Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hanover Halloween Part Two

Wasn't it just a couple of weeks ago that I was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean? Summer has let go of its grasp and Autumn is in full throttle. I'm working on getting out of my "goodbye to summer" funk and trying very hard to get into the holiday spirit. Living on this street makes that pretty easy. I was out walking the dogs this afternoon and the decorations have really gotten ramped up. The feeling of anticipation is especially apparent in the next block. In addition to all of the trees being lit, the street has now been invaded by ghosts. This neighbor was hard at work putting the finishing touches on his display. Very impressive.

I love these jack o'lanterns.
And these, especially the one with just holes. LOVE! I'm going to copy that for next year.

This is going to scare the "you know what" out of some trick or treaters.

So now the decorator in me is wishing that I had done more to adorn Haven. My excuse is the renovation -- I promise to do better next year.

So, in my continuing self-appointed role as ambassador from Virginia to the blogosphere, we went in search of changing foliage in the mountains this weekend. We're about two hours from the Blue Ridge Parkway so we headed out, dogs in tow, to climb up and look out from Crabtree Falls.

Some time last year my very favorite pair of hiking boots gave out after ten years of faithful service. They were Asolo's. My feet never got blisters, nor wet, and my ankles were supported through miles and miles of hikes here and abroad. I really missed them Sunday on this rocky and slippery trail, especially being pulled along by the mush dogs. Despite being obsessed about falling in my sneakers, the hike was amazing. The trail was a bit crowded and for good reason - the views of the falls and surrounding mountains was worth the price of admission ($3.00).
Some time ago I read that waterfalls are nature's Prozac. Something to do with the ions being released into the air, I think. I'm the ambassador, not the resident scientist, so someone else can explain it. However, I believe it to be true. There is something about being around rushing water that soothes the savage beast. Except in the case of terriers.
He's looking pretty calm here but don't let it fool you.
The pay off

We always judge a hike based on what we call the pay off at the end. In this case, the climb was worth the effort. I think we're nearly at peak color.

Here are some more views of autumn in Central Virginia.

I am always so sad to see summer go but somehow this makes up for it.
I've recently enrolled in an acrylic painting class. After this hike I ran out to buy a tube of orange paint. More on that another day!!

The renovation is probably at 98% completion. I have to say it makes me sad. I've grown accustomed to having a crew in my house every day and loved having most of them around. Here is a quick update. In another posting I'll get more down and dirty with the details.Above is the Living Room before the renovation. Shiny mahogany floors - just not me.

The pre-finished mahogany flooring was removed and we all held our breath to see what kind of shape the original floors would be in. After all, who covers up perfectly good heart pine with another flooring? I don't have an answer for that so if you do, help me out. Other than the nail holes from the mahogany installation, the floors are beautiful and can now breathe free. A oil sealer was put down and now we're waiting for them to cure before placing rugs and furniture. In the meantime, we've painted the Living Room Benjamin Moore Pearl Grey. The swatch on the left is Wickham Gray and the one on the right is Pearl Gray.

Here is it completed with White Dove trim. How to decorate the shelves is keeping me up at night.

I'm also losing sleep over what to do in the Dining Room. I need to get crackin' as my entire family (17) is coming for Thanksgiving. I wonder if the neighborhood decorates for that holiday as well.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hanover Halloween - Part One

Waiting for Trick or Treaters

I think it was the day we moved to Richmond (March) that a neighbor asked us if we had heard about Halloween on Hanover Avenue. It sounded ominous, as if it should have been in the disclaimer documents. We admitted that we had not heard of it and this neighbor was all too happy to report that, for what ever reason, Hanover Avenue is the "go to" street for Halloween. I can not get an answer from anyone as to why this is, all I get is "you need to start buying candy now". Estimates vary from 1,000 pieces of candy needed to 3,ooo pieces. I don't know where all of these children come from as I only see one or two on a regular basis!! Someone told me that they are bused in - from where?? No one can say. It is all a mystery and I'm sure I won't have any answers until November 1st.

What happened to the simpler days when all I had to do was hang a cardboard skeleton on the door and carve a pumpkin and dress Matt like a cowboy (that was easy - he was a cowboy everyday!). As you can see from the image above, I was very ambitious that year and hung an ear of corn on the door. And we had one too many trips to the pumpkin patch. It looks like I didn't even bother to carve that year!! And I think I debated about whether I needed two or three bags of candy.

Now I live in a neighborhood where people light up all the trees like it's Christmas.
You wouldn't think of carving a pumpkin without a stencil. And I need 1000 pieces of candy.

Sometime after the youngest child left for college I lost any love I had for Halloween. It just wasn't the same without them. I didn't know too many of the neighborhood kids and I was too busy trying to sell a house to really want to celebrate. While going through the basement storage area I came upon a box of disparate costume bits and threw them all away. I was done with Halloween. We even turned out all the lights and went out to eat last year, returning after we were sure it would be over.

I don't know what happens in the universe between Washington and Richmond but these folks really like to celebrate the holidays. Maybe it is all the artists and musicians living together in close quarters or maybe its the water. Not sure. In any case, my friend, Beth, and I set out to start hoarding bags of candy late last week. We were given advice to go to Price Club for their big bag of candy but can I tell you that it costs $12.00 for 100 pieces? I suggested we head over to the dollar store (Dollar Tree) to see if we could do any better. Phew. I bought 40 bags of candy for $40.00 Deal. So each child will get one roll of smarties. Or maybe one little box of Sugar babies. When I've given out the 999th piece of candy I will hang a sign on the door "Candy is all gone", take a roll of smarties and head inside for a large glass of wine. And don't forget, Halloween is on a Saturday this year. I hope the Richmond police have thought of that.I did buy a couple of decorations and I'm hoping to get into the mood between now and then.

Stay tuned for Part two.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The New Loo

I know exactly where I was when adopted the word "loo" into my vocabulary. It was the early 1980s and I was a starving museum working living in Pittsburgh when my mother called to invite me to accompany she, my sister and my father on a business trip to England, Wales and Ireland. I had no vacation time and no passport and as I said earlier, no money. I slunk into my boss' office and asked for some time off without pay and he not only said I must go but gave me all of his tour guides. He was my first real boss and I was so lucky to have him. My dear mother whisked my sister and I off to DC the next day to stand in line at the State Department for our passports and the next thing I new we were flying off to London.

It seems as though through our country's short history that there have been times when our admiration for all things British sort of gets out of control. It is funny that as hard as we tried to sever our connection to England, we still go back to them for inspiration. I grew up in Scarsdale New York which grew up around the Metro North rail line in the 1920s. Tudor architecture was all the rage in that decade and that is where I must have gotten British architecture into my blood. Downtown Scarsdale - one of the prettiest little towns I know.

The early 1980s was one of those times as well. Princess Diana had just married Prince Charles (a wedding that I got myself up in the middle of the night to watch), we all tuned our TVs to see Alistair Cooke on Masterpiece Theatre every Sunday night and Laura Ashley stores were popping up all over the place (Pittsburgh even had one.). We couldn't get enough of that English country look in decorating. I had all of Laura Ashley's decorating books and poured over them endlessly, dreaming of the day that I could have a home that resembled those in the photos. I was still single and living in a efficiency apartment. Laura Ashley's products were way out of my budget so I decorated with sheets found at Kaufmann's department store and tried to get the look without the price tag.
The Frontenac - my apartment building in Pittsburgh.

You can only imagine my excitement at being able to visit Laura's London store.
My mother bought me a dress for my birthday very similar to this one (image found on the Internet under "vintage 80s dress - Jeez!). I wore it until it was thread bare. Later on when I could afford it, I purchased two jumpsuits similar to these. I have them in storage - maybe they'll come back
in style some day! When we moved to northern Virginia in the early 1990s, I plastered the kitchen and family room with Laura's Melrose wallpaper and curtains, bought a sofa when she opened her new home store at Tyson's Corner and loved those rooms up until about a year ago when we knew we were moving and our real estate agent said it all had to go. She was right, of course, and my taste has evolved over the years to a more tailored look so it wasn't that hard to part ways. I cried the day Laura Ashley died though, - I felt like she was a old and dear friend.

The British still have my heart when it comes to fabric and wallpaper. I always start out at Colefax and Fowler, Cowtan and Tout and Farrow and Ball when searching for inspiration. Which brings me back to the new loo. I mentioned in a post a long time ago about using Farrow and Ball paper in the loo. I got a recommendation from a local reputable paint store for a wallpaper hanger. I have had so many unfortunate experiences with wallpaper hanging for clients that I wanted to find the best person around. The man came out and gave me an estimate and I scheduled him for two weeks down the road when the contractor said the room would be ready. When the scheduled day arrived I went down to give the room one last inspection and realized that the room really wasn't ready enough and called the hanger to cancel and reschedule. He never called me back. My fault for not giving him more heads up but I'm not going to beg so I went out onto the Internet and searched for "wallpaper hanger Richmond, VA". The first web page that popped up belongs to Steve Boggess. Steve came out the same day and gave me an estimate and then came back later that week to hang the paper. If you live in Richmond and need a paper hanger - he is your man.
Can you use the word "pretty" to describe a toilet? In this case I think you can.

I painted the ceiling Farrow and Ball "Chemise" which is the background color of the lotus paper. Brian, the electrician, hung my star burst and sconces and now I just want to sit in there for hours and not let anyone use it for its intended purpose. It is so nice to have one room that is finished.

That trip to London made a huge impression on me. I adopted the word "loo" into my vocabulary when seeing it and hearing it used many times on that trip. To me it sounds so much better than rest room.

To update the rest of the project: we are chomping at the bit to use the kitchen but little things keep causing delays. A mistake in figuring out how much tile to order was made and so I had to order more - the tile installer is due back today to finish the wall by the sink and grout. The green dots are spacers.

The plumber connected the sink and dishwasher to some of Haven's existing pipes and now it is leaking onto the floor in the basement. The microwave and refrigerator are working and so now we have ice and can nuke Lean Cuisine dinners. It is so nice to have cold beverages and warm food again.

We spent the better part of the weekend moving everything that was being stored in the Living Room and Dining Room into the Family Room to make way for the floor refinishers to come and remove the prefinished mahogany installed by the previous owner to reveal the existing heart pine floors. Your guess is as good as mine as to what condition they are in. More on that later.

Have a good week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One last day at the beach......

When Harry and I moved to Richmond we thought it would be so easy to just pop over to Virginia Beach whenever we wanted for a day at the beach. We went to Chick's Beach (bay side) once in June and decided to not bother again until fall. The drive over is easy as we're early risers and can beat the rest of the world, but coming back is a nightmare. Whatever good kharma you get from the beach is destroyed in a matter of minutes as you fight your way back home. So, we promised ourselves that we would return one day in the fall. We finally made it back on Sunday. I wanted to see the ocean this time instead of the bay, so we went all the way into Virginia Beach and headed north into the residential area. Parking is readily available on the side streets and it was a quick hop over to the sand. The rest of humanity is off doing fall activities so we had the place almost all to ourselves. I brought a book but didn't even open it as I was entertained all morning by this catamaran that was out in the surf with a family of dolphins. I wanted to swim out and ask if I could hop on and share in the fun. The dolphins swam all around them for hours - popping up out of the surf and making a racket with their blow holes. We must have been at the surfer beach, too, because as the day progressed we had that entertainment as well. I must have been a sea creature in a former life as a day at the beach delights all of my senses. The sounds of the waves and the birds, the sight of sunlight on the water, the feel of the sand and the water (I did go for a swim - according to my mother, salt water is the cure for everything), the smell of the salt air and Coppertone and the taste of salt water and soft ice cream on the boardwalk all combine to put me back into alignment for a while. Virginia Beach has acquired a very impressive sculpture of Neptune since the last time I was there. The statue was dedicated to the City of Virginia Beach on September 30, 2005 during the Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend.

Artists from around the world were considered before Virginia-based sculptor, Paul DiPasquale was commissioned to create Neptune's statue. DiPasquale has created numerous permanent public installations, including the bronze statue of Arthur Ashe on Richmond's famous Monument Avenue - just a mile or so from our house. I'll have to blog about Monument Avenue another day.

We headed home around 2 as I was feeling guilty about leaving the dogs home alone and thought we'd get ahead of some traffic - Hah! There was a five mile back up on I-64 and so we ducked into York and went up the Colonial Parkway through Williamsburg - another place to explore now that we're so close.

I know I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love living in the state of Virginia. I could be her ambassador. Ocean, bay, rivers, mountains, cities, farms, great climate - enough gushing for one post. Virginia is for lovers of all of the above.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Wolf in the House

Last week the Wolf range was delivered and it is sitting in the front hall waiting to be installed. I can not believe that very soon I will be frying up some grub on this monster appliance. We got the 36" duel fuel range with a griddle in the middle. As excited as I am about cooking again (it has been six months), I am sad that my eating out days are soon to be over. So, I'm dedicating this blog to all of the Richmond restaurants that I've been frequenting since March.
At least once a week we get pizza from 81/2. They named this restaurant after Fellini's movie - I'm not sure why and I don't care because all I care about is the pizza. It is probably the best pizza I've ever had in my life and I've lived in a lot of places, including New York, where I always thought the pizza was not to be compared. We will probably continue to haunt this place on Friday's as I will never be able to replicate the crust and won't even try.
Our second most frequented spot is Shield's Market. This isn't a restaurant but a place where we pop in for a soda, a bottle of wine or a take out meal from Joe's restaurant across the street. Shield's used to allow dogs inside . My dogs should try out for the Iditarod race as their pulling abilities have greatly improved since we moved here. They know the word "Shields" and even know which block to turn onto if they even get a hint that we are going over there. I guess the health department caught wind of the dog policy and so now we all have to tie up our dogs up outside. The owners always have dog treats by the door so the pups don't mind waiting for me to run in for some Chardonnay. Here is a photo of Joe's - across the street from Shields Market

I frequented Joe's this summer when they started serving their famous Country Greek Salad which is made with local Hanover tomatoes. I couldn't get enough of it. They hang a sign on the door when the tomatoes come in season - and serve the tomatoes with feta and onions and some thick homemade bread. The sign came down recently so I probably won't be back again until next summer.
The buzz in the neighborhood is about this new restaurant - Baliceaux. Harry Homeowner and I walked down there last weekend for our anniversary dinner. The place was hopping with activity and has a cool urban vibe and the food was really good.
Fu Jian and European Market Bistro are right next to each other on Main Street, and are both take out places. Both are excellent and I will miss them. Fu Jian is Chinese take out and our boys, when they're home from college, hit this place pretty hard. European Market Bistro's menu often looks like this: Caramelized Balsamic Duck Breast w. Ginger-Rhubarb Apple Compote, Served Over Wilted Summer Greens & w. Truffle Roasted Potatoes... I guess I'd better locate the box that those cookbooks are in.

A little farther afield but worth the walk is Little Mexico. I love the mural and when the craving for Mexican food hits, they are our go-to spot. The atmosphere is a little lacking but who cares - the quesadillas are really tasty and the margaritas ain't bad either. Walking home afterward helps aide digestion!!
There are several other restaurants that we've tried in the last six months but I'll save them for another posting. Thanks to all of them for feeding us while bringing a new kitchen to life.

There is a big push here at Hanover this week to finish up Phase I. I've got an electrician, painters and a wallpaper hanger here today. I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (it's lighting up recipes).

Have a great week.