't on the tour, but it was adjacent to
one that was, and took a pretty photo, so...

Interestingly (and sadly), one of the homes has three gravestones (not sure
whether these are actual grave sites or if it truly was just the stones) in the patio.

Where: Varies each year. Tickets available online and for pickup at the Paca House.

Hours: 5 - 9 p.m. first weekend (Friday, Saturday) in November.

Website: Annapolis.org

The McCusker House, named for a family who
owned it for more than 100 years, was once a tavern.

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Two of these four townhomes were on the tour this year.
Built by Jeremiah Hughes in 1821, these four
townhomes largely retain their original features.