Summer Bucket List Fun: A Mini-Vacation

Last week Keith was finally able to take some time off (2.5 whole days!) so we put down our mobile devices (there may or may not may have been been some hiding involved) and got the h-e-double hockey sticks out of dodge.

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For our mini-vacation (SBL) we took a mini-roadtrip (SBL) and made our way to the outskirts of the little town of Quicksburg, VA to the Grist Mill. A civil war era cabin and mill, it is owned by descendants of the first owners by some weird twist (history and reservation info here).

The mill is set in the Shenandoah Valley, so there is plenty to do and see but the cabin is so homey and serene that we really enjoyed just hanging out there. We took our time getting ready in the mornings, hanging out in the hammock on the porch overlooking a creek and having breakfast together (a rarity). We feasted on Muesli with plain yogurt and berries and/or Sun Toast each morning (recipes from my new favorite cookbook, Super Natural Every Day).

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Raw milk and eggs were provided by our lovely host from a local organic farm. We’d not tried raw milk before so heated it to be on the very safe side (though from the description of the farm I doubt it was necessary) and I am still amazed at the difference in the taste from the store-bought stuff. We try to get local, low-pasteurized milk most the time, but even that – which tastes exponentially better than the milk that goes through ultra-high pasteurization – does not compare to the lightly sweet flavor of raw milk (kind of reminded me of breastmilk, which in a way, I guess, it is). I loved it in my morming coffee. The eggs were very good too. I’ve been contemplating joining a CSA for a while; this may have been the push I needed to start buying directly from a farm.

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In the evenings we came back to the cabin for dinner and took advantage of the grill; by the second night, Keith had perfected his BBQ pizza technique.

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On our only full day there, we visited the Shenandoah Caverns and the nearby Yellow Barn. The entrance to the cavern was in a park-like setting so before going in, we had a picnic in the shade of a nearby tree. The girls had a great time running around in the grass, watching ants and climbing on a dinosaur sculpture there. The caverns themselves were lovely and interesting and the girls did pretty well on the tour – Aria loved taking pictures of the formations – even if they did get a bit tired toward the end. Aria was very excited to pick out a small bag of “gems” (mixed stones) from the gift shop to add to her collection of shells and shiny stones; she’s been telling stories with them ever since, each color stone having it’s own name and character (there’s a Daddy Shell, for instance). Ani got a little dog carved from soapstone (she loves dogs…from a distance, anyway) which we are hoping doesn’t make it’s way towards someone else’s head anytime soon.

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The Yellow Barn contains antique farming equipment and various local vendors and admission and a wine tasting with some very unique wines (coconut!) are included in the ticket to the Caverns.

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On the way home we visited the Shenandoah Valley Flea Market, a virtual treasure chest of antique and vintage items. I finally found a perfect vintage picnic basket – something I’ve been looking for for awhile (it’s got a wooden top and everything!) and also picked up some old blue-glass Ball jars in various sizes (one filled with wooden spools and vintage buttons – score!) for our dried goods, some enameled plates for picnics and a few other odds and ends, including this lovely little painting for the girls’ playroom.

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We sadly just missed (by one day!) a HUGE thrifting event. It seems that the stretch of road the Flea Market is on has quite a few semi-permanent yard sales and booths set up to sell vintage items and once a year even more pop up for a 50-mile run of yard sales.

To end our mini-vaca with a bang, we went to this summer’s final performance of Wolf Trap Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods. Wolf Trap National Park is the only national park dedicated to the performing arts. It was our first time; the park is gorgeous and the children’s theatre is set in a lovely wooded area. Many families brought picnics with them for after the show (something for next time). The girls loved the large dinosaur puppets and lively music of Dinorock especially.

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All-in-all we had a great time; I only wish we had longer – longer together, longer away from work and our day-to-day lives. We would have loved to have visited a few of the organic farms in the area that welcome visitors and hope to get back soon to do so – maybe in the spring (this one looks cool). For now, though, we are wrapping ourselves in the glow that comes from a break, however short it was, and hanging on to the feelings of connection and refreshment. We are hoping to make it to the sea in September, before it gets too cold, but after the summer rush has passed. We figure if we can take a mini-break here and there it will help us keep close and a bit more relaxed – especially once school and Keith’s travel ramps back up this fall – and it will be a vast improvement over the once-in-a-blue-moon breaks/vacations we’ve had in recent decades.

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