Sunday, April 26, 2009

Record High

This is my antidote to a 95 degree day in April.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lake Anna Winery

We saved this trip for the first nice day after a long bout of rain. We’ve been down there before to see the Renaissance Faire a few times, but we hadn’t tasted any Lake Anna wine in quite a few years. We were actually very surprised, because the wine has improved tremendously since our last tasting at a wine festival a few years back. In fact, we liked most of the dozen wines we tried, and none were bad. As with a lot of wineries, there’s a small fee for tasting: $3 for wine only, or $5 for wine + glass. I always like to take home the glass. All of the wineries have the same shape and roughly the same size glasses, so they make a nice set. And it’s no big deal if someone breaks one.

The winery has events throughout the year. Here’s the schedule.

The tasting area is part of a large room for special events.

There's a small deck where you can sip wine and enjoy the view.

Nice graphics.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Motts Run Hike

My husband loves to hike. I prefer to talk about hiking. “Oh, we’re planning a 3-mile hike this weekend.” “Yes, we go hiking all the time.” “That hike we just finished was really amazing.” Actually doing the hiking is often not nearly as pleasant. I know it’s good for me to do it—if walking is healthy, walking up and down hills on uneven terrain is even healthier, and getting back to nature can be a spiritual experience. But honestly, while I’m right in the middle of it, walking up some steep hill that I can’t even see the top of, I often wonder “whose idea of a good time was this?”

So last weekend we did about 3 miles of trails in Motts Run Reservoir, more than I usually like to sign up for on a casual afternoon. But now we’re in the “talking about it” phase, so I’m a lot happier. Actually, we had a fine time--the trails are well-marked (except for the Laurel Trail, for which they’ve chosen the blaze color “bark"--if you painted every tree entirely in that very soft grayish lavender color, I don’t believe anyone would actually be able to detect it), and there’s a nice trail map available. The hiking really wouldn’t be considered difficult by any reasonable criteria if you were in halfway decent shape, which is I guess why I was huffing and puffing the whole way. We went to the end of the Mine Run Trail (note to self: beware of trails that aren’t actually on the map, but are just indicated with a big arrow as being “over there somewhere”) for the trail’s promise of a creek. I do love a good creek, the kind with water rushing over rocks. This was the payoff:

So I have a good friend who recently hiked Stony Man Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park. I find that very impressive, considering we’re both in about the same shape. And that sounds a lot better than saying you hiked Motts Run Reservoir. So I either need to start hiking more impressive trails like that, or I need to just rename the ones I’ve hiked. Like saying that last weekend we hiked to the top of Turkey Ridge. And then we went all the way down to the, um, Mine Run Falls. I think that would work if I really sell it, and leave out any identifying details.

What I’m really looking for is that perfectly maintained and well-marked trail that goes to the top of mountains with amazing vistas, and down to waterfalls, with cooling rocks to lounge on, but no ascents or descents. Some sort of Escher-like terrain where you move up and down while staying completely level.

My favorite tree, the redbud.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Caroline Street Cafe

When we first became empty nesters, we started eating out a lot, at least once a week and sometimes more. We could go wherever we wanted, didn’t have to consider the pickier palates of teenagers, and could afford nicer places when it was just the two of us. But lately, we haven’t been eating out as much. After a couple of pricey, but pedestrian meals out, I just felt like I wasn’t getting much bang for my buck. Maybe the novelty is wearing off, or maybe I’m trying to eat healthier. Or maybe since my hours were reduced at work, I have more time for cooking at home. Whatever. Suffice it to say, for us, cooking better meals at home has replaced a lot of eating out.

But after a particularly stressful week, we decided to let someone else do the cooking for the first time in a few weeks. I remembered that the Caroline Street Cafe has started offering dinner on the weekends (Thurs.-Sat., I think), advertised as “family-style” and only $15 per person for a 3 course meal. So we checked it out last weekend. We were pleasantly surprised. We started with homemade rolls and a chopped salad, then had a platter of lamb, seafood jambalaya, and chicken & sausage jambalaya. For dessert, we got a chocolate cake and an apple tart. The food was very homey—in fact, the jambalaya tasted like something I might have cooked myself. Which isn’t exactly a huge compliment, but it was hearty and pretty good. And the apple tart was fantastic. So with drinks, tax and tip, we had a 3 course meal out for around $50. I consider that a decent value.

There is no choice on these weekend dinners. You get whatever the chef is dishing up that night. We are very adventurous eaters, and are generally happy to eat whatever a chef wants to cook. In fact, it's a very refreshing change from all of the restaurants with set menus. But if you are at all picky, you better call ahead and find out what's cooking. On the night we were there, a family of 4 adults came in, and when told the menu, the dad said he didn’t like lamb or jambalaya, so they left. Better yet, if you’re that picky, stick with Applebee’s.

Above right: Entrees are served family style on platters. In addition to the lamb and two kinds of jambalaya, there was fresh squash and roasted potatoes.

Above left: The apple caramel tart was to die for. And the chocolate cake with whipped cream layers reminded me of 2 favorite snacks of my youth, Drake's Yodels and Ring Dings. Anyone remember those?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

UMW’s Multicultural Fair

This past Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for the Multicultural Fair at the college. This is one of my favorite local events of the entire year, one that I have only missed once or twice in the fair’s history. It’s a great people-watching opportunity, and I always run into a few people I know.

Philippine dancing (below and at top) by the "Pilipino American Cultural Arts Society" (that's not a typo):

The African hand-drumming club (the hand drumming is African, obviously not the club):

"Koto Buki Kai," the Japanese dancers, show some young'uns how it's done:

The food is arguably the best part of the day. For lunch, I had grilled veggies in a pita from this guy. My husband had fried flounder and oysters from another vendor, where I got to sample fried alligator. Delicious!

Here are some scenes from last year's fair.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Miracle Worker

Last night, I was awed by the amazing performances of Rebecca H. as Annie Sullivan and Brittany W. as Helen Keller in Riverbend High School's production of The Miracle Worker. When these two young women were alone on the stage, you forgot you were at a high school play. Their last scene together was exhilarating. Their struggles together were completely believable, never overacted. And Rebecca did an Irish accent that was very credible, not a distraction as fake accents on high school actors often are. So kudos to both of them for an unforgettable performance.

I also want to give a little shout-out to Rex, who gave a very convincing performance as "The Dog." In this production, dolls were used to represent babies, but the drama students took a chance on a real dog. Rex is onstage throughout most of one scene where he interacts with Helen, and I was amazed at how well that dog took direction. He appeared to hit all his marks, and not a bark or whimper out of him. I hope he is considering a career in theater or film. Or advertising at the very least.

You can catch the last performance of the play tonight at 7:00 pm. Admission is $5, a real bargain.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Stonewall Jackson Shrine

We hadn’t been to the Jackson Shrine in many years, so with a free afternoon on Monday (I am almost living the life of a retiree these days), we decided to revisit the site. It’s changed a bit since we were there last, with a nicely paved road to the site, and a plaza with interpretive displays and restrooms that I don’t remember from our last visit. This is where Stonewall Jackson died, in an outbuilding on the Fairfield plantation of Thomas Chandler. Mistakenly shot by his own men at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, Stonewall’s arm was amputated (it’s buried here), and he was taken to the Chandler plantation, where he died on May 10 from pneumonia. The main plantation house no longer stands; only the office where Jackson received medical care remains.

The park ranger gave us a particularly dramatic retelling of Jackson’s last days. The ranger had one of those soft southern accents that would have been perfect in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. Jackson’s conversations with loved ones in the final days are a poignant part of the story. It’s hard not to tear up just a little.

Here's the room where he died, with the original clock, still ticking:

Jackson's deathbed, with original blanket:

Jackson's doctors met in this room:

The display area:

The site is open Saturday through Monday from 9-5 through the end of April, then open daily starting May 1.