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,,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: The site also features the most comprehensive and up-to-date schedule of upcoming events (film, live music, and stage performances) available.

Somerset Steam & Gas “Pasture Party”

My husband was a historic preservation major at UMW (and a nerd, albeit a lovable one, about all Blog--Somerset2--8-17-14things from the past) but when I told him the “Somerset Pasture Party” was coming up soon   he looked a bit blank. I suspect he was probably picturing eating cucumber sandwiches while chilling with a group of beribboned sheep, which is the  image that “pasture party” has always conjured up for me. However, when I started explaining what I meant—using terms such as “live steam-tractor demonstrations”, “classic car displays”, and “functional sawmill”, he began to get that special glow in his eye.

There’s something for the non-tractor Blog--Somerset3--8-17-14enthusiast of your party, too (in this case, me). Vendors will be on hand to present an eclectic variety of goods, hot food (including the party’s “Famous Steamed Beans”) will be served, and live country bands will perform throughout.

The annual (and very popular) event returns to Somerset September 12, 13, 14th. Admission donations are $7 per person.

Check out their website:   Blog--Somerset--8-17-14

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: 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

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:

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.


Check them out at



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.

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.

39th Annual Street Festival

Orange’s 39th annual street festival is located, literally, right outside Holladay House’s front door. Throughout the years I’ve seen a huge variety of different vendors: beautiful clothing knit from Blog--OrangeStreetFestival--8-17-14alpaca hair (or should that be ‘fur’?); racks of handmade quilts; colorful clothing and bags from South America; cases of eclectic jewelry; local artists showcasing their paintings/cds/novels; hand-painted Christmas ornaments; hand-carved wooden trains; hand-sewn doll dresses. There’s always a collection of food vendors on hand as well, serving everything from snow-cones and kettle corn to BBQ and Chinese food.

This year’s festival will include live music and adult beverages, presented in Taylor Park throughout the day. When the Main Street feature wraps up at 6 PM, folks can move into Taylor Park for “Dancing Till Dusk”–a featurette of music, food, and drinks served until dark.

Check it out September 6th, 10AM to 6PM.

Oakland Heights Brings Bull Riding To Orange

Cowboys in button-down shirts, Wranglers, and well-worn boots scuff around the paddock area, their faces shadowed by statement-making hats (the size of which is usually measured in gallons.) A rodeo clown jogs across the arena, the fringe on his chaps dancing. Dust plumes beneath the hooves of a trotting horse and lingers in the air, illuminated by a ray of stadium lighting. A girl on horseback lopes by, standing in her stirrups, the American flag streaming out behind her.Blog--RodeoTeaser--AmericanFlag--7-29-14

No, it’s not somewhere out in the Wild West, and it’s not on television. Every 2nd Saturday of the month, May through September, Oakland Heights Farm hosts the BLM Bull Riding tour. For most of us around here, it’s our only shot to see an authentic rodeo, complete with bucking bulls, ladies’ barrel racing, and a little something called “mutton busting” involving tiny kids trying to stay aboard sheep. (The kids seem to enjoy it. The sheep just want to get the heck away from the crazies.)

There are two more chances to see the rodeo live this season: August 9th and September 13th. The gates open at 5:30, the live music begins at 6:00, and the bull-riding commences at 7:15. Adults get in for $15 each, kids under 13 are $10, and toddlers sneak by for free. The bleachers tend to fill up fast (and early) so I recommend being there when the gates open to get good seats (and close parking.)

Located in Gordonsville, Oakland Heights is an easy 10-minute drive away from the Holladay House. Find out more at

“Shrek: The Musical” at 4 County Players

The new show playing out at 4 County Players encourages you to “let your freak flag fly”. “Shrek: The Musical” opened July 18 and was quickly sold out for opening night. My hubby and I were able to procure tickets for the July 26th performance (is that the most romantic anniversary gift ever, or what?)Blog--4CP--LunetteDoors--8-1-14

4 County Players is located in Barboursville, VA–only about 15 minutes away from Holladay House, down Rt.20. We made the drive just in time to claim our seats, which were perfect: midway back, and right in the center. Then again, there aren’t any bad seats in the house. The theater is larger than it looks from the outside, but small enough that even the back row doesn’t miss a word (or a note from the live orchestra).

The show was, as always at 4CP, well-acted, well-directed, and accentuated with beautiful costumes and backdrops. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance—particularly “Donkey”, who was spot-on.Blog--4CP--StonefireKitchen--8-1-14

During intermission we enjoyed drinks and snacks from the 4CP’s very own Bistro, though there’s a more complete dining venue available. Stonefire Kitchen, located just across the road, stays open until 8PM on show nights to provide theater-goers with a great gourmet deli experience. You can find their menu, photos, and info about the owners and chefs here:

Sadly, by the time this post was ready to go live, “Shrek” was entirely sold out for the remainder of its run—a testimony to the quality and popularity of 4 County Players’ productions. Still, they have a great season coming up, and lots to see. Upcoming shows on the Mainstage include “Little Women” (Nov.21st—Dec.14th), “The Fantasticks” (March 6th—29th), and “Our Town” (May 8th—24th). There’s also an assortment of shows lined up for the Cellar—check out the full schedule, plus photos and history, at their website:


A Brief Introduction

Our readers may have noticed that a new writer has recently begun contributing to our blog! Kimberly Barr has been a valuable asset at the Holladay House for years. She knows our operations “inn” and out, and she is a native of Orange County. She has plenty of personal interests that dovetail nicely with the Holladay House and all the fun things to do in the Virginia Piedmont region: cooking, traveling, hiking, photography, history, theater, and the arts. These interests, plus her sharp wit and natural passion for writing make her the ideal person to write about all the things that make our historic inn and the Orange County and Charlottesville areas a great place to visit!

So, please check in with us as often as you can to see what Kim is writing about! Also, leave her a comment or two to give her some encouragement, or to request an article on a topic of interest to you!

- Sam

Orange’s Edible Food Fest: “Celebrating Food From Earth To Table” on August 9th

At last year’s Edible Food Fest I discovered that I love goat cheese. Previously I’d been unimpressed (and rather revolted, frankly) by the grocery-store variety, so I was initially dubious about trying it. Still, you can’t claim to love cheese without being willing to sample every variety, so I reached for a Romano-laden toothpick and gingerly nibbled off the edge. And, that quickly, I was hooked. There was just something special about it. Maybe it was the simple, straightforward way it was presented, or maybe it was just that it was amazing, flavorful hard cheese, straight from the brine. Regardless, it was mouthwateringly good: strong, salty, and pungent. Needless to say, I took home a package—and a business card, so I could reorder.Blog--edible Food Fest in Orange--7-25-14

This seems to be a common experience of many who have flocked to the Edible Food Fest during the past two years. Whether it’s a homemade granola, a locally made cider, or a line of jams and jellies, most people find something new and exciting they want to take home and talk about. Also extremely popular are the chef demonstration tents (they’ve added a second one this year!) which late-comers find to be standing-room-only.

The fest is a great chance to meet fellow foodies and get a hands-on look at some of the best local, organic, and homemade offerings the area is producing. Among the vendors this year: Plantation Peanuts of Wakefield, Bees n’ Blossoms (raw honey), Croftburn Market (meats), Spring Mill Farm (goat cheese), Wildwood’s Hickory Syrup, and Family Ties and Pies.

Located within walking distance of the festival, the Holladay House is the perfect place to stay if you’re planning to attend this year. If you book two nights with us, we’ll even sweeten the deal and provide free admission to the fest.

Orange’s Edible Food Fest is scheduled for August 9, 2014, and will be open 10AM—6PM. See complete schedules and vendor lists at

Hops & Chops 2014

Like fastidious cooks everywhere, the “Chef-In-Chief” of Holladay House’s annual Hops & Chops couldn’t help but regard the food with a critical eye. However, judging by the enthusiastic response (and the scarcity of leftovers!) at the July 5th event, innkeeper Sam was alone in his severe evaluation of his own cooking. The general consensus: 2014′s edition hit the mark yet again.

The family-style dinner went off without a hitch. CBlog--Hops&ChopsFollowup--FamilyStyle--7-16-14onversation flowed throughout the evening, the food selections were well-received, and the festivities wrapped up just in time for guests to venture out for fireworks.

The “chops” for this year were “cider-brined pork rib chops with dried cherries and apple chips.” Rounding out the menu were fresh vegetables from local gardens, such as “spicy honey-lime radish slaw” “just-picked cucumbers in a yogurt and fresh dill sauce” and an assortment of freshly baked breads – Sharon baked them “from scratch” and the aroma delighted everyone in the house! Wrapping things up were several types of dessert, including a blueberry cheesecake and Sharon’s freshly-baked “amazing all-american apple pie”.

Blog--Hops&Chops Followup--CheesecakeBatter-7-16-14

Diners also enjoyed the beer selections, “hops”, complementing each course. All the beers were carefully selected to pair with the flavors of the meal, and all were craft microbrews from Virginia. Of special note was the Hardywood Park Cream Ale from Richmond, VA, picked for its distinctly American origins. Cream Ale has a long history in America. Until the late 19th century, British-style ales and porters dominated the US beer market. Then, in the mid 19th century, German immigrants began to arrive in larger numbers, bringing with them a tradition of their own: lager-brewing. Lager quickly became popular, forcing British-style ale makers to up their game. Their answer to the lager-craze was an all-new beverage, unique to America: cream ale. According to the menu, “this flavorful style of beer has the characteristics of a great lager, but is brewed like an ale.”

A quick (and probably over-simplified) distinction for anyone out there as unfamiliar with beer-brewing as I am: ale-brewing uses a type of yeast that performs best in a warm fermentation environment. Lager employs yeast that ferments best in a colder environment.

Also on the beer menu this year was the Chin Music Amber Lager from Center of the Universe Brewing ( and the Woodbooger Belgian-Style Brown Ale from Strangeways Brewing ( Sam grew up in Ashland, VA, (locally known to be the “center of the Universe”), and was eager to try this new brewery’s selections. Strangeways Brewing provides a unique and eccentric twist to the Virginia craft brewing business, and the Woodbooger brown ale was a favorite at the table, particularly during dessert.Blog--Hops&ChopsFollowup--Herbs--7-16-14

Bold Rock’s Virginia Draft hard cider rounded out the list, appearing not only in bottled form (“balancing soft sweetness with a bright apple taste”) but also serving as the main ingredient in the brine for the pork-rib chops.

All in all, a good evening with good people and good food. We’re looking forward to next year!






Shenandoah National Park, Part Two: White Oak Canyon

White Oak Canyon: Two Novices Take A Hiking Trip

First, here’s a disclaimer: this isn’t The Ultimate Guide to Hiking. What this is is the account of a pair of novice hikers (me and my husband, Timmy) who wanted to feel outdoorsy and athletic, enjoy the beauty of Shenandoah National Park, and get some quality couple time—all while still arriving home in time for dinner.

Preparing For White Oak   Canyon: The Boring Logistical Section

 Step one, obviously, was figuring out all we could about White Oak Canyon. Foreknowledge turned out to be pretty important, because, once we got into the mountains, our cell-service was no longer reliable (or even existent).

What we discovered is this: basically, there are two main ways to hop onto White Oak Canyon trail. We could either start at the trailhead at the top (across from Skyland at Skyline Drive Mile Marker 42.6), walk down to the first main falls, and then have an uphill return the way we’d come, or we could park in the lot off of Weakley Hollow Road, draBlog--WhiteOakCanyon--Trailhead--7-14-14g our tails up the side of the mountain, and then have a steep descent back to the car. A certain amount of Googling revealed that the “best” waterfall for our viewing pleasure was located closer to the top, so we decided to start at Skyland and hike down.

We found this link to be particularly helpful:

Our White Oak Quest Gets Underway

We got on the road before 8 AM, trying to avoid being caught out in the weather if a projected late-afternoon thunderstorm materialized. (It didn’t) We also made a point of going mid-week, as we’d heard the trail is popular enough to be fairly busy on pleasant weekends.

Our first stop was at Sheetz on Rt.15 to load up on a few extra liters of Aquafina to add to our stash of homemade sandwiches and snacks. If you want a picnic lunch without the trouble, check with Sharon before you head out. We do picnic lunches, made up for you fresh in the kitchen at the Holladay House.

We figured out pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be relying on GPS to get us there. ( even made a point of warning us about it.) Skyline Drive is old school: the entrance we needed to use, Thornton Gap, isn’t actually located at a GPS-programmable address. Instead, Timmy Google-searched directions to Skyland, which is adjacent, and we used our best sign-spotting skills to navigate.

Thornton Gap: Entering Shenandoah National Park

 We made good time and reached the Thornton Gap entrance in about an hour and a half. We forked over $15 for a week-long pass, and accepted the complimentary map of Skyline Drive from the park ranger. We took a few photos along Skyline Drive (viewable in the preceding post) and made a quick pit-stop at Skyland before setting out.

White Oak Canyon: The Saga Begins!!

 Parking at the specifically-desBlog--WhiteOakCanyon--Footbridge--7-14-14ignated White Oak Canyon Parking Lot, we hoisted on our packs and set off. For the first half-hour it was a stereotypical, Ranger Rick-style nature hike. Gravel crunched like granola-breakfast-cereal underfoot, birds twittered, squirrels chattered, and the sun slanted down through the fresh green leaves overhead. I’d heard accounts of encountering bears, but we actually saw not even a single squirrel.

It had rained a few days previously, and the path occasionally grew mucky. That’s something you’ll want to think about when choosing your footwear: plan for mud, and uneven, rocky segments throughout.

About 30 minutes in, we encountered our first inkling of water: a waterfall in extreme miniature, trickling down over the smooth stones at the bottom of the creek. Here our childhood instincts to puddle-hop kicked in, and we stopped to dabble for a few minutes.


White Oak CBlog--WhiteOakCanyon--Falls--7-14-14anyon: “View” Of The Falls

 About one o’clock (about two hours after setting out) we veered to the left to cross a footbridge, and descended to a spot marked “View” with an obelisk. I trekked out onto the rocks above the falls and plunked down to take in the scenery: clear, cold water spilling down over the craggy faces of the boulders and disappearing again into the trees far below us. Timmy, who doesn’t care for heights, edged dutifully out after me, and sighed audibly with relief when we headed back for solid ground.

 The “Getting Back” Part Is Always The Hardest

The trail turned out to be much steeper than I’d surmised on our original descent. I had to take a few quick breathers, but it wasn’t unreasonably taxing. Despite these delays, we halved our original time and made it back to the trail-head in about an hour. This was partially because I recalled seeing a chocolate bar in the gift-shop at Skyland, and it was sounding tastier the more I thought about it. Consequently, I set a brutal pace.

Rudy’s: The Best Pizza In Sperryville, VA

After my candy splurge, we went in search of real food and wound up at Rudy’s– combination grocery store and pizzeria. Our server’s t-shirt proclaimed that Rudy’s served the best pizza in Sperryville. Not sure if this was a boast or an ironic wink, because they arguably serve the only pizza in Sperryville. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed the pizza, and give them our thumbs-up. The restaurant itself was clearly well-loved, dinged and nicked around the edges, but we liked the gritty local-pizzeria feel. The menu was clever, featuring hiker-centric pizzas such as “the Old Rag” and “the White Oak Canyon.”Blog--WhiteOakCanyon--Rudys--7-14-14

White Oak Canyon: A Summary…..

If you need a picturesque view to make your hike memorable, White Oak Canyon is your trail. Challenging without being overwhelming, and rugged without requiring extreme agility to maneuver, it combines all the best parts of hiking into one beloved old trail. If you’re like us, you’ll come back feeling “just enough” outdoorsy without being too exhausted to enjoy the rest of your evening.