Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baking Bonanza

My daughter, the sometime baker, is visiting from New York, and has spent the last 2 days in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes. Her tiny un-air conditioned Brooklyn kitchen was getting her down, so she fled the city to stretch out in my big, cool, suburban kitchen. She took requests, and has cranked out...

a chocolate hazelnut torte topped with chocolate ganache...

cinnamon rolls, a challah braid...

an apple coffee cake, a New York cheesecake with fresh berry topping...

and a batch of classic giant New York-style black and white cookies.

She heads out tomorrow morning, leaving behind about a month’s worth of calories. Come back soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Once Upon a Mattress

This afternoon, we went to the matinee of Stage Door Productions’ performance of Once Upon a Mattress, a musical comedy based on the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. Stage Door has been around for ten years, and they always put on crowd-pleasing shows. This one is perfect for the whole family (well, kids old enough to sit through a 2-hr. performance): a familiar fairy tale, a castle setting, a royal court, a wizard, some magic, some charades, and an incredible tower of mattresses. Performances are held at Massaponax High School, and continue next Saturday (8 pm) and Sunday (2 pm). Tickets are $15. Support your community theater!

Friday, June 20, 2008


Tonight was the first night of Operafest at Mary Washington, an event we look forward to every year. The concert features professional singers and talented students who participate in an intensive five-week opera workshop at the college, and this recital is the culmination of their work. This year’s singers are a particularly strong group, with some really outstanding voices. The first half of the approx. 2-hour program features scenes from 8 different operas, including some “greatest hits,” like Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Puccini’s La Boheme, and Massenet’s Werther. Following an intermission, the company performs Puccini’s one-act opera, Suor Angelica.

We are by no means huge opera fans, but we do enjoy it from time to time, particularly the more accessible, melodic pieces, and especially in the small doses you get at Operafest. Opera is an acquired taste, and if you’re on the fence about it, Operafest is a good way to do a little sampling, without committing to sitting through an entire full-length opera. And each scene is described in the program, so even though you won’t understand most of the words, you’ll get an idea of what’s going on.

The program was directed by Jane Tavernier and Kathryn Ahearn, vocal instructors at the college. As always, I was interested in What Jane Wore: a long, red satin sheath with spaghetti straps, overlaid with intricate black beadwork, and with a flounce of black lace at the bottom.

Operafest will be performed again tomorrow night at 7:00 pm in Dodd Auditorium. Free admission.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Classic Car Show

A couple of weekends ago, we stopped by the annual meet of the Fredericksburg Antique Automobile Club, held down by the Visitor Center. It seems like vintage cars are big around here, and we enjoy checking them out whenever we come across a show. Even if you’re not a classic car buff, it’s always fun to take the trip down memory lane. Anyone over the age of about 40 is likely to find cars from their childhood.

The first family car I can remember looked something like this one from the 1950's, except ours was white and orange:

This is just like my first car, a VW Beetle I purchased when I was about 20. It's from the early 1970's (I have to admit I hate thinking of this one as an "antique"):

I liked this one because of the prop tray of food at the window:

I haven't seen many commercial vehicles at the shows I've been to. This truck, from the 1920's, was owned by the Hilldrup Company, founded in 1903 and still operating today as Hilldrup Moving & Storage.

This is one of my favorites, the Mini Cooper. I don't think it's changed that much over the years:

If you want to check out a few classic cars yourself, you can head over to the Fredericksburg Classic & Muscle Car Club’s “Cruise-In” every Friday night from 6-9:30 pm during the summer (weather permitting) in the parking lot of Virginia Barbeque, at the corner of Rt. 1 and Fall Hill Ave.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Soap Box Derby

I spent this morning checking out Fredericksburg's annual Soap Box Derby on William Street. The race was first run in the city in1948, and after fizzling out in the mid-1970's, it made a comeback in the 1990’s. Today the city's Soap Box Derby is the “largest local race in the world,” a title it has earned for the last 5 years.

When my kids were young, we always knew quite a few kids who were in the race, but even now I was surprised to recognize a couple of names, kids I hadn’t seen since they were babies, but who are all grown up now. Well, grown up enough to pilot a derby car, but small enough to still fit inside. I also like to cheer on the sponsoring businesses where I’m a regular customer (Yay, Cardinal Press! Go, Little Tire!). For race results, check out the information at the Free Lance-Star’s race website. Congrats to the winners!

At top is the start of the race, with the racers loaded onto the starting blocks, waiting for the race official to pull the handle to send them off down the hill. Below is the whole course, from the white tent at the top of the hill near College Ave., down to the finish line at Kenmore Ave. I have one question: where do these kids practice?

These cars have won their heats and are ready for their next run. It was very hot (seems it always is on derby day), so the towels are helping to keep the cars from getting too hot to handle.

Race officials swapping wheels between pairs of racers. Just one of the many fine points of the race.

The Turkey Hill people were there on this very hot day, giving out free cups of ice cream. I don't think I'll ever get enough of this giant red cow.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Farmer's Market

We got a bonanza of produce at the Spotsylvania Farmer’s Market on Saturday, almost all of the veggies we needed for the week, and pretty enough to take a picture. Two kinds of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cukes, tomatoes (greenhouse), cilantro, new potatoes, strawberries, a fragrant basil plant, and a hanging basket of petunias. I’m happy that Mrs. Flores is back at the Spotsy market after spending last summer at the downtown market, and she told me that eggplants, tomatoes and peppers should be available in a few weeks. Check out the Spotsy market at the commuter lot on Rt. 3 (heading west, it's on the left just before the new Giant) on Saturdays from 8-1.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Lee's Ice Cream

Temperatures in the high 90’s are a perfect excuse to go out for ice cream. Although I love Carl’s for the cultural experience, I’m really more of a hard ice cream fan, and for that, you can’t beat Lee’s on Caroline Street. Actually, the owner decided to change the name to Wally’s last summer, but after so many years as Lee’s, I don’t know how long it's going to be before that takes. Especially since he hasn’t repainted the signs on the front of the shop since he bought it from original owner Lee years ago. To confuse the issue, the owner’s name isn’t’s Jeff. Wally is his pet bird. And I’ve yet to hear anyone refer to the shop as Wally’s. But no matter...the ice cream is great, and if you’re in Fredericksburg, you should check it out.

Jeff makes all the ice cream himself, and along with the more expected selections (as many as 32 choices), there are always a few interesting flavors you might not find elsewhere. On recent trips, we've found peanut butter with Oreos, coffee with Oreos (anything + Oreos = good), banana chocolate chip, spicy pumpkin, and mango sorbet. His “Arbuckles” ice cream, made with vanilla ice cream and Swiss hot chocolate, is classic, and he makes a Girl Scout Cookie ice cream that tastes exactly like Thin Mints. And he always has a couple of sugar free and/or fat free choices, too, and they’re really good. You won’t feel deprived.

Above the counter is the artfully rendered menu, including the "map" of the ice cream freezers:

Not the most colorful choices, but delicious nonetheless. On the left is a double scoop with Kahlua Fudge and Toasted Coconut, and on the right is a single scoop of Fat Free, Sugar Free Butter Pecan Yogurt (I was trying to be good):

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Beating the Heat

When the temperature nears 100 like yesterday (and the heat index is well above that), lots of adventurous folks head to the Rappahannock River to cool off. We stopped at the riverside to watch the canoeists and tubers for a bit. The river gauge was in the green, but just barely below the yellow (red=too high, yellow=caution, green=good), so it looked like they were getting a pretty good ride in spots.

The river can be very dangerous, with lots of unseen water hazards, so you should really only go on the river if you, or someone in your group, is very familiar with it. Every summer there are river rescues (we’ve already had at least one), and drownings every year or two (81 total since 1962), with victims often being people who are unfamiliar with the unpredictability of the river. So be careful. The mom in me wants you to read this before you jump in. See the part about life jackets being “essential for fishing, wading, tubing, swimming, or boating on moving water”? Please wear know how I worry.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Goodbye to Nader's

I’ve been going to Nader’s market (and prior to that, Bladna’s, owned by the same family) for takeout dinners for years. I’d pick up some of the creamiest hummus or baba ganouj I’ve ever had, buy some pita bread, olives, and feta cheese, come home and add a cucumber salad and Annie’s goddess dressing to the mix, and have a quick and healthy vegetarian meal. The shop specialized in Middle Eastern food (with a small attached restaurant with a Middle Eastern menu), but also had lots of international items. I could get many different sizes of couscous, all kinds of Asian noodles, several kinds of flatbreads, and hard-to-find ingredients for Indian recipes. So it was with great dismay that I discovered this week that they have closed up their shop on Plank Rd. (across from Ukrops), with no notice of relocating, just a goodbye to customers. I can only hope that after a nice vacation, they’ll resurface with a new store in the area. If you see them pop up somewhere else in town, let me know!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Music on the Steps

The Monday night summer concert series at the downtown library kicked off tonight at 7 pm with The Company Store, an old time traditional string band that mixes a lot of country humor into their performance. They’ve been playing the library steps for a number of years, and they are definitely one of my favorites. Check out their website here, and you can hear some samples of their music. The “Music on the Steps” series has a wide variety of musical genres covered in this summer’s schedule, and we try to go every week, regardless of who’s playing. Great for all ages, with plenty of room for dancing toddlers.

For more outdoor music, check out the Tuesday lunchtime concerts at Hurkamp Park, from 11:30 am-1:30 pm. Also in Hurkamp Park is this Wednesday's “Music Under the Stars” with the Fredericksburg Community Concert Band (that always gets a big turnout). On Friday, check out this concert in Market Square from 7-10 pm. And the Bluemont concerts at Maury Stadium on Saturday nights start up on June 21. For a more complete listing of summer concerts , check out this post at In The 'Burg. Enjoy!