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…

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

“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

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

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...

Holiday Events 2014

Orange has a lot to offer this season! Come spend time with us at the Holladay House (and check out the seasonal “Holladay” decorations, like the Chris-moose collection and the new owl tree!) as you enjoy a medley of events in the area: holiday movies, concerts, open houses, and, yes, opportunities to dress like Santa. There are some big things going on locally (the Moscow Ballet, anyone?) and some small-town-Christmas events to help you get into the holiday spirit. Not to mention, you’ll complete your Christmas shopping without having to ever set foot inside an overcrowded mall! Little Women: November 21–December 14 Now playing at Four County Players in Barboursville. Tickets start at $8. It’s A Wonderful Life: November 22–January 4 Now playing at the Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg. Tickets start at $45. A unique retelling, staged as a 40’s radio broadcast—including “commercials” and a live sound-effects artist. Culpeper Holiday Open House: November 23 Admire the storefront decorations, watch classic Christmas specials at the State Theatre, enjoy live music, and take advantage of in-store specials as you start your holiday shopping! Ride the trolley,  get your photo taken with Santa & Mrs. Claus, and lots more at Culpeper’s open house. Monticello Holiday Events: November 28—December 30 Come see what it felt like to attend an evening holiday party at the Jeffersons. Participate in the 28th annual wreath-making workshop, make homemade beeswax candles, or construct your own Monticello out of gingerbread during the family-friendly workshop! See complete dates & reservations info here. Candlelight Christmas Tour at Montpelier: December 5,6,12,13 Come out for a cozy tour of Montpelier by candlelight. The...
Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games

Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games

When you’re young, one thing on your bucket list involves announcing, coolly and indifferently (like you aren’t impressed with your own fabulousness) “Yeah, I’m with the band”. It never crosses your mind that, someday, the band you’re with will be a bagpipe band, and you’ll be dragging a laundry bag containing your husband’s gear (including the “whole nine yards” of his wool kilt. Oof.) You’ve bypassed “groupie” and run directly into “roadie”, you have mud on your tennis shoes, and you’re thinking, I bet Bon Jovi’s posse never had to remind him to bring his wool knee-highs.. Each year at the annual Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games, I get a ringside seat to lots of traditional bagpipe music, played by traditional bagpipe bands turned out in their best clan tartans. When I need a break from “Scotland the Brave” (and that moment does always come) I head over to the harp competition to experience the more Celtic Woman-esque side of Irish music. Then, there’s highland dancing performances for me to imitate later (badly) in the privacy of my own home, a British car show for my husband to wander through longingly, and a fiddling competition to remind me of why I was once so entranced by the violin. (Why I quit is another matter altogether.) There’s a hurling competition, which is—as near as I can tell—a sport where baseball, hockey, and lacrosse are essentially placed into a blender together to see what happens. And, of course, there will be a good game (or two) of rugby, which is always pretty interesting. Particularly if it’s attended after a...
Virginia’s Largest Corn Maze

Virginia’s Largest Corn Maze

“Don’t run, and don’t leave the paths.” The Liberty Mills Farm employee told us, giving us the scoop before we began our foray into the corn maze. “And whatever you do, don’t swear in the maze. There are 2 million undeveloped ears out there, so we can’t tolerate that.” There was a pause, and we chuckled as we got the “corny” humor. Then I addressed a smallish concern of my own. “If we’re not, um, back by dark–?” I began, staring down at the complex network of lines crisscrossing our map. He grinned. “We’ll come find you before we close up for the night. Don’t worry, no one’s ever gotten lost for good.” Somewhat reassured, we flashed thumbs-up and set off to conquer, armed with our color-coded map and–well, pretty much just our color-coded map. And that’s part of what’s fun about it–you feel like you’re setting out into the unknown, having an adventure with a treasure map, while still retaining the comforting knowledge that sooner or later you’ll find your way out again. My husband and I opted for the blue maze first. It’s billed as the “secondary” maze (1 hour) for those a little above the “elementary” yellow level (30 minutes) but not quite ready for the red “bachelors” (2-3 hours). We didn’t even consider entering the green “masters” level, which seems to require intuition as the only navigational tool and isn’t featured on the map. The map was, by the way, incredibly accurate, which made negotiating the ship-and-waves design of the blue maze a bit simpler. Our assigned task en route was to find 13 American...