All in One Day: October 19, 2019

With a free weekend and no option to go camping (all campgrounds I’d checked within a 60-mile radius were full!) we decided to do a meandering day trip–but where to go? We finally decided to go to the Shenandoah Valley. I wanted to take one of my sewing machines to an authorized Brother repair shop in Dayton, VA, and right before we left the house, I remembered that it was Homecoming at my college. Even though I hadn’t registered for the event, we decided to go to Bridgewater, too.

First stop, as it is every morning, was at my school to feed the feral kitties. After attending to their needs, I spotted a hawk, and we spent the next 15 minutes or so watching some strange interactions between the hawk (a young Cooper’s?) and several crows.

They flew around, landed, squawked and flapped their wings at each other, and flew again. Soon other crows joined in, too. I have no idea what this was all about, but it was interesting to watch!

On the drive up to Bridgewater, I told Wayne a story about one of my art professors. In October 2003–nearly 25 years after I’d graduated from college!–I wrote a letter to “Prof. Kline,” asking about a sculpture process I wanted to try with my students. To my complete surprise, he and his wife showed up in my classroom a couple of weeks later to personally deliver a book on sculpture methods! Special people, both of them!

The last time I really visited the Bridgewater College campus was in March 2011 when Wayne and I took two wildlife management classes there that were hosted by the Wildlife Center of Virginia. This time I was basically crashing my 40th college class reunion. 😉

Almost immediately I saw some classmates; folks I hadn’t seen since graduation–or at least not since I’d attended our 10 year reunion!

It was such a pleasure to see my art professor’s wife at Homecoming, especially since I’d just been thinking about her! I told her how much their visit in 2003 had meant to me. I knew that Prof. Kline had passed away, but what I didn’t know until later was that October 19th was the anniversary of his death. I’m so glad I was able to share a good and happy memory with her on what had to be a tough day for her….

I was curious to see how the art studios had changed, so that was our next stop on campus. Wow, how many time did I go down these stairs in the 4 years I was at Bridgewater?

To my complete surprise, pottery and ceramics is now a “thing” at Bridgewater! When I was a student, this was our drawing and painting studio.

We also visited the theater; so many memories of being on stage and back stage there with the other “Pinion Players” and members of Alpha Psi Omega. 🙂

One of these days I’ll have to start scanning my slides from these times….

After lunch on campus (with several sides of memories!), we drove to the quilt shop in Dayton to drop off the sewing machine. Then we started back south through the Valley on scenic Rt. 42.

We made a side trip to Natural Chimneys in Mt. Solon.

The campground at Natural Chimneys was jam-packed, and most campsites featured amazing Halloween decorations. We thought this one was pretty clever. 🙂

We continued driving south on Rt. 42, treated to beautiful views of the mountains and farmland.

We stopped at Augusta Springs Wetland Park, a place we last visited in August 2017. Pictures (lots of them) from that trip are here. It was definitely a pretty afternoon for a 2/3 of a mile walk on the trail. 🙂

We’d originally thought about going to another favorite place, Goshen Pass, but it was getting a little too late in the day. Instead, we drove back through Staunton, VA and stopped at Thornrose Cemetery so I could say hello to an ancestor I found there in March 2018. (That, my friends, is a story in itself: “Finding Mollie”)

As we finally drove towards home through Waynesboro, we passed Basic City Brewing Co. Wayne said, “Oh, wait–I think ‘Cherry Red’ is playing there tonight.” Continuing to “go with the flow,” we turned around, and yep, our friends were just getting started. This is SUCH a fun group!

So for a couple of people with no firm plans for the day, we’d watched the aerial acrobatics of a hawk and crows; attended a college class reunion; browsed through a really nice quilt shop; visited a geological wonder; done an easy hike through woods and wetlands; walked through one of the nation’s most beautiful cemeteries; and danced to the music of the Rolling Stones at a new brewery. All in one day. Works for us! 🙂

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Swannanoa – October 6, 2019

My cousin, Jude, her son, Shawn, and Wayne and I had the opportunity to visit Swannanoa during an open house on October 6, 2019. I’d last visited this Italian Renaissance Revival marble palace in the early 1980s when Walter and Lao Russell occupied it, and I looked forward to seeing it again.

Built in the early 1900s by James Dooley for his wife, Sally May, it was intended to be their summer home. Their main home, the Romanesque-style mansion, Maymont, is in Richmond, Virginia. While Swannanoa has not been as carefully maintained as Maymont (which was bequeathed to the City of Richmond), one still has to marvel at the skills of the hundreds and hundreds of artisans and craftsmen who created this lavish mountaintop palace….

Details above the front entrance:

Foyer and staircase, with Tiffany window:


Persian Room (Smoking Room)

Dining Room (Ceiling) and Breakfast Room mural:


Upper Hallway:

Stairway to servant’s quarters:

Master bedroom fireplace & west view:

Upper hallway floor detail:

Another look at the beautiful stained glass window:

Music room details:

Shawn and Wayne on the front porch:

Small garden and fountain:

Back of house and roof detail:

Jude, and view of the Rockfish Valley from the formal gardens:

I love Jude’s “Sloth Hiking Team” t-shirt. 🙂

Wayne taking a break on the first level of the terraced garden:

I was so busy making my way up the stairs that I neglected to take a picture of the pergola at the top of the terrace, but this old postcard shows how the gardens looked between 1929-1932:

The water tower was fascinating. It once held 20,000 gallons of water in a tank in the center of the tower.

At some point in time, water flowed from these rocks, down a little stream (which one could cross via a stone bridge), and into a small pond:

We greatly enjoyed our visit to this “hidden gem of bygone opulence” on Afton Mountain.

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – September 8, 2019

The last time Wayne and I went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was Christmas Day 2013! We were long, long overdue for a return visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed the 5 HOURS that we spent there THIS time looking at all of the paintings, sculptures, and artwork of every kind.

Here are some pictures of our favorites from this trip:

Indian Art

I love, love, love Art Nouveau….

Dragonfly Table
Detail on a Chair

Before today, I didn’t know that most “Tiffany Lamps” were designed by a woman, Clara Driscoll (1861-1944). Peacock Lamp & Cobweb Lamp above.

Painting, “Born Again” by Sam Gilliam
Quick moment for a “selfie” with Sam Gilliam’s painting behind us.
Richard Estes has always been one of my favorite photo-realist painters.
Discovered some new ones today, too!
“Burger Chef” painting by Ralph Goings
Photo-realistic painting by Robert Bechtel
“Pool” by Robert Cottingham

Pottery is one of the oldest art forms…. Fascinating to see the work by various ancient cultures.

Interior of a Cathedral by DeLorme
Detail – Dog peeing on the wall, and DeLome’s signature – from 1657!!
One of my favorites from last time–painting by Laurent. The detail is amazing.
Close up of “Three Sisters” by Laurent.
This is a small painting–how on earth did the artist paint such detail?!
Peruvian pottery from about 400 BC
Amazing painting of the Rhode Island coastline by Bricher.
Wayne in front of a painting by Stewart
Incredible details, wonderful colors and use of light
Painting by John Singer Sargent, one of Wayne’s favorite painters
Contemporary piece by Tara Donovan. Hmm, what am I looking at?
Louis Comfort Tiffany was a painter before he joined his father’s glass making company!
Massive painting by Weeks. “Hour of Prayer”
Painting by Mary Cassatt
My parents would have loved this painting.
“Winter in the Country” by Durrie
Another HUGE painting, this is “Progress” by Asher Durand
Detail from Durand’s painting
This was a surprise; had no idea that Samuel Morse (developer of Morse Code) was an artist.
Wayne in front of a large outdoor sculpture.
Very different appearance from other angles!

Of course this is just a small sampling of VMFA’s collection and if you ever have the opportunity to go, DO! It’s most definitely worth a trip. 🙂

For more information, visit their website:

Posted in Adventures & Travels, Art Education, Artwork | 1 Comment

Camping & Music Weekend, August 9-11, 2019

Wayne and I had the great pleasure of attending “Cowfest 7”–an annual invitation-only music event at beautiful Alder Creek Farm. We’ve been invited to camp there a few times, and while we’ve attended other Cowfests, this was the first year we were able take our trailer. With all sincerity, I can say that this weekend ranks up there in the top 10 best experiences I’ve had–EVER!

Our little Clipper was decked out with a new tire cover I’d made for the weekend, and we arrived at the farm on late Friday afternoon. Our host had a spot for us near the house that offered a 30-amp electrical connection (perfect!), and as other trailers, coaches, vans, and tents got set up, a community of campers and music lovers was formed.

That evening we turned on our lights, and put out our welcome mat. It was so much fun to meet new people, and to reconnect with old friends!

FOOD is certainly one of the highlights of the weekend! Campers brought items to cook and items to share, and the grills were loaded with mega-burgers, brats, and even filet mignon!

Music, of course, is central to this event, and the pickin’ that night was superb!

When we finally went back to our trailer–a little after 2 AM!–I sat outside for a while, simply marveling at how NICE it was to be around such fun, loving, and like-minded souls.

Saturday morning promised to be another picture-perfect August day, and by early afternoon our little camping community had grown even more.

The outdoor brick oven was cranked up, and “Team Dannette” got to work, ultimately making about a bazillion pizzas during this event! Kudos and blessings to them, as well as to Mark and the others who kept us all so well fed.

Picture by Jo, a fellow camper, used with permission 🙂

Other visitors–just there for the main event, Cowfest 7–started arriving when the gates opened at 4:00 pm.

It should be noted that Alder Creek Farm is a private performance and event venue east of Charlottesville, VA. It’s not a campground and it’s not a business: our hosts simply enjoy offering family-friendly events on their beautiful land where their friends and guests can enjoy music, food, and fellowship. So thankful that we’re counted among their friends! 🙂

The first two groups at Cowfest 7 played music for children, and then The BLNDERS took the stage a little after 6 PM.

A Charlottesville-based group, The BLNDRS had just finished a tour that included coastal North Carolina.

“Coincidentally,” two members of The BLNDRS (Nate and Ben) went to the school where I teach. More coincidentally, when they were performing on Ocracoke Island in NC a few days before Cowfest, my vacationing co-worker (their music teacher and mentor!) came to their show! And even more coincidentally, the band members know Wayne’s sons, one of whom had seen them the previous night when they played at Pro Re Nata. “Coincidences,” maybe, but small world-isms, for sure. 🙂 If you get a chance to see this group, do! Seriously!

As the 3/4 moon climbed higher in the sky, The Cows started rocking Alder Creek Farm. (I’m not sure if they were the inspiration for the name Cowfest or not, but maybe!)

In previous years we’ve had to leave about halfway during their 2nd set to start the drive home, but this time (since we were camping) we were able to stay until the end! T’was amazing. MOOOOOOO! 🙂

After Cowfest 7 finally wound down (despite calls to “PLAY ALL NIGHT! PLAY ALL NIGHT!”), the stalwart camping crew reconvened in the Sugar Shack for another jam session–that started around 2 AM!

At one point, Wayne and Nick (from the local Stones tribute band, Cherry Red) did a number together:

One of the highlights for me during these ever-changing jam sessions was when Wayne was singing with local singer/songwriter, Susan Munson, while Nick (on Wayne’s guitar) and Ben played. So many musical styles, backgrounds, and generations, all coming together to make some sweet music. Beautiful.

I REALLY, REALLY wish I’d gotten video clips of ALL of the groups and ALL of the jams, but here’s just a little bit of the magic from Saturday night:

It was late when we made our way back to the Clipper from the Sugar Shack, but the music was still happening! How late was it? Check my Fitbit’s sleep stats. 😉

The next morning as we were sitting out on our “porch” drinking coffee, I could see that one musician (who later said he was playing until the sun rose!) was still asleep. 😉

At one point I quipped that I wondered if our hosts would notice if we just never left; I wanted to bottle the whole experience to save and to savor; it was truly that special….

But soon everyone was packing up and heading home, with new friends made and good memories lovingly tucked into their hearts. I would catch myself smiling at random times, thinking of one thing or another from our visit to Alder Creek Farm. (And I’m STILL smiling! 🙂 )

Once we had the Clipper safely back in our driveway and (most) everything put away and cleaned up, we relaxed for a while and then started wondering what to do about dinner. Decision made, we headed to one of our favorite local restaurants, Fardowners.

As we pulled into the parking lot, who should we see but “Team Dannette”–the fabulous, all day/all night pizza makers extraordinaire from Cowfest! There had actually been many legitimate coincidences and synchronicities over the past couple of days, but this one made my jaw drop! They’d rolled on up to a campground in this neck of the woods when they left Alder Creek Farm and they’d also decided that Fardowners would be a good choice for dinner. Loved seeing them again! 🙂

I’m not sure how many more weekend camping trips we’ll be able to do before winter (especially since it’s back to school time for us!), but this one was absolutely magical. Our sincere thanks, again, to Constance and Jay, and to everyone who helped to make this such a wonderful, memorable weekend!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

P.S. – Special thanks, too, to my friend and co-worker for feeding the ferals, and to our friend and pet sitter who kept this old guy fed and medicated so we could get out again for a couple of days!

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Williamsburg & Virginia Beach, August 2-4, 2019

On this journey, we took I-64 East to American Heritage RV Park near Williamsburg, VA.

Once our “mobile motel” was set up in pull-through site #57, we were free to start exploring.

From the campground, it was an easy 4-mile drive to York River State Park.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We love Virginia’s state parks! While this one doesn’t have a campground, we first enjoyed the visitor’s center before walking on a trail that offered access to the York River.

When we walked back up from the river, we saw a couple of young Bluebirds. One was wearing a yellow band on his leg, and an adult we saw a little later had multiple bands.

Our next stop was the Croaker Landing Pier. Wayne has fond memories of fishing there several years ago with some of his friends.

The late afternoon sun made bright reflections in the water, and everything was bathed in a warm, gentle light.

It was such a beautiful, peaceful place and I was surprised that the only one fishing was a Great Blue Heron. (We also saw Bald Eagles, but they were too far away to photograph.)

After leaving the York River, it was time for dinner. We drove towards Williamsburg to the amazing Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant. I jokingly said it was kind of ironic to have your Fitbit congratulate you on achieving your daily # of steps goal when you’re waddling back to your table with a full plate of food at an all-you-can-eat buffet. 😉 And yes, it was absolutely delicious!

We made a couple of stops after leaving the restaurant, but returning to the campground that night should have been simple. I’d checked a map earlier in the day, plus I have a GPS in the car as well as various apps (Waze, Google Maps, etc.) on my phone.

In my defense, I thought I knew where I was going….

And it was really, really dark.

So while I was wearing my “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” shirt (from James River State Park), apparently sometimes those who wander DO get lost. Oh well, we eventually found our way back….

The next morning was clear and sunny, with wonderfully mild temperatures for early August. Perfect day for a beach trip!

One of the places we like to eat when we’re in Virginia Beach is Nick’s on Laskin Road near the oceanfront. We arrived just before noon, and they were still serving breakfast–yay! When we were there for breakfast last December, Wayne ordered Soft-Shell Crab Benedict. This time he got Lobster Benedict, which was superb.

After a wonderful meal, we drove up the beach to 64th Street. Although it looks like you’re entering a neighborhood, the road winds back through the woods to one of our favorite places, First Landing State Park.

The first bird we saw along the Cape Henry Trail was an Osprey.

There were actually a LOT of Ospreys!

We also saw an Egret…

….and the biggest surprise of all was seeing an Ibis in this section of the park!

I saw an Ibis when we visited Florida in 2016, but I had NO idea they could also be found in coastal Virginia!

We walked back to the parking area and drove to another section of First Landing State Park that’s bordered by the Chesapeake Bay.

Love the images of the pelicans with a Navy ship as a backdrop!

What you see behind the birds in the next few pictures is the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel.

We stayed in the water for close to an hour at First Landing, then drove to the south end of Virginia Beach near Rudee Inlet. We were ready to enjoy a little early evening ocean time. It was so, so pretty!

Uh, nope….

It was fun to watch the surfers, and Wayne got a couple of good rides body surfing. This was a super nice way to end our day trip to the beach!

On the way back to Williamsburg, we passed the Captain George’s restaurant in VA Beach. Nope, not happening two nights in a row! 😉

We took I-664 North out of VA Beach. The bridge/tunnel on this route is usually less congested than the one at Hampton Roads, plus after so many visits to the James River in various locations, it’s always fun to see where it ends. 🙂

Back at our campsite, Wayne put up our blue LED string lights and started a fire while I took a shower at the bathhouse. We had a simple (unconventional) dinner of quesadillas with avocado, yogurt, and beer.

And then S’Mores happened. 🙂

The campfire started out really smoky because we inadvertently used some damp wood left by a previous camper. It was SO smoky at first I was concerned that it might set off the smoke detector in the trailer! We kept the door shut even after it was burning well, and later–when the fire was almost down to embers–Wayne doused it with water to make sure that it was completely out.

Well. Guess what started shrieking a little after 5 AM? Yep, the smoke detector! I jumped out of bed and unscrewed it from the ceiling–and it immediately went silent. After a quick scan inside the trailer, I grabbed a flashlight and went outside. Nothing. No smoke from our campfire or anyone else’s. I checked the propane tank (which hadn’t been turned on), the vent for the fridge (fine), the water heater (which hadn’t been turned on, either), the electric cord from the pedestal, looked under the trailer, walked out in the road so I could see the top of the roof and A/C–and everything was fine. WTH?!

When I came inside (rechecking everything, and looking and sniffing everywhere), I put the still-quiet smoke detector back on the ceiling. I still have NO idea what triggered it, but that was a totally adrenaline-producing wake-up call! At least we had the option to go back to sleep for a while! (My Fitbit documented this event, too–ha.)

The drive home on Sunday should have taken just under two hours; always a little slower than normal when we’re towing the trailer. Due to an accident between Williamsburg and Richmond, however, it took over three hours….

Finally we saw our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and soon we were safely home. We’re so thankful we had the opportunity to go on another wonderful adventure before school starts!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

P.S. – Kian, our 17-year old Siamese, was very happy to see us! We have a wonderful pet sitter, but given Kian’s age and various health issues we don’t like to leave this sweet old boy for too many days at a time. 🙂

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