Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

DUCK BREAKFAST A LA CARTE’

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

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This is a true Eastern Shore duck tale, not a tall Eastern Shore duck tale.  But “breakfasting with friends” took on a whole new meaning for me down at the Bayford crab shacks in Nassawadox, VA recently. I had left home at first light, hoping to shoot a few photos of  some colorful puffy clouds reflecting over the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Nassawadox Creek inlet at Bayford.  

But once I got there, what really ended up captivating me was a duck breakfast.  (Very different than breakfast atDSC_0735 Duck Donuts for those in Duck, NC  and Virginia Beach, who are addicted to those fabulous treats).  Dawn was just breaking as I pulled in. As it grew lighter, I noticed 2 ducks paddling steadily up the inlet towards the boat ramp. Arriving, they proceeded to walk directly up the ramp and onto the land, totally ignoring me.  They waddled, quack-quacking,  over to an old pier adjacent to the ramp in what I initially thought was just random meandering. But immediately 2 additional ducks popped up to greet them from a large crevice by the dock pilings, which apparently are a duck version of Air B’nB accommodations, emphasis on the “air”, as in very open air!

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 Then the 4 of them, like the group of old buddies they were, immediately turned back around, waddled down the ramp and straight into the water. These old  friends of a feather swam leisurely over to a nearby dock offering plenty of mud and barnacle-encrusted pilings and began to nibble around them, devouring what I assume was their idea of a delicious meal, probably bristle worm ceviche, served with a mud aioli and finished with chiffonade of eel grass.  Duck Breakfast a’ la carte!   Thereafter the sunrise, with soft pink glows, huge billowy clouds, vivid water reflections, everything I had come to see and photograph. Voila’, full daylight and off to my people breakfast.  Thankfully, no worms, mud or eel grass on that menu!

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Second Season Underway For The Cape Charles, VA Farmer’s Market

Friday, July 7th, 2017

DSC_1671The long awaited second season for the brand-new-last-year Cape Charles Farmer’s Market finally rolled around in May and now the vendors are getting into high gear with loads of summer goodies. ( Hours this year will be from 3-6 pm, rain or shine, from now till October.)  So if it’s Tuesday afternoon, whether you’re a local or a visitor, it’s time for foodies and farm-to-table enthusiasts to break out the walking shoes, a wicker market basket and head out to the spacious, grassy Museum grounds on Stone Road in the little Eastern Shore of Virginia coastal town of Cape Charles to shop for the fine local farm produce… and much more.

 

BBQ guy

I found last year that the best way to tackle the cornucopia of goodies on offer was to take a stroll, making a circuit around the whole Market, to preview all the little vendor tents and the tempting items on offer, then circle back around again to make selections. This proved to be the right strategy again this year. Starting on the north end across from the handsome brick Museum building was Shore Beef and BBQ, where owner Ron was fielding multiple customers drawn by deep smoky aromas and intent on securing some of his delicious beef brisket and vinegar- dressing cole slaw.

 

Mattawoman Creek FarmMoving counter-clockwise, Mattawoman Farms CSA’s counter was heaped high with loads of fresh organic veggies including the most beautiful red and green lettuces, soft yet crisp, just gorgeous. And kohlrabi, which after some indecision I decided I would finally try this year, as well as some tatsoi, a deep green plant similar to bok choi. Mattawoman had tall racks of healthy looking plants, perfect to pop immediately into a home garden. Across the way, the honey guy’s wares were shining golden, the sun glinting off the jars, you could almost savor lush sticky sweetness on the tongue merely by looking at it. At our house, local honey is the go-to sweetener for tea, especially green teas, it just smooths out every cuppa.

Bakery

 

Moving down the line, waving to the Bread Lady from The Bakery at Riverside Farm who had sold out in the first hour. And no wonder, she has fab sour dough breads and at my house we are addicted to her cinnamon raisin bread (which we often buy on Thursdays year-round at the Gull Hummock gourmet shop on Mason Avenue.) Toasted, spread lightly with peanut butter, so divine with morning coffee ! Next door to Bread Lady, a new vendor this year, the cleverly named Kitchen Sync Catering, whose chef, Louise Oliver, is offering a scrumptious menu of prepared foods that can be ordered on-line and picked up at their kitchen at the Eastville Inn on Friday or purchased at the Farmer’s Market on Tuesday. Their samples looked delish, especially the colorful layered salad with a side of cilantro avocado dressing and the chopped broccoli salad with cranberries and almonds with a honey yogurt dressing. Just around the corner, Copper Cricket Farm’s table was piled high with totally gorgeous veggies including crispy fresh spring onions, arugula and Swiss chard.

DSC_1715Further down the line, another new vendor, Lauren Gardner of Parisian Sweets, was offering French style macaroons. Or rather, not offering, since, unfortunately for me, but nice for them, she was also sold out.  But lucky early birds to the Market were able to indulge in her lemon, raspberry cheesecake or mocha flavors. Going to go earlier next week ! Did manage to snag some of Pickett’s Harbor Farm’s just-picked-this-morning peaches though, a favorite of my husband’s, but do peaches compare to lemon or mocha French macaroons ?  A tough decision but one I didn’t have to make since there were no macaroons !  Too many other great vendors to mention here, offering everything from The Flying Pig’s traditionally fermented organic sauerkrauts to organic veggies, local seafood as well as organic eggs and meats from several different local farms. The Cape Charles Farmer’s Market will not disappoint, check it out, 3-6 pm, rain or shine, every Tuesday, May through October

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First Annual Live Auction At Lemon Tree Gallery And Studio

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Crowds Looking at Art 2Another exciting  “First Of ” event in Cape Charles,VA  kicked off recently with the “1st Annual Live Art Auction” hosted by the Lemon Tree Gallery and Studio in Cape Charles to benefit Experimental Film Virginia.  At the door, attendees were greeted with a sparkling limoncello prosecco cocktail before moving on to the registration table (manned by Blue Heron’s own Luisa Gazzolo), then flowing into the main gallery to view the tables laid out with the myriad works on auction. Entitled the “Sail On Sale” and sponsored by GEAR ( Global Exchange Arts Roundtable, a 501 (c)3 non-profit led by Renata Sheppard, daughter of Clelia Sheppard ), the Silent Auction and the Live Auction proceeded simultaneously.

 

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Ranada and Pink Art

Well-known names such as David Turner, Christine Harris,  Anne Bois and dozens of other talented local artists donated 100% of auction proceeds from the sale of their work to GEAR. Pieces ranged from embroidered wall hangings, oil paintings, prints and carvings to exquisite blown glass, jewelry and bronze sculpture. Gift baskets, a romantic weekend getaway, etc., even an eye procedure, were donated by local businesses for this event. Item # 4, a cocktail party at Lemon Tree Gallery for 20 guests including live music, beer, wine, mixed drinks plus cheese and antipasto platters resulted in some fast paced bidding action.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful CrabRanada showing pottery piece

Ranada and wooden whale

 

 

 

 

 

Crowd and Stage

Several of the donating artists present were coaxed to take the stage while their works were being sold, including Melinda Blanchard, who paints amazing pet portraits. During her item’s bidding, Rosilina, Clelia’s super-soft, super-cuddly long haired dachshund, whose portrait is featured on Melinda’s brochure, made a surprise appearance on stage to the delight of the audience. Auctioneer William Summs kept the bidding lively throughout and by the end of the evening over $5000 had been raised to support this year’s crop of experimental filmmakers. Concluding with musical entertainment by Bruce Brinkley and Scott Wade, it was definitely a delightful evening. Much fun was had by all — especially by the successful bidders!

 

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Sweet DogMrs. Sheppard on stage with dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signing up for Photos

P.S. A group of nearly 50 experimental filmmakers who will be accepted by GEAR for its 2017 program will arrive here in July and spend 2 weeks living in Cape Charles, creating unique 3-5 minute films centered on the Shore. And the public will be able to see the results when their films are premiered on July 15th at the Palace Theatre. So save the date on your calendar, it’s going to be an interesting evening.

The New Cape Charles Farmer’s Market– Fun And Delicious

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Farmers Mkt. BBQ StandOn the Eastern Shore of Virginia this summer, Tuesday afternoons  from 4 to 6:30 pm are  a special time in the little coastal town of Cape Charles, Virginia — particularly for foodies and farm-to-table enthusiasts.  It’s a time slot  that lots of locals  ( and visitors too ) have set aside for a visit to the brand new Cape Charles Farmer’s Market.   Located on the spacious grounds of the Cape Charles Museum on Stone Road,  the Market takes good advantage of the Museum’s huge grassy front yard so there is plenty of room for venders to set up little tents to display their yummy wares.  Wicker basket in hand, I traipsed from the parking lot over to the vendor area, not exactly sure just what to expect in the way of  variety so I was  pleasantly surprised  to see so many beautiful fruits and veggies on display, some local artwork too, including some new designs from Mama Girl and tantalizing home baked goodies from Cape Charles Confectionery.  But my first stop was at Shore Beef and BBQ, where owner Ron had smoky good aromas wafting from a sizable portable smoker grill hitched to his pickup truck, folks already in line, buying sandwiches and BBQ by the quart, pulled pork, beef brisket plus cooked-to-perfection ribs.

Farmers market peopleMy plan was to make a big circle, check out all the vendors and circle back around again to make my purchases.   And that would have been a good plan if I had brought a bigger  basket and if I had not stopped to talk to a few friends along the way and ended up having a detailed conversation comparing southern style creamed corn recipes.   Who knew that “with or without bacon drippings” could be a major creamed corn issue– but trust me, it is !   ( And for those like myself, not originally from Virginia, south of the Mason-Dixon Line “creamed corn” does not contain a drop of cream, that is to say, dairy cream. Instead, creamed corn is made by cutting the kernels off the cob and then carefully scraping the corn’s own juices, the cream, from the cob with the dull edge of a sturdy table knife into a waiting bowl.  This can be a pretty messy job, best done with the bowl in the sink to avoid corn splatters all over the counter. Now comes the contentious part, cooking the creamy mixture.  Diehard Southerners almost always insist that sautéing in a generous amount of bacon dripping is the only true method. But transplants like myself often prefer olive oil with a bit of butter added at the end when seasoning with salt and pepper.  And so it goes, where it stops nobody knows, the new vs. the traditional.

 

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Farmers Mkt.ProduceContinuing on with my circle, I was captivated by a lovely display of cut flowers– nothing like a gorgeous bouquet to brighten any room, especially at the great farmer’s market prices, finally settled on the cheery sunny faces of a colorful bunch of long stemmed sunflowers.  Further down the line found some local honey, so great on my Mother’s excellent recipe for fresh buttermilk cornbread, eaten warm from the oven and slathered with butter, then honey.  Saunders Orchard cantaloupes looked great, and so low cal as well as delicious.  At Mattawoman Farms, a local CSA,  some vibrant and crisp Swiss chard caught my eye, a rainbow of colors ready to sauté with chopped onion in …..you guessed it,  a little bacon dripping, finished with a little cider vinegar. Yum.  They also had some good looking kolorabi. I have never actually cooked kolorabi, I’ve looked at it, considered it, but never taken the plunge.  This time was no exception, still haven’t worked up to it, next time maybe.  But their Zebra tomatoes were keepers, small red orbs with golden stripes and so were the really ripe small tomatoes from Copper Cricket Farm, displayed in a sizeable bin and priced at ” select a bunch of them  for $3.00″. By that time my little basket was about full but I headed back to the bread tent for a loaf of sour dough, hoping to try a recipe for an Italian tomato and bread salad, panzanella, that I had seen recently in the Washington Post. Doesn’t sound that great but I’m imagining that fresh artisan bread, lovely ripe tomatoes wedges combined with finely chopped garlic and fresh basil chiffonade, everything tossed in a delicate vinaigrette is going to be worth trying, we shall see.  At any rate, when I got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor cook got none.  But there is always next Tuesday and all the other Tuesday’s until October, so sooner or later a loaf of sour dough shall be available and a panzanella shall be made !

 

HGTV FILMS NEW SHOW IN CAPE CHARLES, VIRGINIA– Redux

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

HGTV 2016They say that good things often come in threes so I’m looking forward to a next time– but right now we are just enjoying the second time that  HGTV, the Home and Garden TV channel,  has chosen  Blue Heron Realty Co. and the charming little historic  town of Cape Charles to film another episode of its very popular home hunting series, Beachfront Bargain Hunt.   Thursday through Sunday a few weeks ago, Cape Charles was all abuzz as the HGTV crew followed Blue Heron’s agent Eva Noonan and her clients as they hunted Virginia’s Eastern Shore high and low in search of that perfect beachfront bargain !   Unfortunately,  the answer to which house they finally chose and why will just have to wait for this fall when the show airs– so, some pleasant suspense for a few months.

HGTV 2015In 2013 when HGTV first chose Blue Heron Realty and Eva Noonan to film an episode of Beachfront Bargain Hunt, the whole Shore was agog. Several newspapers interviewed Eva and ran multiple articles about the then upcoming show.  I got into the act too, following the HGTV crew as they followed Eva and her clients. It was a pretty interesting couple of days, being on the inside and watching the creation of a national TV show episode as it came together, piece by piece.  Just the technical elements are amazing, it’s truly surprising how much can be accomplished by a small crew.  More or less, a show that attracts millions of viewers is created by a couple of  camera operators, a sound person, a jack of all trades who helps manage equipment, run errands and handles miscellaneous details, plus the director– voila’, a show is born !  And it was interesting to watch Eva and her clients get miked up, just the tinest little clip-on mic is all it takes for the sound person to be able to manage everyone’s conversations from what looks like an accordion  strapped sideways around the waist. Of course, an airplane flying overhead brings everything to a swift halt during outdoor shots.  I was somewhat amused to see that, like an army, a film crew travels on its stomach.  Not sure how they did this time, but back in 2013, the first order of the day as the crew gathered in the morning to get started was steaming hot coffee, and lots of it, plus  donuts of course.  And the second order of the day, a couple hours later, was to pass around the menu from whatever restaurant had been selected for lunch that day and then a brief pause so the crew could order to-go lunches.  No two  hour, 3  martini cocktail lunch here– a half hour break and back to business for these guys and gals.

Cape Charles Beach Sunset.2So, now as then, I am really looking forward to the airing of the new Cape Charles episode, once again seeing the town and the Eastern Shore of Virginia on national TV in all its coastal glory. The whole town had its shiny, best self on display. In fact, the local paper put out a call for volunteers to spiff up the grounds around the Cape Charles museum because of its high visibility on the road into town.  Hopefully, once again this show will generate some great publicity for the town, its interesting blend of yesteryear architectural styles, charming coastal ambience, its sparkling soft sand beach and its spectacular sunsets over the broad waters of the Chesapeake Bay.  No doubt that’s why HGTV decided  that Cape Charles, Virginia was and is still a great place for a “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” !

Happy 50th Anniversary, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Bridge Tunnel Aerial Sunset

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Connecting Virginia Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach

The idea was beyond bold, beyond audacious even.  Build a Bridge from the Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach ?  Across and under the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean for 17 miles ?  Ridiculous, can’t be done. So said the skeptics — and virtually everyone started out as a skeptic.  But thankfully. the skeptics were wrong and on April 15th, the 50th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was celebrated with a ceremony  held on the Thimble Shoal Tunnel’s Seagull Island, one of the four man-made islands built as part of the tunnel complex, complete with speeches by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe  and Lucius Kellam III, son of Eastern Shore businessman Lucius Kellam, Jr., who was a driving force behind turning the idea into a reality and who served as the Bridge Commission’s Chairman until 1993.  Once opened in 1964, it promptly won an international competition which earned the Bridge the title  ” One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.”

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Cape Charles Ferry Terminal

Before the Bridge were the ferries, operating originally out of the deep water harbor in Cape Charles, later out of what is now Kiptopeake State Park,  and connecting to the mainland at Norfolk.  A one-way trip took about an hour and a half on a good weather day and whatever if it was not.  In fact, the trip to get from the Shore to the mainland has been fixed into an Eastern Shore colloquialism still used today– “going across the Bay.”  Folks don’t say ” I’m going to Virginia Beach”,  we still say “I’m going across the Bay”, harkening back to the trials and tribulations of getting from here to there and back on a ferry, with the possibility of a sudden storm blowing up out of nowhere, maybe a mechanical problem, who knew what might happen.  It took time and effort and it was an adventure.  ( No Doppler radar for those ferry captains ! ) With a fleet of 5, ranging in size from 68 feet to the 367 foot flagship, SS Pocahontas, the biggest ferries could carry up to 120 vehicles and 1200 passengers per trip.   At its zenith, an estimated 50,000 vehicles per month were using the ferry service.   And  although service was hourly, passenger buses had priority so cars often had quite lengthy waits, with vehicles lined up for long distances along the highway awaiting their turn to board.  Demand was rising and in by 1956 the Virginia General Assembly authorized the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Commission to explore the feasibility of a building a fixed crossing.  The rest, as they say, is history !

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view of both spans of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

View of Both Spans of The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

The Bridge Commission reports that since opening over 115 million vehicles have crossed the Bridge, a pretty hefty number. In 1999 a parallel crossing was completed,  expanding the Bridge from a 2 lane facility into a 4 lane facility, including renovated restaurant, gift shop and amazing fishing pier.  And in 2016,  work is expected to begin on an additional tunnel .  But the Bridge is so much more than a stupendous engineering feat,  a collection of 2000 concrete pilings 110 feet long driven into the floor of the Chesapeake Bay supporting 17 miles of roadbed or 4 man-made islands, each the size of five football fields built with 300,000 tons of massive boulders and 1,500,000 tons of sand rising 30 feet above the Bay,  enabling vehicle entrance into tunnels .   The word “bridge” is defined as a structure built to span physical obstacles for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle.  But for the Eastern Shore, “The Bridge“, as it’s called, is so very much more than that,  it’s essentially a passageway between two very different ways of life.

Fisherman island looking north to the Eastern Shore

Getting Off The Bridge Onto The Eastern Shore of Virginia

The contrast between life on the Eastern Shore on the north side and life in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Chesapeake metro area on the south side of the Bridge could hardly be greater.  On the Eastern Shore,  a slender peninsula barely 3 miles across where the Bridge begins,  Chesapeake Bay to the west,  Atlantic Ocean to the east,  it’s like stepping back 50 years into a land where farming and long-time watermen traditions are still the main economic engines. A land dotted with small historic towns and tiny villages, many dating back to the 1700’s, some even earlier, towns which are reminiscent of Mayberry. But new little waterfront neighborhoods nestled between big family farms are slowly emerging, bringing the energies and talents of folks from all over who have moved here after falling in love with our relaxed, coastal way of life.  But when you travel south over the Bridge, savoring the lovely waterviews, seabirds overhead, maybe even sighting a pod of dolphins or a submarine slipping swiftly through the waters as it returns to the Naval Base at Little Creek, your 15 minute journey thrusts you smack dab into the sights and sounds of  a modern metropolis, which indeed it is. The three city complex ( formerly called Tidewater, currently called Hampton Roads and soon to possibly be renamed Coastal Virginia )  sustains a population of about one million and offers virtually every amenity one could ask for.  Obviously it’s not the Big Apple,  but  large shopping malls, great restaurants ( including several fabulous Italian bakery/deli shops that I love ),  an international airport, excellent medical facilities including a world-class hospital and an associated medical school, a wide variety of cultural facilities including a symphony hall, an opera house and numerous museums.  Sports lovers will appreciate the  sports arena, a baseball park with a Baltimore Orioles farm team and a hockey team,  even a new 10,000 seat soccer stadium .  And for me, my unofficial “home away from home”,  4 jam-packed- with- the- latest- goodies Barnes and Noble bookstore choices calling out to me like the Sirens on my every trip across the Bay.

Harbor Park Aerial  Norfolk-Harrison-Opera-House-e1360597486304  Nauticus  MacArthur Mall Interior

And therein lies part of the wonder of living on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,  the ability, in a 15 minute time span, to move virtually effortlessly between two very different worlds.  I’ve had a major operation at that world-class Norfolk hospital, we’ve enjoyed many performances at Harrison Opera House,  the Wells  Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” is great,  my grandkids loved “The Lion King”

Cape Charles  Southern Tip Aerial Photo

Home Again To The Beautiful Southern Tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore

production at Chrysler Hall.  Every year my eldest grandson waits in great anticipation for the Norfolk Tides baseball season to start at  Harbor Park and the battleship  USS Wisconsin moored alongside the Nauticus waterfront museum awaits the fulfillment of my promise to the grandkids to take them all for a deck tour this summer… and  the beat goes on and on and on.  BUT… after the fun, after the chicken tikka marsala with garlic naan at Saffron Indian Bistro,  after a Macy sale at MacArthur Center Mall, after the “Jersey Boys” musical at Chrysler Hall, after the Cherry Blossom Festival at Redwing Park,  etc., etc., etc.,  it’s always so great get back on The Bridge, to return home to our serene, relaxed feel, our slower pace, to the Eastern Shore’s  pristine, natural  beauty, its friendly atmosphere, the peace and quiet.  And that is the magic of ” The Bridge ”  — making possible the amazing “have your cake and eat it too”  eclectic lifestyle that those of us living on the Eastern Shore are so lucky to have.   So, thanks Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel– and Happy 50th Anniversary !

The Alpacas Stole The Show At The 11th Annual Thanksgiving Artisan’s Guild Open Studio And Vineyard Tour On The Eastern Shore Of Virginia

Friday, December 6th, 2013
Brochure for the 11th annual artisan open studio tour on Eastern Shore VA

The Tour Is A Great Way To Find Unique Gifts For Special People On Your Holiday Gift List

It’s that time of year again– splendid Thanksgiving repast over, excess turkey safely ensconced in a light cream- and- sherry tetrazzini sauce, friendly football bets all settled– and on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, time for something different, one of my favorite events of the year,  the annual Thanksgiving Artisan Open Studio and Vineyard  Tour.  Pleasant, low-key, the Tour is the Friday-Saturday-Sunday after Turkey Day opportunity to personally meet talented local artists and select unique and beautiful art for some of the special people on your holiday gift list.  One of the great things about this self-guided driving tour, for locals and visitors alike, is that it is spread over a  wide- ranging area. Since the event is held in the participating artists’ studios, which are quite often located at their personal residences, visitors often end up traveling down scenic by-ways and into little hamlets that they would not ordinarily be exploring  if not for the Tour.  Thankfully,  the Guild puts out an on-line brochure and map, plus plenty of  signs and arrows are placed strategically along roads, their red bows waving in the breeze, helping to  guide folks along the way.  This year’s  Open Studio sites were scattered  from Capeville to Onancock.  ( One of my favorite Tours took place a  few years ago when we visited Open Studios  located from south of Cape Charles up to the island of Chincoteague near the Shore’s northern border with Maryland,  a distance  just shy of  70 miles.  We got started early in Cape Charles and visited just about every venue.  In fact,  after touring the 2 of the 3 open studios on Chincoteague that year, we spent the remaining half hour + of daylight at the beautiful Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, home of the famous Pony Round-up.  The vast flocks of snow geese were so  impressive, elegant white birds serenely floating on clear blue waters. )

Brown Alpaca Youngster

Am I Cute Or What ??

Because of another commitment, this year we were unfortunately unable to start until after lunch.  With two grandkids in tow, aged 8 and 11,  we set off for the By The Bay Alpaca Farm in Pungoteague.  The approach to the property is down a long farm road, through large fields blanketed with green winter cover crops,  when suddenly they appear, some of  the cutest farm animals you’ll ever see,  a  herd of 14 beautiful alpacas.  During the drive I had asked the boys what they knew about alpacas– the 8 year old piped up that he thought they were members of the camel family and the 11 year old commented that they are a lot like llamas.  But none of us had ever seen an alpaca up close and personal so we  were looking forward to reaching out and touching one of these adorable creatures.   Definitely not disappointed, they were the highlight of the entire Tour for the 4 of us, absolutely stole the show !  These graceful animals, with cloven hoofs like deer, in various shades of beige, white and brown, placidly chewed their cuds,  completely ignoring their many admiring visitors.

Alpaca on a leash ready to be petted

OK, I’m Ready For Some Petting

Awards and ribbons won by the By The Bay Alpaca farm

A Sea Of Awards and Ribbons Line The Walls At By The Bay Alpaca Farm

Andrew Leach, who with Tara King  runs the farm,  was kind enough to put a leash on one of the sweetest youngsters and let the 4 of us pet him.  I was quite surprised at how long and deep the fleece is, about  3 inches this time of year, although it will be at least 6 inches long by the time they get sheared in the spring. And soft, it was amazingly soft,  which is why it is so prized for sweaters, scarves, gloves, etc. , all of which Tara makes right there on the farm in her light-filled studio.  By The Bay has won numerous awards for its fleece.  The studio is a veritable sea of ribbons and awards, a real accomplishment for the owners, especially considering that they started with only a single pregnant female and have built their herd of 14 from there.  Aside from how incredibly soft the fleece is,  we were all surprised by how much alpacas vocalize as well as  by the fact that, unlike cows, horses, etc.,  they are essentially “potty trained”.  Though I hesitate to get so earthy in a blog post, we were all astonished to see three or four different animals walk up to what apparently is their selected potty area in the middle of the pasture and do their thing,  right on the exact same spot where a previous  animal had just finished.  I asked Andrew if I was just imagining this and he said that alpacas like to keep their pastures clean and that they do basically adhere to a central toilet area instinctively, no attempts at training from him !  Who would have guessed ….

Artist display of blown glass

Reflections Glass On Display

From By The Bay we were off to Onancock, specifically the historic Onancock School which now houses the studios of  about 10 artisans.  We visited the studio of Elizabeth Hunt, a well-known potter who does beautifully decorative stoneware,  David Farlow, the Harbormaster at the Quinby, VA harbor, who is a 4th generation Eastern Shore decoy carver  and the  Reflections Glass Studio, owned by the Careys, a husband and wife glass blowing team.   There were more studios at the school to visit but because of our late start it was almost the witching hour and I still wanted to visit the studio of Vesna Zidovec,  a well-known potter, whose mirrors decorated by borders of  her hand-made glazed marine life tiles are legendary here on the Shore.  Vesna has a very cozy studio in her home in Onancock, toasty warm from a wood stove in the corner,  flanked by a chessboard table, soft classical music playing,  a great place to end the Tour. We selected a lovely glazed bowl decorated with, of course, a blue heron,  and then it was time to head for home, another Tour, albeit abbreviated, under our belts, a delightful time had by all plus a lot more info on alpacas.

 

 

 

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Gorgeous B & B Listed For Sale In The Charming Victorian Beachfront Town Of Cape Charles, Virginia

Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Beach blanket and flip flops at Cape Charles VA beach

Cape Charles, VA Was Named One Of Southern Living’s “5 Best Little Beach Towns” In 2012

What better opportunity to marry a  love of fine historic homes with a spirit of entrepreneurialism than operating a B&B ?  And what better place to purchase a gracious Bed and Breakfast  featuring fine Southern hospitality than in Cape Charles, VA  which offers an exciting coastal lifestyle in an intimate small historic town environment ?   Presto,  Blue Heron Realty Co. has just listed a fine opportunity to follow your dream of  both owning a gorgeous historic home and running your own business with this charming 7 bedroom, 8 bath beauty.   Located on the beautiful Southern Tip of  the Eastern Shore of  Virginia, which is the  slender terminus of the DELMARVA peninsula,  bordered on the West by the Chesapeake Bay and on the East by the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia’s Eastern Shore  is a dream location for anyone interested in coastal traditions. And the charming  Victorian town of Cape Charles is the epicenter of  cultural and maritime events on the Shore,  so it’s a terrific place to live a water-oriented lifestyle as well as  to operate a business that takes advantage of these special assets. In fact,  in 2012,  Cape Charles was named by Southern  Living magazine as one of its ” 5 Best Little Beach Towns.”  And we’re also proud to announce that Cape Charles and Blue Heron Realty Co. were  recently chosen by the Home and Garden TV Network  (HGTV)  to be a featured episode, airing in January, 2014, of  its exciting new series entitled “Beach House Bargain Hunt”.

Cape Charles House B & B

Cape Charles House B & B, A Classic Colonial Revival Featuring 7 Bedrooms And 8 Baths

Introducing the Cape Charles House Bed and Breakfast, one of the town’s largest and most opulent homes.  Constructed in 1912 on the highest point of land in Cape Charles, this 5900 sq. ft. classic Colonial Revival was lovingly restored by the current owners. Featured on the well-known HGTV program, “If Walls Could Talk” and a recipient of the coveted Governor’s Award for  B & B Hospitality,  this long-established B & B  has been welcoming guests since 1993.  With 5 spacious guest rooms, each with a sitting area, an en suite bath and individual climate control, Cape Charles House offers guests a great place to just unwind and relax.  Numerous large, sunny windows in guest rooms and in the spacious common areas create a pleasant, light and airy feel throughout. The gorgeous original hardwood floors were hand restored. The original moldings, pocket doors and high ceilings help maintain the integrity, warmth and beauty of this stately historic home. Outfitted with comfortable furniture and plenty of reading material and games, the common rooms include a large dining room with fireplace, a spacious living room with fireplace, a roomy parlor and, of course,  the cheery kitchen with  “never-ending”  self -serve coffee and tea service plus guest  ice maker .

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Gracious Front Porch on Cape Charles House B & B

The Gracious Wraparound Porch- The Perfect Place To Relax, Unwind And Enjoy The Virginia Eastern Shore Slower Pace Of Life

The gracious wrap-around porch is a favorite guest amenity and the perfect place to kick back on a balmy summer’s eve. Filled with pots of blooming flowers and decorated with white wicker furniture, guests love to relax and unwind here, enjoying the refreshing breezes flowing off the Chesapeake Bay just a few blocks away.  The town’s soft,  sparkling sand beach and swimming area is not just a favorite of Southern Living magazine,  it is one of the many prime recreational amenities that attract guests to Cape Charles House year after year.  Golfers fall in love with the two side- by- side 18 hole award-winning Arnold Palmer Signature and the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf courses located less than 10 minutes away.  The deep water Cape Charles Harbor Marina and the King’s Creek Marina are both boater’s delights– in fact, lots of  B&B guests arrive by boat and golf cart rentals are available for guests to tool around town during their stay.  For Nature enthusiasts and bird watchers, the nearby Eastern Shore of Virginia Wildlife Refuge and the Hawk Observatory at Kiptopeake State Park offer a full range of unique outdoor activities. The Cape Charles Historic Area boasts  vibrant little shops, art galleries, restaurants and the beloved Palace Theater, a lovely venue for live dramatic and musical performances. ( As a matter of fact, some  impressive artists, including  the Virginia Philharmonic Orchestra,  have played at the beautifully restored Art Deco design Palace. Theatre. )   Fine and casual dining opportunities, both  in-town and nearby,  offer a variety of delicious cuisines including luscious local seafood,  the famed steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs  and authentic  Southern-style BBQ.

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645 Tazewell Ave Cape Charles-VA

Prospective purchasers will really appreciate being able to retreat to the roomy owner’s quarters.  Offering total privacy from the rest of the house, the third floor has been remodeled into an owner’s penthouse apartment, complete with a master and a guest bedroom, an office area, a sitting room and a kitchen.  The owner’s quarters sunny master bedroom overlooks  park-like grounds and includes a huge walk-in closet and a sumptious master bath.  At the end of a busy day, the owner’s apartment provides the perfect place to relax and retire into your own private world. What a great house and terrific town for actually being able to live the  dream of owing a spectacular historic home and being your own boss !!   In addition to the real estate itself, the  purchase price of $695,000 for Cape Charles House B & B includes most furnishings, as well as ownership of the trade name, website domain name, the telephone number, the B&B’s very attractive website  and its valuable guest list.   Financial information is available upon request  by calling the Blue Heron Realty Co.  listing agent team of  Gerry Forbes and Heather Brady,  who may be reached at 757-678-5200.

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The 21st Annual Eastern Shore of Virginia Harvest An Unqualified Success

Friday, October 18th, 2013
Harvest Fest on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Harvest Fest On The Eastern Shore of Virginia

When you live on  the Eastern Shore of Virginia, as the first week of October rolls around, you can look forward to a few traditional  pleasures– mums start to bloom gloriously, pumpkins appear in riotous hues of orange at roadside farm markets but, best of all, it’s time for the annual Virginia Eastern Shore Harvest Festival,  sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.  Ticket sales are limited to about 2500 each year and there is no better hangout for an entire afternoon of food, fun, hospitality and some old-fashioned  “howdy-I’m-so-and-so-and-our-candidate-would-appreciate-your-vote”  state and local politics. Ground Zero is the Sunset Beach hotel’s spacious beachfront acreage at the beautiful southern tip of the Eastern Shore , right at the edge of  the mighty  Chesapeake Bay. 

Harvest Fest food tents

So Little Time, So Many Seafood Goodies

Although there is always lots of  great local art for sale, the seafood, of course,  is the big drawing card, a veritable cornucopia of Eastern Shore delicacies from the deep,  plus a few harmless veggies ( i.e., French fries and corn-on- the-cob, although this year there was also a salad station,  which mysteriously I somehow managed to miss ).  And for the landlubbers, fresh, local BBQ  and  the ever-popular Southern-style chicken wings do the honors.  First off, the trick is to start out by making a big circle around the entire venue, checking out exactly what’s on offer and then setting one’s eating strategy.  To dive enthusiastically into one’s favorites or to go with  the conventional appetizer/entrée’/dessert  strategy, that is the question.   Personally, I think most folks just dive into their favorite seafoods right off the bat in this all-you-can-eat heaven but almost everybody in our little group went with an “appetizer first” strategy, meaning that first up were the steamed little nicks,  everyone picking up baskets heaped with the ever- so- tender, half-dollar sized beauties, accompanied by melted butter.  And for those who love ice-cold oysters on the half shell,  an army of volunteers was kept busy popping opening these glistening beauties, enticingly  displayed on deep beds of crushed ice. 

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Harvest Fest Winery Tent

Snagging A Nice Cool Glass of Local Chardonnay Wine, Perfect To Accompany An Afternoon Of Munching On Luscious Local Seafood

But, heresy of heresies, here in the land of  prolific clam and oyster aquaculture, I don’t like either clams or oysters!  So, while others were busy smacking lips over the bi-valves, I was moseying on over to the other side of the grounds to scoff up on a nice cold glass of Chardonnay to enjoy with my seafood. On the Eastern Shore we are fortunate to have three great local wineries, Chatham Vineyard, Holly Grove Winery and Bloxom Vineyard.   We’re  not Napa Valley but still, it’s great to be able to brag about having our own wine appellation, the Eastern Virginia Appellation.  And from there I headed straight into the arms of the Shrimp Station tent.  Now I really love shrimp, they are my personal seafood favorite,  but I am very particular about shrimp preparation. Be they steamed, fried or scampied, what reader of  this blog has not suffered through  rubbery, what-the-heck-are-these, grossly over-cooked shrimp ?  I must congratulate the charge’ d’affaires  of  the Shrimp Station  for a job really, really done well.  It’s hard to even imagine the challenges of  on-site cooking for literally hundreds upon hundreds of people,  in an open air tent, with portable equipment,  grappling with the logistics of  assuring that  every single ingredient is on hand, in the correct amount, definitely no possibility of just stepping into the pantry for more.  But to do this with shrimp, which are so easy to ruin with a too-thick, greasy coating or by over-cooking, is even more of a challenge.  But these were excellent,  tender, succulent, crisp in a light, crunchy tempura style batter, congrats to the whole Team Shrimp !   And did I  mention the accompanying sauce, a smooth, mayo- based sauce, delicately seasoned with tangy horseradish, a few spices and a bit of mustard, offering just enough bite  to contrast with the sweetness of the shrimp, absolutely delightful.

Harvest Fest Toadfish Tent

Toads By Any Other Name Would Be More Delicious

After a couple of turns with the whole shrimp thing,  it was off to Toads–fried toads. Not the jumps-out-from-behind-the-flower-pot kind of toad but rather a toadfish toad.  When cooked, they’re just  tiny things, about three inches long and about an inch or a bit more across.  But despite the off-putting name, they are delicious, with a delicate white meat, not fishy at all,  This was the first time that I can recall toads being served at Harvest Fest but they seemed to be very popular and I certainly enjoyed them, several helpings worth.  From there, it was off to the Flounder Station. Flounder is a fav fish of mine,  I especially like it served a la Sting Ray Restaurant’s  style, topped with a  rich Crab Imperial and finished under the broiler until smoking hot and crispy brown.  Totally yum !   Sadly, but of course, the Fest Flounder wasn’t topped with crab,  but it was still very good, tender, with a crisp seasoned coating, very nice.  

 

Eastern Shore Harvest Fest Crabcake Tent

Waiting In Line For Some Savory Crabcakes

While strolling around, scooping up shrimp, toads and flounder, I had also been keeping my eye on the Crabcake Station which been sporting a pretty long  line all afternoon.  However, when you’ve got seafood on the brain and there are savory crabcakes to be had, well, trust me, like the Sirens tempting Ulysses,  those  crab cakes call out,  long line or not.  So, hey girl, better just get in line with the dozens of other folks looking for their crabcake fix.  Presented this year by the well-known Exmore Diner,  prepared on a sizzling grill instead of deep-fried, I did wonder at the outset if these would be worth the wait.  But reaching the end of the line and picking up my prize, a plate of two aromatic crabcakes, made from the famously flavorful Chesapeake Bay blue crab, subtly spiced, with a pinch of parsley added,  delectably rich,  melt-in-your-mouth, I had to say, oh yes, they were worth the wait !

Harvest Fest - Virginia Eastern Shore art tents

Surveying The Local Art Talent

By then, totally sated, I was ready to move on to the Arts and Crafts tents and check out all the  paintings, carvings, sculpture, etc.  Harvest Fest always has always included great variety of local artisans displaying their creative works.  Among this year’s group were  Billy Crockett, a well-respected local carver,  Mary Onley, known affectionately as “Mama Girl“, whose whimsical paper-mache’  figures have become quite famous locally and Copper Creations, well-known for their Nature based copper art figures as well as garden art.  It’s  always fun to browse through, taking in all the beautiful things on display, especially as I have no talent whatever along those lines . I’m  always amazed to see how many really gifted artists we have here on the Eastern Shore and  I love wrapping up the annual Harvest Fest with a stroll through the art tents, a real feast for the eyes after such a delightful feast for the tum-tum.

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TALL SHIPS AT CAPE CHARLES 2013 FESTIVAL ON THE EASTERN SHORE OF VIRGINIA

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Runners in the Great Bay Run in Cape Charles VA registering to participate

Last Chance To Register To Compete In Cape Charles Tall Ship Festival’s Great Bay Run

Eagerly awaited with much anticipation, Saturday June 15, 2013 saw the little  Eastern Shore Virginia historic town of Cape Charles  abuzz with events from the town center to the outer reaches of the Harbor.  First off in the morning was The Great Bay Run, kick-off at 8:30. Organized by Blue Heron Realty Co. agent Eva Noonan and her friend Gary Hack, the Run was off to an early start by 7:30 am when participants could begin to sign in and receive their official PIB  badges for either the 1.25 mile fun walk/run or for the more serious folks, the 5k event.  Over 180 people registered, including kids of all ages, the young and young of heart, moms & dads pushing 3 wheel jogging strollers.  Up and down Mason Avenue, in the heart of  the Cape Charles historic area,  guys and gals of all shapes and sizes gathered in little groups, stretching ham strings, doing warm-up deep knee bends, trying to get ready for the Run, psyching up in anticipation of a hard final push needed to cross over “the Hump”, the steep  overpass above the railroad tracks near the finish line at the Marina.

 

Runners taking off from the  starting line for the Great Bay Run

Wooosh, They Are Off !

By 8:15 am, runners were lined up clear across the road at the corner of Harbor and Mason Avenues,  awaiting the starter’s gun to begin a course that would wind them down streets of Victorian and other historic homes, past views of sparkling sand dunes and shimmering blue Chesapeake Bay waters,  on out to the finish line at the new marina. Then wooosh, they were off and I slipped over to the Cape Charles Harbor  to await the first arrivals.   I’m proud to say that of the 7 Blue Heron agents and/or their family members who ran this event,  3 won first or second place in their age group– go Herons, go !   In line with being a carefully budgeted event, the donated trophies were  inscribed  antique bottles  and large shells– but  winners were  all proud smiles  as they accepted their unique prizes.  Everyone who finished the course got a colorful Great Bay Run T-Shirt as well as free after-the-race pizza and Coke to rebuild energy for the rest of the day’s fun. Race proceeds will be donated to the Leukemia Society and to Broadwater’s Track & Field Team.

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The sailing ship "Alliance" moored at the Cape Charles Harbor for the Tall Ships Festival

The “Alliance” berthed in Cape Charles for the 2013 Tall Ship Festival

Next up, a stroll through the marina to see the Tall Ships in the soft morning light– we had brought the grandkids down at sunset Friday evening to enjoy the music events scheduled for the Harbor stage  and view the ships, always interesting for young and old alike.  Although our old friend, the tall ship  Kalmar Nyckel, had earlier dropped in for an overnight anchorage, for the Festival weekend this year  Cape Charles was host to the 97 ft. Sultana, a replica of a 1768 British schooner whose job was to enforce the tea taxes prior  to the American Revolution, the 105 ft 3 masted schooner  Alliance and the 126 ft Virginia, a replica of a harbor  pilot boat used on the Bay in the early 1900’s.  No matter how many of  these replica ships I see I never cease to feel amazed that back in the day,   100 foot vessels like these routinely sailed  across stormy oceans with nothing between them and disaster but a skilled captain ( hopefully) and sheer luck– no auxiliary engine, no GPS mapping, no radar, no depth finder,  no marine weather service, no ship-to-shore radio and no rescue helicopters, just strong canvas sails, grit and determination. And a daily rum ration……  Each Festival ship offered deck tours as well as 2 hour day-sails out on the Chesapeake Bay, a great opportunity  for landlubbers and sailors alike to enjoy a taste of maritime history.  And the weather was so co-operative– cool temps, clear skies, steady breezes all weekend.

Brown Dog Ice Cream Shop in Cape Charles VA

A Crunchy Waffle Cone Filled With Brown Dog’s Lush Ice Cream Is Not To Be Missed

Good food and plenty of it, paired with lots of music, is part of the secret to a good festival and there was plenty of both in Cape Charles.  From BBQ ribs to Greek gyros,  deep dish pizza to “Aden’s Dawgs”,  washed down by everything from Kona ice to Bud Lite,  plenty of variety was available  to satisfy the ole taste buds.  The Shanty, a great new-as-of- last-year seafood restaurant right at the edge of the water at the marina,  was doing a landslide business. Huge platters of steamed hardshell crabs  accompanied by luscious grilled corn on the cob were zooming out of the kitchen at the speed of light,  I think the servers must have been wearing jet pacs they moved so fast !  Downtown, just a few minutes walk from the Harbor, Kelly’s Gingernut Pub was going full blast, the Cape  Charles Coffee House had extra tables outside for al fresco dining and the Hardware store was putting on a “bring your own hot dogs” BBQ bash  for friends and customers.  But the really, really big  smiles were coming from the folks leaving Brown Dog Ice Cream shop holding crunchy waffle cones stuffed full of the best ice cream I’ve had in a long time, made right on the premises. The only other thing I’ll say about Brown Dog  is that when you’re in town next, try a scoop of  their pina colada topped with a scoop of rum raisin.  Double yum !

A Colonial Village at Tall Ship Festival in Cape Charles VA

Colonial Village- Fun & Educational

But my favorite events were back at the Festival grounds where a very talented group from Raleigh, NC, Historic Interpretations, Inc. teamed up with a group  also from Raleigh, called the East Coast Pirate Crew, to set up a Colonial Village.  Dressed to “kill”, the  East Coast Pirates manned a ” pirate gear for sale” tent plus a tent featuring typical pirate weaponry as well as a display of the typical foodstuff found aboard a pirate ship, with members on hand interpreting same and offering samples of  the 17th century  on-board daily food staple called “hard tack”.  ( No grog offerings though, a true pirate wouldn ‘t stand for  that. )  Historic Interpretations program offerings were quite interesting, completely interactive, with all their members dressed in authentic period  costume, looking great.  The Village included a “typical Colonial kitchen” tent, complete with homemade strawberry and lemon cordials brewing, ( for which I got the recipe ), a games tent, herbs and medicines tent and 17th century “home ec” tent staffed by two very knowledgeable ladies who demonstrated weaving, embroidery , sewing and fashion tips of that era.

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A Pannier To Increase Hip Widith Appearance Under Colonial dresses

Just what every modern woman wants– a pannier to make her hips look wider !

Probably doesn’t sound that interesting but it was really fascinating. The ladies had a large hunk of what I thought was spun wool but which was actually flax ready to be spun, then woven into linen cloth, which they demonstrated on a tiny portable loom. Wow, no wonder most folks back in the day had only 2 sets of clothes– at the most.  Every woman had a ” housewife”, abbreviated to “hussif”, a cloth strip with multiple pockets on one side for important small implements such as scissors, pencil, glasses, etc., all expensive to replace. The hussif could then be rolled up tightly and stored in her sewing box which contained the rest of her sewing equipment. A typical box would hold lots of handmade sewing aids including a  wooden “egg” for darning, a lump of beeswax to stiffen thread, a thimble made of horn, soapstone to mark lines on cloth, a cloth tape measure wound up in a casing made of a large nut shell, hoops of various sizes,  and the list goes on and on.  And the fashion accessories were pretty interesting too. Corsets were laced up with a long metal instrument called a bodkin. And if you’ve ever wondered how Colonial ladies managed to have a slender waist but appear as if they were four feet wide from hip to hip, well it was thanks to a “pannier”, a very narrow belt with two short cloth barrelly things  hanging from each side to make the dress stand way out from the hips. Go figure !

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The Festival was all this and so much more.  Strolling musicians in town and at the Harbor, the Cape Charles Orchestra playing sea chanteys on Strawberry Street , sidewalk art,  a Golf Cart Scavenger Hunt, helicopter rides all day long,Coast Guard water safety program, artists and artisans galore with lovely items for sale, a great display by the Waterman’s Association,  an old time oyster “buy boat” at the marina. All capped off with the Pirates & Wenches Ball, everyone dressed in costume, dancing the night away, proceeds benefiting Cape Charles Central Park.   But  memories now–  but we do have Tall Ships Festival 2014 to look forward to.

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(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA. )