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This is called cheating and I do it with a clean conscience since it is also multi-platform blah blah blah.

Here’s week 1 of my Holiday Gift Guide from my Real Richmond Twitter feed

It makes it awfully easy to participate in the Retail Merchants Association Think. Shop. Buy Local promo Saturday Dec. 8th, don’t you think? If you fill out the form at a participating retailer, you could win a $500 gift card from one of the afore-not-mentioned retailers.

Have fun and keep your sanity and your dollars in our community!

A recap of our gift guide:

Day 1 Holiday Gift Guide #1: #RVA books from @FountainBkstore or Chop Suey: First House; Come August, Come Freedom; Oregon Hill; Built by Blacks +

Day 2  Anything from @GearhartsRVA for the chocolate lover in your life! Caramels are my fave! #RVA

Day 3  #RVA ornaments (white or mirrored) from@modartifactsrva will glam up any tree! http://ow.ly/i/1b6HT 

 

Day 4 Chihuly tix from @VMFA (and treat yourself to a @wpabakery treat from Best Cafe!) #RVA #holiday

Day 5  Eliza Askin’s 2013 calendar. It’s a classic with some of our favorite spots in #RVA Find it @FountainBkstore

Day 6  Cool recycled bike gear even if you don’t bike! In @VMFA gift shop. Perfect for @richmond2015 http://ow.ly/i/1b6W9 

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Day 7  Holiday Gift Guide #7 Tix to #RVA theater! @firehouserva@henleystreetrva @virginiarep @richmondshakes From Madeline to Max, Will to Willy!

It will keep coming every day until Dec. 24th on Twitter.

and here is some of what I thought of it from an online piece for Richmond Magazine: Lincoln Premieres in RVA I’ll tell you more if you come on our Lincoln Legs: Brunch & Brushes with History tour tomorrow, Nov. 11th at 12:30 and we’ll brunch at LuLu’s in between following in Lincoln’s footsteps. I’ll also bring Dixie Donuts. I think Abe would approve. It is my dream to refight the Civil War using donuts, Dixie Donuts vs. Philly’s Federal Donuts. It is the only time I’d want the south to prevail. We’ll run Lincoln Legs again Nov. 25th, brunching at Arcadia then.

Lincoln is loved in VA

Just glanced at a list I made for a recent trip:

checkbooks

legal pad of joy

knitting

That pretty much sums it up except I forgot the checkbooks, I knit perhaps 3 rows the entire weekend and the legal pad had a few more worry lines added to it. Par for the course. Perhaps I was knitting my brow more than the blanket I can’t quite finish. But I did enjoy the margaritas on a deck in St. Michael’s with old friends and the massage at the nearby inn. It cracked me up that when I told the masseuse my last massage had been 2 years ago, she tsked tsked and said, “We recommend one once a month.” I’m sure you do!  I think I’ll start doing that with my food tour customers: When was your last tour?!  Oh, dear. You’re going to have to do better than that.

Mais non, je ne pas cuss all that much in writing. In speaking–that’s another thing. My roommate in college did not approve of my cussing though it was tame, very tame. I truly learned to cuss when I taught at a Catholic boys school right out of college. And no, cursing is not the right word. Too prim. Anyway, nothing like being one of the few females who wasn’t a nun or obese in a school of hundreds of males to turn one into an expert on Anglo-Saxon phrases. I believe I kept my cool around the boys, but nowhere else. The administrators were every bit as annoying. Of course I cleaned up my coarseness once I had children and haven’t really gone back to serious cussing since. I certainly don’t like hearing blue streaks come out of people’s mouths when I’m in public. The other day as I was leading a tour on Brown’s Island and in no one’s way whatsoever, some runner ran close to our group and let rip with “motherfucking something” seemingly directed at us. It wasn’t even Mothers’ Day. Not nice. But every once in a while, those sorts of words are just the right thing and make me laugh out loud–always a good thing for words to do.

It seemed appropriate that just as I’m barely keeping up with my blog and certainly not doing Tumblr and being exceptionally lame on Pinterest and ignoring Google+ and tiring of Facebook and even Twitter though they sure are handy for the food tour biz, I share this little gem:

Fuck You and Your Blog Journal

Darned right!

Going to be showing off Richmond’s riverfront (even that phrase seems almost funny as I write it–Richmond hasn’t had a riverfront so much as a river in the backyard) with Off the Eatin’ Path: Richmond’s Riverfront starting this Sunday, May 6th at noon. We’ll start in Shockoe Slip and wander around the canals and Brown’s Island and wind up at Canal Bistro at Off the Hookah for lunch. 1.5-2 hours of art, architecture, adventure and me blabbing in between bites! The RVA Street Art Festival sure spiced up one section of our route with the fun (and possibly ephemeral if a buyer buys the Hydroelectric Plant and wants them removed) multiple murals that live there now. Get down there to see them one way or another, please!

see what's behind the scaffolding...

You know I’ll season the tour with lots of James River Park System info, ways to get out and enjoy the river and the creatures who frequent it–not all of them fitness-crazed people yelling “Hoo-rah!”–and several lesser known historical tidbits. It should be a relaxing yet exhilarating tour. The high school group who were my guinea pigs for this tour in March said I saved their lives by taking them on the tour. I don’t recall pulling any of them out of the rapids, but maybe I was so engrossed by RVA’s riches that I didn’t notice that part of the tour….

All Aboard!

On our typical food tours, I push the river as worthy of a visit all sorts of ways. I’m glad that on this route the James will get to speak for itself.

a flood of interest in the James these days...

So I agreed to moderate a Writing Show panel for James River Writers this evening. It’s about food, drink, and romance in writing. You had me at chocolate chip cookie. I am thinking hard about what food I should bring with me to stuff into my mouth in order to prevent me from saying something really dumb. Dark chocolate could do the trick, but it’s so unseasonably warm today, it might melt all over my hands and then I’ll get chocolate all over my notes and then I will have to rely on my brain to come up with something to say of its own accord and there we are back at the saying something dumb issue.

A chocolate for my thoughts?

A vicious circle. That reminds me of cupcakes.

The mocha/chocolate one is my go-to cupcake.

There is no photo of an actual cupcake because as soon as the box gets opened, it’s not a pretty picture anymore. Actually, I have learned to show enormous amounts of restraint leading Real Richmond food tours around town. I don’t partake of everything at every stop. For me to spend time in a cupcake joint, inhaling the aromas of chocolate, coconut, and other good/evil things and not eating a bit is proof of something–I’m just not sure what. It is weird beyond belief, but some of it is vanity. Knowing that putting cupcake to mouth would leave too much evidence on my clothes, in my teeth and around my lips–not to mention elsewhere–helps in the self-restraint department. And then when the tour is over and I walk past said cupcake shop, I pop in and buy a 4-pack to take home. The Virginia General Assembly would do better to focus on issues such as banning driving while eating cupcakes than some of the other things they’ve been messing with. Three panelists, Michele Young-Stone, Andrew Fox, and Kit Wilkinson will be on tonight’s panel. All are novelists, but different genres: Michele writes adult fiction; Andrew sci-fi/fantasy, and Kit Christian Romance and suspense.  There is a joke to be made about Christian Romance and what the Republicans in the General Assembly have been up to of late. I will try to show restraint tonight and not blurt one out. Cupcake, anyone?

One of my favorite parts of running Real Richmond with my pal, Susan Winiecki, is coming up with fun places to start off the food tours. Sometimes, because of the time constraints (and our  learned by doing more than that once) 1.5 mile limit, we start at one of the restaurants we sample at, or on the Cathedral steps for a bit of value-added grandeur, but mostly we start in local bookstores or galleries. I REALLY want people to spend their time and money in these places. If you’ve gotten sucked into the chain thing, give ’em up for Lent and try going local. You will be amazed at how much fun you can have in these joints.

GO!

For the Fan of the Food tour, we start at Black Swan Books on W. Main St. For Carytown/Museum District, it’s Chop Suey Books, and for our Shockoe Slip: Capital of Cuisine tour, it’s none other than Fountain Bookstore. For Both SIdes of Broad we often start at Quirk Gallery, which is both a huge treat and temptation. We also love to sneak in a visit to a theater or special space if we can make it happen. We’ve treated people to mini-tours of The Empire/November Theatre, The Hippodrome, Anderson Gallery, Glave/Kocen Gallery and more. And lately, we’re able to incorporate a visit to the Virginia St. Gallery on the Slip tour and have vendors there with samples for our tour-goers. Lucky us!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!  My heart is cold–or rather the beef heart in my freezer is. Back in the day, some of my friends thought Cold as Ice should have been my theme song. Oh, they didn’t know me and of course neither did I. Today, though, I am fairly accused of being cold-hearted at least towards the animal whose heart was just on my kitchen table so I could take this photo.  Either that or being in on the  nose-to-tail cookery bandwagon or the Paleo schtick or whatever other trend goes with hunks of organs in one’s house. I can assume vegetarians and many meat-eaters alike might not appreciate this photo of a beef heart, purchased by my husband, thankfully not as my Valentine’s present from Deer Run Farm of Amelia at a Farmer’s Market here in town. It was not purchased with a photo shoot in mind. He wants to eat more organ meat, or at least have it in the freezer. FYI, the liver didn’t want to be a part of the photo shoot. Chicken, I guess. Ha! It is impressively heart-shaped, I have to admit.

Heart be still.

My life has evolved in the last couple of years to the point where Sunday night I was at The Virginia Historical Society for the inaugural Elby’s, Richmond Magazine’s very fun bash to honor the cuisine scene in town, and had the chance to hear Caleb Shriver, chef at Aziza’s and winner of Rising Culinary Star and Tim Bereika, acclaimed chef at Secco Wine Bar which won the Wine Program award, talk about pizza crusts and how to cook the beef heart that has been sitting in our freezer for a bit. Would not have guessed I’d been in on that conversation two years ago, gotta say. And just so you know, they both said to “corn it,” as in spice it and slow cook it like corned beef.  In my heart of hearts, I might be able to stomach that. I’ll let you know.

 

To sum up  and flesh out my RVA holiday gift guide from Twitter for the first 12 days of December:

Holiday RVA gift idea #:1 Rusty’s Cream Puffs from Aziza’s on Main St. Too big to be stocking stuffers; they’re stomach stuffers instead!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #2 Dollop Desserts Nicole Lang’s treats will have recipients shouting whoopie!

Whoopie!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #3 Chef Bundy +3 regional chefs do 5-course James Beard Foundation Dinner at Lemaire 1/14. SOLD OUT as of 12/12.

Holiday RVA gift #4 Andy Bality James River/Huguenot Bridge print. $20 at Riverside Outfitters and Once Upon A Vine/South in Stratford Hills wine/south.

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #5 Real Richmond  gift certificates. Food tour fun for all. Fairly obvious. Awfully easy. Doesn’t expire!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #6 Steve Hedberg holiday cards of his gorgeous wintry paintings– available at TaZa in Westover Hills.

in case you forgot what snow is like

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #7 Clean up your act! Not the sexiest present, but if you hate Lexus commercials, see my previous blog post. A recycling cart to love.

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #8 Anything from Virginia St. Gallery in Shockoe Slip. Open 11-8 Thursday -Sat. Til 5 on Sun. Art, food etc. Great photos, small paintings, sweet and savory items.

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #9 Any number of cool Richmond books and ephemera at Black Swan Books on W. Main. St. I can’t say what I bought!

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #10 Handmade items, including Terrarium ornaments, at Bizarre Mkt upstairs at Chop Suey Books in Carytown.

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #11 Ben Campbell’s new book, Richmond’s Unhealed History.  Book-signing at Fountain Bookstore Dec. 21st.

Holiday RVA Gift Guide #12 Lovely and local cards of Jackson Ward scenes and spots. Available at Box Brown, 518 N. 2nd St. in Jackson Ward, right near The Hippodrome.

I gave a 5 minute talk last night at Midlothian Middle School to middle schoolers, their parents, teachers, and other book-loving folks, sharing the stage with much better known and accomplished writers Sheila P. Moses, Sue Corbett, Brooks Smith, Connie Lapallo, and Gigi Amateau. It was a most pleasant way to spend an evening, full of stories and inspiration. Look these other folks up and buy their books at your local bookstere. You won’t be disappointed.

I focused on the part of writing where I’m not stuck with the seat of my pants in a chair. Made me think I need to take my own advice! Here’s more or less what I said. Those Midlo folks are chomping at the bit to come into Richmond and take advantage of what it has to offer. That’s exciting to me.

Not me ziplining across the river (which would be cool, but isn't possible yet!), but a WIld in the City guest ziplining across Belle Isle Quarry. I had the pleasure of that trip another time.

I’m doing a couple of things this week that might rattle some nerves—public speaking and rappelling down a 25 storey building downtown as part of Over the Edge, a Special Olympics extreme fundraiser.  I’m doing both of those heart-pounding things this week because I’m a writer. And I feel very lucky to be doing both.

Chester Filbert in Nothing Ever Happens on My Block—one of my all-time favorite picture books– has a perpetual sneer on his face. I’ve been known to have that look, but there’s a big difference between me and Chester Filbert—he doesn’t see what’s all around him—he can’t get outside of his head—of his preconceived notions of how dull his life and his neighborhood is.

Chester says longingly, “Some places have marching bands or haunted houses, courageous hunters hunting, ferocious lions and tigers, pirates and buried treasure…” on and on..  He’s so busy wishing for what he doesn’t have that he misses what is going on right in front of his face.  Disgusted with his lot in life,  he finishes  with “But nothing ever happens on my block., and snarls, “When I grow up, I’m going to move.”

It’s easy to think our lives are dull and boring and for some stretches they are, but here’s the thing. Something is happening on everyone’s block—you have to be out there and be open to seeing it.  To be an effective writer, I need to spend some time stuck inside my head for sure—contemplating, questioning, revising, but I NEED to get outside my head and my house even more—meet people, ride horses, ask questions, rappel, go rafting, try new things, look at art, eat at cool restaurants, explore what’s around. All that feeds my writing and my life.

When I wrote Insiders’ Guide to Richmond, I was well aware that many people say nothing ever happens in Richmond a la Chester Filbert. It’s not D.C. or New York or Chicago.  It’s stuck in the past, dull and boring. Who would ever want to visit? There’s nothing to do! I’ve heard it all. And I don’t believe it!

So I drew on my experiences living here 19 years, being an outdoorsy, involved, art and history-loving, quirky and curious type and wrote an upbeat book that makes it easier to find the good stuff in our city and region.

WIth apologies to Ellen Raskin:

Some places have a free and fantastic Folk Festival along the river, –did you go?! Class IV and V whitewater you can raft through downtown, one of the 50 most beautiful buildings in the country, awesome mountain biking and multi-use trails. Some places have torchlit walks on a Slave Trail, and herons roosting along the Pipeline, a Final 4 basketball team, artsy and involved universities, a Native American village to visit, bald eagles soaring above  the James, one of the best art museums in the country that’s open every day and free!!! And will be full of MUMMIES next month, a creepy crypt under a historic church, sites related to revolutionaries you’ve heard of:  Patrick Henry and GW and  Thomas Jefferson, and sites related to ones you might not have: Gabriel, Maggie Walker, John Mitchell, John Jasper. Some places have a one night internationally-curated light exhibit INLIGHT this Friday night at Tredegar!!!!  NASCAR, recreational tree-climbing, even Mid-lothian Mines Park where 9 year olds once worked down in the shafts doing the dirty work  And that place is Richmond. (And I could go on. For another 300 pages, but I won’t! I didn’t even mention that war you might have heard about….)

Chester Filbert said “When I grow up, I’m going to move.” Once again poor Chester has it all wrong!.  Don’t wait till you grow up to move. Move NOW!  Don’t worry–I don’t want you to move away from home or away from Richmond! I mean MOVE! Don’t stay in one place! Don’t say there’s nothing to do or sit staring at computer or television screens. Get out on your block in your neighborhood, in the city and the region and be active and involved, observe and experience. Think outside the block! Be a part of the world—not apart from it.  Be a part of Richmond–not apart from it.  And if you’re in Shockoe Slip Thursday around 3:45, look up at the SunTrust building and wave!  That’s where I’ll be hanging out.

Hope to see you around town!

After signing a bunch of books and talking to the people at the event, I know I will see them around town. Cool!

I’m back!

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