Archive for November, 2010

Spending An Indian Summer Day In Williamsburg, Virginia

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

A few weeks  ago I woke up on a beautiful fall morning on a day that promised to be one of the last days of Indian Summer here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.   Temperatures were forecast  to be in the low-70′s,  sunny,  not too breezy –  in other words,  virtually perfect.  As I got the coffee started,  I began plotting as to the best way to get my husband,  who was in the middle of a project,   to  turn the potential  of this virtually perfect day into a little trip I’d been wanting to take to Williamsburg.   Now there are three crucial stops when first visiting  Williamsburg, Virginia:   1) Its amazing historic area,  a world class restoration project done by the Colonial  Williamsburg Foundation,  2) The College of William and Mary,  a college with a stellar reputation,  attended by Thomas Jefferson, among others,  and 3) The  Williamsburg Outlet Malls .  Or you could put them in reverse order– ha,  ha,  just kidding,  Freudian slip.

Lunch at Gabriel Archer Tavern

So it was a leisurely walk down Duke of Gloucester Street that beckoned to me that fine day.  ( And afterwards,  if truth be told,  a brief side trip  to the Outlets,   just a tiny little visit,  hardly anything at all,  really.)  From my house to Colonial Williamsburg is about an hour and a half drive down I-64 west, which for much of the trip  cuts through beautiful wooded scenery and over small bridges with winding waterways below,  an easy and pleasant drive.   Although we often have lunch at the Cheese Shop or the Trellis on Merchant’s Square when we visit,  that day I wanted to stop at  Williamsburg Winery  ( www.williamsburgwinery.com  ),  located  just a few miles from the historic area,  for lunch at  Gabriel Archer Tavern.  On a beautiful day this pretty cafe  with an outdoor seating area overlooking the vineyards at the Winery is  especially delightful.  And its  French Country Platter,  a medley of pates,  assorted cheeses and fruits served with a crusty baguette,  is excellent,  especially when accompanied by a glass of the Winery’s buttery  Chardonnay.

                                    

The Shoemaker's Shop

After lunch we were ready for our walk in the historic area,  the warm day so pleasant,  the fall foliage on the huge  oaks and  maples absolutely vibrant.   Although I’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg  ( www.history.org  ) dozens and dozens of times I never tire of  it– thank you,  John D. Rockefeller,  your money and your interest made this fabulous restoration happen.  The historic area is located on about three hundred acres and involves the full restoration and reconstruction of  hundreds of  Colonial  buildings including homes, out buildings and commercial buildings  ( including the reconstructed taverns,  the restaurants of  olden days,  now re-opened serving delicious food prepared from Colonial recipes,  my favorite being  King’s Arms Tavern ), common greenway areas with grazing oxen and sheep,  beautiful Colonial style vegetable gardens and  interpreters in costumes  ready to explain the history and answer just about any question.   The Williamsburg Foundation bills this fascinating slice of 18th century Virginia as  “the world’s largest living history museum”.   Something new is always going on,  new restorations  are constantly getting  underway,  new historical features are  frequently popping up on their excellent website,  one of the latest being Thomas Jefferson’s  “blog”.  In my opinion,  Williamsburg is one of Virginia’s greatest treasures,  worthy of  repeated visits,  especially in different seasons,  with Christmas as a  “must visit”  time for us nearly every year.

                                  

Just A Little Peek, See What's New

And then,  like a small but tasty after- dinner mint,  a quick trip to the Williamsburg Premium Outlet,  my favorite outlet mall,  primarily for a peek around to see what’s new.  Also a stop at Bass for a pair of boat shoes and a stop at Nautica for a shirt for my oldest grandson.   Did the quick peek,  got the new shoes and shirt,  also checked out  the brand new Calphalon  cookware store,  poked a quick nose in at Harry and David for a jar of their cherry preserves,  tempted but said  “no”  to a bag of Moose Munch.   Then,  lickity-split,  as requested by my husband who was hoping  to get back to his project,  on the road again headed back to the Eastern Shore,  our delightful Indian Summer day in Williamsburg officially over.

On The Eastern Shore Of Virginia, If It’s Fall, It’s Farming

Friday, November 26th, 2010

If It's Fall, It's Farming On Virginia's Eastern Shore

Farming is one of the largest economic engines of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.   Last year the total farm product value  for the Eastern Shore was in the many hundreds of millions of dollars ,  which even by today’s standards is serious money and pretty big business.  But unlike the huge agri-businesses in other parts of the country,  farms on the Eastern Shore are  mostly family- run farms and  farming is as much a lifestyle as a business.    Potatoes,  tomatoes, soybeans and other grains are the main crops,  with secondary truck crops such as bell peppers, cabbage, cucumbers,  green beans and  wine grapes following close on their heels.  If you have ever eaten a Wise brand potato chip you likely have tasted an Eastern Shore potato.  In the summer,  if you’ve ever had the fresh salsa at Chipolte’s Mexican Grill,  home to some lip-smacking good burritoes  ( www.chipolte.com ),  you have  enjoyed our sweet Eastern Shore tomatoes  (in the winter,  fresh tomatoes primarily come from Florida).  Farming is evident here all year round  because basically the Eastern Shore of Virginia is  just one  big farm,  with our  lovely waterfront neighborhoods and our little towns interspersed into  the open landscapes.  Farms are not exactly part of the scenery– mostly,  they are  the scenery .  ( Although there are only a few,  we do sometimes have an Eastern Shore farm for sale. )

"Still Life On Earthen Canvas"

But at no time of year is farming more captivating to me than in the spring and fall.   The earthen tones of  the Eastern Shore’s  fall landscapes are very appealing, strong  golds and yellows,  all the shades of browns,  lots of deep greens,  here and there a little cotton ready to be picked,  looking for all the world  like a field of  white lollipops on brown sticks.  Soybeans are not an especially attractive plant individually but a big field of soybeans in October,  after the leaves have all turned yellow,  is a delightful sight– when the soybeans are  lit by the morning sun  it’s like a looking at a field of gold,  edible gold at that.  One of my favorite sights in the fall is a freshly prepared field,  the sweeping lines of  the rows,  so precise,  curving  around at corners,  gliding up little knolls,   designs  created by John Deere on a massive earthen canvas,  a study in rich browns.  Really quite beautiful,  with a deep, fresh aroma  all its own.   

Emerald Green, A Field Of New Rye

 By now,  late November,  the fields that were harvested early and planted with rye as a winter cover crop have all greened up,  the rye already a few inches tall.  Seen from a distance,  a big field of rye in November looks like a vast emerald green lawn,  like Ireland,  maybe even greener.   And as I drive to work each day this time of year,  I am always struck by the various of stages of the lands I pass—  harvested,  waiting for harvesting,  plowed,  waiting for plowing,  planted with the new crop,  waiting for planting,  each phase with its own special look,  and by the strong hues of those stages,  the  yellows, golds,  browns and greens,  the fascinating textures and colors of  fall farming on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Playtime At The Palace In Cape Charles, Virginia

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Once again we’re looking forward to play time at the historic Palace Theatre in Cape Charles, Virginia.   ( See  September, 2010 posts  about Arts Enter’s  first play of  the  2010-2011 season,  a mystery entitled The Two Mrs. Carrolls . )   This season’s second production by Art’s Enter is a long-time thespian favorite,  The Importance Of Being Earnest  by Oscar Wilde.    Interestingly,  this clever farce,  subtitled  A Trivial Comedy For Serious People,  was  first performed about 1895 and has been kicking around ever since.   It was  even made into a movie about ten  years ago,  staring Rupert Everett,  Judi Dench,  Colin Firth  and Tom Wilkenson,  some of my favorite British actors,  ( Dench especially for her role in the long running BBC series  As Time Goes By  and Wilkenson as Gerald in the hilariously poignant  film,  The Full Monty  ).  According to the Palace’s advance ad,  George Bernard Shaw once said that Earnest  was the funniest play ever written.  It is indeed a very witty piece of  writing,  a romantic comedy full of clever turns of phrase.  I find it  pretty amazing that a play which is now  115 years old is still capturing  the imaginations of theatre groups all around the country  ( take a quick peek at some of  the U Tube clips of  recent  productions of  Earnest,   especially the clips from  South Coast Repertory.  )

Getting ready for lunch at Aqua restaurant

So we  are planning for a late lunch today at  Aqua’s Restaurant overlooking the Chesapeake Bay near the marina and then off to the theatre for the  3:00.pm matinee.   I’m looking forward to the Cobb Salad at Aqua.  Unbelievably,  next Wednesday,  as part of an over-all menu revision,  I’ve been told they are taking their  absolutely delicious Cobb Salad off  the menu although it’s their most popular salad and,  in my opinion,  their best salad,  assorted field greens layered with corn kernels,  an entire sliced egg,  crunchy bacon, perfectly ripened avocado,  long crisp cucumber slices,  tender grilled chicken,   topped with a creamy Parmesan pepper dressing.   I’m just asking……. What sense does it  make to remove one of your most popular luncheon dishes just because it’s been there nearly since opening day ?    Their hamburger has been on since opening day as well —  but I’d just about bet the farm that the  same hamburger choices are  going to make an appearance on the new menu !   ( I think we need a revolt,  maybe a  “Committee for the Retention of the Cobb Salad at Aqua”.  )   My daughter will be likely be having the fish sandwich and clam chowder,  safe and secure that fish sandwiches will probably always be on the menu !  Anyway, we all truly enjoy Aqua’s atmosphere and scrumptious food and shall cling to the hope that maybe next spring the  beloved Cobb Salad shall re-appear on their menu.

After lunch,  it’s off to  the  theatre.  We  are especially looking forward to seeing David Kabler,  broker for Blue Heron Realty Co.’s  Cape Charles  office,  who is playing the role  of   the vicar,   Dr. Chasuble.    This is Dave’s second stage role,   having made his debut at the Palace earlier this year in the part of   Frank Updyke  in the Art’s Enter production of  the  Two Mrs. Carrolls .    So it should be a good day,  a farewell  Cobb Salad  followed by playtime at play time in the little town of  Cape Charles’  beautifully renovated Palace Theatre.   (  P.S.  I might mention that  Wilde is also  known for  his short stories,   particularly the beautiful  The Happy Prince    and  the ironic  The Nightingale and the Rose,  both of   which can be read on-line at  www.shortstoryarchive.com/w/oscar_wilde.html    I first read Oscar Wilde when I was in school,  having  received as a gift  a book which was a collection of  his short stories and some of his poetry.   The stories have stuck with me ever since.  )

The Life Of Wiley, The On-Going Saga Of An Arabian Colt On Virginia’s Eastern Shore– Part 3

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Watching the Breeder’s Cup last week-end made me think about just how much animals are very much like humans in many respects. Some have the heart to win and give it their all to the very end.  Others are happy with making just enough effort to just get by.  Very much like our human race.   Now I’m not comparing my little grey Arabian gelding,  Wiley,  to the great race horse Zenyatta but I do see a similarity in the hearts of both animals.  Wiley was purchased last Christmas from a horse farm in Tennessee that was going through very hard times.  In distress situations like that,  owners usually do not have the funds to continue to feed their horses the grain and hay supplements they need.  Instead,  the horses are turned out to grass pastures  to live on the land so to speak.  So Wiley only got a minimal amount of care,  he and his buddies being left very much to fend for themselves.

Trot, Trot, Trot For The Judges

Then overnight this little fellow’s life completely changed.   Being  loaded onto a horse trailer for the first time is  pretty traumatic  for a colt like Wiley — first you’re out in a sunny, wide open pasture and the next thing you know someone is pulling you up into a small dark box,  no buddies,  no mother,  then the door is slammed shut,  leaving you totally alone and scared.   And the unfamiliar noises and motion,  thumping and bumping,  starting and stopping,   down hundreds of miles of highway to a  new home,  all that is  pretty traumatic for first-timers as well.   And once he got  to his new home  on a large waterfront farm owned by a friend who boards horses near Cape Charles, Virginia on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,   being in his own stall with a less than friendly mare as a next door neighbor wasn’t a picnic either.   No doubt he missed his old buddies down on the farm but there was a big  upside — good food and lots of love, care and attention.  After a couple of months  of  good food  and being turned out during the day to graze in the large green pasture,  things seemed pretty easy to Wiley.   His new  life produced weight gain and a beautiful healthy coat.  Still had to contend with the old mare next door at night but,  all in all,  life was definitely good.

Wiley Puts His Best Foot Forward

Little did Wiley realize that with the coming of spring came the beginning of the summer Show Circuit and that his relaxed, comfortable life was now about to change once again.   Loaded on a trailer for only the second life in his young life,  Wiley was off on another trip, this time to Wolf’s Training Center in Georgetown, Delaware  (www.wolftraining.com) .  Now it was time to leave the comfort and security of his new home,  now it was time to grow up and go to work.  Time to learn how to stand ( with his best foot forward),  to use  his neck and ears with positive attitude,  to learn to keep his undivided attention on his trainer and  to stand perfectly still to be judged in the ring without moving  a muscle.   These lessons aren’t the easiest to accomplish with any two year old and were  hardest of all for Wiley to achieve.   But when Wiley returned home to the Eastern Shore of Virginia after two months of intensive training,  all bathed and clipped,  sporting his brand new shoes,  he was no longer the little grey duckling  that left the farm  but rather a proud and beautiful Arabian swan !  Now Wiley can’t compare to a great race horse but he does have miles of heart.   Upon return,  the first thing he did when he saw me was to call out and nuzzle my neck to say it’s  OK,  I’m growing up,  I’m ready now for the show season.   Bring It On !

Measuring With Frogs, Swimming With Geese– A Peek Into The Life Of Two Dogs On Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

 

Little Honey getting modeling advice from Pumpkin, May 2010

In July I posted a little story about how my daughter  ”measures”  her dogs by posing them next to a couple of funky yard ornaments,  two frogs to be exact.   A couple days ago  it was time to  take the autumn measurements  of  these two bronze  Newfoundlands.   But  the very sweet Pumpkin,  now two plus years and the feisty Honey,  nine months,  had to be coaxed into primping  for the camera next to the quirky tall metal frogs.     They just really were not in the mood for a photo shoot .  Being a bit breezy that day on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,  dry leaves were gently fluttering down from many of  the trees,   rustling and swirling all across the backyard.   Both of   “the  girls” ,  as my husband likes to call them,  were infinitely more interested in chasing  leaves rather than posing docilely for the camera.  Leashes had to be produced and many commands of  “sit” and “stay” were given before a semi-satisfactory shot was obtained.  But the principal objective was finally met,  leashes removed  and off they set  in a mad dash,  crossing  the lawn in wild pursuit of who knows what canine goal.  Chasing deer is their very favorite pursuit.  If they see a deer in the yard,  usually following a little trail down by the water,  they give  great excited barks  and set off  at a gallop trying to catch one– apparently they will never learn that  deer run  multiples of times faster than dogs,  or maybe they’re  just doing the dog version of the 50 yard dash.   Anyway,  I  think they would probably freak out if they actually  ever really got close to  one.  Fortunately there’s no worry about that happening because  deer are so agile they could just jump past a mere dog in a single bound.   Which reminds me of  a  “dogs interacting with other animals”  little story my husband related to  me  the other day.

                                   

Honey and Pumpkin, Measured With Frogs, November 2010

Pumpkin and Honey,   being Newfies,  and Newfies traditionally being water rescue dogs,  both adore swimming.  In the summer they love to go down to the inlet and swim in the salt water and do so just about every single day.  Last week,   my husband and the dogs were just sitting out on the deck,  enjoying some late day sun.  This being the time of year that flocks of  geese start  returning to the Eastern Shore to enjoy our mild winters,  a large flock passed overhead,  honking loudly as geese always do,  aiming  to set down in  the water just off our backyard.   The dogs stood up,  cocking their heads,  listening to all the noise  and then bounded  off for the shoreline,  which is about 350 feet from the deck.   By that time the geese,  with their  usual fanfare,  were settling down in the water  just off the area where  the dogs usually enter to swim.   My husband followed the dogs  on down,  hoping to get a good view of the flock,   assuming the geese would take off as soon as the dogs arrived on the scene.   But the geese didn’t seem to mind the dogs,  actually totally ignored them .   Into the water went Pumpkin and Honey,  quietly ,  not barking or carrying on at all.   And then they proceeded to swim along with the geese,  who were bobbing around not more than 20 feet away from them !   I have never heard of such a thing before but  my husband swears,  Scout’s Honor and pinkie swear,  that every word is true.  I can tell you that a human can’t get anywhere near that close to a flock of geese because the whole flock  will take to the air in a flash,  wings beating,  loudly honking.   And if only my husband  had his camera with him,  I would have loved  a  shot  of  Honey and Pumpkin,  slowly swimming with geese.

                             

Flowering Space Invaders Discovered On Westerhouse Creek On Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

 My life on the backwaters of  Westerhouse Creek near the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia is peaceful and bucolic,  coexisiting serenely with the woodland creatures that live among the thousands of acres of open land around my waterfront home.  Often I hike along a narrow and ill-defined deerpath that follows the general lay of the shoreline.  Paddling Westerhouse  Creek,  a colorful saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake  Bay,  in my kayak nearly every day has brought me many close encounters with the native wildlife.  Catching deer swimming across the creek, watching bald eagles snatch fish out of the water  and having a river otter swim right up to my boat,  whining at me to give him space — what other surprises awaited me?  After a few years I felt I had a pretty good handle on the lay of the land and felt that there wasn’t much more to discover in my woods and along the edges of fields.

Then,  lo and behold,  while placing my kayak on the post and beam rack I have  built next to the dock,  I caught sight of a bright pink object in the brown underbrush.  It was tax time,  April 15, and as I approached,  this pink object took on a whole new form,  joined by a couple of other ones sitting high and mighty on the ends of tall green  stalks.  I had never seen anything like it!  

 So,  everyday for the next few weeks,  I studied this peculiar flowering plant,  the only one of its kind anywhere in the forest where I live.  Soon  it lost its luster and the bloom faded away leaving only the stalk and big green leaves laying on the ground.  Having qualified as a Master Gardener with three months of classes and a year and a half of volunteer gardening labor,  I felt I ought to know what this strange plant was.  I asked around but finally I researched orchids and discovered that this is the hard- to- find  Lady Slipper.   Now,  after five years,  I always look for it around tax time when the tall stalks sprouting from big, sturdy, green leaves sprout the oddest and most beautiful pink blooms.   This exotic show lasts for about a month and then fades away over summer,  to return yet again the  next spring with an additional stalk and flower.

Halloween On Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

It seems that kids of all ages  love Halloween,  be it the little ones who dress up in their cute costumes or the big  “kids”  who get the costumes ready and stand by to do the annual   “Trick or Treat”  walking thing.   Here on the southern tip of the Shore,  the most popular place to Trick or Treat is in a little town,  especially in Cape Charles, Virginia or in Cheriton,  just a few miles away.   Since my middle daughter and her family have lived there  since about 1996,  Cheriton has naturally become our official  family Halloween destination,  we are loyal to you,  Cheriton,  dear Cheriton.

Trick or Treating  there generally involves what we  call  “doing the Big Block”.   On the east side of   Bayside Road lies the largest and most compact  residential portion of town,  with just enough little businesses located right on  Bayside Road  to make it the prime   “Treating”  spot for those with little legs that tire easily.   The so-called  “Big Block”   is  actually  two blocks square,  so it’s  still  a pretty good work-out for kids and parents alike.   The great thing about  “doing the  Big Block”  on Halloween  is seeing people you know from business settings just out having fun with their kids,   the kids all having fun seeing their friends  dressed up,  laughing and waving their colorful lite sticks at each other and the residents,  waving to friends on the street,  with carved pumpkins on porches beckening,  providing the sweet,  sweet  rewards.   It’s just plain fun,  good wholesome fun for everyone involved,  kids,  parents  and  homeowners.   So,  see you next Halloween,  Cheriton.

Thanks, Jon Stewart ! We All Can Use A Little Extra Sanity, Even Here On Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Monday, November 1st, 2010

We love Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert at our house here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,  which is,  in general,  a pretty sane place to live.   I was  surprized to hear that their shows  attract  primarily  young people because I think biting political satire is funny no matter ones age.  Saturday was a work day for me so I didn’t see the live TV coverage of the  Washington D.C. Rally for Sanity and/or Fear  but I have seen lots of video clips and newspaper articles about the Rally,  which apparently had about a 200,000 strong turnout.  Some funny,  funny stuff  but sobering  too.  And I really loved a lot of the many different  homemade signs that people brought to the Rally.   ( The Washington Post has a photo gallery submitted by  readers  of some of the insightful and funny signs seen at  the Rally.  

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2010/10/25/GA2010102501514.html  .)

We don’t usually deal with politics on this Blog but I think  political sanity is fair game.  From a political point of view,  I am an Independent.  I’m not registered with any political  party,  vote after evaluating the candidates and over the course of my years have voted for Republicans,  Democrats and Independents.  But I am a big,  big believer in civil discourse and behavior so the rise of the rhetoric of violence and the talk of   “second amendment remedies”  and behavior of the last few months seems unnecessary and alarming to me.    I believe President Obama  was born in Hawaii,  I  don’t believe President Obama is a Nazi or a Socialist,  I don’t believe in handcuffing a reporter for asking a question and the mere idea of  stomping on the head of a protester,  female or male is absolutely abhorrent to me.   That’s what the Red Shirts and Green Shirts do in Thailand,  that’s not supposed to happen here in the good ole  U. S.  of A.

If I hear one more politician condemn TARP as wrong and unnecessary I’m just going to ……. well, do  something.   As a realtor I deal with banks and bankers everyday so I’m really familiar with how the whole world runs on credit ,  from big companies to small farmers borrowing for seed and fertilizer for the new crop,  to individual house holds,  credit is essential.  So I so well remember the days after the September, 2008  Lehman Brothers collapse,  when credit was simply frozen and  governments world- wide were worried about the melt-down of the world financial system.   Saying to the banks,  ” hey guys,  it’s all your fault,  suck it up,  too bad for all of  you,  down the tubes you go, adios forever”  could have been a whole lot of fun but I’ve never been a believer in self destruction just to get back at the other guy.  So TARP was necessary,  in my opinion,  unless we just wanted to cut off our head to spite our nose,   Alice In Wonderland style.   And the good news is that most of the banks that got TARP  funds have repaid the principal plus some hefty interest so we the people will have doubled down on our benefits—- we saved our financial system and made money doing it.  How great is that !  So instead of being in line for free soup most of us are on-line,  thinking about the new iPad or  the new 4G EVO,  or  Christmas or some other such thing,  the whole point being that most of us are still living our lives,  albeit on a more frugal basis,  but we are not struggling through another Great Depression.   So to hear politicians on both sides of the aisle reviled for passing  the legislation that  kept  our financial system from total collapse  just annoys the you-know-what out of me !

Which is why I really,  really needed some Jon Stewart Sanity just before these  elections.   I’m not and don’t want to become  a person who turns purple in the face and yells or strikes out  at other people about differences in political opinion.  I want to continue being  a person who can,  pretty calmly,  make my points,  hoping that the other person  is trying to keep an open mind and is actually considering what I’m saying,  and no name calling,  please.   And I hope to be able to do rationally consider their points in return.  And Jon,  I agree completely with you that   ” these are  hard times but not the end times”.   So let’s just  keep calm and carry on like the real Americans that we all are.   As  Rosie the Riveter famously said,  “We Can Do It.”