Tuesday, November 25, 2008

War Memorial

Has anyone else noticed that the new Fredericksburg War Memorial looks a lot like the University of Mary Washington logo?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Under Construction

There are two buildings under construction of particular interest to me. First, the new downtown Marriott that is currently covered in Tyvek, which is definitely a strange look:

And second (and more importantly), the new Wegman’s in Celebrate Virginia, a store I’ve never been to, but I only hear good things about. I wasn’t thrilled with this pristine acreage along the river being turned into a huge commercial development (I know the alternative could have been hundreds of homes, and I’m not saying I would have liked that any better. Wildlife refuge would have suited me just fine.), but now that the fate of the land is sealed, I can only hope we get some interesting new businesses out of the deal, like Wegman’s. I don’t need a waterpark resort or four new hotels (Are travelers really streaming to the ‘burg, as the addition of the finished or planned 1,233 new hotel rooms at Celebrate VA would suggest?), but an upscale supermarket will be an exciting addition.

This was taken about a week ago, and things have progressed quite a bit since then. This store is scheduled to open June 21, 2009.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


There were a lot of local plays to choose from this weekend, and we chose the one closest to home: the final performance of Riverbend’s production of Postmortem. The drama students did a fine job with the play, a whodunit set in 1922 which features murder, attempted murder, plenty of gunshots, some bloodshed, and a breakaway bottle over the head (the first time I saw that in a high school play, and a very convincing one, too), with solid set design, costumes and lighting. The play was fast-paced, and with enough plot twists to keep me guessing until the end. And then scratching my head, because the plot had more holes in it than...well, something with a lot of holes in it. Props (ha!) to the Riverbend Drama Dept. for a solid production.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yes, We Can Bake

Of course, by "we" I don't mean me. And certainly nothing as elaborate as the five layer Obama cake my daughter baked for election night. In fact, ever since the birthday cake debacle in which I had to trowel frosting between chunks of cake to form a barely recognizable cake-shaped structure, my policy is that if it has to come out of the pan in one piece, it's too complicated.

My daughter will be here for Thanksgiving, so I'm already looking forward to some serious baking. At least this year, dessert may involve more than my usual boxed gingerbread mix.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2400 Diner

It’s been awhile since I checked out one of Fredericksburg’s old-time eateries. The 2400 Diner is a tiny treasure that’s been around since 1950, and is still popular with the locals. My husband and I used to stop in for a big breakfast in the old days, on those rare occasions when the kids had school on some minor holiday that he and I had off from work. The homefries were always my favorite part of the breakfast. But I haven’t been there in years, so when a friend suggested we get a bite there one Sunday morning, I jumped at the chance. Nothing much has changed over the decades, and the breakfasts are still a big attraction. With only a handful of booths and a few stools at the counter, there’s often a wait during busy times, but the weather was warm, and we chatted outside while we waited for a table. We covered a few of the culinary bases by ordering a hearty breakfast and a classic Greek gyros on pita with a salad. The menu features all of the usual diner offerings, and the free coffee and iced tea refills keep coming.

For some beautiful photos of the diner, check out this gallery by local photographer Rich Mason.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Capital Ale House

Like just about everyone in Fredericksburg, we were excited about the opening of the Capital Ale House last week. We stopped in for a pre-football game dinner on Friday night. We figured that at 5:30, the place wouldn’t be crowded, but we were wrong. We had to wait about 30 minutes for a table, but the nice thing about this place is that the wait is downright pleasant, with a huge selection of beers to sample and some comfy sitting areas to relax in.

Make no mistake, the attraction here is really the beer. They have an interesting food menu, and our dinners were good, but not particularly inspiring. The beer menu, on the other hand, is very impressive. They have 50+ beers on tap, and hundreds more by the bottle. I’ve just started enjoying microbrews and artisan beers in the last couple of years (after 30+ years of drinking mostly Miller Lite...are you beer enthusiasts squirming?). This has been mostly due to the urging of my daughter, who lives in the shadow of the Brooklyn Brewery and Brooklyn’s Bierkraft. And I admit I still am kind of a lightweight, preferring mellower, sweeter amber ales and brown ales to the hoppy or bitter IPAs and stouts. So I won’t attempt to review the beer...I will leave that to local blogger Musings Over a Pint.

This place is shaping up to be a Fredericksburg hotspot (hmm, how often do you hear “Fredericksburg” and “hotspot” in the same sentence?). I’m not sure if the novelty will wear off, but for now, the place is really hopping all evening. I have to say it—it’s a bona fide scene. And it’s also the kind of place where you could comfortably hang out all evening, nursing a beer or two with a friend, without being rushed off.

The renovation of the space is very well done. Lots of sleek surfaces and trendy light fixtures give the space a contemporary vibe, but the wooden tables, vintage postcard art and rustic beamed ceiling keep the space feeling warm and pubby.

The service was fine, but I was particularly impressed by the management on Friday night. While we waited, a manager gave us a tour of the place, including the downstairs room for rent (starting in January) that seats 35. Another manager helped with our dinner order to keep things moving.

After learning that Capital Ale House serves reduced priced beers on Sundays, we made a point of stopping back in after visiting the downtown shops during the Holiday Open House. Again, the place was filled, with not a single space available at the bar, so we enjoyed our beer in the dart room, furnished with a trio of cushy leather couches. We managed to sample 5 beers in total this weekend: Breckenridge 471 Double IPA, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Magic Hat #9 (with its odd, perfumey taste), Bell’s Amber Ale and Starr Hill Amber Ale.

Some of the taps:

The bar area, with Jetsons' lighting and rustic beams:

Our dinner, a Maytag burger (bleu cheese) and a vegetarian panini, with what they call Belgian-style fried potatoes, or frittes, but are really just French fries served with mayo. Whatever you call them, the plate needed a few more.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Downtown Holiday Open House

This weekend was the big holiday open house for the downtown merchants, and we made the rounds this afternoon. The weather was particularly warm, which was perfect for walking around town, but made all the Christmas decorations seem more premature than usual. We hit up all the best prospects for snacks, and I even did something I rarely do this early—bought a couple of Christmas gifts. For the most part, though, I don’t do any shopping at this annual event. So many of the stores are so overstuffed with gifty items that you can hardly move, and after awhile, everything starts to look the same, blending together into one big indistinguishable mass. Gift store overload, I’d say. I think it takes a more advanced shopper to confront the downtown scene efficiently on Open House Day. I’m more of an online Christmas shopper these days anyway, which is much more sanity-preserving for me. Still, I love the downtown atmosphere: the people-watching, the colonial carolers, the Yamaha kids out in front of the studio playing their recital pieces, and everyone strolling along enjoying the beautiful day.

At top, Pete Mealy and Laurie Rose Griffith perform in front of the Richard Johnston Inn.

Below, the funky reindeer candelabra from the whimsical window at Whittinghams.

This antique calliope played off and on during the afternoon.

The calliope was in front of an antique shop whose name I can't remember (near the corner of Caroline and Amelia). I was surfing around the net, trying to come up with the shop name when I ran across this fun blog, Fredericksburg As I See It, which had basically the same photo.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh Happy Day

I’ve voted in eight presidential elections, and I’ve never been as excited about any of them as I was yesterday. Not even close. At times in the past, it’s felt like I was supporting the lesser of two evils, or the best of an uninspiring lot. Yesterday, I was thrilled to vote for a candidate who reflects my values in almost every way. From a foreign policy that values diplomacy and international cooperation over unnecessary war, to more reasonable economic and healthcare policies, to protecting the environment, to securing human rights (women’s rights, gay rights, reproductive rights), I believe that Barack Obama will be able to make real progress and deliver meaningful reform. He has intelligence and integrity. To say I feel hopeful is an understatement.

So I went to the polls yesterday at 7 a.m. feeling downright giddy. Considering the national polls, I was expecting to find at least a few Spotsylvanians feeling equally chipper. Not so, at least not at Chancellor Elementary School. From the looks of those glum people, you’d have thought they were on line to view the casket at a funeral. Okay, maybe it was too early in the morning, or maybe they just wanted to get the task over with so they could get to work on time, but I was disappointed that I didn’t see even one person with a broad smile or a spring in the step. Maybe what one worker manning the Democratic table told me is true, that this is the most Republican area of Spotsylvania, already a thoroughly Republican county.

So by the evening, I was looking to spend some time watching election returns with a happy group. I started the evening at Kybecca’s wine bar (my first visit since they’ve opened the indoor bar), where people were enjoying themselves, but in a pretty muted way. Probably the email promising a respectful atmosphere where all viewpoints would be welcome had something to do with that. And between 7 and 7:45 pm, there really wasn’t that much in the way of returns to get too worked up over. With only 2 states counted, the night was young.


But by 8, I was looking for a little partisan merriment, so headed over to Foster’s Grille in Stafford to hang out with the Stafford Democrats. Now that was a great party, with whooping and hollering over every tiny Democratic gain. I’ve never gone to an election returns party before, but now I know where to find a good one. Thanks, Stafford Dems, for letting this Spotsylvanian get in on the fun.

These photos say it all:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fall Back Bonfire

For the second year in a row, we celebrated (or mourned) the end of Daylight Savings Time with a bonfire in the woods of Spotsylvania County. I didn’t grow up with bonfires, and maybe that’s why I find them so fascinating. My family lived in hyper-surburbia, and didn’t do any camping, and generally speaking, we stayed out of the woods. We had a fire in the fireplace once or twice a year, but that was about it. I’m sure my brothers, being Boy Scouts, enjoyed their fair share of campfires, but my troop of Girls Scouts kept as far away from fire as possible. So this whole bonfire thing is pretty exciting, especially when our Saturday night party had a designated fire tender who kept the fire blazing, but safe, despite a fair amount of drinking all around. There was a feast of food and drink (for me, the hit of the night was the hot cider with cinnamon schnapps, which is destined to be my new holiday drink), musicians playing guitars and singing, marshmallow toasting (and a reappearance of the Marshmallonator), and plenty of adorable young’uns to play with. I hope my friends keep up this tradition, and that I’m always able to weasel myself onto the guest list.

Musicians at play:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Post-Halloween Wrap-Up

I haven’t had trick-or-treaters come to the house in years (aging neighborhood, dark cul-de-sac, long and foreboding driveway in the woods), so my husband and I decided to head downtown last night to check out the Halloween scene. I was thrilled to see so many college students in full costume walking along William St. And as we headed towards Kybecca, we ran into Amy from the shop in perfect Palin attire. I’m sure there were a lot of costumed Sarahs last night, but I can’t imagine a better likeness than Amy’s (in real life, it was startling). I wasn’t quick with my camera last night, but here and here are a couple of photos from Kybecca’s blog.

We walked around a bit, then headed to J. Brian’s (a favorite of ours) for dinner, where we started with what is usually a huge portion of nachos, but which last night was absolutely monumental. A towering mountain of nachos. I didn’t think to take a photo (must have been shocked into inertia), so you’ll just have to trust me on this. Order them sometime.

Then we walked over to Maury Stadium to watch the undefeated Yellow Jackets take on our own beloved Chancellor Chargers, also undefeated as we approach the playoffs. Maury is like a second home stadium to us, and it’s rare that we’re rooting for the other team. We started on the Chancellor side, but the crowd was so enthusiastic that our bleacher-full was standing. Well, sitting through four quarters of football is hard enough—I wasn’t about to stand. So after the first quarter, we went over and sat on the JM side, careful to keep our Chancellor love on the down low. I got to see plenty of Halloween costumes, including the entire JM Marching Band in costume (my favorite was the fat referree). The yellow jacket mascot even threw candy into the stand, and I nabbed a piece, so it was like a tiny taste of trick-or-treating (larger tastes will come when I break into the entirely unnecessary bag of Snickers sitting on my kitchen counter). The game was very close, both teams played well, and Chancellor won. Here are some of the highlights, including some Halloween costumes.

The photo at the top is the first kid's costume I ever created, for my almost one year old daughter. The stuffed carrot makes the costume, don't you think? She turns 24 this week.