bonus tracks: red wing roots music festival, 2014.

There are always leftovers :) Enjoy these final shots from the Red Wing Roots Music Festival!

BourbonBarrelCongress1 BryanElijahSmith2 BryanElijahSmith5 BryanElijahSmith6 BryanElijahSmith8 burgIMG_9458 burgIMG_9461 burgIMG_9586 burgIMG_9659 burgIMG_9665 JPHarris JPHarris1 JPHarris2jpg RedWingCalburgIMG_9582bwCopyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

time flies: red wing roots music festival, 2014.

RedWingKidsDay three brought a new element to the Red Wing Roots Music Festival: my children.

Honestly, I was so excited they’d get to attend that I couldn’t get there fast enough that Sunday. In case you didn’t know, kids get in free at Red Wing, and there’s plenty for them to do. But I really wanted Bree and Cal to hear some music. So many times when bands perform, it’s way past bedtime. Great music shouldn’t be reserved for just the 18 and older crowd. I prefer to start influencing/molding/controlling their music interests EARLY. You’ll never find “Barney’s Greatest Hits” in this mama’s car. EVER.

We parked and started the trek to the Local Roots Stage, where we looked forward to seeing Bourbon Barrel Congress and Bryan Elijah Smith. I worried for a moment that the walk from the car would be a little long for the children… but who am I kidding? They’re young and strong and enthusiastic. Cal found a walking stick and that’s all he needed. Bree was fascinated by the sheer number of people and their cozy campsites. At the gate, one of the volunteers recognized the three of us — she’d seen our faces right here on this web site — and said she feels like she’s watched Bree and Cal grow up and then asked, “Do your kids just never argue?” And I could proudly say, “It’s rare.” Another volunteer suggested I write my cell number on the kids’ wristbands in case they get lost. But… my cell phone was useless out there, so I quickly scrawled “BRING ME TO THE STUMP” and said a quick prayer about the kindness of strangers.

On we went. We were a bit early for Bourbon Barrel Congress, so I showed them where the stump was — our meeting place should we get separated — and we got some Kline’s ice cream and an iced coffee from Lucas Roasting Company.

LucasRoasting JP Harris and the Tough Choices were on the South Stage, with that voice that could melt steel and sounds that could slice through it. I could see Brandy snaking her way closer to the stage, and the kids and I wiggled our way through the sweaty crowd to join her. We caught the last few numbers of JP’s performance, including the very first song he ever wrote, “If There Ain’t No Honky-Tonks in Heaven.” It made me think of Harper Lee and how she won the Pulitzer for her very first book. Why bother writing anything else when you hit a home run the first time at bat? Perhaps in JP’s case, because PEOPLE WANT MORE, for one. That band was awesome. Their new album, Home Is Where the Hurt Is (amen) comes out in a couple weeks, and you can catch them TONIGHT (!!) at Clementine in Harrisonburg. And I will see you there :)

JPHarris5 JPHarris6 JPHarris7Then we moved to the Local Roots Stage for Bourbon Barrel Congress. Thankfully we were able to sit in the shade, but still it was hot enough to shed about eight pounds of fluid while performing. But the heat didn’t slow these guys down; rather, it seemed to ignite their spirit and, likewise, the crowd’s. Soon everyone was clapping and stomping to the bellow of Chris Davis’ upright base, the squeals of Rene’s Devito’s fiddle, and the laughter of John Spangler’s banjo. On and on they barreled indeed, through an impressive eight numbers… lively instrumentals alternated with songs embroidered with Ethan Hawkins’ like-freshly-Windexed-glass voice. Cleeeaaan. Bourbon Barrel Congress will play at Harrisonburg’s Local Chop and Grill House October 17!

BourbonBarrelCongress3 BourbonBarrelCongress2BourbonBarrelCongress4When at last Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wildhearts, accompanied by singer/writer Krista Polvere, climbed up on stage, I felt both happy and sad. For me, this was the finale of the festival. After their performance, the kids and I would have to hit the road. So we savored every last note of their set. Their sound was huge — almost too big for the Local Roots Stage — and it felt like the amps would blow the tent down at times. But the warm sound lassoed us, hugged us all, and like a hypnotist’s spell, compelled us to stay put.

Since that performance I’ve purchased every single album of theirs, and I can’t help hear a bit of Dylan — both Jakob and Bob — in Bryan’s love-worn-leather voice and timeless words, paired with the band’s unique yet diversely broad instrumental style. If you liked what you heard that day, too, you can celebrate the release of their latest album, These American Hearts, at Clementine on September 12th. The show is proudly presented by our local Friendly City Food Co-op, Lucas Roasting Company, WMRA, and Three Brothers Brewing. It’ll be a good ol’ hometown party.

BryanElijahSmith1 BryanElijahSmith3 BryanElijahSmith4 BryanElijahSmith7On the way back to the car, the kids’ broad smiles and cute comments brightened each step.
“I want to see those bands again!”
“I can’t believe how loud that was!”
“When can we go to another festival??” and
“Mom, can I bring this rock home?” No. (Because, we sorta have a lot of rocks already at the house, you see.)
“Okay. See you next year, Rock!”

RedWingrockSee you next year, indeed!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

life of the arty: art lotto 2014, first friday.

art lotto chalk2So the day after Art Lotto’s private opening was First Friday in downtown Harrisonburg, and this time the festivities spilled out onto the pavement in front of Larkin Arts. Just take a look at how much fun everyone had! And, the general public was extremely impressed with all forty-two portraits. It’s one thing to see photos of the artwork, here… it’s entirely another to see it in person. Kiddos enjoyed a whole bunch of fun activities like nail painting and sidewalk art, and hundreds of people kept caricature artist Susan Edelman busy all evening. Old Hill Cider was there to keep us refreshed, and Many Nights Ahead provided a live soundtrack for the whole shebang. It’s no wonder, between the talent represented in the show and the natural way Valerie and Scott host a party, that Larkin was one of Harrisonburg’s busiest art venues that evening.

Check out these photos, and then hurry down to Larkin Arts between now and September 3 to see the exhibit!

art lotto chalk art lotto caricatures1 art lotto sidewalk1 art lotto reflections5 art lotto reflections2 art lotto painting art lotto nails2 art lotto nails1 art lotto many nights ahead5 art lotto many nights ahead4 art lotto many nights ahead2art lotto many nights ahead1 art lotto many night ahead3 art lotto kyle BW art lotto crowd4bw art lotto coloring1 art lotto chalk3Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

pick me up: red wing roots music festival 2014.

More Day Two photos of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival, 2014

redwingrootsdance5 redwingrootsfans4 redwingrootsjennica redwingrootslarkin4 redwingrootsmisstess redwingrootssarah3 redwingrootssteelwheels6 redwingrootssteelwheels7 redwingrootssteelwheels9 redwingrootssteelwheels10 redwingrootssteelwheels12Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

home bass: red wing roots music festival 2014.

redwingrootscrowd1Day Two of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival began with a discussion about the bird and the bees and at what age to let your kids in on the Great Secret. I’ve always believed that if a child is old enough to ask, she’s old enough to know (at least for this topic). When my daughter was seven, she asked WHY there were anatomical differences between boys and girls, and I said, “Because that’s how you tell what they are when they’re born.” Duh. Because, you know, they’re bald and all. She waved her index finger at me and replied, “I KNOW there’s more to it than that.” So I took a deep breath and I told her. I was SO NERVOUS. And when I was all done fumbling and stuttering and sweating over it, she said, “Well, that makes sense. Is that it?”

Then I had to tell her it’s kinda like Santa: other kids might not know yet, so don’t go blabbing and ruin it for them.

This was our conversation over a refreshing beer in the Blue Mountain Brew Garden before we snaked our way through throngs of people crowded in front of the South Stage to see Miss Tess and the Talkbacks. Don’t let the floral dress fool ya – that gal is fierce. They played several heart-pounding, dance-inducing numbers, plus “Hold Back the Tears” by Neil Young. In trying to describe their sound, the words country and funk both come to mind. With a modern-vintage vibe. So it’s like a modern-vintage funktry. Brandy and Ben attempted to dance and I wish I coulda hijacked the camera. Ha. I saw some students from my school, too, and I felt strangely proud to see them in the world outside of class.

redwingrootsmisstess2 redwingrootsmisstess3Over by the Local Roots Stage, kids were enjoying all kinds of art activities hosted by Larkin Arts and Artery. Sweet Denise Allen was facilitating the creation of a large, adorable, collective painting, while kids at the Larkin tent enjoyed bubble wands, coloring pages, puzzles, board games, printmaking, face painting, hair braiding, nail art, and even a scavenger hunt. There was also a Polaroid photo booth and a caricature artist! If you have kids and you’re looking for a kid friendly music festival, put Red Wing on your list.

redwingrootslarkin1redwingrootslarkin2redwingrootslarkin3redwingrootskidsbubbleSarah Jarosz has a haunting sound… perhaps not something you’d expect at a roots music festival filled with banjos and fiddles and ukuleles. She and her band mates – Alex and Nathaniel – toss around five or six instruments among the three of them and create a sound that is both gauzy and downhome, beautiful yet energizing. People like to be amazed at how young she is… and she is young and that’s impressive… but talent like hers doesn’t wait. We should not be surprised her gift showed up early. Just grateful.

redwingrootssarahThe first song she played – “Over the Edge” – I recognized right away because I think I’ve heard it on the radio. She also performed Radiohead’s “The Tourist” (WOW!!), an instrumental number by John Hartford called “Squirrel Hunters,” and one of my long-ago favorites, “The Wind” by Cat Stevens. What versatility!

redwingrootssarah2I need to dedicate at least a paragraph to all the amazing food we ate. There were at least a dozen vendors including Lucas Roasting Company to cool you down, warm you up, or re-energize you; Old Hill Cider; Blue Mountain Brewery; Grilled Cheese Mania; Jon Boyz BBQ Shack; Jack Brown’s; A Bowl of Good; Blue Ridge Pizza Co.; Goatocado; Cristina’s Café; and many others. I had a Carolina BBQ sandwich from Jon Boyz (yum!!) and two (yes, at the same time) Jack Brown’s burgers. At the condiment table I asked, “What’s this?” holding up a squirt bottle of whitish sauce. “That?” replied the girl on duty. “Oh, that’s liquid crack in a bottle. You definitely want that!” And I could eat that Crazy Cuban burrito from Cristina’s every day. Even Kline’s Ice Cream was there. All the comforts of home.

redwingrootsbbqredwingrootsfood3 redwingrootsfood2 redwingrootsfood1redwingrootslucasAfter Sarah, we spent a good deal of time decompressing in the Brew Garden, laughing and sipping and reminiscing. My friends are so dear and I’m so glad we spent this timelessness together. But before long it was time for the Steel Wheels to hit the stage, so we hauled ourselves up and over there.

redwingrootssteelwheels3The band started with a lovely thank-you to the fans for their support of the festival and used the word “home” like fifteen times. They also thanked Wade Lune (of Bella Luna, and formerly of the Mockingbird in Staunton) for his part in their involvement in this whole endeavor. A little later they thanked our humble Jeremiah Jenkins, who oversaw most everything we all enjoyed all weekend. We’ll never take you for granted, Jeremiah. You do so much. And did you know he helped write one of the songs the Steel Wheels performed? Yep. Just add that to the résumé. Among the favorites that evening were “Halfway to Heaven,” dedicated to Lucas Coffee, “Lay Down Lay Low,” and “Promised Land.” I swear, it was like Name That Tune. They’d strum one note and people would start screaming. We know them so well.

redwingrootssteelwheels5 redwingrootssteelwheels8 redwingrootssteelwheels4 redwingrootssteelwheels2 redwingrootssteelwheels1And just like that, it was time to head back to my car (on the first row this time—yow!) and drive back into the lonely reality. My kids would return Sunday and I couldn’t wait to bring them back with me.

redwingrootsfamily1We’ll share the third and final installment of our story really soon. Thanks so much for visiting this week!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

 

 

 

swapping notes: red wing roots music festival 2014.

more photos from Day One of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival… LOTS more to come!
redwingrootsbaby redwingrootsbeertruck redwingrootschair redwingrootsfaces redwingrootslights redwingrootspokey1 redwingrootspokey5 redwingrootspokey6 redwingrootspokey9 redwingrootspokey11 redwingrootssmiles1 redwingrootsviolin

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

all folked up: red wing roots music festival 2014.

redwingrootssignSummer doesn’t technically end until late September, but the spirit of summer seems to dim the second Target publishes its back-to-school circular. At least, for me. Of course, I’m a teacher, so the end of summer vacation means a lot of things: it means way-too-early mornings, way too many meetings, way too many new names to learn. It means full-blown shoes instead of flip flops, dress suits instead of swimsuits, and seventeen-minute lunch breaks. So it’s nice, as hundreds of out-of-state plates flood through our city and parents get their college kids moved back in… as traffic goes from hardly noticeable to downright irksome… as the evenings cool down enough to warrant a sweater, wrinkly from its sojourn in the closet… as these changes do and must occur, it’s nice to remember the timelessness of summer and all we did to achieve that temporal suspension.

redwingrootscheers1As I look back over my summer, here in my kitchen a mere two days before I meet 135 fresh new students, I think most about an event that stopped time in its tracks for three whole days: The Red Wing Roots Music Festival. In just its second year, the festival is a coveted gig for musicians far and wide who celebrate their culture’s musical roots. Essentially, roots music is folk music that has aged. “Folk music” is just music created by a particular group of folks: jazz came from a group of folks, blues came from a group of folks, and today’s music has evolved from those “roots.” Whatever modern music you enjoy now is rooted in very culture-specific traditions. This is why roots music is so appealing: somewhere, at some level, it’s in your blood.

redwingrootsdance1It was like the earth stopped spinning on that little patch of the globe, everyone breathed, everyone ate and drank, everyone sang and danced and filled up on whatever it was they’d been missing: love, friendship, music, sustenance, nature… Time became vertical rather than horizontal; it became deep rather than linear. It was SUCH a relief.

Heading out to Natural Chimneys that Friday evening, I listened to The Swell Season and watched the bars on my cell phone, and my obligations, disappear one by one. I was late getting to the festival – had to get my kids all squared away for the weekend – and I felt a little guilty for missing some performances already, and even though I had to count the rows of cars to be sure I’d be able to find my car again later (it was THOUSANDS of people, people), parking and getting through the main gate was a breeze, thanks to careful planning and a super-helpful staff.

It took a little time before I finally ran into Brandy, but even in a crowd of thousands we always manage to find each other. In the meantime, I ran into a friend there for the weekend with his wife and toddler, brave soul. He told me that HIS friends, on their way to Virginia for the festival, decided, “Screw it! Let’s just buy a pop-up!” and that’s what they did. They just pulled over and BOUGHT A POP-UP. Of course, as my friend explained, they’re DINKs (Double Income No Kids), and so it’s not so far out of the realm of possibility as it is for us SITKs. Soon after that I saw tons of Harrisonburg-ers. Most of my social circle was there, in fact. At first I was a little leery of leaving my belongings in the Blue Mountain brew garden, but then I realized if anyone stole from me, it wouldn’t be long before I caught that person with my pilfered item back home. The odds were that if you stole something, you’d be stealing from someone you knew. I was among friends. No one was stealin’ anything.

redwingrootsbeergarden redwingrootscoconut Brandy appeared out of nowhere and we headed over to see Pokey Lafarge, one of the festival’s favorites last year. He didn’t disappoint. His old-time concoction of saloon ragtime was refreshing and lively, complete with watermelon served directly to the crowd. The man is like a time capsule himself. So much of the past contained in that slender frame… he must be much older than he looks. He sang a song about River City and how to treat a lady, back when people gave a rip about that. Just kidding. Sorta.

redwingrootspokey7 redwingrootspokey8 redwingrootspokey10He also sang an old Hank, Sr. song, “Lovesick Blues,” which blended seamlessly with all his other work. It made me think about what breaking up used to mean… back when saying goodbye meant no contact. You saddled up your horse and rode out of your lover’s life forever. There was no turning around, no flying back the next day, no email or texting or social-media stalking. People probably broke up less back then than they do now because they understood the permanence of it. In a way that makes it easier than it is now.

redwingrootspokey2 redwingrootspokey3 redwingrootspokey4I spent some time during Pokey’s performance to check out some people’s festival gear. I saw lots of really cool, versatile, utilitarian back packs. Some even contained babies, in addition to all the other necessities: bug repellant, sunscreen, water, lip balm, sunglasses, hat… those things plus shoes you don’t really care about… but really very little else. I set my chair and blanket down when I first arrived and didn’t return to it until I left for the night.

I also noticed a resurgence (or maybe it never left?) of hippie clothing. This made me smile. I used to wear that stuff. Does this mean a bona fide resurgence of hippie-ism? I sure hope so, now that our post-Reaganomics, post-Lewinsky planet is a complete mess. My generation – Generation X – is officially old and tired. Come on, new hippies… we need you.
redwingrootsfans

redwingrootsgear1 redwingrootsfans2Next up were The Duhks. I’d never heard them before, and I LOVED THEM. These twelve-year “soulgrass” veterans out of Canada added a modern element to the festival with a blend of gospel, blues, bongos and tattoos. The singer took a break for one number and I actually missed her, but it turned into an all-out jam that got some feet moving and some wild-eyed spirits touching. Darkness fell and they played a few more. Fireflies appeared, decked out for the party in yellow. Little kids easily caught them and set them free. They’re the friendliest of all insects. They move slowly, they don’t seem to mind if you put them in a jar for a few minutes, I’ve never been bitten or stung by one… I’m not sure how that cute rear flasher could intimidate a predator. They must survive on karma. They make other organisms happy, and in return, nothing eats them.

redwingrootsduhks1 redwingrootsduhks3And then, what always happens happened: I lost my friends! And I just had to go with the flow because on this night, nothing really mattered and the whole world was my friend. People were lined up, squished together and screaming long before Trampled By Turtles even started. And when they started, a massive hoard of fans flooded in. I sat on the moist earth and watched their feet hurry by.

redwingrootsduhks2I had decided from the start that I would drive in and out each of the three days. I only live about twenty minutes from Mt. Solon, and my bony frame makes camping uncomfortable. I began to regret that decision while driving out, when my phone lit up like a Christmas tree with all the messages I’d missed.  But tomorrow held the promise of timelessness again.

redwingrootshoopboy redwingrootshoopgirl redwingrootskatieYou can read about Day Two of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival right here in a few days!

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

show of hands: court square theater.

Court Square Theater nightI was expecting a different lesson, one about working hard to overcome obstacles and achieve a lifelong dream. After all, Little Bread HenBarefoot Puppet Theater‘s rendition of the old, similarly named story – follows a little red hen’s endeavor to make bread from scratch. Planting and tending the field, cutting down the wheat, doing whatever-is-typically-done to make flour… seems a bit ambitious for a chicken, if you ask me. So I was expecting a lesson about struggle and reward.

But Heidi and Sam Rugg, who operate this outfit, had something else in mind. In a spoiler-free nutshell, Herr Brotmeister and his daughter Maguerite own a bakery in an undisclosed European nation. They have a few hens running around – you know, for eggs – and Marguerite gets particularly attached to one of them, Millie, named for her deceased mother. Business is good.

barefoot puppet 4Then the villains show up: a fox and an older lady who’s got a thing for the widower Brotmeister. Another woman comes in and orders sixty strawberry custard pies for the Strawberry Festival in Paris. A tall order for this tiny operation run by two people and a herd of chickens.

At this point I think, “Wait. Maybe this is about Herr Brotmeister finding new love after the death of his wife! Then again, maybe it IS about overcoming obstacles, what with the pies and all.”

barefoot puppet 2This is what happens when an English teacher attends a puppet show. She tries to pin down the THEME. So I stopped taking notes and decided to just enjoy the show like a kid would. Wasn’t hard.

Herr Brotmeister is so distracted by all these women that he forgets to tell Marguerite about the fox… and Marguerite leaves the gate open… and then gossip spreads through the farm animals like mad cow disease about a dog named Fred and his possible murder… which, of course, causes all the animals to be unwilling to help evil, old Millie make bread, which results in a bread shortage. Ah, consequences. It’s all cause and effect, people.

And so the lesson is a bit less hopeful than my original prediction: If no one helps, everyone gets NOTHING.

barefoot puppet 1The husband and wife proprietors of Barefoot Puppet Theater, Heidi and Sam Rugg, take lots of folktales and add twists and quirks. They also make all their puppets and sets, man all the puppets, each with a different voice, and use props for interactive improv with the audience. It’s really very clever and fun to watch, their antics resulting in squeals and giggles from everyone in the audience, blurring the line between kiddo and grownup. After the performance they were happy to answer everyone’s adorable questions.

barefoot puppetbw 9They’ve been known to perform in major cities up and down the East Coast including Long Island, DC, and Atlanta, and isn’t it nice that we live in a community where awesome entertainment for all ages is just a quick stroll downtown? A quick note to parents: A membership at Court Square Theater is about as vital to your family as your library card and your Kohl’s cash. Court Square Theater members get twenty percent off tickets and FREE popcorn, for the equivalent of about seven bucks a month. Plus you’re helping support the arts in your community. And you can purchase and drink beer and wine in there!! (And of course the usual sodas and other beverages, which I’m admittedly not as excited about.) Now THAT’S family friendly!

Tonight through Sunday you can catch a performance of Valley Playhouse’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun. In coming weeks, you’ll find a variety of entertainment, including a dance performance, a craft beer film (yow!!), and concerts like Danny Knicely and Ellis Paul. Time to get that membership!

barefoot puppetbw 3Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

yum sip yum: food bar food.

foodbarfood signThe first thing I asked Amanda when she had a free second: “What’s the story behind the name, Food Bar Food?”

Her answer was simple and clear: she wanted the name of the restaurant to reflect its focus on food and beverages. Nothing more, nothing flashy really… it’s one of those “there’s-food-and-a-bar-and-did-we-mention-the-food?” kinda restaurants. The web site calls their culinary offerings “global comfort food,” which I think is a humble description for truly unique dishes one won’t find anywhere else, at least not in our little sliver of the globe.

foodbarfood bwfoodbarfood barBrandy and I were so excited and honored to be invited to Food Bar Food’s soft opening, and for my very favorite meal: brunch! The brunch menu consists of six “plates,” four “bowls,” four burgers, and a healthy assortment of sides. I don’t thing I’ve ever encountered a menu on which everything – absolutely all the dishes – appealed to me. Usually there are one of two items I wrinkle my nose at, but not this time. I wanted everything, from the Asian spiced fried chicken to the haddock burger with Sriracha mayo.

After deliberation that easily could have stretched us into lunch, I decided on the Pad Thai frittata – a rice noodle egg pancake with shrimp, veggies, peanuts, scallions, and ginger sauce. I noticed a “gf” notation next to the price and dorkily shouted to Brandy, “What’s this mean? Nine dollah, girlfriend?”

“Uh, no. That means it’s gluten free.”

Ah. I’m letting you all know, there are gluten-free options. Woot!

foodbarfood padthaiBrandy ordered the Huevos Rancheros – two eggs with black bean chili, roast poblano chili relish, queso blanco, red chili sauce, and a corn tortilla cheddar quesadilla, all for ten dollah, girlfriend! We each gobbled up half and then traded plates to finish the rest. Both dishes were TO DIE FOR. Amanda wasn’t kidding when she said the food is the focus.

foodbarfood brunchBut wait. I haven’t yet described the BAR part of Food Bar Food. Not only do they have a full bar, with four rotating taps, a dozen bottled and eight canned beers, a wall full of wine, and some enticing specialty cocktails like the Honey Badger and the Hair of the Salty Dog, but they also have an AWESOME Bloody Mary menu. We tried the Rooster (Kimchi spices, Sriracha, ginger, lime, and Thai basil), the Bloody Maria (cholula, jalapeno-infused tequila, chili salt and a pepperoncini), and the Bull, which arrived garnished with a ding-dang pork rind, for heaven’s sake!

foodbarfood bloodymaryWe’re so excited about this new restaurant where our nourishment needs are the number one priority. When you get a minute, check out their dinner menu, too. You’ll see all sorts of unusual combinations created by seasoned chef Jeff Minnich – like sea scallops with avocado mousse, or the braised and crispy duck leg with cranberry balsamic sauce, and somehow the most expensive dish there is just twelve dollah, girlfriend!

Food Bar Food, located at 126 W. Bruce St., is now open Tuesday – Saturday for dinner, and Saturday – Sunday for brunch.

foodbarfood staffCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

wheely good: trucks.

trucks signRecently Brandy and I had a sudden, unexpected opportunity to go out at dinner time, followed by a massive bout of indecisiveness because without all the kids to please, our options were overwhelming. Sushi? Barbeque? Burgers? Wings? Then we thought, why not go somewhere we can just get a little of everything and share? And that magical place is TRUCKS, Harrisonburg’s very own dedicated food truck lot — one of my most favorite ideas our city has ever cooked up. The last time we were there, only one truck occupied the large space. It was time to pay a visit and see what had changed. And stuff our faces.

trucks GCMDespite an impromptu rain storm that delayed our arrival, coupled with our general ineptitude that always delays our arrival anywhere, and despite the fact that it was like ten minutes before closing, all the trucks were still open and serving customers. Grilled Cheese Mania was the first truck on the lot. Brandy and I published a story about them last July, and now twelve months later, they still draw a sizable, hungry crowd (one girl said, upon receiving her grilled cheese, “Thank the Lord!”). And now they’ve cozied up to their friendly neighbors: Lobsta Rollin’, La Taurina II, and Taste of Soul.

trucks GCM tentCan I just pause here for a second and direct your attention to the awesome VARIETY provided by these four little trucks? Next time you and your friends, or coworkers, or family members, or heck, even your whiny kids can’t agree where to eat, just come here. If you’re still whiny when you get your plate, which I doubt you’ll be, you can even eat at separate tables, grouchy-pants! But I predict that, inspired by the fellowship and solidarity of these trucks and their staffs, you’ll get a case of the warm fuzzies and chow down peacefully.

Anyhoo. Lobsta Rollin’ most always offers Lobsta Tacos (which we ordered), the Lobsta Roll (the dish that started this whole thing rollin’, ha), and a Lobsta Wrap. They’ve also served Lobsta Quesadillas, Lobsta Mac and Cheese, Lobsta Bisque, Lobsta Poppas, and Clam Chowdah. Oh, and they sometimes get truffles from Truffelicious!

trucks lobster tacosOriginally from Miami, they brought the lobsta craze to Harrisonburg just a few months ago, have been wildly successful, and are already expanding (spoiler alert!) to a store front near Massanutten! They’ll also be expanding their catering and delivery services so you’ll never be far from your lobsta.

trucks lobsta2The ladies at Taste of Soul — Ebony, Angela, and Areyl — served us some side dishes that will make you miss your grandmother in a most visceral way. The homey look of their truck, the mason jars lining the counter, their smiles and laughter, and their time-honored family recipes elicit a giddy yearning for a world that seemed only to exist when I was a carefree child. We ate their collard greens, their mac and cheese, their potato salad, and even a cupcake. All that was missing was the succulent pork chop, a sell-out that particular day. Also on the menu are fried chicken wings, boneless tenders, and hush puppies, and THIS MONDAY, you can get breakfast! Chicken and waffles plus a coffee. The newest addition to the lot, they’ve accomplished all this in a very short time.

trucks soul food trucks taste soulRounding out the lot is La Taurina II — II, because you might have already visited the first one. It’s been on North Main for about five years, and I’m so excited they were able to expand to a second location. They serve flavorful, delicious, fresh food at bargain prices. You really get a lot of food. They make tortas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and sopes, with a variety of meats to choose from. We ordered Tacos Campechana (Mexican sausage with pork shoulder) and we pretty much licked the plate, and then, I admit, I continued eating the sauce with my finger.

trucks tacos trucks taurinaSo, yes, if you were keeping track, the two of us ate three large plates of food and didn’t feel bad about it for one second. TRUCKS is located at 1321 South High Street, next to Tangier Seafood. Each truck has similar but not identical hours of operation, so we created a page dedicated to ALL of Harrisonburg’s food trucks. It’s called Truck, Yeah! and it lists all the trucks alphabetically with their hours and locations. If you know of a truck not listed and can supply the details, please email katie@ilovemyburg.com and I’ll be happy to add it! See you out and about!

Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

leaves in good hands: sparrow’s floral design.

sparrowsflowers signThe simple, lovely flower has long been a source of joy and comfort to us humans. We look forward to spring when we can dig in the raw dirt and plant beauty. In the fall, we sentimentally press those coveted blossoms between the pages of heavy, thick books in the spirit of preservation. In winter, we might delight ourselves in the purchase of a bouquet, just to brighten the dull grayness of the room.

You’ve likely given or received flowers at least once in your life… for flowers deliver a message much larger than you can fit on that itty bitty card. They are nature’s poetry. Flowers transmit feelings – love, admiration, grief. At weddings, the hope tied to catching the bride’s bouquet. An anniversary gift that says, “I love you more than life itself.” During illness or bereavement, the encouraging reminder that life does, in fact, triumph.

sparrowsflowers sauceBrandy and I were invited to a Flower Party and Potluck Dinner hosted by Amanda Tutwiler, owner of Sparrow’s Flowers. It was at Hillandale Park on a lovely evening. We all (14 of us) brought a few stems of whatever bloom we could pilfer and something to eat, and Amanda supplied the vases, greens (for the flower arrangements, not for eating), and of course, her expertise.

sparrowsflowers taco bowlssparrowsflowers food2 sparrowsflowers food1While folks arrived, we chatted about the usual: work and children. We talked about how irritating it is when your kids tattle on each other. I’ve basically told my kids, unless there is blood pouring from your body or something’s on fire, work it out yourselves! (Mother of the Year?) But they still tattle. Maybe I should implement a point system. Each kid starts with, say, five points. Whenever a kid tattles, he loses a point. If the accused is actually guilty of the crime, that kid loses two points. If anyone has any points leftover at the end of the day, he or she doesn’t get rolled up in a carpet and dangled off a bridge (Mother of the Year!). You know, it’s the whole “choose your battles” thing. Anyhoo. Food continued to arrive and we continued to drool… but the guest who was bringing plates and cups didn’t make it, so I hopped in my car and scooted down the street to Food Lion. Once back at the picnic shelter, I was hailed a hero and we chowed down.

sparrowsflowers eatDuring dinner we chatted about the upcoming Art Lotto (can’t wait!!), summer plans, and the show Fargo on FX that I’m completely obsessed with. And then the real fun started. We each grabbed a vase and just started piling in the flowers.

sparrowsflowers vasessparrowsflowers collage1There were irises and lamb’s ear, daisies and azalea blossoms, baby’s breath and peonies and lots, lots more. It was fun, and festive, and pretty, and relaxing, and I thought, this would be a great activity to do at a wedding while waiting for the bride and groom to get to the reception. You know, while they and the wedding party are having photos taken, the rest of the guests could create centerpieces for the tables. Huh, huh? You are free to use that idea, and may I suggest hiring Amanda to facilitate it.

sparrowsflowers arrange1 sparrowsflowers arrange2sparrowsflowers collage2 sparrowsflowers collage3 sparrowsflowers collage4The bouquets were all different and spectacular, and we realized they sorta represented each of us. My arrangement was tall, extending way past the rim of the vase and sorta leaning over to one side. Like me. I heard, “Mine’s all over the place” and “Mine doesn’t make any sense.” And of course, Ella’s was just plain cute.

sparrowsflowers ellaEveryone meandered back to the food table for a last nibble or two, and we all got to bring our beautiful arrangements home, plus a couple of floral sachets, too! My bouquet is still intact, still tall and lopsided, and still just as pretty as ever. It reminds me how nice it is to have fresh flowers in my home. I could get used to it.

sparrowsflowers sachetssparrowsflowers groupYou can contact Amanda at Sparrow’s Floral Design through her Facebook page, or if you don’t have Facebook, you can email her at sparrowsflowers@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

eternal present: some of my parts, blue nile.

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Amy Haloskey: former student. Amy was a student in my Art 1 class during my second year of teaching. Before her, I viewed student-teacher relationships very differently. She helped me to see that connections can be genuine and deep even in a school setting. She truly made me a better teacher. I am happy she is still a part of my life and am very proud of the woman she is becoming.  Just for you, Amy: Be a beauty. Not a beast.

Amy Haloskey: former student.
Amy was a student in my Art 1 class during my second year of teaching. Before her, I viewed student-teacher relationships very differently. She helped me to see that connections can be genuine and deep even in a school setting. She truly made me a better teacher. I am happy she is still a part of my life and am very proud of the woman she is becoming. 
Just for you, Amy: Be a beauty. Not a beast.

Mrs. K (Denise Kuykendall): mentor. I've known Mrs. K for over 12 years. A psychic once told her that she would always have a house full of people. The psychic was right. Mrs. K will welcome anyone into her home, cook them a meal, then send them home with leftovers. She is extremely nurturing and motherly. This is what I've taken from her. I always welcome the chance to invite others to my table. You never know where that moment can take you…or them.

Mrs. K (Denise Kuykendall): mentor.
I’ve known Mrs. K for over 12 years. A psychic once told her that she would always have a house full of people. The psychic was right. Mrs. K will welcome anyone into her home, cook them a meal, then send them home with leftovers. She is extremely nurturing and motherly. This is what I’ve taken from her. I always welcome the chance to invite others to my table. You never know where that moment can take you…or them.

Denise Allen: friend. Denise and I have been friends and partners in event planning for several years. She is a true friend who is genuinely excited about life…and she's not afraid to jump up and down and express it with 47289 exclamation points! (!) Denise believed in my ideas when they were only passing thoughts…she helped see them through. I'm so happy to have a motivated, ambitious friend like her.

Denise Allen: friend.
Denise and I have been friends and partners in event planning for several years. She is a true friend who is genuinely excited about life…and she’s not afraid to jump up and down and express it with 47289 exclamation points! (!) Denise believed in my ideas when they were only passing thoughts…she helped see them through. I’m so happy to have a motivated, ambitious friend like her.

Ben Fraits: my main squeeze. I met Ben at the Fairfield Center's Valley Plane Pull. It's funny to think we went to high school together, walked the same halls and never knew each other existed until 12 years later. Ben's creativity is inspiring. He has taught me to trust again and to let myself be loved…and for that, I am thankful. Just for you, Ben: 9:30 and 70 degrees…oh and, dachoo. (!)

Ben Fraits: my main squeeze.
I met Ben at the Fairfield Center’s Valley Plane Pull. It’s funny to think we went to high school together, walked the same halls and never knew each other existed until 12 years later. Ben’s creativity is inspiring. He has taught me to trust again and to let myself be loved…and for that, I am thankful.
Just for you, Ben: 9:30 and 70 degrees…oh and, dachoo. (!)

some of my parts opening2 some of my parts opening4bw some of my parts opening6Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

time will tell: some of my parts, blue nile.

b and mBW

Brenda Burner: aunt. When I was little, I was eavesdropping on a conversation my aunt Brenda was having with my mom. Brenda explained how she thought graying women were beautiful and how she couldn't wait to have long gray hair. I had not thought about beauty in that way until that moment. Brenda has a few gray hairs (usually wrapped up in one giant roller) and she gets more beautiful each year. I'm happy that my nosiness intersected with one of her (many) chat sessions with my mother. Brenda was later my Lamaze coach and continues to be a strong female role model for me.

Brenda Burner: aunt.
When I was little, I was eavesdropping on a conversation my aunt Brenda was having with my mom. Brenda explained how she thought graying women were beautiful and how she couldn’t wait to have long gray hair. I had not thought about beauty in that way until that moment. Brenda has a few gray hairs (usually wrapped up in one giant roller) and she gets more beautiful each year. I’m happy that my nosiness intersected with one of her (many) chat sessions with my mother. Brenda was later my Lamaze coach and continues to be a strong female role model for me.

Jay Herr: friend. Jay lived across the street from me in college. One evening we were on our way to a Pearl Jam concert with a bunch of friends. We made a restroom pit stop and when we returned to the interstate we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I complained "Aw man! If we didn't make that stop, we could have missed this accident." Jay replied, "…or we could've been in it…" This one line has made me more aware of my complaints, even to this day.

Jay Herr: friend.
Jay lived across the street from me in college. One evening we were on our way to a Pearl Jam concert with a bunch of friends. We made a restroom pit stop and when we returned to the interstate we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I complained “Aw man! If we didn’t make that stop, we could have missed this accident.” Jay replied, “…or we could’ve been in it…” This one line has made me more aware of my complaints, even to this day.

L'Tanya Sims: friend. I met LT when IHOP first opened and we both waited tables there. What I admire most about L'Tanya, other than her enormous heart, is her ability to lay down roots and create a sense of community around her...where ever she may be. Give her a box and it becomes a home where all are welcome. Give her a big city and she will find a nook and become mayor of that nook. Give her a naive college girl (that would be me) and she will look out for her and see that she makes it out alive. Just for you, LT: Mens Rea! 

L’Tanya Sims: friend.
I met LT when IHOP first opened and we both waited tables there. What I admire most about L’Tanya, other than her enormous heart, is her ability to lay down roots and create a sense of community around her…where ever she may be. Give her a box and it becomes a home where all are welcome. Give her a big city and she will find a nook and become mayor of that nook. Give her a naive college girl (that would be me) and she will look out for her and see that she makes it out alive.
Just for you, LT: Mens Rea!

Teddy Helsley: father. When I took this photo it was the third time I've met this man. Each time I leave him, I leave with a better understanding of myself. He contributed to half of my DNA and before I even ask, his stories explain the parts of me that have been mysterious up to that point. It’s sometimes as if he reads my mind. He has a kind, calm soul and I look forward to making more memories with him and his family.

Teddy Helsley: father.
When I took this photo it was the third time I’ve met this man. Each time I leave him, I leave with a better understanding of myself. He contributed to half of my DNA and before I even ask, his stories explain the parts of me that have been mysterious up to that point. It’s sometimes as if he reads my mind. He has a kind, calm soul and I look forward to making more memories with him and his family.

some of my parts sistersCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

know by heart: some of my parts, blue nile.

some of my parts signWhen a friendship is forged in disaster, I think it means more.

It’s easy to be friends when life is sweet, when things are looking up and laughter is the norm. When life is good, our edges are smooth. We appear peaceful and benign. We radiate contentedness. We’re easy to approach, and easy to spend time with.

When life turns sour, as it does for us all from time to time, our ugliness hangs out. Our bitterness rises up, our tempers flare, our patience recedes. We go to bed worried and wake up sad and are just AWFUL to be around.

Anyone who would love you at your absolute ugliest is the truest form of friend there is. I keep using “we” and “you” as if to exclude myself from the very idea I’m writing about. So let me rephrase that. Anyone who would love ME at my absolute ugliest is the truest friend I could have. And I’m lucky to have a few of those precious people in my life. And my most dear friend, Brandy Somers, entered my world when I wasn’t exactly at my prettiest, and she recently complimented me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I knew she was putting together this massive photography show called Some of My Parts, and I knew she needed a photo of me for it, but it wasn’t until I was there, at the Blue Nile, looking at eighty-some photos on the wall, that I fully understood.

Her idea was to portray her life’s timeline through photographs. When we think of a timeline, we think of major events along a linear path, marked by years divided into neat increments. But life is so much deeper (and messier) than that — life follows no two-dimensional line… and really, it’s not the events themselves that are important; it’s the people involved in those events. So she made this list of, like I said, eighty-some people who held an important place on the timeline of her life, and she contacted them all and asked to take their pictures. She traveled all over the place, literally hundreds if not thousands of miles, to find each person and take a NEW photo. For mine, it was easy: she just walked the two hundred steps from her classroom to mine and clicked the camera. But some people on her list were in Alaska! Australia, even! So she had to get creative there. And some people had already passed… so she assembled a collection of things that represent those folks and snapped a photo of that.

some of my parts opening3Then I realized my portrait would be hanging among all these other important people. Really? Me? But… she’s seen all my ugly parts!

Every single photo is captioned. She showed it to me later — it’s FIFTEEN TYPED PAGES of captions she wrote. Mine says this:

“Katie Mitchell: friend, coworker.

Like two thorny roses rising from the ashes…that pretty much describes the start of our friendship. We experienced similar let downs around the same time in life…and Katie was my go-to, my levelheaded rock. She is a wonderful friend, teacher and mother. I love her so much I could start a blog about our friendship…oh, wait…we did that.”

I was so nervous to read my caption! (It seems so silly, but… well, you’ll understand in a minute. Stay with me here.) My face hung on the wall amid dozens of others, and I liked seeing it. Although my crows feet have deepened, my eyes are still bright, and I think I looked how I feel I look when sitting across from my best friend: safe, loved, and of course, a wee bit amused.

The whole process, naturally, got me thinking about my timeline and the people who would be on it. Of course my parents, who were present at most every major event in my life… my best childhood friend Kathy, who would ride bikes with me down to the creek, whose mom took us to see Dirty Dancing at the theater, with whom I’d stay up ALL NIGHT eating Twizzlers and playing Missile Command, Space Invaders, and Yars Revenge. And even my bully in middle school. I’m pretty sure he ending up killing someone and is still in jail. But he certainly made his mark on me, and he’d have to be on my timeline.

When you scroll through these portraits and read the captions (and this is just a tiny portion of them), no doubt you’ll be touched. But I struggle to describe the effect of them all, hanging together on the wall in a small space… all the faces gazing out collectively at the viewers… echoes of memories past and voices present. A collision of time and space.

Shawn Nicholson: cousin. When I was little, I thought Shawn was the coolest.dude.ever. I was annoying and he put up with me and made my days more interesting. I feared death a few times riding in his Mustang...then there was that time he shot me...but other than that he protected me from the world with his real advice and stories of trial and error.  Just for you, cuz: BB to the butt.

Shawn Nicholson: cousin.
When I was little, I thought Shawn was the coolest.dude.ever. I was annoying and he put up with me and made my days more interesting. I feared death a few times riding in his Mustang…then there was that time he shot me…but other than that he protected me from the world with his real advice and stories of trial and error. 
Just for you, cuz: BB to the butt.

PLUS, realizing that a good many people featured in the show are actually standing in the room with you. Everyone seeing double! It’s possible Brandy was the only person there who knew all the people there and on the wall. I probably knew twenty-five percent: most of these folks were strangers to me! How could I not know more of them, when they are so important to someone who’s important to me? But we ALL knew that everyone in that room was important to this woman’s life, and she took great pains to honor that.

Lori Simmers: former classmate. Lori and I went to high school together. When we graduated, Lori married her high school sweetheart and asked me to photograph their wedding. She believed in me and that stands out. I shot her wedding (my first wedding ever) on a Canon film camera. 

Lori Simmers: former classmate.
Lori and I went to high school together. When we graduated, Lori married her high school sweetheart and asked me to photograph their wedding. She believed in me and that stands out. I shot her wedding (my first wedding ever) on a Canon film camera.

Lee Parton: friend...damn near brother. My brother-from-another-mother for sure. Lee and I met and became insta-friends my freshman year at JMU. The bond was familial from the start and all the ups and downs in both our lives have only brought us closer. We have survived being roommates twice...I'm still not sure how that was ever possible.  Lee probably doesn't know it, but I may not have made it through my first year of college without his push. I admire his determination. He is a fighter, in the best of ways. Just for you, Dawg: Professor Parton...I need mah keys!

Lee Parton: friend…damn near brother.
My brother-from-another-mother for sure. Lee and I met and became insta-friends my freshman year at JMU. The bond was familial from the start and all the ups and downs in both our lives have only brought us closer. We have survived being roommates twice…I’m still not sure how that was ever possible.  Lee probably doesn’t know it, but I may not have made it through my first year of college without his push. I admire his determination. He is a fighter, in the best of ways.
Just for you, Dawg: Professor Parton…I need mah keys!

And so lots of people who’d never before crossed paths — ever — met each other that evening and came to understand where they stood in the story of Brandy’s life, in relation to each other.

Katie Turner: friend, neighbor. What I love about Katie is that she is always up for a spontaneous, fun adventure. Whether it be hiking Old Rag (in the wrong direction), getting turned sideways, tipped and scarred in a canoe on the Shenandoah river, midnight rides to Wendy's, or playing real life Where's Waldo on road trips...she showed me that positive, happy memories can be made during difficult times, even on random weekday evenings. Just for you, Katie: Eagles suuuuck!

Katie Turner: friend, neighbor.
What I love about Katie is that she is always up for a spontaneous, fun adventure. Whether it be hiking Old Rag (in the wrong direction), getting turned sideways, tipped and scarred in a canoe on the Shenandoah river, midnight rides to Wendy’s, or playing real life Where’s Waldo on road trips…she showed me that positive, happy memories can be made during difficult times, even on random weekday evenings.
Just for you, Katie: Eagles suuuuck!

Jake Miller: uncle. Jake is an electrician. One day Nanny and I took him lunch at a house he was working on. The house belonged to a photographer for National Geographic and I was totally enthralled with the quality of images all around his house. While Nanny and Jake chatted I wandered from room to room looking at the photographs. That day, I decide I wanted to do that. I wanted to take photos that mattered to people…that were memorable. If my uncle Jake had any other career, that moment may have never happened for me.

Jake Miller: uncle.
Jake is an electrician. One day Nanny and I took him lunch at a house he was working on. The house belonged to a photographer for National Geographic and I was totally enthralled with the quality of images all around his house. While Nanny and Jake chatted I wandered from room to room looking at the photographs. That day, I decide I wanted to do that. I wanted to take photos that mattered to people…that were memorable. If my uncle Jake had any other career, that moment may have never happened for me.

Maurice Burner: Pawpaw. A man of few words but the shrapnel in his leg proves that he has quite a courageous story to tell. This Dale Earnhardt lovin' father of seven is a pro at the boob-grab-photo-bomb (with his wife of course). He is earth conscious and the best farmer I know. He taught me the value of backbreaking labor with the reward of fresh produce at the end of the day.

Maurice Burner: Pawpaw.
A man of few words but the shrapnel in his leg proves that he has quite a courageous story to tell. This Dale Earnhardt lovin’ father of seven is a pro at the boob-grab-photo-bomb (with his wife of course). He is earth conscious and the best farmer I know. He taught me the value of backbreaking labor with the reward of fresh produce at the end of the day.

The impact of watching that phenomenon unfold was akin to being slapped with her big ole raw bleeding heart. Not in a horrific way, but in the sense that all the little bits of Brandy I’d seen over the years were now together, in one space, at one time, as if some great secret had finally been revealed. By the time I finally composed myself long enough to look at every photo and read every caption, including mine, I was stinging with emotion. They say the human brain is the most complex object in the universe. But maybe it’s the heart.

Nanny (Betty Longerbeam): best friend, grandmother. (RIP) There’s a video of the hospital waiting room on the day my son, Blake, was born. In the video, everyone is glued to the window surrounding the nursery as Blake is carried in by his father after my cesarean. Oohing and aahing filled the clip…except for Nanny. I could hear her concerned voice asking repeatedly, “Where’s Brandy? How is she? When can we see her?” Then she proceeded to count Blake’s fingers and toes…as she always did with all newborns. When Ella was born, my Nanny at the age of 70, drove from Strasburg, Virginia to Wilmington, North Carolina to meet her the day after she was delivered. Four miles from the hospital, Nanny was in a car accident that totaled her car. She was transported to the same hospital as me and when I wheeled myself down to see her, she waited until her young doctor turned around and gave him a trademark Nanny-breast-shake behind his back. She was the youngest 70 year old I have ever met. There was never a question in my mind that my Nanny loved me. She brought me into her home when I was a fresh baby human, cared for me until she passed and provided me with a lifetime of memories. She taught me how to drive and play rummy and laugh at life.  Her birthday is April 13, and this show is dedicated to her. Just for you, Nanny: Go buck a fuzzard.

Nanny (Betty Longerbeam): best friend, grandmother. (RIP)
There’s a video of the hospital waiting room on the day my son, Blake, was born. In the video, everyone is glued to the window surrounding the nursery as Blake is carried in by his father after my cesarean. Oohing and aahing filled the clip…except for Nanny. I could hear her concerned voice asking repeatedly, “Where’s Brandy? How is she? When can we see her?” Then she proceeded to count Blake’s fingers and toes…as she always did with all newborns. When Ella was born, my Nanny at the age of 70, drove from Strasburg, Virginia to Wilmington, North Carolina to meet her the day after she was delivered. Four miles from the hospital, Nanny was in a car accident that totaled her car. She was transported to the same hospital as me and when I wheeled myself down to see her, she waited until her young doctor turned around and gave him a trademark Nanny-breast-shake behind his back. She was the youngest 70 year old I have ever met. There was never a question in my mind that my Nanny loved me. She brought me into her home when I was a fresh baby human, cared for me until she passed and provided me with a lifetime of memories. She taught me how to drive and play rummy and laugh at life.
Her birthday is April 13, and this show is dedicated to her.
Just for you, Nanny: Go buck a fuzzard.

The moral of the story is… well, there are three. One, I am inspired to somehow incorporate this concept into my life. Because at the end of the day, we all just want to know we mattered to somebody. That we’re part of someone’s timeline. Two, what might seem like a casual or chance encounter with someone could change his or her life. Handle with care. And three, you have to see this. You have to. And you still can, upstairs at the Blue Nile (which is located at 181 North Main Street in Harrisonburg) between now and April 29. You’ll see a few more portraits here on the blog tomorrow and Wednesday, but please believe me when I say YOU REALLY HAVE TO BE THERE.

some of my parts openingBWCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

undercover: altered book contest, massanutten regional library.

And the results are in!

First place honors in the youth category went to Chantel Pence, Harrisonburg, for “Birds Eye View.” There was a tie for second place with Chelsey Pence, Harrisonburg, conjuring up votes for “Explosion,” and Haley Tebo, Rileyville, winning with “Kamala.” Third place honors went to Helen Joya, Harrisonburg, for “Alice Is Stuck in Wonderland.”

The overall adult winner went to Nancy Dauer, Harrisonburg, with “From Words to Yarns.” Anna Thornbury and Andrew Shantz, Harrisonburg, teamed up for their second-place entry, “A Novel Death.” Mary Lu Lewis, Harrisonburg, and Diane Landis, Bridgewater, shared third place honors with “Homage”  and “In a Dark, Dark House.”

Here are some more photos for your amazement!

altered book bird flowers altered book doll and mask altered book fans altered book flower basket altered book mobile altered book pig altered book pinkCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

read it and keep: altered book contest, massanutten regional library.

altered book voteHaving been teaching and studying literature, and reading and writing for a long time, I’ve amassed a small library of books. They’re everywhere… all over the house. I haven’t quite made the leap to the e-reader yet, partially because I remember The Great CD Conversion of 1988 during which I spent a small fortune (for a 16 year old) replacing all my music cassettes. The thought of replacing just a tiny percentage of my book collection (say, the Joyce Carol Oates part, for example) is just too much to absorb. Plus, books are just prettier than an e-reader. I love how they look piled in a stack. I love moving them from the “To Read” stack to the “Finished” shelf. And some of their covers are nothing short of exquisite. In many cases, commissioned artists design those covers. And so a real paper and cardboard book is a work of art, through and through.

It’s sad to think of a book in a dumpster. In the landfill. But to hoard every book I’ve ever owned to prevent it from ending up in the trash is… well… hoarding. The neat freak in me can’t do that.

Much to my relief, my inner neat freak and my inner art lover reconciled once and for all when Brandy and I attended Massanutten Regional Library’s Altered Books Contest and Gallery last Friday. The practice of altering gives old, perhaps worn out books — books on the very brink of disposal — a new life and purpose. Their tattered pages no longer have endure the flips and tugs of careless readers; that pressure is gone. All an altered book has to do anymore is sit somewhere and look awesome, interesting, beautiful. The newly rendered “book” even gets a new name, as I noticed at the library’s display. Truly, a rebirth.

altered book balloonsSo we browsed the altered books, submitted for competition by adults (ages 18 and older) and youngsters (ages 12 – 17). We saw the piece created by last year’s contest winner, Diane Landis, entitled In a Dark, Dark House — she’d used several discarded books to create a majestic castle. Some were quite useful… like Carol K. Smith’s Hooked on Books. She turned books into a coat rack with a frame. Some were really large, like From Tree to Book to Tree Again — a big tree sculpture made by several artists out of pages of books.

altered book tree loomNancy Dauer built this huge loom thing out of torn up and disassembled books (From Words to Yarns — ha ha!). And Ben Fraits somehow glued the pages of his books together so they became completely solid, then carved them like a block of wood.

altered book fyodor altered book castleAnna Thornbury and Andrew Shantz cleverly constructed literal interpretations of their books. For example, a wooden stake pierced the cover of the book Dracula; the book Titanic appeared to be split in half by an iceberg; Joan of Arc was partially charred. They called this collection A Novel Death.

altered book stakeThe kids’ entries were even more impressive. Explosion featured origami exploding from the center of a school textbook. For Bird’s Eye View, Chantel Pence made a diorama out of a book. And in Alice is Stuck in Wonderland, a barbie doll Alice protrudes — stuck, indeed — from the center of the book.

altered book alice fans altered book foldsbwAll this awesomely creative art work simply is not something you can do with your Kindle. Sorry. Soon the library will announce winners in both categories — adult and youth — the winning “books” will be on display April 14 – 19. Can’t wait to find out how this story ends! And stay tuned for more photos this week!

altered book hostsCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

the thaw.

What do people do when they’re cooped up during an extra-long winter? They come up with tons of good ideas, and then unleash them all at once at the first sign of (finally!!) spring.

This is one of those weeks where you need serious equipment and endurance. A LOT of people have been working hard to put together A LOT of events, for YOU. Including First Friday artists and hosts. And Progressive Party hosts. And MACRoCk crazy people. And Women in Focus organizers. YES — all that and more is descending on our city this week. So pack your tent (just kidding — I don’t think you’re allowed to camp out), your Camelbak, your orthotics, and some Power Bars, because this week’s gonna deplete the heck out of you. In a good way.

Check out what’s Happyning right here!

xoxo!

time travel: factory antique mall, verona.

burgIMG_8471 burgIMG_8475 burgIMG_8476 burgIMG_8492 burgIMG_8504burgIMG_8488 Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

all fired up: bella luna.

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Bella Luna signBella Luna eggs Bella Luna lightBW bella luna local vendorsBW Bella Luna prepCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

things are happyning.

This week brings us St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of, uh, spring. And Harrisonburg just wants to celebrate all week from the looks of this line up! Sheesh! Put on your cute spring dress, drape a wool coat over it, and put your flip flops in your purse for when you get there. There’s LOTS to do this week! Check it out here!