Thursday, April 26, 2012

If You Hide it, They Will Come

Whenever I post a Facebook status about geocaching, there is at least one person who responds with “What’s a geocache?”. When reading such responses, I marvel at the number of “muggles” still wandering the world, completely clueless about the cache that they just passed. :) Today, I decided that I would write a little history and how-to guide for all my readers. So, be prepared to be immersed into the amazing world of geocaching…

What is geocaching?
The official definition is “a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game”. Basically, players use a GPS device to hide and/or locate hidden containers called geocaches and share their experiences in an online community of other players. Geocaches can be found all over the world and can range in size from a small camera film container to a large paint bucket or ammo can.

How it began:
Geocaching began in May 2000, when GPS technology took a great leap forward and GPS receivers around the world got a massive upgrade. Shortly thereafter, the White House announced that anyone could now "precisely pinpoint their location or the location of items (such as game) left behind for later recovery."

Inspired by this technological advancement, Dave Ulmer, a GPS enthusiast, decided to hide the very first geocache in Beavercreek, Oregon at N 45° 17.460 W 122° 24.800. He posted the coordinates online with instructions to “take some stuff, leave some stuff”, and the world of geocaching began.

Since the first geocache was hidden, the semi-secret geocaching community has grown and spread around the globe. Unique geocaching terms have formed, and a website has arisen and evolved. If you visit an REI store, you can even find a Geocaching section that sells cache containers of all sizes and accessories, such as logbooks, special pens, and water-proof materials.

Who should geocache:
EVERYONE!! Seriously, I do not know anyone who does not like geocaching. When I worked at a daycare facility, I would recommend it to parents all the time! How could anyone, of any age, say no to an activity that gets you outside, gets you active, and gets your creativity working? Besides, it’s TREASURE HUNTING! If you do not like treasure hunting, you obviously skipped your childhood. :D

(My boyfriend, Dan, finds his first cache)

(Dan and I taking my sister and godson for their first geocache)

My geocache and me:
In 2008, I learned about the wonderful world of geocaching from my friend James. Of course, I asked the classic question, “What is geocaching?”, and as soon as he responded with the words “treasure hunt”, I was hooked! Sadly, my list of found geocaches is dismally small at the moment. However, since purchasing my iPhone, and subsequently the Geocaching App (it is totally worth the $10!), there are no excuses for my logged geocache list to remain in its lowly state. :)

(My dogs and I on a geocache hunt.)

Getting Started:
At this point, I am sure you are dying to try finding a cache of your own. To get started, go to the Geocaching website ( and create a free account. Then, do a search for geocaches in your area, note their coordinates, grab your GPS device, and go find them!!

You may have noticed that the site also offers Premium accounts for a small fee. Many hard-core cachers sign up for premium accounts, because they offer extra benefits, including premium-only caches. If you decide to become a die-hard cacher, I would recommend purchasing an account. For anyone who wants to be a casual cacher, you will be fine with the free account. Believe me, there are plenty of free cache listings to keep you busy for a long time!

A few other important things:
When you find a cache listing that you want to hunt, be sure to note its size and difficulty level. This will be extremely helpful as you search. Many caches also list a hint or clue about where to look. If you still have trouble finding the cache, you can look at other players’ notes and/or pictures for further hints.

Feel free to send me any questions you might have! You can reach me at AtTheLamppost, or you can find me on (Member name - kaliska47).

Are you still reading this blog? Why? Go find a geocache and quit being a muggle! :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring = Planting Season

The weather is still sporadic here, but everyone is starting to get the spring planting bug. On Friday, my dad, Dan, and I could wait no longer. Since Dan and I’s backyard is still very shady, we decided to team up with my dad.

As usual, spring planting starts with tilling up the garden. After work ended on Friday, I picked up the puppies and drove to my dad’s house, where he and Dan were already halfway done with the rototiller. I would have joined in, but three people around a rototiller = someone losing a foot. Instead, I snapped pictures of the fun. :D

Before calling it a night, we mixed in some compost and covered the garden bed with mulch to prevent weeds from growing.

The next day, my dad and I headed to the greenhouse to get plants. While Lows and Home Depot are good places to go, my dad loves going to a little, family owned business called Williams Greenhouses on Maries Rd. Many people do not know this place exists, but those that do, know how much fun it is to walk around and pick out your plants. The second you walk into the building, you smell the delicious dirt and growing plants scent that makes you want to breath deep and stick your nose into the first flat of tomatoes that you see. Mmm…

In the veggie greenhouse, my dad and I were confronted with dozens of tomato plant varieties. While many were familiar (growing tomatoes is a family tradition), there were some new varieties that we did not recognize. Within minutes, we were chatting about tomatoes and peppers with one of the farmers. The farmer told us that it was still early to plant most of the garden, but recognizing the planting fever in our eyes, he gave us some bean and pea seeds that would hold up well in the remaining few days of cold weather. We purchased our tomato plants and the seeds and said we would be back in a week to get the rest of our garden plants.

Apart from smelling all the tomato plants, the next step in gardening is my favorite – Planting! There is something so invigorating about digging in the dirt; I just love it. While I have gardening gloves, I prefer to do the actual planting with my bare hands. A little dirt under my nails never bothers me! :) I love feeling the soil run through my fingers and placing each seed/plant where it gets to grow.

We finished our planting just in time for the storm clouds to roll in. As we threw the last of the empty plant containers in the trash, rain drops began to fall and water the beginnings of our garden.

When the garden is complete, it will contain zucchini, tomatoes (big and cherry), cucumbers, beans (two varieties), peas, peppers (bell, jalapeno, and chili), sunflowers, and chives. If we have a little extra room, I want to throw in some basil and rosemary, but we can always grow them separately if needed.

Tomato Planting Trick:
Oh, for those who like to grow tomatoes, we picked up a cool, easy trick from an elderly farmer who was watering the plants as we were leaving. He said to place a small, level teaspoon of Epsom salt in the bottom of each hole you dig for your tomato plants. According to him, it will double the yield of your tomatoes! I will let you know how ours grow this year to confirm it. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Shuttle Watch

Sometimes there are benefits to living close to an international airport. This week, I got to experience a benefit that only comes once in a lifetime – watching the landing of the space shuttle Discovery at Dulles Airport.

The highway to the airport was PACKED with cars and people. Every bridge, on-ramp, off-ramp, and median was covered with people who had come to see the Discovery riding piggyback on a 747. All the spectators could tell when the time was getting close because helicopters magically appeared in the sky, hovering high above us. The second the planes were spotted you could hear all the cheers, shouts, and clicking cameras.

The shuttle flew right over our heads! It was the coolest thing I have ever seen!!

After returning from a quick tour of the capitol, the shuttle showed off once again by doing a nice slow flyby of route 28. Everyone was laughing and chatting – friends with perfect strangers for a moment in time.

The planes drew around for one final time, lined up to the runway, and landed forever, to the cheers of all the people around me.

It was undoubtedly one of the coolest experiences of my life. I’m sure many events will surpass this one in value, but how many people get to say they saw a space shuttle fly piggyback on a 747?!

If you are in the area and were not able to see the Discovery land, you might be able to catch the Enterprise’s take off from Dulles on April 23, 2012. (, or maybe you can catch both the Discovery and the Enterprise together on Thursday, April 19th (

If you can make it, do! You’ll never forget it. :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bluemont Vineyard and Great Country Farms

One of my favorite places to visit is Bluemont, Virginia. Just a half an hour outside of Leesburg, this is a great destination for adults, kids, and dogs. The reason this location is so fantastic is that it is home to both Bluemont Vineyards and Great Country Farms, and the best part is that they are right across the street from each other!

My most recent trip to Bluemont included my friends Nikki and Renee, and their children. Since it is such a great place, more friends and family joined in, and we had quite an energetic group!

If you have children with you, I suggest beginning your day at Great Country Farms. For a small entrance fee, you can have hours of playtime on their countless mazes, slides, jumping pillow, and more. It’s a great way to wear out the kids, as well as get you a free tasting at Bluemont Vineyards. :)

Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the kids playing on the farm. (Notice that some of the “kids” are not quite kids. heehee)

The giant jumping pillow

Playing on the Spider web

Double-barrel slide

We played at Great Country Farms for hours, and we barely touched all the activities. The farm also has pick-your-own events throughout the year. I’m planning on going back soon for strawberries. :)

Once the kids are sufficiently worn out, I recommend driving across the street and up the mountain (it is rather steep, but if my mustang could make it, your car can too!) to Bluemont Vineyards. There are some play areas around the building if the kids still have energy, or you can get some crackers and cheese plates for everyone to snack on. Bluemont also serves different meals over the weekend. It changes week-to-week, but you can always call ahead to find out what is being served. My personal favorite is the Lamb Chili that they make in February. It is so good that I called ahead to reserve three servings this year!

Even if you have been once before, I recommend doing the wine tasting (remember, it’s free with the entrance fee at the farm!), because they tend add new wines each year. On this trip, Dan and I picked up bottles of their Meritage, Farm table red, Petit Manseng, and the Blackberry dessert wine. Even though we did not buy a bottle on this trip, I highly recommend the Strawberry dessert wine. It smells like the best strawberry jam and tastes just as good.

With the weather quickly turning to spring and summer, make sure to put Bluemont on your list of local places to visit!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to Add a New Car to Your Loudoun County Personal Property Taxes

This week brought a very exciting experience for me. I bought my first car! I was very sad to see my old mustang drive away, but the new car represents all that lies in my future. :)

My new car is a Subaru Forester! I picked out this car because, even though I loved driving my mustang, I needed a car that would meet the following requirements: 4WD/AWD for snow or dirt roads, a bigger second row seat for friends/family, and space in the back for the puppies. My new Forester meets all these things, and it has a roof rack for bikes/Christmas trees/etc... Huzzah!

After the excitement of purchasing a vehicle, you face the stress of getting it registered and claimed. Luckily, the dealership helped me with the registration, and my insurance only took a few minutes. However, getting my car registered for my county sticker was more difficult than it needed to be. I hope other counties are not as aggravating, but for anyone living in Loudoun County, Virginia – good luck!

Because I had such a stressful time getting my county decal, I have decided to include a nice set of instructions in today’s blog. Hopefully, Google will do its job and direct people to these instructions, saving them all the headaches I had to deal with!

To Claim a New Vehicle on Your Personal Property Tax in Loudoun County:

  1. In an internet browser (IE9 does not fully support this site yet), navigate to this exact URL:

    (Do not attempt to search for this site on Google, because it will not direct you to the correct page. Also, trying to navigate from the home page is ridiculous, but if you insist on doing so, this is the path to follow: Home>Government>County Departments>Departments A-G>Commissioner of the Revenue)

  2. In the left-hand menu, click Online Services.

  3. On the Online Services page, under Vehicle Personal Property Division, click Register a Car, Truck, Motorcycle, or Motor Home.

  4. On the Disclaimer page, read the information and click Yes.

  5. On the Personal Property Tax Declaration page, select the Property Type.

  6. Click Continue.

  7. On the Add Account page, fill in all the required information.

  8. Click Submit.

  9. On the Registration Confirmation page, print a copy for your records.

After adding the new vehicle, you can get your county decal mailed to you by doing one of the following:

  • If you have unpaid personal property taxes, you have to pay them before requesting your new decal.

  • If you are up-to-date on all personal property taxes, call the Treasurer’s Office (703-777-0280) and request that the decal be transferred. You will need both the new car account code and the old car account code.

  • If you are new to Loudoun County and have never paid personal property tax here, go to this URL ( and follow the instructions listed under the first question.

I hope this helps you get your new car registered with Loudoun County. Believe me, you do NOT want to put this off, because there are multiple tow truck companies that regularly patrol neighborhoods looking for cars with no decal!! (This I know from experience… the bastards.)

Enjoy your new vehicle! I know I will. :D