Monday, August 31, 2015

Dinsmore House, Charlottesville, Va.

Charlottesville is a historic city which is the home to the University of Virginia as well as to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and James Monroe's Ashlawn Highlands.  James Dinsmore was Jefferson's favorite master carpenter and he used him in the construction of Monticello and also recommended him to Benjamin Latrobe when a builder was needed for the new national capitol building. Dinsmore was a speculator in Charlottesville and owned several properties including the Livers House which today is the home of the Dinsmore House.

This is an in-town Bed and Breakfast and it is located within an easy walk of the University of Virginia making it the ideal place for visiting family to stay. It is only a mile from the central downtown shopping area and there is public transportation that travels up and down the street in front of the bed and breakfast regularly.

Right behind the Bed and Breakfast is the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel which has allocated enough parking spots for the inn to make parking a non-issue. As a Dinsmore House guest, you also have access to the pool and health club at the hotel.

This bed and breakfast is a labor of love for owners Ryan and Denise. They have been constantly making upgrades one of which the sound proofing windows made a stay here a very quiet one even though the house is located on a very busy street.

The parlor is a warm and lovely room where you will be welcomed in the evening with a glass of wine and cheese or tea and pastry. You can relax on one of the sofas and just drink in the atmosphere as well as your wine. Breakfast is served in the dining room, on the porch or in the warm weather on the back deck. The porch is also where there is a guest fridge with water and soft drinks.

Breakfast is a magnificent affair here and you will be allowed to have a private table to enjoy your gourmet repast. Expect to see delectable French toast, luscious egg dishes, amazing pancakes, fresh fruit and fruit juice, coffee and tea. You will never walk away from breakfast at Dinsmore House hungry.

The Inn has eight rooms. The Jefferson Suite is on the second floor of the adjoining townhouse. It has two rooms, a parlor separate from the sleeping area and a large bedroom with a king-sized canopy bed. All the rooms are equipped with private bath, TV with DVD, WiFi and the usual amenities such as hairdryers and ironing boards and irons.

The Dinsmore Room is a very large room on the second floor of the main house with a king size canopy bed, an antique loveseat and a wing chair for watching TV. We have stayed in both of these rooms and found the beds to be very comfortable with great mattresses and luxury linens.

If you want a room on the first floor there are two available the Veranda and Virginia. Prices range from low $100 to high $200 depending on which room is involved and what time of year it is.
If you are coming to Charlottesville to tour the wineries, to visit the University of Virginia or to visit the home of the Three Presidents (James Madison's Montpelier is only about 30 miles away) then the Dinsmore House is the perfect place to stay.

Did I forget to mention that there are several very good restaurants within walking distance of the Bed and Breakfast? One that we particularly enjoyed was Michael's Bistro which has a great college atmosphere, delicious pub style food and a beer menu that will impress even the most jaded beer connoisseur.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Flashback Thursday: Revisiting the Historic Traingle in Virginia

We visited the historic triangle twice in the last year. Most people do this as a family vacation but honestly, it was loads of fun for just the two of us seniors. 
The Historic Triangle includes the cities of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. These three destinations included a great deal of history. Williamsburg is a much larger city than either of the other two and makes a great place to set up your base. 

We chose the Fairfield Inn on Richmond Rd this year and the rate of $63 a night made staying here for 5 days very affordable. Our room was a studio.
Last year we stayed at the Williamsburg Lodge which is lovely and is located right in Colonial Williamsburg. Expect to pay quite dearly for that convenience. I stayed there on a media rate which was still more than $100 per night.

You could spend 5 days just visiting Colonial Williamsburg so if you want to do everything in just a week, you need to allow at least a full day each for Yorktown and Jamestown. You will need a day to do Busch Gardens as well. Unfortunately we visited when Busch Gardens was closed so we didn't get to visit there.
Al getting friendly with the first president
Since we only visited Market Square and the Visitor Center  in Colonial Williamsburg this year I wanedt to spend more time on Jamestown and Yorktown. They each have two sites to visit, a state educational site and a National Park Service Site. Both are well worth a visit and require several hours. 
Monument at Historic Jamestowne
I will be doing more detailed articles later but I hope this is enough to at least whet your appetite for a visit to this area.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fabulous Fall in McHenry County Illinois

Scare Yourself at 'Terror on the Railroad' in Union
On Friday and Saturday nights throughout October, the Illinois Railway Museum presents "Terror on the Railroad", a darkly haunted train experience for those over 13 whose hearts can stand the ride. Bigger and better each year, three haunts await in 2015.
First, ride the Screamliner, a vintage passenger train that's been overrun with insane scientists determined to keep their train moving by sucking the life out of the passengers. Next, step aboard the Train of Chills, an abandoned set of decrepit train cars where asylum escapees have taken up residence. Face your fears in their new home; they're dying to see you. Finally, visit Cirque de Decay, where a circus train unloaded its twisted freaks. Details and tickets at

21st Annual Shades of Autumn Near McHenry: Families love this eight-weekend fall extravaganza on Stade's (pronounced STAH-dee's) Farm, near the town of McHenry. Ride a wagon into a giant pumpkin patch and enjoy hayrides, petting zoo, corn maze, crafts, outdoor concerts, zip-lines, climbing bins, jumping pillow, corn box, barrel train and pedal cars. See Stade's celebrated pumpkin cannon blast giant orange missiles into a distant cornfield, and ride on Frank, the big purple combine. Enjoy farm-cooked food and more. Open Saturdays and Sundays starting Sept. 12, then Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays, Oct. 2 through Nov. 1, plus Columbus Day on Oct.12.  

Second Annual Main Street Fest in Cary: This outdoor fest, Sept. 19 & 20, features restaurants, businesses, outdoor marketplace, live entertainment and children's area. Craft beers and select wines complement the menus at participating eateries; a fine arts component showcases local artists with live art creation and interactive displays; the main stage has live entertainment; the family stage highlights theater, dance and interactive programs.
Cody's Farm Annual Pumpkin Festival Near Marengo: Take a hayride into Cody's giant pumpkin patch to pick out your favorite. Explore the four-acre corn maze, corn tunnel. pumpkin launchers, corn box, barrel rides and tractor track. Enjoy fresh cider, brats, apple cider donuts, burgers, caramel apples, fresh fruit pies and more. Open every weekend in October.
10th Annual Fall Fest in Huntley: Soar high in the sky with tethered hot air balloon rides, Friday, Saturday & Sunday, Sept. 25, 26 & 27. Enjoy carnival midway rides, car show, beer garden, food vendors, hay rides, craft show, business expo, model train display, ice cream eating contest, puppet show, live music, magic show and fireworks. Kids will love the kids' stage, petting zoo, pony rides, straw maze, pumpkin bowling and scarecrow building.
Johnny Appleseed Festival in Crystal Lake: Johnny Appleseed is the guest of honor at Crystal Lake's largest one-day festival, held Saturday, Sept. 26 throughout downtown. Meet and greet Johnny himself, see cider-making, apple pie-baking and pie-eating contests, craft fair, music, dance demonstrations, children's games, pony rides, pumpkin bowling, petting zoo, face painting, carnival rides, scarecrow contest, balloon art, heritage demonstrations, storytelling, food, cider donuts, apple treats and more.
28th Annual Autumn Drive, Woodstock to Marengo: This progressive fall festival on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 16, 17 & 18, moves at whatever pace you choose. Spend a leisurely day driving Garden Valley Road between Woodstock and Marengo, when McHenry County farms open their barnyards and farmhouses to the public. Pick up fall produce, honey, jams, soaps and vinegars along the way. Ride a tractor, visit petting zoos, twist through corn mazes, pick apples and pumpkins, take a hayride. Many stops include crafters selling pottery, jewelry, lawn ornaments and more. Antique dealers sell furniture, trunks, cookbooks, tools, collectibles and jewelry. Garage sales and barn sales are scattered throughout the drive, as are produce, and baked goods. Garden Valley Road is a 30-minute-drive north of I-90.


Pumpkins are the star attractions at many of the orchards and festivals listed above, but you can pick your own or choose from pre-picked ones at many other locations throughout McHenry County, along with squash, gourds and autumn decorations. 
  • Patyk's Farm Market & Greenhouse, Richmond
  • Twin Garden Farms, Harvard
  • Von Bergen's Country Market, Hebron
  • Tom's Farm Market, Huntley
  • Grace Farm Studios, Woodstock
  • Dave's Pumpkins, Huntley
  • Red Barn Market, Woodstock

Plan an Overnight in McHenry County

McHenry County is just an hour's drive northwest of Chicago, bordered on the north by Wisconsin, and on the south by I-90. The Fox River winds down from the Chain of Lakes through the towns on the eastern side of the county, while country roads meander the western side. 

For visitor info, including lodging and dining 
options throughout McHenry County, log on 
Visit McHenry County toll-free at 888-363-6177. 
Follow on Twitter and Facebook. For a digital 
McHenry County 2015/16 Visitor's Guide, 
click on the image to the left. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Planning a Trip to Ireland

I am in the planning stage of a trip to Ireland. Well, that isn't exactly true, I am in the final stages of the planning. We leave for Ireland on Labor Day. I realized that it might help some of my readers if I shared my planning process. 

When to go

This is my fourth trip to Ireland and this is the first time I have ever technically gone in the summer. I have two January visits and a December visit. I am looking forward to seeing a few more flowers in bloom though I have to tell you there were primroses blooming in the garden of the McCauley Center in Dublin in January. The country really does look green all year, it isn't called the Emerald Isle for nothing.
Oscar Wilde in Dublin

Things you need to know 

In case you don't know, the island of Ireland has two countries. The Republic of Ireland uses the euro. Northern Ireland , which is part of the United Kingdom, uses the pound sterling. If you are going from one to the other you need both currencies but your credit and debit cards should work fine. Just be sure to check before you leave about the transaction fees that your card holder charges. Some cards are very high.

Cell phones

For the most part, your U.S. cell phone doesn't automatically work in Ireland. Again check with your carried before you leave about what you need to do to be able to use your phone. Check the International rates as well, you may find that text are 50 cents each and call rates are $1 a minute. 

If you have a smart phone, consider downloading skype and then when you are somewhere with wi-fi you can call for just pennies. Be sure to put some money into your skype account. You want to use wi-fi instead of 3 or 4 G to avoid the data charge. 


You will need a currency converter for most electronic devices. Not your computer, it has the box in the cord that does that but you will need an adaptor plug so that you can plug into the wall. 

One of the joys of flying out of Dublin or Shannon is that you go through U.S. customs in Ireland which saves a load of time when you arrive back home. 

I think I am going to stop now but I will continue with my planning process in another post.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Flashback Thursday: South Bend Ind. to Rockford, Ill.

We drove from South Bend, Ind. to Rockford. I trusted our GPS. One of the these days I am going to go back to the old way of doing things, using a map because the GPS decided we would enjoy basically driving through downtown Chicago. Yes,  that was a lot of fun.

Add to that the problem with construction on the road and by the time we arrived we were just a little frazzled. 

I also had not considered the fact that we had changed time zones and we arrived very early for check in. We were lucky that the Courtyard had rooms already cleaned and the woman at the desk upgraded us so we had a lovely courtyard room where we could easily walk to the hot tub for a relaxing soak.

We went out for an early dinner. One of my online friends from Helium, Christine Zibas lives in Rockford and she suggested we go to Garretts for dinner. We actually got there about 4 p.m. for early dinner. We started with an app of chips and salsa which was very good. I had a salad with chicken and roasted peaches and Al had a burger with homemade potato chips. We were very pleased with all the food we got there. 

She also suggested the Egg Harbor Cafe for breakfast the next morning and again the food was excellent. 

We moved across the street to what would be our hotel for the next few days, the Hilton Garden Inn. 
The adventure begins.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Harvest Festival at Monticello

Upcoming Events      News      Shop      Give       HHF 2015 at Monticello!
Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello
Fabulous Beekman Boys, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Amish Paste, Abe Lincoln: Do you know how many kinds of tomatoes there are in the world? While no one has an exact number, join us at this year's Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello to taste more than 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes alongside a few dozen heirloom peppers and melons - including Craig LeHoullier's Dwarf Project Tomatoes! LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes and the person who introduced the Cherokee Purple tomato to the world, will also be one of the many legendary seed savers swapping his seeds, knowledge and experiences at the 9th annual Heritage Harvest Festival Seed Swap. You just might also score a few seeds from Ira Wallace, author of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, Ellen Ogden, co-founder of The Cook's Garden seed catalog, Michael Judd, founder of Ecologia, LLC, Edible & Ecological Landscape Design and Project Bona Fide, Nan Chase, author of Drink the Harvest, or Rodger Winn, certified organic grower and producer of heirloom seed varieties for various seed companies.

Special Thursday Epic Tomatoes!

Join Craig LeHoullier, Nan Chase, and Ira Wallace for a remarkable afternoon at Montalto, Jefferson's "high mountain," for informative presentations, a question-and-answer session, book signings, and an exclusive tasting preview of tomatoes featured at HHF 2015. Also sample an assortment of delicious beverages and sweet and savory treats made with tomatoes, herbs, unusual fruits, vegetables, and flowers grown in the trial gardens at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Thomas Jefferson's gardens at Monticello. Reserve your special Thursday tickets NOW! >>

Become a Heritage Harvest Festival VIP! Learn more >>


Monday, August 17, 2015

Fredericksburg Battlefield Tour

The greater Fredericksburg area was actually the scene of four Civil War battles: Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Chancellorsville, and the Wilderness. Over 100,000 men fell in the four battles. Entrance to all four battlefields and the Fredericksburg National Cemetery are included in your pass to Historic Fredericksburg.

You can watch the 22 minute video in the Visitor Center either before or after your guided tour. Because of timing, we took the tour first, then visited the small museum in the basement of the center. Finally, we watched the video. It worked for us, but be sure to check with the rangers to find out what time the tour is leaving the center.

 Our guide was an out-of-state volunteer who donates his time every year to give tours of the battlefield. You can’t fault that kind of passion. About 20 people were in our group and there is walking involved. Because we followed the Sunken Road for much of the time, a wheelchair might be possible on this path.

We began by getting a brief history lesson about the battles that were fought in this area. It was at The Wilderness that Generals Lee and Grant first met. We learn about the Union Army and the difficulties Lincoln had his General McClellan, who built a fine army but never did anything with it. He defied Lincoln, mocked him behind his back, and was replaced by Ambrose Burnside. He did not have the love or faith of his troops, but he did come to Fredericksburg with a plan. 

He was to move quickly and take Fredericksburg and outrace Lee, who was in Richmond. Unfortunately, the promised pontoon boats were 10 days late, thus killing the element of surprise. Confederate snipers decimated the Union engineers trying to build a bridge, and in retaliation, the Union troops plundered the town of Fredericksburg. 

The inhabitants left everything behind; the army left nothing. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the population returned to its 1860s level. What we had finally was 120,000 Union troops and 78,000 Confederate facing each other at Mary’s Heights.

Different tours have different topics, and ours was The Sunken Road. The sunken road was exactly what it sounds like, a road lower than the level of the surrounding land, and in the battle of Fredericksburg, it was supplied, along with the stone wall, a lot of natural protection. The Confederates used it to their advantage. 

About 8,000 Union troops were slaughtered as they tried to cross 50 yards below the sunken road. We get a very graphic description of the carnage. This is the bloodiest landscape in North America. Hearing about it was one thing; watching the video made it much more real.

Part of the tour is visiting the Stevens House and the Richard Kirkland Memorial, both of which have fascinating stories attached. I leave it to you to visit and hear them.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Photo Friday: Claw and Paws Wild Animal Park

This past weekend we went to Claws and Paws with Kasey, Christian and Jack. It is just 15 minutes from the cottage and we have not been there in 13 years. It is a great way to spend a couple hours in a wooden environment. 



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Flashback Thursday: A One Night Stop In Maumee, Ohio

Maumee , Ohio is just beyond Toledo, Ohio. It is where we spent the second night of our trip to Rockford, Ill. which was a Saturday. I chose it for the ease of getting to a church since this can be one of the hard things to do when traveling. This location had two Catholic Churches within a very close drive. We chose St Joseph Catholic Church because the time of the Mass worked better. 

After Mass we went to the Maumee Antique Mall which was also close to our hotel. It was huge and stayed open until 8 p.m. on Saturdays. In August, the days are long and we didn't have to worry about getting back before dark. And yes, I did buy a few things, all very well priced. 

We stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott. It had a very nice location, next door to an Outback Steakhouse, within walking distance to Buffalo Wild Wings and a couple blocks from  Cracker Barrel so even though breakfast isn't included, you have options. Gas stations nearby as well to fill up before heading back to the Ohio Turnpike. 

I liked this stop very well. I am sure if I looked around I would have found a small interesting museum and the Toledo Art Museum is not a long drive. We enjoyed the pool and spa at our hotel, great way to relax.