What Holladay House and The Ritz Have In Common…….

The Holladay House parlor fireplace is a little bit of a celebrity around here. During its long life, it’s witnessed a lot a history–and created a little of its own. Like making the cut as one of USA TODAY’s Top 40 Hotel Fireplaces in the US. Or providing an elegant backdrop to the beginning of many long, happy marriages. Or even participating in a tragic scene in which one Shadow Elswick, aged about three years, caught her whiskers on fire in a moment of cat foolhardery. ………OK, so Shadow hasn’t actually caught her whiskers on fire (yet). Still, if she keeps poking her face into the fireplace when the flames are doing their thing, the kitty who greets you at the inn could be a sadder, wiser, and less bewhiskered girl than she is today. That being said, the bit about the USA Today is true, which means that the Holladay House fireplace falls in with fireplaces found at places like, ahem, The Ritz-Carlton. In the world of pyromania, I think that makes us part of the cool crowd (or, you know, since it’s a fireplace, the “not-cool” crowd. But whatever.) The part about the weddings is true as well. Over a hundred couples have said their vows in front of the parlor fireplace over the years, exchanging their rings in the glow of the candlelit mantle. Still others have curled up on the parlor sofas nearby, drinking locally brewed coffee and fine wines, playing board games, and catching up with old friends in the warm comfort of home-away-from-home. So, let’s talk about the fireplace. What makes it special-er...

……And More From Shadow Elswick

Following Shadow Elswick’s internet debut (where we got a glimpse into some of Shadow’s daily exploits) her fan base has been clamoring for more interaction with her whiskered mug. I caught up with her again recently to get a better perspective on this sly cat—what she’s thinking and feeling, what she wants out of life, and all the fascinating (and unexpected!) things that make her tick. She spoke candidly with me via “kennel-phone” (that’s cat-speak for “cell”) a few weeks ago, demonstrating that there’s more to this little cat than mere kibble and claws. Me: What was the last book you read? Shadow: I’m fascinated by cookbooks right now—I just finished Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Wow, it’s amazing all the different ways you can prepare squirrel—baked, roasted, fried. I’m just blown away. There’s a Creme Bavaroise recipe I cannot wait to try. I’m trying to convince Mom to let me try out my paw on some breakfast dishes for the guests, but she says it’s unsanitary and also that I’m not strong enough to lift a cast-iron skillet (or tall enough to reach the stove). So far I haven’t been able to find any cat-sized sterile gloves, so we’ve moved that discussion to the back burner, you might say. Me: If you could have a sit-down discussion with one person from the past, who would it be? Shadow: Oh, Katherine Hepburn. For one thing, I feel like I’m her living feline embodiment—all that graceful athleticism and sparkling wit in one lithe package. It’s hard work being this charismatic all the time, so I’d like to...

Antiques to Junktiques

My mom is the queen (or at least reigning princess) of junk-shopping, and goes to thrift stores the way most people pop into the grocery store: weekly making her rounds to check on new arrivals. One of my earliest memories involves trotting along behind her as she assembled my entire wardrobe with yard-sale purchases (I vividly remember neon-colored, lightning-patterned shorts–but then, it was the 90’s, and I was still young enough to feel pretty cool about it.) As I grew older, she taught me that junk-store shoppers need not feel burdened to keep the same furniture forever, and it became a running joke–“always check for a chair before you sit!” as my mom cruised through a never-ending cycle of refinished kitchen tables/dressers/couches/bedframes/anything not nailed down. Consequently, when it came time to write about a junk-shop & antiquing trip around Orange, I knew who my Go-To Chick would be.          Gypsy Willow http://www.visitorangevirginia.com/index.php/home/listing/gypsy_willow The little-bit-of-everything shop! Just when you think you’ve reached the end, you find another cubby to explore. Quaint ceramics, eclectic framed art, clothing (some vintage), clocks, saddles—you don’t know what you’ll find in this “previously enjoyed” gift shop. A fun shop to explore, located at 212 Byrd Street. The Painted Lady Hand-painted furniture, knickknacks, and art—this store feels a bit like an antique store, but with a twist. All painting is done by the owner, who updates classic furniture into unique and personal works of art. Located on East Main Street.   Melrose Antiques http://www.melrosefineantiques.com Huge gallery-style antique store, filled to the brim with quality 18th & 19th century furniture (much of it imported from England), statues, and upscale...

Holladay House Celebrates 25 Years

To a house that’s been around almost 200 years (witnessing, in the course of its long life, Civil War battles, weddings, and generations of residents) its latest gig as a bed & breakfast is practically still in its infancy. Still, time passes quickly, and, this year, the Holladay House will celebrate 25 years of running with the “inn-crowd”. Two and a half decades ago, Pete Holladay decided to re-purpose the old Federalist-style family home/doctor’s office into a bed & breakfast. Flash forward through a few years, a few owners, and a few renovations, and you’ll find the inn still operating, stronger than ever, under the care of owners and innkeepers Sharon & Sam (and Shadow, a crack security team of one). This year, it looks forward to hosting a steady stream of old friends and newcomers as it hits the 25th anniversary of its latest “inn-deavor.” In celebration, the innkeepers have put together a year-long “thank you” to the guests who have made it possible. On the 25th of each month, visitors staying at the Holladay House will receive (or be invited to participate in) the following activities. Sunday, January 25, 2015: Rename the Garden Room contest Wednesday, February, 25, 2015: Craft VA beer and cheese reception for guests at the inn. March 2015: Celebrating your own anniversary? Take 25% off your second night stay. Saturday, April 25, 2015: ½ price appetizers at Elmwood at Sparks Monday, May 25, 2015: Free kayaking ride with Rapidan River Kayaking Company. Thursday, June 25, 2105: A gift basket filled with local treats. Saturday, July 25, 2015: Free 2-hour Montpelier tour. Tuesday, August...

New Year’s Resolutions….

I think it goes without saying what New Year’s Resolution #1 was this year (as usual). If you need a hint, linger in the checkout line of your local grocery store for about five or six seconds. The magazine racks and book displays have rectified their philandering ways from over the holidays (evidenced by cutesy cookies sprinkled with colored sugar, six-layer coconut cakes, and beautifully decadent chocolate cream pies.) Now reformed and back on moral high ground, these same magazines are now promoting (with grins bent into grim, determined cheerfulness) how to make all the joyous calories you inhaled over the past month “just go away”. OK. So, like the rest of us, you’ve avowed to lose weight/get in shape. In which case, you need to make it interesting–make it count for something more worthwhile and life-affirming than merely how bikini-ready your buns are by Beach Week. When you’re ninety, looking back at your life from a creaky pinnacle that stretches for miles in hindsight, you’ll realize there are better memories to be made than huffing and puffing along with a workout video. Here are a few ideas, all located an easy drive from the Holladay House. #1: Hike Old Rag This is a multi-terrain trail that will challenge your stamina, your mountain-goat moves, and your view of the world at once. Not for novices nor for the faint of heart (as the saying goes) though I once hiked it while possessed of both unfortunate accoutrements. Prep your hike with tips and helpful info here. #2: Play Paintball I think anyone who’s ever watched a war movie (or the...

I’m Dreaming Of An Orange Christmas…

Some of us will be shopping (and wrapping, and cleaning the house) until the wee hours of Christmas morning–which, if you have the constitution for it, is as chaotically fun as it is stressful. For the rest (those whose stockings are already hung by the fire with care) this weekend is the perfect chance to take a breather, enjoy some holiday music and lights, and let the folks at Holladay House worry about what’s being served at the breakfast table. Below are two cool events happening this Saturday & Sunday, as well as a collection of seasonal decorations from around Orange (all located within walking distance of Holladay House.) A Blue & Gray Christmas Come meet a Civil War-era Santa Claus, attend a 1860’s church service, take a historical walking tour of downtown Gordonsville, and experience living history displays and ghost stories. Cap it all off by attending the Gordonsville Holiday Ball, where you’ll have the opportunity to join the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Era Dancers in partying like it’s 1863. Find out more here. A Musical Winter Wonderland The elusive (but talented) Orange Community Band & Chorus has finally released the dates for their holiday concert schedule. The choral performance will be December 20th at 4:30 PM, at the Orange Presbyterian Church. (There are a lot of historic churches within walking distance of the inn; Sharon will point you towards the right one!) Meanwhile, the band concert will be held December 21st at 7:30 PM at Orange County High School. Check it out here. And now, a few photos from around Orange…..              ...

The Jackpot Question (in advance)

There’s a song that surfaces on the airwaves about this time of year–you’ve probably heard it. One of many crooners is revealing his date-desperation by asking (repeatedly, and, as he freely admits, “much too early in the game”) if his crush will welcome next year with him. In the words of songwriter Frank Loesser, the “jackpot question (in advance)” remains–“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” My answer, personally, would have to be: nothing at all. When it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve I’m arguably one of the world’s biggest party-poopers. I find that watching the countdown on TV is tedious, staying up late makes me grouchy, getting confetti in my hair (and clothes and food) makes me grouchier, and I don’t drink enough to blur all those details into cheerful forgetfulness. In my little world, no “Auld Lang Syne” will be sung, no obnoxious noisemakers will be tooted, and I won’t be watching to see what spherical thing will be descending in Times Square. Fortunately for the rest of the world, most people in the area (including Sharon, Sam, Shadow, and the rest of the gang at the Holladay House) are preparing to have a wonderful time, and, fortunately, there are better ways around the area to toast 2015 into existence than merely turning on the television. In fact (all my personal misgivings about New Years aside) my research into “local going-ons” has turned up several events that tempt me to reconsider my stance on the celebration and venture out. For a dressed-up, high-heel-friendly New Year’s Eve, add the New Year’s Eve Package to your stay when you...

“Holladay” Shopping

As of now, there are 18 shopping days ’til Christmas–providing, of course, you’re not the type of Champion Procrastinator who will be resting up for the next few weeks in order to make a mighty Shop Til You Drop effort on Christmas Eve. (You know who you are, and I salute you.) If that sounds like your modus operandi, this list probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re staying at Holladay House this holiday season and looking for some leisurely shopping–no crowds, no lines, and truly unique finds–all within walking distance of the inn, read on. My mom and I spent a few afternoons browsing Orange’s collection of gift shops, and the stores listed below made our Top 5. However, the list is by no means all-inclusive, and you’ll discover that if you bundle up and take a brisk stroll along Orange’s decorated streets to a few of these highlights, you’ll find other treasure troves along the way. Briarwood Florist http://shopbriarwood.net/collections/gifts Don’t be fooled–the unassuming exterior is no indication of what’s inside this aesthetically spot-on shop! Carrying everything from “tea purses” and fancy chocolates to stuffed animals and baby clothes, sparkling ornaments and sweet soaps to garden gnomes and vintage-look umbrellas, this beautifully arranged store has something for everyone– whether you’re buying for your stylin’ little newborn nephew, or your great-aunt who has “everything” already. Located at 307 B Madison Road. Daisy Chain Gifts http://www.daisychaingifts.com Charming little gift store! Most stocking-stuffers for sale are handmade by the owners, with a few imports from the UK. Handmade soaps, paper chains and greeting cards, scarves and baby blankets, and much more—at...

A Day With Shadow Elswick

If you’ve stayed at the inn recently you’ve probably felt eyes staring you down, or developed a sneaking suspicion you were being followed. Your instinct was not unfounded. Shadow has long been a visitor at the Elswick household, stopping by on her daily rounds of the neighborhood, but a few months ago she came to stay. These days, she enjoys sleeping in the cushioned wicker chairs on the side-porch, peering at guests through the dining room window, and doing meet-and-greets with her new friends as they come and go. I caught up with Shadow and got her to take a break in her busy schedule to discuss her new lifestyle with me. 5:00 AM Time to rise, shine, and alert my humans to what a big, bright, beautiful day it is! Sam mutters unflattering things about my sleep habits as he grumblingly lets me out, but I can tell he loves me. After all, if he didn’t love me, why would he tolerate the way I walked across his face in the wee hours?….hmm. 6:00 AM Spending this time doing top-secret cat things, like sniffing stuff and stalking the tree squirrels. This is my “me” time, my time to recharge before I have to head inside, turn on the charm, and share with the two-leggers my insight about inner peace and contentment. And stuff. 8:45 AM My Biggest Fans (which is how I like to refer to Sharon and Sam, the servants I have brought into submission beneath my mighty paw) are serving breakfast in the dining room. I think I’ll hop up on the AC unit outside and stare...

Shop Local This Holiday Season

My husband and I spent last Saturday exploring downtown Culpeper (one of my favorite small-town Main Street areas). Along the way we found some pretty great stuff, both for sale and on display—the dapper camel in the top-hat was my favorite! We picked some of the top shops to make the cut as “Best Places to Buy Gifts”, and they’re listed below. My Secret Stash http://shopmysecretstash.com Looks (and smells) like an old-fashioned candy store, complete with candies of every description in glass jars lining the counters. Gourmet chocolates, peppermint bark, and some rare finds, like licorice Scottie dogs and green Army-men gummies. The grapefruit gummies are a favorite with the Elswicks (all except for Shadow, who’s a bit dubious.) Culpeper Cheese Company http://www.culpepercheese.com Lots of cheese (including my local favorite, Everona Dairy’s “Stony Man”), meats (my husband is mildly obsessed with the black-pepper-coated Italian salami), and a vast variety of craft beers and fine wines. The Cameleer http://www.thecameleer.com/ A store stocking merchandise from over 80 countries—and the only place I know where you can buy “merino & possum-down” socks. Hand puppets, leather hats suitable for wear in ‘the Outback’, beautiful knit clothing, carvings and sculptures, linens, soaps & salts, and lots more. The Frenchman’s Corner http://frenchmancorner.com If you can think of something you want dipped in chocolate, they probably have it, in a long glass display case running the length of the counter. According to their website, they’re the #1 independent authorized Neuhaus chocolate dealer in the US. Additionally, they have a number of European items you don’t normally see on this side of the pond, such as French...