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Damned good list! To continue the consolidation of my Real Richmond Food Tours Twitter Holiday Guide for Richmond ( part 1  )that is only just barely self-serving:

#14  Gift certificates for Discover the James Bald Eagle tours on the James River!

#15  Cards, mugs and kitchen fun w/ a Richmond touch at Rostov’s Coffee & Tear in the Fan.

Poe Poe Poe

Poe Poe Poe

#16: Tix to  Lewis Ginter Gardenfest of Lights + something whimsical from their gift shop.

#17: Case of the month at J. Emerson will make people toast your good health all year long!

#18 Fall Line Farms membership makes buying local pastured meats, eggs+more goodies so easy!

#19: Gift certificates from Flames 231, Bottoms Up and Pizza Tonight +tix to our  Jan. 25th  all pizza tour .

#20: Peanut Butter Pups from Gearharts RVA Made w/ Reginald’s Homemade  PB + a portion helps Veterans. 

#21: Get their butts on bikes at  Boho Cycle Studio    to work off calories of #RVAdine gift certs!

#22: Tickets to Hollywood Costume at VMFA, lunch at Amuse, see one of 60films/60 days + a show The Byrd Here’s the Info

#23 Stuff stockings with Olli Salumeria from EllwoodsBelmontButchery, J Emerson Wine and Little House Green Grocery.

#24 When time is running out, there’s still time to snag a gift certificate to one of our food tours around town!

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I’m a mild-mannered sort. Until I’m not. Last month while on vacation, I sat on a porch and shamelessly ogled a shirtless guy who ran by the house every day–up and back. Not so surprising in a beach town with lovely weather (the running, that is) but what was odd was that the gentleman in question wore heavy-duty, old-school cotton sweatpants as he ran. The sort of sweatpants not seen since the early 90’s. He was a slow-and-steady runner, of an indeterminate age that made his chest worth noticing all the while not making me seem like a pervert. The perfect combo. I chuckled about him the first day–even being so generous as to point him out to my husband (a well-known appreciator of the human body) when the runner dude made his return trip the first day. Many years ago my father appointed himself the bathing suit police when he sat swinging on the front porch, commenting on all manner of human condition we saw too much of there, so perhaps I was just following in his swing steps.

When guests arrived over the next couple of days, it became part of the routine to be on the look-out for my guy. I fancied that he looked over our way and smiled a couple of times, perhaps because he heard the herd of us  rushing the porch to see him, but I might have been making that up. There was a lot to notice during the week. He alternated his sweatpants from light blue  to navy blue to maroon, but with the exception of one day, he always ran shirtless. I was a little disappointed in him one rainy day when he donned a matching hooded sweatshirt–mainly because of the hood.  I saw him running in different parts of town, but for 8 days straight, he was out there. One of our friends named him Rico for no apparent reason. Perhaps the idea of my running away with Rico–I think I could have kept up–and I did in fact wind up behind him one day on one of my runs–sounded just right.

 

Rico's were better.

Rico’s were better.

And then we were on our way back home. Poor Rico was probably devastated. A week later one of our friends was at a flea market in NYC and found his shirt.

That explains it.

He left his shirt in New York City.

Still, I have to believe–slow and shirtless wins the race.

 

It was a dark and stormy night when my husband and I arrived in Cape May for a September vacation, so we didn’t do much gazing off into the distance as we unloaded what we needed to get to bed. The next night, Friday, the 13th as it happened, I was out on the front porch with a friend around 11 p.m. when we noticed  2 orange lights in the sky moving in tandem though not close enough to be on the same object. They headed west along the beach and then turned south over the ocean around Queen Street and soon enough disappeared. Mildly entertaining but hardly anything to talk about–until one of us noticed another orange glow coming low from the east and taking the same track as the other orange balls. And then another and another. Completely silent and steady. We called our other witnesses outside and speculated all sorts of things: something the Coast Guard base was doing, drone testing, UFO’s or a really meticulous wedding planner showing her stuff. The last was all mine.

We looked forward to the next evening with four more friends arriving to either make fools of us or be foolish with us. A little before 10 p.m. on Saturday, sure enough, the orange balls kept popping up to the east, silently coming towards our house before taking a left over the ocean to disappear–seemingly before they were so far away that we couldn’t possibly have seen them. I think we saw 8 that night over the course of 10 minutes. My usually shy and retiring husband went down the porch steps to accost some people walking along on the sidewalk with their backs to the show and they started pointing and blabbing along with us, wondering what the heck it was we were seeing. One of them had a good camera with a telephoto lens and took a shot, which my husband saw, that seemed to show that each orange ball was actually 2 separate lights. We talked about getting in the car to try to find the source of it–perhaps to Poverty Beach where we could glimpse the Coast Guard Station’s beach, but we were too lazy to do that.

This is not that photo.

aha!

Aha!

I wasn’t interested enough to do the research that one of our friends did. Somebody in 2010 noted a similar scene in Cape May and speculated it had something to do with the Electronics Support Group at the Coast Guard Training Center. I prefer the wedding planner scenario, imagining the rehearsal dinner guests and wedding guests on or near the beach oohing and aahing at the pretty lights in the nighttime sky.  We kept looking most other nights we were there, but didn’t see anything other than a beautiful full moon. When my husband and I walked to The Pier House for dinner one night, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the light at Pittsburgh and Beach to send the friends who’d already headed home–not with the aliens–as far as I know.

Given that one of my most vivid dreams from childhood was of a traffic light near what is now the Heritage Motel in Cape May giving me lessons in how to walk on my heels, you would be within your rights to dispute the truthfulness of my earlier account. But I’d rather you just tell me what it was.

Getting inspired for the next session.

Getting inspired for the next session.

should be the next big thing. I’m a fan. Especially  drunk yoga on the beach. Tipsy yoga just doesn’t sound right. Hammered yoga–no. But drunk yoga brings the hard sounds and the soft ones together on the beach. Not too drunk. No queasy feeling. Just loose. No mats. Just bathing suit and the sand and the ocean and a drink or two. My father used to sneak over his “funny 7Up” to the beach. You didn’t want to pick up his bottle by accident. It is hard to contemplate putting my father and yoga in the same sentence, but that is the sort of mind-altering stuff that can happen when one is at one with drunk yoga.

Good ole Mary S.

Good ole Mary S.

I walked up the backyard yesterday after a walk with a friend in the soft rain. I was already thinking of the next thing I had to do when I walked over the bridge over the gully kwai (not its real name) and had enough sense to pause and see the blooms where they were planted. I felt a calming and a brightening simultaneously. The leafed out Japanese maple was all the umbrella I needed from the rain sprinkling down and the pine straw path hushed my clodhopper footfalls. And then right at eye-level were these babies. Not babies at all, quite mature like myself, but planted by Mary and Stuart decades ago, exactly in the right place for me to get happier just then. I think I’ll go back out there right this second. Our yard is such that if I don’t get right out in it and wander around, I can miss the best of what those Shumates did back there.

Mary’s been gone for a year now, but those azaleas and the phlox and ajuga and vinca busting out all over keep her ever-present. Excuse me, while I go pay my respects to her plants.

 

 

 

I have a job where I walk through Richmond neighborhoods during the day and show off almost anything to unsuspecting folks. Friday I’ll be wandering The Fan in search of good food–not exactly a difficult task. Saturday I head to North Side to show off the eats available on MacArthur and Bellevue avenues. Don’t tell the restaurants, but as happy as I will be to introduce people to their joints, and as fun as it is that we’re starting the tour at my painter friend’s Sarah Master’s studio, I get absolutely giddy thinking about showing off backyard chickens in one generous person’s yard (almost legal, even) and then there’s the creme de la creme, alpacas in another woman’s backyard! In the city. I love this more than makes sense.

 

No eating alpacas on this food tour!

No eating alpacas on this food tour!

Tickets ($44.46) are available and must be purchased in advance here. I wonder how many restaurants on the tour are serving chicken? I do know we will answer the question, Which came first the chicken or the egg?

The egg doesn't come first on this tour.

The egg doesn’t come first on this tour.

Our visit to Little House Green Grocery will settle that!

 

 

I can’t tell you all the quirky offerings that will be on this Friday, March 15th’s tour, RVA Ink: Imprint & Impact, that we’ll debut in Richmond’s Downtown Arts District 12:30-3:30 p.m., but I’m perfectly fine with dropping a few tidbits to entice you.

It’s all about cool, artsy things going on downtown and includes lunch at Pasture. We start at Ghostprint Gallery and meet the co-owner and tattoo artist extraordinaire, Thea Duskin. Tattoos welcomed, but not necessary! Then we head to Art 180 which does amazing things with kids and art, then pop into Big Secret, a biz that does wild laser cutting and engraving, then lunch, then head  to Richmond Times-Dispatch, Library of Virginia for a special look at old newspapers and end at the Valentine to see their RVA tattoo exhibit before it closes at the end of the month. Ink in many forms. Creativity everywhere we turn. And I haven’t even mentioned the murals!
Pasture is creativity we can eat!

Pasture is creativity we can eat!

It’s quirky and creative, so it would be so fun if you could come! I’ll be leading it. Here’s the link for  RVA Ink. Should be good weather Friday, unlike today!

 

Just Ducky

Would that I had my ducks in a row on this first day of 2013. Came upon something I wrote in early Jan. 2002 bemoaning the lack of organization in these parts and our manic undertakings to improve this that and the other. Ducks have two advantages that we don’t–no email or paper to drown in. I think it might take some walking on water to stay afloat!

Rock, Paper, Scissors has never been my favorite game. I think right about now, with Sandy en route, I’d prefer the choice of Stone, Plywood, Drill Driver.

I wish….

Maybe it was the Luna Bar breakfast or the realization that for the next 8 hours all I would eat was trail mix, gummy bears and Famous Amos cookies and a banana, but I had food on the brain while my butt was on a bike as I was riding the 102 mile inaugural Tour of Richmond on Saturday. The event started at RIR, where for years the State Fair of VA used to be, so I was reminded of the first and last fried pickle I ever consumed just as we were getting underway at 7 a.m. Then we rode down into Shockoe Valley, alongside the Cannon Creek Greenway bicycle path for a bit and into old timer industrial part of Richmond and there was an old building denoting T. H. Wood seed purveyor from way back which I recognized from the prints in my kitchen from the Library of Virginia gift shop.

I got mine at the Library of Virginia gift shop.

Then it was onto and through the 17th St. Farmers’ Market–where I first tasted the Holy Grail of goat cheese…back when it was a decent farmers’ market and where now some spots like Tio Pablo, LuLu’s, Arcadia, C’est Le Vin, Halligan BBQ and more are doing their part to add spice to this area. And of course, just around the corner, Julep’s is still bringing  the southern-inspired fine dining in the oldest commercial building in Richmond.

Then we crossed the river on the Manchester Bridge. I didn’t see any sturgeon, but I know they’re there. Richmond wouldn’t be Richmond without the river and the fish that frequented it when the Powhatan Indians were running the show here.

Along Riverside Drive I know there were some Paw Paws (GW’s favorite fruit), but truth be told they’ve dropped by now. Then out to Chesterfield County where I think it’s funny that the restaurants that are actually just over the line in Powhatan (Wild Ginger and Mediterraneo) say they’re in Chesterfield so people don’t think they’re too far out in the boonies. As soon as we crossed into Powhatan County, farms started to pop up: horses, cows, Fine Creek Vineyard, a sign for Manakintowne Specialty Growers–whose salad fixings and herbs wind up in some of the finest Richmond restaurants and in anyone’s kitchen if you pick them up at a farmers’ market or through Fall Line Farms, a co-op I belong to. Then we zoomed by some guys putting out signs before 9 a.m. to sell fresh eggs and pastured meat. You need to be careful about buying eggs, though–especially on the internet–some eggs are too fresh. I can’t seem to remember the name of their farm, but it started with an A. Too many things rush by on a bike to remember every durned letter of the alphabet in the correct order.  Noticed Bourbon Lane  and a tavern along the rode from 1755 and a sign noting the last place Robert E. Lee camped on his way back from Appomattox to Richmond post-surrender. (His starving men were given rations by Federal troops, so that’s how this snuck into a food heritage bit.)

At our third rest stop, the friendly Powhatan folk were promoting the Powhatan Festival of the Grape coming up Oct. 20th. Unfortunately the coolers they had still offered only water or Powerade, so that was the old bait-and-switch. Soon after we crossed the river again and were in lovely Goochland County, home to many a good farm. Further east in Goochland on Tuckahoe Plantation is where I saw my first pastured beef cattle running, yes, running in the woods. And yes, I say “my” with partly a good reason as we did purchase a 1/4 of one from Daniel and Emily of Tuckahoe Lamb & Cattle and continue to buy their beef, lamb and eggs at farmers’ markets around town.

Winding our way along the route, we wound up in a gorgeous stretch of Louisa County for a bit, which reminds me of my visits to Twin Oaks, when I wrote a piece about the tofu and hammock-producing commune in Louisa. Sadly, no hammock time on this route for us. We passed more fields and forests not yet turned into sub-divisions and not soon enough exactly, but eventually we were in Hanover County and coming back toward civilization, by which I mean Q Barbecue at the finish party at RIR.

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