art seen: 2015 progressive party.

The rest of the shots from the Arts Council’s 2015 Progressive Party. What fun!!

burgProgressiveWEB02 burgProgressiveWEB05 burgProgressiveWEB08 burgProgressiveWEB12 burgProgressiveWEB14 burgProgressiveWEB21 burgProgressiveWEB26 burgProgressiveWEB27 burgProgressiveWEB32-2 burgProgressiveWEB64 burgProgressiveWEB69 burgProgressiveWEB79Copyright © 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.

royal treatment: 2015 progressive party.

burgProgressiveWEB01An hour before the event, I finished mowing the lawn for what I PRAY is the last time this year. Twenty miles away, Brandy was likely folding something, or mopping something, or editing something. Yet somehow, without the help of mice, bluebirds, or a magic wand, we managed to slink into our fancy duds, drape our skin in jewels, and apply a fine sheen of lip gloss in anticipation of a fairy tale evening — the Arts Council’s Annual Progressive Party! The purpose of the Progressive Party is simple — to celebrate the arts and raise funds so the Council can continue to provide art opportunities to the Harrisonburg community through Court Square TheaterAdvancing the Arts GrantsFirst Fridays Downtown, Smith House Gallery exhibitions, and community-based collaborations.

This year’s theme (Your Artistic Adventure: the Progressive Party with a Twist) sent guests on a two-destination journey: the dazzling home of Dan Newberry for the event launch party, and then one of seven host homes for more merrymaking.

burgProgressiveWEB31At Dan’s, we all converged to hear the music of Kelly May Brown, meet the evening’s featured artists, enjoy beverages from Pale Fire Brewing and Vintage Wines, and indulge in appetizers provided by A Little Something Special. Of particular note were the jelly “flight” and the butter “flight” — assortments of both spreads to be sampled on bread and crackers. One even tasted like bacon. Who knew this was a thing?

burgProgressiveWEB41 burgProgressiveWEB04 burgProgressiveWEB28burgProgressiveWEB47We Cinderellas were also excited about the raffle drawing for a diamond from James McHone and custom setting from Hugo Kohl. After a lovely cocktail hour on luxurious property, everyone loaded up in their chariots and proceeded to one of the seven host homes, each of which had live music and the work of a featured artist. Brandy and I got the royal treatment when we were permitted to go to TWO homes! We ate like Queens!

We were so excited when we arrived at our first home, owned by the charming Randy Harman, to see our smiling friend, Praserth Saesow of Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, who had prepared this incredible feast. Floral decorations by Teri Dean of The Wishing Well accentuated the beautiful art work of Wendy Lam. Live music by Moon (based in Staunton) floated toward the vaulted ceilings and filled the space, while conversations flourished.

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4385 burgProgressiveWEB58burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4371 burgProgressiveWEB62 ProgressiveWEB56-2burgProgressiveWEB57 burgProgressiveWEB63With one eye on the clock, we wolfed down a second plate of Praserth’s food and headed to our next, and final, destination: the home of Rob and Peggy McKearney, where we were completely spoiled with beef and pork tenderloin, salmon, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. At one point, Brandy was double fisting with macaroons. Erin Murray’s vivid and too-real-to-be-real paintings spoke to us all, and Chad Hanger crooned from the living room. I swear, his voice is somehow better every time I hear him. All of it at that house — so rich and alive!

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4403 burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4423 burgProgressiveWEB68 burgProgressiveWEB73 burgProgressiveWEB74 burgProgressiveWEB82burgProgressiveWEB71Before we knew it, it was time to click our heels and get home before our babysitters turned into pumpkins (there might be a mix-up in there). And so we dashed out into the night, while the music and laughter receded in the rearview mirror.

We can’t say enough how much we enjoyed this enchanted evening. Everyone involved loves and actively supports the arts in our community, demonstrated by their selfless gifts of time, hospitality, talent, and dollars that will allow for continued growth of the Council’s initiatives. After all, beautiful things must be constantly sown and tended. Art, and the proliferation of it, takes diligence and commitment.

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.

have a grape summer: valley vineyards.

These days, as the sun sinks below the horizon earlier and earlier, and crisp nights foreshadow the coming of autumn in the Valley, we just want to say thank you to wine for making our summer so sweet, and making the rest of the year palatable, lol. Especially Barren Ridge and CrossKeys Vineyards. Thank you for being so close and accessible.

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CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Thank you for dream-like vistas.
Thank you for fragrant blossoms.

Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Fragrance at Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Fragrance at Barren Ridge Vineyard, Fishersville

Thank you, Barren Ridge Vineyard

Thank you, Barren Ridge Vineyard

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Thank you for sweaty glasses in shady spots.
Thank you for long walks down neat rows of crooked vines.

Let me top you off, at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Let me top you off, at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Red Barren at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Red Barren at Barren Ridge Vineyard

CrossKeys Vineyard in Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard in Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Thank you for showing us the value of patience… and age.
Thank you for corks that keep secrets protected.
Thank you for laughter-softened memories.
Thank you for the ripening of grapes and friendship.

Victory at CrossKeys

Victory at CrossKeys

what summer looks like at CrossKeys Vineyard

what summer looks like at CrossKeys Vineyard

lush summer.

lush summer.

thank you for this.

thank you for this.

Thank you for not requiring a reservation… or enforcing a dress code.
Thank you for hosting family reunions.
Thank you for teaching us to take time to breathe.

Katie's mom and dad at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Katie’s mom and dad at Barren Ridge Vineyard

Katie's folks, Barren Ridge Vineyard

Katie’s folks, Barren Ridge Vineyard

tasting room at Barren Ridge Vineyard

tasting room at Barren Ridge Vineyard

some folks we met at Barren Ridge Vineyard

some folks we met at Barren Ridge Vineyard

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

CrossKeys Vineyard, Cross Keys, Virginia

Upcoming Events at Barren Ridge
Firelight Fridays and Sunsets at the Vineyard
September 18
 – Scruffy Murphy
October 16 – Tara Mills
November 20 – Kathy Walton Lafon

Upcoming Events at CrossKeys Vineyards
Finally Friday’s Wine Down 
every Friday
Behind the Scenes Harvest Tour Sept 1 — Oct 15
CrossKeys Stomping Party Sept 11
Vineyard Vines CrossKeys Concert Series Sept 13

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.

best buds: white oak lavender farm.

More photos of our trip to White Oak Lavender Farm!

burgIMG_9277 burgIMG_9298 burgIMG_9312 burgIMG_9313 burgIMG_9343 burgIMG_9381 burgIMG_9406Copyright © 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.

in the press: old hill hard cider.

A few more shots from our visit to Old Hill Hard Cider at Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville, Virginia! Celebrate 50 years with them on August 22!
burgIMG_8339 burgIMG_8319 burgIMG_8312 burgIMG_8290burgIMG_8261burgIMG_8222 by Blake burgIMG_8201 burgIMG_8198 burgIMG_8192 burgIMG_8191

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.

 

cold off the press: old hill hard cider.

burgIMG_8204 by BlakeI can’t think of any fruit, or food even, with the cultural and historical significance of the apple. Think about it: Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge… three apples supposedly caused the series of events that led to the Trojan War… William Tell terrorized his poor child with an apple and a crossbow… Snow White was poisoned by an apple. Apples are everywhere in the story of humanity! And no one on the planet would be eating them if some other stories had not risen up to challenge all these nightmarish myths. For example, Newton allegedly discovered gravity when he saw an apple fall, and where would we be without that discovery, huh? And Johnny Appleseed — what an environmentalist, planting all those apple trees! If you’re breathing oxygen right now, you can thank him for that! And the Big Apple — everyone loves New York! Even the laptop on which I’m typing this right now has a big, white apple on it. Kids love to give apples to their teachers (maybe a few poisoned ones here and there), and we’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” So our recent trip to Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville did not conjure thoughts of starting a war or causing the demise of the entire human race. No. Instead, I arrived at this very carefully and logically crafted conclusion: Since apples keep the doctor away, they must be meant for teachers because making a sub plan when you’re sick is such a dang pain; therefore, drinking hard cider every day is necessary to the health of teachers everywhere, including Brandy and me! And the fact that Sarah Showalter taught school for many years only solidifies this theory.

burgIMG_8274 by BlakeburgIMG_8304We arrived at Showalter’s Orchard, home of Old Hill Hard Cider, on a warm summer evening, accompanied by our friends Danielle, Jess, and Jennica, and a small army of children. When I was a child, I wandered and explored. I’d ride my bike up and down these dirt hills surrounding my neighborhood, I’d build dams in the creek, I’d make forts in the woods and play “house.” Walking the grounds of the orchard made me think of those joyous times, staying outside all day long until the bottoms of my feet turned absolutely black and my mom’s far-away voice called me in for the night, my sprint back home lit by fireflies. Ah, to be a child again and run through the orchard rows, picking up too-ripe apples and pitching them into the sunset! Or this:

burgIMG_8296 by BlakeThe tables on the cool, shady patio were nearly full as we made our way to the tasting room. Inside we sidled up to the bar for a tasting. The tasting included six varieties of cider:
1. The Yesteryear — an echo of our forefathers, created with ingredients used ages ago at Monticello, it’s a clean, tart cider you could pair with nearly everything and would make a great mimosa.
2. The Heritage — this one was my favorite that day. A fair amount of tannins makes it dry, but it’s still smooth and creamy.
3. The Farmhand — this is a special batch variety, where no two batches ever taste exactly the same. It was such a big hit at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival that the Showalters sold out and had to return to the cidery to get more!
4. Cidermaker’s Barrel — Shannon Showalter calls this his “rebel of the group” with its vanilla-meets-charred-oak flavor, and it’s their number two seller.
5. Betwixt — True to its name, this one is halfway between a micro and a wine style cider. It’s their most popular variety.
6. Season’s Finish — the dessert cider for all you sweet-teeth out there. It goes great with a cinnamon liquor.

burgIMG_8189 burgIMG_8186Having tried them all, we settled on a couple bottles of Betwixt, Yesteryear, and Heritage and headed outside. Nestled in to our table, sipping cider, eating Gaudi chicken sandwiches from Belen’s Thrill of the Grill, listening to tunes by The Mash, hearing the laughter of the kids in the distance (Jess’ daughter sounds just like Boo when she giggles), we were happier than Slinkies on an escalator. Happier than kittens under a leaky cow. Happier than teachers on summer vacation. Oh, wait.
burgIMG_8237

burgIMG_8220burgIMG_8231 burgIMG_8233 burgIMG_8235burgIMG_8241You may or may not know that the orchard has been in business since 1965. 1965! They grow 26 varieties of apples that you can pick and purchase — harvest usually begins in August and goes through November. You can also buy plants from their Greenhouse in the spring and fall. They offer gardening classes from time to time, and there are always events going on: greenhouse tours, charity fundraisers, festivals, growler night most Thursdays, and Thirsty Third Thursday with Mama’s Caboose gourmet food truck and live local music.
The best news: Showalter’s Orchard will celebrate their FIFTIETH anniversary this month, on August 22 to be exact. There will be apple and peach picking, food trucks, live music, and activities for the kiddos! If you’ve never been to the orchard, mark your calendars now because that will be the day to visit. If you have been there, take some time to celebrate this milestone with them! See y’all there!

burgIMG_8256 by BlakeburgIMG_8212Copyright © 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.

grass roots: our community place annual lawn jam.

burgIMG_8510Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.

And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.

From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.

All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.

burgIMG_8569So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.

burgIMG_8547May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.

burgIMG_8548 burgIMG_8549The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!

burgIMG_8561 burgIMG_8564On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.

burgIMG_8513 burgIMG_8522 burgIMG_8524 burgIMG_8530 burgIMG_8534 burgIMG_8538 burgIMG_8540burgIMG_8551 burgIMG_8553 burgIMG_8555 burgIMG_8559burgIMG_8566 burgIMG_8572 burgIMG_8579 burgIMG_8582 burgIMG_8587 burgIMG_8590 burgIMG_8593 burgIMG_8596 burgIMG_8598 burgIMG_8607It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at ron@ourcommunityplace.org.

burgIMG_8584Copyright © 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.

tap dance: brothers craft brewing music festival.

burgIMG_8619Well, that was one of the happiest days ever!

This past Saturday, Brandy and I slathered on the sunscreen and the loose, lightweight clothes and braved the scorching heat to attend two – TWO – local music events that happened to be just a block apart. First up was the Annual Lawn Jam at Our Community Place, which will be the subject of our next post. But right up the street from that was Brothers Craft Brewing’s Summer Festival featuring three bands and food from Mashita, Wing It, and Branch’s Soft Serve.

burgIMG_8609 burgIMG_8611burgIMG_8625We headed inside the taproom to cool off a bit with an ice cold brew, knowing we had about thirty minutes before the music would start. I tried the Pilsnerd because the name resonated with me – it’s a Southern German pilsner with an Atari-ish label – and it was perfect for a hot summer day. We talked about their event coming up this Friday: Run, Sweat, and Beers, a collaboration with VA Momentum in which participants choose a 1-, 3-, or 5-mile “fun run” and then get a discounted beer as a consolation prize. The Brothers have lots of collaborations, actually. There’s also the Brothers Craft Brewing Three Miler (a relay race happening August 29 to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters) and Casks for a Cause (third Friday of every month), where they donate the proceeds from a specially crafted beer to a pre-selected charity; they’ve collaborated with the SPCA for Barks and Brews, where you can actually adopt a pet in the taproom; and coming up September 24 is a beer dinner with the Chop House! Those brothers are always busy planning things for you and the rest of our Harrisonburg family.

burgIMG_8683 burgIMG_8682 burgIMG_8679Outside Maple Union was getting started, so we walked around to the loading dock/music stage. Originally from Harrisonburg, Maple Union’s singer Josh Henderson now lives in Baltimore, so the band only reunites here once a year-ish. How lucky we are that they’re still performing together, and even luckier that we got to see them on this day! Still playing with Josh are Jared Tampa, Andrew Hassler, and Jonathan Woods. Their set seemed to zip by, prompting everyone to go inside for a refill or grab some food from Mashita or Wing It.

burgIMG_8692 burgIMG_8631 burgIMG_8638burgIMG_8622burgIMG_8693burgIMG_8748Next up were some of our favorite people. Maybe that’s sounds a little biased, and it is, for sure. Because exactly 66.67% of the members of Many Nights Ahead were members of my classroom in tenth grade, and I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see awkward 15 year olds grow up to be this talented and downright cool. And might I add, Broadway High School is like a talent factory or something. Harrisonburg’s music scene is crawling with BHS grads, and I’m really proud to be at least peripherally affiliated with all of ’em. And I’m not the only one – two other BHS teachers, Shirley and all-the-way-from-Russia Anne were also there, tapping their fingers and stomping their feet.

burgIMG_8743burgIMG_8737 burgIMG_8725 burgIMG_8717burgIMG_8667Just when everyone thought it was cooling down a little, Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts took the stage. Heat rolls off them like steam from a highway after a summer storm.We’re totally bummed we had to scoot out so early, but it was time to relieve the babysitter. We’ll catch them again soon, though, because those guys tour like crazy.

As I mentioned before, THIS Friday, July 24, is Run, Sweat, and Beers at Brothers Craft Brewing. Show up at 5pm, complete your run, and reward yourself with a discounted brew and some grub from Wing It!

burgIMG_8696 burgIMG_8703 burgIMG_8710 burgIMG_8695 burgIMG_8694Copyright © 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.

here’s the deal: harrisonburg pokemon league.

burgIMG_2639The kids and I returned from a 24-day tour of America this week, and my original plan was to publish this post sometime during that trip. However, because I was driving a lot and doing a lot in places with little or no Internet connection, I just never got the opportunity to put it all together, until now. But, you know, it’s a good thing, because my knowledge of Pokemon increased about 200% during the trip.

The size of my car severely limited what each of us could bring on the trip. Just a couple changes of clothes, a tent and sleeping bags, a few books, and one – ONE – toy per child. So Bree and Cal decided to bring their Pokemon cards. Every night, wherever we were camping, I insisted that we all be in the tent before dark, and since we weren’t always ready to sleep at that time, we stayed up playing Pokemon. And I joined in, too.

Before the trip, if I had tried to write about the game, it would have sounded very much like this post about roller derby, when I didn’t understand a dang thing that was happening. All I knew about Pokemon just a few short weeks ago was that cards are dealt, characters battle each other, points are deducted, and players speak in some weird Star Trek language, saying things like “charizard” and “kyogre,” “gengar” and “voltorbe.” Now I understand, and I owe my new-found knowledge not just to our trip, but to the group that started it all for my family: the Harrisonburg Pokemon League.

burgIMG_2634The League was created nine years ago by a Harrisonburg couple, William and Juanita. They have six sons, the oldest of which is now 21. In essence, they created the club for him, and they have generously continued it for any kid who’s interested. When their first son was little and became interested in Pokemon, William and Juanita looked for a place where he could practice and play with other Pokemon fans. Along the way there were some groups; one group met, for a short time, at the library. Then a few groups formed at stores like Books-A-Million and Toys ‘R Us. William and Juanita learned the game, they took their boys to the club, and it sort of became a family hobby. But eventually, all the local clubs closed. At that point, with a growing family of Pokemon fans, the couple took it upon themselves to start their own league.

The League currently meets on Sundays from 1 – 3pm at 8Bit Oasis, a gaming store owned by Lauren Davis in the Cloverleaf Shopping Center. Anyone who wants to play Pokemon is welcome. It’s completely free and open to all people of all ages. Even if you’re not ready to sit down and play with the others, a visit to the store to check out the scene is a must. Walking into 8bit Oasis gave me an overload of sense memories. They’ve got a huge inventory of vintage gaming systems, equipment, accessories, and games. I was an Atari girl, myself. My childhood friend Kathy and I would play Missile Command and Frogger and Yars Revenge for like twelve hours straight, eating nothing but Dr. Pepper and pixie sticks. We’d have thumb cramps and bloodshot eyes and all. So seeing that wall of Atari cartridges – wow! It made me swoon. Other vintage items include Gameboys, Gamecubes, joysticks, and old games like Top Gear Rally. They also carry new and used games for current systems – Wii, Xbox, Playstation, and the like. At the back of the store is small gaming lounge. You can borrow a game to try out on their system, or you can play one of their arcade games, like Donkey Kong Jr., Mario, Galaga, or PacMan.

burgIMG_2621 burgIMG_2620The League is very organized. On our first visit, William sat down with all our kids and led them through a battle, explaining all the official rules in detail (believe me, Bree and Cal had improvised at home A LOT before learning the proper way to play). Even though there were several other players there, William took the time to patiently coach each child. One of William and Juanita’s sons also helped answer questions and strategize with the kids. All the kids picked up really quickly and have been able to play independently ever since. A battle starts with the dealing of cards. Each player gets seven cards for his hand and six for his “prize cards.” The rest of the 60-card deck remains face down. The deck is composed of a variety of Pokemon (characters), energy cards (you need those to make your Pokemon be able to attack), and trainer cards, which usually grant a player some special advantage for a single turn or for the remainder of the battle. Next, each player chooses which Pokemon will battle. Then it’s a series of picking cards and discarding, attaching energy cards to the Pokemon, attacking (things like “peck,” “stomp,” “continuous headbutt,” “hopeless scream”), and deducting points for each attack. Once a Pokemon’s “health” score is decimated, it’s been defeated, and the winner gets to pick up one of his prize cards. The player who gets through all six prize cards first wins the battle.

burgIMG_2625While William walks around to facilitate the battles and serve as referee as needed, Juanita keeps track of everyone’s wins. After you’ve accumulated a certain number of wins, you get a prize. And once every three or four months, they hold what’s called a Booster Pack Tournament. They purchase newly released cards in packs of ten. Each kid pays $20 and gets six packs of cards. They sit at tables, open one pack at a time, take their favorite card from that pack and pass the rest to the left. The cards keep moving around the table until they’ve all been distributed. Then they all open pack #2, and repeat the process. By the end, each kid has more than 50 new cards, which they use to create a 40-card deck and play two battles right then. It was really fun for everyone, and a cool way to add excitement and anticipation to an already challenging and complex game.

burgIMG_2640Brandy and I have been so impressed with William and Juanita that we felt compelled to share this with you. They are just the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Their patience and friendliness to all the kids… their willingness to create and maintain this league for nine years with no compensation… their relaxed demeanor and acceptance of anyone who wants to play is exactly what should come to mind when one thinks of The Friendly City. Thank you, William and Juanita (and their sons!), and 8bit Oasis, for providing a fun, educational, and wholesome activity for kids of all ages.

If you haven’t been to 8bit Oasis or the Harrisonburg Pokemon League, you should come Sunday and check it out!

burgIMG_2638 burgIMG_2630Copyright © 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.

heart attack: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

More photos of Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts! Read the whole story here!

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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.

follow your hearts: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

Bryan_Elijah_Smith20Earlier this spring, possibly even the first day of spring, Brandy and I busted out of our winter-battered houses, boots, and souls and headed out of town for a day of unbridled adventure. The warm, sunny day actually required sunscreen and we looked forward to a day outside and a night of live music with two of our favorite local musicians. First up was a trip to the Richmond Zoo to try out their Treetop Zoofari which is just a really cheesy name for a ropes course. For a reasonable fee, you guide yourself along 40-ish challenges, sometimes balancing your Jell-o legs across some strung together two-by-fours, sometimes climbing a twenty-foot completely vertical ladder to a two-foot square platform a hundred feet in the air, and sometimes zipping on a line perched just high enough that zoo animals can noisily chase, but not catch, you. There were some white-knuckle moments, yes, but the level of concentration it required made us forget everything for a couple hours. The wind was crisp and bright. Everything felt new. The best part was when we approached the final stop where we’d unhook and remove all our gear, and the employee smiled at us and said, “Oh, are you two enjoying a mother-daughter day?” Perhaps Brandy shot him a warning glance, because he slowly backed up, as if we were bears on his trail, and then disappeared. Back in the car, we applied make-up and changed clothes for phase two: Jack Brown’s over on Grove Avenue! And who did we see there? Ol’ Matt Abraham who used to work at the Harrisonburg location. We sat on the lively patio with other first-of-spring revelers and caught up with our friend Sarah. burgIMG_7325 burgIMG_7330But the icing on our cake that day was a trip to Culpeper to see Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts perform. Beers in hand, we made our way to the front row, eager to see both Bryan and his opener, Justin Jones, also of the Burg. Justin performed alone, him and his guitar and his harmonica, but his laughter and his humor and his perfect, pulpy, tender voice filled the stage, disarming and hushing the enamored crowd. burgIMG_7334burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7341 burgJustin_Jones_IMG_7361Not only did I get to see Bryan’s performance that night, but not long thereafter, I had a chance to chat with him. Sitting across from him, I realized I’d only ever seen him holding a guitar, leaning into a microphone. On that day he held a flimsy cup of coffee and rubbed fatigue from his eyes. I reminded myself that this average-sized, soft spoken man in front of me was the same one who blows the roof off every place I see him play, with his loud, five-piece band The Wild Hearts and his giant thunder voice. Bryan_Elijah_Smith30Born and raised in Dayton, Virginia – the land of horse-drawn buggies, farmers’ markets, and redbuds just south of Harrisonburg – Bryan first cut his musical teeth playing guitar at age five, then in the awkward realm of middle school band. The band director, using some kind of one-size-fits-all questionnaire, tried to peg him as a trumpet player, but Bryan insisted on percussion. Later he played guitar in Turner Ashby High School’s Jazz Ensemble. In late high school he took guitar lessons, and even scored a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. When I asked, “And then?” he answered, “And then? And then I just started writing songs.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith14Bryan and current band-mate Jeff Miller (banjo) formed a band called Albuquerque for about three years with Michael Stover (now of Shenandoah Alley). After Albuquerque (circa 2007), Bryan quit performing live for a bit and instead worked on a farm milking cows to save up some cash, then recorded a truckload of music (according to Bryan, about ten albums worth), a fraction of which comprised his first Bryan Elijah Smith solo album Forever On My Mind (2009). He toured Virginia and the southeast coast on his own, promoting the record, and linked up with Staunton-based musician Nathan Moore to tour the northeast. The Wild Hearts formed in 2010, and over the years the band has evolved to include, in addition to Bryan and Jeff, Jay Austin (violin), Justin Shifflett (drums), and Blanks Blankenship (2014). Now more than a decade into his career, Bryan has played all over the U.S. and even toured Australia last year – a long stretch from a cattle farm in Dayton where he owns a production studio, Empty Sound Productions, that allows him to balance his love of writing and performing with his love of recording and producing his music. Describing himself as “obsessed” with learning the methods of his favorite producers and staying abreast of emerging technologies, excitement shone on his face as he talked about his recent analog/digital studio overhaul: “Being able to paint a sonic picture that I see in my mind is worth a million words to me.” Bryan_Elijah_Smith45His most recent release, These American Hearts, involved a year and a half of writing more than 100 songs, followed by a grueling selection process, but resulting in what he calls an honest album. All his music is “honest,” per se, he explained – it’s all “true to the time and head space I was in when I made it,” but with age and experience he’s stopped trying to make songs adhere to a particular label or category and just let the songs be what they are when they “come to me.” Indeed, he’s hard to pin down when you ask him what music he likes to listen to. He’ll list Dylan, Waits, and Springsteen as influences; newer artists, though, like Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, and War on Drugs are never too far from his stereo. Likewise, his own music is neither country nor rock, neither blues nor bluegrass. He is all those things, authentically, and he believes his most honest record is still out there, in the ether, waiting for the right time to descend. Bryan_Elijah_Smith43Bryan remembers fondly the local basement shows of the early days – the Crayola House, little restaurants and pubs — which gave way to festivals, and theaters, his favorite venue. So when Brandy and I saw him and The Wild Hearts at the State Theatre in Culpeper – a grand old space where their sound had room to stretch and songs could morph into twenty-minute jams – we witnessed the full expression of them as musicians. Fibers hung from Jay Austin’s exhausted bow like long strands of corn silk. The whole place rumbled like a train platform, every seat abandoned after the first song. Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater02 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater03 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater07 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater14Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts have a busy summer lined up, with performances all over Virginia, including several area vineyards, Wintergreen Resort, and The Southern in Charlottesville, to name a few, before Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the spectacular creation of Harrisonburg Action Figure Jeremiah Jenkins that brings together upwards of forty bands for three glorious days at Natural Chimneys State Park in Mt. Solon. Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts hit the Southern Stage at 2pm on Friday, July 10. Bryan_Elijah_Smith11Copyright © 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.

close-knit pickers: bradford lee folk and the bluegrass playboys.

a few more shots from our afternoon with this fine group of people! 

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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.

freezer burn: pale fire brewing.

burgPaleFire29After months and months of waiting, viewing mouthwatering photos of what’s to come, and receiving countless tantalizing updates, the day is finally here: today is the day that Pale Fire Brewing officially opens for all to patronize, covet, admire, and dream of, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Anticipation is one of my favorite sensations: looking forward to a fun trip, the aroma of a simmering meal, excitement about a visit from an old friend, knowing a rare book I ordered is en route via UPS and will be on my doorstep soon. So I have thoroughly enjoyed savoring the delicious weeks leading up to today’s grand opening. But you know what else is a great feeling? My butt in a chair on a sunny patio, enjoying the company of a fresh, cold beer. That first sip is the exact moment when anticipation fuses with the present and everything is perfect.

burgPaleFire18So, wait no longer! Go today! Go tomorrow! And go every single chance you get – here’s what’s waiting for YOU, as Brandy and I discovered when we got a sneak peek earlier this week:

These beers, as described by the brewer himself:
Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale – 4.8% ABV – 45 IBU
~ American two row malt, Maris Otter, Munich, Crystal
~ Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook
Deadly Rhythm, by its very name, creates a graceful balance between Pacific Northwest hops and a blend of American and English malts. Floral and fruity hop aromas provide the introduction to the lightly toasted malt backbone of this beer. This American pale ale finishes dry with a smooth but lingering bitterness.

Salad Days American Saison – 7.0% ABV – 40 IBU
~ American two row malt, Rye, Wheat
~ Warrior, Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe
American two row barley and malted rye provide the canvas for pungent Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade hops to mingle with our house Saison yeast. Notes of grapefruit, peach, and bubblegum dance out of the glass and mellow into a refreshingly tart, dry finish.

Saving Grace Table Beer – 4.2% ABV – 26 IBU
~ Pilsner malt, Wheat, Carapils
~ Northern Brewer, Czech Saaz
Saving Grace is based on the Belgian “patersbier” which Trappist monks used to brew for sustenance that would allow them to continue to work during the day. This low-alcohol farmhouse beer is brewed with Pilsner malt, Czech Saaz hops and our house Saison yeast to provide a satisfying end to a long day of hard work.

Double India Pale Ale – 8.0% ABV – 100 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Crystal, Wheat
~ Warrior, Summit, Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, CTZ
Double IPA is intensely hopped with six hop varieties that offer a cornucopia of aromas ranging from passion fruit, peach, and pineapple to grapefruit and lemon zest. We use English Maris Otter to balance the intense hop aromas producing a malt-balanced East Coast version of a Double IPA.

Smoking Scottish – 5.6% ABV – 20 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Victory, Roasted Barley, Crystal, Beech-smoked malt
~ Perle
Smoking Scottish is a legacy beer from Calhoun’s, Harrisonburg’s first modern brewpub. This Scottish ale features a complex blend of English Maris Otter, roasted and caramel malts for a rich malt backbone. German Perle hops add a clean bitterness to balance the toasted caramel flavors from the malt.

Get a tissue – you’re drooling.
burgPaleFire09 burgPaleFire28You can also anticipate a large, blonde, modern bar in the taproom with plenty of seats, in addition to several bar tables.

burgPaleFire16A spacious and inviting patio becomes one with the inside once the large, glass garage doors are raised.

burgPaleFire12 burgPaleFire11burgPaleFire06A cozy (and by that I mean comfortable, not small) lounge area centers around a functioning fireplace and a Little Free Library, AND a turn table and record collection for Album Night. (From what I understand there’s also a secret TV hidden behind a secret panel in some secret section of the bookshelves.) Seriously, it feels like home. I wonder if there’s a way I can make a little house in the secret compartment and hide in there.

burgPaleFire08 burgPaleFire07Expect to be astounded by the amazing view from the taproom into the gleaming brewery itself, with its perfectly polished vessels and pale fire floors. And a happy, relaxed staff waits ready to shake your hand, share a laugh, and pour something perfect.

burgIMG_8077And if you haven’t toured the rest of the Ice House yet, give yourself a little time to do that today, too. You can visit the Yellow Button at their new location, stop in at Black Sheep Coffee, browse vintage jewelry at Hugo A. Kohl’s shop, and check out Breathe and The Center which now share a space called Ice House Studios.

Winter’s finally over, a Pale Fire is smoldering, and the Ice House has permanently thawed. Grab a friend and go get warmed up today!

burgPaleFire17burgIMG_8066burgPaleFire24Copyright © 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.

UNbelievable: UNjuried exhibition.

Just a quick update about how this show turned out.

So after inviting anyone who was interested to submit a piece of art to the unJURIED Exhibition at Darrin-McHone Gallery, curator Jon Henry ended up with 59 pieces! Except that… well, 59… it’s so… I mean, any number that ends in “9” is just somehow irritating. Fifty-nine, really?!  And then someone showed up with a recipe scribbled on a sticky note — found art — and made it an even 60, thank gahd.

The show opened March 6th to a warm crowd of curious spectators. Art of all kinds hung on the walls, draped over windows, and stood on the floor, art made by artists and amateurs, children and adults, everyone and anyone. Spectators received a program that listed all sixty artists, the titles of their works, and the prices if they were for sale, some as low as $10, some as high as $900  — all priceless.

The show will be up until the end of March! Get there soon and feast your eyeballs!

unjuried1 unjuried2 unjuried3Copyright © 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.

hot ticket: jalapeño southwest grill.

burgIMG_6299There’s a new kid in town, and he’s HOT. And saucy. And bright and vibrant and fun. His name is Jalapeño, and you can find him near the Food Lion on Port Republic Road. Brandy, Ben, my kids, and I all managed to get our schedules aligned one night recently and decided to pay him a quick visit.

Once there we were shown to a large booth in their clean and tidy dining room. The textured walls, wooden tables, and simple artwork balanced the festive plates, colorful cocktails, and warmly lit bar. I unpacked “the bag”– a bag of assorted crap and whatnots that we never leave home without. Comic books, sketchbooks, paper, a coffee tin of colored pencils, a deck of cards; and the kids were happy. We ordered the signature Jalapeno Margarita, a Three Brothers Hoptimization, a Corona, and a Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, and the adults were happy. (Yes, that’s four drinks for three people. Brandy and I shared the margarita, thankyouverymuch.)

burgIMG_6243 burgIMG_6252 burgIMG_6274burgIMG_6257The menu has lots of variety, and the portions are generous. It took us forever but we finally ordered Arroz Con Pollo (rice topped with queso dip, chicken strips, grilled onions, mushrooms, four-color peppers with soft corn or flour tortillas); Tacos Al Pastor (corn tortillas with marinated pork and pineapple, pico de gallo and a side of spicy salsa and lime, served with your choice of Amazing Fries, rice and beans, or house salad); and a Steak Quesadilla, served with a side of romaine lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream, plus  your choice of Amazing Fries, rice and beans, or house salad.

burgIMG_6272 burgIMG_6281We also ordered a “Create Your Own” burrito, which was the size of a small infant. The server actually handed Brandy an order form and she checked off all the fillings and toppings she wanted, from meat or fish or BACON to an assortment of veggies and special toppings like Chipotle Mango Pineapple Salsa. And rounding out our party of five, an order of chicken tenders (good grief. My son can beat every level on Super Mario Bros 2 in 45 minutes and can crack a joke every ten seconds, but he can’t eat a dang taco). To say the least, everything was delicious and gobbled up much too quickly.

burgIMG_6285 burgIMG_6291We were much too full for dessert, but I can’t wait to go back and try the cheesecake taco. While Brandy and I chatted, and Bree put her nose back in whatever 700-page book she was reading, Ben was nice enough to entertain Cal with a game of rock-paper-scissors-bunny-soup-lighter. In case you weren’t sure, bunny beats paper and soup, but not lighter, rock, or scissors.

Jalapeño Southwest Grill is located at 1039 Port Republic Road in Harrisonburg. Hope to see you there soon!
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all in: UNjuried exhibition.

burgIMG_6466In 1917, Marcel Duchamp submitted to the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists an unusual piece of art called “Fountain.” It was really just a urinal turned on its side and autographed. The work should have been accepted, since the show was open to anyone who had paid the $1 fee, but it proved too controversial and was rejected. Today that urinal is considered one of the most influential pieces of art ever created because it asks the fundamental question, “What is art?”

And that influence has inspired an exhibition here in the Burg, opening this Friday, March 6. It’s called the unJuried Exhibition – all art work will be accepted, no matter what. Any medium, any object, anything that can be hung on the wall.

If you’re interested in participating, you can still submit: today 11am – 1pm, tomorrow 9am – 11am, and hours TBA on Friday.

I marvel at this idea.

Harrisonburg isn’t some art-starved, culturally bereft city where only a handful of artists ever answer a call for submissions. This place is packed with artistic folks. Locations all around town have no problem finding new art to hang each month, and juried shows with limited space can be extremely competitive – having your work accepted is a pretty big deal when you consider the odds, and so newer artists might have a hard time getting a foot in the door. But, to open the show to anyone, and everyone? All ages, all skill levels, all media? Isn’t that… dangerous?? I mean, what if the Darrin-McHone Gallery gets absolutely overrun with submissions?? What if there’s not enough wall space? What if someone submits a toilet?

I got to ask these and other questions to the show’s organizer, Jon Henry. You might already know Jon as the curator of the Old Furnace Artist Residency, a small house where artists can live for up to a month and experience the Harrisonburg art scene. Jon also collaborates with Larkin Arts for CSArts (Community Supported Arts), a program wherein, similar to a food CSA, people can buy a “share” for a set fee, then receive an original piece of art every month for several months.He’s also working on his MFA at JMU. Now Jon, a man of groundbreaking ideas, has organized this unJuried Exhibition, inspired by Duchamp’s bold submission a hundred years ago and by the idea that “everyone is an artist, and everything is art.”

So I asked him: What if you get too many submissions? What if there isn’t enough wall space? His answer? He’s excited about it. “I’m embracing it,” he said. He sat comfortably behind his laptop, accepting and recording the day’s submissions, looking as calm as a convent, completely unfazed by any calamity I was conjuring in my own mind. Plus, he assured me, other locations would display some of the pieces if Darrin-McHone filled up.

burgIMG_6448He’s all about inclusiveness. He staggered the submission times each day this week so that everyone would be able to find a time to bring their artwork to the gallery. Additionally, this system encourages diversity, as people with different lifestyles are available at different times of the day. Another interesting facet: there will be no names on the pieces of art unless the artist happened to have signed it already. Each piece will simply be numbered, and patrons can look up the artists’ names in a catalog that the Arts Council will provide. So it’s possible to view most of the exhibit without knowing whose work it is. The viewer can decide when to find out. Not only does this level the playing field and increase the feeling of community, but it creates, as Jon stated, a “visual conversation” not interrupted by labels and unnecessary words.

burgIMG_6454 burgIMG_6453When Brandy and I were there Monday, there were ten submissions so far: a sculpture, four paintings, four photos, and a mixed media piece. The show opens Friday for the public, and I can’t wait to see how many pieces there are. And if there’s a toilet. Don’t forget: you still have today, tomorrow, and Friday to submit your work and join this party! Check out the FB invitation for updates.

See you there!
burgIMG_6458Copyright © 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.

take me to cask: casks for a cause at three brothers.

burgIMG_5408bwI love genius combinations.

Some of you might remember the old commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: “Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” And while the actual invention of the super-popular candy didn’t happen in the ’80s as the commercial suggests (nor was it nearly as sexy [hello, wah-wah pedal] — it was merely created by a guy named Reese in the 1920s who was just experimenting with candy recipes), it certainly is one of the greatest genius combinations of all time. There have been others. Like putting Velcro on children’s shoes. And the most recent pair of sneakers I purchased have memory foam in them. MEMORY FOAM! Or, for example, my son’s eggheaded idea to make a chess board out of LEGO. Even if you have to get up and move the board mid game, the pieces stay put. And Instagram would never have happened if someone hadn’t come up with the camera phone.

So recently I discovered another mind-blowing combination. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, you CAN be good to yourself and good to others simultaneously. It’s called Casks for a Cause, a monthly event at Three Brothers Brewing that benefits a local charity or initiative. The brothers design a specialty beer and donate a whole keg to the cause, and all the money from the sales of drafts from that keg go to the lucky organization.

burgIMG_5405This particular Cask for a Cause featured lots of genius combinations. First of all, the “cause” was Spitzer Art Center, and we all know that art and beer is a winning combo. The special cask of the night was Three Brothers Slide infused with honey and cayenne, a concoction that was smoooooth going down and then slapped you in the throat. And Mama’s Caboose was there serving up cayenne-chocolate brownies. THAT combo was ridickers yummy. And don’t forget the music: Jason Summer (DJ Real Gone) followed by Jeff Gorman is a combination I hope to hear again in the near future.

burg3bros4 burgIMG_5418Spitzer Art Center provides workshops and classes to the general public, such as oil and pastel painting, silk painting, and metal making. The center hosts a variety of art shows and speakers and provides studio space for seven local artists. This Friday, January 16, Spitzer Art Center will honor Barb Gautcher, featuring works by her and by many of her former students, including Todd Yoder, Molly Whitmore of Molly Whitmore Photography, Zachary Nafziger of ZN Stained Glass, Steven Stauffer, Bomb Proof, Ashley Miller of Ashley Sauder Miller Art, Elizabeth Frey Davis , and Kimberly Juda Souder. Barb is the recent winner of the Shenandoah Valley High School Art Teacher of the Year award AND the High School Art Teacher of Virginia Award. And on February 6, you can see ANOTHER genius combination called WORD: A Juried Show Uniting Writing and Visual Art, in which artists “write an original poem or short prose piece in any style, about any subject, and then use any medium to display/frame/decorate the words and/or the space around them.”

With the sale of the cask, the Spitzer membership drive, brownie sales, and generous donations, Spitzer far exceeded their fundraising goal. Three Brothers have supported numerous organizations in this way, like the Wounded Warrior Project, RISE, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. If your desire to be charitable and your desire to drink a beer happens on the third Friday of the month, save yourself one trip and just go to Casks for a Cause at Three Brothers.

burgIMG_5406Three Brothers Brewing is located at 800 North Main Street, just north of and across the street from The Little Grill. Spitzer Art Center is located at 486 West Market Street, a couple blocks west of Court Square.

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.

a hop and a skip: bluestone vineyard.

burgIMG_0501Harrisonburg, we love you soooo much. You know this. But sometimes, Brandy and I need to break free from your limits and find a wide open space. A quieter place with a gentle breeze, a more expansive horizon, maybe some farm animals in the distance. A place of respite and anonymity. A place… where wine grows.

And so on a recent day that was stifling in more ways that just the weather, we hopped in the Brandy-mobile, rolled down the windows, cranked up the Wilco, and drove the whopping five minutes down the street (yes, it’s like five minutes away) to Bluestone Vineyard, our hair blowing wildly out the car windows. Well, her hair. My hair does not react to wind.

When we arrived and approached the bar to start the tasting, the charming bartender noticed Brandy’s camera, which induced an explanation from us, which then incited him to ask the winemaker Lee if he wouldn’t mind showing us around the place. So Lee rustled up his dog Lu and took us on a really cool, informative tour. This lucky guy spends his day with plants, barrels, tanks, and jam bands-via-earbuds.

First we saw the gazillion rows of grapes that lined the hillside. The slope of the hill helps to irrigate the grapes; not only does the water flow down the hill (duh) but the terrain makes the water flow slowly so the plants don’t get washed out or overwatered. Also, the hill protects the grapes from any extremes of weather, and the rocks our Valley is known for help nourish the soil. All the way to the left are the first rows of grapes that were planted in 2008/09 for a 2011ish yield. And of course there are several varieties of grape that result in the fifteen wines Bluestone offers.

burgIMG_0508Lee might be a wine lover and a dog lover, but he’s not a bird lover. Birds apparently love grapes, and they have a keen sense of when they’re ripe. Lee has to make sure each season he beats the birds to the vines. Because as they say, the early bird catches the grape. Lu helps chase away the offending avians, and they have a squawk box to scare them, too. Over the summer this crazy bird kept pooping all over the glass of my French door… I put a rubber snake out there, and the bird never came back. There’s a shortcut to excellence for ya.

burgIMG_0524cInside we got to see the multiple apparatus for processing grapes. The tanks and barrels and squishers (not a technical term) that do the work of a hundred men. There’s a machine for everything. That’s not to say humans don’t still need to oversee the process. While we were in there, for example, Lee’s assistant was topping off dozens of barrels of wine that had evaporated down too far. So many decisions and variable dictate what ultimately ends up in your glass: whether it’s made from white grapes or red, whether it’s aged in steel, or oak, or aged oak, for a couple months, for a couple years. Think of the care it takes to monitor a barrel of wine for two years. Lord, that’s patience. And commitment.

burgIMG_0537burgIMG_0548Now we were more than ready for that tasting. You can choose to taste all the whites OR all the reds for $6, or for $10, you can try them all! And that’s what we did. The whites they offer include a Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Viognier, Steel Chardonnay, oak-barrel Chardonnay, Traminette, Blue Ice (which is made from  frozen Traminette grapes) and the Beau — a sweet golden wine named for the vineyard golden retriever.

burgIMG_0561The reds include a Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Quartz Hill Red (blends Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauvignon, and Chambourcin), Cadenza (described by our host as the “greatest hits album” of each year), and the best name ever, the Crooked and Weedy — a sweet red named for an old train. Tastings occur inside at the wine bar, but you can purchase a bottle and take time to enjoy the lovely views outside. Their 2014 Concert Series just wrapped up, but they’ve got several more events on the horizon. On October 4th, they’re having their Third Annual Harvest Dinner. You can attend a wine and cheese pairing on October 25/26, and dig through your dress up clothes for their Halloween Costume Party on October 31st.

Bluestone Vineyard is located at 4828 Spring Creek Road in Bridgewater We hope you’ll visit them soon! See you out and about!

burgIMG_0531Copyright © 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.