luxury sweets: 3rd annual chocolate walk.

Copyright © 2012 – 2013 · 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.

girl talk: women in focus at the court square theater.

Part One of Four (yes, I’m serious.)

Well, what a night this was. One that dredged up all sorts of psycho-emotional sludge I try to pretend no longer exists… stuff that, at age forty, I should be beyond, I guess. And so what started as a pleasurable outing with several ladies of the ‘burg, our conversations meandering innocently enough, turned quickly and unexpectedly to doubt about my ability to “successfully raise” two children, anger and shock, dismay at my evolution as a human being, and sadness that as a woman, maybe I haven’t “come a long way, baby,” and really, I have no one to blame but myself. As I work through my notes about the Women In Focus social at the Artful Dodger and the documentary Miss Representation hosted by Court Square Theater, I see they reveal a disappointing truth. Warning: this is the first ever potentially offensive ilovemyburg.com post, lol. And, the views expressed in this post are solely mine… unless you agree with me, which would reeaally make me less nervous right about now.

Women In Focus was a celebration of women’s stories hosted by the Court Square Theater, featuring presentations of Miss Representation, a documentary about women and the media; North Country, a film starring Charlize Theron as a mine worker; and The Vagina Monologues. The series kicked off with a social at the Artful Dodger. Lots of ladies, and men who love and admire them, attended – including several strong female members of our community, like Sara Christensen, owner of The Lady Jane, Lara Mack (she’s back!), Alice Wheeler, Ashley Hunter, Laurie Benade, Suzi Carter, and several others.

womeninfocus3

event organizer, Laurie Benade! Bravo!

womeninfocus4 Brandy, Sara, and I got on the topic of Condoleezza Rice, and how some magazine called her a dominatrix because of her outfit – forget the fact that this highly educated woman was at one time the US Secretary of State and that she could smoke your butt on Jeopardy. Somehow her outfit that day smacked of sexual power (not intellectual or political power)… even though she was not at all dressed in a manner one might call “provocative.” Then we talked about what THAT means – dressing in a provocative or promiscuous way… and then the question was posed: can a man dress promiscuously?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What would that look like? Low-slung pants? Tight pants? No pants? No shirt? And would a man look at another man’s outfit and say, “Look at that slut!”? Then again, when did “we” (whoever that is) decide that any type of attire is bad or inappropriate? I know I am uncomfortable showing a lot of skin, but I don’t know WHY I am. Gosh, this is confusing. But somehow, in terms of women’s fashion, most people equate conservative dress with frigidity/prudishness, and revealing dress with promiscuity/porn stardom.

This led to a discussion of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show. My kids and I watched the Superbowl. My daughter watched the game with great interest, and when Beyoncé performed at halftime, she made no mention of Beyoncé’s outfit, but rather remarked about the TV screen dance floor and “cool special effects.” My son, who for the entire first half of the game ran in circles around the family room, wearing a cape and underpants and wildly waving a foam sword, had a different reaction. He sat down and watched her performance, every second of it, mouth open, eyes fixed on the TV. He dreamily said, “Mom, she’s shaking her body” and “Why is she only wearing her underwear? Isn’t she cold?” Now, these are children, and I didn’t coach either of their responses –these were their natural reactions to Beyoncé’s show. Interesting. And I really don’t know what conclusions can be drawn from it. My son seems to admire the female form.

Okay.

My daughter complimented her singing and did notice that Beyoncé’s entire band was female. But neither of them criticized her. What were the adult viewers thinking? Did the men ignore her talent and dedication and only see her thighs? Did the women also ignore those things and secretly hate her thighs? Geez. Now I sound like some kind of feminist. Or chauvinist. Or alarmist. Or extremist. Or maybe just a polite receptionist. I don’t even know.

Later, as the effects of this evening sank in, I wondered… should I have told my six-year-old son not to have stared at Beyoncé? Would that have shone a light on something beyond the scope of his kindergarten mind? Am I a bad mom for letting him – or both kids – see it? By doing so, have I created in my daughter a self-destructive habit of comparing herself to others? Egads. Beyoncé is a beautiful woman – yes – she’s also talented and successful, whether you like her music or don’t. Can we praise her and condemn her in the same breath?

And so I think about what I want to impart to my children. My kids see what many people don’t see – they see me in the morning, with my pale face and crow’s feet, my rumpled, frizzy hair, no makeup, frumpy bathrobe – they see me in the raw. But they also see me prepare to leave the house, in full hair and makeup and appropriate under- and outer garments. Am I silently teaching them something I don’t want to – that I am ashamed to leave the house without my mask?

womeninfocus6As I reread this post now, I see how confused I am. Or was on that night. Or still am, because I’m not done thinking about it. I even noticed the “lol” I typed earlier, like I’m apologizing for having an opinion someone might disagree with. If I were a man, would I have typed that “lol” ?

Lol.

A thousand words, and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the documentary yet. Also, the word “Beyoncé” starts to sound weird when you’ve read it/written it 27 times. Okay, I’m taking a break to watch something with Will Ferrell in it. I’ll be back with more heavy stuff soon. Stay tuned for part two.

PS–a big thank you to Court Square Theater for bringing these issues to the forefront, as uncomfortable as they might be sometimes. And to the Artful Dodger for letting us hang out.

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.

sugar and spice and everything nice: it’s all about you, ladies.

I felt pampered before I even got through the door, and it only got better from there.

The lovely Sherrie Gordon (owner of Shenandoah Concierge), who greeted us at the door, informed us that once inside this year’s second It’s All About You, Ladies! event, we’d be treated to such niceties as a massage, a hair and skin consultation, food, wine, a gift bag, and raffle prizes! I was glad I decided to be stressed out, tangled, blemished, hungry, thirsty, and lucky that day.

Hosted by Wine on Water and All Things Virginia (the two shops are adjacent to each other on Water Street, downtown), the event was also sponsored by women-owned or -operated businesses like Merle Norman, Scrumptious Suppers,  A-C Chiropractic, Vivian’s Designer Consignor, You’ve Got It Made, Polished, Inc., The Lady Jane, Miche Bags, Stella & Dot, and Shenandoah Concierge. The event allows local business women to get together about four times a year to mingle, socialize, network, and just keep in touch in general. It’s easy to lose touch with your peers when you’re managing the shop all day, after all. They keep the event intimate by only selling fifty tickets, so that all the women have a chance to talk to each other during the short three hours they’re together.

In we went. At the bar, I picked up a complimentary glass of Cave Ridge Traminette, recommended by Katrina. The next order of business was food. Brandy and I nibbled on Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce, olives, cheese, Sundried Tomato Pesto served on cute little toasts, Artichoke and Spinach Dip with chips, and these really yummy Turkey Pinwheels with Avocado and Cranberry Cream Cheese. I think I ate about twelve of those.

And look how cute dessert was!

Swedish Cream with Raspberry Sauce.

I signed up for a massage (there were two massage therapists from Dr. Cason’s office, set up in the front window of All Things Virginia), and while I waited my turn, Brandy and I perused the shop. They have a lot of nice items in there I never would have guessed–like walking sticks and hand made cards, and peanuts and condiments. They also sell Miche bags and local artwork, and they have an in-house framer if you need him. They also sell hand made jewelry, which I browsed for quite some time… and I somehow lost my plate of food, too. But that’s okay because they had more. Anyhow, between the selection at All Things Virginia and the wines at Wine on Water, it’s possible you could do all your Christmas shopping under one roof.

And then my turn came for a massage. My belly was full and the wine was speaking to me and now Betty was tenderizing my stone shoulders.

Stress was pouring out in all directions. It was coming out in laughter that echoed through the place, it was flowing in the wine, it was steaming off the food, it was evaporating through Betty’s hands, it was escaping through tiny refined pores and hair follicles. And when I emerged from the massage (with my “halo face” from having smushed my face into the cushion of the chair), everyone seemed relaxed and content.

And then I got it–this is exactly what ladies need at the end of their hectic weeks. Not a lot, not a two-week vacation in another country (although, that WOULD be nice…), but just a kind word, a soothing touch, some laughter, some time with friends, and don’t forget the wine. So, thanks to the lovely sponsors for making this evening possible, and thanks also to all the guys who stayed home with the kids and heated up frozen corn dogs. Yes, ketchup is a fruit. Oh, come on…. just kidding!

pictured here, the sponsors: Sara Christensen, Sherrie Gordon, Kristen Lucas, Katrina Hudy, Linda Denton, Shelley Boyers, Jennifer Matthai Cottrell, Vivian Myers, and Vicki Ruckman.

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.

treasure hunt in the burg no. 16: first friday.

When I thought of the title for this post, I got all excited about the pirate jokes I could make. But I don’t want my corniness to get on everyone’s nerves, so I’ll just say a few words and then leave it alone: Booty. “Mate.” Poop deck. Ho. Spanker. There–what a relief.

No, this post isn’t about swashbuckling ruffians who pillage innocent communities; it’s about a bounty of people who, through their unique vision, give to our community in beautiful ways.

Brandy and I attended the first First Friday of the season on… well, the first Friday in April. It also happened to be MaCRoCk weekend, so downtown was very much alive and swarmy. Throngy. But in a festive way, not in a Walmart-the-day-before-Thanksgiving way.

First Friday is a free and family-friendly celebration of culture and community hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley. From 5 – 8pm on the first Friday of each month, you can stroll through downtown Harrisonburg and enjoy numerous art exhibits and performances. What results is a treasure hunt of sorts, seeking out the art featured at various locations. What we also discovered, however, is that the artists themselves are local treasures.

Friendly City Food Co-op
Meet Pat Jarrett–a guy who would make any self-respecting pirate quake in his boot. Why? Because he’s the president and founder of the Beard and Mustache Society of the Blue Ridge. (It’s true, people–it’s on Facebook.)

His colorful photos hung throughout the store and included subjects such as Swiss chard, peaches, apples, bread, cows at night, and a guy named Steve wearing plaid flannel and manhandling a carcass of some sort. But my favorite was the photo of the guy holding his rooster, next to a description of the Low and Slow philosophy of meat cooking. I’d say holding your rooster against your body until he’s cooked is plenty slow. Seriously, Pat’s eye for the sumptuous beauty of daily life is what makes him a local treasure.

Ten Thousand Villages
I’ve seen several of April Sedeen‘s paintings before–usually large, striking portraits with bold lines and colors–but I was not expecting to see framed “doodles” (as she calls them) when I entered Ten Thousand Villages. Yet there they were, all lined up in rows and columns along the wall. Who knew this jewel-eyed lass was soooo funny?

So I sat on a giant stack of rugs and laughed my butt off at her doodles. Like the one that’s just a dot, entitled “Modern Art.” Or the one of the king standing next to a toilet–“Royal Flush.” Or this one, where the veggies are eating humans.
I wanted all of them, displayed in my house just as they were that day. If you want daily doodles (and, I mean, who doesn’t??), you can like her Facebook page Doodle Du Jour.

Wonder
The next local treasure we encountered was Sarah Murphy. That woman supports everything in this town. I see her everywhere. For three years, Sarah has organized the Art Auction for Haiti–a sale of local art that benefits St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Gonâve, Haiti. Artists donated their work, others bid on it, and as there were no costs associated with the auction, all proceeds–nearly $1000–went straight to the orphanage. Everyone involved–Sarah, the artists, and the buyers–are treasures.
A side note: The art was displayed in this hallway that runs the length of the store. I never knew that was there! Ya learn somethin’ new… Brandy managed to win Kevin Edwards’ “Turd Piece” (sorry, Kevin, that’s the information I got) AND, Elliott Downs has opened a record shop inside Wonder (post forthcoming!). I saw sooooo many good albums there, including the Molly Hatchet one I had in 5th grade. Why did I like them? Because they look like pirates. Or Vikings. On horses.

The Yellow Button–post forthcoming!
Meet Nicole Martorana, a writer/photographer/videographer who’s dabbled in just about every art-related line of work, including stints at Harrisonburg Tourism, Court Square Theater, the Arts Council of the Valley, and now the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. Still she finds time for her photography, beautifully displayed at the Yellow Button.

Her exhibit included pieces from an ongoing project called Show Your Face. During each exhibit, she takes polaroids of people who’ve come to see it, asks them to write short descriptions of themselves, frames the snapshots, and adds them to the collection for future display. If you’d like to see or participate in the exhibit, you can find Nicole at the RubyRed Shoe Boutique on Friday, May 4.
The Lady Jane
And there was Sara Christensen, the lovely, knowledgeable proprietor of The Lady Jane, who could tame an entire fleet of scallywags with one batch of brownies and sew a Jolly Roger better than any wench in town. Her exhibit was unlike the others in that it was not only aesthetically pleasing but also instructional. It reflected what she does for a living every day. She called the exhibit a “Mood Board,” and it was a collection of design elements (fabrics, colors, pictures of furniture, etc.) that revolved around a certain theme or style (in this case it was Rustic Vintage meets English Cottage). It’s a simple way to teach design to customers, and she even provided handouts containing advice and other resources.

Mint
Alas, our treasure hunt is nearly complete. But Harrisonburg would not be the treasure trove it is without Denise Kanter-Allen. You know how when you’ve been indoors in the air conditioning for several hours on a warm day, and you’re starting to get a little chilly, how good it feels to get in your warm car? That’s how it feels to be around Denise. Warm. Welcoming. Relaxed. She’s always open to collaborating with others and supporting other artists–she’s done joint art shows with Brandy, Elliott Downs, and Lynda Bostrom, to name a few. And she and Brandy are responsible for Harrisonburg’s first Art Lotto.

Her gorgeous collection of paintings called Leap is still on display at Mint, through the end of the month. All of the paintings feature people jumping for some reason… Brandy’s daughter Ella jumping on the trampoline, Denise herself jumping into the Aegean Sea (no doubt to welcome the pirates ashore), among others, all of which convey beautiful grace and movement.


And that concluded our search for hidden treasure; the next First Friday is Friday, May 4. We came home with a chest full of precious memories, lasting impressions, and meaningful encounters… all given freely by our priceless Harrisonburg.

Harrisonb-ARGH. Ha.

Sorry.

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.