A Month of Celebrations

This has been quite a month of celebrations, so much so that I haven’t had a lot of time to document but here it goes — in bullet formation.

January – a Birthday is always great when it happens to land on a long holiday weekend, as my husband’s does with Martin Luther King Day. We took advantage when taking our son back to UVA for his final semester. We had recently discovered a new place, where we’ll be staying in May, and decided to test it out by staying over a night before heading back to DC. What a great decision! Shenandoah Crossing, in Gordonsville is a part of the BlueGreen Resorts and lives up to its promise of high style glamping. Although we stayed in the lodge during this cold, winter visit, we’ll be staying in a yurt and a 3-bedroom cabin with extended family later this spring.

BlueGreen Shenandoah Crossing Lodge_Art Is Everywhere

Shenandoah Crossing Lodge

Shenandoah Crossing room decor_Art Is Everywhere

Clever way to display framed pictures in the room

Shenandoah Crossing Lodge Restaurant_Art Is Everywhere

The Lodge Restaurant

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Shenandoah Crossing Yurt

February – Valentine’s Day is one that we don’t usually celebrate but this time it fell on a Sunday and luckily Monday was a holiday — Presidents’ Day. Yippie, we could actually enjoy the Wine Bars with the wine pairing I had planned in advance because this day didn’t fall on a work / week day or break our vow to give up drinking during Lent, which we sacrifice — except for the weekends.

I had picked up the Wine Bars from Fleurir and what a wonderful pairing it was. I never knew chocolate could make wine taste so much better and vise versa. I’ve already given these as a first year anniversary present to my son and his wife as well as good friend who shares the same birth month, but I had never tried them myself.

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Fleurir Wine Bars – photo by Hannah Hudson

The only problem to the way the evening ended was pretty humorous, actually. Peter normally cooks melt-in-your-mouth steaks. For some reason, the ones we got from Whole Foods maybe had more fat than normal? Not sure but when flash pan-frying, they created so much smoke that the fire alarm went off. It wouldn’t have been a problem normally but since we’ve “upgraded” to a digital phone service, the alarm folks couldn’t get through the home phone to reach us as the alarm had hijacked the phone system with blasted warnings, “FIRE ALARM, leave the premises immediately!!” Well, the fire truck made it to our house before we could alert ADT to stop them — can only go through their 1-800 number. OK, as if this wasn’t embarrassing enough on a street with close-knit neighbors. The fire alarm went off again and guess what, yep, the fire truck paid us another visit. Crap! Lesson learned, we changed the phone alert pathway and at least we didn’t get charged. At this point, more wine and chocolate pairing was the best plan.

February – a Birthday is always great when it starts with a Friday. Actually my celebration started a few days before, on Wednesday, when we went to listen to Big Sam’s Funk Nation at Gypsy Sally’s. What fun!! I always get excited when I see bands from my hometown playing. This big brass New Orleans band with the lead singer, Big Sam Williams, gives a jiving, “urban funk” performance that just gets you up off your feet. He’s the former trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The 8 Ohms Band started the set and gave a great foot-stomping performance and certainly prepped the crowd for Big Sam, who came out and played a song before intermission.

8 Ohms Band_Art Is Everywhere

8 Ohms Band

8 Ohms 2_Art Is Everywhere 8 Ohms 3_Art Is Everywhere

Sams Big Funk Nation_Art Is EverywhereOn Friday, my real birthday, my good friend Liza had these gorgeous flowers delivered. My other good girlfriend, Marty, delivered her famous individual size coffee cake. Soooo nice! Sometimes, I get so busy, I forget my birthday. This wasn’t a big year and still people remembered.

Beautiful Birthday Flowers_Art Is Everywhere

These look so lovely with the portrait that was retrieved from my Aunt Katherine’s painting stash.

Relatives sent cards and my wonderful in-laws really surprised me with with beautiful vintage style, mother-of-pearl handle, double-blade, Congress Muskrat, pocket knife from A.G. Russell. There will be all sorts of uses for this beyond what I might know. I just have to remember to remove it before traveling on a plane.

A.G. Russell Pocket Knife_Art Is EverywhereWe topped off the evening with a fun night of pool at No. 9 Lounge (above the Majestic Lounge) at Evening Star Cafe. This is a somewhat hidden spot upstairs for pool, beer, meeting new pool buddies, listening to cool tunes and eating scrumptious food. I loved my cream of cauliflower soup with raisins. I need to get that recipe!

No 9 Lounge Evening Star Cafe_Art Is Everywhere

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a recent picture with the pool table in the far back (via Biz Bash)

Afterwards, we saw 13 Hours at the movie theater, which we rarely do these days but this is big screen worthy, as is The Revenant, The Martian and the latest Star Wars, all of which we’ve bucked up to see on the big screen. The movie tempered the mood but was well worth seeing. In fact, if everyone saw it, they would certainly question those publicly conveyed chain of events and the government’s role in them. Makes you think, if only….!

A Leap Year Anniversary — that comes every 4 years, gives us two times to celebrate in one year. This is our 7th special anniversary and we celebrated it at Magnolia’s On King, a relatively new Southern style restaurant that gets it right. We started out with the appetizers I love to have each time I’ve gone, stuffed dates with blue cheese and wrapped with bacon. Mouth-watering good! I’m using for our Easter Brunch! I had the best meal. Evidently, we lucked out because our celebratory night was on Monday — Gumbo Night. Wow! Excellent! A larger meal than Peter’s and just the right amount of spice.

Magnolias Stuffed Dates_Art Is EverywhereThe best part was heading upstairs to the Palm Lounge. It reminds me so much of New Orleans with the exposed brick wall, deep red walls brightened by firelight and rattan ceiling fans that I’ll go back to see in action when it gets warmer out. Tyler, the welcoming and talented bearded bartender, was willing to create a drink of our choice as long as he had the base to work with. We asked him about amaros and he said he was really liking Caramaro right now. Well, it’s one of my favorites so I asked him to please make a drink with it. This is the divine delicacy that he crafted with 1/2 oz gin (that I normally don’t drink), topped with egg white (Ramos Gin Fizz style) and a spritz of Angostura bitters.

Specially concocted Cardamarro Sour at Magnolia's_Art Is Everywhere

Specially concocted Cardamaro Sour at Magnolia’s

I can’t think of a better way to end the month, except, we may continue the celebration. We learned from our friendly bartender about Captain Gregory’s, a new (but not so) secret speakeasy to try, “a hole in the wall” inside the Sugar Shack Doughnut (hole) Shop, of all places. Looking forward to continuing new discoveries into March… 😉

Hint - Capture the Flag_Captain Gregory's_ Art Is Everywhere

Hint – Capture the Flag

2 Week Celebration

Although 10 years ago, I had anticipated that I’d be sipping pina coladas somewhere in the Caribbean, life does have a tendency to change things and as you get older, you just take it in stride.

Carribean vacationInstead, I had what turned out to be a two-week celebration.

It started with my ELDC (or drinking lady friends) toasting with beers and pizza at one of my favorite Red Rocks restaurants on a Friday.

Red Rocks alexandria_AIEThat Saturday, Valentine’s Day, we went to visit our son for the first time since dropping him off at UVA. We discovered that the Business School has accommodations at the Inn at Darden. Who knew! We’ve already got the tip as to when to book this year for next year’s graduation. It’s not a bad place but certainly convenient and beats student housing.

Inn at Darden_2330_AIE  Maybe it was just that it was Valentine’s Day but I was impressed with the lovely tissue rose waiting for us in the bathroom. That took a lot of time to do.

Tissue Rose_2329_AIEWith everything in town being booked, we got reservations at the Milan Indian Cuisine restaurant. I have to admit, with a name like that I didn’t really know what to expect. I couldn’t really envision an Italian/ Indian dish medley. It was one of the first extreme cold snap of the year for Virginia. I was surprised so many people wanted to get out but the proprietors were turning people away. We felt lucky and even more so when we discovered it was delicious food. I have never had Gobi Aloo. At least I think that is what it was. Spicy appetizer of potatoes and cauliflower, which I think will be the next “it” vegetable. I’m going to try to make it at home; it was so good.

The next day we visited with Jackson and had a relaxing brunch at the Fox & Hound. They had pennies glued under their bar and bathroom counters that reminded me of the Lincoln. Jackson gave us a tour of all his study spots and a secret classroom in the Alderman (Environmental Science ) Library, which has remarkable murals. They are all done on canvas, however, except the eye-popping trompe l’oeil framework over the doorway. We saw the most students studying here, probably because it has the best natural light with cavernous ceiling and skylights. Gorgeous plus a welcomed respite from the cold. They even have a campus coffee stop that had great hot chocolate just inside the entry.

UVA-Library Murals_2332_AIEIt’s always a bit of a drive there and back but a good visit on a holiday, Presidents’ Day weekend. With Peter having off on Monday, we bundled up and walked to La Madeline, the closest place I could think of in Old Town that might have King Cakes. Glad we called; they were all out but they made one fresh for us. It wasn’t the typical style I’m accustomed to from New Orleans but is probably more authentically French. It was a rather flat almond flavored cake over a marzipan layer with a flaky pastry. We couldn’t resist having a piece fresh out of the over. It was so good warm. Notice how they don’t put the baby inside the cake. I bet for liability reasons they leave that to the purchaser. In New Orleans, we just stick it in there! I had to get a Linzer Tart to share too.

King Cake La Madeline Style_2333_AIEWe walked back in the snow and warmed our feet by the fire, first one of the season. Since DC cannot handle a small accumulation of snow, the entire city shut down when we got four inches. Yahoo, another holiday; even though I was working — a little. It was Fat Tuesday, after all, we were due to celebrate. I had mentioned we had better get groceries before the rush but Peter informed me that he was going to surprise me but instead, thought I better know he had made plans for dinner at Vermillion, one of my favorite restaurants in Alexandria. I was prepared for this and it was a perfect foil.

Winter fire_2334_AIEThinking surely others would be there with their Mardi Gras beads on, I wore mine; even though, this is actually a more touristy than native thing to do in New Orleans — except for Mardi Gras Day of course. Well that little booger completely fooled me! Hardly anyone was there due to the snow but upon walking upstairs, all our good friends were waiting! At first, I felt like saying a line from the Californians, “What are yoooooou doing here?” but then I realized Peter had arranged it all and they were all in on the surprise. The fact that one friend was there who is notoriously late, was even more of a shocker. It was a fantastic dinner! So much great food, spirits and fun spirit with dear friends.

There were a couple of snags that I learned later, like the birthday cake I mentioned in my previous post. It got stuck in a Dulles warehouse due to the weather. I never knew because my good friend purchased another doberge cake to take its place. She brought the “real” cake by when it arrived on my real birthday. I had 3 cakes by this point. Ilyda, who helps me clean our house, was happy to take the half-remaining King Cake off my hands and my hips.

Although I don’t have a picture of everything, I love all my cards and a birthday check to treat myself. I look forward to trying a tempting bottle of rosé, a six-pack of hand-selected wines with one beer that you can only get from Norcia, as well as wearing a beautiful Nola Jazz Hermés scarf and bee necklace and trying to decipher which of my friends and family submitted the 50 quotes that were put into a book to record the event, with pictures to come. Wow such heaped upon attention. Why did I want to go to the Caribbean, anyway?

Hermes_AIEhttps://www.ashley-spencer.com/ArtIsEverywhere/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Hermes-Scarf_2345_AIE.jpgWell, I intend on getting there one day — maybe on a cruise with a slower method of travel that takes time and takes it all in stride — must be my new-age attitude. ‘Til then, I’ll take a 2 week celebration any day. I can still go 80’s dancing (our night was rescheduled due to ice and below zero, double digits cold)  — until my knees give out — and also read up on my older son’s book, 50 things to do when your fifty! 😉

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