A Pretty Perfect Wedding Preview

Made Bouquets

Almost a month ago I spent just over a week in beautiful Sacramento California to help prepare for my sister’s wedding!  I can hardly believe it’s been nearly a month already, and I still don’t have any pictures from the day of.  I do have a few snapshots that I took in preparation for the wedding, and I hope to share a few things later on.

New Plantings

New Plantings

I arrived a week ahead of time to help with last minute preparations as the reception was held in their backyard.  We had some last minute plantings to add lots of beautiful, perennial color to the flower beds.  They have an awesome backyard that they have done a LOT of work to– which I also hope to share later.  They transformed it from a very basic and boring lot into beautiful planting beds, 8 raised beds for vegetables, a couple of fruit trees, an updated patio, and more!  The whole yard is shaded in the afternoon from about 5 or 6 PM on, so with a breeze the weather was perfect for their late afternoon/evening reception.

The actual ceremony was held here:

Wedding Site at McKinley Rose Garden

Wedding Site at McKinley Rose Garden

The McKinley rose garden in Sacramento was in full bloom!  It was so gorgeous and smelled great too.  It was hot and there’s not much shade there, but the ceremony was sweet and simple and we didn’t have to be out in the heat for too long.

Made Bouquets

Made Bouquets

There was a lot of DIY in this wedding to keep costs down, and boy did she save a lot on flowers!  Her caterer told us about a floral warehouse where you can buy flowers wholesale.  She spent under $1000, and bought TONS of flowers.  Most of the bridesmaids and family was there the day before the wedding, and a whole bunch of us spent about 4 hours buying flowers and then making the bouquets and table arrangements.  We had more than enough to make at least 18 vases, six bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids, one watering can full of flowers, and then some.  And they were all gorgeous.  It was so neat to see the variety too as no two vases looked quite the same.

And one last little sneak peek at the favors.

Succulent Favors

Succulent Favors

Aren’t these the cutest succulents!  She found the little pails, and her husbands’ good friend (and their officiant) made these for them!  He is a genius with succulents and grew these little guys just for them.  I was soooooo sad not to be able to take one home with me as I thought with all the flying (and stopping in Texas) was just too crazy.

And that’s it!  That’s all I have so far…  I am hoping to get some pictures soon from the day of! I was a bit busy that day….being the matron of honor and all.  This wedding was pretty perfect though and I think we all had a great time.  I love my sister so much and was so happy to be a part of this very special day for her!

The Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello

Monticello

Last weekend, Mr. Lucky and I traveled to beautiful Monitcello in the heart of Virginia for the Heritage Harvest Festival.  It all started when we saw a groupon with a discounted ticket price for the festival- and thought that might be cool to go to.  It was an absolutely wonderful experience.

Heritage Harvest Festival

Heritage Harvest Festival

We really didn’t know much of anything going into it, except from taking a look at the schedule online.  We saw lots of free talks and demonstrations that appealed to us, and liked the overall tone and theme of the event focusing on sustainable farming.  There were a number of lectures that you could pay extra for, but I thought they focused more on people who are actually farming and homesteading, so I didn’t even consider attending any of those.  There really was plenty going on though, and we never felt any slump besides being tired from running around in the sun all day.

Two things I really wish that I had remembered to do:  wear a hat and bring extra water.  Most of the vendors had sold out of drinks and many had sold out of food by around 2 PM.  I think that there were probably a lot more people there than they had anticipated–although it never felt crowded.  The only time I really felt the crowd was when standing in lines for food.  We probably waited close to half an hour for a bbq sandwich, and another twenty minutes for a glass of ginger hibiscus tea.

After parking, signing in, and taking the bus over, we explored the grounds.  There were several tents set up on the main part of the lawn (pictured above), and many smaller tents with vendors and demonstrations scattered throughout.  It felt as though there was a lot of thought into the placement of booths.  Everything flowed with lots of space in between.  I didn’t take many pictures, but I couldn’t help but take pictures of some of the plantings.

Spider Plants

Spider Plants

Growing up we had spider plants in our front yard.  I would love to get some seeds and plant them in the meadow.  Technically, this plant is an annual, but it can self-sow to come back year after year.  Can you see in the picture some thin and long pods that seem to dangle from thin strings?  Those are the seed pods, and you can collect them before they open up.  Of course, I did not touch these plants.

We also saw these huge cockscomb plants- some of the biggest I have ever seen:

Huge Cockscomb

Huge Cockscomb

The largest plants were about two and a half feet tall.  The flowers were about as big as my hand.

Mr. Lucky and I also spent some time wandering through the gardens.  We did not take the garden or house tour, so I don’t have much history on it, but they were impressive.  Oh and the view!

Garden and View

Garden and View

Did I mention that it was an absolutely perfect day?  A view like that is one of the reasons I chose to go to college on that side of the state.  Another beautiful view with the orchard and vineyard in view:

Orchard Vineyard and View

Orchard Vineyard and View

We listened to one lecture on “A Journey to a Sustainable Suburban Home.”  It was really interesting, but did not really give us much practical advice for starting our own.  The big takeaway was just start something!  Even if it you just start with containers (and large plastic bins work quite well), plant something.  Thankfully, we don’t have an HOA to lay down any rules about what we do with our yard.  I also just found out that they’ve passed an ordinance in Fredericksburg (city proper) that residents can have up to two chickens (with a permit) and bees.  I think this movement is really catching on…

Monticello

Monticello

I was so glad to see so many people there, and everyone seemed genuinely interested in locally grown foods and sustainability.  We taste-tested loads of yummy apples, tomatoes, and “historic colonial recipe” chocolate.  We ate the best donuts we’ve ever had (also organic!) and saw so many different seeds and plants for sale!  Lots of books and authors were there as well.  There were a bunch of activities geared towards kids, and a beer garden from a local brewery.  The only thing I wish to have seen more of was more vegetable or vegan options to eat.  Most of the food vendors carried meat dishes, and no substitutes.  There was a donut shop, a pie place, a crepe vendor, and a frozen fruit pop stand.  But nothing with really good looking veggie dishes- a little strange I thought.  I will say though that the frozen nectarine pop was perfect.  :)

If you have any interest in farming, growing your own foods, or just eating more locally- this is a great festival to visit.  Anyone in the state of Virginia should make it a destination.

Fredericksburg Farmers Market

Rainbow Swiss Chard

The last couple of Saturdays in a row, I have been lucky enough to get out and make it to my local farmer’s market.  There are two farmer’s markets in Fredericksburg- one is downtown and one is on Route 3 in the commuter lot not too far from where I live.  I have never been the market downtown, and I don’t feel the need to because the Spotsylvania market is great!

Fredericksburg Farmers Market

Spotsylvania Farmers Market

This photo was taken close to one end of the market, and you can see it’s pretty big.  Because they hold it in the commuter lot, there’s lots of space to work with and tons of parking, which is great because there are crowds of people there every week.

The hours are Saturdays from 8 AM till 1 PM, but you do need to go a little earlier in the day to get the best selection.  Many of the bakery products are almost completely gone before noon. There is a gourmet ice cream truck (with reasonable prices) and an iced tea stand (loose leaf teas).  A couple of herb and plant sellers have pre-made bouquets and potted plants. There are a couple different meat sellers, including Papa Weaver’s Pork Products.  Papa Weaver’s products are awesome, and they always have samples to taste.  I love their hot dogs, even though they are expensive.  But their other products are well priced, and often fall in the same range that you would find in a grocery store.   And there are always lots of fruit and vegetable sellers.  There really is such a variety, including people selling honey, jams, barbeque sauce, goat cheeses and cow cheeses, and more.  The best part is, they also accept SNAP benefits so anyone can shop there.

Peppers

Peppers

There are so many good things about this market, and the best news is that it runs from late April through most of December.  What a long season!  Granted, towards the end of the year, the number of vendors dwindles down quite a bit, but you still typically have meats, cheeses, and the late blooming vegetables.  The rise of the local farmer has led to an increase in variety of plants, and I think more interest in eating plants year round.  I hope to see more people with new varieties the later it gets.  In reading the Spotsylvania Farmers Market Blog, I see that this year they had a few select dates that were open in the winter months.  Hopefully that will happen again this next year!

Rainbow Swiss Chard

Rainbow Swiss Chard

There were some real head turners in the last few visits- some vegetables I had never even heard of before.  Rainbow Swiss Chard is a new variety for me.  It was so colorful and beautiful!  I did not play with the picture at all!  Another variety I had never seen was black okra:

Black and Green Okra

Black and Green Okra

Some of the vendors have such beautiful displays.  A lot of them group their tomatoes by color:

Cherry Tomatoes Varieties

Cherry Tomatoes Varieties

I had never seen these varieties of eggplants before, but there were many of them in several stalls.  Guess how many are in this picture:

Eggplants

Eggplants

The answer is ….

FIVE!

It really heartens me to see so many people shopping at the Farmers Market.  I recently watched “Fresh” a documentary on small sustainable farming.  I hope that the tide really is turning and not only will people start eating more locally (and fresh!) but that we can make it a strong, economically viable way of life.  My stepson complains that it’s very difficult for him to buy good, fresh and local foods because they are so much more expensive than processed foods up in Northern Virginia.  I truly think though, if we could instead of subsidizing large monoculture farms, subsidize the smaller farms we could really make it attainable for anyone in this country.  There are a lot of opinions floating around out there on farming, and I am by no means an expert.  But I do think that we can do better in farming, and that we could even bring more jobs back to this country by investing in and increasing the number of smaller farms.

On September 15, Mr. Lucky and I plan on going to the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello.  We think it’s pretty cool that we can spend a whole day at Thomas Jefferson’s estate and go to lectures and demonstrations and see vendors and learn about sustainable farming.

More information on the markets, and other markets nearby can be found here:  http://www.thefarmersmarket.co/

A Little Vacation to a Big Park

Tunnel Vista of the Valley

I was fortunate enough last month to be able to visit my sister in California for a whole week.  It was a wonderful trip– I am always so happy to see my sister, and we spent a lot of time looking and shopping for her wedding next year.  She had asked me ahead of time if there was anything I wanted to see while I was out there.  I love natural wonders, and thought this would be a good time to see Yosemite National Park.  Yosemite is about three hours south of Sacremento, and with a reservation for one night at Crane Flat camping site (in the park) we were poised to spend two days on a “mini” vacation to Yosemite.

My sister’s fiance got some time off work as well, so that we could all go camping.  He already had the tent, cooking and dining utensils, and other accoutrement for our stay.  My sister and I made a menu and went grocery shopping, and all that was left was to buy a lantern (so that we could see well enough to play Settler’s after dark).  We headed out on a Wednesday, and made decent time.   I think part of the reason we did get a camping permit was because it was in the middle of the week, and it’s not quite peak season.  It was also nice to be able to drive around, and get out at various overlooks without it being very crowded.

Our first stop was at the campsite, to sign in and set up the tent, and lock up the food in the bear box.  My sister chose a great lot out towards the end of a cul-de-sac, and we ended up only having a few neighbors.  The sites were also large enough that you didn’t feel as though you were on top of your neighbors.

Campsite at Crane Flat

Campsite at Crane Flat

We found a slightly sloped, relatively even clearing and quickly set up the tent.  It was so easy to put up- unlike memories of camping when I was young.  This is the first time I’ve been camping since I was about 15 years old.  My how the technology has changed and is so awesome!  They let me sleep on one of their thin air mattresses, and I used my sister’s old sleeping bag.  It was not uncomfortable.

We did not spend much time at the site because we wanted to get on to Tuolomne Meadows (try to say that five times fast).  Along the drive, we stopped at a few lookouts, including this one that had a short hike to what I call the end of the world.

The end of the world

The end of the world

You are standing on the edge of cliff here, with little but the soft gray granite sculpted in front of you.  Behind you, there appears to be nothing but more granite sparse with trees.  Few people have ventured this far, and it is quiet.  There is little sign of life, except further down you see a small, furry creature quickly make it’s way from boulder to boulder, stopping to rest in the shade.  Our first Marmet sighting!  In this view, you see the back side of the peak, Half Dome, in the distance.  On the clearest days, with strong binoculars, you can make out the climbers making their way up.

Etched Rock Paths

Etched Rock Paths

Also at this overlook, we saw a photographer doing a photoshoot with models.  Probably for an outdoor equipment catalog. But what I thought was more fascinating were these deep lines gouged into the rock.  When this valley was covered in a glacier, as it moved, boulders were dragged along the surface, etching these paths into the surface.

Tuolomne Meadows

Tuolomne Meadows

Tuolomne Meadows is north of the famous Yosemite Valley, and is even less visited.  It is absolutely beautiful, although apparently the flowers don’t go really crazy until July.  Because of how elevated the area is, the spring and summer months are very short here, and mostly only perennial flowers can survive.  We did see a number of creatures here, including a very close view of a marmet.

Marmet Rock

Marmet Rock

There was a large rock right next to the path, and this guy was camped out on this rock.  You can see that he (or one of his friends) spends a lot of time here, that’s his “poop pile” just in front.  I don’t know why we found it so fascinating that he used a specific corner of the rock as the defecation area.

Further along the path, we came to a stream that was crystal clear.  Further down you could see the fish swimming and jumping for bugs.

River View

River View

Also along the path was a natural soda spring.  The water that bubbles out of the ground here is naturally carbonated, and scientists are not exactly sure why.

Soda Spring and Meadow

Soda Spring and Meadow

It was getting late, so we started heading back.  It is dinner time for the animals, and we saw more birds out, and some deer, and then came across even more marmets.  Interestingly, they had commandeered many of the larger boulders, and were now talking to each other.  They emitted this high pitch chirp that penetrated far–they seemed to be calling to each other to meet up and go in for the night.

Once back at the campsite, we made dinner (mac-n-cheese, yum!) and settled in around the campfire.  I felt lucky and honored to be in such a beautiful place on the summer solstice.

The next morning, my sister made a real tasty breakfast- I don’t think you can match pancakes cooked in a cast iron skillet over an open flame.  And we took a few last pictures before leaving.  Here I am standing among the giant trees in our campsite.

Among the Giants

Standing Among the Giants

Thursday was all about visiting the Valley and seeing the more popular tourist sites.  We did a brief detour to soak in the view from the Tunnel View vista.

Tunnel Vista of the Valley

Tunnel Vista of the Valley

From left to right, there’s El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rock, and Bridal Veil Falls.  Bridal Veil falls is one of the only falls that does not dry up in the summer months.

In the valley, we chose to do another very easy hike to the base of Yosemite falls.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

This is the only shot from the ground where you can see the entire falls.  From the base, you can only see the lower falls, and further along the path, only the upper falls are visible.  It is hard to tell the grandeur of these falls, but they are the highest measured falls in North America.  I think I read literature that said they were nine times taller than Niagara Falls.

By now it was lunch time, and we found a secluded spot in the woods to eat.  Looking up, there was El Capitan.  A very imposing rock.

El Capitan

El Capitan

A brief siesta later, and we headed out of the park.  It is such a beautiful area, and we had a great time.

Out of the whole experience, the only thing that made me a little nervous were bears.  There were bear-proof boxes all around, to store anything that smelled.  You have to put up not only all your food but sundry items as well.  I felt safest just to put everything except my current clothes in the box.  I did not want to take any chances.  We did have a can of bear mace on hand though, and we did not see any bears the entire time.

Half Dome

Half Dome

I look forward to going back someday.  Maybe I’ll even go camping again!