Dark of the Moon Opens Tonight at Devil’s Backbone

I opened my wnrn email this morning to find this news from Wolfbane Productions, a five year old  nonprofit theatre company based in the Valley. They open their season tonight with DARK OF THE MOON, a play in which yours truly was in at the Dogwood Dell in Richmond back in the summer of 1981 (I played the baby of Barbara Allen….NOT! I was actually in the chorus of witches and wore my hair in corn rows!). It was a good production which included some McGranahan’s if I correctly recall but what stands out in my memory was the witch chorus’ opening entrance.  We entered via stage right from the roof and cascaded en masse down a series of stacked 4x4x4 blocks down to the stage.  This was the old roof that arched over the stage and was covered smooth gravel.  The director, former VCU Drama head, Dr. Parker (oops. forgot his first name and too lazy to look it up… but I think I always referred to him as Dr. Parker anyway) asked one of the Production Assistants to figure out a way to make the roof a less dangerous passage.  The solution:  Pour Coca-Cola on the part of the roof we crawled over to make it sticky and keep the rocks from sliding.  The problem: Bees.  Honey bees thought the dried coke a fantastic treat and were all over it until dusk when they went back to their hives to hobnob with their other bee tribe members.  Right up until about five minutes before our entrance the bees threatened to sting anyone who invaded their dried syrup feeding ground.  It was a challenge to remain un-stung during “places” when the show started.

Below is the information about Wolfbane’s production.  I checked out the trailer this morning and it looks REALLY GOOD. Click here for more information.


Dark of the Moon

Our season will open on August 15th with a magical production ofDark of The Moon, staged outside at the beautiful Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, located in the heart of the Blueridge Mountains. This haunting story follows John the Witchboy, an Appalachian mountain spirit, who sacrifices his immortality to be with the human girl he loves, Barbara Allen.

Based on the Ballad of Barbara Allen, Dark of the Moon features a live folk/bluegrass band, singing, dancing and a team of the some of the most talented performers we have ever worked with. Our two leads, John and Barbara will be played by Amanda Smith and Aaron Alan, both of whom have professional performance credits nationally and internationally. Returning from last season, leading our band will be Spencer Meeks from Chicago. They will be joining a stellar group of local favorites to create one of the most magical productions Wolfbane has ever produced.

DARK OF THE MOON will be running at the Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company
Performance dates: August 15th 16th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 29th, 30th and 31st
All performances are at 8pm.

North vs South- Where to stay in Virginia Beach



My thirteen year old daughter is out of school already and as I had business to attend to in Norfolk on Tuesday, I decided to take advantage of a cheap rate at the Hilton at Virginia Beach and take her for a day at the beach.  As some of you know, I grew up in Richmond, Va which is two hours (give or take with traffic and depending on how fast you drive) by car from Virginia Beach so my family vacationed there almost every summer while I was growing up. I also, on warmer days would skip school and spend the day at the beach upon occasion. (As Ferris Bueler says, “Life is short.”) And I actually spent an entire summer cocktail waitressing at Peabody’s following my freshman year at Boston University so I feel like I know the place fairly well.

There are two faces of Virginia Beach for tourists.  One is the south end of the beach from 1st street at the southern most end up to about 58th Street (The Oceans condos) which is a strip of trucked -in sand delineated by a Boardwalk and lined with condos and hotels.  It is commercial, sterile (there are no crabs or beach grass), abundant with tourist trap shops, tacky amusements and generally mediocre (at best) over-priced restaurants.  It is loud at night and teaming with people.  You can go out on the beach at night and sometimes see the moon.

The North end of the Beach the stretch from about 63rd Street to 89th Street (which butts into Fort Story) is crowded with mostly charming houses for rent and a few actual residents.  The beach is wider on the North End and the sand is perhaps native to the area (it is at least the same as the sand I used to play in as a child when visiting Va Beach- lighter in color and less fine than the sticky sand of the South end).  Rolling dunes with scattered clumps of beach grass separates the houses from the actual shoreline giving beachfront renters the opportunity to enjoy the sights, sounds and relief of the ocean and its breezes while affording lots of space along the shore.  It is quiet, tranquil and crabs and sea birds are abundant. You can go out on the beach at night and see the stars, chase sand crabs and even swim.

In between is the Cavalier, a complex with two hotels.  There is the new Cavalier, a beach front high rise with a Orion’s restaurant on top and the crown jewel of the beach, The Old Cavalier, a gem from the 1920’s set off from the beach across Atlantic Avenue on manicured emerald lawn (that features a groomed croquet court) and the classiest place within a hundred miles.

The two ends of VA Beach offer totally different  beach experiences.  One peaceful and more tranquil.  One more Vegas-like.  They are both fine depending on your needs and tastes.

I prefer the North end but the Cavalier (I like to stay in the romantic Old version) is under renovation and rooms were unavailable, so I opted for the Hilton on 31st having stayed there before and enjoyed the comfort of am elegant room on the 18th floor.  Plus they had a good deal and the beds are super comfy  with high count cotton sheets which is really important to me.

In short here is what I didn’t like about the experience:

1. I got a room upgrade because there was only one bed and I dislike sleeping in the same bed with my daughter who squirms a great deal in her sleep. The upgraded room was on the North side of the building closest to the beach without being beach front.  The smell of cleaning solution was oppressive even after having the balcony door open for 30 minutes.  I asked to be moved and waited for another 30 minutes.  A nice bellman was sent and we were relocated.  The second room also smelled but not as strongly.  It was on the North side of the building but on a lower level and closest to the street rather than the ocean.  At 5pm the noise was too much so I asked to be moved again.  The desk clerk was civil but not overly polite or helpful but we did manage to get another room situated similarly to the first room.  It also smelled of cleaning fluid but not as much and at this point I was too tired to pursue another relocation.

2. There was a significant amount of sand ( about a quarter cup ) swept into a corner of the bathroom which made me uneasy regarding the cleanliness of the rest of the room.

3. The cleaning fluid smell was too strong to stay in the room with the balcony door shut but the noise from the  crowd at the hotel’s popular restaurant, Catch 31 (overpriced and mediocre in my opinion but does have a nice outdoor area for people watching) kept us awaked until closing time at 2am.

4. The rooftop pool was closed in the early evening due to a private reception- rather inconvenient for us since we were there for one night and the beach was now too chilly.

5. We spent a lot of time looking for a restaurant with passable food at an affordable price- something local with health conscious organic offerings.

6. We were accosted by a sales rep for the sister property- I detest this sort of thing on a vacation.

What I liked:

1. The bed was comfortable and the sheets really were cotton.  Once asleep, I slept well.

2. There is a public bathhouse nearby for staying on the beach after check-out.

3. We rented bikes (the weather was a perfect 75 degrees with a light breeze and sunny) and had a delightful ride up to 72nd Street and down to the 13th Street Pier.

4. A mid-day visit to the Aquarium was relaxing and educational.  I petted a ray- cool, smooth and squishy.

5. We stopped by the Pacific Ave location of Taste Unlimited for sandwiches (they now serve a good quality gluten free bread) and other goodies for a North End beach picnic.  Their food is fresh, tasty and gourmet enough to please us.  We parked somewhere in the upper 60’s and traversed to the beach with blanket and Nicole Miller umbrella in tow to enjoy good food and  afternoon beach time. A few scattered people shared the beach with us and the fiddler crabs.

6. We stopped by the Taste Unlimited and farm stand on the way out Shore Drive towards 64 to get farm fresh veggies and some of their signature chicken salad for dinner and coconut chocolate squares for dessert.


I probably would not pay to stay at the Hilton at VA Beach again as I prefer a more serene holiday and less commercial, cleaner, friendlier environs.  But I must send big kudos out to Tyler the ever patient, sweet bellman for hauling our stuff around so pleasantly during our room rotations.

Note: the one hotel on the North End is the Wyndom.  Long ago it was a different hotel with a restaurant called The Happy Clam.  I saw Bruce Hornsby play there before he made it big.


Anticipating the new Canyon Ranch Spa at the Homestead

I have openly griped about The Homestead’s Spa for years finding it inferior to its hype and longing for something better at this gorgeous, gracious Virginia resort.  At last, what may prove to be the upgrade I have dreamed about is to happen.  Canyon Ranch has taken over the spa’s operation.  The new improved spa is expected to open mid-June and to add to the good news, several spa packages have been put together to entice spa junkees and normal people alike.

Read this sent from Laura Lopez this morning:

Anticipation is growing as Canyon Ranch SpaClub®at The Homestead prepares to open this June in Hot Springs, Virginia. Part of a $25 million resort renovation, the state-of-the-art facility will allow guests to experience a touch of Canyon Ranch at its first location in the mid-Atlantic region and the first SpaClub location to offer treatments and activities for children and teens. Now, a quartet of packages is available for guests to unwind at the historic resort in the Allegheny Mountains.

Four new packages offer guests a chance to escape, relax and unwind:

The SpaClub Spa Sampler includes two nights’ accommodations, a $200 Spa credit, meals daily, and access each day to Aquavana®, fitness classes, Mountain Bike Rental and Spa Garden. Rates from $1,268.

Spend three nights with the SpaClub Relax and Unwind package including a $400 Spa credit, meals daily, and access each day to Aquavana®, fitness classes, Mountain Bike Rental, Cascades Gorge Hike and Spa Garden. Rates from $2,130.

The All About You package includes five nights’ accommodations, a $600 Spa credit, 50-minute consultation with a nutritionist, meals daily, and access each day to Aquavana®, fitness classes, Mountain Bike Rental, Cascades Gorge Hike and Spa Garden. Rates from $3,625.

Truly indulge and pamper with seven nights’ accommodations with the Healthy Indulgence package. This package includes a $800 Spa credit, 50-minute consultation with each nutritionist and exercise physiologist, unlimited activities (including golf, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and more), meals daily, and access each day to Aquavana®, fitness classes, Mountain Bike Rental, Cascades Gorge Hike and Spa Garden. Rates from $7,005.

Three day-packages including spa treatments, spa retail credit and complimentary lunch are also available. Minerals do Miracles, Head to Toe and Forever Young start at $300 per person.

The signature feature at the SpaClub is Aquavana®, an exclusive European-inspired thermal oasis. The Aquavana experience aligns harmoniously with The Homestead’s historic healing tradition of “taking the waters” which has drawn travelers since the mid 1700’s, including Thomas Jefferson. An adults-only spa garden is open year-round offering historic hot springs, therapeutic geothermal mineral bath, naturally-pressurized deluge shower, river reflexology walk, co-ed Finnish sauna, spring-fed whirlpool, and private poolside cabanas.


Sounds delicious, yes?  You will certainly find me zoning out in the spa in the next month or so.


Getting wet in Hot Springs

One of my favorite getaways, The Homestead, in Hot Springs, Va. will be opening its pool/water park on May 17th this year.  The pool complex is fairly new and on my last visit this past fall, I enjoyed a relaxing soak in the hot tub while other visitors toasted marshmallows around the outdoor fire pit a little ways down on the lawn.

Here is part of a press release sent about the pool opening:

 Family fun will be front and center this May asThe Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, launches the first full season of its newAllegheny Springs attraction. A gleaming highlight of the historic resort’s recent and ongoing $25 million renovation, Allegheny Springs offers family-friendly features with water drawn from the surrounding Allegheny Mountains.  Located next to Allegheny Springs, the Mini Cascades miniature golf course will also open on Friday, May 17.


Spanning two acres, Allegheny Springs offers a family pool and whirlpool with chaise lounges scattered across the deck for basking and relaxing in the Virginia sun. Soak in the action from the charming spring house, which sits like a landmark over a babbling brook. Meanwhile, kids will love playing in the water play zone and on the sandy beach and all ages will get a thrill at Mountain Rush with two 100-foot water slides, a 400-foot lazy river, and private cabanas.


Family fun will be front and center this May as The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, launches the first full season of its new Allegheny Springs attraction. A gleaming highlight of the historic resort’s recent and ongoing $25 million renovation, Allegheny Springs offers family-friendly features with water drawn from the surrounding Allegheny Mountains. Located next to Allegheny Springs, the Mini Cascades miniature golf course will also open on Friday, May 17.

Spanning two acres, Allegheny Springs offers a family pool and whirlpool with chaise lounges scattered across the deck for basking and relaxing in the Virginia sun. Soak in the action from the charming spring house, which sits like a landmark over a babbling brook. Meanwhile, kids will love playing in the water play zone and on the sandy beach and all ages will get a thrill at Mountain Rush with two 100-foot water slides, a 400-foot lazy river, and private cabanas.

Other exciting news: The new spa at the Homestead will be managed by Canyon Ranch which I hope will be a vast improvement.  Time will tell.

Thoughts on a Silent Retreat at Yogaville




Mindfulness is a big part of our culture here in Charlottesville.  I should know because I wrote about it for VIRGINIA LIVING magazine and posted the article recently.  (click here to read that article).  After researching Yogaville for the article, I decided it would be fun to really experience the place so I signed up for a Silent Retreat over New Years.  Below are some of my thoughts.  Yogaville is a fantastic resource for mindfulness in Central Virginia. I would say it planted the seed for mindfulness in the area but somehow I think the seed was already planted and Swami Satchidananda felt that energy and decided to put his Ashram here because of it. Regardless of which came first, it is worth a visit to get your mindful tun-up.


“Yogaville Silent retreat Day 1: 12/28/2012: Going silent

I have moved into a post- holiday grumpy phase causing me to complain within seconds of picking up Christina, my friend who is joining me on this 5 Day Silent retreat.  It is not advisable to do this sort of thing with friends because it is too tempting to communicate, to come out from the purative silence but we didn’t know that when we decided to go and no one warned us when we signed up.  At any rate we are driving down Rt. 20 on a cloudy early winter’s day towards Buckingham County and Yogaville, the largest Ashram in the United States where we plan to spend the next several days without talking and practicing minimal communication with the outside world.


It is an easy drive.  One right turn basically onto rt. 626 and Yogaville is on  the right after about ten miles.  We are a bit early and registration is not ready but we are assigned a room, ironically numbered 42.  I say ironically because according to the Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, the answer to the Universal Question of the meaning of life is 42.  I wonder if someone has assigned me this number on purpose.


Post registration, is a guided meditation or yoga class.  Christina and I decide to do the yoga class but mistakenly end up in the deep relaxation/guided meditation.  I realize the mistake about ten minutes into the class and decide that it is a yogic sign that this is where I needed to be all along – a “you are in the right place at the right time” sort of thing or a more Freudian interpretation, “There are no mistakes”.

It is magical and I am more relaxed than I can recall in recent memory.  Perhaps this is because I am mentally ready to be relaxed, to let go.  I have prepared this space, these five days, on purpose to be a right of passage to prepare me for marking my 50th Birthday- I am creating a rebirth, if you will, into the second half of my life (Yes, I really do expect to live to 100).


After the class there is a group meditation. I am totally mellow for this and see images and colors.  I am very still, thanks in a large part, I am sure, to the deep relaxation guided meditation I just experienced.  The 30 minutes pass quickly then it is time for one of Yogaville’s famous vegetarian meals.  We take advantage of our last hour of talking by getting to know some of the folks joining us in Silence for the next few days- after all it is our last chance for a long while.  It feels strange asking questions like, “From where did you come?” and “What made you decide to try a silent retreat?” when, if this process works the way I am told, we will know these people better than we can possibly imagine without verbal communication by the end of the retreat.


I struggle to keep from talking to Christina on the way back to our room.  I am tired and look forward to the events to the next day where I will definitely practice some asana (yoga poses).  Up at 5:30am so it is off to bed early.”


This is just the beginning of a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual journey I took from December 28th to January 1, 2012. The following days proved a roller coaster ride of emotions as I meditated, attended workshops, engaged in service work, hiked in the woods, journaled, sang kirtan, listened to inspirational messages from the Swami himself, ate an organic vegetarian diet and generally immersed myself in a yogic lifestyle.


Over the course of the retreat many profound things happened but the things that stand out are the experience of being silent, a workshop in Laugha yoga and a visit to Swami Satchidananda’s home,  Ananda Kutir. The five days had a surprisingly profound effect on me physically  and mentally which can only be described as a utter relaxation. But it is important to note that the relaxation did not happen all at once but in minuscule graduations and that it was fairly difficult.


Silence, as I learned, is simultaneously liberating and inhibiting. It was suggested that while in silence we even avoid eye contact with people in order to prohibit any kind of communication.  The reason for this is to allow one to be completely with their thoughts. It worked but it was frustrating.  At first, I was so wrapped up in the goal of being silent that I was very serious about avoiding any kind of communication.  The Universe soon set me straight.  The first full day of the retreat a member of the kitchen staff pulled me aside to discuss my participation in a karma yoga experience where I would be helping prepare dinner.  I was upset enough that he asked me a question verbally but devastated that I had answered without hesitation therefore breaking my silence.  I almost cried.  Then I realized that I had been placing too much emphasis on the wrong thing, the act of being silent for a specific amount of time, and having broken that silence had freed myself from the expectation therefore easing up- just what I needed.  Only then was I able to deeply focus on and objectively observe my thoughts which I discovered were mostly stupid and shallow- very disappointing.  I listened to myself judge, complain, whine and self loath to the point where it was a pleasure to quiet the mind.  I learned that most of what I would have said to people was fairly unnecessary and the majority of my thoughts were as well.

It was astounding to me how much energy I expended each day on trivial stuff like remarking on the weather or complimenting someone on an article of clothing.


Working on changing these thought patterns was quite emotional.  The retreat offered a variety of ways to do this.  There were daily yoga and meditation sessions, chats on nutrition, meditation, karma yoga opportunities (the act of service without expectation of reward), creative workshops like coloring mantras and creating vision boards, music, darma talks, chances to hike in the woods, a kirtan (singing of mantras) and more.


It was also difficult to restrain from expressing myself verbally. I wanted to know things about the people around me. Where were they from?  Why a silent new years?  Why did they choose Yogaville as a destination for spiritual study? Things that really would not make any difference in our spiritual quests.


We were not expected to be totally silent, however.  In fact we were encouraged to participate in chanting and singing mantras. Personally, I dislike dogma so this was difficult for me.  And like me, other people in the group became very somber and serious in their practice of silence.


The break came in the form of a Laugha yoga workshop.  Through a variety of expressive exercises the participants laughed in different ways and related to each other while experiencing first hand the healing power of laughter.  It was just what I needed to lighten up.  We laughed for 40 minutes then had a 30 minute guided Shivasana or prone meditation.  It was sublime.  I felt rejuvenated.  All the cells in my body were awakened and infused with joy.  I so enjoyed it, I even signed up for the training to teach Laugha Yoga later in the year.


All my grumpiness was gone after the Laugha Yoga session.  It was the release I had needed until the very end of the retreat when all the participants sat in one circle and each had a turn saying something about the retreat.


Visiting Ananda Kutir, was also and extremely powerful experience.  Yogi’s believe that the soul simply passes through bodily experiences and that the essence or energy of a person exists eternally.  Being a skeptic, I have little faith in the power of shrines but wanted to visit Swami Satchidanada’s home for a meditation session anyway.  I am glad I did.  Two totally unexpected and in my world rather bizarre things happened.  The first was the deepest meditation I have yet experienced.  I saw the Swami’s face and had a conversation with him in my head.  Until this time, I had only experienced seeing colors and some limited images during deep meditations so seeing his face and hearing his voice was astounding to me.  I won’t share the content of our conversation but I will tell you that Gurudev as he is called at the Ashram, is a funny guy with a great sense of humor.  The second thing that happened was downright mystical. I have a set of three silver rings made by a Tibetan monk that I have worn almost every day for the last four years without ever cleaning them which had mede them rather dull over the years. On a whim, I placed them on a tray before the meditation session to be blessed by the spirit of the Swami.  At the end of the session, I absent-mindedly slid them back on my left ring finger without really looking at them.  Hours later I looked down at them and noticed that they were shining like new – and they are still at this writing two-and-a-half months later! Make your own conclusions here regarding what happened to the rings but I will tell you that I did not clean them or do anything differently with them.


Listening to each person share at the end of the retreat was perhaps the most surprising thing of all.  These 59 other people were so different in reality compared to what I had imagined them to be.  Their voices were different, their backgrounds were different. The things that stood out in their minds as important were different than what I had thought.  It was incredible.  I realized how wrong I was about most of them which  made me think about the hundreds of judgements I make about strangers (and non-strangers) every day and how likely those judgements are equally inaccurate. I realized that though it is important to be discerning it is better to be patient and learn what people are really about rather than categorizing them instantly.


This is a difficult lesson to learn for someone who has survived for years by carefully observing people’s actions and reactions as a way of self preservation.  But we can only do what we can do and as was reinforced through this Silent Retreat experience, change happens in small steps every day rather than in occasional giant leaps.


By the end of the retreat I was in a peaceful place.  The perpetual tension in my shoulders had released to painless ease.  I was glowing with peace and love for myself and my fellow humans. An adventure well worth taking. 🙂


Destinations for Weddings and Other Romantic Adventures

Valentines is fast approaching, and though it is of late not my favorite holiday, I encourage the rest of you hopeless romantics to knock your socks off.  To me there is nothing more romantic than a wedding. In our culture, weddings are where two people who hopefully love each other profess their undying love, loyalty and devotion in front of friends, family and other sundry connected peoples.  Since, also in our culture, at least half of those who make those statements will end their unions in divorce and roughly half of marriages have at least one unfaithful partner the 50/50 chance of those vows being kept (is that the correct stat based on the numbers provided?) makes weddings exceedingly idealistic aka romantic.
The above paragraph may make me sound like a hardened cynic but au contra ire, I am a hopeless, dyed- in- the- wool, grade A romantic.  I adore weddings.  I cry my eyes out at romantic movies.  I am still distraught over the recent death of a nameless Downton Abbey character four days since the fateful episode aired in my country. Why I am such a romantic that even after two failed marriages (does the first one REALLY count?) I hope to find Mr. Right for me and walk down the isle once again – AND I will probably wear white!
for all of you lucky dogs out there with sweethearts, I suggest you think about visiting one of these wonderful places for a special romantic visit.
A Destination in your Mind
You can be transported during your wedding without leaving Virginia
Issue: Richmond Bride Winter/Spring 2013
Posted: 12/11/12 10:10 AM
Photo by Jen Fariello

You want your wedding to be someplace out of town but wish to spare yourselves (and your guests) the airfare? Here are three full-service resorts within a day’s drive of Richmond that will give you the feel of a destination wedding. All three have spas and activities such as swimming, golf and croquet to please you and all your visiting guests while offering distinct details to make your wedding day as special as the two of you are.

Ralph Lauren Country
Keswick Hall at Monticello is about an hour away from Richmond, but the softly rolling landscape and its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains give it that upscale hunt-country look like nothing else around. In addition to gorgeous vistas, fantastic catering and classically beautiful facilities, this resort has a meticulous wedding coordinator, Adam Donovan-Groves, who says he has walked every foot of the property to determine the best backdrops for wedding photos. Other extras include a child-care room with kid-friendly entertainment during the reception, plus complimentary massages or a day of golf for brides and grooms. keswick.com/weddings

Photos courtesy Tides Inn

Upon the Water
What separates the Tides Inn from other close-to-home wedding destinations is its relaxed, casually elegant atmosphere and proximity to water. Nestled on the north side of the Rappahannock in Irvington about an hour-and-a-half drive from Richmond, the inn has been a favorite destination for area families for generations. Brides can choose from a variety of indoor or outdoor venues, including the Carter Room with views of Carter’s Creek, the croquet lawn or a private beach. For a special grand exit, the newlyweds can arrange to be whisked away from the dock on a boat and deposited near their suite on the other side of the inn. There awaits a matted watercolor painting of the terrace — inscribed with their names and wedding date — as a special token of the occasion.tidesinn.com/weddings-events  

Mountain Springs
A traditional destination for Richmond brides throughout the centuries is The Homestead, amid the mystical Allegheny Mountains in Hot Springs, roughly two-and-a-half hours from our city. This grand landmark of Southern hospitality offers a multitude of options for weddings, the most popular being the simple Pergola on the Casino lawn and the stunning Crystal Room with its graceful arched windows, white pillars and gleaming chandeliers. “The festivities begin from the moment the guests arrive,” says conference service manager Tricia Fry, who also acts as wedding coordinator. The resort can handle weddings with up to 800 guests. The Homestead also offers horseback riding, skeet shooting, mountain biking, guided hiking or Segway tours, falconry, fly fishing, archery, a back-country driving school, paintball and an on-site water park to entertain guests and create memorable bridal-party activities. Brides and grooms can book a carriage to make their grand exit from the reception and will find a bottle of bubbly waiting in their room on their wedding night as a special gift. thehomestead.com/weddings


Local Travel: A Ski Trip to Wintergreen and Dining at Blue Mountain Brewery




IMG_1161One of my goals for 2013 is to go on at least four “outings” with my children.  This may sound absurd but my children are ten years apart in age and live in different parts of the state. My daughter is 12 and lives with me in Charlottesville while my son is 22 and lives in Alexandria where he works and goes to school.  Since they both enjoy snow sports, I thought it would be a fun to kick off the year with a day at Wintergreen  and  a meal at the famed Blue Mountain Brewery on the way home.

The last time I skied at Wintergreen was sometime in the ’70’s when the resort was new.  Since then, several slopes have been added along  with a tubing run and a tiny ice rink. There are also more restaurants and a spa.  Although I am a spa junky, this day was about the kids so I stuck close to the slopes in order to cater to their needs.

There was about an inch of ice covered snow whitening the mountain along the windy drive up to the ski area providing that wintery feel that makes one want to do things like ski or snowboard. At the top of the road to the ski area, two attendants greeted us and directed us to day parking which was a breeze as we arrived at about 9:00am on a weekday (Jan. 2). Check-in and rental experiences were great.  The staff were all friendly, knowledgable, professional and helpful.

My daughter needed skis and boots.  She has been skiing since she could walk and has enjoyed ski trips to places like Whistler and Park City but “we” (meaning me, her father and her ski bunny paternal grandmother) have neglected to invest in equipment for her since she is still growing.  My son, on the other hand, who attended boarding school at Wasatch Academy in Utah, (a school with its own snowboarding slopes that includes weekend passes to Park City as part of the school experience) owns a snowboard and boots but left his snowboard at home in NOVA because he could not check it on the Amtrak train that carried him to C-ville. Rental is always a time consuming affair but Wintergreen has a sort of theme park way of handling equipment distribution  with small specialized stations arranged in a direct line that kept us moving.  It only took about 30 minutes to get them both outfitted and out on the snow.

Due to some new snow making equipment, Wintergreen had a deep base 30 to 40 inches of snow.  I headed to the lodge for some tea and to work.  Wintergreen lacks a good coffee shop hang out space so I sat in the lobby area near the fireplace as some staff plucked ornaments off the Christmas tree to pack them.  I guess no one told Wintergreen that Christmas goes through January 6th and that a Monday may be a better day to worry about dismantling decor than a relatively busy holiday week.

The kids were out all morning and had a blast.  At about 1:00pm they were cold and tired of the short slopes and long lift waits so we packed back into the Escape to eat a late lunch at Blue Mountain Brewery.  I have eaten there before and had a wonderful experience but not so much this time around.  Firstly, the indoor temp was frigid.  People were keeping their coats on indoors.  Our server was a bit scatterbrained even though business was fairly slow but she did let us move into a booth when one came up.

I eat a gluten free diet and BMB you can get any of their yummy pizzas on GF crust- which is great.  But the pizza I had this time was undercooked and served luke warm on a cold plate with salad but our waitress disappeared after bringing our lunches and my daughter was so hungry that she ate most of it before we could tell anyone about it. I ordered hot water with lemon and it was also just warm rather than hot- quite unsatisfying considering the temperature in the restaurant. We were brought two plates for sharing the pizza and salad, one of which was slimy with greece with food remnants still on it.

My son, however, thoroughly enjoyed his burger and beer and the Kambucha my daughter and I shared was good.

I was really disturbed by the difference in my previous experience at BMB with this visit and would go back to discern if this is a permanent downgrade to service and food quality or if this was a post holiday glitch.


Flower Power at the VMFA

Fine Arts & Flowers opens Oct 25!
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Art in Bloom!Get your tickets online today! 
Fine Arts & Flowers, Oct 24, 2012–Oct 28th, 2012
This biennial exhibition is back at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where flowers and fine art combine for a dazzling display of beauty and creativity. Members from more than 75 garden clubs across Virginia interpret masterpieces from the collection during this five-day celebration with lectures, demonstrations, music, a wine tasting, a fashion show, and more! Proceeds from 2012’s Fine Arts & Flowers benefit the programming, beautification, and maintenance of the E.Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden.Fine Arts & Flowers is presented by The Council of VMFA.
Gala Preview

Gala Preview

Wed, Oct 24, 7 – 10 pm 
Enjoy a night of elegance in a fantastical woodland setting during An Evening of Petals and Glass. Guests will delight their senses with delicious hors d’oeuvres, sparkling beverages, and the music of the Skip Gailes Trio. Also part of the evening is an after-hours stroll through the special exhibition Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
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Thu, Oct 25 & Fri, Oct 26, 10 am 
Don’t miss lectures from two of the biggest names in floral design. On Thursday, Emily Thompson leads us through The White House: Christmas Designs Inspired by Nature.  And don’t miss Friday’s Designing Through Time: Historic Designs Reinterpreted with Jane Godshalk.

Fine Arts & Flowers Luncheon


Thu, Oct 25 & Fri, Oct 26, noon 
Take a break from the festivities and relax with friends at luncheons on Thursday and Friday. Enjoy fare like herb-marinated chicken and apple bars with cinnamon cream. Bring a friend or book an entire table to enjoy food, wine, and flowers!
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Edible Flowers Thu, Oct 25, 3 pm 
Greg Haley, chef de cuisine of VMFA’sAmuse Resturant, demonstrates how to prepare a variety of creative dishes featuring edible flowers. Then sample the finished products! Wines and floral teas also served.
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Edible Flowers
Flowers After Hours

Flowers After Hours

Fri, Oct 26, 6 pm 
Savor hors d’oeuvres from Amuse Restaurant and enjoy wine tastings from the American Northwest. The music of Susan Greenbaum, voted as Style Weekly’s“Best Singer and Songwriter” in both 2011 and 2012, is the soundtrack for this evening of good food, wine, and friends.
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Flowers in Fashion

Sat, Oct 27, noon 
In collaboration with the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising of VCU, The Council of VMFA presents a fashion show inspired by flowers! Enjoy a luncheon and a show of student-designed collections. Two scholarships will be awarded to the winning designs. Attendees will also have a chance to win door prizes.
More Info & Tickets 

Flowers In Fashion
Docent Led Tours

Highlights Tours

Thu, Oct 25 – Sun, Oct 28
For an in-depth look into the floral arrangements and the masterworks that inspired them, each highlights tour is led by a docent specializing in the exhibition. Tours leave throughout the day!
More Info & Tickets

Images Copyright © VMFA.  Banner Image: Repeated images of objects from the VMFA Fabergé Collection.  Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt. 
Copyright © 2012 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, All rights reserved.
Thank you for your Membership support!
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200 N. Boulevard

Richmond, Virginia 23220

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No Regrets at RTP


I wanted to find a deeper message in Paul Rudnick’s play “Regrets Only” now playing at RTP, but Director, Jerry Williams chided me that it just isn’t there.  “It is a silly, flighty drawing room comedy.  It ain’t deep,” Williams said during a phone interview last week.  Well, fine, Jerry!  But I will argue that the premise of the play, the argument for gay marriage is an important topic.  The fact that Rudnick just might have hidden a deeper message under the thin veneer of shallow arguments and definitions of marriage is beside the point.

The action centers around society maven, Tibby McCullough (Melissa Johnston Price) and her BFF, a gay fashion designer named Hank Hadley (Joe Pabst).  Tibby is as out of reality as a woman can be, totally focused on looks and charity events.  She and Hank love to go to these events, see and be seen and dish on all the society folks afterwards.  The play opens when Hank arrives at Tibby’s swank New York apartment, (gorgeously designed by David Allan Ballas) his first outing since the death of his long-time partner.  While Hank and Tibby are planning which charity events to attend that evening, Tibby’s husband, Jack (Michael Hawk) and daughter, Spencer (Liz Blake), take a job working for President George W. Busch, writing policy defining marriage as an institution appropriate strictly for a man and a woman.  A touchy conversation begins, periodically interrupted by the McCullough’s eccentric maid, Myra Kesselman (Jacqueline O’Connor). Hilarity ensues.

So here I go looking for meaning…

“What is up with the maid’s character?”, I wondered.  At first I found her interruptions annoying as she would pop in at odd points in the play pretending to be some new incarnation of herself, at one point Irish at another a red neck woman and so on.  Then right at a critical point in a discussion about the gay marriage, she enters stage left with a black cloth over her head and a rosary in her hands like a nun.  She then begins a schtick about being a bride of Christ.  I thought the timing interesting.  It is often the religious right contingent that most violently opposes gay marriage, yet by strictly defining marriage as a state of union attainable only by a man and a woman the government would be disengaging a marriage sanctioned by the Christian church- that sacred union, a marriage, between nuns and Jesus.  I found the irony quite poignant but Williams insisted I was reaching too far for Rudnick’s style.  He went on to explain that the actress who originated the role was a friend of Rudnick’s and that he wrote her in to give her something fun to do.  Whatever.

However, I admit, Williams has a point in that the fluff was piled on pretty thick.  One of Tibby’s most important lines in the play is, “I want the biggest Drag Queen in the world to say, ‘Honey, too much!’.” It summarizes her most cherished goal in life which is to always be the image of a Hank Hadley ad. (Sort of like my goal to be the woman in the Ralph Lauren, Chanel or Calvin Klein ad. I totally understand that about Tibby. In fact when I lived in New York, if I was having a bad day I would go up to the Ralph Lauren flagship store and walk around a la Holly Golightly at Tiffany’s thinking, “Nothing bad could possibly happen to me here in Ralph world.”  But I digress.)

To drive William’s point even further, Rudnick’s definition of marriage offered through Spencer, a lawyer, is as lame as they come.  Spencer, representing the law here, defines marriage as co-habitating people who are sexually faithful to each other and have children together.  God forbid all those people who are married with out children or are married without living in the same house or have dallied with sexual partners outside of their marriage for whatever reasons are not actually married!  Anyway, you get the point.

Then, Hank decides to do something about the situation and starts a nation wide “gay stay home day” in an effort to what?  Maybe show oblivious straight people how important gays are to our lives? (Like who doesn’t know that already?) All Broadway shows are shut down, there are no florists or hairdressers or key people in the government.  It is all so meaningless in terms of the gay marriage issue except that  Spencer’s wedding is in danger of not happening because of the lack of gays to put it on.  Someone figure that one out and get back to me, please.

“There are definitely flaws in the structure but it is really funny,” Williams retorted.

He is right.  There were several side splitters in the script.

Pabst and Price have a scintillating chemistry, so much so it is difficult to believe this is their first show together. They each toss out pithy one liners with the poise and finesse of regular sparring partners often sending the audience into peels of laughter. Although the rest of the cast are adept in their roles, the reason to see the play is the PP dynamic.

In a show with fashion as such a strong theme, costumes are very important.  They were very good but D. Mark Souza’s creations failed to reach the mark of Haute high fashion one might expect from a Hank Hadley design. I suspect much of this had to do with budget rather than talent, however.  A standout design is Tibby’s red gown she wears at the opening of the show.  The styling and details demonstrated creativity and class.  Spencer’s wedding gown is also quite beautiful in its elegance.

Regardless of the presence or lack of message, the structure issues and the questionable appearances of Myra the maid, “Regrets Only” is a laugh filled frolic into the surface existence of New York high society- and after these last few years of belt tightening for so many, who couldn’t use a little of that? Plus if you miss it you might also miss out on the ever important message given by Tibby’s mother, Marietta Claypoole (Donna van Winkle) when she advises everyone to marry a gay person.

Like Williams told me (quoting movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn in his second sentence), “It is a very funny play and people will laugh.  If you want to send a message, call Western Union.”

But I prefer Tibby’s last line of the play better to summarize why one should go see “Regrets Only”:


…and cake it is, sweet, calorie filled, void of brain food yet satisfying.

Go get yourself a slice.


For more information on Richmond Triangle Players production of “Regrets Only” click here.






The Lion Roars at ASC

I know I have said it before but I ADORE Staunton, Va!

It has a Mayberry like historic downtown and some fantastic restaurants and of course the American Shakespeare Center.

Yesterday I ventured over there from Charlottesville  with a friend, stopping at the bucolic Pollack Winery along the way for a tasting and a relaxing chat on the veranda overlooking gorgeous rolling fields, a pond and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was my first visit to Polloack and of the nine wines I tasted I liked the Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Meritage the best but I am uncertain if those were my exact favorites because I left my tasting notes on the tasting counter- a result of having tasted nine wines on an empty stomach.  We did get some yummy swiss to counter the tipsy effect but they only have french bread to go with it and I need a gluten free option.

Anyway, my companion purchased a bottle of Merlot and off we went to Staunton for dinner and a show.  The first thing I always do when I get to Staunton is stock up on my favorite granola in the world, Kazzies Granola.  You can only get it in Staunton because the guy that makes it lives there and he creates this delectable concoction of dried fruit, oats and seeds (maybe not oats, I don’t have the bag accessible at this time but whatever is in it is all yummilicious goodness).  So we stop into Cranberry’s Natural Foods and Cafe to pick up some Kazzie’s.  Once I am secure in my granola fix we walk a block to enjoy a fabulous dinner at Zynodoa before the show.  Zynodoa is a small version of a chic big city restaurant with food to rival any of the top chef’s around with a menu that features ingredients mostly (if not totally) curated from local farms.  My friend and I split a Mole Hill Bib Salad and the brined then grilled chicken breast.  See descriptions from the menu:

Mole Hill Garden Bibb Salad   8

shenvalley apple batons | oak spring dairy red wine derby
candied pecans | vinegar works shallot vinaigrette

Polyface Brined & Grilled Chicken   25

yellow squash & zucchini pancake | sauteed swiss chard
vinegar works sage gastrique


Fed and happy, we walked the half block to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Theatre for THE LION IN WINTER the second play in their Summer “Wicked Good” Season.

The play was written by James Goldman and ran on Broadway for something like 83 performances (not many in Broadway lore) in 1966, is the depiction of a typical  family Christmas gathering amongst Franco-Anglo royals in 1183 from the pot Freud view point of the mid-twentieth century.  In other words, these people are MESSED UP, bitter, plotting, manipulating, and longing for love and affection with no glimmer of capacity to either give or accept it.

My take on the action: 

Older man who has taken on a hot young mistress who happens to have been raised in his home as his daughter (modern reference:Woody Allen) is lamenting over the death of his heir and trying to ensure his legacy is protected and that his favorite son, the youngest gets to be king after he dies.  His wife, wants her favorite son to be king instead and the middle child is left to whine about how nobody cares about him (contemporary reference for sibling dynamic: Downton Abbey).  The oldest son had a love affair with the mistress’s brother who happens to be the new King of France and is over for the holiday.  Everybody’s insecurities and egos are exposed as they are each played by the other to gain power, property and a general upper hand. Sounds like fun, right?

What worked for me:

  • Gregory Jon Phelps as the middle son, Geoffrey:  He simply personified that middle child resentment and longing to be special.  His line delivery was spot on in its tone and irony and he was just great in the part.  He totally made the most of it without being obnoxious or upstaging.
  • The costumes:  were beautiful and well chosen for the different characters.
  • Rene Thornton as Philip, King of France:  He is regal yet just as nasty as the rest of the characters.  Thornton plays him with a finesse that makes him stand apart.


  • Historical Inaccuracies:  This is the fault of Goldman not ASC. Syphilis is mentioned but my theater buddy pointed out (correctly, I checked) that it was unknown in Europe until over 300 years later when Columbus’ crewmen brought it back with them from the New World. The other is the reference to Christmas trees.  Christmas trees were not a part of English or French Christmas customs until the early 19th century or even in Germany before the 1400’s at the earliest. It is in the script so what are they gonna do?
  • Casting issues: Tracy Hostmyer makes a great Eleanor of Aquitaine throwing out barbs with stealth and working some good chemistry with her King Henry (James Keegan- not his best work, I am sad to say.  I just didn’t buy into him for some reason.) but she looks awfully young for the role. John Harrell as the youngest prince, John- Harrell is a great actor but the boy is supposed to be 16.  There are younger men in the company who may have been better choices for the role this go around. Tracie Thomason as Alais- Thomason lacks voice and tends to deliver almost every line with a  breathy flat cadence that almost drove me insane.  I felt zero chemistry between her and Keegan which is sort of key to the madness of Alais being  played with  like a chess piece.

Overall opinion:

This is a tough play.  The plot twists and turns and the characters along with it.  I can only imagine the cacophony of inner dialog that must go on in the actor’s heads to be dizzying as the show goes on.  It is also relentless in its revelation of the ugliness of human nature (greed and lack of moral compass in particular), a two hour marathon of emotionally charged slings and arrows which can be exhausting to watch. The content is charged as well in this little geographic corner of conservatism adultery, promiscuity, hints of incest, and the possibility of an non-consentual homosexual relationship without much humor to keep the audience from slitting their own wrists in despair by the end.  But it makes sense to produce it as the modern play during the summer season as a prequel to KING JOHN which will be part of the fall season.  It is worth seeing but you might want to space out seeing this alongside THE MERCHANT OF VENICE which is also a hard hitting production bearing no good guys in the end.

 Tracy Hostmyr and James Keegan in THE LION IN WINTER- photo courtesy of American Shakespeare Center

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