sweet and simple: heritage bakery and cafe.

burgimg_8161You know how in old TV shows like I Love Lucy or The Brady Bunch, one character would visit her friend across the street after the kids left for school, and they’d sit together at the Formica kitchen counter and drink coffee? Maybe the hostess would whip out a coffee cake or some Danish and the two friends would leisurely laugh and chat as they sipped and nibbled, with several hours of sunny, blissful banality before them.

<sigh>
I want that.

Instead, my mornings start with the God-awful honk of my alarm clock, my hips and feet cracking as I rise from bed and stumble around in the dark, followed by a good eye rub and some Visine in front of the bathroom mirror. Next I wrench my beautiful children, dreaming of lollipops and unicorns, from their warm nests to start a new day of rushing around, yelling at my son about why he hasn’t put on pants yet and insisting to my daughter that her hair looks FINE. No one offers me Danish, and I usually don’t get a sip of coffee until I’m in the car.

But there was a morning recently where I got to visit a dear lady’s kitchen and sit with a sweet friend and languidly sip and nibble, and I felt for a moment like Betty Draper. It was freaking GRAND.

Heritage Bakery and Cafe, opened two years ago by Isabelle Treciak and her mom, sits on the first floor of the Hardesty Higgins House in downtown Harrisonburg, and the nostalgia in there is overpowered only by the smell of freshly brewed Lucas Coffee and all the goodies she’s baking that day. She admits that the pastries offered each day are dependent on her mood, but based on the selection we saw, I think it’s safe to say that Isabelle is generally happy and optimistic.

burgimg_8226burgimg_8167In her polished glass case that day was chocolate chip shortbread, hummingbird bread (banana, pineapple, and coconut), lemon ginger scones, King Kong cookies, chocolate walnut chubbies, and peanut butter chocolate sandies. She always has gluten-free options available, plus a wide selection of tea, juices, and soda, in case coffee’s not your thing. Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I ordered sticky buns, raspberry coconut bread, spinach quiche, and a spinach, egg, and Havarti cheese croissant, which we salivated over — patiently, for time was on our side that morning — until Brandy was done photographing it.

burgimg_8204burgimg_8195burgimg_8208burgimg_8200The snow lining the windows of the old building somehow made the sticky buns a little sweeter, the spinach quiche a little more decadent. Maybe because we were subconsciously dreaming of simpler times, we started talking about minimalism. A discussion of the book Everything That Remains and its documentary counterpart Minimalism (available on Netflix) led to a rant about fossil fuels and how America can’t seem to give up those extravagant habits for cleaner, more sustainable, simpler options. And this led to a slightly depressing chat about how we really could simplify our lives… find more time for rest and nature and family and love… spend less time working and running ourselves ragged.

burgimg_8169As if you need more reason to go in there, much awaits you at the Hardesty Higgins House (which my kids have called the “Higgy House” ever since they were tiny and couldn’t say it correctly). You can find hundreds of maps, brochures, and publications about the goings-on in the Shenandoah Valley, from Civil War museums and re-enactments, to the Artisan Trail, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail (yes, please), and the Shenandoah Spirits Trail. You can watch a video about the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley and learn about various battles, battlefields, and monuments. The Rocktown Gift Shoppe offers lots of Virginia-made products like candy, food, soy candles and handmade soaps, beautiful items from Blue Ridge Pottery, assorted Valley-related apparel, and those little hiking guides Brandy swears by.

And of course, the Valley Turnpike Museum has that adorable scale model display of Harrisonburg way back in the day, before internet scams, before cars and their noxious fumes, before cell phones, before even deadlines and exorbitant debt and bad credit ratings and Wall Street screw jobs. Right now, those simpler days feel like ancient relics enshrined in a tomb… days we’ll never return to.

But for now, you can visit Isabelle and enjoy the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee and a homemade pastry served on a pretty plate. Find simplicity where you can.

burgimg_8175Heritage Bakery and Cafe is open Monday – Saturday, 8:30 – 5pm, with a monthly Sunday afternoon tea.

See you out and about!

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Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words 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 stretch: bend and brews at three notch’d.

burgIMG_3039Waaaaay back in like… April… Brandy and I went to Bend & Brews together at Three Notch’d. We loved it. I mean, you get an hour of yoga led by a fully trained and competent instructor, a delicious craft beer, a donut provided by Pure Eats, and coffee from Shenandoah Joe. There are some days I would gladly shell out a couple thousand bucks for that cure-all combination, but there’s no need. All you gotta bring is your yoga mat and ten dollars.

So, last April came and went, and unfortunately, I sat on this post too long. Summer arrived, and the popular hour-long + craft beer event went on hiatus. But guess what? Bend & Brews is BACK! Yep! This Saturday, September 3, Bend & Brews kicks off its fall season.

Here are step-by-step instructions for getting back into the swing:

1. Arrive a little early. There’s quite a bit of space, but it’s not infinite.

burgIMG_30302. Sign the waiver form. These are located at the bar.
3. Enjoy some coffee and mingle while you wait for class to start.

burgIMG_30254. Bend.

burgIMG_30455. Breathe.

burgIMG_30416. Relax.

burgIMG_30517. Breathe again.

burgIMG_30538. Grab a beer and a donut, have a seat, and stay a while!

burgIMG_3028 burgIMG_3061 burgIMG_3064 burgIMG_30949. Thank your lovely instructor :)  Thank you, Casye!

burgIMG_3074 burgIMG_307810. REPEAT. We’ll meet ya there!

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Copyright © 2012-16 · 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.

fresh as a tendril: new leaf pastry kitchen.

New Leaf Pastry Kitchen feet signI hate my winter wardrobe. I can’t really even call it a “wardrobe.” It’s this weird, random collection of clothes that kinda fit and are kinda warm and look semi-okay, accompanied by shoes that make my size-eleven feet look Elfin and an over-sized coat that’s only over-sized because I’m too tall to shop in the kids’ department. Pants, especially, cause me a great deal of inner turmoil. To put it simply, I just don’t have flesh where pants makers expect people to. Once in a blue moon, I find some pants that “fit” (meaning, they reach my feet and they don’t fall down) and I hold on to those pants til they’re completely threadbare, even if it means they go out of style.

It was one of those mornings where I couldn’t even approach “content” with my pants selection. Every pair I owned was strewn across the bed and I was officially running late. I was supposed to be at the New Leaf Pastry Kitchen at 9:30 to meet Brandy and the kids. But no — there I was, putting on and peeling off pair after pair of jeans. Ugh. I finally chose the pair I felt the best in and headed out the door. I warned her via text that I was wearing my 1996 mom jeans. And that’s no joke: this pair of jeans was one I’d gotten ages ago, and their time had definitely come and gone. She replied, “F-R-I-E-N-D-S.” Ha!

And then I started reminiscing about that show. (What a lame title for such a clever show!) My favorite one is the Christmas-themed one where Ross dresses up as the Holiday Armadillo. Then I remembered that Friends even made fun of pants crises: the one where Ross wears leather pants and then gets stuck with them halfway down in the bathroom of his date’s apartment. We all learned a lesson that day: lotion + powder = paste. So I was grateful I was not in that predicament. Turns out Brandy was a little late, too, so we all arrived, and everyone was wearing pants, even if they were 1996 mom jeans.

New Leaf Pastry Kitchen patioNew Leaf is located in the Hardesty Higgins House, in the area where Mrs. Hardesty’s Tearoom used to be. The cafe is bright and spacious with several tables and a self-serve coffee station. Enticing concoctions fill the display case, some delicate, some sturdy… all exceptionally beautiful, almost too pretty to eat. New Leaf offers celebration cakes (by special order), morning pastries, European pastries, “savories,” cookies, and breads. They also offer classes and workshops: coming up on February 13 is a class on making Passion Fruit Cream Puffs, from 6:30 – 8:30pm.

New Leaf Pastry Kitchen displayAs hard as it was to choose, we all made our selections and sat down to dig in. Bree chose the Chocolate Bouchon, which is sort of like a brownie shaped like a tall muffin. Cal was very excited about his Chocolate Raspberry Macaroons.

New Leaf Pastry Kitchen macaroons New Leaf Pastry Kitchen chocolate bouchonElla picked out a warm, tender Apple Strudel Tart served with vanilla ice cream… so silky and decadent!

New Leaf Pastry Kitchen apple strudelBlake ordered the Dark Chocolate Scone, and Brandy chose the Sweet Potato Biscuit with Polyface Sausage and Cheddar. I think I got the best deal by tasting a little bit of everyone’s food, and I can honestly say that I could eat that sweet potato-sausage-cheese number EVERY DAY.

New Leaf Pastry Kitchen sausage biscuit New Leaf Pastry Kitchen sconeWhen you take a look at the menu online, you’ll notice dozens of items listed. They rotate through menu items, balancing variety with fresh, seasonal ingredients. So when you go, you may or may not see any of the items we’ve mentioned here. But you’ll find something just as fabulous, and their system is a reason for you to return frequently!

The New Leaf Pastry Kitchen is located at 212 S. Main Street in the Hardesty Higgins House, diagonally across from the Yellow Button. You can try them out tomorrow! They open at 9 every day but Sunday. Enjoy!

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.

 

a feel good time: the walking roots band.

walking roots band windowThey showed up in uniform, if you count suspenders, the color blue, leather shoes, and facial hair as a uniform. And possibly the last name Yoder.

Well, except for the ladies, of course. But only in the facial hair category. You’d expect a group of people in uniform to work together toward a common goal. All there for the same purpose, performing as a team, complementing each other. And this past Friday, the Walking Roots Band delivered on that expectation. Brandy and I were privileged to have attended their CD pre-release concert — a celebration of their long-awaited album Carry Your Heart.

walking roots band sing1This eight-piece outfit squeezed themselves and their arsenal of instruments into the far end of Greenberry’s Coffee Co. for a cozy performance in front of roughly a hundred onlookers of all ages. We all sat elbow-rubbing close to one another, and the band members huddled naturally around an old-timey microphone. For a couple of friendly, heart-warming, and sentimental hours, we enjoyed the musical symmetry of Seth Crissman, Jackson Maust, Adam Schmid, Greg & Kristina Yoder, Lauren & Mitch Yoder, and Michael Yoder.

walking roots band crowd BWJust as their uniform was likely unintentional, they seem to play off one another as if by instinct rather than rehearsal. They’re obviously very giving people — during the introductions I learned that they’re all teachers and nurses and philanthropic types with qualities reflected in the music they write. They write about humanity: about God and love, dancing and freedom and nature, but also pain and suffering and loneliness — all parts of life’s grand song. Their voices oblige each other in delicate harmonies about bein’ poor and country girls and moonshine and honey. They sing about havin’ money (or not havin’ it) in a Partridge Family-esque ditty: “little things mean the most, and the little things are free.” And they steer from negativity, even in humorous ways: “You can take your sorry glasses…”

At one point they conducted an informal sound check by simply asking the audience if everything sounded okay. Someone yelled, “More bass!” and Jackson quickly suggested the spectator move to the seat right in front. :) Adam sang a song about the one who got away… a song he admitted he didn’t fully understand, because the one he wanted didn’t get away: his dear Katie.

walking roots band sing2Out of nowhere, amid an accordion, a harmonica, a mandolin, and other such instruments, came a rap song with full-on gesturing called “Sweater Weather.” Yes, it was funny and most certainly a crowd pleaser… but I don’t know. I see some real crossover possibilities, what with Greg lookin’ all Eminem-ish and the rest of the group channeling Dobie Gray in the chorus.

Then Adam totally shifted gears when he sang a song about dying. He first asked us, “Do you want to hear a sad song, or one about how love can really mess with a man?” Uhhh… is there a difference? And the sad song was sad, yes, about someone who’s ill and dealing with the confinement of pain, suffering, and regret, who’s “wishin’ to feel free,” but who also takes solace in knowing he’s “goin’ home to Jesus.” Hope is an ingredient of every one of their songs.

walking roots band BWThey continued, singing about community and apiaries, moonlit meadows, and gratitude. They played three songs from their “Sacred Songs” project. In one of them, they combine three Psalms from three centuries. The kids especially liked “The Gardening Song” which tells the tale of a wascally wabbit who eats the farmers greens, and the fox who kills the hens, and the bear who steals the honey… and the farmer who recognizes they’re just doin’ what they do. After that, it was nudging bedtime for our little ones, and we left the warm cafe, condensation running down the windows, and stepped out into the chill night, happy.

walking roots band accordionNow, go like these folks on Facebook so you’ll be informed when they’re performing nearby again. They’ll warm you up!

walking roots band outsideCopyright © 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.

rear view: pickups: a valley love story, at spitzer art center.

burgIMG_3615When I arrived at Spitzer Art Center last Friday, I parked near an interesting-looking pickup truck. An old, classic Chevy — teal, or maybe sea foam green. Its hood was open, and when I peered underneath, I saw a bottle of Crown Royal somehow rigged to the engine.

burgIMG_3623I thought, “This is gonna be a fun art exhibit.” Yes, you’d expect an art exhibit on First Friday at Spitzer Art Center, but this one sorta changed my expectation of art itself. This was art about art. It was, like, meta art or something. A new level.

On this Friday, you could view photographs from Howard Zehr’s new book Pickups: A Valley Love Story. The photos show pickup trucks with their proud owners. And not only are Mr. Zehr’s photographs beautiful, but the trucks themselves stand as gorgeous, gleaming sculptures of time and memory and grit and spirit.

burgIMG_3599 burgIMG_3587Mr. Zehr spent numberless hours interviewing truck owners, hearing their stories… of how they came to own their trucks, of harrowing and hilarious experiences with their trucks… of why their trucks mean so much to them, then published it all in his book. And so that sunny evening, the walls of Spitzer shone with images of much-loved trucks and the words of their adoring owners.

burgIMG_3609bw burgIMG_3583bwSome owners, like Lois Brown, appreciate practicality in a vehicle: “It’s not what I call pretty, but it sure is comfortable,” she says of her brown and beige Ford. Actually, I saw several of those two-tone trucks that night. I probably never noticed before, but they are pretty. I saw photos of trucks for hunting and hauling and just rolling over stuff. Even for selling coffee, like Tom Hayman of Grains of Sense. Some owners use their trucks as other vehicles, like Josh Bacon: “The kids like to pretend it’s a boat and fish off the back.” A practical solution for imaginative youngsters. And Corey Oomps — he loves his truck because “I like horsepower.” Fair enough.

Yes, trucks have lots of practical uses, but some owners even feel like their trucks make them better people. Like Matthew “Goosey” Dolemar, who says, “Without the truck, I’d probably just be mean!” And Shannon Pollock has realized that “each thing that’s wrong with it means it’s something else I get to learn.” A kinder, smarter nation… one truck at a time.

burgIMG_3596Some owners love their trucks for purely sentimental reasons. Richard Randolph’s truck is “a real joy, that it can be as old as it is and still be useful.” And some keep their trucks as a reminder of days long gone, like Bill Goldberg: “It’s one of the last links to my long hair, Grateful Dead, hippie days.”

However, the most touching element that seemed to pervade the entire exhibit was devotion. Everyone’s got that one true truck love. According to Eric Beck, any new truck is just a “rebound” truck — acquired to ease the pain of losing a former truck love. You can literally see the commitment people have for their trucks, some with mismatched parts… evidence of owners desperate to repair and preserve their trucks, whatever it takes. No matter what kind of patchwork quilt it ends up looking like, that truck you fell in love with is still in there, dang it. Nancy Slye possibly relocated here from New York just to use her truck more: “Running around in a pickup in New York — that was not a cool thing to do.” You know it’s serious when you actually move to another state for the one you love.

burgIMG_3570You can see the exhibit all month at Spitzer Art Center on 33 West just a block or two from downtown. Of course, you don’t get to see all of Mr. Zehr’s photos or read any of his stories (including the one about that Crown Royal truck!) unless you get the book itself. You can find it at Barnes and Noble, or from the publisher, or you can get a signed copy through his web site.

In our next post, we’ll tell you, and show you, a little more about Spitzer Art Center and our visit there. And, of course, several more megabytes of photos. Stay tuned!

burgIMG_3683Copyright © 2012-13 · 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.

universal language: ten thousand villages.

store frontWhen I said to the kids, “Let’s go to Ten Thousand Villages today,” Cal’s brain churned behind his glassy blue eyes, and then he said, “I’m not sure we have time for all that.”

haha. I get it. I played along.

“Really? How long do you think it would take to visit ten thousand villages?”

“Oh, probably about twenty years.”

Then Bree-the-math-whiz chimed in: “Cal — that’s five hundred villages a year. That’s more than one a day. Unless the villages are really close together, you’d never visit ten thousand in twenty years.”

“Well, I don’t know how long it will take, but I didn’t pack a suitcase!”

“Me neither!”

Oh, brother. “Kids. Ten Thousand Villages is a store downtown. We’ve been in there before. It’s across from the library. That’s where we’re going. Sheesh!”

We met Brandy, Blake, and Ella there. It’s a little store, but it contains the whole world. I feel rich every time I step in there. Not in an American–capitalist–first-world way, but in an “I’m-connected-to-the-universe” way. That someone on another continent created something by hand that I, halfway around the world in a different culture and social system and economic reality, can also relate to and appreciate is pretty cool. That’s what art does; it transmits humanity. It’s a language everyone understands. Ten Thousand Villages has been cultivating this idea in Harrisonburg for twenty years. Yep — it’s their twentieth anniversary!

inside of gift shopThe brainchild of Wendy Lederach and Cleta Gingerich, what’s now known as Ten Thousand Villages began as International Impressions in September of 1993. It was located in Town Centre behind the mall, some of you might remember. The store moved to the Shenandoah Farmer’s Market and then the Dayton Farmer’s Market before changing its name to Ten Thousand Villages, and it’s been in its downtown location since 2011. Ten Thousand Villages is a global operation with hundreds of retail locations. They’ve been around for more than sixty years and sell fair trade products from about forty countries. It’s a way for the unemployed or under-employed folks in those nations to make a fair living.

teapot setThe Harrisonburg location has one executive director, three part-time employees, and several volunteers who work hard to keep overhead low and more money flowing back to the artisans who produce the merchandise sold in the store. They host Community Shopping days where a portion of their sales go directly to a selected charity. The organization has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute and Forbes Magazine for the sixth consecutive year, and was voted Best Downtown Shop (twice) and Best Shop That Sells Handcrafted Art (three times) by readers of the DNR! And it’s no surprise… it’s the ULTIMATE gift shop. You can find a gift for anyone in that place, and the money you spend is a gift to others. To test this theory, we asked each of the four kids with us to choose something they themselves would love to receive as a gift, and it took a good hour for everyone to decide on something. Here were their choices:

boy with chess setCal : chess set

bird paddle ballElla: birdie paddle ball

upcycled photo frameBlake: picture frame and box made of upcycled computer parts

girl using drumBree: this drum, or any of them, really

Personally, I want the recycled Coke can giraffes. And Brandy’s favorite was this cute birdie keychain!

bird key chain coke can giraffesIn addition to those awesome finds, the store carries coffee, teas, chocolate, olive oil, dried fruits, international sounds through Putumayo music, children’s clothes and toys made of organic cotton and hand knotted Oriental rugs. The handicrafts include ceramic pottery, kitchenware, planters, textiles like tablecloths and sari throws, musical instruments, games, home décor, large selection of jewelry and personal accessories, natural soaps and shea butter, Alpaca winter wear, paper goods and stationery, and lots more. I mean LOTS.

girl listening to music on headphones wall of necklaces girl using flutebags of coffeeSo, if you have someone to buy a gift for soon (including yourself), write yourself a little note to skip the generic stores and indulge in something unique and authentic that will make a lasting impression on the gift recipient AND the artist who made it. You’ll feel a whole lot richer.

business card holdersCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

pot luck: lucas roasting company.

coffee bagsacks of coffee beanscoffee machineblendercup of coffeestickers on carCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

family matters: lucas roasting company.

Meet the Lucas family. They’re awesome. And so is their coffee.
Mother and son
father and son couple at windowCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

from the grounds up: lucas roasting company.

lucas roasting company signA few days ago I told a friend how much I love my dishwasher. Not because it’s fancy, or super-quiet, or even new. As far as dishwashers go, it’s pretty ordinary. But it washes my dishes. I HATE washing dishes. And every time I empty the dishwasher, I thank whomever it was who invented that miraculous thing.

The dishwasher is just one of many modern conveniences we perhaps take for granted. Power tools are another. Recently Michael and I were assembling a loft bed for my son, and we must have drilled at least a hundred holes. I said, “Remember back in the day when people had to drill holes with that hand crank drill thing?” Of course, there are still people who appreciate the craft of old-school wood working… taking their time, using their hands and primitive tools, and savoring the hard-earned end result. I love meeting people who do things the “old-fashioned way,” because I’m more likely to pack my dishwasher to the gills and turn the knob, hit the button on the Keurig, and sit down for some online shopping. Oh, instant gratification. You’ve made us all so damn impatient.

If you can stand it, patience and perseverance usually do pay off.

father and son fist bumpRecently, Troy and Jennica Lucas invited Brandy and me to their home for coffee. If you know them, you know they’re bona fide coffee roasters. So we knew there’d be no Sanka involved. Unlike most friends who invite you for a cup of automatic drip-pot coffee, the Lucases painstakingly craft theirs from the raw bean all the way to your cup. Also unlike any of my friends EVER, they served us from their very own coffee truck.

It started as a hobby in 2002, Troy and Jennica roasting their own beans in hopes of finding a good cup of coffee. It was then that the idea of starting their own roasting company began. But baby Quinn arrived in 2003, and the idea had to remain a hobby for the time being.

Everything made from scratch takes a little longer, and in 2007, Lucas Roasting Company was born, and since then this family of four has been working hard to turn their caffeine dream into reality. Now six years later, they roast and sell several varieties of coffee, from Brazilian to Nicaraguan to Indonesian and more, plus flavored blends, online and at various locations throughout the valley. They even have a Halfway to Heaven blend — the Steel Wheels signature blend — which will be offered to hordes of concert-goers at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival coming up July 12 – 14!! And served straight from their new coffee truck. :)

Halfway to Heaven Steel Wheels blend coffeeThe day we were there, Troy and Jennica showed us the new truck and their roasting facility and told us their inspiring story while their two kids — Kade and Quinn — played with our four. I’ve never, ever been inside a coffee bean roasting room, and let me tell you — it smells GREAT in there. There were sacks upon sacks of raw coffee beans and this big Deidrich roaster… bags and scales and everything in between, and it wasn’t until we entered that room that I realized just how hard these people have worked to achieve their goals. Here’s this family, living in a little community, running a business from their home. Troy calls it a “small family business,” and maybe it is when compared with large, national or global businesses. But the “small family business” is the one that has more to lose. More invested. More blood, sweat, and tears. And therefore, requires more bravery. Maybe I’m getting a little away from the story here, but standing in the roasting room was humbling and inspiring, and really brought to my full attention the devotion and sacrifice required to do what they — this family of four — have done.

deidrich roasterAnd they’re just regular people (ha ha). At one point, Troy was making us a couple cups of coffee using the Clever Dripper… a one-cup-at-a-time brewing system that produces a great cup of coffee with none of the Keurig trash… and as he explained the process, I could hear Jennica addressing one of the children: “What’s wrong with your face? …Pull up your hair… You look dirty but I don’t see any wounds…” A family business indeed.

clever dripperclever dripperAfter Brandy and I got our coffee fix, Troy and Jennica had all the kids line up outside the truck and place their orders, which ranged from Italian root beer and grape sodas to a delicious caramel Java Blender.

kids lined up at coffee truckgirl getting soda at coffee truckboy getting drink from coffee truckhappy customers at coffee truckOver coffee I got a bit more of their story. Troy came here in 1997 with the Brethren Volunteer Service to work on a project at Brethren Woods in Keezletown. He’s also worked for Habitat for Humanity, the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, and the JMU coffee shop, Taylor Down Under. At some point he injured his back and ended up at a chiropractor where Jennica worked. After a couple months of her healing touch they were engaged, and not long thereafter they tied the knot. Jennica’s from New Hampshire (in fact, she and Troy lived there for a bit before returning to the valley), and she currently works for the Park View Federal Credit Union.

woman and girl sipping coffeeAnd little by little, with the same patience required to brew a great cup of coffee, they have built their life together, a lovely family, and their business. It’s taken eleven years to go from a coffee hobby to a mobile full-service coffee company… but it’s better to gain strength by climbing a long, sometimes steep hill than to be a flash in the pan. They’re a committed bunch. They know how to go the distance, where others who need instant gratification might tire out. It’s the same concept as instant coffee: sure it’s fast, but it’s just not satisfying.

lucas familyCopyright © 2012-13 · 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 caked up: cupcake company.

It was the sweetest quickie ever.

I mean, we tore in there, ordered, scarfed it down, and satisfied our sugar craving in about four and a half minutes. By the time Brandy put down her camera to enjoy her cupcake, the rest of us were all done.

empty plates at bakeryI’m talking, of course, about the Cupcake Company, located on Rt 33 East in Penn Laird. If you’re headed east out of Harrisonburg, it’ll be on your left. I say that because in my half-blind, sugar craving stupor, I couldn’t see anything. Thankfully, Brandy waited for me in the median. Sheesh.

sign out front of bakeryBut don’t feel like you have to drive out there. They also have a Cupcake Truck (drool), which will be at Valley 4th on Court Square, AND they deliver. !!!

I first became aware of the Cupcake Company at work. A short email consisting of just one sentence came over the staff-wide system: “There are cupcakes in the teachers’ lounge.” Now, I was in the middle of class when this announcement arrived in my inbox, but I also kinda thought, “Meh. Probably those processed kind from [That Big Awful Store].” So I didn’t really hurry. Still, when I had a chance, I wandered down to the lounge, and what greeted me was the best cupcake I’ve ever consumed on public school property. The one I happened to get that day was the Raspberry Merlot Truffle, and after one bite, I seriously doubted my ability to navigate back down the hall to my room. I also toyed with the idea of not returning to my room at all… couldn’t I just sit down here for the rest of the day with my new cupcake friends? All the flavors, all living happily together in the pretty box! There was Grasshopper, Carrot, Chocolate Overload, Cherry Cheesecake, Wet Coconut… and Lord, have mercy, Pancake Maple Bacon! They have dozens of other flavors, too, for each day of the week!

assorted cupcakesAfter that day, I knew I had to get back there. So a week or so ago, on our way to take the kids swimming, Brandy and I stopped into their shop. The dining area is clean and quaint and holds several tables. The display case glistens to a polish and contains perfectly positioned, mouth-watering delicacies. The staff is super nice and patient. The ample kitchen bustles with activity. All four kids were entranced. We ordered a Peanut Butter Pie cupcake (Brandy), three Cookies and Cream cupcakes (Blake, Ella, and Bree), one Chocolate Ganache (Cal), which was so pretty it look upholstered, and a Chocolate Vanilla (moi).

employee at bakery counter four cupcakes on plates bakery kitchenFive seconds later, everyone had a messy face, and we were done. The kids wrote some thoughts on the wall-size chalkboard. In the car, the sadness set in. Couldn’t we have savored our cupcakes just a little longer?? Was it really over so soon?? What, are we animals??

girl with crumbsNo worries. We’ll be back in there soon, on another day of the week, when they have seven more flavors to choose from. And it’ll be just like the first time.

people eating cupcakesCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

brewed awakening: l&s diner.

L&S diner signOn March 18 it was freezing and snowy. I was in clunky boots and a sweater and my old gray coat AGAIN. This day, a Monday, was a snow day, and snow days are really nice for teachers, yes, but our children are SICK OF US. They are bored and antsy and we are becoming less cool by the second. I couldn’t imagine that four days from then it would be nice enough to do yard work, and two days after that it would snow again, turning the piles of leaves I had raked (but not hauled away) into frozen leaf cakes. Where they still sit, thawed now, and wet.

We had to get out. It just so happened that I needed a new (new to me anyway) piece of furniture for my dining room, and it happened that we were also hungry and in serious need of coffee. So we headed to L&S Diner, which is just a few snowy steps from Hess Furniture (post coming!!).

L&S is a Harrisonburg favorite. The boxcar diner has been downtown for decades serving up breakfast necessities like eggs, biscuits and gravy, grits, omelets, pancakes and French toast (and for all you early risers, they open at 5:30 am during the week). For lunch they’ve got choices like sandwiches, pan-fried chicken, salads, oysters, and salt fish.

L&S diner coffeeWe found six stools in a row and climbed up. Cal had a little trouble getting perched up there, and I realized that low-rise jeans have made diner stools awkward.

L&S diner stoolsOur waitress poured steaming coffee in our cups and we started talking about summer. Dresses. Sandals. How good it feels to get in a hot car after you’ve been in the air conditioning all day. Pools. The river. Sitting on the deck with friends til midnight. The beach. How good it feels to shower off all that beach grime and then stuff yourself with lobster and shrimp. Meanwhile, our food sizzled on the flat-top grill and the kids wrote little notes to each other. It’s become a tradition of sorts… today the notes said, “I love your hair.” “I love your pancakes.” And this one:

L&S diner noteAs usual, we all shut up when the food came. We had French toast, pancakes, rye toast, and an egg/ham/cheese sandwich on white. All fresh and delicious. They’re no strangers to breakfast in there.

L&S diner collageThere’s a train track RIGHT behind the restaurant. A train went by and Bree asked, “Are we moving?” No, honey. We’re in a restaurant. She also had the sensation we were moving one day in the car wash. When the sprayer arm thing moved around the car, she suddenly yelled, “Mom! We’re moving backwards! Do something!” Sorta like when you stand on the beach and a wave crashes on your feet and washes back out… it feels like you’re rushing backwards… and there we are talking about summer again. Oh summer. We are soooo ready for you!

You can thaw out at L&S Diner at 255 North Liberty Street, about a block north of Hess Furniture and a block south of the Local Chop and Grill House. They’re open seven days a week.

L&S diner spoonCopyright © 2012-13 · 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.

building from the heART: art in the park, northend greenway, and blake somers.

If people seem in these photos to be dressed funny, there’s a reason, and I’ll get to it. But first, let me take you back to the night I first heard The Greatest Idea Ever Hatched by a Ten-Year-Old Kid. (Actually, he was nine at the time.)

Back in May, Brandy and I attended the final meeting of Ignite! Harrisonburg to present our blog to the other attendees there and get some feedback. It went fine. But what I didn’t know was happening that night, and I’m sooooo glad my kids were there to witness it, was that cute, little SUPER-BRAVE Blake Somers was giving a presentation about his own idea for our community. Which is (drums rolling)… a giant memorial ribbon sculpture made entirely of Legos and painted pink in honor of his grandmother, Peggy Somers, who succumbed to breast cancer last summer. When it’s finished, the sculpture will be on display on Harrisonburg’s soon-to-exist Northend Greenway. Of course, most of us were sobbing at the end of his presentation, and he won the People’s Choice Award that night, beating out his own mom. Twice. :) And my kids hugged and high-fived him to pieces and cheered his name in the car the whole way home.

Since then Blake’s been busy scrounging for Legos here and there to amass a collection large enough to build his vision. And he’s getting there.

His most recent Lego-raising endeavor was at Art in the Park this past Saturday. Art in the Park is a monthly event hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley. The goal is to explore social issues through art, and it’s aimed at kids. The next one will be August 25.

This past Saturday, Blake Somers hosted the event. Kids came to build with Legos provided by the Arts Council of the Valley and to drop off any donations. Sharing the event was the Northend Greenway and Suzi Carter. She was there to inform the public about the Greenway: where it’ll be, what it’s for, and when it’ll happen. Personally, I can’t wait for the Greenway–it’s an awesome way to preserve green space, it’s a great use of that land, and it’s one more thing that will make Harrisonburg special. Another reason to love my burg.

Okay, so getting back to the funny clothes. I don’t know if any of you remember Saturday and the weather forecast, but it was calling for upper 70s and a thirty percent chance of rain. So we all dressed in short sleeves and flip flops with no umbrellas or rain coats… and it was a truly icky morning.

I got downtown with the kids at about 8:20 (Art in the Park started at 9) because I wanted to get a few things at the Market first. Sheesh! It was rainy and chilly and windy… people were all huddled up under whatever they could find, and Tom’s coffee stand was slammed. I bought a couple of pairs of earrings from Jan Carter, and she was trying to rig some kind of multiple-umbrella rain barrier because she was getting literally sprayed with rain, the little bitty stinging kind. Ick! So before the kids and I walked over to Art in the Park, we went back to the car in search of more layers. I happened to have a bag of clothing for Good Will in the back of the car, and I was able to grab a sweater or two and a couple of long-sleeve shirts to offer other shivering people. Sarah Murphy had several coats in her car, too, so we managed to get warmed up. Hence the “layered look” you see in some of the photos.

Then we pitched tents. The Arts Council had a couple, and Suzi had a couple, and soon we were all snuggled under there with our strange outfits. And the humidity was causing my Ronald McDonald hair to come out, but I had coffee and Legos and friends, so all was good. And there was even an amusement park feeling because every so often, too much rain would collect on top of the tent and then suddenly splash down on the lucky person who happened to be sitting there or walking by at that moment.

People came and went, playing with Legos (they were building Lego flowers for a garden) and chatting, and even blowing bubbles, which remained on the grass for quite some time, because of (we hypothesized) the moisture and low pressure. At one point two different conversations morphed into one and I swore I heard someone say, “In school you lose all of your youth through your head.” In reality it was probably “all your heat through your head,” but the other statement is equally true (I know, I’m a teacher)… and that’s why grown-ups like Legos, too.

Toward the end of the event, the Daily News Record arrived to interview Blake. The story was in yesterday’s paper; if you missed it, you can go to their website and, for a limited time, search for Blake Somers. Hopefully, the news exposure will bring in some Lego donations. Just so you know, Blake plans to donate to charity any Legos that don’t make it into the sculpture. So this week, rattle around in your attic or garage, call your parents, negotiate with your own children, and see if you can get your hands on some Legos for Blake. If you can, please drop them off between eleven and five at the Arts Council, located at 311 South Main Street. While you’re there, be sure to see the Lego garden created by Harrisonburg kids that day. Or if that doesn’t suit, you can email Brandy at brandysomersphotography@gmail.com to make other arrangements. And then YOU can have a part in a memorial that’s meaningful to our community and to one really special kid.

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

har-har harrisonburg no. 24: no strings attached.

There’s something about improvisational comedians that appeals to us all. Maybe it’s that we’re impressed by how quick on the trigger they are. Maybe it’s that they are MacGyvers of comedy, creating humor out of some random words, a feather boa, a Q-tip, and a plunger. Still maybe it’s that they find themselves squirming in the most uncomfortable situations but manage to emerge without anything exploding. Or perhaps it’s that improv comedy is a reflection of life itself–the beautifully strange daily occurrences in all our lives.We are all improv comedians (or tragedians) in that way.

Still, it’s fun to go out and see people act ridiculous.

On a warm May evening, Brandy and I took her kids to see a performance by No Strings Attached, Harrisonburg’s own improv comedy troupe. The performance was at Plan B, a cute, little BIG coffee house in Broadway. I was glad to finally see that place. Spacious and comfortable, it houses a mix of modern and vintage mid-century furnishings, two bars, a toy area for kids (or whomever, really), and a cozy fireplace. They also display lots of local artwork–some for sale–and they use real plates, mugs, and silverware–nothing disposable. It just feels good in there.

No Strings Attached, starring (on this night) Rachel Jenner, Tony Lopez, James Oates, Steve McClay, Jeremiah Meadows, and Gbenga Adekunle, took the stage at about 7pm for a two-hour set and were introduced by an employee of the establishment who sat at the sound booth. Brandy had a weird Wizard of Oz moment as she looked around for the source of that voice. “…Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Except there were no flames or any giant, misshapen, green heads.

Rachel explained a few things to the spectators. First, all their material is unrehearsed and supplied by the audience. Second, they often ask for volunteers to assist on stage, and she insisted that “if we ask for volunteers, it’s to make us look stupid, not you.” Hm. I happen to believe in “stupid by association,” but okay.

Then the show started. And although I’ve seen them before, I’m familiar with what they do, and I was all equipped with my notebook and pen, I’ve never tried to take notes at one of their performances–and it was a nightmare. Everything happened and changed so fast, and nothing made sense for more than like a minute and by the time I wrote anything down, it had morphed into something else, plus I kept getting distracted by the performance itself, PLUS I was laughing my butt off at times… so my notes are but a random collection of… weirdness. Like, “Remember that dog that was licking on it?” And, “Why am I supporting his head? He’s dead.”

???

I remember that those two lines came from the same skit, but I have no idea what the skit was about.

My favorite part of the night was a charades-like game where the group asked the audience for two adjectives and two nouns. They got “transcendental” and “photogenic,” and “dog” and “sponge.” The group divided into two teams. One team had to mime “photogenic dog” to Gbenga and get him to say it, and the other had to act out “transcendental sponge” and get Steve to guess it. WHAT?! And as they guessed out loud at each other, Steve and Gbenga were actually hurling really bizarre insults at one another. Now, get ready to write some of these down for future use:
“You’re modular.”
“You’re circular.”
“You’re a transcendentalist square.”
“You’re a transcendentalist nerd.”
“You’re a fixture.” ???
“You’re a person that’s not a king.”
“You get smaller and you go through the air and your eye pops out.”
Okay, so maybe you had to be there.

Steve, puh-leeeeez UNDERSTAND this!

Somehow Steve got “transcendental sponge” before Gbenga guessed “photogenic dog.” Here’s how to act out “transcendental,” in case you ever need to:
1) Act like a train. (trans)
2) Hold up ten fingers. (cen)
3) Act like you’re at the dentist. (dental)
Voila!

And for sponge:
1) Pretend to wash dishes.
2) Pretend to wash a car.
3) Pretend to wash a dog.
4) Act out an ocean floor scene.
5) Get frustrated.
6) Do lots of squeezing motions with your hands.
7) When your partner STILL doesn’t get it (ugh, Steve!!), do lunges, and somehow that’ll work.

I’m sure between the photos and this entry you have a crystal clear picture of what to expect when you go see No Strings Attached. Ha. Catch them on Harrisonburg’s next First Friday at Downtown 34, and be sure to like them on Facebook to stay informed of other upcoming performances. Prepare to giggle, snort, cringe, guffaw, squirm, gasp, and possibly even sneeze. I’m sure it’ll be excruciatingly uncomfortable and side-splittingly funny for all involved!

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

citizens’ upRISEing no. 10: RISE.

When I saw the Slinkies outside the door, I was instantly reminded of that Jim Carrey movie Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the scene where he lets the slinky travel down all those stairs, yelling “It’s gotta be some kind of record!” and singing the Slinky theme song. If you remember, the Slinky stops just before the last step. Ace throws his hands in the air and shouts, “Oh, man! Can you believe it?! It was RIGHT THERE!” Ugh… all that excitement and anticipation and then… a last minute fail. Little did I know how relevant that movie scene would be to the sermon that day at RISE.

RISE is a Methodist church housed in the Court Square Theater. What a super venue: comfy seats, great acoustics, all sorts of audio/visual capabilities, and CONCESSIONS. (!) If you haven’t been, here’s a glimpse of what to expect.

When we attended one Sunday last month, we were met with a large, friendly crowd. Worshipers of all ages, infant to elderly, mingled in the lobby like long-time friends; people casually chatted while sipping coffee and nibbling muffins… it smacked of a family reunion. Yet another thing I love about this town.
Upon entering the theater with a shameful amount of goodies clutched in my arms, we heard Brent Levy and a six-piece band warming up the crowd with music lively enough to raise the dead (uh-oh, I feel a whole bunch of church jokes coming on. I apologize.). They have their own arsenal of songs, but they also play popular favorites from bands like the Avett Brothers, U2, Journey, and even The Muppets. And above the stage hung several large signs that said things like, “You can do it!” and “Yep… even THAT guy” and “It’s all good.” Wow–signs from God, right here this whole time. (Yuk, yuk, there I go again. Sorry. Okay, no more.) The signs were all part of a continuing series called “That’s What God Said.”
Pastor Amanda is absolutely darling–a powerhouse of heart and spirit with a cute haircut and a humble yet captivating demeanor. I loved watching her retell well-known Biblical stories (David and Goliath, for example) with a new energy, peppered with funny and touching anecdotes from her own life.

The first thing she said to the congregation was, “You are a gift.” Well, I almost started crying right there. Instead I inserted another muffin and got a grip. The message of her sermon was that God gravitates toward ordinary people and says over and over, “You can do it!” She pointed out several instances in the Bible where this occurs. Sometimes people think God has forgotten them because they’re “small, ordinary” people. They forget they deserve grace just as much as anyone. And she asked this question: “Why do we expect ‘wow’ to be something we can’t reach?” God thinks we’re ‘wow’ just how we are. Perhaps we could try looking through a similar lens. She demonstrated this idea with a story about her Senior Prom. The theme was Carousel of Dreams, and it might have been the ugliest prom in history. It was one event in her life that had a great deal of build up, then turned out to be ordinary, followed by a nasty bout of disappointment. But, there’s beauty in ordinary, too. Sometimes we’re Slinkies that don’t make it all the way down the stairs.

Then I spaced out for a bit while I remembered my own prom. I realized I don’t remember much of it. I don’t remember a theme. Here’s what I do remember:
1. Instead of going out to eat, my parents cooked us dinner at my house and served it to us in courses. While wearing aprons. CUTE.
2. The DJ played the senior class song, “I’m Goin’ Straight to Hell” by Drivin’ and Cryin’.
3. My date and I didn’t stay long. (Sorry, Mom.)
Here are some things Amanda said that stayed with me:
~”When we say we’re not enough, we’re also saying God is not enough.” Think about that one.

~ “Life is messy. Stop saying you’re sorry for being human.”

~ “We focus on who we’re not”–because we live in a society that commodifies and measures everything, imho.

At one point Amanda projected a picture of Jesus and laughingly called Him the Swedish Jesus with Highlights. I audibly guffawed at that remark–I mean, we’ve all seen that portrait of Jesus, right? And it reminded me of a time when my daughter was three and she saw a similar picture and asked me, “Mom, was Jesus a surfer?” Because of His hair, not the whole walk-on-water thing. So thank you, Amanda, for reminding us that Jesus was not from Scandinavia. Or California.

You can attend RISE every Sunday at exactly 10-ish at the Court Square Theater. You can get a free cup, tee shirt, and yes–a Slinky. Receive love, give love, repeat.

here’s to the burg no. 4: downtown wine and gourmet

Despite what Jay says, I don’t think I’ve been to a wine tasting at Downtown Wine and Gourmet that wasn’t hoppin’. Brandy and I were hard pressed to get there by 7, when the free tasting technically ends—arriving by a narrow margin of eight minutes—but it looked far from over to us. What Jay meant was that the closing of Callie’s temporarily (and imperceptibly, to me) decreased traffic in the store, but now that the Capital Ale House is open, all’s well. Folks waiting for a table at the Ale House, as well as the general public, can, from 5 – 7pm on Fridays, moisten their palates with a fine sampling of featured wines at the wine shop. People always linger beyond 7, and no one’s gonna yank the glass out of your hand.

Owned by Jay and Amanda Monger, Downtown Wine and Gourmet is located in the Court Square Theatre building. They’re not just a wine shop, despite the cork floors and merlot-colored walls. They also sell cheese and other gourmet foods, coffee, brewing supplies, and a fine, FINE assortment of beer. Mm. Mm. Mm!

So… we tasted: Chateau De Fontenille White Bordeaux—delish. Kanu Chenin Blanc—delish. Vina Borgia Garnacha in a BOX (now we’re talkin’!). And Hendry HRW Zinfindel, which was a bit dry for me… but only because as I’ve aged, I’ve somehow become a thirstier person. Oh yes, and one “contraband” offering. Wait, did I type that or just think it? Woopsie.

Sean was our pourer—very friendly, thorough, and knowledgeable, even about each wine’s aroma… which I admit sorta fell on deaf ears (noses?) because I don’t wanna smell my wine—I wanna DRINK IT.

During our tasting we ran into the always delightful Tony Lopez of the local improv group No Strings Attached. Note to self: do a piece on them. That’s another great thing about the wine tasting: you run into folks you know, and then it’s like you’re at this fabulous cocktail party, minus the little black dress and pantyhose that keep getting twisted. And staticky.

Anyhow, I had to browse the beer while I was there (where you can build your own six-pack, and every time you do, you think, “I have created the best six-pack EVER!” until the next week when you top yourself. It’s quite a boost to the self-esteem.). It’s fun to peruse the beer section because of the labels. I know, I know—never judge a beer by its label, but when it features really great art, it’s pretty much irresistible. One of our faves is Flying Dog, whose labels feature art by Ralph Steadman (friends with George Stranahan and Hunter S. Thompson). See how educational this is? I mean, come on, people.

And that’s when we saw it: BACON AND MAPLE BEER. Breakfast beer! That ranks right up there with the purse closet at Granny Longlegs and Sunday brunch at the Grill. Hmmmm… brunch beer? And by the way, Downtown Wine and Gourmet hosts a free beer tasting every Saturday from 1 – 4pm.

Whether you need beer, wine, gourmet foods, coffee, or even handmade gift baskets, Downtown Wine and Gourmet has it all, and their laid-back, knowledgeable staff is more than happy to help you. Catch you there this Friday… and, why not, Saturday, too. <clink!>

burg bites no. 3: shank’s bakery

Shank’s Bakery causes cravings. I know because I’ve been going there regularly since they opened when my daughter was two and continuing through my second pregnancy—the cardamom-banana bread was something I had to have at least weekly, and then it just became a family tradition for us. The kids and I visit the bakery every Saturday, and in the summer, Tuesdays too, before we head to the Farmers’ Market.  You just can’t go wrong with this place.

On this particular evening, I only got a cup of decaf—Mexican Esmerelda, to be exact, roasted by Lexington Coffee Roasters.

The kids shared three mini cupcakes (the icing is to DIE for) and one Valentine’s Day star-shaped cookie with the word “when” on it. Maybe that’s an inside joke I don’t understand, or maybe they left off the question mark, or maybe it meant, “When you wish upon a star…” At any rate, in the few seconds it took you to read that, the cookie was devoured and but a memory.

 Okay, so here are a few reasons we love Shank’s Bakery:

1. The design. It’s slick, it’s sleek, it’s classic. The white walls and black floors… the one red accent wall with the wood-paneled and granite-topped counter… are clean and minimalistic. Simple. Uncomplicated. A reflection of the foods served there. I love the curve of the old-school display case, which is refrigerated, by the way, because none of their goods contain preservatives. And that looooong wall of floor-to-ceiling windows makes the modest space (fifteen seats) feel expansive.

2. The food. I love being able to get a wholesome dessert. I mean, calories are calories, but at least I know I’m not feeding myself or the kids processed and nutritionally empty foods. If you’re gonna indulge, make it worthwhile. For such a tiny place, they have a wonderful variety of breads, breakfast pastries, desserts, coffee drinks, teas, and smoothies.

Our favorites
* multigrain bread. We usually devour the whole loaf in one day. Cut the thickest slice you can fit in your toaster, toast it, apply a generous layer of butter, and ahhhhhgggggg. <drool>

* Danish. Specifically, blueberry.
* cupcakes. They are a delicious vehicle for the melt-in-your-mouth icing. I’m not kidding.
* snickerdoodles.
* and those adorable 4-layer, 6-inch cakes. Recently I bought one just because it was pretty. I couldn’t resist. It was pretty dang delicious, too.

The bakery is conveniently located on Water Street at the parking deck. Take a moment out of your day to visit them soon. Chances are you’ll see me there, cleaning up the nearly full cup of milk my son knocked over or scraping icing out of my daughter’s hair. And apologizing to all who had to witness it.