79th Annual Historic Garden Week

June 29, 2012

This is for people who wake up, head outside, take a deep breath and say, “I love the smell of mulch in the morning.”         

This is for the poetic hearts who get smitten and blown away by the sight of rows upon rows of red and yellow tulips, gardens so beautifully arranged that they marry both art and history. 

This is for the traveler who loves nothing better than to be embraced by the historic, as if every outing were a road map to an American Brigadoon.

In short, you don’t have to be a gardener to love gardens, you don’t have to be a researcher or a historian to want to drop by the  homes of our Founding Fathers. Stop by at Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier and say hello again to George, Thomas and James and their kin, and yes, visit their gardens.

This is for you, this being the 9th Annual Historic Garden Week in Virginia, April 21 to 28, spread out to all the historic, elegant, spring-kissed, history-touched places, towns, homes, villages, cities and wayward inns and stopping points along old coach routes and battlefields, and forested acres of land for fox hunting and horse raising.

While we’re speaking in historic terms, a little history is in order.  The Historic Garden Week is the offspring of the early members of the Garden Club of Virginia, who in 1929 wrote to their friends and suggested they go on a sort of  “pilgrimage” of historic homes and gardens in Virginia, of which there are multitudes.  The first tour lasted 11 days and produced a guidebook costing the grand sum of two dollars. As such projects sometimes go, the Historic Garden Week flowered, grew like dandelions do, lasted as the sturdiest of all-weather flowers, and was held annually ever since. There was a brief interruption during World War II when the Garden Club of Virginia sent help and money to England where folks were hard pressed to keep up their beloved gardens while under attack and preparing to invade Europe along with a few chaps from America.

This is the sort of thing that is a boon to the tourist industry of any state, because it encourages visitors to visit the whole state.  This is a region and state where people for centuries have named their houses, it’s where homes aren’t just a numbered address but an identity as in the Manor or Oakwood, Edgewood, Poke and Woodlawn Farm, to name four Middleburg attractions on the tours.

To take in the whole of the Garden Week, you will tramp across battlefields from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, visit mansions, plantations, villas, inns, presidential homes, churches and residences dating back to colonial days.  You want history; you’ve got history. 

In the interests of history, the Garden Club of Virginia and its members turn the proceeds from the tours that are part of Historic Garden Week into restoration projects, including Mount Vernon, Monticello and the grounds of the Executive Mansion in Richmond.

Nearby Old Town Alexandria and Arlington provide part of the tours of Historic Garden Week, which also include Albermarle County, Ashland, Chatam, Clark County, Danville, Eastern Shore, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Gloucester-Matthews, Harrisonburg, Lake Gaston-Bracey and Ebony, Lexington, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Middleburg and Upperville, Middlesex County, the Middle Peninsula, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Northern Neck-Lancaster County, Orange County, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Richmond, the Ampthill/Wilson area, the Boulevard and Three Chops/Westhampton of Richmond, Roanoke, Staunton, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

The week will consist of more than 31 separate tours held over eight days, featuring 191 homes and private gardens, an army of 3,400 volunteers, and a reported 15 tons of mulch — in the morning and other times.  All of this will be garnished, emblazoned, trumpeted and made as stunning and beautiful as a good-weather day at Eden by 2,000 floral arrangements and the presence of an estimated 5,730 tulips and other flowers, daffodils among them.

Close to home, Old Town Alexandria will take part in the Historic Garden Week on Saturday, April 21.

Old Town, with its weekly market, waterfront, city hall and Christ Church, cobbled streets, from where you can move right ahead to Mount Vernon,  has history as its daily companion and can have the pace of colonial times.

In Alexandria, two gardens clubs have partnered with six additional properties, including a half-dozen townhouses and gardens dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

On the tour that day will be the following residences and gardens:
– The Capri House and Garden at 117 South Lee Street
– Mrs. Wright’s garden at 212 South Fairfax Street, archived by the Smithsonian
– The Spar’s House and garden at 206 Wolfe Street
– The Boteler’s house and garden at 320 South Lee Street
– Ms. Scarborough’s house and garden at 613 South Royal Street
– The Jankowski’s house and garden at 215 Jefferson Street
– The famous Lee-Fendal House Museum and Garden at 614 Oronoco Street at North Washington Street
– The Carlyle House Historic Park at 121 Fairfax Street
– Mount Vernon, which was also a restoration site of the Garden Club of Virginia
– Woodlawn, 9000 Richmond Highway
– Gunston Hall Plantation at 10709 Gunston Road in Mason Neck

Arlington will hold its portion of the garden week tour on April 24, emphasizing homes built to create neighborhoods that would become one Virginia’s first suburban communities.
While Mount Vernon is closer to D.C., it might also be interesting to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, where the observance of the garden week will include a two-hour tour of Jefferson’s revolutionary garden April 21 and April 23.

Also of note is the tour at Ashland, April 21, which the Ashland Garden Club redesigned after the August 2011 earthquake in Louisa County damaged its centerpiece property.

For additional information and schedules, visit www.vagardenweek.org or www.gcvirginia.org. [gallery ids="100591,100592" nav="thumbs"]

Sisters’ Sojourn, Halfway Around the World

My sister Molly recently moved to Singapore from Sydney, and for me it proved a great excuse for a trip. So I took off January for a sisterly visit, to explore a region I had never traveled: Southeast Asia. The non-stop flight out of Newark Airport lasted 18 hours – and when I landed it was two days later.

On the equator, the island nation of Singapore, with its tropical rainforest climate, is continually hot and humid and enjoys sunrises and sunsets at 7:00 every day. The orderly country afforded me the chance to visit two big museums in one afternoon. And the shopping is beyond abundant. And because of the heat, everything is in a mall: shops, fine restaurants, nail salons, grocery stores, doctors’ offices, condos, museums . . . everything. It’s sort of bizarre. You never have to leave the air conditioned hallways. Everyone speaks English, the currency is in Singapore dollars and there is a Starbucks on every corner. So far, it didn’t seem to have much of an Eastern vibe. But I hadn’t sampled the food yet.

Singapore is famed for its food, and I was lucky to sample a lot of it. Food stalls stand in an endless array (many in the malls, of course), inexpensive and for the adventurous of palette– as you are never quite sure what you are getting. Black pepper crab is a national favorite, and nothing like our Chesapeake Bay crustaceans. One spicy crab will feed a family of five. And it is delicious.

Strangely, all the big-name American chefs have restaurants here. We dined at Wolfgang Puck’s super-expensive steakhouse, Cut, which was a surprising treat.

Green space covers half of this tiny country, which has a botanic garden with 66,000 orchids and an amazing tree-top walk over a forest. It also has the second largest casino gambling market in the world. I loved that there weren’t a lot of sightseeing must-dos, which allowed me to explore the city at my own pace and interest.
Then, our serious adventures began. Molly and I spent a week in precarious paradise: the Maldives, southwest of the tip of India and Sri Lanka. Fortunately, we left before the recent government upheaval, but the country was truly breathtaking.

It is hard to describe the magnificence of these islands in the Indian Ocean. It felt like Disneyland come true. The water was the clearest of blues, the sand pearl white and fine as baby powder. The territory of the Maldives, of which there are 200 inhabited islands (90 of which are individual private resorts), is ninety-nine percent ocean, and we hopped from island to island by boat or plane.

Upon landing at the capital city of Male, we took a seaplane to the Anantara Kihavah Resort Island. It is one of the larger resorts in the Maldives, and yet it only takes about 15 minutes to walk the perimeter. Our villa was stunning and opulent, right on the beach with two outdoor showers, a bathtub that would seat six (if we were so inclined) and our own swimming pool. The staff came from all over the world.

We did a lot of snorkeling on the reef about 100 yards from our door. The fish were otherworldly. We went to the spa – each treatment room is perched above the ocean with a glass floor so that you can watch the fish swim by while you are getting a massage. We ate and drank and ate some more. One of the five restaurants at the resort is like a reverse aquarium. It is a glass room fully submerged in the lagoon. While you are eating your fish, you can see his cousin swimming on by. I was completely rejuvenated by the time we left, wishing only that we could have stayed another week.

Next up, we flew to Thailand to celebrate Chinese New Year. Our first stop was Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, located in the north, between Laos and Burma. The weather was a little cooler than Singapore and the Maldives and extremely pleasant by contrast. We had only four days here but made the most of them, as we rode elephants and ox carts and sailed the Ping River on a bamboo raft. We did some power shopping at the Night Market, a huge area of the old city where the streets are closed off on Sunday night for thousands of vendors to set up stalls, selling everything from silk scarves and jewelry to fried fish heads. We experienced everything from gorgeous temples to restaurants in rice paddies. The Thai people are the world’s most hospitable hosts.

From there, I headed (sans sister) to Koh Samui, where I attended a four-day yoga retreat on the beach. While the water wasn’t as blue and the sand not as white as Maldives, I muddled through. I practiced at least three hours of yoga a day in a gazebo overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, had three massages, read a couple of books and ate the most healthful, delicious food.

For a final hurrah in Singapore, I rejoined Molly before boarding that 18-hour flight back home. While sad to leave, I know I’ll return. As they say in Singapore, “Onward.” [gallery ids="102435,121479,121483,121470" nav="thumbs"]

Between the Sheets

June 18, 2012

I couldn’t stand my husband’s terrible snoring another minute, so I’ve been sleeping in the guest room. I love the peace and quiet, but now we rarely see each other. How can we keep the romance alive?
– Betty, 57

An estimated 20 percent of American couples do not sleep in the same bed. This is not necessarily a sign of a poor relationship. With age, people are willing to experiment and create their own comfort zones. Some people find that they need more alone time or that their partners’ snoring or rolling
around in bed really troubles them. There is a difference between sleeping apart because you just don’t like each other anymore and choosing to sleep separately for comfort’s sake. If it’s the latter, it’s important to make the time and effort to meet, greet, and connect with each other for sharing, intimacy, and lovemaking. Even when you sleep in the same bed, if you go to bed at different times, it helps to make a conscious effort to bond with each other for the sake of your relationship and sex lives. Find some time each day to cuddle and connect in bed, with or without sex.

One way of keeping passion and sex alive is to consider making love in new places, like a night in a hotel, or for those who are adventurous, remembering the passion of your youth on the living room floor, or in front of the fireplace, or maybe even on a kitchen table. If a new environment is a turn-on for you be creative, and find new places to keep sex alive.

If you can only do one thing to make your bedroom an oasis for you and your partner KEEP STRESS OUT. If possible put computers and work papers someplace else, and above all save all stress-producing conversations (about money, children, sick parents, grandparents, illness, and whatever might raise your blood pressure) for outside the bedroom. Once you enter your special space try to protect yourself and your partner from all sex-chilling stress of any kind.

Diamonds in the Real Estate: Weekend Homes

While it hasn’t been a brutal winter in the District this year, it doesn’t mean we don’t get the fair-weather itch. Our minds race prematurely toward raspberry picking and the bounty of spring, maybe even a boat ride down the Chesapeake. Some of us jump even further into the future, planning our seaside beach weekends, wondering which shore to explore next.

And if you found your ideal getaway spot, it might be worth trying to stay for more than just a long weekend. Renting a house or condo for the summer is a pleasure — and it’s a decent local economy booster wherever you wind up — but sometimes it’s just too painful to leave. If you’ve found a location that suits you, buying a summer and weekend home is a worthy investment. But the perfect getaway spot means many different things, depending on the person.

Perhaps you’re looking for that white sandy beach surrounded by palm trees, golf courses, and world-class retail. Maybe you live a quieter existence and the Chesapeake Bay communities offer the lush solitude you seek. Others may seek a marriage of the two: relaxing beaches that afford your privacy with an array of fine dining and shopping to keep you busy through August.

Of course, there are endless options when choosing where to build your getaway nest, and you could spend your life searching for that perfect place. Here are our favorite weekend and summer getaway spots: their solid economies have proven these areas to all be sound investments, and each has a unique culture and community that is hard to beat throughout the East Coast.

Palm Beach, Florida
West Palm Beach is the oldest incorporated municipality in South Florida. The city was founded by Henry Flagler and was intended for him to establish the Southern Florida Railroad. He aimed to establish a resort town and a “worker city” across from it.

Instead, this city developed into the luxury homes and prestigious neighborhoods that it is known for today.
Today, it is one of the world’s most desirable communities, acclaimed for its gracious lifestyle, luxury real estate and relaxed sophistication. Shopping and dining are enjoyed on internationally renowned Worth Avenue, while an active sporting life centers on world-class polo,golf, tennis, yachting and deep-sea fishing.
Hosting an active calendar of events, noted cultural organizations include the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Flagler Museum, Society of the Four Arts and Norton Museum of Art. Palm Beach as an island is approximately 14 miles long and only one to four blocks at its widest point. The Atlantic Ocean forms its eastern boundary, with the western boundary along the Intracoastal Waterway or Lake Worth. Its beautiful beaches, golf, shopping, fishing, fine dining and upscale restaurants can keep anyone satisfied year-round. Of course, there are an endless variety of homes available in Palm Beach’s many neighborhoods

Eastern Shore, Maryland

Maryland’s Eastern Shore is probably best defined by “serenity.” Filled with lush inland forests, unspoiled wetlands and small, historic towns steeped in charm, any one of its towns is a great place to build a second home. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are endless opportunities for fishing, sailing, canoeing or kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Eclectic boutiques and antique shops line the streets alongside contemporary restaurants that feature the bounty of the surrounding farmland. History buffs can explore the centuries-old churches and homes, along with the preserved historic districts of Easton, St. Michaels and Oxford. And, lest we forget the seafood!

There is a suprising diversity of real estate options in the Eastern Shore region, from waterfront to golf home communities, with single-family homes, condos or townhouses, new construction and living communities available.

Talbot County and other counties of the Eastern Shore offer quaint waterfront communities, including St. Michaels, Oxford, Cambridge and Kent Island, with a variety of real estate options for water lovers. Here you’ll find luxury estate golf homes, active living communities, condos and townhomes, all along the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Luxury waterfront homes range in price from $2 million to $16 million. Golf course and in-town homes on the water range from $600,000 to $2 million. Waterfront condos and townhouses start around $350,000 and can go up to $1 million.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Are you having visions of moonlit walks on the boardwalk? Do you dream at night of cresting sandy dunes and gazing down at the Atlantic’s undulating tide as it gently sweeps the shoreline? Have you wished upon a star for low property taxes and zero sales tax?

Okay, that last one is admittedly less romantic, but nevertheless, it’s still an integral part of Southern Delaware real estate’s growing appeal. Rehoboth Beach and its quieter neighboring communities of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, along with several other areas where you can find fantastic properties, collectively represent a Delaware real estate market that is drawing more savvy buyers every year. The word “Rehoboth” means “a place for all,” which makes the name apropos for this area, where people from all walks of life are equally welcome. The young, professional crowd from Washington comes for the beaches and the nightlife. Reader’s Digest has dubbed the famous Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, home to all manner of amusements, music, and spectacle, in its “Best in America” roundup.

A Locavore’s Cheese Tasting Weekends

Virginia and Maryland cheesemakers are a tight-knit bunch. They are largely artisanal, small-batch producers that got started with the most basic, homegrown means. Many are self-taught hobbyists that went pro. Others followed their passion for dairy together with a passion for the local landscape. These cheeses are diverse, unique and delicious, running the gamut, from cow milk to sheep and goat milk cheeses.

There has been enormous headway within the community since the local industry got off the ground in the 1990s. According to Adam Smith, manager of Cowgirl Creamery cheese market in Penn Quarter, there is a hugely impressive array of cheesemakers within a stone’s throw of the District.

“I love introducing people to cheeses from around the area,” says Smith, who spent years in the California cheese industry before relocating to oversee Cowgirl’s flagship East Coast shop. “It isn’t just because it’s local, but because of the quality of the product. The diversity and quality of cheeses in the region allows people to find what they want.”

Smith, who promotes local cheeses through his shop, is not alone in his opinion. Cheeses from the area have been taking home national and international awards. They are now on par with France, Vermont, Spain and Switzerland as world-class artisans and producers. For those who are interested, there are opportunities to get to know their local, cheese-producing community. Everona Dairy, Firefly Farms and Caromont Farm are three regional dairy farms that bring visitors into the process of cheesemaking.

Don’t be fooled: These are working dairy farms, not tourist attractions — but the cheesemakers here offer us a chance to see into their process and get a better understanding of what is being accomplished just beyond the Washington area. With locations in the historic Maryland and Virginia countryside, surrounded by vineyards and bed-and-breakfast inns, it’s well worth carving out a cheesy weekend in your travel schedule.

Everona Dairy

“There would be no cheese in Virginia if it weren’t for Pat Elliott,” says Gail Hobbs, owner of Caromont Farm. “She’s a pioneer.”

Pat Elliott is the owner of Everona Dairy in Rapidan, Va. — just an hour south of Washington by way of Charlottesville — one of the country’s most acclaimed producers of sheep’s milk cheese. Elliott’s frank, casual disposition belies her achievement in the industry. You probably won’t hear her waxing poetic about divine dairy inspiration or the rejuvenating aroma of a windswept countryside. She’s more likely you to tell you that you just stepped in sheep manure and show you the most effective way to clean your sneakers.

A doctor and family practitioner by day, Elliott got her start in the cheese industry rather unusually. “I bought a border collie in the early ’90s,” she says, “and eventually had to get something for her to do. So, I got sheep for her to wrangle! And then I decided the sheep needed to pull their weight. So, I started to milk them and realized we could make cheese.”

By 1996, Everona Dairy was up and running. Easy.

Many of us consider cows to be the dairy- and cheese-producing animal — and in America that’s largely true. But Elliot points out that sheep’s milk is the predominant milk for cheeses throughout the Mediterranean, Italy, Britain, France, Belgium and Denmark. “It’s a good trivia fact,” she says. “There is actually more sheep’s milk being made in the world than cow’s milk.”

Everona’s signature cheese is the Piedmont, which won the Farmhouse category for sheep’s milk cheese at the American Cheese Society’s annual competition in 2005. “It’s unique to its category,” says Smith over at Cowgirl Creamery. “We’re constantly selling out of it. It has an insane amount of depth — when people taste it, they’re awed by it.”

Its Shenandoah (the cheeses all have place names), created in 2008 by Elliott and cheesemaker Carolyn Wentz, is the only Swiss-style sheep’s milk cheese in the world. In 2009, it received a Bronze award in the United States Cheese Contest and placed tenth in the world at the 2010 World Cheese Championship.

Open Wednesday through Sunday in the afternoon hours, Elliott invites guests to come see how Everona Dairy works. Visitors are taken through the cheesemaking process, shown where the milk is made and the cheeses are ripened, and invited to a tasting afterward.

Guests should call ahead if they plan to visit. “There’s almost always someone here,” Elliott says. “But we want to be ready to host.”

With Charlottesville just down the road, as well as the Caromont Farm cheese folks, make it a wine and cheese weekend.


Caromont Farm

Continuing past Everona Dairy and passing south of Charlottesville, you will find Caromont Farm in Esmont, Va. Owner Gail Hobbs started out producing and distributing her fresh goat’s milk cheese through her community, but soon expanded and began experimenting with aging her product. “People tend to think of goat’s milk cheese as only fresh cheese around here,” says Hobbs. “But in Spain and France, goat’s milk cheeses are frequently and successfully well aged.”

Caromont’s raw, aged goat cheese is unique in its category, with wonderful flavors and textures. “It’s a very well crafted cheese,” says Smith at Cowgirl Creamery. “And there are not a lot of people making and aging mid-sized wheels of raw goat cheese for several months. It’s pretty cool.”??Another mission for Hobbs is to bring out the distinct flavor of the local land — or terroir — into the cheese. “That’s why we work so much with raw milk,” she says. “More terroir is expressed in the final product with less water and electricity used. We’re so new that it’s really uncharted territory. But I was encouraged by what our area has to offer: big farms, lots of grass, and it’s not industrial. It’s just very new for this area. But we’ve come quite far.”

Caromont recently decided to utilize the great resources of cow’s milk in the surrounding area and has since started sourcing milk and making cow’s milk cheese as well.

And while the cow’s milk cheese is very good, their goat cheese is ethereal. The Esmontian, Caromont’s premier raw goat’s milk cheese, is a dense cheese with a runny interior that tastes faintly acidic and slightly sour, with a delicate, sweet overtone.

The Alberene Ash is a small, aged pyramid of cheese with a thin layer of ash through its center and dusted on its outside, which is aged in a wild blue mold-filled cave for three weeks. When the pyramid is perfectly covered in wild blue, they’re ready. This one is as pretty as it is tasty.

Caromont doesn’t have the open door policy for visitors the way some larger dairy farms do. However, if you call them, they’re usually happy to take cheese enthusiasts around the farm. “We don’t really have an area for visitors,” says Hobbs. “But we try to accommodate people who are interested in seeing what we do. By appointment only, we say. If you’re interested, give us a call. We want to encourage people to see what we’re about.”

“A lot of these places are very small,” says Hobbs about her fellow cheesemakers and their facilities. “And it can be a very sensitive area — hair nets, boot covers. It’s not like going to a petting zoo or a chocolate factory. That’s why our goal is to have something in town where people could learn about cheese and experience it there. It’s in the works.”


FireFly Farms

Cheesemakers Michael Koch and Pablo Solanet started to make goat cheese in their home as a hobby in the late ’90s, taking the milk from their neighbor’s goat. When they went to submit their two varieties of homemade cheese in the annual American Cheese Society’s amateur competition, they accidentally entered them in the commercial category. The cheeses received gold and silver ribbons.

Needless to say, Koch and Solanet decided to give cheesemaking a go. By 2003, FireFly Farms was off the ground.

FireFly Farms offers nationally and internationally award-winning goat cheese that features the distinct regional flavors of Maryland’s Allegheny Plateau. “Our cheese is flying off the shelf,” says Andrea Cedro, director of marketing for FireFly Farms. “We just moved into a new creamery in July of last year after we outgrew our last barn.”

This summer, FireFly plans to do more tours of the back of the house. Meanwhile, its market in the front has windows that look into the “make room” (where the cheeses are made) and the aging room. Cheesemakers are always around to answer any questions. “The store has really given us an outlet in the country for people to stop by and visit,” Cedro says. “But soon we will be able to bring you in to see the back of the house if you’re interested.”

Besides selling Firefly Farms cheeses, its new storefront offers cheese from around the country, selected by Firefly’s cheesemakers. Also available are regional boutique wines and beers. Wine and cheese pairings are offered on weekends. “We want a place where people can visit us and get a taste of cheesemaking,” says Cedro. “A place to experience the artisan cheese world.”


Cheese around the District

If you can’t make it out to the country in pursuit of the perfect cheese, these locations across the Washington area have great selections, including a variety of local cheeses (including the ones mentioned above). If you’re looking for something specific, we recommend calling ahead and asking about it:

Cowgirl Creamery
919 F St. NW

La Fromagerie
1222 King Street
Alexandria, Va.

Arrowine and Cheese
4508 Lee Hwy
Arlington, Va.

Whole Foods
Various locations in DC, Virginia, and Maryland

Various locations in Virginia and Maryland [gallery ids="100497,118110,118088,118104,118097" nav="thumbs"]

Murphy’s Love

Dear Stacy:

My ex-girlfriend and I broke up three months ago (her idea). She wasn’t happy. She wanted to go out more and wanted me to be more social than I really am (I’m an introvert, plain and simple). I started dating someone new, and it’s been pretty casual between us (she travels a lot for work) and I’m happy. At least I thought I was until my Ex updated her Facebook profile to show that she is “in a relationship” with a new guy. I thought I was over her and had moved on with my life, but seeing this update makes me so angry I can’t see straight. We’ve had some contact since the breakup (occasional texting, I ran into her at a party) and she has said nothing about the new guy. Then, suddenly she’s in a committed relationship out of the blue, and my friends are all asking me what I think about it. When I think about it, I’m not jealous, really. I’m just angry at her for making a public announcement like this without telling me first. I never changed my [Facebook] status to show I was dating someone new, because it’s not serious. I’m just so angry that she would tell me like this.
-Blood-boiling in Arlington

Dear Blood-boiling:
I’m so sorry that you are feeling humiliated – no one likes that feeling — and I’m impressed that you can already name it amid all the boiling blood and such. Your anger (Justified? I’m not sure . . .) makes sense as it functions as a surface emotion giving your mind the “permission” it needs to experience the humiliation. That’s what anger is, a surface experience giving us clues to a deeper, more difficult emotion. Your humiliation may be part of what’s driving the anger, but I would also imagine there was a little bit of denial operating under there as well. You got into another, very “casual” relationship soon after the breakup of a long-term coupling. This hints that you may not have really worked through the pain that comes when any relationship ends – regardless of who chose to exit first, there is always sadness and mourning when a partnership ends.
As you said, you “moved on” quite quickly into a casual dating situation with someone who is not overly available. This also suggests that you were working to find a quick fix to numb the pain of the breakup. So, here you are, several months later with a still burning wound lacking any intentional medical treatment (stick with this metaphor, I’m getting somewhere, I promise). Her status update was a new blow to that still-tender gash – super painful and undoing any of the minor remediation provided by New Girl’s presence. You need to clean this wound: e.g., pay attention to all the feelings of the breakup (which included basically being rejected for who you are and how you like to spend your time – not exactly easy to swallow). Process this grief with a friend, mentor or counselor, and finally set yourself to healing from this. Oh, and stop reading her Facebook updates. That’s masochistic behavior, and you need to start treating yourself better.

Dear Stacy:
I’m feeling caught in the middle of an argument between friends, and I need some advice. My friends, let’s call them Ross and Rachel, recently got married. We are all 24 years old, friends from college and former group housemates. They are now off living on their own and not adjusting to marital life too well. Both are complaining about the other to me – fights ranging from who should clean their apartment to how much money they should be saving. Rachel is miserable at her job, all her friends know it, and wants to quit, but Ross is not supportive. I’m really on her side about this, but he keeps talking about it. I feel like I’m being dishonest even listening to his rants about her selfishness. The short question is what advice to give about Rachel’s job since I really think she should quit. The larger question is how do I deal with my friends and their dramas now that they are a married unit?
-Middlegrounded in Northwest

Dear Middlegrounded:
You’re describing a very common, tricky situation as we transition from the Roommate Phase of life into True Adulthood. I completely understand your sympathy for their conflict, but I want to let you off the hook: this is not your problem. It’s a subtle shift, to be sure, but their move from housemates to lifemates necessitates another round of cord cutting. Ross and Rachel chose to leave the group house nest and start a new life together, meaning they cannot rely on the old process of going down the hall to complain about the odd housemate out. They are in their partnership together and need to sort through these issues on their own.

The good news is that you really don’t have to be the one to lay down the law about this new life phase – they will make this realization on their own with time. What you can do is use the so-called “smaller question” about Rachel’s job troubles as an exercise in boundary-setting. You are beginning a new phase in your relationship with them as well, one where you will not want to become the tiebreaker voter – believe me, taking on that role a few times will guarantee that when Couple realizes they are in a two-person marriage, you probably won’t even have a place as a confidant anymore. You aren’t less of a friend just because you don’t process their every move the way you used to – rather, you are evolving along with them. This is about growing up, and it’s not pain-free. Protect your investment: Tell both that you love them and admire their commitment so much that you don’t want to get involved. It’s the best long-term solution here.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed, professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist, practicing in Georgetown. Her website is www.stacymurphyLPC.com, and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to [stacy@georgetowner.com](mailto:stacy@georgetowner.com)

Between the Sheets: To Wed or Not to Wed?

There are more people talking about the value and sanctity of marriage than there are actually people standing before one another saying, “I do.” Recent studies that revealed that marriage rates were down in the United States — lower than they’ve ever been, in fact. This has rattled marriage protection groups and fueled the conversation over the definition of marriage and its role in modern society. From same-sex couples who want the protection of marriage to domestic partnerships for widows/widowers who refuse to remarry for economic reasons, marriage is a single-source-topic but nobody is on the same page.

What is most important in a marriage: legal protection, shared benefits, status/recognition or the commitment that comes with marriage? It’s a simple question, one that would suggest a simple answer, but marriage is structured to accommodate people of all kinds and with all reasons for why they want to get married. Some marry for money; others for love or for the love of something. Some marry hoping for everlasting love; others marry knowing it will never last. Whereas people once felt the need to get married in order to have children, many seem perfectly happy raising children as single parents.

Studies show that with or without a ring, healthy long-term relationships produce healthy long-living people. One does have to wonder why the issue of marriage takes on such significance. Perhaps the non-marriage is a backlash to all of the years of witnessing so many unhappily married couples, acceptance of affairs, political and Hollywood influence, etc. Possibly, it’s a good time to rethink if we’ve gone too far in the opposite direction.

The major difficulty with marriage is that it’s hard work. Nobody ever teaches the tools to make it work well. We still have an image that a good marriage should flow effortlessly, but that’s mere fantasy. One of the biggest challenges, especially in our workaholic Washington, D.C., is that our priorities are upside down. Most people give their all at the office and give leftovers at home. Just imagine if we flipped it. Picture it as a strong tree, if your roots are strong, your tree will stand strong. But if your tree is flipped, your branches won’t support you like the roots do!

Ultimately, the backbone of marriage is the bond between you and your partner. It is the love you have for one another and share with one another. There is no legal paper with a stamp on it, no word or term, no social stigma that can affect that bond, and that is something that is created between you and another person, from the efforts of each of you. You cannot allow yourself, your partner or your love to be affected by outside influences including religious debates and Hollywood flings.

The fundamental tools of marriage are communication and the knowledge that sex is more than penetration. Nurture your relationship by keeping your bedroom a romper room (no dirty laundry, medicine bottles, sports equipment), and remember that foreplay begins with “I love you” in the morning. But when it comes down to whether or not to say “I do,” just remember that actions speak louder than words, and a marriage is something you do, not something you say.

Gracious Weddings in the Virginia Countryside

Tucked away between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the nation’s capital, along dirt roads and country curving streets, lies a secret garden of green pastures growing local produce, freshly painted farms with white picket fences and acres of vineyards with large succulent grapes and tasting rooms filling visitors’ glasses with the latest and greatest new wines.

Hidden in these foothills are also lists of wedding venues, vendors and anxious brides hoping to secure their spot in peak season at the pavilions located here. Say goodbye to the destination weddings on sugar white sandy beaches in the Caribbean and hello to the horses and historical lands in the country side of Virginia.

There is something to be said when a small town stubborn girl from the rocky coast of southern Maine who doesn’t think anything is more pristine and precious than her local beach town in New England begins to have second thoughts when driving along Loudoun County. This area may lack the sound of crashing waves, but it is smothered with kindness, tranquility and nature that could de-stress any city slicker.

This area is truly the spot where fairy tale weddings come alive and bride’s dreams come true. Allow yourself to explore the opportunities each season will bring to your special day in a handful of options ranging from bed and breakfasts and farms to vineyards and mansions.

The Goodstone Inn & Estate
Location: Middleburg, Va.
Cost: $23,935- $30,174
Contact: Emily Tabachka
540 687 3092

This bed and breakfast is more than a place to rest your head, but an inn where you will be swept away. With 265 acres of open fields and cottages with rooms filled with original antique furniture and four post beds, a bride can live like a princess for a weekend with up to 150 friends and family members. Elegant weddings over the meadows on this estate are hosted poolside by the façade of an old mansion with overgrown ivy and gardens. Rehearsal dinners and receptions can be held outdoors or inside at the Carriage House, where guests can enjoy local food and wine designed by executive chef William Walden. Wherever you choose to say your vows, a picturesque view of the country side is sure to be in sight.

Why we love it here: The Goodstone Inn & Estate offers in-house catering and planners to help make your event exclusive and as easy to plan as possible.

The Fox Den at Briar Patch
Location: Middleburg, Va.
Cost: $10,000 + tax
Contact: Charlotte John
703 327 5911

This historical bed and breakfast has unlimited possibilities for today’s bride. On 47 acres of property dating back to 1805, the guests stay the weekend to enjoy family, friends, Virginia wines and mountain views. Rehearsal dinners, receptions and ceremonies can all be accommodated for groups up to 200 people (and your pets are welcome, too). Whether you choose to say “I do” outside or in, Briar Patch has several options to choose from. Dance the night away in the Fox Den, a spacious hall filled with white linen tables, floor to ceiling windows and plenty of room to mingle. Have your first kiss by the shaded trees along the property or choose to have your event poolside in the warmer season.

Why we love it here: When you book your wedding here, you’re given access to it all and have the option of getting married at just about any spot on the property.

The Pavilion at The Farm at Broad Run
Location: Broad Run, Va.
Cost: $1,750
Contact: Michelle DeWitt
703 753 3548

Greenhouses, vegetable patches, fresh fruits and animals graze this 72-acre family-owned farm located just a short trip down a classic gravel driveway. At first glance, this may look like an unexpected place for a grandiose affair, but look again. The family recently opened “The Pavilion” to host events including weddings, which owner Michelle DeWitt said have often been over the top. The contrast between the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of the farm mixed with an elegant white gown has been simply majestic here and word is spreading. Events are booking frequently and we’re not surprised. The Farm at Broad Run offers a solely outdoor wedding with a covered pavilion protecting a large, outdoor, artisan stonework kitchen with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a grill to allow your chosen caterers to complete a fantastic meal for your guests (and the option of eating produce right from the farm).

Why we love it here: A newly built two-bed, two-bath farmhouse with a wrap-around porch and exquisite decor has been placed on the property for the convenience of the wedding party to relax and prepare before the main event.

Whitehall Manor
Location: Bluemont, Va.
Cost: $4,500 – $8,000
Contact: Douglas Armstrong
(703) 948- 2999

Stepping in to Whitehall Manor is like stepping back in time. This mansion, built in 1790, was once occupied by our first president’s brother, John Augustine Washington, and survived the Civil War’s Battle of Snickersville. A catering company later purchased the property from dairy farmers in the 1990s and has since turned the home in to the ultimate wedding venue (and offering, of course, a gourmet meal for your guests). Brides are given access to the entire first floor of the mansion to prepare prior to the ceremony and to unwind during and after the reception, which takes place in the newly added pavilion built in 2005. This space holds 225 guests comfortably and boasts a large dance floor for those who choose to kick off their shoes and let their hair down after a bit of bubbly.

Why we love it here: Your wedding photos will never fail with the mix of historical and modern architecture, green grassy pastures, large trees and views of nearby farms and mountains.

The Stable at Bluemont Vineyard
Location: Bluemont, Va.
Cost: $3,000 – $6,000
Contact: Debbie Zurschmeide Schoeb
540 554 2073

Off the beaten path and beyond the hustle and bustle you’ll find a vineyard hidden on top a hill with breathtaking panoramic views spanning as far as the Washington Monument. Event planners and coordinators specialize in making your day special and allow you to work with other vendors to perfect your dream wedding. The Stable is one of the largest event facilities in the county holding more than 200 people in a climate-controlled space with stamped cement floors, natural light and original wooden beams from when it was first built decades ago. Step outside the country doors to say your vows and step back in for cocktails on the patio and back in to The Stable for dinner and dancing wherever you choose.

Why we love it here: Since I can’t mention the view again (or can I?), I must say the next best thing is that having a wedding on a vineyard means having a wedding with fresh and locally produced wines as well as farm fresh ingredients in all menu items.
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Romantic Country Retreats

A February weekend is the perfect time to drop in on two of America’s grandest old ladies. These are ladies with the wisdom and experience of long maturity as well as the fresh look of a Madison Avenue facelift — you know, the super expensive kind that actually looks good. These classy old dames will welcome you with chintz and china, sweeping staircases and strawberry scones. They are the original spas, the ones who set the standard for American resorts, the Homestead and the Greenbrier.

To visit them, you have to drive past a lot of cows. Then, there’s the roller coaster up and downs through the hills, down into the valley, and there she sits. The Homestead. For old school WASPs like me, it looks familiar even if you’ve never been there before. My mother used to take me to a giant pile in Florida called the Bellevue Biltmore that carried exactly the same vibe. Nothing bad could happen to you in the comfy old rooms, you could get lost for days in the endless corridors, it matters if you have a decent backhand. Families, including grandparents, play cards in front of the fire. Gin and tonics outsell umbrella drinks four to one. Pinot noir is considered exotic.

Just a hop into West Virginia, and the Greenbrier offers the same genteel feel, underlined by the resort’s tagline, “When you’re at the Greenbrier, you’ll know you’ve arrived.” It refers to its on-site eateries as The Restaurant Collection, as if they were gathered up fully formed and placed here. And the Greenbrier offers weeklong interior decorating courses, by Dorothy Draper Decorating, which is advertised in a kind of loopy 1950s’ font. Lots of oranges mixed with crimson. Sometimes, what you really need a little dose of old-school. You can get it here, along with bridge mix and a spritzer.

Both resorts have been around for a while and want you to know it. The Homestead’s website offers a rather charming timeline that starts in 7,000 B.C., when people first discovered the local hot springs, but things don’t really get going until George Washington hits the scene. After that, it is a parade of presidents — golfing presidents — and the Homestead hits its stride in the 20th century. Everybody from Calvin Coolidge to Bill Clinton puts in an appearance. The Greenbrier promotes its ties to royalty, having hosted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, for some international notoriety.

The real reason to go to either place, although they don’t advertise it enough, is breakfast. The breakfast at both places will forever remain the Platonic ideal of the meal: homemade sugar doughnuts, piles of silky scrambled eggs, yogurt and granola for the abstemious types. Table after table of excited kids sneaking Danishes. Trim ladies eating corn flakes. Dads going all out with sausages and grits (Did I mention that you’re in the south?). The trouble with breakfast is, if you have no willpower, you eat so much that you then need to loll around feeling slightly remorseful. And it takes a while to get excited about lunch.

But your options are many. You can sit by the fire and read a book. I recommend something gritty and urban, like Richard Price’s “Lush Life,” about cops in lower Manhattan, to remind you how nice it is to be just where you are. Or you can just embrace it and bring along some Edna St Vincent de Millay and daydream the morning away.

Activities-wise, the indoor options are plentiful. Shop in the resorts’ plentiful boutiques, where most of the offerings relate to golf. And Virginia peanuts. Or you can spa it. Both resorts tout their spa services (not that I’ve ever sampled any, alas), and are, of course, built around the original spas — hot springs. At the Homestead, if the weather isn’t great, you can bowl in the eight-lane bowling alley, which is next to the large indoor pool. At the Greenbrier, the indoor offerings include bowling, billiards and a tour of the bunker, to which the political leadership could flee to in times of crisis, leaving the rest of us Washingtonians to go up in smoke. The Greenbrier also has an extensive health and wellness program, if you want to recover from the stress of thinking about what will happen when something catastrophic sends the politicians running for their bunkers.

Or, better still, in keeping with the ADHD list of activities offered, you can go outside.

In the winter, there are nice hikes in the woods. Or go for a walk (or run) along the golf courses, though if there the weather isn’t too cold, there are likely to be actual golfers out, doing their thing with their deadly little white balls. The Greenbrier offers a “meditation trail,” but I suppose any trail could serve in a pinch. Mountain biking is also an option; the resorts will rent you a bike and a helmet or you could bring your own. Some of the single-track bike trails are not for the timid. And some of them go up up up. Yet the Allegheny Mountains are beautiful, even in winter.

Skiing and snowboarding at the Homestead and skating at both are some of the typical winter sports offered. They both have paintball battlefields, which would blow the socks off your favorite 12-year-old. The running around will help with the breakfast digestion. In my limited experience, paintball seems a lot like real war. Long moments of boredom and ill-defined paranoia followed by bursts of excitement and extreme apprehension. You worry about what could happen, and then it happens. And then, thankfully, unlike real war, it is over and you get to take a shower and eat dinner.

The Greenbrier also boasts an off-road driving school (which would be awesome for working through road rage) and falconry, to get you in touch with your inner Middle Eastern sheik. Carriage rides, sleigh rides, all manner of things to do with horses, and after all that, hot tea by the fire.

There are also gun clubs for those who are working on their shooting skills (perhaps for paintball), with instructors if you want them. There are clays courses, skeet shooting, simulated wild creatures to shoot at, ear plugs, ammo, and a trap and five stand, though, living in the wilds of Georgetown, I have no idea what that actually means. But the idea of shooting anything, even a small clay disk as it flies through the air, would help me manage my stress. I’ll have something to dream about when I am thinking about killing all the people who block traffic on Wisconsin by turning left into the Safeway during rush hour.

Perhaps, most importantly, for you harried citizens of the real world and for overworked parents of kids, both resorts offer plenty of supervised action. Little ones can join the Kids’ Club. They’ll be pleasantly exhausted when you fetch them at the end of the day and will have lots of adventures to share. There are movies, on real screens, not TV sets, at night for everybody to fall asleep to.

Finally, none of this is terribly cheap. But you can drive to both the Homestead and the Greenbrier, and that helps a little. These are the sort of classic resorts that don’t really exist anymore — no poured concrete, no modern art, not much sign of the 21st century. And that’s pretty great for a weekend — a real retreat from the pressing, pulsing world of cities.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” So, do something with it. February is kind of a downer. Don’t spend it online shopping or watching college basketball on TV. Go visit one of these stately old ladies and learn from the past. Spend this very good time taking a walk in the woods. [gallery ids="100471,115892,115894" nav="thumbs"]

Murphy’s LoveMay 16, 2012

May 16, 2012

**Dear Stacy:
I am married to a smart, beautiful woman. We have a young daughter and live in the city. We met in law school and my wife now works for a medium-sized law firm. I am a government attorney. We always knew that in taking our respective paths, she would likely be the primary breadwinner in our family. But now, with our expenses getting higher (daughter will start private school this fall) and the frustrating federal government pay freeze, the disparity is too much for me to ignore. She makes twice what I do and I seem to be thinking about it all the time. We have discussed my feelings a few times, but I know it is hard for her to even humor me, when we both knew this would be the situation when I took a government job. So I try to ignore it, but I know it ?s coming between us. She knows something is off with us, too, but I don’t think she sees it as a financial issue. She asked me if I’m falling out of love with her. I don’t think I am, but it?s very hard for me to feel like a man when I have to ask her permission to buy a song on iTunes.
-A Plummeting Testosterone**

Dear Plummeting:
I appreciate your honesty here, and am hoping you will consider being as honest with your wife during your [inevitable] conversation about the situation. But first, I need some clarification.
Is your frustration about the more abstract concept of who wins what bread and where, or is it that you are actually being nickel and dimed, RE: asking permission to buy a song on iTunes? Does Wife really demand that you preauthorize all purchases? Or have you started asking her permission as a passive aggressive way of acting out against the frustration of this arrangement? Or did that just sound good when penning an anonymous letter to an advice column? This distinction is important. Choice #1 suggests you are living with a tyrant, while #3 reflects the joy of anonymity in an online society. But #2, in which your rage seethes behind thinly veiled deference to Wife as Head-of-Household, is cause for serious alarm. If this is the case, you are dead on that she thinks things are off between you.

Contempt and defensiveness are two of John Gottman’s ?four horsemen of a relationshp?s apocalypse. When present and allowed to grow, these traits poison a marriage. Not talking about your feelings and self-censoring just because you knew you might have them when you made a certain career choice years ago is sabotaging your relationship and this has got to stop. It is completely natural to struggle with this [somewhat] countercultural power dynamic. Pretending you are ok with it, no matter what, is disingenuous and debilitating. Get yourselves into dialogue (please consider allowing a neutral third party to help: counselor, clergyperson, etc.) so you can let yourself make room for these emotions and find healthy ways to release them.

**Dear Stacy:
My husband of five years is clinically depressed. He has struggled with this condition since high school and manages it with medication and weekly therapy. This has been the case since we met, so it ?s something I’ve always accepted. But lately, I feel like his therapist is interfering in our personal lives too much. Any disagreement we have comes around to him saying, “Well Nancy says… I don’t know how to react to this. First off, Nancy is not a part of our marriage and I don’t care about her opinion. Second, she has never even met me, so she ?s getting a very one-sided view of the story. I have drafted a letter to her that I would like to send, explaining my side on some recent conflicts in our household. I think she needs to hear both sides before making these declarations about how our family decisions should be made. Do I have to show it to my husband before I send it?

Dear Letterwriter:
As a therapist myself, I’m taking a deep breath before jumping into defend Nancy?s honor here. You have every right to feel frustrated that Husband invokes her name whenever you face a disagreement. That must be an absurdly irritating little tic Husband has developed. But it also seems absurd at least to me that Nancy would have an opinion about every little family decision you are facing. The 50-minute therapy hour, even weekly, is not enough time to cover that much ground. Let me propose a different scenario.It sounds like Husband is using the standard blame the therapist? technique to insert opposing points of view into his conversation with you. I?ve prescribed this method several times ? why have a therapist if you can?t blame her for contrary ideas once in a while? Nancy should have a confidentiality policy (one which would likely require her to show your letter to Husband before any response, by the way) making it impossible for anyone to fact-check whatever he says she said. In other words, taking this up with her is a non-starter. Lets focus on what you can do instead.
The next time Nancys opinion is inserted into your argument, try and take a moment to mentally reframe the statement as being what Husband really, really wants you to hear. He wants you to hear it so deeply, that he is willing to give up ownership of the position, just so that you might actually take him seriously. It?s not a great method ? it obviously has you more defensive now than ever ? but it?s the way he?s choosing to tell you what he needs most. If you are able, in the moment, mirror what he ?s saying and then gently ask him if that is what he really wants. See if you can get back to conversing one-on-one. If you need a little help, feel free to have Husband ask Nancy for a referral to couples therapy.

***Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is www.stacymurphyLPC.com and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to [stacy@georgetowner.com](mailto:stacy@georgetowner.com).***