it’s little wonder: boboko indonesian cafe.

burgimg_7028You might not even know it’s there if not for the glorious smells emanating from it. Or the zillions of people who will recommend you go there. This article is one such recommendation. GO THERE.

I’m referring to one of Harrisonburg’s newest eateries — BoBoKo Indonesian Cafe. This tiny, 20-person capacity restaurant sits right up the ramp from Pure Eats in the Ice House Building. But don’t let the size fool you: this place comes with a grand reputation.

For starters, BoBoKo’s Chef Ridwan opened the restaurant after winning the What’s Cooking Concept Plan Competition through the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center. Born and raised in Indonesia, Ridwan has been cooking since childhood. And he insists on using Shenandoah Valley Organic Chicken, fresh veggies and herbs from the Harrisonburg Famers’ Market, and local no-spray produce from Wayside Produce. Experience + talent + passion for the local community and environment = a recipe for success!

The place, though small, is warm and comfortable. Wicker chairs, wooden tables, Indonesian art, and classical music create the feeling of an intimate dinner party.

burgimg_7031 burgimg_7035Okay, on to the foooooooood.

The four of us ordered a nice variety. We started with green pomegranate tea (they also have black and jasmine) and two appetizers: the Tempeh Teriyaki Summer Rolls and the Spring Rolls Fusion, which contain spinach, goat cheese, apples, and golden raisins! Next was a tummy-warming Roasted Tomato and Butternut Squash Curry soup.

burgimg_7045 burgimg_7046 burgimg_7057For dinner we enjoyed the Chicken Rendang (slow-cooked chicken), which was slightly sweet because of the coconut milk, served with steamed rice, mixed vegetables, and Indonesian crackers. On the tangy side, we loved the Indonesian “Street Food” Chicken fried rice (nasi goreng ayam), topped with fried egg and served with chicken satay, Javanese pickled cucumber, and carrot/acar timun and Indonesian crackers. The Beef Rendang sandwich is melt-in-your-mouth good and comes with a salad or soup.

burgimg_7064 burgimg_7070 burgimg_7076 burgimg_7079For dessert, we tried the Banana-Nutella Spring Roll (OMG) and the Mango Ginger Nutella Spring Roll (get outta here!). BoBoKo also offers French Macarons because of Chef Ridwan’s passion for the French delicacy he developed while in Paris.

burgimg_7083 burgimg_7086Now, don’t let the limited space keep you from going. If BoBoKo happens to be full when you arrive, you can get your order to go and take it to one of Harrisonburg’s FOUR breweries! I can see this becoming part of my routine soon. That street chicken — DANG.

burgimg_7080Open every day except Tuesday, Boboko Indonesian Cafe is located at 217 S Liberty Street in Harrisonburg and can be reached at (540) 434-3542. See you out and about!

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.

thank you: eddie bumbaugh.

burgIMG_6608Some debts are simply too large to repay. Sometimes, “thank you” falls impossibly short. Sometimes, a person’s influence, impact, and value are too large to accurately measure.

By now you’ve likely heard the news: our beloved Eddie Bumbaugh, the 12-year Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will retire from the position as 2015 draws to a close. However, and thankfully for all of us, from the sounds of it, he’s not retiring all the way. In hopes of getting all the juicy details, Brandy and I decided to take his wife, Jane, and him out for dinner recently.

Alas, even after a belly full of delicious Food Bar Food dinner and a cocktail, he wouldn’t expound specifically on his next step, stating only that he’ll “remain involved in the Harrisonburg community.” Brandy and I, happy to simply be breathing again, decided to be satisfied with this answer and just enjoy our evening with them.

burgIMG_6595 burgIMG_6598I did come prepared with a few additional questions. When I asked Eddie what he’ll miss the most about HDR, he replied immediately with “the staff.” He delivered several heart-warming compliments about his co-workers (not his underlings or subordinates or minions, but his co-workers) and their commitment and passion and enthusiasm that have made reporting to work each day joyful. He also revealed a real fondness for the excitement of new ideas and the planning of events – indeed, his eyes twinkled a bit when he spoke of these things.

He counts the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, a 100+ mile bicycle group ride, race, and festival that runs through and around the Burg, among his favorite Harrisonburg events because it allows him to experience our community through the eyes of people who aren’t from here. The race draws cyclists from all over the United States – many have never seen, Eddie says, “Old Order Mennonites or our beautiful skyline.” He likes the event because he likes to meet new people, and he likes anything that will encourage people to visit the Friendly City. Oh, and he likes to bicycle, too.

From there, most of our dinner conversation centered around travel and nature. You may or may not have known that Eddie is an avid cyclist and runner, a lot of which he does right here in the Shenandoah Valley because of its natural eye candy. He and Jane have hiked a hefty portion of the Appalachian Trail. The four of us had a lot of fun sharing hiking and road trip stories. Jane, too, is quite adventurous.

Jane took a trip to Iceland with a bunch of seventh-graders, prompting Brandy and me to shout things like, “What?!” “Are you crazy??” “Are you OKAY??” at her. They were there about a week, which seemed to me to be a very short amount of time to visit a foreign country, given all the travel time involved. But guess what? It’s only like a five-hour flight! Anyway, what an amazing experience for those youngsters!! Thank goodness for people like Jane! So brave and generous, even though she will tell you it’s not all that hard and anyone can do it. These two seem to be a match made in heaven with their incredible kindness, their willingness to try new and even risky ventures, and their ability to listen and compromise. Even in our relatively short conversation with the couple, Brandy and I could see those traits, shining clear as the candles on the table.

burgIMG_6624So now I’m finally getting to what I’ve wanted to do since I heard the news about Eddie’s impending departure: say Thank You.

Dear Eddie,
Harrisonburg and its citizens will never be able to repay you for the transformation that occurred under your leadership. I remember Harrisonburg twelve years ago, before you took the job. I remember seeing Dokken at a downtown establishment that was trying, really trying, to get on its feet. I remember when the Dodger, Joker’s, and The Little Grill were the only nightlife downtown, and no one walked to those places, at least not leisurely. I remember it felt like a lost cause. Thank you for ignoring all those who told you that the armpit of the city would never be the heart. They told you, “Don’t bother getting involved. We’ve tried it before. It’ll just be a waste of time, a disappointment.” Thank you for being the type of person to take those comments as a challenge. Thank you for also being the kind of person to listen, to contemplate and reflect, to consider the opinions and needs of others, and to bring everyone together with open communication and constructive conversations.

The evidence of your hard work shines for all to see now, twelve years later. Today when I go downtown, the streets are lit up. Delicious aromas waft out of dozens of restaurants. I can hear live music around every corner. There’s a good beer waiting for me about every five steps. And I am perfectly comfortable letting my kids wander around on their own – watching the ducks behind Clementine and SBC, walking to the library for new books, swinging into Bella Gelato for a treat, buying blueberries at the Farmers Market, and finding old Mom reading a book at Pale Fire when they’re all done with their adventure. :) Thank you for making my city safe for my children. If it weren’t, we would have left long ago.

I haven’t even touched upon the many events and activities we all enjoy now. Beer and music festivals, art markets, First Fridays, costume bike parades, Valley Fourth… too many to name. Not to mention the local retail options we now have, so we don’t have to shop at those “big stores.”

I don’t know what’s harder when taking a new job: inheriting a mess that you have to clean up, or inheriting something beautiful that you have to maintain and somehow improve upon. We know your successor cannot replace you, and we would not expect that. I imagine we’ll all expect more good things, because that’s what you’ve shown us. But we do not expect the accomplishment of “more good things” to happen in a vacuum. Those of us who live, work, and enjoy our downtown know that community growth happens through community involvement. We’ll stay involved, we’ll support local businesses, we’ll remember all that you’ve done to get us to this place, and we won’t let you down. We might not be able to pay you back, but we’ll pay it forward. We promise.

Cheers to you! Wishing you and Jane all the best, all the time! And don’t be a stranger.

Love, 
All of Us. The Whole Dang Town. 

burgIMG_6612Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.

field day: white oak lavender farm.

burgIMG_9254Driving along highway 276 south of Harrisonburg, you might not even notice it’s there. I didn’t, and I’ve driven that road innumerable times. But with a speed limit of 55 and a hypnotic and familiar landscape of corn fields, cow pastures, and rustic barns, that road has a way of inducing zoned-out daydreams. And so I don’t know, exactly, how many times I’ve driven by it. This is not to say I’d never heard of it – The White Oak Lavender Farm has been on my list of things to do for seemingly ever… I just never realized how close it is to my house.

Brandy, her sister Marcy, I, and an excited gaggle of six children spent a leisurely afternoon there not long ago. As our friendly and patient guide told us, White Oak Lavender Farm is “all about R&R.” We first listened to her compelling explanation of the benefits of lavender and how it’s grown and harvested. The farm is home to some 9000 lavender plants (some of which are available to purchase) from which ALL the products sold at the farm are made. She allowed all the kids to touch the fragrant plants, pointing out their “bud heads,” which of course the kids heard as “butt heads” and subsequently tried to suppress their giggles.

burgIMG_9260 burgIMG_9269 burgIMG_9328After the plants are harvested, They’re sent to the steam distillery to extract the essential lavender oil from the fresh lavender buds or sent to dry out in the Drying and Disbudding Barn. A machine removes the buds to be used for all the soft good or cooking items. White Oak’s gift shop sells all the products made from the buds and the oil. This gift shop is a place you need to remember when you’re ready to do some birthday or holiday shopping. I had visited their booth at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market before, but I was floored by the number and variety of items in the shop, all made (with the exception of, say, dishware) with lavender. Lavender tea, sugar, coffee, mulling spices. Lavender candles, oils, soaps, body products. Lavender vinegar, jellies and jams, and even cooking oil. They make and sell lavender brownies and ice cream: blueberry, vanilla, and strawberry. Brandy barely got a photo of it before the kids inhaled it.

burgIMG_9289burgIMG_9394 burgIMG_9398If you still haven’t heard what a wonder-herb lavender is, it’s all about relaxation. It soothes bug bites and burns. It helps you sleep. It calms the digestive system. It clarifies your skin and repels bugs. It relieves pain and increases circulation. There’s absolutely no reason you should not live a more lavender life, people.

But the farm has far more to offer than just lavender fields and a gift shop. You can stroll the grounds of the farm and pet some animals, like Flemish Giants (bunnies), ponies, goats, and sheep. You can play giant checkers and contemplate in the labyrinth. You can sit by the Bottle Tree (helps ward off bad spirits) or enjoy the Peace Circle for Enhanced Communication. You can rest in a rocking chair on the covered porch. You can listen to the waterfall at the duck pond, and watch the alpacas on the hill.

burgIMG_9294 burgIMG_9304 burgIMG_9306 burgIMG_9332 burgIMG_9362 burgIMG_9367You can pick your own lavender, and they even offer workshops and classes from time to time. And you can end your visit there as we did, sitting under their picnic shelter and just being happy to be together on a rare respite from life’s race.

burgIMG_9409White Oak Lavender Farm is open Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm and Sunday 1pm – 6pm and is located at 2644 Cross Keys Road. That’s just a bit south of the intersection of 276 and Port Republic Road. They’d love to see you, whether you’re chaperoning a school field trip, exploring as a family, or just ready to slow down a bit by yourself.

burgIMG_9339 Copyright © 2012-15 · 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.

bite me… please: rocktown bites.

burgIMG_2897You know, I feel I know my city pretty well. I’ve been to lots and lots of local restaurants and businesses, many of which you’ve read about right here. But recently Brandy and I did something we hadn’t done before: we went on a culinary tour of our city. Hosted by Regina Hissong, Rocktown Bites conducts twice monthly walking tours to seven (!) local restaurants, shops, and businesses where you get to sample their best food and drink offerings, plus learn a LOT about those establishments and the history of the buildings they’re in. Back in January of this year, Harrisonburg became the FIRST city in Virginia to be designated a Downtown Culinary District! Rocktown Bites will show you exactly why.

We met at the Hardesty Higgins House, all twelve of us — Lindsey, Brandy, Blake, Ella, Ben, Heidi, Aiden, Cal, Bree, Denise, Sean, and me — plus our happy host, Regina. The kids enjoyed the gift shop and the 1862 model of Harrisonburg with all those teeny tiny animals. Once all assembled, we ventured out into the sunshine, a traffic-stopping pedestrian food procession.

burgIMG_2835Our first stop was the newly opened Midtowne Bottle Shop. Owner Lauren Penrod greeted us and quenched our thirst with two Brew Ridge Trail Collaborations — Moon (an India Pale Lager)  and her sister beer, Earth (a double IPA). The kiddos indulged in Flathead Lake Gourmet Soda in black raspberry and strawberry orange. I was kinda excited that Cal, my little soda virgin, had his first soda in my favorite new store. I see a tradition forming.

Not only does Midtowne Bottle Shop offer lots of bottles, but they also have eight taps. You can bring your growler or purchase one of theirs (1-pint, 2-pint, or standard size) for frequent fill ups with no trash. Regina’s husband has a growler holder on his BIKE. WHAT AN IDEA. Despite seeing him often, Lauren didn’t realize this… but she did say she notices he’s sweaty when he comes into the shop.

burgIMG_2855 burgIMG_2857 burgIMG_2852 burgIMG_2843Our next stop was just across the street and the site of the first ever Rocktown Bites love connection. Cuban Burger. Owner Steve Pizarro met his lovely lady when SHE was on a Rocktown Bites tour, and now a year later, they’re proud parents of cutie-pie Charles Harrison! At Cuban Burger we nibbled on… well, the Cuban Burger, and garlicky cuban toast with black bean dip, and we enjoyed Jupiña pineapple soda and a classic daiquiri.

burgIMG_2876 burgIMG_2871On to Clementine we went. If this stop is on your tour, come hungry. I was surprised (pleasantly, of course) at how many “samples” we got to try. First they served us homemade lemonade, which was a real treat for all of us on this warm, sunny day. They estimate that they squeeze 750 lemons per week to make their citrusy concoction, which also contains limes, sugar, water, and mint. Then we “sampled” some food… but really, it was a whole plate of food, including seared scallops with a saffron risotto and spinach pesto, served with roma tomatoes and A.M. Fog mushrooms in a balsamic drizzle. Drooling occurred. Also, I forget what we were talking about, but Denise was trying like the dickens to say “Snap, crackle, and pop,” and she kept stumbling over the words and burst forth with a “Crap Snackle!” which has become my new profanity replacement.

Next we meandered over to Jack Brown’s. We got to eat their AMAZING Wagyu beef cheeseburgers with their addictive special sauce, plus Sticky Nugs from Billy Jack’s, and we got to sample the Apocalypse Ale. We sat sorta near the back… usually when I’m in there I’m at the bar, at basically the first seat I can get my honey on.. but back there, near the back… is DONKEY KONG. As soon as I heard the sounds coming from the machine, my head turned as if in slow motion… I dropped everything I was eating and drinking and shoved the children outta the way: “Watch the master…!” And I saw something else I didn’t know about, too: Jack’s Hideaway.

burgIMG_2915cRemember the scene in Goodfellas, near the end, when DeNiro’s character tells Lorraine Bracco’s character to “go down there,” down the sidewalk to some door where there are some dresses she could have? And Deniro’s standing back there gesturing and looking around, and she’s looking around, and you get this bad feeling… and she does, too…? Well, I had a flash — just a flash! — of that when we were walking to the door of Jack’s Hideaway. It’s around the corner from Jack Brown’s, on Water Street, and it’s down the sidewalk, and it’s just this nondescript door you knock on. But no malevolent force will greet you, you won’t get “whacked” or anything; instead you’ll be escorted into a really, really cool space. It’s where Aaron and Patrice lived when they first opened Jack Brown’s. It’s another bar, quite lounge and swanky, with a lovely view of the street below, a bar, a menu, a second room, and restrooms. It’s open Thursday through Sunday, and I could see spending a lot of time in that secret little place. But the capacity is only a couple dozen, so it’s possible you’ll be turned away if it’s a busy night. Still, put on some fancy duds and knock on that door. It’s truly special, a Harrisonburg treasure.

burgIMG_2924There was more to see, and so we hit the pavement once again. Our pace, and especially the kids’, increased as we got closer to our next destination: Kline’s Dairy Bar. Yesssssss! Did you know they’ve been in business 71 years?? Regina told us that. Mr. Kline would hand frozen custard out the window of his home. The business is no longer owned by the Kline family, but the yumminess continues, as well as the tradition of passing frozen custard through a tiny window. On this day they had one of my favorites — Raspberry — plus the usual chocolate and vanilla.

burgIMG_2935 burgIMG_2929 burgIMG_2926 burgIMG_2928I thought for sure the tour had to be over since we’d had dessert… but no! There was more! We stopped in to Friendly City Food Co-op for a tour and samples of delicious peach poundcake made with local peaches. Steve Cook conducted the tour and told us all sorts of interesting info. For example, local products can be found in every department and on every aisle of the store, from Lucas Coffee to Polyface chicken, from maple syrup from Highland County to popcorn from Dayton, from milk from Mt. Crawford to soap from Charlottesville. They now sell beer and wine (no corporate beer!), and they’re planning a big expansion — the meat and produce areas will double in size and the kitchen will serve hot food. It’s a great place to shop, whether you need full-on groceries, or just lunch.

burgIMG_2949 burgIMG_2945And still, there was more. Regina was really wowing us today! Our last stop was Bella Luna, Harrisonburg’s fairly new wood-fired pizzeria. We ate ravioli with pork, peaches, jalapeño, lemon, and arugula (what a combination!) covered in a smoked paprika sauce, and THEN two kinds of pizza cooked in their 900-degree oven in just three minutes. Plus their chocolate torte — flourless and gluten free — with orange whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. Kate, the manager, talked to us at length about each dish and also about their effort to support local agriculture. They actually ask local farmers to produce certain foods. In fact, just that morning she’d bought grapes at the farmer’s market for that evenings specialty cocktail. The kids tried their vanilla cream soda, and the rest of us got to end our tour with Regina’s all-time favorite cocktail — the vanilla old fashioned. She certainly earned it! Lordy. This wasn’t the first time Brandy and I have been “full up to the collarbone,” as she says, but it was one of the best times, for sure.

burgIMG_2965 burgIMG_2961In summary (ha), you’ve got to go on this tour. The next one is October 25 — the Goons, Goblins, and Grub Tour, in honor of Halloween. It starts at 2pm at the Hardesty Higgins House. But, you have to get tickets in advance, so Regina can let the restaurants know how many to expect. To purchase tickets, just go to the web site and click on the Tickets tab at the top. You’d easily spend the cost of the ticket at just one restaurant; the tour is a great way to sample a bunch of different places, learn a lot, and enjoy the company of Regina, my favorite Harrisonburg ambassador! You’ll have a fine time!

See you out and about!

burgIMG_2886Copyright © 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.

heaven on wheels: costume bike parade 2013.

Bike Parade 1Oh, suburbs, you’re killing us all.

The invention of suburbs was one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” developments of the modern era. People could move out of those crowded, noisy, dirty cities and into a larger home on a sizable lot and enjoy peace, quiet, relative privacy. It sounded divine at the time and was quickly accepted as “a good idea.” But, as humans are wont to do, we didn’t think about the consequences… longer commutes in the car, more gas, more time, more water and other resources all for the sake of having a slice of real estate all to yourself. And the cities, vacated, simply fell apart. Businesses left. Factories closed. Crime increased. What a mess.

Then postmodernism came along and showed us that we don’t know jack. We have no foresight. We bulldoze along without thinking of ramifications down the road. At least we started to become aware of our lack of awareness, right?

And now we’re in some kind of post postmodernism where we’re trying to stem the tide of all those bad consequences. For example, we woke up to the fact that cars use too much gas, and the hybrid was born. Yay — fuel conservation! But what do I do when the battery in my Insight poops out?? I can’t just throw that thing in the landfill… And plug-in electric cars that require no gas at all — what a great idea! But if you’re plugging it in to an outlet fueled by coal, then… there’s not much environmental advantage. These are the problems we now see and are trying to fix… but when we fix them, will we finally have developed some foresight so we don’t create yet another new problem?

Problems like this reach an apex, where they’ve been worsening at an exponential rate and they start to double-back on themselves… and the only option is to start over. Get back to basics. We probably all recognize, on some level, that we can choose to simplify now, or we can wait until conditions deteriorate so badly that we’re forced to. Here in the burg we’ve been working on simplifying for some time. We have a number of community farms, like Port Road Community Garden, Collicello Gardens, and Our Community Farm, to name a few. The folks at The Natural Garden will actually arrive by bike to work in your yard. We’re a town of co-ops and collectives and local businesses and farmers markets. All of these endeavors underscore Harrisonburg’s desire to get back to basics: to reduce urban sprawl and make it easier for people to ditch their cars and walk or bike to work and school. To spend money locally. To undo some of the damage we’ve caused and try to conserve a little here and there. And to work as a community to solve our own problems, rather than leave those solutions in the hands of strangers. Slowly but surely, this community is gaining ground.

Bike Parade kids 3To that end, it’s Bike Month in Harrisonburg, kicked off on May 3rd with a Costume Bike Parade downtown. As I headed to the Turner Pavilion to meet Brandy, I saw the first cyclist of the evening: Noel Levan, sporting Kermit The Frog socks and a clown nose, among other silly items. Little by little bike enthusiasts started rolling in. Some of the costumes included a Banana, Mario, and a shiny metallic sword-bearing Robot (Nate Shearer). Some type of fox-like animal, which might have been a kangaroo because I heard him refer to himself as marsupial. An old man in a bathrobe, a spring fairy, and a cat with a bull horn. A cow wearing a boa, a butterfly, and a disco sompn-or-other.

Bike Parade group 2 Bike Parade group 4There were a dozen or so kids — a little Spiderman, Pebbles, a doctor, a knight, a couple of fair princesses…

Bike Parade kids 2And there were a few scoundrels — one who looked like Captain America but might have been a sinister Gladiator… gun totin’ Blue Bullet and the Bandits (they actually had a horse head on the bike)… and <eeek!> Jason.

And let’s not forget Tony Lopez being assaulted by Dark Spiderman!

Bike Parade group Bike Parade group 3After the parade, participants attended Singletrack High and the Adventure Seen Cycling Film Festival at Court Square Theater. What a night!

Bike Week theater 1 Bike Week theater 3But that’s not all. The month of May is full of bike-related events to bolster support for our ever-growing cycling community. Just last week Harrisonburg enjoyed Bike to Worship, Bike to Work, and Bike to School events, as well as the annual Ride of Silence. Still to come, an Ice Cream Ride, Sunday the 26th at 2pm at the Wolfe Street Kline’s, and if you donate to the Northend Greenway this month, you could win a bike with accessories! And the burg has lots of long-term bike initiatives in place, including Rocktown Trails, Bluestone Trail, the Northend Greenway, and the Bike-Ped Plan, all in the name of improving safety and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians.

Bike Week theater 2When we look at the world, or rather, our corner of it, it’s easy to see the problems, the destruction, our detachment from nature, other people, and ourselves. But little things, like this event, start as a seed of hope in one person’s heart, germinate into an idea hatched among friends over a few cups of coffee or mugs of beer, grow into a community event, and then evolve into a movement. Action. Awareness. Progress. I moved here nearly twenty years ago. I was a 21 year old wearing a huge set of blinders and didn’t know squat about art or the environment or social consciousness. I essentially grew up here; most people do mature a great deal between age 21 and 41. But this city made me evolve; it made me aware; it woke me up. This is where I learned to care about things way bigger than I. I am so grateful my kids are learning, too. So grateful this is my community. So grateful for all of you.

Copyright © 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.

what makes the burg go round: LOVEworks.

On Saturday, April 13, the kids and I made our usual trip to Shank’s Bakery and the Farmers Market when we spotted our friend Nicole in the back yard of the Arts Council building. And then we remembered it was a special day! It was the day to unveil LOVEworks!

LOVEworks 3The caution tape around the large, six-foot letters was intriguing enough — toddlers chased each other between the letters and tugged curiously at the yellow ribbon — but Cal was especially impressed by the giant novelty scissors Nicole pulled from the trunk of her car. He promptly noted she was NOT running with them because that would be “extra-dangerous.”

Before she and other officiants cut the ribbon, she filled in the gathering crowd on the unique project. LOVEworks is a program by the Virginia Tourism Corporation that seeks to promote the message that “love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.” Harrisonburg makes the twenty-first city in Virginia to create and display a LOVEworks sculpture. You can see pictures of the other twenty sculptures at the Virginia Is For Lovers site.

LOVEworks collageHarrisonburg artists Nicole Martorana (yes, she wears a lot of hats), Jeff Guinn, and Mike Herr designed our love letters, each six feet tall and spanning a total of sixteen feet. The L represents Harrisonburg’s cultural diversity and is covered with a photographic collage of local residents’ belongings from their native countries. The O is wooden, representing agriculture, with a planter built into the top (holding strawberries, sedums, and other native plants) and metal sides that will rust over time.

LOVEworks sculptureThe V is made of bicycle parts and spray-painted blaze orange to symbolize our cycling, hunting, and fishing friends. And the E is a combination of magnetic dry erase and chalk board designed to be an interactive symbol of Harrisonburg’s love of art. In fact, it can be used as another exhibit location on the First Fridays art walk.

And then, the giant scissors snapped and LOVE became an official fixture downtown.
But we already knew that, huh? :)

LOVEworks coupleCopyright © 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.

free spirits: rocktown wine and dine festival.

It was a weeee bit rainy. A tad splashy. A tish bit damp, if you will. And as my hair erupted into its requisite rainy day Ronald McDonald wig of frizz, Brandy arrived with a floaty strapped to her back pack.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Duh, for FLOATING. Because it’s raining. A LOT.” <eye roll>

I guess I’m so accustomed to it raining at ALL our events that I don’t even think to prepare for it. But others did, too. Like these gals:

And this lady… sort of.

Umbrella casualty.

We might have actually needed that floaty. Not that the three of us could ride on it… but Brandy informed Michael and me that there was even a chance of tornadic activity. Good grief, Auntie Em. “Do you get some kind of alert for every weather situation?” I asked her. She answered, “I get that from my Nanny, okay? I used to call her for the weather.” Awwww… Nanny :)

Anyhoo, at three o’clock on the dot, one could hear a chorus of corks popping against the harmonious backdrop of rain and The Woodshedders, this old-time, bluegrass, jazz-country quintet who warmed things up for us quite cozily. The first Rocktown Wine and Dine Festival had commenced! And with neat-o wine sampling glasses in hand, we were off!

A note of clarification before I delve into all the deliciousness of that afternoon. The Wine and Dine Festival was different from the Beer and Music Festival of last April (and coming again April 20, 2013!!) in that the wine vendors served pairings–samples of a particular wine accompanied by a complementary dish. (Local chefs Alex Fitzgerald and Jon Alley created the appetizers and Brock Cappers from Robins Cellars picked perfect wines for each.) It wasn’t like the Beer and Music Festival where you filled up your mug and wandered around for a bit. It was more like an art exhibit, where you move through the gallery, stopping at each piece and eating/drinking the display. So the three of us, along with everyone else, were under the pavilion for quite some time, sampling the goods at all ELEVEN tables.

Also, as you perused the goods, if there were any (and believe me, there were) wines that you wanted to buy, you could go to the Downtown Wine and Gourmet table, place an order, and then pick up your wine the following Saturday at the shop. And Jay and Amanda offered substantial discounts if you ordered one, three, or five mix & match cases. A lot of people in my life are getting wine for Christmas this year.

Okay, Table One: World Premier Wines. Here we sampled the Paul Cluver Close Encounters Riesling from South Africa… and the Paul Cluver Gewurtztraminer paired with a southwestern chicken egg roll. The spicy egg roll with the crisp, apple-y sweet wine was a lovely start to the afternoon. Thumbs up.

Next was the Robert Kacher table, where we tried the Tariquet Classic–dry and fruity from France–paired with a traditional gazpacho. We also tried their Andre Brunel VDP Grenache, which was refreshing and really reasonably priced.

Frontier Wine Imports offered a grilled chorizo (sausage) with their Senda 66 Tempranillo 2008 from Spain–man was that a good combination. I ate a few of those little spicy things. And might I add, it was at this table that WE FOUND PORT. Aaaaggggghhhhhh <drool>. The Feist Madeira Full Rich Port AND the Feist Tawny Port. From PORTugal. Ha. I think I left that table about ten degrees warmer.

Danielle, servin’ it up.

The fourth table was also a favorite in our little group–Small Vineyards served their Palama Negroamaro with these yummy little shredded pork barbeque sliders. Yowee. It was one of those slow-motion moments: We saw the wine. We saw the sliders. We started over there. People would not get out of the way. And when at last we skidded to the table, the sliders were gone! No worries–we just stood there and waited, and soon another batch arrived, all warm and fresh. We also tried their Tre Donne La Perlina Moscato and their Bibbiani Chianti. At this point we were really digging the festival.

The Avery Quinn table had these shrimp things–money bags, spring rolls, and wontons, along with a very nice California chardonnay. That combo was so good I burned my mouth–twice. We liked that table.

Bluestone Vineyard, one of the hosts of the festival, along with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Downtown Wine and Gourmet, presented a reeeeallly good cabernet franc ($25-a-bottle good) and one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life: bacon-wrapped sausage bites, rolled in aged chili peppers and sweet brown sugar. I admit that for the rest of the evening, I stalked that table for meat like Hannibal Lecter. I apologize for the creepiness of it. Anyway, Bluestone also debuted their new Moscato at the festival–a sweet, kinda fizzy fruity number. It’s a good thing there were no chairs under the pavilion or we may not have moved for days.

Around this time, the Woodshedders finished up and Chatham County Line took the stage. These guys have been around for thirteen-ish years, from Raleigh, and recently finished up a tour in Europe. Here they were in little old Harrisonburg, providing a warm and lively soundtrack to a now sunny evening.

B&L Brands was a fun table, not only because all their wines were great (and among the three of us, I think we tried them all), but because many of their wines have literary names–like “Foreshadow” and “Bookmark.” The nerd in me appreciates that. They offered Rooiberg Chenin Blanc (South Africa) with assorted cheese.

Vici Wine, our eighth stop, offered several South American wines (Chile and Argentina) including the Oveja Negra Chardonnay/Viognier and the Chilensis Chardonnay, and one from South Africa–the Obwika Moscato–paired with Bananas Foster Bites served with warm caramel sauce. Apparently I wasn’t the only food stalker there because we never did get a bite, and after all that meat I really needed some dessert :) Our friend Seth was working that table:

Cave Ridge and Cross Keys shared a table, which suited us just fine because we love those vineyards. Cave Ridge is the vineyard that runs Wine on Water, which offers tastings daily at its downtown location and houses Cuban Burger; Cross Keys Vineyard is a really great place to visit for a first date or an anniversary or a ladies’ nite out or an after-golf outing. The terrace is beautiful and the view is breathtaking, and if you get a chance to take the tour, you should. We sampled pretty much everything at that table and chatted it up with Katrina and Debbie. The pairing was the Cave Ridge Viognier with assorted fruit, but we also had their Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. Cross Keys served their Joy White–one of my favorites of all time– and Joy Red, and the luxurious Meritage.

William Harrison Imports had several Argentinian selections and a few from France. And just before my sausage high wore off, they rescued me with a grilled kielbasa with mustard paired with the Don Manuel Malbec, a really hearty, spicy number that was a good end-of-festival selection.

And although we were “stuffed to the collarbone,” we couldn’t say no to the final table of the evening, Castle Rock Winery. Brandy and I sipped on the Mendocino Zinfandel and had gotten really mingle-y, wandering around, chatty and sorta unfocused. But they had a really good appetizer, too–chicken skewers with a tangy molasses barbeque sauce–and after an amount of time I’m just not sure of, Michael emerged from the crowd, marching toward us triumphantly, holding three chicken skewers high over head. We thanked him excitedly and then I, in my haste, stabbed my throat with the skewer.

Time for a break.

Having sampled all the pairings, and feeling quite satisfied, we moseyed to the lawn with our chairs to listen to the band play. We noticed the patch of earth that was torn apart by revelers at the Beer and Music Festival last spring–it was covered with hay to protect the tiny grasslings growing beneath. But it didn’t stay covered long, as an army of small human plows arrived and started making a hay pile. I mean, that’s what you do with hay–you gather it up into a pile. As the kids jumped on the hay pile and shouted and squished their feet in the mucky lawn, one of the band members asked them, “Which one of you is the Lord of the Flies?”

And so we watched the kids. And we listened to Chatham County Line. And Michael decided they needed a sample, too, so he commandeered four glasses and brought them a round. As the singer graciously accepted his wine, he said, “You know, I see a lot of signs that say ‘No bracelet, no wine,’ but… (brandishing his bare wrists)… come get me!” And they played on. Later he said, “Don’t discriminate, my brother. Integrate. That’s why God invented rosé.”

Amen. Let it all mingle–bacon and sausage and shrimp and bananas and cheese and cabernets and merlots and rieslings and zinfandels and mud and skin and hair and clothing and rain. Let it all mingle!

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.

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.

a rollicking good time: fridays on the square.

I love a stand-up bass and a drummer decked out in a mini-skirt and cowgirl boots.

It was Friday on the Square in Harrisonburg–a downtown outdoor film and music event presented by Citizens for Downtown and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and (this particular week) sponsored by Alexiou Hearing and Sinus Center and Davenport Windows and Doors. We were stoked to get outside and see the Judy Chops perform: the week had been nauseatingly hot. On this breezy, beautiful evening, the heat finally broke and the city itself exhaled in relief.
We’d gotten to the courthouse early and set up our chairs and blankets so we wouldn’t have to carry them as we walked to Cat’s Cradle–which we featured on the blog a couple weeks ago (you can find that post here). Ducking into The Corner for a quick snack and drink, we noticed some portentous clouds rolling in and remembered all our stuff sitting on the square. Then some chugging and gobbling occurred, and six sets of feet scurried up the sidewalk to the barren courthouse lawn. Everyone else, including the band, had moved to Turner Pavilion (home of the Harrisonburg Farmers Market) and made themselves at home. As the band warmed up, we set up camp: chairs, blankets, lunchbox dinners, crayons, markers, and the like.

Brandy got into her human tripod position and I settled into my chair with my notebook. Among the couple hundred folks in attendance, I saw familiar downtown faces, like Anne Juarez, Mariana Bowling and Chris Howdyshell with their two cuties, Steve McClay from No Strings Attached with his family, the always-fun Sarah Murphy and legendary sound guru, Dave Beaver.

The band started playing. The Judy Chops are a six-piece band out of Staunton who perform in the Burg pretty regularly. They feature a drummer, an upright-bass player, and several guitar strummers/banjo pickers/fiddle pluckers and what have you, and they encourage (literally–by suggesting so, and figuratively through their mirthful demeanor) foot-stompin’ and dancin’ and sangin’ and howlin’ and whistlin’ and clappin’ and cluckin’ and hootin’. Yes, everyone was sitting in chairs at the start of the show, but it didn’t take the Judy Chops long to inspire some movement in the crowd. And you know? It’s always the older generation that starts the dancing. They’ve finally reached the nirvana of “oh, what the hell!” And so a couple of folks started to dance, and a few more joined in, and Sarah Murphy roped three of our kids into dancing with her (God bless that woman!)… they were linking arms and kicking up their feet, smiling and laughing, spinning in a large circle. It must be the Harrisonburg dance because I got swept up in it at The Little Grill Open Mic Night back in September. Wheeee! Needless to say, everyone was completely entertained by the band.
Meanwhile, in the grassy lot, kids were running wild. This is another reason I love my Burg: kids are so comfy hanging out here. They were playing tag and frisbee and throwing baseballs, they were climbing trees and dancing and spinning… there was giggling and (mild) taunting and hugging and stick swords… In fact, Ella got a little miffed at my son, and when Brandy asked her about it, she said “Cal thinks tagging people is stabbing them in the stomach with a stick.” :( Ooooch. Sorry! <cringe>

Parents rotated in and out of the grassy lot, taking turns supervising the youngsters. We all felt a collective responsibility for the kids, no matter whom they belonged to, and I really love that about this town. Not that I would ever let my kids get too far away from me, but I appreciate being able to take the kids places and not worry about their safety the whole time. We look out for each other here. It’s what we do.
This coming Friday on the Square, you can catch films from the 2011 SuperGr8 Film Festival. These three-and-a-half minute films made by local residents might just inspire you to pick up a super 8 camera and start rolling for this year’s festival, which will take place in November. There were more than 40 films last fall, and because Friday’s viewing is only one night, there’s not time for them all. The folks at SuperGr8 carefully selected a balance of color and black and white films for your enjoyment. They are as follows:

Black and White
1. Overcome by Ernie Didot (Winner of best Black and White Film)
2. The Park Bench by Elwood S. Madison III
3. Raveler by Brandy Somers (Winner of best B/W Actress)
4. A Year of Dying by Jeremiah Knupp & Holly Marcus (Winner of Best B/W Cinematography)
5. The Wrestler of Casus by Michael Trocchia
6. Noir Justice by The Brothers Sedeen
7. Drew by Brent Finnegan (Winner of Audience Choice for Best B/W Film)
Color
8. Chasing Shadows by Nicole Martorana
9. Myddfai by Martin Rees
10. My Love is Blind by Tim Estep & April Sedeen Estep (Winner of Best Color Film)
11. You Go To My Head by Lynda Bostrom
12. How To Reinvent Yourself by Jay Zehr (Winner of Best Color Cinematography)
13. Something Else by Chris Whitmore (Winner of Best of the Festival)
14. The Ride by Elliott Downs

The show starts at sundown on the courthouse lawn. See you there!

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.

birthday in the burg!: blue nile.

I was so worried about my birthday curse that for my recent 40th birthday, I considered doing nothing at all. Because turning 40 is bad enough without everything going wrong.

I have a history of bad birthdays. Not every birthday has been a disaster, mind you—there are two or three I don’t remember at all (like my first, second, and third birthdays), so I guess those don’t count. But some stick out as awkward or just plain bad.

For my 18th birthday, my parents got me luggage. Hint hint. But they also got me a plane ride over my hometown, co-piloted by my dad. That was pretty cool. Of course, my birthday always coincides with Father’s Day, so I think the gift served two purposes. Whatever.

One birthday in the mid-1990s (they all run together now), my friends at work planned to take me out to lunch at Indian American Cafe. But they forgot to actually tell me about it, and I was in Nags Head. Here’s a summary of the answering machine messages:
“Hi, Katie. It’s Anne. We’re all down at Indian American Cafe. Since you’re not answering the phone, I’ll assume you’re on your way! Can’t wait to see you!!” <beep>
“Hi, Katie. It’s Anne again. I hope you’re okay. I thought you’d be here by now. We’ll wait a little longer.” <beep>
“Hi. Um, we’re kinda hungry, so we’re gonna go ahead and order, okay? Hope you get here soon!” <beep>
“I’m not really sure what happened, but we’re eating your cake.” <beep> When I got home from the beach, I got all the messages at once. Anne was kinda embarrassed about the whole thing. Apparently the cake was really good.

On another birthday, someone tried to plan a surprise camping trip for me. Only, I’m not the best camper—I’m bony and pretty much allergic to everything outside. Also, no one was on time. So when I got there, it was just one girl standing in the woods with a balloon. “Surpriiiise…..”

This one takes the cake (ha!). I actually invited a few people over for dinner on my birthday, which I cooked… and one of the guests arrived completely trashed and literally passed out in his salmon filet. Oh ghee.

So I’m sure you understand why I get a little nervous at birthday time. Despite all those wacky experiences, I still love to be surprised. And this year, Brandy and Danielle ended my birthday curse once and for all. At The Blue Nile. They didn’t tell me much about what they’d planned… they just told me to meet them at The Blue Nile at 11ish for brunch and to wear sunscreen. I did as instructed.

Only, they weren’t ready at 11, and Brandy kept texting me, “Not yet, not yet…” So I drove around Harrisonburg til nearly twelve (man, I was hungry!!) when I got the text: “Okay, now would be good.” And when I got there…. look!!

Forty presents. FORTY! FOOORRRTTTY!!! And a Happy Birthday sign Danielle made. Of course, I instantly started crying because I knew the curse was broken, and then I realized what a task I had ahead of me and I pulled it together. Danielle crowned me with a hand-made tiara and we got down to business. First, ordering food. It was Sunday brunch at the Blue Nile, and their menu features several delicious entrees plus an ample buffet. AND, one-dollar bloody mary’s and mimosas. ONE DOLLAR. And let me tell you, their bloody mary’s are the best I’ve ever had. I ordered the eggie grinder while Brandy and Danielle hit the buffet. My meal was excellent—scrambled eggs with rosemary, guacamole, and collard greens served on a honey wheat bun and a side of sweet potato fries. Brandy and Danielle made a couple trips to the buffet. We were all quite satisfied, or as Brandy put it, “full up to my collarbone.”

Then, the presents. OH my goodness, what a treat. I thought it was really cute that some of Danielle’s gifts were wrapped in brown lunch bags with the top folded over three times and stapled. Unbeknownst to her at the time, I was reminded of an old Phil Hartman SNL skit called The Anal Retentive Chef. “And how do we dispose of odiferous waste?” Ha ha! All of the gifts were wrapped in some fashion and accompanied by a note—really, really a tremendous effort by my two friends.

Here are some of the gifts, in addition to brunch and morning cocktails I received:
a bouquet of flowers
a drawing of the three of us by Danielle

two pairs of earrings from Ten Thousand Villages
pumpkin bread from Shank’s Bakery
a pint of blueberries from the Farmer’s Market
a gift card from Pulp
three fortune cookies! One says, “You are going to have some new clothes.” Another: “You will have many friends.” And, “Life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think.” (I personally think that last one is backwards, but I’m getting of track.)

coffee, tea, beer, and wine
a book from Downtown Books called The Disruptive Student and the Teacher
a copy of Virginia Living Magazine and a brochure, both featuring photos from this blog!
beer koozies

who cries over beer koozies? I do, when they’re hand-decorated by friends!

and several coupons: one for babysitting, one for “bitch-free yard work/slavery,” and one for an hour-long photo shoot courtesy of Brandy Somers Photography, “non-blog”

…and several other things… have you been counting??

At any rate, if you are looking to surprise a friend with a lovely birthday, head to the Blue Nile. For me, it was one for the record books and completely disaster-free. The Blue Nile is located at 181 North Main Street, across from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.

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.