Sunday at Shirley

This past Sunday, my mom and I took an impromptu mini day trip to Upper Shirley Vineyards. Owners Tayloe and Suzy Dameron have a unique passion for good wine and sustainable working lands, and thus, they were inspired to open up a state-of-the-art winery, right next to the historic plantation, Shirley Plantation, which dates back to 1613!

Located in Charles City County, just 25-30 minutes away from Richmond, which makes for a super easy, scenic drive. Parallel to the Capital Trail, we enjoyed seeing the bikers along the way.

We arrived in the nick of time, as the Sunday lunch/brunchers were filing in. While waiting for a table, we tasted 7 out of the 10 wines they offer in the tasting room.


Our favorites were the 2014 Voignier and the 2013 Zachariah; a rich red that spent 18 months in the barrel. We took home a bottle each of the Voignier, a classic white to sip on these hot summer days in Virginia.

We still had some time to kill before our table was ready, so I enjoyed a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc with this view and my best friend by my side 🙂




When we were finally seated, the servers were very efficient. Everything on the menu looked amazing, but I wanted something easy and cooool, so I chose the Crab Stack appetizer, which included lump crab meat, avocado, tomato, arugula, and mango! Mom ordered the Grilled Cheese with a fig jam and sliced tomatoes; LOVED that combination. We also split a plate of deviled eggs. And of course, rose on the side for me 😉


A bit of a messy food spread pictured here, but everything was delicious! I left out the chocolate chip cookies we got for dessert, but those definitely topped us off.

We left with full bellies and gratitude, thankful that our rich Virginia history is so accessible, with this particular historic destination located just down the road.


A sunny, pleasant Sunday for sure. I definitely recommend Upper Shirley Vineyards for anyone who wants to take a quick day trip away from kiddos, or I imagine if you wanted to really drag out your “Sunday Funday”, you could stay here for hours, wandering the property, and soaking up the history, with a glass of vino in hand.

I’m already planning to go back this Fall, so maybe I’ll see ya there?!





A Sweet Memento

I can still hear my mom’s wavering voice when she called me on a Monday night, close to 8:30pm. “Ellen, there’s been some sad news”.  I couldn’t believe it. My aunt had taken her own life. What??? What??? Are you serious?!! These were my initial reactions, followed by a racing heart. I drove over to my parents house right away. My mom’s sister Bev was at the house. She was in town for Easter weekend, and leaving the next morning. She was by my grandmother’s side, embracing her. When I saw my grandmother, I burst into tears. A 90-year old woman in pure shock at the sudden loss of a child. It was heartbreaking.

My sister, brother, aunts and cousins filtered in. We all gathered around my grandmother and consoled one another in our state of shock.

Mary Beth was my dad’s younger sister, the youngest of six. She chose to take her own life, leaving behind her husband and two sons. Mary Beth was battling a slew of health issues; B12 deficiency, anemia, depression, and hormonal imbalances. Being such a strong-willed person and not sharing her feelings with her siblings, not even with her own mother, none of us really knew what was going on.

It’s funny how when after someone passes whom you loved and thought you knew so well, you learn even more about who that person was and how many lives they touched. It’s been overwhelming how many friends and people in the community have reached out to our family during this difficult time. And we are so thankful for each and every one.

Not one day has gone by that I haven’t thought about Mary Beth. Unfortunately, my thought sometimes drift to the dark side of her death, but I’m trying to think about the times when I saw her at her happiest; at family celebrations, holidays, Southampton swim meets, and seeing her do what I think was one of her favorite pastimes; walk her chocolate labs along the James River with her husband, Mark.

It’s been particularly hard because her family lives so close to my parents and my childhood home, that I can’t help but think about her when I go for walks in the neighborhood, especially when I muster up the courage to walk by her house. I don’t think I will cycle through all the stages of grief with this particular loss, but I have found myself wondering on days when the skies are the brightest blue and the sun is shining , why would Mary Beth want to leave this beautiful world? Why did she decide to leave her precious family?!!

We will never really know the answer of why she chose to leave us,  and that’s the hardest part. Good grief is it all so very weird and unsettling. I miss her. We miss her.

I started writing this post about two weeks after Mary Beth died, because I wanted to release all of those feelings somewhere, but I found myself only getting a few sentences out. It was just too soon.

About a month after everything happened, I received a message from Anne Blackwell Thompson, of Blackwell Botanicals. Anne and I worked briefly together at Anthropologie way back when, and she had remembered me there. She had fond memories of Mary Beth at Southampton pool and seeing their boys swim together. Anne wanted to so generously give me a piece of her work as a memento of Mary Beth.

So one day, Anne invited me into her studio, and while I was transfixed on her beautiful pressed botanicals, she insisted that I pick the best one that reminded me of my aunt.

It was hard for me to accept a beautiful gesture such as this, so Anne helped me come to my decision, by showing me a batch of bots she had harvested around the James River area.

This beautiful pressed Queen Anne’s Lace reminded me most of Mary Beth. Not because of any particular memory I had of her involving the wild flower, it just sort of looked like her. And oddly enough, Anne had picked and harvested the Queen Anne’s Lace near the very spot where I last saw Mary Beth; walking her chocolate lab, Penny.


When I look at this pressed flower, I will think of Mary Beth fondly. I will think of her as a lover of nature, an avid walker, a natural care-taker, and most of all, a compassionate mother and wife. I will think of her fondly.





A Sneak Peak

Yesterday on Instagram, I promised to post a re-cap of my family’s stay at The Homestead over July 4th weekend. Well, a friend asked me to get impromptu drinks with him after work last night, and I accepted the offer, and my post in it’s entirety will have to wait. For now, here are a few photos from our trip to Hot Springs, VA!


The classic tower of the hotel. 


Rose by the pool in this tucan one-piece. 


1,232 year old White Cedar tree on our gorge hike!


Lunch time view from the famous Robino’s restaurant on the golf course. 


My niece in her July 4th attire at the Zac Brown cover concert. 


Have a wonderful weekend! Stay cool if you live in RVA!!