Archive for July, 2010

The Okra Is Doing Fine But The Swiss Chard Isn’t Much

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Purple Okra -- Delicious and Nutritious

Like many  folks on the Shore,  we love a  garden,  be it small or large.   But it seems  like there is never enough time to plan and plant  in the middle of everything else that is always going on.  Our entire garden,  this year and most other years,  got put in late.  Because  the Eastern Shore of  Virginia has a very moderate climate and Northampton County, at its southern tip,  has exceptionally sandy loam soils,  a lot of  folks  here  plant a wide variety of vegetables —  beginning with cool type crops in early Spring,  ending with fall cabbage, collards and  broccoli,  etc.  which can  winter over in the ground.  Because of  the Shore’s  moderate climate,  we can have a garden for all seasons and who doesn’t  like  something fresh-picked all year round ?   We usually get organized too late for early lettuce, etc. and  this year we were later than usual.  So now, almost August,   it’s too hot for the  swiss chard which is finally the right size, what’s left of it.   But  the okra plants are  coming right on along but are still too puny  to really be cranking out the amount we need to give some away to friends who like it but don’t grow it and to fix a  “good mess”  for ourselves.  

I’m originally from the North  so it took me a while to get used to the fact that  on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,  a large pot or pan  of certain foods is  usually referred to as  ” a mess”   i.e.,  for dinner tonight I’m going to cook  a mess of greens  (collards, kale, mustards, etc) ,  or a mess of beans  ( green, lima, butter, etc.)  or,  of course,  a mess of okra.    If you have never grown okra,  it is a very striking plant — we always grow the purple variety,  which looks even more dramatic.  (The stalks are a deep, deep  purple and the pods are purple as well,  until they are cooked, when they turn green like their cousins.)  About 5 to 6 feet tall at maturity,  okra  really stands out in a garden,  towering over everybody else,  master of  its domain.  The okra pods are a little prickly and,  for simplicity,  I always cut them off with a scissors,  leaving a short stem at the end because for us,  okra is a finger food.

Of course,  once you harvest  the okra,  for the very best flavor,  it  should be cooked within a day.  Washing okra is a pain  because circling  the top of  each pod are little floppy things ( reminds  me of hangnails)  which need  to be removed while washing,  a bit time-consuming.  There are of course a myriad of ways to cook okra but only one way is  acceptable to me.   I’m not big on slime and that includes  slightly slimy okra.  In my opinion,  when okra is cooked in the more traditional ways, stewed with tomatoes for example  or added to a gumbo,  it gets a bit slimy. Not for me,  not at all !   But I do love the flavor of  fresh okra.  So,  to keep the flavor and cut the slime,  I  fry it.  Now a lot of people cut okra into pieces, roll it in cornmeal and deep- fry it and I’ve eaten some mighty good deep- fried okra, crispy-crunchy.   But, as Vinnie from Brooklyn asked the Alabama  short order cook  just as he was about to fry Vinnie’s  eggs in a lake of  Crisco,  “Youse guys down here ever heard of the on-going cholesterol problem in the country  ? ”  (from one of my favorite comic movies,  “My Cousin Vinnie”,  starring Joe Pesci  in his best performance,  ever ).  

Unfortunately (or fortunately, however ones sees it),   we have  heard of the on-going cholesterol problem at my house so we don’t usually deep- fry,  not even to get crispy-crunchy cornmeal- battered okra.  Which leaves my favorite way to fix okra.  Heat a little olive oil  in a saute pan till hot,  throw in the okra and pan fry,  uncovered,  over medium heat.  It’s important to keep turning  frequently until done,  which takes a while .  ” Done”  is when it has turned almost black,   (not burned,  just looking black,  trust me here),  black and shriveled looking.   Because that is the secret– the dry heat dehydrates the okra,  evaporating the slimy feel,  leaving only delicious, nutritious okra which you then devour,  picking up each pod  by the little stem you left when harvesting it.   Thank heavens the okra is doing fine because just writing this blog post made me want to cook up a mess for dinner tonight.

Those Beloved Blooming Beauties of July, Our Crape Myrtle Trees

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Crape Myrtle Canopy

My middle daughter used to own a local garden center before she hung up her spade and trowel to join our real estate  team.  She says that every year at this time, when the crape myrtle trees are  in full bloom,  dozens of people from out of the area driving down Route 13 would stop into her shop every day to inquire about  “those beautiful trees we see along the highway”.   (Route 13 is the Eastern Shore’s  main highway.  It’s the connection to many  points North and South on the other side of  the famous Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel ,  ,  which  connects our little peninsula to the Virginia mainland. )  

“Those trees”  are  our  brightly colored crape myrtles.   Coming into bloom when all the prima donnas  flowers  of  Spring and the more common folk  like the  plentiful daffodils, azaleas and irises have long faded away,  crape myrtle trees  bring intense splashes of  summer color  up and down the Shore.   In Northampton County, large portions of Route 13  are lined with these beauties,  mostly the pinks  and whites,  but with lavenders  and deep rose as well.  Primarily a tree of the south, they don’t do well in colder climates,  but here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,  crape myrtles  are the beloved blooming beauties of July– and August, and,  if we are lucky, a bit of  September as well.

Resting In A Myrtle's Shade

If you visit a local nursery usually you can select from one of eleven vibrant colors,  ranging from just about every hue from very light pink to a deep, deep rose, plus red and  lavander.  The  “Natchez”  variety, which sports large snow white blossoms,  makes up for its lack of splashy color by having the most deeply hued bark,  almost a burnt sienna hue.   The bark and shape of these trees is really quite unusual —  normally a light to deep tan, the bark is completely smooth– when you look at the bark  you feel the urge to touch it,   just to see if it feels as smooth as it looks.   In the autumn,  as  the leaves start falling,   the colors of  the bark  become more accentuated,  bringing  a different kind of beauty to this singular tree.  ( I should mention here that we have a wonderfully moderate  but 4 season climate here on the Eastern Shore.  Springs and autumns are long and very, very  pleasant.  The cold part of winter is very short, primarily the month of January, we seldom have snow, virtually never have ice,  farmers here start plowing near the end of February.  July and August are our only hot months and are absent the soaring humidity so prevalent in our  Carolina neighbors.)    And as it gets older,  the crape myrtle   becomes very slightly  twisted and gnarled,  adding even more character to an already amazing tree.

But one of the best things  about crape myrtles is this— they are so easy to grow !   Anyone can do it !  Even me !  Just stick  them in the ground, make sure they have plenty of water in the early months and voila !   they just keep on growing.   No fuss, no muss, no bother.   They are a lot like our holly trees  in that respect,  once they take hold they are virtually indestructible,  you very nearly can’t kill them even when  you want to !   So up and down the Eastern Shore,  the hardy crape myrtle tree  is an  important component for brilliant summer color in any homeowner’s  landscaping plan.  My personal favorite is to see  them  lining  driveways,  especially long, winding driveways.  They look like colorful sentries,  an immobile honor guard,  blushing red, white and pink all the way home,  these beloved blooming beauties of  July,  Virginia  Eastern Shore’s  spectacular crape myrtle trees.

A Soft Summer’s Evening In Cape Charles, Virginia

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Wheels, Walking And Chesapeake Bay At Sunset

Having lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  for nearly 25 years (how time does fly), I probably have been to  the little coastal town of  Cape Charles several thousand times, at least,  for shopping, doctor appointments,  lunches or dinners,  meetings at our  real estate office  in the Cape Charles historic commercial district, etc. , etc.   But I had never actually spent a night in Cape Charles until a friend of ours, who owns one of the “grand dame” homes overlooking  the beach there,  invited us to spend the Fourth of July week-end  at his house.  We had a wonderful time and based on that experience  I’ve decided that it’s really impossible to fully appreciate  the unique Cape Charles small coastal town atmosphere/lifestyle  until one has spent an entire day and night there.  

Enjoying the Salty Breezes

 Our evening kicked off with coffee and dessert ( a delicious  southern style coconut cake with lemon curd filling and coconut icing,  especially ordered from the Cape Charles Coffee House,  ,  baked by the inimitable Roberta)  served on the  wide front porch overlooking the Chesapeake Bay and the town beach.   The sun was just beginning to set, streaks of pinks and violets painted across the sky and waters below.  A salty sea breeze picked up, the air had cooled considerably from the hot point of the day. And then  the waterfront just  came alive with  quiet activity–  dogs and owners sauntering down the boardwalk, toddlers being pushed along in strollers, bicyclers singly or in groups of 2 or 3 enjoying the soft summer  breezes,   joggers  and  walkers ( my speed entirely) out to enjoy the sunset,  one or two kids on skateboards trying to do a  few flips,  folks with fishing poles walking down  to try their luck on the new Cape Charles fishing pier which is beautifully illuminated at night.   Boats launched from the Cape Charles harbour gliding by on the way out  to fish the hot spots after dark,  sailboats slipping back into the marina for the night.   

Cape Charles Fishing Pier At Twilight

We love  “people watching” and  with a backdrop of sunsets, beach, boats,  lapping waves , water and seabirds calling  overhead — it was great.   What was also fun was watching the  golf carts, many decorated or painted special colors,  cruising  slowly down the street, out for a evening  ride around the town. ( Uniquely, Cape Charles is one of the few towns in Virginia where  golf carts are street legal and many residents use these colorful and eco-friendly vehicles  as their main in-town transportation. )  Out on the beach a few kite surfers  were taking advantage of some the stronger winds that blow  at sunset along with beachcombers  and a few die-hard kids finishing up a sand castle.   Everything worked in such harmony,  everyone just having fun , totally relaxed, lots of laughter carried  on the wind– we stayed out on the porch past dark, just enjoying  for ourselves the enjoyment  of  others on a beautiful, soft  summer’s  evening in Cape Charles.  And I discovered for myself  a part of why  people who live in Cape Charles  love it there.

Stocks and Bonds May Come and Go But Waterfront Land Is Forever

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Order Free Prime Properties Catalogue . Call 757-678-5200

Many people who stop into our real estate office on Rt.13 in  Machipongo, Virginia for a copy of the Blue Heron Realty Co’s. free waterfront catalogue  (request a copy at 757-678-5200 or at )  have never really thought about buying a piece of  land and actually hiring a general contractor to build  their dream home instead of  just  buying an existing home.  Certainly many have toured builder’s model homes , this being the most common way to acquire a brand new home, complete with your own paint colors and carpet selections, etc.   But very few people live in areas where it is possible to find a nice lot or large parcel of land that hasn’t been taken by builders for homes they will construct for their own inventory.  Indeed, in other areas of the country  neighborhoods are generally developed by  builders  with the requirement that if you purchase a lot in that neighborhood then you must use that specific builder for your home construction.  Indeed, many even have a specific time frame in which your home construction must begin.

Things are pleasantly different here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  Except for a large golf community which allows only their own authorized builders , the rest of the Eastern Shore is a series of small, intimate neighborhoods, usually centered around a water amenity offering a real coastal lifestyle to those who live here.   These neighborhoods started off with the sale of the lots to individuals who wanted to secure a lot they loved with a  plan to have a custom house built on their lot in the future when they were ready for a leisure or full-time home here.  No time frame was imposed for beginning construction.  Lots of folks have purchased land  here for a leisure,  retirement or full-time  home  that might not be constructed  for years into the future  but  when they found the perfect lot  they wanted to secure it. Many buyers feel that this is  the best of both worlds– find the perfect lot  and then have plenty of time to plan for the exact features they wanted to incorporate in their future home.  

That tradition still continues today — great opportunities available to purchase a beautiful waterfront or water access lot now and build only when ready.  And because most of  our  builders here are custom home builders, ready to  build individual homes on lots owned by their customers, (as contrasted to “spec” builders who buy  lots  for their building company to build a home for resale)   the Eastern Shore of Virginia continues to have  that unusual commodity mostly unavailable elsewhere.  Here you can easily purchase an  individual lot,  large and small, waterfront or  water-access , in-town or in the country, beach, boating or golf oriented,  for sale at today’s attractive prices  to those who want the best of  both worlds — the perfect lot for construction of  their dream custom home.   And best of all,  unlike mercurial stocks and bonds  ( think Enron,  Lehman Brothers or BP ),  your land will always be here, waiting for you.   Build on it now or much later,  keep it for your estate or hold it for investment and resell it,  whatever your goals,   land is  truly rock solid   (no pun intended)  and a place where you can invest not only with your wallet but with your heart.

Looking To Buy A Condo In Virginia ? Check Out The Wide Wonderful World of Eastern Shore Condos- So New, So Welcome

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

If you are looking to buy  a condo in Virginia,  the Eastern Shore offers some great condo purchase opportunities  (check out our beach condos, our boating condos and historic buildings converted to condos).    However,  it wasn’t always that way.  When we moved to an  86 acre farm in Northampton County,  at the tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore,   more than 20 odd years ago  ( if I listed the exact number I’d be telling my age which I’m  definitely not planning to do)   not one condo existed here.  People would call from our ads in New York and New Jersey publications and often they would request  information about  condos or  co-ops.  Sorry, we don’t have any condos,  we’d say.  Well, what about  townhouses they’d ask.  Sorry, no  townhouses either.  People would be astonished.  I’m sure that some of the silences on the other end of the phone  meant that the caller was wondering if he had reached Outer Mongolia rather than Machipongo, Virginia  (not that anyone had ever previously  heard of Machipongo, Virginia.) 

Inevitably, the caller would next ask for a description of  the  real estate we did have available.   I’d talk about  the various options — consider a beautiful home on a saltwater  inlet, built on a three acres, with a dock in the back yard,  just waiting for the new owner’s boat to be berthed  along side.   Or a 10 acre waterfront lot ready for a custom home,  located down a quiet country road,  far from the madding crowd.   Possibly  a couple acres right on the beach in a tiny beachfront neighborhood,  more expensive than on an inlet but drop-dead gorgeous.  Maybe a gracious home with a large, shady porch in one of our little  towns, with narrow sidewalks and big oak trees.   Or possibly a farm– not many available but we do have a 80 acre beauty,  perfect soils for cultivation,  with a little woodland  too.  But  we have no condos today.

Well, it sounds like Heaven they’d say,  we’d like to come down next week-end to see  some of these properties,  it doesn’t matter that you don’t have condos.   Great,  we’d say, but  ours is a very rural area and we  should tell you that most people either fall madly in love with the Virginia Eastern Shore  rural lifestyle or they find  it way too challenging — there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.  No problem they’d reply,  we love rural.  So down they would come, hoping to find the perfect property, usually for retirement or for a leisure home.  And then the culture shock would set in — no enclosed malls,  no strip malls  either, no K-Mart  or Wal-Mart, no ATM’s,  “no nothing” some would say,  gotta be Robinson Caruso to live here.  Others would exclaim,  we  just love it here,  we love  your  little towns,  it’s  just like Mayberry, friendly stores, helpful shopkeepers.  I’d enjoy  traveling to  town  for groceries,  pharmaceuticals, etc.  It became clear to us that we should try to help our customers learn,  at home,  in their own armchairs,  whether the Eastern Shore of Virginia was likely to be their cup of tea.   Over time  we finally came to realize  that  ” frame of reference”  was  critical !   What  folks living in Manhattan were  picturing  in their minds when we said  “rural”  was very, very different than the “on the ground”  reality of   the actual  “rural Eastern Shore”  we were trying  so hard to describe.  ( I’m convinced that Central Park  is  rural to many who  live  in a 20th floor New York apartment. )   

At any rate an idea was born – –  my husband and I  would write a little book that we could sell or loan to people who were considering making a trip to the  Shore to look for property,  a book they could read before actually coming to look at property,  a  book with lots of  photos that would  help detail what the Shore was and more importantly, what it was not.   That way customers  could save time  (and we could save time too)  by deciding ,  in their own living rooms,  if   they were likely to  find the Shore too rural or whether they would find it to be just perfect.  With the help of  Dave Temens,  friend,  pilot,  aerial and ground  photographer par excellence, now deceased,  over the period of  about a year and a half  we  wrote, and in 1989  published,   “One  Of  The  Best Kept  Secrets  On  The  Eastern  Seaboard : Virginia’s Eastern Shore.”   This little book offered a look at what it would be like to live on the Eastern Shore as  it was then.   Although it was sold in local shops, our  primary purpose  was to sell it or lend it  free  (just pay round-trip postage )  to folks from out of the area who wanted to consider purchasing property on the Shore.  Over the course of the 1990’s we received literally hundreds and hundreds of letters which basically expressed two very divergent sentiments —  either  “Thanks, we think we will love your area and can’t wait to make the trip”  or  “Thanks so much for the book,  it helped us decide  not to make a  trip down as we think that the Eastern Shore just would  not  be for us.”    And so the book did its job,  helping folks evaluate the pros and cons of our area  before taking the time  and money to drive or fly  here to look at property.

Fast forwarding to the present, ( skipping entirely over  how and when we got   two  shopping centers,  two arts centers,  an expanded full-service hospital,  the renaissance  of the little beachfront town of Cape Charles into a thriving  art mecca even  including a theatre company, a state of the art marina,  various fine dining establishments, a lovely boutique hotel  and the construction of  a  fabulous gated Bayfront golf community,  top rated nationwide, featuring   Palmer and  Nicklaus Signature  golf courses ),  we return to the question of condos.   Want a condo ?     Yes, we can help you !  Welcome to our new wide wonderful world of condos,  but with a twist.  90% of Northampton County is still the same  beautiful rural area,  mostly family farms interspersed by  small water-oriented neighborhoods of single family homes and  lots averaging  1-3 acres.  But in and around Cape Charles,  with its many amenities, we have condos and duplexes too,  in different styles, sizes, prices and locations.  Spacious new condos with beach and boating access,  condos on  golf fairways  and  condos  in the historic district of Cape Charles as a  some  of the larger brick buildings overlooking the harbor were renovated into gorgeous condos, commercial downstairs, lovely waterview residences upstairs, etc., etc..  So now,  when folks call us for real estate information,  we can still offer the lovely waterfront home on 2 acres,  or a fabulous beachfront lot,  definitely gracious homes in our  little towns  and we  still have a few 5 to 20 acre farmettes or  larger  farms plus  the new golf resort homes and lots.   But now,  now when we are asked,  do you have condos ???,   we are pleased to be able to say YES.   Yes indeed, welcome to the new, wide and  wonderful world of  Eastern Shore condos.

Measuring with Frogs

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Honey and Pumpkin, Two Sweet Newfys

Like most of the residents of  Virginia’s Eastern Shore,  my daughter has dogs that love the water .  Although most water loving dogs in our area are either labs,  ( yellow,  chocolate or  black)  or the famous Chesapeake Bay retrievers,  my daughter has two Newfoundlands,  a sweet, sweet breed.  Reddish brown rather than the traditional Newfy black,  her  dogs  are an endless source of amusement for  anyone who sees them playing together,  the gentle giant and the  feisty ball of  Newfy puppy fluff.   Pumpkin, who will be two years old next month,  is nearly the size of a small pony.    HoneyBelle,  Honey for short,  now  five months old,  is less than  a quarter of Pumpkin’s size.   But when they wrestle,  as they love to do,  Pumpkin is so sweet and patient with her,  the smart money is on Honey to win.    Aside from taking them to the vet where their official weights are duly noted in their records,  my daughter’s  favorite way of measuring them is with frogs.  Which takes a bit of explanation,  obviously.  

Out in the yard,  beneath a  large  Bradford pear tree,  side by side,  sit two yard ornaments,  large  smiling   frogs,  standing comically on their hind legs,  front legs akimbo,  fingers widely splayed  ( can you call them fingers ?).   When Pumpkin was a small  pup,  just 10 weeks old,  she loved smelling around those silly frogs.   One thing led to another and the idea to have her sit beside the frogs and have her picture taken posing  with  them was born.  In the first picture taken,  the frogs towered over Pumpkin.   And  then every  month or so for about the first year,  as  Pumpkin continued to have her picture taken with the frogs,  bit by bit she came abreast and then finally towered over them.  

Measuring with Frogs

 And now it’s Honey’s turn to be measured with frogs,  usually with Pumpkin by her side,  my husband and I  the official leash holders.   Already she  is getting close  the high water mark but the towering time is  months off.   As for future measuring —  Honey  won’t  mind,  she  loves smelling around that  tree and those silly frogs,  just like Pumpkin.

It’s De-lightful, It’s De-licious, It’s De-Lovely — A Summer Dinner at Aqua’s at Sunset

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Aqua's Restaurant At Sunset

I love  having  a  summer dinner at  Aqua’s at sunset,   it’s as magical as an old Cole Porter tune.   On a balmy summer’s eve ,  at a  table on the  deck,  savoring  the de-licious food as the glowing sun nears the horizon  truly is  De-Lovely.   Aqua’s,  located right on the Chesapeake Bay at the southern tip of the Shore in Cape Charles,  is one of a number of waterfront restaurants on the Eastern Shore of Virginia including  the very casual Pelican Pub right on the beach  near Townsend,  Island House in Watchapreague,  Stella’s at Willis Wharf,  Wright’s near Atlantic and  Mallard’s in Onancock , to name a few, but it is my very favorite.  And it seems like my food tastes better accompanied by “watching”– watching the sailboats drift by, observing  the seabirds,  ready for their dinner too, swooping  down to  catch it,  seeing a couple of kayakers  leisurely paddle towards the  shore and,  as the twilight  fades,  seeing the glow and twinklings in  reds and greens of  the channel markers out in the Bay , calling  boaters home  for the night.

The other fun componant of dinner at Aqua’s is that you invariably run into several people you know and it’s fun to catch up on the news with friends  we may not have seem in a while.  I  especially enjoy running into my real estate customers and clients and hearing  about how they are  enjoying  their new lives on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. ( The Shore  is a small  and friendly area, it’s easy to get to know people.  As a realtor,  I meet a lot of people and it seems like  whenever I’m at the grocery store,  etc. I’m always bumping into  someone I know, which is quite  pleasant.)

It goes without saying that the food is delicious.  Although I don’t agree, my husband and youngest son both claim that I am very picky in restaurants.  But what they call  “picky” I call an expectation of  “getting it right”  and at Aqua’s they really do get it right almost every time.    My husband is very fond of  the appetizer  they call  “crab lollipops” which are served with an excellent chipolte aioli.  Because I don’t often prepare  fish at home,  he usually selects  the seared tuna, the blackened mahi-mahi or the mixed seafood grill  for  his entree.   I always peruse the entire menu, consider various selections carefully and  then, since I seldom deep fry at home  either,  usually select the fried  jumbo shrimp.   They come dressed in a feather light batter,  sweet and succulent,  accompanied by a delicious coconut jasmine rice.   Although we usually don’t order dessert,   every once in a while we will indulge in  the smooth and creamy chocolate chip cheesecake,  a  house specialty,  which is indeed quite special.   Aqua  bills itself as “concentrating on fresh regional cuisine” and  as a restaurant “you’ll want to come back to over and over again.”   We agree completely.   For a delicious meal  at sunset,  no place  is more De-lightful,  De-licious or  De-Lovely than  Aqua’s.

Kibble and Water : Honey’s Field Trip to the Barrier Island Museum

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Doggie Networking -- Meet and Greet Time

Dogs and museums are not usually thought of  as being at all compatible.   But that kind of thinking  is  sooo  yesterday now that   Laura   Vaughan,  the  director of the Barrier Island Center, ( BIC to  those who know it well ) ,   is making  BIC  the de rigueur destination for Eastern Shore doggy field trips.   Saturday was the first in a series of   “field trips for dogs”   to  be held under the tall, shady oaks at  the Center.

Under the  expert direction of   Beth Ann Sabo,  a certified local dog trainer,  Saturday morning’s  experience started out  a little like an old time  country social  but with kibble treats and pans of water instead of  picnic baskets and lemonade !   It was a “doggy socialization”  event and my daughter  brought her Newfie puppy,  Honey,  for a little  “meet and greet”  with the 10 other dogs in attendance.  As anyone knows who has recently gotten a puppy and has purchased a  “how-to”  book ,  the modern standard for  socializing a puppy is to make sure it is equally at home around a variety of  dogs  as well as people.   The mantra for this  is   “100 dogs and 100 people in the first 100 days”    because the first 3 or 4  months of a dog’s  life and the experiences it has during those  3 or 4 months  imprint the dog for life.  Basically the experiences and training a dog receives during that time determine  whether it will be a friendly, timid or aggressive dog  in its relations to both people and to other dogs.  Beth Ann says that most dogs that are sent  to the SPCA are placed there  before they are two  years old,  primarily  as a result of a  lack of  early proper socialization and training by  their owners,  who then get rid of  the dog  because of  resulting bad behaviors.   Having once had a dog for 12 years who loved all humans but who never met a dog she didn’t hate,  (which was, of course, a real problem),  my daughter is working hard to see that  Honey does get properly socialized to  dogs as well as  people.   She jumped at the opporunity to bring Honey to the BIC party to meet  puppies  of  different breeds  and temperaments. 

K-9 Toys

So the dogs  introduced themselves the old fashioned doggie way, sniffing, licking, sniffing, licking  and then  some more sniffing.   And  no  ordinary “Spot” or  “Rover”   names for this crowd  —  instead  Honey the Newfoundland met  Hilda the English Bulldog,  Frolic  the Norwich Terrier,  Ginger the  Golden Retriever,  Trey the Beagle and Rupert the Italian Greyhound, to name just some  in the group.   Beth Ann remarked as she was about to get down to the “work” of  the morning  that she had hoped for a variety of  breeds  for this first session but could not have imagined such an eclectic mix  as a Newfoundland and an Italian Greyhound.   Then dogs and owners settled into a few tasks;  coming when called by name to improve focus and response;  owners switching dogs with other owners   to improve socialization with unfamiliar persons;  sitting, greeting and then passing  by another dog ( which, as  anyone who has ever watched a Cesar Millan show knows,  can be a bit dicy). 

The final  lesson involved having  all the owners stand in a long line, their dogs  by their sides. Then, one by one,   Beth Ann came down the line to hold the leash so the owner could walk  about 20 feet out into the  clearing and call their dog to come to them.  Honey was near the end of the line.  Being a hot July day and she being a furry Newfoundland,  by now  Honey was hot and a bit tired.   While all the other dogs were sitting and paying attention,  she  was sprawled out,  completely relaxed,  just taking it all in.  So,  when my daughter strode out and confidently called her name ,   Honey  just raised her head and gave a look which clearly said,  in her most  gracious Southern Dogese,    “Girl, I know you’ve got to be kidding.  You’ve had me running around for an hour now,  my feet  are killing me and I’m taking a load off.  Definately I’m not running out into the hot sun for some measly treat. ”   (If she were a Bronx dog she would have yelled   ” Forgeddabout  it !”   which would have totally said it all.)    Well, I had just resigned myself to the idea  that Honey was going to be the only dog in the entire class to  fail   “Run to Your Owner”   when up she jumped and  out she ran. And she got  the measly treat– plus  a lot of praise from her very  nearly embarrassed owner !

Will They Come When You Call ?

 The hour was up, doggies were ready to hit the  lunch trail,  as were owners.  We stayed to talk to Beth Ann a bit and learned that she gives private training lessons for dogs as well as the group sessions.  She will even travel to an owner’s home to work with a dog in its normal environment.  (For anyone who is interested,  learn about her certifications and contact Beth Ann  through her website– ).   After that  we stayed a little bit longer to talk to Laura Vaughan about some of the great work the Barrier Island Center  ( is doing to educate and inspire children here on the Shore  (which in itself  will be  a future blog post).   Laura invited all of us inside,  including Honey,  who promptly found an air conditioning register and plopped herself right down on it,  perfectly at home.  Laura’s philosophy is that people who love the Center also usually  love dogs.  So,  the more the merrier.   And that’s  how Honey the Newfie became the first dog  in our family to tour a  real live museum.   As I often say, only on the Eastern Shore !

Waiting for Peaches

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Fruit & Veggies Galore

Our year as defined in  fruits:   Fall is  for apples and apple cider– crunchy, crisp Pink Lady’s that we love to drive up into the mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia  to purchase  at  Carter Mountain Orchard,  along with with their  fresh pressed cider and the apple cider donuts, none  better,  my husband’s favorite .  ( )   Winter is for citrus– tangy, juicy Honeybelle variety oranges, ripening  in January, fragile so unavailable in most grocery stores,  usually purchased from The Orange Ring in Orlando, Florida,  three bushels of which we tote  to the airport and ship back to the Eastern Shore with our luggage  to share with family and friends.    Spring is for the fat red Eastern Shore strawberries, grown by various local farmers  and perfect for shortcakes and  strawberry ice cream,  homemade.     But summer…. well,  plain and simple, summer  is  for  peaches.

Peaches, Peaches Everywhere

By peaches I don’t mean the dry as dust, hard as rocks, green as gourds specimens that are the usual offerings at grocery stores, hydrocooled and ready to rot before they ripen.  No , by peaches I mean  the beautiful  rosy, orangy globes that come ripe from the tree, warm from the sun,  with an aroma straight from Heaven.  And when you peel these peaches,   juices just flow into the bowl as you slice them.   It’s hard for me to describe flavors  but let me just say that a  slice of such a peach,  soft and mellow,  is like a burst of  luscious perfume spreading through the mouth, a true epicurean delight.

Like so many good things, peaches such as this are difficult to come by.  

 They are not available in grocery stores because a tree ripened peach cannot withstand much handling.   Being soft,  it bruises easily.   No, tree ripened peaches are only available from farm markets and the very best ones are obtained straight  from a local  farm orchard.  

Luscious "Blushing Stars"

 Which is why every summer I find myself waiting for peaches.  Come the middle of June, when those old  hydrocooled fakes appear in the grocery stores,  I start thinking “wow, only 4 more weeks”,  then “only 2  more weeks”  and finally, in the middle  of July,  ” They must be ready. ”   Which is why today I made it a top priority on my way home to stop by the Pickett’s Harbor Farm Market to get my first 1/2 bushel  of their  2010 season gorgeous tree ripened peaches.   And I was not disappointed– they were beautiful, large, ripe and  juicy.  Ready to be sliced over ice cream, added to Cherrios, made into pies, cobblers and brandied peaches. And if  the energy is there, chutney and preserves.  And the great part is that they will just keep on coming, a new variety every 10 days until the first part of September, with exotic names like  “Blushing Star”,  “Paul Friday # 2” ,  “Klondike”,  “Sentry” and “Fire Star “.  Picked daily,  straight from  Tammy and  W.T. Nottingham’s   amazing  peach orchard located on Pickett’s Harbor Drive  right here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,  no need for a trip to Charlottesville or Orlando,  thank-you very much.   So between now and September,  my family and I will eat a surfeit of peaches because once they’re gone,  it’s back once more to waiting for peaches.

Wiley, the Christmas Horse

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I thought that after thirty years of being asked by my only son  “So, what would you  like for Christmas this year ?”  or  “If I give you money would it be better if you chose your own Christmas present ?”   that something was really rather strange this past year.  In the weeks leading up to the big day,  not a word  did  he say,  not one question did he ask about my Christmas gift  preferences.   Knowing that he usually felt a lot of uncertainty when shopping for  my present  I  assumed that he had decided to skip the shopping part entirely and just slip money into a  Xmas stocking.   I should mention that I,  on the other hand,  love to shop for Christmas.   Trying to decide on a really meaningful  gift  for family and friends,  one I think they will truly enjoy,  is a passion with me.   Since Virginia’s Eastern Shore is home to so  many artists and artisans,  I always  scour the Shore for some interesting  art  type gifts before I shift into what I think of as “high gear”.   “High gear”  is my annual Christmas shopping pilgrimage with a friend or two, usually  to Washington DC, sometimes to New York.  One of the  things I  love about living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is how easy it is to get to interesting  nearby  areas such as Williamsburg, Richmond, Washington ,  Annapolis,  Charlottesville, etc.,  as well as points north including Manhattan, Cape May, maybe even that den of iniquity, Atlantic City.    This past year we made the 4 hour drive  from the Eastern Shore to Washington,  laser focused on unearthing  some great deals over the next few days at  Tyson’s  Corner and  treating ourselves to lunch at Neiman Marcus.  Splurging  by staying at the Ritz , we parked  ourselves by the cozy fireplace in the evenings,  toasting  the season with hot toddys and cold  champagne.   So much fun, so little time and all  too soon we were on our way home. 

Still no  gift questions or comments from my son.  Then, on Christmas Eve, a  festive  dinner and presents after.   And  I must admit,  after  all of  the presents were opened and he  didn’t have a box or even an envelope  for me that I felt rather  disappointed.   About 11 pm he kissed me goodby, saying that he had to leave to meet some  friends.  No “sorry I couldn’t find anything I thought you would really like”,  no  “please use this to buy something nice”.   Just “Merry Christmas, Mom”.   At that point my first thought was that I should have had more than one child.  Although I am a firm believer that it is better to give than to receive,  truth be told, I was feeling rather disappointed.   Then, on Christmas morning  I received a call asking  if  we would possibly have the time after Christmas lunch to  join  him  at a friend’s  big waterfront horse farm south of  Cape Charles.  We  would and we  did.   And when I got there  he said  “Come look at this.”    We walked into the barn and there  in  a stall was a beautiful grey Arabian colt,  dressed  in a red halter with  a red Christmas bow in his mane.  After 20 years since I last had  a horse I was looking  into the eyes of  one of my  sweetest Christmas presents  ever… Wiley, my Christmas horse.