Wine, Physicists, a Dog and the Great Outdoors


This past weekend, I headed down to D.C. to visit a good friend of mine and air out some life baggage.

We met up with two very smart, dashing physicists (which brings the number of physicists that I’ve met up to a grand total of 3), visited some Virginia wineries, and went for a nice, little baby hike in Shenandoah National Park.

Ferns on Rockface

It was all kinds of great.

Blue Ridge_1

And all kinds of pretty.


The best wine we had, by far, was at Hume Winery a relatively new outfit out on a Civil War-era historic farm in Fauqier County.


The very friendly and very knowledgeable owner Stephane (French born, D.C. research consultant turned pre-life crisis winery owner) and his assistant (who happened to be an ex-Air Force mechanic turned archeologist currently working for the Smithsonian as a airplane restorationist) were behind the bar, pouring the tastings.  If they weren’t living proof confirmation from the world that this all leads somewhere, I don’t know what is.

My particular favorites, the crisp Seyval Blanc and the floral Pinot Verdot, were on opposite ends of the taste spectrum but were made with a light and sensitive hand and were overwhelmingly palate pleasing.


Mr. Lucio (Age: 4 months) kept us safe from predators and thugs throughout the day.

Mr Lucio

I would highly recommend his security services.

Oh, and this is why they call them the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Blue Ridge_2

As I said, it was all kinds of pretty.

How was your weekend?

P.S. We gunned down some great cocktails at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace in Logan Circle on Friday night, and enjoyed their smartly outfitted indoor/outdoor space.  Their wood grilled East Coast oysters were fantastic.


Where in the World






A Wedding, Some Lists and A Toast

My very good friend Megan got married this past weekend, but I’ve been too tired to talk about it until now.

This is what we did on one and a half fantastically humid and hot days:

Picked up flowers, rolled napkins, tied ribbons, picked up more flowers, remembered to eat, cut large squares of kraft paper (strangely, more difficult than it sounds), bought burlap, stencils, made table numbers, made centerpieces, stole some weeds from a neighbor’s front yard, made 3 bouquets, 2 corsages and 3 boutonnieres (thanks youtube!), hammered holes into cardboard (no hole punch), made tissue paper poufs, drank root beer, listened to at least 100 10-second snippets of possible father-daughter dance songs, remembered to eat again, and oh yes, changed for the ceremony.

Unexpected maid-of-honor (me) duties included: Corralling an incredibly inebriated guest, figuring out when a champagne toast occurs, finding flowers for the cake decorations, cooling off by walking out into the rain, getting a heel stuck in the ground while walking down the aisle, and slipping on some mud.  At the same time.

The wedding itself was perfectly and awesomely low-key, pretty, and most of all a ton of fun, with great music and delicious barbecue.  When it came time for the toasts, the boys all decided to wing it in, while I, the petrified public speaker that I am, decided to do very regimented notecards.  (Nerd.)  I read a passage from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road that I remembered Megan declaring in college was the most romantic story ever written. It goes like this:

In the fall, I myself started back home from Mexico City and one night, just over Laredo Border in Dilley, Texas, I was standing on the hot road underneath an arc-lamp with summer moths smashing into it when I heard the sound of footsteps from the darkness beyond, and lo, a tall old man with flowing white hair came clomping by with a pack on his back, and when he saw me as he passed, he said, “Go moan for man,” and clomped on back to his dark.  Did this mean that I should at last go on my pilgrimage on foot on the dark roads around America?  I struggled and hurried to New York, and one night I was standing in a dark street in Manhattan and called up to the window of a loft where I thought my friends were having a party, but a pretty girl stuck her head out the window and said, “Yes?  Who is it?”

‘Sal Paradise,” I said, and heard my name resound in the sad and empty street.  

“Come on up,” she called, ” I’m making hot chocolate.”  So I went up and there she was, the girl with the pure and innocent dear eyes that I had always searched for and for so long.  We agreed to love each other madly.

Congratulations again, stinkfaces!


FYI, should you find yourself in a corsage/bouquet making emergency, these two posts were incredibly helpful.

A Practical Wedding: How to Make A Wedding Bouquet

Lovely Crafty Home: How to Make A Corsage

Thanks internet friends!

A Vieques Primer

Promises, promises.  I promised you all a little to-do list for visiting Vieques last week, then I flaked.  But now it’s here.  Magic.  Forgive me, please.


After having had a taste of Caribbean beaches, I’ve become a bit of a beach snob.  (Um, excuse me, why is your water not all unholy gorgeous shades of aqua?  Why does your sand not feel like baby powder?)  After having a taste of the uncomfortable side of tourism on various islands, I’ve also become pretty picky as to where I feel comfortable spending my money. Watching scores of American tourists waddle off a gigantic cruise ship and onto a tourist designated walk filled with flip flip magnets and glittery sunglasses makes me cringe.   Rows of pale, pale people lined up like sardines in a can on slivers of beaches surrounded by huge buildings isn’t my idea of awesome.  Driving around and seeing how stark and uneasy the differences between how the island inhabitants live and the walled, pristine resorts makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Topped with the idea of going to another place and pretending that it’s the same as the place you left (but with more fruity beverages), well…I’m just going to say no.

And now, my rant is over.

Let’s talk pretty things.

My favorite thing about Vieques is its complete and utter lack of pretension.  Strewn with gorgeous and uncrowded beaches, its low key, “it is what it is” vibe has made me a little obsessed.


Getting there involves the ferry (more time, pain in the ass to get to in Fajardo, and sort of stressful) or a very short flight on a very small plane from San Juan International or the local Isla Grande Airport.  Opt for Isla Grande, the flights are $66 vs $108 and more frequently scheduled.  A cab between the two airports is about $20 and a 15-25 drive depending on how nutty your driver is.  My last driver definitely took the dashed line between lanes as a mild suggestion.


The two main towns on the island are Esperanza and Isabel Segundo.  I have a very strong preference for Isabel II for three reasons – Coconuts, Casa de Amistad, and the lack of spring break feel.  It’s a slightly longer drive to the beaches, but then again, on a small island, it doesn’t completely matter.  Also, there’s something particularly amusing and reassuring about waking up to the sounds of crowing roosters, chirping insects, and the occasional cat or dog fight.  We are not in Kansas anymore.


The fanciest joint on the island is the W, which actually seems to have done a really nice job to staying with the casual, low-key vibe of its surroundings, even if there is a wall. On my last trip, we spent a rainy day in their spacious lobby, scarfing up free soup and coffee, having a snack or two and playing a vicious round of Monopoly.  (Don’t they always turn vicious?)  My preference has been Casa de Amistad, overseen by a pair of incredibly helpful and friendly transplants from Wisconsin.


For someone who loves food, my first two trips were definitely a steep learning curve.  Avoiding most places on the Malecon was one of them.  Fried is not a food group.  Three places that have never disappointed are as follows:

Coconuts – more upscale, very good.   Awesome rum punch.

Sol Food Truck – perfect for getting lunch while you’re at the beaches.  Healthy, fresh – includes vegetables unlike a lot of the other places on the island.  And sun tea.  Yes to sun tea.

Panaderia/Deli La Viequense – in Isabel Segunda on Calle Antonio G. Mellado. Lovely breakfast sandwiches with egg, ham and cheese, squished flat and toasted.


The best beaches are all the in the US Fish and Wildlife area down the one road where Sol Food is. Sun Bay/Sombe and Media Luna are boring except for the wild horses that hang out there.

Bahia de la Chiva / Blue Beach is one of my top two favorites.  This particular beach has a super long, very calm shallow portion, along with some good snorkeling to the west of Chiva.

Caracas/Red Beach is the other favorite, with slightly stronger waves, palm trees, and a nice wide beach.

Secret Beach – Follow the sign for Pata Prieta, and take a right.  Not so secret anymore, it’s a lot like Caracas but on a smaller scale.


Renting a Jeep to have at your disposal is a great way to get around to all the beaches.  It also marks you as a tourist.  Deal with it.  Checking out the Bio Bay is a must.  Bring a stash of cash if you can, the ATMs sometimes run out of cash on the weekend.

There’s much more, but who can read this much on a Friday afternoon?   Have a lovely weekend, would you?


Sun! Water! Beach!

Dear friends,

I wasn’t around last week.  I apologize.  I was in Vieques, for what I think is the third year in a row.  Normally, when I travel, I like to check out new places and try new things that I’ve never seen or thought of before.  Apparently I make exceptions for unpretentious, pristine beaches in the Caribbean.  It’s a thing.

After a day of rain and camping out in the lobby of the W, the skies cleared and we were off to the beach to be baked into a crispy, crunchy red hue.  My favorite this year was the Bahia de la Chiva (Blue Beach), with the Caracas (Red Beach) a very close second.  I’ll tell you more about Vieques later on this week, just wanted to say a ‘Hello’ and ‘I’m alive’.

How was your week?


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