Daycation - Farmville, Virginia

Friday, September 7, 2018

I'm going to start a series about my favorite "daycations" in Virginia!  We are centrally located, so we can get to almost anywhere in the state within a reasonable amount of time for a day trip.  We love day trips or weekend trips; I really like to explore, and I love to expose Reagan to new things.

One place we frequent in Farmville, Virginia - almost quite literally "the heart of Virginia".  It's tucked away from major interstates, about an hour from Richmond.  This is a frequent trip for us, because it's more rural, very outdoorsy, and very unique.  It definitely has a rural feel, but it's actually home to two Virginia colleges - Longwood University and Hampton Sydney college.  They're two of the oldest in the nation!  Combined, their enrollment is still pretty low at around 7,000 give or take. 

There are two ideal ways to make this daycation.  Since we have a young toddler, we spend most of the day at the nearby Twin Lakes State Park, about 20 minutes away.  This is the cutest state park!  There's a lovely playground, but the big hit is the water.  The lake has a little beach with a lifeguard, built in water play pieces, and even a little water slide.  There's a dock for jumping, and you can rent paddleboats.  Right next to the water area is a little cafe and shop, where everything is amazingly priced!  Buy a float for $4, and the lifeguard/boating team down by the lake will blow it up for you.  The food combos average around $5 for a meal and drink, and they also serve Hershey's ice cream.  There's indoor bathrooms and outdoor showers with stalls.  Grills for anyone's use.  There are also great trails and campgrounds, though we haven't taken advantage of those yet. 

When you're all tuckered out, head to Farmville for dinner.  Our go-to for any meal in Farmville is Charley's Waterfront Cafe.  It has a large patio that overlooks the Appomottox River - which, by the way, they dye green for St. Patrick's Day!  The indoor restaurant is really lovely as well.  Food is fantastic; their specialty is their handmade chicken fingers and their she crab soup.  I love everything I've eaten there.  Sunday brunch is a buffet, which is extra special on Mother's and Father's days.  

Make sure to take a picture with the LOVE sign!  Virginia is for lovers!

The second way to do Farmville is to spend the day just there.  We've done this many times as well - great for the winter or if you're not up for a day at Twin Lakes!

It's known for furniture, and visitors flock from near and far to buy both antique and new, high end, handmade or designer furniture.  Green Front Furniture is amazing - and huge!  It takes up four former tobacco warehouses and six other downtown buildings.  It's locally, family owned...but this is no small-town shop.  A lot of the furniture is high end and unique, and I doubt you could find similar pieces anywhere else in Virginia.  There's definitely something for every aesthetic here.  

Not even a third of Green Top Furniture!

For other shopping, we love Sleeping Bee for unique, home goods.  The Outdoor Adventure Store is great for finding your next outdoor necessity - kind of like a local REI!  There are many, many other shops along Main St; definitely pop in some of the antique stores!

Grab some lunch at Charley's, and prepare to walk it off!  You can leave your car parked downtown and immediately start off on the 30-mile High Bridge State Park trail.  It is an absolutely lovely trail that traverses Cumberland, Nottoway, and Prince Edward counties as well as Burkeville (right near Twin Lakes), Farmville, Pamplin, and Rice.  It's just over 5 miles to the bridge, which was a former railroad bridge influential to the Civil War, if you choose to walk from downtown Farmville.  This is great if you chose to bring your bike, but 10 miles out and back is a bit tough for us walkers!  

There is a parking lot at River Road in Cumberland about 3 miles from Farmville's Main St where you can park about a mile from the bridge.  This is what we prefer to do.  This is a pay lot; it costs something around $4 and the payment goes to the state park.  In high season, there's someone there that can take cards.  Off season, it's a cash/envelope honor system.  It's a short, flat walk! 

Before you head back home after your walk, treat yourself to an ice cream from Uptown Coffee Cafe or a baked good from Mill Street Sweets (though Mill Street closes way earlier than I think they should!)

Enjoy your day outdoors, shopping some of the most unique furniture on the East Coast, and eating good, local food!

The Classically Dressed Baby - On a Budget!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

So, when we were pregnant with Reagan, I remember immediately wanting all the baby clothes.  I mean, we could walk in literally any store and they had baby girl accessories or clothes that I wanted.  I quickly learned my style in kid's clothing is preppy, traditional, classic, and...expensive.  Sticker shock like you wouldn't believe!  I love quality - elegant detailing like smocking, embroidery, matching buttons, ruffles, and coordinating accessories...and fine fabrics - hello, pima!

I know this isn't the trendy clothing.  Reagan's closet definitely doesn't have any tight little ripped jeans, crop tops, or screenprinted tee-shirts with witty sayings.  No emojis in our closets, ha!  Anyway, I know we aren't hip with the latest fashions, and that's okay with me.  I only have a little girl for so long, and I love that she looks sweet and innocent!

At church a couple months ago, someone asked me if I bought all Reagan's clothing at Buttons and Bows, a very upscale local kid's traditional clothing boutique.  I was tickled pink beyond belief!  That's exactly what I want everyone to think...but I've just honed my little systems over the past couple years!

  • Consignment sales - buy on consignment.  We have some local consignment shops, but we also have seasonal consignment sales.  They are fantastic!  A win for everyone.  Around here, they're held twice a year, and I used to go to all of them.  Over time, I decided which ones were best for what I wanted.  Go early - there's usually a line on opening day, and things fly off the shelves!  I've snagged new with tags smocks ($80+ in stores) for $15 at consignment sales.  Especially great finds for younger toddlers and babies that are gentle on their clothes and typically have enormous closets full.  I also have found great deals on toys, shoes, and "gear" too. 
  • Upscale consignment stores - we have a local small store here in Richmond.  It specializes in upscale kid's consignment only, and they will ship!  They list a few things online but carry more in the store.  This has been a good place for designer dresses for me.  I really need to look into finding more of these type stores around the country that offer shipping.
  • Facebook BST (buy/sell/trade) groups - the jackpot for me!  I'm in a couple local ones; one is specific for high end brands, and one is for all things mom-related.  But the real fun is in the national groups.  Is there a brand you love?  Mini Melissas?  Stride Rite?  Beaufort Bonnet?  Proper Peony?  What about a style - smocked dresses?  A particular time period - "heirloom" or "vintage"?  There are groups for all of it.  There are also a few broad groups - one that has over 60,000 members is "Upscale Kid's Resale $25 and Under".  Join them all!  You can always unfollow and only check in when you're ready to buy, so you're not constantly tempted every time you're on social media!  Sometimes things go lightening fast, especially if it's a good deal.  Most of the groups do allow you to post an "ISO" (in search of) in particular places or on particular days.  Make sure to read the rules of any group you join; these groups are a gold mine for kid's clothes, and you definitely don't want to be booted!
  • The attic!  Some of Reagan's sweetest outfits have been ones painstakingly saved and preserved from my mother.  Southern babies have been dressed the same way forever - Feltman Bros and Petit Ami are two favorites.  Reagan's first photos were taken in a Feltman Bros dress I wore as a newborn.  Both her first and second Santa photos were taken in my or my sister's dresses, and same with her first two Easter Bunny photos.  This Easter, she wore a bonnet that my grandmother gave as a young toddler.  There is something so sweet and sentimental about seeing my daughter wear photos I've seen myself wearing in photos.  Dresses that once upon a time, my grandmother made.  I'm definitely going to reach out to my mom and ask how she packed those dresses away for 3 decades, because y'all, they looked like they were worn yesterday when she gave them to me.  More on that later.
  • Semi-annual sales - I love Lilly Pulitzer, but I definitely won't be paying full sticker price for more than maybe one dress a year.  I've been lucky at consignment a few times, but the best deals for Lilly is at the two semi-annual sales, where a toddler shift will be around $30 with free shipping.  Other companies do similar sales.  Or, you can go old school and buy at the end of the season for bottom prices and hoard til the next season.  I think that's been a parenting trick for forever!  One of my biggest secrets for shoe shopping is buying off season on Amazon - Reagan got winter fur boots for her August birthday last year and sandals for Christmas.  They were both around $55 retail and both were under $20. 
  • Discount websites - Zulilly and Rue La La are well known.  I have always had excellent experiences at both.  I got two of Reagan's Christmas smocks off Zulilly last summer for around $14 each, sweet summer boutique outfits for the following year for $5 at the end of the season, current season Gymboree, and so much more.  The downside is you often have to wait - clothes don't usually ship for around 2 weeks, and once they do ship, the shipping is the cheapest/slowest.  If you need it quickly, look for the little rocketship icon; that means it'll ship in a couple days.

Where I haven't found the deals to consistently be good - 

  • eBay - now don't get me wrong, there are definitely deals to be had here, and the PayPal buyer's protection is fantastic!  But I've found that a lot of sellers really gouge you on shipping prices to inflate their profit.  It drives me insane.  I'll resort to eBay as kind of a last resort if there's something I want that I can't find anywhere else.
  • Thrift stores - I have found a piece here and there.  I see all the time online how people find these amazing deals at Goodwill, and I've been lucky once or twice, but it's in no way close to worth the amount of time it would take to scour these places on the regular.  If you're going anyway, check the kid's sections, but personally - I won't be making any special trips.

Favorite RVA Eats

Thursday, August 2, 2018

So, quality is super important to me - quality time with my family over quality food is perfection.  Seriously one of the questions I'm asked most is "what's good to eat around here"?  I definitely have foodie tastes, but I'm married to a meat-and-french-fries kinda guy and have a toddler, so we compromise a lot.  I'm a big believer in eating local and supporting the amazing restaurateurs and chefs that chose to make the south their home.  Some of my local Richmond favorites...

Portico in Goochland county is a bit of a drive, but worth it.  This is the restaurant for al fresco dining; the patio is unreal.  It's delicious Italian food with a bit of an upscale twist. 

Lunch or Supper in Scott's Addition - probably one of the hottest local places right now.  I've been a couple times, and it is worth the hype for sure!  So there's a tiny restaurant - "Lunch" that's more casual and basic, and right next door is "Supper" - a bit more upscale.  They share the same menu, but only Lunch is open at breakfast.  And the breakfast is delish!  Highly recommend cheese grits and the sausage gravy.  They don't take reservations, and it's usually a wait for dinner.  Luckily, they have a great e-system that shows you your place in the line and texts updates while you wait in the adorable beer garden right next door!  Do yourself a favor and get an appetizer - the pimento cheese topped fried green tomatoes are everything that's good about the south.

TJ's at the Jefferson in Downtown - a great place to bring someone you want to impress!  While there is an actual restaurant, I prefer to sit out in the lounge area and watch the goings on below.  The Jefferson is probably the most beautiful place in Richmond and especially so at Christmas.  It's an old, historic hotel with quite the stories over the years.  Husband remembers his grandfather bringing him here as a child for a bowl of the peanut soup.  The desserts are great, and the people watching is even better.  Their decor is truly something to behold.  Extra note - I've been to Lemaire, the very formal/upscale restaurant also inside The Jefferson.  I honestly found it unimpressive for the price and wouldn't go again.

ZZQ in Scott's Addition - RVA definitely has it's share of BBQ.  It's a southern staple, and it's one of husband's favorites.  And they usually have mac and cheese, so win for the toddler too!  ZZQ just won best BBQ in Virginia and one of the top 12 in the country by Food and Wine Magazine, and it did NOT disappoint.  They have odd hours and do tend to sell out, so go early.  This is some tender, high quality meat here, and the sides are amazing.  There were no sides for the rest of my family though - they definitely do kind of an upscale southern approach to classics like beans, potato salad, and slaw.  The slaw was purple cabbage, and Reagan looked at me like I had betrayed her by offering such a thing.  The mac and cheese only came in a jalapeno variety, which I thought was great, but disappointed everyone else.  No matter, we'll still definitely be back!  And bonus - a parking lot and ample indoor seating!

Boulevard Burger and Brew in Scott's Addition is fun, casual eating.  It's right across from the home of the Flying Squirrels, the local Richmond minor league baseball team and from Movieland, a beautiful brick movie theater in a historic train station.  Great burgers, great staff.  They have boozy milkshakes - score! - but it's definitely a family vibe.  A lot of the time they have free tickets for baseball that night; check their Facebook page.  Sides are big enough to share between two people.  It's pretty small inside and gets busy at peak weekend hours because of the great location.  There's a parking lot, but it also fills quickly. 

Heritage in Uptown has been one of my favorites for years, and it's still nearly fully booked every weekend.  The thing to do here is to try a bit of everything - a few of the "snacks", a couple appetizers, and an entree to share.  Highly recommend the charcuterie board, pork belly, fish dip, and rockfish.  If you make a reservation, ask for one of the little window booths for some fantastic people watching.  This is a great place to eat if you're going to the Altria Theater for a show later in the evening. 

- Some places I've never been but that are on my list to try ASAP - 
-Buckheads in Henrico - a supposedly amazing steakhouse in a super random, unassuming shopping center!  Daniel Radcliff ("Harry Potter") ate here when he was in town filming and reportedly loved it.

-Brenner Pass in Scott's Addition is on my SUPER short list.  It just placed in the top new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit Magazine.  This one will be hard to get the husband to try; it's definitely foodie eats here.  Focus is on the Alpine region and its flavors.  It's definitely a pricey one, so I'm saving it for the next special date night!

-L'opossum in Oregon Hill is the hot spot for French food.  I'm intrigued by it, because it looks cheeky - like classic (and if reviews say anything, delicious) French food, but with a hip/modern twist.  I love their menu, with items like "Beef Swellington" and the "Portobello Big Mac". 

There's probably a dozen more I could name, but I'll keep it at my top favorites right now!  RVA also has bakeries, desserts, coffee, and drink hotspots galore, and I can't wait to tell y'all about those. 

Meet Virginia Mama

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Hi y'all, I'm Laura, and I'm sharing our life from our little corner of Virginia in a suburb just southwest of Richmond.  I have a pretty great husband - an IT pro - and the sweetest baby girl, an -almost- 2 year old toddler named Reagan.  After the President.  I'm finding my niche in the whole family thing.  I like to think what our family lives by is a little philosophy I'm calling "modern southern living".  I believe in the traditional southern way of life - that your neighbors should be your friends, the outside is the best place to be, that etiquette never dies, that family comes first, and that suppertime is the most important part of the day.  But it's an ever changing world, and we live near a big, diverse metro area that I grow to love more each day.  I want to intertwine my traditional views and way of life with a new, modern, evolving way of living.

Some things I believe should never change -

  • Good manners and traditional etiquette.  I won't be leaving calling cards at the neighbor's door any time soon, but we try to follow some basic manners around here.  Reagan has been "writing" her thank yous since the day she was born - back then, they were signed with little inked handprints.  Table manners!  Okay, I still struggle with this one sometimes, and I can almost here my mama telling me to put my hand in my lap.  Ha!  I know I'll be writing lots more on how we try to keep etiquette alive.  (And PS - always RSVP!)
  • Holidays don't go out of style!  I love to celebrate a good holiday.  Any excuse to bring friends and family together is a good one by me!  We hosted a brunch on the 4th of July this year.  Untraditional, but it was such fun!  And it left the rest of the day for everyone to do their own thing and attend any celebrations they had planned.  I'm already itching to break out the pumpkins for Halloween, and I'm eyeing my boxed Christmas china as I write this.

    How hilarious is Reagan here, grabbing for dinner?!  This was us ready to eat traditional pancakes for Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras.  We break out all the fancies for this one, because it's the last day before the sobriety of Lent.  My china was my grandmother's, and the tablecloth was my great aunt's.  King cake for dessert!  Mmmm!

  • Quality mealtime family time.  Whether it's at McDonald's or around a decorated table, I believe in making time for each other around the table.  Technology is taking over y'all, and that I'm having trouble coming to grasps with.
  • Kids should be kids.  Kids play outside, learn through books and experiences, and see the magic in everything.  I am not a cool mom.  I'm a mom that is trying to raise a responsible, well-adjusted, educated future member of society.  And y'all, she looks darn cute too.  No hipster trendy, modern looking little one here.  My favorite clothes are super traditional, actually - heirloom, smocks, vintage, with a little Lilly thrown in.
  • Traditions bind your family together!  We have family traditions, religious traditions, and cultural traditions.  And they are all important.

    Easter Sunday 2018 - Reagan in a bonnet that I wore as a toddler
  • Heritage is a big deal.  Where do you come from?  Who are your ancestors?  We know all of this on all sides.  My mom's mom's family was a first Virginia family.  Literally, one of the first few families to settle here.  She comes from a long, long line of farmers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  My father's family has been here since the beginning as well, from North Carolina and Appalachia.  On both sides, I have traced and proven our heritage back to officers in the Revolutionary War, and while I'm not active at this time, I have been initiated as a member into Daughters of the American Revolution.  It's not archaic to know where you're from and be proud of the people that make up your very DNA.

    Celebrating a family wedding last summer on the Eastern Shore - so exciting to see our family heritage all over the place!
  • The importance in food.  I know we as an increasingly health-conscious society are moving away from the fat and carbs of the old South - and shoot, I know I need to focus more on my own health and eating well.  But food is still and will always be important for way more than the taste.  Do you bake cookies at Christmas?  Do you have a special birthday cake recipe?  My 26 year old sister still always asks for "Grandma's Chocolate Cake" (a proper noun if there ever was one) for her birthday.  Have you ever been to a chili cookoff, a BBQ competition, or canned apple butter?  Entire communities are brought together by food and culinary traditions.  The "church ladies" cook spreads for after funeral luncheons.  Potlucks rein supreme.  And there's always room for a pound cake.

    I can't wait to share more about our life, and I want to learn about yours, too.  Where are you from?  What are your traditions?  How do they shape how you are a spouse, parent, and community member?

    "Natives will tell you this.  They are proud to be Americans, but they are also proud to be Virginians, North Carolinians, South Carolinians, Tennesseeans, Mississippians, and Texans.  But they are are conscious of another loyalty too [...] to a place where the habits are strong and memories are long.  If those memories could speak, they would tell stories of a region powerfully shaped by its history and determined to pass it on to future generations."
    -Tim Jacobson, "Heritage of the South"