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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 book your room here at Holladay House. Pick your favorite of four acclaimed restaurants in the area (each serving 4-5 course, gourmet dinners complete with wine and champagne pairings from local wineries) and Sharon will take care of all the reservation details for you. All the eateries are nearby (the closest, Elmwood at Sparks, is only a block away) so if being out late on New Year’s is a concern for you, drive-time is reduced or even eliminated altogether. Complete details (including restaurants and pricing) available here.

After an evening out on the town, feel free to come back to the inn for a casual New Year’s countdown with the innkeepers. Sharon and Sam will be serving VA-produced bubbly, wines, and beer, and visiting with guests in a relaxed (pajamas and black-tie attire both welcome!) environment. Breakfast will be served late the next morning, and include a special treat to get 2015 off on the right foot.

For a celebration filled with music and entertainment, consider First Night Virginia, which is located just a little over a half hour away. Festivities start at 3 PM and continue into the evening, featuring everything from improv groups, acrobats, bagpipe bands, spirit walks, comedy skits, and ongoing music by local musicians throughout the evening. The Main Event performers include a former Cirque du Soleil juggler, and comedian Brett Leake (not, however, appearing at the same time!) There’s always something going on (often several things at once) so plan your night using the event calender here. Over 25 area restaurants will be open throughout the event—so plan your appetite accordingly. You’ll want to be finished dinner and have your spot selected in time for the official countdown, beginning at 11:15 at five different venues (featuring five very different events.)

First Night Virginia has been going on since 1982 (the 2nd oldest “First Night” in the US!) so apparently they’re doing something right. As always, the event is alcohol-free and family-friendly. Access to all events (plus free parking) can be achieved by purchasing your wristband—it’s $16 beforehand.

So. Not to bring up that dastardly little question again…and I hope it’s not too soon…but what are you doing New Year’s Eve?

 

“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 FloristBlog--HolidayShoppingOrange--Briarwood--12-3-14
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 GiftsBlog--reindeer--12-4-14
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 friendly prices. Plus, you can warm up with a cup of the quintessential English beverage—hot tea, served help-yourself-style in the seating area as you go in. Look for the Union Jack flying outside, by Orange’s train depot at 111 Short Street.Blog--HolidayShoppingOrange--Arts--12-3-14

Arts Center
http://artscenterinorange.com
Check out the latest art gallery display, and visit the handmade-by-local-artist gift shop. I’ve found some great things here over the years, including local-landmark postcards, handmade jewelry, novels by local authors, feline coffee mugs, and “soap in a sweater”. The inventory changes frequently, so you never know what will be available. A great place to shop for people who want to know the origins of their gift. Located at 129 East Main Street.Blog--HolidayShoppingOrange--Maddybugs--12-3-14

Maddybugs
https://www.facebook.com/maddybugsgiftsanddecor
Maddybugs (named for the owner’s granddaughter) carries wares with a “country living” flare. Find mailbox magnets, locally-made jewelry and knit goods, candles, soaps, flags, and a wealth of ornaments, snowmen, and wreaths at this cute store. I always enjoy the collection of “sarcasm magnets” and added several to my fridge this shopping trip.
Located at 207 N Madison, next to Schewel’s.Blog--GiftShoppingOrange--shabby2--12-1-14

Shabby Love
http://www.shabbylovefurniture.com
Lots of things you’ve seen before, but probably never before like this. This store offers proof that with a little imagination and elbow-grease, even the most everyday things can be spruced up into something special. Located at 112 E Main Street.

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.Blog--Shadow--Stairs--11-21-14

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 fixedly at their guests through the window for awhile. If they think I’m cute I’m in luck, and if they don’t maybe I can freak them out. Freaking out people with my stare is one of the best parts of being a cat! Hehehehe.Blog--Shadow--Computer--11-21-14

9:10 AM No luck winning over the humans inside. I’ll just stroll around to the back door and meow piteously, looking as lonely and neglected as I can manage until someone lets me in. Looking lonely and neglected, by the way, is very hard work because I have that sleek, well-fed appearance that’s difficult to disguise. Also a very snazzy new collar. *Sigh*

9:15 A likely suspect took pity on me. Now I’m doing Sam the honor of accepting his invitation into his office. My game-plan is to spend an hour or so making his work difficult by draping myself across his keyboard and forcing him to pet me. (Sharon loves it when I do this, also.)

12:00 PM I’m smelling good things brewing in the kitchen. It’s not really fair that I’m served cold stuff in a bowl on the floor. I like pizza too, you know (the meat on top, anyway. The cheese part is kind of icky and gets stuck in my whiskers.) I know they think they’re doing right by me with this fancy organic pet food, but, sheesh. It’s like they think I’m an animal, or something. Having four paws does not make me an animal, it merely means I won the Leg Lottery and they did not.Blog--Shadow--ZenCat--11-21-14

1:00 PM Having filled my belly, I meander back outside and stretch out on the back porch to admire my kingdom: everything the light touches, and whatnot. I take some time to reflect on my life choices and wonder if I should consider a course of self-improvement: give back to the community more, further my education, etc. Fortunately I fall asleep before I can stress about it.

1:15 PM There’s a squirrel situation that needs investigating. Can’t decide whether or not it’s worth pursing that pesky critter all the way up the tree, so I’ll just sit at the foot and twitch my tail for awhile.

2:00 PM Was so exhausted by my busy and hectic morning that I fell asleep for awhile in a patch of sun. While I dreamed, I sensed the presence of another cat somewhere in the periphery. This jolted me back into the realities of my life. Must protect my kingdom from intruders!

2:47 PM Making the rounds of the neighborhood. I used to live with a family in the area, but their dog and I had differences of interest. I’m not really a “dog person” so I began to explore other options in the community. Still, I like to say hello occasionally.

3:00 PM Check-in time!!! Gotta get back in time for this. This is a big moment for me. I like to sit at the backdoor and watch guests arrive. I turn on the full megawatt radiance of my charm, gazing up with sad eyes and meowing piteously. People love that, and I always get lots of pats and make lots of friends. I’m such an admired public figure these days.

6:00 PM Most of the guests have made it in by now. Still, I bother to drape languorously over the Blog--Shadow--BackPorch--11-21-14back-porch railing, prepared to provide a welcome for any stragglers. If someone wants to tell me what a pretty kitty I am, I won’t deprive them of the pleasure. (I’m amazingly humble and generous despite what a glorious creature I am.)

6:30 PM Suppertime!!! I scold my people for making me wait ALL DAY LONG, but then apologize by acting eager to get at my supper-dish. It’s a delicate balance, managing all of these sensitive human emotions.

6:35 PM Still not pizza. Or venison. Or anything wonderfully delicious. I swear. Still, this stuff from a can ain’t half bad. And it does smell fabulous–I don’t know why they don’t think so. What’s more appealing than dead-fish-smell?

7:00 PM Time for a thorough after-dinner bath. My favorite place is atop Sharon’s laptop: it warms me as I lick, and it forces her to take a break. She views it as a cute inconvenience, but I like to think of it as a public service, really.

7:30 PM Just enough time for a good long nap before bed.Blog--Shadow--Books--11-21-14

11:00 PM The guests are all safely tucked away in their rooms, and the humans are at last finished their work. I curl up in between them while they put their feet up for a few minutes and watch something on television. Their choice in programming is pretty lame—hello, have they never heard of Animal Planet?!? I need to watch my cousins take down antelope in Africa and stuff.

11:15 PM Drifting off to sleep. Gotta rest up for later. Right about the time my people go to sleep is when I conduct the first fire-drill across their faces. Gotta keep them sharp, just in case there’s ever a legitimate emergency they need to wake up for. I regard this as a another public service—my little way of keeping my guests safe. They’ll never know everything I do to make their stay at the inn better—constantly patrolling the perimeters, monitoring what’s going on, keeping the tree squirrels at bay. You see these things around my neck? They aren’t I.D tags, they’re my Medals of Honor.

At least, that’s what my people tell me.

The Library of Congress: Packard Campus

The exterior of the Library of Congress Packard Campus is pretty cool–lots of concrete and glass Blog--LOC--Front--9-9-14overgrown with vines, with a round reflective pool in the courtyard area. Despite what’s housed inside, the outside wouldn’t feel particularly out of place if it were featured on the History Channel’s “Life After People.” However, it’s best to admire it in photos, as my husband and I learned when we visited a week or two ago. The lesson we can now impart is as follows: just because the building is cool doesn’t mean you should walk around it. Just because you’re curious doesn’t mean you should walk around it. Just because there’s no sign that says you shouldn’t walk around it doesn’t mean you should walk around it.

Architectural curiosity (and a talking-to from Security) aside, here’s a little background on the who, what, where. According to their website, http://www.loc.gov/avconservation/packard/,this peculiar, slightly mysterious building-on-a-hill holds and houses the heftiest audio-visual collection in the world. That apparently amounts to 6,000,000+ moving images and audio recordings. To manage all of that media content, they have 35 climate-controlled vaults, and about 90 miles of shelving. (My husband and I have a combined book collection that sometimes seems to occupy only slightly less space. *Sigh*.)

In addition to storing the best movies ever made, Packard Campus screens (at no charge, first-Blog--LOC--Interior--9-9-14come-first-serve) a few selections each week in their 205 seat, Art-Deco theater. This month began with a celebration of the life of Robin Williams (“Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Aladdin”, and “Mrs.Doubtfire”, among other favorites). As the month progresses, the marquee will feature a number of popular sci-fi flicks and thrillers, including the original three Star Wars movies, “Unbreakable” and “The Hunt For Red October”.

They don’t, however, merely show movies that can readily be found in most home and public libraries–their selections are far more diverse. Last month’s screenings included a series of Nazi propaganda films from the mid-30s (including Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will). On the night we attended, we watched a US Navy recruitment film from 1939 (Wings of the Navy) clearly intended to increase interest in naval aviation and enlistment as the US prepared to enter WWII. The movie was, apparently, projected using the original, freshly-restored film. (I wasn’t aware of this, but my husband was geeking out about it and told me.)

Blog--LOC--Back--9-9-14The Library of Congress’s Packard Campus works in conjunction with the newly-restored Culpeper State Theater, and tickets for both venues are available at the website: http://www.culpepertheatre.org/ The site also features the most comprehensive and up-to-date schedule of upcoming events (film, live music, and stage performances) available.

Edible Food Fest

Judging by the overflowing chef-demonstration tents and the eager huddles of taste-testers at each booth, I’m going to say that this year’s Edible Food Fest was a success.

The Chef’s Tents (not one, but two this time around) proved to be a huge draw again this year, and there’s a rumor circulating of expanding the number again for 2015. A live video feed helped those in even the very back rows get a close-up on what was going on. One very popular draw was Chef Curtis Shaver of Hamiltons’ at First and Main, whose demonstration, “Okra: The Southern Vegetable” was a big hit. You can find a few of his recipes here: http://ediblefest.com/okra-the-southern-vegetable/. Other speakers on the official roster included Craig Hartman of The Barbeque Exchange (“Cooking From the Farmer’s Market”), Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant (“Cooking Fresh From the Garden”) and Martha Stafford of The Charlottesville Cooking School (“Make It Delicious: Marinating, Salting, Knife Skills and More Techniques to Enhance Your Flavor”).

There was also a Chat Room tent, where speakers discussed food-related themes. Lecture titles included “Beekeeping in the Backyard”, “A Discussion on Virginia Piedmont Wines”, “Eat More Mushrooms!”, “Growing Hope in Agriculture: Family Farming in a World of Anonymous Food, and “The Fun, Productive, and Holistic Backyard Flock”.

There was also a large and varied collection of vendors on-site. I’ve listed a few of our favorites below.

1. Blog--EdibleFollowup--BBQ--8-14-14

Find out more about Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ at http://www.shawnsbbq.com/

2. Hudson Henry Baking Co.—I can’t say enough good things about their maple, pecan, and coconut “Good News Granola”. The only thing hindering me, in fact, is the fact that it’s hard to type while gobbling it down at the same time. It’s just that good. Check out their website: hudsonhenrybakingco.com.

3. Pantheon Ice Pops had a cart, so naturally the gravitational pull of sugar and fruit drew me like a fly to honey. Their local-peach pop was delicious, a perfect compliment to our sightseeing, taste-testing tour. Among the other flavors that looked intriguing: Chocolate Sea Salt, Strawberry Hibiscus, and Berries on a White Beach. According to their website, they’re available to serve at special events (weddings, reunions, etc.) which is pretty cool. http://www.pantheonpops.com/

4.Blog--EdibleFollowup--GypsyJuice--8-14-14

Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/pages/GypsyJuiceWagon/633207540077461?sk=info

5.Blog--EdibleFollowup--Donut--8-14-14

Read more at carpedonut.org.

6.Moving Meadows Farm Bakery grinds flour at their own mill and immediately turns it into whole-wheat breads, which they sell at their bakery storefront in Culpeper, VA. We purchased one of their freshly-made cinnamon buns, and were duly impressed. What’s amazing is that something this good can be made from a handful of ingredients, all of which the average person can pronounce. http://www.movingmeadowsfarm.com/

7.Finally, soap! I’m not a true foodie at heart, but you might say I’m a…soapie. We picked up the Cinnamon & Wildflower Honey bar—hand-ground cinnamon w/local wildflower honey and cinnamon essential oil—from Eastham Farms Everyday Organic. It smells fantastic. 100% organic, cold process, and handcrafted.http://easthamfarms.com/

Welcome to our New Blog!

Holladay HouseWashington Post- Discussions/Live Q&A’s:The Holladay House B&B is AMAZING.  The whole place was recently renovated and the innkeepers are great-younger couple too so it doesn’t get that stuff staying-at-Grandma’s vibe that some B&Bs do.  If you’re driving to C-ville anyway, I’d highly recommend staying there and they are close to some great vineyards as well. -posted July 26, 2010

I second the Holladay House for the trip to Cville. My husband and I have stayed there 3 times over the past few years when heading to UVA for football games. The owners are extremely nice, and it is a great jumping-off point for scenery and wineries. -posted July 26, 2010

The Travel Channel: Built in the 1830s, the Holladay House is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Orange, VA. It’s a spot along Route 15 that is known as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a tour of important locales in American history throughout Virginia’s Piedmont region. Many of American history’s greats passed by the inn’s door on journeys through the area, including James Madison and Robert E. Lee. After stints as a store, a doctor’s office, a private schoolhouse and a private residence spanning nearly 2 centuries, the Holladay House welcomed guests to the inn starting in 1989. Choose from 6 rooms, many with gas fireplaces, cozy sitting rooms and private patios, and enjoy the Southern hospitality with a 2-course breakfast feast and homemade cookies throughout the day.