Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wedding Details, part 2 - The Venue and the DJ

Our Ceremony and Reception Venue:
For our ceremony and reception, Dan and I chose to go with Bowling Green Country Club in Front Royal, VA. We were looking for a location that could have an indoor or outdoor wedding (because you can never trust the weather), a large reception area for guests (because we have LOTS of friends and family), and a price that would not reach the bottom of our savings account. Bowling Green met all of these.

Bowling Green offers two different rooms for receptions, and each has nice wooden floors, big windows, and a bright neutral décor that will go with any wedding theme. The outdoor ceremony area is a pretty little awning that the events manager keeps meticulously landscaped.

One requirement for having an event at Bowling Green is that the catering and drinks must be done through Bowling Green. However, you should not let this scare you away. Their food is fantastic (as well as VERY reasonably priced), and if you have a favorite wine, beer, or alcohol, the event manager will work with his distributors to find what you are looking for. For Dan and I, he brought in three delicious wines from two of our favorite Virginia wineries. It was wonderful!

Dan and I are very happy we chose Bowling Green for our wedding venue. While there were a couple times we had a trouble reaching someone, we did get all our questions answered. On the week of and day of the wedding, the events manager, Brian Jones, and his team were wonderful. They were eager to help put the finishing touches on everything, and when it continued to rain on our wedding day, they set up the ceremony inside the reception hall in record time.

If you ever choose to have an event at Bowling Green Country Club, let Brian know we that we sent you and tell him that we say “Hi!”.

Our Wedding DJ:
One of the trickier things for us to find was a wedding DJ. There were a LOT of them out there, but most cost way more than we could afford. After asking our friends for suggestions, we were recommended to Kevin Owens, an event DJ and magician.

Things worked out well because Kevin lived very close to the wedding venue, so we would not have to spend extra money on the mileage that most of the other DJs charged. Kevin also worked with us to play a good mix of eclectic music – as Dan and I like a mix of all different kinds of music. He even helped a friend of mine who taught all the guests a line dance during the reception. :)

If you’d like to learn more about Kevin and see what events he does in the area, you can read all about him on his facebook page!

PS: Special thanks for the pictures goes to our fantastic photographer, Stephanie!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wedding Details – Intro and Carytown Cupcakes

Did you know that the average wedding today costs about 25 grand?! Personally, in today’s economy, I have no idea how the average is so high.

Dan and I both have decent paying jobs, but going into our wedding planning, we promised ourselves two things. First, we would NEVER go into debt over a one-day party (no matter how unique a day it was going to be). Second, even if we miraculously won the lottery and could afford an extravagant wedding, we would keep our bottom line well under the $25,000 mark.

Taking these two guidelines into account, I am extremely happy with all of the wedding vendors that we chose to work with. They all provided excellent services, and each one came at a very reasonable price. My best advice to any newly engaged couple is to shop around, get recommendations, and don’t go with an expensive venue just because they have a good review on The Knot. Chances are you can find someone equally as good for much less.

For my next few posts, I am going to take a little time to give props to the venues that Dan and I got to work with. These posts will be FULL of wedding photos and what we liked or didn’t like about each venue.

Carytown Cupcakes
For today’s post I am going to send a big THANK YOU to the folks who made our wedding cake and cupcakes – Carytown Cupcakes.

As many people do these days, Dan and I decided to have cupcakes at our wedding instead of the traditional large, tiered cake. Cupcakes are so much more manageable, and you can usually get more than one kind of cupcake for your guests to enjoy.

Choosing a vendor was easy for us because we are both big fans of Carytown Cupcakes in Richmond, VA. Their price was unbeatable (under $300, compared to the $700 and up prices of the bakeries in northern Virginia), and we are STILL getting complements from our guests about the cupcakes.

After sampling many different types of cupcakes, our final list included:
  • Red velvet (my favorite)
  • Vegan pumpkin chocolate chip (Dan’s favorite)
  • Gluten free caramel apple
  • Dirt/oreo, complete with gummy worms
  • Carrot cake

Our only challenge for the wedding cake was bringing the cupcakes up from Richmond. After speaking with the owner, Dawn, we decided to freeze the cupcakes and have Dan’s father bring them up from Richmond with him. This worked very well, and did not hurt the flavor of the cupcakes.

To display the cupcakes, Dan and I purchased old wooden farm crates, which we laid on their sides and stacked on a table. This made fun little compartments where we could stash all the cupcakes.

In addition to the guest cupcakes, Dan and I had a little six inch cake made for us. This enabled us to do the traditional cutting of the cake, without having tons of left overs. The edges of the cake were decorated with grape vine clippings that we gathered from local vineyards, and the cake topper was made of Leggos. :)

PS: Special thanks for the pictures goes to our fantastic photographer, Stephanie!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New to the Trail – Maggie Malick’s Wine Cave

Dan and I could not think of a better way to spend our first weekend back from our honeymoon than to go out on the VA Wine trial. :) Since we had not seen our friends Chuck and Ana at Cardamon Family Vineyards in a while, we decided to visit them and their neighbor, Maggie Malick Wine Cave.

Visiting Chuck and Ana Cardamon is always a pleasure, and it was great to spend some time catching up with them. We heard how construction was progressing on their new tasting room, and their future plans for the vineyard (hint: it is going to be fun!). We also told them about the wedding and showed them a few of our pictures. Sadly, they just closed the vineyard for the winter, but this is really good news, as they will be finishing their new tasting room for the upcoming spring!

After stocking up on our favorite wines, we headed out to Maggie Malick Wine Caves, which is literally the next driveway down. LOL

Maggie Malick Wine Caves uses the Virginia’s rolling hills to create a naturally cool environment for its wine. As we walked up to the entrance, I was instantly reminded of a cheerful hobbit hole.  The interior of the wine cave is cozy yet roomy, with stacks of wine barrels resting right beside the tasting bar.

The tasting includes 11 different wines, ranging from whites to reds. Our server, Leah, walked us through each one. Dan and I enjoyed many of their wines, and some of our favorites were the Petit Verdot and Tannat.

After our tasting, we picked up a few snacks and stepped out back to enjoy a glass in the sunshine. There was both open and covered seating, and the grounds are very picturesque with a large pond and rolling hills all around.

Being dog people, Dan and I were instantly charmed by the very cute and friendly wine dogs, Moxie and Abby. While chatting with the wine owner, Maggie, we learned that Moxie had just had a minor surgery, and she was having trouble keeping him calm. With the help of a leash and some tasty treats from Maggie, we were able to get him to lie down and rest with us until we left.

Moxie will hold still if you rub his belly

Adorible, sweet Abby

Winery dogs love the sunshine

We are glad that Virginia has another wonderful wine location, and I hope my readers get a chance to visit the wine cave soon! :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dear Storage Wars Texas: Stop Encouraging Sexual Harassment

Have any of you seen the A&E show Storage Wars? Dan and I started watching the original version, but after a while, we found that we preferred the Texas version of the show. To be sure, it's not the greatest show on TV, but it is amusing to see the unique items that are found in the storage lockers.

Sadly, after the last couple episodes, I am thinking about removing the show from our playlist. This is not because the show is boring or obviously staged (which many times it can be – and yet I still enjoy it). No, the reason I want to stop watching is because of the newest buyer introduced onto the show. His name is Matt Blevins, and he is an obnoxious, sexist prick.

Matt’s introductory video on YouTube starts off with clips of him insulting women about being business owners instead of housekeepers! Why the FUCK would you allow someone like this onto your TV show? And yes, I just swore on my blog. If you are going to allow sexual harassment/discrimination on your TV show, then I sure as hell am going to use the correct words to describe how fucking stupid you are!

Now, I know these shows are staged a lot, if not completely; and the character, Matt, could be a different person in real life. But knowing this fact does not make me feel any better about what is being spoken to women on the show – in fact, it makes me feel worse!

If this character is staged, you have to ask yourself WHY a network would knowingly create someone who is bad mouthing women. Not only that, they are writing their script so that the only people on the show who are telling him that he is being a sexist prick are the women themselves (if they even do that). All the other people are just looking the other way. How does this represent A&E? Do they want to be known as a network that looks the other way when sexual harassment/discrimination is happening?

What horrifies me even more is the knowledge that other women and young women are watching this show, seeing this happen, and observing the fact that no one is kicking Matt off. How is this going to encourage them to stand up for themselves and expect to be treated with respect as equals?!

I refuse to accept that this kind of behavior is just supposed to be ignored and accepted as “TV drama”. Instead, I am writing this blog and calling BULLSHIT on what is being allowed to air on A&E’s Storage Wars Texas. I will not look the other way (like the people on the show do). It is not right, and it will never change until people have the guts to speak up and demand that it be removed.

My letter to the show:

Dear Storage Wars Texas,
I have enjoyed your show since you began airing it. However, I cannot continue watching if you allow the character, Matt, to harass and objectify women. It is wrong, illegal, and you are encouraging this behavior by letting it happen on your show and by not stopping it.
Sincerely, Erin.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Diwali!

In the last few years, I have learned that there is great benefit in knowing a little bit about every culture, especially the holidays. It is hard to be an expert on all of them, but a basic understanding is helpful. It gives people more respect for other traditions and beliefs, as well as creating a better camaraderie between people.

Growing up, I hardly knew anything about other cultures. Sadly, the few things I did know were usually stereotypical or half-truths. Other cultures always fascinated me, but my teachers discouraged my classmates and me from learning about them. When we did learn about them, it was always from the perspective of “our way is the right way to live, and these other ways are the wrong way”. (fyi, for any newer readers, I went to a very strange, ultra-conservative private school.)

When I left that environment, I started researching other cultures and learning all the unique traditions that exist. Do I celebrate all of them every year? Goodness no! I wouldn’t have time for anything else if I did. Haha! But knowing about them gives me the chance to make an extra connection with people that I would not have gotten before.

This thought is especially strong in my mind today because I got to celebrate Diwali with some of my co-workers. For anyone who has never heard of Diwali, it is the festival of lights (particularly, the inner light), and it is also used to celebrate the end of harvest.

There are many ways to celebrate this holiday. Some of the most common include: lighting decorated clay (diyas) or paper lamps, cleaning one’s home, creating brightly-colored rangolis (geometrical sand drawings), gambling, and shooting of fireworks. In the office today, we ate some delicious Indian cuisine, watch a beautiful, traditional dance, and painted clay oil lamps. Here are a couple pictures of the lamp I painted:

If I had continued to hold to some of the things I was taught as a child, I would not have had this chance to meet and talk with some of my co-workers. It was fun to see their excitement and enthusiasm, and they were eager to include me, even though I have different beliefs.

So to celebrate the importance of making yourself a better person and learning to respect and include others, I wish you all a Happy Diwali!

Friday, October 25, 2013

I’m Back!

Hi everyone! Over the past few months, I have started numerous posts for this blog, but each time, I got swamped with wedding planning. For anyone who has planned a wedding or been in a wedding party, you will know how time consuming it is, especially once you get to the three-months-out mark.

The good news is that I survived all the craziness, and the best news is that I am now married to a wonderful partner who is eager to combine his dreams and future with my own.

I plan on writing a few wedding posts in the near future – mostly to show off pictures and give props to some of the wonderful people who helped us out. So, keep your eyes open for them!

There are also lots of new vineyard/winery reviews coming, as well as posts about other fun adventures I have had in the past couple months.

For today, I will simply say: thanks for continuing to follow my blog and I’M BACK! Woot!!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Keswick Vineyards

After many months of wanting to visit, Dan and I were able to go on a Charlottesville area wine tour. Our first stop on the tour was Keswick Vineyards.

Entering the grounds, we were greeted with rows and rows of vines arching over the hills. The puffy clouds and blue sky really showed of the beauty of this location right from the start.

The tasting room at Keswick is nestled in a wooded section of the property and has a beautiful little lawn area right in front of it that is perfect for event games. Inside, Dan and I found out we were the first customers of the day, and we got our pick of locations at the warmly lit bar.

Keswick offers red, white, and rose wines in their tastings. Among our favorites were the V2 (pronounced V squared), the Les Vents d’Anges Viognier, the Consensus, and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. We were also big fans of their decadent chocolate wine sauce. Mmm…

Dessert we made the day after: Vanilla ice cream topped with fresh
black raspberries and Keswick's chocolate wine sauce. Delicious!

After our tasting, we wander the grounds with the tasting room manager looking for a good geocache location. There were lots of fun locations, and we finally settled on one. You can find the geocache coordinates on its webpage.

We hope you have a chance to stop by Keswick if you are near Charlottesville! When you do, be sure to tell them that At The Lamppost says “Hi!”.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Horton and Barboursville Vineyards

During a recent wine tour we slipped off our planned track to visit Horton Vineyards and Barboursville Vineyards. It was very easy to stop at both places, because they were literally right down the street from each other.

Horton Vineyards

Since we were traveling west, we stopped at Horton first. The tasting room was a really unique brick, castle-like building that was guarded by long rows of vines.

Horton Vineyards offers TONS of different wines. Reds, whites, roses, fruit wines, dessert wines – if you can name it, Horton more than likely has some. :) Dan and I were also really happy to see how reasonably price the majority of them were too. Among our favorites were: Eclipse Red, Freedom, Route 33 Red, Tannat, Acai fruit wine, Peach fruit wine, and Raspberry fruit wine.

Another fun thing about Horton is that for our tasting, we got to try ten different wines of our choosing. This is especially nice if you are visiting with someone else, because you can each try different wines and get a better idea of what they have to offer. :)

Barboursville Vineyards

Just down the road, we made a quick turn and arrived at Barboursville. Even though it was still early, this place was already flowing with customers.

The tasting is very different at Barboursville. Instead of having one person serve you, you move down the bar, trying different wines at each section of the bar.

We had a great time chatting with the servers there and found them to be friendly and happy to chat about their wines.

Among our favorites were their Nebbiolo Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, and Cabernet Blanc.

Stonefire Kitchen

After two wine tastings, Dan and I were ready for some lunch. The servers at both Horton and Barboursville suggested a small café called Stonefire Kitchen, and they were right in suggesting it. The food was fresh and delicious, and it is defiantly a good food stop if you are in the area.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What John Cusack’s Birthday Reminds Me Of

On my feeds this morning, a blogger posted that it was John Cusack’s birthday. (Don’t worry; I’m not going to start gushing about how hot he is or anything like that.) After reading the announcement, the first thing that came to my mind was The Journey of Natty Gann, which is one of my favorite childhood movies. Right up there with Disney’s Robin Hood, Newsies, and Anne of Green Gables.

How does the mention of John Cusack bring this movie to mind? Well, he is the supporting actor in it. However, being the person that I am, I never made the connection between him and his character until my late teens. The character who caught my attention and my real love in this film was Natty Gann.

For me, Natty Gann was more than an entertaining character. She was the visual proof of what I wanted to be. She had all the qualities that I hoped to have myself, and she was one of the first influences to show me that it was OK to be me. Some of the traits that endeared me to Natty Gann are:
  • She was a tomboy (with a cool newsboy cap).
  • She was independent and resourceful.
  • She loved animals and had a wolf for a best friend.
  • She survived in the wild.
  • She was brave enough to fight for what she wanted.

To this day, I still attribute my love of dogs (and wolves) to watching this film.

In case you have never seen this movie, here is a quick synopsis:
Natty Gann is an energetic, street-smart kid of a single father during the Great Depression. Because work is so scarce, her father leaves Natty under the care of their landlady while he goes to a job in Washington state.

A couple weeks go by, and the landlady assumes that Natty’s father has abandoned her and tries to turn her over to an orphanage. However, before they can catch her, Natty runs and starts traveling the railways to find her father in Washington.

Throughout her journey, Natty meets different people who either help or hinder her. One friend she makes is a wolf that she rescues from dog fighters. The other friend she meets is John Cusack, who helps her out of a few tight spots.

The Journey of Natty Gann was more like a life-changing experience for me. I still have my original VHS of the movie, and I will never throw it away, even though I also have it on DVD and will never own a VHS player again. LOL

If you have never seen this movie before, you should definitely check it out. You may not enjoy it as much as I did, but that is fine. It is still a great movie!

Oh… and Happy Birthday to John Cusack. :) You are a great actor, and I really do enjoy your films.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Naked Mountain Vineyards

Around a fun, tight bend of a country road lays Naked Mountain Vineyards. The vineyard and winery have been here for over 35 years, but the current owners, Randy and Meagan Morgan, decided to purchase the location in 2010 after visiting it on a wine tour.

Just looking around the property, you can tell that the owners know what features make for an inviting winery stop. The hillside is dotted with Adirondack chairs; there is a covered picnic area; and you can find additional seating in the tasting room or on the tasting room deck. The views of the surrounding mountains are also very beautiful.

Naked Mountain offers a variety of whites, roseˊs, and reds. Dan and I had a great time talking about the wines with Shanna, our server. In fact, both the servers at the tasting bar were very friendly and happy to spend time chatting about the things they love about their wines. Among our favorites here were: Chardonnay/Riesling, Old Vine Riesling, Soar, and Make Me Blush.

If you are out in the Front Royal area, Naked Mountain is a fun place to stop. We enjoyed the hospitality we found at Naked Mountain and look forward to going back for a picnic soon.

Linden Vineyards

While wine touring recently, Dan and I stopped by Linden Vineyards. The drive up to the tasting room was beautiful, with grape vines arching across the side of the mountain.

Inside the tasting room, a server gave us a tasting of five of their different wines: 2011 Seyval, 2011 Rose, 2011 Red, 2010 Claret, and 2010 Vidal Riesling. We learned some details about how each wine was made, and we also learned that there were reserve tastings available on the hour from 12-4pm.

After finishing our tasting, Dan and I wandered around the building for a little, admiring some of the local artwork displayed on the walls. The big, spacious decks are only open to case members during the weekend, but parties of four or fewer are allowed to enjoy the decks and grounds on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cardamon Family Vineyards

As much as I love some of the larger Virginia vineyards, small, family-owned vineyards will always have a special place in my heart. They are usually younger vineyards, but many still have delightful wines. They tend to have friendly, intimate settings, and there is something extra special about talking to the person who actually makes the wine.

I recently visited one such family-owned vineyard called Cardamon Family Vineyards. Located off of Harper’s Ferry Rd in Purcellville, VA, Cardamon has all the factors that make small wineries such charming places to stop. Chuck and Ana Cardamon opened their doors only a few weeks ago and are in the process of building a tasting room off of their house. Until the construction is finished, they are offering tastings in their wine barn.

Winemaker Chuck Cardamon has had a life-long love of wine. During his Navy career, he was stationed near Napa Valley, and after retiring, he got to experience wineries in Livermore Valley while attending culinary school. The Cardamons moved to Virginia in 2008 and planted vines of their own.

Cardamon is currently serving three different white wines: Vino di Mele, Cuvee Blanc, and RKATZ. The Vino di Mele is created from 100% apple juice, and unlike most apple wines, it is dry, not sweet. Their Cuvee Blanc is fermented in Minnesota Oak barrels and is a mix of Chardonnay, Semillon, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. It has an appealing wood scent and a soft citrus flavor. Last but not least, the RKATZ is made from 100% Rkatzitelli grapes grown in Horton Vineyards. It is stainless steel fermented, giving it a nice, clean citrus flavor.

As many smaller vineyards do, Chuck Cardamon has found a way to offer something unique at his vineyard. Instead of the usual cheese or oyster crackers to accompany a wine tasting, he enjoys pairing his wines with homemade salsas that he has created himself – and boy are they good! He has even compiled his recipes into a small book that visitors can purchase during their visit. :)

After our tasting, Dan and I sat on a picnic table with some family friends and shared a delicious picnic, enjoying a bottle of Vino di Mele with our meal.

A picture Chuck took for us :)

We really enjoyed our visit to Cardamon Family Vineyards. The friendly atmosphere, the chance to talk with Chuck and Ana about their love of wine, and the delicious wines paired with creative salsas made for a wonderful visit. Dan and I left with three extra bottles to hold us over until we can visit again.

When you stop at Cardamon for a visit, be sure to tell them that Erin and Dan from At The Lamppost say “Hi!”!