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I write a lot of  140 character bursts for my small biz, Real Richmond Food Tours, and though it makes sense that food comes up often, as it does on part 1 of my Holiday Gift Guide for Richmond, art and nature are other themes that show up. Makes sense, since those are some of Richmond’s strengths and what is such a pleasure to tout on our tours and on Twitter. Here’s #1-13 for 2013.

#1 Art abides: a membership to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best gifts (and best deals) in #RVA.

#2 Gift baskets from Little House Green Grocery full of Hispania Bakery , Blanchard’s Coffee & more treats!

#3: Tix to Virginia Rep’s Fiddler on the Roof! For Hannukah or Christmas +pairs w/ #rvadine meal. (Ok, so it’s late for Hannukah now!)

#4- Fun food-related utensils and books at Quirk Gallery.

#5  Create burger heaven w/ gift certificates to Station 2, Burger Bach & Belmont Butchery. #diditlastyear

#6  Blue Bee Cider will put a shine on somebody’s apple! I’m a fan of Aragon + the Reserve!


#7 Help Cucina achieve world soup domination by buying Mulligatawny or Chorizo Black Bean soups at St. Stephen’s Farmers’ Market Saturday, 9-12.

#8 From the warmth of your home, get someone James River Park System license plates! Support an #RVA park.

#9: Beard Foundation Dinner tickets  Jan. 18th at Lemaire with chefs Bundy, Reitzer, Gregory, Alley and Sparatta!

#10: Animal masks from Big Secret  atBizarre Market upstairs in Chop Suey Books!


#11: Bacon Bender– Housemade from Belmont Butchery ties  at Fountain Bookstore, mug from Rostov’s Coffee & Tea.

#12: Pick up some local art and food at Art & Food at Huguenot Springs Sat. 10-4 w/ @Manakintowne 

#13  Something your heart/art desires at Handmade Holiday at Dogtown Dance Saturday, 11-5 + Bainbridge Art Center Sat. & Sun.

When I was in Maryland at my mother’s house, helping her get it ready to go on the market (anyone want a 40 year old, 7 bedroom barn on 1.6 acres?), we came upon stacks of carbon copies of letters my father wrote, filed by year by his reliable and remarkable secretary, Phyllis. Looking at the thousands of letters, it’s hard to figure how he actually made any money at work  because these letters are 98% personal and not the least bit relevant to insurance and bonding. (Also hard to understand how Phyllis hasn’t written a tell-all book about all of us spoiled children, knowing what she knows about us.) I couldn’t help but think that it’s too bad the guy never had a blog or made it onto Twitter. He could have been a contender.

Incentive to write my children real letters--not just emails and texts

We happened to flip through the 1979-81 folders, which for me were especially rich since that was when I went off to college and then Ireland for a semester.

Dear Maureen,

I don’t know why, but you got a check from SC which I herewith enclose to you. I hope this letter finds you in good health and a state of mental tranquility. I hope, while you are in Ireland, you learn how to write in big, clear letters instead of trying to scrunch one million words into one piece of tissue paper. We love you and we miss you.


my crazy Dad

Besides the family letters, which are such short and sweet (and even when they’re not sweet, incredibly accurate) slices of life, he sent letters to newspaper publishers, colleges his children were wait-listed at, writers he disagreed with, and local and national TV stations. I learned all sorts of good stuff, including that he wrote the college I attended when another sister didn’t get accepted there to tell them that though the sister who had already graduated from there and I (still a student there) were talented, that this one they had wait-listed was the most talented of his children. Well said! We always knew she was the favorite… How did he know she’d be the only one to graduate summa cum laude? The pride is as touching now as it was fierce  then.

 But my favorite letter is one he sent to the Washington D.C. CBS affiliate in regards to the local weatherman in 1979:

Dear Sir;

I don’t mind so much that G B is wrong from time to time, but his pompous attitude irks the living hell out of me. He doesn’t act like he is reporting the weather, he acts like he makes it. A little more humility would go a long way towards making B a real person rather than the pompous pain in the ass he appears to be.


My funny Dad

It’s fun to let him have his say again. I hope I listened then; it feels so good to hear him now.

You probably already know this, but it’s not a good idea to start a new business, sell your mother’s house, do some writing, get involved with a new 501c3, go on vacation, push your new book, dabble in social media, and get the floors refinished in one’s home office at the same time. It might push someone over the edge.

Actually, it has. Virginia Special Olympics has this crazy, fun fundraiser, Over the Edge , October 23rd in downtown Richmond where people who raise $1000 for Virginia Special Olympics get to rappel 400 feet down the SunTrust building.  They are so lucky! And so am I. I’ll be freelancing for Richmond Magazine–doing blog posts and such as we get closer to the event. Then, on October 22, I get to rappel down the building–26 stories and then some. Can’t wait!

It’s impossible to watch the video of folks, especially an amazing Special Olympian, go over the edge last year and not be in awe.  Having no fear is unrealistic. Letting fear stop people of all abilities from finding out what they’re capable of– that’s the thing to be afraid of. Thanks, FDR.

I’ve rappelled a few times before–though 90 feet is as high as I’ve started. On the one hand those experiences make me feel confident. On the other, let’s remember how I looked earlier this year atop Monumental Church.

There will be ropes and harnesses several hundred feet higher, right?

 It’s quite possible that social media will be my downfall, one way or the other; I learned about Over the Edge on Twitter.

I know this because I see people falling off the edge of it every day.

You see I am Twitter-ish. It is a disease with 140 symptoms. I must admit that one of the benefits of Twitter as a means of communication is that I can tweet ever so quickly and if my mouth is stuffed with fine chocolate at the same time, no one is the wiser. I feel sure that chocolate melts all over blog posts, though, so I must show restraint.  Some people will do almost anything to avoid writing about Chesterfield history though falling off the edge of the world is going too far.

Every fall I resist collecting pine straw for the paths in my backyard. With a sinking feeling, I think if I don’t get cracking, people will steal my stash and/or leaves will mix in and ruin it. Most people I know have yard people cut their grass and rake their leaves. We don’t, and now with no kids at home, there’s no one pitching in. And then I add to the work by raking up other people’s detritus out on the streets. It sounds dumb. It is dumb. But once I get past all that, it’s kind of fun.

I, too, was once someone who didn’t give a crap about pine straw, but every fall I turn into a freak about it. I need 20 bags of it. If I tweeted on Twitter, I’d say things like “OMG, scored six bags of the good stuff.” And the police would come to arrest me. “Honest, officer, it’s six bags of pine straw–just look at the quality of this stuff.”   Another in a series of reasons why I shouldn’t be on Twitter.

Every year I doubt I can hit my mark. Every year pine straw flutters down. Every year I bemoan my woeful bag count. Stall, delay, complain. And then once I get past four bags, I can see double digits just down the road. It takes only about five minutes per bag, counting the driving time. At some point it gets hard to stop. God knows I waste 5 minutes chunks all the time, perhaps one could argue, right now. 

But yesterday, after a rainy weekend I drove by a yard guy blowing pine straw off a neighbor’s front yard onto our street.  I raced home and retrieved my rake and bags and zoomed back before he had time to throw it all away. 5 easy bags worth hugged the edges of my street. It was pure. Golden. Soft. Piled up like bedding.  How could I have doubted the generosity of my own street? As I walked back and forth from my car I noticed how good it felt underfoot. How muffled my footsteps were by its softness. Perhaps kitchen floors should be made of pine straw. Just one idea here that is free for the taking–just like pine straw.

I’m back!