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

Shenandoah Crossing Yurt_Art Is Everywhere

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.

Fleurir Wine Bars_Art Is Everywhere

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

The Love Connection

Full disclosure, this is not the post I had in mind to write. I had started another one but it will take more time and I’m already behind. Besides, this one will relate to it — after the fact — and it’s timely to make the Love Connection with Valentine’s Day right around the corner.

I’ve never been a big Valentine’s fan because I’m one of those who believes it’s a made up “Hallmark” celebration to drive sales for certain items, like cards, chocolates, flowers, restaurants and even hotels, among other things. It’s quite a marketer’s dream — for this day in age. However, it does have significant history and pretty gruesome at that. Not only going back to St. Valentine, who was supposedly martyred because he denounced Emperor Claudius’ ruling in the 3rd century that forbade young single men from marrying because they should become soldiers instead. Valentine continued to perform marriages and Claudius had him put to death but another theory suggests he was killed because he may have helped Christians escape harsh Roman torture during their imprisonment. Prior to this, the holiday has it roots in even bloodier pagan rituals that you can read more about here.

In light of this, I like the fact that it is now known for love letters and such. Every now and then I’m willing to comply with the tradition. I just purchased some of my favorite artisan chocolates from Fleurir, a local hand-made chocolatier.

Fleurir chocolates via Energy of the City on Art Is Everywhere

via Energy of the City

We had Fleurir chocolates put in the welcome bags for out-of-town guest over a year ago for my son’s wedding and I’ve been purchasing them ever since. They are constantly coming up with something new. The latest is their Wine Bar. I also gave this to my son and daughter-in-law for their first year wedding anniversary (in a brown bag, which is the traditional first year anniversary gift). Now it’s time for Peter and me to sample ourselves and this time the wine pairings will come with it. Here’s a little more about the Fleurir story and one of their famous chocolate recipes to boot!

Fleurir chocolate winebar on Art Is Everywhere

via Whurk

If I didn’t have so much King Cake left over from Mardi Gras this past Fat Tuesday, I’d be making these chocolates right now.

Fleurir chocolates on Art Is Everywhere

via Fleurir

I’m still coming down from Tuesday’s fun celebration with my book group ladies, as I just happened to be assigned this day to host. It was fun and even the prep was engaging because I planned ahead and didn’t rush it. I made jambalaya the day before, so the flavors would set in, and the famous Chef Susan Spicer’s Bayona’s Pecans the weekend before. Both of these packed a nice New Orleans savory (and sweet) spicy punch. I also prepared most of the “confetti” salad (simply thrown together peas, corn, some chopped tomatoes and scallions and a little salt and pepper) beforehand, adding the chopped steamed beets (that I did ahead) at the last minute. Luckily, the recipe for the wonderful roasted spiced chickpeas that I first had at Blue Jacket came to me in the Washington Post Food section the week before. Blue Jacket is a relatively new restaurant (2 years) in the up and coming Capitol Riverfront district. It happens to be owned by The Neighborhood Restaurant Group, in which a childhood camp friend is one of the initial founders and part owner. She’s from New Orleans too. Small world that it may be.

roasted spiced chickpeas_Art Is Everywhere

via Washington Post

My group celebrated the seasonal holiday with all this good food, assorted wines and Abita beer, of course. We capped it off with King Cake shipped from Caluda’s (Nanny Randazzo’s ex-wife, Dianne’s recipe, btw, but she had to change the name. Hers is just as good and no wait or exorbitant cost) and a little Cardamaro to finish.

Caludas awesome king cake on Art Is Everywhere

via Caluda’s

The whole delicious cake looked much like Antoine’s version below with the white icing but extra moist, stuffed with cream cheese and dutch apple filling. Scrumptious and some of the best I’ve had! This is the second year I’ve ordered and may make it a tradition. Gambino’s, for the record, the bakery I grew up on, has the best Russian and Doberge cakes, so have to give them and Haydel’s, another old-time favorite, some credit.

Antoinnes King Cake on Art Is Everywhere

via Times Picayune

Sorry I forgot to take my own pictures of the meal. Needless to say, it was a fun Fat Tuesday book discussion, but more on that later.

‘Til then, Happy Valentine’s Day and hope you enjoy yours with your love connection.