On the move again; this time to California to visit family and friends

View from the guest house porch.

What a crazy, wonderful summer!  When last I posted we were on the road home from a long road trip to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Alabama visiting family and friends and celebrating two wonderful graduation ceremonies.  Just a few short days after we returned home we were off again to visit family and friends on the west coast.

In just four days we emptied our suitcases, laundered all our clothes, opened all the mail, paid the bills, checked the lawn, went out to dinner with our friends and then packed our suitcases once again.

We flew on Virgin America Airlines.  I was impressed with the seats, leg room, flight attendants, service and the entertainment units on the back of each seat.  I usually read, or do crossword puzzles when I travel but I must say I found it relaxing to stop every so often and watch the news or a movie.  The flight was smooth and before we knew it we were in Los Angeles and waiting for the courtesy bus to take us to the car rental office.

After a considerable wait at the car rental and a two-hour drive, we finally arrived at Randy’s sister’s home in Carpinteria.  It was late and Brian and Antoinette had already retired for the evening so we made our way to the guest house, dropped our suitcases and fell into bed.

View from main house porch. Could only see as far as the pool. Coastal fog prevented us from seeing the ocean.

After a good night’s sleep we awoke to a foggy, chilly California morning.  But sunny or cloudy I love the beautiful view from the guest house porch.  The yard is a beautiful verdant field of tropical plants and flowers.  As I looked over at the main house it brought back memories of many beautiful Hawaiian style homes we saw while on our honeymoon.  The house is a multi-level home with a wrap-around porch on the main level with views of the Pacific Ocean.  Of course, today all we could see from the porch was coastal fog.

We made our way up to the main house to share hugs and kisses with Antoinette and Brian and then sat down for a lovely breakfast.  During breakfast we discussed plans for our visit.  Today Randy and Brian would go to the shooting range while Antoinette and I would make our way to the town of Ojai to visit the weekly farmer’s market and walk around town.

Antoinette and I had a very nice time walking through the market checking out all the beautiful fruits, vegetables, flowers and jewelry.  There was quite a bit of organic and gluten free products at the market.  We then walked over to a small pedestrian area lined with many wonderful shops.  We wandered leisurely through many of the shops and even purchased a few goodies to take home.

After we had walked the entire area Antoinette wanted to know if I wanted to stop for ice cream.  While waiting for her to finish looking at one last shop, I walked into a small, beautiful shop called the Casa Barranca Organic Winery & Tasting Room and suggested that we treat ourselves to a glass of wine.  Both wines were delicious.

While we were enjoying our glasses of wine, Randy and Brian had driven to Brian’s gun club to do some shooting.  Randy enjoyed riding up the mountain.  He was surprised that when they left the house the weather was in the 50’s but by the time they reach the shooting range the temperature was in the 80’s. “Seems like it was backwards,” Randy remarked during dinner later that evening.

I asked Randy how he did.  “I was having trouble concentrating and was pulling my shots low and to the left with both guns.  Brian was right on target,” he replied.  He went on to say that Brian wanted to do some skeet/trap shooting. They moved on to another range but Randy explained that he was just too tired and begged off but enjoyed watching Brian.

By the time we all returned home there was a surprise waiting for Randy.  Randy’s cousin Bill had been invited to spend the night and was waiting for everyone to return.  Randy was so excited.  It had been at least 12 years since Randy and seen his cousin and was looking forward to catching up and sharing stories of good times growing up in San Diego.

Brian and Antoinette prepared a wonderful grilled dinner and we spent the evening talking, drinking and enjoying a beautiful sunset over the cold Pacific Ocean.  On our way back to the guest house Randy said with a smile, “What a wonderful day!”

A view of the rolling hills of wine country

The second day of our visit started just like the first with cloudy skies and temperatures in the 60’s.  We made our way to the main house and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before Bill continued on his trip to Northern California to pick up his partner.

Once Bill departed, we took a slow drive in the shadow of the coastal mountain range to visit wine country.  The sun was out and everywhere you looked was various shades of green.

We stopped at a small, quaint town in wine country called Los Olivos.  We stopped to get a quick bite to eat at a little restaurant called Panino.  After eating a light lunch, Antoinette and I took a walk around the town while the Randy and Brian relaxed under an umbrella and talked.

 

 

Antoinette and I visited a small shop called the Artisan Gallery and browsed their leather goods, clothing and jewelry.  Outside the store was a fascinating tree sculpture made of horseshoes.  I found it very interesting.

 

 

We continued our walk visiting the J.Woestse Home & Garden Treasures.  This garden was full to capacity with fun and fascinating home and yard décor.

What struck me most about this little town was the smell of jasmine bushes that were outside many of the little shops that lined the streets.  I was also fascinated at how many wine tasting rooms were in this little quaint town.  Unfortunately, it was Monday and the tasting rooms were closed.

We finally parted from this lovely town and made our way to the Demetria Estate to enjoy an afternoon relaxing on the patio and sampling several of their wonderful wines.

We visited this winery on our last visit to Randy’s sister’s family several years ago.  We sat at the same table enjoying the view of the vineyard and the new areas that had been planted since that visit.

We arrived late afternoon and settled in one of their picnic tables.  Antoinette brought along some nibbles for us to enjoy with our wine.  We sampled five wines including a white, rose, and three reds.

While I do not favor whites I found the 2014 Chardonnay SB County to be very light and refreshing.  The 2016 Grenache Rose was a very good dry wine.  The “Le Belier” Pinot Noir was a very good hardy red.  The 2014 Pantheon, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, had a bit of a bite to it.  The 2013 Cuvee Constantine, also a blend, was my favorite of the reds.  The attributes of each wine was explained between each pouring.  What a lovely way to spend the day!

It was hard to do but we finally left this beautiful setting and made our way along the coast enjoying the beautiful scenery of the coastline.  We enjoyed a nice dinner and lively conversation.  Randy was fascinated that Brian cooked the corn-on-the-cob husks and all on the grill.  “The corn was great,” Randy declared.

Tomorrow Randy and I strike out on our own to visit Hearst Castle.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Road trip – Family, friends and celebrations Part VI

Fiona’s senior picture

We finally reached the last destination of our road trip, Huntsville, Alabama.  We came to Huntsville to attend the high school graduation ceremonies of our beautiful granddaughter Fiona.

Roger, Lauren, Randy, Fiona and Mary

The first of the two ceremonies we attended at Randolph School was a Baccalaureate service.  We met the family Friday evening  in the auditorium where a reception was underway for the graduates their families and guests.

The reception was very nice and gave us a chance to chat with the family before going over to the Thurber Arts Center for the service.  The evening festivities began with a graduate processional, singing of the Alma Mater, Invocation, a lovely solo of Shubert’s song “An die Musik” by senior Neelesh Manandhar, and an address by 2017 Salutatorian, Linda Melone.

The evening’s guest speaker was Upper School English teacher Lewis Cobbs.  The address was followed by a performance by the Randolph Concert Choir.  Fiona is a member of this choir.  It was nice to hear her sweet voice.  Fiona won the National School Choral Award for 2017.  The choral performance was followed by another senior performer, Coner McFarlin who performed a song he had written called, “Where You Want To Go”    Both senior soloists were wonderful.

The closing remarks were made by the 2017 President of the Honor Concil, Andrew Tyler Johnson.  This was followed by senior members of the Concert Choir singing “Homeward Bound” by Marta Keen.

The entire service was quite lovely.  It was a little chaotic catching up with Fiona at the end of the service.  We finally caught up with her in the lobby and prepared to go to dinner.  As this was Fiona’s weekend she would choose where to go.  She chose to go to the City Café.  This seems to be a family favorite.  The menu is varied, the food is delicious and the service is wonderful.  Good choice.

We returned to the hotel late and retired quickly.  Commencement exercises would start promptly at 9:30am and we wanted to be there a little early to secure seats for the family.

We were a little worried again this morning as the day started with overcast skies and a light drizzle and the commencement was to be held on The Commons Lawn.  We actually did arrive before the rest of the family and were surprised to see that many families had taped names to many of the chairs on the lawn the night before.  It took us a few minutes but we finally found enough chairs for the family and settled down.

The Commons Lawn was a very pretty setting for this auspicious occasion.  Everyone was happily talking and laughing as they waited for the commencement to begin.  Everyone stood as the faculty started the processional to their seats  to Bach’s “Sleepers, Wake”.  The graduates took their seats of honor to Korb & Roever’s “Highland Catherdral”.

We had a very nice view of Fiona throughout the proceedings.  There were speeches by the 2017 class president, presentation of awards, Valedictory address, the awarding of diplomas, closing remarks and finally the farewell address to the Class of 2017 by Head of School, James E. Rainey, Jr.

One thing that I thought was interesting and fun was the manner in which they called the graduates up to receive their diplomas.  Usually, the graduates are called up alphabetically.  Here they called the graduates up randomly.

I loved Mr. Rainey’s address.  I loved that he talked about one of my very favorite people of all time, Mr. Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.  This was a show my children watched when they were young.  He spoke of Mr. Roger’s optimism, acceptance.

Rainey said, “Mr. Roger’s had this to say to the children in his audience, and he would have had it to say, I am sure, to the Randolph School Class of 2017: “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet, how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person”.

Rainey ended his remarks saying, “Farewell, Randolph Class of 2017!  We wish all of you acceptance, courage, wisdom, serenity, and love in your lives ahead”.    “Very nice, very nice,” I thought to myself.

 

 

And then, following tradition, the graduates tossed their mortar boards in the air before the recessional.  What a sight!

Delicious chicken burrito, rice and beans

Once again, it was a little chaotic trying to catch up with Fiona.  We finally located her in the choral room.  Fiona was given the choice of the restaurant she where the family would have lunch.  We drove over to Taqueria El Cazador Mexican Restaurant to enjoy a delicious Mexican lunch.  While enjoying our lunch, we talked about everyone’s plans for the summer.

Roger and Lauren will be relocating to Seattle, Washington.  Fiona will be off to the Agnes Scott College in Georgia in August.  She has chosen to follow a study of liberal arts until she decides where she will focus her interests and talents.

It was time to say our goodbyes.  We gave hugs and kisses all around and headed back to our hotel.  We rose early, ate a light breakfast and then got back on the road again for the homeward bound leg of our trip.

We left Huntsville with the sounds of rain gently falling on the windshield and fog slowly lifting off the nearby mountains.  But, if I looked a little harder I could see a hint of blue sky ahead.

Heading home…

Enjoy,

Mary

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Road trip – Family, friends and celebrations V

Overcast skies hover over Assateague Island National Seashore.

The next stop on our road trip was to see friends Jim and Peggy at their home along the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  We had no idea where Atlantic, Virginia was but trusted our GPS to guide us to their front door.  I looked up the area on Wikipedia and learned that Atlantic, “Is an unincorporated census-designated place in Accomack County, Virginia.  As of the 2016 census, its population was 963”.

We encountered another cloudy, rainy day as we made our way to Atlantic.  As we drove along I could not believe how sparsely populated the surroundings were.  Periodically, we would pass buildings and homes in various stages of decay.  We finally turned onto the last street and voilá there were the first signs of a community of new homes.

Jim and Peggy’s home is right on the water.  I was not surprised.  After all, Peggy had lived on a houseboat at one point in her life and just loves the water.  The view from the back porch of their home is of Bogues Bay.  Just across the bay is the NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility and the Wallops Island Wildlife Refuge.

Top-Jigs and Button. Bottom-Emma and Maggie

After hugs and kisses all around we were introduced to their family of felines.  There is Jigs, Button, Emma and Maggie.  They are all beautiful and very playful.

We spent some time catching up with one another and then Jim and Peggy decided to take us on a tour of Chincoteague Island and Assateague Island National Seashore.    As we drove over the bridge to Chincoteague Jim made a comment that, “Chincoteague is for people, Assateague is for animals”.

We drove through the park and were amazed at the variety of birds we saw.  I understand that over 300 species can be found on the island.   We managed, with the aid of binoculars, to see some of the famed wild ponies that live on the island.  I would love to come back sometime when the weather is a little sunnier. We returned to Chincoteague for a great dinner at Don’s Seafood.   We spent the rest of the evening just kicking back and enjoying each other’s company.

Don’s Seafood

We woke up the next morning to yet another cloudy day and the threat of rain later in the afternoon.  Because they live so far away from a major center I was curious about where they shopped, sought medical care, etc.  So, they took us on a ride over to a small town called Crisfield, Maryland. I had to laugh because we saw many ducks walking around the parking lot.  Peggy said they were all over the island.  She was right, everywhere we went we ran into ducks.

While in Crisfield, we stopped by the boat yard to see their cabin cruiser the “Hey Hon”.  The boat was in dry dock undergoing an engine overhaul.  I had seen pictures of the cabin cruiser but was blown away at just how big it was.  We climbed the ladder and walked around inside.  It was quite roomy inside.  They explained that the boat would be back in the water soon.

We continued our tour stopping at the city dock to watch the many small vessels that leave at precisely noon each day to take supplies and mail to several islands in the bay.

The tour over, we made our way to a local restaurant called the Circle Inn for a very nice lunch.  While most of the menu listed seafood I decided to try their bacon cheeseburger.  Very good.  Peggy wanted us to try a slice of a Smith Island Layer Cake.  Unfortunately, there was none to be had. Peggy explained that these cakes were nine layers with a fudge frosting and delicious. In 2008 Maryland named the Smith Island Layer Cake its state dessert.  The cake sounded decadent and delicious. Perhaps the next time we come to visit.

 

We started the journey back to the house. But first, Peggy wanted to make a stop before leaving the Crisfield area  to pick up 3 dozen Maryland hard shelled crabs with Chesapeake Bay Seasoning at Linton’s Seafood.

 

 

Well, we were not done yet.  Jim and Peggy asked us if we liked ice cream.  “Absolutely,” we both answered.  So, off we went to an ice cream parlor called Island Creamery.  .  Peggy told us that the ice cream is made daily at the parlor and was delicious.  According to Creamery’s website, “We use an all-natural premium butterfat mix from Lancaster County cows ensuring a rich, creamy ice cream. Inspiration for flavors come from the local fruit available to us or from tasty inclusions made in our kitchen”.  I was way to busy enjoying my sweet treat that I forgot to take pictures.

I loved the ice cream parlor even before we went inside.  The outside porch was filled with picnic tables with colorful chairs and umbrellas.  The colors of the umbrellas reminded me of the colorful candy sprinkles so many cover their ice cream with.  We all stood over the ice cream dipping cabinets trying to make a choice.  It was not easy as they all looked absolutely scrumptious.   I finally chose the Java chip chocolate and loved every spoonful.

We finally pointed the car in the direction of home and retired for an evening of fun conversations and reminiscing. Sometime around the dinner hour Peggy spread butcher paper on the dining room table and she and Randy and went to work eating the crabs.   Jim was taking a nap and I was just too full to eat another bite and just watched.  From their pleased expressions I knew they were enjoying themselves very much.

It had been a very nice day and it was finally time to retire.  We needed to get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow would be a long day on the road.

I closed my eyes and imagined a sky filled with sunlight and see what Peggy see when she sits on her back porch. Lovely!

We woke up to a better day.  The skies were still overcast but looked a great deal better than the past week.  This morning as I stood on the porch with Peggy, I could understand why she said that she could just pour herself a cup of coffee and sit on the porch all day just enjoying the view.

We said our goodbyes and started the next leg of our road trip.  This leg of the trip would take us 1 ½ days.  We drove until Randy got tired and stopped at a Travel Lodge in Wytheville, Virginia for the night.

Fortunately, there was a restaurant  just down the hill from the motel.  I love Mexican food and was very happy there was a Mexican restaurant close by but I must say El Puerto was disappointing.  The restaurant was cold, the food was cold and I felt the service was wanting.  I asked Randy after we returned to our room what he thought.  He thought for a moment and said, “The food was very bland, the beans watery and the salsa and Guacamole was loaded with onions.  I would probably pass by this restaurant if I am ever this way again”.

The next morning we ate a light breakfast at the motel and started out early to finish our drive to Huntsville.  We were both very excited about attending our granddaughter’s graduation.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Road trip – Family, friends and celebrations IV

Rolling surf at Rehoboth Beach on an overcast morning.

We woke up to yet another damp and drizzly day.  After a light breakfast, hugs and kisses all around with Bill and Jane we hit the road again and headed in the direction of the Eastern Shore.

Despite the fact that it was a Sunday morning and the weather was a little challenging the drive over to the shore was quite nice.  Our first stop would be in Lewes, Delaware to see our friend Len.  We learned a while ago that he had moved from his home in North Carolina to Lewes, Delaware to be closer to his brother.

I have been friends with Len for almost 25 years.  We met at a time that was difficult for both of us in a support group called Parents without Partners.  I eventually moved over to a support group called New Beginnings, however, Len and I maintained our friendship.

When it came time for Randy and me to say our wedding vows I asked Len, who I thought of as a older big brother, if he would walk me down the aisle; and he said,”Yes”. Len even helped us move from the Northern Virginia to our new home in Florida after Randy and I retired.

Len looked great!  We spent a couple of hours talking about his move, his new lady love, bridge tournaments he participates in and his future plans.

It always amazes me that you can go long periods of time not seeing or talking to someone and yet when you meet again it was as though you had only been apart a blink of the eye.  No awkwardness, no hesitations just pick up where you left off and keep going.  I love it!

We said our goodbyes and promised to come back again. Back in the car again we drove the short distance to Rehoboth Beach to see our friends Steve and Debby.

What a wonderful visit!  Our first day with Steve and Debby was marked by a delightful evening of conversation and enjoying a delicious home cooked of steak, baked potato, salad and strawberry short cake dinner.

After a very restful night, we drove over to a restaurant named Goolee’s Grille for a wonderful, wonderful breakfast.  Goolee’s Grille is a small breakfast-lunch restaurant that, according to Steve and Debby, is the best for a great breakfast.

Now, I am very particular about my eggs and bacon.  One egg over medium and please be sure the white is cooked (I do not like runny whites – and not all restaurants will cook one egg) and very crisp bacon, (I cannot eat slightly cooked bacon).  I also ordered the breakfast potatoes and rye toast.  I loved that they had rye bread as one of the options, not all restaurants do.  My entire breakfast was cooked to perfection!

From Goolee’s we took a ride over to the beach.  I had never been to Rehoboth and liked very much the small main street with the large gazebo in the center.  Debby said that periodically there are concerts there.  “How nice,” I thought.  We Walked down the boardwalk enjoying being outside.  It was damp, a little chilly and once in a while we would feel a few sprinkles of rain but I was happy to be at the beach.

I mentioned to Debby that I would like to stop somewhere along the boardwalk to get some salt water taffy (One of my very favorite candies at the beach).  We stopped at Dolle’s and I went inside to make those very important decisions about what flavor salt water taffy would I choose.  I was in heaven.

Steve and Debby wanted to take us on a drive of the historical area of Lewes and then over to Henlopen State Park.  While driving through the historical area we drove by a home called the “Cannonball House”.  Evidently, this is the last remaining Lewes house bearing the ‘scar of the War of 1812’.  The patch on the foundation shows where the cannonball struck the house on April 6th or 7th, 1813.

We continued our morning drive and went to Henlopen State Park to take a walk around the historical area of Fort Miles.  According to the signage around the area, Fort Miles was built to,  “Stem the tide of war against German invasions along the Atlantic Seaboard that, at the onset of World War II, appeared unstoppable”.

 

The area includes Battery 519, six barracks buildings, a fire control tower, an orientation building, and the Fort Miles Artillery Park.  We decided to walk around the area stepping into one of the barracks, looking over the administration building and looking out over the waterway they were protecting.  I was taken aback at how austere the barracks building looked.  We also stopped and examined several of the guns that were used to defend the shore.

The grounds are open daily for visitors but the museum is only open for guided tours.  Randy and I both decided that the next time we come up we will make arrangements for a guided tour.Before leaving to head off to our next stop on our road trip, Steve and Debby took us to Mr. P’s for a delicious lunch.  We ordered a pizza and it was delicious.  We returned to the house to pack the car, set the GPS for our next stop and said our goodbyes.

Our next destination was Atlantic, Virginia to visit Jim and Peggy.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Road Trip – Family, friends and celebrations Part III

It has been either overcast, drizzling or raining since we left home nine days ago and I am starting to feel water logged.  That aside, we are looking forward to our next stop in Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania and spending a couple of days with our friends Bill and Jane.

We arrived at their lovely home and spent a little time getting acquainted with their home finally settling in the Florida room to share our experiences since we started our road trip. Bill and Jane mentioned that they wanted to take us to two places that they love and wanted to share.

The first was Booths Corner,a local farmers market, and the second was Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  We love our friends, farmers markets and gardens so we were very excited about the next two days.

The look of Booths Corner from the parking lot is very deceptive.  Inside it was covers a large expanse of land with three levels and over 100 merchants.  There are booths that carry fresh vegetables and fruits, meats, jewelry, gifts, furniture, pet supplies, toys, games, beauty products and so much more.  While the men loved walking and stopping by the baked goods booths, I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful meats on display around the market.  I thought to myself, “If only the meat we buy back home looked so fresh”. I have to tell you that walking through the market was a test of our ability to look and not buy.  It was not easy!We stopped at a small Amish restaurant and enjoyed delicious deli-style sandwiches, chips and drinks.  After lunch we continued our walk oohing and ahhing at all the wonderful things on display and then leaving with empty hands.

After the large meals we enjoyed over the last few days and eating lunch after two o’clock in the afternoon, we begged off a large dinner.  Instead we feasted on cheese, crackers, shrimp, nuts and pigs in a blanket.  A dinner fit for kings and queens!!!

The weather the next morning was grey and gloomy with periodic drizzle dropping from the heavens.  But that did not deter us from going to Longwood Gardens.  On our way we drove through one of my favorite structures, a covered bridge.  Years ago when Randy and I were courting we had occasions to visit Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Whenever we would come to a covered bridge he would stop in the middle, lean over and give me a kiss.  My heart is filled with many of these sweet memories.

Just some of the beautiful blooms we passed as we walked through the gardens.

The gardens were alive with many, many visitors of all ages.  We started by strolling around the gardens and were awed by the beauty that was all around us.  According to history, “The native Lenni Lenape tribe fished the streams, hunted its forests, and planted its fields.  In 1700 a Quaker farmer purchased 402 acres of this English-claimed land from William Penn’s commissioners”.  Since then many generations purchased, built on and cultivated the land so that by the l930’s Longwood had grown to 926 acres.

Jane standing inside the Weeping White Birch

Cow lot

At one point Bill needed to return to the visitor’s center so we walked back in that direction.  While the men went inside Jane and I took in the view of the cow lot.  This is a patch of land that was a pasture at one time in history.  It has  remained open and is edged by a variety of trees.

Jane pointed to a tree to our left and suggested that we take a closer look.  It was a weeping birch tree.  I was very excited because I love birch trees but never knew there was a weeping birch tree.  It was so very large and wide.  There was a small opening between the branches and we walked in.  “How beautiful”, I thought as I looked up and could see the sky peeping through the branches.

 

 

We returned to our walk and passed by many beautiful gardens and fountains.

Canopy Cathedral Treehouse

 

We continued our walk and came across a beautiful large lake.  We walked around and came across a large clearing and a beautiful wooden treehouse.  I love it.  We walked inside and stood on the balcony and had a wonderful view of the Large Lake.

Italian Water Garden

Waterfall to the left of the garden.

We continued our stroll and crossed a bridge with a beautiful view of the Italian Water Garden.  Each time we stopped I wished the sun would break through the dark grey clouds and shine down on these beautiful gardens.  But cloudy sky or sunny sky the beauty shone through.   We eventually decided to stop for a bite of lunch before continuing on to the Conservatory.

The Conservatory

The Conservatory covers 195,668 square feet and every foot is covered in beautiful flowers, bushes, trees, fountains, waterfalls, statuary and a beautiful children’s garden.

 

 

 

 

Loose-flower Hornbeam – Japan & Korea – Birch family – training started in 1991.

 

One of my favorite exhibits was the Bonsai trees. The accompanying  sign read: “Bonsai is an ancient art of growing plants in containers to represent mature plants found in nature…The bonsai display at Longwood was started in 1959 with the purchase of 13 speciments.  Longwood now has over 40 deciduous and evergreen plants”.

After walking through the entire Conservatory we made our way back outside.  Several gardens on the grounds were under renovation including the Main Fountain Garden.  However, when we exited the Conservatory we noticed a number of people lining the fence so we walked over.  To our delight the fountains were working.   We stood for a while and then decided it was time to leave and started to make our way to the visitors center.  On the way we passed the Topiary Garden.

I have tried to share but a portion of the beautiful things we saw at Longwood Gardens.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to Longwood Gardens you will be rewarded with such beautiful memories.

Once back home, Bill and Jane prepared a great dinner and we spent the rest of the evening talking about our day and our next destination.

We had a wonderful time with Bill and Jane. After enjoying a light breakfast we packed the car once again and headed in the direction of the eastern shore to visit with our friends Len, Steve and Debby.

Big leaf hydrangea “Tokyo Delight”

Enjoy,

Mary

 

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Road trip – Family, friends and celebrations Part II

Koi and lily pond outside Clyde’s Bethesda

After saying our goodbyes to Jennifer and Maddy at the restaurant we were back in the car and on the road again.  I was dreading our drive to Alexandria.  Over the years the traffic in the Northern Virginia area had become a nightmare for me.

Well, the gods were smiling down on us today as made our way from I66 to I495 then on to I395 to Alexandria.  Traffic was constant but not heavy and never came to a standstill making our drive actually somewhat pleasant.

Randy and I were looking forward to spending a couple of days with Kristine.  After the weekend we all had at the graduation and the last few days we were looking forward to just kicking back and relaxing.

Miss Paige during my March visit to Kristine’s

I was anxious for Randy to see Kristine and Brian’s dog, Miss Paige defending the house when we arrived.  I opened the door slowly and there was Miss Paige at the top of the stairs with her favorite toy in her mouth with a slow growl emanating from deep within her throat.  She had struck this pose when I visited Kristine’s home in March and I thought she was so cute!  Seeing Miss Maige made Randy smile.

Randy and Miss Paige

We made ourselves at home until Kristine returned home from work and set about making a decision about dinner.  After a little discussion we all came to the same conclusion; stay home and prowl through the refrigerator and cabinets and see what we could find.  We put together a hodgepodge of foods and made ourselves comfortable reminiscing about the graduation, Brian waiting to hear if he would be chosen for officer’s candidate school, and our plans for our shopping trip to the Pentagon City Mall the next day.

Randy and Elle (Miss Kitty)

Beautiful Miss Kitty (Elle)

After a very good night’s sleep we were up early, enjoying hot cups of coffee, eating a light breakfast and watching the morning news, Kristine and I were off for a morning of shopping.  Randy was very happy to be left behind to catch up on his email and play with Miss Paige and Miss Kitty (Elle).

I was so excited to be in ‘real’ mall.  There are so many things I miss about living in the Northern Virginia-Washington DC area.  I miss the malls, the museums, the theaters, the restaurants and on and on.  So, each year when I come up to visit Kristine during March Madness weekend we go shopping at the mall.

It was a Wednesday morning and still the mall was filled to capacity with shoppers of all ages.  We even saw a couple of school groups there.  We leisurely walked around stopping at White House Black Market, Sephora, Lord and Taylor and finally at Starbucks for a chai.

Feeling very satisfied with our endeavors we stopped at one last store.  It is a tradition in our family after a busy day of shopping to stop at the Godiva store to indulge ourselves with one chocolate truffle to eat on our way home.  My very favorite is the raspberry chocolate truffle.  YUM!

Panang Perfect – Savory shicken in curried peanut sauce with coconut milk, mixed vegetables, basil and Kaffir lime leaves.

We returned home to drop off our packages and pick up Randy.  We drove over to the Village at Shirlington and our favorite Thai restaurant.  T.H.A.I. Shirlington is a restaurant that is always on my list when I return to the area.  The food is delicious, the atmosphere is very nice and the service is great.  And yes, I have a favorite dish; Panang Perfect. The chicken is always tender, the sauce creamy and the rice perfect.  I have also taken a liking to Thai iced tea.

We returned to the house and settled in for a quiet evening.  Tomorrow we leave to head over to Bethesda, Maryland to spend an evening with our friends Barry and Lana.

Clyde’s

We arrived mid-morning and spent a bit of time catching up with all the news about our respective families and mutual friends around the area.  Before we knew it, it was time to leave for lunch.  Barry and Lana chose Clyde’s in Bethesda as our lunch destination.  I had eaten at the Clyde’s in Reston, Virginia several times and always enjoyed the food and surroundings.

When we arrived I realized just how different the two restaurants were.  The Reston location is more like a modern bar-restaurant while this Clyde’s reminded me of a lodge you would find out in the west i.e., Yellowstone National Park.  The outside was lovely but the inside was beautiful.  Beautiful polished wood, fireplaces, several bars, all manner of animal statuary, canoes, paddles, small boats hanging from the ceiling and on the walls, etc.  While we waited for our meal we took a walk around the entire restaurant enjoying each room.  Lovely!

I love a variety of cuisines but I have to say that I just love hamburgers.  I ordered the 6 ¾ ounce freshly ground, locally raised grass-fed beef bacon cheeseburger with fries and was not disappointed.  The burger was juicy and cooked perfectly.  It was very tasty.

We returned to the house and spent the rest of the afternoon reclining in comfortable chairs and sofas with our feet up and light blankets over our legs and whiled away the hours talking, reminiscing and laughing.

Barry and Lana

Barry and Lana off the ferry and ready to ride.

 

A great deal of our reminiscing covered our years motorcycling together to the Americade and Honda Hoot motorcycle rallies, several motorcycle trips to Canada and the Canadian Provinces.  Our time on the road was a wonderful bonding experience.

Randy and Mary

Americade- June 2007

 

 

We continued our conversations over a wonderful homemade lasagna dinner.

Randy and Barry looking over a 1966 Mustang GT on display in the parking lot, front to Founding Farmers restaurant, interior of restaurant. Hanging from the ceiling a piece of artwork entitled, “Birds flyin’ high, you know how I feel”.

The next day Barry and Lana took us to a wonderful restaurant for breakfast.  The Founding Farmers  restaurant was a great experience.  I was intrigued by the name of the restaurant so went out to their website.  The explanation read, “Our name “Founding Farmers” is a nod to our Founding Fathers, many of whom were devoted farmers long before they became trailblazers for our country. While those leaders built and contributed to the American agricultural tradition, we recognize that our mission is also about growing a new venture with farmers at the root: one that strengthens their livelihood, gives back to the community, and makes quality food accessible to all”.  “Very cool”, I thought.

I loved the fact that there were so many booths available as well as seating around the u-shaped bar.  We were seated at a corner booth near a window.  We started our very large breakfast with steaming hot cups of coffee and Uncle Buck’s Beignets.  The beignets came with raspberry, chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.  They were a little crisper than I am used to but delicious.

The menu was very interesting.  Aside from the usual offerings like eggs, bacon, pancakes and such there were breakfast cocktails, specialty coffee and teas and, one of my favorites from my childhood in New York, New York Egg Cream.  I ordered the Founding Farmers breakfast of two eggs over medium, very crisp bacon, sliced tomatoes and buttermilk biscuits.  Everything was cooked perfectly.  But, oh my, I was so full!

We returned to Barry and Lana’s house, packed the car and pointed the car in the direction of Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania where we would be spending a couple of days with our friends Bill and Jane.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Road trip: Family, friends and celebrations

Traveling through Virginia

I was so excited when the month of May finally arrived this year.  Two of my very favorite people would be graduating and, of course, we wanted to be there to help them celebrate.  But these two happy events also created a dilemma.

Kristine’s boyfriend, Brian would be graduating from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia at the beginning of the month and our granddaughter Fiona would be graduating from Randolph School in Huntsville, Alabama at the end of May.  Therein was our dilemma.

Now, we could just drive up to Virginia then return home and then two weeks later drive up to Alabama and return home. After some conversation we decided to spend those two weeks taking a road trip to visit family and friends up north before looping back and heading to Alabama; dilemma solved.

In the end this decision would put us on a road trip that found us visiting family and friends in six states and covering 2,828 miles.  What a great trip!

Geri and Randy collaborated on preparing dinner.

Newspaper stopped and car packed we pointed our car in the direction of I95 and headed for our first stop on this fun trip.  We drove to Hilton Head, South Carolina where we would spend the night at the home of our long-time friend Geri.  Once we were settled, Geri offered to take us around the area but we just wanted to relax and catch up.  I love talking with Geri, she has a wonderful sense of humor and keeps me laughing.  We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon and evening of lively conversation and a home-cooked meal of barbecue steaks, grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes and Geri’s famous rum cake.  As we prepared to leave the next morning, Geri presented us with the rest of the rum cake and another to take along.  How wonderful!!!! We shared the cakes with our family in Virginia.

Our next stop was the first of our family celebrations.  We met Kristine and Brian at the hotel in Danville, Virginia and once we were settled prepared to make the hour and a half ride to the university.  We drove in a driving rain and ran into a great deal of traffice once at the university.   We knew we would have to park a distance from the Vines Center so Brian stopped at the bookstore and bought umbrellas for the four of us.  We attended the Baccalaureate Service and the Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony both of which were very inspirational.

Kristine, Randy, Brian’s mom Wanda, stepfather Skip  and sons Zack and Jacob waiting to be searched and wanded by security before entering the stadium.

Saturday morning we were up at 4:00 am to make the hour-long trip back to Lynchburg and the university.  We met Brian’s family in the lobby at 5:15 am before we set off.  We left early because, aside from the hour-long drive to the university, there would be heavy security because President Trump was the commencement speaker.  There was a concern that it would be another rainy day and we would be in the stadium and because of the president’s visit there would no umbrellas allowed.

Kristine & Brian

As it turned out the rain stopped and the security check went quickly and smoothly.  We were able to find seating in the section that gave us a great view of the speaker’s tent.  The view of the stadium floor was amazing after 18,000 graduates and faculty had taken their seats.  The sky was cloudy and every so often early on there were a few drips of rain but eventually the sky cleared and once in a while the sun would peek through. Randy and I both thought President Trump’s speech hit the right note for a commencement. After the commencement ceremony the graduates were broken into their individual schools to receive their  degrees.  Brian graduated cum laude with a degree of Bachelor of Science –  Business Management Information Systems: Information Assurance.  We were all very proud of Brian’s accomplishment.

From left: Jennifer, Mary, Maddy, Kevin, Derek, Randy

Sunday morning, after having a lovely breakfast at a local restaurant with everyone, we left to make the trip to Fairfax, Virginia to visit with our daughter Jennifer and her family.  As soon as we got settled in our hotel room we made arrangements to meet them at the Kona Grill at Fair Oaks Mall for dinner.  Jennifer told us that the food there was very good and that they had a very wide variety of choices on their menu.

Chicken Satay with sweet hoisin and Thai peanut sauces

We arrived at the restaurant early and were pleasantly surprised as I was presented with a lovely rose and a glass of champagne.  It was Mother’s Day and so the restaurant presented all the moms and grandmothers with this lovely surprise as they were seated.  “What a nice touch”, I thought.

Kona chopped-macadamia nut chicken, eggs, applewood bacon, avocado, white cheddar, tomatoes with honey dijon dressing. YUM!!

Butter cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla bean ice cream and , of course, multiple forks. YUM!!

Jennifer was right; the menu was indeed varied making it a little hard to make a choice.  Of course, we had to try a number of foods.  So, we chose several appetizers, main dishes and a yummy dessert that we shared.  We spent our time catching up with everyone’s comings and goings, sharing our experiences at Brian’s graduation and learning all about Maddy’s new job at a restaurant called Mission BBQ and Derek’s anticipation at starting high school in the fall.

Before we knew it, it was time to part but not until we made arrangements to meet Jennifer Tuesday for lunch at Mission BBQ restaurant. Randy and I were anxious to see what Maddy was so excited about.

On Monday we made our way over to Springfield, Virginia to visit Randy’s long-time next door neighbor and friend Joe. Whenever we come this way we always stop by and take Joe out for lunch.  Joe is amazing.  Joe, who is a spry 97 years young, still lives alone, continues to be a dapper dresser and is as sharp as a tack.

As we walked up to Joe’s house, Randy looked over at the home he lived in for over 30 years and smiled with approval.  The young man he sold the house to was taking very good care of the house and grounds.  And, what is amazing is that he takes care of Joe’s yard too.

This year Joe decided he wanted to have lunch at Mike’s American Grill just a short drive from Joe’s home.  We spent hours talking and laughing while enjoying our lunch.  It was wonderful to hear that Joe’s three sons each play a role in making it possible for Joe to remain in his family home.

Granddaughter Maddy – Proud cashier at Mission BBQ working her way through college.

Promptly at noon everything comes to halt at Mission BBQ to salute our flag and country!

Tuesday we were off to meet Jennifer for lunch.  Mission BBQ is a small restaurant at the Greenbriar Shopping Center with inside and outside seating.  The restaurant specializes in barbecue meats, a variety of sauces, and typical sides like mac and cheese, fries, baked beans, cold slaw, green beans and bacon and salad.  Maddy told us to come at noon and watch as the whole restaurant stops, including employees, and everyone sings the national anthem. Promptly at noon I went inside to watch and, “What a sight!!!!!” I loved it! I found this display to be very heartwarming.

Jennifer and mom!

When I returned to the picnic table outside, Randy said that he watched as people in the parking lot also stopped and honored the moment. We had a wonderful visit with Jennifer while we enjoyed our lunch.  I had the pulled chicken and it was so tender.  The mac and cheese was beyond yummy!  Once Jennifer left to return to work, we went inside and asked one of Maddy’s co-workers to take a picture of us with our beautiful Maddy.

Next stop on our road trip, our daughter Kristine’s in Alexandria, Virginia.

Beautiful sunset!

Enjoy,

Mary

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