Ah blackberries….. I have a love hate relationship with the fruit. Sounds weird, right? I love, love, love eating blackberries and blackberry desserts. However, I absolutely HATE picking them. My childhood was spent visiting grandparents who lived on the Oregon coast. My family eventually relocated from rural Idaho to the Oregon coast and I went to junior high and high school there. When we moved to Oregon my parents bought my grandparents house which is in the country with about 10 acres of land. Blackberries grow like weeds in this area. They just take over other plants and grasses. It is a never ending job keeping them back from the road, orchard, horse pasture, etc. My mom would try and get my sister and I to pick blackberries down along our fields, however, we were terrible at it. She would get quite frustrated with us, rightly so. There were usually spiders and bees and the bushes are very pokey. We had no trouble eating the delicious pies that she would make around the holidays though.
Last week, our local grocery store had blackberries on sale. I jumped at the chance to buy these and quickly scourged Pinterest for ideas. While I love baking, I did not get my mother’s pie making ability. I found the perfect recipe, Blackberry Pie Bars from The Novice Chef. Oh my, these were delicious and super easy to make. Sorry for the not so great pictures. I just got a new lens that I was playing with and my food photography skills are lacking. Check out the link for great pictures. Also, really load the bar up with fruit. I didn’t have quite enough to evenly spread out the blackberries. This also would be good with all kinds of fruit. The original recipe called for it to be mixed in a food processor but I found the volume was too much for mine so I mixed by hand with a pastry mixer. This was a big, big hit in our house.
My current company offers a pretty healthy vacation plan and for the first part of the year I was working a lot, which has left me quite a few days to take off before the fiscal year starts over at the end of September. So currently I am in the midst of an eight day staycation. We didn’t really want to go on an overnight trip so we checked our list out for a day trip and decided to trek down to Charlottesville and visit Monticello.
Monticello is located in Charlottesville, Virginia about 2 and 1/2 hours south of D.C. We had a slightly longer pit stop on the way down then expected (some one had his first car sickness experience). We arrived around 11am and got our tickets. $25 per adult, kids under 5 are free. They have a museum, cafe, and gift shop at the bottom of the hill where you buy tickets and the parking lots are. It is about 0.6 mile walk up to the top of the hill where the house and gardens sit. There are shuttle buses that take you up as well. It is a timed tour of the house, our time was at 12:45. So we had an hour and a half to explore.
The basement had various cellars and an interactive exhibit where kids could pick up old cast irons, ring a bell, use a dumb waiter and open a door with a skeleton key. Eilam loved this part and kept calling the house a castle. We walked around the gardens and property. It was a beautiful setting on top of a hill.
After a snack of kettle corn and root beer it was time for our guided house tour. The entire tour took about 40 minutes. The tour guide was very informative and knowledgeable. It was a little long for Eilam, especially at that time of day. The house was beautiful and we commented that Thomas Jefferson was just a tad wealthy. No photography allowed inside unfortunately. We walked down the hill after the tour past his grave and the cemetery.
Back at the car everyone was ready for some lunch, so we headed into Charlottesville and ate at South Street Brewery. It was a really neat setting in a remodeled warehouse. The food and beer was really good. They had a great kids menu and Eilam devoured his lunch. After lunch, we headed to the University of Virginia campus to walk around. Thomas Jefferson founded the University in 1819. It is a beautiful, historic campus with brick buildings and while columns.
After exploring the campus we started to head home. We took a slight detour to visit Prince Michel winery. It was on top of a hill overlooking the whole Charlottesville area. There was also a little gift shop and fruit and vegetable stand. The setting was beautiful, the wine was ok. It took us almost 3 hours to get home that evening but it was a great day of getting out of the city and exploring a place we have never been.
Here in the D.C. area we had quite a cool, cloudy Fourth of July. Our apartment complex was having an evening catered bbq and then we could watch the fireworks from the roof. They day before we bought tickets to the Nationals vs. Brewers baseball game. It was an early game, starting at 11am. We “splurged” on Stubhub and got lower level tickets right at the first base line.
It was really perfect weather to watch the game. Around 70 degrees, cloudy, not humid. The Nationals lost but it was a fun day. There is a great play structure for kids there. Kids are allowed in to play for 15 minutes and then next group goes in. There were slides, tunnels, rope ladders, and bridges. It was a great stop before the game.
It started raining around the 8th inning, so we headed back to the metro stop. The stadium is right at the Navy Yard Metro stop on the Green line. The trains get very packed around game time. There are parking garages and random parking lots around that area as well.
The b-b-q was moved indoors that evening because of the rain. Crystal City Sports Bar catered and it was delicious (pulled pork, ribs, chicken, coleslaw, cornbread). If you are staying in the Crystal City area of Arlington, I would suggest the Crystal City Sports Bar located on 23rd Street for food. The fireworks that night were a bust. We couldn’t see anything from our roof because of the clouds. We came back downstairs to watch them on TV and realized that PBS was not playing current footage. Co-workers were down at the Capital and they couldn’t see the Washington Monument. Overall, it was a fun day though it ended with a little disappointment, especially since Eilam was very excited to watch them.