Our Day Trip to Tangier Island

Thanks to Groupon, several weeks ago I bought a couple of tickets for a day cruise at Tangier Rappahannock Cruises. With the end of summer approaching, Juan and I found the perfect day to take advantage of the acquisition!  The temperature was a perfect 74H/71L. The clouds gave us a breathtaking display of beauty, without shedding a single drop upon us, and the Chesapeake Bay was bigger and lovelier than I had anticipated.

Tangier Island is tiny: 5 miles long and 1 mile wide, and only 3 feet above sea level. Its population is less than 500 people, but it’s rich in American history. Back in 1608, it was visited by Captain John Smith, who named it. On July 9th, 1645, the Virginia Council took all the male American Indians in the area, ages 11 and up, prisoners, and transported them to this isolated spot, in order to prevent further organized attacks against the English colonists. Governor William Berkeley’s own ship transported and abandoned them there.

More than a century later, during the War of 1812, thousands of enslaved African Americans gained freedom by fighting for the British against the American coastal communities around the Bay. The Virginia militia deflected a British attempt to take Norfolk in 1813, and engaged British forces throughout the war. More than 2,000 African Americans gained their freedom aboard British ships.

Today, fishing is the largest industry of the island, and most especially crabbing, mainly the soft-shelled blue crab (which is de.li.cious.)

The second largest industry of the island is tourism. There are daily cruises, mostly seasonal, and they pride themselves with having a handful (I counted 3) of restaurants serving succulent seafood. We had lunch at Lorraine’s and I must say that their crabby fries were so finger-licking good!

Back to history, in 1686, a man by the name of John Crocket  settled in the island, and his sons’ families did the same in 1814. As we rode through the island, we saw more gravestones than I’ve ever seen in one place, and so many of them had a Crocket name inscribed. Graveyards are found at the church, in backyards, in fields…

We rented a golf cart, which is the choice mode of transportation, even for the natives. We saw a church, a library, a tiny post office, a medical building, a school, and a few inns. We also visited a tiny, yet interesting museum which holds pictures and artefacts of the history and the present culture of this place.

Interesting fact: The Rev. Joshua Thomas (1776-1853) was a waterman so he moved from the mainland to the island, converted to Methodism, became a licensed preacher, and was ordained an elder. He served the Chesapeake region for more than four decades. He traveled in a canoe called “The Methodist” and conducted services for the British forces during the War of 1812. He advised the British troops not to attack Fort McHenry near Baltimore. In a prayer, he predicted they would fail. The expedition was not cancelled, and the British fleet was defeated.

Our Chesapeake Bay experience was unique and relaxing. Being in the island for just a few hours felt as if we were trapped in time. We often wondered how these people stand to live in such an isolated and tiny place! And then we were happy to return, bellies full, minds opened, hearts rested. God gave us a little reprieve from reality, surrounded us with beauty, provided us with more memories and marital friendship, and recharged our batteries to get us back to work tomorrow, first thing in the morning!

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When in Charlottesville

Juan and I had a spontaneous weekend in Charlottesville, VA. What a pleasant time we had! Let’s just say it will not be the last time we visit, since it has become one of our favorite spots in this amazing state.

We booked a last-minute hotel deal by bidding in Priceline.com, finding a Holiday Inn room for $59.

After we settled into our hotel, we visited the Historic Downtown Mall, which is a regular spot for us. We wanted to try a new restaurant, so we dined outdoors at Taste of India. One of the dishes we ordered was delicious and the other left a lot to be desired. The rice and chicken was finger-licking good, except next time we will try the mild version, since the medium spices made the dish a little too hot. The combination platter was very disappointing, with dry rice and beans that looked like they had sat on the plate a little too long. The overall service and ambiance were good, with plenty of time for good conversation and people watching.

The next day we drove through UVA, admiring the Jeffersonian architecture, and later visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and what a treat that was! Tickets were $25 per person and the money was well spent. Jefferson’s house and gardens have been very well preserved. It is a stunning place! I learned so much by watching a movie, visiting the museum, and taking a guided tour through the house. It was simply fascinating.

We ended our day spending a lovely evening at Jefferson Vineyards. We paid $10/person for wine tasting. Needless to say, my husband was in heaven. We purchased a bottle of truly amazing wine, sat in the field, and had a picnic. The view was stunning and the experience peaceful and refreshing. It turns out this is wine country! I did not know that 50% of the nation’s wine is produced right here in Virginia. In Charlottesville alone there are more than 30 wineries, which we are sure to visit one by one!

Next time we go, we plan on visiting Carter’s Mountain Orchard along with a local brewery. Autumn will be spectacular and I am salivating already!

The house at the top of "Little Mountain"

The house at the top of “Little Mountain”

The garden and observatory at Monticello

The garden and observatory at Monticello

Juan and I at Monticello's terrace, overlooking the dome at UVA and incredible mountain scenery

Juan and I at Monticello’s terrace, overlooking the dome at UVA and incredible mountain scenery

Our picnic from Whole Foods

Our picnic from Whole Foods

Jefferson Vineyards

Jefferson Vineyards

Summer Resolutions

I refuse to make New Year’s resolutions in January because chances are, I will never keep them. They just seem so ominous and unrealistic, usually involving a transformation in lifestyle and habits. January 1st seems like such a random day, to me. Yes, the calendar year changes, but in actuality nothing is significantly altered, other than the fact that we have partied for a month and a half throughout the various holidays, and probably gained 15 pounds in the process. Hence all the diet and exercise resolutions that Weight Watchers and Gold’s Gym take advantage of 😉

But today is different. Today marks the beginning of my summer schedule, which means I’m not working the same type or amount of hours as during the school year. Instead, I will be compacting all my private lessons into two days a week for the months of June and July. Therefore, I am looking forward to having two months of, well, a bunch of free time, and I want to use it well! So here are my resolutions for my summer:

  1. I will prioritize spending time with my family. I will have fun with Gabriel (I anticipate lots of trips to the pool), have plenty of picnics, go to the lake, play games, and have meaningful conversation with every member of my beautiful, loved family.
  2. I will clean and de-clutter my house. I’ll start with closets. I foresee many trips to the donation drop-off at Goodwill. I will, hopefully, tackle drawers and cupboards, and who knows, maybe even the laundry room!
  3. I will deep-clean my house. Once.
  4. I will cook more. My family will definitely appreciate that.
  5. I will take more time to write and compose.
  6. I will start and finish a book to help me grow spiritually.
  7. I will start and finish a book to read for fun.
  8. I will spend more time with friends, which will not be hard, considering I have barely done that lately.
  9. I will venture out more. I will take time to go places around this beautiful city and state, see new sites, and learn more about this culture and history.
  10. I will NOT stress if I don’t achieve the previous 9 nine things I’ve set out to do. Instead, I will be happy if I accomplish 50% of it and satisfied if I reach 75%.

I shall write a follow-up post at the end of the summer with actual, tangible actualization of my resolutions. How’s that for accountability? 😉

These are pictures of my summers during the past two years of our life in VA. I have very good memories attached to every single one of these:

Summer 2013 in DC

2 years ago at Sunday Park

2 summers ago at Sunday Park

Goofing off with this goof

Summer 2013 at Yorktown

Summer 2013 at Yorktown

Gabriel at the pool in Brandermill

Gabriel at the pool in Brandermill

2 summers ago at Jamestown with my brother and his beautiful family <3

2 summers ago at Jamestown with my brother and his beautiful family ❤

With Geneva and Daniel at a Flying Squirrels game. Best fireworks in town.

With Geneva and Daniel at a Flying Squirrels game. Best fireworks in town.

Last year in DC

Last year in DC

2 summers ago at Sunday Park

Last summer at Sunday Park

2 days ago on a date with my beautiful mother to the VMFA

2 days ago on a date with my beautiful mother to the VMFA

American Art and Portrait Gallery

Last Saturday, after attending the NATS regional competition with one of my incredibly talented students :), I left the University of Maryland and had about 3 hours to kill in Washington DC (one of my favorite places to visit). So, for the first time ever, I went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. As with any other Smithsonian museum, I was not disappointed. I would have loved a couple of extra hours to finish touring the place sufficiently.

These two museums share one of Washington’s oldest, public buildings. This landmark was built in Greek Revival style, from 1836 to 1868. I must say, I was also impressed with the architecture of the courtyard, which opened in 2007. It is absolutely stunning, exhibiting a contemporary glass dome (pretty huge). The day was very cold, but the courtyard was nice and cozy, filled with natural sunlight. Next time I’m in DC, I’ll go there and sit for a while. Maybe I’ll order a cup of coffee and journal. It is simply beautiful.

               

Among my favorite exhibitions were the Time Magazine Covers from the 60’s (which runs until August of this year), and the permanent collection of paintings of all our American presidents, in the Portrait Gallery. The museum displays both American art and American history. The combination of those two, made me a very happy camper. 🙂

William Jefferson Clinton. Oil on Canvas. Chuck Close

George W. Bush.  Oil on Canvas. Robert Anderson.

George W. Bush. Oil on Canvas. Robert Anderson.

Andrew Jackson. Ferdinand Pettrich.

Andrew Jackson.
Ferdinand Pettrich.

Locro: Potato Soup, Ecuadorian Style

Cold, gray days usually give me the blues. But for some miraculous reason, I’ve actually been enjoying it this time around. These days of freezing rain have, of course, called for soup, and this delightful warm treat has been welcomed by the entire family.

This week I went back to my roots and made this family favorite: Locro. It is easy to make (which is the only kind of recipe I go for) and it is very satisfying!

In a large pot, you will need about 4 liters of water for 5 lbs of white potatoes. Cut the potatoes in various sizes so they cook at different rates. Boil until smaller pieces of potato are able to be mashed and large pieces broken down easily with a large utensil.

Right in the pot, as you mash and break down the potatoes and the soup thickens, add 2 c. of milk, salt, pepper, and powdered garlic to taste. You will also need about a 1/2 tsp of Bijol, which can be found in the foreign foods (mainly Latin-American) isles of most grocery stores.

The last two ingredients are cilantro and either “Queso fresco” or “Queso para freir”, a Latin American cheese, which in my case here in RVA, I can only find in Walmart.

Add the chopped cilantro and cubed cheese at the very end. Continue cooking for another five minutes and stir well before serving. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Ingredients:

  • Water for boiling
  • 5 lbs. white potatoes
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 small package of white cheese (queso fresco or fying cheese), cubed
  • 1/2 c. chopped, fresh cilantro
  • Bijol, salt, pepper, and powdered garlic to taste

Cut potatoes in various sizes and boil until easily mashed and cut with a large spoon. Add condiments and milk. Continue mashing the potatoes, leaving chunks as well, until desired consistency. Add cilantro and cheese and cook for 5 additional minutes.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

I just love this place. The building is elegant and spacious; The exhibits are appreciable and extensive; The atmosphere is inviting; The cafe, especially outdoors, is an art exhibit in it of itself; The cost is just right (free admission).

In addition to the availability 365 days a year, the museum offers multiple events for the community, including free Jazz nights on Thursday evenings, “Friday Art & Wine”, free walking tours, and a variety of art classes for children and adults. It is a wonderful place for a date night! It is also a peaceful spot to take a break from everyday life all by yourself.

Beautiful Museum Grounds

Beautiful Museum Grounds

Cafe

Cafe

Oil on canvas. “Street Scene Autumn”, Goodman

Oil on canvas. "Expressive Head", Lhote

Oil on canvas. “Expressive Head”, Lhote

Oil and acrylics on canvas. "Sisters", Hendricks

Oil and acrylics on canvas. “Sisters”, Hendricks

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes, modern art...

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes, modern art…

 

Virginia Holocaust Muesum

Lizette and I visited the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond.

Cannot say it was a “fun” experience because there is nothing fun about walking through memories of atrocities and pain. It was, however, insightful and necessary.

I traveled to Poland years back and I visited Auschwitz concentration camp. I remember it clearly because it made a deep impression on me. I was expecting to feel some of the same emotions when I went to the local museum. I was pleased to find this less painful. However, in some ways, it hit a little closer to home because the gallery is filled with stories from local survivors. In fact, the audio from the guided tour was recorded by a Richmond survivor himself, who told his own story along the way.

In my opinion, everyone should visit their local Holocaust museum at least once in their lifetime. We owe it to ourselves to remember what happened. If you live in RVA or visit this area, I recommend this place. Admission is free. The layout of the building is user friendly, taking you easily from one section to the next without the need to backtrack. It will take about an hour to walk through the loop and you can either use their audio guide or simply read the information and go at your own pace.

A tribute to heroes who protected and cared for the persecuted

A tribute to heroes who protected and cared for the persecuted

Life size reproductions of pictures of those being liberated and replicas of American soldiers

Life size reproductions of pictures of those being liberated and replicas of American soldiers

Life-size replica of a scene during the Nuremberg trials, with actual footage playing in the background.

Life-size replica of a scene during the Nuremberg trials, with actual footage playing in the background.

Nazi flag, conveniently placed on floor so everyone can step on it.

Nazi flag, conveniently placed on floor so everyone can step on it.

Morada Bay Beach Cafe, Islamorada

A few months ago my friends Gene and Liz traveled to South Florida and asked us to recommend places to visit. Juan and I gave them a packed list of things to do in the Miami area and recommended they visit Key West as well (I mean, traveling through the Seven-Mile bridge is quite the experience). When they asked us where they should stop and eat along the Keys, we didn’t have a specific recommendation for them. I wish I would have known then what I recently discovered (thanks to my amazing girlfriends who took me there), because I would have suggested the Morada Bay Beach Cafe, located on Islamorada on mile marker 81.6.

I was there during a beautiful summer day. It was a bit overcast, especially towards the early afternoon (typical of South Florida), so the weather was very pleasant. The best part of my experience was the ability to sit and relax and have good conversation with friends overlooking the open water.

I give this restaurant 4 out of 5 starts for the following reasons:

The Atmosphere: Beautiful place, full of vibrancy and color as well as open spaces with a great view of the water. The tables sit on white sand for a great sea-side experience. After our meal, we sat under the palm trees by the sea wall and had a fantastically relaxing time.

The Service: The staff was very friendly and accommodating.

The Food: It was good, but not amazing. They do not have a gluten-free menu, making it hard for my friend, Laura, to find something to eat.

Overall: This beach cafe captures the taste and feel of the Keys. I also hear they have live music, which I didn’t get to enjoy (in fact, I heard my friend Cliff Stutts plays there in the evenings, and he happens to be one of the best bass players I’ve ever known :)) I would go back in a heart beat.

      

    

On a more comical note, here I am hugging a palm tree. This now Virginia girl really misses palm trees! Gotta hug them when I see them!

Regarding the beautiful ladies pictured here, I recently wrote a post about their friendship 🙂

After our meal, we decided to drive next door (we could have walked but it was about to rain) to the Bass Pro Shop Restaurant. My friend Carmen and her wonderful new hubby Dave had previously done their research. They discovered this place carried the best key lime pie in the area. If you go, make sure to ask for the best server, Bobbie. Tell her that Silvia sent you 🙂 Sit in the back porch and enjoy the view.

Visiting the National Gallery of Art

I have been to Washington D.C several times, but until today, I had never had the opportunity to visit the National Gallery of Art. I visited (and Elise happily accompanied me) the West Building as well as the Sculpture Garden. Boy, oh boy, I just loved that place!

First of all, I was anticipating to pay for parking and possibly ride the metro and then walk to the gallery. I was a little nervous about that since the forecast called for 50% chance of thunderstorms. But fortunately, A. We discovered that parking on the streets on Sundays is free and we easily found a spot 3 blocks away, and B. It did not rain a single drop!

The West Building featuring a special exhibit of Degas/Cassatt

The West Building featuring a special exhibit of Degas/Cassatt

The West Building is gorgeous and the layout very user friendly. This marble structure was the largest of its kind when it was built in 1940. It is breathtaking to walk through marble columns and marble walls. The entire main floor sits under skylights, which results in having much natural light shining throughout the building. The smart and easy layout makes it simple to walk through the exhibits fluidly, without the need to backtrack. The rooms and halls are very spacious and welcoming, allowing for a very pleasant and peaceful experience.

Ceiling over the rotunda in the main floor of the West Building

Ceiling over the rotunda in the main floor of the West Building

With Elise on the main floor

With Elise on the main floor

Of course, there was not enough time to walk through the entire museum, so Elise and I decided to linger mostly around 19th and 20th Century art, especially French, our favorite. What a sweet experience.

Picasso's "Madame Picasso"

Picasso’s “Madame Picasso”

 

Monet’s “The Walk — Woman With a Parasol”

 

Degas' "The Dance Lesson"

Degas’ “The Dance Lesson”

Vigee-Lebrun's "The Marquise de Pezay and the Marquise de Rouge with her Sons"

Vigee-Lebrun’s “The Marquise de Pezay and the Marquise de Rouge with her Sons”

Sargent's "Street in Venice"

Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

Across the street from the West Building is the Sculpture Garden. We took a mid-day break and hung out at the water fountain (which I hear turns into an ice skating rink during the winter), did some people-watching, sculpture viewing, and Elise spent some time sketching under the warm sun. I especially enjoyed the greenery: all native trees, bushes, and huge, beautiful flowers. We ate lunch at the Pavilion Cafe and then headed back to the West Building to see the exhibits we had previously missed.

Me by the reflecting pool / water fountain. In the background is the National Archives Museum

Me by the reflecting pool / water fountain. In the background is the National Archives Museum

A girl and her sketch pad

A girl and her sketch pad

Pretty Gardens

Pretty Gardens

Overall, our day at the capital receives a rating of 5 out of 5. At the end of the day we were reasonably tired but pleasantly satisfied with our experience in the Art Gallery. I would love to go again in the not so distant future and “linger” in a different section of the building.