Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Wrap Up

Husband installing the Chimney Liner - not for the timid.
2011 was a year of refining my quest to save dollars while earning a little on the side.  Couponing and deal searching saved me $2,700.00.  It's often hard to keep track of each penny so I can estimate that my savings were probably closer to $3,000.  Toss in several do-it-yourself projects (we installed our own flexible chimney liner and built a Chicken Coop) and we saved $1,000 more.  My Etsy business grew last year and I've gotten the hang of selling.  I sold nearly 100 pairs of vintage eyewear that previously belonged to my father and nearly 50 other vintage items.  This little side business is my way of trying to preserve what little savings I have remaining from years of employment.

Amazing Ginko at the UVA Rotunda.

Last year was also a time to take blogging seriously and I made it through an entire year and 101 posts!  I almost reached 10,000 readers checking out my Forsythia Hill Finds blog!   I also started a separate blog on tumblr to create a visual log of some of my photography.  I have nearly 3,500 followers.

Next year I will continue couponing even though I am finding it a bit harder to get those super deals of early 2011.  Grocery stores have somewhat changed their strategy to make it more difficult to super save.  I'm going to have to do a better job of stocking up - not stockpiling - but stocking up essentials so I don't have to ever pay full price.  I did a good job last year of not buying non-essentials.  My goals are to continue selling items I no longer use and of course to discover and sell vintage.  I'll be seriously clearing out my parents belongings so interesting vintage will pop up in my etsy store.

Pretty sky over Forsythia Hill.
Our biggest expenses are fuel and food.  My mother taught me the Kroger savings trick of buying gift cards for places I shop (like Target) when Krogers offers 4X the fuel points.  This will give you FREE greater fuel savings at the pump. We have a wood stove and chop our own wood to help reduce our electric bill.  I also don't drive the car everyday and combine shopping tasks - always making several stops to save gas.  My husband works from home one day a week which saves a little on fuel.  It's going to be hard to shave the fuel bill down any more.  Hopefully we'll see some food savings this year due to my improved couponing skills - practice really does help concerning nailing down couponing.

Our sweet shy yellow tabby Cesar.
We were relieved to not have any pet deaths in 2011 given the prior year we lost 2 dear pets.  We acquired our six hens that are so fun to have around.  This will be our third Spring on Forsythia Hill and I am eager to transplant some perennial plants now that they have grown a bit and put them in more permanent spots.  There is nothing like a dark cold winter to get your gardening blood moving.  Little Red Kale plants are coming along and by early Spring I'll be harvesting!  Fingers crossed that the Muscadine Grape plant that I purchased this Winter survives.

See you on "the other side" --- HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Gingerbread Express and Let There Be Light

Glo-Tribal dance performance at PVCC.
Friday, we attended the annual PVCC Let There Be Light student art show.  It was a freezing cold night but there is always plenty of free Hot Cider and Hot Chocolate to warm us midway around the perimeter of the outside of the campus building.  We also rode a bus in the annual Downtown Business Association Gingerbread Express Holiday light trolley trip. 

This year two refugees went with us.  One refugee had only been here for 4 months and spoke very little English and the other has been in Charlottesville for a year now.  There was little understanding of exactly what they were going to!  My friend Cindy (who adopted a refugee family last year) likes to introduce them to local activities so they will gain a greater understanding of our culture.

Our friends having a laugh over floating marshmallows.
I think the Hot Chocolate was a real surprise for our refugee friends, something neither had tried.  The huge marshmallow was a freak of nature to them, they were not exactly sure what you did with that thing.  Also I think it was super sweet tasting to them (the whipped cream was a bit over the top).  The light sticks were totally new for them and they waved them around for hours.

The light display is always fun and interesting.  Nestled in the woods, hanging in the trees were a series of lighted art creations.  We had to rush through this year because of our pending trolley trip scheduled for 8 pm.

The trolley was actually a 45 minute bus ride through downtown Charlottesville neighborhoods.  There were many oohh's and aaww's.  It was fun to listen to the kids say - that's a dud or scream with delight when a good light show popped into view.  There was a crazy crazy CRAZY Hooville House along the route which made it all well worth the trip - Mountain View St. and Monticello Rd.  Santa came on board for the kids and everyone was happy and having fun until ---------------------------- the kids puked in the seat right in front of us.   Ugh.  Ugh.  Oh gross.  It's been a long time since I've been on a bus with kids, especially with one that puked.  That sorta deflated our spirits and I've never seen so many windows shoot down in my life but now understand why. 

After the bus ride, we went back to the refugees house and had the best meal prepared for us.  A Nepali dish of peas and thin fried bread.  It was a bit hard to swallow at first -- peas and puke certainly don't mix -- but it was so good that all was ok after a few bites.

It was a fun night and you never know what's in store!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

McIntire Botanical Garden Plans

Plans are underway to add a Botanical Garden to McIntire Park.  The park is managed by the city Parks and Recreation and adding the proposed garden to the park requires approval by the Charlottesville City Town Council.  A vote as to the future usage of this space will hopefully be decided in 2012. 

If you think the Botanical Garden is a worthy addition to the City, please attend the next meeting.

The next scheduled meeting is Monday, December 12.

Nice old Oaks on top of the hill on the East side.
Today, I ventured to the park for the first time.  When I moved here two years ago, my first indication of the existence of the park were the posted signs "Save McIntire Park".  For years, there has been a road construction project planned that would slice off part of the Eastern most section and many local residents have fought this decision.  Currently the park is divided down the middle by a railroad track giving it an East section and West.  McIntire Park has long been an enigma for me, probably because I see it as a recreational park and not a place to go and convene with nature.

I discovered that the East section is a large green expanse dotted with magnificant old Oaks and of what used to be a small golf course.  Apparently long defunct, I had the entire 75 acres to myself this cold afternoon.  Still actively used,  and visible from the 250 bypass is the playground and vintage McIntire Wading Pool.   There is also a small sweet Vietnam Memorial.  All of the elements that are still in use will remain.  Wow, talk about a diamond in the rough.  I was pleasantly surprised to find such openness downtown and now understand why the protest to protect this space is still enduring today.  Thankfully, it sounds like the City is open to the proposal to keep this area natural. 

Lovely rose at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The proposed McIntire Botanical Garden will be located on the East side section of McIntire Park and feature native plants of the Piedmont Region of Virginia.  Detailed plans encompassing 75 acres have been professionally drafted.  A botanical garden is one that labels plant species.  When I think of gardens that I frequent several come to mind; the Richmond Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the Roanoke Virginia Western Community Arboretum, the Lynchburg Old City Cemetery, and of course Monticello and the UVA Academical Gardens.   Given the setting is in a City on a hill, it reminded me of the stellar San Francisco Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden.  When I moved here I was a bit stunned that of all the outdoor parks and developed walking trails in the City of Charlottesville, there was not one Botanical Garden or Arboretum.  Sure, walking on natural trails that have not been landscaped is an equally wonderful experience and our Shenandoah National Park is outstanding but a Botanical Garden allows closeup contact with plants that might not always be spotted while hiking along a restricted trail path.  It's a different experience that is equally educational.

After visiting the site, I really can see this space becoming a nature lovers paradise.  There are some wonderful old Oaks, a Southern Magnolia, and Dogwoods.  Little Chickadees were following me around the Vietnam Memorial.  The park will become surrounded by traffic after the Meadow Creek Parkway opens, it will require a nice tree buffer to tone down the noise and that is exactly what this area needs!  The western side, by the railroad tracks, has a nice dense forested area.  I see no detriment of adding a Botanical Garden to McIntire Park.  The park is adjacent to neighborhoods where there are exercise paths, hiking trails, ball fields, a High School and Football Stadium, Condos, the 250 bypass, and Rio Road.  Our natural world is being chipped away with roadways and development.  This might just be the last place in the City for such a garden.

Planning meetings are open to the public.  The next scheduled meeting is Monday, December 12 where attendees will break out into groups and plan the future of the East side of the park!  All area interested gardeners are invited to attend this important meeting to aid in the planning of the area where the proposed Botanical Garden might reside.


Friday, December 2, 2011

What's a Girl To Do

Get out and about and give a little this Holiday Season. 

FRIDAY - December 2

5:30 PM - 7:30 PM - FREE - McGuffey Holiday Show.  Opening reception for local artisans crafts for sale.

SATURDAY - December 3

9 AM - 3 PM - FREE - Earlysville Craft Show at the fire house in Earlysville.

2 PM - 6 PM - FREE - Handmade for the Holidays.  Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center Museum Shop.  Meet artisans, sample delectable holiday treats and shop for gifts made in Virginia.  Chocolate tasting!

Snowman for sale in my Etsy Shop.
10 PM - $15.00 - Dirty Barbie & Other Girlhood TalesLive Arts Theatre.  One woman show, has been sold out every night.  About growing up in the South.  Continues to next weekend at earlier times.  Pre-pay online.


Dec 16 - 20.  Holiday Trolley - get your ticket TODAY - FRI - Dec 2nd is the last day to purchase - they sell out FAST.  Tours run Dec 16 and 17.


Holiday Instrument Drive - donate your old musical instrument to a child in need.

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