Saturday, February 28, 2009

Port Saint Lucie, FL

I spent the past week in Port St. Lucie, spring home of the NY Mets and winter home of my NY mother. The town is on the east coast of Florida, about halfway between Miami and Orlando. For me, its major claim to fame, aside from Mom, is the average daily February high of 75º. Mom lives in a townhome community with tennis courts and a heated swimming pool, and with temperatures in the 70’s and the sun shining every day, we were able to get in plenty of tennis and swimming. And of course, there’s the beach. She’s about a 15 min. drive from the beaches of Hutchinson Island, a sand bar not unlike the Outer Banks, except for the tropical blue-green water. And palm trees. And warm enough weather in February to sunbathe.

The week was a family reunion of sorts, with both of my brothers and their wives spending all or part of the week there. It was exactly how I like my vacations...plenty of lounging, reading, eating, jigsaw puzzles, games (Rummikub is a family favorite), and a little exercise thrown in for good measure. Even though Fredericksburg’s winters are pretty mild (we came home to 65º weather, so I can’t really complain), it’s uplifting to get such a huge hit of sunshine in February. Thankfully I didn’t have to come home to the mounds of snow on the ground in upstate NY and NH (home to my brothers).

So excuse me if this seems like I’m rubbing my sunny vacation in your winter-weary nose, but here are some photos:

Here's the beach in mid-week. Beautiful and blissfully empty.

On the weekend, we got to watch the kiddies at play at what was undoubtedly the high schoolers' end of the beach. I just have 2 little bits of motherly advice: First of all, just say no to the boombox. It's 2009 and the iPod has been invented expressly so that I can enjoy the beach without being subjected to your taste in music. And as for tattoos, call me old-fashioned, but when your tattoo looks like something unusual is growing out of your bikini bottom, that may have been a look to avoid.

There were plenty of shells on the beach, as well as this especially disgusting species of jellyfish:

Here's the community pool where we did some serious sunning. We had the place mostly to ourselves--I guess temperatures in the 70's isn't considered great pool weather for most of the locals. My sister-in-law makes yet another special cameo appearance on the blog.

I know shuffleboard has the reputation of being a game for senior citizens, but we enjoyed playing a few rounds, and we're years (or that's what we keep telling ourselves) away from senior status. It's not quite as easy as it looks.

We finished two 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. Because that's how we roll.

We checked out the farmer's market at the brand new civic center (top right), which featured the usual produce, plus crafts, ethnic specialties and breads. With live music, too.

Fruits, veggies, and a little social consciousness raising...although I'm not sure the farmer's market was exactly the right venue for this table.

In one of the local supermarkets, there is a churro vendor right inside the store. Pay for your groceries, and on the way out, pick up a bagful of delicious deep-fried dough. Only 5 for $1.

Where can I get hot churros right out of the fryer in Fredericksburg? And if I can't, why not?

If you start in Maine and move south, you go through the northeast, the mid-Atlantic, the southeast, the deep south, and then about midway down the east coast of Florida, you find yourself back in the northeast again. And to accommodate all of those displaced New Yorkers and Jerseyites, there is TooJay's in nearby Stuart, an authentic New York-style Jewish deli. Complete with matzoh ball soup...

potato pancakes...

and, of course, pastrami on rye.

And I can't resist one more beach photo. Ahhh...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

UUFF + Eileen's

This is the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg, the church I’ve been attending for the past 18 years. It's on Caroline St., between Amelia & Lewis, 2 doors down from the library.

This is Eileen’s, at the other end of Caroline St., where my husband and I frequently go for lunch after church.

Now the UUFF has been sold to Eileen’s, which will relocate to the 1838 building which they will update into a new and improved restaurant to be reopened in the spring. Our church (after a temporary stop in Spotsylvania during construction) will end up across the river in Chatham, tucked at the back of the Chatham Square Office Park, between the YMCA, Pratt Park, and Chatham Manor. And after church on Sunday mornings, we can have lunch and visit our old building at the same time. It’s like recycling for buildings.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Just doing a little housekeeping, cleaning out some photo files, when I came across a few more photos, mostly textures, that I’ve been saving. I realize these may be of interest to no one but myself, but I do it as a public service, for the person desperately googling photos of wood shavings. So in that spirit, I give you...

wood shavings...


straw (or is it hay?)

burlap sacks...

tractor tracks in the dried mud...

some wheaty thing that grows on a farm, possibly even wheat...

and a 1960's era Ford Thunderbird, parked on a downtown street.

Yes, it's been a slow blog week.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More Woods Walking

I’m not as outdoorsy a girl as all of these woods walks would imply, but last week we had a power outage that kicked me off the computer for the afternoon, abruptly ending the workday. My husband suggested a walk that starts right outside our back door, and leads down the gas easement to a little creek, a walk he and the kids have taken many times, but that I haven’t been on in years. Actually, it’s my kind of walk...woodsy enough to feel like you’re a part of nature, but on a path wide enough to drive a Mack truck through.

If you do have the urge to take a nature hike when the weather turns unseasonably warm and you don’t have a forest outside your back door, there are lots of places in the area that fit the bill. The Chancellorsville Battlefield, Alum Springs Park and Motts Run Reservoir (opens in April) are a few of our favorites, there are trails at St. Clair Brooks Park and Lake Anna State Park, and there are many places where you can walk along the banks of the Rappahannock River. Even the canal path in Fredericksburg has some woodsy stretches. If you know of any other nearby trails for the seriously wimpy hiker, let me know!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Lewis Store

The Lewis Store, on the corner of Lewis and Caroline Sts., was constructed in 1749 and is considered one of the oldest surviving retail buildings in America. It was renovated in 2002 by the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, for use as their office and gift shop. It’s not really set up as a historic attraction, but they are open during the week (M-F, 9-3 & 4-5) and visitors are welcome to stop by and have a look around.

Click on the photo below for a little history:

You can support the efforts of the HFFI by donating money for a commemorative brick in the sidewalk around the store:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Every time I’ve shopped at Harrison Crossing out Rt. 3 West, I’ve noticed a trail to the left of the Home Depot, with those informational displays that indicate something important happened here. So last weekend after errands, I finally investigated what that little trail is all about. Turns out it doesn’t go very far, just a few hundred feet to the top of the rise. The whole area around the shopping center was significant in the Battle of Chancellorsville, but apparently you don’t actually need to preserve Civil War sites—marking them with a little signage is good enough. (Yes, I know it would be nearly impossible to get anything built out Rt. 3 if you had to preserve every historically significant patch of land, and yes, I know a marked trail with educational displays is better than nothing.) At the top of the hill is an example of Civil War earthworks, those dirt mounds with trenches behind them used during military operations. It’s not much of a hike, but if you had your kids with you while you were shopping, and they were antsy, and the weather was nice, you could let them run up and down the trail. Just no jumping on the earthworks, please.

Here are the earthworks, and the rear end of Riverbend High School:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

Yesterday, downtown Fredericksburg was hopping with all the folks who came out to take advantage of the very warm weather (our car thermometer read 72). There was a steady stream of customers at Lee’s ice cream (he couldn’t possibly have been prepared for the onslaught), and the bikers were out in force. We stopped at Hyperion for a cup of coffee, but the place was packed, with not a seat to be had outside. Instead, we headed down to the Griffin Coffee Shop, where they have a back porch and patio perfect for enjoying a cup outdoors.

I had a stack of books to donate to the library for their used book sale, but a sign on the whiteboard in the Riverby window enticed me to stop there with my box of books first. After a quick review of my offerings, they picked out half of them (about 6 or so, mostly paperbacks in good condition of the “literary import” variety), and offered me $6 cash, or double that in credit. I took the credit--just like that, $12 in credit for books I was getting rid of anyway! I was thrilled. A stop at the library to unload the cheesier best-sellers rounded out the afternoon.

The porch and patio hidden behind Griffin seats about a dozen:

Poster of Riverby Books by local artist Bill Harris:

River Overlook Hike

It got into the 60’s yesterday (with more of the same to come...ah, Virginia), so we decided to take advantage of the warm and sunny weather with a hike in the woods. We took the recommendation of commenter Larry G, and followed his directions to a hike that starts near the “Spirit of Freedom” Garden of the unlikely-to-be-built-in-my-lifetime Slavery Museum. The garden itself is a very small plot of land with a path that winds past informational panels, with some African art and animals on the hillside, and at the center, a 5,000 lb. sculpture depicting a slave’s reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation. Here is a slideshow of the garden on the museum’s website.

The hike starts within view of the interstate and one of Celebrate Virginia’s many construction sites, but within a few steps you dip down out of view of the development and are in the woods. The marked trail runs along the ridge above the river, and eventually winds down to the river’s edge. Because of the abrupt thaw, the path was quite muddy, and footing in places was tricky, at least without proper hiking shoes, so we didn’t go all the way down to the river. The winter landscape did give us a nice view of the river, which I’m sure is obscured once the trees are fully in leaf. We’ll put this hike back on our to-do list for the future, along with a few other riverside hikes in the area.

Walk up the dirt road to the left of the Freedom Garden, and when you see this sight, turn left to the woods:

The garden in winter, with the statue called “Hallelujah” by Ken Smith of Staunton, Virginia:

Some of the wooden carvings:

Here's what most of Celebrate Virginia looks like these days. Uh oh...6 more weeks of winter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


This morning, I watched a huge dead tree being taken down right outside my office window at home by these guys. The cold and light snow cover didn't faze them. One of the guys climbed up the tree with a safety rope and his chainsaw, and all morning, he cut one huge limb after another and lowered them down by ropes. It was awesome and frightening to me, and as the morning wore on, more awesome and less frightening. He reminded me of a cowboy, except instead of roping cattle, he was roping tree. Just before noon, the bulk of the big tree came down. That was one helluva earth-shaking boom as it hit the forest floor.

This tree service is run by well-trained arborists whose goal is to preserve trees, not cut them down, and luckily this was the only tree on our 3 acre wooded property that had to come down. They will be back tomorrow to continue pruning a dozen more trees around the driveway and house, which should improve the health of the trees and prevent damage to my roof and my garage-less cars.

And for the record, at no time did I hear anyone yell “Timber!”

The climb begins:

All but the main trunk is gone:

The deed is done. The tree measured 2-1/2 ft. in diameter:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Little Blue House

Remember this tiny house I mentioned at the end of a post a couple of weeks ago? I heard that it was owned by Tommy Mitchell, the same local developer who owns (along with partners) the Marriott hotel that is growing up around it, and that the little house is being used for office space. I found the alley off of Caroline St. that leads to the house and snapped this photo. It's an odd little house (note how it seems to have had its back half cut off), and a pretty hidden space for an office, but if what I hear is true, at least no one actually lives there.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Winter Concert

It’s easy to find a community or high school band or chorus concert around the holidays or in the spring, but January/February is a dead zone for that sort of thing. So it was a nice treat to hear the Fredericksburg Community Concert Band play a winter concert last night at Massaponax High School. We always enjoy the band’s concerts, which are usually a mix of light classical, marches, and popular pieces arranged for bands. There’s also a whole genre of music, composed by people you’ve never heard of, designed for amateur bands: the holiday medleys, the seasonal compositions, the special occasion pieces. Last night’s concert was a nice mix: some Holst and Tchaikovsky mixed with some lesser known marches and seasonal music, but all pretty traditional and accessible, which is what I like about this band. I get that college or high school groups sometimes tackle challenging works designed to stretch the musicians, but with this band, the goal seems to be pleasing the audience.

It’s also fun to see some familiar faces. My son’s now-retired marching band director is the associate conductor, some of the band kids and their parents play with this group, and there are a couple of swim team parents in there, too.

There wasn’t a very big turnout last night, despite the fact that the performance was free. I suspect one reason is that the band’s following includes a lot of senior citizens who might prefer not to drive at night in the dead of winter. Also being indoors, with no place to run around, makes it a lot less kid-friendly. The band usually gets a huge turnout for their outdoor concerts. They’ll be playing their spring concert on May 9 at James Monroe HS (theme: The Frontier and Beyond), and will perform “Music Under the Stars” on July 8 and Aug. 12, probably at Hurkamp Park. We plan to go to all of them.

I climbed to the top tier of the auditorium for the shot at top. These newer high schools have enormous auditoriums. I love to go to performances in them, where I never fail to get an aisle seat.