Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back to Topsail

I spent most of last week at my 4-day girlfriends’ getaway to North Topsail Beach, where the weather was hot and sunny, the water was especially warm, and the beach was uncrowded. Every year that we go, we get better and better at planning and packing so we can maximize beach time and minimize hassle. We bought fresh local seafood every day for dinner—this year, we had pesto shrimp, soft shell crabs, broiled scallops, and jalapeno crabcakes. Most of our time was spent at the beach or on the deck, chatting, reading, snacking, and enjoying an ever-expanding repertoire of beachy cocktails. With the occasional nap thrown in for good measure, and a chick flick for the one night we had some thunderstorms. Other than a couple of trips to pick up provisions, we were happy not to leave our little seaside neighborhood.

A quiet morning by the water's edge:

The view from the deck:

Jalapeno crabcake dinner:

Beach still life:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wegman's Grand Opening

You know you live in a small town when a supermarket grand opening is a very big deal. Although I think Wegman’s is more than a supermarket...it seems like more of a culinary amusement park to me. Yes, there are the usual groceries, but the big attraction seems to be all of the prepared foods, gourmet specialties, extensive bakery, well-staffed cheese department, upscale meats & seafood, plus the eat-in options: the market cafe, seafood bar, Asian bar, pizza, subs, sushi, etc., etc., etc. We got there around noon on opening day, parked in one of the parking lots of an adjacent hotel, and then made our way through the hordes to see what we could see. It was elbow-to-elbow people, really too crowded to give it a fair assessment. I have to say, the deli, bakery, meats & seafood sections looked very impressive. The prices seemed reasonable, and the staff-to-customer ratio on opening day was high. The free samples were flowing, and we nabbed as many as we could find. Jim Canty & Friends were playing in the wine section (they are scheduled for the library steps tonight), where you could sample mimosas. We checked out all of the sections, bought some fresh breads and tasty cheeses (ah, yes, a cheese department where I could get recommendations and sample cheese before buying is the one thing I’ve been waiting for), picked up our free recyclable shopping bag, and headed home.

I definitely get what the buzz was all about. Wegman’s has everything I can imagine needing in a supermarket and then some. But on the other hand, I’m not sure this is where I will choose to do my weekly shopping. I think the good old Giant, five minutes from home, will still be my go-to store. Sure, sometimes the World’s Fair of Food is what you’re looking for, but sometimes, you just want your shopping trip to be a quick and easy in and out, and that probably won’t be Wegman’s for me...at least not until the novelty wears off and the crowds die down. And here’s something that really bugged me: they wouldn’t let me take photos. Honestly, when I went to take a photo of the guy working the seafood bar, he got quite irate and told me photos were forbidden in the store (corroborated by other employees I asked), despite the fact I told him it was just for my blog. Were they afraid I was a corporate spy? Or do they just want to be able to control precisely how their store is viewed, to keep anyone from showing any imperfections?

I still need to give the Wegman’s shopping experience a thorough try-out, and that just wasn’t possible on opening day. But it sure does look nice.

This is the bread and cheese we bought for a Father's Day treat:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The New Adventures of Old Eileen's

Eileen’s has been open for business in their new location since May, and I’ve been a couple of times. They’ve made some updates to the circa 1833 church building since the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship vacated this past winter, but nothing very drastic. They’ve put in a new floor, painted the walls, updated the air conditioning, changed out light fixtures, and rearranged the layout of the area behind the sanctuary. But when I go there, it still feels like my old church home, which is very comforting. I went to Sunday services at that building for almost 20 years, and now there’s nothing better than meeting a UU friend there for lunch and marveling at how great the old place looks.

When I stopped for lunch last Thursday at noon, the place was doing a brisk business. After we finished eating, my friend and I moved to the comfy couch section (right about where the minister used to stand) where we lingered just long enough to avoid parking tickets. I suspect Eileen’s will continue to be one of my favorite gathering places for a long time. I wish them all the best in their new-to-them, old-to-me location.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Beaux' Stratagem

Last night, we set up our ever-present folding chairs on the lawn at Kenmore to enjoy the Fredericksburg Players’ performance of The Beaux’ Stratagem, a Restoration comedy from the early 1700’s. The evening was a sort of play within a play. For the price of admission ($10), you’re invited into Kenmore, where colonial Fredericksburgers of the day prepare to attend the performance, and engage in banter about the play and tell stories about local characters. Then the costumed interpreters join you on the lawn as the play begins.

Between the conversations of the colonials, and director Fred Franklin’s funny and informative introduction, I learned about the troupes of actors who would travel from town to town to entertain the locals, as well as about mores of the day. The play itself was a silly romp, risque for its time, I’m sure, with a few modern touches just for laughs. We saw this group of actors recently in Macbeth, and I highly recommend any of their productions. They do an excellent job, and we enjoyed the light-hearted evening.

The play continues tonight and next weekend on Saturday and Sunday, June 14, 20, & 21 at 7 p.m. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, and have a picnic supper on the lawn. Don’t forget to come early enough to tour the mansion before the show, from 5:30 to 6:15. The play is recommended for adults and older children.

This trio of well-bred ladies discuss the scandalous nature of divorce. I hadn't been inside Kenmore since the most recent renovations, so it was interesting to have a look at the rooms. There was no formal tour, so I'll have to go back sometime, most likely when I have visitors.

A group of colonials, including tavern owner Capt. George Weedon, discuss the upcoming play.

Throughout the tour, we encountered a number of "George Washington's Young Friends," a group of colonial interpreters, all under 18, who often appear at local historical events.

The company takes their final bow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hunting Run Park

We made our first visit to the park at Hunting Run Reservoir off of Ely’s Ford Road last week on a rare sunny day. I remember many years ago when some of the families who lived in that area were forced out of their homes to make way for the reservoir. It seems like it took a whole lot of years for the work to be completed. We visit Motts Run Reservoir pretty often, and have been to Ni River Reservoir a few times, too, so I was interested to see what this park had to offer. Right now, there is a fishing dock, a boat ramp and a few unshaded picnic tables. The lake is scenic and serene, perfect for fishing or canoeing or kayaking. I don’t own a canoe or kayak, and I’m not much for fishing. Here’s the thing about fishing: you need to be patient and quiet, and I’m neither. So I don’t imagine I’ll be spending much time at this park. But if you like fishing, the reservoir is 420 acres and is stocked with largemouth bass. Read more about it here.

Here's a view of the Hunting Run Dam from Spotswood Furnace Road. It's approximately 2,400 feet long and 90 feet high, in case you're interested in that sort of thing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Virginia Renaissance Faire

Today we took our annual outing to the Ren Faire on the grounds of the Lake Anna Winery to enjoy (at long last!) a beautiful day in the sun. The Faire seemed bigger than ever this year, with a really good turnout this afternoon. As always, there were several stages with entertainment going on continuously throughout the day: musicians, singers, storytellers, actors, acrobats and magicians. There were demonstrations of practical arts of the period, games and activities for the kids, and vendors selling food and trinkets, plus jousting, archery, and greyhound races. There's plenty of audience participation, with the stage acts as well as with all of the costumed characters, from peasants and revelers to nobility and the Queen herself, who roam the fairgrounds and interact with the visitors. To really get into the experience, it helps to have a touch of the theatrical in you so that you can play along, as do many of the Faire’s regular visitors who come in costume.

The queen appreciates a respectful bow from faire-goers as she roams the grounds with her entourage.

The jousting arena was one of the most popular attractions, where knights on horseback tested their agility and accuracy with the lance.

Mad Maggie jumps through hoops to entertain the crowd.

Her Majesty's herald strikes a pose.

Our old friend Randy Stubbs told us about his life sailing around the world with Sir Francis Drake, and gave us some souvenir treasures from the sea.

And of course, my favorite spot, the tavern, where we hoisted a brew or two (several fine beers on tap) and enjoyed some rousing songs and stories.

The Faire is open next Saturday and Sunday from 10-5. Admission is $7.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Crazy Weather

I’ve heard of the proverbial golfball-sized hail, but I can’t remember ever seeing it up close until tonight. I always assumed it was a bit of an exaggeration. Turns out, not really. It’s been storming for two days now, and this evening, I grabbed a few of these hailstones from the yard, just for the record, and one of them is definitely golfball-sized. I’d call the others walnut-sized. Needless to say, my nearly-new-but-ungaraged car took some hits. My poor car has little indentations all over it, first from acorns in the fall, and now hail. They're not that noticeable unless I point them out, but still. As my mother says, “Too much nature.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday in the Park with Lunch

Before today, I’d never been to the Lunchtime at Hurkamp Park concert series, since it is held from 11:30-1:30 on Tuesdays, right in the middle of the workday. But as of yesterday, I am officially retired. So now I get to discover all of the middle-of-the-weekday events that I’ve been missing (if you know of any others, let me know). I was expecting the crowd to be mainly retirees, but it turned out to be more the mommy crowd, with more strollers and toddlers than I’ve seen in one place in Fredericksburg in a long time. There were plenty of folding chairs set up, and some tables with umbrellas to add a little extra shade to the very sunny (and today, hot) park, but most people sat in the shade of the big trees scattered throughout the park.

Local musician Wil Gravatt was the performer today, with his steel guitarist Jimbo Byram. How have I lived in this town for so long without having heard Wil Gravatt? Heard of, yes...heard, no. We really enjoyed his traditional country and western sound, with a honky-tonk flavor. I’ll definitely be paying more attention the next time I see his name on the schedule somewhere.

There were food vendors, in case you wanted to buy your lunch, plus a few mostly kid-friendly booths, like face painting. Despite the heat, the kids seemed to be happy just running, playing and dancing.

The Lunchtime in the Park series runs during May, June and September. We're planning to go as often as we can.

And speaking of local concert series, Music on the Library Steps started last night with a favorite of mine, the Sensations, a 10-man group who do R&B, soul & Motown classics, with a solid horn section and a great vocalist. Up next Monday: the Dixie Power Trio.